Friday, June 25, 2010

Happy (belated) Anniversary

Wow...I just realized that I completely blew past my own anniversary date without the slightest mention. I started this blog on June 6th and it's been going more-or-less strong ever since.

Normally, I would have put out something exceptionally grand for the "momentous date," but I completely spaced. I can't even blame the World Cup on it (that little event kicked off on the 11th). All I can say is, I've been busy folks.

Well, I'll try to make it up somehow. In the meantime, thanks to all the folks that have taken the time to read, comment, and contribute here at B/X Blackrazor. For myself, I've had a pretty fun time...and mostly it doesn't seem like "work."
; )

Thanks a million, people, really. Prost!
: )

[boy, it's sure come a long way from how I originally imagined it to be a repository for stats on magic swords!]

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Relentless Gaming

Wow…I don’t know how anyone can concentrate with the World Cup on. I thought I’d take the day off (from watching it), but as I type this Slovakia is up 1-0 over Italy and the reigning World Cup champs are in danger of going home early (which is fine by me, as those dive-taking cry-babies are my LEAST favorite team in the tournament). Mama Mia!

Yesterday, I did NOT take the day off, instead going into work late AFTER watching the U.S. game. If anyone’s wondering why I wasn’t blogging yesterday, I was following the Germany-Ghana match anxiously through my entire lunch break, and then spent the evening watching high-lights from the games I missed and re-watching the USA match with my wife and brother. Yes, it was that good. My wife cried at the end of the game…both times!

Funny thing is, most Americans probably missed out on what may have been the coolest international sports moment for the U.S. since the American hockey team’s upset of Russia in the Olympics. I know the sports radio station I listen to spent most of the day talking about baseball. Crazy.

Well, at least the rest of the world was watching.

One way in which I’m driving my wife crazy about the game is the way I keep accidentally referring the players as “characters.” I mean, sure, some of them are “characters” in the funny sense of the term, and a lot of these players have plenty of “depth of character.” But the engrossing thing about this tournament is that it IS like a drama…like a TV mini-series…and the events that are un-folding episodically, game-by-game, ARE telling a story.

Kind of like an RPG campaign.

I can’t equate every player with a particular gaming archetype (they’d mostly be “fighters” though there’s certainly a magician or two sprinkled throughout the sides), but in watching their faces and performances over several games, you start to develop an idea of their personality, their personal style…it’s like watching gamers develop PCs over a series of adventures, though of course the soccer players are REAL people who are only now being REVEALED in the media spotlight, rather than imagined figments being invented around the table.

Still (and again, similar to gaming), it’s hard not to fall in love with the “characters” on the team…especially as you get to know them through each agonizing 90 minute match.

Clint Dempsey is the fearless badass striker for the U.S. team…during the National Anthem, he was literally licking his chops, presumably in the anticipation of the game. By the end of the match he was battered and bloodied, but the steel was still in his eyes. Personally, I think he’s got the toughest sounding name I’ve ever heard.

Then there’s the down-right elfin-looking Landon Donovan, team hero. He has practically willed his team into the Round of 16 through sheer determination and magical goal-scoring. The guy is frigging Legolas, all right? I mean, the Peter Jackson version (though his hairline is a bit more like Elrond). Plus, he has another cool sounding name.

There’s our slightly hypochondriac goal Tim Howard, who has the “charming” quirk of letting the opposing teams score on us a couple times before he warms up. Ha! No, he’s not that bad (though we’ve had better keepers in past tournaments), and he’s been playing pretty good for a guy with BUSTED RIBS. And his distribution from goal is fantastic.

Then we’ve got the 22-year old sparkplug Bradley, our starting center midfielder. The kid doesn’t have an off-switch and hustles tirelessly. As well he should since he’s the coach’s son (you can tell, ‘cause they both shave their heads). Seriously I haven’t seen that kind of nepotism since I was a kid playing soccer…but the guy’s good, one of the best on the team, and scorer of the game-tying goal in the Slovenia match.

I could say something about most of the players on the team: the promising young striker, Altire, that uses his size and speed to good advantage but still makes some rookie mistakes…the aging speedster DeMarcus Beasley, who I was afraid had been cut from the national squad (he figured prominently in past World Cup games), until he got into the game as a substitute…the tough-as-nails defender DeMerit who is the heart of the U.S. defense, like a brick-shithouse on an intercept course with opposing strikers…defender Bocanegra, our team captain whose amazing footwork and poise has also been a fixture of past World Cups…Buddle, the L.A. Galaxy’s top goal scorer but a rank novice in international play, etc., etc.

Now dear readers, you may say, “JB you are just an obsessive-compulsive Scorpio. We already know you are totally into your B/X D&D and your NFL football and your astrology…the fact that you know a bunch of soccer players, too, isn’t all that surprising…it’s just another personal obsession of yours that you are only now revealing.”

Wrong-O, pal. I watched the last World Cup in 2006 and 2002 and that’s why I remember Donovan (who could forget that hairline?) and Beasley and Bocanegra (another cool name). All these other names and faces? That’s not the Wikipedia…that’s just watching the games. The Americans ARE colorful personalities, full of fire and spirit. Maybe that’s just the coverage/editing of ESPN, but I’ve never been as sucked into the national team as I am this year. Hell, I don’t watch international soccer the rest of the years between World Cups (heck, I only made it to a couple-three Sounders games last year, and I haven’t PLAYED soccer in more than 20 years).

And Slovakia has just taken a 2-0 lead. Oh My God…I never thought they could actually do it, but they’re on the brink of sending the Italians home. Did I mention I can’t stand the Italians? Of course, Czechoslovakia had a history of being pretty good back in the days before it was broken up into separate countries…

[that last bit IS from the Wikipedia by the way]

The World Cup is the biggest “game” on the planet, folks, and the excitement surrounding it is contagious, the drama utterly addicting (I could write several blog posts on the French team alone…let alone Mexico, Argentina, Germany, South Africa...all of whom have great stories). I AM still working, but it’s tough to juggle writing, blogging, job-work, family, AND relentless television watching.

However, in honor of Donovan’s last game-winning goal, I am setting a “righteous goal” of my own…to put out some fun RPG-related stuff for the blog this weekend. Stay tuned…and go USA!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Slick as S**t through a Goose

SO…my apologies to, well, everyone. The last week and more has been spent obsessing over World Cup action. Many of my American and Canadian readers aren’t going to understand this, I realize…heck, ten years ago I didn’t get it either. But like sushi or steak tartar…or really ANY spectator sport…soccer is an acquired taste, and a frigging addictive one once you do “get” it.

Funny thing is, the U.S. used to be big into soccer back before the sport went professional. Hell, we went to the semi-finals in the first World Cup (1930) and were retroactively awarded 3rd place in the event by FIFA (at the time, there was no 3rd place award). That places the U.S. ahead of Mexico (whom we have a good history of beating in the tournament) for World Cup achievement, despite the latter country’s long history of passion for the sport.

In fact, it appears the only reason soccer died off in the U.S. is the rise of professional “American” football during the 30s and 40s (see the film Leatherheads for a fairly decent look at the early years of the NFL) at a time when FIFA was on hiatus due to World War II. If not for pro-football (that’s American football, Brits) and Nazi Germany, the U.S. might have become the same kind of powerhouse that Brazil is today. Don’t laugh…we won quite a few Olympic medals in the sport prior to the founding of FIFA. And the U.S. loves to throw money at their world domination of, well, everything.

ANYway…let’s talk about games other than soccer for a minute. I have in front of me, four glossy, soft-covers. They are:

- Deathwatch: Final Sanction
- Under the Rose for Exalted (2nd edition)
- Legacy of Disaster for Legend of Five Rings (4th edition)
- Athlon Sports Pro-Football Magazine

The first three are all things I picked up at Gary’s on Free RPG Day last Saturday. The last is a magazine devoted to scouting the NFL (mostly for the purpose of playing “fantasy football”). I’ve been playing fantasy football for about three years now…I’ve been buying Athlon Sports for more than ten. I find it gives me a nice overview of the teams for the upcoming season, plus compared to other “pre-season” magazines, it’s made with quality paper, has good photography, and excellent lay-out.

Of course, the predictions aren’t always the greatest. For example, this year they’re picking the 49ers to win the NFC West…something they’ve been picking three years in a row. I have to think the publishers are either from San Francisco or just downright retarded; I mean come on! Likewise, they’re picking Seattle to come in #2 which means the defending NFC champ (Arizona) isn’t even going to the play-offs? Bizarre.

But actually, this isn’t really a new trend for Athalon Sports. I can trace the beginning of their wonkiness back to the season following the Seattle's Super Bowl XL loss in which, despite ranking all of the ‘Hawks stats as better than the rest, they predicted we would miss the play-offs due to the “Super Bowl Loser Curse.” Ridiculous. Instead, the Seahawks ended up one game out of the Super Bowl, only losing to the eventual NFC representative Bears in Chicago in over-time.

[meanwhile, it was the “defending Champ” Steelers that completely missed the play-offs in the 2006 season…go figure]

So accuracy of predictions is NOT Athlon Sports’ strong suit. And yet, of the four documents in front of me, I find their publication to be the most accurate, most interesting, and most practically useful.

Let’s start with the one I WANTED to like: Deathwatch.

