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July 25, 2004

Game Dream #6: Defying Convention

In the latest Game Dream, Doc steers away from gaming itself to ask some general questions about one of Gaming’s institutions: the convention.

    Have you attended a game or media (i.e. comic book / SF) convention?

Yes; several of the first and a few of the second. The roleplaying con scene was going strong in Sydney during the nineties, and I started attending not long after I got into the hobby. I’ve had fun and won the odd prize or two (from blocks of wood to RPG product). As for media conventions, I think I’ve only been to around… three SF conventions; two mainly Star Trek-oriented and one B5 oriented. I’ve seen Réne Auberjonois and Bruce Boxleitner speak at different cons, and took footage (eventually un-used) for a high school video project at the third. Comic-book conventions? Yeah, I think about three of the local OzCons as well, and one, maybe two of Games Workshop’s annual Sydney Games Days.

    If not, what's kept you from doing so?

I’m going to interpret this question a little differently than I think it was originally intended. I only ever attended two SF cons because the entrance fees – which have to cover off both appearance fees for the stars and donations to a charity – were rather steep, and my disposable income both shrank and was redirected elsewhere. Comic cons I simply couldn’t be bothered with any more, and I decided to leave Games Workshop behind when I realised I couldn’t stand the thought of painting an army’s worth of miniatures.

RPG cons are a slightly different matter, and they amount largely to two factors. One is the fact that I’m now a taken man, and as the time my lady and I have together is limited by her working three nights a week, I don’t like spending the leisure time we do have without her. Getting to and from a con, while probably no less awkward than it used to be, is nowadays more of a chore, and playing in, or even more so, gamemastering, a con module means that Vickie has to sit around twiddling her thumbs for a few hours a day (she’s not a great one for convention gaming).

The second one is… I’m just not as interested in convention gaming any more. When I see pamphlets for gaming conventions, very few if any of the module blurbs strike me as particularly interesting, and I tend to stick with systems I know, which restricts my field a little bit. That, plus the above, has reduced my con gaming to pretty much zero; a couple of times, I’ve even promised just to drop in to one or two to catch up with a few friends there, and instead Vickie and I wind up doing other things.

    If so, how was your experience, and what can you share with others to nudge their decision one way or the other?

Okay. Let me break it down:

  • If you enjoy listening to commentary tracks on movie DVDs, I’d recommend going to SF “star-appearance” con. It means you’ll be sitting with a whole bunch of people in a hotel conference room or auditorium somewhere, and you mightn’t have the best view, but seeing and listening to the person who plays your favourite character talk about the experience of making a science fiction TV show and/or movie is good fun, especially if they have Q&A sessions. I enjoyed seeing both Réne Auberjonois and Bruce Boxleinter (especially Bruce); they’re great speakers and they knew how to have fun on stage in the casual-chat format SF cons do so well.

  • If you’re a comic book collector or just in the market for a cool t-shirt, a comic con is always worth your while. You might get the opportunity to get your priceless mint condition Issue 1 signed by the author and artist, and if not, there’s always lots of drool-factor in wandering form stand to stand.

  • And if you’re a roleplayer, cons are always worth your while. Even if there aren’t any dealers’ tables where you might be able to snag something cheaper than usual on the last day, you have the opportunity to visit strange new worlds, make new friends and join new gaming groups, to boldly roll where no dice have rolled before! (ahem) Seriously, I’ve met some of my best friends at cons, up to and including the last couple I attended, and not by coincidence, they’re also welcome in any campaign I run.

July 23, 2004

Herstik.com is Moving!

Well, talk about best-shoring in reverse - my web-admin Marcus is shifting his hosting operation from his personal server to a fully-supported unit in the States! He's planning to get started tomorrow, so this evening I'm helping out by doing a backup run off all the stuff in my folders, including the Wiki and Vickie's site. So, once this is updated, that's it for the next day or two!

The End of the Splurging - I Hope...

Well, folks, after swearing off it, I must confess - I'm guilty of credit card abuse again. Just yesterday, I splurged on a copy of the D20 mini-RPG Horizon: Virtual, the closest thing to a TRON roleplaying game I've ever seen. It's got a really intersting spin on the "other side of the screen" concept, and as it's meant to use the D&D rules, the gameplay focus has a little D&D flavour to it, but I'd still like to run it sometime.

And as I've been splurging on myself, I figured it was about time I splurged on Vickie; I bought us two tickets to see British comedian Lenny Henry at the State Theatre on August the 2nd. He's bringing his new live show, So Much Things To Say (which opened in the UK just after we left last year) to Australia and is kicking the tour off in Perth, then going around the nation and buggering off to New Zealand. We have two seats in the front row! Woohoo!

July 22, 2004

King Arthur

It’s the Dark Ages, and the Roman Empire is in control of roughly half of England. The Roman legionnaire Artorius, often called Arthur (Clive Owen), is commander of a unit of Knights from the country of Sarmatia. The conscript Knights have served Arthur and Rome for fifteen years in battle against the rebellious Woads, led by Merlin (Stephen Dillane), and are on the verge of being freed when a Roman bishop (Ivano Marescotti) orders Arthur to take them north of Hadrian’s Wall on one last mission. An army of Saxons is pillaging its way south, and a friend of the Catholic Church is to be evacuated.

