Friday, October 21, 2011
HOWEVER, reading Ayn Rand gave us 2112.
So, I think I have to call this one a wash.
Two bad books.*
One led to a great album. One led to three great movies.
*I know, I am in the minority on this one, especially when it comes to Lord of the Rings. I am comfortable with that. I also don't care for Shania Twain and millions would disagree with me.
All views expressed are only my opinion, not a claim to objective quality.
When I start speaking on behalf of all mankind, I'll let you know. ;)
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
When last we visited the world, Illanyra, high priest of Atos (the Holiest of Holies) had had kingship thrust upon him, bringing church and state together.
As you might imagine, this is not going well for church or state.
Especially since it seems like Atos might be going mad, and taking his high priest with him into madness.
Also, there are some upgraded maps of the setting in the works.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
Well, I recently sold Vigilance Press, which I talked about. I also recently got a day job and moved, which I haven't talked about.
It wasn't planned, not that it matters. Sometimes life happens and we get to hang on, and during those times blogging winds up not happening.
Several months ago I interviewed at Mayfair Games. That ended up not happening and life goes on. In the meantime I sold Vig Press to James Dawsey, and my plan was to focus more on my writing while James handled the business stuff.
And then, out of the blue, Mayfair called back, and this time I got the job. Getting the job also meant moving... in two weeks.
So I've been finding a place, getting power, water and internet transferred (the latter is still in process because Verizon is sooooooo efficient) and getting my feet under me at the new job.
For the next little bit, unless you enjoy reading Mayfair press releases (and really, who doesn't), you might not see much of me.
But don't despair. I will be on real internet and not the free city WiFi Tuesday, so swears Verizon, and I had a dream about USHER last night, so maybe things are settling down a bit.
In the meantime, look for me here and on facebook, and like the Mayfair Games facebook page and you'll see me make regular posts there incognito as a spoke in the wheel of marketing, doing something I've had a lot of practice at over the years, selling awesome games.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Please mosey on over and read my thoughts about the very beginnings of Vigilance, as well as the future.
I imagine the new boss (not the same as the old boss) will be along as well.
You can still keep up with me here, as well, but for now, check out the new place!
Thursday, August 04, 2011
Find out what the Savage Afterworld thought of this terrifying tome they found amidst the rubble!
Monday, August 01, 2011
Superhero tropes are now officially everywhere.
Hanna Montana has a secret identity.
Don Draper has a secret identity.
Further- 9 of the highest grossing movies (adjusted for inflation) have plots or characters involving super-science or magic, or both. The number is 10 if you want to be a heathen like me and add the 10 Commandments to that list (Moses was SUCH a 20th level Cleric).
Now granted- these were all really PULP tropes- but for decades the keepers of that flame were comics writers and their fans.
And then, invisibly, these pulp/comics fans formed a 5th column and infiltrated every aspect of the entertainment medium, poisoning an unsuspecting nation with their worldview.
We're everywhere. We strike, and sink back into the night, often thanked by those we have converted to our cause, like Morpheus from the one and only Matrix movie (what? there were more? LALALALALA I can't hear you).
That show you thought was a soap about a plane crash?
Turns out it's a time travel show set in the nexus of all realities.
The spy show with the cute girl?
Her existence was prophesied several hundred years before she was born.
The most mainstream of cop and lawyer shows? Written by the guy who killed Gwen Stacy in a Spiderman comic.
In other words- there is no bubble to burst. Or there is, there are THOUSANDS of them.
I often hear game masters called failed novelists, or wannabe novelists, or aspiring novelists, as though this is some sort of insult.
As TS Eliot once said, "they damn editors by saying they're failed writers- most writers are failed writers too".
I am sure that's not the exact quote, as sure as I am that it captures the essence of the real quote.
To be clear- none of those things are slurred. Wanting to write a novel, thinking you might in the future, or trying and failing- none of these things are bad.
Novels are awesome. Sharing one with the world, even if you don't succeed, is a noble endeavor.
Game masters are entertainers. Some of them do indeed want to be novelists, but I think this is just a deeper expression of wanting to entertain.
However, even game masters who never want to write a novel love to entertain- just like people who cook, or people who homebrew beer to share with their friends, or people who like to write games and bask in the pleasant glow of other game masters saying "hey, you made my task of entertaining my friends easier".
This is the same impulse that caused Homer to sing around campfires of the glory of Achilles.
It's noble. Maybe the noblest thing in the history of the human race.
If you think that deserves a snicker, then fuck you. I don't want to know you.
I think, along with USHER Dossiers, Modern20 has to be the book I'm most proud of that I was ever involved with.
A d20 game with no experience tables. Where the GM decides at his sole discretion when you gain levels (ha! how old school is that- eat it forgies).
6 classes (and never EVER going to be any more).
Where players build their characters as they go, each constructing his own class with the feats and skills he takes.
It's really a game designed in such a way that it has no business being a d20 game at all.
I love it.
Oh yeah, and I'm a little drunk, watching Mad Men on Netflix after a night of gaming (and drinking, and eating and uh drinking).
Currently eyeing a Dugges double IPA- it's a pint and it's 9% alcohol.
In other words, at this hour, this will take from "sort of drunk" to all the way there.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Books included are:
- Alice's Gun Almanac
- Better Living HIGH Magazine
- "Big" Bill Hutchison's Guide to Business Influence and Success
- Chairman Mao's Little Red Revolutionary Handbook
- Mr. Fixit's Handy Dandy Advanced User Manual
- Mr. Fixit's Handy Dandy Robot Repair Manual
- The Laze
- U.S. Army Robot Combat Manual
- U.S. Army Field Medic Guide
- Little Pathfinder's Wilderness Survival Guide
How could you possibly go wrong?
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
All Vigilance Press books are 25% for the length of the sale, so if there's something you've been thinking about buying, your passivity has been rewarded! Click on the banner at the top and it will take you to our RPGNow storefront.
You are a master at creating archaic weapons.
