athelind: (RPG: grognard)

WARNING:
This post links to
TVTROPES.ORG!




Yesterday, I found myself reading http://mythcreants.com/blog/blog-series/mastering-the-creeps/, and it reminded me of one of my quirks as a Game Master: as I've mentioned before, when I GM tabletop, it doesn't matter what genre the game is supposed to be ... there's about a 60% chance that it'll turn into a horror game.

It's not that I'm particularly fond of horror as an RPG genre. I just have a knack for it. When I'm GMing, at some point, I'll look at the players, smile wickedly behind my GM screen, and think, "oh, I just had an idea that might really wig them out."

You see, if you want to run a really effective horror game ... don't tell your players.

Over the span of three decades and change, I've done this in classic first edition AD&D, in a space opera game, and in two superhero games. Not a lot, I suppose ... until one notes that my stints behind the screen are rare and years apart.

The campaign that dove the most deeply into the horror rabbit hole was SUPPOSED to be a superhero game. I've alluded to this one before: the players were playing game versions of their real-life selves, and got super-powers when a UFO exploded near them.

I really intended -- I wanted -- to run a Fantastic Four-style campaign, using weird and amazing powers to explore bizarre phenomena and deal with off-beat threats.

However ...

The players were not primarily comic book fans.

What's more, this was the 1990s ... at the height of popularity of the X-Files.

Exacerbating matters, one of the players was, in real life, a Marine MP who had worked with FEMA at some point. I said, "UFO Crash", and he replied, "I'm not allowed to say whether or not FEMA has a plan to deal with this situation, but if they did* ..."

This was the metaphorical equivalent of reaching over, jerking the wheel, and sending the car into a spin. The whole party immediately slipped into Aaiiee Conspiracy Paranoia the Government Will Vivisect Us Mode, and I realized I had just lost control of the campaign.

So I did what my race car driver father taught me to do in a literal spin:

I turned in the direction of the spin and stepped on the gas.**

So, they all had Powers and Abilities Far Beyond Those of Mortal Men ... and they all wanted to lie low, go back to their lives, pretend it never happened, and try to keep the Gummint from ever finding out who was there at the crash site.

I could have doubled down on superhero tropes, and set up a big, public situation where Only They Could Save The Day ... but I had a sneaking suspicion, somehow, that this wouldn't goad them into action. I realized that, despite everyone signing on to play a superhero game, they didn't want to be superheroes.

They wanted a Paranoid Conspiracy with the Government Out To Get Them.

So I gave it to them.

I took the exact same power set that one of the PCs had: Teleportation, and a global scale ESP that manifested as erratic visions, a "teleport destination sense", and the ability to pinpoint technobabble "anomalies" that included other people sharing their power source ... and I gave that template to an implacable sociopath that the Shadowy Government Conspiracy had kept under lock, key, and power damper until they needed him to find the PCs.

([livejournal.com profile] kolchis gave me the invaluable suggestion of looking to Dean R. Koontz's gallery of empowered sociopaths for inspiration.)

He slipped his leash almost immediately, and started stalking them.

I gave them a few initial hints ... and then, when they'd all gathered at a restaurant to talk about the weird shit that had been happening to them individually, the Marine MP didn't show up ...

... and as they were sitting there, right outside the window where they're sitting, a body slammed into a car from a significant height, shattering the windows, denting the hood, and making the alarms go off.

The body looked just like the missing party member.

The PARTY'S clairvoyant was able to tell that, even though there wasn't a mark on the corpse ... the heart was missing.

I then shifted to where the missing party member actually was ... in an alley, with the water from a recent rain dripping off a fire escape ... drip ... drip ... drip ...

And he wasn't alone.

I shifted back to the alley, where the party realized that the body before them wasn't really their associate -- the build was wrong, the height was wrong -- but someone else whose face had been ... sculpted, somehow.

Back in the alley ...

(... drip ... drip ... drip ...)

There was a figure who was always JUST out of our missing party member's line of sight. Any time he'd turn, there'd be a voice behind him, or off to one side, or above him, patiently explaining that, after his "translation", nobody else was really visible to his new senses. He came to understand that he was the only real thing in a world of shadows; he could see souls, you see, and nobody else had one ...

(... drip ... drip ... drip ...)

... until he sensed the PCs ... being born.