At the village of Marcus Honorius (Ken Stott), Arthur discovers Marcus’ priests torturing captured Woads, including the mysterious Guinevere (Keira Knightley), in the name of saving their souls. Arthur frees them just before the Saxons arrive, and the evacuation becomes a race against time and the elements to get Marcus, his family and the villagers back beyond the Wall before the Saxon leader, Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård), and his army catch up with them…

Every so often, modern Hollywood churns out a movie billed as either a true story or based on one, and this film has been billed loudly and widely as the true story behind the legend. The (supposed) factual basis for this latest film on the legend of King Arthur is based on rather distant history, so any sacrifices it makes in the name of sensationalism are less likely to stand out (at least to the average cinemagoer).

Unfortunately, said films often grossly distort or sensationalise the facts they’re based on. Hollywood wasn’t always guilty of this; as an example, compare Tora! Tora! Tora! with Pearl Harbour (another Jerry Bruckheimer film). Although it can be argued that playing fast-and-loose with the facts allows for a better human-interest story, it seems as though Hollywood is unwilling to combine accuracy with human interest. (In all fairness, Tora! Tora! Tora! was rather dry.)

Surprisingly enough for a Jerry Bruckheimer pic, King Arthur is rather subdued, perhaps in an attempt to give the "true story" the gravitas it theoretically merits. Unfortunately, the result is too subdued. I spent most of the film waiting for the two main leads to evince more than a superficial emotion, and it just didn’t happen. The accent trouble in this film doesn't particularly help. Although Guinevere is now a Woad warrior maiden in this “true story”, she retains her plum-in-mouth Londoner’s accent, and any nuance that was meant to be carried in Arthur’s lines is unfortunately lost in Clive Owen’s monotone. Even Swedish Stellan Skarsgård, who really looks the part of a Saxon warrior chieftain, has an accent that sounds American.

Accent trouble unfortunately isn't a real cover for the flat performances of Owen and Knightley here. It’s a shame, really, because both have done better. The only time they emote and by extent make us empathise with their characters is during the film’s fight scenes, which themselves get disjointed and a little too drawn out, even if they are largely fun to watch.

If there's anyone who deserves top marks for making the best of a dodgy lot, it's definitely Ioan Gruffud, who plays a charming-yet-smouldering Lancelot to the hilt (both of ‘em). This is Ioan's first big Hollywood starring role, and I'm hoping to heck it's not his last. Props must also go to the other Sarmatian Knights, including Ray Winstone and Australia’s own Joel Edgerton; all six seem to have been given the opportunity to actually enjoy their parts, unlike Owen and Knightley, who are often too busy debating the fine points of religion, duty and freedom with all and sundry.

It’s interesting to see a rather strong anti-Catholic subtext in this film – I kept trying to figure out whether it was a stab at organised religion (contrasted against Arthur’s strong personal Christian faith) or just part of the period portrayal. It’s an interesting irony that the Catholics are almost worse than the Saxons in an era when the Christians were usually the ones being persecuted, but I thought the Inquisition days were a little later on.

Ultimately, though, I kept waiting for Something To Happen in this film, and while the ending yields a few surprises, nothing ever really did. Overall, I’d save King Arthur until it hits rental – while there’s nothing really wrong with it, there’s not enough right with it, quite possibly not enough to justify the price of a cinema ticket.

July 19, 2004

Birthday Burnout

Hello everyone. The server was down yesterday, so I’m sneaking in during my lunch break to post this. Vickie and I had a very relaxing weekend in – well, for most of it, anyway. I finally broke down and had my usual post-birthday splurge, which I hope is the last time I abuse my poor, overworked credit card in such a fashion. Vickie and I went grocery shopping on Saturday, and discovered that the paperback of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is finally out, so we bought that at Borders for $10; while I was there I also nabbed all eight of the Calvin & Hobbes collections that were going cheap (discounted and 4 for the price of 3). We missed some supplies on Saturday, so I nipped out again on Sunday – and discovered there was a ninth collection of Calvin & Hobbes on the Borders cheap book stalls on the lower floor of the shopping centre. (I’ll give you the list after I get home; so far I’ve laughed my way through Something Under the Bed is Drooling.)

As the Electronics Boutique sale wound up yesterday, I caved in to may baser desires and nabbed Burnout 2: Point of Impact, a fun little arcade racing game going for half price. It’s sort of a less-accurate-to-real-life but no less pretty Project Gotham Racing with emphasis on reckless driving and spectacular crashes. It’s a blast to play solo, but I’ve been looking for a game like this ever since I noticed the most fun had on the Xbox with people over was on games like Rallisport Challenge when we suddenly veered into jackass mode and sent our cars careening into each other and flying off the track; the only problem was, the cars would reset themselves back on the racetrack in short order, so you couldn’t see the good bit (i.e. when the cars landed). Halo was almost as good, except the Warthog is indestructible and there are never enough to go around. In short, I can’t wait to get some of you nuts over for some multiplayer Burnout 2.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I finally got Vickie to watch Chicken Run on Saturday night. I've mentioned it during the odd trip to Video Ezy and Vickie's never been really keen, but Channel 7 had it on on Saturday and I made sure the channel didn't get changed. Mission successful; we both laughed our way through it. :-D

Yesterday evening, Vickie and I braved the blistering cold and headed off to Broadway for Boot’s Birthday Bash. As most of his friends refuse to venture north of the Bridge (which is why my party at the Greengate wasn’t a combined function as originally planned), he decided to bring his party to them in the form of a movie session at the Broadway Hoyts Cinema. (If some of them are reading this, I have only this to say: you slack, slack buggers.) So Vickie and I trudged down Broadway all rugged up and still feeling the wind chill. I say this now: That’s the last time we do that! Still, it wasn’t all bad; we bumped into Ben Lucas on the way, so Vickie finally got to meet the guy whom I’ve been talking about for a while (even if only for a couple of minutes, as he was heading back up toward Central for a train home).

