Thursday, February 27, 2020

Star Track: the Right and the Left of Star Trek

My current fixation on Star Trek as a gamer setting has me reading and watching a lot of ST content. The novels, the animated series, and the fandom articles or the 70s-80s. The Trekie phenomena material around the shows. A slough of fan-based lore about the universe. Plenty of "artistic critique" on each and every official thing with the words Star Trek attached to it. I'd have to say the vast majority of it, the good and the very bad, is well worth the effort. Even with the headaches I often get from the back and forth of the culture around the franchise(s) tends to be thought out and explained,there is no but to that.

Gamerwise, the takes on the universe of the ST shows and movies the political takes tend to be oversimplified by the people making the products though. The FASA RPG voice wanted to brush over the very liberal and whimsical tone of the TV series which it was based on, to get into the nuts and bolts of the organizational charts of Starfleet. To stress this, the authors fall into the trap of turning the narrative into something of a Horatio Hornblower style of setting. Readers are encouraged to learn how to play out their ST fanatsy characters by reading the fiction of somebody-another SF cadet to captain Sterling. there are more than a few passages where Fleet-Captain Garth is repeatedly praised as being something of a peaceful sort before he went all megalomaniac, genocidal, and then homicidal. The last bit of the character's story-arc never gets discussed. The latest take, the Modipheus one, kind of goes the other extreme, where its afraid to admit that 'Fleet is actually the military arm of the United Federation of Planets. This time the player is supposed be overwhelmed by the details of structure, while the GM gets to be too busy worrying about dice mechanics and wargame verbiage to worry about all that political stuff. Instead of talking about history, the writers do fan fiction done like White Wolf style NPC diary entries to provide atmosphere instead of boring old details.

Believe it or not, all that political stuff does make for a better game experience more so than focusing on crunchy rules and imaginary rank structures. Starfleet is indeed the rightwing's wet dream of military authority doing the correct thing for free and affluent populations against the powers working against those worlds' interests. Meanwhile the United Federation of Planets is indeed a transnational governmental organization that is looking for socialist-minded members, Vulcans and people from San Francisco, leaving the more capitalistic spacefarers, like the Ferengi or the Orions, to remain independent while it enfolds the space around them. To the space-travelers that are not in Starfleet ships or born on Federation planets, it kind of goes without saying that where the USS Whatever shows up the UFP is not far behind and there will be phasers shot complete with photon torpedo bombardments if necessary. This sort of detail with its potential for visceral drama should not be overlooked in a hobby called "role-playing"

Gamers are actually freed of the strict belief-systems encoded into strictly media-following fans of the ST universe(s). They don't have to say "this is not Star Trek" when their Jean-Luc Stewart PC rides in a dune buggy. The GM can bring in the Borg whenever they want. The players can get bored when their starship runs into its third master villain planning revenge on the Federation of Planets in as many missions. They can even say spoor drive is dumb and ask "why is she named 'Michael'?" Heck they can change their manly man's PC's name to Christy and dress up like Nurse Chapel and join the crew of La Sirena without being worried about whether its canon or not.

Upon scritpting up my Trouble in Tellarite Territory, I've been getting to play in the structure of the Star Trek universe but keeping it sub-canon. There are Tellarites and Gorn getting along before the dust up between the USS Enterprise and the Gorns has settled down. When troubling things start occurring on this styrofoam planet, I can go many ways not dealing in absolutes. I can go Milk Warp where it's say the Orion Syndicate causing the problems. Or I can also do Dark Trek where a faction of the Federation, or even a rather militant and nationalistic faction of Starfleet, is involved. If my players go gonzo. I'll just make it time traveling Spock or something so I am covered. 

