Halloween is here!

Has it been two months? I can tell writing blogs is something not coming natural to me.

Much has happened since my last blog- mostly on a personal level. I’ve become a Grandpa! My first grandchild was born August 30th. Mama and son are doing well. Daughter #2 is expecting in May 2014. There must be something in the water.
On less happy notes, my nine-year-old son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. I made an emergency trip to Birmingham, AL to see him and get a crash course in diabetes.

As far as gaming goes, I’ve got a character creation session this Saturday for a brand new group & monthly campaign. My bi-monthly campaign has been dragging a bit due to scheduling conflicts, gaming cons, and unexpected trips; but that’s the way things go. We’ve got two guys missing the next session, but some guests will be joining us for a one-shot game.

Other RPG goodies:
Moebius Adventures has two new little pdfs that can help spark some ideas. The ‘Little Spaces’ line can fill in the gap with little details left behind when creating scenarios.

If you like Dungeon Crawl Classics and Ravenloft, Transylvania Adventures by Land of Phantoms should be right up your alley. It’s a 300-page horror setting designed specifically for DCC. The pdf is only $13, and I believe a dead tree version will be available soon. A 50-page adventure (The Winter Home: $4) is available as well at RPGNow.

And the main reason for this blog: my projects.
I’ve started working on my first adventure in hopes of having it ready the first part of 2014. I don’t have a title for it as of yet; but if it does well, I might work on a line of them along the same vein, calling in the ‘Legacy’ series. This first one is a re-imagining of B1: In Search of the Unknown. I’m not going to give out any details at this time, as all I have are some scribbling and the beginning of the map. The adventure will be a little more down to earth than the original. There won’t be any magical rocks that have magical effects when you place a chip of it in your mouth. Teleportation rooms won’t be found in these halls, nor will a room of pools or a hallway with a magical gust of wind that extinguishes all torches. This will be more like a normal underground stronghold where people once lived out their daily lives without these constant oddities. This will be different enough that I don’t foresee any ‘cease and desist’ from the current IP holder, but one never knows. ;)
If it does well, I’ll consider doing other classics as well.
One thing I have not decided upon is whether or not to use this as a springboard to start a new setting. I have plenty of material on a published setting that I enjoy immensely and plan to use it to locate this adventure for my personal games. Perhaps I can contact the IP holder of this setting to get permission to reference it.

That’s it for now. Feel free to leave any feedback on my adventure idea, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Links:
Moebius Adventures ‘Little Spaces’: http://www.rpgnow.com/index.php?cPath=4317_19461
Transylvania Adventures by Land of Phantoms: http://www.rpgnow.com/product/121110/Transylvanian-Adventures

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Gen Con 2013

GEN CON 2013!

I attended my 4th consecutive GenCon this past weekend. As always, I had a good time.

I didn’t arrive until late Friday night, so I was only able to attend on Saturday and Sunday.
After grabbing breakfast with my friend, Steve, I picked up my badge and waited for the vendor hall to open. I snapped pictures of costumes and chatted with a few people during this time.

Once the vendor hall opened, I maneuvered through the traffic and booths, checking out any that looked interesting to me. After about 30 minutes, I arrived at my destination: the Kenzer & Company booth.

At the Kenzer booth:
I hung out here when I wasn’t wondering around. I ran a few HackMaster demos in their arena and sat in on a short demo as a player that John the intern was running. I chatted with the various members of K&Co from time to time: Jolly & Barb Blackburn, Steve Johansson, Dave Kenzer, and Andy Miller (not part of the crew but he was helping run the booth)
Unfortunately for me, they had sold out of KoDT #200 before I got there. K
I chatted with various friends from the boards – some for the first time meeting face to face – and met the wives of a few of them that I’d not met before.

