Sunday, October 31, 2004

It's Halloween

a poem by Jack Prelutsky

It's Halloween! It's Halloween!
The moon is full and bright
And we shall see what can't be seen
On any other night:

Skeletons and ghosts and ghouls,
Grinning goblins fighting duels,
Werewolves rising from their tombs,
Witches on their magic brooms.

In masks and gowns
we haunt the street
And knock on doors
for trick or treat.

Tonight we are
the king and queen,
For oh tonight
it's Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2004

Downloads & Dropships

Over the last few days I have been giving RPGnow a fairly thorough once-over in an attempt to suss out the real gems in the PDF world. One of the items that I've had my eye on for a long time is the Mecha SRD Extreme, essentially a PDF re-work of the d20 Mecha material designed for BESM d20. At the regular price of $7.95 I thought this product was a bargain, especially seeing as how the d20 Mecha book is kinda buggy. And for a long time I've been wanting to do an anime-flavored rewrite of the BattleTech universe, a project I call Steel Dragons. Even better, Mecha SRD Extreme is currently on sale for only $2.95! I could be downloading this baby right now, but I'm not.

I guess there are two main reasons why I seem to be letting this opportunity pass me by. The first is my discovery that RPGnow has a minimum order size of $6.40. In other words, I would have to pick out another product to buy. I can't decide. There are several good ones out there. OGL-Fantasy Light seems to be geared towards the same kind of play as both Castles & Crusades and my own Adepts & Warriors idea. Its a chopped-down SRD for less rules-intense play. Considering that I may very well drop twenty bucks for the forthcoming C&C corebook, five bucks doesn't seem like much to purchase a chance to see someone else's take on the D&D-lite thing. The there's A Fistful of Plot Devices #1 by Bruce Baugh. Only $4.25 for supers GM advice from a supersmart guy like Mr. Baugh seems like a bargain to me, but I have no immediate plans to run a supers game. Traveller's Aide #1 - Personal Weapons of Charted Space is a fiver as well. I've had my eye on this since it came out. Basically, it's a gunbunny hardware book, aimed primarily at Traveller d20 players, but dualstatted for Classic Traveller as well. I figure that even if the T20 gun stats aren't compatible with BESM d20, I might still get some use out of this product in a future CT game. But that future CT game is way out there in the dim future, hidden behind that murky supers game for which I'll use Fistful. In other words maybe never. As far as immediate use goes, my best bet would be the Savage Worlds Adventure Deck, but at ten bucks it's more than I wanted to spend on this particular outing.

But the other big reason I haven't bought the Mecha SRD Extreme is that I'm afraid I won't actually use it. Between my general d20 neurosis and the fact that I'm looking at building a bunch of mechs all by myself, I get kind nervous about the whole project. Then you toss in the fact that today I had some potentially useable ideas for Savage Worlds mecha rules, and suddenly the this product doesn't look so necessary. I dunno. On one hand, I kinda wonder if it's unhealthy to pour every good idea into the same generic ruleset. On the other, Savage Worlds goes really far to enabling the kind of play that I like. I guess this is the exact same issue I'm having with the 6 Islands Campaign. Maybe it's just the jitters at marrying all my campaign ideas to one set of rules, even if they are good rules that I really enjoy. I went through a period in the early-to-mid nineties where I played the crap out of HERO. Now it doesn't look as shiny as it used to. That's partially because I can't crunch a system like I used to. I lack the time and the inclination. But it's also partially that I got glutted on the HERO thing. After doing endless amounts of Champions and Fantasy HERO and Star HERO and an espionage HERO game I just didn't want to play frickin' HERO any more. Admittedly SW is no HERO (and thank Grodd for that) but I still wonder: if I cotninue down this path will I find myself glancing at my SW corebook and turning away in disgust?

Geez, looking back up at what I just wrote is freaking me out. Could I be any angstier about blowing three bucks on a PDF? I'm going to go do something that isn't related to gaming.


I don't go see many movies. Even before my daughter was born I wasn't much of a movie-goer. And I don't do rentals either. Basically, for me to see any given film I either have to catch it while its on, buy it on DVD, or get it on loan from Pat. When I do go to the movies, it's usually some sort of comedy/dramedy thing. Last few movies I saw in a theater? Farhenheit 9/11, Barbershop, and the Will Ferrel comedies Elf and Anchorman. Now, all three of the comedies were great films. Elf I found surprisingly good, as it managed to be a lot less hokey and saccharine than I expect from these sorts of feel-good family comedies. The other two flicks met and exceeded my expectations.

Still, these aren't exactly the sorts of films that you would expect a guy who maintain a gameblog to go see, are they? The number of geek movies I have yet to see staggers the imagination. My wife and I try to get to the Star Trek films, though Nemesis closed locally before we got a chance to see. (We went to the theater intending to watch it, but we changed our minds when we saw that the local cineplex was actually running Bowling for Columbine. When I finally saw Nemesis on TV I was glad I hadn't spent ticket money on it.) And we are big Star Wars fans.

But past that, my knowledge of geek-oriented film starts to looks like a desert wasteland. I've seen most of Spiderman on TV, but the sequel is an enigma to me. I haven't seen either X-movie. I only watched Fellowship of the Ring because I could borrow the DVD set from Pat. I still haven't seen the rest of the LoTR trilogy. Though I did re-read the books, for what it's worth. And I have yet to see the Matrix, the film that inspired this post. I know Pat's got a copy and I think it's time I bummed it off of him. There's this new Matrix-based rules-light rpg that's made some ways in the set. It's called There Is No Spoon and it's written by RPGnetter and generally nifty guy Steve Darlington (a.k.a. SteveD). SteveD first came to my attention by virtue of his great reviews at and his wonderful articles at Places to Go, People to Be, especially his Star Wars GM advice and his comprehensive History of Roleplaying series.

So in a nutshell, when SteveD writes a free rpg about kicking ass in the Matrix, then by golly I need to see the frickin' film. Even if I never run There Is No Spoon, I at least need to finally check out the movie. I know my logic here is a little bass-ackwards, but that's the way my brain works sometimes.

Hey! Whaddya know!

I actually update my 6 Islands Campaign blog! It's little more than 3E whining and lame excuses, but at least I made an entry. This conversation with Pat about getting off one's duff and running something has really made me think about the whole project. Do elaborate settings and intricate rules actually enable the kind of play that best suits me? The Mob War experiment has really forced me to rethink the way that I approach taking on a new campaign. With Mob War I went from "hey, I could do a ganster game" to actually running it, all in the space of two weeks. And Savage Worlds made that easy to accomplish.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Unnecessary Evil?

People are starting to talk on about Necessary Evil, the Plot Point book for Savage Worlds. Reactions so far are mixed. The supers rules have been getting thumbs up from all who comment on them, but the rest of it is not faring so well. Some folks find the alien races hokey, while others complain that you play badguys forced to become good guys. Like this second group, I was really hoping for an opportunity to just play a villain. But apparently the plot forces you to choose goodness over evil. Bah, I say. Bah. Still, I can't just turn my nose up at a new set of supers rules. RPGNow is now selling the NE Player's Guide for nine bucks. That should contain all the rules minus the other stuff that people are bagging on. Or maybe we should try the Superhero Test Rules from Savage Heroes. It's a lot less material, but free.

