Saturday, September 29, 2012

Death and Taxes

Well, it happened.

I warned you that if I tripped over an RPG, I'd post about it, and here I am.  My nerdly bachelor party was a success, with a Battletech match, followed up by a complete, first-to-three match of Epic Spell Wars.  Along the way, a case of beer and a half bottle of mezcal disappeared, and there was much rejoicing.

As the evening wore on, Ark started poking around my game library, alternately chortling and gasping at my incredibly inconsistent taste in RPGs.  Then he came across my box set of the 1st edition of Twilight: 2000, and, as they say, shit got real.

Now mind you, I played Twilight 2000 last when I was in high school, and the sum total of my memories of this game consisted of the party wandering through a radiation soaked area and dying several hours later of radiation poisoning.  TPK, end of game, thank you come again.

Ark had fond memories, though, and waxed romantic of the joys of the game, and our friend Kaye was taken in, announcing that he wanted to play the game, and sooner rather than later.  Merwyn chimed in that he was down as well, so plans were made for this afternoon to get together for a quick game of Twilight 2000.

As I said, I didn't remember much of the game, but it didn't take too long for it all to start coming back.  For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, T2000 is a realistic RPG.  They drilled character creation down to a science, in such a way that all of your stats feed into other stats, which you plug into equations, which tell you what your other stats are, which are used as the basis for another equation which tells you how many skills you have, and so on and so forth.  About ten minutes in, I made the realization that the game must have been designed by an accountant, because the character creation process is essentially your tax forms in RPG format - Take Line A, divide by Line B and multiply by 100, placing the result in Line F.  If Line F is more than 100, skip lines G through L, and take the sum of Line F and Line B and put that in Line G2.  You get the point.  Encumbrance?  Check.  Counting bullets?  Check.  Counting out liters of gasoline?  Check.  You name it, it's there.  As Ark said, it's a doomsday prepper's wet dream.

So finally we had our characters.  I was playing a 5'2 120 lbs fiesty Irishman named Mickey O'Reilly, an infantryman who specialized in Heavy Weapons and driving.  Unfortunately, the weapon he used and the ammo required weighed more than he could carry, so he stashed most of it in the 8 ton military vehicle that he found himself driving, with Kaye's Native American Mechanic (with a bow and arrow) riding shotgun.  The Boy and Merwyn (both officers) followed in a smaller vehicle.  All was well for about five minutes, until we ran into the Polish forces.  We tried to run the barricade, and took out five soldiers, just with the truck.  Then they fired back.  Kaye took a bullet in the leg and panicked, forfeiting his action.  I also took a bullet in the leg and was blown out of the drivers seat.  We managed to regain control and sped off, only to run smack dab into a convoy of tanks.  We tried to escape, failed and died.

So it wasn't quite, "You've wandered into a radiation field, you're dead!", but it was damn close.  Twilight 2000 is exactly what it sets out to be - a realistic depiction of a nuclear holocaust, and the people trying to scrounge out a living afterward.  It is a cruel and unforgiving mistress, and it will accept no foolishness.  You make the wrong decision and you're dead.  You make the right decision, and there's a pretty good chance you'll die anyway.

I wish the character creation was a bit less intensive - a game this lethal should encourage throw away characters.  It was still entertaining as hell, and strangely liberating.  We all got into the fatalistic spirit of things almost immediately.  It didn't take long for us to figure out that we were all probably going to die, so to hell with it - go out in a blaze of glory!

Good times.

Friday, September 28, 2012

It Was Fun While It Lasted...

My days of swinging bachelordom are coming to a close - I get on a plane Sunday morning, headed off to get married.  Kind of a big deal, so I may be distracted for a week or so, unless I trip over some RPGs on my way to the church. 

