Saturday, February 23, 2008

Holy Writ

I thought this was funny, so I'm re-posting it from a post I wrote on The RPG Site. Now, you're going to read it.

So it came to pass that Dr Rotwang! sought to know what The Goddess Eris thought of using D6 vs. d20 for playing Star Wars. Thus he fasted for 5 weeks and partook of no hot dog buns, and upon the last day of his fasting, he traveled to the holiest place in Hoosierville, which is in his closet, where the ties are kept.

"Goddess!" he said to the tie rack. "I have come to you in search of an answer. I prefer using D6 for Star Wars, but many of my fellows are seduced by the d20 version. I have fasted for 5 days! I mean, weeks! Please," he continued, "if I am wrong, send me a sign!"

He stood and waited for a while. No answer came.

"Screw it," he said, "I'll do whatever I want to." He walked out of the bedroom, past the cat, and into the living room, where his D6 stuff resides.

Thus he was enlightened.

-- The Horsepuckey Chronicles of Rotwang!, Book II Part 9, p. 12, next to the scribbled picture of a chick in fishnets

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Cleft of Forgotten Swords

You wanna know why I game?

It's because of the sheer joy I can derive from simple, simple things. Check this out:

The other night, I was running some sandbox-style C&C for my wife. She was in a forest, headed for some known ruins, and chanced upon some rangers, whom I made up on the spot -- a chipper, helpful elf lass and her surly hobling companion. I rolled up names for the two, and she asked them which way it was to the ruins.

"About a mile-and-a-half west of here," said Gartheniel, chaotic-good female elf ranger level 2. "Past the big boulders and -- "

I paused. I wanted some sort of local landmark, but didn't know what. Knowing that the terrain is uneven and hilly (like Brown County, IN, just north of here), I decided it'd be a a ravine or something.

"What's another word for 'ravine'?"

"Ummm...crevice," she offered. "Canyon...?"

"Cleft!" I said. "The Cleft of..." Then I reached for the Risus Companion, and its table of random fantasy place-names. Shooka-shooka. "Gartheniel says, 'About a mile-and-a-half west of here, past the big boulders and The Cleft of Forgotten Swords. Do you know why it's called that?' " That's a dang helpful elf.

At this point I told her what Gartheniel knew: That a long time ago, the elves of the Greywood Forest were in a war with invading monstrous humanoids. The elves were reduced to hit-and-run, guerilla tactics. One particular elf captain sent some of his men to the cleft, to store some magic swords there -- a hidden weapons cache. When the elven unit was called to action for an impromptu raid, they forgot to go back and get the swords. Consequently, the battle and then the war was lost.

Gartheniel then finished by saying, "Most of the swords have since been recovered...except for one."

Thanks to a combination of random rolls, pure gall and desperation, I suddenly had an interesting adventure location, a bit of local history and a quest suitable for a low-level character (go get yourself a magic sword!).

She hasn't been there yet (it's a 90' drop straight down into the ground and she has no rope), but she'll be back when she's prepared.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love this stupid hobby.

Dear Cold Weather

Did you miss the memo? We have refrigerators now. In other words, we have conquered your ass with science.


Dr Rotwang!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tunnels & Trolls, Why Not?

Every now and again I like to crack this guy open, usually for no damn good reason, which I often find is the best reason; go make sense of that (I'll wait here). It's often a great reminder of how simple, straightforward and pantsless gaming can be; T&T is fairly easy to learn, easy to run, malleable in its rules and explicitly welcoming of silliness.

T&T is meant to be fun.

I hauled it out the other night not because I needed to be reminded of these things but because I saw it sitting on my self and said, in my dumb-guy voice, "Oh, wow, T&T." Specifically, I pulled out the 30th Anniversary Edition pictured to the left, but I have the 5th edition too. No, that's not really salient, is it.

Anyway, it's fun to goof with this game because, as I said, it welcomes you to goof with it. It's so wide-open as to beg for creativity and interpretation on your part -- kind of a sword-and-sorcery Traveller, really, in that sense.

I especially like its approach to monsters. Y'see, in T&T, monster have one stat -- Monster Rating (MR). It can range from 1 (if you feel like not challenging anyone) to...uh...well, as high as you want it to be. From this number, the monster's combat stats and hit points are figured; it's all-in-one. Nowhere does it say you can't give a particular monster a special attack, or trait, or blah blah blah, so...if you want to, you go right ahead and do that.

