Atomic Snows!

The Atomic Array podcast Christmas special featured my Call of Cthulu adventure, Snows of an Early Winter. Cthu-Lou himself makes an appearance. And threatens a show host. As a rule, the Atomic Array podcast is utterly top notch. Very entertaining. You might enjoy this episode.

I sure did. :)


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry holidays to all and to all a good night!


Net Whisper #1: Supergenius and Pathfinder Modern

Interested in an update to d20 Modern -- Pathfinder Modern? Supergenius Games is considering the massive effort required to deliver a print and pdf version of comparable quality. To do for Modern what Pathfinder did for 3.5. Right now, the company is feeling out interest in a possible patronage project. If the idea thrills you to your Sig Sauer .40 cals and d20s, then consider posting your interest over here: Pathfinder Modern. This is interest only, no commitment requested. I for one am pumped. Game on!


Call of Cthu-Lou: Snows of an Early Winter PDF Released

The PDF of my Call of Cthulu adventure, Snows of an Early Winter is out! They tell me dead tree will hit the distributors some time next week (or so). I'm pumped! And I'm talking to my FLGS about running a day of demos at the Dragon's Den in Poughkeepsie, after the new year. More on the the demos and the dead tree when I hear.

PS If anyone feels like writing a review... *wink wink nudge nudge*


Call of Cthu-Lou

I just heard from one of my publishers that my new Call of Cthulu adventure, Snows of an Early Winter, is due to go on sale next week. I'm pretty stoked! PDF first, followed by dead tree.

Preview of internal art for Snows of an Early Winter
by (Cthu) Lou Agresta

It's 118 pages of creepy Cthonic goodness (I think so anyhoo, though I might be slightly biased *whistles*) set in NYC, and if anyone picks it up, I'll be very grateful to hear what you think.

I'll keep everyone posted when and where its available. Game on!


New and Exciting #7: Great City Player's Guide

The Great City Player's guide is out and available -- for PFRPG/OGL/3x, this baby is sweet. While too swamped with other work to contribute directly, I did throw some ideas into ring. The Great City team far outstripped my meager imaginings. Building on the proven Great City authors, Tim Hitchock added new and veteran talent to the mix. Welcome to the player-centric innovations of powerhouse newcomers like Adam Daigle and the wild imaginings of the veteran of veterans, Willie Walsh. As the blurb says:

The sourcebook contains new races, residences in the Great City, taxation, religion, azindralean tongs, organizations, new core classes, new prestige classes, professions, feats, spells, Great City specific equipment, gaslight technology, weather and climate, calendar and days of the week, constellations and Auspicious signs and more.

A tasty addition to any campaign, whether or not you own the Great City Campaign Setting (an RPGNow Silver Pick) or the Road to Revolution AP.

Not to be missed, if I do say so myself!


Call of Cthu-Lou

Just a quick update on Snows of an Early Winter (forthcoming), my 100+ page Call of Cthulu adventure from Supergenius Games, set in contemporary NY.

First, rumor is the PDF should soon be available. The additional good news is that I thought this was a PDF only product. More fool me! It's a print product with a PDF if you prefer. I'm so stoked!

In the meantime, Paizo and Pathfinder peeps may dig that Supergenius, led by the redoubtable Hyrum and Stan!, recently delved into Pathfinder support. Check it!

Game on,



A Coward's Life: Outrageously funny feats for 3x, OGL, & PFRPG

For the coward in us all, the talented Uri Kurlianchik delivered a few highly original feats to Kobold Quarterly's Friday Funny. With titles like Combat Looting, Human Shield, and Pathetic, how can you lose? Not just funny but eminently usable, I was so amused by these I thought all you 3x/OGL/PFRPG heads out there might like to check them out. Enjoy!


The Bloody Fix for Pathfinder -- Free

The title says it all. 0onegames released a free conversion for The Bloody Fix from 3e to Pathfinder RPG. I'm stoked! Even better: Mario Barbati spoke of releasing the entire Road to Revolution AP soft cover as Pathfinder. Awesomeness.


New and Exciting #6

Supergenius Games announces Snows of an Early Winter, my forthcoming Call of Cthulu adventure. Over a hundred pages of creepy goodness in contemporary NY. SGG has also made a forum for questions available here. Jason Walton is handling the interiors, which is fan-fricking-tastic, I think. Can't wait for this to hit the stands, enter your hands, then disturb and entertain you.

Some newness in the Great City Campaign Setting and the Road to Revolution AP from 0onegames:
  • 0onegames now offers a free conversion of Skullcrackers to Pathfinder RPG (think 3e reloaded).
  • The complete Road to Revolution AP now available in one bundle.
  • And word the word is that the Great City Players Guide should be released soon.

More as I learn about it. Game on!


Rudis Review: Kobold Quarterly #11

Kobold Quarterly #11
Length/Type: 82/Magazine
System: PFRPG, OGL/3x, 4e, other
Author(s): Wolfgang Baur (editor)
Publisher: Open Design, LLC
Licensor/Endorser: n/a
Rating: 5 of 5 rudii

I’ve reviewed Kobold Quarterly before, but the magazine just keeps getting better and better! For those of you new to the Kobold, Eric Mona - the guy who puts the publisher in Paizo Publishing – has called KQ “…the spiritual successor to Dragon magazine…” and I still agree with him.

In this issue, however, KQ shows strong signs of growing beyond its spiritual predecessor. Don’t get me wrong, for D&D nothing beat Dragon. Nothing beats Dragon today, but today there are at least three D&Ds: 4e, OGL/3e, and my favorite, Pathfinder RPG (think of it as 3.5 reloaded). Kobold Quarterly services them all, plus it delivers a fair balance of system-neutral creativity, articles, advice, insights and more – mostly from veteran designers, but not leaving out the brilliant newcomer. Finally, if I’m not mistaken (and I frequently am – just ask my wife baDUMbing), I detect hints that tomorrow's Kobold might cover Call of Cthulu or other popular games. Exciting, though it’s just my speculation at this point.

After you get done drooling over the cover (above), Advance of the Death Knights by Richard Clark, take a look at the TOC to see what I mean:

Editorial and Letters – always interesting. Wolfgang’s take on all things RPG and his sincerity in responding to his subscribers always comes through. A pleasant read for those who like these parts of a magazine.

A Broken Mind – by Scott Gable. Fun rules, fully fleshed, to bring Call of Cthulu like sanity checks to your D&D game. Ostensibly for 4e (the article mentions using 4th edition cosmology as a baseline against which to measure whether any given experience threatens characters’ sanity), but so edition neutral as to be RAW for any D&D. PFRPG/OGL, 3x, 4e.

Uvandir: The Pride of Craftsmen – by John Wick and Jesse Heining. As I’d expect from the folks at Wicked Fantasy Factory, a re-invention of the core dwarf race with unique and interesting flavor, new crunch, and unorthodox spin. PFRPG/OGL/3x

Howling Werebeasts: How to Play Lycanthropes as PCs – by John E. Ling, Jr. A great article. Introduced by a brief history of the werewolf in myth and literature; role-playing guides and aids; and as I would expect from veteran Ling, lots of crunch for playing a variety of were-creatures. OGL/3x.

Ecology of the Vampire – by Tim and Eileen Connors. Few folks in the industry do horror like Tim and Eileen; so I the stakes were high (stakes – get it? get it?) for this ecology, and the Connors did not disappoint. Starts with the psychology and physiology of vamp-dom, into a host of fluff and a bit of crunch for bringing the classic vampire to your game, tossing in some gruesome history and ending with a short bit on vamps of legend. Great article. Ostensibly OGL/3x or PFRPG, but so light on specific rules as to approach system neutral.

Running Across the Screen: A GM Roundtable – by Christopher L. Dinkins and Jeremy L. C. Jones. The subtitle says it all. A GM roundtable on the essence of being a good GM with industry luminaries and serious veterans: Monte Cook, Jason Bulmahn, Robin D. Laws, Jim C. Hines, Cam Banks, Chris Perkins, Mike Mearls, Greg Stolze, Kenneth Hite, Greg Stafford, James Wyatt, Will Hindmarch… jeez. What a list!

Book Reviews – by Cynthia Ward and Pierce Watters. Great book reviews. Fantasy only, but just as good and informative as any I read regularly in the pages of Locus.

Haunted by the Spirit of the Rules – by Monte Cook. Monte’s column this issue is on playing to the spirit of the rules and not the “strangely cynical and negative pursuit” of combing the rules for exploits. Monte speaks to the spirit of the game. A good read.

