August 20, 2013

Catching Me at FanExpo Canada 2013

FanExpo Canada rolls out this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. Its gaming track, thanks to the impossible oddsmanship of coordinator Justin Mohareb, has evolved in a thriving and genuine entity. It’s the week after Gen Con, so I always try to wriggle out of it, only to be drawn back in. This time Justin’s entreaty I could not refuse included his bringing my boon compadre and podcaster-in-crime Kenneth Hite up to join the extravaganza of gaming and genre palaver. So to heck with Nathan Fillion, Zachary Quinto and Stan Lee. Come to see us—along with Chris Perkins, Ed Greenwood, and many more.

I’m not doing the vendor table thing, but you can catch up with me at the following seminar events. I’m more than happy to sign books or chat after events. Don’t be shy about getting my attention in the vast scrum that is FanExpo. I’ll be the one in the groovy shirt.






3:45 pm

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff – Live!



6:00 pm

GM MasterClass (with Ed Greenwood, Kenneth Hite, Chris Perkins, Matthew McFarland)



11:15 am

Writing Adventure Games (with Ed Greenwood, Kenneth Hite & Jonathan Lavallee)



12:30 pm

Advanced Kickstarting (with Jason Anarchy)



3:15 pm

Robin Laws Q&A


August 19, 2013

Gen Con 2013 Gloating and Thanks

Another Gen Con now recedes into the Mountain Dew-scented mists of time. Now in an O’Hare waiting lounge, a familiar mix of euphoria and sleep deprivation dulls my cognition.

The Pelgrane Press decisively smashed previous sales records. I’ll let Simon provide the percentage figures, should his argent reserve permit. Most pertinent to my agenda, Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow posted very satisfying numbers. The companion volume did surprisingly strongly. You expect supplements to sell a fraction of the core book. Here that fraction was much bigger than the norm. Even better, sales picked up on the Sunday, suggesting that people who’d earlier on picked up the core back came back later for the companion.

13th Age and Eternal Lies were no slouches either. Double Tapped, the new goodies book for Night’s Black Agents, sold out, and the core game, buoyed by Ken’s double silver ENnie triumph, all but did so as well.

Gen Con offers a chance to spend time with a large swath of my favorite people, and I cram moments of catching up into my schedule as greedily as I used to trawl the halls for signs of the new hotness. A record number of past and present members of my game group made themselves present, including illustrator Rachel Kahn and illustrator/graphic designer Chris Huth, both immersed in the giant festival of gaming love for the first time. I loved seeing the experience through their bedazzled first-timer eyes.

A couple of big future projects solidified at the show and I look forward to spilling the beans on them in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by with kind words for my work, including a certain much-lauded podcast. This tight shot of ego gratification now goes into emotional storage to be fed upon until, oh, say, Dragonmeet.

Thanks to the Hillfolk contributors who took part in our two mass signings, in all their chaotic, ink-stained glory.

And thanks to Hillfolk backers who picked up their copies at the show. As you may have heard, shipping costs have spiked horrifyingly since our campaign in the fall, so by grabbing your books in Indy you helped the project yet again.

Now time to rest…oh, wait. Tomorrow is programming day for the Toronto International Film Festival. And then Ken arrives on my doorstep Friday so we can descend as a dynamic dyad on FanExpo Canada.

I might catch some rest in October, I guess…

August 17, 2013

Gen Con Day Two: Read to the Bottom for the Giant Dangling Hint

If you ever get a chance to attend a Q&A-format panel moderated by Jack Graham of Posthuman Studios, take it. He works the room like a nerdgeist standup comic, softening up questioners by asking them where they’re from and then hitting them with a leftfield question. Do Oklahomans add more tornado threats to their games? Would you sooner be Mork or Mindy? The gauntlet thus having been run, he hands the foam Talking Axe to the participant, who then throws his query to the panel.

