Monday, October 30, 2006

Sneak Peek #1 Fertile Crescent gazetteer (Darwin's World)

This is coming out soon. As always I thought I'd drop a few previews for the loyal blog readers.


Pre-war name: Milwaukee

Estimated Population: 3,000 (2,000 transients during the best of times, swelling to an estimated 10,000 transients during times of severe drought)

Ruling Faction: Guardsmen

Background: Visionary Reinventor

Skinball team: Bastion Gronts

The guiding light of the western side of the Great Lakes, this city, along with Purity to east brought the Fertile Crescent through the dark times in much better shape than most regions of the Twisted Earth. The fact that the two cities have ceased to cooperate and seem to preparing to turn against one another is like a dark cloud on the horizon for the entire region.

The modern history of Bastion begins when the city was still called Milwaukee, in the days immediately after the Fall. A young Wisconsin National Guardsman, Pfc. William Whittaker, was sent to take temporary military command of police and emergency services in Milwaukee until such time as reinforcements could be sent. They never came. In the orgy of destruction that was the Fall, the Midwest seemed spared almost by the hand of God. No nuclear weapons struck the shores of the Great Lakes or its mighty cities and the leaders themselves seemed to forget about these cities as they concentrated on the battles taking place at the edges of the country over the east and west coasts. The android round-ups and executions that were a fact of life in so many other areas of the country simply did not happen in the Midwest. This isn’t to say that there were no threats to the region as the country fell apart around it. Those threats came from without and within: the chaos of war, the Pariahs and the Ghouls being those best remembered from the city’s earliest days.

Sneak Peek #4 Blood and Guts 2: Deep Blue Sea (working title)

From the upcoming Blood and Guts 2: Deep Blue Sea (working title)

Pax Brittanica

In the 18th century wars began to become larger and larger as European powers with far-flung empires engaged in conflict on a scale never before witnessed. America seceded from the British Empire with the help of the French, who then proceeded to war with the English navy over the West Indies. The spiral of war seemed to grow ever larger in its scope and the French Revolution which put the conquest-minded Napoleon on the throne only added fuel to the fires of Europe. Finally, in the early 19th century, things came to a head at the Battle of Trafalgar. In this climactic battle the British navy sent 27 ships of the line against a combined French and Spanish fleet numbering 33 ships of the line. The British fleet was led by its greatest naval hero Admiral Lord Nelson and despite his death during the engagement it was a tremendous victory for England, who reasserted her naval dominance in this battle. In fact the battle finally brought peace to the oceans, the so-called “Pax Brittanica”. Following Trafalgar there would not be another major engagement at sea until the First World War.

Despite the peace imposed by the fearsome British Navy during this period, technological change began to come to naval warfare, the first revolutionary changes since the introduction of the large sailing vessel and the cannon. Ship designers began to experiment with steam engines to replace the sail as a vessel’s primary motive force. Weapon designers also began to adopt exploding shells to replace the iron cannonball. These explosive rounds could sink a wooden vessel with a single hit, prompting the need for iron plating over the ship’s now vulnerable wooden hull.

Although these technologies had all been under development for decades, it was the American Civil War that marked the turning of the tide in naval warfare. Here two ironclads, the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor fought for the first time. The age of the ironclad had officially arrived. A mere four years later, in 1866, the first battle between fleets of ironclads was fought between the navies of Austria and Italy at the Battle of Lissa. This engagement was ended by a ramming maneuver and for a few decades ironclad designers focused on the ram once again as an essential part of a ship’s design.

Weakness? Meet responsibility.

So my plans to buy a Wii at launch ran afoul of both sides of my brain.

Not the left and right.

Not the conscious and the unconscious.

The responsible and the irresponsible.

I was nosing around online today and realized I could get Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the PS2, Final Fantasy XII and Dragon Quest VIII (which I played and *love* but I rented rather than bought it) for about 100 bucks.

The responsible says "that's less than you were planning to spend".

The irresponsible says "and you get the games NOW, without waiting outside overnight".

And so, with full knowledge that dropping 100 bucks, on top of Christmas shopping, means no Wii till the new year...

I did it anyway.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Must-Geek TV: Heroes

Heroes is a modern superhero take, created by Tim Kring.

Though the titular "heroes" have superpowers, the take of the story is more realistic than comics. No costumes, no masks no code names.

The series also has a lot of influence from X-Files, Lost and the Stand.

From X-Files you get the conspiracy angle: the government is investigating the heroes, including a mysterious agent who claims "not to be a member of any agency that uses initials" and another hero with the ability to erase people's memories. The agent has abducted several of the heroes and performed tests on them, then used his mutant comrade to erase their memories. The coolest thing about this angle is that we're not totally sure that the agent and his comrade are evil.

