Thursday, August 31, 2006

Local item: MetaCon Fall 06

The MetaGamers, the University of Illinois gaming club, has scheduled another of their one day mini-cons. This time MetaCon will be Saturday, September 9th at the Foreign Languages Building. For further information check out this message board. I really got to get to one of these things, if only to scope out what all the kids are up to, game-wise. Thought I must admit that I'm half afraid that in the presence of all the college students I feel look like an oldster desparately attempting to be hip by hanging out with a younger set. I mean, I just called them 'kids' in this post. I'm not exactly over the hill here, but there is bit of a gulf between this adult-with-a-day-job hobbyist and the rampant college geeks, even though I used to be one of the latter. You like how I can take a simple public service announcement and make it all about me? Am I being neurotic or egomaniacal? Maybe both.

Totally Not My Problem

Running a high level D&D campaign has been freaking my shit out for a while now, but the situation has its advantages. For example at the end of last run I announced that the next adventure will take place in a molten lake of magma inside the crater of a volcano. And I'm not sweating about how the PCs will travel on or through the lava. With 20th level spellcasters in the group I just can't be bothered to give a crap about such annoying little details. The players know that there is going to be lava everywhere and I'm totally leaving it up to them to deal with the problem. At this level the DM doesn't need to hold their hands for things like this. If they can't hack it against a burbling volcano, what are they going to do next plot arc when Surtur starts laying the smack down?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

it's not a contest, folks

Yesterday's blog entry from RPGpundit merits a quick response. He reports that some people at RPGnet are talking smack about the new incarnation of theRPGsite. Can we please all agree not to have a message board war? Anyone who stops and takes a moment to think about it will realize that a heated rivalry between the two sites is pointless and silly. Let's look at the facts:
  • RPGnet is like 2 orders of magnitude bigger and awesomer than theRPGsite. It would take years of hard work for theRPGsite to achieve the same level of net presence as RPGnet.
  • The new RPGsite is intended for a different audience. Consider for a second that RPGnet's tagline is "The Insider Scoop on Gaming". That's not what theRPGsite is meant to be at all. If I had my way theRPGsite would have a nifty tagline like "Gaming for Regular People". Not because everyone on RPGnet is some kind of weirdo, but because I want the site to have a more populist and less insider approach. Neither way is wrong, just different.
  • RPGpundit and some of the mods at RPGnet may have some animosity, but RPGpundit is not theRPGsite and Eric Brennan is not RPGnet. Pundit is one man with a vision for the site and some admin powers. I think he's pretty cool but I don't always agree with him. I think a lot of the mods and admins at RPGnet are cool people, but I don't always agree with them, either. Some of the modding policies at RPGnet doesn't suit me, but that doesn't stop Cessna from being a total awesome guy, or VoiceofIsaac and A2K from being the cutest gaming couple I've never met in person.
  • Anyone who thinks RPGpundit will use his admin powers to silence critics on theRPGsite doesn't understand the man at all. He'd much rather fight than shut you up!
  • Anyone who suspects that theRPGsite is simply meant to be a 'bitch about RPGnet site' needs to point me to even one thread devoted to talking smack about RPGnet. I haven't seen any but if I do I will leap in, not with the mod stick, but with vehement and heartfelt arguments that theRPGsite is NOT an anti-RPGnet site.
  • Even if theRPGsite becomes everything I hope it to be, RPGnet will still be the best place for many gamers. I know several local RPGnetters, some of whom will clearly continue to be better served by RPGnet even though theRPGsite looks like a better fit for me. For example if Kathleen and Josh (RPGnetters coeli and UnkaJosh) were to ask me for an opinion, I would tell them to stick with RPGnet. Not because I don't want them at theRPGsite (I do) but because I think RPGnet's approach better fits them. Just like I would send a hardcore D&D-only fanatic to ENworld first rather than either RPGnet or theRPGsite.

So let's not fight, please? It's not like there isn't enough room on the internet for both sites. Pundit, this plea goes double for you. If we're going to do this, let's do it right. Keep things positive. Getting up in RPGnet's grill won't help your cause right now, even if some of them are picking a fight.

new 1st edition AD&D module

This is the sort of item I feel morally obligated to pass on. Pied Piper Publishing has released a new module for the original version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, written by Rob "Robilar" Kuntz and illustrated by James Holloway. Called CAS1: Cairn of the Skeleton King, it is suitable for parties levels 4-7 and looks totally retro-awesome. The Pied Piper site is down as I type this, but RPGnet has a favorable review and copies are floating around eBay. If I still played with any of my old crew from high school this would be the perfect type of thing for a one-shot.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Runequest SRD released

Mongoose Publishing has released a zipped doc of the new Runequest System Reference Document and Developer's Kit. Click here for the official Mongoose RQ page or here for a direct link to the file. Over at theRPGsite several peeps have put together PDF versions of the file, which can be found in this thread. That looks like blatant pimping, because it is. But in all fairness I found the announcement of the RQ SRD there before I saw it at any of my other sources.

Osric: perverted or pragmatic?

I brought in a new PC for the World of Alidor campaign, a barbarian/scout called Osric the Slayer Osric was inspired by Conan (of course), a lesser know Howard character named Black Vulmea, and King Osric, Max Von Sydow's character from the first Conan movie. The basic conceit is that my guy is Sydow's Osric before he usurped the throne, the same way the Conan stories tell of his days before he wore the crown of Aquilonia upon a trouble brow.

In our latest adventure the PCs befriended a band of centaurs who helped us fight a band of invaders from across the sea. As is normal for our DM, we were each handed a stat card for one of our allies. If we want the NPCs to help, we're responsible for running them. Unlike previous occasions these centaurs had no real personal info, so we were left to give them an identity if we so chose. I named my centaur Uthrekka the Amazon Centaur.

