Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: (Mostly) Highs and (Scattered) Lows

Looking back at 2015:
January: Getting my first 3D printed minis from Hero Forge. Fragile, with detail equivalent to a mass-produced WotC plastic mini, but so, so cool to be able to customize the gear, face, hair, build, and pose. And they keep adding more options, including mounted figures. If only it didn't cost so much -- I hope that the production cost comes down over time.
Also added the Pixie hero class to Dungeonteller.
February: Another Dungeonteller hero class added: the Ranger, who comes with a choice of faithful animal companions. Two enormous expansions went live this month: Venture Hold, a huge Dungeonteller adventure with 8 eye-popping hand-drawn maps, and Big Hexyland 2, a sequel to my modular megahex campaign map set. A massive series of snowstorms here in New England gave me a captive audience for tons of gaming, as I ran my daughter and the neighbors through Venture Hold.
March: I hate March. I slogged through it working on...
April: ...MonsterMore, which went live this month. It included 13 new Dungeonteller monsters to supplement the dozens already available in the Monster Book. My favorites are the pitch dragon and the nimblewing, really proud of this book.
May: I was very much pumped to get busy developing Rock Opera '79 and did my usual avoid-burnout-tactic of alternating between the illustrations and the text. Managed to keep working on it through August but haven't done much with it since.
June: RPGs for parents-and-kids really came into their own this year, after a quiet build over the last few years. The popularity of small press games like Hero Kids has nudged bigger players like Monte Cook and WotC to re-skin their existing RPGs for the kid market (check out No Thank You, Evil! and Monster Slayers to see what I mean). I love both of these companies and envy their production values, but no thank you, Monty, and don't coast, wizards. Support kids' RPGs that have been made for kids from the ground up instead of watered-down junior versions of existing product.
July: Some people whose work I respect and admire walked out in a huff when some other people whose work I respect and admire won an award. Next time, let's keep it about the work and not about your personal feelings about the people who make it.
August: This really was the summer of discontent in the RPG world. A horrible game supplement appeared on DTRPG and we complained about it. It disappeared from the site and the site owner made plans to create a protocol for handling any subsequent complaints about offensive products. Then came the Lamentations of the Drama Kings, with grumblings about censorship that didn't acknowledge that this was happening on a for-profit, commercial site that had a right to refuse to sell products that would reflect badly on the site or on the hobby generally. I've been monitoring the story closely, and the number of did-I-mention-my-games-are-totally-edgy-and-NSFW that have been removed from DTRPG since are approximately zero.
September: A prodigal child returned this month, as Northern Crown: New World Adventures was Kickstarted to be retooled for Pathfinder. I have very little to do with it and no clue what the final product is going to look like but hope for the best. I got too busy running games to blog much about them. Enjoyed running a Usagi Yojimbo campaign using the Fuzion system (loved the setting, not crazy about the system)...
October: ...and a Marvel universe supers campaign using Dungeonteller.
November: I don't know where you went, November. I got back into miniature wargaming in a big way as a means of keeping myself occupied over the long winter...
December: ...and here at year's end I have enough terrain and Micro Armour to run some platoon-level wargames using a set of rules I'm developing, tentatively called Stars and Crosses.
I hope you had a great year in gaming and will find an even better one in 2016. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Devils of Dungeonteller

I like giving classic monsters a tweak or two. In Dungeonteller Fantasy RPG, orcs are the lowest ranks of the infernal army. I decided to tie my orcs to the original meaning of the Old English word "orc", which was "demon" or "devil." And so, Dungeonteller orcs are summoned by wizards as dim-witted, ferocious minions who stick around until slain or dismissed. When I'm GMing for my kid and her friends, I play up the orcs' lack of any instinct for self-preservation, perhaps related to the existential boredom of standing around for decades guarding someone's basement. When orcs talk among themselves, they share self-administered excruciating experiences they've had, in the manner of Christopher Guest's and Billy Crystal's Willie and Frankie characters from SNL. "Talk about painful..."
When an orc has survived for a few hundred years, it gets promoted to one-horned devil. The number of horns on your head symbolizes your rank in the hellish army. I got this idea from an Irish folktale called "The Witch of One Horn" that used to scare the Bejeebus out of me as a kid. One-horned devils are big lugs who can toss you aside with a flick of their horn or jab you with a perpetually red-hot poker. If they do well, they're promoted to two-horned devils, with barbed, prehensile tails, who act as both the jailers and border guards of the infernal regions. Three-horned devils are decidedly more intelligent. They are the front-line commanders and interrogators of the devilish legion.
Orcs are in the Dungeonteller Monster Book, which is bundled into the Dungeonteller Complete PDF set linked to above. The horned devils appear in the MonsterMore monster supplement. I'm sure there are more powerful devils with even more horns, but no Dungeonteller heroes in my campaign have even encountered the two-horned variety yet, so there's plenty of time.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Puzzled about Dungeon World

I have read through Dungeon World and the jargon made my brain hurt. I just can't get my head around how it actually plays. I know that some folks really love the game and I'm not questioning their enthusiasm for it, but before I make another attempt to understand it, I would like to know:
What existing flaw or limitation in traditional RPGs does Dungeon World address that makes it worthwhile to play? I'm not grasping its raison d'etre.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Dungeonteller Con Squad is On the Move!

