Category Archives: Tabletop Gaming

Music In Tabletop Games

Music is important to me. I listen to a lot of music. My tastes are broad, and at times, seemingly random. But for all of my love of music, unlike many gamers, I don’t much care for it during game. I find it too distracting, and depending on the GM’s choices, dissonant. Frequently GMs make very common choices. I can count on both hands the number of times a GM has cued up the Conan theme for the big fight, and about as many times that someone has used the Indiana Jones theme in a pulps game.

If you turn up the music loud enough for everyone to hear it, it’s going to be too loud and distracting. If you stop the game to make everyone listen to your song, you’re breaking immersion AND slowing the game down. And, if you pick the wrong music, it just pulls me out of the game. As an example, I was once in a Call of Cthulhu game where the GM decided that since it was a 20’s game, that Jazz would set the mood. Unfortunately, he went to the only jazz piece he knew… Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.

Now, that happens to be one of my favorite jazz pieces, however, it is very recognizable and  wasn’t released until 1959. Yeah, that doesn’t work…

Okay, so I don’t much like music at the game table. I have not yet experimented with, or been in a game, that used ambient sound and sound effects. That might work, though as a GM I suspect that needing to manage a soundboard during game would be a bit much. If you’ve seen it used to good effect, I want to hear about it.

All of this doesn’t mean I don’t make use of music connected to gaming. What I tend to use it for is inspiration while planning and prepping my games. I have a large playlist of what I consider appropriate music for the Starfinder game I wish to run. That playlist is heavy with SF movie soundtracks, John Carpenter and 80’s retro electronica, as wel as some ambient and post rock.

My current thinking is that after game, I will post a playlist of the music that I was mainlining before the session. And if I manage to turn some people on to some new music, even better.

I’ll probably come back to this subject again after I get my game running.

Starfinder Updates

Let’s see, I sent out a letter of intent to start running a Starfinder game in June. This will be a bit different than what I have done in the past. Other than the initial setup and resulting first adventure, I really want to sandbox this. Basically, I want to follow the players’ lead and give them the game they’re looking for.

That may prove harder than I anticipate, as there will be a lot of players. The game will be once a month when I can get the most players. Additionally, I want to allow for players dropping in and out. Thus far, the mix of character concepts seems to range from serious, to whimsical. Thus far I have nine interested players, and from them, five with character concepts.
I told them core races, core classes and core themes. Anything else I would need to pre-approve. I’m not averse to the legacy races except the Elves and Drow, but that’s another post to itself.

On top of that, one of my coworkers at Razer is going to run a weeknight Starfinder game after work… so it looks like I will also get to play. Currently, I am the very model of an Android Solarian.

Do people want to see occasional write ups of either game?

Cool Tools for Gaming part 2 – Dundracon Tools Seminar Links

I will eventually turn this into a page of its own, but for tonight I’m making a blog post.

So, I ran my first seminar at Dundracon and did okay… some lessons learned in regards to having machine configured ahead of time so as to not waste the first five minutes of everyone’s time, but otherwise it went well. Unsurprisingly, I did NOT get to cover everything I put in my outline, and Mr. Steve Perrin suggested that I could easily break this down into two or three separate seminars so as to discuss certain topics in more depth. So at least I got that going for me…

At the end of the seminar I handed out business cards with my wordpress URL and promised that the links would be published post haste… so here they are. If you want to know more about something specific, please comment and I’ll see about doing a review & deep dive.

Physical Tools

  • Chessex Battlemats – Not a lot to say here, as everyone knows about them, but thanks to improvements in printing technology, you can now find them with backgrounds and such.
  • Void Star Studios Tact-tiles – similar concept, but these are 11×11 hard plastic dry erase tiles that connect to each other like puzzle pieces. There is at least one similar product that it’s heavy laminated cardstock rather than plastic.
  • Gaming Paper – I love this stuff. Very inexpensive, especially if you’re buying multiple rolls at the same time. They also offer several pre-designed dungeons that are on letter sized paper that you can assemble and use.
  • And finally, I mentioned that you can find all sorts of really useful stuff in your normal office supply store. The easel back binder is a good example of something that’s just too useful.


Honestly, trying to aggregate all of the cool tool websites is likely a full time job. This will never be complete, but this is what I discussed this time around.

  • Hero Lab Online – This is Lone Wolf Development’s next advance of the Hero Lab character creation software. It’s a very slick, full blow web app. Currently it only supports Starfinder, but other systems are planned. It has a regular subscription/cloud storage fee.
  • Obsidian Portal – Think gaming campaign world wiki. Web based, has a community built up around it so people can share content and ideas.
  • Randomizers – this is a broad category, and I am sure that there are more out there that I am not aware of. I highly recommend the Donjon website. He has random generators for world maps, dungeon maps (and populating them), name generations… you name it.
  • Dave’s Mapper – Remember dungeon geomorphs? That’s what Dave’s Mapper does. All sorts of geomorphs from different artists in different art styles and you can combine them.
    • Having mentioned Dave’s Mapper, I should put a specific callout and plug in for Dyson Logos. I love his maps and I support his Patreon, and I encourage you to check him out and do the same.
  • Hero Forge – Very impressive website that allows you to design and print your own custom minis. This one really does need a blog post of it’s own.
  • Worldspinner – I backed the Kickstarter for this one. It’s a website that will generate random world maps… but it does a lot more. You can then place races & societies on the map and advance the timeline. This one ALSO needs a blog post of it’s own. By the way, once you have what you want, you can then have them print gorgeous poster maps.
  • Uncharted Atlas is a twitter bot designed by mewo2 that regularly posts very attractive computer generated fantasy maps. You can learn more this on his personal site,
  • I shouldn’t have to introduce, but their Windows desktop sync client is the reason I started writing all of this to begin with.
  • World Engine – from the people that gave us d20 Pro. It’s targeted at making maps specifically for use with VTT software, It is still in Alpha.


