Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Trucker: a Christmas Story

December 24th, 1968; one hundred and thirty-two days since the incident. Local temperature 76 degrees.
Normally, when driving into the town of Bancroft, North Dakota most people note the large sign welcoming them to town. It has the smiling face of a reindeer waving at them, a brilliant strand of twinkle lights looped around the border, and the town’s motto, “Most Christmas town on Earth, save one.” There’s also a small sign calling out station WXMS 1225 AM radio and if they should turn the dial to that station they will be met with nothing but year round Christmas music. Beyond the sign was a quiet road through the forest lined with eight foot candy canes shining fire red and pearly white, each one standing at tall and straight. Signs with bright cartoon characters wishing motorists a jolly visit sat just far enough inside the forest that they could only be seen as cars passed by.
This year, as a festively decorated big rig hauled up the road past the sign the driver noted the reindeer was faded, the twinkle lights hadn’t been turned on, and the small sign for the radio station was covered with a burlap sack like the police use on out of order parking meters. The candy canes leaned at odd angles and the bright colors had chipped away leaving bare wood showing in many places. Vines, weed, and small foliage had grown rampant in the woods covering many of the signs left to welcome motorists. The cartoon characters now peeking out through cracks in the vegetation left the driver with the feeling of being watched.
The rig trundled up the road towards town. When the rig cleared the forest locals turned to stare. The candy apple red Mack truck roared into view. Several strands of shining twinkle lights hung from its sides and blinked at the people watching in awe as the truck rolled by. Stenciled up the side of the mammoth vehicle was the name Mountain Thunder. It reached the middle of town and turned to enter a public lot momentarily bouncing up on the curb. When the truck jostled a set of wrought iron and bass bells that hung from the exhaust stacks rang out loud enough to be heard over the cacophonous engine of the mighty rig.
Annette watched all of this with a bemused grin through the large window of her empty diner, the Tinsel Town Snack Shop. She sat on one of the black and silver stools and leaned against her vacant lunch counter. She had a cup of coffee held loosely in one hand and listened to the occasional clang and bump that came from the kitchen where Cookee worked at the grill. She wasn’t sure what he was doing back there as they hadn’t had a customer in two days. Even that had just been the local park ranger for a thermos full of coffee.
She sipped her cooling coffee and watched as the door to the rig swung open and what must have been the biggest man she had ever seen dropped out of the truck and onto the pavement. She gauged him to be well past six foot of muscle and blue flannel. He bore a large neatly groomed beard that must have been a full hands length.  
With nothing else of interest to do that day she decided to watch the stranger. She’d cleaned the diner six times this week and just couldn’t bring herself to re-shine the chrome railings one more time. There were some children nearby the lot playing football in a muddy field; the trucker waved at them as he walked by. He carried a bundle with him and stopped in at several of the local businesses. A stop at the post office was first, he went in pulling a large parcel out of the bag and came out a few minutes later.
His next stop was the Bernstein barber shop with its candy cane barbers pole. She nodded, it was sad when a man had a beard that long. She understood it of the few lumber men and park rangers that came this way. Those men spent weeks and months in the freezing wilderness without access to proper shaving kits. Plus the facial hair kept them warmer so it made it as much about comfort as anything else. A trucker should have better access to grooming supplies. When he emerged later with shorter hair and his beard untouched, she was slightly disappointed.
His next stop was at Ho Ho Haung’s Jewish Deli. When the trucker left there he was shoving two large paper wrapped meats into his sack. He was only a few doors away at this point and Annette would swear she heard him call out something to the folks inside the store in Chinese. Pulling a jacket out of the bag he walked into the local laundromat, Miss Klaus’s Workshop. A few moments later he exited waving to the folks in the shop.
He turned towards the diner and started walking. It took Annette far longer than she was willing to admit to realize he was coming in for lunch. She quickly moved around the back of the counter and dumped her coffee out before sliding the cup through the small panel for dirty dishes. She turned around in time to see the massive man open the door. She had a brief moment where she wondered if his broad shoulders would fit through the doorway before he entered.
“Howdy ma’am,” said the trucker. He had a friendly manner and a soft voice. He smiled easy and seemed to bring a bit of light to the room. Annette wasn’t sure how to explain it, like the room had gotten more comfortable, but not exactly.
“Welcome to the Tinsel Town Snack Shop, what can I get you stranger?”