The movie of choice was King Arthur. I want to scribble a review sometime in the next couple of days, so I’ll give you the short version – It wasn’t bad, not really, but it wasn’t particularly good either. Still, we did have three-quarters of an hour at the Lansdowne Hotel afterward, which was fun; we got to meet some more of Boots' mates, including the infamous Kane, and caught up with most of the Corsairs crew. (Next time, Boots: bugger the movie and skip straight to the pub! ;-D )

July 17, 2004

Game Dream #5: Cooperative Storytelling

I’d just like to say that I look forward to each of Doc’s new Game Dreams every week very, very much. They’re challenging, in that they make me think about my favourite hobby, and yet not too much so, as (and I hate to admit this) the Lexicon entries got after a while (probably because I was doing double-duty as player and effective GM). It’s quite fun and illuminating to read others’ responses also. (ahem) Doc credits an article in Dragon magazine for the inspiration for this week’s Game Dream, but I can’t help but wonder whether he’s been reading my previous posts in the RPG Notes category. Anyway, here we go:
    To what level (if any) do the groups you usually play with encourage communal creation of the game world?
I think it’s rather tricky in the games I’ve attempted to run as campaigns so far. When actually planning a campaign, I tend to choose game worlds that are fairly detailed. The Corsairs campaign is a prime example. It’s a Heavy Gear campaign, and I make use of Heavy Gear’s extensive background and ongoing story. As such, it’s difficult to encourage communal creation of the game world when the game world is by and large pre-existing. Admittedly, it’s rather short on local detail; you could probably go crazy on a neighbourhood or Badlands community. The problem is, that community still has to fit into the overall whole, and when my players haven’t read the extensive collection of sourcebooks on my shelf (and probably aren’t that keen on the idea, really), I can imagine that the idea of working to create an idea might be rather intimidating when it won’t necessarily fit into the greater whole. There’s also the possibility that there really hasn’t been time to do any world-building. Well, actually, with the slow pace the campaign has wound up taking, there’s technically been plenty, but - it’s never seemed the time or the place, at least not yet. If world building might be appropriate anywhere, it’ll be before/when the team leaves Terra Nova and heads for Caprice. Again, though, we butt up against the problem of the existing material; to establish the framework for building the characters’ world (i.e. the specific elements of the broader world that the PCs would interact with), the players would probably need to read Life on Caprice, the Liberati Sourcebook, the Black Talon Field Guide and/or the CEF Sourcebook. Again, as much as I’m willing to let them do so, I get the feeling it won’t happen any time soon. At least, that’s my opinion. Vickie, Boots, Dan, Gav, Charisse, Dizzy: Does what I just wrote seem right with you?
    Are the players spectators, or do they actually have a say in the plot (moreso that just guiding it by the actions of their characters)?
Good question. I think, the combination of the unsteady schedule and the fact that the team has a few recent comers to the hobby, the players tend to be a little more spectatory in terms of the plot than otherwise – there have been times when I’ve asked for input, and the general consensus has been “Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s great”. Then again, the players have given me a few plot hooks in their character backgrounds that I’m yet to make use of, so I think I’m to blame for that. I’ve had an idea for a tool that might facilitate player interaction with the plot, but whether that’ll work with the Corsairs campaign, I don’t know. I get the feeling that, to have a world building, or perhaps more specifically, a campaign arena (i.e. the specific chunk of the game world that the PCs will inhabit and interact with)-building exercise that works, you need either a team that has no problem reading a fair chunk of source material, or a game-world that’s high on theme and low on detail, so that the players and GM feel as though they have more room to play. At the same time, I don’t think the game world can be too wide open, or else you run the risk of a mish-mash of ideas that don’t necessarily work together (or even on their own). I wander back toward the Lexicon game I tried running earlier on; the writing-styles of us individual players didn’t really meld, and we wound up straying off-topic quite a bit. The other, successful (and successfully completed) Lexicons I’ve seen are based in existing RPG universes that have strong ground rules while allowing you to play fast-and-loose with the details (i.e. Paranoia, Nobilis). One game that immediately comes to mind is Black9 Ops; it's a small, free game with some background and setting information to set the tone and ground rules, but with most of the specifics left quite open. octaNe and InSpectres might also work, especially as the possibility for game-worlds creation is factored into both their minimal setting information and their narrative control die mechanics (which allow for off-the-cuff world building during the game, not just before and after). Heck I think all sorts of crazy fun could be had coming up with an anime-style school, neighbourhood, teachers and alien races for Teenagers From Outer Space game - and then playing a campaign in it! Cooperative campaign-arena-building is something I'd like to try sometime - and I do think the Lexicon format is great for this - although I think I'd prefer to do so "from scratch", rather with an existing campaign. (But, please, guys, if this reads like something you'd like to do for Heavy Gear, won't you let me know?)
Old Comments

Of course, I read your posts :P

I usually let the topic bubble up from the depths of my brain, and run with it. It's often influenced by things I see on numerous blogs over the previous week (or even month), and then meshed together in my head.

