Blurbs from the Booth-My time at Heroicon!

Last weekend I had the pleasure to head down to Decatur, IL to run Shadowrun.  It was a blast.  This is the first year for a new con called Heroicon, and they are doing things right from the start.  Let’s hit a few high points:

  • Open table signs-You never know what’s open at a con. Small cons don’t have as exhaustive pre-con sign ups, and this one was no exception.  But, they had visible signs at each table that told passersby if a table was open.  Well done!  A suggestion-Have each table also have an event list with times.  Saw this at AnCon, and it is my favorite organization idea I’ve seen in a long time!
  • Free GM badges-I drove six hours to get to the con. I’m scheduled 12 hours for game demos.  I’m here to make games happen, and I hate when cons then ask me to pay money to run games for them.  Heroicon didn’t!  That already makes me feel good before I even leave my house in Michigan.
  • Price-This is a small con, and attendees shouldn’t have to pay GenCon prices for Decatur, IL games. And they didn’t!  One day with unlimited gaming was $15!  Want three days?  that’s $25.  Want free cold food all con with all the soda you can drink and unlimited gaming?  $60 for the VIP.  I spoke to a VIP, and he told me it was well worth it.  Feeding two guys and myself was over $60, so I should have bought the VIP pass anyway!  Also, FREE GAMING!  You spend money on the badge, and that’s it.  You don’t need crazy extra tickets.  Again, great job!
  • Game Library-Love cons with games you can just play. This one was good, but it wasn’t the GenCon game library.  Those guys/gals are close buy.  Next year you might want to talk to them. However, I was happy to just see a game lending library there!
  • Dealer room-There were a few dealers on hand. There was even a good selection of goods out there with a few people pitching kickstater projects.  Good to see new blood in the community!
  • People- Very friendly, very open, and very helpful. I had just spent several hours on I57, so I wasn’t lucid or in a good mood, but the con organizers all helped me find my spot and get running games like a champ.  That will fix your angry driving mode in a hurry!
  • Magic Tournament Room-If you have a con over a Friday night, you need a Magic event. I don’t even play Magic and I know that’s a rule!  They had one.
  • Game Variety-I ran Shadowrun. I also talked with Paizo GMs, the local Local Coordinator for DnD, Warhammer addicts, and board gamers alike.  Lots of different games make for a good con.
  • Room Price-Had I had a bit of extra cash, I’d have stayed an extra day. Its $80 bucks for a day.  For a hotel that is really decent, that’s a steal!

All and all, this is a great local convention that I can’t wait to go back to next year.  I met some good people, played some great games, and had a blast.  Check out HeroiCon at  and I hope they run this next year!

Blurbs from the Booth-How I spent my Winter (Fantasy) Vacation

It’s that time of the year again-WINTER FANTASY!  I love Winter Fantasy.  It’s the one con a year I can get my wife to go to.  We have a blast, and sometimes, just sometimes we actually get to play on the same side of the DM screen!  This year I went a bit earlier and run a ton of DnD.  Let’s go day by day, and I’ll tell you what I thought.



Ah, winter in beautiful Fort Wayne, Indiana!  I was caught in the massive snow storm that keep many a GM, DM, and player at bay.  I was supposed to run a game, but my table wasn’t there, so I was shipped to an adventure I didn’t prepare, hadn’t read, and was running for some of the major heavy hitters who coordinate the DnD Adventure League.  So, no pressure then?  It all turned out well though.  I had a blast, my players had a blast, and the adventure turned out to be a good one.  It wasn’t as much fun as my current favorite, DDEX1-4, but DDEX1-10 is an awesome adventure that really sets up the next season well.  From there it was off to check into the hotel, but I screwed up and checked into the wrong hotel.  That made for a fun hour.  Even more entertaining, I was going to stay at the other hotel the next day, so I had to move my gear over for exactly one night.  Good times!