Professional Skills: Athletics, Engineering, Weapons
Improved Feats: Master Craftsman: one aspect of a weapon can be improved to +2; Attack Focus: when using a weapon of the chosen type that you created yourself, your attack bonus is increased to +2, for example, a character with Attack Focus (longsword) would gain a +1 attack bonus with all longswords but a +2 bonus on one he constructed himself; Great Fortitude: +4 on Fortitude saving throws; Strength Training: +2 Strength
Behind the scenes: Billy, a player in my Post Apoc20 game set in the Fallout universe, wanted a tribal who was a master weaponsmith but no occupations really covered that niche. I created this occupation to fill a needed gap.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Just got an outline for Eternal War from Steve Perrin and it's shaping up!
Eternal War pits the PCs against the three greatest villains from two different worlds, so it's not an adventure for the faint of heart.
Trying not to be super spoilerific, though the astute will find a big clue in the title.
The adventure takes place at locales such as USHER's Liberty Tower, USHER's Rock City prison and in orbit of Planet Earth!
Also, it will introduce an entirely new team of heroes into the USHER universe. These heroes will both add to the lore of the setting as well as serve as a perfect springboard to quickly introduce the setting to new players.
Now, as anyone who has heard me say "USHER is my baby" can guess, I have been pretty involved in this in a behind the scenes way.
The initial idea was mine, and some of the events, especially in the early stages, were drawn from my home campaign.
I've also taken a hand in crafting the new hero team Steve is working on.
The rest is all Steve. He's a legendary supers designer and I've been very much enjoying seem him take on the USHER-verse, both here, and in his recently released WWII adventure Invasion: Oceania.
Friday, July 15, 2011
And thanks to everyone who helped get us nominated!
I got a few nods in my RPGObjects days for various things, but this marks Vig Press' first ennie nomination ever.
Actually, this is the first year I submitted product. Prior to this, I felt like I was still figuring out what the heck I was doing.
I submitted USHER Dossiers, Homefront Heroes and Field Guide Vol. 1, which didn't make it through the judges' phase to be nominated.
But the fans came through for us, and that's way cool.
On a related note, ICONS proper *did* score quite a few nominations, so if you're an ICONS fan, like I am, you should definitely give it consideration for your vote.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Many of the great games in 1998 I am featuring here I didn't experience until later. Why? Mostly because I spent all my game time in 1998 playing Fallout 2. In a year of great games, this is without a doubt the best.
Fallout 2 took the SPECIAL system, the underlying RPG rules set that powered Fallout, and changed it... not at all. Mechanically this is Fallout.
They changed the interface to make it easier to access what your character could do but the core rules remained the same.
Then they crafted an adventure 4-5 times larger than Fallout.
While many games talk about their moral choice mechanics today, no game did this better than fallout. You have Karma, which is more or less your overall morals on a good-evil axis, you have Reputation, which is what each specific town thinks of you and then you have specific Reputations that kick in based on certain actions.
For example, if you find a town with a graveyard, and there are at least two in the game, you can grab a shovel, dig up all the graves and pocket the trinkets buried with the deceased. But you are then a gravedigger, which will get around, and which will color how some NPCs react to you.
More dramatically, if you get into a firefight in town and accidentally mow a few kids down with your automatic fire and you are a Childkiller. This completely changes the course of your entire game, as there are whole categories of NPCs (ones who tend to be uh, moral) who won't even talk to you.
From a story perspective, Fallout 2 is not only at the top of my list, but one should more accurately talk about Fallout's stories.
There's the main plot, which has your character, proving he's "the Chosen One" in a primitive dungeon of trials, tracking down the location of "the holy 13", the vault your ancestor came from, finding the GECK (Garden of Eden Creation Kit) and then rescuing your entire village from the clutches of the villainous Enclave.
This main story, even if you sprinted through it, alone, is much larger than the story of the original Fallout game but if you do a "speed run" to save your village, you're only seeing about 20% of the game.
There's Vault City, a beacon of light and civilization in the Wasteland... that's also racist and classist and practices slavery.
You can help it, deciding the place does more good than evil, or you can try to tear it down and hand it into the waiting arms of the New California Republic. You can wholeheartedly embrace First Citizen Lynette and her arrogant, racist ways, or you can undermine her by dealing with other members of the ruling council.
There are at least 4 major adventures centered around Vault City alone, and numerous smaller tales there. I'd wager that your total play time just doing everything you can do in Vault City equals the entire original Fallout game.
You can fight a dangerous raider gang in what might be your toughest battle yet. You can donate sperm to help combat Vault City's genetic stagnation (more XP if your Int is higher!) you can help one of your followers repair his relationship with his estranged daughter, or you can learn about cybernetic combat implants and turn your character into a nearly indestructible Wolverine-wannabe, at the cost of your Charisma stat.
From there you head to New Reno and again you have a hub for probably a dozen adventures, some large, some small, and some plain silly.
Want to join a crime family and become a made man? Check. Want to step into the ring and become the heavyweight champion of New Reno? Check. Want to step in front of the camera and become a, uh, porn star? Um, check.
Just on the made man front, there are four very different crime families in New Reno to choose from and each has something to offer your adventurer. The Wright family, a big clan that takes in homeless kids and specializes in booze over meth, is your choice if you want to be a mobster and stay moral.
Then there's the Bishop family, who will embroil you in New California's machinations to take over Vault City. Since they're mobsters, their way of playing politics isn't karma-friendly. Make a few pesky politicians have "accidents" and you're a made man.
Though, if you sleep with the boss' wife... or daughter... and father illegitimate children with him, he might make you a made man and then kill you. Or maybe he never finds out, and your illegitimate child becomes the next head of the Bishop Family.
Then there's San Francisco, where your character can destroy a weird little cult building a spaceship, help the Brotherhood of Steel and be rewarded with access to their local bunker, which makes a lovely base of operations for your 20-30 level adventuring btw and you can even join in the battle of good vs. evil between two martial arts teachers, becoming the student of one and the enemy of the other in a hand to hand fight to the finish.