Wishing Well – by Garrett Baumgartner. An article for helping GMs energize the use of wishes in their 4e games. Solidly grounded in the literary history of wishes, a sprinkle of fluff, solid crunch. Useful. 4e

Cartoons – by Stan! Always a good chuckle. Sometimes a guffaw. I’ve long enjoyed Stan! toons.

Whack Jacks and Harpy Nets: New Weapons for Old Monsters –by Adam Daigle, Stefan Happ, Tim Hitchock and Mike Kortes. New weapons from these guys? Sold. I didn’t have to read it to know the article would rock, but of course I did read it. And it rocked. The Giant’s Arbalest, the Massacre Mace, the Necksnapper and, of course, the Whack Jacks – these are just a few highlights to titillate. Exotic weapons lists will never be the same. PFRPG/OGL/3x

Torture and Fear on the Tabletop – by Hank Woon. Great little rules subsystem for bringing the drama and fear that torture represents in real life to the gaming table. No longer will your players shrug off the burning poker in the eye just because they have enough hp left. More importantly, Woon brings the drama and tension to the playing of the game. I almost want to be tortured after this piece. Brava. PFRPG

Same Rules, Different Treasure – by Ken Marable. A nifty little article to help GMs spin the fluff on magic items and other treasure to keep it new and fresh for you players. Solid stuff. I particularly like the black silk gloves that function like a staff. Got to get me some. System Neutral.

Monstrous Paragons – by Phil Larwood. Racial paragon paths for “the unsavory races” like the bugbear and the minotaur. As I’d expect from a veteran like Larwood, the article delivers rich, well-crafted crunch and just that dash of fluff to pull it all together. My favorite fluff line, from the minotaur paragon path: "I am no mere dumb beast or demon's slave, human. I have the blood of Asterion flowing through my veins! 4e

Mysteries of the Philosopher’s Stone – by Mario Podeschi. Starts with a little history of the philospher’s stone, then introduces an artifact, the Hermetic Arcanum, the book by which the stone is created. Solid crunch and lots of advice for using the Arcanum to drive a campaign arc, complete with role-playing tips and quest ideas. It ends with a surprising sidebar on using this artifact in a New World of Darkness campaign. 4e.

The Spell-less Ranger – by Marc Radle. A variant base class for the PFRPG. As the opening line puts it: “Aragorn didn’t cast spells…” A solid recasting of a favorite base class. This article is already much discussed – and much played, if I read things right – on the Paizo message boards. Nice. PFRPG

Farragum, the Howling City – by Dan Voyce. A solid little setting piece, complete with tasty maps. This (largely) fluff article brings a distinctly Lovecraftian city to life for use in your D&D game. Tasty, and specifically written for multiple editions. PFRPG/OGL/3x/4e.

Road and River – by Wolfgang Baur. I hate this article. What was Wolfgang thinking?! No I don;t - just kidding! I love poking fun at Mr. Baur. He’s a great straight man. Road and River is a sweet little article enriching a GMs understanding of trade in the world of Zobeck. Good, inspirational stuff, even if you don’t campaign in Zobeck; though, the more I read about it, the more I want to go there. Nice map. System Neutral.

So after all that, I’d planned to expound how Kobold Quarterly is such good a magazine and a great value. How it gets better every issue, etc., etc. Really, though, isn’t it just kind of self-evident?

Game on!


Nail me to my RPG writing cross

It's the curse of the RPG writer - well, at least this RPG writer - that the more time spent writing for the game, the less time there is to play it. Wah. Wah.

Many gamers face the difficulty of "no game". Adult schedules grow increasingly difficult to coordinate. Gamer buds slowly but surely disperse about the country. Kids. Worse - kids not old enough to game! My problem began when we moved two hours north of NYC. If you're in NYC, it's simple. Nerdnyc will get you all the game of any game that you can handle on just about any schedule. Great community.

When you live semi-rural, putting together a weekly group of adults for at least 5 hour stints proves more challenging. Take me for example: writing hours aside, I had game for a bit. After I moved, my friends made the valiant effort. They traveled up. They spent the weekend. Some still do, if intermittently, but eventually the trek proved too much. The final straw came when one of my player's job took him to Washington DC. What's a gamer to do?

You beg. You plead. You cry into your pillow. You try virtual tabletop.

I recently decided enough was enough and ventured something I've never ventured before: to game at my FLGS (friendly local game store). It took a little more doing than simply showing up in the store, but I figure if it worked for me and you're in a similar boat, what I tried might work for you.

I hit my FLGS, the Dragon's Den in Poughkeepsie, and they were downright excited, warm and welcoming. They agreed to do what they could to help me find players. There's the rub. Players. Players of the right stripe. Players you don't know. Scary. I girded my loins.

Loins girded and not one to rely on a single iron in the fire, I stumbled on and tried RPG Game Find and...found gamers! The ad was free and hit enough people to snag two players. One of these fellows is a history professor at a local university (can't wait to get him running Ars Magica!), and he had interested friends. I found two more players on message boards I frequent, Paizo and Sinister Adventures. The store hooked us up with our final player, and the game launched.

The table chose Pathfinder RPG - what I consider the 4th edition I always wanted to see - for our system, and that gratified me; although I admit I advocated a bit. I offered up a variety of options for our campaign-to-be, but my new group chose to playtest a book I've been working on for over a year, now. My little project, among other things, includes world-building guidelines to help the GM help everyone at the table contribute their creativity to the setting and campaign.

Eventually, my process - and the wonderful folks I now game with - produced a unique setting for our adventures. To top it off, my new table taught me a bunch for improving this section of my little book

Now we're off and running, and I for one am glad to have some game again. One of our player's is posting play reports, written in character, over here. Inspired, other players are getting in on the fiction act. For example, in broken green English and green font, our half-orc braggart chimes in, frequently calling our gnomish chronicler "stooopid" and a teller of "liez". Now maybe this will only entertain those of us who were there. In which case, "Sorry. You had to be there." On the other hand, if you find these tales of our adventures amusing, I'd love to hear it. I ROFLMAO every time I read them.

Great gaming to everyone and rock on!

- Lou

PS Our game seems to have activated latent interest in PFRPG -- or maybe its just the way we yell, hoot and curse. Either way, the Dragon's Den will soon be launching Pathfinder Society events, so check 'em out!


Necromancer Releases Slumbering Tsar!

Necromancer releases the first installment of Greg A. Vaughan's magnum opus, Slumbering Tsar in PDF!

We first learned about this 500,000 word - you read that right. Not an accidental extra zero. Five. Hundred. Thousand word -- beyond mega adventure into the realm and machinations of Orcus back in December of 2008. Necromancer and Paizo have since both wrestled with how to publish this...this...monolith...this planetoid of an adventure.

The answer is PDF in three parts. Part one just hit the virtual shelves.

I tasted a preview of this baby at Paizocon 09, and it's not to be missed! Vaughan -- a long-time fan favorite over at Paizo and an author with serious pedigree -- has a unique flair for breathing new edition life into that classic 1e feel. Suddenly, dungeons make sense. Villain machinations tie in, and cliched encounters blossom with originality. Vaughan adventures somehow reignite the essence of D&D while provoking the imagination, and now we have a half million words of it. With Orcus.

More about parts 2 and 3 as I hear. Gotta run!

*runs off to buy Slumbering Tsar*


The Rudis Review: The Encountered Volume I

Book: The Encountered, Volume I
Length/Type: 285 pages/hardcover book
System: 6-6 / Alpha Omega
Author(s): David Carter
Publisher: Mindstorm Labs
Licensor/Endorser: n/a

(5 0f 5 rudii)

I’ve said it before about Alpha Omega and the work of Mindstorm Labs – gorgeous. Their books are among the most beautiful in the industry. Plus, you have to love a book with more than one, fully illustrated human decapitation.

For those of you not familiar with the Alpha Omega far-future Earth, post-apocalyptic, mega-tech sci-fi/fantasy fusion setting, there is a review right here on RPGAggression. Just click the linky.

As for The Encountered, this is a monster book, and it’s a damned good one. It contains 202 monsters by my count, from the classic to the terrifying and original:

83 Freaks of Nature
38 Tech Fiends
18 Spiritual Creatures
42 Abominations
21 Demons

In addition to the many beasties, their backgrounds and their battle stats, Mindstorm leavens the book with GM advice for all levels of experience. Each entry contains a rich description of the beast in action, a section of tactics and non-battle behaviors, and, where appropriate, explanations for how the creature ties to the campaign setting. Exactly what you need to use the creature – and appreciate it – but not more.

