Tag Archives: evil hat

The Don’t Rest Your Head boardgame

Don’t Rest Your Head, or DRYH as I’ll subsequently refer to it, is literally a crazy little RPG from Fred Hicks of Evil Hat. The basic premise is that all of the players are insomniacs, but they have something different about them: their insomnia grants them access to the Mad City. The problem is, when you have access to the Mad City, the Mad City has access to you and its denizens don’t like you.

You’re exhausted, you’re being chased by nightmares, and if you fall asleep you’re in serious trouble.

I’ve never played the RPG. I’ve read the rules, and I find it quite intriguing, but I just don’t have enough people in my area right now to launch a game. I’m also a little iffy on the dice mechanics, but as I haven’t attempted to run or play it, that’s probably just unfamiliarity. But I’m very intrigued by the concept. Evil Hat also published a fiction collection called Don’t Read This Book. I love the title! And I haven’t read it.

Well, Evil Hat is running a Kickstarter to launch a deck-building version of the game called Don’t Turn Your Back. It has less than 48 hours before the funding completes — sorry, I would have posted it earlier but it’s been a rough few weeks. $40, not including the shipping costs, gets you a physical copy of the game, plus PDFs of DRYH and the fiction anthology. You can get just the PDFs for $10.

The game is for 2-4 players and they say it takes less than an hour to play. You’re trapped in Mad City, as are the others, and you’re currying favor with nightmares to buy power to try to escape. Or at least that’s what the overall game play appears to be. Could be very interesting, but I can’t back everything and I think I might pass on this one, though I might chip in $10 to get the fiction anthology.


Designers & Dragons by Shannon Appelcline

It is not often that I’ll call a book ‘fascinating’. If I’m reading fiction I’ll usually say ‘cool’ or ‘really cool’, this book is different and it fascinates me. Actually, it would be more accurate to call this a series because that’s what it is: a four book series of the history of gaming. Shannon started this as a labor of love, and he’s done an amazing job. It’s being published by Fred Hicks and the folks at Evil Hat Productions, and for $15 you can get an ebook edition of the entire series (epub, Kindle, PDF, etc.), higher pledges will get you physical copies. Each volume covers a decade: the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s and current, I don’t know how late the last volume goes.

The first volume is available immediately with your pledge, and I’ve been reading it for a couple of weeks now. The first third of the book is the story of TSR and Dungeons & Dragons, and it is an amazing story. The second chapter is my proverbial alma mater, Flying Buffalo, followed by Games Workshop and GDW. I’m maybe half way through the book, and though I can’t say ‘I can’t put it down!’ or ‘It’s a page-turner!’, I think it’s an amazing retrospective on the gaming industry.

If you’re a gamer, and I don’t know why you’d be reading my blog and Twitter feed and weren’t, and are interested in the history of the gaming industry, this book is a must-have. I started gaming at the dawn of the industry in the late ’70s when TSR released the white box 3-book edition of D&D, along came Traveller and Tunnels & Trolls and others. I worked for Flying Buffalo during their hey-day in the early ’80s, and what was cool about that was that the owner, Rick Loomis, approached me and asked me if I wanted a job. He needed someone with good typing skills, and he’d seen me with my TRS-80 Model 100 doing some coding or editing or whatnot and needed someone to enter literally thousands of addresses in to his mailing list. Good times for many values of good. I’ve played an uncountable number of games and met a lot of great people, many of whom I’m still in contact with and are still friends.

Obviously this series has a lot of personal resonance with me, and the stories are quite interesting. If you have any interest in this history, this is a fantastic value for $15.

The Kickstarter is running for another 22 days and is already fully-funded, they were seeking $7,500 and are over $70,000. In fact, they launched the Kickstarter some 12 hours before they announced it via email etc., and made their funding goal before the announcement. They’re now busily blowing through stretch goals.

And for those who enjoy it, they’re also crowd-sourcing the editing of the project, so you can participate at yet another level if you have the time, skill, and inclination.

Evil Hat’s Fate Core system up on Kickstarter

Fate, as you probably know, is a refinement of the Fudge system and is the core of the Dresden Files RPG system among others. Evil Hat Productions is the crew behind Dresden, and they are the license meisters behind Fate. They’ve been promising a new release of the complete Fate Core system with changes that they’ve made while making Dresden, and that product is finally out.

The Kickstarter was launched yesterday with the modest goal of $3,000. As of right now, they’ve raised almost $36,000 and it still has 55 days to go. Needless to say, they’re going to blow past any stretch goals that they set.

So if you’re interested, $30 will get you a physical copy of the book.


WayneCon 3 and new (to me) games that I’ve played recently

Last month I hosted a small game convention for friends called WayneCon 3.  Before you go Googling for it, don’t bother.  The first two WayneCons were video parties that I hosted that had a huge turnout, so we informally called them WayneCons.

