Sunday, December 25, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
PDF publishing hurts innovation, particularly for d20. Rather than use the Internet as a medium to spread concepts and test ideas, the RPG industry has instead turned it into a massive shopping center. The impulse for widespread collaboration, sharing, and improvement, precisely the sort of factors needed for an open source movement to take root and produce useful results, have been undercut by the rush to sell PDFs.
In other words, if all us pesky writers didnt want to be paid for our efforts, the d20 "movement" would go further. And PDF sellers are to blame for this.
Of course, you could also say that about Mike's print books couldn't you?
Nope, as usual, the PDF manufacturer must bear the heavy millstone of d20 system humiliation. We are the problem with the market.
Wait, don't people sell Linux? That must be different.
Update: Best. Reply. Ever.
So people are discussing this little pearl of wisdom over at the ENWorld boards, and someone posted the following comment:
PDFs are unique in their relatively low entry level - I think that's the point: Half-baked ideas straight to PDF.
Because, as every kid learns in ecnomics class, giving away half-baked ideas was the spark of innovation that made America great.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Chuck Says: This episode has a real fairy tale quality to it, something that is *really* hard to capture. Plus it marks the first appearance of Tara, one of my favorite Buffy characters.
2. The Gift
Episode Summary: Buffy and the gang prepare to go to war with Glory to save Dawn. Buffy warns her friends yet again that Dawn’s safety was her ultimate goal and she would not let anyone harm her. Dawn is being held on a tall tower by Glory. Buffy and the Buffybot fight Glory using the Dagon sphere and Olaf’s troll hammer. Eventually Glory morphs into Ben for the last time, and Giles kills him. All is not well though, as Doc turns up and cuts Dawn, activating a portal to Glory’s world. As Hell dimensions begin to merge into ours, Buffy makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the world and jumps into the portal. The portal closes and Buffy’s body falls to the floor. The last shot we see is of Buffy’s gravestone proclaiming that she “saved the world a lot”.
Chuck Says: Easily the most powerful Buffy episode. Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn and really steps up as both an epic hero and a leader. The showdown with Glory is tremendous and every single member of the Scoobies gets a chance to show their unique contribution to the team.
And when the Scoobies gather around Buffy's broken and battered body, and Spike drops to his knees and begins sobbing, its one of the most shocking and powerful moments in the entire series.
3. Once More With Feeling
Chuck Says: Not only is it a musical, but its the pivotal episode of the season (until Seeing Red when Tara dies and Willow goes evil) for the entire season. The songs are great and the episode is filled with great lines, but what consistently blows me away is how the songs advance the plot and the songs fit the characters.
4. When She Was Bad
Episode Summary: Buffy arrives back from her summer break in a bad mood. Her experience with the Master is still playing on her mind and it affects her attitude towards her friends. She is forced to face her past when a group of vampires plan to ressurect their Master.
Chuck Says: Yeah, Prophecy Girl was cool, getting to see Buffy fulfill the prophecy of her death and take out the Master, but for me this episode is really when Buffy started to grow up as a series. Sure she won, but that doesn't mean everything is fine.
Also, a lot of shows would just plain be afraid to have their heroine be a bitch, they'd cop out and have her be magically controlled. But Buffy was just having trouble dealing, and takes it out on Giles, Angel, Xander and Willow.
5. School Hard
Episode Summary: Two dangerous new vampires called Spike and Drusilla arrive in Sunnydale and decide to kill the Slayer and make the town their own. They gate-crash Buffy’s parent-teacher night but things don’t go to plan for them when faced with Buffy and her mother.
Chuck Says: "Me and Dru, we're moving in"
What the hell else does an episode need? Spike and Drusilla come to Sunnydale and things get very interesting for a very long time.
Not to mention, this episode feature Principle Snyder at his worst, played to comic perfection by Armin "Quark" Shimmerman, who accepted a role as the principle of Sunnydale that was pitched as being for 2-3 Episodes (Principle Flutie lasted only a few episodes and Joss' original concept was that the Sunnydale Principle would get killed about twice a season) and was on the show for 3 years, cause Armin is just. That. Good.
6. Normal Again
Episode Summary: Buffy is dosed with a chemical from a demon which makes her begin to hallucinate that everything she knows is untrue. She never moved to Sunnydale, was never the Slayer and she’s actually been in a psychiatric hospital for years. She fights the hallucinations at first but they begin to become more real and also more comforting - her parents are together and alive and want to help her and Dawn doesn’t exist. Buffy decides that she prefers this ‘normal’ life with her parents a whole lot more, and attempts to kill the things that tether her to the ‘fantasy’ life of the Slayer: her friends.
Chuck Says: This episode reminds me of the DS9 episode "Far Beyond the Stars" in a good way (and if you know of my reverence for the best of the Trek franchises, you know that's a high compliment).
The episode is creepy, genuinely tense and has left more than one viewer wondering if Buffy might really be in that asylum. Of course the show isn't constructed from that point of view, but its just that well written. You BUY the point of view of the doctors at the asylum.
Episode Summary: Giles and Jenny begin to make up. She arranges to meet him that night, as she has a surprise for him. Jenny has discovered a way to give Angel his soul back, but just as she downloads the cure from her computer, Angelus kills her, and leaves her body for Giles to find.
Chuck Says: This episode is tough to watch and really sells Dark Angel (used in the "dark phoenix" way not the Jessica Alba way) as being evil.
He kills Jenny and leaves her for Giles to find, just so he can get off watching Buffy and Willow receive the crushing news. His obsession with Buffy is never portrayed in a more sick, sadistic light.
Episode Summary: Buffy begins to find herself weak and powerless, and starts to worry that she will lose her Slayer ability. It turns out that the Watchers Council has a test for Slayers who turn 18: they have to fight a vampire without their powers. The plan goes awry when the evil vampire used for the experiment gets loose and kidnaps Buffy’s mother. As Buffy tries to deal with Giles’ betrayal, he gets fired from the Council for his fatherly love for the Slayer.
Chuck Says: We get our first look at what choads the Watchers' council really are, as well as the biggest insight into Giles as Buffy's surrogate father. Add in a truly creepy misogynist vampire with a mother-fixation and you have an awesome episode.
Episode Summary: The First takes on the guise of a potential Slayer (killed especially for the purpose) and spies on the Scoobies. When Buffy confronts the First it tells her the Turok-Han will kill her. Buffy comes up with a plan and successfully defeats the Turok-Han which also boosts the potentials’ confidence as she makes them watch her do it. Buffy then rescues Spike from the First. Meanwhile, Giles and Anya visit an Oracle and discover that when Buffy was resurrected, she created a vulnerability in the Slayer chain that The First is now exploiting.
Chuck Says: Not only does this episode have one of the best fight scenes in the entire series between Buffy and the Ubervamp, it also shows Buffy at her most badass, a true action hero. This entire episode is constructed from start to finish as a mini-action movie, with Buffy making sure the potentials know she can protect them by arranging for her to watch her kill the Ubervamp.
The fight scene at the end of the episode is so good it needed TWO awesome movie quotes to bracket it: "Thunderdome. Two men enter, one man leaves" on the front end and "Here endeth the lesson" at the end.
Episode Summary: Angel presents Buffy with an amulet and she asks him to go back to L.A. in case she fails to stop the First. After a visit from the First, Buffy realises what she has to do. Willow does a spell that takes power from the scythe and shares it equally among every potential in the world, giving them Slayer powers. The gang and the newly made Slayers open the Seal of Danzalthar and go into the Hellmouth. A long battle commences leaving many dead, including Anya.
Spike wears the amulet and it begins to work. He begins to burn up and pure sunlight shoots out of the amulet. All the Turok-Han are instantly dusted, and Sunnydale begins to fall into the Hellmouth. Spike tells Buffy to leave and live a normal life, as he wants to die saving the world. Buffy escapes just in time. As the Scoobies look back at the destruction of Sunnydale, Buffy simply smiles knowing that she’s no longer alone.
