Extra Life: Double For Doernbecher!

Only one day to go until Extra Life, where I’ll be playing a warforged artificer. You can see what I’m doing for Warforged here, and I’ll write more about my artificer hack after I arrive in Seattle. But I’m still raising money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, and as we go into the final hours we have a call to arms. If 10 people donate $20 by noon Pacific time, my wife Jennifer Ellis will match that donation! (To be clear – Jenn will match the donations up to a total of $200 on our end.)

Donate to Extra Life here!

Thanks for your support!

Gaming For Charity

I’ve been busy working on Phoenix, and I’ll have more to say about that soon. But I’m also making time for a few special projects, and I hope that you’ll support either or both of them.

First up: On Saturday, October 25th I am taking part in Extra Life, a Charity program benefiting Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. I’m participating as a player with the Dungeons & Dragons team: I’m going to be playing in the first 8 hours of a 24-hour D&D marathon run by gamemaster Greg Bilsland. The entire event will be live-streamed, so you can follow along with our perilous journey. My donation page is here, and I’m personally raising money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. In exchange for your donations, you can help establish details about the character I play – everything from my name and class to my motto or battle-cry… plus, the more money I raise, the more benefits the DM gives to me, just like the Hunger Games! In particular, if you select an Eberron option for my Race or Class, I will develop 5E stats for that element and post them here. For Race, you can choose an Eberron specific race – such as Warforged – or a traditional race with a specific Dragonmark. Note that these will not be official and may not match whatever form official 5E Eberron support takes, and in the case of the Artificer I will only develop the elements of the class as needed for this adventure, NOT a full 20-level class with a full infusion list. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity to help an awesome cause and to get the wheels turning on 5E Eberron development, and I hope you’ll lend a hand! Once again, you can find my donation page here.

A week later – on Sunday, November 2nd – I’ll be on the other side of the screen, gamemastering events for Celebrity ChariD20. This event is raising money for Reach Out And Read, a charity that promotes child literacy. I’m going to be creating a short 5E Eberron adventure with pregenerated characters. If you donate you can watch the livestream of the event, and with a donation of $15 or more you will get a copy of the Eberron adventure. You can donate here!

Both of these are excellent causes, and I hope that you will help to make them both succeed. If you have any questions about either one, please ask. Otherwise, again, please lend a hand and support Extra Life or ChariD20. Thank you!

 

PAX 2014

This is the busiest time of year for me. Having just got back from Gen Con, I’m about to go to PAX Dev, and then stick around for PAX Prime. You can find me at the following events:

THURSDAY 2:45-3:45, Vashon

Roundtable: Worldbuilding

Designing a setting for your game can be a mind-expanding experience. Whether you’re crafting cities for an MMO or mapping terrain for an RPG, you have the whole world in your hands. Designer Keith Baker leads a discussion on what makes worlds work.

THURSDAY 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Card Kingdom

Hanging Out With Keith

THIS IS NOT A PAX EVENT! Thursday night I’ll be spending a few hours at Card Kingdom. Come talk about Eberron, Gloom, or what I’m doing with my new company Twogether Studios! Take a look at Fairy Tale Gloom! This is going to be an informal event so drop by anywhere in that range.

MONDAY 10:30 – 11:30, Sandworm Theatre

The Art of the Table: GMing Beyond the Basics

Fending off a horde of ravening zombies seems like child’s play, compared to wrangling the needs of a party of RPG gamers! GMs must wear the various hats of actor, guide, narrator, friend, foe, and many more… All while still staying sane and helping everyone bring the most fun to the gaming table. Ben Mandall and our panel of expert game masters will analyze what it takes to be a truly superb GM in an interactive panel that both first-time and veteran GMs will learn from. Bring your questions!

Again, my Card Kingdom event has nothing to do with PAX, so you don’t need to go to PAX to catch up with me there. One way or another, I hope to see some of you in Seattle!

GenCon, Gloom, and Twogether!

