Thursday, December 23, 2010

Keep and throw away

Did anyone else play this "game" as a child?

When I would build up too much crap in my room, we'd "play" keep and throw away.

Get a garbage bag, some stuff stays that you still want, most of it goes.

Old clothes, toys you no longer used, etc. We took it and dropped it off at the goodwill, where I can only assume most of it went into the garbage, but as a kid I always felt better thinking some younger, poorer kid might find enjoyment out of my old stormtroopers.

As I pack to move, I am playing "keep and throw away" as a grown up, because I am moving in a minivan, so a few big boxes and a suitcase are all that's coming with me.

I am learning a lot about myself through this "game".

DVDs- almost a 100% loss. Right in the garbage bag. Kevin Smith movies, MST3K, Godfather trilogy, DS9 boxed sets. That's about it.

Game books: probably about half and half. Some are going, some are not.

Comics: are you fucking kidding me? The comics are going. Right down to every last glorious issue of the Invaders.

Essential Marvel Horror- how could I leave that behind? It says "essential" right on the cover!

I am leaving behind an old PS2, but the comics are going.

Old Allies

I really love that USHER Dossiers cover.

My initial idea for the image was ghostly figures of Old Glory and the Savant in happier times in the background, and their unhappy present in the foreground.

Jon Gibbons had the idea to make the background a picture from VE day.

This would be one reason, among about a billion, that he's an artist and I'm not.

Move over Heinlein.

Battlestar Galactica (this one) is the greatest entry in the military science fiction genre of all time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A message from THE FUTURE

So as mentioned just seconds ago, we'll be going dark for a bit as I move from frigid New England to sun-kissed Florida.

Here's a preview of what the new year holds in store for fans of Vigilance Press.

USHER Dossiers: The full story of the Vigilance-verse can now be told, and it will be.

Field Guide: Volume 2 of Jason Tondro's definitive encyclopedia of heroic archetypes.

Steve Perrin's Homefront Heroes and Villains of WWII: Yes, that Steve Perrin.

Not all heroes joined Vigilance Force and went to war. Some stayed to keep the homefires burning and protect the heartland from sabotage.

Gaming legend Steve Perrin will bring you their stories.

World Metahuman Factbook (ICONS): Coming out of USHER Dossiers, the World Metahuman Forum will give you the skinny on heroes and villains around the world, continuing their quest to document metahumanity in all its wonder and terror.

Since I am broadcasting from the future courtesy of the Chronicle, I can tell you that all these books came off without a hitch and were awesome.

You loved them all.

Still, it will be nice to see it happen in real time.

Time to move. I got bad guys to send to commie heaven.

So Vigilance Press will be going dark after Christmas, until a couple weeks into January.

I am moving to Florida, and in the meantime will be taking that cross country move with my bio-dad, so it's not a plane ride move so much as a vacation/move combo.

This will definitely break our streak of weekly releases, which we managed to keep going for over 3 months now.

It's been a great run and I'm sorry to see it end. Even sorrier to be the cause of it, since we have books done that could probably slot in.

Still, it was inevitable.

The new year will start fresh (more about that in the post right after this one).

Monday, December 13, 2010

USHER Dossiers preview: Cover

Here's the gorgeous cover to the upcoming USHER Dossiers. The central image is called "Old Allies" and is a Jon Gibbons piece. It shows Old Glory and the Savant (aka Captain Miracle) in WWII, strangely happier times, and today.

Cover design by the awesome Dan Houser.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Minuteman v. HUAC, from the USHER Dossiers

Transcript of closed-door Congressional hearing, held in 1946 in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Testimony of Committee members in bold, testimony of Minuteman in normal type.

“Sir, please state your full name for the record before we proceed.”

“I came here under the agreement that I would identify myself only as the Minuteman.”

“Yes, well, we discussed that after our earlier conversation and the members of the committee decided-”

“That’s enough, I’m leaving.”

“Don’t make us arrest you, Sir.”

“Please. I’m in bulletproof armor and even if I wasn’t, I can sidestep bullets. This nonsense is exactly why the Minuteman exists. I’ve been labeled an outlaw before, back when slavery was legal. I’m fine being an outlaw again.”

“We are prepared to make you an officer in USHER, son, but you need to let us know who you are and where your true allegiances lie.”

“My true allegiances? I would have thought fighting in WWII, WWI, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War would be enough to prove that.”

“Well we are still at war, son. A war against Communism. And I’m pretty sure that wasn’t you that fought in all those wars anyway.”

“The Minuteman fought in those wars. As for your little Communist witch-hunt, I will defend America. But I will do so according to my conscience and at a time and place of my choosing. I will not join USHER or any other organization, nor will I allow myself to be identified or constrained in any way.”

“Our little witch-hunt? So tell me son, are you now or have you ever been- where did he- He’s gone! Sergeant! Search the grounds! Arrest that man!”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

(ICONS) Werewolves of the Gestapo, new from Vigilance Press

We just received word that Jean Fontaine, a high-ranking member of the French Resistance was kidnapped by some new kind of superhuman Gestapo field agents. Our sources inform us that he has been spirited away to a mansion in a wooded area near Stausberg and is under heavy meta-human guard while the Gestapo's best interrogators work him over.

If he breaks, he could compromise the entire French Resistance. Our double-agents have provided us with the location of the mansion where he is being tortured by Gestapo interrogators. Your job is to rescue him immediately.

Check it out here.

USHER Dossiers Preview: The Forever Man

Got this today in my email and just had to share.

A personal note about the Field Guide

Hey guys, something was mentioned in a recent review, and its been mentioned to me privately a few times in emails from folks who bought the Field Guide, so I thought I'd take a second to address it.

What I'm talking about is the lack of search text and copy/paste.

The Field Guide PDF is not protected. I don't believe in DRM beyond watermarks and never use them.

However, the Field Guide was built in a different way from any PDF we've ever released, which resulted in three differences from our usual: a bigger file size, lack of text search and lack of copy/paste.

Basically, the book isn't a PDF in the strictest sense. The text isn't just embedded in the book, alongside images, like most PDFs. Every page (text and images) were built in photoshop, then turned into an image, and then placed in the book. This had some disadvantages, namely everything I mentioned above.

I ultimately went with this method however, because it also resulted in the book looking *awesome* in my opinion.

Now, these issues are compounded by the lack of bookmarks, and that is 100% on me. Every version of the book I sent around internally to Vigilance Press writers and artists for proofreading was bookmarked. Just not the one I put on sale. So that's just me being a goober.

We have an update on the way, which will both correct some typos in the book, and add bookmarks.

I'm pleased with the book's sales, and think Jason Tondro and Dan Houser both did some of their best work on it, I just wanted to take a second to let you know I didn't cripple it on purpose.

Thanks as always for the support,


Sure, you wrote one of the greatest game books of all time, but what ELSE have you done?

Shorter MerricB: Sure, you guys designed Gamma World, Deities and Demigods, Red Box, BECMI, Temple of Elemental Evil and edited Dragon Magazine for its first three years, but what ELSE have you done to lay claim to being significant game designers.

There is no way to express how hard that post makes me roll my eyes.

But I tried anyway.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

USHER Dossiers: People you'll meet (Part 4)

Interview for MNN’s Veterans Day coverage, looking back at the contributions and sacrifices of Metahumans to America in wartime. Interviewer is in bold, Old Glory in normal type.

“Well, thank you for joining us, General! I’ve done some big interviews but never anything like this. What would you prefer to be called, General, Old Glory, something else?”

“Chris, please, Ma’am. I never really had a secret identity. Never saw the need for it. Anyone close enough to be considered family, well, I don’t need to worry about some punk ‘supervillain’ kidnapping them, let’s just put it that way.”

“All right then, Chris it is! You mentioned your ‘family’ and I gathered you meant your fellow metahuman heroes. Your best friend, and I don’t think this is any secret, would have to be the Savant. We’re showing that famous picture of you and he, arm in arm on VE Day. He’s gone missing and some have characterized him as, to use your word, a ‘supervillain’. They also say you haven’t done your usually thorough job bringing him in. What do you say to that?”

