Vegas Game Day – January 19

On January 19 Vegas Game Day began its new schedule now falling on the third Saturday of every month and running from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM at the /usr/tech library in the Emergency Arts building. Jerrod “Savage Daddy” Gunning ran a packed table of Savage Worlds My Little Pony in the morning slot while games of Shadowrun and Settlers of Catan took place. Jerry Grayson brought out his Hirst Arts sci-fi set for his game of Colonial Marines using Fuzion rules, but I didn’t get to experience the 3D terrain directly as I had signed up for Pathfinder Society and Starcraft on Warhorn.net.

GM Jerry Grayson with 3D Hirst Arts plaster science fiction corridors at Vegas Game Day for a game of Colonial Marines

The Elaborate 3D Hirst Arts Sci-Fi Corridors of Colonial Marines GM Jerry Grayson

Pathfinder Society: PSS 04-01 Rise of the Goblin Guild

Properly supported by a cleric, I was like a god myself as I strode through the passageways under the city of Magnimar. Each hit of my great sword splattered goblin guts and heads. Pathfinder isn’t like World of Warcraft or D&D 4E where fighters get a taunt mechanic; instead I always have to verbally taunt the creatures into trying to attack me. While I wasn’t exactly tanking, I did attract the enemies’ attention. I shrugged off blow after blow and the damage I did take was healed by the wand of cure light wounds I had loaned to our party’s cleric. The five of us overcame all the obstacles that GM Ethan Cline threw at us with only one character ever down and dying, in part because we had chosen to play down on Rise of the Goblin Guild.

Pathfinder Society Players Cluster Around a GM at Vegas Game Day

The Downfall of the Goblin Guild: Indignant Pathfinder Society Members

Playing Up or Down

Many Pathfinder Society modules are multi-tiered, capable of being played up or down. Rise of the Goblin Guild is for adventurers 1-2 in level and 4-5. Our group spent a good chunk of time debating playing up or down at the start of the game. If we played it for levels 4-5, there would be more treasure at the end of the adventure, but the opponents would also be much tougher. Since I only have my second level fighter Asir Al-Nimr, I voted to play down. Consequently, besides the Level 3 Wizard or Sorcerer, even at 2nd Level I was much stronger than the Level 1 PCs of the other players. Veteran players inform me that ideally a Pathfinder Society player should have a different character every four levels to make the most of PFS advancement and leveling. With a level 12, 8, 4, and 1 a player can play any PFS adventure.

Leaping into the “Hidden” Trap

The game also accidentally became an example of role-players deliberately ignoring out of game knowledge during a player’s movement on the square grid. As a player’s miniature was moved up by a different player, the GM announced that he had triggered a trap in a particular square. The player pointed out that he was not moving up that far and instead completed his action in a different square, which the GM accepted. Now we all knew where the trap was and I planned on entering it once my turn came up.

I had already mentally planned my route through that particular square to get up close to the enemy, I reasoned. Also as a GM, I would hate for the trap to be ignored or negated. However I made this decision at a full 20 Hit Points. If the game were very close or I was down to 4 HP with no healing available would I be so cavalier? Not only could I lose my character to permanent death, but I could arouse the real life ire of my fellow players by spoiling the mission or causing a Total Party Kill. I don’t know that I would enter the square in those circumstances.

As it was, the decision was taken out of my hands by the actions of our party’s rogue, who maneuvered into the square, falling victim to the trap. Had he forgotten that it was there or was he falling on the sword as I had planned to do? I really don’t know, but there was at least one angry sigh at the table at the rogue’s actions. It ended up not mattering much, but he acted with integrity, meeting with both approbation and disapproval.

Pathfinder Miniatures, Pawns, and other miniatures on gridded map with dry erase borders for game of Pathfinder Society

A Mixture of Pathfinder Miniatures and Pawns Take To the Gridded Sewers of Magnimar

Same Pathfinder Society, Different Day

In PSS 00-01 Silent Tide I encountered the wet slippery world of the Puddles, an evocatively-named slum of Absalom, the central city of the Pathfinder Society where so many Pathfinder Society adventures take place. But aside from the Puddles, the world setting of Golarion begins to blend together in PFS modules. We were in the kingdom of Varisia for this module, but it didn’t feel any different than Absalom. One of the rewards I’ve received in my five adventures thus far is a boon from the Chelish Embassy of Absalom granting me “one free use of the divination spell from a Cleric of Asmodeus.” The catch is that I have to be in Cheliax’s capital Egorian to use it. It’s a great concept and incentive to go on PFS modules that will take me to Egorian, but will Egorian really be all that different? But back to Varisia. What is Varisia? How is it different than any other setting? Rise of the Goblin Guild provides little idea so I turned to the Pathfinder Campaign Setting World Guide: The Inner Sea which is one of many Pathfinder books available at the /usr/tech library thanks to Paizo’s donation. It turns out that Varisia is more of a frontier sort of region, but even the Varisian entries in the guide were the stuff of generic fantasy.

The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment offered a great deal of flavor owing more to its setting in a temple of the peace-loving god Korada than anything Tian-related. The Tian seem to be Chinese analogues in the world of Golarion, but in the five adventures I’ve played in so far, Paizo has stopped short of creating any meaningful differences between ethnicities and nationalities around the Inner Sea. Aside from the S&M-practitioning Cheliax faction, Pathfinder plays it safe and boring with a conglomeration world akin to many areas in D&D’s Forgotten Realms and World of Warcraft’s Azeroth.

The joy of cultural differences and subtle thematic nuances fade when compared to the sheer glory of a master-worked great sword though. I dispatched goblin after goblin with the clock ticking down and finally managed the killing blow on the weakened big boss. With the end of the mission, Asir Al-Nimr is just one adventure away from Level 3.

Starcraft: Lost Detail, Once More

The last time I played the Starcraft video game was maybe back in 1998, but many of the game’s details are hard to forget. I knew I didn’t want to play a scummy Protoss or Zerg. In the RPG there are also Mutates, which I quickly dismissed. I’m Terran all the way. I repeated “Fire it up!” to myself a number of times during the quick character generation, but instead of a flamethrower-wielding Firebat, rolled a basic Marine, Private Mark Robbins.The Alternity rules from 2000 were quick, dirty, and random. I diced for some basic stats, got three skills (Rifle, Intimidate, and Brawl), and then even diced for weapons and gear! I wound up with a nasty radiation weapon, the Fusion Rifle, plus a Stun Ray Pistol, CNC Power Armor, and a Combat Shield.

GM Kris Anderson filled me in on my background story. I was a conscript who had been twice-imprisoned if not more. I had escaped human prison and been on the run when recaptured by Protoss bounty hunters, escaped again, and then been captured yet again by a different Protoss. I awoke with my gear shackled in the hold of a drop ship and was furious as the other PCs and my captor telepathically messaged me. The purpose of my captivity became clear: the assassination of the prisoner General Wayne Havelin within the walls of the prison on the frosty planet below. Think of Hoth from Empire Strikes Back and you have Daloth.