Lexicon looked interesting to me from a writing standpoint. I'll admit I've never played a PBeM or forum-based game. Perhaps I should give it a try and broaden my horizons ;) I've been lucky in that I have a regular group of folks who meet weekly.

I followed the link back to your RPG Notes entry. I like it! I may use the "Please stay tuned for next week's episode, when you'll hear Tork say: `Tork should not have sat on that altar. Tork sorry!`" idea for a future plot hook :)


Posted by: Doccus at July 18, 2004 02:46 AM

I am not sure the CEF would be recomended reading. Personally, I would have liked to have gotten some of that info as part of in game info to enhance our roleplaying. Also, recommended reading would also be the area source book from where your character is from. I know it made a huge difference in my character building having the Sun Emerites info on hand.

On Lexicon, I don't think you have a complete handle on how it really works. Your timeline did help people, but it is really about an organized effort. It is something that has to be managed. I am not saying that you didn't try, but it was obvious that it wasn't a primary focus. Plus as you found out sometimes things just happen and players drop out or can't make an entry.

Posted by: Dan at July 19, 2004 04:53 AM

Boys and Toys

Sometimes I think this “grown up” thing, if I can ever get there, wouldn’t be so bad. You know, the whole “I put away childish things” bit? The out-growing of all those small and not-so-small fripperies that you’ve always known you don’t really need, but keep spending (or wasting) your time and money on nonetheless?

I mean, right now, I know I have bills to pay coming up and some very important expenses that I most definitely should be socking some money aside for – and I want a new toy. I’ve looked over my finances for this month, and I think I’ll barely make it through – and I want a new toy. I was overdrawn on my credit card last month (I definitely don’t want to be anywhere near there again), and next month’s a triple-hit rent month – and I want a new toy. I’ve got a few old toys I’m not even finished playing with yet – and I want a new toy. Vickie needs some dental work, for crying out loud, and she’s going to be in a sticky period for a little while – and I want a new god-damned toy.

What the fuck is wrong with me? I’m an intelligent person, I know what my responsibilities are, and I know when I’m being suckered by consumerism, yet I keep walking into EB and looking at what’s going cheap, and thinking, hey, $20 off that, that’s only $60 now, that’s not too bad – and that’s down to only $50 now, so those’d only be $110 in total – even though I know that’s $110 of paid bills, or $110 worth of new shoes (that I actually need), or groceries, or the odd trip or two to the movies for us.

For some reason, the knowing I can’t really afford to splurge on myself at the moment makes it worse; the act of buying a luxury for myself becomes almost an act of rebellion, even though I know it’s only me, and the responsibilities I’ve chosen for myself, I’m rebelling against, and that it’ll only be Vickie and I that I’ll be hurting in the end.

Do you know what the most frustrating thing is? The moment I bring the game home and install it on my PC or run it on my Xbox, it becomes just another game on the screen. It’s still the same screen, same old me parked in front of it, same old keyboard and mouse or controller.

July 15, 2004

Planning for Wireless

I've been planning, on and off, to make some changes to our local network here at Fraser Road for a while. The current networking setup does the job, but not too drastically well; as Vickie's PC is both the pass-through for the Internet connection and the printer share, she takes performance hits on certain applications - most notably, the Java games on Popcap she enjoys playing - whenever I print, and sometimes when I'm surfing also. I've been wanting to take that load off of Vickie's PC for a while, but the money which could have gone toward the re-work has either gone on Madam Lash, bills or other personal fripperies (like Hero System 5th Edition and Knights of the Old Republic, which I have to get back into).

They're nto the only factors. As I believe I've mentioned, one of my wishes has been to get the Xbox hooked up to the Internet so I can play things like MechAssault and Halo 2 across Xbox Live. As I believe I've also mentioned, though, the practicalities of doing so - either settign a wireless connection up or drilling holes in the floor - have made the idea prohibitive.

Thanks to the latest issue of Australian Personal Computer, though, my plans are starting to look feasible. The July issue of APC features an article on Wireless networking, including tests of several wireless routers. The winner of the Editor's Choice Award is the ASUS WL-500G, a fully-featured router including wireless connectivity and a print hub, for - get this - $150. This puts wireless networking within my reach, even though I won't really be able to safely afford it until September. Still, that gives me enough time to research wireless networking and security.

Once I have a wireless hub, I'll still need a means of connecting the Xbox to it. Thankfully, it seems Ethernet wireless access points have also been dropping in price, and an ASUS WL-330 retails for only around $100 nowadays. But even if I don't get one until further down the track, we'll still have a solid network setup in the meantime - one that shouldn't cause Vickie any more grief.

July 12, 2004

Not quite as tongue in cheek as Star Wars in 30 Seconds...

With thanks to The After Hours Pub for passing it on, here's ALIEN in 30 Seconds - Re-Enacted By Bunnies.

If you like ALIEN... you'll be wondering what these guys were on.

July 11, 2004

Early and Late Sunday

Well, Vickie and I got in about an hour ago from the Greengate. A fun night was most defintely had; I was well pleased with how smoothly things went.

