Monday, April 30, 2012

Gamma World... Is Here! ***News Update***

Cannibal shrimp: The invasion has begun

Do not be alarmed, but the cannibal shrimp invasion has begun.
The influx of the jumbo-sized shrimp (which look more like a small lobster than the little pink crustaceans you see at the grocery store) has increased 10 times in the last year, according to a report from the U.S. Geological Survey—from 32 in 2010 to 331 in 2011. The shrimp-eating shrimp have been spotted in waters from North Carolina to Texas.
Tony Reisinger of the Texas Sea Grant Extension Service, told CNN that the tiger prawn "are cannibalistic as are other shrimp, but it's larger so it can consume the others."

Follow this link for the rest of the story, along with video!!



Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Divide - A Review

So awhile back, I talked about a movie, the Divide.  Apparently, I missed it in the theaters, but the Blu-Ray arrived the other day.  After having the opportunity to watch it, I can say that I wish I had caught it if/when it was on the big screen. 

The director, Xavier Gans, has been hit or miss for me.  I've seen two of his previous films, Hitman and Frontier(s).  I didn't care for Frontier(s), it being a movie where horrible people do horrible things to each other, with some political overtones thrown in as an attempt to make it something more than it was.  Hitman, for whatever reason, I really enjoyed.  Maybe it was Timothy Olyphant, maybe it was that I had loved the video game, maybe it was the fact that it didn't seem to take itself too seriously.  Whatever, I loved it.

The Divide definitely falls more towards Gans' Frontier(s) side of things, but in this case the plot comes first.  Rather than the violence being the point of the movie, it is the logical outgrowth of the story, and communicates the theme.  The setup is simple - nuclear bombs fall on New York City, and a group of people who live in a highrise escape to the cellar to survive, only to find that survival doesn't just mean living.  As you can imagine, they don't all live together happily in the basement.  Things deteriorate, and they get ugly.

Like Hitman, though, Gans shows a knack for the finding the right people for the parts.  Michael Biehn (Hicks from Aliens) plays the survivalist super who initially converted the cellar into a fallout shelter.  Oddly enough, though, the standout actor was Milo Ventimiglia.  I was only familiar with him from his time on Heroes, where he was... let's face it - terrible.  But he is absolutely terrifying in his role here.

There are a few miscues as it goes along, chief among them the break-in scene (you'll know it when you see it), which is frankly mystifying.  It doesn't fit thematically with the rest of the movie, and every plot point the scene advances could have just as easily have been advanced in another, more logical way.

With that exception, though, it's a very good movie, my better half and I were still discussing it the next morning.  Do yourself a favor, if you like apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic movies, check this on out.

Friday, April 27, 2012

No Respect!

So I hear that after WOTC are done reprinting 1st Edition rules, they are reprinting 3.5 rules.  Now granted it's been awhile since I saw the inside of a classroom, but wasn't something skipped there?


Poor second edition, you're always going to be the unloved, redheaded stepchild, won't you?  Neither fish nor fowl - too new for the grognards, too old for the Pathfinder set.

Don't worry, I still love you.

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Apocalyptic Appendix N, Part 4

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - Another Harlan Ellison entry.  In this story, supercomputers built to manage Earth's military systems decide to wipe out humanity, and only a single insane, malicious computer remains, tormenting the humans left to it's not so tender mercies.  It contains one of the most intense lines ever set to paper, "HATE. LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I'VE COME TO HATE YOU SINCE I BEGAN TO LIVE. THERE ARE 387.44 MILLION MILES OF PRINTED CIRCUITS IN WAFER THIN LAYERS THAT FILL MY COMPLEX. IF THE WORD HATE WAS ENGRAVED ON EACH NANOANGSTROM OF THOSE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF MILES IT WOULD NOT EQUAL ONE ONE-BILLIONTH OF THE HATE I FEEL FOR HUMANS AT THIS MICRO-INSTANT FOR YOU. HATE. HATE."

