Sunday, December 28, 2014

Wobble: The NPR Necromancers

Yes, I am speaking of National Public Radio.  Wobblers know that something is up. From a college experiment gone wrong, the folks at NPR opened up their studios to various inter-dimensional beings that have it serving their own purposes. This probably happened around the time someone aired the "Rice as Comfort Food" article... .

At first I thought it was kind of cute that Terry Gross was a time traveler that could muster up interviews with folks on the day of her passing. I swear she had her "posthumous interview" with Robin Williams took place the day before he was found dead. Of course she loves it because all she has to do is travel forward in time to find out the celebrity deaths for an upcoming week then travel backwards in time tape an interview, that will sell like hotcakes when she returns to the present. Of course, the casual listener doesn't notice that they've never heard the interview before because he, or she, was not listening when it was supposedly aired the first time anyway. This probably saves her loads of time and effort on getting out many new interviews, which her nefarious masters probably like as well for economic reasons. 

Terry Gross is actually a swashbuckling mad-scientist from the Omega Verse. She has been able to break the time travel barriers in her travels. Whenever she does, it causes parts of the universe where she lands to slip into the Omicron Verse.

A true evil genius is Doug Berman(sp?) who not only automated two living beings, into parroting themselves with material from previous years for two years every Saturday morning to do a "live call in show" called Car Talk, he brought one of them back from the dead to continue to repeat themselves weekly for at least a season to date. The show's audience are so enthralled  that they without thinking turn their Saturday mornings into a Ground Hog Day style time loop. After a while, they are sure they heard the humor-laden dialog before, but for some reason find a beyond-natural comfort and warmth in the hypnotic dose of nostalgia. They actually don't realize that they are drooling and mumbling the words to an ancient incantation in an unhuman tongue as their morning coffee chills and their bran muffin goes stale. When one of the automatons says, "You've done it again. You've wasted another hour listening to us..." they subconsciously know they haven't. They have yet again repeated a formula to a massive and horrendous enchantment that requires at least one hundred million repetitions to come into effect. Only the master of the Dark Arts, Berman knows what will happen when the spell is complete.

The Sewer Monkeys, the Wewwer, are telepathically manipulating Berman into bringing their wrecked universe into our own Verse space. They haven't actually worked out what will happen when that occurs, but they figure that things can't be any worse for themselves anyway. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A World A Week: Ur-Kleft

When in doubt, use your local area for inspiration.
In 1999-2001, I was able to run a 5th edition  T&T game for my neighbor and his friends. Having only ever played D&D, err "AD&D" they were unfamiliar with any variation of the that game. They found the character Kindreds so new, that I centered the campaign around the different "races." The region in front of you is Ur-Kleft. The names on the map were derived from three made-up languages that the differing Kin spoke.

The shaded area are where one would find humans and hobbits. Mountains indicated dwarves, while elves and orks were anyplace that humans, dwarves, and hobbits had not tamed. I put T&T's leprechauns in any place with >...< around the title. These bracketed places were very dangerous to most species that were not highly magical in nature, even elves were nervous about heading into them.

Wobble: Payphones, Part 1

I've twenty minutes to get this out. 

 Ever since the advent of the cell phone, well the cheap and affordable ones, I've been wondering about telecommunications of the world. All the big companies have been trying to get rid of their land lines, though the folks still using them won't hurry up and die already. For the past year, I've been wondering about pay phones. I started out at the nearest bus stop. As I get around to a lot of parts of the region in my day job, every time I see a pay phone I jump out to see to if it's working or not. I am seriously thinking of making a map.

To date, only six out of 134 pay phones have been operational. This area ranges all over northeaster Ohio. A fire-fighter pulling a part-time shift at my workplace informed me that all firehouses still have working pay phones in them. Interesting enough is that around 1am every night, a partial ring occurs-- probably the phone company sending out a test signal, but something with a lot of potential story-wise. A couple other municipal buildings I have been to still have them, but I haven't found them in all of these buildings.

All I need is a spiffy species, or better yet, a couple, or more spiffy species... 

