Saturday, June 12, 2021

GOZR Character Sheet

Here's the first pass at a GOZR character sheet. I think I got all the major elements and kept it very simple.

CUN = Cunning
MAG = Magic
PRO = Prowess
GOOZ = Points you spend to do amazing shit.
Hit Points = duh
Natural Def = Unarmored Defence, like toughness and dodging.
Armor = duh
DEF = Defence, which you subtract from damage.
Talents = Things you're good at, like having a third arm.
Background = Secondary skill type thing.
Deed = Something cool you did before play begins.
Needs = Things you need to do, like find your brother or an antidote.
Armor+Weapons+Stuff = Duh
Money = How many tossers you got?
Ammo = Tracking bullets. Don't @ me, I like this shit.
Lucky Rolls = Keeping track of 'em.


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Review: Black Pudding #5

Here's a nice review of Black Pudding #5 by Matthew Pook. Thanks, Pookie!

Has it been THAT LONG since #5? There's a #6 out there too and I'm "working on" #7. Each issue is taking longer to produce because my interests are drifting elsewhere. But I still love the zine and have no intention of putting it to rest yet.




Thursday, May 20, 2021

GOZR Cover Art

I have been working. Here's the cover art for GOZR, posted right here for the first time. And exclusive to the blog! I managed to get this exclusive from myself and it wasn't easy. I can be a real asshole to deal with.


I like it. This is the vibe. This works. I was dreading doing the game's cover because I didn't know what to draw. I could dream up some fantastic scene and that would be fine but this is the "core" book with the rules so the cover kinda needs to say "play me". And I think this does.



Current status is the game is mostly finished but still will have to get some editing and stuff. So I find it hard to say I'm "almost done". In terms of pages, I have 90% of it finished. I'm working on an intro page, a page detailing map entries, index page, and character sheet. Then that will wrap it up.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

GOZR Page Added to Website

If you have a burning desire to understand what IS a "gooz" and what is this GOZR thing I keep posting about then fear not for I have finally added a GOZR page to my website.




Thursday, May 13, 2021

GOZR: Gooz Bravo

Here's one I drew randomly. Most of the other bigger pieces have been planned out a little bit. This was just on the fly. But I dig it. I think it's a nice character illustration.



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Monday, May 3, 2021

Art is Art

I made this post on Facebook here. It was not triggered by anything that has been said to me personally, just based on some things I've noticed lately here and there.

Sometimes I see people refer to traditional art (non-digital) as "hand drawn". But this is not a correct description of what they actually mean.

I mostly draw on a tablet at my computer. I promise you that 100% of everything I draw is "hand drawn".

The term you are looking for is probably "traditional". Which just means you have a preference for things that are not created digitally. Preferences are fine, of course. But I challenge you to look at art with an open mind and I bet you will eventually not care at all if the art you are seeing was created with a wooden pencil or a stylus.

The attached image here is a pencil drawing. It is completely digital and it was drawn by Will Terry's hand. Is there REALLY a meaningful difference between digital and traditional art? I don't believe there is. If there's anything in the world in which I can claim expertise it is this topic.

EDIT: Of course this post is about the experience of seeing art. The experience of creating it is very different and our preferences are really important. Some people need to feel the wooden pencil smashing into their finger flesh or to smell the toxic paint fumes. I always loved it when I had ink stains on my fingers. But for many many reasons I greatly prefer drawing on my tablet and I don't miss traditional drawing much at all. But that's just me. You do you.



Sunday, May 2, 2021

GOZR: The Dusk Riders

Here's another GOZR image that came out pretty OK. I love the background in particular. I'm really really into this shit right now.

This is how I see sci-fantasy in my head.

Here are a couple of process pics.



The wild wastes lure gooz adventurers who want to scavenge the old ruins for goods and artifacts. But staying out past sunset is a serious risk. Ptera-pteras are bolder at night, they say. And worse things.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

GOZR: Beak Hunter

Finished Beak Hunter image. Probably going in the interior of the book. I kinda like it. Totally inspired by the late Richard Corben.



Sunday, April 25, 2021

GOZR: Beak Hunter WIP

WIP "Beak Hunter", an art piece for GOZR. Looking like this will be a 48 page book. My current idea is to publish it in comic book format (size, saddle stitch) and then follow up with a 20-24 page adventure book. I wanted to include the adventure stuff in the main book but Lulu has a 48 page cap on saddle-stitch and this motherfucker HAS TO BE a floppy comic book format.

