Gaming updates, Con update!

So, seems like our 13th Age game has just had bad luck with regular sessions lately. The last game had to get postponed, so still waiting to see the players drop a bomb. Literally.

However in other gaming news, this past weekend I attended my first gaming convention. I’ve been playing games for a while, but this was a milestone I hadn’t hit yet. I attended MACE  in Charlotte, NC. To say that I had a good time would do the people there a disservice. Everyone organizing and volunteering there was incredibly friendly. Every single person I interacted with, on or off the gametable was as well, super nice, friendly, and fun to be around. Hell, even the vendors were enjoyable to interact with.

I wound up running two game sessions. My intention was to just do one, since I’m normally quite nervous just having one new player in a group and this was to be a group of complete strangers. I trend far towards the shy and introverted side so to say I was nervous would be putting it lightly. But it all worked out. In fact the first group was so much fun that I didn’t really have any anxiety at all with the second one! This was a scenario I’ve ran and tweaked a bit with two different groups of friends before this convention, and I really find it just thrilling how different each session ran. Each group tried a number of things that others just didn’t even think about. I ran a Numenera session of my own making, though I just used the pregens from the Vortex pre-built adventure to make things easier on myself. I’ll likely detail the scenario and creatures involved in another post. The real point is that I had a lot of run, and unless I had two tables of kind and supremely skilled liars, the people playing did too.

I also played in a lot of games! I signed up for five games, meaning I more or less spent the whole weekend playing in RPGs. I tried to sign up for either games I’ve really wanted to play and haven’t, or games I’m really curious to see how others play them. All in all I played:

  • Numenera (Hey, so far I’ve just seen me and my fiance John run it!)
  • Dresden Files
  • Shadowrun 5e
  • New World of Darkness (mortals)
  • Battle for Oz

Again, every single game was loads of fun. In some cases the GM simplified the rules a bit for a one shot, but that’s not something I’m complaining about as they had only four hours to work with and they still have to introduce the game in the first place.

I do have to note though just how impressed I was with Battle for Oz. They’re a relatively local developer and the game’s author was the one running the session. I realize that’s more or less the ideal situation, but it worked. I’m gonna pick up this game. It uses Savage Worlds and their own take on the Oz setting in really dark and fun ways. I think this would work well for my own group and I had a blast playing. (The group consisted of two wizards, a country music playing dude, a tinker, a sabercat, and a flying monkey!) I would’ve bought a copy there, but I’d rather make my own order from DriveThruRPG so I can get the PDF along with the physical book.

I also hit up the vendors pretty hard. In fact I basically started Christmas shopping early. As such I won’t go too far into detail here. I did get a present for John that’s more in the just-because category. A combination dragon egg dice bag, with matching baby dragon that can fit inside it. Both made out of yarn. SUPER cute. I also picked up a card game for myself, another local developer. When I passed by the Havok & Hijinks table on the first day I wound up buying it, along with a second copy on the last day to give to my nephew. It just looked way too cute and fun, and I could always use more quick to play non-collectable card games in my life.

So in short, had a blast. I’m exhausted. I preemptively took the day after off of work as well because I suspected I’d need it, and oh god I do. But now already planning to go back next year, and maybe check out their related con in that happens in Spring in Asheville, NC.

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Then there was a necromancer…

Last game was rather on the short side. Not to mention we’ve had a bit of a hiatus thanks to scheduling mishaps, perhaps one of the biggest realities of a real regular game. But positive things! We have a new player in the group. We now have a Dwarf Necromancer by the name of Malfius, who’s One Unique Thing is that he is allergic to alcohol. The tragedy of it all. Even our beardless dwarf was aghast.

Malfius was introduced as Liath attempted to get revenge/his money back from the map vendor that scammed him a few sessions back, as Malfius was a victim as well. Things escalated from there as agents of the Diabolist attempted to get their own revenge on this same scam artist.

Downside of a new player, combat slowed a tad. Not to mention the dice were not favorable so the game sessions was largely divided between that one fight and a long bout of continued planning on the party’s plan to more or less drop an eco-nuke.

Coming soon, said eco-nuke!

And then they turned her into a dragon…

So the players arrived in a small cave following the teleportation ritual. It seemed vacant, with an envelope sitting nearby. Liath was able to read it fairly easily due to his linguistics feat, despite having been written in code. It was a letter from the wizard they’ve come to see, Shantel. Addressed to her former lover, the enchanter that sent them, Leon. Basically telling him that she changed her mind, about the possibility of changing her mind. That she didn’t think they’d ever get back together. Leon decided to not mention this bit of information to the party. Instead just saying she’s not here right now.