2011’s WayneCon I played a new card game called The Impossible Machine, designed by Brian Knudson, released in 2011 by Glowfly Games and Sandstorm Productions, the cover describes it as “The Game of Impractical Functionality”, and it is a fine representation of Rube Goldberg devices at their finest.  The game is intended for 2-5 players, ages 6+, and should take 10-30 minutes, and in my play experience I think these are reasonable.  The five player limit is a hard limit as there are only five decks of cards in the game, one deck per person, each deck a different color.  I assume that the decks are identical except for color so that one player would not have an advantage over another, but I have not confirmed that.

Each card is a part of a machine, and, with the exception of the catalyst card, has an input and an output.  The youngest player starts the game.  On your turn, you can place up to three cards from your hand of six.  Each card has an input and an output ‘momentum’ symbol, there will be one input but there can be two outputs, such a card is a splitter.  The first card played has no input, effectively you’ll be starting the machine by the player providing the proper motive force to get the contraption clanking along.  The input of the second card must match the output of the first card, and so on.  If a card is a splitter, then the next cards are placed in a column, making two paths for the machine to follow once it’s activated.

To activate the machine, play a catalyst card, which has an input but no output, so no cards can follow it: it ends that segment of the machine.  But since the machine may have one or more splitters, that doesn’t end the round.  When the machine is activated, the first three cards are flipped over and play proceeds to the next person who can play up to three cards, then another three cards are flipped.  But what you’re actually flipping are columns of cards, so when a splitter is encountered, you’re flipping a column of two or potentially more cards depending on whether you managed to nest some splitters.

The round ends when all cards have been flipped.  Those cards are gathered and set aside, this is the score pile.  The game is played in three rounds, after which the cards are sorted out and counted to determine the winner.

Cards can be inserted into a sequence as long as the inputs and outputs match at the insert point.  There are also eraser cards that remove cards from the machine, thus they don’t score for that player.

This is not the entirety of the rules, but it gives you a good flavor.  It’s a lot of fun, very easy to play, and a very sociable game.  Definitely recommended for a quick pick-up game and it should be good for playing with young proto- and neo-gamers.

I played two RPG’s that I’d never played before, Dresden Files published by Evil Hat Productions and The Laundry, published by Cubicle 7 in the UK.  Dresden Files is a game based on Evil Hat’s Fate engine, and it deserves every reward that it’s earned.  Dresden is a great game, I had a huge amount of fun.  And I’m not going to go deep in to talking about the game as there are plenty of other sources on the web that have already covered that.  We did a very fast setup as it was a one-shot with four players, we had only three tags for our area (Phoenix, Arizona) and two background stories per player.  We also started at what I believe is the second highest/most competent level, so our characters were capable of kicking serious butt.  We had a great time, and if opportunity presents, I’m sure we’ll see these characters again.  I do not own this game at this time as my RPG opportunities are kind of limited right now.

The Laundry is based on a series of novels by Charles Stross.  His books are a combination of Lovecraft and Cthulhu plus the British civil service plus James Bond.  In this game you play a civil servant whose job is to prevent Eldritch horrors from eating the Earth, but be sure to keep all receipts and account for all paperclips, for you do not want a visit from The Auditors.  The game is based on Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu RPG.  I’ve only played it once, but the starting characters felt a lot more competent than a starting CoC character.  We didn’t get to do a lot with this game, the GM was running us through an introductory scenario with a large group, I think there were eight of us, and at least one of us was a true minion of chaos who was effectively trying to cast disbelief on everything.  But I still had a good time and look forward to getting some more mileage out of it.  I don’t own the book yet, but I’ve seen it and I liked what I saw and will probably be ordering it in the not distant future.  After all, is it possible to have too many RPG books that you’ve never played?  The Laundry RPG is available by PDF on DriveThru RPG and the hardback can be bought from Indie Press Revolution.

I’m not a big fan of horror, but I love The Laundry books.  I’ve read the first two, The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue, and heartily recommend them.  They don’t have bone-chilling terror in them, in my opinion, but they’re good thrillers.  They mix Lovecraft with lots of information technology geekitude, plus the addition of the soul-sucking horrors of the British civil service, and I really liked them.  I have the third book, The Fuller Memorandum, waiting for me to finish one of his short story collections, Wireless, so I’ll get to it in a couple of days.  His fourth book is due around the middle of 2012.

I ran two games at WayneCon, Lady Blackbird: Adventures in the Wild Blue Yonder, written by John Harper and released by One Seven Design Studio and Fortune’s Fool written by Jay Stratton and published by Pantheon Press.  Lady Blackbird is a self-contained game and scenario with six characters provided and a story to start them in.  Lady Blackbird is a steampunk-ish game where The Lady is a noble fleeing an arranged marriage with her bodyguard, trying to find her true love, The Pirate King.  They’re traveling incognito on a small trading vessel, The Owl, which is captured by an Imperial Cruiser.  Now they have to escape and try to find the pirates.

