Rising Sun

September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am (Uncategorized)

I just launched Rising Sun, a short CRPG about love and identity, over on Kickstarter! Be sure to go check it out and watch the updates for more information about the game.


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The Mental Yardstick

July 23, 2012 at 10:46 am (Uncategorized)

Its that time of year again when my social media outlets are filled to the brim with my friends flogging themselves for votes. There is something sad about watching this happen year after year and this year I stopped to wonder why. Now I won’t be talking about the award in question except to say that it is a much higher honor to be nominated than it is to win. What I want to talk about is the mental yardstick.

What is the mental yardstick? Its the thing that I looked at and saw that Daniel Solis had put out way more games this year than I likely would in my whole life. It is the thing that I look at and watch Fred Hicks branch out in fantastic new directions while I wander back into my past. It is the thing that fills me with equal joy and sadness as the Podgecast hits 200 and bows out. It is, very simply, how I measure myself.

I know I just made the mental yardstick sound evil but it is not. Each of those ways it has helped measure others successes against my own has also helped me set my course. When I measure where I am today, closing in on year two as a company with two products under my belt, I need to set that measure against something else to give that measure any value.

So this is what I do, what we all do, to one degree or another. Each year I do a reckoning of where I am this year against where I was last year. Last year, I had a product that was and still is languishing in obscurity and a game that was receiving pretty good playtest feedback. This year I have put my playtest on the back burner and started what looks to be a very successful line of adventures. I have another game in playtest that is way off my usual beat but a lot of fun. I am looking a lot more this year at where I compare to myself than to others. This has been a very successful year for me and the year beyond looks promising.

Why am I bothering to tell you this? Your smart people, you already know all of this. Except I’m watching really smart people put a lot of effort into earning an external measure that really doesn’t mean anything useful. Your ability to round up a lot of fans doesn’t mean that you make great games. Making great games means you make great games. There was a time we all knew this and laughed at those who didn’t. Now, I just shake my head and drink my beer in silence. I love you all and I hope you win. Whatever that means to you.

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Town of the Damned

May 22, 2012 at 10:08 am (Uncategorized)

This adventure is meant to be used with the Dungeon World: RPG


Durain Haschek loved his fiancé so much that he wanted them to be together forever, so he crafted a potion for eternal life. The potion granted him eternal life, as a vampire. When Vivian, his bride, discovered what had happened she threw herself off of the clock tower and became a ghost. As a ghost she haunted Durain until he had her banished from his manor.

Vivian then met Gustav, a werewolf and conspired with him to kill her dangerous fiancé. By that time Durain had made his whole staff into ghouls from his thirst and when Gustav attacked he was beaten back before he ever saw Durain.

So began the arms race that cost the lives of everyone in Hamburg. Some are werewolves and keep up appearances and some are ghouls that come out at night to prey on unwary travelers. This large band of refugees is looking like too good an opportunity for either side to miss…

Before you begin ask a different player each of these questions:

Your people have been driven from their lands and you are now refugees in the town of Hamburg, what drove you from your homes?

You and your companions don’t fit in with the rest of the refugees, why not?

There have been many rumors about the town of Hamburg in the last few years, what is the most outrageous you have heard?

Use the answers to these questions to flavor your game. Maybe the trouble that drove them from their home followed them here. Whatever makes them not fit in should push them to explore the town. Use the rumors they tell you to color your first few scenes, play into whatever stereotype they hand you.

The Spiteful Groom
Impending Doom
Durain will use the refugees to create an army and once he has defeated Vivian they will spread.

Will Durain get to the refugees first?
Will Durain agree to meet with Vivian?
What will Durain ask of Vivian to stop the fighting?

Durain the Vampire
Horace the last human of Hamburg

Grim Portents
Turning the refugees into ghouls.
Rushing on the clock tower.
Banashing Vivian.


The Scorned Bride
Impending Doom
Vivian’s werewolf army will feed off the refugees enough to crush Durain’s ghouls and then spread.

Will Vivian get to the refugees first?
Will Vivian agree to meet with Durain?
What will Vivian ask of Durain to stop the fighting?