While we're on the subject of superheroes and PDFs, I might mention that Bruce Baugh has a new PDF called A Fistful of Plot Devices, a how-to doc on organizing crises for superheroes. Basically, it's 19 pages of supers-oriented GM advice for five bucks. Not normally the sort of thing I'd be pimping, but we're talking about Bruce Baugh here. Indulge me for a few moments whilst I sing his praises. His credits are many, including Nexus: The Infinite City (the precursor to Feng Shui), several Feng Shui products, editing & development for the 2nd edition of Nobilis, and Adventure!, among other things. He's a highly talented individual. In his online persona he is one of the nicest, most even-keeled, and intelligent posters I have encountered on When he posts in a thread, there's usually little more to add to the subject. And when he disagrees with me, it always forces me to reconsider my own position. Does any of this stuff mean Fistful is automatically going to be a home run? Probably not. But the guy has quite a track record.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Game Industry: WTF?

I was out and about today, paying visits to some customers. I happened to be in the neighborhood of Leisure Time Pet & Hobby, so I stopped in for a quick lookabout. For a store devoted primarily to pets, they have an excellent array of gaming gear, better than some actual game stores I've been in! Their d20 and boardgame sections are surprisingly robust. The miniatures covers an enormous variety, even if some lines are represented by only a few models. Better still, they have some stuff that I would consider too obscure for a general hobby store, things like copies of Nobilis, the new Blackmoor, Paranoia XP, some Eden Studios products, and similar goodies. If I had the money to spare I could easily drop a few hundred of bucks on RPG stuff. What's more, the folks there always ask if they can be of any help and always point out that they would be happy to special order stuff for me. I've never been particularly loyal to the current Friendly Local Game Store. I get most of my stuff off the eBay and occasionally from an online store. Still, I like supporting the FLGS because it can serve as the epicenter of the gaming community. The pet store doesn't have gaming tables or a bulletin board, after all. Still, I really got to hand to it Leisure Time for doing their level best to put themselves in the game. Their stock is respectably large. The staff is friendly. They offer to special order stuff, something that seems to be like pulling teeth sometimes over at the FLGS. I never see Cat Piss Man over at the pet store. Heck, even if he came in, the store already smells vaguely of animals anyway. I might not notice him until he tried to tell me about his character. Another advantage the pet store has over the FLGS is that all the stuff is on shelves. I can't hardly walk around the FLGS without falling on my ass, there are boxes and miscellaneous wares scatter all over the floor. That pisses me off every time I go in the place. Listen, man, I'm not going to buy any of that extra stuff that won't fit on the shelf if I fucking kill myself just walking around in the store.

After looking over the stuff at Leisure Time, I left asking myself a question: Why is everything hardbound these days? A decade ago most of this stuff would have been released as floppy paperbacks. Remember when a game coming out hardback was a big effin' deal? The GURPS and HERO 4th corebooks immediately spring to mind. I mean, if softbound was good enough for Pendragon and most versions of Call of Cthulhu, why the hell is Paranoia XP hardback? Does hadbacking a book really sell enough extra copies to justify the higher price tag? I mean, if I had eighty bucks to blow on gaming stuff (ah, the good ol' days, when I had any bucks to blow on gaming stuff) I'd much rather get three, maybe four softbound products than 2 fancy-schmancy hardbounds. Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but the fact that Savage Worlds was a thin hardbound actually put me off getting the game for a while. I'm having a similar reaction to the forthcoming Castles & Crusades book, even though it's only twenty bucks. I keep thinking to myself "But if it was softbound, maybe it would only be fifteen." All in all, these inexplicable hardbounds just push me towards getting more PDF products.

Gift Idea for Sports Fans

As the holiday season approaches I find myself forced to think about buying gifts for people who don't appreciate the finer things in life: action figures, comic books, games, etc. Instead, some of my relatives follow perverse hobbies like country line dancing or spectator sports. I know almost nothing about sports. The only times ESPN is on at myself are for sumo wrestling and championship poker, the only two sports practiced by guys just as fat as I am. So what should a normal person like myself buy these deviant sports fans? I don't follow their teams or their sports. Fortunately, a brilliant entrepeneur has developed a solution to my difficulties: City Name Sports Team brand merchandise. Now innocents such as myself can be shielded from peering into the dark, depraved world of spectator sports, for we no longer need to know a specific team or sport in order to buy Christmas gifts for our degenerate sports-watching relatives.

Sure, one could argue that I am encouraging these dark athletic urges by buying them City Name Sports Team T-shirts. But what am I supposed to do? Get them a gift card to

And don't even get me started about country line dancing.

The preceding post was a joke. Mostly.

If somebody wanted to buy me a City Name hat for Xmas, that would be cool.

Help! The Metagamers have got me! :)

So over at the Metagamers messageboard a fellow by the name of Tim Kuehlhorn is organizing a Paranoia XP one-shot. Since I know Pat is an old Paranoia fan, I mentioned I might have another player I could bring along. No schedule has been set, but I did mention that I was interested. We'll see if anything comes of it. I've never played Paranoia, but I've heard great things about it. And it's written by asskicking game author Greg Costikyan.

I've lured Pat out into the open.

Pat responded to me calling him out in an earlier blog entry. You can read his entire comments a little further down. I'm going to quote a couple of passages.

Basically, a D20 Modern (yes, I still sing it's praises) game, taking chunks of OGL steampunk, BESM, CoC D20 and ADVENTURE! Adressing my Winter Steele theorum, probably there would be suitable mods for ramping up players, maybe Action Points for benny action, nine lives or dramatic healing from Skull&Bones, even giving all PCs the Daring Template. I'd have to account for money/wealth, magic item availability, power level, cost, function, spells and other dissonant elements. Greyhawk is tenuously high magic in concept, but I'd prefer, as a lazy GM, to leave the 5th level spell limit of D20MOD, and make odd effects by GM fiat and greenronin's Modern Magic ritual system.