And then, when the game is over, Ron Perlman comes in and tells you how your actions affected each of the towns you passed through in the far future. This is how you know the fate of your illegitimate child with Boss Bishop's daughter (and/or wife).
These endings just add to the replayability of the game. Sure, you helped those plucky ghouls of Gecko in the short term, but is there anyway to stop them from getting shredded down the line, conquered and enslaved for their nuclear power plant you helped them fix? It seems not.
Such is the way in the world of after the apocalypse, but playing the game again, making different choices, and hearing Ron Perlman give you a glimpse of how it all worked out is just one of many things that makes Fallout 2 the best game in 1998.
Which, given that you already know how I feel about 1998, I suppose would make Fallout 2 the best game of all time.
Problem solved I guess!
Or maybe not- tune in next time with a game I am some out there would argue belongs on the pedestal with Fallout 2, if not above it: Baldur's Gate.
The above banner is supposed to have a few frames talking about RPGNow's Christmas in July sale.
It's animated when saved to my desktop, but only the first image shows when I upload to Google.
Any pro tips?
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
And apparently, I'm not alone, as the first book, Nuclear Sunset: Southwest is still in the top 15 list at RPGNow. That's an unusually long stay for me.
But I digress into weird proud poppa mode.
One of the things that popped into my head while Darrin and I were brainstorming this, was to have each region be its own genre to make each sourcebook feel truly fresh and not just the same campaign slathered over different geography.
I started in very familiar PA territory- namely, the gonzo Western. Now Western as post apoc story goes at least as far back as Mad Max and recently made a triumphant return in Book of Eli but what I did was a gonzo Western, which has no less a hallowed history in the post apocalypse genre, thanks to Fallout.
BTW- Fallout 2 one of those things that makes 1998 the greatest year ever in gaming- though I'd forgotten that little series had you?
If you want to have a gunfight with pimps and mobsters in New Reno, Fallout 2 has your back. On the other hand, if you want to fight mutant cyborgs and aliens, Fallout 2 also has your back.
But the tabletop genre had moved away from the gonzo. I have no idea why, except a brief idea that RPG writers like to take themselves very seriously. There's nothing wrong with this, just don't let it get in the way of the fun.
And btw, I am definitely guilty of taking myself too seriously. Maybe right now.
So, while the Southwest really grabbed me first, mostly because of this Marshall Chronicles idea floating around my laptop in various files as a novel/novella/game/who the heck knows, I also had an idea to do something really different, which is what I'm working on now.
Post apocalypse as superheroes.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. You have all these mutants running around a post apocalypse landscape. It's almost as if we were telling the stories of pasts of future days... future days of the past... eh... it'll come to me.
And we still have the gonzo because these latter day mutants (and yes, I would welcome a pamphlet from the Church of Latter Day Mutants, thank you) are getting the idea that they need colorful costumes, code names and a nemesis from "historical documents", aka comic books.
Cue the Galaxy Quest theme.
And the Northeast makes perfect sense for that, because that is still ground zero for the comic book industry.
Monday, July 11, 2011
The year is 1941 and the Nazi menace looms across Europe.
Britain stands defiant but has been pushed to her limits. Without the support of her allies in Canada, America and Oceania, Hitler is convinced Britain will finally be brought to her knees.
However, even Hitler's mighty U-Boat fleet cannot stand against the undersea kingdom of Oceania, staunch ally of Britain through WWI and now WWII. Hitler has decided the first step to control of the Atlantic must be-
The noose is tightening ever more around stalwart Britain. Only by coming to Oceania's aid can she be saved. Who will descend into the depths to defend Oceania?
BBC TRANSCRIPT TO BE USED IN WAKE OF NUCLEAR ATTACK
This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.
Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your
homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger.
If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which followed a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.
Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are
extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting.
You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires
have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very
Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don't waste it.
Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for 14 days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid
wasting it: food in tins will keep.
If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your
fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate
danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The "all clear" message
will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to
the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room
for a minute longer than is necessary.
Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or fell it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the "all clear" on the sirens.
Here are the main points again:
Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has
been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come
out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the
sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel
supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.
Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking
purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply:
it may have to last for 14 days or more.
We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours' time. Stay tuned to this
wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come
on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
When a game is both of these things, it's a game that gets talked about. Other games get compared to it, often unfavorably. Games like this are so good, they even make continuing the franchise difficult.
For game like that, 1998 might be the single most important year in video games.
Resident Evil 2
Maybe the best survival horror game ever released. Certainly the best until Resident Evil 4 (Alone in the Dark fans can register complaints over here).
Venerable Japanese gaming magazine weekly Famitsu lists the game as the 4th best Playstation game, and this game has shown up on numerous "100 best games lists", such as Electronic Gaming Monthly, IGN and Game Informer.
Why you want to study this game: Atmosphere. Horror games are ultimately about atmosphere and Resident Evil 2 pulls that off in spades.
Final Fantasy Tactics
This game came out the next week for the Playstation. Turning Final Fantasy into a strategy game seems like an odd choice and it certainly was a challenge, but the design team proved no only that they were up to that challenge, but maybe it wasn't such an odd choice after all.
Electronic Gaming Monthly called it a "classic" right out of the gate and it was IGN's Editor's Choice 1998, and its esteem in the minds of gamers and critics has only grown over time.
For example, Gamespot has awarded Final Fantasy Tactics its "Best Games of all Time" award, something no other Final Fantasy game has received from the site. Final Fantasy VII and X can eat it.
Why you want to study this game: The design of the battlefields. They're big, they're intricate, they look good and they offer numerous tactical possibilities.
That's all for now.
1998 is just too big to cover in one post. Stay tuned!
