Monday, March 10, 2014

On March 14th, Everybody Draw RoboCop!

Hey! You! You think that, come March 14th, you won't know how to #DrawRoboCop?


WELL YOU'RE WRONG!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Put The Moves On Me; or, Dungeon World And Why I Think I Like It

Hey, kids. Long time, huh?

Okay, so...Dungeon World. Hipster D&D. Amirite? Eh? Eh? Amirite?

...

...yeah, probably. I guess. I mean that's the rep it's got. Maybe. Does it? Have that rep? I don't know. But I know that I don't care. I don't care hard. Matter of fact I'm so far past caring, I can barely see caring in the rear-view mirror of my speeding Nofucksmobile.

No, 'cause, you see, I'd barely heard of the game when I rolled into Common Room Games last Saturday night. I knew only what I'd read about it over on Mike Lindsey's Station 53, and I knew that it had both the words "World" and "Dungeon" in its title, only probably not in that order. And in fact they were in the opposite order, as my wife, my daughter and I could plainly see, because the book was right there on the shelf and we could all read its cover. So I picked it up to look at it, and Frau Codename and I kinda skimmed it, and then I whipped out my datapad and scrolled through a review over on A Game Of Whit's and we were like "New take on old school? OK, sold why not." So she got some Fate dice and Kid Cheesepants (long story) got a Magic booster and I've been reading the book off and on in the two days since.

And what I've read...I've liked.

"That's great, Rotwang!," say those of you who haven't closed this tab. "Truly, honest. But WHY do you like it?" To you I say, "Dude, you've read this far? You're braver than I thought!" and then I say "Oh, yeah, um -- I like it because I recognize almost everything in it."

No, I'm not saying it's derivative, or that it's a ripoff or whatever. I'm saying that the way it does things makes all kinds of sense to me, in crazy, twisty, almost stupid ways.

"A-HA!" you say now, "this is why I came to this stupid blog in the first place: disjointed ramblings!" Your dedication and strange predilections are to be rewarded, sucka, for here are the reasons why Dungeon World makes sense to me:

IT'S TOTALLY GOT SOME TRAVELLER IN IT


Don't tell me it's not so, you dirty liar.
I'm not kidding. No, I -- STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT. I say this for two reasons: because of the task resolution algorithm, and because it's explicitly about making shit up like your life depends on it.

Right away I noticed that the success thresholds for Dungeon World task rolls map straight to Rule 68A. That is to say, Dungeon World's success rolls are on 2d6, and that the significant thresholds are at 6 and below (for failing), 7-9 (for, you know, a partial success) and 10 or above (for being badass). Over in Trav, an easy success is on a 6+, an average success is on an 8+ and hard stuff is 10+.  

Granted -- this is a function of the bell curve you get on 2d6, and math has more to do with that than does, you know, Marc Miller. But the point is that I recognized it immediately, and I went, "This is Six-Eight-Ay!" and that was all it took. It's clean and it's simple and I got it right quick.

As I read further, I found that the game is almost fanatically devoted to the idea that nothing in the game is set in stone until you're ready for it to be, and that, furthermore, nothing even really exists in the game world until you, the GM and players, put it there. Character creation, in fact, is an exercise in generating game content; it's all questions and answers and wiiiiide open spaces that you, the GM and players, fill in as you go. This may only sound a little like Traveller, but -again- it clicked for me right away: behold a big empty canvas, and spontaneity is your brush. 

This dovetails strrrrraight into one of the next thing I grokked, and which suits me just fine:

IT CARES NOT FOR YOUR PREP


"Not settin' up the game next time!"
Preparation for this game consists, I kid you not, of printing some stuff out and daydreaming. 

Think about fantastic worlds, strange magic, and foul beasts, says page 175. What you bring to the first session, ideas-wise, is up to you. At the very least bring your head full of ideas.

This is awesome for me to read, because, frankly, I enjoy prep too much. I enjoy it to the point of overdoing it, and then it becomes less play and creativity and more struggle and frustration. OK; I can be lackadaisical when it comes to any game, as long as I can slack off enough...but for me, man, that's actually kind of hard. So being told, up front, to relax? Whew. 

And -- okay. Here's a big thing about how I approach gamemastering and creative projects as a whole: with a mess of impressions and sensations, of colors and motion, an idea of how it should feel more than what it's about. In fact, the process of transforming that nimbus of abstractions into something structured is what frustrates me and gets me in trouble. It's one of the reasons that my cyberpunk stuff started taking form almost twenty years ago, but only recently has begun to condense into something that can actually be a roleplaying game that someone other than me can play and run, and I can barely do that. So the explicit reassurance that, dude, you must chill, is major.

