Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dwarven Forge - Final

Thank you for all of my patrons for supporting my games. All of your contributions have gone toward the Dwarven Forge kickstarter (with a little added in for good measure). I am happy to say that I can now quite literally throw the dungeon at my players since these things are virtually indestructible   They look really good with original pieces from Dwarven Forge too.

DM Advice - There's No Alignment Like No Alignment

We had a great discussion over on the Old School Gamers facebook forum when I posed this question to the group. Have you ever removed alignment from a game? I wish to share some of what was discussed here as well as my own experiences with removing alignments including the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Does this sound like you? I really enjoy fantasy and I think there needs to be a balance of good and evil but the alignment system seems so definite. How often have we heard as players “You are not playing your character’s alignment?” or “That’s not the way that a rogue is supposed to act”? What does this mean exactly? Is there a method for removing alignments from Pathfinder or DND games? The absolute moral compass of alignments is so intrinsically linked though spells, feats, abilities and magic items is it even possible to play without it? I believe that you can have a great game without alignments. There are already systems out there that do not use alignments Heroes and GURPS games come to mind as does Call of Cthulhu and others but most of these systems do not rely on levels and you want to run a level based game so that you do not have to teach your players a totally new game.

Some of my players have even expressed interest in not playing a certain pirate game because they don’t want to be forced to play an evil or morally ambiguous character. As a GM I want to give them the best story and roleplaying whiteboard possible. Let’s look at some options.

What About Spells/Abilities/Etc

Instead of using specific spells or saying that they detect intent just remove them from the game all together. Let’s face it. Like one of the guys on the facebook page said these spells are really just a crutch for the players to try to determine if someone is a bad guy or a good guy without actually putting in the work. I tend to agree with him and think that it would be easy to just remove this ability from the game. There are so many other options that players can take through archetypes that replace these abilities that this shouldn’t be a problem with Pathfinder. If you want to allow players to use these abilities you can change it to ‘intent’ at that moment and time or you can specify it is only for otherworldly creatures such as demons, angels. By removing this alignment detecting crutches from the game you might open up that cleric to some interesting possibilities. For instance, the Paladin could smite (opposing philosophies) instead of evil.

Replace Alignment with Nature/Demeanor

White Wolf’s Storyteller System uses a great mechanic of archetype. This is different from the archetype in class for Pathfinder. In this system everyone has a Demeanor (What they show everyone) and a Nature (What they really are). The cool thing about this concept is that nature and demeanor can literally be any adjective that is descriptive enough to be specific towards an individual paradigm. As an example, a Paladin might have a Demeanor of Celebrant but a Nature of Child. Inside this Paladin could see himself as a child of the deity to which he professes worship and indeed might see himself as a child to the entirety of the faithful. In this example I would just remove any and all alignment specific abilities, spells, feats etc. This way you can have the feel of alignment without the restrictions of alignment. One of the guys in the facebook forum also discussed using the True20 Nature system. While I have not used this system myself, I can say that it sounds very similar to the White Wolf system.

Replace Alignment with “Cause”

One particularly interesting concept that I just came up with (no kidding) is to replace alignments (Good, Evil, Neutral) with whatever motivates the character the most. This would be tricky and take a bit of work but it could be done and it has the potential to become very interesting in the game. I like to have players write up backgrounds that include their character’s motivation and any causes that they might believe. With this option you would basically remove all alignments in favor of a cause or goal of a player. If they play toward their ultimate goal you reward them.

Good or Evil / Law or Chaos

You can also just use good and evil in your game without the lawful or chaotic descriptor or use law and chaos without the good or evil descriptor. This gives players the flexibility to play characters that are more toward the lawful side of society or more toward the chaotic outskirts. In this option you would drop all good and evil descriptors (except for evil and good outsiders) and only use law and chaos since chaos is not necessarily evil or good and neither is law necessarily good or evil.

Drop It Altogether

Another very interesting thing you can do with alignment is not use it at all. In this method you would need to drop all alignment-specific things including powers granted or you would need to redefine them. The problem with this is the moral compass becomes less obvious and some players might want to try to take advantage of this. You as a GM have final say in these instances. A cleric of a good deity that wants to create undead might find her powers revoked by her deity in this instance. She might find herself offered different power from an altogether different deity perhaps however and one that is not in her best interests.

Let’s Sum Up!

