Friday, August 14, 2015

[Gen Con 2015] Self-Indulgence


It's been two weeks since Gen Con, and since getting back life's been pretty busy with family stuff (yay), work stuff (yay), and one of my kids going back to school (YAAAAAAAY!!!). I'm rapidly running out of time to crow about this -- arguably, I already have -- but I can't just let it go without comment.

You're probably already aware, but Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game won a Silver ENnie for Best Family Game at Gen Con a few weeks ago! I dunno, I think this is pretty cool.

Friends kept telling me Robo was going to win this very ENnie (it was also nominated for Best Game, as you may recall, but the competition there involved D&D, The Strange, Firefly, and Mutant: Year Zero, so we all agreed even Silver was highly unlikely), but I steadfastly went in with zero expectations, so when the award was announced I was genuinely surprised. Not the least of which because there was serious competition in the Family Game category as well -- I wouldn't have been shocked if any of the other nominees had gotten the Silver instead.

I don't know how much sense I made during my brief acceptance speech. I'd been thinking of and rejecting jokes for it for a couple weeks, so fortunately I didn't step onto the stage with a bunch of material that just had to be heard. But I thanked the judges, the voters, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener, my wife and kids, everyone on stage with me (Morgan Ellis, Brian Engard, and Sean Nittner, though I honestly thought John Adamus was standing behind me too), and Adam Jury, but I bet I forgot to thank Evil Hat as an entity, or Fred Hicks for bringing me on board as a freelancer in the first place, or others who helped and whom I forgot in the moment. So I'm doing that now. Thanks!

Morgan then told everyone that they oughtta check out Atomic Robo the comic, especially if they want to introduce their kids to comics, then I chimed in to agree, then we got into a brief bit of "Sorry I never told you about Atomic Robo, Mike!" and "Yeah, this guy, he never even told me about Atomic Robo!" and I bet everyone in the audience was like "WTF are these two clowns talking about?" but fortunately we got off the stage right after. Regardless, I'm glad Morgan spoke up.

Then afterwards I went and played an 11:00pm game of D&D. Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford were there, so I congratulated them on their many (many, many) wins, and Jeremy says, "Hey, this guy over here" -- here he jerked a thumb in Mearls' direction -- "he's got the Atomic Robo RPG on his shelf at work!" And Mearls says, "Hey, whatta you gotta go and tell him a thing like that for, ya rube!" Then he went to poke Jeremy in the eyes with two fingers, but Jeremy put his hand up in front of his face to block him, so Mearls just slapped him on the back of the head. I dunno, some of that may not have happened -- it was a crazy night -- but the bit about Mearls having a copy of ARRPG in is office is true, that I rememeber for sure.

The next day, when I was back there playing D&D again (I played a lot of D&D at Gen Con...), they both signed my PHB, thusly:

I don't know how well you can read it there, but Mearls wrote "Thanks for playing the #2 best RPG of 2014," implying that ARRPG was the best, which is nice. Then he told Jeremy to write "Atomic Robo is better than D&D," to which Jeremy reacted with genuine doubt. I told him to just write whatever (or just sign his name, which was, y'know, what I thought was going to happen), so he wrote "Isn't D&D kind of OK?" And to think, he was so well-spoken at the ENnies when he accepted all those awards.

What else happened at Gen Con? I ran two fun games of Majestic 12, one off-books game Wednesday night when we were all too tired to see it through, and another Friday morning that had plenty of energy to the end. Oh, and I went to a fantastic baseball game, probably the funnest thing I did all weekend, but I've found that most Gen Con attendees are surprisingly disinterested in minor-league baseball, so I'll just leave that there.

Anyway. No joke, the real honor was that ARRPG was nominated for something at all. The medal's icing on the cake. The most important part to me is that people are playing and liking the game. So if you're one of those people and you voted for Atomic Robo, thanks! If you're one of those people but you didn't vote, then you missed an easy opportunity for me to owe you one. If you don't like Atomic Robo in the first place, you seem to have stumbled upon the wrong blog, but take a look around and maybe you'll see something you like.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

[GenCon 2015] State of the Hat!

