Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Beyond Thundarr But Not To the Cold End of Space Itself

While working on both GenCon scenarios and something called "A Game of Tombs" as its working title, planned for Halloween, I read Luther Gutekunst's posting at Archon's Court about his OSR "Sunless Horizon" campaign notes. I do love keeping up on ppl's "Far, Far Future Fantasy." This is my name for fantasy settings set a few million years to a couple billion years into the future. Nate Treme's Ghost Star  mini-setting is a good example. John Tarnowski(sp?), the RPG Pundit's "Last Sun" releases are fun. With elements of post-apocalypse tropes and themes but so far in the future one has a totally foreign world (or world-ship, or worlds), these mind trips try to go places so gonzo that alien is a better word.

Of course, I am making notes for myself as well. Ever since Glow I have been playing around with the same sort of vein of RPG.with notes on the Earth about a million and half years in the future. Now while this is not after the red dwarfing of our star and definitely no where near the heat death of our universe, it's still a pretty far out place to be. Take a look at the life on Earth 1.5 million years ago and compare it to now. From woolly mammoths and more than few hominids living around each other in terms of time and space, to one human species and pets leaving plastic covered tech for an epoch to come. So what does my FFFFRP setting look like?

Well there are the Nimby. The perfection of humanoids able to take and hold the lands not radioactive or chemically tainted from ages gone by. We'd recognize ourselves somewhat in the four-toed Bagger, that pretty much populate where humans once did in larger numbers. Often the Bag, a diminutive of Bagger, are subservient to Nimby families. And then there are the Imby, small and nimble and evolved to "smell" radiation and poison so are somewhat able to survive in the wastelands that pock various spots on this new Earth.
A Nimby and its Bag slave
At the same time, in the more wilder parts, raccoons are evolving into an intelligent species and seeking out plastic-coated old human tech which they know how to power up to get a technological edge over the now abundant populations of baboons that scour almost everywhere on the planet. Along the coast lines where most human populations appear to have lived below the surface of, intelligent squids brave the plastic-filled and chemically soiled waters to find technologies of their own.

After my own notes on this for gaming, I've not used it as such. Instead I have been writing fiction in this epoch of weirdness. We'll see what comes of it.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thawing Fantasy: Dismantling Colonialism

As an April Fool's day prank someone posted a quick and breezy questionnaire for "tabletop RPG and LARP makers!" With only thirty questions, these questions under the pithy, duck's nut title of "#AprilTTRPGmaker" how could it not be any fun? Unwary readers thinking that anybody wants to casually ask them 30 damn questions about their views reposted it. What the process was about was actually about kicking the participant in groin as often as the survey could. And it puts a ribbon on the self torture with the tag "No Imposter Syndrome allowed." Then it implores the reader "Use any social media" wanting me to spread a meme like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or something.

It starts out a little strange. It's like an application. The first questions instill a little bug of trying to prove oneself to the unseen author, hopefully one day the recipient of the answers:
"1. Introduce yourself." Umm, to whom? Everybody on my feed knows me.
"2. Describe your work." Is "I already one have with each product that I have for sell" a good answer? Once again, everybody on my feed knows me already. Who am I applying to?
"3. Key to your making process?" Yes. Descriptions are indeed key to selling making money when releasing items. Or is the poster asking "What is key to (my game-)making process?" The answer to that question is the ability to talk about what I want to.

Then it asks a few questions every "TTRPG Maker" likes to answer:
"4. Favorite type of game scenario?" Ones where I enjoy myself running them.
"5. Character or World Building?" World Building through the roles of the Characters.
"6. Long or short ttrpg texts?" On my phone? The shorter the better. Or is the meme designer asking how much prep? I write scenarios based off of designed setting notes. Quantification depends on the product and audience. It's not a binary process.
"7. How to increase accessibility?" By providing the products I write for sale on-line outside of the people that have sat down and played with me. I also use a hard copy distributor to game stores as well. That is what the question is about right?

