Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Razorfist Presents: The Shadow: DANGER IN THE DARK (Radio RE-CREATION)

Today being Halloweeen means something spooky should be shared. Well, this is only truly terrifying if you're a criminal, but it's got that spooky factor regardless. It's Razorfist's recreation of another lost episode of The Shadow's radio show, one of Orson Wells' episodes, with the man himself as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. They even included all of the original advertisements, so get ready for Blue Coal spots along with your Knight of Darkness. Conde Nast, do yourself a favor and just put your blessing on this already; he's done far more to promote your property--for free--than you have in years. (I have a rant coming on this topic, which I will post tomorrow.)

If you missed his previous recreation, The Immortal Murderer, go here. For his two part retrospective on the property, go here and here; he does know his stuff. For more of the actual radio series, it's found on YouTube in various channels, so start here and look for more from there.

The old pulps dominated our culture for a damn good reason: they were good, and few were as good in as many media as The Shadow. His influence remains strong to this day, mainly through his imposter-cum-successor Batman, but you need not go to far to find other threads. Much like E.E. Smith's role in founding Space Opera, Walter B. Gibson (as Maxwell Grant) made superheroes what they are.

We need this back, badly. Fortunately some of us are doing something about that.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The PulpRev Sampler! Come Get the Hottest Anthology of the YEAR!

In case you missed the announcement , my debut publication as an author is now up at Amazon: "The Ghost Fist Gambit", as part of the PulpRev Sampler. The first story in my Space Opera series is here, and you can expect the characters shown and referred to here to return in other stories down the road.

It's a whopping one dollar, so skip that ice cream cone on the Dollar Menu and get this instead. Risk-free as it gets, folks. Get it, read them, and leave reviews. The more (and better) reviews we get, the better things will be down the road.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Geek Gab Talks Speculative History!

The Geek Gab crew had a good show yesterday about Future History and Secret History in speculative fiction, and since it's such a good episode I decided to embed it below for your convenience.

Scientist and author Hans G. Schantz joins us on the show to talk about writing science fiction informed by science history and future scientific development.

This episode had some good book recommendations, including a GURPS title (Timeline), and I expect that by the time you see this post the video's YouTube Description should have links to the relevant titles.

And speaking of Future History and Secret History, pay attention to the Study for a while. That's going to be a regular topic as I get going on developing my own Space Opera stories, so if you're not already following the Study then do so and remember to comment there (same policy).

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Superversive Roundtable Talks Horror

The folks at SuperversiveSF have their monthly Roundtable podcast this afternoon. I'm embedding it below so you can easily catch it live when it happens (or catch the archive after the fact). If you want some writer and reader talk, they've got your fix. Enjoy.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The #AltHero RPG Confirmed!

The other night, the Supreme Dark Lord Vox Day confirmed in the Darkstream that the #AltHero tabletop RPG will happen.

At this point, I don't care who's doing it. I just want to see it done, and played, so that I can slake my thirst on the deluge of SJW tears from the tabletop RPG crowd. If you thought that the response to #AltHero in comics was incredible, imagine how it will go over with superhero gamers. They too are chronically under-served due to the domination of SJWs in the entire category of business, especially in the most dominant titles in superhero RPGs.

So spread the word. Make certain those sad shit-sacks know that the Supreme Dark Lord is coming, and Hell's three steps behind him. Collect their tears, and render unto him as tribute. Once this too hits with the fist of an angry God, the floodgates will burst and more anti-SJWs (such as the Pundit) will find a far more fertile field for their own efforts.

And I, like Ivan Throne, will throw back my head and laugh at their pain. Fuck these shitweasels for fouling the thing I love, sideways, with a rusted and pitted shovel covered in burrs.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

How To RPG: Scramble! How To Be Pilots & Crewmen

I like my giant stompy robots, both the "Real Robot" end and the Super Robot end. They, along with anything else focused upon the doing of deeds in vehicles or on mounts, present a problem when put to tabletop RPGs.

The problem is that the focus of the action is on what the pilots or riders do in or on their things, which is even more friendly to wargaming (tabletop and videogame alike) than the skirmish-scale wargaming from which Dungeons & Dragons derived itself. I learned the hard way, years ago, that most gamers who are into mecha properties (robots, fighters, road warriors, etc.) see the point of the game as being the action in the vehicles and not outside of it.

The complaint is that you might as well play a dedicated wargame because characters don't matter. (You get this a lot from the frustrated writer crowd, and others who should be watching soaps instead of shitting up RPGs.)

If you hear this, then you hear the voice of someone who doesn't get how RPGs are to be played; they talk about characters as if this is a drama exercise (e.g. Fiasco) when it's not. Lots of blather online and (formerly) in print goes on about what to do about this, but we already have the solution.

