Friday, December 23, 2011

Harley & Ivy's Xmas Shopping Spree

Here's an Xmas themed clip from one of my favorite episodes of The Batman Animated Series. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy brainwash and kidnap Bruce Wayne and force him to pay for a high end departement store shopping spree. Goddamn these sick, evil chicks are so cute together. Girls really put us men through the ringer during the holidays, right guys? Right, guys? Guys...? C'mon, you can speak up. She doesn't know this blog exists...

Have a fun, happy holiday all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Paul Jaquays - Wow!

This news will probably be all over the OSR in the next day or two, but just thought I'd do a quick post on it. Paul Jaquays, one of my favorite JG designers from back in the day, has had gender reassignment this weekend. Apparently he has been unhappy for a long time, and this is bringing him happiness, according to his Facebook page.

Last year he answered a couple of my silly questions in the comments section of his Grognardia interview (I think regarding Fred the Amulet and his old Star Trek parody in The Dungeoneer). He came off as a pretty cool guy, who is now I guess a pretty cool gal.

Anyway, as a nod to PJ here's a post of mine from a year or so ago talking about wanting to get back into some of his old material I loved in my gaming olden days. Good luck with your new life, my friend.

Night of the Walking Wet

Even though it is maybe months away, I keep thinking about what I would like to do for the early part of my next campaign, so I have been going through my older game stuff for ideas. Over the weekend I took another look at my old and beaten copy of The Dungeoneer Compendium.

The first 6 issues of The Dungeoneer from back in the day each had a featured dungeon. Each of these were great examples of Judges Guild’s wild and wooly take on Dungeons and Dragons. For one thing, the entries for rooms and areas were just like I did mine in my game notebooks, specifically, poor spelling, grammer, and amusing misuse of words. A lot of the time, you could barely grasp what the author (usually the great Paul Jaquays) was getting at in some of the entries, just like one of my players might find my notebook jots to be if they snuck a glimpse. This stuff was so very amateurish, and for sure that was a good thing. It was one of the charms of the stuff; it was written the way I wrote for my games, and how could that not appeal to me? It was homey and warm, and you automatically felt like the author was your buddy, a regular guy in a way Sir Gary never could came off in his flowery prose.

At one time or another, I ran each of the dungeons featured. Borshak’s Lair, The Pharoah’s Tomb, Merlin’s Garden, etc. Actually, I ran most after the Dungeoneer Compendium came out and collected the dungeons of the first six issues. That great book not only contained all those dungeons, but also placed them all on the land map of Jaquays’ great Night of the Walking Wet setting. All those places, and more, were right there in the Castle Krake area, and I used that to my advantage.

I made a decent mid-level campaign out of it. My teenage sweethearts’ Elf character Noradama “Nord” Calingref won Castle Krake in a card game, and took her adventurer pals along with her to clear out the Slime God, and the Type 4 Demon and ghoul army of Krakesbourough. That Walking Wet scenario is hella cool, and is pure Judges Guild.
I have great memories of all those dungeons set near Krake. In The Pharoah’s Tomb, one player had a desert ranger, and he was able to scramble over all those sand-trap rooms while other characters struggled and got trapped. He loved using an ability I gave his character that he thought he would never use. He was so jazzed, his character skittering over the sand floods and ululating “ayiayiayaiyaiyai!”

Within Borshak’s Lair, a magic tomb invaded by orcs, one character found the hilarious “Fred the Magic Amulet.” The sentient, +1 protection amulet had awesome illusion powers, and I would have it transform into a giant, inanimate shark that still spoke in Fred’s high pitched Mickey Mouse voice. Dark Tower was great, but this shit was Paul Jaquays best work as far as I was concerned. Was he as stoned as I sometimes get when he was writing these scenarios?

All these dungeons featured old school D&D staples, i.e. plenty of magic affect statuary, and traps that were usually more weird and scary than deadly. I had so much fun with this stuff as a teen. Sadly, I eventually got more serious with my adventures, heading more into “High Fantasy” despite sticking with 1st edition.