Chuck Says: Not only is it the last episode, but the way it turns the mythology on its ear is simply amazing writing. The scene where you see girls all around the world becoming slayers is also just an awesome scene and really gives you the theme of the entire series in the span of about 2 minutes.
I thought people might be interested to see Joss Whedon's top ten list.
Episode Summary: Angel loses his soul after making love with Buffy and disappears from his room. When Buffy awakens she discovers him gone. Angel teams up with Spike and Drusilla to let the Judge loose on the world. Buffy has to overcome her sadness at the loss of her boyfriend to defeat the Judge. She later discovers that Jenny knew all about the possibility of Angel losing his soul.
Joss Says: “It’s a mission-statement show, and one of the ones where I first found out what we could do.”
2. Once More With Feeling
Episode Summary: A new all-singing all-dancing demon called Sweet arrives in Sunnydale, whose presence makes everyone start to sing and dance. The Scoobies discover that their true feelings are awakened through song. Tara is upset when she discovers that Willow created a spell to make her forget an argument they had. Xander and Anya are worried about their forthcoming marriage, but feel they can’t say anything about it to each other. Dawn is stealing things for attention, but is getting none at all. Spike is confused about what Buffy wants. Giles worries that his position as father figure to Buffy is stifling the Slayer, and wonders if she’d be more independent without him. The songs finally culminate in Buffy confessing to her friends that she was really in heaven before they brought her back to life.
Joss Says: “What am I going to say?”
Episode Summary: Fairytale monsters called the Gentlemen arrive in Sunnydale and steal the voices of the town’s residents as a cover for harvesting hearts. Buffy and Riley separately follow the Gentlemen to their lair and are shocked to discover each others’ secret identities. Meanwhile, Willow meets another witch called Tara who helps her to perform a powerful spell, and Olivia decides that Giles’s lifestyle is too scary for her.
4. The Body
Episode Summary: Buffy’s mother Joyce dies suddenly of an aneurysm, which was an unknown complication from her operation. This episode charts the effects of Joyce’s death on Buffy, Dawn and their friends from the moment Buffy finds her.
Desperate to become a vengeance demon again, Anya asks Willow to help her with a spell. The aim is to try to get her necklace back from the alternate universe created in The Wish, though she lies to Willow about this. It goes wrong, and instead brings Willow’s vampire doppelganger into the Buffyverse. After attempting to take over Sunnydale, and freaking Willow out by being a bit too friendly, Vampire Willow is captured and sent back to the alternate universe, where she pops in just in time to die the same death she died in The Wish.
Joss Says: “Because one Willow is certainly not enough.”
6. The Wish
Episode Summary: Cordelia is angry about Xander’s betrayal. Her pain summons Anyanka, a vengeance demon who grants wishes to scorned women. Blaming Buffy for everything that has gone wrong in her life, Cordelia wishes that the Slayer had never come to Sunnydale. This wish allows Anyanka to create a hellish alternative reality where The Master is ruling over Sunnydale’s vampires.
Joss Says: “Very bleak, very fun. It went to a dark place, and that’s really exciting to me. That’s where I live.”
7. Becoming (Part 2)
Episode Summary: Buffy is accused of Kendra’s murder and goes on the run from the police. She is approached by Spike who offers to make her a deal - he will help save Giles if she spares Drusilla. Giles is tortured by Angelus and resists but Dru hypnotises him into telling Angelus how to use Acathla. Buffy tells her mother that she’s a slayer. They argue and Joyce reacts badly, telling her if she leaves she’s not welcome home. Buffy leaves and is then expelled by Snyder, who she meets at the school. Buffy heads off to meet Angelus for a final showdown. Angelus awakens Acathla just as Willow restores his soul. Buffy kisses Angel then stabs him, sending him to hell. In despair, Buffy leaves Sunnydale.
Joss Says: “Buffy loses everything. Also, it had a sword fight. I love sword fighting.”
Episode Summary: After the exhausting events of defeating Adam, the Scoobies settle down to watch a few videos and relax together. Before long they’re all asleep and we get to see their dreams, in which they are each attacked by the spirit of the First Slayer, as well as their own personal demons. When they awake, they’re left wondering about the first original Slayer - as well as that weird guy with the cheese.
Joss Says: “Most people sort of shake their heads at it. It was different, but not pointless.”
9. Conversations with Dead People
Episode Summary: The Scoobies encounter a paranormal force in five seperate stories: While out on patrol, Buffy fights a former classmate who is a newly-risen vampire, who reveals that he was sired by Spike. Dawn is terrified when an invisible force trashes the Summers’ house and deposits the corpse of her mother on the sofa. The ghost of Cassie visits Willow under the guise of being sent by Tara; and Spike apparently has returned to his killing ways. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Andrew return from Mexico, where a vision of Warren persuades Andrew to kill Jonathan over a mystical seal.
Joss Says: “I’m very fond of ‘Conversations with Dead People.’ I just thought structurally and tonally it was very interesting and had a lot to say. And I got to write another song.”
10. Prophecy Girl
Episode Summary: Giles discovers a prophecy that Buffy will face the Master and die. Terrified, she wants to quit as a Slayer but an incident in the school, which upsets Willow, makes Buffy decide to face her destiny. The Master drowns her but she’s resuscitated by Xander. Buffy finally kills the Master.
Joss Says: “Because that was my first time, besides telling directors what to do, that I actually got to direct. And it was the first time I got to kill Buffy, and the first season ender, and it was the first time I realized I could take everything we did in the season and tie it in a bow.”
Episode Summaries were taken from the buffy trivia guide, a great fan site for all things Buffy.
The "Joss Says" comments come from an interview he did with USA Today after the final episode of Buffy had aired.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
My goal for the month is a short book every 10 days, so to keep I need to knock this puppy out by the 20th.
Fingers crossed and still on track...
Friday, December 16, 2005
Monday, December 12, 2005
TV isnt a medium that seeks perfection. A TV actor once said working in TV was like working in a coal mine. You put your hours in and worked to produce something solid, sturdy and useful. It wasnt pretty, it wasnt perfect, you went for something sturdy and reliable and worth peoples' time.
But there are those moments when everything comes together, and a single moment seems to both define what a show is all about, and remind you of why you watch it every week.
DS9, my favorite of the Star Trek series had one, when Sisko, having lied, cheated and murdered (with Garak's help) to bring the Romulans into the Dominion War looks right into the camera and says "I can live with myself".
The Original Series had one too, with Kirk bellowing out "We might go up into the biggest ball of fire since the last sun in these parts exploded but we've got to take that one in ten thousand chance!"
Buffy had one in its second episode, when Buffy, having killed most of the Master's servants, makes the remaining few scurry off with a look. I mean a look. A look that made me go "who is that girl".
And I just added a 4th moment to my list of TV perfection and it came from Smallville.
See, I like Superman, and the "origin story" of Superman had never really been told.
At the end of the first episode, when I saw how the writers were using Kryptonite to cause weird mutations around Smallville (and also of course mess up Clark on a regular basis) I knew the show had a winning formula.
But Lex is the character that brings me back to the show time and again. Smallville has taken the most stock, over the top villain in comics history (sorry Doctor Doom, you come in second) and turned him into a tragic hero.
That's right, I said it. Clark is the hero of Smallville, but so is Lex. You're watching comedy and tragedy at the same time. The story has two heroes, but only one gets a happy ending.
And frequently, I find myself rooting for the wrong one. The bald one.
But the one moment, in the final episode of the first season, when Lex, red blood perfectly framing one eye looks down at his father, trapped beneath a beam during a tornado, knowing if he doesn't help him his father will die. THAT was the moment we see the Lex of the future for the first time.
And the only thing I could say was "hell yeah".
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Saturday, December 10, 2005
I think since the dumb New England winter that finally was knocked me offline I have finished um... well at least two books, which isn't bad if I say so myself (and I think I just did ) if you know what I mean (and I think you do).
So in addition to finishing the first draft of the Fertile Crescent, I also wrote a little sci-fi aliens book. Only 10 pages, but I think it's mighty tasty.
