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Monday, 29 February 2016

Pictures from Uruguay: Culture, Explosive Gas, and Cats in a Fix

So, I've been busy working on some journalism, and on the slowly-developing review of Castle Gargantua. So today we get some pictures from Uruguay!

Here's a theater a couple of blocks from my house:

Montevideo is a city just full of art and cultural material, especially compared to what you might be used to in North America. There's tons of theaters, museums, concert halls, and other spaces of the sort.  And they aren't just one in one area, they're quite dispersed all over in various neighborhoods, so people have some kind of cultural locale close to where they live.  I'll also note that all the museums are free, which is a big plus for tourists (and concerts or plays are usually very inexpensive by 1st world standards).

Here's a couple of other houses I just found interesting:

Note the red truck in this first one: it's carrying several 13kg canisters of natural gas.  Most houses (except for some of the very fancy apartment buildings) still take care of their gas needs this way.  They deliver it to your house, take the empty canister, and plug the new one into your gas stove or gas heater.  For me, one of these lasts about 3-4 months (and currently costs about $16).  Some expats feel very nervous about these at first, both in their house and also on the streets when they see one of these delivery vehicles!

And here's a house with some impressive foliage.

It's not uncommon, at least in this neighborhood, to see houses with really bright paint jobs.  I suspect this style came to Montevideo originally in the 19th century from the former or escaped slaves who settled here after leaving or fleeing Brazil (Uruguay abolished slavery quite early, in 1842, while Brazil was one of the last western nations to abolish it, in 1888).  Even though Uruguay is today thought of as having one of the most predominantly white-skinned populations in South America, in fact about 9% of the population are Afro-Uruguayans, and almost all of them live in Montevideo (making up something like 15% of the city population).

Finally, a cat causing quite a mess getting her head stuck in a box:


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Balkan Flake

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Wild West Campaign Update

Last night we played the third full session of our Wild West campaign.   My players learned a few interesting things.

-Five of the six players found themselves stuck in a ranch-house with a pregnant indian squaw, a hostile family of Sioux-hating pig ranchers,and the prisoner they were escorting to Hays City to be hung. They were immediately surrounded by the condemned man's four bloodthirsty cousins, and more generally surrounded by Sioux braves on the warpath.

-A shootout ensued with the ranch house surrounded by the cousins which tested the players' skills, and also the learning process of figuring out the mechanics of Aces & Eights combat.  It went fairly well all told, with a lot of help from some great handouts (crib sheets for the combat system) and a VERY helpful player who kept the player side of things organized, managing to guide the less mechanics-trained players on how to figure out their speed and accuracy bonuses.  One of the players found the process a bit too complicated, but the rest were quite excited by a combat system that is a lot more intensive and detailed than D&D.

-They managed to fight off the Tripper cousins, and save the Sioux woman and her newborn; and thus got themselves spared by the Sioux war party in gratitude.

-Amusingly, they had Deputy Marshall Wyatt Earp with them, but he didn't really do anything.

-That group got out without anyone being hurt. Meanwhile, the Mormon gambler found himself intervening to help out the saloon girl he fancies, only to have her former beau hire a local simpleton to shoot him in the guts.  This led to an interesting exploration of the systems for injury, surgery, blood loss, and infection. Surprisingly for us all, the Gambler miraculously recovered in spite of having only 8 CON, thanks to the careful doctoring of the curmudgeonly town doctor.

-The girl he fancies got herself kidnapped by her former beau, but was rescued by Sheriff Charlie Bassett.  He really existed too, and was a great lawman that helped train some of the greatest gunslingers and lawmen of the west, even though he's much less well known today.  Here's a picture:

Though he might as well be this guy:


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Argento Latakia

Saturday, 27 February 2016

"RPGs for Kids" are not Really For Kids

Today, the RPGPundit goes after a group notorious for how well they handle the slightest criticism of anything they do: Parents. Oh, also, millennial hipsters, who are just as renowned for their thickness of skin. Let's do this thing.

I really have to question why it is that the makers of what are supposedly "RPGs for kids" always end up making an RPG when you play kids?

Because when I was a kid, I NEVER wanted to be a kid. I wanted to be an adult. That's what kids want.

You know who wants to play kids? 20-somethings and 30-somethings filled with melancholic nostalgia for their lost innocence, or some kind of total bullshit like that.

(when I was a kid, there's no way I wanted to be this:)

(What I wanted was to be this:)

Or this:

Which again reinforces to me that so much of the "roleplaying with kids" thing is not about the kids at all, but about the parents and adults. It's more a selfish thing than anything else; even if (hopefully) most of the kids involved are still actually having a nice time.

The only kid I ever GMed (who was 9 when he started with us) got to play in my Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign as his "rpg for kids". He did not play a kid. He played a gender-fluid wizard with a penchant for reckless ultraviolence and destruction of life and property. Actually, first he briefly played a Dwarf, then the ultraviolent gender-fluid wizard, but you get the point!

The whole cutesy-poo "kids" thematic of games like the two in the images above and a few others I've seen popping up is not meant to appeal to kids, it's meant to appeal to adult gamers.  At best, adult gamers who are parents, showing them a safely sanitized and bowdlerized G-rated imagery because apparently the second you actually pop out a kid your brain chemicals make you forget what it was actually like to BE one, and what you really like as a kid. At worst, to college-aged hipster millennials who are facing a future of working for minimum wage at food co-ops while paying off that $200000 student loan they got for taking that Maori Studies Degree minoring in Interpretive Feminist Dance, and thus spend their time pining for an idyllic an uncomplicated childhood that never actually was.


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia

Friday, 26 February 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Pundit: Neither anti-intellectual Nor Anti-Artist; RPGs: Still Neither Intellectual Nor Art

You know, I've heard those accusations slung around quite often about me. If I had a dollar for every time someone on an RPG website tried to describe me as "anti-intellectual"... well, I'd probably have several hundred dollars.

Only by now, anyone who reads this blog should know that I'm not anti-intellectual. Likewise, I'm not "Anti-art". I had one of the Swine say this a while back too, claiming that I "hate art". No, I adore art. I listen to classical music almost daily (and other great music; Jazz and Folk and Rock are as much "art" as Classical), visiting the Louvre and the British Museum are two of my fondest memories, in short, my "art appreciation" is quite high.

The mistake the Swine make is in thinking that if I'm not allowing them to say RPGs are "intellectual" or "art" then it must be that I hate these things. Far from it. Its because I value these things, the REAL version of these things, that I don't allow people to mangle them up with nonsense.

I LOVE art, and intellect, and RPGs. What I hate is Pseudo-artists, Pseudo-intellectuals, and Pseudo-RPGs.

READ MY LIPS, FUCKFACE: it doesn't matter HOW MUCH, or HOW LONG you think about RPGs, it still doesn't make them, OR YOU, "intellectual". After all, one can know a fuckload of a lot about Toy Trains, and it doesn't make you an intellectual, it just makes you the fucking Rain Man.
At best, it makes you a "trivialist".

And as for art, sitting around talking about your suffering while pretending to be a vampire is not "art". And don't give me this bullshit about "anything is art", because if anything is art, then NOTHING is. So either yes, everything is art and now, Congratulations Asswipe, art means NOTHING anymore; or "art" DOES mean something, and that's why you're trying to CO-OPT it to give yourself airs of importance far beyond what your capacity or value as an organism actually merits.

