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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October Over Already?

In one way, there isn't much to post about but depending on how you look at it, there is plenty to post about.  I've suspended my gaming campaign for a few months now and I've seldom have had a time to do some more painting.  My campaign was put on hold since the beginning of April and things have been steadily busy since.  I went to GenCon and the Montreal ComicCon and both of those events where a bit less than a month apart!  Thankfully, I have still been gaming the past few months and I'm currently playing in a D&D 5th Edition game which has been keeping that gaming itch at bay along with the occasional X-Wing Miniatures game.


October however was to be a return to the head of my gaming table as I agreed to run a session for a few friends.  One was a good friend in a much older campaign I ran when I lived in Ottawa; he came in for the weekend to spend time with us and play in a new campaign.  Another was someone who I introduced to the game and plays a character in the previous campaign I ran.  I had never played with the other two players and one of them had never played in a pen and paper RPG before either.  Normally, this wouldn't have been an issue and things started off great.  I was in fine form and all players were engaged and excited.  Since we had a couple of new players, we took the time to create characters and I put them through a tough encounter for the benefit of learning some of the mechanics of the game and combat (playing Castles & Crusades).

While the game got off to a great start, disaster soon followed.

I won't go into the exact details of what happened save to say that substances such as alcohol were involved.  Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy a nice drink now and then, and will frequently enjoy one when I am running a game at my home.  I allow my regular players the same courtesy.  Unfortunately, this wasn't my regular group and a line, or rather a limit (in terms of consumption), was crossed.  When that happened, the game and my attempts to tell a tale fell flat.

Overall, we still had a good time but it wasn't what any of us had planned.  Fortunately, none of us were completely strangers so the evening wasn't exactly a waste.  I will chalk this one up to another 'lesson learned' and see if we can attempt again the game that was originally planned.

My weekend wasn't all 'gloom' though and perhaps there was another reason why there was so much celebrating this past weekend -- my official engagement to my significant other.  I proposed the evening prior to the game and she accepted.

This means that I will continue being busy for the next few months as things are shaping up for a July wedding -- right before GenCon.  Both of us are looking to go back this year and we look forward to it.

That said, I do need to get back to some overdue projects and my writing.  I still have a bunch of things to finish up before the year is through and with just a couple of months left, there is a LOT that needs to be done.



M

Monday, October 6, 2014

When Gremlins Attack: 5th Edition's Monster Manual

Well, I think the Gremlins have had enough of being excluded in any official D&D product.  The last time I saw these critters in prints was back in 2nd Edition AD&D.  Like many creatures initially, they were nowhere to be found in 3rd Edition and I doubt they were in 4th Edition.  Necromancer Games gave us the Gremlin in their Tome of Horrors books (don't ask me which one) which may have appeased these mischievous spirits but NO MORE.  I think not being put in the 5th Edition Monster Manual when the Flumph had was the last straw.

Today I received my second Monster Manual from Amazon.  You see, there was a glue problems (as in excessive) that resulting in a few pages being stuck together.  Not a huge deal I suppose but two pages in particular refused to be separated and, upon examination, a good chuck of the corner of one the two pages was missing (torn off).  Being somewhat 'book proud', I decided to try out the return and exchange feature which Amazon provides...



Wait... what?  Yes.  I bought these off Amazon.  I really do like supporting my local game store and often do.  I can't begin to calculate how much I have spent at the store over the years but at $58.00 a book (plus taxes), that 50% off offer from Amazon was hard to pass up.  While I like 5th Edition, it is unlikely that I will ever run a game.  I will play and I am happy that WOTC went the direction they did with the rules but Castles & Crusades meets my needs quite nicely.  At almost $60 per book for something I may consult or use only once in a while, I don't feel guilty about getting the best bang for my buck.

At any rate, the first book came promptly and I received it last Wednesday.  I put in the order for an exchange that same night and it shipped at the end of the week.  I arrive home to find the package and what could best be described as a printing disaster.

Frankly I don't know how this got through.  I figure with the quantities they were mass printing that errors can happen.  However, product control seems to be UTTER CRAP.  I can understand the little hiccup with the first copy I received.  The second was completely unwarranted in my opinion.  I tried to capture the glory of the disaster.  Forgive the bad lighting:




Now, the thing is the gutter near the top of all these pages at the start of the book is uncut and the pages are not separated.  The pages were misaligned when it was assembled.  The bottom of these pages are cut well beyond where they were supposed to be cut -- almost cutting the bottom page numbers so were talking at least a good 1/4 inch off.  Pages in the back of the book suffer similar problems.  Not visible in these pictures are the terrible paste job on the black sheet to the cover -- off center and crooked.