Here are the photos:

The Early Crowd (around 6 PM)
From left to right: Joe, Juene, Dad, Mum, Nan, Trish, Gav, EvilHayama, Pirotess, SimLauren, Jason, Vickie

The Early Crowd, Plus Rob
From left to right: Joe, Me, Dad, Mum, Nan, Trish, Gav, EvilHayama, Pirotess, SimLauren, Jason, Vickie

The Late Crowd (around 9 PM)
From left to right: Gav, Boots, Jacinta, Dizzy, Deb, Charisse, Vickie, Notlih

The Late Crowd, Plus Rob
From left to right: Gav, Boots, Jacinta, Dizzy, Deb, Charisse, Vickie, Me

27 in 2004!

Well, yet another Happy Birthday to me! Big Snugglies to my Vickie for getting me not one, but both of Donald Fagen's solo albums! I was naughty and listened to The Nightfly last night, but I'm cruising to the smooth tunes of Kamakiriad right now, and have/am thoroughly enjoyed/ing both!

And a quick reminder to everyone who said they'd come (and everyone who's intending to come but didn't reply) - the bash is on this afternoon at the Greengate Hotel in Killara from 4 PM until 10 or whenever everyone wanders off, whichever's earliest. I know the weather is shit and they've got the CBD out for trackwork, but I'd love it if you can be there!

Black9 Ops Character Sheet

I must be a right geek; I've only had Black 9 Ops a few days and I've already made up a character sheet for it. I used Publisher 2000 to put it together, then made screen-grabs of the body and cut the margins and converted to .gif in Paint Shop Pro 7. It took a few days to get everything shuffled around and figure out where the issues were.

I think it'll work okay.

Speaking of Black9, does anyone know if there was ever a screenshot or piece of concept art of the cat girl charcter? I've noticed the only available screen grabs (and even concept art) are for the human male, human female or ogre.

July 10, 2004

Game Dream #4: Dude, Read This Book!

Here are a few rather cinematic questions that I think a few IMAGinES subscribers could provide some interesting answers to (*cough* Boots *cough*):

    What is the role, if any, that movies and books play in your campaigns?

Well, the Bubblegum Crisis campaign kind of answers itself, really; I think Dan and I have tried to make sure that our group has seen at least Episode 1 of the original series. Beyond that, I’m still trying to watch psychotronic film at any opportunity for octaNe inspirational purposes, and thanks to Gav, he, Vickie and I have seen The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension recently.

    When entering a new genre, how important do you feel seeing (or reading) a good genre example becomes?

I think it’s very important. I find it’s easier to get into a roleplaying game setting if you have a handle on not only the themes and tropes of said setting, but most especially the visuals and pacing. While movies are better on visuals than books in some respects, I think well-written books do at least as good a job, as they’re more like an RPG in that you’re creating the setting in your head based on an external description rather than being handed a complete visual/audio image.

I also think that while a novel is good for introducing the common themes of a campaign (due mainly to its extended pacing), movies give a better idea of session pacing, as they’re usually only an hour or two shorter than the average game session; they give a better idea of what the GM may be expecting to achieve by the end of each session.

If and when I finally do some Feng Shui, I think a Hong Kong action cinema viewing night or two would almost be mandatory.

    Have you ever been assigned a "mood" book to read by the GM, or gone to a group movie viewing?

Unfortunately, no, nor do I think I’ve ever assigned a “mood” book or film as a GM.

    How do you feel about game-based fiction, whether "pulp" novels or movie attempts?

If done with care, and the result is of at least passable quality, I think game-based fiction is worthwhile, as it then makes it easier to marry the themes, visuals and pacing to the GM’s campaign. I think that, because a game novel or movie brings the setting to life, it also makes that setting a little more accessible to players than the sometimes-dry informational writing of a core book or supplement.

It’s also rather risky, as the GM may have a slightly different spin on the themes of the setting than the authors of the setting and fiction; the GM would need to make sure that this was communicated from the outset so players wouldn’t be feeling short-changed by any changes.

Old Comments

I loved Buckaroo Banzai :)

"Remember, wherever you go ... there you are."

I'd never thought about making a campaign to that level of SF cinematic action ... but it's a good idea :)


Posted by: Doccus at July 13, 2004 02:58 AM

Heh heh! I don't know whether you could make a campaign in the Buckaroo Banzai vein, but if there's any game that could support it, it's octaNe - mainly because its die-mechanics manage distribution of narrative control instead of success or failure. So really, it'd depend on whether your players were in the mood.

Posted by: IMAGinES at July 13, 2004 09:01 PM

Must've failed his Saving Throw vs. Getting Busted...

I hope this won't strain the good Doctor's bandwidth limit, but all you RPG geeks out there just have to go and check this file that he's most graciously posted, especially if you thought "Dungeons & Dragons - Satan's Game" was funny. It's a video clip from a US comedy show, Reno 911 (you can also find the clip as a RealMedia file on the show's official site; just search for "D&D Axe Scuffle").

Black9 Ops

Here's an interesting little game that I must thank GameSpy for pointing me toward. A while ago, the makers of the Star Trek: Starfleet Command series of computer games decided to branch out and make a console/PC action title, which they dubbed Black9, a sprawling sci-fi epic of ultra-tech frontiers, ancient mysteries and Machiavellian intrigues. During development, a decision was made to develop a pen-and-paper roleplaying game set in the Black9 universe; the task was given to none other than Steve Perrin, long-time game developer from the early days of Chaosium (especially RuneQuest).