You handle this by making the campaign structure exactly as if it were a proper D&D or Traveller campaign: put the players in charge of what to do and how it gets down. For some properties, this is easy. BattleTech/Car Wars: You're an independent operator (mercenary, autonomous SpecForce unit, etc.) so you have that capacity from the get-go.

For others, this requires a shift. Your standard Star Trek scenario has you has the bridge crew or senior officers; this would also apply to similar organizations such as armies. In this case, the Troupe Style approach is better: you have your man, but you sometimes play the henchmen because your man wouldn't logically be along (for whatever reason). This is good for playing the crew of a ship, or a sizable military unit, because the players (as the leadership) make the operational calls before sending their men out into the field to get it done (playing the field agents then).

This form of campaign, therefore, is a logical iterative shift from a proper D&D campaign once you get to Name Level and start the stronghold-based endgame. At that point, it's not uncommon for exactly this sort of rotating emphasis to occur; one go has the Fighter lead an expedition against a threat in his domain, and the other players are his henchmen because the Magic-User is deep into spell research, the Thief is busy overseeing construction of his underground lair, and the Cleric is off on a crusade for his god. Same structure; only the trappings differ.

The consequence? You often see whatever the vehicle is become an important character in its own right, so to speak, and progression of this vital asset routinely becomes playable content unto itself. (Think of the Millenium Falcon as a thing you bought stock and then upgraded over time into its famous configuration; same concept, differing in implementation.)

This is a solved problem. You need only make simple adjustments to how you would run D&D or Traveller to do a pilot/crew-based campaign properly and have plenty of fun.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Time to Sift Out the Wanna-Be Henchmen

This one's for the folks who are long-accustomed to proper RPG campaign play wonder why the youngin's went wrong.

The reason that proper play went away is because of two major threads. The first is that the founding generation and cohort worked off a set of assumptions that turned out to not be as obvious as they thought. The second is that the succeeding cohorts, especially once videogames took off and became the primary gaming medium, acculturated to a very passive paradigm of gameplay for no more nefarious a reason than because videogames work best that way.

I'm talking about the mission-focused paradigm, where the players are (in proper D&D terms) henchmen to a patron, whose primary purpose is to tell the players where to go and what to do. Sometimes they tell the players why. Adventure modules are naturally inclined to go with this structure.

The reason for this go-to structure stems from Organized Play, which came from Tournament Play, at which time the only fair way to score play was to determine who fell furthest from the door (as Michael Monard puts it). In practical terms, it means who got furthest down a linear path of play. You might as well be playing a videogame. At best you get something like Final Fantasy XV, where you go from hub to hub along a linear narrative path and resolve a bunch of main and side quests before moving to the next hub.

It's no surprise that videogames took to this structure and made it their own. The nature of the medium plays well to constricted playable spaces and the funneling of players down pre-selected paths, events, and outcomes. Sandbox games, by comparison, are very difficult to do and even harder to do well; tabletop is superior in all ways to this mode of play.

If this passive player paradigm is all you know, it's not a logical leap to see it be assumed when you play a tabletop RPG. We've had that for a generation or so now, such that even the folks who ought to know better--the WOTC and Paizo crowd--operate under these assumptions (especially now that we know that this is not the case).

Unfucking this fuckup will not be quick or easy, but it can be done. First, let go of everyone who won't make the switch; let them play videogames and be entertained that way- MMOs and similar multi-player games are a thriving niche of the market, so let them serve it. Second, pass on what you know and get folks who want to play this way up and playing. Yes, this is separating wheat and chaff- that's fine, even desirable, because it's good for everyone in the long run.

The big one, however, is this: forking the culture back to how it once was, and that means Making the West Marches Great Again, something that's best done with Open Tables when playing in public spaces or in game clubs. (Home games? Another circumstance entirely.) Big thanks to The Alt-Right DM for being so vocal about his attempt at doing just this.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How To RPG: This Is How It's Done

If you need another ongoing series of examples of how to run a tabletop RPG campaign properly, the folks over at Castalia House have your back. Their ongoing features document a Traveller campaign, and now a Gamma World campaign, with all of the foibles and victories included. The most recent post (as of this post) is from the latter campaign, and you can read it here.

For you folks far more used to linear Adventure Paths and other piss-poor adaptations of what videogames do far better, reading these camapaign blog entries is a great way to get a sense of how the original--proper--paradigm works in practice. If you take the time to follow Jeffro Johnson on Google Plus, you'll find that he links to other campaign blogs on the regular. Read those at your leisure, and start noticing the patterns of practice across all of them; that's where your gameplay structure builds from.

You will find that the core that drives Dungeons & Dragons does cross over to other RPGs: no linear paths, show up with a plan, sandbox gameplay produces superior results. Yes, even in campaigns that are more mission-focused (e.g. Robotech, Spycraft), because once in the field you're on your own to handle things as you see fit.

