Sunday, October 1, 2017

"The Flute" - A Map for Ellomyr's Story in Numenera 2

If you're a fan of Monte Cook Games' Numenera, then you know they are Kickstarting Numenera 2—essentially a revision with new content and exploration of the future of the Ninth World. As part of the Kickstarter campaign, they have asked backers to contribute to story of the town of Ellomyr. When the campaign is over, some of the content generated will be compiled into a sourcebook called The Trilling Shard.

I've backed the Kickstarter and was tossing around ideas I could contribute. Wow, is the Numenera community active! Huge chunks of story have come and gone. I can't keep up with it! However, as I was mulling things around, I decided something static like a location might be useful. An image started to form, and I ended up sketching a map of a fragment of the Valley of Sins, another locale that was introduced as part of the story.

After some refinements and a pass through Photoshop, I give you, "The Flute":

Scroll brought back from the Valley of Sins,
possibly stained by the mysterious "Blue Mist".

At one end of the valley of sins, whatever ancient force gouged out the valley also cut through a long-buried structure, revealing several holes in the valley walls. At one corner of the structure, a steep spiral stalagmite rises up several tens of meters and exits a hole in the roof of its chamber. On windy days, the entire structure sings a haunting note. Local children brave enough to enter even this far have discovered that, by standing in front of certain holes or placing sheets of wood or synth over them, they can change the tone. Over the years, some people have reported that, every once in a while, the hills will sing out a deep and unsettling note—eerily similar to a war horn.
An interesting side effect of the structure is that the wind will collect and deposit various bits and pieces of drit here. Glow globes, broken carts, even a bipedal automaton have been found in the collected rubbish.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

My One Page Dungeon Contest 2017 Entry

So, thanks to Twitter, I discovered this little thing called the One Page Dungeon Contest. This literally* got the wheels turning in my head and I had to put the wheels on paper. Three days later, that concept of a dungeon made up of five rotating intersecting chambers became my first-ever entry.

Here's the sales pitch: "Who would have need of such a brutal shifting thing? A trial by fire! And ice. And earth. And water... There's no going back—only forward!"

Since some GMs may want to print out the map for clarity or to actually cut out the pieces and rotate them in real space, I've included it here in 300 DPI - including a COLOR version!



The folks at the One Page Dungeon Contest also kindly posted an update in their blog.

*Literal, as in I saw them in my mind's eye. Not physical wheels inside my skull.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Tokyo Screamsheets

Back in 2001, I was running a Cyberpunk campaign using a homebrew ruleset based on Top Secret/S.I. At the time (when I had more time), I was chronicling the campaign on a now-defunct website. I was also producing semi-regular newsletters for the campaign I called New Tokyo Screamsheets.

These Screamsheets contained things like discussions of technology, legality of weapons, and story seeds; along with your standard smattering of weather reports (and the birth of Air Advisory Guy), classified ads, obituaries, network programming schedules, police blotters, Body Lotto numbers, advertisements, etc. Some of the articles were fictional snippets borrowed from other fictional sources. To make it personal to the players, I would usually do a "front page" article on one of their latest exploits and possibly have NPCs communicate with them through the want ads—and they would communicate back!

Recently, I was able to find the source files and PDFs for the New Tokyo Screamsheets and decided to post them. Here they are with a couple of hints as to what you'll find inside:


Special thanks to Deric Bernier of Datafortress 2020 for hanging on to the old New Tokyo Screamsheets in his Cyberpunk Archive—stumbling upon them recently made me want to post my originals.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The ORIGINAL Oil Rig Mission - 2001

Since Pete and I are revisiting the Oil Rig Project, I felt it was important to re-post the mission that inspired the project.

Back in 2001, I was running a Cyberpunk campaign using a homebrew ruleset based on Top Secret/S.I. At the time (when I had more time), I was chronicling the campaign on a now-defunct website. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, parts of that website still exist, so I can resurrect them here.