Of all the various game settings that have been created over the years…for ANY game…the Warhammer 40,000 universe is one of my favorites. Especially back in the days prior to 3rd edition 40K (with the introduction of the Tau and Necrons…jeez, undead in space?), it was sci-fi as dark, grim, and gritty as the Warhammer FRP world. O sure…you can use "magic" (psionics), but you might well be possessed by a bloodthirsty demon! And legions of psychotically loyal killer space marines will hunt you down for being an abomination in the Emperor’s sight…

Deathwatch is the 3rd “40K RPG” Games Workshop appears to be releasing, and this one is the somewhat-long-awaited “space marine RPG” (the first two were for Inquisitors and Rogue Traders, special character types dating all the way back to the original 1st edition of the wargame rules). Of course, space marines were never “special characters” like Rogue Traders and Inquisitors in the original wargame…they were grunts. So now we have an RPG where you play a badass grunt.


Okay, aside from the glaring discrepancies in the rules (I’ll give an example or two in a moment), let’s talk about theme/premise. Um…what? The party is a group of hand-picked marines from a variety of space marine chapters put into a special squad and now gunning for the Emperor’s enemies on “special missions?”

Just because you elaborate on the stat-line of your average 40K marine profile does NOT mean you have an RPG. Just because you add a handful of skills doesn’t make it an RPG. The fact that space marines are default “trouble-shooters” (in the literal sense…they are trained to resolve situations with combat), ultimately sets the game up to be all about blasting people…and there’s no elaborate stat-line needed for such a game.

Check out 3:16: Carnage Amongst the Stars…you can run a Deathwatch game simpler and with more role-playing and pathos using ITS rules than the stuff in this 30 page booklet. Really, honestly.

Of course, 3:16 doesn’t have nifty weapons with “special abilities” (well, abilities other than rolling bunches of dice and blowing xenomorphs all to hell). Take the power fist, for example. It has two abilities that are unique to it (i.e. no other listed weapon has either of these attributes):

- Power field: a field of power wreaths weapons with this quality, increasing their damage and penetration. Such modifiers are already included in the weapon’s profile. When the wielder successfully uses this weapon to parry an attack made with a weapon that lacks this quality, he has a 75% chance of destroying his attacker’s weapon.
- Unwieldy: huge and often top-heavy, Unwieldy weapons are too awkward to be used defensively. Unwieldy weapons cannot be used to parry.

Emphasis added to point out the retarded-ness.

Exalted barely deserves mention…at least, mention bereft of derision. I’ve never played/owned/read ANY edition of Exalted, despite owning half-a-dozen-plus other White Wolf games. I was interested to see what the game was all about.

Apparently it is about elaborate fiction masquerading as an RPG. What the F?

If I wanted to play a game that looked something like Avatar the Last Air Bender, I would probably go with Big Eyes, Small Mouth. This game is just…so…much…dross…ugh! I can’t even wade through all of it just to get to the super-elaborate stat block pre-gens at the end. Apparently, this isn’t an actual Quick-Start offering from White Wolf, but an adventure module for Exalted; you have to own the game to play the adventure (there are no rules printed un Under the Rose). After browsing the adventure, I have no desire to own the game. The over-the-top super-enriched fantasy world is…well, it’s a setting. One that probably deserves an elaborate series of novels or short stories. But NOT one I want to have to study (like taking courses in ancient Mesopotamia) in order to understand how the game is to be played.

There is a huge disconnect going on here, in my opinion. RPGs either provide rules for “adventure creation” (for example: D&D) or provide rules for playing a particular established IP (for example: Star Wars, Firefly). White Wolf is trying to give you the game AND the IP and it’s super-elaborate-as-hell…ugh.

No. No. No. I don’t want it. You can’t make me learn about it. Crap on that.

Finally we have Legend of Five Rings, 4th edition. Like Exalted, L5R is a game I’ve never owned, read, or played. Like Exalted I have heard of it…though I had no idea it was in its 4th edition (they still haven’t gotten all the bugs out yet?! Sheesh!). I know there is a substantial portion of the RPG community that LOVES the whole “samurai-thang.” Personally, I find samurai to have the same level of “interesting role-play potential” as space marines (i.e. not much). Yes, it would be cool to ride around and duel folks with your katana over honor…however, it would seem (to me) to get OLD after awhile. Like that Highlander TV show…how many times do they repeat the formula that ends with someone’s eventual decapitation before you stop watching?

And UN-like Ron Edwards (surprise! My game design hero!) I am NOT interested in exploring the human drama that comes with conflicts of honor mixed with soap opera family conflicts. Sorry, just not all that interested in what RPGs can teach us about the human condition (at least, not when it comes to blade-slinging ronin).

Actually, I found the L5R booklet better than expected. It had good art in a Magic: the Gathering kind of way. The rules provided appeared short and succinct, variations of a couple different games that are escaping my memory right now (perhaps shades of Deadlands). The pre-gen characters had fairly short “stat blocks” than what I anticipated (certainly in comparison to Exalted!). All in all, I was intrigued enough to do a little further research on-line regarding Legend of the Five Rings.

Having said all THAT, I have to say that in the end, I find the game to be kind of dumb. Why not just call it Samurai & Shugenja? After all, that’s all it seems to consist of. Do you want to play a Warrior or a Wizard? A space marine or a psyker? And most any dude between the age of 17 and 30 is going to be laughed out of the table if he belongs to “Clan Unicorn.”

Or perhaps I’m being unnecessarily hard on this game…or all these games for that matter. I admit I’ve been feeling a bit crusty lately, as I’d rather be watching World Cup games than working (and being forced to nip out to the bar across the street to catch scores on the sly).

But really, is THIS what RPGs are coming down to? I mean is this WHERE THE MONEY IS in the RPG industry?

I mean, just look at the common thread. Your "party" is basically a group of ass-kickers (samurai, space marines, “exalted” heroes) with various tweaks to distinguish you from one another (clan, chapter, caste) brought together at the behest of some higher power (daimyo, Emperor, whatever-the-hell-Exalted-has) to perform missions that require ass-kicking.

Lame. I mean really, just…lame.

One commentator either here or on another blog I was reading wrote something about how “if it’s an RPG it should include combat.” Huh? Because playing an RPG is all about playing an ass-kicker of some sort? That’s as stupid as exercising in the gym for the sake of “getting big muscles.” What exactly is it all in aid of?

Again, let me reiterate that, cool and interesting as it might be, I do NOT generally play RPGs for catharsis or therapy or to address the drama of the human condition. But I DO play them and enjoy them for something else…stretching the imagination. And there’s nothing fantastically imaginative about ass-kicking with dice. Go play a fucking video game, chumps.

I mean, really. Have you seen what’s available on the console these days? Plenty of cool games that allow you to adventure through a linear environment, ass-kicking in many graphically enhanced ways, with guns and without, acting in concert with other players or alone. What the hell do you need an RPG for if that’s all you want to do?

All right, I’ve wandered a bit off topic. Just to bring it back for the moment, understand that I hold table-top RPGs in hella’ high esteem, and if the three games I picked up at Free RPG Day are an indication of the general mold of commercial games being issued these days…well, that’s a bloody shame, that's what it is. But, whatever…this blog post is not any kind of attempt at resolving the issue, it’s just me venting my opinions about the nicely printed free booklets I picked up on Saturday.

Well, that and me taking a break from all this soccer watching.
; )

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Another Self-Pity Party

So the original plan for today was as follows: get up fairly early, walk to the Wayward Coffee House for a Muad'dib Latte (the only fru-fru coffee drink I occasionally allow myself), then hit up Gary's Games for Free RPG Day, prior to going home, watching a little World Cup, making the wife some oatmeal, and going to my appointment with the massage therapist.

That's not what happened.

The beagles woke me up early (as usual). I was dead tired from another late night and after watching the tail end of the Japan game I found myself falling asleep on the I decided to go back to bed. I got up barely in time to catch a quick breakfast before getting to the therapist and, after running a few errands, didn't get down to the game shop till five o'clock or so.

At least I didn't miss it completely (as I did last year).

Here's the only swag I managed to secure:

Deathwatch: Final Sanction (Warhammer 40K Roleplay)
Under the Rose (Exalted 2nd Edition)
Legend of the Five Rings: Legacy of Disaster (4th Edition Roleplaying Game)

I don't have any idea what might have been available had I gotten to the store earlier. None of these games are anything I play or ever intend to purchase in the future...but they were free and free games are better than no games.

Anyway, I'll give my thoughts on the games themselves tomorrow (Exalted, 4th Edition, and 40K RPGs are all games I've never owned, so the books should serve as an introduction into those system as I assume they're intended). However, I'd just like to note something about their overall quality and presentation.

Excellent. All of them.

Two of the books are 32 pages, one (Deathwatch) is nearly 40. All are filled with wonderful artwork, creative banners, and great graphics. Two of the books are printed on quality, glossy paper including colored illustrations. All of them have fantastic presentation.

And they're all free. It makes me wonder, what the hell am I doing?

A 64 page Companion supplement. A couple other possible 64 page RPGs. And these guys' free intro games are 32 page, slick publications that I haven't the slightest idea how to replicate...even if I did have the resources to replicate 'em. Which I don't.


Anyway, I'm probably just tired and cranky right now. The weekend is nearly over and I need to catch up on some sleep. I'll write more later.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Outright Robbery

Starting with the U.S. 3-2 win over Slovenia being nullified by extremely poor officiating. English fans might feel it fair after the "cheap goal" that allowed the U.S. to tie their national team, but that's on England's goal keeper (an "own" error) not a gift from the referee. Of course, Seattle sports fans like myself are no strangers to "robbery" - the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, the "theft" of the Sonics by Oklahoma City - but it's pretty irritating to see it take place on the international stage...especially when the sport is just starting to get legs under it in our historically disinterested country. After all, why am I bothering to get up so damn early anyway?

