Tuesday, December 24, 2013

NORAD and Santa

 So, Christmas Eve, 2013


In some very odd way, having North America Air Defense Command, who's main job was to let us know we were about to be cremated alive, tracking Santa, every year of my life, seems to encapsulate the experience of growing up as a cold war kid living at various ground zeroes

There are a very few things that also capture that: Age of Aquarius, William Barton is one. Hes a bit older than me.  But it still moves me profoundly.

Obviously, I'm really glad we made it, and am still surprised that we did. Nice to be wrong occasionally.

I am also delighted that my kids don't get the whole cold war eve of destruction- ten-minutes-before-midnight-thing. I wouldn't wish that on most of the people I hate (except maybe Richard Nixon).

Okay.  enough.  Glad we are all alive.  Merry effin' christmas.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Reviewsday: Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders

I generally cycle from SF to fantasy on about a six month cycle; I seem to be switching over again, as I found a new SF (abeit pulp SF) book I got to share.

Romulus Buckle and the City of the Founders !
 Richard Ellis Preston Jr.

Zepplins, Martians, post-apocalyptic earth, swords, robots, and giant cool hats !

Season with the LA basin, cults and technoclans, lots more zeppelins, evil neofascists, missing sisters (did I mention robots ?).

Honest to god, what more do you need ?

A good, fast read, tight story, good characters, excellent dialogue and brisk writing style, all contribute to it being awarded the coveted 2013 prize for best use of zeppelins in a post apocalyptic setting without elves or gratuitous use of Tesla.

..AND, the second book is now out, in which the devilish plot and trechery is further revealed, along with blood-thirsty Martian Saber beasts, and a Mysterious Mountain hideaway   ! 


Saturday, November 9, 2013

This Stuff is GREAT !

 Other than keyboards and bathrobes (tm) my most popular posts seem to be reviews.  So, here is another one  some more.

So, there's this guy (I guess) who goes by"Lars Dangly" over on one of the big RPG forums. So what?  So he is kind of a random RPG encounter - out of the blue he has posted two free excellent RPGs.

One of them is "Balrogs and Bagginses"   a set of original (and early) edition rules for playing in middle earth -and clearly channeling the adventure ethos of "The Hobbit ".

It is really really good, and this is coming from a massive JRRT geek.   The rules are concise, freestanding (mostly spells are still a bit beta) and very nicely developed from bog standard OD&D.

So, it scores two hits in
1. Successfully pulling off a Middle earth RPG without being wildly concerned with microdetails, and

2. is another excellent example of what I think the OSR is doing (or should do) starting with the very basics of D&D and evolving it in a different direction.

Plus, the cover uses one of the best "adventure and get treasure" pix, evar.

Seriously, I love me some MERP, and tolerated me some whatever the second one was, and pretty much poked at the new middle earth RPGwith a stick,  - but, this is at least as good as MERP for feel, and given that MERP was tied to the mondotablequest engine has a much more elegant system.

No kidding: it's a take on old style D&D that gets around the three class model very elegantly and avoids race as class (which I despise, thank you very much) .  Very elegantly.  Seriously, check it out -I'd go into it in detail, but as it is free, you can download it and decide for yourself.  Plus, my beer is getting cold.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Onward To VENUS !

Space 1889 kickstarter edition calls to you urgently !
If you were dithering, now is the time to step forth !  Indeed, at this juncture the noblest of the noble are Urgently needed to sur-pass the threshold of sub-scription that will allow the publication of  the Venus Source-book, perhaps one of the Finest Supplements ever since......ever, which is to include the Wonderful and fabulous cover illustration depicted above !  Should any more details prove necessary than are provided by the above illustration, or the below advertisement, please consult this hyper-link to the kickstarter page of this fine and necessary project, placed here for your convenience.

LOCKED £34,000 - The Venus Sourcebook!!! The Venus Sourcebook will be roughly 190 pages and will not only feature expanded information about the history, geography, flora and fauna of Venus but also take a close look at the human settlements of the German, British, Italian and Russian colonists as well as the native population of lizardmen (and dinosaurs!). We’ll also be revealing ancient secrets that lie beneath the impenetrable jungles and dangerous swamps that surround them. This book will feature information about living, exploring and conquering the wilderness of Venus, as well as new rules, new archetypes, and hints for gamemasters to run extended campaigns on the greenhouse of our solar system. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Ugly Bugger with the Wings, Private Jones 261. Three rounds rapid if you please ! " Only The First And Best Victorian SF RPG ever written coming back !

