Monday, April 27, 2020

Pig in Space

Not sure how it came about, but I think it was Ed Heil on FB who said I should do a Miss Piggy pin up. So here she is in all her sexy glory.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Psi World Slam

I ran session three of Psi World tonight. The PCs are all Psis (but no precogs!) who have been drawn to the small town of Enclave after a teenager with psionic abilities allegedly blew up the heads of seven people in a hospital. Gerry Muntrell, the teen, is said to have "went crazy" and killed several of his friends and a few doctors during a perfectly safe and routine medical study.

But there's more to this story. The players decided Gerry was innocent and needed to be freed from his prison in the basement of the Enclave Memorial Hospital. Upon discovering a sub-basement level reminiscent of a James Bond villain's lair, their suspicions may be proven correct.

Tonight they busted Gerry out and nobody got killed. It was a stealth mission and was successful, with the alarms going off just as they made their getaway with the young man.

I am off-book a little bit with the setting. I set my game early in the timeline so that the PCs are basically among the first generation of Psis to come out. Corporations run the world through a quasi-government known as IPEG (International Protectorate of Economic Growth). Many corporations are at the heart of IPEG and one of them, the Ranseur Pharmaceutical Company, is somehow associated with the hospital. Is it possible that the "special services" wing of the hospital is conducting illegal experiments on people with psionic abilities?

We're going to find out.

So far the system isn't getting in the way. Many people said this game's mechanics were a nightmare. I agree they are obtuse, but they aren't impenetrable. I have yet to run into a situation where I need to make a ruling and I don't have the tools to do it. The Attribute Saving Throws alone pretty much ensure that won't happen. But, to be fair, the game has been mostly about investigation and dialog and lots and lots of analysis paralysis (my Monday night friends are really good at going over ideas and plans for what might be called a minute or two). We have had at least one real combat and a few uses of psi powers. But I think we've had more skill checks and ASTs that anything.

Enjoying this old game quite a bit. It was a sudden move to run it and I'm glad I made that move. Especially since the group is really into it and Dyson Logos is even working on some super secret sauce related to the game as a result. Hmmmmm.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Free PDFs, Fool!

I don't think I posted this yet on the blog, only on FB.

I made the PDFs of these three titles free on DriveThruRPG. Go play some games, shut-ins.

Explore the Howling Hill! A low-level crawl.

Get lost in the Ice Forest! A low-level forest crawl.

Be a beaver, fossa, or rat!

Musical Musings: Kreator: Coma of Souls

And here you thought this blog was just a place for RPG stuff. Nonsense!

(Well it's mostly that, naturally. But I like doing what I want, so...)

I click on a lot of random YouTube videos when I'm drawing. YouTube knows that I like metal, among other things. So I clicked on Kreator: Coma of Souls this morning. And... I was slightly pleasantly surprised.

Kreator is one of those early thrash bands that I just didn't like back in the day. I remember buying one of their tapes (remember... I'm 49 years old... when I say "back in the day" I'm mostly referring to the cassette tape era, though as a young man in the 90s I clearly bleed into the CD era as well). I put it in the deck and gave it a listen. I ejected it after a song or two. Like my reaction to Candlemass, I just couldn't hack it. Where Metallica, Megadeth, WASP, and AC/DC had killer riffage, this album seemed to be just rapid fire guitar banging with machine gun polka drumming. It was a little more on the Slayer end of the metal spectrum and Slayer was as far on that end of the spectrum I cared to go.

In fact, this band dead up sounds like a Slayer cover band to me, at least during the verses. I know that's not fair since Slayer was the big dog and anyone with fast tempo and somewhat screechy vocals could be compared to them. But y'know...

This album definitely has that polka-blast thing going on. But there are some tracks, such as People of the Lie, where a nice groove is established... a thrashy groove you can headbang to, not just a nuclear assault of speed.

The whole thing has that crunchy high register typical of the time period that is also a bit of a turnoff. It's a product of the late 80s, after all. But it's not bad. If you like thrash, this is not a bad album to check out.

