Wednesday, June 29, 2011

John Byrne's MRO (most ripped off)

In case you're curious, the Wolverine-Kitty Pryde would be the original that all these other folks are ripping the hell off. Err, homaging.

Guilty pleasures

While three of the gorilla men secured Tarzan's wrists behind his back with a length of buckskin thong, the others renewed their attention to the tiger. Three or four of them would cast well-aimed cudgels at his face at intervals so nicely timed that the great beast could do nothing but fend off the missiles as they sped toward him. And while he was thus occupied, the other Sagoths, who had already cast their clubs, sprang to the ground and retrieved them with an agility and celerity that would have done credit to the tiniest monkey of the jungle. The risk that they took bespoke great self-confidence and high courage since often they were compelled to snatch their cudgels from almost beneath the claws of the saber-tooth.

Battered and bruised, the great cat gave back inch by inch until, unable to stand the fusillade longer, it suddenly turned tail and bounded into the underbrush, where for some time the sound of its crashing retreat could be distinctly heard. And with the departure of the carnivore, the gorilla men leaped to the ground and fell upon the carcass of the thag. With heavy fangs they tore its flesh, oftentimes fighting among themselves like wild beasts for some particularly choice morsel; but unlike many of the lower orders of man upon similar occasions they did not gorge themselves, and having satisfied their hunger they left what remained to the jackals and wild dogs that had already gathered.

Tarzan of the Apes, silent spectator of this savage scene, had an opportunity during the feast to examine his captors more closely. He saw that they were rather lighter in build than the gorillas he had seen in his own native jungle, but even though they were not as heavy as Bolgani, they were yet mighty creatures. Their arms and legs were of more human conformation and proportion than those of a gorilla, but the shaggy brown hair covering their entire body increased their beast-like appearance, while their faces were even more brutal than that of Bolgani himself, except that the development of the skull denoted a brain capacity seemingly as great as that of man.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan at the Earth's Core

The greatest fantasy writer of all time.

Through the thicket was thrust a head of nightmare and lunacy. Grinning jaws bared rows of dripping yellow tusks; above the yawning mouth wrinkled a saurian-like snout. Huge eyes, like those of a python a thousand times magnified, stared unwinkingly at the petrified humans clinging to the rock above it. Blood smeared the scaly, flabby lips and dripped from the huge mouth.

The head, bigger than that of a crocodile, was further extended on a long scaled neck on which stood up rows of serrated spikes, and after it, crushing down the briars and saplings, waddled the body of a titan, a gigantic, barrel-bellied torso on absurdly short legs. The whitish belly almost raked the ground, while the serrated back-bone rose higher than Conan could have reached on tiptoe. A long spiked tail, like that of a gargantuan scorpion, trailed out behind.

Robert E. Howard

Monday, June 27, 2011

Free speech hating idiots show they are still free speech hating idiots

Leland Yee and his cronies have responded to the Supreme Court ruling:

"What has happened today is that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided it's going to side with corporate America and Wal-Mart against our children," said Yee, as part of a press conference held today in San Francisco. "Because of the rejection of the California law, these games will continue to be sold to our children, these games have a harmful effect to our children."
And here's the best:

"In the past, we've protected them [children] from alcohol, cigarettes and pornography and we felt that this was on that level," said George Fouras, MD, of the San Francisco Medical Society. "We're accumulating evidence that shows that exposure to violence does effect the behavior of children. In addition, we're concerned that the cognitive development of youth and their ability to process and make decisions appropriate doesn't occur at the ages that these children are able to obtain these video games. Unlike Saturday morning cartoons, these video games expose kids to behavior that is not acceptable in reality."
So much crazy contained in so little space.

Ok, first, video games are dead equal with alcohol, cigarettes and porn.

Second, he says "unlike saturday morning cartoons" video games portray behavior not acceptable in reality.

Supreme Court: Video Games protected by 1st Amendment (7-2)

Several years ago, California decided to that violent video games deserved the same, limited free speech protection as pornography.

Not movies and books, though, its perfectly fine for those to be violent. Just video games. Why? Cause they're "interactive"!

