Posts Tagged ‘dwimmermount

16
Jan
13

On Dwimmermount, And Failure

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, maybe in the comments to this post about Gygax, Arneson, and a music video. My mom was a little girl when Hawaii became a state. She’s about the age of D&D’s original gangsters, and the vogue for Hawaiian shirts and hula hoops affected her the way Tractics did them. The world wasn’t changed by my mom’s lifelong devotion to hula dancing, but it did mean my childhood was surrounded by the paraphernalia of a hobby most people left behind decades ago.

In 2000, her halao, a hula group made up of dancers who commuted between Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio (for non-Texans, this is a whole lot of six-mile hexes) to practice together, was the first in the continental-US-other-than-California to be invited to the Merrie Monarch festival. This would be hula’s equivalent of Gen Con, if Indy had this big contest we all cared about so much that just being allowed to enter was a big deal.

A women’s group competing in the Merrie Monarch festival. We had all these kinds of cowrie shell necklaces and coconut shell bras around the house when I was a kid.

The day my mom was getting ready to go on stage – braiding all those grass skirts takes a long time – the rest of my family,  my fiancee, and I went swimming at a black sand beach on the big island. After a while the rest of us went in to build sand castles while my dad looked for coral with a snorkel. At one point we looked up and wondered if he was swimming a little far from shore; when we looked again a minute later he had drowned. My brother and I swam out to try to rescue him, but our attempts at CPR failed.

Kehena Beach can be seen in the background of this shot. Most of the folks who helped with the rescue weren’t wearing any clothes.

Like many gamers I grew up devoted to science fiction, especially everything Robert A. Heinlein ever wrote, and I was strongly influenced by its cult of competence. Years later, in a class on SF, Chip Delany identified this as one of the genre’s fixed ideas – the delusion that an exceptional person should be able to do everything exceptionally well, whether it’s to skin a squirrel with your boot or fix a gourmet meal or repel an alien invasion – but it was gospel to me as a kid. I never built a bomb shelter using rolls of toilet paper as radiation filters the way Heinlein told me to in Expanded Universe, but I did lots of other stuff, from taking karate lessons to getting certified as an emergency medical technician, for the time when my training might mean the difference between life or death. When the time came, I failed.

One failure followed another. The Ph.D towards which I’d invested five years of my time and a bunch of other people’s money stalled and eventually sputtered out, a long painful process of disappointment for my mentor, my friends, and others who’d counted on me to deliver my thesis. For a long time I felt like a loser, hiding myself away in shame to avoid evidence of how I’d let people down or fantasizing about grandiose ways I could re-establish myself as an exceptional person. Eventually I got over the idea that I deserved to have life suck forever; the decision to get myself into therapy was a key step, but that and its interesting relationship to what we do in roleplaying sessions is for another post.

This one is about Dwimmermount. If you supported its Kickstarter, or if you’re reasonably attuned to an online community that contains folks who did, you’ll have heard that the project is in some trouble. As the person at Autarch who’s been the public face for the Dwimmermount crowdfunding effort, I’m doing all I can to make sure that what it promised is delivered – although, since James has both the funding and the copyright that are required to release his work, I’m not in the best position to do so. Autarch is still looking for solutions, but everyone’s best efforts can never banish the possibility of failure.

I can’t talk about what’s going on with Dwimmermount author James Maliszewski and how it relates to the project’s problems – mostly because he’s not telling me, and the desire to respect his privacy covers what’s left – but here’s what I can say from my experience following my father’s death.

  • There are worse things in the world than a delayed Kickstarter or a pre-ordered gaming product that fails to ship. People have to take responsibility for their actions, sure, but the reality is that life contains some tragic fucking shit and the only thing that makes it bearable is our compassion for one another.
  • Sometimes failure is a way to realize you’re on the wrong path. I’d been going nowhere as a grad student long before my dad died, and although this isn’t the way I would have chosen to get there, I’m now happier than most of the people I know who continued down the track I got jolted out of.
  • You have to fail if you’re going to learn from your mistakes. The biggest thing I had to overcome was the feeling that I was a failure, and since that’s all I’d ever be there was no point in trying. The flip side of this is the science-fiction fantasy that I should be good at everything, meaning the best way to evade the sneaking suspicion that this wasn’t so was to avoid doing anything at which I might fail. Either way, I was shutting myself off from the opportunity to see that you win some, you lose some, and meanwhile it’s fun to play the game.

