Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It Hasn't Been Video Day In A While.

Let's see what's on my playlist today...hmm. Ah!  Yes. Here we go:

...yeah, that's what's in there. In there, breakin' stuff.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Alive But Not Living.

Here, look at this.  See this?  Look at it.

This is happening tonight, maybe a 1.5 or 2-hour drive from where I live.  Close, huh?  Oh, and I was offered free tickets to the show.

Free tickets.

As in, live one of your fucking dreams at almost no expense.  These bands you've loved since you were in kindergarten?!  See them live, here, go on, ya.


Can't, because I have a life now.  Meaning, I have bills, and a job, and it's my wife's birthday today anyway and she just switched jobs and our income is really lean at the moment and gas costs money.

When I was in my twenties and I could run around and do stuff, there was no stuff I wanted to do. In fact, I would even say, and I quote:  "I don't go to concerts because DEVO aren't touring anymore."

And it wasn't just concerts -- it was a lot of little things. Little opportunities, little risks never sought or found or taken. Many, many things for which I have the confidence or the opportunity but which have come much too late. Little experiences that make life life, not just existence.

Here's another one, gone forever.  Tonight in Carmel Blondie will sing "Atomic" and "Dreamin'", and then DEVO will bust out "Human Rocket" and maybe even "Goin' Under" or "Devo Has Feelings Too"...

...and I'll be at home.

Merely fucking existing.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Half A Goon And Half A God

Twist away the gates of steel
Unlock the secret voice
Give in to ancient noise
Take a chance a brand new dance
Twist away the gates of steel

Twist away
Now twist and shout
The earth it moves too slow
But the earth is all we know
We pay to play the human way
Twist away the gates of steel

A man is real
Not made of steel

But the earth is all we know
We pay to play the human way
Twist away the gates of steel

The beginning was the end
Of everything now
The ape regards his tail
He's stuck on it
Repeats until he fails
Half a goon and half a god
A man's not made of steel

Twist away
Now twist and shout
The earth it moves too slow
But the earth is all we know
We pay to play the human way
Twist away the gates of steel

A man is real that's how he feels
DEVO - "Gates Of Steel"

It's the (literal) theme song.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One Thing Leads To Another

So...yeah.  I was writing a cyberpunk serial and putting it online but had a good reason to take it back down for later.


...huh!  Imagine, this is still around.

...Oh, and A Clarification.

I don't want to say too much 'cause I don't like the taste of my own foot, but I will say this -- I took the story down for a good reason, and that reason is that it now has a different Fate than I thought it would.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thanks, Apologies and a Heads Up


...to everyone who took the time to come by and read any of Parts 1-6 of "254.13.26", my cyberpunk serial short story.  It meant a lot to me to be able to write something that long and with that much focus and dedication again, and even more to know that someone cared enough to want to read it.


...to anyone who came looking for Part 7, because even though it is complete, you'll notice that it's not here.  In fact, none of it is here.  Why isn't any of it here...?


I once made promises, promises you knew I'd never keep -- but control has enabled the abandoned wires again...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Long Story Made Short

GO READ 17 SEP 2012'S

Where the hell have I been, man? Last post on May 28?  Really?  WHY?!

In summary:  Moping, depression, ataraxia....and then, ADHD medication.

You knew it; it was clear.  It was clear even to me, and I'm dense as uranium.  Finally I told my doc that maybe I oughtta, and she said, "Yeah, probably."

It's working.

Evidence:  Exhibits A, B and C below.  See those?  Those are links to parts 1, 2 and 3 of a serial I call 254.13.26, a cyberpunk tale of that setting I've been yammering for over a decade.  The one I could never nail down, the one that I always thought I could put into words but never actually could?

That one.

These are just the first three parts.  There will be more, but this ought to get you started.   They're exactly the kind of cyberpunk story that you would expect from me, Dr Rotwang!.  Want more?  Come back soon.  Don't want more?  That's cool, we're still friends.

CONTENT WARNING:  Profanity, Violence, Profanity, Blood, Atheism, Profanity, Gibsonian Cyberspace, Cussing, References to New Wave Music, Profanity and Willful and Knowing Misuse of the First Person Present Tense.


Oh, wait, you want the official soundtrack, too....?

Monday, May 28, 2012

TSR's Indiana Jones Game Does Not Deserve Your Smack-Talk

"You'd better watch your mouth."
Well, folks...it’s Memorial Day today, and that means I’m reviewing TSR’s Indiana Jones game.  There’s a reason that one leads to the other, but it involves 1988 and it’s not important right now.

What is important, though, is that TSR’s The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role Playing Game has earned a bad reputation which it does not at all deserve.  It’s a serviceable, rules-light RPG on a par with that publisher’s Conan game, now known as the OGL game ZeFRS (Zeb’s Fantasy Roleplaying System).  

I’m serious.  

Quit laughing at me.  And stop doing that eye thi--

Fine, you can do the eye thing.  Just so long as you keep reading and gimmie a chance to lay this down.  OK?  No, I am not craz-I SAID I AM NOT CRAZY.  PUT DOWN THE PHONE.


Thank you.  Now sit still and let me provide my evidence.


The Adventures of Indiana Jones Role Playing Game (hereafter TSR Indy) is representative of Tactical Studies Rules’ mid-1980s streak of chart-driven role-playing sytems, with very streamlined rules, simple task- and combat resolution and low barrier to entry.  The basic set, published in 1984, was a boxed set containing the rulebook, a pamphlet with props and character sheets, some fold-up cardboard figures, a GM’s screen and a grid printed on thin card.  You also got 2 d10s and a crayon, because that is how TSR rolled back then.

It did not include character creation rules, it’s true; but I’ll get to that in a moment.  Trust me, I’ll cover this.


The game rules themselves are pretty straightforward.  Your character has a set of Abilities (Strength, Movement, Prowess, Backbone, Instinct and Appeal), rated 1-100; you roll equal to or less to succeed.  Success comes in one of 6 degrees, determined by looking at a chart -- but mind you that it’s a smaller chart than the Conan and Marvel Super Heroes games boasted, which is neat.  
"Oh, yeah.  There are rules, too."

Characters have Knowledge (i.e. Skills) which let you make Attribute rolls to accomplish specific types of tasks (having Sailing Knowledge lets you sail a boat, navigate using the stars and so on, while Entertainment helps you get jobs in show business or can even double your Appeal under certain circumstances).  

There are no Hit Points -- there are levels of damage, with different effects based on the type of attack that dealt it (a Serious Wound from Wrestling is much different from a Serious Wound from a Firearm, as you can imagine).  

There is a nice flow chart for running chases (more on that in a little bit, too), some rules on NPC interactions, hazards, things like that.

Oh -- and these are easy to learn, because --


It’s a cool idea: you read a section of the rules, and then play a short solitaire scenario right after it.  Finish that, and you read another section; the next solitaire encounter follows from the last one, and so on until you have a complete adventure right in your rulebook.  (The adventure, by the way, is called “The Ikons of Ikammanen”; if you are some kind of big damn nerd, then you recognize that title from Marvel Comics’ Indiana Jones book.)  

You don’t just learn the rules, though; you learn to run the game, and at a certain point in the process you start running it for another player and teach him or her the rules.  Eventually you run out of rules to learn but you still have plenty of adventure to get down with, and there’s a sub in it.  That’s cool.  But you know what else?


Look, I’m just gonna show you:

...in case the topic wasn't clear.

This is what a two-page spread looks like.  It’s clean, it’s dynamic, it’s got a mook’s hand crossing the center line...got your jagged edges and your weird black marks...

Now look at this one:

Damn straight, Harris- uh, Ha- um, Rick Deck- er, Indy!
Bullet holes, Indy wrasslin’ a dude -- they knocked the page numbers outta place, even, see that?

I think I made my point.  But speaking of holes...


