Monthly Archives: February 2012

Reverb Gamers List: The Final Edition!

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #28: Do you have any house rules when you game? What are they, and why do you use them? If not, why not?

I can see answering this two ways.  First, table rules.  If a die does not land flat on the table or a character sheet, re-roll.  That’s about it.  But house rules can also encompass alterations that you’ve made to published games to better suit your group or style.  As previously mentioned, I’m working on some mods for Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.  The game is fine as-is, but the mechanics are rather dated.  My main problem with the game is that it is incredibly lethal, which may be realistic, but it’s not heroic.  I want characters to be able to survive a firefight and not fall to the first goon with a .38 snub in his pocket when the real bad guy is waiting around the corner.  Also, the skills list is very dated as the game was released around ’83, so I’ve made some changes and changed some skill IQ requirements, I also merged some groups of skills together.  So this constitutes a form of house rules, and all of my players will have a copy of my changes and we’ll discuss them before we play.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #29: What does the word “gamer” mean to you? Is that different than what other people seem to think it means?

Simply put, a gamer is a person who plays games.  Card games, board games, role-playing games, LARPs, miniatures, computer games, first-person shooters, console games, dominoes, etc.: we’re all gamers and usually we play more than one type of game.  People who go to Vegas and gamble are playing games.  A game usually has a randomizer of some sort and hopefully allows the players to use skill to influence their fate.  There may be a ‘geek/nerd’ aspect to it as lots of gamers are not in to mainstream culture.  So what.  We’re all different as people, even if we are gamers.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #30: What lessons have you taken from gaming that you can apply to your real life?

Hmmm.  I’m very fast at counting Champions damage dice, does that count?  One thing that I do enjoy applying concepts in gaming to real life is dice analysis.  I’ve built spreadsheets looking at the curves of 2d6, 3d6, Fudge dice, etc., and I find that interesting.  Statistical analysis applied to gaming is kind of cool.  I’ve learned a lot about spreadsheets creating Champions templates and plugging all of my characters in there.  So I’ve developed some useful skills, but I wouldn’t say they’re terribly applicable outside of gaming.

Gaming can teach some good life lessons: winning and losing gracefully, patience, etc.  But it’s after midnight when I’m writing some of this and I really don’t have the brain power to dig in to it too deeply right now.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #31: How would your life be different if you’d never gotten into gaming?

I’m not a big fan of ‘what if’ questions.  What if Eleanor Roosevelt could fly?  Every decision is a branch, and some splits rejoin later.  For example, if I had gone straight to university from high school, I would not be where I am right now, but there’s no telling where I would be and whether I would be as content in that reality as I am right now.

Before I learned about role-playing games, I was heavily in to science fiction and fantasy literature before high school, I think it would have been inevitable for me to get in to gaming.  If I had not worked at Flying Buffalo, my gaming life would be different and my friends base would be different, but there’s no way to accurately project a ‘what if’.

I LOVE good used book stores!

If you’re ever in Phoenix or Tucson, AZ (or Flagstaff, for that matter), there’s a great used book store chain called Bookmans.  They’re not as good as Powell’s in Portland, but few things are.  Aside from books, they have a great selection of movies, music, console games, and other games.  I found a second edition copy of the West End Games Star Wars d6 rules when I was last in Phoenix.

But I’m not talking about Bookman’s at the moment.  I’m talking about the Las Cruces, NM store, Coas.  They also have a great selection of books, not so much movies and music.  But their store on Solano has all of their games, and it’s managed fairly well.  I was extremely happy to find a copy of the original 1980 release of TSR’s Top Secret.  For $10.  And with the insane amount of credit that I have with them, I got it for about $2.

To the best of my knowledge, Top Secret is the first spy/espionage game, predating Hero’s Espionage and later Danger, International and Flying Buffalo’s Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.  To give you an idea of how old it is, the address for TSR does not have Zip+4, just a plain ol’ five digit zip code.  And the box does not have a UPC bar code.  I laughed at that.

To be sadly honest, Top Secret is not a very good game.  I played it a fair amount, and it doesn’t stand up to later espionage games.  But there is a quaint charm to it, not unlike people who play early editions of D&D.

So why did I buy it?  Well, I have a soft spot in my heart for the first games that I cut my teeth on, and Top Secret is one of them.  Plus, I’m writing a personal 2.0 edition of Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes.  MSPE is a decent game, but it has some shortcomings and is easy to kitbash, and I thought it might be useful to peruse Top Secret and see if it has anything to offer for my MSPE mods.

I’m silly that way.  Or, if you asked my wife, I’m just silly.

(and if you’re ever in Las Cruces, I’d be happy to recommend some good restaurants)

(and I hope to finish off the Reverb list very soon, got hit with a really nasty bronchitis last week and I’m still recovering)


The Order of the Stick Reprint Kickstarter project has broken $1,000,000.  And it runs through noon Tuesday EST.

Amazing.  EVERY OOTS book will be reprinted, and lots of future projects will be funded.  I don’t know if this is the biggest Kickstarter drive ever, but I’m sure it’s the biggest gaming/fannish drive ever.

Congratulations, Rick!

OOTS Kickstarter Page

Project Kickstarter: JammerUp, a roller derby game

I came across an interview on Wired this morning with a husband/wife team of board game designers, their first product will be JammerUp, a game that simulates roller derby.  The woman, Niki Gallo Hammond, aka Devilina Detail, is a referee for a suburban NYC league.  Her husband takes their two daughters to matches regularly and sometimes works security.

The game sounds interesting, and reading over the beta rules, it seems to do a good job of catching the flavor of the game.  The Kickstarter project has another two weeks to run and needs to earn another $4,000 to fund the project.  I wish them well and hope they get funded!

Wired Interview

Kickstarter page for JammerUp

More Reverb replies, this time 24-27

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #24: Have you ever been to a game convention? What was it like to be surrounded by so many other gamers? If not, would you like to go to one? Why or why not?

Game conventions are a blast.  The first ones that I attended were the LA Gateway series in the early 80’s.  I attended Origins 1984 in LA and it was definitely one of the more memorable conventions that I’ve ever been to.  First, my friend who traveled with me had a seizure.  He recovered quickly, but it was a very scary moment.  Fortunately some of our friends saw what was happening and were able to help him and find me.

Second, I was really looking forward to playing a convention Champions event, and I come to find out that not only did the person who wrote the scenarios not send them to the organizer, he didn’t even show up to the convention.  The committee had a lot of unhappy players with no game to play, so I stepped in and ran.

The first problem with con games, especially pick-up/spur of the moment games, is characters.  There’s no way that I could run a reasonably balanced game and let people run their own favorite characters.  I had with me the three Enemies books published by Hero, and I combed them looking for 250 point villains.  I wrote them down on character sheets, gave them 25 XP to spend, and made up my watchlist.

When game time came, I told them ‘You were all villains.  You were caught, you served your prison time, and now you’re all on probation being heroes.’  I had like a dozen character sheets for eight players, so people stood a chance of getting someone they’d like to play.  They had half an hour to spend the 25 XP on anything except dex, speed, or ego as I’d already written up the watch list.  They could buy levels, increase other characteristics, reduce disadvantages, buy new powers, whatever.

I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of the scenario — hey, it was almost 30 years ago! — but the basic gist was that it was a two-parter, there was a basic bank heist with a bunch of goons in powered armor that didn’t take the ‘heroes’ very long to put down, but it turns out that was a diversion for the real villains to kidnap the governor’s daughter or something and take her out to an island stronghold.  So the real mission was to rescue the kidnap victim.

And the villains of the scenario?  They were my player-characters from various campaigns, so I knew exactly how they worked.

The players were slowly winning the day, and everything came down to a climactic fight between my mentalist who had an ego killing attack (not strictly allowed by the rules, but it was only 1d6) and a high-speed martial artist.  The martial artist was slowly putting stun on the mentalist, but the mentalist, while slowly killing the martial artist, couldn’t stun him.  Eventually the martial artist KO’d the mentalist and the day was won by the forces of good.


Now here’s the weird thing.  10-15 years later I’m at a science fiction convention in Phoenix.  A bunch of my friends are talking to Mike Straczynski, and this one guy kept staring at me.  Finally he walks up to me and says ‘I know you!’  I don’t recall him at all.  He says ‘You ran Champions in L.A.!’  I had no memory of it at all.  Finally he started telling me details of a game that I ran over a decade previously, ending it with “That was the best Champions game that I ever played!”  Needless to say, I was happy.

One of these days I’m going to run the same sort of thing again at a convention, give the players reformed villains to run.  They really seemed to have liked it.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #25: If you game enough, you’re bound to run into someone being an ass. What’s the most asinine thing someone’s done in a game with you? How did you react? Did that experience change the way you game?