Outside, it looks like this village had moved on. I took a lot of inspiration from images depicting the Mesozoic Era for how I imagine the terrain on a behemoth’s back to look like, so sandy, swampy, lots of ferns and mosses. Knowledge checks informed the players that the tribes that make themselves home on the backs of the behemoths are typically as nomadic as their homelands are. Liath attempted to follow the trail of the tribe, but instead ultimately lead to watering hole for stegosauruses. However he was able to find a path that had been taken by humans at one point there, leading the group along a narrow path following a creek, leading into a tunnel system.  Which ultimately lead to a lair of steam drakes the party wound up fighting with.

Shortly after though, the party found the tribe’s new location as well as the wizard they’re seeking. After some careful build up, they revealed that they possess the Seed of New Life, and wish to activate it. She was thrilled, and definitely, should be, maybe qualified to help. In fact given her specialty in combining arcane and nature magic, she was even prepared to tweak the biome that this would create when it went off.

Now as an aside, I expected my players to do something crazy that really didn’t fit. Say maybe a tundra. But I was prepared to roll with it, the magic of this going off could sustain such an out of place environment for an age. I did not expect Solare to raise the possibility of making it into an ocean. Thus flooding the Abyss and setting the Great Gold Wyrm free to take care of other duties. But I’ll roll with it. This can work.

The wizard Shantel was all about this possibility as well. She immediately set upon working on the activation ritual, while the party simply enjoyed the little village. Though a day later, as she neared completion, she realized this would not work without an exotic component. Green dragon scales. Fortunately she knows there’s one nearby by the name of Revalone. So the party goes off to barter for three dragon scales.

This dragon fortunately, isn’t much of a fighter. Though his price is high, for he’d been trying to gain the chieftain’s daughter’s hand in marriage for four years now. Always to be denied. Preferring crazy match making to combat with a somewhat okay guy, the party decides to help. Suggesting maybe helping the dragon take on human form, or maybe even become a human. Though he didn’t seem as keen on the later idea.

The party split up. Liath wants to make sure that the girl, Shaena, might actually be interested in a dragon’s hand in marriage. The girl really was mostly a moody teenager, instead of the fairy tale princess this story could have been shaping up for her to be. But she seemed into the idea of a wealthy suitor that could freak out her dad, especially if the whole dragon hurdle could be leaped. Solare meanwhile talks to their wizard friend, asking if she could either help the dragon learn to take human form, turn him into a human, or barring all that, maybe turn the girl into a dragon. The wizard said she could do any of those, but seemed really excited by that last option. By this point though it was getting late and the party slept on it.

The next day Shantel let the party know she had the ritual to turn the girl into a dragon just about ready. The party was horrified, but she explained that she couldn’t sleep, and they took the most interesting option last time. So why not?

So the party ran it by the girl, and again, she seemed possibly into it, but in an rebellious teenager kinda way. They made the necessary agreements with wizards and girls and dragons alike. Turned a girl into a dragon, and ran away via immediate teleport back to Horizon to get the hell out of even acknowledging the consequences of their actions here.

So the party turned a girl into a dragon, and plan to turn the Red Waste into the Red Ocean. I anticipated neither solution. I’m thrilled.

A Trip to Horizon

So now in the possession of the Seed of New Life, the party struggled with what to do with it. Liath has made the suggestion of using it as a weapon of sorts on the estate of his former master, and slaver extraordinaire, Issik. Eventually this was agreed upon, but they still have a powerful magical artifact, and don’t know how to use it. They weighed their options and made their way to Horizon. Hoping that there they can learn how to use the thing. Liath further hoping to maybe find someone that could create an enchantment of sorts for the leather armor he had crafted from dragon hide.

The trip itself was uneventful, but no one in the party had more than superficial experience with the city, leaving them unsure of where to go from there. They found accommodations for the night and the next day split up into two groups.

Solare and Yain made their way to the local temples seeking out information, ultimately hitting up a temple of knowledge in the College district. However the librarian priests here were very reluctant to let others touch their books. Solare compromised, and asked about three ancient artifacts, hoping to leave her wondering which one they were truly interested in. Unfortunately not too much information was turned up here, other than it being original a weapon of sorts created by an ancient high druid. They were however able to acquire a couple names belonging to wizards with private libraries that could likely assist them.

