Saturday, April 27, 2024

Geeky SKAturday: The Toasters

Last weekend, we got to go to This Is Not Croydon Fest, a ska festival near Philadelphia.  Good stuff; we're lucky to get to go and I'd love for it to happen every year.

One of the highlights was getting to see ska veterans The Toasters, who I always enjoy.  Here they are last Sunday taking on maybe my favorite Toasters song, "Thrill Me Up."  (I love recording video at shows but realized lately that instead of capturing 20 seconds apiece of like 7 separate tunes, I should maybe try to get some complete songs.  This is one toward that effort...)

The Toasters are especially interesting to me for a couple of reasons.  For one, they've been doing this a long time.  Well...their guitarist and lead singer, Robert Hingley aka Bucket...has been doing it a long time.  He came to the United States to run the Forbidden Planet comic shop in NYC, founded the Toasters in 1981, then founded legendary label Moon Ska Records in 1983.  It would not be an overstatement to say that Bucket may have had a greater impact on the spread of ska in the U.S. than any other single person.  And...he put my old band on a ska compilation album back in 2003 and will always have a special place in my heart for letting us amateurs take part in something so awesome.  He's a really nice guy who still works the merch table and talks with fans!

Second...the music of The Toasters represents a lot of what I find intriguing about the idea of ska as an RPG theme.  You know what...the more I think about this, the more I think I should probably spend a whole post on it sometime, but I'll just note that the musical and visual aesthetic they've grown over the years kind of feels like an adventure story...AND the fact that they're OGs in the American ska scene helps to minimize the worry that indulging in those themes unfairly caricatures things other people hold dear.
Okay...finally, a Sound for the Rudie.

Great song here.  Gonna straight up lift a well-known D&D element for it (from White Box FMAG)...

Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down

1st-level Sound

Range: Self
Duration: 1 hour

The caster creates a magical field of protection around themself to block out all evil monsters, who suffer a -1 penalty “to-hit” against the caster, and the caster gains +1 on all saving throws against such attacks.  (What makes them "evil?"  Well, if they're the bad guys, of course...)

Thursday, April 25, 2024

On preparing adventures for the Ghostbusters RPG

With my mind on a lot of things lately related to West End Games' classic RPG Ghostbusters, I was thinking of putting together a blog entry offering some of the lessons I've learned when I've run the game (maybe my favorite RPG to run!).

However, I recently noticed that over at Cannibal Halfling Gaming, they're in the midst of a really interesting series of articles on Spooktacular adventure writing that can complement and probably supersede anything I would have to offer on the topic.  In case you aren't familiar (and I'm guessing most people aren't...?), Spooktacular is a sort of retroclone of Ghostbusters with a few changes (arguably for better or worse) and, of course, with the serial numbers mostly filed off.  (It's one of a number of games that have tried to tap into the spirit of the old Ghostbusters game for a modern audience, and from what I can tell, it looks like it does a pretty good job.  It's even accompanied by an SRD for a ruleset called Sixtacular to encourage others to publish compatible works!)

Part 1 was posted on April 5 and gives some background on Ghostbusters and Spooktacular, while Part 2 begins to prepare us for successful adventure writing with some interesting thoughts on what a lot of us get wrong about preparing to run an RPG.  I think I'll need to brush up on some Forge-style RPG philosophy to get the full impact, but I really like the directions we're taken by author Sabrina TVBand.  I'm looking forward to the closing entry on May 3!  Maybe I'll even get around to writing up my thoughts in some sort of "tips and tricks" form.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Did the Ghostbusters RPG influence Magic: The Gathering?

As conversions among game systems are almost an obsessive focus of daydreaming for me, I have noted at various times in my life that attempts to transform Magic: The Gathering stats into roleplaying numbers often feel more correct with a dice pool system like D6 (as seen in Ghostbusters and WEG Star Wars, for example) than with the d20-based systems I've probably played the most (D&D and its offshoots and clones).

With this in mind, and with the additional fact that MTG and the Ghostbusters RPG are two of my absolute favorite games ever, I thought it was cool to hear RPG legend Sandy Petersen note in the interview below (from Ghostbusters, Virginia) that the resolution system pioneered in Ghostbusters was a potential influence on Magic!

(Should be cued up to about the right time in the video...MTG is mentioned at around 5:30...)

Anyone have any insight on this?  Heard this before?  Thought this before?  I'm pretty sure I've read S. John Ross cite Ghostbusters as a big influence on Risus (another game with a formative influence on me), but I can't recall seeing Richard Garfield mention it.

(I hope it's clear that I'm asking this not to challenge the veracity of the claim, but honestly kind of hoping there's more evidence or just speculation about this connection out there.  I think I found this video by specifically searching for threads connecting the two games...!)