 In which our tardy correspondent from the blog-o-sphere does gush forth his fanboy affection for a very different kind of role-playing game; various components of other less satisfying systems discussed; comic British public school wallah accent attempted; main advantages of 1889 enumerated; a picture stolen to good purpose; commands to the reader; to which extensive informational and educational afternotes are appended

So, Space 1889 is back (again), and no surprise, it's a kickstarter, with the same setting, but a new rules system.  I think its the same rules system as Hollow earth adventures, so, cool there - at least they know how to do pulp right.  me, I actually liked the old (much berated) system, even the combat, but hey.  In this case, the game is the setting. 

Seriously, probably the best actual Victorian SF game with the possible challenge of Forgotten Futures.  - See, shortly thereafter Falkenstein and Amazing engine took it off to Vicotrian/Gothic Science fantasy by adding in the supernatural, Airships, brass,  leather corsets with goggles and called it steampunk. Or Spells, wizards, Elves, Dwarves,Sprites, Pixies, Lady Cottingly's unpressed Fairies and making it all Romancey* Gothicy Victoriany.  and  No complaint, and a favorite genre of mine, but as an old colonial miniatures player, this is always my go to game for Victoriana.  Not Punk, nor neccessarily Steamy, it simply says, "I say, what if all the boffo chaps in the labs made some ships that let us bring the benefits of modern plumbing, education and heavily favorable trade to the poor benighted Martians and what not, eh ?   Whizzers, I say !"  And off we go with an electric Ether flyer, a red coat** and a Webley pistol.

 1889.  No Elves.  No Magic.  Steam Optional.  Science, Rifles and unabashed colonialism in the solar system.

Role playing in a more civilized time. ***

This game is great.  I'm backing it****.  Read about it here (and back it. So let it it be done !)

Just Shut Up and SHOOT colour Sergeant !


 * Romance in the older use - a fantastical adventure, without the ripped bodices and bad boy seduction now associated with the term

 ** yes, yes, for the three of you who spotted this, I know that the well before 1889 the British army was no longer using Red for service uniforms -going over to mostly Khaki, with Red or Blue for most units on home service. But see, Mars is the RED planet, so a RED service coat will clearly blend in just smashingly, eh wot?

*** As long as one is British, at least.  I mean, we all know that savages begin at Calais, after all.

****I also bought the Savage worlds adaptation, and while it was mostly excellent (for my money it underplayed the role of  class in Victorian society which messes up the flavor, but far from fatally ), but it seems to have lost support.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quick review: Orbital by Zoser games. A traveller setting & sourcebook

A traveller setting & sourcebook
Paul Elliott & Ben Lecrone
From Zozer Games
From the blurb: Orbital is a science fiction setting for Traveller with a fairly realistic (TL 9) feel that is set within our own solar system.
Yeah, well I say, Orbital is great !  It is exactly what  Open source Traveler should be (and is) creating.  New campaigns in new settings, with all the bells and whistles; chargen, ship building, planetary info, etc. It’s a TL 9 setting  confined to the solar system – no FTL, no gravitics and actual rockets instead of grav thrusters – so, although they are super efficient &  advanced fusion rockets, fuel use and burns are important.
It includes rules for chargen appropriate to the setting, necessary modifications to ship design (spin-grav modules and fusion drives in particular), planetary lift off , re-entry and orbital travel rules; a bunch of stuff that does a very good job of adding granularity to the low tech levels in any traveler game, even one set in the Third Imperium.  It probably worth getting for that alone if you are a 3I purist.
The setting is cool, although I have to admit I freaked when I saw it described as Cold war (” Dammit ! pipped again ! ) – but, it turns out to be a late 80’s type cold war tech +100 years – and the main cold war is between earth nations and Luna.  So, cool; my retro cold war  setting is still viable (see this blog for details) (assuming it ever wakes back up)
 A very 1980’s SF setting, no cyberpunk, no transhumanism, just corporate greed and nationalism in space. 
Chargen is well modified for the setting, and presented with a minimum of “look it up in the core rules”, and a good selection of hardware and “stuff” is included.
Orbital tells you the events and timeline, discusses politics and society, and does it in an engaging and detailed manner;  It’s harder to do well than it seems –I’ve read quite a few attempts that seem more like an unusually dry  sixth grade social studies report copied from the encyclopedia than I care to think about. 
I heartily recommend Orbital.
Get it here at DTRPG

Saturday, July 13, 2013

In Case You Were Confused....(AKA Dog headed opinion time)

To all want-to-be RPG designers, I feel it is my public duty to point out an issue that seems to be being overlooked in many new RPGs, and that seems to confuse many recent authors: RPG rules are not a venue for publishing your short (or interminable) gaming fanfic.

