Thursday, April 27, 2006

Things I've Learned In Alidor

Last night was another session of Jon's World of Alidor campaign. I learned that the city of Port Headland hosts the Island of Jelling's longest-running annual flower show. The group also discovered that the newly dead do not rest quietly near the Ruins of Brunarn. We learned that if you have to choose between dealing with gnomes or dwarves, go dwarf every time. The gnomes will want everything documented, in triplicate. Finally, I learned that you need to keep your identity papers handy if you want to tromp through civilized lands wearing armor and weapons.

A weird time was had by all.

Classic Traveller contest

Dan "far-trader" Burns is organizing a nifty little contest over at the Citizens of the Imperium message boards. The challenge is to design a Jump-2 merchant vessel capable of making a profit working the Querion subsector of the Spinward Marches, using the starship design sequence for Book 2: Starships. More details available at this thread: Merchants Run.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Fight the Man!

Save the Internet: Click here

Looks like thos jackanapes in the big telecoms are trying to screw up the internet again. Since this isn't a political blog I'll let interested parties click the above image to get the details.

New D&D House Rule, effective immediately

Inspired by a thread on the EN World forums, I have decided to get some use out of my beloved d30.

Once per session each person at the table (DM included) may roll a d30 instead of whatever die or dice the situation normally warrants. The decision to use the d30 must be made before the roll. If used for an attack roll, the threat range is extended from the normal range through to 30.

Why do we need this rule? We don't. I'm simply a mad-with-power house-rulin' fool!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen... The Freak

The Freak originated during an early, anything-goes phase of my current D&D campaign. He was my buddy Pat's attempt to make a PC that was immune to hit point damage. And he was pretty successful at it, too. The version below is not Pat's grand vision, but rather my attempt to recreate the Freak on a more sound, SRD-based footing. I may make use of him as an NPC at some point. As usual, I did not take updating the skills seriously.

Large dragon
Hit Dice: 6d10+50 (83 hp)
Initiative: +4
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares), Fly 60ft (12 squares), average maneuverability
Armor Class: 23 (–1 size, +4 Dex, +10 natural), touch 13, flat-footed 19
Base Attack/Grapple: +4/+20
Attack: Claw +15melee (1d6+12)
Full Attack: 2 claws +15melee (1d6+12) and bite +10 melee (1d8+8)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Rend 2d6+15
Special Qualities: Darkvision 90 ft., low-light vision, regeneration 5, scent, Immunity to poison, acid, sleep, and paralysis, Resistance to cold 10, electricity 10, and fire 10, Damage reduction: 5/magic, Spell Resistance 16
Saves: Fort +13, Ref +6, Will +3
Abilities: Str 35, Dex 18, Con 27, Int 12, Wis 9, Cha 10
Skills: Listen +6, Spot +7
Feats: Alertness, Iron Will, Track
Environment: Cold mountains or Warm marshes
Organization: Solitary or gang (2–4)
Challenge Rating: 9
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Always chaotic evil
Advancement: By character class
Level Adjustment: +12?

Speaks Common, Giant, Draconic, Abyssal.
Freaks have no fear of death: They launch themselves into combat without hesitation, flailing wildly at the closest opponent. Even when confronted with fire, they try to get around the flames and attack.
Rend (Ex): If a freak hits with both claw attacks, it latches onto the opponent’s body and tears the flesh. This attack automatically deals an additional 2d6+15 points of damage.
Regeneration (Ex): Fire deals normal damage to a freak. If a freak loses a limb or body part, the lost portion regrows in 3d6 minutes. The creature can reattach the severed member instantly by holding it to the stump.
Smite Good (Su): Once per day the creature can make a normal melee attack to deal extra damage equal to its HD (maximum of +20) against a good foe
Spell-like abilities - Darkness 3/day, Desecrate 1/day, Unholy blight 1/day, caster level = HD, Cha-based
Breath Weapon – 60 ft. line of acid. 6d8 damage 1/day. DC 21 reflex save for half.
A freak’s natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.

