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 only...no 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 bobble...er, 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 surprisingly...no 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 not...it 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.  But...no 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 was...wow, 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 enough...one 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, honestly...you 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 professor...so, 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...

Monday, May 11, 2020

Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric

I'm planning on making a tab up top for a page where I can put info on nerdy stuff I've done that doesn't show up on DriveThruRPG.  Oh wait...what's that you're saying?  Narcissistic?  Why, yes, thank you.

Anyway, here's one of the first things I want to share...Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric and Fight On!.

When I first discovered the OSR, I thought Fight On! magazine was just about the coolest thing going.  Around that time, I had an idea for an RPG-themed comic strip (Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric) and was lucky enough to find an awesome artist (Kelvin Green) to team up with me for contribution to the fanzine.  I had stuff printed in issues 10-14 (although one of the comics was pretty much all Kelvin...can't say I earned that byline at all)...a comic in each, and a short article in the last issue about a science fantasy RPG campaign premise (working as agents of a modern organization known as the CROwN - this also featured awesome artwork from Kelvin, btw).

If you dig old school roleplaying, there's probably a lot you'll like in Fight On!  Although it seems to have faded away around 2015, the magazine's website can still be found here, and its Lulu store is here.  Also, issue #14 didn't seem to make it to the site, but its RPG.net announcement can be found here.

Kelvin has posted a number of Doxy episodes over on his creative works site.  The art and good jokes are his, the lame jokes are mine.

Also, for whatever it's worth, I had no idea of the meaning of the word doxy when I came up with the name.  I actually just liked it because it often gets used as shorthand for the antibiotic doxycycline, and I thought it sounded like a silly name for a cleric.  I guess I was right.

Saturday, May 9, 2020


As I often do a lot more than is beneficial to my life in general, I've been pondering a game setting lately that may or may not ever make it onto a table or screen of mine.  It's based on a sort of nostalgia for a specific era, but mostly influenced by properties that I wasn't actually all that into during that era...it's only later that they've come to be representative of that time for me.  Wow...that was convoluted...

Okay, let's start with TRON.  I was aware of TRON when I was a kid, had an action figure, may have even played the arcade game...but I don't think I actually saw the movie until I was an adult.  I love (or at least very much like) the film now, though, and its aesthetic is as representative of the 80s for me as G.I. Joe, He-Man, or any of a number of other universes that I was deeply immersed in at the time.

Similarly, I didn't play classic roguelikes back when they were first breaking ground in computer gaming (although I did play the also-classic and at least superficially similar Castle Adventure as a kid).  Over my adulthood, however, I've gained a great respect for the genre and the devotion shown by its fans, and the ASCII art (especially representing D&D-esque fantasy) has also taken on a certain nostalgic feel for me.

Screenshot from NetHack, a classic roguelike

I've come to love the idea of combining these two themes...the "Inside a Computer System" trope of TRON with the old school dungeoncrawling of Rogue...into a single retro-tinged game setting.  Now, I'll note that from what I know, Fantasy Flight Games' Virtual setting from their Horizon line of d20 books did this in a way, reskinning a lot of D&D 3.5 elements as being possible due to taking place inside a computer where all sorts of "magic" is available.  So...I should maybe pick that up at some point to make sure I'm not ripping things off too directly.

I really think the aesthetics are a big part of this for me.  I like the idea of maps' being built on the ASCII template of the game, and even as you zoom in to smaller scenes, maintaining the retro character feel.  So, I could take freely available art like this goblin/imp...

Image by Lorc from Game-icons.net, licensed under CC BY 3.0.

...and use an ASCII art generator to generate flavorful art for the game...

I suppose this might get repetitive after a while, but I think it could also do really cool things for immersion.

There are so many directions a story set here could go, as well.  I imagine it being a TRON-style world of apparently sentient programs existing within a computer, and somehow - either through their own natural evolution of sorts, or from influence by roguelike games - the programs are in this retrodigital, pseudomedieval world full of multilevel dungeons.  Maybe that's what "the Grid" gets called here: the Dungeon.  TRON's users - humans who interact with the grid - could be called Rogues in homage...and there are probably some fun options that play with the fact that the @ symbol traditionally represents the protagonist (and other human characters).  Perhaps some are true Rogues...some are actually nonsentient programs that can pass a Turing test...I dunno, seems wide open, honestly!

Friday, May 1, 2020

In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of...

The Sun Belt Conference baseball tourney would be set to begin in Montgomery, AL, on May 19.  I thought my new baseball scorebook was going to be delivered today...which would be a key piece toward getting my own version of it using a simple, homebrewed tabletop baseball simulation underway.  It didn't arrive yet, but the more key piece is actually getting all the teams in the league statted out, anyway, and I'm still dragging on that.  I do think I've nailed down most of the final details to make the game as fully playable as I expect it to be, though.

For documentation's sake, the new rules are below.  As a recap from my last post (sample player stats can be found in that blog entry)...

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.

New additions:

1.  Stolen Bases - Every player now gets a Speed rating of A, B, or C.  For now, I'm just using a quick-and-dirty method to determine this based on their number of stolen bases per trip to first.  Ratings A-B-C successfully steal on d% rolls of 75-65-55.

2.  Sacrifice Bunts - If the at-bat's first d100 roll is a HR or "In Play," the sacrifice bunt has successfully moved the runner(s) over.

3.  Sacrifice Flies - Keeping this one really simple.  Runners score from third on any outs to the outfield.

4.  The Big d100 Table of Randomness - This is the one that's going to take me a little more time to work out, as well.  I want a big table to roll on whenever a 100 is rolled in the game, for somewhat rare events like balks, weather delays, and fights.  I'll post it when it's done!

I'm also thinking I need to get something in there to model pitchers' tiring out.  Maybe I should just have a consistent 6-2-1 pattern for innings pitched by the starter and relievers...?  Or even 6-1-1-1...?  One of those could work...

Once again, everybody stay safe out there!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Because I probably haven't left much of a paper trail...

...I figured I should document my piracy and copyright infringement digitally.  I've started a page to collect the things that I'd like to keep available for public consumption but that aren't fully mine to publish for one reason or another.

You can check it out with the "IP infringement" tab above or by clicking HERE.  Right now, it just includes War Games for Boy Scouts, Ghosthackers, and a Steel Monsters minicomic, but there may be more on the way eventually.

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.


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!


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

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

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


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...!