IntrigueCon is Coming!


bannerIf you’re a role-player here in Edmonton, you really need to get on-board with IntrigueCon, running October 16-18. For those that have attended in years past, you’ll notice they’ve expanded to a third full day, running all day Sunday as well. With weekend passes at just $20 if you pre-register, that works out to less than a dollar an hour for a weekend’s worth of role-playing entertainment. You just can’t beat that price, and you’ll be supporting a great local gaming con.

The best thing about gaming cons is the chance to step outside your normal gaming patterns, and try a game you’ve never played before. IntrigueCon is perfect for that; a quick glance at the schedule and I can see games like Mouseguard, Fiasco, Edge of Darkness, Hong Kong Action Theatre!, Deadlands Reloaded, Werewolf: The ForsakenPashkovskaya Nocturne, and Star Trek, as well as fantasy standards Pathfinder RPG and D&D 5th Ed. There’s plenty of gaming goodness running all weekend, so you owe it to yourself to grab a seat at a new game.

Need more reasons? If you’ve been looking for a gaming group to join, cons are a great way to meet new gamers and make those connections. Whether you’re a player looking for a table, or a GM looking for players, cons are a way to meet new gaming nerds. And I’ve said it before in other places, but local cons are very much a “use it or lose it” resource. If they aren’t supported they go away, and it becomes harder to get another one started; folks see how the previous one failed and are less likely to get behind the next venture. In short, local cons can’t be taken for granted, and even if you can only make it out for a day you should try and support the cons as best you can.

Support comes in many forms of course. Cons always need volunteers, whether as a GM or general help around the event.  If you’ve been looking for a chance to try GMing at a con (and you should, it’s awesome), IntrigueCon is a great way to get your feet wet. And if you aren’t ready for that quite yet, cons always need help taking tickets, cleaning up, setting up tables, organizing…lots to do, and many hands make light work.

I’m running some Kobolds Ate My Baby! on Friday night, and then some Pathfinder Society games all day Saturday. If you want to get involved in either (or anything else), head over to IntrigueCon’s site and pre-register, then sign up for your games. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Ten Maguffins for your Games


cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgMaguffin is a term for a motivating element in a story used solely to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose. It won’t pop up again later, it won’t provide resolution. Really, it won’t do anything except possibly distract you while you try to figure out its significance. The classic example is, of course, the Maltese Falcon from the movie of the same name. We never learn much about the object; in fact, the characters never even see it until near the end of the movie. But without it that story wouldn’t have happened.

Maguffins have a place at the gaming table, and can serve to keep your players pleasantly (at least for you) occupied or distracted. You don’t have to get too heavy-handed when introducing a maguffin into your game. In fact, the more you let the players tell you what they want from it, the better. Maguffins work best when they feed off of the wants and desires of the players and their characters.

That said, here’s a list of potential maguffins. I’ve tried to keep them general enough to fit most campaigns, and they’re (with one exception) system neutral. Feel free to use them as you wish, and change details to suit your own campaign.

  1. A matched pair of knucklebones, carved for use as dice. Instead of numbers, each die has six different and unintelligible symbols, one to a side. When rolled, the dice emit a faint hum and a flash of light. No other effect is apparent.
  2. Small clear-quartz statue of an imp. Starting at dawn, the statue slowly becomes both warmer to the touch, and more red. At dusk the statue is almost too hot to touch, as well as a deep ruby red. As the night passes, the effect reverses, leaving the statue clear and cool by dawn.
  3. A battered silver cup with the name “Fleance” expertly etched on the side. Found alongside other treasure, it obviously occupied pride of place (on a pillow on a pedestal, for instance). If checked, it does radiate a very faint magical aura, not much stronger than the weakest of spells.
  4. A small pink object, about the size of a matchbox, with a USB port on one side. If plugged in to a computer or other electronic device, the object gets slightly warmer. Whatever device it is plugged into immediately turns off. When turned back on, it’s found the device works better and/or more efficiently than it did before.
  5. A regular looking Zippo lighter. When used, the flame colour is occasionally blue, red, green, purple, or a combination of one or more of those colours. And though this isn’t immediately apparent, the lighter never needs refilling or new flint.
  6. A pretty talking doll, complete with frilly dress and pull string. The GM is free to make up phrases for it to say, but at least one should be, “Hello, [insert character name], will you play with me?”
  7. A large jar of pickled flumphs. If a character chooses to ingest one, the GM is free to determine what effect, if any, this will have. Beyond a bad tummy ache, of course.
  8. A small brass hand bell. When rung, it never emits the same tone twice in a row, sounding anywhere between “tinny and tinkly” up to “booming cathedral”.
  9. A plain key with no markings. Though not immediately noticeable, the key changes shape and design every day, though it is always without visible writing. The GM can decide what the chances of it fitting a particular door on a particular day might be, but it should be extremely unlikely.
  10. By all appearances, a plain white chicken egg. It is slightly warm to the touch as if freshly laid. It is also, by any means the players can devise, unbreakable.