At one point during the adventure the PCs and our half-equine allies were camping out in a forest on a chilly night as autumn was setting in. The DM narrated something like "you huddle together for warmth". This left Osric with two options: share a blanket with one or more of the other dudes in the party or attempt to canoodle with a woman who is a horse below the waist. The DM didn't really express an opinion on Uthrekka's behalf, so I got to make the call. At the time the choice seemed obvious: when in a doubt a semi-babe is better than no babe at all.

It was never made clear how far things went with Uthrekka. My own boudaries leans towards being circumspect about such matters at the game table and no one else asked for the details of Osric's and Uthrekka's night together. Heck, I was so coy about the whole thing some of the other players may not have even realized anything unusual happened.

Whatever happened that night, the situation raises some interesting questions. What are the cultural and legal boundaries for inter-species coupling? We know that half-orcs were outcasts in most pre-3E settings, but nowadays those guys are pretty tame stuff in a world full of templated half-dragons and half-fiends and whatnot. Is sex with a dragon bestiality even though they can be fully consenting adults? Are half-fiends citizens with full legal rights or abominations to be put to the sword? These are the kind of questions that could come up in any D&D campaign, not just the World of Alidor.

Then there are the questions surrounding Osric and Uthrekka's particular situation that I need to answer at least to my own personal satisfaction. What happened that night? Could Uthrekka be pregnant from the encounter? Is a half-centaur a viable hybrid? Do they still have feelings for one another? Is one party in love and not the other? And if they did have sex, what won't this guy screw? My mind boggles at the cross-species couplings that present themselves by a simple flip-thru of the Monster Manual. Maybe the best answer for all concerned is that they cuddled to keep warm and leave it at that. Not the most titillating of all possibilities, but this is a D&D campaign, not Furry: The Yiffing.
Would your PC?

Monday, August 28, 2006

more news

RPGpundit asked me to be one of the admins over at and I have accepted the position. At times Pundit's approach to online interaction can be a little... agressive. Yeah, let's go with that. I may end up playing the Murtaugh to his Riggs. As far as stupid message board antics go I really am getting to old for this shit, so when I took the job I did so with the proviso that if this shebang gets too big or too stupid I won't be around for long.

That being said, I really like his vision for and I want it to work. I think there's a place in the hobby for another vigorous hub of online activity. Especially a new site that espouses RPGs as a hobby. I know that sounds stupid. Of course RPGs are a hobby. But if you look at several major sites it would be hard to tell that. ENworld is the playground of the hardcore D&D enthusiast. I can't follow the technical details of some threads and I'm not exactly what you would call an outsider to the two D's and an ampersand. The Forge is about games as art. And RPGnet seems to be as much about the RPG geek lifestyle as the actual playing of games. In retrospect maybe that as much as the modding is what caused me to stop posting there. I couldn't keep up with the kids who were more into the geek life than I.

All three of those sites are places that serve a useful function and I don't hesitate to recommend them to people whose needs would be served by what they offer. But if your approach to gaming is a little more laid back, then maybe theRPGsite could be the place for you. If you're the kind of person who thinks that roleplaying is supernifty but also understands that it's just a hobby, maybe I'll see you over at the new RPGsite.

Quote of the Week

I think a lot of RPG stuff is designed without actual play at the table in mind. It drives me nuts when I see a new RPG and there isn’t a clear, obvious way you are supposed to run it. I hate games that start with fiction, or a gazetteer of the setting.

--Mike Mearls in his Treasure Tables interview

Sunday, August 27, 2006 under new management

I've been offline for the last several days, so this may be old news. Noted internet troublemaker RPGpundit has been handed control of Pundit declares his intentions vis-a-vis this opportunity over at this blog entry and outlines the ground rules for the forums here. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this all develops and I plan on participating on the RPGsite 'roleplaying games' forum.

from the local newspaper


Public Notice is hereby given that I, Robin Todd Jackson, will file a Petition in the Champaign County Circuit Court to change my name to Tru Luv Flo, pursuant to the statute in such case made and provided.

That, my friends, is true dedication to the playa lifestyle. If the delightful Mr. Flo ever ran for public office it would require physical restraints to bar me from voting for him. How could you not want to see Tru Luv Flo elected mayor? The headlines alone would well be worth enduring life in a city administered by a guy who refuses to spell his own name correctly. If my name were Tru Luv Flo I would probably want to name my firstborn Funky Fresh. Heck, that sounds so cool maybe I'll just start calling my daughter Funky. I'm sure she won't mind.

(Credit for finding this item in the newspaper goes to my wife. I don't read the paper. I get all my news from websites with names like or

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The RPG Palate Cleanser

Last night 3 out of four PCs in my campaign hit the big Two-Oh. That's twentieth level, baby. The big time! Top o' the world, ma! Jon's PC is less than 200 experience points from gaining that lofty pinnacle of PCdom. ("Can I kill something worth 135 xp so I can start next session at 20th like everyone else?" "Uh, no.") We'll probably end up with post-20th level PCs, as I've got two little plot arcs left for the campaign. The current arc, of which last night was part 1 of maybe 3 parts, is a classic in the hobby: find and slay a dragon. Because of the ramped-up nature of the PCs the standard scenario has a little twist on it: Bahamut himself has charged the PCs with assassinating the ancient semi-divine dragon that has secretly influenced the events of the Flanaess for longer than the recorded history of humanity. The final arc of the campaign I am calling Greypocalypse Now. The idea is very simple: Ragnarok comes to the world of Greyhawk and the PCs are on the front lines of the ultimate battle between the forces of Us versus Them. Roll for initiative.

