Saturday, December 31, 2016

The first annual Monstrous Matters year-end awards...

...because I may as well pretend like my opinions are that important!

2016 is about to close out.  Here are some random reflections.

First, the non-gaming stuff:

WTF Event of the Year - The United States Presidential Election

I get that some bad stuff went down this year.  The entertainers who died got a lot of coverage.  On the world stage, the situation in Syria is pretty depressing.  And on a personal level, there was a tragedy in my hometown that people in a community that small aren't used to dealing with.

But when people around here talk about 2016 just needing to end, I can't help but think that a lot of it comes back to the U.S. election.  For what it showed us about American politics.  For what it showed us about lingering division in the country.  For what it showed us about the power of media (which we'll be sorting out for a long time to come).  And from my perspective (although certainly not from the perspective of a number of people I know and love), for the outcome.

Seriously, America.  What in the actual fuck.

There's really not much to say that hasn't been said many times over.  From where I stand, this was clearly the event that dominated the year.

From @DungeonsDonald.

New Song of the Year - Michael Bublé's "Nobody But Me"

Now, on to a happier note.  I'll admit that I don't really hear enough popular music to make a truly educated choice here, but when I hear a song that blows me away like this one did (and in such a genre-agnostic way), it oughta be recognized:

I couldn't find an easy link to the performance on The Tonight Show, which is the one I first heard, and which actually got to feature Black Thought of The Roots in the rap breakdown (rather than the trumpet solo above, which is also great), as on the album.  If you can find that one, it's definitely worth checking out!

Song That Would Have Been New Song of the Year, Hands Down, If It Had Been Released Several Months Later - Kendrick Lamar's "Alright"

Thank you to Atlanta community radio for letting me hear this song.  I make no claim to the emotions expressed therein, but I know they held a lot of power in the political climate we experienced this year.  It's also just a great song.

And now, for the games!

New Game of the Year - The Black Hack

In the OSR community, new games drop on a pretty regular basis.  It's kind of what we do, and it's a trend that lends itself to spreading one's attention all over the place.  So, when a game like David Black's The Black Hack comes along and gets people brewing and buzzing with such a central focus, it's worth paying attention to it.  Heck, I couldn't resist hacking it myself.

It also works as game, and it's a lot of fun!

RPG of the Year - Lamentations of the Flame Princess

James Raggi's game of Weird Fantasy is one of the real success stories of the OSR.  My buddy Ted has been running an awesome campaign using a bunch of the published LotFP adventures, which has helped to keep me connected to roleplaying in a busy year and given me a pretty good feel (I think) for the game's themes.  Check it out (you probably already did, long ago)!

Non-RP Game of the Year - Bohnanza

Yeah, these are just personal awards, so this one takes the prize by sitting idle in my game collection for about 15 years before making a leap to family favorite when it was pulled out of the closet on a whim this year.  I think this one has great potential as a "gateway game."  You gotta love "The Bean Game!"

Bohnanza on BGG

So...there we are!  Despite some struggles earlier in the year, and the stresses of the fall (as noted above), I have to say that I've actually had a pretty outstanding end of the year, and I hope you have, too!

Big thanks to all who have stopped by this little blog and become friends over the course of 2016.  I really appreciate being a part of your community.  Best of luck to everyone, and I'll see you in 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Well, I finally saw Rogue One...

...and holy crap, is it awesome.  Some spoiler-free thoughts:

I thought The Force Awakens was pretty darned good.  Like a lot of other fans (and I'll note that my SW fandom is strong, but limited...), I left TFA with a general feeling of, "Man, that's what I've been waiting for to continue the Star Wars saga..."  After seeing Rogue One, The Force Awakens seems like it might have stuck to "the formula" a little too much.  TFA's characters were great, and I know it needed certain elements to truly continue the Skywalker saga, but after seeing what Rogue One did to stretch that Star Wars formula (while still feeling very much like a piece of the legend), I'm kind of thinking, "Maybe that's what I've actually been waiting for to continue the Star Wars saga..."

And I get that it doesn't really continue the saga.  It expands it, I guess.