But later in that same page, Dungeon World drops the big one: 

The one thing you absolutely can't bring to the table is a planned storyline or plot. You don't know the heroes or the world before you sit down to play so planning anything concrete is just going to frustrate you.

Yes, I am the author of The Adventure Funnel, the most awesome adventure creation tool ever in the history of things, apparently. But I pounded it out blindly out of that very same frustration -- out of the need to have something to focus all that swirling whatever up in my noggin. And in fact, as of late, I've been relying less on my own brilliant creation and more on wild improvisation, on picking up cues from the players, of making it all up as I go along.

Which is exactly what Dungeon World assumes you're gonna do, first time out.

See, 'cause I'm a perfectionist and stuff. So I hold myself to this standard, see, where if I have to do something for a game, I have to do it right, and in my twisty-turny think-pipes, that gets perverted into 'I have to make an effort to create something badass that my players will enjoy AND which will satisfy my need for being all awesome and stuff'. But Dungeon World, again, assumes that I don't have to bust my ass on that. Hell, it assumes that I can show up at the table with no more of an idea than "OH SHIT GOBLINS" and that I, and my players, can roll with that. 

To drive the point home, Dungeon World gives the GM an agenda to follow (more on that a little bit later), and one of the items on that agenda is "Play to see what happens".

Can I do that in any other game? Yeah. I've kind of been doing that since Theatrix back in the 90s. So it's not like Dungeon World is some kind of magical game that does what nothing else can. Rather, it's how it does what it does, and how it encourages me to do it, that trips my trigger; it comes right out and says, "Whaaat...? Pssssh, man, just siddown and see what happens. Relax, dude."

One might say it's less "Hipster D&D" and more "Slacker D&D". 

"Low pre-ep! Low pre-ep!"
But -- ! Once the fire's on and the pots are boiling, what do you do? Well, as it turns out --

IT BREAKS STORY CRAFTING DOWN TO ITS BASICS (EVEN THOUGH IT CAN ALSO BE DAMNED CONFUSING TO READ AT TIMES)


I take pride in my ability to improvise. While it's easy to riff off of each other and inject whatever goofular idea you may have, it's another thing altogether to make it into a coherent story that makes some kind of sense. I'm good at that. I can feel my way through a story with the best of them; I've got a knack for pacing and for dramatic timing, and the ebb and flow of a story is second nature to me. Lest you think me a boast, know you this: many are the times when I know that a story should move in a certain direction, but damned if I know how to make that move. Then, I go DURRRRRRRR and pee my pants.*

Enter Dungeon World's  GM Moves and Fronts.

Now...a quick aside, here. There are actually a couple of things that bug me about this game, and one is relevant at the moment. Dungeon World seems, at times, to be enamored of its own jargon. Look, man, every game has its jargon -- you got your THAC0s and your Rounds and Phases and Hit Dice and yadda-yadda-blah going back to when avocado and gold were legit interior decoration choices, all the way up to your Spends and your Aspects and your Assets and whaaa-bluhh-bleeee-blopp. Thing is, though, that in Dungeon World, some of that jargon comes across as nebulous at best, and silly and self-indulgent at worst. 

Until you figure out why a Move is called a Move despite having nothing to do with actual movement, for instance.

Central to the game is this concept of Moves. Each character class has Moves, but they're not, like, dance moves or ground speed or whatever -- they're more like abilities, only sometimes they're actions and sometimes they're powers and sometimes they're your spellbook.  The GM also has Moves, and those can be hard or soft, like you're at Taco Bell or something. (More on menus later.) Oh, and then when characters go into town, they have Moves then, too.Plus also, there are basic Moves that anyone can do, and those, too, are actions -- except when they're not, only they are, but it's hard to -- 

WHAT THE FUCK ARE "MOVES", EUGENE?!

Here's how I figured it out, just today: Imagine yourself in a purely real-world situation, and something needs to be done to effect a result. Maybe you and your boss are discussing a particular sales account, one which you might lose because, I dunno, the client wants a cheaper, imported dog polisher or whatever it is you sell, and you're wondering what...thing you should take to keep the sale. It could be that you are young and in love, and the object of your affection shows interest in you -- but it's up to you to make the next...thing. Or perhaps you are RoboCop, responding to a 415 in progress at 3rd Street and Nash Avenue, and having just shot a woman's would-be assailant in the crotch, you advise his fellow creep that it's his --

DAMN IT JUST SAY A "MOVE" IS A THING YOU DO TO GET A RESULT DAMN IT

"Taken Out or at =>1 HP, you're coming with me!"
\
...so anyway, GM "Moves" are things you do to move the plot along. They're codified into the game, and they have their own names, even -- almost like they're specific subroutines in a greater dynamic whole, discernible one from the other, each with a specific result or effect.

