About Tyler

In the wilds of Vermont.

Fall-loha 2014 on September 27th

Fall-loha 2014 graphic, yellow letters with autumnal leaf.Green Mountain Gamers return to the Burlington area for Fall-loha 2014, their annual autumnal game day, on September 27th. This year, they’re classing up the party by hosting it at the Windjammer Inn & Conference Center in South Burlington, convenient to the greater Burlington area, the interstate and some pretty good food nearby. It’s a free event, though a suggested donation of $5 is gratefully accepted to offset the costs of hosting the day.

It’s always interesting to see the turnout at a Green Mountain Gamers event, because it’s usually half people I know, and half newcomers. And in Burlington, my own stomping grounds, those newcomers may turn out to be from around the corner. Last year, that’s how I discovered the existence of Brap’s Magic, a new local game store. This year, who knows who I’ll meet?

I’ve been on a Sentinels of the Multiverse kick lately, so I’m hoping to play that, especially since my friends scored me two alternate hero cards at GenCon: Dark Watch Mr. Fixer and Super-Scientific Tachyon, which I will receive at the game day. I’ll have my Call of Cthulhu decks, too, of course. Doomtown, too, if there’s interest.[1]

Green Mountain Gamers always put on a good time, so I’m really looking forward to this game day — and the shorter commute.

[1] When did I turn into such a card-flopper?

[RPGBA Blog Carnival] The RPG Blogging Community

rpgblogcarnivallogoThis month’s RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Mark over at Dice Monkey, looks at the RPG blogging community:

What does the RPG Blogging Community mean to you? What are some blogs you read that you think should gain more recognition? What are your tips for being part of the community? These are all topics you can look at on your own blog as part of the carnival. Make sure to link your articles here on this post.

To me, the blogging community is a fairly nebulous idea. When I first got the notion to start Held Action, I was a passive reader of blogs via RSS feed. I skimmed, and rarely clicked through to articles to comment or browse further, unless the feed only showed excerpts. That’s still the case, for the most part, though the number of blogs I read has diminished, if only due to writer fade or broken feeds. The drawback to passive consumption via RSS is you don’t always get word that someone’s changed their feed or web host.

When I started blogging in earnest in 2009, I did all the recommended things to increase engagement. Held Action syndicated on RPGBloggers.com, and later, RPGBA.org. I made an effort to make relevant comments on other blogs, showing appreciation or asking questions. Twitter was then, and remains now, an endless firehose of fragmented thoughts that one can only glance at from time to time.

After a while, it turned out that active participation in a community, plus keeping up a regular blog, is really time- and attention-consuming. The reward for the effort was also more minimal than I would have liked, to be honest. We reach out to be reached out to in return, at least in part.

Since then, my engagement has tapered off. I still watch mailing lists like RPGBA and rpgpodcasters. I look forward to updates from blogs like Destination Unknown and its cavalcade of satellite identities and My Dice Are Older Than You because I feel like I’ve got a connection with the writers themselves, rather than only sharing an interest in role-playing games. Bonus points when they’re an actual friend like Geoff. In contrast, I glance at posts from Illuminerdy because they touch on secret history and conspiralunacy, but there’s no personal connection to the contributors.

The trend I’m seeing in my experience is that strong online relationships follow from strong real world relationships. It may be otherwise for other people, but I note a correlation between people who connect in the real world — even if once a year at GenCon or some other gathering — and continue that connection online through blogs, forums and other social media.

Doomtown: Reloaded Video Tutorial

Gomorra Gazette put up a video playthrough of Doomtown‘s scripted tutorial:

This is wonderfully convenient because I was completely surprised to receive the Doomtown: Reloaded core set for my birthday. We’re giving it a try tomorrow night, so finding this couldn’t have come at a better time. If you’re watching without having bought the box yet, you can follow the text on the cards with the two sample decks available for download from AEG’s Doomtown website.

Forty-five minutes may seem long, but Alex and Andy take the time to explain the reasoning behind their decisions, which is really helpful to getting a glimpse at the strategy. For instance, if an opposing outfit’s character at your location is booted, they’re not a pressing concern, unless they’re joined by someone capable of making the call-out.

I’ve only had the chance to flip through the cards so far, so I’m looking forward to getting some games in tomorrow as we fumble through it all.

[Mummy's Mask] Wednesday Night Ghoul Fever

“I like to think of my familiar as quantumly entangled.”
— Devin

The Half-Dead City cover art.After a night of rest in the temple of the old goddess Bastet, Raenar the archaeologist awoke to find a cat lying on his chest. This seemed like a good omen, so the party proceeded down Acrid Street into Lapis Dog territory, looking for the leader of the pack, Priest in Chains.

