Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dicing with Dinosaurs

Rolling Stones will reign until there is a new counter-culture. 

Why bring this up on a roleplaying blog? Because like Mick and Keith, we have become dinosaurs out of another time. The birth of our hobby was over forty years ago and the silver age was almost thirty. It is a good bet that any given rpg blog or article I read is written by someone 30 or older. And now the collapse of Google Reader is generating speculation that even the age of blogging is coming to an end.

Everything I learned about OSR I learned through blogs like Grognardia and from there discovered hundreds more. Each one generating, some on a daily basis, incredible ideas that makes any Hollywood schlockbuster and most published books feel about as original as a prime time doctor show. But the OSR, for all its imagination is just the last of the summer wine. Delicious, but ultimately doomed, not because of its creativity, but because of the format.

I do believe that group imagination gaming will live on in some form, but not in the form we love and grew up with. Yes, its sad that the days of purple Crown Royal bags bulging with dice are coming to an end, but that doesn't automatically mean that it is bad. Instead of a table top strewn with papers, dice and figures, the next generation will each have a tablet or phone. The gaming group might even be spread out across the world. Granted this already happening with things like Hangout, but what amazes me is that it isn't farther along. I personally blame this on D&D's piss poor online track record for not driving this kind of thing forward. There is no reason in the world why there is not already an app where a group of friends can be playing an almost constant game with each other, no matter where or what else they are doing.

I'm not trying to pick on tabletop rpgs. I love the hobby and do not want to see it fade away but to do that it needs to push forward, not look back. The problem is that I honestly believe that the X and Y generations have become too wrapped up in  regurgitating nostalgia to be genuinely creative. If you need examples of this I can spew them out ad nausea:  everything from the GI Joe movie coming out this weekend, to Veronica Mars kickstarters, to Ghostbusters III rumors, Battlestar remakes, Bates Motel TV shows, and/or Ready Player One and Redshirt novels. Pop culture is eating its own tail and it is only a matter of time before it reaches the head, which by my calculations will happen on exactly on the day the next Star Wars movie is released. After that, it will have disappeared so far up its own butt that there will be nothing left to feed on but its own shit.

Like the above article suggests, maybe it needs Mick and Keith and the rest of us to get out of the way. My fear is that with some notable exceptions, we've done a really bad job of cultivating a new generation of tabletop gamers ("hey kids, come into our small store and talk to the over aged, over-large men about playing games about elves"), to the point that it will probably not survive us except as a niche hobby.

In order for that not to happen, a concentrated effort needs to be put forward on our part to make sure that it survives intact long enough for the next generation to take hobby into the present century.

D&D Kids .... go there. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Video Hits Saturday

Strandbeats, created by artist Theo Jannsen 
Picture these creatures in some post apocalyptic world, striding across ancient deserts on errands unknowable to humanity, dispensing cryptic clues to those who would seek them out.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Masters of the Legoverse!

Custom jobs, unfortunately

RPG Wish List

Earthworm Jim
 "Plasma!" A battle cry from my high school days that randomly pops up in my repertoire from time to time. 

The adventures of a simple earthworm who is crushed by a strange super-suit that falls from the heavens, but instead of turning him into a sticky mess, it gives him buzz-lightyear like powers. He then battles the crazy anamorphic or mutated beings who want to steal the suit.

If it isn't becoming clear from may of these things, I tend to like things a little absurd. The beauty of not making sense is that things can go where ever you'd like them to, strung together by even the flimsiest piece of dream-logic. 

To bundle this into a campaign, have Jim's suit be part of a Space Force akin to Nova Corps or Green Lantern. Or that the creator of the suit liked to experiment on other beings. Either way, it takes place in a sleepy little town where an adventure to recover a lost eggbeater is just as important as stopping an alien invasion.

Suggested Supplements
Earthworm Jim! Earthworm Jim Season 2!

Suggested Systems
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Toon, or preferably some combination thereof. 