Now...that's not to say that Dungeon World thinks you're stupid, and that you need to be shown what to do next. No, no, no. Rather -and this is purely speculative on my part, but it's one of the ways that the game plugged into my thought process so well- it shows you these "moves" as a way of mapping out for you how stories are built. In other words, no matter how bad you think you are at improv or how much you panic and freeze up or how many bullets you've just taken in the nuts, you always have a handy prompt so you can keep building a good, satisfying story.

So that's GM Moves, so now let's talk about Fronts. At first. "Front" seems like pretentious-ass hippie-talk for "adventure", but it's kind of justified by the term's meaning in context: they're "fronts" as in "fighting on multiple _____". I woulda just called 'em what they are, which is Big Stacks Of Trouble. 

[Another aside: changing jargon in indie games is getting to be a habit of mine. You know how in Fate, when you beat the difficulty by 3 or more, you are said to 'Succeed with Style'? Nuh-uh. In my game, if you beat the difficulty by 3 or more, you Are Badass. "I'm gonna jump off the bridge and land on the speeder bike!" "Roll Athletics, Great difficulty!" "My result is -- Legendary! I AM BADASS!" That's more my style.]

So Fronts, aka Big Stacks of Trouble, are no more or less than a structure for defining, managing and implementing the events and forces that oppose your players and would mess things up if not for, you know, the heroes of your game/story. Not only do Fr-- uh, Big Stacks of Trouble guide you in creating sensible threats by querying you for all the broad details you need to make things go boink, they also --

-- and this is what really, REALLY caught my eye --

-- give you suggestions on what kinds of goals are common for the opposing forces to have, and things that said forces might do to achieve these goals

Look, man, I get stymied a lot, doing this kind of thing. I might know that I want my Night's Black Agents scenario to include, say, a reality TV star who is secretly a vampire with an honest-to-goodness murder castle in the suburbs of Madrid, but when it's time to look past the excitement of such a notion and decide on said bad guy's motivations and place in a story and whether or not any of it makes story-sense, I frrrrrrreeze right up, thinking I'm in over my head because I don't really know what I'm doing. 

Dungeon World's "Fronts" system helps me, or you, or someone else who thinks waaaay too hard about stuff, to get over it and just pick something from the menu already. 

Oh, yeah...I mentioned menus. Well...

...Man, I'm getting sleepy. I've got more to say, though. Come back tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SARGENT SAUSAGE'S SUICIDE SOWS!

SGT. SAUSAGE’S SUICIDE SOWS

A Squad for Fate Core mass combat!

ASPECTS

Sgt. Sausage’s Suicide Sows
Everybody Wants A Piece
“That’ll Do, Pigs.”

SKILLS

Good (+3)
Fight


Fair (+2)
Provoke
Athletics

Average (+1)
Shoot
Will
Notice


CONSEQUENCES

Mild (2)


Moderate (4)




SGT. SAUSAGE

ASPECTS

Grizzled Old Bastard
“After So Much Action, I’m Nearly Fried”
Never Gonna Give You Up
Well-Funded Via Pork Barrel Projects
Two Degrees of Kevin Bacon
Cybernetic Hamhock

SKILLS

Great (+4)
Will



Good (+3)
Fight
Shoot


Fair (+2)
Provoke
Athletics
Physique

Average (+1)
Rapport
Deceive
Notice
Stealth


STUNTS

  • SAVING EVERYBODY’S BACON: When in the same zone as an ally, spend a fate point to create a defensive advantage that all allies can invoke immediately.
  • STIHL P.I.G. 900X: Your cybernetic hamhock has a retractable chainsaw which counts as Weapon:1.
  • WATCH THE STYS: Gain a +2 bonus when using Notice to create an advantage related to terrain on the field of battle.

...I like Fate Core.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

"D&D Is Terrible For Anything But Combat": The Myth Asploded

THESIS:

A lot of people will argue until they're blue in the face that the D&D rules, as written, offer so much emphasis on combat and so little on any other activity that the game is ineffective at incentivizing or even facilitating any activity other than combat. This position is totally and demonstrably horsefeathers, and I can prove it using no more than a copy of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (published by TSR in 1991), basic reading comprehension skills and some words in English, because that's a good language to use given the circumstances. In addition, I will employ an overused internet meme as my abstract, because it'll be funny.

ABSTRACT:



METHOD: 

I used GIMP. I mean, for the picture. But for the real bitchslap in the face of my enemies I used mostly my eyes (to read) and my fingers (to type). I kept the latter out of the former because I ain't that stupid.

FINDINGS: 

Oh, I found stuff, all right...

