Saturday, April 4, 2020

Horrors and heroes, hot off the press!

Seems like lots of folks are getting in on the sharing of free stuff to make quarantining at home a little more bearable, or at least trying to shine a light on things that others are doing to help.  While I will point out that everything I've put up on DriveThruRPG is free so far, I'm not plugging anything there today.  Not directly, anyway.  No, there are two RPG releases have caught my eye lately that I wanted to spotlight just in case my post can raise their signals a little.


The first is by awesome gaming blogger and all-around great guy Justin Isaac from Halls of the Nephilim, who has written the horror game Slashers & Survivors - Slashcan Edition as a spiritual successor to his game Slashers & Victims.  While the earlier release was a quick-playing, rules-light game that first appeared as an add-on for Swords & Wizardry Light, this new one is...well, still pretty quick-playing and rules-light, but based on the engine of Bloat Games' dark fantasy RPG The Blackest of Deaths.

He's included a bunch of the trademarks of slasher films to help you craft a bloody horror game just how you like it.  Part of the idea with this new release seems to be that you may want to string together scenarios into a slasher campaign, rather than just run one-shots as Slashers & Victims might have been used most often.  This contrast makes me really enjoy the wording of the games' titles (in addition to "slashcan" being a cool word!).

Also, this is just a preview of sorts...there's a full version on the way!  In addition, Justin is currently statting up horror characters for the game in his April A-Z Blogging Challenge efforts over at the Halls.


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The second game for today's spotlight is something that I'm especially happy to share.  Quite a while back, Justin (the same Justin from above) and I published a series of titles for Light City, a hack of Swords & Wizardry Light for superheroic roleplaying.  One of these publications was The Assembly, designed as a quick-start add-on for the already quick SWL base game.  Well, a somewhat mysterious RPG author I know only as "soner du" from comments on here...so that may or may not be his name AND he may or may not be "he," as I am basing that only on his Blogger avatar...has taken The Assembly, added levels to the classes, thrown in a smattering of other stuff Justin and I produced, added his own original content, and translated the whole thing into French!

Even with the very limited French I remember from eighth grade, I can tell this is an awesome addition to the Light City canon.  It's a complete game in itself, which definitely inspires me to want to produce the same sort of thing in English at some point.  I can also tell that the author is (A) very good with small details...which you can see in moves like reordering the results of the 1d6 roll for The Marksman's specialty weapon so they're still alphabetical in French; and (B) not looking for much attention, since I'm not even sure of his name, and he only lists me, Justin, and Erik from Tenkar's Tavern (who created Swords & Wizardry Light) as authors - even though the new contributions are significant!

You can pick up Light City - L'Assemblée over at DriveThruRPG and on Lulu.  Oh yeah...the most exciting part about it is probably the back cover, which is a teaser for an upcoming book of magic for Light City called La Congrégation.  I can't wait to see this new addition to the Light City Multiverse!


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I hope you're all passing your socially distant time in enjoyable ways...stay safe!

Friday, March 27, 2020

I'll make a cup of coffee for your head

As is probably obvious from some of the stuff I've posted on this blog, I'm old and don't always understand new and interesting things.  For example...TikTok.

As you may know because you're more capable of absorbing the nuances of an ever-changing world than I am, TikTok is a new social media platform built on videos of 15 seconds or less.  My wife loves it.  My coworkers love it.  It's hilarious.  You can spend hours scrolling through it.

I just don't get it.  Maybe I just haven't seen the right stuff yet.  The percentage of of videos that are interesting seems far too low to make it worth the effort.  But...again, I suppose I just don't get it.


Okay, so...there is this one song that I kept hearing my wife come across on the app, and it kept sticking with me.  Quite an earworm, really, especially for what is essentially just the melodic hook for a lofi hip hop song.  All I had to use in searching for it were the lyrics "I'll make a cup of coffee for your head" and the fact that it's used a lot on TikTok.  This was more than enough, and there's a nice little history to the song, but I didn't find it gathered all in one place for easy access.  So, that's what this page is for...the person like me who wants to know what's behind the tune but doesn't know where to start.

First off, here's the song that's being used, "death bed" by Canadian rapper Powfu, sampling the song "Coffee" by Filipino-British singer-songwriter Beeabadoobee:


Here's a selection of TikTok videos (I guess they're called TikToks...? maybe...?) that use it.  FAIR WARNING:  I don't necessarily recommend watching this entire video as a good use of your time.  However, to reiterate, I just don't get it...but oh man I just found myself watching one after the other and maybe I'm starting to get it...


Powfu first released the song in 2019, putting it on SoundCloud.  In 2020, it started getting used a ton on TikTok and was finally released commercially (I guess in that order).  Powfu apparently waited because he didn't think he could legally use the Beabadoobee sample in the beat, which he had found on SoundCloud from producer Otterpop.  Here's that beat:


This backing track, entitled "Don't Go to Bed/One Day I'll Be Fine," is also used in rapper Kalvonix's song "One Day I'll Be Fine," which seems to have already been released in 2018...so I guess it predates "death bed?"


Now, that hook.  It's a slightly sped up (and higher pitched) clip from Beeabadoobee's 2017 song "Coffee," which is beautiful:


Here's a fun live version:


Finally, if you'd like to hear more from Powfu about his thoughts on the song...here you go...


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Revisiting an obsession of 13-year-old me

Strange times lead to strange activities.

Ah...who am I kidding, this isn't a strange activity for me at all.  I've mentioned before that I enjoy following sports (especially those of my Georgia State Panthers) and, like pretty much everything I enjoy, I occasionally follow its threads to their obsessive and geeky ends.  (That's shown up in, say, the 1d6-skill-system-based football microgame I worked on way back when.)

So, you may have noticed that sports aren't really going on right now (although I saw a rumor that maybe they'll be playing baseball in South Korea...?).  In a strange way, it's almost seemed to me like a tiny contribution I could make to the world, to fill that void in a very small way that I can control.  In thinking about this, I've drifted back to one of the first games I ever put real effort into designing, a baseball simulation that I worked on back when I was around 13 (the reason I bought my first-ever "funny dice").

This isn't a complicated "simulation" at all.  It's just a d100-based resolution system in which the results of each at-bat can be determined by one or two rolls.  It uses a "50-50 method" of following the pitcher's stats half of the time and the batter's the other half...which I found out in reading around lately is a somewhat controversial paradigm among those who enjoy tabletop baseball games like Strat-O-Matic (which might have to be a post for another time).

For each at-bat, just roll a d100.  If the result is 1-50, check the pitcher’s table; if it’s greater than 50, check the batter’s. Finally, if the result is “In Play”, roll another d100, check it on the hitter’s “In Play” table, and resolve the play.


Image by Cindy Jones from Pixabay.

Some examples with a GSU batter and pitcher:

Merejo, Elian
GSU – LF

---
98-100 HR
87-97 BB
78-86 K
51-77 In Play
---
In Play
86-100 2B
41-85 1B
36-40 OUT (fly 9)
31-35 OUT (fly 8)
26-30 OUT (fly 7)
24-25 OUT (fly 6)
21-23 OUT (ground 6)
19-20 OUT (fly 5)
16-18 OUT (ground 5)
14-15 OUT (fly 4)
11-13 OUT (ground 4)
9-10 OUT (fly 3)
6-8 OUT (ground 3)
4-5 OUT (fly 1)
1-3 OUT (ground 1)


Watson, Ryan
GSU – P

---
19-50 In Play
16-18 HR
12-15 BB
11 HBP
1-10 K


Results:


First AB: First roll is a 9. Check Watson’s table...Strikeout.

Second AB: First roll is a 61. Check Merejo’s table...In Play. Second roll is a 22...ground out to SS.

Third AB: First roll is an 89. Check Merejo’s table...Walk.



I'm just working out some rules for stealing bases and need to write out what I see as the most reasonable way to resolve baserunners' advancing in different situations, and I think it'll be complete enough for now.  I have a spreadsheet going that turns stats into player tables pretty easily, and my plan is to play out the conference championship tournament that we won't end up getting this year.

More to come.

Stay safe out there!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Party at Ground Zero: The New Normal?

So, life...it's different, eh?

I am actually very lucky in that I have a job that has to continue, working for an organization that's established enough to weather some tough times, in a capacity that doesn't require a lot of face-to-face interaction with humans (just canines).

But working with a skeleton crew...keeping my distance from the few other folks around...and not knowing what restrictions tomorrow might bring...well, it's all pretty weird.

Not my dog; from this article.

I spent some of yesterday morning playing a few of my favorite post-apocalyptic tunes while I worked.  I still think this one is the best...


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

MTG Monday: Let's talk planeswalking

Because "Monday" and "Magic" both start with M, it seems like a good day for me to try consistently posting thoughts related to one of my favorite games (maybe my absolute favorite), Magic: The Gathering.  I have a lot of thoughts on it that usually just sit around in my head, so why not write them down here?  And, I mean, they both start with MIt's just too perfect.

So, around...wow, 13 years ago?  Man, I'm old...okay, so around 13 years ago, the makers of Magic took the storyline on a sharp turn and began to focus more on the setting's planeswalkers, the powerful individuals who are capable of traveling among the various fantasy realms in which the game takes place.  There were already some pretty cool pieces to the lore (I have fond memories of the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria), but most of the stories at the time focused on characters other than planeswalkers.  With the shift, planeswalkers were powered down to become more relatable, and they became the stars of the show.

Karn way back in the day.  He would go on to become a planeswalker.  A really powerful one.

This makes a lot of sense, since the premise of the game is that you take on the role of a powerful planeswalker battling another using your customized spellbooks.  It's also made me think a lot more about what it means to planeswalk.

The various planes of Magic are a lot like the D&D multiverse.  They all share a certain classic fantasy vibe, but they all also have their thing.  Innistrad is classic horror, Zendikar is adventureland, Eldraine is fairy tales + Camelot, and so on.  It's a nice way to keep things fresh from set to set and year to year, and the planeswalking protagonists and villains tie it all together.

Seriously, I've always thought Karn was a cool character.  I mean, a pacifistic planeswalking golem...

One thing that I've always grappled with, though, is why all of the worlds these planeswalkers happen to end up on have so many similarities.  Don't get me wrong...there's a lot of variation from, say, Kaladesh to Amonkhet to Ixalan to Ravnica.  But they're still worlds that feel like they belong in Magic sets.  There are wizards.  Usually humans.  Often goblins.  Why don't they ever planeswalk to the bridge of the Enterprise?  Or the middle of a battle between Mew and Mewtwo?  Or a superhero-filled Earth?  It seems like there must be something that ties these worlds together in a very specific way, and what makes the most sense to me (at the moment, anyway) is the magical mana upon which the game is based...specifically the five colors that represent five different philosphies and sets of values.
I didn't make this graphic.  I wish I did.

But how might this work?  So lately, I've been enjoying having my mind blown by watching and listening to a variety of shows and videos that try to break down concepts of modern physics for idiots like me.  Something that's really caught my attention lately is the idea of eternal inflation.  I won't pretend to really understand it, but the basic premise seems to be a Big Bang that just keeps on expanding, with universes constantly being formed in bubbles along the way, like holes in a growing block of Swiss cheese...or, maybe, like the planes of Magic.

I think most of us have also seen graphics that illustrate the connection of one point in spacetime to another by turning that 4-dimenstional concept into a flat...er, plane...and bending it.  Something like this:

The page I stole this from said this image is public domain, but I have my doubts.

Of course, to get that kind of warping, you need something REALLY massive or REALLY fast.  Or both.  If I understand it correctly.  And then if you consider that you might be reaching across spacetime not just within your own universe, but to an entirely different bubble in the multiverse...well, maybe you have to have something bending reality together from both sides.  Maybe even something that doesn't necessarily have mass or velocity, but which holds enough energy to act like oodles of both.  Like...mana!  Thus, if you're planeswalking using magic powered by mana, you'll only end up in another part of the multiverse that is similarly flush with this reality-warping substance.

That's how I see it right now, anyway.  I'll hopefully have more armchair geek-physics on the way soon...

Oh man...it just became Tuesday.  I'm still hitting "publish"...

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Space Fantasy News: Ocean worlds in the headlines

Some of this "news" is more than a week old now, but I thought it was cool to see a little "ocean world" theme in my internet wanderings over the past several days.  First, on February 27, the University of Cambridge announced that a group of astronomers there had assessed planet K2-18b, just 124 light years away and between the size of Earth and Neptune, to be potentially habitable.  This report from ScienceAlert plays up the possibility of a very watery surface: "It opens up a whole new ballgame of sloshy alien planets."

Obviously, that makes me think of...

From starwars.com.

It is pretty interesting to see the researchers make statements like: "Our results demonstrate that the potential for habitable conditions is not necessarily restricted to Earth-like rocky exoplanets."  If you're so inclined, you can find the original paper here.

Of course, we live on a pretty watery world ourselves...and a paper has just come out supporting the idea that at one point, our homeworld may have been completely (or almost completely) covered by ocean.  Once again, ScienceAlert has a nice article focusing on that aspect of the work.

If you'd like to see more about ocean worlds, NASA has a nice page about them.  (Did you know that most of our ocean water may have come from asteroids?  I didn't...)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Where does 1d6 skill resolution originate?


In finally following up a bit on exploring some sort of OSR-based framework as a basis for the action figure combat game I'm currently calling Project 5.5, I've realized how much I like the idea of "X in 6" task resolution in games.  As in...the door to the next room of the dungeon is stuck, I have a 2 in 6 chance of opening it, I roll a 3, it's still stuck.  I suppose Lamentations of the Flame Princess is the main system I've ever played that used it extensively, and while I'm not all-in on skill systems that don't modify the required roll according to the specifics of the situation (an issue that's easily remedied, of course...and I don't doubt LotFP actually has some guidelines for this), there's just something about the simplicity of rolling a regular old d6 and knowing you need to hit a target number or lower to succeed.

For one thing, there's something about it that feels really old school to me.  And I don't really know why that's the case.

I think I've noted on this blog before that I didn't play most of what we now think of as "old school" RPGs during their first run in the spotlight.  I didn't really become what I'd call a tabletop gamer until a bit later in life than many of my current gaming friends and acquantances, essentially cutting my roleplaying teeth on Risus and 3rd/3.5 era D&D.  Well...maybe Risus is kind of old school.  It is not, however, old school D&D, which is clearly the shared DNA that connects most of the OSR.

In other words, it's not like I enjoy those 1d6 roll-under checks because they remind me of the way I used to game way back in the day.  And so I started wondering recently...where does that feeling that "X in 6" fits my idea of old school gaming come from?  Is it just because LotFP, one of my favorite retroclones, uses it for skills?  Is it the ad hoc nature of an "X in 6 chance" declaration that makes the system fit into the "rulings not rules" mindset I associate with old school gaming?

I really don't know...AND I'm legitimately looking for insight from anyone reading this into (1) whether I'm alone in thinking this sort of task resolution feels very old school for some reason, and (2) where this may originate.  I'm pretty sure I'm not alone, as it seems I've come across its use quite often in the OSR realm, including complete approaches to implementation like this one over at the blog Blood, Death, Satan, & Metal.

Where it originates is a bit trickier.  I've found where the work has been put into demonstrating how "X in 6" is built into B/X D&D.  But was it found much in the three OD&D booklets?  Did early modules influence its use?  I'd definitely like to find out a bit more about the roots of these rolls...!

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Biggest Thing to Happen in Gaming in 2019!

Time for me to reveal the Biggest Thing to Happen in Gaming last year!  For me, that is.  Not for the world at large.  Or...actually, it's somewhere in between.  This is the thing that had an impact on the scene that is gaming (all of it...computers, cards, dice, meeples, rock, paper, scissors...I'm treating it all as one big entity) that also had a big impact on me.

So it isn't something like, "I randomly ran a WEG Star Wars adventure for a couple of friends from work, and it was a blast."  That was a big event for me, but had little impact on gaming as a whole.

It also isn't something like the release of Fantasy Flight Games' Marvel Champions: The Card Game, which looks to be a highly regarded addition to the customizable card game family, with a killer license, awesome production, and lots of fans.  I think it'd be something that's right up my alley.  But...I've never played it.  I think it's big, just not for me.  (Yet, at least.)

Nope, it's somewhere in between those two.  And...it's a tie.

The Biggest Thing(s) to Happen in Gaming in 2019...


1A:  The rise of Oathbreaker



While it had been around for a couple of years, it wasn't until 2019 that most of us in the Magic: The Gathering-playing world heard of Oathbreaker, a variant of the Commander/EDH format that uses a Planeswalker card as the leader of your deck, along with a single "signature spell" that they can cast when on the battlefield.  It uses 60-card decks and 20 life, can easily be played 1v1 or multiplayer, and is flavorful, fun, and often fast enough to be completed over lunch.  The last two years have seen me venture back into MTG after going too many years getting in too few games, and Oathbreaker has really caught my attention as a format of choice.

It gained a lot of steam this year.  (The Planeswalker-themed set War of the Spark surely helped!)  I suppose time will tell if it has the staying power of its "parent" format, but I definitely think there's a possibility it will.

And then there's...

1B:  The rise of auto battlers



When I was much younger, I really enjoyed video games and was often looking to play the next big thing.  However, it has been a very long time since I have been anywhere close to actually playing the next big thing.  Somewhere around the end of the era that people talked about how many bits were in their consoles, my fingers quit understanding the way modern video games worked.  I've always paid some amount of attention to the video game industry and the popular games at the time, but other than digital card games (which I generally love, but whose video-gameyness could be debated), I've rarely played them.

Then came Auto Chess.  Born as a mod for the MOBA Dota 2 (and apparently somewhat based upon an old Warcraft 3 custom map involving battling Pokemon), Auto Chess spawned an entire genre of game (the auto battler) in which players spend round after round building a team to fight one of the other competitors at random until just one is left standing.  I'd try to give more detail into how these games typically function, but whenever I do, it just makes them sound like a weird exercise in resource management and matching like items, which...I guess they kind of are.  I really have very little idea how to explain why these things are so addictive, but I can tell you that as soon as I finish one game, I'm pretty much ready to start the next one to see if a good strategy holds up or if I can improve upon a bad one.

There's a good bit of info out there on the net for these games.  My personal favorite at the moment is Chess Rush, but the biggest names in the game are probably Teamfight Tactics (using League of Legends characters), Dota Underlords (the official Dota entry), Auto Chess (made by the creators of the original Dota mod, and the source of the picture above), and Hearthstone Battlegrounds (a more recent entry that builds on the card game's engine).  For the first time in...decades, probably...I was playing a non-card-based video game that was the buzz of the gaming world.

Although...the genre is arguably about as close to being a card game as a "true" video game can get without actually involving digital cards.  A discussion for another time, I suppose.

Happy New Year, everyone...here's to an awesome 2020!