The Good

Since alignments can be used as a crutch and alignment-detect abilities and spells can be used to bypass the need for roleplaying or good old fashioned detective work, the first good point of dropping alignment is that the players will not have access to these kinds of things. The lack of alignment, in many instances, can lead to an expanded roleplaying environment as players work together to try to figure out who the bad guy is since the moral compass is blurred by the lack of a definite alignment. Lack of alignment is not a bad thing in this case and as roleplaying opportunities expand the type of bad guys can become less big-bad-evil-guy. Sometimes good people do bad things for good reasons and having no alignment can add to the realism of a ‘good’ character being ‘bad’.

The Bad

The bad of this is that there is some house rules that you will have to put into effect. Some players may not like this idea and some might outright reject the idea altogether. I. Some people like moral absolutes and have a need for good and evil to be hard defined.

The Ugly

Since the systems are designed with alignment in mind if you want to play without alignments then you need to do some house cleaning on your game. For starters, you will have to change out the system to fit with your changes to the alignment system and this includes dropping spells, feats, and abilities etc. that rely on these descriptors. Secondly, you will need to explain to your characters that they still need to play within the moral compass boundaries you are selecting and they need to keep their character within those boundaries. If no boundaries are used such as in the case of no alignment then you will want to describe what constitutes a breach of morality for paladins, druids, monks, clerics, etc. Lastly, you will need to carefully consider what to do with DR and outsiders and define how their moral absolutes (or lack thereof) come into play with the new system you have created.


I am thinking of using the Nature/Demeanor system with the pirate game and the Law/Chaos system with the Serenity game I have coming up in the near future (both using pathfinder rules). If you try any of these let me know how it goes! I will do the same!

Christian Gamers - Gifts

Continuing on the same vein as our last post I wanted to go further into the wonderful variety that God has made in this world.

If you recall we were discussing those who believe that our hobby is bad and I countered it with the seemingly obviousness of the other fantasy writers like CS Lewis and the fact that all good stories have a bad guy.

Well why is this?  If we look at the Fall we can see why we are so attracted to good vs evil stories.  We are attracted to these kinds of stories because they are our story.

God knows you. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appoint you as a prophet to the nations." Jer 1:5

This is good news! God knows you. He knows me. Guess what else?

If you do not see God's purpose in others then perhaps theirs is not your purpose.  God created us with different abilities, interests, and talents.  When we received Grace and accepted the great.commission we recieved different gifts from the indwelling of the Spirit. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10.

So you see?  We have different gifts even as gamers!  Our God loves diversity!  This means that we are all different. No one in the universe will ever be exactly like you. Persue your interests and use your gifts to serve God. Pray for your group and love each other.

God Bless

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

There Be Maps Here

Today I picked up a couple of cheap frames from Target for 9.99 a piece.  Now I have my two favourite worlds for campaigns on my wall - Faerun and Inner Sea, Aber-Toril and Golarion respectively.  I have some room here for my other two favourite worlds - Westeros and Middle Earth.  I will also put up Narnia, Xanth and Oz around the house.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Al Qadim - The Farmhouse Part II

In the last game if you remember the caravan master Garavel had sent the parties to investigate a farmhouse that was nestled in between a pair of hills.  Over the course of a few days the party noticed the bandits and also strange prints from the mantis-like thri-kreen following the party. 

Last week at the farmhouse the party battled with dire rats and a magical suit of armor. The farmer was splay open sacrificially and his essence was being used to power the animated pieces guarding the house. The rest of the family was found dead in the kitchen and the place was infested with dire rats. 

This week the party investigated the remainder of the house. Upstairs there were signs of a struggle and several people were hung over the ceiling draining into a large basin in the middle of a room. At the end of the hallway was an amulet of the hag lady Talona. The mage and the rogue Hakim decided to take the bodies down.

Meanwhile... After several encounters with the creatures and animated items around the farmhouse including a stitched together melange of animal corpses that had the head of a stag and the body of a cow, three ragamuffin type creatures and a ghost of the farmer quite intent on getting the party to leave the house since they took his sword, the party was able to defeat the haunt.

Downstairs in the cellar the party witnessed what appeared to be a pantry and necessary shelter turned into a ritual room. It was complete with a broken summoning circle and the symbol of the hag queen of disease and many burned down candles and containers of incense had since burned out.

The party found a journal of the father, his farmer's almanac and inside it among the crop notes and weather cycles he had hidden what had happened to his family in code. The son had apparently purchased a book called dungeons of the dark from the Zent merchants and had become quite fond of reading the book late into the night.

As it turns out, the man's son was dabbling in the arts (because the book was evil and taught people how to roleplay) and unfortunately the demon he contacted eventually overpowered him and killed the man. The man's corpse was hidden while the visitors merchants were killed one by one and hung over the cauldron  Meanwhile the woman was lost in sadness and kept to the bottom floor sewing waiting for her husbands return. Eventually the son killed mom and the demon performed a ritual with dad's body that created a minor haunt. The minor haunt animated pieces of the farmer's field and creatures while the spiders and dire rats. The party figured out the game and ended haunt by burying the man's wife's comforter and the body of his son. The party was able to keep the ivory handle sword and the gold that they found in the house.