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Miscellanea Rotwang!ica

ITEM! -- I was totally gonna lay down a clinIc over on Reddit, but meh. Instead I spent tonight typing up notes from Saturday's playtest. That was time better spent; also, I discovered this:


A  New Wave song from a Spanish children's educational TV show, from the Movida MadrileƱa period...about the fall and influence of the Spanish Empire.

I...I can't...even...

THEY SHOULD HAVE SENT A POET

ITEM! -- My downtime wasn't all down -- I had to stay alive somehow. And so, hey, look --I just found some stupid comics I made last year. You like my stupid comics, right? Here:





ITEM! -- Good golly, I can't wait until I can announce this thing. SO. JAZZED. UP. RAAAAAAWWWWWUUUGHGHGHGHHGHG!

POST OVER!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

OH NO I HAVE BEEN PLAYING D&D WRONG FOR TWO DECADES

Holy...! MAN! Have you heard about this?! I just did! Hear about it! I heard that


It's all so, so clear now -- if you want to avoid combat and focus on story, 


And plus also -and I never, ever, in over 38 years of being a human with social skills and roughly 25 years of having played various RPGs, noticed this- but it turns out that --

 ...wow! I am so, so, so glad that someone is willing to show me the light--to point out to me that --

-- hang on, I just thought of something. Waaaaait a second...here it comes --

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Does Not Suck.

Foreword: In reviewing this thing, it is painfully obvious that it's a rambling mess. Still, I'm in no mood to edit it, and I spent too long writing it to ditch now. If you find yourself struggling too much, please let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to straighten it out in a revised post. Thank you.

Remember way back when, when I blogged a little more often, and I wrote this one post where I was all, like, "Hey, I bet I could make AD&D 2nd Ed rock again"?

No?

Hmm. Well, click this link and make some memories, then come back and continue reading. 

Back? OK, great! While you were out reading, I made some tacos, but I ate them all. Next time read faster, eh?

Aaaaaaanyway, part of getting my life more organized so that I can actually enjoy the damned thing, I've been running games at my locals (I'm spoiled, man, I got two FLGSes and I'm not banned from either one). I'd set up a game of Diaspora at Hall of Heroes, and wanted to run something different at Common Room Games. Something I'd wanted to do for a long time -- take a chance, aim high, go for the gusto.

So I made this poster and sent it to Phil and Oz:

I used Scribus and Inksascape. You can get some nice results outta those two, huh?
And they were, like, "Okay, just don't set stuff on fire."

'Cause you see, here's the thing. There's this one FRPG that all the kids are playing these days, and although I don't resent it (except for that one time, but that's not a story I want to tell), I do resent that the old games don't appear to get the love that they deserve.

Furthermore, there's a stigma attached to some of the older editions of D&D, and to this one in particular. Hell, I hated on it, too, in the day; I used to say that when I discovered Rolemaster, I "dropped second edition like a greasy fingernail taco"; in the late 90s, when AD&D 2nd Ed was at its bloatiest, I once described it as "a chimp in a diaper which no one is bothering to change".

Yeah, I can be cruel. I don't do it, because I know I can. I digress. 

But that was the thing -- I knew what was wrong with the game toward the end of its run: Bloat. Bloat, bloat, bloat. Too much cruft overlying the basics. So I thought to myself, "Well, hell, why don't I just go back to the basics?" That's why, if you look at the fine print on the bottom of that poster, you'll see this:

Fonzitude: Fundamental to ALL THINGS.
So that's a step in the right direction, I thought...but there was another monkey I could wrench....

Ever notice how many optional rules there are in 2nd Ed? Ever notice how all those optional rules are all optional? Ever notice how the real, core, central rules for getting your AD&D on are actually not that many, and that if you know what you're doing (which ain't that hard, really) you don't even have to use most of them most of the time?

I did. Or at least, such was the bold, mouthy thesis that I stated to myself, and so on Saturday May 11 I showed up at Common Room Games to defend it. 

I had three players. There was a fourth, I was told, who wanted to show but couldn't make it. No problem. I had a guy who'd played a lot of 2nd Ed, a guy who played it a long time ago, and a guy who had never played it at all. 

PERFECT. 

I put operation "Keep It Simple, Sucka" into motion by handing out character sheets and saying, "Don't fill these out all the way. SERIOUSLY. Roll your stats, choose a race and a class, take full HP for first level and only look up mods necessary for combat or spellcasting, whichever. Grab a weapon and some armor. The rest can wait."

Because, really, it can wait. You don't need to know your Resurrection Survival chance until -- when? WHEN YOU DIE AND GET RESURRECTED. Do you need to Bend Bars and Lift Gates at the tavern? NO. What's your chance of Spell Failure? Max # of Henchmen? Loyaty Base? Reaction Adjustment? Until you cast a spell, need a posse or run the risk of pissing somebody off, WHO CARES.

