Tuesday, December 17, 2019


The following story is 100% true. It'll sound dubious at first, but no -- it's legit. I've changed names to protect privacy blah blah, and I'm paraphrasing some of it, but...troof.

I help moderate a FB group for local gamers.



Monday, December 16, 2019

In the far, far future of mankind...they apparently remember Flans.

I'm developing a space opera setting for SF RPG shenanigans, and this is the 'map' of the known, inhabited star systems. It's a map that I created, so it looks like, and has names on it, like this:

Most of it is inhabited by humans. I'm limiting non-human PC choices (for reasons); there is a species of 4-armed and very theatrical humanoids called the Garrana (whose worlds are in the center-top, haloed in purple) and a sub-species of Replicants (as in "the ones from Blade Runner, but emancipated and no longer limited by a 4-year lifespan"). You can tell that the Replicant 'homeworld' is the one with the white halo, because it's called Memory. BECAUSE BLADE RUNNER. GET IT?!

But what you probably can't tell is the reason why its only connection to the other stars is with Wilde, in the Benatar Sphere. [If you haven't figured it out, or aren't an 80s music nerd like me, note that the worlds of the Benatar Sphere are named after female singers popular in the 1980s.] As it turns out, Kim Wilde, she of "Kids In America", wrote a song called "Bladerunner", and released it on her "Teases And Dares" album in 1984. The song was inspired by the film of the same name, and featured sound effects from same. Hence the connection.

The Movida Unity, in the upper left, is composed of star systems named after Spanish and Mexican singers (and, in one case, a band) likewise from the 1980s. "Movida" means "movement", and refers to the cultural Madrid Movement (or Movida Madrileña) of that decade; "Olvido" is the first name of the Mexican/Spanish singer better known as Alaska, while Irma, Ilse, and Ivonne are the members of Mexican girl group Flans. (Irma ususally went by Mimi, but that didn't look or sound right.)

Most everything else explains itself, except for the orange systems in the bottom left. One of my players is Serbian, so I snuck in those worlds to amuse her; the names are "Fuck Off", "Don't Bother Me", and "Girl-Boobies". "Grozan" means "grouchy", since my player looked at those system names and commented, "It looks a very unwelcoming place to be".

As for why these names are still relevant in whatever future century we're playing in...there's no explanation other than "I like it that way and I think it's funny".

Hi, have we met? I'm Doc Rotwang!. I do this kind of thing.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Rotwang! vs Cyberpunk Gaming, 2019

What's this? An I Waste The Buddha with my Crossbow post?! MADNESS!

So a thing happened, and it is this: that over on Reddit, there is a post about a Kickstarter for a new cyberpunk game called Retropunk. And the post title asks, "What do you think?" So I thought. And I began to reply, but as I did so, I realized that what I was saying belongs less in that Reddit thread and more on, oh, maybe a public platform where I can spew forth thoughts and stupid jokes and obtuse referncIT BELONGS HERE ON MY BLOG.

So here I am, and here's my response.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Agents of D.O.F.I.E.

Now and then, I make notes for some game-thing-or-other, then forget about it. Then I'll find it again, and laugh at my own jokes, then forget about it again. Then, I'll find it again.

I started writing a scenario called "Smell the Breath of Dracula", in which the players are some of the above agents of the thing and stuff. They're on a mission to Dracula's house to --

Oh, hell. Here's as far as I got. Read it if you wannoo.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Made A Custom Cover for "Far Trek"

It's inspired by the one on C. R. Brandon's blog, but I tweakified the layoutification and assembulated some images from 'round the computernets.

Came out OK?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Results of Attacking The Darkness in Various Role-Playing Games

Just kidding about Traveller. I loves me some Trav.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Mind Maps!

Part of my creative process looks like this:

You saw what I did there. I know you did.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

WYC 2017:Stars On Fire!

Hey! It's 2017 (surely you noticed). Who's Yer Con, my local gaming convention hoedown, is coming up at the beginning of April. It's currently January.

That means it's time for me to start pondering what events to run this year.

My current short list includes
  • Spirit of '77
  • Fear Itself
  • Risus (probably a goofy space opera)

...but one of the above is gonna hafta move, probably, because I had a bit of inspiration today. Dig it:

From the original Streets Of Fire trailer:

“You are about to enter a world unlike any you have seen before, where rock and roll is king, the only law is a loaded gun, where the beautiful, the brutal, and the brave all meet in streets of fire...”

My variation on the above, pitching a game for Who's Yer Con:

“You are about to enter a universe where retrowave is king, the only law is a charged blaster, where the alluring, the alien, and the adventurous all meet -- in Stars Of Fire!
What does any of this even mean? Well, figure it's retrofuturistic space adventure shenanigans with an 80's vibe. 'Cause, you know, it's me.