The Crown of Command

Been busy for most of the week getting ready for my Munckin Talisman play-by-post game, which is slowly starting to get underway on Google+

I have compiled a couple of databases that combed all my Talisman Adventure Cards and a couple of Munchkin decks, which means that they can be mixed so that cards drawn out randomly. A character may find a Dungeon Door in one location, and battle against a Psycho Squirrel or Snot Elemental the next. For the Circle Sea locations, I was able to add in Muchkin Booty cards and I am hoping to do some things with similar decks (Star Munchkin with Timescape for example).

I've also been happily pillaging ten years worth of Talisman fan made stuff, of which there is plenty and much of it awesome. I've already added two rings to the main board (The Circle Sea and the Far Marches) and now there are also additional pyramids and lost ruins and jungles and islands to explore. The entire process has turned into a massive, muti-dimensional sandbox and now all it needs is for the players to help flesh it out. I plugged in a short meta-plot and wanted to see what else the players would bring to the table. So far, we have a Swordsman looking for the man who killed his uncle, and a lost Alien Scientist who has been sucked into the Timescape.
This is the Timescape's guardian, Mr. Susan. He will get you if you don't to some choosin'!
Not bad for a week's work.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Neon Skull


Video Saturday: Stephen Fry against the Catholic Church

This is a blog for fun and I don't want to be political, but the hullaballoo over Pope Jorge (an awesome title .. so much better than 'Francis') has reached ridiculous proportions. There was genuine news going on in the world, but the CBC had to justify the expense of flying a reporter to the Vatican so they wasted hours on with interviews with eager young cultists claiming that this would revitalize the church. Which we all know is utter bullshit.

I was born and raised Catholic, but drifted away from the faith in my teenage years. I studied theology pretty heavily in university and in one semester learned much, much more about the doctrines, history and faith of the Catholic church than in years of forced 'religion classes'  in high school. What I learned, and what Mr. Fry's speech beautifully outlines, is why as a moral being I could never participate in such a farce ever again.

"Religion belonged to the infancy of the human race." Sigmund Freud.

Crown of Command

Nektar the Barbarian, Nero the Swordsman, UmDeb the Alien Scientist and Sheckles the Ghoul have all set out on their quest to find the lost Crown of Command and restore order, or perhaps conquer, the lands of Talisman.

I think the players will be pleasantly surprised with what is in store as I've been drawing on about twenty years worth of homebrew love in order to give them much more than the standard Talisman experience. There is so much material that its getting a little tight squeezing it all in, plus reading all of this stuff has inspired me. The beauty of a system like Talisman is that it is incredibly easy to come up with your own materials. Most monsters have only one or two stats and a quick rule (simple monsters don't even need that); "Godzilla, Str 12, Lives 4 ... Can only be fought if the character has the Potion of Kaiju, otherwise they automatically lose a life. Godzilla remains in this space until defeated".  Or "Proton Pack gives +3 to to psychic combat when battling Spirits."

I have to tinker with the rules somewhat, mostly in terms of movement and some character abilities. To accommodate more than one character fighting a given monster, many of them now have more than one Life.  I'm sure more will come up as play progresses.

One of my players is an animator (and the model for a reoccurring character in Ren and Stimpy) and he dashed off a quick sketch of Nektar the Barbarian.
(c) J.B.Pou 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Termite mounds, from I Fucking Love Science (facebook). Perfect for a good bug-hunt, regardless of genre.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Talisman: The Crown of Command

My gaming group is scattered across four time zones, which can make even skype or hangout play difficult. In order to stimulate things a bit, I have set up a Googlegroup to run my Talisman RPG idea. Of course, so that my players do not get bored, I plan on making generous use of Munchkin cards, as well as these two marvelous sites: Talisman Island and HERE.
The lands of Talisman are in turmoil. Strange magics have been unleashed causing storms of chaos and tearing holes in the very fabric of reality. Terrible and bizarre monsters are said to stalk the wilds and even the normal beasts have begun to attack travelers with a hungry gleam in their eye. 