That is the extent of my musical reviewing chops. I am a lifelong listener, but not an aficionado. I don't even know what the word "register" even means, in musical terms. I just know what tickles my earholes and I like to share it.

I would ask my dear readers if they want to see more of this kind of thing, but since I do what I want anyway it kinda doesn't matter, does it? You all are used to me going all over the place.

Next up: chainmail chicks!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Meme Me Merry Myrmidon #7

Yet more! And I seem to have run dry of messed-up RPG covers. I'll have to switch gears and post even randomer random bullshit for this very silly series. (cue laugh track)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Musical Musing: Slift: Ummon

This album is so good. It reminds me of everything wonderful about 70s/80s sci-fi and sci-fantasy. It's prog, it's a bit metal, it's psychedelic. I hear tones of Pink Floyd, Hypnos 69, and even Donald Fagen (think True Companion).

The song "Hyperion" in particular is really heavy. If you listen to the whole album, this song hits you like a hammer. In context it is heavy as fuck. Of course, comparing it to straight up heavy metal songs it won't seem as heavy. But that's a really neat trick about albums: they provide contrast. They build soundscapes. I'm a huge metalhead, but I gotta say that most metal albums that try to be all heavy all the time fall flat because there's no story, no flow.

This album has a story. It is a journey.

Not to mention a sweet ass Caza cover.

So what is this album about? I've already said that the music is fucking unreal. But what about the lyrics? I actually have no idea. I haven't paid any attention. I just love the journey the music takes me on. So let's look together and see what is happening here. Is it gameable?

Here's Ummon:

Set the controls to the earth’s surface
From the night we have waited
Bring the fire to your sleeping brothers
From the night we have waited
Now we’re climbing through the ancestral stones
All the night we have waited
From the center to the earth’s surface!
A blade, a sword coming from the void
Titans, Gods, they’re coming from the void
A blade, a sword, it's coming from the void

Oh hell yeah. Gameable.

So it sounds like we have something massive coming from the center of the earth (possibly a void?) to the surface. An arising? An awakening?

Here's Hyperion:

From the deepest ocean to the highest mount
In the storm and nebula fury we hear now his name
He was born and raised where the chaos rules
He’ll be the thunder in the night when the lights will be gone
From the deepest ocean to the highest mount
In the storm and nebula fury we hear now his name
He was born and raised where the chaos rules
He’ll be the thunder in the night when the lights will be gone

Lead us beyond, tides and traps of time
Lead us beyond, tides and traps of time
Lead us beyond, tides and traps of time
Lead us beyond, tides and traps of time

So yeah. Gameable as hell all over the place. I like the there are very few actual lyrics on this whole album. It's poetic.

Mutant World

I went in on the Kickstarter for Richard Corben and Jan Strnad's Mutant World reprint. Got the hardback graphic novel that includes Mutant World and Son of Mutant World. In the forward, Strnad states that this edition was built from scans of the Fantagor prints, tweaked by Richard Corben.

I just finished reading the first 60 pages. It's the story of a poor dumb mutant named Dimento who just wants to find something to eat. During the course of these 60 pages he encounters an outrageous bunch of backstabbing, hunger-gnarled muties with names like Weasel and Dimlit. He also encounters a woman in a horse-drawn cart. The woman, whose name hasn't been given, is drawn in Corben's typical style. Large-breasted, full-bodied. But also, given Corben's origins in the underground comix scene, she is weird. Everything is weird in a Corben comic.

There's the idea of the male gaze that permeates pop culture. It is on display here, as it always was in the pages of Heavy Metal, 1984, and pretty much all the pulpy-styled comics of the 70s and 80s. Women are usually drawn with an eye to their sexual characteristics. Men are usually drawn as beefy, possibly ugly as well. Corben's style falls in line with this. His male forms, if not monstrous and misshapen, are muscular and beautiful. Even poor ole Dimento, bent and seemingly mutated, has an Olympian physique. The unnamed woman, who recurs throughout this part of the story, is busty and full and lovely. And she has a horse.