Have maguffins of your own? Share them in the comments below.

Kickstarter News


I have recently dabbled in the realms of Kickstarter, and so far have yet to be disappointed. One of the things I’m currently backing, and really excited about, is the Into the Ninth World by Monte Cook Games. I’m backing at the Lover of All Books level, which means that I’m getting the following for my pledge:


I’m not imagining things, right? That’s a lot. If you’re a fan of Numenera, you should jump on-board this train before it leaves the station. If you’ve thought about checking the game out, there are a number of add-ons (like the Numenera sourcebook) to make this a logical jumping-on point.

Me? I’m going to wait for the Kickstarter to end and see how long “giddy with anticipation” will carry me.

Getting Back in the GM’s Chair


cropped-chibi-brent.jpgTonight my Thursday Knights convene after our annual summer hiatus. We’re diving back in to the Jade Regent Adventure Path, just a smidge of the way into the first book. It can be tough coming back to your regular game after some time away, so I thought I’d share three tips to make the transition from unsightly mob of civilians to crack team of tabletop pros easier.

1) Manage Your Expectations – The first session back, you aren’t going to get as much of the story done as you would during a regular session. Hopefully you’re friends as well as gamers, so there will be more than the usual bit of socializing and catching up, since you’ve all been apart for so long. Go with the flow on this. Gaming is a social event, after all, and you want your group to enjoy their time together. Don’t ruin the fun by cracking down too hard on first-session kibitzing. But…

2) Start as You Mean to Go On – …do start getting the group back in the table habits and house rules you’ve used. After a break some of those habits will have been lost, so be gentle. But if you had specific ways of doing things (working out initiative, how each player’s round works, and so on) or house rules you were following, make sure you draw your player’s attention back to those things. And of course, if you had habits or house rules that weren’t working for you, now is the perfect time to let them fall by the wayside.

3) Hang That Sucker! – If it is at all possible, end the session on a cliffhanger. Your first session back after a break, you want to get your players excited about coming back for session two. And three, and four…you get the idea. So I trick I’ve used is to end the first session on a cliffhanger. It’s great if that can be a big story moment for the players, because that will really grab their attention. But I have, when a good story point wasn’t in sight, just stopped the game with, “Okay [insert character name], the [insert suitably horrific creature] swings at you with its [flaming tentacle/acid-spewing greatclub/halfling corpse]…and that’s where we’ll end it for tonight.” At the very least, you have one player extremely interested in what’s happening next week.

What tips do you have for getting the band back together? Share them in the comments below!

#RPGaday Wrap-up


cropped-chibi-brent.jpgThe weekend sort of got away from me, what with an event I was running going off very successfully and a few other things. But it meant not having a moment to finish up the last four days of RPGaDay, so let’s take care of that now, shall we?

Day 28: Favourite Game You No Longer Play

I really enjoyed Vampire: The Masquerade back in the day. I played in a campaign for about a year and had a great time. The mechanics of that first edition really supported role-playing, and the World of Darkness was an excellent, dark lens on our own world. Sadly, though I read all the other WoD books, I never got to play in that world beyond Vampire. Years later I did try out Scion, which used the same basic mechanic as all White Wolf games. I’d love to go back and try the 1st Edition Vampire, but I’m not as invested in the world of the current version.

Day 29: Favourite RPG Website/Blog

I really enjoy a YouTube series called The DM’s Craft, which is a great look at building unique and functional scenery for your gaming table. I don’t do enough of it for my home game, but I’m trying to get in the habit of building pieces bit by bit. Along with the video series, he also has a website and forums, filled with a great community sharing tips and tricks for building scenery, GMing, and general gaming goodness. I’m on there weekly at least and I always find something to catch my eye. Give them a look!

Day 30: Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity

Broadening the scope a little, because my favourite is actually a cast and not a person. I have fallen in love with the cast of Critical Role, and they are my new favourite gaming show to watch. If you aren’t familiar with the show, it runs on Geek & Sundry’s Twitch stream and follows the tabletop adventures of DM Matt Mercer and players Liam O’Brien, Ashley Johnson, Sam Riegel, Marisha Ray, Travis Willingham, Orion Acaba, Laura Bailey, and Taliesin Jaffe. Everyone involved is a voice actor and/or actor, which makes the episodes highly entertaining. What I love most about the show, however, is it’s like getting to sit in the room and watch your nerdy best friends play D&D. There is such a love of the game and each other, it makes me want to be a better GM for my players. I catch the live-stream if I can, and watch the episodes on G&S later if I have to miss it. They just uploaded episode 22 (so I know what I’m doing tonight), but trust me, you want to go back to episode 1 and watch/listen from the beginning.

Day 31: Favourite non-RPG Thing to come out of RPGing

I wrote about this in a post years ago, but one of my favourite things about the RPG hobby is everything I have studied or learned because of it. There are a whole range of topics I might never have read about or studied if it weren’t for RPGs: world mythology, archeology, non-Western/North American history, and philosophy, just to name a few. Because of running and taking part in organized play I’ve learned organizational skills, diplomacy, and interpersonal skills. Just from playing the games I’ve honed skills like problem solving and maths. Heck, RPGs have even allowed me to develop things like empathy, which I think is one of the greatest benefits the hobby can give to anyone. And while it may not be popular, I don’t think it’s playing one game or another that makes you a gamer, I think it’s developing that empathy, wherever you might be in that development, that makes a gamer.

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That’s it, that’s all for RPGaDay! I’ve had fun, and I hope you have as well. We will now return to a more manageable 3 posts a week schedule, so look for those updates soon.

#RPGaDay, Day 27: Favourite Idea for Merging Two Games


cropped-chibi-brent.jpgI haven’t actually merged two games together before. I’ve played in campaigns where there was a parallel group, and the GM eventually brought us together for the big conclusion. That was a lot of fun and was handled really well by the GM, and made the lead-up to the final battle particularly epic.

An idea I’ve had for a while, though, is using two different game systems to build a campaign. I’m fairly certain others have had the idea, but I want to build the campaign setting using the Microscope game and then decide the game system to used based on the setting we create. For those not familiar with the game, Microscope is a storytelling game in which the players build the history and tell the stories of their world. They set certain parameters at the start (yes magic, no unicorns, and so on) and a time span (Formation of Star League to the Heat Death of the Universe). Then they begin adding in the pieces of that world’s history.

Ideally we’d go through a session of Microscope, build our world, and then decide what system might be the best fit. Then I’d take what we’d created for the world, flesh it out, and add some things the players won’t know about (every campaign needs surprises). What I love about this plan is the level of immersion the players will have in a world they helped create. And it allows us to fit the game system to the campaign, instead of trying to shoehorn a campaign the players like into a game system.

How do you merge two games? Comment below and let’s discuss.

#RPGaDay, Day 26: Favourite Inspiration for Your Game


cropped-chibi-brent.jpgMy favourite inspiration for gaming largely depends on what game I’m running. In general, books and shows/movies inspire campaign ideas across the genres. I also get a lot of inspiration from non-fiction sources; for years I used National Geographic Magazine as a source for adding cultural flavour to my games and characters, for instance.

As a GM who sometimes run modern or Cthulhu-based games, one of my favourite inspirations is The Weekly World News, a tabloid of the “Wolf Boys Live Among Us!” variety. I’ve lost count of the number of story ideas I’ve pulled  from that paper. I’ve even used it as an in-game prop, using it as adventure inspiration, as well as the source of potential clues for that adventure. If you can’t find a copy anywhere (it is online but I prefer the hard copy), Reddit is a great way to get some of the same crazy ideas and stories. Just type in your subject and go down the rabbit hole.

But my favourite inspiration for my games, hands-down, are my players. Directly or indirectly, my players are responsible for more campaign ideas than any other source. It’s not really hard; listen to your players while you game, and take note of key phrase like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” or “I hope that…”. Those are obviously things which excite my players, so I try to fit them in whenever I can. I don’t always give them exactly what they want, but I try to make the thing they’re excited about a key component of the campaign at some point.

What’s your favourite inspiration? Comment below.