Oh!  Ha!  Ha ha ha...!


Well, you can’t.  You have rules for creating villainous NPCs, but not heroic PCs.  Oh, you can play Indy, or Marion, or Short Round or Willie Scott or Jock Lindsey or Wu Han or Sallah.  Buuuut....

OK, maybe the designers assumed that you wanted to play an Indiana Jones adventure game, not a...Frank...Lamm...Landers adventure game.  Fair enough.  But let’s say that you do want to play a Frank Landers adventure game.  

You are hosed.

Unless you went back to the store. And really you ought to.

That's a Caldwell, by the way.


If you’re thinking that I am not crazy, and that the much-maligned TSR Indy is undeserving of the crap it gets and you want to get it, you really ought to get yourself a copy of the Judge’s Survival Pack as well.  This was pretty juicy stuff, too -- not only did it come with a bunch of extra fold-up cardstock miniature props (including a Nazi truck) and a wiggy “Combat Calculator” for...stuff, it had some kicked-up chase rules, two new chase flowcharts, a random ruin generator, some sample real-world ruin maps, sample hieroglyphs, and --

-- let me take a brief moment to discuss the chase flowcharts.


One of the coolest ideas in the TSR Indy game was the idea of the Chase Flowcharts.  As I mentioned before, the rulebook gives you one to start with, and it’s pretty swank.  It’s a highly-abstracted flowchart of circles and connectors and stuff.  The flowchart is coded to indicate intersections, distances and potential hazards; in addition, most of the circles had a label, to be referenced by individual scenarios later on.  That way, one scenario might say “The chase begins at E and ends at L” and another “The bad guys start at A, the PCs at H, and both need to get to M” and so on, so that the flowchart could be re-used ad infinitum.  

The Judge’s Survival Pack added MORE such charts, for indoor (multi-level!) and outdoor (city or country!) chases, plus some more rules for stunts and shortcuts and the like.  These rules are a little hard to parse out at times, but once you get them you won’t let them go.  The flowcharts can be re-purposed for other games, by the way; I speak from experience.


..take up about 12 or 13 column-inches on the printed page.  They are simple, straight-forward and I have no earthly idea why they were not in the main set....man, I haven’t written a blog post in a long while. 


Stop making fun of this game.  It’s solid, it’s easy and it’s very likeable.  So cut it out, already.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Whatever Happened to Doctor Rotwang!?

I dunno.  Maybe he just can't get excited any more...maybe he can't keep up.  Maybe he went into one of his funks where he feels it is pointless to try to love a hobby that he never gets to practice, and he never came back out.  Maybe he's frustrated by it.  Maybe the whole thing is so frustrating that he doesn't even bother trying to keep up, or post, or even read anyone else's blogs anymore, BECAUSE ALL IT DOES IS MAKE HIM THINK OF SOMETHING









Yyyyyyeeeeeeaaaaaahhhh...that sounds about right.  It has that ring of futility about it.  Futility, and rage.  Yes!  there is rage.  There is rage and--and--and--

...screw it.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dukes of Biohazzard - Chapter 2, Part 1


“BECAUSE THEY’RE COUSINS” -- Character Creation

As mentioned before, all PCs in The Dukes of Biohazzard are cousins.  Them’s the rules.  In fact, let’s call them PCs, or “Player Cousins”.  They don’t have to be first or even second cousins, but cousins they must be.  Because they are all kin to each other, they stick together, cover each other’s butts and stand up for the family name.
Or not.  Whichever.  

What You Is?

As you can well imagine, gamer that you are, there’s no shortage of booger-headed mutant freaks in this game.  Player Cousins may choose to be relatively normal baseline humans with virtually untouched genes just as easily as they can decide to be real weird-ass Rob Bottin nightmares.  Possibly, PCs can just lie somewhere in between--call them “genetic scratch-and-dent” cases.  If you’re making a character, choose this level of messupedness now.  NOW!  GO ON, CUZZ!  YEEEE-HAAAW!
By the way.  The choice you just made has no mechanical benefit or detriment other than to guide you on how to spend your dice, which you get to do in this next section, called--

Fixin’ To Get Ready

Just as in reg’lar Mini Six, all PCs start with 12D for Attributes and 7D for Skills and Perks.  The Attributes are the same as always, but with different names, like so:



Most skills from Mini Six are likewise available, although most having to do with technology more advanced than the carburetor in a Dodge Charger are going to get real lonely.  

