Sunday, February 24, 2013

Video Saturday: No Heroics

No Heroics is a short lived 2008 BBC series about superheros in the "real world".  The series centers around four of these 'heroes': Alex 'The Hotness' (heat), Sarah 'Electroclash' (talks to machines), Jenny 'She-Force' and Don 'Timebomb' (can see 60s into the future), mostly as they sit in a bar and talk about their day. Only six episodes, the series was fun, if a little vulgar.Timebomb is the anti-hero of the group, and has retired from his days of torturing and killing villains  Below is one of his many attempts to 'normalize' by going to a a super-hero support group. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hansel and Gretel, from a RPG Prespective

Out of sheer ennui, a buddy and I saw Hansel & Gretel the other night. As a film it was like watching the imbecilic younger siblings of Van Helsing running headlong at each other with buckets on their heads.  
ever wonder what happened next?
Neither did anyone else. Ever. 

As a D&D campaign it kind of works, once again proving that internal logic and consistency aren't crucial to a decent campaign.

The plot involves Hansel and Gretel attempting to stop the Bad Witches from creating a potion that makes all witches immune to fire. They can fly, fling object around with a flick of their wand, deflect bullets, take over the minds of mortals (and animals), shapechange, withstand superhuman damage and there are hundreds, if not thousands of them; but apparently being burned at the stake is the biggest impediment to them taking over the world.

Tweaking this slightly to remove the stoopid, and you then have the classic 'stop the ritual' campaign. Make the blood moon ritual an attempt to boost their magic, or give them all ruby slippers or to free their dark lord. There is the faintest whiff of brimstone to the witches in H&G, but otherwise they are given no motivation beyond 'are you a Good Witch, or a Bad Witch?'

Now the official symbol that you are
watching a shitty movie.
So then there are the gadgets. This is set in a 'late-fantasy' setting with black powder weapons and printing presses. I'm not exactly sure what Hansel's gun does besides shoot big bullets, but sometimes I suppose that is enough. Gretel's crossbow is the classic, 'double repeater with build-in unlimited clip' common to a lot of movie heroes. She actually has the nerve to make fun of a hunter who uses a shotgun, and then proceeds to hit absolutely nothing with the hundreds of quarrels she fires across the room at the slightest provocation. It also splits in half which has to be really useful for those many occasions that two enemies are sneaking up on you at an exact ninety degree angles. In addition, there are three shot pistol thingies, a rifle with a folding barrel (just think about how stupid that is for a moment), and a hand-cranked taser thingie that double as a defibulator. Speaking of which, please excuse me a moment….

A plea to all screen writers: DEFIBULATORS DO NOT WORK LIKE THAT. They are not 'magic bring back the dead' machines. Also, jump starting a guy's heart just after he fell off a cliff might not be a good idea. He probably didn't die of a heart attack.  

We were all thinking it.
... thank you. Again, removing the stupid you're left with black powder weapons which work against mages. Then again, the witches seem able to deflect most projectiles and are superhumanly resistant to damage, so most of the time H&G give up and wail on these things with hands, feet, shovels and tree limbs. The only start doing any real damage after they remember that, oh yeah, we also have a Gatling gun! Please note how many of the witches have so far died in a fire.

Okay, in this D&D campaign, pretend that there are black powder weapons that do damage to mages/witches and sorcerers. Gnomes made them! As to where H&G get them from? Like everything else in the film, they don't even bother to try.

As for H&G themselves, there is something to work with here. Imagine a kind of bounty-hunter who specializes in magic users. Someone with an innate magical ability, turned inwards so that they can no longer cast spells, but are now superhumanly resistant to spells and magic damage.

So there you have it; distilled down to maybe a halfway decent adventure module with a new character class and a few neat gadgets (NOT the crossbow).

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Video Hits Saturday: Red Dwarf X:II

Okay, so my week exploded. Gonna try and relax this weekend getting caught up with the boys from the Dwarf.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Entertainment Weekly may have just accidentally spilled the beans on the GREATEST GEEK SECRET EVAR OF 2013 (sarcasm, mine) or more prosaically, the identity of Bert 'The Otter' Cumberbatch's character in the upcoming Star Trek movie.

