Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Bit About That Traveller Radio Play

The author put a lot of work into it, and I feel bad saying that it was awful.


I, Pod

I've always liked listening to the radio at night. Don't know why.

I also don't know why it took me about 6 months or so to figure out that I could slap the occasional, say, radio drama or SF/gaming podcast on my wife's iPod Nano and listen to it in bed. It's very likely that I delayed in thinking of it because I am immesurably dense.

We live in a golden age for this stuff, really, because podcasts are as common as the cold. So I'm looking around for science fiction shows, gaming shows, genre dramas, etc. I've only just begun, really, but already I've found a couple of stand-out.

Unfortunately, they stand out for the wrong reasons.

I love Traveller, so I was thrilled to find out that there's a Traveller radio play. It's in 4 chapters, and I downloaded them all and burned those mofos onto a CD last year and I put it in my truck and I drove to the games shop one day and I listened to the whole show and my brain melted. I'll be as polite as I can be and simply say that it's ill-produced, confusing and uninteresting. The protagonist, Ted D. Flask, is an unbelieveable (I mean "I Don't Believe In Him") character, and long stretches of voice-modulated, pretentiously-voiced narration are hammered in whereaction and dialogue would've been more interesting.

The shame is this: It's Traveller, and Traveller, to me, means "potential". The plot, by and large, isn't so bad, but it's allowed to meander with little sense of pacing. Plus, Ted's a prick. Sadly, I listened to the entire production as a kind of nerd-macho endurance test, and ultimately labelled it the worst SF audio drama I'd ever heard.

Granted, at that point, I ain't heard nothin. Last night, I heard Chapter 3 of "Mission of Gravity".

From my dear 1985 comes this...umn...


...okay. Here's the thing. There's a SF radio program called "Destinies - The Voice Of Science Fiction". It's at least 22 years old and frankly it's awesome. I've heard 3 episodes of it so far, featuring book reviews, interviews (I've heard Mark Leonard, George Takei, John Buscema and Larry Niven) and some radio drama. I heard a pretty good Star Trek: TOS adventure, part of a so-so Conan adventure, and the thing I heard last night.

"Mission of Gravity".

The plot:

Who knows?

Ostensibly it's these two spacers who are tracing a shipment of illegal drugs. Okay, cool. Only this is what I heard:

Two guys mumbling, one of the guys mumbling while a dude with his head inside a bucket made grunting alien noises, the two guys mumbling, a bunch of noises which were explained as a bar fight, some exposition about climbing a tower to get to acomputer, more of the two guys mumbling, a gun fight with no rhyme or reason, the guys mumbling again, and then the sweet, merciful release of the segement's end.

I am not even kidding, folks, I literally exhaled with relief when it was over. I need to impress upon you that the mumbled dialogue, by the way, appeared to be unscripted, awkward exchanges consisting of, oh, about 3-8 words apiece. "Yeah. Climb that. Take off your jacket, why don't you? Go to the computer. Yeah. No, wait. Uh-huh? Tell me more info. Uh-huh."

I don't know if it was meant as a joke, back in my dearest 1985, but...holy god, it was SO. VERY. BAD.

The rest of Destinies? Good stuff. "Mission of Gravity"? Crap.

Anyway, I just found this website and I plan to mine it fr all it's got, once, uh, once I get my broadband problem fixed at home.

Both of these horrid little audio dramas really, really make me wish I had audio production facilities. I mean, really wish it.

But I don't.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I Am An Idiot, And Forgot A Couple.

Ah, yes. My absolute favorite game-city of all freaking time.

It's danged near perfect for a tabletop campaign. Already stocked with NPCs, adventure ideas, locations, an interactive map and tons of mood and feel. Plus, players are likely to be familiar with the setting, and additional info is readily available.

C'mon. Tommy Vercetti can't keep the town forever.

Of course, I also have a copy of Vice Squad: Miami Nights, which not only wraps up feel and flavor into a delicious package, it has one of my favorite elements in a setting book. There's a section called "Never A Dull Moment", which is nothing more or less than an array of little flavor-setting incidents to spring on your players. Everything from getting your car tagged to chance run-ins with important NPCs, every one of them adds flavor and life to the setting.


You know, I do prefer warmer climes...