The layout for each page is worth remarking upon: central to each is a gorgeous illustration of the monster in action, in its habitat. Each and every one of these monsters has its own, emotive, imagination igniting painting, centerpiece to the entry. I’ve never seen the like. 202 nearly half-page full color illustrations? Either Mindstorm is giving us these beautiful books at a loss, or they’ve chained a few artists in the basement. The game and descriptive information are organized around the edges of the painting, structuring the total almost like an interface.

Now that I think about it, I feel (but can’t confirm), that their layout and design team have done game interfaces before. The book just has that feel, and it works beautifully. Tons of info on the page, easy to reference and find, not feeling crowded at all (when by all rights it should). Someone read their Tufte.

As indicated above, the author arranges the monsters in The Encountered into five categories. All the Freaks of Nature are in one section, followed by all the Tech Fiends, etc. At first I found this innovative approach distracting – even confusing – then, as I considered, I realized it’s just useful.

Think of it this way: if you’re a GM and you’re inventing an encounter or writing an adventure, how do you use a monster book? Do you think, “Ah, I want a gorgon," then go look up the gorgon. Sometimes. Maybe. More often, you have an idea of the kind of encounter you want the party to have but no specific monster in mind; therefore, you peruse the book. The organization of The Encountered mirrors the kind-of-encounter-you-have-in-mind way that most GM creativity flows. GMs contemplating an encounter in the wilds against some sort of crazy mutated creature will skim Freaks of Nature first. If the encounter stirring in your head and heart owns a tech flavor, you’ll turn to Tech Fiends. If the group is at the point of interacting with the “demons” of the Alpha Omega world, start your skimming there. This kind of attention to organizational detail and usefulness is emerging as a Mindstorm hallmark that I’m really starting to appreciate.

However, while most of the monster categories are self-explanatory, I'm left wishing for short intro paragraph explaining each category and the author's conception. I can suss this out by reading, true, but if the author had explained the difference between, for example, an Abomination and a Freak of Nature at the beginning of their respective chapters, I’d be happier. This is a minor quibble.

Tangent: while I’m on minor quibbles, the one thing that irks me about the otherwise awesome Alpha Omega design approach is their rejection of page numbers – and not just because it makes it hard for me to tell you how many pages are in the book. Mindstorm's books use reference numbers. Chapter 10 gets us 10.1.2, 10.1.3, etc. Don't misunderstand me: you can find stuff, no problem. It’s functional approach and fits their design style, yet it irritates me. I want my page numbers.

Beyond the critters, the additional chapters in the book really make it sing. To begin with, Mindstorm gives us 7 new factions inhabiting the Alpha Omega world; then a chapter containing the detailed, step-by-step process by which GMs create their own beasties. Mindstorm has clearly decided – and rightly in my opinion – not to leave the monster creation process to guesswork or a mere appendix. Their approach is clear, logical and useful. Thank the d20…er…6-6 gods!

A chapter on Encounter Management rounds out the book and gives great advice for handling creatures in the Alpha Omega world. Better, the advice is mechanically driven: what aspects of monster mechanics matter most when deciding which to include in an encounter – including tables revealing some of the behind the scenes crunch calculations; which mechanics might prove misleading if not rightly understood; how to simplify encounter construction; and finally some guidelines for building challenging encounters. All this aimed at simplifying the encounter design process.

Then they give us 40 templates intended, not just for use in making new creatures, but for applying to the creatures in the volume. As their back-of-the-book blurb attests, this, theoretically, allows for over 8,000 creature variations. Now, clearly, I haven’t play tested all these templates, but at a glance the work in them seems to support the assertion. Exciting!

A glossary, an index, and a monster “character sheet” for recording your own creatures or prepping for a session finish The Encountered, and they very deftly present all of this the framework of their world fiction. For example, the chapter on monster design is titled “Creature Discovery” and framed in terms of NWSEC’s (New World Science and Engineering Commission) efforts to discover all the new and alien species the New World of 2280 has birthed. Mindstorm laces this kind of setting specific, fiction-rich inspirational content throughout the book, but lightly and carefully, enriching and not distracting from the monster supplement focus. It simply helps make The Encountered an even more entertaining, smooth and intriguing read.

This monster book rocks! Beautiful, rich and original, 200+ monsters, 285 pages, fleshed out with tons of additional info for using and making critters. If you play Alpha Omega, this is a must have. Here’s maybe the best part of the book: by my read, only about 10 – 20% of the monsters are truly setting specific. The Encountered will enrich any sci-fi/fantasy/horror game, and I advise considering it for non-Alpha Omega collections as well.


GM Gems makes 2008 Top 100

GM Gems - a book from Goodman Games on which I was a co-editor, co-developer, and co-author - made the RPG Countdown Top 100 of 2008. I'm jazzed! Thought I'd share.

PC Pearls, the companion volume, may not have made 2008's top 100, but its still a Popular Copper Pick on RPG Now, which is pretty cool.

Would love to hear what people think of either or both volumes.


New and Exciting #5

Hey folks, just a heads up about a few things coming your way...

1. 0onegames announced the Great City Players Guide. I had only a little development on the project, this time round, as I was occupied with other work; however, Tim Hitchcock lead the team as usual, and I've watched the collaborations in progress. Awesome. This book will rock! Classic adventure writer, Willie Walsh, is another behind the scenes brainstorm contributor, which may mean something to my fellow Grognards. This is also a great way to try out the Great City without straining your wallet.

2. Tom McLaughlin over at Mindstorm Labs has asked me to review the new Alpha Omega creature manual, "The Encountered: Volume 1" so that will be coming your way.

3. As many of you know, Supergenius Games is publishing a Call of Cthulu adventure by yours truly. I'm hoping for that in October. Very exciting!

4. You can expect another Rudis Review tied to a September Atomic Array podcast and blog carnival.

5. Last but not least, Nick Logue's Sinister Adventures, plans to release a piece I wrote to bring personal flintlocks to OGL 3x/Pathfinder RPG. Look for it as an Indulgence, over here.

Here's hoping that wets your whistle!


Blogging Gencon 2009 - Photos Part II

Just a few photos care of baron arem heshvaun, of the Paizo messageboards.


Lou Agresta to Run at FLGS

Hey readers,

I'm evaluating running a PFRPG (or N-PFRPG, a little something secret and special, shhhh) campaign at my FLGS in Poughkeepsie. Generally, I'd expect the group to play weekly (real life permitting) and to help me with intermittent playtesting. Anyone local enough have an interest? I haven't picked the day yet, as I would like to hear from potential players.


- Lou


A Handful of Gencon 2009 Photos

I expect they'll be more, but for the interested I've posted a handful of Gencon '09 photos on the RPGAggression Facebook Page. You can join that here:


Blogging GenCon V

Sunday began at 8am and ended at 9:30am. In between, battle fury raged. Giant mechs staggered across the landscape unleashing blistering fire. “MUDPEEP fires gattling laser. MUDPEEP destroys TARD’s armor…”

Erik Frankhouse of Sunder Studios and I played Battle pods after gaming from Saturday night until Sunday morning. Sunday ended at 9:30am, when I crashed, but resumed at 12 noon when I awoke, showered and ran to play Terrowerks with my friends Nick, Rone, Emily, Erik, Brendan, Shirak, John, and Terry. This is a live action game where a team of Marines and Humanotech execs take a sub down into a research station dark. Think Aliens meets Resident Evil meets True Dungeon, but without the set detail.

They give you airsoft guns, which is fun. Then you run around like mad to “rooms” (cubicles set up to make such) trying to fulfill the personal missions from your character sheets and save the station. Results were mixed. The story elements quickly fell apart as our “marines” lost cohesion and ran around shooting up the alien-scape. Most of us had fun, though one or two were a little bored until the staff offered to let them become aliens!

That said, my story was a blast. I found myself caught between wanting to steal a piece of tech and wanting to use it to start the nuclear detonation countdown. I opted for countdown. A great trick Terrorwerks played: they put a live person behind the out-of-control-computer at the heart of the game. You knew it was someone at the other end of a mic, but the sound quality was great and the illusion of talking to an AI computer was very strong. Well acted.

Overall, I give it a B/B+ and hope they make enough to take the experience to the next level.

Food came next. More battlepods. More floor walking, and now it was time to pick up presents for everyone back home. The goodbyes started to trickle in, as folks not staying until Monday departed. The remainders headed for dinner followed by another rest before one final game.

