Saturday, February 27, 2010

Erol Otus wasn't here...

In discussing D&D, most OSR fans often comment on the art and the artists. In fact the art really seems to have had a massive impact on how one viewed the game and to some extent even played it. There are iconic images: the cover the Moldvay Red Box, The cover of module B2, The Cover of the AD&D Players Handbook or DM's Guide, all have become iconic.

Not so GDW'S Traveller. In fact its almost illustrative of the exact opposite philosophy of design. No cover art, and nearly no interior art. A few rough sketches, silhouettes, and ship diagrams. Really not much of anything and one could argue outside the stark design ethic of the book covers, there isn't a single iconic "art" image for Traveller. The cover is iconic simply for what it lacks-art-thereby the simple design alone IS the art.

Yet no one seems to mind or feel cheated in the least. I have never read or heard anyone say 'Traveller sucks because there are no pictures!' Yet I have heard and read people lamenting what they consider to be terrible art or that an artists decline (in their opinion) takes away from their enjoyment.

Is one better off then designing their game material with limited artistic interpretations? Is less more?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

First wave...

I have always liked heroes that were mortal, from heroes like Odysseus, Beowulf, and Boromir to Flash Gordon, Batman, and Captain America. To me they are just (extra?) ordinary guys who have all of our ordinary faults and yet still try their best to overcome the failings of being mortal. It’s how I run my games and colors a lot of what I like in movies books and TV.

Well, if this sounds like your kind of thing, then I need to point you to a new comic line launching from DC comics, It’s called First Wave and it centers on a noir like world where the heroes are ordinary guys trying to do the right thing in a world gone wrong: Doc Savage, Batman, the Spirit, Black Canary and more.
I have high hopes, and hope it becomes a long running popular line of books.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hand-crafted gaming goodness

I am hoping you might be able to help me. I have decided that when I finish the revisions to Roguish I am going to print and assemble them myself into digest sized booklets. Not out of some sense of trying to be throwback, more in the sense of I want to finish doling it my self. I'll probably only sell 50 or so game sets so I'd rather they go out handmade, for better or worse. :)

My question is can you guide me to a blog or site that discusses the trials and travails of doing this?

thanks in advance for your guidance!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shouldn't Toy Fair be fun?

So I am back from a LOOOOOONG week in NYC working the ToyFair booth for the company I work for. Holy Cow 9 hours a day on your feet selling sure was easier in retail when I was 24 then it is now @ 40. Anyway, while it is BIG BUSINESS (so busy-so important dontcha know) it always amazes me how grim, dour, and down right crabby a lot of folks are at the show. It could be buyers or another companies booth crew stopping to talk, but damn they make Eeyore look like Chuckles the Clown.

Look I am no Mary Poppins, but damn if you come to my booth I am going to smile shake your hand and talk with you friendly and casual. I may be a "sales guy" but I am not going to "sell you." To often as I visited booths or had other folks come to ours, I was amazed by how little they knew about their own games and toys, and by how little they cared.

Stopping at one booth I saw a couple of new kids games I thought my nieces might enjoy. So I asked a sales rep in the booth "can you tell me about these games? Are they out yet?" Her reply, "It's a game for little kids, can't you just read the box?" Then she quickly looked away and studied the remainder of what smelled like a tuna fish sandwich. I smiled, set the box down, wished her luck, and left.

Maybe it was the fact my lanyard and name badge identified the company I worked for and she had issues...or maybe she just had a bad meeting or a bad day. Either way-she lost a sale as I would have probably tried to find them online, instead I'll go out of my way to avoid the whole company now.

In fact MANY booths had vaguely interesting things, but the staff in the booth either ignored you, or at times were hostile. In fact the only genuinely friendly booths were the limited "hobby game" booths at the event. By limited I mean less than a dozen. There is a difference between having a passion for what you are doing, instead of having to (to lift a phrase from Nike) "Just do it."

If you can't be happy in the game and toy industry might I suggest a different career path? The absolute best parts of the show (for me, outside of successful business) were when fans or kids came to our booth and overflowed with stories or excitement at seeing some of their favorite stuff RIGHT THERE! No matter how tough the job gets sometimes, seeing how happy the end result makes kids feel makes it worth it.

If you are frowning more than smiling at the end of your work days (especially in a game and toy business) then get out! Life's way to short to be miserable, and at the show I saw a whole lot of misery.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gleep Wurp the Gamer Namer

I think it's somewhere in the back of the G1-3 module, but there is a D&D pre-gen character named Gleep Wurp the Eye-biter. That name has stuck with me since the first time I read it as a wee lad chucking dice for the first time.

I hate that name.

In fact I hate all sorts of faux fantasy names. Most are just some sort of strange mash-up of consonants and vowels attempting to sound fantastic and foreign. Too often the only serve to make me realize how absurd (or potentially how crappy) the book is I am reading. It takes me right out of the world because I have to puzzle over what the heck does this word sound like,and how do you pronounce it anyway.

