Thursday, May 28, 2009

Eat your bitterfruit or the jumpers will get'cha!

Nuff said.

Born Great

I spend a fair amount of time cruising various internet fora, one of which is devoted to Star Trek.

I'm a huge Trek fan, with DS9 and TOS being my favorites and I also love the new JJ Abrams movie.

In this movie, we see Kirk take a meteoric rise through the ranks. He starts as a cadet who shouldn't even BE on the Enterprise.

About 15 mintues later, Pike names him acting first officer.

About an hour later, he has relieved Spock of command and is sitting in the Captain's chair.

At the end of the movie, he is confirmed as permanent captain of the Enterprise at 25, after 3 total years in Starfleet.

A lot of people have a *real* problem with this.

They talk about chain of command, tenure, resentment by officers Kirk has leapfrogged, etc etc.

In the course of these conversations, and the way the same points keep being raised again and again about tenure and how older, more seasoned officers would react to Kirk, it occurs to me that modern society in many ways WORSHIPS age and experience over talent.

Is this just a product of our aging society?

Perhaps, or maybe something deeper is at work here. Most people are ordinary. Most people NEED experience.

But some people, some people are just born great.

This is a concept very much a part of the ancient world where divine origin was often used as the reason. But being born great still happens.

And people resent the hell out of it. They hate it. HATE. IT.

In thinking about this subject, I've come up with a Born Great Hall of Fame.

Here's my picks (these are in no particular order- they are all awesome):

1. Mozart.

Child prodigy, one of the greatest composers who ever lived, was a touring musician by age 7. Dead by 35.

2. Alexander the Great.

While serving as regent for his father, who was on campaign, Alexander crushed a revolt at the age of 16. Four years later he was king and 12 years after that, around age 33, he had conquered most of the known world.

3. Bill Gates

Just two years out of high school, Gates had dropped out of Harvard and started a software company. I think it's safe to say the company he founded, Microsoft, has changed the entire world and made Gates fabulously wealthy.

4. Caesar Augustus

Posthumously named the heir of Julius Caesar, he was one of three rulers of Rome at the age of 19, along with Lepidus and Marc Anthony. Even at this age he was outmaneuvering his co-triumvirs politically, maneuvering Marc Anthony out of any compromise with the Senate.

Soon, he would maneuver them out of the picture completely and by age 36 he was sole ruler of the Roman Empire.

His adopted father famously wept because Alexander had accomplished so much more, so much earlier than him. Augustus on the other hand probably felt he measured up to Alexander. And unlike Alexander, Augustus lived a good long time.

5. Scipio Africanus

At the age of 24 his father and uncle were killed in battle against Hannibal's brother, Hasdrubal in Spain. Scipio offered to take command, despite being too young to legally do so and the Roman Senate agreed (mostly because no one else wanted the job).

Eventually Scipio would conquer Spain, then take the war to North Africa and defeat Hannibal himself.

6. Horatio Nelson

Passed his Lieutenant's exam in April at the age of 19. By December he had been promoted to Master and Commander. By June the following year, at the age of 20, he had been promoted to Post Captain.

I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting equally worthy of my hall of fame but I think I've shown that what Kirk does in Star Trek isn't 100% bunk. Especially not for the big damn hero (TM) of a space opera.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Touching on TSR again

I really am not trying to pick on TSR, but I often find myself looking at companies and examining business decisions they made, and playing monday morning quarterback.

And make no mistake, that's what I'm doing. It's a lot easier for me to make these calls and I'm probably wrong anyway ;)

And in a way, this is another appendage to my "Thoughts on TSR" post in which I remarked that TSR seemed to purposely try NOT to give their customers what they wanted.

Does anyone remember when TSR had the Conan license?

To my mind, of all the inexplicable decisions TSR made in NOT exploiting its game engine, the most successful game engine on the market at the time, and maybe of ALL time, nothing is more glaring than the fact that they had the Conan license, at the HEIGHT of the popularity of the Arnold Swarzenegger movies and released a box set game for it using...

A percentile dice system, no character classes. The rules amounted to 32 pages. The rest of the box set was information about Hyboria.

The game failed miserably, at which point TSR produced some modules based on Robert E Howard books, containing D&D versions of Conan characters, at which point they allowed the license to lapse.

There are many reasons to make a Conan game non-D&D if you are TSR.

