GenCon at the End of the Tunnel

Some delightful scamp has moved GenCon up by a week or two again, oh hilarity! The good news is that leaves my schedule for the Noir City Chicago Film Fest free and clear this year. The bad news is that it leaves me just a weensy bit slammed, explaining the late nature of this, my annual Ken's GenCon Schedule Post.

As always, nobody in their right mind tells me if anything at all ever is being recorded, streamed, or laboriously chiseled into cuneiform for the delectation of Innanna. Except my podcast, I'm pretty sure Robin's recording that one. So herewith, said Schedule Post!


9:00 p.m.-??: Diana Jones Awards Party
Be there to see storied game-design luminaries act remarkably like regular old drunks! [Undisclosed Location]


1:00-2:00 p.m.: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff LIVE!
Robin D. Laws & Kenneth Hite talk roleplaying, history, conspiracy, occultism, writing, food, movies & whatever you ask them about in this live edition of their award-winning podcast. [Lucas Oil : Mtg Rm 5]

4:00-5:00 p.m.: Investigative Roleplaying MasterClass
Mystery scenario masters Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws train their magnifying glasses on clue-gathering adventures to reveal the unlikely suspects behind your tabletop woes. [Lucas Oil : Mtg Rm 5]

6:00-7:00 p.m.: Introducing Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition
The Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition development team hosts a panel discussion on meta-plot & game design of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition. [Lucas Oil : Mtg Rm 3]

7:00-8:00 p.m.: ENnie Awards Pre-Show
Drinking and my beloved fellow nominees, what could be better? [Union Station]

8:00-10:00? p.m.: ENnie Awards Ceremony
I'd like to thank all of you for voting for Delta Green: the Role-Playing Game. Ideally, I shall do so from on stage, while holding one to three ENnies. [Union Station]


2:00-3:00 p.m.: Swords, Spies & Shoggoths: The Pelgrane Press Panel
Join Simon Rogers, Cat Tobin & others from the Pelgrane team for a behind-the-scenes look at what the award-winning UK publisher's been up to this year, & what they've planned for the coming year. [Lucas Oil : Mtg Rm 5]

7:00-8:00 p.m.: Delta Green: Inside the Conspiracy
The authors of the award-winning Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game talk about playing & running cosmic horror & conspiracies. Learn what's coming up & ask questions of your own. [Lucas Oil : Mtg Rm 2]

Apart from those brilliant moments in time, if you seek me, seek me out at the old familiar Pelgrane Press stand, located at Booth #1317, or in a bar. I'm always happy to sign books or say "Hi" or just nod briskly as we pass each other in a ginormous crowd of people on their way to play elf games.

Area Man Up For Three or One-Half ENnie Awards

It's ENnie Awards voting time again, oh joy oh joy! Once more, I'm in the running, albeit with a few decorous fractional nominations: one-sixth of an ENnie each for Best Game (Delta Green: The RPG), Best Rules (same, really mostly Greg Stolze and Shane Ivey but I'll take my sixth of an ENnie anyway), and Product of the Year (again, that product is Delta Green: The RPG). So please do vote Delta Green: The RPG those coveted '1's across the board.

Robin and I have finally been overturned by a judicial coup d'etat so no Best Podcast nomination to crow over, but Robin is still very much in it for Cthulhu Confidential (a well-deserved Best Rules nod).

Other matters: I also commend to your attention #feminism, which despite being in the wrong category (it's an anthology of RPGs and should be in Best Game) and from 2016 so ineligible to boot should get a similarly devil-may-care nod for Best RPG Related Product.

Actually in the right category and year and also deserving of your various votes is Harlem Unbound (Best Setting, Best Writing, Product of the Year) by Chris Spivey. And also now that I think of it I'm a Guide (Best Family Game) by Shanna Germain who is also up for Uh-Oh Monsters (Best Monster/Adversary) and Predation (Best Setting).

The Best Cover Art is so clearly Brennen Reece's Harlem Unbound cover that I surely didn't have to tell you that. Likewise Zak Sabbath for Best Interior Art for Frostbitten and Mutilated.