That's all I know for now. I'm gonna go monkey with it some more. In the meantime, enjoy this here Lazerhawk jam. Oh! And this!

Huh huh huh. Ellen AIM.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"They're For My Girlfriend in Hollywood."

I was probably 4 or 5 years old, and in the front yard of my Granny's house, when my cousin asked me why I was stuffing some flowers into an envelope. I told her why.

"What girlfriend?" Still poking little flowers into the envelope, I answered as if it were the most obvious fact in the world.

Goodbye, first crush.

I'm Not Here To Talk About 2016.

You already know it was total, unfiltered suck for the world at large. I'm not gonna go into how sucky it was for me on a personal level, because who cares. I could talk about how kick-awesome Stranger Things is, but you already know that; it's not inconceivable that I could mention the ongoing game of The Strange that I'm in, which is being run by Scott Kellogg of Hall of Blue Illumination fame (you know, the Tékumel podcast, where they talk to Jeff Dee and James Maliszewski!). That's worth talking about, as is the fact that I'm trying to get off my ass and write a book already. And I'm certainly not here to talk about how this blog is ten years old, but I haven't posted to it in over a year, and the posting frequency has dropped off since --

-- aw, crap. I talked about it.

 BUT no no nonononononononono. Noooooooooooooooo. Those things, no, no, I'm not gonna -- nooooooooooo.

I'm gonna talk about how, in the new year, I'm gonna run a Star Wars campaign.

This one.
Is it because I saw Rogue One? Maybe. Maybe it's because I saw Rogue One and I enjoyed it but I didn't exactly like it, and I'm compelled to do better. Maybe it's because I just kinda felt like it. Maybe it's because Star Wars turns 40 next year, but no, it's not because of that, actually.


Tell ya th' trooth, I vacillated between using WEG's venerable game (pictured above) and Fate Core, which has nestled itself riiiight next to D6 as one of my favorite games ever. As (hypotherical) long-time readers may (hypothetically) know, Star Wars gaming is MY THANG; virtually every time I look at a game system, I'm judging it in terms of its suitability for Lucasian shenanigans. I've no doubt that Fate Core is more than equal to the task -- in fact, it's one of only two other systems that I've seriously considered using.

In the end, I just felt the D6ness a touch moreso than the Fatetitude, and so here we are.

"Here", of course, means "opening up a new TreeSheets document, making a cell labeled "Names", and inserting a sub-grid full of, you know, names. For, for, for people and places in my Star Wars universe. (It also involves yanking my collection of Star Wars Adventure Journals from the shelf, and ripping names and NPCs and everything else out of 'em for inclusion in said TS doc, but I digress.) And, yeah, you read that correctly: MY Star Wars universe.

My Star Wars universe is one where the words "midichlorians" and "gungans" have no meaning whatsoever, because I WILL NOT RECOGNIZE THE PREQUEL TRILOGY IN ANY WAY. The Clone Wars will be A Thing That Happened, but it won't have spit to do with, you know, the cartoon and stuff. (The cartoon is OK, but it's connected to the prequels, so out it goes.)

My Star Wars universe recognizes the events of Rogue One, but they really won't matter that much -- see, 'cause my game will take place in the classic RPG era known as "After the Battle of Yavin, before the Battle of Hoth". And considering how Rogue One went down, well, it's a foregone conclusion that...

...anyway. No spoilers, but if you're reading this...c'mon, man.

My Star Wars universe will include selected bits of what we're now calling the Legends, i.e. the EU stuff that Disney/Lucasfilm jettisoned from canon. If it's in a WEG book, it's probably OK to go; the exception being the Zahn stuff because
  1. It hasn't happened yet; and 
  2. Noghri and hot chocolate? Ehhhhhhh...
I trust my point is made.

 So anyway, it's 2:13 am EST as I write this, and I'm listening to the Stranger Things soundtrack, and getting kind of tired, but not so tired that I can't start leafing through my Adventure Journals and get busy cribbing stuff for, you know, later.

For the game.

When I'm running it.

Star Wars.

Hi! How are you?

Monday, September 28, 2015

So I Picked Up Cypher System

You know, I really do ♥ The Strange. I mentioned that, right? Yeah, I think I did. So now there's a toolkit version of the rules, and it's called Cypher System, and I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know because COME ON, DOC, THAT WAS LIKE GENCON AGO.
Yeah, this...this one.
Anyway. I immediately wanted to use the system to run an adventure or two in my Radical Space setting, the one best described as "What if Star Wars and Indiana Jones had a baby, and its fairy godmothers were Fading Suns, a humanist rant, and 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City'?" And I think it'd be fun to do this, but I just got the book yesterday and only today finished skimming enough of it to create an NPC for it.