That sucking noise you just heard was the last of my interest in this film draining away. While I enjoyed the first reboot, I freely admit that it was a frakin' mess and I don't think I could tell you the plot beyond, 'how Chris Pine took over the Enterprise using lensflares'. Despite blowing up Vulcan, poor Mr. Nero was something of a non-starter as a villain so this time they went back to the well.

Having the Cumberbatch play Khan demonstrates that the new geek-chic isn't about breaking new ground, but taping into the rich, nougaty veins of nostalgia that well up in thirtysomething adults and drive them to throw buckets money at trivialities they remember fondly from their childhood. It is in fact common in this day and age to see toys proudly displayed in living rooms of people who are otherwise adults (can you remember your parents dong this? any of your friends' parents?). That in itself isn't a problem. I am smack dab in the middle of that demographic and there is a small army of LEGO minifigs currently mounting an assault on our plant stand. And I like that I can finally see a comic book movie that doesn't look like it was made by my cousin Jerry and the costume department at Value Village. Though I will scream like the Black Bolt if I have to sit through one more boring arsed origin story (to use an appropriate geek ref).

But I've seen the Khan/Kirk story played out. I really liked it and hope to see it again. The performances of Shatner and Richardo Montalban were two golden, shining pieces of pure, glorious, golden ham. But it is not 'Julius Caesar' and I do not need to see it reimagined by Abrams, Pine and Cumberbatch at the Mercury Theatre. I've heard the argument that the originals are dated and they are invisioning the story for a new generation. Bullshit. I am not of the generation that watched the original Star Trek. I did not really start to appreciate it until well into the early 1990's, more than twenty years after the episodes first aired and almost ten since the second movie. I watched the tv show on reruns and the movie on VHS, and I'll wager real money that this how most of you saw it as well. The throwback special effects, dialogue and fashions were a large part of the fun.

This new Star Trek isn't a reboot ... its a rerun, but a rerun without the nostalgia that they are hoping to tap. I don't doubt that the film will make a bazillion dollars, but I'll bet that in less than five years Shatner's "KHAAAAAANN!" will still be a cultural touchstone, while poor Cumberbatch will be but a footnote, filed alphabetically behind Bana. Sadly, I suppose that really isn’t the point. 

Video Hits Saturday: Community D&D Sex Scene.

Here, Hector the Well Endowed seduces the comely elf maiden as described by Annie (the lovely Allison Brie).  Troy is right to take notes. Okay, last Community plug for a while, I promise. Nevertheless, this was too funny not to share, and I'm curious to see what it does to the number of webpage hits. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pulp-o-Mizer Cover for Extinction Level Event

Needs some tweaks, but I like it! Link HERE

The Ultimate Megadungeon

You can put your copy of the World's Largest Dungeon on the fire and use Barrowmaze as a placemate, a Japanese man spent seven years drawing this insane maze.



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

RPG Wish List: Community the RPG.

RPG Wish List
Movies, Games and Books I wish were available as Roleplaying Games

Community Season 4 starts on Thursday. My personal fear is that with the loss of show creator Dan Harmon it will degrade into simple parody. However, if you are not watching the show, you certainly should be.

But beyond the obvious I believe that like Arrested Development, Community will go down as the defining sitcom of its age. Ignored and ill treated by the network and mainstream audiences who seem to have a never-ending appetite for Reba and Tim Allen, it will live on as a well loved cult classic in people's DVD collections (and torrent file) long after Reba and Tim have moved onto whatever sitcom afterlife is inhabited by Jim Belushi, Kevin James and Alan Thicke.
"You have successfully rubbed your balls on his sword."
What it does better and more consciously than anything since the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons is play with, and deconstruct, genre. It took the concept of a group of characters going back to community college and effortlessly supplanted them into cult films such as 'My Dinner with Andre' and 'Pulp Fiction' (in the same episode) to westerns, conspiracy, horror, documentaries, Anime, Christmas specials, video games and many others. Beyond that is that it is, you know, actually very, very funny.
Computer Annie just killed this humble blacksmith. Before it is over, she will have killed his entire family and burned his business to ashes. See, I told you it was funny!
It even did a fairly passable D&D episode, complete with the pre-generated characters Zipadee Doo, Marrrrrrr, Bing-Bong, Hector the Well-Endowed, Lavernica, Brutalitops, and Kyle; names that I MUST use somewhere. It also features the greatest depiction of in-game nookie ever filmed (mostly because it is Allison Brie doing the miming).

