Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Magic swag deck challenge

This year at Gen Con, the swag bags included a thirty-card intro deck for Magic: The Gathering. I played Magic when it was released and through the first couple of expansions. I stopped playing about the time that the Ice Age expansion was released and haven't played regularly since. Every once in a while, I flirt with the idea of putting a new deck together, but I'm too far out of the loop to know what cards and combinations are currently competitive and I don't want to spend the time to relearn everything. I still love the background ideas for the Magic universe(s), though, and the card art and flavor text always give me some ideas that I want to bring into other games.

Seeing the decks in the swag bags this year made me think of using the cards for inspiration again. So, I decided to issue a challenge to a couple of old gaming friends. Although one said he basically already did this all the way through high school years ago, he and a couple other people were ready to go. Here's the challenge:

Take a swag deck and the instructions and create something for your tabletop RPG of choice. Use the art, flavor text, box art, descriptions on the instructions, and whatever else you see in the box. You don't have to use every card or image in the deck, but the more you use the better. If you can do it, create at least one interesting place, one monster, one magic item, one character, and one scenario idea.

If you don't have one of the swag decks from the con, I've listed all of the cards, the flavor text from the box and instructions, and the name of the character associated with each deck below. You can see all of the art and flavor text on each of the cards at the Gatherer. Links to individual cards are in the lists.

All of the individual copyrights and trademarks associated with Magic: the Gathering and its associated art and descriptive text belong to Wizards of the Coast. Use these for inspiration, not replication.

If you take up the challenge, leave a comment below and I will put together a list with links to what you develop.

"No price is too great for black Planeswalkers to seize power and dominate their foes."

Sorin Markov
Black magic enslaves and corrupts. Black mages wield spells of death and darkness to satisfy their desire for power. They will do whatever it takes to win. With his dark blood magic, Sorin Markov can drain the life force of other beings, place curses on enemies, and even possess the minds of others.

1 Bloodrage Vampire
1 Dark Favor
1 Dementia Bat
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Disentomb
2 Duskhunter Bat
1 Fume Spitter
1 Hideous Visage
2 Moriok Reaver
1 Necrogen Scudder
1 Onyx Mage
1 Sorin's Thirst
1 Taste of Blood
1 Tormented Soul
1 Vampire Outcasts
1 Wring Flesh
12 Swamp - click the numbers under the card to see the variations in the art

"Blue Planeswalkers control and manipulate the flow of battle with powerful mind-magic."

Jace Beleren
Blue magic is about air, water, and things of the mind. Blue mages use their vast knowledge and quick reactions to control the battlefield and gain the upper hand. Jace Beleren is a Planeswalker with a gift for such mind magic. He must choose whether to use his vast power for good or evil.

2 Aether Adept
2 Aven Fleetwing
2 Cancel
2 Coral Merfolk
2 Frost Breath
1 Lumengrid Gargoyle
1 Mind Control
1 Neurok Invisimancer
1 Phantasmal Dragon
1 Skywinder Drake
1 Spire Monitor
1 Turn to Frog
1 Unsummon
12 Island - click the numbers under the card to see the variations in the art

"Ferocity defines green Planeswalkers, who overwhelm their enemies with giant creatures."

Garruk Wildspeaker
Green magic is all about tooth-and-claw ferocity. Green mages revere life, growth, and the brute force of nature. They summon huge creatures to do their bidding. The Planeswalker and master summoner Garruk Wildspeaker believes that to revere nature, one should live like a predator.

1 Alpha Tyrranax
1 Ezuri's Archers
2 Garruk's Companion
1 Gladecover Scout
1 Hunter's Insight
1 Lead the Stampede
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Lure
1 Plummet
2 Runeclaw Bear
1 Sacred Wolf
1 Slice in Twain
2 Tangle Mantis
1 Titanic Growth
1 Trollhide
12 Forest - click the numbers under the card to see the variations in the art

"Red Planeswalkers channel their fiery impulses to destroy whatever stands in their way."

Chandra Nalaar
Red magic embodies fire and lightning, passion and fury. Mages who wield it are quick to act and quick to anger, smashing and burning their way to victory. The pyromancer Chandra Nalaar is fiercely individualistic, even for a Planeswalker. For her, nothing is more important than freedom.

