Sunday, August 27, 2017

Player Perspective - Intrigue at the Court of Chaos

From the Other Side of the Screen

Typically in Dungeon Crawl Classics I'm experiencing the game exclusively from the Judge's (game master's) perspective. Between scheduled events at Gen Con and our regular DCC Road Crew extravaganzas at Phantom of the Attic or the Norwin Game Knights, it's not often that I get to break out my weird dice and enjoy the glorious carnage as one of the peons. I often dream of getting chewed on by demons and tentacled monstrosities, only to wake up to the realization that it's game day, and I'm the one behind the screen. 

Judge Michael is tough but fair!

So when we had a few players not show up for this month's Road Crew event, I was incredibly eager to try out Intrigue at the Court of Chaos by +Michael Curtis! First off, this was an adventure that I hadn't read yet, and second, it was being game mastered by my good friend Judge +Michael Bolam.

I'm so friggin' glad that we were short on players this month!

The Play-Doh had a purpose in the game

Just to be clear, this wasn't just one of the best Dungeon Crawl Classics events that I've enjoyed as a player... it may have been one of the best player experiences in any role-playing game. I'm going to try and not be spoiler'ish here, and I wasn't intending to do a full write up and review, but just a few quick notes:

  1. Intrigue at the Court of Chaos is a first level adventure that, from my perspective, seems perfect for convention or road crew play.
  2. This is an adventure for every player class. Our party consisted of an Elf, Warrior, Wizard, Halfling, Cleric, and Thief. We all had roles, and I think everyone had a great time playing their parts.
  3. There are SO many opportunities for inter-player conflict (and carnage). I think we ended up with two player character deaths, and three of the other PC's almost died at some point in the game. 
  4. Seriously, go get this module.

Oh, the best part... this was my first time in Dungeon Crawl Classics playing a Cleric!

Allow me to introduce you to Sister Serenia.  As the lone Lawful character in the adventure, this module was especially challenging. Again, no spoilers, but alignment factors in very, very significantly in this adventure.

I chose Ulesh as my deity, the God of Peace.  I really wanted to fully embrace the whole "Cleric of a Peace Deity" thing, so I decided on the following:

  • As a Cleric of Ulesh, I could not do harm willingly to another soul. So my character was a vegan.
  • But I had hide armor, a backpack, and a large sack. Where did these come from? Well the Sisterhood of Ulesh all agreed that when they died their own flesh could be turned willingly into "leather" for use by other sisters.
  • So I was wearing a deceased member of my own order.

Pretty crazy, right? Kind of a sick and twisted take on lawful pacifism.

Evie even did a portrait...

Kind of a long story with that one.  Here are some of the other characters from our game.

Here's Olga the Fist our party's Warrior played by +Stefan F.

Who can forget poor Slips the Halfling, RIP (played by Jason.)

And of course there was Evie's character, Beer-ic! the Wizard, with his trusty goat Rooty.

Evie didn't do pictures for Christopher's Elf Helvira, or John's Thief Thom, but they were both there.

Unfortunately Slips didn't make it.

It really shouldn't surprise anyone that the last character standing in the last scene, and therefore the one that "won" the adventure was Evie.

This adventure is definitely a "must buy", chock full of puzzles but with a good smattering of combat and fighting. But if you're not a Judge, and are a player, maybe you should be nice to your GM and pick up a copy for them.  

Like as a gift, for all their hard work.

Thanks Michael for such a great game today!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Living 4 Crits @ Gen Con 50

The Big Gen Con 50 Photo Dump

Another year, another Gen Con. It's not often that I feel like time flies, but didn't I just post one of these things recently? I'll warn you now: there are a lot of pictures this year. But I felt like I just couldn't leave anything out. Frankly, this is probably more for me than for your, but I know that my kids went back and read last year's post-Gen Con blog post, so it's kind of for them as well.

Anyway, enough stalling.  On to the pictures!


