shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
About an hour after I woke up this morning, I was suddenly struck that I'd had a dream about our upcoming Pathfinder game. We were running the first session, and I managed to kill all the PCs (which mirrors game #2 or #3 of the Savage Tide). Well, all but one, and it's weird that the one was Kevin, because he's opted out of all of our current Saturday gaming.

So people were bummed and we were closing the game out, and then I said, "Oh! I forgot that in Pathfinder you don't die until you hit -CON." And that just seemed to make things more anti-climatic.

No anxiety about the new game there ...
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
A very busy Saturday.

Got up early (for a Saturday) and I was out of the house by 10am to go to EndGame. It was their 9th anniversary party, and these last couple of years (since I started biking again), I've made a point to head out there, even if I was gaming later in the day.

So I chatted with all the EndGame staff and got introduced to David S. over at Sandstorm. We chatted about RPGnet, Tinker Tailor, and some stuff I'm working on for the history book. Seemed like a very nice guy, and I'll have to follow up with him on some stuff. Aaron also made it out here for the party, so I got to chat with him for a while and later Eric V. and Bob who'd shown up.

I'd brought a few games but didn't get to play any; ironically I left one of my games there, as Eric !V. has really been hankering for Race for the Galaxy, which happened to be one of the two that I'd brought. (I just asked Evan to rescue it for me afterward.)

I was quite happy to get a chance to talk with people; it was well worth the ride down there and back.

Afterward was roleplaying which was the finale of the Savage Tide. It played out well and I think everyone enjoyed it. I think that's the longest campaign I've ever run myself. I can't entirely remember what I might have been running in high school days, but I haven't run anything longer up here. I think it's possible that our combined Vardian's Tomb + Dragon Rise campaign (which was group run) and Eric's various Erzo games are the only longer ones we've had.

Oh, it looks like Eric's MERP went 95 weeks, beating out Savage Tide too. It was easier to rack up the weeks when we played every single week, rain or shine, whereas the 64 Savage Tide sessions were spread out over 3 years and some spare change.

Following the finale, we chatted some about upcoming games, and it sounds like everyone might want to play Mary's Dresden, which if so would probably mean we're cutting down to roleplaying every other work, as most everyone is showing up biweekly now (with the exception of me, Mary, and Donald), and so we were only maintaining weekly play (theoretically) by alternating games.

We'll see how that goes. I won't even know what to do with myself if not running. I won't complain, as it's been a lot of energy. In any case, I have one more run for sure, which is next week, where I'll be offering the "season finale" of Traveller. (I don't know when I'm going to run it again but it's just the end of the current chapter, which should give everyone closure but still leave room for a continuation later ... and, I need to start outlining it soon.)

And after that K. and I got groceries. We'd decided to head out to Target again, which means we got super cheap stuff of pretty good quality (as opposed to Safeway, where we get somewhat cheap stuff of less quality on average). It was 9pm by the time we finally got home with groceries and dinner.

And now I'm about ready to collapse. My brain says that I should work on my rpg-history book article(s), but I may be done (for the night) ...
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
A bit of an unusual Saturday. We couldn't go to Endgame because they're having their annual miniatures swap, and we couldn't get enough players together to play anything until 3.30 or so. However, with so many missed Saturdays lately I went ahead and scheduled a game for today at my house at 3pm rather than canceling altogether.

I usually leave the house at 12.30 for Endgame, so this left me with an extra two and a half hours. So, I spent about two hours very successfully working on the history book in the early afternoon. Afterward, I got off my ass and rode down to the Bay and back--as I like to try and get some biking exercise on the weekends when I don't bike to Oakland and back.

It was a nice day for biking, very windy on the way down to the Bay, but that means I didn't notice it at all on the way back up.

The one downside was that idiot Truthers were crowded onto the edges of the Pedestrian Overpass down by the Bay holding up signs directing people toward their tinfoil-hat conspiracy websites (you know, that Bush secretly plotted 9/11 while talking to gray aliens or some such bullshit).

Drivers on the freeway below were honking as they passed and I thought, y'know all of these idiots think they're communicating and they're not. The LSD burnouts on the bridge thought that drivers were honking for their message REVEALING THE TRUTH about 9/11, while the drivers on the freeway would have honked for any sign with the numbers 9 and 11 on it today, even if it was like "9 DONUTS FOR $11".

