Saturday, February 28, 2015

So You Want to Start A Game Club?

In March, 2013, Geek and Sundry, through their popular YouTube show Tabletop hosted the very first International Tabletop Day.   A full day of celebrating board games, card games, role-playing games, and pretty much anything tabletop gaming related, thousands of gamers all around the world gathered in their friendly local game stores, libraries, and homes to share their love of gaming.  For so many people around the world, it was an incredible day to be out and about with their fellow gamers!  

Here in the Walls residence, it was a bit more low-key, but still a lot of fun.

International Tabletop Day 2013

My wife, mother-in-law, and two daughters ages nine and six, spent the evening playing our brand new copy of Settlers of Catan.  We thought the game looked pretty intriguing, having watched +Wil Wheaton and his pals on Tabletop trade sheep, build settlements, and compete for longest road.  At the time, we only had a few board games, and most of them were pretty traditional:  Monopoly, Life, Jenga, what you typically find in an average American household.  Sure, there was role-playing stuff in our house, but save for the occasional game, we didn't have a regular family campaign running.  

Looking back it's crazy to think about how much has changed since International Tabletop Day 2013.  This was before my first Gen Con, #GetOutAndGame, Disney Numenera, and the Living 4 Crits blog.  But it was the event that started our drive to create the Norwin Game Knights.  

While we sat around the table playing Settlers of Catan, my wife and I talked a little about how much fun it would be to have a larger event in 2014.  Given the turnout around the world, we believed that International Tabletop Day would become an annual event.  While playing games with our family was very satisfying, we really wanted to share the love that we had for gaming with others.  

First event!

It took a while for the concept to brew, but by August of 2013, we decided to create a group with the following simple parameters:

  • The group had to be family friendly
  • The group would be inclusive of all players
  • The group would represent all tabletop games
  • The group would be free

Using the local community Facebook group All About the Norwin Area, I wrote a post gauging interest in a community based gaming group.  Much to my surprise, several dozen people replied to the first post, and I quickly threw together a Facebook Group.  The Norwin Game Knights were born!  

We held our first monthly event at the Norwin Public Library in September, 2013.  My wife and I brought our two daughters, and a few Thirty-One bags full of games.  While we knew that a couple of our close gamer-friends would show, we kept our fingers crossed that some new folks would come.  Including my family, about a dozen people showed up to play Hero Quest, Risk, Settlers of Catan, Zombie Dice, and some traditional card games.  

In our new game-home!

It took a lot of promoting on Facebook, and several dozen flyers to get the word out for our October event.  We kept most of our original gamers, and even had a few new faces!  We also found our "home", in the basement of the Circleville United Methodist Church!

Numenera Night!

Given the popularity of Hero Quest, I decided to break out a "real" role-playing game that November, and ran a one-shot session of Numenera.  It was my first time playing the Cypher System, and for half of our players it was their very first time trying an RPG!  We converted a lot of new RPG aficionados that night!

International Tabletop Day 2014

Each event brought new families, new friends, and most importantly new players!  On International Tabletop Day 2014, the anniversary of our "idea seed", over thirty gamers came out to the Norwin Public Library to play, laugh, eat, share stories, and create new tales.  Most of the new attendees would become club regulars!  When the event ended, a lot of our members went home and continued to play until late into the evening.  

We haven't stopped since.  

Celebrating Irwin's 150th Anniversary Parade

Creating Your Own Game Club

Maybe you already belong to a local game club, or you have a friendly local game store that hosts events.  Terrific!  What a great way to get together all throughout the year and try new games!  But if you don't have a group like this, it may be easier than you think to create a club to share your favorite hobby!

Want to give it a shot?  Just a few tips:

  • Determine a Niche:  If you already have a few locations nearby where gamers gather, what will set your group apart?  For us, we believe the "Family Friendly" nature of the Norwin Game Knights works great.
  • Get the Word Out:  Use social media, community Facebook groups, coffee shop bulletin boards, any means necessary to let people know you are starting a game club.
  • Find an Inexpensive Location:  After a while you may get some folks who will chip in for a better site, but when you start don't put yourself in a hole financially.  We initially looked at some pretty expensive places, such as fire halls and community centers, but decided to keep things modest.  Don't be afraid to ask your friends and family for suggestions… and maybe some favors… to find a good site.  That's how we came upon our location.  In the end, if you do get a good deal on a location, be sure to treat it with respect and take care of your new gaming home.
  • Lower Your Expectations:  Unless you have a significant "in" with a lot of gamers in your community, it will take time for your group to grow.  The Norwin Game Knights' goals are simple: at least one fresh face per event.  Word will get our eventually.
  • Don't Expect to Play the Games You Want to Play:  If you create your own game club, you are taking on the responsibility of being host (unless you con someone else into doing it!)  This means that YOU need to make sure your new gamers are having a good time, which may mean playing games that you typically wouldn't.
  • Make Sure Everyone Has a Good Time:  See that family in the corner that came to your first event, just sitting there by themselves?  You are the host, dangit!  Go get them into a game!  At the Norwin Game Knights we try to tell our veteran players to include new gamers whenever possible.  
If you are already in a successful game club, please let us know and share your stories!  We'd love to hear from you!  

