Thursday, June 29, 2006

Spiderman 3 teaser

This movie, on the other hand, simply is going to rock on toast.

Transformers Teaser

I never thought Id say this, but this movie doesn't look bad.

Matt Damon as Kirk, Ben Affleck as Spock?

Via trekweb (quoting the Boston Herald) Kevin Smith had this to say about the rumors that JJ Abrams has been talking first to Ben Affleck and then to Matt Damon about roles in his upcoming Star Trek XI:

Gabbing with the Boston Herald about buddy Ben Affleck, Clerks II director Kevin Smith spoke of Matt Damon rumored as Kirk in JJ Abrams' film: "I wonder if Matt would even do it. He's usually not that interested in treading where others have trod. He likes to break new ground. But if they wind up casting Matt as Kirk, they should cast Ben as Spock. It seems like a no-brainer!"

I actually agree that this would be a good choice for several reasons:

1) Matt Damon is a good actor. Matt can bring the intensity. He's also able to condition and train himself to kick some ass (watch the Bourne movies sometime).
2)Ben Affleck is a good actor (I *know* I *know*, it's really in vogue to bag on him, but go back and watch Good Will Hunting and Shakespeare in Love some time).
3) The most important thing about Kirk and Spock is their chemistry. We know these two guys would have it.
4) Kevin Smith is never wrong.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

And because there's never enough good music or good beer: Man of Constant Sorrow

If you've seen "O Brother Where Art Thou" you've heard this song by this singer. It's a very old (like 40 years old) Bluegrass classic by one of the Patriarchs, Ralph Stanley. When Clooney and Turturro sing it in the movie, it's a great moment.

Well behind all the movie magic, it's Union Station, Alison Krauss' backup band doing the singing and they're incredible.

Oh, Atlanta: Alison Krauss

Very nice live video. Anytime a bluegrass band covers a Bad Company song, good things are bound to happen.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

RPGObjects: Boss for a day

So I started this thread over on ENWorld, asking folks what they wanted to see from me and RPGO. The responses have been very interesting and it's inspired me to work on a product or two I might have neglected, or at least that I might not have thought to work on without this thread.

If you haven't already, go check it out and chime into the discussion if you'd like.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Werner Heisenberg's allied interrogation

Came across a fascinating anecdote recently about the allies interrogating Werner Heisenberg after WWII.

It seems that the reason Hitler shelved Germany's heavy water experiments, late in WWII was that the Nazi scientists leading his heavy water experiments did not know that a certain amount of fissionable material would cause a chain reaction and trigger an atomic explosion.

Since Hitler and his scientists thought that tons of uranium might be needed, they instead focused on the V-1 and V-2 projects instead. It turns out that about 20 pounds of uranium or 10 pounds of plutonium is needed (a lot to be sure, but not tons).

The way we learned this information was that as Heisenberg's interrogation began, he asked his interrogator a question (yes he was supposed to be answering them I know). He wanted to know what size ship had delivered the American atomic devices to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and specifically wanted to know if carriers had been the ships to deliver them (the largest ships in the American navy).

When Heisenberg was told that it was not a ship that delivered the device, but a B-29 bomber, he then (knowing the size of the bomb bay for a B-29 bomber) did the math in his head and arrived at the size of the bomb (keep in mind this was while being interrogated).

Anyway- I found this story neat so I pass it along to you.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Blood and Fists: Master Edition sneak peek

So I wrote the introduction to the Master Edition today, the definitive martial arts sourcebook for d20 Modern.

Thought I would share it with you folks, since I wrote it more or less in a blog entry style anyway:

The d20 Modern Roleplaying Game handles martial arts well enough for games that focus on gunplay, driving, criminal shenanigans, getting your brain eaten by zombies, and all that other fun stuff, but in these games, combat with weapons is a preference, and a skill in unarmed combat is developed as a fallback position in case you are disarmed. Many people, however, enjoy watching movies with Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude van Damme, and others that feature a decided focus on unarmed combat. Blood and Fists allows you to bring these kinds of combat situations into your d20 Modern game. In addition to two-fisted, two-footed action scenes, Blood and Fists also gives you new rules for the more mystical side of the martial arts, abilities like Ki and Zen.