Then things get a little detailed as well as a little pointed:
"8.  Favorite collaborators?" Whoever is working or has worked with me on a collaboration. Once again everyone knows me on my feed. I wish the meme provider would check out my website.
"9. How do your games distribute power among your players?" Depends on the setting. FRPG its usually magical items and level advancement, but that's wholly system dependent. The more a player is involved, I try to reward overcome challenges with perks afterwards so to speak though.

Then comes a loaded question. It's "Have you stopped beating your wife?" but for gamers.

"10. How are your games dismantling colonialism?" This is the first time that I have heard colonialism applied to RPGs. While Forgotten Realms paperbacks got into their fantasy worlds equivalents of central American colonialism by the Spaniards it was really sympathetic with the indigenous culture being oppressed. And Space 1889 got a little English, well talk to those writers specifically. Are you talking about paladins fighting demons and other PCs fighting goblins and orks? Who are the demons, goblins, and orks in the meme constructer's mind?

Like an amateur interrogator, the meme then throws in an innocuous question, still asking you to name names. The author is picturing the reader with a nail in their left palm, so they demand.

"11. Shoutout an unloved creator." I am not sure "shoutout" is a word. I would recommend Charlie Fleming of Rarr! I'm A Monster Games, but I swear he isn't guilty of whatever I am being accused of.

Having gotten a name to be listed by the interrogated when discovered, the meme gets down to soiling your soul.

"12. How to make work inclusive?" My answer has to be, "Work inclusive by including."  I speak both German and English poorly despite wanting to be a writer but this is poor grammar. Is the author a chatbot? A bit more seriously, come on already. FRPG and RPGs in general have been inclusive to the point of being full of cultural appropriation since TSR did some big book full of samurai and Shaolin monks sans any Yogi from south Asia. I think it is up to the gamer themselves to meet people on their own terms and work from there.
"13. Participate in streamed games?" Thank you for asking and not just yelling. 
"14. How are your game mechanics and Characters intersectional?" My Crawlspace scenarios are noted for bringing PCs starting from disparate starting points together through means of their Character motivations and plot obstacles. (Looks up "socially intersectional") That's not what the author wanted answered, I wasn't supposed to get this right. They need to get a better grasp on vocabulary.
"15. Favorite tropes to subvert?"

That last question, I can get back on my feet again.
"15. Favorite tropes to subvert?" Orks and half-orcs you asshole meme author. I've have David Carridine as a half-orc monk. I always thought of them as Germans raiding Roman territories or Vandals trying to claim north Africa from well founded elves of the Sahara, not oppressed minorities. Of course we never got to have a real empire so much for for your "colonialism" crap.

I spit out a tooth and realize that we're at the halfway point.
"16. How does your environment inform your work?" Paperback distribution and comic books available on-line. I also save social media for roleplayers as contacts.
"17. How does your identity influence your work? " It's easier for me to get through airline checkpoints so I have gotten to travel a lot? I swear I'm not guilty!
"18. What are some underlying messages in your work?" One in particular is that you should buy my work then make you own conclusions.
"19. Favorite themes to explore?" Yes. I have them. Once again my friends on my feed already know them.
"20. A game that you want to make you think no one would play" The life of the meme's author in third grade English. I suspect she is from Slovakia.

So we're at the 2/3rd's point, so the questions change tone. A little softer, more personal once again, thinking that my discomfort reading their presumption and incoherence here has somehow been a discovery for me.
"21. What external factors do you struggle with to create?" Mostly folks trying to grab a few bucks by getting money from on-line accounts while promising services to a big public that would rather play in decent RPG sessions. RPGs swerved out to card games and now to board games, but somehow the concept exist beyond brands. Not because of the this or that of merchandising trend but because of the work of the creator and the audiences's experiences.
"22. How are you trying to improve the ttrpg community?" That is not an FRPG that I want to play in.
"23. Mentoring/Being mentored by?" Once again I am speaking to a feed that already knows me. No names anymore, just take me to the gallows.
"24. Favorite RPG thing to create?" This decade? Pyramid-heads. Just awesome.

