Friday, August 31, 2012

In Which The Warlock Contemplates a Class Change...

One of the neatest things about my real-life day-job is the amount of carryover between being a good GM and being a good teacher.  Believe it or not, the best practices that one carries behind the GM screen often are the same best practices advocated within a classroom setting.  Engagement, active description, differentiation, and varied methodology are all buzzwords that frequently flit about the classroom, but they similarly have a great degree of importance at the game table as well.

As such, game design and game management theory have become a fairly regular part of my curriculum, in terms of addressing macro-educational concepts.

Case in point:  my early days of teaching, at a local charter school.  Paired with an experienced social studies teacher, we often crossed over Risk and Monopoly games to demonstrate the relationship between economics and military strategy.  Students arrange into teams, which must co-ordinate their efforts between both boards, in the hopes to take over a certain set of territories.

You want a GMing challenge?
Try running this for a classroom of ADHD students!
It's at that same school that I experienced the ultimate challenging in GameMastery.  You see, that charter school focused specifically in educating students with ADHD and Asperger's Syndrome, with the majority of the population having multiple diagnoses.  However, as an experiential introduction to a science-fiction unit, I decided to run a simplified session of Paranoia for those students.  And, let me tell you:  there is NO greater challenge in GMing than running game for 16 ADHD teenagers.

However, the challenge of keeping all 16 students engaged and interested, coupled with the greater conceptual goal of addressing paranoia and fear of the "other" as a literary concept, made for a great lesson plan, which students were able to expand upon through essays and a larger assessment project.  I did something similar with a homemade game I called "Grail Quest"--no relation to the actual game-book series--in which students emulated roving bands of knights hoping to find various Arthurian relics, including the eponymous Holy Grail.

An ancient gameboard...
...but one perfect for The Crusades!
This all lead to today, wherein I got to use a game that I've been aching to pull out in a classroom setting:  Risk: Godstorm.  Using the board from Godstorm, groups of my seniors attempted to retake the Holy Land, following the Crusader rhetoric of Pope Urban II.  The activity ran fast and furious, with alliances taking shape over both ideological and political lines--precisely what I was hoping for!  The game ran smoothly, even though time limited us to a 30 minute rushed version of the rules.

As I've been working on expanding The Pendulum Method--y'know, when I'm not teaching, gaming, writing on Cold Steel Wardens, or doing any number of other multitasking--I've been looking seriously at including an essay on this very topic:  the use of educational theory in gamemastery.  Should be fun, children! I'm hoping for it to be out this year or next!

Oh, and this weekend?  We wrap up "The Flood"!  Water's gonna rise, children!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Which The Warlock States the Importance of an NPC...

As any gamer can tell you, NPCs tend to be fairly important to any game.  But, in the best of games, those NPCs take on lives of their own.  I've had quite a few great NPCs in my game--the GodDamned Jim Bob comes immediately to mind, as do Thulmir Quent and Elladan RedHand, though a non-human NPC seems to be taking charge of the situation in my most recent games.

Allow me to explain:  with the WittGuild starting back up and with games kicking into gear, it was only fitting to be able to throw down a game for the incoming frosh and the returning students. Hoping to get a full playtest in, I brought out "Killer Clowns 2:  Return to the Dempsey Islands", with three players entering the park, in search of those elusive canister reactors.

Felix the Bobcat, survivor of the Big Bang.
Cross this cat at your peril!
Here's where things get messy, though.  You see, if you've perused my "Reno Six-Pack", you might have noticed that the Librarian character, Garrett Walker, has a friend:  Felix, his bobcat animal companion.

When I first ran "Ravenous in Reno", Chaotic Frederick played Garrett.  And, while his actual waster couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, Felix seemed to be nothing short of a Cuisinart with the attitude of an angry velociraptor.  The bobcat never seemed to miss, always dealt appreciable damage, and never managed to take a wound!  While the first run of "Ravenous in Reno" was meant to be a deliberate TPK session, Felix managed to escape from the final battle before being eaten!