Monday, April 24, 2006

RPG Pundit on stunting

I wanted to highlight this passage from the Pistols at Dawn extravaganza:

I've seen gamers try to create OtE characters where they pick a trait that is so broad it can apply to everything ("I have 4D in martial arts master/acrobat/strategist"), or take supposedly narrow traits and try to make them fit any situation ("I can use my 5D Football Champ trait to attack the thugs, right? Using my football training... oh, AND i can use my 5D football champ trait to beat the Chessmaster, because football has strategy that can also apply to chess").

To me, this is "Faking it". It creates situations where, by trying to encourage "roleplay" by giving positive bonuses to those who use their descriptors, it encourages people to try to stretch those descriptors to ridiculous limits.

Ditto with games that give bonuses for "descriptive stunting"; at that point every fucking action turns into a descriptive stunt ("I do a double backflip before sitting on the toilet to give me a +2D to taking a dump"; "I make an exaggerated courtsey when I meet Unimportant NPC x in case I have to get a bonus to my diplomacy check").

That's why Feng Shui has got it going on: there, you are ALLOWED to do any normal attack/action as a stunt, in a cool way and without penalty, as long as the end result not have a greater positive result than if you did it the normal way. For ex, instead of just saying "I run toward the guy and shoot him" you can say "I run three steps, jump onto the table sliding down off it shooting at the guy". Since the end result mechanically is the same ("Ok, roll to hit") there's no penalty for doing it acrobatically. Its "encouragement" in the sense of not fucking you over for giving your character a personal touch; rather than giving you a bonus for thinking up ways of dragging your personality into every little act.

Arcana Alternatives

I've been a fan of Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved since back when it was first published as Arcana Unearthed. AE brings a fresh approach to dungeoning and dragoning, with flavorful new classes, races, and spells. With 20 plus years of swording orcs under my belt, a new approach might be just what the doctor ordered to revitalize flabby gaming muscles. But my big problem with AE, beyond the learning curve for the new spells and whatnot, is the setting. Neither the 'giants in charge' gimmick of the original nor the 'return of the dragons' dynamic of the new edition are sufficient to make me groove on Cook's campaign world. So I've been knocking around a couple of other ideas. My basic approach is to treat AE just like baseline D&D: as a toolkit for creating your own fantasy setting. So far I've got two ideas.

Warmains & Magisters - AE neatly excises many nauseatingly familiar bits of post-Tolkien garbage that have accumulated around D&D. What if we simply re-inserted the Evolved rules into a pseudo-historical dark ages setting? Think Pendragon or Harn, but with the knights played by warmains and the Faen standing in for the elves. I'd probably cut some things to make this concept work. You don't need the Akashic or Oathsworn classes, for instance. And the furries would get the boot as well. The giants would prolly be recast as villains. Add some squabbling barons, wicked sorceresses, damsels in distress, and a few hungry dragons and you're ready to go.

The Algine Chronicle - Here's a weirder idea. The planet Algine in Traveller's Spinward Marches setting, an Earth-like balkanized lowtech world. For reasons unknown, the 3rd Imperium has declared Algine a Red Zone, i.e. all civilian traffic is interdicted. Under this campaign proposal Algine is subject to Imperial quarantine because those naughty Ancients mucked with the world. Back in the day they transplanted several sentient races to Algine: humans (which may have since split into multiple branches), Aslan (Litorians), and Vargr (Sibbeccai). Droyne still living on Algine are played by the Dracha. Aberrations take the role of native flora and fauna. Toss in some hi-tech stuff or psionics for that science fantasy feel. Crash a shipful of Imperial PCs for a Planetary Romance kind of game. Rock out on an alien world.

I still have at least one half-formed idea for AE with its cononical setting. One of my favorite things about AE is the lack of a separate category of Divine Magic. Without clerics and their ilk constantly treating the divine like their own personal toolboxes, the gods are much more mysterious and distant. And the truth about the divine is much harder to suss out. Which leads me to the Return of the Rune Messiah. Is he or she really the Chosen One? If the self-proclaimed Messiah changes the world for the better, does it matter? What if the realm catches 'messiah fever' with multiple competing messiahs preaching different messages? Can the PCs both support the real Messiah and prevent large scale religious bloodshed when their Messiah is opposed by a convincing faker?

