Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Dork Forest!

Hey, I'm on this week's episode of The Dork Forest with Jackie Kashian!

Are you familiar with this podcast? Every week Jackie has a guest come on and talk about, in great detail, something they're really into -- a.k.a., "dork out." This week it's me, talking about RPGs, drum corps, and current kids' TV.

This is kind of a big deal for me. I mean, I've been on a few podcasts here and there, and they've been great and I've had fun on every one of them, but The Dork Forest... I mean, Dana Gould's been a guest on this podcast. Eddie Pepitone. Maria Bamford. James Urbaniak. Jimmy Pardo. Mary-Lynn Rajskaub. Paul F. Tompkins. If you're a comedy nerd like me, those are big-deal names. So it's a kinda sorta huge honor to be able to say that I have this in common with them.

And as long as I'm naming names like a comedy nerd, there's Jackie Kashian herself, who killed on Conan the night after we recorded this episode. That was so weird to watch after having had a conversation with her and her husband Andy in their living room just the day before.

Anyway. It was a real pleasure to meet Jackie and Andy and record this. Thanks to Brian Tatosky for making it happen.

RPG-wise, I talk about Atomic Robo, Smallville, D&D, and OVA, among others -- this was the Monday after OrcCon 2015, so OVA was on my mind -- but, the rush of things, didn't mention nearly as many small-press games as I'd wanted to, so just pretend you heard me plug Fiasco, Dungeon World, Primetime Adventures, and many, many more, including your favorite small-press game in the event that it wasn't included in the brief list earlier in this sentence.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

[OrcCon 2015] Fate With a Side of Fate

Hey, OrcCon's this weekend! And, as usual, there's a whole whack of Fate games happening. Pre-reg for these events has already closed, but the majority still have open seats for sign-up on the day.

Friday the 13th
"The Rule of Magic" (Fate Core, GM: JiB)
Crown Jewel of the Free City of Aescerlon, the Schola di Magii rises glittering above the streets of the mighty city, and from there are all real decisions made in Aescerlon. Will you survive the plots and intrigue of the most powerful magical conclave in the world? Schola di Magii is a high fantasy game where magic is the force that gives both power and position but at what cost.
I don't know anything about this other than what's in the description, but it's JiB, so it'll be fun and you should get in on that. Is this an established setting, or is it something he made up? I don't know either! Find out!

"Star Wars: The Dark Times" (Fate Core, GM: Morgan Ellis)
It is a dark time in the Galaxy. The Republic has fallen and the evil Galactic Empire has risen. The Jedi have been outlawed and all knowledge of them has faded into legend. But now rebellion against the Empire has begun and civil war threatens to consume the galaxy.
Morgan and I were both bitten by the Star Wars bug this OrcCon, thanks to Rebels. As I've related many times, our first experience with Fate was Colin's Star Wars hack of Spirit of the Century, back before I knew either of them, so this is a very natural turn of events. I'm not sure what time I can get there on Friday, but hopefully I can make it to this game. If not, you must play in it for me.

Saturday the 14th
"Scum and Villainy" (Fate Accelerated, GM: Seth Halbeisen)
A smoky bar, strange music, and rare exotic drugs. This is where you live, when you're not on a ship. Maybe it's your ship, maybe it's someone else's, but it's a ship, and that means freedom to do what you want, where you want, and blast things if you want to. Until the Empire steps in, they piss on everybody's parade. Maybe this is the big score, the one that gets you out of debt for good.
More Star Wars Fate! Seth's a Fate mainstay at Strategicon, so between his expertise with the system and a can't-miss premise -- you are Han Solo! -- this is obviously worth playing. Do so!

"Thieves' World" (Fate Core, GM: JiB)
Thieves’ World is a gritty street level fantasy game set in Sanctuary, the location of the Thieves’ World Series of books. Sanctuary is always dangerous, but something dark is moving in the shadows and narrow alleys, something that has even the most hardened of Sanctuary’s denizens afraid. Many people have left or are making plans to leave and those that remain talk of the end of the world.
Hey, JiB's back with another Fate thing! If you're not familiar with it, Thieves' World is a very cool setting created by a Robert Lynn Asprin bunch of hippy D&D-playing authors in the '70s who essentially wanted a shared home for their communally shared fantasy characters. Chaosium produced a multi-system boxed set for it back in 1981, but, tragically, Fate was not included because it didn't exist at the time. Thankfully, JiB is here rectifying that error.

