#RPGaDAY Launches Tomorrow

#RPGaDAY prompts.

#RPGaDAY prompts.

Tomorrow kicks off the #RPGaDAY blogathon concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. I’ll be doing my best to keep up the pace throughout the month of August. I hope you’ll join in. All it takes is a paragraph or two on the topics shown above — and maybe opening a blog somewhere, if you don’t already have one, but that’s pretty much a useful life skill at this point in the decline of western civilization.

Crystalline Counters

A game of TimeLine in progress.

TimeLine in progress.

If you’re a fan of Cheapass Games’ output, you already know the value of a gaming component toolkit: dice, pawns, colored tokens and whatever other game component-like materials might be called for. Plenty of other games call for or are aided by a supplemental supply of bits, as theoretically infinite supplies run out, or tokens go missing over time; plus they’re super handy if you’re the sort to prototype your own game designs.

And so we have 3 Sages’ crystalline counters. They might remind you of the colored glass beads you’ll find for sale in craft stores, but these guys have three distinct advantages: they are lighter than glass beads, and so easier to carry a large supply; they are more compact, and so take up less space; and they’re more visually interesting to look at, with an asymmetrical design that you can see in the picture of TimeLine in progress at the top of the post.

I’ve got a set of six colors or so, to match the standard six colors you find in most board games. They’re at the ready for whatever gaming purpose may arise, and I’m pretty sure they will be exchangeable for MeowMeowBeenz after the fall of western civilization.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: The Stars Are Right

Call of Cthulhu The Card Game box art, circa 2014.As mentioned earlier, here’s my pass at a Deep Ones deck intended to introduce Call of Cthulhu to a new player. Two players have tried it so far. They both definitely got it and had positive play experiences — I hope in part because I’m learning to be more mindful of pointing out the connections between cards, such as the various ways to play Cthulhu earlier or more cheaply — but I think the deck still needs work. One of the players remarked it was pretty basic: play Deep Ones, go to stories, maybe sacrifice some chumps to off the other player’s characters with the Khopesh of the Abyss, or feed to Carl Stanford.

The Stars Are Right

Total Cards: (52)

Character: (25)
3x Cthulhu (The Wailer Below)
2x Seeker of Mysteries (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Lord of Y’ha-nthlei (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Lord of the Silver Twilight (Core Set)
2x Carl Stanford (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Aziz Chatuluka (The Shifting Sands)
2x Deep One Rising (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Young Deep One (Core Set)
2x Innsmouth Troublemaker (Core Set)
2x Deep One Stowaway (Perilous Trials)
2x Lurking Deep One (Aspirations of Ascension)
2x The Cult of Bathos (Into Tartarus)

Support: (14)
2x Devil’s Reef (Aspirations of Ascension)
2x Shadowed Reef (Core Set)
2x Cthaat Aquadingen (Ebla Restored)
2x Communal Shower (The Thing from the Shore)
2x San Giorgio in Alga (Terror in Venice)
2x Khopesh of the Abyss (The Shifting Sands)
2x Scylla’s Well (Into Tartarus)

Event: (13)
2x Underneath the Surface (The Twilight Beckons)
3x Deep One Assault (Core Set)
2x Primal Fear (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Solar Eclipse (Terror in Venice)
2x Touched by the Sleeper (Core Set)
2x Slave to the Undivided Mind (The Gleaming Spiral)

Conspiracy: (0)

Deck Created with CardGameDB.com Call of Cthulhu Deckbuilder

Additionally, he pointed out there weren’t a lot of beefier characters, aside from Cthulhu and Deep One Rising. That’s in part because there’s a paucity of higher cost Deep Ones — Robert Friendly excluded — and maybe my bias leans toward more characters that can be played earlier in the game. It does leave one short on stronger game finishers. When I revamp this, I’ll have to be less discriminating against Cthulhu faction characters who aren’t Deep Ones.

When Toby played this deck, we got to battle back and forth for Day and Night a bit, which was a change. Usually, it seems that one player prepares for one side of that game state because it specifically benefits the deck, and the odds of it becoming a point of contention are minimal. With San Giorgio in Alga, though, the Deep Ones player is motivated to keep it Night for the deck-filtering effect. And when against Company Men, they’re motivated to keep the fight up or various Agency buffs kick into gear.