Friday, December 19, 2014

A World a Week: Expanded Rooqa expanded upon

(For a visual reference look at the map that was yesterdays post)

I was definitely going big while drawing up this campaign setting around '98. I had done entire fantasy worlds since the late 80s, but those were crafted as the scenarios were sketched and then played out. In my notes, I had the countries outlined as to terrain and climate, dominate sentient species, cultural/ethnic descriptions, and plenty of NPCs. Indeed, there are a lot of NPCs. Looking at the pages, I think I have about 45 NPCs worked up and ready to play.

My Kindreds were still fairly RQ-ish with Tom-isms thrown in. Humans could be compared to cultures of early Sumeria and iron-age NE Africa. The elves were tied to specific plants but not actually plants, a shift from RQ. Boons became diverse races of apes that walked upright and acted mostly like humans-- the Ape language, Ualk, names "Djung" and "Akko" would creep into my mind whenever I started working up worlds from now on. The Tuskers became the Og, og-men and the she-og almost two separate species; and the low realm of "Pelond," Land of the Beasts Men, started here as well.  The start of my fixation with aquatic role-playing realms was starting when I worked in the Otgan. They were pretty similar to before, but no longer held territories the way map-drawers could craft. I put my Griffin Mountain, a must for all RQ fans, in the dreaded lands of "Isun" and "Thunn," a couple more names my long-term players will recognize. One could say the naming rut I've been in for fifteen years now started here. I'd say, I've got to right that damn novel already. 

Being a RQ homage, heroes and villains came easily. Knad Ek, the Foul, still dwelt in Def Nel on the borders of Pelond. His goat-heads and snake-folk discouraged most visitors. The Monster-Lord Ugoran (translated as Ancient King) was in his 700th year of life and well on his way towards making the Og, orks, and savage humans of Pelond into his servant nation. The Ten Kings had arisen in the west to counter the eastern "monster-kin." The Ten were made up of six humans, two elves, one dwarf, and an ape. The humans had Sumerian names; the elves were Freyer and Snirfir (Vanir deities, I think); the dwarf was Hor-Heth (Horus), and the ape was Gonzo (he is a monkey).

 Though this setting was never actually played in, as said before, it has influenced my game table ever since it was worked up. I think it was one weekend at my kitchen table.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A World a Week: Expanded Rooqa

With the success of my T&T Runequest game, I expanded the world. This campaign was never realized. I had some 17 pages of notes.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wobble: The Mu-Lambda Barrier

Getting from one Verse to the other universes has always been a difficult task. When Wobblers have tried to get beyond the Mu Verse, and series of sub-verses called the MU Continuum, things have gotten a lot harder. Some would say that this Mu-Lambda Barrier is downright futile and dangerous.  Of course getting to what is now called the Alpha Verse, it should technically have been named the Nu Verse, to the Mu Verse has been hard as well. By all accounts, it has been more difficult to traverse with more fatalities among inter-dimensional explorers than any other studied explorations. Still the M-to-L azimuth is a frontier that has not been breached to date. Expert Wobblers and collections of trans-dimensional theoreticians are more than a little perplexed as well as challenged.

The Omegans, residents of the Omega Verse, the first trans-dimensional travelers recorded and the ones that are the developers of the accepted universe naming conventions, lean towards thinking the farther that one gets from their universe, the more difficult things become. Part of the basis for this theory is that are no Wobblers passing through their territories displaying greater technologies and means that they have. It boils down to their presumption that the Omega Verse is the pinnacle of existence and that its reality blends into the universes beneath it. The farther away one gets, the harder it gets to move into others.

A bit less slanted resource for study of this matter happens to the Pi Verse, where the Greatest Empire, despite all of its technological inadequacy compared to Omega Verse, has still lead a vigorous exploration of the trans-dimensional space around that universe. According to their findings which credits Wobblers from other universes, as well as their own, they've noted that it is based on the individual explorer. Explorers tend to have problems with wobbling beyond their immediate neighboring universes. Depending on their expertise, they can greatly aid other Wobblers getting anywhere, but trans-dimensional travel seems to be a locality-based function. Of course these later findings may be propaganda from those that benefit from the stated release, namely the totalitarian Greatest Empire.