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I didn't take Latin in high school but I think the above means "Love of game-cities". If not, I welcome correction.

Yesterday we went to Greenwood and hit up the Half-Price Books. I passed on the $20.00 copy of Ex Machina and went for something a little older:

R. Talsorian's Night City sourcebook for Cyberpunk Although it's good stuff for sure, CP 2020 isn't really my best choice for cyberpunk gaming. However, I couldn't pass up this little nugget of joy for five bucks and change, especially since it still had the color poster-map. Snag!

I've only skimmed it so far, but I find it pleasant and probably really useful (what I will henceforth term "The Thomas Factor"). It details hundreds of locations in Night City, gives an overview of how the city works, groups locations by type on a recurring map and gives a random encounter chart and interesting NPCs for each section of the city. Neat! The tone is chatty and informal, and it has a lot of flavor without being drenched in it.

Looking at it on the drive home got me to thinking about the other city-themed gamebooks that I own, and especially about how much I like that sort of thing: visitor's guides to places that don't exist.

The Edge is another one of those favorites. Much of Over The Edge, Jonathan Tweet's charmingly surreal 1992 game, is given over to describing the city and its people. It's a bizarre, cosmopolitan town on a semi-secret mediterranean island called Al Amarja, and it has everything from ex-CIA guys and mad scientists to mutants, aliens and zombies. It paints a colorful picture of a weird and multi-cultural society, and it does it by breaking the city down into manageable chunks. This book, too, gives random encounter charts for each "barrio" or neighborhood, although OTE's charts are more clever than Night City's. Reading it truly gives the sense of a balmy, weird metropolis on an island somewere. Strangely, I have never run this game.

San Angelo: City of Heroes, by the way, ROCKED. Do you like comics? Here, I'll let this guy say it for me:

"I keep getting requests for an Astro City RPG; we're not planning to do one - but I think any Astro City fans who want such a game should at least try out San Angelo. It's an intricate, involving, well-realized gaming world, and the emphasis on the reality of the surroundings and the humanity of the characters may make it just what they're looking for."

-- Kurt Busiek, creator of Astro City
Busiek nailed it -- this city feels real. It feels alive. It has a history, it has a future. You can really, truly tell that people live there, and furthermore, that your PCs can show up and make a difference. It needs a bigger map, but it's still aces.

I.C.E.'s Cyberspace was my cyberpunk game of choice Back In The Day, and while the default setting was ostensibly San Francisco, this little gem was published as an alternate stomping ground. It focuses not on Chicago itself but on the New Edison corp.'s Chicago Arcology, a self-contained city-within-a-city built around a shopping mall. It has its own gangs, its own neightborhoods (kind of), its own mass transit, its own secrets. Night City has one of these, too, but Chicago Arcology is all about its own microcosm.

Plus, it every few pages or so, the book gives you little news-fax headlines to peruse -- they range from the factual and serious to the satirical and ridiculous, capturing that "MediaBreak" feel that RoboCop made so tasty.

White Wolf's The Chaos Factor supplement for Mage: The Ascension attempted to detail Mexico City as a game setting and bored me.

Were I enterprising, I'd write one of these of my own -- maybe a city guide to Ranseur City, chief metropolis of my Traveller subsector's capital, with its corporate starship construction offices and media production facilities and robot-controlled air/raft taxis and its extensive computer networks and neat antigrav restaurants.

But I'm not an enterprising sort.

Plus, who besides me would use it?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

For Ye What Likes To Doodle

I'm no Disney fan.

I like a few things that have come from that gods-forsaken house of blandtertainment*, namely TRON, The Black Cauldron, The Emperor's New Groove (which was too funny to be a danged Disney movie) and a few other bits here and there. My daughter loves the princesses and my cousin Brad is the producer of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" so now it's a family thing, but the Disney thing is just...kind of...'meh' to me.

But I like Atlantis, aka "The Mike Mignola Movie That Mike Mignola Should Have Just Done Himself But Good Job That The Mouse Gave Him Lots Of Money Or At Least I Hope They Did".

We recently joined a DVD club (think book club but DVDs, dig?) to get Lily some movies and to snatch up some of the aforementioned Rotwang!-approved Disney fare, like the TRON Special Nerdfest Edition. Atlantis being available, and in Super Geektastic Two-Disc Drooly Extras Edition no less, WHAMMO we had to have that.