Those that spring to mind:

1. David Cook, who Monte Cook described as "the rock star of TSR" just wanted to create his own game. And had enough mojo internally to get it done.

2. The powers that be at TSR were afraid their IP D&D worlds would be overshadowed by Hyboria and would no longer be the default world for D&D games.

I call this the "let's kill Greyhawk because we don't entirely own it" theory of TSR management.

3. They really felt D&D was bad game engine for Conan.

I call this the "we couldn't find our asses with both hands and the Hubble Telescope" theory of TSR management.

4. The RE Howard estate would not allow TSR to release a full-fledged Conan game for the D&D engine.

I call this the "no one fucking understands the insane demands of Cthulhoid Cultists who own IP rights and TSR should never have signed this crazy deal" theory of TSR management.

Regardless of which of these theories you subscribe to, nowhere will you find "our customers were clamoring for a Conan game that had a system incompatible with the TRUCKLOAD of sword and sorcery stuff we'd already bought from you".

In other words, while I don't know why they DID release Conan as a completely new game system, I know why they didn't.

They didn't have the interests and desires of their customers foremost on their minds.

New Post Apocalypse20 previews up

There's a new fiction preview of the second setting from Post-Apocalypse20 up at RPGObjects.

And another.

Since sarcasm in the morning reduces your craving for carbs

It's like protein for the soul!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We interrupt your dose of energy with a dose of pure snark

We interrupt your regular programming with a dose of pure energy

I bet giant spiders are good eatin'

God I can't wait for this to happen.

I am so ready for the apocalypse.

Danish boffins have uncovered an unforeseen, extra downside of the melting
of the Arctic ice cap, according to reports. Not only will there be sea level
rises and massive flooding*; there will also be a plague of enormous,
invulnerable, heavily armoured meat-eating cannibal spiders.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thoughts about TSR

This is a tangent of my previous post that got so big I just decided it needed to be its own post.

In my mind TSR will always be thought of as the KINGS of "we know you want X, but we, in our infinite wisdom, will give you Y because, well, me and the 10 guys in this room like Y".

Here's an example of this thinking:

Why didn't every game TSR make use the D&D game engine or a derivative of it?

The AD&D engine might be the most popular engine of all time. Other companies tried like the devil to make compatible products for it and were roundly sued by TSR for their trouble

I am not debating the wisdom of TSR's love of lawsuits- just pointing out that companies were willing to risk the wrath of a notoriously letigious company just for the ability to make something compatible with the best selling game engine on the market.

But when TSR went to make a sci-fi game, or a post-apocalyptic game (which is SO CLOSE to fantasy as a genre that it's totally unfunny) or a western game, they started from scratch and tried to forget D&D ever existed.

I always felt this was a mistake and think it speaks more to designers wanting THEIR turn at crafting a game engine more than it does any burning desire of the market for more game engines.

The success of d20, Hero and GURPs should tell you everything you need to know about how badly people want multiple game engines for tabletop gaming.

For the most part, people find an engine they like, and they NEVER WANT ANOTHER ONE.

They want to use that engine for modern games, fantasy games, sci-fi games, post-apoc games etc etc.

Your daily dose of "wow" (not the MMO)

Grognardia has an amazing interview with Lawrence Schick, who tells it like it is.

The "wow sign", for me, is this:
The early TSR management consisted almost entirely of hardcore gamers who loved
tournaments for their own sake and insisted that they be part of every
convention TSR sponsored or participated in. So despite the fact that
tournaments appealed to a very small percentage of D&D players, and
designing for and managing tournaments drained development resources that could
have been spent on publishing more or better products, we did lots of them.

Got that? "Our customers didn't like these things, but many of our employees did, so they were a priority".

And if you've ever wondered why I frequently tag industry posts as "so-called industry", now you know. At multiple levels companies this business are not run like, you know, businesses.

And honestly, the bigger the company, the more true that is.

TSR (and to a slightly lesser extent Wizards) are almost TOO big.

By which I mean, they sometimes seem to think (I feel because they're so dominant in the RPG field) that they need to move BEYOND it.

Like how, instead of figuring out how to grow D&D's audience even more, TSR spent resources on getting a crappy Saturday-morning cartoon on the air perhaps?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Buried Takes of Pinebox fiction anthology

Buried Tales of Pinebox is a fiction anthology published by 12 to Midnight, featuring horror stories set in their signature setting.