Autarch is a new company, and we’re still making rookie mistakes. Going into the Dwimmermount project, I felt like Autarch’s success with the Adventurer Conqueror King Kickstarter, and the failure of mine for the Arneson Memorial Gameday, had given us considerable expertise. I see now that those those were relatively smooth hits or misses. We’ve learned a lot more from a project that’s been rocky and whose fate remains uncertain; we won’t again put ourselves in a position where we’re holding the bag and have left ourselves so little control over the outcome. Although I still think there’s a valuable role for crowdfunding to act as the testing ground and collaborative inspiration for projects early in their development cycle, the Kickstarter currently on Autarch’s drawing board, Domains at War, will have a basically finished draft ready to give to backers as soon as they pledge and will explicitly be seeking funds just to illustrate, print, and ship a thing that already exists.

Kickstarter is a new thing under the sun too. Without being privy to their process, the fact that they are growing successfully means they must be learning from their mistakes. I’d like to think that the requirements for project creators to discuss risks to backers, which have been put in place since we launched Dwimmermount, might have helped us avoid another serious mistake in not being transparent from the start about Autarch’s contract with James and the ways it could go wrong. But hindsight is misleading, and there are still many ways that Dwimmermount could come out right.

To bring this back to gaming and pay the Joesky tax, roleplaying lets you make mistakes and learn from the consequences in a safe space. I’ve written before about my frustration with party optimization in 4E, where I felt like no feasible amount of play time would give me enough observations to statistically distinguish successful group strategies from sub-par ones. Tim Harford’s fascinating Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure shows that it’s not just statistics that can be make it hard to recognize when you’ve made a mistake (this being an obvious prerequisite to learning from it). Some of the unconscious biases he points out are kind of a benefit for roleplaying: the tendency to retrospectively cast our bad decisions as good ones can make the story of a gang of insanely greedy, stupid, merciless cowards trying to bullshit their way to a wholly undeserved victory seem a little less undeserved.

But the fear of failure is what drives these attempts to airbrush away one’s mistakes, and it makes for bad gaming. Fudging the dice robs us of the ability to learn. The wisely titled Play Unsafe presents techniques like holding ideas lightly (because they might be wrong) and not planning in advance (because no amount of worrying will never eliminate the possibility of rolling a natural 1) that I think are at the heart of the old-school approach. Best of all, they’re things you can try out and see if they work for you right away, no statistical analysis necessary.

22
Mar
12

There and Back Again

Timothy Hutchings has a gallery show at I-20 opening tomorrow night, Thursday March 22. I’ve noted before that Timothy is

known to White Sandbox players as the dwarf Mallo Beer-bane and to others as (among other things) the curator of the Cursed Chateau exhibit, the editor responsible for the animation wizardry in the Kickstarter video for Adventurer Conqueror King , a panelist in the Dungeons & Dragons in Contemporary Art discussion, and one of the Doomslangers artists.

Since then Timothy has also been been part of the role-playing-themed art show Big Reality, where he exhibited his own work as well as selections from the Play-Generated Maps and Documents Archive, which he created and curates. Folks who are following the Dwimmermount kickstarter have also recently heard from Mr. Hutchings, on the subject of why the donation of materials from James Maliszewski’s home campaign to PlaGMaDA matters:

Tabletop role playing games completely revolutionized game play. Our multi-billion dollar computer game entertainment industry is built on the shoulders of pen and paper RPGs. With the popularity and overwhelming cultural presence of computer games comes the need for their academic study, and academic study demands original sources for research. The materials preserved by the Play Generated Map and Document Archive and other collecting institutions are being held in trust for those researchers and the important work they have just begun, and just as importantly these materials are disseminated back into popular culture so that the gamer of today can see the traditions and innovations that developed into the contemporary landscape.