So... I go back to Amazon and because this is the second time this happens to me with this specific book, they will not automatically exchange this.  They present to me two options:

Either I accept a full Refund and I keep it and get refunded 30% back of the purchase price.

I'm not happy about this.  I suppose I could have gotten the refund and then turn around and try ordering it again (because $29 plus taxes is way better than $58 plus taxes).  Fortunately, I hadn't had a chance to return my first defective copy.  It's not a perfect solution but, what the hell.  I am returning the second copy and holding the first.  A defective copy is a defective copy and in both cases, it was a manufacturing issue.  With a hobby knife, I separate the two pages and survey the actual 'unseen' damage.  The good news is that no text or art was actually harmed.  Unfortunately, there is still some stickiness to the glue that didn't already screw up the page.  And there is that tear.  I take a good look and decide where I am going to make my 'cuts'.  I take some scissors and completely cut out the corner from two pages -- a clean 45 degree angel removing the torn part and excess glue.  It looks kind of weird but in some ways, since the art and text were not touched, I'll count myself lucky.  Even more fortunate?  They refunded me 50% and not 30%.

$14.70 for the new Monster Manual with a couple of page corners cut out?  I guess I can live with that...

M

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekend R&R: Appendix N Adventure Toolkits


Well, this has been a long time coming.  I got some of the Appendix N Toolkit material at GenCon when I had the pleasure to meet up with my friend John.  Full disclosure here: I have worked with John Adams (Brave Halfling Publishing) and Arcana Creations came about a lot with his encouragement and support.  Over the years, I have supported John when I could and when called upon.  I am also a backer of the Appendix N Adventure Toolkit Kickstarter but have NOT received any preferential treatment compared to other backers.  Have backed many a project, I can sympathize with my fellow backers but unlock other Kickstarters, John has not completely fallen off the face of the earth.  On that note, I'm glad that Dwimmermount has gotten sorted out (I have received my copy) but I am very disappointed and the utter failure of both Myth and Magic kickstarters which I enthusiastically backed.

I know that some people have been getting their stuff in the preceding months before I got something and it was only the fact that I met up with John that he was kind enough to bring a couple of samples to me as well as some other goodies that have been previously published (in some cases) ages ago.  What I got certainly does not reflect the totality of what is due to me (as a backer) or other backers in the $20 and above category.  However, what I did get will were samples from the retail version of the Appendix N Adventures Toolkit #1 that made it in some stores about a year ago and the Kickstarter version which was shipped (still shipping?) to backers.  It struck me that, comparing the two version and allowing for a glance at the quality would be a neat thing to do.

The Appendix N Adventure Toolkit series was a brilliantly conceived idea and concept.  Short adventures, card stock handouts, and detachable map cover in a digest format.  I believe that adventure modules, especially today, should be convenient, inexpensive, and practically disposable.  Of course, not everyone shares my opinion but I figure that once you run a published adventure for your regular group, the odds that you do so again are likely to be slim.  The digest format is a hit for many though certainly not the norm.  This in part explains the visible size different between the two products as some distributors and stores dislike digest sized products and prefer a larger / fuller sized product which will often carry a larger sticker price.  Pricing is the second hurdle for these kind of products.  A store will typically make for itself only 40% of a cover price which means a $10 sale will likely yield a $4 for the store.  When Brave Halfling Publishing released number one of the retail edition, it had the appearance of a full-sized product that would be inline with many other similar gaming products down your local game store.


When you open up the retail version, you have a two sets of interiors which are stapled together which fold up to be digest sized modules.  You also have two card stock covers with maps on the inside (in the photo above, the one for the Ruins of Ramat is open to reveal the map) as well as card stock hand outs (illustrations).  At first glance, the 'cover page' and 'back page' are simply part of the packaging though the cover is printed on the type of paper stock that conceivably turn it into a small poster and the interior side of the back has 'add-on' material to give the buyer a better bang for his buck.  At a MSRP of $12.95, you basically are paying $6.50 per adventure for a nice quality product and will net a retail store just enough to consider carrying it given the success of Goodman Game's DCC RPG.


