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Blog Watch: Defining Aesthetics, Blatant Hatred, the Dead-Egg Division, and Midlist Diaspora

Fri, 01/03/2020 - 12:53

Realism Isn’t (Ben Cheah) Going Bright — “In the name of realism, many artists today chase the darkness. Every vice is elevated, every taboo broken, every blasphemy committed. Nothing is sacred, everything is false. There are no heroes, only degrees of evil. No saviours, only monsters wearing the masks of men. No virtue, only the will to power. The intelligentsia claim this is ‘dark’, ‘gritty’, ‘realistic’. It is the defining aesthetic of our times, a relentless march towards deeper depths of degradation and desecration.”

Game Over (Wasteland and Sky) End of the ’10s — “But things have change a lot in such a short time. I can’t imagine going back twenty, or even ten, years and telling myself that just about every piece of art worth engaging in would be independent while corporations cratered due to outright, and blatant, hatred of their audience. This is how they’re dealing with the death of the old paradigm. It’s a glorified temper tantrum.”

Women Ruin Everything (Kairos) Fempub — “At first blush, it’s not unreasonable to look at these numbers and conclude that oldpub’s catering to female readers is just a common sense reaction to market forces. After all, if most of your customers are women, your products should target them. With all respect to Ben, this explanation puts the cart before the horse. It’s not that men don’t like to read. We know they love to read. Male-targeted fiction dominated pop culture during the reign of the pulps. It took frustrated lit fic authors-turned-editors at NYC houses to suppress men’s adventure fiction and usher in the pink revolt.”

There’s Always a Woman (DMR Books) Sword & Planet: A Genre of Mashups — “Speaking of natives, the protagonist encounters a lovely female who has a big problem. Whether it be an unwanted marriage arrangement, a hostile city about to declare war, or simply being lost / stranded in the wilderness, this problem is serious enough that she could use some help. The protagonist, being usually an honorable sort (or at least wanting to impress the lady), volunteers to give assistance. There is almost always a woman involved in a pulp Western story, even if only as a background element. Whether a good woman or a bad one, she offers obvious motivations and complications to the protagonist’s life.”

Something Happened (Walker’s Retreat) My Life As A Writer: Brian & David Talk Mecha On “NewPub Talk” — “In short, the Dead Egg Division of frustrated Bitch Lit authors turned their pity positions in OldPub into power positions by 1980. During this time the malaise of misery porn in the West that polluted popular science fiction got stymied only due to Star Trek and Star Wars, with some off-brand examples getting some traction because of this (e.g. The Black Hole, released to theaters in 1979). ‘Respectable’ opinion shat on them and the tradition of the Pulps they–Star Wars in particular– represented.”

Bro, Do You Even Regress? (Breitbart) 11 Ways Kathleen Kennedy Killed the Star Wars Golden Goose — “Hey, I’m someone who believes Hollywood should make movies for everyone, including the alphabet people. But just like people don’t want to be told Jesus Is Lord in a Star Wars movie,  they don’t want to see a lesbian kiss. That’s why Christian movies are their own genre, and that’s why gay should be its own genre…”

Wind is Changing! (Jon Mollison) Stopped Clocks and the Midlist Midwit Diaspora — “We’re talking about guys who are very online and very dialed into the culture of the SJWs. They have contacts and ‘ins’ and rumor-mills at their disposal that we plucky underdogs do not. So their change in attitude from as recently as a few months ago means something big is in the wind.”

Get with It, Y’all (Effective Nerd) An Interview with P. Alexander of Cirsova Publishing — “There are more tools and resources for authors and publishers than ever before. What’s out there may not be perfect, and sometimes changes (like Amazon folding Createspace into KDP) aren’t always for the better, there has still never been a better time to get into publishing. Anyone with a finished book waiting for a golden ticket from tradpub is wasting valuable time that they could be spending getting their work out there and in front of readers.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dumbarton Arena: APFSDS Ammo vs. Flaming Oil!

Mon, 12/30/2019 - 03:23

Time for some more Car Wars!

My opponent’s character “Borf” had achieved Gunner-1. My character Egon had one kill and a couple of expensive cars he could salvage. Winning this game would be huge. “Borf” would probably shift to Driver-1 and Gunner-1. “Egon” would maybe jump to Gunner-1.

Now… technically it’s “not fair” for my guy to be going up against a more skilled driver. Some people would object to this. In our games, it takes maybe two or three games to level up a character. If you make it that far, you’re probably lucky… and your luck is liable to have run out. We figure it’s more fun to be able to enjoy being awesome while you can. The glory of beating a superior character more than makes up for the lack of “fairness.” The fun of having continuing characters more than makes up for any potential game balance issues– it’s all just part of the game.

