Category Archives: General Geekness

Gaming Tidbits

Just sharing some things, because I’m thinking geeky thoughts and don’t have a clear shot at a game at the moment.

  • Fantastical Medieval Campaigns – A new free New OD&D Retroclone
  • #RPGJubilee – An amusing thread on (an RPG-centric Mastodon server worth your time if you’re thinking of fleeing Twitter and looking for a nerdy home base in the Fediverse)
  • @[email protected] – Me on said Mastodon server
  • Andor is exceptional, y’all. Truly great. A slow burn early on, but so very good.
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RPGaDAY 2019

RPGaDAY 2019 Approaches. I’m not sure if I’ll be taking part, but at the moment I want to. Possibly because of the nifty graphic o’ prompts that’s out for this year…

So maybe I’ll have some actual posts for the three of you in August. Or maybe I won’t. But if I do I promise I won’t aggressively spam your social media feeds with ’em. ‘Cos I’m not that kind of guy.

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The Mecha Hack: Fire Team 05Δ

Wherein your humble scribe presents a quickly thrown together fire team for The Mecha Hack – a mech-focused take on The Black Hack (1e, not 2e). Why? Because he’s been digging into Gundam stuff (UC for me!) for a little bit now and this seems like a good game for fast & fun mecha times. And since a mecha team is only as much fun as its opponent, there are a couple of those further down in the post, too.

As the Zircanian mechs closed the gap, beam swords twirling in a blinding display, Samson barked into her comm. “Echo Viking! Echo Viking! Focus your fire on the tank, damnit! You’ll never hit those Szybkis they way they move!”

“If I weren’t in this damn Titan I would!” Sandy hissed back.

“You wreck your Striker, you get the Titan, kid,” O’Keefe the team’s engineer chimed in. “That’s how it goes.”

“Lighten up, y’all! We’re the oh-five and we can take anything these Zees throw at us. We’re the team that took down General Kosci, outnumbered three to one, when both suns were in eclipse, after all!” added Ensign Duran, lifting everyone’s spirits just a little.

Thinking back on that glorious fight Sandy took a deep breath and opened up her chaingun on the Grzmot. A direct hit! It was smoking now, armor be damned. Her team wouldn’t have to worry about its thunder cannon, thank god. Of course, her mech had taken a nasty slice from one of the Szybkis she was ignoring. But sometimes you just have to pay the piper.

“Nice shot, Echo Viking. Hit those jets and get out of the scrum, we’ll take it from here.”

“And when we’re out of this I’ll take a look at fixing that Striker of yours. If you aren’t in love with that big gun now, that is…”

“Thanks, Har. Give ’em hell for me!”

Fire Team 05Δ

Harmony Oracle (Striker) / Lt. Cmdr. Maddie Samson (Commander) / L1 AP5 HP8
Power 12 Mobility 8 System 13 Presence 16
Hit Die d8 Damage Die d8 Reactor Die d8
Equipment: Comlink, Sword (d8), Submachine Gun (d8), Shield (2AP), Light Armor (3AP)
Modules: Targeting Array
Chassis Abilities: Adaptable Robotics, Reactor Charge
Pilot Abilities: Capable Leader, Battle Tactics

Romeo Jester (Striker) / Ens. Duran Zuniga (Quipster) / L1 AP5 HP8
Power 14 Mobility 18 System 10 Presence 9
Hit Die d8 Damage Die d8 Reactor Die d8
Equipment: Comlink, Sword (d8), Submachine Gun (d8), Shield (2AP), Light Armor (3AP)
Modules: Reflective Shielding
Chassis Abilities: Adaptable Robotics, Reactor Charge
Pilot Abilities: Lovable Oaf, Inspiring Speech

Vortex Horizon (Brawler) / Lt. Harlan O’Keefe (Engineer) / L1 AP5 HP8
Power 13 Mobility 12 System 12 Presence 12
Hit Die d8 Damage Die d8 Reactor Die d6
Equipment: Comlink, Laser Axe (d8), Submachine Gun (d8), Shield (2AP), Light Armor (3AP)
Modules: Rocket Fists
Chassis Abilities: Crippling Damage, Charging Strike
Pilot Abilities: Gearhead, Quick Fix

