Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Denver-Area Gaming Community

While I’ve lived in the Denver-area before, I wasn’t active in the gaming community back then. I really got involved in community when I started working for Game Daze in Tucson. I was meeting a lot of gamers, which led to me starting the podcast, helping to form SAGA, working with Pulp Gamer, and so on. While TGTT is still going, I don’t have that very public presence like I did working at a game store. And I honestly miss that.

My first foray into public gaming was earlier this month at MagnaCon. The folks I met there are primarily board gamers, and I’m psyched to have that venue. But it seems to me there’s a bit of a hole where there should be a more thriving RPG community. I know there are huge presences for 4E and Pathfinder here, and I hear tell the local Savage Worlds community may be organizing, but there’s not anything I can find for “everything else.” While there’s nothing wrong with any of those groups, they are a bit too narrow for my tastes.

My initial plan when I moved here was to just find a “home base” game store and go from there. Denver has several very good options for local game stores. The store closest to me, Total Escape Games, has a nice setup. The staff is decent, and the owners are cool folks. But like every other game store I’ve checked out in town, their prime in-store game slots are already taken by 4E, Pathfinder, Magic, Warhammer 40,000, and Warmachine/Hordes. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. I just don’t have any interest.

Between MagnaCon and a couple chance encounters, I have put together a small group of folks who share my interest in playing different RPGs. I’ve decided to take a page or two out of the Tucson playbook and start something of an RPG guild. I’ve begun networking with interested parties, and we are officially in the planning stages. What I can say now is the main things on the agenda are regular meet-ups, a reverence for all RPGs, bringing roleplayers out of the woodwork, and introducing new people to the hobby. There’s also some grumbling about a sort of GM support group--something we were beginning to have in Tucson when I decided to leave Arizona.

I think a thriving, public RPG group is important because, more so than board games, RPGs tend to be a private affair. The trouble is when private groups fail, or just stop, people who would like to continue playing often cannot find a group, and so they leave the hobby--sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. I want to reach out to those folks and help keep them in the hobby, and perhaps we can grow it as well.

Friday, January 21, 2011

[GM Tools] Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters

I mentioned briefly in my last post I consulted the awesome book, Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters. It's written by the fine folks at Gnome Stew--the best GM-centric blog on the Interwebs. I've been using this book for awhile now, and it's time to give it a real shout out.

Essentially Eureka gives away its purpose in its title, but only word of mouth will sing to its utility. There have been a ton of products on this subject over the years, and they've always fallen short for me. Not so with Eureka. I bought the Print+PDF bundle because it's always nice to have a paper book, but I knew I'd want it handy on my iPad.

In Eureka, there are 167 adventure plots, each in the broad categories of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. They're further broken down into themes. Then there is a list of genres the plot should be easily adapted to. Finally, each plot is tagged with keywords designed to give you some ideas as to what features a story may have, like dungeon crawls, intrigue, etc.

The book actually opens with detailed instructions on how to read and adapt the plots. The advice is great and is easily adaptable to just about any module or pre-written scenario. I've already used it outside the book, in fact. Even if your game's genre is not one of the listed "big three," this book is still very useful.

The book rounds out with four indexes, one each for genre, tag, title, and author. At first I thought the author index was a vanity thing, but then I realized I started to get a feel for each of the authors and began seeking authors out by their style. The book is super-easy to navigate, even if you have very specific needs when searching for a plot--the PDF more so, given its ample bookmarks.

Every GM who has an off-the-cuff style should have this book. Even if you're one of those heavy-prepping types, these plots are more than seeds, and many of them could actually serve as overarching campaign plots. I've personally used it in both modes, "quick, I need a plot" and "looking for inspiration."

As you can guess, this one's highly recommended.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Con Report: MagnaCon 2011

MagnaCon was a lot of fun. I ran five games (in four different systems) and met some awesome people. I'd like to especially thank Veronica Livingston for being a great host, and I'd like to thank Matthew Ward for getting me involved in the first place.

On Friday, I started out running Swords & Wizardry. I only had two players initially. They each ran two characters so we could run the adventure. Eric and Camdon were both good sports, and I think we all had a good time. Later in the session, we were joined by Matt, who managed to have two characters die on him. Finally, the last part was rounded out with the addition of my wife, Veronica.

For the Deadlands session, we had Wife Veronica, Camdon, Matt, Ed, Other Ron, and Lee. That game was a blast. I was going to go with a post-train robbery, Reservoir Dogs kinda thing, but at the last minute I decided to go with more of a From Dusk Till Dawn thing. My great friend Clint Black put that bug in my ear early last week, and by Friday morning, I'd decided he'd made a better call. It ended up being a blast.