We left for Gen Con 50 just like last year: in our crimson chariot adorned with nerdy window chalk! We even had a few cars honk and wave on us. Strangely enough, more cars did this on the way back, but maybe that's because we left on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.

Anyone who has driven from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis knows that this is a terribly boring drive.  Not much happening on Route 70.


After a quick morning swim, an hour at Tilt, and lunch at Panera, it was time to start meeting with people. One of our first official meetings was with the Goodman Games. I came to Gen Con 50 prepared to run four Dungeon Crawl Classics sessions. So I got some swag for my players, and a pair of kickass "Judge James" pins! 

+Joseph Goodman and +Jon Hershberger are so frigging incredible! Even though Evie wasn't running any games directly for Goodman Games, she was running a session of DCCRPG for Contessa on Saturday. As the Goodman team handed out GM packets, they eventually called Evie's name. She got her own swag, and a super-special "Judge Evie" shirt!

Our next meet up was with Monte Cook Games. Evie and I were both signed up for booth demos. The meeting was at the Marriott, which was under renovation. But at least they brought out this cool suit of armor.

Before leaving the Indianapolis Convention Center Wednesday, the kiddos had to offer a little effort towards the Cardhalla dislay.


This is a picture of a DCCRPG Judge who forgets each year that it's actually possible to pack light for a game.

While I had a 9:00am session each morning, Cooper, Carrie, Evie, and +Jennifer Walls were able to sleep in.  

For my first game at Gen Con, I ran Dungeon Crawl Classics Scattered Over Centaurus VII (link to adventure), a home-brewed homage to movies like Aliens, Predator, and Pitch Black. I had intended to make this a terror-filled experience, however my players Carl, Chris, Donny, Sam, Jason, and Jason kept me on point, and we unleashed the glorious gonzo! 

Carl (left) had us all in stitched during the game, especially when he took on the role of Ryan Seacrest, the host of the reality TV show featured in the game. I was also completely thrilled to get to play with +Chris Edwards and +Donny Duncan in-person again! The three of us played in my Numenera game at Gen Con 2014.

Group shot! Such a great way to kick off Gen Con!

While I was playing Dungeon Crawl Classics, Cooper was fighting pirates... literally. There was a kid's workshop where they got to make their own swords and then fight against each other over at Lucas Oil Field. Definitely up his alley!

By Crom! Me and the family met up with +Bryan Mullins!

Meet "Satania," Evie's new (and completely appropriate) My Little Demon stuffie. Why was it appropriate? You'll see soon... 

The Exploding Kittens booth was insane! There was this giant, hand-puppet powered, interactive ordering system that you used to buy your swag. YouTube it.

It's me and +Alexander Lepera, great friend, fellow Lawful Good Gamer, and mastermind over at Ravendesk Games.

Did I mention that this wonderful human being had an electric tea kettle, and he made Earl Grey tea for me and +Jennifer Walls? That was on Friday, but it was perfect, and very, very, very appreciated!

Okay... it's time we talk a little about the greatest single gaming experience of Gen Con 2017: DCCRPG Inferno Road. Hmm... how to describe Inferno Road.  Imagine Mad Max: Fury Road in Hell with nuclear bombs going off and a drugged out Thomas the Tank Engine driving by.

That's Inferno Road in a nutshell.

Remember that old Jack Chick tract about D&D players worshipping the devil? Man, if Jack were still alive and saw that this game existed, he'd friggin' explode. Inferno Road is the demonic creation of DCCRPG artist extraordinaire +Doug Kovacs. Why do I consider this the best gaming experience of the con? Because it completely enthralled our family for three consecutive evenings!

Seriously... I'm surprised we didn't end up sacrificing a goat.

Player characters in Inferno Road start out as "Grubs" in Hell, serving a demon prince. They are riding along the Inferno Road on a mission to take control of Satan's giant tank-platform... or something like that. It was chaos. Pure chaos. Five tables all going off at once, all playing the same game, all interacting with each other...

