Monday, August 30, 2010

Let's see if this works.

EDIT: No, it didn't. I wrote the outline for PBOM-R! today, and when I copied-and-pasted into Blogger, the text all became invisible.

Nuts. Hey, I saw The Lost Skeleton Returns Again a couple weekends ago. Swank.

The SFRPG Idea Of The (Last Quarter Of This Past) Century

There's no better way to introduce it than to do so directly, so:


What does this mean? Hell, I don't know. All I know is that I was listening to this

and I thought, "If a cyberpunk game would 'sound' like Devo, The Faint, Gary Numan, etc., and a D&D game might 'sound' like Wagner and Basil Poledouris, what kind of game would 'sound' like Italo?"

The answer? I dunno. I'm not gonna hassle with that right now, I got a game to write.

Thanks, guys.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Give Me A Deadline To Write You A Game.

I'm serious.

Chris Engle, creator of Engle Matrix Games, has given me the go-ahead to edit my own version of Politics by other Means... , in much the same way that, say, Dr Holmes edited D&D. (Not that I'm comparing myself to Dr Holmes.)

I want to write up a nice .pdf with a few illustrations, some tables, examples and variant rules. It's not going to be complicated. I want it to be between 10 and 12 pages or so, reasonably-well laid-out, and free to download.

And I need to be held accountable.

If you want it, think of the game as being under ransom -- except that instead of paying me, you encourage me. You ride me to get it done by a certain time.

Please do it. It'll help me more than you know.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FREE Mass Combat Game!

I cleared it with author Chris Engle -- here is the latest, short-and-sweet version of Politics By Other Means..., which is now called Tactics MG. Sez he:

Please do spread them! I've been very slow in coming up with a commercial product using the rules. I have ideas but they are far down in my slush pile. PBOM is the set of rules that I use when I run convention miniatures games.

Note that, because of this, the formatting is not fancy. But it's in English,. so you can read it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Talk about -- MASS! MASS COM-BAT!

...yeah, El Zacho Primero and Greyhawk Grognard aaaand...oh, probably lots folks are talking about mass combat today. Funny thing, too, sine I've had the same thing on my mind lately -- as evidenced by my post frm the other day. You read that one, right? OF COURSE YOU READ IT! WHY ON EARTH WOULDN'T YOU HAVE READ IT?!

...yyyeeeeeaaaah...aaannyway, so like mass combat and stuff. Yes. The topic. The topic, and what I think about it.

Let's consider the two ways I'd play a mass combat: Integrated into an RPG session, or as a game of its own...and my favorite angles on both.

My favorite approach to mass combat as part of an RPG session comes from the venerable, unbeatable, most jawsomest RPG ever, Star Wars Second Edition Revised & Expanded* The game's designers suggest that the GM simply create a series of battle-related encounters, preferably ending with a major goal, and run the players through them. The PCs' relative success then dictates how well their side is doing.

Say your PCs are Rebels, and tonight's session involves, I dunno, a large-scale attack on an Imperial outpost. So maybe you come up with the following encounters-slash-goals which the PCs much survive-slash-achieve:

  1. Fly the ship past the blockade and hit the rendezvous point
  2. Cross about 200 yards of difficult terrain, under fire from Stormtroopers
  3. Run across another squad that's under heavy fire; stop and help them or not?
  4. Get up to the back door of the installation, and blow it open
  5. Get inside and settle some hash
You run your encounters, and if the PCs do well, then the other Rebels do well; maybe subsequent encounters get a bit easier. If the PCs are havin' a rough time, then so do the NPCs. Maybe subsequent encounters get harder. Maybe extra steps get added (maybe they get pinned down behind cover in Encounter 3 and have to find another way across, or somethin'). Maybe your PCs get captured...

This approach doesn't exercise tactics -- it creates drama. Fitting, since Star Wars is a melodrama. What I like about this approach is not only its simplicity but the fact that, in the end, the players are deciding the battle. Their influence is direct.

Obviously, what I like most about mass combat gaming is the story that gets told. Yes, the tactics and stuff are fun; I enjoy that challenge. In the end, though, I like to know that I achieved something. That something happened So when we're talking about miniatures and terrain, my choice is...