I already did my bachelor party a few weeks back, tonight I have my nerd bachelor party, the gang is coming over for alchohol and some sort of game.  Well, except for Ark's son, who might be drinking O'Doulls.  Probably soda, though.  I was hoping to play Drinking Quest, but apparently shipping time from Canada to Texas is between one and four weeks these days, and although I ordered it eleven days ago, it hasn't arrived yet, so we'll just have to drink without rules.  Suggested games include Arkham Horror, Battletech, and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mout Skullzfyre.  Or pretty much any of the other 110 games lying around the house.  It should be a good time.  Our group has been hit or miss this summer, so getting the gang back together for a night of drunken gaming should be interesting, at least.

I read a bit more of Agone last night, it actually reminds me quite a bit of early White Wolf products.  There are no "1st level characters", everybody's a fully formed badass, who becomes slightly more badass when they become "Inspired" - shades of Mage: The Ascension there.   Overall, I'm digging it, though. 

So yeah, signing off here for a bit, but I'll be back, soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

A pair of topics today, each too short for a viable post on their own, mashed into one, like Peanut Butter and Bacon!

Agone RPG: According to the wiki page, Agone is "an epic fantasy roleplaying game based on novels by award-winning fantasy writer Mathieu Gaborit". 

According to me, these books were a steal on ebay, where Troll and Toad is offering ALL FIVE of the books for the eminently reasonable rate of $5.19, plus $4.99 shipping, for a grand total of $10.18.  Well, says I, a complete game and four supplements for 10 dollars?  How can I go wrong?

Apparently this game was the bee's knees in France, where there were over 30 supplements published, but only the afore mentioned 5 were translated into English before the publisher, Multisim, went out of business.  Oddly enough, only two of the books upon which this game was based have been translated into English, and those were only in extremely limited editions, although I have come to the conclusion tha they do not inf fact exist, after a somewhat exhaustive search of teh intarwebz. 

So I'm guessing that might have been a contributing factor when T&T was considering their pricing.  Note: its probably a good idea to get the material a game is based on out to the public before trying to sell said game.

I haven't had a chance to give the actual materials more than a perfunctory glance, but I did note that, had I paid full price for the 5 books, they would have gone for over $100.  So that's a win in my book. 

Harlan Ellison: Closing out my gushing fanboy posts on Harlan Ellison, I have written a letter which I will mail later today that let's Harlan know that I would like to make an RPG based on I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream.  I expect to either be ignored, or to have a shrieking swarm of slavering lawyer/locust hybrids descend upon me and flay the skin from my bones.  Let the record show, for posterity, that the following list captures what I believe to be his finest works.

'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, A Boy and His Dog, The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World, Paladin Of the Lost Hour, Mephisto In Onyx, The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, The Whimper of Whipped Dogs, The Deathbird, Demon with a Glass Hand, Basilisk, Shattered Like a Glass Goblin, I'll just save time and say Deathbird Stories because every single story in there is a winner, Night and the Enemy

And seriously, no conversation of Unca HarHar would be complete without mentioning The City on the Edge of Forever.  It's the episode of Star Trek you show to people who don't like Star Trek.  As amazing as the final product was, though, it's nothing compared to the crazy-as-a-shithouse-rat versions that Ellison originally turned in.  The drama surrounding the rewrites Roddenberry's staff made after he submitted his final version is the stuff of legend, and the link provided gives the whole story.  Trust me, it's well worth your time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Art of Jacek Yerka

In the comments of yesterday's post, I was reminded of Mind Fields, a book of art by Jacek Yerka, with original fiction penned by the estimable Harlan Ellison.  I don't remember how I got this book, I think it was a gift maybe.  Apparently, Ellison was initially approached by the publishers and asked to write an introduction to the book, but, in typical Ellison fashion, loved the art so much that he asked if he could write a separate piece of fiction for each painting.  While some of the stories are directly inspired by the subject matter of the painting it accompanies, others have a more oblique relationship, dealing with the themes that Ellison saw in Yerka's work.  If you're a fan of Ellison's work, seek this book out, it's well worth your time, solely from a fictional perspective.