  • Virtual Tabletop software. Run games for local and remote players online and manage the map for this. There are a lot of options out there but the big three at the moment are:
  • Okay, maybe a VTT is overkill. You can often get by with a simple Voice over IP client, or combine it with a VTT for an even better experience.
    • Discord – Discord is the newest and wants to be the client of choice and in my opinion, is the best of this sort of app available.
    • Ventrilo – Not as current, used to be the client of choice, especially for online gaming guilds.
  • Mapping Software
    • ProFantasy – I can’t not mention Campaign Cartographer. It’s immensely powerful, but has a very steep learning curve and can be difficult to use. There is a whole community of users that has built up around it and they can be a fantastic resource on mapping. They have other mapping apps as well.
    •  Inkwell Ideas – They publish Worldographer, Hexographer, and several other applications for mapping. I am a old school hex crawl guy, so I really like what they have done with Hexographer 2. Of note, their Dungeonmorph dice were inspired by Dave’s Mapper.
  • Campaign Management
    • Lone Wolf Development (Hero Lab) have another product called Realm Works. It is similar to Obsidian Portal, but has many additional capabilities. They have a “fog of war” system so the GM can publish maps that only show what the players are currently aware of. It also has built in relationship mapping between PCs and NPCs. I backed this on on Kickstarter as well and I really like it. Another candidate for a deep dive.
    • Since I mentioned it, Hero Lab character generation software. It’s the 800 pound gorilla and supports many different game systems. They also offer purchasable add on content to add support for new books as they are released.
    • There is also PC Gen. It’s open source and worked on by volunteers. There are many others out there as well.
  • PDF readers
    • Tons, but I will specifically recommend Goodreader for iOS as a best of show PDF reader. I have not been able to find an equivalently good app for Android.
  • 3D Printing – This could be a seminar onto itself, but…
    • Shapeways – Marketplace and service provider for 3D printing. Check out their store for existing models, or submit yours to be sold to others and/or printed.
  • Character Art
    • Hero Machine – flash based character art program. Assemble art for your character.

Cool Tools for Gaming part 1

Generally, every year Bruce Harlick and Ken Hite do a seminar at Dundracon called “What’s Cool” where they basically discuss what’s new and cool in gaming. Last year, Ken made the comment that he feels that we’re in sort of a golden age of gaming at the moment. Between the cost of producing a game having come down to where  just about anyone can afford to publish, and because of marketplaces like DrivethruRPG, there is more being published, and more experimentation in the tabletop space than ever before.

Chatting with Mr. Hite over a scotch, I made the comment that I think this is also true of gaming tools, software, and technology as well…

Fast forward to today…

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GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy
With the success of all flavors of Munchkin, and the concentration over the last couple of years on resuscitating Ogre, GURPS has mostly fallen by the wayside. Once the initial corebooks were published, I have seen little other than PDF releases.

PDF releases aren’t a horrible thing, but since they will never appear in your local game store, it doesn’t do much to give the perception of the game being supported… and doesn’t help build that network that sustains interest and keeps a game line going.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy was a kickstarter from a couple of years ago that was, in my opinion, SJ Games’ attempt at reviving some interest in GURPS. My copy finally arrived on my doorstep last week, and it looks gorgeous.

On a personal level, I’m not a big fan of boxed sets for RPGs. They take up more room, and don’t really add anything to the game itself. It’s somewhat telling that I have quite a few old school game systems where the books are in great condition, but the box itself disappeared some time ago.

That said, the out of box/unboxing experience is kinda cool, and I suspect it makes it easier to get retailers like Target or Walmart to pick up your game… I’d have listed Toys-R-Us, as that’s where I bought some of my Basic D&D stuff back in the day, but they just recently declared bankruptcy. End of an era, that…

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is, effectively, everything you need for GURPS 4th to be able to run a classic dungeon crawl style game. I’ve seen at least one reviewer joke that it’s the Fantasy Trip box promised decades ago. Seeing as how GURPS grew out of the early work done on Fantasy Trip (Melee & Wizard), that’s not completely incorrect. 🙂

The box contains several digest-ish sized books for Adventurers, Spells, Monsters, Exploits (GM system stuff), an Adventure, and the Companion add-on (Traps, Magic Items, and another adventure). It also contains cardboard heroes (heavier stock), bases for the heroes, two battle mats, and a set of dice.
I will also note that there is a large library of additional support PDFs available on Warehouse 23.

These days, I am mostly running Pathfinder 3.x, but there is a special place in my heart for GURPS. GURPS and Champions (Hero) were my second generation RPGs and back in the day, I founded and was the first central mailer of All of the Above, the GURPS APA. I ran both GURPS and Champions for years, and I still probably have more Steve Jackson Games GURPS books than anything from another publisher. Note that the linked page is, to the best of my knowledge, incorrect, and that AotA is no longer being published.

At first glance, it looks fantastic. So, in the coming days I will at least run a one shot of G:DF and there is a better than average chance that I’ll record and post this online for people. I’m still looking into what’s involved there. If you’re following me, and you have some experience with this sort of thing, please speak up.