Monday, November 29, 2004

Need to find my groove

This whole writing-for-a-purpose thing is not clicking for me just yet. Since taking on the Foe File gig I've written far less this week than when I was just bullshitting on this blog. I think I need to develop a definite routine, like maybe get up early each day expressly for writing. I'm going to try to jumpstart the whole process by taking a day off work this week and devote at least half the day just to writing villains. I got some good ideas a-swirling in my head, I just need to bare down and get them typed up. (I've had some ideas for my Planetbrokers! card game and an 3.5SRD based little product, too. I'm so flighty, sometimes it's hard staying focused on just one project.)

Last week's Monday night group introduced me to two new games (no Bohnanza!), first we played a couple round of Tigris & Euphrates, a tile-laying German game. Great stuff. I won one of the rounds on beginner's luck alone. I'll need to play this one several more time before I know what I'm doing. The harder game for the night was one of those rail games in which you draw the tracks on the map with a crayon. I can't quite remember the title, American Rails maybe? I'd play that sort of thing again. Though once again my lame geography skills show through: I'm supposed to pick up goods in Boise? Where the hell is Boise? Basically I spend a lot of time quietly scanning the map for the cities I'm trying to locate, hoping not to look too foolish in the process.

My sister and I played about 5 games of Carcassonne over Thanksgiving. She's getting pretty darn good at it too. She won three games and tied me on a fourth. I think I played too agressively and wasted a lot of effort trying to steal cities from her. I get that way when playing my little sis. We're both very competitive when gaming against each other. That sibling rivalry of old just plays out on the tabletop.

Pat was over yesterday for our usual BS session. Towards the end of the night we got talking about the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana. That book has some really neat stuff in it, like the prestige variants of the core classes (Prestige Paladin, Prestige Ranger, Prestige Bard) and the generic classes. I need to take another long look at that book, and maybe doing something with it.

Wednesday night is pancake house night. Dennis is still not quite done with his group playing Everknight for Savage Worlds, so the rest of us are in a holding pattern. Maybe Dave will bring his X-box or I'll bring something boardgamey. I hate to let good roleplaying time go to pasture like that, but I don't have enough prep time at this point to run anything. Pity. If I had the time I'd run the starting adventure in the back of Mutants & Masterminds or something simple for d20 Modern. Maybe I could do one of those on the 15th, assuming Everknight doesn't end on Wednesday.

One of my prospective players for the Blue Rose Fast Play is apparently ignoring my e-mail invitation to play. Assuming I drag Dave Hoover along for this thing (hi, Dave!), that gives me 3 players for a 4-player adventure. I need a fourth player and ideally that player should be female. Unfortunately, I don't know many gamer grrlz.

I've been thinking about what sort of games to run in the immediate future. I've decided to run my Occult Crimes Taskforce idea as a Winter War game, instead of a mini-campaign with the pancake house crew. Frankly, given my committment to this game outfit I ought to be running some OGL stuff. I could run D&D 3.5 (with Unearthed Arcana-based weirdness) or d20 Modern using canned mini-modules. Assuming I get a copy of d20 Future, I could do a sort of Traveller and Battletech inspired mercenary campaign, as a prelude to my Hardy's Hardlucks project. And then there's Mutants & Masterminds. For that I could restart my Home Team "limited series" or build a new little campaign world from the ground up. Decisions, decisions...

(Wow. This post is link-tastic! It's also longer than my work so far on Foe File #1. Le sigh.)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Turn and face the strange...

Ch-ch-ch-changes! As of today I am altering my level of commitment to this here blog. I've been doing pretty well staying on target at approximately 1 post per day. But the Shared Lobotomy project is heating up. I've got a ten thousand word assigment for our first product. And Winter War looms over the horizon to boot. My new plan is to blog, at minimum, every Monday. I'll report on the progress I have made on the game projects I am working on.

There's a new d20 fantasy rpg coming out from Green Ronin called Blue Rose. It bills itself as "romantic fantasy". As far as I can tell, that means that not every problem in life can be solved by swording orcs. Seriously though, it looks like a fresh new take on table-top fantasy role-playing and has just a hint of the things that I loved about the old computer games Ultima IV and Below the Root. I've downloaded the Fast Play rules. This document comes with a little one-shot intro scenario and 4 sample PCs. I think I'm going to try running it. I've got some RPGnet people in mind and have sent out an email to get the ball rolling. The RPGnet folks account for three of four seats. I think Dave Hoover might be a good fit for the last spot.