“No comment. Next question.”

“But clearly you and he…”

“I thought we had agreed there would be no questions about ongoing investigations, miss.”

“Fair enough. So, restricting your comments just to your relationship with the Savant, maybe?”

“Fred Williamson is a hero. He saved America during WWII, he saved Brazil during the Horde and he saved this planet during the Scion invasion. That was two years ago. Calling him a supervillain after that is a sick joke. How’s that for a comment?”

“Blunt? You mentioned the Scion invasion. You worked with some real heavy hitters during that dark time, and also some more obscure metahumans. What was that like?”

“I sent out a call on shortwave, asking for help. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. There was no one obscure in that fight. Every single metahuman who answered my call is a hero. Most didn’t. You, for example.”

“Well, I never claimed to be a hero, now did I?”

“No, you didn’t. I’m sorry, miss, I have a developing situation that requires my attention, we’ll have to cut this short.”

“Christian Thomason, ladies and gentlemen, true, blue American hero. What? No… no, don’t try to follow him. He doesn’t like it when I try to follow him. No… well, he really doesn’t like me, for starters. What? We’re still on the air? Well maybe you should- ”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New for ICONS, Field Guide to Superheroes!

The Field Guide Volume 1 is 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 volume of the Field Guide to Superheroes.

· The Alien Hero is not from this world. He may have either a science fiction or fantasy tone to his powers, which are often unrelated to each other.
· The Android is a Pinocchio character who has incredible powers but also trouble relating to humanity. He could be either metal or organic in nature.
· Animal Heroes are one of the simplest kinds of characters. Pick an animal or insect and base your hero on it, using either natural powers or unusual weaponry.
· An Armored Wonder is a normal person in an advanced battlesuit, usually humanoid in shape and size. He could be a scientist or just know someone else that is.
· The Astronaut is an Earthman who has traveled to other worlds. He makes up for his lack of powers with courage and cleverness.
· An Avatar is a being that identifies with, is, or thinks he is, a god. High power level but a strict moral code goes hand in hand with the Avatar.
· Comic Relief characters are always welcome. Typically they have either silly powers (like stretching) or else awesome abilities but no idea how to use them.
· The Creepy Hero is a street hero with a sense of humor, weird powers, and often a frightening appearance. He may be hunted by the police.
· The Dark Avenger is a person who has suffered at the hands of the criminal element and come back to deal harsh justice. He often uses weapons instead of powers.
· The Defender protects or fights crime in a particular place, or to safeguard a particular group. He will help other heroes out when trouble from outside finds him, but he's more focused on his turf

You can pick it up here!

USHER Dossiers: People you'll meet (Part 3)

Exclusive: She brings you the metahuman scene as only a metahuman can. She's a reporter with superpowers and flying robot cameras, with the super agility to follow metahuman battles as they take place.

Since she burst on the scene 20 years ago, she's gone from plucky freelance journalist, to buying time infomercial style at 3am, to hosting the hottest syndicated reality show in America. Now she prepares her biggest move yet, as managing editor of MNN, the Metahuman News Network.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

USHER Dossiers: People you'll meet (Part 2)

The Minuteman: In 1775 a lone, wounded minuteman discovered a stranded, dying time traveler outside Lexington, Connecticut. After giving him a proper burial, he kept his time manipulator for himself and used it to wage a one-man guerrilla campaign against the hated British occupying his beloved Manhattan.

As he lay dying, he passed the time piece, and his heroic legacy, on to his son. Since then, whenever America has needed a hero, the Minuteman has defended her. From the War of 1812, to the outlaws of the Old West, from the battlefields of WWII to the back alleys of the 21st century.

Learn all the secrets of the Minuteman in the USHER Dossiers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

USHER Dossiers: People you'll meet (Part 1)

The first in a series letting you know some of the people you'll meet in Vigilance Press' upcoming setting, the USHER Dossiers.

USHER (United States Headquarters for Emergency Response): Since WWII USHER has defended America from all metahuman threats, both foreign and domestic. Today this organization consists of the Atlas Battalion, the Blue Knights, the Nighthawks and the Pegasus Squadron.

Do you have what it takes to stand with them and defend America? Can you keep their secrets? Be warned, what they know might keep you up at night. Learn what they know in the USHER Dossiers.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

New from Vigilance Press: The Ice Palace (ICONS)

In the last days of WWII, in a secret fortress buried in the Antarctic ice, a devious mastermind is hatching a strategy that will land a knockout blow on the Allies and hand victory to the Nazis.

The world hangs in the balance.

Can your heroes stop this madman in time?


This scenario is intended for ICONS characters in the late World War 2 era. You could easily
incorporate (either as PCs or NPCs) the characters from the Allied superteams Crown Guard, the People's Revolution and Vigilance Force or the Axis superteams Eugenics Brigade
and Shinjuwan Juunigatsu (all of which are also available from Vigilance Press.)

Whether you use these characters or your own, the assumption is that the PCs are superheroes employed in the Allied war effort.

This mini-adventure is intended as a sandbox style, non-linear scenario. The flow and sequence of the events depend largely on how the PCs decide to enter the base and where
they go and what they do once inside.

We provide a description of the Ice Palace base and suggestions for the encounters the PCs will have there, but the GM will be called on to improvise to some degree.

You can purchase this WWII-era adventure for ICONS, superpowered roleplaying, here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Interview with the Forever Man (from the USHER Dossiers)

Recorded October 2nd, 1999, for convenience, interviewer’s transcription is in bold, Forever Man in normal type; special thanks to Exclusive for the rights to include this interview for our dossiers.

“No… no, it’s fine, I can just record the audio if you’re not comfortable with the camera. There, how’s that? Ok? Good. So, let’s start at the beginning, I mean, you are the beginning really. I… you… is something funny?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. I have had these conversations many times before. You’re going to assume I was at every major historical event from the crucifixion to Woodstock and, after wasting a lot of each other’s time, I’ll be frustrated and you’ll be horribly disappointed.”

“The truth is, I don’t have a sixth sense to let me know when something important is going to happen any more than you do. And in the past, getting from China to Babylon was something of a journey. By the time you heard about something, it was long over, you might not even be able to find the wreckage.”

“And of course, the truly important things, no one can really understand anyway. My family, my tribe, we were all… different to varying degrees. Most of them were geniuses. Way smarter than me. We were the first to tame fire, domesticate plants and animals. Those days, and the days that followed, when I realized I alone was eternal, when I traveled the world and taught what we had learned to others, those were the really special days. But it’s impossible to put into words. Building a fire is something children can learn now, but they don’t even bother. And why would they? Strike a match. It’s easy. Simple.”

“You look confused.”

“I… well, honestly, I didn’t expect you to talk to me at all. And I certainly didn’t expect you to be so… gregarious, I guess? I mean, you’ve spent so much time trying not to get involved…”

“I’m not involved. You’re a pretty girl who asked me to have a conversation. I like talking to people; I do it all the time. That’s not really getting involved though, is it? Getting involved is telling people who to vote for, what to think, who to kill. I don’t do that sort of thing, not anymore.”

“Things fall apart. The center cannot hold. In my experience, those are the truest words ever written. The truth of my life is that, no matter how much power I might think I have, I can’t stop that. You folks are the only ones with that kind of power. Oh yes, don’t look so shocked. Strength in numbers, dear. I was Emperor of the Roman Empire once, and I couldn’t stop it from falling apart. Only they could have done that and they didn’t have the will.”

“This place, this time, this civilization, all of it will come crashing down. Soon, I think. That, I kind of have a sense for. Like the way your sinuses ache before a big rain, you’re feeling the atmosphere expand in your head and you know the storm is coming.”

“You think civilization is about to end?”

“This one, maybe. It’s inevitable of course. Did you think you were special? I mean, more special than the Han? Than Rome? Eventually the foundation rots and the house comes crashing down. And you build a new one. That will be my time, I suppose.”

