Saturday, August 13, 2022

My Life In Fandom: Zero-G Gumshoes & More Today On Geek Gab

Today, at 1pm Central Time Daddy Warpig and Dorrinal return with a new Geek Gab episode.

Mike Kupari joins us to talk about his new spacefaring dectective story,TROUBLE WALKED IN!

I'll be in the chat. See you all there. Come for the interview, stay for the Warpig Rants.

Friday, August 12, 2022

My Life As A Gamer: Hannibal Barca Is A 5th Level Fighter

My friends in the #OSR and especially in the #BROSR should be spending as much time reading or watching documentaries about military history as they do reading or watching adventure fiction and playing the game.

Below comes from one of the many military history channels on YouTube, and this summary of Cannae during the Second Punic War ought to have players thinking.

Hannibal Barca, in AD&D terms, is a Fighter. By this time, you might even consider him Name Level, and this is Domain and Patron level play.

By this time, Hannibal had already hex-crawled across the Alps, defeated several NPC tribes, recruited others to replenish his ranks--Charisma is NOT a dump stat--and began rampaging in the rear of his targetted enemy: Rome.

He had good intelligence gathering and knew how to read his opponents--Intelligence is NOT a dump stat either--so he knew what to do to get the fight he wanted and he had the means to make it happen. He suckered the enemy leaders into fighting his battle on his terms, lead them into his trap, and then pulled on a never-seen-before manuever to guarantee their annihiliation: Double Envelopment.

#BROSR players are already aware that you don't need to be a Name Level Fighter to pull this off. It just helps. What you do need is to know the Henchmen, Hireling, and Morale rules; your Henchmen become your reliable subordinate officers, your hirelings the core of your army, and their Morale is key to making or breaking your military adventures.

Oh, and it also helps to know exactly how many attacks your Fighter can make in a round, especially against opponents with less than a full Hit Die. Suddenly that "boring" fighter ain't so boring anymore, and tales like Sparticus--which is as Zero To Hero as it gets--start looking like everyday campaign play.

Now add in what Clerics, Magic-Users, and Thieves can do and you start to see why D&D today is so lacking compared to this peak. The dropoff became apparent with AD&D 2nd Edition, and that right there was a steep one.

You are not meant to scour dungeons forever, fighting ever-bigger rats for ever-bigger sacks of cash and plusses to your sword and shield. You are meant to be somebody, a mover and a shaker, a player on the board, and the secret is that you can start doing this early on- right away if you're ambitious enough. You are not guaranteed to succeed. That is wholly on you, and you cannot control all variables, so you need to learn Risk Managament.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

My Life As A Gamer: When The Druid is Charlie

Returning to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition has been far more invigorating than I thought. A lot of the rules have interactions that are not made explicit, yet produce the promised gameplay experiences that so many say that they want.

Take, for example, the Druid spell "Heat Metal".

By itself, it's notable.

By means of the heat metal spell, the druid is able to excite the molecules of ferrous metal (iron, iron alloys, steel) and thus cause the affected metal to become hot. On the first round of the spell, the effect is merely to cause the metal to be very warm and uncomfortable to touch, and thus is also the effect on the last melee round of the spell's duration. The second and sixth (next to the last) round effect is to cause blisters and damage; the third, fourth, and fifth rounds the metal becomes searing hot, causing disability and damage to exposed flesh, as shown below.

This can be avoided by dropping or doffing the effected metal. That includes armor, which is addressed elsewhere. Those able to doff affected armor fast enough lose the benefit of their armor; those dropping shields lose those benefits also.

Now, rather than facing significant or serious attack penalties for attacking targets in heavy armor, the Druid faces neutral or beneficial attack modifiers using his melee or missile weapons. Druids can use spears (which can be thrown) and scimitars (which includes a lot of similar weapons), but notably this means that Shillelagh turns into a fantastic follow-up spell.

This spell enables the druid to change his own oaken cudgel into a magical weapon which is +1 to it and inflicts 2-8 hit points of damage on opponents up to man-sized.

