Sunday, December 23, 2007

Comics used to be cool

That's right folks, that's our hero, Iron Man, who, in his secret identity as Tony Stark, is keeping America safe from commies by hooking up the Army with jet-propelled roller skates, allowing them to zoom down the highway at 60 mph.

Whatever Stan was on, I want some.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The first RPGObjects podcast is live

Hope you all enjoy my ramblings with Chris Davis!

BTW, since it wasn't terribly clear to me either, clicking on the title of this post will send you directly to the page for podcast #1.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

When you know a company might be in trouble

When they have an executive position, full time, named "Chief Restructuring Officer".

And what company would this be?


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Podcast Fever

This week's Accidental Survivor's is all about writing that modern adventure. Listen to here me admit my shameful lust for green jump suits. It's... I'm getting help.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Paizo Bubble

This was originally a message board post but people seemed to like it, so I thought I'd share it here.

First, let me say I don't dislike Paizo, they make good products. The Shackled City and Savage Tide adventure paths? Awesome. Their Greyhawk love? *Awesome*

But their current status as the "cool company that looks out for the little guys abandoned in the wake of big bad Wizards" is a bubble that's destined to burst.

Nerds love to stick up for the underdog, especially when they perceive that underdog as being bullied in some way. They also tend to dislike corporations.

Paizo, by having the license recalled, suddenly became that Jeff Gerstmann-esque figure, done wrong by the big bad company in the name of corporate greed.

They went overnight from being a nice company who made great products to THE GREATEST RPG COMPANY OF ALL TIME! THE MAGAZINE WAS NEVER BETTER THEN! ITS GOLDEN AGE HAD JUST TRULY BEGUN!

And when 4e hit, that following just grew, because now a lot of gamers felt wronged by Wizards, and turned to that perky little company that was done just as wrong as they were.

You can see this syndrome in the way people reflexively criticize DI articles. "Bad articles". When you point out that Wizards is, in fact, still working through Paizo's submissions, you get told that "oh it's not the articles, it's the editing, editing is everything".

When you point out that Chris Thomasson *was* a Paizo editor, both on Dungeon, Dragon and the adventure paths, you get told that he's not the RIGHT Paizo editor.

In other words, this amazing, stupendous company, really only amounts to the two personalities that these people have attached themselves to: Erik Mona and James Jacobs.

If your name isn't either one of those, you just get "Chris Thoma-who?"

So clearly, for a lot of these folks, it's not Paizo the company that they have latched onto. It's a couple of their personalities, and the IDEA of Paizo as the little company that could.

When these people realize that Paizo is every bit the business Wizards is, and that their corporate best interests are at the center of their world, rather than the feelings of some dispossessed gamers, they're going to lash out with every bit of nerd-rage they can muster.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Stuff that bugs: Stat modifiers that cancel out

I really, really hate this about most d20 races.

If I want to trade two points of Dex for two points of Con, I don't have to be a freaking elf.

Yes, I realize there's more to ability mods than that. Not much, but more.

It's still dumb.

Simple Pleasures Part II: Space Empires edition

So I have lately become a full-blown Space Empires IV addict.

What is Space Empires? Well, it's basically Civilization (the computer game) in space. If you're ever played Master of Orion, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But Space Empires has a lot of really rad features.

I was playing very, very deep into a game recently, when I began researching the Stellar Manipulation tech tree, something I hadn't paid much attention to in the past. The early rungs of the tech ladder let me do things like create solar storms or get rid of them (not very exciting).

But, I decided to climb that area of the tech tree just to see what was there. I hit the ability to destroy planets, turning them into asteroid fields, and to collapse asteroid fields into planets.

Interesting. According to myth, the Earth was created in 6 days. Now watch out! Here comes Genesis! We'll do it for you in 6 minutes!

So I research more and... and...

I discovered the ability to make Ringworlds and Dyson Spheres.

God I love this game.

And, it's an indie game that seems to be largely the work on one guy, which makes it even sweeter. I'm not giving my money to Capcom or Activision or Blizzard or Acti-Blizzard.

I get to play an awesome game and stick it to the man all at the same time.

Simple Pleasures

I'm not a complicated guy and most of the things I enjoy would be classified as simple pleasures.

Take, for example, the occasional cigar.

I smoke very little, but there's something awesome about writing while puffing on a lit cigar.