I often, just as soon as I get done banging my head on the nearest hard object, wonder if anyone who calls a video game "interactive" has ever played one.

Here's the thing: when I was 13 or so, I saw Godfather for the first time, and saw Sonny get riddled with bullets.

Many years later, when I played Fallout and riddled dudes with bullets, it was not somehow given a huge impact because I pressed "X" first.

Anyway, onto the Supremes decision, which has lots of good stuff idiots like Leland Yee really need to accept:

Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected
books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar
literary devices and features distinctive to the medium.

BOOM. Right out of the gate. These are literally the first words of the decision. There's nothing going on in a video game that isn't going on in a movie. If a video game makes you want to shoot up your school, then Hamlet should make you want to kill your stepdad, and let's not even begin to discuss Oedipus Rex.

But, but, video games are interactive remember?

This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s
access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that
“interactive” video games present special problems, in that the player
participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome,
is unpersuasive.
I particularly like the bit about our country not really having as a core tenet restricting children's access to violence. I mean, has Leland Yee ever seen a cartoon or an episode of Power Rangers?

And then, the really awesome nail in the coffin:

Because the Act imposes a restriction on the content of protected
speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it
passes strict scrutiny, i.e., it is justified by a compelling government
interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest.

California cannot meet that standard. Psychological
studies purporting to show a connection between exposure
to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove
that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.

Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced
by other media. Since California has declined to restrict those
other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation
is wildly underinclusive, raising serious doubts about whether
the State is pursuing the interest it invokes or is instead disfavoring
a particular speaker or viewpoint.
Again, I say, BOOM. Video games are no more harmful than TV (which isn't harmful at all). To attempt this sort of legislation on video games and not TV or movies is singling video games out. Something that's rather frowned upon under the 1st amendment.

Now I know idiots like Leland Yee aren't going to be deterred. We've been down this road before. I mean, the Puritans were wringing their hands over Romeo and Juliet a few hundred years ago.

But once again, the reality-based contingent of society has stepped forward to once again affirm that human beings are not empty vessels, waiting to be filled. They do not see someone shoot up a school and decide, on the basis of that work of art to go do it themselves.

I realize why this idea appeals to politicians- it might just mean that they're not completely full of shit. But once again, we have affirmed that they are.

If you'd like to read the whole thing.

New Look

Ahh, white text on a black background, the way all websites should be.

Edited to add:

Having heard that one reader hates it, what say the rest of you.

Honestly, the old tan background was fine with me too, so if everyone dislikes the new look, speak up and I will revert to the old.

Building the future (or: Why I hate The Road)

As someone who marches in the Apocalypse Pride parade every year, I am frequently met with surprise when I shudder at the mere mention of "The Road", Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalypse novel and the movie based on it.

This came up recently when my dad offered me the SIX HOUR audio book adaptation, to which I replied "do you want me to kill myself"?

He looked taken aback and then said, "this is usually YOUR thing, not mine".

Here's the thing- the Road is nothing like type of post apocalyptic fiction I enjoy.

There's movies like Mad Max or Book of Eli, which show the perseverance of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Then there's Terminator and 12 Monkeys, which show time traveling heroes attempting to prevent the apocalypse from ever happening.

And there's the awesome TV show Jeremiah, in which the generation following a pandemic attempts to rebuild society.

And then there's the Road, where your choices are death by exposure to the elements, death by starvation, or death by roving packs of human cannibals (usually following a good rape to liven things up).

There's absolutely no hope- not a single iota of light at the end of the tunnel. Even the appearance of "the Veteran" at the end, leading the family that takes in the boy, is explicitly just another delay.

This is a story where a mother committing suicide is doing her son a favor.

I do not like reading snuff fiction.

To me, the post-apocalypse genre is most decidedly not about that, and so I don't want to read The Road, hear its audio performance or see the movie based on it (again), any more than I would ever watch a "Saw" movie.

And had I fully appreciated what I was in for, I wouldn't have watched The Road the first time.

