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Showing posts from April, 2013

W is for What I talk about at lunch today

One of the small joys of my life is being able to occasionally have lunch with friends (instead of the frequent work-related lunch) when I can talk about things I like, such as gaming.  So it was today when the member of my gaming group who also runs his own game on the side and I had lunch at the Japanese ricebowl diner near my house.
Side note: having places like Japanese ricebowl diners and Vietnamese diners and Indian takeout curry places is one of the true treasures of my Midwestern oasis.
As I said, we were talking gaming.  He's in the midst of a fairly ambitious D&D campaign, not your typical D&D fare but a "sword and sandal" epic set in ancient times.  Less Tolkein, more Harryhausen.  He's a good six months or so into it and it starting to encounter those challenges that all GM's face at a certain point, but that's for his own blog post if he wishes.
On my end, we talked about Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and its pending demise as an actively supp…

V is for Very Large Piece of Taskboard

This is a 30" by 40" piece of taskboard that I bought yesterday.  Taskboard is a fibrous kind of matte board made from recycled wood pulp favored by architecture students for making models.  It is flexible, cuts and sands easily, and isn't exactly cheap.  It comes in 1/32" to 1/8" widths.  This board is 1/8" thick, and I use it sometimes for basing Hirst Arts constructs like modular dungeons or buildings.
Between creating stuff for RPG's, painting miniatures, or building plaster terrain, what I'm interested in has a lot to do with my mindset.  If I'm fired up and creative, then I'm using doing RPG material.  If I'm centered and focused, then I'm painting miniatures.  If I'm just needing mindless drudgery, then I'm casting molds of plaster, which doesn't take a ton of energy and focus but will keep me occupied.  Given how I felt back at the "T" entry, I'm obviously in a terrain-building mood.  So I bought a…

U is for Underperforming Supers RPG's

All right, I can do this.  Back on the "A-to-Z" thing.
I just saw some news over at The Other Side blog that Margaret Weis Productions will no longer be making books for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  Tim, the blogger at The Other Side, speculated that it was because you needed the right group to make it work.   I've been playing it a few times with my group, and he might be right.
I'll also go one further and say that the game's lack of rules for building your own character and advancing that character, both staples of most RPG's, probably didn't help.
I own the core rulebook and the Civil War supplement in hardback. (I'm not a fan of pdf's for reasons I'll go into on another day.)  But I pre-ordered The Initiative through my FLGS, and now they won't be releasing the book.  Here's the news release, by the way.
Naturally, not having a game in print doesn't mean you can't play it, and I'll probably continue on with MHR for a wh…

T is for This is the End of This

When I started this A-to-Z blog thing, I had serious reservations about taking this challenge on.  I was very busy in April, and lot of things were going on.

Well, now lots of more things are going on, and frankly I'm not going to be blogging much over the next week or so at a minimum, much less getting a daily entry in.  I'm sorry, but I have some other, more urgent things that require my attention.  My thanks to the faithful handful of people who have hung in there with me.  Hopefully sometime soon I can get back to at least posting something here.

Until then, positive thoughts always appreciated.

S is for Something

I spent pretty much the entire day traveling back from the conference center.  Well, that's not entirely true, I spent 14 hours door-to-door traveling from the conference center back to my home, and I somewhat foolishly decided to jump right back into work today.  The conference center material actually suggested that after eight days of intense introspection and planning, I should give myself a day to transition back into my regular life, but I had a hard time convincing myself that I could say with a straight face "hey I've been gone eight days to a place that cooked all my meals, catered to my every whim, forced me to spend hours lounging about thinking, and now I really need to pamper myself a bit before I tackle my regular job."

So I didn't, and I should have, because I'm fatigued.  Travel, jet lag, and yes the difficult process of placing my shoulder to the plow once more have left me wiped out.

And this, and this is petty, but there were 21 people at t…

R is for Really Not Very Good Book

One of the most disappointing things about this week was that I brought two not particularly good books with me to read.  The first was Dan Abnett's very Abnett-esque Ravenor Returns, and the other is the similarly licensed-product novel Edge of Destiny by J. Robert King, a novel written in the universe of the MMORPG Guild Wars.
So, where to begin.  Cardboard characters.  A detailed and even somewhat interesting first half that degenerates into a rushed second half where each chapter features the group of multi-racial, multi-class adventurers facing one uninspired Big Bad Evil Monster after another.  And then to cap it all off, an ending that basically leaves you, the reader, terribly betrayed and let down for any vestige of sentiment you might have towards any of the characters in the book.  A truly pointless ending, leaving me wonder if the idea was to open the door for a sequel, or a misbegotten attempt at pathos and tragedy by the author.
Thankfully I was sent two books by a …

Q is for Quiet

I've been spending a lot of the past week in "quiet time."  Now some of it has been "quiet while you're brainstorming/praying/thinking/writing time" but some of it is out-and-out time just spent being quiet.