Later it was decided by Garavel the npc caravan master that "We'd better sleep in the barn and stay out of the house."  The bandits never came by the farmhouse and in the morning they were all gone.

Highlights of the game included the mage using his heal check to sing "Soft Kitty Warm Kitty Little Ball of Fur..." to the catfolk summoner who was knocked out from magic attacks, the scorpion companion of the druid seeing the hidden nearby spiders and going to attack them when the druid and summoner didn't see them (and then the druid fell into a hole snare because the rogue was upstairs with the mage trying to take bodies down from the ceiling . The Oracle and Alchemist trying to negotiate with the ghost and later trying to figure out what it was that they could do to help him leave. The summoner's eidolon trying to eat the ghost. The critical hits!  There were lots of them! The roleplay.  No one joined a cult or learned any real spells this game.  The maps used in this game were the Farmhouse by Scryingeye games. I also used homemade terrain and roads.
"Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur..."

RPGs are Evil MKay - A Christian Perspective

No doubt many of you have seen Mr. Pat Robertson’s recent comments about RPGs and indeed have probably read those wonderfully illustrated comical pamphlets that were by Jack Chick. The Christian world seems to be divided into ‘we hate rpgs’ and ‘we like or accept rpgs’. So what’s the truth? Are rpgs and gaming in general evil? No more so than football or any other hobby. In fact, there is nothing in the world that was not created by God and therefore is neither good nor evil and in fact is only made so by what one does with it. To illustrate my point I will bring up that even Satan himself was not created as evil, he chose to be evil by trying to be like God. I can use religion as an example by quickly pointing out that people in power have used their position to perform vile and horrible acts against others.

They have a kickstarter (not kidding). Check it out, it’s a funny parody. There are several points that they bring up in their bullets though that were actually made back in the 80s and 90s by Chick and recently by Pat Robertson. Let’s address those right now as I am a long-time gamer and fan of fantasy and science fiction and have a bit of knowledge concerning the truth behind these things.

For starters I am a servant leader in my church and with our church group and have had the privilege of seeing many people accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. So many times have people come from broken, abandoned places and just dropped everything right there when confronted with the truth of His Grace! Whenever it is possible I participate in activities and events with the church including small group leadership, youth, and the men’s group. In short, I am a Christian and my faith walk has been amazing!

Points brought up by Chick:

“Playing RPGs can make you gain real-life magic abilities.”

Reality: I still cannot do that cool trick that Arwen did in Lord of the Rings even though I have read all the spells, know all the components, and have the words. I just keep ending up getting wet and my horses look more like mules than chargers. The ring wraiths constantly complain.

I do not have any power but the power I get from the Holy Spirit. My ‘magic’ is love and kindness and my ‘power’ is from the Lord.

“If you gain a high enough level you will be invited to a secret cult.”

Reality: I am in a cult. This one’s true. I admit it. Sundays are very busy for me and when I am caught up in the spirit and feel the energy in the room when giving Him praise, I feel the presence of life. Sadly, however, my cult of the Cheetos idea never took off and I was left the only one in a silly orange robe.

“Gamers whose character’s die are in danger of committing suicide.”

Reality: Sadly, this was portrayed in Mazes and Monsters the movie but the truth was that the person that is referenced in the story who did take their own life had a history of mental problems. People who are unable to separate reality from games should not play any (I repeat ANY) games and should instead get grounded in the real world. The reality is that people take their lives due to all kinds of horrible circumstances such as being bullied and feelings of abandonment and being alone. I am not a qualified grief counselor or person who is qualified to teach psychology so I will leave the deeper aspects of this alone and state simply that people have many hobbies and many of them are blamed on the suicide due to the need to blame something or someone for the loss.

“That DMs are vile temptresses (tempter) that are out to corrupt their players to the forces of evil.”

Reality: We do have non-Christian gamers in our group that are wonderful friends of ours. I am always talking with them about my faith and I try to live as an example with Jesus living through me when we do life together. These friends are always very appreciative of my thoughts and we have had some wonderful discussions that have led them to see many truths of the Gospel.

Now, in-game, I have used the agents of darkness to get their players into trouble but this is IN GAME. Without the bad guys the game would be called Strawberry Shortcake, no wait that has a bad guy. Ok, the game would be called Carebears – no there’s a bad guy there too. The game would be called Gi Joe? Nope. Veggie Tales? No. Narnia? No. See my point.

