Thursday, January 28, 2010

The play is the thing...

I feel sorry for folks who aren’t baseball fans.  Not in an I am superior you are inferior manner, more in the sense that there is something truly special in life and damn I wish you could share in it.
For a lot of folks, baseball is nine guys standing around in a grassy field.  There are 3 bases, a home plate and a pitcher’s mound.  One guy is throwing a ball and another guy is crouched down near home plate catching it..  Interrupting this game of catch is a guy with a big stick trying to hit the ball.  If he manages to hit it, the guys out in the field go from standing around to doing something.  Then you rinse and repeat for what seems like forever and eventually we all go home.
If this describes your view of baseball then it’s not surprising the sport is not too exciting, let alone interesting. Baseball is in my opinion the best of all sports and in many ways for me reflects a lot of my philosophy on life.  The odds are stacked against you.  As a batter, you stand alone at the plate facing a guy hurling one of many different pitches into a location only he and the catcher know.  Then you have less the 4 tenths of a second to decide to take a swing or not and most of the time, you are going to guess wrong.  Even if you do manage to guess right and hit the ball, there are 9 guys in the field trying to stop you from reaching first base.  Should you manage to leave home plate and reach base, you now rely on another teammate to get you home again.  Baseball is about failure and consistently attempting to overcome it.  Not quite Sisyphean in aspect, but when you pick up your bat and step into the box, you realize the outcome at least 7 out of 10 times is going to be a walk back into the dugout, and thus failure.  Yet, you gamely pick up your bat and head to the batters box at least 3 times a game, trying your best to beat the odds.  One against nine, odds stacked against you, and you dig in ready to have another go.  Remember there’s no crying in baseball.
Baseball is a game of strategy.  It may look like the pitcher just waits for the catcher to show some odd figure gesture and then he chucks the ball hard trying to fool the batter.  To some extent, yup that’s it-but that’s also like saying a kiss from your wife is the same as one from your grandma.  There are all sorts of different kisses right? There’s the kind you give your grandma, the kind you give your mom, the kind you give to some Euro types as a greeting and the kind you give your spouse.  Trust me, if you’re not giving your spouse or significant other a little extra effort in that kiss, I am here to tell you son you’re doing it wrong and missing out on a lot!  On the other hand if you’re giving your grandma that same kind of effort, I’d recommend you dial it back a few notches.
Like different kinds of kisses, the same is true for pitches.  There’s a pitch your throw to a home run hitter, and there’s a pitch you throw to a fast guy who slaps the ball.  The kind of pitch thrown depends upon the number of different pitches you can throw, the batter being faced, how many times the batter has faced you, how good you feel, which pitch is working, the weather conditions, the number of men on base, the inning, and the score.  Yup that’s a lot of data to figure out before you throw EACH AND EVERY pitch. Then you have to figure out if you are going to pitch it high or low, inside or outside, or maybe you really screw with them and throw them something they could hit. 
Don’t get me wrong, no one is out there with a slide rule and an iPad figuring this out in between pitches, instead it’s simply a hard learned skill or talent. The manager, the pitcher, the catcher and even fielders are all in concert pitch by pitch trying to figure out how best to fool the batter and steer the course of the game to favor their team by making the batter get an out.  So much like a duck swimming, it may look effortless or simple, but there’s a lot of going on under the surface.
That’s just one little aspect of the greatness of baseball.  How about the fact that there is no clock in baseball? There is no arbitrary end to the game based on some sort of time limit. A game lasts 9 innings and each team gets an equal amount of 27 outs, no more-no less.  There is no clock control, not time outs, no time of possession. A game lasts as long as it takes for each team to get 27 outs, and in that way every game is a little story of its own.  There is a beginning, middle, and an end to each game.  In that most American way, each team gets an equality of opportunity (27 outs) but the equality of results is not guaranteed.
Baseball is also all about hope.  The pitcher and catcher hope to get each batter out.  The batter hopes to get on base and score a run, and every spring, every team and baseball fan hopes that this is their year to win it all.  Spring training is coming and I have had baseball on the brain since, well since I first played T-ball at 6 years old.  I have a lot of hope as pitchers and catchers report in a couple weeks.  I hope my team wins it all, I hope I get to see more games live with my friends and family and enjoy a good hot dog and a beer under the summer sun.  I hope I get to create a lot of new memories as I cheer my heart out with every win and take my lumps with the inventible losses knowing we have chance next time.  I hope most of all, that you may give the sport a chance and study it.  Pick a team, watch a couple games and head out to a ball park.  You do not have to go to an MLB game, it can be minor league game or just as fun, a local little league game.  Get outside and enjoy the little story played out amongst strangers and friends on a green diamond under a blue sky and a warm yellow sun.  Play ball!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Post Apocalyptic Progress