Vivian the Ghost
Gustov the Werewolf

Grim Portents
Feasting on the refugees.
Storming Haschek Manor.
Staking Durain



The Town Square/Refugee Camp
Sargent Hayworth
Goal: To protect the refugees.
Rally the refugees
Protect someone with his shield
Attack you with his sword
Damage: d10
HP: 12
Armor: 2

Goal: To settle down
Run in fear of the monsters in the night.
Get captured by one side or the other.
Die horrificly in front of you.
Damage: NA
Armor: NA

All around the cobble stone square are makeshift tents and tarps with huddled people underneath them.

There is very little cheer here. As their homes are far away and most likely destroyed. Sargent Hayworth has agreed to keep the peace here and negotiated a food line from the church in exchange for help with the town’s laundry.

The Sun and Moon Café
Goal: To win Vivian’s Heart by destroying Durain.
Appear as an innocent townsperson.
Transform into a slavering beast.
Kill or infect you while in Werewolf form.
Damage: d10
HP: 16
Armor: 0 as a human, 4 as a werewolf

The only restaurant on the square. Gustav, the owner, has been putting out coffee for the refugees since they arrived.

Gustav’s china would be worth quite a bit.

The coffee that Gustav has been handing out to the refugees has been poisoned to make them weaker and more lethargic.

The Clock Tower
Goal: To destroy her dangerous fiance.
Generate creepy sights and sounds.
Appear before you.
Scare you into doing something dangerous.
Vivian cannot be harmed or do harm in normal ways. She can only scare you into harming yourself. She can be banished by the use of a ritual or by killing Durain.

Werewolf guards
Goal: To protect Vivian.
Appear as an innocent townsperson.
Transform into a slavering beast.
Kill or infect you while in Werewolf form.
Damage: d8
HP: 6
Armor: 0 as human, 4 as werewolf
Can only be killed by silver.

The clock tower chimes the hour every hour and as the day gets later the townsfolk look nervously at the moon in the darkening sky.

Vivian’s body lies in a glass case on the second floor of the tower.

Church of Celestial Grace
Father Gregor – Werewolf Priest
Goal: to keep the werewolves from their animal natures.
Cast holy spells.
Transform into a slavering beast.
Kill or infect you while in Werewolf form.
Damage: d8
HP: 10
Armor: 0 as a human, 4 as a werewolf

A large cathedral, pride of the town, designed in the classic shape of a cross.

Much of what is valuable in the town is located in the vault of the church or in the crypts below.

None of Durain’s ghouls, Durain himself, or Vivian may enter the church.

Haschek Manor
Durain the Vampire
Goal: To end the treacherous Gustov.
Drain your life with his fangs. (ignores armor)
Control your mind with his gaze.
Turn you into a ghoul upon death.
Damage: d12, forceful
HP: 16
Armor: 5
Can only truely be killed in his manor. A stake to the heart or direct sunlight will force him back to his manor.

Horace the last human of Hamburg
Goal: To protect Durain.
Command ghouls to attack.
Call for help.
Run away.
Damage: d8
HP: 6
Armor: 0

Durain’s Ghouls
Goal: To feed upon the living.
Take hold of you.
Feed upon your blood.
Use fists and claws to get in close.
Damage: d6+2, Forceful
HP: 7
Armor: 1

A well appointed manor house on the far edge of the main road. Horace keeps the house well put together and keeps the heavy curtains drawn. All of the bedrooms have ghouls waiting for sundown.

Durain keeps much that is valuable in his home including family treasures of those he has turned.

So long as the manor stands Durain cannot truly be killed and will rise, just as strong the night after he is defeated.

For those of you who are looking for some cheap minis to use to represent your characters (not a necessity for Dungeon World adventures) I suggest these wonderful paper minis from Fantasy Paper Minis




Note: there are two paper minis on this PDF.

Note: there are multiple models on this PDF.

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Woodland Creatures (AW for kids)

March 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Ok this might be something or it could just be the sum of a really strange week. If you know Apocalypse World you know what is going on here more or less. Too tired now but if you have thoughts I’ll check the comments in the morning.

Set up:
Each player takes a creature and four tokens.

The Mouse
Sneaky: +2, Courageous: +1, Selfish: +1, Helpful: -1
Special Power: Being small.
You took something from one of the other creatures, tell us what it was and take a token from them.
You owe one of the other creatures for helping you, tell us what they did and give them a token.

