Sunday, 1 July 2018

Running Convention Games


I am relatively new to running convention games, although I have run games in public venues going back to the 80s. My conventions are, thus far, limited to OSRCon in Toronto, Gary Con (two years now), Odyssey Con in 2017, and Nexus Game Fair in 2016. There are many folks with more experience in convention games than I have, but if you are looking for a relative newbie’s insights, read on.

Choose Your Own Adventure

When planning convention slots, choose adventures that you know well. Obviously, you also want something that will fit into your time slot(s). If you run an adventure that normally takes six four-hour sessions to run, and plan to run it in a three-hour slot, you’ll have to prune ruthlessly. You might consider another adventure. Or a longer slot. Or both.

The adventure should be one with a sense of completeness as a short story. It might also be useful as a chapter of a larger tale, but if it doesn’t come to a satisfying conclusion you’ve missed the mark. That conclusion need not be fun. It can be horrifying. Entire worlds can be saved or lost. It just has to be a definite end, that shows some motion from where the session started.

There are a lot of great Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures to choose from. But I am going to suggest that you branch out – convert your favorite non-DCC adventure. Write your own! One of the best things about Appendix N fiction is the wide range of authorial voices – add your own authorial voice to the games you run!

(And if you don't want to do that, anything written by Daniel J. Bishop should be given preference......lol.)

The Play’s the Thing

It doesn’t matter if you flub a rule. It doesn’t matter if you forget that there was something the PCs should have encountered, or a condition that would have made it easier or tougher for them. If you forget a rule, you can ask the table. Maybe someone knows. If not, just make a ruling and keep the game moving. If it takes more than a minute of flipping through the book, don’t.

There are four things that can help you here:
  • The Dice Chain: Use it. If you need to give a bonus or a penalty, and you don’t have time to look the “by the book” modifier up, just use the Dice Chain.
  • Luck: If you aren’t certain, use a Luck check. You can modify it with the Dice Chain, where smaller dice are more likely to succeed and larger dice are less likely. Can’t decide which target the monster attacks? Ask who has a lower Luck.
  • Purple Sorcerer Free Tools: Make PCs easily. Print out their spells. Print out your NPC’s spells. It will save you time in the game, and keep the action flowing. At the start of the game, don’t make the players pay for what they want to carry. Just tell them: If you want specific equipment, write it on your sheet now. Unless they are zero-levels, they can probably afford it. If they are zero-levels, skip this step.

Setting up the Table

The first year I ran games at Gary Con, my son accompanied me but did not preregister for games. He noted that there were many games seeking players, but no way to guess what was being played without going up and talking to anyone. Because of this, I now print out cardstock signs that identify game and system. I have picked up a metal table stand, not unlike those used for the “Table Full”/”Players Needed” signs for this purpose.

For my second Gary Con, I had a scale version of the DCCTournament Gong arch 3D printed. I assembled it at each game, to help make it seem more like an event. Whatever you can do to stand out is a good thing.

I have also picked up a bag of plastic "gold" coins to use as Fleeting Luck tokens.

My dice bag includes black d20s of various sizes, including one which is fist-sized. I use it for dramatic effects.

During the Game

I like to walk around the table, in part to give people a chance to hear me, and in part for effect.

Reward player creativity, but don’t assume that every crazy idea will work. If every crazy idea works, all you end up with is a collection of crazy ideas. Select the crazy ideas that seem possible to you, rather than the crazy ideas that seem unlikely methods to bypass engagement with the game. When in doubt, call for Luck checks.

Reward engagement. Help the quieter players engage by addressing them directly.

Your style of running games? When in doubt, that’s what you should do.

Disagree with anything I wrote here? You should include your own ideas in the comments, for others to benefit from. And you should do whatever you think best. I'm just some guy with my own ideas.

A Few Other Important Considerations

Make sure that, when you schedule your games, you give yourself time to hang out with others and enjoy the convention.

If the opportunity arises to play in a game run by Doug Kovacs, do it.

The odds are good that, sooner or later, you will get a chance to play in a game run by Brendan LaSalle. Do it. If you can buy Brendan LaSalle an after-game beer and just shoot the breeze, do it!

I have yet to get into a Brinkman, Stroh, or Curtis game. Pity me…but, if you get the chance, make sure you take it. At the very least, you can rub my face in your good fortune!

Finally, when you are a player, jump into the weirdness. Play your character(s) with gusto. Have fun, and help to make if fun for everyone. Encourage others to do the same. You aren’t playing with gusto to dominate the table, but to draw everyone else out.

If you happen to be at a convention where I am running games (most likely Gary Con), please stop by and say Hello! 


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Free RPG Day

I ran two games for Free RPG Day on Saturday, 16 June 2018. The venue was 401 Games at 518 Yonge Street in Toronto.

