Some art for tonight’s game

Here’s some art I made up for tonight’s game of “Land of 10,000 Gods”:

Makara – Sea Monsters

Makara are aquatic monsters of the Land of 10,000 Gods.  Rather than being a specific creature, they are a general category of creature, and display a variety of characteristics.

Makara have the hind parts of a fish or eel, and the foreparts of an animal – tigers, rams, wolves, and occasionally other creatures.  A typical example:

Shachihoko (Japanese)

Original by Laverna Brock



Makara  (tiger)                                                        Group, Stealthy, Aquatic

Claws and bite (2d6)+2 damage*

Hand, Close

HP   7               3 Armor

Instinct – attack by surprise

  • Pull prey into the water
  • Flee when injured (4 HP)

*2d6+4 against foes in the water

Wolves reduce damage to 2d6 (+2 against targets in water) and add the “organized” tag.  Rams are usually “solitary”.

MakaraA special case is the haatheemakara, or “elephant sea monster”.  This creature has the body of a fish and the head of an elephant.  Unlike other makara, the haatheemakara is intelligent and can be communicated with.  Though aggressive in defense, they are seldom actively hostile.  They are typically found guarding sunken temples or other areas of particular interest to one or more gods.  Though listed as “solitary” this is only true when guarding a location.  If the area they are set to guard is desecrated, they may gather in groups of up to half a dozen to pursue the offender.

It is rumored that they can transform themselves into gigantic elephants the size of houses to pursue interlopers on land, but this is not confirmed.

Haatheemakara  (Elephant Sea Monster)                                                         Solitary, Huge, Intelligent (Priest), Devious, Hoarder

24 HP          4 Armor


Hand, Close, Reach

Instinct:  protect (temple/holy site/etc.)

  • Pass judgement on a person
  • Smite with divine wrath
  • Converse
  • Seek vengeance

Land of 10,000 Gods – Playbooks!

Indian Gods - the Superhero Avatar.:


Here are the first rough drafts of the playbooks for my Land of 10,000 Gods Dungeon World game.  Experienced Dungeon World aficionados will notice that they are mostly kit-bashed versions of more familiar character playbooks.

A few things to note:

  1. I decided that Vancian magic just didn’t work for the vision I had.  Yes, it had its good spots in players looking for old, dusty scrolls.  But it’s been used enough and I wanted something more dynamic and creative for my spellcasting characters to do than pick through a list.
  2. Almost all characters have in their description a “Hero Mark”.  Particularly in artistic depictions, heroic characters frequently had distinctive coloring or some feature that marked them out as extraordinary, and I decided to use this as a personalization of what is commonly known as “the PC glow”.  Characters have a particular physical characteristic that marks them out as heroes.  That’s the ONLY effect it has.  It doesn’t interfere or aid them in any other way.  So if a hero has a glowing aura it doesn’t hinder her when she is trying to sneak, nor does it help her when she is trying to see in the dark.  As with such things in literature and art, it’s there when it is useful to perform its task, and forgotten otherwise.

Artist-adventurer (2).pngartist_adventurer:  in tales, whether sung, performed, written, or depicted in art, the hero’s life is all glory and adventure.  These tales inspire hope and bravery and determination.

You want to do more than simply depict the tales of others who inspired you.  You want to be the inspiration for a new generation of tales, the great hero who will inspire children through song and story and play.  Nobody knows more about the history, the nature of the hero than those who spend their lives depicting them.  Time to start making your own tale.

Ascetic 2Ascetic some say the ways of the gods are unknowable.  Some say not.  But you have found a path to understanding the gods – you seek to be more like them by freeing your spirit from the physical limitations of the body.  Your physical form is irrelevant, and useful only to demonstrate to others your mastery of it.  The spiritual is what holds your attention, not base need for food and drink.  Years of contorting your body have made you strong and tough however, and you are not above giving your foes an opportunity to master pain – lots of pain.

Ascetic Paths included here!

Barbarian 2Barbarian:  civilization is the best thing ever invented and agriculture is pure genius!  How else could so many people live so close together and produce so much wealth for you to plunder?  Gold, food, clothing, weapons – all yours for the taking whenever necessity or the mood strikes you.  Granted their cities stink and the majority of so-called civilized people are weaklings, mere sheep waiting for you, the wolf.  But your desire has always been to live free, to conquer, and to die with your sword in someone else’s ribcage while you spit curses into their face.