Echo Viking (Titan) / Ltjg. Sandy Xiang (Maverick) / L1 AP5 HP12
Power 16 Mobility 12 System 8 Presence 13
Hit Die d10 Damage Die d6 Reactor Die d6
Equipment: Comlink, Chaingun (d6+2), Heavy Armor (5AP)
Modules: Jump Jets
Chassis Abilities: Kinetic Absorbers, Energy Shield
Pilot Abilities: Ace Pilot, Reckless Attack


Zicanian Grzmot Tank HD2
Heavily-armored tank equipped with mech-disabling tech

Heavy Armor Reduce incoming damage by 2
Main Gun Attack: Mobility, 1 near or far target, 1d6 damage
Machine Gun Attack: Mobility, 2 close targets, 1d4 damage
Thunder Cannon Attack (Recharge 5-6): System, 2 close or near targets, roll reactor die

Zicanian Szybki Mecha HD1
Small, fast mecha designed to swarm a battlefield

Turbo Servos Reach far locations in one move
Hyperclocked Servos Opponents’ ranged weapons suffer a +1 penalty to hit
Beam Sword Slice Attack: Mobility, 1 close target, 1d4 damage
Beam Sword Flurry Attack: (Recharge: 6) Deal 1d4 damage to all close targets

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Google Plus Is Dead

By now you’ve almost certainly heard that Google is shutting down Google Plus, that bastion of RPG nerditude, by August of 2019. And odds are you’re among the folks who have already fled G+ for the interesting, if possibly sketchy in spots, neighborhood of MeWe. If not, consider giving it a look. The Dork Diaspora has largely settled in over there and, at the moment, things seem substantially more active than G+ has been in recent memory.

Strange Stones isn’t going anywhere – though some may say it hasn’t been going anywhere in quite a while, given my slow pace of publishing – so you should always be able to find me here if you’re not inclined to join the MeWe dance. You can also find a little Strange Stones action (very little, all things considered) on Twitter & Tumblr.

In the event that the MeWe soiree turns out to be a bust and we nerds scatter to the winds further down the road, I’ll still be here, posting occasionally and interacting with the three to five of you who care. It’s the least I can do for my throngs of adoring fans the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft.

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TFT Kickstarter, Blah Blah Blah

Listen up, you hooligans. I’ve been playing The Fantasy Trip since 19-and-82. I’ve played full RPG TFT and its component games Melee & Wizard more than any other system (even more than I’ve played all forms of D&D combined). So hop on the damned bandwagon already and back the Kickstarter for the grand re-release of TFT. That way I’ll have even more people to shake my cane at while yelling at them to get offa my lawn. Or, on my better days, more people to play TFT with I suppose.

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NTRPG Con 2016 Recap

As one of the lucky ones, I got to go to this year’s North Texas RPG Con in Fort Worth. Here’s what I got up to while I was there…



I drove to Dallas in a rented Dodge Dart, through deluges and downpours of not-quite-biblical proportions. I got a late start and hit the hotel with just enough time to check in and throw my stuff into the room before rushing downstairs to discover that my game for the night was canceled due to not enough folks signing up. Nobody but me was interested in what was essentially going to be a Master Class in GMing given by Frank Mentzer, apparently.


I shrugged it off and began the great wandering. I promptly ran into the aforementioned Frank covering for someone in the dealer room. We chatted a bit and he plans to offer the same session next year, but with a better description in the program. So hopefully it’ll happen.

I spent the rest of the night wandering and chatting and having a couple of drinks with assorted folks. I ended up spending a chunk of time talking with Robert Parker of Hydra Cooperative at their booth. I snagged some goodies (Misty Isles of the Eld, some funky zines) and had a nice time. Then I turned in so I’d be fresh and ready for…


Friday morning I got up nice and early and had plenty of time to hit the breakfast buffet. Sadly, the food was a couple of notches down from last year’s Con. Remember that. It’ll come up later.

First on my geeky agenda for the day was sitting down to take part in a playtest/demo/whatever of Merle Rasmussen’s forthcoming new 21st Century espionage game, currently operating under the codename Acrid Herald. I played in a game of Top Secret with The Administrator (who’d rather be called the Spymaster, by the way) so I was already a little familiar with his style. He’s a very nice man who delights in bad puns and having fun at the table.

