Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#RPGaDay 17-31

Continuing with my #RPGaDay entries, for days 17-31.

17th - Funniest Game You've Played

I can't remember any "funny" games I've played, although I did sit in on a game of Paranoia that was absolutely hilarious. That would probably be my go to game if I wanted a humorous RPG.

18th - Favorite Game System

By far, its the BRP system, specifically that which is used for Call of Cthulhu pre-7th edition. Its so simple, easy to use, and can be taught quickly. Roll percentage, get under what your skill is.

19th - Favorite Published Adventure

Crack'd & Crook'd Manse in Mansions of Madness. Years ago I read about this scenario in the (then) out of print book and made it my goal to track it down. Since then, I've run it at least 10 times. Its an amazing twist on the haunted house scenario and I've never seen it fail to please.

20th - Will Still Play in 20 Years...   

Definitely Call of Cthulhu. This RPG has stood the test of time, already being over 30 years old. I've played it for the last 10+ years. Unless 7th edition totally ruins it for me, I can't see myself turning away. Even then, I'd probably just go back to pre-7th edition.

21st - Favorite Licensed RPG

Leverage from Margaret Weis Productions. Loved the TV show, and the group at MRP took the show, applied the Cortex System to it, and did an amazing job creating a fantastic game that took the best elements of the show and put them into the players hands. Fantastic job!

22nd - Best Secondhand RPG Purchase

This is a toss between my 1st edition Paranoia boxed set I got at a used game sale for $5, or an early D&D boxed set for $2 at an estate sale. Both are still on my shelf.

23rd - Coolest Looking RPG Product/Book

I'd have to go with the USB drive I got from It has a cool Cthulhu print on it, and is filled with RPG goodness (including one of my scenarios!). I never use it, and keep it locked away.

24th - Most Complicated RPG Owned

I'd have to go with Chill (Mayfair Games edition). I tried reading the rules for this at one point, but the chart for it in the back just hurt my head.

25th - Favorite RPG No One Wants to Play

Unfortunately, I don't get to play RPGs very often. However, when I do play its typically only a handful of games. So, if I had to pick one that probably wouldn't get played that I would want, it would be Don't Rest Your Head. I can't see me ever getting a chance to bring this to the table.

26th - Coolest Character Sheet

I'd have to say the best character sheets I've seen are the passport booklet character sheets that someone created. While I'm not sure how practical they would be in a game, they are just too cool.

27th - Game You'd Like to See a New/Improved Edition Of

Army of Darkness. The AoD games are great, and I don't think the RPG got the love it deserved. I'm running a game of it now, and it feels unbalanced. I'd like to see it revised to be more balanced, at least in favor of the players.

28th - Scariest Game You've Played

Again, Call of Cthulhu. I can think of multiple instances during a good Call of Cthulhu game that I've actually been tensed and frightened by what was going on.

29th - Most Memorable Encounter

In a Call of Cthulhu game, we were investigating the faked death of a relative. Our investigation took us to a library, in which the librarian was refusing to give us access to some behind-the-counter materials. So, we decided to create a distraction by "knocking over some books". 

Unfortunately, due to a botched roll, I knocked over a shelf, which in turn knocked over another, and started a cascading effect of shelves falling over - all heading for the children's area and a little tyke reading Dr. Seuss. Fortunately, the kid wasn't hurt and we made it out before the cops were called.

30th - Rarest RPG Owned

This would have to be my Call of Cthulhu 30th Anniversary Sans-Detours French Edition. Not necessarily rare in itself, given that I live in the US, not many people have it.

31st - Favorite RPG of All Time   
Can't you guess? Call of Cthulhu

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#RPGaDay 9-13

Continuing with my #RPGaDay entries, for days 9-16.

9th - Favorite Die / Dice Set

For me it would have to be my smiley face die.

Picked it up at an con years ago, and its great for making fun things happen in a game. I typically use it in an AFMBE scenario I run where the players are in an apartment building full of zombies during a blizzard. When they go down to explore the basement, I'll roll the die in front of everyone.

