Monday, December 28, 2015

Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi, and Sci-Fi

As I have said before, I am steadily re-working my S-F RPG Spacers into its second edition. As before, I am at a point where I can read others works and it is such luxury. Over the last month, I've found three. Considering that it's been December, it's like Santa Claus has defeated the martians and has returned home just to come and see me, his favorite 50 year-old adolescent.

If you don't watch this flik every year, the communists win.
The first product I found was Machinations of the Space Princess. A blog, well video blog, review by Bruno Galan prompted me to buy this work. While I had heard of it, the name kind of off-set me, a little too specific for my preconceptions of quality science fiction. All names should be about two words and one of the words has to be a variation of "star" or "space." Well, I am glad that I made the exception. Paraphrasing the author, James Desborough, Machinations strives for the sexiness and sleaze of the films from the 70s while applying old school D&D rules. His premise succeeds in getting the atmosphere right for say movies like Barbarella or War of the Robots, and his rules is capable of handling a big space fantasy campaign like Star Wars.  I really like how the writing is self-aware at one point explaining the promised sleaze, paraphrasing again, says something like "Shouldn't this be for adults? Sure but not really." Rules-wise I find his approach to alien classifications rather fun, think TSR's Star Frontier and take it a whole lot further. Space gaming-wise this is one Godzilla of a work, the more I think about it.

About a week or two later, I noticed Alpha Blue being advertised. Like all the space-ship laden sci-fi movies that came out after Star Wars, this game and its settings strives for sleazy sci-fi as well. It is a wonderfully crafted product. I like its ship combat rules. It's artwork is wonderful. The scenario towards the end has some great pacing complete with an intriguing map.
I still wonder why this book is its own game though. This work can easily be anybody's after 10pm sci-fi event setting for almost any RPG system. If one is looking for the space sexy tease of Lexx and wants to even delve into the more graphic fantasy of say Flesh Gordon or 2001: A Sex Odyssey. As a campaign though, most of the specifics would come in handy in the background.
In terms of rating it, I'd call to it a Loch Ness. Bigger than a Big Foot, very close to the size the of  King Kong, it just doesn't walk on its own.

Just as of last Saturday, I found Scott Malthouse's Somnium Void. Now I have been watching the author post his notes on this setting for his USR (the Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying) System for a few years now. Full disclosure we work together from time to time. I am not the world's biggest fan of the USR, but if he keeps coming out with settings like this one, I am totally going to keep buying them, even run a session or three. Void is more like Battlestar Gallactica (original or new) or Dune in scope than say a full-out gonzo universe like Star Wars. The writing though is beautiful, despite a couple editing slip ups.
The premise will remind the reader of the works of A.E. van Vogt or Samuel Delany, but the character "Archetypes" are pure space pulp. There is definitely some "hard sci-fi" here, though I doubt Malthouse was striving for anything but a good setting for drama and imagination exploration. My initial rating on the work is a King Kong. This may change as I am able to reflect upon it after the first reading.

Adults with their Own Kids

Sometimes as a GM you realize that you're the dude playing music with a dancing monkey not David Lynch or Steven Spielberg. When it comes to adventure gaming, please do not expect a game-master or event organizer to be a part of some village, especially one full of denizens with Masters in developmental psychology.

Run this in a Barny suit at 9am?

First off, adult GMs should know better. Now I don't want to speak for others, but at 1pm I am a little less randy in my speaking habits than I am at 1am. You know, it's kind of biology, the tireder one gets the more hungry, horrific, and horny a person becomes. Everyone in the world knows this, why else are there bedtimes for our kids? Back when I was an adult, I personally always hated sending my kid to bed at a certain time if she wasn't tired, but momma-bear usually wouldn't have it, after 8:30 pm it was time for sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll (on low volume).

The "age" slot at most event submission forms really needs some changing. Go where ever you will for a convention and its organizers want to know what age is your event appropriate for. Why do convention organizers not know this? Why don't convention goers not know this?