This mission was set in Cambodia (cue the Dead Kennedys) at a newly discovered site of multiple ancient animal temples. Only four of the six players showed up, but we dove in anyway. For the initial set up we each got to build our own animal temple out of a whole mess of Legos. These were then placed around a central temple complex and the whole thing formed the site of our mission. It was pretty darned neat.


I’ll refrain from the blow-by-blow description of the adventure, since I believe Merle will be running this again at several other Cons over the summer. I can say that we succeeded in defeating the tricks and traps of the evil terrorist Hou-u bin Latelee and saved the temple complex from destruction while also eliminating several other threats to humanity in the process. It was a definite blast.

Acrid Herald itself was a little hard to figure out, owing to Merle’s fast-and-loose GMing style. The game appears to assign die types (e.g., d4, d10, etc.) to assorted attributes, skills, and equipment. Sometimes you roll the best die for the task – Got a d4 for physical stuff but also have a set of Gecko Gloves that rate at a d8? Roll the d8 for climbing. Sometimes you roll the two dice together – Got a d10 in shooting and a d6 for your 9mm? Roll ’em both and add together when trying to pop a cap in a bad guy. Sometimes, though, things seems just plain arbitrary. In any case, whenever the entity known as Gygax Games gets this thing out the door I’m sure I’ll be picking it up.


We wrapped things up in about four hours, so we ended early (to save Merle’s voice for the rest of the Con), which was fine. I needed mental time to prepare for running my Barbarians of Lemuria game, in no small par due to the fact that it was about to be the first game I’d run at a convention since 1985.

I spent most of the afternoon doing some last minute prep work and getting my brain in place. I grabbed an early dinner at the bar (still not good) and ordered up what was about to be one of many (many!) double Jamesons. I hit my room to throw some water on my face and then headed downstairs to the atrium.

Five of the six folks registered for my game showed up, which was entirely ok. Most of them had played BoL in some form or another at least once, and a couple even had copies of the Mythic Edition rules with them. So the time I had set aside for rules introduction wasn’t needed and we dove straight into the action. Oh, and there was action. And much more drinking on my part. Not enough to cause problems, mind you. But enough that I would feel it later. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


Again, I won’t go into great detail regarding the game itself at this point. But I can say that BoL Mythic ran like a charm and many great fights happened along with some very solid roleplaying by the assembled strangers. Play was so fast, in fact, that I had to invent some things on the spot to make sure we didn’t blitz to the end. But that was really no problem – I think on my feet reasonably well and the booze hadn’t dulled my faculties too much. We hit the climax of the adventure at just about the right time and everyone was suitably creeped out and challenged by what to do in the face of what was happening at the Abbey of St. Giles the Green.

When the adventure ended everyone agreed that a good time was had and I’ve since heard from some of the players that if I run a game next year they’ll be signing up for it. So that’s quite the compliment, really.

Over the course of several breaks in the game I socialized a bit more with Robert from Hydra and also made the acquaintance of Jason Sholtis (another Hydra head). Jason and I share a lot of rock & roll background, which lead to some good conversations. I’d brought a number of my band’s CDs along to share with the cool kids, and I passed one along to Jason. Robert then began hatching a plan to have a number of us musician-y types put together a band to play at GenCon sometime or another (next year, perhaps). More on that in a bit.

After my game wrapped I went upstairs to drop off my stuff in advance of some more drinking, ideally to be spent with my pal Marc who had arrived earlier in the evening and/or the Hydra guys. But in proper Old School Sandbox Style I got waylaid by a random encounter. Heading back down stairs I ended up on the elevator with (hand to God) a traveling salesman from Cleveland who was just at the hotel for the night to catch a morning flight the next day.

I ended up missing out on hanging with the Con crowd due to a lengthy and interesting conversation with a guy who had nothing to do with gaming at all. He’d barely even heard of D&D and its ilk before, but was fascinated. So we talked about gaming quite a bit. But we also talked about marriages, divorces, web development, elderly parents, and a whole host of other topics. It was an unexpected but great way to spend the night. If only I hadn’t kept drinking. I barely made it to my room. That’s how hammered I was.


