Decked! #19: Forward the Foundation vs. Toxic Fungi

This game of Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game comes from a recent tournament hosted by Black Moon Games in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Rod brings the law and order of the Blackwood Agency and its allies to the table, while Tyler advances the otherworldly plots of the alien mi-go, intent on disseminating a space plague among the peoples of earth.

Subscribe to Decked! to catch the whole series of games from Black Moon Games’ tournament, and more live-on-tape card game fun.

Michael Jordan as the MVP of Unknown Armies

Githyanki Diaspora has an interesting interview with Jim DelRosso about Unknown Armies, in which Jim mentions that he substituted Michael Jordan for Alex Abel as the person behind the New Inquisition:

Basically, Alex Abel is set up in the text to be a popular figure in the mainstream consciousness; the “reveal” that he’s running TNI is supposed to be a surprise. But it doesn’t work in a game because he doesn’t exist outside of UA’s fiction: he exists only to run TNI. Getting players to be surprised by that fact is like getting them to be surprised that billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is actually Batman. You’d either have to try to subtly introduce him to the narrative over time, or just ask them to pretend to be amazed. Neither seems fun.


So I went looking for a different Alex Abel.

Scroll down about halfway to the section on how Jordan became the man who decided “to just beat on the pinata of the occult until answers fall out,” which includes a timeline of Jordan’s meteoric success and sometimes curious career changes over the 1990s and 2000s, and how they make sense within the context of Alex Abel’s aborted ascension to the Invisible Clergy and his burning need to discover what he unknowingly lost that day. It really is spectacular, and just the kind of backfilled secret history that makes Unknown Armies the role-playing game of Tim Powers novels.

So Long, And Thanks for All the Cards

Earlier today, Fantasy Flight Games announced that Mark of Madness would be the final expansion to Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. This is, of course, a huge bummer, especially coming on the heels of the announcement that the winner of Worlds would get to design a card for Call of Cthulhu, implying there would be a product of some kind in which the card would be included. Instead, it turns out the world champion gets a print run of their card to hand out to friends and family. Maybe this year’s champ will entertain the notion of accepting self-addressed, stamped envelopes from players elsewhere.

None of this affects the game or the cards, of course. The game’s still fun and the cards all do exactly what they used to. I hope to keep playing with my friends, the way it’s always been. We’ll have to work a little harder to get together without the prompting of a local store, wishing to make their money back on a prize kit, and deckbuilding will slow down, but we’ll still play.[1]

Call of Cthulhu was my first deep dive into card games of this sort. I played Magic in the early 90s. I dabbled in Netrunner. But the Cthulhu LCG is where I dove in deep and didn’t look back. I’m going to spend the next couple months deciding what I’m going to do next with the living card game model, or any other flavor of card game.[2] I’ll cop to feeling a little burned — though certainly the writing was on the wall for a long time now — but I haven’t yet seen another game on the market with a similarly appealing blend of theme and rules density as Call of Cthulhu. Right now, I can’t picture getting into another card game nearly as enthusiastically as I did with Cthulhu.

[1] In fact, with the end of the structure of organized play for Call of Cthulhu, surely that means there’s no more restricted list. Welcome back, Y-Train!

[2] And what this means for Decked!, in fact. Right now, the options look like carrying on unphased, finding a new favorite card game, or a massive format change.

Decked! Tech: Lock, Stock and Two Frothy Steins

In celebration of Decked! getting 100 subscribers on YouTube — thank you everyone who’s been following along, commenting, and sharing the game play goodness out there — we’re doing something a little different this week: Decked! Tech. Ray builds a deck live on tape for you, from his initial notion to weeding through all the possible cards to whittling down to a final fifty. Bear in mind this is an initial draft list, which we will test and come back with revisions.

Lock, Stock and Two Frothy Steins

Total Cards: (50)

Character: (20)
3x Lodge Barkeep (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
3x Clover Club Bootlegger (The Twilight Beckons)
3x Ol’ Lazy Eyes (Conspiracies of Chaos)
3x Keeper of the Silver Sphere (The Order of the Silver Twilight)
3x Tragic Celebrity (Conspiracies of Chaos)
3x Extortionist (Core Set)
2x Lookout (Lost Rites)

Support: (15)
3x Under Cover of Darkness (Denizens of the Underworld)
2x Sarnath (Denizens of the Underworld)
3x Guardian Pillar (Search for the Silver Key)
3x Elder Binding (Aspirations of Ascension)
2x The Seventh House on the Left (Kingsport Dreams)
2x The Plague Stone (Terror in Venice)

Event: (12)
3x Forcing the Truth (Curse of the Jade Emperor)
3x Intimidate (Secrets of Arkham)
2x Low Blow (Core Set)
2x On the Lam (Denizens of the Underworld)
2x Panic (Core Set)

Conspiracy: (3)
3x Unending Festivities (Terror in Venice)

Deck Created with Call of Cthulhu Deckbuilder

For this inaugural session of Decked! Tech, Ray starts with Lodge Barkeep. One of the more tantalizing entries in Call of Cthulhu‘s card pool, the Barkeep is cross-faction steadfast. He’s a Silver Twilight character that requires a Syndicate resource on one of its owner’s domain to play, and brings an exhaustion trick to the Silver Twilight faction. You could say the deck builds itself, but Ray makes some discoveries along the way that keep things interesting.

Subscribe to Decked! on YouTube and be the first to know when the testing session hits! And if we get to 200 subscribers, Ray’s already committed to building a Zoog deck for your entertainment, so that should be interesting.

Sharp-eared viewers may note that while recording, Ray initially dubbed this deck “I’ll Have What He’s Having.” Almost immediately after recording, Ray said, “I should have called it ‘Lock, Stock and Two . . . something.'” And thus the deck name you see today.