The big man sat at the counter, resting his bundle on the stool next to him. “What’s the special today?”
“Let me check.” Annette turned to the window into the kitchen and called back, “Cookee, what’s the special?”
“Lasagna with garlic bread and a salad, like every Tuesday.”
Annette faltered for a moment. Had Cookee been making the daily special every day? If so, what had he been doing with the leftover food? Annette turned to the counter to face the stranger.
“That sounds just fine ma’am. I’ll take a plate of that if it’s ready.”
“Cookee, one special,” Annette yelled into the back. She then turned to face her customer and in a more civil voice asked, “What would you like to drink?”
The trucker smiled, “It’s been a while, but as I recall you folks have the best coffee in three states. I’ll take a cup of that.”
The statement caught Annette’s attention. It wasn’t unusual for truckers to pass through town enough to be recognized by the locals but she couldn’t put memory to this man’s face. As she turned to pour him some coffee, she asked, “You been through here before?”
“You’re not on my regular route,” said the trucker, “but I like to pass through here around this time every year.”
Annette slid the cup of coffee in front of him and moved the small pot of creamer and the bowl of sugar cubes to where he could reach them.
The trucker added a bit of cream and sipped the coffee. “Yep, still the best.” He took a deeper drink. “I like coming here around Christmas, usually it gets me feeling festive.”
“Special up,” cried Cookee from the back of the kitchen as two plates appeared on the small ledge.
Annette turned and grabbed the plates, returned to the counter, and placed them in front of the trucker. “Well, I’m sorry you came during such a bad year for it. We haven’t been in much of the spirit this year.”
“I was sorry to see that,” said the trucker. “But you’re not too far gone. You got some mistletoe hung over by the jukebox.”
Annette glanced over at the spindly piece of flora, wrapped in ribbon made to look like a piece of movie film. “I sorry, we leave that up all year. It sort of goes with the town. At least it normally does.”
The trucker leaned forward and whispered in a conspiratorial tone. “Do you mind if I move it? I happen to be an expert on where to hang any individual piece of mistletoe.”
Annette laughed. “Feel free. Where is the best place to hang a piece of mistletoe?”
The trucker swallowed another bite of lasagna, “That’s the thing. It’s different for each piece. Figuring out where each particular piece of mistletoe goes is the trick.”
“And how do you figure that out?”
“Years and years of practice.”
Annette laughed again. “I tell you stranger, I haven’t laughed this much in a long time. I hope you find someplace that makes you feel festive by Christmas. When is it anyway?”
“Tomorrow,” cried Cookee from the kitchen.
Annette turned to the window, “what?”
“That’s right,” said the trucker. “Today’s the twenty-fourth.”
Annette was staggered. Had it really been that long? How had she missed Christmas was happening? How had anyone missed it? Had anyone wished her a Merry Christmas? Had she wished anyone? “I had no idea,” she said.
“If it makes you feel any better, I don’t think anyone did,” said the trucker. He raised his voice. “Except Cookee back there. How you doing Cookee?”
“I’m doing fine,” called Cookee. “Eat your lasagna before it cools.”
“All right.” The trucker took another bite of lasagna.
Annette looked at the window and back at the trucker. “You two know each other?”
The trucker waved away the question, “We go back a ways.” He emptied his coffee cup and Annette refilled it with the last of the pot.
Annette turned and began brewing a new pot while trying to make sense of the last few minutes. While she stood staring at the coffee maker watching the dark liquid fill the glass pot she tried to reconcile what she knew of Cookee, this man, and even that she had completely missed Christmas. Well, almost missed it. She turned and refilled the trucker’s cup once more.
“Thanks,” said the trucker. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
“Not much,” said Annette. “It was about four months ago. You know that big pine tree north of town, the one we used to decorate every year?”
“I do,” said the trucker.
“Some fella hit it with his car. No one’s sure how. A little while after that the tree fell over and we hit a stretch of rocky luck. The temperature went up, there was a drought and a fire that took out most of the forest north of here. Which is where the radio station was; so it’s gone now. Tourists stopped coming. Then the townsfolk, we all just sort of stopped caring. I don’t know, it was like we just didn’t think anything mattered anymore. Then a couple of weeks ago we got just enough rain to turn the ground to mud. I think that may have been the final nail.
“You know, normally, it’s beautiful around here.” Annette found herself smiling. “We have Christmas lights up year round. Wreaths hanging from every street light. Everyone smiled, all the time. The Mayor would walk around in that ridiculous Charles Dickens outfit with the top hat and welcome everyone to Christmas. He had pockets full of candy canes for all the kids.
