Wednesday, April 30, 2008



My wife ran into Chris Engle and Terri Klingelhoffer today. They're our friends.

Chris is a games designer. He's the creator of the Engle Matrix game system, a system of which I am most fond. It's very neat, very fun, very home-grown and arguably very well-liked.

Terri, his wife, is a puppeteer. She builds puppets which she sells and uses in her puppet shows. Her shows have a keen sense of humor and kids dig them. (On this one, you have to scroll down to "Salads, Goats and Rats".)

Together they have a little company called Hamster Press/Klingel-Engle Puppets. They usually get a booth at Gen Con, where they sell games and puppets. They do pretty well.

Well, my wife related to me a story that Chris and Terri told her today. Seems that, last Gen Con, Ron Edwards told them something.

He told them that, because they sell games and puppets, they are not professional enough.

I'll leave you to make your own call on that.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Duranmas Duranmas is May 10th!

It's that time of year again -- nearly time for Duranmas Duranmas! Well, not again, but actually "for the first time ever". At any rate the date is drawing near, and because there's still some confusion about it, I've prepared a handy and informative FAQ file to get everyone caught up. Read it!

What the hell is "Duranmas Duranmas"?
Duranmas Duranmas is the highest holy day of The Church of New Wave. It celebrates the day that Duran Duran's "Rio" album was released in 1982, and the Apostles of the Church have agreed that this day is a good one for celebrating All Things 80's.

Who are they?
Duran Duran? Dude! They were a new wave/new romantic band fro--

No, I mean, who are the Apostles?
Oh. Uh, me.

Why should Duran Duran's "Rio" represent All Things 80s, though?
Because you can't say "Duran Duran's 'Rio' " and not think 80's. If you say, "Dude, legwarmers!" or "Rubik's Cube!", someone else can say, "Yeah, my sister wears those to ballet practice" or "Aisle 5, next to Scene It." Plus, it's funny. Duranmas Duranmas. Heh heh heh.

What's the 'Church of the New Wave' thing? Is that like the Discordian Society, only...more...neon?
Yes! It is very much like the Discordian Society! Except that it's less about philosophy and more about synthpop, and no ones smokes pot or drops acid. So it is nothing like the Discordian Society at all.

What are the core beliefs of this 'Church', then?
You're thinking too hard.

Well, does it actually represent a belief in anything?
You know when you're driving down the street listening to the radio and "She Blinded Me With Science" comes on and you just start singing it because you can? That's our core belief.

Does the Church of the New Wave recognize God, Jesus, Satan, Heaven, Hell,Xenu and stuff like that?
Nope. There's no praying, or cosmology, or anything. Just kind of a general pro-80's pop sentiment. The Church thing is just so we can get away with calling it a "holiday". As for the dudes, uh...well...we have St Benatar, Our Lady Of Belonging And Hitting With Your Best Shot, but that's mostly because it's funny. Our Satan is Dee Snyder, but he's not really evil -- selling out to drug companies, however, is.

Dee Snyder isn't New Wave.
That's not a question.

*sigh* Okay, okay. Why Dee Snyder? Dee Snyder isn't New W--

Man, you're testy! Why are you so testy?
I skipped my Yaz this morning.

How does one celebrate Duranmas Duranmas?
I dunno. May 10 2008 is the first one ever, so hell if I know. Anything I can suggest to do would be stuff that I do on a daily basis anyway, but if cranking up "Don't You Want Me?" in the drive-thru at CVS or watching "Miami Vice" for no damn good reason seems like celebrating to you, then...

Are you aware of how stupid this is?
Psssshhht. Totally, fool. What's your point?

I thought I was asking the questions.
Who are you, anyway?

Well, who are you?!
I'm Doc Rotwang! Didn't you read the thing at the top of the blog where I--

Wait -- isn't this a gaming blog? What's this have to do with gaming?!

Where'd you go?

Doc? Doc...Doc, I'm sorry, I -- I just got a little flustered, and I guess I...

Fine. Be that way. You're a jerk.

Friday, April 25, 2008

'Pool Of Radiance' Update - For Jer

Aloha! Or...something. So I'm reading "Pool Of Radiance", right? I talked about that a couple of posts ago. At that time, X-bow reader jer asked,

If you'd care to give some spoilers about what you've been reading I can probably tell you whether or not it follows the basic "plot" of the CRPG.
Well, jer, turns out I do care. (Hey, that rhymed!) Furthermore I don't mind telling you or anyone what's what in "PoR" so far because --

-- so far, no plot.

I'm into the fourth chapter and there's no real what-you'd-call "plot". There are characters, and there are situations, and there are plenty of large, muscular women, but there's nothing really propelling a story forward. I think that there soon will be, but...not yet.