But I think it is time to revisit some of this classic cheese of time past, so I may just be making the dungeon-heavy Castle Krake area and it’s interesting sandbox surroundings the setting for the next campaign.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sci Fi fashion goes full circle

If there is one truly weird fact I have learned from Science Fiction films and books is that fashion eventually comes full circle. That is to say, it gets to a certain point beyond military or blue collar worker jumpsuits into semi-space punk latex jumpsuits and astronaut armor, and then starts heading back to ancient garb. Tunics, togas, and robes. Cases in point: Logan’s Run, Star Wars, The Time Machine, original Star Trek, and the book version of the Dune Universe and others. Whatever it is, we eventually digress into the fashion of ancient Rome.

Somewhere in there is the turtleneck sweater phase of the future as well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

One campaign wraps, some others begin

Well, last night we did what will be the last KOTOR session for awhile . After having done Night Below with 1st edition for two years (with little breaks for Metamorphosis Alpha and Champions) I was a little burnt out, so I knew from then on I would keep to 6 month campaigns of whatever I ran. We started KOTOR in July I think, so the holidays seem to be a good time to end it. I think we had between 12-14 sessions, and it has actually been pretty fun. For people who are only marginally into Star Wars, we got into it and everybody seemed to like their characters and there were some pretty good interactions.

I found the Star Wars Saga system a bit of a challenge in that there is very little wriggle room with the rules. If you house rule one thing, you risk messing up some other thing related to it. My first instinct as a GM is to houserule any little thing I don’t like. But in a way this was a good discipline exercise for me. I could focus less on rules I wanted to change and more on the actual gameplay.

So with a session of dicking around Coruscant, with three pretty good combat actions sequences, including Rokran and Lushia the Jedi getting to lightsaber duel two other Padawans under power suppressors in the Jedi Temple (with the block ability, these fights can take a long time with no force powers involved), we set things to rest and will do the second half of the campaign later next year. But for now…

Both Call of Cthulhu and Runequest are what I want to do next. Big Ben’s 1st edition games will help keep us a D&D group, but after all that Night Below it’s going to be awhile before I want to run extended D&D. Just for fun we are going to do some one-offs here and there with the now high level Night Below guys, but my focus will be CoC and RQ.

But which to start first? I had long, successful Cthulhu campaigns in the 80’s and 90’s (some of those 90’s runs were so much fun as to seem unreal). But I have also been itching to do some classic Glorantha again for almost 30 years. As for the players, some seem the most into Cthulhu, some seem to be very curious about RQ. Terry having been a big part of those 90’s Cthulhu games (her mobbed-up torch singers Lila survived two campaigns where most others died or went nuts) is inspiration to get going on that, and the fact is that with Dan Dan the Power Game man™ being back in South Africa seeing family for a couple of months, it’s a great time to do some subtle, low combat Cthulhu.

Anyway, with both games being based off Basic Role-Playing, I think I’ll interchange sessions; run both games at once. Maybe do Cthulhu when we only have 4 or less players, seeing as six is kind of a crowd in an investigator group, and RQ the rest of the time.

As my last Cthulhu game ended set around 1923, I think I’ll jump ahead a few years to 1927 or 28. Lots going on towards the end of the decade in America and beyond. I’m going to take the adventures from Times Square in New York, to New England (brief visits to Innsmouth and Arkham might be called for), and eventually to California, the setting of my previous campaign.

For Runequest, the big question is do I want to have characters start in the stormy hill country of Dragon’s Pass, or in the arid and sometimes barbaric land of Prax to the east. Actually that decision is my biggest struggle with it at the moment. What is the best way to introduce players to Runequest and Glorantha who have zero knowledge and experience about it? That is actually part of the excitement for me. Complete Glorantha noobs. Blank slates.