So I had a lot of time to think about my rules set while trapped on a plane over the past week.  Here's how it will breakdown (no pun intended)  The book will be formatted digest sized and short possibly 64 pages.  I will out line the basic rules, character creation and then provide potential Collapse event scenarios followed by reference materials (books, comics, movies, TV shows) to be used by referees as a springboard for further development.  Then supplements will be Blue Books or Case Studies: They will focus in a brief 24 pages on a particular Collapse scenario in depth: Zombies, Mutants, Rise of the Apes, etc with possible scenario hooks included.  I do not necessarily want to create adventure modules, instead I'd rather have a mini source book with ideas for referees to build on their own.

 The rules them selves and character creation are going to be very easy. 2d6 system roll 8 or better to succeed.  A life path character creation will be available to make generic characters, and a system for generating you and your friends into characters for the Collapse event will also be included.

Overall the rules are quick, light and easy (so far) to pick up and play allowing the focus to be on creating adventures and playing instead of gaming the rules.  Now I just need a few more plane flights to have time to type it up from my notes!

PS-If you have not read Day by Day Armageddon it quick becuase the loooooong awaited sequel is coming this Spring!  AMC has announced they are making a pilot of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic into a TV show, so read the comics now my firends, you will be glad you did!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Viva Picanha!

Hello from Brazil!  My job takes me all over the place and this year it looks as if I will be spending time in South America.  What better opportunity to think about gaming and a collapse event than while trapped in a plane for 10 hours, trapped in an airport for a delayed flight for 6.5 hours, or flying over the Amazon...

First a bit about general gaming in Brazil.  I did spy 4th Ed D&D, but what really floored me was the price of boardgames.  Currently $1 USD =R$1.80 (Brazilian Real.)  Wow, what a potential gaming bargain for yours truly.  Except the game of Risk is...R$119.99 or $67.19 USD!! WTF?  Well, it must be imported so of course it is expensive...okay how about crappy old Monopoly...made in Brazil...R$99.99 (or $56 USD)  Yup that $10 Wal-Mart classic is $56!!  Booster pack of cards? R$20...or $11.20 US a pack for Magic or Pokemon.  Hell a HALO Action figure was R$99.99 ($56 US) and the big stunner for electronic talking Bumblebee transformer figure that is $40 everywhere in the US...R$999.99.  Nope I did not miss type would be $560 US dollars.  It was one of a couple Toy stores in the mall, part of a chain of stores across Brazil.  The Brazilians I was with could not believe I was correct...until I showed them on Amazon and they were stunned.

Even homegrown version of RISK called WAR in Brazil are R$99.99, or $56 US ( I know because I bought one...a Roman Empire version of WAR (Risk)...holy crap is it sweet!  Hail Caesar baby!

Okay so why the game pricing beatdown?  First, because I thought I'd get some deals...and second because I often think we take our United States of Nerdom for granted.  I mean REALLY for granted.  I thought about how expensive and unlikely it would be to be a gamer in Brazil!!  I mean if you got one game a year it would be a major event and what of that game stunk on ice??  You'd never waste the ducats again probably on a game of any kind.  Count your blessings brothers and sisters, the next time a $5 PDF rule book or $30 hardback gets you down my friend, just remember there is a Brazilian somewhere who would like to deliver a swift kick to your head for being such a nutter.

