Sunday, December 28, 2008
You gotta be JACKIN' me! I only pa--
...but I get ahead of myself.
Back in the--well, effectively, at the end of the 1980s, Leading Edge Games published an Aliens boardgame. I saw an ad for it somewhere and ordered it sight unseen. As the internet was not then what it is now (meaning, 'every-damn-where'), I had no way of reading reviews, doing research, getting opinions...nothing. I just wanted it, so I ordered it from Mike Redman down the 25th Century Five-And-Dime, my comics/games shop of choice in those days.
Now...I was then -as now- primarily an RPG guy, so ordering a board game was a little unusual for me. Still, I figured: Hell, why not? Space Marines versus Aliens, and you could play SOLO. Heh! That oughtta be pretty OK.
Then I got he game, and it wasn't OK.
IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME.
It was simple, it was fast, and it was challenging--best of all, it was EXCITING. There were times when I played almost with literally held breath, hoping I'd manage to get my little cardboard Marines out of that damn reactor room. It was never easy, but I tried and tried and no matter how many times I failed, I kept coming back for more because it was so damn ENGAGING. One day i actully got everybody but one dude out, and I actually bragged about it to my parents when they came home. It was THAT exciting.
By sheer dumb luck, I was in a hobby shop in Kansas City one Summer and I ran across the expansion to the game. My grandmother, saintly old woman that she was, bought it for me. I had more Aliens, more missions, more maps and more ways in which to get my guys killed up. I could even do "what-if?' sceanrios if I wanted to. I wanted to. I did.
I haven't played it in a while. In fact, it's sitting in my closet right now, but I think I might have to. This post on The RPG Site brought it up in passing, mentioning as it did a Flash version of the game, which I promptly found and played (I lost everyone but Dietrich. AGAIN) and I remembered how tense the game can be. I think it'll have to come out some day, with friends or without.
Go play the Flash game. See for yourself. It's worth it, totally worth it.
And...uh...let's just say that playing the Flash version is quite a bit cheaper.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
And I was up late
To watch DVDs
Of the old Lost In Space,
When all of a sudden
From outside my door
Came a thunderous thumping
And a grouchy-type roar.
I furrowed my brow
And put Doc Smith on pause.
I peeked out the window
And saw Santa Claus!
The jolly old elf
Was sprawled on the lawn;
His sleigh had rolled over
And his reindeer were…gone.
He raised up a little
And groaned like an bear.
He got to his feet
And shook sod from his hair.
"What's buggin' you, Santa?"
I asked from the door.
"Why is your countenance
Looking so poor?"
"You call that a rhyme?"
"With the words that YOU know
I'm frankly astonished!"
He sighed, "Look, I'm sorry,
It's just a rough time."
"No worries," I said,
"Why not come inside?"
I led the way in
And he stumbled behind.
Once he sat down,
I said, "Speak your mind."
The once-jolly fat man
Now said, "I'm depressed.
I've just seen a movie
And wasn't impressed."
I scratched at my chin
And said, "Was it THAT bad?
What possible flicker
Could make SANTA sad?!"
He said, "This is the worst
Of all Christmas Eves!
I've just seen a movie
That stars Keanu Reeves!
"He's wooden!" he bellowed,
"And yet, he gets parts!
I've seen more emotion
From cats with the farts!
Oh, he played Ted
And THAT he did well.
But as anyone else,
He can go straight to hell."
I never imagined
He'd rant such a screed…
But all truth be told
I really agreed.
I said right away,
"Is that all it takes
To bonk up your day?"
"Oh, that's not it!"
He screamed in my ear--
"It's crap that's been happening
All through this year!
It's bail-outs! It's gas prices!
It's stuff of that sort!
And I always forget
To watch The Colbert Report!"
The poor fellow crumpled
And started to weep.
If I didn't help him,
I wouldn't get any sleep.
I said, "Dude, this year
Wasn't too bad!
Some stuff that happened
Was totally rad!"
"Oh, really?" said Santa,
"So tell me—like what?
It better be good stuff.
Else, keep your yap shut."
"Oh, there was plenty!"
I told him, "you'll see!
They finally put Square Pegs
Out on DVD!
Iron Man rocked,
And Wall-E; Y'ask me,
That totally makes up
For the new D&D…
And, hey, O.J. Simpson
Lost out to a jury—
And Samuel L. Jackson
Showed up as Nick Fury!"
"That's stuff's terrific,"
Said Santa with woe.
"It's not a reunion
Of Bel Biv Devoe."
"Uh…Santa?" I said,
"Now you're the one reaching.
Perhaps you should practice
What you have been pre—"
"I got ya, I got ya,"
Said Santa, annoyed.
"Perhaps I need something
To fill in the void
That's carved from my jollies
When Keanu makes movies.
Maybe a hooker,
With big, bouncy—"
"HO-KAY, Santa," I told him,
Opening the door,
"I've had all I can stands
And I can't stands no more!
If you wanna be mopey,
Have it your way.
Just deliver some toys
On your damn magic sleigh."
