Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rolling Your Own RPG: How I'm Doing It

My homebrewed tabletop RPG isn't something you'd find in a weighty tome. If I were to put it down and publish it, then it would be about as think as the original pamphlets for Dungeons & Dragons or Traveller. Therefore, it's what some of you would call "rules-lite" (and what sets The Gaming Den off on tantrums of autistic screeching).

First, I'm using the Six Holy Stats of D&D: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma. I'm using the 3-18 range, and rolling on 3d6 to get me that classic bell curve of distribution. That bell curve, and where your man scores on it, is a big factor that informs my rulings. It's part of my reasoning metric for determining throws.

Second, I'm throwing areas of competency together into vague categories and putting them into three grades: Familiarity, Competency, Mastery. The first is "Can do it", the second it "Can get it right", and the third is "Can't get it wrong". This is another part of my metric for rulings and determining throws. The categories are vague because this is meant to handle all of my gaming needs, even shit like RIFTS.

Third, I'm defining gear in real-world terms even if the gear itself is unreal (e.g. a lightsaber). So, instead of looking shit up in Fat Fantasy Splat Vol. 34: Left-Handed Bohemian Ear-Spoons of the Wanker Gods, I can hit up the relevant Infogalactic, Wookiepedia, et. al. page and figure shit out from there. Less paper, less paperwork, less jargon, more organic reasoning and thus better emergent gameplay that's normie-friendly.

Then there's the throws. Fortitude, Reflex, and Will (the d20 System saving throw categories) work just fine for me, so that's what I'm going for. I'm chucking rolling damage dice or having an Armor Class, and there's no defined progression, so these throw categories aren't listed on your man's sheet. Neither are there any Attack stats, or skills stats. Instead, I'm sticking to natural language that your man would use in situations as you would if you were in those same situations.

I'm unsure if I want to use the d20 or just stick with a handful of d6s for throws; the latter shows the influence of Classic Traveller in my thinking, but for a flat distribution of probability the d20 works fine. Hell, I'm thinking that 3d6 or 4d6 may be sufficient for what I want to do; I'll try some variations to see what works.

Yes, scaling is in effect, but it's going to be in natural language and not game mechanic jargon. You're not going to take on AT-ATs with a battle-axe, and you need not worry about the Yamato trying to swat your fighter with its shock cannons. I'm the GM, so I'm going to tell you what to throw and when to throw it, and why if I deem it necessary. Which brings me back to the key point: the strength of the RPG in general, and tabletop in particular, is the ability of the GM to handle all the complexity and make rulings on the spot that best handles the question of the moment.

My homebrewed RPG is nothing more than a framework to inform my rulings and resolve moments of uncertainty. Nothing more is required of a RPG.

Monday, January 30, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Making Your Own RPG, Easier Than Advertised!

I'm talking gaming today, specifically making your own role-playing game for your own use at your table with your pals. I posted about this previously, which you can review here and did a more specific post on it . Before I get on with where I'm going, allow me to point out something for you folks who feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect:

  • Homebrewing is tinkering, not engineering. Don't sweat the details.
  • You don't need to meet professional standards for publishing, as you're not publishing anything for commercial sale. Instead, what you're doing is making just enough stuff so that you can easily run your game, and that's specific to you and how you think. Do what works for you.
  • What you need is far less than what publishers trying to not eat ramen for every meal want you to think.

What you need, in terms of mechanics, in a RPG is very little. Classes? Chucked. Levels? Punted. Skills? Binned. What you need is some measurement of ability, some representation of gear, and a metric for establishing the odds of an uncertain event occurring. For everything else, you need to rely on the What Do You Do feedback loop that drives the entire genre of gaming. Want to learn how to cast a spell? That player talks to the Game Master, and together you figure out what your character needs to do and go about doing it. Want to get a new starship? Same thing.

Doing things is usually, for gameplay purposes, a binary proposition: either your man does the thing or he doesn't. You don't need Hit Points (by any name), as merely having a throw at the moment the attack comes is sufficient; what injuries your man sustains, and how to recover from them, is best handled in the moment by the GM ruling what's damaged and to what severity. Illness is the same thing.

Long story short? That fat fucking tome of rules Paizo sells? Unnecessary. Even the slim rulebooks Palladium's put out back in the 80s for some of their games isn't really necessary; you can reduce the actual mechanics down to a couple of pages, if that, and let the rest come from the real strength of RPGs as a medium: the power of a human GM able to assess the situation in the moment, and use that emergent gameplay to inform rulings he makes at the table to best resolve actions attempted and keep that feedback loop rolling.

That's why rolling your own is way easier than making a commercial RPG, because what you really need is information delineated in real-world terms using real-world measurements and not game mechanical jargon. I'm about ready to give my own a good acid test soon, and when I do I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Narrative Warfare: Appendix N & The Return of the Canon

Today was a fantastic day for those pushing back against the SocJus Death Cult and all of their fellow travelers. For those of us who got into this due to #Gamergate and the Saga of the Sad & Rabid Puppies, the rediscovery of the books listed in Appendix N of the 1st edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide was no less than revolutionary. In the tabletop gaming world, this lead to the Old-School Renaissance and the increasing certainty that the hobby will survive no matter the industry's fate- a restored sensibility now spreading to videogames in the wake of #Gamergate.

In the SF/F world, the impact is now coming in the form of the Pulp Revolution and the Superversive Movement. Just as new companies and other alternatives to the pozzed TRPGs arose and now make room for gaming without Social Justice, this restoration of a deliberately Memory-Holed body of speculative fiction that formerly was the canon everyone--reader, writer, publisher--held in common and built upon. The reaction by those party to this cultural degradation, and their benefactors, shows just how right Jeffro Johnson was to restore it with his new release: Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons.

At long last, Jeffro appeared yesterday on Geek Gab with Daddy Warpig, Dorrinal, and Dragon Award winning Science Fiction author Brian Niemeier to discuss Appendix N, Appendix N, and its impact upon gaming and SF/F geekdom. You will not waste your time with this podcast, so I implore you to clear away the time, make yourself comfortable, and give this podcast your full and undivided attention.

Now, if you're wanting to get in on this revival of the classics upon which our modern culture rests, then you ought to make time and read these old greats. Yes, check your local library to see if they have hardcopies you can borrow. Hit up the used bookstores for dirt cheap paperbacks in good condition, especially on clearance. Do that; you'll find the gems there. However, if you're cool with ebooks and you don't mind Amazon's Kindle then allow me to point out something you may enjoy: free books.

Throw out a search at Amazon for the author you're looking for, such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, then when you get to the page specify Kindle Store books and then set the search results to go from Low to High in price. You will find free ebooks popping up, such as this free Kindle version of A Princess of Mars. You can sift for hours like this, going through and adding all the free books you want to your Amazon account- not just stuff found in Appendix N. From there you can download and read in a Kindle app, or convert to another format (using a program such as Calibre) and read it however else you like.

Come on and join the party! Trust me on this: once you give these classic tales of heroism, romance, and big adventure a try you'll soon be wanting more- and then yearning for it in your movies and games. Then you'll start making your own because you just won't get enough, and that's how you'll become a successor to these old masters and peers to revivalists like Brian Neimeier

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Narrative Warfare: The Supreme Dark Lord & The Philosopher On Handling Opposition

After a week of winning, wherein the Supreme Dark Lord began daily livestreams at Periscope and Stefan Molyneux released videos hammering the hell out of the SocJus Death Cult and their fellow travelers. Well, they got together to do a video and here it is:

Resistance creates strength. Stefan Molyneux joins Vox Day to discuss the escalating emotional and physical resistance from the feral regressive leftists against those to their political right.

Vox Day is a multiple-time Hugo Award nominee who writes epic fantasy as well as non-fiction including “SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police” and “Cuckservative: How "Conservatives" Betrayed America.”

Vox is also a professional game designer and maintains a pair of popular blogs, Vox Popoli and Alpha Game, which average millions of pageviews each month.

He is the lead designer of next-generation Wikipedia replacement Infogalactic and also runs Castalia House publishing - which just released Mike Cernovich’s new book “MAGA Mindset.”

All you needed to make this perfect would be to add Mike Cernovich, but that man is busy so I can see why he may not have been available. More's the pity, because Cernovich would've had plenty of useful commentary and advise to contribute to this conversation. Maybe next time.

But this? This is about how to deal with those that oppose you, and there's nuance here that one ought to expect out of such a conversation with these two men.

The first nuance is that there is a difference between handling simple political opposition and outright ideological resistance by any means necessary. For all the drama that political conflict has, it remains constrained to the realms of reason because you can bring them to heel by means of dealing with their concerns (one way or another). The Death Cult, until Anonymous Conservative identified the root cause, remained a more potent threat by exceeding those limits: they're fucking nuts.

The first successful application of this discovery was in SJWs Always Lie, written in the rise of #Gamergate, and since then has proven itself applicable to all the other anti-SJW resistances in popular culture and has played a major part in the rise of The God-Emperor to power. Now that we're seeing a mass freakout reaction occur, on queue, in exactly the manner predicted by the theory the violence done and propagandized for this past week becomes explainable and thus comprehensible.

And once you can make sense of the adversity you face, overcoming it becomes actionable because you now know how to handle it effectively- it's just a matter of getting the tools and doing the work.

Friday, January 27, 2017

How We Got Here, The Summary

/pol/ on GamerGate

Yeah, that's a good summary of how #Gamergate led to The God-Emperor's Ascension. No, there's no need to get more into the details that this, but if you care to bother then why not read what the FBI sifted through when they investigated it and found nothing worth bothering to act on. You can find it here, in PDF format, and do for free what they got paid for.

In short, what we #Gamergate veterans encountered within the context of gaming turned out to be one corner of a society-wide level of cultural corruption and degeneracy that--had there just been some common fucking sense at the time--ended up getting exposed and wrecked at increasingly greater scopes and scales because the fundamental error that set off #Gamergate (the lack of journalistic ethics due to actually being SocJus cultists covering their own asses) being repeated time and again with no change in the results or the consequences.

And now we have The God-Emperor in the White House, Brexit in the U.K., the European Union facing a real threat to its existence, and Putin in Russia looking on with approval as he too hates the globalist technocrats as much as the rest of us. Oh, and the exposure of global elites being predators upon the people at-large (much like the Muslim invaders they let in). If it wasn't for the B-Team in the gaming press fucking up, none of the recent culture war victories would've happened.

And yes, those of us who've been here for it all, and took part in the Meme Wars to date, know good and well that this is the case. We laugh, but it's true: #Gamergate lead to the first successful resistance to the Empire of SocJus Globalism, after which more and more resistance not only broke out but succeeded in pushing back attempts to conquer and assimilate them. Now we're pushing back, and real hope for fixing this shit is here and real.

And they still haven't figured out how to deal with us yet, so they're going to violence now instead. Morons. They'll lose there too.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Prime Goof: Streaming Gaming on Facebook

So, Blizzard announced their Heroes of the Dorm event for this year. Go on, watch their teaser video. It'll be just a minute.

Did you catch where they're putting this up for live watching? Facebook. Using their utterly shit livestreaming feature. Instead of, you know, USING TWITCH!. Twitch, the #1 livestreaming site for gaming of ANY kind. Where DOTA 2 streams The International. Where League of Legends streams their events.

Is Blizzard utterly fucking retarded, or are they so lacking in cash that Zuckerberg's backing up dump trucks full of cash was a compelling argument? Either way you put it, it doesn't make Blizzard look good. Gamers don't stream on Facebook, and they sure as Hell don't watch gaming streams on Facebook.

Twitch, Hitbox, YouTube. Those are you viable options for gaming streams. Facebook? See, this is why the MOBA community as a whole doesn't take Heroes of the Storm seriously as either a game or an e-sport. Valve and Riot know where the audience is, and it's not Facebook. No, no amount of money or hype will make gamers move en masse over either. Stop being dumb, Blizzard.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I Am Never Tired of Winning

Yeah, I'll talk about more fun things tomorrow. For now, some delight in the pain of others:

Look, I don't know if this image is real or not, but what it reports--that antifa got busted and face 10 years in a Federal prison--is real and man does that freak the fuck out of these people and their fellow travelers. Mind you, Trump's Justice Department is being merciful right now; the arrested antifa are actually guilty of using violence to advance a political position (the very definition of terrorism), and guilty by their own admission (i.e. they confessed).

This is one of the reasons I'm saying that the violence was not smart or justified, because I knew that Trump was a man who wouldn't put up with this bullshit. As soon as he took power, he acted and now the script of years past is done. The law has come back to being used properly, and that's why I'm glad to see stuff like the above- and please, Mr. Sessions, go for the terrorism charges if you can.

I concur with others making the comparisons with Ronald Reagan, insofar as the spirit of the day is concerned. The remoralizing effect of Trump making good on promise after promise within a week of being inaugurated. With a compliant Congress, Trump's going to get the wall passed, funded, and construction underway within months. The orders on immigration are already having an impact. Speaking of immigration, Razorfist had a great (and nuanced) video in support of the Wall:

Despite other problems, I've not felt this energized by a Presidency in my adult lifetime. This must be what it was like in 1980 when Reagan took office.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Stop Cutting Down the Grove of Law

Dumb motherfuckers--including people I know all of whom should know better--are still excusing the violence last weekend thinking that invoking "NAZI!" is a magic passcode that makes it all right. No, dammit, it does not. Time to whip out the Sir Thomas Moore quote again, from A Man For All Seasons:

Did you get that? I'm not on your asses just because you're wrong, but because you are throwing away the very protection you routinely turn around and expect to be granted to you when you're on the business end of sucker punches, fire bombs, gunshots, and other violence against your or your property. You are throwing away the Rule of Law.

While it is not a suicide pact, neither is it to be clad or doffed at your fucking convenience either. You have the rules and thus the means to deal with true and verifiable threats to you, yours, and your own- USE THEM! Don't like what some other motherfucker says? TOO BAD! I've certainly sat through decades of your bullshit, and I still ain't throwing punches for the exact same reason Moore grants The Devil benefit of law- for my own safety's sake.

Especially those of you old enough to be my parents- STOP!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Wild Ride Rackets Up Again - We Spiral Boys Now

If you thought the derangement from the globalist SJW death cult was bad last year, then you've seen nothing yet. Watching the speeches by the rising leaders of contesting Right wing parties in France (Le Pen), Germany (Petry), and the Netherlands (Wilders) shows me that--even if none of them win--they cannot avoid gaining more and more support in their respective countries (and across the West) because they're talking the sense that common people across the West know is true but aren't hearing from the quisling traitors running the governments.