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
While three of the gorilla men secured Tarzan's wrists behind his back with a length of buckskin thong, the others renewed their attention to the tiger. Three or four of them would cast well-aimed cudgels at his face at intervals so nicely timed that the great beast could do nothing but fend off the missiles as they sped toward him. And while he was thus occupied, the other Sagoths, who had already cast their clubs, sprang to the ground and retrieved them with an agility and celerity that would have done credit to the tiniest monkey of the jungle. The risk that they took bespoke great self-confidence and high courage since often they were compelled to snatch their cudgels from almost beneath the claws of the saber-tooth.
Battered and bruised, the great cat gave back inch by inch until, unable to stand the fusillade longer, it suddenly turned tail and bounded into the underbrush, where for some time the sound of its crashing retreat could be distinctly heard. And with the departure of the carnivore, the gorilla men leaped to the ground and fell upon the carcass of the thag. With heavy fangs they tore its flesh, oftentimes fighting among themselves like wild beasts for some particularly choice morsel; but unlike many of the lower orders of man upon similar occasions they did not gorge themselves, and having satisfied their hunger they left what remained to the jackals and wild dogs that had already gathered.
Tarzan of the Apes, silent spectator of this savage scene, had an opportunity during the feast to examine his captors more closely. He saw that they were rather lighter in build than the gorillas he had seen in his own native jungle, but even though they were not as heavy as Bolgani, they were yet mighty creatures. Their arms and legs were of more human conformation and proportion than those of a gorilla, but the shaggy brown hair covering their entire body increased their beast-like appearance, while their faces were even more brutal than that of Bolgani himself, except that the development of the skull denoted a brain capacity seemingly as great as that of man.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan at the Earth's Core
The head, bigger than that of a crocodile, was further extended on a long scaled neck on which stood up rows of serrated spikes, and after it, crushing down the briars and saplings, waddled the body of a titan, a gigantic, barrel-bellied torso on absurdly short legs. The whitish belly almost raked the ground, while the serrated back-bone rose higher than Conan could have reached on tiptoe. A long spiked tail, like that of a gargantuan scorpion, trailed out behind.
Robert E. Howard
Monday, June 27, 2011
"What has happened today is that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided it's going to side with corporate America and Wal-Mart against our children," said Yee, as part of a press conference held today in San Francisco. "Because of the rejection of the California law, these games will continue to be sold to our children, these games have a harmful effect to our children."And here's the best:
"In the past, we've protected them [children] from alcohol, cigarettes and pornography and we felt that this was on that level," said George Fouras, MD, of the San Francisco Medical Society. "We're accumulating evidence that shows that exposure to violence does effect the behavior of children. In addition, we're concerned that the cognitive development of youth and their ability to process and make decisions appropriate doesn't occur at the ages that these children are able to obtain these video games. Unlike Saturday morning cartoons, these video games expose kids to behavior that is not acceptable in reality."So much crazy contained in so little space.
Ok, first, video games are dead equal with alcohol, cigarettes and porn.
Second, he says "unlike saturday morning cartoons" video games portray behavior not acceptable in reality.
Not movies and books, though, its perfectly fine for those to be violent. Just video games. Why? Cause they're "interactive"!
I often, just as soon as I get done banging my head on the nearest hard object, wonder if anyone who calls a video game "interactive" has ever played one.
Here's the thing: when I was 13 or so, I saw Godfather for the first time, and saw Sonny get riddled with bullets.
Many years later, when I played Fallout and riddled dudes with bullets, it was not somehow given a huge impact because I pressed "X" first.
Anyway, onto the Supremes decision, which has lots of good stuff idiots like Leland Yee really need to accept:
Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected
books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar
literary devices and features distinctive to the medium.
BOOM. Right out of the gate. These are literally the first words of the decision. There's nothing going on in a video game that isn't going on in a movie. If a video game makes you want to shoot up your school, then Hamlet should make you want to kill your stepdad, and let's not even begin to discuss Oedipus Rex.
But, but, video games are interactive remember?
I particularly like the bit about our country not really having as a core tenet restricting children's access to violence. I mean, has Leland Yee ever seen a cartoon or an episode of Power Rangers?
This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s
access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that
“interactive” video games present special problems, in that the player
participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome,
And then, the really awesome nail in the coffin:
Again, I say, BOOM. Video games are no more harmful than TV (which isn't harmful at all). To attempt this sort of legislation on video games and not TV or movies is singling video games out. Something that's rather frowned upon under the 1st amendment.
Because the Act imposes a restriction on the content of protected
speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it
passes strict scrutiny, i.e., it is justified by a compelling government
interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest.
California cannot meet that standard. Psychological
studies purporting to show a connection between exposure
to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove
that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.
Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced
by other media. Since California has declined to restrict those
other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation
is wildly underinclusive, raising serious doubts about whether
the State is pursuing the interest it invokes or is instead disfavoring
a particular speaker or viewpoint.
Now I know idiots like Leland Yee aren't going to be deterred. We've been down this road before. I mean, the Puritans were wringing their hands over Romeo and Juliet a few hundred years ago.
But once again, the reality-based contingent of society has stepped forward to once again affirm that human beings are not empty vessels, waiting to be filled. They do not see someone shoot up a school and decide, on the basis of that work of art to go do it themselves.
I realize why this idea appeals to politicians- it might just mean that they're not completely full of shit. But once again, we have affirmed that they are.
If you'd like to read the whole thing.
Edited to add:
Having heard that one reader hates it, what say the rest of you.
Honestly, the old tan background was fine with me too, so if everyone dislikes the new look, speak up and I will revert to the old.
This came up recently when my dad offered me the SIX HOUR audio book adaptation, to which I replied "do you want me to kill myself"?
He looked taken aback and then said, "this is usually YOUR thing, not mine".
Here's the thing- the Road is nothing like type of post apocalyptic fiction I enjoy.
There's movies like Mad Max or Book of Eli, which show the perseverance of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
Then there's Terminator and 12 Monkeys, which show time traveling heroes attempting to prevent the apocalypse from ever happening.
And there's the awesome TV show Jeremiah, in which the generation following a pandemic attempts to rebuild society.