Living in Biohazzard County (the in-game name of the setting) requires and allows its own unique skill set, though; here are some new skills that you may wish to use in your game.  I could only think of two, though...but that’s OK, because this game doesn’t need to go getting all complex and nuanced.

Wrasslin’ (Heftin’): Not just a form of combat but also a performing art, Wrasslin’ is an important skill to have in the post-apocalyptic thigamaplace here.  A good wrassler is not only a formidable opponent in a fight, but can also be an imposing presence in social encounters.  In some places, a good wrassler has certain social advantages, too...

Stillin’ (Brainin’):  As fossil fuels are no longer available (having all been consumed during the war...did I mention that?), citizens of the post-apocalyptic whatchamacallit must rely on alternative fuel sources, both for survival and for trade. Ergo, Stillin’ is the ability to make combustible fuel out of whatever biomass is available.  It can also be used to make hooch, which can also be used for trade or entertainment.  Don’t drink and drive, kids.


Of these, there are more.  How else you gonna trick out your Player Cousin with, like, eye lasers and stuff? (Note: “Eye Lasers” is not an available perk.  I am a liar and a jerk.)

Muscle Car (2):  You have a muscle car.  It’s whatever color, make and model you want, and it can be decorated as you please.  A Plymouth Duster with an airbrushed Virgen De Guadalupe would be nice; maybe a lime-green AMC Machine with...I dunno, like, how about an elephant stencilled on the hood?  That’d be different.  Working door latches are optional.  NOTE: Two PCs may each contribute 1 die to this Perk, and thus receive joint ownership of the car.
Gams (1): Ooooh, you is a sexy cousin.  Gain +3 to all social interactions with other sentient beings who are not repulsed by you.  Also, you can wear cut-off denim shorts without looking like you’re walking on cottage cheese hot dogs.  Note that “Gams” need not be restricted to female cousins, nor does its other form, “Pecs”.  
Muated Up (1-3):  You have a beneficial mutation, and you can even use it.  This is purposely left vague, because I’m less keen on lists of powers and more into makin’ stuff up.  So just describe the mutation (Third Leg, Cat Eyes, Tobacco Spit Gland) and what it does (bonus to balance rolls, see in the dark, spit a stream of foul ichor at a target within 15’) and you’re golden.  But hang on, here are some rules of thumb:
  • Each die you spend on this Perk grants either a +3 bonus to a logically-related roll or set of rolls OR 1D of effect in damage or whatever
  • You can’t have more than 3 mutations of mechanical consequence
  • If you have a 3-die Perk, then you are Mutated Up Something Fierce and must describe yourself as such

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dukes Of Biohazzard: Interstitial

Chapter 1, "Because They're Cousins", is going to be the character creation chapter.  It's been started, but it's not done yet.

In the meantime, please enjoy this preview image:

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Dukes of Biohazzard: Chapter 0

A Mini-Six Game of Post-Apocalyptic Crick-Jumpin' Mayhem

INTRODUCTION; or, "What The Stink IS This?!"
Well, it's a Mini-Six Game of Post-Apocalyptic Crick-Jumpin' Mayhem. It was inspired by a comment made some years ago on a blog, or on a gamig forum, or something. It is driven by my desire to see how much of a game supplement I can write on my luch hour, while listening to "The Best Of Al Jarreau".

Yeah. It's like that.

More salient to your interests, "The Dukes of Biohazzard" is an action/comedy game set in a mutated future USA, where all the PCs are cousins, there are cars to drive and wreck, fuel to distill up in the mountains and semi-intelligent electric kudzu. If you're of a certain age, let me just say "Mad Max Meets The Dukes Of Hazzard At Thundarr's", and it will all make sense.


