Monday, December 28, 2020

Musical Monday: Superman's Best Songs (Part II)...and more on Light City's Brick

There are a lot of Superman songs out there.  Here's another one I like.

I remember first hearing this when it was the "B-side" (both songs were actually on both sides) of the cassette single of the Crash Test Dummies' remarkably popular song "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm."

Not my copy, although I guess it'd be kinda cool if I still had it.  Hmm...

Yep.  The cassette single.

I would go on to pick up the entire God Shuffled His Feet album, and I really enjoyed it at the time.  It's also worth noting that I've gone back and listened to it quite a bit over the last year, and I have to say, as a record, it's not only held up, but it's even better now that I'm older and have a little more life experience with which to frame the lyrics.  It touches on existentialism, maybe even Gnosticism...really it's just brilliant stuff that 16-year-old me couldn't comprehend.  Not that I can really comprehend it now...but that's kind of the album's point, I think...

That little aside...aside..."Superman's Song" was actually on their earlier album The Ghosts That Haunt Me, which I'm not sure I've ever heard in its entirety...but based upon my recently renewed love for God Shuffled His Feet, I really need to give it a listen.

Oh yeah!  The song.  It's fantastic...even if it is, as hilariously pointed out by one YouTube commenter, "[t]he most anti-Tarzan song I've ever heard."  Pretty cool video, too.

Now...let's continue talking about Superman, Light City, and The Brick a little bit.  As I've mentioned, I'd like the Brick class for Light City to allow such a character to be shaped into some variant of a Brick-PLUS, with some of the "classic" extra powers added to taste.  Mysterious francophone Light City co-conspirator soner du suggested an "exaltation" at levels 4 and 6, to be chosen from a power menu.  Their suggestions:

"flight, AC bonus, save bonus, damage bonus, bad-ass signature weapon, etc."

This certainly seems like the way to go, with some of the choices (or maybe the "default" option, for which the menu pick substitutes) lending themselves to more "pure" Brick types like the Thing.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the add-ons are going to need to start before level 4.  I had intended the three levels of The Brick in The Assembly to hold up to the class's expansion, but that might not be feasible.

At any rate, I suppose the question right now is:  What are the powers that need to be included such that most reasonable variants of a Brick are covered?  I think soner du touched on the biggest ones.  Flight is a given.  Using a specific weapon is probably important to cover stuff like Thor's hammer.  I'd say some kind of blasting, like Superman's heat vision and Captain Marvel's (er, Shazam's) lightning bolts, should be in there.  Some amount of super speed is probably a must.

Should X-ray vision be on the list?  That's so specific, but it certainly seems important in the Supes equation.  But then what about some kind of super breath?  At what point does the class just become an exercise in listing all of the things Superman has been able to do over the years?

Thursday, December 24, 2020

On Santa's Elves

Christmas is almost upon us!  My buddy Josh was kind enough to indulge me in running through this deadly little adventure that I wrote a few years back:

We started him out with a six-elf team on the mission to save the kidnapped Baby New Year, but the initial leprechaun encounter (oh, uh...spoiler alert!) made it clear that he should go ahead and call in some reinforcements.  Six of the twelve total made it through to the end...which is pretty much on par with the level of deadliness I'm going for with the adventure.

I think that by next year's holiday season, I'd like to put together a revised/expanded/improved edition of In Bleakest Midwinter.  It was written pretty loosely as a funnel-type activity that can be played with whatever system and approach to character creation you can make work, although it does have a very basic system in place, with the assumptions of that system outlined.  At any rate, I'm wondering if it might benefit from a little more rules density, even if it's just a bit of silly holiday "rules dressing" that's interesting to read.

I guess I figure there are probably three main categories of folks who are going to get something valuable out of a small work like In Bleakest Midwinter.  There are those who will just want to read over it for fun and/or inspiration, most of whom would probably benefit from additional rules text, as long as it's evocative and not just a grind to read through (or skip over!).  There are some who will want to run it in their system of choice, most of whom will be just as likely to do so having to convert a little bit of crunch as they would be having to add on their own bit of crunch.  And then there are those who will want to run the game exactly as written, and I could probably have added a lot more to make the adventure interesting for those folks.

All of this has me thinking about Santa's Elves, and about the idea I threw out there recently of using D&D 5E races in White Box-style games.  I like the idea of approaching the elves in the game like a 5E race...there are enough specifics in 5E rules to give some nice flavor, and they can almost certainly be crafted to not be overpowered in the context of the adventure.