Two words: Giant Space Monsters.
Ok that's three words.
I reveal my sci-fi roots by my affinity for space monsters that can eat starships I suppose.
But only Kirk could kill those, take that Richard Hatch!
And so we come full circle.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Part of my design philosophy for the Fertile Crescent has been to see how much of the kitchen sink I can throw at the PA genre and have it not seem silly. The world we live in as dead and a new one has risen from the ashes.
Who gets to decide what stays and what goes? You got that right: me.
To quote the oh-so-dreamy Leo from Titanic "I AM THE KING OF THE WORLD".
Ok so what stays?
1. Football: In the land of Lombardi and the "frozen tundra", not to mention the dawg pound and soldier field (those are football stadiums in Cleveland and Chicago for the sports illiterate among you) there is NO WAY football is going to be stopped by something as measly as the end of the world.
Therefore football becomes Skinball. It's like football, only with brass knuckles.
2. The Mafia: In the first place, Marlon Brando is the greatest film actor who ever lived and the Godfather is the best movie ever made. Got that? In the second place, what do these so-called criminals do for a living: drugs, gambling, prostitution and violence.
All of which are legal in the Twisted Earth.
The Mafia is going nowhere and has in fact thrived in the new world thankyouverymuch.
3. Planet of the Apes: This is the greatest Post Apoc film series ever made. Got that? Although we only get the Charlton "Moses" Heston for one movie, we at least get James Franciscus for the cheesy sequels. Oh and I include the TV series as cool too.
So we need an homage that but we wanted it to be subtle. A free PDF to the person who correctly identifies the Apes homage in the Fertile Crescent.
4. Dawn of the Dead: ANOTHER great PA movie, the Fertile Crescent's early list of "must haves" involved a place where the undead had won.
Enter the Feeding Grounds, a city overrun with an increasing number of cannibalistic ghouls since the Fall.
More when I have time...
Maybe this is going to be a real design diary after all...
Friday, November 25, 2005
Here's a Josh Marshal post about Abu Musab Zarqawi, terrorist mastermind and evil genius behind the Iraqi terrorists and al-Qaeda's #2 man.
Here's the part that's really eye-catching:
With some regularity he is apparently killed, but then turns out not to be dead. Often, if you read between the lines, it's not clear that we know enough about Zarqawi to be able to identify him even if we had a relatively intact body to examine. In a similarly odd fashion, second-in-commands seem to be caught with some regularity, only to be replaced by other long-time second-in-commands.Now check out this, from the Wikipedia entry on the "resistance" to the reign of Big Brother:
In the novel Goldstein is rumored to be a former top member of the ruling (and sole) Party who had broken away early in the movement and started an organization known as "The Brotherhood", dedicated to the fall of The Party. However, in the course of the novel, we learn that we will never know whether either "The Brotherhood" or Goldstein himself actually ever existed, even though we are led to believe that neither Goldstein, nor the "Brotherhood," nor "Big Brother" exists outside of suggestion. Each member of "The Brotherhood" is required to read a book supposedly written by Goldstein, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism (see: Goldstein's book).
Each person is said to have 3 or 4 contacts at one time which are replaced as people disappear, so that if a member is captured, he can only give up 3 or 4 others. Goldstein is always the subject of the "Two Minutes Hate," a daily, 2-minute period beginning at 11:00 am at which some image of Goldstein is shown on the telescreen (a one-channel television with surveillance devices in it). It is thought that the opposition to Big Brother – namely, Goldstein – was simply a construction, which ensured that support and devotion towards Big Brother was continuous. It is never revealed whether this is true.
Maybe this is a paranoid question, but does anyone know if Zarqawi sounds like an annoying sheep when he talks?
Atwood might be my favorite living author, capable of making something lyric and powerful and devastating all at the same time.
She's also a huge Orwell fan, having been inspired (at least partly) by her love of his dystopian works Animal Farm and 1984 to write her own dystopian novel (and my favorite work by her) The Handmaid's Tale.
She recently wrote an essay on Orwell in the post 9-11 world that I think should be read by absolutely everyone.
“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Now think about who might have said it while you hum the jeopardy theme to yourself.
Nazi Reich Marshal Hermann Goering, before committing suicide at the Nuremberg Trials
Here's another one:
“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed.”
From the novel 1984 by George Orwell
You know, like how we went to war with Iraq over Weapons of Mass Destruction errr because of Sadaam's ties to 9-11 errr because we wanted to free the Iraqi people from torture and tyranny errr because "cutting and running" would make us look weak!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Not the kind you eat, the kind you read.
The onion is a parody newspaper and online news service. Like other dead tree papers that are no less funny, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and Juggs magazine, the Onion will let you read a little on their site for free, or you can pay them and get it delivered.
Here's an example of the dark, demented humor you can find in the Onion along with a bit of background. One of the things the Onion parodies is the President's weekly radio address. On the page where you can listen to these comedic gems, you will find a picture of the sitting President, along with an image of the Presidential Seal.
Apparently after one of these the White House was miffed and informed the Onion that the Presidential Seal was only for non-commercial use and was usable only when permission was granted in writing.
Although there was some legal mumbo jumbo with the Onion defending their ability to use the seal (everyone knows the paper is a joke- well almost everyone- so there's no implied endorsement) and a request to in fact use the seal, the paper really responded a few days later in a way only the Onion can (for those interested in a less-funny description of this little legal back and forth in the so-called news, look here).
Welll... that's not always true. But *this* President doesn't cut and run and run, which led to the following announcement earlier today:
The full hilarity can be found here.
Now that the Iraq war has been won (three times at last count), Bush says the nation can finally return its attention to these un-won battles around the world, beginning with a planned midnight invasion of North Vietnam.
"America does not cut and run, but there have been times when our nation had to accept deferred victory," said Bush. "But the time has come to return to these places and complete our destiny, not to re-write history but to remake it."
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Northern Crown (the first book anyway) was great. Liber Mechanus for IK was good to see. Legends of the Samurai is awesome beyond words.Its a little mention, and a shameless plug, but I just love reading stuff like that :)
(Link to the LoS product page is mine, not part of the initial post- so sue me).
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I've been watching three shows lately, which is almost a record for me.
Rome: Best. Historical. Show. Ever. Great characters, and if you ever wanted to ask yourself while watching TV "is this the week they off Caesar?" then this is definitely the show for you.
The Daily Show: Pure fun. My daily half hour of laughter is what they should call it.
Angel: Yes I was late to the party on the whole Buffy/Angel phenomenon. I saw a couple of episodes of Buffy and dismissed as "sort of a soap" back in the day. It was actually loving the series Firely and loving Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men that got me to check it out, and I was hooked almost immediately.
Having gone through the entire run of Buffy via netflix, I am now working on Angel.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I pitched RPGObjects a plan looooooooong ago to do a supplement on the Great Lakes region of the Twisted Earth. They liked the idea, so much in fact that the region, the "Fertile Crescent" made its way onto the Darwin's World second edition map.
But other stuff kept being put ahead of the idea in my docket (like Blood and Space, Blood and Fists and Blood and Guts). Until now. As of today I am officially writing the Fertile Crescent gazetteer for DW.
In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue.
I do, however, before I leave the issue with the brilliant (and might I add, damn witty) summation above have to call out a couple of the most lame arguments made on various sides of this issue:
- I took an illegal file to my game and my group liked it so much they bought five! File sharing helps the hobby!
- If someone robs a bank, the bank doesn't have the money! If I download a PDF the guy who wrote it still has it. It's fictional property so I haven't stolen anything!
You know, work.
So I did a book for the Legends fantasy line called Legends of Sorcery that attempts to put to bed a nagging feeling I've had in my head for some time now: the feeling that the magic system in the Legends books was "ok" but not great.
Well hopefully I've done something about that. This will be the magic book for the Legends line from here on out, which will mean some changes to the line. For starters this will mean that we'll be able to do more Legends books since we won't need to reproduce the magic system every time.