And then things go into a kind of fishing mode for 6th-graders.
"25. A rad diversity consultant?" Me.
"26. Favorite on-line community?" Mine.
"27. How do you market your work?" I'm thinking about poorly worded questionnaires presented as social network memes now.
"28. What tools help you create?" Free time and a means to write down ideas.
"29. Exciting 2019 RPG trends?" Everything that I plan to publish.

Before the meme can release the participant it has to admit that it needs help.
"30.  What would you change if you were in charge of  TTRPG LAND!!! ?" To which "There is no such thing as a ttrpg community." I answer. "I'd like to see my hobby devoid of consultants and sycophants." Failing that, I'll settle for great times at conventions and in private.

And now it's time for a shower and a drink.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Thaw of Fantasy: Water

I spend as much time in water as I can. Even when fantasy role-playing, I will drag every party I can into some underwater adventure for a couple sessions and the long term players will think to themselves ‘Here we go again. I wonder what fine point he wants to stress this time.’ Usually that point is that being underwater/amphibian/deep sea should be a lot more alien than say thinking in terms of PCs having to take a pill and breath underwater for a length of time.

On the surface level the GM has to think about why are the players around or on the water. An astute person will know that 99.9% of human history is either being seafaring or living around the nearest water source, but in popular media, where most gamers get their misconceptions about reality as well fantasy you wouldn't know it. Dragons live on mountain tops, where I suppose they eat snow cones sweetened with dwarf blood for sustenance. Giants might live in clouds eating fairy folk fluttering on the air. All the while farmers in Alpine valleys produce enough corn syrup and hamburgers in cold climates to sustain empires-worth of castles, bars, and temples, while orks threaten their drive-thrus every winter. Armies of paladins of multiple gods would be appalled that medieval Europe ate fish soup and oats more often than roast beef and potatoes for all of its  


Players don't have to be Sinbad the sailor. They can be Josephus the boat-fixer. Alongside with the fisherman,  Harsdrubal, the Adventurous, and Grappo, the Tough, an accomplished net-knitter, our boy, or gal, Joe, is staring at a world of the unexplained and unexplored every time they go to the docks.  Heck go burlap caps and wool shirts into the medieval times and make them Yurk, the Yam Man, Harold, the Viking, and Gregory, the Grab-Ass, under the rule Richard the Upteenth on the fair Island Kingdom of Boar/Eagle/Lion/Rhino/Platypus Heraldry. Now throw in seals, the animal, that can transform into humans given the right moon. You are now 100% trans-Tolkien based fantasy and you haven't even started the adventure. 

Want to do a story-arc of character in about two sessions? Have the land-lubber Characters have to get underwater. Hopefully the GM doesn't mind watching a PC's player work through some of his/her childhood hang ups (IE swimming lessons) because, you're going to get that. Then work into the magic and its restrictions, the wizard is thinking at a 10th level level while still at 3rd when it comes to good old magical creativity. 

Water being a different world than that of the surface just ask the GM to explain places adventurers want to go. And don't even bring up the difference between fresh water, where I live, and salt water, where no one (human) lives including the surfers. Speaking of surfers, the GM/author has a whole unexplored Character Class just waiting 10 pages and 1,678 charts right there waiting to happen if you're OGL.

The hard work comes when you're in over your head, out of your depth, so to speak. Outside of places like Atlantis, there is no reason for "30'x40' rectangular rooms" off of 10'x10' corridors running east to west from the "locked, oaken door." That wooden door was fish food about ten months ago already while silt and corral aren't prone to right angles. While the landlubber GM is having a time explaining her pit-trap with spikes because every one is swimming, the submariner GM already has a moray eel hiding spot. Oh and torches never work, now its time to watch PC development begin the second phase of the story-arc from cardboard to RPG characters-- it tends to be amazing. 