And here he is: Kobayashi Flynn (that's a PDF you can download). Part Belloq, part Doyle Blackwell from The Secret Saturdays (look it up), and a bit Boba Fett, back before the prequels ruined him up.

Okay, so I'll monkey with it a bit more, and maybe I'll remember to tell you what happens. HEY LOOK SOME MUSIC!

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Does Rotwang!'s Cyberpunk Game Sound Like?

...as of right now, anyway. There are some gaps.

Monday, February 09, 2015

You Have Waited Far Too Long For This Moment To Arrive

Hey, guys and gals! Guess what I'm doin'?

...well, yeah. I mean, that's all the time. But, uh, no, no no no..guess again.

Close! I'm not doin' that exactly, buuuut...you're on the right track. Hey, why don't you have another go at--

-- yeah, I'd be tired of guessing too. So maybe I just will tellya that I'm (very, very slowly) working on a Recursion (you know, for The Strange?) based on--

No one is surprised. Okay, so dig this:

The Breakin'verse (quit lookin' at me like that) is a world of graffiti-scrawled underpasses, scrappy community centers, sharply-pitched neighborhoods and occasionally a fancy mansion, where all major conflicts are resolved via acrobatic dance battles with vaguely-defined victory conditions -- a utopian wonderland where hospital staff can do the worm, and a single man and his nameless Mexican girlfriend can, with nothing less than some pizza boxes and a couple of dance steps, not only stop a fleet of bulldozers cold in its tracks, but then immediately HEAL HIS BROKEN LEG and PUT ON A SHOW.

 Until a few seconds ago, I was driving a backhoe.
Now...when I had the idea, I had no illusions* that it'll be good for anything other than a one-shot novelty scenario. Maybe your PCs track down a bad guy who hides out in the Breakin'verse because he or she is aware that physical altercations cannot occur there -- the moment you get froggy with someone, a bunch of people grab you and hold you both back. Ergo, no harm can come to him or her; it's reality-armor.

But the PCs translate in, dressed in parachute pants and weird-ass hair and mismatching earrings and bright, bold colors...and discover that they can suddenly Pop And Lock (a draggable focus, of course)...the Vectors in the group are suddenly trained in Dancing, and the Paradoxes can walk up walls and the Spinners can totally oh my god look at them go...

...yeah, not a lot of replay value. But it'll be fun, I think, and it's my game and I DO WHAT I WANT.

There's no stoppin' us.



*...That I'd ever find a glimpse of Summer's heatwaves in your eyes. THIS IS HOW MY BRAIN WORKS

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Versus That One Game

Don't talk to me about that one game, man. I don't wanna hear it. Makes me mad, so don't even.

And it's not like I hate it, or somethin'; it's a thing with me that I don't hate anything. Hating's not my style. I don't wanna play it, and it's the opposite of what I want out of a game. Anybody else likes it, that's fine. I like Xanadu, after all -- I'm not gonna dog on anyone just 'cause of how they wanna get down. 

But that's the problem -- it's like everyone seems to like that game, and only that game. It's that game, or nothing.

"Hey, ev'rybody!" I will often say, "I'm running a demo of this other game, here! All kinds of different games, in fact! Come on over to the games store, let's have some fun, it's free! Supposedly I don't even suck at it!"

Yet no one shows up, because it's not that game.

"Okay, I dig that you like that game. I have lots of favorites, too. There are lots of games! This is a crazy bigass hobby! Here's more of it to enjoy!"

Deaf ears, brick walls.

"What am I doin' wrong, fellas? What's -- am I stinky? I shower before these things, I swear...what can I do to get you guys to try out this game?"

Now I get answers: I'm too invested in my game. I can't afford a new one. I only have so much time.

"Um...the demos are free. No one's trying to take your game away, just share a new one with you. And the demos are all one-shots, just so you can see if you li-"

My game is what I want! They get defensive, here; close ranks, put signs on the clubhouse door.


So, yeah. I suppose it's not really the game's fault for being popular, no matter how much I think it's an overcomplicated, pandering exercise in excess. Other folks dig it and that's aces.

I suppose, then, that it's the players who treat it like it's a cult, who perceive (or seem to perceive) offers of other games as an attack against them, or...some...thing, I dunno. The net result is that what should be a game I can simply ignore has become a foe to me. Beyond an annoyance, it's a symbol of my frustration.

"Well, okay. Thanks for your time," I say, and go back to the drawing board...

...and all the locals go back to finding a path, or whatever.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I ♥ "The Strange" (and Lazerhawk)

And in fact, it was ♥ at first sight. BAM. Like that.