Now that I am currently running an Interface Zero 2.0 campaign, you might see some more pages from the old site be resurrected...

Contract Intel:
The PCs go to their fixer's place and get a quiet room where they negotiate a deal to infiltrate an Oil Rig, retrive a data file, and leave the rig. Each team member gets 3000cr retainer for supplies, a total of 5000cr for securing the rig, and a total of 10,000 for a recovered data file.

Data about the rig:

Manufacturer:  Erdel Type J-3 Rotary Drilling Rig
                        Manufacturer based out of Houston, Texas
                        Now defunct

Current Owner: unknown

Location:      Approx. sight distance from New Tokyo bay

# of Crew:     Support for 38
                     The previous owner had approx. 12 when he lost possession of the rig.

Communication: No land lines
                           Possible satellite uplink

Location of Data File: unknown

Type of data: Entire database

Computer System: unknown, possibly UNIX-based

The Actual Mission
This mission was set up as a "test" mission for a higher-end employer. The employer is basically just pitting two mercenary teams against each other. One team defends the rig, the other assaults it. The team that survives wins future contracts. It doesn't matter which team attacks and which defends, I just chose to have the PCs attack. I figured it would be more interesting and I had a decent "contract" idea that involved all the players.

The oil rig has been derelict for at least 15 years, probably more. With the development of CHOOH2, drilling for oil became more expensive. This particular rig made several taps with minimal result. It became more cost effective to leave it where it sat at the last tap, than to pull up shop, weatherize it, and dry-dock it. So, questionable elements set up shop in it soon after it was abandoned.

Their usual contact informed them that the rig was in his parent organization's possession and was recently raided, overrun, and occupied by an opposing organization's mercenary team. Normally, blowing it out of the water would be the order of the day, but when it was previously owned, they used it as a waypoint for illegal contraband, and all their shipping records were stored in the rig's local database. The PC mercenary team's primary objective is to secure the entire database. A secondary objective is to recapture the rig, if possible. The payoff is 10,000cr per person for the database intact. If no database, then 5,000cr per person for the rig. Not to exceed 10,000 per person. 3,000cr in advance are provided for expenses. Unregistered weapons and small equipment provided up front, with understanding that the weapons will be returned upon completion.

If the players asked, their contact was only able to provide them with a mangy copy of the emergency exit floorplan of the sub-deck.

Oil Rig Emergency Exits: OilRigEmergencyPlan.gif missing. I hope to find it someday...

If they pried some more, their contact informed them that his organization had previously set up IR motion detectors, but they may or may not still be functioning. He was able to provide approximate locations of some of them.

Oil Rig Recon: OilRigDeck.gif missing. I hope to find it someday...

The above map also shows the observed sentry locations when the PCs did some preliminary recon.

It took me a while to put together a working map of the oil rig. I found a gem of a website at http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~gavenda/oilfield (NOTE: This link goes to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine as the original link no longer exists). The guy who put it together did a great job of explaining, simply, the regular goings on on a "jackup" oil rig, including plenty of photos. Thing to note: a jackup rig is really a big ship that has three huge extendible legs. It is towed to it's next drilling location and then it jacks itself up about 100-150 feet above the ocean and begins drilling. I highly recommend reading it and passing on the address to your more ambitious players.

Oil Rig Layout
The detcord on the dock level is of a blue plastic variety. It is wrapped many times around the support legs, just above sea level and, upon casual inspection, just looks like water-level paint markings.

The generic explosive in the survival capsule off of the control room is a bundle of pipe bombs with a mercury switch to prevent them from being moved.

The shaped charges are pre-manufactured and look like small inverted plates. One is intended to discourage helicopter landings, the other two are placed behind the diesel fuel tanks to engulf the main deck if necessary.

All explosives have been modified to accommodate a small black box with a red numeric LED display, and a short rubber antenna. This box is a remote receiver controlled either by the com officer through the control room computers or the demolitions expert with a small handheld controller. The com officer can only start the 5 minute timer or detonate the explosives. Only the demolitions expert can shut them off (he can also start the timers or detonate).

