Friday, August 7, 2015

Story Seed - Beyond the Night, Into the Morning

Image Source: Monte Cook Games' Into the Ninth World Kickstarter
Because Numenera and the Cypher System are such a huge part of my gaming life (and the direct reason for the very existence of this blog) I am needless to say super excited about the new Into the Ninth World Kickstarter they have launched. It's funding a line of books exploring the more exotic locales around the Ninth World (i.e. Space, the Oceans, and other Dimensions). They're doing like a lot of popular Kickstarters lately and featuring stretch goals that don't just rely on $$ but on "achievements" like a certain number of FB likes, or retweets, or the like. I want what I backed to be awesome and so I'm dedicating this blog to the KS campaign by using on their art pieces as a story seed.  If you like Numenera, like weird outerspace stuff, or just want to see what all the hubbub is about click through. 

Lightning crackled through the clouds, illuminating their irregular shapes from within with blue-white light that diffused through the deadly atmosphere. From my seat behind Harrick I could see three of the domed cities that bobbed and glided through this world's sky. Our little ship was shuddering and bucking like an angry aneen as we sliced through the corrosive clouds, and split the toxic sky. Beyond the stronglass screen I could see the skin of our vessel was already pockmarked and pitted. Lines were scored in its surface from droplets that were certainly not water as they traced paths along the flyer.

I tried and failed to connect to the datasphere, it had gone silent since our little craft had slipped the grasp of our home and sailed into the black void beyond. I understood now why the Convergence referred to numenera like these as Nightcraft now, though truly night did not adequately describe this alien environment. Outside the sky had gone black, but more stars than I had ever seen shone through that dark blanket. The sun had become a blinding orb, one that the craft had darkened its viewing ports for. Such was the intensity of the star that for a moment the ship warmed uncomfortably until Jerrin managed to reconnect a loose coupling.

Control over the craft had been an illusion all along, and I silently cursed Treel for offering us this opportunity. The vile woman must have known that we would be helpless to the aeons old programming of this machine. As we had approached the Handmaiden of Morning I began to wonder what that world, with its milky yellow sky held; now I feared that our knowing would also be our death as the craft deteriorated around us. It bypassed a dozen of those bubble cities, each looking more hospitable than the last compared to the atmosphere without that seemed to be digesting the Nightcraft.

I felt more than a little useless, gawking out the glass at the alien cities that floated by. Harrick was using every last ounce of power to protect the craft as best he could, while Jerrin worked feverishly to repair the ancient machine. I didn't have their skills with machines, my only gift of the sort was the result of an unpleasant encounter with the Iron Wind that had taken parts of my body even as it gifted me with a link to the world of dataspirits.

I hunched inward, trying to take up as little space as possible so that Jerrin could work a little more freely. I wondered where the ship was taking us, and why it seemed so ill suited for its destination.

My electrostatic shielding was damaged long ago, and without it I am unable to repel the acidic atmosphere of this world. Station Q78VX3 is only ninety five point six kilometers further. I estimate an eighty three point four seven percent chance that we will arrive safely. 

My eyes shot wide and I looked to my companions. Both were deep in concentration and had apparently not heard the young male voice that spoke in my head. I opened my mind like I would to the datasphere and asked if it were possible to restore the shielding it had mentioned. The reply came in the form of images, diagrams showing the design of the device. I soon understood where to find the control circuit, and lurched into action, tearing at a panel forward and to the right of Harrick's position. More direction followed as I dug through mechanisms looking for the glass cylinder the craft's intelligence repeatedly showed me.

Behind me I heard a metallic ping and a hissing sound. Jerrin cursed even as the craft informed me of a breach to its skin. I continued to root around until at last I found the dead part, blackened and dull the cylinder was partially melted. I grabbed it and pulled without ceremony and it came away in my hand. With no thought I tossed it behind me and began to rummage through my bag of shins. I had one that would fit the socket now vacated.

Behind me Harrick and Jerrin were panicking and coughing as the toxic atmosphere entered the craft. The jack tried to plug the hole, but the corrosives ate away at everything he tried to use. I finally located the shin I was looking for and fumbled it into my left hand, buried deep in the ship's mechanism. The piece fit the socket perfectly, though it was shorter by far compared to what I had removed. With a click it seated followed by a thrum of power and a whine of circuitry.

This repair will not last long, but it should ensure that we reach our destination. The digital spirit told me. With the shield in place the ship was even able to deploy a section of paneling to close the breach and prevent more of the atmosphere from entering. My eyes were watering and it hurt to breathe but we would live; for now at least. I withdrew from the mechanisms and wondered what dangers we would face at Station Q78VX3.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

CypherCaster Magazine Issue 2 - Out Now!

The second issue of the best fan magazine devoted to the Cypher System is out now. There's a bunch of awesome in here including an excerpt from the first Numenera novel, more Holstenwall for The Strange, the first part of a serialized fiction for Numenera, and more; 52 pages for just $4. If you like the Cypher System games there is almost certainly something in there for you. And if you do buy it and like it please let us know. Post a review on DriveThruRPG or your blog or whatever, tell your friends, and get the word out. The better the magazine does the and the more feedback we get the better we can make future issues.