When I first started seeing that this campaign was coming to a natural conclusion it was my plan to begin a new campaign almost immediately. The short list consists of Iron Heroes, Arcana Evolved, and D&D through an Eberron-tinctured lens. Regular Gameblog readers might recall at one point my players and I hashing out a proposal to run all three games as a single campaign. But the more I mused upon the situation the more I began to suspect that immediately firing up a spanking-new first level campaign might be a mistake. The players and I would probably suffer from mental whiplash enduring the shift from a longterm campaign of Gestalt characters with 20+ levels to a new longterm campaign with 1st level non-Gestalt wimps.

So recently I've begun looking at the idea of a 'palate cleanser' mini-campaign as a means of taking the edge off the sudden downshift in power levels. The idea would be to spend 2 to 6 sessions on something besides upper-end D&D. Ideally, we would be playing a game with easy-peasy chargen. That way lethal mistakes based upon the habits of the old campaign wouldn't be too cruelly punished. ("Oh, yeah. I forgot I no longer can rip giants in half with a single stroke.") At first I condsidered Feng Shui, especially a mini-campaign not involving FS's Secret War metaplot, or Savage Worlds, perhaps a piratical or western adventure or else the canned SW module Zombie Run. The problem with switching systems altogether is that I would be asking the players to learn a new game for only a handful of sessions. And odds are pretty good that not all of them are interested in FS or SW.

Then it struck me that I should take advantage of all those nutwork extranalties that Ryan Dancey used to talk about and just run some other d20 game. That may seem like the obvious way to go, but it took me a while to reach that conclusion. Anyway, I've been pouring over the d20 mini-games in search of the perfect bite-sized between-epic snack. Right now the short list consists of the giant robot shenanigans of Mecha Crusade (Dungeon #95/Polyhedron 154), 70's car chase movie extravaganza Thunderball Rally (Dungeon #93/Poly #152), sword and planet genre machine Iron Lords of Jupiter (Dungeon #101), and the first update of Gamma World I've liked in two decades, Jonathan Tweet's Omega World (Dungeon #94/Poly #153).

All four of these games look like a hoot, but each has a drawback. Omega World and Iron Lords both stomp on territory I've been considering for that longer campaign to come. If I run a strictly Iron Heroes game I had been considering both a post-apocalyptic and a sword & planet setting. (With the third option being a faux-historical Our Own Private Hyboria, fleshed out using the methodology Ron Edwards outlines in Sorcerer & Sword.) But maybe reducing the amount of possible games I want to run isn't a bad thing. Thunderball Rally would be a stupid fun time but I'm not sure I want to learn the ins and outs of the included vehicular combat system. The same sort of game might be better run using the nifty car chase rules in Savage Worlds. And my main concern about Mecha Crusade is pretty much the same concern I have for any mecha-based game: it's far to easy to make the game all about the machines instead of the people inside them.

Of the four Omega World easily wins in terms of the least preparation necessary. All my first and second edition Gamma World crap would be pretty easy to adapt to Tweet's fast and loose d20 interpretation. Sprinkle in some Thundarr the Barbarian material and I should be ready to rock. (Iron Lords of Jupiter would require some adaptation, because as written it uses the d20 Modern engine. It's not that I hate d20M, but it just leaves me cold. I just never adapted to the idea that "Fast Hero" is a legit class. Coming from a game where you could be a Half-Orc Barbarian or an Elf Sorcerer it just seemed like a letdown to play Smart Dude 3/Wise Guy 2.

By the way, someone out there really needs to combine Omega World with Thunderball Rally to run a Mad Max-flavored game of mutants racing across the smouldering remains of North America. I'm sure the AADA Road Atlas line of Car War/GURPS Autoduel supplements could help flesh that idea out.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Prisoners & Cage Matches

One of the ways I kept my daughter and her cousin amused last week was by a trip to the local library. They have several computers set up with kiddy games loaded on them and a nice play area, so I the trip was useful even though neither of them could slow down long enough to look at a book. As we walked/ran past the adult section of the library my eye caught something colorful in the DVD department. Turns out they have copies of the cult British TV series The Prisoner. I love this show, even though over the years I've only seen one entire episode and snippets of others. For a long time I've wanted to run a Prisoner-flavored game, probably a one shot at a convention using the GURPS The Prisoner sourcebook for inspiration and FUDGE for the actual rules. Now that I have easy access to at least some of the episodes I feel much closer to that goal. Attendees to next year's Winter War can expect to see this event on the pre-reg schedule.

My nephew Cameron spent a large part of his visit playing our X-box and using ever social skill in his limited repetoire to pulle me away from whatever I was doing in order to join him. His visit would have been a lot less work had he and Elizabeth agreed to play the X-box (or anything else) together but I will say this: playing a whole bunch of Legends of Wrestling II with him did a lot to renew my interest in the title. I'm even exploring the "make your own wrestler" section of the game now. When I first bought Legends II the chargen interface looked like way too much work for a stupid wrestling game. I even discovered they have some nifty masks for characters to wear, include a skull mask suitable for re-creating my old e-fed character Kid Skull. And I must admit I am attracted to the idea of whipping up a grappler with a shaved head and a reddish goatee. It's vain, I know, but why should I pass up the opportunity to pull a Walter Mitty?

Still Alive

FYI there's been no Gameblog update in a several days because I haven't been on the internet since maybe Wednesday last week. My 6-year-old nephew Cameron was over for a visit for a few days, followed by my daughter Elizabeth's fifth birthday party, and a couple days of my wife Amy being ill. Cameron's back home now, the party's over, and my wife is feeling better but updates this week will be intermittent as well. I'm home with Elizabeth this week and updates will depend on the reliability of my crappy dial-up at home and her cooperating long enough for me to use the computer. She has trouble imagining any function for the computer other than for playing her games. I'm pretty sure that that attitude can be blamed on her father.