"Hana Academy" (2:00 pm, Fate Core, GM: Jesse Butler)
Welcome to Hana Academy! This is a game about relationships and finding yourself in a magical high school setting. You will be playing one of the Gifted, someone apart from the bulk of the student body who will be able to engage with the supernatural elements of the setting. Each of the gifted can be easily identified by their unique symbol, or garland. Midterms approach, will you be ready?
I don't know this setting or where it might be from (other than the Elemental Plane of Anime), and I'm not sure I know this particular Jesse, but y'know, that sounds like a thing! Go check it out.

"Funkadelic Dance Off" (2:00 pm, Fate Accelerated, GM: Seth Halbeisen)
It's a meme catastrophe! A wish -mash of 70's bling, 80's indigence, and 90's criminal grit. Everything goes down at the Roxy, where anything that's hip happens, including Sex, Drugs, and Extreme Violence! Pick a meme, and save the day, all while swinging a nunchuck and sipping a Mojito... Lots of bad guys, Ninjas, and you, being awesome. Period.
I have no idea what's going on here, but it really sounds like Seth does. Memes! '80s-style poverty, which I'm sure isn't what he intended to say there! Ninjas! "Pick a Meme" sounds like he might be repurposing (or maybe just renaming) approaches in an interesting way. On an unrelated note, it's the second game from him to mention drugs in the description. Is he trying to tell us something? Something about drugs?

"Star Wars: The Dark Times" (8:00 pm, Fate Core, GM: Morgan Ellis)

"The Kaiju vs. Mecha Power Hour" (8:00 pm, Mecha vs. Kaiju, GM: Ira Traborn)
For you, it's just another day of killing evil kaiju (or other people, whatever). But then something different happened. A pair of twin fairy priestesses calling themselves the Cosmos summon you and other kaiju fighters to their dimension to battle a great evil that they need help with fighting. Can you and your allies face this great evil to save a world not you own, but similar?
...so if you didn't get in on the Mecha vs. Kaiju Kickstarter that wrapped up about a year ago and want to see what it's about, this is the game for you. I don't know this Ira Traborn guy, but he's running a few cool-sounding games (like this one) at OrcCon this year, so good on him.

Sunday the 15th
"Carnivale du Malheur" (9:00 am, Fate Core, GM: JiB)
Carnivale is a gothic horror fantasy game set in Ravenloft, the Domain of Dread. As members of the Carnivale you travel the highways and byways of the lands of Barovia. People call you gypsies & worse but you call yourselves Vistani and you have seen things that the townsfolk fear to utter even in the safety of their homes. But, will even the mighty Vistani survive the storm brewing in the mists?
Hey JiB! Why do you insist on doing this to yourself? Just run the same game three or four times! This is too much work. He must be doing it for a good reason, though, and that reason is probably "Fate Ravenloft." Play in it! You won't have a malheur. That's the Mike Olson Guarantee*!
*Not to be construed as a guarantee.

"Operation Crossover" (9:00 am, Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game, GM: Me!)
Since 1947, the brave soldier-scientists of Majestic 12 -- that's you -- have toiled in the shadows, waging a secret war against threats the average civilian doesn't want to believe exist. Whether securing rogue Tesla-tech, apprehending dangerous terrorists, or exploring other dimensions, you keep America safe from things that go "ZKZZRAK!" in the night. Today's mission: saving the world. Again.
Yes! One of these games is actually run by me! (For the record, I'm running two other games in two other systems this weekend.) This is a playtest of sorts of the Majestic 12 supplement Brian Clevinger and I have been working on. Would you like to see the PCs for it? Well, here they are anyway.

"Hana Academy" (2:00 pm, Fate Core, GM: Jesse Butler)

"The Kaiju vs. Mecha Power Hour" (8:00 pm, Mecha vs. Kaiju, GM: Ira Traborn)

And that's it! Twelve Fate games. Not bad. Come out and play-yee-yay.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year, Let's Dogfight

Okay, I've really let this go until the last minute here. I can't believe I haven't posted anything in four months! That's ridiculous. A lot's happened in that time. Like just two days ago, I went to Legoland.

