Carnagecast 40: Gygax Magazine and Gary Con

carnagecast-rss-image-300There’s a new episode of Carnagecast up over on the Carnage site.

This week, James Carpio of Chapter 13 Press and more recently games editor of Gygax magazine joins us to talk about putting together a role-playing periodical in the modern age. Plus he’s just back from Gary Con and rather jazzed by all that he got to see and do there.

Huzzah for the Handy Haversack

Playing through Carrion Crown, my crossbow-slinging inquisitor racked up enough cash to acquire a handy haversack. Now I feel like I’m playing Dungeons & DragonsPathfinder, whatever.

There’s a certain delight I get from the more whimsical magic items and artifacts that come down through the annals of dungeon-crawling. The hat of disguise. The deck of many things. The apparatus of Kwalish. And now the handy haversack.

I mean, this is backpack that holds a crap ton more stuff than should fit inside. How can you not love that? Isn’t that something we’ve all wished for some time in our lives? Sure, a longsword +2 is spiffy, but it’s only really helpful if you’re in the murder-hobo profession. But a haversack with an extra — fine, non — dimensional interior. That’s got the right amount of whimsy to it that I smile just to think, “Hey, my guy’s got that. I never can, but he can.”

And by Iomedae, he’s going to cram it full of every kind of ammunition he lays his hands on.

Hex Generation

Being a game designer and small press publisher wasn’t enough for my friend James. Now he’s launched Hex Generation, by means of which he can hold forth on game design, role-playing games, 80s-90s goth and pop culture. So you can tell it’s going to be a variegated tapestry from the get-go.

James kicks it off by posing a pair of queries: how do the GMs out there use dice in their games beyond their intended use and how would you modify the grappling/overbearing mechanic for Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons described at the end of the post? The person who makes the best suggestion wins a copy of Ann Dupuis’ Night Howlers.

Role-Playing and Board Game Garage Sale

The time has come to weed the game library. Behind the jump you will find role-playing games, board games and card games I would like very much for someone else to own. Generally speaking, it’s all older stuff, so if you’re looking for titles from the 90s and early 00s, this might be the sale for you.

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Spring Meltdown Game Day in Middlebury, Vermont

March 19th in Middlebury, Vermont.

I can’t believe it’s already less than a month until Spring Meltdown, the Green Mountain Gamers’ spring game day. We only started talking about seasonal traveling game days about a year ago at Langdon Street Cafe. Since then, we’ve put on three successful game days, each larger than the last, in Burlington, Lyndonville and Barre, Vermont.

On March 19th, we’re coming to Middlebury to round out a year of tabletop games, good people and a lot of laughs. It’s bound to be a great time with the awesome folks who have been in attendance so far. Most of what happens at these days has been open board game play. We wind up with tables groaning under the weight of games everyone’s brought to share. People divvy themselves up, either because  there’s a game that’s caught their eye or they’d like to learn, or they brought some in particular they’re eager to have the opportunity to teach and play. I know the new Lovecraftian board game Mansions of Madness is going to be one of those; Carlo participated in the preview event this past weekend at his local game store in Quebec and is bringing it down to Spring Meltdown.

On the role-playing side, we’re working on growing that. We’ve got some old school first edition Dungeons & Dragons in both Middle-earth and a classic TSR published module. I’ll have the goods for GURPS Ghostbusters: Pumpkin Jack and something for Fiasco, either my still untested science fiction playset or one that caught my eye, like Toil and Trouble.

It’s gonna be a fun day! I hope to meet some new faces there.

Mail Call!

I received two bits of game-related mail in the last couple-four weeks, one of them markedly more welcome than the other. The first, which arrived sometime ago, shortly after the start of the new year, was a letter from Wizards of the Coast. Dated December 27th, it came in response to the physical copy of the email in which I originally expressed my displeasure with the warping tiles found in the new printing of Betrayal at House on the Hill — and yes, that date stamp is correct; I sent that email-letter combo back on October 25th.

Sadly, the letter didn’t have much to say, beyond apologizing for the problem and that they hoped to get the replacement tiles sometime in the first quarter of 2011 — i.e., now. Elsewhere on the web, namely Boardgamegeek, one European player reports that the customer service representative with whom they spoke said the tiles were available for shipping. So if Europe’s getting them, that’s a good sign for the US.

The much cooler piece of mail was Christian’s new handwritten zine, One Square Equals Five Feet. It’s a neat, two-sided, one sheet zine with adventure seed material to plug into one’s fantasy campaign. What I really dig about this is it really is handwritten the whole way through. Christian says that’s in part because he needs the deliberate process involved in making a zine, as opposed to bashing out blog posts as so many of us do.

Once again, Christian’s example gives me ideas and wishes that I’d like to live up to. As that happens, I start to perceive what may be a part of what Christian describes: in writing blog posts, you don’t do as much as you might have.

Happy Birthday, Held Action!

Today marks the one year anniversary of Held Action‘s first publication, from the day I made my post of introduction and reported on local Free RPG Day activities. Those posts actually date from the brief period of time when I blogged on Dreamwidth. A couple weeks later, I got tired of the limitations of the cloned LiveJournal interface and crossed over to WordPress. That also pushed me to think of a name for the blog, and it wasn’t until I had thought of something I liked better than “Tyler’s Game Blog” that I bought the domain and set up this blog on

What a year it’s been. First I chose a schedule to keep myself to, then I had an enormous spike in things I wanted to say, then I fell back into the more comfortable schedule I’d originally chosen. I’ve run through most of the material I wrote in other times and contexts, so now it’s all fresh, usually sparked by something I’ve read or heard elsewhere. And that’s what I wanted in a gaming blog: a place to publish the thoughts and ideas I had that I didn’t feel like putting in someone else’s discussion forum, but still wanted to make public.