Happy Gaming!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dragonlance - The Monks of the White Flame

So the party decided to go investigate the temple where to for earlier they watched a young man lose his head after trying to go into the pyramid Indiana Jones style.  They were already tipped off that the pyramid held a great wyrm dragon named Melkore the White and the Monks of the White Flame.

Legend tells of the white wyrm that can breath both fire and ice as she tore through swaths of Netherese mages after they in their hubris blew up a mountain to create their floating city and destroyed Melkore's den and her wyrmlings in the process unknowingly   Her revenge was so great that she toppled the second of the sky cities by herself and there sits on top of the ruined pyramid to this day. The day that the party enters the old chapel which smells of Worther's originals and old death.

Kas checks for traps at the pews and finds an old buzz saw that has been configured about human head height to remove any unwanted visitors.

Inside they are unable to see the gelatinous cube monstrosity that waits for them beside the far right pillar and watches them with an unknown hunger. Kas puts a sling rock into its side as he almost runs into it and that is when the monks of the white flame appear.

Quickly thinking the party tell the lead monk, Lord Balron that they were sent from the Dirty Balrog's Pitfiend owner Lord Markseh to obtain the amulet. Intrigued at this very clever but obviously fake story as the party were already detected as 'good' due to the presence of Xochtil the Irda, the monks continued with the ruse.

After some fun in game tongue waggling the rogue reached out and took the amulet from around Lord Balron's neck.  This set into effect a cascade as the party learned the true meaning of the word maximized magic missiles and dual sword wielder.

Much fun was had!  Kas like always stayed upfront, very strange for a kender rogue. Deliah stayed behind and peppered everyone with arrows.  Xochtil provided much needed healing and the new member Elrond the half elf fighter ran into the cube and slaughtered it and then a monk.

These monks were not 'monks' in the traditional dnd sense but they were mages and 'brothers of the white flame'.

The party was successful if not bruised up by the magics and oozes. Deep inside the chambers the dragon roared it's irritation at being disturbed and warned the party and the monks that they need to remain quiet.

Friday, April 19, 2013

All Proceeds go to Dwarven Forge Kickstarter!

Yes I already have a lot of Dwarven Forge but more is always good right?

Who wants to purchase my books? 14.99 a pop? If I sell 170 worth I'll back Dwarven Forge with the proceeds. This includes WTNW, Aliens vs Hillbillies original and only 19.99 for the WTNW expansions! I cannot guarantee supplies so first come first serve!


We have updated our products on our page and on rpgnow.com



This is a great offer on a 19.99 core book for Aliens vs Hillbillies and a 19.99 core book for WTNW.

DM Advice - Encounters on the Fly

Your players are at a crossroad where the castle of certain evil death that you have been working on for the last month is in one direction and the forest of you have no idea what’s in there is in the other direction. Every so often I get asked by my players “Do you mean to do that?” And quite honestly the answer is normally no. It can be a lot of fun just pulling things out of thin air but a word of caution to the newbie GM – do not do this often or your players will figure it out. There are some that can pull off various encounters on the fly like they were born to it, and they probably are natural storytellers. I am one, but not everyone has this ability.

So how do you make encounters on the fly without the players catching on? The one word answer is to be realistic with your choice of encounters. Now this does not mean that you have to be specific to the “challenge rating” or “level” or anything else of the party. To me if it makes sense that a dragon would be encountered wandering around his lair and your party is only level one then they might encounter that dragon. Granted that’s an extreme but if the party goes into the swamp of dragon death then they should know they could encounter a dragon there.

Dragons? I thought you said be realistic – come on - what does being realistic really mean? Well to me it means keeping the paradigm of the fantasy setting intact. As an example, if the players are entering a town that is rumored to be filled with thieves it is not out of the ordinary for you to pull out the npc guides in the back of the GM book and just use the thieves right from the book if things get bogged down.

Secondly, always drive the story. What I mean by this is that even though you are pulling things out of the void you want to make sure that there are pieces of the story embedded within the seemingly random encounter. For me some of the best novels I have read have had encounters in them that seemed like mere chance but happened to be using the classic elements of storytelling – foreshadowing and flashbacks.