I'm not the one who hates Intellect or Art; obviously, it is these Swine who hate intellect and art, they are the ones who are trying to destroy the terms. They hate both Intellect and Art because they know, deep down inside, that they are worthless lazy parasites without so much as an intellectual or artistic bone in their bodies, and that as long as these words actually MEAN something, they will always be judged, and found wanting. But if they can get these words to become meaningless, then whoever is the best Do-Nothing Poseur gets to win, and guess what is the one thing the Swine are actually good at being?

So no, I will preserve those terms, because I love them. And I'll continue to bitchslap those of you who seek to subvert these terms, because you hate them.
And I love RPGs too, which is why I won't let you use those wonderful GAMES, any more than I will let you use language, as a reckless means to attempt to give yourselves unmerited importance at the cost of destroying things of real value.


(Originally Posted November 27, 2009)

Thursday, 25 February 2016

RPGPundit Reviews: The Last Spike

This is a review of the board game "The Last Spike", published by Columbia Games, designed by Tom Dalgliesh, based on an earlier game.

Columbia Games seems to think that I'm as good a board game reviewer as I am an RPG reviewer. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but since I've quite liked almost all of their truly excellent wargames (like Crusader Rex, Napoleon, or Richard III), I sure don't mind getting them.

This game is a bit different, however. It's not a wargame!  Will it be as good?  I guess we'll see.

The Last Spike comes in the same format as Columbia's other games, in a box with an attractive 'sleeve' cover depicting a picture of a 19th century train moving through a mountainous area.  As you may have guessed from the name, the thematic of the game involves the building of the American railways.

The interior of the box contains some counters, a fairly small folded board (by modern board game standards, I'd go as far as to call it tiny), some wooden tiles and counters, and some cards. Also, a mercifully thin rulebook (just four small pages long).

So, The Last Spike is a game for 2-6 players (3-5 is the ideal, we are told). In the game, players cooperate in making a continuous railway from St.Louis to Sacramento, but they compete to get the most money out of land speculation before the titular 'last spike' is laid.

Incidentally, this is not one of those all-nighter type of games (good thing, because I'm too old to have patience for those, anymore; even if I still love a good all-nighter of RPG play).  The typical game takes about 45 minutes, if the rulebook is to be believed.  I suspect that doesn't include setup time or the learning curve of the first couple of games.

The game map shows a number of US cities (significant to the railroad era), and a dozen routes that could connect them. Each route has four slots.  The counters represent sections of track laid (and have special codes to connect them to a specific spot on the board).  The cards mark the value of land, and are apportioned to each city. The counters represent money, divided into blue, red and white chips representing values of $10000, $5000, and $1000 each.

Players start with a certain amount of money, variable depending on how many players there are in total. The railway tiles are placed face down and scrambled, and players each draw a tile to determine who goes first, and then four tiles that they start with (hiding them from other players by putting them upright and facing them). In each turn, players have to play a tile, and will get a new tile at the end of their turn.

In each turn, players will lay a track tile on the map, in its designated space. They have to be played in a certain order, either next to a city or next to a track that has already been laid. Each track has a cost associated with laying it, which must be paid by the player. If you're the first player to play a track next to a city, you get the first (free) land grant for that city. If you are playing a subsequent track tile, you have the option to buy land at the price indicated (after the free land grant). When all the tracks linking two cities have been played, all the players who own land in either connected city get a payoff based on the number of land cards they own from each city.

Lands cannot be exchanged or sold between players; players can sell their land back to the bank for HALF its listed cost. If even by that means you cannot afford to pay for the cost of laying a tile, you are bankrupt and have lost the game.

The game ends when the last track is laid to form a continuous route from St.Louis to Sacramento. The player who plays that last tile gets a $20000 bonus. The winner of the game is the player with the most cash left on hand (land cards are not counted, except in the case of a tie).

That's about it. The game is pleasantly simple!  I haven't had the opportunity to play it as of this writing, but I expect to sometime soon, and when I do I'll likely post about it. In any case, I expect the game to be simple but entertaining enough that it would work either as a family game or between a group of friends. It would be the kind of thing that could be done to kill time while waiting for missing players to your RPG session, for example.

I don't really think this game matches the genius of Columbia's wargames, but given that it's a lot more approachable and will probably have a broader general appeal to more people than just those of us who are fanatics of historically-accurate wargame scenarios, I bet that it is likely to be a popular part of their catalog.  If you're looking for an entertaining game to pass the time, you could certainly do much worse than The Last Spike.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Rattray's Old Gowrie

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Post-Nevada Breakdown

Sorry for a second political post right after the last, but I think we have to come to grips with some pretty serious news.

Donald Trump is, barring a miracle, going to be the GOP candidate for the presidential election.

As things stand now, even if Rubio and Cruz's supporters all teamed up, they'd just BARELY get more votes than Trump. But that's not going to happen. There's too much bad blood between those two camps; Cruz's Tea Party fans and Rubio's Neocon stalwarts can't stand each other at least as much as neither camp can stand Trump.  Even if tomorrow one or the other dropped out, you wouldn't get every single one of that dropout's voters going to the other guy.

Like everyone else, I never believed Trump would be the candidate. I don't think Trump ever believed he'd be the candidate when he started this whole thing. But here we are.

If you want a sure sign of how much Trump can't be stopped, consider this: Trump WON the Latino vote.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Everyjoe Tuesday: Donald Trump Edition

Today, I look at the fact that Donald Trump's fake Christianity is really very very obviously fake.

And yet, he has a very good chance of winning the nomination, and maybe the election after. But while most people think this is "in spite of" his fake-Christianity or his various other obvious lies, half-truths, exaggerations or obviously empty promises, I think in fact, it's BECAUSE OF.

Yes, Trump's Fake Christianty gives him an advantage.

As always, please do share and 'like' and tell others about it in general! And feel free to comment.


Currently Smoking: Neerup bent billiard + Image Latakia

Monday, 22 February 2016

20% Discount on Dark Albion's Print Books!

So, today only, with the code FEBWORLD20 you can get 20% off on Dark Albion's Hardcover!

Or, 20% off on Dark Albion's variant cover hardcover!!

That's the variant cover.

This is the map on the back cover of both books.

And here's the main cover:

So just until the end of the day, you could buy either (or both! Why not both?) of these books for UNDER $30!

Have at it!


Currently Smoking:  Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Sunday, 21 February 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Holy Crap: Ironic History

All that's missing is the stereotypical "Nah, this stuff will never go anywhere" comment.

Take a look at this real review of the original D&D:

Of course, that shows just how paradigm-shattering D&D really was. And that it was an utterly different hobby. Fortunately, RPGs had the balls to go out on their own as their own hobby, and capture the zeitgeist.

Anyways, a fascinating historical document.


(Originally posted October 7, 2009)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

DCC Campaign Archive: "There Will Be No Consequences Whatsoever!"

We had left of in the last session with our stalwart PCs deep inside the Dungeon of the Wish Parasite; seeking that mythical entity which (when swallowed) will allegedly grant you a single Wish.  The justification the group had for being there was the effort to use the wish to bring Alice, the young Ancient girl, back to life (after she had been brutally accidentally murdered by Bill the Elf). Of course, in fact almost everyone involved had a second wish in mind should they be the ones to get the parasite.

