Vermont Flood Relief Game Auction

Despite the downgrade to tropical storm, Irene hit Vermont hard. Whole roads and bridges disappeared in the flooding. Three days later, there are still towns not only without power, but even reliable access to the outside world — reportedly supplies are being flown in via helicopter, so I don’t think anyone’s starving. Check out this report from Rochester, Vermont on the situation there; it’s typical of the conditions with which flood victims deal all over the southern end of the state.

Matt Golec of the Upper Valley hit on the idea of holding a game auction to supplement the usual fundraising efforts. This way we can engage people who want to support the recovery effort in Vermont from outside the surrounding area.

Matt has a geeklist set up on Boardgamegeek. He’s asking only people invited to list items do so. Bidders can be from anywhere in the world. Members listing items will collect the fees and donate them to the Vermont/New Hampshire Valley Red Cross agency to aid immediate short term relief efforts. I plan to go through my game library for auction candidates when I get home tonight.

If you’d like to read more about flood recovery efforts in Vermont, I recommend the following sources:

Further, if you have a moment, please help spread the word about initiatives to aid flood recovery like Matt Golec’s. Every little bit helps and that it’s a locally-born endeavor makes it even more powerful.

[Masks of Nyarlathotep] A Letter from Beyond the Grave

Until such time as I can write up the events of last night’s Masks of Nyarlathotep session, enjoy this missive from Lothar von Fasselstein, attached to his last will and testament as a final message to his assistant, Sophie Hawkins, but somehow loaded with information revealed only moments before his death.

Also, who knew his outrageous German accent carried over into the written word?

Mein dear Miss Hawkins,

Now zat I haff left you alles of mein vorldly possessions, I can rest assured zat ze Professor Lothar von Fasselstein Memorial Library und ze Professor Lothar von Fasselstein Chair in Egyptology at ze unifersity of Oxford shall be in gut hands! Ven you hire ze sculptors und ze painters for ze artistic exhibition section of ze Memorial Library, please take care zat zhey capture mein likeness from ze right side, vhich is mein gut side. Alzo, ze Eternal Flame in ze courtyard memorial zhould be beneath the memorial arch, not before – I know, I know, ze plans show differently, but I haff changed mein mind. Zhe gardens surroundingk mein grave can be of any type you prefer, but I do like ze lilies und ze lilacs.

I am assured zat you zhall be ze very best administrator of mein legacy imaginable, you haff been ze best of research assistants, und zhese skills zhould serve you vell in dealingk viz ze unifersity administrators, ze city planners, ze legislatures of New York und mein native Nuremburg to establish ze Professor Lothar von Fasselstein Medallion to be given to ze most deservingk student of Egypt from ze city’s unifersities und alzo ze best enemy of ze cults. Ja, ja, in fact – uze zome of ze money to make sure zat ze cults get a gut punchingk in ze face. If you do not vant it, perhaps you can giff somevone mein shotgun – I sink Herr Spadowsky vhould like it, ja? For ze cult shootingks.

Alzo, und zhis is fery important! I vish to be buried viz ze head of Edvard Gafigan. Under mein foot.

I remain,

Very Truly Yours,

Prof. Dr. Lothar Otto Ferdinand von Fasselstein, B.A., M.A. (Heid.), Ph.D. (Oxon)

Thanks to Dan, Lothar’s player, for not only allowing this to be published on Held Action, but having the inspiration to write it in the first place. Lothar was easily the most colorful and amusing character in the campaign to date. He will be missed.

Octagonal Yang Meditation

Figuring out your next move is an unavoidable aspect of role-playing combat scenes. As the active turn circles the group, you’re thinking furiously on what to do next. Sometimes it’s about the mechanics, other times it’s about making it more colorful than “I punch the guy.”

To the latter end, Theron of My Dice are Older Than You brings up this neat table of martial arts maneuver names. Roll some d6s, construct a name and figure out what it looks like while the action’s moving toward you.

Just don’t lose track of what’s happening at the table. There is little more embarrassing than executing a top-notch Diagonal Monkey Emanation right where your opponent stood last turn.

Real Life and the Hobby

By and large, I am lucky to have a job that’s not terribly demanding on my time. Enough so that I can run a role-playing campaign, go to board game night most Tuesdays and skip off for weekend conventions and game days without too much hassle. So when real life crops up in a big way, I do my best to take it with a minimum of ruffled feathers.

This week, for instance, I “get” to work on Saturday morning, which is right when Fall-loha kicks off. This is only the second time I’ll have missed a bit of a Green Mountain Game day, the last being the Middlebury Meltdown, when I was laid low by crud.

But hey, I’ll still get out to the festivities by the late afternoon, so I won’t miss this one completely. Perhaps I will even find some eager souls to help playtest Eye of the Qlippothim, too.

Setting the Scene in Arkham

Check out this house rule for Arkham Horror:

. . . just prior to drawing the first Mythos cards, all players set their skill sliders and we run an Arkham Encounter Phase (and, if necessary, an Other Worlds Encounter Phase) with Investigators at their starting locations. (They must draw an Encounter, rather than using any special abilities of their Investigator or the location). This has allowed us over the last few dozen games to get some idea of the Encounters available on green diamond locations. We still only visit them when we cannot reach our objective for the turn, but we like the added atmosphere and better sense of what our options are.

Next time I get to play Arkham Horror, I will suggest we try that. Thanks, Bern!

