Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Final Reflections on NTRPGCon2

[I meant to post this earlier, but I have been suffering from a terrible bout with the flu and have been getting lots of rest over the last two weeks.]

My final thoughts are about many of the wonderful people I got to chat and game with.

My roommates were Dennis Sustare and Paul Jaquays.  We never saw each other in the room, that is how involved all three of us were.  I had the opportunity to give a panel discussion with Tim Kask and Dennis.  It was taped, and Badmike noted that it would be available some time in the (near?) future.

Tim Kask and I chatted for about an hour about many things game related and other.  We both discussed our convention scenarios we'd designed and the pros and cons of each and how players would be reacting and X, Y, Z points, etc. Tim's was a sprawling, detailed affair and he "worried" that the PCs would become stuck at one of its many parts.  I  later heard that that did not happen and instead all the players enjoyed his game immensely.

As with last year's convention, Matt Finch and I, being smokers, ended up in various running conversations outside the hotel.  His groups were a riot to listen to, as they were obviously very gung-ho on the adventure(s).  I also talked with several of his participants (John January, Chris Finch and others) who related their own versions of what was transpiring within the game (mostly amid chuckling while doing so).

After some design talk Sunday between Timeshadows, Steve Winter and myself on the merits of Kyrinn's rules and World of Urutsk, Steve and I played in the pick-up episode of her continuing scenario along with Urutskian "veterans" Amanda Marohl and "Doctor Joe."  We then signed some dice bags and I escorted Kyrinn from the convention site and said adios 'til next time.

Later, I watched Circus Maximus being played (I bowed out of playing as I was very tired by then for all of the convention activities).  I did champion Alan Silcock, who unfortunately flipped his chariot on top of his horses, which ended his run in the race.  So I silently picked Jeff Imrie as my next champion as Alan and I retired to the lobby where, among many other subjects, we discussed the merits of adventure design.  Alan runs Tegel Manor by JG every time he shows at conventions, and considering the sparsity of information available in that adventure, he does it the classic way, with quick imaginative thrusts and on the fly interpretations with a lot of gut instinct. Everyone enjoys his DMing immensely (probably because, as he said, "I make it all up as I go along"). Our discussion seemed timeless, and we caught up on many life events as well (including both of us talking about our childhood play experiences and early home environments).  Amid the many inspiring things that came out of this discussion is the fact that Alan wants to go beyond the usual "dungeon crawl" which he sees as a venerable, but worn, adventuring model, and aspire to greater heights of design challenge in such RPG scenarios.  So we had an excellent  give-and-take discussion on a specific scenario he is designing and as he had played in my Dungeon of Death we compared the two concepts for his possible design paths; and I made some specific suggestions and volunteered to help him at any stage in his design process.  We then returned to the CM game.  Sadly, by then, Jeff Imrie was being dragged behind his chariot and slowly dying.  So much for my picking champions, a curse it seems, as it worked out.

Other Highlights In Brief:

Talking at length for the second year in a row with Marshall Clayton Mahurin III.  Marshall is the miniatures guru of Texas and of this particular convention.  From what I understand, his collection of miniatures exceeds 10,000 and represents all historical periods as he is a classic gamer from BitD.  We talked shop on WW2 Navals, Napoleonics, and his current favorite, the American War of Independence.  I heard a rumor before departing the con Sunday that he will be fielding the battle order for a Chainmail version refight of Tolkien's "Battle of the Five Armies," this for next year's convention.  Now that would be a treat indeed!

Playing with Joan MacDonald's son in Kyrinn's Urutsk and DMing Joan as part of the team in Dungeon of Death (Rd 2).  Her son is a natural born player and I hope he plays again next year.  He thought I was a little paranoid in my approach as a player.  Heh.  If he'd only been there later when my PC took a bullet to the head that almost killed him...  As his mother said (at the Acaeum) "He'll learn..."

Having John Lile (KingofPain) play in my Dungeon of Death (Rd 2).  John played in Castle El Raja Key at the first convention so it was great to see him back.  He always lends penetrating views on the adventure at hand and this time was no different (even though this one caused him some in-game brain hemorrhaging).

Chatting with my old friend Allan Grohe (we were both so busy that we had little time to actually chat in-depth like old times); meeting and gaming with the dynamic artist and very soon to be married Amanda Marohl; catching up with the great Jason Braun (a treat as usual).

Talking for many (combined) hours with Doug Rhea before, during and after the convention; and noting Mike Badolato unselfishly adminning the convention in lieu of playing games; and of course playing with Badmike's dear friend, "Doctor Joe," in Kyrinn's games.

