Friday, August 31, 2007

no Shortage of Dumb Ideas

I have no earthly idea of why I said the words "Battle Hippie" at work the other day, but my friend Amanda (aka "Clean Hippie") suggested that a Battle Hippie should be illustrated by me. (Click for a larger version, if you're into that sort of thing.)

Then, upon its completion, she encouraged a female companion. (Again with the clicking, you weirdo.)

So it's her fault. All of it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Podcast Update

Hokay! Looks as though The RPG Lounge is no longer Blue Devil's intarweb shack, and that means that I Waste The Buddha With My Podcast no longer has a host.



I...guess...I'd...better look for another one.

Monday, August 27, 2007

You Could Learn A Lot From Lou Scheimer (Part II)

So...obviously my copy of the Flash Gordon animated series DVD set came in the mail, otherwise I wouldn't be posting all of this stuff about it. I haven't had time to watch it all yet -- just the first episode, a few minutes of the second, and a teeny slice of the documentary. (What can I say? My daughter would rather watch Labyrinth some days, and what good Daddy says no to that?!)

Yet what I have seen is enough to convince me of one thing: despite the limited animation that marked most of Filmation's output, and jokes that Phil and I have made about the man, Lou Scheimer had this stuff locked.

Especially when it comes to Flash. In the beginning of the documentary, we see the guy sitting in a chair talking about how much he loved Flash Gordon as a kid, and his eyes lit up. He talked about loving to see the comic strips on Sunday mornings at the grocery store, and when he gushes briefly about a comic strip long-forgotten by...well, I'd never heard of it, the guy practically leaps with geeky enthusiasm.

The show is a very faithful recreation of the comics, and it manages something that the new show can't, and didn't even try:

Updating the look, not the tone.

Sure, you can still tell it's Mongo, and there are rocket ships and Barin looks like the renfaire let out early. The ships are a little saucier, more 1979 than 1934; the Metal Men are sleeker and more menacing; Aura is...

...hawtsome. Halter top, big hair, thigh boots. 1979 loved you very, very much, Young Nerd Boy.

But that's the end of the 'updating'. This cartoon understands what Flash is about --


It's not about "What would these people like if they lived in today's world?" It's not about making sense of the crazy stuff in there, it's not about reality. It's about escape, energy, heroics, melodrama, adventure.

The show seizes on it, puts that lightning in a bottle, shakes it up and lets it go. And it doesn't give a damn about what other people are going to think about it: it is what it is, on wheels.

It's made out of the collective love of this crazy stuff we call "space opera", and the love is shameless and pure.

It can be done, and done well and successfully...if a producer dares.

You Could Learn A Lot From Lou Scheimer (Part I)

IN THE FIRST EPISODE of Filmation's 1979 Flash Gordon animated serial, Flash and his companions Dale Arden and Hans Zarkov are shot down over Mongo, where they splash down in the ocean and are captured by Gill Men, only to be rescued by King Thun of the Lion Men and Prince Barin of Arborea, who explain how Ming the Merciless is the self-described Emperor of the Universe before Prince Barin betrays them all and leaves them to fend for themselves in a swamp, where they are pursued by princess Aura's Witch-Woman Warriors, but are attacked by a carnivorous plant from which they are rescued and further pursued by the Witch Women, at which point they are captured by one of Ming's minions and brought before the despot, who spills the beans about planning an invasion of Earth before sending Zarkov to have his knowledge taken by force and Dale to be his harem girl and Flash and Thun to fight for sport against a battle machine which they defeat, after which Aura helps them all escape, and Flash, Zarkov, Thun and dale flee into the caverns under Mingo city, where, unknown to them, a giant monster stalks them in the dark...


I left out the parts where Flash tries to talk reason into the Mongo natives and tries to get them to band together against Ming, as well as Aura's crush on the dude, and the flying city of the Hawkmen.

BREATHLESS! Absolutely breathless. Even at the twenty-two-or-so-minute mark, the thing doesn't so much end as just kind of pause. This thing starts and just keeps freaking GOING.

Man. How to do that as a GM?

I was thinking about what I can learn from this episode (Produced by Lou Scheimer and written by Sam Peeples), for my own use as a GM, especially one of the Pantsless variety. I've always wished to run that kind of breakneck-paced all-out non-stop action game, but I don't think I've ever reflected on how.