2 Blisterstick Shaman
2 Goblin Arsonist
1 Goblin Bangchuckers
2 Goblin Fireslinger
1 Goblin Grenade
2 Goblin Piker
2 Goblin Tunneler
1 Goblin War Paint
1 Goblin Wardriver
2 Shock
1 Slaughter Cry
1 Tectonic Rift
12 Mountain - click the numbers under the card to see the variations in the art

"White Planeswalkers lay down the rules and command armies to enforce them."

Gideon Jura
White magic lays down the law, protecting and defending its allies. White mages call on soldiers, knights, and even angels. For them, honor and light are shield and sword. In his devotion to duty and justice, Gideon Jura has never hesitated to enter combat. Now he seeks a new cause to champion.

1 Alabaster Mage
2 Arrest
2 Assault Griffin
1 Auramancer
1 Banishment Decree
1 Divine Favor
1 Greatsword
1 Inquisitor Exarch
2 Kemba's Skyguard
1 Lifelink
1 Loxodon Wayfarer
1 Pride Guardian
1 Shattered Angel
1 Siege Mastodon
13 Plains - click the numbers under the card to see the variations in the art

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I know what a sleep spell feels like

[Disclaimer: This post is not about gaming and I'm not paying a Joesky tax!]

I don't post as regularly as I would like to. I've been dealing with a lot of very difficult things in my offline life right now. I've hinted at some of them here before, but here's the deal.

About this time last year, I had to move out of the place I was living. Fortunately, I was able to get back on my feet pretty quickly, but the blog went dark while I was doing so. The reason is that I was moving from place to place and working full time and didn't have any free time to write. That lack of free time was due to me sleeping almost all of the time I was not working.

I've battled depression for most of my life. I do pretty well managing it, but sometimes it gets the best of me.

On top of that, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few years ago. For those people that don't know, it's a chronic condition that causes systemic pain, fatigue, "fibro fog," and a host of other symptoms. Fibro fog is a kind of memory and thought disruption, basically being scatter-brained or having momentary memory loss or confusion. It's nothing major. It's like when you put your keys in the freezer when you're unpacking groceries or have a word stuck on the tip of your tongue. Some researchers think fibromyalgia is the same as chronic fatigue syndrome, which has almost the exact same symptoms, but with more pain than fatigue. Whatever the case, it causes me to have occasional bouts of pain coupled with exhaustion and fogginess.

Around the same time I started figuring out the fibro, I was diagnosed with hypersomnia, which is a fancy way of saying I was sleeping too much. At the time, I was taking a ton of medication, and the doctors figured that the sleepiness was a side effect of the meds. When the sleepiness continued after I stopped taking the meds, though, they started looking for other causes. Long story short (too late), I saw another sleep specialist and found out a few months ago that I probably have narcolepsy.

So I have occasional bouts of sleepiness that cause me to drop off very quickly and uncontrollably. Just like being the subject of a sleep spell. I also have rare bouts of cataplexy, which causes me to lose muscle tone and become unresponsive, even though I can see and hear everything that is going on around me. That one is more like a hold person. Needless to say, both of them can be upsetting to people that are around when it happens. I also cannot drive, operate heavy machinery, etc.

Some days I have plenty of energy and no pain. Other days I'm exhausted and achey. It varies from day to day and season to season. Usually, I try to laugh it all off and keep going as best I can. Some days I just want to curl into a ball and sleep for a week or so.

Unfortunately, the symptoms of each interact in such a way that it's hard to treat any one of them. Antidepressents and stimulants to stave off the sleep make me anxious and increase my pain. Painkillers magnify the depression and make me more sleepy. So I have to control everything the old-fashioned way by sleeping about twelve hours a day total (about eleven hours overnight with a couple of naps during the day) and generally making sure I don't overdo it physically.

Lately, I've been doing well at that, except when I was at Gen Con. Working the convention wore me out such that it took me over a week to get back to a barely passable energy level. So unless I can work out a way to do my hours over a couple weeks before and after the con, this was probably my last year volunteering. The same thing goes for work in general, though. I get exhausted and lose focus very quickly, which makes it hard for me to work for any length of time. I definitely cannot work in the field that I'm trained for, as it involves supervising people in dangerous situations. It is also very difficult for me to work and keep up with anything else in my life.

Right now I'm not working and am trying to get disability. I'm also trying to take some classes as my energy allows to see if I can move into a different field.

All of this is a long way of saying that I'm doing the best I can, but to expect more when I'm able and less when I'm not. I'm working on some more substantive posts for here, and I'll post them as I get the time and energy to polish them up. I have a lot more to do on my Checking Out Chainmail series, my promised dice project, plenty of reviews (including a full review of Vornheim), and a great set of miniature skirmish rules that my blog friend Jack sent me. I also have a challenge for the rest of the gaming blogosphere coming once I can get the links for it finished. So there are plenty of things on the way. I just wanted you all to understand why it's taking so long to put them together.

I also wanted to thank all of you that read the blog regularly (or intermittently) and leave comments. I don't do this for the money and fame. I do it because I want to put my ideas out there and see what other people have to say about them. I want to interact with the community and try to get some positive things going. Until today, I followed a blog where the author would routinely abuse his readers, delete comments he didn't agree with or thought were too politically charged the wrong way, and generally spent his share of electrons berating other people for having BADWRONGFUN. I took that blog off my Google Reader list today. I just don't have any more patience or energy for that kind of negative crap. Instead, I am trying to focus my energy on the people that are trying to put some good things into the community here in the blogosphere and try to put out some good things myself.

I don't moderate comments, because I don't think I need to. I treat my readers with respect and have received the same in return. Thanks to everybody that has given me comments and suggestions. And for everyone that hasn't left any comments, if you like what I'm doing, drop me a comment or an email and let me know. If you have a suggestion or a different idea, do the same. I'm open to discussing anything I write about. Otherwise I wouldn't put it here. You can find my email address at the top of the blog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I may never recover...

I picked up a copy of Vornheim at Gen Con and have been reading through it in small doses over the last few days.

On the one hand, this is some brilliant stuff. There are tons of incredibly creative ideas crammed into a small package here, and I am finding myself very taken aback at how different and inspiring it is.

On the other hand, there are some ideas here that have really made my head hurt. I can't tell if they are amazingly weird or weirdly amazing, but they are making me think about some game ideas in ways that I have never even considered before.

I was late getting on the bandwagon to buy this book, and I am regretting that I waited. It may not have everything I personally need or want to run a city in a game, but it has enough resources that I can heartily recommend it as a great resource and inspiration mill for urban adventuring. Zak has done an amazing job at distilling a ton of information into this book!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fatigue and recovery

No, this isn't the next round in my Checking out Chainmail series. That is coming as soon as I can get time to type it into the computer. It's just a comment on why I've been mainly silent since Gen Con.

I have a few health issues that make it difficult for me to function on a day-to-day basis. Two of those issues cause me to experience unusual levels of fatigue and tiredness almost daily. When I overwork, as I did at Gen Con with working up to twelve hours a day, it takes quite a while for me to recover. I'm starting to get back to normal (for me), so hopefully things will pick up here in the next couple days.

In the meantime, I was able to fit in a bit of editing for Dylan over at Digital Orc. He put together a nice little one-page module called "The Dutch Oven." I was fortunate enough to be one of the people to help him get it into its current shape. Check it out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gen Con swag

It's been a week since Gen Con, and I'm starting to catch up on all the sleep I missed during the con. I have volunteered for Gen Con for years, and the last two years I have been a Captain in Badge Registration. That means that I spend most of my time at the con managing the temps that are selling badges. After work I try to fit in a few games here and there. In addition to the strain of working long hours, I have a few medical conditions that make it difficult for me if I don't get enough sleep. That makes it hard to fit in games in the off hours. This year I did as well as I could keeping up on sleep, but that means I played exactly zero games during the con. I did a lot of shopping in the exhibit hall, though, and I scored some pretty good swag on top of it.

I already talked about the dice I got in my show me your dice post. Here's the rest of the haul:
A 50th Anniversary Edition of Stratego and a Monster Vault for 4E
I played Stratego a lot when I was a kid, so getting this as swag was awesome. The Monster Vault came from my con roommate. Even though I don't play 4E, it's a pretty good product, and I'm hoping I can find some use for it.

Here I've got a couple catalogs, the Lego Heroica comic, a free novel, a download code for an ebook, and an Obsidian Portal flier. I have a few old catalogs from back in the golden age of gaming. I go back to them occasionally for inspiration or nostalgia. The two catalogs here are from Fantasy Flight Games and Chessex, and they're going on the shelf next to the old ones.

The Heroica comic is a reminder to check out more of these games. I played one of the Lego games a few months ago with a couple friends and my goddaughter. Judging from the one we played, these are cool little games with some interesting mechanics. I'm interested to see how they do dungeon crawling mechanics.

The novel is a signed copy. I don't know anything at all about Elizabeth Vaughan, but it's billed as romantic fantasy, so I'll probably pass it off to someone. The ebook is a prequel novel to an iPhone game. I'm not really sure what that's about.

The Obsidian Portal ad is a reminder to keep up with this. I signed up for OP a couple weeks before the con because a couple friends are working ona  project using it. I haven't really done anything with it myself yet, but I'm thinking of using it. If anyone has any feedback or suggestions for getting started with it, let me know.

This is the promo map from Inkwell Ideas and seven copies of the Rift promo. I'm going to use the map for a game sometime. I'm not sure if I'll try Rift or not, since I'm not really into the whole MMORPG scene. If anyone wants a copy of the promo, let me know.

This is a Dark Crystal poster I found in the exhibit hall. I don't remember the company where I got it. I loved Dark Crystal as a kid. So I was excited to find out that there are new comics, another movie, and a game set in the Dark Crystal world on the way. The game is going to be based on Burning Wheel, so we'll see how it comes out. I've heard good things about the system.

Around the poster are all of the swag Magic decks people gave me from their con swag bags. I got a single blue deck, three green decks, and four each of the red, white, and black decks. I don't play Magic anymore. Instead, I'm going to use the decks for inspiration.

Here are the rest of the cards I got, some True Dungeon tokens, a Neverwinter promo button, my Gen Con Captain's pin, and a free Reaper mini I got. I'll use the cards for some more inspiration and paint the mini and stat it as an NPC for a game. The button goes into my collection of con buttons. The True Dungeon tokens will either go on eBay or I'll use them as a prize for some kind of contest. We'll see.

This is the stuff I bought at the con. On the left are Arms Law & Claw Law and Character Law & Campaign Law for Rolemaster. All I need is a copy of the old Spell Law, and I'm ready to run some RM. Back in the day, my group cribbed a lot of stuff from these for our AD&D games, and I'm going to see what I can get from them for games now. If nothing else, Campaign Law has one of my favorite campaign generation systems.

On the right are Vornheim, the Dungeonmorph cards from Inkwell Ideas, and a Hirst Arts basic block mold with a sample of Merlin's Magic plaster. Here's the mini review on all of these: they're awesome; go buy them. Hopefully I can put together real reviews soon.

Next is a big Half-Price Books bag and some card boxes. I got the bag for spending ten bucks at the Half-Price Books booth buying the Rolemaster books. The card boxes had promo cards that went into the swag bags. They're not quite large enough for storing gaming cards on edge, but they are great for storing tokens, minis, cardboard characters, or whatever. They also fit perfectly in the bag, either on end or flat. So now I've got a perfect bag for carrying all of the stuff I need for a game.

Finally, I got a Gen Con shot glass and a Gen Con pint glass, a Gen Con yellow volunteer shirt, a pair of black Gen Con t-shirts, and a download code for a special Scotty's Brewhouse Ultimate GM Screen from Fat Dragon Games. I got the GM screen for collecting all four of the Scotty's dice this year. I don't have pictures of any of these. Once I get the gatehouse printed and built, I'll post a review and some pics.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Everybody else is doing it...

So here are all of my dice. Tim's challenge to show off your dice came while I was away at Gen Con, so I'm late to the party again. Fortunately, I acquired a ton of new dice at the con this year, so I have twice as many to show off.

My current collection comprises only the dice I've managed to collect over the last couple years. My original collection disappeared sometime about fifteen or twenty years ago in one of my various moves. At the time, it consisted of a couple hundred dice in an old Crown Royal bag. I sold off most of my second collection about three years ago in the great d20 purge. That collection consisted of two plastic shoeboxes full of dice, thanks to a couple of pitchers of dice from Gen Cons in the 90s. Despite all of my best intentions to limit my dice purchasing, my current collection is approaching the size of my original one, especially thanks to the additions from the con last week.

The picture above shows everything packed into the current dice bag (a much newer Crown Royal bag) and my "box-o-game" for 40K. With everything stowed away, the bag barely holds all my dice, so I'll probably be either buying or sewing a larger bag soon.

This picture shows the collection in a big pile. The box-o-game has the dice bag on top, along with the mini Crown Royal bag that I use for my pocket Boggle.

This picture shows the two bags. The box-o-game is at the top. You can see the different kinds of Warhammer templates in the box, along with some red Games Workshop measuring rulers that have been cut into 6" and 12" lengths. Normally there's a tape measure in the box as well, but it must have wandered somewhere. Below the box-o-game is my pocket Boggle game (1) that has sixteen nice letter dice; my vehicle damage dice, a scatter die, and an artillery die for Warhammer 40K (2); some order dice from Epic 40K (3); four Games Workshop sustained fire dice (4); and four Games Workshop artillery dice (5). All of the dice here go in the box-o-game for use if I ever get another game of 40K going. Dice count for this picture: 50.

This picture shows the new dice I got this year at Gen Con. I got fifteen each of seven different colors of Chessex six-sided dice for a forthcoming cluster mapping project (1); a cube of teal and white Chessex six-sided dice (2); a Cthulhu Dice game (3); four Gen Con 2011 souvenir dice (4); a good-neutral-evil alignment die (5); a Le Boomb game (6); five souvenir dice from Scotty's Brewhouse (7); ten Fudge dice (8); seven Gen Con 2010 souvenir dice (9); my new GameScience dice set (10); my tiny purple dice set (11); and my two Gen Con Forum Stink 8 souvenir dice (12). Dice count for this picture: 186.

This picture shows the dice I had before I went to the con this year. At the top left are all of my normal 40K dice, a mix of red, white, and green six-siders, a mini scatter die, and a mini artillery die (13). Next are a pair of old GameScience d12s (14) and a few red on black dice I kept from the purge because they looked like one of my original dice sets (15). The next ones are all dice that I got last year at Gen Con: my d30 (16); my lawful-neutral-chaotic alignment die (17); and Chessex dungeon design, trap, and treasure dice (18). In the middle of the photo is my collection of old TSR-era soft dice (19). Next is a pair of random d20s I saved from the purge (20). Last year I got three souvenir dice from Gen Con, one from Stink 7, one from Scotty's Brewhouse, and one from WanderingGeek (21). The tiny dice on the right are a pair of GameScience twenty-siders marked 0 to 9 twice (22). Next to the TSR dice are a few random six-siders that don't match anything else (23), including one that came from my copy of Outdoor Survival. Along the bottom are my clear crystal set with extra red d10 and d6 (24); my tiny green set of dice (25), my bone and red dice set (26); my striped green set (27); and a pile of twelve siders I got at Gen Con last year to use for Shadow, Sword, & Spell (28). Dice count for this picture: 110.

All together that puts the total dice count to 346. Not the largest collection I've seen (or had) but definitely enough to cover anything I'm playing for a while.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Back from the con

This year I ended up spending a total seven days at Gen Con, mostly working and, when I got a few free minutes, shopping for things in the Exhibit Hall. I started with ten goals for the con and managed to accomplish most of them. Here's what I set out to accomplish and how I did:

1. Meet some new people. I always try to get to know at least a few new people at the con every year.
I met a few new people this year, including a couple of old school bloggers and soem people I may be getting into a local game. I didn't meet as many people as I would have liked, though.
2. Get some GameScience dice to replace the set I had decades ago. The originals were lost with my original dice bag. I will be getting the main seven dice, not the funky dice for DCC.
I got myself a new set of blue GameScience dice. When I went to the booth, I had a friend with me that didn;t know anything about GS dice. I ended up launching into a description straight from the video of Colonel Lou about why they are so much better at randomizing.