After two decades, I don't remember all the details of the encounter, or why, but it was something along the lines of, "go back to your friends ... and let them know ... I am a jealous god. And I am coming for them."

And then, as the session ended, I queued up Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper."


*They did. It is no longer classified. Fnord.
**This works. It's saved my life twice, once in a '71 Chevy van, once in a '97 Ford Aspire.
athelind: (Sci Fi)
All right. The last two entries have had far too high a quotient of Your Obedient Serpent Griping About Stuff He Doesn't Like, and I am trying to avoid that.

Let's start kicking around constructive ideas, shall we?

"Q-Space" is an old idea I had for RPG-friendly FTL. I originally came up with it ages ago, when I was playing CHAMPIONS, and applied the Hero System conceit of different "Combat" and "Non-Combat" speeds to FTL Flight, the only movement power that didn't have it. When I realized the sociopolitical ramifications of Slow-Then-Fast FTL, I kept the idea on file, and actually used it in a GURPS SPACE game -- that game ran about twenty years back, so this idea's been kicking around for a long time.


The basic idea is that there are different regimes where The Rules Are Different:
  • C-Space is the regime where the speed of light is "c": i.e., "normal spacetime".

  • K-Space is "Slow FTL": about a light-year per month, for extended travel.

    • Everything is conveniently scaled for swooping sci-fi FTL battles, and looks like Jack Kirby drew it.

    • Masses (ships and planets) appear proportionally larger

    • Distances appear smaller

  • Q-Space is "Fast FTL": multiple light-years per DAYS, maybe.


K-Space is discovered first, and is Good Enough To Scout and Colonize. Ships are sent out with colonists in cold sleep and crews awake and active, since K-Space is full of Space Wedgies. With months or years of travel time between inhabited worlds, colonial cultures develop in relative isolation, and a "spacer culture" develops unto itself.

After a few centuries, reliable access to Q-Space is developed -- and suddenly, these isolated cultures are all in each other's backyards.

They do not all get along.

To complicate matters, access to Q-Space finally increases Humanity's sphere of influence enough that we finally brush up against Galactic Culture -- and as far as we can tell, the Galactics don't care about our internal affairs; they consider the species the significant level of organization.

I love this idea, honestly. It's a simple, straightforward way to get a lot of radically diverse human cultures interacting closely.


athelind: (Sci Fi)
The Threepenny Space Opera: An Introduction

WARNING! TV TROPES!

This is the first in a series of posts under the head of The Threepenny Space Opera, in which Your Obedient Serpent bandies about ideas and concepts for science fiction RPG settings. These are primarily Notes To Myself, and the different concepts may or may not be compatible with each other in a single milieu.

I have been in a Star Wars Saga Edition game for the last four years, and, while I enjoy it a great deal, I confess that I enjoy it in spite of the setting, not because of it. It is hardly an original insight to assert that the Lucasian setting isn't "really" science fiction, but rather, fantasy with a thin veneer of technology; it has some truth to it, but that doesn't curtail my ability to enjoy a rip-roaring laser-adorned Hero's Journey.

If forced to pick a side when the line is drawn between Romanticism and Enlightenment, however, Your Obedient Serpent falls squarely in the latter camp.1 There are elements of Classic Space Opera that are Very Important To Your Obedient Serpent, and they can only be shoehorned into the Galaxy Far Far Away with great effort -- and are entirely absent from, say, Dark Heresy and many of the other starfaring settings offered to the RPG community.

I am rambling, which is nothing new. Let me therefore invoke that tool of PowerPoint abusers worldwide, and proffer a Bullet List:

  • I want a vision of a hopeful, optimistic future. Cautionary tales are an important part of the science fiction estate, but they aren't, contrary to Post-Modern thought, more "mature" or "sophisticated" or "valid". When all the visions of the future are dystopian, when the only message from tomorrow is "Beware", then where will we find the hope and inspiration to drive us forward?

  • I want to Explore Strange New Worlds. Even Star Trek: the Next Generation fell short on this one, keeping NCC-1701-D largely within the borders of the Federation, boldly staying where everyone had gone before; the movies, of course, abandon the notion of "exploration" entirely.

  • I want to Save the Day with SCIENCE!! I want a setting and a system where the Vulcan manning the sensors contributes as much to the adventure as the Dashing Space Pilot.