Meanwhile, Liath and Morris made their way out to the subcity, hoping to deal with more disreputable folk in finding a knowledge broker. They found a map dealer that was happy to help them for a fee, however his map didn’t lead to the sort of library promised. Such is life dealing with disreputable folk. However fortune still smiled, this is an enchanter’s shop. Better yet, one with a serious problem. It would seem while trying to mimic a colleague’s spells synthesizing wizardry and druidry, he summoned a host of elementals he can barely control. He’s confined them to the basement storeroom, but they’re wrecking the place horribly. The enchanter recognized that the two fellows before him seemed the adventuring sort, and asked for their help. Liath took this opportunity to ask about enchanting his new armor, of which the enchanter was quite willing to agree at this point. Liath and Yain went to meet up with their companions, tracking them down, quite literally.

The party regroups at the enchanter’s home, deals with the elementals in the basement, negotiates for the armor enchantment, and ask about the two names they’d acquired earlier. The enchanter recognizes one as the colleague he’d known to dabble in combining magics, also as a former lover of his. Unfortunately she’s on a sabbatical of sorts, studying druidism on the back of a Koru Behemoth with a tribe that lives there. Fortunately however, this enchanter possess a ritual to travel to visit her. Just in case. He’s willing to modify it to send the party there, under the idea that she could help send them back. Maybe.

The party winds up pretty divided on this at first. Solare would rather get her address and break in, to look over her library and research themselves. Being extremely unkeen on the idea of bounding away onto the back of a behemoth. Morris and Liath would rather go visit the wizard/druid, thinking her knowledge would be invaluable for the task at hand. Yain originally leaned towards Solare’s way of thinking, but after thinking more carefully about the sort of precautions a wizard might have against larceny, decided against it.

We left off with the party huddled together as they’re whisked off away to the back of a Koru Behemoth!

Wild Garden

Last session our players dived into my own take on the Wild Garden. I was really delighted to see it in 13 True Ways as an example dungeon, as it was one I could work into my current campaign without too much trouble at all. Though given our shorter game sessions, I also shrunk the size of the dungeon a bit. The players also managed to skirt past the big encounter I had planned with the Flowers of Unlife. Whenever this sort of thing happens I’m torn between disappointment that I didn’t get to use a neat encounter, and being impressed with how they avoided it. Ultimately the later and the fun we’re having is the big deal there.

Basically though, the players made their way through the dungeon. I tossed in hints at past attempts to recover the Seed of New Life. They ultimately found it along the way, in fact our ranger Lieth found it early using the Prince’s Glove. They made it to the capstone chamber and engaged with Carrid. The corrupted druid-semi-lich. Survived both fights with him, and escaped with their lives. Solare got a new sunlight shield out of this whole affair. And now the players are in possession of an uncorrupted Seed of New Life. Which I’ve decided in my game is basically a fantasy version of Star Trek 2’s Genesis Device. They’re now arguing over what to do with it, who they could trust with it, etc. Interestingly, our bard has a wand that lets him talk to plants, I’ve ruled this is partially a plant on it’s own. So they plan to ask it for advice there. I’m awaiting their questions.

As a side note, here’s the artifact info for the Prince’s Glove:

The Prince’s Glove – Artifact Thieves Tools

  • Adventurer
    • Helping Hand: +2 bonus on all attempts to pick locks or disable traps. Can’t keep your hands out of places they don’t belong.
  • Champion
    • Divining Hand – (Daily) Can use the gloves to discern the location of hidden doors, traps, and other hiding places of note. Cannot stand anything being hidden in your presence.
  • Epic
    • Flawless Hand – (Daily) Can be used to steal something from the opponent that should be nearly, if not impossible to complete unnoticed, without being noticed. A compulsion to touch others inappropriately.
    • Unlocked Hand – (Daily) Instantly unlock any nonmagical lock. Otherwise, permit the bearer to attempt to unlock a lock they otherwise shouldn’t have a chance to at all. Cannot stand anything being locked in your presence.

I’m debating tweaking it some, by making some of the daily abilities hard recharges instead. Or maybe a clause that if it doesn’t accomplish something getting used, it’s not wasted. Probably the later.

Going Digital

I’ve seen opinions vary wildly on how appropriate, or inappropriate, electronic devices are at the gaming table. I don’t presume to tell anyone what’s going to work best for them. However I have no problem talking about what’s working great for my group. We’re very digital friendly at this point. The majority of players use their phones, tablets, or laptops for both reference, as well as their character sheet. When I’m a player I tend to prefer having a digital sheet myself. A large number of my players are even maintaining their own digital sheets at this point. Each highlighting their own preferences for how to manage things.