We started playing. It was all role-play for the first twenty minutes, maybe more. When they got to the dungeon and rolls became necessary, then we filled in the things that were missing on character sheets.

..and I never used rules that we didn't need to use. 

It worked a charm. Seriously. We were having a blast, just playing, exploring the dungeon, being in character, poking at mysteries, interacting with the world and each other. We dipped into the well of rules when it was either fun or necessary, kept the game moving and got a good feel for how to play the game according to our individual and group tastes. 

If anything remains hinky, it's THAC0 -- but I contend that it can be a hassle because although it's simple in theory (roll 1d20 plus modifiers, compare to [THAC0-target's AC]), it's potentially non-intuitive in play. Add to that the fact that there are other ways to use THAC0 to calculate hits (hit succeeds if [1d20+mods+target AC+THACO] =>20), and it becomes somewhat inelegant. You can always roll and do the math in your head and announce the AC that you hit ("My THAC0 is 18, and I rolled a 12 with modifiers -- I hit Armor Class 6"), but then the DM has to compare that number to the target's ACTUAL AC and remind him or herself that AC improves downward. That, I think, is something that your group just has to standardize as well, and keep on moving.

Hopefully, the event (which has had a second session and is scheduled for a third) also served to demonstrate to players familiar and unfamiliar that 2nd Edition, like I keep saying, does not suck. It may have more than you need is some cases and less than you want in others, but it's not the poop-splattering craptacle that lots of people make it out to be. SO THERE.

In addition, copies of the reprinted rulebooks got sold, thus I paid my dues to my local. Which is kinda funny, 'cause I didn't even know the reprints were coming out yet. 

ADDENDUM: HATERS GONNA...UM...THAT THING THEY DO.

Now...at this point, there are two arguments that can be made against my defense of the game, and I am ready to dispute them:

"SET ASIDE THE RULES? YOU CAN DO THAT IN ANY GAME!"

Yes, yes you can. Exactly. You are correct. Good point. And thank you for making it for me, because that's my point too. It makes no sense to talk trash on AD&D for all its rules and bits and bobs and crap, because it's like any other game: Those rules are there in case you don't know what else to do, or want a specific way to do something. In all other cases, keep on truckin'. You showed up to have wacky fantasy fun with goofy dice, not to obey someone or something; if you want to do that kind of fantasy fun, become a Gorean or go to church. 

"WELL IF YOU'RE IGNORING THE RULES, WHY NOT JUST PLAY TEA PARTY AND DO WHATEVER?"

Look. The very fact that you are playing AD&D means that you've come to the table with a set of shared assumptions. You're assuming that you can play elves and humans and dwarves; you're assuming there will be dungeons, possibly dragons, and hit points and Armor Class and fighters and wizards and thieves; you're all in agreement that, at some point in the game, you'll need to make saving throws, and that spells will work a certain way and so on. You show up knowing that, I show up knowing that, and we brought our rule books because the rules talk about that. We're grown-ups and creative people, and we can trust each other to collaborate on some sword-and-sorcery make-believe adventures either with rules or without.

(In case you couldn't tell, this argument pisses me off. Seriously. It pisses me off a lot, not only because I can't tell if it's a false dichotomy or a straw man fallacy, but also because it assumes that I am too fucking stupid to know what I'm doing. I do know what I'm doing -- that's why I showed up to be the fucking gamemaster.)



Q: How Is The Playtesting Going, Doc Rotwang!?

A: Pretty well. I've only done two playtest sessions so far, and they've focused on a specific character creation notion, but both times it went well and the players have given me some great feedback. Plus also, at the last one, they really liked this:

Muy ochentas, ¿no?

It's just the one that I made up for playtesting, but you never know. It might have legs, so to speak.

That reminds me. I gotta bug Chris again soon.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Better Living Through Chemistry, Part III -- Control Has Enabled The Abandoned Wires Again, But The Copper Cables All Rust In The Acid Rain

WAIT! Didja read Part II first? How 'bout Part I?

More drama! Admit it, this is like gamer Honey Boo-Boo. Click through, ya Lookie-Lous.


Better Living Through Chemistry, Part II - Duty Now For The Future


Okay, so -- here's why "254.13.26" got pulled. I'll try to be brief.


And I will fail.

Better Living Through Chemistry; or, What The Hell Happened Last Fall

NOTE: The following blog post 

  1. is long;
  2. serves only as the first part of a longer thing;
  3. assumes that someone cares enough, or is at least curious enough, about Dr Rotwang! and his life-stuff to know that anything even HAPPENED last fall; and
  4. believe it or not, actually does have to do with gaming.
You've been disclaimed. Disclaimed. Er, it's been disclo--YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Star Wars D6 Character Sheet!