See, this is the reason why I think Pat is the kinda guy who should be running d20. He can take disparate items from various publishers and combine elements from them to actualize a clear vision. Pat has the potential to be the Doctor Zharkov of d20.
Here's the part where it gets tricky:I do think of this stuff, but have similar questions to you, ie: who'll play this? couldn't I just use Savage Worlds? Am I, Gamist, comfortable with storytelling? I've run dungeons before, but a campaign? mini campaign? how far from source am i going? spiralling house rules ending in fantasy heartbreaker wannabe? Will the kids dig Shadowrun minus the net?
All of those seem like good questions to address prior to undertaking this sort of Frankensteinian system mayhem. "Couldn't I just use Savage Worlds?" is a question I've asked myself more than once regarding the Six Islands. I have yet to find a good answer, but I'm always reminded of a thread on from about a year ago. Some 3E dude was wanting to initiate some non-gamers and rules-light types. He was fishing around for a watered down version of D&D with easier char gen and less maddening combat. Guess what got suggested? (Of course, part of me is still holding out for Castles & Crusades. I'm hearing a lot of chatter about how the new book allows for a lot of d20 stuff to be bolted onto it with little fuss.) It was then that I started to realize exactly how closely the systems were aligned. Compared to, say, Storyteller or the majority of indie stuff coming out of the Forge, SW looks a hell of a lot like 3E's ornery little brother. The teachers at D&D's old school probably think they know exactly how SW is going to act in their class. I guess I'm now in do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do territory as I type this, but I kinda think that if it takes Savage Worlds to get your game into actual play, then go ahead an use Savage Worlds. I don't take my own advice for several reasons:
  • I'm a D&D man. To run a fantasy campaign without using D&D just plain rubs me the wrong way. Especially considering how much money I've invested in umpteen editions of the rules.
  • Part of the initial concept of the 6 Islands Campaign was to do D&D with a more freak-intensive setting. To switch to a non-D&D system would be like painting an oil painting with watercolors. You still have a picture when you're done, but it ain't an oil painting.
  • I'm a hugeass hypocrite.
Let's move on, shall we? I don't like dwelling on that last point too much. As far as the relationship between gamism and campaigning, I really don't think one has to wander far from a gamist agenda, nor do you have to drop the dungeon as your paradigm. Many mission-based campaigns I have seen are nothing more than dungeon-of-the-week play with implicit victory conditions. That's why I explicitly structured my last AD&D campaign in that manner. All you need is a meaty hook that easily sets up missions. Maybe the PCs are a squad of Lara Croftian artifact hunters, seeking out relics for the forces of the Hierophants. Maybe they are the Queen of Celene's League of Extraodinary Half-Elves, and engage in weird espionage type assigments. Or maybe you ought to just stock a huge outdoor map so we can play explorers into Darkest Hepmonoland. Or swipe my idea of renaming the Horned Society as the Thule Society and make the campaign all about breaking Nazis. I hate those guys. With just a little bit of this sort of structure, scenario writing becomes much easier. Hell, you could rip off the plot of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and make each ghost the boss monster of a different mini-dungeon. There's a 13 session mini-campaign right there. [beavis voice]Thank you, drive through.[/beavis voice]

Frankly, I see no reason why you should give a crap about creating a "fantasy heartbreaker wannabe". You're not looking to publish this idea, are you? You can be as kinky with d20 as you want in the privacy of your own home. Scaring off players is a legit concern, but at least we have a player pool to draw on. I think "guns in dungeons" ought to draw in a goodly portion of the D&D set, especially when we're talking about a d20 operation. If you put together a good players guide with full character creation rules, a useful combat summary, and a minimal campaign overview, I bet you could get the two or three extra people needed to get this puppy rolling.

"Will the kids dig Shadowrun minus the net?" God I hope so. The future is here and teh intarweb suxxors. These days I wouldn't be able to run a hacking sequence with a straight face if my life depended on it. "Okay, you spend d8 days sifting through pornsites and Nigerian scams only to find that your target is running a Windows box. No need to roll to infiltrate."

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Finally got some links added to this blog template. Not a big deal, but I always have to pat myself on the back after every little coding triumph. Now that I have some links to other folks' blogs handy I might actually remember to read them. Hey, it's possible.

Thinking more on this 'caught in the middle' issue I start to wonder if maybe the old counter-and-hex guys went through the same mid-life crisis sort of thing. Here they were, in a hobby that was once much different than now and all these Dungeons & Dragons-playing snot-noses invaded, utterly tranforming their hobby in the process. Those guys managed to carve out their own identity in the face of a changing hobby, so there's no reason why I can't.

Caught in the Middle

First of all, if anyone thinks I came down too hard on Pat in my last post, please feel free to call me on it. I was attempting to urge him to action, not pick on him, but if you think I was too pushy please let me know.

Last night was board game night. We played El Grande with the "build your own deck" expansion. Neat expansion, full of tricky stuff. I spent most of the game in second place on but got crushed in the last scoring round. I got too greedy and went after some cheap points that belonged to Al when I should have been agressively attack Jim, who was in the lead. Al struck back, from last place what did he have to lose? I'm hoping next week we play El Grande again but with the other expansion, involving the Grand Inquistitor and new territory tiles. Then the following week we can combine the two expansions. Or not. I'd be just as happy playing Puerto Rico again. We also played Bohnanza, which I continue to suck at. I came in third despite getting phenomenal card draws.

The title of this post describes how I feel sometimes about my place in the gaming hobby. I feel like I sit in some unknown territory between the college kids and the grognards. I'm never going to be one of the young turks again and I'm never going to be part of the Campaign for North Africa set. So what does that make me? Some schlub who plays games, I guess. This isn't something that I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I sometimes feel like my identity as a gamer is fuzzy. I'm not sure I know what the crap I'm talking about here. Maybe it's just that old "games are for kids" anxiety working its way to the surface.

I think I'm feeling this way today because I just discovered the existence of a new gaming group at the University of Illinois. Back in the day, I was President of the Conflict Simulation Society, the U of I's official gaming club. While school was in session we met every Wednesday night at the Foreign Languages Building, and the members usually got together on the weekends for other gaming projects. We stopped doing the Wednesday night thing at one point; the construction on campus turned finding a place to park into a total fiasco. But then the club pretty much fell apart. Now the CSS exists pretty much only on paper, as the secret cabal that runs Winter War. Once a year the CSS fades into existence. Once the con is over, it returns into the void for another year. So now these Metagamers folks have sprung up to fill the vacuum left by the CSS. It was inevitable, really, but still kinda sad. I mean, I'm happy their are students at the U of I organizing and playing games. Heck, I might try to get in touch with them. But I am saddened that the CSS no longer fufills that function. We dropped the ball.

I'm a little bummed, but I want to end this point on a less down note. Work with me here for a minute: open the Metagamers site in another window. Check out the front page illo. Are you looking at it? The spikes in the pit, the spikes in the wall, and the spears on the opposite wall all point towards the chick's butt. Furthermore, that butt is painted as an upside down heart-shape. Maybe I just have the female derriere permanently imprinted in my neanderthal brain, but it looks to me like that the whole "bottom" of that picture is centered on the chick's ass.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Pat: I know you're reading this.

My buddy Pat does a better job than me when it comes to navigating the vasty array of d20 products on the market. I try to follow some of the things going on in the indie rpg scene, but that's about a zillionth of the size of the d20 world. Heck, Mongoose alone might release more products in an average year than the entirety of the Forge regulars. (Not that the Forge is the entire indie scene. That's something that can be easily forgotten.) So anyway, I usually let Pat be my point man for what the crap is going down in d20sville. In this capacity he comes up with all sorts of interesting stuff that look interesting to play. But as of yet we make very little use of it in terms of actual play. Partly this is because we are both naturally lazy DMs. I admit it and I know Pat's ego is tough enough to endure me acknowledging that fact in this vaguely public space. Why do you think I'm currently running a campaign that does little more than rip off an old Gangbusters adventure? I'll tell you why: sheer laziness. That's also the reason why my Six Islands campaign blog remains un-updated. Making a new campaign world requires that one actually expend effort.

