Saturday, March 31, 2018

Svelte Magnetic Referee Screen

Years of tinkering and I hit upon this design "by mistake". 

Gaming has changed. The way I play has also changed. Less is more. I have great minis and a whole modular resin dungeon terrain system. They look fantastic. However, they are hard to set up, transport and limit participants imaginations. These days my goal is to strip away the stuff that doesn't work. This thinking has led me to look at "DM*" screens and question what they are really for.

Here is where I have been. When I started in the 70's a record album was fine (1). I took some plywood and duct tape and made my own (2). It served as a barrier and I could stick charts and stuff on the back side. A few years back I bought this thing (3), four leaves and clear pockets for all sorts of gamy minutia. This is a good solution and compact. However, I was noticing that it would sometimes actually block my view of the players. If I am roasting their character over a spit I want to see the the expression on their face, not a random foot-gear matrix. This led to the last design (4). It's shorter, and has other useful features. I have used this one for a couple of years and my biggest frustration is that it is not as portable as I would like.

This led me to conduct experiments using foam core. These days all my adventure designs are done on quarter sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper. Each card is about one idea and because they are loose you can rearrange and pull stuff out at will. (I will talk about this in a later post). The designs above are testing the concept of having several mini-screens on the table instead of one big one. Big screens are like fortresses, they get in the way and act as a barrier to intercourse. I should not have to tell you that an RPG's essential characteristic is this interaction.

So, for this mock-up the idea is that the whole mini-screen fits in an 8.5 x 11 foot print and held together using clever folds and tabs. This led to:

Folds and joints are always tricky. I found some scrap painted sheet metal (old siding, I think), cut it and finished the edges with a file. Scrap wood (from an old dresser drawer) was cut into the triangular supports.

Here's the magic: magnets. Pretty straight forward, drill hole slightly smaller and press them in. I was like "hmmm, OK".

Easy to assemble and svelte.

Like so.

The bar thingies swaddle the stack of cards so I can leaf through them. These wood strips are magnetic, so they can be infinitely adjusted relative to any size stack of cards.

I cut two more matching triangular supports and two more sheets of metal. This is the players view. The height of the larger panel is about 7 inches. Now I had a bunch of supports with magnets and metal sheet.

Everything is completely modular and reconfigurable. Let that sink in.

Using smaller magnets, any information needed could simple be added or subtracted at will.

Here the triangular supports have been turned up to make the screen steeper.

So there you have it. I'm pretty excited about this.

The older post:

I'll add this to the Nuggets & Forbidden Knowledge Tab. Tell your friends. "DK", your off the hook for a few weeks, but going to post one of your dungeons...

* "DM" is Dungeon Master. I still like this term, I was going to use "Crypt Lord" instead, but no one knows whatdahail that is except me. Someday Crypt Lord and Nimbality will be part of the common lexicon. I have not typed Crypt Lord into Google...


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Mike the Mangler's "Kananas Abode" 1979

Here is another infamous dungeon created by my best friend: The Mangler. We played through this time and time again in his bedroom in beautiful Milan Illinois (pronounced my-lan). There are several extraordinary things about this adventure.

First, check out it's colorfully insane Soviet/Disney Princess fascade. Remember, dungeons were all underground at this time and to get in you schlepped down the ol' staircase. Mike has flipped the whole thing, in just about every way. Above ground instead of under. Bright bold color instead of dungeon grays and khakis. You have multiple ways to get inside, instead of the one stairway down. It's also fun and inviting instead of dank and depressing like...well a dungeon.

Mike also drew a lot of these, he had issues with smiley faces. He is also probably one of the first real cosplayers in the world. He had a full Alex get-up from Clockwork Orange- boots, bowler, codpiece, eyelash and yes a real sword cane.

Mike was a Dungeon Master who did not make or keep real notes, he pretty much just winged the whole thing. I have always been envious of those people. He was big on the interpersonal relationships of all the characters, he essentially ran the game like a big soap opera. Genius, really. Going through Kananas Abode was more like making a trip to the supermarket to get some milk. In other words, it wasn't just a "one and done', it was a node in the whole scheme of things that required many visits to work out what ever was going on between us players and Kananas. The scribbles seem ridiculous, but I bet it's just the right amount of information. Plus it gives the DM room to make stuff up and get in on the fun.

Here is a link to a 2 page PDF of the whole shebang:

The whole thing is all in bits and pieces, like emptying your pockets before going into prison.  I took the initiative and pasted it all into a two page excursion into The Madness Of Teen 1979. Looking at Kananas Abode, I can see what D&D lost and why I jumped off the flaming wreck with all the other rats. Well, all two rats. OK, it was just me. And the fire wasn't an accident.

Thanks Mike.
I'm glad I saved it, but even more glad to banged on Kananas locked tower door more than once.

Monday, March 12, 2018

I Guess I Have To Write About Gary Con X

Ok, I  went to this event, so I guess I should write a word or two. I signed up to run 20 hours of games. On Friday from noon to four I ran "The Towering Inferno of Death II" for these people:

My friend also showed and someone's mom who never played any games before also played. A total of eight peeps. (one of them was a girl, she left the table to change her outfit). They rode a giant tongue, had a conversation with a pool of living blood and answered all eight of the Megamumu's questions.

On the next day, from noon to four I ran another group of people through yet another event, called "You Break It, You Bought It". My friend's friend showed up with his daughters. This event wrapped when one of the players was able to get his toes cleaned by a cyber laser cat from another dimension.

Here is one of the many non-persona characters they met.

So, after two complete days, fifteen newbies played CNC. This would mean my fan base exploded by a 25%!

A hearty THANKS to all those who played! Without all of you my endeavors would just know. I'll be at the event next year to run more games!

All the stupid stuff was expunged...not sure what I was thinking. Funny? Notsomuch.