Unfortunately, that's another story for another time, because I have to leave for a NYE thing in like 20 minutes -- well, more like 30 minutes, but I still have to get dressed and dig Banzai! out from our boxes of board games -- so I'm going to get right to this thing I've been meaning to post about nearly all year: my Fate dogfighting rules.

The thing I realized about dogfighting is that while I love the idea and the imagery of it, I don't actually know anything about it. I just want it to sound cool, and for everyone at the table to feel like something dramatic and awesome has happened. So instead of choosing maneuvers and spending time hemming and hawing over strategic decisions, I've opted for a system that determines that stuff randomly, then delivers a dramatic finale.


  • A Deck of Fate, minus the approach and arcana cards
  • Dice
  • Uh... this whole list-format may have been unnecessary.
Anyway, this subsystem breaks the dogfight up into two parts: a contest to see who gets into position first, and an attack, made by the winner of that contest.

Airplanes have four skills: ControlGuns, Speed, and Profile. You use some combination of the first three in the contest, Guns to attack, and Profile to defend. You'll use them in conjunction with the pilot's skills -- in my Crimson Skies ARRPG games, those skills were Fly and Gunnery, both under the Pilot mode. Each of the first three plane skills is associated with a suit in the Deck of Fate (Control is blue, Guns black, and Speed red).

Then follow these instructions. I'm not going to type them out again. Time, man, time!

You'll also need this dogfight matrix, which uses a table that's similar to the Fate Triangle, but not quite. Don't worry, the instructions explain the whole thing.

(No, I don't know what eclipses do. I'm not fussed about it.)

(Yes, I'll post some airplane write-ups in a day or two.)

Happy New Year! I look forward to reading some comments in 2015.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

[GenCon 2014] It's Over, Go Home

This is funny, trust me.
Well. GenCon 2014 was one for the books. Yup. Some high points:
  • The State of the Hat panel on Thursday. Fun way to kick off the convention. (I like doing panels. Are you doing a panel for a thing? Maybe you want me on it!) Some cool stuff on display there, including the Campaign Coins fate point tokens and a spiral-bound copy of the War of Ashes playtest rules. Finally got to meet Fred, Rob, and Sean in person. At least, I'm pretty positive Sean and I have never met. Anyway, also got to meet my personal savior, Adam Jury. Plus, the panelists didn't outnumber the audience this year, which was nice.
  • Three very successful and fun playtests of The Sparks Nevada Thrilling Adventure Game, including one for a table of four superfans and one for aforementioned Evil Hat project manager Sean Nittner. Good feedback all around. This new version really feels like the show, and it's faster-playing to boot. One of these had the best aspect I've ever come up with (pictured above).
  • An equally successful and fun game of Atomic Robo that let me playstorm ideas for training and planning montages for Shadow of the Century -- plus my players included Dave and Liz of Nearly Enough Dice, all the way from Scotland, which was very cool. Great to meet you guys in person! Wish we could've found time to do an interview face-to-face, but oh well. Hangout it is.
  • The fastest ARRPG game of my or anyone's life at Games on Demand -- about 90 minutes, after introducing the PCs and explaining the basics of Fate -- but still managed to squeeze in two fun fights, a brainstorm, and, y'know, general roleplaying and farting around. Felt like a sprint from start to finish, but we did it, and everyone had a great time. I really enjoyed conceding on behalf of those last two NPCs.
  • Playing in a Tunnels & Trolls game run by childhood idol Ken St. Andre. I told him later at the Flying Buffalo booth that T&T was a formative game for me, and that I was now a famous game designer. I don't think he believed me on either count. But it was still nice to tell him anyway, even if only one of those things is true.
  • A drum corps fan I met Thursday morning while making our D&D characters for the convention. Most of the rest of the gamers at the table were fairly unpleasant, demeanor-wise, so it was cool to be able to talk drum corps with this guy (marched Cadets '92, son marched SCV in... 2011, I want to say), let him look up stuff in my PHB, and ignore those other people entirely.
  • My first D&D game of the convention, when the DM had everyone go around the table and call out their race and class. After "Fighter, fighter, fighter, wizard, cleric," it was a pleasure to say "Bard!" The looks on their faces... priceless. But they changed their tunes the first time I handed out an Inspiration Die. Take that, unbelievers.
  • My second (and, unfortunately, last) D&D game of the convention, when the tweenaged girl at the table got to strike the killing blow against the monster with her magic missile. I just like it when first-time players get to do cool stuff, especially if they're kids.
  • Seeing ARRPG on the rack at the IPR booth and hearing that it was selling like hotcakes.
  • Getting interviewed (on video!) about ARRPG, and suggesting questions to the interviewer, who was -- admit it, Spencer! -- more enthusiastic than prepared. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It was flattering. Cool guys, those guys.
  • Played a demo of D&D Attack Wing. Like X-Wing, but with dragons. I... may be in trouble.
  • Signing books! I feel like I signed a lot of books, including one copy of Jadepunk. No Fate Core, though. I guess that was a 2013 thing.
  • Meeting a few industry-types who either wanted to meet me or felt they had no other option once I had been introduced. Regardless, hey, meeting new people.
  • Talkin' business! Business business business! Numbers!
  • Every single time someone told me they liked/loved/were excited about ARRPG.
  • You! That time I saw you there and we talked about, I dunno, some gaming thing, probably.
  • Going to the ENnie Awards the night that Fate Core, Fate Accelerated, the Fate System Toolkit, Fate Dice, the Fate SRD, and Evil Hat itself won ALL THE ENNIES. And also John Adamus and Ericka Skirpan got engaged on stage, which was a thing only one of them knew was going to happen. I'd never been to the ENnies before -- never really felt like I had a reason to go -- so I can only assume they're all like that.