I don't a trip down the rabbit hole of misery. The post-apocalypse fiction I enjoy is the opposite of that. Terminator is the movie that stresses "there is no fate but what we make ourselves".

It's not a story of robots walking on fields of human skeletons, it's the story of the hero who has defeated them so thoroughly, they have to prevent his birth.

It's the story of a time traveler in love with one image of beauty, a soldier who gives his life for one moment of happiness and a mother who sacrifices everything for the love of her son.

Yes, there is sadness in all post-apocalypse fiction. A sense of what has been lost. Although it's a very gonzo movie, with a lot of hilarious images, including three apes doing the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", the image everyone first mentions about Planet of the Apes is our hero railing in sadness at the Statue of Liberty.

But that should never be confused with an absence of hope. Life is about loss. People die. Terrible things happen. That's not about the apocalypse, that's about being human.

What happens next is what defines us and the apocalypse provides a stage for heroism. Not the only stage of course, but a very interesting one to me.

However, to interest me there has to be hope. There has to be a chance to carry on. And there has to be a hero.

Ip Man 2: the RPGDesign review

In a revelation that will shock almost no one, I am a huge fan of Asian cinema.

Many of my favorite films are most definitely lighter fare, movies like Hard Boiled, without a doubt the best movie involving SWAT agents repelling from a burning hospital carrying babies ever made.

Sometimes however, I come across a movie that really has something to say, in addition to a prodigious amount of ass kicking, and the Ip Man series definitely fills the bill.

Ip Man is an historical figure, who is primarily known to Westerners as the Wing Chun teacher of Bruce Lee.

In these films, portrayed by Donnie Yen (my current favorite martial arts movie star), Ip Man becomes a lens through which we experience the travails of China in the 20th century. Ip Man deals with the Japanese invasion and occupation of China, while Ip Man 2 deals with the role of the British in Hong Kong.

Let me say if you watch these movies, you will see the Japanese and British portrayed very harshly. I don't happen to have a problem with that, but if you do, you will likely be annoyed.

However, if you want to see some great characters, these movies have plenty of them. I especially loved the way characters from the first movie are shown to matured over time.

Of course, our central protagonist is Ip Man, who struggles to support his family and pay his rent by teaching Wing Chun.

Of course, there is lots of fighting in the movie and it's magnificently choreographed by Sammo Hung (himself a star of Asian cinema) and we get two really standout fight scenes, one between Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, and the final bout, between Donnie Yen and an arrogrant British boxer who wants to prove the superiority of "real boxing" over the Chinese style.

There is quite a bit of violence and blood, so the movie is not for everyone.

However, if you enjoy some violence and blood and want to see a very well made, big budget Chinese movie, then you should definitely check out Ip Man, and Ip Man 2.

Both movies are available from Netflix, via disc or (at the time of this writing) via Netflix's instant streaming service.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The First Open Gaming Movement

The biggest single mistake WOTC made with 4e was the elimination of a true commitment to the OGL.

See, as much as certain people would like it to be, tabletop RPGs are not passive forms of entertainment. That requires engagement.

And of course, we had been through all this before. One of the great myths I encounter regularly in RPGs is that 3e was the first open edition of D&D.

It was most definitely not. I remember when I started gaming, in 78, I could get books like The Complete Alchemist, offering a strange and wild new character class, modules like Evil Ruins or Lich Lords from Role Aids, alternative gaming magazines with classes and adventures like White Dwarf, and the city of Sanctuary, in all its gritty glory produced by Chaosium.

Not all of it was to my taste certainly, but its mere existence spurred my creativity and kept me engaged in the hobby on a far stronger level. Then, toward the end of 1e and in force in 2e, these products started dwindling away.

And not because of some mythical bubble- no, the tide was stemmed by the very company that had poked the hole in the dam to begin with.

And then with 3e, those floodgates were opened even wider, releasing a tide that raised all boats, including WOTC.

And again, because it was a force that couldn't be controlled, its benefits were forsaken.

Is this the reason 4e failed? Not entirely for sure.

However, it was an advantage of 3e and it still is- Pathfinder, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, d20 Modern, Modern20 all continue to benefit.

