Friday, September 28, 2007
Hmmm, Otherwhere, Otherwhen, and Othernow actually don't seem half bad at the moment. I like the fact that these names call attention to their own otherworldliness, there own sense of the Other as place. What other option are available, using Other as the base? Othergard, Otherland, Otherheim, off the top of my head. We could try some other languages as well, I suppose. Otherworld in Adelic would be something like Andrvøld. Stick a vowel between the r and the v and you could really have something: Andravøld, Andrevøld, Andrivøld, Androvøld, Andruvøld, or Andryvøld. I think I like Andrivøld best of those options. That o with the slash through it is totally metal. Other in Gothic is either Aljis or Anthar. Antharia doesn't sound too bad. Kinda bland, though. Other in French is Autre. Autremonde, perhaps? Going with French may increase the number "Why do you think I speak with this outrageous accent?" Python quotes in any given session.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
That was the deal. Mr. Reed got $1,130 in up-front contributions to launch the project. By his proposed timeline, I was expecting to be able to buy a new FASERIP rulebook 44 days later. It's now six months later and I can see no evidence of a forthcoming book. A file containing the basic rules of the system was made available in a fairly timely fashion, but six months have gone by since Reed got his money and he still has not come through on his promise to get us a shiny new rulebook.
In the wider gaming industry the screwiness of the distribution system and delays at the printer are often blamed for the hit-or-miss nature of announced release dates. One of the big reasons I bought into Greg Stolze's Ransom Model was because it avoided these issues altogether. You send some money directly to the designer, and gaming goodness becomes available to all. To my knowledge Mr. Reed is the second designer to use this approach. Is he going to ruin it for everyone by taking the money and flaking out on the follow through?
I don't want to suggest here that Mr. Reed was running some sort of flimflam operation. I don't think he set out on this venture with the idea that he would run off with some suckers' money. Surely the problem is that he's just gotten too busy, what with taking a dayjob at Steve Jackson Games, running Ronin Arts on the side, and uh, playing games. As a fellow gamer I don't want to hold it against the man that he spent Sunday playing some games. But come on. He put his hands on over a thousand bucks based on a promise. Maybe he could have spent last Sunday holding up his end of that bargain.
I'm not posting this blog entry to hurl insults at Mr. Reed or demand my money back. I don't feel any ill will towards the guy. But if he could finish what he started, I would really appreciate it. At this point I'm not sure whether I'll be buying that POD rulebook if it ever comes out, but I would like to see it released. That's what the folks who sent money to fundable paid for, after all. But I guess I'm a little soured on the whole project. And right now I'm not in a huge hurry to ever buy anything with Phil Reed's name or a Ronin Arts logo on it. I feel burned.
For reals. Take the Exalted's crazy ass setting and run it under FtA!. Mere mortals would have stats ranging from -5 to -1, and pretty much any DC over 15 would be a superhuman effort. Stunting would go before general melee in the combat turn. That's what gave me this crazy idea. Spell lists would need reworking. That'd be the hardest part. But if, like me, you think the best parts of Exalted are the setting fluff and the anything-goes stunt rules, then maybe FtE! would be a way to avoid dealing with the Storyteller system.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Everyone ended the run dead, insane and/or incarcerated. It was like a Call of Cthulhu run except sexual anxiety replaced the face-eating fish-men. Also on the to-keep list was QAGS, the Quick Ass Gaming System. You can buy a cool digest-sized rulebook for QAGS, but the freebie one page charsheet/rulebook is almost better. I have both. And then there's Uncle Bear's Bad Attitudes, a great little action movie game. Great for blowing stuff up.
The one rpg I kept but have not played is Micro-Dot. I can't find the linky for this one anymore, so in a blatant act of IP piracy I am going to reproduce the game in its entirety.
Micro-Dot-RPGSeriously, that's the whole game.
State action and Roll 1d4
1. Amazing fumble
2. Fail (Unless part of PC Occupation)
4. Amazing Critical
Monday, September 24, 2007
The opening match was a fifteen man over-the-top battle royal, with the winner get a title shot against the champ in that night's main event. Pat and I were shocked when "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan came out to participate in the bout. That guy is awesome. He's big, loud, and stupid. I pretty sure I saw Curt, one of the many cops in my lodge, working security near the wrestler's entrance. Dude stopped Hacksaw and shook his hand as he exited the room. Curt's quite a character in his own right. I'm told he has the Punisher skull emblazoned on his kevlar vest. The battle royal went to Jeff Hardy, who I had seen wrestle a couple of matches in TNA. He was new to Pat, who dubbed him 'Hot Topic Lad' based upon his ring attire. Most of the gusy who wrestled in the opening match later performed again in singles competition. We were thrilled to get a double dose of Duggan when he went mano-a-mano with a fellow named Daivari, who plays the role of Evil Arab. I'm not a big fan of the Heel Foreigner gimmick. It often smacks of racism and blind nationalism and this particular version came with a heaping side order of religious intolerance. But this Daivari fellow did a helluva good job with the limited character palette available.