The infrared motion detectors are simple. They have a 90 degree field of detection (indicated by the legs on the symbol on the map), can easily be defeated by an IR suit, and have no operational feedback loop (no on/off indicator). If tripped, they will trigger a simple alarm heard throughout the rig.

There is a small data hutch on the main deck that has two log files in an antiquated VAX system.

They are left over from when the rig actually served it's purpose, and will only slow the players down if they try to get the VAX up and running and try to interface with it to get the files.

The operations database in the control room is bogus. Even so, by the time the players get to it, it should be pretty well jibberish due to the virus the com officer puts on it.

All opposing units are equipped with a NeuroProcessor, SmartGun Link, SpeedWires, a com link, medium body armor, a 10mm Glock, a SmartGun Linked 9mm H&K MP5, and a combat knife and have above average skills to use them.
  1. Commander - Begins in the control room
    Extremely strong with other attributes at the high end.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth.
    Husky, clean, and commanding.
  2. Sniper - Begins on the monkey board of the derrick
    Above average strength with other attributes at the high end.
    Martial Arts, Sniper Rifle, Swimming, Stealth, Concealment.
    7.62mm H&K G3SG1 Sniper Rifle instead of the MP5.
    Big, relaxed.
  3. Com Officer - Begins in the control room
    Very high intelligence with other attributes above average.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth, Radio Operator, Interface.
    Combat CyberDeck and CyberDeck Link.
    Thin, sure of himself.
  4. Pilot - Begins sleeping in the crews' quarters
    Above average strength with other attributes at the high end.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth, Piloting most transportation forms.
    Vehicle Link and Chip Jack.
    Big, cocky.
  5. Demolitions Expert - Begins having a snack in the kitchen
    All attributes above average to high end.
    Boxing, Swimming, Stealth, Concealment, Demolitions.
    Short, bulky, grouchy.
  6. Underwater Ops - Begins in the starboard crane cab
    All attributes above average to high end.
    Martial Arts, Swimming, Stealth, Concealment.
    4-shot speargun, armored wetsuit instead of body armor.
    Skinny, quiet.
If motion detectors go off:
  • alarm will sound
  • 4 and 5 will wake up and get to the upper deck
  • 1 will order to attack
If intruders spotted:
  • observer will call into 3
  • 3 will alert the others
  • 1 will order to watch then attack if needed
On first attack:
  • 1 will coordinate
  • 3 will jack in, monitor motion sensors, cameras, and explosives
  • 6 will dive overboard, disable any intruding craft, and prep the escape boats
If control room computers are hacked:
  • 3 will fight via software
    If defeated:
    • will initiate a virus to destroy the data
      If virus defeated:
      • will detonate the terminals
      • will set all other explosive timers for 5 minutes
If overpowered:
  • will try to escape by diving overboard
  • will get into the escape boats
  • will detonate the oil rig remotely

The Outcome
At the time, I was also producing semi-regular newsletters for the campaign I called New Tokyo Screamsheets. This was the report in the Screamsheet issue that followed that game:

SPECIAL REPORT:
FIRE ON THE HORIZON
Early this morning, emergency officials were notified of several explosions and fire spotted just above the horizon over the ocean. Preliminary investigation revealed that the fire is located on a derelict oil rig miles offshore. Witnesses report that there was an initial fiery explosion followed by several smaller ones.
From https://www.flickr.com/photos/uscgpress/4541155893
The cause of the blaze is not known at this time.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Atomic Robo RPG Character Generation Worksheet

Last year, I ran a few sessions of Atomic Robo - The Roleplaying Game. In the writeup of the first session, I mentioned and posted a link to an ARRPG character generation worksheet I put together.

Since it got lost in the text, I'm reposting it here: Atomic Robo Character Generation Worksheet
Enjoy!


