Monday Workload 8/8/2016

I thought it would be a good idea to let people know what’s being actively developed at Cut to the Chase Games – I know I enjoy these kind of glimpses into the design process that other companies do. I’m going to try and post up a quick rundown of what’s on the plate for CttC Games for the upcoming week, so why not start with today?

  • TG0 Depths of the Croaking Grotto: This will be the next release from Cut to the Chase Games, introducing the MEMORIES OF THE TOAD GOD series. It will go up as a Pay What You Want title for 5th Edition, Pathfinder, DCC RPG, Swords & Wizardry, and Savage Worlds, and I just got the cover back from Matt Morrow. It’s pretty freakin’ sweet.
  • BF0 Fortress of Fear: I’m tinkering with this ghostly themed module to serve as precursor to BF1 Tower of Skulls. I really like the way I’ve got it designed right now, I just need to finish the keyed locations for the fortress itself.
  • BF2 Crypt of Bones: This one is the next module in the LORD OF THE BONE FIELDS series, and I’ve got it mapped out currently. Just need to dive into the details.
  • Blog Post for WK Series: This week I’m hoping to get up a blog post with tips and suggestions for adapting the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series to the various campaign settings.
  • Art Contracts for TG1: I’ve got the editor working on TG1, and I hope to get the contracts out for cover and interior art this week. Just like with the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS Kickstarter, I want to have TG1 done completely before the next Kickstarter launches. Oh yes, there will be another.

Those are the active projects currently taking up my main brain processes!

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 8!

New week, new day, new #RPGaDay 2016 post! On a personal note, this is my last week at my current job – I move on to a new venture next Monday. That’s very exciting, but for this week I anticipate much boredom, as I don’t want to start any projects and I’ve been working on documentation for what I do for the last 6 months. Oh well. More time to work on the next series of modules and new #RPGaDay posts!


8) Hardcover, softcover, digital? What is your preference?

My answer I think closely hews to other people’s, which is “depends on the book and the need.” I love hardcover books for the most part, and I’ve switched to them for my fiction reading over the past few years. I like the heft and weight of a hardcover novel in my hands, makes it feel somehow more substantial.

For RPG books, I like physical versions AND digital versions. At the table I would always prefer a hard copy of the adventure or sourcebook to reference, but for every other time I’m OK reading on my iPad or a computer. For the physical copy of the RPG book, I actually prefer softcover and spiral-bound, something you don’t find in published materials! Another reason why I want to get a digital copy with my books so that I can have a spiral-bound version made and I don’t have to worry about marking up my original.

Spiral binding allows the book to be laid flat and that is invaluable at the table. I like saddlestitching for the same reason, though having looked into that personally for my own books I can attest why it’s not something you see much of anymore (I guess big printing houses aren’t set up for it cause the cost is outrageous!). On the shelf, though, give me a hardcover RPG book any day of the week. For example, I backed the Kickstarter for Lost City of Gaxmoor at the level to get a hardcover and a softcover version, and on the shelf the hardcover version just looks nicer.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t actually matter. But still it’s nice to look at!

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 7!

A whole week of daily posts. This is kind of a big deal for me! It’s nice to have something like #RPGaDay to keep up the momentum. Weekends are always the hardest for me as they tend to be the busiest, and while this weekend was no exception I was able to find time in the evenings to get up a new post. And now, on to Day 7!


7) What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest affect on you?

The biggest draw that keeps me coming back to tabletop RPGs again and again can be summed up in a simple word: storytelling. I love stories, and I love creating and sharing stories. The ability to weave a tale of adventuring glory, of swords and sorcery, and heroic deeds and dastardly villains, with a group of people – often close friends – has had the biggest affect on me on both a personal and professional level.

For, at the end of the day, what do physical things matter? Not much, really. We surround ourselves with material things, and I am certainly no different there – I love collecting books and games of all sorts. But always I try to keep an eye towards how can I use this in a story. For generations and generations, humanity has survived and thrived because we can share stories with one another, whether it’s about a danger that needs to avoided, a lesson to be learned, or about that time the party of heroes broke into Orcus’ palace and stole his wand. These are the things that stick with us long after the dice stop rolling.

Writing a novel or short story scratches this itch, to a certain degree, but in those circumstances I am creating the narrative and responses wholly in my own imagining. Playing an RPG lets me cut loose with some wild ideas and throw them out for other people to react to – did they glom on to the plot hook about the pirate ghosts or did they go “meh”? When the dice start flying and things get dirty, players come up with some amazingly inventive ways to “win” and defeat the bad guys, often taking me completely by surprise. I’ve learned over the years not to pre-judge how I think a combat is going to go, my players always find a way to surprise me (both good and bad!).

This shared storytelling experience is the aspect of RPGs that has affected me the greatest, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s the reason I write modules and adventures, and the reason I belly up to the table week after week.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 6!

Sheesh! I almost let Saturday slip by without an #RPGaDay post. That wouldn’t do, no siree, that wouldn’t do at all. My goal was to get 31 days of RPG stories and thoughts posted up in August and by golly I’m going to give it the old college try!


6) Most amazing thing a game group did for their community?

That’s an interesting question. I’m sure there are stories out there about gaming groups coming together to pull for some lofty and noble goal, such as ending world hunger or something, but to be honest none of them over the years have had a lasting impact on me. Certainly my own gaming group hasn’t organized anything amazing for the community – or at least not in any big flashy public event.

I will say this about my own group. In high school, we met every Tuesday and Thursday after school at our local library, Hennepin County Library Westonka Branch. We got to know the librarians, and convinced them to let us use the meeting room on those days, assuming there wasn’t anything already schedule there. It was a fantastic space – lots of table space, lots of chairs, and an environment where we could really be as loud as we wanted. Not that we were super loud, but when you’re facing down demons, dragons, and fiendish traps, the heat of the moment can get pretty exciting.

Because of where we met, we ended up helping out with the library book sales, which were held in the same meeting room so we were out of luck for those weeks. But we would occasionally help setup the tables, get the books laid out, and do our best to give back a little bit to the institution that was so instrumental to our upbringing. I’ll be honest and say for me personally I wish I had done more – looking back I don’t recall a lot of times actually volunteering, which makes me a little disappointed in myself.

Was it amazing? No, but it was something that we were able to do. I do recall helping out the librarian, Bill, that we worked with a lot, doing a lot of small tasks just keeping the library up and running. Again, I’m a bit ashamed that I didn’t step up more. Ah well, can’t change the past right? We can only learn from its mistakes and try to remember the stories.

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 5!

Huzzah! Friday at last! I’ve got a lot of things swirling around, both professionally and personally, but whenever Friday comes I get a sense of hopefulness. I can’t imagine I’m the only one, and for me it’s fitting that my regular gaming group meets on Fridays now. (Summer’s are tough, though.) Let’s dive into another story for #RPGaDay 2016!


5) What story does your group tell about your character?

Another tough one considering I’m behind the screen for the vast majority of the time. And, when I do play, I actually tend to fade my character in the background and enjoy the scenario, letting it unfold as we move along. The adventure is more interesting than my character for me so my own character moments are not memorable for me.

So I’m going to cheat a bit and use a story about an NPC I created. This goes back to the late 90’s, 97 or 98 I think, when we were running my Cosmic Forge campaign. This was a sprawling epic story ripped directly from Dragonlance, but I filed the serial numbers off and created my own setting, so it was special to us. Early in the campaign, when the characters were roughly 4th level (this was AD&D 2E so levels came slow), the party was captured and thrown into the city jail by the forces of the Red Dragon Highlord.

One of the NPCs I created as a lackey to the Red Dragon Highlord was an elf fighter/mage named Gaelvus Highwind. He was evil to the core, no subtle nuances here, and to show it I had him steal a treasured object from one of the players – a girdle of hill giant strength, the weakest of the giant girdles (Strength 19 it conveyed as I recall) but it was the most valued item held by the elf fighter of the group (Gilthas Oakleaf).

If you want to get a party to hate an NPC, have them steal something like this. The player, and subsequently the rest of the party, hated Gaelvus Highwind with a surprising ferocity. They ended up tracking down the elf fighter/mage, which was coinciding with their tracking of the Red Dragon Highlord, and in the ruins of a mountain stronghold they confronted their hated foe. I think it was Gilthas Oakleaf who faced off against Gaelvus Highwind on the ramparts of the castle while a great battle raged below, the rest of the party focusing on rescuing captured slaves. Gaelvus Highwind was defeated, falling seemingly to his death, and I let Gilthas get his girdle back. (There’s a title for a surreal movie – How Gilthas Got His Girdle Back.)

Of course, Gaelvus Highwind came back, but I think my players still remember the name of that elf fighter/mage who stole something from them.


#RPGaDay 2016 Day 4!

Train kept a rollin’, all night long …

That’s how I feel about #RPGaDay even though it’s only day 4, I have to keep up momentum in order to stick with this regular update. Also it keeps me coming back to the Cut to the Chase Games blog which is a good thing. I’ve got a few blog posts started that I’d like to finish up in the near future that relate directly to the WRATH OF THE KOBOLDS series, for now I’ll keep up with these #RPGaDay posts.


4) Most impressive thing another’s character did?

I’ve had a lot of players pull off some pretty impressive stunts in my games over the years. But an event that’s stuck with me for over 15 years now I would say takes the cake. After attending my first Con of the North (in something like 1998?) with my friends/gaming group, we were all in the mood to throw down some dice and play some D&D. I had picked up a large collection of Spelljammer material (which I had NEVER heard of until then!) but I wasn’t ready to play it. Sailing ships flying through space in crystal spheres with illithids and beholders and neogi … I needed time to process it all!

One of the other things I picked up at that Con of the North was a graph paper pad (a nice one), so with little prep I threw together a map and called Lair of Flame & Fire. It was the volcano home of a tribe of fire giants and the characters, hastily assembled but eager to play, were charged with clearing out the lair. Why? Who knows? I do know that our regular group had a few extra players who had played before but had not with us (due to conflicts, we played on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the public library after school).

Anyway, I had put a very large chamber in the Lair of Flame & Fire with a river of lava cutting through the center. The characters fought a band of fire giants, and though they were triumphant they had taken some hits. One player had been knocked unconscious, and I think it was the cleric, because the party had no other means of reviving the character. The group must have consisted mostly of fighters, rangers, and thieves, because they did not seem to have much mage power behind their next decision.

The party looked at the lava river, which was bout 20 feet across, and were debating on how to get to the other side. I ruled that the lava was about 15 feet down the sides, so they came up with the idea of throwing a javelin with a rope attached and then climbing across it. (Like I said, they didn’t have much magical assistance.) Everyone agreed, but then the question came down to – what about the unconscious character?

One brave player, Nick Oak was his name I think, declared that his character – who had a girdle of giant strength of some type – was strong enough to throw the unconscious character. Everyone else consented, so I had him make an attack roll with the body to hit the safe ground on the other side.

He rolled a 1. The body hit the side of the ledge and slid down into lava, where it was consumed. I laughed so very hard, and I think everyone else did as well (even the player whose character it was that died).

It was a great moment, and one that I think I’ll remember forever. The most impressive moments for me stem from failure!

#RPGaDay 2016 Day 3!

Whoah, day 3 already. I think this is the most diligent I’ve ever been about #RPGaDay, though to be honest the trend only started a few years ago. Here we go into Day 3!


3) Character moment you are proudest of?

This is a tough one for me, as I have been behind the screen for most of my 25+ years of roleplaying games. The times I’ve been a player tend to be one shots or relatively short campaigns, so my gut instinct is to share a moment from someone else’s character. But I see that as a topic for a future #RPGaDay post, so I’m going to have to dig into the ol’ memory banks here.

The moment I think I’m most proud of comes in a game of Pathfinder at GenCon 2013. I had decided I was going to join in the organized play to get my gaming fix, and I had already invested (heavily, I might add) into the Pathfinder rule set, so I thought this was a good plan. I made my character, and it’s a character concept I’ve had for many, many years – a burly, tough, charming but unwise human fighter with a big ass sword named Drake Mandrake, aka Drake the Slayer.

I don’t recall a lot of the specifics of the session itself, but I recall the table had members from a variety of Pathfinder Society factions, including myself. We were in a pirate’s cove trying to rescue someone (the son of someone, maybe), and we had just confronted the main villain who had a knife to the son’s throat. My character’s mission was to bring the villain to justice, and while I had a strong sense of good and right I truly felt the villain was bluffing with his threats against the target’s life.

I made a move to take the villain down based on my character’s motivations and beliefs, and it turns out the villain was NOT bluffing. He killed the target before I could get to him (I believe I threw my sword at him, Rutger Hauer-style, and it failed quite miserably), and one of the other players was a member of a faction that had a special mission to ensure the target was retrieved alive. In my defense, I did not know this (nobody else did either, he was the only member of that faction at the table) and the player was playing everything very close to his chest, but he got very upset at this.

Ultimately, if I had known, I think I would have done things differently, but for the moment and the information at my disposal – and with the acquiescent silence of the rest of the party – I took a bold action that as a player I knew had a fairly low chance of actually succeeding. But it’s totally something big and rash that Drake Mandrake would do. I’m not proud of the reaction I provoked in the other player AT ALL, and again if I had known I would not have taken such a risky action (or would have amended it to be something a bit more succeedable), but I took the bull by the horns and tried something grand.

And that’s what stories are made out of, aren’t they? Win, lose, or draw, you remember the big moments, and for me I remember the big failures even more. That’s probably why this moment sticks out for me.