Over the past few months, though, development stalled on Black9, and just recently, developer Taldren shut its American operations - including Black9 - down in favour of relocating to Korea and starting work on yet another Massively Multiplayer Online Fantasy RPG.

However, Black9 still survives - in its pen-and-paper incarnation, Black9 Ops. Steve Perrin was interviewed on it by HomeLanFed, who have also posted the game in PDF format for download!

I rather like it - I think it's a neat little interplanetary cyberpunk adventure game for seventy-plus pages, and while it's a little sparse on art and atmosphere, you can quite easily make up for that by raiding the screen shot archives of the various computer and video gaming sites featuring the game.

Interestingly enough, while RPG adaptations of computer games already exist, this is the first I've seen that actually directly utilises the computer game's task resolution and combat mechanics. I suppose the wheel has to complete a revolution sometime, eh? :-D

July 09, 2004

City Vs. Town

I mentioned about a week ago that I've started working in the city again. It's been an interesting change from the usual working day at the main office near Strathfield. If you know me, you probably know that my first full-time IT job was located in the city, so there's a fair bit of deja vu in being back there again for IT stuff.

I tell you what, though - after a week of being back in the city, I've realised I prefer being back at the main office. There's the contrast in office buildings - the city office is in a building that must have gone up in the seventies (I assume). It feels small and cramped, even if the head-room isn't much different in either - it's mainly because every metre of window is broken up by a metre of wall. Most of the light comes from the fluorescents in the ceiling. By contrast, the main office external walls are mostly window, so there's a greater portion of natural light, and although they can still be crowded, the glass, the colour scheme (muted blues as opposed to the city's beiges and yellows) and the layout makes the main office feel much more spacous, even in the places where it's not.

Then there's the location itself. I really think I prefer being out of the city. When you step outside for a stroll (necessary when you spend most of your day with yoru arse parked in front of a PC), you can walk down the main street of an actal town, without being surrounded by fellow rat-racers in suits and glitzy stores with expensive items, or if you don't want to walk that way, you can take the roads off the main street, which are just quiet residential. If you want to try that in the city, all you get are back alleys, garbage bins and and shadows. Not nice.

So frankly, when (if) this project's all over, I'm gonna look forward to getting back to working out of the main office, ta very much.

July 04, 2004

Game Dream #3: Us and Not-Us

Doc's third Game Dream asks:

    Some people play RPGs to enjoy a viewpoint or way of acting that they just couldn't do in real life. Others seem to play characters whose motivations are more their own. And some folks do all of the above and everything in between :) What character of yours was most like you "in real life"? Which of your characters is the least like you? Which did you find more fun to play, and why?

Now this one requires a little thought, mainly as I’ve not played too many characters, and none for any particular length of time. Three characters come to mind off the top of my head.

Firstly, those who are least like me.

I think the first time I tried to take a departure from a “me” character was in a friend’s “evil” AD&D 2nd Edition campaign several years ago. Rindy (if I remember her name rightly) was DMing us through a world of her own creation, called “Dharkus”. The idea was to play the oft-neglected side of the Alignment table, in theory as a kind of cathartic personal exploration thing, but I think it wound up being just something different to do.

Now, I’ll admit, I’d seen The Crow for the first time not long before, and whenever I tried to come up with an idea for an evil character, the face-painted Goth stereotype Eric Draven kept coming to mind, so much so that when I made up the character, his name was “Alaric Dravinin” (yeah, quit laughing). Rindy attempted to steer him away from a straight up-and-down copy of Draven (which I was sort of against, because I felt comfortable with the concept – hell, my drawing of the character was of the Crow dressed in dark-coloured fantasy adventuring gear), and within a few sessions I’d changed his name to “Raikis”. Basically, he’d been brought back from the dead, and (dredging through the sludge of my brain here) his soul was, I believe, trapped in a gemstone of some sort somewhere, which he wanted back. I think.

Anyway, I played to the completion of the first storyline (something like five or six sessions) and didn’t really want to continue on. The campaign wasn’t particularly “bad” or nasty or anything; I just didn’t feel like I had a handle on what I was doing. I've always liked playing "Good Guys", even more so back then, and I didn't really grok the idea of being "evil" - the closest I could come was to make Raikis an "anti-hero" and I kept drifting over to the "hero" side of the line. I'd probably do a better job of it now.

The most recent character I tried to make as little like me as possible was Turbine, my superhero in Dan’s OzWatch campaign using the Hero System. I decided to make Turbine’s secret identity, Eddie Barron, an indolent, skirt-chasing uni student who’d only recently become a superhero and was trying to lift his game a bit. He’s reckless and tends to charge in without thinking, which, unfortunately, seems to get him consistently beaten up.

Dan’s OzWatch mini-campaign went for about six or seven sessions, and he’s switched tack to the Bubblegum Crisis Sydney 2033 campaign for the moment. I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to explore Turbine, and Eddie Barron, a bit more sometime.

And, of course, mentioning the Bubblegum Crisis campaign brings me around to the other side of the coin: The character who (I think) is most like me.