Hey, kids! I made a character sheet for Star Wars 2nd Edition Revised & Expanded. Get all clicky and you can have one, ya crazy kids!
G'wan, geddit!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

...I GAMED.

... yeah...I know, right?! Plus also, I'm posting about it! HOLY CRAP!!

Actually what I did was I ran Star Wars, and I ran it proper, with West End Games' Second Edition Revised & Expanded. It's my preferred rules set, although there are others I deem worthy of the task but I digress.

Now...some of you are like masochists or bored or something and might read this AP report, so here is this AP report for you to read if you are like masochists or bored or something. It's in English, which I'm sure makes things amenable.

(These notes come straight from my own post-game record. I loves me some Evernote, you guys.)

This was the first scenario, which I ran with my buddy Jake and my wife. Jake played a bounty hunter named Jasper; my wife played a former Twi'lek slave girl named Narah Tei. They are both rebel operatives, and they have a starship called the Soccoran Sunrise.

Their contact in the Rebellion is Hix Belsar, who sends them to the planet Lambria to make contact with a slicer named Laal Spandau. Spandau supposedly had information that the Rebellion can use, but she can't transmit it, so the PCs have to go get it.

Lambria is an arid world on the Outer Rim, and it's just acquired an Imperial presence. There's a patrol cruiser in orbit and a facility that can launch TIE fighters. When the PCs arrive at the cantina ("The Grotto") where they're supposed to meet Laal, she's not there; a local miner named Targge tells them that Laal had been captured by the Imperials and possibly taken to a garrison nearby. Just then, Stormtroopers show up.

A firefight commences, and Targge is Stunned (2D minutes) while Jasper and Narah blow the crap out of the 3 Stormtroopers -- but not before one of them can call in reinforcements. An attempt to escape goes awry (the back door opens onto an alley with three more Stormtroopers, so the PCs close that door and go back the other way), and another batch of Stormtroopers had to be dispatched. Jasper carries Targge through the skylight and rolls a 1 on his Wild Die in so doing, causing it to shut down. He's still able to mess up some Stormtroopers from the roof, though. Narah takes out more Stormtroopers in the cantina and then gets out. Jasper tries to fix his jetpack and fumbles again! Finally they make an escape.

Deciding to get lost in the crowd, they head for the central market. Narah stays out in their landspeeder while Jasper goes into Ragno's Small Engines to get his jetpack fixed. Unbeknownst to him, the R1 droid in Ragno's employ is an Imperial spy, and it calls in Stormtroopers to capture Jasper when he comes back for his jetpack. The PCs still manage to escape (again), but this time, they are intercepted by biker scouts! Jasper los both of them and the party returns to the ship.

On the ship, Targge uses the comm to find out that Laal is still at the garrison, but is scheduled to be taken off-world in an hour. What will the PCs do next...?

That's where we left off, but now that my wife and Jake both have weekends free, we are in good shape to make it a campaign. And I hope we can, because after I finish this particular scenario, I have my sights set on something I've had for a long, long time...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It Hasn't Been Video Day In A While.

Let's see what's on my playlist today...hmm. Ah!  Yes. Here we go:




...yeah, that's what's in there. In there, breakin' stuff.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Alive But Not Living.

Here, look at this.  See this?  Look at it.


This is happening tonight, maybe a 1.5 or 2-hour drive from where I live.  Close, huh?  Oh, and I was offered free tickets to the show.

Free tickets.

As in, live one of your fucking dreams at almost no expense.  These bands you've loved since you were in kindergarten?!  See them live, here, go on, ya.

...can't.

Can't, because I have a life now.  Meaning, I have bills, and a job, and it's my wife's birthday today anyway and she just switched jobs and our income is really lean at the moment and gas costs money.

When I was in my twenties and I could run around and do stuff, there was no stuff I wanted to do. In fact, I would even say, and I quote:  "I don't go to concerts because DEVO aren't touring anymore."

And it wasn't just concerts -- it was a lot of little things. Little opportunities, little risks never sought or found or taken. Many, many things for which I have the confidence or the opportunity but which have come much too late. Little experiences that make life life, not just existence.

Here's another one, gone forever.  Tonight in Carmel Blondie will sing "Atomic" and "Dreamin'", and then DEVO will bust out "Human Rocket" and maybe even "Goin' Under" or "Devo Has Feelings Too"...

...and I'll be at home.