From an artistic standpoint, this was my introduction to Yerka, a Polish artist active for the last twenty years.  According to his wikipedia page, "He cites Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Cagliostro, Jan van Eyck, and Hugo van der Goes as formative influencers of his work".  I also see more than a little Escher, but that's just me. 

As much as I love his work, though, the pictures below don't really do them justice - Yerka's genius is in the details, the little things that you find when you see them on a page that you can pull close to your face - he's an artist that rewards close inspection.

If you're not a fan of Ellison's work, go find another book of Yerka's art, I can't recommend him enough.

Good pedigree there, and it shows in his works, which boggle the mind and spur my imagination every time I see them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: The RPG

Over on Rather Gamey, Ark was describing an adventure format for Stars Without Number, based on the idea that you're all "Redshirts", beamed in and out of planets, which would allow for quick, one shot adventures with a rotating cast.  In the comments, someone pointed out that if the adventure didn't wrap up at the end of one session and instead needed to carry over to the next, each person would have to show up next time, defeating the modular aspect that Ark was going for.  Instead, he suggested, why not have a crazy computer AI beaming people in and out of scenarios at random intervals, so if someone drops out mid session, oh don't worry it's just that glitchy AI, it must have changed it's mind, Ensign Singh is gone now, and oh it looks like he's been replaced by Yeoman Hossenfeffer.

Now, to me, that sounds like you've left Gene Roddenberry behind, and crossed over into Harlan Ellison, specificially one of my favorite short stories of all time, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream".  What an awesome game that would be.  The story practically writes its own RPG - the AI = GM, you've got different characters, each with their own specialty (even if one of those specialties is f***ing), and they're being led through an endless maze by a crazed AI who just wants to mess with them.  Now that I think about it, you could probably file the serial numbers off of Paranoia and run it pretty well. 

Or you could just make your own game, because hey, Harlan wouldn't care if someone made a game based on his idea, right?  Right? 

Hahaha of course he would. 

Maybe a free version just distributed via fileshare, adapting the book to another system,  a la Thundarr for Mutant Future?  I dunno, I'm not sure how that would work, but I'm curious enough to find out!

Thinking about this has inspired me to crack open some of my Ellison books, and I may post more about him in the near future, as he's been a huge inspiration to me since I was but a lad.  I've written about half of a novel that is a love letter and spiritual sequel to The Whimper of Whipped Dogs, and Deathbird Stories is one of my favorite books, 25 years after I read it for the first time.  As much of a cranky, quixotic bastard as Ellison can be, his stories always manage to evoke a reaction in me, and he'll always be at the top of my list of authors.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Playtest - Mike Nystul's Axes and Anvils

I recently backed the Kickstarter for Mike Nystul's Axes and Anvils.  When I saw that Mike was headed to Fencon and would be playtesting, I bought my ticket.  Unfortunately, I had to leave early, but I was able to get a good sense for the game, and I'm even more excited to get my copy now.

Before I get into the meat of the report, it's worth mentioning the fact that this is a fun game, and you can tell that Mike has had fun designing it.  The passion he has for this game was on full display as he ran us through the session.  If you doubt his commitment to this game, see the picture to the right, where the Stretch Goal-sponsored tattoo is on display.

Yeah, it's like that.

As far as the game itself went, it was simple, intuitive and fun.  There's an emphasis on the clannish nature of Dwarves that permeates the system mechanics in an organic sort of way.  The clan is in many ways as important as the characters themselves, and part of the character creation process includes the group creating the story of their clan in an interactive, communal process that was lots of fun.

As far as character creation goes, I was impressed - in less than an hour and a half, we had all the setting background  figured out, and characters in hand.  There's a good mix of character archetypes, and each character we ended up with had a good set of skills and abilities that gave each it's own unique flavor.  I ended up with a human sized Sorceror Dwarf who was Blessed by the Gods, but there were Berserkers, Scholars, Diplomats, all sorts of different shades of Dwarfdom were recognized. 

