So what GURPS books are in your game library? Any particulars stand out as favorites?
Thursday, November 29, 2007
So what GURPS books are in your game library? Any particulars stand out as favorites?
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
by A.J. Putman
It has been my distinct pleasure over the last five years to play host to over three dozen hardy players in my ENCOUNTER CRITICAL campaigns and many others in various con games, club events, etc. Sometimes after a particularly successful session one of the players will inquire why I never take the time to run a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS event. Pretty much every other gamesman in the area has run at least one D&D campaign, why am I the last hold-out? Am I some sort of snob, unwilling to run the most successful of role play adventure games out of some misguided sense of elitism? Nay and nay again! Rather I acknowledge a qualitative difference between the two games and between my ability to successfully adjudicate them both.
It is a mistake of the uninitiated to assume that the same skills are applicable to the mastery of all role play adventure games. The responsibilities of the Dungeon Master and the Journey Master are not one and the same. More to the point, my talents lend themselves to at least a basic competency in the field of JMing, while my natural temperament is less than ideal for the tasks assigned to the DM. On the surface, these two callings appear similar in nature. Both involve arraying the foes to be fought, the terrain to be disputed, the riches to be won, the maidens to be seduced, etc. But where the dice meet the table the proper approach to the games are as different as night and day.
Mr. Gygaz, in his voluminous texts and correspondences, makes the same point time and time again: A good DM is an intelligence vast, cool, and unsympathetic. If the dungeon key indicates three angry Balrogs in room 23b, then by Odin's beard that is what any group of adventurers will find in the room. Once the elements of adventure are placed upon the campaign board only their own internal game-logic ought to change them. Whether a particular encounter is fair or unfair, exciting or dull, overpowering or underchallenging is not to be taken into consideration. The DM is like a watchmaker who winds up his watch and whatever time it tells thereafter is no business of his.
Anyone who attempts to run EC is this fashion ought to be banished to the 43rd Hellsphere of the Klengonish Netherverse. It is not the Journey Master's job to reign high atop Mount Olympus, sitting in coldblooded judgement over the acts of the mere mortals condemned to walk his petty worlds. Rather, the proper Journey Master is like a tourguide through the unconscious realms of dreams and nightmares. It is the first duty of the JM to provide an emotionally charged adventure, whether by giddy thrill or sheer terror. A good JM never hesitates to be unfair, if the adventure can be rendered more exciting thereby. So, too, should a JM occasionally extend the Triple-Gemmed Wand of Mercy, if by such kindness the experience of the game is heightened. So while the room key might indicate three hungry Infernal Apes reside in cave 56c, a good JM will adjust these measures on the fly. Perhaps a single sleepy Infernal Ape will best fit the overall circumstances of the adventure, or perhaps a dozen hostil devil gorillas would be more suitable.
Both approaches have there own sets of rewards and problems. A canny D&D player will be satisified that everything he earned, he did so in the face of a hostile universe cooly refereed. But from time to time that same player can find himself bored to tears by underwhelming dungeon levels or empty wilderness regions. The EC player knows she will never leave a session wondering if the JM did his utmost to entertain her, but she also runs the risk of occasionally wondering if her own agency is undermined by behind-the-screen shenanigans.
Neither approach to game refereeing should be considered superior, except to the extant that the D&D method is best used with D&D and the EC style applies first and foremost to EC. Past that, let the individual tastes and preferences of the game moderator and his players be the primary means by which one type of game is preferred over another. For my own part, I choose to call myself Journey Master, with some measure of pride of accomplishment. Our brother gamers who have earned the title of Dungeon Master may be a different sort of animal, but they have earned their respect through just as much hard work as I.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Later I made her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She lifted one slice of bread and informed me I had made it wrong. "The peanut butter goes on top." I flipped the sandwich over and she was pleased as punch.
Elizabeth immediately declared him to be "Mogar", the rock 'n' roll persona adopted by Billy's dad in the episode "Battle of the Bands" from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Here's the original Mogar:
The resemblance is striking, isn't it?