  • And on that note, I want a game that doesn't shy away from starships and space combat, while making sure that ALL the player characters can take active roles when the Space Pirates drop out of Netherspace, or the Negative Space Wedgie looms on the main screen. I want a game that's not afraid of starmaps, and where travel between the worlds is an opportunity, not an obstacle (or a quick screen-wipe).


There will be more forthcoming.


1 In the topsy-turvy backwards world of Literary Jargon, I am an unrealistic dreamer because I reject Romanticism.

athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
Goodness. I've let this lie far too long, and I apologize -- particularly since my last post of any substance was "I'M HAVING CHEST PAINS."

I should remedy that, and shall.

First and foremost, HEALTH:

Said chest pains proved not only to be not life threatening, they weren't even a significant health issue. They were, yes, Pre-Ventricular Contractions, and, yes, I do have a family history of PVCs -- but there are no structural issues with my heart. The doctor said that I could go climb Mount Kilimanjaro were I so inclined.

The "flips" have entirely faded, at this point, and considering that they started immediately after I got back from last year's Maker Fair ... I rather suspect the high-voltage jolts I got for funsies from the Van De Graff generator a few booths down from us might have triggered a little persistent twitchery in the old timer.

(Come to think of it, that anxiety/panic attack I had at dinner that one night during Maker Fair might have been the first manifestation -- that feeling of "panic" and "trouble breathing" might have been connected to "GAH MY HEART SHOULD NOT DO THAT" ...)

WORK:

I am quite enjoying my current employment. My experience with interpreting and displaying complex, abstruse data clearly (read: "Your Obedient Serpent Knows Stupid Excel Tricks") has made me the go-to guy for our company's more esoteric reports, and while I tend to get buried in these Special Projects, I really can sink my teeth into them.

It's still a 50-mile commute, but I'm no longer carpooling with [livejournal.com profile] kohai_tiger; a few times driving solo gave me a taste for getting in and getting home earlier ... and earlier ... and earlier. When I flew out to Midwest Furfest last November, I started running on "Chicago Time" ... and really never shifted back to Pacific Time. Most days, I roll out around 0400, get to work around 0500, leave around 1400, and get home around 1515, plus or minus fifteen to twenty minutes either way.

Oddly, since I've shifted my shower-taking habits to evening instead of morning, I get up at about the same time as I did when I was carpooling and getting to work between 0730 and 0800 -- but since I seldom if ever have to contend with anything resembling traffic, I get home three to four hours earlier. Drying off becomes relaxing downtime instead of rushed getting-ready time.

I've also found that I enjoy driving in the early hours of the morning, and not just because of the light traffic. I'm very much a morning person, and those crisp, clear pre-dawn hours just seem more alive to me. I confess that I've also been prone to a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder for the past few years -- but I never had an issue while on The Chicago Schedule. It tried to sneak back on the few days that I shifted back to a "normal" schedule during the winter months. I think a key factor is Getting Home After Dark: if you get up before sunrise, you've Seized the Day. If you get home after sunSET ... the day has seized you.

FUN:

I've been mostly keeping up with the speculative cinema; I can't believe I've let both Captain America: the First Avenger and Marvel's The Avengers slip by without comment, much less any other movies. On television, Game of Thrones is an amazing achievement, and on broadcast television, I found myself wholly engaged and impressed by Arrow.

I am down to a single game on the RPG front: the monthly Star Wars game hosted by [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi and [livejournal.com profile] tealfox. The Wednesday night game sessions alternating between Ironclaw and The Dresden Files were becoming increasingly untenable for me, and once I switched to Chicago Time, I simply couldn't continue. Honestly, I'm suffering a bit of Gamer Fatigue on that front; once the Star Wars game wraps up, I will probably gafiate from gaming for a year or three.

My chronic automotive issues were finally traced to a glitchy OBD-II (On Board Diagnostic) computer. That took nearly two months to get replaced and functioning properly; if she proves stable, I may start keeping a packed Go-Bag, so I can head out for spontaneous road trips on random weekends. I spend far too much time traveling the same hundred miles of road (I take different routes in the morning and afternoon), and spending the weekend sitting around home not going ANYWHERE only goes so far. I'm a traveller by ancestry, instinct, and long, long experience, and by golly, I need to TRAVEL.