The best advice I can give Dungeon Masters besides don’t follow the rules too much is to buy a cot!  I slept like a baby in my room with four other DMs, and hit the floor early.  I was selected to martial for the con, so if you don’t get to your games quickly, I’m one of the people you get to blame.  I got set up and run an awesome adventure.  This was even more fun because I was able to actually read the adventure ahead of time.  Lunch was the ever loved King Gyro that I ate as I listened to the first DnD DM seminar.  Now I expected this to be completely useless.  I’m not a bad GM, so I think I’m ready for anything.  And, this seminar discussed the basics of DMing.  But, honestly, I was pretty impressed.  Sometimes it’s good to go back over the basics, at least quickly.  Then, I was back for more marshaling.  However, most of my players couldn’t make it due to the storm, so I was selected to play Baker Street.  Let’s give this a short RPG rundown!





All tests are six-sided dice rolls with a Sherlock Die.  The regular dice all are successes when you have a value of four or over.  Just like all fun six-sided dice games, 6’s explode and are rolled until they don’t roll a six.  The Sherlock die has a 1, 2, and a 3 on it as well as Watson, Sherlock, and Moriarty.  The 1, 2, and 3 on this die makes 1’s, 2’s, or 3’s count as successes on the other dice.  Watson adds one success, Moriarty makes all dice with a three or less count against your successes allowing for negative scores, and Sherlock lets you name a number and all those count as successes.  That’s the entire base mechanic.  When you do something you’re specialize in you add two extra dice, and when you do something else you use your ranks in that.  Not trained?  Then roll two dice and the Sherlock die.  Done.  Attacks and Defense work the exact same way.  I roll my dodge, and you roll your weapon attack.  Weapons all have a set number of dice, so you roll those dice and the Sherlock die and repeat the basics above if you hit a character by beating their dodge roll.  For each hit with the weapon, you reduce the condition of your target with wounds. Wounds reduce the dice numbers that count as a hit, until you are knocked out or killed.

What does stand out is the investigation mechanics and threat.  When you enter a room, you can roll investigate.  That allows you to get a number of clues.  Those clues all have leads, and you can do a different check to eliminate leads.  This really helps me as a GM and a Player by now I don’t have to try to be smarter than my players or GM, and if I’m accidently way too cleaver for my own good and hide my story too deep,  my players have a mechanic to actually find the story threads.  If the players want to explore again and reduce more leads, they then can search again, but they might raise the threat of the adventure.  As the threat goes up, the bad guys get harder, the Moriarty side of the Sherlock die gets worse, and more problems arise for the players.  It keeps the tension up while still letting the players choose what happens.  It felt organic and fun.


While I like Sherlock Holmes, I was never a diehard fan. But this really drew me in.  It’s after Sherlock “dies” falling off the falls.  Watson hires some help, and that’s where the players come in.  Our game had a chimney sweep, a child laborer, and a prostitute.  Guess which one I was.  I did work hard for my money!  What was fun was all the pregenerated characters were all characters from other Victorian stores and events.  My lady of the night was from Whitechapel, so if I wasn’t helping Watson, things would not end well for me.


All and All, Baker Street is a fun RPG, and I even got a cool new die out of the demo.  Well worth it!  Go give it a try!

Thursday finished with my wife coming into town late, and I ran another DnD game of Tales Trees Tell.  That went well, and my players and I had a blast.  Then, my wife and I did what all red blood Americans do when they’re in a hotel room alone together-We played a game of Star Realms.  I kicked some butt that night!



The wife’s in town, so I bought her tickets to my games that day.  Also our niece came to the show for one day.  I marshaled for the first slot and sat down at my table.  It was an adventure I hadn’t played yet, but I had prepared it called Raiders of the Twilight Marsh.  My players enjoyed that one.  They fought a dragon, I made a horror, and my niece who hadn’t played DnD till then had an amazing time.  Lunch happened quickly as I attended the second DnD Seminar discussing the use of inspiration.  I really liked this one.  It had PowerPoint slides, some good audience interaction, and it discussed giving player’s narrative control.  I want to do that more in my games, so this was right up my alley.  After lunch, I marshaled again, but I still didn’t have any players, so I was given a chance to play Neo Exodus.  This is a new Pathfinder compatible Living setting.  I played a cleric of a semi-computer god.  It was fun, but my only problems where Pathfinder problems.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time.  But, combat takes so long, and set up can be a pain.  However, it was fun.


That evening, I marshaled, and then the wife and I hit the con and played some board games at the GenCon board game library.  We tied played Carcassonne: The City.  Then we hit the hotel room and played some more Star Realms.  I didn’t do as well that night.