“Then there was the tree at the end of town. We left it bare from January to December. We had twenty-four stages of decoration. Everyday some new set of things went up on that tree. Until, well, today when we’d follow the mayor in that ridiculous sleigh we had built. It’s covered in bells and wreaths and pulled by a couple of horses from a local farm. We’d all follow it up to the tree like some sort of parade and stand there while speeches were made, carols were sung, and finally, they would light the tree and it would sparkle unlike anything in the world. Then we’d all join hands and sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
The trucker stood, his plate now empty. “That sounds nice.”
“It was.”
“Do you still have those amazing Christmas cookies?”
“I don’t think so,” said Annette.
“How many you want,” shouted Cookee from the back.
The trucker thought for a moment. “A dozen in a bag to go. Right now I’d like six on a plate.” He thought for a moment then added, “I also want nine raw whole carrots.”
There was a bark of laughter from the kitchen. Then after a moment a plate of sugar cookies, decorated like wreaths, and a bundle of carrots with the green leaves still attached slid onto the shelf for ready orders. Annette moved the plate over to the counter for the trucker. The trucker took the plate and smiled at Annette, “I’ll be right back.” He then turned and walked out of the diner carrying the plate.
Annette quickly moved around the counter and followed him out onto the street. She tried her best to keep up with him, but his strides were so much longer than hers that he easily outpaced her. Still, it only took Annette a few moments to figure out where he was going. As he walked up the street with a plate of cookies and carrots several children caught sight of the big man and began to follow him out of curiosity. As he marched the crowd behind him grew in size as some of the adults joined until what must have looked like a parade to an outsider was tromping up the street headed north out of town.
When he reached the edge of town the trucker kept going until he arrived at a large clearing with a burned stump in the middle of it. He walked out to the stump, his boots leaving deep squelching prints in the muddy ground. When he reached the stump he gave a sharp whistle and set the plate down on the charred remains of the old pine tree. The gathered crowd grew quite. The trucker was saying something but no one could hear. Annette walked as close to the clearing as she could get without walking in the mud.
Later, Annette would swear she couldn’t hear anything, but if you’d asked her that night she would have said she heard the trucker say this, “They’re good people. They just hit a bad patch. I don’t like to tell you how to do your job but they need you something awful. Besides, you still owe me for ’57.” The trucker then placed the plate on the burned out tree stump and took a deep breath.
After a moment the skeletal remains of the charred forest rattled with a cold breeze. The wind blew out from the forest and made everyone in the crowd shiver. Annette curled her arms around herself for warmth. She sighed, her breath fogging the air before her.
Leaving the plate on the stump the trucker made one final statement, “Then we’re even. Thank you.” He turned and walked back into town. The suddenly frigid air was causing everyone to run for their homes, regretting the choice of short sleeves.
The trucker headed back to the diner and gathered up his bag of cookies that had been left on the counter near his bundle. Annette followed behind him. She had so many questions and yet couldn’t get them to come out. The trucker pulled a thermos from his bag and asked. “Can I get you to fill it up for me?”
Annette nodded and poured the last of her newest pot of coffee into the thermos.
The trucker dropped some bills on the counter and turned to leave, stopping at the door long enough to say, “Merry Christmas. I think you folks are going to be just fine.”
He left, walking out into the street. Annette watched him go, only vaguely aware of the few flakes of snow falling past her window. Her eyes followed the trucker on his way to his rig, stopping at Miss Klaus’s Workshop to retrieve his jacket. By the time he’d gotten inside and started it up the snow was dropping in huge clumps. As his tail lights faded from view she could barely see across the street.
Later that night when the diner closed, Annette prepared for the walk home. Cookee had told her not to go. He offered to drive her. Normally the walk didn’t bother her, but the blizzard that had swept in that afternoon had her worried, so she took the offered ride.
As they pulled into her driveway she turned to Cookee, “Thanks Cookee. I appreciate it.”
“Let me walk you to your door,” said Cookee. “I want to make sure you don’t trip and hurt yourself.”
Cookee jumped out of the car and ran around to her side pulling the door open to let her out. Annette wanted to protest but the heels she was wearing would make the sidewalk a bit more hazardous than she was willing to risk. “Thanks Cookee.” Annette felt self-conscious for a moment. “You know I’ve never asked you your real name.”
“Mike,” said Cookee. “My names Mike.”
They navigated her sidewalk, her arm wrapped around Cookee’s, holding on to keep her footing. They climbed the two steps to her front porch and she reached out to grab the door handle and let herself in. As she did her shoes caught on a piece of ice and Annette suddenly found herself tumbling backwards. Before she had a chance to react, Cookee had caught her and pulled her close against his chest.
“Are you okay,” he asked?