Just a reminder that this is what GenCon looks like.
Those people in the front there in the bright light are about to be taken up. 

DISCLAIMER: NOT INTENDED AS AN ACCURATE DEPICTION OF GENCON.
Didja see that this year's State of the Hat panel is Thursday at 10:00am GenCon-time, and also at GenCon? Well, it is. Will you be there? I'll be there. On the panel, I mean. And if I weren't, I'd be there in the audience -- just like you should be! Full circle!

Anyway, what is this thing? It's a panel where Sean Nittner gets a bunch of Evil Hat people together to talk about how great the past year has been and how great the coming year's going to be.

Guests scheduled to appear include:
  • Me!
  • Sean Nittner, like I said!
  • Morgan Ellis!
  • Brian Engard!
  • Sophie Legace via Skype or something, maybe!
  • Rob Wieland, I think!
  • Woosh!
  • Pamela Walker should be able to make it!
  • Bill White!
  • Pretty sure Ken Hite said he'd be there!
  • Others! I dunno, it's fluid!
See you there?

UPDATE: A couple of readers have pointed out that the picture above is only indicative of what the main concourse at the convention center looks like when everyone's waiting for the dealer hall to open in the morning, and not what it looks like at any other hour of the day. I've amended the picture's caption accordingly, lest anyone get the incorrect impression that the crowds at GenCon are routinely that large. I apologize for any confusion or distress the image and accompanying caption may have caused you or your loved ones, and trust that now that the matter has been fully explained, and thus drained of any humor the image and its caption may have held, that you'll be able to plan for GenCon accordingly.

Monday, June 29, 2015

[Atomic Robo] ENnie Noms!


Just saw that Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game has been nominated for ENnie Awards in two categories: Best Family Game and Best Game!

Both are surprises, honestly, but I'm especially surprised (pleasantly!) at the Best Family Game nom. I don't necessarily think of ARRPG as a "family" game, but then again we are talking about a game for which I've occasionally used pictures of action figures as character portraits.

Anyway, last year, Fate Accelerated Edition won a Gold ENnie for Best Family Game -- and Fate Core won Gold for Best Game -- but to be honest it's just an honor to be nominated. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. There are a lot of great games out there.

Speaking of which, congrats to all the other nominees! Special biased congrats to the other Fate nominees, Mindjammer and Mass Effect: Fate. And Evil Hat's edition of Monster of the Week is nominated for Best Rules, and Designers & Dragons is up for Best Writing and Product of the Year!

Look, I could go on all day enthusing about this stuff, but I got kids here who demand my attention. It took me like two hours to write this! See you at GenCon.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

[FAE] Nemesis Approaches


Before we get into these FAE-related ramblings, I want to let you know that I'm on the RPG Gamer Dad podcast this week, talking Atomic Robo and Fate in general. This was recorded back in... I dunno, a couple months ago, but I don't think there's anything time-sensitive in it that's since been rendered obsolete in the interim. If you like accents, that story of how I ended up involved with Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game, or people expressing enthusiasm, you will not want to miss it!

Okay! Initiate FAE-related ramblings.

I've been thinking more about FAE in practical terms over the last 12 hours or so, because I realized last night that my current level of interest in Steven Universe means I'm almost certainly going to run a one-shot based on the show in the relatively near future. I know myself well enough by now to realize and embrace this. This is the inception. FAE seems a good fit.

As it happens, I'd also already planned to run another Star Wars one-shot of some kind at Gateway to complete my trifecta of "games about people in the Star Wars universe you don't usually hear much about but who could reasonably fit into established canon, such as it is, one way or another" in this, the year of the Star Wars. I've done political-activist droids with OVA and an Ewok hit squad with Mini-Six, both of which were largely disappointing system-wise (very likely because of my inexperience with those systems), so it seems natural that for this last one (Rebellion-era Imperial Academy cadets, maybe?) I should return to something I know works well and would suit the source material: FAE.

Anyway, something I really like about FAE is a thing about which I've seen people complain, and that's spamming your highest-rated approach. Specifically, I like finding narrative reasons to spam your highest-rated approach, and then doing that thing.