Despite my usual sardonic tone, underwater role-playing is quite the place to be. I challenge any GM to prove me wrong here.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Indy Markets Explained to Assholes

It's all about what you really want.

Do you want a coloring book for your RPG? Well then 9 paragraphs, a couple charts, and add 20,ooo  mediocre photos/ free illustrations. Sell a thousand games in two months.

Do you want to draw outside the lines a bit? The play whatever White Wolf is publishing these days. D 10s, LARPing, failed on-line communities.

Do you want to Game with people looking to play in a game? You either find a game that is not D&D or you make up your own rules not based off of the OGL.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Midwinter's Afternoon Daydreams

A Game You Probably Haven't Heard Of
 Unicorn Hunt ! I added the exclamation point. A friend of mine from BASHCon for a couple years now, Cory Tucholski finished his "make-your-own-adventure" more than a year ago, but I wasn't able to pick it up until the last time I saw him in February. The author is one of those horrible parents that make their kids come and play D&D with them at gaming conventions, but he makes up for it by writing books for them. Unicorn was written because of his daughters infatuation with unicorns, so Cory wraps in a lot of magic and a bit of history for a younger reader traipsing after the mythical beast. I read through the work over the last few nights at work, and kept dying, but hey, that can happen on an adventure. There are some eightteen endings advertised and artwork by Hirday Jayara, so it might keep the kid reading it busy for at least 30 minutes, enough time for the ravaged parent to finish a smoke and a quick conversation on-line even. A King Kong of a work for sure, it would've been a Godzilla but Cory always rips on Burger King which I cannot forgive.

Midwinter build up
Every Time At the Table
So on Saturday, I was supposed to resume my ICONs mystical superhero mini-campaign. Our household's cat-sitter during longer trips needed the night off of work and asked me to cover her shift at the milkshake factory, so I had to bump the session to Sunday. It was then I found out that one of the major players definitely couldn't make it. He probably couldn't make it on Saturday either apparently but why tell me before I moved the date around anyway, right? I still had the itch to get some table-topping in though, so I announced an impromptu Wobble game. And why not, that damn setting has been bumping in the closet for about ten years already. Expected usual players, like Peryton and Trey Renee,  wouldn't show up. JerryTel, something of a stalwart Wobbler already, did and so did Jay Murphy, the Xothman from here on,  (of UBS Xothic fame over at G Plus) whose usual Sunday group, using CoC/BRP rules if I remember correctly, is in disarray as their 17th Century Dreamland's cycle heads into its conclusion.
UESF CDR Francis Berg

So Xothman developed Professor Hammerhead, an astrophysicist whose brilliant work into dead energy got him hired into the Baffin Island  Facility, Wobble Bay, a few months ago. He works for the UK contingent which often acts as go-betweens for the EU contingent and the Americans, because the Canadians who own the place won't bother with all the pettiness. JerryTel became Commander Franky Berg of  Earth Command's Space Force from the MuFO Earth in the MU Continuum.