It makes me feel like Woodward and Bernstein, typing up my notes from the latest meeting with Deep Throat and preparing to nail that bastard Nixon to the fucking wall.

Friday, December 07, 2007

From Aikido to Zen (R)

Martial Arts 20, the first full-length, crunch-filled, hyphenated-word-described supplement for Modern 20 is out!

But that doesn't mean the previews have to end. Oh no. Just in case you have yet to be convinced this is the book for you, here's some mo!


Animal Style

By imitating the jerky steps and pecking attacks of the rooster you gain an advantage in combat (as well as being the ultimate funky chicken dance champion).

Prerequisite: Combat Martial Arts or Defensive Martial Arts

Style Maneuvers

Unarmed 4 ranks: Pressure Point attack: when making called shots with the Precision Strike perk, you inflict +4 points of damage on a successful hit.

Unarmed 8 ranks: Dodge Focus: +2 Defense bonus once (taking this feat additional times only grants the normal +1 bonus per feat).

Unarmed 12 ranks: Body Blow: On a successful attack to your opponent’s stomach or chest, your opponent must make a Fortitude save equal to your attack roll +10 or be flat-footed for the next 1-4 rounds. If you are using the injury rules, this is in addition to any effects from a stomach or chest hit due to injuries.

Unarmed 16 ranks: Weapon Finesse (unarmed): your Dexterity bonus is considered +2 higher for purposes of this feat.

Unarmed 20 ranks: Agility Training: +2 Dexterity

Thursday, December 06, 2007

podcast fever!

Just a note, Chris Davis and I recorded the first RPGO podcast the other day.

When it will debut depends on how fast Chris can edit it, but it IS coming.

So watch out!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Stuff that bugs: Attacks of Opportunity

There's little things about every game that bug me.

I've learned to ignore these things, because I have to.

If I'm writing for someone else's game, there's no point in trying to reinvent the wheel if something is small, but also fundamental.

Here's an example: attacks of opportunity.

I love the idea that certain circumstances will trigger free attacks.

I hate the list of things in a typical d20 rule set that trigger those free attacks.

Let's look at these shall we?


This seems like a good idea on the surface. You shouldn't just be able to walk around someone in combat. Orderly retreats should be difficult. Opponents fleeing in bad order should be cut down.

Except of course, that it leads to people charging an opponent, then standing completely still while they make a full attack every round.

Worse, the way to avoid it is just dumb. You mean if I take my 5-foot step first, there's no AoO for me fleeing the Mind Flayer in terror at x5 my run speed, but if I take the move then the 5-ft. step he kills me? Huh.

Unarmed attacks.

So wait, it's bad enough that he sundered my sword, leaving me with my 1d2 punch vs. his +3 sword, but he also gets a free attack? Why is that?

Ummmm.... uhhh.... reach! Yeah! He has a reach advantage!

Huh. So if a Hill Giant and I step into the squared circle for a little unarmed pay-per-view, does he get a AoO against me for reach? No?

And of course, as any 16th century Italian fencer will tell you, a small weapon in close will beat a large weapon every time. But the AoO rules don't represent that.


So it's not bad enough my AC sucks to holy hell, and that if I fireball this dude right in front of me I'll be blowing myself up, but he also gets a free attack while I cast my spell? Why is that?

Ummm, uhhh, because you can't dodge and cast a spell!

So casting a spell takes more concentration than avoiding another guy's sword, avoiding his shield, finding the weak spot in his armor, and making a thrust?

As you can tell, I don't buy any of this crap.

It's not necessarily bad design mechanically. It's just dumb. If casting a spell triggers an AoO, swinging a sword should.

If getting hit with a sword stops a spell, it should stop a sword swing.

If movement always caused an AoO, except for a Fighter ability to allow "withdrawing in good order" or a thief ability to "spring attack" or "wall walk", then I could get on board.

If the person with the smaller weapon always incurred an attack of opportunity, but always threatened a critical when he made it inside his opponent's defenses to deliver that punch or that knife thrust, then I could get on board.

It doesn't do any of those things though.

AoO are a good idea implemented in a really bad way. They add no excitement and add a lot of "bog" to the game.

