Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016: Getting The Voices OUT Of My Head

Next year dead ahead, through the metal detectors.
A new year and I greet it at home with the grandsons and the sniffles. No problem, Day/Nyquil will get me through.

Reflecting back over 2015 I see highs and lows, fortunately, more of the former. Got more DVDs and game books, the tornadoes missed us again and got to do a show I never thought I'd get the chance to do. That show was Of Mice and Men – at one time I wanted to play Lennie but no one ever did it. When I was cast at OKC Theater Company I was totally flabbergasted – it thought I was past my prime for the role. But I soldiered on, had a good time and got some real friendships out of it. I thank OKCTC, Linda MacDonald and the rest of the cast and crew for giving me the chance to be part of an outstanding group.

On the game front, the Saturday game kind of fell apart a bit but I'm thinking we can still keep it together come this next year. Did some Savage Worlds and Castles and Crusades but now Eric's running Oriental Adventures and it looks to be a lot of fun. Otherwise, I'm going to be running the Monday night game for a while, giving my buddy Jimbo a break and got involved in a nice B/X game at Game HQ here in OKC. Fun times.

AND the top game purchase this year (which was backed on Kickstarter in 2013) is the hardback copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls that landed on my doorstep late in the year.  All that and a bag of chips - it was better than I expected and well worth the wait.  Kudos again to Ken St. Andre and the Flying Buffalo team.  I GOTTA get a game going with this!

Professionally, I've decided to pursue voice acting full-time – I got together with Rachel Messer, actor, voice actor and sweet gal, to cut a demo reel. Soon as I get it back from her I'll be sending it out to see if I can get work. As it stands now I don't have a home recording studio but I'll be looking to get that set up this next year, fingers crossed.

Podcast-wise, the Brainstorm didn't work out as a spinoff but THAC0's Hammer keeps going as strong as ever. One of our hosts, FulOn Gamer was deployed overseas so he joins us from Bahgdad. We worry about him but he does what he needs to do, being full-time Army. All of us at Wild Games Productions are proud of what he's doing too.

Another thing I'm proud of is my oldest step-son hit bottom, realized what he was doing and went to Oregon to a rehab facility. From what I hear he's getting himself together and starting to thrive out there. It's a 3 to possibly 6 month program and he wants to stay the full 6. There are a lot of folks here who want to see him succeed in the life-changing event and we're rooting for him all the way.

The only big downside that happened to me was trying to move a couch and dropping it on my leg. That was about 3 months ago, it's pretty much healed now, with nothing broken.

I'm not big on resolutions but if I did two things I'd do; resolve to follow through on the voice acting and pay more attention and shower more love and tenderness on my wife Becky. She works hard and always thinks of me and the family. She deserves it.

2015...Done. Time to fly face-first into – The FUTURE!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ken's Tunnel Vision: A Review of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls

Welcome to St. Andre's Fire
One of the most anticipated RPG releases has been Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls, the last word on a game system that dates back close to the dawn of Role-Playing Games (indeed, it was the second ruleset to be published after Gary and Dave's three-booklet set – in fact, it beat D&D to England and Europe). The publisher (Flying Buffalo Inc.) did a Kickstarter to get it done and it took a bit longer than it was supposed to but the team kept everyone in the loop and they did an admirable job delivering. I will admit I'm a late-comer to the system, having gotten interested in it after I heard about the Kickstarter and proceeded to buy/trade/purchase a couple of previous editions.

The reason for coming late to the party is, since I'm an old Grog, I remember the stigma that T&T had back in the day – pale imitation of D&D, silly spell names, etc. Once I read the rules I regretted having pooh-pooed it all those years ago. Since I've been in the OSR (and gotten older) my mantra is K.I.S.S. and you don't get much simpler than this. Plus it plays fast, which I also like. Yes, there's kinks and problems but they're easily overcome. Enough, let's get to the meat of this, I'll explain the system for the new folks as I go.

First off, this thing is impressive (I have the hardcover edition – there's also a softcover and a Limited Edition version along with a PDF option of course). Beautiful cover by Liz Danforth (also the editor, developer and product coordinator). The game itself is the brainchild of Ken St. Andre and this current version is credited to Ken, Liz, Steve Crompton and James “Bear” Peters. The printed book comes in at around 360+ pages so we're not talking the slim volume like the previous versions.

The book itself is broken down into three sections. The first is the Core Rules, which is the usual character creation, Stats (STR. LUCK, DEX, SPEED, CON, IQ, CHARISMA AND WIZARDRY), Classes (3 – Warrior, Wizard or Rogue, which is actually a Rogue Wizard type), Kindred (T&T's name for Race), Equipment, Magic, etc.

The Weapons and Armor section is quite comprehensive, breaking things down into categories and referencing the Weapon Glossary in the back of the book, making getting just the right armor and weapon a piece of cake.

Plus, this game has Guns (excuse me, Gunnes).  YES!!

The game at it's simplest relies on two things: Combat and Saving Rolls. Combat is NOT segmented fights a la D&D but a battle (whether it's one-on-one or a bunch of adventurers vs. a group of nasties) of one side vs. another: each side rolls their dice (this game uses only D6's) and compares the totals. The side with the largest total wins and the difference between the two is the damage taken by the losing side, which is spread out among the participants - minus armor of course, which is ablative, so PC's gotta keep up their equipment (damage that does get through is taken off the CON stat for characters with full stats or off the opponent's Monster Rating). That's it. There are also rules dealing with magic and ranged weapons which will help or hinder in the fight but it's easily adjudicated into the mix.

There is also Spite Damage – this being damage that gets through “in spite of” defenses. Every “6” that comes up equals 1 point of Spite Damage that goes through to the target's defenses. This for both sides in a fight. Spite will get through no matter what (In previous editions, the Spite Damage rule was also used for how certain monsters use their Special Attacks/Abilities instead – I like that and will probably keep using that variant).

Spells are point-based (that's what the WIZ stat is for, although it kind of makes it a dump stat for Warriors) and rely on the character's IQ and DEX to sling. The more ya gots, the higher level spells you can throw (not to mention being able to throw some lower-level spells more effectively).

Saving rolls cover the rest. All characters have 8 prime attributes and the Game Master uses them to resolve things, like a character climbing a wall, holding up under interrogation, trying to charm an innkeeper's daughter, and so on. Saving Rolls come in Levels – a Level 1 SR is 20, Level 2 is 25, etc. The character's attribute subtracts from the SR. The player must roll 2D6 over the target number. The beauty part? Doubles explode (you keep the double and roll again until you stop rolling doubles). Talents (a simple skill system) helps giving you a flat +3 on the SR if the attribute being used is at least 10 and the Talent can reasonably be applied to the SR.

That's the game, at it's simplest. The combat isn't as tactical as D&D (See my comment on Downsides below) but it feels like a big battle with flashing blades, arrows and spells being flung willy-nilly, plus there's a LOT of wiggle room for the GM to add, subtract and change it into infinity. It is virtually impossible to break this game by houseruling.

Speaking of houseruling, the next chapter is called Elaborations, and it's a section of variants, add-ons and other odds and ends for the game. For instance, in the Core Rules section they have chapters on Berserkers and Martial Arts. In Elaborations they have a Training section where those things will fit as subclasses (along with others like Rangers and Masterminds if you're so inclined) and work with the Core Rules. Also included is a section on advanced Talents where they break them down in to Broad and Narrow Talents if you want them a bit more granular and it also includes a way to get better at them.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the Peters-McAllister Chart and stats (cribbed from Ken's other Cool Game Monsters! Monsters!) for those who don't want to play a run-of-the-mill human, Dwarf, Elf, Hobb(it), Fairy or Leprechaun (yeah, those last two are regular races in this game).  If the GM lets you, go ahead and roll up that Minotaur Warrior or Ratman Rogue.  I myself want to give another thanks to the team for giving me a chance to sneak Gnomes and Half-Orcs into the game.