Also, as a reminder, International Tabletop Day 2015 is soon approaching!  If you happen to live in the Pittsburgh Area, the Norwin Game Knights will be hosting an 11am-5pm event at Circleville United Methodist Church in North Huntingdon, PA on April 11, 2015!  

We'd love to see you at our big event!  

Last night's Open Game Night drew more players than last year's Tabletop Day.  Boo yah!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

7 Gaming Complaints

I was trying to think up a topic to write about yesterday evening, and was whining to my pals on Google+ about my lack of inspiration.  Our conversation drifted from me whining to discussing my specific gripes, and Michael suggested that I write out my complaints.  Now, while I'd love to list my "personal" complaints about life, the universe, and all that stuff, I doubt you'd want to read about those.  

So instead, I give you my complaints about my gaming life!

PS:  Michael, this one's for you!

1)  Too Many Great Games, Not Enough Time:  When I was younger I was broke but had hours of free time each week, typically spent zoning out in front of episodes of Exo-Squad and Saved by the Bell.  At 35, I can afford most games easily, or at least justify big purchases to my very considerate wife!  But for every incredible game like Savage Worlds or Numenera that I get to play regularly, there are a dozen or so that I just don't have time to crack open.  Some I own (Mouse Guard, Firefly), some I don't (Fate, Shadowrun).  Just not enough time.  My only hope is that one day, when I retire, I'll get the chance to make up for lost time.  Or I'll just be busy playing Numenera 5th Edition, or fighting with folks who prefer Numenera 6th Edition.  

Speaking of which… 

2)  Edition Wars:  Nothing worse than making a comment on Facebook about my time spent playing 4th Edition, only to have someone post about their hatred for the system.  Yes, I played 4th Edition D&D for nearly four years… and yes, I enjoyed it.  Very much so, in fact!  The same goes for 2nd Edition fans bashing 3rd Edition, 1st Edition bashing 2nd… so on and so forth.  What's the point?  Play what you want, and if you can find others to play your game, that's awesome!  

Just don't expect me to play 5th Edition anytime soon.

3)  Sam's Club Tortilla Chips, aka "Mouth Cutters":  When I was growing up, my dad used to buy these corn chips from Sam's Club.  They were simple, yellow, round, and heavy on the salt.  Since they were just wide enough to almost fit in your mouth, they'd scratch the sides of your mouth if you'd eat them.  We called them "Mouth Cutters", and they were a staple of my mid-90's gaming escapades.  It's the only snack my parents would pay for regularly. 

I still get nightmares.

4)  Fantasy Flight Games' X-Wing Miniatures Game:  I've never played X-Wing, and don't intend to.  For this, I am ashamed.  So, so ashamed.  Remember when I said that I could afford most games as a 35 year old adult?  This is the one game I can't touch.  Not because the barrier to entry is too high, but because I know I couldn't control myself once I started.  For this, X-Wing makes my list!

Maybe if I sell a few things I can buy the starter set and just a ship or two… or ten.

5)  The AGE System's Dice Mechanic after 10pm:  Over the last two weeks I've played in +Marc Plourde's "Cinco con Queso" game (sequel to "Quattro con Carnage") as Kaezoh, a dwarven warrior.  Marc featured Green Ronin Games' Dragon Age RPG system (AGE system) for this portion of our campaign, and overall I enjoyed the experience.  But its on this list, so there had to be something I didn't like right?  Yes… the dice mechanic after "bed time".  Maybe its just me, but I just can't count pips on a die after 10pm.  Last night I heard myself say "I rolled a four, five, and a six so I got a… uh… fifteen?"  Why did I end in a question?  I should've just known!  

I'm slipping!  

6)  Kickstarter Ditching Amazon Payments:  As you may have read, Kickstarter recently switched from Amazon to Stripe for payments.  While this may not seem like a big deal, it's just one more company that gets to have my credit card information.  There are a few projects that I plan on backing soon, but having to make this switch has kept me from "impulse backing".

Saving money on impulse backing, however, may help me with complaint #4.