... and it was glorious.

The game seemed very kid unfriendly, so naturally we let Carrie and Evie play. Here Evie rolled up her character next to our awesome friend DM Cojo (+Cory Gahsman.) Don't let DM Cojo's big smile and hearty laugh fool you. This dude plays HARD! Totally killed me, turning my Grub into a Sub Grub, and sending me to another table where I had to become a parasite on another player character.

Me, Carrie, and Evie, were also joined by +Dieter Zimmerman. Our GM for the first part of the adventure was +Jarrett Crader, who is an extraordinary Judge, and I would've loved to spend more time playing with him, but oh yeah... I got booted to another table. 

I can't complain about switching tables though, because my next GM, +Christian Kessler was a blast to play with! I was also joined by +Matthew Caulder (great dude) and Sonny (I don't know his last name, but he was also terrific to play with!) Unlike our first table, this group was actually functional. We were screaming across Hell, taking over war busses, becoming giant beasts and flying wingbats, and just having a grand old time...

... until Evie became an Ass-Demon. As an Ass Demon, Evie had to stick her head in the Ass Demon cardboard frame, so she looked like a Hieronymus Bosch picture.

Hey look, you can kind of see Doug in the background!

As an Ass-Demon, Evie got to stand at our table and give us verbal abuse. She told me repeatedly that I was a loser and that I sucked. Then she leaned in and whispered in Matthew's ear:

"Go die in a pit, Janice."

Matthew said that it was one of the worst things anyone ever said to him in a game. 

The problem with an Ass-Demon is that you have to pay them off with Souls to go away. We were short on Souls, but were able to get her with a bit of negotiation. 

So that was our Thursday...


Friday opened up for me with Marc Bruner ringing in the DCCRPG gong! Created by +Wayne Snyder, the gong was the centerpiece of all DCC gaming at Gen Con 50. It also served as a sign that the great DCCRPG Tournament was beginning. I wasn't in the tournament, but I got to watch a little of it, and it was rad!

Now that I think of it, it probably got rung on Thursday too, but I was in a different room running Scattered Over Centaurus VII that day.

For my Friday DCCRPG adventure I ran another of my own creations: DCC Star Wars - Stormtroopers of the First Order. Once upon a time Saturday Night Live aired the Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base sketch featuring Adam Driver as Matt/Kylo Ren. This adventure featured the players as Stormtroopers trying to help a film crew shoot a training video with Matt.

This was an especially special game, since I finally got to sit at a table for Savage Worlds pop-culture and mashup adventure writer and designer extraordinaire +Karl Keesler! We crossed paths briefly last year, but this time we got to roll dice together. And it was his first time with Dungeon Crawl Classics, so it was super, duper special! Karl ran Kung Fury 2: Fury Harder for Savage Worlds at Gen Con this year. How awesome!

I worked really hard to kill those player characters! Between Dustin, Emmanuel, Aaron, Chris, Kyle, and Karl, I managed to kill at least 20 stormtroopers. In this scene you can see Kylo Ren's lightsaber on the table. I always made sure that it was pointing at the player with the lowest luck... just so I wouldn't forget.

Oh glorious death! Thou cometh so quickly in a galaxy far, far away!

Hey look, Cooper found the droid he was looking for!

We ate really late all throughout the con. Here we sit, getting ready to scarf down some Middle Eastern grub. Hummus for me and Jen and shawarma for the kiddos.

I can't leave out the Monte Cook Games folks! Evie ran booth demos of No Thank You, Evil! on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. When not GM'ing for kids (and some grown-ups) she helped work the register.

Before I forget, I need to show off the gift that my very good friend and player +Marc Plourde acquired for me. Talk about crossing the streams! Marc found a copy of an older Dungeon Crawl Classics module: Vault of the Iron Lord by none other than Monte Cook himself! It was like two of my favorite games became one all of a sudden.