All of which got me to thinking about how you could run a Community rpg game where a group of friends who get together a couple of times a week around a table and get into all sorts of trouble. How meta is that? It would require a very flexible rules set, possibly even multiple sets as the group jumps genres.
"I won Dungeons & Dragons, and it was advanced!"
But why not up the meta-factor even more by create a Community specific RPG based on a storytelling system where characters are described by certain Tropes that give them modifiers to the dice roll.
(Jeff Winger: Charm +8, Cool Factor +5 etc). Plus you would get one slot for Wild Trope where the character can suddenly  display an incredible, one time, episode specific talent (ie. Shirley: Foosball +10). Players can choose a Wild Trope at any time in the 'episode', but once locked in it cannot be changed until the following 'episode'.
"Draconis, an all-powerful red dragon,
 crashes through the trees of
the clearing. Riding atop his shoulders, 
naked as the day he was born, 
controlling Draconis with the amulet is
 ... Pierce Hawthorne."
The Nadir (a participating character, but one who is fully aware they are in a game) would do all the rolls, based on a simple D20 chart. The higher the roll, the better you would do with some Difficulty Numbers applied for specific circumstances.

For damage and combat, the AM rolls a D20 to see if you hit vs the opponent's natural 10+Armour. Anything beyond the Armour plus weapon rating would count as Damage. For example, the opponent has a To Hit of 18 (10+8 armour). The AM rolls 16 plus your sword of 6 for a total
of 22, thereby inflicting 6 points of damage. This could be actual Hit Points, or a scale like 1-5 Minor wound, 6-10 Major wound etc.

While the Nadir would do all the rolls, they would also describe the situation that the group is facing. The Nadir can also elect to switch off with another player, even in mid episode. The other players interact in a more storytelling fashion, helping shape the plot, but also abiding by the Nadir's judgments. I think there is an rpg like this (Godlike?), but I can't seem to find it right now.

Okay, now I really want to play a group of college kids playing 'The Caverns of Draconis'.

"In about 13 turns, he will die of exposure.
Jeff." "I wait 14 turns."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Land Shark!

Also called ground sharks, chompers or bruces, it is not known if these fearsome, relentless predators are comet-induced mutations, or the genetically engineered product of a truly twisted mind.

Though now fully air-breathing, they still tend to be found near water sources and often have lairs located in the shallows or partially flooded caves. The only nice good you can say about them is that they tend to be solitary. They are sometimes used as guard-animals by the more bloodthirsty kind of Warlord, Robber Baron or Mad Scientist.

Land Sharks automatically double their movement while swimming.
Strength 9.
Bite: +2, Dam 3
Armour: 3
Loot: See below

-Heightened Senses: Though processing relatively poor eyesight, Land Sharks have a keen sense of smell and a powerful elctro-sense that allows them to feel the electrical signature of a lifeform from a great distance.
-Bloodlust: if their prey is wounded, they will not stop until it, or they, are killed.
-Swim: Though they are no longer water breathing, they are still very strong swimmers
Attack: Tail Slap/Ram +3. Bite: +8
Armour: Skin -4
Chase: +2, +5 in water
M: 5 S: 4 G: 3