Speaking of nutters, back to this collapse event muse I have listened to lately.  If you have read World War Z (good), or Day by Day Armageddon (OUTSTANDING!), both have a zombie out break occurring in China.  Que picture of lots of people everywhere, a  mysterious fog shrouded land, and cut...print scene.  No one ( to my knowledge) has tapped an Amazon or Brazil angle.

First I CALL DIBS on generating the scenario.  You see in Brazil they eat a lot of meat.  I am no dainty daisy eater, I cook BBQ all the time, and lived in Texas for years so I know a bit about meat.  Kids I am here to tell you they are born teething on a T-Bone, suckling on side ribs, and raised on Rump Roast.  Lunches consisted of meat, with a side of meat, and a garnish of meat.  Dinner was an appetizer of meat, with a first course of meat, followed by a meat sorbet to cleanse the pallet, and then a dinner of meat, with 2 sides of meat, and your choice of seven meats for desert.  Sincerely I wish I was over stating it, but I am not, it really is all meat all the time.  I skipped meals because I was over loaded with it.  I am now convinced Mr Atkins of Atkins Diet fame is a Brazilian...or his wife is...or he vacationed here and really loved the meal selection.

Anyway fellow zombie collapse fans...a nation that does nothing but focus on eating so much meat...may have a prediliction towards this collapse event.  Tie in strange bugs drinking the blood of strange hidden animals in the Amazon....then that bug alight on a tourist who is riding a tour boat on the Amazon, then goes back to the hotel unwell with the rest of the tourists in a highly crowded dense population center, and they are in  town for the Olympics or the World Cup in Brazil...then the disease is transmitted to people traveling globally...and BAM you have your first Brazilian-centric Zombie story (Trademark to ME!)

Side note:  The Brazilian people are kind, helpful, friendly, generous and wonderful to work with.  Sure there's a rotten apple in any barrell, but I truly enjoyed their fine hospitality, and kindness.  Second, never believe what you see on TV.  The Amazon is huge, I mean massive, I mean biger than the Pugest sound huge.  Having seen too many Man vs Wild or Nat Geo/ Discovery channel Amazon shows I expected a cross between Indiana Jones and Tarzan.  Instead I am staring out at a massive river that is 10k across and reminds me more of the Puget Sound than a narrow piranha infested mosquito breeding ground.  I felt like an idiot and the Brazilians had a good laugh at my expectations.  Travel broadens the mind indeed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Subject Study: Haiti

The last few posts I have made centered around what happens during a collapse event.  The terrible tragedy in Haiti is providing one window into what happens when: Infrastructure, order, law, government, and utilities collapse then people are left to try and survive in a crisis situation that occurred a little over 48 hours ago (1/12/10).  The following are based upon current (1/14) observations from boots on the ground reports and news outlets:

>>>Gangs Armed With Machetes Loot Port-Au-Prince Central Business District Resembles Hell On Earth As Bodies Pile Up And Armed Men Battle Over Food, Supplies. On Wednesday they were seen getting into stores and taking all the supplies they could carry. The armed men were seen marching up and down the streets with machetes raised and the competition among the gangs turned quite fierce.  Fights between gangs were seen on the streets. Machetes were flailing and it was impossible to predict what would happen next. There was no sign of police or any kind of law and order.  Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Food is often scarce. Now, with this tragedy, desperate people are doing whatever they have to do to eat. People were seen going into stores and rubble and taking anything they could find with them for their trip back to wherever they were camping out.

>>> Survivors of the earthquake in Haiti that may have killed as many as 100,000 people face deadly outbreaks of diarrhea, measles and malaria after its already fragile clean water and health-care systems were destroyed.  Even before the bodies of the dead have been removed from the rubble, health officials say it’s critical in the next few days that massive containers of water be set up throughout the capital of Port-au-Prince, temporary treatment centers established and tons of antibiotics and basic medical supplies delivered.

