My first GenCon: Friday

I had a busy day on Friday. I started with two seminars, followed by an Ashes of Athas game and the live Tome Show recording and finished by a Five Year Mission concert.

The hosts of the morning seminars were: Wolfgang Baur, Christina Stiles, Ben McFarland and other freelancer who I missed his name (Sorry!). The first seminar was RPG Freelancing 101. I have a small desire to do some rpg freelancing. It is one reason I started this blog to improve my writing and determine how productive I can be. They mentioned that two important steps is to be assertive & confident followed by delivering. I need to work on being assertive and confident. They suggest starting small first and then you’ll get larger projects. It makes perfect sense because large project are lots of investment for a publisher to make on a new freelancer. I do not have a problem with being possessive of my ideas as I love to share my ideas. A pitch to a publisher needs to be short, sold and show the exciting parts. If it’s an adventure then speak of the action not the background. If there’s a secret or mystery then you reveal the mystery to the publisher. You need to play the RPGs that you wish to write for. If you get a project then you don’t drastically destroy or change a part of the setting unless instructed to. You should push your boundaries but respect the limits imposed by the publisher like word count and setting limits. A new freelancer has lots of ability to work on what they want but as you raise up in the freelancer pyramid then you get less choice to what you wish to work on but higher profile projects.

The second seminar was Creating and Improving Your Homebrew RPG Setting. They started with two viewpoints: write only what your players will interact with and write everything because it is fun. They talked more about it and I gathered the general idea is to focus on your immediate needs but when you have time, write what you enjoy. They mentioned to have an overall theme to unite your campaign. I found it a useful reminder of my theme “resurgence of old empires”. They said the goals of the players are important. Please note that player goals can be different from the goals of their character. Ex: A player might want a tragic but heroic sacrifice but the character wishes to live. A good GM notices this simple conflict and provides opportunities in the setting.
They talked about mysteries in your setting. You don’t need to reveal everything to your players or even yourself. Always keep a few mysteries in the setting. Something for the players to wonder and attempt to discover. Mysteries entice the players but the reveal might end it. Don’t pull away the full curtain.
The audience asked about publishing and self-publishing the setting. They said self-publishing is a beast best tackled in its own seminar. They advised to test if there is an audience for your setting through various distributions (i.e. blog, podcast, etc.). You pitch small sections of the campaign to your audience or publishers rather than the whole campaign. A publisher will not have time to read a 500 page setting bible from unpublished individual.
Finally, they advised to rip off fictional characters or real life characters for your homebrew setting. Modify the character for your homebrew setting but use the inspiration.

In the afternoon, I had a fun Ashes of Athas game. It was my first Ashes of Athas game and it was fun. The DM, Marcy-Alice, was awesome. She enjoyed the story and the interactions. The combat slowed things down and we had to rush to finish it since we went 30 minutes over the time slot. I had fun play Sala, my halfling druid who enjoys transforming into beasts. I learned he is a protector of all life which put him into conflict with certain members of the party.The half-giants in the group lost their tribe to Urikite soldiers. They blamed the Sorcerer-King Hamanu and all his soldiers. Sala believes those Urikite were just following orders and they shouldn’t be killed just for following orders. When he saw the ant lion attacking the Urikite soldiers, he leaped to rescue them. When the half-giants prevents the other Urikite soldiers to escape, Sala scowled at them. We didn’t focus on killing all enemies. Mary-Alice made the goal of the encounters clear and we focused on that. I love organized play events where the goals are clear. A combat encounter doesn’t need to end with one side being destroyed.

In the evening, I participated in the live recording of the Tome Show Episode 201. The hosts were Jeff Greiner and Tracy Hurley. Their guest was Robin D. Laws, acclaimed game designer. I was in the audience. It was great to hear the advice that Robin provided to add story in the D&D game. I asked him for improvisation tips in D&D 4th edition. He provides useful advise that you should listen when the episode gets published.

Our night event was a concert by the Star Trek inspired band, Five Year Mission. Their goal is to create a song based on every single episode of the original Star Trek. They are four song writers and a drummer. The song writers switched instruments and sung the song they wrote.

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The drummer got to wear a wonderful fake mustache for a song.

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We all know who got the better deal out of this. I felt they should have ended with their song “Shore Leave” but it makes a great play on words but we got a great fight scene between Mike Rittenhouse and a Gorn. I uploaded a video of the epic combat.
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I hope they do international tours and come up north to Ottawa.