Less prominent trans-universal traveling powers tend not to have many releases about their own metaphysical explorations, or at least they aren't very transparent if they are.Those that do tend to exaggerate. Various entities from the Omicron Verse claim to possess the ability to travel "everywhere in the multiverse." After extensive studies into their human (and other sentient beings) sacrifice-laden spells, both the Greatest Empire and the Omegans find these claims to highly misleading. These "infernal" entites from Omicron proclaim supernatural spells. They  also tend to have "tunnels" to very specific parts throughout the known Verses, but are much more at a disadvantage when traveling across them without them. These disadvantages tend to negate any of the shortcuts for Wobbling for the spells' authors. In this case, why bother if it isn't worth the time to get there?

Less abstractly, Mu-Nu Space is a new phenomena to established Wobblers. Traveling between the Omicron Verse and the Alpha "Plane" is extremely difficulty, but getting from it to the MU Continuum is about average in adversities and danger. No one, as of yet, has been able to move beyond the Mu Verse into the next universe though.

Still the Mu-Lambda frontier plenty of opportunity and even reward for the explorer. While the MU Continuum gets expanded there are plenty of "next-Verse" locales being discovered all the time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A World A Week: Psychotropic Maps or Fist Fights With Map Readers.

It was dark and gloomy sunset, I was sitting at the wheel of my work vehicle at a park along the shores of Lake Erie (pick the most central point in Cuyahoga County) when a buzz in my shirt pocket notified me that I had to leave the locale to do my job. My partner, looking at the electronic map display along with the details mumbled, "We're going just southwest of the Turnpike."

I looked at the message on my phone and started the vehicle. It was gibberish, with an wholly undistinguished street address. Understandably, I found the phrase "...Southwest of the Turnpike..." annoying. Having a good mental image of a map in my head didn't help, we could have been headed to the middle of California with the information that I was given. I had  no good idea of where I might be going. You see, the toll road mentioned runs from outside of Toledo to just west of the Pennsylvanian border. When I asked "Whereabouts?", the map-reader got into a snark and directed the conversation directly towards a small island called The Edge of My Nerves. 
"In Cuyhoga county." He replied with smart sharpness.
"Oh, you mean Strongsville?" I replied.
Judging from his suddenly uncomfortable expression, hopefully it dawned on the map-reader that there were three places within Cuyahoga county that met his criteria of "Southwest of the Turnpike." It also might've dawned on him, I was the one actually in charge of our working relationship. So while "Bucky" was suddenly pulling back on his tone and rash statements, I realized most people don't know how to read maps.
With the vehicle in "Park," I asked to see the map and then explained to him why his communication methods should be improved as he found his next job.  While the newbie might still feel the need to explain to where his father once lived and where his Pennsylvanian heritage comes from , I remain totally unimpressed.

What I get out of the previous interaction, is the fact that folks don't read maps. They have lived their lives being shuttled from one point to another. Then when of all of a sudden, and rather unexpectedly, the age of maturity jumps in demanding that one makes his way through the world, things get challenging.  Folks, when living in their head, don't live on a grid. They live in some kind of a point-to-point frame of reference along a line of familiar events and will follow grammatical-like breakdowns to get from point to point.

I already knew this in 1997.  In '97 I was running yet another Call of Cthulhu campaign that could've been described as pretty hip. In the late 80s I thought CoC scenarios were getting pretty staid as well as formulaic. So I decided to take Lovecraftian Scooby-Dooers into the Journey Towards the Center of their Minds. There was a supplement about the "Dreamlands" out since the late 80s, I didn't like how prosaic it was. I drew my own maps and worked out Dreaming into Real Gamer terms.

Now these sorts of maps are not without precedence. In the "Middle Ages," that means between the enlightened Ancients and decidedly backward folks that came afterwards, most maps were the equivilant of PowerPoint presentations with as much knowledge and perspective as one would expect.

It doesn't get any better with education level. Indeed the more educated the explorer, the more incomprehensible he, or she, is. My biggest battle as a map-maker with idiosyncratic map-readers was a scenario by Ken St Andre prompted me to produce the map pictured below.  

Oh the outrage lasted for days. At last I produced this.

I am not sure of what was expected, but I am sure I disappointed. Hence my impatience with the under-indulged these days.

Oh yeah, yes the kid is still employed. I am easily annoyed not that vindictive though.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Zombie Zigzag: Hating Brad Pitt

Don't worry, the "A World A Week" topic will be back, just haven't had access to a scanner lately. Paul 2.0 and I have since mid-October been formulating Zombie Zigzag for TACK. One of the by-products has been some great discussion on the zombie movie/entertainment sub-genre of horror. 

Why I Hate Brad Pitt , or why fast zombies are dumb
By Paul Cooper (AKA Paul 2.0)

Recent big screen films have features fast moving, running zombies, or what I like to call "ZOOMBIES". I hate ZOOMBIES and you, as a GM should too.
Here are some "facts" to consider:
The recent notion of "fast" zombies is a conceit to the ADHD, video game generation. It defies all suspension of disbelief. Never tiring and feeling no pain results in disaster for such creatures. The hip, knee, and ankle joints of the reanimated were not designed for the continual, sustained strain a "fast" zombie puts on it. The lack of pain, which discourages or stops a human from surpassing the design parameters of these joints, is not present in "fast" zombies. Thusly, these joints would fail quickly in a "fast" zombie, reducing them to either immobility or the slower movement of the more "traditional" shamblers.
This is further supported by the laws of thermodynamics, which govern all but the "supernatural" origin of zombies. The question must be asked of all other varieties, "Where do they get the energy to run at a sustained rate for such long periods?" If zombies do not consume humans for their caloric content, but due to some sort of primal urge in the active regions of the reptilian brain, the question remains. The energy must come from somewhere. The bodily reserves of energy would be quickly consumed in a "fast" zombie, rendering them immobile in a relatively short period of time.
Thus, the conclusion is that "fast" zombies are nothing more than a ridiculous way to startle and excite the jaded video game generation.
The main reason why you, as a GM, should hate ZOOMBIES. No suspense. Slow moving zombies allow you to build the tension of the story. First encounters of single zombies, that the players can kill off, starts the fun, but as the number of zombies increases, and their groups grow in size, your players will start to feel the clock running out. The tension will build in your stories as the players have to figure out how to survive the increasing numbers. It's the dramatic slow doom that allows you to build up your story to a dramatic, high intensity climax.
Your players wouldn't last more than 5 minutes in a world of ZOOMBIES. How the Hell is any group of survivors going to last against things that can out run an Olympic runner? That can quickly form ramps of bodies large enough to breach any wall, no matter how high? How on Earth are you, as a GM, going to build the tension in your story if all of your players are slaughtered in the first 5 minutes of the story? Good Luck with that.
So let idiots like Brad Pitt keep their ZOOMBIES. GMs of Crawlspace know how to tell a better story than that jerk.

My own reaction is similar, but, in the end, I still like Brad Pitt's World War Z.

The folks that are recognized Zombie-Media gurus have been struggling with the false problem of popular relevance. Where does the genre go once it's gone beyond the viewer's vicarious joy at seeing his daydream of shooting everyone who he doesn't like in the head played out on screen about a dozen times? Shows like The Walking Dead have totally proven that there is not much point in making a zombie movie beyond a group dynamics flik. Throw in an interesting weather or engineering phenomena every once in a while, like Z Nation, and you have a serious basis for gamer interest.

When it comes to zombies in Crawlspace, I tend to fall back to how I learned from the earliest zombie movie that I wasn't so scared of that I could listen to the pseudo-scientific reasoning going on. The movie that scared me, excuse the language, "shitless" was Night of the Living Dead and the first zombie I watched with youthful enthusiasm was Return of The Living Dead. When a coroner was dealing with a trapped sample of the zombie invasion going on around him, he told others, paraphrasing, "It can't be any stronger than it was in life."

I still like Pitt not because he is a superstar, but because he is a dork despite his success. This dude who is most likely a billionaire and acclaimed to have as much talent as he has looks, as well as the woman he's chosen for his wife, is as caught up in zombie mania as George Romero and Max Brooks. As a person that suffered a headache reading World War Z, I remember that I was so disappointed with various movies leading up to and including Romero's Day of the Dead, WWZ's army ant zombies weren't a surprise. I had already watched zombies hop along ceilings and Resident Evil already negated any sense of physical limitations long before. 

So when it comes to Crawlspace, I want the GM/Director to really feel free to work things through to make the 13-Hour Clock dynamic work for him, or her.