But at least I'm trying over here. My next project (pimp pimp pimp) doesn't come with a prewritten script swiped from some musty old TSR product. My Catch Me When You Can Jack the Ripper game is requiring serious effin' research to pull off in a manner that I find satisfactory. And running World of Synnibarr at all will take some serious brain-muscles. I may be a Synnibarr apologist, but that system is like Hackmaster minus the clear writing and logical rules. But enough talk about my and my current irons in the fire. Pat clearly has the talent to run a kickass game and he has the resources to put together all sorts of crazy ass d20 stuff. He just needs to effin' do it.

Personally, I think Pat should combine d20 Adventure! with OGL Steampunk and "Greyhawk 2099" (or whatever that Polyhedron article was called) to produce two-fisted pulp-action steampunk Greyhawk Victoriana. Spring-heeled Jack loose on the streets of the Free City. Zeppelins over the Pomarj. That sort of thing. But then, between Mob War and Catch Me When You Can, I'm on a bit of a historical kick lately. I can't tell Pat what kind of game to work on anyway. Nor should I. Each GM has to make their own way in these things. I'm a big believer in polling player interest, but in the end the person buying the book and doing the pre-game prep has to be the one making the call. So I guess the main point of this post is simply to urge Pat to pick a project (not easy, as anyone who reads this blog can attest) and get cracking on it. I speak from hard-learned experience when I say that twenty unfinished projects don't amount to jack when compared to one session of actual play.

"Catch Me When You Can"

My Jack the Ripper scenario for Call of Cthulhu is starting to take form. I've got a near-complete list of possible PCs. I'm still chewing over whether to include a cop or not. I've got a mthod for getting the group together, charging them with their mission, and putting them on the track of the Mythos. I've got at least one good lead to put them on to. I've got one or two surprises lined up. Most importantly, I've come to a firm decision as to the identity of Saucy Jack. I need a few good places to set some encounters, and maybe a lair that the PCs can suss the Ripper out of. You know, a dungeon. Also, I need to start statting out all these folks.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Dig My New Mini-Campaign!

The Department of Homeland Security Occult Crimes Taskforce!

Thanks to Pat for all his input.

Being able to turn docs into pdf files totally kicks ass!

More Synnibarr

Apparently, Raven C.S. MaCracken had announced a forthcoming fourth edition of World of Synnibarr. 4th Edition?!? The book I own says it's the second edition. There's a more recent version? I had no clue.

I'm thinking about putting together a little Synnibarr webpage. If nothing else, I would like to publish an index to all the links I have to other people's Synnibarr pages. And maybe add some stuff to help make character creation easier. Sorta like the The Sexy Naked Gamer Chick's Guide, but with less snark and some helpful charts. Something I can hand out to my Winter War players.

I finally read 'Bio Star 1', the WoS adventure I tracked down in an old gaming magazine. Although it has some good points and introduces a fairly interesting new race, I don't think it will work for my Winter War run. It's just not gonzo enough. I need to be able to showcase the Synnibarr setting in all its over-the-top glory. Still, I'd use 'Bio Star 1' in a campaign, were I to find a group daring enough to play WoS on an ongoing basis.

Europe Aglow!

Yesterday my nephew Ian called up and asked if I was free to play a game, so I ended up having him, his brother Alex, and their dad Jim over. We played a couple hands of Safari Jack from Cheapass Games and a game of Carcassonne, which I came in third on. Too many knights in cities and not enough farmers did me in, I think. But the best part of the day had to be my first go at running Nuke the Crap Out of Europe. Talk about a wake-up call! My geography skills suck.

I'm looking over the map we marked up for our game. It would make an interestinspirational piece for a post-apocalyptic game set in the Old World. Where might civilization be most likely to start a recovery? Based on yesterday's game, I have some ideas. The British Isles are relatively unscathed, being only minimally destroyed. Ditto the Iberian peninsula. The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg are similarly "ok". Estonia, Latvia, and Belarus form another bloc of relatively under-nuked territory. Kaliningrad and Denmark are also merely completely devastated.

All the other countries in Europe were nuked more than necessary to utterly destroy them. Some moreso than others. On a 1 to 5 scale, most countries scored a one or two on the Crispy-O-Meter. Austria and Yugoslavia both scored a warmish 3 and Poland a toasty 4. Germany wins the race to be the most nuked country in Europe, being the only region in the game to pick up 5 points of fallout after being destroyed. The Black Forest positively glows.

Clearly, this is enough information to put together at least a few interesting ideas for a Gamma World campaign, or whatever your favorite post-nuke ruleset may be. Assuming a campaign starting at least a century or two after the Big Burn, we can see maybe some seaborne trade routes between the surviving Baltic Sea regions. Bornholm (I think that's the name of the eastern most island of Denmark) would be a critical stop on the Estonia/Latvia/Belarus to Kaliningrad to Denmark route. Denmark could then trade with the Low Countries, who would also be trading with England. I think Iberia would be on its own, or trading with Africa.

That would be it. That's the entirety of Europe after the hammer falls. There might be pockets of civilization in some other countries, but they would be isolated by huge hotzones. Perhaps some brave adventurers armed with an ancient rad detector could find some of them? A good start would be to find a land route from Kalinigrad to Latvia or Belarus. Of course, the Seamerchants Guild would be opposed to such an expedition.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Al Tolino Must Die

Last night's Mob War game went well. The players all went along with my desire to break up the party and structure the first half of the game in a non-standard way. We had Molotov cocktails, faked deaths, betrayals, cold-blooded retribution, and a heap load of general mayhem. The O'Connor-Tolino Mob War of 1921 is about to reach its crescendo'd peak. Next session the PCs have one goal: Kill Big Al and end this war. I'm really looking forward to having under my belt a mini-campaign that actually played out as I plan from beginning to end. My Home Team project was supposed to be that feather in my cap, but lack of a consistent schedule seems to have killed that particular campaign. Or at least sent it into a deep coma. Maybe someday Home Team will awaken from that coma and return with a kung-fu vengeance, like Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill. Until then, I don't plan to do any more work on it.

It looks like the enthusiasm our group had for the forthcoming Necessary Evil has waned. I blame the continued production delays. At least three different people at the pancake place showed at least some interest in running it at one point or another. We could have maybe had both tables running this campaign at one time. Now, everyone has sorta gone cold. Too many sessions of "not out yet, but soon!" has taken the edge of our desire to play NE. I'm not one of those folks who whines about "those bastards" at [game company] delaying [game product] again. I'm sure game companies generally prefer publishing new stuff to not publishing new stuff. I'm just observing what has happened. It's unfortunate.

My game ended a little early, so we sat around and shot the shit about what to do next. It looks like Joe might run something. And, fool that I am, I volunteered to run another mini-campaign. Both of these games would start after Dennis finishes his Everknight campaign, which looks to be about 4 sessions or so from completion. I tried to pin down what everyone wanted to play, but the responses were mostly "I dunno, what do you want to run?" So far all I got is that straight fantasy is out, kewl powerz are in, no horror please, and maybe a modern or futuristic setting. On the way home Pat and I talked about an "agents against occult horrors" sort of game. Like Delta Green or Call of Cthulhu except that the PCs get to kick monster ass instead of going insane or dying. Maybe with a Ghostbusters theme, instead of secret agents, but not *quite* as jokey and containing more senseless violence. Another idea I had was to do a supers mini-campaign, a "four issue limited series", using the supers rules at Savage Heroes. I don't really want to tackle Home Team again, so I would need a different thematic framework to build the game on.