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Remembering Celery, 2010-2024

I started 2024 with -- relative to my usual blogging output -- a bit of a bang.  And then I fell off...for a variety of reasons, one of which I'm about to mention...but I'd like to get rolling again.  There's one item I absolutely need to talk about first, however.

Celery and her custom blanket (thanks Joan!)

I've involved our girl Celery in my geek stuff on this blog before.  HERE she is statted out as a Super-Pet for Light City (as Princess Celery), for example...and HERE she is with her siblings and couple of my 'mons.  And depending on how you're reading this, there may be a picture of her, with a cap on backwards, over to the right as my profile pic.

Princess Celery

On Wednesday, 2/28/24, we had to let Celery go...crossing the rainbow bridge, as they a well-deserved peaceful final rest.  Not knowing exactly where this little tribute is going to go, I'm assuming I'm going to I want to lay out my thesis:  The world is a better place because Celery was in it.  The world is a worse place without Celery in it.  Celery did more for the happiness of the universe than most humans; when my end comes, if I can feel like I brought half the goodness to the beings of the world that Celery did, it will be a life well spent.

I have never seen an animal have the impact Celery had.  I realize, of course, that I'm biased...she was part of our family for about 13 years and during that time became arguably the "flagship" dog of the Linneman household.  Our love for Celery is unbounded.  It's been especially hard on Laura, who truly was Celery's primary partner in almost every adventure.  But...Celery's impact went way beyond that.

And now, I guess I'll just brag about my dog for a bit.  But where to start?

Okay...see that picture at the top of this post, with the Celery blanket?  About five years ago, when Laura and I worked at the ASPCA's Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in North Carolina, a highly fearful dog who came through the program (a little Chihuahua-thing named Helen) got away from her new family and was lost in New Jersey.  Because Laura was Helen's favorite person in NC and Celery was one of her favorite dogs, the two of them made a trip to Jersey to help secure her return.  They stayed with a very kind person connected to the animal rescue that Helen was adopted from.

A little while after returning to NC (with Helen eventually recovered safely not long after they returned!), a package arrived at work addressed to Celery Linneman.

As you might imagine, this was unusual.  Inside was the blanket above, sent by her wonderful new NJ friend that they stayed with.  Our girl had such an impact that she had a blanket made especially for her by someone she only met for a few days!

(Also, know how many pieces of mail came to me at the Behavior Rehab Center?  Zero.)

With Ruffles, who was absolutely obsessed with Celery...

The Behavior Rehab Center (or BRC, as I'll call it now that I realize I'm going to be typing it out repeatedly) was truly a place for Celery's gifts to shine.  She came to work with us often and served as a "helper dog" in treatments for others who were profoundly frightened of humans.  It's amazing how much scared dogs can learn from situations where they're with a dog that they love who also happens to love all the big scary people around.  Sometimes, it was determined that these extremely fearful animals had little opportunity for a reasonable and happy life in this world built for humans (or would potentially be a danger to people or other animals).  While they were certainly the saddest parts of her job (for us), there were a number of times that Celery's companionship was enlisted to make the euthanasia process as comfortable as possible, by providing support in the dogs' final hours or minutes.  I mean...that's angel stuff.

Celery with goodest boy Goliath at the BRC

There are plenty of really happy stories of Celery's good deeds at the BRC, however.  Her friend and extended Linneman family member Lily Jane, for example, was highlighted by the ASPCA's media team for an article and video about her story.  They had Celery tag along for the photo shoot to support Lily Jane (you can catch her at the end of the video in that link).  And Ruffles, pictured a couple of images up, was a fairly tough nut to crack with her fear.  She eventually had a very happy ending with a foster mom who adopted her and gave her a great life.  And while she was learning to trust people, I'm sure you can guess who her favorite friend and greatest source of comfort was.

Celery with my sweet Tulip (left) and BRC graduate/Tulip's biological mom Lily Jane (middle)

Looking back through some of our pictures of Cel-Bell (did I mention that we often called her Cel-Bell?), I'm realizing that I could talk ad nauseam about Cel's impact (and of course we called her Cel) on other dogs.'s a sampler...

I think maybe we were in NC in this pic...?

I've also mentioned our girl Sunny...who had some profound behavioral issues of her own and needed a good friend such as Celery...before here on Monstrous Matters.  Sunny and Laura took part in nosework competitions.  Celery was her tournament companion and equipment manager.  (I was junior eqipment manager.)

And...oh yeah(!)...Cel also qualified for competitions by passing her odor recognition test for birch!  She truly was a Renaissance dog.  We actually have a video of her passing the test.  (I love how it gets cut short because Laura is so happy for us while filming...)

