Tuesday, August 23, 2011

True Dungeon Tokens - Repurposed

So it seems the one big event that I missed at this year's GenCon, was a little thing called True Dungeon. I'll let you read the details at the link. When you're done (if you don't get hooked), come back here a bit.

Welcome back! As you can see, True Dungeon is a pretty elaborate game. It looks like a blast, and I think I've finally decided that the price of admission is worth giving it a try. My wife has seen it in action as well, and just might join me in a round next year at GenCon.

However, playing True Dungeon isn't what this post is really about.

Some of the more conspicuous elements of True Dungeon are the elegantly crafted tokens you receive when you play the game. These tokens represent various items your character can carry. There are ordinary items, like torches or flasks, and there are magical items as well. Some of these items even have a rarity value assigned them. For GenCon this year (and they've probably done it in the past as well), the True Dungeon folks provided a coupon that allowed anyone to get a sample pack of 10 tokens. In addition, the SWAG bags provided by GenCon each contained one token as well. After trading in my coupon, (and liberating the other tokens from my wife's and youngest son's SWAG bags), I had a dozen tokens to play with. I would have had 32 tokens to play with, but my wife & son were too slow getting to the booth before they sold out (I'm not bitter about this at all).

So what to do with these tokens? I wasn't actually playing True Dungeon this year, and I didn't want to throw them away. I learned quickly that many folks auction their tokens off on E-Bay (apparently, there's quite a demand). I really didn't want to bother with that, so instead I tried to think of a way to incorporate them in the 4e D&D games I run.

I know...sounds crazy, right? Well, I thought the tokens might be a neat way to add some Rule of Cool to my game. I came up with a new mechanic. Each time a character scores a critical hit on a creature, the player gets to pull a token from the chest. Each token has a specific power that can be utilized as a Standard Action, but only once per encounter. The tokens can be held indefinitely, and are "re-shuffled" into the chest when used. To determine what tokens have what effect, I came up with a little chart:

Torch - Automatically set fire to 1 ignitable OR Next attack does ongoing 5 fire damage (save ends).

Ring of Stunning Fist - Push a man-sized creature or object up to 6 squares OR Next attack stuns enemy (save ends).

Dirk - Add +5 to your next Thievery check OR Next attack does ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends).

Scroll of Shock Bolt - Add +5 to your next Ritual skill check OR Next attack does ongoing 5 lightning damage (save ends).

Treasure Map Fragment - Next treasure parcel discovered is 10% more valuable than originally indicated.

Wand of Shock - Your next wand attack automatically scores a critical hit against your enemy OR Next attack (any) does ongoing 5 lightning damage (save ends).

Pewter Flask - Add +5 to your next Endurance skill check. OR Add +5 to your next Diplomacy skill check.

Gold Earring - Automatically barter for any item valued at 100 GP or less OR Add +5 to your next Diplomacy skill check.

Nixie Leather Armor - Add +2 to all of your defenses for the remainder of the encounter OR Breath underwater for up to 1 hour.

Cask of Rum - As Pewter Flask except for up to 10 people OR Create bomb blast (Burst 10, 3d6+16 damage, effects all creatues in range).

Boarding Axe - Automatically break through 1 door OR Next attack automatically scores a critical hit against your enemy.

Wooden Oar - Automatically cross one body of water less than 12 squares wide OR Add +5 to your next Nature skill check.

I did have to add one additional rule. If a token allows you to automatically score a critical hit against an enemy, you do not get to draw an additional token from the chest. Only "natural" critical hits are eligible for tokens.

Obviously, as I add more tokens to my collection (True Dungeon sells them on their website), additional effects will be added. In addition, the effects I listed above are just some of the ideas I came up with. For example, you might want the torch to have a lighting effect, instead of a fire effect. Go with what you feel is most appropriate to your game.

And of course, don't forget. Make sure you gather your tokens for the next time you have the opportunity to play True Dungeon.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

GenCon 2011 Wrap-Up: The Acquisitions


This will be the last of my GenCon posts for this year, and I saved the best for last. A lot of folks that do not get to attend GenCon like to know what kinds of things can be found there. Goods, merchandise, giveaways - that kind of thing. I made several acquisitions, and thought I would share these with you. There will be no reviews or anything, but if you have any questions about what you see, leave a comment, and I'll try to find out for you. Remember to click on the smaller picture to see the larger image.