This is not a broken or weak aspect of FAE. On the contrary, it's a strong point. You feel like you're getting away with something because you're almost always adding +3 to every roll, all for the low, low cost of providing colorful descriptions of how Forceful or Flashy or Clever or whatever you're being. But it's that last bit that really matters -- making the story better. It's a trick. You want to play the big strong hero with +3 Forceful? Go ahead and do that! You should be finding Forceful solutions most of the time. It's what you're best at!

The thing is, it's implicit in this that taking one approach means you're definitely not taking any of the other five. And that may be a problem for you. Forcefully busting down that locked door means you're not doing it Carefully or Sneakily. Someone probably heard that, right? If you're Cleverly picking that lock instead, no one's going to hear you, but you're probably not getting it down Quickly, either.

Were I to formalize this systematically, I'd call this approach you're not using -- the one that, because you're not using it, is generating a complication for you -- the nemesis approach. I say the GM gets to pick your nemesis approach, both because it's a lot easier and because it just makes sense. It's the GM's job to fill your character's life with drama, so this would seem to fall under that umbrella. It doesn't need anything else number-wise, I think. It's basically just a source of inspiration for the GM and a clear message to the player that using a given approach to solve a problem may make their lives more difficult.

Furthermore! I'd say that on a success with style, you get to pick a complementary approach that applies to the task at hand. You don't get its bonus -- you just get to include that adjective (or adverb, as the case may be) in your problem-solving narrative. Succeed with style on Cleverly picking that lock, and you can do it Quickly too. So whatever other problems may come down the pike as a result of this task, they can't originate from your lack of Cleverness or Quickness. That's actually a pretty powerful thing, really.

Some time ago I made this graphic for another post on approaches:
Ignoring all the numbers there, this could be used as a guide for which approaches make good complementary approaches (those connected by a solid line) and which would make good nemesis approaches (those that aren't connected by any lines). It's not 100% foolproof, and it won't suit every situation, but it's something.

Now, I hear what you're saying, even though I have this playing in the background and also my 2-year-old is pushing a chair around the living room for some reason: "Hey, these nemesis approaches sound a lot like compels. Are these compels?" I'd say no. If you're going to use this, everyone has to be on board with the implication that using one approach means possibly suffering the consequences of not using one of the other five. Likewise, the GM needs to be on board with not making the players pay for every damn choice they make. Bring in a nemesis approach when it's interesting and dramatic, or when one player is leaning really heavily on one approach to the exclusion of the others.

That last bit might make this sound like this is meant to be punitive, but it's not! You're not punishing them for playing the character they made -- you're just telling them, "Look, your character is rad, absolutely, but you can't go through life being this one-note without creating some problems for yourself now and then." I think that's fair. The GM has to be on board with that, too. Be a rabid fan of the PCs and this shouldn't be a problem.

Friday, May 15, 2015

[GenCon 2015] Atomic Robo Wants You (And Vice-Versa)


Get your wishlist and your sense of disappointment ready, because GenCon event pre-reg opens this Sunday morning!

There are actually quite a few Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game games happening, which is extremely cool to see. In an effort to reduce my usually overstuffed GenCon schedule, I'm only running one of them. It's called Operation Crossover, and it's on Friday the 31st at 10am. It's a Majestic 12 game, using the soon-to-be released Majestic 12 supplement.

If you've been searching for it in the schedule, you may not have found it. I'm not listed as the GM, and ARRPG isn't listed as the game system. I'm working with GenCon to get those omissions sorted out.

(I will probably run a game at Games on Demand, too, but I don't know when yet.)

As for the other Robo games, there are these, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, which are all $8 for some reason (I seriously do not understand why these are double the price they should be, but whatever), and this Dr. Dinosaur-centric one on Saturday night. I don't think I'll be attending any of these as a player -- for scheduling reasons, not just because those three are overpriced! -- but I dunno, maybe. I definitely won't be at the Saturday night game, because I'll be at the Indianapolis Indians game instead. Tradition! Ish!

Speaking of Atomic Robo, you know about this new Kickstarter to get all of it reprinted in gorgeous hardcovers, right? And that it funded within 12 hours and still has, like, three weeks to go? And that one of the backer rewards is getting yourself name-checked in the comic? And that it's on a freight-train to the stars? Hop aboard! It's the Science Hobo way!