Life is good.

Druid2Druid:  you are of the sacred spaces, you were born of the soil and wear the marks of her spirits on your skin.  You may have had a life before, but not now.  You have given up your static shape.  You listen to your allies praying to their strange gods and polishing their metal items.  They speak of the glories of that festering town you left behind.

Their gods are children, their items false protection.  You walk the old ways, you wear the pelts of the earth itself.  You will take part in their adventures, but you will never be one of them.

Holy Killer2Holy Killer:  Even the gods die.  So what is more powerful than the gods?  Death.  Death is the key that unlocks the circle of rebirth.  Death leads to reincarnation – punishment for the guilty, reward for the enlightened.  There is no improvement and no cosmic retribution without death.

Your faith has many imitators – the selfish and greedy who seek to hide behind your holy calling in order to rob and murder.  Only a few see the true importance of death in the cosmic scheme, and travel the world unrecognized on a holy mission.

Bring the guilty to cosmic punishment.  Bring the deserving closer to enlightenment.

:  You are one of the select few among all the races who have discovered the secret power of magic in the world, and have begin to explore both the heights to which it can bring you and the limitations it can place upon you.  You can’t do everything, but what you can do is mighty.  Perhaps your companions will prove useful in their own way, but you are the mage, and your power defies belief.

Priest 2Priest:  everyone believes in the gods, but few take the time to study them, to explore them, to understand them.  You have dedicated your life to the gods – to understanding their nature, their needs, and how to petition their aid in times of need.  The subject is far too broad to master in its entirety, but you have developed a special relationship with some of the gods, and they are more likely to hear your petitions than those of others.  They grant you a fraction of their power in exchange for the devotion you show them.  Their power shields you from harm.  Your very presence reminds others of the greatness of the gods.

Ranger2Ranger:  the city born folk you travel with – have they never heard the tiger’s cough, felt the wind from the mountains burn with cold, felt the silence of the barrens stretching for miles around?  They have not, and for those reasons they would be lost without you.

You are the one to guide them through the wild, the one to put food in their bellies, the one who will make certain that their camping spots are secure.  Your companions may be bold, but without you they are no more than a feast for wolves.  For the honor of the wild, for the beauty and often harsh truth of the natural world, you will bring them safe to where they are going.

Relic_bearer(2)Relic Bearer the gods have chosen you to bear one of their relics in the world, and you travel with holy purpose.  The relic often leads you into danger, but you deal with such hazards gladly in exchange for the chance to carry an object made manifest by the gods, and to further their work in the world by using it.  Travelling the world fighting enemies of the gods isn’t an easy life, but you never wanted one anyway.

Go forth!  Smite!  Destroy that which the gods deem unworthy!  Carve yourself a place in the Vedas and bring about the will of heaven!

Trickster (2)Trickster
: There’s too many rules in the world. Everywhere you go, people are telling you what you can and can’t do, making idle threats if you don’t behave. Who needs that? You’re a free spirit. There’s never been a situation you couldn’t charm your way out of. You’re better off without all those pesky rules. Cunning is your sword, deception your armor. But when those fail, you’ve still got friends with steel armor to hide behind. Nice guys, but still beholden to a world of rules. They need your help to settle the fights that can’t be won with violence. A few clever words and careful manipulation can opendoors better than a battering ram.  Trust me.

Warrior-Poet(2)Warrior Poet:  the world is a civilized place, a place of beauty, a place of refinement.  Unfortunately, there are those who would bring about its downfall – who would see the beauty, refinement, culture, and development that so many have striven for destroyed for no better reason than greed or simple love of destruction.  You love poetry and comfort and art.  You like nothing more than to lay back on comfortable cushions and listen to a pretty girl play the veena while eating good food.  But someone has to defend civilization, someone has to make sure that everything doesn’t burn.  It is the will of the gods that the someone is you.  And so you strap on your armor and pick up your weapon again and again, and go forth into the world to stop that which would kill poetry, music, dance, and painting.

Go forth!  Inspire the next generation of artists and storytellers, that they may immortalize your deeds.

*I noticed at the last minute that I hadn’t quite finished page 3 of the Priest.  I’ll get a revised version up tomorrow.