Of course I realize I can get a fatter book by going a different route with the publishing. But I'm not interested in that level of investment and piddle work. I just really wanna do my thing and put it out there in an easy, accessible format. So you'll have it in PDF from DTRPG and in print from Lulu. And I'll probably PDF it at Lulu and ich.io as well. You'll be able to get it easily.

Ideally... you'd get your self a copy or two of the thing in print so you can slap it down on the table and encourage flipping through it, bending it, and using the shit out of the book. I might even start out offering signed copies only for a time. For the hardcore collector types who like that sort of thing. Dunno. Still early in the game.



Sunday, April 18, 2021

GOZR Chaos Doodles

I made a little collage of snips from GOZR pages in sketch or doodle stage and the other random bits that go into this project. Since it is a hand-to-pen-to-canvas creation, I can't really script or "write" it in the traditional sense. I can and will change everything as it hits the canvas. I change what I might have noodled out because I realize it is bad or I don't have physical space for it all or I want it to look differently.

I know. Who the fuck creates a game this way? It's a game. You play it, with people, probably at a table or online or whatever. It needs clarity, rules, clarity of rules. The answer to your question is I don't know. This is an experiment.

The chaos of creation!

One of the design principles I adopted at the start was repetition of important ideas. So maybe there's a key rule about how armor works and instead of having it explained in one place I repeat the rule 2 or 3 times throughout the text. This reinforces it but also makes it much easier to find the rule if you need to be reminded.

An outgrowth of that idea was to embrace happenstance elements. For example, there might be a little table of artistic skills your PC could possess. It isn't on the actual character creation pages because I didn't think of it at that time. So instead it might appear on a random ref page or just off to the side somewhere. If you, as a player, find this table you can roll on it. If not, nothing is really lost. It's just there if you want it.

I did that with gooz names too. I have multiple gooz names tables scattered through the book. This helps players find a cool name (or a lame one) and definitely will help the GM name random NPCs the characters bump into.

Let's test it. "The twisted alley seer scoffs at your comment and says [clattering of dice roll] 'Fools! I, Tadd the seer, cannot be intimidated!'". Yeah. So Tadd says.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Gooz Bravos

I have this page for GOZR with stats for a few common types of gooz you might encounter in Goozer City. I had the common gooz and the alley wizard and then it dawned on me I needed the common scoundrel, the gooz who is kinda like a PC but not. I decided "bravo" was a term I never used before and it fit. A bravo could be a thug or a thief or a merc.

Quick rundown of what the actual fuck I'm talking about:

GOZR is a hand-lettered, art-heavy RPG project I've been working on here and there for about a year. The core inspirational nugget are the goons that Den works with in the Den sequence of the movie Heavy Metal and Richard Corben's generally awesome weird looking characters. My idea was what if these guys inherited the earth and all the pretty people were dead? Sci-fantasy.

Regarding the stat block:

Threat = Pool of points the GM can spend to let the enemy circumvent the rules, such as taking extra actions or resisting magic.
DEF = Defense, soaking damage.
HP = Hit points.
Size = Duh. "G" means gooz size, or human if you will.
Pack = How many you might encounter.
Dmg = Damage.

I came up with this stat block early in the process and I like it. It's simple, six items you can easily remember. And it covers all the necessary bases for a game like this to function.

More on GOZR as it unfolds I'm standing at around 40 finished pages right now. The original target was 32 and there are still a few more things I need to get around to so this might end up in the 48 page range. Which... is kinda nice. Short enough that you find shit easily.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

The RPG Folder Was Too Hot

Continuing this intellectually-mindthrobbing series.


Dallas: the Television RPG: I snagged this by way of piracy out of pure curiosity. I needed to understand. I was largely underwhelmed by it but hey... what did I expect? An incredible storytelling revolutionary RPG that somehow nobody is talking about? Nah.

The game is bland as all hell, like many or most early RPGs. This came to us in 1980, a mere 6 years after the publication of D&D. So at this time a person with a little bit of pocket money could own all the RPGs in existence and actually play them. Wild, huh?

This game is about Dallas and nothing else. The rules are fairly simple. Everything is framed as episodes with scripts (script = adventure). Mechanics are kind of interesting. You have a few stats such as Coercion and Persuasion, which have two numbers. The first number is your strength and the second is your resistance. To see what you need to roll in order to Persuade someone, subtract their resist number from your Persuasion strength and roll under that number on 2d6. Kind of cool, but perhaps we could have come up with a slightly simpler way. Still... this is 1980 and at least the designers were experimenting.

