Monday, August 26, 2013

Miser's Mine [Mini Map Monday]

Out in the bandlands, cut into the  side of a godforsaken hill, sits Miser's Mine. The mine was hand-dug by a single aged dwarf prospector who died of Gold Pox, alone and unloved. Some say his ghost still haunts the place.

Click for mo' biggins!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Megacorps in Persephone Sector

My Stars Without Numbers players are starting to get involved with the machinations of the various megacorporations that operate in Persephone Sector. These massive companies wield incredible power and influence in the sector, often rivaling that of planetary governments. On Croesus, the megacorps are the government.

The planets of Anatu, Netherpool, and Croesus form The Amalgamated Trade Confederation, a loose coalition bound together by trade treaties, non-aggression agreements, and extradition laws. Efforts are being made to bring Moloch and Cedar into the ATC. Cedar continues to dither and debate joining the Confederation, while Moloch is downright hostile to the idea.

While listing every corporation in Persephone Sector is impractical, the following are the four major megacorps everyone should know about...

Oroborus Industries
Oroborus is the most powerful megacorp in Persephone Sector. Their main industry is robotics and consumer electronics, but they have branches and child corporations in everything from biochem, to space transport, to weapons, to private security. Oroborus products have a distinctive, sinister glossy black look with chrome and neon red accents. Oroborus has bases of influence on several planets, but their main headquarters are located on Croesus.

Titanomachy Technologies
Titan Tech is Oroborus's main competition with over a century of bitter (sometimes violent) rivalry between them. Titan's main industry is military tech and weapon development, but (like Oroborus) they have their fingers in a lot of different pies. Products from Titan Tech are noted for their spartan functionality, not their aesthetics. Titanomachy ships and gear tend to be angular and boxy things, brown or gunmetal gray. Titanomachy Technologies is based on Netherpool.

Omnipresent Entertainment
Omnipresent Entertainment is Persephone Sector's premier source for entertainment, information, and media. Thousands of talented individuals are contracted to Omnipresent, and the corporation protects their stars like the precious resources they are. Omnipresent Entertainment's numer-one product is The Bernie the Flumph Show, a multi-media cartoon franchise that follows the comical exploits of a bumbling Flumph. Most Flumphs see Bernie as an insulting stereotype. Omnipresent is based on Anatu.

Panacea Phramacom
Panacea is the leading source for high-tech medicine, biochem, and gene-tech in Persephone Sector. The corporation has easy access to Anatu's wealth of rare fungal compounds, which gives them the edge over their competitors. Almost all level-5 medical technology in the sector originates from Panacea. Panacea is based on Anatu and is largely owned by the planetary government.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gencon 2013

Gencon was a heck of an adventure this year. I suffered from some pretty bad anxiety attacks in the days leading up to the con, sure that I was massively under-prepared. I was also about half-certain that my car would explode somewhere on the four-hour drive from Toledo to Indianapolis (our car has some chronic and nebulous problems). Turns out I needn't have worried about either of these issues. I didn't really start to calm down until I got around Ft. Wayne and found a radio station playing early-90s. It's hard to be stressed out while blaring MC Hammer out your windows at 70 MPH.

So I managed to pull into Indy Thursday afternoon, and it turns out the only thing I had forgotten was my razor and candy to use as YumYums for my QAGS games. Both of these were easily and cheaply replaced at a truck stop.

Rob, racing some spies.
This year, Hex Games got moved to a prime location, ICC 110, right in the middle of the convention center, just around the corner from registration and a mere walk-down-the-hall to the exhibition hall. It was exciting to be right inthe middle of things, and Hex Games had worked hard for years running fun and unique con games to work our ways to "the big kids table."  The constant press of humanity was something we hadn't expected though, and it took some getting used to.

Ian "Aces & Apes" Engle, Robert "Spy Racers" McCabe, and Erik "Thunderstep" Sanstad were already there, running their games. I finally got to see print copies of Sex, Lies & Ultraspies and Spy Racers. Very exciting.

My first game was on Thursday night. I ran "Pulp Fantasy All-Stars." Sheelba and Ningauble recruited  Conan, Elric, John Carter, and other stars of  classic swords & sorcery to prevent Thulsa Doom from using Mourneblade to conquer reality. I had five players, four of whom were totally new to QAGS. The game went splendidly, and it confirmed my belief that fantasy gamers love noting more than slaughtering hordes of snake-men.

Steve "Spooky" Johnson and Richard "IMP" Smith were waiting at the hotel when I finished up. We stayed up waaaaaaay too late talking about stuff and nonsense.

Friday saw me up and early and very tired for my 9am game of Hobomancer. "The Town the Loved Hobos" was essentially "Shadow Over Innsmouth" with Hobomancers. I had four players, one of whom was a return player, and the others were all new to QAGS. This was my first attempt of using my new Hobo Histories mechanic from the upcoming "Hobomancer's Companion" (heavily influenced by Dungeon World's Bonds). They worked as good as I had hoped, quickly generating background and connections between the newly-crafted PCs. The heroic hobomancers manged to defeat and seal away Shoggula's evil with a combination of magic and high explosives.