He shuffled back out
And climbed up on his sled.
I said, "Merry Christmas!
I'm going to bed!"
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Not likely, you are. Ehhh...I'll recap anyway.
So! Yes! Last time! The gcarrier! Its turret's targeting system had painted the NPCs who were in the garage, and Leaky Pete had Eddy try to shut it down before it fired. No luck; the thing blew up a flunky and knocked a big damn hole in the wall. Then, it started looking for Robaur Maccardo, the party's employer. Uh-oh...
"So, about my last action," said Anjiko at this point. "When I tried to pull the plug, so to speak. Was it that I didn't FIND it, or didn't PULL IT in time?" A fair enough question; I left it up to luck. I had her throw 2D and hope for big money, no whammies.
Bingo! She threw a 12! I declared that her fingers alighted on the whatzits JUST as the gun went boom, and that she was able to yank it clean out right away. Crisis averted...kind of.
The employer went berzerk, and started yelling at them--prompting some fun role-play banter from Anjiko ("Whoa! US what the hell? YOU what the hell! This is YOUR heap!"), and Leaky Pete both. I think they're even developing an enmity between their characters. Anyway, they got the guy calmed down and got back to work while he called in a cleaner. Luckily, no cops showed up (Law Level 5, rolled a 7) and they were able to resume their tasks without any troub--
AHA! Gotcha! Damn straight, there's trouble.
Just as they got settled back in, there were shouts and gunfire to be heard. Maccardo skinned a smokewagon* and took cover just before a trio of Sonny Crockett-lookin' dudes with machine pistols walked in and sized up the sitch. Spotting Eddy, Celeste and the tank, they pointed guns at the PCs while the leader addressed Maccardo. "Nice try!" he said, nodding to the PCs. "We'll take them, too."
Rational people try to solve this kind of thing rationally. Anjiko has Celeste pull her own heater** and yell, "The hell you will! Come another step closer and I'll put bullets in all of your heads!"
And now I'm taking lunch.
Damn, this is turning out to be fun.
*That means he drew a gun.
** That means she skinned her smokewagon.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
So I'm running a Traveller PBEM with some pals.
Anjiko-Z is playing Celeste Francisco, a 1-term ex-Navy gunner; Leaky Pete has Edward "Eddy Drake" Mallard, a 4-term Doctor. Circumstances have brought them to Valdaris (B774915-6 N Ga Hi In), where non-natives have a hard time getting employment within the corporation that rules the place. Ergo, Celeste and Eddy end up doing some, uh...freelance work.
You dig me.
Robaur Maccardo, a fellow of their mutual acquaintance, needs some work done--he needs a vehicle repaired. It's an antigrav vehicle, quite the rarity on a TL 6 world; it'll start up but it won't get off the ground, and its computers won't boot up. Celeste has Mechanical-1 from the Navy, and Eddy's a Medic-4 but he has Computers-1, so thy have the skills. He'll pay these two Cr2000 apiece if they can fix this thing for him. They accept, even though it seems too simple AND after he says, "I offer you this work in confidence."
You might not know EXACTLY where this is going, but you have an idea of the neighborhood, don't you.
He drives them around startown to a fenced mechanical yard. "Remember," he says, "in confidence". He opens up the garage, and there's the vehicle, just waiting to be repaired:
If you're not a Trav fan, that thing is called a gcarrier; you might also call it a gravtank. As in, "military". "For him to have this," I explain to Anjiko and Leaky Pete, "is like your neighbor having an F-14 Tomcat."
So the two start poking at it. Celeste spends 10 minutes opening up panels and tightening bolts and so on, but can't figure out what's wrong. Eddy takes 20 minutes or so to readjust some power relays and stuff, and he succeeds in getting the computers to boot up...
...but the mainframe's boot order is jacked all to hell, so the turret's targeting program comes up first and starts acquiring targets.
Like, say, their employer.
Celeste declares that she'll start popping off panels and trying to cut power to the mainframe before the gcarrier starts killing everything in sight; I give it a 7+ chance that she gets that done (it's not that hard to pull out cable swhen they're all exposed to begin with, but it's NOT so easy to pull the EXACT one.)
The roll, of course, is a 5.
I told Leaky Pete that Eddy can try another roll to either interrupt the boot order or just shut the thing down, but he has't mailed me back yet. Until then, the tension holds!
The only trouble is, we're fairly busy at work, so this has all taken 4 work days. It's slow going. I'm not put off by it, though, because it's FUN and it's WORKING. We're into it, and we are successfully goofing off without ngative effects on our job performance.
Still, I'd like to bust outta here with the two of 'em, go grab my wife, get a bunch of tacos and some Sangria Señorial and play on a tabletop like normal people do.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
If you're not familiar with it, here's how "The Nutcracker" goes down:
In 1800s Vienna, a family is having a Christmas party. One of the guests is a one-eyed dude named Herr Drosselmeyer, who lets us know early on that he's a wizard when he starts throwing glitter all over the place and casting hold person on people.