I was shocked that the most technically sound match of the night was the Women's Championship bout. Candice Michelle managed to defend her title against Beth 'the Glamazon' Phoenix. Both ladies did a great job wrestling, but I was extremely impressed by the Glamazon. She had Haughty Heel charisma on the mike and in the ring she pulled off a very credible array of powerhouse moves. Women's pro wrestling has a long history of hair-pulling, catfighting, and screaming but all that nonsense was very subdued and instead we saw a lot of power moves, high flying stunts, and legitimate grappling. Great stuff.
The match before the main event was Carlito versus Triple H. Both of these guys have an amazing amount of charisma. They wrestled a sound if relatively unspectacular program. The match was really built around the lavish Triple H entrance sequence and pushing the cage match between the two of them on tonight's episode of Raw. Look for Carlito to wear the big belt some day. I've only seen him a couple of times while flipping through channels but he clearly has that special something. One segment I've watched he didn't have a single line but still owned the scene. His performance Saturday night only cemented my impression that this young man will one day be at the top. Question for people more familiar with WWE: Does Lemmy sing Triple H's entrance music? It sounded a lot like Lemmy to me.
The main event was a bit of a bait and switch. The Jeff Hardy/John Cena title match ended early when battle royal sore losers Cade and Murdoch (I think that's their names) stormed the ring and beat on Hardy. Quick DQ win to Hardy, no title change. So Cena talks some trash at these two dorks and proposes a tag team competition. What followed was a mostly by-the-numbers tag team match, but the crowd was really into the two babyfaces and ate it up. I had never seen John Cena wrestle before. On the internet he's often said to be the kind of champ who is long on looks and short on wrestling. I thought he acquited himself quite well. He wasn't up to Jeff Hardy's level in terms of high flying spectacular moves, but he was more than sufficient to wrestle the two dweezels on the other team.
All in all, a heckuva a good show. Thanks again to Doug and his wife. It's annoying the crap out of me that I can't remember her name. I'm sure Doug has mentioned it more than once, but I've never met her myself. I feel really stupid thanking her as 'Doug's wife'.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Anyone, on to the sweet treasure map.
My school chum and D&D buddy of old, David Dalley, made this treasure map back in the day. I posted one of David's campaign maps not too long ago. It's probably about 20 years old at this point and has never been actually handed out to a group of players. Here's the text:
Start at cave
of Master Ealrond
Pass the way of
Double League further
thee mïte descover
Thru the pass of
Man & Lover
A wïnding path
which may break thee
The rough-hewn path
ït wïll take thee
To the forest of
Where ïf thee
In every cranny &
Thee shall Hook
A precïous [text ends prematurely with a character that may be a capital 'B']
Friday, September 21, 2007
Since I'm considering running RPG Pundit's Forward... to Adventure! at the next Winter War convention, I went ahead and made this:
The graphic was made with the Historic Tale Construction Kit, which basically allows you to drag and drop a few elements from the Bayeaux Tapestry. Fun stuff. I also used the Kit when I made a similar screen insert for an old school D&D con event. The text tool includes an exclamation point but no period, so I had to do a tiny bit of manipulation to get the all-important ellipses into the name of the game.
The graphic at the top of the main FtA! webpage would work just fine for a screen insert, except I'm not sure how well the con staff would react to the naked nymph in the composite. (Admit it, you just clicked on that link. Didn't you?)
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Two items received no bids and I haven't yet relisted them. Those items would be the first trade paperback of Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon, collecting the original four-issue miniseries from Image, and two random gaming magazines. I expected at least one buyer to home in on the mags, because one of them (Games Unplugged #21) contains what is to my knowledge the only print-published 3rd party adventure for Nobilis.
After packing and shipping all that stuff, I now understand on a firsthand basis why people in the mail-order business charge extra for handling. One day spent 45 minutes at the post office, not because the line was long but because I hadn't had time to box and pack my orders. For a full thirty minutes I was packing up stuff. I actually ended up losing money on a couple orders because I spent some extra on packing materials or padded envelopes.