So anyway, everyone in this world seems to be mad and vile. Every single character Dimento encounters is less than stellar if not outright brutal. Not just to Dimento, but to each other as well. It's a harsh world, as one of the characters states. The woman helps Dimento at one point, perhaps for fun. Then she betrays him to save herself. Dimento, who is the nicest person in the comic, is prone to fits of anguish, rage, and sorrow, and he leaves her to her fate with some nasty mutants who rape her and beat her. The beating is on-screen, but the raping is not. It isn't pretty, nor is it titillating. I get the sense that even though Corben draws the woman in a slightly sexy way (again, the male gaze at work), he is sympathetic to her plight and doesn't try to capitalize too much on it. I don't know this to be the case, but given the fact that the story was written in chapters on a deadline and wasn't scripted out, Corben started off by just having a hottie show up and then, as the story evolved, he realized he didn't want to do a hottie comic. Her story unfolds brutally, and she is drawn less-and-less like an object to be looked at and more-and-more like just another brutal individual being brutalized in a brutal world.

Then again, maybe I'm lenient in my critique because I'm biased toward this genre of comic art. She is, after all, tied up much of the time. That could be read a certain way. Yet Dimento is also tied up much of the time. So... I dunno. Perhaps a person with a different perspective would find this entirely misogynistic. I couldn't argue too much with them, though I've seen far worse. All I'd have to say is that if I'm looking for prurient comic book art with hotties I wouldn't choose this. It is not for that purpose.

This part of the story is disjointed and random. It feels like random events in the daily life of poor Dimento. And as Jan Strnad points out in the forward, he was writing the episodes under deadline pressure one at a time. He hadn't plotted this thing out. And it shows.

I kinda like that. I like that it's raw and random. It is a hard read, though. I'm not a fan of bleakness or moral depravity. I stopped watching The Walking Dead because it felt like one episode of despair porn after another. It wore me out and I dropped it.

Mutant World is a bit like that, but in shorter bursts. It's a comic about a fallen world in which people - mutant and human alike - trick, beat, rape, and brutalize one another to survive. And through it moves this truly pitiful figure. Dimento. Poor, dumb Dimento (as he calls himself).

Regarding the art itself, it is classic Corben. Rich and lush and also ugly and crude. Nobody does misshapen like Corben. When I read comics like this, which are richly painted and detailed, I cringe at just how much work must have went into them. Comics are fucking hard work, people. You spend days, weeks, months, fucking years on a comic book that someone can literally "read" in five minutes, then promptly forget. I can't tell you how many hours I labored over comics in my youth. I loved it, mind you. I was totally into it. But at some point the endorphin rush I felt at having created a nice comic page just wasn't enough to justify the labor. Hats off to Corben and any comics artist that can and does endure.

It's weird that I hadn't actually read this comic before. I know I own some old Fantagor books and I have been a lover of Richard Corben's style since I first laid eyes on it in the mid-80s. I know I've seen this comic in the past, yet somehow I failed to actually read the damn thing. Reading it now is like reading a mildly-horny teenager's stab at Gamma World fanfic. There's a lot of good inspiration in here for post-apoc gaming, so if you're into GW or Mutant Crawl Classics and you haven't checked it out you should do so. Just be aware that it was intended for adults and it doesn't pull many punches. Also, it is not a sexy comic. That is, I would not classify this as being pin-up in nature whatsoever. It is raw and ugly in the underground comix manner and I really love the shit out of it for that reason alone.

Dimento is a lonely soul.


I finished Mutant World, which was only a few more pages than I had read when I wrote the original post above. Spoilers ahead.

So basically Dimento and this normal dude are set free by the weird post-apoc military facility and both end up with a clone of the woman from the story. In both cases the woman is wearing a tight top showing her nipples poking through and wearing shorts. In both cases she has been sent by the post-apoc scientist dude to, I suppose, see if he can get them to breed. The comic ends with Dimento scoring with his clone (he has no idea she's a clone... he's only 6 years old, after all, being a genetic experiment himself). He seems happy in the end with his large-breasted woman in their post-apoc ruined trailer.

