Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Sirenswail" Review

Sirenswail is an OSR adventure intended primarily for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess, although it is not officially part of the LotFP product line. It was written by Dave Mitchell, and you can buy it at Lulu. Full disclosure: I'm in the credits for this book because I read an early draft of the adventure and gave Dave some feedback, so I admit that I was predisposed to liking this one before I read the final version. That said, I really do think it's a great little book, and it's well worth picking up.

Sirenswail is a softcover book of 66 or so pages. It's got a classy, somewhat abstract cover by David Paul Hellings which (perhaps not coincidentally?) reminds me of the Mana Cross from Siren. Mr. Hellings also did the map and monster illustrations in the book, which may look a bit amateurish but are appealing to me all the same in their slightly cartoonish and yet somehow woodcut-like style. The map is pretty clear to read and includes a handy hex grid. The rest of the art consists of old public domain material as far as I can tell, but it fits the setting and tone of the book just fine. Sirenswail is "An adventure intended for 5-8 characters of levels 1-3." The book contains "Adult Material," in case you're wondering. A note in the back suggests that this can be used as the first part in a series of upcoming adventures by Dave Mitchell, but it definitely works on its own merits. I see no reason that Sirenswail couldn't work as a one-shot or as something to slot into a larger "non-Mitchell" campaign, and the book seems to be primarily intended for such purposes. I see no signs of any invasive meta-plot.

Sirenswail is what I would call an investigative adventure. The closest thing to a dungeon consists of three rooms, but the real meat of this thing lies in NPC interactions and poking at various mysteries. This is certainly not a bad thing, as evidenced by LotFP adventures like "A Stranger Storm" (from the free Referee Book), "In Heaven, Everything is Fine" (from Forgive Us), and England Upturn'd. Sirenswail offers a lot of interesting NPCs who may either help or hinder the adventurers (and each other) depending on the party's actions. The NPC write-ups are efficient, providing useful motives and traits without taking up a lot of time or space. Many of them could just as easily wind up as friends or foes to the party. Considering that Sirenswail is openly based on the 1973 movie The Wicker Man, the "peaceful" island community is not what it seems, of course. I don't want to spoil too much, but the characters are a big strength of this book.

The book begins with a brief history of the setting - England, 1644. There is more historical information a few pages later, which specifically details the town of Penzance on the coast. This information could have probably been condensed into one or two fewer pages, but it's not a big deal because the book is already a quick read. Most of this isn't strictly necessary, but it's helpful for flavor and for answering a few general questions that might pop up about the setting during play if neither the DM nor the players know much about this time and place, as is the case for me. Between England Upturn'd and Sirenswail, I feel like I should have enough information to start a good campaign in Early Modern England without needing to bury myself in textbooks first. Sirenswail could probably plug into England Upturn'd pretty nicely as a sort of side-quest, now that I think about it, although I'd have to double-check both books to be sure.

The adventure itself is split into three segments, and these can actually be used independently of each other. First, there's Penzance, which depending on the wishes of the DM could serve as either just a jumping-off point for the adventure, a hub from which the party could pursue multiple adventures, or a location for a short urban adventure in its own right. There's a tavern and a weapon shop with unique and detailed price lists, as well as some really good random encounters and rumors. The DM would have to do a little extra work to make the party's time in Penzance an adventure all by itself, but the book provides good inspiration and decent guidance.

The second segment is the voyage from Penzance to the titular island. The book basically says you can either gloss over this journey or make it a bit more eventful. There's a table of random encounters (or perhaps adventure hooks) provided in case the DM would prefer the latter. Again, these ideas might need some slight fleshing-out, but you could use the table, the ship, or the NPCs in other nautical adventures if you don't want to run the rest of the book.

The last segment takes place on Sirenswail, or as the residents call it, The Island. This is the main part of the adventure and includes the bulk of the detail. Again, there is a new and detailed price list for The Island's inn, which is nice. Interestingly, The Island's head honcho insists on giving the party a brief tour when they arrive, which is a good way to present both the geography of the place and several plot hooks to the players. There's a pretty strange set of random encounters that could happen if the adventurers explore at night, which are quite creative and should keep the players on their toes. The adventurers will probably spend most of their time on The Island interacting with the odd residents or examining The Island's landmarks, however. This is definitely a slow burn kind of deal, unless the players decide to try and indiscriminately slaughter everybody, which I'm guessing wouldn't go well for first-level characters. If you want something other than the usual smash-and-grab D&D adventure, this should hit the spot. If you want a slugfest, you should probably look elsewhere, although Sirenswail does have the potential for a few fun and memorable combat encounters. Overall, Sirenswail uses a subtle kind of horror, with good buildup and creepy secrets to stumble upon.