“I’m sorry, your time? You mean you won’t get involved until it all goes to hell? Where’s the logic in that?”

“I told you, I can’t stop things from happening. But once it does, once the really ugly, chaotic mess has washed away the bad, it will be time to build something new. People will be ready to listen again. Not to my notions of right and wrong, people always make those decisions for themselves. Or won’t, as more often happens.”

“What I mean by ‘my time’ is to fill in the gaps. Maybe that’s why I’m really here. Something will get lost, something really important. How to make a compass, or a yoke to pull a heavy plow, the things that seem so simple to you now you can’t even be bothered to learn them. The things that will help people put the pieces back together. I can help with that.”

“When you said… sorry… the way you said ‘maybe that’s why I’m really here’, it almost, do you believe you were put here for a purpose? Like, by god… a supreme being, whatever?”

“Everyone has a purpose. That’s the saddest thing about getting involved, is seeing all the people who have convinced themselves they can’t make a difference. They think because I can punch a hole in this wall, or that I’ve a lifespan measured in millennia, that I can make a difference. And I can, but not anymore than you. This is where we started. You have the real power, all of you. No one can drag you down into evil and chaos without your consent. And you allow it, because too many of you think you don’t matter.”

“I’m sorry, dear, I have to go. This has been especially enjoyable, but that black SUV across the street has a certain government aura about it. They want to talk to me too, but unlike you, they’re not interesting or pretty. Thank you for the conversation.”

“Well, that’s certainly different. He- ow! They didn’t see him coming. They just don’t make SUVs like they used to I guess. This is Exclusive, your source for the metahuman beat, signing off!”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vigilance Press at Paizo

Our products are now on sale at Paizo's download store.

I've added a few of our most recent PDFs and will be uploading more as time permits.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Trail of Links

So, it's 4am and I am working on the USHER Dossiers, my upcoming ICONS superhero setting.

I paused for a moment to fire off an email about art, and when I closed that tab, I noticed I had the following google search tabs open:

1. Natty Bumpo

2. Dime Novel

3. Colorado Territory

4. Trail of Tears

5. American Civil War

I don't know about you, but seeing those open tabs involved in writing a supers setting would make me stupidly excited even if I was NOT the one writing it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blitzkrieg London (ICONS) WWII adventure

Spring, 1944.

The war is going very badly for the 3rd Reich and Nazi commanders decide the only hope lies in a daring raid conducted by their elite Eugenics Brigade.

The target: British and American commanders conducting planning sessions in the heart of London.

Your goal: defeat the Eugenics Brigade and protect Allied commanders, regardless of the cost.

Check it out!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

USHER Dossier: Old Gods

You often hear superheroes referred to as "new gods".

In fact, during a period after he co-created the Marvel Universe, Jack Kirby went to DC and created a group called the New Gods.

I knew for my upcoming ICONS campaign setting, the USHER Dossiers, I would be treating the "old gods" as supers (not that original) but I decided to lay down some ground rules to give it an earthier and more realistic spin.

First, I thought it would be awesome to go WAY back.

The first metahuman in the USHER campaign was born in 70,000 BCE and he still walks the Earth today. At least, everyone assumes he does. He hasn't been seen in over 10 years.

Second, I have fully embraced the "1 in a million" concept- well, actually, I embraced it about 20 years ago when Roger Moore first created it in an article he wrote for the Marvel-phile in Dragon magazine, but it's on full display here, going all the way through the setting.

I used some world population statistics to give a guideline on the number of metahumans alive at any given point in human history, one per 1 million population.

Of course, no one has hard data on world populations that far back, but I picked an estimate and treated it as gospel.

So if I want to set the Titanomachy (the war between the Titans and the classical Greek Gods) in 4000 BCE, that gives me a total of 7 metahumans to work with worldwide.

So there ended up being a grand total of 4 metahmans involved in that fracas, preventing me from doing the obvious (and imo less interesting) thing of taking every single titan and every single greek god and making them supers.

I will say though, that I have noticed the Law of Conservation of Ninjutsu in effect for my burgeoning ancient-supers history.

For those who aren't familiar with this seminal storytelling device, it basically says that there's only so much Ninjutsu to go around. So if one ninja shows up, he's amazingly deadly, whereas if 100 ninjas show up, they're cannon fodder and you cut through three of them with one sword swing.

In other words, the heroes and villains around when there were only 5 total metahumans tend to be AMAZINGLY powerful.

Ok, done rambling, time to write my version of the Aesir-Vanir War.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Public Enemies (ICONS)

To all law enforcement agencies: this confidential profile of offenders incarcerated in USHER's Rock City facility is provided in case of escape.

These criminals are superhumanly powerful and should not be approached without assistance from USHER, the Crown Guard, Aegis or the New Coalition.

After these agenices have been notified, assist in clearing civilians from the area and setting up a perimeter.

The current population of Rock City includes:

  • Armory: a mutant weapons master further enhanced by alien energy weapons
  • Atrocity: a tragic legacy of World War II, this horror was further enhanced with modern science during the dark days of the Scion Invasion.
  • Brainstorm: heir to a great legacy of wealth and heroism, this so-called "smartest man alive" believes he alone should rule the Earth
  • Garrote: able to slip under any door, this superhuman hit man has given humself many names, most of them silly, including "the elastic assassin" and "the human noose" but his glib banter hides a cold-hearted killer
  • Equinox: this team of genetically modified children killed their father and took control of Equinox Industries before embarking on a brief but terrible killing spree
  • Ground Zero: a living atomic bomb that has to explode every 48 hours if not contained, in addition to USHER personnel contact FEMA immediately if sighted
  • The Hollow Men: these time travelers are the most dangerous villain team in the world and their mission, to "save" the Earth by reducing its population by at least 90% is almost too terrible to contemplate
  • Omega: perhaps the world's deadliest assassin, this killer seems to care only for money
  • Overtone: a being of pure sound, this mad scientist will try to convince you that he is a hero but do not approach, engage or allow the subject to assist law enforcement
  • Shillelagh: this extra-dimensional conquerer seeks to return to the Earth to its "rightful" rulers, the Fey
  • Skullcap: this mercenary turned third-world despot considers himself a soldier and a hero but he is really a mass murderer
  • Stigma: subject is almost identical to Aegis leader Big Ben; once facial scar is identified handle with extreme caution and notify USHER, Aegis and FEMA immediately; extremely dangerous and unpredictable
  • Tower: this robot construct is confused, unpredictable and very likely to kill any human who gets too close
Buy it here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Confession: Fallout 3 is the best Fallout game

AKA The Bed Under the Bridge

Like all right-thinking gamers of a certain vintage, I am completely in love with the Fallout series. I played the crap out of1 and 2, played through the "Tactics" game just to see how it furthered the story, and even suffered through (all the way to the end mind you) the bad, bad, verybad action RPG on the PS2, which I bought sight unseen because- dude it said Fallout right in the title!

However, my feeling that Fallout 3 trumps Fallout 2 is nigh-heretical in some circles.

The reason is two-fold, but it's simple: first, the depth of the world and the change from isometric to first person view.

Now the first part is not unique to Fallout 3. In fact, the world is what draws me back to Fallout 1 and 2, games I will *still* find myself playing from time to time.

But when you combine that world with a first-person perspective in Fallout 3, you get a place I love to visit, a place I feel like I know by heart.

Catching some Z's

My first encounter with this is what I call the "bed under the bridge". On your map I believe it's called the "hunter's camp" or some such.

Near two of your first big "dungeons" in the game, the Springvale Elementary School and the supermarket, now both overrun with raiders, there's a cozy little camp someone left under a bombed out bridge.

It's screened on four sides with plywood for privacy, has a footlocker to temporarily stow some gear, a mattress, and even a table with a book about explosives on it. Oh and a landmine right at the entrance.

It pays not to be a people person in Fallout and apparently the guy who made this camp knew it.

Throughout any game of Fallout 3 I will probably sleep in the bed under the bridge a couple dozen times as I explore the environs around Megaton. Sometimes I'll need to heal, sometimes I just want to wait out the day so I can better skulk at night.