When the chaos began the people turned to Castle Falladir, only to find its great gates closed to all outsiders. Rumors say the Prince and Princess have been kidnapped or killed, and that the King was driven mad and fled into the wild. In the city of Starhold, the Sherriff has seized control and organized brutal militias that beat and imprison any who defy his many draconian laws. The priests of the Great Temple of Baradoom have declared that they have looked into their auguries and have seen the end of the age and now offers penance and salvation to all, for a price.

And in this turmoil, each of you has been visited by a dream so vivid that upon awakening you gathered your meager belongings and set out into the wilderness to seek the object that would bring the lands under your control. The object that you saw with such shining clarity … 

Ice Caves

RPG Wish List: Talisman

Books, movies, television shows and games that I wish were available as tabletop roleplaying games....

The stereotype of a group of middle school boys crowded into a wood-panelled basement rolling dice is one that I embrace fondly because it brings back the warm nostalgia of many a long, female-less weekends. We played a lot of different games, but what I remember most, and the one that I still have on my games shelf, is Talisman.
The game was a natural default because roleplaying games required someone sitting down and actually planning out an adventure; Talisman promised the same fun, but required only opening the box, sorting out all the cards and counters and then arguing about the fairest way to pick a character.

The object of the game, in a nutshell (from Wikipedia) is: "to progress through a series of regions and reach the Crown of Command. The game contains three regions: the Outer Region, the Middle Region and the Inner Region. Players start in the Outer Region and try to progress inward. The Inner Region contains the Crown of Command, the central board position. To reach the Crown of Command, players must pass through the Valley of Fire. Only characters possessing a talisman may enter the Valley of Fire, hence the name of the game."

While the board game emphasizes a P.vs.P. style play (attacking and killing your friends was encouraged many years before Munchkin), it isn't hard to see this shifting into a more campaign style play. A Big Bad has stolen the Crown of Command and will use it to cast a spell over the lands unless stopped by the intrepid band of Heroes.

It would be a fairly straightforward adventure, with a surprisingly large potential for sandbox play. Plus it would be easy for the GM to run, especially if they made ggenerous use of the monsters, equipment and encounters already contained within the game.

Suggested Supplements
The Dungeon, The City, Timescape, Dragons, Frostmarch, Highland, The Blood Moon. I'd personally incorporate my own Munchkin: Talisman rules.

Suggested Systems
OSR D&D or AD&D if you wanted to play it straight, but I personally would go with the board game's own 2nd Editions rules, which was STR+Weapon+D6 vs Monster's STR +D6 (or Craft in the event of magic or psychic monsters). For anything physical (jumping, climbing etc) roll under your STR on D6, and for anything mental (puzzles, riddles, magic etc) roll under your CRAFT on D6.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Douglas Adams

Happy Birthday to the man who gave us the Hitchhickers Guide, Dirk Gently, Last Chance to See, and contributed to Monty Python, Doctor Who and Doctor Snuggles ...

Douglas Adams would have been 61 today. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

For New Monsters Ideas.... go small

A wolf spider carrying hundreds of young on her back. Now translate that to a giant spider....
And than there are Pistol Shrimp...
These shrimp have one oversized claw that normally remains open. When prey come near, the claw is snapped closed, creating a jet of water traveling 60mph. Behind the jet of water a low pressure bubble forms, and then collapses, creating a very loud bang and a very bright flash of light. From start to finish, it takes 300 microseconds. The flash itself can last from 300 picoseconds to 10 nanoseconds. One picosecond is one trillionth of a second; try measuring that, because the researchers couldn’t.

The very loud bang reaches 218 decibels (louder than a gunshot, and a group of these shrimp can hide a submarine from sonar), and the very bright flash of light means that the inside ...of the bubble reaches 5000 Kelvin (8540 degrees Fahrenheit/4726.85 degrees Celsius). That sounds hot, right? It should, because that is close to the temperature of the surface of the sun.