Herr Drosselmeyer has brought a special gift for the family's daughter, Clara--a wooden nutcracker fashioned to look like a soldier. (It's worth mentioning that I only know their names from a Little Golden Book. There's no dialog in ballet, and I'll get to that later.)
Clara digs the gift to the max, but her little brother dorks things up for her by playing too rough with the nutcracker and he breaks it. Clara weeps, but Herr Elminstdorf fixes things or something. Anyhow, it's late so Clara hits the sack.
Here's where stuff gets crazy.
Apparently, an army of man-sized, anthropomorphic mice lives in Clara's house, and this Nutcracker biz has them all riled up. They attempt to steal him from the kid, but Gandalfmeyer shows back up and my wife pokes me to wake me up and then HOKEY SMOKES THE NUTCRAKER IS ANIMATE. Not only is he skipping around the living room waving his cav saber but he's also in command of a bunch of soldiers. Generalísimo El Crackonutero gives battle to the mice, who haul out their secret weapon: The Mouse King, whom we know is The Mouse King because he is a mouse who wears a crown.
Fightification occurs. The Mouse King overpowers The Nutcracker. Before Lord Mickey can deliver the death-blow to his prone victim, Clara tugs off her slipper and throws it at him--thereby distracting the tyrant long enough for the soldier to skewer the rodent. Fight over. Mice carry away fallen ruler. Nutcracker, uh...he...
I dunno where he goes.
Next thing, Clara and The Wiz are out in the woods. Some girls come out and dance, then Drosselmeyer summons up a boat. He and the kid hop into it and sail off, stage left.
Did you get all that? I hope I hoso, because that's the end of Act I and, incidentally, the end of the plot.
After the intermission, we find our protagonists (but not the titular one, who is no longer invited or something) in The Land Of Sweets. Drosselmeyer introduces Clara to some folks and Clara recaps Act I for those who didn't bring wives. So the Sweetsians--I guess we can call them that--put Clara in a chair, and show her some dance routines.
It's not clear why they do this, but I like to think that it's because they peg the girl as an experienced, accomplished regicide who enjoys the tacit protection of an eye patch-wearing badass planes-hopping spellcaster, so they decide to play things safe by keeping her entertained lest she start throwing footwear and the halls begin to echo with the ringing of blood-stained crowns striking the flagstones and THAT, my friends, is a pair of NPCs to use. We're still a gaming blog, after all.
Anyway, there's a whole fnordload of ballet as groups of dancers come out in turns to do their thing. Some of the dancers represent different nationalities, while some are flowers and some are candy. A gigantic woman with inhumanly wide hips gives birth to octuplets live on stage. More dancing. Finally, Her Drosselmeyer comes to take Clara home because the show is over, and I get to go to Cracker Barrel an have a steak.
The experience isn't an unpleasant one for me; it's just a weird one--ballet is like a foreign language to me. It doesn't click in my head. You see, I'm one of those uncultured idiots who needs to have his hand held by things like plot, dialogue, narrative, characterization, drama and rising and falling action, so a medium whose primary expression is movement--graceful and beautiful as it may be--come across to me as an angry rant in Japanese. I mean, I can tell what it is, but not what it means.
Add to this the fact that the plot and one of the main characters gets unceremoniously shoved off the stage and into the orchestra pit halfway through the show, and it's a recipe for explosions inside the minds of the dramatically-inclined.
Okay, MY mind, anyway.
Tchaikovsky's music, now...that's aces. That Arabian number in particular thrills me for sure. Still, I'd rather just enjoy the music on its own without the 'noise' from the dance getting in the way.
I accept that it's just a different medium, but I also acknowledge that it's a medium that I can't really interpret.
And then there's the dongs.
Look...I'm sure there's an audience for it, and I'm not gonna dog on anybody who belongs to it. But when you go to the ballet, you're gonna see more vac-packed man-meat than you probably EVER HAVE BEFORE IN YOUR LIFE, and it's distracting.
The steak was good, by the way.
Okay, now without the hyperbole: Matthew Finch's Swords & Wizardry is an honest-to-goodness retro-clone of the original D&D rules from 1974-75--sometimes referred to as "0e". It's not an exact replica of the Little Brown Books, however, as it incorporates a few rules and developments that came after. S&W aims for a goal loftier than mere reproduction, anyway: the preservation of not just 0e's rules but its play style. S&W is a hobbyist's game.
"IMAGINE THE HELL OUT OF IT!"
To understand what that means, let's talk mechanics. Compared to the average modern game design, Swords & Wizardry's rules are pretty sparse. You get character creation and advancement, combat, magic rules, spells and a bunch of monsters. There are no skill lists, no comprehensive combat modifiers and certainly no feats; there's not even a task resolution system beyond that necessary for beating stuff up. And PCs have only one saving throw! So how do you get anything done?!
Enter the hobbyists' approach.
In true old-school fashion, the noticeable gaps are not an omission--they are implicit carte blanche to do whatever the hell you want for your players and your game. This requires creativity and effort on your part...hence, the 'hobby' concept. The result is refreshing, as you have a few basic rules to handle the essentials and free reign to dictate everything else.
