Monday, August 31, 2009

Fight On #6 Now Available!

Fight On! #6 has been released, with yours truly heading up the Reviews section (which includes a look at Michael Shorten/Chgowiz’s Swords & Wizardry Quick Start). If you’re a fan of classical gaming, or even if you aren’t and want a magazine that is filled with esoteric, eclectic fan-driven RPG goodness, I think you’ll find Fight On! an inspiration and an idea mill. It’s also ideally situated for bathroom reading, in that browsing, pick-a-page style. Make sure to check it out!

A Campaign Laundry List

We're starting our new Castles & Crusades sandbox campaign in just a few weeks, and I've been taking stock of some of the items that are projected to be used over the course of the campaign. In short, my cup runneth over:

I know I'm forgetting a few things, but I think that's a pretty good list.

One thing I am looking for are good BD&D/OSRIC/C&C/AD&D1e-compatible modules to fill in a few cracks here and there. If you've written one and would like it to get a playtest review on it, I'll certainly type up how it goes when we run it if you want to send it this way. In addition, I'm looking for a couple of items to review in the next Fight On!, so that'd be a two for one.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dragon Age Cover Revealed

Looks like Green Ronin's upcoming Dragon Age RPG finally has a cover:

That warg is totally taking an axe right in his piehole. It garners a respectable 7.5/10 on the Metal RPG Cover Scale.

AD&D Intellivsion Style

I remember seeing this over at a friend of my dad's place when I was young:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Troll Lord $10 Sale Redux

Anyone who’s read my site for any amount of time knows I consider Castles & Crusades a great, relatively rules-light common meeting ground between classic AD&D-era gaming and d20. Well, Troll Lord Games is again having one of their $10 sales, at least partly to make way for the 4th printing of the Player’s Handbook. Leatherette editions, the 3rd printing Player’s Handbook, and plenty of adventures and supplements can be had right now for between $5 and $10 apiece. If you’ve been thinking about giving the game a look, it might be a good time to check it all out.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Discussion: What Was Your Best Year of Gaming

This week's discussion asks the reader to think about when their best year of gaming was. Were you in college, playing marathon weekend sessions? Was it those nonsensical junior high games? Perhaps it was just this past year, with a reignited passion for a classic, timeless setting or system. Maybe it was in 1975, when a badly-smudged mimeo copy of Original D&D circulated amongst your friends.

So, what was your best year of gaming? I'll look forward to the answers below!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Erik Mona Interview: Pathfinder, Customer Service, and Old School

Publisher Erik Mona and his buddies at Paizo are fresh off a tremendous debut of the Pathfinder RPG at Gen Con. He was kind enough to chat with us again as we asked just a few questions about Pathfinder, Gen Con, and to expand his thoughts on the Old School Renaissance:

First off, Erik, congrats to you and the Paizo crew for a great Gen Con and Pathfinder release!

Q: So, what was the moment at Gen Con you pretty much knew you had a hit on your hands?

A: There have been signs that the book would be very successful for months, going back to more than 55,000 downloads of the free Beta, the instant sell-out of the Beta print edition, and the quick sell-out into the distribution channels of the actual final Core Rulebook. But I wanted to remain cautious until I could actually see people buying it with my own eyes. At 9:00 AM on Thursday at Gen Con we had a big rush with the Very Important Gamers who come in an hour early (to say nothing of other exhibitors, who had us ringing sales from the moment we arrived). Still, that petered out to a slow trickle by the time 10:00 came around and the doors opened for the general public. It took maybe two minutes for the hordes to find the Paizo booth. I engaged a customer in a conversation, and suddenly it was like a wave of gamers crashed over me. Our display table was nearly picked clean mere minutes later, and when I turned around there was already a line completely encircling the Paizo booth. I think I knew we had a bona fide hit on our hands when the volunteers running the adjacent art show begged us to swing the line overflow in a way that didn't completely overrun the huge art show. For the rest of the weekend, you couldn't hardly go anywhere without seeing people paging through the book. It's been really fun.

Q: Did you have any copies left over after Gen Con? With the sellout of the first print run having been announced, what's going to happen with those copies? Back out to distributors or on sale via Paizo?

A: A very small number of copies survived the show, which means we did a decent job of guessing how many we could sell. After burning through the Beta in 9 hours last year, we wanted to make sure that we brought enough so that people wouldn't be turned away empty handed. Those few copies will likely end up getting combined with a small number of books we held back in case our Gen Con debut was ruined by a spot customs inspection of the main shipment, all of which will go to hobby distributors and local game stores. A full reprint is expected in October.

Q: Outside of the Paizo booth, what was the coolest item you saw at Gen Con this year?

A: I'm a big miniatures collector, so I'm usually on the hunt for really interesting minis. Reaper provided in spades with sculpted greens for the first few releases in their forthcoming (and announced at the show) Pathfinder Miniatures line. Bobby Jackson did a great, dynamic sculpt of our iconic fighter, Valeros, from the cover painting by Wayne Reynolds. It was amazing. I also really like the sort of gothic wild west minis from a company called Wyrd Miniatures, who publishes a game called Malifaux. I'm not so much interested in adding another minis game to my list of hobbies, but the minis are great. I also had a chance to finally pick up Thousand Suns and Colonial Gothic from Rogue Games, one of my favorite newish small RPG companies.

Q: If you had to pick one book coming up for Pathfinder that you're most excited about, which one would it be? Why?

A: I'm most excited about the Advanced Player's Guide, which will debut at next year's Gen Con. It'll be packed with new options for the 11 core classes and it'll also include six new base classes like the alchemist, oracle, cavalier, and summoner. We plan to round out a lot of the basic options with this book (we don't plan to do a fighter book followed by a wizard book followed by a bard book, etc.), and I'm eager to move on to development of the system for its own sake, rather than to round out updating of the OGL SRD. New, innovative ideas are exciting to me, and the APG will include a lot of those as well as clear the way for what's to come next. And what comes next will be phenomenal!

Q: We've been talking about RPG company customer service quite a bit here lately at RPG Blog 2. Paizo is generally reputed to have some of the best customer service and fan relations in the business. What approaches are emphasized at Paizo to connect with and suppport their gamer customers?

A: Everyone at the company is a gamer, so there isn't much of a sense of divide between us and the people who buy our products. Everyone here is obsessed with the message boards. I've seen reps from some RPG companies bemoan having to spend time online interacting with the fans, the whole "I don't even have enough time to do the job they pay me for" routine. Well, at Paizo, interacting with the fans is PART OF the job that we pay our employees to do, and even if it wasn't there's no way I could keep people like James Jacobs or Lisa Stevens from posting responses to fan queries at 3:54 AM on a Thursday. We also have a great customer service staff in Cosmo and Alison, who spend all day every day attending to the needs of our customers.

Q: You've written online that hearts at Paizo are sympathetic to the Old School Renaissance, and that down the road we just might see something in that field from Paizo. Why do you think the OSR has expanded and gained notice in the manner it has?

A: I think that there's a Do It Yourself element to a lot of the Old School stuff that has great appeal. Back when I got into the hobby in the early 1980s (and especially in the few years preceding that) the books looked good, but not great. A lot of the art of the day was provided by, essentially, talented amateurs, which is where the writing came from too. It's difficult to look at a fat hardcover book like the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and think "I could do that," but the barrier to knocking out something like Tomb of Horrors is quite a bit lower. Direct sales to the customer, online fora, and publishing houses like Lulu make it a lot easier for a guy with a cool idea to produce a game than it has ever been.

And then there's the thematic roots of the game, which basically came from the bookshelves of E. Gary Gygax and his early collaborators. Paizo's designs have always been sympathetic to the thematic spirit of the old 1st edition stuff that enticed most of us into the hobby, so when it comes to themes we're marching in lock step with the OSR. That said, 3.5 is not even close to an "old school" game, and its complexity is one of the factors that fuels the popularity of the movement. A lot of OSR folks likely would scoff at the idea that the editorial staff behind Pathfinder shares a lot of their sensibilities, because Pathfinder is MUCH more complex than most "Old School" games. Like 3.5 before it, it tries to provide an answer for almost every corner-case problem, whereas my sense of the Old School community these days is that they're far more likely to approve of something that puts a lot of decision-making and problem-solving powers in the hands of the Game Master.