In comparison, the first Kickstarter release of the Appendix N Adventure Toolkit line is limited to just the Ruins of Ramat adventure.  The Vile Worm would have been the second release from the Kickstarter and I have not seen this yet.  However it is safe to say that the contents are almost identical to the one included in the retail bundle.  By comparing the the two versions of the Ramat adventure, you quickly find a couple of differences.  First and foremost, there are two different versions of the Ruins of Ramat in the Kickstarter version compared to the single version included in retail.  One is a level zero adventure and the other is a level three adventure.  The hand outs in the Kickstarter version seem to have a couple more illustrations for Ramat than the retail version (it has two for Ramat and two for the Vile Worm) does but there illustrations are a bit smaller to fit two per digest sized page as opposed to a full sized (letter sized) page.  The Kickstarter version also has an add-on on the back cover page which is different than the one included in retail.  Oddly though, I expected to see two add-ons and not just one for this first release.  I don't know if it was an oversight but given that it was also released as a PDF and made available to backers, it's not something I would lose sleep over.  Like the retail version, the quality is top-notch from Brave Halfling Publishing, a great little hobby publisher.

What about the adventures themselves?  Ironically, I very familiar with both adventures.  The Vile Worm was used and converted to Swords & Wizardry by Arcana Creations and is available HERE.  The Ruins of Ramat has a more colorful history and has had changes done over the years by Brave Halfling Publishing depending on the system it was converted for.  Arcana Creations has done a Castles & Crusades version (available HERE) as well as a Swords & Wizardy version of the adventure (over HERE).  This version of Ramat and my versions of Ramat do differ fundamentally -- mine is spread out over two levels as opposed to a single version.

The adventures are both, short and meant for single-session play.  These are easily inserted into an existing campaign or a great launch point for a new one.  They are also solid adventures to do some game demos, if you are into that sort of thing, at your local game store.  These are very 'standard meat and potatoes' style of fantasy dungeoneering.

As Brave Halfling Publishing continues to struggle in meeting its obligations to its backers, it is one Kickstarter campaign that is still trying to make good on its commitments and continues to be open in terms of communications.  As a friend, I have an idea of some of the challenges that he has been met with over the past couple of years and I do wish him and BHP all the best as it continues to forge ahead.  I, like many of my fellow backers, would love to see he rest of the line in print glory and I think the line has tremendous potential despite all the setbacks.  Alas, this is one of the consequences of being one of the small guys in our hobby.  Did he underestimate certain things?  Absolutely.  Did he bite off more than he could chew?  Undoubtedly.  Does he regret the problems and is he trying to correct this?  Without a doubt.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter Final Call!

Ok folks,

I haven't gone on and on about this Kickstarter -- I try to avoid that kind of thing.  However, for those that might be interested, Amazing Adventures is down to the last 24 hours. 

What is it?  It's a Pulp RPG which is basically done in the Castles & Crusades framework.  It runs fast and easy just like C&C and is completely compatible with it.  More importantly, it works REALLY well.

There are pledge levels that run as low as $25 if you are just looking at the core rulebook (hardcover).  At $45 you can get both the core rulebook and the monster book (both in hardcover) or at $50, the core rule book and and companion book which promises to be just as big.  The campaign is just over $6000 away (from the time of writing) to change the companion from a softback to a hardback.

However, it is the $99 level which promises to deliver the best bang for your buck.  All three books plus a set of Amazing Adventure Record sheets and stretch goals which include:

  • 2 Player's books which essentially condensed versions of the rulebook that include all the character creation / class stuff to play.
  • An extra copy of the Amazing Adventures core rule book in digest (perfect bound softcover) format.
  • An 'Book of Shadows' digest book which includes all the spells and psionic material from the core book.
  • We are presently less that $250 away from getting the Temple of the Red God 'trilogy' of modules.  Originally published as a single module, this includes the second and third modules in the story (note that this stretch goal reward is open to $45 and up).
Decent value... a great game... what more could you ask for?  But hurry, time is running out.

You can find the Kickstarter HERE.

M

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Achievement Unlocked: Attended Gen Con!


I got back from my first trip to Gen Con just over a month ago and between recovering from that and the Montreal Comic Con I attended a week and a half ago, I am both poor and impoverished.  You know what?  I wouldn't change a thing. My significant other and I are looking at doing it again next near and, with some of the lessons we both learned, aim to have an even better time next year.

There were a lot of highlights for me and there are MANY reasons why some people go back year after year.  Naturally, the games were fun and the workshops I did were pretty cool.  One of my 'regrets' was booking to much of my time to doing various events and workshops.  Some of these things went into the early evening which, frankly deprived me of some great off-grid gaming.  Lesson One learned -- keep my evenings free.  I also went top heavy on some of the workshops in part because some of the events I wanted to do ended up filling up very quickly when tickets for events opened up.  With over 12,000 events before registration started, I was not fully prepared for all my selections beforehand.   Sure, it sounds obvious, but the problem really stemmed from trying to organizing certain events with the people we were traveling to Gen Con with.  So, Lesson Two learned -- 'reserve stuff' in advance and focus on KEY events only.  Those you don't get in on, well tough ... having open spaces in your schedule is not a problem as you can always get 'generic tickets' to do other things even up to and during the convention itself.