Lemme just say this: the "Atlantis Style Guide", an art gallery which reproduces the design parameters given to the designers themselves, transcends mere novelty and becomes a handy-dandy tool for amateur doodlers like me and you. It's a real, professional** document that not only gives insight into how real art designers work, but also, in this case, steers you towards totally drawing some Mignola-type stuff all yer own. It's k-rad and I like it.

Plus, is Atlantis the only movie to feature Marty McFly, father Guido Sarducci and Spock?

Yes, Virginia. it sure am.

Lavalounge is playing "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz and that meansthat the universe is worth saving.

*You like that? Huh? Huh? Yeah!
** Albeit marred by misspellings. "Knuckels"? "Basicly"? What, no spell-checkers on Disney's computers?

Shelzar it is!

The city has been chosen. Furthermore, when we couldn't decide between D6 and Stories System, we rolled a die.

D6 it is. Excellent! I loves me that system, by gum.

What's it gonna be about? *shrug* Hell if I know. I know her character is gonna be runaway nobility who joined the Thieves' Guild (or its local equivalent), and after reading this page right here, I got an idea involving a popular pit-fighter, the potion he secretly imbibes before going into a bout, and a plan to get him to throw a fight without him knowing about it. Heh heh heh.

Come to think, I might not read too much out of the Shelzar book, just in case -- to give myself some wiggle room. In other words, use the book more as inspiration than a kind of weird-ass gospel.

Welp! It's a start.

So Help Me, I'm Making A RIFTS Character.

I suggested to my buddy Phil that he oughtta run a game sometime and he hauled out his RIFTS book and he brought it in to work and he showed it to me and I was like WAAAAUGH but I took the book to lunch and started making a City Rat named Romeo Void and I agonized over all the skills but I'm getting there and so help me if Phil runs it I'l play the mofo at least once.


I said it.

Sara Invades Noodle Country

NOTE: The following is cross-posted from a thread on The RPG Site.

The other night, my 2-and-a-half-year-old hauled out her Playskool Little People Farm Set, some Playskool Little People, and a blanket. (The blanket goes on the floor under the farm house.) I was then invited to play farm.

Upon joining, I found that I was having more fun than she was.

I started riffing on everything I could think of, giving the different figures names, personalities, voices, goals, running name it. A Little People princess in a pink dress became Sarah, The Princess of Pink, and she had such a fascination with noodles (and the consumption thereof) that a room in the farmhouse playest was soon designated as Noodle Country for the sole purpose of giving her someplace to invade; on the other hand, Wally Mart, a mustachioed Weeble in a baker's hat, tried unsuccessfully to sell The Five-Dollar Kangaroo to Chuck the Prince of Cars ("Hey, how-a you eh-doing? 'Ey, Chuck, you wanna buy kan-a-ge-roo? 'E's a verra, verra nice-a kan-a-ge-roo, see, he got-a nice-a bow, ehhh...? He's a-just five-a dollers...!")

Twenty, thirty minutes of me talking to myself, while Lily kind of moved little guys around and tried to keep up with Daddy's wild, wild little world of Sleepy Wizards and lackadaisical, obsessive royalty.

That tapped into a creative part of me that I had kind of...I dunno, tried to control as a Serious Adult Gamer. I let go of the constraints of, you know, sense, and just started creating characters, places and situations without any worries about demographics and themes and mapping and pacing.

The best part is, she still thinks "Noodle Country" is funny. And she's right.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


In weather like this, it's great fun to turn off all the lights save for a desk lamp by the computer, cue up Lavalounge on Live365, and roll up a Basic Fantasy RPG character.

They're playing "Don't You Want Me?", which is my favorite song EVER. And I'm rolling up a fighter.

If Conan were a gamer nerd, he'd want it just like THIS.

I'm Only Missing Some Green

It's March 13th, 2007. Local time is 8:10 PM.

The temperature in the city of Bloomington, IN is 71°F.

That's right, chester -- seventy-one degrees Farenheit. That's 21.6ยบ C.



