Friday, September 30, 2005

A new Traveller die

Hardcore Traveller fans probably recall the official Traveller dice: black d6's with Imperial starbursts surrounding micr-fontish numbers. A new die is being offered, designed by dice freak Kevin Cook, that may be of interest to the LBB fans. This new die allows you to randomly generate hexdecimals. Behold!

You can buy a dHex here.


So for the last week or so I've been poking around a bit in Wikipedia, mostly looking up the kayfabe biographies of professional wrestlers. The rasslin' section is quite extensive. While I was flipping through pages I decided to see if anyone had updated the Wraeththu entry. Lo and behold, someone has added and external link to my very own Wraeththu Report. It's very nice to see links back to that, as it was a lot of work to put together.

Although in a previous post I was ragging on Kaissa, the Gorean chess variant, I've since considered that maybe the game ought to be allowed to stand on its own two feet apart from its dubious origin. I think maybe it's because I recalled a maxim from Old Man Murray: "If it was found that Hitler had designed a FPS in his final days in the bunker, I would give it a try and hope that it was good." To this end I am working on a Chess Variants page that examines the game in a vacuum, much the same way I approached Enochian Chess. Here's my attempt to put Kaissa on a graphical footing more in line with the mainstream of chess variants, if such a mainstream actually exists:

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Unlockables: WTF?

Prior to getting this X-box thingy, my last serious go at video games was in college. Particularly with Doom, which I discovered just before finals one semester. That proved disastrous. As near as I can recall, there was one or two secret goodies in Doom, a gun called the BFG 3000 (kinda a full auto laser rocket launcher) and a godmode cheat. Prior to Doom most of my video gaming had been on the Atari 2600, the NES, and the C-64. I don't remember much in the way of unlockables in those games, unless you count accessing the next level of the board. Somewhere between Doom and the present unlockable features have gotten completely out of control. Here's my beef: I paid for the whole game, not just the portions that some numbnuts decided I should be able to see. Apparently someone thinks I need to earn the priviledge of accessing some parts of the game. Well guess what? I already earned that priviledge, with my money.

Now I understand that the sweet spot in any good game lies somewhere between 'godmode' and 'impossible to beat' but I think too much stuff is being locked up in some games these days. Case in point: Legends of Wrestling II. Despite the opinions to the contrary I am finding this to be a fun game to play. But all the stuff that starts locked is making me nucking futz. I have to unlock several of the venues? Why should I even care that much about which squared circle I have to go to in order to pound the snot out of Jimmy Snuka? But what really gets me is the number of characters that have to be unlocked. Sure they give you Hogan and Andre and Piper right out of the box. Making you unlock the Hulkster would probably set off riots. But dammit, I want to play Andy Kaufman and I want to play him right now!! His picture on the back of the box is what sold me this game, you stupid bastards! I could understand if you made him a super secret bonus character and I didn't know that he was on the disc until after I unlocked him. But this is just meanspirited teasing.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Glimpse of FlatCon

So I actually made it over to FlatCon in Bloomington. Due to scheduling snafus I was unable to run my game on Friday, but I did get to stop by for a brief visit on Saturday. My sister and I played some Ticket to Ride with a friend of hers on the staff and the couple running the Noble Hero Press booth. These folks were hawking a d20 superhero game called Beyond Mere Mortals that probably would've made fat loot had it been released back at the height of the d20 boom. Here in the present I don't have much hopes for it to be a breakout success. The other vendors included the game & anime shop from Springfield (the one that comes to Winter War), a card & clicky man, someone selling fan bootlegs of radio and TV shows, Khyber Pass Games (their Alamo wargame, Deguello at Dawn, looked awesome), and one nice fellow hawking a chess variant called Kaissa.

This last case is a weird one. An itching in the back of my skull told me I had encountered Kaissa before (probably at the Chess Variants pages) but I couldn't remember anything about it. The guy at the booth was selling little booklets outlining the game rules for only 2 bucks, so I bought one. Turns out Kaissa is the chess variant described by John Norman in one of his Gor books! In case you are out of the loop, the basic premise of the Gor series is that swords & sorcery fiction needs more objectification of women. Almost all women on the planet Gor are property, pleasures slaves to be whipped and fucked at their master's command. And the women like it. I can be as kinky as the next guy, but Mr. Norman really seems to be attempting to argue that life on Gor is the way things ought to be. If you want to learn more about this stuff, go google it or check out the wikipedia entries or something.

The thing that I find most interesting about this whole situation is the fact that nothing at the booth or in the booklet or that the guy said gave any hint whatsoever about the connection to Gor. To the untrained eye Kaissa looked like any other chess variant doomed to obscurity. Which, as a game, is exactly what it is. I'm just kinda creeped out by the way the presentation of the game was completely divorced of its context. Not to cast unnecessary aspersions at Mr. Norman's character, but imagine this scenario: You find a new game. You love the game. You play it for years. Then someone tells you that the author of your now-favorite game is someone whom you consider despicable. Ivan the Terrible created Monopoly. Poker was invented by Torquemada. It turns out that E. Gary Gygax is a pen-name for Adolf Hitler. Etc. I understand that an artist and their work are not one and the same, but my sister was at that convention. 'Nuff said.

Back to FlatCon. Unsurprisingly I saw some familiar faces from Winter War. Jeff Kopec and Tom Pennell were seen in the boardgame and minis areas. Over at the RPGA section you could find James Holzhauer and Thom Hendricks. I'm sure there were others I knew present, but I was very deeply engaged with whupping Jenn at Ticket to Ride. You gotta understand, we have that sibling rivalry thing going and she's better than me. I have to work extra hard to beat her.

Let's also talk about the venue. Previous FlatCons had been held at Illinois Weslyan University, but the con outgrew the facilities they had been using at Weslyan. So this year the location was the Interstate Center, which is basically a big ass metal shed with concret floors and warehouse style lighting subdivided into large, sterile halls. It sucked. Probably the worst con venue I've ever been in. I can only think of three good things to say about it: there was plenty of room in the shed, the parking lot was right next to the place, and the chairs didn't suck. As to the bad, there was plenty. The average table was lamer than the worst table the Chancellor would give us for Winter War. The bathrooms were hidden in a labyrinth guarded by an irate minotaur. The concession stand was actually a band of brigands armed with kitchen utensils. I bought breakfast for Jenn and I. The sign said "biscuits & gravy". The gravy was fine, but apparently "biscuits" plural meant "a single English muffin, quarted". At the time, I thought the concessions stand was being operated by and for the benefit of the con, so I did not complain. Jenn reported later that the InterState Center was actually to blame. I understand that it is standard procedure to gouge me for three bucks for a pop that would cost 75 cents at a gas station, but this biscuit bait-and-switch is absolutely beyond the pale.

The con staff seemed like friendly people, but the operation seemed less organized than several other cons I have attended. Sign-ups for games used the put-your-name-on-the-wallchart method, which I find to be a pretty loosey-goosey way of doing things. I didn't really notice any staffers checking up on the games or noting which ones were actually running versus which ones were duds. I did overhear two staffers talk about counting the number of people in the room, and apparently attendance on Saturday morning was about 40 people. Jenn reports the hall got significantly busier later in the day after I left.

One final note: They had some LAN games and such set up. Jenn and I tried Dance Dance Revolution, with the screen projected onto the wall of the shed. That was fun, but I wasn't properly dressed for that kind of activity. I ended up bowing out early because the jeans I was wearing were either going to trip me up or split up the middle. Neither sounded like a fun addition to my con experience. Still, I am seriously considering getting DDR and some pads for the X-Box.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Juggernaut Engineered for Fighting and Fun

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

it's Latin for "laughter"

So I've decided to do my "Fantabulous Five" silly superheroes game using S. John Ross's excellent free comedy game Risus. I even signed up to join the International Order of Risus, thereby gaining access to the Risus Companion. Now Risus itself is only 6 pages, a powerhouse game packed into 6 pages, but still only 6 pages. I was a bit dubious about shelling out ten bucks for a 64-page supplement to a 6-page game, but let me tell you I was not disappointed. Risus is distilled awesome, but adding in the Companion only makes it better. Very little of it is actual rules add-ons, all of which are completely optional. Mostly the Companion looks at what makes the Risus system tick, sort of an extended designer's notes.

Anyway, here are some first draft stat blocks for three members of the Fantabulous Five:

Captain Ultra
caped ubermensch (4)
plumber (3)
member of the Arnim Zola Defamation League (3)
exemplar of truth, justice, & the American Way (1)

Hook: faints in the presence of fire, even a lit match

Blue Streak
suave superspy (4)
hi-tech rollerderby stunt jockey (3)
disco inferno (2)
former corporate sell-out (1)

brash New Yorker (4)
winged wonder (3)
electronic tinkerer (2)
sports fan (1)

The number in parentheses represents a die pool of d6's. Standard Risus is exlusively d6 based. The optional rules allowing for other dice types were specifically designed for things like superpowers, but I don't thing I need them. The F5 crew are so low-powered the cubes ought to work just fine.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Woe unto me!

I have brought shame upon the House of Rouismoff. Today I bought Legends of Wrestling II, so that I would have a game to play on the X-box my wife won. I'm still learning the control interface. Clearly I should not have selected Andre the Giant as my wrestler. That was a mistake. For now the memory of the beloved Andre is sullied by a loss. A loss! A loss to Kerry Von Erich! What could I possibly do, what penance could I serve, to wipe this stain from the pages of wrestling history?

Friday, September 16, 2005

I've had a CafePress account for a while now...

...but today I finally put up a product. This sticker: That's right. It's Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on Calvin peeing on...

I would explain to you the process whereby this image came into my mind, but it really makes no damn sense. This image became a sticker at the behest on the inscrutable Dr. Rotwang, an RPGnetter.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Another Tale from the Dorkside

(I originally wrote this one for an old RPGnet thread entitled "Worst character intro to a party?" The very next poster declared that I had 'won' the thread. This tale comes from the same campaign as the previous post.)

Me and my schoolchums all went through a lot of PCs in Jim's campaign. We usually brought along two or three spare PCs apiece. Sometimes we went through all of them in a session. I guess you could call it a killer campaign, except that we had our share of hard-won victories.

But one incident always kinda soured the game for me. My latest replacement PC was my coolest character yet, at least in my mind. His name was Arius Claudius and he was a gladiator. He wore bronze plate and wielded a trident. (Fun fact: in AD&D 1st edition the one-handed weapon with the best average damage was the trident.) I was totally jazzed about playing this guy. Well, I guess Jim thought he would do me a favor by introducing my guy in the middle of the dungeon, but that I would have to pay for that priviledge. So the PCs discover me in the next room they enter. My guy is naked, tied up with big leather straps, bent over a barrel, with a lubed-up ass. Apparently the DM thought it would be funny if my guy was introduced as the bondage rape-toy of the troll in the next room over. The players were kind enough to release me. My first act in play was to secure my equipment and kill that damn troll.

My playgroup was composed of teenaged boys, except for the DM who was old enough to have known better. For years afterwards the rest of the players thought it was funny to bring up the fact that my guy Arius was some troll's plaything. The whole thing soured me on playing the character, but I toughed it out and had some good adventures with Arius, right up until he made one draw too many from a Deck of Many Things and wound up imprisoned.

That was going on 15 years ago now. I sometimes wonder if I could play the same character today, but try to actually grapple with playing a heroic fighter who is also a rape survivor. But at the time it was clearly the worst character intro I could imagine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Tale from the Dorkside

(reposted from RPGnet, 'cause I wanted to save a copy.)

I was playing Botonomus Bradlebreek, half-elf neutral druid/magic-user. Dave was playing Bud the Wiser, lawful good cleric. Eric was playing Krug, chaotic stupid half-ogre fighter. We're in a dungeon which can only be accessed via a 200' deep pit when Botonomus is struck down by a critter that had been released from a cage. For reasons which I do not fathom to this day, Dave decides to pimp me over. Bud informs Krug that my guy is dead even though Botonomus was simply unconscious at 0 hit points. Being a cleric, Bud performs the last rites on me or whatever and then tells Krug, "We can't leave him here as food for monsters, nor can we possibly make it back up the pit with his body. Let's inter the remains in this handy monster cage." They then leave the dungeon and pull up the only rope the party owns, abandoning my unconscious PC in a dungeon at the bottom of a two hundred foot deep pit.

But I got revenge. Dave thought I wouldn't be able to get myself out of this tight spot, but he forgot that I could cast stone shape. Once I regained consciousness I 'dug' a tunnel through the cell floor and shaped a ladder up the pit. Given the volume of stone that I needed to sculpt the whole operation took several days with my guy slowly dying from lack of food and water. ("Since he's dead he won't need his rations or wineskin, we might as well take them." -Bud.) Once I tracked the two ratfinks down I waited until they were separated, then I went to work on Krug. Botonomus covered himself from head to toe in flour and appeared in Krug's room late at night.

"Krug, you left me for dead! Now I will haunt you for the rest of time! Boogah! Boogah! Boo!"

"No, please! Me do whatever you want, just no haunt Krug!"

"The only way to save yourself is to kill Bud!"

Eric was the kind of player that welcomed any excuse to kill another PC. So Krug promptly sauntered over to the place where Bud was staying and gleefully whacked on him with his bastard sword until the treacherous priest was good and dead. Worst thing about the whole fiasco was that at the end of the session Dave was pissed at me! "I never thought you'd make it out of the dungeon!" was his mean-spirited justification for his irrational anger. That was going on 15 years ago. I still don't know what made him decide that his lawful good cleric needed to act that way.

Sunshine & Lemonade

Last night was my night with the boardgame group. I'm starting to get my sealegs with these guys. When we first started meeting I was more than a tad intimidated. The host is the grogniest grognard I've ever met. On a table in his basement is an in-progress setup of a playtest version of one of those supermonster hex-n-chit games where you play out the entirety of WWII on the sqad level or whatever. This same guy is retired from being one of the brains they plug into the system to keep the U of I's computer networks up and running. And then there's my brother-in-law. He's also a grade 'A' computer jockey and counter-pusher. And then when you get the whole group together the lot of them talk about sports using that arcane lingo that is impenetrable to any but the sort of feller who has followed the pro scene their entire lives. Any one of these guys has forgotten more about sports than I'll ever know.

So it's nice to know that once in a while I can squeeze a win out from under the noses of this set. Last night we played El Grande. I must admit that it was entirely my idea to play this game. El Grande is one of those games with a deucedly simple core mechanic but lots of fiddly little bits that a game nut can chew on. Last night was a nice boost to the confidence because I was able to take the lead fairly early into the game and hold on to it, all while most of the rest of the table was rightfully attacking me as the points leader. Sweet!

Not so sweet is the Flat Con situation. I am still going to the con. But I can't go the Friday as planned and will probably get to one session on Saturday morning. Somewhere along the way in planning for this event, my sister contacted our mother about babysitting the grandkids. I love my mom, but anytime stuff like this comes up I end with my schedule unnecessarily complicated. Since more scheduling shenangins could happen between now and then I'm going to preemptively cancel my Excursion into the Bizarre event. And they just got it onto the official schedule. Le sigh.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Another Silly Browser Game

So I recently started playing NationStates, a cute little country simulator. You make broad policy decisions and can participate in the UN and regional alliances. It's very light and easy to putter with for a few minutes a day. Since Latveria and Fredonia were already taken (no big shocker there), I decided to name my country Evil Uruguay in honor of RPGPundit and Steven Seagal. Seems Mr. Seagal's latest project involves an adventure in a version of Uruguay so far from reality that even Jerry Bruckheimer and Uwe Boll would be taken aback.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

FlatCon, for sure this time

I've dithered about it for 2 years now, but this year I am absolutely going to FlatCon in Bloomington. This time I'm not going to change my mind at the last minute, because I just submitted an event to run. Assuming anyone is crazy enough to sign up for it, I will be running Excursion into the Bizarre on Friday afternoon of the con. I also just ordered eight d24's to use for the event. Stat checks in EitB normally use 4d6. Maybe I'm the laziest gamer in the world, but I find rolling and totalling that many dice to be a pain. And the linear probability spread of a single die better fits a comedy game anyhow.

Now I got to get cracking on some charsheets and an adventure. My adventure idea is a two-parter. In the first part an NPC party member (the only human in the party) has just found a hot lead to get the party back to their home dimensions. Unfortunately he has subsequently gone missing. Once they find the ersthile human, the second part if following up on the lead, which involves mad science. I'd say more, but I don't want to give away my rivetting excuse for violent hijinks plot. For PCs I'm going with an eightpack of the following: elf, dwarf, orc, troll, bull, catgirl, skunk, and platypus. I think the elf will be a mage of indeterminate gender. The platypus will be a fighter pilot. Do you think a halfing is inherently funnier than a dwarf? I'm not sure which is a better choice.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Putrid Joe: Zombie Lord

My Urban Dead character Putrid Joe has reached twelfth level and now possesses all the skills available for dead characters. I am the ultimate zombie!!!!11!!11!!! Mostly I've been satisfied to push Joe around the city map and chomp on whatever members of the living I happen to catch out of doors. But lately I've been tearing into barricaded buildings and gorging upon the fleshy treats inside.

My human characters, Little Eddie and Buck Rodriguez, both have been zombified. That kinda bums me out. Little Eddie was slowly but surely gaining XPs by spraypainting graffiti on monuments and schools and Buck was a one man zombie fighting army. Now that they're dead I just don't have nearly as much interest in them. Ah well, maybe some kind mad scientist with revivify them.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Campaigns and One-Shots

My D&D and MnM campaigns are sputtering along, but the end of both is within sight. My superhero game was always explicitly 12 'issues' and we're over the hump. I think my D&D campaign will last no longer than the conclusion of the Dungeon Interludes module from Goodman Games, but I might be able to get a few sessions past that with Dungeon adventures and internet freebies and such. But I am not prepared to buy any more 3.5 modules and I don't own much stuff that will support 3.5 play past 10th level or so.

So where do I go from here? One idea I've had is to concentrate on one-shots and mini-campaigns. I'd like to run World of Synnibarr for a session or two. I've got an idea for a connected series of one-shots (an action movie tetrology, actually) for Feng Shui. And I've got lots of crazie indie and small press crap I'd like to try. Converting my small store of Boot Hill material over to Savage Worlds ought to yield a fun mini-campaign. And I'd like to do some more wargaming one-shots. More Starmada and BattleTech especially, but also Greg Stolze's Meatbox Massacre and some Dawn Patrol.

And then there's All Flesh Must Be Eaten. I'd like to do something zombified with it. A one-shot. A mini-campaign. A con event. Something. If I were to run a new ongoing campaign (i.e. with no pre-determined endpoint or victory condition) then AFMBE is on the short list. Either a longterm zombieworld game or else a non-zombie wrestling campaign (using Zombie Smackdown's wrestling rules). Now that I think about it, a wrestling campaign with an explicit victory condition could work. "First PC to win the big championship wins the campaign." That could work, but I'd need to figure out a way to make tag-teams relevant. Hmmmm.

For the upcoming Winter War (and I've been assured that there will be a Winter War in '06, despite the demolition of our past venue) I'm thinking about running three games. Now that I've reviewed it, I really want to run Excursion into the Bizarre. Assuming anybody will sign up for it. Second, I told Kathleen (RPGnetter coeli) that I would run my Fantabulous Five superhero idea as a Winter ar event. I haven't settled on a rules system, but I'm leaning towards rules light and possibly comedic. Strong candidates at the moment are Powergame and Risus. My main problem running rules light is that I tend to sputter out after about 2 hours with most rules light games. Maybe a planned intermission would help me with that. I'd like to run a third game, but at the moment I'm split between a Saturday night horror game (probably AFMBE) or running something crazy, like SenZar or World of Synnibarr. The problem with running Synnibarr is that I would probably need two 4-hour con slots, one to make the PCs and one to play the game. Because if you are going to sucker people into playing Synnibarr, you absolutely must put them through the nonsensical meatgrinder that is char gen.