Monday, May 6, 2019

A Long and Winding Road

Roleplaying can get boring.

Not for me mind you, but for the average adventure gamer role-playing can get boring. First one goes from fulfilling the characters from Lord of the Rings, to going all Conan, to end up refining that special PC into Fafhrd or Gray Mouser in somebody's Thieves World campaign.

And then what?

Some might start dating dramatic literature majors and doing community theater before somebody getting pregnant having to spend their weekends working and other spare time getting the kid into college while not wetting the bed.  This absence from the hobby is like skipping a meal, any time one can get back to it, they are at least mildly hungry for whatever fare comes up next. Some get so desperate they start forcing their kids to play with them. Others will double down; giving up sex to move into their mother's basement but then internet porn turns to video games. This can often bloom into spending too much time at internet fora and going bat shit crazy over sexual politics or what it means to be "white" in 21st Century America. More than a few folk, just decide smoking pot and playing board games can fill the gap of not role-playing because who really needs to be creative when they can just consume.

But for those few that avoid the pitfall of ennui and roleplaying, they get serious about escapism. Maybe some ducks on big world of Glorantha to add deep atmosphere. Go vampire to get some sultriness in life. How about going all post-apocalyptic, one gets cars, pistols, and orks w/ four-arms and it's still FRPG. So then they mix it up, instead of watching TV or movies, one starts role-playing them; westerns and even spy movies. And then sci-fi,.. Well okay maybe not sci-fi because the GM doesn't like your brand... STEAMPUNK! Blimps! And then... BLIMPS!

Speaking of brands, remember the joy of the first time someone encountered an Umbering Hulk in that D&D game? No? Well they did, so here's various brands of that product line, most from an official toy maker, a number from edgy artists that know the secret of original D&D. Oh look, here's another brand name from the 80s, who's got the license for it? It is cheap enough? Maybe a Kickstart will help someone pay their mortgage as well as release the new edition of the old brand. Maybe go deep and get into John Carter Warlord of Mars. One gets blimps, pistols, and orks w/ four-arms and it's still FRPG-- one starts swearing that they heard that before? Go deep and atmospheric, Glorantha has ducks.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

SJG vs SJW


I've recently discovered that I happen to "Like" Frog God games on FacetuBe, though I never bought any of their products. I happen to like buying Steve Jackson Games' GURPs sourcebooks, though I would never play a table-top session using the rules from them. I heard about some ban from some sorts named, all names uncertain, Christopho Thelton, Stacy Delearno(sic), and Jessy Pricetag getting Billy Web of Frog God games banned from a convention after hitting on a woman in a bar.

Details vary, but I hope that anybody that is an adult has been in this situation before. My side of the described experience was me totally drunk and some wonderful person smiling wryly and taking me home for a random sexual encounter. And let me tell you... (oops a gentleman never brags). There might've been some rejections, but I can only remember a handful. I think I have apologized to all of them at the time or at least only as late as the morning, plus a day or two allowing for hangovers-- In any case no one has sued me, pressed charges, or tried to enact boycotts on products bearing my name for such actions. I have been sued, had charges pressed, and have had people boycott my products without sexual infringement being the cause. The reader may assume that I have a storied past. But for being a creep? Apparently not so much so.

About being a creep, game-landers, where did you all grow up? Okay Bill Webb of Frog God games, whatever happened, apologize to the person involved, and to your wife if needed. Everybody else? It's really none of your business. As to the woman, pool boy, and/or animal tender that he hit upon, if you haven't received and apology to date, tack on about 10 thousand dollars for every month that he thought the offense would not arise. But if he's already apologized to you, what exactly are you up to? Speaking of being creepy, to the "libertarian" crowd in gaming; yes, Steve Jackson Games is as hard as nails, and toxic as rust, to any entity trying to deal with them legally. I wish they'd come up some games that aren't rehashes from '81.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

"That World Where Apes have Jetpacks" the RPG

The other day someone posted about " 'Friends' but all the characters are ducks and two of them have a tiny human as a pet." I remembered that I had some notes about a post human world. I was all excited about it and scribbled out some of those notes here at this blog. At work, during some down time, I started working on the setting afresh. Got some more pages and more details on the species (that's "racial" for all the 'Nards reading this) listed. Then I worked out some locales and campaign specific cultural details. After some five pages of typing, I was very proud of myself.

While I was prepping for a Wobble session on-line the other night, once again at work during downtime, flipping through some pages of a print, I rediscovered that the setting was in print in somewhat less detail but still already published. Well, that was fresh. For decades, at least since I was nine, I have been making notes in notebooks and themes and titles and phrases would slip from one to the other while their meaning or context would change. And now I am riffing on works already published. Of course with Wobble, I shouldn't be too surprised. But I am.

I tend to over classify things. Other GMs, most recently Jay Murphy, have talked about how their on-going games were becoming more and more mixed genre. I haven't had that dilemma. Perhaps it was my Wobble sideline as opposed to my other games. Running/playing in campy horror scenarios, Spacers sci-fi and superheroes and then listening to other people's FRPG sessions; my hobby experience is full of genres falling into proper (maybe niche) categories where I as a GM or player perform within my expectations of them.

But it really wasn't all Omegans Vs Radio-Apes Vs Space Nazis. I was often angry at myself at working on Wobble. I had so many other things to be working on, and then it occurred to me I could fit in the campaign settings that I really wasn't doing anything with.  Boom that was one of the key points towards my decision to go forward with it. Bought but unused art. Pages worth of RPG notes never going to be played if not put somewhere.

Flipping through the Xi Verse, my 1.5 Million A.D. (now there's a catchy title) "FFFFRPG" setting, I was at first embarrassed. I even posted about it in my Adventure-gaming Aware meet-up places (A.A. meetings). I said something like "If you wrote a roleplaying game with about a score of mini-places to be AND then found yourself writing a couple of the spots with even more details as their own RPG, um... Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I am asking for a friend." The only reply I received was " I look forward to 'That World Where Apes have Jetpacks' the RPG". I suddenly realized that I don't have any jet-packs listed in Wobble

Mildly reassured, I got back to work on next month's table-topping session. I detailed my "Nixon World" setting a bit more for about ten pages in its own file, clarifying as well as revising the setting as presented in the print up. No where near the original Nixon World game concept I had envisioned in 'o8 at a T&T forum, but its evolving. Whether it is turning into a printed scenario for Wobble or its own game one day, I can't say.

I just know that I have notebooks scattered about everywhere these days.

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.
perfecthuman-bbc4
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  
history.

 

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.