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The Vicious Crucible of Villa Argentate

Sep. 10th, 2013 | 12:32 pm

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

Villa Argentate, home of schemers and scoundrels, nexus of trade, and thorn in the side of the nobility, has a problem. The city's tribute, which keeps it and its residents free of the Duke's interference, has gone missing. The city trembles with fear and doubt; will Villa Argentate's movers and shakers find a way to solve the city's problem, or will they collapse in social maneuvering, back-biting, and treachery? Six figures rise to prominence in the chaos in the city, standing on the precipice of The Vicious Crucible of Villa Argentate. The only way out is through, and the only way through requires a painful transformation into something new.

The Vicious Crucible of Villa Argentate is game for up to six players and a GM. It plays in three to five sessions, or a pulse-pouding single session of jump cuts and action sequences. Best of all, it's free.

Happy Gaming!

You can download The Vicious Crucible of Villa Argentate here:
The Characters of Villa Argentate details six playable characters: Gilabert, Margarida, Segismona, Gildun, Alfons, and Sarkeetan. It also includes four new Arcs that anyone can take up as their character develops.
The Villa Argentate GM Booklet has all the bits and pieces you need to run The Vicious Crucible of Villa Argentate—opening situation, NPCs, locations, and a copy of all the PCs for your easy reference. It's 28 pages long and laid out for screen-reading; there's also a file set up for at-home booklet-making.
The Map of Villa Argentate spreads the whole city out for your table, and can be used to keep track of which character is getting into trouble where.
The Basics Rulesheet shows you how to roll dice in the games. You could play any Vicious Crucible with just this rulesheet. This also includes the Character/GMing Rulesheet, explaining roles at the table.
There are also image-free versions if you want to be kind to your printer.
The Influence Rulesheet unlocks the intricacies of social maneuvering: making an impression, haggling, blackmail, and more, all at your fingertips for dramatic fun.
There is also an image-free versions if you want to be kind to your printer.
Or you can just download it all in a .zip archive for simplicity.

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Eburnean Tower Kickstart Progress!

Dec. 4th, 2012 | 08:57 am

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

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The Vicious Crucible of the Eburnean Tower

Dec. 4th, 2012 | 08:31 am

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

The Eburnean Tower has stood for centuries as a symbol of scholarship, arcane power, and ruthless domination. Now this hallowed institution is crumbling from within through backbiting and treachery. The wards have fallen; the Tower's enemies have invaded. Some among the magi's number plot and scheme to leave everything behind them in a smoldering ruin. Now six figures rise to prominence in the history of the Tower. These six stand on the precipice of The Vicious Crucible of the Eburnean Tower. The only way out is through, and the only way through requires a painful transformation into something new.

The Vicious Crucible of the Eburnean Tower is game for up to six players and a GM. It plays in three to five sessions, or a pulse-pouding single session of jump cuts and action sequences. Best of all, it's free.

Happy Gaming!

You can download The Vicious Crucible of the Eburnean Tower here:
The Characters of the Eburnean Tower details six playable characters: Beulah, Carles, Elisabet, Ghida, Isembard, and Robin Goodfellow. It also includes four new Arcs that anyone can take up as their character develops.
The Verdigris Valley GM Booklet has all the bits and pieces you need to run The Vicious Crucible of the Eburnean Tower—opening situation, NPCs, locations, and a copy of all the PCs for your easy reference. It's 24 pages long and laid out for screen-reading; there's also a file set up for at-home booklet-making.
The Map of Verdigris Valley spreads the whole tower out for your table, and can be used to keep track of which character is getting into trouble where.
The Basics Rulesheet shows you how to roll dice in the games. You could play any Vicious Crucible with just this rulesheet. This also includes the Character/GMing Rulesheet, explaining roles at the table.
There are also image-free versions if you want to be kind to your printer.
The Sorcery Rulesheet unlocks the mysteries of sorcery for your gaming table: spellcraft, charms, curses, and hexes, all at your fingertips for dramatic fun.
There is also an image-free versions if you want to be kind to your printer.
You can also grab a page of paper minis which, with some cutting and gluing involved, will give you little counters to move around the map.
Or you can just download it all in a .zip archive for simplicity.