Next up: Son of Mutant World! I'm guessing, given the setup here, we're going to meet Dimento's offspring. I seem to recall a bald female being on the cover.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

What Am I Doing??

We are in a global pandemic, it is entirely possible we Americans will re-elect a psycho reality show clown as President, and I turn 50 this year (if I live long enough). Yes, it's mass fucking chaos everywhere. Not cool, universe. Fuck off.

So in the midst of all this mess what exactly have I been doing? In terms of creativity, of course. Nobody wants to know what I'm eating for breakfast or what I do at my day job.

I've been keeping busy. I recently did a character sheet for The Other Side Publishing, I did a special Virtual Gary Con shirt design, I'm working on a GM-screen thingie for a client, and I did a cover for a future issue of Phantasmagoria. I have also turned down some recent offers because I am working on personal stuff and trying to keep my bandwidth under control.

What started out as a serious attempt to finally write my sand and sorcery game Dead Wizards, which changed to Sand in the Bone, morphed into a completely different game idea about a month ago. It is called GOZR (pronounced GO-zur). It is based on the same game system as Sand in the Bone but is entirely different in tone. Where Sand strikes a more serious tone, GOZR is balls-out sci-fantasy in the vein of early 80s romps like Heavy Metal and Wizards. It is an entirely visual game too. Meaning... I'm hand-lettering the whole fucking thing. And it's taking forever but I'm loving it. Something about doing hand lettering is relaxing and fulfilling to me. I don't purport to be great at it. I'm not a master letterer. But I have fun with it and I'm practicing the craft, hopefully getting better at it.

The game itself is an experiment. There's been no playtesting yet and I'm composing a lot of the rules, such as they are, on the canvas as I go. But it's a simple game without a lot of moving parts so I feel confident it will work. After all, there's not much new to the idea of rolling a d20 vs. a target number, is there? We kinda already know how that mechanic works.

The game is presented visually and is table-heavy. In fact, it's pretty much all tables. When it's all said and done you will be able to use this slim volume at the table even with little or no prep and run a fun romp of a game for a bunch of goofy bastards playing goofy bastards.

There is a The Pool element to the game. I made a few posts talking about Sand in the Bone's sand mechanic and GOZR, being more-or-less the same system, also has this mechanic. Here it's called GOOZ but it does pretty much the same thing. Spending your GOOZ lets you influence the game-story by adding facts or controlling outcomes, with a bit of a risk/gamble mechanic involved. I think this will be fun at the table.

I plan to run some GOZR for the Monday night group the next opportunity I get. This will definitely be before I finish it, so I can make tweaks if playtesting suggests it.

So that's what I've been doing, for those who are curious. More later.

Oh, I should caveat here. I have a long and proud history of getting heavily into an idea and then abandoning it. I make no claims that GOZR will actually be finished. However, I do tend to muscle through and finish things after some critical mass has been established. I have pumped many many hours into this thing so far. I have several finished pages that took a long time to complete. Plus this is a sci-fantasy romp... and I tend to greatly enjoy doing those. What I have a problem with is the more serious, dry projects. I am not good with that. So odds are this will actually see the light of day.

(Man, I'm so god damn honest when I'm blogging.)

Richard Corben... definitely an influence on GOZR.

That RPG Folder Banned on Nine Planets

Great & Small is a game of animal fantasy by Robert F. Mason. It's based on OD&D. This is a little review of the quick start rules.

This game uses a form of Target 20, which is itself derived from the original game's design.

The idea is a simple one. PCs are animals in a dangerous world. I haven't read the entire PDF so I can't say for sure, but it feels like this is meant to be more realistic, less magical. Like you'd be dealing with animal factions and natural dangers rather than wizards and dragons. However, the rules do mention magic and magic items a few a times. This is a game system, not a setting, so it assumes you will build your own animal world and if you want magic stuff then you add magic stuff. This PDF doesn't include any of that stuff.