Big Bad Con: Day 3

Game #4:  GoD Duty

This year I signed up for two tours of GoD (Games on Demand) duty at Big Bad Con, but only got one slot.  Which was sad in a way – I wanted to run two slots obviously – but great because a) the time I wasn’t running was the time I went to feed the cats, and b) it allowed me to focus more.  There was, however, a bit of confusion regarding which games I was offering for GoD duty.  Initially my two GoD duty submissions were:

  1. Motobushido or Omegazone
  2. Motobushido or Gaian Reach

When I was told I only had one slot, I went for Motobushido/Omegazone because Omegazone was easier for me to prep for than Gaian Reach.  Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, Sean Nittner never got the word of which of the two I had chosen, so he printed up two GoD announcements for me.  I, of course, had left Gaian Reach at home, despite my desire to run it, because I couldn’t think of a time when it would be possible.  So when my first two players sat down at the table, guess what they wanted to play?


But that was OK – they were good players and part of the tribe, so they understood when I explained, and decided that they would play Omegazone instead.

Game:  Omegazone

System:  FATE Accelerated

GM:  Edmund Metheny

One of the nice things about Omega Zone is that character creation is quick and easy – deal a few cards, write down a few stunts, and you’re done!  This makes it a perfect game for GoD duty.  Our game centered around two denizens of the Omegazone being hired by the Guardians of the Reach to transport a recently salvaged Kreenian power source down the 405 in a heavily armored post-apocalypse style truck (formerly from Al’s Premium Meats).  The Guardians could not perform the task themselves because they had their hands full dealing with an incursion of psychic floating heads.*  It was pretty much a plot on rails – guardrails in this case – but still fun.  The party battled Kreen, cannibal bikers, goblin cultists of the Burger King, and Big Tony’s ape men.  The players were nice and the game was fun, but really there wasn’t much to tell about it.  I had a good time.  I hope they did too.

Registration and Takedown

Starting at 2:00 pm I had duty at the registration desk.  This is every bit the thrilling adventure that you would expect on the last day of the convention.  Mostly it was answering questions about where to get parking validated and making sure no one ran off with the cash box.  Sophie was running another FATE of Agaptus game, but to tell the truth I didn’t mind missing it.  I felt like I owed the convention some hours after my rather poor showing at setup, so I was pleased to be able to help out.  Starting at 4:00 I worked on takedown, packing up boxes and lugging things around and shoving them into cars and such.  Every once in awhile I swung by Sophie’s game, and they all seemed to be having a good time, but mostly I said goodbye to people and helped pack the convention away until next year.  Once Sophie’s game ended at a little after 7:00 pm, we said our last goodbyes and headed home.

General Impressions

Big Bad Con is the best.  You should go to it.

There are other conventions that are bigger, there are other conventions that do more.  If you want to do miniatures gaming this isn’t the convention for you.  But for pure, unadulterated, full-bore roleplaying there is no convention I have attended that can match it.  Not even close.  The amount of talent enclosed in a small space – both GMs and players – is awe inspiring.  You WILL have a good time if you come to this convention to roleplay.

Except for the unfortunate and entirely self-inflicted illness on Friday, I was very happy with my level of participation at the convention this year.  I would have liked to run one more Games on Demand session, but I think it is great that it filled up.  My Motobushido game was a bit hindered by my being under the weather, and I didn’t think my GoD game quite came up to the high standards of BBC, but my Juggernaut and Free Hunters games were things of beauty and I am quite proud to have been part of them.  Registration and takedown both gave me an opportunity to see parts of the convention that I hadn’t seen before, and playtesting for the Big Bad GM was interesting (and made me a bit wistful that I couldn’t attend the actual event – but feline chronic pancreatitis just isn’t one of those things you can ignore if you actually like your cat).

A big “Thank You” to all members of the Big Bad Con staff for doing a fantastic job again this year!



*One of the players had been in a previous Omegazone game in which I had used the psychic floating heads to showcase the downright weirdness of the Omegazone, so I riffed off the previous game.

Big Bad Con: Day 2

Game #3:  Juggernaut

System:  Juggernaut (LARP)

GM:  Edmund Metheny

I haven’t done very many LARPs, and I have run even fewer.  There was an unfortunate Tekumel LARP way back when and a couple of others that didn’t end well thanks to player monkeyshines.  But when I read Jason Morningstar’s Juggernaut I was sufficiently impressed that I decided to try it again  It looked easy and it looked fun, and those were two words I was trying to apply a lot to my games at this convention.