Wandering the vendor hall:
I had a specific booth I was trying to find so that I could pick up the new AD&D1e adventure, Night of the Black Swords by Allen Hammack and published by Die Cast Games. It was being sold at the Pacesetter Games & Simulations booth by Bill Barsh. While there, I picked up a copy of Gygax Magazine #2 and saw many AD&D1e adventures that PG&S was selling. Bill was nice enough to sell me one at a discount to check it out, so I told him I would come back and buy a few more which I did the following day. I picked up six more. Frank Mentzer was there as well, so we talked briefly.
I ran into Jamie Chambers of Signal Fire Studios and chatted with him a bit. We’ve talked on facebook for about a year, but we’d never met before.
My friend, Joel Sparks of Faster monkey Games and designer of the Call of Catthulhu game, was there. I ran into him a few times. He led me to the Indie Game Developer Network booth where he introduced me to Marissa Kelly. She told me about the group and its goals and explained the game ‘Our Last Best Hope’ to me. I will have to make contact with IGDN in the future.
Another friend of mine, Derek White the Geekpreacher, was manning one of the Christian Gamer booths. I stopped to visit with him for a bit and bought a few old AD&D adventures from him while I was there.
Just a few booths away was Inkwell Ideas, maker of Hexographer mapping software and several other little goodies. I bought a deck of encounter cards to check out.

Saturday night, I ran an RPG event using the Mesa Mundi Multitouch overlay. Basically, it turns any type of screen into a touch screen with its interactive software ran from a laptop or other computer and using the ‘touch screen’ as a second monitor. Using Fog of War, areas of the map could be darkened so that they are not seen by the players and tokens are set up so that they can be moved my ‘touch’. If a token is moved into a FoW area, that area is revealed on the touch screen. It was quite interesting.

I started off Sunday morning attending Geekpreacher’s worship service. I always enjoy listening to his GenCon sermons.
The rest of the day was spent in the vendor hall and hanging out at the Kenzer booth. I had a nice conversation about some HackMaster projects in the works with Dave Kenzer, Steve Johansson, and my friend, Steve Lawrence.
I picked up some last minute items (adventures and some wookie miniatures) before heading out for my drive home.

I will have to make plans to arrive a day or two early next year and attend all four days.

Links:
Die Cast Games: http://diecastgames.com/
Faster Monkey Games: http://fastermonkeygames.com/ ; https://www.facebook.com/callofcatthulhu
Geekpreacher: https://www.facebook.com/TheGeekpreacher
Gygax Magazine: http://gygaxmagazine.com/
Indie Game Developer Network: http://www.igdnonline.com/
Inkwell Ideas: http://inkwellideas.com/
Kenzer & Company: http://www.kenzerco.com/
Mesa Mundi Inc: http://mesamundi.com/
Pacesetter Games & Simulations: http://pacesettergames.com/
Signal Fire Studios: https://www.signalfirestudios.com/

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Writing: past, present, and future

            Admit it: as a gamer you’d love nothing more than to be a writer of RPGs. That would just be the coolest thing ever! We’ve all been there at one point in time or another. For some, the dream passes; and they move on with their career of choice. Others, though, keep that dream close and hope that ‘someday’ it will happen. Fewer still make that dream a reality.

            For more years than I care to tell, I’ve been part of the second group. I recall back in 1991 that I was going to start submitting articles to Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine. I was going to write and submit enough that I would be able to quit my job to do so because I would make enough money to support myself.

            That never happened.

            In 2000, the OGL and SRD were introduced. Awesome! I could write and publish my own material with this! I could create the campaign setting I had bouncing around in my head and sell it! I could write adventures and supplements for it. I was going to write and publish enough that I would be able to quit my job to do so because I would make enough money to support myself.

            That never happened, either.

            A few years after that, WotC put out an open call for entries for a world-designing contest. I could enter the setting that was still bouncing around my head. I would submit a few others as well to increase my chances. None of my entries made it past the first round.

            Also around that same time frame, I signed up and was accepted as a play tester for the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting being published by Kenzer & Co. for D&D3.x. To be honest, I only did so to get early access to Kalamar material. I had done a small bit of play testing for WotC: D&D3e Monster Manual II and D&D3e The Book of Vile Darkness both have my name among the play tester credit, but my involvement with those weren’t anything more than a few online game sessions fighting some of the creatures contained in them. My feedback on them was minimal, and I’m not sure I really deserved to have my name in them.