Stay awesome, everybody!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Linkson 5

The Heart Ripper - nifty actual play from RPGnet

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Films That Never Existed

The Velvet Marauder - blog written by a small time superhero, well worth reading from the beginning of the archive

Star Trek Miniature Maker - full color paper mini maker with a virtual paper doll interface

Is our universe about to be mangled? - science!

bonus feature frustration

SPOILER ALERT - mild and out-of-date video game spoilers contained herein

QuiGon and Obiwan lay the smack down.I recently completed two excellent video games. (Okay, I completed the easy mode of two excellent video games. But when you're committment to electronic gaming is as low as mine, that's essentially the same thing.) One of the games was Lego Star Wars for the Xbox and the other one was this neat Batman plug-in game from Jakks. I don't finish a whole lot of video games. I think Megaman II and Super Mario II for the NES are the only reasonably long games I've ever completed. And then there was the embarrassing near-completion of Ultima IV, where I couldn't figure out the final puzzle. That still haunts me. Anyway, one of the things that kept me on track with these two games was the promise of an unlockable secret bonus level. The main body of Lego Star Wars only covers Episodes I through III, with the bonus level set in Episode IV. And you get to play the bonus level as tiny lego The game is designed to look like a Batarang.  How awesome is that?Darth Vader. How cool is that? The Batman game gives you an additional villain to track down and pummel. Also groovy. But both bonus levels are much shorter than the preceding levels. I don't like that. The lion's share of the game taught me that a level is supposed to be a certain size, then the game underperforms to the standards it sets for itself. I enjoyed the bonus levels, but their abbreviated size left me with the impression that they had been phoned in. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody hops onto the comments section to tell me this sort of behavior is common in the industry. Still, I can't quite shake the feeling that the bonus section in both games was short on content.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Gospel According to Wilen

Last week I was checking out Elliot Wilen's livejournal. He has a nifty little item called "The history of the GM-as-God meme" that's worth a look-see. Although it is out of fashion in some circles, I generally work within the model of the GM as benevolent dictator. As a gamemaster I want all the power that comes with that set-up and I'm willing to accept that means I shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for the game. Some people seem to think that being the omnipotent autocrat of the game means ignoring or undervaluing player concerns. Far from it. I'm always struggling with trying to make sure the game is about them just as much as it is about me. But when that doesn't work out I can't really blame anyone but myself. On the flip side I always try to support the GM when I'm on the other side of the screen, because I can sympathize with the GM's plight. It's not always easy juggling an entire universe in your head while trying to keep everyone else's desires front and center.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

even more liberry comics

Yesterday I took my daughter to the local library. She slowed down from tearing hell through the place just long enough for me to grab a couple of comic books. Nightwing: Year One is a nice little tale detailing what Dick Grayson did after that whole 'boy wonder' gig didn't quite work out as planned. After the Bat fires him the first guy he seeks out is a bud of his named Clark Kent. You may have heard of him. Anyway, as Clark and Dick are chilling in the Fortress of Solitude coversation turns to Nightwing, one of Krypton's superheroes from many centuries ago. Dig this nifty shot of the original Nightwing: The existence of a superhero operating on Krypton hundreds of years ago raises all sorts of interesting questions. Were there other superheroes on Krypton? Did they fight Kryptonian villains? This guy looks a lot like an alien Batman, was there a Kryptonian Wonder Woman as well? And if so, does anyone have pics?

I also picked up Aaron McGruder's a Right to be Hostile, the Boondocks collection that spans the run-up and aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. Great stuff. It's saying something that I couldn't put this book down while I was watching the wrestling show.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wilderlands goes C&C

From the Necromancer Games/Judges Guild message boards by way of RPGnetter NPC:

Coming in 2007…

Wilderlands of High Adventure

Campaign Installments, Adventure Modules, and Sourcebooks
From Adventure Games Publishing under license from Judges Guild and Troll Lord Games.

The first fantasy role-playing game campaign setting ever published — the legendary Wilderlands of High Fantasy — will be re-released in a newly revised and expanded edition.

Designed and approved for use with
Castles & Crusades

C&C and Wilderlands ought to be a good fit, and positions the brand well in the event of a 4E D&D grinding the hobby beneath its boot.

a recent read

Today I polished off Al Franken's The Truth with Jokes. Franken's writing somehow combines partisan mean-spiritedness with warm humour. If you enjoyed either of Franken's earlier political books (Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot and Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them) then you'll probably get a kick out of this one as well. The politically conservative probably will not enjoy this book as much as the lefties. (And at least one site seems to make a case for Franken himself being full of crap.) Probably the most important thing I learned from The Truth was that the Presidential Daily Briefing for 8/6/01 had been declassified and released to the public. That's the little document entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US". You can check it out yourself here. Here's the money shot, from the second page of this 2-page memo:
FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks
I don't know about you, but that doesn't look to me like an "historical memo", as Condoleeza Rice described it to the 9/11 Commission. Most of the memo spells out previous Bin Ladin activity but it also notes that he plans his attacks years in advance.

Ron Edwards' Super Secret Project

Going over that same monster thread from which I pulled Old Geezer's Law of Hobby Taste, I found this quote from Ron Edwards:
The design decisions I've made with my current project are so not-RPG, but at the same time so dismissive of what's ordinarily called "consensual storytelling," that I cannot even begin to discuss it on-line. I can see the influences of Universalis, The Mountain Witch, and My Life with Master, but I cannot articulate the way that I have abandoned the player-character, yet preserved the moral responsibility of decision-making during play. That's all I'll say here, and I won't answer questions about it.


I don't know. I can see its parts forming, as with a mid-term embryo, but what it will be and how it will work, and who will use it for what purposes, I don't know. My current project may be right on track with it, or I may be veering off in a hopeless direction.