At one point, I was reminded of my brief, passionate love affair with Kobolds Ate My Baby.  When you score a critical hit, if you want to take advantage of the bonus associated with it, it is MANDATORY that at least half of the party hoist their flagons (shown to the right), and cheer, "HUZZAH!"  If that doesn't happen, the attack is as normal.

Combat is simple and intuitive but actiony, and we were able to bash through several giant spiders.  It wasn't easy, but had just about the right feel for the systems equivalent of 1st level characters.  The mechanics are very different from what you might be used to with Dungeons & Dragons, while capturing the freewheeling, rules-lite spirit of early editions.

I was disappointed that I had to leave early, we had just negotiated our way past an ogre and threw a pack animal down a hole (don't ask), and were on our way to track down a wayward clanmember who had been apparently fallen prey to a clan of goblins.  But alas, duty called and I had to abandon the party.

I'm definitely even more excited about this game than I was previously, though, so mission accomplished, Mike Nystul!   

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One Year Down

I just realized that today is the one year anniversary of From the Ashes!  That's interesting, right?  My focus has shifted and drifted, but I am still enjoying myself one year in, so I think I'll stick around for another year!  Thanks to everyone who checks this blog out, hopefully it's been moderately entertaining, and will continue to be so going forward.

Or at least not painful.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blindness - A Review

So I'm late to the party on this one, but having heard lots of good things about it, I gave it a shot. 

The essential plot is simple enough - an epidemic of blindess sweeps through the population of an unnamed city, and society crumbles as a result.  The plot itself is convincing, and director Fernando Meirelles pulls out all the stops, using every cinematograhic trick in the book to make this a movie that's easy to watch, but hampered by awful dialogue and a poorly realized world.  Not having read the book on which the movie is based, I'm not sure how much of this is due to the source material (wiki tells me that the movie leans heavily on the plot from the book), and how much is due to an inexperienced screenplay writer. 

At its core, this is a strong idea, and the cinematography used convincingly to immerse the viewer in the situation.  I can't describe how gorgeous this movie is to watch, I'm glad that I saw it just for all the clever ways Meirelles uses the camera to drag the viewer into the world.  The acting is serviceable, if a bit typical - Julianne Moore is typically Julianne Moore-ish, same with Mark Ruffalo.  Danny Glover continues his second career as the go-to guy for movies that can't afford Morgan Freeman, here playing the Magical Negro.

So far so good.

The main problem I have with this is the fact that, according to the wikipedia page, the city these folks live in is under the thumb of a totalitarian government.  Fair enough, but unfortunately, that is never communicated in the movie itself.  In typical apocalyptic scenarios, the government starts off with well intentioned, if slightly draconian measures as they attempt to curb whatever scenario is facing them, and gradually lose perspective and become harsher and harsher.  Here, they zoom straight to "Bag o' Dicks" mode, immediately tossing every blind person they can find into a prison and shooting anyone who walks towards the door.  It sort of makes sense if the goverment is a Bag o' Dicks already, but the film goes out of its way in the beginning to show how normal everyone is, so the Bag o' Dicks sort of hits you upside the head unexpectedly, leaving you wondering why the government is being such jerks. 

Then it gets worse - I mean, really, they shut off the water so the blind people are walking around in filth, they give them less food than they need with no explanation given, the guards play "hot and cold" games with the blind people when they come to collect their food rations, they shoot one then run off, muttering, "Sarge is gonna kill me now!".  It doesn't come across as a real world, totalitarian or no, but rather like a sixteen year old's rant, their immature idea of what "The Man" is gonna do when he comes for you. 

The problems continue.  Bad enough that the world wasn't realized enough to clue the viewers into the fact that the characters are ruled by jerks, but it turns out they're stupid jerks, as well.  They are able to recognize the pattern of infection within 24 to 48 hours (the timing is a bit indistinct, but it doesn't seem as though that much time passes between intial infection and incarceration), they locate Patient Zero, but they make no attempt to try and learn anything about whatever is causing the blindness, they just toss everyone inside.  Maybe I just have an optimistic view of apocalyptic scenarios like this (heh), but I'm pretty sure that in addition to containment, trying to, oh, I don't know, solve the problem?  Might be on most governments' agendas, no matter how totalitarian they are?