            This new gig was completely different, though. I had access to the complete text files of the projects in process. I read through them and gave (what I considered) valuable feedback on them. I got my name in a few more books, but that wasn’t all of it.

            Some of the projects weren’t new. Some of them were previously published D&D3.0 material needing updated to D&D3.5. Although I worked on a few of them, not all of them went on to be updated and republished. These were the ones I enjoyed most. I wasn’t just reading and giving feedback. I was revising an existing product. It was the closest thing I’d ever done to writing, but actual writing never happened.

            Shortly thereafter is when I switched game systems to HackMaster Basic and now the full HackMaster system. My desire to write grew as I learned more of the game. I was accepted as an editor for HackJournal; but once again, I failed to write anything for it. For the time, I was content proofreading articles submitted by others and getting credit as an editor.

            I’ve met several ‘self-publishers’ the past few years (John Adams of Brave Halfling Publishing and the Sparks brothers of Faster Monkey Games to name a few) and had discussions with them about the process. I’ve also had discussions online with a few others I’ve never met face to face; Brian Fitzpatrick of Moebius Adventures/Game Knight Reviews being one. All have been more than happy to share their experiences with me and discuss some of their hurdles. Many of my gaming friends have asked me on several occasions why I’ve never written anything. I have plenty of support in this. Most importantly, my wife, Linda, supports me in this and believes in me.

            The time has come to break out of the second group I mentioned in the opening paragraph and join the ranks of group three.

            At the time of this blog, I am still unpublished; but I have submitted two short adventures and have a few other projects in the works that I hope to complete in the coming months.

            I have plans to freelance more items as well as publish a few things on my own under ‘GeoCentric Designs’. Some of the things I plan to publish are a setting with various regional and racial sourcebooks as well as adventures within this world.

            The core setting material will likely be systemless with guidebooks for various systems. Adventures would likely be released under different systems as well. I’m still sort of tossing all of this around in my head, and nothing concrete has been decided at this point. Some of the systems I’d like to support are some (not all!) of the following: Swords & Wizardry, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, d20 OGL or PathFinder, HackMaster, Castles & Crusades, and HERO System or GURPS. This list will definitely be trimmed down to just a few. I’m familiar with most of these, but a few of them will require some reading and research.

 

            What sort of items would you like to see? Drop in a comment and let me know!

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A brief look at my gaming history

OK, it’s been over a year since my last post. Instead of making excuses or giving reasons, I’m just going to move onward and hope to be a bit more active in the future.

Back in the spring of 1980, my best friend, Galen, and I were walking home from school. He asked if I wanted to go over to Chad’s house with him and play Dungeons and Dragons. I’d never heard of it, but I said ‘OK’.

We stopped at his house where he pulled out a book and told me I needed to make up a character. Throughout the process, I had no idea what I was doing. He told me I would need a crossbow. At that time, I didn’t have a clue what a crossbow is. After some time, I had a sheet of paper with stats and an equipment list.
We headed over to Chad’s house, and I was still clueless. Galen told me about how to play, but it didn’t sound anything like any board or card games I’d ever played in the past.
When we arrived at Chad’s, he and Thad (who later became my brother-in-law) were waiting for us. We sat at the kitchen table, and Chad pulled out another book: The Keep on the Borderlands. I asked if I could look at it and got a snappy “NO!” in reply. Only the DM got to look at it.
The only thing I can really remember about the session itself is that Thad talked some Keep official into leaving the keep to check out some ‘suspicious people’ he had seen outside the keep. He killed this NPC and took his magic sword. (Hey, we were only 10!)
I wasn’t really impressed with the game and gave it no more thought until later that summer.
I was staying with my sister and her husband one weekend, and Thad was over there introducing my brother-in-law and a few others to the game. Having nothing else to do, I joined in.
That weekend, the hook was set, and my life was forever changed.