We made some changes to the previous game’s car to make for a more fun event. Gone are the heavy duty anti-lock brakes, PFE, IBA, AVR, flaming oil dischargers, wheel guards, and armored wheel hubs. In their place we got stuff that would make everything more awesome: a HRSWC and HD shocks!

Gothmog II — Luxury, x-hvy chassis, hvy suspension, sport power plant with superconductors, 4 solid tires, driver,  2 linked ATGs with APFSDS ammo front, HFOJ back, spoiler, airdam, heavy duty shocks, HRSWC. Armor: F 55, R 25, L 25, B 25, T 0, U 0, 10-points CA on plant, 10-points CA on driver. Accel 10, top speed 120 mph, HC 3, 6,570 lbs, $29,900.

In the opening moves my opponent let me accelerate out in front of him in the hopes that I would turn away out of the gate so that he could shoot me up at his leisure. Instead I cut towards him, fired my guns, and t-boned him. I did enough damage to injure his driver but not take him out. So close! This dropped my handling status way low but I managed to maintain control. Taking a fire modifier from the flaming oil was dangerous. A second hit of from the HFOJ could very well take me out of the game. A nail-biting parity ensued that would continue through the rest of the game!

Getting that second flaming oil hit was not trivial, though. Having to maneuver while on the unlit oil proved to be about as dangerous, though!

Both of us took steadied on a bit to try to get back in control. My opponent then cut left to force me onto one more flaming oil slick. He lost control and went into a spin-out. This should have been my game! He made a right angle turn as he spun around. I fired my ATGs, killing his driver… a spun around again laying flaming oil in his own path of travel… and then slammed into the wall, coming to rest on his own flaming oil slick!

All I had to do was stay in control and not catch on fire and I would win the game! Sitting on top of a flaming oil slick, it would be crazy to maneuver. I opted to hit the obstacle counter that had dropped when I took out my opponent. I lost control, fish-tailed, and then spun out… coming to rest on the same flaming oil slick that was burning up my opponent’s car!

My driver jumped out of the car to try to get away before the vehicles exploded. I wasn’t fast enough and my awesome continuing character died a horrible death in an explosion.

So after a nail-biting game that lasted an hour and a half, our continuing campaign fell prey to a de facto total party kill– an outcome made more hilarious by the fact that I would have won the game outright had I not fired my weapons producing an obstacle directly on my path of travel…!

What do you do when your entire campaign goes up in smoke…? Come up with something even more awesome, natch!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blog Watch: Risk Averse Marines, Level Inflation, Demonic Easter Bunnies, and Man Plots

Fri, 12/20/2019 - 02:19

War Games (Marines) 3rd Marine Division challenges junior Marines with war games — “War games at the higher levels tend to be much more complicated, but using the board game Memoir 44’ is simple. The rules aren’t overly complicated so it lends itself to be easy to analyze. We can put together a small party of Marines to play the game and from a single round, we can collect how many times they attack compared to how many times they move. With that I can figure out if they’re overly aggressive or risk-averse.”

Appendix N (Autistic Mercury) Real Fantasy — “This complex of stories, Tolkien’s Legendarium, has clear influences in earlier works with which Tolkien was familiar, in particular the work of Lord Dunsany, and his 1905 book, The Gods of Pegāna, which, similar to the Legendarium, outline a fictional mythology of the world’s creation and the gods who participated in it. In Dusany’s personal mythology, like in Tolkien’s, our universe is the physical manifestation of the music of Skarl, the Drummer, who beats on his drum for all eternity. Dunsany, besides influencing Tolkien, was likewise appreciated by many of the other acknowledged founders of Fantasy, such as Lovecraft, Howard, as well as Jorge Luis Borges and many others.”

The Pulps (Wasteland and Sky) Licensed to Thrill: A Pulp History (Part I: The Beginning) — “Pulps were sold primarily on awe before anything else. The romance of adventure and the terror of action were the selling points to those who wanted their escapism. You read pulps for excitement, for hope, for wonders, for horrors, and for love. You read them to be taken to higher places, and away from your troubles.”

D&D (Emperor’s Notepad) Level Inflation is a disease even clerics can’t cure — “If someone is playing in a Conan or Star Wars setting, it is always assumed that Conan, Darth Vader, or Luke Skywalker should be quite close to the upper tiers, towards the lvl 20 range. Unfortunately, that transforms those iconic characters into walking gods and, therefore, everything else around them has to go through a level inflation upgrade if the original source material is to make any sense at all. So, the soldiers or giant snakes that Conan kills in this or that story, or the villains Luke kills, are not low-level NPCs (which is what they actually were) but suddenly they have to be reinterpreted as level 10+ characters for them to be meaningfully threatening.”