The first game was Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer, by Terry Olson, which had been released as part of Goodman Games' Free RPG Day content for this year. This game ran from 11 am to 3 pm, with 8 players. At the end of the game, there were only 4 characters left, and that did not include the party cleric! A good time was had by all. The "DEAD" stamp saw use. The party never found Odag's secret stash, as they used the shanatium ingots to smash his soul receptacle without any hesitation. All in all, brutal but fun.

Some highlights included: A naturally-occurring slippery-slope passage (and hole!) divide the party, leading to the first "recover the body" check of the day, proof once again that ropework is a useful spell, Ekim's mystical mask with a maximum result, massive Mighty Deeds, and fantastic rolls for good or ill by all concerned. You're checking to recover the body, and now that natural 20 comes up?

The second game was the first playtest for Lettuce-Gardens of the Foreign Warren, an adventure in which Radu, King of Rabbits, has a task for the characters. Five PCs went in, with a slight change of player roster between games, and four came out.

This one was fun, but it still needs considerable work to be publishable. Nonetheless, the first playtest was a success.

Swag for the event included black plastic DCC logo cups, print copies of the Sanctum Secorum Free RPG Day 2018 Third Party Compendium (which was also available downstairs), and a zine-like sampler from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between featuring Radu and Mulferret, Queen of Weasels. I also gave away two sets of my two-part Crawljammer adventure: The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn and The Vault of Ash. Bookmarks and a DCC notebook completed the swag giveaway.

I am very much looking forward to the next one!

Friday, 15 June 2018

The Death Cart


The Death Cart
By Daniel J. Bishop

For his cart comes down the lane,
And his lanterns burn with greed,
Race you away, your soul is screaming.
Bone rolling wheels.
O! old people choke with ashes!
O! Children weep with fear!
Shelter us from his fast reaping!
One more day to exist here!

The Death Cart rolls down the night-dark streets of Ur-Hadad. Its wheels are made of bone, and it is pulled by two black horses whose breath and eyes are fire. Old Edward the Great lets the horses take him where they will, for his un-dead hands are concerned only with the scythe he bears, and the reaping that it does. Lanterns swing wildly behind the Death Cart, whose wheels rumble like thunder. The lanterns are lit with the burning souls of the reaped. The more he reaps, the brighter they blaze.

Old Edward: Init +0; Atk scythe +5 melee (1d8 plus soul drain); AC 15; HD 4d12; hp 30; MV 30’; Act 1d20; SP un-dead traits, sense living 100’, soul drain, death throes; SV Fort +8, Ref +2, Will +10; AL C.

Any creature hit by Old Edward’s scythe must succeed in a DC 10 Will save or take 1d3 points of Stamina and 1d3 points of Personality damage as the scythe drains a portion of their souls. The lanterns swinging from the Death Cart flare dramatically when this occurs! (See the Death Cart, below.)

When Old Edward is reduced to 0 hp, his body is consumed in a gout of emerald flame. If horses remain, the cart careens off down the streets; if the horses are slain, the entire cart is apparently consumed in flames. The next time that the Death Cart is seen, Young Edward is seen driving the infernal vehicle. Over the next few months, Young Edward ages into Old Edward. There is always a younger Edward, so long as the cart itself endures.

Edward’s Horses (2): Init +5; Atk bite +2 melee (1d3) or hooves +5 melee (1d5); AC 17; HD 2d12; hp 15 each; MV 50’; Act 2d20; SP breathe fire, cannot move and attack with hooves, immune to mind-affecting, death throes; SV Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +3; AL C.

Each of these horses can breathe fire in a 10’ line, causing 2d10 damage (Ref save DC 10 for half), using an Action Die. A horse can only breathe fire once every 1d5 rounds. If the horse uses its hooves to attack, it cannot pull the cart that round. This means either that the cart must come to a halt (if both horses use their hooves), or that the cart is pulled in a tight circle for one round (giving Old Edward and the Death Cart a -1d shift for their next attacks). Each horse has a 1 in 3 chance of using its hooves on any given round.

When one of the horses is reduced to 0 hp, it explodes in a burst of emerald flame, doing 1d10 damage to all within 10’ (Ref DC 10 for half damage, plus Ref DC 15 to avoid catching fire if the first save is failed). If one horse is slain, the Death Cart’s move is reduced to 20’. If both horses are slain, the Death Cart’s move is reduced to 0’. If both horses and Old Edward are slain, all is consumed in emerald flames, as described for Old Edward, above.

When the Death Cart is next seen, it is pulled by two horses identical to those which were slain.

Death Cart: Init +3; Atk trample +3 melee (2d5); AC 20; HD 8d12; hp 60; MV 50’; Act 1d20; SP sense living 100’, DR 5, soul regeneration, spell resistance, death throes; SV Fort +15, Ref +4, Will +10; AL C.

The only way that Old Edward can be destroyed is for the Death Cart to be reduced to 0 hp, but this is not an easy task. First off, at least one horse or Old Edward must be allowed to continue attacking, or the cart disappears. Secondly, every attack against the Death Cart reduces the damage done by 5 points. Third, the Death Cart regains lost hit points equal to the attribute damage done by Old Edward’s soul drain. Finally, spells which target the cart are suppressed, having an effect as though they were cast with a -10 penalty to the spell check (this does not change the actual spell check result, just the effect).

If the Death Cart is reduced to 0 hp, there is a clap of thunder, the joyous singing of trapped souls set free, and a distant sound of electric guitars. The streets of Ur-Hadad open to drop the cart into a flaming pit (anyone on the cart must succeed in a DC 10 Reflex save or be lost forever), before crashing shut with a shudder that knocks everyone prone. There is a lingering smell of sulphur and an echo of the wailing of the damned. Everyone involved in destroying the Death Cart gains a permanent +1 to two randomly determined ability scores, a gift from grateful spirits and gods alike.

End Note

This was originally a submission to The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad. Did I kill The Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad by submitting this? I am not sure. However, it is the first "album cover" write-up I did, similar to others in this blog, and it is time now to make this material available to the world at large.


Free RPG Day Reminder

This Saturday, for Free RPG Day, I will be running two Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures back-to-back (with a brief pause for food between them). 

They are Terry Olson's Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer from 11 am to 3 pm, followed by the first playtest of my own Lettuce-Gardens of the Foreign Warren from 3:30 to 7:30 pm. The venue is 401 Games at 518 Yonge Street in Toronto. Seating is "first-come, first-served", but I will try to accommodate as many as necessary. You don't need to play both to come out, but characters can be transferred from one game to the next with whatever treasure (etc.) they may have gained. Characters are provided, and I have funky dice to spare if you don't have enough.

Yes, I will be taking names for a playtest credit with Lettuce-Gardens

Yes, some lucky players will be going home with extra swag.

401 Games has print copies of the Sanctum Secorum Free RPG Day 2018 Third-Party Compendium on hand, so you should drop by for that, and for the Goodman Games release(s), at the very least. 

The game will be in the upstairs game lounge area.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Appendix N Alert - Doug Miller Books

I just came back from Doug Miller Books at 650 Bloor Street West in Toronto. If you live in the city, and are looking to fill in some of your Appendix N collection, they are currently having a sale. 

I noted several authors...lots of Burroughs, deCamp, Moorcock, and Norton, but also a bit of Fox and others. Some of the specific titles were also on the shelves - The Fallible Fiend, The Compleat Enchanter, The Carnelian Cube, Lest Darkness Fall, and The Broken Land.

Possibly worth a look. 

Even with my extensive collection, I was able to pick up four volumes that (I believe) were heretofore missing from my shelves.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Free RPG Day Double Feature


If you are in Toronto on June 16th, come and join me!
401 Games @ 518 Yonge Street Toronto!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

If you failed to get CE 9: Both Foul and Deep through the Go Fund Me campaign, you can get it in both print and pdf at RPG Now.

Here is an Endzeitgeist review.


Appendix N literature is filled with cities, glorious or decaying. Beneath the streets of these urban centers lies a region dank, foul with the effluvia of countless generations, flowing through crumbling brickwork in the malodorous darkness. If your players are anything like mine, sooner or later they will wish to have their characters delve into these fetid morasses.

This product is intended to ensure that you are ready. To that end, a small area of sewers is described, with several hooks to entice PCs into investigating. Three appendixes supply added content to expand the original area or to create sewers of your own. The last appendix is an abbreviated patron write-up of Squallas, Mistress of the Night Soil Rivers, whose domain is the sewers.

Campaign Elements 9 - Both Foul and Deep is a campaign element to designed for 4-6 level 1-2 PCs, with the tools to help you create a rich campaign environment for PCs of any level.

Monday, 26 March 2018

No Safety in Dancing

Every man wears a hat in the village of West Kingston, and those approaching the village without hat or helm are liable to be set upon...and perhaps even killed...for West Kingston is haunted by the Doroschuk. Although these creatures look much like mortal men, their heads are so sensitive that they cannot bear to wear anything upon them.

The Doroschuk are alien creatures from another world, who seek to abduct those which exhibit even the least bit of frivolity. If they can induce their victims to dance (Will DC 10 avoids, but the natural inclinations of their victim determines the die rolled from 1d14 to 1d24), they are drawn into the world of the Doroschuk after 1d5 rounds of dancing, leaving the real world and their friends far behind.

A wizard or elf trying to learn planar step may have to intentionally join this dance in order to watch and learn the patterns made by their hands, which may be part of casting that spell.

Whether the world of the Doroschuk is a realm of never-ending dances and merriment, without any social requirements as to how one acts, or whether the Doroschuk consume their abducted victims, is open to speculation. At this point, the world of the Doroschuk is one that none has ever found. There are even some who claim that, in some ineffable fashion, the Doroschuk are capable of devouring the very rhythm of youth.

Doroschuk: Init +3; Atk fist +1 melee (1d3+1); AC 13; HD 2d8; MV 30’; Act 2d20; SP dance, abduction; SV Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +2; AL C.