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Owen K.C. Stephens
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in owen_stephens' LiveJournal:

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Monday, June 27th, 2011
9:02 am
Psssst! Want a Date?
So, the auction is live for the ENnie Dream Date with me, game designer and developer Owen K.C. Stephens.

This is a real opportunity to hang out, and I plan to treat it as I would time spent with a friend or colleague. I'll be happy to discuss anything the winner wants. want to know what I think about 4th edition? Curious how we ended up with Jenny Poussin as a cover model? Want to hear the story of the one crucial, amazingly obvious question Wizards of the Coast never asked me before hiring me to write for the Star Wars RPG? This is your chance to get my totally uncensored, open opinion. (And even if I wouldn't tell you, I assure you my also-to-be-present wife will be happy to blab.)

In addition to the pleasure of my company (and that of my bass-ass gamer chick wife), the winner of this auction will receive a year-long All-Genius-Pass to Dungeonaday,com, the mega-dungeon site created by Monte Cook and powered by Super Genius Games. That includes not just a 500+ encounter dungeon running from 1st-20th level (and presenting new encounters 5 days a week), but also every single PDF product SGG creates for a year.

And as a final incentive, the winner gets autographed copies of of the hard-to-find Starships of the Galaxy books, both the original version for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and the more recent full-color copy for the Star Wars Saga Edition. Those out-of-print books run from $50 to $350 each, and these will be signed however you like by one of the authors.

So bid today, and win a once-in-a-lifetime evening, with some rare and valuable prizes!
Wednesday, June 1st, 2011
7:48 pm
ENnie Dream Date!
So, the auction is live for the ENnie Dream Date with me, game designer and developer Owen K.C. Stephens.

This is a real opportunity to hang out, and I plan to treat it as I would time spent with a friend or colleague. I'll be happy to discuss anything the winner wants. want to know what I think about 4th edition? Curious how we ended up with Jenny Poussin as a cover model? Want to hear the story of the one crucial, amazingly obvious question Wizards of the Coast never asked me before hiring me to write for the Star Wars RPG? This is your chance to get my totally uncensored, open opinion. (And even if I wouldn't tell you, I assure you my also-to-be-present wife will be happy to blab.)

In addition to the pleasure of my company (and that of my bass-ass gamer chick wife), the winner of this auction will receive a year-long All-Genius-Pass to Dungeonaday,com, the mega-dungeon site created by Monte Cook and powered by Super Genius Games. That includes not just a 500+ encounter dungeon running from 1st-20th level (and presenting new encounters 5 days a week), but also every single PDF product SGG creates for a year.

And as a final incentive, the winner gets autographed copies of of the hard-to-find Starships of the Galaxy books, both the original version for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, and the more recent full-color copy for the Star Wars Saga Edition. Those out-of-print books run from $50 to $350 each, and these will be signed however you like by one of the authors.

So bid today, and win a once-in-a-lifetime evening, with some rare and valuable prizes!
Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
10:45 am
I Was Rasied By Lensmen
While this story does not start or end where I expected it to, every word is true.

I have never understood why anyone is upset by the idea of same-sex romance, child-rearing, or marriage. The arguments all sound ridiculous, and it both confuses and saddens me when people I love and respect come down on the wrong side of these issues. Given that I am fairly conservative myself, and was raised in an extremely conservative household in the buckle of the bible belt, I sometimes wonder how I cam to be so moderate on this particular social issue. Ultimately, I think it's because I was raised by Lensmen.

Obviously at this point, more than 30 years later, I can't be sure – but my memory is that the first time I ever ran into the idea of homosexuality was in the space opera novel The Galaxy Primes, by E.E. "Doc" Smith. I was (and am!) a huge fan of Doc's writing – the Lensman material in particular, but I love all of his fiction (and a lot of things with his name on them which are only based on his ideas). I tore through most of it before I turned 12, and my reading of The Galaxy Primes was fairly early in that list. (I read novels not so much in the order they were written or published, but in the order I found them while walking down the bookcase-lined hallway to my bedroom in my parent's house.)

I haven't read The Galaxy Primes in decades, but my memory is that early on several characters are competing to be chosen for a crucial, long-term space mission. Two of them happen to be homosexual men. This is mentioned, and even talked about briefly in context of a single homosexual man on a long-term mission, but it's not central to the plot. As a child somewhere between the age of 7 and 12, my recollection is that this was the first time I'd ever run into the concept of two men being romantically involved with each other. As I often did when reading material confused me (not that uncommon for a pre-teen reading material aimed at mature readers), I asked my mother for clarification.