And what a game. What a strange, marvelous, unexpected fever-dreamy game. Nick Logue ran for Boomer, Tordek (aka Sam), Shirak, myself, and our friend Julian. We used Marvel Superheroes for the engine and flew to a strange world of intergalactic tensions. Nigh unto gods, we struggled against each other and a pervasive chthonic psi threat in which only one of our member believed. Titanic fleets smashed planets. Suns erupted. Whole worlds burned. Then the mysterious alien thing behind the conflict seized mental control over two of us, myself included.

Controlled by the alien, we fought one of our number who foresaw the future, dodging everything we threw his way, but in my warped and alien-dominated state, I conceived a notion for his defeat. Empowered beyond the Unearthly scale to shape and warp high space opera super-science mega-technology to my whim, casually I extended my power and seized a passing fleet of Titan Class Space Cruisers for raw material. Melding all the ships into a single weapon with me at its heart, I aborned the Quantum Uncertainty Cannon (QuaUC). Behold its might! Neither my foe nor myself would know the effects of its blast (beyond disrupting reality) for uncertainty striped the very essence of its energies.

Dodge this, you prognosticating mut* f*ck*! I fired -- QUAUC! And everything changed.

Nick Logue reached calmly into his bag and handed out our Pathfinder Character Sheets. “You’re in a dark cavern, your longbow drawn, and the cultists hold your sister…”

Our wizard declared a sense of déjà vu over the blast of his magic missile, and Nick added, “No. You are having déjà vu over being a wizard who remembers a time in the vastness of space…”


We all sat about reading the newspaper, discussing the fire raging in California, having woken from a dream of adventuring in a cavern with déjà vu triggered by the actinic charge of magic…


We are in the fire, fighting it. Waging war against the blaze. No. We are the equipment on the firefighter, fighting the fire off his skin while the firefighter fights the blaze…


Next page in the newspaper. A black and white photo of a 50s family. Each of us is a member of the family. Domestic violence breaks out. I am the family dog. I pee on the brutal father as he hits his wife…


Laser fire blasts through the table of a guy watching porn, just as he climaxes. The laser fire, reminiscent of a magic missile giving us all déjà vu of a time when space itself bent to our whims and our fires destroyed planets, burns through his jism. That sperm was Nick Logue, who now is never born and therefore, this game never happened.

We ended the game around 3am, wandering away dazed, wondering if the game was actually over or still playing on around us, by us, toying with us, or only solipsistically with us…

And so Gencon 2009 ended.


Blogging Gencon IV (for real)

Saturday was great. After chatting with Rone Barton of Atomic Array – easy to do since we’re roomies this con – about the day’s broadcast, I grabbed a power bar for breakfast and headed for the convention hall.

As I had each morning at the hall, I first walked the dealer floor. Jam packed excitement everywhere I turned. Bumping into friends, I made my way to the Paizo booth to see how PFRPG sold the previous day. Flew off the shelves. Kept flying off the shelves while I watched.

I next hit Indie Press Revolution and the Burning Wheel booth with my friends John and Terry and stumbled into a game of Action Castle. This game is hysterical. A party game, essentially, the entire piece consists of one fold out pamphlet. The person holding the pamphlet is the computer, and the group – the larger the better – surrounding the ‘computer’ all play a human-run version of Zork, the old Infocom title.

Moderator: “Welcome to ACTION CASTLE. There is a cottage here. There is a fishing pole. Exits are south.”
First Player: “Pick up pole.”
Moderator: “You have a fishing pole.”
Second player: “What do we have?”
Moderator: “I cannot do that to we.”
Third player: “That’s funny!”
Moderator: “I do not understand funny.”
Fourth player: “South.”
Moderator: “You go south. You are on a garden path. There is a rosebush here.”

Marvelous! And only $5. Needless to say I bought that one. I also bought Empire of Dust and plan to review this fascinating little indie sci-fi title in a Rudis Review one day soon, so more on that another day.

Then it was time for a writing Seminar with Michael Stackpole, “Editing to Perfection.” Excellent as always. Whether writing to entertain or teaching to write, Stackpole always delivers.

Another energy bar on the run, then time to prep for my Open Gaming event at the Canterbury Hotel. This is an invitational I host to give industry folks, exhibitors, designers, writers and such an opportunity to go “off show” and run games for each other. I ran a Call of Cthulu game myself.

My friend Brandon “Candy Man” Hodge ran CoC as well. A Delta Green meets Call of Cthulu set in the civil war. His props were outrageous. The photo of the Innsmouth Union General -- just over the top! Nick Logue went mad, twisting Marvel Superheroes beyond anything it was ever designed to do, while John Stavropolous ran Dogs in the Vinyard and Thor Olvarsund ran the Ennie award winning Mouseguard. Some board games, especially Venus Needs Men, rounded out the mix. Fun was had by all.

I didn’t stop gaming until 8am the next morning. More on that in the post about Sunday!


Blogging Gencon Part (almost) IV

Just a quick note to say I haven't forgotten and the Saturday report will come. Just exhausted. Ran Call of Cthulu until 8am Sunday morning, followed by an hour of Battle Pods. Must. Nap. Now. More soon!


Blogging Gencon Part III

Rushing off to a meeting, but I wanted to fill everyone in on Friday. A great but exhausting day! After staying up to 5am playing in Nick's Marvel game, I slunk toward the convention hall around 10am the following morning. Enthused but subdued -- until the next game followed by an awesome seminar on characterization with Michael Stackpole. Moving on to a little friend-coordination and registration-wrassling, we secured a game of Terror Werks on Sunday (I'll fill everyone in after the game), and that made it time for some lunch.

On the floor, things had slowed a bit at the Paizo booth, but this is normal. Saturday (today) will be the real test. You see, most people who want a product - and know they want it - pick it up the first day. The undecided and those who first see the product at the con need a few days to think about buying. As a result, sales in the middle of the con typically slow, followed by a mad rush to the tables and booths on Saturday and Sunday For example, I plan to do all my gift shopping on Sunday, because who wants to carry all that stuff around?

By the by, I've my eye on a big plushy d20 for my 2 year old. Or maybe that huge Super Cthulu? So hard to decide. So--ooooh, shiny!

My evening was a blur of business meetings, but all fruitful, and then some relaxing and chilling. Which never lasts long. Before you know it, calls come in: "Hey, I'm running a Pathfinder game. Wanna play?" And, once more, I'm up late. 3am this time, which most lame, but what can I say? I'm an old grognard.

Definitely looking forward to tonight: I'm hosting an Open Gaming invitational at the Canterbury, and we expect to game until dawn!

I'll be sure to tell you all how it went tomorrow. Back to the con!


Blogging Gencon 2009 - Part II

It's the morning of the day after, and Gencon 2009 rolls along. Thursday was an amazing day. I spent much of it on the exhibitor floor meeting publishers. I finally met Stan! of Supergenius Games who hired me for a Call of Cthulu adventure due out for Halloween. I'm still hunting Hyrum with no luck, but I'll find him! Had a chat with Mr. Gareth-Michael Skarka of Adamant, whose first ever Pathfinder supplement is rocking the charts. I met Aldo of Impressions Marketing. All in all, a fantastic time.

For adventure, my brother Shirak and I sat ourselves down in Battle Pods and spent nearly an hour blasting away in a Mech free for all. Launching rockets, firing lasers, rattling chain guns. Dying. Well me, anyway. I died frequently, which brought the fun to others' kill lists so who cares, right? *grins shakily while hand shakes and visions of fireballs cross his eyes* Right?!

The evening capped with a dinner I host at the Canterbury hotel. Most of the Paizo crew were there, as well as many of my fellow freelancers. We ate, drank, and merrified. Jugs of Alcatraz brew graced our table as we played Werewolf, accusing and lynching each other into the wee hours, nearly 30 strong. There were so many highlight moments, its hard to recall them all, but I'll see if I can't get some pictures up later in the con.

Nothing ends a night at Gencon like gaming until 5am. And nothing tops gaming like Marvel Superheroes run by Nicolas Logue! The table held Greg Vaughan, John Stavropolous, Tim Hitchock and other awesome folks, all struggling to survive in Freak Town, the burnt out mutant ghetto in Logue's Watchman/XMan like future. The mutant registration act breathing down our necks. Awesome!

Well I'm off to some breakfast, locating/waking friends, climbing back into a mech to practice so I can blow said friends into fire-y balls of death, hunting down a game of Terror Werx (more on that tomorrow), and generally returning to the maze of fun that is GENCON 2009!


Blogging Gencon 2009

The first day of Gencon draws to a close, and I thought I'd share some impressions and experiences. First off, the con is jam packed. The crowd is thick and the fans pumped. Myself, I'm taking things a little slowly this con, hanging with friends and associates.