And the dialogue.  There are several instances where even veteran actress Julianne Moore isn't able to sell some of the lines she's given.  Looking at screenwriter Don McKellar's IMD page, it looks like this was his only screenplay, and I can see why.  Stilted dialogue abounds, the absolute nadir being when Danny Glover shifts (literally) into narrator voice for a solid two minutes, describing to those gathered 'round the events that had occurred since they were tossed in the brig. 

Then there's that scene.  As things start to break down, one group assumes control of the food, trading it first for valuables, then for women, leading for an extended, and very uncomfortable mass rape scene.  Yes, nine women are gang raped by about thirty men, and it's just as awful as you think it would be.  Apparently, it was cut back from it's original length, and it still feels too long.  The less said of this, the better.


Okay, that's the bad. 

There really is a lot of good to this, though, really!  Some very interesting characterization - none of the characters have names, for instance, something neither I nor my better half realized until about halfway through the film when we realized we were referring to the characters as "The Doctor", "The Doctor's Wife", "The Guy With the Eyepatch", etc.  Which, coincidentally, are the character's actual names in the script.  So well done there!

There are other ideas floating around as well.  At one point, someone who was born blind is tossed in with the rest.  Being more used to his condition than the rest, he is able to get around better, and assumes a position of power within the group.  Surprisingly, he's kind of a jerk as well, participting with gusto in that scene, and acting like an all around pompous ass.  It's unusual to see the disabled portrayed as anything but noble at best, troubled at worst.  This guy is an unrepentant ass.  Apparently several advocacy groups for the blind protested this movie, and even picketed some showings, and I have a feeling this character is a big reason why.  José Saramago, the author, apparently responded: "Stupidity doesn’t choose between the blind and the non-blind."  Well said, that.

Again, I can't overstate how marvelous the cinematography is, It does an amazing job of disorienting the viewer, and pulling them into the world.  Even when it's horrible (like in that scene), it's still effective. I won't mention it again, except to say that if you take nothing else away from this review, the movie is GORGEOUS.

Just keep your finger on the remote for that scene.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

R.I.P. Imbroglio

While this picture is wildly inaccurate in its
depiction of Imbroglio, it is the only documented
image currently in existence. 
 Imbroglio was special. 

Several years ago, Ark invited me over, and I sat down with Ark, his son and another gentleman at his kitchen table and rolled up characters for a game I was seeing for the first time, you might have heard of it, a little game called Labyrinth Lord.

This being the first character that I had built for the game, I picked an easy class, fighter, and made him an elf, because, well, why not?  Some nice rolling made sure that Imbroglio was strong and quick, and most importantly, charismatic.

I remember Imbroglio fondly, as do thousands of NPCs whose lives he changed for the better.  He was the scourge of evil, the champion of the oppressed and downtrodden, he was everything that a PC should be.

Some called Imbroglio crazy, but he just saw the world a little differently than the rest of us.  He believed in Faux, and gave his blood sweat and tears to bring the Light of Faux to the unenlightened.  He was good with a bow, and never hesitated to help his friends, sometimes even going into melee combat.

With his never ending supply of flyers urging the unenlightened to turn their faces to the one True God of the Realm, the sticks he would break as a demonstration of his unwavering faith, and his faithful companions, Ferrit the Dancing Wereferrit, the numerous Dwarven Assassins who have passed on to their eternal rewards, and many others that Imbroglio forgot about as soon as they left his sight, Imbroglio served as a light in these troubled times, a flickering flame which I must sadly report, has been snuffed.