Saturday morning, I ran Icons for Wife Veronica, Lee, and Olivia (11 years old--awesome!). It was a good time. The cheesy, in-character one-liners were hilarious.

Running two of the same story at MagnaCon turned out to be a mistake, as evidenced by the one person who showed up to re-play the S&W story I was running. So Camdon, my wife, and I put our heads together and decided to grab some Savage Worlds fantasy pregens from the Reality Blurs website and run something off the cuff. I consulted the excellent book, Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters, and had a story ready in minutes. It was relatively short, but I think we all had fun.

For the finale, I ran my Chicago, A.D. (After Dresden) story using the excellent Dresden Files RPG. We had Wife Veronica, Camdon, Ed, RP, Matt, and Chuck. Despite several factors--noise, group size, and mild food poisoning on my part--the game went pretty well. I have to say FUDGE dice hate me. I rolled multiple -4s and -3s in that game. This wasn't an isolated incident, either. It's happened every time I've played FATE. Unlike what the math fans will tell you, FUDGE dice really average -1, at least in my experience. I mean when I rolled high, the players were even celebrating.

So in my judgment, I am a little nuts for taking on as much as I did for MagnaCon. I won't put myself in quite that situation again--running so many games in so many different systems. That said I had a lot of fun.

But I have to say, "mission accomplished," on multiple levels. I ran five stories in four systems. People seemed to have fun. I had fun. Most importantly, potentially long-lasting relationships were formed in those two days. And that last thing is what this hobby is all about for me.

The only truly negative experience of the weekend (other than the mild food poisoning) was I missed my daughter terribly (as typically happens when we're separated for more than a day), so Vern and I have made the decision to take CaLeigh to Genghis Con Jr. next month. She was excited when we told her. I'm really looking forward to seeing how that goes.

Overall, MagnaCon is really a board game con, and they're trying to add RPGs. If board games are your bag, they had everything. The open library rivaled Pulp Gamer's, and Time Well Spent was there selling games at website prices.

Friday, January 14, 2011

MagnaCon 2011

Tonight and tomorrow I will be at MagnaCon in Denver, running roleplaying games. Here's what I'm running:

3:00pm - 7:00pm: Swords & Wizardry (up to 8 players)
Labyrinth Tomb of the Minotaur Lords - Enter the dungeon and discover it's treasures. Swords & Wizardry is a revival of the original fantasy roleplaying game. All materials necessary to play are provided, but feel free to bring a pencil and pad to take notes, and your own set of polyhedral dice.

8:00pm - 12:00am: Deadlands: Reloaded (up to 8 players)
Greed - Your gang has just robbed a train full of railroad payroll. The heat is on, and you're holed up in a small town, waiting out the law. But something's... wrong. This horror western uses the Savage Worlds game system. All materials necessary to play are provided, but feel free to bring a pencil and pad to take notes, and your own set of polyhedral dice, including a separate, different six-sider.

9:00am - 1:00pm: ICONS (up to 8 players)
It's Saturday morning--time for cartoons! In this super-powered game, your super team must foil the Siderial Schemes of Dr. Zodiac. All materials necessary to play are provided, but feel free to bring a pencil and pad to take notes, and two different-colored standard dice.

2:00pm - 6:00pm: Swords & Wizardry (up to 8 players)
Labyrinth Tomb of the Minotaur Lords - Enter the dungeon and discover it's treasures. Swords & Wizardry is a revival of the original fantasy roleplaying game. All materials necessary to play are provided, but feel free to bring a pencil and pad to take notes, and your own set of polyhedral dice. THIS IS A REPLAY OF THE FRIDAY EVENING GAME.

8:00pm - 12:00am: The Dresden Files (up to 8 players)
Chicago, A.D. (After Dresden) - Harry Dresden is dead or missing, and there's a power vacuum left in Chicago. Can Harry's friends stop a new player from filling the void? This FATE game is based on the popular Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher, but no knowledge of the books is required to play. All materials necessary to play are provided, but feel free to bring a pencil and pad to take notes, and your own set of FUDGE dice.

The ICONS and S&W games are published adventures, which I'd normally avoid, except Dr. Zodiac was only made available to folks who pre-ordered ICONS, and the S&W adventure was published in a fanzine. So I feel safe running them. The other two are my creation, though Vernie helped me with the DFRPG one.

You might be saying, "Ron, that's four different systems" or "that's open to close on both days," or somesuch. You're likely thinking, "this guy's nuts." But it's a good cause.

I'll let you know if I'm nuts Monday...