We kicked of Wednesday night with a Paizo contributor party. I watched Nick Logue put Lisa Stevens in stitches as he went through nearly every illo in the PFRPG Core Rule Book and sketch in dialogue: "Holy crap. Do you see that?! Whose bright idea was this adventure? Put the wizard in front!" Very funny. Wednesday is usually the slow day. Friends gather, consume food, a few drinks and catch up into the late hours.

Today I hit the dealer floor. Crammed with gamer goodness. The line for the PFRPG Core Rule Book went around the booth, down the hall past the restrooms, out the hall and nearly hit the street. I saw people walking away with stacks of five and six books. Not wanting to wait on such a long line, I asked Jason Bulmahn if I should be concerned about a quick sellout, or could I come back later. He slapped his hand on a massive 10' by 10', chest high (on me, thigh high on him) display and said, "This is not a table." Books. Nothing but PFRPG Core Rulebooks. "But they should be gone by late Saturday, so don't wait too long."

I bought mine a few hours later.

Later tonight I host a Werewolf game at the Canterbury hotel for industry peeps, fellow writers and their family. Always a hoot, and I'm looking forward to it. Some of you stopped in for Werewolf at Paizocon. Much fun. At this one, Tim Hitchcock always loads up on the booze. Clinton Boomer does the entire dinner in a Christopher Walken impression. Rone and Ed take notes for roasting folks on Atomic Array, and we all gang up on the Paizo team and any other publisher we can get in our villager sights to lynch.

For those of you who haven't played Werewolf, its a party game. Lots of fun, and you can check the rules here: Werewolf Try it. It gets a 5 Sword Rudis Review!

More later tonight or tomorrow.

- Lou


A Set Piece for Paizo

It’s out! Pathfinder #24: The Final Wish, by Rob McCreary is finally out. Aside from simply adoring Paizo Publishing’s latest AP, the Legacy of Fire, this one has my Set Piece in it.

Legacy of Fire rocks: foulest beasts, endless sands, Arabian Nights and Sinbad flavor, desert damsels – more distressing than in distress – what’s not to love? Imagine my excitement when, a while back, I won an internal contest to see who would write the final Set Piece in the AP. The publisher let me figure out what’s inside a genie bottle, and why genie bottles exist at all. Fun!

Then I learned this would be the last Set Piece Paizo published in their APs. Not so fun. Also a bit of responsibility – not that I wasn’t still excited!

However, it is starting to look like a pattern. First Nick Logue and I write the last adventure Dungeon magazine ever acquired, and then they canceled the magazine. Now I write a Set Piece for Legacy of Fire, and they cancel the Set Pieces. The good news: clearly, my curse is weakening – they didn’t cancel the AP!

OK. It was the final volume. But still!

Seriously, Legacy of Fire is tremendous. Gorgeous books, great writing. More D&D fun is tough to come by, and I’m proud to add a small bit to it.

As a contributing author I can’t, in fairness, write a Rudis Review on this one, but I can recommend it. Pathfinder #24: The Final Wish – Lou recommends!


The Rudis Review: Sneak Peek at White Wolf's Geist: The Sin Eaters

This is hot. I mean really hot. Hot like a Mike Carey novel, which is funny because when I received Geist: The Sin-Eaters to review, I had just put down Carey's The Devil You Know to get back to work. Only to feel like I'd walked right back into the novel as I read this game! I'm a big Mike Carey fan, so this is high praise.

In Geist: The Sin-Eaters, White Wolf’s forthcoming addition to their award-winning World of Darkness setting, you play people with near-death experiences, who return from dipping a toe into the wading pool of death, ridden by a potent and nasty spiritual entity called a Geist. Ridden is an understatement: this is no run-of-the-mill demonic possession game. You return from death in cahoots, having cut a deal called “The Bargain” or “The Event” in-game. Your dying human swapped escaping death for hosting - for becoming - an aspect of death itself. It’s an age old story: the hungriest for life do a deal with the devil at the crossroads, forge a pact to escape death. Old it may be, but in the hands of the White Wolf writers the trope turns into pure RPG genius, loaded with dark, disturbing, creepy fun.

In a hospital ward, a man hisses his last breaths through a machine that ticks and bleeps at regular intervals. The cancer has practically liquefied his organs, but he fights for every single breath. He’s not done living yet.

– Geist: The Sin-Eaters

Players ridden by a Geist – the Bound as they sometimes refer to themselves – do not merely harbor a ghost in their souls. They have entwined the Geist into their souls, inextricably. It becomes part of their souls, and a Geist is no mere ghost.

As you would expect from White Wolf, Geist is internally consistent with the WoD’s revealed cosmology. It builds on their setting's conception of ghosts as having anchors – a thing undone, a loved one to watch over – keeping them tied to the world of the living and out of the Underworld. Snap the anchors and bye-bye ghost. A Geist, on the other hand, has managed to replace its anchors to the human world – parts of its soul, really – with archetypical aspects of death. The Geist now anchors to the world of the living, not through human emotions of longing or desires for revenge against an enemy, but through universal aspects of death, aspects which may include the archetype of longing or of a thirst for revenge.

The Geist has ceased to be the ghost of Bob Smith, cruelly murdered by his own mistreated dog; instead, it has become the Geist that was once Bob Smith, but is now (mostly) the pure essence of a self-hatred so intense it brutalizes itself by torturing what it genuinely loves. While a remnant of the man Bob Smith floats inside and likely suffers, the Geist, in this example, is not a mere ghost, so plagued by self-hatred it does violence to others in order to hurt itself. The Geist is self-hatred catalyzed to violence. The very essence of it. And all the Bound have asked such things to come inside and blend with their souls, permanently, in exchange for escaping death. This is some wild metaphysical shit!

Here’s the thing: the Geist, an amalgam of human personality remnants and an archetypical facet of that human's own death, has an agenda. It has blind needs. It is a blind need. And it whispers to its host, making demands.

A vast, black shadow of a man is clad in the blood-soaked colors of the street gang he once ran with. His teeth are spent shell casings, his eyes two perfectly symmetrical bullet holes. He smells of cordite and smoke, and he speaks with a voice like cracking gunfire.

A grinning skeleton in a purple tuxedo dances a lewd jig. His cane is smooth, polished black wood, held like a phallus between his legs. He whispers in your ear that tonight is the night to party, to drink and snort and smoke and fuck until your body gives out. He whispers the same exhortation every single night.

Geist: The Sin-Eaters

Here's another thing: Geists grant power to their hosts.

But how does such a game play? In Geist, the Bound form krewes – typically something like a secret society crossed with a biker gang, though it could be a krewe of local housewives if you like – groups of the Bound with like philosophies pursuing like goals. Want a game that feels like the TV show Supernatural? Run a krewe that hunts down and evicts ghosts. This is a mission that would make the players Sin-Eaters. Heroes, if you will.

Personally, I’m intrigued by other possibilities: what if I want to belong to a krewe that enslaves ghosts? What if my krewe is totally immoral and uses our supernatural connection to the Underworld, not as a reason for plumbing the depths of the mystery in life and death – but for the Benjamins? What if just such a self-serving krewe is stirring up dark, metaphysical trouble way above their pay grade and my krewe needs to put a stop to it?

As one would expect in a brilliant RPG, the possibilities are endless.

Now I admit, the word ‘krewe’ made me cringe when I first read it. Too much like ‘kewl’ but in a short while I lost that first impression. Particularly as White Wolf has crafted a wild, life-loving, New Orleans jazz of a Dios de los Muertos cultural mélange into which modern Sin-Eaters delve. They also create game mechanics whereby the color of your occult practices matters not -you have a Geist within, after all - freeing gamers to invent any style of Sin-Eater they desire to play.

Geists also last longer than their hosts and some Geists are famous. Other Sin-Eaters will say, “He’s carrying the Pale Man” or “She’s holding the Burning Woman” and grant respect or fear accordingly. This creates the RP opportunity for legendary figures, BBEGs and heroes, for players to gain respect or become feared in the local supernatural community.

With krewes, a culture - that reveres, for example the Horsemen of the Apocalypse as patron saints of the different facets of death, love it! – factions and societies, personal legends, mechanics that bear any flavor, and all powered by the Geists inside, White Wolf has given us a viable power group to slot into any World of Darkness campaign.

Original, creepy, disturbing and focused on the most important theme in life – death. Don’t miss this book. It’s an awesome addition or even entry point into White Wolf’s World of Darkness. I predict awards for Geist: The Sin-Eaters in the future!

Want to learn more about Geist: The Sin-Eaters? Read on...