What?  Oh, yes, I am essentially thinking out loud.  I appreciate your reading.

I also hope you have the absolute happiest of holidays, by the way!

Now, off to look over 5E gnomes.  After all, that's what Santa's Elves are, aren't they?

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

5e Races (or Ancestries/Cultures) in OSR games...why not?

 I recently picked up this book when I found a really good deal on it:

This is kind of a rarity for me, as I don't normally pick up the nice, big, hardcover books, and...although I am probably a bit of a jerk for not patronizing my FLGS (which I haven't even had a chance to visit in my new home, FWIW)...I am REALLY enjoying reading over this.  Ravnica is probably one of my favorite fantasy settings in general and is almost certainly my favorite plane for Magic: The Gathering.  I really love how one of the most crucial aspects of the card game's identity--the five colors of mana--are an integral part of the setting, as the colors pair up to form 10 guilds that vie for control of the plane-spanning city of Ravnica.  No matter what game system a Ravnica campaign is run in, it's still going to have at least a little bit of the feel of MTG the card game (especially if there are any planeswalkers involved).

So, I'm really looking at starting up an online game set in Ravnica, but I'm not sure I want to run Fifth Edition.  I'm just not as familiar with it as I am some other systems, and if I'm already adding on the "frills" that come from gaming online, I might as well make sure the system I use is as no-frills as possible while still hitting the points I'm looking for.  Honestly, Swords & Wizardry White Box/Light/Continual Light seem just fine for such a game, and it can double up by keeping me in a Light City state of mind.

Classes seem like they'll be easy enough to handle.  Races, though...that's a different story.  Ravnica probably needs to include Loxodon (elephantfolk), Centaurs, Goblins, Merfolk, Viashino (draconic lizard-type-folk), and maybe hybrid beings from the biomantic Simic guild.  (EDIT: Oh yeah, and Vedalken!)  I'm not against creating them on my own, especially since some of that could just be reskinning stuff that's already out there.  But...and maybe I'm weird in feeling this way...there's something about reskinning races that just FEELS wrong, like it's breaking through the shared imagination of the game in a way that can't be ignored.  It's cool to say, "This is what a Ravnican goblin is like."  It seems relatively lame to just say, "Eh, play a halfling and we'll call you a goblin."  That's just...I dunno, less fantastic and more gamey.

But then I realized...why can't I just tack on 5e races to the classes of just about any OSR game and use them pretty much as-is?  I'll have to buy into some 5e-isms like Advantage/Disadvantage (which it seems gamers have accepted quite well as a mechanic fit for broad use), and I'll need an established way to resolve skills so that any skill-related benefits will have meaning...but those are minor concerns.

Movement rates should convert very simply.  Proficiencies?  If it's a weapon, that means you get to add your attack bonus when you use it.  For other stuff, it means you get to add your level to rolls.  Alignment?  There doesn't seem to be any harm in just ignoring the 5e recommendations, or in simply adopting the nine-alignment system for the game.

As examples, I think a "basic" Human build would just gain +1 to all stats and get to learn an extra language.  Or we can look at...say, the Kor from Plane Shift: Zendikar, the first of Wizards of the Coast's free PDFs bringing 5e rules to MTG:

There doesn't seem to be anything game-breaking there, and it could be fun to actually play the "official" takes on MTG's races.

Have any of you tried something like this?  Other than the "danger" of having starting characters a little more powerful than they would be otherwise, are there any big pitfalls I'm missing here?

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Geeky SKAturday: The Aquabats

I've mentioned the Aquabats at least once previously on this blog when I posted one of their cartoons (which I see is now no longer available on YouTube...).  This band is really the primary thing I had in mind when I thought about doing a "Geeky SKAturday" series.  They're a team of heroes from the island nation of Aquabania.  After an attack by the evil Space Monster M, Professor Monty Corndog uses Science to give them powers that will help them defeat their archnemesis.  They also happen to be a band!  They're a pretty perfect convergence of catchy ska tunes, superheroics, and...well, pretty much everything that's fun about being a geek.  Here's one of their older tunes...

You can find episodes of their award-winning, tokusatsu-inspired TV show at the series site HERE and learn more about their story at their wiki over HERE.

And now...let's look at an Aquabat in Light City!

The MC Bat Commander

Pic from The MCBC's wiki entry...

Normal Human  (when asked what power he got from The Professor, he told the kids to "mind their own business")
STR 10    DEX 10    CON 11    INT 13    WIS 10    CHA 10  (I just rolled these...)