Happy face: Nothing happens.
Medium face: The lights flicker.
Sad face: Darkness. Do you hear something moving on the next room?

10th - Favorite tie-in Novel / Game Fiction

This is a tough one. I love Salvatore's Drizz't books and was reading them before they were popular. (Thats the closet to an RPG hipster I can be.)

However, I'll have to go with the Pool of Radiance novel. I remember devouring this book in only a day when I got it. I had briefly played the computer game before so I knew the general plot of the game, but the novel did an amazing job bringing it to life. I had read other novelizations at that point, and none did as good a job as this one did. I still bring it out every once in a while to read through.

Understand, that this isn't a masterpiece of a novel, however. You won't find in-depth character development or masterful plot twists. Its a fun read, plain and simple.

11th - Weirdest RPG Owned

I would have to say Don't Rest Your Head. I know I've brought this up before, but its just one whose premise is so weird and out there. For those who don't know, it is essentially that you have not slept in such a long time that you have awakened to the real world. If you sleep, you'll lose the ability to see everything and quite possibly die.

12th - Old RPG you still play / read

Well, I still play Call of Cthulhu, but the oldest one I still read is probably 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The DMs guide is something I still pull out to leaf through, and it still has lots of source material for me to use.
13th - Most Memorable Character Death

When you play Call of Cthulhu, which is my main game, you typically die horribly and often. Here are some of the ones I remember:
  • Summoned Azathoth and destroyed the world. (I'll expand on in another day.)
  • Being chased by a Dark Young through the woods. Ended up at a cliff and jumped to my death, instead of facing the charging beast.
  • Having an avatar of Ithaqua pick my character up thousands of feet into the air and fall to a squishy death.

Friday, August 8, 2014

#RPGaDay 1-8

David Chapman of AUTOCRATIK came up with this great idea - #RPGaDAY. Basically, each day consists of a topic related to RPGs that you discuss. I'm pretty behind (as I just found out about it), but here goes!

1st - First RPG Played

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st edition. I was 12, and it was at a Boy Scout campout. I got to sit in on a very short game with some of the older kids and I was hooked.

2nd - First RPG Gamemastered

The first one I truly GM'd was AD&D 1st edition. After playing at camp, I ran an ad-hoc game, with no books, for my brother. Went horribly and I had no clue what I was doing, but I had a blast.

3rd - First RPG Purchased

The 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual. I bought both of these at the same time. The DMs Guide fascinated me, with the great images inside and esoteric information; I still remember pouring through the lists of herbs and their uses, even though I never used them.

4th - Most recent RPG purchase

It Came from the Late, Late, Late Show II: The Exploitation Sequel - Demonna's Revenge!  On a recent trip to NYC, I stopped in at The Compleat Strategist to peruse their collection (and they have a lot). I found this for $1.95 and couldn't pass it up!

5th - Most Old School RPG owned

Probably my 1st Edition D&D Basic Set (third printing). I picked this up at an estate sale a few years ago for $2. The dice are still in the original plastic bag, and it came with a cool article from the 80s on D&D, that surprisingly wasn't about the satanic panic.

6th - Favourite RPG Never get to play

Can I say all of them? :) I don't get to play a lot, but when I do its typically Call of Cthulhu, so I won't say that. Probably Hollow Earth Expedition. This pulp RPG is just full of awesomeness, and just never hits the table like it deserves to.

7th - Most “intellectual” RPG owned

This is tough. I'm going to say Don't Rest Your Head. To me, this is an intellectual RPG because its not your typical RPG setting. IMO, the GM really needs to think in order to make the game work. Granted, I've never run or played it (yet), but that is how I take it.

8th - Favourite character

Carter Wilson. Years ago, a friend on mine ran a play-by-forum All Flesh Must Be Eaten game which involved a small town getting overrun by zombies. There were only two of us playing, and we both chose to create run of the mill, average people. Thus Carter was born.

Carter was a convenient store clerk who drove a '77 Pinto hatchback. He was about as normal as you could get, but I loved this character. Using a normal character thrown into an abnormal situation made the game even better for me.