I have only this quote in isolation and I haven't really researched the matter further. But I'm a bit puzzled. Here's the guy who put the Forge, a huge collaborative site of game theory wonks, on the map. He could bring vast legions of fans to bear, get the public input of a dozen top indie designers, and employ playtesters across the globe. Why is this guy working in secret? I just don't get it. Even one such 'no questions, please' comment gives ammunition to the crowd of people who thinks the man is a fraud. It would be much wiser to keep your mouth shut completely than to bleat about working on a project that will redefine roleplaying. I don't expect comments like that from the guy who wrote the Fantasy Heartbreakers essays.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Old Geezer rules

Old Geezer's Law of Hobby Taste: The more objectively inconsequential a hobby is, the more disagreements within the community will be expressed in outrageously insulting, overblown, and ludicrously emotionally laden terms.

The above quote is from the first RPgnet thread I've read in weeks. It's a charming little number on the subject of Brain Damage.

Who wants another slice of Beholder?

Check out these pics of the goodies from my friend Stuart's impromptu D&D-themed party.


I use free service StatCounter to see whether people are reading this blog or not. Turns out I get about a hundred visitors a day. Howdy! One of my favorite features of the StatCounter report is the 'Came From' page, which gives me links to the page people were at when they surfed over to here. I get hits from the oddest places sometimes. Almost everyday I get a hit or two from people looking for a picture that I linked to once many moons ago. (The Evil DM said he wanted more T-n-A in this blog. There ya go, man!) And the link from the Wikipedia entry on Wraeththu gets me a steady trickle of visitors. Come for the flower penises, stay for the grown man blogging about 30-sided dice! Yesterday I learned that my piece on the art of David Deitrick is the first item that google kicks back if you search for the words "alien encounter shrine". That's pretty cool and utterly silly. Hopefully whoever was looking for that shrine eventually found it. I also discovered recently that I'm listed among the gaming links of an intense looking Finnish dude named Sampo. I very much like the spartan layout of that guy's website.

Armchair Booking: Bobby Roode

Thanks to the dissolution of TNA heel faction Team Canada, a couple of excellent wrestlers have been able to get out of the shadow of that stable and its charismatic manager, Coach D'amore. Petey "The Canadian Destroyer" Williams has been given an X-Division title shot against Senshi and Eric Young's comedy persona is totally over with his "Don't Fire Eric" campaign.

For the past several weeks fans of TNA wrestling have seen promotional video packages aimed at pushing Team Canada's former enforcer, Bobby Roode. Each package has had two distinct bullet points: 1) Bobby Roode is ready for the Big Time and 2) every manager in the organization wants this guy. I want to like these promo pieces, especially because Mr. Roode comes off as looking both smart and hungry for main event status. However, it strikes me that TNA is making a fundamental error in trying to build Roode's credibility this way. It all comes back to the most basic of storytelling precepts: don't tell what you can show.

Although I'm not 100% satisfied with the video packages that TNA has aired to promote Mr. Roode, I must note that for me at least they accomplished the Booby Roode, Old Fashion Asskickerprimary goal. They got me to care about Bobby Roode and to talk about him as credible upper-card talent. Now they need to take the next step and book the guy on an upward arc.

Admittedly, TNA only has an hour each week to move all its plotlines forward, but if you want me to believe someone's a title contender then I'm going to have to see them wrestle at some point. Start out with a good ol' squash. It'll only take a couple of minutes. During Roode's entrance let Mike Tenay and Don West gush about how Roode seems to be in peak condition. Maybe have them mention the buzz in the locker room over the various management trying to sign him. Then give Roode a brutally quick but very clean victory over the unknown jobber. Follow it up a week or two later with a bout against a midcarder like David Young of the Diamonds in the Rough. Let this one go long enough to make it clear that Roode dominates the match, at least when Simon Diamond isn't interfering in the match. Have Bobby win this one too and let the announcer-monkeys coo over how focused he was in the ring, how Bobby didn't let Simon's interference frustrate or confuse him.

Meanwhile, you parallel this thread with another focusing on the managers war to sign Roode. Let Jeremy Borash work questions about Roode into interviews with various managers. Shane Douglas should be asked if he's trying to recruit Roode. Shane can say no, insist that he's totally focused the Naturals, BUT note that if Roode called him he wouldn't hang up the phone. The week after the match with David Young, reveal that Simon Diamond is trying to get Roode to sign with him. Don't have Roode present for these segments. Instead focus on the idea that Roode is making waves even when he isn't present. Heck, if you really want to go all-out, have a fistfight between two managers both eager to sign this guy. Maybe get a disgruntled Scott D'amore into the act at this point, to plant the seed of a future feud between Roode and someone managed by D'amore.

I assume that all the focus the promo places on Roode signing with a manager is meant to signal that he isn't yet up to snuff in the mikework department. If the plan is to eventually place Bobby with a manager, then I'd recommend the delightfully satanic James Mitchell. That guy cracks me up. Have the Sinister Minister net Bobby a number one contender match or even just an Impact! main event against a headliner. There's plenty of talent in the heavyweight division, so Bobby's time may not have quite arrived. But a credible loss against a Samoa Joe or a Scott Steiner will position Roode for further top-of-the-card action.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Behold the Knights!

Yesterday I was gushing about Muse's video "Knights of Cydonia". My main man Pat hooked me up with some screen caps. Dig it:

Fear the moustache!!!Laser-Packing Kung Fu Cowboy lays the smack down!

Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, this video is rocking my world!

The band appears as a ghostly hologram.

Do you want to live forever?

Hallucinatory Space Angel Princess Babe saves the hero from death in the desert.

Ready to kick names and take ass.

Who is the Masked Moustachio?

Kung Fu Bandito needs his own show.

I agree with Pat. This is the best training montage ever.

