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Letting My Geek Flag Fly

It’s been a busy week getting ready for I-Con 31!! I’m very excited to be GMing at this year’s event.  In fact, I’m all over the schedule, running events for “Mage: The Awakening“, Generic “World of Darkness” (Humans vs Supernatural), and “Hunter: The Vigil“. So yeah, I’ve been busy. Even the adventures I’ve run previously need to be combed through so that handouts that have been previously handed out are replaced, and of course it’s always nice to refresh my memory as to how the adventure is supposed to run.

And then of course there’s the adventure debuting at I-Con 31: “Your Safety is our #1 Concern”. (See Link Above) I’ve never run “Hunter the Vigil” before so it was a bit of a challenge making sure I had everything together properly, and scaling the challenge to the characters. Of course, this being a convention and not a campaign I only have to worry so much about whether or not there is a TPK. After all, even a party wipeout can be lots of fun as long as the fight is worthy of drunken tales in the hotel bar later that evening. I believe that in that regard I have a winner! (Of course, I may be biased.)

Honestly, the bigger challenge in planning convention events for me is one of pacing. In my campaign it doesn’t matter if they don’t get as far as I figured they would in one session. In fact, sometimes that’s a blessing as it gives me a bit of a leg up on the next session. Conversely, I’m all too used to my players going off plan and I can improvise around their weirdness. I’ve grown used to their weirdness. At I-Con I’ll have all new weirdness to adapt to, which should be interesting!

Of course my bigger concern is that at a convention game there is no next session. You have to make the one session count! It has to have enough going on to fill the time slot without feeling like filler, and you have to reach the final challenge before the session ends. I tend to like planning a bit more than I think we can cover, with modular areas that can be dropped if we’re running short on time without negatively impacting the story’s flow.

One of my favorite things about planning a one-off convention game though is the researching. I’m kinda weird like that. I love wandering aimlessly through internet searches for keywords like “abandoned building”, or “subway urban legends”.  I’ve found some incredibly inspiring things that way, that help me give the scenario that splash of reality that I like to bring to the World of Darkness. It may not be exactly like the world we know (especially if I’ve messed up my physics a bit since I haven’t had to calculate breaking distance in… well in quite a while let’s leave it at that!) but it should be close. A splash of realism makes the event hit that much closer to home, which is always creepier.

See you on the gaming track!

Mages Make Me Cry


In The Beginning:

I had been playing Role Playing Games for more years than I’d like to admit to, and I had at times played antagonist NPCs. It is not nearly the same thing as GMing your first game though.

My first session as a GM was the first session of the Mage campaign, back in May 2009. There were issues from the start. For one thing, the game formed at my friendly local game store Ravenblood Games. Ravenblood is hands down the best place to play games ever, but the challenge was running for a public group. Because this was to be an ongoing campaign people signed up if they were interested in staying in the campaign for the long haul, not as a group of one shots with different players each week. Some of the people I had gamed with before, some I hadn’t. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, some of the people who signed up couldn’t make it to the first session, which gave me a smaller and more manageable group to start with than the one I wound up with. At least there was that!

So, at the start of the session I had two people who would become Mage campaign regulars at my table, and one person who intended to play a Werewolf, and ultimately wound up taking over as GM for that group. Argus, an Obrimos Guardian of the Veil, and Niels, an Obrimos Free Councillor, were my regulars. Macabre, a Moros Free Council Mage, was being played by the future Werewolf GM.

My idea was fairly simple and straightforward. The Consilium has noticed that a Ley Line is being corrupted. They want it investigated, but quite frankly New York City is a big place and they have more urgent matters to deal with. As a result, they have called on a few Mages who have been deemed reasonably trustworthy (and not irreplaceable) to investigate.  The Ley Line lead them to a house that was so nondescript that it could only be deliberately so, and they did some poking around. I had intended that they decide to stand a watch outside of the house, hoping that when they decided to enter it the cabal of Mages using it would be in the midst of their ritual and have all of their protective wards up. It would be a big, flashy battle and ultimately at very least the leader of the cabal would escape by teleporting away.

Naturally, my players decided to break in right away. A little invisibility, and boom I can pick the lock with no one seeing me. Stupid Mages!

I did hit them with a problem once they got inside though. The Mages using the house had bricked over the way to get into the basement. As high powered Mages they didn’t need it. Clearly, this meant that the basement was where all of the action was happening. Now, how do the players get down there? They are new Mages and don’t have fun spells like create portal, teleport, or plasticity just yet. Various ideas were discussed. These ideas included:

  • Creating a workforce of zombified rats from the New York City subway system. After all, we all know that NYC Subway Rats are a special breed, and they should be able to dig through the distance between the nearest subway tunnel and the wall of the basement.

The Guardian of the Veil stepped in and said absolutely not. (Good on you, Argus!)

  • Calling upon the Consilium to see if they can help.

This seems like a good idea on the surface, but the Consilium sent the players here for a reason: they simply don’t have time to deal with something this trivial and that’s why they sent the PCs. They are supposed to find out what’s going on, not call in to ask the Consilium to do that for them.

  • Using the Atlantean Backhoe that the Moros Mage had written on his character sheet under “Merit: Artifact” to tunnel into the basement.

The GM did not approve this artifact, and that player was summarily thwapped upside the head.

Eventually the resident science guy, Niels, decided to use his Mage sight to see if he could detect any existing shortcuts to and from the basement. After all, Mages have all kinds of abilities that tend to support laziness, and so it might be a good idea to have something that triggers a portal into the basement on your second floor so you don’t have to keep bothering to cast the spell. Sure enough he found a full length mirror that did exactly that, and they went downstairs to investigate.

As GM I figured they would take some notes on what they found, maybe pick up an item or two to bring to an Acanthus Mage (the “regular” Acanthus Mage was away that weekend and couldn’t make it to the session) to see what was probably going on down there. That would seem to make sense.

The players decide to camp out down there, invisible (too many Forces Mages dammit!), and wait to see if anyone shows up. So much for my glorious battle!

While they are waiting the Moros Mage decides to zombify the corpses of any rats that might happen to be near by and I have to come up with rules for that on the fly because the average Moros Mage zombifies people, not rats, and I didn’t have any rules for that handy. We figure something out and he gets a bunch of rats, which makes him all happy.

Eventually the Mages who are using the place do wind up portaling into the basement. They portal in because one of them is carrying a young child who is to play a key role in the ritual they are about to perform. First the security guard of the group comes through to make sure everything is clear, but the dimwit carrying the child botches his timing role and comes through too quickly after him. As he is coming through my Guardian of the Veil, who is invisible, blows the head off of the first Mage through the portal.

Having the brains of his cabal mate sprayed all over his face scares the second Mage coming through more than a little, as it might be expected to do, and he winds up dropping the child and heading back through the portal.

It is at this point that the Moros Mage decides to order the zombie rats to go after him through the portal, and then return. Sadly the portal snaps shut as they leap through after the Mage that is running away. Clearly someone on the other side of that portal heard the gunshot, saw the brain-splattered coward leap back, and decided that closing that portal might be a good idea.

The Player Mages try using the rats as an anchor to scry on the location of the antagonist Mages, but this only leads to a severe headache and a confusing image of a rickety building overlapped with a shopping mall.

Upon returning to the ground floor the players discover something near the kitchen door. Just inside of the dog flap is what appears to be an old flyer, being held by a nearly destroyed skeletal rat. The flyer is for a new tourist attraction in Long Branch, New Jersey: “The Haunted Mansion”. It clearly dates back to the 1970’s.

The players have some mysteries on their hands now. Who are these Mages who are powerful enough to portal through Time? And more immediately, what are we going to do with the sleeping little girl they left behind?

Mages Make Me Cry

NaNoWriMo FTW!!

As you can see at the bottom of the page I have posted a NaNoWriMo win! That means that I have written 50,000 words in one month on one coherent topic. I certainly can’t manage much coherence today having just finished that! After a month of solid writing and deadline meeting I have to admit that my brain is more than a little fried.

I am certainly not destined to be on the NY Times Best Seller list, as my writing here can attest. A large part of my NaNoWriMo participation involves giving myself an excuse to get in closer touch with the NPCs in my campaign. It gives me some pressure to develop plot-lines on a deadline beyond the next game session. I can ‘t guarantee what the player characters in my campaign will do, but I can get inside the heads of my NPCs, and if I’m lucky come up with some things that will make interesting one shot modules.

This year I believe I have somehow managed both.

It is likely that a full NaNowriMo novel will not appear on my blog, though I suppose it’s possible. Much more likely? Well, it’s more  more likely that I will post excerpts, and that I will write some modules based upon them. One excerpt has already been posted at my author’s page at

I introduced Hunters into this year’s NaNoWriMo, and that is no accident. I plan on running a Hunter module at I-Con 2012, and I haven’t figured out all the details yet. NaNoWriMo forces you to get into the heads of the characters, and do it NOW! You can’t keep putting it off. You have a deadline, and you’ll make it or you won’t. That’s what makes NaNoWriMo great! (Well, part of what makes it great.)

Please consider supporting NaNoWrimo by clicking on my link below.  If you can’t donate (and believe me I understand that!) then consider participating next year! It’s a great excuse to indulge the muse.

For now, I will indulge in some well deserved sleep! I haven’t had much of that in the last few days. I’ve had a deadline to meet!

For next week I am planning the first piece in a chronological look at the campaign’s events. With a little luck, by the time I am caught up to now (the December 2011 session) it will be OK for me to reveal all of what has happened over the past 2+ years. It has been a wild ride! I have been chomping at the bit to do so, but I have hesitated on providing my players with spoilers. They are all great players, and completely capable of separating character knowledge from player knowledge, but surprises are part of the GM’s fun!!

Up next: A Critical Look at my Very First Session as a GM!

Mages Make Me Cry

I Sleep Now

Ain’t No Rest for the GM

Chances are that I’m not the only one reading this who is currently recovering from a failed STAMINA+SURVIVAL check or two during the Thanksgiving festivities. Fortunately I blew some character creation points on the Iron Stomach and Toxin Resistance merits, which helped me to not only handle the pumpkin pie objective, but also to struggle my way through the tryptophan encounter.

Alas, neither merit will help me write something entertaining in the wake of yesterday’s events. (Apologies to the readers.)

Pretty soon I’ll be hitting the checkout button on a large portion of my Christmas shopping (no stores for me! :::shudder:::) and then settling down for a long winter’s nap… or at least a long weekend’s nap. It will be a well earned opportunity to recharge my brain as I ponder what evil things to do to my players next. As it happens I have some fairly big decisions coming up.

The Players’ Cabal is currently negotiating a prisoner exchange with a quite powerful Seer of the Throne. Complicating matters is the fact that Seers tend to let their Exarch make the big decisions for them. How important is this captive the players are holding to the Exarch’s plans? Sure, she’s important to the Seer they are negotiating with (she’s his granddaughter), but to the Exarch? Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. In the sight of The Eye she has already failed in her mission to ensure that Damien is brought into the fold. So when you come right down to it, how much is The Eye likely to approve of exchanging for her?

And then there is the rest of the Cabal’s “To Do” list. I have more than one player looking at various Legacies. I’d like to have that unfold naturally in the campaign, but so much of what they have been doing as of late has been secretive enough that it’s been difficult to have them be approached. Of course, certain players have been less secretive than others, and I have to decide what happens when someone places an object in the Holy Water at the Vatican and that seemingly simple coin sizzles the Holy Water right out of the font in a big steamy cloud. Surely no good can come of that. Fortunately no one brings cameras or cell phones into the Vatican. (#facepalm)

And what of the remaining coins? To date the players have one, and they suspect that they know who has another. Are more of these still floating around? (I’ll give you a hint: the answer isn’t ‘no’.)

There are, of course, other bad things going down simultaneously. New York is a big city. I would like for the players to take advantage of a little character down time in the near future, but they might wind up stumbling into some bad things during that down time. Hell, they may cause bad things to happen during that down time. Come to think of it, they may have already caused bad things to happen during that down time!

To quote a favorite web comic of mine… “Rejoice. For very bad things are about to happen.”

Mages Make Me Cry

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. It’s hard to believe that next week I’ll be gorging myself on excessive amounts of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, corn, banana bread, pie, and anything else at hand that happens to be delicious.

In the spirit of the season, there are a few things that I, as GM, feel the need to give thanks for:

Family: No, no, no… not MY family! I’m talking about the innocent and totally defenseless families of my player’s characters. There is a special kind of cheer that only knowing you have your Time Mage’s sister trapped in Arcadia can bring. If you’ve never felt that special feeling then take it from me, you’ve not truly lived. Family, when powerless and in the hands of the antagonists, makes my heart all happy.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not also thank the player character family that is in fact the antagonists of the campaign. Watching the dawning realization break across the player’s face as he realizes that his character’s own family is on the other side… priceless. And then of course there are the cabal mates who now begin to wonder if they can trust this guy at all. OK, maybe that ship had already sailed, but now they trust him even less!

Thanks Family!

The Gift of Giving: It has been said that it is better to give than to receive. This is never more true than when you’re giving someone a cursed coin that they can use to free their sister from Arcadia if only they can figure out how it works. Knowing that this power is right there in her jacket pocket and that all she needs to do is wield it, and watching her not let herself do it no matter how torturous and tempting a thought it is, now that is the gift that keeps on giving.

No, really, don’t thank me. Thank You!

Home: For some, it’s where the heart is. For a certain cabal of Mages, it’s where the event horizon is. I mean was! Yeah… was… nothing to see here.

Home, I thank thee.

Friends: The Mage game just wouldn’t be the same without them! For one thing it would be a book, and the characters in it would do things that actually made some sort of sense, but I digress. The fact of the matter is that without the fantastic troupe of players I found through Long Island Role Players (see below!) this game, and this blog, would never have existed.

Thanks guys!! (No, really, I’m being sincere this time… don’t get used to it.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mages Make Me Cry

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