D&D is awesome

To everyone predicting doom and gloom on D&D because of today's news-

D&D is a much stronger brand than you think.

Remember the end of the 2e days, when the game's creator had been shafted and shown the door by dishonest pricks that then plundered the company, mismanaged it into bankruptcy and sold it to an upstart CCG company?

You know, on the eve of the hobby's greatest resurgence since AD&D?

D&D is always one good edition away from a transition from merely market leader to pure, unadulterated dominance.

Savage Afterworld reviews Nuclear Sunset

And they dug it!

Go read the review of Nuclear Sunset: the Southwest, then bookmark Savage Afterworld, add it to your RSS feed or google reader or however you keep track of the good stuff, then enjoy.

Seriously, if you want a slowly filled in FREE sourcebook for Thundarr the Barbarian (including lots of nifty monsters), then you should be hanging out at Savage Afterworld.

And if you don't, you're probably a bad person anyway.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nuclear Sunset: The Northeast

“Brainstorm, Sire! The groundlings are back from the ruins! They bear books!”

With a heavy sigh the large man stood, taking a moment to balance himself, but just a moment. He had long ago learned how to adjust for his oversized skull and the oversized brain it barely contained.

Slowly, he moved toward the oversized, velvet backed chair on its raised pedestal. Despite its wear and tear, it gave him an aura of magnificence. Then, slowly but surely, the groundlings- his subjects- began to trickle in.

It was the usual assortment of offerings: complete editions of William Shakespeare, copies of Dainty Duck #4 and some water soaked books that were impossible even to identify.


Still, some food would be enough encouragement to keep the groundlings looking, “Thank you, minister, put these offerings with the others and give these valiant searchers the usual thanks.”

Suddenly, the chief minister was running in. Running? The old man hadn’t run in years.

“Brainstorm! It’s the Savant! He has completed the restoration!”

His heart beat faster as he exited the ruined courthouse, his castle, and made his way through the ruined city toward the ancient library, the massive edifice run the only man in the world smarter than him, a man who had devoted his life to restoring the lost historical documents of the ancients.

The ancient man sat hunched in his wheelchair, looking over the book laid open on the table in front of him. The book hadn’t even been legible when it was found and he had been working on just this one holy manuscript for months, drying the pages, gently stripping away soot, and repainting the pages to restore what was lost.

The look on his face let Brainstorm know something was terribly, terribly wrong.

“The manuscript is USHER Dossiers #199, friend Brainstorm. It is the latest manuscript we have yet recovered. It is called Dark Future, and gives us the information we finally need to understand the Great War. It was a war between human and mutant. They rounded us up, put us into camps, experimented on us and hunted us down. They started the war. With us.”

Brainstorm looked over the pages, now laminated and sewn into leather bindings to protect them. As he turned the pages and read the ancient language, his expression hardened with every word.

“Minister, are those groundlings still in the courtyard?”

“Y- yes, Sire, they are.”

“Kill them. All of them.”

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Nuclear Sunset: The Southwest

Nuclear Sunset: The Southwest is the first installment in a post-apocalyptic campaign setting.

Though written with Mutant Future in mind, this campaign is almost 100% mechanics-free and could easily be adapted to any post-apocalyptic rules set.

Nuclear Sunset: The Southwest contains a map of the region, description of settlements and ruins and a full slate of post-apocalyptic organizations, including:

Hell's Heart: This enormous biker gang strikes terror into the entire southwest as they move from town to town, raping and pillaging with impunity.

The 88th: This pre-war military unit was considered a great experiment in fielding an all-synthetic battlefield command. They have bided their time since the apocalypse and know the time is ripe for them to take control of this shattered world.

The Cartel: This crime family has maintained the family business since before the Earth was destroyed in the great war. In fact, for these ruthless criminals, business has never been better.

The Marshalls: In the dark days immediately following the great war, a group of self-appointed vigilantes rose from the darkness to maintain justice.

In a land where law is often a comforting dream, the Marshalls settle for justice, even revenge, striking fear in the hearts of the wicked and cruel.

Check it out!

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...