Treasury of Games: Rooftop Death Arena

The east side isn’t a nice place. It’s been described as a “war zone” in the news, and given the gangs going after each other with automatic weapons, that seems apt. However, the more powerful gangs are organized enough to have leaders who realize that large scale armed conflict is bad for everyone. That doesn’t mean they’re throwing away their guns – it just means they’ve set up a common system to resolve disputes between gang members of rival gangs. Without getting the law involved, of course. The cops are everyone’s enemy, here.

Any grievance can be brought to trial by combat. The two parties must each be members of gangs who participate in the arena, and their leaders must agree the grievance is legitimate. The leaders of the respective groups will negotiate the terms of the battle – one on one or a small group skirmish, unarmed or with certain weapons, on which roof, and to what end: first fall, first blood, submission/unconsciousness, or death. Once the trial is complete, the losing side makes any restitution required by the agreement between the groups’ leaders, and the matter must never be brought up again by either side or the gangs are responsible for punishing those who do so.

Of course, grudges will be held, and the arena hosts a cycle of revenge drama. Toughs looking to avenge their fallen buddies simply must wait for some new slight or excuse before issuing a new challenge. Since the grievance is just as sore on the other side, such an excuse is sure to come along. Yet, the punishments for stepping out of line are enough to discourage outright brawling or gunfights in the streets, for the most part. The arena focuses the aggression of the young gangsters. Gang leaders know this, so they frequently grant requests for challenges, though less frequently death challenges. Non-lethal challenges happen many times a day, while fights to the death are reserved for tensions which would otherwise boil over into much more violence. Still, death battles happen about once a month.

The action in the rooftop arena is recorded and sold online. Access to the live streams of the nonlethal battles is available via subscription; the death challenges are available only by mail on DVD, because the gangs are savvy enough not to post direct evidence of their countenancing murder online where their origin IP could be traced. If it ends up online somehow, they can claim it was staged and no officer, there was no murder – someone would’ve pressed charges, surely! Sometimes the deception extends to introducing the officer to the “actor” who was “in makeup” to appear to be the loser in the video, whose “death” was entirely fake and staged. So far, the police have not cracked a case on the killings in the death arena, but some detectives keep their eyes out, watching and waiting for a slip. Rights to the revenue of a fight’s streaming and recording go to the winning gang. The fighters receive a portion, and the rest goes to the leaders.

A certain bloodthirsty class of sports fan follows the death arena, and the events draw live crowds. Numbering somewhere around a hundred for each fight, these spectators especially love submission and death duels. The bookmakers share the opinion of the crowd, because the more excited the spectators, the more they bet on the fights. Far more cash changes hands in the betting than in the direct revenue of the streaming, recording, or even the charge made on the spectators for entry. When the fight lasts to submission (which most commonly means someone is beaten senseless), the bets are about double the usual. If it’s to the death, ten times as much cash flows, and about five times as many spectators show up. Some of these spectators are locals to the neighborhood, but most of them are wealthy criminals with interests in the activities of the gangs, taking advantage of this neighborhood’s unique system for resolving disputes for their own entertainment.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Treasury of Games: Annihilation Pool

There is a shallow pool (just deep enough to submerge a person of average height to the shoulders) in a tidal hollow, ten miles from the nearest town. The location is known to a sect of monks who revere the place as holy.  They make spiritual journeys to the place as a form of ritual purification. The monks know the place as the “purifying tide,” but the rest of the locals call it the “annihilation pool.”

The pool itself is clear, and fresh water despite the tide flowing into it again and again. No animals exist in it, not even their bones, not even insects or other small creatures. Any which stray in vanish and are never seen again, and most instinctively stay clear. People fare differently. When a sentient being enters the pool, the magic in it reflects the person’s inner desires. Because nonsentient animals are entirely a collection of hungers and needs, they are consumed to feed the magic. People have a variety of desires, though, and some are less destructive than base selfish hungers. Surviving a dip in the pool requires either a buddha-like freedom from all desire, or an outward-focused altruism or protective desire which sacrifices the self in favor of the good of others. The monks who regularly visit the pool are sometimes entirely hairless – this reflects early failures to achieve a freedom from all desire before entering the pool. However, all the surviving monks have at least eliminated most of their earthly desires. Entering the pool with any selfish earthly desires in your mind causes it to burn like acid, consuming you from the outside in. The stronger your desires, the more of you is consumed. The best of the monks with complete divestment of their earthly desires have no scars because entering with no desires at all is simply a pleasant bath.