Sadly, Imbroglio was struck down by the cold, callous nature of the world.  A harridan who had manipulated a tribe into thinking her "holy" had embarked upon a campaign of genocide against the legions that Imbroglio had turned to the light of Faux.  Imbroglio, ever mindful of his flock, struck mercilessly against the evil witch, and faught valiantly.  On the brink of defeat, the fell sorceress summoned a unicorn, tricking it into following her evil bidding.  Unwilling to harm the holiest of holy creatures, Imbroglio allowed himself to be stabbed through the heart, the Unicorn's horn driving the life from his body.

Despite efforts to resuscitate him, Imbroglio passed from this life shortly thereafter.  He had an explicit "Do Not ReAnimate" clause in his will, so unfortunately, his days are over.  However, any who wish to donate gold or platinum pieces to the Faux Fund may do so by contacting their local GM.

Let us take a moment and reflect upon all those who have gone before us, and pray that their souls find their way to the bosom of their gods.  I have contributed to several Kickstarters over the last few months at sufficient levels to allow me to place images and character sketches of Imbroglio within the pages of some forthcoming RPGs, so if you see him, spare a thought for him, and the legions of unenlightened who will never know the warmth of Faux's light.

And if you happen upon a witch woman leading a tribe of humans with an ensorcelled Unicorn at her side, slay her. 


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Crunch

I was able to get together with my group over the weekend for the first time in several months, following Ark's convalesence.  A member of the group had been clamoring for a superhero game for quite some time, and Ark, having extensive background with the Hero System, offered to GM a game or two of that.

We spent an hour or so preparing our characters, and I was impressed with the versatility of the system - you can literally do just about anything with the rules as they exist in Basic form, and I shudder to imagine what's possible when the rules really start to get wild.  I recycled my character concept from the last superhero game I played, mixing in a bit of Peter No-Parents, and voila!  I was essentially playing Stewie Griffin, carried around in a papoose by a mind slave who posed as my mother.  Massive amounts of Mind Control, a touch of Telekinesis, and some passive protection abilities, and I was good to go!  The party consisted of a Russian Bear, a "man out of time" knight with a very specific code of honor, and a strongman.  Except we weren't really a group.  We all started in the same building, and when demons decided to trash the town, we all fought them, but it was more like we had four individual battles.  By the end of the session, I don't think the party had actually realized that I existed. 

As I play more and more RPGs, I find that mind control, while a staple of comic books, is not the favorite superpower of most game designers.  Writers concoct elaborate moral justifications for why Professor X, while he COULD control the mind of every person on the planet and make them dance to his tune, CHOOSES not to.  Designers realize (wisely) that players typically have no such compulsions, and so any sort of power which wrests narrative control from the GM, like Mind Control, must be neutered.  Stars Without Numbers just made it so that you have to be godlike in your power before anything like mind control is even considered, for instance.  The Hero System just make sure that the mind controlled has every available chance (and then a few more) to not do what you're telling him to do.  First an attack roll.  Succeded?  Okay, now a (separate) degree of success check.  Very effective?  Now they have a chance to break free before they do what you tell them to do.  And they get that check every.  single.  round.

So it was a bit frustrating, especially since after going through all the trouble of mind controlling our foes, the rest of the party would kill my puppet.  Granted, they didn't know that a) I existed, b) I could control minds, and c) that I had mind controlled the guy who seconds previous had been pounding the snot out of them.  So I understand, but yeah - frustrating.

That segues nicely into my next point, though, which is MY GOD THE CRUNCH.  Like I said, these were basic rules, but there were some serious mental and arithmatic hoops to be jumped through just to complete what in other games would be fairly basic actions.  I fully chalk a lot of this up to the fact that we were learning a new system, but the truth is that it took us five hours to make it through 12 seconds of combat.  Again, a lot of that was due to the learning curve, but my god that was one steep curve!  There is a roll for EVERYTHING!  I was astounded that there was that much information crammed into such a small book, and again - these were the BASIC rules! 

I'm looking forward to getting back into it next session, and digging down into things to see if we can separate the rule wheat from the chaff.  The setting Ark has set up is interesting, and I enjoy my character, neutered as he is, and look forward to making the chivalrous knight do all sorts of horrible things :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Hangover

**WARNING**  This post will likely be a stream of consciousness style ramble, feel free to disregard.

Still here?  Okay, you were warned.