One as an adventure gamer or fantasist just has to remember that it's fantasy adventure.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Red Bat 2020

Busy making Red Bat wordy enough for true gamers
The Dice and Their
The Incredible Six-Sided Die
A six-sided die, or a “D6”, can represent 1 through 6. It can also represent a “d2” where an odd result represents a “1” and the even result represents a “2.” It can also be used as a “d3” where 1,2,3 equal those numbers while the 4,5,6 subtract 3 from the result.
So a single D6 can be used as a d2 or a d3 or as D6. Multiple d2s or d3s can be used to increase the range of possible outcomes.
Two Six-Sided Dice (2D)
Two Six-Sided Die is the most commonly used convention for the Red Bat system. Saving Rolls, as mentioned in the introduction, are accomplished by the player rolling 2D. Except for the result of a “1” and “2”, the integers on the two dice are added together. It should be noted that a “1&2” result is a Critical Failure in game mechanics. That is a result that is a failure regardless of whatever number was needed to succeed but more on that later. 
The "7" means nothing special in this system
 Multiple Dice
Usually when determining damage, more than two dice are listed to be rolled. If there are three dice, these will be referred to as 3D. Four equals 4D. A 5D means five six-sided dice. And this goes on. The number of six-sided dice required is the number next to a capital letter D.
The ASTRO Rule
Now when using multiple dice from d2 to 1,000,000D, when the are added together, when all of the results are the same, those numbers are added together. The roller then gathers up all the dice and rolls them again and adds those results to the total result. This can go on for as long as the results are all the pips on the various dice. This is the “All Same? Terrific! Roll On!” rule, or as mentioned above the ASTRO rule.
Not only does this mechanic allow for a great range of success in Saving Rolls and damage scores, this is the counter to the
Critical Failure roll. While specific benefits of an ASTRO result are usually only numerical, it is a quick way of earning XP and building the PC Stats up.
D55 and the Devil’s Dice
Sometimes a multitude of resulting choices enhance a role-playing game. A lot of RPG games will include two ten-sided dice and use them to come up with up to one hundred results. While six-sided dice have only a 1 through 6 range they can still be used to develop lists of incredible sizes when applied in the fashion described here. It should be noted that ASTRO does not apply for this type of randomizer mechanism.
For the
D55 the player or GM rolls two sided dice (2D). The first result is the tens digit. The second result is the singles digit. The resulting integer will be from eleven to sixty-six, this means that there are up to fifty-five possible outcomes. Sure this is not one hundred or even near that number. Well, then let’s talk about commitment.
If the RPG player, the RPGer, needs more than fifty-five results, why stop at one hundred results? How about D555, the Devil’s Dice? Using three six-sided dice (3D) the results go from 111 to 666! Does the list required really need over a few dozen entries? And this sort of random matrix can keep going as long as there are six-siders laying around the tabletop. The D6 is more than capable of handling the demand, but does the scripting GM have the commitment to meet the D6 potential when wanting to make lists?
The Quick” Way of Doing Things
As Player-Characters progress their Stats will increase to some pretty impressive numbers. Then instead of coming up with all sorts of pages worth of rules to covering this expansion of possibilities of potential SR-requiring rolls,
Red Bat wants to keep things simple. So at any time that the player wants to, they can take all the Stats that their PC has and add them together. This is that Character’s “Quick” rating. The player divides the total by ten and may round up to determine how many dice are to be used in a Quick SR for success against an opponent with similarly high Stats as well.
This score should not replace Attribute-based Saving Rolls. The Quick rating is used for areas of narrative within a roleplaying session that can be glossed over. Say a Character is stuck behind enemy lines during a war awaiting to make contact with the rest of the PCs to start a scenario. The GM can develop Stats for the Group/Organization that is the opposing side (see optional group rules) and the hiding PC can roll their Quick versus its ABILITY score. This will determine the tone of things during the time. If the PC’s result is much higher than enemy’s Stat, things went without a hitch. If the result is lower, the other PCs may have to break the Character out of custody.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Incredible, Edible Ork (part II)

