Saturday, March 17, 2018

"With Great Power Comes Great Mental Illness..."

Apologies, apologies. Yes, I disappeared for a damn long time's been a pretty busy month and a half. So sorry.

[what happened to the Middle Earth "guide?" Um...let me get back to you on that]

I gave up drinking (alcohol) for Lent this year and it's been a fairly tough go. Not (just) because I'm a (functioning) alcoholic...going without doesn't give me the shakes or anything like that. It's just that I'm so used to having a drink or three just in the course of doing, watching a game, going out, streaming some show. Not to mention I've been mainlining NPR since the end of the football season and alcohol really helps take the edge off of whatever the Trump administration is doing these days...


Caught myself actually thinking about wanting a smoke the other day, and it's been nearly two decades since I last had a cigarette. Crazy. Instead I pounded a box of Girl Scout cookies ("thin" mints) over the course of three days (my daughter did help). Obviously, I'm a man who needs his vices.

So hear I sit, drinking yet another can of LaCroix (because it's cold and bubbly and, no, I don't know why I don't just drink water, dammit). But at least I'm blogging something, which is a start. Got to start somewhere. Even after you've started, sometimes it's necessary to start again.

And again. And again.

I'm going to talk about Shadowrun in a minute, but I just need to get a couple things out there first. I have been gaming a lot lately, but it's been almost exclusively Axis and Allies, which was a Christmas gift to my son, and which we've been playing non-stop for three or four weeks. We're using the 1941 rules, which are wonderful...the game is short and streamlined compared to other versions, and you can get through a game in about an evening and a half. We've played probably a dozen times, my son resetting the board after every defeat (no, he hasn't won yet, but he loves the thing and he's stubborn as hell...kind of like his old man).

We're even experimenting with our own rules. We wanted to add giant diesel-powered mecha to the board (inspired by the Japanime/manga Kishin Corps, as well as Pacific Rim), but haven't been able to decide on rules for the things. Instead our most recent game has introduced kaiju (giant monsters, a la Godzilla or...again...Pacific Rim), to act as a neutral, third party "spoiler." Jury's still out on their inclusion (we're in the middle of our first game using them), but we'll see if they'll swing the tide of the war one way or another...or if they simply devastate civilization while world's powers burn each other to the ground.

Something like this...
So, yes, I am doing "tabletop gaming" (of a sort), and A&A isn't the only one, though it's the only one worth mentioning. I was really, really looking hard at rewriting Heroes Unlimited to my own specs...and I may still do so...but when I open the book and start hacking through jungle I find it Just...So...Daunting. Hats off to Mr. Siembieda for actually putting together this thing...I mean, I couldn't (certainly wouldn't) put together these lists of gadgets for hardware characters and implants for bionic character and this system of magic, and All These Random Tables, and...and...

(*double sigh*) It's actually kind of hard deciding what exactly to keep.

But I did get a little inspired watching the new season of Jessica Jones this last week; at least, binging it added fuel to the smoldering blaze. I've decided I LOVE Jessica Jones (the show, not the character). Unlike prior Marvel Netflix shows, the new season of JJ is awesome right out of the gate, rather than waiting 2-3 episodes to find its feet. It does hit its peak about three episodes from the end season, resulting in a looooong denouement but...whatever. The show is filled with such bitterness and sadness and melancholy, you KNOW how it's all going to end, even if you're not sure the exact path the plot takes to get there. And you're already bought in, so...yeah. Tears and booze. And regrets and recriminations. Jessica Jones.

She really reminds me of a girl or two I used to know.

Even added the Whizzer!
With mongoose!
Anyhoo, the thing about JJ (and ALL the Marvel Netflix series) is how "small time" the superhero world is in the setting. And Heroes Unlimited may be...hmmm, I'm not exactly sure what I want to say.

...may be the only supers RPG that does small time(?)

...may be the "best" supers RPG at doing small time(?)

Probably something like "may be my personal favorite RPG for doing small time." And yet every revision, every supplement has seen increases in the power level of the game. Never mind Rifts and its (wholly compatible) madness. But if you dial that power creep way down, you can really start to see a good system for modeling the likes of Jessica Jones and her associates (not to mention antagonists). It's just that looking at the words "good system" makes me want to guffaw aloud as I consider Palladium's systems. So, so sorry.

SO...Shadowrun. I picked up a copy of the 4th edition the other day (I think it's the says "20th Anniversary Core Rulebook" on the cover). I did this for a couple reasons: first, it was dirt cheap ($9.99, used). Second, I wanted to see what was new and great  and "happening" with Shadowrun, thinking maybe it would galvanize me to take action with my long unpublished Cry Dark Future manuscript. However, I've yet to read page one of the tome (it's sitting in bed next to me as I type this) because...well, because I've been busy. And maybe because I'm lacking the heart (or stomach) to look betwixt its covers.

This one...pretty sure it's
the fourth edition.
HOWEVER (still with me folks? Okay, almost done)...however, even though I've been lugging this thing around in my backpack, NOT reading it, it's been on my mind a bit. And so, when I was in a local game shop Wednesday, making the acquaintance of the 23 year old store manager and found out her RPG experience was mainly with Shadowrun, I found myself not only talking about my own experience with the SR game, but about my own, unpublished, SR-knockoff. And I ended up giving her an old manuscript Thursday, and picking up her feedback Friday. AND, as was the case SIX YEARS AGO (jumping Jesus on a pogo stick!), the comments were universally positive. There is, apparently, still a market for Shadowrun (who'd have thunk it?), and one that has serious complaints about the RPG's current level of accessibility (low), and that might find real enjoyment in something a little more "lightweight" while keeping the same Shadow-isms.

In other words, publish the damn thing already.

Now for those of you who have followed this blog for...Christ, years!...for those who've been following the saga of this thing, you might recall that I basically started rewriting the whole damn book from scratch, making it much more of a post-apocalyptic fantasy game. Something like Appleseed (at least the cinematic version) with elves and dwarves. Ralph Bakshi's Wizards meets Thundarr meets Heavy Metal meets Ghost in the Shell. With pointy ears. And VERY different game systems (especially pertaining to character creation, advancement/development, and material resources). A complete frigging overhaul might be a good way to describe it. An overhaul that I have never completed.

Here's the thing I've just realized in the last couple days (as I dug up and reread both my original manuscript and the current, unfinished rewrite): the overhaul is a different game. It has the same name, and a few of the systems but the setting and theme are completely different. Hell, the name "Cry Dark Future" doesn't even fit. Dark future? Whose future? Tolkien's? It's post-apocalyptic fantasy, it's not "future" anything. Hell, even the guns are about the same as current (real world) technology...the only thing "futuristic" is the cybernetics, and those could just as easily be skinned as magical or steampunk or whatever.

What I really have on my hand are two different books. One finished and one not. Two games, not one. The finished one is even playable.

It is, though, in need of a lot of polishing. Rereading it really made me cringe in places. I kind of hate how I wrote it: my style, my wording. It does need an overhaul, but mainly in phrasing. It needs to be clearer, more succinct and useful in conveying its rules. And it needs to be more creative in how it models certain in-game systems.

So, yeah. Looks like I'm back to finishing Cry Dark Future. Just to put it to bed...finally.

Expect the blogging to be light and sporadic for the near future. Again: apologies.


  1. The number of people I know who consider Shadowrun to be the best game if only they don’t have to use the rules…good luck. I can’t wait to see it.

    1. @ Pandatheist:

      Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of that...funny how it’s still an issue decades after publication.

      (actually went and skimmed the 4E book last night after posting this: what a mess! Holy smoke!)

      I want to write more about what I heard from this “youngster” in a later post; fascinating really, especially considering she and her buddies were still in high school when’s I wrote it!

  2. I , too, drink La Croix, unapologetically. I drink it because it has no sugar and does have bubbles and so what if it tastes like someone's holding a mango rind under my nose as I drink it.

    Also love Jessica Jones. The 'small time' vibe is appreciated as a contrast with the Avengers movies.

  3. I'm still waiting on Cry Dark Future.
    The torch hasn't gone out for me. ;)

    1. @ DMW:

      Jeez. Really?

      *sigh* Okay, let me see if I can “front burner” the thing.