Archives: Games

Remodeling for the Future

While my long planned site remodel is still delayed (owing to the influx of work stuff) the actual physical space of our home has changed over the last few months.

Here’s a pic of what our basement has looked like for the last sixteen years or so. Concrete floor. Waterproofed walls. A bunch of junk — although here it is looking a little more organized because we were setting up for a high school graduation party.

Months later, the same space looks much, much nicer. And this next photo was taken before the carpet went in!

Speeding Along

As I make final choices for the contents of the third issue of Tales From the Magician’s Skull I took a couple of weeks off novel writing and have been working furiously on some short stories. Between books is about the only time I have anymore to draft short fiction. I’d thought I might get three or four, but one of them proved a really tough not to crack, and took me down multiple dead ends and many false starts. But yesterday I finally finished a draft of the third (chronologically) Hanuvar story. I’m nearly done revising a fourth, although there’s a rough of a fifth on my computer as well. Those last two don’t fall into the same chronological sequence.

I’d hoped to finish a new Dabir and Asim story that’s about two thirds complete, but it may have to wait for another break. It’s time to get to work outlining the third novel of my new trilogy, and it’s just about time to start gearing up for the big promotional push on book 1. Ugh. Promotions.

Today, though, I take a rare day off. Seems like every day lately, even weekends, I’ve had lots of work. Not that I mind the work. I just haven’t been able to game. In just a few minutes my friend Dean Brown, all around great guy and talented game designer (B-17 Leader is his) is coming by for a visit. Seems like I’ve known him for years now, but we’ve never met in person. We’re going to take a day and just wargame. Should be a grand time!

Solitaire Gaming

I haven’t discussed solitaire boardgames in a while, mostly because I’ve been far too busy to play them.

But my copy of Corsair Leader, courtesy of a Kickstarter campaign I joined, is finally here. It’s been a blast looking through all the pieces and starting my rules skim. While cleaning various parts of the house I’ve listened to some reviews and half-watched some playthroughs. I hope to be able to try it out soon.

I also stumbled onto some really nice video overviews of solitaire wargames courtesy of The Player’s Aid. Here’s a link to their discussion of simpler solitaire wargames, and here’s a link to more complex ones. They discuss a lot of games I like, own, or have owned, or am interested in owning.

They don’t discuss my three favorites, Ambush!, B-17 Leader, and Lock ‘n Load Tactical. But there are SO many solitaire games available these days that they couldn’t possibly cover them all (and Ambush! is long out of print anyway). We’re really in a boardgame renaissance right now, and that includes solitaire games.

Perilous Momentum

An Iconic Frank Frazetta painting of Conan.

At long last the official web page of the new book imprint I work for has launched, although it’s more of a starter page. There are ambitious plans afoot for what the web site will contain. You can see the beginnings of it here, and if you click around you’ll find a brilliant essay by the brilliant Bill Ward. He’s written a number of essays for the site, and so has the equally brilliant Ryan Harvey, but in its primal form the web site is only showing a few pieces. Nor does it permit comments on the article page, but it will eventually.

You can also see an excerpt from John Chris Hocking’s second Conan novel, Conan and the Living Plague.

While many with the imprint are in Frankfurt this week, I’m editing some more Conan work. And I’m also revisiting some Conan pastiche. I’d never read Conan and the Grim Grey God by Sean Moore all the way through, and you know what, it’s pretty good. I don’t think he quite got some of the feel right, but he comes really, really close. This one of his is definitely going on my best of pastiche list. If the poor fellow hadn’t died so young I’d definitely be pushing to reach out to him for more work.

 

 

Tabletop Gaming: Hexcrawls, Campaign Settings, & Adventures

In my last entry in this four-part series, intended to be of use to fellow gamers when they pop by RPGNow in the upcoming Christmas in July sale, I’m discussing some more of my favorite game mastering tools. And I’m going to cheat.

I get a lot of my adventure advice from the review columns written by Bryce Lynch over at Ten Foot Pole. Bryce ruthlessly looks at every adventure he can lay his hands on, and mostly he finds things he doesn’t like. When he DOES enjoy an adventure, though, it’s almost always for the same reasons I like a pre-packaged adventure — cool places to visit, neat things to interact with, great characters to meet, a compelling hook, prose that’s engaging and organized, treasures beyond the ordinary, and so on. And like me, he despises the Tomb of Horrors and similarly styled player killer adventures. He also shares my love of strange faerie elements and bits from folklore.

I differ with his preferences only a little in that A.) I’m not as big a fan of mixing in weird science fiction elements into my fantasy settings, aka “gonzo” material (but Bryce always indicates whether the adventure includes those) and B.) I’ve yet to run a megadungeon that my players care for. The latter places me in the minority of game players, I guess. It seems like every other game master I meet has his players in a megadungeon.

With that preamble out of the way, allow me to point you towards the best adventures listed on Bryce Lynch’s Ten Foot Pole site. And then permit me to point you towards his “no regerts” category (yes, that’s spelled that way on purpose) where he lists the runner-up adventures, some of which I’ve found just as good as those on his best-of list. Look closely, because some of those on both lists are actually FREE. That’s right, wonderful, top-rated free adventures, like the one in the picture there. Bryce’s thumbnails don’t always indicate if they’re free, so look around.