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Dystopian Universe RPG Beta Playtest - Organization and Character Generation

Towards the end of July, Evil Hat Productions put out a call for playtesters to try out the Beta version of The Dystopian Universe Roleplaying Game. It's a modified version of the Fate system set in the same world as Indie Boards & Cards' games CoupThe Resistance, and One Night Revolution. Long-time gaming friend Marty got accepted into the beta playtest and asked fellow podcaster Alex, my friend Adam, and myself to participate.

So, on August 28, we got together over Roll20 (another first for us) and started building out Paris Nouveau and our characters within it.

Although we did character generation first, I'm going to show the steps in reverse order as, in hindsight, that makes the most sense. Particularly since building the Government before La Resistance gives them something to resist against.


The Government!
Taking into account that every Citoyen is plugged into Augmented or Virtual Reality (AR or VR) and is doing pattern matching for the Government, it makes sense that they'd try to convince their drones that servitude leads to a better AR/VR experience. Therefore:

Slogan: Paris Nouveau: A Better Reality for Every Citoyen

We decided that there's just not enough resources (food, water, living space, etc.) for the citizenry, therefore, it's best to let the weak die (or kill them outright for the smallest infraction). Since all the wastewater gets recycled, it makes sense to also recycle the biomass. Therefore, deceased Citoyens are reprocessed into Artificial Protein Extract (APE).

Scandal: APE is People!

Advancements:
Trying to limit The Government's ability to mess with us directly, we chose:
Corporate: Investing in Infrastructure - During the debrief, if you have any leftover fate points, you can put up to 2 of them in your bank.

However, Marty made sure he could mess with us, so he chose:
Security: Surveillance Optimization -  You start every scene with +2 blowback.

La Resistance!
Adam decided he wanted to play the Malcontent and named her Coquin. Since Coquin became the de-facto leader of our little party, we let him choose our Manifesto. He simply chose to borrow from events happening in Real Life™.

Manifesto: Make Paris Nouveau Great Again!

Since Adam's Malcontent will have the social skills covered and my Cleaner will have the combat skills covered, we wanted to give Alex's Hacker, Raphael, a place to shine.

Weakness: Plagued by Compromised Communications

Advancements:
Trying to give Coquin a leg up, we chose the branch of the tree that would get the people behind her:
Support: Hearts and Minds - Whenever you create a prep advantage with Maneuver, it gets 2 additional boosts.

I tried to talk Adam and Alex into going further down the Support branch, but they decided having access to gear and supplies was more important. They chose:
Resources: Hijacked Shipments - With a prep action, you can requisition equipment with a total cost of 1 or lower.

Viktor Le Nettoyeur (Viktor The Cleaner)
It should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of Luc Besson's films and Jean Reno's acting. So, when presented with the opportunity to play a French Cleaner, of course I jumped at the chance! I even went so far as to call him Viktor, although I changed the name slightly and chose Dolph Lundgren as his stand-in (sorry Jean!) - I can't be TOO obvious...

With my archetype chosen (and thus my social class), I printed out the provided playsheet and started filling it in.

Aspects:
The playsheet provides questions that prompt you to generate your aspects. Here are mine:

WHAT MAKES YOU THE BEST CLEANER IN PARIS NOUVEAU?
The mission comes first.
WHY DO YOU KILL SO OFTEN?
I am too efficient for the general good.
WHO IS THE ONE PERSON YOU TRUST?
Coquin and I are of like minds.
WHO DO YOU WISH YOU COULD REMOVE FROM PLAY, BUT CAN’T?
The Ambassador is too far reaching.
WHY DID YOU JOIN LA RÉSISTANCE?
Enough Citoyens have paid La Societe's price.

Means:
In this variation of Fate, they've distilled your abilities or skills down into four Means, similar to Approaches from Fate Accelerated. I wanted Viktor to obviously be capable of taking someone out and to be able to watch from the shadows, therefore I chose:

Fight: +3, Manipulate: +1, Maneuver +2, Observe +2

Stunts:
Once again, the playsheet provides a list of stunts; I just had to pick them. I ended up with:
Great Wealth (Default) - The cost of equipment that I buy is 1 lower than usual, to a minimum of 1.
Stealth Augmentations - I can spend a fate point to disappear from a scene. I can show up during a later exchange in a different scene.
Kill Without Hesitation - When I deal physical harm, I can give the GM 1 blowback to force my opponent to mark an additional condition, provided my intent is to kill.
Slippery - I get +2 to avoid detection with Maneuver.
By choosing four stunts, I had to reduce my Refresh (starting Fate points) by one.

Backstory (Extra Credit):
Coquin is making a name for herself in La Resistance. So much so, that her name has come to the Government's attention. As such, they have decided to put Viktor close to her. Providing a cleaner to La Resistance is quite a bit of overkill (literally), but that's what La Resistance is looking for and The Government trusts Viktor to get the job done.

Little does the Government know, but Viktor is starting to feel the pressure of being their favorite precision tool. Particularly since target selection has widened from well-known dissidents to faceless rabble-rousers.

Being this close to Coquin, Viktor realizes her words and his feelings are not so very different at all. Late night discussions with Coquin huddled around gas lanterns in La Cave have grown longer. It wouldn't take much to push Viktor's alignment needle over to that of La Resistance.


That does it for organization and character generation! We're now ready to play!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Recap

I'll give this year's Gen Con, "The Best Four Days in Gaming™," a solid 'Good Time.' But, for me, it was also strange.

It didn't feel quite like Gen Cons of years past. It could have been that we were screwed by both the housing and event lotteries (luckily, we got housing sorted out). It could have been that this was the first year I actually Game Mastered a couple of roleplaying sessions (I've done so at other cons, just not THE Con). It could have been that I didn't do nearly the miniature painting I've done in previous years.
Will Call line out the door and around the block, but we get our own Grand Ballroom?
Most notably, attendance exploded again, but seminars weren't well attended—the prevailing theory is that gaming culture is more accepting and expanding, but there is now so much more to do, that some events suffer. Likewise, the exhibit hall was expanded by about a third, but several vendors seemed to be absent (or maybe I couldn't find them?).

Mmmmm... Ham, turkey, bacon,
cheese and wasabi on a pretzel bun...
Wednesday:
Ten of us arrived in Indianapolis early Wednesday afternoon. After checking into the hotel and taking care of parking, we went to stand in the Will Call line to get our badges. In years past, the line wound its way through a half or three-quarters of the Indiana Convention Center. This year, we joined the line just outside the Northwest doors. (See the picture above, taken as we were returning to the hotel...)

To avoid the restaurant wait we had last year, we hit up the food trucks. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a Greedo sandwich from Der Pretzel Wagen!

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and staked out a game room. After checking with hotel management, we ended up with a whole Grand Ballroom to ourselves. Weird...

Shortly after, since I was running two sessions of Numenera for Monte Cook Games, I had to step out to attend the Volunteer Game Masters meeting. There I picked up my MCG shirt and badge holder, the adventure book containing the games we were running, and a nice Cypher System portfolio. Afterwards, there was a meet-and-greet with the designers and staff of Monte Cook Games. I didn't stay long as I wanted to get back to spending time with friends I hadn't seen in a while, so back to the Grand Ballroom I went.

By that time, Marty, Alex, and Jason from Play The Game Podcast joined us. Since there was a request to play Fiasco, Andy, the three Fiasco virgins (Brendan, DJ, and Shashank), and I secured a table and started the setup.  We all agreed to run Marty's and my playset, The Depot. I finally got a chance to try it outside of a playtesting capacity! I ended up the crime lord, Roscoe Biggins, of this frozen micro-community. DJ and Andy ended up as call girls, Betty Sue and "Diamond" Johnson, in my employ. Shashank was the town sheriff, Morgan Truman Wainwright, with a drug addiction - that I was providing for. And Brendan was the town deputy, Brant McGunter, who had some weird relationship with Diamond. Check out the wonderful mess we ended up with:
A picture is worth a thousand... oh, whatever.
Thursday:
Since I didn't have any speed painting to do yet, I thought I'd participate in the Exhibit Hall Opening Ceremonies, which is really just waiting for the doors to open and riding the waves of bodies surging into the hall. I made a bee line for the Infinity/Warsenal booth to pick up the Gen Con 2016 Bundle, which includes the Operation: Red Veil box set, Miyamoto Musashi (a beautiful two miniature set), and the Gen Con exclusive Unknown Ranger. While I was waiting in line, I couldn't take my eyes off Warsenal's Kum Garage. I ended up circling back and picking that up later.

At 1:00, I was able to fill a seat in the Impact! Miniatures Speed Painting event. I was hoping we'd paint an urban warrior or something, but we were given a Chibi Evil Fighter to paint. Chibi's not my thing, so my heart wasn't in it. Somewhere during that session, Mike arrived and acted as my own private heckler. Following that round, at 2:00,  Mike and I both secured seats for the Reaper Miniatures Speed paint. We were given Salim Ghadafar to paint—a really cool miniature with a lot of detail. I like what I did with it, but apparently I didn't have enough contrast.

Afterwards, Mike and I attempted another run at the hall. The one takeaway from that run was that we came across the Role 4 Initiative booth. They were selling decent quality, slightly larger, EASIER TO READ polyhedral dice at $3 a set with a buy-three-get-one-free deal. Mike jumped at the deal. If I wasn't already swimming in dice, I would have too.

We quickly stopped at the Serendipity Mobile Catering truck to pick up a Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese with Truffle Fries and a side of crab cake. Yum!

After devouring dinner, Mike and I parted ways as I was heading to Evil Hat's State of the Hat panel, ran by Sean Nittner and Chris Hanrahan.
7 new books and 3 ENnie nominees! That's 10 products.
This will become important later.
As I had mentioned, event attendance was off. Previous years, the room was mostly full. This year, there were maybe seven of us in the audience. These were the tweets I sent during the panel:
  • Lenny Balsera is now Fate Line Developer for Evil Hat?!?
  • Kaiju Incorporated card game and RPG to be released at the same time. First half of next year?
  • Dresden Files Accelerated and Cooperative Card Game second half of next year?
  • A bunch of Fate Toolkits and Worlds of Adventure in the pipe.
If you are looking for a more complete list of topics covered, Sean Nittner posted his notes for that panel in the comments of this discussion: https://plus.google.com/+ScottAcker/posts/bNAxdPBuEG7

At the beginning of the panel, they handed out some nice swag: Spirit of the Century patches and Fate bookmarks. At the end, Sean pulled an Oprah Winfrey and told us to check the back of the patches. Each patch had a number written on it. I was number 1! Sean then called us up in order and allowed us to pick and keep from the ten products (eleven if you count the Fate Dice). I chose War of Ashes - Fate of Agaptus as it's gorgeous and I didn't already own it. If you're keeping score, that also means a few items still went home with Chris and Sean.

From there, I ran back to the hotel to collect my thoughts and my Numenera gear to be ready to GM my first session of Skein of the Blackbone Bride for Monte Cook Games. It's important to note that in all my um-teen years of going to Gen Con, this was the first time I was running a role-playing game. I've game mastered games at other cons to varying success, but this is the Big League. Fortunately, all my prep work, including subjecting the regular Friday night gaming group to a Numenera side-track, paid off. I knew the adventure well, was able to keep pacing up, and the players completed the session with a win and with just a bit of time to spare. The game ended with applause! Definitely the highlight of the con for me!

After basking in the glow, I returned my gear back to the room and joined the rest of the crew back in the Grand Ballroom (no longer the only table there) to round out the evening with some quick games.

I ended up filling in for Chad as they were playing Entropy. Blurb from the website: "Entropy is a fast-paced competitive card game of risk and deception, combining simultaneous action selection mechanics with order resolution." It's a very pretty game, particularly when you can piece together all four of your fractured Realities, which I did, to win the game. Unfortunately, the ease of understanding the rules is mired in setting-specific jargon.

We finished out the night playing I Hate Zombies, created by Board Game Geek and published by Steve Jackson Games. Players alternate taking the role of zombie or survivor and the zombies take turns attacking the survivors. Combat is resolved with rock-paper-scissors! Each survivor card has a special ability perk that gives them a chance against the zombies, but, out of three games, the zombies never lost.

Friday:
The next morning, I got up early to try to get into the 10:00 Painting with Angel Giraldez class as I was unable to score any of them during event registration. Unfortunately for me, all ticket-holders arrived.

So, I decided to return to the Exhibit hall to continue the crawl through the aisles. This year, Upper Deck Entertainment released their deck-building game, Legendary: Big Trouble in Little China. I did not check it out, but I couldn't pass up snapping a picture of the Pork Chop Express!
"Like I told my last wife, I said, 'Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it's all in the reflexes.'"

At 2:00, I headed back to the Miniature Hobby Events area as I had an actual Reaper Speed Painting ticket. We were given Vonsalay, the Half Orc Wizard to paint. Since she had a flowy gown on, I thought I'd try an experiment with translucency, and try to show a little leg through the gown. The experiment started out fine, but I guess I put too many 'glazes' on and the detail was lost. The judge gave it about a two second glance.

From there, it was off to Game Design 101 with Mike Pondsmith, of Cyberpunk 2020 and R. Talsorian Games fame and game designer (and DJ and comedian) Ryan Miller. I didn't get much out of the panel, but it was nice to see Mike Pondsmith back on the speaking circuit.

The early morning was getting to me, so I went back to the hotel for a quick nap before prepping myelf for my second session running Skein of the Blackbone Bride. This session didn't go as well as the first. The pacing wasn't as tight and the PCs had a rough time getting through the big boss battle at the end. I'm going to chalk it up to the following: I didn't read the players' frustration early enough, the adventure pits first tier PCs against seventh tier baddies (which I nerfed, but not enough), players may not have seen all the resources available on their character sheets, and the tactics were off. Live and learn, I guess.

After returning to the hotel, I popped back down to join the crew and play a quick round of Gloom. I forgot how delightfully dark the screw-your-neighbor card game is. Just before we finished it up, Brendan showed up with a new copy of Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. It's a different, Lovecraftian take on traditional Pandemic, where you have to seal four gates while trying not to wake The Old Ones. At first, we found it to be too easy, however that was before we realized we weren't following ALL of the rules.

Saturday:
Saturday I slept in a little before resuming my "hall crawl". Then, at 1:00, I headed up to the Miniature Hobby Events area to take my Two Brush Blending class with Bryan Beck of Paladin Miniatures Studio. I've done two-brush blending before, but this helped me hone my skills—you want translucent paint, pull the blend from only the top edge, use a soft damp brush, and clean up the excess water and pigment.

Since the Monte Cook Games seminar was the same time as the class, I ran to their booth to find out what I missed. To my surprise, it was still going on! So, I hustled over to the Westin, was handed a T-shirt, playing card, and a magnet, and then sat down. My butt wasn't in the seat for longer than a minute before they thanked everybody for coming and ended the session. However, there was an excited murmur about a Kickstarter for a new game called the Invisible Sun and a mysterious black box. So I headed back to the booth to find out more.

Invisible Sun is MCG's new premium roleplaying game focused on storytelling. It's supposedly designed to take into account the current-day gamer's busy lifestyle in that it can handle short gaming sessions, missing players, and even includes a mobile app to handle some between-game mechanics.