7)  Fighting Over the PC and Xbox:  My three kids have completely taken over all of the gaming platforms in my house save for my iPad and Nintendo DSi.  If my son isn't playing Broforce my eldest daughter is playing Terraria.  When I hang my head, bummed that I can't play some Kerbal Space Program I wander into the living room hoping to jump on Dragon Age 3 only to find my middle-daughter playing Disney Infinity.  What the heck?  I wonder if I can convince my wife to let me buy a New Nintendo 3DS XL.

At least I could play the new Fire Emblem.  

I think this is enough for right now.  Perhaps I feel a bit better.  Care to vent a little?  Feel free to do so right here!  No judgements!

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Cypher GM's Writer's Block

We’ve all been there.  It’s a week until game-day, and you are staring at a blank piece of paper or computer monitor trying to come up with a somewhat coherent plot for your crazy group of players.  You’ve run several incredible adventures so far, but are stumbling when it comes to this next quest.  You’d love to turn to a published module, but nothing on your shelf fits the current state of your campaign.  The clock is ticking.  Do you cancel the session?  Is it time to restart the campaign?  

What do you do?

GM’s Note:  To be clear, for the purposes of this blog post, I’m just talking about published settings (Numenera, Deadlands, Ravenloft, etc.), since you have all of the materials ready to go.  Writing a campaign setting from scratch is a whole other animal!

I often have six or seven potentially amazing ideas brewing in my noggin right now for incredible new campaigns.  If all of my current ongoing campaigns were to end right now, and I was forced to cook something up from scratch for the weekend, it would be an absolute breeze.  I’m sure this is the same for most GM’s.  Starting a new campaign, especially in a published setting, is relatively easy.  Sure it’s a lot of busy work, but adventure design is much simpler when you are working with a completely blank slate.  You may have a lot of reading to do, especially if you’ve never read the setting materials, but ideas are going to be exploding in your face every second as you flip through those rulebooks.

With fresh characters and a shiny new campaign setting a GM can freely choose:

  • Starting the campaign with a published adventure
  • Starting the campaign along a published plot-point-campaign or adventure path
  • Adapting a published adventure to an original plot
  • Developing a home brewed adventure using published maps/resources
  • Developing a home brewed adventure from scratch

Even if the players come to the table with some very well developed character backstories, a GM can either integrate these into the adventure, or suggest a player to shelve ideas until a more opportune time in the campaign.

But for an established campaign, working with published materials becomes more complicated:

  • Published adventures may not fit the current campaign model
  • Plot-point-campaigns and/or adventure paths may fit the campaign setting, but could be designed for much lower level characters
  • Party backstory conflicts with published adventures/plot-point campaigns/adventure paths because all of the characters are completely off the wall-crazy and their players love to break the plot.

Note that last bullet-point.  Those are my typical players.  

Need some New Numenera

This was my challenge earlier in the week when I was trying to put some ink to paper for our Numenera: Tales of the Broken Mask campaign.  Back in December we shelved the campaign for the holidays, but had every intention of returning to the Ninth World at some point in early 2015.  With Quattro con Carnage winding down, we decided to aim for March, at the end of +Marc Plourde’s run of Cinqo con Queso.   

When we last left our pary, they had just learned the hard way that the organization they served, a guild of mutant bounty hunters called the “Broken Mask”, was not only sinister, but incredibly cruel and unjust.  An innocent child the characters had stolen as a bargaining chip in a feud with the Order of Truth, was forcibly mutated into a pathetic, wormlike pet, to serve a high ranking guild official.  It seemed like the party was done with the Broken Mask, and the next logical extension of the campaign was to take the party elsewhere in the Ninth World, as they would certainly not be welcome in Nihliesh any longer.  

As a game-master I love when players come up with new and exciting ideas on the fly that I can turn into future adventures.  Typically, I would’ve asked for suggestions at the end of Session 10, and plotted the next adventure accordingly.  But with a three-month break in the campaign, returning to the table would be the start of a whole new season… a reboot of the series.  In addition, I was adding two new players to the group, expanding our crew to six.  

I considered running the players through The Devil’s Spine, but one of the players was already familiar with the adventure.  Without any other published Numenera adventures, I had to sit down and write something out from scratch…

… but the words weren’t there.  

From Monday to Thursday this week I had a small pad of paper with me that I carried around everywhere I went.  I would jot down notes at breakfast, lunch, after the kids went to bed, during Tuesday’s Cinqo con Queso game when I wasn’t busy missing hellhounds with my bastard sword.  On Monday here were my notes:

  • New campaign to start in Qi.  
  • Consider city-based campaign concept similar to Dragon Age 2 and Kirkwall
  • Party hiding out, away from Broken Mask, taking odd jobs
  • Andreas’ character a Qi resident and possible forensic surgeon.  Source of creature hunting side-quests.
  • Add Jeremy’s character somehow.  Going with bard-type, perhaps local band?  Source of entertainment side-quests.  

