Thursday, March 31, 2005

Irregular Webcomic!
Pat came over last night and he helped me hash out what I plan to do for my next fantasy campaign. He wants to wait for the other two corebooks to come out before we play Castles & Crusades. That's fine by me, I kinda was considering waiting for the Castle Zagyg series to begin publication anyway. And traditional dungeoncrawlery has little appeal to him compared to some sort of epic thing. That means Arcana Evolved: The Dragon War is slated for my next big project. Let the high freakery commence!

Fun fact: It's hard to schedule an RPGA event when the DM is apparently ignoring your emails. I'm afraid I purchased these Complete books for nought. I guess I can use some of the stuff for my AE game, but still I feel kinda dumb right now.

Got back over to the Dragon's Table today. I got my Carcassonne expansion and retrieved my hat, which I had left atop a stack of old Werewolf books. I also got a D&D module. I can always use more modules, right? This one is Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics #14: Dungeon Interludes. I love the structure of this thing. It's designed as six separate adventures ranging from levels one to 13, all connected storywise but meant to be run with other adventures in between each chapter. That seems like a great lowkey way to introduce a theme into a campaign without overdoing it. Goodman Games is fast becoming one of my favorite d20 publishers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Another use for d20 Modern

If sometime in the future I was going to run another d20M campaign, it would probably be a 'serious' game based off Blood & Relics and the crazy texts that inspired it, perhaps with a dash of OGL O.'.T.'.O.'. and some d20 Cthulhu.

A Visit to the FLGS

Today was such a nice day I decided to spend lunch on a visit to the Dragon's Table, our Friendly Local Game Store. I've been up and down on the FLGS in the past, but today went fairly well. At least up until the point when I was ready to check out and the power went out on the whole block. I can't blame John (the owner) for the power outage, but he does get points off for refusing to look for the mechanical backup to his card reader. At least he agreed to set the item I wanted behind the counter until I came back tomorrow. Still, I shouldn't have to make a second trip. I will make a second trip though, because the item I wanted was the Traders and Builders expansion for Carcassonne, my favoritest German game. Assuming the weather tomorrow is half as good as it is today, it's worth the walk to get one of these. Especially since my sister has Traders and Builders and I don't. Such a situation cannot be tolerated.

I considered getting Fiery Dragon's Counter Collection III for my d20 Modern campaign, but it occurred to me that I may not have much use for modern counters outside my current campaigns. If I bought a set of fantasy counters I would know they would get used at some point, but I can't guarantee ever needed modern tactical markers after my UltraForce Omega and Home Team campaigns fold. This line of thought makes me reconsider my plans to get Green Ronin's Modern screen and various supers products like the Mutants & Masterminds Annual. The screen at least comes with d20M adventure, so maybe that would be worth the purchase. Of course, like every other d20M adventure I've ever seen for sale, I can find nothing that tells me what level range the adventure was designed for. That's very annoying and as far as I'm concerned completely unprofessional. Why is the pretty much entire d20M world like this? Level ranges have been on the cover of D&D modules since at least 1981, why can't these d20M people get this right? There are several d20 Modern adventures I'd buy over at RPGnow if only they'd deign to give me some clue as to the appropriate level range. Some of the free d20M adventures I've swiped from Wizards website are just a little too dark and gruesome for my tastes, so I'd love an opportunity to get some adventures from a different source.

While at John's store I pined over the collectible miniatures. Some days I'm really tempted to get started in one of these. Prepainted plastic figs are just so toy-rific. Between the superhero goodness of Heroclix and Star Wars and the RPG usefulness of both MageKnight and the D&D minis line, there seems to be a variety of these products marketed directly to me. Heck, if someone told me that the DC clicky line had figures for Black Vulcan, Samurai, and El Dorado I'd probably be fielding a Superfriends team in a heartbeat. And now that I own the d20 Star Wars game I could probably get some RPG use out of the 'Rebel Storm'. The other thing that appeals to me about Heroclix and Star Wars is the potential for using cool 3-D urban or sci-fi terrain. It was the kickass platforms and shit that really sold me on Necromunda all those moons ago. A lot of that sort of coolness can be recreated nowadays with snap-together kits or Microtactix paper models.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Fantasy Campaign Pro's & Con's

D&D 3.5

Pro: The Big Game is easier to find players for than anything else. People are likely to own or willing to buy the relevant player's books. Lots and lots of support products available. Lots of cool books for the players. Can consider using all sorts of nifty rules, like in the new Unearthed Arcana.

Con: Defaults to bog standard traditional fantasy. My personal handling time for pre-game prep is so large that it discourages me from writing my own materials, limiting the game to largely whatever 3.X modules I can bring to bear.

Arcana Evolved

Pro: No frickin' elves! Great new races and classes that totally replace all the old ones. Nifty magic system. Interesting setting and metaplot. Rules not totally alien to the 3.X folks. Product support from Messrs. Cook and Mearls. Very cool.

Con: No frickin' orcs! Very expensive corebook will discourage other players from buying. Relatively obscure game line, with obscure races and classes.

Castles & Crusades

Pro: Easy as pie for an old schooler to understand. Cheap corebook. All my old stuff is easily adaptable, much of it could be done on the fly. That big epic game would probably be easiest to run with this, though not as flavorful as using AE. Castle Zagyg (Uncle Gary's dungeon) might be available in the forseeable future. Fiddling with the rules seems less intimidating than in the 3.X game.

Con: The classes might seem dull to a d20 wonk. System support is currently a trickle of products.


I can't quite pick a system at this point, but the comparison has helped crystalize 6 possible campaigns in my mind.

Dungeonpunk: The Modulation - 3.5 rules, canned modules

The Dragon War - AE rules and setting, big epic war story

The Crusade - C&C rules, setting undecided at this point, big epic war story

You're All In A Tavern - AE rules and oversetting, small local setting with small local dungeons and small local adventures, in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos style but with AE window dressing

Zagyg Castle & Environs - C&C rules, focus on the Big Dungeon with sidetracks in the surrounding territory

And the Kitchen Sink - C&C rules, adventures and monsters and magic items pulled from all the old stuff in my collection

That last one would no doubt be the easiest to run, but if I could magically guarantee the success of a campaign I would try the Dragon War hands down. With the right setting the 3 C&C options could be folded together, intertwined, or run as a sequence of campaigns. The two AE ideas could be considered as a unit as well, with the age of dungeoneering innocence giving way to an era of brutal draconic war.

Weekly Game Roundup

Every once in a while you get together with your posse, crack open the books, get out the dice, and the night's assigned adventure never quite materializes. That happened to us Wednesday last week at the scheduled Feng Shui with the Pancake Hut crew. We all seemed to be poised ready to go and instead we spent the night engaged in a protracted bullshit session. I like to behave like a 'pro' when it comes to the hobby: show up on time, bring all the necessary equipment, stay on focus during the run, etc. But you know what? Sometimes this sorta thing just happens. You're hanging out with some cool people and you chitchat the night away. Frankly, I take it as a good sign when this thing occasionally happens. If you stay and shoot the breeze it's a pretty good indicator that you're hanging with a good crowd. By 8 o'clock I was dead certain that no run was going to happen, yet I stayed until 10:30. I could've grabbed Pat and gone to get a hamburger or something. The fact that I stayed means that I must like this group.