An then today I had another idea. For the Mob War game all I really did was port the old TSR rpg Gangbusters over to the new-fangled Savage Worlds rules, then I tightened the focus a bit and structured the narrative for speed campaigning. Presto! Instant micro-campaign. I own a metric assload of games I could do the same thing to. We could play the Ancients Quadrilogy from Classic Traveller. Or "The Taming of Brimstone", a great Boot Hill module from Dragon magazine. We could run Excursion into the Bizarre, with furries and fantasy PCs trying to escape a world they never made. Or Savage Gamma World. Or Savage World of Synnibarr!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"Why Should I Buy *Your* Game?"

This is a small pet peeve of mine when it comes to discussing games. I see this sort of behavior at cons and at on People are discussing a gaming product of some sort and the author or a guy from the company that publishes gets involved in the conversation. Inevitably, some yahoo asks "So why should I buy your game, instead of the competition?" Why do people feel the need to do this? Here you are, having a nice chitchat about some nifty game product and you're loucky enough to have one of the people who made it involved. What good does it do to basically force them into a corner where they have to hard sell the product? Your basically forcing the guy into the position of playing the role of corporate shill. Moreover, what sort of yahoo really thinks it accomplishes anything to drop two game products into Thunderdome like that? So maybe I can't really afford to get both the new Blackmoor and the World of Khaas, does hearing one of the publisher's official line on why there setting is better really help me choose which one to buy? More importantly, I really, truly believe that gaming texts are Art with a capital 'A'. Commercial Art, yes, but Art nonetheless. Do you ever hear anybody say "Well, why should I bother to read this Shakespeare, when I already have all this Euripedes?" Good Art doesn't engage other Art in high noon showdowns, each stands on their own merits.

Europe Remains Un-Nuked

Last night the boardgame group played El Grande, but without the expansions. Maybe next week we can try one of the two expansions. Or maybe we'll play something else. I dunno. Jim has certainly been campaigning for playing the expanded game and I'd love to try it. We probably could have played a quick round of Nuke the Crap Out of Europe or at least the Bean Game, but Carl and Bruce seemed hellbent on spending a bunch of time looking up rules and arguing over the interpretation of them. That's not how this bunch usually plays, but as far as I can tell no game group is immune to these sorts of shenanigans. Still, I had a good time. Totally came in lastest place, but I had a good time getting there.

So now I have to get my act together for tomorrow night's Mob War game. I'm going to try a different structural approach this week and I hope the players will go along with it. My plan is to force the group to break up into smaller components by playing out three little vignettes as short of a cinematic montage. This could be a big trust issue for some of the players, but hopefully they'll play ball. The fact that these guys are playing a historical game at all tells me that they are open to some new stuff. In my experience Joe Average Gamer doesn't have much interest in historical gaming. Pseudo-historical stuff with kewl powerz is A-OK, but straight-on historical doesn't zing. And it's an attitude I share somewhat. I like kung-fu and robots as much as the next guy.

My eBay-purchased issue of Vortext magazine has made its way from Canadia to my desk. I bought this rag specifically for "Biostarr 1", which to my knowledge is the only World of Synnibarr adventure to have seen print. I haven't had a chance to give it a proper read-through, but it looks like a mini-dungeon set on an asteroid. I had been hoping to run this adventure at Winter War, but it doesn't look like a good match to my needs. It's designed for seven total levels in the PC party, which means if I want to keep the PCs at first level I would need seven players. I don't necessarily want that many players and I certainly can't guarantee that many will sign up. (And remember, as per the WoS rulebook, I am obligated to run the adventure exactly as written!) Furthermore, I don't see any of the good stuff that I want in my WoS experience: no laser grizzlies, no mutant fire clams, no cyberninjas, etc. On the surface at least, "Biostarr 1" looks straightforward enough that you could adapt it to Star Frontiers or Traveller.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Good People, Good Games, Good Day

My sister Jenn and good buddy Pat made it over today as expected, but we also had special gust star Dave hoover join us. Nifty! The four of us played three different games: Carcassonne, Steve Jacksons' Illuminati (my expanded deluxe edition) , and Cheapass Games' Kill Doctor Lucky. A good time was had by all. Pat ended up winning both Carcassonne and Illuminati (with great play as the Discordian Society) but I managed to off the good Doctor in the Foyer with the Monkey's Paw. Heh, heh, heh.

As he was heading out the door Dave mentioned that Dennis's Everknight campaign was only about 4 sessions away from the end and he (meaning Dennis) wanted to run Necessary Evil after that. Since my own Mob War project is almost done, both pancake joint groups will be done before the end of the year. Dave thinks we should shuffle the groups around a bit at that point. That ought to be neat; I don't really know most of the people at Dennis's table. So would Pat and Dennis both be running NE? That's the point I don't quite follow.

Wraeththu Watch: Long Overdue Update

Right around the time my old PC was gasping out its last dying breath, I got a couple of emails from Gabriel Strange, also known as gabby2600, the primary on the new Wraeththu rpg. The initial email to me is currently stuck on my old harddrive. In that email reported that the DragonCon release date was missed because he was drawn into an ever increasing role in running the Storm Constantine sub-convention that was part of this year's DragonCon. I can totally sympathize. Even running a small con can take over your life in the run-up to the actual event, as my friends Don and Sue can no doubt testify to in relation to WinterWar, which is a pretty small con by most standards. Gabby mentioned in that email that his new target date for publication was the beginning of November, and I wish him all the best of luck on that count.

Gabby also mentioned some details on the distribution of Wraeththu: From Enchantment to Fufilment (the full title of the rpg). Gabby reports that no gaming distribution outfit they talked to would buy a unknown product like Wraeththu from an unknown company. This jobes very well with reports I've heard on other new products from new companies. For example, it has been reported that Tower Ravens ended up releasing The Universe Primer, a significantly chopped-down version of their sci-fi rpg Universe, because their distributors wouldn't buy the full-sized game from an unproven company. However, the folks over at Immanion Press, would-be publishers of the Wraeththu rpg, have an advantage that Tower Ravens does not. They have a proven track record publishing reprints of Ms. Constantine's fiction. Apparently Immanion's mainstream book publisher is willing to pick up the rpg, so it should be available at your major bookseller, at least by special order if nothing else.

