About Tyler

In the wilds of Vermont.

Cartography of Theah

An alternative map of the alternate version of Europe from the role-playing game 7th Sea.
Check out Guardnacho’s alternative take on the geography of 7th Sea‘s Theah, particularly if, as the RPGnet poster put it, you like maps that reflect “basic geography concepts like water flowing downhill.” Thanks to Fiver for the link.

That same thread also suggested that Theah could couple fairly well with Northern Crown, which is an interesting idea.

Carnagecast 57: Gulveig

carnagecast-rss-image-300Ray flies solo in Carnagecast this week as Andrew Valkauskas, designer of the Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok talks about his new card game Gulveig, what Carnage-goers can look forward to at the convention next month and plans for Fate of the Norns as a tabletop game property in 2015.

Maybe I shouldn’t break the fourth wall on this, but I don’t think it’s going to surprise anyone to learn that I ran the board on this episode. I made an inadvertent tribute to one of my favorite comedy personalities, Paul F. Tompkins, by blurt laughing off-mic when I was supposedly absent from the recording. We struggled with Skype on this as Andrew gamely kept shuffling his desktop arrangement to eliminate the issue, but I hope you’ll stick through the rocky audio.

Nostalgia for Something I Didn’t Have

A fan of trading card game cards.Ever since the hubbub of a Magic collector pulling a Black Lotus from a sealed Alpha starter deck live on camera hit last week, I’ve found his YouTube channel, openboosters, curiously fascinating. I wasn’t a big Magic player and my era was the end of Revised to the deflated party balloon launch that was Homelands — and I never really grokked the strategy of the game and deckbuilding like most players did — but I knew the cards of the time pretty well thanks to InQuest printing their text at the back of every issue.

Watching this fellow crack open packs feels like a vicarious pleasure. I didn’t do much pack-cracking[1] — never bought a box, or part of one, only one and two boosters at a time — so getting to see it through his eyes, and having the benefit of his knowledge about which card is the rare, and which are fun cards to play, is gratifying. I remember knowing many of those card names and art, but didn’t get to experience them in play. Now I can have the best of seeing cards in “person” for the first time, and the flush of fond memories, even if they aren’t mine.

From time to time, I’ve wished there were a way to go back to the early days of Magic, when you had just the core set at the time, with its Power Nine and other ridiculousness, and just play that era of the game, without necessarily having to track down cards of absurd rarity and value. Picture a Chronicles-like throwback covering the entire core set.

For now, I’ll keep watching openboosters. He’s got to hit on a Kird Ape at some point, right?

[1] And hold no illusions about any joy to be gleaned from such activities, having once lost my mind and bought a dozen or more Illuminati: New World Order starter decks.

The Game With No Name Math Trade

Matt Golec of the Penny Press design team has hosted a no-ship math trade at Carnage for some years now, coming up with thematic names to make us grin as we figure out what games we don’t want to own anymore. This year, it’s the Game With No Name math trade.

A math trade is a method of swapping whereby people list what they don’t want, list what they would like to get in return from other swappers and a computer figures out the details. The “no ship” part means no one ships anything. Show up to Carnage, drop off what you’re swapping, pick up what you’re getting. Done!

This year, I staked claim to the entirety of the third page of the geek list. You will find a bevy of light, popcorn games like Chez Cthulhu and the Cheapass family. You will find thematic bundles of HERO and GURPS sourcebooks. You will find Werewolf: the Apocalypse and Spelljammer books because I’m acknowledging that I’m not going to get around to running games in most of these settings.

You will also find lots of good stuff for which to trade with other folks posting to the list. Check it out, and offer up what you’re not interested in playing anymore!

Carnagecast 56: Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League

carnagecast-rss-image-300This week on Carnagecast, we talked with Al Spader from Jetpack Comics about Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, Wizards of the Coast’s new Adventurers League organized play structure and what Dungeons & Dragons-related fun folks can expect at A Fistful of Carnage in Killington this November.

Probably my favorite part of this episode was sitting more fully in the producer/engineer’s seat, which is my wheelhouse by trade and inclination. Ray leading the interview gave me the opportunity to focus more on making sure everyone sounded good. Sometimes this makes me feel hyper-critical, as I want to re-take every statement covered up by incidental noise, but having the freedom to watch the audio levels and listen for quality without also tracking the conversation and moving it forward was a rare treat for me, and greatly enjoyed.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Take One Tablet, Never Go Outside Again

Baron Blade glowers behind the heroes from lef to right: Tachyon, Absolute Zero, the Wraith, Legacy and Bunker.Sentinels of the Multiverse‘s adaptation for tablets went live in the software stores last week. I haven’t looked at the audience reaction to the app’s launch, but I would guess it’s been positive, tempered by the usual first day issues. The reason I haven’t looked at anything about the app, beyond knowing it is now available, is that I would probably never leave the house again — or at least for a very long time. When Hearthstone was in open beta, I sat on the couch playing for three nights straight before uninstalling that.[1]

I have given some thought to breaking my “no video games” habit with Sentinels of the Multiverse — as well as breaking my “no new technology” guideline, too. I picked up the base game up when I was looking for something to play solo, but only tried the solo version of a two-player variant once. The first try was promising, but I haven’t motivated myself to make a point of taking it out for further testing. I think I burned myself out on constant shuffling with that playthrough of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.

Sentinels has been my go-to at game days and nights when the focus is on group play. I could cheerfully play a lot more of it, but the opportunities haven’t been there and depending on who’s at the table and their familiarity with the game, it sometimes feels like less of a hit for the group at large than it is for me.

At the very least, it’s given me the chance to scratch the collecting itch when between Call of Cthulhu boxes. Greater Than Games has done a great job supplementing the core game with not only more boxes of cards, but also mini-expansions that give the acquisitional fix without requiring as much cash outlay as a traditional expansion.

[1] I had a similar experience with Warcraft II. I thought I tried it out for 45 minutes. That single session ran more like six hours. I never played it again.only

The Initiative: Superhero RPG Appendix N Blog Challenge

Theron of My Dice Are Older Than You turned me on to Barking Alien‘s Superhero RPG Appendix N Challenge:

I challenge you, the Superhero RPG GM, and/or player, to list between 5 and 10 Superhero comic books, and 5 to 10 Superhero live action or animated shows or films, that typify your style of Superhero RPG campaign.


Minimum is 5. Maximum is 10. This means you have to really think about the ones that best embody the type of Supers gaming you prefer. Who’s up for the challenge?

I feel like this could devolve into listing my favorite comics, rather than highlighting titles that convey the superhero ethos I want in the campaign I run, but let’s give it a try.

Comic Books

  • Starman: The Robinson and Harris series, in which Jack Knight is reluctant heir to his father’s legacy as Starman. One of the recurring motifs was a loving embrace of the goofiness of the Silver Age, and treating it straight-facedly. The straight face is key. The idea may be ludicrous, but the characters treat it as a credible threat all the same, not unlike a giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
  • New Mutants: A school is always a useful campaign frame for superheroes. The player characters may not necessarily be students, but a school or training facility setting offers so many options for supporting characters, interwoven story lines and a home base to contrast the familiar with new locales.
  • Excalibur: The early days of the comic felt more like investigating weirdness with a sense of whimsy than the soap opera of the other X-Men books at the time. And whatever happened to W.H.O., the Weird Happenings Organization, led by Brigadier Alysande Stuart, speaking of useful frameworks that give the right mix of structure and leeway to player character groups?

TV Shows and Films

  • Heroes: It was riddled with plot holes and idiot balls, but the basic concept of every day people “breaking out” with astonishing powers is a solid hook, and puts the players on the ground floor of a new era in history.
  • X2: This was the X-Men film that had the right mix of the sensibility of heroes in the contemporary world and the sweet point in their development, beyond having just broken out, but still developing and making new allies

Other Resources

  • Paragons: Green Ronin’s toolkit setting book for Mutants & Masterminds needs a shout-out here. It includes so many different approaches to modern heroes, from the explorers of weirdness that early Excalibur exemplified to the classic superpowers appearing — or reappearing after an absence — in the everyday population. And it heavily influenced my Paragons of Freedom campaign.
  • Suppressed Transmission: Once weirdness is on the table, you have to deal in Suppressed Transmission. It’s a trove of McGuffins and sources of superpowers.