Low points!
  • Only getting to play games for 3 hours. Boo.
  • That T&T game wasn't actually, like... good.
  • D&D DMs being stingy with Inspiration. I'm roleplayin' my face off over here! Gimme the Inspiration already! Sheesh.
  • Staying at a hotel out by the airport and having to take a 40-minute shuttle there and back every day. This was a bigger hassle than just the time lost. The shuttle only ran once and hour, and at night there was just a 10:00 and a 1:00 -- so if you didn't get the former, you had to wait around for three hours for the latter. Say, if you're at the ENnies and the thing lasts until 10:30.
  • Being constantly aware the whole four days (five, including traveling Wednesday) that Gateway's in two weeks.
  • Not getting around to meeting you. Yeah, you! I meant to meet you, honest.
Looking forward to next year, when I will make good on my promise to myself to not schedule so much stuff. See you there.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

[GenCon] What Am I Doing I Don't Even

GenCon is next week! Holy troat!

Somehow or other, I already have a pretty full schedule for the con. Here's what I know so far:

  • Thursday, 1pm: The Sparks Nevada Thrilling Adventure Game
  • Thursday, 5pm: State of the Hat, the Evil Hat what's-goin'-on panel. Yay, doing a panel! For future reference, I would do more panels. Panels seem fun. Are you putting a panel together? I bet we can contrive a reason for me to be on it!
  • Friday 10am: GMing at Games on Demand (pictured above). It's only a two-hour slot, so odds are good it'll be Sparks Nevada.
  • Friday 2pm: Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game.
  • Friday 7-ish pm: Attending the ENnies. I may be missing an Indianapolis Indians game for this, so some Evil Hat Fate thing had better win something to make this worthwhile.
  • Saturday 2pm: GMing at Games on Demand again. Four-hour slot, which makes Atomic Robo or my ARRPG-based Crimson Skies thing likely.
  • Sunday 10am: My last two-hour stint at Games on Demand.
I'm also currently slated to play a few scheduled games, including a one-hour D&D 5E demo-intro-thing Thursday morning, a Tunnels & Trolls game (with Ken St. Andre!) Saturday morning, and some Crimson Skies (the WizKids minis game) Saturday night. But... I dunno if the D&D and Crimson Skies games are going to make the final cut. For one thing, the shuttle to and from the convention center is an hour. For another, back when I booked those games, I was like "OMG, what will the new edition of D&D be like?!" (I've since played it more than a little) and "If I'm going to run a Fate Crimson Skies game, I should probably play the minis game" (I've since become... less convinced of the necessity of this). 

But there is zero chance of me missing that T&T game. And I have plenty of generics, so come at me, bro.

I'm also trying to leave more gaps in my schedule for GoD or off-the-books games or, like, someone saying, "Hey, I want to talk to you about this project," which, based on the past few months, is a thing that could conceivably happen. If you interpreted that statement an assertion that I am so important and in-demand that I expect people to be stalking me just for the mere chance of hearing words fall out of my mouth, you are absolutely correct.