Man, even the relatively weak parts of the film (I do have a few small...nitpicks, I guess) really aren't that bad.  Early on, I was afraid I was in for two hours of 45-second vignettes that would stitch together to tell us what happened.  The last time I had that feeling was early in Batman v. Superman, and that didn't turn out so well.  The storytelling really came together, though, and I think it might actually be the most emotionally powerful of any of the Star Wars films.  I totally get what folks mean when they say it's basically a war movie set in the SW galaxy.  It is, and it's a really good one.

If you're reading this and are on the fence about seeing it in theaters, I definitely recommend checking it out.  If you're on the fence about springing for 3D, I recommend that too.  It's quite a beautiful movie. find a Star Wars RPG campaign to play in.  Or maybe run.  Seems like a great time to finally take White Star for a spin...or pull out the old West End Games version for another run.

From Wikipedia...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Monstrous Monday Tuesday: Two more OSR Eeveelutions

In the lingering holiday rush, I didn't quite hit Monstrous Monday with this post, but I wanted to continue looking at Eeveelutions for old school RPGs by hitting the next two to enter the Pokédex...Glaceon and Leafeon.

These two showed up in Generation IV of the Pokémon games, adding Ice- and Grass-types to Eevee's evolved forms.  As with all Eeveelutions, they're as cute as they can be.

Leafeon is especially interesting to me, as it's depicted as a sweet little nonconfrontational, tree-hugging critter, with Pokédex entries like:

When you see Leafeon asleep in a patch of sunshine, you'll know it is using photosynthesis to produce clean air.


It basically does not fight. With cells similar to those of plants, it can perform photosynthesis.

So it basically does not fight, which is pretty cool...oh, I guess except for the times that it's forced to fight in a ridiculous bloodsport by the humans who hold it captive, which is, y'know, the entire point of the Pokémon franchise.

Here are the Glaceon and Leafeon entries at Bulbapedia, and here they are in simple forms for old school games...

(As always, I get these icons from the awesome site, which has tons of amazing bits of art to use in games, completely free of charge!  These cards are proportioned such that they can be printed out at 2.75"x3.75", with 1/8" then trimmed around the edges to bring them to standard poker size.)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

In Bleakest Midwinter (a holiday adventure)

All right, I think I've got this to a point where it can be viewed by others!  Here's my meager gift to the OSR community this holiday season...a little adventure called In Bleakest Midwinter.

This is a venture into funnel-type adventuring, inspired by David over at The OSR Library.  It features artwork by my talented buddy (and the nicest guy you'll ever meet) J.R. Mounts (and you should check out his newest project, Stuck In My Head!) and a map taken from the freely usable stock of the incomparable Dyson Logos (probably also a really nice guy).

The PDF is A5-sized and will probably print decently doubled up on standard paper.  There are even front and back "covers" if you choose to go about it that way.

Any and all fixes and feedback are welcome.  Happy Holidays, all!

In Bleakest Midwinter from Google Drive (newest version)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monstrous Monday: More Eeveelutions for old school games

It's still Monstrous Monday!  Just enough time for me to continue last week's look at the Eeveelutions for old school gaming by featuring the next two to hit the scene...Espeon and Umbreon.

These aren't quite as "elemental" as the first three, buPokémon's Darkness seems like it could easily be interpreted as Aether, and the Mind as an element should also work in this system, eh?

As noted before, I get these icons from the awesome site, which has tons of amazing bits of art to use in games, completely free of charge!  Also, these cards are proportioned such that they can be printed out at 2.75"x3.75", with 1/8" then trimmed around the edges to bring them to standard poker size.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Coming soon...

...and not that I think there's gonna be buzz for an upcoming "product" from yours truly, but I'm stoked about how this is turning out and wanted to post the cover.  Thanks to J.R. Mounts for that fantastic artwork!  Hopefully I can get this all ready for public viewing in the next few days...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wasteland Wednesday: The Flavors of the Post-Apocalypse

One of the central points of tension...okay, maybe not tension, but disagreement...that I see occasionally in the RPG hobby is the mixing of science fiction and fantasy.  Is it ridiculous to mix the two?  Can it make for amazing settings?

Well, obviously, the answer is YES.

There are limits, though.

A couple of years ago, Malcadon mused on the incompatibility of these styles on his EPIC FAIL! blog.  (He also put forward rat-eater fiction as a general term for Mad Max-styled post-apocalyptic stories...perhaps a reference to 2019: After the Fall of New York, and a descriptor which I rather like.)  Actually, what Malcadon wrote on was the incompatibility of Mad Max and Gamma World...basically that one is built on grit and the other on magic mushrooms, so mixing the two almost inevitably compromises what's great about one or the other.

Now, I am a big proponent of genre-mixing and gonzo high concepts.  But the more I think about Malcodon's thesis, the more I think he might be right.  There's something about those two that I just don't want to mix.

I'm not sure that it even comes down to the subject matter.  I think I'd be fine with throwing orcs and elves and crazy shamans into a Mad Max-style RPG setting.  Or in Mutant Future...why not have a campaign focused on scraping by and eating rats and getting fuel?  I even really like stuff like The Blood of Heroes, which doesn't really fit all that neatly into either category, and After the Bomb, which packs some pretty gonzo shit into a rat-eater shell.

But in my mind, I can't help but make...or at least try to make...some sort of distinction:  Is this Mad Max or Gamma World?  Battletruck or Planet of the Apes?  Hex or Kamandi?

Maybe it just comes down to this:  When did the world blow up?  Ten years ago, or a thousand years ago?

And maybe someday I'll just learn to stop worrying and love the bomb, no matter when it drops.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monstrous Monday: Old school Eeveelutions for old school games

Continuing the Pokémon theme...let me note that I've long been a fan of the so-called "Eeveelutions":

From Bulbapedia

One juvenile stage, with the potential to metamorphose into a variety of elemental adult forms depending upon the method and circumstances, is pretty fun.

There's also the fact that we've always thought our dog Brady looks like an Eeveelution.  (Jolteon, especially.)  Thus, his nickname (among others)...

(Out on the town with his late soulmate Marsha...)

So here are the three Generation I Eeveelutions, converted for battle in your favorite icosahedron-based combat system...

(Ah, and a couple of things I've neglected to mention in the past...first is that I get these icons from the awesome site, which has tons of amazing bits of art to use in games, completely free of charge!  Second is that the cards I put up here are pretty consistently proportioned such that they can be printed out at 2.75"x3.75", with 1/8" then trimmed around the edges to bring them to standard poker size.)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Murlocs by the fireplace

If you've ever wished that the fireplace video setting the mood at your holiday gatherings could have more gamer goodness to it, please let me recommend the Hearthstone Murloc Yule Log posted over at Blizzard's Hearthstone YouTube channel.

The most entertaining aspect of it for me is that the the shtick of murlocs singing Christmas carols should get old pretty quickly...but I still find myself laughing as each new song plays.  I guess that's a me problem.

For more murloc fun, check out Mark's take on them for Savage Worlds over at Cross Planes.

Also, here's a fun article on YouTube fireplace videos and their comments.

And then there's this.  Don't forget this:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wasteland Wednesday: Steel Monsters - The Secret Society

If you're anywhere around my age, you may remember Tonka's Steel Monsters toys...a line of 3 3/4" figures and vehicles which pretty blatantly copied the themes of The Road Warrior (although to be fair, there was a lot of that in the '80s).  When I was in the fourth grade, there was a period of time during which I was somewhat obsessed.

If you'd like to check out some of the toys, you can see them in collector extraoirdinaire Kevin Lentz's archives here.  And you really should check them out, as they're pretty awesome.

Anyway, I realized recently that the first comic included with the toys could be found at a Tonka site, but I couldn't locate the second comic anywhere.  I correct that oversight of the interwebs HERE, where you can download a PDF of the Steel Monsters' second adventure, The Secret Society:

Google Drive link

I hope you enjoy it!  (Also, if anyone knows of a third comic in the series, please let me know!)