Back when the title was thought up, there was a TV ad in the States where a catchy jingle sang out on TV "...the incredible, edible egg!" for American audiences on behalf of egg farmers. You see, I had two T&T players on a boat. A skiff in the middle of a doldrum and well away from food and drinkable water for about two weeks after they sneaked off the trading ship that they had just stolen the Demon Blue diamond in the last adventure. Things were looking bleak for the delvers. So along came a single ork in a boat. The PCs rowed close enough and promptly raided the boat killing the goblinoid sailor. Finding no food or water, nor thinking of how the ork in the boat got there, they ate the ork. 
Even sated, the adventurers still did not wonder how the ork in the boat had gotten to them. So I had the submarine full of orks, a leviathan actually, smash into both their boats, and made them figure out how to get aboard the inhabited sea creature to begin the undersea adventure I had in store for them. They barely held on the Demon Blue diamond. Had it fallen into the hands of Oceanus, the Sea God, things would've gotten interesting for the next player-characters in the campaign. The Cult of the Sky Beetle would not get the artifact and the city-state of Gul would fall to the orkish horde besieging it.

The above yarn is from 1980, though the TV commercial may have come later. I wrote an article for a zine called the Hobbit Hole with this post's title around March of '98. It recounted the tale that you've just read, and went on to talk about RPGers trying to be creative in how "monster-kin" are presented. But though I have been role-playing, now called tabletop roleplaying, since 1978, maybe '79, about 41 years, I am still a "New Wave fantasist." Yeah. About one hundred years of gnomes in blimps, vampire elves, and spaceships crashed atop mountains, Monty Cook's room with an ork guarding a pie still stumps the average "OSR" aficionado.
 The image above, the cover to "a gritty OSR" campaign setting, is too "woke" for some dude at a group at for real OSR gamers. First off, I'm not sure I agree that the image is depicting an ork as a  "... fashionably inclined 21st century humans trying to look like that stupid-ass Rae character from the dopey new Star Wars films crossed with a ren faire pirate?" I mean, I as an ork-rights advocate since my discovery of Monsters! Monsters! in '79, I've been seeing this sort of image since Shadowrun, that was before the original Star Wars film trilogy was completed. So maybe the guy has never watched the ren faire pirate costume-filled movie called Conan the Barbarian?
Maybe it's the guy thinks that it's about the tube-top and working out thing not being very feminine or something? He's definitely never watched the sequel.
Now I don't really care if a gamer doesn't like strong female characters. I don't care if they think that Shadowrun is "faggoty." I should quote here, "but it's faggoty orc mockeries are not tolerated by any sane person outside of the confines of that imaginary Seattle trash fire." But do not tell me that pig-nose orks are the epitome of the fantasy species depictions.

And do me another favor, don't act like you know crap about orks or old school gaming. The species has moved beyond a take on the novel House on the Borderland and fantasy gaming has always had strong female characters. Thanks for the point out though, I'll buy it next week to add to my ork library.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Romance of the Perilous Land: a Review

I've been internet friends for over a decade with Scott Malthouse, a fellow of obvious Frissian-Quebecois descent as one can tell by his chosen last name. Our serendipitous-timed published  T&T scenarios worked out the secret recipe for what sort of power level PCs should be at to make doing GM-scenarios a worthwhile endeavor in a sub-genre of solitaire "dungeons" where being the one-eyed, left-handed, and peg-legged Rogue-Sorcerer was the only way to complete them as opposed to using any real rules . Since then we've gotten along. We don't always see eye-to-eye on things, still there is this thing called "sometimes understanding that despite different tastes and viewpoints, people can get along," which seems to be today's secret herbs and spices for a fulfilling bucket of fun in life.

So racist! A dude in a hoodie, a black guy, and an Irish woman! What no Eskimos?
One of his fixations that always kind of bugged me was his love of folklore from the British Isles. I mean sorry once you've seen a grown man dancing around a stick with bells on his hiking slippers and learned that Lancelot is from France, it gets kind of silly even in fairy-tale land. So when we bought two copies (one for the wife and one for the library) of Malthouse's latest work, Romance of the Perilous Land, I wasn't in a hurry to read it. Well, a group of passive-aggressive racists trying to malign this role-playing in mythic Britain for having people of color in its artwork, using "historical realism" as their basis, has been hilarious enough to get over my boredom at Arthurian romances to read the book enough to review it.