Stacraft RPG GM behind GM's screen at Vegas Game Day with two RPG players

Starcraft GM Kris Anderson Checks His Notes Before Things Get Brutal

Unlike most other RPGs at Vegas Game Days, the Starcraft game had continuity and was picking up the action for the two other players in the party, a Terran Spectre and a Protoss Dark Templar. As we were about to begin we were joined by a fourth player who quickly rolled a four-armed Mutate who looked more like a Zerg than anything remotely human. Like the other two PCs, he also had major psionic abilities including telepathy and we eventually encountered him in his native habitat, burrowing in the snow.

Quadrupedal mechanical Starcraft Protoss suit for Dragoon

A Deadly Protoss Dragoon

We also quickly met a Protoss guard patrol and my Fusion Rifle was soon irradiating the crap out of them. Having taken my combat drugs, my Dexterity shot up to 20, which in turn boosted my Rifle skill to 21. I needed to roll less than this on a d20 to hit. Scratch one Protoss Zealot. The Fusion Rifle was less effective on the quadrupedal Dragoons and our GM had me making Intelligence check after Intelligence check each time I continued to shoot at one with my Fusion Rifle. The rest of the party all had crazy psychic powers including tornado creation, clouds of darkness, and maybe something like a red insect swarm of rage that would devour the Protoss units. The Protoss had their revenge when a second patrol showed up and got the drop on us. Armored suits exploded. I went flying through the air when a ball of plasma struck me from behind. PCs were killed, including Pvt. Robbins The two original PCs had alien artifacts though, rare amulets that could restore a person to life, but those too were soon exhausted in the furious firefight. Finally our Dark Templar actually used a Reverse Time ability to jump back a minute or two and we fought the battle again, this time with everyone surviving.

The second melee was no cakewalk though. Private Robbins had lost his armor, his Fusion Rifle rounds, and his sanity. I decided he’d had enough and was freaking out. I cowered under the smoldering remnants of one of the armored suits for several turns and then made a break for it, channeling Bill Paxton from Aliens. It was freezing and he’d had enough. My party members thought otherwise and successfully attacked me, knocking me out for quite a while.

Starcraft RPG player rolls dice with graph paper map of prison world in foreground

Stay Frosty: GM’s Map of the Prison’s Locale with Plateaus and Frozen Lake

After coming to, we headed towards the base, climbing a plateau and spotting more guard patrols and the base’s considerable defenses. We would need a clever plan of attack to get inside the prison.

The Ignored Voice of Pvt. Robbins

I thought I had some clever plans of attack, even if one was a major cliche:

  • When I suggested our Dark Protoss and other Terran pose as bounty hunters and turn me, the escaped prisoner, in to the prison all I got were blank looks, before the other party members went back to talking about how hard it would be to get into the prison. It worked in Star Wars, but maybe it wasn’t being creative enough.
  • What if, I proposed, our Dark Protoss dressed up in the Zealot’s yellow power armor, pretending to be one of the Zealots returning from patrol? This was shot down.
  • I had another suggestion. Maybe the Dark Protoss could use his Mind Control power to take control of a Zealot and then have the Zealot punch in the code to enter the underground prison. Yes, his Mind Control would lapse once the Zealot was out of sight in the entrance tunnel below us, but the stealthy Spectre could drop in behind him and dispatch him with a quick strike. No, this too was ruled out.
  • There was a huge orbital turret near the prison landing pad. Maybe the Dark Templar could teleport into or onto it and we could use it to target and destroy the Protoss units guarding the prison. Of my suggestions, this one actually was infeasible because such turrets are unmanned and automatic.

Now as I was suggesting these, I did find success with one listener: the GM. The GM actually had the other players make an Intelligence check or a Perception check or some other sort of check to listen to my ideas. There was even a bounty hunter ship on the landing pad tarmac! As trite as it would be, posing as bounty hunters probably would work. But I failed my real life Charisma check and the other players went back to their own discussion.

Ignoring Out of Game Knowledge Again

There was another plan that I had to simply ignore because it was based on out of game knowledge. While the four-armed Mutate was being rolled, I noticed that he had gotten a Feign Death ability. We could also infiltrate the prison by having the bounty hunters turn in the mutate’s corpse. Or the mutant could be left with the dead Protoss patrols and possibly be brought into the prison to be dissected and studied. Of course, while I knew this, my character did not, but it didn’t stop me from awkwardly hypothesizing about one of us playing dead. Sadly even this went ignored and unheeded.

In the end we had to leave the mission hanging because it was time to vacate the building in real life. The GM invited us new players to continue the adventure in the group’s regular campaign. While I was frustrated at not being able to assassinate the general or convince the party to go along with my plans, I had a blast playing a new game and meeting other gamers.

Vegas Game Day – November 10

Normally playing tabletop RPGs for me is just about having a good time and isn’t about escapism, but it was nice on Saturday November 10 to be able to get into playing two different characters and not have to think too much about real life while at Vegas Game Day.

Hellas: The Keeper of Souls

Greek Sci-Fi Hellas Hoplite in armor with shield and spearAs far as I know, I have only played one other RPG with its creator GMing (Tunnels and Trolls with Ken St. Andre), so getting to play the Greek space odyssey Hellas with creator Jerry Grayson in charge promised to be good. Since interviewing Jerry back in May, Hellas successfully underwent a Kickstarter campaign to bring out the second edition of its rules. Joining me at the table was Jerry’s wife, Renee, and first time roleplayer Jack Weill. Jack took Iolaus, the re-occuring protagonist within the Hellas rulebook’s fictional stories. With Renee playing the Amazoran Niobe quickshooter, I took the warriorly dispenser of justice, Leander the Bold.

Leander is also a Myrmidon, a literal ant warrior made up of a teeming colony of ants. I put my Myrmidon abilities to use as the three of us were hosted by a rich merchant at a symposium, by splitting part of my body off to eavesdrop on our dying host and his Nymphas major domo, trying to gain further details on our adventure. Basically the old man’s son had fallen head over heels in love with a criminal woman and had even been spent to Hellas’ version of Alcatraz with her. Our mission was to rescue him from this prison world of Olinos, this Keeper of Souls. I agreed, but having looked over my sheet, pointed out that I had sent many of the criminals to die on Olinos myself and that surely I would be recognized.

The details of how we would get away from the inescapable prison planet were always pretty hazy to me, even as our supply ship dropped down and we abandoned all of our weapons and equipment to better blend in with the world’s prisoner inhabitants. We traded some fish sticks and fish shakes for information, learning that King Forbus was nearing apotheosis and would soon be leading his followers in their escape from this world and it seemed like the merchant’s son would be with him, so we headed into the main city to where some sort of contest was about to begin in an amphitheater.