Anyway, I watched the Bay for a few minutes then headed back up. A good ride.

I got in just before Dave P., at about 2.45. Donald showed up more like 3.15 and Dave S. around 3.45. The timing all went quite well, because Dave P. and Donald had to work on their characters and we were just finishing that up when Dave S. arrived.

We got in probably 3 hours of actually Savage Tide gaming, as we ran pretty late until 6.45. I was very happy to have run the session because it got us just far enough that we should be able to finish on our next game (10/2) without having to rush. That makes me happy because I can tell Dave W. that 10/2 is definitively the last Save Tide game, and he can show up if he wants.

Change is in the air. I'm planning to finish both of my RPG campaigns in October, then we'll probably start new ones in November (with me running less than all). I'm looking forward to seeing what they are.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
Well, after a few months of running like clockwork, our Saturday game fell apart today, and it looks like we're going to have some troubles getting it together for a couple of weeks.

The reason that's ironic is because I kept having to schedule other things around this Saturday. First Katherine and Michael suggested this might be a good day to see the impressionism exhibit together (but I'm happy Kimberly & I ended up doing it on our anniversary instead, and we've talked about going to the *next* show with Katherine & Michael), then my sister wanted to drop off Guest Cat today, as we'll be watching him as she once more visits Hawaii (and she will be by later today, but I made sure to schedule it for the evening).

I'm always somewhat jealous of my Saturdays. Since I'm running I don't want to be the guy who causes everything to be canceled, except once in a blue moon. But this one was particularly important as I wanted to finish the Savage Tide campaign without losing momentum.

Ah well. It should still be OK when we can get to it, in 2 or 3 weeks.

So I've had a mostly lazy day.

After lunch I headed out and ran a few errands (including getting some lights for our downstairs bathroom to hold us over until we can get the main light fixture replaced, and which I suspect Kimberly will think are entirely ugly, though I hope they'll do the trick of giving the room some light at night) then came home and napped.

Ah, the luxury of a two hour nap in the afternoon.

Since then I've been alternately reading and working on an article for the history book.

In the next couple of hours Kimberly will be back home, then Melody and (presumably) Jared will be by with Guest Cat.

And lazy, ironic Saturday will be over.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
Panniers. Took my panniers out again to gaming both last Wednesday and Saturday. I don't know that I'll be using them every time I game, but I'm trying to get comfortable with them. Well, mostly I'm trying to get comfortable that they won't go flying off when I use them.

So, Wednesday I rode to Endgame, tensing every time I hit a bump, fissure, or pothole at speed, but the panniers stayed firmly attached. On the way back, feeling more confident, I did my best to hit many speedbumps hard and fast. Not only did I get a good workout, but my panniers remained attached. Yay!

Then I managed to send one flying again on my way home from EndGame on Saturday. Boo.

So I'm pretty sure the problem is that I brush up against them with my foot, part of the pannier jumps up over the divider on the rack, and then is poised to fly away. Theoretically I should be able to correct the way I position my feet, but I'm also considering whether I just need to tie the damned panniers down. Most annoying.

Saturday. Speaking of Saturday, for a bit now we've been rushing toward the end of Savage Tide, and I'd been open to the possibility of simultaneously ending my Traveller campaign, if it wasn't well balanced with whatever else was running.

Then, in the last few days I came to the conclusion that I wanted to. It's always been a lot of prep work, but I'm also increasingly feeling like I'm retreading the same ideas, and whether the players notice or not, that's not fun for me.

So, I announced that I would definitively be ending Traveller at my next chapter point. I now know that it's going to be two weeks of Traveller run hence. As with most campaigns, I plan to end it where the majority of the current stories have stopped, but to consider the possibility that I might want to start it again some day.

For the future, I've let folks know that I definitely don't want to run both games as we change things out. Mary is considering Dresden or 4E while Donald offered the possibility he could run something too a bit back. I've told them that my first choice for my new game would be Kingmaker for Pathfinder, but that I'm open to returning to my old AD&D or Stormbringer campaigns as well.

(No one really remembered the Stormbringer campaign, sadly.)

