The Making of Episode 0: Order of Shan(n)a Podcast

As we all know the COVID-19 pandemic has left us at home more than out with friends and family. Therefore, I have more time to think. And thinking can be dangerous. Also, when one has some mild depression, a new house, crapping satellite internet and no where to go gaming, I am struck with thought paralysis.

Here we are at the end of May. What was I doing from March shutdown through April? Well, I can say that it wasn’t much productive other than trying to figure out what working from home looked like. Or just what working in general looked like.

I had my computer in my bedroom. One small window to my back, ugh. On a sunny day I still needed to use indoor lighting. And my “computer” desk was an old wooden desk of the 50’s-60’s. Not made for a computer, printer, and monitor. Then I added a second monitor.

Then to add more to the dark dank space, I added a makeshift green/blue screen for online Zoom RPG gaming.

Well, stepping back a bit about this “Shelter-In-Place” for COVID-19. Back in early late February, early March, hell sometime around that time, Gary Con XII was cancelled. What a downer that was. But Virtual Gary Con really put into perspective the love of RPG gaming. What an honor to be able to “attend” Gary Con with virtually gaming.

Ok, I’ll admit that I was so down about not getting to go, I didn’t schedule any games to run. It also had to do with not having good bandwidth and not having gamed online much. Oh, I want to look professional at this stuff and of course I was not going pull that off.

What I did have was a ton of fun. Struggled through playing online with others who jumped in without the concern of looking professional and doing a great job of just being themselves and struggling through the glitches of internet lag and online platform issues.

For what it is worth, I ate a great bit of humble pie. My housemate jumped in and ran several online games and I had the privilege of listening and laughing with her as she led great players through her events.

Also, when one has SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) plus added health stress, let’s say that it is horrible to feel like you can’t learn new tricks or be creative in those time. Life just seems slow, paralyzed, and nothing appears to be good.

Now, on to why this blog post. During the time above I spent some time recording Episode 0. I also was learning a free program for editing podcasts, learning what platform to use to broadcast the podcast, and just overall learning to podcast. In all of this, I lost Episode 0 of Order of Shan(n)a. I am attributing it to having updated the editing software. It shouldn’t have done that, but I just don’t know where the episode went otherwise. So, back to the drawing board and I hope that it will be even better when it finally comes out.

Why have a podcast called Order of Shan(n)a? Well, the voices of women running Dungeon Crawl Classics and the supported DCC RPG materials need to be out there and heard. In it I hope you will hear history of why I feel the necessity of having a podcast about women in RPG is important. What does it mean for women to also enjoy playing RPGs and why we enjoy running tables for friends and at conventions. I hope to look into the history of female characters and players to RPG games.

If you have any information, links, stories, or anecdotes, please leave me a comment. This will help in getting more episodes out to you faster. You can also find Order of Shana Podcast on Twitter @of-Shana

Order of Shan(n)a and podcasting

What is Order of Shan(n)a? And who is Shan(n)a?

To answer these questions let us look at Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (DCC RPG). Shan(n)a is a character of The Band. She was created by Doug Kovacs. He is an artist for Goodman Games. Goodman Games is owned by Joseph Goodman who created Dungeon Crawl Classics and put it into print in 2012.

First you maybe wondering why there is an “(n)” in the title and everywhere her name is written. This will be addressed on the podcast in the first episode.

Look for Episode 0 to come out to introduce what you may find in the upcoming episodes. Planning is in the works and I am doing the “learning curve” thing with recording and editing.

Here are a few images of Shan(n)a Dahaka by Doug Kovacs as used in Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics corebooks, modules, convention program guides and free RPG Day products.

Note that in this later print Shana has kitten knees. They are not kittens on her knees. These are her knees. Just ask Doug Kovacs.

Gary Con Recap: better late than never.

Just to finally sit down and do some writing has been a chore. I never quite know where to start. I’m continually looking for the great opening line. And it never really comes.

I arrived on the Wednesday before Gary Con to the Grand Geneva Resort. It’s awesome to arrive on Wednesday the day before the con starts. You can get settled in your room, then relax by walking around, meeting friends in the bar area, and hopefully getting into a pickup game. The bar area was my stopping point. Members of the DCC RPG tribe were there and we started talking and having fun. I like to describe the tribe as the warm, fuzzy gelatinous cube.

