Monthly Archives: August 2010

GeekFest PathFinder Game

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I spent all afternoon Saturday at GeekFest playing in a PathFinder RPG demo game. I was not going to do the demo, I was going to attend the Elizabeth Moon writers seminar with PezWitch, but I occasionally get the urge to go to a game convention and play the game with different people and here was an opportunity staring me in the face, so decided to play PathFinder instead.

I am glad I did, the GM, Gavin Smith (on the far left), ran a fun light hearted game, he obviously loves the RPG’s and enjoys GMing, this really came through in his style. The other players were good natured and tolerated my natural bossiness, everyone was engaged, open to new ideas and contributed to the fun. I can tell you, having played more than a few convention games, you do not often get a quality experience like this. With that I would like to thank Gavin and my fellow players, this was the highlight of GeekFest for me. I am in for next year.

Edit: Here is a picture of the whole group, I am partially hidden by the father of the girl sitting next to me. He was not playing, but he was helping his daughter learn the game.

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Edit 2: Another picture of the game, from Facebook this time, again I am only partially visible, seems there is a pattern developing.

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Dice collection

This is my dice collection as it stands today. I Think I posted this on Facebook before I blew everything away. Practically everyone who has ever gamed with me probably recognizes the red container in the center, which was a sewing box I swiped from my mother.

The Old School Revival

I am going to go out on a limb here, although, I don’t think I will be going far, and say HackMaster 4 (HM4) started the current Old School Renaissance and without her there would probably be no Castles & Crusades, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG, Swords & Wizardry or LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. Lets also not forget the resurrection of previously dead systems like Traveller, RuneQuest, Tunnels & Trolls and Paranoia, none of which would have been published if HM4 had not been a successful line. HM4 proved there was still money to be made in old school gaming and a lot of people, whether they want to admit it or not, owe their business to Dave Kenzer and Jolly Blackburn taking a risk and publishing HM4.

Nobilis RPG, 3rd edition ?

The Nobilis RPG is one of those games everyone talks about but few actually play. I have seen endless threads on RPGnet about games people are thinking about running, but no threads talking about games that have actually been played, that lasted beyond the first session. Apparently, there is going to be a 3rd edition and I have to ask myself why. I suppose it could be because it makes money, but I doubt it, because it has been through three publishers already. No I think it keeps getting extra lives, not because it is a good game with a rabid following, but rather because having a copy on your game shelf is a bit like having a copy of the Complete Shakespeare sitting on your bookshelf or a coffee table book of Ansel Adam’s work.

The basic premise of the game is the characters are beings of godlike power who represent concepts, who move through history delicately manipulating the universe to suit their needs. Since these beings are so powerful to begin with they never directly oppose each other and open warfare would destroy solar systems. Essentially, everyone has the power to snuff the sun, but no one uses the power. Okay, it is a high minded game that rises above the “Kill monsters and take their stuff” paradigm, I can accept this, and I suppose it was a good try.

The problem is, court intrigue games are nice once or twice a year, but every single game ? I think not.  I think this would be way too slow and  think the reason we don’t see threads on RPG forums discussing long term campaign is because there are none. I am serious go to RPGNet or ENWorld and search the threads for long term Nobilis games, you won’t find any posts saying things like “My Nobilis campaign has lasted two years”. My guess is most groups play 1 session and then go back to playing Dungeons and Dragons or Exalted. So here is the dirty little secret, Nobilis is bloody fucking boring.

Two videos for your entertainment

http://www.youtube.com/v/e1IxOS4VzKM?fs=1&hl=en_US
Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury

http://www.youtube.com/v/RSt-3X-pK24?fs=1&hl=en_US
Dungeon Master Gurls

RE: LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

The author of LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing, James Raggi, commented on my review of his product. His comments can be found here;

Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I am actually surprised he found this web site. Carnifex.org is not what anyone would call a high traffic or high profile blog and it is primarily read by friends and family. Anyway, I am an attention whore, so I will take any link back I can get.

Review: LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

Product Summery:
Name: LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Author: James Edward Raggi IV
Line: OD&D Retro clone
Cost: $65.00 ($12.50 for the PDF)
Pages: 328 Pages across the 3 main books
Webpage: http://lotfp.blogspot.com/

This product is another attempt to re-envision the Original Dungeons and Dragons (OD&D) box set. The appearance of the book is better than other attempts at redoing OD&D, the cover art is great, the internal art runs from pretty okay to really really good. The layout is well organized and easy to read. There are three primary books, Rule Set, Referee Book and the Magic Book. There is also a tutorial book that walks you through the basics of the game. The print product includes dice, pencil, character sheets and two adventures. I have to say though, I am not a big fan of box sets. Boxes do not do well over the long run, of course the PDF version does not have this problem, unless you want it to.

The game itself suffers from what all the OD&D retro clones suffer from, which is staying too close to the source material. The ridiculous notion of Race as Class is present, this by itself knocks a point off the score. Personally I would prefer it if he had went more along the line of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) instead. Those rules were better written and well thought out. It does not make sense to me that so many retro clone writers cling to OD&D in such an odious fashion. I can see taking the simplicity and ease of play, but would it have kill even one of them to separate race from class. It was a bad idea in 1974 and it is a bad idea today.

The setting is where this product really shines. Raggi is really a good writer, I like his blog, I have enjoyed the modules he has written and the Random Esoteric Creature Generator stands as one of the best game supplements published in the last 10 years. Raggi likes dark fantasy and he does it very well.

Besides the OD&D oddities in the game system, my only other complaint with this game is the price, $65 is way too much money. I bought the PDF and am very pleased with the $12.50 price, but the printed version, UGH!. I realize the cost of putting together a package like this is going to be pricey, no doubt, but $65 is too much, especially when I can get Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy RPG and White Box Swords & Wizardry for free and they are essentially the same game. Unless you REALLY like OD&D and unless you are REALLY planning on playing this game, I can not recommend the print version of this product at all.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 3
Game Mechanic: 2
Setting: 4
Overall: 2.666666667 (PDF version is a solid 3)

The “Robilar” Character

Wow, this blog post is a must read for anyone who gamed us during the early 80’s in Bruce’s basement.

http://bxblackrazor.blogspot.com/2010/07/doesnt-everyone-have-robilar.html

Our “Robilar” character was Tithus, played by Ed, he was the diva who commanded the most attention from Bruce and as a result grew far more wealthy and powerful than the rest of us. It would not have been so bad really, if Tithus had not been a drama queen and a bully, which made him insufferable. I can not speak for Chad or Darren, but I hated Tithus, not just a little, but a lot.

I vaguely remember when my character was about 3rd level, I got really ticked off at Tithus for some reason I no longer remember, and proceeded to try and kill him. I let Ed talk me out of it and I regreted it for the rest of the campaign, I should have killed Tithus when I had the chance. This situation culminated into what I call “The Tithus Incident”, where we had just finished killing a dragon and I noticed Tithus took the brunt of the attacks from the dragons, my character Katskill, then used this as a basis for convincing Darren’s character Sojat, that Tithus was low on hit points and we should attack him now while he is vulnerable. The ensuing fight resulted in a total party kill thanks to a wandering vampire. Ed claims Bruce put the vampire there on purpose, but Bruce denies it to this day, saying he simply rolled a random monster encounter. Me, I don’t care, in spite of the horrible end to the campaign, I considered it a win.

Review: Harvie Krumpet

PezWitch and I watched this animated short a while back. Harvie Krumpet is suppose to be a tale of eternal optimism in the face of extreme bad luck, what I call it is “Misery Porn”. The writer basically tortured the character with horrible life events with little or no reprieve and we are suppose to come away with a warm feeling because the main character is basically too stupid to understand his life. This movie is depressing, I do not recommend watching it if you are in a good mood, because this will ruin it, and do not watch it if you are depressed, you will likely cut your wrists open before the closing credits. In fact I do not recommend watching it at all and if you do, plan on immediately going out to do something fun and entertaining right afterwards.

Mutants & MasterMinds, Actual Play

Last Friday night we took a break from HackMaster and played Mutants & MasterMinds (MnM). I unfortunately was a bit underwhelmed. I had been lead to believe MnM had fixed many of the problems previous super hero games had, which is the problem of scale. What I mean by scale is, it is nearly impossible to play an interesting game with a Superman type character and a Batman type character, in the same game. You either have to all be Superman scale characters or you have to be street level characters like Batman. In our game, everyone was a PL 10 character, but the Morphing character and the Living Weapon character had almost no chance to hit the Powerhouse opponent and the fight was quickly coming down to the Powerhouse and the Blaster, leaving the other two to stand around bored.

If I were going to run MnM as a long term campaign, I would make several changes. First I would either eliminate or seriously reduce the effectiveness of Impervious. With Impervious it is far too cheap and easy to become effectively invulnerable.  In fact I would probably make all defensive powers a lot more expensive, but Impervious is the worst offender. Next I would heavily regulate the types of characters everyone could play. No Green Lantern/Green Arrow situation, because lets face it, GL does not need Ollie for much. I’d probably go for a Watchman style game, where everyone is a martial artist, low level gadgeteer or lower powered super, say PL 8 with a cap of 5 ranks in any super power.

On the other hand, maybe super hero style games are just not my thing. As much as I want to like them, I have never played one that I really liked. None of them seems play nearly as well as they should and none of them have simulated comic books very well. Of course I have also never played in a group where everyone was a comic book fan either, usually I am the only one, close to the only one, so it is also possible playing in a group of people who shared my love of comics would make a difference. Oh Well, next week is ShadowRun, I am hoping that goes better than MnM did.

Twitter

I now have a Twitter account for those who are interested, under @Risingdaggar. At this point I am not sure what I am going to do with it, so there is no hurry on hitting the follow button. I have been meaning to start an account for sometime, mostly so I could follow others, but I suppose I will post there, I just don’t know what yet.

Enormously stupid moves

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A small game company by the name of Die Cast Games, Inc. has released the module pictured to the left. Anyone with more than 2 brain cells will immediately see what is wrong here. Using “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” in big lettering is bad enough, then just to rub more mud in the sleeping dragons face, he uses “TSR”, then to top it all off the cover uses a style similar to the modules TSR used in the 80’s. This idiot is begging to be sued for trademark violations. This is such an enormous violation, I can not see how Wizard of the Coast (WotC) can not be forced to act. The fact that it will be against this company does not bother me, the web page has a huge logo on all their pages, which looks bad and shows a lack of basic web site design and layout skills. If their web site is any clue as to the quality of the product, it is probably not worth the $12. What bugs me most about this is he may bring down others with them. The Old School Renaissance (OSR) depends at least a little bit on the continued good will of WotC and when they release the horde of lawyers, WotC may start smacking around at anything which looks even vaguely infringing, forcing legitimate companies and individuals defend themselves in court.

On the other hand, it is very possible he actually wants WotC to bring the hammer down on him. If he gets a Cease and Desist (C&D) letter from WotC and pulps the whole run, he can play martyr, he can be a hero of the revolution so to speak. I see two ways to profit from this, first, people will buy at least a few of his other products simply as a show of solidarity and second, who is to say he pulped the whole run, perhaps a few escaped and make their way to ebay selling for 10 times the cover price. I am certainly not saying this is definitely what he is up to, but it sure seems to me judging from some of the authors comments on Dragonsfoot and Knight & Knaves that he is almost hoping to get a C&D.

The Tiered Internet

For me, on the surface of this issue, it should be easy for me. I should be adamantly for net neutrality. However, to me, this does not seem like a black and white issue. On the one hand I use the Internet for a fairly narrow group of tasks, web browsing, email, online banking, blogging, pretty basic stuff. I seriously doubt any of these services will be greatly impacted by a tiered Internet. On the other hand, I also do not want to be banished to a 3rd tier ghetto either as a content provider or as a content consumer.

Tiered Internet Pros: TANSTAFL, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Everyone pays for what they use one way or the other. If I pay for tier one access, I do not have to worry about all those WoW players clogging up my bandwidth during peak hours, I am guaranteed a minimum threshold at all times, day or night. Third tier access will be paid for by ads in much the same way broadcast TV is so even the poor will have some access to the network. Content providers who want premium access to consumers are free to pay for it, otherwise they can do as they have always done and allow ads on their site to finance their access.

Tiered Internet Cons: Have you been to a ghetto ? If you have you will notice something very interesting, there are no bookstores or clothing shops, but there are plenty of liquor stores, payday loans and casinos. This is most likely what the third tier of the Internet will like. When I look at other tiered services, such as cable TV, I don’t really like it very much. With cable TV I have to buy 20-30 channel package to get the 2-3 channels I actually want. With cable TV I still have to watch the same crappy ads I have to watch on broadcast TV. The worst part of it is there are no alternatives, I can’t switch to another cable provider because there isn’t one, its Time Warner or nothing. Does anyone really believe the tiered Internet will be any different ?

Portable Apps for Linux

I have really liked Portable Apps for sometime now. I like them because I can carry a copy of FireFox around with my bookmarks and extensions already installed. They have also come in handy for temporarily installing applications on other peoples computers and then easily removing them. Finally there is a Linux Portable Apps site.

I think the idea of drag and drop application installation is a good idea, Macs have been able to do it for years and there is no reason Linux distributions should not have something similar as an option. I realize this method means either the binaries have to be staticly linked or the install folder has to contain all the neccessary libraries and either way it wastes hard drive space. Lets be real though, I don’t know anyone using a hard drive smaller than 120 GB, with huge modern hard drives, a few redunant libraries or slightly fatter binaries, really makes little difference.

So my plan is this weekend is I am going to wipe one of my machines and install a stripped down clean copy of Ubuntu, starting from a command line only install. Then install the minimum needed to run a Gnome desktop, hopefully coming in under 1GB of hard drive space. After that, I am going to install only programs from the Linux Portable Apps site and see how funtional of a system I can build.

Self employment

A few years ago I looked into starting my own business, not an online business like I have been talking about, rather, a real brick and mortar shop. I am not going to go into much detail, but I did not carry through with the plan for a number of reasons. First, although the idea seemed good at first, time progressed, the idea seemed to loose its luster and it felt like a fad rather than a solid long term business idea. Second, business people suck, arranging loans, getting a location, hiring contractors all involved a lot of people I didn’t like. Third, my potential partner had a different vision for the shop than I did and we failed to come to a consensus. His ideas were not bad, they simply different from what I envisioned. Last, the cost spiraled out of control, we went from needing $25K to needing $100K very quickly which caused me to distrust the the above mentioned business people. When it came right on down to it and it was time to put my money where my mouth was, I could not do it, too many things made me uncomfortable, too many things I didn’t like.

If I were going to try this again, I would do it completely differently. First off the business would be just me and PezWitch, no partners. I like the guy I was going to partner with, but he wanted something different out of it than I did. Second, I would self finance even if I had to beg and steal the money so I didn’t have to go to a bank or a venture capitalist, those people are vultures and not worth price you pay. I probably need $50,000, which is really not that much money and  could probably come up with half that from partially liquidating my 401K.  Next I would do what I know best, I would open a Comic Book and game store, I’d probably sell anime DVD’s as well. Finally, I would probably go home to Billings to open the store where I could leech off the goodwill of my family as a source of cheap labor. PezWitch could run the store and Jordan, Scott and Tyler would be slave la….. err…. I mean part time employees, while I held down a day job to pay the bills.

I suppose at the end of the day this is really just a dream and it is pretty unlikely I will ever follow through with it. The reality is this economy is tilted towards large corporations driven by greed rather than small businesses driven by hopes and dreams. Each year there are fewer and fewer small businesses and this is especially true in the comic book business. All it is really going to take to eliminate them altogether is for WalMart decide there is money in stocking comicbooks and RPG’s. Maybe I’d be better off opening used book store, there will always be a market for books.

The internet killed the video star

Okay this picture made me laugh. For you non geek types, this is a romance novel style painting of Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day. To us geek types, this is really funny.

Artwork by Greg Aronowitz

Self sufficiency

Recently PezWitch and I have been watching the British sitcom Good Neighbors.  If you have never seen this show, I highly recommend it, it is hilariously funny and decades a head of its time. This basic plot of the series is the two main characters Tom and Barbra Good build a self sufficient enclave for themselves in suburban England. Every time I watch an episode of this I get the urge to go back to Montana, buy 5 acres and go it alone. The only problem of course is of course I am way too lazy for that lifestyle and second I get very cold stares from PezWitch whenever I suggest the Internet might be optional.

Living the satisfied life

A few days ago a friend of mine on FaceBook commented on how is younger self had a lot to answer for, because of the current condition of his body. I responded with the following;

I look at it like this, at the end of your life you can either walk to the pearly gates all prim and perfect and sigh in boredom, OR you can slide into home base with a cigar in one hand, a martini in the other, your body all chewed the fuck up and yelling “WOOHOO WHAT A RIDE !”

Some of the responses to this post were somewhat, although not altogether, negative. Just for the record, I don’t regret my misspent youth in the least. Yeah, I have a bad back and knee that hurts even when I am sitting down, but it was all worth it, every bit of it. I truly feel sorry for anyone who does not feel the same way.

RandomPics.com spreading malware

This morning it came to my attention that randompics.com is now infecting systems with malware. I have in the past linked to this site, I have now removed all those links. If you are a regular at that site, I recomend you do a full system scan with the virus scanner and malware removal software of your choice. I also recomend you blacklist this site and never go back. Either they are incompetent and canot properly manager thier site or they are purposely attempting to infect machines, either way, this is a site no one should be visiting.

August is here

The summer is 2/3 over and the year itself has more days behind than a head. I like the dog days of summer, maybe I will drag PezWitch to the lake next weekend and go swimming.