While we have absolutely no plans to produce a retro-clone of 1970s or 1980s D&D, a lot of us do see the appeal of more streamlined games that hearken to the same thematic spirit that fueled D&D in past decades, and that fuels the OSR now. Since we already have a fantasy game on the market in the form of Pathfinder (and since others are blazing some excellent Old School fantasy trails of their own at the moment), anything from Paizo in the "Old School tradition" (loosely defined) would more likely involve some other genre. I'd love to do an RPG supporting our Planet Stories pulp science-fiction and fantasy novel line, for instance, and I'm not sure the Pathfinder rules is where I'd start for such a project.

I think the OSR has expanded and gained notice primarily because of its community spirit and the efforts of several active bloggers, who feed off one another and foster a sense of community. In this day and age, you cannot have a healthy RPG without a healthy community, and the internet is the greatest tool for generating and maintaining the supportive communities necessary to make an RPG work. Pathfinder would not exist if not for the community and the more than 55,000 playtesters who helped us with the game, and the Old School Renaissance would not be much of a renaissance if not for blogs like Grognardia, communities like Dragonsfoot, and the writers and fans who fuel them.


Thanks again, Erik!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sandboxing: Giving Clues In Prose

One of the toughest things for a Game Master new to sandboxing is giving the players some sense of purpose, some reason to strike out. Of course, you ultimately rely on player action to determine course in large part, but you also want to provide some motive to get out in the wilds in the first place.

Also, in my case, I wanted to give them whispers and bits and pieces of the wilderness. One of the ways to do this is to give them a rough player's map, with only here and there marked (with some of those markings possibly wrong).

I wanted something a little bit more for my upcoming sandbox campaign. The players will be discovering a large island settled by refugees of a great Elf/Man war a millenium in the past. One of the items they will receive at the start of the campaign is a short excerpt from a rare tome, purported to be from this unexplored haven in the Far West. I loaded it with hints, vague geographical locations, and descriptions of the 13 Cities of Man.

I think there's something terribly appealing of scholars vainly trying to puzzle out an archaic, ancient form of their tongue, trying to decide if the way ahead contains riches or doom. I kept it short, about two pages in Word, and I'll be doing some further formatting to make it more "ancient". As well as being an example of what I'm after here, I'd also love any constructive feedback. For now, here it is:

This is the story of our past.

Every child is taught we were once Kings, far across the Waters of the East. Then came the Great War, when the High Elves and Greenskins sought to destroy all mankind. For decades we fought them. Our far-eastern lands fell. Our mighty defenses, the Ringforts, could not hold. And finally, as the sky blackened under the horror of war, the City of Man, with its gleaming white palaces and great lighthouse, fell.

The last king, known to us as Curse-King for being doomed as the Last King of the East, did not wish all of his people to perish vainly. He had saved his fleet, the greatest gathering of ships the world had ever seen. Some went east, to oblivion. Others went south and north, and we know nothing of them. But the majority were entrusted to his son and heir, Prince Elechor, second of that name.

Giving Elechor the crown to signify he was to be heir, the Curse-King, he bade him take the fleet over the long water, to the lands rumored to be far beyond the horizon. He also sent his second son, the proud and arrogant Prince Lexo, to aid him. And then the Curse-King perished in battle, for it was his fate not to outlive his great city.

And so, a tenth of the soldiery, a tenth of the priests and clergy, a tenth of the common folk, a tenth of the goodly vassal wood elves and dwarves, a tenth of the clerks, a tenth of the nobles, and a tenth of all other peoples joined the fleet. And with them went much of the Great Treasury, and many weapons both blessed and arcane. And so went with them as much of our collected knowledge as could be fit, though much could not go.

When they had sailed for nearly half a year, they happened upon this land we now call home. There were savage Men here, the Wild Sparrow Tribe, and the Stone Cougar Tribe, and others, both friendly and foelike. And they still are among us today, though their numbers are much reduced.

Here we found plentiful game, good earth, and places to remind us of what was lost. But also here were the Troll, the High Orcs, the Goblin, and the beasts in the dark. And we found the Hells had followed us.

Upon landing, Elechor named the first city Sidon, City of Sails, in honor of the ships that had borne them true across the sea.

And the Remnant of Man found strife among each other, and quarreled, and came to blows quickly.

So it was that Elechor decided to explore the mainland, giving leave to all peoples to leave and find their own way in the wild, appointing their own leaders. He was wise in this, for it was in this way that Man blossomed and multiplied across this land.

And so did the sailors and mariners among us elect to stay in Sidon, on the Sea that touched our home on the other side of the world.

And so did many of the prideful mages quarrel that those who controlled the essence of magic should rule as lords. And so did they and their followers found Morsten, City of the Tower, on the Great River Rhiannon.

And so did the Generals and Marshals of our Army decide that they should rule with a martial fist. And they and those who followed them founded the fortress of Kellan, City of Shields, overlooking the Plains of Tarsis and the roving tribes who dwelt there.

And so did the High Church decide that the ArchPriest would be the wisest ruler, and they and their acolytes and flock founded Brial, far down the Great River Rhiannon. It was named the City of Martyrs, for did they not fight 100 days and 100 nights against the High Orcs, still their mortal enemy to this day?

And so did six Brother-Knights journey to a fruitful island far to the South, named Vartuun, City of the Six. And though they ruled together in peace for a time, they fell to infighting, and the rare crops and natural wonders of that isle know strife until this day.

And so did the zealots among the people, those who hated all not of Man, said, “judgment remains among us, so long as those not of Mannish blood are in our midst”. And so did they found Ciplos, City of Humanity, closed to those not of Mannish race. And they keep watch still among the ancient coastal caves of the Gray Coast.

And so did the Druids and Elves among them say, “We will never be welcome by this people. Better to stay in the harmony of blessed Nature”. They built Tallis, City of Green, amongst the trees and quiet flow of the Mosswash.

And so did those who were deceived by the Great Wyrms of this place, who slyly promised them power and safety if they would only revere these dragons as gods on earth. And the deceived ones brought many priceless pieces of craftwork to their new gods, who reign still, near-ageless, in their cruel mountains in the North and West, in Drakarym, City of Scales.

And so did those who loved the earth, Man and Dwarf alike, say “Let us find the treasures in the ground of this new place”. And they braved the strange calls hidden within the Mistwall, far to the South and West, and built Haftholm, City of Granite. And part of the city was built above the earth, and part below.

It was then the Mad ArchMage visited us, timeless and true. Even then, his Castle was here. He saved us, and warned us of the Crimson Doom, great power though it was. But Lexo mocked his gray hairs, and secretly plotted to control this great power for himself.

And so did depart those who had private counsel with the Mad ArchMage--the Gnomes, and those Men who loved the High Places. And in the Starpeaks, they built Aeolus, the City of the Winds. And their marvels and wonders remain.

And so did the Traitors, those who worshipped Evil, the Not-God Sercar, steal away with much of the riches and wealth with them. They had hidden themselves among the refugees, and now stole away. They built the black abode Darakkis, City of Demons, and to this day control the Fellbarrens, which scar the center of this land.

And so did Lexo take his people to the Gnarled Isle, far to the North, where the Crimson Doom was held. And for a time his people flourished, and built a great city, Kair Lexo, City of Pride, as arrogant and as proud as their founder Prince. But in the end, did not the Crimson Doom claim them all? The Gnarled Isle still sits, Kair Lexo’s rich ruins a lure into damnation.

And did not others depart, to find lesser realms? And where are they today? Who has touched even a part of the Five Hundred Isles beyond this place? The Wilderness is Wilderness, they say, and there are places where no man-hewn stone may mark the earth for long without being overturned. And many are the ruins between the great cities.

Elechor II, taking only the wisest and most loyal remnant, wandered for many years over the width and breadth of the land. And finally, he founded the great city Waeros, City of Kings. And it is from this haven I write this. Elechor, 23rd of that name, reigns supreme. Our white towers and great walls return to the glory of the past. Our treasury is full, and our people do not want.

All seek out the untold glory of the City of Kings. Few succeed. Seek us if you will, O Reader, in the lands southwest of the Titans.