Since then, I've used him multiple times in multiple systems.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

John Addis - A Great Keeper Lost

I write this post with a surprised, and heavy heart. I just found out that a fellow gamer and GM, John Addis, passed away this past Friday. The gaming world lost a great GM when he left, and I am very, truly, saddened.

I met John in person in 2007 (or was in 2005 or 2006?) when he first GM'd at Origins with me. However, I had read his amazing posts on his website about his Delta Green and Call of Cthulhu games for years prior to that. I was honestly shocked when I read a blog post he wrote about some of the games we had ran at Origins, as I didn't know he had been there. From reading his posts, I knew he was a great GM and instantly invited him to join the group the next year.

For those who were privileged enough to play in a game with John or even luckier to have been in a game he ran, you know what a great GM and person he was.

John, you will be missed.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Origins 2014 Review

Origins 2014 has come and gone with the good and the bad.

Overall, it was a lot of fun. This was my 13th Origins and I saw a number of changes this year that I thought made the con a much better experience. (I missed Origins 2013 so these changes may have been implemented earlier, but they were new to me.)

Vendor Hall

The vendor hall, while smaller than it had been in previous years, was packed with lots of great companies selling many more things than I could afford to buy. I loved that they moved the Art Room into here, as now I could spend more time looking (and buying) their stuff. There were also a number of new vendors I hadn't seen before at Origins, like Pelgrane Press. Hope they come back!

There certainly seemed to be more people in the vendor hall than in years past. A number of merchants remarked this to me as well. Hope this means a turn around for the major vendors to start coming back, while still keeping the smaller ones there.

One interesting thing I noticed was there were a number of booths for games that are either on Kickstarter now, or will be soon. I wonder if this is going to be something we'll be seeing more. Fortunately, they all had playable demos, which I'm sure helped drum up interest.

Unfortunately, there was a lack of used game merchants there, which really cut the number of RPG items that I wanted to pick up to almost nothing. I hope that changes next year.

Board Room

When I say board room, I mean one of two board rooms - the board game hall with the supported play, and the CABS board room you needed a ribbon to use.

First, the hall. I was initially shocked to find that some of the major vendors, like Asmodee and Mayfair, had small booths in the vendor hall. I realized why when I found their larger booths in the board hall. This was a great idea! Not only do people get to see/demo the games for longer (props to all their volunteers too), but it filled up the space better. No more open area with just tables. This looked much better.

A panoramic view of the board hall.
Once again, the CABS board room rocked. Their library continues to grow, and any game I wanted to check out they had in their library. In fact, there are some games I checked out from CABS that directly led to me purchasing them.

CABS also did their raffle a different way than I had previously seen. Every time you checked out a game, you got a ticket. Please keep doing it this way. Not only did this make the board ribbon an even better value, but I think it was a very fair way to do it.

The Auction

I participated in the silent auction this year and ended up selling four of my games for good money. The auction process went very smoothly, and I never had any problems putting items in the auction, bidding, or collecting my money. The people running it did an excellent job and I was very impressed.

I need to apologize as well. I was initially (and privately) critical that I was not able to put an item in the silent auction, and then the live auction if it did not sell. However, I now see there is no need to do so. The Origins auction guys certainly know what they are doing.

Kenneth Hite

Sadly, I have never done any of the seminars at Origins. This is mostly because there have not been any that I found interesting in the times that I was free. This year, however, I saw that Ken Hite was running a few seminars and I made sure I was free for at least one.

The seminar I went to was Ken entitled "Building the Perfect Monster" where he discussed, and answering questions concerning, how to add monsters to your scenarios/campaigns, and how to tweak them to fit in. There were only 10 or so people in the seminar, but this worked out better as it gave more time to talk to him.