...hard to make. Chainmail, for all its...uh...Chainmailness, is very enticing. I haven't played it, but I like the looks of it. Ditto Hordes of the Things -- they're just something that satisfies me about not-too-many figures (I'm cheap) and not-too-many-rules (I'm fast). However, there is a mass combat game that I've played on a few occasions, which scratches my tactical itch and tells me a story at the same time, and that is Chris Engle's Politics By Other Means, also known as Arguments of War.

I've spoken of Chris Engle's Engle Matrix Games before, and here's an updated link to the Matrix rules since the links in that post are 404. [NOTE: the linked rules are a bit more advanced and complex than the Matrix rules which Chris originally showed me, but if you dig around a bit fr the Yahoo! list, you can find different versions.]

The basic gist is this: you roll dice, you move your little men/tanks/battle buggies/warchickens or whatever. If your little men are in range of the other guy's little men, you can attack. Attacking means rolling however many dice (usually one per attacking unit); a roll of 6 "kills" an opponent.


Engle Matrix games are built on arguments -- statements that change details and conditions about the people, places, things -the 'matrix'- in the game. And if your unit gets "killed", you can make an argument to "save" it.

Every argument in an Engle Matrix game is rated on its logical strength. The stronger the argument, the more likely it is to happen; the likelier it is to happen, the lower the target number on a d6. A referee, or a neutral player, rates the arguments.

"The Duke's archers don't kill my footmen because they have shields. They can hunker down under 'em. 'SWHIFF! SWOOOFFFSH! *duck and cover* PLUNK PLUNK PLUNK!' Like that."

"I dunno. Those shields are kinda puny, and your guys are a bunch of peasant levies armed with castoffs from Count Jackwagon's guard, and they were all ghetto to start with. it's a Weak argument -- roll 5 or better."


"The demon dogs don't kill all my Nelwyns -- they just slow 'em down. They can't move next round, have to dice against 'em again next turn. Remember, I made the earlier argument that Vohnkar is the captain of this unit, and he's the best warrior in the village!" "That's a fair compromise; Strong, 3+."


"No, your dragon doesn't kill my M1 Abrams tank because the driver is A. J. Foyt, and he dodges!"


And so it goes. As you can see, it gives you all the fun of army men and styrofoam hills with the added logical complexities of real battle situations -- plus a story gets told. Since arguments build on each other, as we saw in the Vohnkar example above, these rules are tremendous for campaign play -- say you have a particular unit that keeps killing and not dying, so you decide that after a while they build up a reputation or something, and become more effective when fielded. "Okay, your guys are, like, 'Holy crap! That A. J. Foyt's tank!' They run away. MUA HA HA HA HA HA!"

You want the rules? Lemme know, I'll hook you up.

Okay, I've been at this for hours.


*You may disagree. That's fine. That's fine, 'cause you ugly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wither Goblinoid's Wilderness Mapping Tools?

I downloaded them, and I think the folder got eaten by my computer. Now, I can't find 'em on line.

Anyone know where they got to -- or have a backed-up copy that I may dupe, please?

Monday, August 16, 2010


ROTWANG!: The bad guys' SUV is headed straight for the tarmac! There's a Learjet idling there, waiting for Camacho. They're gonna get there in, like, a round. Two guys with guns, by the way, by the plane's open hatch-thing.

PLAYER 1: Can we get there in one round?

ROTWANG!: Uh...yeah, but the difficulty for any maneuvers would go up.

PLAYER 1: Screw it. I put the pedal down and t-bone 'em before they get to the plane.



ROTWANG!: Holy...! Okay! That's Driving plus two dice for your van's speed, and one-die-plus-one more for maneuverability.

PLAYER 1: [gathering up 6 dice] Difficulty?

ROTWANG!: Uh...forget it, just roll. They're gonna roll, too, you just gotta beat them. VRRRRRM! [rolls dice] WHOAOOOOOOOOH...! Beat a twenty-three!

PLAYER 2: C'mon, man. You can do it.

PLAYER 3: I lean out the window and shoot with my Uzi.

PLAYER 1: [rolls dice] I got a--

...damnit. I'm at work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Greeks On The Moon!