Shelzar Shadizar Lankhmar Waterdeep

Listen --




Somethin' about 'em, I dunno what. The people, the bustle, the energy, the architecture. I really dig it. Faithful readers of this blog most lofty will recall, with a warm glow in their eager bellies, that I have spoken before of Mexico City and how much the place moves me. Aye, thou hast!

Er. Hath! Umn. Which-...whichever. Anyway, I like cities, and I have a thing about the ones that don't really exist.

In fact, about 8-10 years ago, I had a series of dreams about a city in particular, unnamed and out of space and time, modern and beautiful and alive with its own character despite being no more than a night's subconscious fancy. Almost like a a dream-city out of a Lovecraft story, but, you know, not malevolent and madness-inducing. Like, no doom, or seaweed.

I also like running micro-campaigns for my wife. She's partway through a ten-day work week and she deserves a little somethin' to blow off steam as soon as that jag is over. Ergo, I'm thinking about running such a game for her pretty soon, and sticking it squarely in an urban setting. I'm opting for fantasy as my genre of choice, if for no other reason than that I feel like it, so there.

Although I've created (or, at least, started to create) several FRPG cities in the past, I'm in no mood to futz and fumble with that particular honey-trap; my fingers will get sticky with layout and street names and concepts ad guilds and so on and so forth and nothing will get done. Screw that. I'm shoppin' off the rack.

Four ready-made fantasy cities come to mind. All four are well-established in one form or another, with lots of info available for the harried (or lazy) GM.

I just gotta pick one.

This...won't be easy.

SHELZAR: City Of Sins

From White Wolf's "Scarred Lands" line. Definitely influenced by Howard's Shadizar, full of naughtiness and peril. Right on.

Pros: I have the book; Amber's been wanting to do someting in the Scarred Lands; if I decide to use Microlite20, the stats are all ready to go.

Cons: I dunno that I'd actually use some of the stuff, like the sex constructs and the gibbering mouther employed for...uh...naughtiness.

SHADIZAR - City Of Wickedness

The original, from Robert E. Howard's typewriter! Lusty, pulpy goodness -- a language I speak well enough.

Pros: Hyboria!; kind of open to interpretation, as I don't have too much reference material; nice map from Mongoose Publishing.

Cons: I don't have the boxed set, so I'd have to make up a lot of the stuff myself (not so bad, but again, the goal is to use existing stuff, not go hanging myself up in the throes of creation).

LANKHMAR - City Of Adventure

More pulp from the mind of Fritz Leiber. Nexus of craziness!

Pros: Lots of info available; Thieves' Guild a plus; some old TSR adventures in the closet; underground city of sentient rats!

Cons: I don't have a map; I don't have a main reference book; I don't have a lot of time to re-read a buncha Leiber, as much as I'd like to.

WATERDEEP - City Of Elminst- uh, Splendors

The Forgotten Realms: Everything, The Kitchen Sink, Ten Brands Of Dish Soap and Another Sink Just In Case.

Pros: We have the old, big-ass AD&D 2nd Ed. boxed set, complete with big-ass map and big-ass info; Realms allows for transition to other types of themes and adventures if we feel like it; Amber likes her some Faerun.

Cons: Big-ass boxed set to read.

Good options all, and you can see why it's tricky. But my quest ends not there: two other things must be decided.

One is what system to use. I'm thinking easy, so it's either gonna be M20, D6 or Stories System. Low-prep is the key, but I still hafta decide.

The other...does she even want to play?

Hey! Look! A phone!

Monday, March 12, 2007

I Been Witched!

Okay. You know that Encounter Critical didn't come out in1979. I know know that Encounter Critical didn't come out in1979. Everybody knows that Encounter Critical didn't come out in1979.

I manage, however, not to truly believe it.

In other words, the notion of Encounter Critical being written, and played, in 1979 is so very real to me, that the truth is...I dunno...less interesting? Less believable?

It's witchcraft! I been magicked!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

MY BRAIN: Archive Of Stupidity

Um...I saw this on Mexican TV in about 1983 or '84. It's stayed with me all these years, which is what I think Call of Cthulhu's Sanity Loss mechanic is supposed to represent.

By the way, they call it "the Toad's Dance". Why? Hell if I know.

Maybe Tsatthoggua made them do it.