And oh yeah, the agent is the adopted father of one of the heroes, Claire Bennet (see below).

From Lost you get the serialized, cliffhanger-based storytelling. Although to my mind, as a geek, this comes as much from comics as anything. Still, Lost seems to have FINALLY convinced TV execs that serialized storytelling works on TV (duh).

From the Stand you get the syncronicity and sense of destiny about the heroes. Someone is going to set off a nuke in NYC in 5 weeks (more on how they know that below) and the heroes' destiny is to stop it. Along the way they seem to run into each other a lot, almost like destiny is trying to pull the group together.

The Heroes

Isaac Mendez: Painter with the ability to paint the future. Currently he can only use this ability when high on heroin though it's not clear if this is a physical or mental block. He is one of the first to realize that a nuke will be set off in NYC.

Claire Bennet: A cheerleader with a seemingly unstoppable level of regeneration. As an example, she falls at one point and has a sharp branch puncture her throat and dies. The person she's with drags her to a river and dumps her in. After an unspecified time in the river, she's found and autopsied, cut open completely. When the ME finally removes the branch, she wakes up, folds her skin closed, heals almost instantly, gets up and walks out of the room.

Hiro Nakamura: Japanese programmer with the ability to stop time, teleport through time and teleport through space. He is the other hero to first realize about the nuke, when he accidentally teleports to the future and sees the nuke go off, teleporting back to the past just in time.

Hiro also stole a comic book drawn by Isaac Mendez (see above) while in the future, which he has used as a guide to the future on occasion.

A much buffer and more experienced Hiro has also appeared from the future and given cryptic advice to another hero, Peter Petrelli (see below).

Peter Petrelli: His power is to mimic others' powers. So far we have seen him mimic Isaac's painting ability and his brother Nathan's flight (see below).

Niki Sanders: Single mother of a boy genius, this former internet *ahem* entertainer has an alter ego which has a split personality and seeming superhuman strength, along with a bad-ass tude. She sometimes sees this alter ego in mirrors, though it isn't clear if she needs a flective surface to manifest.

Her ex-husband also seems to one of the heroes.

Nathan Petrelli: This ambitious, amoral politican has the power of flight at supersonic speeds (his body also seems perfectly adapted to flight at these speeds). Committed to being in Congress, he's much more concerned with that than his destiny right now.

Matt Parkma: A police officer with the power to read minds.


If you're a geek, there's no reason not to be watching Heroes. Seriously. And for more information you can check out 9th Wonders, the show's "Official Unofficial Fan Site" which has some nice info as well as spoilers (carefully marked so you'll only come across them if you want to).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Great moments in insomnia

I was preparing to post about Heroes, the new superhero show on NBC. I still will post about it and in the meantime while you wait breathlessly for that future post, let me just say it's the best. show. ever.

Go download it on Itunes right now, watch it and then come back.

See? Wasn't that awesome?

If you're wondering why I'm not posting about Heroes, that would be because I looked up Jeph Loeb on IMDB, one of the writers/producers of Heroes. Jeph is a comics writer (including the awesome Batman: Hush, which you should order overnight shipping and read right now, then come back). He also was a writer for Smallville.

On a lark I decided to look and see if he was involved in anything else and I came across this:

Model by Day: Lady X works as a model during the day but at night she fights crime with the help of her karate master, Master Chang.

Already, sounds like something that MUST be located and seen.

Then I look at the credits: Famke Janssen as Lady X. Awesome. Clark Johnson, the black streetwise detective from Homicide as Master Chang (if you don't know who Clark Johnson is, go rent the first season of Homicide and... oh you know the rest). Awesome. Shannon Tweed and Sen Young as two dames named Shannon and Mercedes.

This sounds like the best movie ever!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sneak Peek #3

Age of Sail

As larger sailing vessels exceeding 100 tons displacement began to appear, powered by increasingly sophisticated sails, vessels were able to make longer voyages and withstand the harsh weather of the open ocean in order to begin exploring areas further and further away from their homes in Europe. These larger vessels were also able to carry more weapons and with the addition of the cannon, ships became more dangerous than ever, both against targets at sea and targets on land.

Although the voyages of discovery made during this period were primarily mercantile in nature, the protection of sea lanes allowing the profits of these voyages to return home quickly sparked an increase in battles at sea. Just ten years after Vasco da Gama opened trade with India in the 16th century, the Portuguese fleet crushed an enemy fleet to gain dominance over the Indian Ocean and ensure that goods could travel freely between Europe and India.

Seventy years later, in 1582, the first naval battle in the Atlantic took place as Spain and France fought over the Azores. Just six years after this victory for the Spanish navy, they sent an Armada against England, then ruled by Elizabeth I in one of the first naval engagements fought on a mass scale. Sir Francis Drake was able to scatter the Spanish fleet, which lost more than half of the 130 ships forming the armada. This marks the rise to dominance of the English Royal Navy, a position they would enjoy for nearly 300 years.