The Bear
Sneaky: 0, Courageous: +1,
Selfish: +1, Helpful: +1
Special Power: Being strong.
You got in a fight with one of the other creatures, tell us what about and take a token from them.
One of the other creatures is your best friend, tell us who and why and give them a token.

The Pig
Sneaky: -1, Courageous: +2,
Selfish: +1, Helpful: +1
Special Power: Being sturdy.
You got caught by one of the other creatures taking things from the food tree, tell us who and take a token from them.
You stood up for one of the other creatures when they were being made fun of, tell us what happened and give them a token.

The Rabbit
Sneaky: -1, Courageous: +1,
Selfish: +2, Helpful: +1
Special Power: Being speedy.
You and one of the other creatures were running away from trouble and you got away but they didn’t, tell us who and what the trouble was and take a token from them.
You came to the rescue of one of the other creatures, tell us about why they needed saving and give them a token.

Everyone starts each game with four empty harm slots. If they are all filled your character takes -1 to all rolls until the start of the next game.

When you do something Sneaky;
10+: No one sees you or you take a token.
7-9: Someone wants to know what your doing.
6 or less: Someone tells on you.

When you do something Courageous;
10+: You impress people or you take a token.
7-9: Someone thinks you were too risky.
6 or less: You take one harm.

When you do something Selfish;
10+: What you did or got was exactly what you wanted or you take a token.
7-9: Someone saw you and is disappointed.
6 or less: Someone was hurt by what you did.

When you do something Helpful ;
10: Someone saw what you did and is proud of you or you take a token.
7-9: Someone thinks you are doing it selfishly.
6 or less: It costs you something to do it.

When you use your special power you may use tokens 1-for-1 to increase your result.

How to play:

Some woodland creature has a problem and wants some help. Play to find out what happens.

All characters are woodland creatures and they are names Mr. or Mrs. Whatever-they-are.

If no move is triggered say yes.

Let the results of the rolls guide play.

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Reverb Gamers Day 1

January 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m not sure if I’m doing this right but here goes!

What was your first roleplaying experience?

My first roleplaying experience was trying to GM my sister and her Ithorian Bounty Hunter in the old WEG Star Wars game. I had spent the last week reading the rules and prepping an adventure. It went horribly. I had way too much prepped of things I didn’t need and had no idea how to improv where I needed too.

Who introduced you to it?

I came to it having played several of the Final Fantasy games and the old Shadowrun SNES game. All of that told me that there were stories to be told in RPGs but not how to run one. No one told me how to be a good GM but I knew what I liked as a player. I just couldn’t figure out how to make one translate into the other.

How did that introduction shape the gamer you’ve become?

As I went on I have been a player as much if not more than GM just to help me be a better GM. There is nothing I enjoy more than playing games I wrote myself.

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The Legacy of Risk: Part 1 – First Impressions

December 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm (Uncategorized)

Opening the box I knew that this was not going to be anything like the Risk games I have always loved. Lots of cards I had never seen before and more cards and other surprises hidden behind hazard marked stickers and enigmatic phrases. “Do not open ever”, being the most dire of them all. Everything in this box tells me that my family and I are about to have an experience we could not have expected.

I poured through the rules grabbing any of my family members who would be playing to point out to them significant rules changes. We have all played Risk before (more times than we can count) so the modifications in the rules had us all itching to play by the time we finally got a chance.
As it happened the only family member who sat down to our first game with me was my dad, Don. We had company over and the father and son, Eric and Joe, often played games with us so they joined us and were the first two to sign the back of the board. Signing the board is significant I builds buy-in. It says, my actions are significant, I am significant. Don and I signed the back as well and as I unboxed the rest of the board, I explained the rules.
They took to the new rules right away and soon we had everything set up and troops were moving their way across the board.
Game One
Joe – Khan Industries, Middle East
Don – Die Mechaniker, Argentina
Eric – Saharan Republic, West Australia
Josh (me) – Imperial Balkania, South Africa
The special rules for each army were fun to pick out but did not have much of an impact on the game. The new setup rules that limited forces and left most of the map empty were very interesting. Eric, Don and I each had a continent bonus by the end of the first round in Australia, South America, and Africa respectively. Joe tried to start off by attacking down into Africa and spreading out towards Australia. My defenders chewed through his attacking forces but eventually fell and he left himself vulnerable to attack from behind by Eric. As expected on Don’s next turn he launched into Africa as well. His attack devastated me and knocked me out. Eric chewed through Joe’s back line stopping in India which left Joe with East Africa and the Middle East. Joe mustered the best offense he could against Don who was weak in Africa after his whirlwind defeat of me and managed to take Egypt. I rejoined the war somewhere up in east Asia just in time to watch Don turn in two cards worth three coins for four armies and walk right through the last remains of Joe’s army ending the game.
Those of you who have played must by now realized that Don should have won when he ousted me but we were still getting use to victory points in Risk and forgot.
Don signed the front of the board and founded the major city of Dandyville in the Western United States. Eric founded Bollywood in India and I founded Gotham in South Africa. Three Bunkers went down in that game, Eric put one in New Guinea, Joe put one in China, and Don put one in Brazil. The board was filling up fast!