Let's start with the basics. I wanted to pick up something for my fellow players in the Dead Orcs Society. Dice were my go to choice. Koplow makes the best:

I always pick out colors that I think are suitable for my players. I hope these bring them luck.

A lot of folks buy rule books, but I went easy on that this time around. The only rule books I purchased were Mike Shea's rule book set (the SlyFlourish Guides). The other book shown in the photo below is Heroes of Shadow. I didn't buy this one, but won it as a prize during the Dungeons & Dragons trivia contest over at Scotty's Brewhouse.

I'm always hungry for miniatures, and I was kind of expecting (with the assumption at the time, that WotC would not be making miniature sets any longer) the price to be exorbitant. I was pleased to find a couple of Lords of Madness sets for at least a 1/3 off the original retail price. I picked up two boxes worth.

I'm always looking for ways to more easily track conditions and such. Alea Tools fits the bill for such things quite nicely. Their magnetic markers stack neatly, are relatively easy to label, and come in a variety of colors. I picked up both 1" and 2" counters. I'm really looking forward to using these on the tabletop.

I wanted to pick up some Dwarven Forge at GenCon, but the Tavern Accessory Kits I wanted were already sold out. However, the nice gentleman at the booth informed me that they were still available online. As soon as I got back, I ordered two of them. I show them here, because had they been present, I would have bought them at GenCon.

Finally, I want to add a special note about the various giveaways I received at GenCon. There were video games, Magic The Gathering decks, True Dungeon counters and other things available for free in the swag bags given out at the conference. In addition, many of the folks I met at GenCon were busy handing out things as well. I got a cool pack of NPC reaction cards from the fine folks that run KantCon in Kansas City and a nice token from Obsidian Portal.

As I type this, I'm realizing the picture below doesn't include some of the other cool things I acquired at GenCon. I received a great light-up D20 from E. Foley (@geeksdreamgirl) in her role as a representative of ThinkGeek. In addition, I received d20s from @KatoKatonian and Team Chompy gave me a pin for my dice bag! I also received great t-shirts from Brian Patterson (d20Monkey) and Jerry LeNeave (of Obsidian Portal)!  If I left anyone out, let me know! There was so much cool stuff!

Well, kids. That takes care of my GenCon 2011 Wrap-Up. It was one of the best conventions I've ever attended, and it set the bar pretty high for enjoying the convention next. Here's hoping I get to see all of you in 2012! 

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Monday, August 15, 2011

GenCon 2011 Wrap-Up: The Facilities

You can't meet great people and hold great events without a good facility in which to do that. For this GenCon wrap-up post, I want to talk a little bit about the convention center and the hotel accommodations I had while there.

The Indianapolis Convention Center recently went through a major remodel, and the results (at least to me) were fantastic. Huge volumes of convention floor space were added, allowing plenty of room for everyone. Sure it was crowded at times, but for the most part, people traffic kept moving, and I never really felt like I was in a "jam". Of course, all that extra space means that there's a bit more walking to do. By the end of the convention, my feet were complaining pretty loudly.

My biggest complaint about the convention center (and I don't believe it's a new complaint), is the escalators. Seriously, just hire one guy who's only job is to make a circuit around the building and reset the "tripped" escalators. I'm almost certain that what's happening here, is that too much weight ("gamer" sized people) hits the escalator at once, and safety features shut it down. I'm cool with that, but a guy should be able to come around quickly and reset it. I realize I should just suck it up and appreciate the opportunity to work off a bit more "gamer fat", but when your feet hurt and you're dog tired, it would be nice to keep the escalators running!

Despite that complaint, it continues to amaze me how wonderful it is to have the convention center linked to a major mall and a great number of other hotels via the Skywalk. While getting the "lay of the land" took a little while, it's nice to be able to travel everywhere without having to step outside (especially in the heat of August) at all. One bit of advice. Look for the overhead signs in both the Convention Center, the Hotels, and within the Skywalk itself. They are actually very good at directing you to your destination. Don't be afraid to look up and use them! 