All I can think of is this:

Start it out moving, in media res, and do not stop.


Simple as that. No trick, no technique. Just full steam ahead. Keep exposition short; let the PCs exhibit their personalities in response to your constant stimulus; and if anything looks like it might slow down, build a fire under its ass. You, the GM, have as many sexy ostrich-riding witch-woman warriors as it takes to chase the plot along.

AHA! There we go.

Don't just move the plot along.

Chase it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

To The Folks At The Troll Lord Booth At Gencon

...who made the trade with the dude from Privateer:

Thank you. Thank you lots.

You know who you are and you know why. I salute you, and say, "Haikeeba".

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Going It Alone

I brought this up some time ago on The RPG Site (I think), and it seems I'm one of the few that does it: Playing RPGs by yourself.

It's a simple idea. You pick out a game, you roll up a character, and then you think up a scenario. You place the character in that scenario, and you start playing, acting as both GM and PC. You make decisions, roll dice, and see what happens.

OK, so it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I have a lot of fun with it. It's something I do before I fall asleep, or during lunch at work, just to entertain myself. It has two benefits: One, that I'm refreshing myself on some rules and stuff; and the other, that I get to have some improvisational fun.

And, yes, it IS full of surprises. Look, it's a spontaneous creative exercise combined with random determination of events; you never know what you're going to think up, and you never know what you're going to roll.

Random encounter charts are swell for this. In fact, check this out: there's a document called Travelling Alone which is designed for JUST this sort of thing. It acts as an impartial, randomized GM in that it sets up patron encounters, random encounters, flow of events, etc. It's open for interpretation by the solo player, however, which explains how I used it to play through a story about a guy who was being sought by the police in connection with a murder they couldn't solve (he was the last one seen with the victim) while he was busy being duped by a hotel manager who was using him as a mule to smuggle state secrets to a rival world.

I really like Travelling Alone, but truth be told, you can get by without. Hell, you're the GM; set up whatever situation you want. I once rolled up a T&T rogue, assumed that he was in a plaza full of people, thought up 3 potential theft targets of varying difficulties, and started rolling, picturing the action in my head. The rich girls shopping for silks weren't as easy as they seemed, because there were 3 of them and I decided that would increase the difficulty of his "sneaky-sneaky" rolls.

I kinda didn't see it coming.

Oh, by the way. If you try this out, take notes! Reuse them later in a group game. Who's gonna know?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ten Bucks Well Spent

I try to give praise where it's due, and I try to give it with enthusiasm and sincerity. I prefer, as they say, to accentuate the positive -- to celebrate it, even.

Likewise, I try to be careful with absolutes or grand proclamations; I may do it for obviously hyperbolic purposes, when everyone knows I'm just being enthusiastic and care-free, sure. Yet I don't want to come back and embarrass myself later (not anymore, anyway). Therefore I give a lot of props but I do what I can to weigh them before I give 'em.

With that established --

The Risus Companion is among the best game supplements I have ever purchased, and its GMing advice is possibly the best I've ever read.

I don't care if you play Risus or not; you'd do well to read the Companion yourself. The "Dirty Little Thrills" section alone is worth the price of admission, and even outside of it, everything in the book is useful, somehow, whether you play Risus or not.

And even if you never do, the book will make you laugh, and that's never wasted money.

To every voice that told me the book was worth every penny, I add my own.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Trekkin' With Risus

Long ago, I wrote a little webpage with Star Trek stuff for Risus. (It's not there anymore, but there's still a link for it at Cumberland.) It was kinda ho-hum, I guess, and I don't miss it. Mostly, it made fun of Trek, because at the time, I didn't like it.

Since then, however, I have discovered that classic Trek makes the very toast upon which it rocks; in other words, I have an appreciation for it. In fact, this morning, before work, I watched an episode of the animated series, which I own on DVD. So while I'm not hardcore, I can give Trek its due love.

And I want to do that with some brand new Risus Trek material. Still parody, but a little different this time.