According to, here are the top ten most popular posts of the last year, least to most. It’s amazing what the viral bump can do to hit counts, isn’t it?

  1. National Library Week 2010 Drumming up enthusiasm for an endeavor that inspired Saturday gaming at the local library.
  2. The Art of Board Game Storage When I get a game room of my own, I’ll use this technique.
  3. Game Master Mistakes: Not Really Listening I know enough to fess up when I make mistakes.
  4. A Screen for Every Game Promoting my favorite GM screen, the customizable sort.
  5. Physical Evidence Extolling my enjoyment of Propnomicon‘s Lovecraft-inspired creations.
  6. Labyrinth Lord: Downward to Adventure! My actual play report for International Traditional Gaming Week.
  7. The Lurker at the Threshold Expands Arkham Horror One of my inconsistent moments of pseudo-journalism.
  8. Scouting and Dungeons & Dragons Most mind-boggling is this one posted last week and it’s already number three in terms of hits.
  9. The Arkham Horror Expansion Guide One of those wonderful moments of blogging came when I saw someone else recommending this post on Ah, gratification.
  10. How to Make a Pamphlet Prop I really do intend to get back to making that Ghostbusters proper suitable for download. Honest.

Scouting and Dungeons & Dragons

Followed shortly by specialities in trap-finding, spellcrafting and min-maxing.

WJWalton linked to this find: an official Dungeons & Dragons activity badge from the UK Boy Scouts program. At some point in time, it seems, there was a version of the Hobbies activity badge, intended as a catch-all for those pastimes Scouts already pursued that didn’t fall under the aegis of another activity badge. As commenter darrell explains below, this TSR-sponsored version of the  Hobbies badge was awarded to all scouts, regardless of whether their hobby focused on Dungeons & Dragons.

So there’s some precedent for the Video Games badge Cub Scouts can earn. Really, there’s nothing untoward about either. Scouting’s always been about encouraging well-rounded development in all areas, outside and indoors. There are badges for studying architecture and nuclear science (!), as well as pioneering and personal fitness.

Between this and Walton’s take on a role-playing advocacy badge (scroll to the end of the article), I’m interested by the idea of having embroidered merit badge-like patches made up for general distribution.

For another perspective on role-playing and scouting, check out A Scoutmaster’s Blog, in which a Minnesota scoutmaster comments on his experiences role-playing, both as a player and a Scout and later a GM for his troop.

Cecil Adams Comments on Dungeons & Dragons

My friend Brennan passed this on to me: Cecil Adams, writer of The Straight Dope, explains What’s the deal with Dungeons & Dragons? I’m not sure if it’s new, old or in between — it’s dated 1980, but the article refers to Gary Gygax leaving TSR in the mid 80s — but it’s certainly worth reading for Cecil’s wry take on role-playing and Dungeons & Dragons in particular.

Consider this passage:

The concept seems simple enough. It’s the application that throws me. There are two main problems: (1) there are one billion rules, and (2) the game requires nonstop mathematical finagling that would constipate Einstein. The rule book is laden with such mystifying pronouncements as the following: “An ancient spell-using red dragon of huge size with 88 hits points has a BXPV of 1300, XP/HP total of 1408, SAXPB of 2800 (armor class plus special defense plus high intelligence plus saving throw bonus due to h.p./die), and an EAXPA of 2550 (major breath weapon plus spell use plus attack damage of 3-30/bite)–totalling 7758 h.p.” Here we have a game that combines the charm of a Pentagon briefing with the excitement of double-entry bookkeeping. I don’t get it.

Not being an aficionado of early editions of Dungeons & Dragons, I have more or less no idea what the hell Cecil’s quoting. BXPV? SAXPB? EAXPA? Those remind me more of HERO‘s mechanical abbreviations than anything else. Cecil’s reaction, however mocking it may be, makes me think about the general accessibility of the gaming hobby and barriers to entry to the various sub-fields, as expressed in technical jargon and self-referential slang.

Every hobby and field of interest builds up its own vocabulary that’s opaque to anyone on the outside. Baseball fans converse about RBIs and ERAs. Musicians have diminished fifths and tone color. And so gamers have XP and action phases. Most hobbies can seem to repel newcomers, if the verbal shorthand and procedure-oriented interactions accrue.

The Scent of Dried Herbs, the Sight of Calipers and Scales

Over on wod_lj, a World of Darkness discussion community on LiveJournal, a poster recently shared a gallery of photos from an apothecary museum in Kiev — watch out, the photos are huge, but worth the wait. Until recently, the poster’s LARP group used the museum as the venue for their campaign. That’s a pretty awesome backdrop for one’s game, especially considering the group based itself around a Tremere chantry, which would naturally be littered with all sorts of arcane instruments and exotic ingredients.

It’s an pretty swanky place to play and really, a museum for vampires is too fitting. Reminds me of that other highly thematic game space that made the rounds a few months back.