Thursday, January 31, 2008

Leaves From the Inn Of the Dumb Setting

Here's some more of my recent dumbass creative output:

High up in the Grunting Hills (q.v.) stands this castle whose sturdy Formica walls are said to be unscalable. Upon its awesome Plasticine Throne sits La Dama Maria Juana Catalina Inés Chancluda Y Greñuda del Nombre Que Sigue Y Sigue Aviones Trenes Y Automóviles Basta De Esto Ya (q.v.), a foreigner with thoughts of conquest. She is guarded by a small army of warrior Mariachis who blindly and questioningly follow her every command.

Deep within the catacombs beneath Castle Botox, it is said there springd from the earth an enchanted fountain; and from this fountain, whispers say, flows a rich, creamy Magic Gravy (q.v.) which, imbibed, gives one great powers...

One of four taverns in Drunkard's Hollow (q.v.), The Buxom Strumpet is a mid-class dive in the center of town. It is decorated in a "rustic boudoir" style, with lots of red lampshades and bearskin rugs and junk like that. The hooch is passable (for hooch, anyway), and there's plenty of it.

There is a buxom strumpet to be found here -- a wooden statue, her peeling paint worn off by time and drunken groping. She doesn't move.

If I thought I could stick to a plan, then yes, this would be a free pdf some day.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More High Dumbness

Here's an area map. I colored it, but didn't do much to clean it up. If you can read it, you're trying real hard.

The village of Maypole is based around the video for "Safety Dance". The Fortress of the Unknown Heroes is a ruined keep once held by a trio of adventurers whose identities are lost and up to the individual GM to decide, but I'm leaning towards Chrissy, Jack and Janet from "Three's Company". The Tor of Haunted Witches is a rock used by a coven of witches named Phyllis, Rosmerta and Levitra, who are haunted by the ghosts of their dead familiars -- a poodle, a chihuahua and a turtle. I don't know what The Glade of Unambiguous Chaos is, I rolled that name at random. Yes, that's right -- that little mushroom is labeled "Smoorph Village". I have my reasons.

Oh, and the elder of Pork is named Arnold Ziffel. Ha ha ha.

EDIT: The map scale is 1 hex = 2 miles. Ay, menso!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wilderlands Of High Dumbness

So help me, I'm really into developing this right now.

A pair of excerpts from the Gazeteer:

Castle Nummknutts

Built in YD 1578, the domed Castle Nummknutts crouches like a bloated squirrel upon the hunched backs of the Hills of Distress and Woe (q.v.). It is said to be a place of weird chambers and strange hallways, not to mention bizarre rooms, odd parlors, peculiar closets and unusual privies. Formerly the home of Lord Bjorn the Fond-Of-Weirdness, this castle has been abandoned since his demise in a freak accident. No one has set foot in this haunted fortress since YD least, no one who has done so -- and lived! BWA HA HA HA HA HA!

The People

The people of the Lands of the Wilderlands of high Dumbness are largely an unimpressive and uninteresting lot, with the average IQ being outpaced by the average shoe size and common pastimes running towards cow-tipping, casual fisticuffs and recreational drunkenness. They build their villages and take to their professions and live their dull little lives, getting in the way of dashing adventurers and other folks whose lives are less pointless.

I don't know why, but when I work on something serious, I'm just kinda 'meh'. But when it's time to get dumb...

Monday, January 28, 2008

RISUS Would Make A Great "Stargate: SG-1" Rules Set

When I say these words, my wife does not believe me.

She's the main "Stargate: SG-1" fan in our home, which is not to say that I don't like it; I like it bunches. Hell, I saw the movie about 5 times the first month it was out. It's just that I just don't like it as much as she does. Then again, to say "I don't like Stargate: SG-1 as much as my wife does" is kind of like a priest saying, "I'm not as Catholic as The Pope."

Anyway, the other day I had the thought in question, and after mulling it over a bit, I pitched it to my wife. "Why?" she replied, frowning and twisting her lip, making what you might call "Bwuh...?" face. I think it's because Risus lends itself very well to a comedy game, and she doesn't see it as a match for a...well, SG-1 isn't totally serious, but you get the idea.

I, however, think it's a great fit.

"While it is essentially a Universal Comedy System," author S. John Ross says at the beginning of Risus, "it works just as well for serious play (if you insist!)."