Those words, written three years, served both as a mission statement and a description of the original Blood and Fists. This book, the anniversary or “master” edition of that work represents something of a personal milestone for me, so I hope you’ll excuse a little self-indulgent trip down memory lane. After all, it isn’t every day a RPG book is reprinted three years after it first appears, especially not an RPG book by a small, independent company.

Almost three years ago to the day as I write this introduction, I had an idea. D20 Modern was a new system and Wizards was encouraging small 3rd-party companies like RPGObjects to support it as heavily as possible. They had fast-tracked the rules into the SRD and even given a small group of publishers (including us) access to the rules before the book was printed.

The first book we did, Blood and Relics, was successful enough both in terms of sales and critical response to be encouraging and so we decided to do more. As I became more experienced with the rules and ran the game more, I decided that what the game needed was a much more robust martial arts system than it currently possessed. My solution to improving upon the hand to hand combat feats in the core rules was to draw on the plethora of real world martial arts styles and philosophies, each with their own rich and varied history to make learning the martial arts much more than a choice of attack A or Defense B: it became a role-playing decision, something that said something about your character.

This idea was not very well in keeping with the conventional wisdom of what made a good martial arts supplement in third edition, where generic attacks and maneuvers had been the favored way to simulate martial arts in every single treatment of the subject to date. My idea was more in keeping with the martial arts sourcebooks done for the Hero and GURPs systems almost a decade before.

As we released the book, I remember watching the reaction with some anticipation. Since the book did use a different approach than people were used to, I expected the initial reaction to be negative despite my hopes that the book would find an audience who were as much a fan of the groundbreaking works of Aaron Allston as I was. I was thus pleasantly surprised that readers, both fans and critics seemed to “get” the book right away. They enjoyed learning the history of martial arts styles they were unfamiliar with, they enjoyed that not all the styles were Asian in origin but most of all, they enjoyed being able to choose an actual martial arts style. It turns out it was just more fun to kill someone with “Kung Fu” than it was with “Hard Kicking Mastery”.

The book went on to become one of the best selling books in RPGObjects’ history as well as receiving more than its share of critical acclaim, including a 2004 Ennies nomination for best rules supplement.

The system was so well received that, like the good martial arts movies it was designed to simulate, it spawned a franchise of sequels. In December of 2003 Blood and Fists collided with RPGObjects’ other popular franchise, Darwin’s World for a look at martial arts of the dark future, Wasteland Fury. This book looked at more fantastic martial arts based on the fragments of modern society surviving into the era beyond the end of the world.

In June of 2004, the first true sequel to the game was released: Blood and Fists: Hong Kong Knights. This book expanded on the number of real world styles, almost doubling the number from the original book and expanded the range of streetfighting, grappling and weapon options martial artists using these maneuvers possessed. It was accompanied by a new edition and edit of the original to make both works as clean and tight as possible.

Finally in September 2005 the final Blood and Fists product was released, Cosmic Fury, a work taking a similar approach to Wasteland Fury but looking at martial arts of a space opera future rather than those of an apocalyptic one.

This product brings the line full circle, printing all the material since the original edition, none of which had ever seen life outside of its electronic e-book form until now. Bringing the books under one cover will make life easier on those using martial arts as a focus for their character or even for an entire campaign, allowing the maximum number of options while also just being plain fun.

As the author of all four of the works brought together in Blood and Fists: Master Edition I hope you enjoy this definitive take on the martial arts system that promised to bring the world from Aikido to Zen into your modern games.


Looking forward to this being in print again, thanks to everyone who supported the book and my writing in general.