Not only is it blatantly inflating the page count (and price), but publishing your own fiction  in your own game is self indulgent vanity wankery of the first water.

I understand that a setting has to tell a story (really, I do) and yes, adventures need setting up – but neither of these are effectively accomplished by including interminable short stories about the tragic hero with a long duster, a shiny gunswordpowerthingie, and a tragic backstory attempting to make up for incomprehensible motivations stereotyped personality traits and pathologically confused  social relationships.    Okay ?  

Repeat after me: "A good RPG author is not automatically a good fiction author, and vice versa."  

Rules need playtest; stories need editorial criticism.   One doesn't substitute for the other. 
Cut it the hell out.   When I want crappy adventure fiction, I’ll read Gor; for crappy SF, there’s always Blake 7.

As an afterthought, the lack of actual fiction sections alone can be considered a major strength of the OSR and pocket/lite RPG design schools.  Even if I hated everything else about them, (and I don't) that alone would endear them to me.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Post game thoughts

So, actually, it went pretty well.   Yeah, they got thru exactly one random overland encounter, and two rooms in the dungeon in a 6 hour run, but what the heck. No timeouts, no tears, no threats.  And to be fair, at least three to four other rooms in the dungeon came to them - they were not really the most stealthy group, no they were not.

Highlights include:

The orc berserker ignoring the golinoids that charged in from the next rooms over in favor of looting corpses from the previous fight (for several turns), until one party member promised him 100GP to join the fight right now -he did, and kept the party from being rolled up but got torn up, badly; when he demanded payment, the answer was "I lied, and by the way, how does it feel to have only four hitpoints left, hmmmm? Tell you what, I'll sell you this heal spell for 100GP"

The huge Legolas vs Chuck Norris fight when the bosses main minion hobgoblin monk mook (MMHMM) smashed thru a door and got all "boot to the head" with the Elven ranger.  Turns out that a +1 bastard sword and good armor beats long training and mystic martial arts -although it was close.

(It was initially suggested that it was Bruce Lee vs Legolas, but everyone pretty quickly agreed that no way could Bruce Lee lose a fight, period.  One of them even referencec the dragon movie where Bruce kicked Chuck's ass, which, true or not, impressed the hell out of me for geekery above and beyond....)

The final fight ended with two epic crits on the same round * just as the two really tough mooks were about to win ; one delivered by a 1HP fighter at -3 from a concussion (the other to the Chuck Norris hobdude).  There was massive high fiveing, fist bumping and general jpyful end zone dances.

Now thats a way to end a game !  Yeah. 

And this, is apparently, post 200.  Wow. 

* both legit nat 20s rolled in the open, same round; double damaged followed by a max damage roll.  I described everyone in the room as looking like they had exploded a can of dinty-moore beef stew.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

I go now, to the fate of all men.....who game and have kids......

It is perhaps the greatest gift that the human mind is unable to correlate the whole of its contents, and thus remain in blissful ignorance of what unspeakable chaos will will surely ensue when one volunteers to run a OD&D for one's newly 13 year old child and his tween friends.  I go now, the the place that all gaming parents must surely go, to face their own karma and spiritual payback for all the ruined campaigns, enraged DM's and total party screwups that said parents have inflicted in their formative years as dungeon delvers.....I go to munchkinland.

Dear god.  The one who shows up an hour early for everything that he doent forget is, I think, arguing to roll up a paladin or a monk with my son.  Emergency !

Friday, June 28, 2013

So, T5.........

The gods of distribution finally smiled at me, and my order came up -and I got it about a week back. I promised myself I wouldn't say anything until I had it, especially in the argumentative sense - and now, from what I see, I'm going to not be participating in the discussion by virtue of reading it -which I am truly enjoying. Much more rewarding that taking on an argument that has gone back and forth for 10+ years, on either side.

Still, I want to thank those (such as S4) who added a lot of actual review and potential fixes to their critical opinion of the work; and to those who said "I like it" and not much else, thanks for keeping the morale up in the face of a very few who ....well, lets just call it are comitted to a battle for implementing a pre-determined reactionary narrative.

Now. On to design a gemini medium interceptor to fight that pesky Soyuz orbital bomber......

Monday, January 28, 2013


...do you get if you spill ganja into your italian soup ?

........Rasta-fazool !

Thank you, thank you.  You're a great crowd !