Delta Green in Beta Test

Arc Dream Publishing opened the new Delta Green role-playing game to beta testing yesterday. You can add the playtest files to your Dropbox, or download a zip archive to your computer. The files include an introductory readme explaining the feedback Arc Dream wants from playtesters, and in what form. It also asks that people not redistribute the files, which is an interesting request in an open process.

I desperately wish I had the time and energy to read the rules and conscript a playtest group, as I’ve been listening to people like Adam Scott Glancy, Kenneth Hite and Shane Ivey talk about the development of Delta Green‘s very own role-playing game for what seems like years now, on podcasts like Role Playing Public Radio and Unspeakable! I will settle for skimming the documents when I have a few minutes with a computer.

The rest of you, though, have until November 23rd to run some sessions using the beta rules and existing free Delta Green material like Night Floors and Music from a Darkened Room. and then get feedback to Arc Dream.

[Hat tip to Paul of Cthulhu for sharing the news.]

Carnagecast 55: The Legend of Curly’s Errata

carnagecast-rss-image-300Our run-up to A Fistful of Carnage, Vermont’s tabletop game convention the first weekend in November on the slopes of Killington Peak, continues with a new episode of Carnagecast. We talk about the newly unveiled schedule of games, our first trips to Carnage and agree that, on reflection, taurine is not a meal.

The preparation for Carnage and professional commitments keeps me busy these days. After the convention, my plan is for the podcast will return to an every other Monday schedule. We’re on the final leg of 2014, but like winter, Carnage is always coming. It’s important to pace oneself through the winter and spring months in keeping the Carnage flame alive.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: For the Greater Good: The Agency’s Expansion is on the Horizon

For the Greater Good cover art: a blond man with a shotgun fends off an unseen creature in an alleyway.Last week, Fantasy Flight Games posted news of the next Call of Cthulhu box set: featuring the Blackwood Agency in For the Greater Good. I get the sense we’re being deliberately paced, as The Sleeper Below was poised to hit retail stores at the same moment — and, indeed, I found in my local game store that weekend.

Some folks have remarked that a faction-centric box after Cthulhu’s Sleeper Below goes against the “pattern” of the deluxe box releases, to go from the Syndicate to Cthulhu to the Agency. My sense is there has never been a pattern, at least not a discernible one because we’re in the midst of watching the releases unfold one by one. If there’s rhyme or reason to how the schedule is laid out, beyond “the designer had a really good idea for a box theme, can we fit it in the production schedule or get it in stores for the holidays?”, we won’t be able to pick it out until much later, or Fantasy Flight decides to share their thinking.

The previewed cards suggest the Agency’s getting some new tricks, or an expansion of some tricks they’ve had previously. Government characters are getting boosts in the Military Attache and Lt. Wilson Stewart. With Stewart, in fact, all those high cost Agency characters suddenly become a lot more attractive. Yes, let’s play around with T-Men and the Foundation!

One of the Agency’s sub-themes has been attachment cards. James Logan’s notorious for coming into play armed for bear, for instance. This first preview shows a Cthulhu faction card that attaches to a story, so I’m wondering if that will be the sub-theme for all the non-Agency factions, the way everyone got Tactics in Denizens of the Underworld, and Prophecies in Seekers of Knowledge.

And Fantasy Flight can absolutely keep up giving Silver Twilight more cards than the other non-spotlight factions. That was a real delight to see in Sleeper Below. After For the Greater Good, Silver Twilight will be the last human allegiance not to have enjoyed the amount of love this current run of deluxe expansions have showered on the factions to date. Silver Twilight has a box, sure, but they’re latecomers to the midnight struggles, and absolutely deserve the kind of bump everyone else is enjoying. Especially if a new Silver Twilight box focused on making their “no hand” effects more feasible and easier from which to recover.