Annette stared up past Cookee to the roof of her porch. Hanging above their heads was a faded sprig of Mistletoe wrapped in a piece of ribbon made to look like movie film.


Merry Christmas folks. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Extra Life 2017

What is Extra Life? The simple answer is that it’s a charity organization that raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The long answer to what it is and how they got started is best told by them, here.
What does this have to do with me? This takes more time. A few years ago, I had a class assignment to do something that had a social impact. There were a lot of really fun and interesting projects. I chose to take part in the Extra Life Charity marathon. I don’t know if it was expected that we would keep doing the projects well past the end of the class, I’m fairly certain it was not. However, I find the act of helping and supporting the other people who are a part of this group deeply rewarding. That’s why I’ve continued to take part every year. It just feels so damned good. It’s selfish, I know, but that’s why I do it.
This will be the fifth year I’ve taken part in the event. All the money I raise will go to the Dayton Children’s Hospital. I personally haven’t needed the hospital for a couple of decades now, but there are plenty of people who do and I’m happy to offer as much help as I can. The first year I did this was 2012, and in that time I’ve managed to raise $1710. Last year was the best, I raised $665, cut and died my hair and shaved my beard. Shaving my beard incidentally was awful. I hated it. It scratched and burned, and itched like hell. I’m willing to do it all again and I honestly didn’t think I would.

Here’s where I ask for your help. I’m asking for folks to support me through the marathon by donating $1 here for each hour I play, in other words $25 per person. However, any amount you can give, would be amazing. Once I’ve hit my goal I start offering things for further amounts. My current goal is $500. When I hit that, I’ll include one randomly chosen donor in the annual Christmas Story I post to my blog. After that I start offering other “stretch goals” like the fore mentioned haircut and dye job. My niece has suggested I record a music video for my YouTube channel, at this point, that is a long way off, we’re looking at a ridiculous amount of money, $10,000 at the least. (If you donate all of it, I’ll let you pick the song.) Those goals come later though, for now let’s all just focus on the $500.
I’m once again taking part in the large gaming marathon that happens near the end of every year. Once again, I’ll be taking part in the annual marathon, a twenty five hour, gaming extravaganza. This year I’m having some guests at my marathon.
Typically, some of my friends and I gather at my house and play games from noon to noon. This year, to allow for more people, I’m starting differently. The first four hours of my party will be open to kids. We’re going to be playing children’s games and I’m asking all of my friends with children to bring them over to play. I’ve got Super Rhino, King of Tokyo, Fantasy Forest, and the original Fireball Island. I’m thinking of getting out the Family rules for Flash Point, Jenga, and possibly Tumbling Dice. Maybe even my Extra-Life reserved copy of Risk Legacy that I only use during the Marathon and everyone has to play at least once, so their name goes on the board.
After that, I’m going to break out the more advanced games. That’s when the adults and children whose parents don’t mind them learning that kind of language. Beyond that, I know it’s going to be fun as hell and exhausting. I’ll post photos to Instagram and Twitter. I’ll post some video to Periscope. I did last year and it was a bunch of fun.
Beyond that, I know the Dayton Extra Life Guild has some events planned. There’s a meetup in October at Epic Loot in Centerville that I will be attending. I hope to see some of you there.

That’s all for now. I’ll check back in regularly to see how we’re all doing and leave some thoughts on what’s going on. Thanks for helping out.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 31

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the final question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?
We have reached the end; the final question. And my, what a question it is. For 2018 I have a very specific hope. I recently applied to a posting for writers at an RPG publisher. They have asked me for writing samples in a follow up email. I’ll be honest it’s been a while and I’m starting to give up the hope that this will come to pass, but something has occurred recently to give me a bit more hope, at least for a little while. I know that the odds are long and I’m unlikely to get the position at this point, but in my quiet moments I can’t help but hope. After all, isn’t that the dream for all of us?
Beyond that, I want to play more. I’d like to get the chance to run a regular campaign. I’d like to try streaming a RPG on my YouTube channel. I think that could be fun. Get some friends together and stream an RPG. Heck there are some people who have moved away and I don’t get to see anymore so maybe just running a Skype RPG is just the thing we need to try. I’ve considered for this sort of thing, but haven’t ever used it. I’m not sure if there are any other places you can go for that sort of thing.
I’d also like to go to a convention again. Of course that will require a bit of a job and some money. If I get the second things I do want to do the first. I’m not sure which convention I’d go to. I’ve found a love of smaller cons in the last year or so, however, I do miss GenCon.