There are a few more odds and ends I should mention. Dave Mitchell's writing style is clear and straightforward, which is good for something that needs to be referenced at the game table, but there's definitely some personality that comes through as well, which is nice. The hit dice for all of the NPCs/monsters are listed as the type of dice used as well as the number of dice (3d8, for example). Maybe this could be helpful if you're using the LotFP Playtest Document, in which hit dice are not directly related to character class. Still, the hit dice almost all seem to be consistent with the current LotFP Rules & Magic book as well. Not a huge detail, but I thought it was interesting and possibly useful. Also, I should mention that this adventure includes the possibility of a huge treasure haul for a group of low-level characters, but considering the difficulty they would most likely face in actually getting it off The Island, I'm not personally worried about it. Still the DM may want to either decrease the value of the main treasure cache or simply be strict about how much treasure the party can carry if this seems like it would be a problem. Honestly, I think it might be a really good idea to put most of the treasure in one gigantic pile and make most of the remaining treasure kind of piddling in this kind of adventure: It should keep the party invested in finding "one big score" before trying to escape, and I bet it would really bring out the problem-solving skills in your players once they find what they're looking for!

Finally, I do have a few criticisms I should mention in the interest of fairness. First, there's a section of the book between the historical overview and the Penzance section which serves to introduce the DM to the premise of the adventure. Unfortunately, it also includes some information that should have probably been moved to other sections of the book in order to reduce page-flipping back and forth at the table. At least this section could have included page numbers for the later sections this information references, and vice versa. Second, there's a slight inconsistency regarding a reward offered to the party for a certain action on page 9; is it 500sp or 1,000sp? Third, the adventure includes some boxed text in the form of sample dialogue for NPCs. I don't actually mind this, since the dialogue is presented as example material that the DM should feel free to change, but some readers might see this as a weakness of the writing, since boxed text seems to be frowned upon by many OSR fans. Fourth, one of the "monsters" can cause a small XP penalty to the person who kills it, which is something of which I'm not too fond. However, it would be easy for the DM to just make the monster worth zero XP instead. Finally, the adventure doesn't have any magic items for the party to find (unless you count a few traps), which is a little disappointing considering the tendency for magic items to be extremely weird, screwed up, and interesting in LotFP. Still, these are minor problems that don't come close to ruining the adventure.

I definitely think Sirenswail is a great addition to my collection, and a strong first adventure for Dave Mitchell. The price is certainly right: I think it cost me about $13 after shipping and handling. If you like the idea of The Wicker Man as an adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, this should do nicely. I think it also works well as a source of ideas for other adventures in Seventeenth Century England, if that's more your thing.

Sirenswail gets a dead French monkey spy hung by nautical pagans out of 10.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

LotFP Skill List Tentative Changes

UPDATE: Please see THIS POST for more up-to-date house rules.

This is a continuation of my tentative house rules for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

The list of skills is subject to change before the campaign begins, and possibly even during the campaign if the players agree, but this is what I'm leaning toward right now:

  • Architecture (I would definitely be more liberal with what you can accomplish with this skill than what seems to be included in the original rules, so hopefully this one wouldn't be a wasted skill.)
  • Bushcraft
  • Climb (I might change this to Atheletics, as per Papers & Pencils.)
  • Languages
  • Medicine
  • Seamanship
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Sneak Attack
  • Stealth
  • Tinker
Here is my reasoning behind the skills I am leaving out:

  • Leadership - I think I'd rather have this kind of skill rely entirely on Charisma and the actually words and choices of the players. I could probably be convinced to include it, but I'm hesitant to risk decreasing the importance of Charisma and making it live up to the (usually inaccurate) "dump stat"stereotype.
  • Luck - I could probably be persuaded to include this one if my players really want it, but for the time being I'm leaving it off the list. It doesn't really seem like a "skill" you can deliberately improve so much as a special ability, possibly supernatural in origin, that one acquires by luck (heh). Like Sneak Attack, and to a lesser extent Languages, it doesn't obey the rules that the majority of skills follow, but unlike Sneak Attack and Languages it was only introduced in the Playtest Document (and it doesn't seem to have an equivalent among Basic D&D Thief abilities, making it unnecessary for players wanting to play a Thief-type character), so I don't feel so bad about leaving it out. Also, I'm a bit concerned that the general-purpose nature of Luck might make it more desirable than most other skills by a great enough degree that few points would even go into other skills for the majority of characters I see, and while that's not necessarily a problem (or necessarily even true - again, I'm open to suggestions here), I do find that kind of boring.
  • Open Doors - This skill has been entirely replaced by Strength Checks in my house rules. Besides, if I'm not mistaken, you couldn't put skill points into this skill in the original rules anyway, and could only increase it by increasing your strength (or maybe using Bless or something), and that kind of sucks.
  • Search - Over at the blog Papers & Pencils, LS gave some good reasons for removing the Search skill, and I've seen other good arguments on other old-school blogs, but I don't remember the specifics right now. The way I personally see it, if the players are clever or lucky or diligent enough to try and search an area in a way that seems like it should logically turn up something that I (as the DM) know is there, they should probably just automatically succeed. This goes back to the Rule of Reasonableness I mentioned in my last post. If for some reason I really want to introduce a change of failure to a search (like if the players are trying to detect a very stealthy NPC and the surprise rules don't seem to be enough to cover the situation), I would probably just have the searchers roll either an Intelligence Check or a Wisdom Check, whichever is higher. Also, Search just seems like a boring skill for someone to have to put points into for the good of the party even though there are more interesting things to pick instead.
It is unlikely for characters to reach a high enough level in a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign for a Specialist to run out of skills in which to invest points (Level 22, if you use my house rules and my math is correct). Still, I'd like to have a contingency plan in case this happens. The obvious solution would be to add more skills, which is what I've done in my Lamentations of the Fallen Lords campaign.

Here's another possible solution. I don't know if it's a good one, but I thought of it while lying in bed and it seemed kind of neat. Once a Specialist has increased every single skill to the maximum number of points, the Specialist can start using any additional skill points in new ways:

  • For the cost of 1 skill point, the Specialist may gain a Luck Point. This can be saved and used at any future time. By spending a Luck Point, a Specialist may re-roll any one die roll they make, as with the Luck skill in the Playtest Document. A Luck Point is basically a one-use item, rather than a resource that can be regained through rest up to a maximum number, like HP or Spells per Day.
  • For the cost of 1 skill point, the Specialist may increase one ability score by 1 point.
  • For the cost of 2 skill points, the Specialist may move one language from their "Not Known" list to their "Known" list.
A third option would be to just have any skills points gained beyond the maximum go to waste, but this doesn't strike me as particularly fun.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Tentative House Rules for My Online LotFP Game

UPDATE: Please see THIS POST for more up-to-date house rules.

Since I'm hoping to start an online campaign of Lamentations of the Flame Princess with some friends in the near future, I figure I might as well explain some house rules I'm considering for use in said campaign. None of this is set in stone, of course, but this is all stuff I've been pondering for a while, and which I'd like to try out. I also can't promise these are good house rules, but one of my goals is to playtest them, so I guess that comes with the territory. I should also note that most of these are lifted from the LotFP Playtest Document, either as-is or in modified form. I may not explicitly mention this in all cases, so please keep in mind that credit for a lot of this material should go to James Raggi.

The Rule of Reasonableness (Paraphrased from the Playtest Document) - If the chance of failure wouldn't be interesting, or if it seems reasonable that something should just work, let the PCs automatically succeed at what they're doing.

The Rule of One (Paraphrased from the Playtest Document) - If the DM just really wants an excuse to screw with the players, they can roll a d6. On a 1, the DM has permission to add a problem or complication to the current situation.

Character Classes - Options are the Specialist, the Magic-User, the Cleric, maybe the Alice (from A Red & Pleasant Land), and possibly other classes upon request (since there are so many great homebrew classes on blogs and in zines and such).
But what about the Fighter, you may ask? All PCs, of all classes, start with the Fighter's combat options and with a Base Attack Bonus of +2, and gain +1 BAB per level after that (maxing out at +10). Unless you stay at home like a good little peasant or wimpy noble, you have to be a killer to survive in this world. Especially if your career revolves around killing folks/monsters and taking their stuff. (You can probably glean some of my justifications for trying this idea in some previous posts, but I'm willing to explain, discuss, and debate the matter in the comments or on the Facebook group or one of the Google+ groups if anyone is interested. At any rate, it's just a fun experiment, and if it breaks the game I can just deal with it.)

XP per Level - All PCs need the same amount of experience points to reach each level:
  1. 0
  2. 2,500
  3. 5,000
  4. 10,000
  5. 20,000
  6. 40,000
  7. 80,000
  8. 160,000
  9. 320,000
  10. 480,000
  11. 640,000
  12. 800,000
  13. 960,000
  14. 1,120,000
  15. 1,280,000
  16. 1,440,000
  17. 1,600,000
  18. 1,760,000
  19. 1,920,000
  20. +160,000 per level after Level 19.
Ability Scores
CHARISMA - As per Rules & Magic.
CONSTITUTION - Affects Hit Dice (see below) and Wilderness Travel Speed (as per Rules & Magic)

  • 3 to 4 CON = d4 HP per level (+1 from level 10 on)
  • 5 to 8 CON = d6 HP per level (+1 from level 10 on)
  • 9 to 12 CON = d8 HP per level (+d2 from level 10 on)
  • 13 to 16 CON = d10 HP per level (+d3 from level 10 on)
  • 17 to 18 CON = d12 HP per level (+d3 from level 10 on)
DEXTERITY - As per Rules & Magic.
INTELLIGENCE - Affects Saving Throws vs. Magical Effects (and Saving Throws vs. your Magic-User spells)

  • 3 to 4 INT = 2d6 (and targets of your Magic-User spells get a bonus d6 for their saves)
  • 5 to 8 INT = 3d6
  • 9 to 12 INT = 4d6
  • 13 to 16 INT = 5d6
  • 17 to 18 INT = 6d6 (and targets of your Magic-User spells get a penalty d6 taken from their saves)
STRENGTH - Affects item slots per Encumbrance Point (see below) and Melee Attack Bonus (as per Rules & Magic)
  • 3 to 4 STR = 3 item slots per Encumbrance Point
  • 5 to 8 STR = 4 item slots per Encumbrance Point
  • 9 to 12 STR = 5 item slots per Encumbrance Point
  • 13 to 16 STR = 6 item slots per Encumbrance Point
  • 17 to 18 STR = 7 item slots per Encumbrance Point
WISDOM - Affects Saving Throws vs. Non-Magical Effects (and Saving Throws vs. your Cleric spells)
  • 3 to 4 WIS = 2d6 (and targets of your Cleric spells get a bonus d6 for their saves)
  • 5 to 8 WIS = 3d6
  • 9 to 12 WIS = 4d6
  • 13 to 16 WIS = 5d6
  • 17 to 18 WIS = 6d6 (and targets of your Cleric spells get a penalty d6 taken from their saves)
Ability Score Checks - When a PC attempts to accomplish certain risky actions that are not covered by a Skill, the DM may ask for an Ability Score Check (Strength Check, Charisma Check, etc.) in order to determine success or failure. The player rolls a d20. If the result is equal to or less than their character's relevant ability score, they succeed. If the result is higher, they fail. EDIT: I am considering using 3d6 for Ability Score Checks instead of 1d20.

Increasing HP - Upon leveling up, roll a number of Hit Dice equal to your new level (up to level 9, after which each additional level gives you less, as per the CONSTITUTION house rule above). If you roll an amount higher than your previous maximum, that becomes your new maximum HP. If you roll an amount equal to or lower than your previous maximum, your new maximum is your previous maximum plus 1.

Saving Throws - As per the Playtest Document, except that PCs (not NPCs) count Partial Saves as Full Saves, except in the following cases.
  • Saves vs. Death upon reaching 0 HP or less (see below)
  • Breath/Area of Effect Saves (Full Save = no damage, Partial Save = half damage)
  • Saving Throws against effects that would ordinarily still cause harm if the Save is successful (Full Save = no effect, Partial Save = normal effect of a successful Save as written)
  • Saving Throws made to resolve an attempt by a PC to do something unusual not covered by a Skill Check, Ability Score Check, The Rule of One, The Rule of Reasonableness, or any other standard resolution mechanic. For example: Hugh Cain the Specialist is trapped on an alien spaceship. He finds a sealed door operated by a complicated control panel nearby. He happens to have no reasonable way to figure out what each button does just by looking at it (using his Intelligence, for example) because he is completely clueless about both the language and technology of the aliens. He decides to hit buttons on the control panel randomly in an attempt to open the door. The DM calls for a Non-Magic Saving Throw. On a Full Save, the door opens. On a Partial Save, the door opens, but a complication is introduced (maybe the door jams halfway open, or the control panel zaps Hugh). On a Failed Save, the door does not open, and a complication is introduced. EDIT: It occurs to me that since Saving Throws are completely dependent on Intelligence or Wisdom now, using a Saving Throw for this kind of situation still isn't that different from making an Intelligence Check or Wisdom Check. I might just either completely replace these kinds of Saving Throws with INT/WIS Checks, or use Saving Throws instead of INT/WIS Checks only when the possibility of a Partial Save adds something very interesting to the situation.
Bonuses and Penalties to Saving Throws (for purposes of backwards compatibility) - Increase or decrease the number of dice as follows:
  • Penalty of -6 or more = Three less d6s
  • Penalty of -4 to -5 = Two less d6s
  • Penalty of -1 to -3 = One less d6
  • Bonus of 1 to 3 = One more d6
  • Bonus of 4 to 5 = Two more d6s
  • Bonus of 6 or more = Three more d6s
Note that the maximum number of dice in a Saving Throw is 6d6, and the minimum is 2d6, so bonuses and penalties that would normally result in more than 6 dice or less than 2 dice simply result in the maximum or minimum number of dice instead.

Dying - If a PC is reduced to between 0 and -9 HP, the player must roll a Non-Magic Saving Throw and consult the following table:
  • 0 HP:  Full Save = Conscious and Active, Partial Save = Unconscious, Failed Save = Unconscious
  • -1 to -3 HP: Full Save = Conscious and Active, Partial Save = Unconscious, Failed Save = Unconsciousness and Inevitable Death in d10 minutes.
  • -4 to -6 HP: Full Save = Unconscious, Partial Save = Unconsciousness and Inevitable Death in d10 minutes, Failed Save = Instant Death
  • -7 to -9 HP: Full Save = Unconsciousness and Inevitable Death in d10 minutes, Partial Save = Instant Death, Failed Save = Instant Death
If a PC reaches a state of Inevitable Death, no amount of healing, magical or otherwise, can save them from dying. At the DM's discretion, they can rouse themselves from unconsciousness long enough to choke out a few final words, but that's about it.
If a PC is reduced to -10 or less HP, they die instantly.

Skills - The list of Skills includes everything listed in the Playtest Document, plus Sneak Attack (see Rules & Magic). More Skills can be added if desired. The Open Doors Skill is simply replaced by a Strength Check if needed. EDIT: Actually, I probably am going to change the Skill list a bit more than this. See this post for details.
Climbing and Traveling use the new rules from the Playtest Document.
Skills work as explained in Rules & Magic (i.e. Roll a d6 and try to get your Skill score or lower, etc.).
At character creation, every PC starts with 4 points in one Skill and 3 points in another, as chosen by the player. Otherwise, every Skill starts at 1. Skills cannot be permanently increased beyond these starting amounts except through class-based features (for example, the Specialist starts with 4 extra skill points and gains 2 more per level) or through special effects, usually magical, which may occur over the course of various adventures in highly specific circumstances.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Debriefing

I've edited this article to add pictures and to replace most instances of "my wife" with "Jessica" or "Jess." Previously, I didn't use her name or pictures of her because I hadn't yet asked if she was okay with such things when I first published this post, but she has since told me she is fine with having an online presence on my blog.

Sorry I haven't posted for so long! I've got a good reason for (part of) my hiatus, though: my wife Jessica and I went to Gen Con! Here are some highlights:

We played The Keep on the Borderlands in a group of about 11 players (not counting the DM) using the B/X rules. It was our first time with the Moldvay rules and with that adventure. The DM had a bunch of really nice copies of the original rulebook printed from Lulu, along with several different homemade equipment lists representing different shops in the Keep, a burlap sack with "Bag of Holding" written on it (which our party eventually won after a hard-fought battle), and some big, high-quality maps. My character (a cleric) took care of much of the healing and held the light source while our group was attacked by 3 slimes from one direction and 3 owlbears from the other - in a cave partially rendered slippery by running water, no less. Thanks to some houserules from the DM, we were a bit harder to kill than normal first-level characters, but we still lost a party member and almost lost a few more. Jessica's plate-wearing fighter survived many blows that might have felled some of the others, and her short bow helped dish out some decent damage - we each started with random histories that gave us certain abilities or items, and she wound up with extra starting money that clearly came in handy. In the end, a dwarf played by a kid who looked to be about 10 or so wound up landing the killing blows on all three owlbears. The damage he rolled was consistently, amazingly high, and he apparently got bonuses against the owlbears because of the weapon he was using. Naturally, I'm looking forward to reading (and hopefully running) B2 when I get the chance.

We also played a game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I had to keep ducking out to deal with some bullshit I won't bother going into here, but which was unrelated to Gen Con. Thankfully, Jess said she had a blast the whole time, and I did too while I was in the room. The DM, who was excellent, gave us a choice between Tower of the Stargazer, The God that Crawls, Death Frost Doom, and some one-page dungeons, although he admitted that he wasn't particularly feeling it with the one-page dungeons that day and would have preferred one of the first three options. We all agreed on Stargazer. Long story short, somebody let you-know-who out of the you-know-what, and only 3 of the 5 party members got out alive. I like to think that my magic-user's slime monster (conjured with the Summon spell) and Jess' specialist's time-delayed molotov cocktail (cobbled together with the Tinker skill and some high-proof alcohol) helped delay the enemy long enough for us to make our escape. Our group's fighter went down like a champ after unloading a brace of pistols into the bastard. The dwarf who freed our enemy got disintegrated for his troubles. The cleric was cool, too, but I don't remember what he did off the top of my head. Sorry! On a related note, I wish I could find the particular random starting equipment tables that the DM used to speed up character creation, because they might have been the best I've ever seen for LotFP. The cleric got an acute sense of smell, the fighter got a pet falcon, the specialist got the aforementioned alcohol, and my magic-user got Summon as one of his guaranteed starting spells. It looked like there were many more interesting possibilities, too, and the whole thing was quick and easy to use.

We played some other games that weren't RPGs, and generally enjoyed them. Our group managed to win against Hastur in a game of Elder Sign, which was cool considering that 3 of the 4 players were new to the game, and 2 of those 3 (Jess and I) had never played Arkham Horror, either - I'm told that Elder Sign is essentially just a less-complex, dice-based version of Arkham Horror. I'd be more than glad to get both Elder Sign and Arkham Horror if they weren't so freaking expensive, but that's just the way it is with board games, I guess. Anyway, Elder Sign is fun.

We played Crap or Slap and later wound up buying it, since it was only 4 bucks. It's not that different from Cards Against Humanity, but it's different enough that it kept us interested. How you feel about Crap or Slap will probably depend entirely on how much you like CAH. We played it again with a couple of friends after we came home, and we still enjoyed it. I still have no clue why it's called Crap or Slap, though. Based on the title, I expected it to be some unholy union of Bullshit and Slapjack.

We played two similar games that I believe were from the same company, Ubongo and Dimension. Both were enjoyable, but they did share the same flaw: instead of interacting with each other, they players all work on their own individual puzzles or tasks and ignore each other until the timer runs out, making these less than ideal party games. As fascinating mental challenges, I did like them, though. One is kind of like competitive Tetris, and the other involves stacking balls in an attempt to meet randomly-determined requirements about the composition of said ball stacks. Everyone knows I love a good ball stack.

As for my wish list, I got all the books I wanted and more. Our final haul included England Upturn'd, The Cursed Chateau, the LotFP Rules & Magic book, Carcosa, Vornheim, A Red & Pleasant Land, Maze of the Blue Medusa, an extra copy of Slügs (which I'm probably going to give to someone who doesn't already have it), a Lamentations tee shirt (the one with light blasting out of the Flame Princess' eyes), a Cthulhu Mythos tee shirt from Sigh Co. Graphics, Black Sun Deathcrawl, Warriors of the Red Planet, Mechanized Men of Mars, and a bunch of weird dice for Jessica's collection. I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out. I considered getting one of the LotFP hoodies that said "Because Fuck You, That's Why" but I was running out of cash and I don't think I'd ever get a whole lot of opportunity to wear it.

And of course, I met some famous people I would consider key players in the RPG industry. I love Call of Cthulhu and Quake, while Jess and I both love Doom, so I was embarrassingly awestruck when I met Sandy Petersen near the Chaosium booth. He was wearing a tee shirt with the classic Doom logo on the front and "I wrote it" on the back. He was super cool. I'm looking forward to his next game, which he told me has a very Doom-ish vibe to it.

I met both James Raggi and Aeron Alfrey at the Lamenations booth. Aeron Alfrey signed my Rules & Magic book, which rocks since he made one of my favorite pieces of art in there (and all of the fantastic art in The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time). My conversation with James Raggi went something like this:
RAGGI: (Delivers a general sales pitch, which was a really good sales pitch delivered in a friendly way but which nonetheless kind of confuses me in hindsight because I thought that he made all those flyers so he wouldn't have to do a sales pitch).
JUSTIN: Cool. I'm a huge fan. I've got a shopping list today.
RAGGI: Sure. Which ones do you want?
JUSTIN: Let's see, there's England Upturn'd, and the Cursed Chateau, and the Rules & Magic book, and...
RAGGI: Let me stop you right there. Sorry, I just want to warn you that I can only take cash right now, and I really appreciate you wanting to buy all this but I wanted to give you a fair warning in case you have a card so I don't disappoint you when we're about to finish the transaction.
JUSTIN: Nah, I already knew, but thanks. I specifically brought cash for this.
RAGGI: Oh, cool.
JUSTIN: (Lists more items, shows him a Pembrooktonshire Gardening Society Membership Card.) I don't know if this'll do anything, but I thought I might as well show you just in case.
RAGGI: Yep, that'll do something. (It got me a pretty good discount.)
JUSTIN: How much was that? You got tee shirts? Throw in a tee shirt.
JESSICA: (Having observed, as she put it, James Raggi's eyes getting bigger and bigger with every item I named) Can we get a picture with you two? He really loves what you guys do.
RAGGI AND ALFREY: Sure!
JUSTIN: I can come back when it's less busy...
RAGGI: Are you kidding me? You just gave me a ton of money. If you want a picture, the rest of the crowd can just fuck off for a minute! (To another person browsing the booth) Sorry, no offense.
OTHER PERSON: None taken!

This bystander was kind enough to snap some photos. Instead of "cheese," he had us say "Fuck for Satan!" so whoever he is, he's more than okay in my book. James Raggi did a pretty impressive scream/head bang combo, a touch which I appreciated. I think it's kind of his "thing" when he does pictures with fans. So yeah, James Raggi and Aeron Alfrey are fucking rad.

Later, we went past the LotFP booth again to check out some other booths, and I saw Kiel Chenier from a distance, but I didn't bug him because he was already dealing with a crowd and looked pretty busy. Maybe I should put a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist. That wouldn't be creepy at all. Speaking of Missed Connections, I looked for the Zak/Stoya/Stokely crew, but I couldn't find them during the one chance I had before I needed to get moving for one event or another. I also heard that Zzarchov Kowolski and Jobe Bittman were at the LotFP booth at various points. So to all those I missed: Hi! Thanks for making cool stuff!

Finally, we went to a panel discussion called How to Roll Winning Numbers hosted by none other than industry legend and dice-making extraordinaire Lou Zocchi. I wish I could begin to summarize all of the fascinating and funny history and trivia he shared about those funny little dice RPG players like me take for granted. Being obsessed with dice, Jess took notes. She's expressed interest in writing a guest post for my blog about Lou Zocchi and/or the quirks of dice, so hopefully we can look forward to that.

We saw many more wonders in the land of the nerds: three good concerts, a hilarious (and informative!) panel on detecting bullshit on the internet, legions of incredible cosplayers, and so much more. I don't know if we can go again next year, but I sure hope so!

As for my friends who let us crash at their place: thank you so much for saving us the cost of a hotel and for showing us around the city and making us feel welcome!