Source: Reuters
* Earthquake disaster overwhelms Haiti's weak government
* International aid effort has yet to kick in
* No one in charge, U.S. seen filling the vacuum
By Andrew Cawthorne and Tom Brown PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Desperate Haitians turned rubble-strewn streets and parks into makeshift hospitals and refugee camps on Thursday in the absence of any noticeable response from authorities in Haiti after Tuesday's earthquake. With the 7.0 magnitude earthquake collapsing the presidential palace, a string of ministries and the headquarters of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country, Haiti faces a dangerous vacuum in security and government. The Caribbean nation of 9 million people, the poorest in the western hemisphere, has a turbulent history of conflict, social turmoil, dictatorship, fragile institutions and devastating natural catastrophes. Many in the capital Port-au-Prince picked away at shattered buildings with bare hands, sticks and hammers hoping to find loved-ones alive.

Thousands of homeless people began to set up their own camps anywhere they could, the biggest right opposite the collapsed presidential palace. "Look at us. Who is helping us? Right now, nobody," said Jean Malesta, a 19-year-old student who was the only survivor when her apartment building collapsed from the powerful quake that has killed thousands, possibly tens of thousands. She and a dozen others lay under a tent they had set up in the park opposite President Rene Preval's palace. His weak and under-resourced government appears totally unequipped to handle the crisis, its officials in disarray and nowhere to be seen.

    "So far, they have brought us nothing. We need water, food, shelter, everything, but we are on our own," Malesta added, to cries of agreement from women sitting and lying around her. A major international aid effort has not yet kicked in, although plenty of small groups, many from the United States, have scrambled quickly, moving personnel into Haiti by plane and overland from neighboring Dominican Republic. "The problem is that unlike traditional disaster situations we have few local partners to work with, because most of them have had their buildings destroyed and are looking for their own dead and missing," said Margaret Aguirre, a senior official with International Medical Corps. Haitians are doing their best to survive chaotic conditions in the absence of any clear leadership, said Latin America expert Dan Erikson of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank. "The sad truth is that no one is in charge of Haiti today. This vacuum, coupled with the robust response from the Obama administration, has inevitably created a situation where the U.S. will be the de facto decision-maker in Haiti." Even President Rene Preval lost his home. "My palace collapsed. ... I can't live in the palace, I can't live in my own house," he told CNN on Wednesday.

     The 9,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force, which might have been able to step into the void, has been left counting its own dead after its headquarters were destroyed in the quake. The United Nations said 36 of its personnel in Haiti had been killed and many more were still missing. Peacekeepers occasionally patrolled the city in buses and trucks and have mobilized some heavy earth-moving equipment but the blue-helmet soldiers have largely stayed off the streets. Underlying the growing sense of chaos and abandonment around the half-destroyed coastal capital Port-au-Prince, some looting began -- a phenomenon Haitians have seen many times before in past political crises. At one crushed supermarket, young men calmly carried off bags of food and electronics without a policemen in sight. Pickup trucks stacked high with bodies could be seen making their way through traffic-clogged streets on Thursday morning, on their way to drop off the dead at the morgue attached to Hospital General, the city's main health facility. But Guy LaRoche, the hospital's director, said it was already filled to overflowing with more than 1,500 rapidly decomposing bodies. Many had been left lying out in the sun. LaRoche said he had had no contact with any government officials to see what to do with them.

"I'm awaiting the decision of the government. What else can I do?" he said. "The health threat, from disease, could be another catastrophe. We need nurses, medical teams, more of everything." Around the city, many Haitians put rags and masks over their faces as the stench from rotting bodies began to rise. Crushed cars and vans stuck out of collapsed buildings, while children's toys, shoes and papers were scattered on streets. In poor areas, there was little sign of any coordinated rescue activities.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fossil Forward...

Reviewing the mad fat stack of Car Wars material I have accumulated, I am always amazed at how simple it was to create your character in Car Wars:

you have 3 Damage points (DP)
You select 2 skills, one of them at +1
You have to roll 7+ on 2d6 to succeed.
you can carry up to 6 grenades worth of equipment.
Armor adds to you DP and is crossed off first (destroyed) when you take damage
No DP left means you are roadkill.

looking in an AADA guide they would list the two stats for NPC's the first would be GURPS which ended up being 9 compact lines of stats and skills, the Car Wars Equivalent of this same fellow is one compact line: Damage points, skill(s) and weapon/equip.