Drop by White Wolf Publishing today!


Blast from my AE Past

Recently, a thread over at Paizo drew me in to post. On true names and a cool attempt to construct a true name wielding class for a home brew, it reminded me of my very first (semi-professional) RPG writing. Alack and alas, when I tried to find my true name pieces on the cool fan site which had accepted them -- gone. Nada.

Embarrassing, because I tried to contribute to the discussion and fell on my face. Bleh.

So here they are again for the folks in the true namer thread:
What's in a Name - Part I
What's in a Name - Part II


Bloody Fix: Play Experience and Errata

Hey ho, all.

Feel free to read on, of course, but I wanted to point out that this blog post will most benefit those who own or are considering a copy of Rone Barton's and my adventure The Bloody Fix.

At the recent Paizocon, over which I'm just about blogged out, I enjoyed a fabulous opportunity. I ran my own (and Rone's) adventure, The Bloody Fix, for a group who'd never seen it before.

This is a special sort of experience for an adventure writer. Writing is its own reward, but an RPG is more than just the words on the page, the fantastical and mechanical creations, the crunch and the fluff. RPGs are incomplete without the play experience, which is itself part improv theater. To run your creation for others results in an immediate gratification not often available to writers, the kind traditional actors experience on the stage, but even then -- not quite

My opportunity ran 9 hours. I expected 12, but this party pulled off the adventure in 9. They chose all the unobvious clues, walked an almost utterly unexpected clue-path, triangulated the BBEG as he/she/it tried to scare them off, then confronted and beareded her/him/it in his/her/its lair. They also did so in a unique way that amplified their victory. A fantastic experience and fun all around.

That said, I learned a few things that escaped our original playtest, and I'd like to share. So here 'tis, my points of shame:
1. In the Zheeld and Zharnol encounter, add a minimum of 3 more monks of the same type as backup.

2. All the skill checks in the adventure? Reduce them by 5. That's right. All of them. They are set against the perfect min/max character, not for the average adventurer.

3. Consider adding in that Galwatty doesn’t know who his fight club opponent is, just that the first name is Opie. This turns the Opie Hardbar encounter into a two-part investigation (find last name first, then locate Opie) and reducing the chance PCs always visit Opie first.

4. Some of the insults in the insult match encounter are published PG-13. In our original write-up they were a bit...stronger. I've added them below.


Opie’s Insults
1. “When was the accident?” (A party member then naturally asks what accident he refers to.) Your mother must have kept rocks and glass in her snatch.
2. “Speaking of your mother, what’s it like getting bopped in the head with horse cock and sailor fists every day for nine months?”
9. “Who knew a pile of donkey shit could walk and talk? Any way you can stop the stink?”

Opie’s Information
About fighting Galwatty: “Troops went wild when Galwatty was pitted against me. They want to bring me down because I’ve won against all three Korty scumbags, and two of those Talquars whimpered and died at my feet. I am the storm made flesh! They say Galwatty’s a top-notch fighter, and I almost doubted myself when the ehrenrood arrived, but after his demotion? No fight in his eyes. Demoralized souls make lousy fighters. That’s it. The game is already won. Can you believe he’s the favorite in this match? Whatever. For once, I can bet on myself and score some real coin. I’m going to beat his mouth so hard he’ll shit teeth like baby corn.”


Unofficial Slave Pits of Absalom: Redux

Recently, at Paizocon, I had the good fortune to meet Rob McCreary, author of Legacy of Fire #6: The Final Wish, in which my first set piece appears. Rob mentioned that he used some of the unofficial variations on PFS#8: Slave Pits of Absalom that I posted here, and his group enjoyed it. That was awesome, but when I asked how they liked the alternate, non-canon version of the Slave Pits I'd designed, Rob raised an eyebrow. D'oh! I never posted that stuff up here. Shame on me. So, Rob, as promised here 'tis, 2 files. Maps and original draft as submitted.

Original Draft Maps
Pre-Editorial Slave Pits of Absalom

I'd just like to state again that NOTHING IN WHAT FOLLOWS IS AUTHORIZED, ENDORSED, OR OTHERWISE SUPPORTED BY PAIZO. AND NONE OF THESE IDEAS OR MATERIALS ARE FOR USE IN PFS OR ORGANIZED PLAY. This is just me posting up some cool stuff for people to play around with at home. It's not canon, it's not anything. Shites and gigglies, nothing more.


PS Won't someone please tell me how the mammoth plays out?! I'm dying here - no one has ever reported trying it.


Blogging Paizocon - Sunday - The Late Edition

I feel I've held off blogging about Sunday because, well, it was Sunday. Last day of Paizocon, and, as usual, the end-of-con-blues crept in. The crew shut down the booths. Everyone moved a bit more slowly. As the day rolled on, more shoulders slumped, fewer people roamed the halls. Goodbyes everywhere.

Best thing to do is grab a game! We grabbed a Call of Cthulu game run by James McKenzie (Sir Wulf). I adore James and his writing. His Cthulu games are intricate and detailed, rich with history, and peppered with interersting NPCs. We went pulp. Skeeter and Shirak played twin Irish brothers. Ms. Em was Ms. Porter, a linguist whose delicacy was all an act and who'd as lief speak with her sword cane -- in your back. Myself, Greg Ragland, and this awesome dude whose face I can see but whose name now escapes me (Damn you, memory!) played Indiana Jones type professors with varying degrees of ethics (or lack thereof) and many guns. Set in Egypt in the 30s, Wulf writes pulp Cthulu like no other!

Unfortunately, it was an 8 hour game, minimum, and we had to bag after 3 or 4 hours. This con's goodbyes proved especially difficult as I had a plane that day and a 7:45pm pickup. My advice, oh con goers: always arrive earlyish the night before and leave the day after. Less hassle, cheaper plane flights, more time with friends -- especially during that exhausto-relaxed after-con crash.

As it was, we had just enough time to grab some good-bye Sushi with Sir Wulf, Shirak, and Em. On the return trip we bumped into a great crowd at the Pumphouse (tons on tap, all the food fried) : Ed Healy, Neal Spicer, Greengrunt, Gavgoyle, Boomer -- on whom we deposited Miss Em his GF -- Jason Nelson, and more. Semi-drunken goodbyes all around.

Sitting at the airport alone depressed me, so I'll stop here.

More pictures to come! Maybe video too. Bye Paizocon II!


Blogging Paizocon - Saturday - Part II

Others on the Paizo website have detailed the confirmed changes and crunchy bits revealed at the PFRPG preview banquet. Frankly, I was having so much fun, I didn't take enough notes to do a better job, so I'm not going to try.

Most everyone at the con packed into the hotel ballroom -- plates of juicy food goodness, deserts and drinks in hand -- and grabbed a table. Every table had at least one spot for a special guest and a Paizo employee, which was a great idea. My table had only me for special guest, but we got Wes Schneider (who rocks) so all was good. In fact, there really was no way every table wouldn't rock with the reserved seating laid out that way. Of course, my brother, the Eagle from Beast Master, was with us. Five other great-spirited, Paizoans joined us. I suck, because I can't remember their names.

Lisa Stevens opened the event with a delightful and welcoming speech, focusing on the fans and the unexpected success that is Paizo. Hearing her sincere enthusiasm for the game, for Paizo, for Paizoans -- marvelous. She sees the PFRPG as her chance to witness yet another seminal evolution in the history of the game (little things like TSR, WotC, Magic the Gathering, and Vampire being others), and I for one, agree.

The room darkened and Jason B. then reviewed the PFRPG section by section on the big screen. He hit us with highlights, confirmed changes, and touched on the final resolution of matters oft debated on the boards. I distinctly overheard a senior Paizo employee (who shall remain nameless because I want to write for them more) say, "Uh oh. He's [Jason] drinking beer. I hope he doesn't reveal more than he should..." Hilarious. Jason's presentation was spot on and no, he didn't reveal too much, but he did foster a growing excitement in my belly. The PFRPG book is gorgeous, all 578 pages of it, and I can't wait to get it into my hands.

Erik closed with another inspiring, warm speech and a few product announcements: yes to a PFRPG subscription, yes to a heavy card-stock-designed-to-survive GM screen, and he announced the PFRPG Gamemastery Guide, confirming Paizo's dedication to putting adventure tools in our hands as opposed to fixing their permanent imprint onto the game. Awesome!

Finally, Josh announced the evening's final festivities: a ballroom-wide Golarion quiz game. Every table became a team. Categories included Society, Combat, etc. etc. Questions included: what was the name of the Andoran revolution? What country outlawed religion? and the like. The prize was a $50 gift certificate per person at the winning table. Perfect.