Oh, and I've picked up a few more volumes of Raymond Chandler ...
athelind: (Eye - VK)
Songs and song titles make great adventure seeds. In the past, I've had GMs who constructed entire campaigns around albums by Jethro Tull or King Crimson.

It's especially appropriate for comic book games -- Stan Lee loved to play on pop music for his story titles. The right combination of words and the songs they describe can suggest entire, baroque scenarios. It's kind of like the way Silver Age DC (and Golden Age Pulp SF) editors would commission a cover, hand it to a writer, and say, "I need a story to go with this."

The questions to ask when you try this:

  • What kind of scenario does the title suggest?
  • Does it describe an event? An adversary? An ally or a victim? Just a general mood or theme?
  • How much of the song itself can I lift to help flesh out the adventure?


So, LiveJournal HiveMind, Your Obedient Serpent has the request lines open: give me song titles that you think would make good adventures, particularly superhero adventures.

Don't feel like you have to be obvious, but don't feel like you have to be obscure, either. "Eve of Destruction" is obvious; "Winds of Change", a bit less; "I Don't Like Mondays" sounds like a Garfield punchline unless you know the song and the story behind it.

Give me titles; if you feel like it, give me the scenarios that come to mind when YOU hear them -- or just toss them down as a challenge.

My players all read this, so I'm screening replies!


*"But that trick never works!"
athelind: (RPG: Setting the Stage)
After months of delay, I'm finally about to fire up my DC Adventures/Mutants & Masterminds 3 campaign, a.k.a. DC Legacies: Gateway Bay.

Unfortunately, due to the departure of [livejournal.com profile] tealfox's departure for greener (or at least more humid) pastures, and [livejournal.com profile] gatewalker's transportation issues, our group is down to three players: [livejournal.com profile] kohai_tiger, [livejournal.com profile] kymri, and [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi.

By the traditional criteria of both RPG parties and superhero teams, the number three is a little shy of Fantastic.

So ... it's time to beat the bushes lookin' for qualified nerds.

To summarize the setting:

In 1938, Superman started his public career as a costumed adventurer.

Within two years, costumed adventurers weilding amazing powers, super-science, ancient magics and just plain mettle were crawling out of the woodwork.

Unlike most comic book settings, these adventurers ... the "Mystery Men", the "Super-Heroes" ... age and grow. They have families. They train new generations to Fight the Good Fight. They pass on their mantles and retire.

And they make a difference.

Lost civilizations stay found. Amazing scientific discoveries are written up in journals; fantastic inventions are patented. First contact is made, and interplanetary policy becomes as important to politics as foreign policy.

Cities are destroyed, and some of them remain in ruins.

It is now 2011, and the world has seen seven decades of change.

The game has three core themes: Legacy, Consequences, and Building a New World. This will be far, far more than just "crimefighting". This will be about making a difference.


I can't emphasize this enough: this is not the DCU you know. This is not Earth-1, Earth-2, Post-Crisis Earth, New Earth, the DCAU, or (most esepcially not) the New 52. This is an Alternate DC Universe. Very, very alternate. Don't think in terms of the characters you see in comics today; think about when they were introduced, and how their lives would have gone if they'd aged naturally and lived full lives. Think of their children, their grandchildren, the heroes they mentored. Think of the logical consequences of their inventions and discoveries.

And then, if you live in the South Bay (or reasonable driving distance), and want to join in, let me know.


athelind: (Yog-Sothery)
[livejournal.com profile] paka made an interesting post about elements of the horror genre turning up in an otherwise ISO Standard Fantasy Setting.

This is a subject with which Your Obedient Serpent has some experience.

More often than not, if a group sits down to play a horror game, it doesn't quite click.

It's when horror elements crop up in other genres that you get that frisson of unease, the shivers up your spine, the hairs raising on your arm.

Stephen King knows why, and spells it out in his classic essay, "On Writing": the essence of horror is contrast. If you're expecting vampires or tentacles monstrosities, they won't hold quite the same terror as if you stumble upon them after a wrong turn in the dark.

Any game of mine that runs more than three sessions will eventually become a horror game, whether I want it to or not. The tropes are just too easy to tap. If I actually set out to run Call of Cthulhu or a game of that ilk, though, it would probably veer off into Monty Python Meets Scream territory.


athelind: (RPG: Setting the Stage)
Another song popped into my head as I was perusing responses to the last post.