There are many places like this scattered around the play area of Fallout 3. Little safe zones (usually safe because you made them that way) where you can slip away and grab some much needed rest.

Besides the bed under the bridge, there's one of the abandoned homes in Minefield (once you clear out its deranged sniper resident anyway), the luxury hotel in Rivet City (when you can afford it), or the mattress tossed into subway alcove nearby (when you can't), and of course, your home in Megaton.

Every single one of these locations is optional, you never have to visit them at all. But if you have, it gives you another little resource in the game, a number of added rest areas that feel safe and familiar.

These locations make the game feel much more like a living place, a familiar place and in combination with the first person "you are there" perspective, they make Fallout 3 the best in the series so far.

And oh yeah, I am very much waiting for Fallout: New Vegas, so hurry up!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

People's Revolution for ICONS

The Soviet super-team, the People's Revolution, was formed by the Kremlin in 1941 in response to demands from the Red Army for an organized force to counter the Nazi's super soldier forces. Although the British and American super soldiers receive the most attention and glory (at least in Western histories), the WW2 era People's Revolution team fought arguably the hardest, bloodiest and most prolonged struggle of any metahuman force in recorded history.

They were Red Hammer, Night Witch, Ice Fang, Trans-Siberian Express, Red Legionnaire, Battle Czar, Sovi-Ape, Revolutionary Fire and Kasatka.

This is a character folio for ICONS detailing the villains listed above.

Note: In the main chronology of the first four products in this series, the Soviet Union had no metahumans.

This product can be used as an alternate reality book for those who would rather the Soviets have metahumans, or for a Soviet team set during the Cold War.

You can pick it up here.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Huh, I guess I like Civ 5

So... this game has been out... 18 days. In other words, I've been playing an average of 4 hours of Civ 5 every day.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Chuck is moving- so a special, probably once in a lifetime sale

Ok, as some of you may know, as I've mentioned it on Facebook, I am moving from Massachusetts to Florida in a couple of months.

So I need to get rid of some stuff, and raise some cash.

So, I am selling some things that are near and dear to my heart, that might have some appeal to you folks.

I am going the PBS route and offering autographed author's copies of books I've written over the years. I'll sign the inside cover of each book, and include a note about each book, whatever occurs to me.

These books have varying amounts of light wear, because they've mostly been sitting on a bookshelf, for varying lengths of time, and some have seen light use.

Blood and Space 1e is in the worst condition, the rest are in really good condition, but I'd only call a few "mint".

Finally, the astute, long time fans among you will notice some omissions in the list below, such as my first attempt at d20 supers, which was printed by Mystic Eye, Vigilance: Absolute Power, Blood and Relics (first and second edition) and Blood and Guts 1e.

If it's not listed, I don't have it, I'm not holding out. In pretty much every case a family member wanted something I had written, and that's where my copy went.

I have author's copies of the following books, all softcover unless otherwise noted:

  • Raw Recruits: I believe this is technically my first print credit. This was a short adventure path of four related Dragonstar adventures that I wrote for Mystic Eye Games. I wrote this after Vigilance: Absolute Power, but it may have come into print first.
  • Blood and Space (1st edition): This is technically the first d20 Modern book RPGO released.
  • Blood and Fists (1st edition): If you're reading this blog, chances are you know about this one. Probably the best book I'll ever write.
  • Legends of Excalibur (Hardcover): Really proud of this one. Great color maps and I think my first ever hardcover.
  • Legends of the Samurai (Hardcover): Again, a lot of nice feelings toward this one. A lot of research, and what I felt were interesting classes and setting material.
  • Blood and Cicruits: My take on super-science and bionics in d20 Modern.
  • Blood and Fists Master Edition: This is Blood and Fists, Hong Kong Knights, Wasteland Fury and Cosmic Fury. Basically the entire B&F line in one.
  • Modern20: My first and only full-fledged modern game. One of my best selling books ever, up there with Blood and Fists, and Blood and Guts.
  • Supers20: The supers supplement for Modern20.
  • Martial Arts20: the martial arts supplement for Modern20.
  • Legends of Sorcery: My take on a skill based d20 magic system.
  • Legends of the Dark Ages: My take on historical fantasy in Europe from 476 to 814- from the fall of Rome to the end of Charlemagne's reign.
  • Blood and Fists True20: If you like martial arts and you like True20, then this is for you.
  • Blood and Time: Time travel and historical gaming for d20 Modern.
  • Blood and Guts, General Edition: This is everything for the B&G II line in one softcover- Military Training, Special Ops, Combat Procedures, Vehicles and War on Terror.
  • Blood and Vigilance: This is my d20 Modern supers definitive edition- containing all the dispatches we did for B&V, as well as Blood and Secrets, the superagents add-on that descrobes U.S.H.E.R.
  • Blood and Space 2 Galactic Edition: This is the complete d20 Future add-on, containing High Fliers and Ground Pounders, Starship Combat and Construction, Space Monsters and the expanded version of Prometheus Rising, my sci-fi setting.
  • Darwin's World True20: My conversion of Dom and Chris' d20 Modern post-apoc setting to True20.
  • Fertile Crescent: This is for the d20 Modern Darwin's World. It's my little slice of the Twisted Earth, which has been featured in two GenCon adventures. The first of these, the Feeding Grounds, is included in this softcover.
  • Legends of Excalibur True20: If you like Arthur, and you like True20, you'll love this.
  • Two Worlds Tabletop RPG (Hardcover): This is a tiny hardcover the size of a XBox 360 case and is a book Chris and I did for the Two Worlds computer game. These game with the deluxe edition of the game.
  • Other Stuff: In addition to the books above that I wrote, I have other early RPGObjects books in which I have editorial credits including, Darwin's World 1e, Terrors of the Twisted Earth 1e and Metal Gods 1e, as well as a book where I have a creative director credit, Modern Backdrops.
  • I'll throw these in with donations on request. Some of these are really, really bogarted for some reason and are the worst of the lot condition-wise, but they're throw-ins anyway. Just be aware that for some reason, some of these seem to have been unintentionally whammied to heck and back.
So, 40 dollars (a bit more for folks outside the US) gets you one of these, while supplies last, autographed along the inside cover by me, with a little note giving my thoughts on the book.

I'll be handling the shipping directly, which is why I have to ask a bit more for folks outside the US.

I don't delude myself into thinking these are worth anything more than cover price but I need some cash to help with the move, especially since I'm not going to be able to take any of my furniture with me and I figured this was a good way to show my appreciation to folks who were willing to help me get a furniture fund together.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Battlescenes: Undead Stormtroopers for ICONS

That's right, the fall of ICONS-y supers-y goodness from Vigilance Press continues with Battlescenes: Undead Stormtroopers!

What's more guilt free than killing Nazis? Why killing Nazis that are already dead of course!

As the Allies close in from the East and West, Nazi mad scientists and cultists at Castle Grunerwald have unlocked dark secrets and are raising undead legions to save the Reich from its enemies.

Can your heroes storm Castle Grunerwald, thwart the Nazis and bring their unholy experiments to an end?

The Undead Stormtroopers of Grünerwald! is a Battle Scene; a fleshed out adventure hook. It provides enemies, an expanded plot hook and advice on running the scenario. It's designed for short, frantic, fun play sessions.

Pick it up here!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pearl Harbor December, Villains of WWII for ICONS

We have driven your navy from the seas. We have seized all strategic points to allow us to project power over waters that will belong to us for 1,000 years. Soon, we will unite Asia and the South Pacific into a Co-Prosperity Sphere. And we know of the force you are training, the so-called Vigilance Force.

Do not bring this force, or any of your ships into the Pacific or they will be destroyed. We are: Desumasuku, Ikkitousen, Kaibutsu, Katanamochi, Kogoejini and Kojiki.. We are your American Nightmare. We are Shinjuwan Juunigatsu. Pearl Harbor December.

