Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Crazy Boss Monster

A couple years ago there was a pivotal moment when a close friend of ours had started a job that immediately looked like it was going to be a disaster. My wife Lisa helped save us all, saying “I’m sorry, I just don’t have the energy to spend the rest of the year being surprised by how crazy your boss is. You need to quit. There’s no mystery here, it’s just going to happen again and again.”

That’s how I feel about mass shootings in America. We can’t be surprised. The pieces are all set up and the shooting will begin. As the Gun Violence Archive indicates, nine days out of ten, it’s only a question of who and where.

Our friend quit her crazy job. Then she chose a path that was four times more sane. Judging by American political history and our current president and Congress, I don’t have hopes for a similarly rapid shift to a sane approach to gun ownership. But first steps are important. A gun lobby that fights against background checks for gun owners, restrictions against mass-murder-certified assault weapons, and against keeping silencers more-illegal-than-not is no one’s friend. It’s a crazy boss monster, and it’s time it was opposed by our elected officials, even the ones whose campaigns were bankrolled by gun money.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fire & Faith & a Fallen Lammasu

I just finished developing and editing Cal Moore’s Fire & Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons, the third of his battle scenes books for 13th Age. The glorious bits that you won’t forget include a hellhole invasion (Crusader), bloody encounters with a demonic circus (Diabolist), a quest through a dragon’s dreams (Great Gold Wyrm), and overworld combat-mathematics in the Cathedral (Priestess). Along the way there’s an ogre mage knight riding a fallen lammasu (art by Rich Longmore above), a drow sorcerer riding a silver dragon, and demonic gladiators that are my game-mechanics gift to GMs who enjoy upsetting the players’ concept of how fight scenes should play out.

Like the other battle scenes books, Fire & Faith will be published in black and white with dozens of illustrations by Rich Longmore. It will also have a full color map folio, including labeled and unlabeled versions so that the maps can be easily repurposed.

If you combine these adventures with Cal’s earlier High Magic & Low Cunning and The Crown Commands, you could play a by-the-book ten level 13th Age campaign using only battle scenes adventures!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Top Level Security

The Frame: I heard the story I’m about to relate as it was happening, from people inside the building speaking off-the-record to an outsider. I wasn’t in a position to find out more at the time, and I liked the Story-Of-It-All so much that I haven’t tried to follow up and find out what, if anything, people eventually learned about how this happened! Maybe by posting this I’ll discover the Truth, but I admit I’m pretty happy with the mystery . . . .

The Story: A couple years ago, the Redmond Microsoft campus had an unprecedented security problem. I say unprecedented, but technically that may not be true if you watched Seinfeld.
As part of the deal that brought Skype to these shores, Skype employees were provided with breakfast on the Microsoft campus. It was part of the contract. Many people took advantage of the perk.

And then the Skype-breakfast muffin tops started disappearing. Not every day, but often, the tops of the muffins were gone. Eaten? Disappeared, in any case. No one came forward to take the credit. The muffin-topping continued. Take that, Skype!

So people started taking steps, including setting up cameras. That didn’t work. Which started seeming weird. I’m not sure how seriously anyone was worried about it, but there were impromptu patrols by semi-concerned employees.

The last I heard, a patrol thought they had found a woman acting suspiciously in one of the kitchens, but when she realized they were fairly crap vigilantes, she just walked away and no one figured out who she was. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Stuff at GenCon!

It’s not only GenCon’s 50th birthday this year; it’s my wife Lisa’s 50th, and they coincide. So I won’t be at GenCon this year. I’m sorry to miss out on seeing friends I only see once or twice a year, but I have no complaints, it’s going to be a great birthday!

There will be several games and things I’ve designed or contributed to showing up at the convention.

First, at booth #1317, Pelgrane Press will have copies of Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: 13th Age Bestiary 2. I haven’t seen the physical book yet so if you get a copy you’ll be ahead of me. You should be able to find authors like Wade Rockett, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and Jonathan Tweet at the show and often at the Pelgrane booth. Artist Naomi VanDoren (Purple Dragon, kowha, etc.) will be in the art show.

Speaking of art, Campaign Coins has repackaged the 13th Age icon tokens with a color backing card. They're up for an ENnie and they'll be on sale at booth #842. 

Pelgrane panels will also be discussing the next few 13th Age books in the pipeline. One of them, the Book of Demons, contains the new demonologist class, which is presently being playtested by former 13th Age Monthly subscribers and which I’m working on more this week.