When Dan proposed the idea of his next campaign to me, he had no idea that I'm already, or at least once was, a Bubblegum Crisis nut. Heck, if you look in the Thanks section of R. Talsorian’s Bubblegum Crisis supplements Before & After and EX, not to mention the “Global Crossfire” chapter, you’ll see yours truly there. So not only was I able to loan Dan the complete BGC RPG product line, I was also able to hand him a near-complete campaign setting: Sydney 2033.

I also told him, “Dan, I can already tell you the character I’m going to play, if only by popular demand: Slamdance.” (For those of you who don't know, Slamdance is the central character of a Bubblegum Crisis fanfic series I started writing back in 2000. The stories have become quite popular among my friends, especially [oddly enough] my female friends, and I figured there'd be at least a couple of the other players who wouldn't settle with me coming up with a new character for the campaign.)

Neal Stephenson wrote it best in Snow Crash: “Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world.” That’s part of Slamdance – my baddest motherfucker wish-fulfilment. He’s an eight-foot-tall advanced combat Boomer with the standard mouth-laser, Wolverine-esque arm-blades, incredible strength and agility and an array of martial arts techniques to boot. Like Wolverine, and Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, Slamdance is a man with no past – he has no memories beyond waking up in the bowels of the Genom Tower in Sydney after Largo’s particle beam attack. As he’s a manufactured life form, Slamdance probably never had any in the first place.

But then, there’s the other part of him: not only is Slamdance a big combat Boomer, he’s also a big combat Boomer with a heart of gold. He’s the me I wish I was: tall, handsome when he compresses down into disguise mode, personable, self-sacrificing without a second thought, speaks only when he has something to say. Interestingly enough, he also has no sex drive. That was written in when my hormones were running wild and I was scared of being more than just polite with women for fear of being bloody obvious (which, if you ask a few people from my one year at uni and my first IT job, I probably was anyway), but I think it makes for an interesting character angle anyway – how does the absence of something everyone else has affect his interaction with everyone else?

As I’ve already mentioned, I lost interest in being Raikis fairly quickly, so he’s pretty much out of the “fun to play” running. So, between Slamdance and Turbine, who’s more fun to play? Really, I don’t know. Dan tends to run rather slow-paced games – which can’t be helped, with the Hero System’s combat rules – so I’ve not had too much of an opportunity to really explore either. Still, I think Slamdance is a little more fun, simply because at this stage, unlike Turbine, he’s had the opportunity to kick some ass without being taken out of the fight fairly quickly. (Then again, his character point total is 586. Yes, Dan has no problem with that.)

Old Comments

I thought Mike Ryan looked familiar, Rob. ;)

Speaking of which, you've done more, have you? Once I get my website up and running properly, I'll have 3 more stories for you. Fair trade?

Posted by: Peg at July 4, 2004 04:55 PM

Hmm. Well, I still have to finish off Slamdance Vs. Predator. Need more stuff to flesh out parts one and five, not to mention something to go in parts Two to Four...

And work's going bonkers at the moment, so I'll probably be getting home late and wanting to crawl into bed over the next week...

Okay. You're on, Peg.

Posted by: IMAGinES at July 4, 2004 05:50 PM

One of the more rewarding things I'm getting out of hosting these Game Dreams is seeing all the alternative game systems jump to the forefront :)

I've also played an "idealized" me, but it was more like the Riggs character from the Lethal Weapon flicks. Humor over the top, but always on the right side of the law, and always doing things for the right reasons.


Posted by: Doccus at July 6, 2004 04:46 PM

Ozwatch will get its time again. The hardest part is playing without Roger. His character was the leader of the group. But in Slamdances case Combat isn't going to be an issue. What ever is going to happen it should happen very quickly. He is one tough mofo. The hardest part is getting enough play time in and when to play. I have a couple ideas that might add some more depth to the characters when we are not playing, but I need to think about it. I might use the extra off time for other things.

Anyway, Turbine had some intresting quirks. He had this clueless nature which definetley gets him into trouble which I think Rob does a little bit:) Though the girl thing was fun to watch Rob try. Gavins current character has that same similar trait to him and I think Gav struggled a bit with it. I think if I had kept him at it he would have blushed ;)

Posted by: Dan Connor at July 6, 2004 08:02 PM

The Luckiest SOB Alive

Yesterday, I was reading Doc’s answer to his third Game Dream, where he talks about the character he’s created and played that’s least like him, Boxcar Bob, a “a gun-toting, nine foot tall, cybernetically enhanced Troll” who “took no prisoners, and rarely asked a question twice”. After reading it, I showed it to Vickie and commented that Bob’s best friend was probably a Vindicator Minigun.

Vickie agreed without batting an eyelid.

Now, this needs a little explanation. For starters, Vickie’s never read the Shadowrun main rulebook, let alone played in a game. For seconds, the Vindicator Minigun only appears in one of the supplements (probably the Cannon Companion, nowadays). But Vickie was able to grok my reference (I’d say mainly due to the idea of a “gun-toting”, “cybernetically enhanced” troll when most trolls aren’t anywhere near a milieu with guns and cybernetics) and run with it. (Of course, it helps she’s a science fiction nut as well, and loves Predator).

I’d just like to say, here and now, that I’m probably one of the luckiest sons of bitches on God’s green earth.

Old Comments

Yep, that was one of my weapons of choice :)

The other was my heavily-armored motorcycle-mounted autocannon. Boom baby, boom!