My furthest shipment was to Australia, with Spain coming in 2nd place. The coolest buyer user names I encountered had to be apewithalaser and meatheus. The most suprising sale I made was for a copy of Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering. That sucker sold for forty-one bucks! Did it go out of print or something? I was also suprised to see bigtime eBay sellers Guido the Gypsy and Wayne's World of Books bid on some of my lots. I've bought stuff from those guys lots of times. Now I wonder if I sold back to them things that I bought from them originally. The possibility makes my head hurt.
So far I like sticking with the original idea of Cinder, to keep it in line with the rest of the heavenly bodies, or Zindar, just because it sounds cool. The letter Z carries some weird weight to me, between Oz and the number zero.
Feeping Creatures - I am this close >< to commissioning something from this guy.
How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less - a blog about games and stuff
A Directory of Fictional Languages - Adelic for placenames in my next campaign? Tempting.
Musings of the Chatty DM - another gamer blog
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Can you tell I've got a hankering for some cowboy gaming?
That's Zarak, the evil half-orc assassin from the official D&D toyline released by LJN Toys back in the 80's. To this day it still cracks me up that an evil half-orc assassin got made into a kiddie toy. Zarak came with the dagger in his right hand, but the tiny 2d6 in his left hand are my own addition. RPGnet forum members with long memories will recall that I used a close-up of Zarak's face as my avatar for several years.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
- Holy crap, but that man knows how to fill a page! Assuming one was mapping with the same size graph paper, it would be easy to figure out where additional rooms might be located. One could zero in on hypothetical secret doors this way. My own dungeons tend to be designed to allow the same sort of deduction.
- Relatively few areas are numbered for reference to a key. That suggests a lot of empty rooms and more reliance on wandering monsters for encounters. This map lines up nicely with the standard 1 in 6 per turn wandering monster check. That's a huge amount of encounters with wandering monsters, if you think about it. You're likely to encounter a random critter every hour your party is in the dungeon.
Villagers fall ill after meteorite crash
VILLAGERS in southern Peru have been struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area.
Around midday Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were convinced was a plane crashing near their remote village, in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.
Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a "strange odour," local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP.
Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being taken to hospital, Mr Lopez said.
Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene where the meteorite had left a crater 30m wide and 6m deep, said local official Marco Limache.
"Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned," he said.
The source for this story has some video.
Thanks to Pat for the tip!
Monday, September 17, 2007
I'm still trying to figure out what to do about the thief class in my new sandbox campaign project, hopefully Uncle Gary's book about thieves can help out. And Splicers looks rad to the max. Based upon what I've read so far here's my high concept tagline: In the future, the robots keep humans in zoos. I like any rpg that makes it that easy to who I am supposed to be punching.
Anyway, thanks Zachary!
Have you seen this dragon?
The above pic is from an eBay auction. I love the figure. It's exactly what I've been looking for. But I don't want to pay ten bucks for it, especially when it's been painted the wrong color for my needs. The listing says it measures only 1.5 inches tall, so I'm guessing it's from a 15mm line. I know nothing about 15mm figures. Can any of you smart Gamblog readers identify this dragon for me?
Or in the alternative, if you know of another mini of a wingless dragon with a pointy tail, let me know.
I've been keeping away from RPGNow since they hooked up with DriveThruRPG. I just don't like those DriveThru guys. That whole DRM scheme of theirs was dubious in the extreme. But I went and gave RPGNow some money this morning, because I happened to discover that Judges Guild is running a bigass PDF sale. At $1.99 apiece I can swallow my pride/ignore my principles. Rather than languish in secret shame for being a sell-out, I thought I'd pass along the chance to get some cheap JG goodness. But then I shop at Wal-Mart all the time, so clearly I'm already a soulless consumer drone.
Either way, I now have pretty much the entire Castle/Village/Island Book series. Those ought to be great fodder for my sandbox project.
I saw this pic and immediately thought of my buddy Pat. I'm posting it here so he can snag a copy.
Another question for my readers: Did any of you read my recent post on Exotic Characters and Worlds and then go bid on the copy for sale on eBay? I don't hold outbidding me against anyone, as I am a huge eBay cheapskate and expect to lose more auctions than I win. I'm just curious how much my little article contributed to the otherwise inexplicably high sale price.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Howdy all. I’ve been reading Jeff’s blog for about a year now, and decided it was time for me to give something back in return for all the enjoyment I’ve gotten. Along with being an rpg fan, I’m also big time into board games. In fact, over the past few years, my collection of rpg books has shrunk while my board games are breeding like tribbles- mainly because I have people around who are interested in playing the board games. So here’s a brief review of six games that I think might be appealing to the readers of this blog. There are so many good games out there that it was hard to narrow it down to even 6. I went with games that are all in print, lots of fun (at least in my humble opinion, and have cross over appeal to people who play rpg’s. I hope you enjoy.
