Saturday, March 07, 2015

MY DUNDRACON 2015 GRADE: B plus to A 

If you missed my review for Dundracon 2014 you can go here:

NOTE: this time around I'm doing a summary above and then posting pics below with commentary. As a result I expect this to be less lengthy. Additionally, my camera had an issue so I used my cell phone and as a result I took a lot less pictures. I'll make up for that at the next convention. 


This DDC was about as good as last year. I got a sweet set up at the hotel and because one of their people liked me I even had a complimentary tray waiting in the room. It was right by the stairs so I could skip the crowded elevators as needed.

I had the usual get together in the bar Saturday night with the usual crowd and we even saw Jesus again but he was out of costume. There were some other good talks including a late night slumber party on Friday where Ez, Mike G and I kept blabbing until we all passed out. Overall, the extended group at the bar concluded that you could not do wrong playing in most of the Telltale Video games. We shared stories of our decisions in the Walking Dead series 1 and 2.

Games were good to me in regards to the lottery. I got into 2 L5R LARPS. Some of those people have been LARPing together for five years or more and have a tendency to even review their LARP experience with podcasts. I can see why some of my RPG friends feel intimidated by such perceived closed circles. My experiences have varied but I'm getting enough benefit from LARPing that I intend to keep trying it out.

Getting back to the lottery system I also got into a couple of short 4 hour games run by Jeff Yin and Todd F which were fun. Dave S. did a pickup of 5E for us during an open slot. Unlike 3E and 4E I'd give this one another try though my tabletop fantasy RPGs are still Warhammer Fantasy 2nd edition, Dragon Age and maybe Kobolds Ate My Baby.

The Saturday game was promising before it started b/c everyone used priority slips to get in. A sixth person who I knew crashed successfully. The group tried "hardcore mode" as I called it and then dropped it after about 30 minutes into the game. 

There were some very interesting PC interactions with one another this time around. I think it mirrored the Cold War Soviet Union mindset but that's another story. Rich H. had some interesting info as to what he felt the group did correctly and incorrectly but no spoilers here. While this run was a TPK mostly by player choice it was still pretty damn good fun. I'm glad some familiar faces got into the game and also glad we didn't go over the ten hour slot. BTW, that isn't a guarantee we won't do that at Kubla.

Speaking of Kubla my music guy is in for one last run at Kubla and then we are retiring it from the cons so if you really want to play in it you will need to make the Kubla game or bribe me to run it for you outside of a con. BTW, bribing isn't easy as other groups have already thought of this idea and yeah that was sort of a tongue in cheek remark.
The Monday game got a lot of new people to CoC so it was perfect for them as it's the second kindest CoC game I ever ran. There were a surprising number of crashers so my plan to put it up from 5 to 6 seats got bumped to 7 with the permission of the players. I may very well run it as a second game at DDC if I'm in the mood to do two again in 2016 but it's waaaaayyyy too early to confirm (so don't hold me to it). 

Speaking of which running a second easy game on Monday wasn't that difficult. It's more of a question of whether one wishes to run a second game at the expense of experiencing other games. I typically try for a Battlestar Galactica board game on Mondays with Mike H. That said, if I do do two games at a convention it's likely going to be DDC as they consistently give me good or better players for my RPGs.

There were a few minor hiccups at the con but I was able to smooth them out and most of them didn't require help from the volunteers. Speaking of which I greatly appreciate all the hard work put in by the volunteers, especially those who have been doing it for decades.  

In closing I can now announce DDC is my favorite Bay Area gaming convention and while it isn't always the best con for a particular year it holds the highest marks for the last several years.

P.S. Special thanks to Chaosium, especially Dustin, for giving me a ton of prizes to give out to the players for my two games. I also brought a few spare novels I had as well so everyone who wanted a prize got something.
The back of the hotel.

Don't let the Dark Heresy GM screen fool you. This is Fading Suns, a kinder version of Dark Heresy from what our GM told us. The guy who played our leader a did good job of being the clueless archetype.
This game was pretty much about a land grab by powerful people versus local sorcery. Thanks to Jeff for letting me show up a bit late as I had traffic/navigational/personal issues. I dig Fading Suns and have the core book now and may run it someday, too.
Dovi and Jason M. were playing this one.

Ticket to Ride.

Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Wars. I have yet to play this one but have an offer pending.

Awesome map to give everyone a visual of what was transpiring. This time around there was a new mechanic which was hit or miss but with some tweaking it should work better. It was hard to get an "adult" at times unlike last year. If there was a mechanic that players could use to resolve things that would have helped. I had to spend a lot of time waiting for higher ups to give a clearance for something and they were already dealing with their own concerns. I am not sure what the solution would be to this one as I'm relatively new to L5R LARPs and they're a very different beast from the more standard non-Vampire LARPs.

I got the crazy clan this time around. When the white people showed up my superiors decided to ambush/attack them and somewhat strangely none of the other clans supported us. It was downhill from there though I became Daimyo for a time and then people had to listen to me more so I secured a marriage and started an underground resistance. Turns out we were mostly right.

Another angle of the map. Really a beautiful prop if I didn't say so already about a billion times heh.

My death before dishonor higher ups give up the Mantis Clan islands to the White Peril. It just goes to show that when you play with Ryan B and Robert F. that it won't be a safe resolution.

Part of the LARP area. There's a lot to do and little time even if it was an 8 hour game. I wonder if the higher ups felt limited as I did at times? I suspect so as this is a game of duty, obligations and the like. It's hard to take pictures of people LARPing as it isn't really a prop experience plus some people don't want their pics showing.
The Mantis Clan during the first year. This was my clan for the Friday LARP.

Setup for the first year. This LARP took place over several years as the evil white people showed up.

Borders are changing greatly.

Bye bye, Mantis Clan.

It's a bit of a spoiler pic for those who play in the Kubla run but this is an entrance into something and that's all I'll say for now.

Comrade Lenin!

The starting vehicle for the Spetsnaz. About a dozen of them can fit inside.
One of the many bad breaks Adam D. rolled in game. This was for a particularly critical roll and he was a good sport about it. Those rolls were in my top three moments for that game. The other two were the first appearance of trouble and Kapitan Kozlov calmly executing another PC which led to a lot of fallout and interesting tidbits.

Just a humble brag as to how many people listed this as their first choice and/or used a priority slip to get into the game.  The Monday one had 28 which I wasn't expecting. The record to beat was 33 from last year a la Ezra D. I like how Gil came into this game to tell Ezra "44" and walked out and then told me later he didn't really care about the stats. Yeah, right, bro. ;)

Dave S. was generous enough to run this one for me and some other players. It was a standard 1st level run with a quest, a betrayal and typical PC vs PC posturing. As I said above I'd give this one another try with the right group and/or right concept.

A return to graph paper and dungeon crawling.

Here's what some of our Winter days look like in California. This was close to dusk.

My character for the other L5R LARP. I am beginning to fall in love with this world based on all of the passion the GMs put into it for LARPs. It's a very different focus than the several times I have played the RPG. Far less focus in those games with politics and much more on just getting through everything with force. Senetsu was jealous of a fellow smith and wanted him out of town which turned out to be easier than expected as well as learning a special sword trade from him. It was interesting to play I accomplished all of my goals by the end of Act II/beginning of Act III. My general feeling was that the people in the higher levels got to do more of the interesting things but that is coming from someone who has limited L5R LARP experience (this was my 7th LARP).

The kids to play in the Halloween game. Most of these were selected by players of previous runs.  This was my fourth run. I plan to run it a fifth time outside of a con in May/June so if I know you and you wish to secure a seat get a hold of me before they close up. I will likely do a sixth run during Halloween for an online game composed mostly of Europeans but most of those seats are taken so act fast.

This classic Halloween scenario touches on a lot of folklore for the area which I appreciate. It was written by Oscar Rios for the 2005 Halloween Monograph a la Chaosium. This is a great scenario for people new to Call of Cthulhu and also for people who like things light in horror and violence compared to your typical CoC mayhem.

A beautiful suite I was able to get for my Monday game. There were a lot more crashers for this game than my Saturday night game which is sort of ironic but there ya go.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


INTERVIEW WITH MAKE YOUR GAME LEGENDARY (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible)

So I'm always curious how people who end up designing games got into gaming so what's your story?
It was not long after I started playing D&D in March 1981 that I caught the bug to start designing my own stuff. The first adventure I ever wrote was based off an episode of the short-lived "Blackstar" cartoon, involving a floating city full of zombies under the control of an evil wizard with magic orb, and what I thought was a brilliant climax featuring a wraith dragon (my own creation) guarding a helm of brilliance under a series of 3 separate traps. I DMed for my brother and my friends, usually people years older than I was. I used published modules and modified them or used my own twists, but I was always writing, writing, writing. I posted up thousands and thousands of words on (then later, and later had someone host a geocities page for me.
I say all that just to reinforce the obvious point that "getting into RPG design" doesn't start when you get your first paycheck. The only way to get better at writing is to write, and write I did. I sent off a submission to Dungeon magazine back in 1991. No joy. My first paid gig didn't happen until over a decade later, when Julia Martin asked me to write a DMing advice column for the Wizards of the Coast website, which I did for 5 years. I had a few adventures and articles published in Dungeon and in Dragon during that time, but in spring of 2007 that all evaporated when Wizards cut outside freelancers off to (secretly, at that time) start work on 4th Ed, which also shut down opportunities in Dungeon and Dragon, though nobody knew it at the time.
Cue the first RPG Superstar contest that fall. I entered just as a lark. A "why not?" moment. My item was picked for the top 32, and my first thought was, "That's cool, but I'm probably not going to win." My second thought, though, was, "Wait a minute, why NOT me?" If it's a battle to the finish, let's just start throwing haymakers and see how far we go. My goal was to get through every round, to show everything I could do, and so I did, making it all the way to the Final Four. We turned in our adventure submissions. Mine didn't win. Was that the end? No. Thumbs up to Christine Schneider for being the first-ever Superstar champ, but what does it mean to WIN? I don't have the trophy or the title. But if you look back at the last 6-1/2 years since then what I do have is more writing credits for Paizo than anyone else who's ever been in the contest, from hardback rulebooks to AP adventures, Campaign Setting, Companions, Chronicles, and all the rest. Looking back, I'd call that a win.
I think my most fun project was my first AP adventure, "The End of Eternity," for Legacy of Fire, if only because things were still fairly open-ended in those days and my directive was really to create a Harryhausen-style magical archipelago. I had a map and three paragraphs of text describing what needed to be in the adventure, and I think we pulled together an amazing ride that people still love.

I've had a lot of great experiences, though. Making the NPC parties for the Rival Guide was great fun, I loved doing the mass combat and kingdom-building chapter for Ultimate Campaign, doing a bunch of Monsters Revisited products, the Lost Cities of Golarion, and the list goes on.

Since 2011, I've also been a part of Legendary Games, and that's been an amazing experience in a different way, but that's a few questions farther down so I'll answer that there.

What is it about your products which makes them unique and worth checking out for curious gamers?

The best thing about Legendary is the people. We are very intentional about the people we bring onto the team at Legendary, because when you buy a product from us we want you to rest assured that you are getting the very same writing talent you get when you pick up official Pathfinder products. You get products written by RPG Superstar champions like Neil Spicer, Matt Goodall, and Mike Welham and a slew of finalists, plus the top-name veteran freelancers in the Pathfinder stable like Greg Vaughan, Tim Hitchcock, Nicolas Logue, and very shortly Richard Pett. The authors on our team have written over 60% of the Pathfinder AP modules from Runelords to Iron Gods and going forward. This is not to say that great ideas can't come from anybody; there are a ton of creative people in this hobby. But if you want the best, the ones that have proven over and over again that they know Pathfinder fluff and crunch like nobody else, that's what you'll get when you pick up a product from Legendary Games. We even use many of the same artists you'll see in Pathfinder products, like Lazz, Michael Jaecks, Jason Juta, Tim Kings-Lynne, and more.

But it's not just about the people. It's about giving those people the freedom to create with passion and bold vision. At Legendary, if you've got an idea and you pitch it hard, we will back you to the wall. Then it's your job to make it awesome, and time after time our people deliver.

If you like vivid description, inventive mechanics, cohesive design, detailed backstory, terrific production values, and the focused awesomeness of the best names in the Pathfinder business, with the surety that these are the same people entrusted to produce much of the official product you are already using, whose qualifications are well earned through consistently delivering the goods time after time after time, then Legendary Games products are for you.

People who play official Adventure Paths, of course, have a special motivation to use our products, because they are uniquely situated to make those APs more awesome, but nothing that we do is tied to tightly to those APs that it doesn't stand up as fantastic all on its own. If you're running a campaign that even veers into the themes of pirates, gothic horror, kingdom-building, mass combat, fairies, demons, monsters, magic, or anything else we've covered, these products will (as we like to say) help Make Your Game Legendary!
Tell us about your top three products and which type of gamers might be interested in them and why?

To narrow it down to just three is tough, though if you are thinking in terms of sales it would be:

1.  The Ultimate Rulership-Ultimate Battle-Ultimate War
series of products that offer up a radical expansion of the kingdom-building and mass combat rules for Pathfinder. If you want to include kingdom creation and management or mass combat on land, sea, or sky in your Pathfinder campaign but the base rules from Ultimate Campaign (which I also wrote) don't provide the level of detail you'd like, these products are a terrific option for you.  

2.  The Gothic Campaign Compendium hardback, which includes all 17 of our Gothic horror-themed products, compiled and reorganized as an amazing resource for any Pathfinder campaign that includes horror themes and elements. Whether you're a player wanting horror-themed feats, spells, and archetypes or a GM wanting monsters, adventures, new rules subsystems for mad scientists and mutations, richly creepy tomes of unspeakable forbidden lore, richly detailed sample characters, or a wealth of advice on running a horror game, it's all here between two covers.

3.  The Way of Ki and its follow-up Meditations of the Imperial Mystics presented a huge expansion to the system of ki used in Pathfinder, not only for classes that already use ki like the monk and ninja, but as part of a holistic system that opens up the use of ki to characters from every class. From traditional Eastern philosophies and energy centers to glorious wuxia stunts, anyone wanting to make the martial arts more amazing in their Pathfinder game can get great use out of these products.

Our primary product lines are as follows:

Adventure Path Plug-Ins: We have supplemental products for five of Paizo's official Adventure Paths, incluing APs focused on Gothic Horror (issues #43-48), an epic journey to the Far East (issues #49-54), Kingdom-Building in a fey-haunted forested wilderness (#31-36), a Righteous Crusade against the demon lands (#73-78), and Pirates (#55-60)! We'll shortly be releasing products dealing with an AP about crashed spaceships and Metal Gods (#85-90), with others in the works as well. I'm sure your readers can figure out the official titles of those APs themselves.

These products include adventures, spells, magic items, monsters, and more, as well as rules supplements dealing with martial arts, cults, mad scientists, alien horrors from beyond the stars, faeries and their impact on the world, an entire line of ultra-detailed playable pregenerated characters, sinister villains with diabolically detailed backstories, and more. We had an entire mini-line devoted just to Gothic Grimoires - tomes of terrible secrets that contained class options, spells, feats, and more, but at an awful cost to the reader who dared brave the backstories behind these books.

Mythic Plug-Ins: We've been huge supporters of the mythic rules since they came out, producing one product with mythic versions of every spell in the Core Rulebook, along with over a dozen books of mythic monsters and dozens of small one-page Mythic Minis detailing mythic feats, path abilities, and more. We ran a very successful Kickstarter this past spring to fund the creation of THREE hardback books converting every feat, spell, class ability, and more across the entire line of Pathfinder core books. We ran this in cooperation with Kobold Press, Rogue Genius Games, and Dreamscarred Press, an unpredecented four-way 3PP Kickstarter team-up, but one that produced very exciting results. We're all hard at work now on these books, which will be available for next year's summer convention season.

Ultimate Plug-Ins: These are something of a personal passion project, in that these products are designed to supplement the Pathfinder core rulebooks in a variety of ways. Thus far, the products in this line have been the best-selling of anything we've made, with Ultimate Rulership, Ultimate Battle, and Ultimate War, offering huge expansions to the kingdom-building and mass combat rules that I developed in the official Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Ultimate Campaign hardback. We have another expansion planned called Ultimate Armies that will be dealing with premade armies, the troop subtype, and mercenary companies, and we will soon be debuting a short project called Ultimate Relationships that helps integrate PC-NPC relationships into ongoing campaigns, with a whole line of support products targeted at published APs and the NPCs in them.

Your Mythic Mania Kickstarter was quite popular. I see that you had an initial goal of $5,000 and got close to $70,000. Tell us about it and also if people who are late to the Kickstarter can purchase this product at a later point.

We started producing content for the mythic rules for Pathfinder when they came out, including Mythic Magic: Core Spells that converted over 400 spells from the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook that weren't in Mythic Adventures. We followed that up with a long-running series of Mythic Monsters products, of which we've now produced almost two dozen, each one taking a particular monster type like "demons" or "oozes" or a monster theme like "fairy tale creatures" and converting a dozen existing mythic monsters plus adding a brand-new one and a section of bonus material related to monsters of that type. We later started producing a line of weekly Mythic Minis that included conversions of existing mythic feats, new mythic feats, new path abilities for the various mythic paths, and now mythic magic items.

I really liked the potential of the mythic rules to revisit a lot of existing places in the rules and make them more exciting and more varied in their scope and theme--to make the rules live up to the flavor text in ways they didn't always quite do. Our first offerings for the mythic rules did pretty well, and I started thinking about the potential of making an encyclopedic conversion of the mythic rules. This was after the end of our first Kickstarter, to get the Gothic Campaign Compendium in print, as well as Kobold Press' Deep Magic Kickstarter, and I thought about making it bigger than just the core Paizo product lines. People ask sometimes why more 3rd party companies don't do team-ups on products, and I thought this might be a place to do just that.