We also got to open one of the card decks up in the top of the box. The one that was to be opened when a player was eliminated. Out of that deck Joe got a chance to improve his faction a bit which helped ease the sting of being the first player eliminated and not getting to found a city with the rest of us.

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Physical Bits

June 22, 2011 at 9:20 am (Uncategorized)

I was reading a post from Ryan Macklin where he was talking about a Dresden Files game he had played recently where the GM had the Fate chips in a bag on the table. Ryan made the point that the shared resource at the center of the table added significantly to the game experience.

Add that to Amy Garcia’s article last night on her playtests of rem which has some very interesting physical elements to it. You may be able to tell that the physicality of gameing has been on my mind recently.

I strongly suggest in Boarsdraft that the HM put the Mystery Pool and Struggle Pool out as tokens in the center of the play space to give all of the players a good idea of how far along the year and the story is. This does a lot of things that I think help reinforce what I want players to be doing in the game.

I like the idea that there is this physical presence for an abstract concept just sitting there, mocking them. A concern of one of my playtesters is that there is too little incentive to go after the piles. I felt pretty sure that there was enough there, as long as the HM kept pushing that there was something going on, to keep them at the pool. I have concidered adding an extra benifit to pulling from the Mystery Pool, earning extra effort perhaps. I’m going to wait and see if any change is really needed before I go patching the system.

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June 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Last night my group got together to finish off the “one shot” of Mutant City Blues that we started a few weeks ago. First let me say that I’ve really been enjoying the investigative elements of Gumshoe, the system behind MCB, the investigations flow pretty naturally. I did get the sense that I was playing a bit of wack-a-mole with the stats but that may have been more due to the fact that we only had two investigators. The problem I had was with the pacing.

As I said the game was intended to be a one shot and we had already dragged it out into a second night. The problem for me is that the system really gave me no levers to grab hold of and push the story to conclusion. For those unfamiliar with MCB, the game is basicly Law & Order with super heros. There is a lot in the game about proper police procidures and as an investigator you are always toeing the line between getting the bad guy and ensuring you have enough evidence to keep them.

We game from five to nine as a general rule and so as we got close to eight I started to try and bring the session to a close. The problem was that as a player I have no tools to do that without ruining the case. I got pretty frustrated at that point. My fellow player did a great job of plowing through my funk and the session ended with us gearing up for the final showdown.

We should be able to wrap up the game next time in an hour or so but it really bugged me that I lacked any tools to push the story forward. Transpose that against how I felt at the end of last session and it is a stark contrast. The last session ended with us having no solid idea of who the bad guy was and only a vague sense of what motive might be behind the crimes.

For me the problem was that once I knew who to go after I had no narritive power to do that. What I tried to do was entrap the villian by getting my partner in undercover. My fellow player played along brilliantly and the GM counter offered by trying to get my character to go undercover. That would have been ok but the timeline would have added four days to the investigation. Four days with no new leads, four days with a city in fear, four days of polititians breathing down me and my partner’s necks.

Maybe its just me but I miss my levers. MCB hits all of the right notes for me when it comes to handing out information but when the time for action arrived I felt hamstrung. That may be a feature in such a procidure oriented game but its not my bag.

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D&D Encounters for March, 9

March 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm (Uncategorized)

I played in this weeks D&D Encounter and it was a blast! We had two, very full tables at FTW Games here in Chesterfield VA and the store was packed with folks playing not only D&D but also MtG, 40k and some other games I didn’t recognize. At our table we ended up with six players (three healers, a dragonborn tank, and two mages. The GM and other players were great to game with dispite some problems with the adventure as written.