Let's move on to the hotel, shall we? I was grateful for being able to get a room at all (thanks again, Tom Cadorette!), so the room we ended up with was at the J.W. Marriott. This Marriott is a brand new hotel (6 months old), shiny and full of pretty art, nice eating establishments, and all the other fine amenities that come with a fancy hotel. In fact, because we lucked into the room, I'm hesitant to say anything at all, lest I come across as being ungrateful. Far from it. Nevertheless, the hotel could have done some things to make staying there much more worthy of the money we spent on the room.

Housekeeping service was pretty awful. I tried to communicate on the first day, that except for towels & trash, housekeeping didn't really have to do anything else to the room. I wonder if they misunderstood. They only replaced the towels for two days and failed to replace any bathroom tissue at all. I suppose I should have complained louder, but by the time it became a real issue, the convention was nearly over. I can't comment on how well the Marriott would have responded had I indeed complained, but I really shouldn't have had to worry about that in the first place.

Internet service was abysmal and horribly expensive. Internet service in the hotel was billed out at $12.95 a day. I tried it on day one, but there were constant pop-ups and general roadblocks to being able to easily access the internet from the room. It was such a hassle, that I simply didn't use it for the rest of the time. This kind of cost is bullshit. I realize that the more expensive a hotel, the more basic amenities cost, due to the fact that such hotels rely on business expense accounts to pay for all of these services. It's pretty sad, though, that I can stay at a Motel 6 and get free internet and not at the Marriott. I'm probably pissing into the wind on this issue, but it still irritates me to no end. I can only hope that 4G rolls out in more areas soon. I can just use my smartphone then.

Finally, we were less than impressed with the climate control in our room. We had to keep it set at maximum coolness at all times, just to cool the room to an acceptable level. I spoke to some other convention goers staying at the same hotel, and they mentioned that their room was like an icebox. Those folks were on a higher floor, so maybe the building is cooled from the top down. Still, inconsistent climate control is a problem. After spending all day in a warm, people filled environment like the convention, it would have been nice to come home to a cool friendly room. We didn't get that, and it was a little disappointing.

Despite all these issues, however, I have to say that our customer service at the J.W. Marriott was outstanding. I want to set aside special recognition for our concierge. His name escapes me (and I was careless not writing his name down), but he was friendly, helpful, and even tolerant of customers that made silly requests. He helped balance out some of the issues we had, simply by being a most excellent concierge. I also want to praise the staff of the Velocity Sports Bar and the friendly and helpful waitress at the hotel restaurant where we had Sunday breakfast. While some bumps in Housekeeping obviously need to be sorted out, the other folks at the hotel did a fine job.

Looking back, our stay at GenCon this trip was a mix of good and "could have been better". I won't say "bad", because the issues we experienced weren't so terrible they ruined out convention experience. Anna & I will take what we learned from this year's trip to prepare ourselves for next time.  Whether that's a different hotel, or simply being more proactive about getting our money's worth, we should have a more pleasant stay next time.

In my final GenCon report in a couple of days, I'll show you the awesome goods I acquired. Because that's what you really want to know about, right?

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Friday, August 12, 2011

GenCon 2011 Wrap-Up: The Events

Welcome back to my wrap-up of GenCon 2011. As you can see, I was pretty impressed by the caliber of people I met while at the convention. Most of these folks I met while attending some pretty cool events. I kept my schedule light so that I wouldn't be rushing around, but I still managed to do some  pretty cool things. Here's how it went down:

Wednesday - 

We got into Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. We had planned for this anyway, but we left early so that I could make it to an evening "pre-Con" event. That event was Drunken D&D. While tales of this strange event can be heard in a number of places, I was lucky enough to not only witness, but participate. For the curious, Drunken D&D is an unofficial event run by Dave "The Game" Chalker, and Phil "ChattyDM" Menard. With the help of Tracy "Sarah Darkmagic" Hurley and Mike "Sly Flourish" Shea, each of these four outstanding dungeon masters ran a table with a host of "variant" rules for a Dungeons and Dragons game. As the name of the event suggests, there was a quantity alcohol involved (voluntary consumption, of course). The games got pretty wild, and a great time was had by all. I feel fortunate and grateful to have been invited to this rather exclusive event, and I have hopes that I'll be invited back in the future.  Even if you don't get invited, though, the event is a blast to watch. Drunken D&D is a hell of a good time, and it really got me into the spirit of GenCon. I believe that more information will be posted about this event over at the Ennie Award Winning Blog Critical - Hits. Keep an eye on their site to learn more!

