Monday, March 20, 2017

Theme Reveal for the 2017 A-to-Z April Blogging Challenge...

As you've probably seen on some of your other favorite blogs (SWIDT?), today is the day on which we are to unveil our blogs' themes for the 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge...

While my blogging habits have definitely been in flux lately as I keep working through a bit of a life reboot, I plan to take part again this year, partly in the hope that it will keep me on task in interacting with other folks here on the blogosphere, which is good for me.  I also really like the idea of using the month to take on something that could culminate in a project reaching the next stage of completion.  I kind of had the right idea with last year's topic, but I never really followed through like I could have and should have.

With all of that in mind, my 2017 theme will be...

Henchmen & Hirelings: The Quest of Atoz

Since you probably find yourself asking What the hell is that? at the moment...let me elaborate...

The month of April will finally see me attempting to put together a complete and playable (or, at least, playtestable) pile of cards for Henchmen & Hirelings, the OSR-based card game I've had floating around in my head for a while.  The set will collectively be known as The Quest of Atoz (again, SWIDT?).

So, I guess we'll see how it goes.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Geeky SKAturday: Alex Desert

A fairly recent post over at Siskoid's Blog of Geekery got me to do a bit of reflection on the various manifestations of my lifetime of, geekery.  To a large extent, anything I've ever become interested in, I've had a tendency to geek out about.  There were several years, starting in the mid-'90s in my undergrad days, that one of my central obsessions was ska.

Like a lot of folks, I was introduced to the genre by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but I luckily had a college friend who was wise in the ways of the ska scene, who was able to introduce me to some of the deeper elements of the music.  It was an obsession from then on out, as I'd spend a huge portion of my time seeking out new music and zines, and even playing in a ska band for while (probably one of the few to ever come out of central Georgia, by the way...and we even managed to make it onto one massive compilation album before folding...!).

Anyway, I've realized somewhere along the way that there's actually quite a bit of crossover between ska and some of my other nerdy pursuits.  And the more I think about it, the more it makes sense...ska has long been about characters, stories, and a reverence for its own history.  And the stereotypical ska "dress code" is really just a step away from cosplay.  It's pretty much tailor-made for geeking out!  So, I hope to take some time here on the weekends to write a little about this crossover.

And yeah, I think I am going to stick with that stupid title for the feature.

Today, I want to talk about actor Alex Desert.  Here's what looks like a relatively recent shot of him:

From The Flash Wiki.

You may recognize him from the TV show Becker, or movies like Swingers or High Fidelity.  Of course, Flash fans around my age may remember him best like this:

From the DC Database.

Here's the intro from 1990's Flash series as a refresher...

In one of those cool twists that they sometimes pull off on the current incarnation of The Flash, he even returned as a Central City police captain...presumably the same character as his earlier version (as they share the name Julio Mendez).

Now, why would I mention him here?  Well, a lot of folks don't realize that Alex Desert is also one of the great vocalists of ska's Third Wave.  As in, there are probably some listeners out there who consider him the best ska singer they've ever heard, and his pairing with Greg Lee in the traditional band Hepcat is pretty much legendary among fans of the music.  When I finally made this connection after becoming a Hepcat fan, I thought it was one of the coolest things ever.

So, come for the Flash and stay for the harmonies, I say.  Alex Desert is a very good actor, but here he is doing what he does best...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wasteland Wednesday: NUKEMAP

I would imagine that anyone who is bothering to read this blog has very little difficulty with wasting time, but just in case you'd like to be a bit more virtually destructive while doing so, you might want to check out NUKEMAP.  It's a Choose-Your-Own-Nuclear-Holocaust program that lets you feed your mass-murderous urges in a scientifically informative way.

The site is run by historian of science Alex Wellerstein of the Stevens Institute of Technology, who also writes the blog Restricted Data on topics related to nuclear secrecy.  While it isn't the only app of this type to be found on the web, it's the one that I've had the most fun with.

And really, it's more fun than it probably should be.

Oh my, was that Gillette Stadium at the center of the blast shown above?  Just a coincidence that this Falcons fan ended up there, I'm sure...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wasteland Wednesday: Some post-apocalyptic school spirit

I haven't watched The Walking Dead in a while...I think it was once the Governor rose in prominence, and the show became more about people vs. people than people vs. zombies, that it lost me.  Some folks seem to think I should give it a shot again.  Maybe I will.

Not a video...for some reason having the video below as the first "image" was screwing things up in the sidebar...

Anyway of the things I do really like about the show is its Atlanta connection, and I recently found out that eight singers from one of my alma maters, Georgia State University, served as a choir in the second episode of Season 7.  They sang an arrangement of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright."  It's a pretty cool scene...and I'm sure it would be even better if I knew what the hell was going on...

And while we're talking "Don't Think Twice...," I may as well post what may just be the best version of it I've ever heard.  Not that I've heard a lot of versions.  But...well, at least three, and this one is awesome...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I love this...

...and I'm not posting much of value right now anyway, y'know?  So why not...

(from an NPR interview)

We do pass on pain to the people around us, but I think another way of looking at that is that the people who hurt us are rarely evil. Most people are trying their best with the pain that they've been given.
                                                                      -- Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monstrous Monday: Bro Country Elemental

First, I'll just get to the monster.  Then I'll elaborate a bit in case you want to know what the hell I'm talking about.

The truck picture that I desecrated here is Red 1961 Chevy Truck Face View by tonythemisfit (Tony Fischer), licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Bro Country Elemental
HD 8d10 (44 HP)
Defense 15

Attacks:  Bite +8 (1d8 damage) and Tailgate +8 (1d10 damage)
(Can use both attacks in a round, but must attack different enemies.)

This is how it rolls:  A bro country elemental can achieve speeds up to 90 mph but prefers to cruise with the windows down.  Characters caught in its path while cruising must save or take 1d10 mud tire damage.

Special:  Immune to all sleep effects 'til the sun comes up.

Drawn to girls that are lookin' so good, especially those in cut-off jeans and T-shirts.  Gets +2 to all rolls with a girl up in its cab.

Will also seek out all drinkable ethanol within a range of 1/2 mile.  Gets +1 temporary HD (with both HP and attack bonuses) for one hour after consuming a gallon of ethanol.  This bonus is doubled if the ethanol is in the form of Jack Daniels, 'shine, homemade wine, or Fireball whiskey.

Bro country elementals are formed when trucks gain sentience while cruising back roads.  Unlike traditional country elementals, this may not be an old truck.  No one knows the precise magical accident that leads to their creation, although examination of their remains has led some to believe that key components may be sleeveless shirts, gaudy male jewelry, shot glasses, tanning spray, and clothing and decorations featuring American flags.

They're basically lawful elementals, they just like to get a little chaotic on the weekend.


Okay, so, "bro country" is the term given to a subgenre of American country music that rose to extreme popularity a few years back (it even has a Wikipedia page).  Songs in the category often feature a distinguishing set of musical tropes, including a notable hip-hop influence.  And the songs are pretty much about three things: girls, trucks, and drinking.

So, some of you are thinking, other than the hip-hop thing, what makes that any different from all other country music?  Well, some would say that, in addition to turning the sexy up to 10, it turns cookie-cutter song production up to 11.  In 2014, a songwriter "exposed" the formula by mashing six bro country hits together into what could almost be a single song.  Seriously, check this out, or at least the part at the end where he has all six songs going at the same time...

Bro country has taken some heat from the industry establishment for its formulaic nature and vapid lyrics.  And yeah, it's ridiculous.  Images like this don't help:

From Brantley Gilbert's video for "Bottoms Up," by the way.

But man, there's something about the unapologetic rejection of any sort of complexity that I just can't help but appreciate.  I'm a little obsessed at the's like a truck crash that I just can't turn away from.

And in defense of the artists, MOST musical subgenres...or, really, subgenres of any form of art...are going to have some tropes that get repeated over and over.  Hell...that's pretty much what OSR roleplaying is built on, right?  And to the credit of the songwriters and performers, all the swagger, backbeats, and hard rock solos seem to be carried out unironically.

And then there's the fact that some artists who bleed bro country are still able to pull off some legitimately good songs.

At the very least, it makes for a nice monster.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thinking about an OSR blogging challenge...

So, I've been thinking a bit about April's A to Z blogging challenge and what I might want to take on this year.  One of the ideas that I hit on, and that I think I'd like to pursue, is to take an RPG setting idea (I think I'll go with the Paleolithic Adventures that I mused about in one of my first posts on this blog) and map out its components to the alphabet, so that by the time the month is over, I have something that can be compiled into a form that others might like to see.  It kind of fits an idea I've thought about trying on here, that I call "Filling up a White Box," in which I'd take the OGL skeleton of the Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox Rules and systematically reskin them into a different game.  So, maybe it'd be called "Filling up a White Box with Rocks."  Heh.

Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I'd like to see what other people would do with a similar task.  Ever since the monster known as the d20 system brought us "D&D" for every genre imaginable, I've loved seeing people take the basics of the class+level+icosahedral-combat rules system and expand it into new realms.  Like those old Dungeon magazine microgames...those were awesome, right?  Some people are clearly quite gifted at this (I'm looking at +James Spahn and +Simon Washbourne here, among others), but we could all probably do a decent job with a little structure, eh?

Then I realized that this might be even better as its own "challenge," since it could be ordered based on the needs of the task itself rather than...the alphabet.  Like the challenge goes something like:  (1) Theme, (2) Races and classes, (3) Equipment...etc., with questions for each one that would encourage fleshing out the game.  I just think it'd be awesome to see people pick a topic they've always wanted to explore, or maybe have explored in their games, and bring it to life.  Like someone's game is about juvenile magic-users at a wizard's school, and another one is Matrix-style gnostic cyberpunk, and someone does Super Sentai, and there's a Vampire clone, and...and...maybe someone hits upon something amazing...!

Well, I have about one good idea a week, and I thought I used that up a few hours ago when I decided tonight should be taco night, but I really like thinking about what this could be if others were interested.  So, does anyone have any thoughts on how I could get the most mileage out of this?  What would encourage others to participate?  Or am I just a bit loopy on a Friday afternoon?