Bang! Bang!
After that, I had several hours to kill. I spent a good chunk of it in the dealer's room. I didn't buy much at all this year. The newest One Ring expansion wasn't available in print, and I had sudden second thoughts on Rocket Age. I did pick up the new issue of Gygax magazine, and I found a Noteboard at the Pelgrane Press booth. I had been meaning to pick one of those up. I also ran across Owl Hoot Trail by Clinton R. Nixon and Kevin Kulp. I love fantasy/western mash-ups, and I'm a fan of Nixon's other works, so I snatched that up right quick (I'll have a review later). I also tooled on over to the Indie Press Revolution Booth, since that was where all the Hex Games stuff was being sold. I dropped five bucks to get a print version of FATE Accelerated, since I already owned in in PDF and I'm actually in a FAE game currently.

Leighton "GILGAMESH!" Connor showed up that afternoon, ready to run his delightful Laser Ponies game. He even brought plastic pony and alien miniatures. It looked like he had a good group of both old and young players.

Steve, Richard, and I had more time to kill, so we playtested a card game Richard was working on. I was calling it "Monkey Apple Cart,"  but he insists that's not the name. Fun, simple little game. I look forward to playing it again.

Friday night was my Golden Age superheroes game "Attack of the Cannibal Planets." All the PCs and NPCs  (including the Cannibal Planets) were old comic characters now in the public domain. I love goofy shit like that. Black Cat, Blue Bolt, Silver Streak, the Flame and other old heroes came out of retirement to save the world from the Cannibal Planets, now controlled by the Green Sorceress and the Leopard Women of Venus. All my players were QAGS newbies. The adventure took them from Legacy City, to Area 51, to the moon. The Highlight of the game (and maybe the entire con) was when two players (the Flame and Sub Zero Man) slid me a note saying that they were the real villains all along, tired of the other capes constantly getting all the public's attention. OH MY GOD! As a GM I live for that sort of thing! After pausing for a few moments to come down from my cloud we totally ran with it. Betrayal, sacrifice, villainous monologues, and even an appearance by Satan himself. It was a hell of a game.

In the middle of my supers game, Leighton texted me a picture of an Ennie award we had just won (I may have mentioned this before). I was ecstatic! I believe my response text was something like. "Are you serious? Are you fucking serious!" All my players got extra Yum Yums in celebration.

Too good for words.
I slept pretty well Firday night, and Saturday morning meant it was time for "The Fantasy Hangover," the game I was most looking forward to running. You've seen the movie The Hangover right? It was exactly that, only with sword & sorcery heroes. A bunch of heroes return from a successful adventure and celebrate in the city. They wake up with no memory of the night before, but a bunch of people now wish them ill. ALso there's a tiger demon in the privy.  I had seven players. Four of them were returning QAGS fans that I had ran for in previous years, and the others were newbies. The game ended with the city on fire, partially exploded, and a war raging between an evil sorcerer and an equally evil warlord. I call that a success.

We had a couple of panels after that. Attendance wasn't great and the rooms were in kind of a weird place, but panels are always pretty easy and relaxing to do, so it was  good way to unwind. After that it was the "company dinner" at The Ram. We had an hour wait but the "Porter of Deception" was well worth the wait.
Light doesn't even pass through that beer.
Action museum curator!

I was done with all my games at this point, so I decided to play in Leighton's "Beowulf vs. Dracula" game. Time travel, and lots of monster slaughtering goodness. I got to play Leonard Van Helsing, an descendant of the famous vampire hunter. Leonard wasn't impressed with Beowulf, and spent a good amount of time trying to convince the others to use the time machine to go get the famous Van Helsing instead. It was a fun time with the warrior king of Geatland and a handful of action-scientists.

Sunday morning eventually came, and I was mighty fatigued by this point. Again, my games were all done, but I sat in on Steve's Herrick Agency game "The Sword and the King." Our band of supernatural investigators had to track down the legendary Excalibur which had been stolen by a cult of evil Elivs impersonators. I got to play my established Herrick Agency character, a time-displaced Sindbad the Sailor, now a smooth-talking grifter and fixer. I love that guy!

After that it was time to go. We all went to lunch at a delicious Mexican place out of town, then said our goodbyes, promising to follow up on projects we had discussed that weekend, and looking forward to seeing each other again at Archon in St, Louis in October.

Then on the way home, a cow truck tipped over or something, totally stopping traffic on 69 south of Ft. Wayne for over an hour.

And here are some other pics I took this year. I didn't take many (sooo tired).

I don't know what this is, but... GIANT ROBOT!


LOVE the steampunk Stay Puft.

Hex books!

LWoV in print! PRINT!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Shoggula's Lair! [Mini-Map Monday]

I'm still recovering from Gencon (ran four games, played in two more, sat on two seminars), and I haven't had a chance to make a new map.

Instead, I will share with you the map I used for one of my Gencon games, "The Town that Loved Hobos." The adventure was essentially a Hobomancer version of "Shadow over Innsmouth." The citizens of Jackson Falls all worship Shoggula, an ancient pre-human godling of slime and evil. His lair lies within a small cave complex hidden behind the eponymous Jackson Falls.

Click it to big it!

This here is the map I quickly drew at the table (with Sharpies) of Jackson Falls (pop. 300). It's a pleasant little village nestled in a mountain valley in the Appalachians. A train trellis stretches over and across the valley, and a winding dirt road lead down to the village.

We Won an Ennie for Hobomancer!

Wow! WOW!
And I'm truly and utterly stunned and delighted!

Hobomancer, a book am very proud to have helped develop, won the silver Ennie for Best Electronic Book this weekend at Gencon. All of us Hex Games guys were excited to be nominated and amazed that we actually got the silver (Deadlands: Last Sons deservedly got the gold).

It was a thrilling and exhausting four days at Gencon. I'm still recovering. I'll have a more in-depth rundown of the convention tomorrow. But for now I'd like to thank the Ennie judges for considering us and give a great big "Thanks guys, y'all are awesome!" to everyone who voted for Hobomancer. Also, a great big "Congratulations!" to all the other winners this weekend! Huzzah!

Oh, and I'll try to get a map up later tonight.

Behold! Leighton "Laser Ponies" Connor accepts the Ennie for Hobomancer!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sanctuary of the Sapient Bears! [Mini-Map Monday]

Some bears got into some magical honey that made them smart, but evil (more evil than normal bears, anyway). These heartless killing machines have set up a colony in a woodland cave and have caused no end of trouble for the local farmers and herders. While smart, they are still bears with nothing but paws to work with, so expect some crude but brutal traps.

I really want to key out this map, now.

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Gencon Games are All Sold-Out!

Hex Games Gencon logo by the mighty Jeff Johnson
This will be my third Gencon, and yet again I'm going with the rest of the Hex Games gang to run games, run panels, and promote QAGS.

All of our games are in ICC 100, which is, like, just down the hall and around the corner from registration. That's going to save us a lot of walking this year!

To my delight all four of my games have sold out. All my seats are full. That's exciting and flattering, let me tell you.

Here's the blurbs for my four games. I'm darned exciting about running them for new players.

Pulp Fantasy All-Stars
Conan! Elric! The Gray Mouser and Fafhrd! Red Sonja! Cudgel the Clever! Heroes from many worlds must band together to fight a cosmic evil that threatens all realities. It's savage sword & sorcery adventure with QAGS!

Hobomancer: The Town the Loved Hobos
It’s the height of the Great Depression, and those all-American shamans known as Hobomancers ride the rails defending the soul of this great nation from all manner of supernatural evil. But what’s this? The town of Jackson Falls is so warm and friendly. Why, they even welcome hobos and drifters with open, loving arms. Could this be hobo paradise? There certainly couldn't be a secret evil lurking under a friendly facade, could there?

Golden Age Superheroes: Attack of the Cannibal Planets!
The time of the masked mystery man has past. World War II is over and the Cold War is in full swing. But when an old enemy returns from the depths of space to conquer Earth, a group of heroes must come out retirement to save the day one last time. Join the Black Terror, Lady Fairplay, Blue Bolt, and other heroes of the Golden Age as they take on the Green Sorceress and the Cannibal Planets! It’s old school superheroics with QAGS!

The Fantasy Hangover
After a party of bold adventurers successfully won the Red Idol of Aaargh from the Temple of Fire, they decided to celebrate their victory in the decadent party city of Meadows. But now it’s morning, they have no memory of the night before, there’s a price on their heads, and one or more of their number might be married. It’s sword & sorcery & slapstick with QAGS!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Starfleet Ice Cream Waiter

My wife Ivy and I have been marathon-watching Star Trek: the Next Generation this week, and something suddenly occurred to me.

"Damn, they eat a lot of ice cream on Ten-Forward."

That makes sense. I mean why build a perfect techno-socialist utopia if you can't eat as much ice cream as you want?

But that got me thinking. The Federation is a post-scarcity civilization. Within the Federation they have eliminated poverty, illness, or need. Money doesn't even exist. No one needs to work, but people do work. They have the luxury of taking the job they want.

And here we are on the Enterprise, at Ten-Forward, and there's someone (other than Guinan, even) taking some kid's ice cream order. Someone's dream job was to serve ice cream on a spaceship.

Ivy tells me, "Well, maybe they wanted to travel through space but didn't have the skill or talent to make it through Starfleet."

Now that's a compelling story! And here's the thing, you just don't start your food service career on the flagship of the Starfleet. No, this person had to work their way up. They had to start out as, like, a busboy on some tramp freighter in some backwater sector. The worked hard every day, slopping tables and serving synthahol to grumpy merchant marines, thinking "Some day... Some day I'll serve a banana split to Wesley Crusher."

Holy cow, where's that guy's story? Where's the movie, novel, or TV episode about that guy? I want to read that! Or better, yet, I want to play in that RPG! Heck, maybe I'll write it.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Temple of the Terrible Toad-Bat!

Way in the Deep Down Below one might stumble upon the Temple of the Terrible Toad-Bat. The Toad-Bat (who may or may not be Tsathogghua) resides in a benighted cavern past the River of Bile that flows from Belching Idol to the Festering Maw. Watch your step!

Click to embiggen!