It was a thing of beauty.  Really.  It was the high point of the convention for me.  Afterwards I would describe it as being as if professional actors had come into the room and put on a play just for me.  I felt privileged to be the facilitator for such a talented group.

It didn’t seem that way initially.  Early in the game we had an injury, with one of the players getting her finger smooshed in a drawer.  It was the sort of silly accident that can happen any time to any group of LARPers, but of course it put a damper on things.  I took the injured player off to Registration and let the powers that be know what had happened, then headed back thinking that this would surely spoil things.  But it didn’t.  The remaining players were magnificent.

The main premise of Juggernaut is that you have invented a computer that can predict the future.  The mechanic for this is in the form of a deck of numbered cards, which unfold the plot as you draw them.  Once you draw a card it becomes your narrative responsibility to make sure that whatever is on the card comes true, no matter how far fetched.  The players did a good job of this, but it was at the end that they became completely amazing.  With around 4 cards left in the deck, we were getting close to the end, and I noticed that some of the drawn cards had not been fulfilled yet.  As facilitator I was trying to think of how I should handle this – should I try to force the issue?  Should I stop play and remind people?  Should I just shrug it off because people were having fun?  (Answer:  yes, that!).  But in the end I didn’t have to because my players – my beautiful, wonderful, brilliant players, saw the problem and completely in game and in character came up with a solution!  Under the pretense of trying to determine whether Juggernaut could indeed accurately predict the future, they gathered all the cards they had drawn and sorted them into three piles – cards representing predictions that had come true (ie cards that they had resolved), cards representing predictions that were for a future date and so could not be determined to be true or false, and cards that made predictions that had not yet come true (ie cards that they had not yet resolved).  They then proceeded, still in game and in character, to resolve them all brilliantly!  It really was a pleasure to watch.

If you are reading this and were a player in that game, you have my sincere thanks and compliments on your performance.  It was something that I will remember in years to come.  And if you are the player who got a smooshed finger, I hope you are ok!*

Interlude, with cats

I now had a tough choice to make.  I really wanted to go watch or participate in this year’s Big Bad GM event, since Sophie was involved in planning and was one of the GMs and I had helped with the playtest.  But Phantom needed his meds, and the round trip schedule would be very tight.  In the end I decided that it was too tight and instead of trying to rush there and back again I took a more leisurely approach.  This turned out to be a good idea because traffic in both directions was bad.  I left at 2:00 pm and didn’t get back until almost 7:00 pm.  But it was nice to see the cats.

Game #4  Free Hunters:  Six Days Over Stalingrad

System:  Night Witches Homebrew

GM:  Edmund Metheny

This was my big moment at the convention – the alpha playtest of my hack of Night Witches focusing on the women of the predominantly male 437th (and later the 296th) Fighter Regiments.  These regiments flew over Stalingrad, and some of the women (notably Lydia Litvyak and Yekaterina Budanova) would become the only female aces of World War II.  My goal for this particular playtest was to get a feel for how the mechanics I had written for fighter combat in the Apocalypse World setting worked, and to learn where they were rough and needed some polish.

Once again all my players were top notch.  They took to testing out the system with gusto.  Soon there were planes plunging out of the sky willy nilly, pilots dying horribly, and all manner of carnage.  In between missions the women struggled to get their Yak-1’s back under their control (and not get stuck flying the crappy LaGG-3s that the male pilots were using).

I was very pleased with the game, as well as with the feedback I received afterwards.  They identified some areas that were rough, some places where I need to explain things better, and some modifications that need to be made to the character sheets.  I look forward to incorporating their suggestions and trying out another playtest.

Buoyed by my success, I went to bed.


*I saw the player with the smooshed finger a couple of times during the convention, and was relieved to see her in good spirits.  I would have been crestfallen indeed if that accident had ruined the convention for her, and I am glad her injury, though certainly painful, was not more serious.

Big Bad Con: Prologue

Welcome to Big Bad Con – BLARF!

Here is my yearly report on  Big Bad Con, the premier roleplaying event of the Bay Area and possibly the world!

