Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gencon SF RPG Roundup!

Hokay, chums! I went to Gencon and got stung by a bee on the way back. No, really! We were going down Lick Creek Rd in Morgantown, doing 45. I had my window down and I was reading Starblazer Adventures when all of a sudden something went SPLEKT! on my temple. I reached up and pulled off something that felt all buggy; on my second go I pulled back a stinger. Sure enough, there was a little pinhole on my face and the pain started. Weird, huh?

Anyway, I bought two SF games at Gencon. I haven't plunged into them absolutely, but I do have some very strong impressions of them. Would you like to know more?

Hey, let's start with Stablazer Adventures. DISCLAIMER: I contributed, in a roundabout way, to this book. This thing is HUGE. We're talking 600+ pages of FATE-based space opera adventure. It's extremely flexible, and it has plenty of ready-made stuff for you to go get into trouble with.

That said, I have some problems with it.

Well...maybe not problems. Just some headscratchy stuff. Starblazer, being a FATE game, uses Aspects -- brief descriptors that can be applied to just baout anything. Characters, places, equipment, even scenes can have Aspects. For example, your ship could have the Aspect "She'll do point five past lightspeed", while your character can have the Aspect "Never tell me the odds!" and a particularly dangerous scene can have the "I don't know...I've got a bad feeling about this..." Aspect. PCs have these assigned to them during chracter creation, which is done in Phases of life. Clever, and not really the problem.

The problem is in the mechanical applications of Aspects. The basic mechanic is this: if you are aware of an Aspect, you can "tag" it (at the cost of a Fate Point, a metagame resource like everything else called a 'fate point') and get an in-game bonus. For instance, if you, the PC, figure out that Lord Brasso of Mujibur IV is sensitive about his height, you can "tag" that Aspect to get..I dunno, say a +2 to intimidate him. So far that makes sense, but it's about to get weirder.

If you, the PC, are the cause of an Aspect that's applied to a character/thing/scene, then you get to "tag" it for free -- but everyone else who wants to "tag" it has to pay up. An example given in the book is that you are being pursued by bad guys, so you overturn a barrel of oil in their path. Now the floor has the "Slippery" Aspect, and you can use that for a bonus against your pursuers. But if Chewba- uh, one of your comrades wants to take advantage of the floor's slipperiness, which has already been established, he or she has to put in a Fate Point to do so.



There's a part of me which thinks about this and says, "So we get rules to adjudicate common sense?!" It seems kind of weird to me, kind of like we're over-codifying creativity and the experience of the game. But wait, there's more.

Every character has Skills, and those Skills are pretty broad. As such, you can refine them with Stunts, which are specific uses of your Skills. Maybe I have the Artist skill, but then also have the "Weight of Reputation" Stunt, which means that I can forget to shower for a month and then wear a Hooters t-shirt and a pair of hip-waders to dinner at Spago but no one jacks with me because Oh my god it's JACK LORD!!! This part makes sense.

Here's where it doesn't: First off, some Stunts have prerequisites. "Weight of Reputation" requires "Do You Know Who I Am?" which itself requires "Virtuoso". but, uh...what's stopping me from taking "Weight of Reputation" (or something with similar effect) as an Aspect? What's the difference between an Aspect and a Stunt? And why do I hafta pay to use your slippery floor?!

So this stuff kinda bugs me. Maybe it's the old-schooler in me, but remember, I was an early Theatrix adopter. Maybe it's just that this "tagging an Aspect" business seems somewhat superfluous to me. Not useless, not pointless, no -- again, I think it's clever. It's just that I also think it's kind of unnecessary. This doesn't mean I think the game is poopies, nor that I won't try it; I'll just be wondering why I'm doing some of the stuff that I'm doing while I'm doing it.

Congrats to Chris Birch and Stuart Newman for writing this massive tome -- and, from what I hear, selling it like gangbusters.

If it's clear to anyone that I totally misunderstood the game...GOOD. Please come correct me. Also, can you tell me where the rock 'n' roll part is? I didn't see it.

Okay, that's enough typing for now. NEXT: I will discuss StarSIEGE - Event Horizon, which is totally not "Castles & Crusades In Space" but which totally can be. Stay tuned! know...come back a little later.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Dude I know from waaaay back, goes by the online name "Badger", is an old fan of Star Frontiers. Having read my blog posts about a space opera game, and that the SF rules were in the running, he decided to do me a solid and -- well, see for yourself:

Yes, that's a pair of fully-printed, color-covered, spiral-bound copies of Alpha Dawn and Knight Hawks. They arrived via FedEx just this morning, and let me tell you somethin'...

...this is a very nice pair of books. You can't tell from the pics, but that's heavy paper he used. He put those translucent plastic covers on 'em, and separated them with dividers. He didn't skimp on production values, either; check out the fold-out color map of the Frontier: All this because he thought I might like it. I shudder to think how much it woulda set me back to've done this myself, but Badger had the time and resources and the willingness, and he took a bit of each one to make this and send it to me.

I can't thank you enough, dude. This is great. Thank you very, very much. It was kind and generous and you bet your bippy they'll get used. This is what makes our hobby so damn much fun -- sharing our passion for it.

I thereby close with this:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It can be argued that Quazarn kind of had it coming.

A warlock of dubious real talent, Quazarn the Arcane worked his way up the ranks of Remulaki thaumaturgy on the strengths of his near-genius intellect and his charismatic personality -- not due to magical prowess, of which he has embarrassingly little.