So let's say that I have a MR 15, uh...let's say it's a crab. Yeah, sure, it's a big yellow crab as big around as a card table, and it has big blue pincers why not. It smells vaguely of the sea and of vaseline (?!), and it inhabits the tide pools, sea-caves and beaches of...uh...the Ragged Coast. Sure.

Let's call it a Queen Crab, if for no other reason than the name has the word "crab" in it and "king crab" was taken. Maybe it has pink feet, look like slippers.'s where a hassle might occur. A Queen Crab has MR 15, right? is it different from any other critter with MR15? Say, a MR 15 Thunder-goat, perhaps. Or a MR 15 Goblin. Mechanically, they're all the same -- they roll 2 dice and add 7. Where's the fun in that?!

A-HA! The fun is in the fact that T&T combat, like everything else in T&T, invites improvisation and storytelling. Combat rounds in this game aren't blow-by-blow; one side rolls its combat dice, the other side rolls its combat dice, totals are compared and the loser takes the difference in damage; players and GM retroactively narrate the events of the fight. What is so simple and straightforward in theory ends up being rich and nuanced in practice, as players and GM describe the fight in a much detail as they like, taking into account, say, the differences between fighting a thing with snapping pincers and one with explosive horns (what'd you think a Thunder-goat was, anyway?).

Come to that, the "Saving Roll" (read "attribute/skill checks") rules for T&T facilitate crazy combat tricks with which to spice up your fights. Want to get a few free hits on that Queen Crab by flipping it over with your foot and wailing on its under-carapace? Make a SR on Strength! Wanna draw the Goblin leader away from the pack so the party's wizard can cast Freeze Please on him? You can make a Dexterity SR to herd him away as you're fighting, make a Charisma SR to call him out with insults, make an Intelligence SR to observe and time the rythm of his attacks...whatever.

Now the differences between a crab and a goblin, as foes, regardless of their mechanical similarities, come clear.

Oh, my, yes.

Oh. And if you ever start looking at T&T and say, "Hey! How'm I supposed to make a cool character with only...what, four, five classes?", consider the brilliant but jaw-droppingly simple concept of talents, introduced in the 30th Anniversary Edition. Let's just say that, the other night, I created an Elf Barbarian (at my wife's suggestion) simply by rolling up an elf warrior and giving him the "Barbarian Might" talent. he's...not real good at it, since I made it Strength-based and his Strength is only an 8, but...well...

...hey, he'd be fun to play.

If you want some ideas of how loco you can get with this thing, do yourself a favor and check out The Hobgoblin's Tavern and The Tunnels & Trolls Archive -- my favorite bits therein are the magic items at the Tavern (check out the 'Yankee Rose' sword) and the combat rules at the archive, where you can find a nice, fast, logical system for called shots.

Then, go check out Eposic's T&T Section, where there's much to see -- and where you, too, can fight the Ugh Monster.

...Wow! I bloggered!

My Wife Pulls A Rabbit Out Of Her Hat (Again)

Just about...oh, twice a year, we drive up from Hoosierville-A to The Sovereign City Of Greenwood, which may or may not be a suburb of Indianadapolis or somesuch, but which either way has some cooler shopping options than we do here. Mainly, we like to hit up the Half-Price Books, Toys 'R' Us and Comic Carnival; we have a comics shop here (actually there are two) but Comic Carnival deals in all-around geekchandise a little moreso than the locals do.

Sometimes I get lucky and score a sweet find in one of those shops; I've come home with a copy of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia before, or the 30th anniversary T&T for instance. Then again, sometimes I find dingus, and on our last trip, which we took this Saturday, I was gettin' pretty bummed because it was turning out to be one of those dingus trips.

Oh, sure, I found the AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide and the 2nd Ed. Fighter's Handbook at HPB, but there was no real wow in that; those are common. TRU didn't yield the Concept Han Solo fig we've been looking for, either, so...oh, well.

Comic Carnival didn't have the collected Buckaroo Banzai: Return of the Screw TPB I was hoping for, and their gaming section is...umn...a D&D 3.x section. I sighed, put a Hellboy and a BPRD TPBs in my hand, and went to look at the boardgames, up at the front. Just, you know, in case.

They had a copy of Arkham Horror, but it was a little steep at the moment; there was a copy of the Star Munchkin RPG, but I can do stupid just fine by myself and anyway, you know, d20. Crestfallen, I just kind of stared.

Then I heard my wife say, and I quote,

"There's a Bullwinkle And Rocky Role-Playing Party Game."

My head snapped around with a trans-sonic crack. I followed her outstretched finger to a point under a table, where several vintage board games were, effectively, hidden -- and sure enough, there it was.

Unopened. Still in the shrinkwrap.

Ten bucks.

You bet your sweet bippy, I did.

ZING! Man...15 years ago I was at Universal Studios in Florida and I walked right by a towering display of those things, but owing to a lack of funds or time or brains I passed it up, and my foot's been stuck to my butt ever since.

It's...not in the shrinkwrap anymore.

I haven't read the whole thing, but I can tell you this: it comes with story-building cards (for a gameplay option which resembles Atlas Games' totally awesome Once Upon A Time...), spinners instead of dice, and hand-puppets. Warren Spector's name is on it and it has little stand-up character sheets with illos on front and 'powers' on the back. The Narrator, who is like a GM, gets a standup with an announcer's microphone on it.


No, I haven't played it yet. Last night we had Leaky Pete over to make some Star Wars characters, because we're gonna play some of that. But my copy of Bullwinkle And Rocky Role-Playing Party Game is sitting next to my bed, and no offense to Mr. Edgar Rice Burroughs but A Princess Of Mars is on pause for the time being while I read through this garish, ridiculous little gem.

Again, I say: ACES.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

A few months ago, fellow blogger and good friend Meraud (aka T3H PHILXXORZ!1!!!) and his wife Erin gave me, as a gift, a copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke -- the book you see here on the right. He and his lovely wife, both of whom can read, recommended the book to me and gave it to me with love and good wishes.

It'd be really funny if, at this point, I could say, "Those dirty rats!" or something, and then complain about the book being terrible and how it kicked my cat and blah blah blah, but....

This book is wonderful. I finally finished it last night and this book is wonderful.

A fantasy novel of English magic as written by Jane Austen -- a quick and easy way of describing it, but one that hardly does it justice. A compelling plot, interesting characters, the best villains I've read in years and an utterly immersive atmosphere make for a read that is by turns awe-inspiring, frightening, charming, thought-provoking, hilarious and puzzling.

Now, dig this:


It's long; make time for it. It took me months, but then again I'm a slow reader -- not in the sense of, you know, mouthing the words as I read them but in that I pick up and put down and get distracted and come back and devour and fall asleep and hafta go to work and so on. Really I would've liked to have read it all in one week like Erin did, but...I am not the literature-consuming machine that my dear friend is. (However, during a break from Strange & Norrell, I read a Destroyer novel.)

An utterly gratifying book, although it ends with some loose ends. Dangit.

Oh, and there's a second book, The Ladies Of Grace Adieu, which is not a sequel but a collection of short stories set in the same world.

Bookstore ahoy.

If you loved Harry Potter, you will rip off your clothes and do the lambada with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Go read.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Mysterious Synergy

Okay, I'm back, and with a little more time to write.

So...for some reason, it occurred to me that D6 Fantasy might make a great system for running Spelljammer. I was in the shower at the time, which may help explain it but probably doesn't.

Ever notice how, sometimes, a game system will just leap out at you as a great option for a given setting, or type of game? I mean, out of all the choices you might have, one game above all the others will seem an ideal match to a given setting. For instance, you can hold up Forgotten Realms and say to yourself, "Well, I can run this with any D&D edition or variant, or Fudge, or HERO or GURPS or D6 or Rolemaster, really. But for some reason, I really want to use Rolemaster...!"

I do this a lot. I do not know why it happens.

It all points squarely at the subjectivity of enjoyment; that's the only reason I can give. Maybe it's just whim. But maybe, just maybe, it's alchemical -- a weird kind of intuitive, trans-conscious sense of what will add up to be greater than the sum of its parts.

And remember - this is all subjective. There is no formula; it just swings for you. I already had lots of fun playing Spelljammer using Fudge; it worked out very well. I just know that I have a feel for what a D6 Spelljammer game will be like for my players and myself, and it feels right.


By the way. If you read the title of this post and thought of Jem, give yourself 5 points. If you thought of Larry Fast, give yourself 20. If you thought of both, either get out of my head or pay rent.

Two Great Tastes That Will Probably Taste Great Together

Not much time to write, here, but let's get this one out there while I'm still thinking about it:



Good GODDESS, I love taking a shower.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Game Ideas From Nowhere!

I love the creative process.

For no damn good reason, I thought of a premise for a SF game, today. I put pen to paper and here's what I wrote:

The planets of the Solar System are colonized. A single, monolithic mining and development consortium has control of the outer planets; Earth is impoverished, as all the money is out past the asteroids. A mining and development consortium holds a political?/social?/religious? grudge against Earth and Mars and will not supply them, will not trade with them. Diplomatic efforts are futile; emigrants are turned away; military force is useless (Earth & Mars simply don't have the muscle for it). The Inner Planets are filling up and their economy is slowing down.

Something must be done, but what? Piracy? Guerilla warfare? Inciting revolt? Social/Political subversion?

a. RELIGIOUS REASONS - Maybe the Outworlders (those folks past Mars) are a very isolationist, maybe even Puritan sect; maybe they're led by a charismatic prophet, like the Mormons were*; maybe they think that salvation/the Messiah/Ascension/whatever is Out There, and that it's not for unbelievers?

b. POLITICAL/SOCIAL - Maybe they're Communists/Socialists? Hippies? Environmentalists?

c. POLITICAL ONLY - Libertarians? Maybe they're hardline conservatives, maybe they're Monarchists. Maybe they founded a weird kind of corporate monarchy out there and decided, for ideological reasons, to close off their borders?

d. SOCIAL ONLY - Maybe the Outworlders have some sort of social model that they feel must stay pure and untainted to work. Maybe they're kind of like France, trying to keep their society/culture THEIRS and uninfluenced by ayone else? Or maybe they're bio-engineered transhumans looking to distance themselves from their roots?

Definitely swashbuckly, space-pulp adventure. Maybe not with finned rocketships and so on, but definitely dramatic and zoomy. Maybe like Star Wars, but no Force, no mysticism -- just the space adventure aspects.

That's all I have so far, and I don't think it's any great shakes or anything. I'm just amazed that, by the simple act of writing stuff down as you think of it, you can generate so much (even between calls at work) to work with, turn, polish, change, re-arrange and otherwise goof around with.

I never get tired of it.

Image totally swiped from Kevin's Starship Gallery, by the way.

*I dunno much about the Mormons; I'm just guessing that their leader must have been a likable dude, is all.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

And The Answer Is: Because I Am Stupid And Lazy

I can do goofy, cartoon-type voices. I do it for fun, but I have a niggling feeling that I may actually be good at it.

Like, get-paid-for-it good.

It's a hard gig to get, cartoon voice-overs. It seems there's a small group of 'em, and let me tell you, they are NOT sitting on their couches waiting for a gig. Get me?

Having a connection in the industry, I suspect, would give one a damn good leg up on getting oneself a job in voice acting.


...My cousin, with whom I have always been buddies, is the producer of one of Disney's animated TV shows.

Dear Michael %^%&ing Bay:

I'm up here in the *&#$@ing breakroom right now, &#^ing eating my lunch, and The Rock is on. This movie is so &%^*&&** %$#$@#$! It's full of cussing and shooting and dudes being macho and *&!@. I think I'm gonna ^&#@$ myself from watching it.



PS: Poop!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Things I Just Don't Understand

I'd like to take a quick break to talk, if I may, about


And these are some of them:

Walk into Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Target...any place that sells DVDs. Go in and look at all the TV series that you can buy collected on disc. What do you see? You see The Greatest American Hero, Miami Vice, Cheers, even Voyagers!.'s not like there's no 80's TV nostalgia market.

Wither Square Pegs?

If you're not familiar with it, Square Pegs may not only be the most accurate high school show ever, it was also chock full of New Wave music. It had clever and very quotable dialog, charming characters and a guest appearance by DEVO (at a bat mitzvah, no less). It aired on CBS back in '82-'83. It only lasted 1 season and was considered a failure, but it has a fan base. A fan base who would, you know, pay for a DVD set.

I can only guess that there's some sort of music rights issue keeping it off my shelf; as I mentioned, there was New Wave music positively freaking dripping out of this th-- no, wait, New Wave radiates. Anyway, it's probably that. But there's money to be made from settling it all up, so...I DON'T GET IT!

While you're ou looking at the DVDs like I told you to, look for 70's/80s cartoon sets. Dungeons & Dragons, The Adventures Of Flash Gordon, He-Man, She-Ra, even the French He-Man series -- you can get 'em, no sweat. That's not resentment, now, you understand.

No, it's the same thing as before: no sense is getting made. Market? Check! Precedent? Check! DVD that I can buy?


...dingus. I DON'T GET IT!

You know what I'm taking about? Listen to Willow, Enemy At The Gates and Troy. THEY ALL HAVE THAT LITTLE "NUH-NUH NAAH NUUUUUUUhhhhh...!" thing in 'em. OVER and OVER and OVER again, to the point that the score is just "NUH-NUH NAAH NUUUUUUUuhhhhhhhh...!" with somethin' else tacked onto it. He gets paid for this. I DON'T GET IT!

I'm done. Thank you.