If you live in the midwest USA and are going to WinterWar, why not play some Dungeonteller hosted by David Thiel, out latest Dungeonteller Con Squad Captain?

The details:

Winter War: January 29-31, 2016 at the Hawthorn Suites in Champaign, IL.
Saturday 9 AM: Dungeonteller: The Terrible Tunnels of Turvog-Ti (4 hrs)Role Playing Game  |  Dungeonteller  | 6 of 6 Seats Left Newcomers Welcome  | All Ages (6+)  | $2.00

Presented By : David Thiel
Dungeonteller is an easy-to-learn fantasy RPG designed for kids and their game-curious grown-ups. experienced monster-bashers will enjoy it as well! Who is Turvog-Ti, and why does he annually invite adventurers to brave his twisted tunnels? Some believe he will bestow a valuable prize upon those who reach the bottom. Some believe that those other people are kidding themselves, and that Turvog-Ti's pets have grown hungry again since last year. Who's right? Will you find out? Will you be lunch?

Note that ages 6+ are welcome! Can your RPG do that?
For running the game, David is getting MonsterMore, Venture Hold, Big Hexyland, and Ultimate Hand-drawn Iso Counters FREE. A value of $14!

I hope all you Prairie Staters out there will bring your kids to game with David!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Teach Your Kids to Game Week!

If you have kids (or know where you can get some), force them to play RPGs using some of the fine products highlighted at DTRPG's Teach Your Kids to Game Week. Included are such favorites as Tiny Choking Hazards, Stop Making Friends With the Monsters and Just Kill Them Already, and probably Dungeonteller, a game I wrote to pay off some old gambling debts.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Haven't been posting much lately. Nothing's amiss. Quite the contrary -- I've been enjoying the lovely autumn weather here in New England, trying to squeeze a few more kayak outings and fishing trips in before winter closes down on this corner of the world and holds us in its gray, bony clutches until April. I also have a steady Sunday night game group now and the prep time, while not excessive, leaves me less time to post here. We are wrapping up our Usagi Yojimbo campaign tomorrow using the Fuzion rules set, which I had never used before. 

What I liked:

  • The base Fuzion mechanic (rollover target number on 3d6+stat+skill) is easy to understand, even for the ten-year-olds and novice grownup gamers in the group.
  • It's easy to add or ignore certain rules without breaking the game. One example, the Usagi rules add a combat stance option that's rock-paper-scissors in nature. I ignored it and no one noticed.
  • The setting, class choices, race choices, and class/race abilities strongly evoke the half-cute, half-deadly anthropomorphic world of the comic book. Foxes, for example, can tell an outrageous lie once per game session that's guaranteed to be believed. Cats literally have nine lives. And rabbits can make a physics-bending leap. 
What I didn't like:

  • Character creation is a series of point buys that novice players will find a chore. The skill list is very 90s, meaning it's too long. I knew from the start that I would have to canvass my players about their preferred class and species, then create their character sheets ahead of time.
  • Unopposed skill checks are not very exciting for characters with medium to high skill levels. There are no degrees of success. I got around this by noting how widely a roll exceeded the target number and adjusting the degree of success accordingly.
As always, the kids get to choose the next campaign we play, and they have decreed that it shall be a superhero game set in the cinematic Marvel universe using Dungeonteller rules. My kid is going to play Stephanie Rogers, a gender-switched Captain America. Her buddy is Black Widow. My wife will be Nicki Fury, and the team will be rounded out with one or more of the following: Thor, Hawkeye, Spidey, or Hulk. I'll close with a sample set of character stats for a certain shield-hurling hero:

Luck 14
Armor 2 vs. Battle attacks
Armor 6 vs. Shoot attacks

Battle 12 (unarmed); +4 with shield
Make 1 +8 when making art
Muscle 10
Notice 7
Resist 5
Shoot 7 + 7 with shield
Sneak 2
Stunt 9
Talk 3


Battlefield Mastery: Warn your friends of incoming attacks before they happen. Roll your Notice dice. Everyone on your team gains 1 Armor until your next turn for each success you rolled.

Boomerang: You get your shield back automatically after making a Shoot attack, whether you score any successes or not.

Ricochet: Hit a second foe with your shield. If you score 2 or more successes on a Shoot attack using your shield, the shield hits the foe nearest to your target too, taking away 1 hit fewer than the number of successes you rolled.

Shield Block: You can use your shield to automatically block an attack. Spend 1 Luck. You automatically block a single Battle or Shoot attack.

Super Serum: You can’t be affected by poisons, drugs, or alcohol. You can go far longer without sleep or rest than a normal human.


shield, bulletproof duralumin armor, motorcycle

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Another Paper Mini Design for Usagi: Kappa

The heroes are likely to meet some kappa in this afternoon's adventure, so I whipped up a paper mini design for them. My daughter is a mythical creature aficionado and knows at least two ways to get the better of a kappa. Do you?