Roadworthy: Judge Tom Colley

Welcome to Roadworthy! This is a chance to show off a Road Crew Judge and allow them to share their experience and wisdom. We provide these profiles to help provide insight into their personality and style, and maybe give up-and-coming Judges some advice on improving their game.

Out of Chicago comes a man with a true passion for gaming. And with the oddly appropriate title of CDC for his game group, he’s a timely one as well.

Let’s meet Judge Tom Colley!


Roadworthy: Judge Tom Colley!

What’s your name, where do you live (and game), and how would you describe yourself?

My name is Tom Colley, and I live on the west side of Chicago. Most of my public gaming is at the excellent D&D themed bar DMen Tap on the city’s northwest side. I’ve also run games during the day at Level Eater events at Chicago’s Co-Prosperity Sphere. And I usually attend GaryCon and Gamehole.

When I post my games on the Chicago Dungeon Crawls (CDC) MeetUp group, I tell people to look for the guy with a big beard, dressed in black. Confusingly, this often describes half the people that show up…

How did you first discover Dungeon Crawl Classics?

Back in the day, I played Basic/Expert/AD&D all mashed up together (and probably all wrong) from like 1981-1987 or so. I did the math, and I’m exactly the age of the Stranger Things kids. That was me battling the Demogorgon in the basement. Then I dropped out. My long-time friend, Mike Young, got me back in for a year or two when 3rd edition was released, and then after another hiatus, he got me back into gaming a year or two before 5e came out. We were not playing DCC, but he had the book, and I got very interested. Fast forward a couple of years, and he convinced me to go to Gary Con in 2018.

Man, what a blast! My first DCC game there (or ever) was playing a Tomb of Horrors funnel adapted by Judge Chris Lauricella. I think he is still my favorite funnel judge that I have ever played with. I try to always sign up for one of his games at any con where he is running. I played more awesome DCC that weekend, and upon returning home, I started hosting one-off game nights running DCC and MCC for small groups of friends at my house.

How many Road Crew games have your ran so far?

Between Chicago Dungeon Crawls, DougKon, Level Eater events, and others, I’ve run a bunch of games, but 13 official ones. I’m looking forward to running my first on-the-books convention games at Gary Con this year.

What’s your favorite Road Crew game experience so far?

The most hilarious moment is from running a Meat Planet table at DougKon, so sorta tangentially Road Crew. A player’s “Cousin It” type mutant character with no mouth attempted to suck the poison from a teammate’s unfortunately placed wound with its cloaca, right as a new player transferring from another table sat down and witnessed this gruesome (intimate?) scene.

My favorite experience from running Roadcrew games at CDC was a session where we were playing Julian Bernick’s Outlive, Outsmart, Outkill! for his Nowhere City Nights setting. One particularly rascally player led the group in defying the evil wizards who had locked the party in a death-trap maze by starting a hunger strike instead of trying to escape. This of course was a scenario for which I was unprepared. But that is what makes judging fun! Player unpredictability that forces you to improvise and adapt is what makes it a game not only for the players but also for the Judge.

Another great experience was the first CDC session we held after we converted it to all DCC all the time. Mat had designed a funnel to start off the new campaign world that was loosely based on some material in Sean Richer’s Terror of the Stratosfiend. A dozen or so people showed up, many of whom were new, so I also had to run a table, and I only had about 15 minutes to read Mat’s notes and try to make the adventure work. It is always a blast when we get enough people to show up that we have to split up and run two or more games.

What advice would you give to other Road Crew judges running online games?

I’ve only been at this for a bit over a year, but I imagine that one of the hardest things is to get a game up and running and keep momentum going. My advice is to team up with some like-minded players and judges, and share the load. Mat started CDC and we do the main organizing of the group together. Doug is a regular player and judge, and his long history with the game since its origin has helped tremendously. Now that Pete and Jordy have judged some games, we have a large solid base of people to count on. This way the game is bigger than one judge, and can happen regularly twice a month despite any of us having to miss any given Saturday. Sharing the fun and the glory with others makes for a more sustainable and inviting community.

This question comes from Judge Daniel Vance: What Books do you use as an inspiration?

When planning out adventures to run for Road Crew games, my first go-to is various official Goodman Game DCC adventures. But after that, I have scavenged ideas to incorporate from various third party products (some mentioned above), and gamebooks for other systems. Most recently I have been really digging Michael Prescott’s Trilemma Adventures. I’m also looking forward to using elements from the sublimely titled Wet Grandpa by Every Lockhart.

If we are talking about non-gaming books, I’ve recently been inspired by independent comics like Coda, Little Bird, and Coffin Bound. These can be great sources for fleshed-out scenes, unique monsters, weird NPCs, terrifying cults, etc. Just pull them out, re-skin them a bit and plop them in a DCC typesetting and you can have an instant adventure.

How did the quarantine change your gaming life? (UPDATE QUESTION!)

Wow, I wrote the main part of this Roadworthy Interview back before the world changed so drastically.

Chicago Dungeon Crawls had its last in-person game at DMen Tap about a week before the statewide shut-down started (fortunately all who attended remained healthy as far as I know.) Then Virtual GaryCon happened, and that same weekend we had our first Virtual CDC. I had never run a game online before, and then I ran four within the first 2 weeks of quarantine. Virtual CDC has continued on our twice a month schedule, and Judges Morgan Lemel and Gary Soldati have joined our ranks and run some of those games. We are getting at least enough players for one game each time, and still maintaining a nice mix of regulars, semi-regulars and a couple new folks here and there. Since location doesn’t matter, there are some people who no longer live in Chicago who have been able to join us.

Between multiple home game campaigns, and road crew games (I also ran games at Cyclops Con and DCC Days Online,) I am gaming way more than I ever did in-person. I’ve actually had to cut back. For the first couple of months, I was in at least two games a week, and often up to four. That’s a lot of hours, and fortunately, so far I have also been able to keep my employment. With the way the pandemic is progressing in the United States, I don’t foresee in-person gaming in the cards anytime soon. So it is good that technology is such these days that it allows online gaming for so many people. The lazy part of me likes being able to just log on and play from the comfort of my home, but online is still not as good as in-person. For now, it is way better than nothing though, and no matter what happens, I think it is going to remain a part of my gaming life going forward.

Author: pandabrett

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