Wednesday morning I added the following:

  • Make Andreas’ house weird.  Maybe have it be a living creature’s stomach.

That’s it.  

Certainly I have more written on the pages afterwards, but nothing that I was going to keep.  I have line upon line of ideas, but either they conflicted with previous campaign concepts, or they were just garbage, cliché, or NOT weird enough to be Numenera.  My only significant plot outlines were for the side-quests, not a main story.  How was I going to come up with the next series of meaningful plot points?

The Brilliance of Andy

+andrew lyon and I have been playing together for about a year.  We met at the Norwin Game Knights during a Numenera demo, and soon after he joined my playtest for The Strange.  We’ve been gaming together ever since!  Andy is a terrific sounding board for my adventure writing, and has no problem telling me when an idea needs to go back to the drawing board.  Hat’s off to my good friend for an end-of-day chat on Wednesday, when I was kicking myself for not having something meaningful for the next game:

Jim:  “I have no idea what we are going to do in Numenera in two weeks.”

Andy:  “LOL”

Jim:  “I had a hastily crafted plot but hated it.  Now I’m just like… “shit”.”

Andy:  “Dive into Ninth World Assassins or Whisper Campaigns for inspiration.”

Jim:  “I’ve been through all of that.  Have lots of cool side questy stuff.”

Andy:  “Side quests might be good for a party with new players.  Maybe something on a side quest will make itself into a main quest.”  

Hot damn, he had it!  I was so focused on creating some magnificent storyline, something broad and far-reaching, that I didn’t even consider just writing the next session or two.  My wheels were spinning when I tried cramming for six to ten sessions, but once I just focused on a single idea for a side quest, everything flowed freely.  I finished writing the plot outline last night, and over the next few days should add enough meat to make this a four-session adventure.  It may even be longer if the players choose to explore options within their own backstories.   So that simple “side quest” became the longer story-arc that I was looking for all along!  

Andy’s advice also reminded me that while it’s the game-master’s job to create the foundation for an adventure and campaign, it’s really the players who create the story.  I was fretting about not having the opportunity to riff off of the characters’ actions given the three-month break.  Injecting a simple side-quest would help introduce the new players, and reintroduce the existing characters to the world.  After one session, our crew of exiled bounty-hunters could be at it again, doing what they do best: causing chaos, carnage, and destruction.  

Group Huddle

How do you deal with GM writer’s block?  Has it ever put a serious kink in an existing campaign?  If you’ve never faced this hurdle, what helps you keep your adventures fresh each session?  Let us know!

If you just happen to be looking for a published adventure that could fit a Numenera campaign of any Tier, take a look at +John Marvin's "The Sun Below: City on the Edge", a tremendous "scalable" adventure.  

Finally, we will be starting Numenera: Pulse on March 3rd.  It’ll feature some great material and locales from Monte Cook Games’ brand new Ninth World Guidebook.  Expect the full play-reports and adventure recaps that I always do!  

 and thanks Andy… I owe you one!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Summer Gaming Vacation

Thinking About Summer Gaming Vacations

Last July, my wife Jennifer and I dragged the family on a short trip to Penn State University.  The two of us met in Happy Valley way back in August of 1997, and we enjoy making the trip back to Penn State just to bounce around and see what's changed over the years.  This last trip was unique in that it would be the first time our kids would get a chance to explore the campus with us.  

We had our sightseeing planned, and some dining, but one of the special moments for the family was sitting down to play Saboteur in the HUB and Love Letter in front of the Penn State Creamery.  During our time at Penn State, my wife and I were both involved in the Gaming Association of Penn State.  I even did a short stint as the club president.  Every Tuesday we met in the HUB for Crimson Skies and Battletech, and each weekend was HUB Late Night, featuring non-stop board gaming, card gaming, and RPG's.  Showing these locations to our kids, and sharing our tales from the past, was of a tour of their geek heritage.  

Of course gaming while on vacation is nothing new to us.  We played Numenera at Disney World last February, and there will always be the summer of #GetOutAndGame.  But as we are enduring this terribly cold and bitter winter chill, our thoughts turn to summer, and I'm thinking about new ways to experience gaming while on vacation.  