Large, muscular women. Yes! No female of note has, so far, been able to not be a large, muscular woman, or at least has not been able to avoid magically turning into a large, muscular woman. Well, actually, I take that back. One woman is neither large nor muscular, but she's a 0-level NPC. However she is directly involved in tailoring smooth, supple leather clothes for one of the three protagonists, who has become a large, muscular woman (and who reminds another protagonist of his dead lover, herself a large, muscular woman), and that's how things go in the Forgotten Realms, apparently.

(Before someone starts to say, 'Hey! Doc! What's wrong with large, muscular women?' I should like to preempt that by saying 'Nothing, as long as they're described better than they are in this book, because this book is kind of heavy-handed with their size and musculariousness, to the point of eye-rolling'. So there. Tall ladies need love, too, but too bad for them I'm married. Muscular, like over there on the left, though...not my taste.)

So, jer, so far there are three protagonists. Each has been introduced and described, their classes established, their motivations (sort of) spelled out, and their paths entwined. Also, there is a setting -- namely, the mostly-ruined city of Phlan, which is not a tasty custard dessert but rather a broken city full of fuglies and orcs and stuff.

Oh, and there's the shocking revelation that warhammers are thrown in combat. Yes. By clerics. Clerics who ritualistically whack themselves in the thighs with swords, or...something. I dunno. Most of 'em got killed by some undead.

So, jer, there you have it. The book's pretty 'meh' but I keep reading the damn thing, probably because it makes me want to write a novel. It's engaging in much the same way that watching someone else play Dungeons & Dragons is, but it's still kind of 'meh'.

I've loaded the game onto Ye Olde Drive of Hardness, but have yet to play it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Dag nabbit! Gol' darnit! Dad balst it!

*sigh* I'm running a fun one-on-one Castles & Crusades game with my wife, and we have an open Fudge space opera game we come back to now and again, too. I've kicked off a D6 Star Wars game as well.

You'd think I'd be satisfied.

This would be a misconception.

I'm sure this happens to a lot of people, but that doesn't make it any easier: I want to run and play more games than my free time allows. At any given time I'm likely to get enthused about, oh...three, four, who knows HOW many games at the same time. For instance, at this given moment alone, I get giddy just thinking about the following:

  1. A game of Savage Worlds set in an alternate Victorian/Edwardian reality, kind of a mix of Castle Falkenstein and Sky Captain;
  2. A Buck Rogers XXVc game, probably with a different rules set;
  3. A game of modern action, waaaaay over the top, full of ridiculous situations and Benny Lava -- Werewolf Hunter and nuns with MAC-10s;
  4. Spelljammer D6;
  5. Tunnels & Trolls with the gonzo cranked up; and
  6. Encounter Critical, the best game EVER that I have yet to play.
What's wrong with me? ADD? (That's "ADD" as in "Attention Deficit Disorder", not "AD&D". )

Hang on, I'll think of more, just you wait three days or so.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

So Help Me, I Am Reading "Pool Of Radiance"

Oh, the things you find -and do- at a flea market.

This one dude had a lot of SF/Fantasy paperbacks, 4 for...I dunno, $5, I think. I'd snagged Lando Calrissian and the Mindsharp of Sharu and Logan's Search already, and was waffling on the other two, when my daughter started getting antsy to move on. I was hovering over the box of Forgotten Realms novels so I grabbed one that wasn't part of a series, then let my wife grab me something at random, paid the guy, and moved on. Cranky toddlers are less fun than otherwise, after all.

On the drive home she fell asleep, my wife was driving the usual scenic route back home from Nashville (IN, not TN!), so I fished out Pool of Radiance and started to read.

Now...I'm not really a published author. Oh, I've had a couple of humor pieces appear in print, plus some stuff I wrote for Places To Go, People To Be on the internet. I have this blog. But I've never been paid for my work. So I feel kinda hypocritical when I say something like what I'm about to say:

This book is pretty bad.

No offense to the authors, certainly not to Jim Ward. Still, this thing is pretty bad. I'm entertained enough to keep reading it (albeit slowly -- 4 days in, I'm not yet finished with chapter 2), It makes me wonder a few things:

1. I know it was a tie-in for the computer game (in fact, if I understand correctly, it was TSR's first big entry into an industry created because of D&D). But I wonder if it was approved, published and marketed just because there was a need for a tie-in? Was there no other requirement for it than to fill a spot on the publishing schedule?

2. Is it based on someone's game? I wonder this because some stuff just kind of seems to happen. I read it and I think, "I can see that happening in a game, but not a novel."

3. Why is it that, as I read the book, I want to retell it in my own words? Shouldn't I just write my own damn fantasy novel?

Shouldn't I?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wherein I Talk About Savage Worlds

I finally got around to buying this thing. I've been eyeing it a long time, but something always kept me from it. I can cite a lack of funds, inability to justify the purchase or simply (believe it or not) a grudge against all those pro-SW fans who repeatedly tried to impress upon me that it was so much better than D6, which we all know I heart with big, pink, girly ♥♥♥s.

But now the game is in a revised, compact edition, and its new price won't ding your wallet if you're just picking it up to scope it.


Do I like it?

Well, reading it, I do. On paper, it's good stuff. I've only played it once, about 2½ years ago, but I seem to recall liking the way it flowed. It looks pretty good to me, and there's lots of support on the interweb informanet. I haven't messed with it yet (I just got it last Thursday), but I like the chase rules pretty well. It's not set to replace anything in my library, but I can see it joining others and taking its rightful place next to D6.

That reminds me of something...

Creativity Lesson: Do What George Carlin Says

Recently , The History Channel ran a show called "The History Of The Joke" or something like that. Basically, they interviewed a bunch of comedians and it was hilarious.

One of them mentioned that he once asked George Carlin for advice. Carlin replied, "Write everything down." Upon hearing the anecdote, I nodded to myself and thought, "Yes, George Carlin. Write everything down."

I try to be a better note-taker, because, let's face it -- ideas are ephemeral. They will flit into, and back out of your consciousness with the unpredictability and transience of a deranged hobo. When they're there, in front of you, it pays to capture those little mofos in amber -- pin them down like butterflies with a stroke or two of your pen.

And keep those butterflies. Keep those little notes somewhere, and when you're stuck for a game, use them.

Oh! My! Am I spouting arcane wisdom? Is this some sort of super-secret pagan magick revealed?! No! No, no way. Pfffft. It's just good wisdom, and useful magick, and a handy habit. It's one of those things that are so basic, they're easy to take for granted -- and forget.

Recently, in my one-on-one Castles & Crusades sandbox game, my wife wrapped up an adventure and decided to go poking at the mysterious pyramid which showed up 2 months (in-game) ago. I had no freaking clue what it was when I put it on the map, thinking only, "Hey, mystery pyramid! That sounds like fun. *doodle doodle*" But then the day of reckoning came, and I was all, like, "Uhhhhhhh...."

So I grabbed a piece of paper and started doing one of those 'cluster' diagrams. You know the type, like they taught you in middle school. I started tossing out ideas for what the pyramid is and so on. Eventually I got to the idea that monsters had moved into it, and started rolling on some charts in the D&D RC. "Roc" was one option; "Hobgoblins" was another.

The roc was a cool idea, but it didn't really feel right. The hobgoblins would be easier, but Amber's character had just fought a bunch of goblins. How, then, to make an interesting encounter out of it?

I thought back to an old idea I had. You can read it here, but I just fudged it from memory: traditionally-nasty humanoids who, guided by a god or prophet or something, decide not to become strong by force of violence but by force of labor.

Result: an extended role-playing and puzzle-solving session which not only entertained and kept us busy, but also fleshed out the world and pushed forward a possible plot. Wheeee!

I've heard that the act of writing down an idea helps commit it to memory, probably by forming neural connections in your brain -- the type where cool electrical shock FX snap and crackle across strands connecting ganglia, and then the bonds light up and streams of 1s and 0s pass back and forth and there's the sound of a dialup modem handshake and everything. I didn't have the written note handy, but lacking it, I thought of it -- the neural connection happened, or whatever. "Oh, yeah," I said to myself, "I can use that....!"

And I did.

The next morning, the cat barfed on my notes.

Where Has All The Rotwang! Gone And Where Are All His Blogs?

Ha ha ha ha! Get it?!



...'kay. Anyway, yeah, sorry about the recent drought in posts. I have fewer excuses than I have time to elaborate. I've had some topics on the burner, though, so...why don't I just get going?

No, not here -- in proper posts, each with one topic! They'll be stacked up above this one, so scroll up and read!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Guess If You're Hot, You're Not REALLY A Disney Princess

So my daughter is 3 1/2 years old, right, and boy, she loves her some Disney princesses. She's got Belle, and, uh, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella and Mulan and Pocahontas on stuff, all over the place. Mostly the first three -- they seem to be the A-List of Disney Princess Merchandising. Those three are on everything.

But you never see the hot one. The smoldering one, the vivid, lively one, the one who looks like Passion:


Technically, not a princess -- I guess, I've never seen The Hunchback of Notre Dame (I'm not a big fan of Disney, for some reason). But I remember the promos on TV, and stuff -- I remember her swirling an dancing and generally looking pretty va-voom all over the place. My daughter sometimes asks, "Who's your favorite Princess, Daddy?" Answers of "You are" are rebuked because she means the Disney ones, so I have to say "Belle", because she's the nerdy one.

But Esmeralda, about whom I'd managed to forget, is the hot one, and I guess Disney doesn't want to market hot to little girls.

Good idea, actually.

By the way...yesterday I was asked, by my daughter, who my favorite character from Godzilla is. She's...that kind of kid -- she puts on a Belle costume to sit down and watch kaiju flicks. I am the proudest Daddy in the world.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Top Secret/S.I.

I'm suddenly real interested in it. Why?

No good reason, I think I just am. I never played it, but I hear it's good. I have the original Top Secret, but I hear SI was better.

I just get curious about games I've never played. It happens a lot, actually, and it gets triggered by the oddest things -- in retrospect, my sudden interest in Top Secret/S.I. probably comes from the fact that my wife just brought home the Namco Museum collection for our PS2, and I played a little of a game called "Rolling Thunder" and it really made me want to do a totally jacked-up spy game. See these dudes?

Yeah, in the hoods. They're some sort of shadowy organization (why else, the hoods?) with bizarre technology, and they need their asses punched by an intelligence organization. They have stun batons, or maybe shocksticks. I dunno, I'm makin' this up as I go along.

Sure, any game can do this. But I was playing this a moment ago and I thought, "Hey, Top Secret/S.I.", and...

...there ya go.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I Played! I Played!


The other night my wife ran a brief game of C&C for me. It consisted of only two encounters, but... god, I played.

Greylond Sharpe, 1st-level fighter with these here swashbuckler options, went poking around in the hills outside of a podunk town in my wife's setting, drawn by rumors of gold and treasure. My wife cleverly started the game in media res, with Greylond in a room full of treasure but surrounded by goblins -- and without his sword. Perilous!

Eventually Greylond got his sword in hand and started dispatching goblins, including the spellcaster chieftain. The bountiful treasure, however, proved mostly to be bogus -- mostly pieces of wood painted gold, set there as a trap by the goblins! Bastards.

Greylond still ended up with a few magic items and a little bit of real coin, most of which was spent in a neighboring town, identifying the magic items. I got a Bag of Beans!

That's about as much as we got in. Certain stresses have her creatively tapped-out at the moment, so it's unlikely I'll get to play again any time soon.

...damnit, I want to play MORE.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I have just purchased, and downloaded, The World Of Broadsword. I know, I know...Jeff linked to it first. Gimmie a break, I'm excited. Okay?

Anyway. I haven't read it yet (it's still printing), but I can already tell you -- it's 31 pages long, has tons of new stuff for your Broadsword game, a setting, some adventures and even some monsters.

It costs $3.95.

Although buying that much for that little feels kind of like you're stealing it, just -- c'mon, man, live a little. Skirt the law! Go getcha some!

Everybody's doin' it. You don't wanna be square, do ya...?

Geddy Lee, C&C, Dinner Tables and Me

Just recently, my wife and I got a new dinner table -- just a round little thing, no bigger than a family of 3 needs. We were without one for years, but we found The Right One and now we're all set. Sitting down at a real, honest-to-goodness dinner table and writing up game notes is a real pleasure. It's been a long time and now I feel like I can do it up proper.

'Cept for one thing I'm missing. What could possibly need, you wonder.

Here's what I need: I need more Rush albums.

Oh, I've got a few CDs. I have Signals, which I heart right in its face; I have Moving Pictures, which of course rocks. I have Roll The Bones and Presto, neither of which I like quite as much, and I have a couple on vinyl, but it's been a while since I've seen them and I forget which ones they are.

I need more. I need more Rush CDs because I have it in my head that if I can get a couple of solitary hours to sit down at my dinner table, make Castles & Crusades notes and listen to some older Rush stuff, I will be in a sort of personal gamer-nerd Nirvana.

This belief is strong and immutable. It wavers no more than do mountains, or constellations, or, you know, other things that stay for a long time. The image of myself sitting at the table, stack of books, dice pooled nearby, pencils and papers and a disk of incandescent light from above and the sounds of, say, "Spirit Of Radio" all's inviting. Very much so!

Also, it's more realistic than the one with the hammock and the Mexican beach and the stack of old SF novels and the cooler full of Sangria SeƱorial bottles. These days, I seek my pleasures in the achievable, if still among the distinct.

Plus, my daughter heard me singing a bit of "Fly By Night" in the truck the other day and now she keeps asking me if we have the song yet. So why don't I?!