Behold now as I insist. Lo, my list of


It's a fast-moving task resolution system which facilitates a swift pace. Comedy depends on timing; so does action. Risus' rules are light enough to be done with quickly, and definitive enough to give solid results with as much definition and detail as a good GM really needs.

On the show, Jaffa are rarely so much a threat as they are an obstacle. The "Grunt-Squad" rules in Risus are tailor-made for the things that Jaffa do in a story, which is, basically, get killed off bit-by-bit or, if you're not lucky, capture you. Furthermore, if it's not a whole ton of 'em that needs blown away but rather just a couple of 'em, you can just roll against a straight Target Number to smoke their snake-bellied asses.

(A Quick Aside: If you have your freebie copy of Risus but not the Companion, you are really, really missing out. It's useful beyond Risus, and the "What The Heck Kind Of Conflict Is This?" Flowchart on p. 49 will -I repeat, will- take your understanding of the game to the freaking limit.)

This point breaks down into two parts: first off, you can scoot the TN scale down a little bit to reflect the general badassity of the average SG team member. Second, it's not hard at ALL to create a Decorated Air Force Pilot With A Past (4) or a Smarty-Pants Archaeology Professor (3). See? I just did it.

Oh, they're fun all right. But Risus's "Proper Tools" rule assumes that you have whatever you need in order to do what you do with your cliché, and has built-in mechanics for those cases when you don't. If you've seen the show enough, you know what those things are. Furthermore, it's not real hard to differentiate mechanically between a pistol, a P90, and a big-ass staff cannon.

For whacking a Jaffa, say, a P90 is considered a Proper Tool. You roll your appropriate cliché and that's that. A pistol is also proper, but as everyone knows, a little less effective; maybe you up the TN to kill him. A big-ass staff cannon, however, is more than proper; that's worth an extra die, if you ask me.


I think my point is made.

Okay, I hafta go. My wife wants to make a character...

Journey To The Center Of That Show I Don't Watch

It's not Rick Schroeder's fault.

Last night, my wife and I watched a made-for-TV movie called Journey to the Center of the Earth. It was an "RHI Weekend Movie", a distinction which, at the time, seemed innocent enough but which I've come to learn has more sinister connotations. We kept seeing promos for it, so of course we wanted to watch it because, dude -- dinosaurs. Right? I mean, sure, no Nazis, but...c'mon.

Now...I will admit to never having read Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. However, I know enough about it to know that its protagonist is NOT a prize-fighting American scientist, nor does he get hired by a wealthy heiress to help her track down her missing husband in Alaska, nor is there a friendly Russian dude in it, NOR does it mostly concern some sort of tribal rivalry subplot centered around some Native American dudes and Thomas and the Magic Railroad's Peter Fonda in "I Am These Native People's God" mode.

In other words, why the hell did the film's producers call it Journey To The Center Of The Earth, and mention Jules Verne in the credits, when it is clearly NOT really based on Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth?

Oh, ho ho ho ho-HO. I'll tell you why.

Because the film's producers are Robert Halmi, Sr. and Robert Halmi, Jr. (the "RH" in "RHI"), who are also the producers of Sci-Fi Channel's epic mis-interpreted f***-up known shamelessly as "Flash Gordon".

I don't watch that show, so when I saw their names on the credits to Journey, the red flag did not go up and scream its warning in my face.

The fact that it's barely an adaptation is forgivable; it should've been called something else, just like I, Robot with Will Smith should've been called something else*, but what's double-plus unforgivable about this flick is the utter, bald-faced ineptitude with which it was made.

Oh! You want an example to back up my accusation? Very well: What's the first and, arguably, the biggest, most-important reveal in a story like this? Obviously, that big reveal is in the "Holy Crap, There's A Whole 'Nother World Down Here!" moment. That's the Wow Button; you press that. In this film, The Big Reveal is handled like this:

The principals walk out of a cave.

Oh, there's some gasping on their part, I think, followed by scientific assertions of just WTF, seriously. But the scene has all the dramatic weight and momentum of "Hey, I found a quarter in my pocket".


Oh, yes, speaking of pathos: there are, indeed dinosaurs. Actually, there are two: some flying, feathered dinos ("There's a theory that modern birds are descended from flying dinosaurs", Professor Rick Schroeder asserts, citing a theory that probably wasn't around in the period in which the film is set), and a plesiosaur ("One of the most dangerous creatures that ever lived!" he explains, which, you know, might be accurate on account of it having been a carnivore), which attacks the PCs' -- I mean, the protagonists' raft.

That's it. The other denizens of Vancouver, British Col- er, the Earth's center are the aforementioned Native American dudes. That's cool, it makes sense that they're there, but...hello? Señores Halmi? Journey to the Center of the M-Fing Earth?



Truth to tell, the film's not a complete and total waste. No, it it serves a purpose, and it is of great use to anyone getting ready to run, say, a game of Hollow Earth Expedition:

Watch this flick.

Then, at the table, don't do that.

* I suggest "Will Smith vs. Some Robots". By no means an elegant title, but seriously -- what else do you need to see the flick?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What Would Journey Do?

OH! Oh, ho ho ho...! HA!

Thanks to Katertot, and by extension our Dear Mutual Good Friend Errn, I have just learned about The Holy Shrine Of Journey.


Here in the HSOJ, we declare Pleasure as the Inalienable Right of the Journey of Life. Here-by and hence-forth, we proclaim:

  1. Being happy is the Primordial Good.
  2. Making people happy is the Primordial Act Of Good.

Therefore, Journey are the Primordial Beings of Good. Ye Shalt Have No Other Bands Before Them. Or Else.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Star Frontiers And "Creative Refereeing"

You've heard about Star Frontiers Digitally Remastered, right? The Evil DM mentioned it some time back, and when I looked it over I was quite impressed by what Bill Logan has done to put Star Frontiers back into gamers' hands.

Chiefly I'm impressed by The Star Frontiersman -- a free 'zine dedicated to SF. This thing is bitchin' rad -- full of adventures, races, equipstuff, locations, artwork and items of interest to anyone running a science fiction game, period. Heck, there was even a one-page feature with some collected science fiction artwork for GM inspiration. It makes for damn good RPG support. HOW damn good? Well, I've never played Star Frontiers, but this stuff makes me want to.

The 'zine is up to issue #7. I was perooooooosing* it last night, and I came upon an article of special interest to me: "Creative Refereeing" By Brian Conway. (Go download it, it's free.) It's an article about adventure design and creation, and we know how I feel about that. I printed the article pages, read 'em, and brought 'em to work to play with.

The article details the author's process for putting together an adventure, by starting from a basic idea and fleshing out by asking and answering questions. He drops in some techniques for plotting backwards, for using red herrings, and for avoiding linearity. His process is similar to Ye Olde Adventure Funnel, not surprisingly, because brainstorming and fleshing out just makes sense.

Conway, however, does things a bit differently. The first thing I noticed was that he suggests starting not with a simple goal like I do but with a broad "treatment" (movie-style!) of your adventure, which you then poke and prod at to give it more definition. Solid advice, good stuff. I've been trying it, as I said, and I like it.

The biggest thing on which he and I diverge is on preparation: Conway praises it, and encourages you (the GM) to prepare your plot as much as you can. I quote:

Ultimately, it comes down to preparation. You may even be required to "wing it" to a degree. But a good referee improvises things like combat tactics and conversations with shopkeepers and such. Your preparation will limit your improvisation to a minimum. If you find yourself improvising frequently, particularly on important plot points, then you have not prepared well enough. While this is not the end of the world (or the galaxy), it is a mistake you should not repeat.

I, on the other hand, am all about having just enough to wing it, and then rushing in like a pantsless clown forced to entertain Queen Elizabeth at gunpoint.

The thing is, I don't really disagree with him. I think he makes perfect sense, honestly. On the other hand -and maybe this is just my wacky spirit-, I'm much more willing to change my plot at the drop of a hat; I don't wanna make a habitof it, but I wonder if Conway means to advise you to be as stuck to your guns as he comes across.

He has a bit of GM advice specific to SF's rules and setting, and the advice is good. The guy knows what he's doing, and I'm officially adding this article to my bag of tricks.

The test for me, however, is to avoid the temptation to backlslide into an over-preparatory, self-demanding perfectionist whose hat's too far down his head to see -- or, as it were, whose pants are too tight to boogie.

So! Star Frontiers Digitally Remastered. Go, scope, dig .

*Yes, that's how I say it. Wanna fight?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Apparently, Jim Henson's Hand Is Up My Butt

I took one'a them on-line personality quizzes, see?

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

So so we're clear, I have the utmost respect for Mr Henson's work, all of it, and I miss him.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mike Vs. Rotwang! In The World Series Of Nerds

Naturally, Mike had to go and give me grief about my "She-Ra" post. I set the porker straight by pointing out that I was talking about the She-Ra show AND Larry DiTillio.