Here it was a question for the Campaign Doctors on how to address particular ongoing problems in one’s game. As they often do at Gen Con, the basic “what do I do about this one guy in my group” query took on unusual permutations—how not to stump players when you distribute narrative control, or how to run for an outwardly detached 14 year old. Amanda Valentine provided sage advice, seizing high ground as the voice of reason. Luke Crane served up delightful iconoclasm, particularly when hilariously informing one group of Burning Wheelers that they were playing his game wrong. Comically heightened apoplexy abounded. And of course I said the Things I Always Say.

Speaking of which, the later GUMSHOE panel with Kenneth Hite, Simon Rogers and your quasi-humble correspondent started with the basics and zoomed out to masterclass detail in the second half. As far as I can tell I succeeded in recording it, and we’ll be mining the choicer bits as a recycled audio segment on an upcoming instalment of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Then I got to do the Bob Hope thing, showing up to deliver a cameo appearance in Jeff Tidball’s intensive RPG design workshop. If you are thinking of jumping into the field and see him doing this at a future show, block out that chunk of time and get ready for an invaluable crash course. I dropped some choice design science, told a few jokes, and swanned out again. Next time I’ll have to have “Thanks for the Memories” loaded on my smartphone as I stroll in.

Last night saw Ken once more dipped in silver glory as he clutched two such medals, honoring Night’s Black Agents for Best Writing and Best Game. He has become so accustomed to such feting that the later uptick in his overweeningness was barely perceptible.

Or perhaps John Kovalic, back at Gen Con for the first time in nine years to promote his fab new party game ROFL, noticed it more acutely than the rest of us.

Oh, and somewhere in there I had a very fruitful meeting concerning the Battlechimp Potemkin. Make of that what you will.

August 16, 2013

Gen Con Day One: The Best Kind of Dwindling

Yesterday at the Pelgrane booth, fat stacks of Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow dwindled satisfyingly throughout the day. Once refreshed, they dwindled again. We had both sales and plenty of Kickstarter backer pickups. The day also dished up a lesson in the nonmonetary rewards of Kickstarter. I could see how much awareness the campaign had created for DramaSystem in that I had to do very little cold pitching of the basic concept; because people swung by already knew what it was. In fact I was able to talk to people who have already played it, because the backers have had a fully functioning copy of the rules since October. So the project gives off the glow of newness while also being something that people know enough about to get excited.

Thanks to all the contributors who took part in the Hillfolk signing event. I look forward to the next one with a fresh crop of signers at 11 AM on Sunday.

This is not to imply that the other many new cool things at the Pelgrane booth were not also briskly dwindling their own stacks away. It is particularly fun, as Ken pointed out, to hand someone a copy of Eternal Lies and watch the recipient’s arm abruptly drop with its unexpected heft.

I already have what my wife very sweetly refers to as my sexy convention voice, which is to say that the vocal apparatus is already showing the strain. You know what that means-- it's seminar day!

At 1 pm, it’s the Campaign Doctors Panel with Jack Graham, Luke Crane & Amanda Valentine at the Crowne Plaza Ballroom A/B, thrown by the good singularitans at Posthuman Studios.

Then at 3, it’s that perennial fave, the GUMSHOE and Investigative Roleplaying Panel with Kenneth Hite and Simon Rogers, also in the Crowne Plaza Ballroom A/B. We will attempt to capture audio for later recycling on the podcast.

Most of the rest of the day I will endeavour to be at the Pelgrane booth. That’s booth 101, free ice cream for the kiddies (ice cream and cones not included.)

August 15, 2013

Time to Hit That Gen Con Floor

It was a delight to behold the obvious joy that Diana Jones award winner Wil Wheaton exuded as he accepted his mysterious Perspex pyramid for Tabletop. In his speech, after lofting the trophy above his head in happy triumph, he talked about gaming as the refuge that got him through his early, lonely awkward stage. In other words, he told the same gaming origin story many of the thousands of people gathered here at Gen Con this weekend could easily echo.

It may be the unexpectedly moderate weather, it may be that I have some new posse members to introduce to their colleagues, but whatever it was I can’t say I’ve enjoyed a Diana Jones party more. The sense of reunion that comes from seeing the gang together in one place washes away months of self-imposed stress and nonsense.

But that was last night and at least one shot of tequila ago. Now I steel myself for the glories of the exhibit hall. I have been told that Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow have in fact manifested in physical form but have yet to run my paternal fingers across their hardcover surfaces. After a year heavily dominated by the process of making these, I could not be more stoked to finally see them reaching you, the gaming  public. If you’re a backer picking up the show I will feel an extra frisson of satisfaction to see them move from the booth table to your capacious bags o’ loot. I will be haunting the Pelgrane booth (101) pretty much through the day today.We have one of our two mega signings this afternoon at 3 PM so if you can swing by for that we have Sharpies ready and waiting to personalize those pages.

Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow are but a fraction of the bounty that you can grab at the Pelgrane booth. The Esoterrorists second edition is here. 13th Age is here. Eternal Lies is here, which I didn't even know to expect! And I have it on good authority that there might be other game products at other booths.

Now if you'll excuse me I have a date with some piles of books…

August 13, 2013

Another One for the Portrait Gallery

In my continuing bid to become the Kiki de Montparnasse of the hobby gaming world, I have once again been immortalized through the pen of a top illustrator.  First Gene Ha, then John Kovalic, and now Jonathan Wyke, who contributed many fine pieces to Hillfolk and Blood on the Snow. I’ll be adding it to my roster of drop icons. Thanks, Jonathan!

August 09, 2013

Finding Me at Gen Con 2013

Once again it’s the time of year when hobby game designers start posts by telling you it’s that time of year. Gen Con is right around the corner, luring us in with the scent of fresh polyhedrals and keeping us there with the glow of community and creative renewal.

My big focus this year, barring catastrophic tinkering by the print gods, will be on the arrival of Hillfolk and its companion, Blood in the Snow. I had this largely designed by Gen Con 11, was plotting initial Kickstarter moves at Gen Con 12, and now look forward to see it finally realized as a physical object. Backers have been playing the game for a while, based first on their preview editions and then with the finished PDF. But there’s nothing like a tangible item to infuse one with a sense of completion. Swing by the Pelgrane Press booth to pick it up, at its new upsized digs: #101, across from the Paizo booth.

Also at the show, the GUMSHOE game that started it all, bigger and more unremitting than before—The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition! I am stoked to see that hit the trade table, too.

When not otherwise booked I’ll mostly be haunting the Pelgrane booth. I’m there to chat, so don’t be shy. I’m happy to sign any of my books for you, not just Pelgrane stuff.

To catch me in a more structured circumstance, join me for any of the following events:


3-4 pm

Hillfolk Signing #1, with Jennifer Brozek, Paula Dempsey, Steve Dempsey, Dave Gross, Rob Heinsoo, Ryan Macklin, Michelle Nephew, Jeff Richard, Rob Wieland & illustrator Rachel A. Kahn

Pelgrane booth


1-2 pm

Campaign Doctors Panel with Jack Graham, Luke Crane & Amanda Valentine. (Posthuman Studios)

Crowne Plaza Ballroom A/B


3-4 pm

GUMSHOE and Investigative Roleplaying Panel with Kenneth Hite & Simon Rogers. (Pelgrane Press)

Crowne Plaza Ballroom A/B


Noon-1 pm

Table to Page: Narrative Gaming Panel with Corey Reid, Gareth Skarka, Emily Care Boss & Kirin Robinson (Scratch Factory)

Crowne Plaza Victoria Station, C / D.



11 am-Noon

Hillfolk Signing #2, with Keith Baker, Emily Care Boss, Steven S. Long, TS Luikart, Andy Peregrine, Wade Rockett & Pedro Ziviani,

Pelgrane Booth

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: A Tank Wearing a Truck Hat

In the latest episode of our electrifying podcast, Ken and I talk period Night's Black Agents, Jasper Maskelyne, Kickstarter doom and Nikolai Tesla.

August 08, 2013

Advertise on Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff

“Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff”, the Golden Geek-winning, five-star podcast I co-host with my boon colleague Kenneth Hite, is now opening up a few more advertising slots. This is your chance to join the fun and erudition, in the fine company of present sponsors Pelgrane  Press, Profantasy Software, and Dork Tower.

If you’d like to advertise your game, company or other product or service to an eager audience of discerning listeners, download our rate sheet, with contact info, in handy PDF format.

The Birds: Scapegoats


Click here for the complete strip archive.

Stuck in mobile mode? Click here for image file.

August 07, 2013

Feel the Horror of the 2013 Gen Con Buzzword

Can the Gen Con buzzword competition survive in a world where former also-ran Kevin Kulp now reigns as defending champion? In 2012 his ruthless use of the term incubate won him the the crown he had so fiendishly slavered for, for so many years.

If this sounds like madness to you, a) it is and b) here’s the recap.

Each year at Gen Con, players of this cruel insider marathon attempt to drop a ridiculous and/or repellent piece of business jargon into conversation in as many contexts as possible. Straightfaced usages score full points. Visible irony warrants a deduction. For extra points, slip it into podcasts, ENnies acceptance speeches, or like circumstances in which an innocent public is subjected to the buzzword’s full horror. Super extra points are awarded for causing some other unfortunate soul to use the word as if it is a thing decent, sane people actually say.

Past buzzwords have included wheelhouse, idea farm, and the verb form of status.

This year we’re not letting you off so easy. The terrifying term of 2013 is eventize, a malformation of the English language in which one proposes to take something and make an event out of it.

Examples of use:

  • “When this hits retail, we’re going to eventize the heck out of it.”
  • “In 2013, it’s not enough to launch a Kickstarter. You have to eventize your Kickstarter.”
  • “We’re working on a way to eventize our errata.”
  • “Really, when you think about it, all gaming is a process of micro-scale democratized eventization.”

As suggested by the final example above, derivations of the term will be accepted. It goes without saying, rules lawyers, that the ordinary word event, unadorned and alone, earns you nada. It is a thing a decent person might say.

Report point-scoring activities to me for inclusion in the final tally, to be announced after the show. All judging decisions are final.

August 05, 2013

Hillfolk Signings at Gen Con

Hail, raiders of the Gen Con high country!  To celebrate the launch of Hillfolk and its companion volume Blood on the Snow, we've arranged two signing events at the Pelgrane Press booth. We have so many contributors at the show that we're going to be splitting our signers into two bunches.

On Thurs Aug 15th at 3 pm swing by to grab autographs from such tentatively scheduled luminaries as Jennifer Brozek, Steve Dempsey, Dave Gross, Rob Heinsoo, Ryan Macklin, Michelle Nephew, Jeff Richard and illustrator Rachel A. Kahn.

Then come back on Sun Aug 18th at 11 am for the cuneiform stylings of Keith Baker, Emily Care Boss, Steven S. Long, TS Luikart, Andy Peregrine, Wade Rockett and Pedro Ziviani.

The Pelgrane Booth has moved to bigger digs this year, and is now #101, across from our fine pals at Paizo.

I’ll be there for both events, and around the booth for much of the rest of the time. As always I’ll be happy to deface any of my books, new or old, for you.

Many other contributors are at the show but unable to make this event. This will not prevent you from suavely bushwhacking and/or waylaying them as they perform their duties at booths elsewhere on the exhibit hall floor.

Kickstarter backers will be able to arrange ahead of time to pick up their books at the show. And of course there will be copies on sale for those of you who did not join us for the campaign back in October.