The image above is a group shot of those of us who spent time and energy setting up the booth to sell our aggregate of products under the IGDN (Independent Game Developer’s Network) banner at Origins.

I’m pleased as anything to be part of something like this because it supports us all and shares the workload around. This is great because it gives me the opportunity to spend more time making games, and also have a booth presence at conventions like Origins. So, thank you all who are contributing to things like this. It’s a lot of work to be an independent game developer and this makes all our lives easier.

Enroute to Origins

I’ll board my plane to Columbus in about 5 minutes. This will be my first trip to Origins Game Fair and I’m really excited for a variety of reasons — the first is that it’s the public release of Backstory Cards, since the very successful Kickstarter campaign. The second is that it will be my big convention for the year, since I opted out of Gen Con for logistical overhead reasons. Plus, all reports I hear is that it’s a much more relaxed convention and promises more time to visit with friends and play games.

If you’ll be there, I’ll be spending a lot of time at the IGDN booth. Stop by and say hi!

And now the plane is packing up, so I’ll sign off here. Next stop, Columbus.

Dreamation 2015

Dreamation was huge this year. Seriously. They sold out the hotel. As big as Dexcon. Big enough to viscerally feel the difference. It’s not your little tiny close-knot convention any more, and I feel good about this although it was hard to experience that on the fly. It certainly didn’t help that many of my closest friends who I really look forward to seeing in particular weren’t able to be there.

The larp tracks have exploded. They’re enormous now. The tabletop RPGs were filling up shortly after the schedules were released. The presence of Nordic-style larps have been growing at an astounding rate and show no signs of slowing down. Hell, even the organized play folks were out in force unlike any in the years since I’ve been going. And the Krista-Con events are THE games-not-to-be-scheduled-against.

It’s a surfeit of riches. New games and game designers are putting out wonderful new ideas and the convention is drawing people from further and further away each new iteration.

And it’s hard as an attendee to be in the midst of this change from the smallish weird indie con to a full force of nature.

I played John Harper’s Lasers & Feelings, a one-page scifi game that takes its name from the Doubleclicks song. I ran an OmegaZone heist. I played a Nordic larp called Before and After Silence, Nathan D. Paoletta’s new release World Wide Wrestling, Mark Richardson’s new cyberpunk game Headspace, and Puppetland. Four new-to-me games!

I got to spend time with friends from Up and down the northeast corridor, Minnesota, several different parts of Canada, New Mexico, California, Texas; it’s almost absurd the distance people are traveling to what I have in my head as this little local con. Everything changes…

Falling: the Adventure

I’ve been running the Hoard of the Dragon Queen/Rise of Tiamat adventure sequence with my local shop for the last few months and this week I got to run the most amazing table…

A little backstory and context: we’re running the campaign as a huge group adventure for those appropriate parts, and break out to individual tables for most regular adventures. We’re on the final episode of the storyline, where the party assaults the final stronghold. Since we’re doing it as a 40+ PC group of 15th level characters, our DM team decided to split the group into tables based on the kind of assault they wanted to plan. I got a table of players who had decided to HALO jump into the caldera of the volcano.

So that’s what we did.

After a little bit of exposition, and goofiness, the party strapped themselves to the belly of a friendly metallic dragon and flew to altitude. At this point we had enough of a diversion set up that there were maybe 20 dragons flying guard duty above the 1 sq. mile mouth of the volcano. Then they jumped.

So here’s what I did. I put a d12 down on the table and said, okay. Here’s the countdown to when you need to chug your feather fall potion in order to land safely. I’m going to roll a d6 on each of your turns and if it comes up your number (I had 6 players) you’re about to hit a dragon on the way down. You can make an appropriate athletics/acrobatics/dexterity save (DC12) to avoid the dragon, but each round you’re falling incurs a penalty equal to the number showing on the d12 (This is simply a repurposing the 13th Age escalation die). Starting at round 9, I rolled 2d6 to see if their number came up.

All but one player tried hard to stick to the stealth aspect of the mission, doing their best to avoid mid-air combat. He took a hardline on RP’ing his (drunken oafish) character despite the circumstance; forcing himself into troublesome situations and throwing himself at the consequences. While a lot of my table thought that this polluted the stealth aspect of the mission, it also added a whole lot of flavor and really vital interest to what might have otherwise been a really dull exercise in dice rolling.

This scene ended up being approximately half of our allotted play time. It was incredibly tense as players traded inspiration dice, miscellaneous abilities, and hoped like hell to hit the ever-increasing DC numbers. And the players couldn’t stop talking about the session afterwards; one even cited it as one of his two best sessions of the season. In an adventure where they fell for about an hour and a half.

IndieCade East

This last weekend I hit up IndieCade East, an “international festival of independent games.” Held at Queens’ Museum of the Moving Image, there’s an unspoken focus on video games — partially because of videogames’ better organization and industry cashflow, and partially because NYC is a booming center of videogame development, particularly mobile games. Organizations like Playcrafting NYC and the NYU Gamecenter also bolster this local community.

As a tabletop creator, first and foremost, I went in a little tentatively, despite having a significant number of friends within the videogame community (I consider myself tangent, rather than part of the community). This turned out to be almost entirely unnecessary. I went to interesting panels on teaching game design and coding to kids, on creating diversity in games, on cool free tools to make random digital things, and on breaking into voice acting. I played single and multi-player video games, board games, and some games that were at least as much technology experiments (One used an oculus rift with a leap motion controller glued to the outside).

Some of the tools for making things that really interested me (all discovered via Robert Yang’s clickbait titled talk, “We are Drugs”:

Some of the exhibited games that really caught my attention:

Despite an overwhelming leaning towards video games, the presence of NYU Game Center and their tabletop experiments being showcased and played there suggests to me that there’s a lot of space to help promote tabletop and live action games, and that we should endeavor to make games that push boundaries and show them off in these professional/academic settings and not limit ourselves to small-press publishing to sell at local conventions or on the internet. There’s a big games world out there that’s always itching for more.

Cleaning up the website!

Lots of things in progress over here right now. I’m revamping the entire website. You’ll find the buy links go out to a Square Market page, and if you manage to get to the old store, it’s “down for maintenance” — meaning that I’ve decided ZenCart is more of a pain in the butt than I really want to deal with anymore; so instead I’m using an external shop or two? three? That reminds me, I should put up links to DTRPG, my Square Market store, and IPR. And now this post is quickly becoming a to-do list. Well, so be it. It’ll help me remember to finish this stuff.

  • Finish closing down the old store page
  • Update individual pages to reflect current business model
  • BC Setting Grid => DTRPG
  • Other stuff?

Threat or Menace!

The so-called “Superhero Game” of years-in-the-making has been recently renamed to the magnificently titled

Threat or Menace!

I’ve been chipping away at the 90% finished milestone for a while now. Through lots and lots of playtesting and wiggling the different moving parts, consulting with smarter-than-me-people about word choices, and trying to figure out how best to communicate the rules without wholly revisiting grammar classes.

And I think we’re about ready to move into a serious graphic design stage!

Which means, that Threat or Menace is part of the Brooklyn Indie Grab Bag that many Backstory Cards backers will soon have! I’m really looking forward to knocking that off my to-do list.

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