[Eye of the Qlippothim] Mid-August Progress Update

The Sigillum DEI, from John Dee's Mysteriorum Liber Secundus.

I drove myself to work on Eye of Qlippothim this weekend, mainly sitting down at the computer to continue pulling together the various bits of magic systems from all over GURPS Thaumatology to create a flexible, open-ended alternative to the standard GURPS spell system.

Picking Up the Threads

It’d been a while since I worked with the rules document, so I found myself scratching my head in a few places. “Why did I do that? Is it supposed to be a skill modifier, rather than margin of success?”

Originally the plan was to use margin of success as the determining factor for all of a spell’s parameters: how long it lasts, the area it covers, how far it goes, all that. However, I also want to use the familiarity table for range. Instead of worrying about physical distance, a wizard has to be symbolically close to their intended subject: know them intimately or have a link to them, like a treasured lucky charm or sample of blood. If this system is intended to encourage players to accumulate lots of sympathetic modifiers, which it is, then it seems wise to prompt that upfront. Damage and duration can run off margin of success, because they should be unpredictable. But players should be able to judge with more accuracy whether their spell will hit its target, so I think it’s sensible that range work as a skill modifier, so they can figure right from the get-go what kind of bonuses they need to collect to offset penalties.

Organizing My Thoughts Through Rule Aids

In addition to a document collecting and organizing the various rules bits for this system — for which I still haven’t settled on a name; Decanic Realm magic? Hermetic Realm magic? Hermetic Astrology magic? — I’ve been working on GM screen inserts[1] and a “quick and dirty guide to casting magic” sheet for players. One could argue I am putting the cart before the horse, creating accessories before getting the rules completely sorted out, but I’m finding it helpful.

Not only do I vary the work, so I’m not constantly focusing on making all the disparate rules align, which is my least favorite part of the project, but creating the player aid helps me get the process organized in my head. I realize there are missing steps, or that it makes more sense for figuring familiarity range to go before rolling the dice, and so on.

Ever Onward

Until the rules and players collide in a playtest, I don’t think I can make much more progress on them. That won’t happen until Fall-loha at the earliest. So now I will turn back to character creation — I have a healthy list of concepts brainstormed over the weekend and I have GURPS Cabal to plunder for its own concept list — and developing the plot and non-player characters; the latter’s always a rough spot for me. I’m trying hard this time, I promise!

[1] Incidentally, I decided to do this screen in landscape orientation. Whether I buy the premade screen by Hammerdog Games or build my own out of foamcore, I think I will prefer the lower height, which allows my voice to carry and hides less of the table from view. On the downside, I’ll have to create my own front-side inserts, as there aren’t any genre-suitable landscape screens to repurpose, but that’s not a big deal. I already have some ideas in that direction.


TimeLine in progress.

We had  the chance to try TimeLine this weekend, one of the Cheapass Games titles that made the leap to print and play licensed under Creative Commons.

The upshot is all the players have time machines. And, being sensible owners of time machines, they rocket up and down the timestreams, buying up cheap commodities and trying to offload them at financially advantageous moments in time.

The board starts out as a line of cards that trace four interweaving paths that represent the value of commodities: oilpetrol, milkbread, beetcandy and nucleons. These paths also have waypoints, which each hold one token representing one of the commodities scattered along them. Players move around by traveling in time, left or right along the path their pawn is on, or locally, up or down a column of cards.

That’s where the design of TimeLine gets interesting. The board is theoretically infinite along that up-down axis, but only ever a set number of cards wide, which depends on the number of players. Pawns can move up or down a column of cards as far as they like, constrained only by the number of turns the game lasts, the size of the playing surface and the size of the deck. The markets at the right side of the timeline extend infinitely in each direction as well, but they’re worthless unless they somehow connect with the leftmost card showing the commodities in question.

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[Green Mountain Game Days] Fall-loha 2011

After kicking up a flurry of bytes by making the rounds to get the word out about Fall-loha, I find I completely forgot to post about it here.

Fall-loha 2011 marks the return of the Green Mountain Game Days to the Burlington area since we launched into this endeavor of hosting quarterly game days all around the state of Vermont. It promises to be as much fun as all the others. Saturday, August 27th — we’re getting a jump on fall, so it won’t see us coming — the fun is at the United Church of Underhill, right in Underhill itself.

Over the last year, we’ve learned a few things about how to do these game days: people don’t seem to care what kind of soda is on hand, as long as it’s there; board game tournaments aren’t very popular; some folks like to take advantage of the block of time to play out the long games: Battlestar Galactica and so on.

Personally, I shall be attempting a playtest of my GURPS Cabal adventure for Carnage. That gives me a set amount of time in which to do my prep work, including character creation.

Should be a good time, no matter what. I hope to see some Burlington folks there who don’t normally get out to these game days.

Be Kind to Your Game Demonstrator

As Eric over at Talking Game reminds us, the friendly folks you find at a publisher’s booth teaching passers-by how to play the latest and greatest titles are often volunteers. They may sometimes get comped a room or a badge or whatever, but they’re still there because they love the game(s) in question and want to see the publisher do well.

Your friendly game demonstrator may not get every rule right — and who does, when trying to encapsulate a rule book in a few minutes’ of explanation? This particular game may not be their specialty. But still, they’re doing their best to show you what’s so great about that game.

Having been on both sides of the demo table, I find myself empathizing more with the people who take the time out of their convention weekend to spread the love of some their favorite games.