Thursday - 

After hitting the exhibitor hall, I only had one seminar to attend on Thursday. I managed to get a ticket to a WotC monster design seminar hosted by Jeremy Crawford, Greg Bilsland (from WotC) and Matt James. Enjoyed some great tips on what "the industry" thinks great monsters should look like. Good tips were offered that I can use in my forthcoming 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons games.

Friday - 

If you follow me closely on Twitter, you might have teased out the fact that I had a proposal excepted by WotC. As a result, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a "Freelancer's Seminar" hosted by Mike Mearls and other dignitaries from the company. There was one awkward moment when myself & two other folks had to step out of the room (we had yet to sign NDAs), but Greg Bilsland came to the rescue, provided the correct forms, and once signed, we were back in the "freelancer fold".  I can't mention what was discussed in the meeting, (NDA), but it was a nice introduction and a bit of an "inside look" into what the company is expecting out of its freelancers. As a result of this meeting, I was pretty high the rest of the convention. It also gave me the encouragement to have further proposals written up and prepared by the time the next WotC submission window opens October 1st.

That evening, still buzzing from events, Anna and I took in the D&D Trivia contest over at Scotty's Brewhouse. Hosted by Greg Bilsland & Mike Robles, the trivia contest was a blast as we had some excellent food, a few tasty beers, and hung out with friends. I rocked the monster identity portion of the trivia contest, getting 9 out of 10 creatures. Note to self: A Forlaren looks a lot like a Berbalang. Wish we could have stuck around longer, but Anna was pretty tired from standing a lot that day, and we had to walk back to the hotel. Still, a great time.

Saturday - 

I took it easy Saturday, as I wanted to prep for my one panel - The Dungeon Master's Round Table.  Hosted by myself and fellow panelists, Tracy Hurley, Thadeous Cooper, and Mike Shea, we took questions from the audience, had some discussion from the crowd, and tried to dispense a little of the DM wisdom the four of us have collected over the years. I was pleased to see the room was "standing room only" and that we could have probably gone for 2 hours instead of just the one hour we were allotted. I hope the DMR crew can get together next year and do a similar panel, but for a longer length of time, and a larger room. If you are reading this, and actually attended the panel, THANK YOU for being there and please spread the word.

Well, that's pretty much it. While my schedule wasn't jam-packed with stuff to do, the events I attended were so "signature" for me, that I felt like I experienced a very full GenCon. It will be tough to top next year. I do plan to add at least one game of "True Dungeon" because after watching countless people participate and have a blast, I really need to do that to!

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

GenCon 2011 Wrap-Up: The People

I am back from GenCon!

Yep, that's right, and what an amazing experience it was! The people, the events, the facility, the acquisitions...everything about the convention was pretty amazing. So much awesome in fact, that it's going to take about four blog posts to cover it all.  I'll release these in a short burst so you won't be hit with more than 1 post every couple of days, but I do want to be able to capture it all the best I can.

I've heard many people repeat both on Twitter, and while at the convention, that it's the People that really made their GenCon experience worthwhile this time out. I couldn't agree more. For well over a year now, I've been chatting with folks on Twitter, or engaging them in podcasts, and I was truly impressed with the genuine nature of the folks I met. The people I met were real. Not only that, they were just as awesome in person, as they are online. I had hopes that GenCon would be a "social" experience for me, and I wasn't disappointed.

What follows then, is me dropping ALL THE NAMES of some of the great folks I met at GenCon. If you're listed here, it means you made an impact on my GenCon experience. If you don't see your name here, don't worry. I was probably in a daze, sleepy from food or activity, or distracted by something shiny. Like I said above, everyone was awesome. Even you.  One thing, I've listed most folks by their Twitter handle. If you want to know their real name, look them up. I'm not going to do all the work for you.