Friday night's Mutants & Masterminds game went well, I thought. My pacing was off, so a theoretically one issue storyline is now a two-parter. But I managed to introduce a nice little subplot for Cyborg, John's character, and I was able to present a nice little conundrum for the PCs: How do you smash the AIM base when it's located inside the Latverian Embassy? We'll find out Home Team's answer next month, true believers! Also, Don passed me a couple of useful MnM handouts he had found on teh intarweb and let me flip through his copy of the MnM Annual. I think I'm going to get myself a copy.

My folks are playing a game somewhat regularly, a nice little number named Sequence. This game is one of the absolute best family games you can find. If you can read a deck of card and know how to play tic-tac-toe, then you already know most of the rules to play. No gimmicks, just a straightforward game pretty much anybody ages 5 and up ought to be able to play. We played guys versus girls on Saturday. Pa and I took the first round and Ma and Amy won the second hand. We didn't have time for a rematch. Next episode, Blue Laser! Next episode!

This week's games ought to be boardgaming tonight with the usual Monday night gang and d20 Modern on Saturday. Ian and Alex are confirmed for d20M, so unless something changes that game will happen this time. I'm seriously considering hack a d20M SRD to produce a player's book for my campaign. This will allow me to rewrite the gun stats (chopping them down to Heavy Pistol, Light Pistol, etc.), add some stuff from other games (a different Action Point mechanic, the ka-chink rule from Feng Shui, the shotgun rules from Savage Worlds), and I can cleanly add classes I want the players to take while excising any I want them to avoid.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Merry Easter, Charlie Brown

This will prolly be my last blog entry until Sunday night. Tonight is my Home Team campaign, our second session using Mutants & Masterminds rules. After that I'll be spending the majority of the weekend at my folks' house. Take care everybody!

Opinions Sought

If you were playing a serious rpg campaign and the GM broke out these rules for a massive battle, what would your reaction be?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Science Kicks Ass

English Translation: Inherited Traits Can Skip A Generation! Classic genetic theory in a freakin' tizzy!

Natural Nuclear Reactors from Out of Time

Thirteen Things That Do Not Make Sense

Scientists recover T. rex soft tissue, motherfuckers!!! The new age of the Reptile Lords draws nigh!

All these stories posted earlier in Tangency, the gloriously fucked-up off-topic section of RPGnet.

Ripped Straight From RPGnet

Exalted Stunt Cheat Sheet
By Mailanka

1 die Stunt: Must impact the senses.
2 die Stunt: Must make use of continuing action or scenery
3 die stunt: must take players breath away

Note: Stunts are not essays. You do not need to spend five minutes describing your action. A brief and evocative sentence will be more powerful than a drawn out paragraph.

The Character:

Hair: Hair whips in the wind, moves and flows with your movements and attack (especially if long). It shadows your (gleaming) eyes. Gets messed up by battle. Gets slicked by sweat

Eyes: Eyes flash and glint when angry, widen in shock, narrow or harden with determination, or sparkle when happy or mischievous. Enemies and attacks can be reflected in the eyes of the warrior, as can other important events.

Face: Mouths smirk, grin, bare teeth, snarl. Teeth flash when speaking angrily. Ears quiver, nostrils flare, cheeks redden and flush. Blood leaks from the mouth when hurt, bruises and cuts can be described. Sweat beads on forehead with effort.

Body: Muscles bunch, tighten, and ripple. They are like steel, stone, or thick rope. Feet slip against the ground, make puffs of snow. Veins throb and bulge. Hands tighten on pommels.

Clothes: Cloaks whip and flow on the wind. Armour gleams in the sunlight (especially if Solar). Clothes get rent and torn. Boots thud against wooden floors and click against stone. Clothes rustle and whisper as you move quietly.

Emotions: Characters are often emboldened by the memory or the thought of that which they fight for. Apparitions haunt or cheer the defender, ambition fuels your strength. Humiliation burns through your body. Joy puts spring to your step. Laughter echoes and humiliates or brightens. Tears can be shed when emotions hit high points. Anger gives titanic strength and need (don't forget to roar)

Anima: Animas impact your surroundings and are symbolic or your actions. Solar anima's bleach things when they get powerful, leaving pale foot prints, bleaching cloth and wood. DB animas damage things, put cracks in the ground, leaving frosted/ashen/wet footprints. When Animas really play up, they can push small extras aside, make areas rumble or rattle. Totemic images act with the character, roaring, fighting for/with him, attacking the OTHER totemic image, mocks your opponent, etc.


Background: Bars have stools, tables, lanterns that can be used. Streets have stalls, wagons, rooftops. Gates/doors can be torn off hinges, walls can be shattered with the force of your hit, pillars can be toppled, curtains can be lit on flame or cut down onto your enemies. Tables can be broken by falling people, wagons over turned, stalls can be smashed into. Collateral damage, people!

Environment: The sun gives a halo (especially to Solars). Wind whips cloaks and hair. Water splashes and ripple. Snow and sand crunches and flies up behind a runner. Trees sway and rustle. Shadows hide features and play tricks. Rain wets hair and clothes and makes things slick, and ghostly. Scenery tends to fall apart in big battles. Again, collateral damage.

Extras: Extras are there to make you look good. Let them do so. They unconsciously back away when you are angry, crowds murmur and smile at clever comments or attractive people. Extras can be thrown at other extras, or torn apart as examples to others. Descriptions of your events can come from some Extra's perspective.


Time: Attacks can appear to be speed up, while one deadly attack will be shown in slow motion. Truly fast characters will make their surroundings seem to slow down while they move at normal speed (things like raindrops, falling sparks or leaves are great to show this). Jumps freeze for a moment at their apex, and time can stop for a moment as someone realizes they are dead.

Close ups: A shot of your face, mouth, eyes, or your attack. Zooms can change backgrounds while your character is powering up or extremely emotional. The "screen" goes black during a powerful attack, and all we can see is the slash as a bright mark against the darkness.