Saturday was my easy day.  After marshaling, I run my first table of Pool of Radiance Resurgent.  I had a great time, and my players decided to just bluff their way through it.  Goes to show you how much you can customize this game as instead of having a necromancer dominate the undead you can have a diplomancer just talk your way out of anything the DM throws at the players.  That was a good time.

From then on the con was free for me, or so I thought.  After the 1PM marshaling, my wife and I went to J. K. O’Donnell’s.  God, I love this place.  It’s got great beer, great food, and an authentic atmosphere.  We tried to go Friday night, but there were just WAY too many people there at night!  I had an authentic Irish breakfast which was eggs, blood sausage (not bad by the way), fried vegetables, and other meats.  I’ve always wanted to try an UK breakfast, and now I have. I also got a little tipsy (man am I out of practice!), so my wife and I went back to the hotel, and took a nap (I’m getting old!).  That evening, fully refreshed, I marshaled, and I asked to run a game of Arcanis.  I love Arcanis, but don’t get much of a chance to play anymore.  So, I grabbed all my d12’s, the wife grabbed her old character, and we played a game with some other people from MI.  The evening ended when back in the hotel room with more Star Realms and opening up my copy of Tiny Epic Defenders.  I lost Star Realms, but we did win at Tiny Epic Defenders.  Quick rundown time!


In Tiny Epic Defenders, you make a deck of bad things to happen to the kingdoms’s different locations.  Then, you also shuffle in your action cards.  When a bad thing comes up, a location takes some damage.  When it takes too much damage, the location is considered destroyed and all damage now goes to the capital.  When the capital falls, the game’s over.  When your turn comes up, you can do three actions which can be location’s ability, heal one damage on a location, move, or use a special character power.  When the deck of bad things and actions runs out, you draw a new card from the timer deck, shuffle, and repeat.  When you can’t draw from the timer deck, a major threat appears somewhere.  Now players have to race to do damage to the final monster as quickly as possible.  The mechanics are quick and easy.  Also, I have the deluxe version, so I get a few more monsters and final threats.  Honestly, it’s easy, and fun.


I liked this game, but I didn’t love this game.  Predicting where and when monsters will damage locations isn’t a bad game, but the end game is a bit anticlimactic.  To damage the last bad guy, you spend one action for one damage.  You get three actions, so you just position yourself on him or her and pile on the damage.  It doesn’t feel as tense as the rest of the game.  It’s great game if you have 20 minutes and want a co-op game, but if you want some more meat in your co-op game, you will be a little underwhelmed.



The last day of the con, and the last spots I’m marshaling.  My first spot was open, so the wife and I played Shadow of the Demon Lord with the creator Robert Schwalb.  That was a blast, as it’s always fun to see who makes the game your play.  Also, it’s always fun to play with the creator of an RPG when they’re hung-over and questioning life choices that involve cheese taco rollups!  Let’s do a quick rundown of Shadow of the Demon Lord.



This game is a d20 system, but not the standard d20 I know and love.  Ability modifiers use a flat ability – 10 system.  Have Strength 12?  You have a +2 modifier.  Have intelligence 8?  Then it’s -2.  Easy.  Easy is a word I’ll say multiple times here, and I mean that in the best way possible.  To succeed at most things you have to hit a 10 with your modifier and dice roll.  Again, easy.  Attacks all hit the ability of the target or an armor class that you figure out once.  Easy.  To modify situations you add six-sided dice.  Get a bonus from a character blessing you?  Roll a d6, and add the result.  Get a penalty from a monster?  Roll a d6, and subtract the result.  The adding good dice counteracts adding bad dice, and you only count the highest dice added.  This makes the math MUCH similar or easier.  The biggest number you will add will be around 10.  Done.  This is a really sleek system.  It feels enough like all the RPGs I love while still having its own distinctness.