Secondly this will cater to the historical gaming crowd out there who want something like the Bushido Handbook was for Legends of the Samurai. A historical fantasy game assuming there was no magic at all.
In other words those of you who'd rather leave magic by the wayside won't have to put up with 20 or so pages of whitespace (relatively speaking) anymore.
Secondly I did a little book for Darwin's World called Primals (although I'm hearing that might change to avoid confusion with *ahem* another product as they say) that brings mutated animals to a DW game near you.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Here's a nice discussion online.
As for what I'd do, most of you probably know. It'd involve making the combat feats a little more realistic, giving martial arts and armor makeovers to more accurately represent modern warfare (like how good Plate armor works against guns in d20M- as good as kevlar) and returning a better selection of combat feats to the classes themselves.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Full story here.
Update. It appears the lander is having difficulties and drifted off into space. The Japanese space agency says they are going to try on the 19th and the 25th.
Ah yes, Microsoft. Full story here.
I will bury them. I have done it before, I will kill them, he said. He was not finished, however. He threw a chair across the boardroom in sheer frustration.'
Where is this from? A Hollywood film starring Michael Douglas? A supari transaction in Dubai where a bhai is venting his anger against a rival gang? A meeting in the Command HQ in central Baghdad?
No. It is actually from a court testimony concerning -- hold your breath, as they say -- Microsoft's Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, the man next only to God in the computer corporate hierarchy, next only to the omnipresent and omniscient Bill Gates.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Personally I'm of two minds on the subject. Part of me says this is just another step toward making D&D into a point based system. Something I argued against rather vehemently here.
It's not that I don't like point-based systems. Far from it, I have been tinkering with GURPs through a couple of editions and was playing Hero... well, before it was Hero (back when it was Champions and Danger Internation and Justice Inc... ahhh good times).
But I also like variety. In a lot of ways we're in a "one system to rule them all" environment in the minds of many d20 gamers (thank you very much Ryan Dancey). d20 gamers have a tendency to think that they can tweak the system to maximum efficiency, borrowing elements from GURPs and Hero and Traveller and Marvel until they get just the right mix in and BOOM... there is only one game.
I "grew up" (from a gaming perspective) in which people would look around on a Saturday night while Toshiro Mifune was killing things on cable and say "I'm bored, let's play Supers. But not Champions. Let's play Marvel instead".
The next Saturday you might have the same chat but play Villains and Vigilantes... or Hero.
We didn't think we needed one system for all our games. Or even one system for the same GENRE of games. We could appreciate Hero's complexity and Marvel's elegant simplicity equally.
However, the idea of expanding what you do with skills does intrigue me. Which is why I wrote a magic system that is completely skill based. No spell slots... no spell points... just skill checks.
And GURPs does weapons as skills in a way I really like.
Maybe I'll think about it some more and maybe a book like that will be on its way soon.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Let me preface this by saying that I consider myself a left-leaning centrist (I have voted for plenty of Republicans- the first man I voted for was Ronald Reagan) but I probably voted Dem more.
I have a lot of respect for conservatives who have a set of beliefs that make sense to me, which doesn't really include the guys currently in power.
And then today here comes Patrick J. "Nixons's own speechwriter" Buchanan with proof of exactly WHY he was so coveted as a speechwriter for all those years, as well as what a real conservative thinks about the current bunch of thugs, neocons, Limbaugh-clones and chickenhawks who have been running things for the last 5 years.
Here's the money quote:
Thus, in March, 2003, Bush, in perhaps the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history, invaded an Arab nation that had not attacked us, did not want war with us, and did not threaten us—to strip it of weapons we now know it did not have.And here's another nice little zinger:
Democratic imperialism is still imperialism. To Arab and Islamic peoples, whether the Crusaders come in the name of God or in the name of democracy, they are still Crusaders.The full text can be read here, and I highly recommend it.
But not about work. Fuck that.
Ok maybe later.
I think the two coolest things going right now have to be:
Serenity. God that was a good movie. Im afraid it didnt make enough money for there to be more than one is the only I wish was different about it. Mmmm cannibals and chicks with superpowers.
Civilzation 4. My Islamic Mongol Hordes are going to RULE THE WORLD.
Plus its the best Civ game ever, and that means a lot on the street.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
No idea when this will be for sale, I just turned in my draft today, but it should be soon.
Monday, July 04, 2005
More details as they become available (that's my little way of saying I haven't started writing them yet).
I think, based on this experience, along with the other Legends books, that if I were to write the PHB (yeah right) I would make Paladin a PrC as well.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Thursday, June 30, 2005
For those of you who are members of the Legendsrpg yahoo group, you've already heard this (that's right- I filter information out slowly like the CIA taking over a South American country for General Foods).
The next Legends book will be Legends of the Dark Ages, covering Europe from the Fall of the Western Roman Empire through Charlemagne (476-814). While there will be magic in the game, the goal was to do a more historical take on the period (since arguably Excalibur is a dark ages book as well).
I think for those with an interest in historical gaming this would be a big hit. Also I think there's a lot here for the Excalibur player/gm.
Dark Ages has a lot of info on barbarians, including a couple of new core classes (Marauder and Nomad) and a barbarian bloodline.
The core class list is shaping up along these lines:
Hermit (from Excalibur)
Mercenary (from Legends of Carthage)
Noble (from Excalibur)
Skald (from Excalibur)
The book will also provide a fairly indepth history of the period and a period specific equipment section. Included in the equipment rules will be information on mounted combat without stirrups and a complete armor and weapons chart for wrought iron, the strongest metal of the dark ages.
As always, questions and comments welcome.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I get the same feeling the day a PDF is released, but there's still something special about looking at a cover with the "sell text" on the back. A lot of times reading it makes you realize why you did the book in the first place and you know that a whole new group of people will get to see it and enjoy it.
Here's to the speedy approach of Gen Con
Thursday, June 09, 2005
In related news, I have also got word that the Legends of the Samurai Campaign Guide is being layed out and should be available shortly.
I just wrapped the second mini-Legends book, Legends of the Ancients: Macedon.
That's right, for all of you who thought the first mini-Legends book was too short cause I couldnt completely cover the history of Carthage in 11 pages (duhhhh) I have now attempted to cover the history of Macedon and Alexander the Great in 7!
And for those wondering, no I don't have as one of my goals that these books be complete in exhaustive detail. They are the beginnings of research more than the end. But you do get enough history to whet your appetite (hopefully) for historical gaming and more crunch is always good right?
Hello? Is this thing on?
Oh and I am working on a Legends book with a bit more heft to it even as we speak.
When I can say more, dear readers, I certainly will :)
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Part 3 is my next contribution to the dispatch and will see the light of day in the next issue, a mere 6 days away.
In the meantime enjoy these comments from RPGnow about the dispatches in question.
Something that might be of interest to those reading comment #1, Operation: Dry County is indeed a quirky adventure. In the wake of the fall of Baghdad, a booming business in liquor sales has sprung up that is vehemently resented by some of the city's residents. The PCs have been asked to protect the liquor stores from terrorist attack.
For those wondering where I got this bizarre idea... the news! Gotta love Voice of America news broadcasts ;)
Modern Dispatch Issue #15: Operation Dry County
This scenario presents a quirky situation, to say the least, for typical RPG special ops concept characters. The bad guys use some tactical ability and the scenario will reward thinking and planning over random action. Good local detail and the organisation of the operation seems reasonable, if unlikely.
Modern Dispatch #35: Leads and Complexities
This is the second Iraq-based Dispatch module from this company and much closer to a familiar military mission than 'Dry Country'. The initial encounter, though balanced and survivable, is well calculated to strike fear into players who value their characters' survival. The second part, cornering an insurgent group, has some complexities along with straight-up combat.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Reviewed by: Wayne Tonjes
Legends of the Samurai: The Mystic Arts v1.0 by RPGObjects is a new d20 supplement of their Legends line. At present, this product is only available as an electronic PDF file through RPGNow.com or the company directly. It comes with a choice of formats, although RPGNow only provides the on-screen, landscape version. As such, acquisition of the alternative, print version requires a visit to the main product site.