For pete's sake, this game doesn't even have any combat rules. That is a HUGE departure from virtually all other RPGs of the time. All of the game mechanics are about social interaction, mostly negotiations. Which... makes sense, given the subject matter.

It is an object of it's time. The writing is just yawnworthy, like many older games. No flair. Nobody expected flair, I guess. Just stereo instructions.

I kinda wanted to play this but now I'm thinking not really. No shade intended. This was a cool experiment and I applaud its existence.


Feral RPG: Character Samples 2.0: By Jez Gordon.


I have seen Jez' work around for years but haven't really interacted with them nor closely followed the work. Which is weird because look at this cover and tell me this isn't my jam? I love it.

Honestly though I've seen Feral RPG stuff for years I just didn't know what it was. Seems that it is compatible with D&D 5e and you play mutant critters in a punk mutant future world. Cool. The word "gonzo" definitely comes to mind.

This book is a collection of characters and their awesome character sheets, such as Jimmy the Thing and Nyuk Nyuk the Knife. I have heard of this game project for years but I don't remember ever seeing a finished book. Check the website to see what's up with this awesome jam.




Hack & Slash Compendium I: by Courtney Campbell.

This is a collection of blog posts by Courtney. The art is by Courtney too, including that delicious cover. Not much to say about it because I haven't read it all but this is indeed where you can find the famous quantum ogre.


Another famous book that I have managed to not really look at until recently, despite the fact that I am a huge fan of both Chris and Luka. First, the cover is lovely, as expected.

This book is based on Labyrinth Lord, like all the other Hill Cantons books in Kutalik's series. I love me some Lab Lord. I sometimes have a sad because the wonderful Old School Essentials line seems to have killed Labyrinth Lord's influence for now. I mean... how cool is the name Labyrinth Lord alone? Badass.

Anyway... this is a setting book that is relentlessly focused on adventuring. You won't find any tedious boring histories of duchies or wars that nobody cares about. Instead, you'll find gamable rumors and plenty of hex encounters.

Did I mention the maps are by none other than Karl Stjernberg? Nice.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

GOZR: Gooz Enforcers

Goozer City has laws handed down by the Magistrates and the Enforcers police the people and beat the shit out of them to enforce those laws. It's fair, right?


 Check this post for details about the GOZR stat block.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

GOZR: Angry Sun


Several drawings of the sun in GOZR because it was allegedly the sun that destroyed the world of the Pretty Ones. What did they do to incur the wrath of old Sol? Rampant use of magic and super science? Probably.

Cutty Sark: Die Tonight

 I don't know shit about Cutty Sark. Are they still active? (edit: doesn't appear so)


Die Tonight was a good listen. For me. But hey, if you didn't grow up in the time when this kind of album was being made then maybe this will sound like hot garbage to your ears. It isn't clean or exceptionally produced. It's rough and basic and I dig the shit.

So I'm not a music expert. In fact I'd call myself a music IDIOT. I like stuff, I don't like stuff, and I really struggle to identify why. I also struggle to compare music or talk about it in a meaningful way. That being said, this album reminds me of metal groups from the 80s such as Mercyful Fate and maybe Accept or Running Wild. If you like that shit, you might like this shit.

The cover is interesting. The name "cutty sark" is a ship, right? So this is a stark contrast to the art.

Gaming it: A band of madness-plagued desert warriors ravage the land, burning stone monuments (?). The PCs must track them and put a stop to their evil! The leader, Cutty Sark, has a demon sword that possesses his soul and the souls of his band mates.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

GOZR: Recent Events Table

In this post I showed a full page table of recent events to kick start a GOZR game. Somehow I fucking lost the page. I know, how in the actual FUCK do you lose something you spent hours working on? I dunno. But I damn sure did. I've scoured my files and backups and came up with nothing. So I must have not named this file correctly to begin with, then I deleted it thinking it was junk.

Shoot me.

Anyway, I did have a fairly robust JPG of the file and I managed to blow it up, tweak it, and added some cool bg graphics to spice it up. I think the result is better, though I'm still pissed at myself. As a general rule, increasing the size of a raster image is a shitty idea and you should never do it.

Kids, don't do as I do, do as I say.



Monday, March 22, 2021

GOZR: Unique Items

 More on this topic right here.

Another design choice I made on GOZR was to make items unique. Like... there isn't a catalog of magic items. There are random lists of magic stuff on tables but not a section of "magic items". This is carrying on the spirit of games like DCC RPG wherein we're encouraged to make everything in our adventures unique to that adventure.