Between matches, I was down at Gary's Games shooting the breeze with Tim regarding game design, local companies, and the price of shrink wrap. And checking out the new inventory, of course.

[by the way...Big Note: don't forget that tomorrow, Saturday, is Free RPG Day around the sure to rob your local game shop of the complimentary swag that's available!]

While at the shop, a youngish man (okay, probably my age, give-or-take a couple years) game into the store with his 3-4 year old son to buy some model planes. While there he asked Tim about the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, specifically regarding the new Basic edition that he heard about on the news, and wondering if it was something a dude in his 30s-40s could get back into after a multi-decade hiatus. He also mentioned he'd heard it was a little more "linear" in nature with set-piece encounters and a scripted story. The guy stated...really!...that he couldn't imagine how that could be "fun" when someone was used to having more leeway in creating their own settings and open-ended adventuring.

Well, at that point I couldn't sit quietly on the sidelines and keep my damn mouth shut...I told the guy about Labyrinth Lord.

Now is this robbery? I admit that, even at the time, I was feeling a little bad about giving the guy information on a game that can be downloaded for free, certainly purchased for cheaper than the core books of 4th edition, potentially depriving my favorite local game shop of a ton of cold hard ca$h. Was I thieving money from the till?

After consideration, I don't think so. For me, B/X D&D (the precursor to the Labyrinth Lord retro-clone) was a "gateway drug," allowing me to get into the RPG hobby and leading me to hundreds of dollars in game purposes over the years. For a returning "old dude" player, wanting to introduce gaming to his young children, I would think a game with an easier learning curve would be a good thing.

Likewise, I think that selling this same individual a stack of huge ass "core books" of arcane rules and phraseology is a surefire way of getting him to throw up his hands and say, WTF? Probably alienating him and/or his kids for good.

Which would suck, of course.

On the other side, getting the guy to purchase (or download) a copy of LL will mean, introducing newbies (and oldbies) back into role-playing...not to mention, adventure purchases, dice purchases, used book/game purchases (recycle and re-use, baby), etc.

At least that's the way I see it. As a guy with a family, a full-time job, and a house that needs upkeep, in addition to a couple random hobbies (like trying to self-publish my own RPGs), I know I don't have the time or patience for WotC/Hasbro's latest greatest. Even if I didn't already object to their stuff on general principle.

So I guess, the only folks I am intentionally robbing by speaking my opinion is the WotC folks. I'm pretty sure Gary's makes most of their money on things other than RPGs (like cards, dice, Bridge products, model kits, etc.). However, I'd certainly encourage ANYone (even a crappy World Cup ref) to give role-playing a try. I just wouldn't encourage them to give it a try with Wizards/Hasbro.
; )

All right...back to Algeria and England. Come on, tie!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Art of B/X Game Design

From Tom Moldvay's Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set:

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Fantasy Adventure Game ("D&D Game" for short) is a role-playing adventure game for persons 10 years and older. In the D&D rules, individuals play the role of characters in a fantasy world where magic is real and heroes venture out on dangerous quests in search of fame and fortune...

...this game, unlike others , does not use a playing board or actual playing pieces. All that is needed to play are these rules, the dice included in this set, pencil and paper, graph paper, and imagination. The game may be more exciting if miniature lead figures of the characters and monsters are used, but the game can be played without such aids....

...while the material in this booklet is referred to as rules, that is not really correct. Anything in this booklet (and other D&D booklets) should be thought of as changeable...the purpose of these "rules" is to provide guidelines that enable you to play and have fun, so don't feel absolutely bound by them.

[all quotes taken from the 1st page of the Introduction]

These little excerpts don't really do justice to the succinct economy of game design that is the Moldvay rules...the first page is excellent in its description of what the game is, the expectations one might have of play, and the lay-out of the game rules with regard to teaching this (not to mention a nice little "how to read this book" bit).

The purpose of this post though is NOT to talk about how wonderful Moldvay's rules are in this regard, nor to discuss the merits of "intro to RPG" sections or anything like that. Hell, it's not even to "point to flaws" in other game designs (as some of these "design posts" on my blog often do).

Rather I just want to give you folks an idea of what I'm working with when it comes to my B/X Supers game (yep, the working title still hasn't changed).

You can strike the whole first paragraph of course...the design goals and game play of Dungeons & Dragons has little bearing on a superhero RPG (really...heroes fight for Truth & Justice not gold and general). I kept it in, because I thought it was just a great example of how Moldvay's rules state right from the beginning - page 1, chapter 1, paragraph 1 - what the game is all about and how it's designed to be played. Something I need to keep in mind when designing any game.

Paragraph 2 is the more important one, from my point of view. It describes what is needed to play the game and gives information on how B/X play differs from other games. For example, it uses no board or playing pieces. Graph paper is needed...but as is explained later in the rules (or "rules" in quotes, as Moldvay refers to them), the graph paper is for the mapping of the dungeon...not for use as a battle map for 5' steps and whatnot.

The supers game is going to need even less material: graph paper will be optional. Generally superheroes won't be exploring dungeons, and a standard city map would be as useful (if not more so) than any scribbled doodles on paper I can make. And as with comic books and action films, things like "range" are going to be deliberately subjective, if not "fast and loose" in the extreme.

In the end, my supers game will be a game, but the book will only be, can only be, a set of "guidelines." Today, I narrowed down the power list to eight categories, each with 12 powers. It's enough to get the game started. Others will be able to add on as they see fit, I'm sure. eyes keep drifting closed. Guess it's time to give the ol' carpal tunnel a rest! zzzzzzz....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Birthday Doctor!

And a belated Happy Flag Day (the day before Kris's birthday, every year).

Man...I have been worthless the last few days. Too much sunshine (and walks with the beagles), too much World Cup (groups, pools, TV watching, and Facebook smack-talking), too much work at the office (picking up slack for folks on vacation), too much canning of strawberry jam (all day Sunday), too many doctor appointments...and not nearly enough sleep.

Ugh. I miss you!

Even right now, I can barely concentrate on what I'm writing...'course I'm just stealing a few minutes away from work at a local bar so I can watch Brazil versus North Korea. The People's Republic is hanging tough right now with a 0-0 tie near the end of the first half.

All right, I'll check in later tonight (I hope). I do have (non-soccer) news of sorts.
: )

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Am I the Only One that thinks Hawkeye is a Wuss?

Things don't always have to be complicated. I can appreciate the simplicity of hitting someone in the torso with an axe, or crushing an opponent's helmed skull with the over-hand swing of a doesn't always have to be elaborate sword-play or intricate ambushes. Heck, simplicity is a good eight-tenths of my reason for playing B/X these days.

Green Arrow is nothing if not un-complicated.

At least, the Longbow Hunter version, which is where I really started to appreciate the guy. Oh, I suppose I first gained a bit of a crush (is that the right term?) on him with Frank Miller's Dark Knight graphic novel, in which he manages to help bring Superman down despite only having one arm. However, even as a young kid I always dug it when the emerald archer made an appearance on the Justice League cartoon, and there was a time when I really wanted a Green Arrow "action figure," even though I never really collected action figures (well, aside from Star Wars action figures, of which I had an extensive collection).

I could say it goes back to a love of the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, probably my 2nd favorite "medieval movie" of all time (my favorite medieval film is the 1959 version of Ivanhoe, hands down). But really, I've been into archery for a long time. As a kid, playing "ElfQuest" in the woods, I always got to be Strongbow, my favorite character from that particular comic (Cutter was such a doofus). I've been trying to get my wife to let me invest in an archery set for years...she gave on the knife-throwing, but not the compound bow.

My uncles in Montana all got into bow-hunting back in the 80's, as they found hunting deer and elk with a bow was much more "sporting" (I suppose after 20 years of hunting with a rifle, it is). I don't hunt myself (despite owning a pair of excellent beagle hounds) a real life pacifist, I don't even like to kill spiders...but if I did hunt, I wouldn't mind trying it with a bow.

[Of course, the one time I tried my 60-some year old grandfather's hunting compound, I couldn't get the string back more than a couple inches...I was 13 or 14 at the time]

Anyway, it seems like every "comic universe" as some form of archer in it: Green Arrow, Arsenal/Red Arrow, Hawkeye, the Bowman, Manticore...whatever. Like most folks of my generation, I have my North Node in the sign of Sagittarius...astrologically, that would say I aspire to be an archer (or a book publisher...go figure). That may account for people's interest in superhero archery (age and interest coinciding)...but it may just be that Robin Hood/vigilante hero tie-in.

Though if the latter were the case, wouldn't we expect to see more swordsmen/fencers in comics? A la Zorro? The sword is (generally speaking) just as deadly as the bow and arrow when wielded with skill.

Well, regardless, I am a fan of Green Arrow...and NOT a fan of Marvel's Hawkeye.