I'm grateful to have a supportive extended family that will occasionally play some awesome games with us, and many of them live far, far away from Pittsburgh.  Also, we've made some great friends through the Google+ community, and at Gen Con 2014 I had the opportunity to meet some of you!  Here are some of the ideas that have been stirring around my head as ways to enjoy a summer gaming vacation:

  • Game-Camping:  I suggested this last year as part of #GetOutAndGame but it just never happened.  Even so, it would be pretty awesome to find some isolated campground, build a great fire, and run some Savage Worlds: Accursed at night!
  • Following Cons:  My wife and I are already planning on attending Gen Con 2015, but maybe there are some other conventions we need to consider, as a family.
  • Destination Gaming:  Is there a gaming haven out there that we need to find?  Perhaps somewhere close to where our other gamer-friends across the country live?  Road trip!  
  • The Grand Tour:  Finally there is the ultimate gaming vacation.  We actually kicked this one around and are seriously considering it.  Our kids have never been west of Ohio, and we know a lot of gamers in the mid-west.  It could be pretty cool to arrange a sight-seeing tour of the "west" while planning meet ups with some of our favorite gaming pals.  

Are these ideas crazy and/or outlandish in a good way or a bad way?  What did I miss?  What would you recommend?  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Recharging the GM’s Batteries

It is someone fitting that this is my 150th blog post! 

This past weekend was supposed to be centered around an epic game of The Strange, where my players would get to explore the world of Dark Sun, AD&D 2ndEd.’s epic sword & sandal campaign setting from the 1990’s.  It's been nearly a month since the last session, and my friends were pretty excited to get back into character.  With the game being held on Valentine’s Day, I even planned to inject some Thri-Kreen romance into the session.   But by last Thursday morning I found myself afflicted with a most terrible malady:  GM Burnout.

A completely non-medical, unofficial study performed by during a lunch break, defined GM Burnout as a condition where “running RPG sessions could lead to unnecessary TPK’s (total party kills) due to game-master inattention to system mechanic details and/or ‘not giving a crap’ about the current cast of broken, min-maxed characters.”  

All jokes aside, GM Burnout should probably be described as the point where running an RPG session is more of a chore than a hobby.  I will be the first to admit that I run a lot of RPG sessions, and perhaps take the hobby too far at times.   While I have on occasion been quite proud, and even boastful about the amount of gaming I do, I try to stay mindful of my work-game-life balance whenever possible.  

To put this in another perspective, by last Thursday this was the schedule that my players were looking at for weekend RPG’ing:

  • Saturday 1pm – 5pm, playing The Strange at Jim’s house

But from my perspective, this was how the weekend was looking:

  • Friday 9:30pm – 11pm, finish adventure details for The Strange/Dark Sun recursion
  • Saturday 12pm – 1pm, help wife straighten up around the house and prepare snacks while organizing all play materials.
  • Saturday 1pm – 5pm, playing The Strange
  • Saturday 5pm – 6pm, wrap up adventure notes, clean up
  • Sunday 9am – 11am, write adventure summary on blog (yes this can take up to two-hours)

Please do not take this as some kind of “woe is me” sort of comparison.  I love gaming, and I love being a game-master.  I just want to point out to new gamers looking to take a seat “behind the screen” that running a campaign can be taxing on your time and energy.  Unfortunately I don’t get paid (yet) to game-master, so when my real world job became more hectic at the beginning of last week, something had to give.  

Home Remedies

For any of my players reading this, don’t worry, I’m not throwing in the towel.  I ended up spending the entire weekend relaxing and hanging with my family.  But this was also a fantastic opportunity to pull in some fresh ideas for future games, and really recharge my batteries.  Also, with my portion of Quattro con Carnage coming to its finale last week, it looks like I’ve got a full week off from GM’ing, and I may just take advantage of that time as well.  

So what did I do this past weekend?  And what do I plan on doing for the rest of this week?  

Electronic Gaming:  The downside of my crazy tabletop RPG routine is that the time has to come from somewhere.  For me, the first thing to suffer is my PC and console gaming.  For much of this past weekend I decided to buckle down and start playing Bioshock 2 again.  I finished the original Bioshock about eighteen months ago, and knocked out Bioshock Infinite this past summer.  I have a lot of games that I need to finish, and chose Bioshock 2 because the clash of mad science and technology reminds me of Numenera.  Our Tales of the Broken Mask campaign kicks into full gear again next month, and I wanted to get back into the mood.  

I also picked up Broforce last night on Steam.  I’m pretty sure that Brobocop, Bro Dredd, and Snake Broskin are going to show up in a future game of The Strange.  Or I’ll turn the whole dang thing into a Savage Worlds campaign.  Just in case, I went and purchased Strike Force 7, a GI Joe inspired Savage Worlds setting.  You’ve been warned!