The shock wave kills prey, usually small fish, crabs, and other shrimp. The shock wave decimates enemies better than Raiden from Mortal Kombat. There are over 600 species in this family, mostly living in tropical waters.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Medieval Word Puzzle

Wordsearches ... for your next Dungeon/Puzzle idea ... via Retronaut

The Magazines of Bladerunner

For all your Shadowrun needs.

Literal Legomania!

If I won the lottery tomorrow, by the weekend I would be very happily building my very own Lego Room out of actual Lego Bricks. In the meantime, I have to make do by looking at stuff like this ...

Katana Fight

From the movie Ame Agaru (After the Rain), based on the last script by Akira Kurosowa, Loves a good samurai fight, I do. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Seven Wonders

There are books you like, then then are ones you hate. Then there are the ones that you want to like, but turn into such ham fisted slogs that you finish just to see how long this train wreck goes on for. I hate to say it, but Seven Wonders, by Adam Christopher is one such book.

This book is set in a world with superheroes, including its own band of Superfriends known as the Seven Wonders. The 7W are so good at their job that there are no longer any supervillains  except one; a dark and brooding superman known as the Cowl who controls one small city on the west coast. This also happens to be the same city where the 7W have their Hall of Justice, but there is nothing suspicious about that, right? Meanwhile, across town a regular guy named Tony wakes up one day to discover he has the Cowl's superpowers, and the Cowl wakes up to discover that he is once again a mere mortal...

Sounds like a pretty good set up, right? And there some neat ideas here the action sequences are actually fun to read. Too bad the character motivation is so random that it borders on schizophrenic. The 7W themselves remain enigmas which would be fine, more than fine if the book had continued to concentrate on Tony. But then there is a handbrake turn in plot halfway through the book that suddenly brings them to the forefront but leaves you with NO concept of who these people are.

And Tony, poor deluded Tony. In what I think was meant to be a statement about absolute power, he goes from trying to be a hero but accidentally killing two crackheads (while still trying to figure out his powers), to brutally and without a hint of remorse, slaughtering cops not twenty pages later. There is no character development in play here, these two events happen more or less sequentially to the character.

Nevertheless, a book about Tony trying to figure out if he is a hero or a villain would have at least been interesting. What it turns into instead has been a tired plot since the silver age, and the ending should be UTTERLY unsurprising even to non comic fans who read about comic book plot developments in the newspaper.

Katana vs Long Sword

Normal posting should resume shortly. Have had kind of a rough month, but am finally catching up. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Illustrated Dune

Video Hits: The Mighty Boosh

Born out of largely improved stage shows and radio plays, The Mighty Boosh is not exactly a sitcom. It is more like watching the abstract, free associating stream of consciousnesses flow from the minds of the actors as they play dress up, dance and sing while acting very silly. It also relies heavily on fantasy and sci-fi elements, albeit ones filtered through an absurd lens. The first season focuses on The Zooniverse, a really, really crappy zoo where our heroes, Vince Noir (Noel Fielding) and Harold Moon (Julian Barratt), work as keepers. A typical episode may see them traveling to the Arctic, battling mutants and serial killers, or going through Limbo to reach the depths of Monkey Hell. In later series, they leave the zoo to work in a shop run by a magical shaman named Naboo and his gorilla partner Bollo.
Still with me? 

This episode 'Jungle' isn't the first one of the series (that is 'Killeroo'; not my favourite of the series, but it would make an awesome name for a wandering monster), but it is the first Boosh I ever saw and works as good as an introduction as anything else. The shaman Rudy even becomes a reoccurring character as the show rapidly expands its mythos. 

Dragon Archives

Dragon Magazine archive online,

and now


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Rancor Dragons

The Hand that Feeds: Clinton Felker
If you can't find room in your campaign to fit these beauties, then you are just the enemy of fun.