Like many of my posts do, this one makes a blah blah sound. Here, then, are some charts Tim and Ezra Claverie who I am proud to call our mutual friend came up with for a game of Burning Wheel that I didn’t get to play in, but sounded delightfully old-school and Dwarf Fortress-inspired:

Inspired by:
http://joeskythedungeonbrawler.wordpress.com/

a giant’s poop contents chart

  1. Giant poop worms.  Like rot grubs but they don’t kill you so easy. The worms burrow into the PC’s flesh, reproduce, then send thousands of progeny out each end of the character’s digestive tract.  If this happens in front of NPCs then get an Infamous trait with that group.
  2. Gold coins.  Why would the giant eat gold coins?  1D of cache.
  3. A knife.  And bloody poop!  Ha ha, dumb giant pooped out a knife.  Is the knife magic?  On a 1-3 roll on the “what’s with this sword” chart, on a 4 it’s proof against acid, on a 5-8 then no – it’s not magic.
  4. A humanoid skull.  Bury it for a reputation 1D Friend of spirits
  5. A living troll arm, it makes half-hearted attacks. (I love this.)  Only fire can destroy it.
  6. A perfectly intact head sized egg.  (it was planted here by something else)
  7. Poop eating giant centipede.  Agility test or your probing arm gets bitten.  Yes you get an armor roll.  Learn that you don’t push your arm into the poop, you dork.  If you said “Oh yeah I was wearing my armor!” then you have poop all over your armor too.
  8. A bunch of springy worms.  Each worm’s belly contains a pearl-like gem (value, properties to be determined by GM).
  9. Seeds.  Are they magic?  Are they giant?  Are they just giant tomato seeds?
  10. A giant’s tooth.  This giant got beat up in a fight and swallowed his own tooth.  1 in 6 that it has a silver filling or is gold or whatever.
  11. An idol!  Geerwyn the Unfortunate.  This poor idol has the worst things happen to it and it’s possessors, but it also gives them help in getting out of these situations.  While carrying Geerwyn, any random thing that can happen to the possessor does, the more bizarre the better.  But, Geerwyn will Help the possessor out of these same situations with +1 or +2 Advantage dice, depending.  Geerwyn will also halve random damage from the bad stuff he causes, trading off injury for shame – rather than a B10 burn from the irate fire toad, the character will receive b5 but will have his beard burned off.  Bearing Geerwyn automatically gives the holder a 1D “pathetic bumbler” trait.

What does that worm pearl do?  (Gem Appraisal or whatever)

  1. Crap, it’s a worm egg and will hatch in your gem pouch.  And it eats gems!  Which become worms!  Will only hatch when there are other gems around.
  2. It’s a pill.  +2D to your next health test.  Good luck figuring out that this thing actually does that.  Maybe you noticed that it was an exceptionally healthy worm.  If taken the pill stays inside of you until you die, you don’t actually digest it.
  3. It’s actually a gem worth a little bit of money.
  4. Invisible things are reflected in the gems surface, but the surface is so small and round it doesn’t help much.  +1D to seeing invisible things, but you must be working Carefully as well.
  5. It’s a unique gem the likes of which adorn the crown of the dwarven prince.  If it gets around that the prince’s crown is adorned with worm poop pearls, it would cause quite a ruckus.

What’s in that egg?  (did you let it hatch?  If not then you might just get goo)

  1. It’s hardboiled, magically, and is delicious.
  2. A baby harpy, full of spite and can fly as soon it’s hatched.  It will flutter after the PCs cursing and drawing attention to them until killed or frightened off.
  3. The yolk is solid gold!  (worth 2 cache)(everyone make a Greed test)
  4.  It’s full of molar teeth?  What the hell?  (if you plant these they’ll grow into chickens)
  5. Rotten, cracking it open gives you and your stuff the Stinky trait for awhile.
  6. A tiny, perfectly formed homonculi.  Who does it resemble?
  7. It’s not an egg but a solid piece of ivory.  (worth 2 cache)  If you crack it open there’s a miniature, living elephant inside.
  8. Nog!  How bizarre.  (works like regular nog)
  9. The liquid inside the egg shines with the brilliance of a wizard’s spell for 1d4 days.  If you drink it your eyes and orifices all glow.
  10. A tiny dead looking guy in robes run through with a tiny sword and stuck with tiny arrows.  He has miniature everything a wizard adventurer would have.  (worth 2d of cache to middle aged lady collectors)  He will rot away once removed from the egg.
  11. The egg is full of pearl bearing poop worms.

Tim gave me permission to post these charts a while back. He perhaps didn’t mean “at the same time as mentioning an occassion in which he is doing a serious artist thing”, but as I am the kind of person who would pay a Joesky tax with stolen Joesky-inspired coin, clearly nothing is beneath me. Tim and Ezra made many more tables like this which I will post the next time I get behind on the taxman!