That isn't to say stock items or stock monsters are bad. I absolutely disagree with that take. And in fact many of the creatures for GOZR are standardized. Because they're not necessarily weird magical weirods, but savage primordial species. This is sci-fantasy and since the PCs are already weirdos with a wide variety of physical appearances, I'm making the monsters more akin to what you'd find in an Edgar Rice Burroughs planetary romance than in a D&D monstrous tome.



Sunday, March 21, 2021

Messiah Force: The Last Day

I love finding old metal albums I haven't heard before. Messiah Force is a band I had never heard of until recently. I love the shit out of the album cover! A good cover can sell me on a record that might actually be just OK.

Is this a good record? Well... it's a record of its time. I think it's pretty good. I didn't turn it off, I finished it. I like the female lead vocals (?), and it's got some nice 80s crunch (date on the YouTube upload says 1987). If you're into 80s thrash and metal then you probably can't go wrong here.

I'm guess the theme of the cover and album is nuclear winter, like so many 80s metal albums. Man... I used to live in fear of nuclear annihilation. Thanks, Cold War. Fuck off.

Messiah Force: The Last Day



GOZR: Towers

GOZR time! For more about GOZR, check here. For further more about GOZR, click here too.

It's been about 1 year since I started working on this project. In that time I have put a lot of hours into it, off and on. I put it down for a month or two, then I pick it up and work on it relentlessly for a few weeks, then I put it down again. Such is the way until I reach the point of no return.

Current page on the drawing board is about towers.

The land of GOZR is a far-future sci-fantasy wasteland in which the Pretty People angered the Sun and were wiped out for their affronts. Now only the lowly gooz remain... the ugly ones who served the Pretties so long ago. The ruined world is full of ruins. Gooz, poking their heads out after all these years, are bold enough to explore them.

The ruins include a lot of towers. Any party of PCs wandering the wilds has a 2 in 6 chance of spotting a tower on any given day. Of course the GM is free to pre-populate the setting with towers as they wish. This game is not proscriptive about how you play, it isn't terribly procedural, though it does include lots of procedures for generating randomness. It's a god damn romp, after all, not VCR instructions.

So right now the towers page is just a few random tables to determine height, thickness, and general traits. I might include an example tower too. We'll see.

One of the things that sparked my imagination while doing this page was a little table I included about the tower's vertical situation. One possible result is that it is already fallen over, so you could have a little tower crawl through a fallen tower where all the inner space is agog.

I could cap this at one page, and probably will, at least for now. Just a simple page of random tables for tower generation. I went a bit over the top on magic (10 pages) so I'm already swollen bigger than my intended 28 pages (I'm at 33 and not finished yet).

Far too soon to say, but my hope is to publish this as a "issue one" and then get into a second floppy that has more options. Like... you can just use the first floppy and be fine but if you want more fun shit you get the subsequent issues. We'll see how it pans out.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Fighter/Assassin

Complete in his raw glory, Decius Vladrumir, Cobold Ftr/Ass.

This is waaaay old. I found it among all my oldest RPG junk. This is a typical character sheet for me from that era of my life. This would have been maybe 1986, about 2-3 years after I discovered D&D. I borrowed the AD&D DMG + PHB from a friend and copied a lot of stuff by hand.

I was versed in basic D&D and only just flirting with AD&D as I was probably just about to enter my first "real" campaign with friends and we were definitely using that witch's brew of mixing all the rule books into a pot and sipping. So on this sheet you can see he is dual-classed, for example.

I'm curious about the upper right hand corner. Bare hand combat. I suspect this is take from one of the D&D box sets bc I remember that whole "weapon equivalent" thing, perhaps from the Mystic class? I'm not sure. It's been a long time.

Cobolds were a race from my Midaka setting. Basically a riff on dark elves, but they were distinctly blue-skinned.

Art-wise, this was early of course and at this time I was definitely using nibs and bottled india ink for most things. Messy, scratchy. I did this for a few years and have rarely "dipped" back into it.

Favorite part: The AC table. I preached about how descending AC is fine and easy and all you need is that table on your sheet so it's nice to see that I was walking the walk even back then. Though going to -14 might have been unnecessary. Chalk it up to flipping through Legends & Lore (Deities & Demigods) more than ANY other D&D book.



Saturday, March 13, 2021

Aquabot

Spent much of today working on Hellion Cross, the new Troika! book. Here's the Aquabot background.