It features stories by:

Jason L. Blair

Preston P. Dubose

Trey Gorden

Derek Gunn

Jess Hartley

Shane Lacy Hensley

Charles Rice

Monica Valentinelli

David Wellington

Ed Wetterman

JD Wiker

Filamena Young

Posting New Books Again

I've posted a link to my latest book and will slowly begin filling in the production history of the works released during my blog hiatus.

A new feature that wasn't available when I was last posting links, if you click on the cover image to your right of the latest book, it will take you right to the product page.


So... Star Trek

As many of you may know and well... I guess all of you will after I say this...

I am a HUGE Star Trek nerd.

Ok, let me define "huge Star Trek nerd" for the official record.

It does NOT mean:

1. That I speak Klingon.
2. That I go to cons.
3. That I engage in Trekkie cos-play.

I never did grok that shit.

It DOES mean:

1. I have seen every episode of Star Trek, Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I've seen most of Voyager and uh... I caught most of the 1st and 4th seasons of Enterprise.
2. I occasionally delve into the novel scene, especially Peter David's New Frontier and novels about the original crew and Deep Space Nine.
3. I watch a few of the fan productions online, especially New Voyages and Hidden Frontier.

Basically, I love Deep Space Nine and the Original series (in that order- DS9 is my favorite but TOS is close behind).

However, unlike many of my fellow Trekkies, I was on board with this JJ Abrams reimagining from day 1.

Why? Because I knew it was inevitable the original series would be recast and I just hoped I'd be there to see it.

Despite my love of DS9, I think TOS has the better crew, filled with iconic characters. They were the originals.

Heroes that people couldn't get out of their imaginations to the point that they resurrected the show into the movies.

For a kid who devoured every episode of the show in re-runs, where it was shown right after Saturday Morning Cartoons, the continuing adventures were a revelation.

The first two movies especially blew my mind in a way no movie other than Star Wars did as a youth.

I believe that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are the King Arthur/Robin Hood folk heroes of our generation.

You can also add Conan, James Bond, Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Wolverine to that list.

These characters will ALL be recast.

They are immortal. Actors, unfortunately, are mortal.

Eventually, they will move on, get too old to play the characters in their primes or just die. It's the world.

But folk heroes don't die.

So either these heroes would remain tied to their actors until they ALL died (which was always my personal prediction) or someone would have the steel balls to recast them while many were still alive.

But either way, they WOULD live again.

Now, if all this frou-frou talk about immortal folk heroes makes that little muscle under your right eye twitch, I'll also offer this:

If you don't recast them you're leaving money on the table.

So we have a mythological collective unconscious reason to recast, AND a cold, numbers capitalist reason.

In short, it was going to happen.

But as I said, I thought folks would be afraid to do it while Shatner and Nimoy were still with us.

But I was glad to see I was wrong.

Now, at the end of all that, what did I think of the movie?

Of COURSE I saw it. I skipped school to watch Wrath of Khan on opening day in the 80's, I certainly wasn't going to miss this.

Basically, I thought this movie nailed it.

The technology all looks different. That stuff changes all the time.

But every one of the original characters was perfect. Instantly recognizable icons who were cast flawlessly and did an amazing job of reminding me what was so great about that collection of characters.

If you are a fan of outer-space adventure in the sword and planet vein, with a dash of military sci-fi thrown in (which is what Trek has *always* been despite pretensions to the contrary on the part of many creators and fans) then you should see this movie, whether you are a Trek fan or not.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Customers: Be careful what you demand

I have found myself thinking recently that if not for the constant stream of comments on the ENWorld and WOTC message boards from folks saying "4e better not be 3.75" that we might have gotten a d20-compatible 4th edition (essentially a 3.75) rather than a dramatic departure from what came before.

This is just a gut feeling, but it is something that's crossed my mind more than once.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Grognardia reviews OSRIC Unearthed

Grognardia, noted games designer James Maliszewski's blog covering the burgeoning old-school game scene has reviewed the OSRIC book I did, OSRIC Unearthed.

You can read the full review here.

The review is pretty positive. He basically concludes that the book is "Unearthed Arcana done right".

Given that UA is one of my all-time favorite game books and inspiration (along with Oriental Adventures) for the book, it's hard to not like that assessment.

Of course, the story of OSRIC Unearthed lies in the knowledge that many old-school gamers (like people playing OSRIC) have moved to earlier game editions precisely to AVOID books like this, which explains the mixed reactions it frequently garners.

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...