It’s true that digital devices are also an easy distraction, and that can potentially be a big issue. But anything can really be a distraction. If it’s not a comment on Facebook it’s a joke or side conversation with the player sitting next to you. It’s up to the players to have the respect to stay focused on the game. Perhaps the GM to politely threaten them if not. But I definitely believe digital devices have a place in my games.

On the GM side however, I don’t just see digital devices as just having a place, I see them as a must. I’ve gone through many revisions of my own processes, and at this time now, my most vital tool is OneNote. It’s a great way to organize data. I can have a tab for reference pages, a tab for templates for use in my GMing notes, and of course, my notes. In fact, I do have all these things. (Screenshots bellow!) This also highlights why I’m a huge fan of PDFs. I can copy and paste text, or even a section of the page as a raw image as needed for my reference material. Why flip through a book, or even a whole PDF if I can have everything I need for quick reference just a couple clicks away?

Templates Reference OneShot Cast

(As a side note, if you look at my skimpy notes for a Numenera oneshot, you can see that I shamelessly borrowed a creature idea from The Gentleman Gamer. I don’t regret it. It’s too good an idea not to.)

I’ve also grown accustomed to using an Excel based initiative tracker. The current one I’m using for 13th Age I’ve added the feature of changing colors to indicate when a monster becomes staggered. It’s also easier to keep track of damage when you’re not having to do the math. Though I do plan to make some major modification to it down the line. In particular I want to give it the ability to keep automatic track of the number of mooks currently alive. Next time I go to use them in a session I’ll probably get to that. I don’t see this as being quite as vital, especially in games where initiative is a simpler matter. But for a d20 derived system being able to quickly sort the combatants is a big time saver. With 13th Age I just took it a few more logical steps further.

Now with all of that said and done. I’d love to see how other groups are using more and more technology with their games. So feel free to comment bellow if you have something to add there.

Too many games? No such thing?

So I’m finding myself somewhat torn. Right now I’m playing in, one way or another, more games at once than I can recall I ever have at once. I’m loving it too. There’s a decent amount of variety to this as well. I’m in a Werewolf 20A game, a Pathfinder RPG game (set in Dragonlance no less,) and an Amazing Adventures game set in a new version of a friend’s universe I really love. These other games are happening more or less monthly. With Werewolf and Pathfinder taking up two weekends a month.

Here’s where I get greedy. Even though these games have sucked up a decent amount of time, I’m finding myself wanting more. This past week I ran my first game on Roll20, and minus some small technical hurdles it went really well. (It was a Numenera one shot for the record, a dry run of the session I have outlined to run at MACE later this year.)

So now I’m mulling starting up another ongoing. Online would pretty much be a necessity. Even if folks from my main gaming group were interested in playing, we don’t all live close enough to make much more in person game time tenable. In fact the folks driving in are quite commendable. Not to mention this would let me get a chance to play with folks I’d otherwise not really have much of a chance to play with anyways.

That being said, two main hurdles I foresee myself having to address. On one hand, what game? 13th Age is my current ongoing, so I’d be disinclined to have it be the game. Numenera is a prime contender. It’s a great game, a number of folks already have it, and it seemed to go over well at the one-shot. Castles & Crusades would also be nice, it’s still in the D&D vein as 13th Age is, but a very different style and feel all the same. I also wouldn’t really mind making it a White Wolf/Onyx Path title. Though so many of those are now getting new editions I might be tempted to hold off somewhat there. Either way, that’s something I’ll be mulling over.

There other bit is the technology to use. The Amazing Adventures game I’m in is being run online, using a friend’s custom dice roller and Mumble, and that’s working out pretty well tech-wise. Though some folks would benefit from a headset or headphones. Roll20 worked, but John had some trouble playing in the same room as me as there’s no real push-to-talk option which made things problematic. He wound up playing in another room, and did not care for that at all. I also have a GM license to Fantasy Grounds I’d like to try out at some point. Though I’d be hesitant to go there as then I’m left asking players to get a license, or spend a serious chunk of cash myself to upgrade my license to ultimate. That provides possible the slickest interface for the mock tabletop I’ve seen. Though it also doesn’t provide audio, which ultimately I’d like to have.

That really just turned into more of a ramble. Though I’d certainly appreciate suggestions in this whole area. Running online games in particular, but maybe also just marveling at not being happy with what you’ve got.