I will not be able to make the show’s opening tomorrow night, as I am taking my son to his first GaryCon, but I hope to make it after we get back.

12
Mar
12

Roll for the Caller: Using Initiative for Faster Group Decisions

Delta’s D&D Blogspot has posted a session summary of Saturday’s expedition into Dwimmermount. He notes:

Tavis may have more courage than I do, because he had something of an open call out to players, and once we had dinner, piled into the Brooklyn Strategist, and set up to play around the custom gaming table there, he had no less than nine players ready for the session… About the first thing that Tavis said to me was, “You can have 4 henchmen, does that appeal to you?” Does it!? (I’m semi-infamous for gleefully playing multiple characters. Here I would get to play a whole crew of 5 dwarven plate-armored fighters. This was a very good sign.) With similar rulings around the table, we had a total of eighteen characters assembled and marching up to Dwimmermount.

I'm glad Stefan insisted that we actually put all the miniatures into the layout; the work he put into wrangling them was well worth the visceral sense we got of just how insanely stretched-out our marching order was.

This weekend there is indeed an open call for players at the Dwimmermount sessions I will be running on the evenings of both Saturday 3/17 and Sunday 3/18. After that, the expeditions will continue every Saturday until 4/14, but I will be passing my spot at the big Sultan gaming table on to other GMs.

I am famous for running groups of up to 15 players, but normally those are shambolic affairs in which we are glad to spend six or eight hours chatting and chewing the scenery and not getting much done. The Dwarven Forge scenery we have at the Brooklyn Strategist is so appealing that it begs out to be played with right now, so I evolved a way to get this big group moving faster than I normally do. I hope this house rule will be useful to those who come after me.

Because we were using the Adventurer Conqueror King System, when combat occured I would ask everyone to roll for initiative at the start of each round by holding up a d6. This part is standard, and with the possible exception of the kobold massacre, each of the fights on Saturday was sufficiently complicated and high-stakes to make it worth paying close attention to who got to go before the monster(s) and who didn’t.

When we weren’t in combat and the next course of action wasn’t obvious – basically whenever the flow of action seemed to pause a little as people wondered what to do – I would hold up a d20 and ask everyone to “roll for the caller”. (Actually I said “roll for initiative” here too but that led to confusion. Do as I say, not as I did.) Only the high roll counted, so once I heard a pretty high number I’d say “OK, can anyone beat an 18?” I didn’t have the players modify the dice roll by anything, so that all participants had an equal chance of winning. I don’t think it makes sense to have charisma modify the roll – this is a procedure for the players, not their characters – but it might be interesting to keep track of how many times this call for callers had been issued, and tell everyone who had not yet been a caller to add that number to their roll.

Once a high roller had been established, I would find a way to describe the scene to explain why that player’s character now found him or herself in a position to set the next course of action for the party. The first time I called for a roll was in town as soon as everyone had a character sheet ready. Stefan and Peter tied with an 18, so I said “OK, Father Roy and Dewdrop Morningwood, you were the survivors of the previous expedition. As you’ve been here in the Fortress of Muntsberg healing and re-equipping, you become aware that news of your exploits has brought a new crop of adventurers who are looking to repeat your success. Do you want to lead them to the dungeon right away, or spend more time in town seeking out special equipment or pursuing the truth behind some of these rumors?”

It was intentionally implicit in this setup that all the new and old characters would form a party together, but I think Pete picked up that it was not actually covered by anything we’d roleplayed, so he had Dewdrop’s henchman Lafonte Shimmersky give an elaborate recruiting/motivational speech, and then Stefan and Pete read the mood of the group and decided to head for the dungeon right away. (This was what I thought everyone wanted, and also what I wanted myself – all that Dwarven Forge terrain begged to be marched upon – so the caller procedure worked!)

At the top of the landing, we rolled for caller again and the dice chose Miguel. His character was a prestidigitator named Obed Marsh, so I said “As the group reaches the head of the stairs and the metal Thulian doors, a feeling of eeriness settles over the party and they unconsciously look to Obed for his expertise in arcane matters. How do you direct your fellow adventurers?” Miguel chose to have his characters take the lead and investigate the situation, asking questions that let me feed the group information. But just as you can see in historical accounts of parties using callers like the example of play in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, the caller was the decision-maker but not necessarily the spotlight player. Other players might speak up to contribute – when Obed learned that the mountain was protected from tunneling by some kind of enchantment, Dan said “My dwarves put away their axes and picks, disappointed that their plan is shot” – and sometimes the caller would designate another character to perform a task, whose player would then take the spotlight (for example, Carl’s thief who led the exploration of the rockfall that exposed the gorgon cave).