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This description was given an “endorsement” by the Dark Master at last year’s GenCon. And the warm, fuzzy gelatinous cube has absorbed me and I do not wanting to make a saving throw

Gary Con has to be the best gaming con ever. Now, why do I say that? I’m no expert on going to gaming conventions. I only started going to gaming conventions in 2017, starting with GenCon 50. I’d won a Goodman Games Road Crew contest. First time at a gaming convention and the first time I’d run events at a gaming convention. What an experience. I went back last year, 2018 and ran six DCC RPG events. In so doing, Joseph Goodman placed a silver DCC medal on me. Wow!

2018 was my first time going to Gary Con. Gary Con X. I went as a player and loved every minute of it. I was glad to be able to get a room at the Grand Geneva again for this year. And this year I went as a Game Master and ran the playtest of a module I am writing “Feast of the Mün Queen”. It all started out as an “off the top of my head” idea for a themed game night at a local bookstore. Initially titled “Pearl Jean’s Peculiar Portentous Potluck”.

“Feast of the Mün Queen” was playtested four times during Gary Con XI. All tickets were taken except for two. I ran three of the four events over four hours each. The last event was ran at five hours. I was glad for this as it lead to some discussion time. I want to thank the players in all my events for taking notes and willingly giving them to me. As this is the first attempt at creating an adventure and writing one, I appreciate the feedback. If you are coming to Origins Gaming Fair, look me up. Just look for the table with the GM and players wearing pillbox hats.

The immediate feedback was one of smiles and laughter during game play. It is a crazy adventure of attending an elegant dinner for a cookbook release and author signing. Things go awry when the food begins to cause “indigestion”.

It was a blast to run this idea for a module and the comments during play and after play were and are encouraging. I definitely love to hear lots of laughter and the rolling of dice. You want to do that? Why sure! Roll me a … save!

One of the things I do regret about the weekend is not scheduling enough down time to regroup and just enjoy being around the tribe. I scheduled so much into the convention time that socializing had to take a “back seat” almost. I was rushed from here to there.

Highlight of the weekend? Oh my, do I really have to choose? Jim Wampler’s MCC game “Tomb of Horrors” hit a high mark. Jen Brinkman’s “Lankmar” game! The after con game with Bob Brinkman! This is a must if you are able to stay for Sunday evening. Bob did an awesome job navigating 20 players in an adventure on the sea as pirates. The best of all throughout the whole weekend was the laughter. There is nothing better than laughter!

I wish I could write in detail every bit of fun and greatness that I experienced. I don’t know what could be better in the year yet to come. The weekend at Gary Con XI sums up the year already. It will be hard, in the months, to find a match to the weekend at Gary Con XI.

What’s next? My calendar says it is to be Origins Gaming Fair. I have submitted to run two events. My module playtest “Feast of the
Mün Queen”. Hope to see you there.

It’s not about the stats!

With every Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (DCC RPG) session I judge, I learn something new. I learn that every player that comes and sits down at my open Road Crew table comes with their own perception of what roleplaying means.

It has been quite some time since I was in high school where my extra curricular activity was drama club. And in growing up, playing with Barbie dolls, I pretended in many make-believe settings. The books I did read, I enjoyed seeing the world develop inside my head. I did not have stats that I made sure I was correctly playing. Yes, I wanted to be the most liked and see as the one who could do it all and come out of the game as the winner. But it was in playing and being imaginative with what I wanted to do and not set on stats. What happened to the creative imagination of those that are now in their twenties and thirties?

I’m in my fifties now. I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. I was in college in the ’80s. I discovered Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) in the 2010s. I knew of D&D in the ’80s. It was taboo. It was considered satan worship. Did I know what it was? Of course, I didn’t. I couldn’t get near a game and honestly, I was scared of it. I grew up in a conservative Christian home. Now, before you go all political on me, conservative, in how I’m using it means: holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to religion. I grew up in a Mennonite home. Not the conservative dress sect. But I do remember when my parents said that playing cards were not to be in the house or played with. I think, though, that by the time I left elementary school and started middle school, playing cards were allowed. My parents played “Rook” a lot with a group of friends that they invited over. It got to be a game group for them that they even rotated through each couple hosting the game night.

We played a lot of board games. There were several years in the ’70s that getting a new board game or two was what we could expect as our Christmas gifts. One year, I think, between my twin sister and I, we got five board games. Family holiday gatherings were spent around the table with cousins playing board games for hours on end. Traditions and memories were made.

I went on a tangent there that I didn’t necessarily mean to go on. The purpose of this blog post is to write about role-playing and what it is or at least what I believe it is. Role-playing is to play a role. What is a role? A role is an actor’s part in a play, movie, etc.