The Stand - I started to write this about the story, but as I thought about it, the TV series from the 90s actually isn't that bad, although it was due more to some great acting choices than anything else.  Rob Lowe, Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, the TV movie was A Big Deal when it came out.   Even though it keeps the Worst Ending to a 1000+ Page Book Ever Written, the first half to three quarters of the show remain one of the most riveting tales of the breakdown of civilization ever, and only enhance the power of the narrative in the book.  It spoiled me on apocalyptic fiction, though.  The tendency is, with a topic as large as the End of Days, to condense it, to coax it into a personal tale that is representative of the larger story.  And while that's nice and all, I still find myself wondering in Night of the Living Dead, for instance, what is going on everywhere else?  And while you get hints at that, with the radio bulletins and such, it still feels as though you're only being told half the story, or less!  Not so with the Stand, which manages to walk in both worlds, telling a tale that is simultaneously very personal, and on a grand scale.  Again, if it weren't for the ending, which to this day gets me riled up, this would rank much higher.  But the chapter where he talks about the spread of the disease, describing it as a "chain letter that finally worked", haunts me to this day.

When the Wind Blows - God this was depressing.  I mean, it was meant to be, but even by those standards, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  It literally takes all the fun out of the apocalypse, introducing a sweet old couple that reminds most people of their own elderly relatives.  They are natives of England who hear about the war coming on soon, and remember their time hunkering down during WWII, even romanticizing it a bit.  They listen to the government warnings, prepare just as they're supposed to, and are as ready as they can be for when the bomb finally hits.

And then they spend the rest of the movie dying.

Seriously, that's it.  And then they die.  Sorry, I try and avoid spoilers in these, but it's hard to avoid in this case.  The purpose of the film was to raise anti-war sentiment, and they were not too ashamed to resort to emotional manipulation to do so.  Seriously, a horrible, horrible movie that just depresses you.  Or at least, it depresses me.

On the bright side... um.... it has music by Roger Waters, David Bowie and Genesis?

The Grand Daddy of scary Apocalyptic fiction, though is...

The Plant People -  I read this on vacation on Cape Cod as a boy of maybe 8 or so, and it damn near ruined my vacation.  It terrified me then, and still gives me the creeps to this day.  A fog blows through what I remember as being a southwestern town.  People start acting strangely, then they disappear.  One intrepid young lad sets out to find out what's going on, and discovers that the townsfolk are actually turning into cacti!  It sounds silly, but the book includes photographs, which were doctored to go along with the story, lending a horrible sort of authenticity. 

As you can see by the spacing of the text, it's very obviously written for a younger audience, but the pictures just give it a creepy vibe that, literally 25 years later, keeps this story at the forefront of my mind when I think of apocalyptic fiction.  Seriously - keep your kids away from this book unless you want to scar them for life!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Big Letdown

So it turns out the elves were less than truthful.  Apparently, the Yuan-Ti have actually defeated the Elves, mostly because they were able to magically age the Elven King, and seal the cave which contained the cure to all who dwelled in the Elven City of Yarauna.  Using the gold collected from the party to purchase magical items, the Elven King, Arch Mage and High Priestess bribed the Yuan-Ti "diplomat" that was at the party to get the location of the cave, then transformed themselves into magical items, powered by their essences, which they had presented to the party as the items they had purchased.  This allowed them to bypass the wards which prevented them from entering The Clockwork Cave.  After fighting their way through the cave, defeating the Time Dragon at the Heart of the Cave, and two of their party being aged significantly, the elves revealed their deception, and offered a reward for the party's service, explaining that the could not reveal the truth of things before because of the presence of the Yuan-Ti hidden throughout the city, who were monitoring them for signs of treachery.

Now, at this point, I expected the party to be... upset.  They had been running around with Gauntlets of Ogre Power, a Long Bow of Accuracy and a magic axe that returned after it was thrown, all of which a) they had paid for, and b) they no longer owned.  In addition, it turned out that the Limited Resurrection spell hadn't been limited at all, the Elves had just told them that to get them to brave the Cave.  But, as I said, the elves were genuinely regretful of the damage they had caused the party and offered a reward.

I expected them to be upset, I expected them to fuss.

I didn't expect them to try and kill the King of the Elves. 