And speaking of playtesting, Arc Dream Publishing will have playtest decks of the Wrestlenomicon card game I designed the mechanics for at booth #431! I'm happy with mechanics I’ve never seen anywhere else that capture a wrestling match between gigantic elder gods! It helped to have card art finished by Kurt Komoda and hilarious/devastating card names provided by Dennis Detwiller and Shane Ivey. I got to focus on carving mechanics to live up to the art’n’concepts. The game is going to have a wider public playtest you can sign up for on the Wrestlenomicon site, and then a Kickstarter.

Meanwhile over at the Chaosium booth, #829, they’ll have the first three laid-out chapters of 13th Age in Glorantha. Chris Huth, the layout artist responsible for this design, is taking a break from layout to attend the show, where he’ll be running games and working at the Pelgrane booth a bit. You can see more samples of the layout in this update on the 13G Kickstarter page.

More coming in a later post . . . .

Monday, July 17, 2017

Thunder Alley & Apocalypse Road

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Thunder Alley is a pretty great NASCAR racing game by Jeff and Carla Horger, published by GMT. Read more comprehensive reviews of Thunder Alley’s clever racing and drafting mechanics here and here.

Neither I, nor anyone I’ve played Thunder Alley with, have been NASCAR fans. But as an evocative simulation of bump-and-grind team racing, Thunder Alley has succeeding in making nearly everyone who has played it in our games say something like “Wow, I never really cared about NASCAR, but if this is how the tactics work, I could pay more attention.”

I admit that we haven’t followed up on that by following NASCAR. But we’re all looking forward to playing the game again, it’s an elegant design that’s extremely fun.

And speaking of looking forward to playing …. What I’m really looking forward to is the Car Wars style version of Thunder Alley, cars with weapons racing on closed circuit tracks! The game-in-the-making is called Apocalypse Road. It’s presently at around 337 orders on GMT Games’ version of crowdfunding, the Project 500 system (aka P500) that requires 500 pre-orders to get published.

P500 preceded Kickstarter, it’s one of the early crowdfunding systems. P500 works extremely well for GMT but I’m not certain it’s working as well as it could be for Apocalypse Road. GMT mainly publishes historical games. It has some science fiction successes, but they’re considerably less wacky-looking than Apocalypse Road. I’ve got a hunch that few GMT P500 people were ever into Car Wars. I believe that Apocalypse Road will benefit from getting noticed by a wider fantasy/science fiction-oriented gaming audience.

Take a look at the ApocalypseRoad development page. It’s combat racing, something like automotive roller derby: you’ll score points for completing laps with the cars on your team and for eliminating opposing cars. You can build cars for speed or for combat or maybe you’ll want both.

I’m fond of the Horgers’ recent Grand Prix. It’s a lot more predictable than the madness of Thunder Alley. But I’m hoping for the chaos of weaponized racing, and hope the game gets noticed by people who like a good car war. 

Image result for apocalypse road game

Friday, June 23, 2017

We Shadows have Offended

The massive opening of The Yellow King Kickstarter project has caused me to reconsider an event that took place on June 21st, just prior to the launch of Robin D. Laws' new GUMSHOE game.

I was talking with the London half of the Pelgrane Press publishing team on Skype. Behind Simon, a woman in a summer skirt dithered in the doorway, obviously wanting to talk with him but not wanting to interrupt as he talked into his headset. She came back a couple minutes later and knocked to get his attention.

Simon got up and talked with her a bit at the door, too far from the microphone for me to hear. He closed the door and said, “They’re doing a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream in the hallway and they’re worried that with the door open, people will think I’m part of the play.”

I said, “That’s the most perfectly English thing I can imagine."

A couple days later, with The Yellow King surfacing, I’m not sure what I saw. People putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the hallway? This is normal now?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fire Giant and Snowy Owlbear: 13th Age Bestiary 2 is ready to roll

illustration by Rich Longmore

This fire giant soldier is smashing his way into reality: Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: 13th Age Bestiary 2 is (almost) finished with layout!

What’s the hold-up?

It’s the fact that anyone who buys the SnowCubEdition of Bestiary 2 as a pre-order before June 21st gets their name in the book’s credits. Layout artist Jen McCleary is waiting for that list on the 21st to put the final touches on the credits page.

Soon after that the layout PDF will go onto the Pelgrane store bookshelf of everyone who bought the SnowCub Edition and the book will head to the printer.

I’m thrilled with the final 304 page tome! Every designer and artist contributed something special, Jonathan showed up with insightful sidebars, I wrote a two-page appendix to support folks who want to use these monsters playing 13th Age in Glorantha, and towards the end, partly because of comments from people who purchased this pre-order, we added new building battles tables that include weakling and elite creatures as well as different sizes of mooks. Our thanks to everyone who is contributing by picking up the SnowCub