Enter the Zoran

Noted Bruce Baugh nemesis Zoran Bekric recently wrote a lengthy comment in response to my old gameblog post wherein I asked the question Was Zoran Bekric Right? It appears to me that Mr. Bekric makes the claim that Extras (i.e. mooks) in Adventure! are 'handicapped' in the same way that a man with no eyes is handicapped. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Either way you might want to check out the exchange. In the interest of clarity please post there if you want to address the actual points under discussion and post here if you want to make meta-commentary on the discussion. Or don't post at all. It only feeds my bloated ego when folks leave comments.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Return of Son of Misc Links 5, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

"Jesus saves..." T-shirt - The joke is old but this version features Erol Otus art, baby!

The Flapper - The Sensational Character Find of 1926. Or not.

Treasure and leveling comparisons - Great EN world thread comparing loot and XP gains between 1st edition AD&D and 3e.

Searching for Counte Dante - Read the whole blog. It's worth the time.

pedit5 - Until I found this little wikipedia stub I didn't know that I've gamed several times with the writer of the world's first dungeon crawl computer program. Rusty's a supercool guy.

Knights of Cydonia

This morning I caught the video for the song "Knights of Cydonia" by the band Muse. I don't know anything about Muse but both the song and the video rocked. The song managed to be both hauntingly ethereal and gloriously bombastic, meanwhile the video was a sock choppy spaghetti western sci-fi epic filmed in the People's Republic of Romanistan. I am not making this up. The video and song compare favorably to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" in that the song itself is wicked awesome and the video only makes it better. I'd love to post some still from the video to share its total radness with you, but google failed me. However, I did find this:

Best. Graffiti. EVAR.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Recent reads

I enjoyed Danny Fingeroth's Superman on the Couch, but I'm not sure how much I really learned from it. I got the impression that Fingeroth was writing to a more general audience. Superman on the Couch does a good job of explicating the underlying premises of our most beloved comic icons. But the results of these explorations end up looking completely obvious to me. This leaves me with the impression that Superman and Spider-Man are really just as shallow as many people suspect. That doesn't bother me much, but I bet that conclusion wasn't the one Mr. Fingeroth was hoping I'd reach.

It's somewhat suprising that the Anthony Rogers of Philip Frances Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D. is the forerunner of Gil Gerard's character from the TV show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Anthony Rogers isn't an astronaut and no part of his original adventure takes place in outer space. Nonetheless it was a nifty adventure yarn, albeit lacking in the sturm und drang I like in my sci-fi. The violence is described in an almost clinical fashion, the first person 'memoir' narration is often detached from the emotional impact of each scene, and Anthony and Wilma Deering's courtship is so chaste you'd think June Cleaver was the author.

The epilogue (almost assuredly written by editor Spider Robinson) attempted to hamhandedly justify the blatant racism of the original tale. No, Mr. Robinson, the evil Han aren't space men that happened to start their invasion of Earth in Mongolia. They're the Yellow Peril and we all know it. A lot of good fiction from bygone eras has racism embedded in it, but whitewashing (ahem) the issue will not make it go away. Yes, I flinch when the writings of favored authors like Howard or Lovecraft wax racist, but I'd rather flinch than see their words altered or justified by later fans.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Notes from a Gamer Geek Party

Yesterday the family and I attended a party hosted by Dave and Heather, two longstanding members of the local game scene. It was fun to spend a couple of hours talking with maybe a dozen fellow gamers in a non-game setting. Nobody smelled of cat piss. Dave and Heather did a good job when drawing up the guest list. At no point did I overhear anyone discussing game theory or speculating as to the contents of a fourth edition of D&D. So yay for that. A couple gamers pitched me the second edition of Mutants & Masterminds as a game that might suit my needs, much moreso than the original version of M&M. Apparently M&M 2e does away with tactical combat, one of the parts of the original that I didn't like. It was also recommended to me that I take a pass on Truth & Justice. One source told me that my own past efforts at FUDGE were close enough to Mr. Underkoffler's work as to make it a waste of twelve bucks. I wasn't expecting to hear that. We also talked a bit about Traveller. Since GDW's offices used to be less than an hour from here, a lot of the old guard can still be found locally.

On a personal angle most of the players in my now-defunct supers game (see the post immediately preceding this one) were at the party. We had a laugh over the fact that none of us had every seen a game end via blog before now and shot the breeze a bit on the subject of what we're going to play next. Also at the party was an ex-girlfriend of mine. We haven't really talked since she dumped me. Seeing her again was... awkward. You'd think that bumping into her wouldn't weird me out all these years later, but it still kinda does. But I also got to see many of the players from the Pancake Hut Gang. I seriously need to play with those folks again. They're great for games involving large explosions and fist-fights.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Speaking of superheroes...

First off, I heartily suggest that anyone interested in supers gaming ought to read RPG Pundit's post yesterday and the comments following. Now, on to the post.

One of my incomplete game projects right now is Home Team, a Marvel Universe superhero game. The basic concept is that the PCs are the primary defenders of Manhattan while all the big names in early 80's Marvel comics are off fighting the Secret Wars. I really liked that concept, as it allows me to bring a lot of third rate Marvel villains out of the wood work. (The campaign is set a couple years before Scourge starts offing guys like Turner D. Century.) I like the PCs, being especially enamored of The Dingo, the character whose premise is "What if baby Kal-El's rocket landed in Australia?" (That's exactly the sort of question no one ever needed to ask but the answer is pretty funny to see in play.) And the player group is tight. Don, Sue, John, Paul, and I have been gaming on and off together for over a decade now. They're pretty dang cool people to game with. Lately I haven't been getting together with that group as much as I used to, and one of the reasons I want to do this campaign is to remedy that situation.

But the campaigns has flaws. I might call the whole project a failure if it weren't for the fact that the players are enjoying themselves enough that I get emails from them asking me to schedule the next session. I've been dodging the next session for a while because I first wanted to get a handle on why I see this campaign as a train almost ready to derail. At first I was looking for the One Big Issue, the resolution of which would turn the game golden. But now I realize that at least three things are wrong with the campaign.