Then the reading turned into pleasure. From 11.Feb until 14.Feb, I was amazed at how much fun I having in seeing the kingdoms of the Perilous Lands come to life. I was happy seeing that the author didn't go all Pendragon with it. It kind of reads like a good T&T campaign set-up but with a lot of D20 set-up. The kingdoms outlined are usually from places mentioned in the Arthurian legends maybe the Mabinogion, it's been a while since I waded into that one, but kept interesting by being fanciful. The locations and the creatures are given enough color and detail to work into campaigns outside of this rule system's setting, with enough crunchy rules for even the hardest hardcore OSR fan. It is also interesting enough for the non-D&D fantasist like me to enjoy.  There is beef in this stew though. As mentioned there is the whole Arthurian thing going on. A Christ-like king is so broken up over his wife having a fling with a Frenchman that the world is falling apart. PCs can be either helping things fall apart or trying to put things back together. While this isn't authentically Dark Age Europe, it's not corn-chips Monty Python's D&D.

I'd rate this book a King Kong on the Smurf-to-Godzilla scale. It's one detraction is the separation of stats for the fantastic creatures inhabiting a locale when planting plot-seeds for the reading GM. With production this awesome, needing to go from the write-up to the bestiary just strikes me as unnecessary.  I can't wait to see what Malthouse does when he writes up his studies on his native Frissia. As we all know, Frissia was where all the black Anglo-Saxons that populate Robin Hood movies come from.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

BASHCon '20: The Quitters Club Triumphant

Wait. Where'd I get all these from?

Where's G'noll?
 I termed the "Quitters' Club" when JerryTel and Peryton started the trend of deciding not to do pre-planned events almost a decade ago. This year, I've had to notice that their strategy sometimes makes for better experiences at certain conventions. It makes the conventions that much better and the occasion dearer to the heart. Uncle G'noll, Paul H., couldn't make it this year. He was busy selling his novel at other conventions. BASHCon has become as much his place as it is any of the rest of the groups. We missed him, but as we've all become quitters every now and then, I doubt he'll not be there next year.

Of course Pery and I left Cleveland thirty minutes late and with traffic jams, we'd be an hour late for JerryTel's " A Bigger Bother in Boss City". His continuing A Little Horror on the Prairie saga for the T&T: Stay Alive franchise still draws them in though. He had a full table at 7pm, so we'd meet up at Applebees for the Friday night late dinner. We's end up at Chilis. It was Liam, the Boy's party. JerryTel and the Boy, the Boy's sister, and the Boy's gamer bud, Max, whom I'll will call "Kevin" as my blog's nickname for him. We talked about RPGs and electronic gaming, and the scandals of the latest TTRPG industry until a little past midnight. We closed the place, but tipped well.

Saturday AM came and went.  Most of the noonish hours I spent chatting with Pery, Max, err Kevin, and the Boy. The gang assembled we did the auction with JerryTel until Death Magnet, Cory T., ran our group's big event (dramatic music please), "(something or another in the French Fry Forest)" for the Wendy's hamburger conglomerate 's RPG FEAST OF LEGENDS. He was the trouble-shooter manager for a Toledo franchise of the fast food provider, so we thought it'd be fun for him to wear the Flag once again.

As gimmicky as the game is, thanks to Death Magnet, we all played the game with no shame. The laughs as well as the hardcore, old-school, authentic crunchiness of dungeon crawling came out. The Boy was particularly good at the crunchy part. While Max, err Kevin and I were apt at being the pun-masters--the Pun-Master, the world's most inept Batman villain ever, that is besides Calendar Man. Back to the session, it was really a tabletop masterpiece. I think I randomly picked something of a cleric, a Chicken Sandwich crusader, to play which is alien to my T&T background. I still enjoyed myself.