Finally, the other major Wraeththu rpg news I have to report is that an 8-page sample PDF has been posted to the Wreaththu rpg website. It's nice to see some pages. The editing has a few rough spots to be worked out yet and I'm not too sure that the flavor quotes add anything substantive to the main text. I sure hope the art looks better in the final version, as all the excellent illos look flat and grainy. That's probably to make the PDf file smaller, as the art on the website is top notch stuff.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Looks Like A Good Week For Gaming

Tomorrow my sister is coming over to eat some chili and play some Carcassonne. I'm hoping to get my buddy Pat for a third player; he's usually free on Sunday afternoons. If he can join us, I'd also like to play a game of Nuke the Crap Out of Europe, as I printed out all the docs and maps yesterday. Tomorrow night is the regular Monday night boardgaming group. Jim and I are hoping to get the rest of the gang to play El Grande with the expansions, and maybe I'll get these guys to play Nuke the Crap as well. I'll probably make a fool out of myself if we do play Nuke, as they are all much more geographically minded than I, being grognards and all. Except maybe Carl. I'm not sure if he's a board wargamer or not. He seems to be into the collectible card games. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, mind you. Wednesday night ought to be the last or next to last session of my Mob War mini-campaign. Al Tolino's New York connection will be showing the O'Connor Gang how they do things in the Big Apple. Nothing personal. Just business.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Mainstream & Indy Scene

Whenever I start thinking about my next game projects, whether for WinterWar or just my next campaign, I always end up torn between two extremes. The devilangel on my right shoulder wants me to stick with good, accessible, well-supported mainstream games that I can find players for with relative ease. You know, Dungeons & Dragons and shit like that. I'm still a huge fan of kicking down doors and killing orcs. My recent fling with Savage Worlds is basically in the same vein, since it is locally quite popular at the moment and is basically the same sort of rpg. My as-yet-embryonic plans for the Six Islands Campaign fall into this categoiry as well. I have no intentions of doing anything particularly innovative in that game, I just want the usual D&D craziness turned up to '11'.

Meanwhile, the angeldevil on my left shoulder urges me to quit screwing around with this kidding stuff and move on to some hardcore indie roleplaying. I've got a metric assload of indie games, mostly internet freebies but also a few I've paid real US currency for, notably Sorcerer (and the most kickass of rpg supplements, Sorcerer & Sword) and kill puppies for satan. I could easily name a bunch of other great indie games I'd like to try: Final Stand, My Life With Master, With Great Power, The Mountain Witch, Lost Gods, Puppetland. It would only take a flip through my big pile of PDF printouts to stumble over five or ten more. My earlier Experimental Games Group idea was basically a structure designed to feed this need, (Incidentally, that name has already been taken by another group.) as was running QAGS, Wuthering Heights, and Bad Attitudes at a previous Winter War.

Frankly, I think I won't be completely happy with my gaming unless I have it both ways. I want to run or play in a straight rock-em sock-em traditional RPG campaign AND have some crazy indie stuff, with both operations running parallel to each other. I don't know if I could pull that off, but I think it should be my overall gaming goal.

German Inspirations - An Unformed Idea

The Control Sheet is probably the wargaming precursor to the Character Sheet so important to RPGs. As a youth the control sheet I was most familiar with was the Mech sheet for BatteTech, with its critical hit locations and checkboxes for hits. Some of the new German games I have been playing have nifty Control Sheets, Puerto Rico in particular strikes me as a great example. Could German style control sheets be adapted to RPG play? Imagine a charsheet with larges boxes representing say Melee Attack, Melee Defense, Missile Attack, Missile Defense, Perception, Spell Readiness, or any other of a number of stats. Players then place glass beads or cardboard chits on each are to represent their combat stance. Or thing of such a display as a way to track spell usage, especially if using a spell system like in Arcana Unearthed, where one can trade up or down in spell levels. For resource management based systems with multiple interacting currencies, a good control sheet could be a lot of fun.

The secret dial from El Grande and the flipbook from Knights and Cities of Catan also strike me as potentially useable in an RPG.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Toys from Uncle Jed!

I got in my Uncle Jed order yesterday, consisting of Tribes from Steve Jackson Games and S.P. Fannon's The Fantasy Roleplaying Gamer's Bible, which appears to be the most recent general guide to RPGs that has been published. Mr. Fannon was unknown to me prior to my interest in this work, but according to Pen & Paper he has credits for Champions, Mage, and Shatterzone. I don't really know anything about West End's Shatterzone line. I guess I always mentally lumped it in with games like Battlelords of the 23rd Century or SLA Industries or Living Steel as being full of guns and stuff to shoot with guns. Nothing wrong with gunbunnying, but swords and spells have always been more my bag. I should probably look into all those games a bit more deeply. I've heard it said that Living Steel's setting would be wilding popular if it wasn't married to its Phoenix Command-lite system. And SLA Industries is supposed to have some sort of deep deconstructive theme hidden under the uberviolence in a less overt way than, say, Undergound. Battlelords is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as World of Synnibarr, so it is definitely worth a little look-through. But Shatterzone I don't know jack about. Maybe I con find some reviews on line for some of this stuff.

One other thing about my Uncle Jed order, the good Uncle saw fit to throw in a freebie, a Creepy Freaks figure. Creepy Freaks is the Garbage Pail Kids (anyone else remember those?) of the clicky set. I don't do clickies but one of the figures is a brain in a jar, so they can't be all bad. My figure is a snowman made of snot.

Monday Night Gaming

Wouldn't you know it, just as I start to get the gist of Puerto Rico the rest of the gang decides to use the expansion rules. Still, I seem to be getting the hang of the game, as I came in third place instead of fourth. I might have won had I built a warehouse or small wharf earlier in the game. We finished off the night with Bohnanza, or as I usually refer to it, the Bean Game. I seem to be getting better at that as well, coming in second. I think my earlier games went so badly because my trading strategies were too simplistic. I got in on some four-card trades and even a three-cornered trade this time. And I gave away fewer cards.

Next week I think we'll end up playing El Grande with the expansions. I really like this game and am looking forward to trying out the new rules. Bruce is not so keen on the original, so hopefully the expanded game will be more to his liking. We also talked about maybe playing Origins of World War I, which was published in Sid Sackson's compilation book A Gamut of Games. I'd have to make a board for that, but it's just a grid for placing some chips. If we can get all five of us together (Bruce, Al, Karl, Jim, and me) that would be ideal, as Origins of WWI is a 5-player game. Maybe I'll put together a set and just leave it at Bruce's until we get a full boat of players. We also discussed playing Nuke the Crap Out of Europe from the great folks at Critical Miss, the magaizne for dysfunctional roleplayers. If you like RPGs and cussing, do yourself a favor and check out their archives.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Monopoly & Politics Don't Mix

Yesterday I took my family over to my folks house for a visit. Grandpa and Grandma were missing their little granddaughter. My sister was there with her son as well. Out of the blue my mom decides that she wants to play a game, so we break out the old Monopoly set and all the adults join in. Dad ended up dropping out early to go play with the grandkids, wth Mom eventually scoring a decisive win by putting together the first monopoly on the board. During the course of the game the idle chitchat turned to politics. Turns out my sister, the single mom working to make ends meet, seems to be under the impression that she stands a better chance of making it through the next four years with Mr. Bush in charge. WTF? And my mother is one of those strange beasts, the Undecided Voter. Considering how polarized this party has become, I just plain don't understand how someone could be undecided this close to this election.

