Racing Thanatos

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Slooowly recovering from this intestinal flu bug. Sleeping most of the time. It’s taking a toll on my limbic system. Which is to say that inactivity triggers my clinical depression.

Not complainin’; just reportin’.

Meanwhile, the bookmarks continue to do well. The Bookmark Dragon Dice RPG has become a DriveThruRPG Copper Best Seller (which means the entire dozen bookmark titles are now best-sellers), and the Paranormal Wordbookmark has risen to Silver!

Next on my agenda:

  • Finish the 21-card adventure deck for previous Kickstarter backers.
  • Turn Battle Bookmark notes into text for play-test.
  • Take another trimming pass through D6xD6 e2 to get it down to 48 pages in time for February’s KS Zine Quest.
  • Turn notes for Ann Christy‘s Neverending End of the World novel into a bookmark RPG. (I asked, because it’s a wonderful novel. And I love her handling of language as much as LeGuin’s.)
  • Build a D6xD6 player’s mini-deck for use with the GameMaster’s Apprentice and HandiQuest pack.
  • Do the same for D13—which also means formalizing a way of using GMA as tarot or poker cards.
  • Somewhere in the midst of all that, record a pair of video demos of playing D&D modules with D6xD6 and Bookmark HP RPGs.
  • And then recheck my list of future projects. Especially things I’ve promised.

(There’s construction & maintenance work to be tinkered with around the homestead, too. I never forget, Jennifer.)

How’s that for a footrace, Grim Reaper?

Magnum Opus?

Photo by Crisoforo Gaspar Hernandez on Unsplash

If you’ll forgive a bit of introspection about my own work …

Last night, Jennifer asked me if, given its ongoing success, I thought the Bookmark HP RPG was my magnum opus.

My first quip was, “So far!” But honestly, I doubt there’ll be another. Three self-published RPG lines is more than enough to keep an old guy busy, what with people asking for supplements. And a couple of the card games, I’d love to see continue to grow.

Upon reflection, I told her “It’s a hard call. I know a few people who’d argue D6xD6 is a better RPG.” She said, “That’s not the question. What about you?”

Truthfully, being retired, I’m doing these things because I love them. There’s nobody to say, “We can’t sell it” or “You have to follow these guidelines.” I design things I want to play. So it’s difficult to choose between the particular features of one over the other.

Most people who know my work would probably say, “Dragon Dice.” A few might say, “Dark Conspiracy.” And yeah, I loved those labors, too, but they’re out of my hands, each a work for hire.

If I had to choose, if push came to shove, yeah, I think BNHP is the one. Its 1-10 scale is so easy. Its dice odds fell into place with a sense of discovery more than intent. (Much of creative work is simply recognizing when something falls into your lap.) And it’s my one and only polyhedral game, hearkening back all the way to my first years as a gamer with the original D&D. A satisfying sense of full circle.

Kate says I should call my little publishing company “Challenge Accepted! Games,” because nearly everything came from somebody saying “That’ll never work.”

Yeah, it’s a fair cop. But I think there’s plenty of that left in this little RPG line. I feel contented in a sort of “Nuns Fret Not” sense.

In the words of William Wordsworth …

Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

Playing the Oddball Options

For the past 20+ years, I’ve praised my friend Chuck Kallenbach for his part in Decipher’s Lord of the Rings TCG’s “noise” rule and 50/50 light/dark deck build. Someone brought the game up today, and I remembered what a pleasure it was play. To see in what ways different people addressed those in deck builds. I remember in particular a kick-ass band of dwarves deck a friend put together.

What I probably haven’t said is that I like to build decks that abuse the spirit of any TCG, mainly for the challenge of making an off-kilter deck work, partly just as recalcitrance, somewhat for surprise at the table.

In Thunder Castle’s Highlander, the build was “Casper, the Asthmatic Tax Accountant,” using every non-combat card I could to avoid an actual sword fight. (Thunder Castle’s members-only cards thwarted pretty much every deck that didn’t include them, making convention tournaments pointless, but this one was fun in casual play.)

In Chaosium’s Mythos it was “The Pass/Fail Education,” playing “Pass and End the Round” cards early each turn, to cycle through & find what I needed while leaving other players flat-footed. (Happily, Chaosium later printed a card to prevent that card’s abuse.) But my favorite build to play in that was “The Sorcerer John Henry,” based on the “Exploited Coal Miner” character. It used “Carter’s Clock” Item and “Create Time Warp” spell to return to the “Castle of the Great Ones on Kadath” during the battle phase each turn, so as to dump spell after spell on the table without Sanity loss. All because a friend remarked that it was nigh impossible to use magic to any effect in the game. This TSJH deck was a somewhat slow one get up and running, and it frequently lost to other decks for that reason, but when it had time to get the gears in place, it dominated the game.

 

In Vampire: The Eternal Struggle it was a friend’s deck I was in awe of, something he called “Little Princes,” built around a plethora of 1-point Caitiff cards, a buttload of political cards they got into play before anyone else had enough votes to stop them, and a hand grenade or two for when they got caught in a dark alley by an older vampire, to sacrifice their own lives so as to put the other into torpor.

In the Lord of the Rings TCG Chuck helped design, I built a deck I called “Smoke ‘Em if You Got ‘Em,” eschewing other fellowship members, to run just Aragorn and Frodo as party hoppers dashing from elven haven to haven, drinking up the wine and smoking up the pipeweed, then ducking out when the duo’s pursuers arrived. For flavor, the deck also included some smoking Gimli cards and Gandalf cards (they certainly weren’t efficient for achieving victory conditions). The dark half of the deck was all Uruk Hai, again inefficient, just so I could call that part “old Red Eye.”

Since those days in the late 90’s early 00’s, with TSR’s demise and life in general dispersing colleagues and friends across the US, I’ve not played much face-to-face with trading card games, so there’s not been the impetus to deep dive into oddball options in newer ones. But for nostalgia’s sake, I’m not really interested in doing so.

Nowadays I’m more apt to play a solo RPG or board game, not necessarily by necessity, but because the solo field is fascinating. Fortunately, tonight I’ve come upon some solo player’s rules for playing Mythos this way, and it’s time to give it a try. I hope to find something similar for V:TES, because absent those old friends, I do amuse myself.

11 Years and Counting

 

Kinda hard to believe this was 11 years ago, or in some ways that it was only 11 years ago. It was my first self-published card game, Invasion of the Saucer People. A Kickstarter paid to replace this retro stock art with new illustrations by an old friend and GDW colleague, Bradley K. McDevitt.

In the 11 years since, a lot of very kind people have encouraged and supported that one-man publishing hobby, resulting in …

  • 8 more card games and 2 booster packs;
  • 3 roleplaying games with 45 supplements;
  • a bunch of fanged smiley doubledice;
  • 7 Halloween anthologies:
  • 22 books of poetry and fiction by other writers; and
  • a novel in sonnets by yours truly.

With that support, 20 of the RPG titles are DriveThruRPG Best Sellers at one level or another, as are 2 of the card games on DriveThruCards.

I suck at business, so it mainly just pays for art. But I love to write and design, to see other people enjoy it, and to maybe help them publish something of their own. It’s been a good 11 years so far, with no sign of stopping. Thank you for your part in making it happen.