I felt like this procedure worked very well for speeding up decision making by giving the power to the dice. As the Judge, I didn’t have to think “how can I get the players to start moving and stop debating; I only had to recognize when it was time to call for a roll, and then hand off the problem to the randomly appointed caller. A key part of the method was to set up the caller’s authority by setting the scene for their character. By describing to everyone how and why Obed had emerged as the leaders for the other characters, I was encouraging everyone to start thinking in character as well, which thus included accepting that their character was going to be regarding the caller as the natural leader for the moment.

I think the caller procedure would work even for smaller parties. If you try it out in your games, let me know how it goes!

06
Mar
12

Rumors of Dwimmermount

Here is the rumor chart I made to bring events from the inaugural G+ session of the Dwimmermount Kickstarter campaign into the continuity of the game I subsequently ran at the Brooklyn Strategist. The idea is that Locfir having gotten busy with other projects, Locfir’s Man (formerly known as the candlemaker Ungril Ungfarm) escaped from being charmed. Scuttlebutt is now echoing from the tales he brought back from the dungeon expedition he participated in with Pigfoot the Hog (human fighter), Burgoth the Mage (human you-guessed-it), and Locfir the Astrologer (elf). These are a little Locfir-centric because Locfir’s Man is making out like a bandit on his association with the elf and in fact refuses to answer to the name Ungril any more.

Photos by David Ewalt, aka Old Axehandle, from the last Brooklyn Strategist session

  1. Pigfoot discovered material components that make the ventriloquism spell lethal AND merchants are buying up all the fortress-town’s supplies of chain, caltrops, oil, and torches.
  2. Locfir made Burgoth lick a Thulian pillar of submission AND Burgoth is now hemiplegic and enslaved in Locfir’s sanctum.
  3. The party all cast charm person on one another to protect themselves from outside influences AND when they returned from the dungeon one of them had been turned into a gnome nonetheless.
  4. The bearded face of a Man spoke to Locfir AND taught him how to initiate himself and others into Thulian wisdom.
  5. Locfir filled a wineskin with a fluid he found very interesting AND pouring it on Burgoth brought him back to life.
  6. The party was attacked by metal skeletons AND Burgoth controlled them using a lever.
  7. The party found the petrified body of Turms Turmax’s courtesan AND she revealed to them the secrets of the Thulian doors.
  8. The party found a renegade Dwarf AND the others of his kind are searching for a cemetary of their kind that is being desecrated.

All of these are potentially knowable to characters in the Fortress of Muntsburg. I had the players roll a d8 apiece to see which rumor they had heard just because I didn’t want to read them all out at the start of the session, but I don’t think any of these are spoilers at least for my own approach to embracing meta-knowledge. If you read this post and then play in my game that’s awesome you saved some reading rumors aloud time. We’ll work together to imagine the reason that your character is particularly well versed on what’s being talked about in Muntsburg’s taphouses.

Step one of my approach involves acknowledging meta-information the players might have – some of the stuff above you can guess at if you’ve read Zak’s post. The reason the the map of the first level can be seen in the picture to the right is that I placed it in the dungeon as treasure, knowing at least one of those present had seen it in the Dwimmermount teaser in the Adventurer Conqueror King rules we were using.

Step two is then using this to screw with the players. James beautifully set the stage for this by changing the dungeon since the ’09 PbP game, so that the first time Locfir entered after three years away he freaked out that none of his maps were quite right. Part of the reason these aren’t spoilers is that each has two parts, separated by AND. Either part could be true or false. The idea is to give players some ideas about things that might be interesting about the dungeon – in this case, things that our group of players actually was interested in (well OK maybe just me, Locfir was always either running away or having to be dragged away from things only he cared about). Then if and when they do encounter something that might relate to the rumor, their dread and paranoia is entertainingly multiplied by the bad things they’ve heard or the likelihood that I made a false good rumor to trick them into doing something foolish.