Driving Like A Dick Is Bad Evangelism

This blog entry has even less to do with gaming than the last two, but I got to get this off of my chest. Listen up, people! If you are going to get a religious license plate or bumper sticker, or if you put one of those stupid fish emblems on your car, then it is incumbent upon you to not drive like an asshole! Today there was this champagne-colored Cadillac Catera bobbing and weaving through traffic while displaying a "PSLM 107" license plate. Jackass!

And while we are on the subject, Jesus-based merchandise is JUST PLAIN DUMB. I feel great respect for good people with strong religious convictions. Its a little harder to feel that same respect when those folks allow their faith to be co-opted by mainstream American consumer culture. When did Jesus tell you to buy more stuff? Here's a crazy idea: instead of buying Jesus brand goods, howzabout you feed the hungry and clothe the naked instead?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Fort Squidward Is All But Impenetrable!

Since the old PC was malwared to death I've become one of those internet security paranoiacs. I now run Firefox as my browser of choice, with Ad-Aware and Spybot Search-And-Destroy backing up my maxxed-out settings on Norton. My wife so hates internet villains of all stripes I could probably get away with running a Linux box, if I felt like tackling that project. Right now, I don't. My next project will be to try to unfuck the old machine. If I can get that running again I can set it up in my game room.

Saturday, October 09, 2004


Today I found a Star Wars action figure I'd had my eyes on: Djas Puhr, a green-skinned bounty hunter who apparently appears in the cantina sequence. The K.B. Toy Outlet in Tuscola, Illinois had one for only $2.88. I don't remember seeing this guy in the movie, but he looks cool. His pointed ears, enlarged frontal lobes and shiny darkgreen facepaint make him look like he just walked out of an episode of Outer Limits. Here's the flavor text from the back of the card:
The Mos Eisley cantina is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. For the Sakiyan bounty hunter Djas Puhr, the cantina is a fertile refuge ripe with opportunity to catch a fugitive bounty ot pry information from customers who know more than they claim.
Of course he's a bounty hunter. Does anyone hang out at that bar who isn't some sort of intergalactic hardcase? Still, I think he might be useable as a character for a Star Wars roleplaying session. I've got half an idea going for an Episode Zero adventure involving Jedi Masters Dooku and Sifidius travelling to a planet covered with blasted out high-tech ruins. They're looking for a long-lost Sith temple, in an attempt to learn more about their mysterious enemy. This all happens before Sidious recruits Dooku to the Dark Side.

Also on the new purchase front today, I found a copy of issue #4 of Vortext magazine for sale on the eBay. And for only a buck! Vortext #4 contains the only known published adventure for World of Synnibarr, and it's authored by the two primaries on the rulebook, Raven C.S. McCracken and his pal Bryce "Playing Synnibarr will open avenues in your imagination for which you probably did not even know you had an address" Thelin. If "Bio Starr 1" is suitable for first level characters I intend to use it at this next WinterWar. Otherwise, I will have to developed my own adventure. I should note that I never would have known of the existence of either Vortext or the Synnibarr adventure in issue 4 except that I had stumbled upon Shannon Appelcline's RPG Magazine Indices. Great resource!

Speaking of Winter War, I think I'm pretty close to nailing down my self-appointed judging duties. Assuming Uncle Jed sends me that copy of Tribes from Steve Jackson Games that i ordered and assuming I actually like it, I'm going to try to run it. Tribes is supposed to be a con-friendly game, suitable for large groups. I'm not sure exactly when during the con would best fit though. On Friday night I want to run World of Synnibarr, while Saturday night will be for my Jack the Ripper-based Call of Cthulhu game. Somewhere in between all this, probably as a Friday afternoon or Sunday game, I want to sponsor a game of Carcassonne. That should be more than enough to keep me busy, especially if I actually sign up for a game or two as a player.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Thought of the Day

They only brought C-3PO to the planet of the Ewoks because he was a PC. Think about it. What use did they have for a loudmouthed, opinionated, cowardly protocol droid? Especially a shiny gold one? It was a straightforward commando mission, for cryin' out loud. The whole thing stinks of bringing the paladin along on a grave-robbing assignment: it's a bad move but no one talks about it for fear that the DM will bring the hammer down.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Return of Saucy Jack

After much thought I've decided to defer running my Justice League 5000 concept at Winter War. Maybe I will take up that challenge at a future con or as a one-shot with the local gamers. I must partially blame (or credit) my friend Pat for putting me off the JL5K trail and putting me back on track for running a Call of Cthulhu game featuring Jack the Ripper. Pat recently loaned me his copy of Colin Wilson's The Mammoth Book of True Crime 2, specifically for the Ripper material included therein. After digesting that tidbit (and a great deal more of Mr. Wilson's book) I was soon renewing my acquaintance with, the premier Jack the Ripper website.

I've become a Synnibarr apologist

Two new threads today on featuring World of Synnibarr: Sell me on Synnibar [sic] and The Gaming Devil's Advocate. My favorite post so far (by long-time poster Lizard):

Imagine if someone thought ...

Rifts was too grim&gritty.
Gamma World too realistic.
1st Edition AD&D classes too open and free-form.
Greyhawk too coherent and plausible.
Arduin too tame and banal.
Senzar too low-powered.

Then you'd have Synnibarr.

I attempted a defense of the game, but no one directly responded to my post. I would at least have liked for someone to pointed out why they thought my analysis was wrong.

The Mob War Continues

I think last night's Mob War game rocked on toast. We introduced a new PC, Ray's obese burglar Dre (turns out Ray slept through the last get-together) and played out a little caper flick sort of an adventure. The PCs pulled a con job on the local law enforcement of Madison, Wisconsin, convincing the Chief of Police that they were federal agents. A joint taskforce then proceeded to take down the Tolino Mob's convoy of Canadian whisky. I had a rip-snorter of a time, even though the PCs offed my two favorite Tolino mobsters, the Basque and Butcher Bertello. The Basque died an ignominious death, but Butcher went out like a man. I'm not sure how much material I have left for this micro-campaign. The escalation of mob violence has reached a fevered pitch and I'm not sure how much longer it can be sustained. Still, it started as a one-shot and I never promised more than 6 sessions, so I only have three more sessions to bring Lakefront City down around the PCs' ears.

Best moment of the night for me had to be when the guys realized that one of the Tolino gangsters was packing a World War I army surplus flamethrower! Their reactions were priceless.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Last night was boardgames night. We played Puerto Rico and Bohnanza. I came in fourth place in a field of four both times. I feel like I learned more about PR but I'm just not sure what I'm doing wrong in Bohnanza. Maybe I'm being too generous in my trading. After 3 weeks in a row with the bean game I think I'm ready for a break, but I'd certainly play Puerto Rico again. My brother-in-law calls it a "gamer's game", that's his term for a game in which every turn you find yourself having to choose from several equally interesting strategies. If you have X moves to make but find yourself wanting to do X+Y different tasks, you've found a gamer's game.

I guess tomorrow night is another session of my Mob War micro-campaign. I'm not sure what sort of prep I need to do to make tomorrow night's game smoother. I've handed the PCs a task (intercept the Tolino Mob bootleg convoy) and they have all sorts of crazy ways they can try to accomplish this. I'm both excited to see what they will pull off and worried whether I will be able to keep up with these guys.

You need more stuff.