First, there's the system. We started out using an old copy of Palladium's Heroes Unlimited. Randomly generating the characters was a hoot, but the combat system left much to be desired. Later in the campaign, at my suggestion, we converted the HU characters to Mutants & Masterminds. M&M is a great set of mechanics, but I had the same basic problem with it as I currently have with D&D 3.5: making bad guys that are properly balanced against the heroes is a lot of work. And I'm not entirely convinced that a direct descendant of the D&D combat system can ever really capture the awesome-osity of a good superhero throwdown. But having switched systems once already, I am hesitant to ask the players to switch again.

And what do I switch to, anyway? Part of me wants to go back to where I started in supers gaming: the old FASERIP version of Marvel from the 80's. That would give me some great advantages. I have a ton of characters for my setting already statted out. MHAC7 Concrete Jungle alone gives me a campaign worth of bad guys. And the system is so easy that even though I haven't played it for almost 20 years I can still make characters with hardly a glance at the rulebook. The downside is that at least some of my fondness for this game has got to be nostalgia. What if we start using FASERIP and it turns out to suck? Do we switch again? I can barely contenance a second conversion, I can't bear the thought of switching systems a third time.

The two other systems that I have been looking at are Mikko Kauppinen's Powergame and Chad Underkoffler's Truth & Justice. Internet freebie Powergame is a close relative to Marvel Super Heroes, basically substituting small d6 dicepools for the big coloful percentile chart that powers MSH. I wanted to try it for several years now. I haven't seen the insides of a copy of Truth & Justice yet, but a lot of very smart people are saying credible things about it. I haven't bought a copy because I bought every other super game that seemed to hold out hope for rocking. And here I am, 2 decades and God knows how much money later, still talking about Marvel friggin' Super Heros. Maybe T&J will be different. A lot of people are saying it's a game for the FASERIP fan. So I hold out a glimmer of hope.

And system is only one problem with the campaign. Another problem is that the NPC cast is woefully under-developed. Sure, there have been plenty of villains to punch, but there's been no Jarvis or J. Jonah Jameson. What little cast we've used needs to be properly fleshed out. And the PCs need their own unique NPCs. In the earliest posts on his comics blog, Scipio of The Absorbascon makes a convincing argument that the greatest superheroes achieve depth through the strength of their supporting casts. He calls the concept the Dynastic Centerpiece, wherein you build a cast around the hero. One of the reasons the iconic Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Professor, and Mary Anne) possesses so much gravitas is because so many of the characters come to the table with their own storied past. Giving each PC in my campaign something like their own dynasty would go a long way towards achieving that effect. And it would give each PC more to do besides running around stopping rampaging villains and performing missions for Nick Fury. Superhero comics aren't all about ridiculous urban fisticuffs, there's also the ridiculous soap opera portion. And my campaign has been seriously lacking in the latter.

These first two concerns are fixable. Switching systems sounds awfully painful, but can be done. Heck, if we switched to Marvel I could do 90% of the PC conversion in my head. It's not the mechanical crunchery that worries me, rather I find it appalling rude to ask my players to adapt to new system, again. But my third problem is much harder to solve and still retain the Home Team game: I no longer enjoy GMing a game set in someone else's comic continuity. When I started this project I looked forward to playing in the sandbox of the comics I grew up reading. But whatever bug was in my system when I started this project seems to be gone. If I do another supers game I want to start from scratch, with no expectations that come from working with an established universe. But to take the Marvel out of Home Team is to rob the campaign of its identity. I don't see a solution, other than simply quit while we're behind or to tough out a few more sessions of campaign I'm not digging in hopes of bringing some sort of closure to the lives of Radar Man, Cyborg, the Dingo, and Jill Montgomery: Agent of SHIELD. And if I choose to try to see this project to the end, do we try to cram some more NPCs in? Do we switch systems for a few sessions? Would it do any good to follow through on these ideas, knowing that the GM isn't fully committed to the campaign? Maybe fixing the mechanical and structural issues of the campaign will be enough for me to be more enthused about running some sessions. Or maybe it will be much effort expended only to see the game fizzle out.

Even with that third concern, I'd still like to find a way to become re-energized about the campaign and play out the rest of the planned "12-Issue Limited Series". It may be that one of the reasons I don't have that energy level is because I spend so much of my free moments prepping for my current D&D campaign. Perhaps the solution is as simple as re-approaching this problem after the Wild Times game ends. Trying to solve this problem and run an ongoing, high-level D&D game may just be too much for my brain to handle.

I don't think any of the players of the campaign are regular readers of my blog, but I'm going to e-mail them a link here. Hopefully they'll post some comments or e-mail me a response. I want to hear what they have to say about these things. I've been letting this campaign hang over me like a dark cloud for a while now, but I needed to sit down and type out the problems in order to really see what's been bugging me.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A No-Brainer

I haven't been following it, but this year's Big Event from Marvel Comics is a little number called Civil War. The basic premise, as I've gathered online, is a rift between two groups of superheroes. One side favors government oversight and regulation of superhero activity and the other prefers the normal wild west state of affairs. In order to play to the tension of the event, fans are taking sides. I've seen banners on websites in support of the leader of one or the other faction. It seems you have the choice between:

This is the greatest comic book cover in the entire history of forever.

Captain America: The guy who has been punching Nazis non-stop for 6 friggin' decades.


I hear he and Dick Cheney go hunting together sometimes.

Iron Man: Rich playboy/washed-up drunk.

Is that really supposed to be a tough choice? Can anybody explain to me why Spider-Man and Thor are apparently siding with Tony Stark over Cap? Why does Thor care about the politics of mere mortals at all?

I suppose if Cap where on the side of oppressive government sanctions against supers and Iron Man was for vigilante action, you might be able to make a case for siding with Shellhead. That might be an interesting scenario. But Captain America is on the side of unauthorized badguy punching and Tony Stark is for NSA wiretaps.