Friday, April 21, 2006

New term: Gamecrush

A gamecrush is defined as that feeling of deep enthusiasm you have for a game on the first pass through the book. Perhaps actually playing the game with dowse this flame or perhaps it will fan that fire into a raging inferno of truefandom. Here are some games I am currently crushing on:

  • Mazes & Minotaurs - Olivier Legrand hit one out of the ballpark with this retro rpg of high adventure in the Greek age of heroes.
  • Pokethulhu - Although a Pokemon parody isn't normally my thing, I see this game as the third in the S. John Ross Freebie Comedy RPG Trifecta, alongside Risus and Encounter Critical. I figure I ought to run it at least once.
  • Castles & Crusades - Sometimes I think the crunch of D&D 3.5 is getting in the way of crazy dungeoneering hijinks. C&C is my lifeline to an earlier design ethos where the rules were simpler, allowing more freeform exploration of the joy of fanatsy adventure.
  • Arcana Evolved - To me AE is the flip side of the C&C coin, taking D&D to new places by tweaking the fluff while keeping most of the mechanics intact. I love many of new races and most of the new classes.
  • Boot Hill - I think I might have played this game once around 83 or 84, but I can't remember. Although I like the sparse, deadly mechanics of Boot Hill, I'm probably really in love with the idea of running a Western.
  • Spaceship Zero - The rules are tweaked BRP with a couple of nice touches. Nifty, but nothing to write home about. But the setting is totally awesome, combining pulpy adventure sci-fi, Lovecraft horror, and Phillip K. Dick style creepiness.
  • FUDGE - Call it a toolkit. Call it incomplete. I don't care. Like Savage Worlds it looks like a good way to quickly develop oddball ideas into working games.
What are your gamecrushes?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Palladium Books hits hard times

OgreCave and RPG Blog are both reporting that, for a variety of reasons, Palladium Books is in real financial trouble. It would be an understatement to say that I have mixed feelings about Palladium, and about attempting to save gaming companies on the skids. I was about to type a fairly standard anti-Palladium rant followed by a rant about the industry serving the hobby not vice versa. But then I realized that I'd leap to the assistance of my favorite game company even if its own stupidity had put it in the soup. So instead of ranting, I'll just pass along this news and let anyone who reads it come to their own conclusions. If you have any interest in helping this longtime fixture of the industry, maybe you'd like to go directly to Palladium's online catalog and buy something. There's been a call for their hardcore fans to consider buying the new, limited-edition "A Megaverse United" print.

Traveller Astrography links

The Traveller Map - fabulous interface See Charted Space in relation to the rest of the galaxy!

Supplement PO3. The Space Atlas - BeRKA's excellent maps

The Traveller Atlas - the subsector maps are shiny!

Stuff Onlines's The Known Universe - woefully incomplete but contains two rimward sectors I hadn't seen before, this site is the source of the blank sector grids I've put to work on my Gateway Quadrant maps

The Interactive Atlas of the Imperium - interprets the UWPs for you and produces jump data, website performance is a little spotty so if something doesn't work try again in a day or two

AB's Atlas of Charted Space - Also interprets UWP, though not as elegants as the Interactive Atlas. Uses ASCII to draw the subsector maps.

Library Data: Location of Known Sectors - sector-level resolution plotting out all known regaions, including the Zhodani core route and the Imperial rim expedition! That's a lot of friggin' sectors!