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My first GenCon: Thursday

I’m having fun these past few days and getting late to post. I am including my activities on Wednesday evening in this post.

Brenda & I went to Scotty’s Brewhouse for some thematic food. Brenda ate some Castle Walls and I ate Haunch-o-Nightmare. I asked for the mild version but it was way to spicy for my taste buds. They changed it for BBQ sauce which was much better. Scotty’s Brewhouse has great service. Afterwards, I went to the BYOG organize by Phil Ménard and Dave Chalker of Critical Hits. I met some folk and played Marvel Heroic RPG run by Brian A. Liberge of Stuffer Shack. It was my 3rd time playing Marvel Heroic rpg. Since others were playing X-Men, I chose Wolverine. I find it amazing that the game captures the feel of the characters so well. I met with @wastexgames and laughed that we had met at the airport without knowing that we did.

Thursday

I lost track of days and missed the RPGchat meet-up. Brenda & I observed the opening ceremonies with another new GenCon attendee. There are decent amount of folks who have attended GenCon for decades, including one who attended it for 45 years! Yes, he was there at the first GenCon! After the first official die roll, the Exhibitor’s Hall opened up. We entered the area and visited. We bought the official GenCon dice set. I visited the Wizards of the Coast booth to start our dice hunt. There was statues of Drizz’t and Lolth:

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In the board game area, there was a statue of an angel warrior:

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In the hallway, we saw a Lego Robo Rally game with remote control robots. It is very cool to see.

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I went to the GM’s workshop. It was very instructive and gave me some ideas for my games. I bought the Civil War Essentials Event Book for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and the Leverage RPG. I got both signed by the present designer, editor & art director.

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I ended my day with a wonderful Robo Rally game with a beautiful 3D board. Check it out:

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20120817-235210.jpg. I was Zoom Bot. After 3 rounds, my robot finally became real:

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At one point, I had 2 locked registers and in a precarious position.

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I lived and found a hiding spot to power down.

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I was 2nd out of 5 players to reach the first of 3 flags.

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I was 1st to arrive at the 2nd flag.

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The DM designed some elevators for the game.
Flour 1:

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Floor 2:

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Top floor:

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I can see the last flag. It is a tough one to get.
Uh oh. What’s this?

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Crap. I got pushed out of the way.

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Woohoo! I won my place back.

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I finally got a move 3 card but I had the wrong turn card. I couldn’t use any of them.

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I got pushed out of the way and fell. James Rapinac won the game.
This is the final board position and a picture of the proud winner:

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I’m glad that I managed to get up there first. I spent so long up there, waiting for the one card to bring me up. I am glad that I didn’t die the whole game. I enjoyed myself. Congratulations to James!

That was my Thursday. A great first day of GenCon!

My first GenCon: Wednesday

This is my first GenCon and I decided to try to blog my experience. We had an early flight from Ottawa and woke up at 1:30AM. The airport suggested that we get there around 2-3 hours before our flight. We settled on 2.5 hours before. We get there and the airline isn’t ready for us. At least we were first in line. Security went well but slow due to waiting for the workers to start. We met up with a Tom McCambley (@OttawaTom) who is also going to GenCon.

We had a safe flight to Chicago. I met Liz (@d20Blonde), the hostess & founder of #RPGChat. It was nice to meet her. She was on the same flight to Indianapolis. Another safe flight and we arrived in Indianapolis! Yay! GenCon!!! After getting our checked-in bag, we met Liz, Phil Menard (@chattyDM) of Critical-hits.com and Trevor Kidd (@trevor_wotc) the community manager of WotC. It was a nice and short meet. We wanted to get to GenCon to get our badges & book into our hotel.

We took the green line bus. It was easy and dropped us off at the convention center. We stood in line to get our badge. The line went smoothly. It didn’t take us long to get our badges.

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We walked from the convention center to our hotel. The Hampton Inn Downtown is very close. We had a small problem getting into our room. The lock’s battery was dying and our cards didn’t work. The staff were kind and opened our room and sent maintenance to fix the lock. We went to have lunch at Steak ‘n Shake where we saw some Ottawa friends who drove to Indianapolis (they were brave).

After a quick steak burger, we went on a walk around to see some sights. There are some nice sculptures and monuments near theconvention center.