Anyway, I think that’s it for now. I hope these posts were fun for you, and I want to thank everyone who joined me along the way. Hope to see you at a con sometime. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 30

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 30th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?
This is a really hard one. I’m pretty sure most every genre mashup already exists and with systems like FATE you can make anything you want. What’s left? I’ve had this idea bubbling in the back of my mind for a few years now. What if you had a medieval, not fantasy, setting with superheroes and villains. I don’t know if it would work, but then I didn’t think post-apocalyptic fantasy would work and yet, Adventure Time is a thing.
Anyway, I think the basic idea would be to have characters with minor superpowers, not on a Superman level, but possibly Heroes for Hire or other street level heroes set in and around the crusades. We sort of have the basic DNA for this with Robin Hood and the Three Musketeers, just do that but amp it up a bit with some flight, eye beams, steampunk, magic, and maybe even an occasional extra-terrestrial. Throw in some psychotic villains bent on European domination.
I think the biggest challenge for something like this would be to create a world that people could roll into and get behind. I’d want to avoid people just making standard fantasy heroes or Batman in plate mail. I’d love to see someone like, Templar, a noble visage of righteousness. Stout, powerful, and nigh invulnerable, arrows bounce off of him. He wears all white leather with a ten foot cape that never touches the ground because it’s always billowing slightly in the wind. Granted his powers by the divine form of Joan De’Arc.

I think masks and secret identities would be important because many people at that time would just assume witchcraft and being in league with the devil putting our heroes and their loved ones at risk. This is where the game/setting gets tricky. You want to show the superstition of the times but you don’t want to just religion bash either. This may be why it’s a hard sell. Or maybe, no one else is crazy enough to come up with this.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 29

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 29th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

I’ve been a part of a couple of RPG’s on Kickstarter, the best one was X-Crawl run by Goodman Games. There are a lot of mistakes that get made by RPG’s on KS. X-Crawl avoided them all. The books came out close to on time, the promised PDF’s were quickly available, and the team communicated with the backers on a regular basis. The avoided the biggest mistake I see KS’s make and that was X-Crawl’s stretch goals that provided extra content were all new books beyond the core rule book. The only things they did to the core rule book were cosmetic; full color art, hard cover, and those sort of things. The core rules were promised on a set day, everything else was released and sent in a second wave.

The biggest mistake I see, the one X-Crawl avoided, was a lot of RPG’s make stretch goals that add pages and content to the main book. They don’t think about how much of a delay this is going to cause. They have to write the new content, edit, play test, go through layout, and add art. This invariably pushes the publishing back and causes huge delays. The ones that work the best, X-Crawl and a couple of others all sent out the core rules in wave one near when they said they’d go out and then sent everything else as supplemental material. It’s gotten to the point that when I see a KS for a new RPG if they’re delivering everything at once I try and figure out how late they’ll be.

Monday, August 28, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 28

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 28th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

This is easy, Star Wars. We quote the hell out of Star Wars. We quote the prequel trilogy. We’re all fans of Star Wars to varying degrees, with two of us being stand outs for huge Star Wars fans. They’re more than that actually, they’re gear head Star Wars fans. They know the ships, the histories behind them, and so much beyond that. We cue up Star Wars music on our phones for other games. In a D&D campaign in Dark Sun we we’re captured by the cannibal halflings and as they celebrated the upcoming feast, we pulled up the yub yub song.
Beyond that we hit the regular places Princess Bride, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, Thundarr the Barbarian, Top Gear, and I personally use a lot of Leverage.

What about you?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 27

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 27th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?
Notes, lots of notes. If I’m running something I want to make sure I have a lot of notes for things that may be coming up. I may not use most of them, but I like to have them. I also like to make notes when the players say something that they think is a throwaway line about their character. I love bringing those back.
As a player, notes, lots of good dice. You can never have too many good dice. I also like themed dice. I play miniatures games and I had a set of vomit colored dice I used with my Nurgle 40k army. I enjoy having things like that.
For conventions, I have blood sugar issues, I need trail mix. It helps me keep focused and able to pay attention, prevents me from passing out. I’ve lived with the condition for a long time and I’ve gotten a handle on how to deal with it but I still have moments, especially at conventions where I don’t have access to regualr exercise and healthy food. I’m also a big guy, and thus my con bag includes deodorant. If you are also a big person and your con bag doesn’t include deodorant, it really should. Hell, if you sweat a lot, get some.