And then there's the Road, where your choices are death by exposure to the elements, death by starvation, or death by roving packs of human cannibals (usually following a good rape to liven things up).
There's absolutely no hope- not a single iota of light at the end of the tunnel. Even the appearance of "the Veteran" at the end, leading the family that takes in the boy, is explicitly just another delay.
This is a story where a mother committing suicide is doing her son a favor.
I do not like reading snuff fiction.
To me, the post-apocalypse genre is most decidedly not about that, and so I don't want to read The Road, hear its audio performance or see the movie based on it (again), any more than I would ever watch a "Saw" movie.
And had I fully appreciated what I was in for, I wouldn't have watched The Road the first time.
I don't a trip down the rabbit hole of misery. The post-apocalypse fiction I enjoy is the opposite of that. Terminator is the movie that stresses "there is no fate but what we make ourselves".
It's not a story of robots walking on fields of human skeletons, it's the story of the hero who has defeated them so thoroughly, they have to prevent his birth.
It's the story of a time traveler in love with one image of beauty, a soldier who gives his life for one moment of happiness and a mother who sacrifices everything for the love of her son.
Yes, there is sadness in all post-apocalypse fiction. A sense of what has been lost. Although it's a very gonzo movie, with a lot of hilarious images, including three apes doing the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", the image everyone first mentions about Planet of the Apes is our hero railing in sadness at the Statue of Liberty.
But that should never be confused with an absence of hope. Life is about loss. People die. Terrible things happen. That's not about the apocalypse, that's about being human.
What happens next is what defines us and the apocalypse provides a stage for heroism. Not the only stage of course, but a very interesting one to me.
However, to interest me there has to be hope. There has to be a chance to carry on. And there has to be a hero.
In a revelation that will shock almost no one, I am a huge fan of Asian cinema.
Many of my favorite films are most definitely lighter fare, movies like Hard Boiled, without a doubt the best movie involving SWAT agents repelling from a burning hospital carrying babies ever made.
Sometimes however, I come across a movie that really has something to say, in addition to a prodigious amount of ass kicking, and the Ip Man series definitely fills the bill.
Ip Man is an historical figure, who is primarily known to Westerners as the Wing Chun teacher of Bruce Lee.
In these films, portrayed by Donnie Yen (my current favorite martial arts movie star), Ip Man becomes a lens through which we experience the travails of China in the 20th century. Ip Man deals with the Japanese invasion and occupation of China, while Ip Man 2 deals with the role of the British in Hong Kong.
Let me say if you watch these movies, you will see the Japanese and British portrayed very harshly. I don't happen to have a problem with that, but if you do, you will likely be annoyed.
However, if you want to see some great characters, these movies have plenty of them. I especially loved the way characters from the first movie are shown to matured over time.
Of course, our central protagonist is Ip Man, who struggles to support his family and pay his rent by teaching Wing Chun.
Of course, there is lots of fighting in the movie and it's magnificently choreographed by Sammo Hung (himself a star of Asian cinema) and we get two really standout fight scenes, one between Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, and the final bout, between Donnie Yen and an arrogrant British boxer who wants to prove the superiority of "real boxing" over the Chinese style.
There is quite a bit of violence and blood, so the movie is not for everyone.
However, if you enjoy some violence and blood and want to see a very well made, big budget Chinese movie, then you should definitely check out Ip Man, and Ip Man 2.
Both movies are available from Netflix, via disc or (at the time of this writing) via Netflix's instant streaming service.
Friday, June 24, 2011
See, as much as certain people would like it to be, tabletop RPGs are not passive forms of entertainment. That requires engagement.
And of course, we had been through all this before. One of the great myths I encounter regularly in RPGs is that 3e was the first open edition of D&D.
It was most definitely not. I remember when I started gaming, in 78, I could get books like The Complete Alchemist, offering a strange and wild new character class, modules like Evil Ruins or Lich Lords from Role Aids, alternative gaming magazines with classes and adventures like White Dwarf, and the city of Sanctuary, in all its gritty glory produced by Chaosium.
Not all of it was to my taste certainly, but its mere existence spurred my creativity and kept me engaged in the hobby on a far stronger level. Then, toward the end of 1e and in force in 2e, these products started dwindling away.
And not because of some mythical bubble- no, the tide was stemmed by the very company that had poked the hole in the dam to begin with.
And then with 3e, those floodgates were opened even wider, releasing a tide that raised all boats, including WOTC.
And again, because it was a force that couldn't be controlled, its benefits were forsaken.
Is this the reason 4e failed? Not entirely for sure.
However, it was an advantage of 3e and it still is- Pathfinder, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, d20 Modern, Modern20 all continue to benefit.
D&D is a much stronger brand than you think.
Remember the end of the 2e days, when the game's creator had been shafted and shown the door by dishonest pricks that then plundered the company, mismanaged it into bankruptcy and sold it to an upstart CCG company?
You know, on the eve of the hobby's greatest resurgence since AD&D?
D&D is always one good edition away from a transition from merely market leader to pure, unadulterated dominance.
Go read the review of Nuclear Sunset: the Southwest, then bookmark Savage Afterworld, add it to your RSS feed or google reader or however you keep track of the good stuff, then enjoy.
Seriously, if you want a slowly filled in FREE sourcebook for Thundarr the Barbarian (including lots of nifty monsters), then you should be hanging out at Savage Afterworld.
And if you don't, you're probably a bad person anyway.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
“Brainstorm, Sire! The groundlings are back from the ruins! They bear books!”
With a heavy sigh the large man stood, taking a moment to balance himself, but just a moment. He had long ago learned how to adjust for his oversized skull and the oversized brain it barely contained.
Slowly, he moved toward the oversized, velvet backed chair on its raised pedestal. Despite its wear and tear, it gave him an aura of magnificence. Then, slowly but surely, the groundlings- his subjects- began to trickle in.
It was the usual assortment of offerings: complete editions of William Shakespeare, copies of Dainty Duck #4 and some water soaked books that were impossible even to identify.