That particular Agency-Cthulhu pairing caused Communal Showers to fizzle, too. It’s primarily useful  against the typical multi-faction mix. When you go mono a mono, as it were, its utility is nil. Probably worth replacing with a more broadly useful support card. I think the same is true of Solar Eclipse. It’s a neat event, and can make a Deep One unexpectedly terrifying, but I’m not sure it has enough utility. Any time I’ve seen it come into my hand, it sits there for the duration of the game, or gets resourced, so I can play something more interesting or immediately applicable.


Gesture-Based Nanite Magic

After the apocalypse, when the nanite swarm blankets the world, only a few of the gestures capable of activating its various functions survive, passed down as jealously guarded secrets in mystery cults and esoteric orders. They are not dissimilar to mudras as Mage: the Awakening used the word.

Depending on the mudras one knows, experimentation could be the equivalent of issuing all sorts of system-rending commands, without necessarily knowing if the manipulator has authorized themselves as a super-user yet. The nanite equivalent of rm -rf could be utterly catastrophic, depending on what it considers files and directories.

Call of Cthulhu LCG: Company Men

Call of Cthulhu The Card Game box art, circa 2014.Last week, I introduced Toby to Call of Cthulhu. We used a couple of introductory decks I had put together: mono Cthulhu focusing on Deep Ones and mono Agency with an emphasis on the Day mechanic. Deep Ones is a pretty common suggestion over on CardgameDB.com as an introductory constructed deck, so I came up with something based on other forum dwellers’ suggestions. It needs updating, though, since Denizens of the Underworld gave us Robert Friendly, the most inappropriately named Deep One since Sunny Seco.

Company Men

Total Cards: (51)

Character: (25)
2x James Logan (Whispers in the Dark)
3x Local Sheriff (Core Set)
2x Special Agent Clarkston (Aspirations of Ascension)
2x Mr. Grey (Conspiracies of Chaos)
2x Norman Blackwood, Jr. (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Norman Blackwood, Sr. (The Key and the Gate)
3x Blackwood File Clerk (Core Set)
3x Undercover Security (Core Set)
2x Trial Judge (The Gleaming Spiral)
2x New Recruit (Initiations of the Favored)
2x Paul LeMond (Core Set)

Support: (15)
2x San Marco Basilica (Terror in Venice)
2x Shotgun (Core Set)
3x Beneath the Burning Sun (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Holy Rosary (The Twilight Beckons)
2x Lightning Gun (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Military Bike (The Path to Y’ha-nthlei)
2x The Iron Cross (Terror in Venice)

Event: (11)
3x Behind Bars (Sleep of the Dead)
2x Cover Me! (Words of Power)
2x Hamu IV 1:13 (Seekers of Knowledge)
2x Inside Information (Core Set)
2x Small Price to Pay (Core Set)

Deck Created with CardGameDB.com Call of Cthulhu Deckbuilder

Building on that idea of introductory decks in anticipation of a Call of Cthulhu LCG event that Brap’s Magic hosted, I drafted an all-Blackwood Agency deck called Company Men. The focus is on doing damage and taking advantage of the various Agency cards that benefit from it being Day: Norman Blackwood, Jr. is awesome in the daytime, and Trial Judge gets cheaper to play — and he combines nicely with San Marco Basilica to block multiple characters from committing to stories. Beneath the Burning Sun throwing more skulls onto James Logan, armed with the lightning gun and an iron cross, is icing on the cake.

So far I’ve been happy with how the deck plays. I don’t know how well it would stand up to something that took a less direct tactic, like stealing control of characters, but against Deep Ones with a similar focus on doling out destruction, it felt like a suitable pairing for a first game.

There are some elements in here I’m not sure about yet, as they haven’t managed to get into my hand when it was the right time to play them, like the military bike, as that with James Logan with the lightning gun would also be a great mix of effects. Shotgun would probably be better replaced by Shotgun Blast, but that’s doing duty in another deck at the moment, arkhaminmate’s With All Due Force.


Wildmark Hook

A fan of trading card game cards.

By Szente Akos (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Dreams do not generally make the leap to my waking thoughts in the morning, so I sit up and take notice when they do. This time, of all things, the oneiromeme to make it past dawn was “When drafting a wildmark hook card, you may draft an additional wildmark hook card.”

Apparently I’m writing a card game in my sleep.

