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


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.

Thursday, February 11, 2021


I have had my moments when I fought hard against fantasy tropes. Back in 1990, when I was a year out of high school, I decided "no more elves, dwarves, and dragons". I switched to GURPS and ran a campaign in my world of Midaka. It had its moments and was fun, but ultimately flopped out and was never finished. Mostly because I am just not a big GURPS fan, as it turns out.

But that's such an aside and not the point here.

The point here is that I do love certain fantasy tropes and lean into them pretty hard with my D&D. Dragons are not one of them. I just never got into them. But goblins... now I love me some gobbos.

I did a goblin character class for Black Pudding:

In my campaign world of Yria, goblins are born from rot. Wherever food or carcasses lay to decompose, there is a chance that goblins with emerge. They are green, generally, and foul. They eat their own. They have no manners or sense of moral shame. Their culture, such as it is, arises from certain ancient curses that caused them to be spawned from rot in the first place.

Goblins can be good. Mainly because I don't use alignment in my games, typically, and I figure if you want a kindly gobbo you can certainly have one.

Goblins use whatever weapons and armor they can get their greasy little fingers on. They are naturally skilled at working together to bring down enemies, favoring the setting of nasty traps and flat-out bum-rushing foes in a cluster of green. Their wills are quite weak, so they are easy targets for powerful leaders such as wizards to rally them into service. If a goblin believes they are fighting for a higher cause - almost any cause - they will fight harder for it. They enjoy being told what to do and complaining about it later.

A similar monster, the nasty ork, is born from the same primordial curses. But orks are spawned from wherever a demon or devil or other infernal hell creature steps or spreads its spore. Thus they are rarer, bigger, and more wicked. While a goblin's desires lie in eating and sleeping, mostly, an ork's chief desire is to hurt others. Orks also have weak wills and fall easily under the yoke of more powerful creatures.

I say all this because I've been thinking about writing up my campaign setting in a series of zines (little books, whatever) so I can have them in print. It would sure help me organize and not contradict myself at the gaming table. "Now... what was it I said about orks and imps? Oh, let me check the book."

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Aquabot

One of the many patrons of the various Hellion Cross seedy dives. For the upcoming Troika! book, Hellion Cross.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Cheech Wizard's Book of Me

My wife picked this up for me for $4 using some kind of voodoo magic coupon. I love me some Bodé and this is a book I hadn't seen before. I'm not the kind of guy who obsesses over collecting everything an artist creates but I'm always giddy when I pick up something new.

This book is assembled by Vaughn's son Mark Bodé and I feel like he did a fantastic job. Lots of very old doodles and sketchbook pages are included. Maybe these appeared somewhere else before and I just didn't see it. But there's a lot of stuff in here I've never seen before. I guess this is also because my experience with Bodé is almost exclusively the Deadbone Erotica stuff. I own very little Cheech Wizard material.

Barely got into this so far but it's just chock full of explosive cartooning!