He replied, and I quote,

And how does one play Call of Cthulu?
"The world is being devoured by an infinitely horrific entity larger than anything you can imagine. You can roll a d6 if you want to, but the fact is that no matter what number comes up, you will die in the ensuing cataclysm. Horribly. Want a Surge?"

Oh, ha ha, Mike. Yeah, I'd never heard that one before.

So I fired this back at his punk ass, because he had it coming:

Ha ha ha. The Oldest Straw Man In The Book.
That's not how you play Cthulhu, yo. A good Cthulhu game is all about the investigation -- the building of dread, of tension, of the twisting of What You Know into What You Wish You Could Forget.
Sure, cosmic horror is built on the precept that we are alone in a cold, uncaring universe beyond our understanding control...but what makes that scary is that we, humans, are going to try to understand it and control it anyway. This of course explains and motivates the actions of your PCs and of their enemies. The ultimate conclusion may be a foregone one, but what you can do in the moment is a little triumph -or failure- all your own.
And that's heroic, and THAT is how you play Call of Cthulhu.

I think the winner is clear, here. I mean, I like Mike, but the kid's a chump.

"I Fought A Barber Man!"

First, please dig this crazy video.

Now...what's that guy doing? Or, more importantly -- what is he not doing?

Well, he's not hunting werewolves, that's for damn sure.

Once again it falls upon me to save the D6 Adventure-playing world from lycanthropes near and far.

Werewolf-Hunting Bollywood Star

REF 3D+1 acrobatics 3D+2, dodge 4D, melee combat 4D, brawling 3D+2, dancing 4D+1
COO 2D+2 marksmanship 3D
PHY 3D stamina 3D+2
PRE 3D+1 charm 4D, persuasion 3D+2, disguise 3D+2
KNO 2D+1 scholar: werewolves 4D+1, languages 2D+2
PER 3D+1 tracking: werewolves 4D+1

ADS/DISADS: Fame (R1): Known Bollywood Star; Skill Bonus (1) - Acting: +1 to charm, con, disguise; Devotion (R2): Kill all werewolves!

Char. Pts. 5, Fate Pts. 1, PHY Damage 1D Move 10m

Equipment: Werewolf-hunting kit, sunglasses, cool jacket

Two things have long set Benny Lava apart: his natural charm and flexibility, and the fact that his family was slaughtered by werewolves. Vowing revenge and working with the hand he's been dealt, Benny has parlayed his charisma and physique into a successful entertainment career, and has trained himself to be a werewolf-killing machine.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"For The Honor Of R'lyeh!"

You know Larry DiTillio, right?

Okay, maybe not personally. But if you're a big nerd, you might know that Larry DiTillio has written a lot of TV. Babylon 5 stands out, and rightly so, but check this -- he's also written a lot of cartoons.

Seems dude had a stint with Filmation back in the day (by which I mean "in the 1980s"), for one, so chances are, if you watched He-Man or She-Ra or Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, you might've seen his name in the opening title screen.

But you're reading this and thinking, "So what". Chill, baby, I'm on the way. Just a quick trip through Tangentsville:

For Xmas, we bought my daughter a She-Ra DVD set. It's a"best of" type thing, with the movie on one disc and 5 fan-fave episodes on the other. She's enjoying it, and we're glad.

Daddy is glad that the second disc has a big ol' documentary about the show, because Daddy (me) is (am) a goober for that stuff. I love to look at these people talking -usually quite humbly, in the case of Filmation people- about working on whatever movie or show the DVD features. I especially enjoy the Filmation staff interviews reason that I can fathom. I just kinda do. They're neat.

So there I am, watching the documentary, and PING! There's J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 don't you know, and he's talking about how he and Larry DiTillio were working on creating She-Ra. And Straczynski says (and I paraphrase): "Larry brought a role-play gamer's sensibility to the character".

Huh-whaaaa'? She-Ra, RPGs, come again?

A bit of a shock -- unless you are a big nerd who knows that Larry DiTillio, the man who gave She-Ra her name, incidentally, is also the author of Masks of Nyarlathotep for Call Of Cthulhu.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Went To A Movie Yesterday.

Sweeny Todd joins a small and exclusive set of films, consisting previously of only Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe's War, that I have walked out of.

Usually I would explain myself, but I don't think it deserves any more words past "annoying".

Happy New Year!