GenCon2014I’m back from GenCon with a few new games to try out. While I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play games, it was an inspiring trip and an opportunity to catch up with lots of old and new friends. There were also a few important announcements that I wanted to share.

Gloom2GLOOM 2.0 AND MUNCHKIN GLOOM

The second edition of Gloom is in stores now. You can find more information about it here, but I wanted to highlight a few things. This is an improvement to the existing game, not a complete transformation. While there are significant differences, it is possible to mix old and new cards together. With that said, if you own the first edition but still want to get the second edition, I’m working on something that will let you get good use from outdated cards… expect more news on that in a few weeks. if you have any questions about Gloom Second Edition, ask below.

However, there was another piece of Gloomy news at GenCon. I’m teaming up with Atlas Games and Steve Jackson to produce MUNCHKIN GLOOM. You may wonder how this works… after all, the goal of Gloom is to tell a sad story while keeping your opponents happy, while the foundation of Munchkin is backstabbing your friends while you amass ultimate power and wealth. Well, how exactly do you GET all that power and wealth? Munchkin Gloom takes a look at the other side of the coin, placing you in control of a dungeon full of monsters whose lives are about to be ruined by a band of obnoxiously overpowered adventurers. We’ve got a lot of fun ideas and I think it’s going to be a great flip side to the basic Munchkin saga. Munchkin Gloom will be out in 2015, along with Fairy Tale Gloom.

twogether_color_webINTRODUCING… TWOGETHER STUDIOS!

It’s been a long time coming, but my wife Jennifer Ellis and I are finally launching our own game company: Twogether Studios. I’m best known for creating Gloom and Eberron, and Twogether will reflect the principles seen in both of these. We intend to create engaging products with a strong emphasis on storytelling and imagination. We are working on RPGs, card games, and other ideas, and expect to launch our first Kickstarter in February 2015 to fund the production of a game we’ve been working on for the last year. If you want to keep up with what we’re doing, you can follow us on Twitter at @Twogetherstudio, or keep an eye on our website. I’m very excited about our plans for 2015!

PantsDnDWHAT ABOUT EBERRON?

I’m afraid this weekend didn’t produce new information about Eberron support in Fifth Edition. The D&D team at Wizards of the Coast has a lot on their plate right now managing the release of the new books, and I suspect it’s going to be a little while before they can focus on this. However, it’s something that is still in motion and I’m excited about the possibilities, so hopefully there will be solid news in a month or two. In the meantime, I’ll be getting a Q&A out later this week. And for my part, I just put together a half-orc paladin of the Silver Flame (from the Demon Wastes) to play in the 5E campaign I’m playing in. More news as soon as it’s available!

Gen Con 2014 Schedule!

It’s been a busy week getting ready for Gen Con – I hope I’ll see some of you there! If you’re going, here’s a few places you can find me.

THURSDAY AUGUST 14

2 PM, Room 210: DUNGEONCRAFT LIVE!

Kenneth Hite, Ray Winninger and I will be providing our best GMing tips.

FRIDAY AUGUST 15

4 PM, Room 210: PLAYING GOD

The role of the divine is an interesting part of world design. How do you make faith matter in a setting? How do you involve deities without making mortals feel irrelevant? I’ll be discussing these topics and more with Greg Stafford and Steve Kenson!

SATURDAY AUGUST 16

11 AM, Room 211: FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Horror campaigns can be tricky to pull off in RPGs. How do you overcome player knowledge? How to you address the fact that people playing a horror RPG are expecting the unnatural? I’ll be exploring the subject with Kenneth Hite, Shane Hensley, and Andrew Hackard.

5 PM – 7 PM, Hyatt Lobby: GEN CON MEETUP!

One of my favorite things about Gen Con is getting a chance to catch up with old friends and meet new people. I’ll be hanging out in the Hyatt Lobby for two hours, and happy to talk about Gloom, Eberron, or any of the projects I’m working on now!

