Dec 19

Dragonmeet 2014: The Swag


Dragonmeet SwagThis week I conclude my coverage of Dragonmeet 2014 with a quick review of the items I bought at the convention.


Last week I posted an overview of my day at Dragonmeet.


As I explained, Phil-the-Artist and I had a fun morning browsing the expanded trade hall. The outcome of this is best illustrated by the items I bought.


Dice and Cards

The set of ten new d20s I bought from Chessex have already appeared on Tales of a GM.


Likewise, the Plot Twist Cards from Paizo have been the subject of their own detailed review.


Once Upon a Time

This year, I treated myself to a game. Fortunately, this was only a card game, so I was not overburdened on the journey home. Once Upon a Time is a storytelling card game by James Wallis, published by Atlas Games.


The first reason I chose to buy this game was the adverts for it on the Ken and Robin podcast.


However, I did not buy it solely because I am a victim of good marketing. As with so many things I buy these days, I hope this game will help my improvisational storytelling skills. The gameplay is all about improvising a fairy tale to match the cards in your hand and arriving at a nominated ending. As a thumbnail description, this matches the style of RPG game I try to run. This game really should help me improvise better as a GM.


My other intention with Once Upon a Time is to use it as a tool for teaching my two young sons to be narrative gamers. They are still too young for this right now, but I suspect it will not be long before they are telling better fairy tales than I can. As a Geek Dad, I am often on the lookout for useful ways to bring my sons into the fold when they grow up.


Now I have a copy of the game, I can appreciate how beautiful it is. The art by Omar Rayyan is gorgeous. I look forward to browsing through the cards, which may prove to be so delightful as to distract me from playing the game.


I picked up my copy of Once Upon a Time from the Leisure Games stand, where I had pre-ordered it for collection at Dragonmeet. This worked very smoothly for me, and is something I shall consider for next year.


Dark Osprey

Moving on to the books I bought at Dragonmeet. The first of these was The Nazi Occult by Kenneth Hite, published by Osprey. I also tracked Ken through the trade hall and secured his signature in the book. Once again, this book had featured prominently in several of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff podcasts.


A recent interlude also made use of Nazis as pulp-style villains.


As the Players enjoyed the one-shot game so much, it seems likely we shall face the Nazis again.


Thus, with a probable use for the book, it made sense to buy a copy at Dragonmeet where I could also have it autographed. The book is up to the usual high standard of Osprey Publishing, full of informative sidebars and some incredible art. The subject matter is dark, and horrific, but it should give me some useful plot ideas for the next interlude to make use of Day After Ragnarok.


Code of the Space-lanes

The next book I bought is the first of a pair of indie publications. This is a super-lite SF RPG by Simon Burley of the UK Roleplayers Design Collective. I was sold this book by Simon when I visited the UKRP stall.


The Code of the Space-lanes is a softcover book, A3 size, 101 pages with a colour cover and line art within. Part of the reason I bought this was to support UK independent designers. However, I am also interested in the rules light, narrative heavy approach which Simon promised when he sold me the book.


So far, I have really only skimmed through the book, so it is too early to tell if this is true. I am sure I shall return to this book, and probably most of the Dragonmeet purchases, and give them a longer review.


Twenty Four Game Poems

I was very pleased to finally meet up with Graham Walmsley at Dragonmeet, after his last-minute cancellation last year. I have found his book Play Unsafe to be a superb introduction to RPG improvisation.


Play Unsafe is available at DriveThru [affiliate link]


Budget limitations meant I could not afford another of his books, but when I was chatting with him he recommended this book to me. Twenty Four Game Poems by Marc Majcher is a 48 page, A3 booklet with black-and-white cover and art. Essentially this is a collection of short storytelling games, which sounds awesome.


I am always happy to find new narrative tools, and I am hopeful this book will contain some useful ones. Furthermore, the nature of this book should provide me with some quick games I can play with my young sons.



Overall, this was a good haul of swag. I could have spent more, but I sensibly kept to my budget. Once I have had a chance to read through this years’ purchases, I may have a better idea of what I would like to buy at Dragonmeet 2015.


Well, apart from more dice!


So, what did you buy at Dragonmeet? What hot game did I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Happy Gaming


Something for the Weekend next week: The Top Posts of 2014.

Dec 18

Christmas 2014 Interlude: Part 2

Character (4) head



Day After Ragnarok, session framework and prep-lite 


The game prep for the Christmas Interlude has not progressed as well as I wanted. Despite a new, prep-lite technique, I have not yet achieved enough for the game.


Some of the framework has been done, and I even watched The Polar Express as research. I also prepared the streamlined character generation for the session. This is enough to begin the interlude, but very little session content was written.


I am quite happy for the Players to brainstorm the Polar Express as a location with me.


It is at this point that I am left with little more than just some rough notes and a few ideas. These days, this forms the core of what little planning I do. Yet, I also need some brief notes on obstacles and a few events prepared to throw into the game as required.