I knew my GenCon experience was going to be awesome when the first folks I met at my hotel were @geeksdreamgirl and @davethegame.  Just as gracious in person as they are online, E. was nice enough to give myself, my son, and my niece a nice giveaway from ThinkGeek.  In my most embarrassing moment I introduced my niece, Dani, as my nephew.  Awkward. Also, Dave looks a little like a young Timothy Hutton. Maybe THIS is why he enjoy Leverage so much?
I met a lot of folks that same evening at Drunken D&D Wednesday night. The list is pretty long but includes, @Rolling20s "Mr. GenCon" as I called him (dude was everywhere YOU want to be), the ever charming @chattyDM, who did not disappoint by flirting with my wife, Anna (@FELTit). I also met (for the first time in person) my fellow podcasters: @sarahdarkmagic, her husband @FTHurley, @ThadeousC, @SlyFlourish (and his wife @rosamoonshadow), and the Pod Father himself, @Squach. The suave @newbiedm was there as well (he set me up something awesome in the Fiasco portion of the game that night). The charming @dndPrincessAria was there observing the show with @WolfSamurai and @TheAngryDM (who is not really so angry, but don't tell him that). Also there was the steely-eyed Jenga player and professional architect @Bartoneus. A special note about this guy. Even though he's now an Ennie Award Winning Blogger (for Critical Hits), he never failed to stop by and say "Hi", whenever he passed us by in the hotel or wherever. Genuinely nice guy. In addition, @Nullzone42 and @GenCon4James were rocking the Velocity Lounge that night as well. Finally, who can forget "Team Chompy". @adamjford and @chelseachan were there being awesome with CHOMPY himself (this was quite an honor). Anna & I both received a Coffee Crisp bar which was a tasty treat the U.S. misses out regularly on. Also, I met @terrestrialboy  and his wife @BeautifulBethie. They're organizers of our local KantCon in Kansas City. It's a mini-con I hope to be regularly attending soon.

While at the convention, I had the privilege of meeting several of the fine folks at Wizards of the Coast such as @michaelrobles, @Trevor_WotC, @gregbilsland, @mikemearls, and Jeremy Crawford. I wouldn't want to forget popular freelancers @matt_james_rpg & @rjschawlb either. All of these cats were approachable and friendly (despite what you hear about Rob Schwalb).

The last list (and it's certainly not the least) is all the folks I met while doing various activities, meals, or just walking around. Had a fantastic breakfast with @d20Monkey (my favorite RPG web comic artist), @Level30Yinzer, Obsidian Portal workhorse, @dreadgazeebo, and his wonderful wife, @momanatrix@highmoon and @newbiedm stopped by as well!  Anna and I also managed to have dinner with @D20Blonde and her husband @TheUniverseGM (their son, Archer, is a CUTIE!).  Their friend @RodrigotheBard was there as well, along with Mr. GenCon and Thad who joined us too!  At the D&D trivia night, I met the incomparable @KatoKatonian and is amazing fiance, @merrydragon. They're getting married soon.  Kato was kind enough to allow Anna & I to dip into his D20 bag, which is not really as dirty as it sounds. Those dice better roll great, Kato. I also met @WastexGames who helped us rock the Trivia contest! Last but not least, I got to meet @ObsidianPortal founder, @micahwedemeyer as well! He and Jerry (@dreadgazeebo) helped our DM Roundtable panel go smoothly!

Seriously, I have never been as inundated with awesome people at any single point in my life. To think that I get to come back next year and do it all over again, is a hell of a thing. With that said, there are certain people still "on my list" who I want to meet.  Folks like @DMSamuel, @gamefiend, @ArcaneSpringbrd, @theweem, @rdonoghue, @ChrisSSims, @fredhicks and @RyanMacklin (although I'm not sure I'm cool enough to meet Mr. Macklin).

That's one hell of a list. If you're not following any of these folks on Twitter, you are (as the kids so often say these days) DOING IT WRONG. Thanks to all of you for making GenCon 2011 an incredible memory rich experience that will last a lifetime.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.