1 HD (2 HP)    Saving Throw 17
AC 8[11] (Aquabats rashguard)
Attack:  by weapon

Possesses an Anti-Negativity Helmet to protect vs. negativity, bad vibes, and "playa hataz."

Monday, November 30, 2020

Musical Monday: Superman's Best Songs (Part I) Light City musings

There are a lot of Superman songs out there.  Here's one I like.

Some background:  I was probably in high school when I first saw the title of the Spin Doctors' debut album Pocket Full of Kryptonite.  Young and nerdy me thought it was a pretty cool reference for a popular band.  When I eventually realized that they actually had a song--on the radio, no less--about Superman...well, that's one of those little moments of vindication for the geek knowledge I had acquired.

Of course, Supes is such a cultural icon that it doesn't take much geek knowledge to sing about him.  (I guess that's why a "Superman's Best Songs" series can happen on this blog.)  But still...the angle of Jimmy Olsen pining for Lois Lane is a fun twist.

On the Spin Doctors:  Their sharp and catchy rock was exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for at that point in my life.  They're all probably pretty underrated as musicians.  And...singer Chris Barron gave hope to skinny guys like me that girls could pay attention to me (a prospect that wasn't helped by all of those Charles Atlas ads I had encountered in reading comics).  I just had to figure out how to become a rock star.

Oh yeah, and the band's still got it!  Earlier this month, they released this version of "Jimmy Olsen's Blues" from whatever variant of quarantine they currently find themselves in...

And speaking of Superman...covering his superheroic archetype is one of the critical steps I need to take in getting a more or less "complete" version of Light City into the wild.  The LC Multiverse's Supes analogue is Wonder Man, who has come up previously on here as a founding member of The Association.  I figure the most straightforward way to handle heroes like this is to treat them as Bricks-PLUS...meaning, the archetypal Brick with a suite of abilities added on.  Three levels of The Brick were presented in The Assembly (to cover the Hulk), and the class was extended to seven levels in the French translation/expansion L'Assemblee.  And in fact, The Brick was one of the classes I had in the unofficial queue for individual publication before I fell off the Light City wagon.  I even worked on a cover for it...

...which now looks...uh, pretty bad after converting from the PowerPoint I had access to at the time to the LibreOffice I'm using now.  Looks like I'm having a little font issue. :)  (And yes, I often fulfill my meager layout needs using PowerPoint and its ilk...maybe one day I'll take the time to learn some proper publishing software...)

So, on The Brick...I'm looking to incorporate those add-ons that turn a Brick into a Brick-PLUS as options for levels 4-7.  That is officially in the unofficial queue...

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Lore of Chess Rush: Flamecaller

So this is something I've been meaning to link to for a while now.  Last year, I really became a fan of the auto battler genre of video games (sometimes called auto chess after its first major representative).  As I've mused previously, it's really hard to pin down exactly what it is about these games that's so addictive...but man do I love them.

Three of the genre's heavy hitters - Teamfight Tactics, Dota Underlords, and Hearthstone Battlegrounds - are built upon established IP with well-developed universes.  However, my two favorite auto battlers - Auto Chess and Chess Rush - have been building their worlds pretty much from scratch.  I say "pretty much" because their characters, at least initially, were largely tweaked and reskinned versions of the heroes from Dota 2, since it was a mod of that popular game (created by Drodo Studio, the current developers of Auto Chess) that set off the auto battler craze.  (Also, I think the Chess Rush characters - or character models, at least - may be from a previous game by Chinese mega-developer Tencent, but I have no idea how much effort may have been put into making the overall worlds similar...)

Screenshot from Chess Rush

The directions that these games have taken their heroes has granted a lot of opportunity to develop interesting worlds for gaming.  I have often thought that a game might be able to help distinguish itself from the others in this fairly crowded niche by tailoring the experience toward immersion in a fantastic universe.  And aside from that, I just like reading game lore.

So, I decided I'd pester these companies a bit, letting them know I'd like to see more lore and offering my own feeble attempts.  Well, the kind crew at Chess Rush was gracious enough to link to a short story I wrote from their official Facebook page once I posted the story on their subreddit.  So...I am happy to share that I have semi-officially added a bit of lore to the Chess Rush universe with a short story about the hero Flamecaller that you can find, if you're so inclined, right HERE! :)

And...since I'm on a bit of a Light City kick lately, here's Flamecaller for Swords & Wizardry Light...