Also, if you still haven't looked at Issue #1 now is the time! Our inaugural issue is now half off on DriveThruRPG; 44 pages of material for Cypher System for only $2!

Note: As a contributor to the CypherCaster I have a vested interest in its success. That said, it's still awesome.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #43 - Post GenCon Thoughts

I'm back from GenCon!! Which is bitter sweet. On the one hand sleep and comfier bed, on the other no more gaming and I don't get to see my friends daily. On the bright side I have some sweet swag to tide me over till next year.

GenCon 2015 may be over, but GenCon 2016 is but a glimmer in the future, one I am looking forward to!


I tried writing this as an all inclusive mega-post, but I suck at recaps ... after seeing +James August Walls recent post about GenCon I knew I couldn't compete. Then I realized that I wasn't playing to my strength by trying to capture everything in totality, therefore ....

What I ran ....
Last year was my first GenCon, and I didn't run anything, didn't even try. I was on vacation and it was my first year at the Con, so I took it easy. This year I didn't feel confident enough to run anything official, but I did decide to run something un-official: Death in Freeport!

Jim and some others really wanted to try out the new Fantasy AGE RPG and I really love Freeport so it seemed a good match! I had +James August Walls and his wife +Jennifer Walls+Michael Diamond and his friend Lonnie Harris, and +Francois Labrecque for a couple of hours in the afternoon. We didn't get to finish but everybody seemed to be enjoying things. I know I enjoyed watching the PCs jump to a mixed bag of semi-accurate conclusions and execute plans that probably could have stood a little extra thought. Or, to put it another way, it went delightfully off the rails!

Later in the Con I nabbed a copy of another Freeport adventure: The Lost Island!

What I played...

Well I played a lot, but let's look at the highlights reels since I don't have all day.

Wednesday evening +James August Walls ran a Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel for some eight players, myself included, where 22 out of 24 characters got killed off over the course of a couple of hours. A cursed blade, a well of souls, and a series of questionable decisions (including a couple of spiteful ones toward the end) saw our characters drop like flies. The highlight was probably the scuffle that broke out after the cursed blade was broken and one character slayed another to restore it. This instigated a literal power struggle that ended some 3-4 characters without any GM intervention ... apparently we made his job easy.

That wasn't the only DCC I played though. I also took part in both the Enter the Dagon and the Death by Nexus tournaments. And between all those games I was convinced to finally buy into the game...

GenCon proper started off with 13th Age. I've blathered on about this game quite a bit on this blog but had only played it one time at GenCon 2014. After all my events filtered out I ended up with three 13th Age games this year; a perfect opportunity to dig deeper into the system. 

The first game was a 2 hour slot that saw the characters trying to escape a magical forest known as the Wyrd Wood. The pregens allowed us players to make our own One Unique Thing and establish our own Icon relationships and backgrounds. The result was that each character at the table was different and new even by the time Sunday rolled around and I had seen them three times. I was able to spend a rolled Icon die to invoke my relationship with the Emperor, and my OUT as a reincarnation of a past Emperor to negotiate with a forty foot tall stone warden. Suffice to say it was a quick but fun game.

The four hour session was by far the best, as the added time and a set of really great players allowed that game to go a bit deeper (figuratively and literally) than the others could as we delved a living dungeon. This was a great session with a bunch of really fun players who got a chance to really see how 13th Age shines. We got to slay a hydra and some kind of Cthulhu-esque horror, confuse a bunch of Orcs into killing a demon door for us, and then take on the semi-immortal soul bound operator of the dungeon itself. There were icon dice used to turn into a dragon, create a wall of thorny vines, call on the command of the Crusader, and more. It was a fantastic game in every way.

The third game was fun, but nowhere near as memorable as the first two, probably due to being exhausted on Sunday morning...

While I hadn't signed up for any Cypher games (what was I thinking??) I did manage to find my way into two of them. In the evening on Saturday I got to play in a The Strange game run by +James August Walls that saw obsessed Browncoats try to rescue the Serenity from a recursion based on the film by translating the ship to Ruk. Things didn't go as planned and our group needed to rescue the crew and send the ship back home while fighting off a mysterious enemy. Jim ran a great game with a couple of twists I didn't see coming.

Later that night I took part in a Cypher Superheroes game run by +David Wilson Brown. This was my first taste of what the new CSR can do and included the use of power shifts to make our heroes truly super. It was a great game with the likes of +Andrew Cady and +Troy Pichelman among others at the table trading barbs and double entendres as we beat up bad guys and eventually saved the city. It has me truly excited to see what else the Cypher System can do, and to run a Supers game once again. 

What I attended...

Despite being a con about gaming, not everything involves actually playing a game.