Weather. Sucks. Worst summer ever.

Guest Cat. Coming soon. I should stowaway in Melody's suitcase for Hawaii.
shannon_a: (Default)
Biking. As usual, I was bummed when daylight savings time ended three weeks ago. Immediately my rides to EndGame on Wednesdays and my rides home on Saturdays changed from daylight to nighttime.

The first week was the worst because people were driving like idiots who had never driven at night before. That first Wednesday after the change, I had about six cars try and pull into me when I biked to EndGame. None came even close, mind you, and I might not have noticed all of them if I weren't a careful bicyclist, but since I am I was certainly aware of all of those people pulling up toward me, then stopping as they tried to make turns or merge onto the street.

These last couple of rides it's been better, but colder. Mind you, we don't get real cold here in Berkeley, but on Saturday it was 53F when I biked in to EndGame a bit after noon and 52F when I biked home around 7. Bleh. Wish I was in Hawaii.

Parasites. My near-miss criminal year seems to have continued. Friday afternoon we had two middle-aged black guys case our house. They knocked on the door, and Kimberly went to get it. One of them was right up next to the door, the other further back, and the first says to the second, "Someone's home!" and they both took off. They were apparently carrying one bulging duffle bag too.

We had police out here trying to hunt them down within a few minutes of Kimberly reporting the activity, which is encouraging. I don't think they caught them though, because first they headed off in the direction where the criminals had headed, then went in the opposite direction.

We've been aware of a couple of other break-ins since we've moved in, usually due to open, ground-floor windows apparently, though our next-door neighbor got broken into a couple of years back, probably because his house is set way back from the street, behind other houses. I was surprised someone considered breaking into our house, which is pretty much straight on the street, without it being a crime of opportunity.

(Though to me it seems entirely insane to rob houses so near the college at all, where it's impossible to predict when people might be coming or going; I'd personally take a more suburban area any time.)

Cats. Cobweb continues to do well. As far as we can tell she stopped losing weight a month and a half ago or so. Mind you, we haven't had her weighed since, but at 8.5# she didn't have much to lose, so we figured she'd be gone in a week or two. We guess that the steroids must have stopped or slowed down the loss for now.

Savage Tide. Yesterday was the fiftieth session of my D&D3.5 Savage Tide campaign. It's been over a decade since I did that much GMing (back at old Ars Magica campaigns, before we lost Bill & Chris V. from the group).

The Savage Tide game is still going strong; every once in a while Donald tells me how me enjoys it. Strong kudos to the people over at Paizo for creating a coherent and fun campaign. At minimum we have 10 more sessions. My actual guess is more like 15, but it'll depend on how many sidequests I run; at the moment the players are getting pretty close to the levels they should actually be at, with a couple of level 17s hit yesterday (and level 18 being the benchmark for the conclusion of session #51, I'd guess).

My Savage Tide AP of all 50 sessions is over at RPGnet.

Books. The rest of the weekend has been pretty laid back. I spent part of the afternoon sitting on the love seat in the sunroom enjoying some actual sunshine. As is my wont I flipped between chapters in a few different books: Soldier, Ask Not (the third book of George R. Dickson's Childe Cycle), Diaspora (a fun FATE-based SF RPG, that I hope will present my Traveller game in a different perspective), Pewter, Murder, and Loaded Dice (a coming-of-age novel centered on roleplayers which has exceeded my expectations; I'll have a review up on the 2nd), and WildCATS (specifically the Alan Moore issues, of which the first graphic novel at least is very good).

Computer Games. I also got my shelf of computer games in order today. I'll be off Wednesday-Sunday next week, and I plan to spend some veg out time. I expect I'm going to reinstall either Neverwinter Nights or Disciples Gold II to help in that regard.

No, I don't need new computer games. It's rare that I buy more than 1 or 2 in a year, and even rarer that they actually be new releases.

(Says the guy who's been spending the last two months writing a computer game for the iPhone.)
shannon_a: (games)
Games. Yesterday was a gaming day held at my house. We've been doing that occasionally since the dissolution of the Kube Gaming Room, mostly due to other things being scheduled at EndGame. (This week was their quarterly or so mini-con, which is the one time that the gaming space is absolutely too busy for us to use; we've sometimes skipped their more crowded days too, though we've been kindly offered a table.)