A Fantasci race: Nyr Men

Nyr Men

Nyr Men are humans with the blood of giants in their veins. Whether this was the result of generations of interbreeding between humans and giant humanoids, or whether they have always been a distinct race is unknown. These mysterious individuals are cautiously avoided by most of the other races and (with a few exceptions) they return the favor, preferring to keep to themselves.

Sometimes, a Nyr Man village will send their young into a human village on trade missions, posing as humans, to ensure that the humans aren’t planning some sort of attack against them. This paranoia often fosters paranoid feelings in return among human villages that think that the Nyr Men are “scouting” them for some mysterious purpose. These confrontations rarely lead to armed conflict, though that has happened in the past.

Size: Medium through Large

Movement: Nyr Men move at the standard rate in all respects. They are humanoids (though somewhat brutish looking) and can move in all the ways a human can.

Racial Traits

Ability Scores: Str +2, Dex +0, Con +0, Int –2, Wis +2, Cha +0 (Nyr-Men are extremely strong and tend to favor instinct and “what everybody knows” to things learned in books. They are not dumb, but most of their race view formal education past the point where and individual can read and count and manage money as a waste of time.)

Attack/Defense modifiers: normal, based on size.

Growth Spurts: Nyr Men physiology is subtly different from that of most humanoids, in that they grow for their entire lives and their body is somehow able to support more and more girth as they continue to grow. A 1st level Nyr-Man is medium size and almost indistinguishable from a human. While not all Nyr-Men grow to enormous heights and not all grow at the same rate, it is a rarity for individuals of this species to stay within the human range of height and weight for their entire lives.

Every 10 levels, a Nyr Man must take Size Increase in place of a regular feat (this is required- Nyr Men have no more control over their growth processes than anyone else).

Powerhouse and Tank count double for this calculation. So a Nyr-Man who was a single class Powerhouse would take Size Increase, to Medium+ at 5th level. If the character wanted some levels of Speedfreak, he would have to take 4 levels of Powerhouse and 2 levels of Speedfreak (2x4)+2=10 before he needed to take a Size Increase feat.

Racial Feats: Except for the fact that they are able to take Size Increase feats (with some restrictions), Nyr Men have the same feat selections as humans.

Back in errr gray

Ok, the blog hasn't quite been getting its usual TLC of late. Let's fix that.

First, we have a new poll for your entertainment that will hopefully be every bit as thought provoking as our last one.

Second, we have some upcoming design diaries on Fantasci, the upcoming sourcebook/setting for Modern20 bringing a Japanese fantasy feel the game.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Listening to the Hotspot...

It's like a wake.

Fuck this is depressing.

Wait just a damn minute! Wizards knows what they're doing?

After reading all sorts of message board posts about how the Wizards designers are all lame idiots standing on the shoulders of giants, foisting their homebrew worlds filled with munchkiny dragonmen on us poor unsuspecting gamers, I was very pleased (though by no means surprised) to see this.


Mathematical and statistical modeling of games by trained mathematicians?!?

Next someone will tell me they have market research accurately informing them of how people PLAY.

Nah! Total crazy talk, I know.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Jeff Gerstmann saga

For those wondering what the hell I'm talking about, look here and here.

Gamespot fires Jeff Gerstmann: Why I won't be a subscriber anymore

I have posted many, many times here about my love for Gamespot, but that opinion has just changed radically.

Jeff Gerstmann was fired by Gamespot recently.

Whether it was over this specific review, or, as Gamespot management contends, a "larger issue" of his "tone" and "professionalism" when giving reviews is irrelevant.

Here's the thing: Jeff brought the real to Gamespot.

He'd call a spade a spade. He'd say a game was "terrible". If a game deserved to be made fun of, he made fun of it.

If the rumors are true, a big advertiser at the site pulled hundreds of thousands in advertising over Jeff's honest, 6.0 review of a game. Either way, we definitely know that the site has lost subscribers in the wake of his firing.

I had let my sub lapse, but I was a past subscriber and booster of the site.

Both of those are gone.

To any other site out there, hiring Gerstmann would be a great way to get me to pony up for a sub.

You were awesome Jeff. You were fearless.

You will be missed.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Or these gentlemen, last seen in a Joliet correctional facility.


This is a test of the Emergency Rock-Out System. If this had been an actual emergency, the voice in your head would have told you to form a band, get a car with a half-tank of gas, and a pair of sunglasses, you would then receive instructions on where to go an rock out.

Like, say, in Rio like these fellows.

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...