Megagames, birth of a species

I moved to Texas a couple of years ago (around the same time that Dire Curious got ghosty).

Now I live in the greater Austin area. This place is lousy with gamers, but moving is such a displacing activity that reforming the relationships that lead to fun gameplay takes excellent good fortune or indefatigable extroversion, and neither has visited me since my arrival.

One bit of good fortune I did enjoy was the advent of megagames in the United States. I wandered into the idea somewhere and was smitten immediately. Very few people know what a megagame is, and it doesn’t lend itself to an easy explanation. But for gamery types, it’s like an RPG and a board game with some diplomacy and escape room play all rolled in together, played by dozens of people simultaneously.

I don’t have a succinct non-gamer definition yet, but I’m working on it.

About mid-2016, I got in touch with an organization called Megagame Society, based in New York, who are sort of a clearinghouse for information in the US. I asked if anyone was working on this locally. They said no, and sent me some starter information. I knew it would take time to get it all up and running, but I started to work.

Then a week later they wrote back and said, “Oh, there is someone after all. Here’s contact info.”

To my surprise and pleasure, they were open and welcoming, so I jumped on with Megagame Texas in time to help them promote and run their first game of Watch the Skies, last September. We’ve run two more since, and have at least two more n 2017 on the schedule now.

In fact, there’s one coming up on May 13, 2017. If you’re in the central Texas area, get in touch and I can give you more info!


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My First Euro

At Gen Con this weekend, we were talking about our first euro game experiences. I was surprised to learn that my first game had started so far behind everyone else’s.

My first happened at Wizards of the Coast, c. 1998. Several members of R&D had been to Germany for some convention known as ” Essen Spiel”, and it was decided that all of R&D should have a day for being exposed to these new European-style games.

The first game I played was Mississippi Queen, a game of racing riverboats down a procedurally generated river (the procedure being, “roll a direction die and attach interlocking river tiles to create a linear board”). That day, I also played Zoff in Buffalo (Trouble in Buffalo, a game curiously better titled in a different language than its publication) and some 2-player blocking game about ghosts trying to stop you from crossing a room.

Mississippi Queen is a fairly simple racing game with some unforgiving player elimination. It would probably not even get picked up by a publisher today. But I own a copy, and pull it out occasionally with the right crowd.

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Destiny first thoughts

Destiny Logo Tricorn Vector by ValencyGraphicsI might have erred in starting to play a console game again. I’ve read a lot about how Destiny is either an awesome game or a tech demo with gamey aspirations.

Arguments like that are clever iterations of “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” Me, I like it. It could be better, but I’m glad it’s not. If it were better, I would buy the thing and sink into it and get nothing else done for two weeks.

As it is, I have run all three classes up to the limit of the free trial. Putting down money now is enough of a barrier that I won’t get pulled into its charybdis for a few months. But I want to. I want to dive down and down and forget responsibility and obligation and just shoot aliens forever.

So I give it a 7. Later this year, when they release a bundle with all the expansion content, I’ll probably bite harder.

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Additional grist

In my recent Wake the Dragon series, I made an informal list of RPGs that crept in to fill the D&D void in the last couple of years. Here are two more that have popped up since.

Codename: Potato
I have no idea what Rob Schwalb is up to, but I want to. Here’s a link to a timer counting down to some reveal in a month. Knowing Rob, it will involve something you could classify as “metal.”

Codename: Potato

Five Moons
Sean Reynolds is a longtime friend of mine, harkening back to TSR days. So, naked is my bias. This looks like a fantasy heartbreaker to me–one person deciding that s/he can do D&D better than D&D can.

Here’s the twist: Sean is on the extremely short list of people I would consider qualified to succeed, in the work, if not in the market. (Nobody knows what will succeed in the market.)

Five Moons Kickstarter link

Sean’s Five Moons site

The RPG business has adapted rapidly in the last couple of years to personality-as-brand. Genre, mechanics, setting, subject matter, these are not currently the biggest selling points compared to WHO is making the thing. So I’ll keep watching that evolve.

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D&D: 2d12

d12We were playing Iron Kingdoms last week and someone mentioned a preference for a bell curve over a flat curve. In an unrelated conversation, we were talking about how useless d12s are, and what shame, since we all like them.

I decided to pair these ideas up and rewrite D&D to work with 2d12 as the main resolution mechanic. I know, the game’s not even out yet and I’m already houseruling it. That’s a good sign for D&D.

I also included some stuff about alignment which my review group decided was an opportunity to get mouthy about the return of 3×3 D&D alignment. That threw me because of all the loopy things in D&D, how is that not just part of the loop?

I’m tempted to write in more depth about my thinking about 9-grid D&D alignment, but holy shit does anyone left on Earth care about what anyone else thinks about D&D alignment?

Anyway, here’s newstyle D&D rewired to work with 2d12. If you try this out, let me know how it goes.

2d12 D&D for the masses


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Wake the dragon. I’m Batman.

I wanted to get this post written before the new D&D freebie document went live last week. I would have seemed more prescient. But having skimmed the 5e rules, my opinions are at least validated.

The surprising thing is how unsurprising the whole thing is. Not just because they spoiled it all in their playtest period, but because it’s primarily 3e with tweaks. There’s about a thousand reviews of the new product, most of which are better than I would bother offering, so go read some of those if you want it.

Here is what no one else is saying yet: D&D has become Batman.

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Wake the dragon. The 4th Age.

So in 2008, Wizards produced 4th edition. People tried real hard to like it (some succeeded), but the general consensus was that it kind of stank. At that time, indie and retro games were on the rise, but Wizards of the Coast RPG R&D was not-just-a-river-in-Egypt about what was happening. Continue reading

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