Friday, March 21, 2014

Game of Thrones: The Epic Fan Experience

My girlfriend is awesome. Why? Well, for starters, she grabbed up some tickets for this event! We're both huge (nerds) fans of the books and the show - so we were beyond excited to go to this. I have to say - HBO and company did not let us down.

First off, they had all the costumes and stuff on display in the lobby (sorry - the GEICO ATRIUM). They also had a few Iron Throne replicas that you could sit on and have your picture taken. Since no recording devices were allowed inside, they just gave you a hard copy of the picture. You could also head over to one of their iPad kiosks and email/text the picture to yourself. So, that was cool. They also gave everyone a t-shirt - that was unexpected, but again - very cool.

While we were on line for the Throne pictures I started talking to one of the ushers. He gave us the heads up to be inside around 7:15, as that's when all the "cool stuff" was going to start to happen.  The actual airing of episode 1 was at 8:30. I figured GRRM was going to come out on stage, but my girlfriend and the people on line around us doubted me. FOOLS! I knew the premiere had happened in Manhattan the night before so I figured some of the cast might still be around.

Anyway, we got to our seats right around 7:15. I noticed a drum set on the stage, which I thought was weird.  Then the lights went off and the latest trailer played on the screen. When it finished, a spotlight shone down on the stage to reveal the Iron Throne - with Common sitting in it! He got up and ripped through a few songs that I guess are on that "Catch the Throne" LP they just put out. I'm not a huge Common fan, but he got the crowd excited and the people around us were into it. I do love this song, though:

Then, out came HODOR (aka Kristian Nairn)!!! He was going to be our MC for the evening - and yes, he said more than just "Hodor".  Then he introduced a few more guests - Jon Bradley (Sam Tarley), Sibel Kikelli (Shae), Maisie Williams (Arya) aaaaaaaaand George R.R. Martin himself! A pretty lively and funny Q&A followed - Jon Bradley is a very funny dude. People from the crowd were yelling things, they were responding, and they all seemed to be enjoying themselves. Sibel Kikelli and Kristain Nairn in particular seemed very psyched to be sitting in front of 7,000 fans.

Funny moment - when Mr. Nairn was like "Ok, the first question is for George..." - GRRM immediately yelled out "I'M WORKING ON IT!!! I'M WORKING ON IT!!!". Good stuff.  They also gave the replica Iron Throne away to some guy in the crowd. He came up on stage and apparently encouraged GRRM to write faster. Again, good stuff. Not sure how that dude got the Throne home, though.

Then - the moment we were all waiting for: EPISODE 1. Dude...sooooooooooooooooo good. I read an article in the New York Daily News the other day that said something like "The episode moves at a snail's pace" or whatever. That dude is tripping balls - this was the best season opener since season 1.

I'm not going to spoil anything - but I'll give you a few small notes.
  • Pedro Pascal is AMAZING as Oberyn Martell. I mean...DAMN. He gives us one of the most badass lines in the series to date when he tells Tyrion -  "Tell your father I'm here...and tell him that the Lannisters are not the only ones who pay their debts". Hell yes.
  • A surprising amount of people cheered when Ser Duncan the Tall was mentioned. It warmed my heart.
  • The opening scene - damn. I mean, I hate the guy - but this scene was pretty moving...and I mean moving in a way where I wanted to punch his face in and just scream something like "You're not going to win, you motherf%$#er!!!"
  • When Arya and the Hound appear - IT'S ON. Seriously - strap yourself in for one of the more satisfying scenes on the show to date.
  • The Magnar of Thenn looks insanely awesome - like, if you saw this dude coming at you, you'd want to move the hell out of the way and just pray he didn't see you.
So, that's it. All in all a great night!  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Messing Around...

So, we're making t-shirts for the store. I was thinking about the design today when I sat in front of my computer and just started messing around with some other ideas. Basically, I was wondering what the shirts would look like if I based them on the band shirts I wore growing up (ok, who are we fooling - the band shirts I STILL wear) but with a gaming twist.

I like the way they came out so I figured I'd share them with you.  We're not going to make these, but I may make some of them into stickers or something. Who knows.

The actual shirt design we're looking to run with:
The lettering here was done by Kelvin Green; design idea was mine; it was drawn up and brought together by my friend Chris Conklin.

This is a design based on an IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE shirt and the whole DEFEND _______ that was popular in the early/mid 2000s:
I really like this one.

This is based on the shirts of the many and various youth crew/straight edge bands I grew up stage-diving and singing along to - Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, Chain of Strength, Judge, Mouthpiece, Undertow, Indecision, Cornerstone, Unbroken, One King Down, In My Eyes, Fastbreak, etc. Most of their shirts and records looked something like this.:

I'm not sure what band this is.