Example: Let’s say that the overarching storyline is about the players trying to gain the attention of an evil king’s advisor who they have befriended so that they can ferret out the king’s evil plans. The game has bogged down and you are not prepared for the night but you know that in your story that a runner is to deliver a note to the visor on behalf of the king. As the players continue through their day they are accosted by a group of common folk who demand that they saw one of the players outside of the bedchambers of their wife. This is a plant by the king to get the players into jail. A fight ensues with the king’s guard attempting to arrest the party. During the fight the players happen to see the runner and are tipped off by overhearing a conversation that he is heading to the visor. A chase ensues as the players are able to overtake the runner and stop him from delivering the note. All the while the king’s guards are fast approaching just as the visor, from hearing the commotion, runs out of his chambers and bumps into the players. An interesting easy challenge but the players have to think fast – they have the note but have been convicted of a crime. Will their friend help them?

The third piece of encounters on the fly is to be balanced to your expectations. Random encounters should always be fun and energetic and hopefully not too damaging on the players. I know I kidded about using dragons earlier but the unofficial rule of encounters is that they should take up a specific percentage of the player’s overall resources that you want them to take up. Should you decide to run a random encounter that takes 100% (or more) of the player’s resources then expect it to last all session or to do a good amount of downtime roleplaying as they recoup their magic and lick their wounds from the ‘random’ encounter.

A fourth part of random encounters is to give reward. No player likes taking on even a goblin and not getting something in return. This is especially true of reward-based games like Pathfinder and DnD. These types of games award treasure but at least give them some experience at a minimum. Also be sure to reward creative players. Encounters do not always have to be about fighting. I have had some great encounters that were randomly pulled from the void that entailed roleplaying and some social rolls which turned out to be game changers.

If you are not good at randomly coming up with things you can write down some random encounters n a piece of paper and assign a die value to it. Whenever you need a random encounter roll the die assigned and review the random encounter table. It could be as simple as a list with a one word encounter or a list with plot points listed for possible continuity of the story.

1) 1d4 goblins after food (goblins are being forced out of the forest by the king’s sorcery)

2) Lost dog (dog belongs to king and returning it will grant the players an audience with his daughter)

3) King’s guards (looking for people out after curfew)

4) Merchants looking for their stolen property

5) Rats

6) Dragon (Dragon is upset about the king mining in his mountain range)

7) King’s son (King’s son is trying to find the missing letter)

8) 1d6 thieves (they are just thieves nothing special)

Random encounters can be generated from a table or you can make them up on the fly. The key is to make them realistic, fun, challenging, and rewarding.

Christian Gamers - The Heart of a Gamer

The bible talks about calling on the names of other gods. Exodus 23:13 “"Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” What does this mean for a game with a polytheistic pantheon?

Most fantasy games, at least the ones I have been involved in, have more than one god. In fact, most have more than two gods. The gods are broken out into multiple pantheons and given specific portfolios. A portfolio is the ‘power’ of that particular god or goddess. Can we as Christians role-play a cleric in a fantasy world where there are these real gods or powers that have real powers within the world itself? And what happens when we call on their names in character?

We know that Jesus spoke in parables but what is a parable? A parable is a story. So we know Jesus spoke in stories. In Matthew 12:34 “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd by using stories. He did not say anything to them without telling a story.”
OK so Jesus told stories. When we play a game we’re basically telling a story. What is the purpose of playing a game? Primarily it is for fun but it is also to have a struggle against good versus evil. The story of good versus evil we have seen in multiple instances in the New Testament. Jesus told many stories of various people given the same chance and choosing to do good over evil. We knot of the story of the talents, of the widow, of the Good Samaritan and many more besides.

The bible also talks about what’s in our hearts and how when we love God we do so with a loving and with a giver’s heart. In Psalms 119:11 the psalmist says “I have hidden your word in my heart so that I won’t sin against you.” In this instance we see that if we put Jesus first in our hearts and his truths first in our hearts we are protected from sinning against him. This does not mean that we won’t sin but that does mean that we will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the case of portraying gods or goddesses or clerics that worship them I take the game as a game. It is only a story – ultimately one of good versus evil. Through the story the characters define themselves as either good or evil and play within the context of the fantasy realm that they are governed.

There are two ways to handle this as a GM that I have seen. One is that all gods are only minor gods under God and they all get their power from him; but most fantasy games do not have a Christian background so this presents a problem for Christians who want to not blaspheme but still want to role-play their character. Taken literally this means that you should never use the names of other gods etc. Well we know that the bible is not entirely literal. If it were the case even studying the old gods of historic pantheons for a college class would be blasphemy as would watching anything on television these days.

Jesus talks about what is in your heart. Luke 6:43-45 “A good tree does not give bad fruit. Also, a bad tree does not give good fruit. Each tree is known by the fruit it gives. People don’t gather figs from thorny weeds. And they don’t get grapes from bushes! A good person has good things saved in his heart. And so he brings good things out of his heart. But an evil person has evil things saved in his heart. So he brings our bad things. A person speaks the things that are in his heart.”