And, of course, what would a NTRPGCon be without a 'Cimmerian'?  It is REH territory, don't you know...?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


How It Came into Being

I will take full blame for the initial award idea.  Very soon after returning home from NTRPGCon #1 I contacted Doug Rhea and suggested this, then drew three roughs for him to look at. In between I roughed out the award process and we discussed the preliminary rules by phone and email. A furious email exchange soon ensued between us where the idea started to take firmer root.  The initial plan was a very intricately designed plaque, but as it turns out, Doug was bitten by the scope and immensity of the idea, which is to award "The VERY Best" in RPG design. He now suggested that it be a 3D sculpture.   I, of course, stood back, not wanting to suggest expenditures which were not coming out of my own coffers.  No worry there, quoth Douglas!  So, in pictures, this is how it took shape:

Step 1) I commissioned Andrew Taylor (ATOM) to give us standard views of the three castles used in D&D's play-test,1972-1973:  Blackmoor, Greyhawk and El Raja Key.  Andy produced the following concept sketches from my detailed notes, all of which were splendid and accepted.

Step 2) I introduced Lauren Hawkins to Doug after David LaForce (Diesel) who Doug had originally contacted could not go forward with the design or the sculpt due to other concerns. Lauren (Journalizer from this blog) stepped firmly in with her 3D rendering mastery to craft the final composite design based on Andy's full-blown sketches, and from many angles.  There ensued another furious email exchange between Lauren, Doug and myself wherein we nailed down many specifics about the final design.

Step 3)  Doug passed  along Lauren's excellent finished design and many perspective sketches to the sculptor at Awardsideas.com.  The sculpting process was now in full gear.

Step 4)  Finish.  About a month before the convention and after 10 months of work in various forms from my initial ideas and drawings.  Doug and I, Andy and Lauren and the sculptor are all proud of it!  It's possibly one of the most expensive awards ever rendered for our industry and certainly each of these is a piece of art that any deserving RPG designer would be proud to have on their shelf.

The 3C Award:  What it Is and What it Isn't...

This award is for true excellence in RPG design.  The criteria for winning is very demanding. There will be only one award given per year so the competition could be very tough,  However, the judges can rule that no submission equals the rules standards and thus a year could have no winner.  This is not a placebo (or best of what has been submitted) award, as I noted at the convention introduction to the award where Doug and I spoke about it.  There will be several stages which pare down the entrants, and if by the final round none have met the criteria, no award will be issued that year.  As Vice-Chairman of the 3C Award Steering Committee, the process I am drafting for the adjudicators is both stringent but refined.  The competition is not only among the entrants. More importantly, each submission will be eyed for raising the bar when compared to past designs of excellence in our industry. 

NTRPGCon co-founder and Chairman of the 3C Award Steering Committee, Doug Rhea, will receive RPG submissions for 2011 between Oct 01 and Dec 31.  News on submission and closure dates will be posted on the NTRPGCON site very soon along with full submission guidelines.

Year 2011's 3C Award judges have roughly 200 years of game design and other far-ranging industry experience between them.  Many of the judges have been nominated for, or won, awards for work in our industry.  Their work as a whole has been noted for excellence and/or for raising the bar in game design or interrelated areas.  They are:  Dennis Sustare, Paul Jaquays, Steven J. Winter, Tim Kask and Robert J. Kuntz.

Enjoy the news and be looking for more updates here and at NTRPGCON.com !

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tomb of the Dark God

The greatest thing about Scottzs COLD TEXT FILE posts was all  of the speculation/imaginative inquiry that is fueled by it.  Of course as the initial instigator of said DARK GOD I have my own take on it, but campaigns differ, and as they should.  :)

Here's my TOMB MAP for  Mssr.  T (alias, the Dark God).  In my "Greylands" portion of the world, it is definitely connected to the CYST, but one might say in a 'coded' sort of way.

Bummer News Via Grodog (Via Jeff Grubb/Matt Forbeck)

Mike Cook, TSR alumnus, passed away of a heart attack.  I hate this kinda news as there is never anything good in it.

From Matt Forbeck:  "Through Jeff Grubb, I learned that Mike Cook passed away last week, a victim of a heart attack on the evening of his eldest son's graduation from high school. He was 60.

Mike was an executive at TSR in the '80s. Among many other things, he served as publisher of Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine, and he helped design the first Buck Rogers RPG.

The memorial service is this Friday in Waukesha, WI. You can read a
short obituary here:

Roll on Mike...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

World of Urutsk at NTRPGCon 2

NTRPGCON was whopping good time, and I actually got to play this year, and not only play, but play in Timeshadow's World of Urutsk.

In fact I forgot how many times we sat down to play (3?) as the setting, her GMing, the whole was so engrossing that one soon lost track of the days and time spent.

Not many settings inspire me to play in them.  In the day, Empire of the Petal Throne did that, so did Dave Sutherland's game when he DMed, which was not often.  Of course there were old standby campaigns in LG, then, but many were dungeon-based.  You never got a chance to let loose and explore the ranges within these latter game settings which operated within a vacuum when compared to the latter two I mentioned. That of course was because one had to envision a world and make the parts fit together in such a way to allow players then to do so.  Kyrinn's Urutsk filled that need and then some and I found myself hooked and wanting to come back every day to continue journeying in the imaginative fields she'd let her players loose upon.

