The Game with No Name Math Trade at Carnage

I am pleased to hear that Matt Golec has again stepped up to coordinate the no-ship math trade at Carnage this year. He’s done the legwork the last four years, and every year the selection of games gets wider and more appealing. The math trade’s a little funny in that the hot and heavy part comes before the convention ever happens, when everyone fills out their want lists, then anxiously waits for the news of how the algorithm determines who trades what. During the convention itself, it’s a pretty sedate “pick up what you scored, drop off what you traded away.”

One math trade, I scored a pair of Call of Cthulhu starter decks, which sent me down a path to the living card game incarnation, which I’m still enjoying today. So I’m always hopeful that I’ll stumble on some unregarded gem that I wind up really enjoying.

Most of what I have to offer in the trade are role-playing books. I can’t recall if I’ve ever successfully swapped any of them, but I’ll keep making them available. This year, I’m also going to take a hard look at the card and board games on my shelves, and figure out what I’m likely never going to play again. That number is probably going to be higher than I want to admit.

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.

[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.

#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.

#RPGaDAY 30: Rarest RPG Owned

#RPGaDAY prompts.

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

US soldiers on a flying carpet fight a dragon and lightning-throwing mage.GURPS Technomancer might be one of the rarest role-playing books I own. At the time I was interested in reading it, I certainly recall the general consensus was “This book is out of print, not common in the second hand market and tends to be marked up when it appears.” If that was true then, it’s even funnier that I got a copy through Paperbackswap for the low, low cost of sending someone else a novel. I didn’t expect to get the book. I just put in an automated request and some way down the line, someone granted it. Easy, right?

Technomancer lives in that weird intersection of the modern world and magic, as Oppenheimer’s reported remark “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” uttered at the detonation of the Trinity device, concluded an unconscious magical ritual that unleashed a hellacious manastorm on the American southwest, and raised the world’s ambient magic levels enough that it became a going concern again. And it being the 20th century, the great scientific minds of corporate R&D offices turn their attention to systematizing and codifying magic so it can become part of modern manufacturing.

Technomancer put me off in two regards. One, the complexity of magic interfacing with technology, such as calculating the number of joules a spell generates, or are required for a magical industrial process. Two, the depth of changes in the world, as Technomancer posits that the modern age embraces magic and combines it ingeniously with existing technology and society, so much so that it’s really hard to envision what that world would look like. The world chapter of your typical 128 page GURPS book just isn’t long enough to paint a picture detailed enough for my druthers. Add on the 15 years of change since Technomancer published, and who knows what that world would look like now.

Honorary Mention

Continuum RPG cover art.Continuum is another game I get the sense is hard for some people to find — even harder since it’s not likely to get a PDF release, unlike ongoing companies who are bringing their back catalogs into the digital marketplace. At least, I occasionally see posters lamenting their inability to find the book for sale on forums. They never take me up on buying mine, though. It really does belong in the hands of someone who would get some use out of it.

#RPGaDAY 29: Most Memorable Encounter

#RPGaDAY prompts.

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

Wake of the Watcher cover.In the midst of Carrion Crown‘s Wake of the Watcher chapter, beset by nightgaunts and mi-go, we happened across a creature sufficiently bizarre to put all the Lovecraftian beasties to shame. It hopped. It squawked demanding, nonsensical questions. It projected images between antennae. It was . . . the riddling turnip. Or really, it was a cerebric fungus. But the WTF factor of the encounter stuck with us for weeks after, past the mi-go’s Mr. Chunder blender, Gea the inside-out mockery of an eidolon from beyond the Dark Tapestry and even the incarnation of Shub-Niggurath herself.

“They must have ordered it late one night off the electric radish.”
— Geoff on Mr. Chunder

Honorary Mention

Way back in the day, there was the Stargate SG-4 campaign. This team of four tromps through the gate to a shiny new world, discover it’s the middle of the night in a museum and they immediately panic. Run! Hide! Don’t let the aliens find us! Never mind that this is the Stargate universe, where a simple “hi” works wonders. No, some primal groupthink instinct kicked in and the team members were all seized by an utter dread of actually encountering any inhabitants of this world they’d come to explore.