Hailing from the Sea-Cities of Aquanorr on Remulak, young Quazarn used his charm and wit to make himself welcome among the Mystical House of Tarn-Egris -- the most prestigious thaumaturgical society on Remulak. Upon receiving accolades from his peers (albeit under false pretenses), Quazarn let his newfound fame go to his head: Soon he was abusing the trust and friendship of the other warlocks, making himself a sudden pest with his pretensions and fakery.

His ruse, however, did not last long; the other warlocks of the society, seeing through him like a sheet of plexifilm, conspired to rid themselves of him by dispatching him on a "brief research trip" to Vanth. They never planned to send the ship back for him, but little did they expect the failure of God City's launching beam. In any case, Quazarn was left stranded on Vanth.

Quazarn is slowly learning a lesson from the event, but his overt personality and gregariousness are his blessing and his curse, no matter what else he may be. As a result of his 'betrayal', he suffers from Recurring Psychometric Morbidity, which manifests itself as occasional (25% chance/week) bouts of depression, somnolence and (15%) long-term insomnia.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

¡Vota Por Los Jueces De Los Ennies!

In other words, "Vote For The Ennies Judges!" And when you do, you'll wanna vote for the judge who won't let you down...

...and you can vote for Zach Houghton, in full confidence.

  • Zach has been an Ennies judge already.
  • Zach loves this hobby, and does this stuff because of that. He is a gamer like you.
  • Zach is not a dirty brain-eatin' zombie robodroid.
  • Zach actually reads all the stuff he's asked to review for judgement.
  • Zach does not try to set you on fire every Thursday at 9.
  • Zach is fair and level-headed, having proven himself in discourse time and time again.
  • Zach once fought Harlan Ellison to a panting standstill in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, and Ellison even had his towel on and everything. (This one is not actually true)
So! Aside from the outrageous lies I just told about him and Harlan Ellison, you can totally vote for Zach Houghton and know that you have chosen a judge who is fair, rational and dedicated.

Also, he can kickbox better than John Cusack.

"Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can't make head or tail of it. "

I was gonna post about my efforts to choose a system for this space adventure game I keep talking about, but...

...I'm not.

I'm not going to, because -- well, here.

The other day my daughter asked me if we could go out for a walk. I said yes, and off we went. Not a hundred feet from our house, she asked me to carry her on my shoulders, which meant that she wanted me to walk, but...I digress.

"While you're up there," I said to her, "Maybe you can help me with a problem."

"Okay," she replied.

"Well, I want to do this science-fiction game, see, and I'm having trouble picking a system." I told her which ones I was considering, and then asked, "Which one do you think I should use?"




"You sure?"



"Just 'cause."

So, in essence, I should worry less about what system to choose, and instead just pick one and go with it. No more dorking around with pro/con more deliberating. Just fun.

Instant Lightspeed it is. DONE.

Anyway, it made me think of that line in Duck Soup, and there's the title of this post. Taaaa-daaaah!

Man...I love that movie.

Mrs. Teasdale
Notables from every country are
gathered here in your honor.
This is a gala day for you.

Rufus T. Firefly
Well, a gal a day is enough
for me. I don't think I could
handle any more.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I Wish I Were Playing Encounter Critical.

It's a simple statement; to say anything else would only complicate the issue.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The GM, The Mind's Eye, And Great Things To Do To Spandex

Oh! Boy. I'm liking this a lot right now. Maybe it's the meds, I dunno. Probably not.

One of my strongest tools as a GM is having a good visual grasp on my campaigns. If I can picture my game, I can inhabit and describe that world, and I can get a whole feel for it more than I can with any other resource. If I can picture it, it can exist. My C&C game is all Elmore, Parkinson, Caldwell and Easley; that cyberpunk game I never get around to looks like a Thompson Twins video shot on the Blade Runner set.

So. What's up with this SF game I've been yammering about?

I explained my new SF adventure setting to my wife last night, over a casual and relaxing game of Fluxx. I didn't get very far into the explanation when she said, "Like Buck Rogers!"

And the words...they pushed a button in my brain. "Yeah," I replied, gathering momentum; "More like the show and less like the original comics." (She said she doesn't know the old comics anyway, so we were on the same page from the get-go.)

I zeroed in on the look -- and that gave me the feel.

The game I'm picturing feels kind of how I remember that old Buck Rogers show feeling, only with a bigger budget and better writing. I haven't actually seen the show in a long time, and when I went to buy the DVD set it had been discontinued by Wal-Mart, but I still get a "right" feeling from it. (Erin Gray gives me a different feeling, but I digress.) The show was mentioned in a related discussion on The RPG Site, and I think I'm starting to feel the connections.

Now...I'm not going whole-hog on this "Buck Rogers TV Show" angle. I don't want a guest appearance by Arnold Jackson or a robot with a metallic glans for a head. No no no. I just want --

Okay, here it is: I want that late-70s/early 80s post-Star Wars wahoo feel with a solid pulp core and no damn camp. More SF than fantasy, but definitely rubber science. Yes, I am totally down with the Star Frontiers flavor, despite never having played it and my recurring ability to forget to have my copy of Star Frontiers Digitally Remastered printed and bound. I am circling other game systems, however.

Really, I want to talk about that, too, but it's better if I stay on topic for now and get to matters of system choice and all that later.

But for now, let's finish this post off solidly on-topic, shall we?

I only made it about 30 minutes into this movie.