Moving into the crowded prison city’s amphitheater, I decided to invoke one of Leander’s Disadvantages. I knew I might blow the mission or be killed, but it seemed worth the risk (and in my opinion it’s better to invoke a Disadvantage before the GM can do it to you). Leander was indeed recognized by one of the criminals he put away and we began to fight over his dagger using my skill at Greek wrestling or pankreation as it is known in Hellas. Meanwhile my comrades located our quarry as well as his malicious lover. I took some damage as I continue to choke out the criminal and there was a warning shot from a laser pistol as I was now beginning to interfere with the ceremonies, but I didn’t stop, until I was pulled away from him, my new dagger in hand.

Ligers, Oh My!

While Iolaus heroically offered himself as a substitute for the merchant’s son, I competed with the claim that I wanted a spot on the leaving spacecraft. Meanwhile our Amazoran approached the son on the sidelines, trying an entirely different tact of wooing him over to her. I tried to surreptitiously slip Iolaus my newly-acquired dagger because I looked his sheet over and saw that he was good at Melee, meanwhile I was very good at Pankreation. Even as the criminal kingpin was announcing what we would face I received a glorious visit from the god Apollon himself! Jerry Grayson really knows how to stroke an ego! Apollon praised me (quite deservedly I might add) and promised me glory on the battlefield. We were herded into the amphitheater and then the beasts were unleashed: two enormous ligers!

I had a hard time subduing my Napoleon Dynamite impulses at this point, but Iolaus knew what to do, ripping one open from gullet to gut with one heroic sweep of the dagger I had loaned him. Iolaus is bad ass. I struggled with my own liger, but the next turn using a Teamwork card played by Iolaus, we made short work of the other as well, earning us a place in the Big Boss’s pleasure suite. I felt like Boba Fett in Jabba’s Palace as toothless prison hags flocked to us. Iolaus pressed Forbus for a spear and the boss took one from his henchman, Bolgo, who began grumbling. From the comfort of the skybox we watched as the killing of the mimes and clowns began. We also learned more of the villains’ plans, but then I set out to get myself a new spear in the company of Bolgo.

Player Jack Weill listens to GM and Hellas Creator Jerry Grayson at Vegas Game Day

Hellas Creator and GM Jerry Grayson Explaining NPC Action to PC Jack Weill

We invaded a potter’s crappy hovel and Bolgo started threatening the poor wretch. Something gave way in my crunchy insect heart and I retorted to Bolgo, “Here’s your spear!” and really gave it to him hard, possibly spending some Hero Points to try to finish him off, but not quite killing him. I fended off his return blows and then finished him, swearing the potter to secrecy and rejoining the others in the pleasure suite where we conferred, after I’d explained away the missing Bolgo.

While I normally wouldn’t make such a choice due to fears of splitting the party or because I actually want my character to live, Leander turned to his companions and made it clear that there was no way he was going to allow the criminals to escape their just sentences, even if that was not part of the mission. I would remain behind if need be. Fortunately we all agreed and Forbus took the decision out of our hands of when to ambush him when Jerry played a card himself. Jerry took his inspiration for the Hellas cards from the TORG RPG’s destiny altering cards and played one which brought Bolgo back to life. He wasn’t dead after all.

There was a heroic melee and firefight that saw Forbus beheaded and Bolgo using a Hero Point to run away vowing to return in the future as an NPC as Jerry decided that he liked Bolgo. Iolaus, Leander, and Niobe acquitted themselves well as heroes and the criminals were left safely on Olinos to eat fish sticks, while we got to reunite the father and son. For Jack Weill, our first time role-player, it was “fun”. He normally plays strategy board games like Risk and Axis & Allies, but seemed to have an easy time understanding what was expected of him and said that he would do it again. I would too. As much as I enjoy the two Hellas one shot adventures I’ve been on, I would love to play in a Hellas campaign and accumulate glory and fame myself and work towards apotheosis.

Pathfinder Society: The Brutal Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment

We had a full table for Pathfinder Society as we sought to explore the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, devoted to the god Korada. One of the catches is that the temple is inside a tapestry, so the Society would be transporting us there on a mission of peaceful exploration with four parts to it. As we explored the serene temple, attuning our chakras, humming mantras, and playing with our glass balls, something seemed slightly amiss. We were exposed to a special ritual testing the purity of one’s soul, the Kiss of Korada. The turtle statue could either bestow enlightenment or sever a finger for those with impure souls. I nearly clubbed our party’s paladin when he leapt in line in front of me for the test, but he received no effect (a foreshadowing of his soul’s weakness, as it became clear later). From my previous encounter with Apollon in Hellas earlier, was it really too much to think I would get a vision from Korada too? I was disappointed when I only felt pain, though I did begin to see swirls of lights and feel tingling. My party members seemed non-plussed by both my bravery and my Kiss of Korada.

Maybe I hadn’t fully succeeded because of the negative energy I had brought with me from the Prime Material Plane as I became increasingly rude with some of the temple’s priests, questioning whether they knew that they existed within a tapestry or not. What I’m sure of is that 90 minutes into the adventure I was suddenly failing a Will save and stabbing myself with a pointy piece of wood for 13 damage. So much for exploration! Life wasn’t worth living any more and I was determined to end it, but fortunately I was Level 2 and not dying from my initial impalement. There was a “Wait a minute,” from our GM, and then some close party members were given the chance to try to interrupt my suicide attempt, but I had a hard time not chuckling as another and possibly a second also became despondent. Someone hit me with Sleep or Chromatic Spray though so I was out of it and didn’t have to worry about how the party eventually overcame this sudden pit of despair.

Venture Captain Chris Clay with 5 Pathfinder Society Members at Vegas Game Day November 10

Venture Captain Chris Clay Works from a PDF of the Adventure on a Tablet

As I recovered, the culmination of the adventure began as some of the other PCs came up with a plan to sneak into the high priest’s chambers. There was some Invisibility involved as well, but things went from bad to worse pretty quickly as our stealthy invisible ranger discovered that he was quite visible to Korada’s Chosen, who began shouting at the hapless ranger and the rest of the party, ordering our expulsion from the temple, as our party threw it into chaos. Having prevented the desecration of Abadar’s temple in Abasolm, I wasn’t about to desecrate the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment and headed to the library to check on a possible source of the poison that we had all been exposed to for the last several days in the tapestry.

Essentially what happened next is that one slightly manageable encounter rolled over into a separate encounter, creating a near TPK. The Level 1 Ranger was the first to go, getting knocked out an hour and a half before we finished and remaining that way. While one party member distracted most of the NPCs, others went to finish the last of our quests at the temple. I would not break and enter and stayed in a hallway to help hinder the temple guards. Then there was the paladin who tried to teleport away. When the chips were down, our paladin fled. There was quite a commotion then as some of us tried to wrap our minds around the full health paladin fleeing. Maybe there was a little swearing directed at the sneaky paladin. Half of our healing was quitting the fight when we knew we already had at least one PC down! I don’t know how it got fixed, but we managed to tether Captain America to his post, but I am still shaking my head about it.

Miniatures on Dry Erase Map of Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment for Pathfinder Society

Miniatures Spread Throughout the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment

Is it any wonder he failed Korada’s Kiss? Even with the paladin’s help and healing, for several rounds we were down to 2 injured PCs on the board with the rest of us unconscious. I was gone for the second longest as the temple’s aasimar guards didn’t care to argue the finer points of Korada’s enlightenment with me. They started attacking me and then I was Cleaving into two of them, downing one of them and severely injuring the other. “Tend to your comrade, I will not strike. I give you my word of honor,” I offered to them, but they knocked the crap out of me instead. So much for peace-loving.

I will say that the game was so close that every bad roll on the villains’ part resulted in a sigh of relief. Once our faithful cleric started rolling 5s and 6s on his healing channeling rolls we were cheering and hollering. Finally I could get up again and finally our odd Strength rogue with the polearm could get up as well. Time became the critical factor as we were rushing against the real world midnight closing of the Emergency Arts Building, which hosts Vegas Game Day. Finally we managed to overcome the evil and hurriedly packed up to leave. Phew.

The Published Adventure vs. Our Experience

Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment PDF Cover from PaizoAfter reflecting on our party’s near death experience on the drive home and trying to unwind from the tense adventure, I was dying to know some of the temple’s secrets that had eluded us despite successfully completing the adventure. Like all of the Pathfinder Society adventures, PSS 03-21 The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, is available for purchase and download as a PDF straight from Paizo, so I ponied up the $3.99 to see what we had missed. Had GM Chris Clay screwed us over? Were my suspicions about the nature of the poison correct? Had I really failed Korada’s Kiss or could I have ever succeeded?

The answers, it turns out, are like peeking behind the curtain at the real Wizard of Oz. Whatever I had imagined was grander and more exciting. As usual, our GM had presented exactly what was there, which was fairly humbug and humdrum. More than anything else, what this Pathfinder Society module highlighted was how important the mixture of Skills and Factions are to an adventure. Our 6 PCs represented only 3 Factions between us and none of our Faction-specific missions helped in exploring and uncovering the mystery at work in the temple. Likewise, the adventure makes repeated use of certain skills, skills which we mostly lacked to begin with or did poorly on when checking them. Consequently we were in the dark about most of the facts of the adventure until it was over.

I actually take some comfort in the fact that Pathfinder Society adventures are so rigid that it is possible to miss many important details in them. It means that every choice of a Feat is an important one that could potentially be rewarding. It also emphasizes the need for smart tactical decisions and thorough role play, while reassuring me that nobody is being singled out by the rules to be penalized for not playing how the GM thinks we should be playing. Though in the case of cowardly paladins, I might welcome some GM intervention.

Jerry Grayson on Hellas, Godsend Agenda, and Atlantis

I interviewed Jerry Grayson on May 2 at his home in Las Vegas. He is the designer of Hellas and Godsend Agenda. His publishing company, Khepera Publishing, will also be releasing the forthcoming Atlantis: The Second Age. As I interviewed Jerry, his gaming group slowly trickled in to play a 2nd Edition game of Dark Sun.

Jerry Grayson’s Secret Origin as a Gamer

Hellas author Jerry Grayson poses in red Dungeons & Dragons t-shirt

Hellas and Godsend Agenda designer Jerry Grayson

CG: So how did you get into gaming, Jerry?
JG: Oh, God. I got into gaming in 1980. My friend across the street, his father ran a D&D game. So you’d go over there and be like hey, what are they doing? And he’d be like “Playing D&D!” So then you’d go over there and you’d watch and my friend would play, but there wasn’t room enough for me to play. So you’d go over there and watch and go “Oh man, I wish I could play!” And then one day, a seat opened up at the table, and I got to actually play D&D.
CG: Who did you play as, do you remember?
JG: Oh gosh, I can’t remember. I was-, I can’t remember. I was probably some Elf or something. The only thing that I can remember about that is going down a river on a boat and there was a killer whale there. That’s all I can remember about that game, but I remember that that was so awesome to me, because it was such a new experience and a new way to play make-believe that it really imprinted on me. Then later on, my friend who lived next door actually got the Basic and the Expert sets, so my brother and I, we made characters for that and we played. We made it 3 rooms into a dungeon and then I was killed by a fire beetle and that was awesome. From there it just went on. We started playing D&D regularly. Then one day a friend came; he had a milk crate full of role-playing games that he’d gotten at the swap meet. He’d bought them at the swap meet a while ago and he brought them, because he was never going to play them. And in there, there were other games. There was Call of Cthulu, there was Aftermath, there was Danger Unlimited, Stormbringer, oh gosh, I want to say Dragonraid was in there, but I’m not sure. But there were just a bunch of games and it was just kind of weird, because when you’d read them, you’re like “Ok, well how do I roll to hit?” Because I don’t know if you’ve ever played any of the Chaosium games, but they’re all percentile-based, which is kind of weird, because if you’ve come from just playing D&D and all of sudden you’re like, “Well how do I hit? What’s my Armor Class? Oh! These games work different.” So then we started playing Stormbringer. From there I started playing all sorts of stuff. The TMNT stuff got me into Palladium, then Robotech, and then RIFTS. I also was playing DC Heroes…
CG: From Mayfair, right?
JG: Yeah, from Mayfair, which is like my all-time favorite game ever. And then just a ton of games, we would play like just about anything, or at least I would. And then we’d have that one stable game group and all they’d play was D&D. So then you’d go “Hey, guys, why don’t we play this, I’ve got this one game, Dark Conspiracy, do you want to play that?” And they’re like “I don’t know.” What else? I tried to get them to play all sorts of stuff, but they would always stay with that. Once that group kind of broke apart then I kind of inherited everyone and then we started playing you name it.

One of the first games we played was probably RIFTS because it was probably in the late 80s like ’89 or so, so we started playing RIFTS, but then we would do DC Heroes. I hipped them to that one. Then we played Dark Conspiracy for a while and then lots of GURPS. I ended up playing a lot of GURPS. Played some Vampire, but funny enough, I played Vampire using GURPS. I would play in Vampire games, but when I’d run it, I’d end up using GURPS for Vampire for some weird resason, which is weird, I don’t know why, but that’s the way we rolled I guess. But we played a ton of games and then gosh, like the mid-90s we started doing the LARPs and that’s where I met Janet, my friend [who had arrived to play AD&D 2nd Edition Dark Sun].
CG: What did you LARP as or what sort of LARPs were playing?
JG: We did mostly Vampire LARPs. Every once in a while, you’d do like a fantasy one. I ran an In Nomine one. We did In Nomine, we did a little bit of everything. Throughout that we just played a ton of different games. Gosh, I’ve played a lot of different games. Probably not as many as some, but you know, enough to go “Ok, I know what that is.” or “I know what this is. I know what this mechanic is from. Or this game plays like this.” When we first played Over the Edge or Feng Shui, you’d see those mechanics in later games.

Origins of Hellas: Romance of the Three Kingdoms in Space Becomes Greeks in Space

Sorceress woman on cover of Wine Dark Void empties a chalice

Goddess Aionisia from Hellas: Wine Dark Void

CG: What was the genesis of Hellas?
JG: It’s funny because when I was looking at this computer, I found some of my old notes on it. Hellas comes from me playing Dynasty Warriors. It’s a video game.
CG: For NES, right? Oh! No, no.
JG: Dynasty Warriors, I played it on the Playstation and XBOX, but you know, it comes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which I played on the NES, but basically you just run around and you’re killing stuff. You’re like one of the heroes in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
CG: Liu Bei.
JG: Exactly. Liu Bei or Cao Cao, whatever. And you just run through and there’s tons of soldiers that come at you, you just kind of murder them up. And I was like “This would make such a cool role-playing game. If you were one of these guys.” So originally Hellas was going to be Romance of the Three Kingdoms in space, because I had this whole thing set up where you had the Forbidden City and instead of a city, you had a planet. And the Emperor was served by all these AI or cybernetic eunuchs that sequestered him away and then you had these warriors, because the Empire was fractioned was being destroyed and you had these heroes. And then I kind of got lazy, because in order to do that, or at least in order for me to do it, you had to do all the research for it and I didn’t think I could do it justice. Plus, that book is pretty dang thick, man. That thing’s like a little Bible, it’s like a million pages long. So I figured, well, I could still do it, but I’d just use Greek mythology.

So I decided to do the Greek stuff, because I’m familiar with it and you can do a lot of neat, iconic things with it. So Mike and I, Mike Fiegel-

CG: What’s your background with Mike?
JG: I first met Mike when Mike did some editing for me for Godsend Agenda and then we became friends. I was doing Godsend Agenda which is a superhero game, or a superheroic game, but you know, I’d done a couple supplements for that, but I wanted to do something else. I wanted to do a science fiction game. So I wrote all these notes, and I came up with the Three Kingdoms idea and all sorts-, I had one that was almost like Buck Rogers/Flash Gordony one, one that was going to be the Three Kindoms. Once I decided to do the Greeks in space idea, I contacted Mike. So we went back and forth where basically I sent him a treatment and then he would send back ideas and we created it from there. There’s some notes on there [his computer]. When you see them, it’s so different and you can kind of see the progression. I wish I could find those notes to see where we started and what we eventually ended up with.
CG: When was this?
JG: This was in 2006, we did this. Godsend Agenda came out in 2002. The second edition of Godsend Agenda came out in 2006, so it must have been like 2007-2006, somewhere around there to put these things out, because it’s only really me and Mike. Yeah, it’s usually about 18 months from start to finish to do one of those.
CG: And back then in 2006ish there really wasn’t a Kickstarter, so you’re funding everything yourselves.
JG: Yes, Hellas was funded from Godsend Agenda profits. That and my 401k from a job I had, which was just kind of sitting there, so I just took the money out from that. Most of it comes from convention profits, because that’s really where like, if you’re a publisher, you end up making the money is at a convention, because you really don’t make as much through distribution, but at conventions, you can make, a ton of cash. I was flush with cash and just nuts. I couldn’t spend it fast enough on heroin, so I figured I should do something else like make a role playing game. So yeah, that one came from there, so we talked about it, went back and forth, came up with some ideas, kind of codified what we would do. Then, I went to England for a convention and on the plane ride back I wrote most of it in this little book, how everything would be unified so that it just wouldn’t be a kitchen sink, hodge podge, in space, which I really didn’t want. That’s what, hopefully, I’ve achieved is made it really tightly focused in what it does, so that when you think about playing Greeks in space, you’ll think about Hellas. Just like with, let’s say with arcane survival horror, you’ll think about Call of Cthulu or something like that, so that it cannot be mistaken for anything else, except for what it is is. So when people have asked “Can I play Star Wars with it?” You’re like “Well, you can, but it won’t work as well for Star Wars as it will for Hellas.” Some people are like, “Well, can I convert my Traveller game to it?” It’s like, “You could, but it’s definitely not going to feel like a Traveller game. It’s going to feel like Hellas with talking dogs and pod people or Kafers or whatever.” I’ve attempted to make it its own beast. There’s a lot of mechanics in there that feed that, or at least hopefully, they feed that.

Hellas‘s Mythological Roots

Winged angelic Nephelai and snake-like Gorgeon from Hellas

Races Available in Hellas: Winged Nephelai and Naga-like Goregon

CG: Did you return to Greek mythology yourself in preparation and reread a whole bunch of classics?
JG: Yeah, you had to read the Iliad. You had to watch a whole bunch of sword and sandal movies and try and figure out and distill what that essence is, kind of like with the new One Ring game, with that one, with the Lord of the Rings One Ring game, where it’s not D&D. Because it’s easy just to make it, ok, here’s space. And here, they’re wearing some helmets with horse hair on top and that’s it. But to make it so that it feels like it, you have to figure out who these heroes are. Or what makes Greek heroes different than just another superheroic character in other types of fiction. So you kind of have to figure out who they are, figure out what makes that particular thing neat. Because, let’s say for instance, if I was to do it with Celtic mythology or if I was to do it with Hindu mythology, I’d have to figure out what makes that work that way. Or even Egyptian mythology, because some folks have asked “Are there Egyptians? Are there space Celts?”
CG: Yeah, I asked that too.
JG: It’s like, no, because if I did that, it doesn’t work, because it doesn’t resonate the same. Because a Greek hero is a particular type of hero who is different from like the Celtic hero. In order to do the Celtic thing, we’d have to do like the Celtic sagas that happened or were written. Or the Egyptians, which are really weird. Their mythology is, it kind of makes you drunk when you read it, because it’s like a million different gods and there’s a god for this, a god for that, and these gods do this and they kind of overlap. It’s like kind of a really muddy water color, the Egyptian mythology. You know it’s cool, but I’m not making Stargate and that’s what people want, which is cool because that’s kind of what Godsend Agenda has, like the essence of Stargate in it, but I wanted to make something that felt authentic as opposed to a pastiche of Greek adventure.

CG: Which Greek heroes were you particularly drawn to yourself?
JG: Well, you got your Perseus, your Thesues. What I really liked was Achilles especially in the Iliad, when you read that, how much of a bastard he is, but he’s like the greatest. He can back it up though! It’s like, yeah, I am a jerk, but I can back it up, because if anybody says anything, I’ll just stab you or whatever. He’s kind of a great character because at the beginning of the story, it’s just them kind of being pissed off with each other and arguing, because Agamemnon took his prize. And he’s just like “Nah, I’m not going to do it.” And then as the story goes on Odysseus is always cool because he’s the crafty one, especially in the Iliad, his misadventures, stealing horses. It’s like, he’s a car thief. It’s like “We’ll go over there, steal some horses, we’ll stab up some people while they sleep, then we’ll roll back” type thing. These characters are just, they’re really neat and big, because they’re painted in such broad strokes. But then they have this crippling Fate/failing that just like destroys them, except for Odysseus because he manages to make it out after 20 years. All those guys, they just manage to end poorly. Like Jason ends poorly. It’s like, you get home, you have your hot wife, you guys have some kids, you dump her, you get a new wife. She kills your kids.
CG: Medea.
JG: Yeah, and you end up all alone on your old rickety boat and then you die because the mast falls down and hits you in the head. That’s not, you know, like the way that most people in a role-playing game would want to die, but in all these Greek myths, you know, these characters died horrible, sad pathetic deaths. Hercules, being burned to death by the poisoned cloak. Theseus was kind of a bastard too when he left what’s her face on that island. Like they get off that island and it’s like “Yeah, babe, we’re going to be together forever.” He just kind of leaves and bones out.
CG: And his father.
JG: Yeah, and his father jumps off a cliff! They all have really neat things, but I really like Odysseus and Achilles, I guess, if I had to pick, just because Achilles was just an absolute bad-ass and Odysseus was incredibly crafty and well-thought out.