So go vote for me and (to an only slightly lesser extent) for all these other great folks!

In Memoriam

Robert Munroe (Ensign, Lexington militia, KIA 19 April 1775, Lexington Green)
Jonathan J. Dunbar (MSG, SOCOM, KIA 30 Apr 2018, Manbij, Aleppo Province, Syria)

And all 559,193 in between.

Chupa Dupa Doo!

And with that utterance I welcome both badly-animated Saturday morning memories and all y'all central-ish Texans to this post, and to join me at ChupacabraCon 2018, in beeyootiful Austin, Texas (technically near beeyootiful Austin and in perfectly presentable Round Rock) this very weekend, May 4-6!

As always with shows and cryptids and cryptid-named shows perhaps especially, my schedule as I understand it may be subject to even wilder diversions from the expected than, er, expected. But that said, here is where I will be when, then.


9am-10am: Cthulhu & Donuts Breakfast Special
Kenneth Hite, Mark Carroll
Come have donut breakfast with Ken Hite and friends! Drink coffee! Ask anything about everyone's favorite mashup genre. Have a donut! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! [Bastrop]

11am-Noon: Dark Campaigning: Beyond the TPK Horror One Shot
Kenneth Hite, Mark Carroll
Well, I've killed all the players again with multitentacular eldritch entities. Now what? [Bastrop]

So if you like me, donuts, tentacles, or Mark Carroll, be sure to block out Saturday morning in the Bastrop Room, I guess. Hope to see you all there, then!

J. W. DunDraCon: An Experiment With Time

Because what else, really, is a convention schedule except an experiment with time? So dream deep of seeing me in the semi-sunny climes of San Ramon California on the President's Day Weekend, specifically February 16-19, even more specifically at DunDraCon.

Saturday, February 17

City Building
2:00-3:00 PM in Tri Valley 2
Presenters: Michael Blum, Kenneth Hite, Anders Swenson

The long-running seminar about the nuts and bolts of creating and using cities in RPGs. This year we’ll discuss how cities physically divide social and cultural groups with ghettos, forbidden zones, caravanserais, tax or legal havens, and develop a few examples on our whiteboard.

Alternate Histories
6:00-7:30 PM in Salon C
Presenters: Kenneth Hite and Dana Lombardy

The very popular War College panel discussion continues! Authors and game designers Dana Lombardy and Ken Hite examine possible alternate histories and what their impact might have been. Audience participation is encouraged.

Sunday, February 18

What's Cool
10:00-11:00 AM in Tri Valley 2
Presenters: Bruce Harlick, Kenneth Hite

2 icons of the gaming industry present their unique viewpoints on the best in current game products, straight from the dealer room.

Pericles Demo Game
1:30-3:30 PM in Salon C
Presenters: Chris Klug, Kenneth Hite, Bruce Harlick, and Dana Lombardy

During last year’s “Best games of 2016” Seminar, led by Ken Hite and Chris Klug, Ken made reference to how, in his mind, there existed a point in the history of war games where they became relevant again. That point was when the use of card play, in various forms, joined the arsenal of tools used by war-game designers. Exemplified at first by Mark Herman’s We the People, these games added new life, “juice,” and playability to the old counters-and-maps style war-games. Chris, it turned out, had worked for years with Mark Herman at Victory Games, and knew the history of these games and was a big fan of them as well. Thus was born this seminar’s idea.

This seminar will present a live “think aloud” four-player version of a Mark Herman game played by four game designers who will talk while they play. Hopefully their insights into what makes these kinds of games tick, why they are a heady mix of war-game and card game, yielding something new, will be discussed between the four designers live with an attentive audience.


Well that was the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, all sixteen films of it. We probably would have done six more if I hadn't hared off to New York one weekend, and I am going to have to try extra hard to catch Before We Vanish, Pre-Crime, Offenders, and In the Shadows especially as they crop up on the various streamables.