As you know (because you're not a lazy mofo who never updates his or her blog and is thus always late to the party), The Strange is Monte Cook Games' newest entry in the Cypher System line, and it's by Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook, edited by Shanna Germain and illustrated by Matt Stawicki. It can be described (neither unfairly nor unkindly) as "Planescape Modern". The book looks like this --

 --on the outside, like this--

Image totally pinched from Automatonera.com.
-- on the inside, and has illustrations like this one--

-- and this one--

--right? I mean, those are things you knew already. Because of the not-a-lazy-mofo etc. etc. etc. thing.

Okay, good. 

So I saw it at my FLGS and heard a few mentions of it and stuff and then a buddy of mine picked up a copy and he said it was kind of cool so I looked through the book a little and it did indeed look really cool and --

Let me slow down here, a minute, and tell you why it looked cool.

The notion of moving back and forth between realities made out of fiction? That hit something deeeeeeeeeeep inside Doc Rotwang!. It's probably the same for you -- that the worlds and places you create, in your head, are so, so real to you...just not real enough. They're just beyond tactile, just this side of material, such that your senses can but brush against them, that tingle on your skin when something hovers close but does not touch it.

Of course you'd want to see them made real. Of course you want to pass through that membrane. That's what you daydream of. One of your greatest regrets, and one that you'll take to your grave, is knowing that you'll never really be able to do that, to go there, to the places in your mind.

PCs in The Strange, though -- that's what they DO.

Maybe they don't go to the places that they've dreamed up (though that can happen), but -- man, it's something, right?

I was intrigued. I had to know more about this game.

And then my FLGS scheduled a demo of it run by Ryan Chaddock who is a licensed third-party publisher for Cypher System stuff and I went to the demo and I was sold on the thing in like the first five minutes because not only is the concept totally aces but the system is all easy and unobtrusive and holy crap ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥oifoiqowi oweoqwioersafdsafdjsfd


The game is crazy bananas, and I think you can tell by now that I kinda dig it.

...so my buddy who'd bought the game decided that, although he liked it, he didn't like it as much as I obviously do, so he gave me his copy. He's a swell, that Chris.

So let's call this my official endorsement of the game, and Bob's your uncle.

Speaking of Bob, Ryan Chaddock is not named Bob but he is the author of The Translation Codex, which is not only the first third-party supp for this thing but also, in my estimation, muhfuggin' essential. It presents some character options which, and I am not kidding, really ought to have been in the core book. That's not a slam on its authors -- that's a high-five for Ryan, and my official endorsement of it. Got The Strange? Getting The Strange? Getchoo The Translation Codex. Easy. I just said so. 

Also, I ♥ Lazerhawk. Play me out, Lazerhawk!

...thanks, Lazerhawk.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

WHAT'S NEW? - With Doc R! and...ummm...


...huh. Dusty, in here.

Let's pretend I never left. OK? OK! Great.

So here's what I'm into these days:

I scored (i.e. 'purchased with legal tender) a copy of Night's Black Agents a while back, and boy howdy, I gotta tellya: this is some good stuff.

I read a review of it on io9.com, and was sold pretty much instantly--here was a game about being a badass and slapping the gunk outta vampires, and so what's a better thing to do with them than that? NOTHING IS, THAT'S WHAT. I'm glad you agree with me, because it'd be pretty awkward having to explain it to you. I love that we're friends!

Aaaaaaaany-old-way, as you likely know by now because the game ain't 'xactly new, Night's Black Agents uses the GUMSHOE system, designed by Robin Laws. GUMSHOE is tuned for investigative-type scenarios, and thus operates on the crazy-ass notion that rolling to see if you notice important clues, and potentially boinking that roll, is no fun; you should just get that clue, GUMSHOE says, as long as your character has the necessary skill and is in the same location as the clue. There's more to it, but that's the main thing. Right?

I like that.

I dug the game, I dug it right away. And before you know it, I'm all, like, Dude. I wonder if I'd dig Trail of Cthulhu as well? So I checked it out, and picked up a copy, and -- what do ya know? I DID! I DID dug it! Um! Dig it!

And of course, Ashen Stars came next. Because SPACE OPERA.

Okay, I'm gonna bail before this starts to feel forced. While we wait for me to come back, here:

...your turn to dig somethin'.

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?


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:


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:


"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 --


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 -- 


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 --


"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



A Squad for Fate Core mass combat!


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


Good (+3)

Fair (+2)

Average (+1)


Mild (2)

Moderate (4)



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


Great (+4)

Good (+3)

Fair (+2)

Average (+1)


  • 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


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.



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.


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 Madrileña period...about the fall and influence of the Spanish Empire.

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


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!


Tuesday, June 04, 2013


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"?


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. 


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. 


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:


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. 


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.)