Message delivered to the Top Secret Tuskeegee Superhuman Testing and Training Range, home of the United States Headquarters for Emergency Response, December 8th, 1941.

This character folio for ICONS details the Japanese villains of World War 2.

Buy it here, buy it now.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crown Guard, Heroes of WWII for ICONS

On the eve of the Battle of Britain, it was time for Churchill to pay the price for his defiance of Hitler. For the glory of the Thousand Year Reich, Hitler had decreed that his enemy, the British "warmonger" must die at the hands of his "children of the Aesir". Once this was done, and fire rained from the skies courtesy of the German Luftwaffe, Hitler would order Britain to surrender or the brigade would assassinate His Majesty.

But unlike Czechozlovakia, Poland and even France, the Eugenics Brigade failed. A small group of British heroes had stopped the unstoppable. And as Hitler's sky fire was met with equal fury by the Royal Air Force, more heroes flocked to the side of freedom's last defense, from Canada, from France and from Poland.

The tide had turned. Their finest hour arrived.

This character folio details the following characters:

Big Ben, Excalibur, Esprit, Grizzly, Illustrious, Ironclad, Repulse, Swordfish and Zbrojmistrz. They are His Majesty's Defenders. They are the Crown Guard.

You can purchase Crown Guard here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

GHKSSJKLAHKCKKDS (Civ 5 head explosion edition)

So yeah, Civ 5 goes live in 19 hours.

Is anyone else rolling their head on their keyboard while they drool in excitement?

That's normal right?

Eugenics Brigade (ICONS) released

New for Steve Kenson's ICONS superhero roleplaying game.

In 1938, Germany had the world's first team of meta-humans at their disposal, aiding the fascist regime in its rapid climb to dominance over Western Europe. Capable of teleporting anywhere in the world, they could assassinate the head of foreign governments who failed to capitulate to Nazi demands and often killed enemy generals on the eve of blitzkrieg attacks.

Charismatisch "Charismatic", Doktor Eugenik, Donnerschlag "Thunderclap", Feuerfest "Fireproof", Götterdämmerung "Ring Bearer", Krieghund "War Hound", Schlagring "Brass Knuckles", Streitaxt "Battleaxe", Traumfrau "Dream Girl" and Überkrieger "Super Soldier".

They are the Chrildren of the Aesir, the Kampfgruppe Eugenik, the Eugenics Brigade.

You can pick this up here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Brainstorming next OSRIC book

I am working on my next Old School _____ book.

In that exciting phase where things are being thrown against the wall, and I get to watch what sticks.

Still too early for me to really talk about it, though like all the Old School books it will be meaty.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Time to move.

I got bad guys to send to commie heaven.

BTW- do not watch this at work. Or around people easily offended. Or with a mouth full of coffee.

Confession: I hate writing adventures and I'm not super good at it either

Hm, maybe one of those goes with the other.

Most of us in life would prefer to play to our strengths wouldn't we? I mean, it feels a whole hell of a lot better to WIN a basketball game than to lose it, right?

I've certainly done it. I even think I've done it well, but it's always an EXHAUSTING process for me. It's a fight. And these days, I know before going in to write an adventure that I'm heading for Viet Nam.

Huh, maybe that's another reason why I hate it. That's probably not the best attitude to have.

And here's the thing, I know exactly why I struggle when writing adventures, and after years of thinking about the problem, working on it, and growing as a writer (in my humble opinion anyway), I still struggle just as much.

Knowing what the problem and not being able to fix it, that sucks. Cue up another Vietnam analogy I think.

Here's the thing: I *love* writing adventures for my group. I have a group of friends coming over, and I am going to craft something to entertain THEM. It's like cooking, something I also enjoy doing for friends.

Having a group of friends over and providing them with happiness, and using that happiness to set the stage for a night of just enjoying their company, that is the most awesome thing in the world.

But when I write the adventure, I have THEM in mind. I know my players. I know every inch of their character sheets. Every quirk they have as a player. Everything they love and everything that will make them grit their teeth in rage for an entire game session.

I push their buttons. Play to their strengths. Play to their weaknesses. Craft the adventure to give each of them one moment of pure gaming enjoyment.

The minute you take me out of that space. Out of writing an adventure for a specific group of players, the entire process is banjaxed beyond belief.

I sit and stare at my blank page, no faces in my head, trying to figure out what the average adventuring party is into.

Dungeons, I guess...



And so it begins...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Vigilance Force Heroes of WWII (ICONS)

In 1939, Germany's Eugenics Brigade appears unstoppable. President Franklin Roosevelt declares a national emergency and sends Deuce, the masked still-buster who had risen to prominence during Prohibition, on a national search for metahumans to face this new German threat

The team was one no one thought had a prayer of stopping the German or Japanese super-teams: Old Glory, the living flamethrower; Captain Miracle, the smartest boy alive; Freight Train, the irresistable force; Talon, the boy raised by wolves; Minuteman, the time-travelling patriot;Agent Liberator, the super-powered Leatherneck;Hornet, the mutant queen of insects; Marauder, nearly inhuman berserker; Sea Bee, the Aquatic All-American.

Despite the odds, this band must stand alone against professional super-soldiers, immortal demi-gods and ruthless assasins.

They are the eyes watching the horizon in the dark. They are the Vigilance Force.

You can see a preview and purchase this book here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Best Knight in the World update

If you are one of the few, the proud, who has already purchased Jason Tondro's awesome intro adventure for Arthur Lives! the Best Knight in the World, I'd like to humbly recommend you download it again for a better experience.

I accidentally uploaded a PDF that hadn't been optimized correctly, resulting in a 15MB download.

The new file is less than 3 MB and has Bookmarks as well.

Sorry for any inconvenience the original file created.


Edited to add: If you haven't gotten the adventure yet, no worries, you will get the updated, optimized file.

The Best Knight in the World, an Arthur Lives! adventure available now

The Best Knight in the World is an introductory adventure for Arthur Lives! mixing investigation, psychological horror, and cinematic action.

It is designed to bring together a group of 1st level True20 characters who, though they are Incarnations of Arthurian legend, have not yet recognized themselves.

That will change for at least some of the heroes by the end of this story, as they unite to face a common foe -- an enigmatic serial killer who is willing to reveal himself, but only for a hero of the proper caliber!

You can buy Best Knight in the World here, as well as see a flash preview of the book.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I love this pic

I don't commission art often. Not just for budgetary reasons, though that's partly it.

But I love the work of Italian penciller Marco Morte (who also has a name that lets you know he will FUCK YOU UP if you cross him), and I just had to get him to draw a special piece for Fractured Realms.

This is Axe Onetusk, King of the Basin Tribes.

For decades he led the oricsh nation, unifying the seven tribes, building schools, roads and great cities, and a mighty army to destroy anyone who entered his realm unasked, at one point destroying a large army of ogres and giants through his tactical brilliance.

Now he is dying of old age and his son, a conqueror of the first order, seems determined to use the mighty army his father has built to return the orcs to the old ways and their eternal war against the elves and humans.

I love Axe, and if you detect a lot of my historical geekiness in him, you would be 100% correct. He's loosely based on Phillip of Macedon.

Which means his son would be Alexander the Great, which is very, very, very bad news for the humans and elves of the Fractured Realms.

From Vigilance Press: World of Arkara: Fractured Realms

Welcome to what was the Kingdom of Damask; what is a fractured realm. Once the greatest empire the world had seen in a thousand years, a home to commerce and diplomacy, favored by the King of the Gods, Atos and home to the Eternal City of Atosia.

In the length of time it took an assassin's blade to puncture his heart, a great man died and his kingdom, his dream, would soon follow him into hell. Quick to destroy, the realms will be far harder to reassemble. Can heroes turn the tide?

* Avenge the elven genocide at the hands of orcs, humans and red dragons in the Slaughterwood
* Find a lost prince and restore him to his usurped throne
* Rebuild a shining kingdom plunged into chaos and despair
* Discover the secrets of the Mithril Dragon

In addition to campaign materials, a map of the region, important NPCs and plot hooks the Fractured Realms contains several organizations PCs can join or fight against, along with rules for benefits and responsibilities of membership in a sword and sorcery organization.