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Watch Us Play: Vicious Crucible of the Verdigris Valley

Nov. 6th, 2012 | 10:25 pm

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

Tonight, instead of hitting Reload on political websites, I ran The Vicious Crucible of Verdigris Valley for some folks on Google Hangouts. You can watch us all act funny and figure out how to play over the Internets (my first time!)

It's an hour and fifty-five minutes, and we play at a quick pace to cover probably half of the Verdigris Valley scenario. We're going to play again, probably the conclusion, next week!

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Trouble Cards for One-Shot Houses of the Blooded LARP

Oct. 3rd, 2012 | 03:48 pm

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

So I'm running the Houses of the Blooded LARP at Big Bad Con up in the Bay Area this weekend. Since it's a one-shot, we won't be getting the juicy details and feudal context that are supplied by the game's Season Actions… so I elected to create a little something-something to help jump start some action, scheming, and dealing in the LARP.

Behold, Trouble Cards!

Each card gives you a certain calamity that is befalling your lands. I figure you deal out these cards and you explain, "Hey, it's Winter. And Shan'ri hates the ven." The cards prompt players to collect certain resources, seek out certain other ven in the game, engage in the ven's wacky feudal structure, and other fun stuff. It promises them style rewards for doing these things.

These are directly inspired by Paul Tevis' "achievements" that were used in the last Strategicon Houses LARP, and after running and playing in this game for a few years, I'm honestly starting to look for an alternative to the unreliable "Refreshments" mechanic (which may be us running the game with too few storytellers; we'll see at the next couple events).

I'll see how they actually play out this weekend, but I thought I'd post them online, too. If you give them a try, be sure to tell us how they worked for you!

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The Vicious Crucible of Verdigris Valley

May. 9th, 2012 | 04:48 pm

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

The borderlands of the Verdigris Valley have never been peaceful, but now an invasion force gathers at the summit of the Pashuan Way, looking hungrily down on the rich homesteads and crippled fort below. The days to come will throw six men and women into a gauntlet of desperate pressures, crushing obligations, and entangling relationships. Some will fall; some will triumph; some will cave to the pressures; some will bask in the flames like a phoenix. These six stand on the precipice of The Vicious Crucible of Verdigris Valley. The only way out is through, and the only way through requires a painful transformation into something new.

The Vicious Crucible of Verdigris Valley is game for up to six players and a GM. It plays in three to five sessions, or a pulse-pouding single session of jump cuts and action sequences. Best of all, it's free.

All Vicious Crucible games are released as a free download. I'm using a "ransom model" for funding the project, with a bit of a twist. The first game, Verdigris Valley, is already released for free (download below). If the ransom is met, I'll publish the next game for everyone to enjoy. On top of that, when you back the project, you also get the Franchise: you get to vote on where the next Vicious Crucible will be.

So check out Verdigris Valley and decide if you'd like to see more. Then hit up the Kickstarter and pick a reward tier that looks fun.

Happy Gaming!

You can download The Vicious Crucible of Verdigris Valley here:
The Characters of Verdigris Valley details six playable characters: Alistair, Anise, Ricart, Elionor, Miquela, and Kamraan. It also includes four new Arcs that anyone can take up as their character develops.
The Verdigris Valley GM Booklet has all the bits and pieces you need to run The Vicious Crucible of Verdigris Valley—opening situation, NPCs, locations, and a copy of all the PCs for your easy reference. It's 24 pages long and laid out for screen-reading; there's also a file set up for at-home booklet-making.
The Map of Verdigris Valley spreads the whole valley out for your table, and can be used to keep track of which character is getting into trouble where.
The Basics Rulesheet shows you how to roll dice in the games. You could play any Vicious Crucible with just this rulesheet. This also includes the Character/GMing Rulesheet, explaining roles at the table.
There are also image-free versions if you want to be kind to your printer.
The Combat Rulesheet adds new options for putting the hurt on other characters, turning fights, chases, and battles into exciting action sequences.
There is also an image-free versions if you want to be kind to your printer.
You can also grab a page of paper minis which, with some cutting and gluing involved, will give you little counters to move around the map.
Or you can just download it all in a .zip archive for simplicity.