I attended a panel from Onyx Path about the Trinity and Scion game lines. While I haven't played either in some time, I'm interested to see how the new editions turn out, as these were all interesting games.

I sat in on a Green Ronin panel for the AGE system and was reminded that there will be a Freeport book for Fantasy AGE coming in the future. A lot of the talk was the future of the Dragon AGE and Blue Rose game lines though so there was less talk about Fantasy AGE itself than expected. Still it was a fun and short seminar that leads me to think that there is plenty more AGE to come including at some far off point a possible Sci-Fi spin that +Chris Pramas called "Space AGE"!!

Wrapping up the first day of events for me was the +Monte Cook Games seminar. There were some glitches in the show (including an attack by the Marriott routers) but we got to see Numenera: Strand, some artwork from new and forthcoming books, and were the first to hear about their new kickstarter for the Into the Ninth World product line (which launches today!). We also all got cards to redeem at the booth for a sweet Cypher System bag!

Late on Friday I also went to the Monte Cook Games fan bash / Cypher System Rulebooks release party / surprise birthday party for +Charles Ryan. This was a great time, even if it did destroy my voice, as I got to see a bunch of folks I had not yet talked with and generally got some nice socialization time in. I even met +Robert Schwalb the Demon Lord himself! Oh yeah, there was also a Numenera birthday cake!

On Saturday I almost ran a game of The Strange (without any prep) for MCG when one of their GMs got sick, but instead I ended up subbing in as a helper for their Instant Adventures seminar. This was probably the best event of the con. A hilarious, unscripted live game run by +Monte Cook with the game built up from suggestions from the audience and run using the new Cypher System Rulebook. They video recorded the whole panel so I won't give any spoilers, but suffice to say it was probably one of the most entertaining games I have ever watched.


GenCon isn't all fun and games though (yes it is! it really is!) because sometimes there is shopping to do! Or for those on a budget, running around nabbing all the free stuff you can!

Oh look, the annual GenCon swag bag... I really liked the design this year!

At the +Monte Cook Games booth I managed to grab one of the GenCon exclusive (for now anyways) Tiny All Rolled Ups and a Philethis mini that I am totally going to paint!

Of course I needed some new dice to match  so I also stopped at the Chessex booth on the way out...

I also grabbed an advance copy of the new Smash Up set!

I also searched for stuff I'd been wanting... Like a nice dice cup, which I found at Q-Workshop. While there I also found a nice little chest with a magnetic closure. I'll probably keep dice it in.

The pen above I also picked up, its chrome and hardwood, retractable ballpoint. It looks better than the photos show it, and feels great in hand. When it comes to wood gaming products that pen wasn't the only purchase I made ... I also bought some rather expensive dice from the nice folks at Artisan dice. These are inlaid wood, and look gorgeous in a way this photo cannot reproduce.

Of course you can't just buy a few dice! I also bought some DCC Dice so I could be properly armed for Death by Nexus!

Have I ever mentioned that I have a dice problem? Like I need an intervention type problem? Yeah ... I stopped at the Chessex booth again and found these green dice while I waited to get a mug full of random dice from the bin.

I also bought this ...

What's inside?

Oh, and also this ...

Yeah, I was weak and I bought the DCC Book and scored a bunch of free Swag to boot. I blame Death by Nexus. And also +James August Walls for running some awesome DCC games for me this year!

The Best of the Best

I refuse to dwell on the bad parts of the Con, they were few and far between and generally easily forgotten. But I do want to remember the high points...

My single favorite moment of the whole of GenCon 2015 was in the last round of the Death by Nexus tourney. Playing for #TeamNeutral, I spell burned a character down to 1 point attributes for Strength, Agility, and Constitution to fire an energy blast/lightning bolt at the opposing Chaos and Law characters. With a +32 from spellburn and a roll of 17 I managed the best possible result and vaporized the two opposing teams with 24d6 damage across six targets! It is this kind of high end epic-ness that makes DCC so fun. At times you are weak and afraid, but when the chip are down you can really throw out some power if you want. It's also almost certainly why I bought the book.

I mentioned above the +Monte Cook Games Instant Adventures panel, and I really have to say it was the best non-game event of the Con. My sides hurt from laughing so hard, and it really was an entertaining "actual play" to watch. The fact that I got to help out the MCG folks beforehand wasn't too shabby either.

Neither a game nor an event, I also got to see my good friend +Andreas Walters stumble into the Whedon effect on Friday(?) evening at the Omni Severin hotel. We were sitting and talking when we saw that +Wil Wheaton was conversing with a bunch of folks in another part of the lobby. Andreas happened to have a copy of his awesome Baby Bestiary book and went over to gift it to Wil. The social media explosion that happened afterwards was awesome and I'm super happy for Andreas because his book is great with amazing art.

Overall GenCon 2015 was amazing and actually topped last year. I got to see and hang out with my friends who normally are only pixels on a screen, and I got to play in or attend a bunch of great games and seminars. I'l already planning for 2016, and I can't wait to see what next year will bring.