[Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em] GURPS Thaumatology: Age of Gold

The Read ‘Em ‘Cause You Got ‘Em series charts my attempt to read all the books in my gaming library that crept in over the years and went overlooked for too long.

I have to confess to a certain deficiency. When it comes to some campaign concepts and settings, I really need my hand held as I go through the mental process of figuring out what to do with it. I need, for lack of a better term, worked examples.

So texts like Phil Masters’ Age of Gold, a companion setting to the magic system toolkit GURPS Thaumatology, drive me nuts. As a setting, it’s an mystical take on the pulp adventure genre and the mystery men like the Shadow who preceded full-on super heroes, as magic undergoes a resurgence in the 1930s and alchemy literally transmutes people into something more. Age of Gold has amazing brain-tickling passages like this:

India also can be used as an avenue for supernaturally themed pulp adventures, including any number of temples of doom and resurgent thuggee cults, as well as attempts by Nazi occult researchers to infiltrate the Himalayas, or efforts by mad scientist Theosophists to “salvage ancient Lemurian devices” from the treasure vaults of maharajahs.

It sounds totally awesome and I have no idea what to do with it. Even with sample characters like the Secret Pharaoh and Madame Jasmine to guide me on what sort of happenings go on in this world, my reaction is, “These are great. I wish there were more material here to really walk me through the steps.”

While Age of Gold is a mini-setting, I wish there were more to it in terms of showing what PCs could get up to, even with the opening vignettes that kick off every chapter, rather than talking about it, as in the above quoted passage. Leave them wanting more is a good way to go out, I guess.

Eight Investigators on the Trail of Rhan-Tegoth

We had a smashing game of Arkham Horror last night at Quarterstaff, with a full table of eight players, with one substitute, running around the titular town, as well as neighboring Innsmouth. I don’t think I could possibly do it justice. Off the top of my head, we had a federal agent, a spy, a dilettante, a violinist, a newspaper photographer, a lady adventurer, a gangster and a bootlegger doing their damnedest to put the brakes on Rhan-Tegoth‘s plan to break through and devour the earth.

It didn’t work out in the end, unsurprisingly, but it was a fun ride getting there. By the second or third turn, we had three of the five elder signs in our possession, thanks to starting draws or lucky shopping trips to the Curiousitie Shoppe. That meant we could send almost whomever we liked into gates, letting the other five scurry around town scooping up clues and dealing with the monsters. The player of the gangster was particularly preoccupied with racking up a monster kill in order to become the deputy. In fact, it was the federal agent that eventually racked up enough trophies to become deputy of Arkham. There’s a lesson in there about the roles of state and federal government.

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Burlington Board Gamers

A flying monkey basks in the sun of a late November afternoon. Shot by yours truly.

Following on from the successful trial run of playing board games at the Fletcher Free Library this past Saturday, Brennan and I have started Burlington Board Gamers, a social network on Ning.com. The site will serve as a place to coordinate and list all the board gaming opportunities in and around Burlington — and even further afield, as Vermont’s gaming population overlaps with other regions.

It isn’t necessary to register to view the site, which is why we chose Ning over a service with more widespread use, like Facebook. So even if you’re not interested in making an account with yet another social networking site, you can still use Burlington Board Gamers as a resource to visit occasionally to see what’s up in the local board gaming scene.

And if you’re a member of Nearby Gamers, consider joining the group’s iteration there. It’s not as featureful as Ning as a social network, but it’s a solid gamer finder I wrote about previously that can always benefit from a greater population.

Checking Out the Pathfinder Society

Last Wednesday, I dropped in on the biweekly Pathfinder Society game at Quarterstaff Games. I’d been meaning to check out Paizo’s Pathfinder system, as well as give organized roleplaying another go. The one and only time I tried such a thing before was a couple years ago at Carnage, when Living Greyhawk was still going. When I didn’t get to actually play because the marshal couldn’t find enough people with sufficiently low level characters to put together a table including myself and the woman who had just signed up, it put me off the notion of organized play because of the strictures that accompany it. But, several years later with no regular roleplaying game of my own and an urge for some straight-up dungeon-bashing, this seemed like the time to give it another go.

While several gamers I know participate in the Wednesday Pathfinder Society game, there was still that unknown component, so I was apprehensive about who I would meet and what the play experience would be like.

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[Fletcher Free Library Gaming] Descend into the Library

You'll find more photos from our library game day behind the jump.

Yesterday was Brennan’s test run of having a board game day in the Fletcher Free Library’s community room. My friend and I were the first to arrive, and Brennan and Alex arrived in short order. For the occasion, I borrowed a friend’s copy of Descent: Journeys in the Dark. It’s a big, sprawling, bitfest of a dungeoncrawl from Fantasy Flight Games, makers of my beloved Arkham Horror. This set also had all the expansions mixed in, so it took some sorting to pull out the  In retrospect, Descent probably wasn’t the best choice for a day of getting new faces to play board games, as it’s pretty time-consuming, which isn’t fair to latecomers. But I bulled ahead anyway.

At first, I thought it was going to be a rough sell. The tough part, as is usually the case with Fantasy Flight Games’ output, is working through all the bits and pieces to explain what they signify. In Descent, most of the players each have a character to guide through the dungeon and send against the overlord, the final player’s, monsters. So everyone had a pile of tokens, cards and special abilities that needed explaining.

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[Carnage 2009] Revolution!


Jockeying for support and influence in the shadow of oncoming social unrest.

Saturday morning of Carnage, I ran a demo of Revolution!, a Euro-style bidding game. This was the first time I took the game out in public, previously having played it only with friends. The basis of the game is players try to gather support — also known as accrue victory points — by bribing, blackmailing or intimidating different individuals in a town about to be swept up in a revolution.

Players use these three techniques of persuasion in the form of tokens with which they secretly bid to influence the townsfolk. Behind a screen, they place tokens on different people’s squares. Some personalities can only be influenced by certain forms of persuasion; the General can’t be forced and the Innkeeper can’t be blackmailed, for example. Everyone reveals their tokens and the player who bid the highest on a given personality gains whatever benefits they offer. Usually that’s a combination of support points, tokens to use in the next round of bidding and the placement of influence cubes in one of the sections of the board. Two, the Spy and the Apothecary, allow players to manipulate influence cubes already placed on the board by either replacing them with one of their own or switching positions of already placed cubes.

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Lincoln’s Blood

In an interview with paranormal investigator Linda Zimmerman on EERIE Radio, the conversation touched on a bit of history that caught my attention: the American flag that cushioned Abraham Lincoln‘s head after his assassination, stained with his blood, is held by The Columns, a museum in Milford, Pennsylvania. There are several possible adventures to spin out of this that immediately spring to mind. Continue reading

A Conundrum of Changeling Consumption

So I am confronted with something of a dilemma and I thought I might throw it open for my readers’ input.

The local game store is selling their new World of Darkness books for forty percent off. This caught my attention because I like the idea of picking up the remainder of the Changeling: The Lost mini-line, excepting Swords at Dawn, in one fell swoop for about $90.

However, it’s hard to justify the purchase because the odds of me running a Changeling game that utilized the books anytime soon are relatively slim and I already have a backlog of roleplaying books to read just for the sake of reading — which ties back to the whole “slim odds of running a game” problem.

Given that, dear readers, I invite you to vote in the poll below about what I should do.