Alternate shots: Show the action from a different perspective, or don't show it at all, but only imply it. Birds suddenly flying away, glass falling and breaking, the earth shuddering. Reeds swaying in the wind, someone else’s expression (as blood splatters on their face). The sounds of your action echoing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Once Upon A Time

Dave Hoover and I went to a new con in Bloomington, IL.  It was a bunch of college kids starting a brand new event and we had decided to help out by running something for them in the first slot (Friday afternoon) of their new con.  Dave came up with the idea of co-GMing a D&D adventure for 12 players.  Sounded ambitious, but if Dave was up to the challenge I figured I ought to give it a shot.  I like stupid con games with gimmicks that you wouldn't necessarily pull in a regular campaign.
So we get to the con and the first thing that happens is that the two of us bump into my sister.  She lives in Bloomington and is something of a boardgamer these days so she decided to try this new con out.  She mentions in passing that she just came from the registration desk and that she saw that 35 people have signed up for our game.  Thirty five players?  She must be mistaken.  Jenn says she's not mistaken.  Turns out the first day of the con has a lot higher attendance than the staff expected and the con only scheduled 3 games in this slot, so the are just letting any number of players sign up for each game.  WTF?!?  We look up our location in the con program and head over to our table.  Turns out our 'table' is a large room with 3 dozen or more gamers all looking to play in our event!
Okay, now I'm pissed.  Our submission to this con clearly stated we would run for up to twelve.  Why is the front desk allowing all these extra sign-ups?  I leave Dave and Jenn with our 35 players and head over to con registration to get the downlow.  I could tell this whole thing was amateur hour before I even got to the desk.  There was plenty of open space available for a registration area, but these kids had squeezed their registration desk into a tiny sideroom, causing large numbers of eager registrants to pack themselves in to try to get to the desk.  I squoze past an array of teen angstgoths and cat-piss men, finally reaching the desk.
I was momentarily taken aback by the drop dead gorgeous blond co-ed working registration.  No wonder the room was so full of geeks!  Anyway, either my turn came around or the dorks clustered around the desk saw that I damn well meant business.  I asked the girl behind the table how many people had signed up for the D&D game this slot.  She asked me what room I was talking about.  Exasperated, I blurt out "listen, I don't remember the freakin' room number, just tell me how many people signed up for the D&D game!  There are only three games scheduled for right now, it can't be that damn hard to find!"  Some little Asian dude with a bad bowlhaircut, apparently also staff, puts his hand on my shoulder and mutters "Dude, just chill out" in a Southern California accent.
I'm a moody guy by nature and I've got buttons that can be pressed.  More buttons than most folk, I think.  I try to keep this in mind when dealing with the clueless, but man did this guy manage to hit two big buttons of mine.  First, if you ain't friend or family, you got no business laying a hand on me.  I let that one slide when the unwanted contact comes from naturally friendly, touchy-feely type people.  But this guy was looking for a world of hurt.  Clapping his hand on my shoulder the way he did looked like nothing less than an attempt to assert alpha male status over the situation.  I'm a foot taller and at least 150 pounds on this guy.  Bitch best know kung fu if he's gonna stir shit like that.  And then there's the "chill out" line.  If I'm working up a whole head of angry steam, the abso-fucking-lutely worst thing you can say to me is "chill".  Seriously.  It only makes me madder.  I just find t hat term so damn condescending.  "Dude, just chill out" translates in my brain as "I know you're mad, but I find that your anger is unjustified."  What angry person wants to be told they shou ldn't even be angry?
I do my best to control myself, which meant pulling this punk's hand off of my shoulder and then ignoring him.  So I turn back to the blond at the desk and ask "Is it true that you have allowed over thirty people to sign up for the D&D game DM'ed by Dave Hoover and Jeff Rients?"  She acknowledges that this is indeed the state of affairs.  "I put on the submission form that the game was for twelve."  Batting her big beautiful blue eyes she replies "Yes, I know."  I'm sputtering at this point "B-b-but you let more than twelve sign up anyway?"  She smiles sweetly, nods and makes a soft grunty "uh-huh" sound.  In retrospect I shoulda asked why they made that decision, but I guess at that point I was too mad to need any further information.  "Fuck it!  The game is cancelled!  I'm outta here!"
I stomped all the way back over to Dave and Jenn, where I angrily confirmed Jenn's story and announced that I would in no way put up with this shit.  I picked up my game stuff and was ready to head out the door when Dave grabbed my arm.  Not the best time in the world for him to do that, seeing as how I was still pissed at Mr. Fucking Chill Out, but Dave's a friend and just didn't want me to leave right away.  He pulled me over to a corner of the room and whispered "Listen, none of these players have anything to do with the con staff screwing things up.  Let's just figure out a plan so that everyone here can play a game.  It's all about the players, it's all about the game.  Right?  Right?"  Damn, he had me.  I don't want to leave these folks in the lurch just cause they're attending a con run by morons.  So we confab for a few minutes, toss our adventure completely out the window, and make plans for basically a wargame scenario.  Everybody present will make up a 1st level PC on the spot, and we'll put together some sort of skirmish style scenario in which half the room fights half the room.  3.5 char gen and a fight that large ought to eat up most of the 4 hours we have available.  So we start helping people with making characters and that's when I woke up.  Dreams are weird, aren't they?

Quote of the Day

...BESM is just GURPS for people too cheap to buy three dice.

--Iain, a.k.a. RPGnetter Gentleman Highwayman

Check out this video

It fucking rocks!

Shiny new books!

My Amazon shipment arrived last night. Arcana Evolved is frickin' huge! Over 400 pages! Even if I don't run an AE campaign I need to at least use this book for a one-shot. The two Complete books look useful. Both have at least two interesting core classes and two nifty prestige classes. I haven't even checked out the feat section for either of them yet. It's been a while since I've felt this jazzed about 3.X.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My Lunch With Stuart

Today I had lunch with Stuart, a nice chap I met on RPGnet. Turns out he works downtown too, so we met at a favorite joint of his: Aroma, a newish cafe. I usually go to Cafe Kopi when I'm feeling hip and trendy, but Aroma seemed to be in pretty much the same vein. The food was good, but I won't get the chai there again. They served me instant chai. [cafe snob]Listen, if I'm going to pay more than 3 bucks for a cup of chai, the barista needs to do more than scoop some powder into the cup.[/cafe snob] Anyway, Stuart seems like a cool guy who it would be fun to game with. He's currently playing and running Exalted and is interested in Nobilis and Unknown Armies. Stuart also expressed some guarded interest in possibly joining my Living Greyhawk experiment, but he made it clear that his heart isn't in the d20 scene. Even if we end up never playing a game together I think I'll probably have lunch with him again.

Speaking of the d20 scene, when did I become a d20 man? I currently play D&D 3.0 and run both Mutants and Masterminds and d20 Modern. My short list of future campaigns are all d20 products. It's like the Innsmouth taint or something. One day I notice some little D&D gills on my neck, the next day I'm a fricking d20 fishman. Feng Shui is my only lifeline to humanity right now.

BTW, Stuart agrees with the general RPGnet opinion that Tomb of 5 Corners is a crap introductory module, but he said the rules overview in the Exalted Quickstart was useful for n00bs anyway. Linky

RUN, do not walk

Go to DriveThruRPG and download your own free copy of the Exalted corebook. I don't care if you hate fantasy or loathe anime or dislike White Wolf dice pools. You need a copy of Exalted in your game library. Seriously, if you are the kind of person that reads stupid gaming blogs then I'm absolutely certain you are the kind of person who could use a free Exalted. And if you have a copy from another source, now's the time to get yourself a nice legal version.

Some GAMA Trade Show news

DC Heroclix Icons: A starter set and boosters aimed at the non-hardcore comic geek, emphasizing known characters like Superman, Batman, etc. Why this concept wasn't the very first set they released, I'll never know.