THE MYTH OF HACK-AND-SLASH
In the act of being a 0e retro-clone, Swords & Wizardry exposes an often-overlooked aspect of the old game it's based on: a heavy role-playing element. With no diplomacy skill available, what are you going to do when it's time to talk your way out of trouble with the city guards? Well, the GM may call for an off-the-cuff die roll that somehow takes your Charisma stat into account...or he may just ask you to role-play your way out of it. That's why we call them "role-playing games", and have since 1974.
In fact, the superimposition of the players' creativity and imagination is arguably the key to making the game work as anything more than a skeletal collection of basic ideas. For instance, consider that S & W offers only three character classes--Wizard, Fighting Man and Cleric. By themselves, those classes describe a very basic concept (fighting men fight, wizards cast spells, etc.) and no more. By not fleshing these out for you, the game encourages you to define the character yourself. Is your Wizard really a cackling sorceress, or an insightful, sagely scholar, or perhaps a nobleman with magic in his or her veins? In S & W, the difference between a swashbuckling pirate, a grizzled veteran soldier and an energetic young barbarian is not one of game mechanics; it's one of character concept and its execution by the player.
THE OLD SCHOOL MEETS THE NEW
As mentioned above, S&W isn't an exact recreation of the 1974-75 rules. I haven't ever seen those rules, but I have it on good authority that variable weapon damage is not a feature from that edition, and S&W incorporates it. The game also includes a very modern option: ascending Armor Class. AC can go downward as it improves, or upward; GM's choice.
And what of demihumans? In character creation, players have the option of playing an elf or a dwarf, which are treated as classes unto themselves, but with a strong rationale to support the fact. The ideas are fairly clever, and make these seemingly restrictive options surprisingly flexible in play.
Any game is only as good as the experience you have with it. The quality of _Swords & Wizardry_ as a game experience is going to depend, ultimately, on the audience's approach to it. Simply stated, aims for a goal and hits it square on...but it may not be the itch that you need scratched, and there may be things about it that don't do a thing for you.
Gamers who don't want the hobby-game experienced are, obviously, cautioned; the make-it-up-as-you-need-it mindset is absolutely integral to playing this game. The lack of some classes (read that as "thieves") may bamboozle if not completely turn off some players; it is assumed that traditional "thief functions" (searching for and removing traps, climbing walls, moving silently, etc.) can be attempted by any character, and a GM who doesn't prepare room- and trap descriptions ahead of time will be at a loss to run the game this way. Some folks may balk at the low amount of hit points that Fighters get. Strokes and folks, after all.
You can get this game for free, so the price is right. The approach is refreshing and the love and care put into the project is obvious. You can't lose if all you do is check it out; indeed, you might find a new favorite game.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Like I say, my computer's not dead, it's just not as healthy as it could be. It does annoying stuff that I don't want it to do, and I'm just OCD enough that I want the damn thing AT. OPTIMAL. PERFORMANCE. before I can relax and, you know, just...like...write blog posts.
....hrm. I wonder if I should get over it for a while.
Friday, November 28, 2008
At home, Windows needs to be repaired or reloaded. Here at work, well...I can't control the sketchy connection these employee-use computers have (or, more often, don't have).
I'm not dead.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I can dig it.
My appreciation for the older rules grows by steps, and part of me wonders -- has everything in game design since then been an unnecessary refinement, too much effort put into something that should have stayed simple and sweet?
That part of me shuts up pretty quickly, though, because I don't really believe that. I like reading rulebooks too much. However, the question does get pretty close to what my blog is (ostensibly) about: unlearning what you've learned that you may reach the simple truths.
I'm still conflicted about thief skills, though. Abstracting exploration and experimentation is damn handy, but it's potentially less flavorful and less chllenging. I like that whole "I'll look under the bed -- carefully, though, slowly lifting the bedskirt with my dagger, ready to jump back at the first sign of movement" approach to playing the game.
And now, for no damn good reason:
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
So I put together my set: stuff about Phoebe Cates and robots and sacks full of gnomes and a superhero named Monosyllabic Man. I brought energy, I brought delivery, I brought giddy delight for all things odd.
To a room full of college kids.
I was dying up there; it was critical. I was on, I was doing it, I was totally there. But it wasn't working. I finished my five minutes and I was done.
I didn't get the laughs, but the guy who talked about trying to pee when you're drunk and you have an erection? Belly-laughs.
"Your material is funny," one of the judges later told me. "You just have to find a way to make these people comfortable with odd. Emo Phillips did it; Judy Tenuta did it. You just need to find a way to work it in."
On the one hand -- yes, it's infuriating. Being totally outdone by "If I make the push to piss, you'd better believe shit's gonna be flyin' out the other end" is really annoying. But on the other waldo...there's a time and place for weird, and Frat Night ain't it.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I've embraced brainstorming as a creative technique, and I do it this way: I decide on a topic and start throwing crap at the page to see what sticks. No idea is too dumb; if i think of it, I write it down. Pump it out, clear the channel for other, better ideas. Plus, who knows? An idea that looks dumb now might spark the development of a BITCHIN' one later. Hey, it's happened.