That said, this fest had no dogs in it for us, although there wasn't a Pinnacle-level triumph either. But an average of "Good" is still pretty great. Kudos to the fest for programming heavily in neo-noir and films about architecture, both of which piqued my interest nicely. Extra props not only to cinematic boon companion his_regard but to young Colin who caught most of them with us.


Blade of the Immortal (Japan, Takashi Miike) Unkillable samurai Manji battles the weapon masters of the antinomian Itto-ryu fencing school (and hordes of mooks) in one of the best superhero films I’ve seen since Winter Soldier. Bloody carnage, moral nuance, chambara action, nods to Leone, and did I mention bloody carnage build to a magnificent elegy for the age of heroes. Miike continues his art’s laudable climb out of nihilism in this, his 100th film.

November (Film, Estonia/Netherlands/Poland, Rainer Sarnet, 2017) Teen peasant girl (and werewolf) Liina loves teen peasant boy Hans who loves the newly arrived German baroness. Set in a world infused with Estonian folk belief, from the Devil and the personified plague on down to love potions, and lensed in amazing black and white by Mart Taniel, this film evokes actual fairy tales better than almost anything I’ve ever seen.

Thoroughbreds (US, Cory Finley) Teenage Connecticut rich girls Amanda (Olivia Cooke) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) find friendship in sociopathy and plot the murder of Lily’s odious stepfather. Finley’s playwriting experience pays off in a taut script perfectly played by his two leads and Anton Yelchin as a lower-class drug dealer whose moral compass maybe hasn’t corroded completely.

The Merciless (South Korea, Byun Sung-hyun) Undercover cop infiltrates a smuggling ring in Busan, but this being an Asian film, finds himself ever-closer friends with his gangster target. Tiny script wobble in the last act can’t erase the control and ease of the direction, or the power of the acting.

The Experimental City (US, Chad Friedrichs) Zippily edited and filmed in a period-TV filter and palette, this documentary tells the story of a progressive technocratic dream of a domed city in Minnesota, and the local protests that stopped it in 1973. Makes excellent and ample use of archival recordings and footage of other Modernist urban mirages to illuminate and even celebrate its quixotic subject.

Faces/Places (France, Agnes Varda and J.R.) Famed director Varda and hipster poster artist J.R. team up and hit the road to capture and depict the stories of ordinary French people. Sweet and nice as French pastry, and nourishing as French bread, this celebration of la joie de vie makes a virtue of its fabrication, much as do the artists involved.

Chasing the Blues (Chicago, Scott Smith) Record collector (Grant Rosenmeyer) resumes his quest for a legendary blues album the instant he gets out of prison. Likeable shaggy dog comedy gets good value from brief appearances by Jon Lovitz and Steve Guttenberg, but it’s really a fun excuse to make up a blues legend and riff on it.


Sicilian Ghost Story (France/Italy/Switzerland, Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza) Middle-school girl Luna becomes increasingly obsessed, suffering nightmares and waking dreams after her true love Giuseppe is abducted by the Mafia. Based on a real 1993 kidnap-murder, the directors cast Sicilian unknowns as the children to quite frankly amazing effect. The dream, fairy tale, and mythic elements don’t quite blend with the crime and love stories, which is the only reason this ambitious film (barely) misses the Recommended mark.

Have a Nice Day (China, Jian Liu) When driver Xiao impulsively steals a bag with a million yuan at knife-point from a courier for “Uncle Liu” it sets off an early-Tarantino-ish tour through the grifters and criminals and weirdos connected to Xiao, Liu, or the bag. Animated in strong line and color against detailed unmoving backgrounds depicting a grottily anonymous Chinese city, and scored with (not enough) pop music, it’s its own beast even if that beast is a shaggy dog.

Reconciliation (Poland, Maciej Sobieszczański) In 1945, Silesian farm boy Franek becomes a guard at a Communist labor camp to rescue an inmate: Anna, the Polish girl he loves. Her lover Erwin, a German, is also interned in the camp, and the tragic drama builds inevitably from there. A little slow and a lot brutal, the film distances itself from the characters in the interest of universality, but at the expense of involvement.