- Risk- Star War: Original Trilogy Edition by Hasbro
This game is one of the “holy grails” of board games that, I doubted would ever be made: an officially licensed, highly playable, strategic level wargame about the Original Trilogy Star Wars movies. If you like Risk and like Star Wars getting this game is a no-brainer. If you like Star Wars but don’t enjoy Risk, this game probably addresses your beef with the original. Think Risk is too long? Well Original Trilogy only takes about an hour and a half. There’s not enough strategy? This game uses the same basic dice rolling combat system but adds all sorts of cool stuff: 3 classes of space ships, a Death Star that can go around blowing up systems, the Force, 3 factions (Empire, Rebellion, Hutts) all with different victory conditions and capabilities. The rules are online at: http://www.hasbro.com/common
- Wings of War by Fantasy Flight Games
This is an incredibly simple, quick to play, and very fun game of World War I dog fighting. There’s no board and no dice- just a bunch of beautiful cards and a couple rulers. You can play on any flat surface- a table top, floor, whatever. The game in short: You have a plane that is represented by a card. You have a deck of cards full of different maneuvers you can perform (straight, right, left, immelman, etc). Each player secretly picks out 3 maneuvers. Everybody shows the first maneuver and moves their planes. People in range can shoot. Show the 2nd maneuver, move, and shot. Show the 3rd maneuver, move, and shoot. Repeat. Damage is resolved by drawing from a damage deck. Along with just plain old getting your plane shot up, you can catch on fire, get your guns or rudder jammed, etc. This game takes less than 5 minutes to explain and set up. Wings of War is actually available in a number of different sets that all include the “core rules” to use some rpg lingo. These are “Famous Aces”, “Watch Your Back”, and “Burning Drachens” which are all compatible with each other as well as a few WWI booster packs available. There is also “Dawn of War” which is the first set for WWII and uses slightly modified rules- it is NOT compatible with the WWI sets. I went a bit crazy and bought all of the WWI stuff at once, but now I have a quick and easy to explain game that can accommodate from 2 to 14 players! The rules are available here:
- Colossal Arena by Fantasy Flight Games
Colossal Arena is a game about fantasy creatures (Ettin, Wyrm, Cyclops to name a few) battling it out in a gladiatorial arena. In a very neat twist, the players take on the roles of gamblers betting on which monsters will survive. Like Wings of War, Colossal Arena is a “board game” without any actual board. In this case you sort of build the board with cards as the game progresses. During the game players place bets on the monsters and play cards indicating the strength the monsters are currently battling at. High numbers are good. Low numbers are bad. You start with 8 monsters (out of 12 to pick from) and 3 will be left standing at the end of the game. Players collect on any bets placed on surviving monsters. So you’re trying to keep your guys alive and knock off the other players’. In addition the “backer” (the player with the most money bet on a monster) can use the monster’s special power when they play a card on them. There are a couple other neat things going on like undead referees and crazed spectators who jump into the arena. All in all, this is a game that I really enjoy a lot. With the caveat that they are not the best-written rules in the world (it’s much simpler than it sounds) you can find the rules to read at: http://www.fantasyflightgames
- War of the Ring by Fantasy Flight Games
War of the Ring is a big, bold game of moving hordes of plastic armies around a map and chucking fistfuls of dice in the tradition of Axis and Allies. At the same time it is an incredibly good adaptation of Tolkien’s Trilogy. The Free People player is trying to hold off the forces of evil long enough for the Fellowship to destroy the ring, and the Shadow player is trying to either conquer Middle Earth or completely corrupt the ring bearer. The players face a lot of the same challenges as the characters in the book. The good guys must decide if they want to keep the fellowship together to better protect Frodo or send everyone off to rally the different nations to war. Gandalf can die- and come back. The Ents can rise against Sauroman. There’s a lot here to enjoy. This is another game with pretty poorly written rules. It’s much simpler to play than the rules are to read and is about the same level of complexity as Axis and Allies. You can read the rules at: http://www.fantasyflightgames
- Fire & Axe by Asmodee Editions
Fire & Axe is the game that originally gave me the idea for this column. I found the game about the same time Jeff was writing about his Beyond Vinland campaign. Both involve Vikings roaming around looting, killing, and exploring. Players each take on the role of a Viking Jarl. You outfit your long ship with men and various trade goods and set sail from Scandinavia. You travel around Europe and beyond doing 3 main things- trading, raiding, and settling. You also get Saga cards, which let you, screw with your competition with nasty events like a rebellion in one of their settlements or a sea serpent attacking their ship. This is an easy to teach game that requires some good luck and sound planning to be successful in. The rules are not available online, but here’s a link to the publisher’s official page for the game: http://www.asmodee-us.com