Frankly, the biggest thing for me was meeting up with some people that I've had corresponded online and perhaps spoken on the phone a few times over the past few years.  Meeting up with some friends is, for me, the best thing about this thing and I have to say that the venue and city was fantastic.  Very friendly and open to having thousands of people descend upon their fair city.



So, what exactly did I do down there?  There were certainly a lot of things but some highlights (in no particular order) were:

Playing through True Dungeon.  I had fun with that and my friends and I did the 'puzzle oriented' one.  I think the combat oriented one might have been more fun but it was cool nonetheless.  It wasn't a perfect experience -- you don't always get to pick who your adventuring companions so unless you have enough friends who have bought tickets to go through the event, you will be meeting some new folks.  My only criticism would be the cost of the event itself.  It seems a bit steep but you do get to keep a bunch of tokens which could be used at your gaming table.



Workshops.  As mentioned, I did a few.  I did a Scalemail bag (mostly finished), a chainmail workshop (not even close to being done), some leather bracers, and I participated in a foam weapon workshop to fill up some time.  I liked most of the workshops but the I figured the foam weapon would be something more than just a 'foam club'.  The Scalemail just needs to be finished up but the other bit of chainmail I was doing will be for a larger project.  The wife also did the leather item and foam weapon workshop with me and did some chainmail in a different workshop for a stuffed monkey.  As it turns out, she REALLY likes doing chainmail and I may get her some more for her to do.  Or maybe I'll get here to finish up my chain.  ;)


The Meatgrinder.  In previous years, this was the Tower of Gygax and I had a BLAST.  I ended up playing three characters during the session and my first character ended up with the distinction of being the 'quickest kill'.  When I came in, the game had already started and I was given a Half-Orc barbarian-like Fighter.  Can't remember the level but it was probably between 2nd and 4th..  At any rate, I came in... move towards an offensive Kobold and yelled at it like a good barbarian should.  That caught it's attention and the attention of another 13 or so of his friends.  Then I realized all of them had bows.  Then I realized I had no armor on.  11 of 14 hit.  The character effectively lasted a single round.  One word: FANTASTIC!  My subsequent characters were thieves.  They did a lot better.  ;)


Speed Paint Contest.  I love painting but I recognize that I could be 'faster' at it.  I figured the best way to practice was to participate in one of these.  Technically speaking, I probably finished last since part of the base wasn't painted.  The figure itself wasn't finished but the base coating was pretty much done.  I guess it wasn't so bad after 45 minutes.  I only had one gripe about this competition though -- we were all supposed to be on an equal footing.  Same miniature... paints... and brushes.  I did one of the last speed paint competitions of the weekend and, not realizing that the brushes on the table were the ones we were going to use, I was dismayed at the terrible condition of the brushes at my spot at the table.  A previous painter did quite a bit of 'work' on the brushes making them very difficult to work with.  Honestly, I wasted time trying to 'fix' the bristles and bring them to a workable point for my work.  Stupid rookie mistake I guess but hardly fair IMO.  I'm not saying that better brushes would have won the day for me but that time was precious minutes lost.  The other thing I admit that I am less than accustomed to is mixing some of my paints.  I got accustomed to having so many colors and shades at my disposal with the Citadel paint line that I seldom mix much.  This also happened to be the first time I worked with Reaper paints too.  I did like their paints but the consistency did through me off at first.  Good experience though and it's an exercise I aim to repeat.



Hanging out with TLG.  An informal meeting of the Castles & Crusades Society and the Knights of the Crusade was held at a local pub.  It was a fantastic way to end Saturday and share a few drinks with the Trolls at Gen Con this year!  A necessary disclaimer: I got the following pic from the Jason Vey's page but I was the one behind the camera.  You can see some of my stuff in the background behind the crew on the ground.  That's my swag bag, and my red foam weapon lying there as I did my best to take a decent pic of Steve, Tyler, Todd, Tim, and Jason.  :)



Aside from all that, I had supper with my friend John from Brave Halfling Publishing who came up to Indianapolis just to get together with me and Marisol.  After years of emails and phone conversations, it was finally great to see John in person.

Besides gaming, it's about the people and friends you meet and get together with.  Our hobby is a social thing after all.

M