They didn't ask what the reward was, no, one of the party (who in fairness, had doubled in age since they entered the cave) simply leapt at the King and attempted to stab him.  The Elves teleported away, leaving the party to mutter angrily and plan a campaign of asymmetrical warfare against the Elves.  They have considered burning down the city, choking it with animated vegetation, even joining the Yuan-Ti.  Which is funny, considering they're still wandering around with a bag full of Yuan-Ti heads strapped to their belt - I'm not sure how the Yuan-Ti will take their offer of comraderie.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Ugh, a new way for me to throw my money away, yay!
It is nice to feel as though you're contributing to the production of quality RPGs, though, without a doubt. 

LotFP's Monolith Beyond Space and Time/The God That Crawls, Dwimmermount, and now a a 2e retroclone????

Yes please!  Any other worthy stuff out there?

Enquiring minds want to know!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Clockwork Cave, aka the Cave of Time

As I mentioned previously, there is a One Page Dungeon Contest going on.  I've decided to enter a little gem I've been working on for a bit now, in my 2e campaign.  I ran the group through most of it this past weekend, and it seemed to work out well.  Some of the puzzles turned out to be a bit tougher than I had thought, so a bit of reworking is in order, but overall I think it was a success.  Once we've completed it, I'll be posting it here and submitting to the contest, but the gist of it is that it makes use of the wonderful forced aging mechanics from 2e, with creatures called Time Flies, of progressively greater strength, that randomly age or deage the PCs in increasingly greater amounts.  The creatures that inhabit the cave are also of increasing strength - they started with demonic babies charging out of a fleshy womb-room, still attached to umbilical cords which grew out of the walls, and the party got as far as the old men that sucked away physical attribute scores from the party.  They are on a timelimit, with only 24 hours to make it to the heart of the cave, but time works oddly in the cave, with some areas slowed, and others hastened.

They still have a final group of enemies to face, before they reach the heart of the Clockwork Cave, and descover the horrifying secret within!

<insert accompanying dramatic music>

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Armageddon Cave

I've settled into a dungeon for my post-apocalyptic fantasy... thing, rather than a setting.  At least to begin with.  My hope is that the things that I lay out in Armageddon Cave can be expanded upon to create a setting, but starting small and expanding seemes like a reasonable way to go about things.

As I stated previously, the idea centers around a ship crashing into the side of a mountain, the energies which piloted the ship leaking into the surrounding ecosystem, and changing things, not for the better.  I see whole new species being introduced, strange new creatures, riffing off of familiar favorites. 

I love the fact that in megadungeons, there are always competing factions, vying for control, and I see that as being a big part of this project.  The Cave may have been locked away from the attentions of the surface dwellers for quite some time, but a fierce battle has been raging below all this time.  A battle for resources, a battle for dominance and supremacy.  In the spirit of that combat, traps!  Lots of traps!  No better way to keep a rival group out of your territory than false floors, poisoned locks and illusions designed to pick off the unwary.

The difficulty level is going to be high here - this dungeon has been under an evolutionary heat lamp for the last several thousand years - only the strongest have survived, and my hope is that some of the things they've done will surprise and horrify the players.

And at the center of the Cave lies a surprise.  Something is down there, something that has survived all this time, something with a ferocious intelligence and a bottomless hunger.  Something that will stop at nothing to prevent it's existence from being revealed.

I've started mapping things out, and I've designed several of the dungeon's denizens.  I'm estimating this should take me several months, but I'm committing myself to regular updates on here, to keep me moving. 

So three cheers for the Armageddon Cave!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Game Like Trane

I'll preface this by saying, I'm no musical scholar.  I don't know anything about chord progressions, or key changes, or anything like that.  So if I'm dead wrong, just go with the feeling of what I'm writing.

Which is pretty much what I'm writing about, come to think about it.  There are some songs/albums/bands that I listen to because I love every note, every bit of the music.  Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, for instance, I know it inside and out.  I can sing along with the guitar lines, I know every beat from the drum, a part of me thinks that I own that music, I know it so well.  Every once in awhile, I'll go into what my better half calls a "Floyd Void", where I listen to nothing but Pink Floyd albums, and I'll devour their studio albums, I'll chase down ROIOs online, and I will live on Floyd alone.  I can do that because it's something I know.