This section also includes what is referred to as The Kitchen Sink - tables, random thoughts and ideas that didn't fit anywhere else.  This is where you'll find Wandering Monster Charts (since the book doesn't include a Bestiary, it's great starting point for writing up your own critters), Treasure Charts, Marking Time in the game, Guilds, Locks and Traps and other odds and ends, even a lively, if short, discussion between Ken and Liz about The Reality of Dice.

I like this section because most of the things they show you are time-tested and make sense for the most part. Now I've said I want to keep things simple but it's great to have these options in the ruleset as they're modular and non-intrusive to the Core. That's a big plus.

The third section is all about Trollworld, the original group's campaign world. THIS was what a lot of the T&T community was looking for – and they didn't disappoint. Full color maps and descriptions of the major cities that give you juuuuust enough to get an idea or ten on how to use them.

The book wraps up with a solo adventure and a GM adventure. The solo (Abyss) let's you take a recently-deceased character and give him a chance to return to the land of the livng. The GM Adventure (Into Zorr) is a wing-ding (or should I say a barn-burner) of an adventure in where a party of PCs are hired by a fire dwarf to further explore (and do a little spying on the side) in the Fire Dungeon of Z'Tpozz (which just happens to be inside an active volcano). With precautions a party can make it through but it isn't a cakewalk. I played a short version of this (with Ken St. Andre as GM) at the North Texas RPG Con a few years ago. It's was a blast.

Also, aside from the indexes and KS acknowledgments, the back of the book includes a very (no, VERRRRRY) comprehensive glossary of weapons that I can see being used with ANY fantasy RPG.

Downsides: I had a few but talking to Ken on Facebook kinda aligned my thinking on that. For instance, I could hang with no clerics since Wizards and Rogues had access to the Poor Baby spell (the equivalent to the D&D Cure XX Wounds) and could turn undead (or anything else with the Oh Go Away spell) but it really bugged me that, combat being the way it was, I saw no opportunity for individuals to shine in combat. Ken told me there was because it's more of a matter of Saving Rolls and descriptions on the GM's and the player's parts.

That was a minor epiphany for me. I realized I wasn't taking the game on it's own terms. Instead I was trying to shoehorn it into what I was used to (aka D&D), not learning a new way to do things. Quite a paradigm shift.

I probably also should mention something about the humor, which has been a like it or hate it thing for folks in the past. I feel the game works so well I don't mind the air of whimsy and foolishness in things like spell names, puns, etc. I think it adds a bit of charm to the whole thing, although it can get a bit corny at times.

My bottom line: fun between two covers. A handsome book befitting a classic FRPG which was ahead of it's time. If you've never played, you can get (as of this writing) a softcover through Amazon or (if you just want to dip your toe in the waters of T&T) get yourself a PDF through Drive-Thru RPG or RPG Now. I also hear the group will be doing new supplemental material for so stay tuned on that front too.

Thanks Ken, Liz, Steve, Bear, and the Publisher, Flying Buffalo's Big Rick Loomis for gettin' R' done. I'm dying to play now but, knowing my group, I'll be behind the GM's screen. Which isn't a bad place to be.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Where The Blogger Meets The Road

Easier than housework...
Well, time to dust off a few things and exercise the ol' blogging muscles.  This place has a habit of not being used so it's time to use up some of Blogger's bandwith.  I'll have more very soon (like Monday or Sunday if the kids let me have use of my PC).  Next up: a review of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls which I promise will be a bit more cohesive than my Ol' Man Grognard review.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Con Report: A Crit A Day Keeps The Fumbles Away

I've seen better heads on a glass of beer.
Okay, went to North Texas RPG Con in the Dallas area as I do every year.  left Thursday morning armed with game books, dice and other
paraphernalia, stoked up on meds for the cold I've been fighting and an energy drink.  Made it there in 3 hours.  had to wait for the room a bit but that was cool,  Here's the highlights of the lowdown:

* Didn't make BadMike's B1 game this year but had fun in Frank Mentzer's Ad-Lib Dungeon.  He took suggestions on what we wanted to see in the game and 15 minutes later he had a story.  I refer to it as "Eggs for Venger."