Epithets as Game Mechanics

CG: His epithet is wily Odysseus frequently. So epithets in Hellas are a game mechanic, right?
JG: Yeah, in Hellas that’s a game mechanic. It allows you to break the rules. It allows you to do one thing that is impossible, but that your character can do, because you’re a hero. So in other games, they’ll give you like maybe a +2 bonus or this, because they want to keep it balanced, but if you’ll read Hellas, Hellas is completely unbalanced and doesn’t even make any pretense to be balanced. If your character is let’s say Bronzed-Arm Dorios and if you define that epithet as being really strong, then if the spaceship is trying to get away and you could just say “Ok, well, I hold it.” Just cause in myth, in those myths, they would do just ridiculous things. They wouldn’t do it all the time. Like Hercules in his labors, he would struggle with some stuff, but then other stuff, he’d just divert a river. Like “I’m going to divert a river.” And you’re like “Well, that is crazy, Hercules,” but then he’d struggled with other stuff, like fighting a lion, but it’s like, if you can divert a river-, well, I guess he did choke out a lion, but you know, he shouldn’t have as much of a problem, if you’re doing your Popeye to divert rivers.
CG: Where did the space aspect come in? I saw that you like Ice Pirates
JG: Oh, Ice Pirates! Galaxina,
CG: Flash Gordon.
JG: Flash Gordon, definitely Flash Gordon. Flash Gordon the comic strip and Flash Gordon the movie. Because I wanted to do a science fiction game to begin with and just to add a Greek overlay on the top of it, which adds really great visuals when you look at the artwork. The artists who did the artwork, they’ve done a really good job of making it look distinct. It doesn’t look like any other science fiction. And that’s because of the artists being so awesome.

The Art Direction in Hellas

Computer-generated spaceships battle in outspace in Hellas

Ships designed by Grayson clash in space.

CG: Now are you one of the artists?
JG: I do some of the art. I don’t do any of the great art. I do all the auxillary art and I do all the layout. If you look at the core book, there’s some of my artwork that was snuck in there, that’s in there where there would have been white space. It’s like, ok, there needs to be a piece of art there. So then I’ll draw a picture or I will do some type of design work. All the CG artwork is mine, because that was easy to do and it’s cheap because I don’t have to pay myself. But for the most part, all of the artwork that screams Hellas or all the stuff I use in promotion, that’s a different artist. That’s Nathan Rosario, does all that artwork.
CG: What about all the ship designs?
JG: That’s all me. And that’s because I wanted the ships to kind of look like Greek ships so if you look at any of the spaceships in profile they kind of look like a bireme or trireme, Greek vessel. Except when you turn three quarters, and you see the rest of the ship and it looks kind of weird and futuristic. I wanted it to kind of not look like your standard spaceships with all the goofy spaceship trappings. I wanted to make them look kind of like everything else, uniquely Hellas. Like you’ll never ever see any other kind of lame, crappy, kind of spaceships like you see in Hellas anywhere else, I can guarantee.

Caucasian woman dreams of Slipspace and Spartans

An example of Grayson’s own art, The Dreamer

CG: Now you’re a graphic designer by trade?
JG: Yep, graphic designer.
CG: Where did you go to school?
JG: Went to community college here in Las Vegas and just a lot of online tutorials and stuff like that. So I went to school for it in 1992-93. When I went to school they were just starting to use computers to do stuff. So I was learning how to do stuff on wax boards and stuff like that, I don’t know if you know what those are, but when you would lay out a page, basically you would run it through this machine and it would put hot wax on it, so it’d be sticky. And then what you would do is you would take your text and you would put it on that board and just kind of lay it on there and lay it out however you wanted it. And if you didn’t like it, you’d peel it back up and re-lay it out. If you wanted a title, there was this machine where you would type in the title and it would print a title and you could put that on there. You used a lot of Zipatone, a lot of Xacto knives, a lot of rubylith stuff, a lot of stuff you will never ever see anymore being used, but that was the way I learned how to do it.
CG: Pre-Illustrator.
JG: Yeah, exactly, before people were using computers regularly, that’s the way you would do it. You’d get a board, run it through, and it’d be kind of gridded or lined out and you could kind of line stuff up. Yeah, I couldn’t imagine laying out a book like that anymore, because that would make me cry a little bit.

CG: How much do you think, as an RPG developer, that it has helped you to have the graphic design background?.
JG: As an RPG publisher, it’s helped me because there’s a lot of expenses I don’t have to pay because I can do them all myself. I can lay the book out. I can draw some of the artwork. If the artwork needs a touch-up or recoloring I can do that myself. Logo designs I can do myself. Just the visual look of the book. So when I decide I want a character to look like this, I can draw it and send it off to the artists and they’ll send it back. Also I think that it helps me with the relationships I have with artists, where with other games I’ve worked on, like I’ve done some stuff for Disk Wars, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that?
CG: No.
JG: It was from Fantasy Flight Games, it was a pog game, it was really awesome. It was a little pog game where they had little art on each one of the pogs and it was like a wargame. You’d just flip the pogs and they’d land on each other and they’d fight. That game was fantastic. Doing art for that you would get like an art brief and it’d be kind of weird and complicated and all kind of weird stuff that the art director would put in there. Sometimes these art directors are not really artists, so they really don’t understand. But with me, it’s like, “I need a guy with a squid face!” And he’ll give me a squid face. And I’ll be like “That’s fantastic! That’s exactly what I was looking for.” Or I’ll send him a picture of Ben 10, because that’s kind of what the Zintar are built on. The Micronauts, I dont’ know if you’re familiar with that comic book or the toy line. The Micronauts and the alien from Ben 10 are the Zintar. So I would just send them. And also I’d just let them have fun, so it’s like “Ok, give me these four pieces, and I’ll pay you for a 5th piece, but you do whatever you want to do as long as it fits into Hellas.”