Friday, May 1, 2015

[Gamex 2015] Fate On Demand


Gamex is coming up over Memorial Day Weekend. That's just a few weeks! Event pre-reg opens tomorrow, so if you're planning to attend or just thinking about it, here's a roundup of the scheduled Fate games thus far. Not as Fate-heavy as some Strategicons past, but still plenty of variety. And you may notice there's something a little odd about this list of games. Can you guess what it is?

Voyages of the Starship Loki (Friday 2:00pm, GM: JiB)
Deep in the farthest reaches of the galaxy, far from the security of the Federation a lone Peacemaker class starship explores the unknown parts of the galaxy. These are the voyages of the starship Loki. Will the crew survive the dangers so far from home space? Voyages is a sci-fi game set in a Star Trek-esque future where humans have spread out to explore the galaxy using the Fate Core Rules.

JiB's all Fated-up for Gamex! He's normally a Hero kinda guy, but for this con he's going all-in for Fate. And all it took was years of positive experiences! Anyway, this sounds fun, right?


Kingsman (Saturday 9:00am, GM: JiB)
Welcome to Kingsman, tailors to the finest of gentlemen for over 100 years. MI6 has reported a potential threat to the crown. Arthur is certain that the government wankers won’t be able to do anything about it, so it’s up to Kingsman to save the realm yet again. Kingsman is a modern super spy game set in London using the Fate Core rules. Can you save the queen and the realm?

Hey, it's that movie everyone liked but me! Regardless, it's a super-solid premise for an RPG -- exactly the sort of thing that appeals to me. Clandestine private paramilitary problem-solving agency, secret history, fancy umbrellas... it's all there. You should be there, too!


Neon Rose: A Cyberpunk Mystery (Saturday 2:00pm, GM: Patrick Thompson)
A mystery set in a post-apocalyptic, futuristic world where corporations rule and technology is abundant.

So... cyberpunk, in other words. Patrick, playing it close to the vest! If you like Fate, cyberpunk, mysteries, things held close to vests, or GMs named Patrick, this is the game for you. And if you like all of those things, this is the game you've been waiting for your whole life.


Spirit of Hyboria (Saturday 2:00pm, GM: Seth Halbeisen)
Rippling Muscles, dark shadowy cultists, and way too many snakes. What every great struggle in begins with, except for you! Bring you sword, your skill, your subterfuge, your spells. Vanquish the rising tide of evil. Save innocent sacrifices. Barbarians always welcome.

Didja hear about that new Conan RPG coming later this year? Well who needs it! Seth's running this thing in just a few weeks! This is a Fate Accelerated Edition game, which seems perfectly suited to Conan to me, and Seth's been running plenty of Fate at Strategicon -- not to mention an ongoing Atomic Robo campaign at home -- so check it out. Enough talk! *throws dagger*


Aeon Wave (Saturday 8:00pm, GM: Patrick Thompson)
Discovery of an ancient Martian radio signal known as the Aeon Wave has led to the development of advanced technology called Aeontech. The shift of technological power toppled governments and gave rise to the megacorps who currently wage war over the priceless secrets held within. Hidden in the shadows of the megacorps freelancers battle to save humanity from the fate portended by the Aeon Wave.

Did you back this on Kickstarter? Either way, it exists now, so here's your chance to play it.


[UPDATE] The Wages of Despair (Saturday 8:00pm, GM: Morgan Ellis)
How you ended up on this worthless rock of a planet in the ass end of space is your own tale to tell. Another day paradise living on borrowed time and maxed out credit. But now OrbitOre Interstellar needs to move 80 megatons of unstable Anti-Matter across dangerous, uncharted space. They have a ship, all they need now is a crew. It’s a suicide mission, but a hell of a payday. What else have you got to live for? (Come play Bulldogs! Sci-Fi That Kicks Ass)

See here! Morgan's running not just a Fate game, but a Bulldogs! Fate Core game. (Did you back that?)