I started talking to Wolfgang Baur from Kobold Press, and he was interested in getting together on the project. Not long after, Owen Stephens started producing some mythic products as well, focused on feats and class abilities, and invited him to the party. Earlier on, Jeremy Smith from Dreamscarred had emailed me asking if Legendary Games was going to do any mythic psionics; I told him I loved psionics but didn't have the bandwidth to do it. Fast forward some months later, as we're getting this project organized, and Jeremy hit me up again to let me know he had been working on mythic psionics, and we decided to add that into the project as well. So now you had a 4-way team-up on this mythic project, bringing together the top 3PPs for Pathfinder on a project that was going to produce not just one core book but THREE.

For the Kickstarter, we focused on breaking it into manageable pieces, based on what we had already completed and what we had in mind to add in later. That basic funding level would have gotten us one short book; not what we ideally would want for the project, but if that was all people wanted then so be it. The appetite for mythic product was going to be hard to judge; it was a niche market (mythic) in what is already a niche market of Pathfinder players (themselves a niche) who also use 3rd party products. From that basis, we structured it so it was very transparent as to what would be added, and the higher we went the more stuff would be added. We designed it to be very interactive, with backers voting on monsters they wanted to include from every group, and being able to sponsor specific rules elements they wanted included. People really liked it, and it just took off, going from that small beginning to funding three 300+ page hardbacks.

The books and PDFs will be available for next summer's convention season. If all goes well, we hope to have them available for PaizoCon 2015 next Memorial Day weekend, but if not we will definitely have them available for GenCon, where we are again planning a team-up event with some other 3rd party companies.

In closing here's a question I always like to ask. What is it about tabletop RPGs that makes you passionate enough to keep creating scenarios and products for it as well as continuing to play in the venue when there are other options?

Tabletop RPGs are fun. That's a good reason for starters. It's a great time to get together with friends and sling the dice, trying out new things sometimes and other times leaning back on old favorites. They have infinite replay value because they offer infinite variability in the play experience. Well, not infinite, but there's an awful lot of room to try new and different things within Pathfinder or across different systems.

Another thing is that when you're a writer, you write. You find that you can't not do it. People entering a contest like RPG Superstar sometimes talk about how hard it was coming up with an idea, while others have said they didn't enter because they didn't want Paizo to "steal their idea." Here's the thing: If you only have one good idea, you're probably not quite ready to dive into the deep end of the game design pool. Once you get into the groove of doing it, ideas are cheap and easy, and there are always going to be more of them. What separates you is the ability to execute those ideas in a way that's cool and fun. For some people, that's a lot of work. For others, it's still a lot of work, but it's also fun. Writers like to write.

I finished my Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies some years ago, ironically right as the professorial job market completely crashed. I spent some teaching, but I've also spent a fair bit of time doing research and writing, and I discovered that I like writing a lot more than I like teaching. So I decided to make writing my full-time job. I still have other hobbies and interests from family to church to football, but I write in the morning, I write during the day, I write at night. My hobby is my job. There are times when it's a grind, especially when a deadline is approaching, but I just like to write. If I didn't write about RPGs, I'd probably find something else to write about, but writing RPGs is more fun than the alternative.
Tim Hitchcock gave me a line once that I really liked when he told me that the genius element of RPGs is that they are more fun to think about playing than they are to play. They're fun to play, sure, but think how much time we spend by comparison thinking about the next game session or adventure or monster or magic or whatever it may be. I know for me I spent wayyyyyyy more time noodling around with the game than I spent playing it with anybody, and I've spent a lot of hours playing it over the years. It's a thing we do that is limited only by imagination, and anything you can think of can be a new doorway to something fun.

Monday, November 03, 2014


SPECIAL NOTE: what follows is an interview of the Outbreak: Undead RPG. This is a bit of a veering from my standard reviewing of local gaming conventions as an FYI and as a favor to Aethercon (a free online gaming convention).

A bit of information about the game and its creators from their Facebook page:

Company Overview

Hunters Books and Apparel, In 1999 the Hunter, Vincent St.Clair, came to the United States and was appalled at the lack of preparedness against evil forces. He wanted to make a change in the public knowledge of these threats. With that goal in mind, he and his team of Hunters have developed OUTBREAK: UNDEAD, a Zombie Survival Role-Playing Game with the tag “Your Zombie Survival Plan Will Fail!” and challenges players to prove them wrong. Learn more about our game and visit the “SPEW-AI” stations, where you can create yourself as a character, at our booth. Listen to in-depth seminars about zombie survival or come and find us at the GenCon Zombie walk, get zombified, and receive a free t-shirt! In the days of Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia, information is power, and these men reek of it. While working on the book, they still continue their hunter life, and stalk the shadows of the unknown to this day.