So, let's flash forward to this past week.  With my three players ready to go, I wasn't surprised to see one of them pick up Garrett and his feline buddy.  But, as the game proceeded, it swiftly became obvious:  Felix was the true leader of that posse!  That cat totaled nearly twice the kills of any other member of the posse, including the scenario's final boss, whom he ripped apart with the help of the infamous "Make No Mistake" Adventure Card.

I was astounded!  Felix the bobcat's legend lives on!

I'll be interested to see if this trend continues, should I run this scenario on next year's convention circuit.  I deliberately made each of the Reno Six-Pack to have strengths--Edward Castellan is a beast in melee, Doc Neutron is the most dangerous at range, The Main Man Marlow is the vehicles expert and a good secondary tank--but Walker's greatest strength has always been his Knowledge skills, coupled with Felix.  I don't believe that, statistically, Felix is too strong.  It just seems that this cat's luck never really runs out!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

In Which The Warlock Ends His Convention Run...

This time of year is a really exhausting one for me, friends and neighbors.  With the academic year swinging into gear and the convention season wrapping up, I've been up to my eyeballs with places to go, things to do, and people to see!

The Warlock's swag shot from GenCon 2012!
Two products from The Laundry
Some Savage Worlds and Deadlands
Richelieu's Compendium for All for One: Regime Diabolique
and a new GameWick Games t-shirt!
This marks the third year I've made it out to GenCon, but only the second that I've been running games:  in this case, a Laundry adventure set in equatorial Africa entitled "The Scramble for Buranda".  Investigators trekked through Ghana in search of the fabled Blade of Kings, while avoiding Grand Leader Charles Umtali's  guards and chatting up Black Chamber zombie drones.

This year's adventure was significantly better-written than last year's adventure, which seemed to switch titles off-and-on through the various drafts we were sent!  The pre-generated characters, as well, were significantly more interesting, with tons more role-playing hooks than their predecessors.  All three of my games went off without a hitch, with my players having a blast sneaking through downtown Buranda City and   trolling through the jungles.  Plus, Cubicle 7's games this year were situated in the posh J.W. Marriott, which was a massive improvement over last year's overly-crowded Omni.

Great DC Cosplayers
at GenCon 2012!
I've got to say:  my GenCon experience overall was a massive improvement from last year's.  The construction that plagued the downtown Indianapolis area has finally been completed, with skywalks linking all the major hotels.  My schedule actually allowed me to enjoy the convention itself, with plenty of time to talk to the folks at Pinnacle Entertainment (and even go to their seminar!), schmooze with the gang at GameWick Games, and even check out EEE's booth:  the Mythic Eras of War Games (spell it out...MEoW!).

Cosplay, too, seems to be really taking off at GenCon.  In previous years, costumes have been somewhat of an afterthought in Indy.  This year, though, costumes were plentiful, varied, and of a genuinely high quality.  It's nice to see this part of the con really take off!

But, as the school year gets started, it's time to focus on the things to come.  The Witt Guild's first meeting is this Friday--come, if you can make it to Shouvlin 203 this Friday evening!--and there's a ton of editing left to be done on Cold Steel Wardens!   Time marches on, friends and neighbors.

Friday, August 17, 2012

In Which The Warlock Preps and Ponders...

Just a short entry this time, friends and neighbors, as I'm getting prepped for my final convention of the year:  GenCon Indy.

Like last year, I'll be running The Laundry for Cubicle 7 Entertainment.  This time around, our intrepid Laundry agents are set to trek off to exotic Buranda in search of a mysterious blade associated with a nefarious cult.  Will they survive, or is CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN right around the corner?  Come play this weekend and find out!

I also just wrapped up on a new project, which I had mentioned a few posts ago.  You see, with a much-abbreviated convention season this year, I felt somewhat left out of my usual ritual of scenario writing.  But, with the rules for Hell on Earth coming out so recently, I felt that it was time to make a tribute to my favorite  of the Hell on Earth Classic scenarios:

Killer Clowns!
a classic Hell on Earth adventure by John Goff

Yes, that's right, children!  It's time for another visit to Dempsey Islands!  Except, this time, you'll be visiting the West Coast islands.  Try your luck at Nevada Smith's Shootin' Gallery, ride the Iron Dragon and race your way through Junkyard Station, and enjoy a leisurely soak in The Maelstrom wave pool...just don't hope to leave the park alive!