 After dinner, Peryton ran her Gangbusters trial run. Before we started though...
And then Peryton's agenda reared its ugly head
It was announced that with my failure to run "the Trouble in Tellarite Territory" this year, I was now a full on member of the Quitters' Club. After a few stammering excuses, I decided to shut-up and go with the flow. Luckily, the award wouldn't be presented until the next day, so maybe I could still get in front of it...

So there we were. Tabletop role-players, all learning Mark Hunt's take on the 80's TSR NOT D&D game Gangbusters. Except for me, I don't think many of the players ever played much of anything except D&D whatever edition. (Not to self: ask Cory the details about his fantasist background). So we all started developing Street-Smart, Brutish, Connected, and Educated character Types. We learned the d20 expectations of the game and had to buy our equipment. Then we were the Slim Gang out of Gary, Indiana circa Feb, 1920. I was
The Chemist, the Educated right-hand man of Boss Slim. We ran the Cleveland to Chicago "Route 2 Rum-Drum," where we supplied everybody not in Chicago or Detroit or Cleveland with whiskey from Canada. We had to find out where a new gang was getting some good hooch.
Then we were lured into Bolton County, Ohio. Peryton gave us plenty of symbolism to warn us where we were headed, but we all stayed Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains. Then at the first pod-person screaming alert, none of us could deny, we were in horror land. Feeling betrayed, I betrayed others, and others betrayed me. My betrayal was when Murder Magnet's character lead us into the Glow. Murder Magnet and my Character survived the session, but we have issues-- pink, viscous sweat-- that need resolution. Max err Kevin, has already taken up the PC mantle for an NPC, named "Matches," from the game to get to the bottom of this ill-fated mystery. With Murder Magnet's survival should I revise the nickname? Naw.
That said, every rule mechanic of Mark Hunt's Ganbusters was used. It works awesomely. After a quick glance at a Character sheet, the player could suggest helpful suggestions to the GM when needed, and the GMs could concentrate on the horribleness that they want to bestow on their players.

And then SUNDAY!

I was awarded with the Quitter's Club, "gold" membership, which gives me hope that it goes higher than that for multiple reasons. As a group at BASHCon, we're getting a a couple more GMs, we need to expand it. As I have been saying for a few years now.

Let's see about next year.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Would You Do the Roo?

Whole lotta gotta
Happy Saint Valentines Day all. Ah the early Christian saint that knew how crack a skull when some heretic came along doubting his vision of holiness and now CHOCOLATES coupled with not-spontaneous sexual advances.

So it's BASHCON weekend but instead of sweating last minute details on whatever I am going to run, I am doing household chores. My submitted event, a Star Track one, kept getting emails from the event organizers asking questions about details that I already filled out in the event submission form. After the second question, I looked at my submission notes, saw the answer there, and decided not play along with whom-ever's problems. Nope, just going to get into JerryTel's "Red Brick Gothic" tale tonight. If anyone wants to play "the Trouble in Tellarite Territory" (Star Trek universe set between the Original Series and the Motion Picture) look me up on Sat Am around 9:30am. We'll space game up until noon, when I have get to our gang's Wendy's: Feast of Legends session. Then Pery is running a Gangbusters scenario after dinner Saturday night. Gunk food and junk thunk all weekend folks.

So checking the Outrage Brigade bulletin board, I see I am remiss in paying attention to Bob Bledslaw's Jew and Black ppl-hating posts. That is unlike all the good gamers of the fictitious Community that speaks and thinks for everybody. Now I should not comment on RPG Drive Thru's arbitrary ban on all of Judges Guild products, because you know it's their business; really, their literal registered business. I can though look askew at the chorus of others that joined into the chorus of condemning both the man and the brand for his personal statements. I'll just say it again, I love free speech so much that statements like "... I foster an inclusive environment, believe in free speech, and champion gaming with all other gamers over political litmus tests, this is a step too far. Bob's statements weren't another political view. They were the kind of statements that show extreme ignorance at best and promulgation of evil at worst..." are as bad in its insidious double-speak as Bedsore's blatant racism on FacetuBe.