I like the quick clean method of this, but I wrestle a bit with going stats free.  I have Car Wars stats for everything from vampires, to mutants, zombies, to mountain men, and honestly, I really like the clean attribute free manner in which they handle people.  Part of this is due to the vehicles being the star of the show, but as the game went on they really fleshed out characters and NPC's not with stats, but with description.  Characters and NPC's were distinctive  based upon their descriptions, not on stat blocks.  The stats were secondary.  This is interesting grist for the gaming mill...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What came before...

Going through my RPG horde I found the following Apocalypse RPG's:

Gamma World (1st,2nd,d20)
Car Wars
Morrow Project
After the Bomb

Gamma World was the first one we ever played, and its mixture of mutant animals, mutant plants, and mutant humans was a hodgepodge of science fantasy. Great if you like that over the top sort of gaming, but it never quite satisfied us.

Car Wars was (and still is) one of my all time favorite Post-Apoc games. Yes it is a bit of a crunchy war game, but when combined with the AADA region guides, you actually have a hell of an RPG setting. Characters (as they were) were simple constructs. Driving around Mad Max style and getting into all sorts of trouble was a blast. Sure it focused mainly on the wheels, but we played for quite some time borrowing from other RPG's to flesh out the non-wheeled parts of the game. You can get an updated pdf collecting all of the various vehicle types and rules in one book from SJG. Hopefully the AADA guides get combined as well.

Aftermath! was our next purchase. The print ads in Dragon Magazine showing a Road Warrior-esque Mel Gibson character was a slam dunk. I could (and still can) quote most of that movie. This was an astounding $25 back in the day (when other boxed games were $12)and so it was a holy grail of gaming for me. Eventually I purchased it...and was overwhelmed. Buried in 3 different manuals was a game, but one so convoluted and overly detailed that we ended up not playing it much. It suffered from gun-porn rules.

Gun Porn: Top Secret was the first game I played that had this odd affliction. By gun porn means a fetishistic rules creation with trying to accurately (obsessively) model the physical power of a specific gun, ammo round, and environment as well as the shooters individual disposition when firing. Top Secret was the first time I saw this, and Aftermath! took this Soldier of Fiction obsession to a whole new level.

Well, that is until I got the Morrow Project. Somewhere between a survival manual, and a Soldier of Fiction book with rules in it came the Morrow Project. While I liked the ideas behind trying to help rebuild civilization, and the gritty manner the world is presented, some of it seemed odd or out of place. Your team wakes up 100+ years later and it always seemed like it might have only been 2 weeks. 80's military hardware is still rolling around everywhere, everyone is armed (heavily) with modern guns and explosives. It just never rang true as a 100+ years after the bomb setting. Its rules were also a bit too simulation/ gun porn focused. When your modules talk about giving you blue prints for military vehicles as a highlight? That screams GUN PORN baby!

After the Bomb from Palladium was an offshoot of their TMNT system. Say what you will regarding the Palladium system, I very much enjoyed the ideas and presentation of TMNT. After the Bomb was simply setting the TMNT mutant stuff into a post apocalypse setting. Nothing fancy, it all worked and was sort of a Gamma World update in my mind. Different spin on the same genre idea. In fact I'd even say After the bomb/TMNT trumped Gamma World with its Road Hogs books. It sort of Mashed up TMNT and Car Wars into an RPG.

Good memories and lots of fun, but at this stage in my life I am looking for rules lite fast playing fun.  That's what I am working on providing other time crunched RPG fans.  More gaming, less rules grinding.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Notes from the blast zone

In the History Channel show I discussed yesterday here are some interesting bits of flotsam and jetsam:

The most recent crisis event illustrative of a collapse event in the U.S. was Hurricane Katrina and its effect on new Orleans. From that disaster we saw:

* Most households ran out of food after 3 days
* Unprotected stores were looted and emptied of all items (including toys, clothes, basically anything that could be carried out) within 5 days
* Rioting, looting, and the break down of law & order occurred within 4 days after Katrina.
* The sound (and thus use)of weapons being fired was commonplace as a background noise within 4 days of the event.

I guess I was shocked that within 4 days of some sort of catastrophic event, we revert back to the wild west or worse, our basest survival mode instincts kick in. I know that help was very slow in coming, but the resources of a nation were able to be mobilized to help. Suppose there was no help coming...ever again?