Friday, November 23, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
c1981 - Get Moldvay Basic set, later Cook/Marsh Expert set, mess around for this for a while, primarily focusing on the Keep on the Borderlands and some half-ass homebrews.
c1983 - Get Advanced Books, for the next couple of years try very hard to make AD&D work for my group.
c1986 - Become interested in the Mentzer boxed sets, and more importantly, the Gazetteers. Go back to basic/expert style D&D for several years, starting again with the Keep on the Borderlands.Continue to play AD&D in Jim's killer campaign. In retrospect, I can't help but wonder if it was the original Unearthed Arcana that drove me back to the simpler rules of Basic/Expert.
c1989 - 2nd edition AD&D comes out. My group drops most of our BECMI gaming in favor of playing the crap out of 2nd edition. David Dalley runs his Krynn campaign, one of the best campaigns I've ever had the priviledge to play in.
c1993 - Running the Rules Cyclopedia, once again relying on the Keep on the Borderlands and the Gazetteers.
c1994 - Don McKinney runs a super campaign using the RC, with the highlight being a partial run of Night's Dark Terror.
c1996 - Run a superfun hybrid 1e/2e AD&D game set in the Bandit Kingdoms.
c2001 - After a lull 3e draws me back into DMing. Run a short campaign based on Quasqueton and the Caves of Chaos, set in "Greymoor", the World of Greyhawk version of Blackmoor. Somwhere around this time I started getting really into OD&D.
c2002 - Back to AD&D 1st edition for a short but entertaining high level campaign that ends with a party armed with Hammers of Thunderbolts pretty much destroying the Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl.
c2006 - I hop on board the 3.5 bandwagon with the Wild Times campaign, the best campaign I've run since the Bandit Kingdoms and the '80s Gazetteer game. Heck, maybe better than those. Have some good times in the World of Alidor. Run OD&D as a con game, which was a hoot.
c2007 - Run Moldvay Basic as a con game for ten players, the most I've ever managed at a single session. Good times.
Putting together this timeline was a fun exercise of the ol' noodle. I've omitted a lot of brief experiments and flubbed games and I've probably flubbed at least a few dates. Hopefully I haven't forgotten to mention any totally rad campaigns.
If anybody else tries putting together a similar timeline please let me know.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Any other kitchen sink gameworld
This one's a no-brainer. The setting material of Rifts and the World of Synnibarr could both be playable under EC with a little work. The various mini-settings provided as examples in Tom Moldvay's Lords of Creation could be used individually or as part of a universe-hopping campaign as intended. Indeed, I don't see any reason why my own Lords of Awesome run couldn't have been played under Encounter Critical rules. Counte Dante wouldn't have suddenly become a trapeze artist, but otherwise the adventure pretty much stands as written.)
An awesome mini-setting found in issue number 1 of Pyramid magazine, back from when it was a print venture. The whole is a small realm apparently in the bowl of a large crater. People from various times and universes find themselves mysteriously transported to the Hole. No one knows why. And no one has ever escaped. Various ramshackle societies have been built by the unwilling emigres to the Hole. It's sort of like an Al Amarja/Riverworld mash-up. Very keen. You can get access to The Hole by tracking down the original issue, subscribing to the online version of Pyramid (or so I'm told), or buying GURPS Best of Pyramid volume 2.
The Gilligan Islands
When I first read them mention of headhunters in the description of the Warrior profession I knew exactly what Hank Riley was talking about. As a wee lad Star Trek was the only show I liked better than Gilligan's Island. Note that I am not talking about simply "Gilligan's Island" but rather the Gilligan Islands, the aggregate of all the crazy stuff that did or can take place in and around the setting of the TV show. One island of this mythical archipelago still has Japanese troops fighting World War II, others host mad scientists or swarthy commies or crashed astronauts or whatever. In essence, it's the Bermuda Triangle of the Pacific.
Revolt on Antares
This TSR minigame of space operatics is the bee's very knees. And it is rife with interesting characters, political factions, and ancient alien artifacts. Will the PCs align with the Imperial governor, or one of the psionic families? Is an uprising of the nonhuman natives in the works, or an invasion by the tentacled Silakka? And could there be any galactic heroes that are cooler than Doctor Death, the battlefield zombiemaker, or the Nullspace Kid?
Thundarr the Barbarian
Show me another show that features Conan with a light sabre fighting alongside a magic princess and an angry wooky against mutant wizards and I will TOTALLY WATCH THAT CARTOON.
That's a robot GI and Universal Studios monster commandos taking off into space with crazy ass writer Bob Kanigher. Or maybe the guy with the pipe is actually J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. Either way it works. It totally works.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I'm having scads of fun jumping around this thousand page tome, reading whatever catches my eye as I flip through. The editors do a good job introducing each author, trying hard in a few paragraphs to give some personal history and to attempt to fit the author's work into the overall dialog of the genre.
I'm no expert on science fiction and my tastes generally run more towards trashy space operatics and sword & planet stuff, but I give Ascent of Wonder a hearty recommendation.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Clerics are all perverts, but not in the way you’re thinking.
Let me explain that religion, the act of worship and the belief in gods, is a strictly human proposition. You know how we humans think of dwarves as miners and elves as woodland frolickers? Yet most folks wouldn’t be shocked to meet a dwarfish sign-painter or an elfin sea captain. It’s just that our stereotype is that dwarves are grubby underground pioneers and elves prance around in forests all day. Similarly, most races, dwarves and elves included, secretly stereotype humans as god-worshippers.