I'm still playtesting this module with my Friday group, so I'm going to hang onto it for a little bit for the sake of revisions and the like.  But, expect to see "Killer Clowns 2:  Return to Dempsey Islands" in my "Bag of Holding" very soon.  And I've already decided that I'll be running this one next year at Origins' "Savage Saturday Night".

Oh, and one last thing!  If you haven't yet donated to Will's "Wild Card Creator" Kickstarter, you're missing out!  He's already up to his base funding goal and is already gunning hard on his first stretch goal:  a 150 piece art pack by noted Savage artist Storn Cook.  Give him your support, fellow gamers!  It's a fantastic, revolutionary product that's going to be well worth the sticker price.

No weekend entry this time, kids!  I'll see you in Indy!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In Which The Warlock Slings Some Lingo...

As a former English major--and a current English/Language Arts teacher--I find it kind of amazing how different sub-groups in a society build their own vocabulary.  Case in point:  gamers.  Ask any gamer worth his dice what a "crit" is, and you'll get the same answer--a fantastic die roll (usually a Natural 20) that reduces his foe to a greasy smear.  Ask that same gamer what a "toon" is, and they'll most likely be able to tell you that it refers to a character, particularly in an MMORPG.

But, some gamer terms aren't necessarily universal terms.  In fact, our group has a penchant for making up our own table-talk or filching terms for occurrences around our table.  Take a look at just some of our own home-made vocabulary!

RIP, Trololo Guy.  You're definitely missed
around our game table!
Trololo:  As I mentioned earlier, we have an ongoing tradition of going out to eat before game night.  Unfortunately, this sometimes has...repercussions.  Going "trololo" came out of ChaoticFrederick's tendency to play The Trololo Song outside the door of anyone whose bodily functions are holding up the game...

Numberwang:  Stolen shamelessly from "That Mitchell and Webb Look", numberwang refers to a bizarre game show sketch where guests guess random numbers eventually hoping to be told "That's Numberwang!"  In our games, numberwang refers to an excellently well-timed roll, or any roll that is satisfactorily high.

"Look, a dagron!":  Another of ChaoticFrederick's inventions, this came out of his failed attempt to distract a barbarian leader during our "Tear of Ioun" game.  Since then, it's come to represent any flimsy attempt at a distraction.

Going to Denny's:  Simply put, as this South Park episode shows, Denny's is not a nice place to be... (NSFW, by the by)

Ghetto-Crit:  Not quite a full-bore crit, ghetto-crits are another word for "max damage". 

Richard:  Named after a former player's character, Richard was infamous for using area of effect powers with his party members in the line of fire.  I used to joke that Richard was my greatest ally as a GM.  In one instance, he critted on two party members, hit a third, and left my monsters unscathed!  Being Richard instantly became synonymous with screwing over the party for convenience's sake.  Don't be Richard, children!

"...and I smoke as I do so...":  Another one coming out of our "Tear of Ioun" sessions, this became syonymous with not just succeeding, but looking cool as one succeeds.  Who knew that the Church of Bane encouraged smoking?

Beware of waffles-related injury!
Waffles:  Stemming out of our trek through "The Flood," in which the players attempted to give the Confederate admiral at Shannonsburg a waffle iron, waffles refer to any unwanted or undesired gift...particularly if that gift has the opposite of the intended effect.  Note that the admiral's former fiancee was killed in a tragic waffle iron accident.

"That'll do, Jimmy...":  A generally satisfactory result.

"There's no reason you can't play the character you want to play...":  A riff off of a particularly frustrating passage in the 4e Dark Sun Campaign Setting manual, this usually precedes the introduction of some element that utterly does not fit the setting, such as a Ghostbuster joining in a fantasy game or a Jedi joining a group of Call of Cthulhu investigators.