I love Big Bad Con.  Its an incredible experience for a roleplayer.  I await it every year in much the same way that small children look forward to Christmas.  Celesticon is good.  Dragonflight is good.  Kublacon is good (so I have heard, haven’t been there yet), Pacificon is…  Pacificon has some lovely people who attend and some wonderful people on staff and, oh never mind.  The POINT is that Big Bad Con is far and away the best.  It has the best planning, the best design, and attracts the best GMs and the best players of any convention I have ever attended.  It gives the sort of experience that roleplayers have always wished their conventions would give them but could never quite achieve because they were lumped in with the tabletop gamers and the miniatures gamers and the eurogamers.*  But Big Bad Con is just for us.  Plus, Big Bad Con is socially conscious – donating to both local food banks and Doctors Without Borders.  I think this is a great idea, and am continually surprised that more conventions don’t do this.

So once again I was all giddy and excited as the date grew closer!


…before getting into Big Bad Con proper, I need to talk a bit about the day before Big Bad Con.  I often get pre-game jitters, but before this Big Bad Con I had them bad.  I am not sure why.  Partially I am sure that it was due to the problems I had with my Apocalypse Pony game a couple of years back.  Partially it was because I had filled my schedule pretty full this year in an attempt to get as many buttons as possible.  So I was nervous.

I was also up very late trying to get everything together.  I had stuff to print and files to sort and cards to find and stuff to pack and dice to select and all that sort of thing that you do before conventions.  And of course this meant that I was up until around 2:00 am.

Originally I was supposed to be at the convention at 10:00 am to help with set-up.  But at the last minute Sophie got tapped to do a CostCo run for the convention.  CostCo opens at 10:00 am, and since I was riding in the same car as Sophie, this meant that I was going to be late – very late.   On the one hand I told myself that I shouldn’t worry about this because if the convention gurus decided they needed the CostCo run more than they needed me moving boxes, well, they knew what they were doing.  On the other hand it was my first time working with the staff coordinator and I wasn’t keen on having to write to tell him I was going to be late.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I am laying the groundwork to explain my mistake.

Knowing that we were heading for CostCo, knowing that we were in a bit of a rush, running on little sleep and a lot of anxiety, I did something I knew I shouldn’t do.  I took my morning meds on an empty stomach.  I rationalized that we were going to CostCo, and I could get food there.  But what happened instead is that I couldn’t stomach the thought of CostCo hot dogs and so decided to wait until after the CostCo run when we would get something for the road.  Then I compounded my error by thinking that burritos were a good choice, then discovering I really couldn’t eat one in the car without getting drenched in salsa, and so holding off until we got to the convention.

So of course by the time we got to the convention I was horribly, horribly ill.  And it was absolutely my own damned fault.

So about the first thing I did when arriving at Big Bad Con this year was throw up in the parking lot.  Anyone observing me must have thought I was some sort of drunk – not an auspicious start to the convention.  What was worse was that throwing up did not make me feel immediately better.  It DID mean that I started to gradually improve, and eating part of my carne asada burrito also helped, but throughout Friday I was in the process of going from feeling horrible to feeling merely wrung out.  Bear this in mind when I talk about Friday.

And with that somewhat unpleasant introduction, off we go!


*And at some conventions consigned to a hallway far away from where the rest of the convention is occurring.  Not mentioning names here.  Just expostulating.

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Big Bad Con: Day 1

So here I was at Big Bad Con – my favorite gaming event of the year.  I had just thrown up in the parking lot, my ears were ringing, my stomach barely in check, my cheeks were burning from embarrassment, and in a minute I was going to have to sneak by a horde of gamers smelling like barf in the hope that I could get to the bathroom and rinse my  mouth out before I had to actually talk to someone.

For me this was absolutely the sort of introduction that would make me get back into the car, go home, and text Sophie to tell her that I would pick her up at BART and Sean to tell him I was sick and needed to cancel my events.  Which was close enough to being true that it would fly, but not REALLY true in that I knew what was wrong with me and I knew that it would get better and I knew I would be fine by tomorrow as long as I didn’t do something stupid again.

But here’s the thing – I did not do that.  I made the decision that I was going to tough it out, and stay at the convention.  Because Big Bad Con is that sort of magical place.  The sort of place where even a guy like me, embarrassed and sick, feels like he’s with his tribe, and that they will take care of him in their own weird, wonderful way.   The sort of place to feel at home, even if I can’t remember the names of people I have seen gaming before and I feel crappy and my ears are ringing. Because my tribe is cool like that – they’re the sort of tribe that watches for signs of weakness and trouble not so that they can abandon or prey upon the unfortunates, but to buoy them up and support them.  That’s my tribe.*

So I went in, cleaned up, ate my burrito, and got ready for my first game of the convention.

GAME 1:  Ice, Ice Baby!

SYSTEM:  FATE of Agaptus

GM:  Sophie Lagace

Sophie’s FATE of Agaptus game was out and boy was the book ever beautiful!  Its a work that she has every right to be extremely proud of.  I had been helping some with the writing and the playtesting, and had signed up for or been promised a space in several convention games over the last couple of years while it was in design.  However, in many of those cases I had decided at the last minute to give up my space in order to accommodate another player figuring that I would have an opportunity later.  Consequently, though I had GMed the game quite a bit, I had not played the game all that often, and of the games I had played, two of them hadn’t been in the setting.  Well not this time, I said to myself.  The game was playtested, proofread, and published – it was a done deal.  And THIS time I was going to play!  And I was going to play my character – Kuri!  I had mercilessly browbeat poor Sophie until she agreed to let me play him, taking full advantage for once of being the GM’s spouse.  And now, here I was at game time – sick, dizzy, tired, and wanting little more than to go to sleep for a few hours.


But I had a great time anyway.  The guy who played Iva (Kuri’s mother) really got into the spirit of the thing, and all the other players did their characters really well.  It all started off with a bar fight (or rather a mugging in a dark alley following a bar fight) between us and members of the Vidaar pirate crew of a rival captain of Ulf.  We discovered that rival was off to a secret island where he expected to get a great treasure.  Of course, being the good Player Characters we were, we gave chase, pursuing him to his secret island.  In the meantime our resident priest, Schmoe, got us all into trouble by rolling “++++” on an attempt to contact the gods, a roll I termed “catastrophic success”, which brought the eye of Agaptus** down on us and almost sunk our ship.  When we finally made it to the island, we discovered that the Vidaar pirates knew of a secret cave (what kind of pirate adventure would it be without a secret cave) in which was hidden a whole big chunk of Murmadon rock.  Sadly, we ran out of time at this point, and didn’t get to battle the huge nest of Kuld that was in the secret cavern worshiping said Murmadon rock, but I know the battle would have been epic, and Kuri would have been supremely annoying both to the Kuld and to his mother.

I came out of the game still not feeling 100% but much better, and pleased with the idea that I had managed to get through the entire game a) without actually attacking anyone (I put all my efforts into creating advantages, like a dutiful child) and b) without any in-character statement except “HEE!” and “Grrrrrrr!”

After the game we went back to our room, and I prepped for my first game while Sophie went and got me knishes.

Game #2:  Sword and Static

System:  Motobushido

GM:  Edmund Metheny

By this time I was feeling a lot better, but was still wrung out and a bit queasy.  Because of this I think I didn’t bring quite the energy and enthusiasm to the game that it and the players deserved.  Big Bad Con sets a very high bar for GMing, and I admit to feeling self-conscious when I think about not measuring up.  At any other convention I would have felt that my game was very successful.  At Big Bad I thought it was pretty run-of-the-mill.

The players were all quite good and enthusiastic.  We had the Taicho, the Migi Ude, the Kusawaki, and the Hahaoya in play, and the scenario was one I had run previously.  We did go through the First Founding and a discussion of the war.  This was the first time anyone introduced mutations or mutant powers into the game – the Kusawake had perfect night vision and the Taicho could see the future.  Everyone came up with ties to Green Village – the Taicho had to kill the village guard because he was getting old, the Kusawake was a sex addict who had to be kept away from the local brothel, the Migi Ude had a fortune in gold buried in the area that on one else knew about, and the Hahaoya had a sister who disapproved of his Motobushi lifestyle.  The pack drove out the thugs who had taken residence in the town and then confronted their foes the War Pigs who had come under a flag of truce ostensibly to honor the ancestor of their great enemy (this was true – I decided that I would play it totally straight to see what happened.  As I suspected the PCs provided sufficient treachery that the War Pigs needed none).  Probably the most interesting twist in the game came when the Taicho saw two futures ahead – one in which he and the Taicho of the War Pigs died, and one where both of them lived.  It was the future where both died that was the better of the two, so the Taicho set out to slay his rival.  However, the duel didn’t go his way, and the head of the War Pigs won (barely) and spared both their lives.  The Kusawaki was eaten by radioactive coyotes, but came back as a vengeful ghost.  In the end both Taichos lost their positions in their respective packs and formed a new pack together, while the Kusawaki took to the roads as a vengeful spirit until such time as both the Taichos would betray one another and die.  The Hahaoya became the new Taicho supported by the Migi Ude and the remains of their pack and the War Pigs joined together.

All in all the game was, IMHO, a good one.  And although I felt my own GMing wasn’t quite up to what I knew it could be, I was happy nonetheless because I think overall the players had a good time.

Then I went to bed.


*A Hillfolk game in which your tribe is a bunch of gamers in a large hotel for a convention would be awesome.

**Or Akka-Maas if you prefer.  Or maybe it was just a coincidence.  Hee!

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Free Hunters: Aircraft of the Eastern Front


Yak-1.  Primary fighter aircraft used during this time period, it was phasing out the inferior LaGG-3.  Considered roughly equivalent to the German Bf-109.


LaGG-3.  Most modern Soviet fighter at the start of the war, but inferior to the Bf-109.  Still in use in some front line units, but being phased out in favor of the Yak-1 and Lend/Lease P-39 Aircobras.


Bf-109.  Front line German fighter.  Roughly equivalent to the Yak-1.  Russians call it the “Thin Boy”.


FW-190.  Top German fighter, but available only in limited numbers.  Superior in just about every way imaginable to the Yak-1, and almost always flown by the Luftwaffe’s top pilots.  Russians call it the “Fat Boy”.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-363-2258-11,_Flugzeug_Junkers_Ju_88 Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-343-0694-21,_Belgien-Frankreich,_Flugzeug_Heinkel_He_111

Junkers 88, Heinkel 111 – German Medium Bombers.  Prime targets for Free Hunters, but dangerous in groups.

Free Hunters: Character Sheets


The Four

This weekend at Big Bad Con I am going to be running my first session of Free Hunters, a hack of Night Witches.  Like Night Witches, it is a game about women pilots in World War II.  But Free Hunters focuses on a small number of women assigned to a men’s regiment.  It is a more intimate story than Night Witches, focusing on some specific people in a specific place and time.  It is also more focused in terms of time, covering only late 1942 through mid 1943.  This was a pivotal time for Soviet aviation, as they sought to wrest dominance of the skies from the Luftwaffe.  When the series opens the Germans have near total control of the skies.  Less than a year later, at the battle of Kursk, Soviet aviation absorbs the last major blows of the Germans and establishes air superiority on the Eastern front once and for all.

By the time this happens, every single one of the major characters I use in Free Hunters are dead.

Here are the characters I am using for Free Hunters.  These are of course drafts, and will likely change after the initial playtest.

Alexi 1

Katya 1



Raisa 1

Mikhail 1

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celesticon logo

Here’s my report on Celesticon.

This was my very first Celesticon.  For various reasons I have been attending Pacificon rather than Celesticon down here for the past several years, but this year was different!  So off Sophie and I went.

Celesticon 2015 was held at the Freemont Marriott, a nice mid-sized hotel with comfortable amenities.  We didn’t book a hotel room, but the one room I saw looked snug and comfortable.  The restaurant had hotel restaurant prices, but the food I had there was of decent quality, though limited selection.  I had no trouble finding parking, despite the high attendance.

My first impression upon arrival Friday morning was that everyone who was there seemed energetic, enthusiastic, and overall just plain excited to be there.  This isn’t unusual for a convention of course, but there was something in the air that I couldn’t quite identify at the time that made this a bit different than some conventions I have attended.  More on that at the end.

Registration was manned by some enthusiastic volunteers who were pleasant, polite, and just plain seemed glad to see me even though they had never laid eyes on me before.  The registration process was quick and easy, and I got my badge and program.  I eyed the shirts (and later bought one) and the design seemed on par with most convention tees – a bit nicer than some, not quite so nice as others, but overall good for a memento and use as plumage at future conventions to show off my tribal affiliations.

For various reasons that would be boring to go into, I had scheduled a game of Motobushido for Friday at noon.  I knew when I did it that there would be a good chance of the game not filling, or even running – it’s a tough slot.  But I dutifully lugged my gaming materials up to the room and prepared for my game.  One nice thing about Celesticon is that they have big rooms assigned for their RPGs.  It is more common for RPGs to get stuck in converted hotel rooms, which I sometimes find a little cramped due to the excess furniture left in the room when the bed is taken out.  At Celesticon I had a very nice small conference room with a big, round table and comfy chairs.  I also noted that signage was plentiful and helpful.

Alas, Motobushido did not attract any players, which was disappointing but not particularly surprising – like I said Friday noon is a tough slot.  However, just as I was thinking of wrapping things up, Johnathon Wright dropped by my room.  He was running his FATE Core game of Mecha vs. Kaiju a couple of doors down, and had only one player.  I was feeling the usual “Aw, my game didn’t run” letdown, so my initial inclination was to decline and go off to sulk somewhere, but it dawned on me that if I did that I would be screwing up someone else’s game in addition to mine, and that I had come here to have fun and not to lurk in a corner somewhere sulking, so I agreed – and I am glad that I did.

Johnathon Wright’s Mecha vs Kaiju game was a lot of fun, and highlighted another nice amenity of the hotel.  He had a large wall mounted monitor, on which he cycled art from the game throughout the session, which I thought was very cool, and could be put to great use by a GM for all sorts of things.  I made a mental note to request a room with a screen for next year.  We had a Kaiju-smashing good time, uncovering a sinister Kaiju cult, an unscrupulous businessman using said cult for his own nefarious ends, and eventually having a major slugfest against a giant, burrowing, seemingly invulnerable Kaiju.  We even managed to contain the damage to a single major oil refinery!  Mr. Wright was an enthusiastic GM, well-versed in the subject matter and his game was well-prepared and flowed well.  He was also highly amenable to rolling with the zany ideas of his players, which I always count as a major plus!

I checked the schedule for other games of interest, and saw several, but in the end I decided that after a long week I wanted to be home to spend time with Sophie, so headed for home after another quick tour of the convention to see how things were shaping up.  Conference rooms seemed to be filling with RPGs quite well, there was a seminar going on, and both board gaming and open gaming, while not yet full, were filling with enthusiastic gamers.

Again for various personal boring reasons, Sophie and I decided not to attend the convention on Saturday.  This was a bit of a disappointment to me because Saturday is usually the day gaming conventions hit their zenith, and I felt like I was missing out on important and vital experience that I would need in writing up my review of the convention.  But there is a very valid argument to be made for not spending an hour and a half in the car in order to write a paragraph in a blog entry.

Sunday morning is another tough spot for running a game – everyone is tired after all the fun on Saturday and disinclined to get up early.  But, again for reasons that seemed good at the time, Sophie had scheduled her “FATE of Agaptus” game for that time.  We got up early and tooled over to Freemont, and were set up in the same room that I had played Mecha vs. Kaiju.  Alas once again the game didn’t go – the FATE players having been sucked into Jay Louck’s FATE – Bureau 13 game next door (which sounded like a lot of fun!).  We did some socializing and hanging out with friends, met a few people, toured the Dealer’s Room (which was full of enthusiastic, though clearly somewhat groggy dealers), purchased the X-Com Board Game.

After that we spent the day with a friend of ours playing a couple of his homebrews using the Apocalypse World engine.  The first was an adaptation of Sentinals of the Multiverse, and the second was an adaptation of Mass Effect.  Both were a lot of fun.  I got to play a Krogan.  Krogans are cool.  I don’t see any reason to ever play anything but a Krogan.

“Try to relax.”

So what can I say about Celesticon?  In part I feel that I can’t be entirely fair, because I missed large portions of the convention (Saturday, Monday).  Neither Sophie’s game nor mine got enough players to run.  Given both of these negatives, however, I still felt that the convention was a good one.  It seemed well-organized and dynamic.  Staff was enthusiastic, everyone seemed to be having a good time all weekend (at least from what I saw).  Miniatures games and board games seemed always to be doing well.  Roleplaying games had nice, comfortable rooms that helped keep the noise levels down.

Summing things up, Celesticon felt very much like a new convention.  While it may have lacked the polish of longer running events such as Pacificon or Dragonflight, it more than made up for this with a more familiar, homey feel that longer running conventions seem to lose after awhile.  It was less like a convention put on by old hands who know their jobs and have done them many times, and had more of the feel of a bunch of friends getting together and saying “Hey, lets put on a SHOW!”  And to be honest I like that feel better.  I think there is certainly a place for slick professionalism at conventions, but I really appreciated the atmosphere that I was surrounded by a whole bunch of friends who I just hadn’t met yet that I got at Celesticon.

I would recommend Celesticon to anyone in the Bay Area who is looking to attend a gaming convention during Labor Day weekend.

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