Overall, it was a great seminar and I wish I could have gone to his other ones. Mr. Hite was also kind enough to autograph my Trail of Cthulhu book too! :)

Other Items of Note

A couple other items of note that spring to my mind:
  • The video game room was new to me, and my daughters played in it for an hour. They loved it, and I admit I was a little jealous that I had not gotten to play as well. While Origins is not known as a video game con, that room did a great job filling a need that will attract more people.
  • Barley's should be commended once again for not only having great food and drink, but also having the coolest Origins pint glass.
  • I saw more cosplay this year than I have before. Most, if not all of them, were excellently done and I enjoyed seeing them. Great job to all who did!
  • The mammoth versions of the Mayfair games are awesome. Please tell me how I can get a rug printed out with one of the game boards!!!
  • On my way back to the hotel on Saturday night, I got to see World Naked Bike Ride go by. That was interesting. :)
The Mayfair Games Mammoth Pompeii board
(and my wife's feet).

My Games

Due to some issues, the games from our group were not put into the original event schedule that was released, so most players did not know about our games and this was reflected in our attendance. Three out of my four games had to be canceled because I had no players; most of our GMs had similar experiences.

Fortunately, my last game ran and went pretty well. My game was The Menace from Beyond - a new Ubiquity game from Siege Tower Games. It is a 50's b-movie RPG that puts players smack into the middle of alien invasions, radioactive monsters, and everything else that made the 50s sci-fi genre what it was.

Overall, the game went well and the players appeared to enjoy it. There was one issue where one player did not like how another was playing, and I did not realize it until he said something after the game. To his credit, he did say something during the game, but I thought he was roleplaying his character at the time. (If I had thought otherwise, I would have changed things.)

Despite that, the game was successful and I am happy with the scenario. I need to modify some bits of it to make it better, but it was good.


In the end, Origins was still a blast. More importantly, my wife and daughters enjoyed it, especially since this was my youngest's first Origins. As always, there were some issues, but nothing major enough to keep us away.

Our haul from this year.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Origins for Newbies - Gaming Groups

Gamers make up Origins; without them the convention would be nothing. When they band up and run games together, they become gaming groups.

There are a number of gaming groups at Origins that run games throughout the entire convention, and do an amazing job at it. This isn't an easy task, either.

Think about it - Origins is 5 days. The average RPG is 4 hours, so conceivably you could run 3 games a day (assuming that person took one game slot break). Thats 12 hours a day times 4 days (Wed-Sat) and one more game on Sunday...for a total of 52 hours of gaming. Sound like a lot? It is, but yet there are individuals in these groups that do it!

Some of these groups run hundreds of hours of games throughout the con, and keep their level of enthusiasm going the entire time. They are worth checking out, and with few exceptions, are very open to new players and teaching how to play a game. These are the masters, and you can do worse in learning a game.

Some of the list below I have played games in, some I have heard good things about. As always, YMMV.

Rogue Cthulhu
Rogue Cthulhu has been running Call of Cthulhu RPGs for 15 years at Origins. They run some of the best in the con, and if you want to learn how Call of Cthulhu is really played, see them. Want to know how to find them? Just look for the black-lit room with the large inflatable Cthulhu.

Matinee Adventures
Matinee Adventures runs RPGs of various systems, including Ubiquity/Hollow Earth Expedition, 7th Sea, D&D, and Champions. I've played in a number of their games and always look forward to seeing what they are running.

Kettle of Fish
This group is focused on LARPs of all sorts - Ghostbusters, Doctor Who, Deadlands, and many others. If you've ever wanted to try a LARP, then these are the guys you want running your game!

The Guild of San Marcos
The Guild runs a living campaign of the 7th Seas RPG, and has been highly recommended to me. Check them out at the con! 

Amorphous Blob Games
AB Games runs a ton of games at Origins...too many to mention. They also run Clay-O-Rama - a game where you create monsters with play-doh which then destroy each other (a favorite of my daughters). How to find them? They're the ones with the cool hockey jerseys!

Indie Games on Demand
Indie Games on Demand is a group that runs a number of Indie RPGs such as Cthulhu Dark, FATE, Fiasco, and more. The great thing is they have an open schedule where you just show up at the start of the game and what everyone wants to play, is what you play. I have never played with them, but look forward to doing so this year!