There is other music I can never own, though.  John Coltrane's Blue Train is a great example of this.  I was listening to it on my way into work today, and it struck me that I listen to it differently than I do Pink Floyd.  I love it just as much, but I can never own it the way I do DSOTM.  With DSOTM, I wait for the next familiar beat so I can belt out the refrain in time with the album.  I don't sing along with Blue Trane.  I inhale Pink Floyd, I let Blue Trane wash over me. 

Play the opening to Blue Train for just about anyone, and they'll swear they've heard it before.  It's just one of those instantly recognizeable tunes that everyone's heard, either intentionally or in the background.  But that's not the song.  The real song kicks in once Coltrane is set loose, and while every take of the song is different, it still hangs on that opening tune. 

That's how I want to game.  I don't want to game like Dark Side of the Moon.  Yes, every song is a masterpiece, and there are times where that's all I want to listen to, I want to game like Trane - I want the game to wash over me, with familiar bits that spin off into majestic lunacy that keeps me on the edge of my seat, wondering what is coming next.  I don't want the Hero's Journey, I want cliffs and valleys, I want hairpin turns and vast chasms to be leapt. 

I want my games to be fresh and new every time I play them, with just enough familiarity to keep things going.

D&D might be my DSOTM.  I love it, but I'm not sure if I can stop singing other peoples' refrains.  I've been in a D&D void for awhile, my thoughts consumed by dwarves and elves, but I feel the need to stretch my legs a bit.  Maybe something new.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Workarounds for Demihuman Level Limits

I’m behind on the curve a bit here, I know this was the topic du jour a bit ago, but it was raised by one of my players recently, so it’s been on my mind a bit.  While I understand the reasoning – you’ve got to give players SOME reason to play a Human, it just doesn’t make sense, especially in the context of the long life spans of the demihumans.  How does an elf, that lives for thousands of years, never progress beyond 12th level clerical abilities?  How do they never get better than a 12th level fighter?   It just doesn’t make sense.

Now mind you, I’m going to discuss this within the confines of 2e, as that is the game which is presenting me with this problem right now, but I think some of the possibilities could be applied to other games, as well.

The 2e DM’s Guide provides two optional rules, one I like better than the other, and I’ve come up with a third idea.  I’d love to get some feedback before I pitch the ideas at Wednesday’s game.

Option 1: Attribute Based Level Advancement
This gives bonus levels based on the score of the Prime Requisite Attribute.  On a 14 or 15, the demihuman can advance one level beyond the limit.  With a 16 or 17, they can exceed by 2, an 18 gets them 3 levels, and a 19 gets them 4.  For many of the races, a 19 attribute score gets them up to level 19, which is comparable to a human, and there is some attraction there.

Option 2: Slow Advancement Beyond the Limit
When the demihuman hits the limit, they continue to advance, but the requirements to advance beyond the level double.  It allows them to reach the same heights of power as the humans, but it takes much longer to do so.  This almost makes sense, too, in the context of their long lives.

Option 3: Dual-classing Multiclassed Demihumans
When the demihuman reaches the level limit for their chosen class, they can pick another class to advance through.  Their THAC0 and saving throws hit points and such progress at the rate of their current class.  Again, this make sense, when you consider their lifespans.  This is basically 2e’s approach to Dual-Classing for humans.

Any of these are better than 2e’s Multiclassing system, which involves proportional distribution of bonuses, hit points and experience points, and all sorts of nonsense that takes 2 pages to explain.  

Any other ways of doing things?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Who's John McLane?

Forget Die Hard, it's been made redundant.

Shocking?  Sacrilegious, even? You'll understand when you've seen what I've seen.

Opening last weekend on a limited engagement is Maylasian film, The Raid (or The Raid: Redemption if you're in America).   Take an idea riffing off of Die Hard, the aesthetic of Mad Max and the feel of a video game, and you can almost describe what it's like to watch this movie.

How often do you go to a movie where the audience is applauding while the movie is still going on?

Yeah, it's that good. 

Featuring some of the most extreme martial arts sequences you're likely to see, an unflinching commitment to realism, and, surprisingly enough, a solid story and capable acting, this movie is the bee's knees.

Get off the couch and go see it while it's in theaters!