* Got to chew on Justin and Alana Davis's ears for a while.  I always enjoy seeing them and got a close-up look at their new kid.  Sweet boy.  I'll even forgive him for looking better in a Hawaiian shirt than I do.

* Got to spend a lot of time talking to my new best buds Richard LeBlanc (of New Big Dragon Games - and Lloyd Metcalf (Big Time Artist Bro).  Both were a font of info about small/self-publishing and self-promoting at conventions.

* Speaking of which, went to the small publishing seminar.  Very informative And I got to meet another favorite guy, Trey Causey, Bloger Extraordinaire (

* Since registration closed early this year I walked up to Doug and shoved $45 in his mitt, saying that now I was paid up for next year.  Don't forget, Doug! ;)

* Met Jeff Grubb again (I had to remind him of our first meeting 20 years ago at DunDraCon).  He and Steve Winter signed my Marvel Advanced FASERIP and Spelljammer box sets and we jawed about the past.  I love that guy.

* Had the pleasure of playing in Mike Stewart's Victorious game.  Got to play a super mage along with Mike's lovely wife Liz, Erik Tenkar and his wife Rachel plus a few more characters sitting around the table.  Mke and Liz always dress up for the game and I noticed Mike looked a bit Peter Lorre-ish in his top hat, dark glasses and frock-coat.  Oh, AND there was a special appearance by Left-enant Victory!

* Followed that with Lloyd Metcalf''s 1E game, Midnight Oliviah.  Tougher than I imagined, but we prevailed.

*Saturday meant my Savage Worlds game that evening.  I was running Mat Evans's ( The Mines of Valdhum.  Originally written for Labyrinth Lord, the group loved it (I was fortunate enough to have 3 players who are in a regular SW group and they helped me out immensely - Thanks guys). Unfortunately, this is the second year I was scheduled for Saturday night and I think I'll have to request a different slot - I know Saturday sounds like a great time, but if you've been gaming for 2-3 days already, you're kind of wiped.  And we were - we got through about 2/3 of the scenario and we decided to cut to the dragon.  BUT, the group loved it and it worked out well.

* Sunday and I got to have a great talk with Jennell Jaquays and her wife about all things gaming, living in Seattle and a bunch of stuff.  Thanks again Jennell and Rebecca.  Always charmed,

* Sunday is usually a "get packed up and the hell out of there" day but I made time to play a bit in Doug Rhea's 1E game he pulled together.

SO, another successful con.  The trip back was tedious but short.  Thanks again to BadMike and Doug for putting on a great four days of gaming (Origins was also this last week but I think we have more fun in Texas).  Great to see all the old gang and meet some new cohorts.  On to 2016. dammit!

P.S. to the SW guys that were in my game: I seem to have lost the contact info you gave me.  Could you email me at  Thanks.

What Condition My CON-dition Is In

Went to North Texas RPG Con this weekend.  Had a great time but I'm still decompressing over it (that and I'm still fighting a cold).  I'll have my report later this week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

D&D 5E: Powered By The OSR

Saving Throw In A Can
Okay, before I shoot my mouth off, Happy St. Patty's day everyone.  I don't drink beer, but I think I'll have a Mountain Dew in honor of the day, or put some green dye in my soda can.

A while back I lamented about how that 5E made it harder to find a game played with previous editions or clones.  I worried about how 5E was going to abolish the OSR and all sorts of gloom and doom was going through my head.

Well, I think I made my peace with all that.

