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.

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