Again, more attentive note-taking folks on the Paizo boards have done a better job of recounting the exact questions, answers, and contest results. Eventually it came down to a three-way tie, broken by two final-death questions: "Name the most continents on Golarion..." and "Name the most planets in the solar system shared by Golarion..."

The purpose of having an employee and a special guest at each table, other than spreading the love, became clear. Unfortunately, I proved woefully inadequate. Tables with the likes of Kortes and Vaughan (yeah - both at one table, practically cheating if you ask me!) or Liz Courts rocked out. Josh Frost and Erik Mona read the best answers aloud and generally ranked on all of us.

Lacking sufficient Golarion knowledge to compete I had not choice but to make it fun. Lets just say one of our sheets contained "Damn you Eric Mona!" for all five answers. Erik promptly ranked us for spelling his name wrong: "All the product I send you and you still can't spell my name right? What's wrong with you?" We mixed it up a bit with "Bite me Josh Frost!" and answers like "Dumf*ckistan", "The Dread Elric Mona" and the ever popular "Frosty McDelicious". Hysterical to hear Josh read the latter aloud, claim it for his rap name, then point me out. "Oh, of course. Lou Agresta's table. I'm watching you, Agresta!"

And we weren't the only humorists in the bunch. Name of the Andoran revolution? Dance, dance. Who is the Whispering Tyrant? Hard to say. Hard to hear him.

Great, great fun. Well done Josh, EriC, and Paizo at large. Go Bristlesticks!

We rounded Saturday night out with a 12 or so person game of Werewolf. Cosmo joined us. Liz Courts, Jason Nelson, and tons others. Again -- much, much fun. I'll try and post a video Miss Em took of an entire round. Not sure if I'll succeed, as the vid is big, so I'll make that a later post.

Finally we popped over to the infamous Room 247, more of Ted's outrageous home brew and food, a late night showing of Blade Runner, and great conversation to the wee hours all around.

And that was Saturday at Paizocon. Sunday to follow.

Blogging Paizocon - Photographic Interlude

Some pictures I thought you'd all enjoy.

Sunday Werewolf game. Gavgoyle aka "Wolfman", Lilith, Cosmo (Paizo customer service), Timitius

The Lovely Miss Em and Liz Courts!

I told you I'd do it!

Josh Stevens, Scott Gable, Me, Ed Healy, Em & Boomer, Shirak, and Ashton


Blogging Paizocon 2009 - Saturday - Part I

What a day! What a fun, fun day!

Started off at 8am with Greg Vaughan looking Marine happy and all perky behind his screen. 4.5 hours of Slumbering Tsar preview. Awesome! For those not in the know, Slumbering is Vaughan's 500,000 word Orcus mega-adventure, commissioned, written and ready to publish. With luck a Paizo/Necromancer games publishing collaboration is in the works. Cross your fingers, pester Clark Petersen and Eric Mona without letup because if this was any indication...it rocks.

We headed into the bone dust desert (literally a desert, literally of bone dust from an ancient battle, long ago) in search of the Silent Watcher who Points the Way, seeking the lost tomb of an Asimar hero reputed to await awakening in the world's time of need. In Slumbering that time has come; only, the forces of darkness have managed to sabotage the awakening. Now its up to us.

Giant sand creatures, a domed lost tomb, secret entrances, flaming outsiders, rhasts, once mighty companions of good rendered into ghast-hood, a drow, a broken clock mechanism, a giant black pudding behind the wrong door (slain from inside with a punch by our Scottish-accented dwarf hero) and a freed hero later -- wow. Good times.

Even if he's the author who writing has killed more of my PCs than any other, I love Vaughan's work for its classic 1E feel that somehow never ceases to be 3.5 and never ceases to make sense. We experienced, as Greg put it, "1/7th of 1 chapter" in a mega-adventure that'll take you all the way to 21st level. So yes, folks, you heard it right - there is 1/2 million words of this! Pray it sees print. Soon.

* * *

After Slumbering we had some time to kill, so off to lunch I went with Greg, Mike Kortes, and a great bunch of Paizo crew. Jeff Alvarez, Cosmo, Brock, Chris, and Allison. These are the folks who make our products show up in our mail boxes (amongst other things) -- great folks and a great lunch. Especially since Greg had never tried Sushi before (applause - he was game) and Mike Kortes is just a grand man and spanking good writer.

* * *

Later that evening, the premier event -- the preview banquet for the Pathfinder RPG. All 578 pages of it. Let me say that again, 578 pages! Plus, Erik Mona (hah Erik -- see, I can spell it right) announced an upcoming 350+ page book revealing all Paizo's secrets of adventure path, world and campaign bulding. A book specifically designed to bring the DIY back to D&D, just as the PFRPG itself is NOT Paizo campaign-world specific.

And now, I'm going to be a little mean. The hotel gym, a shower, coffee and breakfast all call. I'm going to leave y'all hanging a bit, go sneak in my last day of gaming and blog about the second half of Saturday (banquet, book details, Werewolf, and party) later today!


Blogging Paizocon 2009 - Friday

The day launched about 11am as gamers wolfed their food in the hotel's somewhat over-priced mediocre grill. But who cared? Paizocon begins!

Everyone's morning strated awesome: registration seemed to go without a hitch, events started on time, but the swag?! Holy crap. Put Gencon to total shame. Every swag bag came with the complete Key Largo board game, a copy of Yetisburg, the latest PCGen, Item cards -- the list goes on.

The con's fanzine rocked. Solid material by great authors. Everywhere you looked people actually reading it and not a copy that I saw tossed aside.

The only complication came from Sean Reynolds whose car apparently went into a ditch. Sean was ok, great thanks. His windshield cracked. He had to wait for the police after action report and the tow. Even this only slowed things down, as he kicked off his event a mere two (or so) hours late.

For myself, things started slow. After hobnobbing, I set up in the open gaming room with my signs, crafted from unneeded cardboard Paizo product boxes. Sign one: "Special Guest Lou Agresta" Sign two: "Will Game for xxxFoodxxx. FREE!"

And proceded to wait as precisely no one showed up. Lots of laughs. No game. Given the registration snafus I really expected more people without a game. Not so.

And not to worry, though, a few hours later my table was full. I ran a 5-player game of The Bloody Fix, from 0onegames, by Rone and I. Great game. Players included: Miss Em, Shirak, Greg Ragland, and two awesome Paizoans whose name escapes me. Why? Because I can't stop thinking about them as Corey, Rogue 1/Wizard 2 and Throk, no-shit-taking, great-sword wielding Dwarf fighter with a magic black top hat. 9 hours later they had cut through 2/3rds of the adventure, bypassed a 1/3rd with a totally unexpected deduction and bearded the BBEG in its lair. Hah! Did that throw them for a loop!

Well I don't want to throw out any spoilers, but a few players nearly wet themselves in terror and a good time was had by all! We wrapped up at 2am or so, skipping all the after hours festivities.

Now its 7:30am, and I'm off to Greg Vaughan's Slumbering Tsar preview. More soon!


Blogging Paizocon 2009 - Thursday Night

Paizocon kicked off with a blast. A late arrival at SeaTac followed by drinks at the Coast Bellevue. Settled in with Ed Healy, Clinton Boomer, the lovely Miss Em, Scott Gable, Josh Stevens. Drinks and jokes all around.

The night really took off when we hit Ted's (Zuxius) room -- this guy makes some of the absolutely best home microbrews I've ever tasted. And generous? The man laid out a late night feast of snack and beverage. We talked games and movies into the wee hours suckling on Zirnakayin Dark Lager among others. Ashton (N'wah -- of Pathfinder paper mini fame), Sean (Greengrunt), Dane (ahg - can't remember his board name) and other Paizoans rounded out the mix.

The reveal of the day? Clinton Boomer does a nigh perfect Christopher Walken impression. Good times!

Gaming starts today and more reports to follow.

PS The memory gaps are not my fault. Blame Ted's outrageous cream ale.


0Onegames Releases "Puncture the Blackened Vein"

0Onegames Releases "Puncture the Blackened Vein" - and there was much rejoicing! I'm pretty excited about this release, my peeps. 70 pages! It's the longest project I've written yet. More to the point, Rone and I taook a turn away from non-linear mysteries with Puncture and delivered a political intrigue with chases, parades, warehouse fires, mega battles, dead gods, explosions, plots within plots within... well, you get the idea. Hope you all enjoy and can't wait to hear what everyone thinks.

Check out the review on RPGNow if you have a moment!