His "make-over" in the Ultimate comics was fairly cool...until he somehow got turned into a "Bullseye-Hawkeye" combo. I've said before that the writers of the Ultimates comic series appear to be familiar with the Heroes Unlimited RPG, as all their versions of classic superheroes could be made using the HU rules. "Ultimate Hawkeye" is a perfect example of the Ancient Weapon Master class (available in the Powers Unlimited 2 book). But killing people with one's own ripped-off fingernails is a little over-the-top...even for a Palladium game!
: )

The Welshman is a character I created for the City of Heroes MMORPG...a game I spent a couple weeks trying out a couple years ago. A Green Lantern knock-off, I decided on the name after having a couple dozen bow and arrow related names rejected by the computer game. Since then, the name (and the character concept) has grown on me. Part of my design goals for my B/X Supers game is having a rule system that allows for the design of both a long bow toting Welshman as well as the incredible Hulk and the invincible Iron Man...and still be able to compete on a semi-even playing field. I'm working on it.
; )

Friday, June 11, 2010

Old School Super Weaknesses & Powers

I was re-reading Villains & Vigilantes again today, specifically the power section when I came upon this particular section I had completely forgotten (give me a break - I've only ever read the book once, and have not yet had a chance to play it!):

When all powers and weaknesses [each player rolls one random "weakness" in addition to 3-8 (1D6+2) super powers] are determined, the player must select one of the powers to discard. It is better to drop a power which will leave you with a remaining set which are interesting and go well together, rather than simply getting rid of some ability which doesn't look very powerful.

Each character also has the option of dropping the weakness he received if he feels that it would hinder him too severely. However, to do so he must drop a second power as described above.

I know I was talking about my dislike of randomness in super power games yesterday, specifically with regard to Marvel, but V&V does a great job of making the random power generation coherent with these two rules. Discarding one power (especially when you only have a handful, many of which are open to radical interpretation) really gives you the ability to "tighten up" an otherwise incoherent bunch of abilities. And the "weakness" rule is good as well...if players don't want the weakness they don't have to have it. And the price they pay to drop it (abandon an additional power) simply allows them to tighten the character concept further. It's a win-win all the way around.

I was already considering adding weaknesses to my game...they are just such a trope of the comic book superhero. The kryptonite achilles heel, Daredevil's blindness, Tony Stark's drinking, Spiderman's numerous imperiled family members/love interests (as well as always being broke as a joke) seems like most every hero has something that makes him or her flawed (I'm not sure what Green Arrow's weakness is...that he's a libertarian? that he's an easy target for police trying to crack down on vigilantes due to his lack of "real" superpowers?).

However, I had been considering having the weakness as optional...a means of perhaps gaining an extra superpower. Now...well, I have to admit, I like V&V's take on it. Perhaps a list of minor weaknesses (mandatory) versus major weaknesses (optional)? I'll have to think about it.

I never did like the weaknesses in Marvel Superheroes RPG (I refer to the limitations found in the Ultimate Powers Book). As with many aspects of Marvel, I found this particular system lacked, I just didn't find it very fun.

Yesterday, I spent quite a bit of my day working on the Superhero game. Finished my sidekick rules which are, quite frankly, totally awesome. Also fleshed out most of combat and XP/advancement (some people might be disappointed to hear that - at this time - combat is going to be a variation of my attack-less variant combat system for B/X).

I also put together a list of as many general super powers as I could think of off the top of my head. I got 103, which according to the good Doctor is probably "three too many." He doesn't think there should be more than 100 (which interestingly, appears to be the exact number present in Matthew's random charts over at Wheel of Samsara).

And he may be onto something. V&V only has 70 powers in its rule book (NOT counting "weaknesses") while Mutants & Masterminds only lists 93 (not counting Feats and extras), Heroes Unlimited has 90 random super powers (not counting spells, psionics, bionics, etc.), Aberrant has 65 (plus 9 "mega-attributes"), and Guardians has only 97 total. Advanced Marvel Superheroes does have 120 powers, but the original, basic Marvel Superheroes only has 60 including some of my favorites to be left out of the Advanced edition (Unique Weapon, Unique Vehicle, Intelligent Weapon, and Sidekick).

So even though I was considering compiling a single comprehensive list of powers including EVERYTHING from EVERY supers RPG I've got, I think instead that I'll do what I can to cut down the list to something a bit more manageable.

On the other hand, B/X D&D does have more than 100 spells in it (though admittedly spread over two rule books). I think that if I could get the power descriptions down to pithy, B/X-like blurbs, I might be able to get a few more than 100 into the game. But as I said, it's something I'll have to think about.

Right now, France and Uruguay just started their match. Later Gators!

Congrats... both South Africa and Mexico on a great opening game for the World Cup. It would have been sad to see either team lose (especially after that blown call by the Uzbekistan ref). I can take a tie.

All right; two hours till the next game (France and Uruguay)...time to get some blogging in. For anyone who's curious, I've been up since 5:20am. No, I don't sleep much.

More World Cup Madness

I suppose the blogs have all been quiet because most folks are (like myself) gearing up for the World Cup opening tomorrow. Right? Right?!

I've spent pretty much the entire evening compiling the picks for our "fantasy World Cup tourney" and creating a Yahoo groups page. Me...I'm not very good with computers. I can type, and I can read, and for the most part that the extent of my ability which allows me to blog. D&D nerd, yes. Computer nerd, no.

Which is kind of funny when you think about it (or funny to me at least), when one considers how long the one has been associated with the other. I can recall watching that film Cloak & Dagger (circa 1984) with that kid, Elliot, from E.T. the Extraterrestrial. He played some kind of RPG type spy game with some over-weight uncle-type guy (who eventually gets shot between the eyes! What a way for an Old School DM to go!)...who, while an obvious D&D nerd-type is also heavily into computers, computer games, computer hacking...whatever.

I'm surprised War Games didn't have some sort of RPG reference imbedded in it. Maybe Twilight 2000 by association.

Anyway, it is officially 1am, I don't have to work tomorrow, and apparently no one else does either, as a whole passel of folks are coming by the house at 6:30am to watch Mexico versus South Africa. And eat breakfast, of course (I hope someone's bringing Bloody Marys...the red, green, and vodka will go well with the Mexican uniform). We're all rooting for my wife's home country, but I have a feeling South Africa is going to go pretty far in the tournament. Of course, I did just watch Invictus last weekend, which may be coloring my perception.

There will be more RPG stuff this weekend, I cover artist is trying to get things sewed up by the end of the weekend. However, the posting might be a bit sporadic depending on the excitement of the games (we've got eight or so to watch, I think).

All right...time for a few zzzzzzz's...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Slaughtering Sacred Cows

There are three different things I wanted to write about today…I’ll see how many I get to. All pertain to my supers game (working title: B/X Supers), which is taking shape a lot faster than anything else (mainly due to the lack of IP infringement inherent in an original non-derivative work). They are:

- Random character generation
- Attack-less combat
- Minor heroic characters

This post will address the first item.

I almost started this as a poll: which do you prefer, random or non-random character generation? Or rather, “chargen” as we call it “in the biz.” But then I got to thinking : just how random IS random chargen anyway?

For the most part, early edition D&D…held up by many as the shining star example of random chargen…isn’t all that random. In B/X, OD&D, or AD&D “random-ness” consists of exactly 8 dice rolls, possibly 9 if you are a magic-user and your DM has you dice for the spell(s) in your spell book. The basic eight are:

That’s it for OD&D and B/X. AD&D has some other stuff if you’re using the Unearthed Arcana (Comeliness, Social Class, Birth Order, etc.) as well as the optional “Secondary Skill” roll in the DMG (which I don’t see used all that much).

Chargen itself consists of quite a bit more than those random rolls…and none of it is random.

  • Choice of class
  • Choice of race (some editions)
  • Choice of alignment
  • Choice of equipment
  • Choice of spells
  • Choice of proficiencies (some editions)
  • Choice of deity (some editions)
  • Naming the character
  • Crafting a character history/back-story (some groups)

Considering a 1st level character can get killed by misfortune at the drop of a hat, that’s quite a bit of non-random work (especially for an AD&D character). And these choices and options have just gotten MORE cumbersome over time for “the world’s most popular RPG.” Weapon mastery, non-weapon proficiencies, skills, feats, religious spheres, ranger specialties, future mapping (for prestige classes), etc. It raises the question “with all this CHOICE what’s the point of random rolls at all?”

I know that as a DM in my youth, I often did away with random rolls in chargen. Yeah, you heard me. As a DM I’d ask: “what do you want to play?” Player: a magic-user. Me: “okay, you have a Strength of 9, Intelligence 18, Wisdom 14, Dexterity 15, etc.”

Hit points? Same deal. “Let’s see you have a 5th level fighter. That’s a hit point range of 5-50…call it 32 hit points and add your Constitution bonus.”

As a DM, I wanted to GET GOING with the “actual play” stuff…other players already had characters (some of whom were also “non-random” creations), so all the random stuff would be assigned by Yours Truly and off we’d go on the adventure. The player would still be “buying” (selecting) equipment even as we were getting into the first monster encounter. What can I say? I prefer to move at a brisk pace.

[hmm…I could probably write a whole series of posts on playing “fast and loose;” maybe I’ll do that next week]

Here’s the thing (or one of the things): I liked to get to the action AND I liked the threat of imminent death. And the way you get that threat is by not being afraid to kill players…in traps, in combat, in random freak dungeoneering accidents. And the only way THAT can work (and still be fun) is if players don’t end up side-lined too long due to a terminal arrow through the gullet.

[a note on resurrection and raise dead: this type of powerful magic (including wishes) was generally reserved for only the longest running, most beloved characters. When chargen is fast (even for making an experienced character; e.g. “you’re 12th level you have X hit points and the following 5 magic items”) it’s generally more expedient to make a new character than march the party several days journey to the nearest temple with a high priest or whatnot]

Expedience is the most appealing part of random chargen. At least for me…I’m not really sure why else it’d be desirable. Because you want to be “surprised” by how the character turns out? Because you really can’t decide what character class you want to play? News flash: you’re going tohave to make a choice about the latter, regardless. And if you’re playing B/X, those choices are wide open (there are no minimum qualifications or pre-requisites for any of the human classes).

So assuming expedience is your thing (and not just the “suspense” of what you’re going to roll), is D&D random enough? Should class be rolled randomly (as it is in the Warhammer Fantasy RPG)? Should back-story be determined by dice rolls (like Cyberpunk’s “Lifepath” system)? Should even skills/abilities/advancement be determined randomly (hello, Traveller!)?

Okay, let’s check out the “non-random” type of chargen: the path of all choice.

[there’s also a 3rd type of chargen, something I call “the competitive form,” but I’ve only ever seen it in one game: Amber Diceless. Hmmm…maybe Baron Munchausen, too, whose whole game is one big chargen process]

For me, the biggest example of the all choice/non-random chargen system would be White Wolf (mainly because I’ve never played GURPS or Champions). Assign points for abilities. Assign points for skills. Assign points for powers (or spells or whatever). Assign points for willpower. Assign “freebie points.” Assign “flaws” to gain more points. Use bonus points to get “merits” or boost other stats.

Chargen in White Wolf takes a LONG-ASS TIME. Longer still, if you don’t have affirm character concept in your head already. Which, added together, makes most of their games fairly lame for me…because it cuts down on the action by taking character death off the table.

I say this from experience. I enjoy action and danger and challenging characters (or mauling them might be a better way of putting it)…I like swift and violent games more often than not. But if a character gets killed (or even knocked into “extended torpor” for a Vamp chronicle) what happens?

The player ends up sidelined for a long, long time.

Having a character offed in play is punishment enough…forcing a player to sit out because chargen takes so bloody f’ing long is ridiculous. Of course, it never actually comes to this as the “concept character” is SOOO beloved to the player (the player had to think long and hard, and delicately craft their fine creation) that allowing a character to die isn’t really an option. Too much drama and heartbreak down that road…and unlike D&D there’s no “raise dead” or “resurrection” spells.

I look at chargen in a game like Werewolf (which is nothing if not a combat game), and think, “now THIS should be a MMORPG.” Or Sim-Werewolf or something. Let players spend hours crafting the perfect character, and then they can tool about their deathless little virtual worlds to their hearts content, pretending to be, well, whatever.

But noooo, MMORPGs don’t allow your character concept right off the bat…you have to get to “level 60” or some such before you can be a plate armored knight on the back of a horse (WoW)…or “level 40” before you can fly through the air with a cape or have a character with super-speed (City of Heroes). Lame.

Like most Americans, I’m not much for delayed gratification…and extended choice in chargen delays my action-oriented game play more than I can stand.

Now having said all THAT, I think that SOME choice (and extended chargen) is important in any Supers RPG.

a) In general, superheroes are a lot less mortal than D&D characters (they may die 2-3 times in a couple hundred issues, but that’s a pretty slim amount). Likewise, they have a tendency to come back…either as clones, or robots, or updated with new costumes, or magically or whatever. So it makes sense that players put a little thought into a character they want to have around for the long haul (i.e. a continuing series).

b) Random power selection, in my opinion, generally turns out to be ridiculous more often than not. Some character conceptualizing is appropriate to the genre. One thing about Marvel that always irritated me was the random power selection…especially when I had a character concept in mind.

All right, that’s enough design stuff to chew on for right now. Your thoughts are appreciated.
: )

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Big Six and Game Design

AKA “Re-Inventing Tri-Stat

As some might surmise (after careful reading of this blog) I am much more adept at tweaking existing rules than inventing my own from whole cloth. I realize that this is not the case with everyone, and it may indeed be “all in my head” but, hey…that’s just how I roll. Much as I’d like to be a “premier game designer” or some such (that’s just my ego talking, pay it no mind) spontaneous creation/inspiration just doesn’t come all that easy to me.

I mean, sometimes it does, but not nearly as often as I’d like…and a lot of times, organizing my thoughts/feelings into something coherent to others is a real bitch.

So saying that, I might as well admit that I often get stumped right from the get go when trying to develop RPGs…regardless of whether it’s something that’s going to look like the wargame descendants of old (Boot Hill, B/X D&D) or something that’s going to be a bit more ephemeral (think indie/Forge games), it’s always tricky trying to develop the engine for the vehicle.

(interesting fun fact: I can drive a car, but I wouldn’t know the first think about tinkering about under the hood…well, maybe enough to tighten the screws)

It’s one thing to develop theory after all…it’s quite another to implement it and have it run smooth. I mean, the wheels may turn, but will the car purr along or will it clunk and belch smoke in a semi-ambulatory fashion?

But even the IDEA of fixing the engine is putting the cart before the horse (sorry about mixing metaphors). Here I am saying it’s tough to develop a decent, coherent system…sure that’s a tough balancing act for most anyone. But to be perfectly frank, for ME there’s a matter of pondering “which the hell place do I start first?” to worry about long before the ‘system as a whole.’

I mean, should one develop a method of character generation first? Or a combat system before anything? Or a spell list or monster inventory? Or (God help me) some sort of skill system?

I am, after all, a great believer in system design in aid of the game…that is, ONE system does NOT fit ALL games (sorry D20, GURPS, etc.). This harkens back to Axiom #1 of course: one’s game should not contain anything more or less than what is necessary for its play and enjoyment.

For instance, the last two game design ideas that popped into my brain (space opera and supers) were both based on the B/X D&D system. Easy enough to see why…I’ve been thinking/blogging about B/X a lot the last year or so, and in addition to being much beloved of Your Truly, its simplicity and rugged abstractness readily suggests itself to action-adventure RPGs like…duh…space opera and/or supers.

But even so, there’s a LOT more present in B/X than what is necessary, or even appropriate, to a Star Wars or Marvel type game. And I’m not just talking about magic items and wandering monster tables…I’m talking about the Big Six ability scores!

[SIDE NOTE: I forgot a THIRD B/X-based game idea from recent days: a re-imagining of the Mutant Chronicles. Like I said, it’s hard not to imagine using it for anything with lots of abstract combat]

Now the Big Six ability scores aren’t any particular sacred cow pour moi. Sure, like every true “Old School” player they are engraved on my heart in the following un-wavering order:


from hours upon hours of hand-writing character sheets (remember the days BEFORE personal computers?). No need to alphabetize or organize by “physical vs. mental.” Best to put them in their order of importance (you better believe it!).

ANYway, I do NOT have too much attachment to the Big Six ability scores. I’ve played too many games over the years and seen far too many different stat lines: from Traveller’s UPI, to Palladium’s ugly eight, to Star Frontiers’ 4/4, to White Wolf’s nine, to Marvel’s FASERIP. And more…every new game system appears to feel the need to redefine how we define our characters.

Which, as I said, is totally fine and dandy by me…they ARE different games, after all.

However, I have myself become much more of a minimalist over the years. Six is pretty much the absolute maximum number of abilities I want to worry about when creating a character. Which, by the way, makes it all the harder when I see a brilliant new entry into the stat line, like Terminal Space’s Technology stat.

See, I want more abilities like THAT: multi-purpose abilities. Technology at once determines: degree of sophistication/civilization, social standing (money), even level of education vs. superstition. Hell, if D&D wasn’t intrinsically a game where “higher is better” (for ability scores…not Armor Class!), I’d be tempted to chuck Intelligence as a stat and file the magic-user’s Prime Requisite right into Technology…in its INVERSE that is (in other words, MUs would receive an XP bonus for having a LOWER Tech ability score…i.e. coming from a more primitive culture). But that’s just me…in some campaign worlds I’m sure the argument could be made for equating a higher Tech score with greater MU ability (access to books, alchemy, forbidden science or whatever…primitive cave men would know nothing of the "Greater Rituals" and “Dark Arts” except its effects on ‘em).

The point is, six random ability scores is about all I can stand, and really seems like they’re one or two too many in my book. Right now, I’m floating the idea of limiting abilities in the supers game (the one I’ve been obsessing over the most this week) to FOUR (4). I had been thinking three…kind of a body, mind, spirit thing…but decided it really wasn’t enough. Plus I wanted enough ability scores to give each class its own Prime Requisite.

Also having three ability scores would be a little too reminiscent of Tri-Stat, and I want more meat to my game…not to mention I’m dumping anything resembling a “skill system.”
; )

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

O Heroes Limited!

It’s often not a bad idea to put something down for awhile and pick it up again later. Certainly the intervening time and experience gives one perspective.

I found what might be called a “derivative work” that re-vamped the XP system of Heroes Unlimited, streamlining it, making it more useful/efficient, and even giving it meta-game aspects similar to Marvel’s “karma” system. Unfortunately dear readers, I will not be posting it here just yet, as it is always possible I might incorporate it into my own supers RPG and “derivative” + “for profit” = “Palladium lawsuit” at least half the time.

Besides, why should I work to make HU playable when I really would prefer you play MY game.
; )’s that kind of back-biting that will (in part) totally do in the RPG industry one of these days. Do I want that? No. Is there room enough to share? Mmmmm…yeah, probably. Will there be sharing? Not necessarily…and for a bunch of many and varied reasons.

[honestly, I’m not trying to be cryptic or anything…I just don’t want to go into yet another long and rambling diatribe]

So looking back at my derivative work, and factoring it and its effectiveness into my earlier spreadsheet, does it improve my score for Heroes Unlimited?

Yeah, it sure does.

Get rid of the skill system (or cut it down significantly) and the game gets up to the passing range (72% or higher). Organize the rules, knock out alignment completely and add some basic personality mechanics that actually affect effectiveness…hell, maybe streamline combat to something closer to B/X…and HU can reach a solid “B” grade (86.4%). At least as far as MY taste goes.

Chargen is still too slow for my taste (the price you pay for both granularity AND coherence of power types) but maybe, MAYBE it could be re-tooled. ‘Course, by that time, I might as well be writing my own game, right?

Mmm…it sure would be tough to fit it into 64 pages.

Ah, who am I kidding? When it comes right down to it, I know what I want to see and I know EXACTLY why I prefer to spend my hours tweaking existing systems over writing up my own game…writing super powers is damn hard. YOU try it…list all the powers you can think of. Then cross-reference ‘em with all the powers in other RPGs to find ones you may have missed. Then let it sit for a couple days-weeks and wander the comic book store a couple-three times, come back and see if there aren’t MORE you missed. THEN try to put rules to all of ‘em that balance ‘em and make ‘em coherent with regard to your game system.

Damn. That is a daunting task.

But maybe I could do it…and fit it all into 64 pages. I’d need to streamline a bunch of stuff, including combat. Probably have to cut out the artwork (which is fine, as I’d have nearly as easy a time getting art as for my last game…and that wasn’t easy!). Yeah, maybe I could get it put together….

At least I already have the advancement system.
; )

Monday, June 7, 2010

My Supers Collection

This week is shaping up to be “Superhero Week” at the ol’ B/X Blackrazor (don’t worry…the Companion stuff for B/X D&D is still getting worked on, too…that’s just “behind the scenes”), and I was considering doing a profile on all the various superhero RPGs I possess…the pros and cons of each so to speak.

To what end? Well to getting it set pretty firmly in my mind what I like and don’t like in hopes that I can make some kind of mish-mash superhero stew that will taste fantastic.

Here’s the list of superhero RPGs I’ve got in my inventory:

- Aberrant, Adventure!, and Trinity
- Big Eyes, Small Mouth (anime superheroes)
- Capes
- Champions
- City of Heroes(!!) RPG (Quickstart only)
- Feng Shui
- Godlike
- Guardians
- Heroes Unlimited, TMNT
- Marvel Superheroes RPG (basic and advanced, pre-1984)
- Mutants & Masterminds
- Sketch!
- Superworld (a download…somewhere)
- Villains & Vigilantes
- With Great Power…

Am I missing anything? I almost purchased Cartoon Action Hour when I saw it at the game shop for $12, but I like my supers a bit more gritty than the TV Justice League. Of course, Gary’s has also had Blood of Heroes in its bargain bin ($1.00) for about 6 months now and I still haven’t felt the need to waste a buck…I was never a huge fan of DC comics or logarithms.

Just looking over that list, by the way, makes me NOT want to write individual blog entries. I suppose I could just do a quick blurb on each…or maybe a spreadsheet.

[time passes]

OKAY…worked up a quick chart of what I like/want in a superhero RPG, and then scored all my RPGs against it in 11 categories. None of ‘em score even 65% of the total possible points, and more than half score 50% or less.

Not surprisingly, the two tied for “top honors” at 63.6% are Marvel Superheroes and Heroes Unlimited. Despite all their flaws, they have more of what I need than any of the rest. Bottom of the group was Champions with a piss-poor 31.8%. Mutants & Masterminds was 2nd up from the bottom (tied with Guardians) at 40.9%.

Here are the 11 scored categories (all were weighted equally); each category could score 0, .5, or 1:

Chargen speed: this is both overall speed and ease of chargen. Random is fastest (1 point), choice is slow (0 points), and random with calculations or choice with limited options was medium (.5 points). Processes that required story building or power modeling were also on the SLOW side.

Coherent power sets: does chargen create characters with coherent or thoughtful power sets? Generally, this score was inversely proportionate to chargen speed, though a couple RPGs (Capes and Heroes Unlimited) stand out above the rest in both categories.

Heroic metagame: Can Captain America go a few rounds with the Hulk? Can Green Arrow bullseye that weak spot in the otherwise impenetrable enemy? I was lenient with this category: either a full point for yes or no points for no, regardless of the extent of the metagame (otherwise I probably would have scored M&M lower).

Varying power levels: Does the game go from Rorschach up to Superman from the get go? This is important…do the characters power levels vary right from the start, depending on the choices made or random dice rolls? Or are power levels somehow “capped.”

Character mortality: I like the threat of death in the game; that’s just how I roll. Only .5 a point if Aunt Pay can get stomped by Galactus and still “pull through.”

Systematic advancement: I like levels in superhero games. This was an “either/or” category for me.

Quick combat: Fast-pacing is appropriate for superhero RPGs, both in execution AND resolution (round after round of bidding and finagling narration is not my cup of tea. Neither is an exorbitant amount of dice rolled maneuvers).

Skill systems: Only games with NO skill systems got full points. Half-points to package skill systems (Godlike), or limited/random “Talents” (Marvel). Heroes Unlimited gets 0 for being totally retarded.

Personality/Drama mechanics: superhero games should have system-designed consequences for taking un-heroic actions. Half-points were possible for personality limits built into basic chargen (Champions) but NOT for flaws only found in supplemental “players guides” (Aberrant).

Search & Handling time: how well organized is the rule-book? If charts are needed, how readily accessible are they? I was generally pretty lenient with this one, only awarding zeros to crazy-disorganized, micro-managed, and scattered or obscure rule systems (you can probably guess who got docked).

Granularity: it’s one thing to have power levels that vary from Thor to Daredevil, but is there room for variation between Daredevil and the Punisher? If Cyclops and Hawkeye arm wrestled, who would win? I don’t need different damage between, say, a 9mm and a .45 but I would like distinctions between individuals at the street level that don’t just come down to the flip of a coin.

I suppose I’ve been spoiled by superhero comic books and films giving me unrealistic expectations of what to expect in an RPG. Well, that and my perhaps unrealistic expectations of what is possible to achieve with an RPG.
; )

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Welshman (Mutants & Masterminds)

God, I hate skill systems.

But my readers have already heard me bitch about that. We won't bother going into that again right now. Nor any of the other standard D20 issues.

This is more of a general rant about superhero RPGs in general.

For my money, any superhero game should be able to model a fairly wide range of superheroes and villains, some that are personal favorites, others that are simply archetypal to the point that they should be there. Batman and Robin, for example...I ain't a fan of the dynamic duo. But someone might want to play their equivalent. And most any superhero universe (any one I'm running) should have a rampaging force of nature like the Incredible Hulk.

AND...there should be a fairly decent chance of the former dynamic duo finding a way to stop the latter atomic age monster.

In no particular order of importance, here's what I want to see in a game (in addition to the folks already mentioned):

1. Daredevil and Electra
2. Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Misty Knight
3. Iron Man and War Machine
4. Captain America and Falcon
5. Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
6. Thor
7. Green Arrow and Green Lantern
8. Ozmandius and Rorschach
9. Wolverine and Spiderman
10. Swamp Thing
11. The Fantastic Four
12. Armor, Silver Streak, and Megalith (The Revengers)
13. Dr. Doom and Dr. Strange

Silver Surfer (the one comic book I actually bothered to collect as a kid) I generally give a "pass," as anyone imbued with the Power Cosmic is a little too "all powerful" for a superhero team. On the other hand, Superman and other alien "godlings" should be possible, albeit with kryptonite achilles heels (or the equivalent).

Unfortunately, even Marvel Superheroes has trouble with some of their own characters. Any game where Galactus can stomp Aunt May and she's still breathing is a bit outside my ability to suspend belief.

It's a tricky bit of does one create a wide range of power levels with appropriate degrees of disparity while still allowing the light-weight characters to compete with the heavies? In comics, this happens frequently...because the writers are telling stories, not rolling dice and working within systems. But you'd think there's a way to manage it.

I made my first M&M character last night...something I'd been putting off all weekend. Here he is, without further ado:

The Welshman

Str 14, Dex 20, Int 14, Wis 14, Con 14, Cha 18
Base Attack Bonus +6, Base Defense +6
Skills (un-modified ranks): Acrobatics 5, Balance 5, Bluff 5, Climb 5, Craft (fletcher) 5, Escape Artist 2, Hide 8, Intimidate 2, Jump 2, Move Silently 8, Spot 8, Survival 2
Feats: Point Blank Shot, Far Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Infamy, Track
Powers: Weapon (bow, ranged) +9
Power Stunts: Dual damage (hunting or target arrows), Stun (flash arrow), Snare (pinning arrow), Fatigue (tranq arrow)

"That doesn't seem like much of a stat block, JB...what's the beef with D20 again?" The beef is that it took me a couple hours to point-buy the character, even without doing all the additional calculations, AND with plenty of skimping (in hindsight, I should probably have given him a few ranks of gadgetry to model crazy-ass arrows, instead of just taking power stunts, for example).

Still, "Green Arrow" (at least the Longbow Hunter version) seems to be quite doable with Mutants & Masterminds. I'll have to run a quick combat using the D20 system to see how it works.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"The World's Greatest Superhero RPG"

Or so it says on the cover. It put me to sleep in about 5 minutes of reading, a feat previously only accomplished by the 4th edition Champions.

But after a couple hour nap with the beagles, I did go back and read the rest of the game, and managed to keep my eyes open for the remainder. That's one-up on Champions.

Yes, I broke down and bought Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds. Well, "broke down" isn't entirely accurate...I've been looking for a used copy of the game for about a week, ever since I saw Iron Man 2. But today I was able to get a copy of the 1st edition rules (suggested by one of my readers) down at Half-Price books...and for the bargain basement price of $8. I may be hard on D20 (that's putting it mildly) but I'm a sucker for a deal. And as I've written many times, I'm also a sucker for most any superhero RPG.

In fact, I almost picked up a copy of Wild Talents: Essential Edition for $10 when I was down at The Dreaming, earlier. However, I'm still holding out for the deluxe version with the Ken Hite essays...and while The Dreaming had one $50 copy on the shelf, a dude bought it about thirty seconds before I could even pick it up (yes, Gary's has a copy as well and I'll probably get it there...I'm still saving my pennies).

Plus, I've only begun to toy with M&M.

I've yet to actually attempt making a character with the game, though my first impressions of the character creation system was "not bad." Which isn't saying a whole lot since D20 has always had fun character creation, and starting as a 10th level character gives you a lot of points with which to play.

Which is interesting...even as a D20 game, chargen is even farther removed from D&D roots than standard D20. No random rolls at hit points, no random ability scores, no starting cash. Everything balanced against each other, designed to work with a single D20...a true "D20" system I guess.

Anyway, I actually like the combo of feats and powers...the use of power points and power levels (or just "levels" to me), is pretty nifty. The thing is, I LIKE levels in superhero RPGs. Villains & Vigilantes, Heroes of the cool things in these games (& M&M) IS the use of levels.

Why levels? Because for the most part the superhero/comic book genre is one of the few that features protagonists that actually grow and evolve in power over time.

Most comic book supers have to start with an "origin story," after Issue #1 in which the character gains great powers and has to learn how to use 'em. They're nervous and unsure of themselves (or they're cocky and over-confident, needing to be taken down a peg)...but after a couple hundred issues they're confident veterans, looked to by younger heroes as mentors. To me, this is easily modeled by an experience/level system.

Of course, Mutants & Masterminds doesn't start with level 1.

But of course, that's just your average D20 madness...5th level beat cops and 3rd level bystanders, I suppose. No "Normal Human" monsters to be found.

But that's enough whining on that particular issue. There's plenty of other things to complain about.
; )

For example, I was fine with the first three pages of combat. But then the next 15 was more than I could stomach. I skimmed it, mostly for the pretty pictures. But despite a stated desire to "adapt the world's most popular game system to the fast-paced world of superheroics" (page 3 of the introduction) I found it to be fairly tedious and clunky...still.

Then there's this little quote from the Gamemastering chapter. Regarding Altering the Outcome of Dice Rolls, the book says:

Isn't this cheating? Well, yes, in a matter of speaking it is, but it's "cheating" in order to make the game more interesting and fun for everyone involved. So long as you don't alter the outcome of die rolls unfairly or maliciously and you do it to help ensure the game is fun, interesting, and challenging, you shouldn't have a problem. Besides, the players don't have to know that you change the occasional dice roll. That's one of the reasons it's a good idea for Gamemasters to roll their dice out of sight of the players.

That's ugly. I mean, it's not just irritating, but offensive to my about three or four different, separate ways.

- "in order to make the game more interesting and fun for everyone involved" ...well, actually, it is making the game more interesting and fun for the GM and whatever is the GM's idea of "interesting and fun."

- "so long as you don't alter the outcome of dice rolls unfairly", isn't a random dice roll kind of the definition of fair and impartial? When you ignore what the Fates have decreed you are ignoring what is (hopefully) a game system designed to be fair and balanced.

- "besides, the players don't have to know you change the occasional dice roll" ...the conspiratorial tone, especially the included emphasis just makes me cringe. Is this us against them? Are the players just a bunch of suckers to be played?

- "it's a good idea for [GMs] to roll their dice out of sight" ...just keeping the trust-building going, huh? 'Cause the players couldn't take it if they saw you fudging the rolls and working off GM fiat of what YOU think is interesting? Or because the players will (rightly) pound your ass for preempting the game with what YOU think is fun?

Just so long as it's not "malicious," I guess. Jeez.

Anyways, there's probably more nit-picking I could do but again, some of these complaints about the attitude of D20 games is nothing new. I knew what I was doing when I bought it...which is why I was un-willing to pay more than I did.

I DID like the random disaster/opponent tables and would totally steal 'em (or make my own knock-off versions) for any superhero RPG I design. That was a good thing. Also, it's a plus for any game to have an introductory adventure included in it, and while I totally hate those over-stuffed stat blocks the NPCs (both the Freedom League heroes and the villains of the "rogue's gallery") are quite good. But then, I'm a fan of supers...

And the artwork is all excellent, too.

All right, that's enough back-n-forth. I'll try crafting a couple characters later to try out the system...maybe even run a couple mock combats to see how workable it is.

Later, gators.

B/X Companion: Almost There

Found the ISBNs today. No, Bowker never did email me (I even checked my spam mail back to mid-May...nada), but apparently there's an account set-up on their web site. My cover artist is nearly done and is shooting for the final to be complete by next Saturday. Hold on to your potatoes, folks...we're coming into the home stretch on this one!

: )

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jim Henson is Spinning in His Grave

...but hopefully with laughter. I laughed MY ass off when I saw this.

Sorry...not an RPG post per se, but a new take on an Old School fantasy favorite. Check it out:

Dungeons in Space Part 2

In which I gush about another out-of-print RPG.

I don’t know how many of you have owned, played, or are in any way familiar with the (Swedish?) RPG Mutant Chronicles. Yes, it was made into a rather poor film on the SciFi channel starring Hellboy and that guy from Hung (wow, do I watch a lot of TV or what?). For what it’s worth, the premise of the game is much better than the premise of the film…’course, as I said the game is still out-of-print.

[though per Wikipedia, the rights have been picked up by Paradox Entertainment, another Swedish company though one operating out of the USA]

The game setting is A LOT like the Warhammer 40,000 universe, save that it takes place entirely within our own solar system, there are no aliens (there ARE demons), and humanity has not yet been united by a single religion of humanity, instead being factionalized by a number of mega-corporations. The gear and the tone, however, are even closer to WH40K, though, and prior to GW’s own Rogue Trader RPG, etc. I would have pointed to Mutant Chronicles as the closest thing to a WH40K RPG on the market.

While the 1993 RPG may be (currently) out of print, the MC setting has been recycled and re-used many times over the years: in addition to the film, there were several novels, comic books, a collectible card game, at least two miniature/war games with the associated minis, a video game, and a board game.

I don’t know which was published first, but my first introduction to the Mutant Chronicles setting was the Siege of the Citadel board game. This was circa 1995 for me…I had graduated from college and suddenly had a bunch of spare money burning a hole in my pocket, which led me to a rabid frenzy of wargaming and miniature purchases. SotC is NOT a wargame, but it does have plastic miniatures, which I dutifully painted up to look like the characters on the box (for the most part, all the Mutant Chronicles products have excellent, excellent artwork).

Although Siege is a board game, it has some RPG qualities to it…each player is responsible for a team of “Doomtrooper” (a pair of warriors) each of which is somewhat customizable with equipment. The team improves over time, gaining experience points for killing monsters, and credits (money) for completing mission objectives. The experience system translates directly into increased effectiveness in-game with better chances to hit, and better ability to resist damage.

While there is no “game master,” per se, players of the board game take turns playing the antagonist “Dark Legion;” the demonic denizens of the Citadel to which the Doomtroopers are laying siege. Even though the DL’s Doomtroopers are not present during the mission, the DL player can earn XP and credits by damaging/killing the other players’ Doomtroopers or thwarting them in their mission objectives. Doomtrooper teams can be antagonistic to each other (they all work for rival mega-corporations) or somewhat cooperative in defeating the Dark Legion player…most games of SotC are a good mixture of both.

THIS is the “space dungeon” I was referencing in my original post.

It would be fairly easy to turn Siege of the Citadel into a B/X like dungeon crawl RPG. To me, it reads as if the designers said “if we wanted to run a Dungeons & Dragons game that included power armor and heavy weapons, what would it look like?”

It would look pretty much exactly like SotC.

Here’s the gist: it’s the far future. Earth has been used up, but the mega-corporations have colonized many of the planets in the solar system (the Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, and the asteroid belt). A group of Imperial Conquistadors accidentally break an ancient, alien seal on the mysterious “Tenth Planet” (Nero) unleashing a demonic horde to plague humanity.

In addition to insidious infiltration and corruption (of both human spirit and technology) the demons have huge war machines and churn out plenty of monsters, some bio-engineered from normal people, including human corpses (yes, there are undead legionnaires, in addition to cybermantic monstrosities) all housed in huge mobile citadels similar to the “crawling towers” found in Rifts Wormwood. These citadels dot the planes of Mars and the jungles of Venus, spewing forth creatures and engines of destruction to wipe out the human cities on these distant worlds, even as they push in towards Holy Luna.

The Doomtroopers are crack special forces types drawn from the elite soldiers of each mega-corp, charged with infiltrating the citadels and bringing them down from within by dint of combat skill and massive firepower. They are humanity’s proactive defense in the fight against demonic encroachment. Each Doomtrooper team consists of a pair of fighters, one expert in hand-to-hand while the other is a fire support specialist.

[within the Mutant Chronicles RPG and certain expansions to SotC, players can also be members of the Holy Inquisition of the Cathedral of Luna…think assassins, librarians, and inquisitors of the WH40K universe]

Does that not sound like dungeon delving in space? No you don’t get gold directly from the “dungeons” you’re raiding, and any “magic items” found are likely to be cursed and best left alone. However, your team WILL get rewarded by their employers (the Cathedral or the Cartel of maga-corps) as well as growing in power and ability. Also like D&D, improvement of effectiveness is somewhat linked to the acquisition of new and better gear, such gear being made available to the teams that perform better.

And who doesn’t want to hose a bunch of blade-toting zombies with a micro-gun?

The Mutant Chronicles RPG is a lot more than the Siege of the Citadel board game…it is a hugely detailed futuristic world/setting. Perhaps to its detriment…there is SO much information there, so many splat books, so many options, that it can be a bit over-whelming to decide how best to situate the campaign (no, it’s NOT as dis-jointed as Rifts). The fact that it has kind of clunky combat (for my tastes) coupled with a combat-heavy atmosphere, and yet a “story flavored” (a la World of Darkness) fiction-heavy quality to the writing kind of kills it for me. Oh…and the skill system of course. Especially considering each new splat book offers a handful of new skills to incorporate into the game (much as the BECMI gazetteers did for Mystara).

But I think it would be pretty easy to turn it into a basic 64-page RPG. And I do mean “Basic” a la the Tom Moldvay or Holmes edition rules. I wouldn’t take this one OUT of the dungeon…er, “citadel.” The adventuring classes (Doomtroopers, Inquisitors) lose the need for their turtle shell/carapace armor – not to mention panzerknackers, chainsaws, and heavy flamers – outside the subterranean setting. For a combat-heavy dungeon delve in space, the Mutant Chronicles really fits the bill.

Of course, my version won’t include a skill system.
; )

[by the way, any new readers who missed it before might find my Chronicles of Mutation micro-game to be of interest. This is NOT the Doomtrooper/Siege of the Citadel setting, but rather “urban adventuring” in the MC setting. Characters are freelancers working for the Cathedral helping to root out heretics and demon worshippers. You can download the one-page micro-game here]

Other Fun & Games

No, I’m not talking about that Kings of Camelot game on Facebook, though it IS highly addictive constructing one’s mini-feudal empire (who says D&D’s endgame doesn’t sound fun? Managing one’s kingdom can be fun!)…thanks (kind of) to my brother, AB, for getting me hooked on THAT.

Actually, I was talking about the upcoming 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which promises to occupy a ton of my time…now that I’ve finished watching the entire first two seasons of True Blood and completed the Lost saga, soccer is going to be the only thing going on my television between June 11th and July 11th.

I know I’ve blogged before that American football is my armchair sport of choice. But World Cup soccer is a close second and NOT because I played soccer for 8 or 9 years in school. Like most non-transplant Americans, my early disdain and disregard for “the world’s game” was acquired over many years of apathy. I credit my Mexican (born and raised) wife with opening my eyes to the larger arena of international sport competition.

Anyway, for me the tournament holds more interest than the Olympics (well, at least the Winter games…). And while I think it’s crazy that anyone would travel halfway round the world to see one or five soccer matches, I will still be waking up early-early (if not in the middle of the night) to catch as many of the games as I can, just as I did in 2004 (when the Cup was played in Asia).

Expect the blogging to suffer somewhat.

As for whom I will be cheering…well, even though the American fans are incredibly annoying (to me), I like the PLAYERS on the USA team and hope they go deep this year. For the sake of peace in my household, Mexico will be the team that gets cheered until they start playing like buffoons (they always seem to self-destruct before the quarter-finals). The most recent European infusion into my blood is Austria, and so I’ll be rooting a bit for Germany, even though my own ancestry is mostly English and Scotch-Irish.

The ladder/schedule is pretty interesting this year…because of the draw, there is no way that any of the Top 5 FIFA-ranked teams will play against each other in the Final. Brazil, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Espana will all have to fight each other to end up in the championship game. On the other side of the ladder, only Germany, Argentina, England, and France are even in the Top 10 FIFA world rankings (Croatia at #10 did not make the tournament). It’s possible that the two best teams in the world will be playing each other in the semi-final round just to see who will be forced to play for 3rd place in the tournament.

Okay, okay…that’s enough soccer talk…though as a little bit of trivia for my American readers: do you folks know why the game is called “soccer?” Soccer is a shortened form of the English term “Association Football” as opposed to “Rugby Football” the other “football” found in England. It is not called football because of the use of the feet…it is called football because it is played ON FOOT, in contrast to more NOBLE sports played on horseback (like polo or, perhaps, jousting). Any ball sport played on foot would be a type of FOOTball by this definition. Soccer (Association) Football is just one type.

We now return to our non-Anglophile programming.
: )

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dungeons in Space

Ha! Y'all probably think this is going to be some kind of review of Terminal Space, the truly cool OD&D add-on from Albert Rakowski.


Though I did write a big long essay/review/piece-o-blog-fodder on the subject the other day. For those worried that I might be in some kind of "missed deadline funk," rest assured that NO I have just been busy with other projects and deal-i-o's.

[side note: thank you to everyone that gave me words of encouragement. My "downed-ness" on myself only lasted 4-6 hours. The Doc snapped me out of it with these words: "um...I thought deadlines were MEANT to be broken. Nobody makes deadlines." Well, Kris, there are two types of people in this world: those that show up to the movie early, and those that walk in during the previews. For most of my life I've prided myself on being one of the former...guess I need to lighten up a bit!]

Anyhoo, I decided to SKIP the big essay 'cause it was even more rambly and meandering than usual, and because I can sum up what I want to say in a handful of bullet-point impressions:

  • Great work, as an OD&D supplement, does the thing proud
  • Reminds me quite a bit of Old School Traveller with the random design systems and monsters and with the ship construction
  • The game is a TRUE "D&D in space" unlike, say, SpellJammer (which is basically a nautical game...with crossbows and magic helms substituting for lasers and fusion engines).
  • The game is a TRUE "D&D in space" rather than just "a space game using the OD&D system." You still have magic-users, clerics, and magic...which makes the whole thing GODDAMN AWESOME. Really. It's about as pulpy sci-fi/fantasy as you could ask for. I suppose I will need a blog post to elaborate a bit...oh, well.
  • I love, love, LOVE the "7th stat;" the new Technology ability score. If the game didn't have magic-users (see last bullet-point) I would simply drop Intelligence from the game and substitute Tech in its place. Tying it to starting ca$h is also cool...isn't the 3D6 roll for starting gold a bit like making Gold a 7th stat?
  • The new character classes are OK. I don't know that you really need a pilot class...I'm glad everyone CAN pilot a ship. Scientist and Technician are decent enough archetypes...but are they really adventuring classes?
  • I am glad A.R. didn't go over-board on skills. OD&D didn't need to give people "sailing skill" to do naval combat, after all.
  • A great, great little game that I highly recommend. The artwork is super-cool.

All right, so if this post is NOT about Terminal Space, than what the hell IS it about?

Well, dungeon adventures in space, of course.

I was walking the beags with my brother the other day and discussing the challenges and frustrations of A) finding a good superhero RPG, and B) creating one's own superhero RPG (especially in a 64-page format natch). But one thing I realized in talking with ol' AB is that the comic book superhero genre is one of only ones the even comes CLOSE to working in the same vein as the archetypal RPG Adventure Game (i.e. D&D).

The basic premise of D&D is that a bunch of DISPARATE INDIVIDUALS band together and EXPLORE AN ISOLATED SITE, generally with SOME GOAL (like acquiring wealth) and often resorting to COMBAT AND FORCE, at least in some degree.

Except for the "isolated site" (the proverbial "dungeon") a super team (a la the Avengers, the X-Men, the Defenders, the Justice League, the Teen Titans, etc.) all fit the bill.

Other genres just don't always work so well. Western and Spy genre certainly not, and neither do many "sci-fi" genres except in the most gonzo fashion (Gamma World has a couple of site based adventures, but it can get old/cheesy when every session is "oh ANOTHER hidden installation, huh?"). It should go without saying that "group Vampire" is pretty silly, at least in the style of an "adventuring party."

Notice how HPL's stories are always about a single protagonist? And yet half-a-dozen editions of Call of Cthulhu espouse this idea of a "team" of investigators.

There's a metric ton of RPGs that try to ape the D&D archetype. After all, RPGs are a SOCIAL GAME. They're meant to be played ("game") with a group ("social"). And many designers create games using those same archetypal assumptions:

- there are multiple players
- they want to work cooperatively
- they want a variety of different "character types" to distinguish themselves from each other
- they want to go on "adventures" and fight things (combat!)

Even AB believes, 'hey any RPG should have a good combat system...that's why people play RPGs according to old ABles...Of course, AB doesn't play RPGs and calls WoW his home-away-from-home (when he has access to a computer) so take his philosophy with a grain of salt.

Indie gamers and those with what was once called the "Narratavist Creative Agenda" would of course take issue with would I on most days. But that does NOT mean that dungeon exploration ain't desirable, creative, or downright fun...note this blog is called B/X Blackrazor.

HOWEVER, I don't think it's desirable in every friggin' game.

Terminal Space gives you the means to take your Dungeons & Dragons adventure into space. And if I hadn't run out of time right now, I'd tell you about one more RPG that did something similar...the whole reason for this post, in fact.

However, you'll have to wait for Part 2...I need to go pick up dinner.
; )