Still, some food would be enough encouragement to keep the groundlings looking, “Thank you, minister, put these offerings with the others and give these valiant searchers the usual thanks.”
Suddenly, the chief minister was running in. Running? The old man hadn’t run in years.
“Brainstorm! It’s the Savant! He has completed the restoration!”
His heart beat faster as he exited the ruined courthouse, his castle, and made his way through the ruined city toward the ancient library, the massive edifice run the only man in the world smarter than him, a man who had devoted his life to restoring the lost historical documents of the ancients.
The ancient man sat hunched in his wheelchair, looking over the book laid open on the table in front of him. The book hadn’t even been legible when it was found and he had been working on just this one holy manuscript for months, drying the pages, gently stripping away soot, and repainting the pages to restore what was lost.
The look on his face let Brainstorm know something was terribly, terribly wrong.
“The manuscript is USHER Dossiers #199, friend Brainstorm. It is the latest manuscript we have yet recovered. It is called Dark Future, and gives us the information we finally need to understand the Great War. It was a war between human and mutant. They rounded us up, put us into camps, experimented on us and hunted us down. They started the war. With us.”
Brainstorm looked over the pages, now laminated and sewn into leather bindings to protect them. As he turned the pages and read the ancient language, his expression hardened with every word.
“Minister, are those groundlings still in the courtyard?”
“Y- yes, Sire, they are.”
“Kill them. All of them.”
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Nuclear Sunset: The Southwest is the first installment in a post-apocalyptic campaign setting.
Though written with Mutant Future in mind, this campaign is almost 100% mechanics-free and could easily be adapted to any post-apocalyptic rules set.
Nuclear Sunset: The Southwest contains a map of the region, description of settlements and ruins and a full slate of post-apocalyptic organizations, including:
Hell's Heart: This enormous biker gang strikes terror into the entire southwest as they move from town to town, raping and pillaging with impunity.
The 88th: This pre-war military unit was considered a great experiment in fielding an all-synthetic battlefield command. They have bided their time since the apocalypse and know the time is ripe for them to take control of this shattered world.
The Cartel: This crime family has maintained the family business since before the Earth was destroyed in the great war. In fact, for these ruthless criminals, business has never been better.
The Marshalls: In the dark days immediately following the great war, a group of self-appointed vigilantes rose from the darkness to maintain justice.In a land where law is often a comforting dream, the Marshalls settle for justice, even revenge, striking fear in the hearts of the wicked and cruel.
Check it out!
Monday, May 23, 2011
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
A looooong time ago (like, a couple years) back, some of the first solo books I did for the reincarnated Vigilance Press were two World Metahuman Factbooks, looks at Germany and Austrailia from a supers point of view for the 4C system.
I've now rebooted the line as part of USHER, redoing the WMF Germany for ICONS.
Check it out!
Been working on the Southwest region of Nuclear Sunset, the "cowboys vs. terminator vs. aliens" part of the world.
As you can probably guess, it's going to be leap years more "wahoo" than other PA settings on the market, which is just how I like it.
Currently in the logistics phase, aka "how do I get this clump of text to become a product someone will PAY for".
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
When I moved back home, I initially wanted to stay put for a long time. But it turns out, the trailer I picked on the internet was um... well, I was there 4 months, ok?
The new place is much better, but I did get a nice reminder of why I hate moving, even just moving across town.
I called the electric co last Friday, happy with the new place and ready to transfer power over, when I received a recorded message that they were away until Monday for Easter.
So- first three days in the new place were spent with no fridge, no fans, no AC, no TV- you know, all that good stuff that comes with electricity.
But... all that's behind me now, and the old ceiling fan at the old place has been replaced with Central Air.
And I look out my window and I see horses.
So- huh, maybe moving isn't always such a bad thing even when it means spending 3 hot miserable days in the dark.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
It's called Medical Mystery, and it's an attempt to emulate TV shows like House MD, ER, MASH and Scrubs.
The game has no combat.
Players are the members of a medical team, tackling cases that come their way, using their skills to advance through three stages of a case.
Cases (which are the equivalent of adventures in standard RPGs) are typically one "episode" comprised of three stages: Diagnoses, Treatment and Recovery.
Along the way players will make skill checks to successful tackle each stage. Failure in diagnosis and/or treatment makes recovery harder, and if the patient fails to recover the player suffers personal effects that impede his performance for a number of episodes.
However, Medical Mystery is not all about the current case.
As players move through the adventure, they can bring in complications from their personal lives to give them additional opportunities to succeed at a skill check.
Now, this might sound a bit like a soap opera, and certainly shows like House and ER had elements of that, but the three complications are Drama, Romance and Wit.
In Wit, you have elements of humor, which was especially important to shows like House, Scrubs and MASH (though all of these shows had soap opera drama and romance as well).
It's early goings for the game, but I will be talking about it more as the design progresses.
This is a very different sort of game than my usual, but I think this is a great genre that hasn't yet been successfully tackled in RPG form, and I think I'm up to the challenge.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Writers spend a lot of time just letting their mind wander, looking for that new field to plant a seed.
I suppose there might be writers who don't need to do this, that always have a great idea in their back pocket ready to go. But most of us need to do nothing for awhile until our mind latches onto the next thing.
I'm not talking about writer's block here. For me, that's something that occurs once you already have an idea and can't figure out how to get from the beginning to the end.
I also spend a lot of time returning to ideas that I haven't quite figured out how I want to handle yet.
You've probably heard of some of these, if you spend enough time reading this blog anyway. USHER Dossiers is an idea I was thinking about, and talking about, back in the days of the original Vigilance.
I was talking about it again during my RPGO days, when it became Blood and Secrets, and then a mini-campaign model in Blood and Vigilance. These weren't exactly false starts, but neither were they fully realized campaigns of the sort I always knew USHER could be.
For some reason the ICONS version clicked and bloomed.
Legends of Rome is another. I still think about this idea. I'm still wandering through the maze, looking into corners, looking for the way to handle it that will really feel right.