- Twilight Struggle by GMT Games
Twilight Struggle doesn’t have a sci-fi or fantasy theme, so it doesn’t translate directly over to the rpg world as well as the other’s listed. That being said, I had to mention this game because it is GREAT. In the past month this has quickly become my favorite game. It’s a tense and addictive game about the Cold War with one player as the United States and the other as the Soviet Union. You use cards to either implement various events (NATO formed, Castro takes over Cuba, Korean War, etc), build influence around the world, or stage coups. You’ve got to keep an eye on the DEFCON. You lose if you trigger a nuclear war, which builds a real sense of brinksmanship and makes for a better game than many others on the subject where a trailing player can just say, “Screw it. Nuke’em” and get himself a draw. To put how good this game is into some perspective, it takes about 2-3 hours to play and I’ve gotten in 7 games within the past couple weeks. 5 of them against my wife who is also addicted (and enjoys calling me a capitalist pig). While the game is very simple, learning what the different cards in the deck do will take a couple games- and give an experienced player a big advantage over a new one. The rulebook is very well done. There are 9 pages of actual rules. The rest includes a detailed walkthrough of several turns in a game, and historical commentary for every card in the game. You can read the book here: http://www.gmtgames.com/living
Thanks again, Wulfgar! I've some interest in both Wings of War and Star Wars Risk for some time, so it was great to see your opinions of them. I hadn't heard about Fire & Axe before now, but it sure sounds like a hoot!
Friday, September 14, 2007
I got that image from Tome of Treasures, a gaming collectibles site that I didn't know existed until I started investigating this book. It appears to be an encyclopedia of games that is built using some standard bulletin board software. I'm totally checking the rest of the site out when I get some free time to do so.
The banner over the upper right corner of the front cover indicates that this book is "Suitable for use with" AD&D, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers. One of Afterglow's informants describes the book this way:
...a bizarre mix of AD&D and Traveller, with a little Gamma World thrown into the mix. The first 75 pages are a Player's Handbook rewrite/supplement - character generation rules, new races, new classes, revised combat tables, and a new spell list (going up to Level 20). The rest of the book is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy campaign setting, featuring Traveller-like sector maps and star-system generation rules, some alien races, and some miscellaneous rules (like mass combat and herbalism).As I read it, the author put everything that was awesome about late 70s/early 80s gaming into a blender and this book came out.
Another Acaeum poster, who uses the handle Contrarian, has been hating on this game since he inadvertedly bought a copy at auction in the early 90's:
I'm in college in the early 1990s, trying to pick up some Gamma World modules at a local con in Toledo. Some bozo keeps bidding them up to more than they're worth, and I'm getting annoyed. Finally, the auctioneer brings this book (and its supplement!) to the podium, mentioning that the cover says it's compatible with Gamma World. I've never heard of the thing, and I have no idea what it's worth, so somehow I decide that means I can bid as high as I need to. And that's how I end up owning a beat-up copy of the Worst Roleplaying Supplement Ever. It has a "Waverider" character class that specializes in surfing!Dude might hate the game, but how can I resist a fantasy/sci-fi/post-apoc game with a surfer class? Turns out that back in Usenet days this Contrarian guy wrote a much more indepth review of the game. It's too long to quote here, but please do yourself a favor and go read it now. Man, it sure looks like this book brings all the crazy-go-nuts awesome of World of Synnibarr in a third of the pages! Even as I type this post up I'm slowly talking myself into hitting the eBay again to bid up the one copy I can find for sale on the internets right now.
Anyway, Teddy 3's game company put out at least two more books. Monsters, Aliens, and Fantastic Beings and Dragons throughout the Multiverse are critter books. I don't have any info on the dragon book, but Afterglow calls the other one 'a fairly conventional knockoff of the Monster Manual, although a few monsters reference Gamma World-ish radiation rules. A considerable number of monsters are inspired by movies or television, i.e. "Alien", "Planet of the Apes" and others.'
The back pages of these three books advertise other products from Gamemaster Guides, Teddy's outfit. For the most part these items are blank record sheets for characters, starships, planets, etc. A setting product gets a mention, though. The Barbarians Enflands could be a potential source of craziness, but at first glance it's not much:
Completely detailed TOPOGRAPHIC CAMPAIGN MAPS [(4) 11" x 17"] with Information Sheets covering Cities, Governments, Ruins, and Relics. Also Includes the INTRODUCTORY MODULE The Gates of Gorgoroth.