When you take on a role in a role playing game, you are the character you come to the table with or the character you take on at the table. The rules for the game should be left to the game master, dungeon master, judge, referee. In a way, I wish the stats were only seen by the judge for each character. The players are given a description of their character with a description of each stat. Example: (and I’m pulling this off the top of my head as I type)

“You are a warrior. You have great strength. Due to your armor, you are not as agile as the thief who stands beside you. You wield a great ax along with your pack of provisions. You may not be the smartest of the group of adventurers you are with, but you are not the dumbest either. You have a great will, a positive fortitude, but not so good reflexes.” 

In this way, you, as the GM, regain the control of the rules. Okay, I will be honest, I do not like meta-gaming! And I do not like min/maxing! Period! I will call players out during a game. For example, I don’t want you saying to me that your PC has a Strength of 16 and could do it. NO! I want you, as your player to say “I walk up and I take my fist and punch it through the door.”

This was the case at last Saturday’s Road Crew when I had a new player at the table who, get this is a D&D 5e player. And maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the newer or maybe I should say younger RPG players. OMG, but those of you who are GMs, please STOP teaching your players that numbers matter!

So, for the length of this blog and purpose of this blog, I have just hit on the reason for this blog. My ultimate message here is that “It’s not about the stats!” It’s not about the numbers! Yes, add the modifiers of the numbers you happen to have for your PC, but just because your PC may have a high number in Strength or Personality/Charisma does not mean that what you want to happen will happen. I don’t darn well give a flip about what number you have in a stat. Just tell me what you want to do and I will give you something to roll.

GMs, please do not teach your players that they are playing stats. Please, let’s just role play by pretending you are your character. What would your character do? Build your PC to be a hero. Stats only matter in regards to what your dice will roll.

The Writing Block

For the month of November, there is a writing activity called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. In 2011, I participated and wrote over 50,000 words in 25 days. It was a lot of fun. I wrote with abandon and was surprised at what came out of my head as a story. A mystery story which entitled “The Pretzel Twist”. Glady Rudd, living on her family’s farm was a baker of pretzels. Her next door neighbors have thirteen-year-old twins, a boy and a girl. The twins enjoy Glady’s pretzels and also playing on and around the farm. They discover some interesting antiques covered up in the Rudd barn. And the root cellar is more than what they ever expected.

So now we are in 2018. Where did that story go? I wish I knew. It never got edited. Today I am working on another type of story. In the last couple of years, I have started gaming in role-playing. Specifically Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC RPG). I started out playing some Dungeons & Dragons 3.0/3.5 but found it too full of rules. DCC RPG is full of rules or numbers. Basically through a dice in the dice chain, add a +1, +2 or +3 and you have what you need.

Ok, so here is where I am at. I’ve bitten off the challenge of writing an adventure. Crazy. I am probably yet to new to RPG gaming that I will write something totally stupid and more than that, something that is totally unplayable. What if I get references to creatures wrong? What if I can’t even produce one good creature. Or even yet, what if I can’t produce a good story, one that people will like playing?

Yet, just like with writing a book, the writer needs to know the audience. Or at least write to an audience. Do I know my audience well enough to write them something playable? If I take the advice that comes from my heart, I just write and see what comes from it. I was surprised and pleased with the story I wrote seven years ago. Can’t believe it was seven years ago.

I can say that, yes, there are words written for the adventure. But I also have discovered that in order to write, I need to read. So, I’m trying to read and retain. Wow, as one gets old, retaining material that is read is harder.

May you have wonderful gaming over the holidays. Happy Thanksgiving and may you have all that you wish for as the year 2018 comes to a close.


Developing and writing for your players

We are well into October and I have set myself to creating, developing, and writing an RPG module. When put into this position, I find that I’ve suddenly become frozen and can’t seem to push the creative juices to move ahead.

Backstory? Oh, boy, where has my main character come from. What will be interesting for my players to want to pursue the end of the adventure? I much enjoy the magic of the mountains in the Shudder Mountains which is the setting in Michael Curtis’ “The Chained Coffin” box set. I’m not a proponent of reinventing the wheel, but also I am not a proponent of “stealing” ideas or plagiarism. I do know Michael Curtis and have been in conversation with him. I’ve been advised on what I can and can not do. I am grateful for Michael Curtis’s advise. I hope you will be able to someday read and play what comes from this conversation.

My players began with me doing something off the top of my head for a “Ladies Game Night” at a local bookstore where we play Dungeon Crawl Classics weekly.