Prometheus Rising is the same way. I still don't think I've done my definitive work on that setting. I know this because I continue to think about it, think about finding a way to do it really really right.
I know when something is done because I stop investigating it mentally. I don't wrestle with Blood and Relics, USHER, or Blood and Fists anymore. They're complete. They've grown up and gone to college. They're yours now.
Prometheus, Legends of Rome, War of the Roses, Old School Combat and other things whose names I am not even comfortable saying, they're still mine. They're the kids, of varying ages and degrees of self-sufficiency, who still live at home.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Top Selling Books for January, 2011
1. Field Guide to Superheroes, Vol. 2
2. Moreau-1 Files (tie); Battlescenes: Death from Below (tie)
4. Stormtroopers of the Deep
5. Field Guide to Superheroes, Vol. 1 (tie); The Ice Palace (ICONS)
7. Crown Guard: Heroes of WWII (BASH) (tie); Battlescenes: Der Panzer Ritter
9. Battlescenes: Operation Bookbinder (tie); Battlescenes: Werewolves of the Gestapo
Top Selling Books for February, 2011
1. USHER Dossiers
2. Field Guide to Superheroes, Vol. 2
3. Field Guide to Superheroes, Vol. 1
4. Wargames: Heroes and Villains of the Cold War (ICONS)
5. Battlescenes: Gorilla Warfare
6. Eugenics Brigade: Villains of WWII (M&M 3e)
7. Crown Guard: Heroes of WWII (M&M 3e)
8. Moreau-1 Files Second Dispatch
9. Vigilance Force: Heroes of WWII (M&M 3e)
10. Battlescenes: Death from Below
Top Selling Books for March, 2011
1. Wargames: Heroes and Villains of the Cold War (ICONS)
2. Wargames: Copperhead Guard
3. Wargames: The Globalist
4. USHER Dossiers
5. Field Guide to Superheroes, Vol. 2
6. Field Guide to Superheroes, Vol. 1
7. Wargames: Battle Czar
8. People's Revolution: Villains of WWII (M&M 3e)
9. Eugenics Brigade: Villains of WWII (ICONS) (tie); People's Revolution: Villains of WWII (ICONS)
So, if anyone is wondering why Vigilance Press has thrown so much support behind ICONS, well, wonder no longer.
The next in our ongoing series of Cold War themed supers for ICONS is the devious, steel-headed villain Death Mask! Death Mask (aka James Moraity) is a brilliant but twisted genius.
While posing as a legitimate businessman, he channels his billions into P.H.A.N.T.O.M., a private terrorist force that uses subtle manipulation and corruption to weaken its enemies and increase its power.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Coming soon from Vigilance Press.
In the Golden Age of comics, most of the heroes were not actually "over there". This new book in our WWII line, written by gaming legend Steve Perrin of Runequest fame, incorporates those heroes left behind.
Though they are not in the war, there is still adventure to be had, fighting enemy saboteurs and collaborators.
They are Homefront Heroes.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Jack Kirby is the greatest comic artist of all time. John Byrne comes next in my book, but the gap is HUGE.
Part of what I was trying to say (probably not well) in the Stan post is that I never felt I needed to pick a side when it came to Stan and Jack.
This is an attitude I encounter occasionally, and it always sort of floors me when I run into it.
A lot of the dislike Stan Lee gets seems to be that he did better than many of his contemporaries. He got the money, he has lived a long life, he has become a mainstream icon and he seems genuinely HAPPY.
Especially compared to Jack Kirby, who certainly didn't get the money or the fame that would have come with comics exploding onto the mainstream like they have. Or compared to Ditko, who just seems really unhappy in a lot of ways.
For someone who doesn't have a financial interest, worrying about the deals that someone else made always seemed really silly to me. Stan should have gotten the money. So should Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, etc etc.
Just because some of them didn't get the money doesn't make Stan a bad guy cause he did.
But beyond this, where I *really* tend to get irked is people who seem to want to disparage Stan's talent. This line of argument seems to be that it was Jack, ALL JACK. I have even heard people say that Stan was "a glorified scripter".
Well, even if you are in the "all Jack" camp, someone wrote the actual words, and no one seems to think that wasn't Stan. Whoever wrote the actual words is, imo, the best comic writer of all time.
As an aside, I'd also put Roy Thomas, Chris Claremont, David Micheline, Roger Stern, Gerry Conway, Grant Morrisson and Mark Millar on the list of best comics writers ever.
I have studied Stan Lee, as a writer, and as a marketer. I think his marketing genius is profound, and he frankly tends to get more props as a marketing genius. But he is also an amazing writer and I think without Stan, our culture would be much poorer.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
If you'd like to help me celebrate VGP's 9th birthday, send in a supervillain, with ICONS stats and a full background.
I'll pick the winner, and commission a full color picture of the villain from Jon Gibbons.
That villain will then be featured in an upcoming Vigilance Press product, The Forever War, written by me.
If I get enough entries that I like, I might declare multiple winners and make them a villain team.
Besides being featured in the first USHER-centric adventure written by me, maybe we'll do something else for the winner, like have them as a guest on the VGP podcast.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
So I did some digging through my records, and it turns out Vigilance Press will be nine years old in April.
I'm actually pretty jazzed about that idea, and am trying of something to do for the anniversary more creative than a 25% off sale.
If you out there in blogland have any ideas, feel free to drop them in the comments.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Thanks Joe for the great review!
I like this one so much I'm going to quote it, also, cause USHER Dossiers is my baby.