It's "defiant and heroic", but in a very different sense than the rest of my examples.

... and definitely not "Wrong Publisher".






Superman never made any money ... )

And sometimes I despair the world will never see
Another man like him

athelind: (grognard)
I'm kicking around a playlist for the DC Adventures/Mutants & Masterminds game I'm going to be running Real Soon Now, and I'm looking for for songs with heroic, defiant themes.

This is what I've got so far:
  • Pat Benatar - Invincible
  • Muse - Victorious
  • Bonnie Tyler - Holding Out for a Hero
  • Queen - We Are The Champions
  • Remy Zero - Save Me (Smallville Theme)
  • Five for Fighting - Superman
  • Rush - New World Man



Maybes:
  • Vertical Horizon - Everything You Want
  • Blue Oyster Cult - Veteran of the Psychic Wars



Rejected suggestions:
  • Ozzy Ozbourne - Iron Man (Sorry, wrong publisher!)
  • The Beatles - The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
  • They Might Be Giants - Particle Man
  • Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick


Does anyone have any other suggestions?

This is just ONE playlist, mind. Another (which will get more use) will be purely instrumental, and there may be adventure-specific lists.


athelind: (facepalm)
[livejournal.com profile] athelind grauphs, "If YOU had a Green Lantern PC, how would YOU hand them the ring?"
[livejournal.com profile] halfelf chirrs, "Mail order."
[livejournal.com profile] athelind pencils in "Hurt [livejournal.com profile] halfelf" on his Google Calendar.
[livejournal.com profile] halfelf chirrs, "My character responded to an ad in the back of a comic book, and got this nifty ring!"
[livejournal.com profile] athelind inks it in.
[livejournal.com profile] halfelf chirrs, "What I didn't know is that the green lantern went to the manufacturer and stuck a REAL ring into all the fakes!"
[livejournal.com profile] athelind BOLDFACES.



athelind: (grognard)
Does this ever happen to anyone else?

Every now and then, I get an idea for a character that just won't leave me alone. It would be one thing if it were a character that wanted me to write it—but when this kind of thing hits me, it's almost always a game character.

Sometimes, it's a game that nobody I know even plays. I have any number of files and character sheets and general notes for games like GURPS, Castle Falkenstein, and Mutants & Masterminds.

This time, it's for a game I don't even own, in a genre I haven't touched in years.

That's right. A Dungeon Fantasy character has my creative cortex by the short axons. He'd work acceptably in Dungeons & Dragons proper, but only in Third Edition. He'd work better by far in Pathfinder, Paizo's fork of D&D 3.X.

His story: )
athelind: (Parallel Worlds)
The Legacies premise is pretty straightforward:

LIFE:
  • They Began When They Began. The characters of the DC Universe each started their active adventuring career on or about the same time as their first appearance on the comics stands in our world.1
  • Life Happens. They aged normally2 from that point, and had full lives. Many of them married and had children, sometimes with ordinary people, sometimes with other superhumans or costumed adventurers.
  • Dead Is Dead. If a character died in the comics, they stayed dead, even though the comics eventually brought them back.3 No miraculous resurrections.4,5

THE UNIVERSE:
  • The Gang's All Here. "Characters of the DC Universe" includes pretty much every character currently under the DC umbrella, including the original stable of National Allied Publications (Superman, Batman) and All-American Comics (Green Lantern, the Flash), Quality (Blackhawks, Freedom Fighters, Plastic Man), Fawcett (Shazam!), Charlton (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, the Question), Milestone (Icon, Static), MLJ/Red Circle (the Shield, the Web), and Wally Wood's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents.
  • All This and Arkham, Too. In the Legacyverse, the traditional DC "fictionopoli" do not co-exist with the cities of our world; they replace them. Gotham City is Boston, Metropolis is New York City, Gateway City is San Francisco, and instead of Los Angeles, there's a big crater where Coast City used to be. Fictional locales from sources other than DC comics are likely to make an appearance; the suburbs of Gotham include Arkham, Kingsport, and Innsmouth.
  • "Guardians of the Universe" is a misnomer. Oan jurisdiction extends across the "region of dominant gravitational attraction of the Milky Way Galaxy", including the halo of globular clusters surrounding it. As far as is known on Earth, the Magellanic Clouds are "disputed territories". Just who would dispute such matters with the Oans and the Green Lantern Corps is a matter of endless speculation in xenopolitical circles.6 For the record, there are a lot more than 3600 sectors in the Oan Jurisdiction, though I haven't decided just how many there really are.