As the man himself would say: 'Nuff said.

My 3 PCs

Lately I've been thinking about the kind of characters I play in D&D. I'm starting to suspect that every PC I've ever gotten a kick out of falls into one of three stereotypes. First there's the Fighting Man, who wants every problem to be solvable with a straight-up throwdown. Osric, my current Alidor PC, is this kind of character, as was Bart Bolt, one of my all-time favorites. Osric and Bart have clear differences in personality, but when push comes to shove the only way they know how to overcome life's little difficulties is by whacking on them.

Then there's the Affable Scoundrel, who is usually some sort of multi-classed half-elf. Endric Greencloak, the world's laziest druid, and Randolph of Falcon, the bard who would rather train pokemon than be the messiah, are my two most recent examples. Despite noticeable cowardice these guys go on hair-raising adventures because working a regular gig is completely abhorrent to them. Few day jobs win you glory and fabulous treasures.

The third type of PC I usually play is the Wee Bastard, a right rotten little fooker who gets ahead any way he can. My most notable example of this type would probably be Razzak Gristlyguts, a renegade xvart witch doctor who traveled with an otherwise normal group of elves and dwarves and humans. Lord Munge, my half-orc assassin/cleric of Demogorgon, also falls into this category even though he was of average height. His heart was tiny and twisted, and that's what really counts.

Maybe there are some other types of PCs I can play and just don't realize it. I do the dungeon master thing a lot more often than I run a player character. But since hooking up with Jon's Alidor campaign I've fallen in to two of these three basic types without really considering any other possibilies. Maybe I play pretty much the same 3 characters over and over, but if Osric buys the farm now I have at least one idea for a replacement. I'm thinking a character modeled on Belkar from Order of the Stick would make a perfect Wee Bastard for Jon's campaign.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The next adventure for my campaign?

It looks like those nifty folks over at Goodman Games have come through for me again. This month they are scheduled to release Dungeon Crawl Classics #33: Belly of the Great Beast, an adventure suitable for PCs of level 21 to 24. This adventure might be just what the doctor ordered after my Wild Times group has completed the current "Infernal Legion" plot arc. I'm cracking myself up at my own use of the term 'plot arc'. Beating the hell out of a bunch of devils hardly deserves to be referred to as such.

If you're not familiar with the Dungeon Crawl Classic line it really is great stuff. The basic idea is to combine the design ethos of the best of the 80's D&D adventures with the modern mechanics of 3.5 D&D. Wrap it up in a trade dress that's a respectful homage to the TSR modules of the era, and *presto*, perfect material for the old school dungeoneer playing by the new rules. My campaign wouldn't have gotten this far without the excellent DCC #14: Dungeon Interludes.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Like Swords, Part 4: Classic Traveller

8-Bit Theater rules!In Part 1 of I Like Swords I statted up three blades for S. John Ross's Encounter Critical. Part 2 put some Mazes & Minotaurs weapons on the field, as well as M&M stats for some totally sweet ninjas. I Like Swords, Part 3 ended up as a d20 homage to the classic 80's barbarian flick The Sword & The Sorcerer. For today's installment it's time to break out the light sabers.

Now, I want to warn any kids reading this that they shouldn't try this at home. Statting laser swords for Traveller is highly heretical and could get you expelled from the Secret Cabal of Traveller Nerds. I'm already on thin ice with those guys for my use of apocryphal scriptures. All kidding aside, adopting these sorts of things to your own campaign can kinda freak out some of the more intense canon monkeys in the Trav scene. But most geeks have their own buttons. I'm one of those Han Shot First guys, for example.

Anyway, here are some Classic Traveller combat stats for a quartet of energy blades. For more information on the first two items below I highly recommend Clifford Linehan's article "Mondi Plasma Saber".

Plasma Saber

Damage 3d6+2

Required Dexterity 6
Under Required Dexterity DM -3
Advantageous Dexterity 10
Advantageous Dexterity DM +2

Close Range DM -2
Short Range DM +1

No Armor +2
Jack +2
Mesh +2
Cloth +1
Reflec +2
Ablat +2
Combat 0

Dual Plasma Saber

Damage 3d6+2

Required Dexterity 7
Under Required Dexterity DM -3
Advantageous Dexterity 11
Advantageous Dexterity DM +2

Close Range DM -4
Short Range DM +2

No Armor +2
Jack +2
Mesh +2
Cloth +1
Reflec +2
Ablat +2
Combat 0

Anyone with at least 2 ranks in Dual Plasma Blade skill may make 2 attacks per combat round.

[Right here I was gonna drop an awesome pick of Obi Wan and Darth Maul throwing down. Frickin' Blogger.]

Psi Focus

These weapons are inert rods of metal and crystal, except in the hands of a properly trained Psionic (treat the skill for this weapon as a "Special" psionic power). When activated by the users own Psionic powers, the Psi Focus produces a nearly invisible sword-like blade of force.

Damage 4d6

Required Psi 5
Under Required Psi DM -2
Advantageous Psi 8
Advantageous Psi DM +2

Close Range DM -2
Short Range DM +1

No Armor +1
Jack +1
Mesh +1
Cloth +1
Reflec -1
Ablat +1
Combat +1


A handle with a thin, semiflexible antenna-like extension. When activated this weapon crackles with electricity. This weapon is popular with nobles on some high tech worlds.

Damage variable. "Soft contact" sporting units do only 1d-5 points of damage. "Hard contact" sporting units do 1d-3. Full combat models inflict 2d+1 damage. Some units are built with a switch allowing the user to vary between these options.

Required Strength 4
Under Required Strength DM -1
Advantageous Strength 8
Advantageous Strength DM +1

Close Range DM -1
Short Range DM 0

No Armor 0
Jack -1
Mesh +2
Cloth -1
Reflec 0
Ablat 0
Combat -2