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As I write this, we are going to Scotty’s Brewhouse for some thematic food.

Ood Tau: Part 2

In part one, I described the villainous Ood Tau. In this article, I describe the allies and servants of Ood Tau. There is Hades the robotic servant, Idowu Sams the historian slaver and the Oodlings.

Hades is Ood Tau’s hand across time and space. It is a robotic servant built by Ood Tau in different time periods. As Ood Tau cannot physically interact with the past for long, he constructed a robot to complete his tasks in the past. The Doctor and his companions can meet up with a different version of Hades each time. Ood Tau built Hades in a modular fashion to facilitate adaptation to his plans. Hades is a perfectionist and secretive with no emotional attachments other than to serve Ood Tau. It requires someone with the mechanical knowledge to maintain him which its creator has. Hades does have access to Ood Tau’s plan but there are locks in his memory preventing Hades to access the plan during certain time periods.

Hades
Awareness 3 Coordination 2 Ingenuity 3
Presence 2 Resolve 4 Strength 5
Traits:
Armour – Hades metal plates gives 5 points of protection.
Natural Weapons – Hades is equipped with an assortment of tools that do nasty damage when used in a fight. Those tools gives Hades +2 to Strength when determining damage.
Robot
Technically Adept – Hades knows advanced technical subjects that he can use to repair.
Skills: Athletics 2, Fighting 2, Science 2, Technology 5, Transport 1
Story Points: 4

Idowu Sams is Ood Tau’s researcher. He is a human historian from the from 42nd century. His speciality is the history of slavery. While at university, he sought funding for some live studies of slavery which sparked great controversy. The university refused and fired him as a professor. He wondered about the human empire and joined the Interstellar Slaver Ring (ISR). From the ISR, he learned of Ood Operations and the treatment of the Ood. He headed towards the Ood sphere to study Ood servitude. While on the Ood sphere, Idowu met Ood Tau. He introduced himself as a historian and found Ood Tau was also fascinated with the history of slavery. After a few weeks of work on the Ood Sphere, Ood Tau revealed  his ability to project his mind across time and space. Idowu saw the opportunity to fund his project by manipulating the past of his ancestors to increase his profits. He offered an alliance with Ood Tau to provide research into key historical events in order for Ood Tau to manipulate the past in order to achieve both of their goals. He is currently raising his position within the Interstellar Slaver Ring.

Idowu Sams
Awareness 3 Coordination 2 Ingenuity 4
Presence 3 Resolve 4 Strength 2
Traits:
Indomitable
Argumentative
Skills:Knowledge (History) 4, Science 3, Subterfuge 2, Technology 2, Transport 1
Story Points: 4

Ood Tau created the Oodlings to be his agents within his current time period. The Oodlings are severed hind-brains inserted in a spherical cybernetic body with mechanical tentacle appendages. They use an anti-gravitic propulsion system to manoeuvre in the air like octopus does in the Earth oceans. As the hind-brain is the Ood memory and emotions processor, the Oodlings has strong empathic abilities and can trigger strong emotional memories as an attack. One of Ood Tau’s favourite Oodlings is the one that contains his father’s hind-brain. His father’s Oodling acts as a squad leader for Oodling missions.

Oodlings
Awareness 3 Coordination 4 Ingenuity 3
Presence 1 Resolve 3 Strength 1
Traits:
Addition Limbs – The Oodlings have multiple prehensile tentacles that can be used to grab and manipulate.
Empathic – The Oodlings can sense and project emotional states. They gain a +2 bonus to rolls to discern and manipulate the feelings or motives of someone.
Fear Factor (1) – Gains a +2 actively scare.
Fast (Minor) – The Oodlings are very fast with a speed of 6.
Flight (Major) – Using anti-gravitic propulsion, the Oodlings fly.
Networked (Minor) – The Oodlings report directly to Ood Tau
Small – The Oodlings are small that they can fit in small openings.
Skills: Athletics 3, Fighting 3, Subterfuge 4, Technology 5
Story Points: 1

What do you think of Ood Tau’s servants and allies? How do you work on your villains for your rpg campaigns?

Ood Tau: Part 1

As mentioned in a previous article, I got several nominations for games to run for the 2011-12 school year, six to be exact. They were Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, Dresden Files, Gamma World, Jovian Chronicles, Over the Edge, and Traveller. Before the vote, I decided to create a villain for each of the nominated games. To challenge myself, I rolled on tables from The Complete Book of Villains by Kirk Botula to generate 5 keywords that I used for all 6 games. The keywords are: muggings; psionics; self-aggrandizement;  nurturing; envious. I’m detailing each villain in order to post here.