If I run a role-playing scenario called "Foul-smelling, but Delicious, Pits of the Goddess of Kinky Sex" at 8am exactly how many players should I expect to have? Of the few players that I would get, how many of the "OSR sorts" showing will more than likely have a newborn that needs to be breast fed during the session? Judging from my morning "Hunting Bigfoot" (hopefully much less less risque sounding) scenarios at various conventions over the last two years, the answer is more than a couple. Breast-feeding is a serious consideration that I need to take into account doing early games. The around 1pm, that guy that brought his pre-teen kids to the table after buying tickets for them as well. I even labeled my event "Adult." Now if I run an event "Uncle Tom's Toddler Fun House" at midnight, exactly what crowd am I expecting? Perhaps I am offering to babysit from midnight to four AM for some really outstanding parents? Or maybe I am promising some really devious horror? Which do you think?

I have attended way too many "Adult" convention events in my life to think the label means anything too mature for anybody under the age of 17 should be uninvited. At a recent convention I was watching a group of women down whip cream canisters competing to show how big their mouths were on a Saturday night, while a woman changed the diaper of her six-month old while her husband played with their older son two seats down from me. Why? It was only 8:30 pm, but the show's organizers were all in their 70s and not wanting to be over doing it past 11pm. This young couple next to me were the Standard-bearers for the convention for the decades to come. I think I might be able to find something to fill the 10pm slot, myself, so I shouldn't complain.

When it comes to reading material, the "Adult" barrier for the reader does not ensure any sort of graphic details based off of the understanding of trauma or even much pornography (including the illustrated kind). More than likely, what the purchaser is going to get is a lot really simple puns with words like "fuck" and "shit" not used as verbs. What the author is going to get is usually 70 cents on the dollar and satisfaction that words using like "fuck" and "shit" indicate cleverness. 

So we're here, I'm still stuck with filling out "Age" slots for events and dudes and dames,  go around swearing for shock value. This is because of a certain impracticality where event organizers and game producers have applying movie markets to games. At the same time, most of us deal with, or have dealt, with own children as we see fit.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Old Shanghai RPG supplement

As you might have read, I just recently did a quick study of China from about 1909 until 1949, for potential RPG scenario/setting use. Recently while hanging out at a G+ TSR Gangbuster's community I saw a plug for Tom West's Old Shaghai from Horrido Publishing. Well what a perfect place to start for doing some "China RPGing" as well as the whole East Asian region for that matter? Set in the 1930s, the reader is introduced to vastly reforming world for the city. Japan steps into the role as regional aggressor of the Shangdon peninsula. The British Empire hovers over Chinese territories like a vulture over the corpse of Qing dynasty after its century-long antagonism pays off. The French show their tone-death lack of insight despite continued holdings. The fledgling Soviet Union and its refugees add distinctively even more brutal intrigue. The Americans and Germans kind of look on, at least in the early 30s, pretty much eating peanuts watching colonialism, militarism, and nativism vie for supremacy in the rather lawless city. A much proclaimed "cosmopolitan" city fills the world's newspapers while foreign gunboats patrol the Yangtze Delta and its tributaries. Nothing screams B&W and smoke-filled adventure quite as much this work.

This source book does a pretty good job making sure that the reader gets a good grasp of the city. First its layouts, then its organizations, and then some of the people. West then goes on to work out a couple of scenarios using bits and pieces of the book's elements before moving into some real nitty-gritty details. Throughout the book pages bearing articles from a newspaper, I am not sure if the periodical was real or not, its real articles appear without dates, giving a great atmospheric guide as well as adventure hooks for the DYI GM. It was these details that I found to be the best part of the work, being already somewhat familiar with period and place. Stuff like travel times from various major cites of the Far East via various modes of transportation, really put the cream on the pie for me-- Something about Vladivostok being 11 hours away by plane to Shanghai really kicked in some espionage notes in my head.

This work is very tall King Kong, a couple feet off of its height for a lack of more art and some editing. It is very, very close to a Godzilla. I will be buying more from this author.

China circa 1928
The Far East circa 1937