Beyond that, it depends on the game. I like Alea tools for games with minis and status effects. I like transparent card sleeves for games where I need to write notes on things of appropriate sizes. That’s pretty much it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 26

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 26th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?
Has to be Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. They had a reference program you could download as part of the Insider program that was amazing. It had everything you needed to roll up characters using any of the optional methods. You could then print out a magnificent character sheet that worked anywhere. It was such a good program that if you were taking part in their living campaign and had your character printed from there they just accepted it was right.
They had a second program that was for Dungeon Masters. It had every magic item ever. The system was set with multiple was to look things up, how many hands it takes, what classes can use it, specific bonuses, and special effects. They had a monster generator that would pull up any monster and let you alter its level, add character class levels, edit names, and give it bonus abilities from other monsters. You could take a level twenty storm giant, make him second level, give him four levels of druid, and a dragons fire breath.
It also told you were everything originated. The first module, adventure, expansion, or Dragon Magazine article it appeared in. If you wanted to go and find that specific adventure that introduced the Holy Avenger Sword, you could. At least, you knew what t look for.

I have been told, that the program is still active and you can download it and use it now. That it will still give you everything you need to run and manipulate a 4th edition game. In case you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 25

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 25th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #25: What is the best way to thank your GM?
Pizza, cash, strippers, and scotch or whiskey depending on taste. The odd cigar would not be amiss, either.

Okay seriously now. As a GM, the thing I like hearing is thank you. Tell me when the game is working and when you’re having fun. Let me know if there is something you’d like to see or have happen. When I run, the thing I worry most about is that my players are having fun. Let me know when you are. I love it when my players engage with me about what’s going on. Don’t lie to me, if there is something that bothers you let me know and we’ll hash it out and see if we can come up with a fix. You have to tell me what you want.
The best feeling to me is when my friends and I are sitting around and talking about old games. If we’re talking to one another or people who weren’t there and they start to tell stories about games I wrote and ran for them. They talk about the things they loved and what was the most fun in those games. When they remember a small character I wrote as a throwaway, and they tell stories I had forgotten about them.

That’s the best thank you I can get. Engage with me. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 24

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 24th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.
Instead of answering the question how it’s worded I’m going to talk about how I use Pay What You Want purchases. I recently purchased the rules for World Wide Wrestling, it’s a powered by apocalypse game about professional wrestling. A portion of the materials for the game are a series of PWYW gimmick, think classes, sheets on Drive Thru RPG. Like most PWYW games and supplements I bought one and paid nothing to see what it was and whether I wanted to invest time and money into these pieces. After getting the first one, I decided I liked these and went back and paid for the others, pitching in double what I felt they were worth for the second one to make up for the first free download.
To me, this is what PWYW is for. It’s that offer to check something out and see how it works, whether it functions, or fits into your needs. Then you can go back and pitch in for other rules or supplements. If they only have the one, you can always repurchase it paying the second time. I understand that not everyone goes back and purchases a second time, I haven’t always gone back for various reasons, from quality of the product to it just not fitting into what I needed or wanted. I get that there are people who look at how I do this and feel it’s unfair to those who have had products I didn’t go back and sponsor but for me this is how I use PWYW.

If there’s anything out there I’m missing, or you have an answer for a publisher or author who needs to be featured, let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 23

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 23rd question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

I’m going to pick a new one for this. I recently bought the new Star Trek Adventures. The rule book has a very Star Trek feel. The entire book is set up using the graphics and fonts from the view screens in Next Generation. The entire book balances the style of display with art featuring various scenes from around the Federation, pieces showing off the various crews, and technical layouts of ships. There are occasional maps, star charts, and blueprints. The book does and amazing job of not only giving you the universe of Star Trek but also the feel of Star Trek. As you read it, it’s Star Trek. There’s no way it could be anything else or any anything else could have represented the world this perfectly.
The layout also includes a wonderful use of color to emphasize examples and sidebars, something I appreciate. The sections and chapters are well defined and broken up. Everything in the book has a focus on keeping you in the world you’re playing in. The only ding I would give it is that they front load the book with the history of the Federation leaving you several pages before you get to the rules. I would prefer that history and background be placed at the end of the book, especially for something like Star Trek where the history is so well known for most of the people playing. At least, I think it would be. I would be hard pressed to believe anyone who plays this doesn’t have at least some idea of how the Federation functions.