Uncle Jed's Game Shed is going out of business. Everything is now 75% off. My brother-in-law forwarded this link, so I asked if he could vouch for these guys. In response he indicated that he only vaguely remembers buying something from them a while back. Still, I thinks Uncle Jed is legit. I emailed in an order and they responded back (several days later, so be patient if you buy from them) that they only had about half of what I wanted in stock. So no Sorcerer's Soul for Jeffy, but I am getting a cheapy cheap copy of Steve Jackson Games' Tribes, which could be a hoot to run at the con.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Winter War: What to do?

As con season approaches a million ideas going flying through my brain. I feel certain that running World of Synnibarr could be a lot of fun, with the right group of miscreants. Maybe it would be a good Friday night game. Looking back at my old blog, here's what I was think about a few weeks after the last convention:
  • Starmada
  • Carcassonne
  • Call of Cthulhu: Jack the Ripper
  • Star Fleet Battle Manual
  • Illuminati Tournament

Since getting back more heavily into roleplaying (thanks to Sue's D&D game and Dave Hoover's Avatars campaign) I feel less running boardgames, especially larger projects like SFBM or an Illuminati tourney. Carcassonne would probably be a great Friday afternoon warm-up game or Sunday warm-down game. While I still feel a dark urge to run a Jack the Ripper game, but like my Justice League 5000 idea I am stuck on how to plot the damn thing out. Also, it's harder and harder for me to enjoy dealing with the minutae of the CoC system. Maybe I should find a loosier and goosier system, or even something narritivist from the indie scene. Or maybe I should stick to CoC but run a non-mythos adventure with it. That makes the game less hackneyed, but doesn't solve my plotting issue. My wife has suggested that I should run DinoWARS! again, which certainly makes for a fun little Saturday morning jaunt. Although my indie games generally only went about 2 hours each, I think Wuthering Heights would be worth repeating, especially if we did two storylines. So here's my best guess as to what I could maybe do. Tomorrow's list might be totally different:

Friday Afternoon: Carcassonne?
Friday Evening: World of Synnibarr
Saturday Morning: DinoWARS!
Saturday Afternoon:
Saturday Evening: Call of Cthulhu?
Sunday Morning: Carcassonne?
Sunday Afternoon:

JL5K: doubts

Here's my problem with superhero gaming. I feel like a cook who knows exactly which ingredients to assemble to bake a cake, but doesn't know how to properly mix them to produce cake batter. My main problem lies with plotting. I know I want the climax of the adventure to be a confrontation with Lex Luthor followed by a double twist surprise ending, but how do I get the heroes there? Trying to rough out ideas like this always reminds me why I run dungeon-based adventures: keeping a plot afloat is hard. Hell, coming up with a plot, especially a mystery, is hard as well. What clues do I leave in the scene with the missing planet? If I build set-pieces how can I avoid railroading PCs? Maybe I should just play to my strengths and stick to dungeon adventures or player-empowering indie stuff.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

I like it when people send me free stuff.

Erol Otus fan Dave Stephens was so kind as to send me a still-in-shrink copy of Alma Mater, the high school role-playing game. Thanks, Mr. Stephens! Otus did the cover art and roughly half of the illustrations for this game. As soon as I get some free time I'm going to add an Alma Mater page on the Erol Otus Shrine. It's kinda weird seeing Mr. Otus work with non-fantastic subject matter. I'll have to re-read the tripod terms of service. I'm not sure if I can publish the illo for the page devoted to rules for dating, seduction, teen pregnancy, etc.

The game itself is kinda infamous for its crass and cynical portrayal of surviving life in a public secondary school circa 1980. Sex, drugs, and violence are featured prominently in a typical Alma Mater adventure. I've known a few people on who own a copy, but I don't recall anyone actually claiming to have played it. A first glance AM is like a lot of other experimental games of the early eighties in that it carves out an unclaimed subject matter or genre and applies a heavy chart-based simulationist approach to the material. All in all, I'd probably rather be playing either incarnation of Teenagers From Outer Space. Still, the B-grade game enthusiast and sadistic GM in me would probably give Alma Mater a try as a con game, in much the same way that I plan to slog through World of Synnibarr at WinterWar.

BTW, if anyone reading this wants to send me some free gaming crap, just drop me an e-mail.

Friday, October 01, 2004


Well, I finally broke down and went back to my local game store today. I needed to find a birthday present for my buddy Pat. (Happy birthday, dude!) I eventually settled on the one book I found that I thought he'd like that I also felt reasonably confident he didn't own. I almost got him a copy of the new World of Darkness corebook, since I know for certain he doesn't own one. So he managed to dodge that bullet. I thought about getting him a Gundam model kit, since I know he's gung-ho into that, but what the hell do I know about model kits? I remember one birth my Great Aunt Shirley (RIP) bought me a Star Wars book, because she knew how much I loved the movies. Unfortunately, it was a kiddie book aimed for a reader about half my actual age at the time. I didn't want to pull a similar move on Pat.

I considered buying myself something while I was there, even though Pat's gift was a bit more than I usually spend. I've had my eye on getting a tube of those giant polyhedrals. It's long been my idea that as the GM I could roll one of those big puppies right in the middle of the table for all to see. That would have a nifty effect if done only at dramatic moments I think, since I usually do my rolling behind a screen. Of the other wares for sale, I just didn't have much enthusiasm for most of them. The huge d20 section failed to trip my trigger; between my corebooks, SRDs, BESM d20, my newly acquired Unearthed Arcana, and a few other items I have more than enough d20 to power a huge variety of campaigns. About the only other thing present that interested me was Ron Edwards' Sex & Sorcery, the latest supplement to his indie magnum opus Sorcerer. But I still need to get the previous supplement, The Sorcerer's Soul. And either way I'm not sure I'll be playing any version of Sorcerer any time in the forseeable future.

But nothing else laying around at the FLGS interested me much. I guess after years of putzing around, collecting various game systems I'm finally starting to reach something like saturation. Are there indie things that would be neat to own? Sure. Can I find supplements and accessories I want for game lines that I like? Yeah. But as I type this I'm even considering taking some RPG products off of my Amazon wishlist. But really, I got the bases covered as far as good things to play goes. Savage Worlds works well as a generic system. BESM d20 looks like a good back-up for that sort of thing. The more I look at it the more I conclude that Mikko Kauppinen's Powergame is my sort of rules-lite rock-em sock-em superhero system. (Heck, I'm have-considering coverting my Heroes Unlimited campaign to Powergame.) If I want to do something gloomy and doomy I have good ol' Call of Cthulhu as well as the aformentioned Sorcerer. For sci-fi I have both Traveller and Star Frontiers. And I think Savage Worlds would work quite well for a Star Wars game. And don't forget all the various incarnations of Dungeons & Dragons on my shelves.

Really, the idea that I need another roleplaying game is completely ridiculous. I have more than enough material to keep me off the streets and out of juvie hall for years. In fact, I only fell off of the "no more systems" wagon because I joined a Savage Worlds game. I can't feel like I'm really in the mix in a campaign unless I own the rulebook. So rather than swearing off new systems completely, maybe I should just limit myself to games I am actually going to play.