Doctor Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks)2.jpg
Dr. Emerson W Hammerhead III
 Hammerhead would be experimenting with a Dead Energy capture device right at the same time that CDR Franky, to his friends, would be leading his Manta interception squadron into a dog fight with, of course, UFOs. Somehow, as if by a whimsy of plot convenience, the Manta's cockpit/life boat would appear in the laboratory right next to Dead Energy Device, the Q-47 (from here on). Exploring the device the Italian security detail assigned to Hammerhead would release the MuFO native who was in full combat mode. The security detail would make short work of the sky-boy as they were airborne infantry, quickly having him restrained and ready for interrogation. As Franky was prepared for the Others, aliens in UFOS, playing mindgames with those that they capture, the initial interview with Dr, Hammerhead would not be very productive.  
 US Army CWO2 Lagge (pronounced "Lag") from Exploration Teams, "X-Teams", US of course, would show up and ask for help with a new acquisition of of his own. At the same time as Hammerhead's incident occurred, the US teleportation laboratories received an vessel that could only be described as life pod for outer space. Out of would step a sleestack with its hands in the air. One of the troops on security would call the being a sleestack to its face, at which point it shut up, apparently insulted. Perhaps Hammerhead could get somewhere with him. The alien would identify himself as "Hisssss(inhale)Pfit." Hissy Fit, would identify himself as a Traveler who was hired by customers to help Travel their ships when they were attacked by space savages.  
Hammerhead wanted to get the Tzakk, what the creature called himself, and "sleestack" means hillbilly in his language,  and CDR Franky in the same room for a cross briefing. Chief Laggy was having none of it, the guy was under American protection, on the behalf of the International Multi-Dimensional Travel Research Forces, after all. Ones does not simply walk in to, err cooperate in our corner of MU Continuum. 
Back in CDR Franky's cell, (Jerry was back from an important liquor run IRL) having had a sandwich and coffee, the fighter pilot was calming down.  He had been part of his universe's Wobble experimentation, which had gone no where as far as he knew. With his blood sugar up, he was willing to accept that maybe he was in an alternate universe of his own Earth. Hammerhead was happy to hear it!
And then walked in Laggy and Hissy Fit, and I invoked Rule 117 from the Wobble book (page 111).  You see, Hissy Fit, Laggy, and CDR Franky had all wobbled before which set off a chain reaction sending them out into the multiverse. Professor Hammerhead would now become a Wobbler as well. JerryTel and Jay would then pick their ID STAT to close out the session. Trey Renee and Robin (the Peryton one) have both said that they would be there for the next session. I hope Pery practices her TransAtlantic accent. She does that Character so awesomely.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Games You Probably Haven't Heard Of: Tall Tales

Remember the days of the Boot Hill RPG? As part of the OSR/OSG reformation of OGL D&D, Mark Hunt, with the help of his pal Anton Otto Fischer, has crafted the Old West rules system for the 21st Century.  Tall Tales: Wild West B/X Fantasy Adventure Game is the author's latest work, I think. Who knows? It's been over a week since its release and this guy is always working on something. In case you haven't heard of him, he's the guy that redid Gangbusters and has been expanding that classic game for a few years. His taste for period specific settings has proven a plus for this Basic/Expert take on the cowboy days.

If you've ever wanted to play in the Wild, Wild West but hoped to avoid the worst of the cowboy and Indian tropes that make up so much of this milieu, this is a good place to start. Players get to take on the roles of Gunslingers, Desperadoes, Mountain Men, Braves, Singing Cowboys, and Snake Oil Salesmen, Now I've never played or read Boot Hill but I bet the PC Classes did not sound like so much fun. What is an OGL game without Alignment? No worries folks can be "Law Abiding," Neutral," or "Dishonest." Hunt adds OGL-style charts for background notes that fill out the Nickle-Book Western feel of the world around the characters.

The GM has a great foundation to start a campaign world. As you'd expect, atmosphere and tone are very established. The weapons and equipment section, from the Trading Post no less, is pretty well rounded but not overly extensive as is the fashion in "true D&D" terms. Don't worry Nards, you get notes on coffee pots and holsters. Where would the adventuring Singing Cowboy be without his troop of NPCs? They are called Hirelings in this work. Logical rules on mounts (donkeys and horses) strike me as really workable. There are guidelines on stuff like judicial matters and random people to encounter. I especially liked how Hunt remembered that hirelings/randos should be described (Hey I am an Elmore Leonard fan) to help fill out the tale being spun-- he does so with a chart to make it nice and crunchy.