Clubs are already +1 to hit against unarmored targets. This spell add another point to that attack role, an attack roll already made easier because the target is unarmored so the base target number is lower. Suddenly Legionaire Bob is in the shit, having had to drop his shield and weapon (so he's unarmed) to doff his armor (so he's unarmored), and facing an angry leather-clad man with a magic clobbering stick.

Meanwhile, those that did not drop and strip are either dead or disabled and likewise out of the fight (or will be shortly).

Heat Metal is a low-level spell, by the way. Combine this with another spell, Animal Friendship, and you're not just facing the Druid. You're facing his animal menagerie (which doesn't count against his Henchmen limit), and right away this at 1st level that Druid can have a faithful War Dog following him around. That dog is a combat drone for all intents and purposes. Gain a level or so, use Heat Metal, and that Druid starts neutralizing threats that his War Dog pack can finish off.

This also applies to high-level Rangers (who get Druid spells) and to Bards (ditto).

And that's just as the level of a specific character class and how their abilities interact with basic gameplay procedures.

Now scale this up.

That Druid starts learning early on how to do things that can impact Patron level play. Charm Person or Mammal also allows the Druid to acquire allies, albeit via means he has to finesse carefull and maintain over time, and it's available when Heat Metal is so it too comes on early. Same applies to Fire Trap. Suddenly that Charisma score starts looking useful, doesn't it? A low-level Druid can lock down a small area if he wishes, making him very good at guerilla warfare, and using charmed assets he can acquire quite the intelligence network to stay ahead of counter-insurgency efforts.

You want to mine, log, or otherwise disrupt his area? You're gonna suffer for it.

This only gets bigger as the Druid gains levels. Long before shapeshifting and elemental summoning, he can keep dirty city folk out of his forests in a manner that looks a lot more like Vietnam than you might think.

Now I'm not at all surprised when I see low-level characters in some #BROSR campaign report doing stuff like this. It's been there all this time, but in our youths too many of us didn't appreciate it so we disdained it. Not anymore.

Time to #WinAtRPGs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Business: Will DC Become Just An IP Holding Company?

The Leading Hispanic Voice in Science Fiction talks about DC cleaning house.

I called this years ago.

There is no reason to maintain the publishing side of the business if you are not using it to develop new Intellectual Property, using the far smaller media as a form of self-financial market research and new titles as A/B testing over a medium to long term. The current editorial and management regime at DC Comics is fucking retarded so they are unable to do this.

DC's corporate overlord sees this and after the more important media outlets get cleaned out, the comics will follow. I agree that what will follow is DC becoming an IP holding company that licenses its properties out to third parties to produce new media. This will come at the cost of a unified continuity, unless this DC rides herd good and hard and I do not believe this is likely- not with the massive library of material that new movies and series can use as source material.

Something is going on in the mainstream corporations if Death Cult darlings are getting the axe. Don't take too much, or too little of it, but see it as the opening to push alternatives that it is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Narrative Warfare: Tragedy, Hope, & What You're Supposed To Do With It

Today is Primary Election Day in Minnesota. I threw sand in the gears. Pic related, including other recent events.

The Shiba of Color would approve.

I will point you to Brian Niemeier's blog for more about those events; I'll reserve my thoughts for the coming weekend when more information comes out.

Note that Brian wrote about this in the framework of Tragedy, using that word properly in its sense in Drama and thus in narrative. Last night saw him do a Twitter thread about that, followed up with yesterday's post, and seeing that more of you know Evangelion than Othello--shame be upon you--I'll embed the start of that thread below.

It's fine for the protagonist to fail. You just have to set it up properly, and in a tragedy that means foreshadowing the protagonist's flaws and howthose flaws could lead to poor decisions that lead to failure, which Shakespeare is famous for doing (and thus is why he's required reading) and why tragedy in anime only works when structured so.

In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, most of the characters that don't make it to the end alive are characters that meet tragic ends. Yang Wen-Li's end comes as a direct result of his flaws and vices, as do the ends of many of his allies and subordinates. The same is true--and lampshaded harder--with Reinhard von Lohengram's side of the story. This includes their respective secondary antagonists; Littenheim and Braunshweig both failed against Reinhard due to their vices overcoming them, and the would-be Karma Houndini Truhint smarms and smugs as only a high-functioning Gamma can until he meets someone with nothing left to lose and a willingness to do violence that others did not.