I have come to the conclusion that 5E will only strengthen the hobby as a whole.  While I don't want to really invest time and money in DMing the game, this edition, more than any other, will bring more new blood to this pastime I love so much and that's a good thing in the end.  The attention to what worked in the past, the games' encouragement of role-playing and character development and the ease to which older material can be adapted makes this a winner in my book.  I still have problems with certain areas of the rules (such as the way they try to encourage developing backgrounds for characters, something I'd rather let happen organically in play) but I can understand why they did it (most players new to the game need a bit of guidance in that area, something us old grogs had to do the hard way).  I also like the foresight the developers had in making things modular (such as the aforementioned background development, which is easily removed if desired).  Someone at WOTC said that this edition was shooting to be the game closet D&D, something to play with the family on Game Nights, like Monopoly or Scrabble.  A perennial.  I think they may have done it.

So bravo WOTC.  I think you have a winner.  I'll be over at the table on the other side of the room running Basic D&D, lifting my can of Pepsi in salute.  Well done.

...and I didn't even rag on Ascending Armor Class.  How about that.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Of Worlds Savage: Shivering Timbers and Rolling Bones

Got me a campaign.  Hope the Bennies hold out...
Well after talking about it about a half-dozen or more blog posts ago I'm finally running a Savage Worlds Campaign.  Note I said campaign.  This is a first for me as (full disclosure) I've never GM'd a campaign before.  99.9% of my DM/GMing has been as one-shots, occasionally running two sessions at a time.  Not only that, the SW system is all new to us so it's a learning experience all around.

To keep the learning to a minimum I decided to use a published setting, Pinnacle's 50 Fathoms.  The players enthusiastically jumped into the pirate genre and are now running around on Torath-Ka, an island something like a Lost World with bloodthirsty natives, violent apes and dinosaurs.  They're currently looking for their lost captain (using a map delivered by an NPC which is also a treasure map) they've been beat up a bit but gave back better.

As I said, this is a learning experience and I have learned quite a bit so far, not only about the system but GMing as well (hard to believe I've been playing/DMing since '81) and a few things have crystallized for me.  In SW you don't worry about NPCs and cannon-fodder as much as other games so it gave me a chance to deal with other aspects of the system.  It's also refreshing that I can throw more red shirts at the PCs and not worry about the bookkeeping (I'm taking this part slow).  I may also get into the mass combat rules down the line - they look fast and furious like the rest of the game.

Now that some of the GMing duties has been eased up, I can let the players sandbox more.  In the past, and as I've said in a previous post, I've always worried about railroading the players - I don't want to lead them by the nose but I need SOME kind of structure.  I find with SW I can loosen up the story to the point where it feels more like a give-and-take between the GM and the players.  I still do a Beat Chart (as I talked about in a previous post) but find I can loosen it up and move stuff around to accommodate the players actions and still keep track of things.  I now refer to the Beat Chart as a Story Framework to reflect those changes and to remind me to keep it loosey-goosey.

In addition, I'm actually starting to use Encounter Charts (in the past I get so wrapped up in the story I forget them).  AND, the players really like things like Bennies which lets them influence the story to an extent.

In fact, (Bold Statement time), I think I've found my RPG Soul Mate.  For me it fits like a glove.  I cringe a bit saying that, with my love for D&D, but Savage Worlds feels natural to me.  I won't say I'll not play or DM D&D ever again but for now Savage Worlds is it.  Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

New Year's Here - All Right Then...

Goin' forward, I hope to eat more french fried potaters...
Well, here it is February and I'm just getting to this New Year's post.  Weird, huh?

Anyway, don't think much happened this past year - did a show, more gaming, the usual.  Started a new podcast (Brain Storm Think Tank) on WGP with my friends Vince Florio and Erik Tenkar.  It's a bit different - it's only about 30 minutes long and it offers ideas for GMs for use in their role-playing games.  I like the 30-minute format - it's easier to do and folks like the smaller chunks of info (Over at THAC0's Hammer we also have a Brain Storm segment - it was orignally Cory's idea so we just kinda spun it off).

I also started a video series on You Tube - Ol' Man Grognard, a 5-15 minute series on gaming from the viewpoint of an ol' fart like me.

Well, that's about it for the New Year's report.  More as I think of it.  Mmmm-hmmm...