3. Do a True Dungeon run.
I didn't do a TD run this year, and I'm not likely to do so in the future. I had a very bad experience with some of the volunteers there this year, and I don't feel like pouring lots of money into a company so they can treat me like crap. 'Nuff said.

4. Check out the OSR booth and see who I see and what I want to pick up.
I checked out the OSR booth and picked up a copy of Vornheim. I then showed the book to a few friends who went back and bought their own copy. I'll do a review of it soon. It was a little overwhelming seeing all of the old school goodness in one place like that, but the booth was great!

5. Find a copy of the Gangbusters rulebook for fairly cheap. This is the only one of the classic TSR games I don't have in print or legally available online.
I didn't find a copy of Gangbusters, so I'm still hopng to find one on ebay or somewhere in the future. I did get a copy each of Arms Law & Claw Law and Character Law & Campaign Law for Rolemaster. They were each $6 at the Half-Price Books booth.

6. Get a batch of d6s for a cluster mapping project I'm working on.
I got d6s. Then I got more d6s. Then I got a few more d6s. You get the idea. I definitely have enough dice to get started with the project, so expect a post about that soon.

7. Get a couple of basic brick molds from Hirst Arts. I'm thinking of starting a big casting project to use up a lot of plaster I have, and I need some more basic molds for it.
I ended up getting one large basic brick mold, but that should be good enough for the project. With the new mold, my old large and small basic brick molds, and a floor tile mold, I should be able to use all the plaster in a batch without a lot of waste or unusual bricks.

8. Have dinner and/or drinks with all of my friends from out of town at least once each.
I didn't get the chance to see everyone I wanted to see, but I did have plenty of time with the people I did manage to connect with.

9. Avoid the con crud. I'm going to stock up on vitamin C, water, and healthy snacks and try to get plenty of sleep throughout the con.
No con crud, despite not eating well, sleeping much less than necessary, and not drinking nearly enough water.

10. Get some good swag.
I left with a ton of great swag this year!I'll do a separate post about that in a bit.

Altogether, this was a great con. There were a record-breaking number of people at the show. I have to wait until the actual number is released by GenCon, LLC, but there was a huge jump in attendance and participation. The extra space in the convention center helped to spread things out so there was not as much clumping in the hallways, and everything seemed to just go a lot smoother.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Long Con

Lately I haven't been posting much here because of other things going on in the rest of my life. Hopefully, I will get back to a more regular schedule soon.

In the meantime, I'm in the final stages of getting ready for Gen Con today and tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be doing some training and going to the big planning meeting. After that, it's pretty much all work for me until Sunday. Next Monday is going to be recovery day.

If you're going to the con, you can try to find me. I'll either be working at Badge Registration (not a good time to catch me for a chat!) or walking around and seeing what I see. The only consistent way you'll be able to recognize me in the crowd is by my backpack, so good luck. I was planning to get a shirt or button made to wear, but I ran out of time.

Aside from working a lot, here are the things I'd like to do at the con:

1.  Meet some new people. I always try to get to know at least a few new people at the con every year.

2. Get some GameScience dice to replace the set I had decades ago. The originals were lost with my original dice bag. I will be getting the main seven dice, not the funky dice for DCC.

3. Do a True Dungeon run.

4. Check out the OSR booth and see who I see and what I want to pick up.
5. Find a copy of the Gangbusters rulebook for fairly cheap. This is the only one of the classic TSR games I don't have in print or legally available online.

6. Get a batch of d6s for a cluster mapping project I'm working on.

7. Get a couple of basic brick molds from Hirst Arts. I'm thinking of starting a big casting project to use up a lot of plaster I have, and I need some more basic molds for it.

8. Have dinner and/or drinks with all of my friends from out of town at least once each.

9. Avoid the con crud. I'm going to stock up on vitamin C, water, and healthy snacks and try to get plenty of sleep throughout the con.

10. Get some good swag.

Hopefully, I'll be able to do an update or two during the con, but I'm not promising anything. If not, I'll have a full report next week.