Let me be sure to say that the problems with the adventure were not the combat encounters. The combat was fun, engageing and challenging. The problem showed up in the RP setup for the game. I would also like to say that these problems were not the GMs fault. The GM ran the adventure as it was written, the problem was that the adventure setup was poorly written.

Now I can get into where I felt the problems lay. The first problem was that the adventure seemed to want to lay out bread crumbs for the PCs to follow rather than handing the players the plot stick. In a situation like D&D Encounters where the whole scenerio is designed to be completed in under two hours, asking the players to walk their characters out the door of the bar (which was the trigger for the real plot giver) is just too much to ask. Once the plot giver (level 10 Dwarf Redshirt) showed up and actualy explained what the PCs needed to do we then wasted time trying to figure out how to keep Sir Redshirt from going with us. I blame the adventure for this. The GM played out the scene over the dead bodies of our fellow settelers just as instructed in the adventure. The problem was that the adventure as written made it seem as though the party needed to convince Sir Redshirt not to leave the safety of the settelment. We all tried rolling against him, we divised plans to knock him unconcious and tie him up, we did everything except give up and move on.

I feel sure we threw the GM, who had read the adventure and knew Sir Redshirt’s part in the plot, a curveball. He let us make our checks (which none of us had a chance of makeing) possibly in the hopes that someone might come up with a solution that would work. We didn’t, and we wasted almost an hour between pointless conversations in the bar and equaly pointless attempts to keep Sir Redshirt safe. None of this was the fault of the players at the table or the GM. All of the blame rests firmly on the shoulders of WotC for not thouroughly playtesting all parts of their adventure. They probably looked over it, checked that no bad information was being handed out and called it good. The encounter (when we finally got to it) seemed fairly well designed.

If I were to try and make this adventure flow more smoothly I would have made a few changes to how the plot information was handed out to the players. First off, starting in the bar is fine, over hearing a conversation between two NPCs and hoping the players pick up on it is not. The information that can be gleaned from those NPCs can just as easily be shared corpse-side after Sir Redshirt has collected the party. Which leads me to point two, have the dwarf bargeing in be the FIRST thing that happens! The text should have read something like, “Six months have passed sence your group helped found this little village. One of the first buildings to be put up was the tavern where your party is relaxing after a hard days work helping to raise a farmers barn. Suddenly the doors to the tavern burst open and a scared looking Sir Redshirt runs in and looks at your group. ‘Come quick,’ he pants, ‘only half the wood cutter team has returned an they are all dying!”. Bam! Your group is filled in on the basics, there are injured people, there may be more out in the woods, and there may be some sort of plague. That should be enough for most players.

As I said the NPCs from the bar with their tales of similarly infected animals could just as easily been standing by the bodies rather than standing in the way of the characters getting out the door. Also by placeing them by the bodies you give the players a reason to pay a bit more attention to what they have to say.

In conclusion my first attempt at D&D Encounters went well if a little slowly. I think that WotC has setup a fun method of play that I will try again but if future sessions suffer similar problems I may not be going back for long.

J.B. Mannon



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Trader’s Tales Review

January 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Reposted from twitter:
Just finished the last of @nlowell ‘s Traders tales. I appologize in advance for what will follow as I have quite a bit to say. @nlowell has crafted an always witty and sometimes stirring tale over the course of six books. As I neared the end I prepaired myself for the pain of loss I knew must be coming but found myself woefully unprepaired. I have very much enjoyed the Trader’s Tales and look forward to rereading the series (likely over the summer).

I find myself compairing @nlowell ‘s Traders tales to the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. They are both long and strange journeys with oddly romantic protagonists with clear, if strange, sense of morality. Both tales seem to have taken root in the minds of their creators in powerful ways and spawned side creations. Both have a well rounded worlds that I find myself feeling as though I have lived in. I tend to reply with “Sar” as often as “Sir”. Some have critsized @nlowell for his fixation with the preperation of food in these tales. As a former cook myself I find these details enchanting. They also bring to mind the works of Brian Jaques and the Redwall series (best not read on an empty stomach). I look forward to more stories of the Golden Age. Well done @nlowell and thank you!

To discover the Golden Age of the Solar Clipper for yourself goto http://solarclipper.com

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