Merely fucking existing.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Half A Goon And Half A God



Twist away the gates of steel
Unlock the secret voice
Give in to ancient noise
Take a chance a brand new dance
Twist away the gates of steel

Twist away
Now twist and shout
The earth it moves too slow
But the earth is all we know
We pay to play the human way
Twist away the gates of steel

A man is real
Not made of steel

But the earth is all we know
We pay to play the human way
Twist away the gates of steel

The beginning was the end
Of everything now
The ape regards his tail
He's stuck on it
Repeats until he fails
Half a goon and half a god
A man's not made of steel

Twist away
Now twist and shout
The earth it moves too slow
But the earth is all we know
We pay to play the human way
Twist away the gates of steel

A man is real that's how he feels
DEVO - "Gates Of Steel"


It's the (literal) theme song.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One Thing Leads To Another

So...yeah.  I was writing a cyberpunk serial and putting it online but had a good reason to take it back down for later.

Interesting.

...huh!  Imagine, this is still around.

...Oh, and A Clarification.


I don't want to say too much 'cause I don't like the taste of my own foot, but I will say this -- I took the story down for a good reason, and that reason is that it now has a different Fate than I thought it would.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thanks, Apologies and a Heads Up

THANKS

...to everyone who took the time to come by and read any of Parts 1-6 of "254.13.26", my cyberpunk serial short story.  It meant a lot to me to be able to write something that long and with that much focus and dedication again, and even more to know that someone cared enough to want to read it.

APOLOGIES

...to anyone who came looking for Part 7, because even though it is complete, you'll notice that it's not here.  In fact, none of it is here.  Why isn't any of it here...?

HEADS UP

I once made promises, promises you knew I'd never keep -- but control has enabled the abandoned wires again...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Long Story Made Short

HEY!  WHERE'S MAH STORIES?!
GO READ 17 SEP 2012'S
I WASTE THE BUDDHA WITH MY CROSSBOW  
TO FIND OUT WHAT THE WHAT-WHAT!

Where the hell have I been, man? Last post on May 28?  Really?  WHY?!

In summary:  Moping, depression, ataraxia....and then, ADHD medication.

You knew it; it was clear.  It was clear even to me, and I'm dense as uranium.  Finally I told my doc that maybe I oughtta, and she said, "Yeah, probably."

It's working.

Evidence:  Exhibits A, B and C below.  See those?  Those are links to parts 1, 2 and 3 of a serial I call 254.13.26, a cyberpunk tale of that setting I've been yammering for over a decade.  The one I could never nail down, the one that I always thought I could put into words but never actually could?

That one.

These are just the first three parts.  There will be more, but this ought to get you started.   They're exactly the kind of cyberpunk story that you would expect from me, Dr Rotwang!.  Want more?  Come back soon.  Don't want more?  That's cool, we're still friends.

CONTENT WARNING:  Profanity, Violence, Profanity, Blood, Atheism, Profanity, Gibsonian Cyberspace, Cussing, References to New Wave Music, Profanity and Willful and Knowing Misuse of the First Person Present Tense.







...enjoy.

Oh, wait, you want the official soundtrack, too....?

Monday, May 28, 2012

TSR's Indiana Jones Game Does Not Deserve Your Smack-Talk


"You'd better watch your mouth."
Well, folks...it’s Memorial Day today, and that means I’m reviewing TSR’s Indiana Jones game.  There’s a reason that one leads to the other, but it involves 1988 and it’s not important right now.

What is important, though, is that TSR’s The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role Playing Game has earned a bad reputation which it does not at all deserve.  It’s a serviceable, rules-light RPG on a par with that publisher’s Conan game, now known as the OGL game ZeFRS (Zeb’s Fantasy Roleplaying System).  

I’m serious.  

Quit laughing at me.  And stop doing that eye thi--

Fine, you can do the eye thing.  Just so long as you keep reading and gimmie a chance to lay this down.  OK?  No, I am not craz-I SAID I AM NOT CRAZY.  PUT DOWN THE PHONE.

PUT IT DOWN!

Thank you.  Now sit still and let me provide my evidence.



IT CAME PRETTY WELL-LOADED

The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role Playing Game (hereafter TSR Indy) is representative of Tactical Studies Rules’ mid-1980s streak of chart-driven role-playing sytems, with very streamlined rules, simple task- and combat resolution and low barrier to entry.  The basic set, published in 1984, was a boxed set containing the rulebook, a pamphlet with props and character sheets, some fold-up cardboard figures, a GM’s screen and a grid printed on thin card.  You also got 2 d10s and a crayon, because that is how TSR rolled back then.

It did not include character creation rules, it’s true; but I’ll get to that in a moment.  Trust me, I’ll cover this.