One of the grails of recording card game matches has to be the view of the player’s hand of cards. If you’ve ever watched televised poker — I watched a lot of Celebrity Poker Showdown during school breaks, I have to admit — you may be familiar with the camera angle built right into the table bumper, so that commentators and viewers can see what cards each player is holding.

Such arrangements are beyond the hobbyist at the moment, but Stephane over at BoardKit came up with an ingenious alternative, using everyday plexigas and smartphones, which he calls Cardglass. Stephane explains and demonstrates the arrangement in a pair of videos. Check out the introduction below, and then take a peek at his demo game:

Clever, right? With a video-capable smartphone laying on a pane of plexigas, each player can use the viewfinder to sort through their hand, which allows the commentators and viewers to do the same, no muss, no fuss. As Stephane and his demo partner note in their trial run, throw in a pair of privacy screens to keep the other player from accidentally glimpsing the phone’s screen and you’re good to go.

I’d love to be able to give this a try some day. Recording a Decked! commentary would change dramatically, as we could talk about the options a player’s perusing as they sift through their hand. Can they resource the optimal faction mix in Call of Cthulhu? What surprises do they have in hand the other person doesn’t suspect?

Mutation and Growth

Every so often, I get the urge to do something constructive, to make a web site or other web entity of some kind. Sometimes, I get to channel that urge to a useful end. I’ve developed or revamped three different convention web sites, and learned more and more about site design with each one — oh man, am I glad one of those sites isn’t really around anymore. I developed a podcast about tabletop games. I started up Held Action. I was on the ground floor with Green Mountain Gamers, which went from a blog and a Google Site to an independent social network. The point of this litany being that I can do stuff and it can make a difference to people.

Other times, I stifle the urge because it feels like there’s nothing new under the sun of the internet. In that mindset, ultimately content is content whether it’s served up on a blog or a content management system, a wiki or parceled out through status updates. If you don’t stand a shot of being at least moderately successful, why take the shot at all? Better to look for another one of those opportunities to plug into an existing effort and help improve that.

I have been in the middle of that thought process for the last couple days. What can I make that will give me a sense of satisfaction and engagement with other people? This blog has proven to be mostly for my own amusement — and in hindsight, that’s no surprise, because the ones that inspire community are one-in-a-thousand. Decked! has my attention at the moment, just as cranking out three posts a week, hell or high water, used to in the early days of Held Action, or Carnagecast‘s biweekly episodes. I’m sure that my interests will change with time, but I’ve got to say that Decked! has certainly been one of my most satisfying personal projects to date in terms of engagement. Views! Comments! Thumbs in the raised direction!

So when I think about what I want to do next, I wonder whether a blog is the best format. What other options are out there? Is this the chance to learn how to manage a Drupal installation, for instance? How can I even figure out the desires that I want to meet, and then how to fulfill them?

Or should I acknowledge this is the same old urge come around again, and look for an existing project that can use some extras hands, because it’s likely to benefit more people than only myself?

#RPGaDay2015 Round Up

#RPGaDay2015 snuck up on me this year. I was literally on vacation when it kicked off and it took me a couple days to get myself in gear, hence the big catch-up post on the 10th. After briefly toying with doing more batch posts as I saw some other folks doing, I decided I had the time to go for a post a day. Sometimes that meant banking a week’s worth in advance, and hoping that I had still had enough oomph to make the last post of the set interesting. I still felt as though I kept hitting many of the same games and things as last year, but I did come to appreciate how Dave Chapman switched up the topics and made them less about what stuff one bought.

And again, thanks to Dave for organizing the whole #RPGaDay2015 experience. He puts the prompts together, gets the word out there and this year brought in some very cool guest commentators who might not have otherwise participated in the conversation. Additionally, I got a charge out of seeing bloggers and designers I follow participate. Made me feel like we were part of a tighter-knit community. And I got to discover new cool people to follow, like Casting Shadows — which I was doing anyway, but his YouTube channel deserved its own shout-out; it’s as though he ran two blogathons at once.

After all that, I’m feeling more invigorated about role-playing games than I’ve felt in a while, as you may have been able to tell by the wealth of card game-related posts and videos that have gone up over the summer and spring. There’s a new campaign on the horizon for me and while I don’t plan to recap it as I did Carrion Crown or Skull & Shackles, perhaps I’ll find some inspiration there to write about exploring a new character type and mindset, or discovering the dynamics of a group of players all over again.

Finally, here’s the round-up of the #RPGaDay2015 topics for your amusement:


  1. Forthcoming Game You’re Most Looking Forward To
  2. Kickstarted Game Most Pleased You Backed
  3. Favorite New Game of the Last 12 Months
  4. Most Surprising Game
  5. Most Recent RPG Purchase
  6. Most Recent RPG Played
  7. Favorite Free RPG
  8. Favorite Appearance of RPGs in the Media
  9. Favorite Media You Wish Was an RPG
  10. Favorite RPG Publisher
  11. Favorite RPG Writer
  12. Favorite RPG Illustration
  13. Favorite RPG Podcast
  14. Favorite RPG Accessory
  15. Longest Campaign Played
  16. Longest Game Session Played
  17. Favorite Fantasy RPG
  18. Favorite SF RPG
  19. Favorite Supers RPG
  20. Favorite Horror RPG
  21. Favorite RPG Setting
  22. Perfect Gaming Environment
  23. Perfect Game for You
  24. Favorite House Rule
  25. Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic
  26. Favorite Inspiration for Your Game
  27. Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games into One
  28. Favorite Game You No Longer Play
  29. Favorite RPG Website or Blog
  30. Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity
  31. Favorite Non-RPG Thing to Come Out of RPGs