Level 3 Magic-User
AC 8[11]    9 HP

STR 10    DEX 15(+1)    CON 11    INT 18(+1)    WIS 7    CHA 16(+1)

Attack:  Dagger +0 (1d6-1 damage)
Spells known: (1) Detect Magic, Light I, Magic Missile; (2) Knock

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Turkraken Day!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday today (even if it's not actually a holiday for you).


Note 1:  The beast above can be encountered in the holiday adventure In Bleakest Midwinter that I wrote a few years back.  Check it out if you's free!  The Turkraken is also statted out HERE.)

Note 2:  My good friend J.R. Mounts, who generously provided art for that adventure (including the Turkraken itself), recently had a couple pieces of his work featured in the Godzilla fanzine G-FAN.  I think that's pretty freaking awesome.  You can find the latest issue HERE if that sounds like something you'd be into...!  (J.R.'s work is in #129, Fall 2020.)

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Fall of Phoenix Jones

I have long found Phoenix Jones to be an interesting figure in the Real Life Super Heroes (RLSH) effort.  He carved a solid place for himself as founder of the Rain City Superhero Movement and arguably the first RLSH to actively fight crime like the ones in the comics we read.  I had never known many of the details of the path his career took until I watched this documentary the other night.

I obviously recognize why he's a bit of a controversial figure, but it's really hard not to pull for this guy.  According to the YouTube comments (yeah, I know), there may be some critical history missing that relates to his reaction to the MMA fight with his brother, but this is overall very well done.  His story is complex, just like many of the greatest superhero stories.

And...because of what this blog is, here's Phoenix Jones for Light City (taking the liberty of giving him a signature item a little early)...

Phoenix Jones

Pic from his Twitter feed...

Level 5 Brawler
STR 15     DEX 13     CON 12     INT 14     WIS 11     CHA 16
5 HD (18 HP)     Saving Throw 10
AC 7[12] (light body armor)
Attacks:  2x Unarmed Strikes, +6 to hit, 1d6+1 damage; Pepper spray 1x/fight, range 10 ft., +7 to hit, 1 damage, target must save or be incapacitated for 2 rounds whether the attack hits or not; Special Improvisation 1x/day.

Friday, November 6, 2020

It's a weird time to be alive

Mostly because I live in New Jersey now.  Who saw that coming?  It was just a couple of years ago that I moved out of Georgia for the first time, and now I've left the Sun Belt far behind.  Weird, indeed.

I mean, I do like most of what I've experienced in NJ so far (although some of the drivers around here need to chill the eff out).  It's just not a spot I had ever really imagined myself living.  Interestingly, there's been a big split in the reactions of folks who I talked to leading up to the move.  There was a definite "why in the world would you want to go there?" camp, and an equally passionate group that felt the need to immediately defend the state from its stereotypes.

Please be reminded, as I have been, that it is the Garden State for a reason.

While I'm living in the western part of the state, I have come to realize that pretty much all of North Jersey is considered the New York City area.  And though my little borough doesn't feel like NYC at all (I don't think, anyway), the proximity to the big town does have my mind wandering to stuff like...




...and even...

Long drives like the one that took us from North Carolina up here also tend to put me in a post-apocalyptic frame of mind.

I guess I'm just saying I've been in a very comic bookish mood lately.  Hmm.  Maybe it's time to revisit Light City in the near future.

And anyone happening upon this who is familiar with North Jersey -- got any recommendations on good places to go for geeky goodness around here?

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Oh yeah! That's happening today...

I shared this video on the eve of Election Day in 2016.  Thought I'd share it again now.

Because it's even more relevant this year?  Eh...maybe.  But mostly just because it's a great song.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Just sharing a side project - Not a Love Song

Hello, all who happen upon this corner of the interweb!  I am enjoying some days off of work this week and thought it might be a good idea to pay a tiny bit of attention to this oft-neglected blog.  And...well, there's plenty of stuff I want to write about, from further info on playing Ghostbusters + Urban Arcana, to revisiting Light City, to the next steps in Project 5.5, to the fascination I've developed for Wizard Rock.

But...why jump into stuff that people who read this blog might care about?  Why not give the blog that last little nudge it needs to be nothing more than a vanity outlet?  Sounds good to me!

So, here's a thing that's occupied some of my time lately.  Reconnecting with some members of my old band and remembering the music we made has definitely made me miss the times when I could write a song, bring it to the band, and enjoy a "finished product" in no time.  I've decided to start taking some songs of mine and making demos out of them, employing whatever and whomever seem to fit the tune to make some semblance of a finished product.

Here's the first, with the help of the very talented and criminally underpriced singer rheiviscabv, whom I found on Fiverr and who was a joy to work with.  I think I still have one change to come (to the second chorus), and I'm not completely happy with all of the instrumental sounds (I did it all on Soundtrap), but for what I'll simply call a "demo"...well, Rheivisca's voice made it good enough that I'm glad I spent some time on it.

And now...back to the games...

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Thursday, July 30, 2020

John Robert Lewis, 1940-2020

America buries an undeniable hero today.  It's only relatively recently in my life that I realized what an amazing person we had living and working among us.  I hope that I can continue to learn from Mr. Lewis...and maybe one day achieve some small piece of the courage, peace, and love that he lived by.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Tweaking Ghostbusters to play nice with the OSR

I've now run three mini-sessions (plus a Session 0) of the "Ghostbusters meets Urban Arcana" game (which I will attempt from here on to refer to simply as the Department-7 game, since that's the organization that's the focus of it) with my friend Josh, who has been an immeasurably good sport in letting me blindly lead him through a set of mechanics and setting tropes that are being figured out as we go along.

From my seat, it's been a ton of fun.  Agents B.J. Flech and Johnny Fix have done a great job so far taking care of the giant ants invading a giant picnic and managing to also handle the group of kobolds living in the ants' lair.

They're now off to Colorado Springs to investigate some odd visitors that have made swim practice impossible the past couple of days at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (they're prepping for the 1990 Goodwill Games, y'know)...

My goal with this game has been to mash up Ghostbusters and D&D in a couple of different ways.  First, they're scrambled together thematically, as the PCs are just investigating something strange in the neighborhood, it's just that their brand of strange is stuff that's made its way to our world from a fantasy realm.  I also wanted a mechanical mashup, though, taking the basics of the Ghostbusters RPG and working in monsters from fantasy games pretty much as written.  Here's how things are shaping up thus far...

The game is still very much attribute + skill based and built on dice pools, with stats changed from Ghostbusters' Muscles/Moves/Brains/Cool to the very, very similar Might/Dexterity/Intelligence/Presence.  I like that breakdown of abilities, I like that DEX and INT can be preserved from D&D, I like Might (which is used in Mini Six) and Presence as STR-CON and WIS-CHA combos.  I should maybe just use the GB names but figure these alternatives will work fine for now.  Twelve points are divided up among the attributes, with a starting range of 1-5 for each.  We're dealing with whole dice pips to "complicate" things like in later D6 games such as Star Wars.

In Ghostbusters, starting characters get a single talent (or skill) for each of the attributes.  When the talent applies to a roll, the player rolls three additional dice.  We've gone the same route with Department-7 but are only throwing two additional dice in for rolls that include the talent.  This keeps them from being so game-swinging at the start and aligns things more with "standard" D6 System games, where seven skill dice seem to be the norm at character creation.

I've dropped Brownie Points and just given the characters straight-up hit points instead...10 plus a Might roll.  Counting down on these seems like a nice way to keep the spirit of Ghostbusters' Brownie Points (a simple number rather than a wound system), and I think it adds to the D&D feel.

Task resolution, including combat, is where I'm trying the hardest to integrate the systems smoothly.  As I have now rambled on way longer than I thought I would at this point, I think I'll save that for another post to come along soon...

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2 Tone Tuesday: My favorite video on YouTube

If not my favorite, it's pretty darn close.

Is Buster Bloodvessel the greatest entertainer of the 2 Tone era?  I'm really starting to think so.  Here's Bad Manners performing the song at the height of ska's second wave...

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Geeky SKAturday: Rancid's Skeletim ReAction Figure

I would call myself an "enthusiastic observer" of Super7's ReAction Figures.  The design and character choices are pretty awesome, and I really enjoy seeing new additions to the line, but they aren't something I see myself sinking much (if any) money into anytime soon.  It was pretty intriguing, though, to check out their site recently and stumble upon a new figure based upon legendary punk band Rancid's Tim Armstrong:  Skeletim.

I would rate Armstrong up there as one of my favorite musicians ever.  The 1995 Rancid album ...And Out Come the Wolves had a role in the return to the mainstream of both punk rock and ska in the 90s, and it certainly played a role in the transitioning of my most ardent musical leanings from a general interest in alternative rock to an unshakable love for ska.

While not solely a ska album, ...And Out Come the Wolves features amazing ska numbers like this classic...

...and it was a bit of a return to ska form for frontman Armstrong and bassist Matt Freeman, who were previously in legendary ska-punk band Operation Ivy, purveyors of a whole host of 80s punk anthems...

And if that weren't enough, Armstrong would eventually go on to team up with LA reggae band The Aggrolites to release his debut solo record A Poet's Life (initially as all free downloads), which I would seriously consider a candidate for best album ever.  Check it out if you can.  (Here's a sample...)

Skeletim isn't the first ReAction figure with a musical origin, as the line has featured toys based on the evocative imagery of bands like Iron Maiden and the Misfits.  It's seemingly based upon Armstrong himself by way of artwork used by the band.

Apparently, Skeletim has also previously been featured as a, Throbblehead, with is also...well, kinda cool, I guess.  I wasn't aware that these were even a thing; here's a pic of the second version for the bobblehead lovers among you:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Adventures of B.J. Flech

This past weekend, former Ghostbuster B.J. Flech finally returned to action protecting our world from extradimensional threats.

In the first session of a new campaign with my friend Josh, B.J. and his partner Johnny Fix headed to 1990 Norfolk, VA, to see what shadowy shenanigans may be in store for the 8th Annual Fourth of July Great American Picnic & Fireworks.

It was a giant picnic, so naturally the threat was a colony of giant ants.  Overall, I'd say it was a success.  I mean, it's still up in the air how the ant problem is going to be solved, but when your game session includes things like a character riding on the back of an ant as it carries a huge bag of hot dog buns stolen from a food truck back to its colony, I figure you're doing something at least a little bit right.

As I mentioned last time, the game is a bit of a mashup of Ghostbusters and Urban Arcana.  I'm enjoying playing with some rules here, as the base is mostly a houseruled version of the GB RPG, but I want to pull monsters from D&D and D&D-based RPGs and use their stats meaningfully in this game (I pulled the ants from Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game).

Ultimately, I think I might want the focus of the setting to be on an organization that feels a little more like the Ghostbusters than the X-Files, but for now, Flech and Fix are agents of the D20 Modern staple agency, Department-7, as taken pretty much directly from the Urban Arcana SRD.  There's still a lot to explore here.  More to come as I make my way through it...!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

I'm finally getting someone to play a 30-year-old character that came with a used game...

The last time I got to run a game of the wonderful old Ghostbusters RPG, I made sure to bring a number of character options to the table.  It was just a one-shot, but since character creation is so fast and straightforward, I figured I could make sure a number of options were covered so that the players could get into the game in whatever way seemed most fun to them.  So, players could create a character on the spot, or use one of the pregens I brought to the session, or play one of the movie characters that came with the game, or...and there was no doubt in my mind that this was the coolest option...they could use one of the characters that had been made by previous players of the game, and which were still in the box when I bought it off of Amazon many years ago.

Sadly...and a little one took this last option.

BUT it looks like the dream is still alive for me! I'm starting a mini-campaign with my buddy Josh to test out a setting that might be best described as Urban Arcana plus Ghostbusters, and the system is just Ghostbusters with some house rules (and probably working in some innovations from Mini Six and other D6 System games).  So...doesn't it make sense for ex-Ghostbuster BJ Flech to make an appearance in the campaign?  (Josh actually made a character of his own, too.  I'm honestly not sure how deadly this game is going to end up being, so having two characters for a single player seems perfect.)

(Yeah, I blacked out the phone number because...whether they were actually their own or looks like the players put real numbers on their cards.  It's oh-so-tempting to dial 'em up and find out more about these characters...!)

I'm wondering how many of you out there have subjected your players to taking on "found" characters, or maybe even played some yourself...?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

2 Tone Tuesday: Too Much Pressure

This obviously isn't a political blog, but the state of America these days makes it difficult to not say something, in acknowledgment at least.  But then it's hard to figure out what to say that isn't just stating the obvious.  We need to start facing these issues head-on before the momentum slips away and I have to live the rest of my lifetime seeing this same horrific story play out.

Since the 2 Tone movement was defined, in part, by attempting to tear down barriers based on race, I thought maybe I could at least find a great, fitting song in my listening time today. real luck there. (Not a huge fan of the Specials' "Racist Friend," if you thought I was missing the obvious.  It's a good song, but not next-level good.)  So here's one that at least reminds me how unnecessary it is that we've gotten ourselves into this position as a country...

Friday, June 5, 2020

Project 5.5 - System finalists

After going over options in my head for...well, months now...I have finally narrowed the choice for a set of rules to serve as the basis for Project 5.5 (a wargame using bulky MOTU-style action figures) down to two.

The first option builds from my last contender post, which, way back in 2019...taking the game in an OSR direction using Swords & Six-Siders as a model (although I'll probably end up going with a more freeform "OSR but only using d6s" style).  The lean toward this choice comes from the free and open nature of various OSR products produced under the OGL, the quantity of OSR resources to draw from, and the fact that I can pair this effort with work I have done and will do on Light City, which I really need to spend a little time on at some point.

In addition, as James from James Mishler Games and Adventures in Gaming v2 was kind enough to point out when I asked for info on the origin of 1d6 skill rolls in D&D, d6-only resolution was there from the very start, on page 9 of OD&D's third booklet (The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures).  There's something very clean and simple about taking the approach originally used for dealing with doors and applying it to all rolls in the game.

However, there's another great option that I just can't quite shake.  Starting with the fact that this might be my favorite RPG of all time...

...and that it was used to later create this game, another great one...

...and then the fact that there is already a miniatures system based upon those rules, which I very handily have a copy of...

...AND the fact that even the minis system has been released under the OGL (you can find it HERE)...

...and, well, that's a tempting way to go.  Also, the next RPG I plan to run (hopefully starting next week!) is a semi-homebrew setting using semi-homebrew rules based upon Ghostbusters and its descendant Mini Six...which means that going this route could synthesize a couple of my gaming projects much like Light City and Project 5.5 could mix in an OSR approach.

At the moment, I'm leaning OSR.  But that could change at any time.

I'm thinking.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Geeky SKAturday: Pokémon Liberation Army

I kinda hate that I've gone so long without knowing this band exists.  Described as Poké-conscious skacore/punk rock, the Pokémon Liberation Army is obviously gimmicky, but they're mostly gimmicks I can get behind.  A pop culture-based theme band?  Cool.  Crusading for Pokémon rights?  Awesome.  The quirkiness of third wave ska to accompany the offbeat message?  I can get behind that.

I should also maybe get one of these shirts:

At any rate here's their first EP, TM101:

There's more music at their Bandcamp page.  If you wanna keep breathing, release your Pokémon!

I really dig the melodica, btw.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Scrye Magazine

Here's another post where I talk about other random stuff I've done over the years.  You might not care about it.  That's okay.  There's also the chance you might!  Today's topic...

Scrye magazine

The first game-related writing I ever had published was in the old magazine Scrye, a publication dedicated to collectible card games that would go on to cover other genres of collectible games.  (For those too young to remember, a magazine was kind of like a website, but you kept it in your bathroom and didn't need your phone to read it.)

Anyway, I got a foot in the door there with an article on the ultra-obscure card game Calorie Kids but ended up contributing material for a fairly wide variety of titles, including the ones that dominated my gaming time during that era (Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon).  If memory serves, I also wrote articles for the following games:

Harry Potter

Um...maybe Gundam M.S.War...?  I know I contributed to a slightly different project for it (see below)...

That might be all...I'll add to this if I think of more.  I was definitely willing to play and analyze whatever CCGs came my way!

Scrye's publisher, Krause Publications, also made at least two versions of the Scrye Collectible Card Game Checklist & Price Guide.  While I missed out on contributing to the first edition, for the second, I got to write pieces for SurvivorGundam M.S.War, Cardcaptors, and the long-running Christian CCG Redemption.  I still pull out my copy of this from time to time just to browse through all the interesting games that were made during the first decade of the hobby.  It really is a nice look at the history of the game genre!

While I can't put my hands on most of my Scrye work, I did manage to pick up a back issue (#54, October 2002) for a pretty good price off of eBay a little while back; thanks to the site Scrye Notes, which catalogs covers and tables of contents for the publication, I was pretty sure I had a couple of articles in it.  Turns out there were three of 'em!  For your reading pleasure way to pass the time:

PDF can be found here.

PDF is here.

And...a PDF is here.

I do like that I have a couple of my favorite articles I wrote for the magazine, on the Slowpoke family and Magic's 15-card Highlander format.

Also...a tiny little thing that I find very interesting to look back on...if you do actually read the Slowpoke article, you may notice that I use the word "wrecker" to describe Slowking in Pokémon's Unlimited format.  That is not a word I've always used.  Wanna know where I picked it up?

Well, the 15-card Highlander article was based largely on what I learned about the format from former pro Magic player David Sutcliffe, with whom I interacted some at the Casual Players Alliance.  Here is an archived version of an article he wrote on the format long ago, and more importantly, here is the CPA thread where we discuss it.  In it, David (aka Gizmo) says, "Anything that mills is very strong - Vision Charm is a wrecker" (emphasis mine).

So...thank you, David Sutcliffe, for apparently adding a word to my CCG vocabulary!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

2 Tone Tuesday: A Message to You Rudy

One of the most iconic songs of the 2 Tone era (although a cover of a much older Jamaican song)...

Friday, May 22, 2020

More free stuff for you while you're in your bunker...

I've posted a few times about stuff related to my friend and...seriously, if I haven't stressed it of the nicest human beings you could ever hope to meet, J.R. Mounts.  I mentioned him when he was nominated for a Dragon Award, when I posted my OSR Card-caster class, when I've shown off some fun beasts that he created for me...

...also when he illustrated my little Christmas adventure...

...and when I posted about the Lego war game I worked on a long time ago that he was also kind enough to do art for...

...and, well, probably a number of other times.  He has a tag here on Monstrous Matters, and when I list things like this, it makes me wonder if I've asked him to do too much free work for me...!

Several years ago, J.R. took the plunge and started working full time as an indie cartoonist, which...while I know it hasn't been easy for him...I would argue has made the world a better place thanks to the rest of us getting to see more of the unique perspectives of J.R.  He has some TMNT-level ideas in his work that we'd all hear about if they were given exposure at the right time and place.  I even got to design a couple of card games for his properties and help him show them at Gen Con, which was a dream come true in itself.  (More on these games to come on here as I continue to talk about all of the half-worthwhile things I've ever managed to accomplish...!)

J.R. has recently put out a couple of highly regarded graphic novels and has a really fun comic strip called Scairy Tales, but I would say that the thing he is probably best known for is being "the pickle guy."  Here's the hard-boiled protagonist of his Fried Pickle Noir series, Q. Cumbersome.

J.R. describes FPN as "Sin City Meets Veggie Tales," and it is not to be ignored.  Especially if you like puns.  And the great thing is, during the COVID-19 quarantine, J.R. has made a bunch of his work free for all in .pdf!

If you're looking for something a bit off the beaten path...whatever your beaten path is, can simply find J.R. Mounts (by that full name) on Facebook and shoot him a message for access to a folder filled with wacky stuff he's worked on (full disclosure...and even some stuff that I've worked on).

Also, if you'd just like to see more of what J.R. is all about, you can check out his DeviantArt page here.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Geeky SKAturday: Check out my band, y'all.

Continuing the theme I ventured into earlier this week, in which I make myself feel good by sharing stuff I've done over the years...although this one is a little more timely, because...well, I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on the blog here, but strange things happen during a quarantine.

So around 20 years ago, I played in a ska band in middle Georgia. We were called the Macon Blue Beat Combo, and we were pretty darn low profile, but our shows were somewhat successful in bringing in a fair number of students from a local college (where we met, where pretty much all of our friends were, and where our singer was and is a, the math added up).  In 1999, we scraped together the money to quickly record what was essentially a demo.  It's always had some big flaws (mostly in my drumming) that have often made it tough for me to listen to.  However, we did make some CDs out of it that we sold at shows and were EXTREMELY lucky for the Toasters' Bucket Hingley to actually put one of the songs on his and DJ Chuck Wren's Still Standing ska compilation in 2003.

Fast forward to the COVID-19 quarantine...a friend of ours who is now a news producer in Chicago is enjoying some comforting tunes from her past and decides to work one onto the air:

A few weeks later, and Liz is nice enough to do it again with another song she felt fit the day...

Somewhat hilariously, the members of the band all realized that, other than maybe the song on the comp, none of us could put our hands on any of the music that we recorded.  Luckily, our other organized friend Amanda came through with 20-year-old MP3s she could still locate.  So, I went ahead and put most of 'em up on YouTube such that they won't be completely lost to history.

If you're so inclined, you can click here to be taken to the band's YouTube page.  And if you're not, here's what I think is the song that probably came out the best in our approach to recording (the second song above):

If you do check 'em out, thank you(!), and please be honest but kind...with time and money, there's a lot we'd do differently...!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

2 Tone Tuesday: Special Brew

I've decided to let Tuesdays be a day to remind myself that as much as I love traditional '60s Jamaican ska and modern music in that style, there are times I could probably convince myself that I love its late-'70s (largely British) descendant even more.  My AM work was accompanied by a pretty killer 2 tone mix.  Here's one of my favorites from this morning...hopefully it'll brighten someone else's day as well...