Board Games:  Tonight we’re planning on a family game of Takenoko.  Even though we bought the boardgame as a Christmas gift for my kids a year ago, we still never got around to playing.  I instructed my wife and daughters, who were all home today, to learn the rules so that we could play as a family later tonight.  Looking forward to a relaxing, panda-themed evening, although I’m not sure how this is going to work its way into RPG-universe.  

Books:   The Ninth World Guidebook showed up at my house last week, so that was really cool!  The latest supplement for Monte Cook Games’ Numenera greatly expands upon the Ninth World, adding entirely new regions, peoples, creatures, and threats.  There is even a map of the supercontinent which, if you haven’t seen it, will blow your mind completely.  Most RPG sourcebooks get a quick glance through, and then they are stored on my shelf for future use; Numenera books are always given a full cover-to-cover read when they arrive.  

Cinco con Queso:  If you haven’t heard already, +Marc Plourde is going to be running our Quattro con Carnage characters through one more two-session spin using Green Ronin’s Dragon Age rules!  After GM’ing eight sessions, it will be fantastic to experience the Tannryth setting as a player, with my character standing side-by-side with the legendary PC’s who saved the world from Magrizt last week!  I’ll be playing Kaezoh, a Dwarf Warrior fighting with a sword and shield.  

Miscellaneous Goodness:  Had a great time this past weekend running, despite the sub-zero temperatures.  My wife bought me this cool head-garment-thing that covers my face while I’m running, granting me some kind of bonus to my Vigor checks.  Also, I doubled up on martial arts last week, attending an extra Aikido class this past Saturday.  Got to watch Watchmen again this weekend, and did a little binge watching of both Agent Carter and Boardwalk Empire.  This all culminated in Downton Abbey last night… which I never miss… because Bates is a friggin’ badass.  

So how do you all unwind, recuperate, and recharge between your epic RPG sessions?  Where do you turn for inspiration?  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Quattro con Carnage - Session 8 - Numenera

Spending Effort All the Way to the Finish Line

This last session of Quattro con Carnage continues using Numenera and The Cypher System.  It has been a long and crazy trip through these four systems, and I'm about spent.  I enjoy game-mastering all of these terrific systems, but switching every two weeks is quite challenging.  If there is one regret that I have through the experiment, its my handling of experience and advancement.

My initial plan was to track these characters from system to system and see how they changed and evolved as the rules switched.  But attempting to have characters at roughly the same power level for eight adventures didn't allow us to look at natural advancement.  Over the course of eight games the characters progressed as follows:

  1. Basic Fantasy RPG: 3rd Level
  2. Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG:  2nd Level
  3. Savage Worlds:  Seasoned (20xp)
  4. Numenera:  (2nd Tier)

I would take this a step further, and say that manipulating the characters in this fashion caused a decrease in power from Savage Worlds to Numenera due to a lack of experience points.  In the Cypher System, at the end of each adventure characters gain multiple experience points. This in-game currency can be spent on advances, but it can also be saved for re-rolls,  much like Savage Worlds' bennies.  But in Savage Worlds, bennies replenish at the beginning of each game session, and experience is tracked separately.  Since I had ruled early on that we would not be tracking experience points in any system, I hampered the characters during last week's game.  The only experience points I gave out during session 7 came from GM Intrusions.  I should have handled this differently.

Oh well.  

Dramatis Personae con Carnage

Umbrin, played by Jeremy
A guard-for-hire from Tannryth once in the employee of a wealthy Archon
  • a Hardy Glaive who Looks for Trouble

Lomman Senan, played by Marc
A devout crusader of Ogmios looking enforce some "justice healing"
  • an Honorable Jack who Works Miracles

Rydian Ornitiar, played by Andy
An Aarenian relic-hunter who longs to recover a lost family artifact
  • a Mystical Nano who Wields Power with Precision 

Jorin Everlast, played by Craig
A pilfering initiate to the Embrace who just "made bones" 
  • a Clever Jack who Works the Back Alleys 

Drogos, played by Andreas
Dwarven blacksmith, last survivor of Happenstance, and holy convert to Ogmios
  • a Tough Jack who Masters Weaponry
  • Demigod:  a Tough Nano who Controls Gravity 

Hit Me Baby One More Time

The stairs leading out of the Lost Chasm were long and winding, working their way up through stone and soil.  It was a grueling ascent, lasting hour upon hour.  Occasionally the steps would break into an open cavern, but after several minutes of searching, they continued on the other side.  Eventually this route led to a dead end, a simple wall made of large stone blocks.  Rydian examined the stones, and realized that there was a small gap allowing light to enter the chamber from the opposite side.  Using his spell of Cutting Light, the elf started to cut one of the blocks free but stopped abruptly.

Someone was on the other side of the wall!