Rogue Judges

Rogue Judges is often in the miniatures/scheduled tabletop area and can't be missed. They'll have a large board with colorful signs advertising all the games they run...and do they run a lot! RJ runs a ton of different board games throughout Origins, and all of them friendly to those new to the rules. If there's a board game you want to learn, and its on their schedule, make sure you get in their games.

Did I miss your favorite group? Leave a comment and I'll add them in!

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do
Origins: Gaming Groups

Friday, May 9, 2014

Origins for Newbies - What to do

So you've gotten to Origins, now what? Here's a list of odds and ends of things to do (aside from scheduled gaming).

Vendor Room

The vendor room opens on Thursday and closes on Sunday. Make sure you give yourself time to go through the room, demo games, and see what is for sale. I recommend going through it at least twice - once to see everything, and a second time to see everything you missed the first time.

The vendor room also has a miniatures painting area, where you get to paint 1 miniature free with your badge. (IIRC, you can pay 1 or 2 generic tokens to paint another.)

Mayfair Demo Prizes
Mayfair Games demo area.

Mayfair Games is a major sponsor of Origins and has a huge exhibit area in the vendor room where they demo many of their games. For each game you demo, you'll get a ribbon that you can attach to your badge. Once you collect 5 ribbons (clay, sheep, wheat, wood, and ore), Mayfair will give you a small prize, an entry into their huge end-of-con raffle, and a 50% off coupon! After that, you can keep going to get more prizes and raffle entries.

Their raffle at the end of the con is huge and tends to draw a lot of people.

Play Something You Never Have

Origins is a unique opportunity to play a game you may not have the opportunity to otherwise. Take this opportunity, and get in a new game to try it out.

If you've never played an RPG, sign up for one. Do you only play Pathfinder? Sign up for a Call of Cthulhu game!

Never played in a miniatures game? There's a whole room for that!

Wander Around the Miniatures Room
A Stargate based minis game.

The miniatures room is downright amazing. The effort the gamers put into the sets is incredible and its worth spending 30 minutes walking around the room to check them out and take pictures. (Just be polite and turn off your flash if someone is playing a game.)


Yes, this has to be said. Gamer funk is, unfortunately, a real thing at cons.

Don't be that guy or girl who reeks. Yes, everyone has body odor, but not doing your part to prevent gamer funk is inexcusable. Take a shower every day and put on deodorant. Its probably not a bad idea to throw a travel deodorant in your backpack too. (I admit I do)

I often wonder why deodorant companies don't set up at Origins. They'd make a killing.

Also, teenage boys out there, dousing yourself with Axe is not a shower.

Are You A Werewolf?

Are You A Werewolf? is a staple game at Origins, with games being played almost 24 hours a day; it even has its own ribbon to play in all of them. Don't bother getting an event ticket for it either - just show up with a generic and within 10-15 minutes you'll be in a game. This is a must to try at Origins.

The Smithee Awards

Like b-movies? Then go to The Smithee Awards; an annual ceremony where the audience gets to vote for the worst movie for various off-the-wall categories. Very much worth dropping into!

Vote for the Origins Awards

Anyone who has a badge can vote for the games in the Origins Awards, an annual award that recognizes excellent games. Do you part and vote, and then complain Sunday morning when the games you didn't like get voted in!

BattleTech Pods
Battletech pods.

The BattleTech Pods are virtual-reality cockpits where you battle up to a dozen other players at the con in a robot-laden battlescape. Yes, it rocks.

The Art Room

The art room is where a number of artists showcase their work at Origins, and where you can buy pieces. Highly worth going in to look at the part and support the artists.


Origins has more to offer than what I can possibly put down here. I didn't even mention the auction, the movies, and all the other special events that are around.

With the exception of some LARPs, you can wander into any room to see what they are doing. Explore...see whats going on.

Have fun!

Finally, have fun and enjoy yourself...thats why you're there!

Did I miss anything? Shoot me a message or leave a comment.

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do 
Origins: Gaming Groups