This is a very easy game to play.  Each character sheet has a third of a page dedicated to the rules.  That’s it.  A third of a page of rules.  The GM section is one page long and basically describes how to make life a little more difficultinteresting for the players.  And the game is free.  It’s a sixteen page PDF download from the link above.

The rules are quite simple.  Everything is based on multiple d6 rolls, a 4-6 on a die is one success, a 1-3 is a failure.  A ‘skill roll’ might require 3-6 successes depending on the difficulty of the task.  You start with one die, then you describe how each trait or tag can help and you add a die for each.

In a nutshell, that’s the game.  The GM starts them in a scene such as they’re in a holding cell waiting for a report to come back on their seized ship and the captain, which will not be good (think a steampunk Han Solo) and they must break out and escape the ship and rescue The Owl and….  When I ran it, I had the starting scene and the first complication (cutting loose The Owl, forcing the group to steal a ship), and that was pretty much everything that I had planned.  It was a lot of fun, and Richard, who ran Dresden the following night, really liked it as the method for using keys and traits transferred conceptually fairly well to Dresden.  He also played the Captain of the Owl.

Hey – it’s free.  It’s definitely worth the price of admission.

There is also a Lady Blackbird Companion available that provides a lot more keys and traits, making it a lot easier to create fresh characters for the game.

Fortune’s Fool is a fantasy RPG set in renaissance Europe, featuring humans, dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins, and halflings.  It is a unique game system in that it is diceless: it uses a Tarot deck as a randomizer/resolution mechanic.  Character design takes a bit of time because of the number of steps, but you have absolute control over race, age, gender, birth order, where you’re from, etc.  Each contributes different and important aspects to your character.  For example, a human, aside from starting characteristic values, gets Fortune Smiles: Cups, Pentacles, Wands, and Fortune Frowns: Swords, also gets Skills: Choose 1 of {Construction, Language, Sailing}  and Religion: Any.  Each subsequent decision, such as choosing to by Tiny, gives you the following: Agility +2, Body -1, -1, plus Fortune Shines: Star (XVII), and Skills: Choose 1 of {Acrobatics, Escape Artist, Sleight of Hand}.  Fortune Smiles is sort of your broad strokes of luck.  Humans are normally very lucky with three of the four suites being good for them.  If a suite is Fortune Weeps, that’s normally not good.  Fortune Shines are Major Arcana that you accumulate during your creation process, if it’s not Shines it’s Frowns.  The creation process requires a worksheet, well, it isn’t actually required, but it does greatly simplify creation.  At the end of the character creation process, you choose your skills.  so using the Tiny Human as above, I could choose Escape Artist and start working towards the concept of a sneak thief/infiltration expert.  I can take a skill multiple times to get better at it, but I think in starting characters that skill breadth is better than depth.

One thing to be careful about in this game is that it is the renaissance: you might be a polyglot and speak four different languages, but if you don’t buy Literacy, you ain’t reading and writing.  Fortunately you only have to buy literacy once.

In brief, to play the game, you make occasional Fate Tests.  To do this, draw a card.  If it’s a Fortune Smiles, you pass.  Fate Tests have no difficulty involved.  A normal draw would have a difficulty value assigned with it based on an attribute or skill.  Draw a card, and if it is equal to or less than your score or you draw a Major Arcanum that is a Fortune Shines, you’ve succeeded.  Combat is interesting: since the GM does not draw cards, the players draw attacks to hit, and when attacked, draw dodges to defend.  Obviously that’s just the basics, things get really interesting when certain cards are drawn, such as Death or the Fool.

The game that I ran was set in Venice, the players were invited to the home of Jacopo Allegheri, a descendant of Dante Allegheri, the author of the Divine Comedy, also known as Dante’s Inferno.  They were retained to recover a copy of said book, a first folio, that had been stolen from Jacopo’s estate in Florence and it was to go up for auction the next day in Venice.  Jacopo did not want to attend the auction because he feared the thieves were also out to kill him, so he wanted the player characters to get it for him.  Unfortunately when they got to the auction house the next day, they found that a private arrangement had been made and the book had already changed ownership.  The new owner was Garibaldi, the commander of a Papal military unit, and he absolutely would not return the book to Jacopo.  And then things went very bad.

It was a lot of fun.  It’s a very different way of running things, and it’s pretty cool to have the classic fantasy races set in renaissance Europe.  I’m not a fan of the traditional D&D RPG, fantasy just doesn’t float my boat, but I really like Fortune’s Fool and look forward to running it more in the future.  I own the PDF of the game and will be ordering the hard copy next week, both of which are available through the Pantheon Press web site and I’m sure that your Friendly Local Game Store would be glad to order it for you.

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