The way I figure this works for the Judge is that if the players want to try to investigate the rumors further, they can spend some time (I recommend a week) in town rolling against an ability score or however you like to do this kind of thing. The results are, using an assumption that you’ll wind up with a range like the Apocalypse World-type system where a total failure is a modified 6- on 2d6, total success is 10+, partial success anything in between:

  • Total success: you learn whether both parts of the rumor are true. (If you like to be more stingy with information, decide which part you want to pursue and you confirm or deny that half.)
  • Partial success: you learn one false part of the rumor, Judge’s choice, or that no part is false. (Or maybe you learn it all at a cost or complication.)
  • Total failure: the Judge gets to invent and spread a rumor about the investigating PC. (Or trigger a town adventure, rival party attack, etc. if your group is in the mood, or impose a penalty on the PC’s die rolls due to too much buying of drinks in town means bad hangover but no info.)

Judges, if you haven’t read the adventure yet just decide “true or false” depending on what sounds good to you. Discreetly make a note on the rumor table to help you figure out what you said later when the party finds that thing in the dungeon (if it even exists at all). Likewise if you are about to prep the dungeon, thinking about these rumors as you read should help you keep your eye out for cool stuff (even though James has hit on what is for me just the right level of evocative detail vs. easy to read). And if you think your players know too much about the dungeon, these rumors are meant to be a good guide to which switches to flip to change things up.

Finally, you don’t have to pay any attention to this continuity in your version of Dwimmermount. Pigfoot and Burgoth and Locfir don’t have to be in the setting at all, they are non-canon for sure and I am pretty sure it will make James frown thoughtfully if you start tossing canon around so don’t do it. If the party goes to investigate what’s going on with Burgoth and he exists he can be whatever you want, I recommend secretly a polymorphed dragon living in some kind of polyhedral melting pocket-plane.

Empty Kingdom if you are a home for media artists make it easy for me to credit this painting to Ryan Browning with name and year and stuff the way galleries do.

The one thing you should be sure to respect in your campaign is that if it has a Locfir he is fantastically wealthy but no PC will ever find where it is hidden, and he has like a million hit dice and just started that one HP rumor to tempt fools to disrespect him so he can do weird elf things with your still-beating heart.

I liked the way this worked and will be doing it for the Keep on the Borderlands events we’re doing with ACKS at Gary Con IV.

03
Mar
12

Dwimmermount Kickstarter is… Schrödinger’s Cat?

So maybe you have been following the Dwimmermount announcements and noticed that the Kickstarter was supposed to launch this afternoon. But then it got to be evening here on the East Coast, and where was it? The answer here is that Autarch can seem pretty polished due to the excellent production staff whose day jobs make the Escapist look so good. However, it is still a small enough company that it can be seriously bollixed by a single fourth-grader who loses his backpack in a way no one can find it. (Where was it? In his classroom, not really lost at all, which is why it was so hard for me to find it.)

It is a poor craftsman who fails to account for this kind of thing, and that would be me. In my day job before we can apply for funding we have to go through a whole series of internal review processes. Because I am a procrastinator and the people I work for are emergency medicine physicians and thus adrenaline-junkies, we like to stress out and do everything at the last minute, but the internal deadlines mean we do this well before the time it is really due. Without those review steps, I gave myself the luxury of cutting things so close that a couple of hours of running around doing Backpack Quest created a problem.

OK, but then James posted that we were delayed! This is because when I finally got it ready to submit, it turned out that Kickstarter had instituted a new internal review process after all. In some ways I was glad for this – one of my “lessons learned” was to get it ready and then announce when it will go live, since these deadlines are all self-imposed. But at my day job, the internal review process takes ten business days, and now that Kickstarter’s funding awarded is catching up with federal agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, it made sense to me that was the kind of review they would perform. So I wrote to James and was sheepishly like uhh I have a good idea for an Open Friday post…

But then within just a few hours – even though it was well after end of business out here – Kickstarter got back to us with the green light to launch the project! Normally this is a great moment of champagne-popping rather than frantic confusion, but the good news here is:

  • yes we are live and the response has been tremendous, thanks for believing in this project despite the confusion!
  • when there is a snafu you have some evidence that we will try to get out in front of it ASAP and let you know what’s going on
  • James now has the distinction of having the most briefly delayed most-anticipated-delayed-gaming-product ever

Please accept my apologies for the unnecessary excitement!