EVERYTHING:
  • Big Events Usually Happened. Events in the Legacyverse track the main DC timeline(s) fairly closely, right up until the Crisis of 2008 ("Final Crisis"). The various alien invasions, the Luthor presidency, the Gotham Earthquake, the destruction of Coast City -- they've all left their mark. Not all of them did, though, and they didn't all happen in the same way. There Will Be A List Later.
  • Yes, Virginia, There Is A Multiverse. It's ... wider, weirder and more diverse than the one we see post-52, though. Since the mid-1960s, the Justice League have had annual contact with a team from a parallel Earth that call themselves the Avengers ... .
  • Some Elseworlds are Thisworlds. Oddly, while John Byrne's Generations shares almost exactly the same premise, I wound up using very few of his plot twists. I'm using a few bits from Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier (especially Diana's costume!), and a whole lot of James Robinson's The Golden Age.
  • It All Started With K-Metal. This is important enough to give it its own bullet point: "The K-Metal from Krypton" is an unpublished Shuster and Siegel tale from 1940; Joe and Jerry originally planned to have Superman discover his origin and reveal his identity to Lois early on. Please read this; for one, it's a short, fun tale; for another, it's exactly the point where the published stories of the DCU diverge from the Legacyverse timeline.7



Footnotes:
  1. There are exceptions to all of these rules, of course. Green Arrow, for instance, doesn't put on a costume until the late '50s, while his comics counterpart first popped up in the '40s. His Bronze Age Road Trip with Hal Jordan and his relationship with Black Canary are just too important, and he needs to be the right age for that.
  2. "Normally" as modified by alien or metahuman physiology, of course.
  3. There will be exceptions here, too. Not every death scene "counts".
  4. Things like Lazarus Pits aren't "miraculous" if they're an established part of a character's background. Ra's al Ghul isn't known for sharing, though.
  5. Yes, this means that a lot of familiar young faces will be in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. More than one regularly-appearing character in the comics will be, well, just plain dead.
  6. For some reason, I never had to worry about stuff like this in Gotham.
  7. You might notice that "K-Metal" has properties not normally seen in the Green Kryptonite that later appeared; those properties may be a plot point.

athelind: (grognard)


I confess that I was a little disappointed when the new edition of Gamma World decided to use a collectible card model to implement random mutations. Gimmicky mechanics like that tend to keep a niche game limited to a niche market.

I was also a little dismayed when the game description included adjectives like "wacky" and "rollicking". On the day of its release, one of my store's regular customers, looked at the blurb on the box, and summed up exactly what I'd been thinking: "Aw, jeez. We always played it straight."

On the other claw ... one problem with the White Wolf version of the game was that they took it too seriously, downplaying the frankly comic-book super-power mutations of "classic" ΓW, trying to treat it as semi-hard SF.

And ... certainly, Back In The Day, we "played it straight" -- but only as "straight" as we played D&D. In those ancient days of yore, there was always a level of whimsy at the tabletop. A D&D adventure could include a Burma Shave sign or an encounter at Monty Python's Bridge of Doom, and it didn't derail the game or detract from the atmosphere. A game like Gamma World wasn't played so much "straight" as "deadpan", and surely, Gabe and Tycho's tale of a Funeral for a Deceased Laser fits perfectly with that style.

The new game uses D&D4 "as a foundation". I hope it's a solid foundation that leaves it essentially D&D-compatible; a huge chunk of the critters in any given Monster Manual fit a post-apocalyptic science-fantasy setting far better than they fit the Tolkien Bar Sinister motifs that the "traditional" D&D settings try to ape.

And, yes ... I'd love to be able to effortlessly treat one game as a supplement for the other, and run a setting with the mix of "sorcery and super-science" of Thundaar the Barbarian.


I have half-a-dozen entries with the "Gamma World" tag, but somehow, I've never managed to link any of them to Bigfella Machine's Mutant Bastards gallery. WotC really should have hired the Bigfella to create the look and feel for the new book.
athelind: (Default)

The Kno: A giant double-screen tablet to replace giant textbooks.