RPGs (The Mixed GM) Interview With Venger Satanis! — “It’s funny what players take seriously (from grave danger to mostly harmless) and what they don’t, how easily they’ll buy-into an element of the setting and what seems too far fetched, in the moment. That just means expectations and assumptions need to be redefined, which happens organically as play proceeds. I’ve never had a player say, ‘Nope, my snake-man sorcerer just does not accept demonic Easter Bunnies from the outer void. I’m out.'”

PulpRev (Barbarian Book Club) Book Review: The Last Ancestor by Alexander Hellene — “The Last Ancestor is a tale that is rooted in a moral and heroic landscape that was part of our childhood, Hellene is about my age. A landscape that was filled with heroic characters instead of the ironic and nihilistic fare that passes for boy’s entertainment nowadays. It’s a tale that belongs on the shelf next to He-Man, Thundercats, and Johnny Quest and fans of fun and adventurous will love this book.”

SWPL (The New York Times) Should Board Gamers Play the Roles of Racists, Slavers and Nazis? — “The ranks of board game designers, however, is changing more slowly. According to one study, 94 percent of the designers for the top 100 ranked games on BoardGameGeek were white men. This perhaps explains the viewpoint many games take. Their designers can more readily identify with the European colonizers, and not the colonized.”

It’s Okay to be Japanese (Quillette) Yukio Mishima: Japan’s Cultural Martyr — “Against the ‘selfish individualism’ of Western culture, Mishima hailed the ‘samurai spirit’ of heroic self-sacrifice and praised the “tragic beauty” of the kamikaze squadrons. In his short film Patriotism (1966), Mishima himself played the role of an army officer who commits suicide rather than disobey an imperial command. To many observers it appeared as if Mishima was willfully taunting Japan by lauding aspects of its past that it was now eager to forget.”

Brand X (Kairos) The Seduction of Brand X — “In the wake of the director’s departure, Disney briefly shelved the project before retooling it as a soft reboot. Filming on Brand X; X starts in May. The reboot stars Idris Elba as John Wayne as Genghis Khan, who must defend Chinese railroad coolies from the predations of a Christian cult led by a vampiric Abe Lincoln. Disney will donate one dollar of every ticket sold to the SPLC.”

Adventure! (Brain Leakage) Big Irons: Westerns, Adventure Paperbacks, and the Man Plot — “Neal Fargo inhabits a changing world. The wild places are becoming civilized, and the real struggles for survival are being replaced with phony copies, meant to entertain softer men than him. But Fargo himself is still a man of action. And he actively seeks out the places where his action will have meaning. To a modern reader in an increasingly sedentary and regulated world, there’s something powerful about that idea.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Table: Car Wars Expansion Set 5 Double Arena

Mon, 12/09/2019 - 02:08

We went nuts this game. Not the most brilliant scenario design on my part. It turned into a five hour long battle royale and we had a lot of fun, but it would have been a lot more fun if we had just changed ONE thing…!

Here is the car we were using:

Gothmog — Luxury, x-hvy chassis, hvy suspension, sport power plant with superconductors, 4 solid tires, driver with IBA, PFE, and AVR,  2 linked ATGs with APFSDS ammo front, HFOJ back, spoiler, airdam, anti-lock brakes, HD brakes, 3 linked FCD (right, left, and back). Armor: F 30, R 25, L 25, B 25, T 3, U 2, 2 10-pt wheel hubs front, 2 10-point wheel guards back, 10-points CA on plant, 10-points CA on driver. Accel 10, top speed 120 mph, HC 3, 6,595 lbs, $30,000.

The big mistake here was not putting the usual hi-res single weapon computer on this sucker. Not doing so meant there were very few hits at all and we usually needed 11+ to hit at all. This slowed the game waaaaaay down.

Car Wars managed to deliever anyway. We played three of these cars to a side at the Buffalo Municipal Arena. The opening conflagration lead to a couple of t-bone rams. The hazards from these combines with speeds of 80 mph led to one car on each side rolling and then catching fire. Portable fire extinguishers put out the flames and two pedestrians fled the wrecks to go up a TV bunker.

It was total chaos at this point. My car that rolled actually flew into the rear end of one of my other cars. I actually had to run it out a bit, which separated my other car and left him tailed by two opposing cars. One of them managed to score a ram and I pulled forward two inches from there. My opponent then failed a control roll for the hazard and executed a hard fishtail. At this point, I saw I was perfectly positioned to drop a supersized flaming oil counter.