And guess what? They think we’re weird. Elves think we’re hilarious, the way members of Western civilization look down at ‘primitive’ beliefs and laugh. All religions look like cargo cults to elves. Dwarves generally think of us the same way a lot of people look at furries. Some dwarves just leave well enough alone, others laugh maliciously at the perverseness of religion, while the dwarven majority just think humans are creepy freaks to be avoided.
Cinder contains many beings that various humans have called gods over the centuries. Maybe a tired old earth elemental sleeping in a mountain finds itself worshipped by local humans. Perhaps a vampire finds itself pacting with its local source of blood and the humans on the other end of the transaction perceive the situation as sacrificing to a rather nasty local deity. Many beings and forces were proclaimed gods by misguided humans.
The advent of the Age of Clerics changed all of that. With the development of a professional class of miracle-working priests false deities could easily be found out. Only True Gods grant their followers divine spells, after all. Still, the work continues in remote regions of Cinder as the clerics of the three faiths seek to eliminate their weaker competition. Once the false gods are sufficiently suppressed perhaps the three true faiths can get around to having a proper religious war. Until then, it is not unknown for clerics of the Church, the Twelve, and the Frog Gods to cooperate in heathen-harrying and idol-smashing.
What remains unknown to all Cinderians is that in many ways the so-called True Gods are less real than the various spirits, monsters, and wizards worshipped in earlier eras. The Twelve Gods are not beings like humans, but more powerful and made of finer substance. The Gold Dragon is not a celestial lizard and the Frog Gods are not amphibians. None of the gods have agency or sentience or will or desires or bodies or thoughts or emotions. Nor do they reside in heavenly abodes, for they do not reside anywhere.
Instead, the True Gods are nothing more or less than psychic manifestations of the untapped sexual energies latent in the human race. The gods represent and embody sum vectors of human psychosexuality, they describe hormonal/psychic trends. The Frog Gods represent the libido unchecked, the id unleashed. The Gold Dragon is symbolic of the sublimation of sexual urges, the overriding of base urges for the good of the community. The Twelve, taken as a whole, are an attempt to mediate between these two extremes.
The act of preparing daily spells is basically the intentional repurposing of sexual energy, the way a steam engine repurposes heat into mechanical energy. The worship of the True Gods charges the batteries that clerics can draw upon. This is why sexual taboos are so important to all three faiths. To not participate in the required orgies is to directly withhold energy from the clerics of the Frog Gods. And Priests of the Gold Dragon are celibate, not because the Dragon commanded it, but because their spells won’t work otherwise. Not that these facts are consciously understood by the clergy, but the most advanced clerics can dimly perceive the direct threat to the faith of sexual impropriety. That’s why the Dragon Pope is always going on about sex outside of marriage, even though he doesn’t really understand his own obsession.
So you can see why the elves think we’re funny and the dwarves find us creepy. Their limited sets of sexual rules are all rationally designed to ensure the perpetuation of the species and clean lines of inheritance. But human clerics seem to make new rules up for no good reason, which looks pretty kinky to outsiders.
The first cleric was a retired prostitute. She wasn’t trying to found a religion, she just wanted to improve her post-professional sex life with some meditation. It all sort of got out of hand after that. In the annals of history it wasn’t the first time a really good orgasm had been mistaken for divine revelation.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
What are the stars in the sky? In the Age of Robodroids one can easily locate travellers from afar who will tell you that the stars are distant suns, around which other worlds like Cinder orbit. And from the skies of those worlds the suns of Cinder appear as a single star in the sky. To people familiar with such things as psi witches and robodroids, the magicians of Cinder are merely manipulators of a certain kind of esoteric technology while demons are nothing more than grumpy visitors from alternate planes of existence.
But the storytellers of any era tell a different story. They say that the stars are the glittering silhouettes of the last four dying gods, the final four almost-survivors of the bigger, grander universe that preceded Cinder. One quarter of the sky marks out the Dying Dragon (which the Church tells us is the sire of the Divine Gold Dragon, making their god the rightful heir of All Things) while another quarter is the Mourning Minstel, a third quarter outlines the Weary Wizard, and the last quarter of the sky gives view to the Wounded Warrior, whose Heartstar faintly twinkles a somber red hue on clear nights. These celestial assignments are not symbolic, but the actual state of heavenly affairs.