Underdeveloped Sectors - focusing on the region coreward of the Imperium (i.e. Vargr space and beyond)

Map of Traveller Charted Space - with extensive economic number-crunching

IISS Stellar Cartography - includes a map of the Jump-1 mains in the region encompassed by the 1st Imperium

Gypsy Comet's Zhodani Files - dotmaps of some Zho sectors

Federated Development Agency - fleshing out Hiver space and beyond

Don McKinney's Traveller Sector Information - No maps but lists all sources for canonical sector data that were published through 1999 or so.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Obit: Uther the Justiciar

It saddens me to report the passing of Uther the Justiciar. Brave Uther was nearing the end of his investigation into the diabolic activites of the Red Claw Cult and its leaders Skullshank the Summoner and Wither Blackfang when he fell victim to multiple unholy blights from a band of devils. Medical personnel upon the scene (in the form of Eberk the Dwarf Cleric and Greyson the Shaman) were unable to revive Uther. He is survived by his cohort, Odolan the Tiefling Rogue. Funeral arrangements and the disposition of his estate are unavailable at this time.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More Gateway Quadrant

Here's my map of the old Traveller setting from Judge's Guild. If you click on it you should be able to read the labels on the full-size version.

Back in the 80's the Guild published something like ten modules for this setting. I'm still trying to determine if additional information appeared in any of the various JG periodicals.

One of the fun things about this setting is that several of the polities are on the brink of a fullscale interstellar war. But unlike the 5th Frontier War I'm pretty sure that no official version of events outlines the course of the war.

A Must-Read Thread

RPG Pundit, the self-appointed saviour of roleplaying, and Levi Kornelsen, the newest mod at RPGnet and champion of the Hip New Games, are going mano-a-mano over at Nutkinland in a thread appropriately entitled Pistols at Dawn. Both these guys are razor sharp and have a lot of useful things to say about the hobby, yet they hardly agree about anything.

Monday, April 17, 2006

USS Enterprise, Phase II

Early Ralph McQuarrie concept art for the series that never was.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Fan fanart

Christian Conkle (a.k.a. Evil Schemer) posted some Encounter Critical fanart over at the official yahoo group. Very cool stuff. So cool, in fact, that I printed a couple for my daughter and I to color. Here are the results, starting with my daughter's work. First we have a Manion Devil. I had begun work on the suction cups when she snatched this one out of my hand and finished it.
Manion Devil
While she was working on the Manion Devil, I started coloring the trim on the Bee Girl Queen's robe. Again she swiped the picture and finished it herself.
All hail the Bee Girl Queen!
The cave ooze below was colored with a single crayon, a Coloriffic Swirly, that has several colors mixed together in a single stick. I rather like the effect.
Cave Ooze
Finally, here's my Bee Girl. I used another Swirly crayon on her boots, but the effect turned out more subdued than I had hoped for. I was trying to show her wearing Phasic Boots, whatever those might be. Also, I should have gone with a deeper green for the gloves.
Big thanks to Christian for uploading his fab drawings!

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Couple Blogs of Note

Here's two new blogs I've recently added to my Bloglines feeds.

The Unbearable Awesomeness of Being - just like the tile says, chock full of awesome

The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society - weirdness high and low delivered to you on a daily basis

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Top Ten Things To Do In Alidor

Last night Jon, one of the players in my D&D campaign, started running his World of Alidor setting for a couple of the guys and me. Jon's been working on this setting and running it for groups since D&D 3 was published and it shows. I've managed to put together the following To-Do list just based off a half-hour's pre-play dialogue, one session of play, and the notes on his website.

1. Woo Louise, the Wizardess of Yatton

2. Clear the Undead out from underneath the Ruins of Bunarn

3. Enter the Wookey Hole, if we dare!

4. Ride in a Gnomish Dirigible

5. Scale the Wall of Petrified Trees that guards the Elvish Empire of Taluo

6. Rid the land of the Black-blooded Slavers

7. Find the lost Tortoise City of Cork, drive out its orcish occupiers, and restore the Bardic College therein

8. Locate the Temple of the Couatl (if such a place actually exists)

9. Visit the God-City of Alidor

10. Slay the Dragon that menaces the island of Jelling

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Nutkinland NPC Contest

Those crazy rodents at Nutkinland (the artist formerly known as today announced an NPC design contest. Making NPCs for D&D 3.5 feels like doing homework, but occasionally I like participating in these sorts of contests. Only SRD-based material is allowed. That nixes my first idea (a yuan-ti evil overlord), but I'm sure I can come up with something else.