Overall, the book is a King Kong of a purchase. I might start adapting some of my own Western stuff to it. Right after I learn Spanish and run a marathon, but hey, this is a really good game. Now if it had original art it would be a Godzilla. In any case, buy the hardback version, get the author's autograph, and set up the basement as Tombstone, AZ, and get to making some big a heapums of Tall Tales. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Defense of Rolepaying Feb.23

Every Time At the Table, 2019.02 23

You might've not heard but a long running ICONs campaign (superhero) wrapped up in a session set after the big adventure culmination, the anti-climax if you will, tonight. This evening, Pery handled the funeral of the Aquaman thought experiment. Killed by a random NPC, after a major PC turned rogue while under mind control deals with his guilt because his own actions in the events leading up to death, there was quite the memorial service. The three players (Charlie, Curtis, and myself) jumped into as many NPC characters, as we had played them as one-off Characters during the last few years during spin-off games, as the GM did.  In TV terms, this was a "supporting Character episode." This was a roleplayer's smorgasbord, and it was kind of random as to who was going to rise to be the stars.  The Torpedo was sent off with a bang for justice.

The venue was rather awesome. Cleveland, has long since transformed into Beta City and Lightfoot Island in our player's minds, but we also have explored the oceanic depths and had some ties there. Torpedo being the latest reincarnation of a prince of Atlantis provided the Mystics of that lost land an excuse to merge the two areas. The surface and undersea depths came together.

Everyone at the table has been to funerals IRL so we kept the memorial part limited. We flexed our RPG muscles by doing quick eulogies for the dead guy as PCs that we hadn't played in a while.  When an unexpected and unknown benefactor provided services for the Wake, the widow, Morgana, Psychic-Extradonaire, there was a pause. At first she rejected the providers, but when Disco, the guilt-ridden rogue hero, tried to protect her from the strangers' pandering, she impulsively invited all attendees to the reception hall.

More than a bit of liberation was imbued at the wake. Landshark was especially enjoying Atlantean fermented jelly-fish while introducing himself as "Bruce the Shark" to Atlanteans, which is akin to proclaiming oneself as a "Bruce the Child Murderer." Mangod, the Cuyahoga County's Super-Powered Deputy Director for the County Sheriff Department, and Disco had some tipsy verbal sparring. Disco went home, but his little sister Nimble, a soccer mom with super-speed, stepped in to keep up with the Jones so to speak. When the reception was found to be a zombie gathering scam, Morgana ended things while Nimble saved the would-be victims without much fuss. An infernal cyborg villain from Torpedo's past stepped forward to claim responsibility for the atrocity, and was made short work of by Morgana and Nimble, while Landshark kind of just drank more.

I was just kind of amazed at how we as a group really made the drama of the event work, and could slip from one persona to another. We had to shift characters midstream. As players, we had to follow the leads given to us by the other players around us. Luckily the mechanics were solid enough to cause a sliver of doubt as to whether or not our actions would help or deter from the plights in front of us. That last bit heightened the experience from "daydream fulfillment" story-telling into OSR style, game mechanic-induced drama-- things could have really gone south and we had to live with any results. The players were really reading rules to maximize the dice rolls and the GM was not being arbitrary as to when we failed during the conflicts.

We had some tasks to overcome, and when a couple weren't accomplished it did not turn into a zero-sum wargame. In short we had a good game appropriate to the premise of the roleplayers coming together for the session. As this group of people at the tabletop play together often already, there are a few leads for the GMs of the group to build off from for later dates of superhero role-playing.

Now about "Community"

Even if you might have bought my products, you more than likely have not sat down at a table to game with me. In case you, seated interweb reader, have not noticed, you have never sat down at a table to game with me. So when you're worried about who has been burning books meant to offend or as to which asshole has been last outed by his boyfriend, I'd appreciate that you don't remind me of my responsibility to be a part of your community.

You guys are full of shit when it comes this community thing. Sitting at the table with someone is doing the "community thing." Commenting on standards to develop a gaming community is being part of a marketing campaign designed to sell group think in hard-covered glossy-paged books with sucky art afraid of being actually in color or unabashedly retarded in skill that will fizzle out in three years, if that. Community is who I know. I don't worry about what is controversial because I write game products for gamers not market audiences.