This is part of my hang up with the Simarillion (say that 3 times fast)and why no matter how much I want to read it, I simply chuck it in frustration. Contrast that with the Hobbit or LotR trilogy. I can easily sort out the names in those and though strange (Boromir, Bilbo, Frodo, Smaug, Sauruman) I can reasonably assume how to pronounce them.

Contrast that with some from my favorie offender R.A. Salvatore: Drizzt Do'Urden, Jarlaxle Baenre,Ilnezhara,Tazmikella,Eilistraee, Fraehlern. (note one of those is not an actual Salvatore character...but its poop-like nature fits right in.) I have about 6 different Salvatore collections on my shelf that were gifts...and attempts to have me overcome this prejudice. I have not been able to finish let alone get beyond chapter 3 in any of them.

I am sure we all have our own pet peeves, but nothing takes me out of reading, or for that matter gaming, quicker than some absurd or unpronounceable merger of letters masquerading as a name.

If you think I am going to call you by a character name like Flexelgramhult Von Rubtyyrst for the next hour, let alone months of a campaign, my friend pick up your dice and head for the exit now.

Okay so you know what I hate, what do I do to get around it? I simply mix up the letters from common words we already know. It makes them seem familiar but different at the same time. Examples? Sure, guess the real stuff I made these names out of:

Vany Dray
Nolerad Tamlin
Wred Ebres
Det Millaws
Mrebun Xis
Sajon Shewa
Noj Darnbon
Drowl Reises

Is it perfect? Probably not...but they are unique, somewhat fantastic while still being pronounceable and reasonable.

Peeca Tou

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ancient Odysseys

Well Precis Media dropped a note in my in box letting me know the PDF of their new fantasy system is available now! I picked up 2 copies of the boxed set which ships out next week so I am anxious to read it.

I am not overly fond of their 2d6 system used in games like Earth 2, and happily Ancient Odysseys does NOT use this system!! Below is quick overview based on browsing the books.

The boxed set (and pdf) comes with 3 books: Basic Playbook, The Dungeon Adventure, and Further Adventures. A pair of Reference sheets and blank character sheets are also included.

Basic characters creation:
You have 3 stats (Fitness, Awareness, Reasoning) each ranked 1(weak) to 5 (strong). The four classic fantasy races are represented (hoblings are hobbits) and 3 fantasy classes are available(fighters, wizards, rogues) There are a total of 16 pursuits (skills) in the game and what you start with depends on your class. Pursuits are ranked from 1 to 3. To accomplish a task you roll 1d6, add your stat, and add your pursuit trying to beat a 7 on an average task.

The basic rules and character creation are in a slim 37 pages. The Dungeon is a complete single player or group referee-less adventure that is simple in execution but perfect as an introduction to the system. For new players or young kids, it actually seems pretty fun.

The Further adventures book contains rules on creating adventures and being a referee.

Overall I really like this little RPG. As a Basic Set it is complete, simple, and could provide a great stepping stone into further adventures. My hope is the system grows a bit deeper or additional options become available in supplements or additional boxed sets.

Buy it: If you want a simple elegant system and to see how a great introductory RPG boxed set should be put together.

Don't buy it: If your only measure of a good game is how many charts, spells, blood demons of Yog-Mis-Fyrl, and character options/classes determine a games worth.

Friday, February 5, 2010

creative kismet?

FRAK!! So as I have worked on my Collapse RPG I passed my basic rule set and character creation to a friend last week.

Him: Hey, have you read the Barbarians of Lemuria rules before?

Me: No, should I?

Him: Maybe, maybe not...because you just kind of rewrote them...HA!

Me: FRAK!!

Well I spent yesterday jumped up on Dayquil and Robutussin DM reading the Lemuria rules. I'll be damned if I didn't come up with almost the same rules. I have a number of differences but in essence its the same 9+ on 2d6, 4 stats, which influence your roll but I added skills and fleshed them out tied to careers. Frak me, this also means the "Barbarians of the Aftermath" rules book due in February must be similar in some way to my own rules set.

I am (was) writing mine up in the manner of a government issued field manual with various Blue Book reports focused on specific collapse events...but at this point I kind of feel suckered punched. So do I continue or not? Seems sort of pointless...but hell with so much OSR reprints of D&D rules out there...why not? Off to get more Dayquil to help me make my decision...

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Well I am home fighting a terrible cold and in between bouts of delirium and sleep I have concocted the following as an introduction to my RPG: Collapse

Think about what you would do tomorrow if:
You can’t get food from a grocery store…ever again…
You can’t call the police, fire department, or an ambulance for help…ever again…
The hospital is closed, and the pharmacies are empty…
You can’t get gasoline for your vehicle from a gas station…
No one has a job that pays them money…
Credit cards are worthless, no one uses them or can use them…ever again…
The banks are no longer open and all your money there is gone forever…
All the paper money in your wallet is worthless except as a way to start a fire…
Then you hear a knock at your door…and it’s your neighbor…wearing a backpack…and holding a rifle…

What do you do?