New FUDGE hardcover anniversary edition. Considering that FUDGE was the original "haxxor this SRD to make your own game" game, I fail to see the need for any print edition, much less a hardback special deluxe jobbie. *shrug*

"Ultimate" Rifts: If this is actually a revamping of the system I will A) eat my hat and B) probably buy the damn thing.

Mike Mearls and Monte Cook at it again: Iron Lore, yet another "variant players handbook" may finally be the book that pushes D&D into the place I want it: somewhere between Tolkien/Greyhawk trad fantasy and Conan.

I don't give a crap but you might: Eden Studios (All Flesh, Buffy) nabs license for City of Heroes rpg.

Index of all Gaming Reports for the GAMA Trade Show

Monday, March 21, 2005

Why I Like Monster Templates

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Fiendish Tyranosaur!

That's a figure from the D&D Miniatures Gallery. Between that line and Mage Knight, there's a lot of kickass pre-painted figures available for toy-rific tactical D&D play. For my original 3.0 campaign we had a great time pushing around used Mage Knight figures, S. John Ross's Sparks, and Steve Jackson's Cardboard Heroes.

I need to get this on DVD

Okay, I get the picture White Tigers, Lords of Death, guys in funny suits throwing plastic explosives while poison arrows fall from the sky and the pillars of heaven shake, huh? Sure, okay, I see Charlie Chan, Fu Manchu and a hundred howlin' monkey temples, and that's just for starters, right? Fine! I'm back! I'm ready, goddammit let me at 'em!

-Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China


Saturday the whole family went down to Tuscola to the outlet mall. Elizabeth had fun at the KB Toy Outlet. She eventually picked out a couple of toys and I found some little plastic Teen Titans that would serve well as figures for Mutants & Masterminds one shot. That's not quite as goofy an idea as my Fantabulous Five team (Captain Ultra, Frog-Man, Squirrel Girl, Blue Streak, and Osprey) but the popularity of the show might get some asses in the seats.

Sunday Pat came over, it sound like we are going to actually do this RPGA/Living Greyhawk thing. We also discussed me running a new fantasy campaign. He wants one of those epic scope, PCs-save-the-world campaigns, something I've never really done. I'm starting to approach that sort of thing with my Mutants & Masterminds and d20 Modern campaigns, but I'm building up to it in baby steps. I'd like to try an epic fantasy game, but I need to answer two questions before I even start: What system do I use? And how do I fit it in my schedule? The answer to the second question is clear: I would need to drop or cut back on either Dave's Feng Shui game or the Monday night boardgamers. The answer to the first question is harder. I've got three perfectly viable systems on my plate right now: D&D 3.X, Castles & Crusades, and Arcana Evolved. All three have their advantages and disadvantages. In fact, I'll probably blog a point-by-point comparison later in the week.

After chewing the fat for a while, Pat and I left for our two scheduled rendezvous. The first was with Doug, a fellow RPGnetter who was looking to clear out some game stuff. Boy did I make out like gangbusters: an armload of 3.0 hardbacks, bunches of Dragon and Dungeon issues (including all the coolest Polyhedron mini-games), some Ars Magica, Call of Cthulhu (and Delta Green), Star Wars (d20 & d6 versions), the d20 Modern corebook, BESM, JadeClaw & IronClaw, Pendragon (which I never should have sold), Nobilis (which I need to try running again), and other stuff I can't remember right now. So much stuff that I'm seriously considering posting a 'stuff for trade' ad in the RPGnet sales & auctions forum. Maybe I can swap some of this stuff for things more to my liking. As cool as it is, I don't need an extra copy of Delta Green, for instance.

After our visit to Doug (who I'm hoping to get into a game), we headed on over to the Pancake Hut for a Halo 2 LAN party. That was a lot of fun. I even got to kill a couple of people with that shiny alien ninja sword. Too bad I pissed off Dennis. Friendly fire is a bitch sometimes. You know what could make a Halo 2 LAN party even cooler? When playing Capture the Flag scenarios, issue both teams with printed out maps and give them ten minutes or so to try to plan their assault and defense outside of earshot of the other team.

Since I was out late ownzoring d00ds I'm skipping tonight's gaming. That gives me some time to pick through the new toys anyway. Wednesday is Feng Shui night. I'm hoping we'll get a chance to investigate the new feng shui site we indentified last session. Friday ought to be issue 5 of my Home Team campaign. I need to get my crap together and build the villains!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Quote of the Day

It's hard to demand too much intellectual rigor from a movement whose central thesis is "Fuck You."

--RPGnet Administrator (and former punker) Cessna on the punk movement

Game cancelled? Drown your sorrows in new books!

I was kinda bummed out last night because I discovered yesterday afternoon that my d20 Modern game for tomorrow is cancelled. All three of my core players can't make it. By core players I mean the folks I won't run without. In this case it's Ian, Alex and Michael. I could run without one of them but if two of them can't make it then there is no point in getting together. The other three players are at the point where I wouldn't consider them anything other than associate hangers-on. Perhaps that will change in the future. In my Mutants & Masterminds campaign Sue's character is really the lynchpin and de facto leader of the group, so I don't think I would be inclined to run without her. Some of my games don't have core players though. My Savage Worlds monster game could have run without any particular player, though Pat's presence always helps me feel more in control of the situation. I can't always predict what his character will do and I don't always approve of his PC's behavior, but as a player it's golden to have a surefire buddy to back you up if things get stupid.

Speaking of Pat, he lendered me his copy of AEG's Empire, a d20 campaign system written by veteran d20 system wonk Mike Mearls (partial ludography, livejournal). As usual for Mearls' work, this is really good, crunchy stuff. I may use it for the 6 Islands Campaign, if that project ever gets off the ground. Everything of Mr. Mearls I've seen has indicated that he knows where to hit the sweet spot for me when it comes to rules density. His work contains enough crunch that you can play with the mechanics, but not so much that mechanical play will push non-mechanical role-playing off the stage. Rules Medium is my normal term for this sort of thing. Savage Worlds is my current posterboy for rules medium gaming. It has more structure than the typical Rules Lite stuff that's so prevalent with the hip indie game scene, but it isn't a non-stop rules juggernaut like most d20 games.

So there's a gamer in St. Joe named Doug who I met over at Doug sent me a private message that he was looking to clear a bunch of stuff out of his game collection. I thought he was trying to sell me some games, hoping to avoid the hassle of eBaying them. Nope, Doug just wants someone to haul this stuff away for free. I hope Pat's free Sunday, cause we're going to St. Joe. Now I just have to figure out how to explain to my wife that getting a bunch of boxes of game junk is a good thing.

Speaking of explaining things to Amy, I broke down today and placed a bigass Amazon order. It's her fault, I tell ya. She wanted me to buy the 2nd season DVD boxed set of SpongeBob SquarePants for Elizabeth. She should have known I was going to also get Complete Warrior, Complete Adventurer, the Power Gamer's 3.5 Warrior Strategy Guide, and Arcana Evolved. Man, I am so in trouble. I suppose it could be worse. I could've bought the 3.5 core books as well. Still, I really absolutely had to get at least Arcana Evolved. I literally had trouble sleeping last night thinking about that book. Pathetic, isn't it? I got her a couple of books as well, so maybe I can distract her long enough to sneak all my stuff into the game room. Of course if I do that and she reads this blog at some point then I am totally hosed.