My opponent was called to move half an inch the next phase– right onto the flaming oil. Then he was called to move an inch the phase after that and was STILL on the flaming oil counter. The next phase he didn’t move at all. Three full phases on the flaming oil. We ruled that it did damage and a fire modifier for each of those phases– which I see now is probably not the correct ruling. The guy was down to one DP on one front tire and 2 DP’s on the other… and then he caught fire and exploded.

This was awesomely fun. It should have been the turning point of the game, but then the guy’s wingman got a shot off through my breached right side armor. He rolled a natural twelve and completely blew away my continuing character that had just scored an awesome kill with flaming oil. (We had even agreed before the game that if that happened, the guy who did it would get a sponsorship from the makers of the flaming oil jet. Oh well!)

This guy’s car was completely undamaged. My surviving vehicle scored one hit on his front armor with the ATG. Then I peeled away, forcing the game to be settled by one last pass. We circled the outside of the arena and met on the other side. The first shot needed 11+ to hit… and I got lucky, blowing through what was left of his armor and taking out an ATG. A split second later, he hit with his one and I hit with both of mine at point blank range. That was the end of it!

We had one continuing character survive this event– Borf from the previous two games. Here’s his stats:

Borf: Four points in driver skill, ten points in gunner. Four prestige. One kill. Possesions: one S’most with two points of damage to each of the tires, one point of damage to each internal component, 7 points of damage front, 8 points of damage left, 7 points of damage right, one point of damage top, and 1 point of damage to the underbody. Five FT shots fired.

My guy Norbert also made it out with no kills. That puts him with one point in driver, two points in gunner, and no prestige.

My guy Egon won the match. He gets two points in driver, five points in gunner, five prestige and one kill. His Gothmog has 3 ATG shots fired, one ATG destroyed, no front armor, and six points damage against the enging CA. Elon’s Gothmog which he killed has 7 ATG shots fired, one ATG destroyed, no front armor, no engine, and 9 points of damage against the driver’s CA.

Looking at these designs, I have to say… the Flame Cloud Dischargers were a waste. As a secondary weapon they are a complete bust. There was never a good time to use them and they get destroyed in rams, etc. We don’t remember to check if weapons fire kills them and even then it’s not worth keeping up with because they’re just not useful. (Linked point defense grenades on the sides are liable to see some use, though.)

The component armor really drug out the game and the wheel guards and wheel hubs were never a factor. (Our weapons were too inaccurate for that to matter.) Finally, the heavy duty anti-lock brakes were nowhere near as useful as a HRSWC or HD Shocks would have been. Really should have gotten rid of all that other stuff and picked those two things up instead!

Finally, the extremely large arena did not contribute to the play. The TV bunkers never had much of an impact on our maneuvers. A single map sheet is plenty for a game like this…!

Still kicking myself for not installing a targeting computer. I really underestimated how big of an impact those speed mods were going to have on play. Ah well…!

Two vehicles rolling and burning simultaneously. Speed kills!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Blog Watch: Narrative Warfare, Arthurian Propaganda, Bad Children’s TV, and Mecha Vietnam

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 00:16

The Big Op (Bradford Walker) Narrative Warfare: The Spooks Get It — “What you believe to be true (Narrative), you perform in everyday life (Culture). What you perform as normal behavior (Culture), you will enact as state policy (Politics). This is why control of the Narrative matters, and that means Narrative Warfare is really the secular version of Spiritual Warfare; this is why cults and religions are the bedrock of a nation’s identity, and therefore Narrative Warfare is Identity Politics because you’re fighting over what the foundation of a given nation–a given distinct body of people, all of whom share the same race, religion, and language–is and whomever has control over that has real power because they have faith on their side.”

The Other Pulp Renaissance (Dark Worlds Quarterly) Why I Read & Write Pulp — “I feel blessed really to have been a 12 year old in 1975. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard in paperback, followed by tons of comics. I caught the Fantasy explosion as it was growing and finally exploded after Star Wars. Joe Kubert’s Tarzan, John Buscema and Roy Thomas’ Savage Sword of Conan, Star Trek, Space 1999, Logan’s Run, Dan Curtis’s Kolchak– the 1970s. That is my nostalgia, not 1932.”

Brand X (Unz Review) Tired of Hollywood’s Woke, and Failing, Actioners? Try Vox Day’s New Comic Book Series — “Don’t worry about the deplatformings. They will soon be a thing of the past. But we still need to build our own institutions and support our own projects rather than support the endeavors of those who hate us, hate America, hate the West, and want to destroy everything that is good, beautiful, and true.”

Appendix N (Cinephilia & Beyond) Leigh Brackett: A Terrific Writer Ahead of Her Time just as She Was Ahead of Her Colleagues — “What we’ve prepared for you today is a rare conversation Brackett had in 1974 with Starlog Magazine, four years before her death. In this captivating piece, Brackett discusses her beginnings as a writer and a successful Hollywood screenwriter, her collaboration with William Faulkner on the script for The Big Sleep, working with Howard Hawks, as well as huge movie stars like Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne.”

No Thundarr for You! (The Data Lounge) Censorious c*** responsible for four decades of bad children’s TV is finally dead — “Seizing on a clause in the Federal Communications Act of 1934 that assigned broadcasters on the public airways a responsibility to tend to the public interest, ACT set about raising money and became a grass-roots force for change. The organization began pestering lawmakers, regulatory agencies and broadcast corporations to help educate children and not pander to them — to treat them as future contributors to society and not as just another consumer market.”

Game Design (gamesindustry.biz) Hooked on loot boxes — “This is where the outrage over loot boxes is coming from. This time it’s not rooted in ignorance and a fear of the unknown. It’s rooted in the knowledge that the publishers of the world don’t want to make games for players to consume so much as they want to make games that consume their players.”

From the Comments (Dalrock) Lancelot’s bowtie — “Of course, much of this was composed by French authors after the conquest of Britain by France in A.D. 1066. I suppose if I was a French propagandist I might well want Britain’s national hero and greatest king to be a bastard who consorted with dark powers, which would, in point of fact, justify France invading and taking over, just as Lancelot, the ultimate French Chad, invaded Guinevere and took over. In this story Arthur, who stands for England, becomes the cuck to Lancelot, the bull who stands for France, and of course Lancelot kills anyone who says anything against it while Arthur slinks around like David French watching his wife at a swingers club.”

Your Staff is Broken (One Angry Gamer) On the Dying Gatekeeping Media, Toxic Creators and Fandoms — “For the longest time the media has served as the gatekeepers of public opinion and perception. Their writings have cancelled people, destroyed businesses, and even sparked wars. They have for the longest time held an unparalleled power over the public perception and for that reason powers that be whether governmental, religious, technocratic or plutocratic all have sought to control the media.”

Not Everyone Can Play at this Level (RPGG) The Real Castle Greyhawk — “Four of these portals led to four independent dungeon ‘stacks’ of seven levels each (each ‘stack’ having a few side levels). The fifth portal, in the middle, led down to a stack of interleaved levels noted as 1, 4.5, 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, and 9. Beneath these dungeon stacks, a series of caves and caverns extended from the 10th to the 30th level. There were also at least three major areas that could be reached only by ‘magical transference’.”

Mecha (JD Cowan) The Real Super Robot ~ A review of Armored Trooper VOTOMs — “Since Dougram was based on guerrilla warfare and Gundam was based on WWII, Takahashi wanted to create a series based on Vietnam and the feelings such a war could inspire. But it doesn’t work as you might think. It’s not like any Vietnam you or I might know of aside from visual nods to popular works such as Apocalypse Now or soldiers fighting a war seemingly without end or a point. In fact, there is a point to this war, though it is not revealed late into the series. But there is more to it than superficial similarities.”

D&D (Castalia House) Secrets of the Nethercity — “In one of the more interesting design choices, Autarch does not burden DMs with a linear plot or lock NPCs into specific roles and goals. Instead, he provides a short list of motivations for each of the major dungeon players, to be determined as they are encountered, perhaps even randomly. This does two things for the better. For one, it allows each play-through to be nearly unique. For another, it allows the DM to slowly build the overall conflict within the dungeon, and only gradually increase the complexity of the situation.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Not Brand X: Dracoheim, 3d6 in Order, Fantasy Vietnam, and the Beating Heart of SF/F

Tue, 11/19/2019 - 22:25

Fantasy (Misha Burnett) American Fantasy — “That’s what I set out to do with Bad Dreams & Broken Hearts. Dracoheim is not on any version of Earth–the Settled Lands are on a world with a different year and a different climate than Earth, the physical/metaphysical laws are different there. Yet the setting is recognizably American (despite a sprinkling of UK terms to describe the government and courts). Dracoheim is Los Angeles in the middle of the 20th Century in the same way that the Shire is rural England at the end of the 19th Century.”

Books (Jon Mollison) Bad Dreams and Broken Hearts — “Erik Rugar makes Harry Dresden look like a chump, and makes Discworld look like a set from Scooby-Doo. Imagine if Bright wasn’t so preachy and had some solid romance subplots. It’s that good.”

D&D (E. Reagan Wright) The 3d6 Grease Trap — “Guys who run Big Boy D&D understand that how a character is rolled has no impact on the way the game runs. The best DMs do not craft worlds and challenges for characters, but for players. The sandbox gets stocked with high challenge areas and low challenge areas. The wheels of the campaign churn away with neutral efficiency. It is up to the players to determine which is which by throwing bodies at the campaign with the same reckless abandon as a Soviet lieutenant yeeting prisoner units at German machine gun emplacements.”

Brand Echh (Jon Del Arroz) Is Publishing Just A Scam For Power? — “Alan Moore is right. Editors don’t have taste. Publishers don’t have taste. They have no idea. It’s why the comic stands are filled with crap, it’s why there’s nothing even worth picking up when you make a Barnes & Noble trip. Everything that’s worthwhile is on the new frontier of self-publishing.”

Brand X (Kairos) The Fap Cult — “One thing both cults have in common is their elevating of personal preferences over the good. Fundamentally, they do away with the concept of objective value altogether and seek validation solely from their choice of weird sexual hangup or entertainment product. Nor will they countenance neutrality. You must join in their liturgies and partake of their sacrifices. Just try pointing out that transsexuals are mentally ill or that Big Brand X is a shame ritual that bilks money from paypigs for the pleasure of insulting them.”

Short Fiction (Rawle Nyanzi) The Persistence and Promise of Cirsova — “Though fiction writing in general is a tricky business, one stands to make more through a series of novels than through any number of short stories. I often wonder if he is wasting his time due to the poor economics of the enterprise, and yet, he continues to publish. The short story used to be the beating heart of SF/F, but now, it is little more than an appendix; through continual publication of short stories, P. Alexander may be able to revive the form.”

Brand Zero (Cirsova) Rawle Nyanzi’s Brand Zero and a Look at Some Cirsova-Published IPs — “The short version of it is a mindset to put fully behind the failing corporate fiction brands that continue to disappoint and instead focusing on new brands, new properties, either by creating them or supporting them. Talk up these new IPs instead of spending time and effort on complaining about how let down you are by the old brands. Brand Zero has picked up a lot of traction in the last few weeks, but it’ll be interesting to see if it gains real momentum beyond a few writing circles.”

Fantasy F***ing Vietnam (Brain Leakage) Kitbashing D&D: Skills, Resolution Mechanics, and Combat — “Every patrol to and from the Keep should be a tense cat and mouse game, as the PCs watch out for goblin ambushes, senses alert for any sound or sign that the enemy is near. Meanwhile, they’re trying to move like ghosts through the underbrush, staying to the darkest shadows they can find. Every snapped twig or dropped water skin should cause their little hearts to race, wondering if they’ve just given themselves away.”

Canceling Fantasy (RMWC Reviews) Pink Slime Review: The Man Who Came Late — “In short, everything about the world and characters that made them unique and loveable, from the magic to the culture to the weirdness to Holger’s blockheaded goodness, are stripped away and replaced by stewpots, housework, and boring people living boring lives. Faerieland and the forces of Chaos have been replaced by something far more sinister: ‘Realism.'”

Brand Zero (Paul Lucas) BrandZero Reviews of Indie and Self-Published Authors — “Here you go folks, copies of the reviews I’ve posted to Amazon for the work of independent and self-published authors. All of these people publish work that at least verges on the Weird, however you want to define it, and some of them roll around in Weirdness, completely naked. This is my small attempt to help support non-mainstream creators by focusing on them and not on the products of large media companies – naming no names. Go #BrandZero!”

Appendix N (The Charmed Circle) What’s in Your Appendix N? (Memories of the First Books #4) — “Appendix N was a list, written by Gygax himself, enumerating the works of fantasy and science fiction which were influential in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. These were the books which shaped Gygax’s imagination, what he brought to the creation of the game, and what the game would become over time. Some of the authors are considered icons of the field, and some of the works are seen as classics. Others are less known, obscure, even out of print. All of them are, in a sense, part of the game’s DNA.”

From the Comments (Sacnoth’s Scriptorium) The New Arrival: APPENDIX N (The Book) — “As other reviewers have mentioned, his reviews revolve around creating strawmen who somehow ‘hate’ classic sci-fi/fantasy (because it is too politically incorrect or features male protagonists) and then he encourages the reader to ‘fight the power’ and read the classics anyway. It’s nonsense, none of these authors are ‘condemned’ by his mythical ‘them’ who are out to destroy fantasy and keep him from reading books about ‘heroic’ characters like himself.”

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On The Table: Melee and Wizard!

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 00:42

I tell you, these games are something else.

Long, long ago I heard rumor of them in the introduction of GURPS. Elements of Melee and Wizard are of course baked into the classic Second Edition GURPS Basic Set and first edition GURPS Fantasy. But strangely enough, the group of high school buddies that went hog wild playing Car Wars and Ogre and Illuminati somehow never went beyond doing anything else beyond creating a few 100 point characters with those gaming materials that were supposed to be Steve Jackson’s magnum opus and the ultimate testament to his design genius.

But now today, thanks to these beautiful editions of Steve’s groundbreaking fantasy microgames, we could finally appreciate his astonishing contribution to the development of fantasy role-playing games. Hoo, boy! What games!! The best thing about them, of course, is that there’s nothing you can do with them except play them. And wow, is it ever easy to dive in.

I will caution people that pick these games up that the fighter cards that I think came with the Legacy Edition are NOT the way to introduce Melee to people. No, the CORRECT way to be initiated into The Fantasy Trip is by creating a figure of your own with no idea what you’re walking into. (Pregens considered harmful!)

My opponent picked a counter out of the stack and decided to run with Rapier Dandy– ST 10, DX 14(13), IQ 8, MA 10, Rapier 1d, Cloth 1 hit. (We later figured out that this figure was a girl. Haha!) Not wanting to throw the weird rules into play at once, I countered with Cave Man– ST 14, DX 10, IQ 8, MA 10, Club 1d. Needless to say, Cave Man got cut to pieces fairly quickly. Rapier Dandy got in a solid hit that gave Cave Man a -2 on his next strike. An 8 or less is not easy to pull off! A followup blow knocked him down into the -3 penalty for low hit points. This was an elegant demonstration of Melee’s death spiral mechanic where once you start losing, things go from bad to worse very fast!

Of course this one on one fight was rather simple– two figures closing to melee range and then trading attacks does not require a hex grid in order to adjudicate. If the whole point of this game is to repudiate the godawful combat systems of classic D&D which have absolutely NO TACTICS involved whatsoever, then this game really needed to step up its game.

So we tried again this time with Rapier Dandy being joined by Archeress “I”: ST 11, DX 13, IQ 8, MA 10, Longbow 1d+2, Short Sword 2d-1. Together they would take on Longsaber Shortie– ST 10, DX 14(12), IQ 8, MA 8, Saber 2d-2, Leather 2 hits– and Knife Girl: ST 11, DX 13(12), IQ 8, MA 10, Saber 2d-2, Main Gauche 1d-1, Cloth 1 hit.

In the opening my pirates ran across the board at maximum move, giving up their melee attacks to close the range. Then… Rapier Dandy managed to not only flank Knife girl but also engage both Knife Girl and Longsaber Shortie by placing them both in her three front hexes.

This meant that rather than engaging the Archeress and forcing her to was tea turn changing weapons, it was Knife Girl that ended up losing an attack while getting ganged up on by both of her opponents. (Doh!) My figures dealt their share of blows, I suppose, but the Melee death spiral soon returned as both my figures bought it. All because of a careless mistake on their positioning in the opening turn. Doh!

Rapier Dandy had now won two arena combats, thus gaining an attribute point to spend. She went up to DX 15, making her even more dandy than she was to begin with.

At this point I suggested we try out Wizard, but after a few minutes of perusing the spell list my opponent countered that we should try running his Melee figures against a mixed team of both a Wizard and a Melee figure. This is not surprising, really. Not even players settling in to a brand new B/X D&D campaign bother reading through the full spell list, much less take the time to think through some kind of spell use strategy. Expecting a new player to do something like that with Wizard over a couple of beers is a really big ask, even for a long time microgame addict.

Therefore I created Knife Girl II out of a desire to get that main gauch into play. I also produced Belboz: ST 10, DX 13, IQ 11, MA 10, Staff 1d6, Blur, Magic Fist, Staff, Avert, Clumsiness, Confusion, Fire, Summon Wolf, Summon Myrmidon, Illusion, and Rope.

Knife Girl II again charged across the board. Belboz hung back and created the illusion of a wolf. The next turn I’d hoped to cast a second spell, but Archeress “I” had a greater DX and went first in the attack face. She hit and did five points of damage! That combined with with the two points I’d spent on the wolf was enough to put me in the -3 to DX zone. The death spiral was rearing its ugly head yet again!

Meanwhile, on the other end of the arena, Knife Girl II got cut down by Rapier Dandy. My wolf bit back and finished off Rapier Dandy. My wolf then flanked Archeress “I” while Belboz played the dodge option. Archeress “I” needed a 12 or less to hit with her bow, and she let fly… mercilessly killing Belbox. The wolf illusion then promptly disappeared, ending the game. Ah, if I could have survived that one attack, the Archeress would have had to change weapons and attack the wolf with her shortsword. Doh!

The moral of the story here is that a good archer has MANY advantages over a wizard character– namely, that archers can make ranged attacks without having to spend strength to do it!

Not quite the outcome I expected. On the other hand, we both immediately began discussing tactics for working around this problem and what we would do differently the next time we played– the hallmark of solid game design! And there will be a next time, too. These games are just too danged charming not to play obsessively!

Besides, Archeress “I” went up a level in DX after that third game and is itching to do it again!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On the Table: Combat Showcase

Sun, 11/10/2019 - 01:02

This little gem of a game supplement hails from the heyday of Car Wars, when the Deluxe Edition and Dueltrack were both out in all their upsized glory. This collection of designs marks the point where the game transitioned away from being a role-playing game about driving and shooting to being an arena combat game where the best vehicle designer one. Not everything in the book would hold up– the Variable Fire Rocket Pod which debuted here would later be nerfed into uselessness. But the concept of easily photocopied record sheets of dedicated fighting vehicles was still solid.

One of the neatest designs inside is the Challenger. It’s a metal armored vehicle with three linked rocket launchers, an explosive spike dropper, and loads of component armor. It’s fireproof– as long as you don’t penetrate the metal armor or target the tires. It can take a LOT of punishment– as long as you aren’t sporting big guns like the ATG or the blast canon. It can also dish out some serious firepower. The only downside is the heavy duty transmission. This thing has just plain horrible acceleration and top speed.

The main thing… it looked like something different from the other cars we’ve recently played. It also looked like the sort of vehicle that would be fun to put up against its doppelganger. So it got dropped into our Amateur Night campaign.

In the opening pass we got up to speeds in the 40 to 50 mph rang. We needed twelves to score a hit on the opening salvo and my opponent actually connected, even rolling a 6 on the damage dice. One point of metal armor gone and the first obstacle counter was laid down!

We cruised into point blank range and my opponent then failed a control roll while executing a D1 bend. Thanks to the opportune skid, I could position myself to tag him with a T-bone as he went by. Driving past, the hazard caused by the obstacle counters would put me into a fishtail that would result in a skid of my own. We both came to a stop simultaneously and then began the painstaking 2.5 mph acceleration to lurch back towards each other again.

Maneuver was no longer much a factor as we reached speeds between 5 and 10 mph. We burned through nearly all of our ammo. Obstacles littered the arena floor. Half my front armor was gone. I whittled away at my opponent’s right side and then his left. What little internal damage I scored mostly went to my opponents component armor surrounding his power plant. My opponent blew through the component armor on my rockets, damaged one with a single hit and took out another altogether.

I had maybe four or six rounds of ammo left at this point. My opponent was hoping to go past me and then maybe force me to waste those last couple shots on his back armor. Unfortunately, my pivot brought my two rocket launchers into position for a solid shot against his weakened side armor. I scored well on damage, penetrated both the metal armor and the power plant component armor and– incredibly– managed to set him on fire to boot.

This was a fairly lucky outcome for me as I could easily have missed, rolled a minuscule amount of damage that the armor could have ignored, hit the driver’s component armor instead, or even just rolled a 3-6 for the fire check. In a game where two’s and twelves had both been rolled, it was pretty exciting. And I have to say, we were both weirdly invested in the results of every single round of fire leading up to this.

My opponent bailed out of his car and began fleeing the scene. Continuing characters are rare enough in this game I opted to let him live for the rematch rather than run him down. He managed to escape before his car could explode, so autodueling fans were on the edge of their seats for the final finish. I think the networks got their money’s worth with these two cars!

Here are the stats for our two continuing duelists:

Borf: Three points in driver skill, eight points in gunner. Four prestige. One kill. Possesions: one S’most with two points of damage to each of the tires, one point of damage to each internal component, 7 points of damage front, 8 points of damage left, 7 points of damage right, one point of damage top, and 1 point of damage to the underbody. Five FT shots fired.

Poindexter: Two points in driver skill. six points in gunner. Five prestige. One kill. Possessions: one Challenger with 6 hits to front armor, 2 hits to left, five hits to front left tire, 2 hits to front right, 2 hits to back left, and 4 hits to back right. Front component armor destroyed, 2 hits to driver CA, and 3 hits to power plant CA. One RL destroyed. One RL at 1 DP. Four RL shots remaining.

Whoever wins the next match will go up to Gunner-1 and will also have enough salvage money to repair whatever vehicle we end up driving for the third round. Though I think the networks should give you a brand new version of one of your best winning car for free and then let you keep the salvage value of everything else– at least in a series of these one-on-one games.

For the final match, we wanted something to create a different feel from the ram car, flamethrower trike, and metal armor slugfest. We decided that linked APFSDS ATG’s, HDFOJ, FT, IFE, spoiler, airdam, and acceleration 10 would do the trick. See you next time for the finale!

 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs