OwlCon XXIX Recap

It’s not often enough that we’re able to get out of our regularly scheduled lives and game for a few days straight. But it was time!

Last weekend, we attended OwlCon at Rice University, a handsome campus smack in the middle of Houston. Since we could stay at a hotel just a few blocks away, we could walk to the con itself, which this time of the year is brisk but enjoyable.

Adam spent the weekend at the RPGA tables, which were well-run, complete with an organizer taking orders for food, which was then delivered at your table so you could keep gaming. Very enabling of our addictions…

And very well run. Their adventures take part in the Forgotten Realms, which allows players to come in knowing much of the world, helping to paint the scene for easier role playing. I have to admit I don’t know enough about FR, so I’ll need to pick up a book and do some background reading before my next con. That way I’ll know where Aldric is from and where he’s been. Seems like harmless enough homework…

I spent Friday and Sunday at the RPGA tables playing the same adventures, and Saturday I played board games. It’s hard to find the groups to play Advanced Civ and Rail Baron since people are rightfully daunted by these classic Avalon Hill titles and their many complex dynamics. But at my last two cons, I’ve seen these listed, and simply had to play. When it all shook down, as Asia I came in second in Civ (Egypt taught us all a lesson in economics) and as Minneapolis-based “white player” came in third in Rail Baron (first time playing; I’m clearly not a optimal capitalist).

We learned on Saturday night (in the last game of the night) that Battletech pods are fun as hell! Providing a hands-on ‘Mech pilot experience, they confounded me, but Adam racked up tons of points. I did have fun jumping all over the map and firing missiles at long range toward every ‘Mech I could track down. Good times, and a desire I’ve had since middle school fulfilled.

Our final game on Friday was run by a great DM who embodied many of the traits of other favorite con DMs — he controlled the action, telling an engaging story, didn’t read any of the mechanics aloud, occupied the long end of the table, stood for much of the session, and used traps, hazards and classic DM trickery to get us to fall into them. We learned a lot from his presentation. So, Phil of the Houston RPGA, this post is for you.

All in all, a very well-organized con, especially one hosted by a university. Good people, DMs, and miniature dungeons and battlescapes. Adam got a few photos of the scapes, but I put it off too long…

Late night diner runs led us to 59 Diner, a friendly joint with tasty greek salads. Try ’em the next time you’re in downtown Houston.

Finally, on our way out of town, we dropped by some old friends’ place for some home cooked lasagna and caught up. A great weekend! Looking forward to next year’s.

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Owlcon XXIX

We’ll be at OwlCon this year, which starts tomorrow!

Look for us with the unicorns on our shirts. We’ll have a few copies of our issues, including hardcover copies of Claw/Claw/Bite Omnibus 1.1 for you to peruse.

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Birthdays and Celebrations

Since today’s my birthday, and we’re in the midst of the holidays, I offer up this way to spice up your campaigns. For each nation and culture, come up with a day or two per month that has extra significance for either national or cultural reasons. Examples include Saint days (St. Repan’s Day, where the people tie wildflowers to their doors to honor the patron saint of wildflowers, etc.), Feast days, Fast days, Harvest days, New Years Day, Day of Moradin, etc.

To add extra flair, these days may increase or decrease skill check modifiers or have other effects. For instance, during the week around the summer solstice honoring Lux, the God of Light, hide and sneak checks are at a -5 penalty, whereas during the week around the winter solstice honoring Tenebrae, the god of Shadows, these checks are at a +5 bonus. This may correlate well with the crime sprees in a city, and may lead to the town guard being on high alert, a great way to introduce this bonus to the party.

Birthdays can also add bonuses to certain characters, which is why every character should have a birthday and a totem animal, so in February, the month of the Fox, a character celebrating a birthday receives bonuses befitting a fox.

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GenCon 2008 – more fun than you can shake a staff at!

This is part two of my GenCon 2008 Chronicles. On day two we got up before the dawn in spite of driving all night the previous night. Here we are getting breakfast and ramping up for the day. That’s the glow of the sun about to come up behind us there.

We saw lots of families at the con this year. I thought this father mother daughter group was too adorable. They were playing an RPGA game together, and they were all in costume. If I ever have kids I’m sure I’ll subject them to the same. Of course once they hit puberty they’ll join the football team or become cheerleaders to rebel 🙂

And there were lots of babies at the con this year. I didn’t really notice any last year but they were a noticeable contingent this year. Even one of the RPGA judges was running games with his infant strapped to his chest.

And of course on Saturday there was the costume contest. I didn’t get a good enough seat to get good pictures of all the amazing costumes that participated, but here’s a couple I liked that were out and about. These guys were super cute.

And this girl’s costume was also amazing. Everything she’s wearing she made herself from scratch, from the dress to the parasol to the jewelery. The only costume I liked better was the Blood Elf in level 70 raid gear: her hair was in perfect blood elf style and she did a fighting demonstration in her costume! I’m still looking for pics of her. So I can ask her to marry me.

Some cute girls in armor.

And some tired looking barbarians.

One of the painting contest winners on display.

In the dealer’s room there was this amazing table. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

I was afraid to ask how much it was. Hand made. Luckily there were cards with the price on them.

$10,000. Gulp. Maybe next year.

At this point we’ve almost leveled our RPGA characters and have basically defeated the con. It’s Saturday night and we have to decide between live dubbing of hentai by the theater audience and going to the GenCon dance.

So we went to the dance. The theme was steampunk so we saw even more great costumes there.

And then it was back into the car to return from whence we came. In this case Austin, but we knew we were on the road with kindred spirits.

Till next year, thanks GenCon!

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GenCon 2008 !

I’m back at GenCon for the second year in a row. This time artist Dan Smith came along for the ride, and we brought some copies of Claw Claw Bite and The Horror of the Old Ones along to get into the hands of the unsuspecting public here.

First of all, it was a long and grueling ride up from Austin to Indianapolis. 19 hours. Here’s us contemplating the trees about 12 hours into the drive.

And this is us looking smug (or is it dazed?) after finally arriving and getting our badges for the weekend of gaming debauchery.

Next it was off to the dealer’s room to talk to the folks at Paizo about putting some of our stuff in their booth on consignment. Not to spill any beans, but they’re talking about making their Pathfinder system (which sold out in one day at their booth) into a brand that others can publish under, just like the d20 system logo. I was so excited because that’s exactly what I was hoping they’d develop, and if it works out Unicorn Rampant will publish our d20 / 3.5 material under that brand.

Of course, my favorite part about the dealer’s room is the miniatures.

Dan’s favorite part was the booth bunnies. There were a lot less this year than last year, including a disappointing lack of any showing of a Conan booth and the attendant she-ras. Or maybe I just missed it.

And of course there were some great costumes again this year. I may cover the costume contest tomorrow, but regardless there will be more pictures in my next post of costumed attendees. Here’s Dan’s pretending not to be impressed by this girl’s great 5th element costume.

After that it was off to the huge RPGA room for some gaming of our own. His paladin did fine and my Eladrin warlord survived in spite of taking over 30 points of damage from a very nasty were-rat under the streets of Waterdeep. Here’s a glimpse of the room. There are about three times as many tables as you can see in this picture just for RPGA events. Overall this represents about 1/20 th of the total gaming taking place at GenCon this year. It’s pretty mind-boggling, really.

Well, I’m off to bed. At 8 AM our characters need to head off to Baldur’s Gate to tackle another adventure!


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We’ve been on a mini-buying spree lately, and thought we’d let you know what we though of the pieces we’ve picked up.

Black Orc Games makes a great set of figures that are really interesting. Nonstandard humanoids like cat-people and monkey-men have helped round out player characters in the Savage Tide game I’ve been running. And they’re very affordable — many are on special for just a dollar! http://cart.blackorc.com/

Reaper Mini is where I’ve ordered the majority of my figures over the years, and I was looking over their site for figures to use for our 4th Edition characters. I found a figure that will work nicely for my dragonborn warlord, and one for my friend’s tiefling thief. I hope to see more dragonborn-usable figures in the future from them, ones that capture the power and majesty of these two new core races, and as I write this I can see that they don’t disappoint.

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This variant rule has the DM keep track of the passion of the characters, enabling the DM to introduce quests of passion into the campaign. From these characters earn passion points which can then be used to modify rolls and to improve the likelihood of successful negotiations in certain contexts, for instance when seducing lovers, sweet-talking captors, or rallying troops.

Try passion out in your games, along with fame, infamy, fear, and other traits, and see how it livens up the experience, providing role-playing prompts and entry points when players feel somewhat distanced from their characters, or too wrapped up in the standard rules.

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Birthday Luck

This is an idea for gamemasters and storytellers that has come to me on my birthday. Have the players in your games come up with birthdays for their characters. On and around these days, have interesting effects take place that help the character along. Visitations by long dead relatives that provide information or simply receiving a +1 on all attack rolls help add a layer of superstition and birthright to the game.

In addition, you may consider the opposite day on the calendar, and those days around it, to be a sort of anti-luck period. Perhaps reverse the bonuses you give the characters, and have more disinformation find its way into their ears.

You could even use the signs of the zodiac for inspirational forms of spiritual and dream visitations, or if you use the eastern zodiac, perhaps the animal that represents the year of birth. It’s up to you; just make it fun!