The Line (Slovakia/Ukraine/Czech Rep, Peter Bebjak) Slovakian cigarette smuggler Adam faces family pressures from mom, wife, and daughter, and professional pressures from his Ukrainian mafiya supplier to run drugs. A fine crime story, especially for Dracula Dossier GMs looking for more on the Count’s Slovakian smuggler minions, but nothing except the setting particularly stands out.


Gemini (US, Aaron Katz) Personal assistant (Lola Kirke) to a movie star (Zoë Kravitz) becomes a suspect in her murder. I was all set to love this stylized, prefab tour through the “Hollywood crime story” trope box until it just ran out of road with a terminal anticlimax. Kirke is super, though, so keep her on your radar for when she hopefully gets a script with a fourth act.

Control (Belgium, Jan Verheyen) Belgian police detectives Vincke and Verstuyft (reason and emotion, respectively) hunt a serial killer in Antwerp but their partnership founders when Verstuyft sleeps with a near-victim and possible material witness. Plays like a two-hour television episode from a well-shot procedural TV show; since it’s the third in a series of films, it essentially is.

Tokyo Vampire Hotel (Japan, Sion Sono) If Sono had made this as a standalone film rather than recutting 2 hours and 22 minutes from his Amazon Japan miniseries, it would likely rank much higher. Sono’s trademark combination of stunningly beautiful images and hyperviolence adds two feuding clans of vampires, but his wild inventiveness seems more like flailing at TV sprawl lengths.

Budapest Noir (Hungary, Éva Gárdos) High gloss and low budget can work but don’t here: the overlighting minimizes menace and the empty streets remove realism from this toothless tale of a reporter in 1936 Budapest investigating a murdered prostitute. (Glimpses of Budapest’s hidden self are sparse but welcome.) But our protagonist has no skin in the game, no wounded nature, and no iconic code: being a jerk is not actually a tragic flaw.

Mon Mon Mon Monsters (Taiwan, Giddens Ko) Teen bullies and their sullen target capture a c.h.u.d. and slowly weaponize it between bouts of torture — while its sister searches for her lost sibling. Gets points for a good monster and a properly decrepit mise en scene, but I remain of the opinion that having a completely unsympathetic protagonist is usually a mistake.

10 Points For HPLFF

For my fellow fans of the Sage of Providence, of horror film, or of the Rose City, here's my schedule as I know it for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon this weekend!

I'll be at the Thursday night VIP gathering, so I hope to see you there -- I may be doing some reading of Lovecraftian poetry, even, so fair warning.

Friday, October 6

4pm: Meet 'n' Greet with Filmmakers and Guests (Sam's Billiards)

7pm - 8pm: Primer to the Cthulhu Mythos
A novice in the ways of Cthulhu? Been a bit since you've cracked a forbidden text? Join us for a lively discussion on everyone's favorite Old One. (D.B. Spitzer, Kenneth Hite, Tim Uren, Dominique Lamssies, Cody Goodfellow; EOD Center)

10pm-11pm: Fears We All Share
Some fears are innate and inescapable! Join us for an exploration of weird themes in foreign horror films from of any era. (Dominique Lamssies, Orrin Grey, Phillip Gelatt, Jeff Burk; EOD Center)

Saturday, October 7

10am-Noon: Carbload for Cthulhu Mass Author Signing Event (EOD Center)

8:30pm-9:30pm The Dreamlands, HPL's inspirations
Classical myth and mental landscape - join us for a discussion of Lovecraft's inspirations. (Heather Hudson, A. Scott Glancy, Kenneth Hite, Nathan Carson)

CIFFing Cousins

Once more we enter the lists for the Chicago International Film Festival, which this year has increased its South Korean programming by FIFTY PERCENT, meaning there is one (1) South Korean film and a South Korean-German co-production. Stop gaming the system, CIFF.

