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
Survivor
Cardcaptor Sakura
DragonElves

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, 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

Retrocyberdungeonpunk

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!