Aquabot

You were a simple mining bot crawling the ocean floors of Oceora until that weird coral started to grow in your head. Ever since then you've had dreams of... fun. Playing cards, driving fast ships, getting into fights. Not the sorts of things a respectable water bot should want to do. Yet here you are in this criminal dive, ready and willing to throw down.

Possessions:
-Deck of Sea Life Cards
-Fusil
-Robot Body (armour 2)
-Can of Oil

Advanced Skills:
1 Rifle
1 Swimming
1 Interface with Tech
2 Mining
2 Gambling

Special: You function underwater as easily as in the air, or in space, or in most other weird environments. You only need to power down and recharge once per week. If presented with a risky proposition, you must spend a Luck point to say no.


Benny "The Device" Frank

Bad seeds grow weeds... Crispin Glover
This is my character in Dyson Logos' Top Secret game, Benny "The Device" Frank. He's a surveillance specialist with paranoia and general fear but an offputting physical presence (tall, wiry, strong).

I am enjoying our exploration of Sprechenhaltestelle and the act of unraveling the mechanics of this old game. But I can't say yet if I actually LIKE the game itself. It was far too unfathomable at first to get any sense of what it was supposed to be. If you go into it thinking of James Bond or almost any spy movie of the last few decades you'll be supremely disappointed. You really cannot do slick spy shit that looks choreographed. Most of the time you'll find yourself fumbling to lie or cheat your way into the massage parlor, engaging in petty theft, and wrestling for possession of peoples' .22 ball point pens while bleeding from switchblade wounds and searching for a safe place to recover.

If the mechanics were quicker and simpler, I'd say this was more Snatch than Goldeneye. Which sounds pretty dope to me.


Will The Device live through this mission? Hard to say. We get lucky a bit. But I have this weird feeling he's going to take a few rounds from a 9mm FN Browning High-Powered self-load (Belgium) before this is all over. He certainly believes it.

New Website

You might have seen me posting on social media about the new website. Go and check out jvwest.art where you will find tons of art and links to all my RPG related junk.

I could switch to blogging on that site but I've been here a long time so I guess I'll keep using blogger. It's fine.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Warrior Path: The Mad King

Warrior Path: The Mad King

Power metal! I am not a fan. Generally... I don't enjoy power metal. Which is weird because I cut my teeth on bands like Helloween and Iron Maiden. But the high-end singing and faux-symphonic music styles I just find to be a little bit too cheesy, even for a bastard like me.

But sometimes a power metal album comes along that I happen to listen to and enjoy. This is one of them.

This album is awesome! Killer riffs, cool solos, and driving song compositions keep this one on fire. Cheesy? Fuck yes it's cheesy as fuck. But it's nice cheese. Not stinky.

And of course check out that sweet ass cover art by Dimitar Nikolov. That could be a dwarven king in a dwarven hall. Dunno, but it kicks ass.



Sunday, March 7, 2021

More Conan

Speaking of Conan, I had a thought while thinking.

Here's my Conan: He is a muscled man, beardless and tan. He is fair and respects his word. He will treat with you with respect as long as you honor your own word. He will gut you otherwise and not lose a wink of sleep. He loves the ladies and the wine and the adventure. Every day is a new day that should lead to some cash, which leads to some wine and women. Conan doesn't wear a lot of armor and doesn't indulge in speeches.

My Conan is based mostly on Savage Sword comics and the 1982 movie with a smattering of Robert E. Howard. This is my Conan.

People will argue that this is not an accurate portrait of the Cimmerian. Only the image of Conan presented in REH's writings are true, everything else is false. And I get it. If you want to be an originalist to the works of a dead man, I get it.

But let's be honest. REH wrote maybe 21 Conan stories, and most of them are really cool. But since his death there have been many more stories written, many novels, some movies, cartoons, RPGs, and a metric FUCKTON of comic books. One could inundate oneself with Conan material and be a Conan fanatic without ever reading Robert E. Howard.

This is upsetting to originalists, but it's the god damn truth. If you spent your youth reading Conan comics and never read a single Howard story you are still a Conan fan and you still have Conan in your blood, by Crom. Don't let the dogs tell you otherwise!

But of course by all means you should read Howard. Most of those stories are pretty good shit. The longer ones are not my cup of tea, but worth a look.



Saturday, March 6, 2021

Al Qadim Again


I've posted many times how much I love Al Qadim. I have been collecting the books for years (not finished yet, but getting close), but really I've only played in one Al Qadim game one time in the mid 90s and I've never ran it. Maybe I never will.