Anyhow, we've got that South Korean film, the new Takashi Miike, and so very very much more this year, even though it's actually fewer films than I normally program, because I'm cleverly going to New York for a weekend during the festival. So herewith, the hopefully sweet (if under-kimchi'd) sixteen films I'm seeing at CIFF this year, modulo festival screwups or hilarious CTA misadventure. All the films are at the convenient and delightful AMC River East 21 downtown, so come out and see them with me (and with his_regard the Damon to my filmic Pythias or perhaps my Affleck) won't you?

Friday October 13

2:00 p.m.: The Merciless (South Korea, Byun Sung-hyun) South Korean gangster film are you kidding me can there be a better opener I think not.

10:45 p.m.: Blade of The Immortal (Japan, Takashi Miike) Okay maybe the new Takashi Miike magical samurai movie maybe that could be a better opener. This is a helluva day, people. Helluva day.

Saturday October 14

12:00 Noon: Mon Mon Mon Monsters (Taiwan, Giddens Ko) Teen bullies find a monster and make it fight until its mom shows up. Pokemon meets Grendel in Taipei!

2:40 p.m.: Faces Places (France, Agnes Varda & JR) Whimsical, profound, "beautiful meditation" -- all these killing words show up in the description, but it got the robindlaws Recommendation so there.

6:00 p.m.: Thoroughbreds (US, Corey Finley) "Teen girl Hitchcockian thriller" on the other hand are the opposite of killing words, except there will probably be some killing in this one.

8:45 p.m.: Chasing the Blues (US, Scott Smith) The quest for a legendary blues album, in Chicago comedy form.

10:30 p.m.: Tokyo Vampire Hotel (Japan, Sion Sono) Sion Sono is always good for a what-the-hell-was-that, and I am professionally concerned with both vampires and hotel management but mostly vampires.

Sunday October 15

2:45 p.m.: Reconciliation (Poland, Maciej Sobieszczański) Love triangle in a Communist labor camp will either be supergood drama or murky and unclear; Poland is uneven in festival Ken-pleasing.

7:30 p.m.: Sicilian Ghost Story (France/Italy/Switzerland, Fabio Grassadonia & Antonio Piazza) Gothic Mafia fairy tale!

Tuesday October 17

3:15 p.m.: The Line (Slovakia/Ukraine/Czech Rep, Peter Bebjak) Cigarette smuggler under pressure to become a heroin smuggler (and don't we all know that feeling) carries us into crime thriller turf.

5:45 p.m.: Budapest Noir (Hungary, Éva Gárdos) Oh it's a noir set in 1936 Budapest I am as giddy as can be, not least because Hungary reliably punches well above its weight but also yeah noir set in 1936 Budapest.

8:45 p.m.: Gemini (US, Aaron Katz) An L.A. noir about celebrity and identity sign me the heck up.

Wednesday October 18

8:00 p.m.: The Experimental City (US, Chad Friedrichs) Documentary about a proposed domed city in Minnesota and you had me at "proposed domed city."

Monday October 23

3:00 p.m.: Control (Belgium, Jan Verheyen) The third in a series of murder mystery films; Belgium is another one like Poland where you can't be sure you're getting the good stuff but when you do oh boy.

8:45 p.m.: November (Estonia/Netherlands/Poland, Reiner Sarnet) Just another teen werewolf girl pagan Estonian black and white plague fairy tale like you see everywhere so basic I know

Tuesday October 24

8:00 p.m.: Have a Nice Day (China, Jian Liu) It's a cartoon! About a guy who steals from a mob boss! Animated crime film with a Chinese pop score, so it'll keep us awake at least.

The DragonCon Dossier

Once more I have been caught up in the sea of damp Batgirls and rushed as on a cataract of nerd-media fun into the heart of downtown Atlanta on Labor Day weekend for DragonCon, and so once more I post my schedule so that interested and/or attending parties may know of it. And once more I am "talent," not "useful," so I have no idea if these panels will be streamed, recorded, or acted out by ST:TNG cosplayers in a hellish cross between Javanese wayang and holodeck bushwa.

Title: Big, Giant, Boss Monster
Time: Fri 11:30 am Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: One of the hardest tasks for any GM is to create that memorable villain or big bad beast at the end of the adventure or dungeon. Find out from our top-level designers how to do it! A 'Year of the Dragon'-themed panel! (Jason Bulmahn, Kenneth Hite, Gwendolyn F.M. Kestrel)

Title: Dracula: You Can't Keep a Good Vampire Down
Fri 01:00 pm Location: Peachtree 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: This year marks the 120th anniversary of the novel & the 25th anniversary of Coppola's film adaptation. With more Dracula projects on the horizon, why does this character endure? (Kenneth Hite, Corvis Nocturnum, Cherie Priest, Dacre Calder Stoker, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro)

Title: The Games behind the Game: When Social Contracts Get in the Way
Fri 02:30 pm Location: Augusta 3 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: All games rely on social contracts to work. For example, we rely on the players to be honest about their roles. But these elements become complex when it comes to how spells work in an RPG or how aspects work in FATE. Join this innovative panel on improving our games & the social games within them. (Kenneth Hite, Brianne Marie, Jason Massey)

Title: Horror in Gaming
Fri 08:30 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: Join two masters of the dark, occult, & weird on how to create horror, how to craft mood, & all of the other tricks we use to scare ourselves! (Clint Black, Kenneth Hite)

Title: World Building 101
Sat 02:30 pm Location: Centennial I - Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: We examine different takes on world building, whether it be for a game, movie, or video game! What does it take to create a believable, breathing world? (Keith Baker, Richard "Lord British" Garriott, Kenneth Hite)

Title: Tiles, Tentacles, Dice, & Dread
Sat 08:30 pm Location: Peachtree 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: From tabletop thrills to console chills, we'll discuss writing & playing games with a horror theme. (David Boop, Bill Bridges, Richard Lee Byers, Kenneth Hite, David Maynor (moderator))

Title: Vampire the Masquerade: 5th Edition
Sun 01:00 pm Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin (Length: 1 Hour)
Description: This iconic role-playing game changed everything. Not just tabletop RPG's but movies, TV, media, and pop culture were all transformed by the legacy of the Masquerade. Now, join the game's lead designer as he discusses what's next for this world-changing game. (Kenneth Hite)

GenCon Is 50 And I Don't Feel So Young Myself

Once more it's time (and past time) to post up my schedule for GenCon for the delight of any GRU agents who want to find me in the throngéd streets of Nap City.

As always, I don't know if any of the panels will be streamed, podcasted, or delivered to you by a woodpecker in a series of rapid Morse skull-thumps.

By and large, during the show I shall be staked like unto a veritable wampyr at either the Pelgrane booth or the White Wolf booth, so look those places at other times than these:

Wednesday, August 16
9pm? to whenever: Diana Jones Awards Ceremony and Whizbang (usual location)

Thursday, August 17
8pm to whenever: They Might Be Giants concert (Bankers Life Fieldhouse)

Friday, August 18
10am - 11am: Better Playtesting: Doing Good by Playing Bad(ly) (Crowne Plaza: Conrail Stn)
I shall likely have to bolt out of this one early in time to get to the Westin, but I urge everyone to stay and hear my co-panelists Hanna Shafer and Jeff Stormer bring it home under the baton of moderator Darcy Ross.

11am - Noon: Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition (Westin: Capitol III)

1pm - 2pm: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Live! (Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Station B)

6:30pm - whenever: ENnie Awards cocktail party and (8:00) ENnie Awards (Union Station: Grand Hall)

Saturday, August 19
2pm - 3pm: Meet the New White Wolf (Westin: Capitol II)*

4pm - 5pm: Investigative Roleplaying Master Class (Crowne Plaza: Pennsylvania Station B)

7pm - 8:30pm: Delta Green: the Roleplaying Game (Crowne Plaza: Grand Central D)

Sunday, August 20
2pm - 3pm: Retrospective Tour of the GenCon 50 Museum with Ken Hite (Lucas Oil Field: Horticultural Hall)

*Yes this means I shall miss the Swords, Spies, and Shoggoths panel aka "What's New With Pelgrane Press" scheduled for the same timeslot in Crowne Plaza Pennsylvania Station B.