Over the last decade, Charles Rice has shared bits and pieces of his amazing USHER superhero setting with us through various game systems (like d20 Modern) and publishers (RPGObjects and his own Vigilance Press), so I was thrilled to hear that he was doing this definitive work, this time for the ICONS system. The one thing that really impresses me is how the Vigilance Universe feels every bit as real as the Marvel and DC Universes - it makes you wish you could walk into a comic book shop and ask for the latest issue of Minuteman or Old Glory, or finally pick up a collector's copy of Amazing Stories of WWII #1 on eBay after years of searching. It's a great supers setting and the artwork by James Dawsey, Jon Gibbons, and Dan Houser really makes it come alive. This is a stellar piece of work and a great addition to the ICONS game system.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Nuclear Sunset: Darrin Drader and Charles Rice to pen new Mutant Future setting through Vigilance Press
Even better, you can watch the design unfold and comment on the work in progress here.
So come join the fun!
Friday, February 11, 2011
Until further notice, all our PDFs are 2.00 or LESS.
Just check out the links to your right, and look at all the fine books we have in Modern Fantasy, Old-School Fantasy, and Supers.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
They have 5 books on the horizon: Arcane Kingdoms; Sword Noir, the roleplaying game of hardboiled sword and sorcery; Kiss my Axe, thirteen warriors and an angel of death; a Sword Noir short story collection, and a sword noir adventure.
All of this sounds exciting to me, especially the idea of a new RPG, and one that sounds like it might have its own take on the fantasy genre.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
Here's the two early entries:
Tommy Brownell gave the book 4 stars and had this to say: As far as I'm concerned, and no disrespect intended to anyone else, but Vigilance Press is the best thing to happen to the ICONS game, period. It's not just the volume of support, as impressive as that is, but it is the quality of support, and they are trying to raise the bar all of the time.Thanks guys!
Curt Meyer said: The GM of my current icons campaign, someone who like myself has been gaming for over 20 years, says of the Usher Dossiers that it's one of the best written RPG supplements he's read in years. The art by Dan Houser doesn't hurt either. There's a lot of useful stuff in here for your house campaigns as well.
It's the day we make our weekly sojourn to the comic shop and see the latest triumphs and tragedies of our favorite heroes and heroines.
Lately, you can't even buy a comic for less than 3.99 but at Vigilance Press, we think that's just wrong.
So, between now and midnight Wednesday, Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 1, Field Guide to Superheroes Vol. 2, Public Enemies and the USHER Dossiers for ICONS have all been marked down to 1.99!
Check it out!
Monday, January 31, 2011
Welcome to the USHER Dossiers!
The official setting for the “Vigilance Universe” that has appeared in our popular WWII line is now put under the spotlight. It is a world where metahumans have existed for tens of thousands of years, walking alongside ordinary men and women, sometimes in secret, other times reshaping the world to suit their desires.
In ancient times, men called these beings gods, while today they serve nation states or fight for their own beliefs and ambitions. The setting continues into the present day, where the aftermath of the Scion’s brief conquest of the planet defines the setting going forward.
This brand new metahuman universe can be used as the setting for your ICONS games, or combined with other popular metahuman settings from comics or television.
The USHER Dossiers features the following:
- A full timeline of the setting from 70,000 BCE until the present day. This timeline devotes special attention to WWII, providing the game master with numerous events and adventure hooks she can incorporate into her campaign.
- The Secrets of the Minuteman: For every war America has fought, the Minuteman has risen to defend her. The full secrets of the Minuteman are revealed in the USHER Dossiers.
- Old Glory and the Savant: Two friends who have saved the world again and again, now on opposite sides of a conflict only they understand.
- Exclusive! Live from Metahuman Network News (MNN), Exclusive brings you the metahuman beat as only a metahuman can! Once they walked the world in secret, then they styled themselves as gods, then national heroes, now metahumans have entered the “reality show” generation!
- Old Guard and MAN: The Old Guard are a “human first” organization who believe humans must defend themselves against a rising tide of metahuman influence. MAN, the Mutant Army of Nationalism believes metahumans are the next step in human evolution and destined to the rule the planet. Innocent men and women are caught in the crossfire between these two terrorist groups.
- Pawn Broker: Need a government propped up or taken down? Are you a mastermind who needs a little hired muscle to conquer the world? Well the Pawn Broker is here for you friend. Bringing you the finest in state of the art battlesuit technology. No budget is too large or too small.
- Time Enforcement Agency (TEA): Patrolling the lanes of the space-time continuum, TEA protects the integrity of history from meddlesome time travelers and records the past for their mysterious leader, The Chronicle.
- The Scion: This intergalactic despot had the entire Earth in his grasp for three years. Though the planet is free once again, the effects of his rule threaten to tear the planet apart. And deep within the walls of Rock City, the Mad Emperor lies caged, plotting his revenge.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
The Field Guide Vol. 2 continues the definitive encyclopedia of superhero archetypes in modern comics.
Written by Jason "Dr. Comics" Tondro, who studied comics for his PhD in Literature, the Field Guide is a gold mine of ideas and inspiration for your next hero. After a discussion of each archetype generally, the Field Guide then gives a fully fleshed out hero, suitable for immediate use as a PC or important NPC in your ICONS campaign.
Rather than break archetypes down by power set, the Field Guide looks at the character's origin and role in the story. This makes the archetypes much more versatile and puts the emphasis on character, rather than power.
Here's a short list of the ten archetypes discussed in this second volume of the Field Guide to Superheroes.
- The Descendant: A second generation hero carrying on the legacy of a mentor or relative.
- The Divine Hero: An avatar of a living religion such as Christianity or Judaism.
- The Embodiment: A living manifestation of an idea or natural force such as speed or justice.
- The Ex-Con: A petty criminal turned hero.
- Femme Feline: Dangerous, ambiguous and attractive, she represents the most popular variant of the animal hero.
- Feral Hero: A Jeckyll and Hyde character, this hero struggles with a dark inner self.
- Focused Hero: This hero has only one power which he has mastered completely.
- Gadget Guy/Girl: Is a scientist who uses technology to fight crime.
- Handicapped Hero: Has a serious disability which doesn't prevent him or her from fighting crime.
- Jungle Hero: A caretaker of a hidden land.
Night Ride Part 1 “Look, Pa, it’s my turn. Also, Nana is having one of her spells again and she has no idea who I am when she gets this w...