The non-sleep depriving, non-Arcana Evolved stuff I got primarily because it looks like this RPGA/Living Greyhawk stuff is a lock. I've got two different GMs already lined up and a 'short list' of possible players that is getty pretty damn long. There are four or five 1st level modules available to played and I think I know enough local gamers that I could host all of them at my place with a different group each time! That's assuming everybody I'm thinking about even has any interest in the RPGA scene. Pat might not. He's not big on organized play. I wouldn't be surprised if Kathleen and Josh took a pass. They seem more into non-d20 games like GURPS and BESM. Either way, the fact that you can run games in the comfort of your own home helps me get over the biggest hump in starting Living Greyhawk: what if the other players suck? By having the games at my house and controlling the guest list I ought to be able to weed out most of the dillhonkers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Sometimes a d20 is just a d20.

I spent all morning grazing on chocolate chip cookies, so come lunchtime I really wasn't hungry. Since the weather took a turn for the warmer I decided to walk over to the Friendly Local Gaming Store. Turns out the floor of John's store is already beginning to re-acquire the layer of debris that was cleared out back in January. Between the local hobby & pet store being a nicer place to visit and Amazon being much cheaper on many items, I'm quickly running out of reasons to put up with his dangerously overcrowded shop.

After once again riffling through the used stuff I decided to buy just two things: the latest copy of Games Quarterly (which, it turns out, John gives away for free in his store) and a large d20. We're talking two inches in diameter. What can I say? I like big dice and I cannot lie. I imagine myslef keeping this bad boy up on a shelf and bringing it out only for those rolls where a PC's life hinges in the balance. I suppose if he had the one Carcassonne expansions I am missing I might've bought that, but if it was in stock I sure couldn't find the durn thing.

New Linkage

I added Troll Lord Games over to the sidebar, since I'm a totally fanboying on C&C right now. I also added a new comic link, ScaryGoRound. Like Wapsi Square it is the story of the weird misadvetures of hot chicks, only British and in color.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Stuff and Things

The whole family went over to my sister Jenn's house on Saturday. My nephew Cameron and Elizabeth watched videos and played with toys while Amy ran to the mall for some shopping. Jenn invited some friend over so that the lot of us could play some German games. This was a new bunch I hadn't met before and guess what? They didn't suck! Maybe it was just the fact that they were honest-to-Grodd gamers that helps. Jason and Andre are apparently Magic: The Gathering goons. Anyway, we played some Bohnanza and Carcassonne. Everyone seemed to have a good time. I would play with these folks again.

I'm seriously considering daytripping to GenCon this year. Basically, my idea is to get up at o'dark thirty the Thursday of the big event, haul ass to Indy, hit the exhibitors' booths for the coolest new gamejunk (and free swag), and get back to Shampoo-Banana by Friday in the wee hours. Maybe I can work in playing a game somewhere in that plan, maybe not. Anybody else think this idea doesn't suck? I really want to go to the darn thing before they leave Indy, but I don't want to spend 60 bucks for a weekend badge and cover the costs of a hotel room.

Monday night was gaming with the grognards. We played El Grande, Union Pacific, and Bohnanza. I managed to tie for first in El Grande, but my Union Pacific game needs more work. That's a nice way of saying I came in dead last. I think I did somewhat better with my stock plays, but my train placement needs a lot of work. I got some lousy draws for track cards, but I can't blame my performance on that. A good gamesman makes due with the material available.

Yesterday I got my first issue of The Crusader, the new gaming rag from Troll Lord Games. On a lark I decided to try a subscription. This first issue is pretty fluffy, but the Troll Lords are promising more crunchy gaming goodness in the future. Speaking of the Troll Lords, I think I'm going to try organizing a Castles & Crusades one-shot before I jump into a full-length campaign.

Speaking of one-shots, I'm going to start to put together a group to try out a first level RPGA module. I've got a line on a DM and at least one other player. I need two to four more people at the table to make this a go. And I also need to decide if I'm going to take the plunge as far as getting some 3.5 books go. I always feel kinda weird when I don't at least own copies of the latest version of the Big Game, like I've lost connection with the mainstream of the hobby. Living Greyhawk is a way to plug myself back into the bigger hobby community. I know that sounds kinda ridiculous, considering that I participate in aty least one convention a year, run two campaigns, and have more gaming friends than I can keep track of, but I just feel alienated if I'm not at least trying to follow good ol' D&D.

That being said, I can't say I'm thrilled by the idea of purchasing the 3.5 corebooks when my 3.0 books are in decent shape and the 3.5 SRD is available for free. Still, it seems kinda dumb to play Dungeons & Dragons and not own at least a PHB. I guess I just believe that a good player buys their own damn copy of the rules. The MM and DMG are less critical, but what if I need to look up the stats for a magic item or a summoned animal? Clearly, just having a PHB would leave me short. Meanwhile, the Complete line of books look like a lot of fun, but it seems kinda stupid to own a Complete book and not the core PHB. (Well, I already own the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana, but I consider that a very special case.) Ignoring Complete Divine, that 6 books priced ~$20 apiece at Amazon. I guess a hundred and twenty bucks isn't a lot to drop on a hobby nowadays, but it sure seems like a lot to me.

There are a couple of other items I'd also like to get if I went the Living Greyhawk route. I thought about getting the D&D Miniatures Handbook for the Marshal core class and some feats that are considered street legal in LG, but an astute RPGnetter pointed me to the Wizards page giving the lowdown on the Marshal. Looks like a neat class. I could totally see using this class to build a Superman/Captain America style good guy with Marshal 2/Fighter 2/Paladin 3 as the set-up. Other secondary items include the Power Gamer's 3.5 Warrior Strategy Guide and the forthcoming D&D For Dummies. Don't laugh at that last one, but I could use some help with the new version of D&D. I'm not too proud to admit it. Finally, a whole buttload of Greyhawk regional feats were published last year in a couple of issues of Dragon, numbers 315 and 319, IIRC. Most of the material presented in those articles has been greenlit for Living Greyhawk.

Now admittedly, I could participate in the LG stuff armed with nothing more than an SRD printout. (After all, a good gamesman makes due with the material at hand.) But it seems to me that if you are going to invest time and effort in running your PC through the dangers of LG while simultaneously exposing yourself to the RPGA, then you owe it to yourself to get it right the first time. I'd hate to get into a LG character only to discover that I made a mistake 3 levels before because I didn't have all the books. Maybe that's obsessive, I dunno. Maybe the whole is just a grand self-deception designed to justify jumping into buying a big pile of shiny hardback D&D books.

Whaddya Mean I'm A Baron?!?

Friday night we played another session of Sue's D&D campaign, the one in which she's using the Adventure Keep line of pamphlet modules. The time we fought some pirates. Arrr, matey! I missed the last session or two and as a result discovered a very curious policy of hers: absent players do not equal absent characters. Your guy can't die or anything while you're gone, but you collect the xp so as to not fall behind the other party members. As a result my guy (Endrin Greencloak, rogue druid) advanced 2 levels before we started the adventure, despite not doing any work to earn them. I'd be slightly thrown by this fact, as I normally like to earn my xp's fair and square, expect that Endrin is a lazy bastard who does very little to earn his share of the xp anyway. Also Sue informed me that Endrin is now a baron in a far off land, since in a previous adventure the whole party earned patents of nobility. Baron Greencloak has a nice ring to it, but it's still a freaky way to stumble into a title. Sue was also kind enought to loan me all the pamphlets we have already played through. I'm stockpiling these sorts of things for a future C&C campaign, you know.

Friday, March 11, 2005

C&C Campaign Issues

I'm trying to put some forethought into running a C&C campaign. Here are things I have been thinking about:

Is there an overall plot to the campaign or is it just about dungeon crawling or is there some happy medium I can reach between the two?

Should I have a small, intimate party or large numbers of miscellaneous yahoos?

Start at level 1 or not?

If people miss sessions, are they just out of luck or should I slide them some XP or goodies so they can maybe keep up?

What am I going to hand out xp for?

Should we even bother calculating XP in the traditional way?

Are we going to keep track of time in the Gygaxian Grognard format or play fast and loose with things?

Should the campaign be strictly by-the-book? If not what house rules will we use?

Will the players be able to use game mechanics from other d20 products?

What setting should I use? Greyhawk? I'd kinda like some new areas to explore, maybe with an only partially complete map at the start of play.

Feeling weird

I managed not to use the stupid vending machines at work this week. According to my crazy plan, that means I'm allowed to reward myself with some PDF goodness, but I flip through RPGnow and there was nothing I want to buy. Odd. Especially considering that I have like 20 items on my wish list there. Everything I look at just sorta falls flat. DriveThru is doing much for me either. I suppose if GDW had it's Trav stuff switched over to digital watermarking I'd go ahead an get that. But they're still in the conversion queue, so no Pocket Empires today.

What I really want to get is a bunch of shiny new hardbounds from Amazon. They've got all the D&D books I want at 30% or more off of cover price. Earlier today I came this close ][ to buying the 3.5 PHB, the Complete books, and Arcana Evolved. Retail price $170, but I could have it all for $112. Hell, with a little goading I would've bought the Advanced Player's Guide from Sword & Sorcery and/or the new Blackmoor hardback. But the responsible adult in me overruled the gonzo game geek. At least for now. Damn, those prices are good. It makes no sense for me to want to own Arcana Evolved or the Advanced Player's Guide unless I plan to run a D&D campaign, adapt them to C&C, or can find a loosey-goosey game to join. And Blackmoor serves no purpose unless I want to run another Blackmoor campaign. But they're shiny and I lust for them.

The 3.5 PHB and Complete Everything But Clerics are easier to justify if I follow through on my current fascination with Living Greyhawk. Maybe those four tomes and the Power Gamer's 3.5 Warrior Strategy Guide would be a better choice. I suppose the hardcore but cheapass way to go would be Complete Warrior and the strategy guide, with an SRD print-out subbing for the PHB. Then start out my Living Greyhawk career with some sort of fightguy. That would probably be the most sane way to begin.

Arcana Evolved is still shiny. We wants it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Feng Shui: thumbs up

That Dave Hoover guy is a rat bastard of a GM, I tell ya. All I wanted to do in last night's Feng Shui game was to track down the master villain and wring the lifeforce out of him with my bare hands. I don't think that's too much to ask, but can Hoover oblige? No. Instead we get into a fight with guys who should be our allies and general wacky hijinx ensue. So of course we kill nearly all of these poor schmucks before we can figure out that they are on our side. I love it when PCs find themselves trapped in stupid situations like that.

But dammit, I am going to kill that sorcerer. No one sets Thousand Technique Fo on fire and lives.

I'm torn

I would really, really like to get a copy of Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved. For a time I owned the original version, called Arcana Unearthed, but I sold it right before my gaming dry spell ended. Monte Cook's core classes totally kick ass, his setting is interesting, and his magic system is a definite improvement without straying too far from D&D's Vancian roots. Even just importing some of the classes into a straight D&D game would rock. The Mageblade is a good sword-and-spell class, the Unfettered is as good a swashbuckler as I've seen, the Witch is crazysexycool. As far as I'm concerned the Magister class totally ownzors the 3/3.5 Wizard: niftier spells and no stupid familiar. And some of the classes would work great in standard D&D campaigns. The Runethane is spot on for a Viking-style rune magic guy. Barbarian/Runethane would be a tasty combo. Damn near every race and class has some potential use. But if I can't find a GM to run it or at least let me borrow stuff from it for a standard D&D game, then buying the book (a hefty $49.99 retail) dooms me to either owning another dust-gathering corebook or running a game I really want to play. But it's so painfully cool, I want a copy anyway.

Meanwhile, there's the Living Greyhawk angle I've been exploring. I know I could forego getting the 3.5 PHB if I really wanted to, but that still leaves Complete Warrior, Complete Arcane, and Complete Adventurer as potential purchases. (All reports point to Complete Divine being a dud. And who likes clerics anyway?) Those books I could get some actual use out of. At least if I was willing to take the plunge with the RPGA. Earlier todayI was checking out, the official site of the local Living Greyhawk region. I hate it that I'm stuck in a goody-goody region. If Illinois was part of the Wild Coast or the Bandit Kingdoms I'd be all over LG like stink on poop. Verbobonc is just a little too soft, a little too saccharine, like a hippy ripoff of Tolkien's Shire. I like to play sappy good guys from time to time, but my preferred D&D mode involves more Conan-esque blood and guts. Though I guess I could maybe have some fun playing the dark outsider, the grim spellmonger or northern savage that mysteriously sides with the good guys.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bet you couldn't guess,

but Cthulhu is big in Japan. Well, maybe one link to some drawings doesn't constitute 'big', but I like that old song title.

I have yet to try looking for any Japanese art involving both the Mythos and girls in school uniforms, but I know it's out there somewhere.

I have to pass this on

What are adventurers? Adventurers are best understood as a form of natural disaster, like a tornado or earthquake. Their lives are whirling clouds of intrigue and violence, and normal people who value life stay as far away from these passive-aggressive psychotics as they can.

The best of them are paranoid, touchy, greedy, and bloodthirsty; they are likely to respond to nearly any challenge or obstacle with immediate and overwhelming force. Even "good" ones are killers, grave robbers, and notorious lechers. The worst of them are mass murderers, thieves, and extortionists. No matter how grim the situation you find yourself in, they will take action only for money, and will always want more than you and your village are prepared to pay.

Despite their greed, they have wealth beyond imagination- the equivalent of the wages of several lifetimes of skilled labor- all invested in armor, weapons, and other various and sundry nastiness. Sane people, upon becoming this wealthy, would buy a large estate and mansion and retire. These lunatics buy bigger weapons and go after more money- your money. They earn this money in ways which boggle the mind and churn the stomach.

They think nothing of walking into lethal situations normal and sane people shun. They impassively face armies of well-armed and-equipped humanoids, the risen dead, and demons from the pits. The most hideous and unnerving monstrosities are slain without even a hiccup, without a blink, twitch, or grunt to betray any kind of emotion. Adventurers are beyond brave, beyond fearless, beyond impassive. They are simply incapable of normal, human fear. Death has no meaning for them. It is simply another annoying obstacle.

If their own life means little, the lives of those around them mean even less. They will kill without compunction, or even a moment's thought. They treat everyone as if they were a potential enemy and treat every situation as if violence could break out at any moment.

Buy their services, if you must, but don't expect gratitude or loyalty. They will try to take whatever isn't nailed down, and try to nail anyone who catches their fancy. Don't expect grace, courtliness, manners, or for that matter even barest civility. Adventurers act like- and apparently believe- that they are the most important people in the world.

Your laws and mores matter nothing to them. Most don't even remember such concepts exist, and upon being reminded of them react with extreme annoyance. This usually equates to extreme violence.

If they are welcome, it is only because things have gone very badly and they are moderately less dangerous than whatever supernatural evil is about. Once they have done whatever it is you need, reward them with gold (of course, try getting them to act without it) and invite them to leave, immediately if not sooner. Asking them to stay is a recipe for disaster.

-RPGnetter Jasyn Jones describing how he runs D&D.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Epiphany: I am a grown-up

Last night in the mail I got a letter from the IRS and my prize for the Chess Variants contest in which I took second place. I read the IRS letter an entire hour before even opened the package with my nifty new book. Could I be any more square sometimes?

Last night was boardgame night. We played Bohnanza, Union Pacific, Puerto Rico, and another hand of Bohnanza. I got home at o'dark thirty. I'm hoping we can play Union Pacific again next week. Maybe that way I'll figure out what I did wrong last night.

I'm home today. Took a personal day to deal with the friendly folks at the Internal Revenue Service. Turns out the situation was not as dire as I feared. Looks like I'll spend the rest of the morning goofing off. Maybe I'll finally watch an episode of Firefly from the boxed set coeli lent me.

As I type this I'm listen to the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. Best fucking soundtrack EVAR. If after listening to this stuff you aren't ready to swing a sword until the ground runs red, then there is no life in you.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Graphpaper Dungeons

The old TSR dungeon geomorphs from back in the day were printed on a grid of 4 squares to an inch. That scale is very easy on my eyes and leaves plenty of room for sketching in details that would be confusing on a smaller scale. Unfortunately, I just printed out a page from the Goodman Games geomorphs and the scale seems to be 4.8 squares to the inch. WTF? Is this a metric dungeon or something? A quick check of their website places them in Chicago. Ah well, I can still make use of the additional geomorphs. I was just hoping to use the two sets together with ease. And I can always do things the old fashioned way with pencil and paper or the new fashioned way with Dungeon Crafter.

Grab Bag

My daughter has a new favorite TV show. For the last two weeks she's been asking to watch Teen Titans every time someone turned on the television. Finally Friday night my Amazon shipment arrived, including a copy of volume I of the series. It collects six episoded, which I have seen about five or six times over the last 48 hours. I think I need to order volume II soon, if only for my wife's sanity. It's a good show but supers aren't her thing and the anime influences confuse her.

Someone should write Agri-business for Dummies or something like that. I would totally buy that book. When I stop to think about it I am frightened by the fact that someday I am going to own half of the family farm despite the fact that I know jack and squat about the business of farming.

Speaking of books, I've been reading Geoffrey Wawro's The Franco-Prussian War. Great stuff, if you're into stodgy old history books. I haven't reached the end yet, but it's not looking good for the French so far. I can't wait to see how it turns out! ;)

Having seen the Living Greyhawk people at Winter War for the past couple of years, I'm kinda thinking of giving that scene a try. I want to play D&D, but I don't want to make room in my schedule for a full-fledged ongoing campaign. (At least not until the Dave's Feng Shui game is done.) I also like the fact that any of the freaks found in the Complete series are legal, but I'd probably be tempted to just play some old half-orc.

Anybody remember Different Worlds magazine? It was an excellent generalist RPG magazine back in its day. Different Worlds Publications has a stock of back issues, as well as some other old crap (Judge's Guild! Gamelords!). The prices on the back issues are a tad high, so eBay might be cheaper, but the other stuff looks priced to sell.

I need to figure out what sort of toys I'm going to buy with my Feng Shui dude's xp. I'm somewhat interested in getting a stat up to 11 so that I can buy a stat schtick, but man is that a lengthy and cost-prohibitive project. I need to reread all the Fu powers I can afford. Fox's Retreat looks good, if nothing else catches my fancy.

Man, I really want to run a Castles & Crusades campaign, full of that old skool flava. I'm still working out the parameters of such a project. Group size is one key issue. Part of me wants a nice intimate group, 4 players or so, dedicated to some hardcore orc-killin'. The other part of me wants a huge-ass group with an loose attendance policy: "show up when you can, we'll run with everyone and their grandma if needed." The kind of campaign where three members of the group might be slogging through a dungeon while two others are trekking overland following a treasure map. Complete with player-on-player violence and everything. With the smaller group I'd expect more Us-against-the-world unity from the player group.

I spent the majority of today working one collection case. The customer and I had a major social fu throwdown. Playing Johnny Hardass for such a prolonged period of time really wears me out. Between that and tonight's get-together with the grognards, I ought to be completely wiped out tomorrow.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


So today was session 2 of my UltraForce Omega d20 Modern campaign. I had six players: my nephews, 2 of their friends, Michael McKinney and his friend Cody. That's four new guys, of which two were absolute newbies and one had minimal experience. So what did I do? I managed to kill the entire friggin' party. Fortunately, the session was not a complete wash. I think everybody had some fun and I fully expect at least 4 of the players to be back for session 3. One of the highlights of the day was a fierce car chase sequence, for which I adapted Savage Worlds' excellent chase rules. Also the final fight with the dinosaurs, although a loss for the PCs, was intense and in fact a really close fight. The last of the four dinos was down to one hit point when it finished off the last PC. One die roll going the other way in any of the three last round would have resulted in a PC victory and at least 3 of the good guy's surviving.

Oh well, back the drawing board. I wonder what I'll be doing for the next adventure with a new batch of 1st level PCs?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Happy GM's Day!

Some rpg marketing wonk somewhere decided that March Fourth was GM's Day. In celebration of this august scheme RPGnow and DriveThru are having some sales. DriveThru has tons of stuff at 20% off. Sadly, the DriveThru items I really want (All the World's Monsters volumes 2 and 3 from Chaosium and Pocket Empires from GDW) have yet to be converted from DRM to digital watermarking. And the Chaosium hasn't even jumped on the watermarking bandwagon yet. Maybe I should send them an email. I suppose if I flipped through DriveThru long enough I could find stuff that would interest me, maybe Under the Storm Giant's Castle from Judge's Guild or Star Riders from Dream Pod 9. Neither of which are as cool as All the World's Monsters.