Though it is a D&D style game it definitely breaks the mold a bit. There are no classes or levels as far as I can tell. Which I love! I am more and more moving away from class and level myself.

Anyway, the game's mechanic is Target 20. You always roll 2d10 + mods in an attempt to score 20 or better. Now, I've voiced my distaste for games that use One Mechanic To Rule Them All... but I get it. It's a natural thing to want to do. And it certainly works. I just find it incredibly boring when a game has very little mechanically to interact with.

And yes, at the same time I strongly dislike crunchy games with too damn much to interact with. I'm a Goldilocks, sue me.

This game looks pretty nifty. The blog has a lot of information on it, much of which indicates more fantasy and magic than the quickstart suggests. I have no idea if the game is complete or still in production but the latest post was from July 2016.

By This Axe is a 12 page medieval fantasy battle game by Chris Kutalik. Yeah, that Kutalik!

This is a "mercifully short" book. No interior art, so the thing is all business. Layout is simple and clean.

I do not pretend to know a damn thing about miniatures wargming, nor do I care. It is not something I've ever engaged in nor had the inclination to engage in. Would I? Sure. I would. And By This Axe seems like a reasonable, short set of rules for doing so.

The only dice are d6s (and lots of them). You define your units in a way that is similar to an RPG. For example, they have Fighting Capacity, Armor Saves, and Special Abilities. There are monsters too. Seems cool.

Capture the Troll by Ken St. Andre (yeah, the Tunnels & Trolls guy!).

This is a 16 page GM adventure for T&T in which the PCs are summoned by the mad old fart of a wizard Mingoh the Moneyless to go forth and capture a troll for for his wondrous zoo of monsters. The text makes some funny comments about how run-down and old the wizard is and that his crew of servants are also run-down and old (those poor middle-aged harem girls).

There's a nice map. It seems like a fairly simple little cave-crawl with some wilderness adventuring to lead into it.

There were some annoying typos in this. It's such a small book that every little mistake sticks out like a sore thumb. But small press, y'know? We love our small press and all its foibles.

Some cool art in here from the infamous S.S. Crompton (Grimtooth, Demi). The cool cover is by a dude named Darrenn Canton, who I have gamed with before and know a little bit. He's a Kentuckian like me. He's really damn good at drawing these husky, buff fantasy figures.

This post is a continuation of this series right here you can clicky clicky on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020


Not the myths you're thinking of.

The Flintlocks and Witchery blog had this post up and I just read it. I have to say I agree completely with the sentiment here. As I was telling the author, the concept of the highly-lethal D&D experience that has been so widely disseminated through the OSR scene was absolutely not how we (me and my gaming cohorts) played the game back in the day. I can't remember a single character death that was the result of the kinds of things you see in, for example, DCC RPG. We were nerdy drama queens. We did stories. We had epics. We had characters.

Not that I'm opposed to the DCC RPG style of brutality. I love that shit. But that's not how we played D&D in 1984, 1985, or any year through 1990 when I more-or-less abandoned the game.

The insta-kill traps and PCs with 1 hit point were not part of my entry experience to this wonderful hobby. Those ideas didn't filter into my experience at all until the OSR.

Meme Me Merry Myrmidon #4

Scrapped ideas for the original covers left on the TSR cutting room floor.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Dungeon Punks

I did the cover for this. It's a self-described fantasy heartbreaker by James T. Hook. You should check out his blog where he tackles various RPG-related topics from PC death to the myths of the OSR.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Kickstarter Schmickstarter?

I still haven't done a Kickstarter. Almost everyone in the indie RPG communities have done at least one Kickstarter, right? And I have had some visibility with Black Pudding and other ventures, so it seems natural I would do a Kickstarter. Why haven't I?

Mainly it's because I dislike committing to something on a grand scale. There, I said it.