And no, I didn't misspell the name. It really is 'Enflands'.
Finally, Mr. the Third released a product in 1985, apparently the last item from Gamemaster Guides. Called Heaven & Hell, Tome of Treasure poster tfm describes it as "Grounded in Christian mythology and literature, this book presents maps and descriptions for the ten levels of Heaven and the eleven levels of Hell, as well as stats in AD&D format for the denizens of both realms."
Which makes the note at the end of Contrarian's Acaeum post all the more interesting:
Up-and-coming game authors take note! This could be your fate! At least now I know where they get all those guys who Photoshop supermodels to turn their skin Orion Slave Girl green. Frustrated game designers of the world, I salute you.
Scariest part of the story? A couple of years back, I decide to search Google for the author of this book to see if he's still in the hobby. The only mention I find is a reference to his (thankfully defunct) science-fiction erotica website, where he was apparently photo-shopping pictures of women to look like aliens.
So that's what happens to failed game designers: They go into sci-fi porn.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
A Most Merrie and Illustrated History of the Gunfight at the OK Corral
Players of the game "&" - an editorial
The Guide to Gold Key Star Trek Comics
Book of Beings - someone get this guy a Lulu account!
So I was over at The Acaeum the day before yesterday when I found one of those kinds of threads. I found one great lead on an old third party D&D/Gamma Word/Traveller mash-up of some sort. But what I wanted to talk about today was a fellow named Rick's report on two terrible RuneQuest items. One of them, a city book called Eldarad, had already come up earlier in the thread as an example not of something stupid but rather as just an incredibly pisspoor product. Here's what Rick had to say:
In Germany, we actually burn a copy of Eldarad or Daughters of Darkness at a convention each year, alternating products each year. We've had upwards of 100 people attend the ceremony. We auction off a lighter with an original copy of the module thrown in for free. The book is usually still in the shrink and sold as a fund raiser. The purchaser gets the "honour" of leading the masses to the awaiting torch. We've been doing it since 1996.Holy crap! Forget all those internet wimps moaning and groaning about 4e or the latest Forgie outrage or whatever. They can't hold a candle to the level of hatred that leads people to actual book burning. I seem to remember a couple other instances of reputed rpg book burning. Was it Donnie Mac talking about the GenCon reception of the Traveller hardcore to TNE. Donnie Mac is the nickname I just made up for Don McKinney. Maybe the D-Mac (another new nickname) will swing by here and tell his tale.
Then there's the Diana Jones Award. I have a lot of respect for the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, because it in no way pretends to be "fair" or "democratic" or "reflective of the hobby" or any of that other stuff. I know I'm one of the people who, in the past, routinely criticized the Origins for exactly those reasons, but the Diana Jones folks never made any pretense about their agenda. Their award goes to what they think is excellent, and that's pretty much the whole criteria as far as I can tell. It's elitist. It's a bit pompous. But since you know you're getting pompous elitism, I'm totally onboard for it.
There is not nor has there ever been a person named Diana Jones associated with this award. The name comes from TSR's old Indiana Jones RPG. According to the founding legend of the Award, back when TSR UK lost the license the stock they had on hand had to be destroyed. Encased in the lucite pyramid are the remains of the last copy they had on hand. Why someone chose to build a memorial to that event remains a mystery to me. Either way, apparently the "In" got burnt off, leaving the words "diana Jones" on one of the remaining pieces of the game. There's also a couple of the infamous Nazi™ stand-up figures. I hate those guys. Trademarked Nazis are the worst.
I've wondered for a long time what is supposed to be signified by using the charred remains of one of TSR's less successful licensed games as an award. Is it a big 'F U!' to TSR? A middle finger raised to corporate non-indie gaming? The Diana Jones people say this:
The Diana Jones committee believes that a trophy that embodies the destruction of the last copy of one of the games industry’s most unloved and least-mourned roducts is a suitable symbol for the aims of the Diana Jones Award.
As a kid I didn't much care for the Indiana Jones RPG. The biggest letdown was that it came with no chargen rules. As written, you were expected to play Indy or Jock or Short Round or one of the other canonical film heroes. My game group rejected the game based upon the simple fact that all of our other TSR games up until that point had driven home the lesson that in roleplaying your were supposed to make up your own PC and only lamers played someone else's character. But I can't help but wonder how grown-up Jeffy would react to rereading a copy and maybe playing a session or two. It might rock on toast for all I know. Any game that promises Nazi™-punching can't be all bad.