So at the end of the day when you are playing in character it really comes down to what you believe. Do you believe that you are calling upon the spirits or are you playing within the world that your GM has presented? Are you trying to change real life by playing a character? Do you intend to worship this fictional god when the game is over or do you intend to continue with your real life responsibilities and your real life worries? Why are you playing the game? Do you play the game for fun and to relax and to tell a story of good versus evil with some friends at a table?

My heart is good and my intentions are good. Over the years, the gaming table has fostered life-long friendships. We help each other though the good and bad and thick and thin both in the game and in real life. When one of us is sick we are all praying for each other. When one of us is injured we give each other comfort. When one of us is on the verge of a breakdown we help. We do life together. We are there for each other. God knows what is in my heart and he knows why I do what I do.

In the end it is all about what is in your heart.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

DM Advice - Rant - Remember Me - The Human

Over the past years as gaming has "matured" the industry has done something that I am not very much for - they've added so many races that it's hard to tell it's traditional fantasy anymore.  Why is this a problem? Well for starters the companies like to put the races out there as 'player's guides' and then every GM I know feels that they need to allow some of these weird races into their games.

I really do not have a problem per se with Tengu, Catfolk, Batfolk, Crabfolk, Foxfolk or Were Beetles but the problem is that these races to me have a specific setting in which they belong and a traditional fantasy setting just doesn't seem to be the place.  I think that a nice Legends of the Five Rings or even Brushfire's world would be a nice place to go all furry but seriously what happened?  Why do we need all of these races?  As a GM do you let you players use the Pathfinder Advanced Race book or play strange races?  How do you handle it? Yes there are rules etc ad nausim in the books for handling them but I want to know what you do?

After all what happened to the elf, dwarf, gnome, halfling or even the (gasp) human?

Have you ever said "OK I'll run a game but you can only use the Core book?"

Image below used without permission and will be removed if required.  Image is from Disney's Robin Hood. A very good tale told through the anthropomorphic characters below.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Price Question

I really want everyone to have access to the ICFBTS and WTNW lines we produced and if we can get enough sales we might even be able to finish off the bigtop with art! The question is if we moved the prices from 9.99 and 4.99 to .99 and 2.99 would you get them? If so we may be able to drop the price of pod as well.

Here are the links.

Be sure to say Yes or No on the poll!

ICFBTS 4 - The BigTop Edition

The BigTop edition is available as a rules-only pdf from rpgnow.com.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of all Ages the greatest show in West Virginia is about to start! In this ring we have death-defying clowns performing solo acts for your amusement but watch out because these clowns are not like the ones that you have seen before. They will shock you! They will amaze you! They will make you laugh! In ring number two we have a pair of freaks! Snakegirl and the Bearded Lady are here to startle your senses! Amazement and wonders beyond your comprehension abound in the circus! So folks step right up and let us dazzle you but mind the flash photography!”

It Came From Beyond the Still: The Big Top Edition is the ultimate game of skirmishing combat between hillbillies and a host of circus performers gone bad. This is a supplement product and a copy of It Came From Beyond the Still Aliens vs Hillbillies is required to play. The game is playable in about an hour.

This is the rules only and does not contain art or special graphics.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gametime Or Family Time

First off let me paraphrase things by stating unequivocally that I am not a pastor or official member of any clergy and am in fact a layman who also happens to be a life-long gamer.  I am just one man who is trying to take the scriptures and my walk with Jesus Christ and share my experiences as a believer.  In short, I am trying to put together what it means to be both a gamer and a Christian and what we can do as Christians in our hobby to be good and faithful servants.

We are told to go into the world and be a light on a hill to those that do not have the Holy Spirit indwelling within.  Matthew 5:4 “You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are also told to beware of idleness, Ecclesiastes 11:6 “Sow your seed in the morning, and in the evening let your hands not be idle…” Should we spend time playing a game?  If so what does that mean for our other pursuits, responsibilities and family?  So what does this mean for us as Christians who feel that we have been made with a creative spirit to pursue aspects of the hobby?

Back when I started my company – notice the emphasis on the word my – people used to ask me how I found the time to write with a full-time job, being a father, being a husband, being active in church and being actively gaming and I oftentimes paused as I searched for an answer that would make sense to both me and to them.  How did I find the time? 

For starters, let’s get real, there are only 24 hours in a day and if you look at the amount of time you spend working a full-time job and sleeping that only leaves a precious few hours of the day and weekends (if you are lucky) to spend time doing other things such as spending time with family or time gaming.  This is pretty much the bottom line – there is only so much time.  How you choose to spend it says a lot about your relationship with God. Do you spend the majority of it for yourself or do you first tend to those things which God has entrusted you and then spend time on your own pursuits?