Seriously though, it's nothing like that. It's more like this is my fourth year at GenCon, and every year I promise myself that "Next year, I'm not going to sign up for any games in advance! All the cool stuff seems to happen at GoD and in off-books games!" and then I've done the exact opposite of that three times now. So I'm trying for a late-game course-correction here.

Anyway, see you there. And hey, if we don't see each other there, then maybe I'll see you at Gateway, because it's only two weeks after GenCon, which was only two-and-a-half weeks after Comic-Con

I'm freaking out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

[Atomic Robo] At San Diego Comic-Con! UPDATED

Wow, where'd Comic-Con come from this year, huh? Sneaked right up on me. I am... kinda totally not as prepared as I'd thought I'd be. I guess you have to actually, y'know, plan for stuff like that. Which I normally do! But this year, I dunno, it sneaked up on me.

Regardless! I have time Thursday and Sunday, so if you're going to be there and you want to play ARRPG, Sparks Nevada, my Crimson Skies-via-ARRPG thing, uh, my sorta-works D&D-via-Traveller hack, whatever. We have options.

In fact, I'll leave a sign-up sheet at while there's no room at the Red 5 booth (1717) for something like a sign-up sheet (I'll admit, it was optimistic of me to suggest there would be), I'll tell them when games will happen and they'll be happy to direct you accordingly, because they're super-good people. If you're around and interested, and want to let me know both of those things, you can put your name down there and that will accomplish that purpose go to the indicated place at the indicated time, or contact me online (here or on Twitter) to let me know you plan on being there.

Regardless, I'll run games in 15AB, the open-gaming room.

The first game will be Thursday the 24th at 11am. First five cool people to show up get to play!

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to another San Diego Comic-Con! Comic-Con! Comic-Con! Comic-
Standard foot traffic outside the convention center.
These people would like to hear more about Star Wars, please.
These people would also like to hear about Star Wars. Or whatever.


Almost forgot.

Friday, July 11, 2014

[Atomic Robo] The Robo Has Landed

Pictured: Atomic Robo, existing as a physical product
you can hold in your hands and everything. 
Has your copy of Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game arrived yet? Well did you preorder it? Of course, at this point you could just buy it, because it's out and in stores. You are running out of excuses, in other words.

In all seriousness, it's been extremely gratifying to see ARRPG getting such a great reception from people online. I spent more than two years neck-deep in this game, so it's really rewarding to see tweets like this, or this, or this thing here, or this other bit over here plus this frankly embarrassing praise, and so on. I guess what I'm saying is that the approval of strangers is very important to me, and then on top of that I'm obviously not able to be one-hundred percent sincere about any of this because it's so genuinely affecting. All of this boldfacing is actually part of a defense mechanism against emotional vulnerability. So... thanks!

Anyway, if you're still waiting for yours to show up in the mail, or even if you aren't, you can while away the empty, meaningless hours listening to a couple recent Robo-oriented (Roboriented!) podcasts.

Late last month I was on Useless Drivel talking with Rob and Matt about a bunch of stuff, including but not limited to:
(I mention on this podcast that I'm going to make those Crimson Skies Fate dogfighting rules available, and that's still my intent, but they're not up yet. End of line.)

And just a couple weeks ago, Atomic Robo scribe Brian Clevinger talked Robo and the Technocracy with Ryan Macklin on Master Plan. The focus of the conversation is RPG licensing from the licensor's point of view, and also Brian corroborates my ARRPG origin story, which is kind of a relief.

On a related note, Ryan and Tim Rodriguez are running a Kickstarter right this very moment for Backstory Cards, so go get in on that.

BONUS PODCAST RECOMMENDATION: The last episode of Nearly Enough Dice (episode 141, for future generations) has a very nice, unapologetically glowing review/unpaid endorsement of ARRPG. The episode isn't completely Robo-centric or anything, and neither I nor Brian are interviewed on it, but still, it's good. Especially if you're like "ARRPG sounds pretty cool, but I dunno, I need someone with a Scottish accent to convince me," then this is -- it's the podcast for you. It's almost eerie how precisely they've tailored this episode to suit your exact needs. You'd be foolish not to listen.