I had this happen last year.  A friend was running a new game that no one had played, and one of the players was constantly talking about “They wouldn’t do it like that!  This is lame!”  Finally I just started ignoring him and interacting with others.  He quieted down, but I can pretty much guarantee that the GM won’t invite him back and I would be reluctant to play another game with him.

So the take-home is: be good and respectful to your GM and the other players around you.  If you don’t like a game, no one is forcing you to sit at the table.  If you simply say ‘This game really isn’t for me, excuse me, but I’m going to go do something else’, chances are that no one is going to mind.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #26: Who or what was the most memorable NPC you’ve ever encountered? Why?

Sadly, none come to mind.  Too much dain bramage.


REVERB GAMERS 2012, #27: If you were an Ent, what kind of Ent would you be? Or, what other NPC creature would you be? Why?

Yeah.  Right.  I had no idea there were different kinds of Ents, is this in some game’s monster companion campaign rule book or something?  Sorry, not my cup o’ tea.

The Return of the Reverb Gamers Master List, items 21-23

These are fairly short answers, so I’m combining them since I’m ten days behind.  Yes, I’m feeling much better, but a rush project came up that had to be addressed which further slowed things down.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #21: What’s the best bribe you’ve ever given (or received as) a GM? What did you get (give) for it?

Never offered one to a GM, never had one offered to me as a GM.  But let me modify that statement slightly.  In our multitudinous Champions campaigns and characters, whenever we created new characters, we wrote moderately extensive character backgrounds and origin stories.  These were by no means required, but the GMs always rewarded such with usually 5 XP.  Is this a bribe?  The player gives something with the expectation of getting something in return, in this case an origin for XP, the GM gets something that they can use to flesh-out the campaign or character introduction and gives XP.  I don’t consider it a bribe, even though there is an element of unfair advantage over someone who doesn’t turn in a background and doesn’t get the XP reward.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #22: Describe the worst game you’ve ever played in. What made it so bad? Did your fellow players help, or make it worse?

Two stories.  Story the first: The game was a GURPs Supers at one of the L.A. Gateway conventions probably 15-20 years ago.  The GM was local and provided pre-gen characters.  I’ve always liked martial artist characters as they are fairly simple to run and quite flamboyant, and I wasn’t deeply familiar with GURPs, so I went with a martial artist.  The GM then proceeded to throw powered armor against us.  My martial artist character couldn’t do a thing to the goons in armor, and the goons couldn’t hit me.  I was frustrated at my ineffectiveness until I decided to try Nerve Strike.  At that point I became effective.  I did not enjoy the game because I felt that the GM made a poor choice in the selection of pre-gens available to the player.  It is possible that if I had been more familiar with the rules system that I could have been more effective and had a better time, but that’s as may be.  It was not a good experience in my effort to learn more about a game system that I wasn’t very familiar with by playing a con game.

Story the second: Champions campaign run by a friend, I’m running a brand-new character.  The mission is part of a series and I was not a player or attendee in the previous missions, and tonight is the island assault on the villain’s base.  Island assault = boats streaking across the water just before dawn.  Myself, along with other player characters, are in the hold of the boat and not really knowing what’s going on.  The boat’s pilot, apparently having a little bit of chaos inside him, decided that he could get a tactical advantage by ramming the docks and thus surprising the guards.  Unfortunately he did not alert anyone as to what he was doing.  The others in the hold were able to get their defenses activated in time, I was not.  Before the combat started I was knocked to GM unconscious.  After the boat hit, everyone sprang out into the melee and no one checked on me for quite a while.

The worst part of this was that I did not drive that night, I’d ridden with others, so I was stuck.  I sat in the corner and read a book for most of the evening until someone decided to revive me.

I partially fault the GM for this.  In Champions, if you’re knocked to GM unconscious, the GM decides when you wake up.  With this happening at the start of the combat due to a bad die roll and taking me out of combat, it would have improved things (for me, at least) if later in the round I’d slid in to the water and woke up or something like that and been able to get in to the fight and done something.  As I recall, that character didn’t last long in that campaign before I retired him.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #23: Have you ever experienced Total Party Kill (TPK), or been close to it? What effect did that have on you personally? On your group of players? Have you ever used retroactive continuity (retcon) to save yourself? Why or why not?

Champions?  TPK?  It is to laugh!  A character death in Champions is a pretty rare event, I’ve never heard of a TPK outside of GM fiat.  Now, ask me that about World of Warcraft, and I’d give you a slightly different answer!

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