First, they snuck up on ghouls rooting through what turned out to be a buffet of sorts: a street fountain filled with rotting corpses. One ghoul fleeing from that exchange led them to the Lapis Dogs’ chief lair, as Priest in Chains himself descended to join the fray, after the Plundercats forced their way through the rear entrance.

Once Priest in Chains’ head and items of value were secured, the adventurers discovered living humans languishing in the inn. While Akhil and Mentu tended to them — conveniently taking them out of dealing with any “friendly” ghouls — the others returned up Acrid Street. A chance encounter with ghouls brought out the Walkers of Nemret. Tath tried to sell the Walkers on using Priest in Chains’ mask of Set to impersonate the dead ghoul and take control of the remaining Lapis Dogs, but the language and culture barriers defeated communicating such a complex concept through gestures.

After a last pass of Bastet’s temple, Plundercats LLC cleared out of the necropolis. The ghoul victims were taken to the temple of Pharasma for care. Their cut of the take from Acrid Street did not impress the surviving Sand Scorpions at all. Sad for them, but the fewer competitors in the marketplace, the better for Plundercats LLC’s bottom line.

GenCon Panels on Role Playing Public Radio

Role Playing Public Radio boasts an embarrassment of riches from GenCon this year. In addition to their own wrap-up episode, where you can see the very impressive banner that called listeners to the meetup, they captured Diversity in Gaming from the staff of Paizo and the Campaign Doctors. I’m looking forward to hearing Luke Crane vehemently disagree with almost everything Caleb says.

And because that’s not enough, host of RPPR Ross Payton produces Unspeakable!, where you will find two GenCon panels on Delta Green. I particularly dug “Lovecraft Meets Tradecraft,” which was half Q&A and half reminiscing among the Delta Green luminaries Glancy, Stolze, Detwiller, Ivey and Hite.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: Tragic Evaluations

There’s an Australian fellow who goes by the name Tragic, or TragictheBlathering, with a YouTube channel full of unboxing games, solo play throughs and general game commentary. Among his commentary are card by card evaluations of some of the recent Call of Cthulhu box sets. Take for example his video covering the Syndicate’s recent box, Denizens of the Underworld:

He’s also recorded evaluations of Miskatonic University’s Seekers of Knowledge, as well as for various packs from the Netrunner, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings living card games. The box set videos run long enough that I treat them like podcasts: play the video in a background tab while I do other things, and listen to Tragic blather, as it were. And he blathers well, with an insight that’s really helpful to anyone coming to card games of this type for the first time. I hope he records a video for the soon to arrive The Sleeper Below, as well. I really want to hear which cards he thinks are “bonkers” — which seems to be an adjective for which he and Jason Mantzoukas share an affinity.

Memory-Proof Rules

The odds of correctly plugging in a USB connector without peeking are 50/50. Therefore it will take you three tries to plug it in. Even when I peek, I still get it wrong oftentimes.

The same thing happens to me with game rules. It may be a blind spot, where no matter how many times the question comes up, I can’t assimilate the answer. The rule for characters going insane or unconscious in Arkham Horror is one case of this: remind me what counts as an item they can lose? With expansions, it becomes even more of a quirky corner case that rarely comes up as players opt to take a madness or injury, since they’re less directly debilitating than losing hard-won goodies.

Other times, a rule can go one of two ways, and my brain always picks the wrong way to remember it. Even when the information is written out right in front of me on a card, I get lost in the heat of figuring out to do and can consistently misread something until I throw it on the table and someone else points out that’s not how it works. I very consistently hamstrung myself in a game of Sentinels of the Multiverse a couple weekends ago because I misread Haka’s base power as doing 1 damage, rather than 2; and considering that’s his core shtick, it was a big goof on my part and very annoying to have pointed out after three or four turns of playing it wrong.

This week, playing Call of Cthulhu with Toby, I think I misread Fine Dining about seven times: “Sacrifice a character to choose a character with printed cost 2 or higher. That character gains (C)(C)(A)(A) and Invulnerability until the end of the phase.” About half of the times I looked at that card — and I had to keep looking, because I knew my brain was flip-flopping between two possible interpretations — I thought the sacrificed character had to cost 2 or greater, rather than the character benefiting from the icon boost. I think I threw that one on the table to play incorrectly only once, but I glanced at the text to double-check no fewer than a dozen times, easily.

This kind of brain fart comes with learning any game, particularly those with extremely fine grained rules and wording. Add on the hyper-modularity of games with pre-constructed decks, and it seems like I’ll be training myself to read every word and consider its meaning — and kicking myself when I forget to do so — for a long time yet.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: The Sleeper Below Stirs

Call of Cthulhu Sleeper Below box art.Since The Sleeper Below premiered at GenCon the other week, I’ve done my best to ignore the thread full of spoilers over at CardGameDB. But I’m not going completely cold turkey. That would be crazy. I’m satisfying myself with the trickle of previews coming out of Fantasy Flight Games’ news feed. Yesterday, for instance, they posted about some of the Societies that all the factions are getting. They’re high cost characters with an interesting twist: the closer the other player is to winning, the cheaper they become to play.