From there, now this happened:

-three new characters were created, that would show up shortly.  One was a Dwarven Ratcatcher, one was a Dwarven Freemason (which prompted "do they run the world?" and the response "its pretty obvious from the state of things that absolutely no one is running this world") and a "mutant" (actually, just a human who feels like a mutant in a human's body) who makes his living as a Fanfic writer.

-The player who ran "Ropework" the Wizard had to quit the group, at least for a while, due to real-life commitments.
"I'm going to miss Ropework.. he was so damn normal!"

-The PCs (more specifically, Chu) had liberated Orgluz the Poop Demon. "wouldn't be the first time someone named Chu released a load of stinking shit". Orgluz is apparently bound to serve Chu, and guides them toward where the Wish Parasite was located.

(do poop demons poop? Is that how they reproduce??)

-The first room they reach features a dead giant spider, with several 9mm slugs in it. They realize at this point that Arturo "Hot Rod" Rodriguez, the sloth disguised as an elf, is still very much alive and ahead of them on the trail of the parasite!

(sloth gangtas are a serious problem in the world of the Last Sun)

-Being aware of the possibility of confusion, Chu orders Orgluz to kill all elves AND sloths.

-There are some giant cave lizards. Chu retreats from the fight almost immediately, letting Orgluz do the fighting (Ack'basha doing his usual trick of casting sanctuary on himself and not giving a flying fuck about anyone else). Unfortunately, Orgluz's attack causes the lizards to flee, right toward Chu!

-Ack'basha casts darkness in the area of the lizards.  The Dwarves, meanwhile, decide they want to keep fighting: "Like Magic Missiles, we will charge at the darkness!"

-cue some debate on whether in DCC, infravision allows Dwarves to see in a Darkness spell-zone.

-The Dwarves speak in high-pitched squeaky voices, by the way, even though no other Dwarf in the entire campaign ever has thus far.

-"Those Dwarves sound like Halflings with Throat Cancer, or something!"

-The three newcomers are accepted into the party. But Ack'basha issues the stern warning that he'll cut the balls off of anyone who gets between him and that Wish Parasite.  Since pretty much everyone wants that parasite, it was probably a necessary alert.

-The party tries to follow it's longstanding tradition of bulking up the equipment of the newcomers, only this time they're very short on supplies.
"What can we give the newbs?"
"I have a dagger.."
"I have nothing."
"I have feces!"

-The group proceeds into what Orgluz warns is called the Chamber of Fire.
"It's basically a chamber, that sets you on fire."

-Luckily, Ack'basha knows "resist cold and heat".  He protects everyone except Orgluz, who is immune to normal fire, but comes out of the chamber smelling like hot shit.

-The Human/Mutant-Otherkin knows Ack'basha, not just because the cleric is already fairly famous, but because he's personally written a slash fanfic of Ack'basha and Bill the Elf.

(actual fanfiction quote)

-The party then enters the Pagoda of Air and Water, where they have to face a flying animated metal warrior.

-They are told that the Pagoda is actually a trap, containing a False Wish Parasite that's poisonous. There, they find the corpse of "Hot Rod" Rodriguez, who clearly was not privy to that information.

-As they're crossing a rickety wooden bridge out of the pagoda and toward the location of the TRUE Wish Parasite, Orgluz the Poop Demon betrays the party! It turns out he was just faking being bound to Chu.

-The Dwarves try to stop him by throwing their melee weapons at him, even though the span of the underground river that separates them guarantees that all their weapons will end up in the water.

-With nothing he can do, the Fanfic Writer starts to write fanfic about the situation, writing himself in as a Mary Sue.

(Shut up, Wesley)

-"These Dwarves are like Village idiots or something!"
"We were exiled!"

-to try to catch up to Orgluz, Ack'basha uses divine aid to part the waters, all Moses-like.

-They reach the grotto of the Wish Parasite, finding it to be a small worm-like creature in a jar, shouting as loudly as its little voice allows: "Eat me! Please eat me! I'll grant your fondest wish! There will be no consequences whatsoever!!"

(a little too friendly...)

-Orgluz, injured but still kicking (or stinking) has the jar, but Ack'basha pulls it out of his hand with Jedi-like powers.

-Chu considers a betrayal. "You should totally betray him, he's not expecting it"
"oh, Ack'basha is totally expecting it!"
"Right now Ack'basha is totally expecting to be betrayed by absolutely everyone.."

-Orgluz screams something about 'his precious' and charges the PCs!

-"can I turn the water on him into holy water again?"
"no, he hasn't got any water left on him, only shit; and ironically there's no such thing in this setting as Holy Shit"

-Fortunately for the group, Orgluz was already quite damaged, and the party destroys him. One of the Dwarves tackles him down and pummels him to death with a rock. His dying words are "all I wanted was to be beautiful!!"

-The Wish Parasite is increasingly distressed by its lack of being digested "will SOMEBODY please eat me??!"

-Ack'basha swallows the Parasite, and wishes for G.O.D to be restored.
"But what about bringing Alice back to life?"
"I don't really give a fuck about Alice."

-Shortly after his wish, Ack'basha feels great intestinal distress, followed by his apparently pooping out a rainbow. The rainbow, in the same voice as the parasite, cries out "I'm freeeee!"

-Ack'basha also permanently loses 3 points of Luck. "I lied.. there were consequences!!"

-Ackbasha's tablet suddenly changes screen from the constant "Emergency!" sign to a blue screen saying "Rebooting... installing updates... 5 minutes remaining... 12 hours remaining... 17 minutes remaining..."

-the tablet finally reboots into a screen that says "Initiating Apocalypse Mode"
"well... that can't be good!"

-The group decides to make their way out of the dungeon to see if the world has changed any, and to try to find out just what "apocalypse mode" is. Along the way, they run into a pair of living statues.  One of the dwarves tries to run for it, and is quickly cut down. The other dwarf dies shortly thereafter, thus ending the menace of having to face several more sessions of ridiculous dwarf voices.

-the fight is happening on a flight of stairs. Chu fumbles his attack, trips, rolls down the stairs into the statue, knocking it down and shattering it.
"Best fumble ever!"

-"my fanfiction writer is a pacifist"
"well, that could change"
"no, I'm not going to make him into another Vishal!"
"You know there's a large range between 'total pacifist' and 'psychotic mass-murderer', right?"

-"the Dwarves are dead! What do we do?"
"Loot them!"

-"This is Bolt-0, he's a robot necromancer"

-Bolt-0 isn't sure, but he strongly suspects the "Apocalypse Mode" is going to kill every living thing that doesn't match up to G.0.D.'s criteria of purity, including every last mutant, most monsters, pretty well everything except for probably humans, dwarves, elves and MAYBE halflings.

-"So you've destroyed the world, Ack'Basha... you know, I'm pretty sure Bill is not the asshole anymore!"

-"How could we revive Alice to stop the Apocalypse Protocol?"
"Well, you could use a wish parasite.. oh yeah, I ate the last one!"

-"You're responsible for genocide!"
"Yes, but it's genocide for the greater good"

-The communication scroll to contact the Presbyterian Council is not working; either something has gone wrong with the magic, or the entire Presbyterian Council is dead.  Naturally, the PCs assume the latter.