This volume is the second of three designed to create a semi-historic setting of feudal Japan for the d20 System. This installment addresses the various magic options for this particular setting.
The first volume, The Bushido Handbook, provided the more martial classes, along with numerous underlying aspects key to recreating a relatively realistic Japan. The third book will subsequently provide game master information for a campaign.
The general setting concept is quoted here from the product websites: “Travel to a world of blood, loyalty, and honor with the second installment of RPGObjects’ Legends line of d20 fantasy supplements. This d20 sourcebook features new classes and mechanics to bring the world of medieval Japan to life in your game and blends our popular spell point, nobility, fate, and martial rules to create an Oriental game experience like no other.”This summary provides some hints to the mechanics that will be offered in all three volumes, and this one handles the spell point and fate systems while the first handed the martial rules and nobility details needed to reenact traditional Japan.
The book contains just two chapters, starting with the four main magic wielding classes. These classes provide the major sources of magic items with the exception of the arms and armor, which are the sole province of the shokunin class given in The Bushido Handbook. These new classes are evenly split between arcane and divine spell casters. The arcanists consist of the kensa, true masters of the elements, and the more subtle mahoutsukai, despised masters of illusion and enchantment. The senkensha and shukke are the available divine casters, with the first gaining assorted divination talents and the latter monastic training benefits. All of these classes have some dependence on mechanics presented in the first volume, particularly the Bloodline, Honor, and Allegiance systems. As such, this volume cannot be used simply as a standalone product without a fair bit of creative modification. To get the most out of this volume requires it be used as it was intended as the second part of the Legends of the Samurai trilogy.
The second chapter could readily be divided into three or more chapters, with a minimum of one each on basic mechanics and information, spell lists and descriptions, and mystic items. The latter two divisions of spells and magic items are fairly standard for a d20 sourcebook and can be easily summarized. There are only three new spell domains, fifty-two new spells, and six new weapon or armor qualities. All other entries are merely modified to account for the new creation rules or the altered selection of spell casting classes. Unfortunately, there are some slips, like one magic item that still uses its core rule spell requirements for creation despite those spells being excluded from the setting or the Importune Kami spells that aim for flavor but fail to give any real benefit. Overall, these are a fair selection, although the basic details of mystic item creation are somewhat obscure.
The first part of the chapter is far more varied, with the new magic rules, skills, feats, Japanese religions, and fate and destiny mechanic. It starts with the magic system, which switches from the daily spell slot system to a more flexible, constantly renewing spell point system. This is the same system as was presented in Legends of Excalibur, although there is slightly less emphasis placed on beneficial locales in this setting. Spells are assigned a spell level based spell point cost that gradually decreases as the caster rises in level. This is a tested system that works.
Unfortunately, how high ability scores add spell points is unfortunately not provided, leaving it to assumption that the normal skill modifier is simply added to the caster's total.
The other basic mechanics include six subskills, nine revised metamagic feats, six new feats, religions and deities of historic Japan, and the fate system. The skills are rather abbreviated, to the point that a seventh subskill was accidentally excluded and it was never stated explicitly that the craft subskills replace the core d20 magic item creation rules with the standard craft rules. This shift has some impact on the availability of magic items, as player characters are less likely to have the time to invest in their creation. While the requirement to take specific feats and spend experience points to make magic items is removed, the corresponding greatly increased creation time and rather hefty number of requisite skill check rolls may be more than many players care to play.
The revised feats are more thorough, despite nine of them only offering a slight modification from the core rule definitions. If there is anything lacking from this section, it is a table of all the feats instead of just the eleven metamagic feats. The new options mostly offer enhancements to spell point totals, either in their recovery, alternate sources, or metamagic alterations to reduce spell casting costs. The distinct new feat, Ancestral Weapon/Armor, is more general, required by any class to simply harness the powers of a specific magical weapon or armor. This feat, more than anything, imposes the limited magic of the setting, as a character requires a separate investment of this feat to acquire any bonus from each magic weapon or armor owned.
Furthermore, it requires, in essence, another possessor of the feat to just hand off one owned magic armament for a better one. As such, any magic weapon or armor is typically going to have been a specially ordered, unique piece, enhanced to the best of the owners' ability. Simple +1 weapons are going to be created only as a temporary step towards greater items.
The listing of religious details and the fate system are both good. The religious review includes overviews of Buddhism, Christianity, and Shinto. Of these, only Shinto has a selection of individualized deities with unique domains. Fourteen of the Shinto gods are provided. The fate system is a somewhat optional system that allows a character to spend fate points to modify assorted checks in the pursuit of some important goal. In exchange for these positive modifiers, the character accumulates destiny points, which can be used by the game master against the character at appropriately dramatic junctures. It is a nice mechanic for adding both the undefeatable resolve and inevitable, epic destinies typical of Japanese legendary heroes.
The volume layout and art are in the same style as the first book of the series, with a good use of color for text highlight and a decent collection of ink style portraits and small action scenes. The product, as mentioned, currently only comes in an electronic form, with separately downloaded format options with a landscape layout for onscreen viewing and portrait print friendly version.
The print version makes less use of background color, although it still uses enough to keep the titles and labels distinct. The volume is still using a version number, suggesting an intention to update. As RPGObjects traditionally welcomes feedback on their products and have already revised The Bushido Handbook to version 1.1, this is an opportunity for readers wanting some particular aspect of historic Japan developed to put in their two cents.
The Mystic Arts v1.0 presents the basic magic classes and system needed for a Japanese based campaign, but it needs a bit more work. In general, there is a mixed approach to the level of magic within the setting. Parts of it, particularly the historic nature, crafting rules, and feat requirement for fully using magic arms and armor, indicate a low magic level. However, the fact that spellcasters can still wield fireballs and lightning bolts, and even do so more flexibly than the core rule wizard, is more of a high magic feature. Similarly, the attempt to make magic item creation more limited by the shift to class or skill requirements really just shifts the cost around a bit without making it particularly harder. Hopefully, the next revision might address the disparity by making the aims of the magic system a little more explicit along with catching the assorted lapses. Take a look now and see where the magic of historic Japan, really is.
For more details on RPGObjects and their new d20 supplement, Legends of the Samurai: The Mystic Arts v1.0, check them out at their website http://www.rpgobjects.com and at RPGNow.com.
The original review can be found here:
Monday, May 23, 2005
Shell Therrin, a 6th level character (Smart 3/Starship Designer 3) decides to build a new class of heavy fighter to aid the Sons of Jove in the their conflict against the United Earth Government. She has informs the game master that she has begun to draw up the plans for this vehicle in preparation of the building of a prototype.
Shell has 9 ranks in the Craft (Structural) and Craft (mechanical) skills.
First Shell designs the hull. Since this is a fighter she decides the craft will be an ultralight starship, which has a base purchase DC of 16 and a base invention point cost of 160. Since Shell wants these fighters to be tough and survivable as the main attack craft of the rebellion she ups their hit dice from the base of 4d20 to 10d20. Adding 6 HD increases the wealth cost by +9 and the invention point cost by +90, resulting in a final purchase price of 25 and a final invention point cost of 250. Shell decides to take 10 on all her Craft checks, meaning the prototype will take 13 days to construct.
Shell decides to purchase the fighter’s engines and defensive systems on the black market, leaving her more time to design a unique weapon for the craft.
Since the craft will operate in the rock-filled surrounding of the Jovian moons, Shell designs a new weapon that will capture small micro-meteors and then fire them at high speed at enemy vessels.
Since her fighters are small to more easily hide from UEG military vessels, she makes the number of dice for her starship weapon 6, the maximum that can be installed on a Huge hull. This has a base purchase DC of 18 and a base invention point cost of 180. Because of the extreme speeds generated by these weapons (and because her fighters will often have to engage much larger vessels) Shell makes the attack die of the weapon d12, increasing the purchase cost by +8 and the invention point cost +80. The costs for the weapon being a direct fire weapon and inflicting physical damage cancel out, leaving the purchase price of the prototype at 26 and the invention point cost 260. Taking 10 on all her Craft (mechanical) checks means that Shell can complete the weapon in 14 days.