And the years passed, and time and the wilderness separated and grew distant these nations of Men. But their cities remain, even as our relics and treasure lie in a hundred places in this new realm.

May Blessed Elechor and the Most High Always Guard Your Path.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Recruiting

Our group has been looking to add some new blood and meet some new gamers for our fall session, and we've already had 4 serious responses to our efforts. Our town was generally thought to be largely bereft of a gaming scene, but like most little to mid-size midwestern towns, I think it's there, it's just waiting for the right sort of outreach. To this end, we've tried several different approaches:

-Basic word of mouth. Told friends to tell their friends...

-Fliers. Seems old-fashioned, but I think they help. We've put them or are putting them in RPG books at bookstores, in cafes, the library...

-Adverts for new players at places like RPGnet and ENWorld (which, however you may feel about those two sites, they still get a lot of traffic)

-Hitting up the local Indy Gamer and D&D Meetup groups at

Really, I think it's the mix that's helped. I think we've had one response from each thing we've done, and we just started our push this past weekend! Not too shabby!

I think it helps that the setup for our Castles & Crusades campaign is going to be a sandbox game that's a bit easier on attendance. I believe we're going to try for initial meetings/meet n' greet over the next two weeks, and start our campaign by next month's end. Should be a good time for all.

I think one of the big things I had to do personally was adjust my expectations. Many of us have kids now; we aren't going to be able to do a marathon session every Saturday. It just isn't going to happen. But we can do a biweekly game (occasionally more frequently), late on Fridays, where it doesn't interfere with most schedules. And I think in the end, that's more rewarding than trying and failing to do something more frequently intense. If you're struggling through the same sort of decision, you're not alone. The quality of your gaming doesn't have to suffer just because you're older, with more responsibilities; we just need to adapt and overcome (that just sounds wrong, coming from an Air Force alum).

Like in many things, managing expectations and ensuring everyone is on the same page before starting out are vitally important.

Using That D30: Weapons

So, you’ve picked up a hefty, suitable-for-chucking-at-players D30. Perhaps you let your players “supercharge” one roll per session (swapping a d20 for the d30). But you want something more. Consider the following:

The Sword of Shifting Injuriousness

This weapon was meant to be another masterpiece forged in the flames of the famed smiths of Hal-Addad, the Dwarfhome. Instead, an imperfection in the ritual of imbuing it with arcane lethality resulted in the sword doing wildly variable damage.

Upon a successful hit, roll a 1d30 to determine damage type for the sword:

1) None
2) 1 point of damage
3) 1d4-1 (minimum 1 damage)
4) 1d4
5) 1d6
6) 1d6-1 (minimum 1 damage)
7) 1d4+1
8) 1d6+1
9) 2d4
10) 1d8
11) 1d10
12) 1d12
13) 1d20
14) 1d30
15) 2d6
16) 2d8
17) 2d10
18) 2d12
19) 2d12+1
20) 2d20
21) 3d4
22) 4d4
23) 3d6
24) 4d6
25) 5d6
26) 6d6
27) 6d8
28) 10d6
29) 3d20
30) 2d30

This magic item has become a favorite in multiple campaigns, in part I think due to the completely overindulgent amount of dice rolling one gets to do when wielding this weapon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Zack's Dozen Update

A few months ago, I started featuring Zack's Dozen, my way of doing a quick list of fun, buzz-worthy RPGs and accessories, classic and new alike. I also said that I'd be changing it out now and then, as new, worthy entries came along.

That's not to say the previous Dozen have passed from notice--the truth is, there's just too much cool gaming stuff out there. The list is mix of stuff I'm using, anticipating, playing, wanting to play, or just finding a newfound appreciation for, and I hope it's taken as such. (You may also notice a few holdovers, but by and large they've been swapped out).

So, check it out on the sidebar right there, and I hope that ultimately My Dozen leads you to some interesting new gaming experiences!

Let's hear it one more time for our former dozen!

And let's hear it for our new list (again, in no particular order)!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Episode 5 of RPG Circus Now Available!

That's right, we're back from Gen Con, and have Episode 5 of the RPG Circus podcast for your listening enjoyment!

In this episode we cover:

-Does System Matter?
-What Do You Want Out of Your Fantasy?
-The Golden Rule of Gaming

Plus, a metric ton of news (Gen Con, Green Ronin, Swords & Wizardry, Warhammer 3e, etc.) and reader comments! Thanks for listening!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Discussion: Gaming Company Support

We are less than a week removed from the joys of Gen Con, but already the real world crushes us under its weight. Is it really a year until the next Gen Con?

Post-Gen Con hangover or no, we still have some Friday Discussion lined up here at RPG Blog 2. Nothing serious, nothing earth-shattering, just some gamers talking about gaming, killing time until the weekend.

Today’s topic is thus: What sort of support do you expect out of a gaming company? Free support downloads? Cheap/free pdfs for buying a print copy? A well-run message board for fans? That personal touch? A respectful attitude towards your input? In a time where there are so many companies vying for your gaming dollar, what do you consider as adequate company support of a product you’ve purchased?

Let that sense of entitlement flow below, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

RPG Sci-Fi Magazine: Post-Gen Con Update

I promised an updated on the idea of a fan-driven RPG Sci-Fi Magazine on the other side of Gen Con, and in this, I am true to my word.

First, thanks to everyone who offered advice and feedback on this project. I have a list of email addresses of people to contact who want to be involved with this undertaking! I truly believe this could be another great hobbyist product, one that could help people push their creative limits, get experience writing, and help share resources for a genre that often unfortunately plays second-fiddle to fantasy.

I went to Gen Con hoping to do some more polling of gamers, and I think I was able to do that, adding an additional 30+ respondents to the results. What’s more, I got some really excellent feedback on content expectations vs. price point, which I think will really help set some goals and realistic expectations for the product.

I do think there’s enough interest to move forward. This is the good news!

That bad news—well, not bad, as much as news of delayed gratification—is that I had to realistically examine my own finances. I will not be in a position to start this project until January, as I have obligations that need to be met, and a great family (mine) that needs to be taken care of. As much as I am a gamer, I need to be a husband and father first. And as I’ve said before, if this is going to be done, it needs to be done right. The other people willing to put their time and talent into it deserve that.

But the big news is, yes, this is going to happen. And I am tremendously excited for that fact!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making A Better Hobby: The RPG Gold Star

All too often, we concentrate on the missteps of gaming companies, ignoring those who offer truly excellent customer service and support. Companies of all sizes, from those run part-time to those employing dozens of folks, can make the difference between a gamer having a positive gaming experience or being driven away.

I think at times we, the RPG community, tend to accentuate the negatives without giving enough recognition to the companies that are doing things right. And while poor customer service, quality issues, and negative public relations should be brought to account, we need to make sure those companies going the extra mile for their customers get the recognition they so richly deserve.

Well, here at RPG Blog 2, we’re going to start featuring the RPG Gold Star, a commendation to be given to those companies who are noticed going above and beyond for their customers. It’s my hope that other RPG Bloggers will join me in syndicating this series of commendations, and encourage publishers to be counted among those who are doing things right.

Do you want to commend a gaming company for excellent support, customer service, or otherwise going out their way to make your experience a happy one? Send us a nice write-up to mail.rpgblog(at), explaining in 100-300 words what the company in question did to rock your socks off. It can be an amazing customer service moment, their handling of a difficult situation, or something special they did in terms of game support. We’ll then get it published, and give those companies that are doing things right some positive face time. Big or small, fantasy, horror, or something eclectic—it doesn’t matter—just that you felt treated right as a valued customer and fellow gamer.

If you’re an RPG Blogger that would like to be included in this project, please shoot me an email at mail.rpgblog(at), and I’ll make sure you’re included going forward. Alternately, I’m looking for a simple, yet distinguished logo that honored companies may use as a graphic. If interested, please contact me at the same email!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The OSR and Gen Con

If you have any interest in neoclassical gaming or the old-school renaissance or any of those types of things, I'd really appreciate a few minutes of your time here.

First, I’ve been thinking it might be really cool to have a small Gen Con old-school/classic RPG tournament next year. It’d have to be manageable, like 4 or 6 6-person slots, with the highest group XP claiming the title. (It would also be fun to have awards for items like Most Kills, Best Idea, and Individual XP). I’d also like the games themselves to be manageable--I think 2-hour slots are optimal, with so much going on at Gen Con. Of course, there’d be several ways to go about it.

There’d be 4 Big Things:

DMs: I’d love to take a turn at it, but there would need to be at least a couple of DMs to share the load, and to hash out the overall rules.

Scenario: Do we use something pre-published but obscure? Do we tear something out of the One-Page Dungeon Contest? Or do we create a new one from scratch?

System: Labyrinth Lord? Swords & Wizardry? Microlite74? The Red Box itself?

Sponsorship: It’d be nice to give out a trophy or plaque of some sort to the winner.

Obviously there’s also the matter of interest, but I think that’s already there. Chgowiz’s games sound like they went marvelously. My Microlite74 game sold out, and I had a person show up with generic tickets to get in. Swords & Wizardry was exposed to a new element this year.

OK, onto my bigger point: I think it has been disappointing that TARGA and the neoclassic/classic/old-school RPG community has not been able to work up any more representation at Gen Con than on an individual level (such as Chgowiz with his Sword & Wizardry Quick Start, and running games). At Gen Con, you realize how many attendees still play and love earlier editions. I saw more than one old taped-up Red Box, and the AD&D 1e PHB was not unknown.

To a larger point, many of these attendees are “alpha gamers”. They take the new (or old) hotness back to their groups. Give them demos, give them a booth to interact with, give them opportunities for play, and watch it blossom. They're out there, guys. They may not visit the message boards or our blogs, but meet them at Gen Con, play with them, send them back home with a fresh copy of Labyrinth Lord or OSRIC in their paws, and watch the extended community grow. That's what I want. I'd rather sell 40 products to new customers offline than 80 products to the same old 80 folks online. Ultimately, I think we all want more people gaming the games we enjoy. Gen Con is one of the best ways to accomplish that.

Yes, it would take money. Yes, there are considerations to be made. Look, this is the same corner of the hobby that helped get previously obscure products in stores and distro networks, that pushed a quarterly gaming magazine to the top of lulu’s sales charts, and helped a retro-clone capture an award few people thought it had a chance of winning.

I’m willing to do my part for next year. What about you?

Sandboxes and Seminars

During our 2009 GM’s Jam Seminar at this year’s Gen Con, Michael (Chgowiz), along with perhaps one or two of our other panelists, used the term “sandbox” or “sandbox gaming”. After the panel, I had two separate attendees (including one in my own expanded gaming circle) express an interest in learning more about sandbox gaming, having near heard the term before.

Obviously, guys like Chgowiz, Rob Conley, and others have written loads on the topic, but I’m also thinking that it might be a good seminar topic for next year’s Gen Con. I think it’s a fun, often misunderstood concept of play that could do with a bit of fresh air.

What other Gen Con seminars would you like to see? For attendees, what were your favorite seminars?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gen Con Booth Grades

Another year of Gen Con is in the books, but there's still some work to be done. Here's RPG Blog 2's grades for some of the company booths at this year's convention. The grade considers a mix of visual appearance and presentation, convention buzz, and overall booth experience.

Please note this is just my perception of things. A company may receive a C+ here, but that doesn't mean they didn't have a wildly successful convention from their point of view. Likewise, a company receiving an A may have burned through their trust fund money thanks to lavish demos and booth displays, and will fold in a year. (Actually, several publishers I spoke to said it was a really good year for sales, so that's encouraging!). But perhaps some of the notes here will be useful for companies or prospective exhibitors to consider for next year.

The Grades

Alderac: B
They came in with a larger booth this year, with plenty of available demo space.

Burning Wheel: B+
Small, but busy and engaging of prospective customers.

Catalyst: Split Grade
RPGs get a C, due to some unfortunately standoffish booth personnel when I tried to get info on Eclipse Phase, but the rest of the booth was a healthy A- for a whirlwind of demos.

(EDIT: Adam Jury of Catalyst contacted me personally about this issue, and couldn't have been nicer in working to resolve it. Great work, and great outreach).

Cubicle 7/Adamant: B+
Kind of a back location, but they were busy talking to gamers almost every time I ventured that way. Friendly, patient booth staff.

Dwarven Forge, Fat Dragon Games, Hirst Model Arts, and the Miniature Building Authority: A
All 4 of these companies did an equally splendid job setting up and displaying their scenery and miniatures.

Exile Game Studio: D+
Recessed, dark booth didn't do them any favors. There's always next year.

Fantasy Flight: B
These guys are always busy, but more accessible info on their RPGs would be nice (though the Warhammer 3e display case was nice, if it not hugely informative. I tired to get a pic of it, but found out after I came home that a glare rendered the pic unusable).

Gamescience: A
An expanded booth, a new display, plus Louis Zocchi as a Guest of Honor equals a top grade. Could perhaps clean up a bit on the outside display.

Gaming Paper: B+
Came into Gen Con virtually unknown, left with a healthy amount of buzz.

Goodman Games: C+
I think they could have done a better job displaying the majority of their titles than just stacks. More vertical displays would be nice.

Green Ronin: C
Good-sized island booth, but being in the dim light back by the electronics area didn't do them any favors, Dragon Age tie-in or no.

Indie Press Revolution: B+
Demo space didn't appear as expansive this go-around, but they still do one of the best jobs at the convention of engaging customers and cranking out the demos.

Kenzer: B-
Nice, navigable booth, but I missed the in-booth demos, which in years past were a big draw and some of the best at Gen Con. From what I heard, they had some GMs fall through at the last minute.

Margaret Weis Productions: B-
There were so many people in the booth at one time that it got confusing. Otherwise, solid, if unspectacular.

Mind Storm Labs: A-
One of the best knacks for aesthetics at the convention. Nearly everyone comes away impressed, even if it isn't their exact cup of tea.

Mongoose: B
Man, they have a lot of product lines, something you realize when you see them all in front of you. Nice display of new and recent Traveller products.

Paizo: A
The only way this could have been higher is if they sold out of Pathfinder completely. Pathfinder was the show's big product and big buzz, even more so than many expected.

Pinnacle/Studio 2: B
Definitely caught some word of mouth on the $10 Savage Worlds Explorer Edition. They should really stress promoting it as much as possible.

Q-Workshop: A-
All they have to do is put out their dice, and folks come running.

Rogue Games: B+
Really engaging with customers. Good game pitch. Looked completely wiped by late Saturday.

Rootjack Pirate Energy Drink: B-
I'd say 8/10 people I talked to who tried this root beer-ish drink liked it. but even if they couldn't help it, not being able to sell the actual product in the Exhibit Hall (it was available at the RAM) was a downer.

Troll Lord Games: B
Clean, with lots of room to navigate, but it was hard for me to get a good, exact answer on a couple of product questions.

White Wolf: B+
I'm not a White Wolf player usually, but they do a great job of staffing their booth with affable, knowledgeable personnel.

Wizards of the Coast: B-
Announcing their 2010 campaign setting and the $5 4e Player's Handbook promo saved an otherwise underwhelming convention. Still the big dog, but a quiet show by their standards.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gen Con Running Liveblog: Day 4

Hello, and Greetings from Gen Con Indy! We'll be updating with news and pics through the day! You're welcome to comment and request coverage of various products and booths--after all, this is for you! If you missed Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 coverage, make sure you check it out!

Check out this nifty video about the Pathfinder waiting line and reaction (hat tip Benoist!)

Forgot to post this yesterday, but here's a shot of Rick Loomis at Flying Buffalo, still doing his thing. Definitely part of the Old Guard.

Also, Q-Workshop was totally slammed on Saturday! They make some of the most eye-catching dice out there, even if they are insanely expensive. Their Pathfinder and Earthdawn sets were fantastic, but I couldn't get a good shot.

Lots of folks packing up and heading out or getting ready to today, but there's still time for a bit more gaming. There are a lot of tourneys finishing up or announcing winners today. I really, really wish I'd had the time to do the Castles & Crusades tourney--I'm interested to hear how it went.

Just a few more photos:

Imperial Troops have entered the base! Imperial Troops have--(static)

Alderac had a much larger booth this year, and was really cranking out the demos. Good to see.

The Steve Jackson/Atlas Games booth is perpetually busy, and perpetually cluttered.

Hey! Kobold Quarterly was making the rounds, kissing babies, shaking hands, and pimping the mag!

My daughter was happy to see Wonder Woman.

It isn't Gen Con without weapons dealers.

Number of low-quality katanas shipped home from Indy, non-Gen Con calendar year: 3

Number of low-quality katanas shipped home from Indy, Gen Con calendar dates: 682

Well, for me and many others, another Gen Con is again in the books. A strange year, as far as product releases go, but honestly, it was still a blast in just about every way. Quality gaming, entertaining seminars, meeting folks from our online communities, making new friends, and doing my best to ensure that folks who aren't here see a glimpse of the awesomeness make Gen Con for me.

In a lot of ways, I feel that the advent and popularization of Twitter has made this type of coverage somewhat of a dinosaur. People can get their Gen Con news much faster on Twitter than I can on this blog. I use Twitter as well, but I'm going to have to really look at how I cover Gen Con next year. If there's one sour note for me from Gen Con, it's a sense of not really knowing how this coverage fits in, or how much it is needed any more. In any case, thanks to those of you who've commented and read the past few days. It's all for you, after all.

Our Gen Con coverage isn't quite over, however. Check back tomorrow as I hand out some Gen Con Grades for some of the various company booths!

EDIT: As a bonus, please accept this photo of beautiful, beautiful Gamescience.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gen Con Running Liveblog: Day 3

Hello, and Greetings from Gen Con Indy! We'll be updating with news and pics through the day! You're welcome to comment and request coverage of various products and booths--after all, this is for you! If you missed Day 1 and Day 2 coverage, make sure you check it out!

Check back throughout the day as this article is updated. You can also follow RPG Blog 2's updates on theRPGsite (caution: contains some strong language) and Twitter. Enjoy!

First off, here's a few pics from earlier that I haven't included yet:

Say what you will, WotC has some awesome statues for their games.

Another shot of the Green Ronin booth. One of my least favorite settings of all time, Blue Rose was featured.

Jedi, Jedi everywhere...

This girl had tons of pictures taken of her. What's really creepy is when girls aren't dressed up and guys still take pictures--especially without permission. Gen Con isn't always a bastion of social etiquette.

It does my heart good to see Space: 1889 still represented!

This will be a busy day, between my game and seminar, but I still have some booths I've promised to get to. My daughter will also be with me for a while today--it's hard to tell which one of us is more excited!

12:20: Just finished up a great Microlite74 game. I had wonderful players, and we had a lot of fun trying to get as much loot as they could out of the dungeon.

We had breakfast with the good folks of GOLD: The Series. We had a great time and some great discussion. That's half the fun of Gen Con, is just talking to folks who get the hobby.

Michael S (Chgowiz), Bonemaster, and I wil be part of the 2009 GM's Jam in about an hour, but I wanted to get a quick update in.

Met RPG Diehard today--great to put the name to the face (or vice versa). He was in our Microlite game, and with the rest of the party, acquitted himself admirably.

By request, here's a shot of the IPR booth.

Here's another shot of the Cubicle 7 booth. It's near-impossible to get a shot of the whole group at once.

Ever wonder where the Black Gamer T-Shirt comes from?

Life-Size Magic.

Saturday is the best day for costumes.

More later. Thanks again to my Microlite players, who made it such a great time!

15:24: We had a great GM's seminar! Here is a picture of (left to right) Josh Dalcher of Stupid Ranger, myself, Jeff U. of The Bone Scroll, Michael Shorten of Chgowiz's Blog, and Tony Law of RPGCentric. I think we all agreed we want to do this again in 2010.

I thought we got a lot of great advice out of the attendees. I hope some of them turn their efforts online, because they'd be a welcome addition to our community.

The Privateer Booth was busy, but perhaps not quite as manic as last year.

I love the Expeditious Retreat Press booth! They're one of the best small-press publishers out there. Good to see Joseph and Suzie staying busy.

Some of the WotC staff are getting in trouble for staying in the press room too much while waiting for interviews. Perhaps they're trying to intimidate us! Get out of our room, WotC!

I don't quite agree the Exile Game Studio booth design. It was recessed, with sort of a dark interior. Not an eye-grabber.

This has to be one of my favorite pics I've taken thus far.

I took lots more photos today, but I'm getting ready to spend some time here with my daughter. I'll be doing a big ole update tonight.


There was an evacuation over a burning smell from Gen Con this evening, but thankfully it was after the exhibit hall closed. By then, I had taken my daughter home for the evening, so I can't say much more on that.

My daughter and I had a wonderful time. She helped me pick out some new uninked dice at the Gamescience Booth, and Lou Zocchi engaged her in some back-and-forth banter. She thought he was hilarious. The Colonel and I discussed inking dice for a bit (he said put clear nail polish over the number when done inking). We also saw the dEverything (D-Total), which is daunting, but oh so very cool.

The boffer area always cracks me up. There are some hilarious photos to be had. It seems like a lot of fun. You need a waiver, though!

That's right, it wouldn't be Gen Con without a giant booth full of hentai! Please identify the culprits in this picture, and ban them from future Gen Cons.

That's right, it wouldn't be Gen Con without the Forge booth! Please identify the culprits in this picture and...(kidding, kidding!).

As you can see, Saturday is PACKED at Gen Con.

Good to see Giant in the Playground here!

Another fun day, with lots of great friends and great events. This has been a strange year, but the more folks I hang out with, the more fun I have. And this year has been great for meeting people I really esteem.

It's been nice to have a couple of people tell me they picked up this game or that due to something I wrote. I know there are a lot of blogs dialed in to a single game or pretty much in the pocket of a single company, and I certainly think there's room for all of them out there. But there are just too many great games for me to only blog about just a single one. Yeah, I've got my favorites. But I hope you can count on me to continue to provide you with a pretty diverse range of RPGs you might wish to check out.

Day 4 is tomorrow. Even if it's all ending, don't be too sad. We've got enough to talk about for a long time, and plenty to look forward to next year. I'll be doing a little update at some point tomorrow, to be followed by some closing notes.

Friday, August 14, 2009

D&D 2010 Setting Is Dark Sun

Just in--the next setting for D&D 4e will be Dark Sun for 2010. This was just announced at the D&D Extravaganza.

Gen Con Running Liveblog: Day 2

Hello, and Greetings from Gen Con Indy! We'll be updating with news and pics through the day! You're welcome to comment and request coverage of various products and booths--after all, this is for you! If you missed our Day 1 coverage of the convention, check out all the news and pics right here!

Check back throughout the day as this article is updated. You can also follow RPG Blog 2's updates on theRPGsite (caution: contains some strong language) and Twitter. Enjoy!

(Follow links for photos)

The first day of Gen Con is in many ways the toughest. People are jetlagged, they're still setting up, scouting around, and they haven't quite got the knack of convention life down yet. By Day 2, people are more settled, know their way around a bit better, and get into that rhythm. Of course, plenty of people didn't sleep due to gaming and/or have hangovers, so it all sort of balances out.

I had a great time with Jeff over at The Bone Scroll yesterday, hanging out for a while. With any luck, some of us are meeting up for a quiet, light breakfast, to discuss gaming, geek stuff, and the convention thus far. I'm hoping the cafe I'm thinking of is still off the beaten path!

This afternoon will see "the Friday Rush", as people get off work and flood in for the weekend. Also, the D&D new setting announcement is at noon. I'm sure we'll all know soon after just what it's going to be.

More from the floor in a bit!

10:33 Great, great breakfast at Cafe Patachou. Organic--after so many Slim Jims the past 24 hours, my body didn't quite know what to do.

Took some pics of costumes on my way in.

Luke Crane ran into me, or vice-versa. He did get copies of the newest Burning Empires book in this morning, so I'll be checking that out in a bit.

For West End Games, Eric Gibson told me they should have Septimus in by the end of today! So we'll finally get to see this puppy. Talked author to Bill Coffin, told him how much I admired his Palladium Fantasy work. Forgot to charge my camera last night, so those I'll have to be careful with photo updates until I get home tonight. I should still be able to get some more for you.

Q-Workshop is busy this morning. Those dice are gorgeous, but they aren't cheap.

And...there's the TARDIS, at the Who North America booth.

On the Who crowd, I'm still being told October for the Dr. Who RPG. We'll see if I can get more in a bit!

For some reason, Blackmoor doesn't feel right with that logo. Probably just me, being a crappy neo-grognard.

Strong crowd for the second day. I'm going to try to hit the next setting D&D announcement, but we'll see.
There's a lot of booths still to hit!

Just in--the next setting for D&D 4e will be Dark Sun for 2010. This was just announced at the D&D Extravaganza.

13:08: Man, Luke Crane makes a pretty book. Here's the newest for Burning Empires.

17:30: Sorry for the delay, but I've been in Return to the Tower of Gygax! Tim Kask himself was our first DM, and then we had a replacement take over--Mr. Frank Mentzer! Both gentlemen were gracious, funny, and definitely old-school. My buddy Schuyler actually got a "white ribbon"--basically showing to the world that he rocked the Tower! He dipped arrow in green slime to defeat some rampaging trolls--brilliant. This is a wonderful, wonderful event, and I encourage anyone going to Gen Con to partake if they have a love of legacy in this hobby. Mr. Mentzer also chatted us up about the history of D&D. It was just a fantastic afternoon.

It still doesn't touch the RPGA, but Pathfinder Society is looking pretty good!

Septimus is FINALLY here--I got a picture with Bill Coffin holding his baby. A hardcover is on the way, but it's a pretty nice, black-and-white layout.

I met Andy Hopp today, of Low-Life fame! Super-great guy, and very unique artist.

Considering the daggers being glared at times from the ENnies booth this year, and to keep everything sedate, I won't be covering the ENnies tonight. Apologies, but I'm sure you'll be able to find coverage.

As usual, I'll be posting a larger recap tonight, as per usual.


Pathfinder remains easily in the lead for convention buzz, but Wizards of the Coast’s announcement today about Dark Sun definitely got some folks talking. The really interesting thing is that there isn’t a huge legacy fan base for Dark Sun—a lot of the younger players I spoke to didn’t really have much of an idea about what it was—so they’ll be defining it for a new generation of fans. For me, my precious Greyhawk is safe, and my mad, hopeless plot to have it licensed to certain legacy-keepers remains alive.

I was really happy to see Troll Lord Games getting some attention. When I went by earlier, it was fairly quiet, but it picked up in the afternoon.

The Margaret Weis booth cracked me up. You have a 20' end table, and like 14 people in the booth working.

Talked to Jeremy Keller, who was doing some really interesting demos of Chronica Feudalis. It’s nice to see a new presentation that seems inherently playable.

The Indianapolis Colts are playing the Minnesota Vikings tonight in the adjacent Lucas Oil Stadium, so we again see the hilarious juxtaposition of true-blue Indy sports fans mixing with 98-pound social misfits dressed as some obscure anime character. They didn’t seem to mind the wench outfits on the ladies, though.

The Reaper Minis booth has aisles of minis. It’s one of the most sublime gaming shopping experiences I can think of. And if you’re looking for something in particular (“yes, I need a gnome suitable for use as a pirate character”), their booth staff is spot-on with the help.

I say it every year: Dwarven Forge makes beautiful, beautiful displays.

The Mindstorm Labs guys released their creature supplement for the Alpha Omega RPG. They don’t seem to make many waves online, but observing them at the convention, they have a pretty dedicated following of fans. And their books are some of the most beautiful in the business.

Ran into David and company from GOLD: The Web Series. It was great catching up with him, and I’m hoping he’ll have good news soon on the sponsorship from the next season.

Tomorrow will be busy: I’m running a Microlite74 game in the morning, and doing my GM’s Jam in the afternoon. But there should still be plenty of room for some good coverage.

Jeff and I saw Michael (Chgowiz) right before the exhibit hall closed. It’s so great to see him here, and I can’t wait to catch up with him tomorrow.

WotC has some really cool promo statues. Oh, speaking of WotC, this next year will see the D&D edition of Heroscape. That should go over pretty well, I think. And remember, whatever Pathfinder may be doing at Gen Con, the RPGA is still massive.

I was happy we got the scoop on the new WotC setting today. OK, we tied Critical Hits on Twitter, but we were up with the news on theRPGsite immediately (and here just a few minutes after).

Today was a great day, and I talked to a lot of gamers who were still playing 1e or older versions of D&D (considering I was in games DM’d by Kask and Mentzer, that may not be a surprise). There’s tons of quality gaming, but outside of Pathfinder, I don’t see any single gaming product that’s really catching fire. This is a strange year, in a lot of ways—it’s almost like everyone’s taken a deep breath. There’s tons of events, and plenty of interesting accessories, but most folks I talk to see it as a down year for RPG releases, fair or not. That’s ok—Gen Con isn’t dependent on shiny new releases to be awesome. There’s dice and catching up with old and new friends and meeting your favorite designers. Obviously, companies need to make money, but the buzz or lack thereof I report on here isn’t indicative of their financial experience at the convention. I only report what I hear on the floor, and try to give you a sense of feeling for the convention overall. I hope I accomplish that, at least.

I’ll catch up with everyone tomorrow!

Pathfinder Conversion Guide Posted

For those of you following the release of Paizo's Pathfinder RPG, the 18-page conversion document (3.5 to Pathfinder) has been released for free here. This should come in handy for those of you changing over to Pathfinder completely now from what was D&D 3.5.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

GenCon Running Liveblog: Day 1

Hello, and Greetings from Gen Con Indy! We'll be updating with news and pics through the day! You're welcome to comment and request coverage of various products and booths--after all, this is for you!

Check back throughout the day as this article is updated. You can also follow RPG Blog 2's updates on theRPGsite (caution: contains some strong language) and Twitter. Enjoy!

(Follow links for photos)

We were up early. We ended up waking up at 0500 and heading downtown to the convention. After waiting all year, there's simply no tolerance for waiting a minute longer. We wanted to be there, even if it's hanging out around the exhibit hall.

There's such a thrill, coming in the the convention center! Gen Con! As always, I kissed the ground of Gen Con in thanksgiving. I try to pick a clean spot, but no there's guarantees in life.

8:36 I'll be trying to get into the dealer hall soon, but for now, we are checking out the Battletech Pods! There's already a crowd for the puppies, and I have to admit, they look awesome.

9:51 The doors open in 10 minutes, but I was able to get in an hour beforehand, to try to get a few shots before the madness started. WotC had a pretty good line going already (with Very Important Gamers allowed in before the general populace), but Paizo was crazy.

Mind you, this is a full hour before regular attendees get into the hall.

Jason Buhlman informed me that the display area the Pathfinder books were on is comprised of more Pathfinder books. Cubits, he said. He started to measure in cubits. He said they brought thousands. Talked to Erik Mona briefly, but he was slammed with requests.

I couldn't get a look at the back of the Geist book, as they had it under pretty heavy guard (not out with the other books--too precious, I suppose!). Will try again later.

Fat Dragon's Ultimate GM Screen is tremendous. Will be heading back there soon.

Eclipse Phase is out. Expected a bigger to-do/display about it, but maybe that's the difference between online buzz and reality.

Fantasy Flight has a really nice display, and it sounds like they'll really be pushing the new edition of Warhammer Fantasy!

More in a bit. Time to walk around a bit more...

11:10: People have now been in the Paizo line for an hour, to purchase Pathfinder. One thing to remember is that while companies may have policies that folks disagree with, many of the game designers have worked together before. Saw a couple of WotC folks shaking hands with the Paizo folks, congratulating them. That's how it should be.

Spoke to Bruce Cordell at WotC. He confirmed really the only big thing they have for this year's show is the setting announcement for this next year. He said, "looks like it's all Pathfinder", with a laugh, nodding towards the huge line. Nice guy--said he had a lot of fun hanging out with ChattyDM and his game last night.

Here's a shot of Eclipse Phase. The Catalyst guys seemed to hem and haw when I asked to take a pic. Not my first dance, but was still mildly surprised.

11:18: Here's some pics of Pinnacle's Weird War II for Savage Worlds.

Here's the Paizo Line. Note the Paizo sign in the distance--it goes all the way around.

12:11: Holy cow, folks. My buddy was in line 1 hour, 10 minutes for Pathfinder. Cooling our heels for a minute.

Gaming Paper seems to be getting some notice. Cool idea. 30 square feet of nice-quality gaming paper for $4. Nice when you want to save that awesome dungeon design from last night. The gentlemen selling it actually makes paper for a living, and is also a gamer. This is how these sorts of things come about.

Here's a pic of Geist, and White Wolf staff.

3:33pm: A lot of the first day is taken up with scouting and meeting old friends.

Just played in a 15-minute Pathfinder demo. Great fun!

The Kenzer booth doesn't have demos in booth this year, which is a bummer. Talked to Mark Plemmons, until a man in a kilt interrupted like I wasn't standing there.

The Dragon Age game and Green Ronin booths are right next to one another. Interesting bit of cross-marketing. I took plenty of photos, which I will post up in a bit. Honestly, maybe it's just when I hit them, but the GR booth seemed a bit slow.

Stopped by Mongoose! Earthdawn and FantasyCraft are both up! They had a nice flow of traffic when I was around.

The Forge and IPR booths are split this year, so both are much smaller. Ron Edwards challenged Pundit to an iron-cage rhetoric match (not really).

Went back to the FFG booth, but no one was running the 3e demo. Was told the same bit on the Warhammer 3e, so nothing else to report. Honestly, the amount of attention Fantasy Flight gives to RPGs here is underwhelming. All you really see are board games, board games, board games.

Hirst Model Arts do a nice job presenting what you can do with your molds.

I have a panel starting shortly--I'll be doing a big update tonight, though, so stay tuned!


There were a lot of booths that were just briefly scouted today, with all intentions of hitting them tomorrow. I’ll also be playing in one of the “Return to the Tower of Gygax”, something my circle and I have really been looking forward to.

Col. Lou Zocchi no longer runs Gamescience, but he is still here. He’s a Gen Con Guest of Honor, and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have in that spot. Phil Vecchione from Gnome Stew said his entire group has converted to Gamescience dice. Soooo many Gamescience dice, glowing from a flashing LED display! Lou is still doing his bit, and the Gamescience both has easily quadrupled in size from last year. I make sure to tell the Colonel every year how much seeing him at Gen Con means.


OK, so clearly, today belonged to Pathfinder. There were a few copies left in the Paizo booth when I left. I’m sure they’ll restock, but I’m not sure how long they’ll last. Obviously, one day does not make a product a success, but the enthusiasm is definitely there.

I think there’s definitely a bit of grumbling over the Forge/Indie Press Revolution booth split. Ron Edwards was at one, the IPR guys at the other, and it seemed kinda standoffish. I know there was the whole earlier in the year with Professor Edwards and his disagreement with IPR’s business model or what have you, but it made both booths seem tiny compared to previous years.

Luke Crane’s Burning Wheel booth did not get the latest Burning Wheel product. I heard that he will have 50 copies at most, but they were still enroute. This is not uncommon for publishers in the first day or so of Gen Con.

Crystal Caste had an inflatable d20. Something useless, most likely, but I still desired it. They’re always a fun booth to visit.

Good panel with the RPG Bloggers Network. Got to meet folks like Purple Pawn and Newbie DM. Jeff from the Bone Scroll also hung out with us for part of the day.

You don’t realize what a wide selection Goodman Games has until you see their booth. I saw Rob Conley’s Points of Light II. I think they could do with a layout that has things not just laid out, but more vertical and featured. Just my 2 cents.

Gareth Skarka at the C7/Adamant Booth said that in just a few short hours, he had sold 56 pdf copies of his Pathfinder accessory, Tome of Secrets, through RPGNow. Here's a shot of that and Savage Mars.

The Cubicle 7 folks also told me the Qin Game Master's screen is somewhere over the Pacific, but they had a copy there.

Who ya gonna call?

Yes, the Battletech Pods are awesome.

Here's a shot of Green Ronin's Dragon Age promo and a shot of their proximity to the Dragon Age booth itself, if that tells you anything about their priorities going forward re: Dragon Age.

Belly dancers, singing pirates, and a Ghostbuster. I love Gen Con.

OK, for buzz, I have to be honest. I try to talk to folks about what they’re buying this year. Aside from Pathfinder, most people were at best undecided. The Battletech Pods were pretty busy, but my main focus at the convention is gaming stuff. There were some minor waves for Savage Worlds products, and Gaming Paper, and dice are always popular, but I think this is a crowd this year that’s very undecided about where to put their money. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gen Con: The Night Before

Tonight is the quietest night Gen Con will see for the rest of this week. But that doesn’t mean it’s silent by any means. At the convention center, thousands of gamers have already arrived. Some will sleep in hallways tomorrow, near the exhibit hall. This is the beginning of the gamer stink that will haunt us all soon enough. Most nearby restaurants are still filled, and there’s long registration lines winding around the hallways. Traffic in the skyways and corridors between the convention center and the hotels is brisk.

Inside the center's exhibit hall, companies still work to get their booths ready for the thousands of fans that will swarm it at 10 am tomorrow morning. Outside, hundreds of card, board, and tabletop games are going on, wherever people can find a space. Here and there, groups flip through their programs, planning out their activities or planning swag runs. Old friends run into each other, greet one another warmly. A general feeling of happiness is in the air; we’ve done it, we’ve survived another year, and we’re safely at Gen Con.

Tomorrow the real coverage will start, but the electricity is already in the air.

Nothing, nothing, nothing like it in the world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Gen Con Is

Every year, before Gen Con Indy starts, I try to write a little piece that puts the readers as well as myself in the right frame of mind for Gen Con. I’ve likened it to Gamer Mecca, and the sense of wonder I feel every year as similar to the giant doors opening in Jurassic Park. It still fails to convey what Gen Con truly is like.

Try this: Indianapolis, one of the largest cities in the Midwest (and 14th-largest in the United States overall), is taken over for 4+ days by gamers. There are gamers in every downtown hotel, gaming in the lobbies 24/7. There are gamers in every downtown restaurant. The skyway network that links downtown Indianapolis together has continual gamer traffic. Walking down the street in the early morning hours, a group apparently comprised of elven warriors halts jovially at the crosswalk. Any open square of downtown Indy is the possible venue for a one-shot, card game, or swag count. Long after the exhibit hall closes for the day, Gen Con continues unabated.

And despite how very massive the entire business is, it feels like Home.

We come from all over. Some of us are professionals in the business, some of us your standard hobbyists. Some of us are staying in upscale hotels, some of us are washing up as best we can at a public bathroom after a night sleeping in a hallway. Some prefer quiet games with friends, others get blitzed and drunkenly game with complete strangers before passing out around 5:00 am. Some are keyed in to every release from small-press RPG companies, and others don’t know or care about a thing outside of D&D, circa 2 editions ago. It doesn't matter. No matter how eclectic your taste, someone there shares it. And you're all gamers alike.

But at Gen Con, you can still see the absolute diversity of the hobby. And for every storm cloud seen, there are a hundred legacies and futures still abounding. Beyond RPGs, the board games, PC games, foam weapon fighting, seminars, meetups, CCG tourneys, film festivals, impromptu games, old wargames, and junk vendors all add to the sum total of it all. You could spend two more weeks there, and still not see it all.

Gen Con Indy is where the new releases happen, where new deals are made, where old friends are reunited, where controversy breeds, where people meet their favorite authors, where you get waved into the exhibit hall by Imperial Stormtroopers, where you end up peeing next to a guy dressed up like Captain America, where people go from game to game to game with barely because they know the 4 days pass by all too quick. It’s where you meet the sort of people you didn’t think could exist (take that as you will).

For those four days every August, a “city on a hill” forms for gamers. It’s part of what makes Gen Con different from every other gaming convention out there. We find meaning in different places, as citizens of different aspects of that city. I love Gen Con, because I love my hobby and my gaming. It’s my sincere hope for you that one day you make it to Gen Con, whether you stay in luxury or crash on a floor, and enjoy the meaning you find there. Make the journey Home!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sneak Preview: Digital Pen and Paper

I really admire when a gaming company swings for the fences. There's a lot of ways that RPG companies try to integrate computers into our traditional hobby--a task that often meets with mixed success. Still, there's a lot of potential for our hobby electronically, and we don't necessarily need to lose the soul of pen and paper games to take advantage of it.