This is just a small sampling of the various terms that get thrown around our table.  Stay tuned for more!

Oh!  And some updates for you!

Journeyman Games' "Wild Card Creator" is now 3/4 of the way to its funding goal!  If you haven't supported them yet, you still have almost 4 weeks left to do so!

And, I've tossed another treat into the Bag of Holding--this time, it's our Call of Cthulhu adventure, "Chrysalis".  Mind you, this one is a bit rough, so be aware of what you're getting your party into!


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

In Which The Warlock Lauds a Journeyman Achievement!

It's a great time to be a Wittenberg gamer, friends.  You see, I'm not the only one who's been busy...

My good friend (and the man who got me hooked on Savage Worlds in the first place!) Will Herrmann--better known here as the Journeyman GM--has been working on a secret project in his spare time.  Titled the "Wild Card Creator", this computer utility allows users to generate characters for Savage Worlds and its various settings in record time.

Will has just begun a Kickstarter campaign to fund the completion of his program. 
If this is something that interests you, jump on board now!  His press release follows:

Introducing Wild Card Creator. Any PDF, Any Setting, No Extra Cost!

Journeyman Games has just announced a Kickstarter for their Wild Card Creator, a computer program that helps gamers quickly and easily design characters for the Savage Worlds tabletop roleplaying game. The program enables you to generate, save, and print characters in both stat block and character sheet formats, enabling you to access them whenever you need, in a fraction of the time it takes to do it by hand!

Because Wild Card Creator comes pre-loaded with the full text of Savage Worlds Deluxe, you can start making characters right away. But what if you want to make characters for a supplementary setting like Deadlands, Agents of Oblivion, Hellfrost, or any of several dozen other settings? Other character creators would make you type it all in yourself or force you to pony up $5-$10 for the same content you already own. Not Wild Card Creator.
If you own any published Savage Worlds PDFs, Wild Card Creator will be able to import any new Races, Edges, Hindrances, Gear, and other character options without you paying anything more! If you've got the PDF, you've got the content. Pinnacle Entertainment Group and 14 other companies have already given permission to allow Wild Card Creator to work seamlessly with their full range of PDFs, so your favorite settings are sure to be supported.

Wild Card Creator will be available for Mac, Windows, and Linux and has an estimated release date of November 2012.
Twitter: @JourneymanRPGs
Oh, and I haven't been quiet this week, either...while I'm taking just a short break from work on Cold Steel Wardens before finishing revision, I'm still pumping out nearly 4,500 words a day on....well, you'll see.  :D

Thursday, August 02, 2012

In Which The Warlock Celebrates...With Presents Even!

If I haven't mentioned it before, I love having summers off.  Summer is when I get the vast majority of my gaming work done, as I don't have grading, lesson plans, or any number of other responsibilites to work on. 

And, it's no surprise that I tend to get things done during the summer.  Things like...Cold Steel Wardens

Yes, cats and kittens, the first draft has finally been finished!  After about 13 months of writing and playtesting, I have a completed draft! 

Obviously, now comes the hard part.  I have two editors already hard at work on the draft, my cover-artist is refining her gorgeous cover design, and I'm now in contact with a new interior artist.  And that's just the little bits of news!

In celebration of this milestone, I decided to give you guys something to celebrate with--I'm officially opening my own adventure locker to you guys.  All of the one-shots and materials that I've retired, I'm putting up for anyone to use, via Google Docs.

Today, that starts with my Deadlands (Reloaded) adventure, "Westbound on the San Juan Express".  It comes complete with an adventure outline, character backgrounds, and NPCs in .doc format, with a pre-generated posse of six characters in .pdf format. 

Deadlands:  "Westbound on the San Juan Express"

From here on out, on the right side of this page, you can find my new "Bag of Holding" which will link to these materials.  Feel free to use them, print them, modify them, and enjoy them!   If you do, be sure to follow my blog here, and drop a comment on how your sessions went!

Enjoy!  There are even greater things in store!