I used to see this back-patch all the time when I was in 7th/8th grade. It was almost like every kid in my town had it sewn on the back of their denim jacket.  The slogan "death to false metal" was coined by MANOWAR, I believe.  In the mid-nineties, a hardcore band named DEADGUY had shirts with that slogan on it, but they added some Satanic imagery. I decided to nix Satan and just run with Metallica + that old slogan:

Hoping that Lars doesn't see this and sue me.

Finally - IRON MAIDEN. I think everyone likes them: 

Anyway. Thought some of you out there might get a kick out of some of these.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Original Dungeons & Dragons

Yeah, this blog has been silent for a bit. Sorry about that. Things have been busy over here - working in and co-owning a game store has been an interesting life experience over the past 9 months. I know a lot of you are probably interested in how that's going - and I plan on writing about it soon enough. I'm assuming that most people reading this are of the OSR type...and I can assure you that OLD SCHOOL GOODNESS is alive and well in our store! We have a biweekly SWORDS & WIZARDRY campaign happening, two weekly D&D 2E campaigns, weekly CALL OF CTHULU games, and some interest in TOP SECRET, LAMENTATIONS OF THE FLAME PRINCESS, and original TRAVELLER brewing. Not to mention the X-PLORERS campaign I mean to get off the ground.

I also ran a 3 session SWORDS & WIZARDRY WHITE BOX adventure that seemed to grip the attention of the whole store - and literally has some of the players begging to continue. That was the adventure where I used the BEYOND THE WALL chargen/towngen system which i detailed on here to some extent. I ran the players through Kelvin Green's excellent ROUGH NIGHT AT THE DOG AND BASTARD. Sadly, Balotelli wound up assassinating Genevieve, Parletothraxus manifested and began tearing people apart, party members sold each other out, and a damaged Ring of Wishes (taken from an old issue of WHITE DWARF) was used to summon a halfling sized suit of demonic plate mail. Good times. Here's the adventure if you want to use it - it can be played with any edition of the game.

All Parletothraxus wanted was a saucy evening...

Of course, I've also crossed over to the dark side and have begun to enjoy certain card games like ASCENSION, THE AGENTS, THUNDERSTONE, LOVE LETTER & THE well as various board games like FANTASTIQA, TROLLHALLA, KING OF TOKYO, CASTLE PANIC and the like.

Anyway - I want to focus on OD&D. That's the one version of D&D that I never thought I'd be interested in - until I came across a version of 3 LBB OD&D that had been re-edited into an organized book. It incorporates various "fixes" from early issues of STRATEGIC REVIEW and removes mention of CHAINMAIL and OUTDOOR SURVIVAL. The result?

A game that I instantly wanted to play.

Now, I know that many of you are probably going to want to know where you can find this spectacular document. Well, I'm not going to tell you. Not to be a jerk or anything - but as you probably know, OD&D has recently come back into print. I don't want to get anyone in trouble - but if your Internet search skills are up to par you should be able to come across it somewhere, as there are a few versions of it floating around.

Anyway, after reading that document i was very interested in the reprints of OD&D, which I finally obtained due to my awesome girlfriend. She had ordered it for me on Amazon as a Christmas gift...and, as you may know, Amazon had some trouble meeting the demand. I finally got a copy a few weeks ago via the Barnes and Noble website. Of course, me being me, I had to make a few modifications to the box. Check it out:

I pulled out the picture in the lid and laid down some felt for some dice rollin'. I also ripped out the dividers to make more room for my stuff (old articles from Dragon and White Dwarf, Dyson Logo's awesome book of dungeons, etc.
So what is it about this game that made me want to play it so badly? Well, for one is that it seems (to me, at least) to be the most "fantastic" of all the early versions of the game. You're expected to gain powerful magic items. You're expected to run into powerful creatures right off the bat. Example: you can be wandering around the wilderness and just stumble across a castle inhabited by an Evil High Priest who will seek to cast Quest on the party. Oh, and he has 1d4 Rocs ridden by 4th level Fighting Men, along with some assistants and 60 1st level Fighting Men. Or maybe he has d10 trolls serving him. This can happen to your party any time and at any level. You can also just randomly encounter dragons at first level. You're not going to be able to fight your way out of all that - so what next? The game just seems so open - I guess this is kind of hard to explain. 

It was also refreshing to not have Thieves. Three classes, four races and go! One of the common questions i see on message boards is how you resolve "thief stuff" without a thief. To resolve that whole issue I turned to the excellent ASTONISHING SWORDSMAN & SORCERERS OF HYPERBORIA. They have a neat little d6 system for resolving checks based on your attributes and a % system to accomplish heroic feats also based on attributes. That's what that little index card in the picture is.

I've already run a few of my friends through a small OD&D adventure and they really liked it, so I hope to continue doing it more regularly. Oh, and I made a GM screen and I have decided to share it with you. Enjoy, brochachos.