Organizations include:

* The Aerie, the largest thieves guild in the known world
* The Crucible, a foreign legion of humans, dwarves and halflings serving the elves in a genocidal war against an invading orc army
* The Firebrand, a chaotic evil gang of orcs and humans under the control of a brood of red dragons that have they have already eradicated the elves of an entire forest
* Freelancers, a group of knights who are either bandits or freedom fighters... or both
* The Owlguard, a mysterious order of Paladins devoted to the god of truth and knowledge
* The Red Dragon Mercenaries, the meanest, toughest mercs in the world have made a home in the Fractured Realms because chaos means lots and lots of mercenary contracts
* The Basin Tribes, once a shining beacon of a truly civilized and peace-loving orc civilization, their king is old and weak and his son seems determined to return the tribes to the old ways and spark a genocidal war to the death between orcs and elves

You can purchase Fractured Realms here

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Coming Soon from Vigilance Press

In addition to Fractured Realms, which will be going into layout soon, I am working on layout for the introductory adventure for Arthur Lives! called The Best Knight in the World.

This is a great adventure from series creator Jason Tondro and I think everyone is going to love it.

We also have some big news in the works for Arthur Lives! but it's a little too early for details.

When I have something solid and definite to pass along, I will.

Finally, I've begun preparing for my next OSRIC book, which will be character focused like Old School Psionics and Old School Magic.

However, this book will have a very different focus. It's still way to early to discuss in detail but when I'm done with the current irons in the fire, and turn my attention to this fully, you'll see a lot more than this tease here in these pages.


Fractured Realms: 17 and counting

So Fractured Realms is up to 17 pages, meaning it's probably going to end being a little longer than Canterbury Isles.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Unexplored Territory

So I'm working on Fractured Realms, that "coming soon" thumbnail to your right that's been there for about a year.

Believe it or not this book really exists and indeed is almost done! It's not actually vaporware.

Anyway, in writing the book, I realized one of my favorite things about writing- no matter how many books you write, and I've written over a hundred if we count my short PDFs- you're still exploring the unknown.

For example, in the Fractured Realms there's a group called the Aerie. They're a thieves guild but a huge one. Really more like the Five Families of the Mafia.

I had an org chart for them that dates back to my homebrew campaigns of the 80's and that's it. A handwritten org chart on a sheet of paper.

As I was working on the book though, I realized that would be insufficient and so I've spent the better part of two days nailing down what the responsibilities of each position in the Aerie has and what benefits are granted by membership.

In short, something I made do with 1 sheet of paper written by hand has become much more once I started to think about what someone else would do with that sheet and what my responsibilities were to represent the largest criminal organization in my world to a paying customer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Suite101 Article Roundup

Several of my articles have appeared recently on Suite101. Rather than post each individually, I waited till a few were up. If you'd like to read me writing about other things, please step on over and check out these articles:

Review of Mount and Blade: Warband

A review of PC game download services Steam and Good Old Games

A review of Puzzle Quest 2

A review of Sid Meier's Colonization

A review of Essential X-Men #1

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Just released: Old School Magic

Old School Magic is the definitive resource for adding a personal touch to the magic of your old-school fantasy games!

Old School Magic features alternate rules of magic and advice for adapting your game into a low, medium or high magic setting.

It also includes 9 new classes, many of which are specifically tailored for low-magic settings, including the Alchemist, Artificer, Holy Man and Naturalist.

Other new classes include new specialist magic-users suitable for traditional old-school games, each with their own spell list, including the Conjurer, Elementalist and Seer.

Finally Old School Magic contains over 30 new spells, created for its specialist classes but available to traditional Clerics, Druids and Magic-Users as well.

You can purchase Old School Magic here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vigilance Press Sale Day 2: Wargames

It's day two of the Vigilance Press post-GenCon megasale and today we've got a doozy for you: Wargames: Superhuman Threats of the Cold War, marked down 75% from 9.95 to 2.50!

Wargames reimagines the Iron Age as a time when the flag heroes of the NATO Alliance faced down their spandex-clad Soviet opposite numbers across the Berlin Wall and engaged in a shadow war of a super-powered covert adventures.

You might ask: Why a book about superheroes in the Cold War?


Because, when you really think about it, wouldn't Red Dawn have been a whole lot cooler if Captain America were in it?

If you answered that question in the affirmative, then this book is for you.
This pdf provides:

A detailed timeline of the Cold War in a super-powered comic book universe and detailed write-ups and stats of over 15 metahuman threats from both sides of the Iron Curtain ready for use in your M&M Superlink campaign, including:

· Battle Czar -- Can even the most powerful being on Earth restore Lenin's true vision of Communism?

· General Venom -- Formerly the leading patriotic hero in the US, General Venom has gone renegade and sworn to topple the corrupt US government...

· Majestic-12 -- Shape-changing alien in service to the CIA, Majestic 12 uses the persona of a a humble, naïve but wise "Stranger in a strange land" to hide his true sociopathic nature as he hunts down Eastern Bloc mutants...

· EmergCon -- An advanced AI designed to take control of US military resources in case senior leadership was killed by a nuclear first strike, EmergCon has decided that détente is illogical and its time to take matters into its own hands...

· The Glorious Worker's Righteous Fury -- the super team of Communist China has seen action against US forces in the Taiwan Strait and Korea, against Warsaw Pact forces in the border conflict with the Soviet Union and with super-powered rebels in Tibet. But their hardest trials have been from their homeland's own political turmoil.

· Sovi-Ape -- The simian Soviet super-soldier grew disillusioned with Communism and defected to America, but after finding the Land of the Free anything but welcoming, he decides to start his own post-human revolution...

Requires the Mutants & Masterminds RPG, Second Edition,by Green Ronin Publishing For Use. Mutants & Masterminds, M&M Superlink,the M&M Superlink logo,and Green Ronin are trademarks of Green Ronin Publishing and are used with permission.

You can purchase Wargames 1 at its discounted price here.

Also, there's been a bit of confusion in some areas: the sales are not 24 hours only- we're rolling out a sale every 24 hours. In other words, Old School Psionics (yesterday's book) is still on sale.

Review of Mount and Blade: Warband

My review of Mount and Blade: Warband has been published at Suite101.

Go check it out!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Civilization 4 Review written by some guy

I've written a review of Civilization 4 over at Suite 101.

You're going to be seeing a lot more stuff there from me in the days to come, including reviews of games that are NOT several years old (whoa).

In the mean time, let's look at Civ 4 while we drool over the soon-arriving Civ 5, which arrives in 39 days, 11 hours, 8 minutes.

Not that, uh, anyone's keeping track.

Go read! It's good for your brain!

Shake off the Con Crud with the Vigilance Press post-GenCon megasale!

Here at Vigilance Press, we're going to help you shake off the con crud with a massive post-Gencon sale!

Every day for the next week we'll be marking one product down more than 50% from its usual price.

But each sale lasts only 24 hours, so you have to jump on these prices!

Today's sale is Old School Psionics, by Charles Rice.

Marked down 66%, the normal price on this book is 3.00 but for the next 24 hours you can get it for one buck.

Old-School Psionics takes a "what if" approach to psionics, presenting an alternate set of rules to those found in the original core rules.

If you'd like to bring psionics into your game without the need for complicated charts and attack matrices,

Old-School Psionics presents the Mentalist, a new character class dedicated to psionic abilities, which are detailed similarly to spells and broken down into seven levels of power.

Psychic abilities are broken down into four disciplines and dozens of new abilities are presented.

Old-School Psionics also brings back several classic psionic monsters including the Aboleth, the Duergar, the Brain Mole, the Doppleganger and the Intellect Devourer.

Some new monsters are also included such as Men (Astral Wanderer) and the inscrutable Unseen Masters.

Finally, a brief campaign sketch is presented that takes place in the Astral city of Nexus, gateway to the planes, which includes random encounters and sketches of several alternate prime material planes for characters to visit.