So -- the Paranoia connection. There's a section in that old rulebook that's about making up your own adventures, and it gives you lots of scenario ideas. After listing a series of bare-bones adventures, the section closes out with the aforementioned "...And More" header, which is followed by a short list of one-sentence game-sparking ideas. The first item is Conan shows up looking for a fight.
Somehow, it has become a ritual for me to list that as my first complication, situation, goal or what-have-you when I start throwin' stuff down, regardless of game setting and genre. Dunno why; maybe I just think it's funny.
Or maybe it's just to remind myself that anything, no matter how simple it may appear at first, can be fun.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
0e wasn't just its rules. It was an approach, an attitude. 0e was the "hobby" version of this game, and beginning with 1e the game turned away from this do-it-yourself, change-what-you-like attitude and began to become "official." When something becomes official, it begins to fill in all the little questions that need to be answered, because if it doesn't ... then there's no official answer. From a hobbyist's approach, that's no big deal. No official answer? I'll make one up. Recapturing the 0e mindset, that "hobbyist" approach, is one of my goals - it's not so much in the rulebook I've written, but it should become much clearer when Knockspell Magazine comes out. 0e was about imagining the living shit out of a basic, vague, rudimentary game system.
So I'll say no such thing. 'Cause, you know..eyeww, grit.
I'm enjoying the idea of D&D as a game of exploration, where the players' wits are engaged in the discovery of in-game information. Be it traps and secret doors or NPC motivations and personalities, I am enticed by the notion of moving away from abstract die-rolling to pry and learn.
However, I can see prep taking a long time for that style of gaming.
Here's why: If the players are to disarm a trap, I need to know how the trap works, so that I can describe it adequately and they can foil it. If they are to follow a trail through the woods -or a dungeon-, I need to know at least the rudiments of how real-world tracking works, so that I can give them logical clues. And so on.
I don't know a damn thing about this stuff, so I'd hafta haul off and learn. And that means prep time, for research and development.
That's the rub, right there. See, one time I tried running a game for my wife in a style much like this. Her character had trailed an assassin to a sewer/dungeon, and was intent upon finding him therein. When it came time to describe the clues she might follow in tracking this mofo through the dungeon, I was at a loss -- I had no idea what kind of tracks a dude leaves in a moist stone corridor.
Given my tendencies towards obsession and perfectionism, you can see why I feel a bit of trepidation underlying my enthusiasm. Then again, there's the usual Rotwang! caveat: I may be overthinking it, and worrying too much.
Monday, October 20, 2008
I've only done one night, but I'm starting to do standup comedy in a local comedy club. The club's brand-new, and a buddy of mine owns it. He asked me to come in for Open Mic Nights, and...well...I did. It turns out I didn't suck, even if I didn't win the prize (a paid gig opening for a pro comedienne), but I got to wear my tie and do some funny.
Not much, lately. My daughter's bedtime is later now, so my wife and I really no longer have time to game after she goes to bed. This weekend, though, we are hosting our Annual Halloween Game, whereupon Leaky Pete and I will be running a pair of goofed-up Risus scenarios. Here's one of my pre-gen PCs:
PC # 5
Okay, so here's what happened: it was during finals at "Basher" Bukowski's Pro-Wrestling Polytechnic, and you were in the ring with another student. You were supposed to pin him with a Figure-Four leg-lock but instead, you made him disappear. Just, POOF! Like that.
They never found him, and you were forced to drop out. Soon after, though, you received a mysterious school application by mail, and you found your real talent: Magic! Not just card tricks and illusions, but true sorcery. You've combined the showmanship you learned for pro wrestling with your ars magica to become a world-famous stage magician. By the way, the reason you haven't graduated wizard school is because you still haven't found that missing wrestler...
World-Famous Stage Magician (4)
Near-Graduate of Madam Mysteria's Correspondence School of Sorcery & Taxidermy (3)
Pro-Wrestling School Drop-Out (2)
I bought this at Gencon and had it mailed to me. I really, really like it! I'm glad I bought it. It's great. I want to do too much with it. I don't know where to start. RRRAAAARRRGH!
Though I might start with a riff on an old campaign Stormbringer called "Rogue Mistress", and do a planar/multiversal sandbox with characters from various realities as the crew of a dimension-hopping flying galleon. Think a mix of Planescape, Spelljammer and a dash of SF stuff, and you're in the ballpark.
I like the fact that the system is so damn direct, and that it's so simple to process in your head. It's a worthy addition to my games shelf and I really, really wish I had the time to run the damn thing.
Palm Tungsten E2!
I got this as a birthday present, and it's rad. not only can I put appointments and games and crap on it, it came with a program called Documents To Go, which lets me create and edit Microsoft Word docs right on my palm! I used it to write up the above PC while we were out shopping. Now I don't have an excuse for not getting my write on.
Swords & Wizardry!
Holy cow! This thing is great! It's a retro-clone of the 1974 D&D rules, which is to say, totally old-school. No thieves, no skills. Just some character creation rules, combat rules, spells, monsters and sundry. Having read the most excellent Quick Primer on Old-School Gaming, I'm keen on firing this up and seeing what happens. I totally put S&W on my palm, too. SWANK. I ain't giving up on C&C yet, but I am very, very drawn to the notion of playing Swords & Wizardry, too.
...will get his own entry, because meeting him was totally awesome. Plus, he called my Mom an idiot, which was hilarious.
Aaaaaaand we're caught up. Sort of.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Here's an example, why not.
WHAT'S THAT STARSHIP DOING ON A MOUNTAIN?There. Not much to it, but maybe some interesting ideas, don't you think?
- Crashed there (1d4) weeks ago. 75% of valuable cargo being salvageable.
- Abandoned (1d4) (1d4; 1=Days, 2=weeks, 3=months, 4=years) ago. 65% of still being operable.
- Engaged in smuggling operations! (Even=Picking Up; Odd=Dropping Off). The PCs are witnesses -- which the smugglers don't intend to leave...
- It's stranded! The crew are friendly (2-in-6) or terribly grumpy. May trade goods/favors/information for assistance/rescue.
- Hiding from pursuers who, naturally, show up right after the PCs do.
- Hiding in ambush! 4-in-6 chance that the crew will immediately mistake the PCs for their targets!
- It's illegally parked! If the planet has a starport, the encountered ship has set down in the mountains to avoid starport docking fees. If confronted about it, the crew will (Even) politely ask or (Odd) threaten the PCs not to tell.
- Vacationing! GM must determine crew's willingness to invite the PCs to their little party.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
My wife was a big fan, too -- she' come home after school and watch it every day. And our daughter has watched the same episode about...5 times in two 24 hours.
We've started looking for the shows on DVD, and...no go. So I dug a little deeper, and - guess what? Time-Life is releasing a 25-disc set this November. It'll have every episode and 12 hours of extras, including the unaired pilot, interviews with J. Michael Straczynski, Maurice LaMarche and others, a booklet...
...dreamy. Absolutely dreamy.
Guess I'd better just keep dreaming, though.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
WHAT IT IS
StarSIEGE - Event Horizon (SSEH) is a new science fiction RPG from Troll Lord Games, designed by Josh Chewning. It's the first published use of the popular SIEGE Engine outside of Castles & Crusades. You get a box (a sturdy one, at that) with 2d20, 4 copies of the Field Manual (aka Player's Guide), 1 Operations Manual (aka GM's Guide), 1 copy of Victory: 2442 (a sample setting), and some cardstock reference and character sheets.
SO...IT'S CASTLES & CRUSADES IN SPACE?
Some folks want exactly that; others, anything but that. The answer to the question is:
No, not really.
Here's the skinny: SSEH uses the core SIEGE Engine to get things done (the use of a Primary ability has lower base target number than the use of a Secondary ability), but it does so without classes. Neither will you encounter Armor Class, Hit Points or even Levels. BUT! If you really want that stuff, it's embarrassingly easy to drop it back in - a series of sidebars tell you how.
You CAN have it both ways. Enjoy that cake, Chico.
WHY STARSIEGE - EVENT HORIZON IS AWESOME
...oh, boy. Where to start? It's all in one box, for one; that's great, because not only is it complete in that box, but you have room for notes, character sheets, etc. Nice.
The real meat of SSEH's awesomosity lies in its flexibility. A wide range of SF characters, equipment, settings, powers and so on are available to you, in the form of Trappings. There is a built-in system to help you design anything you need, from aliens to weapons to starships...and it's fast and easy to use. No HERO-style point-juggling here; jot down everything you need, add up the Building Points, then spread out the total amongst the necessary stats (XP cost, Drain, Reliability, Value, Size, Tech Level, etc.). There's a slight learning curve, but trust me, you'll get it.
No less awesome is the fact that the SIEGE Engine was pretty much made with improvisation in mind. It has a very strong Old School flavor wrapped in a contemporary "unified mechanic" style, which makes the game fun for player and SIEGE Engineer (read "GM") alike.
The most intriguing aspect, though, has to be the planet creation system. Planets, you see, are designed like characters, and rules are given for interactions between them -- even for fights. How cool is that?
Oh, and hey -- you know how it's easy for PCs to get left out in starship combat? Not in SSEH. Everyone has a chance to do something when the TIEs (or the Starfuries, or the Interceptors or the...) come 'round. The rules for this are damn easy, too. So that's pretty awesome.
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT'S NOT AS AWESOME?
Well, yeah. I mean, it's not perfect. Thankfully, its flaws are, in my estimation, few and far between; still, here they are.
It can be argued that the Trappings system is a little tricky to use. However it's not because of any inherent complexity or clumsiness in the system, but rather because a Trapping can be too simple. My first Trapping was, not surprisingly, a cyberdeck; I ended up with a device no larger than a tennis ball which almost never crashes, is cheap enough to buy in bulk and can be manufactured AND operated by any Neanderthal who is close to hand. Thankfully, when I mentioned this on Troll Lord's SIEGE Forum, Josh Chewning showed up and set me straight (you can read our discussion, and get his rad 'deck, here.)
The movement rules in the Ops Manual and the Field Guide contradict each other (the Field Manual is correct). The art is sparse and repetitive. The layout is very, very bare, which means it's legible as all get-out but not exactly exciting. Minor, minor gripes all.
The biggest gripe is (or rather, might be) this:
It's a toolkit.
That means that, while there are a good number of Trappings already made up (equipment, races, etc.), a lot of stuff is left up to you. You may dig that; you may not. It's easy to build stuff if you have a clear idea and make sure to think thoroughly, but you're still building. (I haven't read Victory: 2442, therefore cannot comment on it as a setting -- but it's chock full of spaceships, cousin.)
SO WHAT'S THE VERDICT?
It's rad. Totally. I'm serious. This game is good for tons of fun, and it can support your campaign for a long time all by itself. Despite a few very minor flaws, StarSIEGE: Event Horizon is solid, uncomplicated, and ready to roll.
So roll, already.
Monday, September 08, 2008
I don't need a calendar to tell me when it's near. I an tell from the sunlight, the way it changes, and what it does to me. I'm not looking forward to it.
That said, a buddy of mine is opening an honest-to-goodness comedy club here in town and he has asked me to come in for Open Mic Night. He thinks I have The Funny, or...something. Maybe he just needs warm bodies, I dunno. Maybe if I do that this fall, maybe a few times throughout the season, it'll take my mind off of it.
In the meantime...I dread the turning of the Sun*.
*Yes, I know the Sun isn't turning -- it's the Earth's axial tilt. But you notice it because of the Sun's path in the sky, and that's relative to the observer on the surface f the Earth, so...hey, I remember Astronomy 101 with Professor Stuart Mufson. That was 15 years ago, too. Huh.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Don't worry. You'll get a thorough review of StarSIEGE because that sucker deserves it.
*I almost typed "busty". What's up with that?
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
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!
Or...you know...come back a little later.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
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:
...man. 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
...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)
Also, he can kickbox better than John Cusack.
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?"
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 lists...no 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.
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
Monday, August 04, 2008
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.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
You cannot stop me. I do as I will.
IGNORING THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN DEPT.
Catdragon sez, "I've always wondered how other game master decide what and how to run their games/campaigns. And now you've given me a peek."
That's always been an interest of mine, as well: How do creative people do what they do? I can comfortably admit to being a creative people, but I have always looked to see how others tame their ideas, for lack of a better term. In fact, I have been known to worry too much about how it should be done; that's the mentality, in fact, that led to the establishment of this blog*.
I used to feel so...powerless next to my creativity. Not that it was greater than me or something, but rather that I had no idea how to actually use it. I'd have ideas and then get discouraged because they weren't perfect, or because they lacked definition, or whatever. So I felt that they weren't good enough. So I figured I was lacking training, so...off I went, looking for some well-researched process or formula or magic spell or psychological blah, blah, blah or something to help me become a fully-capable creative individual.
Huh huh huh. Man, was I being dense.
Somewhere along the line, I hit a piece of advice: Just do it. So I did. It turns out that the best, most effective way to organize and develop my ideas was simply to throw shit on a piece of paper and see what it looks like. So that's what I do, and that's what you're looking at.
Well. When you click on the pictures, I mean.
CHOICE OF SYSTEMS DEPT.
David Dorward sez, "Have you considered Traveller for the system?" Will Douglas, for his own part, suggests helpfully, "I would go for either Savage Worlds or Big Eyes, Small Mouth (especially since they have a supplement dedicated to space opera!)".
Yes, fellas; I've considered all three. I eliminated Trav right off because I purposefully wanted to play something a little different. I loves me some Traveller, there's not doubt of that, and I think that once you read Rule 68A, Classic Traveller magically becomes like 200% jawsomer than it was before. But I was aiming for different, so here we are.
Savage Worlds, now...I can't tell if I like it or not. I might need to just try running it, I guess. I have the Explorer's Edition and I like how it reads, but I need some experience. As for using BESM, I actually feel kind of stupid for not writing it down in my notes, because I'd actually considered it. I have the robust 2nd edition and it might be just what I'm looking for; we'll see.
So. Does system matter? Well...I think it kind of does. I haven't thought about it as much as some theorist-types almost certainly have, but I treat the question the way I treat anything related to this hobby: with my gut. I can't tell you why but sometimes one system just feels better than another one. *shrug* I dunno, man. IT'S ART, OKAY?!
While at Gencon, I may pick up a copy of the BESM space opera book, if I can find one. I know there's a SW SF toolkit, but although I'm OK with .pdfs, I'd like to have something I can sit down with and read. Okay, I know, I could print out the .pdf, but...oh, you know what I mean.
Still. Thanks for reminding me, fellas!
YOU MUST BE THINKING OF OUTLAND DEPT.
BeRKA has one of the first Traveller websites I ever found, back when I fell in love with the game, so I actually take him seriously when he says, "Nono... The #1 item should be: Shotguns!"