Alison Krauss: If I didn't know any better

Alison Krauss and Union Station are such an amazing band. This is one of my favorites from her new album and really a great video too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Myths of Creation

Stephen Jay Gould has a story in Bully for Brontosaurus about Baseball. He talks about how Baseball slowly evolved from Americans playing informal games of stickball and cricket until things coalesced and the game slowly and gradually evolved (the point of Gould's story) into Baseball.

He compares this to the myth of the creation of baseball as a single event by a single man, Abner Doubleday, and shows why the myth has more appeal and staying power than the evolutionary reality. We like things to happen all at once. Gradual randomness is just... icky.

For myself, I tend to like gradual randomness. It conforms to the way I think. If someone says to me "and then one afternoon Abner Doubleday drew a diamond in the dirt and started explaining something called the infield fly rule.." I'm rolling my eyes and wondering how the remote wound up on Fox News. Isn't Charlie Rose on anywhere anymore?

But I came across a story the other day that blew me away in that it is one small group completely changing the face of popular culture. Forever. In this case we're talking about one of my favorite musical genre: Bluegrass.

Bluegrass seems particularly ill-suited (to me) for a "creation myth". This is a form of music that combines traditional standards (what you might call "Mountain Porch" music), blues, ragtime and jazz. Sounds like something that should just sort of come together.

But according to some reading I've been done, you get to thank one guy for it: Bill Monroe. He put together a band in the mid-40's called the Blue Grass Boys consisting of banjo player Earl Scruggs, singer/guitarist Lester Flatts, fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist player Howard Watts.

The way the banjo was played was very different than what had been the standard. It wasn't played like a guitar, but picked with three fingers in what is today known as "Scruggs Style" banjo playing.

If you hear dueling banjos, then you know what I mean.

Over time other instruments have been added to the mix, especially the dobro and mandolin but the core instrumentation was set right then and there.

In the late 40's the Stanley Brothers began recording "in the style of the Blue Grass Boys" and what was just the style of Bill Monroe's band had become a musical genre.

When Flatt and Scruggs leave and form their own band, in Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers you have the 3 core bands of blugrass' golden age.

Not quite 6 days but when I started looking into bluegrass' roots I did not expect the story to be clear at all. The idea that it formed in less than 10 years under the guidance of about a dozen men is pretty amazing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Josh Friedman: bona fide blog hero

Josh Friedman is a screenwriter whose blog has the best title for a blog ever, I find your lack of faith disturbing.

He's also hilarious. Seriously, take an afternoon and go read the entire thing (possibly not work safe, he LOVES the word motherfucker, but seriously who doesn't).

For those too skeptical to cancel your dentist appointment and go read the entire blog right now, here's a taste:

Most of us aren't gonna commit capital crimes either but I can't be the only one who's figured out what my last meal on death row would be, right?

(Which, now that you ask, is a Family Size box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.)

Blog disclaimer: The makers of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and its associated family of food products do not condone nor would they ever encourage capital crime. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has never been convicted of a capital crime and should not be considered a possible agent of capital crime. And they certainly do not appreciate funny letters sent to them which may suggest an ad campaign centered around celebrity inmates and their desire to eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as their final meal. They really think that's stupid.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Work... booze... work... booze...

Sorry, quoting Joel and the bots again.

Yeah I know, I'm not the least bit sorry.

So if you're wondering where I've been when I should be blogging, I'm working up the Blood and Relics adventure for Gen Con, working title "Nostradamus Gambit" and working on Legends of Rome.

On the plus side, I can now tell you the difference between a Greek Phalanx, Macedonian Phalanx and a Roman Maniple.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Star Trek XI: What. A. Shock.

Well maybe the people losing their minds on the trek boards can go out and see the sun now:

In a Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast (by way of TrekWeb), Orci and Kurtzman suggested that they would not be recreating the series in the way that Battlestar Galactica has been reimagined, but extrapolating on events in the Star Trek franchise as it currently exists.

"We're very mindful of being totally true to the mythology and totally true to what's come there," explained the writers. "There are pockets within the universe, and we know the mythology well." They added that they were fans of the novels extrapolating on what might have happened between the events of the original series movies, which are not considered franchise canon.

"We do know that there is a space to begin to see a lot of the origins of a lot of the things we know and we're going to start there," Kurtzman and Orci said. "To embrace the fact there's such a rich history to it that this is not a case of trying to come in and be so clever that you're going to reinvent everything. It's a case of coming in and using the stuff you know is great...not violating anything that's come before it."

Asked whether there would be familiar characters or their predecessors, the writers added, "It will be a bit of both, I think."

From TrekToday

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

See the trees, don't let the forest get in the way, just see the trees

Someone started a thread on ENWorld asking why there aren't more 3rd party adventures.

Damn, is it Wednesday again *already*?

This is a thread topic both amusing and frustrating to me. It's asked ALL THE TIME, and freelancers and company owners drop in fairly consistently and give all the same reasons why we don't do more modules.

Then people tell us why we're wrong. It WOULD sell better, it DOES make sense, and we CAN compete with Dungeon.

Ok, sure, whatever. We suck and we don't know what we're talking about. Gotcha.

Here's the one thing that always baffles me though, that no one in these threads ever, EVER seems able to wrap their minds around.

Even if modules sold better. Even if companies (especially PDF and small press companies) could compete with dungeon, put yourself in the boat of the average RPG writer:

You have two weeks to work on a project.

Project A will make you X dollars.

Project B will take the same exact amount of time and energy, and make you X+5 dollars.

Which project do you do.


PS The module is Project A.

And speaking of the geek in me...

A very wicked cool lightsaber duel. As good as the ones in Empire. Better than the one in Star Wars. Very nicely done, these guys should be stunt men.

Second New Voyages trailer

I love New Voyages. It speaks to the geek in me in ways best not discussed in polite company. I know the guys are working out of pocket, but I can't wait to see this one. An episode about Chekov with the Klingons as bad guys written by DC Fontana?

I am so there.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Modern Dispatch

Something's coming up that I'm really proud of, so I thought I'd take a moment to share.

It isn't everyone who can say they started a successful e-zine, but in late August 2004 that's exactly what Chris and I did. We called it the Modern Dispatch, to make it sound news-papery and it was a monthly.

We published it this way for just about a year, with yours truly writing about half of those (I wrote 5 of the first 11 issues). But then, we decided to bring others in on the act and partnered with some other talented and prolific game companies, specifically horror mavens 12 to Midnight, producers of Pulp goodness Adamant and righteous Ronin Arts.

With four companies on board, the Dispatch went weekly and now, as we are poised on looking at our 2-year anniversary, there's another milestone the magazine is looking at as well: Issue #100.

We're discussing doing something special and I'm frankly a little hopeful that I get to design it. Just feels right. It is one of the professional accomplishments I'm most proud of in some ways and something that I think helps, all on its own, to make Modern one of those "games to watch".

For me as a consumer support makes a game worth playing. Well Modern certainly has that.

Here's to 100 issues more.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Deep thinking

Back in research mode, working on Legends of the Roman Empire. Maybe just Legends of Rome, who can say.

Anyway, doing a little work on pre-Roman Italy right now and came across a bit about the influence of the Greek colonies in southern Italy on the emerging Iron Age civilizations of the Romans, Italians, Latins and Etruscans that occupied Italy.

Turns out the Greek culture, one of the greatest ever, had a great impact on all the cultures around it, but this was nothing new to the Greeks. It happened wherever they went, so much so that they had a word for it: Hellenization.

Seems like they were used to people seeing how they did things and then emulating them. And why not. Greek culture is still engrossing to us to this day.

Back to work...

Night Ride Part 1

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...