But anyway, here we go. New year, new genres, new campaigns.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Star Wars Universe is like a Toaster

In this recent post about the Star Wars city planet Coruscant, Chaz makes this comment:

“…On a further aside - what's with the technological stagnation in the star wars universe? My grandmother was born in 1916 and today she uses a kindle with ease! It always seemed weird to me that KOTOR tech was in line with Episode IV etc…”

It’s true that we still think more about the cool tech, and enduring “lived in” look of Star Wars than why this 25,000 year old galaxy-spanning civilization does not advance much in terms of the functionality of the equipment available. Over the thousands of year of the Republic, little changes outside of, perhaps, the architecture and style-design of weapons and gear. Pod Racers might be popular towards the end of the Galactic Republic, while Swoop Bikes are the choice for racing 4,000 years prior, but very little goes forward in the technology that drives and powers things. The biggest technological difference that comes to mind to me time and time again is that the protocol droids are far less mincing than their Empire era counterparts (but still a little light in the loafers) although that is sketchy research matter at best. Bottom line; if C3PO was proficient in over 6 million languages, odds are that was the same amount a Knights of The Old Republic droid would be proficient in.

Comlinks are the cell phones of the Star Wars Universe, and Datapads seem to be the Laptops/Netbooks of folks. You would think that just like the real world these things would change fastest and the most, but between the KOTOR period and the Trilogy period, the tech has not changed. In fact, in the classic Star Wars periods you do not see many Datapads at all, usually only in the hands of tech dudes on the Hoth base or whatever. But as little as 30 years prior in the Clone War era Anakin is seen goofing around with one on the couch. So did they just get too expensive in the Empire era? Was everybody just too busy shitting their pants to even think about such frivolous items?

In Dune, the universe had a pretty good excuse for keeping tech from advancing. They had bad prior experiences with robots, so they banned all computers any more advanced than an abacus. There’s yer technological retardation right there. Not even the Golden Path could overcome that fear.

But Star Wars has no such excuses. What’s the deal?

One could say that the galaxy and Republic is constantly being faced by devastating wars again and again, usually involving the Sith and the Jedi. This not only costs huge numbers in lives and sucks up resources, but puts many thriving planets, again and again over the millennia, into periods of urban decay and semi-post apocalypses. When this happens to major industrial areas, technological growth gets retarded. OK, but you soon have to hand-wave theories like this, because wars tend to bring forth greater and great technologies that eventually trickle down to the masses. That does not seem to be happening (outside of the occasional Death Star or Star Forge).

So could the very presence of Jedi as constant allies in the Republic over the millennia have something to do with technological retardation? Probably not, because after most Jedi are gone regular folk seem to fuck things up pretty good on the high tech front. Everybody heads for the hills when The Empire takes over, and most of their ships and vehicles don’t seem to be able to even get a paint job, much less an upgrade. Hey, when the highest tech items on Tatooine are either used to vaporate moisture or bullseye Womp Rats, you know you are in a universe in decline.

But I think my “Toaster Theory” is the most logical fit. You see, toasters have barely changed in almost 100 years. They must be the least changed technology in our real world. Sure, they have come in countless designs and styles on the shelves of Sears stores over the decades, but when the day is done they all still heat your toast and your Pop tarts by heating up metal coils. That’s it. Why? I think it must have something to do with functionality meets cost-benefit analysis meets the point of diminishing returns. Could we come up with better ways to toast our multi-grain grub-outs if we threw a lot of money at it? Sure. We could probably also set little laser beam blast traps to disintegrate the mice infesting the garage, only 2.1 million dollars per trap down at Rite-Aid! But will it kill mice better than a spring-loaded roll bar that breaks it’s neck for 3 bucks? Nope. Don’t need a better mouse trap. Come to think of it, in Star Wars they would probably have it be a low tech Rube Goldberg-like device with gears and poles and descending cages like the old board game.

So maybe in the Star Wars universe, blasters work as good as you need them too and still be able to afford them. How much faster does a starship need to go once it’s in hyperspace? Would it make that huge a difference to spend three times the money to get somewhere a day sooner? And when your police force numbers in the millions and your armed forces number in the billions, can you afford to give them all blasters that do double damage, and give them all hand held super-computers? Could you divert needed funds towards teleportation technology? Who would set-up all these resources? And could such advances actually ignite wars over them, fracturing the Republic even more than the endless beatings it takes over the thousands of years of it’s existence?