Still, I love the layout for this book and am looking forward to spending more time with it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 22

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 22nd question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #22: Which RPG’s are the easiest for you to run?
There are a lot of games I can run without looking at the book, going over my notes, or even trying to remember how certain things work; most of those require a ton of prep work. If I’m looking for easy, I want a game that I can run on they fly. That’s got to be Paranoia.
Paranoia is a fast paced game that takes place in the semi-dystopian future. The new edition of which streamlines a lot of features. Character creation takes a fifteen minutes and requires the group. There are decks of cards for mutant abilities, secret societies, and mandatory bonus duties. The game gives the player five extra lives in the form of backup clones so you can “accidently” go super dangerous. The players are all out to get one another so you don’t have to “accidently” go super dangerous because they’ll kill one another without your help. It’s probably the only game where I feel I can make up an adventure as we go and not worry about how I’m doing.
I can write an adventure right now. It is 12:37 for reference. Report for briefing. Take kegs of beer to Vulture Squadron at forward base in sector HawtAF, failure is treason. Report to R&D, five random items and rocket boots, because rocket boots are the best. Requisitions/steal a transport to carry thirty five kegs of beer. Sector HawtAF is a war zone. Vulture Squad is dead. Attack occurs and destroys truck. Update mission that they need to return empty kegs for recycling. Debriefing followed by commendations and executions, sometimes to the same person. It is 12:41.
I have seen amazing things in Paranoia. A group of players lost half their clones brushing their teeth, a party fighting over a laser pen, a black out murder spree committed by a rabbit, and a Lovecraftian terror cult reduced to cinders by My Little Pocket Nuclear Warhead, a troubleshooters best friend. The thing that gets amazing about Paranoia, is that as confrontational as the game is, people don’t mind. You know you’re going to get shot by your best friend, or spouse, in the back. It’s a given. Even character creation has you screwing over other members of your party in spectacular fashion. There’s no min-maxing this game, you’re going to be good at as many things as you’re bad at. Still, if you can ignore all of that, and you should, you will spend most of your night laughing. You will have stories to tell for years to come. If you ever meet my friend Keith, ask him about finding all of his clones, still alive, in a bathroom stall.

Monday, August 21, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 21

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 21st question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #21: Which RPG does the most with the least words?
I’m going with Fiasco on this one. The rules are blissfully simple and short. Most of the main book is filled with stories and examples of what type of game you’re playing. The actual mechanics are found over a handful of pages filled with examples. It’s a story telling game but it’s one that let’s itself get crunchy in the drama and depth of the characters. It’s allows for the players to tell deep serious stories with meaning or ridiculous action romps with Cthulhu. To expand the game you only need a new playset that is usually eight pages long, nine if you count the intro and examples of films and books that you can check out for examples.
I haven’t played Fiasco as much as I would like to; the game is wonderful. The character creation gives you the freedom to be as colorful as you want while still giving you tough choices to adhere too. The first time I ever played I expected it to follow the path of the different podcasts I listened to where people joked and got silly with their stories. My story, our story, went in a much different direction. It revolved around a photo in a locket. It didn’t matter who got that photo, it was going to go badly. The story started so well. There was the hope of romance for two people who had been alone for too long, redemption for a fallen man who’d walked away from horrible acts committed during the war, and the chance to heal for a man who had lost his son. Then it went to the left of center and I ended up dead in the desert. It was dark, and gritty, and serious. It was also beautiful, tense, and perfect.

I try to get more people to play Fiasco. I think the game has the potential to tell deep moving stories more than any other RPG on the market and it does it in roughly nine pages. 

Incidentally, do you think I should take a swing at writing my own playlist?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 20

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 20th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question Alternate#20: Campaigns: Do you prefer set length or open ended?
I have to do another alternate question, mostly because today's, “What is the best source of out of print RPG’s?” doesn’t apply to me. I simply have never looked for out of print games. I don’t have an answer.
This is an answer that has changed since I have gotten older. When I was in high school I loved open ended campaigns because honestly, I never thought we would stop playing. There was this optimistic illusion of youth that these things would last forever. This idea that the point of the game was to play every week and get more and more powerful.
Now that I’ve been at this for a while I prefer a set length. I know that we’re not going to have forever, that the group is going to grow and change. People will have to leave because of all the things that happen in life. I want to play a game to completion. If we can set out to tell a specific story and then tell it well, I’ll be happy. I love Through the Breach because it has a built in time limit. I like to play things that have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Too much has happened, too many game groups have folded for whatever reason, for me to think I’ll ever be able to play in a long running campaign.

That isn’t to say that someday I won’t return to that style of play. I marvel at the people who do and can. I just don’t think I’m in a place where I’ll be able to. One day I may go on a quest with no end in sight, but today, I’ll meet the villain, track his plan, defeat him after a few setbacks, and retire to the village I grew up in. For now.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 19

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 19th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #19: Which RPG has the best writing?
This one is tricky because there are two ways to look at it. Are we looking for clarity or entertainment?
On the one hand since RPG’s are essentially rules manuals it could mean clarity. It’s nice to have a well written rulebook that leaves you with no questions. I think we can all agree that there are some rulebooks that are complete train wrecks. (I’m looking at you D&D 3.5 grappling rules.) It’s nice to finish reading a rulebook and have few to no questions on how to play a game. I can’t honestly remember a game where I had no questions after finishing the rules. When we played Shadowrun my friends and I thought we were rolling too many dice until we learned we weren’t rolling enough. I was really solid at Through the Breach but only because I’d been playing Malifaux for years. I’ve never finished a D&D ruleset and not had questions. If I have to pick, I think the least number of questions I’ve ever had, then I have to give it to 4th edition D&D. I walked away from that game knowing how to run and play it fairly easily. I knew how powers worked, skills functioned, and classes melded together. I had a couple of questions but nothing that could stop a game.
For entertainment value it gets a little trickier. Since rulebooks are basically technical manuals some of them become so focused on the rules they become dry insomnia curing tomes. Some get so focused on history and back story that it takes days to find the rules you’re looking for amidst everything else. Some are just a jumbled mess of turn to page X to find the answer to the process found in section Y while using the chart on table z. When I have to look at six pages simultaneously to figure out how to do one thing in your game, you needed an editor, I’m cheap and available, call me. Beyond that, I find that one-shot humor based games are the best for these. I enjoyed reading Tales from the Floating Vagabond, Teenagers from Outer Space, and laughed out loud reading Maid. Paranoia is always a hoot, if you’re going to DM since the players have never read the rules, *wink* that would be treason. However, for the best writing, I love Legend of the Five Rings for the stories of the various clans. I love the conflicting histories in the different books. I love how every Clan book says, “There’s no such thing as ninjas,” except the Scorpion Clan which says, “If anyone asks, those guys over there don’t exist.” I’ve read through the Clan books multiple times just for the backgrounds. Which, as a note, are often found in sidebars next to the rules, making them easily identifiable as which is which.
Those are my answers. What are yours? I’m always looking for something new to read.

Friday, August 18, 2017

RPG a Day 2017 Question 18

What is RPGaDay2017?

I’ll link here to the actual group. Basically, it’s a series of questions that you can answer. There are 31 questions that you can answer to help shine a light on the different reasons people play role-play games. This is my answer to the 18th question. For my full list of answers check here.

Question #18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?
This award goes to the granddaddy of them all, Dungeons & Dragons. You know I’m old-school, I used an ampersand. On my tenth or eleventh birthday my mom got me a copy of the boxed set of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I played with my brother and some friends a couple of times. When I got to high-school I met some friends and we played there too. The first game I played at a gaming convention was D&D. I’ve gone away and returned multiple times. I organized and ran an adventure league at my local games store back when they called it Encounters.
D&D has always been one of those games I’ll always go back too. I have fond memories of games with friends, moments at conventions, and characters I’ve created. I’ve run published works and original adventures. I can’t remember a time when sitting and playing with friends wasn’t the best time. I still have friends who play D&D, though I have not played with them since the launch of fifth edition, or 5E. I miss sitting with my friends and going questing for monsters.
The reasons I don’t play 5E are wrapped in a long story that’s completely unfair to D&D and I may one day recount here on my blog. Today however, I look wistfully at the people having fun and I want to go back, but I fear I may have to wait until sixth edition. Still, I know that no matter how long it takes, they will welcome me back as if I had never left. Til then, I can only hope they role/roll well and wish them good fortune and safe journeys.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotten something in my eye.