By the end of that year, I had two box sets and introduced some other friends to the game. Starting out, I had no clue what I was doing as a DM; but I had a few adventures and the sample in the books to help me out.
Sure, the games were Monty Haul back in the day, but we had fun playing and didn’t worry too much about logistics (How in the hell did that 50’ dragon fit in this 20’ square room?).
So, I had two separate groups of friends; and both groups were playing D&D. This continued on for a bit over a year if I recall correctly.
About that time, Galen introduced me to a new book: The AD&D Player’s Handbook. This thing was a hardcover!
So, the group with Galen switched over to playing A&D while the other group with the Stegman brothers and their cousin stuck with Basic D&D using the updated Mentzer boxes.
Both groups saw people come and go over the next several years. The AD&D group would meet up to four or five times per week after school. We’d be hanging out in Galen’s garage, and someone would mention they had something to run. We’d all scatter home to get our characters and meet back. Eventually, I just kept my folder of characters in my school backpack. Some of them gave RoleMaster a try, but I wasn’t among them.
The Basic D&D group would usually play on weekends over at the Stegman’s house. We tried a few sessions of Star Frontiers, but the lack of magic fell short for us.
This all continued through to graduation in 1987.
Once I started attending the local Jr College, the AD&D1e games pretty much came to a halt for me. The basic game stalled about a year later.

In 1989, a new edition was on the shelves! I snagged it up and began devouring it immediately. I fell in love with this edition. Specialty priests allowed use of different weapons and having different spells! That’s unheard of in D&D!
Within a few years, my now brother-in-law, Thad, and I had gotten some guys together for the longest running group I’ve ever been part of. From 1991 until 1998 or so, we had the same core group with a few people coming and going.
As wives and children entered our lives, gaming slowed to a mere once per week; but we had several campaigns during that time with a few of them getting into the mid teens for levels. We had a few end with the dreaded TPK.
Throughout all of the years and editions, we explored caves near the keep, the tomb of the demilich, caverns with a vampire daughter of a demi-god and sorceress, and even a crashed spaceship. I ran a few different groups through an evil temple near Hommlet; only once did a group complete it successfully.
We had many adventures in far off lands and battled many foes.

At the turn of the century, third edition was released. Within a few weeks, I had gathered several players from different groups I’d had the past several years; and we began anew. By the time v3.5 was out, I had met and started gaming with more different people. We had several short-lived campaigns come and go for the next few years.

During this time, I started expanding my RPG experience beyond the scope of D&D. I tried Vampire: the Masquerade, Exalted, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (had a great campaign lasting a year or so!), and a few d20 variants. With the exception of Buffy, none of them took hold.
Then WotC announced 4th edition was coming. I kept track of the initial writings about it and liked what I was reading. As things progressed, though, it started losing me. In fact, the things I’d read and liked were being dropped.
So, when D&D4e was released, I ignored it and stuck with D&D3.5; but even that began to wear thin on me for a few reasons.
In 2005, I signed up to play test D&D material for the Kingdoms of Kalamar setting published by Kenzer & Co. As I read through the material that was to be released, I started looking at it from a different point of view. Before I would take everything as is and go with it. Now everything suddenly needed to make sense within the genre for me. Looking back at what I’d been playing for several years, I noticed much of it suddenly didn’t appeal to me with this new point of view. Things I once thought were great lost its luster to me.
Also, the GM I had in the late 2000’s didn’t help. In the three years he ran games, each of the three campaigns I was in started out great. Within a few levels, they all went to hell. Monty Hall would have been ashamed of these campaigns. In one of them, I had books for all six ability scored to go up five points. I hadn’t even hit level three at that time. In the next, my human expert/warrior/fighter has a strength score of 21 by level four. Later, his STR & CON were both 30+. In the final one, the group had a few hundred thousand gold by level four. The games became very dull.
Even that wasn’t the final nail. In that last game, my cleric hit level six: time for a new feat! I looked through a dozen books for over three hours and could not decide upon one.
My love for the d20 system died that day. I was ready to give up gaming.