The 16th century also saw some of the largest naval engagements in Asia during the Middle Ages. Throughout much of the history of Asia the dreaded Wako pirates of Japan strangled trade between Japan, China and Korea. But the end of Japan’s long and bloody civil wars and the rise of the Shogun Hideyoshi saw Japan for the first time turn attention to foreign conquest. Hideyoshi built a large and formidable fleet, ridding the seas of Wako (at least temporarily) so that he could invade Korea. His ultimate aim was the conquest of China’s Ming Empire as well. This seven-year war between Japan and Korea shows the importance of a combined arms strategy in any foreign invasion overseas. The Japanese army dominated the Koreans on land but the Korean navy was generally superior to the Japanese fleet. By fighting a scorched earth strategy denying the occupying Japanese army access to Korean crops and preventing resupply over the sea, the Koreans eventually forced the Japanese to withdraw.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wii are anticipating arrival

Ahh... my first dumb-ass use of the name Wii. Probably not the last either. Felt kind of good.

Another random thought, I should shill for things I get no money from more often. I'm much more shameless about it, and in fact it makes me feel pretty good.

Oh yeah, the Wii countdown clock has a permanent home at the bottom of the page now, go look at it and then everyone do your best computer voice from Wargames.

Man, Wargames might be the best movie ever. Where was I? Oh yeah, shilling.

So besides Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which of course gets my nerd heart beating fast, I also am looking forward to Red Steel like nobody's business.

Guns? Check. Samurai swords? Check. Destructible environments? Check. Kill Bill type storyline involving a girl, some Yakuza and a cool sword? Check.

Does a game need anything else? Hell no!

Well ok, big giant robots fighting kaiju WOULD of course make this game better, but they make everything better.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sneak Peek #2

Barbarians at sea: Naval Warfare in the Dark and Middle Ages

Although the barbarians that brought about the fall of the Roman Empire operated mostly by land, the infamous Vandals were a notable exception. These barbarians moved down through modern-day Spain where they began to build a large fleet. In 429 80,000 Vandals crossed to North Africa where they took the city of Carthage. From this base, one of the most excellent deep water Mediterranean ports, they conquered Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands, attaining a virtual stranglehold on Mediterranean trade. Despite becoming a sea-faring superpower of the dark ages, the Vandals were not primarily a mercantile empire as the Carthaginians had been but instead conducted piratical raids on trading vessels of more civilized empires.

As the political landscape began to become more settled following the fall of Rome, new seafaring powers took to the seas, most notably the Byzantines and the Arabs who fought many heated battles in the 7th and 8th centuries for control over the Mediterranean and its valuable islands, especially Sicily. The Byzantine vessels of this period were greatly feared because of their use of “Greek fire” which they could shoot from the bow of their ships in the first known flamethrower.

In the 8th century the Norsemen made their first appearance as a naval power, adopting a tactic of a surprise attack from the sea, raiding and plundering a target then retreating with their bounty before reinforcements could arrive. This tactic would prove devastatingly effective for centuries.

In the 10th century Arab naval dominance of the Mediterranean began to wane along with the rise of the great mercantile empires of Italy: Genoa, Pisa and Venice. These mercantile powers achieved dominance over the Arabs and Norsemen before fighting with one another over control of Mediterranean trade. These conflicts continued until the 14th century when Venice finally gained the upper hand and controlled Mediterranean trade for a century. Outside of Mediterranean during this period, use of sea power was restricted to the Norsemen and the use of ships to ferry troops across the English Channel during the seemingly endless conflicts between England and France during the early Middle Ages.

Friday, October 20, 2006

First look: a snippet of an upcoming book

Another history post for you guys since they seem to go over well... this is a snippet from a book I started yesterday...

Naval Warfare in the Ancient World

The first known battle at sea occurred in 1210 BCE when the Hittites defeated a force of vessels from Cyprus and burned their ships at sea. By 700 BCE the Phoenicians were employing advanced vessels equipped with rams and two banks of oars, one on top of the other while a third deck carried fighting men for boarding actions.

By the time of the Greco-Persian wars, during which the Persian Empire attempted unsuccessfully to conquer the Greek city states on several occasions, combat at sea was carried out by fleets of advanced vessels known as triremes which worked in concert with forces on the ground in complicated land-sea operations.

Although the Roman Empire is known primarily for the military might of its powerful heavy infantry legions, they too engaged in naval warfare, especially in the Punic Wars against Carthage, one of the great naval powers of the ancient world. These early vessels leveraged the might of the Roman ground forces, with Roman ships equipped with powerful grapples that would allow their ships to link with enemy Carthaginian vessels so Roman marines could employ the infantry tactics of which Rome was the undisputed master to eliminate enemy vessels during boarding actions.