01
Mar
12

Saturday Gaming in NYC for Dwimmermount and the Marvel RPG

Yes, it is clobbering time! I googled it.

I often wait too long to post about upcoming events for anyone to do anything about it (or for those who do not live in travel distance of NYC to feel bad for what they’re missing, like crazy high rents and getting gum stuck on their shoes in the subway). However, given the awesomeness of this Saturday’s events, I hope this will be enough lead time for at least some of y’all!

First up, nerdNYC is organizing a Marvel RPG launch party at the Compleat Strategist on 11 E. 33rd St. Anytime from 11 am until 4 pm, you can learn to play the new Marvel RPG from Margaret Weis Productions. I cannot confirm that James will be there to field-strip its reward systems or demonstrate his hot and weird abilities to open his brain to the Marvel maelstrom and barf forth continuity, but I know for sure that my son and I will be there with bells on. This should provide an interesting experiment in player skill, as my son has been reading himself to sleep with the Marvel Encyclopedia ever since he got it at his last (9th) birthday, whereas I wanted to put “It’s Clobbering Time” as the caption for that photo but then was unsure whether that was a Marvel or DC thing.

Then later that very same day at 7pm, I will be kicking off a series of explorations of the legendary Dwimmermount mega-dungeon at the Brooklyn Strategist‘s sweet new location on 333 Court St.

Geek Chic's hypographer says that the Sultan gets more press than Giles Corey. I love that they hire nerds so advanced that I need to Google this caption too.

If you can’t make it to this one, fear not! The Dwimmermount events will be at the B-Strat every Saturday throughout the campaign by Autarch and Grognardia Games to crowdfund the process of turning the notes and experience from James’ home campaign into a location other referees to use as the tent-pole location for their own campaigns, as an inspiration for designing their own dungeons, or as the source for many unique creatures and weird magical items that can be dropped into any fantasy game.

However, if you can’t make it I am not above making you feel bad. We will be playing on the B-Strat’s Sultan gaming table, and recording our progress by building the dungeon as we go with Master Maze pieces from Dwarven Forge sculptor Stefan Pokorny’s personal collection. Eventually we will also be using miniatures sculpted for the project by Sandra Garrity based on backer’s descriptions of their rival adventurers, which will also be illustrated by Jeff Dee.

If I can convince Jon Freeman to let me hang stuff on the walls of his beautiful new place, visitors to the B-Strat can also admire the original of the painting Jeff is doing for Dwimmermount’s back cover. Up in Toronto, players in James’ campaign will be basking in the glory of Mark Allen’s painting for the front cover, which shows their adventuring party in a characteristic moment of mystery and wonder. I am no less proud that my PbP adventurer Locfir the Astrologer was among the group seen on the back cover, especially since this let me earmark that one for display in my home town.

To continue this goal to make the published work reflect what really happened in play in as many ways as possible, one of  the seats at the Sultan each evening will be reserved for an artist in residence. Their sketches and maps and doodles during the game will be donated to the Play-Generated Maps and Documents Archive for the enjoyment of all. We also hope that each session of play will inspire at least one illustration, so that a moment from our adventures together will be published in the final Dwimmermount book and PDF bundle.

If the Kickstarter hits the right bonus goal level, a copy will be etched into gold, attached to a space probe, and sent beyond our solar system to make aliens feel bad about missing these Saturday events even there is no way they could possibly have attended.

29
Feb
12

D&D is a desert

Why do we not use the video embed feature in OSR blogs more often? Greengoat knows much about death metal that is 100% relevant to D&D, and I am psyched to see Cyclopeatron posting again and the opposite of disappointed that so many of his recent posts have just been videos. Being not very cool myself, but not wanting to let that hold me back, I lifted this one off story-games’s Stuff to Watch thread:

Things I get from this:

  1. Given that D&D is the apocalypse, this is what it looks like. Magnificent horses and beat-up cars, ancient walls with spray-painted graffiti. The city of Greyhawk is like Dubai: an oasis of wealth formed at the place where riches can be extracted from a hole in the ground. All the wilderness around it should reveal, like the one-time Fertile Crescent, the consequences of having been civilized for thousands of years in which adventurers irrigated fields with salt water and let goats graze at will and used flaming oil to solve their problems.
  2. Since I should be busily promoting the Dwimmermount Kickstarter which launches on Friday, allow me to point out that the way James’ work inspired me to drive this home in Sunday’s game was to tell the players: “The statues you find in the dungeon all have had their heads replaced by that of Turms Termax. You recognize his face because it stares down on you all the time, in various states of crumbling ruin. The most remarkable thing about the mountain of Dwimmermount you climbed up to get here is that this is the only peak you have ever seen that isn’t carved with Turms’ head, Mount Rushmore-style.”
  3. This is brazenly stolen from Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun; tip of the hat to Play Unsafe for teaching me to go with the first, most obvious and derivative thing you can think of when playing an RPG because your goal is to hit the primal chords that others can riff off and maybe even be surprised by if they haven’t chewed over all the same stuff you have.
  4. Part of why I love Dwimmermount is that the presence of Typhon alongside Turmax in the pantheon is evidence that James has been chewing the same Wolfean roots, which is entirely appropriate because Gene is explicit about New Sun being an extended love letter to The Dying Earth just like Gygax’s work. It’s not like James is being coy about this either, Shadow & Claw is right there on his what I’m reading list.
  5. There is a room on the first level of Dwimmermount, which no party I know of has discovered yet, whose central mystery is straight jacked from another of my favorite foundational D&D sources. I am deeply impressed that James has the confidence to know that filing the serial numbers off of the stuff he steals will ruin what makes them perfect.
  6. What this taught me to do: the party is confronted by a Thuvian metal door at the entry to the dungeon, no visible handle or knocker or anything. They cast read languages so I decide that yes, they can now see letters damascened into the metal using alloys indistinguishable to the unaided eye. “What language are these in?” they ask. I suspect the correct answer is ‘have you ever seen ancient Thuvian?’ but I want everyone to be in on the fun; that’s why I argued for eliminating infravision in ACKS and make all my intelligent swords compulsively talk out loud even if they also have telepathy. So I say “it’s in Common, which is the language of the ancient Thuvians. All sentients you know about are born knowing how to speak this language.” OK now the players want to know what it says. “Speak Friend and Enter,” of course.
  7. The priceless thing about this: they still wound up using knock to get past the door. The glory and the tragedy of RPGs is that giving the players a clue that is totally obvious to you is often functionally equivalent to giving them a puzzle with no hints whatsoever.
  8. Back to the MIA video. The power she gets from having her face uncovered is the same OD&D affords you when you say “no, none of us are playing generic fighters in this edition; those guys are fighting-men, my character is a fighting-woman“.  James’ text brought these possibilities alive for me too; in the room I’m hinting about, he specifies that the face on the wall is the face of a Man. (Note how Carcosa squeezes even more juice out of this: is it the face of a White Man or a Green Man?) When the players found the statue my play-by-post group hauled out of the dungeon three years previously, this attention to gender deepened the mystery: did they haul the one statue of a Woman up the stairs and leave the Men behind because it was the only one not defaced with Turms’ head, or due to some deeper significance?* And would it be more or less creepy if Turms had slapped his beardy visage on all the statues regardless of gender? Instead it looks like he cast himself as five ancient male gods, and then apparently replaced one of the statues wholesale with that of his lover. Was the missing statue also that of a woman?

The other thing I should be promoting is that tomorrow night, Wednesday 2/29, is the last installment of Games that Can’t be Named at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art. True to form, I can neither confirm nor deny that we will be playing Dwimmermount with some non-disclosed ruleset or another.

However, it is known that I will be refereeing an expedition into this great dungeon on Saturday evening at the Brooklyn Strategist using the Adventurer Conqueror King System. I’ve claimed for myself the honor of inaugurating a series of events in which a host of other NYC-area GMs will present  their own takes on James’ opus, which will run each Saturdays for at least as long as the Kickstarter campaign – 3/3 (me), 3/10 (Paul Hughes),  3/17 (50% chance of John Stavropoulous), 3/24 (I hope Eric Minton so that he has less time for writing stuff that drives ACKS off the top slot at RPG.now), and 3/31, 4/7, and 4/14 all to be determined.

If you’re not in NYC, James will be running games via G+. More about all this soon.

* ACKS points to the correct answer; as I recall, we hauled out that statue because we thought we could sell it for more than the others.




Past Adventures of the Mule

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