Apparently the thin veneer of civilization is quite a bit thinner than I had expected.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Blame it on…well no one really, quirk of fate possibly? Turns out the History *cough* channel is airing some sort of Doom & Gloom week dealing what happens if (insert an earth shaking apocalypse scenario here). What a great way to start a happy fraking New Year!
Anyway, they had a 2 hour “what if” civilization breaks down scenario last night illustrating the entire breakdown through the eyes of a 3 person family from suburban L.A. I watched it with my wife, and needless to say she thought it was scarier than any horror movie she’s ever seen. Part of it was because it focused on dramatic crisis points and then illustrated them: Looters break down of food supply, sanitation, law and order, and the reversions from get along to going it alone. I recorded and took copious notes while watching because it was quite intriguing. They even had a show after that where a “survival expert” (akin to Man vs. Wild’s Bear Grylls) gave tips on how and what you would have to do to survive. While I have not seen it yet, that too is recorded as grist for the gaming mill.
So given the current rich resource to draw from, it looks like Roguish is on the back burner while I listen to this darker gaming muse for a bit

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Collapse...

Below is the intro to my Post-Apoc game world...

Sometimes a debt has to be paid in blood.  As the global financial system continued to spiral downwards, riots flared up all over the world.  Governments printing and spending with abandon caused a reckoning in which money became worthless.  As one government after another collapsed it took down faith in the financial system globally.  Attempts to create a global currency also failed as it stalled in endless debates over exchange rates for each country.  Even more divisive, debate and threats swirled over which countries could be a part of this currency and which would be left out.  These endless debates, accusations, and threats between nations combined with the average citizens of any country no longer having any belief in printed currency any longer led to the collapse.  In the end, the global economic system failed, and with it entire nations collapsed.
 In this turmoil as neighboring countries, regions, and even cities destabilized, some attempted to take advantage of the collapse through force of arms.  Man descended back to his natural, self interested state of pure survival.  Order fractured globally as armies were left to defend themselves and some create pockets of civilization wherever they were based. Those were the lucky areas; many army groups went rogue becoming regional warlords.  People used to the “on demand” lifestyle of the West were shocked at how rapid the collapse came and were swept away in the rising tide of violence.  Unable to defend themselves, fend for themselves, or to offer anything more than tie-dyed platitudes of peace, they were the first wave of population lost to the collapse.  Then plagues broke out as sanitation failed, bodies piled up, and use of biological weapons took place.  No one knows where or who dropped the first bombs but mushroom clouds were reported intermittently all over the globe. 
In the midst of this chaos and destruction something unexpected happened.  At first it was thought to be rumor or simply the panicked stories of some traumatized survivors until more and more people reported seeing the same thing: shambling husks of humanity risen from the dead and hungry for living flesh.  Whether it is divine judgment, Mother Nature’s revenge, or the product of some combination of radiation and disease is unknown.   Pockets of civilization still exist but they are bought and paid for with blood, sweat, and tears.  Most survive by a combination of wits, barter, and force.  This is the brave new world you now inhabit. You are one light in a growing darkness as humanity tries to survive the collapse.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Alive and kickin'

Nope I have not dropped off the face of the earth!  Winding up the day to day job year end stuff and planning  for 2010 conquests meant a lot of work and no play. 

Of note for zombie fans I highly recommend a new "survival guide" from our cousins across the pond.  Entitled ZOMPOC How to survive a Zombie Apocalypse, it is a bit more "serious" in tackling the subject and a bit less tongue in cheek than the Max Brooks survival guide.  A good read and for any gamer, a huge idea generator 5000.

In fact its had me dust off my home brew post apocalypse rules and fret about putting that together into a useable game rule set rather than a hodge podge of scribbled notes.  A lot of travel coming up so maybe all those hours on the plane can be put to good use.  Hopefully I will have time to actually focus on writing and creating stuff instead of the on going daily grind.  Lucky to have a good job I enjoy though so I guess I can't really complain at all.

Happy New Year to you and yours, I sincerely  hope 2010 is your best year yet!