What happens next in the story is important, but I need to provide some set-up first. My parents didn't divorce until long after I was out of the house and myself married, but they also didn't do equal duty raising me. My father was a sad, largely broken man who had allowed a brilliant career as an economist to be destroyed by his addiction to alcohol and a tendency to bemoan his fate as a common man when he wanted to be a high raj or rail baron. I loved my father very much, and I credit him with always being kind and never violent, but he didn't raise me. My mother was the person I went to as a parental authority in all matters, and I know I was a trial to her.

My mother had long realized I was forming a moral code based, in part, on the books found in that hallway. My ideas on what right and wrong were, and how a person should react to them, began with the heroes of E.E. "Doc" Smith, J. R. R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov. Many, many more authors would influence me later in life, but in those years after I was reading on my own but before I was buying my own books, I was fascinated by the vast collection of those author's works I could just grab on my way to my room. My mother was so aware of this she wrote a song about it, claiming that my father was John carter of mars and my mother Clarissa Kinnison.

My mother is both a very conservative Christian Republican and a very smart lady. I have called her the Empress of the Geeks, as she ran D&D sessions for my friends and I, until I was 13, just to give other parents the Sunday afternoon off, has been the President of the National Space Society and an organizer of the International Space Development Conference, and is going to take a 0-G flight for her birthday this year despite her advancing age. I know for a fact she tried very hard not to let the family's more questionable novels, from the works of Jack L. Chalker to the first few Gor books, out of the hallway library where I had easy access. I'm sure having me ask about two men being in love and wanting to get married in an E.E. Smith novel was quiet a shock. But here is how she handled it.

She shrugged, smiled, and said "Yeas, dear. Some men love other men the same way most men love women. If you like, we can talk about this more."

That's it. No judgment, no long speech about right and wrong or sin or Babylon. A quick answer that let me get back to my book, and a promise for more information if I needed it. I think my mother gets full credit for letting me grow up knowing I could make my own judgments, while also giving me the support and safety children need. So even though she's on the wrong side of some moral arguments, I know she's willing to love and accept people who disagree with her.

So yes, my most influential father may have been a Lensman. But my mother is Empress of the Geeks, and she did right by me.
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
11:23 am
Critical Deck Ideas
I've been playing with Pathfinder game mechanics using the Critical Hit deck from Paizo. I've come up with some I like, though they're still very rough. For example.

Combat Maneuvers
Called Shot. When you make an attack roll you may choose to use this combat maneuver. To do so, take a penalty to one attack roll. The penalty may range from -1 to up to half your base attack bonus (although you may always take at least a -1 penalty). Select an area of the creature you are attacking to target. If your attack hits, select a number of cards from the critical hit deck equal to the penalty you took to your attack. If one of the cards selected gives an effect based on the area you targeted, you may inflict that effect.

Spellcasting Options
Spell Surge. When you cast a harmful spell, you may expend two spell slots to attempt to gain an additional spell effect. Select one critical hit card. If the magic critical listed on the card has an effect other than dealing additional damage, you may apply that effect.

Dangerous Falling Rules
When you fall you must make an Acrobatics check. If your check does not total at least half the distance you fell in feet, the damage taken (1d6/10 feet) has one critical bludgeoning effect from a critical hit card applied.
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
12:09 pm
If Actors Were Their Characters...
Top Ten Movie-Role Mash-Ups
One actor. Two characters. What happens when we combine them?

10. Top Gunslinger: Doc Iceman is the second most skilled old west pilot in America. While he sometimes competes with Mustang Earp, he is also that worthy's closest friend. When Virgil "Goose" Earp is killed by Soviet Cowboys, Doc must pilot his shotgun-armed fighter jet to the "Dogfight at the OK Corral."

9. Crying Stargate: It turns out Ra is a chick. Or something.

8. Alias-Elektra: She may be a spy. She may be a ninja assassin. She's died more often than Dr. Who, but since she's really hot everyone forgives her when she shows up again.

7. Captain James T. Hooker: Commander of the starship USS Lake City, patrolling the Federation space-lanes for tribble smugglers, Romulan ale dealers, and green slavery rings.

6. Daphne the Vampire Slayer: Ditzy red-haired Daphne Summers patrols America in her "Mythos Machine" and, with the aid of a "Scooby Gang" of misfits, sorts out fake supernatural threats from real ones (exposing the former and killing the later).

5. American Batman: After deciding he'd be happier if his parents had been killed by a loan gunman, Bruce Bateman grows up to believe he is a dark vigilante who brutally puts down villains and thugs. In truth, he is just suffering a psychotic break, and is pretty much a loser. But in his mind, he is the most feared of all costumed superheroes, despite a total lack of any superpowers.

4. Indiana Jones and the Return of the Jedi: Can Han "Indiana" Jones use an ancient weapon from long, long ago he turns up in an archeological dig to defeat Darth Aryan and other Dark Side Nazis trained by a Sith Holocron discovered by the Ahnenerbe? (After all, the Well of Souls has hieroglyphs of R2 and 3PO, and even if Alderaan was a peaceful planet, Aldebaran may not have been.)

3. Evil County, Jr.: Gunslingers. Deadites. Bruce Campbell. Enough said.

2. The Six Million Dollar Fall Guy: Steavers is a stunt double for the CIA. After being badly damaged in an accident he is turned into a cyborg. While the govt covers most of the cost, Steavers' insurance co-pay is still an enormous six million dollars. Now, to pay for his extensive surgery, he must also act as a bounty hunter tracking down America's most wanted criminals. Should he be captured by foreign governments the US will disavow any knowledge of his actions.

1. Goldenring: Boromir Trelyan was once an agent of the White Council, undertaking missions that required a warrant to kill. He was thought lost during a mission to Mordor, but has actually turned traitor and started the criminal organization Melkor. It is the intent of Melkor to recover the remaining Three Dwarven rings, and use their gold-generating powers to ruin the economy of Middle Earth.
Monday, March 21st, 2011
8:28 am
All-Genius Pass Announced!
For many months now, fans of Super Genius Games' Pathfinder-compatible PDFs have asked if we could save them some time and effort by allowing subscriptions to our PDF lines. We've looked at all our resources and talked to a number of people, and concluded companies our size just don't do subscriptions.

But, we're doing on anyway!

With the help of Dungeonaday.com (created by Monte Cook), Super Genius Games is now proud to announce a subscription plan that allows fans to get all our Pathfinder-compatible products in one easy step. The All-Genius Pass is a subscription plan through Dungeonaday.com that allows subscribers to receive every Pathfinder-compatible PDF we create, plus access to the Dragon's Delve megadungeon through the Dungeonaday.com website. With more than 20 levels (originally written for 3.5 OGL game rules, but now updated with Pathfinder-compatible game stats for the first 5 levels, all new content, and rapidly expanding to cover the entire dungeon), the Dungeonaday.com adds 5 encounters a week to your game content and can be used as a single massive campaign, or as a place to steal ideas, monsters, spells, and traps to use in campaigns of your own design.

In addition to that content, every Pathfinder-compatible PDF product Super Genius produces is available free to All-Genius Pass subscribers. Plus if you ever lose your data, you can get replacement PDFs for every product that came out during your subscription period. So there's no way to lose, and an amazing amount of game material available!

An annual All-Genius Pass runs just $99, less than $2/week, and a quarterly All-Genius Pass is just $29.00 for 3 months. To subscribe, simply go to https://dungeonaday.ssl.subhub.com/subscribe/, and join now!
Friday, December 31st, 2010
8:12 am
I, 3PP
On the Paizo messageboards, a poster asked if third-party publishers viewed the Pathfinder RPG as the new 3.5 D&D. All the poster meant was that Pathfinder has become the new go-to game system for d20 3pp, and I think that's the case. But being me, I had to go into why I don't view Pathfinder as 3.5 come again. having had a bit of time to think about it, I wanted to expand on those thoughts without choking up the threat the ideas started in.

I believe Paizo has carefully taken a very different view of rules expansions vs adventures than WotC ever did. That's not to say WotC "did it wrong" with 3.5 rules. WotC was publishing in a different environment, with different competition, different core competencies, and different competition. But I do think Paizo is doing a brilliant job playing to the strengths of their staff, and minimizing the dangers of their position.

Look at what we have in the way of new official Pathfinder rules since the release of the core rulebook. And look at what official adventures are available to play. Now look at the same time period from 3.5, and official game rules vs adventures that came from WotC during those months.

Paizo is building a large, and expanding, play network by constantly creating lots and lots of awesome adventures (in three categories: OP, AP, and stand-alone). At the same time, they do very little (relatively speaking) to expand the hard, official game rules. And when they do release game rules, a lot of it is in game-world specific books, which provide the sand for GMs wanting to do Golarion sandbox adventures. There are lots more tools for GMs to use coming out of Paizo than WotC produced, and much less crunchy stuff for GMs to worry about (in fear of players using it to build confusing mega-PCs). That creates stability, and leaves GMs neither having to spend a lot of time writing adventures nor constantly vetting new official game rules.

With more free time, and more play options, I have found a lot of GMs and groups who neither wanted nor needed 3pp material for 3.5 are slowly turning to it for Pathfinder. And in many cases they want material they fell Paizo would put out, if it had time. In 3.5, a lot of people looked to 3pp for way-out-there materials they didn't feel WotC would ever do. And most Pathfinder fans don't seem to be looking for whole new games of similar-but-tweaked rules for licenses or different styles of play.

When I worked on 3pp projects back in 3.5 days, the vast majority were either licensed RPGs still jumping on the d20 bandwagon, or stand-alone expansions the designers had no expectation of fitting in with even just the same company's 3pp offerings. Since Super Genius Games started releasing weekly PDFs a bit over a year ago, the comments SGG gets most often are "How does this fit in with everything else you've released" and "Thanks for supporting the new official material with your products." (Or "Why didn't you support it?" when we screw up and, for example, don't list what new spells are appropriate for the inquisitor, summoner, and witch.)

That's a very different market attitude. Coupled with Paizo's choice to act like actual custodians of a resource, and shepherding 3pp to do the best we can, and the 3pp themselves doing a better job of getting along (I've had a *lot* of conversations with other publishers that boiled down to "That's neat! do you mind if we build off it?"), it creates a friendly, and I think higher quality, overall 3pp market than I ever would have hoped for in 3.5.

That custodianship comes in many forms. For example, Paizo sells 3pp offerings on their own site. I know they make money doing that, but it also shows a very different attitude from how WotC handled the same question. Paizo even promotes the Pathfinder-compatible materials from other publishers on their own site's blog, with links and pretty-full color pictures. There is no dismissive attitude towards these books from other publishers, just a hearty call for all who are interested to take a look at what other cool toys are available for this game.

This open attitude runs deeper than first blush might suggest, as well. Paizo has, for example, chosen an official program to be the character-generator for Pathfinder RPG. And that company is happy to allow 3pp to introduce their rules for the same program. Even if no one wants to take the time and effort to do that, the option still exists for 3pp to have their new classes, feats and monsters sit in the official Pathfinder character generator along with things Paizo has released.

One big sign of how that attitude is helping create a community is that is that every major Pathfinder 3pp is active on the official Paizo forums. If you want to ask the publishers or game designers from Super Genius Games or any one of a dozen other publishers or freelancers a question about their Pathfinder-compatible product, you can do it there. There's a forum set-aside for such discussions, but when they spill over into the generic "Product Discussion" forum rather than harshly move them, or grudgingly accept them, the Paizo staff comment in those threads where their input is appropriate. Everyone feels welcome. Paizo's forums are the main Pathfinder community, even for the 3pp.

Overall, as a freelancer, fan, and publisher, I find creating 3pp content for the Pathfinder RPG isn't like 3.5 all over again. It's much better.
Friday, November 19th, 2010
1:27 pm
The 52 PDFs in 52 Weeks celebration continues!
All November, Super Genius Games is celebrating 52 weeks in a row of releasing at least one PDF game product every week! Right now the celebration includes:

52% off all our Pathfinder-related products at Paizo, as kindly mentioned by Lisa Stevens here!

A free PDF of your choice! Just post which PDF you want in this thread, then email me with your request (email listed in the thread).

Another 52% off sale, this one at DriveThruRPG, under the watchful eye of the Drunken Goblin.

And at least one more event is coming before the end of the month! Come, help us celebrate a year of weekly Pathfinder-goodness!
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
9:16 pm
This Week's PDF! 52 in 52 continues!
The Genius Guide to Exalted Domains of Light and Lore is available now at Paizo!

And the Super Genius Games celebration of 52 PDFs in 52 Weeks becomes a 52% off sale also at Paizo!
Monday, November 1st, 2010
12:50 pm
52 in 52: Now 52% Off!
This month, Super Genius Games celebrates the 1-year anniversary of our PDF-a-week schedule, with 52 weeks of releasing at least one new product every week. Fan response to our Pathfinder-compatible line of PDFs has been tremendous, so for the whole month of November we're saying thanks with a 52% off sale. Right now at DriveThruRPG, every PDF in our line is a little more than half off, until December 1!

And here's to another 52 great weekly products in a row! Pick up some Genius-on-the-Cheap here .
Sunday, October 31st, 2010
2:44 pm
52 in 52
Halloween is my favorite holiday, for a lot of reasons. Some of that is because it's a great time of year for buying cheap plastic spiders to use in RPG sessions, and in some is because it comes just 3 days after my birthday. Because of that last fact, I tend to reflect on the past 12 months right around every Halloween. This year I just turned 40, so I'm doing a lot more reflecting that usual.

Sometime next month, I'll be marking the one year anniversary of my first Pathfinder-compatible product released as a member of Super Genius Games. For the past year, SGG has released at least one product every week, and come the 52-week mark we'll have more than 52 Pathfinder-compatible products on the market. That's a remarkable achievement, and it's one we didn't originally set out to accomplish. But as the weeks stretched on, and our weekly streak grew, Hyrum, Stan! and I got very proud of that success.

A lot of things have happened to me and Super Genius in the past year. We joined Monte Cook in producing Dungeon-A-Day. We released the Adventure's Handbook as a print product in the hobby distribution channel. We lost Hyrum to Paizo itself, and had to cheer and cry at the same time. Personally I was asked to be a guest of honor at Gen Con, and then to be a guest and speaker at NeonCon. But wvwen with all that, it's the year of game products I'm proudest of. Starting next month, what I'm going to focus on and celebrate is more than 52 PDFs in 52 weeks. It's an anniversary that means more to me this year than my birthday, and I'll be talking about it more as the month goes on.

Happy Halloween, everyone.
Owen K.C. Stephens
Lead Developer
Super Genius Games
Monday, October 25th, 2010
2:18 pm
New Reviews
Some of Super Genius Games' new products just got some nice reviews.

A 4/5 review for our Advanced Options product with 13 new Oracle Curses! http://tinyurl.com/3ygfj9q

Exalted Domains of War and Ruin gets a 5/5 review at Paizo! Power-up your cleric's faith! http://tinyurl.com/2fegw3n

Our most recent Cardstock miniatures product, Giants: Large and in Charge, gets a 4/5 review at DriveThruRPG! http://tinyurl.com/2fegw3n

Friday, September 24th, 2010
6:54 am
The Sweet Spot Situation
I've been playing a lot of Pathfinder games recently, because most of my work freelancing and with Super Genius Games over the past year has been Pathfinder-oriented. But I try not to get stuck in a one-game-system rut, and have played a regular stream of Mutants and Masterminds and 4e, and occasional forays into totally different games. My wife is a big fan of 4e D&D, which is one reason it's still on the schedule, and since we're playing in a friend's game tonight she got up 30 minutes early to update her character. That shows some real dedication on her part, since she already had to get up at 4:45am, for a 12 1/2 hour work shift today, her 3rd 12+ hour day in a row.

D&D 4th edition has two huge appeals for my wife: the character generator, and having a character that feels heroic to her at 1st level. With the character generator I agree, I have yet to find anything else that is as easy and intuitive as the 4e Character Builder is for making official characters, for any system. For the heroic bit, I don't find my 4e characters feel any more heroic at 1st level than my 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, or for that matter Champions characters, but that's entirely subjective. 4e gives my wife something those other games don't, and I can't argue with that.

So I was a bit surprised this morning when she seemed frustrated updating her character. As she went through her options for new feats and a utility power, she kept sighing heavily. "It's all either boring, or too fiddly," she said. "I can either get +5 hit points, woo-freaking-hoo, or have a +2 bonus to attack rolls against targets that made an attack of opportunity on me while I have an ally adjacent who's conscious. On alternate Tuesdays. At night. South of the Mason-Dixon line."

In the end she opted to forgo the simple and effective options like Weapon Focus (‘not sexy" she said) for something that is situational, but at least she's noticed that situation comes up for her character occasionally. I've found the situational nature of many powers and feats in 4e one of the things that didn't mesh well with my play style for quite some time. I can't remember all the details of the 15 different combat set-ups that might trigger a power of mine if I get creative, so I tend to build characters with simple options that work in a lot of situations. Those tend to be lower bonuses, but they work more often so play balance seems maintained. But my wife hadn't complained until now, so I find myself analyzing her reaction more closely than my own.

She also noted that a lot of color text made no sense to her even when she liked the power, but that's another blog post entirely.

As game design, I am fascinated by the wide range of options in feats and powers in 4e. You can build a character that is reasonably effective most of the time, or focus on one or two combat situations and build characters that both excel on those occasions and try to create such situations as often as possible, or build a character who has a wide array of odd options so spread out that at least a few are bound to happen in any session, or combine the options in whatever proportions suite your desire, memory, and willingness to shuffle through power cards. That's a lot of different types of builds with one set of rules, and I'm impressed by the design thought that goes into maintaining that.

But as characters gain levels, I think the weight of situational options grows. My wife loved her character at 1st and 2nd, but is less satisfied at 6th. I wonder how she'll react to 16th. That's not necessarily a condemnation of the game design. Obviously lots of games have "sweet spots" that match a given group's preferences on play style. But while 4e carefully ensures that game balance is maintained through 30 levels, I now wonder if the play experience changes to a degree that sweet spots will still happen. I still enjoy playing 4e, but I'll be curious to see if my wife's enjoyment changes over different campaign levels.

And as long as there's time with friends and potato chips to spare, I'm looking forward to playing more games to find out.
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
3:05 pm
Overheard At Gen Con, part 2
These should be the last, since I found my stack of scribbled-on business cards. Unless I wrote some on a program or character sheet or something, in which case just a few more might pop up later.

Overheard at Gen Con, with no context but where we were.

"It's not that it's unrealistic. It's that it's dumb-sounding."

"I didn't say I was any good at it, I said I loved playing it!"

"It's dice porn. Glittery, technicolor dice porn."

"They're like the Cheerleaders of Hell, but with your soul for pom-poms."

Voice 1: "What's your Reflex Defense?"
Voice 2: "I don't know. My battery just died."
Voice 3: "Scissors may beat Paper, but Paper beats iPad!"

"And that's why Molotov cocktails are famous, even though everyone's forgotten about Molotov bread baskets."

"It's easier to cheat if they're staring at my cleavage."

"I *miss* Mom's basement. It was cool down there."

"We showed up really early so my wife could play the ranger, but some guy beat us to it. But he felt bad about it and loaded us a bunch of items, so it worked out!"

"This game is obviously using cartoony, hot, babes as a marketing ploy, and likely has no actual value as a pastime. I'll take three."

"I have the money to spare. I just can't bring myself to spend it on what's going to turn out to be another big, boxed paperweight."

"The food is terrible, the line's too long, and it's overpriced. But on the other hand, it's too loud."

Voice 1: "If I was any more tired, I'd be Steel-belted."
Voice 2: "That sounds like a Transformers super-hero from Cybertron."

"All she needs is a cut-out for her boobs, and she'll have a winning Gen Con costume!"

"If it turns out I *can't* sleep when I'm dead, we shall have words!"

"And the best part is, the line for the girl's bathroom are shorter than the guys!"

Voice 1: "So the entire plot was based around pennies having RFID chips and DNA samplers in them. Isn't that stupid?"
Voice 2: "Yeah, everyone knows those are in nickels. That's why they're so thick."
Voice 3: "You character could talk to the dead, and you thought genetic-sampling cybermoney was going too far?"

"He's a true neutral anti-antipaladin!"
Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
9:16 am
Overheard At Gen Con
One of the amazing things about Gen Con is being completely and constantly surrounded by gaming culture. Restaurants offer you meals with Apocalypse Ale or Black Pudding for dessert. Random people in the elevator opine on the likely ENnie winners. And everywhere you go, people are talking games and geek culture. Every year, I hear snippets of conversations I wouldn't hear anywhere else, and I do my best to write them down. It often takes a few minutes to get pen to paper, so these may be more paraphrased than quoted, but the gist is intact. (I'd say the intent is clear, but ofttimes I have no idea what the intent was!"

These were al jotted down on my Guest of Honor schedule. Somewhere I have the quotes I wrote down on business cards, which I'll post when I find them.

In no particular order, Things Overheard at Gen Con.

"My waitress just gave me the bird."

"It was the most heroic death I've ever been cheated out of."

"If you can't get rich with a  time machine and Orac, you just aren't trying."

"Yes, I'm a girl. Yes, I know how to play. No, you can't touch them. Unless you win."

Voice 1. "Can my paladin be weary of all humanity, and believe the gods are cruel assholes perpetuating a lame joke?"
Voice 2. "Man, just get the divorce already."

"You boys need to be taking that plastic weapon stuff to your mother. If you need dice or minis I'll buy you some, but I ain't got no money for larping crap."

"The wish has now been vetted by twenty people, and is more than twelve pages long."

Voice 1. "The problem is, none of the campaign's female NPCs are believable."
Voice 2. "Wait, isn't your GM a woman?"
Voice 1. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Next year, we need to try the Sailor Shoes on before we hit the costume contest."

"The DM said we could use any sources, so I went all Mongoose on his game."

"It's a lot like playing at home, but with less bugs and poop."

"If I can't cheat, I don't play."

"If that next card is what I think it is, I will eat your face. With ketchup."

Voice 1. "Is it savagaed?"
Voice 2. "Very savagaed."
Voice 1. "The most savage?"
Voice 2. "Well... it's pretty dang savage."
Voice 3. "What the hell are you two talking about?!"

"Oh my god, your napkin is yellow. Ours are all white. You've been marked for death!"

"Satanism must not be as profitable as it was in the 90s."

"If I put it in my cleavage, do you think he'll sign my dice?"

"What's the over/under on being eaten by rats?"

"If your gnome isn't a spellcaster, you're doing it wrong."

"The GM didn't cry until the second hour. With us, that's a record!"
Monday, August 2nd, 2010
11:08 am
Gen Con Schedule
Tomorrow, I leave to drive up to Gen Con. So it seems like it's time to post my schedules, as it currently exists.

To begin with, both I and fellow Super Genius Stan! are Industry Insider Guests of Honor at this year's Gen Con, so we'll be at a number of the seminar panels that Gen Con is hosting. Super Genius does not have a booth of its own, but all of our print products will be available at the Studio 2 Publishing booth (#320), and that will be our home base when we're not involved in other events. Stop by, say hi ... and check out our latest books.

I have some specific seminars and events planned, so here's where and when you are most likely to find me.

Arrive in Indianapolis. Depending on when I show up, I might be free to get together with some fan and/or friends until 9pm, when I will mysterious disappear. (If anyone wants to suggest a pre-9 activity, feel free to leave a message here, or on Facebook, or by email, or even on the Paizo boards somewhere I can find it.)

Noon to 1pm: Starting Your Own Game Company And Running It
with Stan!, Brian Lewis, Steven Charbonneau, Michael Elliott

6pm-7pm: Adapting Games From Intellectual Properties
with Matt Forbeck, Stan!, Mike Gray

10am-11:30am: Different Philosophies of Game Design
with Bryan Tillman, Eric Lang, Mike Gray, Matt Forbeck

5pm-6pm: Writing For the RPG Industry
with Jeff Tidball, Brian Tillman, Matt Forbeck

The rest of the night, I'm likely to be at or near the ENnies.

1pm-2pm NeonCon/CreativeU booth (#2435). The Geniuses all plan to gather here at this time... though there's no telling what we'll be doing. But you are invited!

9pm-onward, I'm likely to be gaming with one or more groups of friends I don't get to see often enough.

11am-Noon: The Art of Freelancing
with Matt Forbeck, Eric Lang, David Hill, Jeff Tidball

Of course, all the Geniuses will be making appearances in other booths, too. In particular, we're going to make a point of spending a bunch of time at the Paizo Publishing booth (#2302). So much of Super Genius Games' success this year has been due to the support of the Pathfinder community (including the Paizo staff) that we feel it's important to give that we show our support in return. Adventurer's Handbook will be for sale in the Paizo booth, and we'll be there to answer questions about any of our past or upcoming projects.
Friday, February 26th, 2010
5:18 pm
Over 140 Characters
A Repose to Tweets of Robin D. Laws, mega-designer and author:


My argument is that you can change the church without removing it. Presumably changing elements of reality is needful for any pseudo-medieval fantasy settings. If God is real, for example, a setting could state he corrected ‘errors' of the church, leading to modern morality and more personal freedom. You do not have to -remove- the church to get those elements.

Further, the church is far from the only force in a medieval setting that works against modern morality and more personal freedom. Indeed, ideas such as the abolishment of slavery, political power flowing from the common people, and legal equality of all social classes are foreign to many historical periods that had zero influence from the church. There is thus no reason to believe that removing the church automatically causes modern morality and more personal freedom to become commonplace, or even reasonable, within a setting.

While many worldbuilders do both remove the church and add modern morality and more personal freedom, these two events need not be linked. There is no evidence to suggest removing one automatically creates the other. And there are many potential authorial needs that may be served by removing the church beyond adding modern morality and more personal freedom (including polytheism, polyspeciesism, strong or independent state rulers, authorial desire for less centralized means of inter-state negotiation or a common scholarly tongue, and even personal axes authors may have to grind with The Church). Thus I believe modern morality and more personal freedom are greater indicators of pseudo than the removal of a single social institution that happened to exist in historical reality.
Monday, February 1st, 2010
9:40 am
House Rules
Every once in a while a fellow gamer asks what house rules I use. I would guess the interest in my house rules comes from interest in the professional rules I write, which is nice but may lead to disappointment. My house rules are designed for my home games, and balanced for the play style of my group. As a result, they may not work for every rpg group out there, and if I do ever publish them in a professional format they may look different. (Not every rule that works for my players, most of whom I have been playing with for more than 25 years and as a result know the play style of quite well, is a good rule for the general RPG audience.)

However, a recent inquiry inspired me to go ahead and post one of my more popular house rules. In addition to what the rules are, I wanted to talk a little about why I created them and what goals they were designed to meet. I'd love to make this a regular thing, but given how busy I am I'm not promising anything. :P

The following rule is used in all my current Pathfinder RPG campaigns, which are set in a homebrew campaign world.moreCollapse )
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
4:02 pm
Political Musings on Torture
A thought on torture. I know some conservatives are afraid that if we outlaw some very harsh interrogation techniques, someday I may die because an interrogator KNEW there was a critical, time-sensitive, life-saving information that torture was the only way to get in time to save me. So, let me say:

1. I'd rather die. I have few ways of giving my life for the good of my country, but this is one of them. I am willing to put my life on the line by saying we shouldn't legalize things that are even on the cusp of being torture, just so an interrogator can prevent me form being blown up.

2. I can see the rare, rare situation where torture might actually save lives, nothing else is going to,  -and- the interrogators know it. All those things need to be true for there to be any justification for torture. It's going to be extremely rare, if it ever happens. And you know what? It should still be illegal. And if, should that moment comes when torture and only torture can save millions from a nuke, I bet the interrogator will use torture. Even if it's illegal. And because an interrogator CAN make that choice, I think it HAS to be illegal. The weight of law and consequence must sit on the torture free side of the scales. And if someone thinks it's worth breaking the law because it will prevent a nuclear bomb from going off at a convention of pregnant women, the legal process should bring him to a jury of his peers and have him answer for it.

3. We are all taught from an early age, two wrongs don't make a right. Why does this get lost in major ethical debates?
Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
4:06 am
Bad Movies can be Good Sources
When I was 10, I saw "Dragonslayer" in theaters 5 times. I was hooked, and I've seen every fantasy film I could get my eyes on since, no matter how bad one looked. I am rarely surprised by either the best or worst anymore, and often know I'm going to be wincing my way through them. Oddly, I didn't wince much when I watched "In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale."

I'm -not- saying it's a good movie, by any stretch. A lot of my comfort with it was rooted in my expectations, which involved fear of an actual smell emanating from my television as it ran. But in truth it's about on par with a B-List 1980s fantasy film, though that's not saying much. I suspect it is the best Uwe Boll movie ever, but that's -also- not saying much.

But it -is- watchable, if just barely, and it does have neat ideas to offer to anyone who bothers. None of the core ideas or plot points are new or worthwhile, but in the minor details are some keen ideas. Spell-golem generals that allow one wizard to run multiple armies by remote, at no risk. A polytheistic nobility ruling over monotheistic peasants. Western ninja-rangers. Examples of diplomacy as a combat skill, and even some ham-fisted courtly intrigue. A castle for teleporting spellcasters with no doors. Even the motto "Wisdom is Our Hammer." is worthwhile, though not the rest of the saying that goes with it. And if you want a source to steal ideas for a home tabletop RPG campaign, a bad movie your players probably never watched is a better source than Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I can't recommend "In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale," and honestly there's no need. Anyone who'd get anything out of it will watch if for the same reason I did – because it's there.
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