I had a long talk with the creator about this game.  For all its glory, it felt…short.  And he told me that was by design.  We all have heard tales of grognards who played epic 40+ year games of D&D.  But for every story I hear about that, I read about Pathfinder games that die in under a month.  This game is designed to be played quickly, and leveled up quickly too.  You won’t play one game for 10 years, but you will pay for ten sessions.  When put that way, all my doubts vanished.  It’s a definite shift in perspective when you’re told that although your characters have an awesome story to be part in, you won’t be playing them that long.  But, honestly that’s the truest thing I’ve heard of from the RPG industry in a long time.  As for the in game theme, it’s a grab bag of bad (in a good way).  The Demon lord is an extradimensional thing that is bad.  When it tries to enter our world, its shadow is cast on different things causing a bunch of different things like the zombie apocalypse to lite beer.  That means anything you play can happen in this world.  From plagues to fallen angels, you can decide the Demon Lord’s shadow is causing some sort of havoc in the world.  Also the world is a strange mix of gaslight/steampunk/Lord of the Rings.  Players can be anything from any of those worlds.  I was a clockwork priest of the world who believed that the world and all living things are all made of tiny machines the others could not see.  My crazy choice all slid well into the game.  Robert Schwalb is a fantastic story teller, and any game that has demonic statues fart out baby headed centipedes obviously is going to be a good one.

If you get a chance, when this game comes out on kickstarter, throw money this way.  I know I am.


Due to the unfortunate accidents some other DMs had, I was asked to run one last game.  I hoped in to the DM chair and met my boss in the DnD Adventurer’s league Frank.  I hadn’t met him all con, and this was my chance.  We played a great game of Pool of Radiance Resurgent, and then had some spirited conversations about the future of the League.  I’m looking forward to what’s happening next, and I didn’t get fired, so I left happy!


Well that was my time out in Fort Wayne.  I’ll be back next year.  I had a blast, but I do have some suggestions for next year:

  • Credit Cards-I haven’t seen cash for three months. My family gives my digital money now!  You should be able to take my digital money
  • Day Passes-My niece came for one day and then drove back to MI. That day cost $30 bucks!  My wife played for four days, and that cost her $30.  Something is not right here.
  • Reduce the price of events-$8 is a bit much. Now, I know you have to charge so we all get to play, but $8 is a bit much for four hours.  We’re talking Origins prices here, and while awesome, Winter Fantasy isn’t as big as Origins.
  • Different Games-I love D&D, but this right now is basicaly an only D&D con. I want some different games.  I don’t want Winter Fantasy to be an only D&D con.  If Wizards of the Coast wants to step in, throw money at the con, and make it only D&D, that’s one thing.  But, if this is an independent convention, I want at least a smattering of other games to play.
  • Event books-This year the games weren’t really published off the website. I didn’t know what was happening when.  I had to ask more than a few times to know what I can even play when.  I’m not looking for tome, but even a list of what and when would really be nice.  I didn’t even know when half the DnD DM guild stuff was happening and I ended up wondering into both events almost by accident.

Blurbs from the Booth-Top Ten RPGs of 2014

Just like last week (, I feel it’s time to go over the top ten RPG products I reviewed in 2014.  Same rules apply-I need to see your product AND review it in 2014.  Want your favorite or your product up here?  Get me a copy!


  1. Emergence RPG reviewed here Did you like Guardians of the Galaxy? How about a whole society of humans who emerged on to a planet in the 1980/1990’s with Orcs, Dwarves, and Elves? Only thing I want more of is content for this RPG.


  1. Numenera RPG reviewed here Numenera or The Strange was ending up on this list one way or another. The wife made the call for me as I’ve run both for her, and she wants more Numenera. It’s got quick character building, extremely fast combat, and a very intuitive skill/combat system.


  1. Crawl! Issue #10 reviewed here I love DCCRPG. I run one game a month and one con game a month. I AM STARVED FOR OFFICIAL PLAYER CONTENT!  However, if I can’t get my official fill from Goodman Games, there is always Crawl! ! (That’s intentional Crawl! has an exclamation point.)  This issue was the demi-humans issue.  You want that Halfling rogue?  You got it!  Also, this is the cheapest thing on this list at three bucks!


  1. AMP: Year One reviewed here How about the X-Men? Well, there is no official RPG anymore for the X-Men, but there is AMP: Year One. Mutants super heroes with crazy powers and customization makes a great RPG.



  1. BareBones Fantasy Reviewed here A short simple RPG that plays fast. I love quick systems, and this one is short and to the point. All characters are made quickly and the game plays even quicker.  Also, the books are CHEAP and they look like graphic novels!