I did get some stuff from RPGnow. It'll be waiting for me to download when I get home. For my d20 Modern campaign I picked up Seeds: Modern (4 pages of adventure seeds) and the Big Bang Sampler (one of those gun fetish products) and issue Modern Dispatch #25 (outlining the Japanese maglev bullet train as an adventure location). All three were cheap and if they work out I'll probably get more stuff from their respective product lines. For future Castles & Crusades dungeoneering I also got Goodman Games' Dungeon Geomorphs. I'm crossing my fingers that these geomorphs are generally compatible with and at the same scale as the old TSR set, which I already own as a PDF. I took a pass at getting three other products I had been eyeing for d20 Modern. The Versatile Hero basic class and the Junk Man advanced class would've been nice to get if I were a player in a d20M game. But since I'm the GM and cannot forsee my players wanting to use them, buying those two items will have to wait. I also considered getting the paper mini set called Paper Violence, but the demo didn't print out very well. The actual product may be sharper, but what's the demo for if not to pre-judge the real thing?

RPG Shop, a vendor of non-electronic products, is supposed to be running a one-day everything-15%-off sale as well, but I'll be damned if I can find a product that's actually marked down from yesterday's prices. Too bad. I like doing business with these guys. Among other things, a small cut of each sale is donated to RPGnet. And they've got several things I want to buy: Green Ronin's d20 Modern screen, that Carcassone expansion my sister got, a new card game called Empyrean, Inc (with art by Phil Foglio), and several other goodies. RPG Shop also has a great dice selection. Maybe the sale prices will be up later.

Anyway, happy faux holiday and remember to consume!

Update, damn you!

No new Penny Arcade today? No new StrongBad email this week? No Bob the Angry Flower today? (Oh, wait. A new Bob is there now.) Where's the free entertainment I've come to know and love from this crazy thing we call teh intarweb? Dance for me, my monkeys! Dance!

At least SomethingAwful has a new PhotoShop Friday. And it looks like two chicks are about to have an unscheduled lesbian encounter over at Wapsi Square. It'll probably amount to nothing, but they still managed to hook me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

An Epiphany

Within the last two years I've purchased and sold both Exalted and Arcana Unearthed. And not just the core books either. For Exalted I also got ahold of the Dragonblooded fatsplat and a half-dozen other supps. At one point I actually owned the entire AU line: the corebook, both published modules, the GM screen, the setting gazetteer, even the official cardstock counters. I came real close to getting an AU game going, but at the first hint of trouble I aborted. But now that I've got more points of contact with the local game community, I've been experience pangs of regret over selling my Exalted and AU stuff. I keep thinking that maybe I could get a game going of either of these now that I know so many more local gamers. I've been telling myself "Maybe I could just use the Exalted corebook and not go supplement crazy." And I alternated between "With the new Arcana Evolved edition coming out, the old version of the game ought to be cheap to get" and "Hey, you could get in on the ground floor of the new edition and just pretend you didn't waste all that money on the original!"

But it occurred to me today why I'm really interested in these two games (and maybe Blue Rose too, for that matter). I want to play these games. I want to be a player, not a GM. Moreso than most any other game I've encountered, these games speak to me as a player. The combination of crunchy rules, high action, and ubercool setting makes me to fill in a charsheet and go nuts. As a GM, that trifecta scares the crap out of me. I can handle any one of them and on a good day I can keep two of them in the air, but I just can't juggle all three of them at the same time. It took me a long time to figure out why I've had this complicated attraction/repulsion reaction to these games, probably because I've so long been a GM first and foremost that it just never occurred to me that I might have player preferences that diverge from my GMing preferences.

So now that I know what's going on inside my own noggin, what can I do about it? Is there something more pro-active I can do other than laying in wait and keeping a keen eye out for new campaigns for these games? I dunno. But at least I won't be blowing any money on the rules in the meantime.

Buffy-style Drama Points

Some of the d20 Modern fans on have been importing Drama Points from Eden's Buffy RPG, instead of the Action Point system native to d20M. For a summary of the Buffy Drama Point mechanic, click here. I'm tempted to use this system in my UltraForce Omega campaign. Action Points as written are clunky and less fun than many other similar mechanics.

New Game Links

Just added several new links to the lefthand side of the page.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I'm driving myself nuts!

All day today I've had something on the tip of my brain, lingering just out of cognitive reach. When I got to work today there was something I wanted to research on Google, but I can't for the life of me remember what subject interested me. I had it at one point today, but a simultaneous phonecall from a customer and dumb question from the new guy in the office managed to push back into unconsciousness. I hate that.

Last night was boardgame night. We got in three games: Traders of Genoa, Ticket to Ride, and Bohnanza (the bean game). I had a pretty good night, getting second place in Traders and Bohnanza and winning Ticket to Ride. Although my confidence was shaky when I first started playing with this group, I seem to be doing a lot better. In all three games I was able to identify some good plays. I was particularly satisfied by my strategy in Ticket to Ride. For one thing, I had a strategy. For another thing, it was an unorthodox hybrid of two strategies I've seen others in my playgroup employ. And in Bohnanza I made at least one weird but decent-scoring play that I wouldn't have even considered a month or two ago.

I've developed a new method for indulging my game-buying habit while simultaneously improving my health. See, I normally visit the vending machine in the breakroom at work at least once, usually twice a day. I almost always get nutrition-free, high-calorie junkfood. So hear's the deal I've made with myself: on any week I can get from Monday to Friday without spending money at the vending machine, I get to buy some goodies from RPGnow or DriveThruRPG. This week, if I can exercise sufficient self-control, I'll be getting something for my d20 modern campaign. Maybe I'll get the Big Bang Sampler, just to see if I like the Big Bang line of gun books. Several of the full-blown Big Bang products look interesting. I've also been eyeing the Modern Dispatch line. Issue #25, about the Japanese bullet-train, is on sale for 75 cents. I'm finding it frustrating that many of the d20M adventures available are not tagged for what level PCs can tackle them. To meet the min order size to save myself the 35 cent fee for tiny orders, I may go ahead and finally buy Bruce Baugh's A Fistful of Plot Devices. I'm hoping that'll help me set up at least one exciting adventure for my Home Team campaign.

I'm getting a bit of the wargaming bug again, World War One flying aces in particular. Maybe this Sunday we could finally play Dawn Patrol. Who 'we' is at this point, I don't know. Probably Pat, maybe Loren and/or Dave and/or Joe. I dunno. Maybe Jim and the boys. I've also been looking once again into getting Blue Max or Richthofen's War. Jim mentioned Monday night that he used to enjoy playing the Richthofen game back in the day and that Avalon Hill went on to publish another game covering the same material, Knights of the Air. I think WWI plane games interest me for much the same reasons that BattleTech and Starmada trip my trigger: each piece represents a single object and more than two people can get in on playing. That one-to-one scaling is the place where wargames, skirmish mini games, and rpgs can meet. That's why I don't scoff at the notion that Dawn Patrol or Car Wars or BattleTech are really a form of role-playing game. You can play 'your guy' over a series of sessions, following his ups and downs. These characters can take on a narrative life of thier own. How is that not role-playing?