I want my freedom to do whatever in the holy fuck I want to do in the moment. If I ever do a KS, I will complete the project before going live. But then you gotta have stretch goals, right? What happens if I have 10 stretch goals that all fund? Suddenly I'm committed to doing 10 more things? Yeah... that's when my dumbass psyche kicks in and says "Don't wanna".

Ah, it's not all that bad. I'm exaggerating. If I was as flighty and random as I claim to be I would not have any finished books. And yet I have several. And I have a slew of commissioned works present in a slew of indie publications. I'm active. Not prolific, but active. I ain't dead yet.

So will I ever do a Kickstarter? The answer is maybe. A solid, unmitigated maybe. But it will only happen when I have some idea in mind that truly requires funds. Like... if I wanna do a fancy sewn-binding hardback. Then I'll do a Kickstarter.

All that being said, I love the shit out of KS. My shelves ache under the weight of so many delicious books thanks to KS. The old era of RPGs never gave us nearly this much awesome shit. Even the slickest, coolest TSR package is just not as slick and cool as many of the great things produced today and largely funded through KS. May lord Satan bless Kickstarter and it's many wonders.

Init, Innit?

(Get it?)

So this whole initiative thing in RPGs. And please understand here I'm talking about the kind of RPGs wherein who gets to bash a motherfucker's teeth in first actually matters. I don't care if you don't need initiative systems in your Saved By the Bell RPG.

(Not sure if that sounds like a fun game or not...)

For reference, I talk a bit about initiative here, here, here, and here. So this has been on my mind a bit.

You see, it's all quite simple.
I don't like initiative. It gets in the way. It takes time. It slows things down. It is complexity that doesn't always add much to the game. But I have a really hard time imagining a game wherein there is combat and you have no method for deciding who gets to roll the dice next. So this post is me thinking out loud about the problem. It will meander. Click away while you still have the initiative to do so.

Here are the types of initiative systems I am aware of in RPGs:

1. Sides

1981's D&D codified the vague initiative system from previous versions into a very slick and simple method. Each "side" of a battle (frex PCs vs. monsters) rolls 1d6. Whoever gets the higher number goes first.

This is the method I've used most. I've played and ran a ton of old school D&D (via Labyrinth Lord, mostly) and this method, out of all the methods I've tried, works best. It is fastest and smoothest. Embedded within this method is the idea that you can work out the details on the fly. Because knowing that the PCs go first doesn't tell you which one goes first. You have to sort that out. In our Monday night Doomslakers group it works like a charm. We have mutual respect and we appreciate the story that is being told. If it feels like I should attack first, then I do. It works.

As a caveat, you can allow individuals to add their Dex mod to side init and that works fine too. So it might be the case that the PCs lost init, but Dex the Speedy, having +2, still goes first.

2. Individual

This is the most common method in D&D type games. It is the only method I've experienced when running or playing anything approaching a modern game. It is the default method for DCC RPG, for example, and for all modern iterations of D&D. And I hate it. It is the slowest method I know of. It involves the highest degree of GM-workload. And it is the most popular with common RPG players.

Is that because it's good or because it's just what people know? I suspect the main reason for its popularity is that it caters to each player's sense of individuality. It is not a group effort, it is my effort. I am fast. I am lucky, etc. It recognizes individuals. Which all sounds great, but fuck's sake it's a time sink.

I would declare my intention to never use this method again except that a lot of games have perks built into the initative system. DCC RPG has Initiative as a stat on your sheet. Ditching the method is probably OK, but you would need to consider how it impacts PCs.

I am a special goatflake!

NOTE: I have nothing to say about AD&D's initiative method because frankly I have never known what it is. Something about rolling 1d10, lower is better? Even when I was playing that game in high school I have no memory of how we did init! I suspect we did d6 side init.

3. The Sack

Daniel Sell's Troika! has a clever init system wherein you select objects for each PC and each monster then put it all into a sack. You draw out an object and that tells you who goes next. One object represents end of round.