Here's how ideas happen to me.

My wife and I are reading to our daughter a book called "Ancient Greece: Archaeology Unlocks the Secrets of Greece's Past", a National Geographic book for kids (which my daughter chose, by the way).

Tonight I began Chapter 3: "Greeks on the Move". I read the chapter title out loud, and my wife said:

" 'Greeks on the Moon' ?!"

We all had a good chuckle, especially as Lily started to describe how they'd all be floating around up there, and I said, "Yeah, and their helmets would have big beards on 'em. And they'd wear, like...vacuum-sealed togas." My wife suggested, "Wearing magnetic sandals." To which I in turn added, "And their ships would look like owls."

...and the idea hit me: Ancient Greece, But With Starfaring Technology. Togas. Lasers.

That idea was enticing enough already but -- excuse me.


-- but later, as Lily was brushing her teeth, she said to the mirror:





Two great ancient civilizations, taking to the stars in anachrotech, and clashing over control of space.

And I --


-- WOW.

Too bad I'm tired and ready for bed.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More Mini Six Love: The Willow Connection!

Okay. Y'know how I said the new Mini Six Bare Bones has some campaign settings in it? Well, they're all based on recognizable settings. The standard fantasy setting, in particular, is very very obviously inspired by A Fantasy Movie That George Lucas Made In 1988.

That's right -- "Rust Moon Of Castia" gots some Willow in it.

NOW, WAIT! It's not, like, a total rip-off of Willow. If it were, I wouldn't be mentioning it. No; I'm mentioning it becuase it takes some of the core ideas from Willow and makes them BETTER.

Well, for gaming, anyway. Here, lemme 'splain.

I've always wanted to play a game based on Willow; I have spoken warmly of Allen Varney's The Willow Sourcebook, after all, and have trumpeted its merits. Trouble is that what makes the world cool is kind of what already happened to the characters in the movie; it'd be hard (and lazy) to just up and duplicate it at the table.

So my idea, a few years ago, was to run a sequel to Willow. In a world untouched by Chris Claremont, the movie's characters are all NPCs: Sorsha and Madmartigan are Queen and king of Tir Asleen, only Madmartigan's been missing for years (and is suspected of -what else?- philandrering); Willow is busy learning to be the High Aldwin of his village; Elora Dannan is a teenager manifesting kewl powarz or whatever. Burglekutt is still a choad. For conflict, I would re-introduce Bavmorda -- breaking out of Witch Jail or wherever it was that Willow and Raziel sent her via the ritual Of Obliteration, she's gearing up for revenge with all kinds of extra-dimensional nasties on her side.

Whatever. I never followed it. because...whatever.

Aaaah...but "Rust Moon of Castia"...! Now we're talkin'. "Castia" presses the reset button in a most definitive way -- different world, very similar concepts. The Radiant Queen and her Scarlet Horde have taken over the kingdom, and she's turned the great city of Devmora into a multi-tiered fortress, from where she seeks out the 13 "vessels", females who bear the Mark of Radiance -- prophesied to...I dunno, undo her, I guess. Meanwhile, this, and I quote:

Tarsis Elon: The last of the four fortresses to fall, it suffered the
worst of the four curses. All who once lived there are now encased
in translucent stone, alive but entombed. For each year that passes
in the outside world, these poor souls age a single day. If any are
chiseled free time comes rushing upon them bringing immediate
death by old age. Still, more than a curse was left to watch Tarsis.
Monsters, minions, and shadows without name haunt this
doomed sanctuary. Rumors abound about what is still kept here.
Some claim a great vault filled with gold, others speak of lost
magics. Even if only a cache of ancient weapons, it would be a
great fortune to those fool hearty enough to try and claim them.

Add Brownies, little folk named Hannedyns ("Out of the way, Speck!"), stats for a two-headed leviathan and some hairy trolls..., who am I kidding. You're not reading this anymore. You went to downlod it and read it yourself, right?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mini Six Bare Bones: IT'S DAMN MEATY!