To quote Elvis Costello, the hangover had a personality. And it wasn’t a nice one. I tried to make the Toon game I was scheduled to play in at 9:00. I really did. I got up. I showered. I got dressed. And then I hurled. So I crawled back to bed and slept until almost 1:00. I was awakened by a phone call from my wife letting me know that the DIY home improvements she was undertaking while I was off dorking out was, in fact, not at all going according to plan. Not exactly delightful news. But there are worse things in life. So hey, we’ll move on and everything will be OK eventually.


After that, I got back up, reshowered, and headed downstairs to refuel, regroup, and to find Sniderman to apologize for having missed his game. Kind soul that he is, he absolved my guilt and I was able to begin the mental prep for running my second BoL game at peace with the world (and without any booze).


Once more I’ll avoid going into great lengths about the game itself. But I can say that as good as the Friday night game was, Saturday night’s might have been even better. Amazing role-playing from all five of the players who made it to the table (I got another no-show, karma?). Terrible blood-drinking jungle plants were dispatched. Cannibalism was addressed. And the evil sorcerer who was behind it all met an appropriate fate while the children of the neanderthal village were safely returned. We still had about an hour we could have played when the main portions were wrapped up, but everyone agreed that the creepiness and laughter had been enough for one night. And the highest compliment I could have hoped to receive was given. Several of the players agreed that this was the best Con game they’d ever played in. Damn! That felt good to hear. But it absolutely wouldn’t have been true if all five dudes hadn’t been aces as players. So cheers to them!

After wrapping up and getting my stuff back to the room it was time to check out the storied “Satan’s Midnight Auction” event, in which bizarre junk is auctioned off to help raise funds for the Con. The auction was pretty funny to observe, but it was definitely a thing for the insiders more than the rest of us. I bailed pretty quickly and wound up chatting with a few folks – some from my home games and some new friends – before crashing out.


Not having a hangover on Sunday morning was a nice thing. I didn’t have time to go on a breakfast run to the outside world, since I had to get packed and checked out before my 11 game. Instead I dined once again at the sub-par restaurant in the hotel with a group of friendly souls who I’ll look forward to seeing again next year.


My Sunday morning game was playing in the annual “Gygax Memorial Ticket To Ride Game” with Frank Mentzer. I’d been preparing for this for weeks, playing TTR on my phone against a full table of computer opponents. Unfortunately, I was playing the original and the actual game was the Europe version. No matter, I’d played that before. While everyone was playing Frank regaled us with tales of his time at TSR and his many good times with Gary. Despite my preparations I ultimately finished last for want of a single green train card. Had I gotten it within those last two round I actually would’ve won. But hey, it made for a great, tense game that was entirely worth playing. I intend to register for this again next year to avenge my loss. After that, though, I’ll leave off so someone else can enjoy story time with Uncle Frank.

Once the game was done it was time to wander one last bit to give my regards to anyone who was still hanging around. I had some nice conversations and then hit the road for the not-supposed-to-be long drive back to Austin. Sadly, some poor sucker got in a wreck and his truck caught on fire just north of Temple, Texas (70-ish miles from home for me). I sat in park on I-35 for about 30 minutes before they finally got the road cleared enough for traffic to start moving again. Not a disaster (for me), but not exactly the smooth sailing I’d hoped for.

After getting home and assessing the situation with the failed (though no fault of my wife’s) DIY action, we hit our favorite burger joint for dinner and then I spent a chunk of the evening unpacking and connecting with new friends on Google Plus. In short, it was a great Con experience. If you haven’t been able to go to this one, I highly recommend it.


In the few short days since the Con ended, there’s been much cool action. The “OSR All Star Band” (or whatever it winds up getting called) is already being discussed for an appearance at NTRPG Con in 2017. So I’m 99.44% likely to be back next year. Of note, the Con will be moving to a different hotel next year, in no small part due to wide and deep dissatisfaction with the on-site food. It’ll still be right by the DFW airport, though, so it will remain easy for you far-flung fliers to find.