The Complete Book of Villains develops a villain through 11 aspects which are: occupation; objective; motive; personality; attitudes and behaviours; tastes and preferences; surroundings; history; network; appearance; abilities and alignment. Afterwards, the book talks about supporting characters and any organization the villain may be part of. I will be using that format for the various villains that I will create.

First game is for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Please note that I’ve read the game. I ran a one-shot once using the introduction scenario in the boxed set.  I’m a fan of the series but I’m not well-versed in the lore. If you use this villain in your game, please let me know how he goes. I’m curious as to what worked and what didn’t.

Ood Tau is the second in command of the Friends of the Ood organization and caretaker of the Ood hive-brain on the Oodsphere. He desires to serve the Ood and views the freedom goal that the Friends of the Ood are trying to achieve as barrier to his own goal. He believes that if the Ood achieve independence then they will not need him. Luckily for him, he developed a telepathic ability to send his mind across time and space. He plans to use that ability to change history to support his goal.

Ood Tau developed his goal when his ability first manifested. He was taking care of the Ood have-brain and he accidentally sent his mind to the future. He saw Ood Sigma with the aid of the Doctor freeing the Ood. The Ood praised Ood Sigma and the Doctor which infuriated Ood Tau. He felt that he should be the one taking care of the Ood. In his mind, Ood Sigma and the Doctor interfere with his destiny. He  decided to use his telepathic powers to reduce freedom of the Ood and aliens across time and space.

Ood Tau has a great sense of servitude towards his people. Being a caretaker of the Ood have-brain for most of his life, he believes that the Ood would fall apart without his care. He feels that without his care of his people he is nothing.

Ood Tau is a soft-spoken individual. He appears quiet and submissive but he will not hesitate to talk about the superiority of the Ood as a species. He is envious of the popularity and position that Ood Sigma has in Ood society. He wishes Ood Sigma to be reduced in status and influence but not killed. Additionally, he doesn’t want the destruction of Ood Sigma’s position to be traced to him.

Ood Tau acts subservient towards Ood Sigma and Ood Operations even though he hates them both. Like servants in history, Ood Tau prefers to work in the background. He has his robotic servant, Hades, conduct his work for him, both from a practical means and his fear of being noticed. Ood Tau constructs Hades to have an agent in the past to conduct his handiwork. He sends his mind into the past and possesses a body that takes the tools to build Hades. Even when Hades gets destroyed, he rebuilds him at other times periods. Even though he trusts Hades, Ood Tau knows that the robot is vulnerable and can reveal information about his plans therefore he gives Hades only the information required to fulfil his current mission.

Other than maintaining the hive-brain, Ood Tau also serves Ood Operations by severing the hind brain of his fellow Ood. He learned that Ood Operations does not care how those hind brains are disposed of and thus Ood Tau preserves them. He has found several uses for those hind brains. Ood Tau goes to the chamber with the preserved hind brains in order to feel them as it relaxes him. He’s built some small mechanical devices which can be operated by a hind brain. He calls them oodlings and they assist his plans in the present time. When a hind brain gets too old, he saves them from death by consuming the brain. He believes the act of consuming the hind brain will bring him closer to his people and preserve their knowledge.

Ood Tau wears the standard grey uniform that Ood Operations assigned to him. You can differentiate him from the Tau symbol (Τ) on his right lapel. When he possesses someone in another time and space, the victim will have red eyes and walk stiffly.

Ood Tau lives on the Ood Sphere, an ice-covered planet in the Horsehead Nebula. It is near the Sense Sphere, the homeworld of the Sensorites. The Ood Sphere is under the influence of the Human Empire and maintained by the company, Ood Operations. He lives there to take care of the hive-brain and because it is world of his people. He spends most of his mornings maintaining the hive-brain, also known as the third brain. The Ood Sphere’s natural resource is a race of people willing to serve. Being an ice planet, the Ood Sphere lacks certain foods that it needs to import. The population in the area are all slaves connected through their empathic field. The base on the Ood sphere is protected by security agents of the Ood Operations. The secret areas that Ood Tau occupies is protected by traps and patrolling oodlings.