DUDE!! AntiPaladin Games has a new "Bare Bones" edition of Mini Six available. Ha! "Bare bones" my eye. It's 38 pages long and includes campaign settings and --

-- Stop reading this blog post and GO DOWNLOAD THIS NOW. Well, first read this: Tip of the energy dome to Mike's Amazing RPG Fun Pad for beating me to it. You're a good man, Mike.


The "A"

Because it's important to me.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Introducing Duke Hardcastle!

Here's a bit of fiction I time, I forget when. One of those things that just pops out, y'know? Go ahead, read it. Short. In English. Easy.

By the way: No, he's NOT Zap Brannigan -- for reasons that WILL become clear.

Captain Duke Hardcastle leaned forward in his command chair and watched space go by on the forward view screen. He rested his chin on his fist, and took a moment to collect his thoughts. His fingertips closed on a toggle switch on the chair's arm, but before he could switch on his log recorder, the bridge door swished open.

Hardcastle recognized First Officer Lana Vavoom's footsteps; the click of her stiletto-heeled boots was most distinctive. (Vavoom's boots were not Starfleet reg, but Captain Hardcastle and his crew enjoyed many privileges as a result of their track record.) He could see her hips swaying in his mind's eye, and he delighted in the image until she came to stop at his elbow.

"Captain," the brunette purred, "I have just finished reviewing the data scanned from the Hesperus." Vavoom leaned forward and placed a clipboard on the arm of the chair, brushing his arm as she withdrew. Hardcastle looked up in time to see her smoldering eyes linger on him with want. He supressed a smile.

"Thank you, Commadeer Vavoom," he said. He took the clipboard and looked it over. His left eyebrow lifted. "Sabotage?"

"So it would seem, Captain." Vavoom cocked her hip in his direction. "I have prepared a detailed breakdown of my assessment. It's in my quarters," she breathed, biting her lip, "if you'd care to -- "

"Excuse me, Captain," said Chief Communications Officer Lieutenant Anjelica Sanchez, turning slightly in her chair and pointing a dangling foot at him, "we're receiving a message from Starfleet."

"On-screen, Lieutenant," he replied. She smiled coyly and winked at him, her hands working the controls.

The stars on the forward view screen snapped away and were replaced by the squint-eyed, chubby face of a middle-aged man with male pattern baldness.

"Captain Hardcastle!" the man fairly squeaked. His eyes roamed around the bridge. "How are...things?"

Hardcastle stood. "Admiral Hutchens!" he said, "Things --" and here he followed the older man's eyes, which rested squarely upon Ensign Svetlana Svobodova (more precisely, on her thighs) "-- are well."
"I'll say," said Hutchens.

"Yes. To what do we owe the honor of your communication, Admiral? Admiral?"

Ensign Svobodova tossed a quick look at her captain and turned to hide her legs under the helm control panel. Only then did Hutchens clear his throat and speak.

"Ah! Yes! Hello, Captain Hardcastle."

"Hello, Admiral." Hardcastle rocked on his heels and placed his hands on his hips, all but glaring at his superior. "How can my ship assist you." He made the statement sound like an order, implying the "hurry up and tell me how" that preceded it.

"Er..." Hutchens hesitated; he squeezed one eye shut, looked askance with the other, then appeared to look at his shoes. "Ah! Captain Hardcastle."

"Just a moment please, Admiral," Hardcastle said. Then, to Lt. Sanchez: "I'll take this in my quarters." He turned to leave the bridge.

"Aye, Captain." Sanchez worked the controls and, under her breath, voiced the thought that every other woman on the bridge clutched with red-hot desire:

'I wish he'd take me in his quarters.'
* * *

Saturday, August 07, 2010

PSSSSST! Billy Idol's "Cyberpunk"!

Oh, ho ho ho! You'd forgotten aaaaaaaall about this album, hadn't you? AAAAH, HA HA HA HA!! Monster that I am, HERE IT IS AGAIN. Ha!

Ha ha! Ha.

I actually don't like this album.

Truth be told, it was a fairly innovative bit of work. Released in 1993, it was one of the first (if not THE first) albums to include a multimedia packet -- if you purchased the special edition, you got a floppy disk with some clip art, interviews, sound samples and stuff. (I didn't buy that one, though.) So it had that going for it. Other'n that, it wasn't well-received.