Peering through a small hole now cut into stone, Rydian saw a large underground temple.  A raised platform stretched one-hundred feet from one side of the temple to the other.  Below the platform lay thirty piles of fresh soil, each marked with a single gravestone.  The voices were coming from the opposite side of the chamber, where seven blue-robed monks were softly chanting to the sleeping gods.  

Rydian proceeded to carve away one of the stones, and broke it open on the floor.  Inside was a perfectly round ball of obsidian, well balanced from the Cutting Light spell.  Grabbing the orb, Lomman carefully took a spare wooden rod and affixed the stone to one end…

… and so we have the origin of the Gavel of Night Justice.

[GM's Note:  Gavel of Night Justice, Artifact, 5 damage, if the user spends any effort on additional damage, they may choose to have this damage affect another creature in the room instead of the target.  Depletes 1 on a d10]

After dealing with dire halflings, a blizzard, an ice demon, and fleshy ghosts, Umbrin, Lomman, Rydian, Jorin, and Drogos weren't going to let a bunch of cultists stand in their way to freedom!  The team readied their gear, and charged through the wall prepared for action!  But as the party broke free, Umbrin looked back and saw a statue was that of a demonic seahorse.

"Stop!" Umbrin shouted to everyone, friend and foe alike.  "We come from Magrizt!"

This gave the monks a pause, and so one stepped forward.  He introduced himself as Xivit, and asked to speak with the leader of the party.  Given his status as a priest, Lomman the crusader approached the cultist, still clinging to his weapon and shield.  Xivit asked to take Lomman to his leader.  Lomman could keep his weapons, and the rest of his party would not be harmed.  This seemed reasonable, so Lomman agreed and followed Xivit to the next chamber.  

Xivit introduced Lomman to Thonathan, likely the most affable cultist ever to exist in Tannryth.  Thonathan explained to Lomman that his coming was part of a prophecy handed down for centuries.  The blizzard, the trek to the Lost Chasm, Sashiria, and the statue of Magrizt, this was all foretold on an old scroll.  Lomman seemed somewhat skeptical, but when he read the document for himself it was all there… including a short passage on the awakening of Magrizt.  Thonathan seemed absolutely tickled about the last part, especially since the party came with the "sacrifice", the "one who cannot die."  

The prophecy seemed to infer that Drogos the death-dodging dwarf would need to be sacrificed to Magrizt for the awakening god to return to Tannryth.  Actually, it went further to state that the result of the sacrifice would somehow imbue Drogos with godlike powers in the end.  Thonathan offered Lomman the opportunity to discuss the prophecy with the rest of the party, and give Drogos the choice of whether or not he would submit himself to the cult of Magrizt.  The cult leader even gave some wine and sausages to Lomman to take back to his party.  

Thonathan had no fear of being double-crossed, for everything was foretold!

Surprisingly, Drogos seemed rather open to the idea of being sacrificed.  The dwarf had proven himself curious to the point of having a death-wish, so this situation was no more different than others.  After taking a few minutes to think the whole process over, and asking several times how much being sacrificed would hurt, Drogos agreed!  The dwarf was led to the area near the base of the statue of Magrizt and the rest of the party was offered a place to watch the rebirth of a sleeping deity.  

The process started with Drogos being given the "Juice of Thirty" to drink, a concoction created from the bodies of thirty dead dwarves now buried in the temple.  This caused Drogos to sway back and forth in a dream state and eventually vomit up some of his own organs.  Then an ethereal Magrizt came from out of the statue, and tore Drogos' soul away from his body.  Drogos' body slumped over as the soul was tossed aside.  Once Magrizt took physical form, as a thirty food tall, serrated claw wielding demonic seahorse, he consumed the dead body of Drogos and started eating the cultists!  

Well our brave adventurers weren't going let some poor, kindly cultists get killed without dishing out some revenge on the demonic seahorse that ate their friend's soul! 

Lomman let loose with a holy smite against Magrizt's corporeal form while Umbrin drew his battle axe and charged the terrifying creature.  Meanwhile Rydian and Jorin stood back and let loose with spell and arrow.  While Jorin's missiles struck true, Rydian's cutting light had no effect on the terrible monstrosity.  Realizing that he was facing multiple dangerous attackers, Magrizt belched a scalding mist amongst the group.  This attack didn't repel the warrior and cleric, who were still hacking away.  Umbrin's axe eventually started hitting bone, so Magrizt changed tactics.  The awakened god focused all of his attacks on the warrior, knocking Umbrin to his knees in less than a second.  While Lomman tried to heal Umbrin, Ryidan started blasting the ceiling above Magrizt's head, causing large blocks to rain down and smash the demon's skull.  