Here's a bunch of relevant links:

When I got back to the booth, I saw folks lining up to have the card they received at the seminar stamped, and then they were handed a secret envelope with a seal and a "do not open until" date. Fortunately, I didn't lose my card in all the running about, so I presented it for a stamp and received my secret envelope:

The Kickstarter for Invisible Sun starts on the same date - August 15 - and I'm excited to see what's in the envelope.

The sunburst maze I created at the booth.
Since I was already in the exhibit hall, I decided to do some more wandering until dinner time. On my way out of the hall, I stopped at the FoxMind booth to demo their Maze Racers Game. I was huge into mazes as a kid and Maze Racers totally tapped into that side of me. I could play it solo just for the zen-like experience. When I found out they were offering it at a $25 Gen Con price, I ordered it immediately. As I was finishing up checking out, Brad called.

Brad already had a table at Mikado Japanese Restaurant, so I rushed out of the hall and met him there. The sushi was decent—definitely get the Seafood Puff, even though it probably goes against all Japanese cuisine. We had a nice long dinner and got to catch up on things—Brad was still excited about watching the U.S. Championship Klask Finals Tournament. He was so into it, he bought a set without even playing it!

Once we settled up the bill, we headed back to the Grand Ballroom to finish out the last night of gaming at Gen Con 2016. I was hoping to meet up with some of the CAGWIC friends to play Fiasco or Nights Black Agents or Call of Cthulhu, but that fell through.

We played a few quick rounds of Klask with Brad's new set. Rich ended up trouncing us all.

BRAAAAAD.....
After seeing the Watch Ya' Mouth video, Brad decided he had to get that game for us to play at Gen Con. He says there are many different games available, but he picked up Watch Yo Mouth because they could ship it to him in time for the con. After some hemming and hawing about how sanitary the cheek spreaders are (yeah, cheek spreaders—Brad brought individual baggies for them and you just toss them in the dishwasher when you're done), we played. It is indeed hilarious to play. We ended up laughing ourselves hoarse! Unfortunately, once you've gone through the included cards, you know them all. They need some sort of webpage or app that generates thousands of phrases to try.

Once we recovered from Watch Yo Mouth, I wanted to keep up the pace with smaller quicker games, so Marty, Alex, Janson, and I played a round of Kittens in a Blender with the Expansion Pack I picked up from the Kickstarter.

We followed that up with Isle of Skye, a bidding and tile placement game similar to the Castles of Mad King Ludwig, but I found that there were too many facets to keep track of that late in the day.

We finished out the night with a few hands of Schrödinger’s Cats, a card game I backed on Kickstarter. It's a bluffing and deduction game, similar to Liar's Dice, with a cute mechanic where each player has a Cat Physicist Doctorate that changes up the rules a tad.

Sunday:
Last day. We packed up the cars, checked out of the hotel, and made one last run at the convention hall for last minute gifts. I finally decided to pick up a copy of the Cypher System Rulebook with a coupon I found on the Monte Cook Games Twitter Feed. I also finally found the Games and Gears booth. I really want these guys to knock it out of the park. I really do! I love the idea of brushes that store into the handles. Great for painting at conventions. Unfortunately, their quality wavers. I still picked up the Gen Con Collectors Brush Set MK3, as it contains the fine-tipped brushes I want from them. Unfortunately, I found clear tape on the brush ends to help maintain a snug fit into the handles and it's already scraping off.

Since I didn't make it to any of the Speed Painting Finals this year, the obligatory photo is replaced by one of our crew this year:
Back Row: Shashank, Jeremy, Jon, Adam, Chad, Brad, Pete, Chewing Lady
Front Row: DJ
Finally, here's a photo of my book haul from this year:
From left to right: The Sprawl (Powered by the Apocalypse)War of Ashes - Fate of AgaptusTorment: Tides of Numenera—The Explorer’s GuideCypher System Rulebook, the Gen Con 2016 Adventures booklet, Cypher System Portfolio

Next year, Gen Con. Next year.