A dip for a truly altruistic or heroically protective individual is different: the pool will deplete some of its store of magic to heal and bless the character who meets these criteria. Wounds up to and including recent death (within the past day) can be healed, and the blessing conforms to the others-focused desires the character holds. If the character is generally altruistic, then from now on, they gain a small amount of luck (about +5% chance of success) whenever their action would help someone else. If their desires are to protect someone or something, then the blessing applies only to that endeavor, and is more powerful for being more focused (more like a +20% chance to succeed at appropriate actions). This aspect of the pool is not well known, and only the elder monks know of it; with a very good relationship with said elders, they will share the story of a man who fell in battle protecting the town from coastal raiders. His grieving loved ones took his bod to the pool to set it in there to be dissolved, hoping to keep it out of the hands of the raiders who would have disrespected him by stringing his corpse up to discourage others from fighting back. However, the pool’s magic reflected their pure love and respect for their guardian, and his love for and desire to protect them in return. He was restored to health, whole and hale, and returned to town and drove the raiders off for good. The healing effects have also been noted from time to time on monks who are more kindhearted and generous in relieving the suffering of those outside the order than usual (not all in the sect believe in this practice, but some believe that relieving suffering is necessary to ultimately free the world from harmful desires).

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Tabletop Treasury

Any good throne is supported by a treasury; the Throne of Games keeps a store of resources for running role-playing games. The treasures range from setting pieces for use in various genres to house rules for a variety of games, mini adventures and even unique light systems for free use. In a series of weekly articles, Ian Price will bring you the riches of the Throne. Every Monday, a new bauble will be released to the public, as long as the Throne of Games endures.

Ian Price is the creator of Kitsune: of Foxes and Fools and Bad Decisions, and has contributed to the Ghouls, Carthians, and Chronicler’s Guide books for Vampire: The Requiem.

Ascension at The Throne of Games – Long live the King!

The ENnies at GenCon 2014
The ENnies at GenCon 2014

As formerly noted, one of the secrets of the gaming industry, comparable to “The Emperor has no clothes!”, is that the former King of roleplaying games, Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons, was deposed from, or more abdicated from the Throne of Games and dropped out of the top five roleplaying games.  The gaming mega-con, GenCon 2014, was held August 14 through 17 and it was clear there was no vaccuum of power left in their absence at the ENnie Awards.

Evil Hat Productions, publishers of the Fate Core System, ranking #4 in ICv2’s top five role playing games, received eight ENnie awards at GenCon, including the Silver award for Best Publisher.

Monte Cook Games, LLC, Numenera ranked number five of the ICv2’s top five role playing games and took nine ENnie awards including the gold for Product of the Year.  Monte Cook formerly worked on Wizards of the Coast’s on their newly released version of their dungeons and dragons genre game, “Next” but left due to differences of oppinion with the company.

From this year’s ENnie awards it is clear that Evil Hat Productions and Monte Cook Games have truly risen to the level of Lords of Gaming but who has risen to the top?

The Paizo Publishing Company‘s Pathfinder ranked number one on the ICv2 list of the top five role playing games and at the GenCon Ennies their pathfinder products took eight ENnies for Paizo as well as two for Whiz Kids for their Pathfinder miniatures.  Among their eight awards, all gold, was the gold award for the Best Publisher.

According to the ENnie Awards website:

“The ENnies were created in 2001 as an annual award ceremony, hosted by the leading D&D/d20 system fan site, EN World in partnership with Eric Noah’s Unofficial D&D 3rd Edition News. Since they were originally conceived the ENnies have expanded from an Internet-based awards selection to an annual award ceremony at Gen Con Indy.”

So, while Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast failed to produce anything worthy of a nomination by the dungeons and dragons playing community at GenCon’s 2014 ENnie awards, Paizo’s Pathfinder has clearly risen to claim the throne with Monte Cook Games, LLC and Evil Hat Productions at their sides.  While Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast struggles to keep their brand alive, the dungeons and dragons genre thrives on without them.  So, in the meantime, if your kids say they are playing dungeons and dragons, chances are high that it is Pathfinder from Paizo.  The King is dead!  Long live King Paizo!

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The King is dead! Requiem at the Throne of Games

Winners of the Ennies at GenCon 2014 - Can you find Wizards of the Coast? Nobody could.
Winners of the Ennies at GenCon 2014 – Can you find Wizards of the Coast? Nobody could.

On Friday August 15, 2014 at GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana the Wizards of the Coast held a party to mark the launch of Tyranny of Dragons for their latest release of their dungeons and dragons genre role playing game.   Wizards of the Coast are copyright owners of the original Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, once the undisputed king of role playing games.  Now the Wizards of the Coast roleplaying division doesn’t even make the list of the top five role playing games.

GenCon 2014 attendees hit the food trucks while the Wizards of the Coast music drones on
GenCon 2014 attendees hit the food trucks while the Wizards of the Coast music drones on

The Wizards held their launch party under a tent on Georgia Street where the food vending trucks were selling their wares.  As far as parties go it was more lively than a typical wake but less celebrative than a New Orleans funeral procession.  They had distorted music blaring on substandard speakers and it was difficult, at best, to enter the tent without earplugs.  The exciting gift for those attending was a cardboard face mask.  While most of the folks on the street were there for the food trucks, the attendees of the party were kept moving as they looked at the few cases of items on display, much like an open casket viewing.

A few members of the press were on the fringes of the tent discussing how much Wizards of the Coast had dropped the ball in terms of marketing and, indeed production of quality gaming.  In 2012 they put on an extravaganza that impressed all who attended even though it was all smoke and mirrors with no substance and was followed by problems and delays in producing a replacement for the much maligned fourth edition.  This year at GenCon 2014, Wizards of the Coast doesn’t even have a booth in the Exhibition hall.  As far as the demonstration gaming, Michael Tresca, veteran gamer, respected game reviewer, and National RPG Examiner commented that he had played  one of their adventures and experienced TPK, total party kill.  Even though the players had played intelligently, they were slaughtered without mercy.  This is not what one might expect from a company that is trying to gain new players for their system.

A Wizards cardboard mask rescued from the trash
A Wizards cardboard mask rescued from the trash

After paying appropriate respect to the Wizards of the Coast the next stop for the evening was the Ennie Awards.  While it was no surprise that Wizards of the Coast didn’t take any Gold or Silver awards, it was a bit of a surprise that they didn’t even place in the top five in any Ennie category.  The Wizards’ “party” had already disbanded and the displays were being packed up after the Ennies had ended.

Cosplay at GenCon 2014
Cosplay at GenCon 2014

Will 2014 truly mark the end of Dungeons and Dragons as a viable brand as the dungeons and dragons genre continues to expand with Paizo’s Pathfinder, Monte Cook’s Numenera, Evil Hat’s Fate Core System, and others?  Will Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast pull a true resurection or are they just pumping good dollars after bad and doomed to earn the titles of Hasbeens and Withereds of the Coast?  While only time will tell as it is not yet a total flatline, the future looks pretty grim for the brand.  Speculation has already begun on who will next own the Dungeons and Dragons name when Hasbro pulls the plug.

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John Schneider’s ‘Smothered’ – a twisted game of ‘Who would win?’

The horror icons of "Smothered" at Q & A following the Sneak Peek at the Mad Monster Party
The horror icons of “Smothered” at Q & A following the Sneak Peek at the Mad Monster Party

Most everyone has played some version of the game “Who would win?”  Sometimes it is just banter between friends over their favorite character or genre.  It can be seen at convention panels where attendees debate on whether the heros of Star Wars or Star Trek would win in a battle.  It has even turned into movies and comics with, “Aliens vs. Predator“, “Freddy vs. Jason“, and others.  Last night, March 23, 2014, at Charlotte’s Mad Monster Party was the sneak peek at John Schneider‘s new movie, “Smothered” a sort of “who would win?” story with a twist.

The cast of horror icons include Kane Hodder from the Friday the Thirteenth series, R.A. Mihailoff from Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Bill Moseley from The Devil’s Rejects, Dane Rhodes from Deja Vu, Malcolm Danare from Christine, and Don Shanks from the Halloween series.

Instead of taking these iconic characters into battle, “Smothered” places the actors themselves, as celebrities at a small, poorly attended horror convention on Friday the thirteenth.  They are losing money and wasting time until they get an offer for some easy money scaring people at the local RV park.  So rather than being the villains, Mr. Schneider places these icons of horror as the victims in horrifically hilarious turns of events.

The first few minutes of the movie leads and misleads the viewer as they introduce the femme fatales with a blend of comedic chaos.  The lovely ladies of the film include Amy Brassette, Rachael Alana Handler, and Brea Grant of the Halloween series as DD.

In an industry where finding bigger and better ways to off the characters is the standard, “Smothered” succeeds in bringing the horror aficionado a satisfying series of “I saw that one coming!” and “Oh no they didn’t!” moments.  It leads to a final disturbing moment of creepiness when looking back the realization comes that, “Yeah, I could see that happening.”  Oh, and in “Smothered” to know who wins you will have to watch it to see.

For the horror fan, “Smothered” is a must see cinematic event and you will want to get a personal copy for all the actors to sign.  Its five heaping cups of double D fun!

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The music of warriors, gamers, starships, airships, and Valkyrie – Victor Sierra

 

Victor Sierra - Yesterday's Tomorrow
Victor Sierra – Yesterday’s Tomorrow

Mighty warriors gather, prepared for a great conflict, wearing armor and bearing weaponry that spans cultures and millenia. A dark storm brews overhead with rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning. The warriors are pumped full of adrenaline, fully knowing their death may be moments away yet caught up in the glory of battle and focussed on guiding the points and blades of their weapons as they charge into the host of enemies.

The valley rumbles to the pounding rhythm of charging horses and the drumming beat of the foot solders. Balloons, derigibles, and other aircraft and creatures provide aerial intel of the enemies positions, strengths, and weaknesses. Unseen over the battle field, the Valkyrie convene to watch and choose the best of the warriors to take to Valhalla. One of the Valkyrie smiles as she listens to the music of the epic, life and death struggle. As she scrutinizes the warriors, her MP3 player flashes, “Artist – Victor Sierra, Album – Yesterday’s Tomorrow.”

Victor Sierra is a steamy hot, steampunk band from Paris, France.  The songwriter/musician/singers Anouk Adrien and Bob Eisenstein belt out their ballads in dedication to the heroes and heroines of otherwhens past, present, and future with a casual conviction that is both relaxed and powerful.

Victor Sierra’s album, “Yesterday’s Tomorrow“, is full of dark energy with flashes of hope. It resonates with the rhythm of an epic battlefield. It pounds with the charge of horses and the clash of warriors. It is a fluid, relentless struggle, rising and falling with the currents of war. In the end when the singer declares the war is over, it is sad and wistfully brooding.

Victor Sierra is the music of warriors, of gamers, of starships, and dirigibles. It is the music of the Valkyrie! Check out Victor Sierra’s Facebook page and show them some love (with a like!), in the ArtPrize Out of the Bag interview and the Alysha Shaw hula hoop performance by the BOB at ArtPrize, on Amazon and buy Yesterday’s Tomorrow, and on the Steampunk Soiree music stream where you can hear the music of Victor Sierra, The Clockwork Dolls, Water Street Bridge, Jon Magnificent, and many other steampunk bands!

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Games, movies, costumes, shows, and even girls at Gen Con 2013!

Shawn LeGrand and Eric Federonich from Dubuque, Iowa
Shawn LeGrand and Eric Federonich from Dubuque, Iowa

It is likely that most every motel within twenty the Indianapolis area had gamers arriving last night.  Many of the folks in line to check into the Indianapolis Northwest Days Inn had official Gen Con badges already and others were excited waiting to get theirs for Gen Con 2013.

Shawn LeGrand and Eric Federonich left their jobs and families in Dubuque, Iowa for the next for days of awesome gaming.  Check out the Gen Con eve interview.

While the gaming goes on around the clock at Gen Con there are many other great things happening including great opportunities to cosplay, a zombie walk Friday at 8 p.m., and the film festival.

The Costume Parade is Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. with the 28th annual Costume Contest following from 4 to 6 p.m.

9 p.m. looks to be a great time to catch a movie this weekend with the award winning indie science fiction film, “Found In Time” on Friday, “Death In Charge” on Saturday, both at 9 p.m.  Tonight at 9 p.m. is the world premiere of the new indie film “O.G. Original Gamester.”

Of course the beautiful but bawdy Damsels of Dorkington return to tickle your funny bone and many other great entertainers will keep you entertained between games.  More on that later!

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Fiasco at the International Tabletop Game Day

Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day
Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day

Saturday March 30th was the International Tabletop Gaming Day and all over the country and around the world people were playing tabletop games of all kinds.  At White Cap Comics in Grand Rapids, Michigan from noon to 6 p.m. folks came to the store to shop and to play games and many stayed and played games all day.

Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day
Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day

A wide variety of games were played from the #1 board game – Mayfair‘s Settlers of Catan – to card games and roleplaying games like Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games.

The staff at White Cap Comics made sure that everyone had a good time at the store but certain aspects of the day did turn out to be a bit of a fiasco too with folks leaving a bit disappointed with the expected outcome of the day.

Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day
Playing Fiasco at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day

White Cap Comics was one of the stores that had paid months in advance to be able to provide their customers with the great prizes that Alliance Game Distributors had promised to the stores for a $500 buy in and that the folks at Alliance and  Geek and Sundry Tabletop Day had been touting for months with comments like, “collect all the exclusive promotional items made specifically to commemorate this.

 

List of Tabletop Game Day from Alliance Game Distributors
List of Tabletop Game Day from Alliance Game Distributors

With International Tabletop Game Day being pushed by Alliance Game Distributors, being touted by Geek and Sundry, and the major players in the tabletop gaming industry Mayfair, Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, and others supposedly behind it encouraging attendees to “collect all the exclusive promotional items” and paying $500 for the premium kit, folks might expect that the store would have been provided enough promotional items for more than one person to “Collect all” the promotional items.

Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day
Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day

Unfortunately that was not the case.  For an additional $50 the store could have purchased another box of promotional items to cover a second person.  So for $5450 the store could have had enough for the hundred or so customers that passed through the store to collect all the promotional items that Alliance Gaming Distributors, Geek and Sundry, and the gaming industry been promoting.

Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day
Fun at White Cap Comics Tabletop Game Day

Brick and mortar stores like White Cap Comics work hard to promote positive hobbies like board, card, roleplaying and other games and provide space and a home after school to lots of kids that might otherwise be home alone or out getting into trouble after school, on weekends, and during the summer as well as for adults to gather for a game.

Retail stores like White Cap Comics understand that the economy has been bad and Michigan has seen its worst economy over the past decade so folks around here understand economic hardship and disappointment, but when the gaming industry has posted its fourth year of consecutive growth, companies like Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast, Mayfair, and others are looking like scrooges or bailout bank CEOs who are walking away with overflowing pockets at the expense of taxpayers.

While the folks at White Cap Comics made certain that everyone that came had a great time and were apologetic to those that had bought into the “Collect them all” hype, the gaming industry has major egg on its face but is happily sitting on a load of cash to ease their conscience.

A final note on the Tabletop Game Day, the $500 the store paid was to also include 30 to 60 seconds on Geek and Sundry’s live Tabletop Day broadcast.  The White Cap Comics AV staff spent hours of preparations for the broadcast, purchased new equipment including an HD camera and studio headphones, installed a cable connection, and had 3 laptops and an extra webcam as backups to ensure that the store would be ready for its appearance on Geek and Sundry’s Tabletop broadcast.

After waiting for hours the Geek and Sundry announce they were going life to the store and then they crashed.  For about half an hour there was no response and then:

“TABLETOPDAY .:hey guys, again, sorry for the crash
TABLETOPDAY .: kernal panics are no fun
TABLETOPDAY .: we’re done with the first half of the broadcast though – see you soon!”

They then went offline and didn’t respond when asked how long was “soon!”

They finally responded at 7:04 Eastern with, “hi priscilla! sorry about all the confusion – once the computer crashed it killed the skype feed. we were offline until 3! if you’re around later, though, there’s a chance we could call you back!”

At that point the store was closed and folks were going home.

So to the folks at Geek and Sundry, “‘redundancy’ is a popular term among geeks in the tech industry, you might want to look it up.”  To the folks at Alliance Game Distributors and in the gaming industry, “Did you intentionally mislead your customers or are you just out of touch?”  Finally, to all the gamers worldwide – “Game on and see you at Gen Con!”

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