Confession time!  I found it difficult at first not to be caught up in the idea of being a game designer.  I would spend countless hours on the phone discussing the possibilities of the company at the expense of time with my family.  My prudent wife was very patient with me during this time.  I think it was partially because she knows me so well and knows that once I get into something I tend to jump into it. I am an all or nothing kind of guy.  I find it very difficult to something halfway. Melanie knows this and has seen it countless times during our time together. Eventually, however the time I spent on the phone began to take away time with the kids and other things we were supposed to do as a family and I did not see it at first.  Ironically, I did a similar thing a few years prior when our youngest daughter Bailey was born and should have recognized the similarities there.  I felt called to pursue Youth Ministry and in so doing spent a few days a week away from a colici baby while my wife fended for herself because I felt called.  Unfair I know but it was what I did at the time and the point of this column is to share my story with you so you see what I did and learn.

The warning signs. Andy Stanley has a wonderful series on marriage called i-Marriage.  The little i is important in that title and I encourage you to check it out if you are in any kind of relationship because the advice that he gives and the messages he delivers through the series are very eye opening. In the series he talks about how a person can only hold a rock for so long before they drop it.  The person who drops the rock knows exactly why the rock has been dropped but the person for who the rock was being held does not understand the problem.  Why did you drop the rock?  We were doing so fine!  Really?

For me it finally came to a head when I spent two plus hours on the phone with my artist.  This was not uncommon for me but I had made a promise to my eldest daughter to play with her when I got home and I got caught up in the business again. When my wife brought it up to me by speaking truth in love I was at first mad.  This was my ego and probably also the enemy trying to get me to see her very reasonable pleading for nagging.  Luckily for me she continued to be the prudent woman that she is and we were able to work through my ego, the enemy, and get to the actual problem at hand which was that I was quite literally sacrificing much of the time I should have been spending with my family to the god of game design.

I am not saying we should not have a game business or play games.  I did both during this time by the way, every Tuesday and every other Friday were game nights on top of what I did every day as a business. I am saying to be careful that your hobbies do not become idols and that you do not sacrifice the precious time you do have with your family to hobbies.

After much heart-felt discussion (on both of our ends) we came to the compromise that if I wanted to spend some time designing the game I needed to do it during her and me time after the kids went to bed.  I saw what she was trying to do.  She was trying to trick me!  So I agreed.  Of course she was not trying to trick me, she was trying to be kind to the kids and to make sure that they got daddy time too but at the time I did not see this.  I just thought that they took up a lot of my time.  After all, we’d eat dinner together at the table, hang out for a few hours after and then I’d go into my room and do game design – so what was the big deal?  The big deal was that although I was spending time with them I was not there with them I was always in my head in the game or in the company dreaming of ways that I would be recognized in the industry (yes that’s the ego thing) or that we’d make money (everyone in the industry is laughing at this comment trust me).

In Deuteronomy 28:38 “You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it.”  I was sowing but the company profits weren’t there.  Why? Because I was not being faithful to what God had already given me.  Although at the time I did not realize this it was because I had not been faithful to my family and had thought it was because of something else.  Maybe I was not spending enough time in the game.  So while I told them that I would spend more time with them I was secretly in my head working out game mechanics, storylines, etc.  I still daydream, it’s a part of me to daydream.  God made me this way but there is a time and a place for daydreaming and family time isn’t that time.

Any game designer or small business owner knows that the business is always going to be present in their lives so long as the business is there.  What I mean by this is that the business will always be in your thoughts no matter what else you are doing.  Put that together with the ADHD (overdiagnosed in my opinion but probably there in me nonetheless), a compulsion to be a people pleaser (more on that in another column), and the desire to have a successful career as a game designer and to have fun as a gamer and this make for a devastating mix when your kid just wants attention.

Let me ask you – what is missing from the above paragraph?  My family.  I kept putting everything else first.  Oh if anyone ever asked me I would tell them I am providing for the family and love the family and spend every Sunday with the family after church but in truth that was about all I was doing other than just helping around the house and being a normal guy I suppose.  My heart was in game design when it should have first been with God and secondly with my wife and kids. 

Edit: I have just been informed by my wife that I was not spending every Sunday with the family and at least once a month was trying to host a miniature game on Sunday after church.  So while I did spend most Sundays with them I was taking one day a month in addition to the game design, gaming, etc to have “me” time.  I have since stopped those games partially because we could never get enough people and partially out of guilt.