The Rudis Review: Kobold Quarterly 9

Book: Kobold Quarterly 9
Length/Type: 64 pages/magazine
System: OGL/Pathfinder, 4e, System Independent
Author(s): Stefen Styrsky, Andrew Hind, Adam Daigle, Mattew Hanson, John E. Ling, Monte Cook, Scott Gable, Richard Pett, Michael Kortes, Joshua Stevens, Jeff Grubb, et. al.
Publisher: Wolfgang Bauer
Licensor/Endorser: n/a
(5 of 5 rudii)

Erik Mona of Paizo and former publisher of Dragon magazine once called KQ the “…spiritual successor to Dragon...” Mr. Mona, respectfully, we disagree. KQ just is the successor to Dragon, and issue 9 really shows it. The publication is fair and balanced, post edition wars: about 50% OGL/Pathfinder, 25% 4th Edition, and 25% System independent. So no matter for which side you warred, at least 50% of the content is for you. Realistically, all of it is for all of you with a little crunch translation. KQ is a must have for every gamer, it’s just that simple.

Here are some highlights from issue 9 to show you what I mean:

Interview with Dave Arneson
Says it all doesn’t it? Last words of the last master. Prophetic, disturbing, touching, insightful and boy am I glad we have it. For this alone, KQ is worth twice its cover price. Jeremy Jones proves a deft touch at the interview task, which is a task I know a bit about.

Ecology of the Maenar
Matthew Hanson turns a talented hand to Greek myth and the maenad. The maenads were the female followers of Dionysus whose name translates as “the raving ones.” As Wikipedia tells us: “...often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by him into a state of ecstatic frenzy, through a combination of dancing and drunken intoxication. In this state, they would lose all self control, begin shouting excitedly, engage in uncontrolled sexual behavior, and ritualistically hunt down and tear animals…” Hanson gives us an entire society of such creatures, adds a hero to the background myth, and makes them playable as PCs by portraying them as trained to control their rage. New feats and a psionic twist round out his unusual take. As for the writing? Here’s the thing: my wife, a non-gamer, picked up my KQ to flip through it, casually interested in how her husband spends so much of his time. She wandered off with my KQ and wouldn’t give it back, because Matt’s Maenar article fascinated her. Thanks a bunch, Matt.

Unfamiliar Familiars
Now when I first read the title and subheading for this article, I thought, “Adam Daigle, you’re a fine hand at monsters, an exciting creative, a wit, and I love your work in Paizo’s Pathfinder (so much so that I used it in some of my work in Pathfinder), but familiars? Come on, dude. Don’t beat a dead horse.

I hereby officially eat my thought-words.

Adam breathes new life into an old, old trope. I love his new familiars. Turning an unseen servant into a familiar? Brilliant. Blink dog pups, clockwork beetles – Zobeck style – myna birds; what’s not to like? But here are my favorites: the bookmouse and the symbiotic temporum. The bookmouse because you can send it against enemy mages to eat their spells and transfer their power to you; and the symbiotic temporum because who doesn’t like a slimy, magical parasite burrowing through one’s palate and clamping onto the spine? The crowning fun in this last beastie is that, while it grants significant power, it retains intelligence of its own and can choose to temporarily paralyze its host. I positively itch to GM a player hosting a temporum. Well done.

KQ9 contains solid and exciting work from veteran writers: Monte Cook, Richard Pett, Mike Kortes. Scott Gable’s take on the Japanese Kistune is exciting, but the article that truly floated my boat flowed from the pen of relative newcomer Joshua Stevens.

Chasing the Grave
Punning off the Hong Kong slang for opium addiction (chasing the dragon), Stevens gives us a highly addictive opiate like drug that grants users visions of their dead loved ones at the price of poisoning themselves. Right there, I’m hooked. Illusions or true commune with the dead: who cares? The story power of this idea is mighty.

Stevens doesn’t disappoint: his exploration of the drug (dubbed requiem) is thorough. In a nice head nod, his background has the drug originating in the east and migrating to trouble the west. He discusses the variety of dens, the differences between the two versions of the drug – clay for the poor folks and bliss for the wealthy – discusses addiction and suggests how to integrate requiem into your game.

My advice? Don’t miss Kobold Quarterly 9. Hell, consider subscribing. I do!

Want to learn more about Kobold Quarterly Issue 9? Read on...

Drop by Kobold Quarterly.com to pick up your copy today!


Werecabbages Launch New Site, Aggregate Member Content

The Werecabbages, a freelance creative guild with more than forty of the most successful and promising RPG writers, artists and cartographers, launched a new site. The site aggregates content from members -- including Jonathan Drain's d20 Source, Troy Taylor's Gnome Stew, and the ineffable Atomic Array and RPG Countdown from Rone Barton and Ed Healy. Additionally it offers some RPG goodies for free (more posted all the time), and acts as a newsletter showcasing guild member's latest projects.

I'm a member, so I expect this post to aggregate onto the site, creating an infinite regress of self-referenced and redundantly repeated recursion.

My suggestion: check it out!


New and Exciting #4: Cover Sneak Peek

Hey all, just a few teasers about things coming your way:

1. I just heard from the our publisher, Mario Barbati, over at 0onegames, and they are diligently producing the next installment of the Road to Revolution adventure path. That would be "Puncture the Blackened Vein" by Rone Barton and Yours Truly. A sneak peek at the cover art has me all drooly; so, here it is...

Schemers will scheme and killers will kill
But sayeth the Zaelites, bind them she will!
Kindrogga Zael, the Mistress of Slaughter
Pain is her son and cold be her daughter!”
– Mad Zaelite in the Square of the Eleven Prayers.

More than the Temple Ward is at stake when a clan of Kortezian zealots and their generations-old scheme to fulfill a divine prophecy threatens to unleash an ancient evil. Set in the Great City, the epic Road to Revolution campaign takes characters from their humble beginnings, all the way to powerful adventurers upon whose actions the City’s survival depends.

I am really excited about this one. I love collaborating with Rone (aka The Jade) and am madly in love with our latest creative child. Another update once I have a release schedule!

2. Many of you may know that the first episode in Paizo's new Legacy of Fire AP started hitting mailboxes across the country. The debut volume, Howl of the Carrion King, by Erik Mona himself, is awesome! We're really missing out by not forcing Erik to publish less and write more. Moreover, this AP also features set pieces, each done by a member of the Werecabbages. While in the past not everyone has loved set pieces, the first stems from the creative mind and stalwart pen of James MacKenzie -- and rocks! I enjoy MacKenzie's work immensely and give him 5 rudii as a writer, regardless of which piece we're discussing. Don't miss this gorgeously illustrated AP, folks, it looks to be a true winner.

3. Speaking of Paizo, as it turns out, I'll be attending Paizocon 2009 -- as a special guest. I'm tickled pink and a bit humbled. If you follow this link to learn more, you'll reward yourself with a picture of me with chopsticks up my nose in the latest Paizo Blog.

4. Last but not least, I've recently become intrigued by an author of historical fiction named Scott Oden, and I think his site is worth a look. Scott's also a gamer, and I heard a rumor he's got a major fantasy fiction series on the way. Keep your eyes peeled!

Well that's all for now, until next post...


Atomic Array Witnesses 4e: PHB2 Sneak Preview

These guys never quit! They're shining the same insight and uproarious gamer humor into the realm of 4e with interviews and exclusives. Atomic Array is always a hoot. I never miss it.

Here's the summary from their site:

Episode 18 of Atomic Array got an exclusive sneak peak at Player’s Handbook 2 by Wizards of the Coast.

Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford invited us to visit Wizards of the Coast to talk about their latest book. Pathfinder published Ed Healy has been playing in a weekly 4th Edition campaign since the play testing days and wasn’t going to give up a chance to get a peek at the next core release for Dungeons & Dragons.

Ed’s Pick:
Saga of Old City by Gary Gygax
Rone’s Rant: Clutter
Listen to learn how you can win a copy of Player’s Handbook 2.
Want to learn more about Player’s Handbook 2.? Read on…

• Atomic Array:
Episode 018: Player’s Handbook 2
• Game Cryer: Player’s Handbook 2 Review
• Gnome Stew: A Veteran GM’s Take on GMing and the PHB2
• Critical Hits: The Avenger
• Campaign Mastery: The Barbarian
• Uncle Bear: The Bard
• Critical Ankle Bites: The Druid
• Kobold Quarterly: Review: Player’s Handbook 2
• Flames Rising: The Shaman
• Stupid Ranger: The Sorcerer
• Musings of the Chatty DM: The Warden