Oh, I ran out and bought it with a quickness, though. Why? I was 18 years old when it came out, it was a Billy Idol album, and it was called Cyberpunk. SOLD, sucka. WHAM! Like that. I'd been into the cyberpunk aesthetic since the late 1980s (figure '88 or so) and was really into it when 1993 rolled around. I had read Neuromancer*, Count Zero and Burning Chrome, loved Blade Runner, was totally-motally into cybernetics and was just generally in wubb with the whole thing. Also I owned this:

And so there I was -- late July 1993 -- dashing out to the store, buying the CD, rushing back home, plopping it in the CD player --

-- and I listened to it, like, twice.

Well, no, wait. The big single from it, "Shock To The System"? I listened to that a little more. It wasn't too bad. It starts out with the sound of breaking glass, then some guitars and an up-tempo beat. Billy screams and screeches on it, growls some kinda vague lyrics inspired by the 1992 Los Angeles Riots with some askew references to Rodney King aaaannnnddd... uh... he says "c'MAWN!!" a whole bunch, and you kinda bob your head for a while and maybe you picture motorcycles driving really fast but then it's over and the rest of the album is kinda meandering and limp.

I know all of this because, this morning, I grabbed it off the shelf and popped it in the car stereo for my drive to and from work. I skipped around a lot, and ended up thinking,

"This ain't got no pancake mix."

Ah, well. There's always --

*Reportedly, this is more than Billy himself did, despite naming a track "Neuromancer". Check this bit I found on WikiPedia:

As part of press junkets promoting the album, Idol reportedly insisted attending journalists be familiar with cyberpunk fiction. It was also revealed that Idol was not entirely as familiar with the genre as he had proclaimed. William Gibson reported in an interview, "A London journalist told me when Billy did his 'Cyberpunk' press junket over there, he made it a condition of getting an interview with him, that every journalist had to have read Neuromancer...Anyway, they all did but when they met with Billy, the first thing that became really apparent was that Billy hadn't read it. So they called him on it, and he said he didn't need to..he just absorbed it through a kinda osmosis."

Friday, August 06, 2010


Hey, everybody! Remember all the fun I had playing Extreme Vengeance back in the late 1990s? I sure do! (I hope you don't. That'd be weird.)

I dunno if it's because I saw a TV spot for last night during The Expendables last night during Futurama, or if it's just another example of how my "brain" "works". Whatever the cause, I started thinking about this game today, and had the urge to throw together a muy macho one-off movie, why not.

Funny thing, though -- the urge is not a nostalgic one, and it's certainly not a "rose-colored glasses" thing. Extreme Vengeance is flawed; I knew it then and I know it now, and in neither day does it matter. The game is just fun.

You roll a bunch of d6s, make ridiculously bold pronouncements about your character and his/her abilities, beat the crap out of extras, get bonuses for uttering cheesy catchphrases and generally eschew "serious" gaming for the "jawsome" kind.

True -- you can engage in shenanigans of that sort no matter what game you're playing. It's not about rules; it's about attitude. Now, I don't mean "attitude" as in "the thing movie badasses have" (although that factors into this style of play), but rather a free, unconcerned attitude towards fun.

Pure fun. Unselfconscious.


I want some of that fun. Playing Extreme Vengeance can gimmie some of that fun. I have the rulebook.

All I need is time and cohorts, and it's problem solved.

Monday, August 02, 2010

CHAINMAIL Headscratch Theatre

So...I don't get it. 1 figure = 20 men, right? And (for instance) each 4 light foot that attack 1 heavy horse roll 1 die, and kill on a 6 -- but do they kill ONE OF THE TWENTY HORSES THAT THE FIGURE REPRESENTS, or THE WHOLE FIGURE WHICH REPRESENTS 20 HORSES?

I dunno, man. I'm not stupid, but I feel like I'm missing something.

So the other week I read a battle report of an attack on the moathouse. (You know which moathouse. You read blogs like this one.) It sounded all cool and stuff and I thought, "Hey, I gotta check out the Chainmail, what with its ties to OD&D and stuff." So I got a copy and started reading, but I'm not quite sure I get it.

Why don't get it?