The catharsis experienced by the audience at the last moment, when Reinhard's infant son repeats his father's grasp for the stars, is ironic and bittersweet in its hope for and concern over the future as Reinhard is no longer there to raise him, leaving Hildagarde--now Kaisarin Regent, with the power to deny the boy succession--in a very dangerous position of her own.

The audience, expected to be familiar with the many historical parallels--many of them European--that Tanaka draws from, appreciates this juxtaposition of Tragedy in the Drama with the reality of this further destabilizing an already precarious galactic polity, as all empires are. As the story ends there, we know not what follows. There is hope that all present will reflect on events that just passed, learn from them, and have the wisdom and the ability to pass those on to the children that come after them. Three is the concern that this fails, and the cycle of history--a theme in LOGH--repeats anew. (Tanaka is no Whig.)

That is what makes an effective tragedy, because those concerns of the survivors are meant to be refleceted in the minds of the audience after the story ends.

To address those concerns, the tales must be considered at length and with attention to detail so that the audience can identify what went wrong and why. They are meant to see in the tragic character something to avoid, not embrace, and thus find cause to correct such character flaws in themselves lest they too meet such an end.

Yes, that happens.

No, you're not supposed to like Shinji. You're supposed to see why Shinji is a bitch and don't do that. Ditto all the other dysfunctional characters in EVA. (A lot of them could use the help of someone like Adam Lane Smith and his Attachment Therapy.) I don't like him either, and I don't like EVA, but it has staying power and Tragedy is that power. Refresh your familiarity with the form; Brian is correct that too many have muddled senses due to the enemy willfully confusing it with Deconstruction and its inherent nihilism.

Monday, August 8, 2022

My Life As A Writer: Cirsova's Submissions For The Year Are Closed

Cirsova Magazine closed their submissions for the year this morning.

I know that I always say that competition for space will be fierce, but this time, it’s even much moreso:

  • We received more submissions than ever before during our 1-week period.
  • I had to replace a water-line to my house, so I don’t have a lot of extra money to overbuy.
  • I owe two authors sizable kickstarter checks and one artist a sizable check for 2022 art; I have the money for those, but I WILL NOT leave myself in a position where those payments need to be delayed for any reason.
  • I need to give my copy editing team a raise, and the cheapest, easiest way to do that is pay them the same while asking less of them, so I will not be cramming 7 issues worth of content into 4 issues of Cirsova again–it was a lot of time and work for.

That's fantastic news, which means that those of us that get rejected shouldn't feel so bad. Space is more limited than before, and there's more competition for what space there is, so what does get accepted and published will be certain to satisfy the readers. For those that get filtered out, keep an eye out for other magazines where our submissions will fit like The Bizarchives.

Good luck, everyone.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

My Life As A Gamer: Palladium's GenCon Q&A

Palladium Books did a Q&A livestream this year yesterday. It's worth checking out, as there is also talk of the Savage Worlds crossovers.

Not a lot of solid product info, but it does reveal that Palladium will remain Palladium--warts and all--so long as Kevin remains in charge. That means that Palladium will remain a hobby company that got lucky about 40 years ago, built itself up using two successful license deals, and taking years to get things out because Kevin has to have his hands in every little thing- and Kevin is a Boomer, with all that entails.

That said, they do have stuff in that notoriously janky production pipleline other than what is on the store or otherwise announced. The confession--which some have never heard--that The Rifter is where Palladium launches trial balloons should be given more emphasis, especially if you're willing to jump through the hoops to submit and are willing to accept the pay rates offered for it.

Palladium's digital options are still PDF-only, not even considering Epub or MOBI, and I don't expect that to change until Kevin is gone. The flip side is that until Kevin is gone I don't expect Palladium to seriously diversify away from being a book publisher; it will be dabbling at best.

The TLDR here is this: Palladium will be Palladium until Kevin retires, so expect nothing to change. New stuff is in the pipeline, but the pipeline is the same finicky thing that needs constant attention that it's been since the '80s, so don't get excited about anything until it's in stores and available to buy.