Check back tomorrow to see what's going on sale next!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

d20's worst mistake

I spent a long time running, playing and even writing for d20. It's a great system.

However, like most people who spent a long time with the system, I noticed how difficult high-level play was to manage. I believe this difficulty is what led to d20 being artificially capped at level 20.

Lately, I've been playing more and more AD&D and one thing that blows me away is how well that game handles high level play. d20 begins to spin out of control around level 15, while AD&D handles characters of 30th level with ease.

After giving this a lot of thought, here is what I believe to be the main culprit:

Never-ending Hit Dice.

In d20, a character gets a hit die every level. This vastly inflates hit points at high level.

In AD&D, you stop getting hit dice between 9th and 11th level and thereafter get a hit point bonus of between one and three hit points.

You also stop getting Constitution bonuses to hit points at the same time.

This means a 20th level AD&D character doesn't have many more hit points at all than his 10th level counterpart.

Whatever else you want to say about balance in d20, I think this fact alone causes most of its problems. Characters are harder to kill, combats take longer, and threats are much harder to scale up, requiring much more work to use adventures outside their suggested level range.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

From the "duh" files

Another tidbit from Kiki's Science Hour (an excellent podcast you should all be listening to), this time with a science reporter.

Turns out the Neanderthal Genome has been mapped, at least in a rough draft, and it proves that Neanderthals and humans had sex- since up to 1.5% of their DNA entered the human genome.

This deserves a resounding "duh", at least in my opinion but confirmation is nice and apparently necessary.

See, it turns out anthropologists, at least some of them, need proof because they don't actually live in what we call the "real world".

When I was a Freshman at USF, I took an intro anthropology class, cause that's the kind of stuff Freshmen take, and in that class, the professor uttered one of the best sentences of all time:

Neanderthals and humans never had sex, and they never made war.

This elicited one of the biggest laughs from me, purely spontaneous, just assuming my professor had to be joking. His look (and my grade) told me that no, he really meant this, and even though I never got anything better than a C- from the dumb jerk, it still makes me chuckle that someone actually said, and meant, those words.


So awhile ago I ranted about one of my pet peeves: Fermi's Paradox, which I discussed in two posts here and here.

In the comments, Larry mentioned that we should have anecdotal evidence for life and used alien "I love Lucy" reruns as an example.

This is something I've heard before, and my hypothesis was that perhaps alien technology is very different from the signals we use.

Turns out, there's a better explanation!

I just heard an interview with a SETI scientist on Dr. Kiki's Science Hour, and he said that due to SETI's very limited funds and manpower, they have concentrated very specifically on high-powered "WE ARE HERE" signals, intended to get someone's attention.

He said SETI's equipment could detect TV signals bleeding out into space at a distance of less than one light year.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

DC Universe Online Video Game, Exclusive Who Do You Trust Trailer HD | Game Trailers & Videos |

DC Universe Online Video Game, Exclusive Who Do You Trust Trailer HD | Game Trailers & Videos |

Ok, without a doubt this trailer is amazing.

However, putting on my game design wonk headset, I am still extremely skeptical about this game as a, you know, game.

Let's take stock shall we? Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman, along with Lex Luthor, need to save the world.

Uhhuh, and what do the characters players can actually play do while all this is going on? Fetch bear pelts to craft into backpacks and sell them in the JLA lobby? Sounds intoxicating.

One hopeful bit is if you are actually playing in the dark future, where Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are dead, and new heroes need to rise up to take their place.

I am skeptical DC as a license holder would want that though.

This is a problem with licensed properties in general. They have DMPC syndrome. It's in DC's interest that their characters are awesome, because that's the universe they make money off of. This is counter to what would make a good game.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Movie review: The Age of Stupid

This is a global warming cautionary tale, a film I caught on Hulu.

The idea behind the movie is that survivors of out of control global climate change look back on our time, ostensibly when something could have been done about it.

It stars Pete Postlethwaite, who turns in his usual excellent performance.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend the movie, for reasons I'll discuss below.

The movie starts off really well, with shots of various parts of the world that have suffered climate change, before finally honing in on an arctic station, run by "the Archivist" (played by Postlethwaite) where we are told all the art treasures of all the world's nations have been preserved.

I liked this introduction quite a bit. Unfortunately, it's a brief interlude before the movie launches into its main vehicle for delivering its message (notice I didn't say telling a story).

The Archivist is looking back on the past, by accessing clips of old documentaries. Real documentaries about the world we currently live in.

Got that? The movie shows us pieces of other documentaries. The documentaries chosen are fine, but I'd much rather have watched any one of the documentaries whole, than the snippets of four documentaries interlaced together.

Second, the movie is really, really vague about the world of the future. We never get to see much of that world, only at the beginning, and a very strange montage of overlapping news voices at the end, that contain such ominous snippets as "after being destroyed for the 3rd time, New Orleans won't be rebuilt again" and such.

Again, I'd really have preferred a more coherent narrative.

I realize this is a very low-budget movie, but even the voice over at the end could have been clearer. It goes so quickly and overlaps so much, that you can't really pick out more than a few phrases here and there.

In short, I'd rather the movie try to say something to me, anything, beyond "Global Warming is real and it will be very, very bad".

That's a fine message, but it's not something I need to watch a 90 minute or so movie to be told.

Perhaps I want the movie to be something it was never intended to be. I wanted an actual narrative about something.

Basically, what little narrative there is seems to be an excuse to recycle some other documentaries and allow the writer/director to speak to the audience directly a few times.

In short, the movie left me unfulfilled in pretty much every way. It provided the merest tease of a narrative, which I liked and wanted more of.

And it showed me pieces of several interesting-looking documentaries, which I liked and wanted to see more of.

Monday, July 19, 2010

And in case it wasn't clear...

My earlier post wasn't aimed so much at Humphries' particular comment (though it was really stupid) as the sentiment behind it.

See, it's ok to not be into what the kids are into. In fact, it's usually good to not be into what the kids are into.

If you're my age (I'm 41) and you're at a Britney Spears concert, that's a little weird.

But when you look at what the kids are into and decide its RUINING WESTERN CIVILIZATION well then my friend, you have drunk of the stupid and you have drunk deep.

This is where Seduction of the Innocent (which railed against comics), BADD (aka Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons), Jack Thompson's crusade against rap, Jack Thompson's crusade against video games and various other moral panics come in.

Some of these are just stupid, some have actually damaged the livelihood of hardworking men and women and some are so strident that they've become Spinal Tap-esque mockumentaries of their own self-righteousness.

And oh yeah, the Puritans were convinced Shakespeare's plays were going to send us all to hell and Hesiod thought women were the root of all evil.

Stupid is apparently a renewable resource.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the stupidest man alive

"People who use text speak are doing to the modern world what Genghis Khan did to Asia."

John Humphries

Remember, ballpark figures are that Genghis Khan killed 120 million people.

And oh yeah people who have actually um, you know, studied texting? They say that it promotes literacy.

Let's try and think about why.

Could it be that, although they agree about practically nothing else, educators universally acknowledge that the best way to improve reading and writing is to read and write?

Why yes, I think that might be exactly why.

And of course, such pontificating by Humphries doesn't even make sense. He accepts OK, VIP and MVP but the moment you type C U L8TR into a cell phone he gets the vapors.

Apparently language should never evolve what John learned in grammar school.

Oh yeah and the books, TV shows and movies he loved when he was a teenager are way cooler and deeper than anything those stupid kids are into today. Star Wars was fucking deep. Avatar? Puh-leaze.

Oops, apparently I've already been corrupted.

I breathlessly await John Humphries upcoming book, Seduction of the Innocent, Part II.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The funniest line ever written (via TV Tropes)

TV Tropes is of course awesome and any nerd will happily waste time reading its various entries detailing the various weirdness that seems to occur and recur in disparate TV shows.