Just thinking out loud here, but I also can't help but think that if a Forge darling author came out with a game where everyone was required to play a certain set of characters that it would quite probably be hailed as 'innovative' or at least 'intriguing'. Something like Evil Bob's My Love For You is Way Out Of Line but taken seriously.
And let's get a little perspective here: to consider any TSR game the 'most unloved and least-mourned' is just crazy talk. Comparatively speaking, the print runs were so high on most of TSR's games that there's bound to be at least a few fans of even their crappiest products. To think that something like Indiana Jones is going to be held in lower esteem than truly wretched rpgs like Racial Holy War or FATAL strikes me as just bitter anti-TSR nonsense. There's plenty of things to not like about TSR. To me, the fact that Indiana Jones was subpar doesn't seem to rank that high on a list of them.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Erol Otus in the house! Hot damn tamales! And his old PC Valerius, no less. That guy is cool as ice. For the benefit of any new readers, I really should mention the fact that I love the art of Erol Otus so much that several years ago I constructed an online shrine to his honor. Valerius gets a page of his own.
Just for the record, even the art of Erol Otus won't get me to buy the new Ruins of Greyhawk. The new encounter format that Wizards is using makes me weep bitter, bitter tears. So much page space taken up by so little adventure.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
This is some interesting-looking stuff. The Hollow World book I'm pretty certain came from the original boxed set. I assume the books labeled "Combat", "Battle Bestiary", and "Battle Magic" (in the bottom right corner) come from some boxed edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. That font and the style of illos are pretty unmistakeable. I've never seen Ralph Bashki's Wizards, is the game any good?
The three books in the upper left corner are unknown to me, as is Holes. Could Who, What, When, Weyr, and Why be some sort of random chart fest? I love those kind of books. What do you suppose IFGS stands for? International Fantasy Gamer's Society or something like that? Anybody got the skinny on this stuff?
Check out this awesome dice tower:
This sort of die-rolling device has been around since the eighties. The original commercial version was the "Fair Shake Dice Device", reviewed in Dragon in the same issue as the Dragonbone LED dice substitute and the D4 That Rolls, a d8 marked 1 to 4 twice. Based upon the review in Dragon I made my own such thingy in shop class in junior high. But this is the first one I've seen that was actually decorated as a medieval tower. That's totally cool.
Monday, September 10, 2007
If you're unfamiliar with FtA! ol' Pundy gives an overview here.* But check this out: You don't really need to know many specifics about the game to enter this contest. Remember back before the OGL when all those statless 3rd party products came out labeled "Universal" or "For Any System" but they really meant they were for D&D? Like Grimtooth's Traps, for an example, or the old d30 books from the Armory. The same sort of approach works here. FtA! is designed for easy-as-cake old fashioned dungeony and wilderness adventuring in a stock fantasy world.
The first entry in the contest, from cool guy joewolz, is all about old coins. Joe doesn't use any game mechanics at all and does a superb job of helping the GM spice up an ancient pile of loot. You could totally do the same thing without ever seeing the insides of a copy of FtA! Not that I'm trying to discourage anyone from checking the game out. I've got an early draft on the old harddrive that's pretty cool. And now that I'm judging this contest I decided to stop being such a damn cheapskate and ordered a real deal print copy.
Anyway, I hope anyone who likes making stupid dice charts considers entering the contest. To get you started, here's a list of charts I, personally, would love to see:
- Why Is The Dragon On A Rampage?
- Unique Features of The Tavern You All Meet In
- What Is the Evil Overlord Up to This Week?
- Stupid Laws that Make Visiting the Town A Pain in the Butt
- Wizardly Eccentricities, Abnormalities, Perversions & Deformities
- What Are All These Damn Caravans Hauling, Anyway?
- Stupid Potion Side-Effects and Quirks
*Yes, that is the author reviewing his own book. That Pundit guy has balls of solid steel.
Friday, September 07, 2007
With warmest regards,
Anyway, I haven't finished reading the book, so I can't offer a review at this time. But I like what I see so far. The game mechanics I've read are all straightforward stuff. I have yet to see a fiddly bit that looks like it would trip me up. And the emphasis on competition between players for promotion and decoration looks like a hoot. I could totally see getting together some of the more competitive roleplayers in town for a playtest, just to see them go at each others' throats while simultaneously fighting off the aeroplane squadrons of the great Hun menace. It takes a certain special something for game to immediately get me thinking about what kind of group to get together to play it.