And to make it even more heartfelt, Marc had it signed for me. This means I need to run it.


Thank you so, so, so very much Marc, for such an extraordinarily touching gift.

Friday evening I gathered some of my good friends for an off-the-books game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess. This was the game I was talking up the most right before the con because...

... my 7 year old son Cooper was my co-GM! 

If you know anything about LotFP you know that the art is typically not the most kid friendly. So I was careful not to let him see any of the pix, and the only book that I kept within his reach was Vornheim which is just PG-13. I also used Rory's Story Cubes, and some DungeonMorph dice, as I crafted the entire adventure on the fly.

It was great to get together with +Shannon Slakinski, +Craig McCullough, and our families for some light-hearted dice-chucking!

Friends forever!

Boo yah!

Evie posing with +Jarrett Crader again because... you guessed it.. we were back at the Embassy Suites for after-hours DCC Inferno Road. 

Wait a second... is that Judge Evie running Inferno Road!?!

From what I can gather (because it happened so fast) +Dieter Zimmerman asked Evie if she wanted to run anything, and she seemed incredibly interested. So +Jarrett Crader came over and gave her the materials to run Inferno Road for Dieter, +Terry Olson, +Tim Deschene, and Evie's longtime friend Dylan.

Unholy crap, this was really happening! I seriously can't thank Dieter, Terry, Tim, and Jarrett enough for sitting down to a game with my daughter. It was an experience that I knew would last Evie a lifetime, just like last year at the after-hours game of DCC Punjar 50K. When else would she get the chance, as an eleven year old, to run a game in Hell for a bunch of super-awesome DCCRPG legends? 


Judge Evie was hard at work the very next day, killing characters for Contessa at Lucas Oil Field.

Judge Evie's DCC adventure of choice? Nebin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry. For two hours, she made it particularly lethal.

Damn, she really took control of that table! Although I couldn't be there, it sounds like everyone had a great time, and that Evie's game actually ran heavy one player. Way to go bringing in the DCC converts, kiddo!

Carrie was hard at work Saturday morning too, representing the Walls-Family cosplay scene as Peridot from Steven Universe. I feel so old because I didn't know who this was!

Meanwhile, over at the DCCRPG room, I didn't have any players! Turns out that my entire table advanced in the tournament, so I had to go recruit some folks with generic tickets.

I grabbed Craig, Dylan, Hunter, and Alex. The funny thing was that Craig and Dylan were part of my playtest group for this adventure! Fortunately, I was able to offer a few twists in DCC Star Wars - Wrath of the Gungan Horde!

Zombie gungans, Christopher Walken as Han Solo, and a completely retconned story where the Empire won, and Darth Vader became the Empire... this 3rd level adventure had it all.

We managed to wrap up DCC just in time for me to run over to watch our favorite nerd-folk duo +The Doubleclicks with the rest of the family! This made for my fifth time seeing them live (fourth at Gen Con), my wife's fourth time, and my kids' second time. Always an incredible show. Go check them out!

Oh hey, there's +Jeremy Land and his awesome wife Allison!

Angela and Aubrey are just the absolute best. We had to pick up their newest album Love Problems because we didn't have it yet. You need to pick it up too. Go do it now. Click here.

After the Doubleclicks I snuck off to the exhibitors hall to do some shopping, and the rest of the fam went to watch The Shake Ups.

The kiddos (especially Cooper) really, really enjoyed The Shake Ups, so we ended up with three of their CD's!

We grabbed a quick bite at an authentic Mexican street taco truck outside (complete with Deadpool serving tacos), and then ran inside Lucas Oil Field. Jen was volunteering with Contessa some more and Carrie had a Swords & Wizardry game...

... so me, Cooper, and Evie checked out the Horticultural Hall exhibit, showcasing Gen Con through the years.

Cooper really enjoyed the Dwarven Forge setups, and I lamented a little about not getting in on the last Kickstarter (next time!)