Reach into my sack.
I actually bought the initiative cards for this game and used it when I ran Supercalla. It worked fantastically well for me as GM. It reduces workload to almost zero. I like it quite a bit. But I do not believe the players loved it. This is because it is entirely possible for a PC to go a round or two without taking any actions. And that probably feels shitty.

It also leads to irrational results. Frex if you had two guys duking it out in mid-air and someone else trying to disarm a bomb. What if you draw the bomb dude's card twice in a row, then end of round, then bomb dude again? Are the two combatants just hovering in mid air, waiting for their turns? Sure, you could GM fiat that shit and just say who goes next. But I like to stick with a game's rules as closely as possible and having to do such a thing indicates something might be slightly broken about the system.

4. Preset

Some games use a preset init system. Frex: Holmes' 1977 D&D had a system in which your Dexterity score determines who goes first. For monsters, you'd roll their Dex on 3d6 and go. My recent first experience with Warhammer Fantasy Role Play indicates that in that game you have a set init score and you just go in that order. Our group monkeyed with Cadillacs & Dinosaurs once and it felt like that game also had a kind of fixed initiative (but phase-based?).

I'm OK with these methods. They do the job of removing GM workload and avoiding all fiddly questions. Initiative is pre-determined and you just go with it. The downside, I think, is that it leads to some possible absurdities and that it makes combat more predictable. As an absurdity, what if your PC with the highest init by a country mile is at the rear of the party as you burst into a goblin den? That guy is going to shove past everyone, get out front, and land a blow first? Maybe. Sure. But perhaps that slow little dwarf who kicked down the door will bury their blade in a goblin throat first? It requires GM adjudication, does it not?

But to me, making combat predictable is a bigger sin.

His init was highest. Alas, he was last in line.

5. Phases

Some games have a phase system. I am not nearly as familiar with this. I know that Villains & Vigilantes had this method, and I believe the above mentioned C&D had one. My limited, pitiful understanding is that you would basically count down from some number, such as 10, to represent a combat round. If your PC's attacks go on phases 2, 4, 6, and 8 then you'd get 4 actions. If Mine is only 6 then I'd only get to go when phase 6 was called out. This is more-or-less the same kind of method as #4 above, but with caveats.

It's a neat idea.

Not phased.

Eat me.
6. Popcorn-Balsera

This method is based on a method used by someone named Leonard Balsera and was written into Marvel Heroic Roleplaying and later into FATE as "elective action order". I like the term "popcorn imitative".

All it amounts to is you somehow figure out who goes first then that person decides who goes next and when everyone has gone, you start over. I can't imagine that this method hasn't been used countless times in organic play over decades. I know for a fact I have defaulted to this method in games over the years, without calling it out as a method. It's just a natural way to play.

And I like it. In my other blog posts about Sand in the Bone/Dead Wizards I talk about this a lot. What I'm going for is a slightly more codified version in which there is some GM dice rolling used to decide when/if enemies get a turn between each PC action.

7. Troll Style

I never owned, played, or even read Tunnels & Trolls. So I only recently became aware of it's combat system. In it, there is no initiative. Both sides just make one big attack roll and the loser takes damage distributed between its members.

Of all the methods, this one seems to reduce combat to the simplest approach. It feels like it would be fast and furious. But at what cost? Would this method sacrifice granularity and detail? What if you had a bunch of farmers with pitchforks and one armored knight against a battalion of bastards? Would the knight's side constantly lose the roll, taking damage every round while no damage is dealt the other side? The knight lands no blows?

Of course that interpretation assumes that damage is related to actual physical strikes instead of being purely abstract, a representation of morale and fatigue. Either way, interesting.

8. None

Of course you don't have to have a codified method. You can wing that mother. GM fiat, player negotiations, etc. But I think it would be wrong to refer to this as having no system. You will always have a system. Even if you decide what it is round-by-round. Having no written method only gives you an illusion of winging it. I guarantee that by the end of one combat you will have your method and you'll use it again, until it becomes a problem.