I’m already pondering what games to run next year, too. I have to set aside an evening slot for the probable rock show, which cuts back on my gaming just a tad. But it’ll be worth it to melt some faces with rock & roll alongside some very cool folks.

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Help A (Mutant) Brother Out

In case you’ve missed this elsewhere in the nerdosphere, there’s a fundraiser going on for Ryan Denison’s family. Ryan is the coauthor of Mutant Future (along with Dan Proctor). Check it out here and kick in a few bucks if you can.

Dan is generously rewarding contributors with high quality games from Goblinoid Games, so if you still haven’t purchased Labyrinth Lord and it’s supplements/expansions, Mutant Future, or Starships & Spacemen 2e, now’s a chance to grab ’em while doing a little good in the process.

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Back From (North) Texas – The Short Version

I’m working on a longer version of this, but before any more time passes and my loyal readers (all three of you) start complaining, here’s the highlights from my trip to the North Texas RPG Con…

  • Frank Mentzer is one of the nicest people in the world
  • Frank runs a very loose and enjoyable game
  • “Story Time with Uncle Frank” is one of the best ways to spend five or so hours
  • NTRPG Con has very nice ladies who bring food and (non-alcoholic) drinks to the tables. Tip them, or Uncle Frank will yell at you. I didn’t need to be yelled at – I always tip and tip well – but Frank made sure no one failed to tip
  • Merle Rasmussen is yet another of the nicest people in the world
  • Merle is so low-key and unassuming that he probably really is a secret agent
  • I still don’t really know how Top Secret works, since we never wound up in combat thanks to exceptional planning and execution by my fellow players
  • The dealer room at NTRPG Con is the treasure trove of vintage stuff you’d expect
  • Except for all of the new stuff (Goodman Games, in particular, was delivering the nuevo content)
  • Matthew Goiffon (Super Number One Food Tower) is a name you DCC players should look out for – the kid is very creative
  • DCC is a great con game, especially funnel-stylee
  • Everyone I talked to loved Marc’s “level 10 funnel” DCC game. I wish I’d played in it, but then I wouldn’t have been able to talk with him about it on the drive up
  • DCC is a pretty good fit for Lankhmar
  • I can’t say much more than that since the game I was in was Judged by a rather hungover Doug Kovacs
  • Doug Kovacs may or may not be one of the nicest people in the world
  • Regardless, he’s an interesting and engaging GM
  • Getting to know a number of people I already casually played games with in Austin better at the con (Paul & Brenda Wolfe, most notably) was one of the absolute highlights of the weekend. They are both among the nicest people in the world
  • David Baity, the extra roommate, is also one of the nicest people in the world
  • DB’s safe word is “Pepperjack” – keep that in mind if you wind up rooming with him

As I say, a longer version of the story is coming. But for now, this will have to do. And yes, I’m sure I’ve left out key information and failed to acknowledge lots of other people as Nicest People In The World®. I’ll do my best to remedy that in the more detailed writeup.

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And It Doesn’t Look A Day Over 39…

So I hear today is the 40th anniversary of the first release of Dungeons & Dragons. Or as close to it as anyone can identify (and boy did they put in the effort on identifying!). Actually, I’ve known about this pretty much since Mr. Peterson made that post back in December. And I even meant to acknowledge the anniversary with something more meaningful than the ramblings you’re reading right now.

I really, really wanted to play some kind of anniversary celebration game, but a bunch of real life junk messing with my schedule (and psyche) pretty well ruined that ideal. Also, Sundays are historically bad for gaming in my little clan, since most of us have families and such that need to be tended to before heading back to work on Monday. So it really wasn’t in the cards to begin with. But still, I meant well. So maybe I’ll give ol’ D&D a belated birthday party a little further down the line.

In the meantime, here are links to D&D-related posts I’ve made over the course of this blog’s run. Consider them my way of saying “Who loves ya, babe?” to Pappy D&D…

There’s all kinds of other stuff floating around here, too, but it’s all “officially” for Labyrinth Lord or some other retroclone or another. So I’m not linking to it directly, because I don’t wanna. ‘Cos Sherlock is starting and I’m done writing.

Happy Birthday, D&D!

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