Chris De La Rosa
Robert Watts
Ivan Van Norman

We hope you enjoy our game!

INTERVIEW FOR OUTBREAK: UNDEAD (zombie survival roleplaying game)
 So I'm always curious how people who end up designing games got into gaming so what's your story?

Myself and my other two partners were all part of the same fraternity together, and we often asked the question (as many did back in 2003 of What would we do during a Zombie Apocalypse?). Also we played a lot of Role Playing Games. Basically my lead designer Chris De La Rosa showed us this homebrew version of a RPG he was working on, and after spending more time to consider it. We decided we could do this! We could print a book! We went into development on it for about half a year, and when we put our deposit down for GenCon, it became official. We were a company.

You've been prevalent in the gaming community. You were on a reality show, you and your partner created Outbreak: Undead and you had a follow up Kickstarter to Outbreak: Deep Space. What prompted your group to design a zombie RPG and how do you feel it differs from other gaming systems in that some of our readers may want to check it out

We basically analyzed the market out there at the time of development and asked ourselves 'what hasn't been done before'. We felt that being able to play YOURSELF in a zombie apocalypse RPG was a really good idea. At this time too, Eden and AFMBE was out of print for about 5 years, and didn't look like they were coming back, so we ended up being the "Walking Dead" to their "Romero" so to speak. 

It sounds like Outbreak: Deep Space has some awesome mechanics and ideas which make it unique in the tabletop RPG community so without “giving the farm away” would you like to expand any on the setting and mechanics? 

Outbreak Deep Space pretty much is 'setting neutral' in many ways, in that you can structure the outbreak however you wish. But we did divide it up into 3 major 'styles' of terror. Invasion, Infestation, and Transdimensional Horror. We feel those pretty much cover the entire gamut of Sci Fi Survival Horror. 

Hunter is working on a new edition of Outbreak: Undead and presenting it at Gencon 2015, yes? Tell us more about this project, please.

Outbreak: Deep Space is a set of rules that will hopefully help people transition from Outbreak: Undead 1st Ed to the upcoming 2nd Ed. The Style of the game is very similar, just set in a more modern world, and accounting more for the addition of "Strongholds" which was very popular in the 1st ed. ruleset.

The KS is planned to go live in Q1 of 2015, with a release at GenCon 2015. Right now you can buy O:DS as well as get a PDF copy of our "O:U 2nd Ed. Primer". The Primer is like a early beta release of the rules. That way it helps us get the awesome feedback from our fanbase we are looking for in order to make 2nd edition the best it can possibly be!

I have to ask will the artwork be as awesome as the first edition because I have seen some of it and it's top quality. Who were your artists and how did you get them to do such great work for your product?

Believe it or not, First Edition Outbreak: Undead was primarily done by our own team. The 'notebook style' layout allowed us to use a lot of sketch work which we felt helped set the style. I can tell you that we plan on making 2nd Ed even better (as well as in color) as far as design goes. We love the mix of photography and traditional style art, so expect to see more of that in the book.

In closing here's a question I always like to ask. What is it about tabletop RPGs that makes you passionate enough to keep creating scenarios and products for it as well as continuing to play in the venue when there are other options? 

I love storytelling systems like Dread, Gumshoe, and World of Darkness. But honestly every system I pick up I can usually some merit in telling a story with it. It's about engaging your players in something, and getting them passionately involved in the telling of that story. It's about making 'great' moments with your players that they can look back on and think of with fondness.

One of my favorite stories though, is we had a gentlemen come visit our booth at GenCon in like... 2012. He came, loved the book, and told us he was going to play it with his friends who were all ex-military. Not a totally unique story. But what surprised us is when he came back a year later, he told us he sat down to our our 40 Q personality test (that allows you to make yourself) online, and once he started playing with his friends he told us he felt literally *useless* compared to his friends. So he decided to make some huge life choices, and started getting more involved in his health and his training with his friends.
When we first met the guy, he was about 250-280 pounds. But he had told us he lost over 50, and was mostly muscle at that point. He had taken up martial arts, and attended the range pretty regularly now. Now is that isn't satisfying as a game developer, I don't know what is.

Thanks for taking the time to interview, Ivan. Much appreciated. And, for those who would like to see a game run of this mechanic there's a Youtube link here. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014


MY GRADE: Celesticon was an A minus for me (after consideration I upped it from my previous B plus to A minus score). 

At the rate it is going it might turn into my top con over a long period of time. This shouldn't make my other con children feel neglected or lead to fratricide.   