The Myrmidon Ant Warriors

Black and red line art image of Greek Hellas god holding staff Aemoton

Hellas deity Aemoton

CG: Now what’s the origin of the Myrmidons because they’re pretty interesting as a species.
JG: The Myrmidons, it’s me wanting to do an insect race, but not the way that they were done in other books. Because every other time I’ve seen someone do the Myrmidons it’s always been a big ant. It’s been a big ant in armor. And I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be cooler if you know, like, kind of like how they were described as like these ants that turn into men, what if it was like an entire colony that was one entity? Then to figure out how to make them work, I just threw a queen in there, she’s like the controller-
CG: She’s the brain.
JG: Yeah, exactly, so she controls the entire colony, but the colony is shaped like a normal human being.
CG: I think Traveller has something slightly similar, but this was your-
JG: I know that they have the Kafers which are these giant bugs, that you beat them, they get smarter. The more adversity, the smarter they become, but I’m not sure of anything else, but then again, I’m not a huge Traveller-
CG: There’s something called the K’kree or something that have a herd. So the PC is 40 different individuals. 40 things make the PC.
JG: Now are they the horse guys?
CG: Something like that. They’re the herbivores.
JG: Right yeah. Those guys. I just wanted something that would be unique, that I hadn’t seen before. And also, you ever watch the old Spiderman cartoon?
CG: Yes.
JG: Remember Swarm? [Laughs] He’s kind of like Swarm, a whole bunch of insects. Not necessarily just ants, but just insects, that this queen manages to gather up psionically and makes it go. And I thought it’d be cool. I’d love to see it in a movie. I’d love to see a Hellas movie, so I can see these things come to life.

Hellas Playing Mat, Event Cards, and the Omni System

Yellow spaceship from Hellas RPG vaguely W-shaped

Amazoran Cruiser designed by Grayson

CG: Now as for Hellas, I saw when we played the game there was a huge playing mat which we didn’t use, what’s the deal with the playing mat or the cards?
JG: The cards come from me wanting to have cards so I make them pretty, do a Kickstarter for them so I can get a set printed for myself. Then, like, since you helped me with it, you can have a cardset. The cards come from, if you’ve ever played Torg?
CG: Yes! Ok.
JG: The Torg drama deck, where these cards would do neat and interesting things or gosh! I can’t remember the name. Jonathan Tweet put out a game. Ugh! I can’t remember the name of that game! It’s a game with nothing but cards. Everway! Which is nothing but cards and the cards explain stuff that you can do. And they kind of help you with mental creative exercises, so that’s what the cards are. And what the mat was is that it’s really expensive to do a GM screen. It’s a lot cheaper to actually just print a poster. So what the mat is is basically it’s a huge GM screen.
CG: With the rules?
JG: Yeah, that everyone can use. So if someone’s like “How much does it cost to raise an attribute?” It’s like “Oh, it’s right there on the mat.” So as we’re playing, you can sit there and look at the mat. How much glory do I get for this? Oh, it’s right there on the mat. So it’s basically a big GM and player screen that everyone can use. I made it so that the cards can sit right in the middle. So that you could have your card deck, which has all sorts of goofy stuff that you can do and goofy stuff that can happen. It has different plot twists on it, so if things are getting stale in the game, you can just flip a card and the guys with the machine guns bust in and start shooting. Or you find out that your lover is your sister or something weird like that, where it’s like “Wow, I didn’t expect that to happen in the game,” but the cards kind of move stuff like that along.

CG: Backing up, how did you pick which rules system to use, because you use the…?
JG: I use the Omni System for Hellas, but since I’ve also done stuff with the d6 system which was the system for Star Wars and a few other West End Games games, Hercules and Xena was one of them, which was an awesome game. That’s another game that feels distinctly like Hercules and Xena, the way they’ve done that, which is really awesome, I took a lot of influence from that or stole a lot. So we played it at first with the d6 system and it just didn’t work as well. The problem that I was having was that the dice couldn’t-. It just didn’t feel right, it’s like when you listen to like music and you hear the demo of a song and then you hear what the song actually sounds like at the end and you’re like “Wow, I’m glad they went with that.” That’s kind of what it was. It was like, ok, it works, but it just doesn’t resonate right. It doesn’t feel right. It’s a little too heavy. But with the Omni System, with that small chart where basically everything happens on that chart, and it all runs off of intent, and that’s what your intent is, then that’s it. If your intent was to jump across the cliff, there’s not a lot of rules for jumping across cliffs, it’s just basically, what’s your intent? Here’s your modifier. If you succeed, you succeed.
CG: You can call upon a god and say “Great Hoseidon, aid me in this jump!”
JG: Exactly and that will actually give you bonuses to make that jump and that’s what I liked about the system. It was originally created for Talislanta. So I talked to the guy who owns Talislanta, or the creator, Steve Sechi. He said go ahead and use it so I just took the system and modified it for Hellas and made it a Hellas system and it works. Right now I’m in the middle of revamping it and taking out some of the artifacts that were left over from Talislanta and kind of streamlining it a little more.
CG: This is going into the recently Kickstarted-
JG: Yeah, the Revised. Which we also used for Godsend Agenda.

Godsend Agenda: Superpowered Aliens as Gods

Cover for RPG Godsend Agenda by Khepera Publishing showing god battling snake godCG: Conveniently enough, what’s a brief overview of Godsend Agenda. It’s superheroes in space?
JG: No, because funny enough, it all just happens on Earth. If gods walked the earth, they’d be considered superheroes now. And what the Godsend Agenda is, it’s basically this Galactic Empire, their way of taking over planets. Basically they will come to a planet and instead of bringing millions of troops to pacify the populace of the planet, they’ll bring 12 people. They’ll set themselves up as gods and then the populace will just kind of fall in line, because they’ll fight amongst themselves until it’s over. And they’ll wait like a couple thousand years for it to happen, because these guys are essentially immortal. And in Godsend Agenda, what happens is a prison ship from that empire crashes on Earth, the prisoners get out, and they use the Godsend Agenda to set themselves up as gods. So you’ve got the Egyptian pantheon, the Greek pantheon, and all these people were actually prisoners or political dissidents on this prison ship. So the game can be played in a bygone era, so you could play it as a fantasy game where you’re a god back in the olden days or-
CG: The PCs all take the role of a god?
JG: They can or they can just be superheroes in this world, because essentially if these gods actually did live today with the media and multimedia and stuff, you could still be a god, and you’d still be worshipped. And that’s where you get more of your power from is from glory. The more glory you have the more power you have, but they would be pop stars. If Hercules lived today and people were telling his tales, you’d see him on red carpets and at places, but you know, he might go out and punch someone in the face or pick up a car and throw it. So you have that with Godsend Agenda and there’s a secret history behind it.
CG: There is a lot of overlap between the two, huh?
JG: Yes, because that’s one thing that I really like is just mythology.
CG: And the Greek gods were petty and it’s the same way with Godsend Agenda, right?
JG: Well yeah. Well, because they’re just people. They’re not necessarily a higher life form; they’re just a life form that knows how to-. Even with humans, you can learn how to use this energy called ka in Godsend Agenda and once you learn how to use it, you can use it for good, you can use it for bad.
CG: Like the Egyptian ka?
JG: Yeah, yep. Like where you have your ba and your ka. Basically I just took ka, that piece of your spirit and just made that an energy form in Godsend Agenda where like, if you learn to manipulate it, you can do anything you want and that’s what they do. But yeah, mythology runs through all the games. Like right now we’re working on Atlantis, which was an older game, made by the same guy who made Talislanta. So I bought the rights to that and I’m going to rerelease that soon, which is funny ’cause all three games have Atlanteans in them. All three games have Atlantis in them. So there must be something going on with Atlantis that I’m trying to work out that eventually I will work out and my work will be done on this planet and I can have my apotheosis and go someplace cool.