As Rome expanded, they discovered an increasing need for naval power in order to quickly project their military might over a wide area, a need every wide-ranging empire has needed from the Persians to the United States of America. The Battle of Actium, fought between Octavian and Marc Antony to determine the successor to Julius Caesar shows just how Rome’s naval power had expanded as the size of the Empire expanded, with hundreds of ships involved on each side bearing towers filled with archers and boarding parties and ship-mounted catapults.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Marvel Ultimate Alliance: It must be mine

This game looks awesome. Best game ever. If the screenshot provided, showing Spider Man, the Thing, Wolverine and Ghost Rider throwing down on bad guys doesn't convince you of that... then my work here is far from over.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Oops he did it again

Paul Tevis runs one of my favorite podcasts, Have Games Will Travel. For the most part he discusses board games and indie RPGs but occasionally discusses d20 games as well. Fairly often when listening to his RPG podcasts, I hear about a game I would have never thought to try and end up being intrigued.

In other words, the man should get a comission. He just did it again, selling me on Cold City, a game about monster hunters in 1950 Germany, with American and Soviet investators attempting to put aside their differences as they try to kill monsters and hunt down Nazi weird science.

Maybe the best game premise ever. More when I've actually read it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fertile Crescent coming this month

Welcome to The Fertile Crescent, my own personal corner of Dom Covey’s magnificent Twisted Earth setting for Darwin’s World. Since this book has been (more or less) in the works for a few years I thought a little history might be in order as we prepare to explore a new area of the world after the Fall.

In 2002 I discovered RPGNow. Here the word “discover” is used in the same way in which Columbus “discovered” America. RPGNow was already around, making products and selling PDFs. I just had no idea it was there. I was on my way to India. Actually, I was looking for a good post-apocalyptic game for d20, something to allow me to run the Gamma World campaign of my dreams. In my googling I came across RPGNow and a book called Darwin’s World. My first PDF seriously spoiled me and my campaign was up and running.

The mainline campaign setting was a little grimmer than what I had in mind, so I decided to get all “do it yourself” and homebrew and picked the area around the Great Lakes, which hadn’t really been covered by any books to date as the location for my campaign. I decided to leave the lakes more or less intact, making the campaign area a relatively fertile region, a place where civilization might be reborn. Once I decided to get all historical and call the region the Fertile Crescent, after Mesopotamia, I knew I had a place where heroes could make a difference. Maybe even rebuild.

Around this time, I started talking to Dom and Chris at RPGObjects about my campaign and bugging them to release it. They liked the idea and although a lot of ideas went back and forth, I ended up doing other things for them, including providing some editorial help on Terrors of the Twisted Earth and Metal Gods. Eventually I would make a book with RPGObjects, then another, then dozens more, starting with Blood and Space. The Fertile Crescent was always just on the horizon bookwise but it never seemed to float up to the top of the list. In short we got busy.

When it came time for Darwin’s World 2nd edition, I provided some mechanical help and figured that was that. When I saw the map for the game though, Dom had marked the Fertile Crescent to Great Lakes region. That was my first signal that a gazetteer of the area would eventually need to be done. Eventually, Chris and I just decided to do it and the area was fleshed out. Since we needed an adventure for GenCon, I decided to use that adventure (Feeding Grounds) as an introduction to the setting. The ball was rolling.

So here we are, nearly four years later and the sun is finally rising on the Fertile Crescent. Will it be an anecdote lost to history, uncovered by future explorers? Or will it be a new beginning. That’s up to you. Beyond the occasional adventure, my part is mostly done. The Fertile Crescent is yours now and I hope it brings you as much gaming fun as it did me.

The clock is ticking...

I am geeked. It's actually funny. I haven't gone fanboy over anything in ages. I thought I was just too jaded.

But I am waiting on the Wii. Red Steel, Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Trauma Center *will* be mine. Oh yeah and that Madden thing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cast Iron

It's official, from the Marvel Pulse Newsletter: Robert Downey Jr. will play Iron Man in the Marvel movie, slated to debut in May 2008.

I think this is awesome casting, as good a job of nailing a part as Warner did when it cast Christian Bale as Batman.

Downey has been Oscar-nominated and is just a perfect fit for Tony Stark, a brilliant man with a serious addiction (just like Downey himself).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


So if I've been a little quiet lately, it's partially because I took a little breather in honor of my 38th birthday, which was yesterday.

In related news, True 20 rocks and my True 20 conversion of Legends of Excalibur is shaping up very very nicely.

As I go through the conversion I got to realize, after a long time away from the rules, that Excalibur might be my favorite book I've ever written, with only Blood and Vigilance or Blood and Fists have any chance of competing with it in my eyes.


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...