Land Shark skin and teeth are valued by artisans, weapon-makers, armorers, leisure suit makers, entremetier and manufacturers of cheap tourist necklaces. Roll D6. On a roll of one there is something in the Land Shark's stomach, roll again.
1: D6 in assorted coins
2: 2 bottles of fine aged rum
3: 2D6 in assorted coins
4: A suit of armour, fixable (to -4) once you hose it out.
5: 2D6 penguins, zombie
6: The head of Harold Holt

Recruitment Video

I'm not even American, and this add makes me want to run out and enlist! Pretty sure you can see a freakin' HISS Tank in one of the shots! CoBRAAAA!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Striking Out: Making My Own Game

Like all rules-tinkers, I eventually started out trying to come up with my own rules-set. I've tried a few different things over the years; variants, conversions, card systems and diceless. Not really satisfied with any of them, I sat down and started picking out the elements that I wanted out of a game.

-“one rule to rule them all’ mechanic, such as TWERPS roll d10, or Talislanta’s chart. I believe it better to have one mechanic that can cover all situations than 1,001 different mechanics to cover 1,001 situations. In my experience, players always want to go with option 1,002.
This is covered on page 401 of Rules Appendix C
-While most games handle low level characters well, by the time they reach higher levels, the Gamemaster has to start dialing up even the most minor encounters to 11. This results in Difficulty Number of 76 on a roll of D20. Or in the case of dice-pool games, the character ends up rolling 37D6 just to pick a lock. At this point, I find the system becomes too absurd to play, which is not fair to the players who have put a lot of time and energy into developing their characters.
Why not just make 10 louder?
-No endless pages listing skills or abilities in character creation.
Has a 75% Skill Level in French Cooking,
-avoid, if possible, the basic Roll Dice + Stat vs Difficulty Number, engine that seems to drive 98% of all games.  
Or there is this...
-As much player input as reasonably possible. This means allowing them to create the character they want (within limits). Plus giving them a mechanic, like Brownie Points in the WEG Ghostbusters system, that allowed them to have input into the actual plot.
"You want a toe? I can get you a toe, Dude"
-a hit point system that actually makes sense. 
Now, would this represent an actual injury, or just time and fatigue spent in combat?
-allowing for a sense of humour without it disrupting play (probably the most difficult thing to manage). 
My ideal DM
 With that in mind I picked the simplest mechanic I could think of; roll one six sided die. I still faced the problem of stat bloat as any system I could think of resulting in higher level characters rolling things like D6+13.This frustrated me for a while until I realized that I could avoid the problem by changing the object of the game from rolling over/under a Target Number, to rolling a specific number on the die.

This resulted in a very simple chart. In any situation where the character must roll a dice, the Gamemaster decides if the task is Easy, Medium or Hard. The player must then roll one six sided dice and get a result of 1-3 for Easy Tasks. 4-5 for Medium Tasks. 6 for Hard Tasks. This allows the GM some flexibility by declaring that picking the lock would be Hard for a Barbarian, but Easy for the Thief.

Characters skilled in a specific Task, such as a race car driver with the Pilot: Nascar skill who is spending his afternoon making long left turns, then needs to roll 1-4 for an Easy Task. 4-6 for Medium Tasks and 5-6 for Hard Tasks. This works because it is not about rolling as high as you can. It is about landing within the specific number range. If a task is Easy and the player rolls a 5, then they have failed. 

That is the basic system for the system I call ROLLCORE.

Next: Creating a Hero.

Video Hits Saturday: Gareth Marenghi's Darkplace

In the 1980s, author, dream weaver, visionary, plus actor Gareth Marenghi created a TV so mind-blowing, so radical, so frightening, so ahead of time that the network cancelled it after only a short run in Bristol.

Now, due to the worst artistic drought in broadcast history the network has come crawling back on its knees and the tapes were retrieved from the vault located in Gareth Marenghi’s spacious basement. Even today they dare only show six of the over fifty episodes produced. Come now with me on a trip straight through the bowels of hell where we will then enter … Gareth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

The collective works of Gareth Marenghi, Dr. Ronald Chevalier and Time Desk Saga: The Chronicles of Dean Dangerous are my absolute favorite works of fictitious fiction.