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Ben Morgan

[ website | Spookybeans! ]
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Behold, The New Hotness [Aug. 24th, 2012|01:52 am]
Ben Morgan
Posted on G+:













-- Ben
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Dammit again [Mar. 11th, 2012|04:42 am]
Ben Morgan
We've lost Ralph McQuarrie and Moebius within a week of each other.

-- Ben
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RIP again [Dec. 8th, 2011|05:16 pm]
Ben Morgan
Harry Morgan (Col. Sherman Potter) died yesterday, and Jerry Robinson (creator of The Joker) died today. Who's #3?

-- Ben
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AnonyCon Report [Dec. 5th, 2011|05:33 pm]
Ben Morgan
James and I were at AnonyCon over the weekend, had a great time overall, but it wasn't without hiccups.

I took the day off on Friday, and headed up to Milford in the late afternoon. That night, we had a test run of the race mechanics for the Grindhouse version of Death Race Z. It was fun, but things weren't quite popping, so we spent some time tearing the mechanics apart and putting them together upside-down. Still some work to do.

Saturday morning, we went out to the con itself. In the first slot, we played in a game of Fiasco using the Bangkok 1984 playset. Tons of fun. The guy running the game, Kevin, played an American CIA operative, who was attempting to set off a briefcase bomb in order to fake a terrorist attack (and who was also a competitor in the ongoing chess tournament). I was his KGB rival, who was out to stop him by whatever means necessary. Kevin's friend Jason played one of the judges at the tournament, who was also out to blackmail a spy (turns out he didn't care which one), and James played a British expatriate con artist, who was trying to get away with selling me a forged Monet.

The chess motif actually ended up taking a back seat to an elaborate shell game that we managed to keep going throughout the whole scenario. We started off with three identical briefcases, and over the course of the game managed to add 5 more, containing:

  • The bomb

  • The forged Monet

  • 23 Argentinian passports

  • $100,000

  • $1.5million Thai Bhat (counterfeit)

  • Jason's character's clothes

  • My character's sniper rifle

  • 4 Gideon Bibles (from the hotel)


None of my Spookybeans games happened, but both of James' Death Race Z games did. We used the Savage Worlds rules for both of them, and it was wonderfully entertaining. In the first game, I played Count Dragula and his nameless navigator with a whole vampire motif, and Team Dragula was sponsored by St. Bartholomew's Hospital, the finest health care facility in the greater St. Louis area: "We'll see you... at the Blood Bank!"

In this one, we were racing to the town of Gomorrah, where it was rumored that one of the finest engines ever produced was being stored at a garage called Big Al's. We lost the race at the beginning, but only just. When we got to the town, the street leading up to Big Al's garage was littered with wrecked cars, rednecks with shotguns in jalopies, and zombies. I made good use of our vehicle-mounted flamethrower, taking out 5 zombies in one shot. The fight to get to the garage was a slow one, and neither team had reached the facility before we ran out of time, but the other team was way closer, so everyone kind of agreed that they won.

For the Saturday evening game, I was Pyro, the driver for Team Fire Truck (again with the flamethrower), and we were sponsored by Matchbox. "Don't worry, Susie, the Hess Fire Truck is coming to your house this Christmas! Brought to you by Matchbox!" This time around, we were supposed to track down a prominent member of the Rebellion, and assassinate him, preferably in the most public manner possible.

My team lost the race again, but it was also very close again. When we got to the mini-mall, the whole place had been fortified, and the only way in or out was blocked by wrecks, so we had to get out and proceed on foot. We started in on the zombies just beyond the wall of cars, and that attracted the attention of a couple of Rebellion members. Unfortunately for them, it also attracted the attention of more zombies, which turned on them first. While all of this was going on, the leader showed up and lobbed a grenade at us, which turned out to be a dud (James rolled nearly all 1s on the damage). We opened up on him with everything we had, and he legged it back into a side building. One of the guys on the other team started searching the wrecks for loot, and came up with 2 sticks of dynamite (really lucky roll on the scavenging table). The 2 teams negotiated a truce, agreed to split the glory from accomplishing the mission, and threw the dynamite into the doorway, which set off the leader's grenade trap, collapsing the building on the guy.

Between the first and second games, we hashed out a new mechanic that allowed players to throw any card that came up clubs as an obstacle at the other team, with the value of the card as the target number to beat in a Driving roll. In the second game, this became the primary means of messing with the other team, and neatly avoided the whole "you can shoot at the other team's car to slow them down, but you can't shoot at them directly, or actively try to kill them" weirdness. It was simply easier to toss a 10 of clubs and say "where did all those cows come from?!"

On Sunday morning, we got to play The Secret Fire, run by George Strayton himself. I latched onto the personality mechanics right away, and have never had so much fun playing a character with a 3 Intellect and 18 Strength. At one point we were in the desert and went to great lengths to avoid an encounter with some giant scorpions, only to have my character turn around and charge at them. His reasoning? "You never leave a potential enemy behind you, where they might come after you. I'm not stupid." That encounter resulted in the deaths of 2 PCs (including mine), and the near death of everyone else. Once it was over, the party encountered a mad hermit who's attention had been attracted by the noise of the battle. After he easily resurrected the dead characters he invited us back to his hut for tea. Upon learning of our destination (the fabled Temple of the Crocodile God), he ran out of the hut screaming. In true OSR fashion, we looted his hut and continued on our way. Upon entering the temple, we conversed with the guards at the entrance, who were actually quite personable (after all, they weren't the ones tasked with killing us), but wouldn't actually help us in any way. As we began exploring the temple, we came across a hallway lined with huge stone sarcophogi, nice and foreboding. We found a room that had in it, among other things, a giant gong. Before anyone could stop me, I strode in and tapped the gong with my sword, just out of curiosity. Luckily, nothing untoward happened. The next room we found had a large collection of treasure, but was also done up in a reptile scale motif. Someone wiser than my character figured out a way to lasso one of the barrels, and I dragged it out of the room, thus avoiding the nastier of some of the traps.

However, removing the loot from the room awakened one of the inhabitants of the sarcophogi. Our Dwarven Holy Man decided to see if he could turn the giant mummy shambling toward us, and proceeded to roll EXCEEDINGLY well. So well, in fact, that the mummy took one look at the dwarf, and ran screaming down the passage. We scooped up our loot, and on our way out, told the guards that we'd changed our minds about joining the Cult of the Crocodile God.

-- Ben

[Crossposted to the Chapter 13 Press Forums]
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Nog! [Nov. 28th, 2011|06:07 pm]
Ben Morgan
Just remembered Egg Nog should soon be available! Woo hoo!

-- Ben
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Ken Russell [Nov. 28th, 2011|01:38 pm]
Ben Morgan
Alexei Sayle's monologue from the first episode of the second series of Alexei Sayle's STUFF:

"Hello, and welcome to another award-losing series of STUFF. In this series, we aim to explore some of the deeper mysteries of the universe: why do salmon swim upstream to spawn? why do birds fly south for the winter? And why do intelligent people keep giving Ken Russell money to make films?! He's makin' another one, you know!"

Fear not Alexei, it only took 22 years, but he's not going to make any more.

-- Ben
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It's Alive! [Oct. 31st, 2011|12:24 pm]
Ben Morgan
The Spookybeans PDF has been unleashed upon the earth, and is available at DriveThruRPG.com. Go spread the word.

-- Ben
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The End of the World [Oct. 21st, 2011|01:46 pm]
Ben Morgan
So Harold Camping claimed that his May 21st 2011 prediction was a mathematical error, and that the actual end of the world would occur on October 21st, 2011. Well, that's today, and so far I haven't seen any signs of the end of the world, no earthquakes, volcanoes, plagues of Lindsay Lohans and Charlies Sheens falling from the sky. In fact, I'm beginning to think that this is all complete nonsense... wait, what's that sou--
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Spookybeans!!1!one! [Oct. 10th, 2011|11:06 am]
Ben Morgan
[mood |excited]

OMG! The Spookybeans Kickstarter is up and running!

Give us money! Get cool stuff!

-- Ben
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Spookybeans Update [Sep. 26th, 2011|02:29 pm]
Ben Morgan
Things are finally coming together for the game. I'm currently working on the final 2 scenarios that will go into the PDF release, which is scheduled for this Halloween. And we have a cover now, with artwork by the positively awesome Nick Palazzo:




We're also working on setting up a Kickstarter campaign for the full print release early next year. More on that soon.

-- Ben
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RIP Detective Columbo [Jun. 24th, 2011|04:31 pm]
Ben Morgan
Just found out Peter Falk died.

I'll be watching Murder By Death tonight.

-- Ben
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Firefox 4 [May. 4th, 2011|11:16 am]
Ben Morgan
So I've been using Firefox 4 for a couple of days now, across 3 separate PCs. It took a little tweaking at first:
  1. Disable Tabs On Top

  2. Turn on Menu Bar (XP doesn't have this problem)

  3. Install addons: Bookmark Bar DeIconizer, Status Bar 4 Evar, and Ad Block Plus (to replace the now defunct Ad Blocker)

  4. Update existing addons: Firebug, Download Statusbar, FireFTP

  5. Select a decent theme (I recommend one of the Bloomind variants, personally)

  6. Set up bookmark sync
But so far, it's not horrible. I'm pleasantly surprised.

-- Ben
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First the Brigadier, now Sarah Jane... [Apr. 19th, 2011|05:25 pm]
Ben Morgan
Elisabeth Sladen has passed away. I'm watching some classic Doctor Who tonight.

-- Ben
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ICON 30 [Apr. 18th, 2011|02:11 pm]
Ben Morgan
[Note: this was reposted on the Chapter 13 Press Forums]

Had a blast at ICON this last weekend.

On Friday night, I ended up playing 'musical panelists' with Eddy and Michelle Webb, and Frank Mentzer. The Webbs were first, they did a panel on the current state of White Wolf (exciting stuff, with the 20th Anniversary edition of VtM coming out soon). Eddy has stated that technically he doesn't really know what his job is with White Wolf, since everything is moving so fast, his job description may change from one day to the next.

I was up next, with the Independent Publishing panel, with Brandon Osorio from Dark Refuge, Aaron Rosenberg, and Oscar Rios from Miskatonic River Press, and the Webbs and Frank ended up in the audience for that one. Osk summed up the panel very nicely: "If you're a control freak, if you don't care about making lots of money but want to be able to put something out that where the end product exactly matches your initial vision, independent publishing is for you."

Then Frank took over, for a look back at working (and gaming) with Gary Gygax. He started off with "I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but Gary was a son of a bitch". He told some stories about working at TSR in the early days, the sad story of the legal battle between Gary and Dave Arneson, and the even sadder story about how Gary got ousted from his own company in 1986. He finished up with his favorite story about Gary, which actually happened before he'd even met Gary. TSR was working on Keep on the Borderlands, and Frank noticed that while there was a cleric in the backstory, there was no chapel on the map or in the text. He did a quick writeup of the chapel and sent to to Gary via interoffice mail. The rest of the staff began making plans for Frank's farewell party, because Gary was notorious for not taking criticism well. The response came back: "Looks good; use it", and everyone was shocked that Frank had survived this encounter. He then went on to actually meet Gary about a week later, and they became good friends, and Frank was able to move up in the company, eventually going on to create the Red Box (and accompanying Expert, Master, and Immortal rulesets), as well as starting the RPGA.

On Saturday, I ran Dave of the Dead from 11 to 3, and it went pretty well. The core resolution mechanics continue to work really well. The Yo and Woe still aren't 'popping' the way I want them to, but they're soooo close. I really need to run some regular playtests, instead of just 3-4 times a year. That's what's really slowing down the production more than anything else, except maybe not having enough time to do all the art I really want. This is one of the few times I ran the scenario and it didn't end with the National Guard firebombing the entire town. The PCs did get to blow up a bunch of zombies using an overturned van, so that was neat.

After that, my friend Lucas and I got to play Fiasco with Tim from Dice Food Lodging, and that was really cool. We used the London gangsters playset, so we got our own little Guy Ritchie type story. Lucas played John Horsey, a sergeant that was moving contraband through the quartermaster's office at the local army base, I played Pete Bradshaw, an ex-army buddy of his, and Tim played Pete's brother Jason, who owed some money to Lucas' character due to gambling debts. John put Jason in charge of getting his fat sister Margaret laid in exchange for erasing the debt, while a major from the case showed up to start making John's life difficult, claiming that he had hard evidence that John was not actually a Falklands veteran, a claim that had saved John's career on more than one occasion thus far. In the middle of all of this was a load of 40 chickens, which had showed up at the quartermaster's office, and John put Pete in charge of getting rid of. Pete sold them to the owner of a local Russian restaurant that he was acquainted with. In true Guy Ritchie (and Fiasco) fashion, everything came crashing together by the end, in the most hilarious and wince-inducing way possible.

I ended up showing up a little late for my next panel, Improving Your Game, but that was alright, because there was very little in the way of audience, so it ended up being more an informal chat between me, Brandon, and the 3 or 4 people who did show up.

After the awards dinner, I just hung around for a while before going to see Voltaire play at midnight. He did an extended show because he apparently missed the panel he was supposed to be doing that afternoon.

On Sunday, I got in on an OSR panel run by Frank, along with George Strayton, who among other things (from writing for Hercules & Xena to working on Spiderman and Transformers) is currently working on Legends & Labyrinths, one of many of these so-called 'clones' that have been popping up in the last year or so. Apparently, the whole thing got inadvertently kicked off by WotC themselves, when they rewrote the OGL legal stuff, and someone realized that they could rewrite the text of the rules, and legally release what essentially amounted to original D&D, with just enough changed that WotC found themselves without a leg to stand on when they attempted to serve a C&D order. In response, dozens of similar projects have launched, and it runs from free downloads to actual physical print products you can buy (thanks, Print on Demand!).

No one signed up for my game, so Keepers of the Gateway remains unplayed by anyone anywhere ever. I'm still thinking of maybe turning it into its own game in some fashion. But that freed me up for the Doctor Who panel. In retrospect I probably should not have spoken up as much as I did, but Ken Deep of the Gallifreyan Embassy was really nice, and didn't kick me the hell out.

After that, I got to sit in and watch Frank run a quick (2hr) game from the original brown booklet D&D manuals from the late 70s. Frank said his philosophy can be summed up in one phrase: "Rulings, not Rules." If you don't have a rule for a particular situation, or if it's going to take an hour to look up the rule for something in one of several dozen rulebooks or supplements, just make something up. Make sure it's fair, and when in doubt, rule in favor of the player. Above all, keep things moving. Watching him run a game for 12(!) players, it struck me that this sort of gaming was much more in line with what we (this is, my friends and I) do when playing Arkham Horror than it is with anything we tend to associate with the term 'roleplaying' or RPGs. But this is a good thing, because it allows me to reconcile to very different play styles, and now I can say "alright, tomorrow night we get to do really heavy character-driven drama, but tonight, we're just gonna kill things and take their stuff!"

-- Ben
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Marvelous [Mar. 18th, 2011|01:59 pm]
Ben Morgan
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Nicholas Courtney, 1929 - 2011 [Feb. 23rd, 2011|02:56 pm]
Ben Morgan
Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart passed away yesterday, at age 81. Carry on, sir. We salute you.

-- Ben
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I'm deadly serious. And don't call me Shirley... [Nov. 29th, 2010|12:14 pm]
Ben Morgan
We'll miss you, Lt. Drebin.

-- Ben
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RIP June Cleaver [Oct. 16th, 2010|11:19 pm]
Ben Morgan


-- Ben
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The Sacrifice [Oct. 13th, 2010|11:26 am]
Ben Morgan
Just read the online comic last night. Wow.

It presented a plot development that, admittedly, one could look back at the game and say that it was implied here and there, but it was never explicitly laid out like it was here in the comic.

SpoilersCollapse )

Anyway, I still haven't finished the scenario itself, because so far I've been only able to play it single player, as my roommates are off in Kentucky this week.

Also, I'm a little annoyed that they changed the map in the Roof Finale of No Mercy when they ported it to L4D2. I ran through the scenario the other night (Bill with a chainsaw, aw yeah), and got up to the finale, went into the room with the radio, opened the back door to the stairs... and saw open sky. What the hell?! The back stairs are open, they took out the little closet underneath them, and moved the ammo upstairs next to the minigun. Completely changes the strategy used for that finale.

-- Ben
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D'oh! [Oct. 7th, 2010|04:41 pm]
Ben Morgan
Left 4 Dead fans will all know that The Sacrifice just came out today.

The only problem with this is that tonight I'm going to a free screening of Get Lamp, the text adventure documentary from Jason Scott. By the time I get home, there won't be any time to test out the new scenario before I have to go to sleep.

I know, boo hoo, I don't get to play this until Friday.

-- Ben
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Text Adventure fans in NYC [Sep. 30th, 2010|12:00 pm]
Ben Morgan
There's a screening of Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary at Alpha One in Brooklyn on October 7th at 7pm. The registration page is here.

-- Ben
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Ya learn somethin' new every day... [Sep. 29th, 2010|03:49 pm]
Ben Morgan
Today's word is Mojibake. It's a Japanese term for the resultant gibberish that appears on web pages when the browser viewing them is using a different character encoding than what was used to create them, such as viewing Japanese web pages on a PC that was not set up for Japanese characters.

-- Ben
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RIP Father Ripper [Sep. 9th, 2010|11:02 pm]
Ben Morgan
Just found out that Glenn Shadix died. Let's hope he's rubbing noses with Jesus.

-- Ben
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The Rules [Jul. 13th, 2010|09:04 pm]
Ben Morgan
[Tags|]

I've posted the Rules chapter on the Spookybeans forum. I'll be updating the rules summaries in the Playtest packs and re-uploading them as well.

-- Ben
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Post Connecticon Report [Jul. 13th, 2010|02:04 pm]
Ben Morgan
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Well, Connecticon has come and gone, and overall, it was quite enjoyable.

I had 3 games scheduled, and 2 of them went off pretty much without a hitch (for some reason, no one wants to sign up for a game at 9am).

For Going Out of Business, I had 6 players. I originally started with 4, so we started the game straight, then 2 more people came over and said that they'd been waiting at another table for us for 15 minutes. If I'd known they were there I would have split the group and run it head to head. Oh well, everyone had fun anyway. The freaky kids decided to put on a benefit concert followed by a screening of Rocky Horror, and they sold T-shirts and waffles (special waffles!) on the side. Someone managed to get Tim Curry to show up (thankfully, he didn't dress up as Frank). In the end, he saved the day by pledging the last $10,000 they needed to save the store.

For Dave of the Dead, we had 3 players, which was just fine. They opted for slow zombies, so I concentrated on trying to keep them hemmed in. They got trapped in the high school, intent on rescuing the son of one of the PCs, and were saved by Chainsaw Dave, who this time around never said a word, communicating only with gestures (and his chainsaw). They found the kid, but he'd already been bitten. They were trying to figure out where to go next when the National Guard showed up, gave the kid a shot that was supposed to cure him (lucky he could still talk), and then airlifted everyone out, except for Dave and one of the PCs, who still had unfinished work to do.

Still no love for Keepers of the Gateway, but someday I will run it. I'm toying with the idea of developing it into a standalone game, as it requires more handouts and fiddly bits of paper, which ultimately would probably work better as cards or tokens or something.

The only other RPG I got to play was Burning Wheel: The Sword, ran by Luke Crane himself, confirming his status as rock-star GM. The sign-up sheet had 6 slots (like all the sheets), but The Sword is a 4 player scenario. On the other hand, the timeslot was 4 hours, and The Sword usually only runs an hour & change, so Luke ran it twice, and just like he said it always does, it ran completely differently each time. I played the Dwarf on the second go, and it ended with me and the Gambler rolling around on the floor trying to choke the life out of each other, after each of us had eliminated one of the other players (he'd knocked out the Rat Guide, and I'd incapacitated the Elf).

As for panels, I sat in on Anime Openers from Around the World, were we got to see how animation companies in different countries treated localization of opening theme music for various anime shows (apparently, the Germans want to turn everything into techno). I would have liked to get in on Geeknights' Losing Can Be Fun panel, but it was scheduled against one of my games.

I also got to watch Jared Sorensen run Action Castle again, as well as its sequels, Jungle Adventure (which the audience won, but like Zork 1, they'd managed to finish it without finding at least half the stuff) and Spooky Manor (which I had to duck out of early in order to catch the bus home). Half the fun of participating in these is watching people who have never played them before try to figure things out. By the time we got to Spooky Manor on Sunday, someone had figured out that it would be helpful to starting mapping as people were playing (I suspect Jared's annoyance at this was probably more feigned that real).

-- Ben

[Note: Crossposted to Spookybeans News]
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Happy Belated Valentine's Day [May. 14th, 2010|09:42 am]
Ben Morgan


I'm not completely happy with the shading on the dude's clothes, I may re-do it with some flat cell-shading or something.

There is a skeleton of a website now at www.burnafterreadingpress.com, but nothing is really functional yet, hope to get some time to address that this weekend.

-- Ben
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Someone screwed up.. [May. 7th, 2010|05:23 pm]
Ben Morgan
Dexcon is happening on the same weekend as Connecticon. D'oh!

-- Ben
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(no subject) [Apr. 18th, 2010|02:03 pm]
Ben Morgan
I don't like the new Daleks. Too plastic. Would have preferred they kept the same lines from the 2005 version, but maybe a more gun metal finish.

-- Ben
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(no subject) [Feb. 15th, 2010|11:21 am]
Ben Morgan
The lead singer of The Knack is dead.

This is a fairly sad thing, seeing as they're the ones indirectly responsible for launching Weird Al's career.

-- Ben
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Not entirely sure yet... [Feb. 15th, 2010|04:52 am]
Ben Morgan
But I think I like Arkham Horror.

We've played it twice so far (not counting an aborted game on Friday). Saturday night we tried with with Yigg as the Big Bad. There were several things we didn't take into account (such as the fact that Yigg is one of those that beefs up Cultists in play), and we still lost horribly. Then Lucas read through the rules thoroughly ad we tried playing again this past night, and it went much more smoothly. We started to get a handle on the strategy and gameplay involved, and only had to refer to the Wiki once for a ruling. We were playing with Ithaqua this time, so cultists still got beefed up, and everyone who ended a turn on one of the streets took damage from the icy winds. We ended up sealing six gates and winning the game.

After experiencing this game, I can say with some certainty that I think there is such a thing as too much complexity. I don't even want to consider any of the expansions at this point (and this is coming from someone who regularly enjoys Settlers of Catan with the Cities & Knights Expansion).

So we'll definitely try it again, but only when we're sure we can set aside 5-6 hours. Damn it's a long game. And we might need a bigger table.

-- Ben
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You'll Be Missed... [Nov. 7th, 2009|03:29 am]
Ben Morgan


-- Ben
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Happy Birthday [Oct. 22nd, 2009|12:57 am]
Ben Morgan
Here's another:



More soon. I promise

-- Ben
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A taste of things to come... [Oct. 16th, 2009|08:57 pm]
Ben Morgan
The latest:



There will be more to come very soon.

-- Ben
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Henry Gibson: 1935 - 2009 [Sep. 17th, 2009|12:53 pm]
Ben Morgan
The Nutty Professor, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Charlotte's Web, The Blues Brothers, The Burbs, and of course, Kentucky Fried Movie:



-- Ben
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(no subject) [Sep. 16th, 2009|12:16 pm]
Ben Morgan
I have recently deactivated my Facebook and Myspace accounts. Nothing personal against anyone (certainly not against any of my friends on either site), but I just wasn't using them at all, the only contact I had with them was the bogus friend request spam I was getting on a regular basis, and trying to find any useful info on anyone's profile page would always give me a horrible headache.

-- Ben
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Chapter 13 Press at Connecticon [Jul. 29th, 2009|11:48 pm]
Ben Morgan
Dregg and I will be up in Hartford, CT for Connecticon this weekend. I will be running Spookybeans demos, and he will be taking the new Pulp Era rules for a spin or two.

-- Ben

[Note: Cross-posted to Spookybeans and Chapter 13 Press News]
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We're All Mad Here... [Jul. 8th, 2009|12:36 am]
Ben Morgan
[Tags|]

Introduction

I ran Don't Rest Your Head for the first time last week. In short, it rocks on toast (additionally, it is in fact All That and a bag of chips).

Apart from explaining the mechanics of the game to my players, it took maybe all of five minutes to create characters. The five questions are VERY nicely focused, and I love how the juxtaposition of the answers to two or more questions reveal interesting things about a character.

[Short System Note: We're using D10's instead of D6's, and counting 1-5 as success. So far, it seems to have little other impact on the game. The only other effect I can forsee is that there will be less of a chance of a tie when determining which pool is dominant in a conflict.]

Dramatis Personae

My Name Is: Rachel
And I Am: A Sophomore at FIT
What's Been Keeping You Awake? Fear of eternal loneliness.
What Just Happened to You? Just caught fiance cheating on her.
What's on the Surface? Independent, because she's slow to make friends, and doesn't care much for her family.
What Lies Beneath? Feels like she has no value to anyone.
What is Your Path? To get to a point where's she's taken care of and can stop worrying.
Exhaustion Talent: Champion Gymnast.
Madness Talent: Can pass Impassable Barriers.

Rachel broke off her engagement about a week ago, but she's had problems sleeping long before that. Since then, she's kind of thrown herself into her studies.

My Name Is: Mallory
And I Am: Nine Years Old
What's Been Keeping You Awake? Lots of bad dreams lately.
What Just Happened to You? Dad killed my dog.
What's on the Surface? He's buried in the back yard.
What Lies Beneath? Mom & Dad are probably going to get a divorce.
What is Your Path? I'm going to be a xenobiologist when I grow up.
Exhaustion Talent: I can disappear.
Madness Talent: I can talk to anyone.

Mallory would be right at home in a game of Little Fears. It says something that most of her answers are not about her, but her parents. As a child, much of her identity is defined by other people. Lately, she's been sneaking out at night to hang out with her friend Malik. She's also seen Aliens about 20 times.

Welcome to The Mad City

I started each of them off with something that was familiar before plunging them head first into the unknown.

Rachel is walking home from school when she discovers that the street where her apartment was has somehow vanished. It goes from 13th St directly to 11th. After wandering around for a while, she notices that the street signs are no longer written in English, and that her surroundings have taken on a bit of a grungy look, and there are no cars in sight. She stops at a sidewalk cafe for a cup of tea, meets a nice older gentleman who introduces himself as Thaddeus and almost immediately recognizes her frustration and confusion as the hallmarks of someone who has just arrived in the Mad City. Before he can assist further, they hear the deep tolling of a gong or large church bell, and what little foot traffic there is on the streets begins to scatter. Thaddeus warns her to get off the street before Officer Tock's men arrive. Rachel hears the rhythmic thudding of marching boots, and heads in the opposite direction. A woman opens a door and desperately beckons her in.

Mallory sneaks out of the house just before midnight, and rides her bike towards Malik's house, which is several blocks away. She is surprised to encounter a set of railroad tracks in the middle of a neighborhood where there should be none. After crossing them, she realizes that none of the houses are familiar. Everything looks run down, and she can't read the street signs. She tries to go back, but can't find her house. She heads for the nearest large street, and heads for a small convenience store on the corner, the only one that's open this time of night. Upon entering, she sees the man behind the counter in a heated discussion with a tall man in a long black coat. Mallory attempts to surreptitiously use the payphone nearby to call 911 (First roll of the night! Mallory rolls 3 Discipline and chooses to raise Exhaustion to 1. I set the roll at 4 Pain. Mallory rolls no successes, and that single Exhaustion die comes up 10, raising her Exhaustion to 2), but the Tall Man sees her and cuts off her call while she's talking to the dispatcher. They have a short conversation. Mallory asks why he is wearing sunglasses at night, and he explains that she wouldn't want to see his eyes. Mallory asks what's going on, the Tall Man explains that the store owner owes his employer quite a lot of money and has not paid up in the time agreed upon. He then sends Mallory outside and proceeds to smash up the store with a baseball bat. After he leaves, Mallory helps the shop owner, Mr. Raffiqi, clean up the broken glass. Mr. Raffiqi quickly deduces that Mallory has gotten lost, and agrees to help her find her way home.

The woman who has taken Rachel in is Linda, an older British woman, who offers her more tea. Linda attempts to explain a bit about what's happening, and once the streets are clear, she offers to take Rachel to see some people who might be able to help.

Rachel and Linda head across town to a restaurant, where they head straight to the back room. After knocking on the door and being identified, they are let in. There Rachel sees Thaddeus and a younger gentleman who introduces himself as Stephen, the de facto leader of the group. Mr. Raffiqi (whose first name apparently is Avi) and Mallory are there as well.

Stephen explains a little more about where they are, and that there has been considerable difficulty getting back to the City Slumbering for some time now. The cause for this remains a mystery. He also mentions some of the more dangerous elements in the Mad City: Officer Tock and his men, The Roof Rats, Mother When and her Ladies in Hating, and the Wax King (who is mentioned as the only one that can be reasoned with). Mallory mentions the Tall Man, and Stephen shudders.

We broke here, as I was pretty much out of material. As it was I was surprised to have been able to jump in head first without any prep to begin with.

Setting Concerns

I have made a few logistical changes to the Mad City. First of all, there is both day and night here, simply because there are some things that are even creepier in the daylight. Also, the way back to the City Slumbering is barred, at least for now. Finding out what's blocked most of the gateways will be part of the first story.

Other miscellaneous details I have added: Entrances to the Mad City take different forms. In Rachel's case, it had to do with the pattern she followed when she was wandering around trying to find her street. With Mallory, it was a case of very literally being on the wrong side of the tracks.

The easiest way to tell you've crossed over into the Mad City is that all writing becomes random symbols; street signs and posters are illegible. The locals don't seem to mind this, as signs seem to serve more as superfluous decoration than anything distinctly useful. So far, any writing a character brings with them (such as in Mallory's AvP comic book) remains normal. There are also no cars anywhere. No one knows why.

Also, mapping the Mad City is impossible. To get from one place to another, you need to know the Directions, which are based on landmarks. Once you have visited a place of particular importance you can use it as a landmark. So, to get from Point A to Point B, you might have to go 3 blocks north, then 2 blocks east, then 1 blocks south, then 3 blocks west, but that doesn't mean you can simply go 2 blocks north and 1 block west, because you'll end up somewhere else entirely. Fortunately, the more familiar you are with a place, the easier it will be to find it if you get lost. And of course, there's always the rooftops if you're in need of a shortcut...

Moving Forward

I've come up with the basics of the local power structure, and there's plenty of opportunity for contact, based on the PCs' own personal issues and whose attention they're likely to attract.

More to come after Dexcon.

-- Ben
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Damn... [Jun. 4th, 2009|04:56 pm]
Ben Morgan
David Carradine was found dead in a hotel in Thailand.

-- Ben
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Damn you, Fox [May. 18th, 2009|03:33 pm]
Ben Morgan
Fox has decided not to renew The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which makes me angry.

On the other hand, they've picked up Dollhouse for another season, which makes me happy.

-- Ben
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Left 4 Dead [May. 1st, 2009|01:50 pm]
Ben Morgan
Valve has a 24 hour free trial thingy going on right now for the PC version of Left 4 Dead. I downloaded it and fired it up just after midnight last night.

I played 1 level - about 15 minutes - before I very abruptly quit out, went to the Steam website, and immediately plunked down my CC info to buy a copy.

The fact that they're selling it at 40% off until May 4th didn't hurt either.

In other news, I also picked up a copy of The Path, and an old Judge Dredd game.

-- Ben
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Duh... [Apr. 27th, 2009|04:31 pm]
Ben Morgan
I bought an album by Blitzkid last week. Pretty decent horrorpunk stuff. I just realized that the lead singer is currently doing vocal work for Doyle's band Gorgeous Frankenstein.

-- Ben
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Post-ICON Report [Apr. 6th, 2009|12:07 pm]
Ben Morgan
Went to ICON this past weekend. It could have been better. Then again, I suppose it could have been worse.

The Good
I got to hang out with some cool people that I only get to see once or twice a year. I played in a demo of Shadowfist (the Feng Shui CCG). I actually had money to spend at the dealers' room this year, so I picked up a copy of Mage: The Awakening, a t-shirt, and some nifty jade-colored dice for L5R. Nearly all the food was free (I did go out to McD's on Saturday morning).

The Bad
Scheduling was a nightmare. The con was spread across 2 hotels and the gymnasium at Suffolk County Community College. No one knew where things were being held. Shuttle buses were at least 1/2 hr apart (sometimes an hour apart). Security was non-existent (no one checked my badge the entire time I was there, as far as I know). None of my scheduled games happened, because there were no sign-up sheets for them. In addition, I didn't get to actually play any games other than the aforementioned Shadowfist demo. All of the games I was interested in were either shceduled for the same time as my games (and by the time it became apparent that my games weren't happening, it was too late to jump in on any of the others), or they were canceled for one reason or another (Jamie Chambers was set to run a demo of the Supernatural RPG late Friday night, but someone had also scheduled him for a panel first thing Saturday morning, so he had to choose). Most of my time was spent watching the RPG table, covering sign-up sheets, prize support, and the RPG library.

Oh, and someone yanked the fire alarm at 4am Sunday morning, and we had to evacuate the hotel.

-- Ben
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ICON 28 [Mar. 31st, 2009|09:18 am]
Ben Morgan
As is traditional, Chapter 13 Press will be at ICON this year, and we will have a shiny new Spookybeans scenario!

Keepers of the Gateway

It written that there is a doorway, a portal between this world and the next, which stands closed. It is said that if this doorway is ever opened, then the Deep Old Ones will return, and plunge all the world into utter darkness and chaos. It is suspected that this may have already happened.

Once every 253 years, the energies of the universe align in just such a manner as to allow the opening of a gateway to another dimension. When this occurs, two groups will gather: Those who wish to open the door, and those who strive to keep it closed. The only problem is that no one knows who's on which side.

I will also be running Dave of the Dead, as well as my Trauma Team scenario for Cyberpunk 2020.

-- Ben
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Pass the mic... [Mar. 31st, 2009|09:03 am]
Ben Morgan
Andy Hallett: 1975 - 2009

It can get a little depressing when people younger than you start dying from stuff that only people older than you should be dying of.

-- Ben
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This is the sound... [Mar. 27th, 2009|10:33 am]
Ben Morgan
...of your childhood being raped.

That's what I used for the subject line in an email I sent my brother a couple of weeks ago when I forwarded him the link to the Land of the Lost trailer.

Now preview reports are trickling in to Ain't it Cool News, and it just gets worse and worse with every sentence. All the things that they're praising in the reviews are things that make the movie sound horrible to me. If it had been given any other name, I might have given it a chance.

I want to like Will Ferrell. I loved a fair bit of his stuff on SNL. Celebrity Jeopardy remains one of my favorite recurring sketches. His James Lipton is fantastic. I genuinely enjoyed Elf. I try to give the guy a fair chance. But I just haven't liked anything he's done in quite a lot time, with the notable exception of The Oblongs.

-- Ben
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Dollhouse [Mar. 9th, 2009|10:45 am]
Ben Morgan
I really want to like this show. And not just because of some perceived Whedon-fanboy notion.

The main problem I have with the show is that I find it to be built on an extremely shaky premise. Someone else already brought it up in a review somewhere, but it bears repeating. If you find yourself in the middle of a kidnapping situation, are you going to contact a secret (illegal) organization who will program someone to be a negotiator... or are you simply going to hire a negotiator? Do you want someone who's been programmed to be a safecracker, or someone who's actually spent their lives cracking safes? It seems counter-intuitive and not really cost-effective.

That being said, once you accept the premise, everything else is golden. I especially love the almost ritualistic verbal cues, like when one of the actives has just been wiped, or when they showed Echo being imprinted for Boyd.

-- Ben
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Dreamtion Report, Part 2: Saturday [Mar. 5th, 2009|09:50 am]
Ben Morgan
Saturday morning, I finally got to play Sorcerer! The scenario started with The Breakfast Club as its basis, so we were each playing one of the various 'archetypes' from the movie (I got to play The Basketcase). The twist is that our families had all been involved with sorcery for generations, and we were all half-demon, which gave each of us some nifty powers to work with. Anyway, we'd all been called in for detention on a Saturday morning for various reasons, but when the teacher showed up, she was being possessed by a demon who was out for revenge after apparently being betrayed by all our families about 90 years ago. Things degenerated pretty quickly, with one of us knifing the janitor very early on (it wasn't me), then taking off to try and find out how to deal with this demon. While we're running around, the other PCs each received photo messages on their cell phones of their parents being systematically ripped apart. At the end of the scenario, we'd figured out what the demon's weakness was and how to stop it, and the thing showed up in my character's mother's body. Now, we'd defined early on in the session how each of our characters got along with our families (or didn't, in my case). My character smiled, walked up to his mother and said "Mom, do you have any idea how many nights I lay awake, wishing, hoping, PRAYING that one day, you and Dad would sit me down and tell me I was adopted?!" Then I hit her with my character's Rot ability.

Saturday afternoon I ran my Cyberpunk game. This was without a doubt the absolute worst AV crew in Trauma Team history, which is pretty much the point of the scenario. Everyone playing was absolutely spot-on the whole time, and I was in serious danger of running out of the counters I was using for Style Points. Standard practice was to hoard them for the most part, then use all of them in one shot when it really counted. In the end, they blew up 2 meth labs (they'd sought out the second one simply because destroying the first one was so much fun).

In the early evening, I played Serial Homicide Unit, run by Kat Miller. We started with 'college students' as the profile, and each created characters that fit that. Each character had a goal they were working toward, and everyone but the character's player created various obstacles to that goal. My character was trying to get into Princeton for grad school, and among the obstacle the others had come up for me were a pregnant girlfriend and the fact that my character's father wanted him to go to Harvard instead. The game has 2 distinct phases which it switches back and forth between. First, each player has a scene with their character dealing with one of their obstacles, and the other players take on the roles of various NPCs. When the relevant conflict comes to a head, a die is rolled, and the outcome determines whether the rest of the scene plays out in the character's favor or not. After everyone's had a turn, it switches, and everyone plays members of a CSI unit. See, there's already one dead body (and more will be on the way if you don't work fast). Each person picks a role: Crime Scene Photographer, Profiler, Medical Examiner, etc, and each player rolls dice to see how many clues they can contribute to the ongoing investigation. One person plays the Lead Investigator, who doesn't roll dice, but gets to decide how to arrange the various clues into chains of evidence. There's less actual roleplaying going on in this phase, as the goal is to build up enough of a case to bring the killer to justice. If you don't have enough evidence, you go back to the first phase, and play another round of the potential victims. Oh yes, you see, the first body was a random person that happened to fit the profile, but now, every time you go back and play the detectives (someone else taking over the Lead Detective role each time), another one of the 'PCs', chosen at random, turns up dead. If your character gets killed, when you go back to the first phase, instead of playing out a scene of that character dealing with something, you play out a scene that highlights how their death affects the other people in their lives. Finally, you build up enough chains of evidence to bring the case to the DA, and the killer is stopped. Afterward, everyone votes to see whether the characters achieved their goals or not (possibly posthumously). Amazing little game, certainly non-traditional, and I would definitely want to play it again.

Finally, I ran Dave of the Dead at midnight. I used the new rules that Becky and I had worked on back in October, and I have to say everything went swimmingly. There are a couple of tweaks I'm going to be making (there were too many dice on the table, for one thing), but other than that, I think we're near a final version. They went for slow zombies again, and once again we had at least 2 characters that refused to believe that what they were facing were actually zombies. All in all, lots of running around, some zombie fighting, and the National Guard coming in at the end to torch the town.

Sunday writeup next time.

-- Ben
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Dreamtion Report, Part 1: Friday [Feb. 25th, 2009|10:00 am]
Ben Morgan
Dreamation was a blast. Had tons of fun, played lots of games, learned some new things.

My first Spookybeans playtest on Friday afternoon didn't happen, because no one signed up for it. I ended up wandering a round for a bit, then heading into the where my game would have been, only to find that several people had in fact been waiting for me, but as 2:15 rolled around, they jumped into other games. I did likewise, and played in a sci-fi game called The Homeworld Project, which had some nifty mechanics that took me a little while to wrap my head around, but once I did, I was having lots of fun.

I played a game in Friday night called Last Meal, which was outstanding. The setup was that we were in the middle of a zombie outbreak, were all holed up somewhere that was ostensibly safe for the time being, but we'd just run out of food. The system was Andrew Morris' Unistat, not to be confused with Eden Studios' Unisystem (or Fear the Boot's Monostat, for that matter), and learning the rules was one huge wave of deja vu after another.

Apparently, Drew and I think a lot alike. Our GM styles are exceedingly similar, as were our design goals for our respective games, and as a result, there was a lot of parallel development going on. Unistat uses lots of dice, of all kinds. In fact, it's even less restrictive on what kinds of dice you can use, as it lets you use those funky d5's and d7's that Spookybeans shies away from. The character sheet consists of your name, and one thing that makes you cool (so it's basically 1/4 of the Spookybeans sheet). When rolling, you're actually looking for 2 pieces of information: the single highest # rolled (to determine success or failure), and the number of dice that came up odd (to determine who has narration rights). Whenever rolling dice, the dice rolled are exchanged at the end of the conflict. However, if your 'one thing' is relevant to the conflict, you get to keep your highest rolled die.

The scenario took place at a restaurant, owned by one of the PCs, with several of the others being employees there. I played the resident gun nut, who showed up to the party late after whatever other place I was at was finally overrun. There were some tense moments, first when someone got it into their heads that the owner was actually hiding food, then later when some of the group decided that they were going to make a break for it, and ended up letting some of the zombies into the place in the process. At some point, the PCs split up, leaving the NPCs in the restaurant. One group went off to find supplies in the neighboring buildings, and in the process discovered that the zombies were attracted to sound. Meanwhile, the rest of us made it into the steam tunnels under the town and found a government research lab, and learned that the zombies were part of a military science project gone horribly wrong (goddamn super-soldiers). Eventually there was a plan to escape to the docks and get away on one of the boats, but tragically, there was (intentionally) a lack of communication between the 2 groups of PCs, and I ended up leading all the zombies down to the lake, where it was discovered that zombies float. End result: TPK.

More Dreamation goodness soon.

-- Ben
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DREAMATION 2009 [Feb. 12th, 2009|04:23 pm]
Ben Morgan
Here's the schedule (well, not all of it, just the bits that pertain to me, because I am the center of the universe):

R187: Spookybeans; "Going Out of Business" by Ben Morgan. The Euphorium, everyone's favorite one-stop shop for all things hippie/goth/punk since 1973, is being forced to close their doors if they can't come up with $50,000 in back rent. The store owners, Sunflower and her husband Smokey, have been friends with the locals in The Hollow for a long time, but people have been buying their music, clothes, games, and comics online in ever-increasing numbers, this small mom-and-pop store has found it difficult to complete. Chad Bradley (the Euphorium's landlord and all-around corporate dirtbag) sees this as an opportune time to kick out the hippies and tear down the store to build a franchised yuppie watering hole called "Mondays". Sunflower has three days to collect the cash or the store will be no more. Since the spookybeans are regulars in the shop, Sunflower asks them to help raise the money to stay open. Opposing the spookybeans are the Yuppie Youth Organization, a preppy right-wing high school club that torments our freaky kids on a day-to-day basis, and they will try and make it near impossible for them to raise any money by countering their efforts. The YYO is made up of all the preps, jocks, cheerleaders, and wanna-bes and rich kids at Ross Perot high school. Friday, 2:00PM - 6:00PM; One Round; All Materials Offered. Beginners Welcome; Fun, All Ages. See Also: R300.

R258: Cyberpunk 2020; "Heroes Are Hard to Find" by Ben Morgan. Spend a night with Trauma Team! TTI has partnered with GlobalComm to develop a new reality TV show called Medic: Emergency Response, which will put the viewers right there in the AV with the TT crews as they battle to save lives in the inner city. Saturday, 2:00PM - 6:00PM; One Round; All Materials Offered. Beginners Welcome; Very Serious, All Ages.

R282: Spookybeans; "Dave of the Dead" by Ben Morgan. Something has gone horribly horribly wrong, and now the dead have risen and are invading The Hollow with an insatiable hunger for the flesh of the living! Now, the future of humanity rests in the hands of a man with a borderline psychotic personality disorder. And a chainsaw. Can the PCs figure out what caused the outbreak, and how to stop it? Hell, can they just manage to survive? On the other hand, is being a zombie really so bad? Saturday, 12:00AM - 3:00AM; One Round; All Materials Offered. Beginners Welcome; Fun, All Ages.

R300: Spookybeans; "Going Out of Business". See R187. Sunday, 2:00PM - 5:00PM; One Round.

I will be ducking out around 10pm Friday night to head back to Manhattan to go to Contempt, a monthly goth club that kicks serious ass. All are welcome.

Other than that, I'm up for anything, so I will be getting into lots of indie game goodness.

To Fred, Brennan, Nathan, Tony, Jenn, Dregg, and everyone else that made Dexcon 2008 so awesome, I'll see you there. To Judd, Jeff, Storn, Jared, Luke, and everyone else who wasn't there at Dexcon, why not?!

-- Ben
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Garfield Minus Garfield... [Jan. 26th, 2009|01:14 pm]
Ben Morgan
...is just trippy.

-- Ben
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