Another snarky open letter

Dear d20 Enthusiasts,

Please stop saying stupid things like "D20's not complicated, you just roll one die, add a bonus, and compare against a target." That's disingenuous and you damn well know it. The core mechanic of a game doesn't say dick about whether the game is complex or simple. Or let me put it anther way: I don't know why you wimps are whining about the HERO System, you just roll 3d6, lower is better.

I know the core mechanic of the D20 system, okay? That d20 ain't gonna tell me how many fifth level spells a 18th level necromancer gets. Those 3d6 don't do me a damn bit of good when someone drowns because their Speed stat is too high. Just to be clear, I'm not in the anti-D20 camp. Just stop trying to paint the pig. The core rules for D&D amount to over a thousand pages. That's not exactly the hallmark of a streamlined design.

If you don't believe me consider the following challenge. A neutral third party will pitch a character concept to the both of us, something suitable for a high-level D&D PC. The challenge is to see who can build the concept as a PC, completely filling in a character sheet. You use your D&D corebooks and I'll use Risus. Who do you think will finish first?



Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Man called Sting, A Box called X

Not the Crow.The wrestling show that I follow, TNA Impact!, is moving to Thrusday nights at 10pm. I'm not exactly pleased with this move, as I don't normally stay up until 11pm late on a weeknights, even with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report already running 10 'til 11. I'm going to try to catch the first broadcast in the new time slot. On Saturday night fan-favorite Sting threatened to actually wrestle a match. Sting is one of a handful of wrestlers that I can still get that can bring out the enthusiatic little kid in me. And the X-Division (the local cruiserweight undercard) remains strong. X-Division champ Christopher Daniels ranks as my favorite member of the new talent in the TNA rosters. I may end up buying his compilation DVD.

Last week the Toys 'R' Us was running a sale on some X-Box games. I bought two titles: Lego Star Wars and a compilation disc of old Sonic games. Since I can't get a Mario or Megaman game for the X-Box, Sonic is a decent alternative for side-scrolling platform action. Either the port to the X-Box has slowed the original Sonic the Hedgehog or else I'm used to faster games these days, 'cause this version of Sonic is the mind-blowing speedfest I remember from the original Sega system.

I can't speak highly enough about Lego Star Wars. It combines a mission-based adventure game with 3-D platforming action set in a too-cute Lego version of the Star Wars universe. The big battle sequences are amazing. I about pooped my pants on my first run at the battle over Coruscant. The range of available characters is awesome, including my favorite Jedi with no lines, Kit Fisto! I was also impressed with how the game makes non-force users important and relevant. Some missions simply cannot be completed without a blaster-armed character or an R2 unit. The biggest downer in the game is the friggin' podrace chapter. It took even longer to play than it did to watch in Episode I.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A totally snarky open letter

Dear RPG Publishers,

If you can't get your products into the big chain bookstores then I sincerely hope this whole gig is a hobby or a tax shelter. Because seriously, if you are trying to make money and you can't get into WaldenBorders & Noble then your business sucks. And you deserve to fail. The frickin' Wraeththu rpg is for sale at the big chainstores and your book is not. I'm not going to name names (Blue Rose) or point fingers (various licensed properties), but you guys totally dropped the ball.

And please stop all the wishful thinking. Don't count on the FLGS to market your game. The dude behind the counter can't even keep Cat Piss Man from stinking up the store. And don't expect me to preach the good word to a bunch of newbies. I'm not your marketing department. (What? You don't have a marketing department? Then stop reading this letter and send me all your money. It'll be quicker than pissing it away on a mismanaged game company.)

You want to be in business? You want to be a big shot RPG publisher? Then get yourself out of the death spiral of the game distribution system and get into some bookstores. Hell, kicking it indie style with or PDFs seems to be a better choice these days than languishing under the cruel whip of game distribution. Stop killing poor defenseless trees just so 500 copies of your masterpiece can gather dust in a garage somewhere.



Sunday, April 09, 2006

Two quick items

Fun with the Internet Movie Database: Rawhide is The Kurgan is Lex Luthor is Mr. Krabs?!