SOJ-Fighter (PL 6)
This fighter designed by Shell Therrin, technical wizard behind many of the craft and weapons used by the terrorists (or freedom-fighters) the Sons of Jove is the size of a small shuttle, but is incredibly tough and durable.
Size: Huge (–2 size)
Subtype: SOJ Fighter
Tactical Speed: 3,500 ft. (7 sq.)
Length: 24 feet
Flat-footed Defense: 11
Weight: 24,000 lb.
Autopilot Defense: 9
Targeting System Bonus: +1
Crew: 1 (trained +4)
Hit Dice: 10d20 (200 hp)
Passenger Capacity: 4
Initiative Modifier: +2
Cargo Capacity: 2,400 lb.
Pilot’s Class Bonus: +3
Grapple Modifier: +8
Pilot’s Dex Modifier: +2
Base Purchase DC: 62
Gunner’s Attack Bonus: +2
Restriction: Illegal (+4)
Attack: 3 Slingshot Mass Drivers +1 ranged (6d12)
Attack of Opportunity: None
Standard PL 6 Design Specs:
Engines: Ion engine, thrusters
Defense Systems: Autopilot system
Sensors: Class II sensor array, targeting system
Communications: Laser transceiver, radio transceiver
Weapons: 3 Slingshot Mass DriversGrappling Systems: None
Friday, May 20, 2005
Friday, May 13, 2005
As he was beginning to rise he felt the cold steel against the side of his neck causing him to hold still, his muscles twitching with repressed rage like a tiger pacing in its pen, “Put that away you blasphemous lout. I wouldn’t have expected such irreverence even from you.”
When he no longer felt the cold steel against his neck, Vitali rose, quickly turning. The fact that he towered over a small, almost elfin woman gave him pause, until he noticed the sneer she wore like a mask of impertinence, “Yes, your kind would never draw a weapon in here… unless you outnumbered an unarmed priest five to one and needed to curry favor with King Henry at least.”
Vitali growled low in his throat, unable to bear the insinuation, reaching for the blade concealed inside his priestly garments with murderous intent, “If I had known it was you who invited me here, foul Templar you can rest assured I would have brought four friends with me to help you live out your paranoid…”
“She didn’t invite you here, brother. I did.”
Turning, they both realized with some alarm that the man in the shadows had been there all along, that they had walked right past him and not noted his presence. Stepping from the shadows, they could see that he dressed simply in a Friar’s raiment and carried no weapon, his face radiating calm serenity.
Vitali had to strongly resist the urge to reach for his weapon again, but the large Russian restrained himself. He had endured a childhood in a Godless state that persecuted all those who believed and he now prided himself on his ability to endure anything if needed.
Even, it seemed, the company of a Templar Knight and a Torquemada Friar.
“I think I prefer the company of the Templar. At least she acts out of ignorance, while you, in full knowledge of the evils wrought by your zealotry.”
Now an edge of steel tinged the serenity, but the old friar merely smiled, his eyes twinkling with a dark light, “Yes, that is to be expected of one such as you. When you land on an uncharted continent and find it dominated by savages sacrificing women and children by the thousands on blood-soaked altars to bring about the end of the world, you beg for Cortez to deliver you. When Spain is overrun with the Caeder the Holy Father himself cries out for Torquemada to bring darkness from the light. But when you do not think you need my kind you apologize to the people we have saved for the salvation we have given them, when you do not need us we are zealots.”
The twinkle in the old man’s eye vanished, replacing mirth with cold, calculating rage as the huge Russian’s booming laughter filled the enormous cathedral, “My but you love the sound of your voice, old man.”
Though it would seem impossible, Vitali’s laughter only increased in volume when the small woman at his side clapped him on the back, joining him in his mirth, “I think he’s saying we have no need for your brand of ‘faith’ old man.”
Now the friar smiled again, but it was a smile incapable of warming the cold glint in his eyes, “Oh but you do need me. The Pope is gravely ill. And someone is killing those most worthy to succeed him, one by one.”
And as the church fell silent it was the old man’s turn to laugh. A perverse laugh, without a hint of mirth.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
For those of you wondering why I haven't updated this blog at the rate I did when it first appeared, or for that matter those of you wondering when my next book will hit the net (hi Chris! thanks for not firing me!) I would like to announce that my long Russian Winter-like battle against the Legends of the Samurai Campaign Guide has finally come to an end.
In the final analysis April wasn't all THAT bad of a month for me, the CG will clock in at a respectable page count and things are progressing much more smoothly on my next book (the long promised Blood and Space II Starship Construction book) but still, I have to say this is the worst bout of burnout I have ever experienced.
And it sucked.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
There's a slightly new look to the blog these days. Look over to the left and you will see a list of links to some important websites where you can find out more about me and my work.
And yes, I edited the blog template all by myself!
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
Looking over this blog, one might come to the conclusion that what I think about when I work is... not work. The "what I'm thinking" posts have the "work process" posts so flanked they get an attack of opportunity for making their attacks of opportunity.
So, to even things out a little, let's look at the state of Legends of the Samurai.
One of the things that makes up a big part of any design process is the back and forth between the designer and the developer.
The role of the developer is one that's really misunderstood and is often invisible to the reader of a book.
In part this is because the developer is part of the background. You see the words, and the art and the layout. They immediately leap off the page as integral parts of the work and if one of them sucks then you know who to flame on your favorite board, cause his name is in the front.
However if the developer does his job badly then you might just end up flaming the wrong person.
When you work on a project, each member of the design team has his head in his own piece of the puzzle. This is a good thing. Writing, art, cartography... these things are pretty hard and the people doing them need to bring all the talents they have to bear to make them as lights out as possible.
What this means, however, is that these people also have blinders on. The developer is there to watch over the whole process and make sure it gells. He keeps his eye on all the people working on the book and makes sure they're all moving toward the same goal.
Here's an anaology. You're in a maze. There are 4 other people in the maze too. There are 4 seperate ways out of the maze, meaning that you all stand a great chance to make it through to the other side. However, you all need to exit by the same door for maximum results. Maybe only one of the maze's exits have cheese behind them. Maybe one leads right to a moustrap. Who knows.
Now the developer isn't in the maze... he's there to make sure everyone reaches the right exit at the right time. Since he isn't running the course, but is watching from above, he can track things.
Ok... for those of yelling "enough with the fucking mice" in your best Tony Soprano, here's a more concrete example.
Say you have hired a top-notch cartographer to work on a book. He's doing a map of a primary campaign setting to be included in that book, along with several smaller maps of churches, a town, a city.
These maps are nice eye candy, but if the writer provides detailed descriptions of them, they become a much more useful piece of the art budget than some random line art. The developer can make sure the designer knows he needs to provide some map descriptions and can give him a detailed look at what areas the maps are going to cover.
In the case of RPGObjects, a small company, everyone tends to wear multiple hats. Chris Davis, the owner and guy who signs my checks (and a wonderful, wonderful person) does the layout and also serves as the developer for almost every project I write. We have a great working relationship and our back and forth (the bouncing of ideas and concepts between designer and developer) is a big part of the synergy that makes our books click.
Sometimes the back and forth is about something big. Armor as DR? Might be too different from the mainstream. Why is that important? Well the more easily things work together the more utility the book has. In the case of Legends of the Samurai, for example, we want people to be able to adapt OA adventures from Dungeon as easily as possible. So even if Armor as DR is a better option overall, it might be the best option here.
Sometimes the back and forth is about something... not so big. Maybe the book needs to be a few pages longer or a few pages shorter. Maybe a complicated rule needs an example.
These things might not always be apparent to me as a writer. Im too invested. Nothing needs more explanation, my writing is clear. It is beautiful. It is art.
As I get back into the flow of finishing Samurai, I'll have more thoughts.
Friday, March 25, 2005
One thing about Gene Roddenberry and company, they don't lack in balls. Star Trek: the Next Generation was an attempt to prove that Roddenberry hadn't just lucked into some great characters and a great, gun-blazing, wagon train to the stars premise.
He was going to prove that he had created a universe. A place where an endless series of adventures could be set.
And in many ways, Next Generation (hereafter referred to as TNG) was about as different from the original series as possible. A Klingon stood on the bridge of the Enterprise. The women dressed as same as the men. The Captain really *did* come in peace and actually asked the opinion of those around him. In fact, the ship was run by committee.
It was jarring, and it took some getting used to. In the meantime, however, the eye candy sure helped. Special effects had come a long way, and TNG brought that new technology to bear week after week.
For me, however, three things really stand out about TNG: the development of Worf (and Klingon culture in general), the Borg and the beginnings of the development of the Trekiverse.
Ronald Moore (now departed from the franchise and fuck you too Berman and Braga) deserves a lot of the credit both for the development of Worf and the culture of his race. If watch the credits you'll find that Moore wrote a lot of the episodes with a military bent and a lot of *those* featured our sullen, ridged-headed friend (naturally).
The Borg started out as an "alien of the week". They were the really big stick used by Q to bash a little of Picard's arrogance out of him (very little, but there was a lot of arrogance there you have to admit). However, the "Best of Both Worlds" they came back with a vengeance.
Now Trek has always longed for that "recurring villain" factor. In fact the origin of the Klingon race was an edict from Paramount to give the series a recurring villain. In TNG this lesson was taken to heart and a nemesis (Q) was built into the show from its very inception. Some other faltering attempts at a recurring villain had been tried (anyone remember when the Ferengi were introduced as the big, bad, mysterious villain?) with mixed results. However, Best of Both Worlds brought a whole new dimension to the table: the Cliffhanger.
And not just any cliffhanger, possibly the best one in television history. I still remember watching the clock and thinking to myself (this is cool and all, but there's 5 minutes left in the show, time for Data to pull something out of his ass and get this over with). And when I realized that they were going to make me wait till next *season* to find out what happened... well let's just say I was hooked.
Lastly, TNG really took to heart the concept that there was a whole universe out there and set to exploring that concept. Through the "alien of the week" mechanic, long built into the show, they began to add pillars to the universe. Weight-bearing ones too. The Ferengi, the Cardassians, the Bajorans and the Trill all were created by the TNG writing staff.
Minor, "lower decks" characters also served to fill out the show and the universe. Not everyone was a bridge officer, and actors were hired for short term commitments to show different elements of the ship and different sorts of characters. Ensign Ro, the Bajoran with a bad attitude (and template for Major Kira). Chief O'Brian, proving what we all knew all along, that Star Fleet, like all military organizations, really *was* run by the enlisted men. Barkley, the brilliant, but thoroughly introverted and Holodeck-addicted engineer. Ensign Lefler, a Star Fleet brat and party girl who lived her life by a series of obscure laws (and played by a smoking hot 20-something Ashley Judd at that).
These seeds took root and really showed just what could be done by treating the Trekiverse as a living, breathing place. When the crew left a world or an alien spacecraft at the end of an episode, you never knew if that was the last time they would be seen (as opposed to TOS where recurring characters were... well there were the Klingons, Romulans and Harcourt Fenton Mudd).
To be continued...
As for the delay, about two dozen NPCs have been added to the doc, serving both to illustrate the system and provide the ever-harried GM with some drag and drop NPCs for his campaign.
As an aside, I really love saying "drag and drop".
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Star Trek.
One of my earliest childhood memories (back in the primitive 1970's) was watching the original series on Saturday mornings. That's right, in the midst of the "Creature Feature" (bad horror/50's sci-fi fest where I saw many I *thankfully* would not see again until Mike and the bots had their way with them) and the cartoons was this live action sci-fi show.
I'm not exactly sure how early this was in my life, but to give you an idea of how early it was in my development it was during one of these broadcasts (an episode I had seen several times) that I realized the show wasn't happening live. That's right, I thought Bill and the boys were putting them on live every week.
I didn't even know what sci-fi was, but I knew the show had aliens and spacecraft and a whole bunch of other stuff I wasn't seeing anywhere. This sparked a love for science fiction of the adventure variety (as opposed to the kind that reads like a combination of a physics textbook and stereo instructions) and led to me reading a ton of cool books, including the Burroughs John Carter of Mars and Hollow Earth books.
And during the 70's the love affair continued in the theaters. The first time I remember standing in line at a theater was to see Star Trek: the Motion Picture. The FX blew me away. I loved it. It wasn't till years later I actually realized the movie was kind of plodding (though I'd be willing to bet it's a MUCH nicer experience on the big screen).
And then of course, there was Wrath of Khan. Now this was what Trek was all about. Ships were blowing up, creatures were placed in bodies to control minds, Kirk was screaming, McCoy was pissed and Spock had a plan up his sleeve.
The movies were fantastic. The Search for Spock introduced the best Klingon villain ever (I still think Christopher Lloyd is the best bad-ass Klingon, although Duras, Lursa and B'tor are close), and the Bird of Prey is easily one the best starships ever seen on the shows (top 5 starships: Original Enterprise, Bird of Prey, Defiant, Exclesior, Original Klingon).
Still, as good as these movies were, and as well as the original shows held up to the passage of time, it was hard to describe Star Trek as an actual universe or setting. We always saw it through the eyes of Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise.
What was the rest of the universe like? Was everyone in Star Fleet above the rank of Captain insane? Was every starship commander a maverick? Why the hell did a "peaceful" organization like Starfleet have standing general orders a ship's Captain could give to wipe out all life on a planet?
Well, when the show returned to the small screen, we were about to find out how well this vision Gene Roddenberry had of the future would hold an audience's interest without Kirk there to kick ass and take names 5 seconds after announcing that he came in peace.
To be continued...
Monday, March 14, 2005
And in related news (ok not really)... China passed a law that they will go to war to reclaim Taiwan today. The US has had a law for quite awhile that WE will go to war to stop China from retaking Taiwan.
Here's hoping the Organians show up.
Friday, March 11, 2005
See, the first Blood and Guts was good, but it was TOO MUCH.
What do I mean by that?
Its like inflation. Have you ever noticed how Greenspan at the Federal Reserve juggles inflation rates around every now and then? Sometimes he raises them, sometimes he lowers them... he's looking for that sweet spot.
You want the economy to be hot, but not TOO hot.
Before you think this has turned political, I do think that anology applies.
BNG had good classes, but too many. Good skills, but too many. Good feats, but too many.
I was once of the opinion that you could never have too much STUFF. If you recall, back in an earlier post in this very blog I promised my books would always have nice crunchy STUFF. And they will.
However I am beginning to realize that if one new class is a good thing, 15 new classes is not 15 times better.
Here's an example: In BNG there was one development path that would allow you to enter Delta Force by level 10. One.
And that meant you had no class or feat choices available until 10th level.
That's too much of a good thing.
In some ways, Blood and Fists and Blood and Guts, my 2nd and 3rd Modern books respectively were experiments. I had taught myself the game writing and running Blood and Relics, and now I was ready to take it for a spin.
Looking at BNF and BNG its hard to imagine they were written by the same guy. I was experimenting with different types of design. BNF was very modular... very adaptable. Sure it has a few classes, but they're optional. You can ignore the classes and make use of the other 95% of the book.
BNG was very tightly woven together. You couldnt make use of one part of the book without the other parts of the book.
While this allowed you to run certain kinds of campaigns well, it forced you to either ignore the military or make it central. You couldn't take a little of the book and use it to make your Blood and Vigilance character have a more military feel (say a Capt America wannabe).
After using the books for over a year, I started to notice that BNF was always out, in my player's hands to add a feat or a skill use. BNG wasn't and I started to see the interwoven nature and complexity (dare I say density) of the rules as an impediment.