Back to the grind after a ridiculous week, capped over the weekend with front and center tickets to see Dead Can Dance.  This was followed by my bachelor party the following evening, a night of epic debauchery of which the less said the better.

Still, time marches ever on, and my nine to five awaits, beckoning with a crook of its boney finger.  I have no choice but to obey.

After seeing an ad stating that a (somewhat) local game shop had closed down, I briefly toyed with the idea of buying it.  They were offering the building for 70,000 and their stock for another 50,000, giving the prospective buyer (presumably) a turnkey business for only 120,000.  My better half and I took a detour on our way back from the weekend, and discovered there were two very good reasons why the shop went out of business - a) they didn't have insurance on the building, so when their roof leaked, they were unable to afford to fix it, b) they opened the shop in the middle of frikkin nowhere, in a town of maybe 25,000 people.  So we're still possibly considering picking up the merchandise and opening a web store.  Maybe.  Dunno.

Work on the Clockwork Cave was halted for the weekend, but resumes today.  Doug Kovacs is working on a few other projects, so in all likelihood, this won't see the light of day until the new year at the earliest.  Probably later. 

In Kickstarter news, I received my copy of Shadows of Esteren, a French RPG which was recently Kickstarted into English.  I was primarily attracted to the production values, which seemed high, and they delivered.  I'll post a review in the next few days that breaks down the rewards completely, but I was defninitely satisfied with how it came out.

While browsing through a Half Price Books in Austin, I stumbled across a little gem, Unhallowed Metropolis, which describes itself as, "The Gas-Mask Chic Role-playing Game of Neo-Victorian Horror".  Now setting aside the fact that I wasn't aware that the words Gas-Mask and Chic could be combined in such a way, it's an interesting book.  They saved a few farthings by using photographs instead of art a fair amount of time, with varying amounts of success.  Some of them looked excellent, while others looked like glorified cosplay.  Definitely worth the half price I paid for it, I'll be mining it for ideas.

I think I've run out of things to talk about at this point, so I'll be signing off.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Clockwork Cave Revised!

So awhile back, I mentioned briefly a dungeon that I had run my group through that I thought was pretty neat.  At the time, the One Page Dungeon Contest was going on, and I thought it was a simple enough design that I could fit it on one page.

I was wrong.

It turned out that the one page the dungeon was written on was really only about half of what was actually needed to run the dungeon, I had just filled in the cracks using my mind.

So I've kept on toying with it here and there, making adjustments and alterations, and I've gotten to the point where I'm about halfway done, but already at six pages!  As I went through the writing, though, I kept coming back to a basic problem - I suck at drawing, and the mechanics of the dungeon are unique.  A top down graph paper drawing worked for me because I could see it three dimensionally, and use the drawing in conjuction with what was in my head to explain what was going on to the party.  If I ever wanted someone else to use it, or hell, if I wanted to be able to use it better, I would have to do better.

I needed a professional. 

I'm a huge fan of DCCRPG, and I think in no small part that is due to the amazing artwork of Doug Kovacs.  He's provided the cover art, much of the interior art and cartography for the series thus far, and I think it's fair to say that he's developed the "house style" for the line.  I feel that his mapwork in particular strides the line between cartography and art, like this or this, for instance.

So taking a shot in the dark, I sent him an email, explaining what I was looking for and why I thought he was the right man for the job.  We ended up haveing a wonderful phone conversation last night, the result of which was that he agreed to create the map for the module, and even run his local group through the adventure to playtest it and give me some design advice!

So yeah, I'm pretty excited now, and have to buckle down and crank out the last half of this thing!  More on this as things progress!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Monstrous Monday!

Tim Brannan of the Other Side fame, is having a fun blog-o-thing in celebration of Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year! 

October 29th, everybody posts their monsters!  Stats, pics, whatever!  So go to The Other Side, grab a banner, and jump on board!