Born into servitude on the Ood Sphere, Ood Tau learned to serve his people and to nurture them. Raised by Ood Operations, Ood Tau took care of the hive-brain of the Ood. Being so close to the hive-brain, Ood Tau achieved a greater connection to his fellow Ood. His telepathic abilities increased to the point where he could project in mind across time and space. He saw a future where the Ood are slaves under the control of humans. He saw the Ood serving others but needing a caretaker for themselves. He saw Ood Sigma freeing the Ood and getting honoured by his fellows. Ood Tau desired that honour, wishing to save and take care of the Ood himself since he believed that only he can take care of them.  That is where he formulated his plan to establish a history where the Ood are still servants and they require his care.

He never met his parents and never grew attached to them. He discovered the identity of his parents when saving the hind-brain of fellow Ood. He ate his mother’s hind-brain and transformed his father’s hind-brain into an oodling. Both parents are still alive serving humans through Ood Operations. He has siblings all over as Ood Operations designated his parents as good breeding stock but Ood Tau does not follow their lives. During his youth, Ood Tau’s only friend was his mentor who taught him the care taking techniques of the hive brain. Ood Tau enjoyed his mentor’s presence as they spent time walking and discussing historical events in Ood history. While on one of their walks, Ood Tau got a distress signal from the hive mind. He rushed to its side and discovered that it had an illness. His mentor told Tau that there is nothing to worry about but Ood Tau felt that if they weren’t on their walk, the hive brain would be healthy. As the mentor tried to cure the illness, it merely got worse. Ood Tau blamed his mentor and killed him to save the hive mind. He was greatly disappointed over the death of his mentor as he felt it was the loss of Ood assistance. Since then, Ood Tau never trusted anyone to become a friend. Shortly afterwards, Ood Tau met with a human named Idowu Sams. Idowu is a historian deeply instead in slavery. Ood Tau saw the use that Idowu could provide. He learned how slavery and servitude worked and the advantages they provide. He learned that Idowu needs funds for his research and experiments on slavery. Idowu Sams and Ood Tau negotiated a deal where Idowu would provide him key dates in Ood history and Tau would provide the funds. Both worked on the plan for decades. Ood Tau learned robotics to build a servant in the past. His greatest achievement is the creation of Hades, a robotic servant built around perfect Ood servitude traits. Ood Tau is now 145 years old.

Ood Tau has many contacts with slavers across time and space. He is a member of the Interstellar Slaver Ring (ISR). Idowu Sams is his main liaison in the ISR. Idowu is very influential member of the ISR with a large and growing portfolio of buyers. One of his servants is Hades, a robotic construct that Ood Tau is building in various stages across time. Ood Tau also uses oodlings which are the hind brain in a mechanical construct. A daily servant of Ood Tau is the hive-brain who manipulates other Ood. His personal enemies include Ood Sigma, the Friends of the Ood and the Doctor. He asked Idowu Sams to provide a list of historical crisis. He uses those crisis to distract the Doctor from his main plan.

Abilities:

Odd Tau
Awareness 4 Coordination 2 Ingenuity 4
Presence 2 Resolve 4 Strength 4

Traits:
Alien
Alien Appearance
Enslaved – Ood have long been servile: even when free they are driven to serve
Gadget (Translator Orb) – Ood that have been enslaved by Ood Operations have a Translator Orb instead of their second brain. This instantly translates all alien languages
Natural Weapon (Translator Orb) – Although not designed as a weapon, the orb can deliver a deadly shock. As a close combat weapon, the orb delivers Strength +2 damage every Round that the orb is in contact with the target. The shock also stuns the victim, making them unable to react or act without spending a Story Point.
Psychic
Telepathy
Vortex – Ood Tau can travel across time and space without a ship or device. He doesn’t appear physically and if he wishes to physically interact with that time, he needs to possess someone.
Weakness (Major) – The Ood are very susceptible to mental control. Though they are psychic and telepathic, they have little resistance to possession or control. Any rolls to resist suffer a -4 penalty. This Weakness is lost if the hive-brain is in contact with the Ood.
Skills: Athletics 1, Convince 2, Craft (Singing) 3, Fighting 1, Knowledge (History) 1, Medicine 3, Survival (Arctic) 2, Technology 3, Transport 1
Story Points: 6

In my next article, I will talk about Hades, Idowu Sams and the oodlings. What do you think of Ood Tau? What information do you need?