The other night I lay in bed writing up some characters, to see how well I could do it, and I generated these:

Capt. Alejandro J de la Torre
Starship Captain (4), Muy Suave (3), Doesn't...give...up! (3)

Mr. Kybok
Science Officer (4), Highly Logical (3). Alien who doesn't comprehend these strange human idiosyncracies (3)

Dr "Patch" McCrary
Medical Officer (4), Crotchety (3), "Damn aliens!" (3)

Mr. Albert "Limey" Lime
Chief Engineering Officer (4), Miracle Worker (3), Cockney (3)

Mr. Leung Cheung*
Navigator (3), Shirtless kung fu demon (4), Inscrutable (2), Not a ladies' man (1)

Lt. Ahumibe
Communications Officer (3), Stone Fox (3), Fan Dancer (4)

Mr. Leon Prokofiev
Starship Helmsman (4), The good kind of Commie (4), Recurring role on Babylon 5 (2)

Nurse Temple
Nurse (4), Hello, Nurse! [3]

k'eQ m'EH
Klotharn [4]

Beny Scumm
Dodgy Merchant (4)

Cassiopeian Slave Girl
Sexy Chartreuse Chick [5]

* A chinese restaurant that used to be here in town. Ha, ha, ha.

Flash follow-up

This site purports to contain a proposed treatment for the "Flash Gordon" series which, supposedly, Sci Fi rejected. If it's woulda been fun. Check:

Flash and Dale enter Ming’s Dragon Throne Room, where they stand before the villainous MING THE MERCILESS. They watch Ming ruthlessly execute a devoted follower of his Church who is unable to pay his monthly stipend…and then he orders the dead devotee’s new bride to join his already swelling stable of wives.

"FLASH! (BOOM) .... Meh."

I'm usually not real thrilled with Italian food. The ingredients, the common flavors, the theme of it...just not that big of a thrill to me. Just one of those things.

Still, my wife made a quickie home-made pizza last night and it was pretty good. Nothing special, just tasty, hot food when I was hungry.

I enjoyed it more than the new Flash Gordon show on Sci Fi.

Look, I've been wrong before. I was wrong about Battlestar Galactica. I said, "Man, this new BSG looks like butt." But I watched the miniseries anyway, and then the first two episodes, and I thought, "Yeah, OK, I dig this!" And I liked it pretty well for 2 whole seasons. I didn't think I'd like the new Doctor Who, but danged if I miss an episode. And I turned off the first (aired) episode of Firefly after the first commercial...but then I borrowed the DVDs.

That's why I said to myself, "OK, this new Flash Gordon series looks like butt. I'll sit down and watch it, despite all the snore-racious poo I've been reading about it on" So I did; I sat there and I watched it and I laughed at acouple of things and I even said, out loud, "I like the design of that ship" and "I like her eye makeup".


Sci Fi's new Flash Gordon is one of those 're-imaginings' of a once-popular SF property. Sometimes, that's good; sometimes, it's Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes. In this case, however, it's...'s BLAND. Bland, bland, bland. Enough has been 're-imagined' so far from its origin that, frankly, it ought to have just been called something else; the things you think of when you think "Flash Gordon" are woefully absent, replaced with more "modern" ideas:
  1. Ming is a blond guy who is "more a kind of Saddam Hussein".
  2. Flash goes to Mongo not on a rocket ship but through a wormhole, and he can come back and forth.
  3. Mongo is a decaying, thirsty wasteland .
  4. The Hawkmen are not winged guys who fly -- they are "guys that ... follow the way of the hawk ... and are all about birds."
Now...these aren't bad ideas. They're just (to me) antithetical to the whole Flash Gordon vibe. It's like if you said, "Hey, let's re-make Miami Vice but take it out of the 1980's!" or "What if I, Robot had some chase scenes in it?"

Frankly, it felt less like a Flash Gordon show and more like a half-hearted Stargate SG-1 ripoff, and not in a fun way.


That, and all the girls look the same -- skinny. Curves are nice! Boobs have fascinated men for millenia! It's proven!


And then...there's the Mexican truck driver.

Yes, the pilot episode (seemingly abitrarily) features a Mexican truck driver. We know he's Mexican (Hispanic, anyway) because he's listening to salsa music while driving, and then because his name, Fernando, is painted on the door of his truck. The illusion is fragile but acceptable.

Then, he tries to speak Spanish.

Look, I know they shoot this stuff in Vancouver. That's great; it's affordable, itlooks nice, there are facilities, etc.

Producers: HOW HARD IS IT to find someone there who SPEAKS SPANISH to DO SO ON SCREEN or at least PROOF READ THE SCRIPT?! Do they charge exorbitant rates for that kind of thing? Do you have a friend back in LA or New York who grew up speaking Spanish? Can you e-mail them a few lines and have them read them back to you, maybe save it as an .mp3 for coaching? THERE! I SOLVED YOUR PROBLEM! FOR FREE! YOU'RE WELCOME!

But it won't matter. I'm not really interested in watching the show. It's not bad, but it's not what I want.

Plus, in yesterday's mail, I got this:


Friday, August 10, 2007

C&C - "Your Class Almost Entrely Defines You."

Recently, a reader named Stan shared with me, via blog comment, his opinion on Castles & Crusades:
Anonymous said...

C&C is nice but it takes a few steps backwards in my opinion.

I don't like the different XP charts for each class or the lame AD&D multiclassing. I also don't like the near total lack of customization - your class almost entirely defines you.

I'd prefer it over AD&D but it's not quite my thing.


What swings for him, swings for him, but the thing about class defining you...I dunno. I disagree, and want to plead my case. So here's my take on it -- and no offense, Stan, I'm not callin' you out or anything. I just want to elaborate and I felt a new post would suit it fine, as a space for further commentary.

I argue that class abilities are sufficient to define a starting point for a character, and to give said character basic abilities for that archetype. Everything else is so open and customizable as to allow for endless customization and variance.

I present two fighters: Arkosh and Zednat. (Just roll with me.)

Arkosh is a lawful-good, human, 1st-level fighter whose vital stats are: HP 10, AC 13. His primary attributes are Str, Con, Cha. His significant attributes are: Str 15 (+1), Cha 16 (+2). He carries studded leather armor, a longsword (with which he attacks at +1), a dagger and a really nice pair of boots that his uncle Gerald gave him. He has a secondary skill of Woodsman. He is kind of a Boy Scout, strives to do the right thing, and never lies.

Zednat is a chaotic neutral, human, 1st level fighter whose vital stats are: HP 10, AC 13. His primary attributes are: Str, Int, and Wis. His significant attributes are Str 15 (+1) and Wis 8 (-1). He carries studded leather armor, a staff (with which he attacks at +1), a shortbow and a collection of belt buckles. He has a secondary skill of Sailing. He is bad at making decisions but strives to be wiser (in fact he's unaware that he's kind of gullible), and he has an eye for the ladies.
I just wrote those up, too, off the top of my head. That's 2 1st level fighters, who have the following in common:
  • Same hit die;
  • Same Prime from class;
  • Same +1 bonus with 1 weapon;
  • Full HP for their class; and
  • Same armor.
The second two similarities were chosen by me, not the system.

The ability to pick primes lets you define a fighter however you want: sure, one prime goes to Strength, but the other(s)? Why not stick the other prime on Intelligence and make a smart, tactical fighter? Charisma, for a swashbuckler-type -- or an intimidating bully? Wisdom, for a girl who's kind of introspective? Humans, of course, get two more primes to play with -- just like Arkosh and Zednat did.

Thieves have a lot more class abilities, but I advance that the difference between a street urchin who grew up in Lankhmar, where he learned his thieving abilities, and a clever servant girl who taught herself to listen at palace doors for juicy gossip (and sneak around corridors at night in search of it) is merely one of concept, and nothing in the rules requires or prohibits that.

If I'm missing something, I welcome comment!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Zach Houghton is running for ENnies Judge. Go vote for him.

Oh, you want to know why? Well, because I read his posts on The RPG Site and he's never been less than level-headed and truly down with this goofy damn hobby. He gets it. His advice is good, his encouragements sincere and his tenor friendly.

I'd want a guy like that calling the shots on game awards. Wouldn't you?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Castles & Coolness, Apparently

Hoo-HA! Busted out a game of C&C last night. My wife, Anthony and Leaky Pete from work, and also our co-worker Emily and her husband, both of whom are newbs. He didn't play; he just observed.