The party wasn't sure how much more they could take before their numbers would start to dwindle… and that's when they heard a familiar voice.

"I've returned!"  

The bellowing shout came from the far side of the temple.  It was a massive dwarven form, twelve feet tall, with shining gold skin, standing completely naked.  

"Drogos!" the party exclaimed together.

While he was "dead", the souls of the thirty dead dwarves, and all of their own ancestors, were transferred to Drogos giving him incredible power.  With a twinkle in his demi-godlike eye, Drogos leapt across the chamber, and started raining heavenly pain upon the demonic seahorse.  But Drogos' actions were not without ramifications to the rest of his former teammates.  The brilliant golden light of Drogos crashing against Magrizt's red, seahorsey energies caused ripples of destruction that harmed everyone else in the room. 

Enough was enough!  Umbrin wasn't going to let a common, dwarven blacksmith turned demigod take the credit for sending Magrizt back to his slumber.  The human warrior hefted his battle-axe for what could've been the last time, and threw all of his weight behind one final blow.  The axe struck true!  Blood and viscera splashed all about Umbrin, and Magrizt groaned in pain…

… but he still towered over the warrior, standing strong…

… and then a block of stone struck Magrizt in the head…

… and he died.

In the end Rydian, the valiant elven spell caster, figured out that while Magrizt was resistant against his cutting light, stones blocks cut free by the spell were quite effective against the demonic seahorse's noggin.  Pragmatism trumped valor, as a long sleeping deity returned to a dream state once again.  While Lomman helped the party heal, everyone looked at Drogos wondering what he was going to do.  

The ancestor spirits possessing Drogos were giving him a choice.  The dwarf could embrace his status as a new god of the dwarves, or he could return to life as a revenant.  Drogos chose to be the first god of the dwarves, and bid his party goodbye as the ground began to rumble.  As the temple crashed about them, the team ran outside dodging stone and column.  Once outside, everyone turned, and saw the gargantuan structure fall apart, with only one form left standing:  

An obsidian statue of a giant naked dwarf.  

Most Notable Quotations

"So we are sitting around eating shawarma?" - Craig, after Jim said that the last session was taking place in the end credits

"Did you say happy as a clam or happy in a clam?" - Marc doesn't know clam from oyster.  

Andy - "There is a presence?"
Marc - "Did somebody say 'presents'?  Santa?"

"Maybe we should just smash through the wall and say 'oh yeah!'" - Marc was preparing for a frontal attack.  

"Apparently Ogmios felt bad for being such a dick last week." - Jeremy may have been right.

"Dwarves are your friends… not food." - Andreas was hoping to make a case with the cultists.  

"He's one of Magrizt's witnesses?" - Marc's take on Xivit.

"I'm right here, guys!" - Drogos didn't like the party talking negatively about him.

"As long as its not painful…" - Drogos was all in to be sacrificed.

"First thing that comes to mind is Dr. Manhattan… I'm a dwarfy Dr. Manhattan." - Andreas was digging the whole demigod thing.  

"Finally, the Shield of the New Mountain gets to do something!" - Marc was thrilled to finally take a breath weapon to the face.  

Jim - "It's a 12' tall dwarf!" 
Marc - "Is that kind of like a dire halfing?"

"I think since there has never been a dwarven god, I'm going to pursue my dream…" - Andreas was ready to take the next step.  

"… the Burt Reynolds." - Jeremy described Drogos' statue.  

"I saved that god's life twice." - Jeremy was right.  

Behind the Schemes

We had a great string of rolls tonight!  I think there were at least four "18's" thrown, and quite a few "19's".  Probably a natural "20" as well.  Since many of these rained down during the final battle with Magrizt, it went a lot easier than I thought!  Even though Umbrin was on the verge of death, really I was expecting to lose at least one player character during the battle.  I cheated a bit and gave Magrizt (who was a re-skinned Jabberwock from The Strange) double Health, a total of 64 including 4 points of armor.  True, it was pretty easy to hit him, but with all of the "effort" and incredible hits, Magrizt couldn't stay standing for long.

At the end of the campaign I wanted to give the players the option to permanently change the Tannryth: Realm of … Something campaign setting.  Drogos becoming a god was that change.  The dwarves in this campaign didn't have a god, they worshipped their own ancestors.  So Drogos now being the "new god on the block" would certainly change the theological elements of the campaign.  We plan on using Tannryth for future campaigns, including +Marc Plourde's upcoming Cinqo con Queso adventure, which means we could have a player character that actually worships Drogos.

Since I'm becoming a "player" I may have to consider my new characters' deity.  

Miss a Quattro con Carnage Post?  

All of the fun so far: