IntrigueCon is Coming!

bannerIf you’re a role-player here in Edmonton, you really need to get on-board with IntrigueCon, running October 16-18. For those that have attended in years past, you’ll notice they’ve expanded to a third full day, running all day Sunday as well. With weekend passes at just $20 if you pre-register, that works out to less than a dollar an hour for a weekend’s worth of role-playing entertainment. You just can’t beat that price, and you’ll be supporting a great local gaming con.

The best thing about gaming cons is the chance to step outside your normal gaming patterns, and try a game you’ve never played before. IntrigueCon is perfect for that; a quick glance at the schedule and I can see games like Mouseguard, Fiasco, Edge of Darkness, Hong Kong Action Theatre!, Deadlands Reloaded, Werewolf: The ForsakenPashkovskaya Nocturne, and Star Trek, as well as fantasy standards Pathfinder RPG and D&D 5th Ed. There’s plenty of gaming goodness running all weekend, so you owe it to yourself to grab a seat at a new game.

Need more reasons? If you’ve been looking for a gaming group to join, cons are a great way to meet new gamers and make those connections. Whether you’re a player looking for a table, or a GM looking for players, cons are a way to meet new gaming nerds. And I’ve said it before in other places, but local cons are very much a “use it or lose it” resource. If they aren’t supported they go away, and it becomes harder to get another one started; folks see how the previous one failed and are less likely to get behind the next venture. In short, local cons can’t be taken for granted, and even if you can only make it out for a day you should try and support the cons as best you can.

Support comes in many forms of course. Cons always need volunteers, whether as a GM or general help around the event.  If you’ve been looking for a chance to try GMing at a con (and you should, it’s awesome), IntrigueCon is a great way to get your feet wet. And if you aren’t ready for that quite yet, cons always need help taking tickets, cleaning up, setting up tables, organizing…lots to do, and many hands make light work.

I’m running some Kobolds Ate My Baby! on Friday night, and then some Pathfinder Society games all day Saturday. If you want to get involved in either (or anything else), head over to IntrigueCon’s site and pre-register, then sign up for your games. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Ten Maguffins for your Games

cropped-brent-chibi-96.jpgMaguffin is a term for a motivating element in a story used solely to drive the plot. It serves no further purpose. It won’t pop up again later, it won’t provide resolution. Really, it won’t do anything except possibly distract you while you try to figure out its significance. The classic example is, of course, the Maltese Falcon from the movie of the same name. We never learn much about the object; in fact, the characters never even see it until near the end of the movie. But without it that story wouldn’t have happened.

Maguffins have a place at the gaming table, and can serve to keep your players pleasantly (at least for you) occupied or distracted. You don’t have to get too heavy-handed when introducing a maguffin into your game. In fact, the more you let the players tell you what they want from it, the better. Maguffins work best when they feed off of the wants and desires of the players and their characters.

That said, here’s a list of potential maguffins. I’ve tried to keep them general enough to fit most campaigns, and they’re (with one exception) system neutral. Feel free to use them as you wish, and change details to suit your own campaign.

  1. A matched pair of knucklebones, carved for use as dice. Instead of numbers, each die has six different and unintelligible symbols, one to a side. When rolled, the dice emit a faint hum and a flash of light. No other effect is apparent.
  2. Small clear-quartz statue of an imp. Starting at dawn, the statue slowly becomes both warmer to the touch, and more red. At dusk the statue is almost too hot to touch, as well as a deep ruby red. As the night passes, the effect reverses, leaving the statue clear and cool by dawn.
  3. A battered silver cup with the name “Fleance” expertly etched on the side. Found alongside other treasure, it obviously occupied pride of place (on a pillow on a pedestal, for instance). If checked, it does radiate a very faint magical aura, not much stronger than the weakest of spells.
  4. A small pink object, about the size of a matchbox, with a USB port on one side. If plugged in to a computer or other electronic device, the object gets slightly warmer. Whatever device it is plugged into immediately turns off. When turned back on, it’s found the device works better and/or more efficiently than it did before.
  5. A regular looking Zippo lighter. When used, the flame colour is occasionally blue, red, green, purple, or a combination of one or more of those colours. And though this isn’t immediately apparent, the lighter never needs refilling or new flint.
  6. A pretty talking doll, complete with frilly dress and pull string. The GM is free to make up phrases for it to say, but at least one should be, “Hello, [insert character name], will you play with me?”
  7. A large jar of pickled flumphs. If a character chooses to ingest one, the GM is free to determine what effect, if any, this will have. Beyond a bad tummy ache, of course.
  8. A small brass hand bell. When rung, it never emits the same tone twice in a row, sounding anywhere between “tinny and tinkly” up to “booming cathedral”.
  9. A plain key with no markings. Though not immediately noticeable, the key changes shape and design every day, though it is always without visible writing. The GM can decide what the chances of it fitting a particular door on a particular day might be, but it should be extremely unlikely.
  10. By all appearances, a plain white chicken egg. It is slightly warm to the touch as if freshly laid. It is also, by any means the players can devise, unbreakable.

Have maguffins of your own? Share them in the comments below.

Kickstarter News

I have recently dabbled in the realms of Kickstarter, and so far have yet to be disappointed. One of the things I’m currently backing, and really excited about, is the Into the Ninth World by Monte Cook Games. I’m backing at the Lover of All Books level, which means that I’m getting the following for my pledge:


I’m not imagining things, right? That’s a lot. If you’re a fan of Numenera, you should jump on-board this train before it leaves the station. If you’ve thought about checking the game out, there are a number of add-ons (like the Numenera sourcebook) to make this a logical jumping-on point.

Me? I’m going to wait for the Kickstarter to end and see how long “giddy with anticipation” will carry me.

Getting Back in the GM’s Chair

cropped-chibi-brent.jpgTonight my Thursday Knights convene after our annual summer hiatus. We’re diving back in to the Jade Regent Adventure Path, just a smidge of the way into the first book. It can be tough coming back to your regular game after some time away, so I thought I’d share three tips to make the transition from unsightly mob of civilians to crack team of tabletop pros easier.

1) Manage Your Expectations – The first session back, you aren’t going to get as much of the story done as you would during a regular session. Hopefully you’re friends as well as gamers, so there will be more than the usual bit of socializing and catching up, since you’ve all been apart for so long. Go with the flow on this. Gaming is a social event, after all, and you want your group to enjoy their time together. Don’t ruin the fun by cracking down too hard on first-session kibitzing. But…

2) Start as You Mean to Go On – …do start getting the group back in the table habits and house rules you’ve used. After a break some of those habits will have been lost, so be gentle. But if you had specific ways of doing things (working out initiative, how each player’s round works, and so on) or house rules you were following, make sure you draw your player’s attention back to those things. And of course, if you had habits or house rules that weren’t working for you, now is the perfect time to let them fall by the wayside.

3) Hang That Sucker! – If it is at all possible, end the session on a cliffhanger. Your first session back after a break, you want to get your players excited about coming back for session two. And three, and four…you get the idea. So I trick I’ve used is to end the first session on a cliffhanger. It’s great if that can be a big story moment for the players, because that will really grab their attention. But I have, when a good story point wasn’t in sight, just stopped the game with, “Okay [insert character name], the [insert suitably horrific creature] swings at you with its [flaming tentacle/acid-spewing greatclub/halfling corpse]…and that’s where we’ll end it for tonight.” At the very least, you have one player extremely interested in what’s happening next week.

What tips do you have for getting the band back together? Share them in the comments below!