Monday, September 9, 2013


it's no secret that i love the X-PLORERS RPG.  so, i'm happy to announce that some stuff i designed for the game has been published by BRAVE HALFLING!  john took the ALIEN and ROBOT generators i made, spruced up the layout and added some awesome artwork from steve zeiser. seriously - check out this badass cover:

anyways - if you want  to grab this puppy it's up on RPG NOW for less than $2. Click here to start making robots and aliens! if you've never played X-PLORERS you can check out the free (sans art) version here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


i found myself in michael's the other day.  i had gotten an idea for making a dice tray.  after some inspiration from dave bezio via an old thread i went hunting for some wooden bowls/trays and some adhesive felt.  during my search through the aisles of michael's i came upon some of those "faux book boxes".  basically, a box in the shape of an old hardcover.

well, i made the dice trays. when i was done i painted the "book box" black (there were birds on the cover) and...well, this happened:

the front - i love the cover to CORE

my white box books fit perfectly inside. the front cover has a reference sheet for NPC reactions, attack bonuses by level, my house rules for races and the armor picture from CORE

the back - i turned this DCC pic into a S&W one. why not, right?
 cool, huh? oh, and these are the dice trays:

i made these for our store - i hate when people roll dice on top of cards or through minis. yes, that is a VHS copy of STAR WARS on my floor.

Monday, August 26, 2013

WHITE BOX CAMPAIGN KICK OFF (with an assist from BTW)

so, i started to run my WHITE BOX campaign yesterday. sadly, there was no adventuring - but we did get a heck of a lot accomplished. as i touched on in my last post, we've started running S&W in our store for our PATHFINDER leaning customers. we used the BEYOND THE WALL chargen system (just the flavor - most mechanics were thrown out with these exceptions: the "player to your right gains +1", weapon specialization acts as a +1 hit/damage with the specified weapon and you gain your special item) and it was a huge hit with everyone. so much so that people wanted to buy the S&W COMPLETE book just to get the chargen tables (which i had to explain to them weren't in there)! 

so, we used the BTW system again for my campaign and AGAIN it was a huge hit.  the four characters generated:
  • Cornelius - halfling fighter (used the outrider playbook)
  • Armond - human thief (used the untested thief playbook)
  • Gideon - halfling thief (used the halfling vagabond playbook)
  • Garrock - dwarf fighter (used the dwarf adventurer playbook)
they were all happily scribbling notes on their (awesome looking) WB character sheets (*AHEM*) and coming up with ways that they knew each other - including one character who's already at odds with another. this was discussed while the one player was in the bathroom - so he's not even aware of it.

the standout hook that the BTW tables generated: one of the characters (gideon) discovered a moving dragon skeleton UNDER the town - the entrance was discovered under the basement of a burned down he's now using that secret place as a hideout to start a thieves guild. 

next weekend we'll start playing. i kind of feel bad, since the adventure i have planned will almost immediately take them out of the town they've made. it's not a dungeon crawl though, so they *should* make it back alive.

i scanned our notes from the session since i know more than a few people are interested in how the BEYOND THE WALL system plays out.

out town is called can see a quick map of it and some of the key NPCs on the images below.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


i mentioned in my previous post that my friends and i have recently purchased one of our favorite local gaming stores. we took control in may - and we're still open - so i guess that means we're doing something right.

it's been interesting talking to all of our customers about games and all other things related to this hobby of ours...but the one thing that has taken us by surprise is the general attitude of gamers towards the current rules-heavy games. as you can imagine, the most heavily played rpg in the store is PATHFINDER - but here's the kicker - many, many of the players are tired of it. most of them play it because it's the only fantasy rpg they've ever played  - counting of course, 3.X.  we've overheard the players complaining about the rules, the constant focus on combat and all that - so we decided to take a gamble and start running all the rules-lite games that we like.

guess what? SUCCESS. they love it. and they BUY IT. the runaway hit has been SWORDS AND WIZARDRY COMPLETE. we've sold through 3 orders from frog god and just placed another one due to the demand. crazy, right? it's funny watching these players (who are all used to min-maxing and "building" characters) be told to roll 3d6 in order...and when they get a 17 or 18 they're like "what do you mean it's just a +1 bonus?". but they're having fun and most of them see these easier games as a breath of fresh air.
speaking of SWORDS AND WIZARDRY - as much as i like COMPLETE...i'd like to profess my love for the BRAVE HALFLING version of WHITE BOX. it's just awesome and simple and allows me to do whatever i want.

is there still love out there for WHITE BOX? i hope so - i just made a character sheet for it. it's in the same "style" of my previous effort for S&W COMPLETE...but this one can be printed on both sides, cut, and placed in your WHITE BOX.  check it out...

download it here.

EDIT: the pdf was printing weird and when i tried printing on both sides it cut into the character sheet. i fixed the pdf and it should cut cleaner now.  sorry about that.

EDIT: i noticed that i messed up the modifiers for XP bonuses. there is no general INT bonus - there's a general CHA bonus. the sheet is now correct. boom.