In all Star Wars eras computers not changing is the real head scratcher. They seem to be in the early to mid-80’s Earth level of tech millennia-in, millennia-out. So…there are no Steve Jobs types in the SW universe? Perhaps there are some planets in the universe with super-tech that has actually advanced beyond those you see in general population use in Darth Vader’s time or Darth Revan’s time. But what works and is cost-effective on a planetary scale probably is not on a galactic scale.

OK, obviously I have no answers, and the Toaster Theory™ only goes so far. But apparently The Republic after the Empire era sufferes for it’s lack of tech advancement and too much reliance on The Force when the Yuuzhan Vong invade the galaxy. With their own bizarre organic hi-tech weaponry and immunity to The Force, they are enough to make the sentients of the galaxy wish they had put more nose to the grindstone in the technology department, and less in ancient weapons and hokey religions.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sith Lord Lich and the Three-Headed Apprentice

This weeks KOTOR session was an action-packed blast. The group has been trapped in a derelict, haunted space station along the Hyperspace routes. Some decades ago during the Sith War the Dark Lord known as Darth Sinaes and his apprentices took over a Republic ship repair station and committed mass murder and horrible atrocities there, to the point of the Dark Lords apprentices themselves being appalled and turning on the master. Although they managed to kill him, his evil lingered in his body and allowed him to be a Dark Side Lich. Sinaes used his unholy power to meld the apprentices into one single body (three faces and three sets of arms, but just one pair of legs and a torso) that could use three regular lightsabers and one double lightsaber simultaneously. Oh, the horror! Along with his three-in-one apprentice, zombified bodies of old victims, and some other monstrosities, Darth Sinaes has lurked in the station an occasionally used it to lure unwary spacefarers to their doom, to become part of his growing undead army. Also trapped on the station was the ghost of a Jedi victim, Amelia, who had come along years ago. Amelia had her spirit locked here because of all the corruption, but she came in handy as a warning to players. She was able to tell the party the history Sinaes and his corruption of the place.

I originally meant this to be more or less a space dungeon for the characters to crawl around in, and it was, but in the end I mostly focused on combat encounters. The party had fun in the previous game fighting zombie hordes and a couple mutated monsters, but in this session it was time to face Sinaes and his hideious apprentices. Good thing we had a full group that session.

The apprentice managed to put a lot of fear and damage into the party, before he was ultimately defeated by a combination of good rolls and the infamous Force Grip of Pauls Khil (tentacle faced humanoid) force user. During this battle Terry’s Cathar (cat lady) Jedi Lucia was taken down with a killing blast (not so deadly due to the use of her last force point) of force lighting, but the spirit of Amelia used the force to bond with Lucia and not just bring her back to full health, but increase her stats and abilities for the encounter, allowing her to jump right back into the fray.

The party was now able to put the screws to Darth Sinaes, who I had planned to have run away but I hesitated so he could gloat and get an attack in. Bad move, because they were all over him. After some fierce melee and force use, Darth Sinaes set off explosions in the hull of the station that immediately started explosive decompression and loss of life support. Even though Andy’s Mandalorian soldier had Mando armor with life support, the party on a whole only got a couple more licks in on the beat-up Sith Lord before they had to make it for the ship (in cinematic fashion barely escaping).

This was the most exciting session yet, and I really got a kick out of it (and the players seemed to as well). Although faced with the possibility of a powerful enemy escaping from them, they mixed it up with a real challenge for a change and came out with flying colors. And Terry’s Jedi Lucia gets a colorful addition to her bio – namely, the soul of another Jedi whom now sort of haunts her (in a non-evil way), but also gives her a little bonus to a couple of stats and hit points when she is in contact with her. This will make for some interesting role-play down the line, methinks. I think Terry may have been struggling with what exactly the personality of Lucia was, but now she for sure has an interesting angle to work from. I originally though Amelia might do this bonding thing with the male Jedi (I thought he would get the focus of damage and be the first knocked out of the fight), and also thought it would be funny if her spirit bonded with the Wookiee, but in the end I am glad Terry will be the one dealing with it. Her character seemed the least fleshed out.

Next week we play in Dan’s palace up in Bel Air above Mulholland Blvd, and the party will finally arrive at the Galactic Core and the planet Coruscant for more mayhem. Man, I think I have finally decided that I like this game! (the prequel movies, not so much).