Life. Yes, life is distracting. Wow, I’m sure that is a new piece of information for you all…NOT. So, finding time to just sit and write is a gift. I don’t get gifts often. Therefore, I’ve not been gifted lately. I am trying with this blog post to spark some creative juices and see if they set a fire. When I don’t feel creative, I find that my mind can easily drift quickly to something else to do. Then, I am a guilty feeling person. The guilt sets in and I seek to find something that will get the creative juices following. It is a Catch 22 with me. Reading would be good, but then I feel like…oh, I need to be writing. Then when I turn to write, I’m thinking…I don’t have enough information to write. Ugh. Writers! I need your help!

So, on with this cycle hoping that it will end soon. The organizing of ideas is a tough area for me. I’m not a seasoned writer, at this time, so I’m developing.

Has anyone written a module that plays on one level and by the time the level is done, there has been enough XP to level up and move on to the guts of the adventure? So that you have almost two modules in one? As I mull over this question, I can list a couple that works in this way…”Sailors on the Starless Sea” and the tournament module, “The Carnival of the Damned“.

So, yes, this blog has sparked some creative juices…I will see you on another day with some development of this crazy module idea.

Playing Solo AD&D adventures and stuff.

I just love the old school adventures! When I was introduced to D&D, I began to research the beginnings of Dungeon and Dragons. I went looking for the first books and adventures. I came across solo adventures and was intrigued. I love the Internet and the ability to find almost anything related to Dungeon and Dragons. I find that now that I am in love with Dungeon Crawl Classics, the early 1974 and 1984 Dungeons and Dragons fuel my love for these older types of adventuring.

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I found “Blizzard’s Pass”, “Lathan’s Gold” and “Lion’s Castle”. I’m not in love with the modules that require invisible ink pens in order to use them. “Lathan’s Gold” and “Lion’s Castle” do not require the invisible ink and therefore I find them fun and they are very good.

I say “very good” because I find them not only fun to learn the rules, but also they provide keys to learning how to DM adventures. As the player of a solo adventure, you also get to be the DM. In “Lion’s Castle” it wasn’t until my fourth character, a second level elf, that I made it past the first encounter. I imagine, had my dice rolled better, I would not have been killed immediately.

The conversions from the AD&D Armor Class to the present d20 system is interesting. I’m still deciding if I want to memorize the conversion chart which really would not be all that difficult to do. Yet, as I think about this, why would E. Gary Gygax create a system with a mechanic like it? Why not just take the number right off the d20 and make it the AC? Too easy? And I am not going to go into the why. I am just going to thank E. Gary Gygax for his unique style and the desire to make math fun. I know some will not agree on this praise of math.

I want to praise the modern d20 system as it does lend to more role-playing and fewer numbers crunching. What overwhelms me is all the d20 system games that have come with the open d20 gaming license.

A year ago, I was just starting as a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG judge. “Judge” is what DCC RPG calls the DM or GM in the game. I know other games call the GM a “referee”. In that year the amount of games I have judged has gone well off the charitable figure. Since last year’s GenCon 50, I have run a DCC RPG Road Crew game at a local FLGS every Thursday evening and a bi-weekly DCC RPG Road Crew game at another FLGS on Saturdays.

Our recent games have been going through “The Carnival of the Damned” by David Baity. img_20180418_1135085162150957882237585.jpgInitially written for a convention tournament, this module can be adapted as a funnel. I am not sold that it could be a one-shot. Each “attraction” in the carnival is a must to play. Be ready for PC deaths as there will be many! I have pre-gens off of Purple Sorcerer ready as the “attractions” come to an end. The PCs that survive are then able to meet up with more villagers in town also looking for their children.

I am not a good records keeper and I think that someday I will do better. Well, someday hasn’t come. I need a record keeper. I have a player or two who do take notes on the games. I am appreciative of that.

What is coming up next? Well, it is Thursday…so it is DCC RPG Road Crew night with the “Thursday Knights”. Saturday is Free RPG Day and our regular DCC RPG Road Crew game night with the “SeDoTu Crusaders”. You may see the schedule of all the northern Indiana games on Sanctum Secorum’s Event Calendar.

August 2-5, 2018 is GenCon 51 in Indianapolis, IN. I will be there and have four events on the Goodman Games DCC RPG schedule. This year is the highest number of DCC RPG games ever. Make sure you pick up the Gongfarmer’s Almanac as I have a Level 1 adventure in it called “The Heist for the Royal Jewels”. Slapstick humor and death from falling pianos. The sewer monster is also terrifying. But you will need to decide for yourself what creatures lurk below and on top.