However, this is the funniest by far:

The Law of Conservation of Ninjutsu

In any martial arts fight, there is only a finite amount of ninjutsu available to each side in a given encounter. As a result, one Ninja is a deadly threat, but an army of them are cannon fodder.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Avatar is coming back (Legend of Korra)

A new series is coming, set 100 years after the events depicted in the Last Airbender, centering on a new Avatar from the water tribe.

Avater: Legend of Korra

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thinking about the last airbender

So, as you may or may not know, I am a huge fan of the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

It's funny, dramatic, great action, great voice acting where kids actually voice the kids (this may shock some of you but most kids in cartoons are voiced by 40 year old women).

Also, for all the great action, drama and characters, it might be the best thing for kids I've seen in a long time.

Now as you ALSO may know, I am a huge fan of the early work (see that line I just drew?) of M. Night Shamylan. I think 6th Sense and Unbreakable are amazing films. But lately, really everything he's done NOT named 6th Sense or Unbreakable? Not a fan.

Still- between my interest in the cartoon and interest in the writer/director, I wound up seeing the Last Airbender movie.

The verdict? It's ok. And honestly, that means this is a thumbs down review.

If someone gives you $150 million dollars and you can't make a more compelling work than a cartoon, you have failed.

Another disappointment below. This is potentially a spoiler for the cartoon. You have been warned.


Probably the part of this movie I was looking forward to the most, there's a point in the cartoon where the Avatar meets this creepy demon that can steal faces. I was *really* looking forward to seeing the 6th Sense guy give everyone under 20 in the theater nightmares with this scene. It's creepy in the damn cartoon.

It's not in the movie. At all. That was a huge disappointment. Of course, this is a kid's movie I guess. Maybe they left the scene out for creative reasons, or maybe time. Still kind of a let down.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dear Hulu...

I love you, but don't expect any money from me until you get on my Roku box.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Build a 3-legged chair

I've probably said this before in the 5 or so years I have been doing this blog, but working on Old School Magic has compelled me to say it again:

Writing RPGs is not art. It's not artistic. It's often not creative.

It's like making a chair. It's carpentry. Everything artistic about it is superfluous.

When you make a chair, most of it is there because its necessary for it to be there. Sure, you could make a 3-legged chair with no back, but I wouldn't want to sit in it.

Maybe could adopt it, which is fine, but I still will refuse to sit there. Give me something really sturdy, with 4 legs, a lot of padding, and a back.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This just in...

Master of Orion 2 still rocks. Thanks to Good Old Games!

In case you weren't aware, GOG takes old games (and they have games on their catalogue going back to the 80's, apparently at one time games ran on some arcane device known as the Apple II?) and bundle them with DOSBox, so you can just click on a game from 86 to 98 and it will run without a hassle.

Awesome, awesome stuff.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some other deep discounts on games that are good

Steam has gone crazy, glancing around at some other serious deals I see:

Sacred Gold for 3.39- this is a Diablo style action RPG.

Space Empires IV 3.39- great sci-fi turn-based strategy.

Dark Star One on sale

So I praised Dark Star One in a recent review, calling it a serious bargain at $9.99.

Well, if you get in the next 15 hours or so through Steam, it's $3.39.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dark Star One

Dark Star One is one of the best games I've ever played.

It's the type of game that doesn't get made much anymore, a space combat sim along the lines of Privateer, Elite, and Freelancer. Two things to point out about that list: one, they are all classics; two, they are all 10 or more years old, with Elite hailing from 1984 when people played games on something called the Apple II.

Ok, enough arcane video game history. Let's cut right to the chase: Ever wanted to be Han Solo? If you just said yes, then you should be playing Dark Star One.

Dark Star One puts the player in control of a ship. Called, shockingly enough, the Dark Star One. This ship was your father's dream, built from alien technology, it can be expanded and modified greatly by finding alien artifacts scattered across the galaxy and incorporating them into the ship's design.

Thus over the course of the game, you literally will be able to expand the wings, hull and engines of the Dark Star One to suit the way you like to play the game.

Your father was murdered after completing the Dark Star One, which provides the main storyline of the game. However, this is a very sandboxy game and you can follow the main quest as much or as little as you like.

There's six basic ways to play the game:

  • Merchant: Buy low, sell high, profit. The trading system works well. You can look at your galaxy map and see what a system makes for export. If a system doesn't export a product, they probably have a need to import it, which is where intrepid merchant adventurers like yourself come in.
  • Smuggler: The dark side of being a merchant. Most systems have two trade goods that are listed as illegal. Interestingly, these vary from system to system. What's illegal in one star system might be perfectly legal in another. There seems to be a limited number of products that rotate through the illegal list though: spirits (alcohol), drugs, androids and video games. Yes, video games. Selling these illicit goods is risky but extremely profitable.
  • Mercenary: It's a big galaxy. People need things done. At every trade station you find a job board with missions, ranging from fetching an abandoned cargo container and delivering it, to taking on an entire gang of criminals in deep space. There's many different kinds of missions. Succeed and you get paid.
  • Bounty Hunter: Some people in space are bad. In fact some of them are straight up scumbags who prey on the innocent merchants of space. Blowing these pirates out of the sky is not just a good deed though. It's also rewarded in cold, hard, creds.
  • Pirate: There's fat merchant ships out there with cargo. Being a merchant isn't hard at all when you blow ships up and steal their goods to sell yourself. That's a profit margin of around 100% in fact (minus whatever you paid for missiles).
  • Killer: This is about as bad as it sounds. See those space patrols that try and keep smuggling and piracy in star systems down? Ever want to blow them up? Well then this is for you.
In general, you'll wind up doing a few of these. You can do any of them as much or little as you like, along with hunting down alien artifacts to upgrade your ship and following the story quests to pursue your father's killer.

After you do a certain type of activity enough times, you become known for it through the game's Reputation mechanic. Many of these reputations are beneficial.

Trade a lot of merchandise, for example, and you become known as a merchant, getting a discount when you buy exports.

On the other hand, become known for being a killer and the cops target you for elimination on sight.

Again depending on how you play the game, you can gain multiple reputations. For example, in the current game I'm playing, I'm known as a Mercenary, a Merchant and a Bounty Hunter, with a dash of smuggler mixed into my rep.

There's dozens of star systems to explore, and your ability to range further from home is unlocked in part through your own explorations and in part through the main questline. There's half a dozen alien races to meet and interact with.

There's a PC version out now, which is the version I am playing. This has good graphics but the cutscenes are a bit basic, with mediocre voice acting and so-so animations. However, the actual gameplay outside of the cutscenes is amazing.

Also, the game comes at a steep discount. I got my copy in a bundle with two other games for $10 on Steam.

For those who want better graphical presentation (at a higher price point), there's also a X-Box 360 version on the way.

In short, if you love sandbox games in a sci-fi setting, with a good story, great gameplay and almost complete freedom, then Dark Star One is a game you should check out.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A personal note about personal notes

In Old School Magic I pull the curtain back on a few occasions, relating personal anecdotes on why I did what I did.

I consider this a bit self-indulgent. Consider it the power of not having a boss going to my head at last.

Coming soon from Vigilance Press: Old School Magic

Coming this summer from the producers of Old School Psionics: Old School Magic.

This sourcebook for magic in old-school games will introduce new magic systems, suitable for turning the traditional magic system into one more suited for low-magic games, or historical "legendary" games. New magic systems include: Incantations, Rare Components, Mana/Ley Lines and Star Magic.

All these new magic systems work with the standard spells you already know and love, though one (mana/ley lines) does away with spell slots.

Advice and rules tweaks for no magic, low magic, medium magic and high magic games will also be included.

This is followed by new magical archetypes, new core classes for your game, including: Alchemist, Artificer, Conjurer, Elementalist, Hedge Wizard, Hermit, Holy Man, Naturalist, Sage, Seer, Shadow Mage, Shaman, Shapechanger, Spell Thief, Trickster, Warrior Mage and Witch Doctor.

Next comes magical equipment, new rules and options for magic items in your games.

Finally comes magical campaigns, several new campaign models to serve as a starting point for campaigns built around magic.

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...