Luckily, that worse than death fate did not come to pass. About that same time, there was a new thread starting up on the home of the Kalamar forums that discussed a new, soon to be released Fantasy RPG: HackMaster Basic.
The designers were dropping spoilers about the game into this thread. I liked everything I read about it, enough so that I pre-ordered the book and waited patiently for its release. And much to my delight, Kalamar was to be the default setting for this game.
The book arrived in June, and I started devouring the content. This game appeared to be the fix I needed to keep gaming. In fact, it hooked me even more than D&D hooked me as a young lad of 10 years.
I had a few people roll up some characters, and we ran through the free adventure from the website. Admittedly, things didn’t flow as easily as I expected but I had no experience with these new rules and was still learning them.
I didn’t get a campaign going until January of 2010. By chance, I ran into two of my old gaming buddies from AD&D2e (they are brothers at that!) within a few days of each other. That weekend, the married couple from that old 2e group posted that they were moving back to town. This was the sign I needed. We got together and started playing HackMaster.
I’m on my second group using these rules and my third campaign. The current campaign is about a year old with all of the characters at levels 4 and 5.

Next time, I’ll discuss some of my future plans for writing.

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GaryCon IV

Gary Con IV

Gary Con IV was last weekend: March 22nd – 25th. Last year’s con was the most fun I’ve ever had at a gaming convention. I ran several events and made many new friends – some of which I saw there again this year. This year did not disappoint.

I ran six events this year: two each on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. All of them filled except for one: it had one opening that was filled at the con.

I met several of the old-school designers – some from last year and some for the first time:
Frank Mentzer, Harold Johnson, Mike Carr, and Allen Hammack

Luke Gygax was there again; and I met his siblings, Ernie & Heidi, this year.

I saw several friends I made last year including John Adams of Brave Halfling Publishing and Jeff Sparks of Faster Monkey Games (and his wife, Erika).

Few vendors were there: Kenzer & Co, Black Blade Publishing, Brave Halfling Publishing, Troll Lord Games, and a few others I can’t recall at the moment.

All of them were huddled into a small room except for Kenzer & Co. They had a booth on the ‘virtual porch’ and a table next to it for running HackMaster all weekend. I didn’t sit in on any of them. I’ll have to do so next year.
Speaking of K&Co, that have a great deal going on right now. You can buy 5 copies of HackMaster Basic for $25. It’s a perfect way for the entire group to give it a look without spending too much cash.

I got some swag from Brave Halfling. John Adams gave me one of each of the ‘gamer boxes’ he’s selling. These things are quite durable and great for storing gaming books to take on the run.

Tucked back in the corner of the vendor’s room was ‘Stephanie’s Little Painting Place’. She and one of her ‘minions’ (Nichlas) were painting miniatures for $10 each. I had them paint my official GaryCon IV miniature, and it was fantastic. I had them paint another one of the miniatures I had with me as well.

I saw several games with kids ages 12 and under as well. A few of them actually run by kids and a few being run by adults for them. It gave me a huge smile to see them having so much fun with the same hobby I grew up enjoying.

My personal highlight, though, was scoring a set of the first printing of the Kingdoms of Kalamar books by Kenzer & Co. Their first print had gray covers that was replaced with less expensive covers in all future printings. I was talking with Brian Jelke, and those books were mentioned in passing. He introduced me to Tim Anton (one of the founding Kenzer & Co guys) that had them with him in the hopes of selling them. Needless to say, he succeeded. He even passed them around the gaming table where most of the K&Co crew was playing HackMaster and had everyone involved with the original Kalamar sign the books.

I had a GREAT time and look forward to attending again next year.

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I’m up on RPGNow.

My first two items are up on RPGNow, both for free: Adventure Grids (Letter Edition & Tabloid Edition).

Both contain square, hex, and 3d grids at sizes of 1”, ½”, ¼”, and 1/8”. Also, there are two versions of the hex grids: one oriented each direction. Laminating the 1” grids make for great small-sized battle mats.

Download them and check them out.

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And so it begins…

Welcome to the official GeoCentric Designs Blog. GeoCentric Designs is a gaming project for me, George Fields, for the purpose of general gaming discussion, but more specifically table-top role-playing games. Some of the topics will even cover products of my own creation which will soon be available (some for free, others for purchase) on RPGNow.com. While I also plan to delve into the video blogging world on youtube, that will happen later down the road. For now, I want to thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you subscribe and visit often.

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