Such a cool display of classic gaming artifacts. This was really reminding me of Gary Con!

More Dwarven Forge on display.

Look! Evie found Hellboy!

This turned out to be the most musical of our Gen Con trips. On Saturday night we closed out our time at the Indianapolis Convention Center watching our friends +Jen Brinkman and +Bob Brinkman and their fantastic vocal act: Marooned. Sailing songs and Irish drinking songs? Sold! Left with four CD's.

Time for one last DCC After-hours event, but we weren't going to stay long...

... wait, why is Cooper settling in with Jen's iPhone? What's going on?

Holy s**t they're letting Evie run Inferno Road again! And this time for an entire evening!

Just me, +Michael Bolam and +Jarrett Crader. Friends forever!

Hey look! Me and +Brendan LaSalle. If you look in the background you can see a pair of security guards dealing with a drunk and disorderly woman.

Craig was an ass-demon briefly. And then everything went wrong.

This was the high point of this event for me: watching +Doug Kovacs ejecting +Craig McCullough out of the game for "not shutting the f**k up." Doug and Jarrett were making an announcement about the game, and Craig was calling out that he was going to do some crazy crap in the game that would've ended all the lives at one table. When Craig wouldn't stop talking, Doug started shouting profanities and charged across the room. Craig's character was turned into a pile of s**t, and he was ejected.

I got it all on my family home video... friggin' epic.

Wait, where was my firstborn kid? During all of the Inferno Road craziness, Carrie was playing Swords & Wizardry - The Legend of Tom Cruise's Thighs over at Contessa. From what I was told GM +John R. Harness was super fun! The game had bubbles, just like the movie Legend! Thanks +Darcy Ross & friends for joining Carrie (as Jack) on this adventure!

At the end of the night, as we were all wrapping up, +Terry Olson was incredibly kind to come over and talk with Evie about her GM experiences. She got some extraordinarily kidn words and great feedback from a DCC legend. All smiles!


At this point in the con, Evie was a DCCRPG Legend, so they let her ring in the morning of the DCCRPG Tournament.

My last session of DCC at Gen Con 50 was especially memorable. This seems to be a trend with me and Sunday family-friendly games. I ran The Frost Fang Expedition by Mark Bishop, and one of our players (Dylan) was 6 years old. His parents (my friend +Dustin Clark and his wife Rachael) were also players. 

What a trooper! This incredible lad played Vipersnake, the Lizardman Mercenary. Just about everything he did was over the top in the best way possible. During one scene, he stated that he had a catapult. We went with it! Fast forward to the end of the game (did I mention that he played for nearly 4 hours?), when he was loading his dead enemies into his catapult to bombard the big boss monster.

Holy crap, the next generation of our hobby is going to be legendary.

Thanks to Dustin, Rachael, Dylan, Melissa, Michael, Terry, and Mike, for such a wonderful session to close out my weekend.

Me, Evie, +Jennifer Walls, +jon hammersley, and +Troy Tucker waiting for the raffle, tournament awards ceremony, and sad final gong at the +Goodman Games booth.

Eventually it was time to get packed up and to leave Indianapolis. Poor Evie couldn't hold back the tears as we walked out of the exhibitors hall. I was close, but played it cool.

Ready for Gen Con 2018

What I love most about Gen Con is that for just a few days I feel completely surrounded and embraced by my treasured gaming family. It's a time when I can be weird, and crazy, and wear crazy regalia, and it doesn't matter... because everyone else there is having just as much fun. Since all of my kids are growing up geek, I want them to have this experience. 

A few of my friends comment about how awesome it is that we (and other parents I know with kiddos) bring our kids with us to Gen Con. Some have even stated "I don't know how you do it?" Frankly, sometimes I don't know how we pull it off, since we end up pretty exhausted by the end of the visit. But at this point, I can't imagine not bringing them on this wonderful, once a year excursion.

Want to read about my previous adventures in Indianapolis?