CG: Who’s Khepera Publishing? Is that you and-
JG: Just me. It’s basically me. Mike Fiegel has a company called Aethereal Forge and through that he produced Ninja Burger. So he does that. He created Ninja Burger, he did a role playing game called Vox, which is really awesome. He also did a game called Power Girl, which is kind of like a superheroic kind of Sailor Moonish game, but he’s really really clever, Mike is, and he comes up with a lot of really cool ideas. I liken him to-, there’s John and then there’s Paul from the Beatles. So that’s what we do. But…look what happened to John. So I don’t know which one of us is John. I’m going to say that he is so that I can just grow old and turn into an old lady like Paul McCartney. Yeah, that’s what we do.

Jerry Grayson’s Favorite D&D World: Dark Sun and Experience Playing Hellas Himself

CG: So, right now though, you’ve played so many games, but tonight as we wrap up, you’re about to play Dark Sun, 2nd Edition.
JG: Oh yeah! This is my favorite D&D world. There’s Dark Sun and then there’s probably Greyhawk, which are probably my two favorite D&D game worlds and even though 2nd Edition gets punched in the eye a lot, it gets choked out and throttled like-, yeah I really like 2nd Edition over 3rd Edition or 4th Edition. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, like “Back in my day, we used to,” but it’s easy. I can look at a stat block in 2nd Edition and completely understand what the monster does as opposed to going “Ok, he’s got a mobility feat, he’s got this move through this-” It’s like what the hell does all this stuff do? In this, I know that this huge spider has Type A poison. It will kill you or you’ll take 15 points of damage and that’s it. It’s simple.
CG: You’re playing 2nd Edition straight up with THACO and everything?
JG: Oh, we’re going hardcore, man. I’m going Iron Man. I’m attempting to run this game as written. So as it is written is the way I will run it, with all its weird warts and idiosyncracies, it will run that way. Hopefully it will run well, but going back and actually playing it now, since you start playing all these other games, when you look at some of these rules they actually make perfect sense. You know, when you’re a little kid and reading them, you’re like “That doesn’t make sense.” or “This should work like this and if I was doing it, it’d do it like this.” But when you go back and play it now, you’re like “Oh, this is actually kind of awesome. I wish I could rewrite this game and make it my own.” Which I thought about doing today. I was thinking “I should just rewrite 2nd Edition.” And I was like no, because that would actually take real time.
[Players have been showing up for his Dark Sun game.]
Jerry’s Player: And involve a lawsuit.
JG: No, well not if I changed it enough. If I changed it enough, it’d be Jer Edition. It’d be A Jer and Jer. We could be playing some J&J in here, but yes, Dark Sun, which is probably my favorite D&D fantasy world. I don’t know if you’ve ever played it, but yeah, it’s a post-apocalyptic fantasy game. It’s what happens after all the cool stuff happens and this is what you end up with after that big battle to save the world in other role playing games, this is what you’re left with. It’s just a burnt-out wasteland with slaves and cannibals and just weird stuff. You could shoot a Tupac video in Dark Sun with people with goggles.
CG: “California”…
JG: Exactly, you could have people with baseball bats with spikes in them and yeah, they actually got weapons like that in Dark Sun. So it’s a post-apocalyptic fantasy game.

CG: And you’re running it, but did I hear you correctly that you have only played Hellas twice now?
JG: That I’ve not run?
CG: Right.
JG: Yes. Haha. I’ve only got to play it twice that I’ve not run it. Other games, Tony ran Godsend Agenda, I got to play that, and I think that was probably the only time I got to play that one. Yeah, every other game I’ve managed to be a player in. In Nomine, we used to take turns, like you’d get extra experience points if you ran the game, so then I’d play a character and someone else would run the game. But yeah, Hellas I’ve only got to play twice and I’ve realized it really sucks, so I wouldn’t play that game. That game’s ridiculous. I’d rather play, what’s a good game? Fantasy Imperium, remember that game? [Someone suggests Star Children] Star Children‘s actually pretty awesome. But yes, I’d definitely play that one. Yeah, I don’t get to play. I’d like to play Hellas more. I’m curious, because I come up with these characters when I’m writing ’em. I’m like “Yeah, that guy would be bad ass!”

CG: Who wrote all the stories in Hellas?
JG: That’s Mike. Mike did all the fiction. All the other stuff that makes no sense, like the mechanics and all that crap, I wrote. All the fiction, those chapter pieces, he wrote.

Khepera Publishing’s Relaunch of Atlantis

CG: What would the street date be for Atlantis?
JG: Well, Atlantis comes after I get done with the Revised Hellas and Sword and Sandals. I’d like to be done with those by the end of June. I’d like to be done, but, you know, that doesn’t mean anything. I’d like to be done with both of those by the end of June and complete Atlantis. Because I’ll fiddle with it, but I haven’t gone hardcore into that one. That, in theory, could be done by the end of the year. The system’s written, because it’s going to use-, because originally I wrote the system [to be used] for Atlantis. We cleaned it up, then we started playing Godsend Agenda with it, cleaned it up some more, now I’m putting that into Hellas and so all those games will run using the basic core, but they won’t necessarily be compatible because Godsend Agenda‘s a completely different animal than Hellas is, which will be a completely different animal from what Atlantis is. Atlantis is going to be kind of Conan-y. It’s going to be that weird sword and sorcery. Like 70s sword and sorcery fiction is what I’m trying for with that one. Like when you’d read books from Tor or Daw, back in like the 80s and 70s, the way they were just, you know, nothing was written to be a three-part book. You don’t get any Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones stuff. It was just weird shit that was happening out in the wilderness. They would cut something up and somebody’d do a spell and they would swallow half a planet. It’s just weird. And that’s what I want to do with that. I want to do an old school Da or Tor book that is Atlantis. That’s what I want to do. And then people will hate it because there’s existing fans for the original game. You know what I will do? I will George Lucas them away from Atlantis. I will make something that will so completely annoy them because I got rid of all the elves, there’s no elves, got rid of all the dwarves, and it’s just your goofy sword and sorcery, you know, Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser, Conan, Elric, and all those crappy novels you read in like the early 80s, late 70s, just bad wrong fun. That’s what I want to do.

All Hellas and Godsend Agenda images copyright Khepera Publishing, used with permission.