Ironically I did the same thing this morning when my kids were trying to show me “stinky” outside and I wanted to read this very column to my wife.  I found myself pleading with the kids “Kids please let me read this to your mom.” But caught myself and felt a peace come over me that was so obviously the Holy Spirit. He said “Be at peace. All things will come to you but be a good father first.”  So I took my son to school – we’re going to the zoo today with him and his school and I am very excited to go!

By the way, taking time for you is important and is actually even biblical.  To paraphrase “The Lord makes you to lie down in green pastures” and sometimes it is good to get some “me” time.  I still run the game company though at a much reduced and for me less stressful rate. I.E. the books are out there and if people want them they can get them from rpgnow or directly from me but I’m done writing for this season of my life.  I game every Tuesday and biweekly on Fridays with two great groups of people (wife included – oh yeah!) and I go to conventions and play miniatures here and there but I also spend time with God, my family, brothers and sisters in Christ, outdoors (this turned out to be very important for me but that’s another story) and my other responsibilities and career.

As a matter of fact, we played Al Qadim last night and I worked on the Pirate’s Guide for Me booklet/house rules I am putting together for the next campaign.  The kids need to understand that you need time to yourself and they should respect that.  If not then it is your responsibility as a parent to teach it to them and hopefully in so doing they will find some “me” time for themselves.  More importantly, kids and family need time WITH you.  Do not sacrifice all of your time with the kids to the game.  You probably won’t wish you gamed more as you lay there breathing your last, ready to meet Jesus.

So to the question can one play games and be a Christian?  I say yes absolutely one should do what God created them to do and a passionate gamer is by no means defying the will of God by having fun imagining games or creating worlds (CS Lewis comes to mind immediately!) God gave me a creative leading spirit and I fully embrace my geek. I am sitting for the Cisco exam tomorrow for instance and am working on CISSP and CISA so that should tell you how much of a geek I am.

On the subject of balancing gaming with responsibilities though one should always put the responsibilities in the correct order and be faithful to what God has given you before you try to force more into your life without consideration for your loved ones.  Then God will say “Well done good and faithful servant.”

God Bless You and Yours

Sunday, April 7, 2013


It is with some sadness that we have decided to close our normal business operations. The books will be available from RPGNOW as pdf and as print on demand. We will be releasing The Big Top Edition but it will not have art and will be very reasonably priced under five dollars for download from RPGNOW. The following changes will be made this month.
1. The websites will be taken down. This blog will remain and will continue to be the vehicle for me sharing my gaming experiences with you. There will be some changes as far as the nature of this blog (more on that below).
2. We will sell our remaining stock of miniatures and books through our current website until it is taken down sometime this month at which time the printed books and miniatures will be available solely by contacting me through cronickain@gmail.com
3. What we have is what we have. We will not be doing anymore print runs or miniature casting. We currently have about 100 books left of various types in print so if you want it email us. The books will be sold on a first come first serve basis.
4. Kickstarter contributors that contributed for Reel to Real and Big Top Edition will receive free copies of the pdf if you email me at the above email.  For those Kickstarter contributors that paid to get a cast of their very own miniature for the game those will be available as a limited print resin cast. You will then receive your figure specifically made for you. All Kickstarter miniatures are listed in the Big Top Edition under (Cousin Faction).
5. We MAY continue to do books but the prices will be significantly lowered as we will not be offering new art with them. We will continue to recycle art that we do own on the books we publish. This is a decision I made due to the costs of putting these books together versus the return. It just does not make financial sense at this time.
6. This blog will continue to offer the DM Advice, Player Advice (From Under a Rock), Campaign Stories, Gaming AARs, Gaming Hints, Books, Boardgames, Stories etc as it has but we are adding an additional feature.
Faith and Gaming
....Some of you already know that I am on fire for our Lord Jesus Christ and some of you might just be learning this. Trust me. If you knew me years ago you would see how much he has changed me from a sinful, selfish man into a forgiven loving caring servant. That being said I feel that He wants me to use my writing and in particular this blog to connect with the community of Christian gamers out there. This is why I have decided to add a new column to this blog that explores gaming from a Christian perspective. We will go over all manner of different aspects of the hobby and how we can use it to further the Kingdom of God. I will also discuss what we might want to avoid in gaming and other things I have learned in my walk. Rest assured, it will be a fun journey and one that I am being lead to pursue. I welcome everyone to these discussions who wish to come with an open mind and an open heart. I ask that if you are not a believer or have a different faith that you do decide to contribute that you do so with kindness and compassion.
7. Lastly, I want to thank each and everyone of you fans, friends, family members and others who have contributed to this blog and my gaming happiness over the years.  We truly are a community and I am proud to call you friends.

God Bless You,