I'm going to disagree, however. This game, unformed and swirly in my head, does not feel shotgunny. That said -- his comment gave me an idea, and it is this: One of the Bad Guy Groups ought to develop an energy weapon that fires little beads of force (or whatever), and they start wreaking havoc all over the place with these particular boomsticks. But OMG! that technology totally does not make sense to the Good Guys, so they kind of want to know...where did the Crabulons (or whatever) get those wonderful toys? And can THEY get one, too? Enter the PCs, sent to capture a few samples for study. Hijinks develop, and there's probably a building that gets blown up. Yeeehaw!
I TOTALLY DIG IT, SISTER DEPT.
Geek's Dream Girl opines, "Seriously, what's a space opera without LASERS? :)"
Totally, sister. Although you could run a space opera without lasers, it'd be kind of like a fish without a corncob pipe and a Vegas showgirl outfit: conceivable, but lesser.
On a related note:
I BET YOU HAVE THAT WEIRD ITCH ON YOUR TOE, TOO, DON'T YOU? DEPT.
Well, Jeff, I think that our shared...psychological peculiarities are well-documented.
*Pffffft. Listen to me. "The establishment of this blog". It's enough to make you hoity in your toity.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I'm gonna drop a few items on ya here, just to play catch-up. Ready? Lemme tell you about...
It rocks. There. The sky is blue, Vesuvius is a volcano, tacos are good and Mutant Future rocks. Oh, I know, I'm late to the MF love-in, but that's not gonna affect the fact that this is a solid game. I finally got my book, and although I haven't read it cover-to-cover, I've looked at the real meaty parts already and that is some fine, fine meat. Now all I need is a free afternoon with some of my buddies, and we'll have ourselves a cookout.
The new one, from Mongoose. Fellow RPG Site dude Jeff Hopper (aka jeff37923) was kind enough to put some copies of the book into the hands of Doubting Thomases like myself, he likes the new game so much. I'm gonna tell you what I told him:
So my wife and I sat down to make a Traveller (as opposed to CT, I guess) character tonight. She liked it OK -- not as much as she likes doing it with MT, but she was pleased. I like it OK, too, with a very few quibbles and reservations -- VERY few.
I've looked over the rest of the book and theres' stuff I like, stuff I REALLY like, and stuff that I'm just alright with. Nothing offends my CT-lovin' heart, so we're good.
That said, I'm NOT sold on the presentation. Some of the art is disappointing and the cover is, in my opinion, a pale imitation of a classic, elegant cover, but...IT'S JUST A COVER.
I would like to review the game later on, in full, on my blog. For now, though, I want to thank you again for your kind and generous gift, and to assure you that I do like the dang thing after all. It's not gonna replace CT in my heart, but it's certainly welcome next to it as much as MT is.
There. You done been tole'.
...THE DEATH OF D6
...has me bummed, but excited at the same time. If you've not followed all the hoopla, here's the pill: Eric Gibson, current owner and publisher of West End Games and the D6 System, is calling it quits and selling off the properties, following a spectacular burn-out of dramatic proportions. I hate to see the dude's life ruined when all he was trying to do was to keep alive a game he loved. I love it too and I don't know that I could've done any better.
What has me excited, though, is the prospect of the D6 system ending up in other hands and seeing it go Open -- or, better yet (as this RPG Site thread, warts and all, describes) that it could go public domain, so anyone can do stuff with it, period. I've said my piece in the aforementioned thread, but I gotta say this here, now, again: Bill and Levi, I'm totally down with you; and Bill, I'm game if you are, despite my...
Max has it, too. Can I finish Wilderlands of High Dumbness in...what, is it 6 days, now? Yikes.
...HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY
One word: Slamtastic. To elaborate: Gorgeous, funny, touching, breathless, engaging and Selma Blair is in it. Del Toro WIN -- Nerdtality.
Okay, you're caught up. Sorta.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
I first saw Metropolis when I was just out of high school, and fell in love with it immediately. It was Giorgio Moroder's 1984 reconstruction with the pop music in it; that edition makes it plain that lots of footage had gone missing, but a few stills had survived -- and here they were, integrated into the film along with songs by Bonnie Tyler and Cycle V.
I wanted that footage so bad. It was an unattainable treasure, I knew; a kind of Holy Grail. It lay beyond the horizon, a gauzy temptation, impossible -- but it had once been real, and that made a difference.
A couple of years back, I got a definitive, As-Restored-As-Restored-Gets DVD copy of the film. I sat on my mother's couch that Christmas Eve and read the liner notes. They told the tale of how the film, brought across the Atlantic in '27, was trimmed, cut, sliced and hacked and --
I knew that day what it means "to see red". I wanted to hurl myself bak in time and leap upon the editor's hand, tearing the scissors from his fingers and dashing them to the ground.
Time. A gulf, yawning, widening between us.
Sadly, I resigned myself to the knowledge that that footage was gone forever and, at least, I owned as complete a DVD copy of the film as ever I could.
Special thanks to Natebot.