THE SETTING; or, "Where The Stink does this happen?!"
Look, matey, I'm not gonna lie to you--this setting is pretty vague, but you've probably figured out that it's not the type of setting that ought to be anything BUT vague. Still and all, here's where we are and how we got there...

1980: WHOOPS!
The world was on the brink of nuclear war. The United States and the United Socialist Soviet Republics had been ratlling their giant thermonuclear sabres at each other for the last, like, twenty-five years. Tensions mounted, ideologies clashed, political alliances swayed and The Village People sold out stadiums. Truly the stage was set for the end of times.

From a remote base on the far side of the Moon, a team of Traxelian scientists observed the conflicts closely, using their advanced alien technology (they were aliens) to remain hidden and study the Earth's human population. The Traxelian Xenosociologists at the base had been gathering data for five years straight, looking for signs of intelligence. They'd found it right away, but hesitated to publish their results until such time as they had mapped a few select trends in human sociological development and thus had some nifty charts to submit with their papers. 
Of these scientists, one team in particular had been assigned to study the effects of mass media communications on societal development, specifically as related to variety programs. The team had been fascinated by the content of a short-lived television program starring American comedian Jeff Altman and Japanese singers Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda, who together comprised the singing duo Pink Lady (well, the girls did, not Jeff). The program recieved poor viewership reactions on Earth (not so on the Traxilonian base), and the network struggled to find a successful time slot for it. 
The Traxilonians struggled to keep up with the scheduling changes and soon became frustrated. In their efforts, they attempted to set up a surface listening station outside of the production studio--a compact device that would register and transmit tiny variations in the local environment. The team applied for clearance to deploy the sensor package, and received it right away. On April 4th, 1980, the Traxilonian lander set down in Hollywood California, and began broadcasting via tight microwave beam to the Traxilonian base.

The signals were detected by the US Military, reported to the CIA, misidentified as a Russian plot, and caused World War III.

2012: DANG!
32 years later, Earth's all mutated up and stuff. It all looks like rural Alabama, only with glowing plants and weird messed-up creatures and like that.

This is the world of "The Dukes of Biohazzard".


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hail Eris! 23 Questions!

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
That's a toss-'em-up between the Pyrurse, The Adventure Funnel and something I've probably forgotten.  Yeah, that's not a single.  You wanna fight?!

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Just before Christmas.  The last time before that was in the Summer.

3. When was the last time you played?
The Lincoln administration.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
"Doc Rotwang!'s friends finally have time off concurrently and come over to game."

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Think of new and entertaining ways to propel the plot.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Whattaya got?

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting? 
Yeah...I'm not 16 anymore.  DAMMIT, THANK YOU FOR BRINGING IT UP.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
Your question requires that I have a recent-enough memory of such an activity.
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
No, they're pretty respectful.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Make 'em go 'vroom vroom' and crash 'em into each other.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
I don't even bother anymore, it'll never get used.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
I'm now too depressed to think of funny stuff.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
"Philotomy's Musings", because I want to run OD&D next month.  HA HA HA HA HA!  HA!  AAAAAH, HA HA HA HA HAHAHA!

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
Jim Holloway.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid? 
Nope!  If it does, they got badass poker faces.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
Ha!  Dude, that was sometime in the Pleistocene.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
The body I had when I was 16.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
HERO FREd and Theatrix.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Mexico City ca. 1983, Star Wars, New Wave music and not being 16 anymore.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
The kind who is active, engaged and never, ever quotes Spaceballs.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
 Yak wrestling.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
Yes.  But since time is linear, it cannot exist.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
Yeah, but I keep those conversations short more for the sake of brevity and not being a dull, overbearing interlocutor.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

That Girl's Hair Doesn't Let The Light Pass Through

...but the cruelest thing is that every time I listen to it, I move further and further away in time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Type V Elephant In The Room

Has anyone else noticed it? 


No one?


Just me?

I gotta wonder, 'cause every time I read about how D&D: The New Hotness is supposed to bridge all editions, I think of how Castles & Crusades...kinda...um...


...does that already.

Am I the only one?  'Cause, dude, I can slot any an' alla that D&D stuff into C&C, since C&C doesn't particularly care what edition your character is from as long as you have stats, a level, a class and an idea of what that class means.

Has anyone else thought of this?  Am I alone?!


PICTURED: Rotwang!?

*ANSWER: Yes, but not in a rifle-and-clock-tower way. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I busted out the old 2nd Ed hardbacks one night in college; talkin' 1999 or early 2000, here.  I was running the game for some pals in the dorm, plus a girl from my Broadcasting classes (Megan Grady, where are you, baby?).  I fell back into the rules pretty quickly, which was, at the time, a bad thing.

The rules felt clunky; I can't tell you how, but something felt wrong, even though it was all familiar.  I started to feel the way I felt when I dropped the game ("like a greasy fingernail taco", as I used to say) in the first place.  More than once that night, I hanged my head and shook it and muttered, "I can't wait until Third Edition comes out."

Then Third Edition did come out, and I loved it, and I was the first person at my FLGS to buy a copy at the midnight release party, and I loved the new game and I playes it and played it and then got sick of it and screw that noise.

Only, now and then I pull those old 2nd Ed rules offa the shelf, 'cause unlike the 3rd Edition stuff, it's all still in my house, and I crack them open and I get to looking at them and I go, "Huh".



...and all those feelings of crusty old dislike start to flake away, and my stance towards the old tomes softens; I start to see things in there which I always knew were there, but I see them now in a different light.

It's almost as if...as if--


2nd Edition was virtually my introduction to D&D (it was not my first RPG; that honor belongs to Star Wars).  I had a copy of the Red Box, but as far as I was concerned, that was just as a preview of The Real Deal.  I got in on the ground floor on it, too, as this preview booklet came home with me from the comics shop on the day I decided to take the plunge.*  Once I got the PHB and the DMG for Christmas, I spent the next few weeks absolutely devouring them, ferreting out every rule, studying every procedure and absorbing, absorbing, absorbing.

Not all of it made sense--minute-long combat rounds, what?!-but all of it made magic.  I got ready, and I made it happen.

Eventually the magic wore off and I picked up Rolemaster 2nd instead, and then years passed and hi, I'm Dr Rotwang! and this is my blog. 

So it's easy (in fact, too easy) to dismiss my increasing 2nd Ed jones as mere nostalgia, rose-colored glasses.  But look, man, I don't roll that way.  I see its warts and all.  I see the good and the bad, and now and again I run into a blog post that serves to remind me of what I'm looking at (and thanks for that, Mike Hensley).  Now I am ready for real.

Before I started running AD&D, a schoolmate and gaming buddy cautioned me that it was a difficult system to run, and that I would have quite a challenge in front of me, and that he knew all this from experience.  I saw through him; he was blowin' me smoke to aggrandize himself, and possibly to intimidate me.  In a sense, though, he was right--but not for the reasons that he wanted me to believe. 

Don't ask me how...

...but I understand this game now.

And I want to run it again.

*I used to go to Waldenbooks and gawk at the games section, and the AD&D books always looked so...I dunno, so advanced.  The sight of those austere orange spines stood like a fence behind which only the mighty could stand.  Those orange spines were The Guardians of The Big Time, and I wasn't ready.

Monday, January 09, 2012

2+3=X (Solve For X)

Hail Eris!

Yeah...I don't believe in any gods, but I make kind of an exception for Eris Discordia.  I don't believe in her--

"I'm a scientist, Ranger Brad..."
 --but I do think Discordianism is funny, and reading about it truly helped shape me as I am today.  Why, I remember when I was but a whelp of 20 Summers, when first I--

--what, the WotC thing?  Naaaah.