I like the idea of a catch-up mechanic, a way to hedge against the person across the table getting a jump out of the gate, though it’s a little situational. Once that train starts rolling, it can be really hard to contend with, especially since Societies are unique, and likely to be one per faction. I feel some dissonance trying to reconcile an entire society of people being as vulnerable to a combat struggle as a single individual, but there we are. Silver Twilight’s H.O.S.T. has what seems to be a particularly useful ability: return a Lodge character to hand to draw a card. So pull someone with an “enters play” ability, draw a card, then get that “enters play” effect again at a later time. Yes, let’s do that!

#RPGaDAY Round Up

A big hand to everyone who participated in the first #RPGaDAY blogathon, and to Dave Chapman for coming up with and promulgating the idea.

#RPGaDAY represents the single most sustained run of writing and posting I’ve ever pulled off. My regular schedule for Held Action runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday, which makes it easy to queue up posts. So while I could apply the same workflow to #RPGaDAY, the volume was more demanding. The usual stream of posts wound up taking a backseat to the #RPGaDAY topics about halfway through the month when my buffer ran low. Still, I was satisfied in meeting the challenge. And I even helped spur my friend Geoff to take blogging back up for the month, so that’s very cool, too.

To sum up the month’s writing, I’ve collected all my #RPGaDAY posts here for your delectation. If you missed a day, you’ll find it below. And for at least one topic, I have to go back and add an honorable mention that really deserves to be the pride of first place.

Here’s to the second annual #RPGaDAY next August!
#RPGaDAY prompts.

  1. First RPG Played
  2. First RPG Gamemastered
  3. First RPG Purchased
  4. Most Recent RPG Purchase
  5. >Most Old School RPG Owned
  6. Favorite RPG Never Get to Play
  7. Most “Intellectual” RPG Owned
  8. Favorite Character
  9. Favorite Die / Dice Set
  10. Favorite Tie-in Novel / Game Fiction
  11. Weirdest RPG Owned
  12. Old RPG you Still Play / Read
  13. Most Memorable Character Death
  14. Best Convention Purchase
  15. Favorite Convention Game
  16. Game You Wish You Owned
  17. Funniest Game You’ve Played
  18. Favorite Game System
  19. Favorite Published Adventure
  20. Will Still Play in 20 Years’ Time…
  21. Favorite Licensed RPG
  22. Best Secondhand RPG Purchase
  23. Coolest Looking RPG Product / Book
  24. Most Complicated RPG Owned
  25. Favorite RPG No One Else Wants to Play
  26. Coolest Character Sheet
  27. Game You’d Like to See a New / Improved Edition of…
  28. Scariest Game You’ve Played
  29. Most Memorable Encounter
  30. Rarest RPG Owned
  31. Favorite RPG of All Time

#RPGaDAY 31: Favorite RPG of All Time

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

Dave Chapman tasks me. Oh, how he tasks me. Over the course of #RPGaDAY, the topics have circled around the idea of favorite a lot. Different flavors of favorite — rarest, never get to play, favorite rules — but generally the idea that one candidate wins the title. And I’ve found that the same names pop up again and again when I consider what I will nominate: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mage: the Ascension, Ghostbusters and the other usual suspects you’ll find figuring prominently in the Held Action tag cloud.

While that’s fine, I’ve generally tried to make my picks more varied than calling out the same names over and over again. Finding that variety has also reminded me how many different games I like. I don’t know if I could pick a single favorite role-playing game from among them, and I don’t know that I want to. They all achieve something a little bit different, which I’ll admit when I’m not in the mood of denying that rules matter and insisting that by and large, whatever rules you prefer will do just fine, regardless of the officiality of an adaptation.

So how do I choose? The game I want to play the most? The one I see myself running the most? The one that brings me the most actual, real fun, as opposed to dwelling on the fun I could have if I ever got around to making it happen? The favorite premise? The favorite rules to support a premise? Hell, I can’t decide. Let’s just go with the obvious choice:

Ghostbusters RPG box cover.You’re all astonished. I can tell.

The format of a team of coworkers from various backgrounds being assigned problems has just the right mix of structure and flexibility to make it playable, in one form or another, for many, many years. Ghosts have haunted humans for almost as long as there have been humans, so you can flash back and forth along the timeline to any time in history when spiritual turbulence is on the rise. A 1920s campaign frame focusing on the restless dead of the Great War and the aftershocks of such carnage among the living has a lot of promise. It’s archetypal. It’s extensible. It’s timeless. Ghostbusters will always be my favorite, I guess.