Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hot Buttered Brandy

Some folks been sayin': "Now, why don't he write?"

Sorry, folks...just got the latest blog report and saw my total views for the week dipped down under 1000 for the first time in, like, ever. Now part of that is I haven't even been checking it lately (I'm sure I usually account for a couple hundred views myself), but even so, it's the holiday season, and I'm sure there are folks on breaks or vacation or staying home sick from work (like me) who'd like a little bit o their blog entertainment to be up and running.

My apologies.

It's about 9pm at the Baranof...I was over at the Naked City earlier, eating probably the worst meatball sandwich in Seattle. Yes, that's saying something...I mean how can you mess up a meatball sammy? Sure, soggy-bun is always a buzz-kill but that's a usual pitfall of the mbs...what makes it the worst? Some sort of goddamn whole wheat hoagie roll, that's just doesn't jibe with the marinara sauce (which is pretty bad, too). And, just by the way, I should mention that I am an f'ing connoisseur of meatball sandwiches. I can tell you, for instance, that the BEST can be found at Salumi's in downtown Seattle, and that Tat's is probably #2. Naked City's meatball? It's dogshit. Subway's is better.

And yet this is the second time I've eaten it. Why? 'Cause Thursday night I can watch a badass Fred Astaire film (in this case, Silk Stockings) on one screen while catching the Thursday night NFL game (Atlanta versus the Saints) on the other, all while drinking a tasty little IPA called Mjolnir which (need I say) kicks you in the head like the proverbial hammer of legend. They only serve it in schooners, and I had two.

Anyhoo, now I'm over at the Baranof with its Twinkie-decorated Christmas tree, and its life-sized Father Christmas doll. I was in here, what, three days ago? (Monday) and they had no X-mas decor and now it looks like the Baby Jesus exploded all over this place with Frosty and Santa and gingerbread-hung boughs of holly. Ho-ho-hell if I know how they can do such a quick turnaround AND keep the tireless drunks from dirtying the floor, but man they do a good job. AND their corn beef hash is pretty good.

I am drinking a hot-buttered brandy on the advice of my medical doctor (well, actually, he suggested a hot toddy, but that's just whiskey in water and my doc is an old geezer of a quack anyway). Seems I have bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection (again), and I figured I'd hit the bar rather than drink the codeine cough syrup I received for my visit ($ insurance company loves to come through on the prescription narcotics, but holistic medicine and massage? Bupkis).

Which is, by the way, exactly the number of people that showed for my play-test tonight: bupkis, i.e. zero.

Am I irritated by this? Eh...yes. But not for the usual reasons. I am irritated because I am going to be out-o-town most of the coming month (D.C. and Mexico) or out-o-commission (single parent duty), and the ONLY reason I bothered dragging my sick ass out to the bar is because I had this particular Thursday free AND I really wanted to do some play-testing.

Because I've got a new book.

I'll bet you folks didn't knot THAT now, did ya'? You probably thought I was off doing something exciting or family-oriented the last several weeks or that even (*shudder*) I'd reached a point of disenchantment with the whole blog-thang or OSR-thang or even RPG-thang. No, non, and nope.

[ooo-ooo...they just started karaoke-ing "Jingle Bell Rock!" It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas up in here!]

Round about my birthday (back on the 13th...I turned 39 years young and let me tell you I've got some blog-posts planned about that whole "gettin' old" o these days)...*AHEM*...back around my birthday I had a free day to myself and I started writing a new book. A compromise of a couple concepts both requested and (on my part) semi-promised. Rather than keep y'all in suspense...or guessing...I'll give you the skinny here and now: I'm writing a supplement for Dave Bezio's X-Plorers

Now, before folks start whining "another supplement, JB? When are you going to publish your own damn standalone game?!" allow me to first remind people that A) I DO have a standalone game ready for publishing save for the illustrations, but I'm hoping to publish it hardcover in collaboration with an actual publisher/distributor, and B) so fucking what? Here's the deal:

[and I'll elaborate on some of this in a later post, too]

If there's one thing I learned from the Indie-RPG movement, it was this: don't bother doing shit when it's already been done before. Now, yes, this doesn't apply to D&D (that's the part of the equation that requires elaboration on my part), BUT for other games, it's a good rule-of-thumb. For example:

Once upon a time, I was writing a game with a system that looked an awful lot like 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars. But then 3:16 got published. Now, what would be the point of publishing a second game...with a very similar theme and a very similar system...when one was already on the market? A point of pride? Trying to divide "market share?" Because my "fluff" was "better?"

No, those are all retarded reasons. The point of game writing is (near as I can figure) to put out good, fun games for people to play. It's not to get rich or even make much (or any)'s about seeing an empty hole in the game arena and plugging something in. 

Why have I not bothered to design a western game? Because no one would buy or play such a thing? NO. Someone would buy and play it (I would, and I'm not a TOTAL weirdo). But I've already got Boot Hill...and while I have picked up and purchased a couple other western RPGs (and, no, NOT just "weird west" RPGs), none of 'em are as good as BH. I'd like to snag a copy of Dust Devils because it represents a different way to "play western" (one-off, high drama, narrative premise), but for long term campaign play (such as it is in a lead-slinging universe) Boot Hill's your huckleberry.

SO... Dave Bezio's little piece of solid gold. X-Plorers is a great "base chassis" for what I've long said I was going to do: write a B/X space opera game that allowed the modeling of Star Wars-like adventures. And why do I feel the need to make a Star Wars-ish game when there've been so many different versions of SW on the market? Because they've all sucked shit. Or rather, despite beautiful presentations, or adequately stated themes, or wonderfully balanced combat systems, they've failed to provide adequate game-play that I could wholly throw my weight of approval behind.

And let me tell you...I've got some weight. I was at the doctor today and I can attest I've got more than my required extra winter poundage.

So it's been a project I've been working on for a few years now, generally in the form of copious notes and spreadsheets attempting to adequately balance playability (lack of crunch) with a modeling of the space opera cinema and some good ol' fashion weirdness thrown in for good measure. BUT it had never reached a point of real playability...too many parts didn't jibe with others, too many things didn't fit or make sense from a design POV...and here's the thing about taking the arrogant attitude I've taken on the issue: if you're going to bitch about other peoples' game designs, then you better DAMN WELL do it right and not have any bitches or gripes about your own work.

I kept running up against that. It's why I moved away from B/X entirely for my space opera system.

SO...X-Plorers. As I wrote in my earlier post, this game reminds me of a (better) "light" version of Star Frontiers...minus the standard six-pack (five-pack?) of alien races from TSR's space opera opus. And much of it is remarkably similar to what I, myself, was trying to do when I was still working with B/X (B/X itself derived from OD&D which, along with S&W is the basis for Bezio's game). Accept Bezio did me two better:

1) He finished parts that I'd struggled with, including starship combat and advancement. He did this in a way that I find inadequate (especially regarding "XP for missions;" hey, how 'bout some guidelines? anything?), but he still DID something. 
2) He typed it all up.

So, since he was kind enough to include an OGL and give tacit approval for supplements based on his game, I took all those notes I've had from the last couple-three years and started typing them up as a setting-specific space opera supplement for X-Plorers. You want B/X Star Wars? I'm gonna' give you an add-on for your easy-to-use, streamlined X-Plorers game that will allow you to swing a laser sword and flourish your cape while waging galactic war against an evil star system-spanning empire.

Sound good? 

I sure hope it does, 'cause I'm nearly finished. X-Plorers is under 40 pages long and I'm trying to keep my supplement to the same length or so, if possible. Last page count was 38 pages (as I said, this is what I've been doing with my time since November 13th)...but that's unformatted and without illustrations. I'll be scaling down the font and adding columns and such to get the page count down. I'll let you know how that goes.

Okay. It's 10pm...time to head for home. I am sick, after all.

: )


  1. Glad you are still alive...albeit barely, it would seem. ;-) And also glad to hear the creative juices are flowing. Looking forward to hearing more of the development.

  2. Yeah, juices were flowing alright...

    Does your supplement include analogs of vrusk, yazerian, and drasalite (dralasite?)?

    If so, I'm in (next time; sorry I had to bail).

  3. @ Josh: Mine does not...though I suppose I could add some...
    ; )

  4. awesome, JB! i'm really looking forward to this. last summer i converted the SF races over to X-PLORERS (with some inspiration from someone over at the old X-PLORERS yahoo page). you can check it out here, if you want (i also converted a few races from DAWNING STAR and the weren from ALTERNITY):

    i also made an alien generator (for when you need quick aliens after the PC's walk into the cantina:

    there were my first attempts at converting stuff over to a B/X base so hopefully they're not terrible.

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  6. This is great news! I love X-Plorers and I love your work, JB, so I'm eagerly looking forward to this.