Gary Gygax and I had no limitations to what players could do, where they could go, how many could do it, or what time it took for them to do whatever it was they were doing. There were also no immediate IF and WHEN comparisons to others in the campaign stream.  This created free reign gaming for all participants, didn't lock them down to experiencing only one-sided group adventures and allowed for a no-holds-barred approach to not only playing but through this allowed he and I grand opportunities to constantly develop new game-world matter on the fly.  Kyrinn has the same approach--no restraints.  It was a breath of very fresh air.

When Gary Gygax began DMing participants in Greyhawk they soon grew to be a higher level than the new participants who later entered the fray.  This made adventuring with the two disparate groups near impossible for level-comparison reasons. The campaign game end of our game was already in gear then for our higher level PCs.  All we had to do was to manage the different player-participants through time-tracking, which we always fudged to get them joined up again if that need ever arose.  In other words, it was a given that many different adventures by different groups in different locals were indeed taking place and often at different times.  Kyrinn's world smack's heavily of this nuanced way of playing.  As a result, the challenge is to keep thinking and moving forward for both the player and the GM, and she not only portrayed a willingness to do this, but an imagination that could fill in and expand upon the threads of an already colorful tapestry and in doing so fulfill the imaginative expectations of her players.

The ability to expand upon these micro or macro game-planes at all times and at all levels is the mark of a great GM and a great story-teller, and she is both.  These in combination also act as a personal gauge for measuring the level of expectation that GMs exact from their creative wellsprings, and in this regard she excelled as well.  In all she ranked up there on the "Best GMs List".  Her world, her rules and her style were all mirrors of a consistency fed by a caring, concerned and dedicated designer.  Urutsk is a winner because of this.

Certainly it is true that a good GM can carry the day even with a spare tire and in the dullest of moments expected by others, still make those moments shine and the wheels turn as if they were ready-made for that very moment.  In my opinion this is a testimony to the designer and not an excuse to use for determining the opposite by those looking askance upon such matter.  Where the rubber meets the road, as they say, is where we start our journey, whether in playing or GMing.  Where dedication and imagination meet is where we find our gems of the game industry.  I was lucky to play in such a gem, and to be GMed by such a gem of a person, for three days in Texas. 

Photos courtesy of Allan Grohe and Brian Kawano (and if I missed someone, sorry, but thanks!)

NEXT UP:  The THREE CASTLES AWARD and what it is and how it came to be...

Link to Timeshadow's Play Report from the CON

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dungeon of Death: Rd 2, NTRPGCON2

I lifted this from the KingofPain on the Acaeum as he was a participant in round 2 of the adventure.  Thanks John!  Hope your brain came back to normal!  :)

As the adventure grew in the design process I dropped the idea of using the DS set for maps and drew new ones.

Alan Silcock played as well and said:  "then sat night saw me in Robs game, with the gang. this was also a tremendous adventure. we all kinda get lulled into the same kind of adventures all the time and it was a joy to play something that was quite frankly, totally out there!!! it was REALLY different from the norm and three hours of killing my brain trying to figure things out, totally fried me, but i enjoyed it immensely Smile despite the fact that the one monster that we encountered, i think had a death-wish on me, cos it hit me with pretty much everything in the arsenal and also the kitchen sink - personally, i would love to see more adventures like this - so a huge pat on the back for Rob, for coming out with something like this and pulling it off very well - thankyou Rob!"

Thanks to all for putting up with my deranged mind and game designs...  :)

"Saturday night in the "Dungeon of Death" with Rob Kuntz.  This was easily the most difficult game I played during the convention.  I think my brain was still bleeding this morning.  Not a hack-and-slash at all....not even a dungeon in the classic sense.  More like an interdimensional nightmare with an alien physics professor.  It was a lot of fun. " (KingofPain)

"Cimmerian, Killjoy32, LucyJoyce, and Smarmy1 in the "Dungeon of Death". "

"Rob and Smarmy1 interacting during the prologue in the asylum."

Next Up... Kyrinn Eis and her world of Urutsk (a hands down winner) that I played in all four days of the con...

North Texas RPGCon: Over and Out

I had more than a blast at NTRPGCon.  More to follow, but highlights were meeting and gaming with Kyrinn Eis (Timeshadows, the Urutskian Queen), running my Dungeon of Death twice, gaming and chatting with myriads of friends and fellow conventioneers, like Allan Grohe, Tim Kask, Chris Finch, Alan Silcock, John Lile, Brian Kawano, Jason Braun (and his counterpart in art Amanda) and a host of others, and announcing with Doug Rhea the annual "Three Castles Award" (photo included).  More as I recover and come up to ordinary speed.