 

If you’re not going to make it to Gen Con, I’m also going to be at PAX Prime, Rose City Comic Con, and Geek Girl Con. If you are going to be at Gen Con and plan to attend one of more of these events, leave a note below… especially if you have a topic you’d like to see covered at one of the panels!

San Diego Comic Con 2014: Gloomy Plans!

Tomorrow morning… far too early tomorrow morning… I am heading to SAN DIEGO COMIC CON. I’m going to be spending most of my time there in the Geek & Sundry Lounge, hanging out and playing Gloom. I’ve got the following special events on my schedule…

Friday, 11 AM – Noon: FAIRY TALE GLOOM WITH MOLLY AND MARIAN

Want a peek at the next Gloom product? I’m going to be playing a round (using an early prototype deck, to be clear) with awesome musicians Molly Lewis and Marian Call. Drop by and take a look!

Friday, 1:30 – 2:30: THE BIG GLOOM GAME

Five tables of Gloom, giant Story cards, and awesome celebrity players like Patrick Rothfuss, Boyan Radokovich, and Nika Harper! Unfortunately the tables are all filled, but it should be a good spectacle.

Friday, 4:30 – 5:30: MIDDLE-GLOOM

A few years ago I created a science-fiction themed version of Gloom that you will NEVER see published. If you want to see Wesley Crusher Set Up By Sith and Captured In Carbonite, this is the game for you. This year I’m adding a few new cards tied to one of my favorite TV shows, The Middleman, and playing with Middleman creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Middlewriter Margaret Dunlap. I expect both hilarity and hijinks!

Beyond that: on Thursday I will be hanging out at the G&S Lounge off and on, talking about all the things and playing Gloom. Beyond that: I’m also going to be at Gen Con and PAX Prime. I hope to see some of you soon!

Stories And Dice

A few years back I told Jenn “You know what would be awesome? A gumball machine filled with dice.” I forgot about it… she didn’t. So meet the newest addition to our house. It’s just as awesome as I expected, but it’s not a small machine. Jenn included a few pounds of dice as part of the present, and I’ve added in all the loose dice I had around the house, but that’s still left us with a significant amount of room at the top. And that gave me an idea.

As gamers, dice are our faithful (and sometimes treacherous) companions and tools. We have our favorites, we have superstitions, we have memories of amazing critical hits and tragic fumbles. One of my favorite experiences during my Have Dice Will Travel tour was the story of how D&D came to Bulgaria… in particular, how for many years it was very difficult for Bulgarian gamers to acquire dice. A set of dice was a relic to be treasured by a gaming group. At one point the first Bulgarian gamer had to sell some of his dice to raise rent money. Stop and think about that for a moment: you need some significant cash, fast, so what do you do? Sell some dice, right? At the end of my trip to Bulgaria, my guide Stefan gave me one of those very dice (both pictured below), and that little grey die is one of my regulars today. It’s not much to look at, but once upon a time it was one of the only dice in Bulgaria.

Dice aside, I love hearing people’s stories about how they started gaming, why they play, or favorite moments. It’s especially great to hear from people who have enjoyed something I’ve done – to hear YOUR stories of Eberron, Gloom, or anything else. Last year at Calgary Expo I met a pair of newlyweds who’d met in an Eberron campaign; the year before I met a soldier whose unit played Eberron in Iraq using dice made out of toilet paper.

So I have a diceball machine with empty space at the top, and thousands of people out there whose stories I haven’t heard. I could just buy another two pounds of dice, but I thought I’d do something different. I want you to send me a die and a story. It doesn’t have to be your favorite die, and it doesn’t have to be an epic story; just tell me something about you. Why do you game? What was one of your favorite moments? If you played in Eberron, what’s the most awesome thing you did there? I’ve made a layer of white at the top of the machine so I can tell where the story dice begin, and if we get enough I’ll drain it from below. Perhaps someday every die in the machine will have a story.

If you’d like to take part, send your die and your story to:

Keith Baker

PO Box 13250

Portland, OR 97213

… or catch up with me in person somewhere! Let me know if it’s all right to share your story with others, and make sure to include your email address so I can follow up with you. And please pass this along to anyone you know who might be interested.