  1. Victoriana 3rd Edition reviewed here Why yes I love Shadowrun, Steampunk, and forcing my players to have to choose what happens when they push themselves. Here is a system that does all of that in spades. Also Cubicle Seven proved how classy to me they are by releasing the update to their Lord of the Rings RPG for FREE.  Great content and guys/gals all around.


  1. Run and Gun for Shadowrun 5e reviewed I love me some SR, and options was what any player really wanted in 2014. And options are what we got.  It’s not everything we could hope for, but it was something big!


  1. Darkwood Adventure Arc #1-The Deft and the Deadly reviewed here Pathfinder needs a spot on this list, but this isn’t from Paizo. I really like what these guys are up to. They’re making a brand new world, and this book not only describes a small adventure but is part world guide.  Great bargain for less than 15 bucks!


  1. 13 True Ways Reviewed here 13th Age is one of my favorite RPGs to come out recently, but if Catalyst is somewhat quite, Pelgrane Press is downright mute on new content for its RPG. 13th Age players want options, and this book gave them plenty. From the monk that made me super happy with proper martial arts forms to just tons of new content, I love this book.


  1. Dungeons and Dragons-5th Edition- DM Guide reviewed here, Monster Manual reviewed here, and Player Handbook reviewed here No surprise here. It’s the game I play the most if you follow my twitter.  WotC had one of the cleanest launch products I’ve seen in a while.  It felt classic and new at the same time.  Well done!

Blurbs from the Booth-What I want in the DnD Adventure League

First off, I love the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure League.  I’ve run a crap load of games and loved every minute of it.  I think I’m at least a decent GM who knows a ton of Forgotten Realms lore.  But, I need some help.  Here are I few things I think would make the Adventure League better:


1) Small change to the format of the adventures I know its space, but I would really love it you could give me an itemized list of the major stuff in the room/location at the top of each location right after the name and place on the map.  Like this:

Genera Features:

Mossy Cave full of gold




1-Party one- 6 Kobolds

1 Wizard

2-Party two- Giant Dragon of death


Awesome sword of Awesomeness

All the gold ever

Why?  Well I read my adventures before every game, but when you’re going through the adventures and you have limited time like the 3.5 hours at GenCon, it’s hard to remember all the stuff that’s in a place or you have to take time and skim read the entire passage.  All the adventures WotC has put out including the Hoard of the Dragon Queen have all the important information buried in the text.  I hate having to reread a half page of text and explain to my players everything in the room that I just read and make it interesting.  Again, this isn’t hard, but a small change will really help me make sure I hit all the high notes in every adventures.


2) NPC mentors  My players are getting high enough to get mentors.  It might be time to consider providing NPCs who can mentor the players either through letters or items.  I don’t think these should be anywhere near as cool as real, honest to Amaunator PC mentors, but if my players don’t have one, then they won’t know how awesome one can be.  And, most likely won’t mentor other PCs in the future.


3) Starting above 1st level  Let’s start something really controversial!  I’d like the option to start above 1st level.  I’d like generic PCs to give players at 1st, 5th, 10th, and 15th level with items and such that they could/world have gotten had they played the previous adventures but not the awesome renowned points.  The first level five and up adventures are going to roll out soon, and new players are going to come to the store and be turned away as the two groups I have at my store won’t be able to keep a level one wizard alive during a CR eight encounter.  Giving me pregens for several levels will really help.  Pathfinder does that, and it’s amazingly helpful!


4)World Guide Even more controversy!  Everybody I know wants a world guide.  What the heck is up with the Realms?  Who’s still a god?  Who isn’t?  Who’s pretending?  What the hell is a Phlan?  Right now, we have the old 3.5/4e stuff.  But, there was a whole Sundering book series that people didn’t read that told them about the new 5e realms.  But, none of those books really talked about Phlan.  Heck the Sword Coast got a book, but only tangentially.  My players don’t really know the state of things.  Things are up to 110 years out of date, so imagine using a 110 year old map to understand European politics today!  Don’t give me hints.  Right now my players need firm answers to what the heck is going on.  And I think most GMs do too.