On the other side of the Outrage-o-meter, you guys are going to love my World of the Week submission next week. Blingland: Roman-African Colony One, CAMELOT, Britain 600AD. See you then.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Romance Of the Reflective Racists

Okay Brit-heds it's time to get over yourselves. Again. Just like every nine months or so a movie about football needs to happen in the USA, every few years someone yet again tries to make role-playing in Arthurian England interesting. This is not a bad thing, as anybody that has watched the movie Jabberwocky knows, it can be a fulfilling two hours every decade. This is not a review of Scott Malthouse's Romance of the Perilous Land, this is a reaction to the kerfuffle around it.  Now by Brit-hed, I don't include, Werdna (my nickname for Scott), because he's more English than British. Heck he's more of a trans-Atlantic Breton than British. Sorry to out him among all you Anglo-Saxon wannabes with more Mediterranean genes in your blood than you'd like to admit, but it's time to just let it go.

You know what? The Europeans, Yanks, and people from Mars already know that there probably weren't a lot of people of color in Arthurian legends. Somebody including a black guy on the cover to something that might or not be set in the Dark Ages is not re-writing history. It is more akin to trying to expand a market while old beardos and weirdos like you and me are busy getting older and developing dementia. If you don't want to be called "racists" then stop reacting to every time Martin Luther King Jr Day comes around in the States.

The book hadn't been on my short list of reading, as I am doing Star Trek of late, but now I promise I will get a review out about the book. After this weekend's convention should be a good time.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Grim Magic

Tonight, I watched Hannah Fierman reprise her role as "Lily" from the "Amateur Night" short in the V/H/S movie from the Tweens, in a more recent movie called Siren. Just in case you heathens don't know who Lily is. She's a succubus demon that has a heart for romance that is bigger than her teeth or even her amazing eyes. Though it's not bigger than her tail or bat-wings for that matter. Definitely fell in love with her, sorry it just reminds me of when Peryton and I were dating-- I just can't get enough of soulless harpies in my life. It also reminded me of the type of horror role-playing that I like to do. Street-level folks in a sordid yet sometimes not dingy world where folks get a hands-on feel for the truly creepy supernatural things around them.

Even back in the RPG-Historic 80s, I was a bit over running into as a Player-Character either canned cheese (cultists or werewolves) or cosmic horrors that would squash everyone like a bug without knowing what was going on. So when I ran Call of Cthulhu, my players marveled at having played a mini-campaign where their jewel thief and gangster hit-man got to deal with a zombified rich man coming back for his beloved cursed jewel amulet. This lasted for three scenarios. The zombies family, a mob family, was getting torn to pieces, while the PCs had to put together what was going on. The players themselves were creeped out by the shadowy occult world they had to get into to find out what they needed to know. I introduced personal nightmares in the second session and they freaked out. This campaign would end and other short run tales would take its place with different groups in varying locations.

I'd keep my notes and the world had a pretty consistent feel to it. After watching The Lord of Illusion in '96 or so, I realized that other people had read Clive Barker's collection entitled Cabal. It'd also encourage me to keep my horror low magic but high grime.  During the later 90s and the Aughts, I got a bit off the mark. I worked CoC and Vampy: The Marketing Aid together to mixed results. My self titled "Cthulhu Round Midnight" series of scenarios for late-night sessions at GenCon from o5 until '11 or so, helped steady the ship.

Since then, I've gone pretty campy but can still turn on the chill in between laughs. So seeing Siren work "Amateur Night" into another chapter of street-level Lillith was a treat. Just need to get to some late night gaming slot somewhere these days where conventions are designed to sell Legos and autographs.