This will be the first rpg project in Grodd knows how long that I don't plan on including Pat in, which feels very weird. I hope he doesn't feel too put out by my decision to put together this one-shot without him. I don't think the material suits him at all: Too much hippy dippy New Age stuff and not enough bloods and souls for Arioch.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

This sort of thing pisses me off

Rant time. I was watching a program entitled VH1's 100 Least Metal Moments or something like that. Christ, this sort of stuff really gets under my skin. A bunch of has-beens ragging on other artists because someone once violated one of the unwritten laws of their precious musical genre. Guess what, assholes? Those are unwritten laws for a reason. True artists aren't confined by genre. They're too busy creating genres so that second rate hacks like you have some material to work with. Oh NOES! Kiss once released a disco album! We must ridicule! Fuck you, dillweed! I just added Dynasty to my Amazon wishlist because I feel confident that if you hate it there must be some good tracks on it! Oh NOES! Ozzy did a Pepsi commercial with the Osmonds! What a sellout! Frankly, I intend to sell out early and often if I ever get the opportunity. And guess what? If you ever scored a record deal with a major label or if you ever worked for MTV (I'm looking at you, Rikki Ratman) then you already fucking sold out! Duh!

Maybe I'm not a truefan. To me good metal is just good rock'n'roll with an occasionaly battleaxe on the album cover. This is a problem I am always having. I don't give a crap what they label it. It's still rock'n'roll to me.

Ahhh, so THAT'S the problem...

Turns out my whole problem with the video clip and mediaplayer was that Firefox and Windows Mediaplayer aren't on speaking terms, at least the way I have things set up at the present. The video clip in question ran fine once I fired Internet Explorer. My personal catchphrase these days has been "I blame Bush" but this time I'm going to blame Bill Gates.

I had the convention dream last night. This is a pretty regularly occurring dream for me. Several friends (this time Don McKinney and Jon Pedigo) and I are sitting at a table at Winter War playing a game. This time we're playing Star Fleet Battles. I end up giving up the game because I forgot to allocate a point of energy to my life support systems. Then I go hit the game vendors. The shelves are full of RPG products that don't actually exist. Also one of the vendors is selling photocopies of old stuff. I'm visiting all the vendors because I'm looking for one particular item. This time it's a decent copy of the MERP corebook.

Funny thing about this dream, whenever I have it I usually wake up thinking to myself "Yeah, I should play game A (this time SFB) and track down a copy of game B (this time MERP)." A nice, friendly game of SFB with guys as knowledgeable as Don and Jon would kinda hit the spot right now. The emphasis on tournament competition and a desire to be completely self-reliant when it comes to rules questions drove me away from the game. Just getting together with some non-spazzotron players and shooting each other to pieces would be a good way to waste an afternoon. Maybe I'll send Jon an email. And I've wanted a better copy of MERP for a long time. I hadn't searched for it on eBay in a while. Last time I did the Lord of the Rings movies were still going strong in the theatres. Talk about a sellers market. Yeesh.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

dang this computer thingy!

So it's 3 o'clock in the afternoon and I'm on my second kahlua-and-vanilla-soymilk of the day. I need something to take the edge off of my frustration. My wife wants to play a video clip from "The Apprentice", that Donald Trump-powered reality show, For some reason, Windows Media whatever did not come installed on our system. I installed the latest version, number 10, and it turns out that the clip in question wants to play on version 9 only. Was I a fool to assume backwards compatibility with this thing? So now I'm downloading and installing an earlier version of mediaplayer.

And now is choking, so I'm emailing this update in. Hope it works.

The whole family went to see the SpongeBob movie today. Slow start, some off-key bits (including a too-scary for my 3-year-old sequence), but enough laugh out-loud moments to eanr it a solid thumbs up. I about fell out of my chair when the cute little mermaid princess said to SpongeBob and Patrick "I can make you into men!" Turns out it wasn't what I was thinking.

While waiting for the various pointless downloads today I got a chance to read volume 3 of Ruorni Kenshin. Good stuff.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Soy Mutants

Yesterday I got in the mail a used copy of Mutants & Masterminds. I don't have an opinion of the game mechanics yet, but the presentation is chock full of four-color flava. Unfortunately, the errata for the corebook is pretty large, amounting to 13 pages of text PLUS rewrites of all the hero and villain charsheets. Yeesh. Going to print with goofed up stats for all the characters in the book isn't the biggest blunder I've ever seen in the RPG industry, but it's a pretty big fuck-up. Still, it's hard not to like this game on style alone.

I poured vanilla soymilk on cold cereal for breakfast this morning. The cereal was some sort of granola type with sliced almond in it. I thought the almond and vanilla worked well together. Last night after I got home from work I tried mixing the vanilla soy with some kahlua. That turned out better than kahlua with moo juice, which is one of my drinks of choice.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Quickie Update

Speed blogging today. Superbuzy day.

Had a great time last night blasting zombies. I can't believe 3 of us managed to escape!

I'm hoping to get the guys over here Sunday. I'm making Italian beef.

Got some Vanilla Soymilk Lite from 8th Generation. Good stuff in my cream of wheat, but is this the wussiest beverage on the planet or what? Lite, vanilla soymilk. I mean, come on! I'm turning into a hippie or something.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

jarheads vs. braineaters

Tonight Pat is running the Savage Worlds one-shot Marine Corpse, a marines against zombies sorta thing. It'll be interesting to be on the same side of the screen as Dave. We've been gaming together for months now, but always one of us has been the GM.

My mom requested a list of possible Xmas gifts, so today I emailed her directions to get to my RPGnet Shop wishlist and the phone number she can call to order some Castles & Crusades stuff from the folks at Troll Lords Games. I also suggested that maybe a video game console would be peachy. I have no idea from year to year how much she is going to spend, so why not ask for an X-box? Why not, other than not wanting to be a greedy bastard. Still, I'll be quite satisfied if I end up with C&C boxed set or one of the d20 products off of that wishlist.

fyi soy iii

For breakfast yesterday I made some oatmeal with my Vanilla Silk. No discernable soy could be detected. I'm sure it helped that I was making apples & cinnamon flavored oatmeal, so there were plenty of flavors available to mask the soy taste.

Pat slipped me a glass of vanilla soymilk of a different brand. I believe he called it 8th Continent. The soy flavor of this stuff was much more subdued.

Today I had some instant grits with Vanilla Silk and they turned out just dandy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

OK, that's some progress

I got the stats done for 2 more of my Ripper scenario PCs: "Doctor" Blackburn, the Irish-American quack, and Professor Dodgson, the legitimate academic. That puts me halfway to my absolute bareass minimum of 6 playercharacters. I'd like more. I don't want to run into another bought of "oops, the monster ate all the PCs". Just such an occurence ended a previous con game of mine a whole 2 and half hours ahead of schedule.

So much for writing discipline

Last night I completely choked on this character-a-night scheme, right out of the friggin' starting gate. Admittedly, I had a bunch of family duties to attend to which left me all tuckered out, but I managed to sit in front of the computer for 25 minutes last night. What did I do for that nearly half-hour? Dick around on the internet. Tonight I did better. I've got a char sheet for Mr. Druitt, occassional lawyer and fulltime cricketer. What does he bring to a CoC investigative team? A cricket bat and low, low Sanity.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Managing Commitments

Tonight I'm blowing off the Monday boardgaming with the grognards. As much I enjoy getting together with them, I need to stay home tonight. Two consecutive nights out late is not good for me and it certainly doesn't endear me to my wife, especially when I need to replace the pump on the hallway bathroom's toilet. I hate to fink out on the Monday crew, but they can play without me. They've gotten by for years without my presence.

If I get a chance I plan to start cranking out char sheets for my Jack the Ripper scenario. I'm going to try making them with a little programn called Byakhee. My plan is to do a PC or major NPC each day for a week, just to see if I can keep up that pace. If I'm going to be a real honest-to-Grodd game author, I need to start practing some writing discipline.

Local Area Nifties

Last night I attended my first LAN throwdown, a release party for Halo 2. I had a damn good time. Special thanks to Pat for bringing along some sushi. I had made no provisions for supper. I went in with no expectations for success (my last FPS being the original Doom), so it felt like Christmas every time I ownzored an emeny. It's also nice that I can follow a little of what Gabe and Tycho are talking about over at Penny Arcade. Great comic, but sometimes I miss the context of some of the jokes because I don't keep up with the video games scene these days. Still, PA manages to be funny for the same reasons that I could enjoy reading the long-lamented Old Man Murray: most of the jokes are only indirectly about the video games. In the recesses of their geeky hearts PA and OMM are really employing the same type of mockery available for the ridicule of any sufficiently preposterous subject matter. I also like Penny Arcade because they share my hatred for the living dead.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

fyi soy, part the second

Turns out you can make pancakes with Vanilla Soy in lieue of moo juice. The soy taste gets hidden under the pancake mix, the butter, and the syrup but the vanilla flavor can still be detected.

I'm finally listening to a Cool Keith/Doctor Octagon/Doctor Doom CD that Pat burned me years ago. Good stuff. Cool Keith is one of the few people in rap that could get away with sampling Mr. Rogers.

It's 4:30 AM...

do you know where your blog is? Can't get back to sleeop right now, so I decided to blog a bit and generally knacker around on teh intarweb. Anyways, today I got cracking on a first read through on my shiny new Modern Pocket Handbook from Mongoose. I'm finally starting to see what Pat likes about this system. I think the Wizards-approved artwork was getting in the way of any attempt by me to approach d20 Modern proper. As amusing as kobolds in berets might be in a modern setting, that sort of thing just set the wrong tone (unless the setting happens to be Planet Erf). I don't need dungeonpunk art updated to the modern era, nor any of the setting baggage that comes with being D&D's kid brother. Without the mindflayers in business suits I find it a lot easier to take this system on its own merits, rather than judging it as a spin-off of 3E.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

fyi soy

Turns out that Vanilla Silk tastes like vanilla and soy. This is not a good combination, at least to my unsophisticated palate. I can disguise most of the soy flavor by cutting the Vanilla Silk with Silk Chai in a 50/50 mixture. Still, I'm disappointed. I usually love vanilla flavored anything.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Winter War: It is done

I've finally sent in my final-and-this-time-I-mean-it selection of games for Winter War. I decided to go with 2 RPGs, no boardgames. With this Shared Lobotomy business starting to shape up I decided I didn't need any non-RPG distractions on the schedule (other than the Monday night group I'm already comitted to). If things go as planned on Friday the 4th of Frebruary I will be running 6 people through some version of Occult Crimes Taskforce, using the Savage Worlds rules. The following Saturday night I will be running Catch Me When You Can, my Jack the Ripper game. If I pull that one off I will be officially done running Call of Cthulhu. Great game, but I think it's played out. At least for me. Who knows. I may feel differently five years from now, but at the moment a Jack the Ripper scenario is the only thing I really want to do with it.

So now I got 2 con games to write.


I'm not sure exactly why I took up smoking in college. I guess I've always thought pipes and cigars were cool. Reed Richards and Sherlock Holmes smoked pipes. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me. And tough guys in movies, like Clint Eastwood, always smoked stogies. I smoked a lot in college and for a while afterwards. I owned my own humidor and about a dozen different pipes. I hung out at Jon's Pipe Shop in campustown and later at Cigar World (the owner's a brother). Like anything I glom onto, I pursued it with fannish abandon for several years. When I was living on my own, I could smoke up the place to my heart's content. Now I have a wife and a daughter. I haven't smoked in a coon's age. I pretty much had reached the point where I only smoked when I got together with my old buddies Dave & Gopher, but we haven't been on speaking terms for a while. I guess it was something I said. Anyway, I was kinda taken aback when Saturday night I woke up with this incredible tobacco craving. Keep in mind that I can honestly say I was never addicted to nicotine. I didn't "quit" smoking, I just stopped. No shakes. No cravings. No nothing. So to wake from a half-remembered dream with the taste of a pipe you sold 2 years ago fresh on your lips was a tad bit surprising. The craving was so strogn that if I had a cigar or some pipeweed in the house, I would have been out smoking on the back porch at four in the morning. Weird.

So later this week I'm running out the the store for milk (again) and I decide to try to score some cheap tobaccy. 'Cept now all the cigars are behind the counter or locked in glass cases. I tried three different stores. Are teenagers shoplifting these things or is this a "think about the children" sort of maneuver? I eventually found some pipeweed on a shelf, but by then my enthusiasm for the project was drained. Maybe I'll try again some other time. Since my interest in tobacco had momentarily waned, I decided to instead indulge my newest vice: Silk. That right, the soybean based milk substitute. My wife thinks I'm turning into some sorta damn hippy type. Just goes to show what she knows: I've been a cryptohippy for years. Silk is just the latest symptom of the illness. I haven't tried the plain faux milk version of Silk just yet. My thing is Silk Chai. If you don't know, Chai is this spice tea beverage from India. It's made with milk and seems to me to be more in the flavor universe of egg nog rather than other tea products. I can get hot chai at my local Cafe Hepcat for like 3 bucks a cup. Good stuff. The Silk version is quite comparable and taste good cold as well. A 32 ounce carton is a little less than 3 bucks as well.

Now that I've been drwn into the sordid world of hippy beverages, I decided to buy a little cartoon of Silk Vanilla as well. I haven't had a chance to try any yet, but if it pans out I may have to get some of the plain stuff to see how it measures up. And while I was shopping for Silk, I noticed some jugs of Kefir next to it. Kefir is some sort of yogurt-relative and I've long wanted to try it as well. And I need to buy some veggie burgers to grill. Okay, I was totally fucking kidding on that last one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I'm In Like Flynn

Last night I did my first bit of real work towards producing a commercial game product. I'm taking my Occult Crimes Taskforce concept and putting it into BESM d20 terms. So far all I've got are initial notes for a new class ("The Fed") but it's something, by golly. It's finally clicked for me that the big powers chapter combines with the section that deconstructs the D&D classes to produce a nifty class-building system. It's not necessarily suitable for anything outside the scope of BESM d20, but it ought to work just dandy within its own context. After the Fed is done, I think I'll need a Cyborg, a Witch, and a Psychic.

Set aside what little actual writing I've done for the moment, I've also had some nifty ideas for making OCT the wacky comedy romp I envision by altering the combat rules. Cynthia Celeste Miller's Cartoon Action Hour has been some inspiration here, as has the old classic Ghostbusters rpg. Also, I think I'm going to take a look at porting Action Points over to BESM d20. That would be my first d20 cross-pollination idea. Are you proud of me, Pat?

Here's another idea that's come out of tinkering with BESM d20. For five years now I've been hesitant to build my own monsters in D&D 3E because I don't know how to assign a challenge rating. What if all monsters had BESM d20 classes? You could have a a generic Monster class (for miscellaneous goon squad types), and then more specific stuff like a Dragon Class or a Beholderkin class or an Undead class. If you need to customize a critter past the monster classes available, just add enough levels of Adventurer to get the points needed to buy the goodies you want. Monsters would be constructed very differently under this system, but I think it would help me out tremendously.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Dude, where's my blog?

Yesterday I started a groupblog for the Shared Lobotomy project, but today the dang thing doesn't exist. I guess maybe that explains why Dave couldn't log onto it. I'll take another stab at making such a thing. The idea of using a blog for some Traveller solo adventuring still is nagging at me. Captain's Blog for a little free trader hopping around the Spinward Main. Or the diary of a space hitchhiker, making his way through Charted Space on 40 credits a day. Or a scout mapping out a new frontier, using randomly generated subsectors. Just regular joes putzing around in outer space. I remember back when Star Trek: the Next Generation was hot and Shatner & crew were still making movies. My Uncle Jim, who was very influential upon me in my youth, once told me that he would clean the toliets on the Enterprise just to get a chance to go into outer space. That sentiment has remained with me. I think it goes far to explain why Traveller struck a nerve when I discovered the Far Future reprints back around '99. The average Traveller PC is just that, average. They're regular folks who happen to have the wonderful luck to live in a futuristic society in which some small percentage of humanity lives and works among the stars: ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

I Are the Champions, My Friend

Well, I finally got some good wins against the Monday night boardgame group, and I only had to bring my own game from home to do it. Last night Bruce, Al, and I played two rounds of Carcassonne. I won the first game and absolutely crushinated them on the second one. I got some good tile pulls, but my play was pretty darn good, too. As Tiger Woods might say, I had my "A" game going. Heck, in the second game I managed to score 60 points off of one city! I literally lapped the other guys on the score track. Later we played the Bohnanza again. I started out strong, riding the high of whupping Bruce and Al in the previous game, but wound up tying Al, with Bruce eeking out a 2 point win over us. Well fought, close game. Next week Jim should be back from Pitzburk, so maybe we can get the El Grande thing going again.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Obligatory Stupid Quiz Results Post

You're Godzilla!
Go Go Godzilla!

What Kaiju are You?

Got a bad case of the eBays

Back in the eBay scene. Some of it I can write off (mentally, if not on my taxes) as needed for this crazy business endeavor. That doesn't explain away my recently acquired Dork20 deck, but I ought to be able to use it with BESM d20. Although the lamish humour and Kovalic illos may grate on my nerves eventually, I still like this product. But then, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for cards as an rpg element. That's one of the reasons why I dig Savage Worlds. Heck, I'd probably already own the SW Adventure Deck if it wasn't an electronic product. Of course the moment I get my hands on Dork20 Pinnacle has to go and finally release the d20 version of their deck. RPGnow also sells a couple of other decks, The Hand of Fate and its stand-alone supplement The Random Megacore Hero Card Set #1 (terrible product name, BTW) and the significantly weirder Imago Deck.

In terms of pure eBay indulgence, the big one right now is an old issue of Different Worlds that has a Traveller article I've been dying to get. Although the universe of available Traveller materials is vasty indeed, I really onlyeed a few more pieces to fill out the list of what I want for the game. And this DW article is one of those handful of items. Also on the list are The Traveller Campaign, The Traveller Adventure, GURPS Aliens, GURPS Traveller Aliens 4 and Starter Traveller. Past those five it all depends on whether I'm in my Spinward Marches mood or my Burgess Shale (for more on that also see here) mood. There's a million interesting things to be done with Traveller, but not all of them have to be set in GDW's Charted Space setting.

Shared Lobotomy

So Dave, Pat, and I got together yesterday to hash out some stuff for what sort of PDF projects we want to undertake. Under the OGL, it looks like d20 Modern, BESM d20, and Mutants & Masterminds will be targets. Dave also wants to investigate licensing products for Feng Shui, Savage Worlds, and HERO. SW apparently has a pretty cheap licensing scheme, but I'm not sure if the things we want to do are generally what PEG/Great White/Shane Hensley would want to license. I'm thinking maybe my Occult Crimes Taskforce project could be done as a BESM d20 gig instead of SW, allowing us to release it as an OGL campaign pack. Or it could be dual-statted with SW as well. I think it is important that if we are going to do this d20 stuff we need to get playing some d20 right away. In practical terms I think Pat ought to run d20 Modern and I need to do something with BESM d20. And when we get our hands on M&M we need to play some of that too.

Looks like I might have to put out some money to get some of these rulebooks. M&M none of us own. I don't have a copy of d20 Modern either, though you can get a PDF of Modern SRD for only four bucks at RPGnow. I'd drop the four bucks, but my concern is that over 400 pages of PDF is a horse-choking amount to print or read on the screen. And if I'm going to tackle BESM d20 whole hog, I really need to take a look at the Slayers d20 and Everstone implementations. That's a lot of spiffy hardbounds, without even talking about the new HERO doomtome or re-purchasing Feng Shui. Curse me for a fool for selling FS!

Despite seeing my money about to walk out the door and general trepidation that we don't know what we are getting into, I'm feeling jazzed on the creative level. For once I can look at my BESM d20 book and know what I want to do with it. Up until now it was a toolkit without a purpose. Like I was looking at a socket wrench and thing to myself "Hmmm, I bet it would be fun to use this thing sometime, but for what?" Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Now I'm having madcap ideas like "What if Cyborg and FBI Agent we're d20 classes?" and finding BESM d20 to be the right tool for that jorb. Instead of seeing the unstructered parts of BESM d20 as evidence of chaotic design, I'm finally seeing the structured parts as proof of coherent possibilities. Did that last line make sense? I sure hope so.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Took the RPGnow Plunge

Last night I purchased some PDFs from RPGnow. I had downloaded a freebie from them before, Tri-Stat dX, IIRC, but this was the first time paying them actual US currency for some of their game-oriented electrons. I picked up the Mecha SRD Extreme, which I've had my eye on for a long time. So far looks real good. Also nabbed OGL-Fantasy Lite, which seems to cover similar ground as the forthcoming Castles & Crusades hardbound. May end up with both. The other two items were secondary to me. For Pat I grabbed the Gun Priest class for d20 Modern. And then there's Glinda of Oz. That last one is a bit of a weirdie. It takes the entire text for a presumably public domain Frank Baum story, adds some modern fantasy style illos (Glenda the Good Witch has quite a rack on her), and then stats out the principal characters and magic items for d20. I thought it was an interesting concept for a product. And besides, it was on sale.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Low Adventure

I've heard the terms High Adventure and Epic applied to a certain style of campaign, in which the PCs find themselves entangled in world shattering events. The idealizied campaign that everybody wishes they could run usually involves wee 1st level pudknockers leveling up into universe saving uberheroes over the course of years of hardy campaigning. High Adventure involves things like villains trying to take over the world, mighty armies clashing, prophesized Chosen Ones, and insane amounts of rilly kewl powerz. Despite its charms, High Adventure is not the only mode available for a rock 'em sock'em good time. Give me Low Adventure. Give me a handful of hooligans getting into shenanigans. Maybe they're regular blokes trying to do the right thing. Maybe they're cheap thugs trapped in a Quentin Tarentino or Guy Ritchie caper film. Or maybe they're the Doom Patrol up against a Justice League foe. Give me a fiasco and a chance to escape it by the skin of my teeth. It doesn't have to be a world beating master villain. An old man with a shotgun and a flashback to Da Nang ought to do the trick.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Stunting in Savage Worlds, An Idea

At places like the word stunt is now in use as a verb: to stunt. Stunting is the practice of describing cool moves for your PC in combat. Instead of "I hit him" you say "I run a couple of steps up the wall and backflip behind the mooks, punching them both in the kidneys as I land." Game design funk master Robin Laws is generally credited with bringing this concept to the fore in his tour-de-fu Feng Shui. In the bad old days when I was a kid combat theatrics were discouraged by the DMs I grew up with. "You want to swing on a chandelier and kick the guy? Okay, if you pass your Dex check and don't fall on your ass, you can roll a kick attack at -4 to hit. Your sword does more damage, why don't you just hit him instead?" Feng Shui changed the playing field by ruling that anything that looked cool but had the same effect as hitting the foe used the exact same effect as just punching the dude. (You could think of this as an innovative application of the HERO System concept of "special effect". See Aaron Allston's Ninja Hero for some neat ideas along these lines.) More recent games like Exalted and Wushu go one step beyond Feng Shui. These games actively reward you for stunting. In both of these die pool based systems you get to roll more dice on your attack if you use a cool description full of kung-fu goodness or general badass-osity. Ron Edwards's Sorcerer is even more hardcore. In it, you get penalized a die if all you do is mutter "I hit him"; if you don't stunt you don't get your full attack.

It occurred to me this morning that it would be cool to incorporate a stunt-rewarding mechanic into Savage Worlds. Last night when Kate O'Connor flipped onto the pool table and whipped a billiard ball at Umberto the Mook, I wanted to reward Kate's player. So I gave Joe a benny. That seems to be standard practice in SW: amuse the GM, get a benny. Still, even more than throwing Joe a bone, I wanted that stunt to succeed. In my opinion a good GM should want the PCs to kick ass and look good doing it. So here's my proposal for stunting in Savage Worlds:

If the GM finds a stunt cool and/or amusing, the character's Wild Die is boosted in size for each aspect of the stunt.

So in last nights' case, Kate would get a d10 Wild Die on her attack against Umberto. The first aspect of the stunt is flipping up onto the table. The second aspect is using a billiard ball instead of her pistol. In addition to nifty moves, a cool quip a la James Bond or Mr. Schwarzenegger might merit a boost as well. An important thing to keep in mind is that repetition is the bane of stunting. If Kate used a billiard ball on a second attack, no stunt bonus would come into play.

Incorportating this change to the game would result in Wild Cards becoming even more powerful than Extras, especially the PCs. The GM probably can't be counted on to keep up with the players in a stunting contest. And maybe you don't want to give the bad guys stunt dice at all. The GM rewarding himself for cool stuntwork is not the effect I'm aiming for here.

Stick a Fork In It

My Mob War mini-campaign is done. I had a helluva lot of fun and it looks like the players had a pretty good time too. The O'Connor Boys descended en masse on Big Al Tolino's summer home in rural Wisconsin. It was a slaughter. Casualties amongst the O'Connor group were light, (Pour a forty on the curb for Black Stuff Reardon and Fingers O'Malley. Poor bastards.) but the Tolino gang was killerfied beyond belief. Big Al himself was tommy gunned in the kitchen and stuffed into the oven. Even Big Al and Joey's girlfriends could not be spared: one was dynamited and the other found herself trapped in the cellar with team sicko Bobby O'Reilly. [shudder] Sollie Wiessman, Big Al's crafty little consigliere, managed to limp off the map, the only Tolino Mob member to get away. Some of my favorite bits from the fight include Tom Finnegan throwing the world's lamest dynamite at the gangsters, Al Tolino charging Dylan while the Irishman unloads two Thompsons into the Big Italian, Kate killing Umberto by throwing a billiard ball at his face, Big Al clubbing Dylan with a hamhock, and Deanie O'Connor putting a bullet right between eyes of Little Charlie Battaglia.

After the fight we went around the table and built an epilogue to the campaign, each of us adding a fact or two. Here's the post-Mob War highlights in chronological order:

  • Sollie Wiessman is gunned down in some filthy safehouse while recovering from his earlier gunshot wounds. With Sollie, Big Al, and Joey the Book all taking the dirt nap, the O'Connor Gang easily takes control of the first ward of Lakefront City.
  • With the loot taken from the Tolino mansion, Kate O'Connor (Joe's PC) retires from her life of crime and devotes herself to raising Fingers O'Malley's orphaned daughter. Aw, shucks.
  • The Fat Man (Ray's PC, whose name escapes me at the moment) uses his share to open up a restaraunt. Five years later he torches it for the insurance money and retires an even fatter, richer man.
  • With Fingers dead, Thomas Finnegan (Dave's PC) becomes Deanie's new lieutenant. He eventually gets rid of Deanie and becomes leader of the renamed Finnegan Boys. Dylan (Pat's PC) becomes the Finnegan Boys' primary enforcer. The Finnegan Gang gets along much better with Big Boss Massere (the shadowy crime king of Lakefront City) than Big Al's lot ever did.
  • Since Bobby O'Reilly (Loren's PC) is personally loyal to Deanie, Dylan whacks him during the Finnegan coup. A few hundred .45 calibre bullets will slow down even the sickest psycho.
  • When in 1934 Congress expands the power of the FBI to go after the mob, the Finnegan Boys are high on the priority list. Organized crime in Lakefront City is broken up. Thomas gets away by turning state's evidence against Big Boss Massere.
  • Dylan is gunned down by law enforcement officials as he strolls out of the Biograph Theatre. Apparently the Feds thought some other guy was going to be there. Turns out it was a simple mix-up between the names Dylan and Dillinger.
  • O'Connor goon Toothpick Cassidy (an NPC) goes on to further adventures. In his grey years he will show kids the gold watch he took off of Al Tolino's bullet-ridden corpse and tell them wild tales of his misspent youth.

All in all, I think the campaign went very well. The players all got into the spirit of things, making it a very fun game for me to run. I dig playing with these guys.

I learned some important things from the experience. Despite my difficulties in keeping the earlier Home Team project afloat, the mini-campaign structure as I envision it is a viable concept. I think the key difference between the two attempts is that this time I had a group of players committed to a regular schedule. By sticking to the schedule and structuring the campaign for a short burst of activity, we were able to cram a whole lot of kickass into just a couple months of gaming.

So where do we go from here? It looks like my Occult Crimes Taskforce idea will be coming soon to a gaming table near me, but maybe not until the beginning of '05. Until Dennis's Everknight game ends and OCT rolls out, we'll be playing some other stuff. Looks like Pat is going to run Marine Corpse, a soldiers versus zombies freebie for Savage Worlds. That oughta rock.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Time To Get Serious... ?

I've been approached by another fella who is interested in partnering up and taking the plunge into game publishing. We're talking maybe PDFs using the OGL and various OGL-like structures. I've had thoughts along these lines for quite some time, even moreso since I started checking out the sorts of things for sale at RPGnow. A good idea executed in 6 to 12 pages seems to be worth about a buck a copy to the PDF-buying public. I think there's a lot of smallish projects I could do, particularly using things like the anime SRD from Guardians of Order.

If I do get into the game biz, even in this small way, I will have to make some changes. At least some of my actual play will need to support whatever project I am working on. The 6 Islands Campaign would either need to be put on indefinte hiatus, scrapped or reworked as a viable commercial product. This blog will either need to directly support my game-writing or move down the priority list. In general, I will need to exercise more self-discipline. Less screwing around on the computer, more actual writing. Still, anticipation of the sense of accomplishment of writing and publishing even a tiny contribution to the hobby really electrifies me.

GM Alert

Writer Raided for Researching Terrorism

I have yet to see confirmation of the story linked to above. Still, I think it might be a good idea, given the current political climate, that any GM doing research for a modern campaign keep this cautionary tale in mind. If, like me, you sometimes hit the library and Google looking for stuff to use in your game, maybe you should stick to games with obvious fantasy or sci-fi elements. That espionage campaign can wait. I'd probably feel braver about the situation if I was still a bachelor, but as a family man I don't feel like becoming a martyr of free speech over a stupid game. And if you want to stick it to the Man, you can always run Paranoia. Or something post-apocalyptic.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Make That A Five Game Week

Today over my lunch I bought a lottery ticket. Not much of a game considering I exercised the "let the machine pick a random number" option, but I figure if My Guy loses the election I could maybe win 66 million dollars as a consolation prize.

No El Grande or Puerto Rico last night. Instead we played two games of Ticket to Ride and a hand of Bohnanza. I continued to suck at the Bean Game, but I placed 2nd and 3rd in the two games of Ticket. Not bad. Jim is gone next week, off to a big computer geek convention in Pittsburgh, so not much of a chance of playing El Grande. Maybe Puerto Rico is still a possibility.

I'm starting to get the Traveller bug again. Classic Traveller is the game I got to when I'm itching to do something in a simulationist mode. Today it struck me that I could use blogging technology to track some solitaire trading missions, maybe plunk a free trader down on the Spinward Main and try to make a living on speculative cargo runs. I read today on the RPGnet that the Starter Edition of CT had a variant space combat system that used the abstracted range band mechanic. I had that same idea a while back. Maybe I need to track down a copy. Traveller is a good line for the game collector who likes to putz around with his collection, rather than just having them sit on a shelf gathering dust.

Tomorrow night is my Mob War finale. I still have some work to do on it. I'm trying to avoid any overt monkeying with the expectations of the players, like "OH NOs the Basque somehow survived!" and I don't want to amp up the arms race even further (one war surplus flamethrower and a couple of molotovs did that just fine). Given the way the game has unfolded, I'm hoping to sell the fact that this is really the final throwdown with the Tolino Mob will itself carry sufficient dramatic energy to propel the campaign to a conclusion.

In the past couple of days I've embarked upon some tentative explorations in the blogosphere. In the upper githhand corner of this page you ought to see a "next blog" link. Apparently that's a URL shuffler that sends you to a random blogspot blog. Weird, wacky stuff out there. Vapid twit blogs, pornblogs, political blogs, lotsa foreign language blogs, spamblogs, blogs that were started but never posted to, blogs that collate news stories about a single subject, more vapid twit blogs, cosplayers, BDSMblogs, "pro-anorexia" blogs, dog enthusiast blogs, and much much more.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Well, I think I've finally got a presentation glitch work out on this here blog. My sidebar was fitting in the space provided and so appeared below the rest of the content. If the blog looks goofed up, just drop me an email. Oh, and Pat, please send me an email anyway. I have not received the email you sent my old account, so I don't know your gmail address.

Four Game Week

Yesterday my sister and I managed to play three two-handed games of Carcassonne. She drubbed me all three times, the middle game I played so badly that we didn't even finish counting points at the end. She had that big a lead. In the first game I played too many farmers, while in the second game I played too many cities and didn't get enough farming done. The last game I just blew in every conceivable way. It didn't help that I drew 3 cloisters in a row with no meeples in my hand. I tell you, I'm about ready to buy her a copy of the game for Christmas just so she will stop beating me with my own stick. :)

Tonight is boardgames night with the grognard set. I'm hoping we'll get a chance to play El Grande with the Inquisitor expansion, or Puerto Rico in the alternative. I wouldn't mind another shot at Bohnanza as well. Still, I'm sure whatever we end up playing will be fine.

Tomorrow is election day. Here's a fun game to play: predict the outcome of the election, the electoral college breakdown, and, most importantly, when the shouting will be over. My guess is that Mr. Kerry will win with electoral college numbers in the high 280's or low 290's but that Mr. Bush will not concede until the 3rd. I don't think either candidate has any intention of conceding the election on Election Day no matter how clearcut it looks.

Wednesday night is to be my last run of Mob War, featuring the final showdown between the Tolino Mob and the O'Connor Boys. Lo, there shall be a reckoning.