Basically, the flexible martial artist and rigid soldier fought and the martial artist won. So now the soldier is adapting
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Late tonight or early tomorrow, reliable sources indicate that the first installment of Blood and Guts II, the Military Training Manual will be released. This book will give you everything you need to make a character with a military background, whether the military is going to be a primary focus of the game or not.
Work continues on the second book of the series, Special Operations Command. This book will give you everything you will need to make a character with a special operations background.
This is such a big project and will cover so many of our products in the coming year that Blood and Guts now has its own page, so go check it out for info on all things BNG.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Sunday, March 06, 2005
For those who don't know, Netflix is a service that sends you DVDs in the mail for a monthly fee. No late fees, postage paid both ways, no leaving the house (I'm big on that). Of course it loses the immediacy of going to the store and getting something NOW, but that's cool with me. I can still hit Blockbuster for those emergency movie joneses and still get movies in the mail regularly.
X-men Evolution was always a show that interested me, but one that I almost never caught. The reason? On wayyyy too early. If you don't understand why that would be a problem see "ass dragging" in the last quick hits above.
The more I see of this show, the more I feel that it's what Ultimate X-men should have been. I like Mark Millar as a writer, but his Ultimate X-men has absolutely none of the... innocence that makes Ultimate Spider Man such a trip.
Maybe that's nostalgia, but I dont think so.
There's really something going on in Evolution that is sure to appeal to younger viewers. All the adults in the show are a bit on the creepy side. Mystique is the school principal where both her Brotherhood and Xavier's Institute kids attend. And really it seems like the two teams (the X-men and the Brotherhood) would work it out and get along better if not for Mystique and Xavier.
I like that and it evokes an emotion Im sure many kids empathize with. If you have ever been to a high school football game where the two teams both want to win but are playing perfectly good ball, until a parent starts yelling and cussing for his kid's team to start breaking legs you have an idea of the vibe I get.
Spyke (one of the X-men) and Quicksilver (one of the Brotherhood) seem much more concerned about outdoing each other on the basketball court than on the battlefield.
Avalanche (one of the Brotherhood) pulls dangerous stunts as much to impress Kitty Pryde as to further any "mutant agenda".
Boom boom starts out as one of Xavier's kids but is driven to the Brotherhood by an abusive father.
When Xavier leaves Cyclops and Jean in charge, Nightcrawler and Kitty conspire to strand them (and cyclops' cherry red convertible) at a classic makeout spot so they can invite the kids to a party. A party that is crashed by a teenage Arcade who hacks into the Mansion's defenses and tries to hunt down the X-men... but he thinks its just the coolest video game ever made!
All in all, I am extremely impressed by this show and rate it as one of the freshest, most interesting takes yet on the X-men mythos.
Call this the remix. Or maybe Quick Hits II: Electric Boogaloo.
Anyway you look at it, it's another venture into my life outside of gaming.
That's right dear reader! If you'd rather not hear me blather about anything but games, you can simply not read anything titled quick hits and you'll be safe (although you'll still have to skim my ramblings away from games within posts).
This quick hit is brought to you by the US Postal Service.
Yesterday, as I approached my mailbox, I could see from the end of the soggy, ice blanketed driveway that there was a comic waiting for me.
I love comics, always have always will. However, a casualty of my aging process has been my willingness to haul my ass out to the store every week and see what's here.
When I was a kid it was different. Sanders Drug Store in Tampa had a spinner rack and every time I had some allowance Id spin that rack, thumb through what looked good and buy more than my fair share.
Iron Man, Avengers, Legion of Superheroes, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spiderman and the X-men.
Then there was the Walgreens in the mall that sold the magazine size comics that Marvel was experimenting with in an attempt to boost sales by getting comics on the, well, magazine racks.
Then there was the comic shop on the road south. Anytime we were going anywhere on the Tamiami Trail, which wasn't often, we had to stop there on the way. This was the first honest to god comic shop I had ever seen. And it was as close to Nirvana as I got as a kid.
They had the elusive X-men #137, the "Death of Phoenix". This was the first direct sales comic Marvel had done to my knowledge (comics sold only at comic shops- a move the major producers made to encourage the opening of these stores).
And its sad to say that, having missed the ending of the best comic story of all time, the Hellfire Club/Dark Phoenix saga that, as the family piled into the stationwagon to head to Cape Canaveral I was more excited about the possibility that X-men #137 wasn't sold out and would still be available (not only was it not sold out, it was still available at cover price several months after the issue had been released- ah times of innocence).
These days I wait till a comic is in tradeback compilation most of the time.
Most of the time, which brings us back to the driveway and my joy at seeing the cardstock backed "dont bend" plastic wrapped comics envelope tucked behind the mailbox.
Some comics are too good to wait for. Notice this still isnt motivation for a weekly (or even monthly) ass-dragging to the comics shop. Maybe enthusiasm dims with age. Maybe my ass is bigger than it used to be.
Currently, the list hovers at a whopping 5 comics: Ultimates, Astonishing X-men, Ultimate Spider Man, X-men and Uncanny X-men.
Hmm, for all the ass-dragging that has gone away, it seems my love for the X-men is still around.
Nice to know the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Friday, March 04, 2005
This led me to the conclusion, one that I still hold today, that writing adventures is the hardest thing in this industry. It was very hard for me to wrap my mind around the myriad groups that were going to be playing the adventure. Writing an adventure for my group is the easiest thing in the world. I know where they were last week and you build from there.
Maybe this sort of psychological hurdle is unnecessary, but I really found myself wrestling it.
Since coming to work for RPGObjects I have been asked to come up with adventures on occasion but I always begged off.
However I have been doing adventures for the dispatch, and am now ready to take the plunge once again. Some adventures should be forthcoming from me in the months ahead for Legends of Excalibur, Legends of the Samurai, Blood and Guts, and Blood and Vigilance.
Sheesh, makes me tired just looking at that list.
One thing I have been doing is going back and looking at what I consider to be the best modules ever written, and I came up with an interesting list:
Temple of Elemental Evil by Gary Gygax
Easily the best adventure ever written. This should be put in a safe at the HQ of every RPG HQ and made required reading for anyone planning on writing a campaign adventure.
Its also an unapologetic dungeon crawl, which means most reviewers wouldn't give it high marks.
It took Diablo to remind some designers (though still not the reviewers) of the charm of a big honking dungeon 16 levels deep with a big badass villain holed up at the bottom.
And no, it doesn't make sense.
Funny how the FANS never forgot how cool dungeons are. Those were the same fans playing Diablo even as the reviewers told them it wasn't any good.
Tomb of Horrors by Gary Gygax
Not only is this a dungeon, its a KILLER dungeon. That gives it about a million strikes from most reviewers. WOTC even tried to pussify it for those parties who whined when they all jumped headfirst into the sphere of annihilation.
Duh, that's why no real adventurer would be caught dead without a 10 foot pole.
Or a hireling.
Not quite as big a dungeon, but the attitude more than makes up for it. If you aren't prepared to brave its dangers, go back to Hommlett and be a bartender you wussies.
Legion of Gold by Gary Gygax
This Gamma World really cemented EGG as the best adventure writer of all time for me.
I mean, sure he wrote my all time favorite D&D adventures, but he created the damn game, so he must have designed it to his tastes right?
Well without the home court advantage Gygax still manages to pen the best GW adventure ever.
City beyond the gate
Lest you think Im an EGG fanboy (I am but why quibble) this adventure from Dragon 100 was simply great. PCs trapped in modern day london with a chance to nab the mace of st. cuthbert if they're willing to rob the British Museum (which we all know PCs are).
Reminded me of my favorite What IF? of all time. Conan winds up in the modern world, becomes a pimp (a real one) and puts a sword through Capt. America's shoulder blade.
The PCs who survived this roller coaster carried their revolvers as momentos for the rest of their days, long after the ammo was gone.
There's a bunch of other modules that would round out my personal top ten, but I should probably get back to the next BNG II book: Soldiers of the Special Operations Command.
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