Tonight, I shall browse through Day After Ragnarok, to make some additional notes. Then it will be a case of producing those few game statistics I need to run HeroQuest 2 contests. I know roughly what I want to throw at the Players, and I am sure Day After Ragnarok will give me some extra ideas.


So, more work to be done, and there is enough to keep me busy tonight. However, I feel close to completion, so there is no need to panic just yet. I have a couple of days left before the game, so it should all come good in the end.


Happy Gaming



Dec 17

Listening Around: Drive to Work

TalesOfAGM Cross


Mark Rosewater podcasts about designing Magic: The Gathering.


These podcasts are a monologue by Mark as he drives to work. The new Magic website describes the podcasts as follows:


Magic: The Gathering Head Designer Mark Rosewater shares stories, insights, and more while driving to work. Listen in and learn more about Magic!


Designing to Work

So why should you listen to a podcast about Magic design?


Well, if you are a fan of Magic then these podcasts are bursting with trivia and insight into the design process.


If you are not a fan, then you should still give them a try. Most of the episodes revolve around the history of a particular set of cards. These would not be a good place to start for the non-Magic player.


Instead, you should track down some of Mark’s more general episodes. These are usually crammed full of good design advice. Yes, there is a strong bias towards Magic; The Gathering, but this is Mark’s speciality. However, the lessons are broad enough to apply to any game designer.


Whatever you may think of Magic as a game, you cannot deny how successful it has been. This game spawned the whole CCG industry, and thus has to be acknowledged as a good design. Thus, the pillars of good Magic design are just as applicable to all game design. Any GM who tinkers with the rules of their chosen RPG is being a game designer. Mark has some good advice for you.


A good place to start is with the Episodes 60-62. This trio deals with Comfort, Surprise and Completion, crucial elements for good design and storytelling.


Mark is an engaging conversationalist with a lot to say about broad design topics. Improve your game design skills by listening to Drive To Work.


The first 123 Episodes can be found at the old Magic: The Gathering website.


The later Episodes are at the new Magic: The Gathering website.


Happy Listening


The Listening Around series of posts are my suggestions of podcasts to which you ought to be listening.


Last time out it was the entertaining Dice of Doom podcast.


Dec 16

Christmas 2014 Interlude: Part 1

Character (4) head


Cool locations, ASP and Baba Yaga 


The brainstorming on Saturday went well. We now have the plane of Arborea, Yggdrasil and Sigil itself described in very broad strokes. The discussion of the campaign premise led to the creation of a police department called Artefacts, Souls and Potions. ASP is a suitable acronym, although it does sound a little like a villainous group.


We agreed to run a more focused campaign, than just a simple police procedural. ASP is focused on a range of illicit substances that could be smuggled into Sigil, or counterfeited within the city. There should be a wide range of stories we can tell focused around these items. However, by narrowing our remit to these items, I believe we should find it easier to think of plots. Once again, a few limitations can serve to increase creativity.


For the first time, we also recorded our session. I am currently unsure how to present all, or part, of our session. Here is a new project for me at Tales of a GM.


Moving forward, this Saturday sees our annual Christmas Special game. Once again, I tried to invite my former Players to joins us for a one-shot game. Sadly, there were no takers, so it will be just the usual trio. The premise for this game is The Polar Express set on the world of Ken Hite’s Day After Ragnarok. The North Pole has been invaded by Baba Yaga and an army of communist cyborg apes. I am expecting mayhem.


So, I shall prepare for the one-shot on Wednesday. I need to browse Day After Ragnarok again, to make notes on the communist adversaries. I expect much of the setting to be brainstormed in conjunction with the Players. However, I want to prepare some cossacks, a squad of T-34s and perhaps the Wendingo. I guess I shall also need some notes on Santa, some elves/gnomes and maybe the crew of The Polar Express. I might even watch the film for some pointers too. This should all keep me busy tomorrow.


Happy Gaming



Dec 15

The December Home for the Warlock’s Journal

journal square


The site-hopping Warlock’s Journal has moved on once more, waving goodbye to Michael at Tiny Gork’s Tinker Room.


The host for December is Vicente at Soul Guardian Publishing. The topic of the December contest is described as follows;


This time instead, the contest is about designing a room in a dungeon. It can be as complex as a passage full of devious traps or as simple as some dorms, but the room has to contain a challenge for the heroes (monsters, a puzzle, traps…) You have 500 words to describe the room and its challenge.


Entries should be system-neutral, but the usual practice is to add any mechanical information as an Appendix to the main entry. I am sure that if you really want to include system information, Vicente will be willing to add it to the final pdf. This contest follows the standard format of a 500 word maximum.


The winner will receive $15 DriveThru store credit and a copy of Vicente’s The Cathedral of Light pdf. The deadline for the contest is 26th December 2014. By choosing this theme for the contest, Vicente has ensured there is likely to be a lot of interest in the final pdf. Here is a great way to put your work in front of a lot of GMs, so I would urge you to participate.


All the voting rules, and the additional details about the contest can be found at Soul Guardian Publishing.


Best of luck, and get designing.



Follow this link for a full list of the Warlock Journal Contests to date.


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