Reclamation at CincyCon!

So I feel like every few months I’m apologizing for not updating FB or this blog. If you didn’t know… my wife and I had our first baby last June. Her name is Jocelyn. She’s beautiful, smart, in short – perfect! But wow! That has really been a schedule-changing experience, for sure! Furthermore, I’ve been in a play… I’ve done some stand-up comedy (which I intend to do a lot more of in the coming months). And for gamer insiders… I’m also mostly complete with a new RPG that will hopefully hit Kickstarter later this year. More details on that to come.

After taking the rest of 2013 off of gaming conventions to focus on our baby, my wife and I are ready to start geeking out again. To that end, I have registered five sessions to run at CincyCon (in Cincinnati, OH… if you didn’t know) on March 22nd (Saturday) and March 23rd (Sunday). Last year CincyCon was a wonderful experience. The people really made that con for me, and I hope to see many of them again this year!

Here are the (brief) descriptions for the games this year. Even though “New Blood” is a name that I used last year, all of these sessions are brand new… so if you are a returning player, there is no worry that you’ve already played these mini-campaigns before.

Hope to see you at CincyCon!

Reclamation: The Dark Tower (3 hours)

Reclamation is a unique post-apocalyptic RPG that combines fantasy, sci-fi, and survival horror themes into a single role-playing experience. In “Dark Tower,” you play leaders of a live cell on the roof of a towering skyscraper. Several years ago an outbreak of The Sickness forced you to barricade many of your own family members in the floors below. But now a violent storm is coming and you must take refuge in the basement or die. What kind of homecoming awaits you in the quarantined floors below? No experience required! Learn the rules from the creator of Reclamation! Character sheets provided.


Reclamation: New Blood (2 hours)

Reclamation is a unique post-apocalyptic RPG that combines fantasy, sci-fi, and survival horror themes into a single role-playing experience. “New Blood” is a short, introductory adventure where you take on the role of an intrepid survivor of the Nuclear Cataclysm. You will lead others, make tough decisions, and fight against those who threaten the ones you love. Above all else, you must resist The Sickness – a disease that seeks to poison your mind and enslave your soul.  No experience required! Learn the rules from the creator of Reclamation! Character sheets provided.


Reclamation: Hull Breach (3 hours)

Reclamation is a unique post-apocalyptic RPG that combines fantasy, sci-fi, and survival horror themes into a single role-playing experience. In “Hull Breach,” you play soldiers of the Protectorate – men and women sworn to safeguard survivors from the fell creatures that now dominate our shattered earth. After a routine inspection yields a scene of unspeakable massacre, you must discover the source of the carnage and put an end to it… before it strikes again. But it will take more than brute force to defeat the evil that has awoken in “the belly of the beast.” No experience required! Learn the rules from the creator of Reclamation! Character sheets provided.

The Soundtrack of my RPG Life

I wanted to share a storytelling strategy that I’ve picked up over the years….

Give each player a song with lyrics as a personal soundtrack for their characters.

Ever since I started writing well… pretty much anything… I’ve always listened to music. It helps me think and focus. This was also true when I would sit down to plan out D&D games that I would GM over the weekend with my friends. Inevitably, I think those songs weaved into my subconscious and manifested themselves in my games. I remember specifically a D&D game where the entire soundtrack to Blind Guardian’s “Nightfall” album PERFECTLY described past, current, and future events going on in the story arc.

So you bet I incorporated those songs into the game! Frankly, I don’t even remember exactly how anymore. I think someone found an ancient tome of the head bad guy that had those songs written as passages in a magical journal, and by deciphering the riddles and analogies of the text, the protagonists were able to figure out how to proceed.

So I remained hung up on this idea in college as well. I REALLY started incorporating songs into my games. Sometimes a song would inspire the entire plot of a narrative, sometimes they would be the catalyst that moved the adventure forward. I introduced a recurring character in my games named Horus. He was a musician that could touch a person and then immediately sing a song that revealed that person’s true nature. In one game in particular he laid his hand on each character and delivered a song. He of course had to be accompanied by an impromptu heavy metal rock band because the songs were always from Evanescence, Disturbed, Bllind Guardian, Iced, Earth, etc. haha!

I found that my players loved it. They were totally into listening to a song about them, and in some cases trying to figure out why it pertained to them. I would even see them model their own behaviors and actions after the content of the song. Sometimes it gave them direction when they seemed to be waffling with a central theme or focus for their characters. I also used this to “out” players and NPCs. I remember playing the Demon and Wizards song “Poor Man’s Crusade” that helped reveal that a paladin helping the group was actually a turncloak.

I recommend picking songs you like… and maybe even more importantly… songs with a lot of metaphor, imagery, and symbolism. Those can really open the door to interpretation… and sometimes the players will take it in a direction you didn’t even anticipate which is better than what you had planned out.

Here’s one more tip:  play a character’s song lightly in the background at points in the game when you are looking for them to step up and be a factor.

This encourages them to really take charge; you’d be amazed how well this works! It’s like having a personal soundtrack, and once that song gets going, they really get psyched! And that’s what it’s about… getting people into their characters and getting them to become part of the narrative – not just a pawn in your storyline.

My Gaming Mid-Life Crisis

I was in middle school when I first started playing Dungeons and Dragons. A couple of my friends wanted to play and we had a few 2nd edition D&D books in the basement that my dad bought a long time ago. We didn’t even understand the rules at first, and so we made up our own. It didn’t take long before we were playing several times a week. 95% of the time, I was the GM.

By the time I graduated high school, we had a very impressive gaming resume. We had slain dragons, and gods, and evil necromancers. We had saved (and burned) entire kingdoms. We had traversed alien lands and alternate dimensions. All of these adventures could be summed up in one word – epic.

And then off I go to college. We put together another gaming group. This time Vampire: The Masquerade is the game of choice, but the stories we tell are no less crazy. We prevented Gehenna. We caused Gehenna. We resurrected Caine and diablerized him. We destroyed entire factions and brought an end to the Masquerade. And frankly, it was absurd and outrageous and fun as hell.

Then out of college I make and publish my own RPG – Reclamation. It has the same capacity to deliver high adventure. Powerful organizations make runs at power. Demonic agents of The Black Dream try to enslave the rest of humanity. Zealous factions empowered by the nuclear fallout initiate crusades and experiments that change the face of the earth. It’s all possible… and admittedly… I’ve run a number of games where those themes come into play.
But over the last couple years, I have noticed a significant change in my GMing. The “high adventure” of conspiracies and demons and hostile takeovers have become things my players hear about through gossip and hearsay… but they are less and less involved in those events. They are not lone adventurers hunting for power and prestige. The players have families – parents, children, helpless brothers and sisters – that they must protect. They face personal demons instead of physical demons. They engage in brutal fights, but they are not fighting for a hoard of treasure; they are fighting to defend their home, their families, their sense of normalcy from the horrors crowding in around them.

Okay… that’s not entirely accurate. I still have plenty of crazy stuff happen… but recently I have found myself more engaged in the simple stories: trying to find books to teach the children of the live cell, the hunt for a mutated deer to feed the protagonists, risking life and limb to burrow into the ruins of a Wal-Mart for a toy, or a computer, or something to return a sense of normalcy to the beleaguered cell-mates. I’m drawn to the down-to-earth stories that just feel real… that just feel like things that could really happen to each and every one of us.

I’m not saying high adventure is dumb, or a GM cop-out, or anything like that. I just think perhaps my taste in what is interesting has changed. I have played out almost every iteration of the damsel-in-distress plotline in almost every conceivable type of RPG. I’ve played out the super quest to defeat the big bad boss. Hell… I’ve run hundreds of adventures that required players to sleuth out the big secret mystery.

And yet, I feel like it is possible to transform the mundane into high adventure. I am wildly enamored with the idea of making the simple task of walking down a suburban road “high adventure,” because who knows who lurks in those ranch homes… who has lost themselves to The Sickness… what dark fantasies have been brought to life through The Black Dream.

Does this kill the catharsis? I don’t know. I suppose that depends on the player. I think not. I can’t cast spells in real life or tap into psychic frequencies. The special powers and abilities still allow the players to go beyond themselves… but in terms of storytelling… lately at least… I have found myself looking to accent the very real struggles of an average person in an impossibly dangerous world over manufacturing high adventure right from the start. It just seems to me like the characters that emerge from these simple plots are so much more “real.” I feel like I know them. I feel invested in them. They are no longer two-dimensional adventure catalysts. They are you and me, and so when they overcome obstacles… it just seems more meaningful.

Or maybe I have just hit a GMing mid-life crisis and I need to have my players ride over a city of zombies on a dragon and drop a nuke to stop Cthulhu from entering the world.

The Black Dream Diaries

My name is Seamus Monroe.

My mother died in the Nuclear Cataclysm. I was six – and honestly, I barely remember her. It was always just me and my dad. We moved around a lot as you can imagine. We joined more live cells than I can remember, but we never stayed long enough to dig our roots into the ground, so to speak. Just when our lives were verging on “normal,” someone would say or do something that rubbed my father the wrong way, and once again we were off.

“Something seemed fishy…” he’d always say about one person or another. He was paranoid about The Sickness. Who could blame him? It always seemed to sprout up out of nowhere. One day, a person would be fine. The next day… I don’t know… it’s like the light in their eyes would dim – like a waning candle in a cold, dark room. “That’s our cue,” dad would say. We never stayed long enough to watch someone’s light go out completely.

Dad didn’t teach me a lot of things because he didn’t know a lot of things – but he sure knew how to survive. He knew how to live the life of a loner, and in the Dystopia, I think perhaps that’s the most valuable skill.

It was hard to leave him. That night when I snuck out to face the world alone… I still remember my heart pounding like a war-drum in my head. “Something seemed fishy,” I heard someone say. It wasn’t dad this time. It was me. My father had been acting strange. He was more sullen than usual. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but you just have to listen to your gut. That’s what he always taught me. It was my cue. My father had imparted everything he knew about life and survival, and it would be insulting to his memory to stand by and watch him slowly slip away from himself.

But that pain of leaving him… it’s still with me. And that’s why I’m doing this. We don’t understand The Sickness or “The Black Dream.” I was in a haven for a few days once, and they talked as if they knew what the hell this thing was all about. They had distilled it down to some simple science, but there is so much more to this disease than bruises and puss and dilated irises. It’s a wound on the soul. I need to understand it, because I need to know what happened to all those other darkened figures in those other live cells. I need to know what happened to my dad. I need to know what could very well happen to me one day.

I’m traveling this world to meet and investigate people struggling with the disease. I will write down their anecdotal experiences with The Sickness to learn more of its ways. Then maybe I’ll take my findings back to that haven and throw it in their damned arrogant faces… see how long it takes them to distill and classify the horrors that I captured on the page.


Unsafe Haven – New Reclamation Adventure!

This is a mini-adventure written by my good friend and long-time gamer John DuBois. He actually gave me the draft to review and finalize months and months ago… but better late than never, right?!

Click to download Unsafe Haven!

“Unsafe Haven” takes place in the city of Serenity which is actually detailed in the back of the core rulebook. This adventure is designed to be very open-ended with multiple conclusions depending on the decisions of the players.


At some point here I will get some of the pre-generated character downloads available on the site as well, but in the meantime, here is some generic background information for the five starting characters of this adventure. Please keep in mind that you are MORE THAN WELCOME to create your own characters to play this adventure – the pregens ARE NOT required! However, the pregens offer “personal” missions to each player.

Katrina – Survivor

PERSONAL DESCRIPTION: You are an agent of the Protectorate, the closest thing left to a national government for thousands of miles. The Protectorate has sent you here because they know that one of Serenity’s ruling council is an archon – a powerful member of the mortis-horde who are the masterminds of any of the mortis-horde’s organized plans. Your mission is to discover the archon, what the archon’s plans are, and to recruit any Marked individuals you encounter to support the Protectorate. Killing the archon after learning of its plans would earn you high honors.

Normally, you’d have been able to get into town without being identified as Marked, but since your arrival involved being chased by a small horde of dregs, Imogen Tybalt has specifically asked for your presence for this “loyalty test”.

  • 2 points in Warfare Skill

Irene – Pariah (Oracle)

Your dreams have been haunted by visions of a CDC encampment known as Ifia. The only way to learn the meaning of the visions is to take Serenity’s loyalty test, but as a Pariah, you are afraid that your group will distrust you if they learn your powers. You need to learn what this installation has to teach you without showing your hand.

  • Spiritual Attunement
  • Intervention
  • Fate Alignment

Hugo – Magi

The Magi order in Serenity have reason to believe that the CDC has located and is hiding a number of religious texts. Your mission is to discreetly locate these texts and return them to the order. Any other knowledge you can gain about Serenity and its environs would be helpful.

  • Milk of Isis
  • Minor Vanish
  • Odin’s Fist
  • Foresight

Wilma – Host

You are a new Disciple of the Host. The Progenitor’s other subjects in the area are currently engaged in deep cover missions, and your directive is to make yourself known to Imogen Tybalt as a Host and bring yourself – and by proxy, the Host – into Serenity’s good graces. You are to pass Serenity’s Loyalty Test, but your true loyalty remains to the Host.

  • Hive Mind
  • Memory Acquisition
  • Psychic Download
  • Technical Protocol

Andrew – Paragon

You are an officer in Serenity’s militia as well as the son of House Tybalt’s matriarch, Imogen. While this would normally result in preferential treatment beyond measure – including exemption from leading Marked on Loyalty Tests – you’ve recently had a falling out with your mother. You thought this was another minor argument, but with your mother tapping you for this mission, she appears to have taken this fight far more seriously than you did. Maybe the stress of running one of the safest Havens around is getting to her – or maybe something far worse is going on.

  • Paragon Powers at Level II





Print-and-Play Reclamation Deck Available

The 2nd edition of the custom Reclamation Fate Deck is now available at

I am very pleased with the final product. The “face” cards are particularly exciting. They definitely capture the horror and heroism of the Dystopia. You can download a print-and-play version of this poker deck for free, though I hope after you look at the cards you would make the jump to purchase an actual printed deck! These cards have all the modifiers on them that are important to Reclamation RPG, but they also have the same names and suits as a regular poker deck, so you can really play any card game with them – not just post-apocalyptic role-playing games!

New Custom Reclamation Cards!

I think I’m ready to go through the process of getting this new Reclamation deck available for purchase through DriveThruCards.

If you want to check out the new cards, click the link below! I’m particularly excited about how the new “face” cards turned out. I did end up making the text for the club and spade face cards white (which might seem a little weird), but since I used full and darker images for the face cards, I think it’s important to make the text pop – so to speak.

Tell me what you think!


Custom Reclamation Cards Via DriveThruCards

In case you hadn’t noticed, we recently pulled down the custom Reclamation cards from our website. We were out of stock and debating as to whether we would re-order. I love the quality of the cards and I certainly think I could sell them all out again, but I have to buy a lot and the question was how long it would take to sell out. With our baby on the way, we were struggling with what kind of risk were we willing to take.

But those concerns will be moot shortly. DriveThru has initiated a new service – DriveThruCards. Basically, they are now in the card-creation business as well, which means that the custom Reclamation decks can now be produced “on demand” through them and delivered. This is PERFECT for us.

So now I’m in the process of building new templates for the DriveThruCards. There is more freedom in the template this time around… and of course with that freedom comes a helluvalot more work.
So now I need YOUR HELP! What are your thoughts on creating new cards???  Should I have the suit flipped on both sides with the number upside down as well (like a normal playing card) or is that not relevant since it’s designed to play with Reclamation? Should the numbers and suit always be in the corners? Or should things be more stylized?!  Should I use the same pictures? Different pictures? If different, do you have suggestions (like page numbers in the book)? I threw together a few examples just to get some feedback.










Playing to your Audience

So anyone who had ever run an RPG knows that the first time you do it… well… frankly… it’s terrifying. You feel this strange weight on your shoulders because every person sitting down to play is counting on YOU for an evening of entertainment. So much can go wrong . Our stories can suck. Our players can get bored. We can screw up the rules or search for rules that bring the game to a screeching halt. I still remember the first time I ran a game many many years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous to sit down and play a game. I think that’s because roleplaying games are not like Monopoly or some video game. Storytelling is an intimate process; it requires trust and vulnerability. For an RPG to be successful, you actually have to connect to your players to jointly build a story. That is not always easy.

Some of these fears subside over time . As gamemasters, we get more confortable telling stories. We become more confident in the twists and turns of our plots. We even begin to memorize the rules (or make them up consistently). We develop GM habits – both good and bad.

While I have certainly picked up good habits along the way, I have picked up a terrible one as well – a GM ego. I’ve developed a certain degree of self-absorption when it comes to my campaigns. I have an idea for a story that I think is interesting, and I force my players to live it out. Sure… sometimes it works out great, but there are plenty of times when it falls short. I get frustrated when they aren’t into the story as much as I am, or I subvert any action they take that somehow undermines the direction of MY plot. It’s the “MY” plot that is the bad habit that I have developed. Let me explain.

As I mentioned before, this past weekend I ran a 2-hour demo of Reclamation for a group of very young kids – much younger than I would have ever expected. Just before we started, I decided that instead of running the same tired demo that I have done time and time again, I would just make something up on the fly. Why not? I’ve been meaning to create a few more scenarios for Reclamation, so this seemed like a good opportunity.

So here I am with several kids counting on me for entertaining, and I have no plan whatsoever!  So I just start talking…. “You are guards at a high-security prison where the most dangerous convicts of the Dystopia are locked away. You have been asked to escort one such criminal who has arrived at the front gate to solitary confinement.” So they go out to meet the creepy guy and take him back inside. And then – for the first time in a long time – I just listened to my players. I had done my best to try and describe the dank prison setting, and they seemed pretty into it, but then they started saying things like, “But what does this have to do with zombies? Where are the zombies?!” So when they got the guy to solitary, I had him say something ominous and disappear, then alarms went off and the prison had been turned into zombies. Why? I didn’t really know at the time. Later I found a way to justify it. So now they are having a great time hacking through zombies with their golf clubs and sharpened flag poles, but then they start asking if there are guns in the game. So I let them find a cache of weapons: AK-47s, grenades, rocket launchers, etc. Now they are LITERALLY having a blast. It went on like this for the rest of the demo.

Am I saying that you should give into every request or demand of your players? Never! All I’m saying is that before you plan out an adventure, or you decide what the players can and cannot do in the story, first ask yourself, “How will their choices affect OUR story” – not MY story. The fun of any RPG is not to have the players tell your story, it’s inviting them into your imagination and seeing what they do with it. Those kids and I told a wacky adventure full of laughs and carnage, and in the next session, I made up another game with more adults playing, and I turned that into a prequel to the crazy prison adventure. That game was made up on the fly as well, and that group had a lot of fun too.

I enjoyed CinyCon immensely, but I think I enjoyed those kids the most. They reminded me why I fell in love with telling stories in the first place.

CincyCon Retrospective

Last night we returned from CincyCon – it was our first time at this convention and it was just awesome. For my experience, it was very well put together and organized. We had an excellent turnout at most of our Reclamation events and I really enjoyed the opportunity to geek out and make some new friends in the process.

I would like to thank “The Art of War” for carrying copies of Reclamation and our custom cards at their booths. It was great to end a session and actually be able to tell people that they could go buy the game if they liked it, instead of directing them to a website to order it. I want to thank my friends and family for showing up to support, hang out, and sit down and play at a few sessions with missing seats. And of course I want to thank everyone who sat down to play Reclamation! Like I said to them at CincyCon, I always appreciate people who are willing to “roll the dice” or “flip the cards” as it were to try out a game for a few hours that they have never heard of before. I certainly hope you had as much fun as I did!

Though I have to say, I think the most fun I had running a game was the 9AM session on the last day of the conference. If you go to these kinds of things, you know that FEW people show up early to play a game, especially on the last day of the convention. People are usually too hung over or they stayed up too late playing the nine new games they bought at the auction house, etc. That morning I was fairly convinced that no one was going to show up to play, but then this one little girl sat down. She had played one of the early sessions the previous day with her father, and she had sat down to play almost every game I ran since then. She was staying in the hotel, and when I showed up early the next day to set up, she came over and helped me put out books and decks. She was teaching people the rules as they walked by – she had become quite the expert by the end of the con.

ANYWAY… several of her friends or family members (I’m not 100% sure) sat down to play. This was by far the youngest group I had ever played with… and here I am thinking this is a DARK game that shows a horrifying, dystopian future of blood and death…. yeah…. this is going to go well.  But we ended up having A LOT of fun. You should jump over to our facebook page to see the pic (I had to take at least one!)

In case you were wondering, those kids quelled a prison riot, escorted a dangerous Deathspeaker Pariah to solitary confinement, and then fought their way out of a prison that became lost to the ravages of The Black Dream! So yeah… pretty hardcore.

So this will probably be it for conventions for Reclamation here for the next few months. My wife and I are expecting a baby in June, but once we get everything put together and get used to a strict regimen of vomit and no sleep, we will start traveling again, and maybe with a little Griesinger in tow!