My first conscious reaction was that’s ridiculous. In the kind of drafting scenario you see in Magic and Netrunner, where you take a card and pass the stack on, pulling an extra card, even some of the time, shorts a card from someone else in the draft round. Unless, of course, the extra wildmark hook comes from a supply external from the draft. So then these wildmark cards are a fairly common resource, such as lands in Magic, or we’ve gotten into deck-building games like Dominion and Ascension.[1]

In fact, “wildmark hook” sounds an awful lot like the kind of mythically poetic, semantically “huh?” card names you find in Ascension, where players build their decks by purchasing cards from a shared pool of revealed possibilities. And even in that game, getting two cards immediately for the price of one is strong by itself. In that case, a wildmark hook would probably have an interesting effect — perhaps one that keys off how many other wildmark hooks you’ve already played that turn — and a low victory point value. Maybe even a high cost, to make getting even one wildmark hook, and thus two, a notable purchase.

Stay tuned for whatever weird rule escapes my subconscious next time.

[1] And suddenly, it all makes sense. All those wind-down games of Ascension on the iPod just before bed have penetrated the deepest layers of my psyche.

No Soul Left Behind, No Goal Unreached

Imagine you are a simple educator, working in a struggling charter school. Further, imagine you are unexpectedly possessed by a demon from Hell. This psychic invader grants you amazing powers — impossible beauty, transmutation of matter, laser eyes, any number of possibilities — but at the same time, demands that you commit all kinds of evil with those powers. So naturally, being a mostly decent person, you appease the demon as best as possible by concocting ridiculously grandiose acts of largely hollow villainy that also happen to benefit the struggling school in which you are deeply invested.

Congratulations! You’ve just devised a character for No Soul Left Behind, the campaign  for Greg Stolze’s Better Angels role-playing game. Written by Caleb Stokes, author of the No Security horror scenarios, No Soul Left Behind is currently raising funds on Kickstarter. The material is written, playtested and edited, so the money goes toward book design and publishing.

If you’re not sure whether this mix of infernal villainy and public education is up your alley, check out the actual play recordings of the playtest campaign, run by Caleb for the Role Playing Public Radio crew. They’re pretty spectacular, featuring a debate team turned cult of personality, a grackle cannon and a sinister horse with laser eyes.

LibraryBox of Role-Playing Delights

LibraryBox logo.This year at Carnage, I’m trying something new: a LibraryBox serving up free role-playing content wirelessly. The LibraryBox is a wireless router with custom software loaded that turns it into a self-contained data repository. In the context of a game convention, I’m collecting materials like quickstart packets, character sheets, system reference documents for open games, and whatever else has been released under a Creative Commons license allowing redistribution and similar frameworks; Held Action Theatre will be in there, of course. Anyone in the router’s signal radius will be able to access the LibraryBox with a wifi-capable device, download what interests them and leave a note in the chatbox, if they like.

The idea for this application came from Ross Peyton, over at Role Playing Public Radio. He set up a PirateBox at a convention recently to make his podcast more readily available to people than relying on shaky hotel wifi. The more gadgets gamers bring into a room, the less anyone can actually access. So why not lighten the load and provide the chance for people to discover something new?

Setting up the LibraryBox was a snap. It was about fifteen minutes between unpacking the router and being able to browse the LibraryBox for files. Now I’m filling up the storage with whatever free to distribute materials seem like they might be of interest: public domain fiction like Lovecraft, Dunsany and Hodgson; freely available role-playing games like Pathfinder, Eclipse Phase and Basic Fantasy Role-Playing; and whatever else I can fit in there.

If you have any suggestions for role-playing content to include that is freely distributable, please mention in the comments below.


An investigator confronts a Dark Young.

Send more Drama Points.

The Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, or Cthunisystem for short, brings some of the classic elements of Call of Cthulhu role-playing to Cinematic Unisystem. Compiled by Salvatore Cucinotta and Jason Vey, it’s a great resource for adding mythos monsters and a different flavor of spell to your Unisystem games.

By default, it’s written for Cinematic Unisystem games like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, but it’s super easy to use the monster quicksheets with classic Unisystem rules, or extrapolate backward to a full stat block. Shave off any Drama Points the creature may have and call it good.

Held Action Theatre 2: World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl Part 2

In episode 2 of Held Action Theatre, we present the second and altogether stranger half of the World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl. The most fateful, enraging words ever uttered in the history of fictional narratives intended to entertain pop up right where you expect them, so keep an ear out.

Also, Toby started tweeting @dungeonbastard during the game, and naturally, he had some pointers for the rest of the group:

Subscribe to Held Action Theatre in your favorite podcatcher with the podcast feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/HeldActionTheatre. Look for the show in iTunes. Listen directly on the web at heldaction.wordpress.com.

“O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, performed by the MIT Concert Choir and made available by http://freemusicarchive.org/ under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/