Videogame query: Is there a wrestling game that allows you to participate in "pay-per-view" events with other players online? If not, why not?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

An unexpected crossover audience

I just discovered that back in July of last year a porn site (link NSFW, obviously) ran a news item linking to my Wraeththu report. I'm not quite sure how to charactize my reaction to being mentioned at a website that specializes in naked ladies, but it's a very odd sensation.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hulkamania runs wild!!!

The Hulk Hogan "Real American" Video - pure Reagan-era nationalism at its awesomest

Hulk Hogan vs The Great Muta - proof that Hogan really could wrestle!

The Greatest of All Time!

Still more! The Hulkster versus Lanny "The Genius" Poffo! (aka Leapin' Lanny)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Just Fudge It

I'm sorta getting back into my on-again off-again interest in Steffan O'Sullivan's Fudge. Repeated prodding by Chris Helton (maintainer of the fun Dorkland! blog) and the opening of FudgeForum have led me to look at Fudge as an easy system for some of my more pretentious ideas. We're talking things like running an artsy-fartsy, deeply psychological episode of the Prisoner or some sort of 'serious' sci-fi. Dave Bezio (a.k.a. cool RPGnetter grubman) recently upped the ante by announcing his new project, FAST, sorta the bastard child of Fudge and Savage Worlds. I've seen an early draft and it looks cool.

(BTW, am I the only guy left not writing his own idiosyncratic fantasy RPG? The Evil DM has his Legends of Steel, a percentile based homage to bad 80's barbarian flicks. RPG Pundit has Forward to Adventure. Grubman has FAST and his earlier Dungeon Delvers. Calithena Gildenclaw has one or too similar projects as well.)

One of the things I'm encountering as I peruse the FudgeForum is that people approach design differently there than at, say, the Forge. Comparing the minimalist, laser-focused approach common in Forge-inspired designs versus the simple hacks and kludges of Fudge fandom reassures me that I did the right thing when I stopped regularly visiting the Forge. Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to condemn the Forge. That's one of RPG Pundit's schticks, not mine. Clearly those folks produced some useful stuff, even if we can argue endlessly about which parts of it are worth keeping. No, I think the real difference here is in methods and philosophy. The general trend at the Forge is to reduce gaming to its atomic components and apply rigorous analysis. The folks at FudgeForum use a more intuitive approach. Kinda like the difference between talking to an agronomist and a farmer. Both people would have interesting and useful things to say about making a plant grow, just from different angles. When it comes to roleplaying, I think I'd rather be in the local coffee shop with the farmers rather than in the café sipping chai with the agronomists.

That may sound anti-intellectual but I don't think it is. The folks at FudgeForum clearly also have their brains engaged. It's just that they're using different parts of their equally brilliant brains. It may be that this same analytical/intuitive divide is what makes me nuts about the new D&D sometimes. I learned the old versions through repetition until I reached an intuitive relationship with the game. Maybe I can't always articulate why I do something, but I usually have a sound grasp that such-and-such a monster is an appropriate challenge or that this-or-that treasure won't be too powerful in the hands of the party. Not so in 3.5. I usually brush off this deficiency as inexperience, but maybe the issue is that this new stuff isn't engaging that same crazy creative part of my brain that fire-up when I started so many years ago. Running D&D sometimes feels like doing homework. I never got that feeling with any version published by TSR.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Tale of Two Hoaxes

Recently I have been fooled by two hoaxes both perpetrated by game authors.

First there was the Encounter Critical affair, wherein S. John Ross tricked me and many others into believing that Encounter Critical was an authentic artifact, a true fantasy heartbreaker from the 70's written by some far-out dudes in Racine, Wisconsin. It turns out that Ross authored the game himself as a homage to that bygone era of gaming history.

More recently I fell for the efforts of Jared A. Sorensen and John Wick to convince me that Mr. Sorensen was facing legal action from parties unknown. This phantom litigant threatened to take away Jared's right to publish his past catalog of games, his right to publish under the Momento Mori imprint, and even the right to use his own name in print. The whole episode was invented apparently to promote the release of a new edition of Lacuna, a game about which I know nothing.