Those are my ideas.  I love the game, but give me the proper tools and layouts and I can make my games even better!

Blurbs from the Booth-The Price of Admission

I saw a thread on ENWorlds discussing how much you would pay at a hobby shop vs. how much you pay online.  I thought about that for a quite a while and I think I’d pay a lot.  Let’s give some examples and thoughts that go with that.

I don’t expect my store to just be a store.  The store is a place I hang out.  I’ve mentioned a few times that I want to make gaming happen.  Gaming is a major part of my life.  I spend lots of money buying games, lots of my time reading/learning games, and lots of my life running games at stores and cons.  My store is a part of my home.  I expect a friendly place where people know who I am, who care that I’m doing well gaming and in my life, and a place that wants me to be there running games.  I know that the store manager/owner is there because on some level he/she has to make money to eat and pay rent, but I also want him/her to be there because they love comics and gaming.  I want that person to want to make games happen too.

I need that store person to need gaming in their life too.  If you are just in the comics/gaming world to make a buck, leave.  That’s not insulting, it’s an economic reality!  There are much better ways to make a buck in this world that requires much less energy.  Franchising out McDonald’s are a much better investment.  Game stores die within the first year all the time, and you can’t just run that store 9 to 5.  I don’t know about you, but 9 to 5 is when I’m working.  So, any place that will give me time to play has to have their store open from 6 to 10.  So the shop keep is looking at a 13 hour day to deal with my crap!

I realize all of this.  I realize that these men and women are working their asses off.  Sure, running a store isn’t as physically exhausting as, say, 13 hours of manual labor like heavy construction of houses.  But it’s at least mentally draining since these people have to dance a hard dance to make all the bills happen while keeping the lights on and dealing with entitled gamers/comic fans all day.

Online shopping is great, but I have NO loyalty to anyone out there.  Sure, I’ll sign up for your discount program.  Yeah, give me your newsletter.  Fine, I’ll friend you on Facebook.  But I do not care about you.  You are a means to an end.  If my only interaction with you is to check a few boxes and have PayPal hand my money to you, then you are no better than any other http place to me.  I don’t feel you care.  You’re just a means to an end.  Amazon, you, any other of the dozens of sites I know, you’re all the same.  You may be much more, but if I’m not helping someone I know needs help in the gaming industry, it’s hard to know if you do or don’t care.

Cons are no better.  I’ll see some con vendors two times a year.  I’ll make some small talk, but I don’t owe any loyalty to you either.  You’re at this con to make some money.  Cons are high profile places where lots of geeks gather.  And you can make a ton of money fast if you know what you’re doing, and you brought the right stuff.  However, I will haggle with you.  Honestly, I will walk up to vendors with my cell phone in one hand and my debit card in the other.  If my local guy/gal can’t get an item, then any con seller is as good as Amazon.  So, if you, the con vendor, can’t meet Amazon’s price, that item can be at my house in two days (prime shipping is awesome!).  Same goes for some companies.  If you are big enough to have a giant booth at GenCon, I have no problems haggling with you.  The smaller companies get a pass, generally, but I have no problems haggling with the semi-large ones unless you’ve earned my loyalty.  If a company has proven time and time again that they are great to their customers, like Fantasy Flight with its rock solid customer support or Wizards of the Coast with its FREE open play programs, then I will not try to fight them on price.  In either case, I expect a deal at a con.  At a con you’re cutting out all the middle men.  If you want to get more money from cutting out those people, then I expect to get a break too.  If you sell for 80% at a con, your still ~40% more then you normally get.  I know this, you know this, now let’s make a deal!

But, when I find a local store that gives me its time/play space, friendship, and a passion for gaming, they get my money.  If you treat me with respect, I’ll put quite a number of hours into making your store the best store I can find.  I’ll run my games there, post about it on Facebook, tweet upon my Twitter, and overall make you a part of my life.  And, for the feelings I get from your store, I’ll pay full price.  I won’t screw around asking for discounts (but giving them to me does help keep me loyal!).  I won’t be an ass and haggle over small things.  I’ll show up every week, pay for my orders, even though I know I’m losing money vs. online shopping, and I will do that with a smile on my face.  That is the price of admission to these places and the feelings and support we gamers get there.