Tabletop Gaming: Tableside Resources

Some of the resources I’ve talked about in previous articles are actually useful both as adventure/campaign building resources, and as table side resources, meaning that they’re helpful both during prep time and when you’re actually running the game. As I mentioned, these are just the ones I’ve read and liked best. If you’re aware of others, please share.

Tableside resources are the items you keep on hand to help you riff with descriptions, or to add a little detail that can entertain the players or bring the environment to life. I’ve previously mentioned the Raging Swan Press books like 20 Things I, II, and III, and I Loot the Body, and you definitely ought to be familiar with those and have them on hand. Ultimate Toolbox and the D30 books I mentioned last time have some wonderful aids as well.

Tabletop Adventures has some mighty entries in this entire category. If you need some interesting things to see if your players are walking through some caverns, or the plains, or the wilderness, or if you need some extra little incidents or a few extra rooms or curious land features, you can keep these cards on hand. They come in all kinds of flavors, like Bits of Dungeon, Dungeon II, Bits of Darkness: Caverns or Bits of the Boulevard (and more). And then there’s the whole Into series, like Into the Mountains or Into the Swamp or Into the Wildwood or Into the Open. In each supplement you get fantastic details that help bring the particular setting to life – the characteristics of a temperate forest versus a deciduous forest, say, and the kind of flora and fauna typical of each. Sometimes you even get a weird new monster to encounter as well. I’m pleased to have them all.

Tabletop Gaming: Campaign & Adventure Design

As I mentioned last week, RPGNow has a Christmas in July sale coming up soon, so I’m taking a look at my favorite tabletop gaming resources. I’ve accumulated a lot of them over the years, so I’ve divided a discussion of the tools across multiple articles. I last looked at treasure. This time, I’m looking at third-party game products that are full of creative lists and descriptions, advice about campaign and adventure design, and adventure seeds.

It may be that there are some excellent ones out there that I haven’t read — if so, let me know. Here, though, are the ones I most use.

Ultimate Toolbox is an expanded reimagining of the earlier Toolbox, both from Alderac. Ultimate Toolbox lacks the 3.0/3.5 statblocks of its predecessor, and it ports over almost (but not quite all) the rest of the material from the original book. But then it adds scads more simply great stuff. You want to design your campaign world, or generate some tavern drinks, or toss some riddles into your campaign or name some dwarfs or, danged near anything else you can think of, this is a must have, both during adventure prep and while you’re running the game. I’d never part with this book.

Tabletop Gaming: Treasure

Every year  RPGnow/Drivethrurpg.com has a Christmas in July sale. It’s not under way yet — usually it takes place around the end of the month. Almost every year I get a wish list together, save up some PayPal cash through some trades, and get ready to splurge.

I love reading this stuff even if I never use it in a game — even if I’m NOT gaming — because the best of it throws off sparks and sets fire to the ‘ol imagination.

This year I thought I’d do a series of articles before the sale begins and point you towards some fantastic products I’ve accumulated, in the hope that you’d get some joy out of them yourselves. I’m such a long time gamer that there are quite a lot of them, so today I’m going to focus solely on treasure and loot.

As you’d probably guess, almost all of this material is from small vendors you’ve never heard of.

I’m only going to discuss my very favorites. If you have others you think ought to be mentioned, I hope that you’ll do so.

The Black Hack 2.0

This is my first time mentioning The Black Hack, one of the MOST streamlined of fantasy role-playing games. Creative, intuitive, and short, The Black Hack took a new spin on the old D&D stats and settings and did very clever things with them. It inspired an entire movement of streamlined games, from pirate themed to space themed to horror themed to low-priced expansions and so on and so forth. It’s a great little system and can be had cheap ($2.00) through rpgnow right here. If you don’t believe me, read some reviews, or take the word of William King, creator of Gotrek and Felix, who was singing its praises to me earlier this week.

Bill’s also the fellow who pointed me towards the Kickstarter for the new, expanded edition of The Black Hack, which you can find here. Looks pretty groovy, and it, too, is stunningly affordable. I mean, look at the price for the complete PDF edition!

If you’re a long time gamer you really owe it to yourself to check it out. I’m going to sell off some stuff I’m never going to play again so I can “splurge” for the print edition. (I use “splurge” lightly, as the print edition before shipping is still only $40.)

Ambush!

When I was first getting into solitaire boardgames a few years ago I kept hearing that one of the best of them all was Ambush! from Victory Games, so I dutifully tracked it down, set it up on the table, and after playing one mission decided it wasn’t for me.

Boy, did I miss the ball on that one. I think the reason I didn’t appreciate it was because I hadn’t ever been exposed to heavier boardgames, and I didn’t give myself a chance to get used to the play. Now that I’ve been getting into more and more detailed tactical games, I got to questioning my earlier judgment that Ambush! had been fiddly and tedious. Chris Hocking, whose taste I agree with upwards of 95% of the time, kept telling me it was a great game and how he couldn’t believe I hadn’t liked it.

I found myself in the middle of a shelf purge of games I wouldn’t be playing anymore, and with that gaming cash in the ‘ol e-wallet chanced to mention to a gamer I sold one of the games to that I wanted to track down Ambush! again. He had the game and most of its expansions and happily sold them to me. They’re just in fantastic shape (thanks, Glen!). You see, Ambush! has been out of print since some time in the ’80s and it’s unlikely it will ever be reprinted, so the used market is the only place to acquire it.