It's a pleasant change of pace. For one thing, I get to run my lava lamp, which sits above my usual GM chair. Also, to my surprise, there's plenty of room for group sizes up to 7 or 8--though we can't sit at a table with a battle map in front of us like we would at the store.

Another plus: BBQ. As with last time, there were huge piles of meat, corn, potatoes, and other various things. Dave P. and Dave S. are kind enough to do most of the BBQing, though I help out as time allows. There was also much talking afterward. Very nice, though tiring too.

Another plus: cleaner house, since Kimberly and I spend some time beforehand.

All in all, a good day of gaming, though not much progress was actually made on the Savage Tide (full AP to follow).

Cats. The reason I haven't written about the cats in several days is that Cobweb has had a recovery that looks nothing short of miraculous. Last Thursday she was sooo sick, then on last Friday she lay down to die.

Ever since she decided to get up on last Saturday to get some water, she's been seeming better and more herself every day. Kimberly even saw her eating dry kibble one evening.

Mind you, she's still got intestinal cancer and she's still getting very little nutrition (if any) from food she's eating. She's probably still only got a few weeks left. But the pull back from the brink is amazing and wonderful, even though it's just for a bit.

Our best guess for the turnaround is that the chemotherapy drug we were giving her was making her sick to her stomach. Though our vet had assured us there were no side effects, I'd seen nausea mentioned more than once on the 'net. Certainly, first her eating and then her entire well being got much worse when she was taking the drugs and quickly improved when she stopped taking them.

And that's actually what our original assessment had been: that we didn't want to give her chemotherapy because any extension of lifespan would be more than offset by a considerably worse quality of life. Our original assumptions sure seemed to be borne out.

For now we've got a kitty who seems to be genuinely enjoying the scant time left her.

Blankets. In recent years I've taken to reading in bed for 30 or 60 minutes before bedtime. It was something I settled on to improve my sleep, because too often if I was programming, writing, or doing something really thoughtful just before bed, I couldn't stop my thinking afterward. Ever since I started with the late-night reading, Cobweb has taken to listening for me laying down to read, then running into the bedroom, to come curl up with me, purring and purring against my side while I read.

When Cobweb was recovering from her recent nadir, I put a furry blanket that the cats love down at the foot of bed. It constantly attracts all of the cats to the bed. So recently my nightime reading has been amidst all three of our cats. Very nice.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
For many years, I didn't understand why podcasts were of any interest. Sometimes when there was something I really wanted to know about (mainly for the RPG history book I was working on a few years ago), I'd sit at my computer and listen to a podcast. But it always felt pretty stupid, being such a passive recipient of media on a very interactive computer.

That finally changed when I got an iPhone. Suddenly, I could listen to podcasts while out walking or while on BART, and it all made sense.

Lately my most frequent podcast has been 2D6 Feet in a Random Direction. I'll have to admit, one of the prime reasons I enjoy it is because it usually features my friend, [ profile] chrishanrahan. However, I also like its takes on the industry and its looks at games indier than I play.

This last episode featured something I hadn't seen a lot on the show before, essentially a collection of GMing ideas. Several struck me, especially as I'm trying to up the RP of my own games. I've noted them below, primarily for my own reference. Some of these were pretty clearly described, while in other cases I went off with an idea that had been briefly mentioned.