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Millennium Con 10

Millennium Con 10: for those of you who don’t know, is a gaming convention put on here in Austin, Texas, or rather just north of us in Round Rock, by LSHM, the Lone Star Historical Miniatures gaming society along with the Austin branch of the RPGA.

There were lots of great games this year. I always love to go and look at the great landscapes and huge armies of miniatures at the wargaming tables, even though I don’t really play tabletop wargames anymore. It makes me think about dusting off the Warhammer Epic scale army I have packed away, though.

It did inspire some of the other guys from Unicorn Rampant and I to break out the Battletech and play a few battles on friday night, though. I hope it leads to a semi-regular Classic Battletech game with us. I still have all my old, original 3025 Technical Readout minis.

But the real excitement for me was running a group through a session of The Horror of the Old Ones. It was my first time running a game at a convention, so I had big pre-game jitters. This is going to be my first published adventure, after all, and I haven’t run a game for complete strangers in, well, basically I’ve never run for strangers.

But the players were all great, and did a great job both role-playing and in combat. All of them survived, even the young teenager for whom that was his first game of D&D. Playtesting credits for them are in the works 🙂

So, without further ado, here are a few of the pictures from Millennium Con 10!

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Who Left the Portal to Hell Open?

              A Savage Tide Interlude, Told From the Perspective of KorShoth
by F.J. Kim

When Captain Harlis Tovel was gone, KorShoth turned to the others and spoke in pidgin Common, "We see that one again. Wild fever take her soon. Maybe not, but cursed is she."
"What do you mean?" Flit asked as she hovered six feet above the sandy cave floor. Her wings beat so fast that they formed a nimbus of blurred movement around her back. Earlier, in the morning sunlight outside the caves, he had seen that the wings distorted the air around them to such an extent they formed shimmering rainbows. A faint humming emanated from them.
KorShoth admired how she could weave her chirping melodies into the light bass of the humming wings to symphonic effect. The full sounds were unexpected from such a small creature. Perhaps that was why her songs filled him with equally unexpected prowess in battle.
Truly a magical creature, thought KorShoth. Aloud, he answered her query in sardonic Draconic, "After the black pearl shattered on the deck of her ship, she said it felt as if a dark presence occupied her mind. For a time she did not know herself. Hmph. A demonic being rode that one! And we are fools to let her walk out of here alive."
KorShoth sighed. For his race, that meant a sibilant expelling of breath through his large nostrils."My master Morkoth, who is no more, could have read the signs perhaps." The tall lizardman whipped his fearsome head from side to side in agitation. This peculiar reptilian gesture was his race's form of a nervous gesture. KorShoth did not like the idea of a demon loose on the earth one iota.
While the lizardman was distracted feeling sorry for himself, Mpata Mbata turned to Fundiani, "What'd he say?"
The elven druid translated.
"We don't know that it was a demon," Mpata Mbata rumbled in his deep voice that reminded KorShoth of the enchanted tumbling rocks in the Broken Country. "She might have been delusional. Did you hear how she went off at the mention of Vanthus' name? Hell, with all that rantin' and ravin' and swearin'...I'd say she suffered a con-cuss-ion. When it comes to Vanthus she's no fan—thus she'll never be on his side."
Something about the way Mpata Mbata spoke made KorShoth think the dark softskin intended other meanings. But what? If only he had more acumen with the Common tongue...
"Well standing around here yakking about it isn't going to solve anything," pointed out Tina to the whole party, "Let's get to the ship already. We need to warn Lavinia about Tovel's first mate."
Without waiting for assent from the rest, the young wizardess began walking towards the exit. Linus followed her out. As they left the cavern, he could be heard asking Tina, "So show me your spellbook, T. I bet you've acquired some sweeet spells since you left the Academy."
They quickly devolved into thaumaturgical jargon as they exited the caves.
"I'll be happy to just get away from this awful place," muttered
Fundiana. Kes gave an approving squawk and flapped her wings for emphasis.
KorShoth sang in Draconian as he strode to the waiting ship. It was
his favorite canticle from the BhalShaloth epic. Since the time he'd been an unsure youngling, struggling against everyone and everything with a primal anger and defiance that burned in his belly, the canticle had given him hope and a savage equilibrium. Without its balancing influence on KorShoth's nature, he would have destroyed himself long ago.

###Wide awake, sides scrape
over sand and sun-warmed rock
~through swarms of water moc~
to lose along the way, the spark that set the flame
to flicker and to fade, of this the longest day.
~The wind go through to my heart,
the wind blow through my soul.
~Give yourself to this, the longest day.
Give yourself, give it all away.###

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