THE RULES ARE PRETTY SWEET

The game rules themselves are pretty straightforward.  Your character has a set of Abilities (Strength, Movement, Prowess, Backbone, Instinct and Appeal), rated 1-100; you roll equal to or less to succeed.  Success comes in one of 6 degrees, determined by looking at a chart -- but mind you that it’s a smaller chart than the Conan and Marvel Super Heroes games boasted, which is neat.  
"Oh, yeah.  There are rules, too."

Characters have Knowledge (i.e. Skills) which let you make Attribute rolls to accomplish specific types of tasks (having Sailing Knowledge lets you sail a boat, navigate using the stars and so on, while Entertainment helps you get jobs in show business or can even double your Appeal under certain circumstances).  

There are no Hit Points -- there are levels of damage, with different effects based on the type of attack that dealt it (a Serious Wound from Wrestling is much different from a Serious Wound from a Firearm, as you can imagine).  

There is a nice flow chart for running chases (more on that in a little bit, too), some rules on NPC interactions, hazards, things like that.

Oh -- and these are easy to learn, because --

THE ORGANIZATION IS BAD-ASS

It’s a cool idea: you read a section of the rules, and then play a short solitaire scenario right after it.  Finish that, and you read another section; the next solitaire encounter follows from the last one, and so on until you have a complete adventure right in your rulebook.  (The adventure, by the way, is called “The Ikons of Ikammanen”; if you are some kind of big damn nerd, then you recognize that title from Marvel Comics’ Indiana Jones book.)  

You don’t just learn the rules, though; you learn to run the game, and at a certain point in the process you start running it for another player and teach him or her the rules.  Eventually you run out of rules to learn but you still have plenty of adventure to get down with, and there’s a sub in it.  That’s cool.  But you know what else?

THE GRAPHIC DESIGN IS KICK-AWESOME

Look, I’m just gonna show you:


...in case the topic wasn't clear.

This is what a two-page spread looks like.  It’s clean, it’s dynamic, it’s got a mook’s hand crossing the center line...got your jagged edges and your weird black marks...

Now look at this one:



Damn straight, Harris- uh, Ha- um, Rick Deck- er, Indy!
Bullet holes, Indy wrasslin’ a dude -- they knocked the page numbers outta place, even, see that?

I think I made my point.  But speaking of holes...

HOW DO I MAKE A CHARACTER?

Oh!  Ha!  Ha ha ha...!



...that!


Well, you can’t.  You have rules for creating villainous NPCs, but not heroic PCs.  Oh, you can play Indy, or Marion, or Short Round or Willie Scott or Jock Lindsey or Wu Han or Sallah.  Buuuut....

OK, maybe the designers assumed that you wanted to play an Indiana Jones adventure game, not a...Frank...Lamm...Landers adventure game.  Fair enough.  But let’s say that you do want to play a Frank Landers adventure game.  

You are hosed.

Unless you went back to the store. And really you ought to.

That's a Caldwell, by the way.

IJAC1

If you’re thinking that I am not crazy, and that the much-maligned TSR Indy is undeserving of the crap it gets and you want to get it, you really ought to get yourself a copy of the Judge’s Survival Pack as well.  This was pretty juicy stuff, too -- not only did it come with a bunch of extra fold-up cardstock miniature props (including a Nazi truck) and a wiggy “Combat Calculator” for...stuff, it had some kicked-up chase rules, two new chase flowcharts, a random ruin generator, some sample real-world ruin maps, sample hieroglyphs, and --

-- let me take a brief moment to discuss the chase flowcharts.

LET ME TAKE A BRIEF MOMENT TO DISCUSS THE CHASE FLOWCHARTS

One of the coolest ideas in the TSR Indy game was the idea of the Chase Flowcharts.  As I mentioned before, the rulebook gives you one to start with, and it’s pretty swank.  It’s a highly-abstracted flowchart of circles and connectors and stuff.  The flowchart is coded to indicate intersections, distances and potential hazards; in addition, most of the circles had a label, to be referenced by individual scenarios later on.  That way, one scenario might say “The chase begins at E and ends at L” and another “The bad guys start at A, the PCs at H, and both need to get to M” and so on, so that the flowchart could be re-used ad infinitum.  

The Judge’s Survival Pack added MORE such charts, for indoor (multi-level!) and outdoor (city or country!) chases, plus some more rules for stunts and shortcuts and the like.  These rules are a little hard to parse out at times, but once you get them you won’t let them go.  The flowcharts can be re-purposed for other games, by the way; I speak from experience.


-- CHARACTER CREATION RULES

..take up about 12 or 13 column-inches on the printed page.  They are simple, straight-forward and I have no earthly idea why they were not in the main set....man, I haven’t written a blog post in a long while. 

IN CONCLUSION

Stop making fun of this game.  It’s solid, it’s easy and it’s very likeable.  So cut it out, already.