And that's all the various initiatives I know about. If you know of other methods that are distinct, tell me about them.

Meme Me Merry Myrmidon #2

More of this silly shit.


Happy World Rat Day, everybody!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

That RPG Folder Named Desire

A continuation of this series right here.

In a Strange Land by James D. Hargrove, hardest of the Hargroves, is a pulp fantasy hex crawly game.

Layout is clean, art is very cool. It's a short game clocking in at 8 pages. Tight.

The opening paragraph has a cryptic reference to a "solo-play board game of the early 80s". I believe this might be a reference to Dwarfstar Games' Barbarian Prince, but that's just a wild conjecture since I know nothing of that particular lost artifact of the past.

Mechanics are interesting. Blows are resolved by subtracting the Fighting scores of opponents to get a modifier, then making a 2d6 roll and modifying it with the number you got. There's a table then that you look at and if your final result is on the table it will tell you how many wounds you dealt. This is really interesting to me because it means the scaling isn't intuitive. For example, if you end up with a 6 you have scored 1 wound. But if you get a 7 you score no wounds. A 12 is 3 wounds but a 13 is zero wounds.

Weird, but neat. Not something I'd be attracted to in an RPG. But I'd give it shot for fun because it is so damn weird.

Much of the other content is related to hex travel. How far can you go in a day, how much food do you have, etc.

I dig how sorcery is handled. PCs are not wizards. Sorcerers are evil, alien, sinful, wicked, dangerous. Much of what they do is reduced to a single d6 roll where, on a 5-6, they deal wounds to every PC in the group with a blast of wicked energy. Cool beans.

Seems like a fun little game. Not too complicated. Very focused on exactly what you see on the cover: pulp fantasy hex crawls.

Echoes of the Labyrinth by Scott Malthouse is a Tunnels & Trolls hack. I know very little about T&T in terms of game play, so I'm taking a look at this one as a total noob without any idea what I'm talking about.

It's a short game that weighs in at 16 pages. It cuts right to the chase by telling us that it's a traditional GM/Player game (GM = Heart, Players = Yearning Delvers... I'm down with that!) and giving  us the core mechanics right on page one. In this game you only use d6s. You make skill rolls on 2d6 + mods vs. a target.

Combat is different. All combatants on a given team make 2d6 + mods roll and then everyone adds their results together. The other side does the same. Compare the rolls to see who was the victor. The difference between the rolls is divided among the losing side as points of damage, which are distributed as the losing side sees fit.

That's very interesting. Is that part of classic T&T? It's a very cooperative method, it seems. If I'm down to a single hit point and you have ten then maybe you absorb all the damage so I don't die. There's a big meta-gaming aspect to that, which is taboo in some RPG modes, but which doesn't have to be taboo. I am not sure I love it, but I do find it terribly interesting.

Characters have six abilities that are generated by rolling 3d6 each... which of course is exactly what classic D&D does. But that's expected to me since I know that T&T came out a mere year after OD&D and is inspired by it.

I like how monsters are statted-up. They just really have 3 elements. FR = Foe Rating; this is how many hit points the monster has and half of the FR is it's Combat Points (bonus to attacks). Armour = how many points of damage the creature can ignore. Special = whatever special abilities or notes it has. So monster listings are super short.

This is an easy game. Based on reading it alone I can see that it would play fast and free. I like that the game's central conceit* is that it takes place in The Great Labyrinth, which is potentially unlimited in size and scope, possessing entire cities and nations deep within it. I dig it. I would play this game.

*You know, I have seen the phrase "the central conceit of..." many times and I only assume know how to use it. I am assuming here. It's one of those phrases like "damp squib" that I have heard and never fully understood except through context. Weird.

Meme Me Merry Myrmidon #1

In a wise use of my time, I'm going to post all of the various silly, stupid, and slanderous memes I have created over the last many years. Here's the first post. Enjoy. Or at least smirk in disapproval.