We rolled up characters in next to no time, pulled the table into place and got to gamin'. We had a snarky fighter (my wife), a cleric of Marena, the hawtsome Valkyrie/Fertility Goddess (Leaky Pete), a half-elven thief (Anthony) and a sorceress who looks like a female version of Jareth from Labyrinth and isn't human (Emily). Classic line-up; good to go.

Starting out in Hawfair Green (Castle Zagyg vol. 1: Yggsburgh) during a springtime livestock fair (!), the players saved a beggar from being whipped by a cattle rancher, gathered info on a nearby abandoned keep stuffed with monsters, and convinced the village Alderman that something ought to be done about said lair what with all that tasty meat walking around that week. I planted a few seeds about anti-elven sentiments elsewhere, and the PCs went off to poke at yonder monsterful keep in the hills. A group of goblins, awating in ambush, had their butts craftily handed to them, and with that we called it a night.

Everyone else digs the rules so far, and Emily had fun. In fact, her husband, who's never gmed before but was always curious, is thinking about playing, too.

And how was it for me?

Well, all night long, I dreamed that I was still running the game.


3 O'Clock High is the best 80's high school movie no one's ever seen, and Franny is a babe.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Duh, Show Notes

  1. Broadsword can be had right here, at RPG Now.
  2. As soon as I suss out how Reaper puts tags on .mp3s, I will put tags on my.mp3s. I just didn't find it last time is all.
  3. I didn't talk much about Castles & Crusades' rules and mechanics, but you can see them yourself with this here FREE QUICKSTART VERSION yaaaay!
  4. Mike really is that weird.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Second Episode With Better Dialogue

Okay, I'm trying to think of something clever but it ain't happenin', and receive the secondest ever episode of I Waste The Buddha With My Podcast.



Special thanks to everyone who encouraged me to keep on podcasting. Sincerely.

IN THIS EPISODE: Castles & Crusades, some whining, gaming with no pants on and a barbarian game.

Then, stop by The RPG Lounge and thank Blue Devil for letting me put this file somewhere. In other words, he's partially to blame.

Why I Like C&C

Well, for one thing, NPC generation is dang easy. Check this out -- I wrote up this NPC at lunch yesterday, in between bites of a Subway club sammich:

Jonar of 7 Fingers (He is a chaotic evil, dwarven, 6th level fighter whose vital statistics are: HP40, AC 18. His prime attributes are: Str, Cha. His significant attributes are: Str 16, Con 17. He is specalized with the warhammer, and attacks with it at +9. He wears chainmail +2 and carries a warhammer, a Helm of Horrors [see below], 3d10 gp, 4d8 gp and 5d20 cp. He has a secondary skill of Bullying.)

Jonar is the leader of a band of raiders who operate out of [nearby hills]. He is a callous and ruthless leader whose sense of responsibility to his men extends no further than his need for their sword-arms. He leads not by example but by fear -- even at 4' 8" he is quite imposing. Wearing the Helm of Horrors, he can create fear in enemy alike, 3/day, as per the spell.

He is husky and solidly-built, with unkempt black hair and a wild, forked beard. His bulbous nose has been broken many times and his teeth filed down to points. He delights in the terror he creates.

There. Mostly description; no feats, no skills, no saves. That's all pretty much encoded in the above. That leaves most of the write-up for description and motivation; we get a sense of who he is, what he looks like and what he's good for in your campaign without having to fiddle with stats.

Oh, and the helm is totally made up on the spot. Yeah, I know, you can do that with any game, but somehow it just seems easier now.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"She dies, you die, everybody dies."

Like most everything else with ganglia in its head, I bought the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Book that Sells Itself. Not only that, but I read it.


Enjoyable for sure, if a bit draggy in the middle. Worth the wait...

...and you know there's a "but".

BUT, the epilogue is weak, unsatisfying, feels tacked-on and frankly ends with the lamest 2 lines the woman has (probably) written since high school. Either she should've dropped the epilogue at all or, better yet, made it more robust, with more answers, more wrap-up. It's kind of sucky when you get to care about some dude and his made-up magic world and then you don't get any idea as to what actually happens to it after, you know, everything gets busted up.

Ah, well. Learn from the mistakes of others, eh?

Podcast update!

A new episode is done.

It just needs to be converted to .mp3, and for that I need a .dll file that Reaper keeps asking for.

Tonight, I make with the secondest episode EVAR.