Friday, May 30, 2014

The Lost And The Damned

A strange thing about having make family life work (at least in a sane and effective fashion), you really appear to need one more parent than the number of children you possess. Just for the "rotational value" of "getting stuff done," I mean. As I've said before, my hat goes off to any single parents out you cope is quite beyond me. But giving attention to two kids AND getting housework done and whatnot is just tough...and neither my wife nor I are going into work at the moment! Since the mother-in-law left the building, small snatches of free time have been divided between catching up on sleep and doing those chores that absolutely need doing; it IS possible, of course, just not (as I said) particularly efficient/effective, and certainly not easy.

But whatever: that's just me giving a lame excuse for not blogging more. Sure I could have written something a couple mornings ago when D and his mama were sleeping and I was in charge of the slumbering baby, but I chose to watch the Norwegian-fake-documentary "Troll Hunter" instead. See, it's really all about priorities.

Priorities, yeah. Last week, I spent most of the week doing wedding stuff for my buddy, Steve-O (congrats Steve!) as I was acting as both his Best Man and his Confirmation sponsor (he's "all in" on the Catholic church these days). It got me out of the house five out of seven days, but I'm not sure the free booze at the reception was really enough to compensate for the energy expended [well, maybe]. Next week, the family will be concentrating on getting our return trip to Paraguay organized (buying all that shit you can't get in South America and packing it), and no compensatory hootch on the horizon...well, not the free kind, anyway.


Despite the lack of time for writing and the closing of my local game shop (denying me easy access to gaming product), I have managed to score a book I've been wanting in the collection for over a decade: Games Workshop's old (out-of-print) Realm of Chaos: The Lost And The Damned.

$200? Better than selling one's soul!
Well "score" probably isn't the right term...I bit the bullet and found a guy selling a copy on Amazon for close to $200 and sent him the money before I had the chance to second-guess my action. But these days my patience for delaying gratification is just I said, I've been looking for a copy in used bookstores for more than a decade, and have been kicking myself for not buying it for fifteen years.

[why didn't I buy it back in 1990 when there were stacks and stacks of it at the local game shop? Because I'd already missed the boat on getting Volume 1 of the the two volume series and figured Volume 2 by itself would be a waste of money. However, a few years later I was able to get not one but two good, used copies of Volume 1 (Slaves to Darkness) and have never again seen The Lost and The Damned available for purchase]

The copy was near mint condition and I'm quite satisfied with the purchase, as it packs all the info/content I was hoping for and more. At the same time, I find myself disappointed with the book: The Lost And The Damned introduces the whole concept of the WH40K Emperor being some sort of All-Wise benevolent Messiah and the primarchs as genetically engineered "superheroes" specially-crafted to fight the evil of the Warp. I hate this storyline, and (previously) had always thought this radical departure from the Rogue Trader setting had taken place in the 2nd Edition of the game. After all, Slaves to Darkness first introduces us to the Horus Heresy when the Warmaster is nothing more (nor less) than the Emperor's greatest soldier-general...not some vat-grown Superman used to spawn a bunch of mutated freakazoid space marines. Sorry...outside of the superhero genre, I've always preferred my protagonists to be human, even though they may be the toughest of the tough and the bravest of the brave.

[I mean, why would you need bionics if you can just give them extra organs/glands and incredible regenerative power? I, of course, prefer bionic replacement of lost human bits]

But that complaint will probably only make sense to long-time 40K fluff-readers like myself. The book is still quite enjoyable and despite my reservations back in 2009 my first, near obsessive thought is to do a conversion of the Realm of Chaos books...or of their basic themes a B/X supplement. Yes, yes, I'm still in the middle of doing several other projects, but this one really calls to me (*ahem*).

On the other hand, if you don't want to wait to add the antagonists of Chaos to your B/X or LL or other old school D&D game, might I strongly recommend a great compilation-conversion by Steven Cook (the Prismatic DM) posted to his Borderlands blog. You can get his Fortnight of Chaos Hordes PDF here. It's pretty good. My own project has a slightly different focus and will be a bit more B/X-specific (and a bit more "serial numbers filed off").
: )

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Iceberg Tips

A bit of free time today, though perhaps one of the last instances of such in the very-near-future. I'd like to say I'm using it to bang out something excellent and noteworthy, but mostly I've been catching up on old emails and blogs and whatnot.

Also, I've spent a lot of time reading Mel Birnkrant's recounting of his years as "creative director" for Colorforms...a truly fascinating, fascinating look inside one of the bigger toy producers of the late 70s - early 80s. I spent a lot of time playing with Colorforms back in the day, often on long road trips prior to my learning how to read. My introduction to Spider-Man came about through Colorforms when I was three years old and flat-on-my-back in a body cast because of a broken leg.

Had this exact set as a child. Hours of fun!
ANYway, it's really interesting stuff (and a real suck-age of time, too). I can relate to a lot of his issues and frustrations as a designer...especially, his assertion that the toy biz is one of spotting icebergs...for every toy that gets produced, there are many more lurking below the surface of the water. I look at my own "To Do" list of games that are in partially produced stages and see the truth of this: my current count of unfinished "products" numbers...hmmm, let's see...seventeen.

[probably one of the reasons I don't bother entering competitions like Game Chef and the One Page Dungeon]

And that's just counting stuff that I've done some initial work/writing on. There's plenty of other ideas/concepts floating around in my head that haven't yet managed to make it to paper/computer. Maybe some day when I have a team or staff of people working for me and a lot of capital to throw around. Right now, I'm blessed to just live in a day and age that even allows self-publishing.

The history of toy/game manufacturing...or rather the big businesses we've come to recognize like Hasbro and quite fascinating, especially considering the slim profit margin in the industry and the financial missteps that have nearly sunk the biggest players. It's interesting how the Big Boys have benefitted the most...and managed to stay afloat...mainly due to expansion into overseas markets, outsourcing jobs to China, and acquiring other toy and game businesses (like WotC, Fischer-Price, Milton Bradley, Kenner, American Doll, Cranium, etc.).

But...well, now I'm starting to ramble. Let me get back to you when my head's a little more clear.