Anyway, big thanks to Clash for the free game. I look forward to reviewing this puppy and hopefully playing it, too.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
*With apologies to David Campbell.
Chargen in Ultima IV is unlike any other game I've played. You are in a gypsy fortuneteller's wagon, where she asks you a series of moral questions. None of these questions has a right answer, but instead you must choose one virtue over another. "You and your friend battle a dragon. He thinks he slew the beast, but you know that you are the one who struck the telling blow. Do you Honestly correct him when he claims the glory for himself? Or Humbly allow him to take credit?"
After a series of these questions you end up favoring one of eight virtues over another. Each virtue is tied to a class. The first time I played I ended up being a Bard, because my answer's favored their virtue. Compassion, was it? I think so. The second time I played I gamed the system, picking Humility at every opportunity so I could play a Shepherd.
Within the game you must achieve all Eight Virtues by meditating at the eight Shrines of virtue. Locating and gaining access to the shrines is a big part of the game, as is learning the proper mantra to chant for each virtue. After successfully achieving a virtue, you can lose it. Steal from people in towns? Lose a random virtue. Speak to beggars (some of whom have valuable clues) but fail to give them alms? Looks like you need to purify yourself at the shrine again, bub. Becoming virtuous was hard work. Staying virtuous means avoiding a lot of rascally behavior that many PCs get up to in D&D games.
Some of this looks a little hamhanded and hokey nowadays. But for a computer game with swords and orcs, circa 1985, this was pretty sophisticated stuff.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
I don't really play PC games any more and Ultima IV represented the highpoint of my interaction with computer gaming. I had played a bootleg copy of Ultima III, a less ambitious but still fun predecessor and I tried to enjoy the sequel but largely found it exchanged the soul the the earlier installments for greater technical sophistication and graphical embellishment.
Ultima IV featured great exploration of a huge overland map, secrets to be discovered, clues to be found, and interesting people to interact with. I found the dungeons genuinely thrilling and travel by sea exhilarating. And the quest of the game featured something previously unencountered in various Bard's Tales and Might & Magics and such: the evil to be defeated was not an external threat like an evil wizard or something. Rather the goal was to ennoble the hearts of the inhabitants of Britannia by leading an exemplary life of virtue. It was a game with a genuine moral dimension, not just a lameass alignment system.
The graphics were pretty weak, even by '80s Commodore 64 standards, but I loved the overhead view of the overland and town maps. The art was stylized in a way that made the lack of detail less important, in the way that a chess piece can be abstract but still symbolic.
One of the greatest thing abotu Ultima IV was the extra thing-a-ma-bobs that came in the box. (I guess someone at EN World decided that we would start calling this stuff "regalia".) For starters, you get an awesome cloth map of Britannia. Most of it is quite accurate, such that you can navigate large chunks of wilderness travel with it. The labels are all in a modified Viking style runic. A key for translation came in the box, but it wasn't necessary to use it to finish the game.
You also got two nifty stapled digest-sized books. I love digest-sized gamebooks. They just seem so light and fun. One of the books was titled The History of Britannia as told by Kyle the Younger. It was a great little mechanics-free overview of the gameworld, printed on a lovely heavy stock cream colored paper with brown ink and adorable little illustrations. Flipping through this book is a delight. Everything a starting player needs to know about the gameworld is contained in this small book, all presented in nice little snippets.
The second book was the spellbook. The cover was dark red with shiny gold runes on it. How can you not like that book? Inside each spell gets a one page description, largely free of mechanics and such, and a fullpage illo of some cool-looking wizard using the spell. Spells in Ultima IV weren't divided along class or level lines. Magic was just... magic. You might not have enough Magic Points to cast a particular spell, but you would only find something like that out via trial and error. The spellbook also explained the spell component system. There were only six or eight components and all spells made use of one or more of that set. The majority of these components could be bought at magic shoppes. But the two most potent components had to be found in the game.
Finally, each Ultima IV box came with a little cheap metal ankh, the symbol of morality in the game. In retrospect this use of the ankh has shades of Crystal Dragon Jesus written all over it. But I still treasure the ankh that came with my original copy of the game.
I look back at Ultima IV and see a lot of stuff I would enjoy in my tabletop games. Wouldn't it be great to be able to hand out a cute little booklet of campaign information, instead of a drab printout? And presenting a spellbook that looks like an occult tome would be the bee's knees. A cloth or parchment player map that looks genuine and is useful but that doesn't exactly match the official campaign map would be great. And I'd love to give out some sort of little gew-gaw to give players as a momento of a campaign. That's not even touching on the actual morality at work in Ultima IV. I'm not sure exactly what to do with that.