Both views of Cinder, the superstitious and the super-scientific, are absolutely correct, at least under the proper conditions. Cinder exists in a state of perpetual quantum flux, wherein the true nature of such things as magic and technology greatly depend on the observer. Metaphysical questions such as “Do computers have souls?” or “are fire elementals magical spirits or plasmatic A.I.s?” are indeterminate until properly observed. And conflicting results between say, a tricorder reading and a divination spell, are certainly possible. Cinder is both a particle and a wave.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Very little in this series of articles is directly designed for prospective players of my Cinder campaign. No one needs to read these Secrets of Cinder in order to explore dungeons, kill monsters, and win treasures. And my D&D campaigns will never stop being about that sort of activity. Other stuff can be added, but the core activity of dungeoneering remains. The first installment below was written to investigate how multiple campaigns using different rules might still interact. The rest sort of poured out. It’s very similar to how I got on a roll while working on my asteroid adventure. So consider the next few posts to be strictly theoretical exercises and/or flights of fancy, written primarily for me. Facts established in one entry may be contradicted in another. Some times this is intentional, other times it is simply an unresolved ambiguity in the setting. Maybe some day one of these little pieces will help me to explain a player-spotted inconsistency, or to rule on a weird edge case. Or maybe not.
The average citizen of Cinder and indeed all but a few wizards and sages generally conceive of time as a forward-moving arrow or a fast-flowing river. Unsubstantiated travellers tales of voyagers from the past or future have made their way into various chronicles, but it was the first verified reports of nilbogism that led to the strict formulation of time travel as a known possibility. And while the few students of time constantly speculate and theorize, no reliable method of time travel is known.
That the river of time is actually a fourth dimension (analogous to depth, width, and height) is well-understood by the masters of the arcane sciences. One of the hurdles that prevents time travel from achieving widescale practicality is the limits of the 4-dimensional spacetime model. Time in and around the planet Cinder has at least two dimensions, allowing for the possibility of sideways travel through time. Indeed, the totality of Cinderian history cannot be understood without mapping events on a “timeplane” instead of the traditional timeline.
On the local scale the 5th dimension has little impact on the day-to-day lives of most inhabitants of the realm, as the modality of the second dimension is limited to impacting three dimensional events at periods of at least a few thousand years in length. A few young dragons, elves, treants, etc may find themselves remembering events in the distant future, and immortals may be able to coordinate their activities across the eons. The latter, if such undying beings exist, could effectively experience concurrent lives in separate millennia.
The biggest effect of the 5-D nature of Cinder, wholly unknown to all mortal races, is that two entire eras may be connected in ways not easily grasped by normal folks. For example, inhabitants of the Age of Clerics have chronicles and songs detailing the events of the Age of Robodroids. Indeed, in popular culture the Age of Robodroids is vividly portrayed as a heroic past, an age of wonder. Meanwhile, sideways in time, the minstrels of the Age of Robodroids sing romances about the long-gone Age of Clerics. Both eras exist as the past of the other age, but neither is the other’s future.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The players in my group have been supercool about this decision. I'm hoping someone else will GM for a while, but maybe we'll do some boardgaming or something instead for a while. Either way, right now I don't have any plans to GM anything prior to the Winter War convention in February, where I'll be running some Encounter Critical and OD&D.
And the ol' Gameblog is gonna be a little less active for a while. My place of employment is merging with its number one local competitor this weekend and the job looks to blow up big and stupid starting next week. I foresee at least a short period where I just don't have much time for blogging. I've got a couple half-written entries that I will be rolling out hopefully soon, but look for less weekday entires and maybe more weekend blogging.
This isn't a goodbye post. I'm not signing off. But I wanted to let everyone know what was going on. That way if a week or so went by without a blog update no one would be wondering if I was dead or something. Everybody stay awesome during any absences, okay?
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
a cup of sugar
a cup of flour
a cup of fruit cocktail
mix it up, pour it in a baking pan, and bake 'til brown
I’ve tried it a couple times and it totally works. I wish I could give you more precise baking instructions, but I usually set the oven to 350 degrees (my default temp when I have to guess) and just watch carefully. Dolly’s character recommends a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of each piece, but I use Cool Whip or that spray whip cream stuff.
Many years ago I made Cuppa-Cuppa-Cuppa for a potluck at the lodge and all the little old ladies were amazed by the fact that a man was able to cook anything more complicated than Boiled Water.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
LOLthulhu - I probably should have posted this one on or before Halloween, but the stars weren't quite right.
Bacon Double - This one goes out to the folks on the bacon thread at theRPGsite.
The Unifon Alphabet - A phonetic alphabet for English is one of those things that seems like a good idea on paper. But the fonts could be used for handouts in a sci-fi game.
'The Last Question' - If I had to pick a favorite Asimov short story it would be this or 'Nightfall'.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
You push a button clearly labeled "Go Ape!" and it automatically tranforms into robot gorilla!
Upon transformation the robot beats its chest menacingly. Go Ape!