How many people still grok Grok, though? Sheesh, that show's old, old old :) Still living in syndication, though!


Posted by: Doccus at July 4, 2004 03:06 PM

I thought Grok was from 'Stranger in a Strange Land' by Heinlen?

Not that I grokked that novel, but I remembered the term.

Gav, who prefers Robert E Howard.

Posted by: Gav at July 5, 2004 10:47 PM

Gav,You're right on the money about Grok being from Stranger in a Strange Land...pure Heinlen magic.

D, I don't know about Grok being dated, I personally know heaps of people who understand and use the word. Though of course the possibility of a time warp shouldn't be discounted.

Rob,Thank You. ((((smoochies))))

Posted by: Vickie at July 7, 2004 12:41 AM

July 03, 2004

Peat of the Sants GMing

Just over the past day or two, I've been thinking about the two Memento Mori Theatricks games I own, InSpectres and octaNe. Whenever I pick them up, I read the bits about how they can be run without need of a pre-written adventure; players and GM improvising ideas as they go, as it were. I've never quite felt comfortable with that concept, and I always plan to write adventures for them - but lately, I've been tending toward the mindset of the books. Sometime soon, I'd like to get a bunch of people over - or even go over someone's place with the InSpectres/octaNe kit - and just create characters and run an adventure out of pretty much nothing but the PC details and perhaps an idea or two. I think it'd be heaps of fun.

Old Comments

I've done this with InSpectres, as my second attempt at GMing. I was going to run for some friends. We were having dinner and watching videos, and the video sucked so I took them through the rules and character creation instead. I was going to stop there, but decided to have a quick little mission instead. So I threw on a heroic expression, said "give me 5 minutes alone" and set about putting something together. I used the job generation table in the book, so the other 4 minutes 30 seconds was mainly used for refining the heroic expression. However, afterwards the players didn't believe that I'd done so little. They came up with lots of good ideas, and I keep pushing them on creativity and it was lots of fun.

The set up of characters and Franchise, if you do it as a group, pretty much creates a plentiful source of plot, and the game just needs a starting point to get going.

I haven't read octaNe, but if it's the same as InSpectres in this way, then I might get it. I much prefer not pre-planning adventures, but it makes my players a little uncomfortable. I don't think they think that a brand new GM should be comfortable flying by the seat of their pants, but I find my own creativity and people management to be a much more comforting safety net than my ability to stick to planned out things. I know I suck at the latter, and the former is fun.

Posted by: Claire Bickell at July 4, 2004 10:21 AM

Hello, Claire! Thanks for stopping by!

octaNe and InSpectres are rather different. Jared’s d6-based iSystem mechanic is fully present, but – believe it or not – it’s even more simple than InSpectres.

Where InSpectres uses its play structure and the Franchise mechanics to create and/or aid plot, octaNe takes a more standard RPG approach by providing a setting and Feng Shui-style character templates. However, it’s a nice, cut-down, back-to-extreme-basics, play-as-you-want type of setting, and the templates are all only half a page long. If you and your players have read the Chapter 1 .pdf on the octaNe website and have watched some of the films on the Inspirado list, you should have no problems.

Posted by: IMAGinES at July 4, 2004 11:27 AM

I'm in!!!!!

(and I' can't do weeknights)

Posted by: Lauren at July 5, 2004 04:44 PM

Don't worry, Lauren; the only weeknight I'd consider doing is Friday!

I'd almost be tempted to bring octaNe and a few six-siders with me on Sunday, but I'm not that silly.

Posted by: IMAGinES at July 5, 2004 07:08 PM

It's Necromunda meets octaNe. In an UT2K4 Mod.

Seriously. Just look at those screenshots. I mean, when I saw this, I thought, "Now this is the Wastelands of octaNe. But when I saw this, I thought, "Ahh, but these guys look like Goliath gangers from Necromunda. Even the terrain looks like something scratch-built for it!"

Makes me interested in getting Unreal Tournament 2004...

(Thanks to Penny Arcade for the linkage.)

July 02, 2004

Back In The Big City

Hi, everyone. Thanks to a series of workshops, it looks as though I'm going to be working in the city again for all of next week. We're trying to hash out process for a major project in the works, so they're getting everyone together at a central location near the client. I've been there the past three work days already, and before you ask, no, I haven't gone browsing the game stores yet; we've been finishing later than five most days, and as we were only given a storage space for our laptops on Thursday night, I've been lugging the heavy equipment in and out.

As a result, I've also had even less impetus to write my entry for the Lexicon thsi turn. The deadline's already been blown, and we've gone past the day that a full-turn extension would have ended on. Out of boredom, Sim started playing with the Fortune Cookies page on the Wiki, a page that gets used as a repository for random quotes. It was such a good idea that not only did I start putting some aphorisms in, but I also set a Random Quote macro up on the Wiki's front page, so that every time it loads, a different aphorism is selected from the list. I wound up sourcing quotes from Buckaroo Banzai, Shawn Mullins' Soul's Core album, H. G. Wells and even an aphorism Vickie came up with this very evening!

So if you know a decent quote, why not create yourself a Wiki log in, familiarise yourself with the Wiki formatting, practise in the sand box and add one to the Fortune Cookies page?

Tomorrow Vickie and I are going to see whether we can squeeze two admissions to Spider-Man 2 out of our meagre funds. It should be fun!