Much like novelty, this isn't what I'm used to.  I'm a "constant background noise" kind of person.  Actually I'm a "can hardly sit still" kind of person for that matter.  As it is I would sometimes plant myself in a lawn chair and sit quietly for fifteen minutes or so before I had to get up and walk again.  Thankfully walking the loop at the conference center was an acceptable way to spend quiet time.

As I said, much of what happened over the back half of the conference involved making plans for your own life informed by the lectures and workshops of the first half combined with some preliminary work I did back home and the work done during the contemplative time.  Yesterday I completed three major goals, each of whic…

P is for Peculiar Books for Little Girls

KlawBerry: Good Girl. Bad World.
I spotted this book looking for a present for my kids while I'm away.  Klawberry is a modern folk-tale with an artistic style reminiscent of the old Samurai Jack cartoons.  The main character is a good spirit whose eye is stolen by a demon who uses it to take over the world.  Klawberry, obviously, needs to get it back.

In addition to the book, I also picked up the plush Klawberry doll, complete with eyepatch as well.  My daughter is a little old for the book, but she'll like the weird monsters and superpowered heroine.


O is for Outdoor Chapel

The internet is very, very spotty where I am this week, so I'm having to try to create blog posts in those brief windows when it is working.  In addition I've been fairly busy attending the conference but I do love this outdoor chapel, called someone unimaginatively Rock Chapel (the conference center is, in turn, Chapel Rock, which I believe is a reference to C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). 
It's a beautiful place just to see, much less pray at, so I thought I'd share it today.  I will freely admit that I did have a voice in my head thinking I should work it into some fantasy game at some point, though.

N is for New

Today I met someone who's personal philosophy was essentially "what the hell."  He was, and is a guy who dives into everything head first.

I, however, am not that guy.  I'm a hobbit.  I like my hobbit hole and I like things that are familiar.  I can handle crises, mind you, I just tend to find something I like on the menu and then order it the next half dozen times I'm there.  I get this makes me boring and probably stunts some kind of development, but I'm someone who approaches novelty with a bit of trepidation.

Which is why I am way out of my comfort zone right now.  I'm at a work conference (which I've never done before) in Arizona (where I've never been before) where I know no one and I'm staying here for a week.

And I'm having a good time.  It doesn't hurt that Arizona is beautiful and the retreat center is posh and there is someone whose sole job it is to make sure you have everything you want and work paid for all of it.  So I&#…

M is for Moving

No, I'm not relocating to another job.  I did that a little under three years ago, and it was traumatic enough to convince to me stick my current job, even if they start burning me in effigy.

I'm talking about just moving around.  I'm one of those people who really doesn't like sitting for long stretches of time.  There's a direct connection between my ability to think critically and be creative and being in motion.  Go for a walk, have brainstorms.  Sit down, and some part of my brain shuts off.  My office staff has, I think, gotten used to my just grabbing my coat, saying "I'll be back in five mintues," and then leaving the office.  I've even noticed that when I'm really, really depressed I walk like I'm in slow-motion.

Despite this, I'm distinctly a guy who could use a little more exercise.  If should just simply schedule regular walks during my work days, and maybe do a good long one on my days off.

I'm also moving today is so…

L is for Losing

For those who are new to the blog, I regularly do a little wargaming with miniature soldiers.  My current time period is the Viking age, using a game called Saga.  Today I played with Bill from Wargaming From An Armchair, my Vikings versus his Scots.  In the first game his shooting and my lousy die rolling caused my army to be wiped out before I could cross the two bridges into his territory.  In the second game my rolling was nothing less than amazing and I took a commanding lead early in the "hold the sacred ground" scenario for the win.

So here's some pics of today's game:










K is for Killing

It is an inconvenient truth that roleplaying games are, almost universally, violent in nature.  In fact, I would guess that by pure percentages RPG's are more violent thematically than video games, since video games feature arcade-like themes, sports, etc. while RPG's do not.  I think this would be more of an issue in society (parts of whom are taking a baleful look at video games) if it were not for the fact that playing tabletop roleplaying games has diminished into outright obscurity.

The violence themes in RPG's are often ameliorated by making our usual opponents monsters--orcs, aliens, vampires, etc. and by posing the conflicts in terms of good versus evil, but I'll freely admit that I have my moments of wondering how good it is for my son and I do engage in a hobby that frequently revolves around pretending to kill other things.

It is one of the reasons why I have been enjoying playing a superhero RPG, since outside of the Iron Age the general philosophy of comic…

J is for Just Another Fantasy RPG

Recently a friend told me to take a look at Dungeon World, a more Cortex-esque fantasy RPG.  Ironically enough, I've been wondering about the latest edition of Castles & Crusades, which I ran a few years back.  It's on its fifth edition, which frankly seems a little ridiculous to me, especially because I understand the changes are minimal, but since I skipped the previous four, I'm wondering if enough shifts might back the game worthwhile.
But here's the thing.  I own a lot of fantasy RPG's.  A lot.  For D&D alone I own Basic, Expert, the all-in-one compendium, 1st and 2nd editions of D&D, 3rd and 3.5 Edition, Fourth, Essentials, and now the trial D&D Next.  I also own Hackmaster, Swords & WizardryLabyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, OSRIC, Pathfinder, and the aforementioned Castles & Crusades.  Outside the D&D family tree I own Palladium Fantasy, Dragon Warriors, Rolemaster, Ingenium, and if it counts, two different editions of Ars Magica (…

I is for It's Not Very Good

I was thinking about doing something like "I is for Internet" and talking about the impact the internet has had on the RPG hobby, but it didn't sound that interesting and honestly aside from saying it has had a lot of impact.

But, I did finish a book (or more correctly, a book on CD) called The Games by Ted Kosmatka



Short version: Jurassic Park meets The Hunger Games.  In a dystopic future where advanced in genetic manipulation have been reached, the various countries of the world have added a new event to the Olympics--a gladiator death match featured engineered creatures whose only rule is "no human DNA."  Facing their first loss since the beginning of the games, the Olympic Committee of the US decides to forego its usual practice of designing custom DNA and instead ask the greatest supercomputer in existence (built and controlled by an autistic savant) to create the DNA code instead.  The creature, superior to any previous design and part of a greater secret…

H is for Humor

Either the delight or the bane of a GM's existence, humor seems to be almost omnipresent in roleplaying games, or at least in their implementation.  I've played "serious" games before, games where the plot was grim, the tone dark, etc.  But it is hard to sustain, particularly over time.  At some point, someone cracks a joke or does something wacky and everyone is laughing.
For some GM's, this is extremely frustrating. I saw a Call of Cthulhu game at a convention get wrecked because two of the players were complete clowns.  I've seen tense moments get ruined by people who rely on humor to manage discomfort.  That's some of the difficulty of the craft there.  (It's also a good reason to get the social dimension diffused by eating dinner first, as I mentioned in my last post.)
But I for the most part just roll with it.  I tend to run fairly light-hearted games without a lot of adult or serious themes.  For one thing, my son is in the game, and he is sti…

G is for Gastronomy

I've said before that I think that hospitality is an important part of roleplaying games.  A nice, welcoming place to play is vitally important, and snacks are a great idea.  But I take it one step further in my own game by providing dinner one hour before the game begins with dinner at 6:00 PM, gaming at 7:00 PM, and usually finishing around 11:00 PM.

Offering dinner allows the group to not worry about rushing home to make something to eat.  It also gives the group about an hour (which is more time than you realize) to visit and catch up with the other players about what's going on in their real lives.  Last Friday night, we spent the hour hearing about how one player had been accepted into a PhD program, how another had a new job but that it wasn't going well, how another's kids were doing, and what our plans for the weekend might be.  In addition to just helping friends be friends, it also allows us to get conversation out of the way and focus on gaming for the rest…

F is for Fantasy

A few nights ago the real Irene and I are having a walk around our neighborhood with the kids, and we're talking RPG's (this to counterbalance her tendency to talk a lot about roller derby).  One of the things that we got off onto was the preponderance of fantasy RPG's out there on the market.  Irene's theory was that this was because Dungeons & Dragons was really the first successful RPG, and essentially its genetic core has been dominant in all the offspring that came later.  While I think there's something to that argument, I respectfully disagreed.  First, there were science fiction and other genres represented in RPG's not long after D&D came out, but none of them really succeeded, despite the massive popular culture support that should have been there.  D&D may have had The Lord of the Rings on its side, but Traveller should have had Star Wars and Star Trek.

I think that Fantasy, as a genre, has had several inherent advantages over other genre…

Tales of Robot Romance!

So, we had our second session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  The PC's who were present were the Ferret, Mr. Eternity, Samkhara, and Abrasax the Gargoyle.

The story begins with the Ferret (in his secret identity as Max Collins) taking a day off for a drive up the coastline.  He's accompanied by Samkhara, who just wanted a chance to get away and have some fun.

While stopping to get fuel and a soda, the Ferret and Samkhara notice people running in terror down the street.  Samkhara uses her fear-based telepathy to ascertain that a robot is destroying the center of the small community.  The Ferret drives to the downtown area, only to have a statue crash into his car, destroying it and hurting both him and his companion.  The robot is going berzerk, tearing up everything in the area.

The Ferret quickly changes costumes, calls Mr. Eternity on his cell phone, and he and Samkhara engage the robot, who as it turns out as a human brain (albeit one consumed with fear and confusion).  Mr. …

E is for Enough

Wow, one week in and I'm already bored with my own "April A to Z Concept."  I think that, rather than continue to grind my way through the whole "deCom" concept, I can simply synopsize how the campaign would work.

PC's are heavily armed cyborgs with possible anti-social tendencies.  In short, your typical RPG group.Adventures initially revolve around killing bigger and badder robots.Roleplaying opportunities exist between the RPG group and other deCom crews, government officials, and shady arms dealers.The campaign really gets rolling when there's a shift in the system, e.g. the mimints turn out to be more intelligence than believed, the First Families get anxious about how they've created an uncontrolled mass of super-soldiers in their own back yard, or (SPOILER ALERT) the Martian AI satellites begin to connect with the mimints and/or deCom command heads.I didn't get around to mentioning the Martian AI satellites?  Oh well, they're there.  Y…

D is for Drava

On the coast of New Hokkaido is the city of Drava.  Originally a small fishing village on the coast, Drava became the beachhead for the military campaign to reclaim the large island.  When the Mecsek Initiative began, Drava was abandoned by most of the government military personnel and replaced with deCom.  Only a small group of logistical military personnel remain on Drava serving as military police, strategic command, housing maintenance, food services, etc. At any given time Drava contains between 500 to 1000 deCom participants, living in plastic fabricated housing.  Twice a day large hovercraft travel between the mainland and Drava, bringing in deCom crews and taking them back to civilization where they can resupply, get major medical attention, or just go home. For the most part, crews are housed together with separation by the sexes largely ignored or maintained just in a building-by-building level.  The military oversees most of the law enforcement, but crime is surprisingly ra…

C is for Cyberware

In addition to cutting edge weaponry and (for those who can afford it) paramilitary vehicles, one of the most important tools for deCom is cyberware.  Cybernetic implants that improve reaction time, senses (especially sight), and auto-medicate during times of injury and common.  Others implant weaponry, or genetically modify their bodies with animal DNA or enhanced muscle tissue.  But there are two other cybernetic implants that are very important for deCom.

The first is the cortical stack, a universal cybernetic implant usually grafted onto a body shortly after birth.  A person's brain activity, their very personality, is converted to a digital format, and then downloaded onto a cortical stack and re-implanted in the body.  From then on, the cortical stack controls the body.  The stack is impact-resistant and is located at the base of the skull.  When a person is injured, the stack can be removed and the consciousness uploaded into another body, such as a clone, a synthetic body,…

B is for Bounty

Forty years ago, the government of Harlan's World faced multiple crises: a downturn in the economy, growing discontent over the ruling oligarchy, burgeoning governmental budgets,planetary overpopulation, and the threat of the mimints on New Hokkaido.  To counter these problems, the First Families launched what became known as the Mecsek Initiative, which included draconian cuts to governmental infrastructure and the creation of the Bounty and deCom.

Put simply, the government would offer a cash reward for any destroyed mimint.  Rather than allocate military forces to the Uncleared zones, freelance mercenaries called deCom (for "decommissioners") would be licensed by the government.  The government provided the most basic of billeting and coordination for deCom members, who in turn would have to provide their own weapons, equipment, cyberware, and other tools of the trade.

An entire economy was created around the Bounty, as underemployed (and potentially violent) youth co…

A is for Artificial Intelligence

Artifical Intelligence

Three hundred years ago the rebellion against the government of Harlan's World by the Quellists was entering into its final phase.  Certain factions among the Quellists, sensing their cause against the aristocracy was doomed, hatched a plan to create a series of self-replicating robots, guided by crude artificial intelligences, which could continue to cause havoc long after their defeat.  The project was successful, and the robots, called Mimints (military machine intelligences), managed to kill or drive back most of the residents of the island of New Hokkaido.

After three hundred years, the artificial intelligences that control the mimints are far from sophisticated, usually only possessing simple patrol/kill programming.  Others bear the semblances of humanity, but are incapable of true human interaction, instead constantly pontificating on the socio-political and economic philosophies of Quellism when encountered by radio or digital communication.

Rumors …

The A-to-Z Challenge: DeCom

I've been waffling on doing this blogging challenge on the grounds that I'll be away from home for over a week, and am not sure that I'll have access to the internet or the opportunity to blog during that time.

But, I'm a sucker for a dare, and given that Adam over at Barking Alien is doing it, not to mention a few other friends, I thought I'd at least give it a try.  What I'll probably do is attempt to pre-write the blog entries for the days I'll be gone, and then schedule their uploads in advance.  That's a bit more pressure on what is already a loaded two weeks, but I think I can manage it.

Rather than do another run of supervillains again, like Adam is doing, I decided I would outline an RPG campaign called deCom based on the book Woken Furies by Richard Morgan, the third of his "Takeshi Kovacs" series.  While not based on the main plot of the book, deCom instead focuses on a side-plot of the book, the vast area of Harlan's World unde…