An interesting thing about this setting is just how inaccurate it is to Arab culture and the mythos in which it plays. For example, my understanding is that the tales we call Arabian Nights are actually Chinese in origin (?), not Arabian. but folks in the Arabian world, having also grown up knowing about these tales, assume they are Arabian. There are lots of other culturally inaccurate ideas in the game that you can Google for yourself.

I'd love to say these things don't matter because it's an elf game. And... yeah... I mean, mostly that's true. But we'd be fools and - worse - assholes if we totally ignored it. This is a game series based on a distinctly American male's idea of what Arabian fantasy is. More specifically, it's based on a certain generation of American males: mine.

When I was in first grade, c. 1976, I remember our little asses being marched into the school's auditorium to watch a movie. I remember it vividly because we were arranged from shortest to tallest (so people could see over each other, natch) and I was second in line. The only person shorter than me was Vickie and her pigtails. I loved Vickie. Being placed next to her in line, for me, was an early romantic experience that filled my wee mind with ideas. I was her "taller man".

Anyway. That's not important. The fact that she ignored me is meaningless. The point is we watched the 1963 classic Jason and the Argonauts, then only a little over a decade old. It was phenomenal! Warriors, ships, giants statues, skeletons! My mind reeled with the imagery looming over me.

This has jack shit to do with Arabian Nights, but it's this sort of movie, along with mummy movies and other adventure flicks, that fueled the imagination of Jeff Grubb, author of TSR's Arabian Adventures setting book that launched the Al Qadim campaign series.

Jason and the Argonauts, the mummy movies, Sinbad, the Thousand and One Nights... these are the sources for Al Qadim. Arabian mythology and history are really a distant second. The setting is a hodge podge of middle-world cultures and ideas, all filtered through the brain of a white male American riffing on ideas that inspired him in the 60s and 70s. And it's fucking fantastic! I love Al Qadim, for what it is. Warts and all.

But I understand that folks from middle-world cultures might find the work irritating or even mildly offensive. I don't believe it is egregiously so. Jeff Grubb and crew did a bang-up job of doing the best with what they had and genuinely trying to make a setting that lovingly and respectfully approached the material. But it was by and for white Americans, so any actual near-east perspective is not really present in the work - and that is one of the things that must be kept in mind when exploring it.

This is the subtle point that people miss out on when they complain about "cancel culture". Nobody is running around screaming "cancel it!" like the right wing media machine wants you to think. Rather, things we took for granted are being examined from new perspectives and sometimes that means something old and beloved has to be re-evaluated if you want to be intellectually honest and socially responsible.

You can still love the shit, so if you feel some sense of outrage welling up just tamp it back down, kiddo. Enjoy your magic carpet ride, just don't forget it's complete fantasy.

But hey, maybe check out this video series that goes into a lot of depth on the topic. They talk about these issues more broadly, from a modern perspective, so don't go into this expecting a short review of Al Qadim. You ain't gonna get that, buster.

EDIT: And I want to say for sure that I 100% accept that this series has serious problems. No defense will come from me on that front. This is probably why, even though I own this and still collect it, I have not ran it. I could have easily ran this setting long ago. Still I don't.



Robot Ideas

Robots!

I've been drawing more robots lately and thinking about a robot RPG. One of the thoughts I had is that a percentile system, not unlike Star Frontiers, would suit a robot RPG quite well.

So I started noodling the idea more and I have a draft of My Robot Head in progress. I don't know how far I'll take this. I hope I'll see it through and publish, but this is just a fun thing I'm playing with right now. Stay posted.

As a teaser, the game would probably be set in the future in our solar system. I actually had written a bunch of this last year and I wrote that it takes place in or around 3100. All humans are dead. They left behind a fairly vast empire of cities and colonies on the Moon and Mars and places. But they are all dead because some AI asshole decided to bake a DNA timebomb into them and remove them. Now you are robots in this future where your masters, the humans, are gone. What do you do?

So the game deals with the fun shit like robot combat, exploration, resources, etc. But also angst and ennui. Robots are self aware. They have to decide how to be a people moving forward without destroying themselves through warring factions. My Robot Head as the title refers to the inner struggle of a robot character to understand who they are and where they belong. The dawn of a new civilization with the raw power and mental prowess to very quickly destroy itself.