Kno Movie from Kno, Inc. on Vimeo.



I'm not much of a tech-fiend or an early adopter. My usual reaction at the Shiny Tech Toy of the Minute is, "huh, that's kinda cool", but it's seldom if ever "OMG I GOTTA HAVE IT".

Even now, as I'm looking at the Kno, my reaction is, "Yes, this is finally getting to what I want in the elusive 'electronic book' -- something that retains the utility of a hardcopy book while simultaneously taking advantage of the new medium."

Up until now, the ebook readers I've seen haven't done either. They've been the Worst of Both Worlds: a static page without any of the convenient features that let the spine-bound book render the continuous scroll obsolete. That's fine for a novel, but for any kind of reference work at all, it's useless. If I'm, say, playing an RPG, and trying to run combat, even the best-organized rulebooks I've seen have me flipping back and forth between three or more widely-separated sections at once.

A reader-tablet that's set up to properly display two-page spreads, to let me jot notes, to let me flip back and forth casually between sections? One that's ALSO set up to hyperlink and cross-reference? And, of course, to have animated illustrations and even embedded video? To have two books open at once, or a full-on web browser on one screen with a textbook on the other?

This is the frakkin' Diamond Age, boys and girls. Or the first real stab at it, anyway.

[livejournal.com profile] halfelf is holding out for a tablet that has both a capacitive and a resistive screen, so you can do both the Cool iPhone Multi-Touch Tricks and the Pressure-sensitive Drawing Tablet Tricks. Call it the "fingerpaint interface".

It would be NICE to be able to use something like the Kno as a full-fledged graphics tablet, but it's not a deal-breaker for me. I can live without that. After all, I can't use my laptop as one, either.

In short: WANT. If this thing isn't just vaporware, I'll be eagerly awaiting announcements of price points.

Even if it is ... this is the interface of the future. This is what an "ebook reader" will have to look like to be as useful as a spine-bound book. It doesn't have to be this large, but it's going to have to be this flexible.

Take a good look, people. This could be the printkiller.
athelind: (Eye: RCA Magic Eye)
There are Seven Words that everyone dreads when talking to a gamer. They're not Mr. Carlin's famous Seven Words, but in casual conversation, they can often prompt a response that's every bit as extreme. After a few years, those of us who are capable of acquiring at least rudimentary social skills learn to avoid these words, for the most part, but every so often, they just have to slip out.


The words in question: Let Me Tell You About My Character ... )

This brings us to the Songs of the Day: Medley for a Reluctant Android.






1-0-0-1-0-0-1 ... )







I am the modяen man ... )

No, the similarities between "Kilroy" and "Kildare" haven't escaped me.
YouTube has the original, official videos for both of these songs,
but they're both just ... so ... painfully ... Eighties.

athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
What happens if the Doctor picks up a party of first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons player characters? It's guaranteed that at least one will have a Bag of Holding, and there might be a Portable Hole in the party, as well.

By the Narrative Causality Conventions of AD&D1*, bringing either of those into the TARDIS will result in some kind of Negative Space Wedgie that automatically kills the whole party.

By the Narrative Causality Conventions of Doctor Who, however, the resultant Very Bad Thing will result in Several Minutes of Tension and Possibly A Cliffhanger, but it will be resolved by the Doctor invoking technobabble, running around the TARDIS console, and possibly pulling out the Sonic Screwdriver.

Combining the Narrative Conventions, I estimate a 30% chance, +5% per Regeneration Level of the Doctor, that the Doctor will not only neutralize the Anomaly, but that the solution will also incapacitate or eliminate or eliminate whatever aggressor the party was confronting when the TARDIS appeared.

This assumes that this is the Doctor's first encounter with the party, of course. If he's established an emotional stake over at least the course of an episode, that probability will drop to 25% + 2%/Regeneration Level.

In any case, a bad roll will, of course, result in the restoration of the full AD&D1 narrative conventions.


*In particular, unlike most forms of narrative (including later RPGs), AD&D1 eschews the principles that the narrative must continue to a dramatically satisfactory conclusion; in other words, Total Party Kill is not only an acceptable outcome, but, in extreme examples, a desirable one.

Desirable to some participants, that is.

athelind: (claw)
For the Ironclaw players in my audience:




TIME IS COMING

What the ever-terrifying Lady Jakoba really means:

"It is time for the new rules."




athelind: (Warning: Biohazard)
Argh.