  1. En Media Res. I love this technique, particularly for a very episodic game, which is what I've been trying to develop for Traveller. I've used it a few times in that campaign, but each time afterward I backed up an did the setup for the en media res as a flashback. Maybe I just need to offer a summary and dive in instead, with no back-stepping. I'll have to try it again soon.
  2. How Characters Are Feeling. I think I'm least likely to use this one in my own games. Chris H. said that he typically starts adventures off by asking each player how their character is feeling and how they're expressing it. I don't think our groups' current amount of RP is up to this technique, and I'd fear it slowing things down at the start. But I think it's a good thing to have in your pocket for possibly using later in a game.
  3. Next Time on xxxx. I loved this one. At the end of a session, the GM asks each player what he'd like to see in the next adventure. He's looking for ideas and scenes. Then, he incorporates some of those. This might be neat for Traveller. Savage Tide is generally a bit scripted, and thus it won't entirely fit ... but I'm running a one-off sidequest next week, so at the end of Saturday's session I asked the players for "next time on Savage Time". I thought the results were A+++ terrific. We're only going to have 4 players next week, tops, but I'm going to try and work their requests in. (Off-hand, they included, "Saving a little girl", "nudity", and "a giant wheel of cheese rolling down the street". I can't remember what Dave S. or Dave W. said, but they're all in my notebook.)
  4. Passions. Off-handedly, one of the hosts mentioned how Spirit of the Century supports RP with Passions, and that made me think right-off of adding Pendragon-like passions to Traveller, as it's certainly true that there's no built-in support for anything but skills & combat. I've got an idea gelling, and I think I'm going to publish it in my new Traveller column in a bit more than a month.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
Today we had a good RPG session, creating characters for the [i]Traveller[/i] game which should be starting in a couple of months.

You can read (and subscribe to) my Traveller AP thread here:

I've actually been keeping AP records of all my gaming campaigns since we created the AP forum at RPGnet three years ago. Here's a complete list:

Stormbringer: Warriors for Balance (4/3/05-8/9/06)

We came to a good conclusion of the first "book" in this series, but I still have plans to go back to this campaign some day, though I'm undecided as to whether to use the Elric rules (which I have more adventures for) or the RuneQuest rules (which would fix some combat problems we had). Probably the latter, and I'll just have to convert more stuff.

AD&D1: The Greyhawk Megamodules (8/?/06-7/14/07)

We finished Temple of Elemental Evil, but I've got A1-4 in the wings for when we want to return to it, and I recently supplemented them with the AD&D Slavers module, which should give me more background material to work with, even if the adventure is the wrong level.

Paranoia: The XP Modules (5/12/07)

I'd hoped to run more of this, but the players just weren't enthusiastic enough. Now that we're running such high player numbers, we should really do another one-shot some time, as Paranoia is great with many players. Maybe I can talk people into it for a week or two when Savage Tide is over, before I start the next thing.

D&D3.5: Savage Tide (7/29/07-Present)

This is ongoing, and will be for another year, but unlike the others it'll be totally done when it's done, as we'll have taken characters from levels 1-20, and you don't want to go any further (if that far) in 3.5E.
shannon_a: (rpg stormbringer)
Today I ran session #27 of the Savage Tide campaign for D&D3.5. The Savage Tide is a campaign-long adventure that was published in Dungeon magazine from #139-150 (the last issue, alas). I've been running it since last July. I'd originally figured that it was going to be a two-year run, but it's now looking like three. No complaints, I'm continuing to enjoy it a considerable amount.

(And the players seem to be too.)

This session was notable because it marked the end of adventure #5, "Tides of Dread", my favorite of the adventure so far. That's mainly because it's very open-ended: the players are alerted that their new home, Farshore, is going to come under attack in two months' time, and they're then allowed to run about the island, preparing for that assault. They're given a number of different tasks that they might want to undertake, and they can pretty easily accomplish all of the in the time, but it's still got a very different feel from other, more set adventures.

Next time I run (which looks like it'll be in three weeks), I'm going to need to prepare my own adventure to help the players catch up with the level they're supposed to be at. I've been doing this every several sessions, which is a really nice balance. I get some creativity in preparing adventures, but I only have to do it every couple of months, which keeps it from being overwhelming.

I also have to say that as I've run Savage Tide, I've really fallen in love with D&D3.5. I'd played third edition once before, in an extended campaign that my friend Eric R. ran, but I never paid much attention to the rules. Now that I'm using them regularly, I've grown fond of how highly mechanical they are.

(Late to the party? Perhaps. But, from everything I've seen it'll suit me more than D&D4, though I'll soon have some D&D4 books to make a better assessment from.)

Granted some of the adventure prep requires more calculations than you want to do, but that just makes me want to write some programs for my iPhone to help out. If I had a little handheld device that applied templates and improvements to monsters, all would be right in the world. In on my TODO list if I can find the time some time.

If you're interested in hearing more about the Tide, read my review of the adventure path and take a look at my ongoing actual play writeup; I'm working on the description of today's adventure right now.

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