Vinternacht (Sunday 9:00am, GM: JiB)
People don’t travel away from Ebbe in the winter. But, then Ulrich was murdered and now none of you are safe. The Jarl’s thugs are searching through the town for you, but you escaped into the forest and climbed the Trollvegge. Now the weather is turning bad and it’s going to be hard enough just to survive the winter night. Vinternacht is a Viking age game using the Fate Core Rules.

JiB's really got a thing for Norse stuff, am I right? Anyway, this sounds like a fun game about camping.


Aeon Wave (Sunday 2:00pm, GM: Patrick Thompson)


Kinda the JiB and Patrick show, huh?

And then there's Games On Demand, running all day Saturday and Sunday. I don't know exactly what'll be on offer there, but odds are Fate games will be happening at least once or twice a day, so if you miss out on everything else somehow, go take advantage of that. RPG coordinator Jim Sandoval really wants Games On Demand to be a big thriving thing at Strategicon, and you can help get it there simply by playing a game on demand.

Anyway, did you spot the odd thing about this list of games? It's that I'm not on it! Yeah, for the first time in I don't know how long, I'm not running a Fate game at Strategicon. I am running a game -- Star Wars: Blood Moon, Friday night -- but it uses Mini-Six, not Fate. Change is good. Plus I have all of these other games that I don't often get a chance to explore. Plus it's just good to play a variety of games. Okay, I think I've justified that well enough.

If more Fate games get added, I'll update this list. Like I bet Morgan's probably planning to run something. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

[Atomic Robo] News You Can Use

In before May!

I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've been busy with a variety of things -- many not even gaming-related! But I did want to post about a couple notable recent... things.

First off, Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game has been nominated for an Origins Award for Best Role-Playing Game! It's a real honor. Even more of an honor is the crazy list of other nominees: Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook, Firefly, Icons Assembled, and The Strange. As you can see, those range from pretty huge to as huge as they get. Two of them I own and like, one I've only played, and the last I admittedly really know nothing about other than it's from a highly respected, well-known designer and its predecessor cleaned up at the ENnies last year. (Guess which one is which!) Seeing the team behind ARRPG on that list... it's surreal.

To say that I do not anticipate that ARRPG will win is something of an understatement, but that's fine! It's amazing to see it up there with those other games. If you'd like to help it along, though, go here and vote for it. Or any of the others! They're all great! And there are other things to vote for, too, so vote for those. I... don't really know what this online voting means -- I coulda sworn there was a judging panel or something, and that the fan favorite award was voted on by Origins attendees -- but hey, it can't hurt.

Second off, what'd you do for International Tabletop Day? (It was April 11th.) Me, I playtested the Sparks Nevada Thrilling Adventure Game for four Thrilling Adventure Hour die-hards, then saw the final monthly Largo show. Bittersweet, but I'm so glad I got to be there.
Pow. Sniff.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in LA, the man known as the Dungeon Bastard, aka Bill Cavalier, aka Tom Lommel, and Lyndsay Peters, who has the audacity to face the world without a single alias, let alone two, ran a demo of Atomic Robo at ITT HQ. I wasn't able to attend, but it went well. Pretty cool, that thing happening at that place for that event. The best part? I wasn't even involved! Always gratifying when you discover that someone else likes your work enough to actually use it.

That bat'leth is a dry-erase surface -- perfect for any Fate game!
What's more, Mr. Bastard has kindly put his materials for the game online. It was a little nonstandard, and certainly deviated from one or two standard ARRPG standards and practices, but it worked, so who cares about that. Maybe you can make use of the Bastard's work to run a Robo convention demo of your own! In fact, go do that.

And that's it for the news, I think! Oh, I ran a Majestic 12 playtest at Kingdom-Con in San Diego last weekend, and it went well. The supplement's mostly done, barring a minor but important change as a result of the aforesaid playtest and some adventure hooks by Brian Clevinger and myself that we thought would be handy. Plus, new modes! New skills! New mechanical bits to make things extra-Majestic! New Scott Wegener art! Tons of background material from Brian that may never make it into the comic! I'm looking forward to getting it into your hands. (If you don't have hands, we'll work something out.) Should be out in June.

Coming Up: Gamex is happening soon! I'll do my usual roundup of Fate games so you can schedule accordingly.