On this front, I had the pleasure recently of getting an exclusive sneak preview of Ironwood Omnimedia's Digital Pen and Paper, or DPnP, for their Sagas RPG system. Ruel Knudson, their Director of Project Development, was kind enough to give me this first look at the exciting plans they have for this undertaking.

I want to be clear that the DPnP software suite is not an online virtual tabletop. This is a tool for gamers and players alike to track resources. A GM may load a campaign, with personalized information for that campaign. With a few clicks, players may update and personalize their character. While there are certainly character and GM aids out on the market, DPnP does take a very comprehensive approach, one aimed at keeping the play on the table--just making the bookkeeping itself as easy as possible.

I previewed Ironwood's Character Management System (CMS), as well as the Campaign Resource Manager (CRM). As you may imagine, the former is geared more towards players, and the latter towards GMs (thought the Character Management System is also used for creating NPCs and Monsters). I had a little trouble installing, but we never did nail down just where the issue was. Ruel was very helpful in getting me up and running, and then I got to work.

The first thing I noticed was the fast load times. I've downloaded very flashy RPG programs before that absolutely lagged and lagged on me. DPnP did not.

I found interaction and building my character with the CMS relatively easy, though perhaps a clear tutorial would be a good idea for first-time user. The same could be said for GMs looking to create their campaign with the CRM.

Here's a few of the things I was able to do with the CMS, aside from the normal items you'd associate with a character builder/manager:

-Customize my character's image via picture upload.
-Keep a journal for my character's story
-Focus Tracker: this was really cool--the program actually tracks where you're putting your advancement. Are you leaning towards Combat or are you a heavy Social butterfly?
-Cheat: This doesn't sound like a perk, but when you do something that campaign rules wouldn't normally allow, but say your GM OK'd for you, it will show as a report on the character sheet, showing when and where the rules were broken. Nice for keeping track of how players get where they are--and for ironically, possibly catching cheaters.

Here's a few of the things I was able to do with the CRM:

-Update Player Character information from data taken during the gaming session.
-Create and adjust the effects of any skills, items, races, powers, spells, and just about any other adjustable aspect of the campaign
-Look at how balanced my creations were in relation to the setting/rules.
-Customize reports to print out what I need of the rules.
-Bring up a digital DM screen to assist in tracking play.

My first impression was largely favorable. The Player's Guidebook with the Character Manager will be about $10. The GM's package, to include the Campaign Manager, will likewise be around $10. Given what this software can do, I think that's a very attractive price. The possibility of add-ons to a main program for future expansion is also a very welcome one. You can purchase adventures, spell books, creature collections, and other items you would normally buy in additional source books for far less. These will then be loaded into the program, and you'll be able to use and run with them in the game--full description and all. Prices for these will range anywhere from less than a buck to $10.

Graphically, I think they could make the layout a bit more appealing (perhaps use color a bit more), but I had no real functionality issues. If I had any critique at all, it would be to make the programs a bit more novice-friendly. But from what I've seen thus far, I am encouraged.

Stay tuned over at the Sagas RPG site for some more information. This is an ambitious undertaking, but definitely one worth keeping tabs on. It seems like there's a lot of room for expansion. I wish them the best, and will be watching closely!

What follows are a few screenshots I took (click to enlarge):

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Update From Outside Gen Con Preparations

That's right. Gen Con Indy is this week.

3 days of work, then Gamer Paradise.

To get you attendees excited, passing by the Indianapolis Convention Center, it looks like the Gen Con banners have gone up. Banners are out saying "Welcome Gamers!" are out in force! Lots of boxes being carried inside! Preparations are in full swing!

I've already got this flippy, electric, excited feeling in my stomach. Oh, is this going to be a great week...

EDIT: And if you still can't make it this week, aside from tuning in to the coverage here and at theRPGsite, make sure to check out walkerp and Ryan's RPG Haven Podcast on just how to follow the convention from afar.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

RPG Circus Survey

If you've listened to our RPG Circus podcast, perhaps you'd take 2 minutes and help out us by filling out this survey? We're basically looking for your opinion to help make the show better--what you'd like to see, what you feel is working as well what you feel isn't. Thanks in advance for taking the time to make RPG Circus even better!

Friday, August 7, 2009

On WotC's Fan Site Kit Policy

You know, sometimes, if I squint my eyes, I can see this....

actually turning into this....

Whatever you do bloggers, don't use the fan kit.

(Best article on this so far? Check out the Seven-Sided Die).

Friday Discussion: Pre-Gen Con Edition!

This is it! The last Friday before Gen Con Indy is here! If you’re going to Gen Con (and possibly even if you aren’t), these last few days before the start of Gamer Mecca won’t be filled with much sleep! Personally, I’ve had it on the brain every night before going to sleep for the past month (at least). People can argue, but there’s still something very, very special about Gen Con.

If you’re going to Gen Con: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Gen Con?

If you aren’t going to Gen Con: What would you most like to see covered from the convention?

Remember, I’ll be liveblogging the convention again for you, so if you can’t go, I’ll try my hardest to cover what you want, and make you feel like you’re part of the biggest gaming celebration of the year. And if you’re going, and you happen to run into me (perhaps at our 2009 GM’s Jam, Marriot Ballroom D, 1-2:30 pm on Saturday?), make sure to say hi!

And if you're still scrambling to go, drop me a line (mail.rpgblog(at) I really think every gamer should try to get there at least once, and as an Indy native and Lover of Gen Con, I'll do my best to help. I've often thought of organizing the "Gen Con Ark", with the express purpose of providing cheap, plentiful lodging and in-town transport for as many attendees as I can, and working to get as many people to Gen Con as possible. But that's another discussion...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zack's 2009 Gen Con Scavenger Hunt!

As promised, I’ve released my 2009 Gen Con Indy Scavenger Hunt! This originally grew out of a desire to help my gaming circle see more of the convention, but everyone seems to like the idea, so this year, everyone gets a shot at it!

I could easily add another 50 tasks (last year, I think we had 21), but I wanted to make it as unobtrusive as possible while still hitting some items that may be off the beaten path. These items should be easily completed in a single day at Gen Con, or spaced out over the 4 full days.

For maximum enjoyment, I would recommend printing it off, but not really looking at it until you get to the convention itself. I'll warn you right now--it's nothing fancy--but my group seems to really enjoy it.

So pass it around with your pals—if you want, see if you can be the first one to complete all the tasks! Better yet, find me at Gen Con, and turn it in—if you’re first overall, we’ll definitely hook you up with a prize! Feel free to add your own items—there are many, many wonderful booths I just didn’t have room for.

You can find the file in pdf format here:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sci-Fi RPG Magazine Update

I’ve been really excited by the outpouring of responses that have been received in regards to the idea of a quarterly sci-fi RPG magazine (thank you!). I want to keep everyone interested in being a part of this notified as we go forward. If you are interested in getting on board helping with the magazine and haven’t already expressed interest either here or via email, drop me a line at mail.rpgblog(at), and I’ll make sure you stay in the loop. I’m compiling those names, and I’ll be sending out some updates just as soon as I have them.

Some great advice (Joseph and Bill especially, you rock) has given me some material for some followup surveys and research that I’ll be doing in and around Gen Con Indy. The next big updates should be after that, so don’t think this is a flash in the pan—I’m just making sure it’s being done the right way. We gamers tend to suffer from projectitis—and I think this idea deserves better than that. So if it is to be done, it needs to be done right.

Already, we have several publishers as well as fans looking to contribute material as well, and I think some of the names out there will really get folks amped up!

In addition, I’m looking at providing some form of free advertising for gaming companies (perhaps smaller-size ads, with larger ads being a slight charge). One of the best part about reading old gaming mags were the ads. I’m not sure how it’ll work out yet (another item still being researched), but if this magazine can be not only largely fan-powered, but still support the tremendous work going on in the small-press RPG community, that has to be counted as a win.