Last week, a flare-up in joint pain heralded another bout of Serial Flu, that one-symptom-at-a-time never-really-sick variation of influenza that hits me now and then. Body aches most of last week; congestion and post-nasal drip over the weekend; digestive upset on Monday, after work. As usual, I never felt bad enough to really consider myself sick, and, aside from a general air of lingering blah, I thought I was pretty much done with it.

This evening, I've got the Extreme Tiredness symptom, along with a slight resurgence of stuffiness, and a mild, general achiness that's not quite the same as the Crippling Arthritic Agony of last week. It's not done with me yet.

I had my flu shot this year (though not my H1N1, yet); in years past, if I had my immunization, "serial flu" would almost never progress to full-on flu.

I doubt I'm contagious; I'm not really in virus-spreading sneeze/sniffle mode. I don't really feel sick, honestly, just run down. [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi and [livejournal.com profile] tealfox, I'll give you a heads up if I'm not fit to share breathing space with the Saga group on Saturday. I should be good, though.

athelind: (Default)
Argh.

Last week, a flare-up in joint pain heralded another bout of Serial Flu, that one-symptom-at-a-time never-really-sick variation of influenza that hits me now and then. Body aches most of last week; congestion and post-nasal drip over the weekend; digestive upset on Monday, after work. As usual, I never felt bad enough to really consider myself sick, and, aside from a general air of lingering blah, I thought I was pretty much done with it.

This evening, I've got the Extreme Tiredness symptom, along with a slight resurgence of stuffiness, and a mild, general achiness that's not quite the same as the Crippling Arthritic Agony of last week. It's not done with me yet.

I had my flu shot this year (though not my H1N1, yet); in years past, if I had my immunization, "serial flu" would almost never progress to full-on flu.

I doubt I'm contagious; I'm not really in virus-spreading sneeze/sniffle mode. I don't really feel sick, honestly, just run down. [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi and [livejournal.com profile] tealfox, I'll give you a heads up if I'm not fit to share breathing space with the Saga group on Saturday. I should be good, though.

athelind: (grognard)
[livejournal.com profile] paka posted some thoughts on LotR Elves vs. D&D Elves, in which he noted that Unca Gary wasn't that much of a Tolkien fan, since the Professor's work "wasn't pulpy enough for his tastes".

I responded:
I have long felt that the reason Dungeon Fantasy mutated into its own peculiar, inbred subgenre that, frankly, doesn't really WORK that well was because players tried to graft the tropes of Heroic Quest Fantasy onto a system whose initial assumptions were rooted in the very different tropes of picaresque Sword & Sorcery.


I may be the only person who thinks so anymore, but to me, D&D's haphazard combination of High Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery isn't so much a matter of "you got peanut butter in my chocolate" as "you're wearing plaid and paisley together."


athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] paka posted some thoughts on LotR Elves vs. D&D Elves, in which he noted that Unca Gary wasn't that much of a Tolkien fan, since the Professor's work "wasn't pulpy enough for his tastes".

I responded:
I have long felt that the reason Dungeon Fantasy mutated into its own peculiar, inbred subgenre that, frankly, doesn't really WORK that well was because players tried to graft the tropes of Heroic Quest Fantasy onto a system whose initial assumptions were rooted in the very different tropes of picaresque Sword & Sorcery.


I may be the only person who thinks so anymore, but to me, D&D's haphazard combination of High Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery isn't so much a matter of "you got peanut butter in my chocolate" as "you're wearing plaid and paisley together."


athelind: (AAAAAA)
Your Obedient Serpent has no idea what he's gonna do to relax in the near future, because all the things he's frittered away his spare-and-not-so-spare time on over the years actively piss him off right now.

This is, in part, because he's frittered away so much of his life on them, and in part because, well, Busman's Holiday. One of his sources of stress is his low-paying retail job, selling all those time-consuming distractions.


athelind: (Default)
Your Obedient Serpent has no idea what he's gonna do to relax in the near future, because all the things he's frittered away his spare-and-not-so-spare time on over the years actively piss him off right now.

This is, in part, because he's frittered away so much of his life on them, and in part because, well, Busman's Holiday. One of his sources of stress is his low-paying retail job, selling all those time-consuming distractions.


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