Percentile system inspired by Star Frontiers, but not a clone. Lots of information carrying over from Cozmic Metal Heads because My Robot Head as a concept came first. I actually stripped MRH down and turned it into a Troika! book, so now I'm circling back and revisiting the original idea.

The other idea is to publish a robot art book. I'll have enough pure robot drawings that I could do a little art book in POD someplace. Sorry folks, I'm just not up for the whole physical printing and shipping one man show at this time. POD is where it's at for me. At least for now or until someone wants to publish my shit in nice, shiny volumes I don't have to physically handle.

 



Friday, March 5, 2021

The Cimmerian

The Cimmerian knows.


In recent times I listened to an excellent audiobook compilation of all the Weird Tales Conan stories. Even though Conan looms large in my mind as an early influencing force, I really only read maybe 3 or 4 legit REH Conan tales when I was younger. I'm a damn weirdo and I just didn't read heavily past age 16. Between 14 and 16 I had a book in my hand all the time. After 16 or 17 I wanted to get kissed and drive around listening to metal. No time for books unless they were comics or RPGs.

So I listened to them all. And they were good, mostly. I am not a fan of the longer ones, though. Conan, for me, is about short tales. In and out, like a yard of Hyrkanian steel.

I decided to draw this portrait after I doodled this on top of my water bottle at work.



Saturday, February 20, 2021

Usagi Yojimbo RPG

I'm going to run the Gold Rush Games version of Usagi Yojimbo RPG, a game built on the Instant Fuzion Rules from R. Talsorian and Hero Games.

I have spent most of the last week digging deeply into this 98 page game book and trying to grokk the rules. I do not have a background with Hero System or Cyberpunk (I played one game of Cyberpunk in 1989), so this is all new to me. I have owned Usagi Yojimbo RPG (UY from here on) for 15+ years, so I have read it before, in chunks. I have studied it to some degree. It is a simple system and I dig it.

But this game has issues. It is delightfully focused on Usagi material and feels like it will be a breeze to play. But it does suffer from some fairly significant layout and design flaws, in my opinion. I'll address one of them in this post.

There is a one-sheet breakdown of the entire Instant Fuzion (IF from here on) system on page 11 of the book. Under Actions it says a Hero can Dodge. By Dodging, they can't attack that phase* and they get +3 to Evasion. But the combat rules in UY simply say that when it's your turn in a fight you choose Total Attack, Cautious Attack, or you hold your action. When you are attacked, you can choose Total Defense. These actions are called the Three Strategies. There is no mention of Dodging.

Likewise, the IF rules do not mention the Three Strategies.

So reading between the lines, I assume the Three Strategies was an add-on by the author, Greg Stolze, to better simulate Usagi-style fights. When he wrote the rules for it he did not integrate IF rules into the text. So you have essentially two separate documents that can each stand alone. Which do you use? Both, either?

Here's the thing. They do not contradict each other regarding Dodging. So if I tell my players we're using the Three Strategies, not IF, then I'm cheating them out of the benefit of Dodging. And since Dodging doesn't contradict the Strategies I don't have much of a reason to do that. I want them to have that option. So I'm forced to say the combat rules are on page 11, but also there's the Three Strategies on page 43 and you need both in order to carry out a fight.

Bad design! Why aren't these things integrated? It feels like Stolze was asked to use IF as a base then he added things to it and just kind of let them be separate.

I did read somewhere that the Three Strategies were really intended for swordfights only. But that's not true because it literally says "Here's how fights happen in this game." and the examples listed do not limit themselves to swordfights.

My solution? I'm going to integrate these rules myself in a document for my players.

Also, if this plays well, I might just hack the shit out of UY RPG and make a new game. Why not? Seems like fun. Rabbits & Rangers deluxe?

*Regarding Phases... I will make a different post about that. But I'm not planning to use phases, only rounds. I don't see the benefit of phases in this game. More on that later.



Zebu: Reek of the Parvenu

It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to. So I'm a gonna post some music albums here and there. Note that this is not a "review" series, at least not in siprit. I'm just posting shit I found that I have some reason to talk about. Very very often it will be because the album cover art caught my eye.

This one is part of the Chicks on the Cover series. I think that is self-explanatory, isn't it? Come for the cover, stay for the tunes?

Zebu: Reek of the Parvenu

This is a really good Greek metal band. If you like the band Death, this will appeal to you, I think. Mostly because the vocals are similar. But this is a solid band with a heavy doom sound that doesn't fall into the overtly Black Sabbath end of the spectrum. The riffs aren't boring.

There's a backing vocalist on one track who I could have swore was Michela D'Orlando from Power Symphony, but turns out is really Katerina Kostarelou from Bacchus Priest. There's a deep cut for your ass.

The cover is by Mike S. Putrefurnaced and it depicts a witchy looking woman with lovely blue hair being hauled down by little ghosts or faeries or something. Epic!



Sunday, February 14, 2021

100% True Story

HOW DID YOU GET INTO GAMING?

It was 1984, I was 13. I had a crush on my math teacher, Mrs. Kendall. She was a short, plump woman with chubby red cheeks and an overbite. She had these delicious black rimmed glasses and wore simple dresses. But they were snug enough that her ample curves couldn't help showing through. I was 13. I noticed this shit.

Anyway. Um... one day after class I stopped to chat her up, like you do at that age. I was putting on my moves, talking about Conan comics and she clearly wasn't into it. She was rushing me. Time to leave. I got the message eventually and left the room with a cool swagger, pushing up my glasses to show solidarity.

In the hall was my buddy Sam talking to this tall dude I saw around but didn't know. His name was David and he had in his hand a thick biology book that contained no references to evolution and this other book with the fucking weirdest looking creatures on the cover I had ever seen. Title said "Monster Manual". It was some next level strange bullshit. He also had this little blue ball in his hand... like tiny. Like a toy. Kept saying it was a "20 sided die", which sounded like complete nonsense to me.

Well, turns out that book was for this weird board game without a board called Dungeons & Dragons. He was looking for some players and Sam was volunteering us to join the game. As it turns out, I remembered Mrs. Kendall one time talk about a game like this where you used numbers to represent character traits. Like you'd have a strength score or something. She seemed to think it was a useful math tool or some shit, so I was like in my head going "This could be my way in" so I was like "Yeah man, let's play."

So we did. I played a character (you make up characters) called Beano the Cheesey Wizard. David, who was the MC of the event, didn't seem to love that name but he was like "whatever, just roll for initiative". Beano was kind of a skinny, weak, silly asshole who wore a fedora and carried a big sword. Now... here's the thing about the game. Wizards couldn't use swords. David said I couldn't have a sword and I said the price list says 15 gold pieces and I have 48 so unless the shopkeeper shoots me, I'm buying a fucking sword.

I got the sword, but wasn't allowed to use it. I know, it's fucking stupid. But the rule book says I can only use a dagger, dart, or staff. I mean, in the words of Lars Ulrich, "they don't actually put anything there to stop you, like spikes"*. So I carried that fuckin' sword and made a point of threatening people with it as often as possible. But the MC was stubborn and would not let me use it. I played this up. "Beano tries to draw his sword but some invisible force stops his hand. He struggles against it... clenching teeth and pushing at the force but to no avail! Frustrated, he casts Magic Missile instead."

Beano was killed by kobolds who laid a pit trap. Poor bastard fell in, taking 6 damage... 4 more than his hit point total. Then a kobold shot him with an arrow for 6 more and he was at -10. Apparently, according to the MC, -10 is a big deal. I said "Look, I'm fine with Beano being dead. I'll roll up a dwarf named Cormac Mac Daddy. But if this shit doesn't get me to second base with Wanda Kendall I'm telling people you shave your nads."

David lit a cigarette at that point. Not uncommon back then. He was older, maybe 17. I remember Toto playing in the background when he looked at me and said "That might play well with my rep.". Someone, I think Jesse, knocked over a can of Dr. Check at that point, spilling it on the Monster Manual. Not sure what happened next, but it's not important. I did score that copy of the Manual from David later that year by trading issue 107 of Savage Sword of Conan. I didn't mind the Dr. Check stains, but it pissed me off that pages 17 and 18 were stuck together. Seriously, David? What the actual fuck.

When I relayed the story of Beano to Mrs. Kendall she smiled, nodded, and said "Ten foot pole could have found the pit trap." I believe the "ten foot" comment was a phallic suggestion, honestly. And, if I'm being straight, it kind of put me off a little. Like... what was she suggesting anyway? Feeling incredibly self-conscious, I stopped making moves on her and kept our potential affair to myself for private time. "Tow the line, love isn't always on time", right? But I still kept playing in David's D&D game. Cormac made level 3 before succumbing to a roper's grasp. His sister, Fanny Doodle Mac Daddy, inherited his +1 war hammer and lived on to see level 9.

That is the truth, I swear it. Every detail.

*He was talking about driving between the lines.