I had radically different reactions to these two hoaxes. When S. John Ross stepped out from behind the curtain, I was genuinely delighted. You can read my reaction as I wrote about it the very day of unveiling at this old gameblog entry. When the deception by Sorensen and Wick was revealed, I was angry. Angry enough that I decided to wait a few days before writing about it. I wanted to take some time to try to get to terms with why I was so pissed off at those guys. But self-reflection isn't my strong suit, so I'm left to work out my take on this mess by writing about it.

Let me start with an observation: of the two situations I was far more personally invested in Encounter Critical. Sure, I had blogged about it. But I am wont to do that with any game that catches my fancy. Back on my old tripod blog I once wrote a piece about Spawn of Fashan, for pete's sake. I also started participating in the Encounter Critical yahoo group, where I posted some of the first fan material for the game. On the weekend before the Big Unveil I ran a con game of EC. You know how ordinary folks like to tell celebrities "I'm your biggest fan"? Shit, I really was that #1 fan the day before S. John Ross told me he was the real author of EC. But the day after that revelation I still was a hugeass fan of Encounter Critical. And I became an even bigger fan of Ross, if such a thing is possible. I swear I've got a big ol' man-crush on him. Every work of his I peruse just trips my trigger. (But I've also diligently avoided his stuff that doesn't interest me, like GURPS Russia. I'm not *quite* to the point of building a secret creepy stalker shrine to him in my game room.)

Contrast that with the Sorensen/Wick situation. Unlike Ross I'm not a paying customer of either of these guys. Wick I know as the brain behind games like Legend of the Five Rings, 7th Sea, and Orkworld and other games I've never read or played but clearly some people enjoy them. Ron Edwards likes Orkworld, so that says something. (What it says, I don't know.) I'm slightly more familiar with the work of Mr. Sorensen. I know he wrote octaNe and InSpectres, which received some very nice reviews I've read. And I've printed off a couple of the games from his free stuff page. I particularly like Pumpkin Town and The Code. Either way, I primarily knew these two guys as RPGnet personalities. In my mind Wick fell into the talented prima donna camp like Gareth-Michael Skarka or Justin Achilli. All three are funny and talented guys who sometimes let their egos get to them and lose their shit. Jared I kinda saw as akin to RPGnetters like Bailywolf and SteveD: crazy talented, cool, upbeat people that made me want to hang out at RPGnet more than I should. I still laugh every time I think of Sorensen's throwaway line contrasting role-playing to Raoul-playing.

So one of my all-time favorite rpg authors pulls a fast one on me and I laugh a clap. A couple of talented strangers trick me and I'm still mad. Am I just star-struck masochistic enough to let S. John walk all over me? I don't think so. I think it really comes down to the details of the two scams. I'm pretty sure that if Sorensen and Wick had authored EC I'd still like that game. I can see myself thinking "So Sorensen had a hand in EC, eh? That's great! Maybe I'll finally buy myself a copy of octaNe." Meanwhile, I'd be even more mad at S. John for pulling the 'shutting down due to legal problems' shenanigan. Why would he jerk around his fans like that? Well, he wouldn't.

Hopefully Sorensen and Wick know their audience well enough to be able to say that their unorthodox tactic would work. Maybe their fans respond well to "Holy shit I'm in trouble! - Naw, just kidding! Buy my new book, fanboy!" All I can tell you is that I'm not in that demographic. If that's how fans of Orkworld or InSpectres like to be treated I guess I can save myself the money finding out whether or not I like either of those games. And I sure as hell won't be buying Lacuna any time soon.

In the final analysis I don't think Wick and Sorensen are blackhearted villains because of the trick they pulled. They're probably still the ultracool guys I imagined them to be before this shit hit the fan. But their little stunt was the equivalent of yelling "fire!" in a crowded theatre. To claim that they didn't know a panic would ensue would be disingenuous and to claim that it was all in good fun would be moronic. Especially when everyone pushes through the doors to find the two of them outside selling "I survived the Theatre Fire" t-shirts. This hoax wasn't jolly good fun, it was mean-spirited guerilla marketing.