-"So we're stuck here in the sharp mountains. Do we even have food?!"

-"You have too destroyed the world, Ack'basha! That's what the word 'apocalypse' means!"
"It actually just means 'revelation'".
"That useless factoid brought to us by Chu".

To get out of the mountains, the PCs decide to use magic to contact the Azure Order; who do indeed teleport the PCs out... and right into a magical binding circle.  Their first question to Ack'basha is "What did you do?!!", suggesting they've already heard about the Apocalypse Protocol.

That's all for this time.  Next time, the Apocalypse Protocol!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Gawith's Winter Flake

Friday, 19 February 2016

Doing Elves Different

Something I just happened to see on G+ today. Those of you who were lucky enough to know will know:

Man, the Shadow Elves.  It's one small part of the many, many reasons why Mystara was so much more awesome than the Forgotten Realms.  And the Shadow Elves were about a thousand times more interesting and more cool than the Drow.

Hell yes.

By the way, if you like that map, it's a recreation of the original from the Shadow Elves GAZ, done by the excellent Thorfinn Tait. You can find many more amazing hexmaps like this over in his site, the Atlas of Mystara.

I won't say that the elves in Dark Albion are much like the Shadow Elves, but I will say that in the upcoming Cults of Chaos sourcebook, you will find elves that are VERY different from your standard D&D elves.  And that are "hostile elves" very different from the Drow, too.

Stay tuned folks, Cults of Chaos is coming.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Wild West Campaign Update: "I'll Run Your Faro Table, But Only Till 8:30"

This weekend's Wild West game saw a number of interesting moments:

-Mechanics wise, we got to try out Aces & Eight's Brawling and Chase rules. Both worked quite well.

-in terms of the Player Characters, they started to find their places in Dodge City. The one character who managed to beat and arrest Jack Tripper last adventure became the new deputy Marshall, only to find out that the other new deputy is none other than Wyatt Earp.  The Cuban became the Marshall office's jailer, winning the job in a fistfight against "the kid". The cowhand got a recommendation from Sheriff Bassett and it won him a job as foreman of the pens. The butcher was having trouble finding a job until some unscrupulous characters brought him into their scheme to cattle rustle local ranchers, lowering the risk of getting caught by slaughtering and skinning the cattle with a mobile rig on the spot.

-The Mormon Gambler arrived in town, quickly managing to cheat his way into a $30 stake, and then turning that over into running the faro table at the Long Branch Saloon (replacing Earp, who had been doing that until he got offered the Deputy job at a wage he couldn't refuse). He's also gotten himself a friendship with a saloon girl named Becky. On the other hand, he's having to come to grips with the lifestyle of "the Gomorrah of the Plains", and with trying to make a good impression in spite of being a teetotalling early-riser with an almost pathological aversion to staying up past 9pm.

-Most of the PCs got caught up in taking Jack Tripper, condemned to hang, to meet the noose at Hays City. That's four days' ride, through country caught up in the hottest time of the Sioux wars, and with Tripper's four cousins supposedly coming to rescue him.  To make things worse, just as they discover that the Tripper cousins are on their trail, they find themselves an Indian Squaw who has been separated from her tribe, pregnant and injured. Their sense of duty obliges them to try to get her some help.

That's where we left off. Most of the PCs are likely to have a fight coming, either with the Trippers or with the Sioux or both. All except the Mormon Gambler, who's still in Dodge. I'm sure he'll be getting some action too, though, we just hope it's not after dinner.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Rattray's Old Gowrie

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

RPGPundit Reviews: The Necklace

This is a review of "The Necklace: a Starcluster 3 Game", written by Clash Bowley, Albert Bailey and Klaxon Bowley. It's published by Flying Mice games.  I should preface by stating that Flying Mice is the publisher of my very first RPG: "Forward... to Adventure!" and its sourcebook the "Forward... to Adventure! Gamemaster's Notebook!"
I don't think that's likely to have an effect on the quality of my review, but disclosure is important.

As always, this is a review of the print edition, which is a softcover book in the standard format common to all Flying Mice games. The book is 245 pages long.  It features a full-color cover of a kind of painting of two dark-skinned people touching foreheads to each other. One of them appears to have some kind of gecko on their head.  I have to admit that by the cover at least, you don't get the slightest clue what the hell this game would be about.

The back cover shows an image of what appears to be some kind of either hovercraft or spacecraft floating on water, next to a forested island, with a pair of people rowing a primitive canoe toward the scene in the foreground.

Still not much to go on but slightly more informative than the front cover, I guess.   The interior art is sparse, black and white, mostly in the photo-realist style of art that is typical of Flying Mice games.

The back cover does also have some text, where it tells us that "The Necklace" is "a ring of breathable gas in space; a river a billion miles long; asteroids covered in vegetation; three human and one alien culture; a symbiotic brain parasite; a thread of silver with emerald stones".  Much more informative than the images, but in some ways leaving us with a lot more questions than it answers.

The text of the book jumps right in to telling us that The Necklace is actually "the thickest part of a gas torus around a neutron star, itself part of a binary with a hot F-type star".  This torus developed life, and atmosphere.  A very advanced species which evolved on the core of the gas giant ended up engineering the torus, establishing more asteroids, and a gigantic river that circles the neutron star, and brought in a variety of strange species.   Then they buggered off.

The inner dense part of the torus is thus breatheable, and about 20000km in diameter, there's a wider band that is livable for certain types of creatures but not humans.   The River that circles the torus is a 'gravitational artifact' made by the superscience of the former inhabitants.  It has rafts of vegetation that are liveable, it also has many ruins from the ancient builders.  In the peripheral area there's a zero-g environment which still has atmosphere and has a wide variety of plant and animal life, entire 'spherical jungles' floating in the zone.

There's also a cluster of asteroids formed by the builders, which is connected by loops into the river.  These contain a variety of self-sustaining ecologies, with a variety of species brought here by the builders.  The area is called "the zoo".   Additionally, there's a huge bubble-sea called the "Ocean Globe"; the river does not quite connect to it. Finally, just outside of the atmospheric envelope of the torus there are a half-dozen massive asteroid-stations.  Each of these have their own population.

On top of this, the book also tells us about the old core of the gas giant, an icy water world in the system, and its moons.

That's a pretty huge setting.

But just as we're getting a taste of it through the overview, the book switches over to mechanics, specifically the "Company creation rules".  This is a variation of a very common feature of many recent Bowley games: rules for creating a framework to justify the existence of the PC party. This includes tables to determine the group's 'capital', the type of company it is (some examples include 'trading company', 'resource extraction company', 'bounty hunters', 'pioneer unit', 'pirate company', 'politician's henchmen', 'diplomatic mission', 'cult/religious', 'courier service', 'musical/theatrical group', and a few more), and the composition of the company (whether they're a cooperative run by the PCs, part of an extended family, a node of a criminally funded group, a state-financed group of agents, a private company funded by venture capital, etc. etc.).  You also generate the group's home base; which can include things like an asteroid, warehouse, trading post, a derelict ship, a secret base dug into an asteroid, a river rock, lab, city-state, habitat, nomad camp, bubble sea habitat, cathedral, etc.  But the home base is not randomly determined, it can be purchased with the group's capital; and you can choose to purchase the 'good quality' version, or the 'poor quality' version of the base.  You can also purchase security forces, spy networks, vehicles, medical assets, research libraries (with details on the types of subjects covered and the likelihood of information being found with them), training facilities, etc.  You can also expand your company over time by generating fame and effort.

After this, each type of group gets several story seeds. They're very short, but helpful.

Character generation is handled by getting a set of base stats (str, coordination, agility, endurance, charisma, and intelligence) and then rolling to modify each of those base values. A non-random method of generating variations is also provided. There is also a luck, psionics, and social class stat, which can be raised or lowered giving  a deficit or bonus of points.

Following the establishment of your base attributes, the next step is to choose certain augmentations, then get background skills. You then get into a Traveller-style lifepath method of advancing the character. He may take higher education, go into a profession, advance in the same; however long you do this, you can end up with a character that has more skills, but is older.  You can also choose to get implants, and then you choose some character traits, and get equipment.
There's also derived stats: constitution (which are hit points, in essence), attribute modifiers (for use only with certain task resolution methods, more on this later), and skill chances or attribute multipliers (used likewise in other methods).

Time for some detail on the racial choices: aside from your standard humans, you have several options.  "Carnivales" are described as "low tech level" humans, originally from Brazil on Earth. "Altisherpas" are humans that have been genetically engineered to live in zero-G environments.  "Rasi" are high-tech level humans who live along the River. "Pucks" are aliens native to the world embedded in The Necklace.  "Javans" are humans from a gas giant moon in the same system.  And "Hermeans" are humans from another gas giant moon.

The Pucks are actually a dual symbiotic race, consisting of the Losonta and the Elena.  The Losonta described as "winged omnivores who can walk upright on their back paws". They have three fingered hands on their arms. They're furry and have leathery batlike wings, stretching from their pinky fingers to their hips.  In a planetary gravity, they can glide, but in the lesser gravity of The Necklace they can fly.  They were apparently pets of the ancient 'builder' aliens. They have no intelligence without the Elena.
The Elena are cat-sized slick silvery creatures with no eyes and six tentacles. They perch on the head of their Losonta host and grant their host sentience.
In other words, this is the person with the 'iguana thing' on its head in the cover of the book!

A note about the presence of space-Brazilians, and humans in general: the background of the larger Starcluster setting (which I had previously reviewed) is that human ships escaped from Earth on the verge of an extinction event, and ended up settling the vast area of space known as the Starcluster.  In the case of the Carnivales, they were escapees on a Brazilian spaceship named Carnivale.  The ship broke up on entering the Necklace, and the survivors were left with practically no technology, and within a short time went down to a low tech level. Thus, the Carnivales now have a renaissance-level culture along the river.

The Altisherpas, Rasi, Javans, and Hermeans all came along on similar ships, but had more luck in terms of preserving their tech levels. The Altisherpas (descended from a ship full of Nepalese, Canadians, Swiss, Filipinos and Bolivians) used genetic engineering to breed their descendents to adapt to zero-G life.  They live in a megacity that was built around their old starship.  The Rasi (descended from a ship full of Norwegians, Koreans, New Zealanders, British, Arabs and Malians) settled in a series of towns on the river.  The Javans (descended from a ship full of Zulu, Sudanese, Norwegians, Chinese, and Ukrainians) landed on the major moon of the gas giant in the system, a cold water-world covered in ice; they are the only interstellar culture in the system (with ships able to travel to other systems).  Their culture reproduces in artificial wombs, considering natural childbirth to be a primitive and risky anachronism.  The Hermeans (descended from a ship full of South Africans, Inuit, Icelanders, Mongols and Malayans) settled on an ice-moon in the system, living in deep underground settlements.

There are also rules for genetically augmenting your character.  People from races of Tech Level 8 or higher can get augmentation depending on their social class. These augmentations include bonuses to ability scores, but also special qualities like exotic appearance, enhanced senses, leaping, innate weaponry, bursts of speed, special immunities, etc.

There's considerable detail on the lifepaths and skills gained by the different possible choices for education and career experiences.  There's quite a lot of these, and they're also organized by culture (for example, the Carnivales have special education paths that reflect their more primitive society). Professions often have pre-requisites, but also a percentage roll chance of a 'waiver', of someone being able to get a job in spite of not qualifying for the pre-requisite.
The skill table is quite large, and PSI skills are also included (these are things like telepathy, healing, psychic interrogation, psychic stunning, or telekinesis, among others).

Like many other Flying Mice games, The Necklace features the oddity of having multiple task resolution mechanics. In this case, there's the "Starpool" mechanic (which is a d20 dice pool), the "Starworm" mechanic (which is a different kind of d20 dice pool, a more storygamey type, utilizing 'stakes'), and the "Starnova" mechanic (which uses a d6 dicepool).  Equally curiously, the different mechanics are set up to work using the same stats (with only a few tweaks), so that you don't need three entirely different RPG systems.

The equipment section gives guidelines for pricing and the variable tech levels of the different cultures around The Necklace. There's your standard list of sci-fi technological devices.  Encumbrance is settled simply by saying that a character should only carry whatever would be 'reasonable'.
Special attention is given to technological implants.  These each provide benefits, but can also give drawbacks.  For example, computer jack implants allow one to have an edge on computer checks, but if a computer goes down while a person is jacked into it, there's a 50% chance they'll be stunned for an hour.  Subcutaneous ballistic armor provides damage resistance, but it reduces one's agility. There's a list of special equipment available only specific cultures (the rasi, altisherpa, and the puck). There is of course a list of weapons, both archaic and high-tech.

After this, we get to the part on Setting Creation. This is done by making a kind of map; you mark a central spot, and then draw a curvy line around that spot, marking the path of the river through the play area. Then you begin doing a set of random rolls to determine points of interest in the setting. These elements can be things like large rocks, asteroids, freestanding structures, the bubble sea, shallows, reefs, a wreck, etc.  You roll a percentile die to judge roughly how far it is from your central point on the map.

Each set of randomly determined elements can then be flushed out with their own random tables; for example a rock in the river might be a Carnivales settlement, a Rasi settlement, a trading post, etc.
A freestanding structure can be a trading post, an ancient builder race ruin, a rasi shantytown with poor gravitics, a factory, etc.
Settlements are then further developed, generating their size, technology, important details (like if they have rich food stocks, mines, merchants, lumber, a cultural center, etc.), and even more specific cultural oddities. So for example, if the settlement is corrupt, has odd gender roles, gambling, the people go nude or wear elaborate shoes or the women wear veils, if there's certain taboos, if people engage in drug use, or practice religious dances, etc.  The particular details of each settlement depends on cultural type; so a Rasi settlement will have different details than a Carnivales settlement.  There are similar settlement tables for multi-species trading posts or pirate hideouts.  Permanent settlements also get rolls for the quality of infrastructure or living facilities.

This is probably the most interesting and innovative part of the book so far; it certainly allows for the generation of a unique sandbox area!

We also get similar setting design random tables for the space stations, including their amenities, facilities, services, how many cultures are found in the station, and cultural oddities.

If you're lazy, there's also a 15 page sample play environment with stuff ready-made.

All in all, a fantastic chapter!

Next we get a section slightly less interesting to me, but maybe interesting to others: starship design. There's a step-by-step process for starship creation, from the hull, armaments, passenger cabins, medical, scientific, entertainment, etc.
Ships can be given 'traits' like "reliable", "comfortable", "unpretentious", etc.
There is likewise a set of vehicle rules and rules for vehicle modification.

There is a final short section at the end, about three pages, on creatures.  It really isn't much more than a couple of sample alien creatures.

All in all, The Necklace is another good product by Flying Mice; but like most of their games, it won't quite be for everyone.  Even so, in this case there's some really great old-school style goodness in the setting-creation rules, even if the mechanical part of the rules might not be to a D&D-fans liking.  The setting material can be run quite rules-neutral, meaning that if you wanted this to be a really weird setting for a Sci-fi OSR game, you could use it that way.

Of course, if you like slightly rules-heavy Sci-fi with slight resemblance to Traveller, you might like the rules here. And if you're already a Starcluster fan, you'll probably find this a great addition to the various books/games set in that universe.


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Billiard + Rattray's Old Gowrie

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Making Money Off RPGs

A lot of people are filled with dreams and illusions of fame and glory writing an RPG that will be the next (insert game they like here), and leading them into a life of fast cars, hookers, and cocaine. That sort of thing just doesn't happen. Never really did. The only people I can think of that ended up doing really well off of RPGs are Gygax, Adkinson, and Dancey, and I'm not sure that any one of them still have a penny to their name (I know for sure that Gygax ended up losing more than he ever made from RPGs, and others like Siembieda, who I once suspected of making good money off RPGs are now known to be publicly NOT doing well). And after that, the number of people who have lost their shirts on RPG ventures is enormous.

In a certain way, these days it's a lot safer. The investment required to become a "published RPG author" is a lot less; but of course, that's because the potential benefit is a lot less, to the point of being practically non-existent. All the people who are running their own companies these days are doing so with the full-on knowledge that they are not going to get rich from it. Most of those who get into it at these points are doing it not for dreams of fame, but for fantasies of being "important people" in the RPG "Industry".  But here's a hint: If people aren't becoming millionaires or losing their shirts on RPGs, then there is no "Industry".  The only real "Industry" in RPGs these days is Wizards; everyone else who claims some kind of "specialness" for being RPG writers, whether its the Pramases or the Eyebeamses of the world, or the intellectualoids of The Forge, are full of shit, because they're not in a real "industry". They might be in a little self-affirming clique of "cool kids" desperately trying to play at being significant, but that's it.

So the only GOOD reason for getting involved in writing/publishing RPGs these days is for the love of the game. That's it. That's the only reason. Mike Mearls said so, and frankly he should know better than most. Your chances of making real money writing RPGs, either as a freelancer or as a designer, are virtually nil. And frankly, that should never have been your motive in the first place. Frankly, the only motive ought to be love of the game.

No surprise that the "industry expert" types chose to piss on Mearls for that comment above all others, going as far as to ludicrously suggest that people who actually love the RPGs they're writing will produce crappier products than the so-called "industry experts". I think if you're looking for people who are feeling threatened, its them you should be looking at.

To me, neither path (freelancing or self-publishing) is inherently better, one than the other. You do one out of love for a specific existing RPG, or you do the other out of love for making RPGs.
Mike Mearls is probably right that, given how much companies are capable of paying their freelancers these days, you will have a better chance of making slightly more money by self-publishing than by freelancing. And, these days, Freelancing jobs are harder to come by.

But the fact remains that in either case, it's very few people these days that can make a full-time job out of either self-publishing or freelancing. If you aren't working as full-time staff for one of the three or four major companies, or owning one of the wanna-bes, you pretty well have no chance of being able to make a living wage from freelancing.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Amber Root Bulldog + C&D's Crowley's Best

( Originally posted June 27 2006)

Monday, 15 February 2016

Everyjoe Monday: Ted Cruz is a Massive Nerd

Today, a very special edition of "Everyjoe Tuesday", on a Monday. In a special additional column, I present a character study of Ted Cruz, where I reveal the secret as to why he's doing so well, and why so many people can't stand him.  Both are wrapped up in the same "origin story", which most people don't know about even though it's not exactly a secret: Ted Cruz is a Huge Nerd.  It defines and informs everything he does and how people react to him.

Click the link above to find out just how nerdy Cruz is, what his favorite comic book heroes are, what he thinks about Star Trek, his nerdy taste in rock music, and his wicked sense of humor (that has produced some of the funniest best political TV ads of all time), and how all of this matters to his chances of success or ruin.

As always, please feel free to share it everywhere, to "Like", "+1", tweet, etc!


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Dark Albion: the G+ Community!

So, as of yesterday I found out a few Dark Albion fans have gone and created a Google+ Community, a group in which to discuss all things Dark Albion.

Please come check out the Dark Albion G+ community here, if you're into Dark Albion, or curious about it.  Come share your questions, play reports, and more.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Argento Latakia

Saturday, 13 February 2016

RPGPundit Answers YOUR Questions: Best System for Dark Albion

So, I have an earlier blog entry where I've told my readers that they can post questions and/or requests for rant topics from me. I will periodically respond to any of these I think I can do a good job at answering.  So if you have something you want to ask me, or ask me to write about, go to that entry and put your question/request in the comments!

Today, we're going to respond to the first of these, this time from Todd Antill, who writes:

I want to hear what game systems would make a good fit in your Dark Albion setting. I've purchased the product, but I'm on the fence about what game system to use.. an article looking at various settings and how they fit would be interesting, and quite helpful.

Thanks for your question, Todd!

Let me say this: I tried to make the Dark Albion book usable equally well by just about any Old-School system.  However, there's no question that some would need more modification than others.

Now, part of it depends on how you want to use it.  For me, the gritty style of Dark Albion works best when it's minimlist.  So, not a lot of fancy classes, just the basics.  That means systems like AD&D or some of the other OSR games that provide lots of sub-classes would have redundant material.  I would want combat rules to be simple and straightforward, not a lot of sub-systems there either.   The spell lists should be pruned of too many spells, but more importantly of those big flash-bang type of spells (high-explosive combat spells, you could say), as well as anything that let's you 'get out of death free' (getting out of death at a terrible terrible cost MIGHT be ok).  The Dark Albion chapter on Magic gives an adjusted list of spells, based on the OSRIC/D&D baseline, which would give you an idea what to follow.

I guess one factor in this was how the Dark Albion campaign originated.  The system that the original first Dark Albion campaign started with was Lamentations of the Flame Princess.   Not because of it's "weird fantasy" claptrap, but because LotFP has an incredibly tight, gritty, minimalist D&D system.  Four basic classes (plus some racial ones), very simple combat rules, spells that remove most of the explosive and replace it with some interestingly eerie magic.  It even has a Summoning system, although I ultimately wasn't pleased with it because I felt it really wasn't medieval enough, and thus came up with the Summoning rules in Dark Albion as a totally separate type of magic aside from the regular spellcasting (rules based on the medieval ideas of how magic and demons both worked, and directly inspired by real medieval grimoires like the Ars Goetia or the Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-melin).

Several really important mechanical innovations in LotFP changed my way of thinking about power in D&D.  Of course, a lot of stuff before LotFP made mortality dangerous, so that wasn't new, but few said in turn that IF mortality was so high, that meant you could also give your PCs significant power as long as the power you give them doesn't remove that risk of mortality. THAT was to me the big innovation of LotFP: it was that fighters were now the only ones who got escalating to-hit bonuses, wizards could summon major demons at level 1, and thieves could have a x6 backstab by level 3 if they wanted.  This is why, for example, my summoning rules put no level conditions; in most editions of D&D you get stuff like "a wizard must be at least level 9 to do x", but its way better to have something that is self regulating: "here's as much power as you want, if you can survive it".

Ultimately, I kept making innovations to the LotFP system as we played, and even moreso in the second Dark Albion campaign (which became a bit of a testing ground for ideas to see how they'd go without wrecking the first campaign, which was still ongoing), and in one-shots I did mostly as Celebrity GM in local cons.   Some of these innovations were long-term house rules I'd been using since forever, some of them were stuff from the combat mechanics of Arrows of Indra (though many of those were also inspired by LotFP to begin with, so it's a bit of a repeating cycle), and some were new ideas that cropped up.  Eventually, what I was left with was a totally different system, with different rules for character creation, character advancement, combat, magic, summoning, items, etc. So this is what became "Appendix P", the rules at the end of the Dark Albion book.   It has more random (and varied) characters, a very slick and streamlined system, characters that are vulnerable (with lower hit points even at higher levels) but also can have great niche-protected power, it has an experience point system that actually suits the Dark Albion medieval setting (because the standard rules of xp for monsters killed and especially 1gp=1xp just doesn't work here), a brutal critical hit rule with permanent injuries, a modified magic system, etc.   It's the game evolved to fit the Dark Albion setting.

So obviously, if you were to ask me, personally, which game rules I would think you should use to play Dark Albion, that would be my answer: Appendix P. That's why I put it there.  Now, Appendix P is not quite a complete RPG, because it has all the rules (even spell lists, if you could the spell lists in the Magic chapter; and equipment because Albion has an equipment list with real medieval costs), but it doesn't have descriptions of spell effects, it doesn't have monsters, it doesn't have magic items and descriptions (except for the handful of magic items in the Dark Albion book), and a couple of other things you might need in play (stuff that comes up once in a while, like naval travel, disease, suffocation, acid damage, whatever -- actually, wait, acid is covered in the section in Dark Albion on Alchemy).  So I would say to use Appendix P as your rules, and when you need that supplemental stuff, use OSRIC/AD&D or if you prefer Labyrinth-Lord/Rules-Cyclopedia D&D just for those things not included in the appendix that you don't want to just improvise.
That's MY answer. That's why the Appendix P rules are there; because I think its the best way to run Dark Albion.

But this minimalist perspective is my preference. Someone else might want a flowery game with a lot of details, with richer rules, and more varied classes.  In that case, I'd say there's one obvious answer, which is Dominique Crouzet's Fantastic Heroes & Witchery!

(this is a list of classes in FH&W's core book!)

In the last appendix of Dark Albion you can see Dominique Crouzet's own house rules with new classes and modifications to his existing classes to fit the Dark Albion setting.  But as you can see from the image above, FH&W would let you run either a class-rich Dark Albion game or even a much more weird more gonzo Dark Albion game.

I guess in one sense it was pretty obvious that I would end up primarily recommending my own rules, and then the rules written by my publisher, as the ones best suited to Dark Albion.  But of course in part that's a logical choice too, when the former were written FOR Dark Albion and the latter have already got a set of modifications dedicated to Dark Albion.  Even so, let me close by stating it really plainly: to me, just about any OSR rule-set could work well for Dark Albion. Pick the one you like, take whatever ideas from Appendix P you think are cool, and run with it!


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Friday, 12 February 2016

Submit your Questions/Rant-Topics

Have you ever had something you wanted me to answer for you?

Ever had something you wanted to know my opinion on?

Something you just wanted to see me totally bitchslap?

Here's your chance: submit your questions, topics for discussion, or things you hope I could rant about in the comments below.

Note: the RPGPundit reserves the right to accept or decline any submissions. Answers when given might not be to your liking or satisfaction.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4K Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Thursday, 11 February 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Virtue of Emulation

In my Amber game on Saturday, I'd been building along a long slow plotline involving an opponent to the Amberites, a shadowy organization operating throughout the Shadow-Earths. They had kidnapped Flora and one of the PC-Amberites (of a retired player), and the idea was that the players would have to work very hard to figure out what was going on and get to "Earth-0", this shadowy organization's home base.

But then, out of the fucking blue, Jong's character makes the Amber-equivalent of a Wish (walking to the center of the pattern and asking it to take you somewhere) that inadvertently ends up landing him beside the two captured Amberites, smack-dab in the middle of the Shadowy Organization's secret headquarters in their secret almost-impossible-to-get-to Earth-0!

Of course, this is the moment all my GM notes flew out the window.

So how does one deal with this situation?

I think that it is THESE situations which emphasize the importance of Emulation in the RPG game. If you are just running trough a scripted series of "encounters", then if a player does something unexpected all you can do is either stop the game till you can script something new, or railroad him back onto the scripted path. You could theoretically "improvise" and try to script a new path on the spot, and your mileage may vary depending on just how much of a genius you are.

With a game that is about Emulation, however, where you suppose that NPCs as much as PCs have their own identities and personalities, that you are emulating a living world, then the answer to this kind of dilemma is obvious: you just keep emulating the world and see what happens.

I knew what the Shadowy Organization's motives and interests were. I knew what the NPC prisoners' motives and interests were. I knew what Jong's Dad NPC (Benedict's) motives and interests were. And, I hope, Jong knew what his character's were.

And of course, a big deviation from the plot has a massive ripple effect, which if you're going by a script (and not near the end of the script) means you're screwed. But if you're going by Emulation, then you just keep emulating.

Long story short, btw, Jong and the captured NPCs got out. Jong's dad, Benedict (the greatest warrior in the multiverse) got in, and the session ended on a cliffhanger wondering if even the single greatest fighter in the universe could possibly take on an entire shadow full of power-armored super-powered magic-rich trump-wielding conjuration-item-laden broken-pattern-initiate high-tech high-magic psychic-powered mystery men.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti half-volcano + Gawith's Winter Flake

(Originally posted May 14, 2009)

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Are Guns Cursed Items Possessed by Evil Spirits? The Left Seems to Think So.

First, if you haven't read my article on what worldwide statistics can really tell us about the gun control debate in the U.S., please go do so now!  It'll be worth it, trust the Pundit.

So in response to that, one of the more frequently leftist posters on theRPGsite made a perfectly genteel response, no calling me history's greatest monster or something like that, no regressive left bullshit for the most part, but one that showed just how out to lunch most leftists are. He fell back completely on chanting the standard leftist dogma on guns and repeating the same flawed assumptions, even though I'd just proved why they made no sense at all.

So here's what he said:
Objectively, it's really hard to compare gauge the effect of gun control laws, because violence rates are always different from place to place depending on a host of factors other than gun ownership. They also vary from year to year - and changes are different for different places. Like many people on both sides of the debate, Pundit selectively picks out some statistics that favor lack of gun control - while gun control advocates typically pick Australia or other places that implemented gun control after which violence reduced - which is correlation that isn't necessarily causation.

And my response is that there's a BIG difference: they use the stats to claim there is a causal link. I'm using the stats to point out proof there ISN'T.  If I was saying "these worldwide stats on gun violence prove that the less gun control you have the more safe a country is", then sure, you could accuse me of doing what they're doing.

But that's not what I did here. I used statistics on gun ownership and gun violence to show that having less gun ownership does not reduce the level of gun violence. I didn't try to show that correlation equals causation, I DISPROVED that very thing.

Then he says:

From my view, 
Within the U.S., I support closing loopholes for gun shows and private sales, waiting periods, gun registration (ideally national), locking laws, and buybacks of illegal guns. That's not part of some secret agenda to take away everyone's guns, but rather to enforce practice that most responsible gun owners do anyway. .

Why? How would ANY of these stop gun violence in the US? That's my point, there is no connection between rates of legal gun ownership and gun violence, and all you are listing above except MAYBE the very last one, would DO NOTHING to prevent gun deaths.

I'm not saying its some kind of secret government black-helicopter conspiracy, I'm just saying that all of these things are useless feel-good (well, feels good to the left) measure that ACCOMPLISH SWEET FUCK ALL.

In part, my reasons for this is that the assumptions are wrong that "criminals" are a monolithic entity who will do everything in their power to get illegal guns and kill. A lot of murders are not committed by hardened criminals fully intent on killing. Likewise, a lot of suicidal people aren't completely committed on dying, and may change their mind if it's too difficult or if delayed.

Seriously? For the most part, you are wrong on both counts. It is possible of course that the guy who would have shot his wife dead might just end up beating her to near-death with a baseball bat instead; or that there is some pussy out there with a merely passing suicidal tendency that decides to forget all about it forever when he realizes he'd have to go buy a bunch of sleeping pills at WalMart instead of just blow his brains out.

But guns have no secret evil Cursed power that makes people around them more susceptible to want to kill. Nyarlathotep isn't whispering inaudible encouragement through the gun in the house that will cause deaths that wouldn't otherwise occur. The gun companies have not used dark rites and channeled Memnoch to cause impoverished black urban youths to kill each other at horrific rates, they're doing it because they're impoverished, and in gangs, and the guns they're using are almost all ILLEGALLY OBTAINED anyways.

I think this is a big problem of the left; they want to imagine that guns themselves possess some sort of spirit of darkness that warp reality around them to cause harm that would otherwise never have existed. Which is, you know, batshit nuts.

But since you attribute it to a fetishized problem ("Guns have an evilness to them that takes over people and MAKES them kill") you look for fetishized solutions ("we must exorcise the gun with registration and magazine limits! Then the evil spirit will be contained!").  The problem is, none of these work.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Everyjoe Tuesday: Guns edition!

Today on, I look at what data on gun violence and gun control in other countries can teach us.

And what it teaches us is pretty clear: "more government regulation" will NOT solve the problem of gun violence in America.

As always, please share it, retweet it, +1 in, like it, talk about it to everyone, put it on your podcast, whatever!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Monday, 8 February 2016

Amusing Dark Albion Campaign Premise

You ever get those weird thoughts or inspirations that come out of nowhere?  Today while eating, I had a thought about Dark Albion, and what type of campaign setups I hadn't thought of yet.

I came up with one that was hilarious: a campaign where the PCs are all young adults in Cambridge or Oxford at the start of the Rose War period, mostly students of the Collegium or employees of the same.   It would be like a mix between every teen college drama ("Felicity, 1453"), harry potter (remember, in Dark Albion Ox-Cam are mainly known as Wizard schools), a horror movie ("Oh bother, we unleashed a demon during spring break!"), and one of those historical-drama 'salad days' depressing movies about young people in 1913 or the antebellum South, knowing that most of them are about to senselessly die in a terrible war.

("I just wanted to row for the college team but instead I had to go scheme to usurp the throne by intrigue and bloody battle from my best friend/ cousin/ nephew. Meanwhile Cornelius is worried about his potion-making mid-term, and is tempted to cheat by summoning Frobatos the Answerer")

By the way, if you haven't seen the documentary series "Britain's Bloody Crown", about the War of the Roses, be sure to check it out!  There have been a couple of moments where I disagreed with some of the historical analysis, but on the whole it's another great addition to coverage of a period that is becoming increasingly popular (thanks to Game of Thrones, I suppose).  The image I used above is from there.


Currently Smoking: Loreznetti Solitario Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Man vs Nature: How Common a Theme is it in Your Games?

In most of my rpg campaigns, I have to admit that "man vs. nature" has not been a strong or recurring theme.  The PCs are far more likely to be worried about goblins than landslides.

My recent Dark Albion campaign has been something of an exception to that.  

I've already mentioned the danger of rain conditions, which at first glance you'd think wouldn't be a danger at all (but that's precisely what makes it interesting).  Now, in last night's game, I had my players experiencing genuine fear of demise as two of the (heavily-armored) PCs suddenly fell into a sinkhole with a strong current, of the kind that I mentioned can be found in some of the waterways of the North in Albion.   It was only by a magic rope, some quick thinking, and the help of their team-mates that they survived the waters (which were also near-freezing).

I have to say it was quite fun seeing the PCs freak out over something with no supernatural element or human hostility.

In any case, the Dark Albion core book has some rules on potential natural hazards that you can run into along the way as you travel Albion's roads and trails.  And I think that's one way to look at natural conditions: as random encounter. Another is to see natural hazards as traps.

Do you do a lot of this in your D&D games?


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Solitario Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Saturday, 6 February 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Real Problem With Players Controlling "Story"

The whole concept behind players getting to control story in RPGs, be it fully-blown Forge games, or in the use of "plot point" type mechanics where the Players can alter some aspect of reality to suit his purposes is that, aside from destroying the whole idea of emulation and a lot of immersion, the basic premise behind the reasoning for such mechanics is completely flawed.

That basic premise would be defined as something like "the game is more fun when I'm in control of what happens to my character"; or put another way "the game is more fun when I'm winning".

In RPGs, that's simply not the case. Being able to ensure, due to mechanics as much as due to whineyness, that your character will never lose is an incredibly boring predicament to find yourself in. It explains why Storygames are mostly all obsessive little micro-games that can only be played for one or two sessions. More than that and they outlive all use.

The moments when players are absolutely at their finest, and enjoying the game the most is not when they're winning, but when interesting things are happening to their characters. And that "interesting" almost always involves great conflicts, drama, and SUFFERING. Being able to wish away any negative results with a plot point or because the GM isn't allowed to say "no" according to the pseudo-intellectualoid game designer completely ruins that possibility of a PC suffering, and therefore evolving, and deepening as a character, and therefore bringing real entertainment to his player.

Its really rare for any player I know, barring a few really immature or boring ones, to go around bragging about how awesome their character was for winning really easily every time because nothing could stop him. All the good stories about awesome things usually involve terrible terrible things happening to a PC, complications and setbacks that were humorous, impressive, shocking, and the difficult process of overcoming them. You want "story", motherfucker? There's story. And saying "I wish that away with a plot point" or "i have narrative control now" is specifically losing out on what really creates great game.


(Originally Posted April 20, 2009)