Yearly Archives: 2018

Con Report: LTUE 2018

This was my fourth year attending the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium. Per LTUE.net, this is the purpose of the event:

LTUE is a symposium on science fiction and fantasy, centered around writing, art, literature, film, gaming and other facets of speculative fiction.

I’ll admit, after last year I came close to skipping the con in 2018. I’ll say Meri talked me into it.

IMG_7258

I’m glad we attended for many reasons, and I’ll get into some more detail on that momentarily. First–

The Bad

I’m a writer of speculative fiction both in standard prose formats and for role-playing games. You’d think this con would be right up my alley, and the first year I attended, you’d be right. I was very new to the world of writing, and EVERYTHING was relevant. Over the years, I’ve learned more, and less of the information was relevant. A shrinking amount, really. There were still nuggets, quite a few, but as a more experienced writer with published work and a group of experienced writer friends, they were much fewer and farther between (at least in the formal sessions and panels).

As Stephen King says in On Writing:

“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

I buy this line more every day.

The Ugly

The game track needed a boost. No. It needed resuscitation. There were only SIXTEEN game-related sessions out of 294 total sessions. Many hours there were no game-related sessions at all. Also, some game panels were woefully underpopulated. Several only had two panelists.

There is a ton of potential for crossover between game design and fiction and art, and those topics were barely touched.

I could go on.

The art room was sad and small. I don’t know if the con didn’t market appropriately to get the art room filled up or what happened there.

The Good

I’ll end with the good because I have sincere hopes that LTUE will return to form and keep the things that worked well.

All the brilliant and friendly creators and authors who attended and lent their talents and knowledge to folks in attendance.

Jo Walton’s keynote. Fantastic.

The Writing Fantastical Fantasy panel.

Two-thirds of the Board Game Recommendations panel.

Everything I attended that my writing group buddy Richie Franklin was involved in: the poetry panel and the Method Acting and Character Creation sessions in particular.

Meeting many wonderful people in person for the first time: Ben, Dan, Brian “Fitz”, Jim, Dan, Martin, Natasha, Rock, JC, and probably a couple I’m forgetting.

Seeing and hanging out with folks I already know: Alan, Richie, Steve, Dan, Drew, Shannon, Scott, Eliza, Emily, Dan, Angie, Michael, Yoxani, Rachael, Meri, Robin, Kassie, Emma and the rest of y’all. Ya animals.

Many of the art sessions my girls attended. They were delighted with their experience. My youngest also got a “best friends” picture with her favorite author, Brandon Mull.
IMG_2905

Playtesting Old West with Ben Woener was phenomenal. Super fun game. You’ll want to watch for his Kickstarter next month. This game is amazing.

That’s it, folks. I’ll probably be attending FyreCon in Layton, UT on June 21-23. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be on some panels or teach a class. Hope to see some of you there!

RPG Review: The One Ring

Will Rambles

The One Ring RPG has the distinction of being the first game I ran a long campaign of for anyone other than my kids after my return to role-playing. In a previous life, my favorite RPG campaign to run had been AD&D 2e in the Planescape setting. Something about Planescape always spoke to me.

I played in tons of different systems growing up and one of my favorites while I was still in high school was Middle Earth Role-Playing (MERP). When I came back to gaming, I immediately started looking into the possibility of getting my hands on some MERP books and was disappointed to find it out of print. Luckily, someone kind and thoughtful pointed me to The One Ring (TOR), and I politely declined and continued to pine for MERP. It wasn’t until I played in a one-off session of Ring that I saw the real potential of the system.

The rest is history. I ran TOR for nearly a year meeting a little less frequently than I might have liked, but I had a great time, and I hope the players did as well.

I’ve run one-off sessions here and there for other folks, and you can rest assured when the Moria box set comes out later this year, I’ll be among the first lining up for a copy.

The Review

The original release of TOR was a slipcased version with two books. I’m reviewing the current single hardcover volume.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The core The One Ring book is hardbound and has good binding. The pages are semigloss and full color. It looks very nice with good call outs and is appealing overall. Also, at 336 pages, it feels good in your hands.

My biggest complaint about the entire game has got to be the organization of the layout. In my experience, this is not the area where Cubicle 7 games shine. Finding what you’re looking for isn’t always easy in a TOR book. In fact, since I was running this game regularly, I found myself adding more and more stickie notes, and doing more advanced note writing so I wouldn’t get caught thumbing through the book for some detail in-game.

At any rate, for $29.99 you can get the PDF on DriveThruRPG. It’s a decent price. The hardbound copy is available pretty much anywhere you usually buy games or also from C7 directly. I recommend your FLGS (friendly local game shop).

7/10


2.) Art

I love the art in The One Ring. The core book cover is ok, but the interior art really speaks to me. Much of it is full color, there is plenty (who am I kidding though, there could always be more), and each piece is super evocative of Middle Earth.

9/10


3.) Content and Rules

Fantastic. Amazing. Wonderful.

So much effort here to be faithful to the source material and create rules and mechanics that evoke Middle Earth. MERP doesn’t hold a candle in any regard except for the fact that they did have more content, but TOR is catching up fast! I won’t spoil them all, but I love the opposition of the hope and shadow attributes for characters. The adventuring and fellowship phases of the game take place over seasons of the year so the more cinematic and action-packed portions of the game can take place while also allowing for social interactions and time for travel.  In other news, TOR has the most exciting and innovative travel system I’ve ever seen in an RPG.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

Quite a lot going on here for a GM. While it isn’t the crunchiest game you could run, Ring does have some rules. It’s no minimalist or storygame style of RPG. The GM sections are useful. They guide you to create sessions for your players that evoke Tolkien’s world. Additionally, there is a campaign section detailing all the major event taking place in Middle-earth both before and during the game timeline. This allows for rumors and ideas to reach the characters even if they aren’t taking part in these events directly.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The Marsh-Bell is an in-depth fourteen-page adventure that’s great for starting characters. They’ll enjoy some familiar sights from The Hobbit, meet some familiar dwarves, risk danger, get to test some of their skill at fighting and riddling, and see the travel rules. All-in-all, it’s a solid introduction to the game.

8/10


Total Score: 42/50

This is not a bad score by any means. I own (and preorder) every book in the series as they are released. My single regret is that I don’t have more time to run TOR. It’s a game and a world I could explore endlessly.

RPG Review: Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition

WILL RAMBLES

First, I backed this Kickstarter.  Second, I’ve loved Tiny D6 games since the beginning (Tiny DungeonTiny Frontiers, and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters).

I’m going to stop saying “I’m not an RPG reviewer” when it’s clearly something I like to do, and these posts tend to get a lot of traffic. Fair dinkum: I was in a regular game group with the creator of Tiny Dungeon 2e for a couple years, and even though we don’t live super close anymore, we still game together from time to time.

tinyDungeon2e

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing the Kickstarter edition PDF of Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition by Alan Bahr.

It’s a minimalist fantasy RPG based on the original Tiny Dungeon by Smoking Salamander Games turned up to ELEVEN. I picked up the original to play with my kids a long while back.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Dungeon 2e book is the largest “tiny” book to date at 194 pages. It maintains the art style from the original game (the same artist in fact), and the new layout is impressive, bringing the game up to standard with the newer Tiny D6 games.

The original Tiny Dungeon is also a great game and only 24 pages total! Hard to believe. I’ll get into the differences below, but the original book is still on sale on DTRPG for $2.99. Second edition is $19.99 ($17.99 as of publishing this article). If you’d like the Player’s Guide (the first half of the book without the micro settings), it will only run you $9.99.

9/10


2.) Art

The cover art is amazing! The interior art is black and white in the style of the original Tiny Dungeon, and there’s plenty of it spread throughout the book. Some reuse where it made sense, and I’m totally good with that. The critter section is fleshed out and has excellent art for tons of beasties your party could fight (including the dinosaurs). If I have a critique here, it’s only that I’d like more of that beautiful cover art. I’d pay for it.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

Tiny D6 games are my favorite for minimalist rules games. Any 5 or 6 rolled on1-3d6 (depending on advantage or disadvantage) is a success. So simple. So powerful. This version has the most optional character creation rules of any Tiny D6 game and even has progression options built into the game. I’ll be getting these to the table soon with my daughters Zeep and Zook (not their real names) who started playing Tiny Dungeon when the younger one was only 7. I can’t express how happy it makes me that Tiny Dungeon is growing up with them.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

As previously mentioned, there is an expanded bestiary in TD2e. 26 pages to be exact.  In addition, there are sections with advice on running games, and the extensive optional rules. I won’t spoil them all, but there is some enjoyable stuff in here including optional combat rules and old-school adventure generation tables.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

Not the traditional pre-made adventure, but as has become the tradition with Tiny D6, MICRO SETTINGS. I’ve been waiting for micro settings for the fantasy realm since Tiny Frontiers was initially announced on Kickstarter.  If you aren’t familiar yet, these are a delightful take on creating a ready-to-go world you can grok after a few pages and create interesting and unique new adventures for. They also happen to be written by a super talented group of authors, games designers, and other highly creative people. As a GM, I prefer these to a full adventure since I almost always modify adventures to suit my tastes anyway.

10/10


Total Score: 45/50

A high score in the upper echelons of my scoring criteria.

I’d Kickstart TD2e again. Twice.