The Celery/Sunny relationship was a really interesting one to get to observe.  Sunny wasn't a dog who could get along with everyone, canine or (especially) human.  For Celery, meanwhile, a defining feature was the ability to get along with anyone and everyone...canine, human, feline, lupine, musteline, you name it.  She wasn't always a fan...but she was always respectful, a real live and let live type of girl with a tendency to bring her own idea of fun to just about any interaction.

Cel was Sunny's best canine friend (and probably best friend other than Laura)...but over time, Sunny's internal struggles cast a longer and longer shadow over their relationship.  They almost became "frenemies"...Sunny clearly loved her but was also easily tipped into jealousy.  Celery did all she could to defuse the tension and always had 100% trust from us that she wouldn't escalate a situation. angel.

A quick look at a few more of her friendships:

With Murray, another behavioral oddball who found some stress relief in nosework

With previous Linneman flagship dog Angel, whose need for a playful friend was the reason we brought baby Celery home in the first place

With Suki, another sometimes-unpredictable dog picking up life skills at the shelter.  Celery often didn't completely trust her, and I like how in this picture, you can see a tiny bit of concern in Cel's mannerisms, but she was still the kindest girl imaginable.

I guess I could go on forever about what a dog's dog Cel-Bell was, and how much she helped so many other canines, and how amazing it was to watch such a beautiful being's innate gifts move the world in a positive direction.  At some point, though, I have to mention just how great Cel was with humans.  And she was really great with humans!

Celery was a bona fide love from the moment we met her, but as her confidence grew over the years, she reached a whole other level of friendliness.  It's hard to describe what made Celery Celery...she loved attention but was just a cool dog who was willing to let everyone else do their own thing, without judgment.  To the extent that she judged, she usually tried very hard to keep it to herself.

Celery was a certified pet-assisted therapy dog.  In Atlanta, I got to be her handler for most visits we made with the group Happy Tails Pet Therapy.  Here we are on a happy Saturday in September 2011, after both Laura and I qualified with her:

Fall Saturday in the of course that also meant college football...

We would visit a local behavioral health and rehab facility, typically me with Cel and Laura with our girl Dishy (who was certified with Laura but not with me...).  Those are truly some of my best memories with her.  I enjoyed watching her change from a curious-but-kinda-nervous puppy (she was around a year old when we took her home) into a confident working dog ready to take on the tough job of having people tell her how cute she is.  She developed a method of swinging her butt around into a new person's legs when she was introduced to them.  She knew she was there to be petted.

So, a couple of the best memories from her therapy work...the first was once as we were leaving, when she got to meet an extra resident outside as we headed to the car.  She stole a sandwich out of his pocket and ate it.  So much about that memory...that the guy randomly had a sandwich in the pocket of his scrub pants...that she sniffed it out and ate it with no hesitation...and that the dude took it so well...I love it.

The other best memory doesn't even directly involve Cel.  In NC, only Laura was qualified to handle Celery for therapy visits.  One day we were at one of the little touristy sort of stores in downtown Asheville, and the woman behind the counter looked at Laura and said, "You're Celery's mom!"  Having been a resident at the behavioral/rehab facility where Laura and Cel would visit, she happily remembered Laura from her interaction with Celery...maybe months before...even though Cel wasn't even around at the time.  The fact that our girl made that sort of impression...well, of course that made us pretty happy.

Oh, we also discovered pretty early on that Celery was really good at wearing costumes (especially headwear), so we took every opportunity we could to dress her (and Dishy) up.  I know some people hate this...but I don't care, it was adorable, people freakin loved it, and Cel loved the attention.  Here are a few pics from those days:

For Easter

For Halloween, with Dishy

For the potentially problematic celebration that traditionally starts the Holiday Season

From an Atlanta Christmas parade we took part in each year with Happy Tails

Yeah, we were often amazed at how willingly she wore this stuff, too.

At this point, I've paused and restarted the writing process for this blog post so many times that I'm not even sure I've left a coherent thread to be followed from beginning to end.  If you're looking for one that I haven't succeeded in writing...the best I can say is to just take a look at that precious little yellow Labby girl shown in these pictures, and try to imagine a world where we all live up to her standards.  Always happy to see you.  No judgment.  Up for anything.  And just a very, very fun girl.

I know it'll never come as naturally to me as it did for Celery...and that I'm so lucky I got to see it all firsthand.  Man, do we miss this dog.

Being the bestest girl on a train ride

Posing in front of her own advertising photo...maybe Celery's most baller move ever

And here's that photo...the profile pic for "Lydia" as she was shown on the Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption website back in 2011.  On the ride home from the shelter, she ducked her head whenever we went under an overpass.  What a gift to get to see this girl grow...