As long as I’m talking about the stories of dice, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Bones, an anthology assembled by the brilliant Will Hindmarch. The Bones includes stories from Kenneth Hite, Matt Forbeck, John Kovalic, and many others… including a more detailed account of my time in Bulgaria.

In the days ahead I’ll be writing about Phoenix, Gloom, and the many exciting projects I’ve got lined up for 2014. I’ll be back with more Eberron Q&As. Until then, I hope you’re having a fantastic holiday, and I hope you’ll share a story with me!

Demos at GeekGirlCon

This weekend I’m going to be at GeekGirlCon in Seattle with most of the Phoenix team – producer Jennifer Ellis & co-designer Dan Garrison. We have a table in the gaming area. What will we be doing there? That depends on you! We’ll be there on Saturday with the latest prototype of Phoenix: Nine Deaths, along with the new Unquiet Dead Gloom expansion. If people want to play Gloom, we’ll play Gloom. If you want to try Phoenix, we’ll do that. If you want to talk about Eberron, or Phoenix, or the rising price of throat-coat tea, we’ll do THAT. I hope we’ll see you there!

Always/Never/Now and Upcoming Conventions!

I’ve just returned from a trip to LA, where I tested Phoenix out on a group of friends. Most of the survived the experience. I’m going to write more about Phoenix later in the week, but I thought I’d tell you where I’m going to be in the next few weeks so you have a chance to see it for yourself. Let me know if you’ll be at any of these!

Friday, October 4th – Sunday, October 6th I’ll be at GENRECON in Guelph, Ontario. Friday night I’ll be playing Gloom & showing off the new expansion, Unquiet Dead. Saturday I’ll be running Eberron, playtesting Phoenix, and taking part in a few panels & a QA session.

Friday, October 11th – Sunday, October 13th I’ll be at G.A.M.E. in Springfield, Missouri. Friday evening I’m doing two hours of Q&A, and then I’m running Eberron and testing Phoenix on Saturday. There’s a theme here!

Saturday, October 19th – Sunday, October 20th I’ll be at GEEKGIRLCON in Seattle, Washington. Jennifer Ellis, Phoenix co-designer Dan Garrison, and I will have a demo table where we’ll be playingPhoenix, Gloom, and whatever else we feel like.

But wait! There’s more! Saturday, October 26th I’ll be playing Doom and Gloom at GUARDIAN GAMES in Portland, Oregon. Come by and try out Unquiet Dead and The Doom That Came To Atlantic City!

In addition to playtesting Phoenix last weekend, I had an opportunity to play IN a game… Will Hindmarch’s Always/Never/Now. I’ll let Will describe the game himself…

You were the best. Underground, cyberpunk street samurai, burglars and breakers, agents of a mysterious spymaster with half a name, zero history, and a plan. He made the missions and you carried them out. You were the go-to crew for high-stakes break-ins, dangerous ops, and impossible escapes. You fought the megacorps, the tyrants, the killers—all for the sake of making a better future, of beating the Technocrats at their own game of shaping tomorrow. You always won, never quit, lived in the now. 

Until, eleven years ago, he disappeared…

Now he’s back—back in trouble—and it’s up to you to save him and maybe, along the way, change the world.

Always/Never/Now is a self-contained campaign, a cyberpunk saga that plays out in thirteen scenes. It is built around six characters that are provided with the campaign, and derives much of its mechanics from John Harper’s excellent Lady Blackbird. A few of the things I love about the system:

  • Every character has its own path to success. If I’m playing the comic-relief con artist, I get XP when I tell people a lie and they believe me; when I make players laugh; and when I escape from a bad situation. Unlike many games, where the best way for a blacksmith to become a better blacksmith is to kill a goblin, here I get better by doing the things that define my character.
  • Often, one or more of these keys apply to the players, not just the characters. The “leader” character gets XP if other players follow a plan he comes up with. So it’s not just arbitrarily stated that he’s the leader; it’s up to him to BE such a good leader that everyone chooses to follow his plans (and actually, there’s two characters with this key, so there’s competition for the role!). The first time I played A/N/N was just after playing a bard in another game. In that game it didn’t really make any difference if I was entertaining. As the con artist in A/N/N, I got experience when I got the PLAYERS to laugh – which meant being entertaining wasn’t just a color choice, it was something worth working at. Essentially, it helped blur the lines between character and player, and made me really feel like I WAS the character.
  • The system has many elements that encourage players to develop the story behind their actions. As con artist Alex, if I wanted to bluff someone, I could just roll a single die. But I also had a list of tags, and for each tag I worked into the description of my action, I got an extra die. So how could “cash” play into the scene? What about “That Smile”, or “Something Like Sincerity”? Determining which tags applied made a challenge more than just a roll; it got me thinking about the scene.

Some people might balk at the fact that the adventure uses pregenerated characters. There’s a lot of reasons for this. The six characters are a well-balanced, versatile team. Will’s put a lot of thought into their capabilities and tags. More than that, they each have a role in the story – and as the saga unfolds, you really get to know them. One fun twist is that each character has a number of flashback scenes that can be sprinkled through the story – glimpses of the characters’ lives before the spymaster disappeared (and a technique Will and I wrote about in 2004 in Friends of the Dragon for Feng Shui). There’s lots of room to make these characters your own. For example, Alex the con man is described as having tried to launch a “failed street food business.” When I played Alex, I decided this was Faux Pho – a diet vegan Vietnamese option for “when you want a taste that’s almost like food.” In this last session, John Rogers decided Alex was backing Happy FunCo Space Pizza And Sushi, and invented an elaborate story about people’s nostalgia for a failed moon colony that he hoped would drive business his way.

It’s a different sort of experience from creating your own story from scratch. But it’s like reading a good book or watching a movie. The characters help DEFINE the world and draw you into it. Combined with the keys (which encouraged you to act like the character) and the way that your abilities also encourage you to think about the character, it’s easy to get attached to this crew. After playing for just four hours, one of the players in the last session said that it was “one of those incredible moments in an RPG where you feel like you’re going to cry, because you’re so invested in the story.”

Anyhow, I could rave on for a few more hours about how awesome this game is, but why don’t you see for yourself? The PDF is available right now, for the amazing price of WHATEVER YOU WANT TO PAY FOR IT. If you enjoy cyberpunk, it’s worth reading just for the ideas. And if you have a chance to play it, well, it’s the most fun I’ve had in years. Of course, I had the advantage of having a Will Hindmarch in the box to run it – but Will or not, it’s definitely worth a look.

My Dragon*Con Schedule

Tomorrow I head out to Dragon*Con in Atlanta. If you’re going to be there, here’s the places you can find me!

Title: Game Design 101
Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: Grand Ballroom West – Hilton
Description: Designers from the table top and digital worlds talk about creating and testing games, from inception to final product.

Title: A Brief History of Online Gaming
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Grand Salon E – Hilton
Description: In the beginning, there was NetHack…and Empire, NetTrek, MUDs, and a whole bunch of other games that became the MMOs you know and love today.

Title: It’s All in the Game
Time: Fri 07:00 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt
Description: Game writers and designers discuss how to break into this fascinating market.

Title: Fantasy World Building: Ultimate Edition
Time: Sat 04:00 pm Location: Grand Ballroom West – Hilton
Description: Some of gaming’s greatest designers on paper and in the digital world discuss how they make fantastic worlds.

Title: Eberron & Beyond
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Grand Salon C – Hilton
Description: Eberron creator Keith Baker talks about the creation and evolution of this Dungeons & Dragons setting and the new RPG he’s developing.

Title: High Level Gaming
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Grand Salon C – Hilton
Description: The lead designer of Pathfinder and the creator of Eberron talk about how high level games work.