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One-Bowl Cookies

May. 8th, 2012 | 10:16 pm

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

Because sometimes, you just need a cookie. This takes about half an hour and produces cookies.

It's the age-old Nestle Tollhouse recipe, scaled down about as far as you can go (1 egg is hard to split any further). So it makes, like, a dozen cookies or so, depending on how big you make them. Enough cookies to split with your spouse while watching Supernatural or something.

1/2 c butter (one stick)
1 egg
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c flour
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine wet ingredients (butter, egg, sugars, vanilla) in a big bowl. Add flour, soda, and salt on top. Stir dry ingredients on top until soda and salt are incorporated into flour; then dig a little deeper to combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips (or whatever). Drop spoonfuls onto cookie sheet, bake at 375 for 12 minutes.

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I Loved The Hunger Games, Except For One Absolutely Stupid Decision

Mar. 23rd, 2012 | 08:30 pm

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

There are 24 tributes from all over Panem.

Two of them are black. They come from the same district.

Of all the 22 tributes from other districts, only two interact with Katniss with anything other than unbridled antipathy.

And so the only two black tributes help the main character until the plot requires somebody to die, and so they die.

Bleeeeergh.

Update: I revised some numbers below; my night-of-watching eyeball estimate was off.

Now, when Collins wrote The Hunger Games novel, she wrote both Rue and Thresh as black (if you forgot, don't worry, so did I). She doesn't go out of her way to identify the ethnicity of anybody else, save for noting blond hair (which I totally missed when I read the book; the Peeta in my head was an Indian kid). So you can go either way on this, as far as Collins is concerned: either she imagined but did not stipulate* a rainbow of skin tones on the tributes, or she put exactly two black characters into her book to fill the exactly two sympathetic-but-expendible slots.

However, the casting of the movie gets no such handwave. When they cast the movie, they made two decisions, one good and one bad. First, they decided to actually make the black characters in the book black characters in the movie. Sadly, this often is not the case, and again sadly, it's a mark in their favor that they didn't whitewash everything within their reach (and on the other side, the available targets of the whitewashing they didn't do were already the comfortable sympathetic-but-expendible roles, so…).

However, when they then considered the twenty other kids they had to cast for the other tributes, they decided it was a good idea to make them all white. Absolutely stupid, tone-deaf, and again sadly, typical for Hollywood. The error here is in two parts: first, no hispanics, no asians, no middle-easterners, no native americans or first nations. Come on, these tributes are supposed to represent all of Panem… is all of Panem lilly-white, except for District 11 (which you may recall, if you've read Catching Fire, is the district with the endless plantations)? Stupid. But compounding this is the second problem: by making all the other kids white, it makes the District 11 kids the only black and non-white kids in the show. Which underscores their being cast in the sympathetic-but-expendible roles in which Hollywood so loves putting their black and non-white actors.

Update: the casting of the tributes as a whole is as follows: 17 whites (70%), 3 asians (12.5%), 2 hispanics (8%), 2 african-americans** (8%). So my characterization of the cast being "all-white" was off-base; these numbers, in fact, suggest somebody was casting with an eye to matching US census data, which is a breath of fresh air. Additionally, no other district besides 11 pairs two persons of color. Of course, all of the PoC besides Rue and Thresh fall in the initial bloodbath at the cornucopia, making their screen presence minimal — and giving rise to my impression that all the tributes outside of 11 were white.

Casting that ends up matching US census data tells me that somebody was paying attention, and that's a good thing. And if they were working to match census data, then the two characters described as black in the book means that their casting hands are tied. At which point, making Rue and Thresh the only blacks quickly becomes the least odious solution.

And the worst part is that this totally stupid Hollywood-standard casting decision mars an otherwise awesome movie. With the revised information on casting, I'll list its scrupulous decisions right along with the other bits that recommend the movie. The writing was tight and effective; the acting was fantastic and on point; the effects were flashy when they needed to be in the forefront and subtle when they need to fade into the background.

Go see it.

* I'm now waiting for somebody to quote me line and verse of the other tributes being non-white in the book. Hoping for it, in fact.

** Not sure if Dayo Okeniyi considers himself african-american or african; he was born in Nigeria but has spent most of his life in the States.

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Josh and Deadlines

Mar. 7th, 2012 | 10:58 am

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

So once upon a time, I used to work at a Big Publishing House that made textbooks, which have crazy-tight and crazy-serious deadlines. And as I learned most of my publishing process there, deadlines being really fucking serious business got firmly entrenched in how I do things.

I don't miss deadlines.

And blowing a deadline for me is the shortest route possible to never working for me again, full stop, no exceptions, no joke. You've demonstrated that you are not reliable at gauging your own time, your own process, your own life, and you're not taking responsibility for the choices you make and how you communicate with the people you work with. And there are so many other fish in the sea that I don't need to put up with that from you, ever again.

However…

The email saying, "Hey, I won't be able to make my upcoming deadline," that's fine. That does not set the emergency lights spinning and the klaxons wailing. That email is, in fact, awesome.

That email, which is sent as soon as you know a deadline is going to be a problem, keeps me in the loop, lets me make informed decisions, and shows that you're taking responsibility for whatever the problem is, whether it's a schedule oversight or a life-and-death hospital emergency. That email, which also should include a revised deadline, lets me adjust my plans now, while I have lead time, instead of three days after the day I was expecting to get work back from you.

That email is how professionals and equals communicate, and I probably respect you more, not less, when I get it. Because we all know shit happens, the important thing is how you deal with it.

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Void Vultures

Jan. 22nd, 2012 | 04:34 pm

Originally published at joshroby.com. Please leave any comments there.

Ten years ago, the powers of Earth and their many solar colonies erupted into vicious, system-wide war. With terrible weapons at their disposal, both sides reduced every planet and moon to irradiated dustballs. Years of mass starvation and deprivation later, survivors strain out a living by scavenging what remains on derelict ships, stations, and bases. We, the “heirs” of Earth, have become vultures of the vast, lonely void. We pick over the carrion of a golden age of plenty, when Humanity had the luxury of building whatever we desired.

I’m a scrapper—a salvage expert, if you want to be polite, but I answer to void vulture, scavvy, kender, station-stripper, magpie, even shitpicker. I draw the line at “junk monkey,” though, so watch it. My mates and I board half-destroyed orbital stations, weapons platforms, anything that has some glimmer on it. We bust open the doors, tackle remnant security measures, and plunder whatever’s left on the hulk. Sometimes, folks or...things take up residence in these old bones, so we deal with them, too.

Our townships, the people we do this for, never asks questions. They need our salvage to keep flying, eating, and breathing. Maybe someday, if we get enough provisions, we can boost our way to the colonies in Alpha Centauri. Between you, me, and this bottle, though, that’s pie-in-the-sky bullshit, a bedtime story to let the kiddies sleep at night. I’ll be pretty damn happy if we knock over a planetoid and set ourselves up for the rest of our miserable lives, not have to keep diving in the black. Girl’s gotta dream.

Void Vultures is a fast-paced, tactical game of killing space monsters and taking their space stuff. It is powered by the Rülsleit system, a pick-up-and-play set of simple rules. Void Vultures plays in three to four hours for three to seven players.

Thanks to a successful kickstarter run, the corebook of Void Vultures, Rüls of the Void, is licensed under Creative Commons and free to the world!

Download the Void Vultures PDFs here:

    • Horrors of the Void - setting expansion; Kickstarter backer exclusive content.
      Dreadnoughts of the Void - vehicles expansion; premium backer exclusive content.
      Please Note: You must have a (free!) account at joshroby.com to download.
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