And yes, the elites of the West--as a class--are traitors to the nations, countries, and states they are sworn to serve and rely upon for support. They are the 5th column without whom the ongoing invasion of "refugees" could not happen and would not persist, and every buried story of rape and murder by these invaders--aided and abetted after the fact by these elites--undermines their control and increases the odds of civil war in those countries (and a pan-European war to destroy the invaders).

The continued fraud and hoaxes of the West's Establishment media shows that they too are part of the treason, so the necessity to compel them to demonstrate their treason remains. The Meme Wars are not over. Get ready for the next round, folks, because now that the culture's shifting out of SJW hands (however that may be) the real shit's beginning.

And, to think, I got into this because I just wanted to play fucking games. Now I'm part of an epoch-defining moment in time. I'm believing in the me that believes in myself. Oh yeah, we Spirals now- time for the theme song:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Narrative Warfare Fail: The Anti-Trump Freakouts

I wish I could say that I am surprised by what's going on regarding Trump right now, but I don't. I expected it. What's getting me is that the response is so predictable, so formulaic, so robotic, and so disappointing that folks I thought smarter than this are doing their best impressions of malfunctioning androids. Still believing the hoaxing media, they fail to recognize what this map means:

It means that their narrative, excusing and condoning the rioting and violence in Washington, D.C. this weekend, will push towards civil war and that war will be lost by them good and hard. They're going to get most of their own side slaughtered.

While many folks think that invoking "Nazi!" is a magic phrase excusing their breach of the peace, the Federal Government does not agree; the Justice Department will pursue (rightly) Federal charges of Felony rioting, meaning massive fines at 10 years in a Federal prison on conviction

The alternative media outlets such as WeSearchr are already hunting down the identities of those caught in the act doing such things. Project Veritas' pre-event videos exposing the organization to attack the Deploraball have led to arrests, which will also result in fines and prison time once Trump sets Sessions on them.

The hoaxing media already had their hoax on the inauguration numbers busted, and the Trump Administration is right to directly confront and attack the frauds for their deeds. Keep it up, morons; you're going to end up justifying Federal action making these hoaxes and frauds easier to prosecute and convict- let's see how well Chuck Todd or Rachel Marrow does when doing hard time for lying to the public. They're so ass-mad that Trump doesn't need them--that they can't gatekeep anymore--that they're blatant in their doubling-down of their lies in desperation.

I'm not mad. I'm disappointed. I expect children to throw these tantrums, not adults- especially not adults older enough to be my parents. Yet here we are, and I now have to reassess my associations. I've read SJWs Always Lie, so I know what's next, and that means one thing at the moment: hammering the point that this will backfire if it persists, and saying "I told you so." when it inevitably does.

Morons. All that they do--or permit others to do for them--may also be done to them in return. They fail to grasp what it means to revert to this sort of tribal violence. I now await the pretense of victimhood when the inevitable occurs and they suffer consequences for their actions, and I will not care. This is the future you chose. Suffer.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Life as a Shooter: Oh, Yeah, The 2017 SHOT Show Was This Week

While all the spectacle rested in Washington D.C. this week, preparing for yesterday's ascendancy of the God-Emperor, the firearms industry had their annual trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. All of the folks I follow at YouTube and Full30, and plenty of others, got their media credentials and visited the many companies exhibiting their new and improved wares for this year. Now that the 2017 SHOT show is about done, I can watch the videos and see what's worth watching for. As CZ is my firearms manufacturer of choice, I checked out videos on their stuff first.

Already I have something I can talk about with some of my extended relatives, and that's the new chamberings that CZ (via their CZ USA subsidiary) will offer for their American line of bolt-action hunting rifles. Soon a model chambered for 7.62x39mm will arrive, meaning that I need not keep hoping for the Carbine to be in stock to get it in the caliber I want, but as it lacks iron sights it's now merely an acceptable second-choice option. I still want the Carbine most.

The new SP-01 Phantom model of semi-automatic pistol is back and remains well worth it, and their new striker-fired service pistol (the P-10 C) looks to be my choice for the Glock/XD/M&P area (and need not bother looking at those anymore). The Dan Wesson brand brings more variations on the 1911 pistols that they are (justifiably) famous for, and their famous 715 revolver looks to be back in production; that's both built like a tank and heirloom quality, so it's worth the price.

Yeah, I know that there's more to see, and I'll post if I find anything to my liking out of these SHOT Show video reports. For now, I'm pleased that CZ's not fucking things up. Now I'd wish they'd cut a deal with Czechpoint and offer vz. 58 rifles once more (and the other stuff Czechpoint sells), and bring back the CZ-83 (so I can get magazines and accessories for my CZ-82 at reasonable prices).

And yes, there are other manufacturers I like, such as Minnesota's own Coonan, so if they have news I'll say so in a future post.

Friday, January 20, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: At Last, a New World of Darkness Videogame!

Remember Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines? Well, late in the lifetime of the original White Wolf game company, they licensed the World of Darkness property out for videogame adaptations. While Hunter: The Reckoning got console adaptations, the flagship game got that aforementioned PC adaptation. Werewolf: The Apocalypse had a game on the table, but it got cancelled. Then came the collapse of the company, the utter shit that was the "new" World of Darkness, and getting eaten by the folks behind EVE Online.

Recently, Paradox Interactive bought White Wolf from the EVE folks. As this Niche Gamer article shows, they're finally doing it. At long last, PC and console gamers get to enjoy what tabletop players have had since the 1990s, and I expect a bloody awesome (heh) action game that will require far better PC parts than what my laptop has right now. It's being done by the guys who did Styx: Master of Shadows and its upcoming sequel, so at the least we know that any stealth component will not suck; it's the rest that we can worry about for now.

Now, if Paradox has the sense God gave a retarded leper, they'd start laying the ground work for a line of Exalted titles right the fuck now. Of all the properties in the White Wolf portfolio, that one alone has far more commercial potential than all the rest put together, and it's stupid on the level of corporate sabotage to not exploit it. Get on that shit, Paradox, and get on it yesterday.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Curious Culture Quirks - "Boring" Race Options

Granted, it's the Internet, but I remain dismayed at the common sentiment in fantasy gaming circles that somehow associate single-race fantasy campaigns with "boredom". However, I didn't encounter this first online. I encountered it in-person, over 20 years ago, when I wanted to run the sort of Dungeons & Dragons games I first played in the early 1980s when I played the Basic version of the game.

It's still seen now, and you don't have to look hard to find it in tabletop RPG circles, but you don't find it in videogames much outside of a few that try to hew as close to D&D as they can without crossing legal lines or hitting technical limitations.

In short, what it comes down is the misconception that "culture" equals "race", and therefore All (X) Are Like That. The reason this persists is because it's fucking easy shorthand under the standard gameplay paradigm of multiple playable races being allowed for players' characters, but if you cut it down to two or one then you can't fall back on being (X) and instead have to properly individuate your character- and often without any mechanical structure to rest that upon.

That this remains a persistent enough element of gamer psychology, such that games are praised or wrecked by how well it facilitates it, tells me that most tabletop RPG players really don't want to do that sort of thing in their gaming. (And yes, this is old; it's one of the biggest knocks on things like Empire of the Petal Throne, and contributes to the ongoing depreciation of historical tabletop RPGs vs. their fantasy counterparts.) They want easy icons or archetypes--the sort in bad movies--and not to do fucking acting; think classic Hong Kong or Hollywood action films. This is why bad movies make for good gaming.

It's part of a thing I've noticed over the decades that I sum up thusly: "People will not work for their entertainment." Very few people enjoy doing the work that proper characterization requires; for most, being a static archetype at all times is preferable because they can just get on with what they're there for: playing the fucking game. Entertainment is meant to be fun, and therefore easy and enjoyable; making a player do otherwise is to ask them to do work- and gaming isn't about doing work.

Want to know what sci-fi RPGs are popular? The ones with lots of playable races. Fantasy? Lots of playable races. This is why Shadowrun was always more popular than other cyberpunk RPGs, and why RIFTS is Palladium's top-dog RPG for over 25 years (even over their fantasy RPG). They won't put in bitchwork for fun, so they use easy symbolism as shorthand; take away the symbols, and they find their fun diminished, thus they're bored and find it boring to do that.

It's a bothersome quirk, but I can work around it- even use it to my advantage. Most can't, or won't, so the issue persists and its adverse effects upon all forms of RPGs (but most felt in tabletop RPGs) also persists. Until this attitude changes, there's no fixing it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Storytelling In Gaming w/ World of Warcraft: Legion

I'm talking World of Warcraft today.

Today the last big chuck of release content for Legion got unlocked: The Nighthold. This raid instance, requiring a raid group to take on its challenges, is the location where all of the first narrative arc for this expansion concludes.

I'm talking story in gaming, so spoilers past this point.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Star Wars, Aesthetics, & Characterization

Ruger Mk.IV Target ModelRecently, Ruger released the Mk.IV version of its long-running line of dedicated rimfire semi-automatic pistols. It occurred to me that this would be a good real-world referent for a Star Wars blaster pistol, so I sketched out some notes for one based on the Mk.IV Target.

While I did this little bit of world-building, resulting in the SRP-M4 blaster pistol, I ended up creating a few characters (one of whom uses the SRP-M4 as his sidearm) and sketching out an outline for a couple of stories. All of this was just me engaging in a little Star Wars fannish fun, and then it hit me that I should take a look at Wookiepedia to see if someone making the movies is already on my wavelength.

A180 Blaster PistolWell, someone on the team for Rogue One already thought much as I did, and put together this pistol for use by Jyn Urso. (Note: That Luger frame is a 3D-printed replica; no real Lugers were harmed in making this prop.)

The official designation is the BlasTech Industries A180 blaster pistol. I cannot believe that I didn't notice the aesthetics when I saw the film a few weeks ago. I knew Jyn swiped a pistol from the Yavin IV base, but I paid no mind to it even when she used it.

It's a bit of synchronicity, really. The other end comes from a thread at the RPG Site and why it was a mistake to not give the appearance of gear its full due in creating fictional settings, be it for gaming or literature. The character I had in mind for the SRP-M4 was a man based on the Amateur Historian character template found in West End's Star Wars: The Role-Playing Game, with a fondness for history and art- and becoming the Rebellion's counterpart to Grand Admiral Thrawn over time.

One's sense of aesthetics, and revealed preference for acting on that sense, is a nice way to use visual shorthand for characterization ends- be it for a specific character or for that of a group. (It's why uniforms are, and have always been, a thing in the real world; of course a fictional would do the same, explicitly or not.) Be it for fun at home, or for professional work, don't neglect this dimension; it's efficiency is too useful to dismiss in getting others to grok your man, your group, whatever, at a glance or in a word- it's practical symbolism, the sort used every day to sell us everything from food to ideology. Ignore at your peril.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Fun Need Not Be Pricey

Every once in a while, I come across something that hits the right mixture of fun, absurd, and price that I have to snatch it up. Today it's a game on Steam, Marlow Briggs and the Mask of Death. Normally it's $5(US) on Steam (and thus for PC), but I got it on sale for $1, and that's a price that's too good to pass up for what is (in essence) "Blacksploitation Movie: The Game".

Come on, that looks like a hilarious good time and you know it. So, of course Totalbiscuit--back in 2013--did a video about it.

You're not going to get the sort of top-quality product out of this game that you would out of, say, Space Marine or Sniper Elite 3 but that's fine. The sheer enthusiam and goofy quality of its subject matter, evocative of the old pulps and their successors the "Men's Adventure" paperbacks that informed classic Hollywood action films (and thus other videogames of this sort- it gets compared to God of War for good reason).

In short, this game is all about having fun, and that dedication to fostering a spirit of fun goes a long way. I'm looking forward to some goofy, silly, stupid action fun times with this game- especially for the skip-a-coffee price the Steam version goes for. It's not a marathon game like Skyrim, but it doesn't need to be (again, especially for the price of a trip to Hardee's). I'm looking at 15-20 hours, at the most, and that may be pushing it.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: MEKTON! (Oh How I Miss Thee)

Mekton Zeta R. Talsorian Games published Mekton back in the '80s because "Maximum" Mike Pondsmith is a serious anime fan who loves his giant robots. While BattleTech had its following, it was never an anime-style game; Palladium Books had (and has) the Robotech license, but that too didn't really have the feel of the source material, and the same is true of the times that HERO Games hit on the matter for Champions.

Mekton was the first tabletop RPG that attempted to nail that feel, summarized thusly: "Action! Romance! GIANT ROBOT COMBAT!. I came on board with Mekton II, but it was the final published edition--Mekton Zeta--was when everything finally looked to come together and much of the game's potential for anime-flavored fun to be realized.

Sure, I concur that (as written) the game heavily favored a gameplay experience akin to Mobile Suit Gundam, Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross, Dairugger 15, Beast King Go-Lion, and the many superheroic robot shows (e.g. Giant Robo) of old but you really could do anything if you had the one key supplement for the line: Mekton Zeta Plus.

The trick is to realize that the advanced mecha build system was really just a weighted point-buy system, through which you could easily make actual human-sized PCs if you liked. You could even do Record of Lodoss War, with effects as spells, items, or creatures. It wasn't hard, but I found many lacking that sort of vision. More's the pity, but it's understandable: most people will NOT work for their entertainment.

Mekton Zeta Plus The problem that befell Mekton Zeta was that the company went into internal turmoil just as the tabletop RPG marketplace and subculture went into a turnover prior to a collapse. Many of the supplements in this product line did not find their mark, and the crossovers (e.g. Starblade Battalion, building off Cyberpunk 2020) did not find favor with the established audience.

In the end, as with the rest of the company (and the rest of the field wherein R. Talsorian rested), it fell away from awareness--it was, in no way, shape, or form a viable Dungeons & Dragons competitor--because the videogame media took off like a rocket and provided (for most of us into anime-styled RPGs) a superior alternative that reliably delivered. The potential got lost, and now R. Talsorian exists as a shell to maintain the extant intellectual property and nothing more (especially after the risible third edition of Cyberpunk).

That doesn't mean that the game's a lost cause as such. Rather, with a recognition of today's economic realities (and the much-changed state of anime fandom today in the West), there is a place for a game like Mekton- but it has to, at last, deliver on the potential wasted over 20 years ago by a combination of fan stupidity, publisher stupidity, and the tabletop RPGs marketplace.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: The New Edition of TORG Takes Shape

TORG Originally published by West End Games (the same folks that did the original Star Wars tabletop RPG) in 1990, TORG was a game well ahead of its time. The idea of a wargame scenario wherein other dimensions--"cosms"--representing different genres of adventure fiction would come to our own (well, "our own" as represented by classic Hollywood action films of the 70s and 80s) to invade and steal the energy that literally makes our cosm possible was novel. The idea of making this a tabletop RPG, wherein the results of actual play would influence future products, was also a novel one. It justified a lot of Narrative Logic by making those metagame/metanarrative elements into things your characters literally got to discover, interact with, and use--even weaponize--while fighting against the invaders.

"TORG: Roleplaying the Possibility Wars" could have been, and should have been, far more successful and influential that it was. Alas, it befell incompetent management at West End, some developments went over like the Hindenburg, and it died in 1994 with a terrible final module that got universal disdain. Its fans--Yours Truly included--contributed to keeping a remnant alive online, which included a stillborn rebirth in this time, until recently. When West End finally gave up the ghost in 2010, TORG seemed condemned to wither online until the fans faded away into the void.

TORG Eternity German publisher Ulisses Spiele got the rights to TORG recently, and now they're spearheading a real and serious attempt at a new edition of the game. They're keeping up a development blog here, and I seriously hope that the potential of the original vision gets brought forth now that we have the technology to fulfill it as intended.

Yes, there are changes to the rules, to the mechanics, and to the setting. Some of these are fixing known issues of the original edition, and some are necessary to maintain the illusion of verisimilitude. Needlessly campy bullshit (e.g. Skippy the Edeinos) are gone, and far more care to tone and perception management is already evident in the development blog.

The previews are threadbare in substance, but what is there is quite promising; the new team not only gets the game, they get the inspirations behind the game and seek to revise the game to better fulfill both that inspirational material and how the game's setting would allow them all to intereact- and all with an eye to making it easy for people to play the game cold (no preparation) and stupid (no outside knowledge).

I hope that they get the rights to use the better artwork from the original edition, which are the pieces done by the following artists: Allen Nunis, Timothy Bradstreet, Bob Dvorak, John Paul Lona, Masahide Seya, Junoichi Fujikawa, George M., Kazuma Shirasaki, and Pete Venters.

If Ulisses Spiele delivers, then I'm going to enjoy the hell out of this new edition, and that means a long-overdue return for my favorite realm & High Lord in the game, pictured in the TORG Eternity cover: Dr. Mobius, High Lord of the Nile Empire (and of the Pulp Reality Cosm).

Friday, January 13, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Action on the Tabletop

It's not just playing the Ace Pilot that runs into the action-adventure gaming problem. Anytime you get into some form of action scenario in the course of an adventure when playing a tabletop RPG, you run the risk of undermining the experience of being in that situation through excess levels of detachment from what your man's got going on right then and there in the moment.

What I said about dithering and not shoving this on the rules applies here. That means the heavy lifting is on the Game Master to keep a clear vision of what's going on moment-to-moment, big-picture omniscient style (as if looking upon a Realtime Strategy game in progress, e.g. Starcraft 2 or Shadow Tactics).

This awareness is routinely handled through the use of an actual map with miniatures or tokens, but to this day the options for this either involve opportunity costs that run contrary to the strength of the tabletop RPG as a medium.

  • Option One: Using physical maps and miniatures involves significant set-up, take-down, and increases costs for the Game Master both in terms of monetary outflow and in terms of ongoing storage costs that undermines portability. It's why the Game Master's home is often where the game goes down, and acts as a barrier for other players taking up the Game Master's chair; stores get around this to a degree, making them the popular alternative, but they have their own costs (not all of which are monetary) to consider- including others being present that you may not want.
  • Option Two: Using digital maps and tokens involves significant set-ups, and trades some of the other costs for reliance upon computer and Internet infrastructures. While your potential pool of players goes worldwide, your vulnerabilities multiply due to the reliance on things beyond your control just to play at all- undermining ease of use, portability, and being cheap or free to participate properly.

While I have done the map-and-minis thing (and there are occasions where that is your best option), for most of my 30+ years I've mostly stuck with the fundamental Theater of the Mind aspect of this medium. This focus on the fundamentals means focusing on the core of tabletop RPG gaming: the feedback loop. Briefly:

  • GM describes situation to Players, giving them all relevant information to decide upon for that moment.
  • Players use the information provided to inform their deliberations, and then decide on a course of action.
  • GM decides what interactions occur, and then adjudicates their resolutions.
  • GM updates the situation, and we loop back to the top.

I won't bullshit you: doing this swiftly and to intended effect is not easy. Tabletop RPGs do have their rules for a good reason, and that good reason is to provide a reliable framework for Players and Game Masters to refer to when taking action and resolving the consequences thereof, so I won't sit here and tell you to throw them out. No, you need to know when to use them and when not to- and to realize that you need to do this by degrees, because some rules (and their mechanics) are more important than others.

So, when running the action, what matters is you maintaining your objective vision in your mind of what's going on and--no less important--is having the right words on your tongue to accurately and succinctly communicating what your mind sees, hears, tastes, smells, etc. to your players so that they have (and continue to have) the most accurate information that their characters ought to possess in that moment.

Now, as a player, you need to get on and stay on the same page as the Game Master. If you're not getting information that your man ought to have in that moment, then you need to speak up and get it from the Game Master. You need to eliminate all distractions from the game when you play and focus on what's going on, so that when your turn comes up you know what you're going to do right then and there; not only are you not wasting the others' valuable time (which, as adults, you ought to treat as the irreplaceable commodity that it is) but you contribute to the illusion of urgency that approximates the very real urgency that your character experiences in that situation. Dithering should not be tolerated.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Playing The Ace Pilot on the Tabletop

Since I'm still thinking about the adventure of being a fighter pilot, specifically in that mode of the Ace Pilot (or part of a squadron thereof), I'm turning now to the gaming end. Specifically, the role-playing game end of things, and by that I mean the tabletop. Playing a fighter ace in a videogame is easy, depending on the details behind the game's design and intentions thereof; on the tabletop it's much harder, and that is in large part due to it NOT being an immersive medium of sight and sound.

Playing a pilot, and trying to get those visceral thrills you get even in the written word--remember, this archetype of adventure began in the pulps about a century ago--out of a medium build around back-and-forth between you and the Game Master is a difficult thing to achieve. Most of the games in this category are not built out of the real-time pace of decision that real air-racing or dogfighting demands.

Tabletop RPGs are the children of tabletop wargames, which do NOT have that frentic pace of decision; people attracted to the medium aren't necessary looking for that either, or to the attention to detail necessary to truly get the experience wanted out of it. Therefore, there is a bit of an expectation mismatch that has to be settled out of the gate if you're going to make this work.

And no, you can't just pick a game and call it good. I've had terminal ditherers playing Feng Shui and Exalted, so mechanics alone do nothing. That means it's on you, Mr. Game Master, to pick up the pace and put the pressure on; in order for the experience to be satisfying, the player must feel an approximation of what his man would actually feel. Yeah, you do need to know the rules well enough to make this work, but that doesn't mean it's all about legalism and math-magic malarky. You need that familiarity to know what calls to make, and when to make them, so that player feels more or less pressure at the table.

Furthermore, since tabletop RPGs are routinely focused on groups playing as a team, you had better pick up your plot-threading game. If those other players are also pilots in their own craft, good; they get their own subset of the same action. However, if they're with the pilot then they need things to do that are useful and relevant; this is where co-pilots, gunners, etc. come from and--again--is on you Mr. Game Master to make the magic happen.

So, when you need to do so, fuck the rules. Fold, spindle, and mutilate the turn order to best fit emerging events as they occur while maintaining total table engagement. Give the players just the information that their character could possibly acquire in that moment, and don't let them dither (however, let the players help each other out; insisting that players can't play the game when their character isn't present is such bullshit- just put a limit on the time depending on what pressure to act that character ought to be under). Be bold; if they dither too much, they forfeit and do nothing that turn- move on. (And yes, people really do freeze up like that when the shit hits the fan, so it's believable and realistic.)

Finally, depending on the specifics of the genre you're aiming for, adjust how damage/injury works to hammer home the point about dangerous such action is to their characters. Even a non-fatal, but significant, hit ought to take them out of the fight- either by being forced to withdraw or by setting them up to get finished off a crash or a follow-up attack. Remember: being an ace pilot doesn't make you immortal- that's some Narrative Logic bullshit, and such logic always undermines the visceral life-experience potential that tabletop RPGs present.

I'm using a Star Wars video as an example, but this applies to playing a Macross game, or being Aerospace pilots in BattleTech, doing your own take on the Flying Tigers, or attacking zeppelins over London. Your players may aim for being Poe Dameron, but often can and will end up like Jek Porkins or Hapless Clone Pilot #1138- and that's part of the game. Sigh, shrug it off, and go roll your new guy so you can get back to the fun fast.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Make Rogue Squadron Films Already

Dear Lucasfilm:

Rogue Squadron emblemRogue One showed your intent to make Star Wars-specific versions of classic adventure types (with the aforementioned film being akin to the wartime spy action films like Where Eagles Dare or The Guns of Navarrone). Why not bring back the Flying Ace story that was so popular between the World Wars, enduring through the second World War and only disappearing in its aftermath? (And, today, only finding popular expression in media out of Japan. I strongly recommend watching or reading that stuff.)

Yes, you can easily do this by making films about Rogue Squadron. Why you haven't done this already is boggling to a lot of us; even if you have to work around things like Dennis Lawson not being in his 20s anymore, you've already demonstrated both the means and the will to digitally recreate dead or aged actors so this is not a legitimate objection.

You're leaving money on the table by not doing this. Nevermind a Han Solo film, get on this right now. You've already shown that you're able to make good action-storytelling work when suitable motivated. Go for it, now, and strike while the iron is hot.


--Bradford C. Walker

(P.S.: If you can somehow do such a film while featuring the Z-95 Headhunter, you're cooking with gas.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Narrative Warfare: /pol/ Trolls the MSM and the CIA

Yep, that happened today. You're not seeing it, but I'm having to pause to contain my laughter at the absurdity of this development.

This, folks, is how you fuck with an enemy's relentless campaign of narrative warfare: find the weak points, and feed them disinformation catered to hit those blind spots like the fist of an angry god. Buzzfeed ran with it, hoping to score big, and the CIA got suckered by it too so they're not as good as this game as they used to be- and they used to not suck.

Goddamn, folks. Learn from this. This is how you fight back; you undermine their credibility by trolling them early, often, repeatedly, and without mercy. Let them make fools of themselves, and be on point to show the normies the truth when they try to cover their asses. Go to /pol// SHUT THE FUCK UP! Just lurk, and read, for as long as it takes until you grok what they're doing and how it works. Only then will you be able to do what they've done (and do) to the desired effect.

And that's that.

Monday, January 9, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Return of the Old School

The tabletop RPG world has, quite frankly, been as useless as a rifle to a limbless gimp for about a decade now. As such, I've been turning back to older games over the last decade. Why? Because the first thing you do once you realized that a change done fucked things up is to immediately stop, turn right the fuck around, and revert every single change made--in order of operation--until you unfuck it.

So that's why I've dumped my newer TRPG collections in favor of rebuilding the older stuff, because (a) those motherfuckers don't hate me and (b) that shit actually worked without requiring consultation of external sources or meta-game bullshit to achieve expected results- especially now that I actually know where a lot of those decisions stemmed from. I started with my D&D shelf; just Basic and Advanced (1st edition) now. Then I resumed collection Palladium materials, and now I'm looking to rebuild my original Star Wars RPG collection while I wait to see if the new edition of TORG delivers.

Just as I returned to Car Wars and BattleTech, I'm coming home to the games that I know work and aren't being run by people who hate me. Yeah, as-written there's some issues, but easily handled by some line-item rulings. (Removing the "X Parry" skills, for example, in TORG and Star Wars.) I'm not at all shy about downloading PDFs and using Lulu (e.g.) for personal print copies, when I can't get them on the cheap, and I'm not fussed about a lack of sourcebooks because sites like Wookiepedia have all that I require.

And that's assuming that I'm not making all of my own material, which I now can do quite easily with all of the online resources available to me. I haven't needed some game publisher to tell me how to play in a long time, and no one else does either- something that people with skin in the tabletop RPG game know very well indeed. No, not even for convenience; read wiki articles on your lunch break, jot down notes after dinner before bed, watch some videos for this or that, and DONE! Ready to play.

And while some has proto-versions of the narrative logic bullshit afflicting gaming now, that too can be either turned or destroyed with ease to make the game a better one. Ditto with all of the retarded reliance on randomness that kills the influence of player skill and acumen; the alleged goals can be had by better means, means consistent with being proper fucking games. Time to make good on a promise: that there is no such thing as an obsolete tabletop RPG.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

My Life in Fandom: The Grand Tour

We're now nine episodes into the first series of The Grand Tour, the show put on by the former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond (along with most of the old staff, crew, etc.). Two of them (7 & 8) were a special, which consumed both episodes in their entirety and thus eschewed the usual format. So, what do I make of this?

Well, as someone who loved their version of Top Gear, I'm fine with it. I wanted the boys doing their thing, and that's what I've gotten so far. It's not perfect, as there is considerable room for improvement, but this new show is scratching that itch and I want more. I want Amazon to sign on for another series, at the very least.

But, as I said, some bits clunk and they clunk hard:

  • The American: The Grand Tour can't use The Stig, but they still need a professional driver for their timed laps, so they hired a NASCAR professional and let him exaggerate himself for effect as he drives around the track. It's not working. I'm not laughing. I should be laughing, and I can't tell if the material is lame or the delivery of it sucks. If this can't be fixed, sack him and get a funnier driver; this is a television show for entertainment and not a documentary presentation, so this does matter.
  • The Track: The show can't use their own old--that's with Top Gear also--so they have a smaller facility at their disposal for running timed laps on the cars that they feature and test. What makes those segments work is Clarkson's voiceovers, as they involve standing jokes that refer to the old track, but Clarkson's retorts at The American's cracks are a double-clunk of suck. The track needs to be better presented, and that lies with the cinematographer more than anyone else, because you can make it interesting- yet it hasn't quite delivered to date. Work on what we see, and try again.
  • Celebrity Brain Crash: This is a running gag poking fun at the old Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment on the old show, wherein someone famous is announced, and then doesn't appear because of a comic fatality. It's worked a few times early on, especially in the first episode, but they got lazy fast and now it's cringe-worthy. If you're not going to bother doing it well, dump it, because it's obviously shit when you don't. The follow-up, which is usually half-assed joke merchandise, did not get me laughing.

Best recurring parts? Sure:

  • The Tent: The show's host location moves (more or less; they spent two weeks in one place in the U.K.) around the world, shooting out of a big pavilion tent. The setup is even part of the show's opening credits, down to a running gag about the drone used for aerial shots being knocked out of the sky by something typically local. It is a real tent, in a real location, and yet it remains a fully-functional TV studio. Fantastic choice and it's made each episode wherein its featured (i.e. not the recent special) look and feel like you're along for the ride.
  • Conversation Street: This works, especially with the graphic often setting the tones for the jokes thereafter. Often using local stories (well, relatively local) for fodder, and sometimes audience participation (which doesn't always go as the hosts would like), this is their excuse for a lot of typically British comedy using a soft panel format and it works.
  • The films: The actual "drive around with cars" bit is what they did on the old show, only with a bit more obvious absurdity to them. This gets cranked up for the special, and while it doesn't always work when it does it is hilarious. The show knows that you're not naive about how television works, and these winks and nobs are there to let you know that they know that you know and why not come along for a laugh. Good move on their part, as it fosters audience loyalty- and that means dedicated viewership eager for more.

So, there you have it: The Grand Tour delivers, but has room to improve. I would recommend watching this show if you enjoyed their version of Top Gear, but if you're not that into this sort of blend of British comedy and car fandom you may not enjoy it.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Narrative Warfare: Sargon of Akkad on The Ideological Roots of #BlackLivesMatter

Sargon of Akkad is one of the classic liberals on YouTube. Coming out of the United Kingdom, he's been one of the consistent calm voices out there. Like Stefan Molyneux, he's willing to do the digging necessary to fully bring out the information on the whole of the matter- and then adjust his positions according to what he discovers.

In the wake of this week's assault in Chicago by a quartet of young blacks--two men, two women--on a retarded white man, streamed live by one of the female attackers on Facebook, we are now confronted with undeniable evidence that there is a real threat against the public going on (which is routinely documented by Colin Flahterey at his YouTube channel) from those very "victims"- and fervently denied by the hoaxing media establishment, academia, and politicians using this as a weapon for power.

Let's not fuck around: #BlackLivesMatter IS A DEATH CULT!, just as the Black Panthers before them became.

This time, there is no "became". It originated as a death cult, it operates as a death cult, and it carries out its beliefs as all death cults do. A few changes in their dogma and they could be mistaken for ISIS hitters shooting up a target, blowing up with bombs, or running folks down with stolen trucks.

If they didn't have fellow travelers in positions of power and influence, they would've been hit with the RICO Act and rolled up into oblivion by now. That means we've got to deal with the traitors first before any real solutions can be implemented. In the meantime, naming and shaming will help because it will (a) show the normies that they are not wrong and (b) start putting pressure on the more vulnerable to get back in line or get the fuck out. Things like "This is why Trump won." work.

And yes, truly, incidents like this are why Trump won.

The narrative spin here is a clean coat of "They good boys. They dindu nuffin!", and the folks who haven't drunk the Kool-Aid know that such talk is a fraud. The appalling action of Chicago's police chief only made that worse. That they got nailed for hate crime charges at all is a small miracle, citing the victim's mental state as the reason, but the flip-side is that we all have confirmation that being white means you're fair game for the death cult.

And in time, this will only end badly- even worse than before. Once the Saxon learns to hate, things go from Fine to Not Fine on the turn of a dime.

Friday, January 6, 2017

War Is Upon You.

War does not care about your virtue. War does not care about your status. War does not care about your fervent passion for peace, harmony, or tranquility. War does not care about who you are, or what you are. It cares only that you either resist or submit when comes upon you, because War is sufficiently strong that it changes the very reality of your life to that of itself for as long as it lasts- much like being caught up in some weather disaster. Argue with the detonating bombs for all the good it will do; war is upon you- adapt or die.

And yes, War is upon you.

"But I'm special! I gave to charity to help them! I voted for the guy who would help them! I'm not like the others who didn't!"

Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids- and none of that matters when those others wage war upon you and yours. They don't care, so it does not matter, and all your bleating and signalling is wasted time and resources that falls on deaf ears. It cannot, and will not, save you..

"But I don't believe in violence!"

War does, and it works very well indeed- the lying, hoaxing media lied and hoaxed you since childhood that this is not so. I'd have you ask the Scythians, but you can't- Rome killed them all. The military knows this. Law Enforcement knows this. The Deep State, nested in Spookworld, knows it so well that it builds generational plans around it. Either you kill that motherfucker, or you die and--if they are lucky--so do yours.

"But I'm protected!"

Like Hell you are. The armed services of the state are there to see to the security of the state- and you are NOT the state. You, rabbit, are utterly fucking expendable. They know it, and so do you; you just don't want to admit it. Those services will come for you if, and only if, they and theirs are secured and locked down; until then, you're on your own so if you don't want to die then you'd better be prepared to do for yourself.

War subsumes and consumes. That is why it is stronger than Peace, and only by burning itself out does it find defeat. Deep in your mind, in that place where you dare not look, you know this is true- and hence why your protests say more about your terror than anything else. War is upon you, whether you like it or not. Adapt or die.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: What I Nabbed at the 2016 Steam Winter Sale

The Steam Winter Sale concluded on Monday of this week. I picked up a few more games that I can't get otherwise for my PC, or would prefer to play on PC vs. the comparable console version.

  • Sniper Elite. The original one, from which the entire franchise (and its competitors) stem, which I haven't played yet. Looking forward to seeing Sniper Elite 4 for PC and console (PS4) later this year, but until then the original will do.
  • The Divinity Anthology: This is Divine Divinity (a Diablo-style RPG), its direct sequel Beyond Divinity, and then Divinity II (which is still a RPG, but very different). These are the three games that informed Divinity: Original Sin and its direct sequel.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowwind. 'nuff said.
  • Sacred 2 Gold: The direct sequel to Sacred (another Diablo clone) that, like Divinity II, switched to an entirely different control scheme and thus away from being the classic isometric action RPG.

In addition, I had a copy of Shadowrun Returns gifted to me by one of my Canadian pals, and I won copies of 100% Orange Juice, Tabletop Simulator in separate raffles. At this rate, my game backlog will soon match my reading backlog. Also, because this is the 20th Anniversary of Diablo, Blizzard cut the PC price of Diablo 3 to $10 for the base game, and the same for the expansion. (And yes, buying the bundle is $20.) So, since I had $10 on my Battlenet account I bought it; I need Reaper of Souls to get access to the Crusader and Act V, but otherwise I'm good.

Yes this means that my Steam Wish List is significantly reduced, but there's still a few things left on it. If you're looking for some last-minute writeoffs, help a man out; gift one of them, or a Blizzard game/expansion I don't have, or knock some stuff off the Amazon Wish Lists.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Welcome to the New Dangerous Visions: "Forbidden Thoughts"

Forbidden ThoughtsThe folks at Superversive Press just released Forbidden Thoughts for Kindle, and, well, I'll let the blurb do the pitching:

You are not supposed to read this book.
You are not supposed to think about reading this book.
In fact, just plain thinking at all is unacceptable.
You have been warned....

From hilarious to horrifying to dangerously insightful, a selection of stories that must not be told, for they slaughter the sacred cows of our age.

Do you dare read them?

Stories by Nick Cole, John C. Wright, Sarah A. Hoyt, Brad R. Torgersen, Vox Day and more…

Non-fiction articles by Tom Kratman and Larry Corriea

This collection of stories and articles, as one should expect out of Superversive Press, is intended to be full of fun fiction and alluring articles aimed squarely as those dissatisfied with (and turned off by) the politically-correct, SocJus-converged "mainstream" publishing world of Science Fiction & Fantasy (and related stuff). Many involved are also posting about it today, starting with the publisher's blog and going on to include several of the contributors.

For $5 on Kindle, that's not out of line considering what you get. If you're willing to wait for the print version, that may be your better option depending on how you read what you acquire. (It would be how I want to go, as I prefer to read at home in my late father's comfy chair.)

I'm passing on word (and linking to Amazon's listing of) this anthology because this is a good opportunity to get a taste of a lot of authors who've previously been part of either the Sad Puppies or the Rabid Puppies, and opposing SocJus convergence of both SF/F as a business as well as the fan convention scene wherein this SocJus clique holds sway (something I know well). If you're looking for the good stuff, and despairing that where you used to find it now turns out crap stories pushing propaganda, here's your antidote- and introduction to the host of authors that still produce stuff that is fun first and foremost.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Diablo Turns 20 Years Old

So, Diablo turns 20. Way to make a gamer feel old, Blizzard.

In the development of the role-playing game as a viable commercial product, this is a very important milestone to mark and celebrate. When Blizzard released Diablo lo those many years ago--as they are quick to remind you--the RPGs-are-dead meme was all over the gaming press (and, as we know now, they weren't paragons of competency- nevermind integrity). It was this game, as part of a wave of RPGs on PC and consoles released at this time, that killed the meme dead and cemented the RPG as a pillar of gaming beyond the tabletop.

(Useless Fact: When it came time to release Dungeons & Dragons's 3rd Edition in 2000, the mastermind behind it--Ryan S. Dancey--would cite Diablo as a key influence in its development saying (paraphrased) that Diablo encapsulated D&D's "core story": explore dungeons, fight monsters, get treasure, power up.)

And if you are at all a regular on Steam, GOG, etc. then you know all about the many isometric-based RPGs made in the wake of Diablo. (Just nabbed a few more in the recently-concluded Steam Winter Sale, and Path of Exile remains a quality free-to-play clone of that game.) The Torchlight games are notable for being made by former Diablo developers, the Divinity series has a notable fandom, and more examples just on Steam alone show that the legacy of Diablo 20 years on is far from faded. (Just look at Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny.)

And now, as Diablo III begins its slow wind-down as the company's isometric RPG offering, we should be watching out for a fourth game in this series- maybe even announced this year (and this year would be a good time to do so). Congratulations to you, Diablo, for without you the RPGs of today would be in a much sadder state- and one utterly dominated by Japan (because this is also the 20th anniversary of Final Fantasy VII).

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Life as a Gamer: Playing at the World - How RPGs Came To Be

Playing at the WorldWell, it's arrived: my copy of Jon Peterson's Playing at the World. If you don't know what this is about, allow me to quote the blurb:

Explore the conceptual origins of wargames and role-playing games in this unprecedented history of simulating the real and the impossible. From a vast survey of primary sources ranging from eighteenth-century strategists to modern hobbyists, Playing at the World distills the story of how gamers first decided fictional battles with boards and dice, and how they moved from simulating wars to simulating people. The invention of role-playing games serves as a touchstone for exploring the ways that the literary concept of character, the lure of fantastic adventure and the principles of gaming combined into the signature cultural innovation of the late twentieth century.

This book is the first serious work of historical research done on the early days of role-playing games. If you ever played any such RPG, be it at the table or (more likely) on a PC or a console, then you should be interested in this book. Within its pages are the origins of many tropes we now take for granted. It's not light reading or a slim volume; this is a 600+ page tome of academic-grade historical research.

Well, if you're at all interested in this matter, stick around. For as long as this takes, I'll read this beast and put forth the time to read this beast and make regular posts about what's therein. I'm not promising a set schedule, but rather a recurring feature topic in specific for this year. All such posts will have "PATW" as a label, so you'll easily be able to search for them after the fact.

In the meantime, I await the completion of a memoir by one of Gary & Dave's old crew of players, Michael "Old Geezer" Monard. It is through him that I began to learn the true origins of many Dungeons & Dragons (and thus, many RPG, tropes): including one that was not revealed until last year in the wake of another old-timers death, the origin of the Magic-User class. If there is more to report, you'll see it here as soon as I get the word.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome, 2017. Let's Talk.

Well, 2016 is over. What now?

I've been sitting on two manuscripts, in various stages of editing over the last year. I moved, lost some vital data in the move, and finally found it again; I needed that to finish setting up a Kindle Direct Publishing account, so that's sorted. Been watching a lot of videos, reading a lot of stuff, and having to re-learn a lot of bullshit taught in university and the con scene about how publishing works. Info gotten, situation assessed, time for action.

(Related: If anyone of you writers out there knows anything about Nimble Writer, comment below with your take. It's on sale on Steam until noon my time tomorrow, and I've got enough left in my Steam Wallet to snatch it up.)

I can't help but feel that my gaming life is about to experience another tectonic shift. The last 10+ years it's been dominated by World of Warcraft, and I've been around enough to know the signs of a dominant influence slipping. Even if I got a new PC, mechanics in this build of the game have had negative effects that can't be fixed with the latest hardware; I've been laying preparations for such an event for a while, so if it comes that I decide to quit World of Warcraft, I'll be quite able to swap it out and be gaming without further spending for some time to come (as in years).

I've not been thrilled with the polymer-framed/striker-fired service pistols produced over the last few years. They do the job, and when priced between $400-$500 they're in that sweet spot for acceptability; good for institutional use, but for me I want a certain level of aesthetics if I'm rolling off the Benjamins, which is why I've stuck to other options. Well, CZ got one step closer to there with the new CZ P-10C.

Now, it's still not the hotness of the classic CZ-75B (which I still want; #1 on my handgun Wish List, right after the Browning Hi-Power), or the CZ 75 SP-01. (I loved the Shadow, and this successor improves on it.) Maybe when they figure out how to make polymer frames that look that good, I'll be excited; until then, still "meh", but I know I can rely on CZ for quality and the price is right.

I can't unsee that the business of tabletop RPGs, as I've known it all my life, is on its way to a final collapse- and I could not be happier. The new commerce space will actually support the desire for tabletop RPG makers to pay some or all of their bills because they'll be forced to sell things that have actual commercial value while remaining harmonious with the unique strengths of tabletop RPGs as a medium (and exploiting them) instead of lobotomizing it. (Hint: Rules-heavy games, and trust-unfriendly gaming culture, cannot endure because competing RPG medium outperforms that mixture reliably- and only moreso as time passes.) The restoration of the original TRPG culture, and games to go with it, is now inevitable.

My reading backlog remains an issue, but I am--slowly--picking through it. Another big tome arrives tomorrow--my copy of Playing at the World--and I'll begin dedicated posts to current and past reads here and at my writing blog (each post with a different emphasis) over this coming year. The same goes to games I play or played, and other cultural elements; part of beating the SocJus death cult means being the alternative you want to see, so it's time to do more of that myself.

Now that I've come out from the converged crap, it's time to do what I can to cut them out and build up alternatives; unless and until the time comes to reach for my revolver, that's the way I'm aiming to go this year.