BTW, if you missed my review for Celesticon 2013 you can go here:

Here's a brief summary (by Shannon Mac standards which means long for others) of how it went:
FRIDAY BATTLESTAR GALACTICA BOARD GAME (core + partial Pegasus including Pegasus ship and rules but not Cylon Leader nor New Caprica): a six player game in which we made some distinctions about the sympathizer card (not to be confused with the sympathizer Cylon card). I played Admiral Caine and stayed human the whole time. The humans were lucky with jump tracks and had a win before the Cylons could do serious damage (they did damage plenty, though). For pros we used core plus Pegasus minus Cylon Leader and New Caprica. I absolutely adore the latter but it adds 45 minutes and some people don't like the sudden change.
Final "score" for the first BSG game. 

OTHER PLAYERS: Tye and Mell, Greg G., Thomas C. and Derek.

FRIDAY SHADOWS OVER CAMELOT: the loyalists won and Augustin was a pro as he spotted the traitor even though his father urged him to not do it (it was a very close game in swords meaning one accusation error and a white sword flips to black and we lose). Next time I play I will likely do the squire start to make it more challenging. I've played 8 games now and have won them all so gotta make it more challenging and maybe get the Merlin expansion, too.
One knight is not typically enough to claim Excalibur

Looking good but notice the Morgan Le Fay/Despair card combo. A hard hit.

Not enough knights to get the Holy Grail but I didn't want to say anything so that it would be more challenging. 

Ian and Augustin had a discussion about how awesome they were at spotting traitors, I told Saul this was a humble brag and he accused me of influencing such mannerisms (since I have known them for a time). I thought I was the epitome of humble. No? Renee? Tyson? Frank? Back me up!

OTHER PLAYERS: Saulster “Don't you do it, Augustin!”, Augustin the Pro, Blaine, Dru J. and Kenneth.
"Enter The Dragon". That's right. I went there.

And thus do the catapults build up against us

Augustin catches the traitor to the disbelief of his father!

My character, Sir Kay, half brother to King Arthur

FRIDAY CTHULHU DARK (run by Scott MacPherson who will also be a GM at DOW 2014): the only RPG I played but it was probably for the best as it was so compelling other RPGs would have been quite challenged to match up. Scott brought in music to suit the period of the 1990s which was just a fraction of the personal props he brought to the table. I played a nerd kid who loved comic books and video games and somehow got to use a 1940s collectible BATMAN graphic novel to save the world. I kid you not. A good group of players which added to the quality of the game with themes of loss, regret, making up, nostalgia, the old adage that you cannot go home again and various theories about (CENSORED!) . . . and also (CENSORED!).

 I think I was the only one who did “you know what” at the end of Act I but Scott would have to confirm.

OTHER KNOWN PLAYERS: Morgan H and Jason F.

UPDATE: Scott M. told me that Morgan gave away a fair amount and Jason F. to a lesser degree. So it wasn't just me. Heh.

SATURDAY DELTA GREEN/SPETSNAZ GAME (scenario by Adam Scott Glancy): we had a full house in this one and the group was good enough to stay up for ten hours from 6pm to 4am. I was going to warn them at 3:45am that we were almost at 4am but they were so excited with the climax within the climax that I didn't say anything. A lot of fun and especially fun as two of the people who came by to watch had been in the playtests and privately whispered how this group was doing things totally different from them. I may need to tighten this one a bit but it will still be ten hours if run again (and that includes breaks and setting things up as there are some complex characters and details about this Soviet Union setup).

Here's a list of the 8 starting characters (all played eventually):







Thanks to Adam Scott Glancy for writing this one. Thanks to Shane Ivy for generously giving a prize of the Unspeakable Oath issue which has this scenario within. Congrats to Sean P for getting it. Thanks to Scott M for not needing his priority slip (like myself since I did the early bird) so that we had 2 priority slips to put on the table as prizes for the players. Congrats to Amanda and Dan.
Special thanks to Music Man Andy for doing the music. I'm not sure if I want to run this scenario without you doing the music (it was soooo awesome) so we'll have to talk about mid February 2015 and end of May 2015 as a possibility for future runs (Dundracon and Kublacon).
Lastly, thanks for these people for dropping by for a greeting: Morgan H, Felipe, Tyson, Victor and did I leave anyone out?

MY PRO PLAYERS: Amanda, Dan, Samuel F., Glen, Scott M and Sean P.

SUNDAY BATTLESTAR GALACTICA BOARD GAME (core + partial Pegasus including Pegasus ship and rules but not Cylon Leader nor New Caprica): so this was a game I did not win for those who say I always win this game. Actually, if I won all the time I'd probably get bored with it. That's part of its allure!
I was Baltar in this BSG game.

I played Baltar and became Cylon at the midpoint. Come to think of it I was a Cylon in this game and the third one but not the first. The humans had some good runs and there were some good suspicious discussions as to who the Cylons were. Tyson almost got brigged but in the end Rachel went there and Admiral Sean led the humans to victory with 1 fuel point left. A well played game and it was great to teach another person about the board game.
OTHER PLAYERS: Rachel T., Sean N., Tyson F, spawn of Tyson

Blurry pic. Fuel at 1 and food at 2 once the humans won the game. No doubt Tyson will take all the credit for that win. Heh.
SUNDAY TEKUMEL LARP: the husband/wife team that runs this did and awesome job with another LARP that I experienced at Dundracon 2014. Here's the link:
My character's name

I had only heard about Tekumel from Old School gamers but never saw it offered at cons. This LARP was my first experience and T. and Danielle did a wonderful job in introducing the fifteen of us to the wonderful tapestry of a non Anglo-French fantasy setting.

My bureaucrat character had a generational dream of almost 300 years completed after a great amount of brokering deals. I appreciate that T. took us aside individually and asked us what we were seeking. I wanted intrigue and roleplaying more than combat and gambling/drinking. I liked the little details such as finger snapping over applause, the strange clock noises made at every hour and the whole economical setup with the vanilla liquor (like tap water to us but sold for wealth in other provinces far away and most of the aristocrats didn't know its value).

OTHER KNOWN PLAYERS: Brian and Emily; Jeff D., 
MONDAY BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (core + Pegasus rules minus New Caprica + Exodus with Ionian Nebula, some cards from Exodus and Crossroads and tokens from Daybreak): Mike H. got us started in a BSG game that had Exodus expansions such as the trauma tokens, The Crossroads and the Ionian Nebula. I played in one of his games two years back with said setup but we never got to see the latter two in action simply because we (as in we the humans) got wiped out.
A really tight time for humanity. The only good thing was that we were close to jumping so we delayed while handling a variety of concerns.Notice all of the colonial ships in one space. We moved them there b/c we had so many fleet actions in one jump phase that it was our only option to protect them.

I was hoping to airlock someone with Calli's special skills but not this time.

What was amusing was the player who started as an admiral was under suspicion immediately and almost got brigged yet during the entire game he was never a Cylon. It turned out that we only had a friendly Cylon Leader the first half of the game and then Judy and I went Cylon at the Sleeper Phase. I was still admiral and waiting to betray the group when they XO(ed) me by killing one player with my special skill and then revealing as a “Frakkin' Toaster” but Judy had an event she played after Crossroads which killed the admiral. Oops.

The humans had two more on the jump track to get out of there but this card dropped their morale to zero.

The Cylons still won when an impossible card showed up and the humans and Cylon Leader were low on cards so there you have it.

Another close game as the humans were a few steps away on the jump track from victory.
OTHER PLAYERS: Mike. H, Michael, Judy, Mell & Tye.

TEKUMEL DISCUSSION: Just as I was leaving with we ran into Jeff Dee and had an awesome sit down discussion about Tekumel for almost an hour. He was gracious enough to share his vast knowledge with us and that's how I learned about the Tekumel foundation and many other aspects which made me want to play again and maybe even run it.

Arkham Horror with expansions

CLOSING CEREMONIES & OTHER MUSINGS: I finally ran into Art W and Andrew W at the bathroom faucets but where was Nick? Probably hiding in a stall, I suspect.

Amanda seemed to forgive Dan for his hobo murdering moves so that was good. Heh. 

I had my Ipad and WiFi at the hotel so I was able to surf the web for the first part of the prizes until they got to the raffle. Those keeping track will be glad to hear I am zero for four on prizes but Jason F. gave me his copy of a Tekumel magazine (because he already got a copy at a game) so I worked the system to get a prize. Victory!

Most of these shots in open gaming were taken on a Monday. Pretty good activity.
From the gaming blog of Jay White.

Hey, this looks like a full review. Oh, well. Half of you knew.

I ran into Jeff Dee again and introduced him to some people. He shared some more tales and told me that he and his wife would be returning next year so there will be more Tekumel games. He was nice enough to sign my prize as well and then I noticed T. (who did the LARP with his wife) had signed the article and I would have asked him to sign it but he wasn't around.

If that LARP is offered again I'd put it on your “A” list.
I got to see a lot of people and am grateful for such a friendly network which I consider a part of my “gaming family”. We may have our squabbles at times but we eventually make up. I'm also grateful for an agreed creativity that most of us just don't get with the “Mundies” in the mundane world.