This is how it's done, folks. You don't dictate a narrative. You don't run a railroad. You don't sit there and react to events. You have to be pro-active as a player, and as the Game Master you have to be Crom- unyielding and uncaring, favoring none and letting fate play out as it will. Death of a PC isn't anything to cry about; shrug it off, get a fresh sheet, and get on with rerolling a new guy. When players earn their wins, let them have and enjoy them; villains and monsters are there to be slain and looted, not mourned or complained about. Let the survivors tell the tales; the play is the thing at the table- not any pre-determined events or outcomes.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The #AltHero Tabletop RPG WILL Happen!

#AltHero goes into the last week of its fundraising campaign with a big announcement: The RPG WILL happen! Vox Day said so over the weekend in the Darkstream.

This is a big deal for me, what with me being a tabletop RPG guy and all that. You want in? Go here and get your wallet out.

The press release on the matter is here at the Castalia House blog, but the important part is what I quote below:

“If you’re at all interested in role-playing games, I would strongly encourage you to back the RPG rulebook, as I think there is a very good chance that the system we are designing is not only going to be the best one for superheroes yet created, but will provide mechanics that translate effectively to science fiction, fantasy, and even military role-playing. What we’re doing here is more than creating a comics line, as we are building a strong foundation from which future offensives in the cultural war in comics, SF/F, and gaming can be launched.”

As I said previously, it's unlikely that Green Ronin will do this; they're SJWs. HERO Games is unlikely; they're SJW-amenable. Palladium would do it, but Heroes Unlimited is a mess and Vox Day would see this instantly if he read the rulebook. I'm hoping for something new, and the imitations on who's involved make that most likely now. In any event, conversions to your superhero tabletop RPG of choice won't be that hard to pull off. I can't wait to see this on the shelves, literal and digital alike.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Unlikely Planetary Romance: World of Warcraft

If there are any properties that don't strictly adhere to the Silver Age segregation of fantasy and science fiction, and they get any significant popular acceptance, it's likely that this lack of separation will fuel that growth. Star Wars welcomes wonder, mysticism, and other fantastic elements that--in its most popular expressions--allows it to be Superversive as well as firmly in the Pulp tradition.

It's not the only property. Several in Japan likewise go this route, mixing to varying degrees, with similar results- and not all of them involve giant robots. While significant, I'm not talking about those properties here. I'm talking about one about to celebrate another convention and announce a new expansion: World of Warcraft.

The property started as your usual Vanilla Fantasy setting, but started blending when the RTS games introduced Outland, introducing Planetary Romance elements.

The blend became more obvious with the first MMORPG expansion: The Burning Crusade, which retro-actively added spaceships and crystal mystic technology to a property that already had cannon, firearms, powered flight, and industrial production economies on top of the knights-and-dragons core of the property.

This blending trend continued, at varying speeds, ever since. Wrath of the Lich King returned the flying castles of the dead, the Necropoli, and even introduced a new class of them (Acherus, the home of the Death Knights). The narrative revealed the Titans as Ancient Aliens, capable of colossal constructs and the power to make them work; god-like in power, but not true gods, and a lot of the fantasy elements are derivations of either their works or those of their enemies: the Void Lords, via the Old Gods that serve them. The Burning Crusade arose when one of the Titans went Full-Tilt Bozo and decided to burn Creation to save it from said Void Lords.

Now, with Legion, we have a full-on science-fantasy setting and there is no significant complaint about any of it. Not the spaceships. Not the mecha. Not the fighters. Not the souls-as-fuel concept the aforementioned Crusade uses to run its technology. Nothing at all. Instead, people still whine about Pandaren, and hate the RNG-on-RNG hobbling of the game. While it will never go full Space Opera, it's not that out of line with (e.g.) Palladium's RIFTS, skewing closer to its Fantasy line. BlizzCon hits on the first weekend in November, so Soon(TM), and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next.

(And if you object, saying that Starcraft is the Space Opera setting, review the definition of Space Opera that Brian Niemeier gave a few days ago here:)

I see the term space opera thrown around a lot lately, and in contexts that make it clear there's more than a little confusion about what the genre entails. To sum it up, space opera descends from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doc Smith. Modern Mil-SF follows the tradition of authors like Robert A. Heinlein and Joe Haldeman.

(If you can't see the John Carter of Mars roots in World of Warcraft, you're in dire need of remedial education. Go read those books; Amazon has them for Kindle for free.)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Original GoLion Pulled No Punches

I mentioned the original GoLion series the other day. Guess what? The official Voltron channel at YouTube has a playlist. Only 10 episodes are visible, but that's enough to get a good sense for how different the original series was from the Voltron series we got in the West. Don't have small or over-sensitive kids around. Here's the pitch:

In the future, Earth has been ravaged by nuclear war. Survivors are captured by an evil alien race of the Galran Empire led by the ruthless King Daibazaal to work as slaves or fight in a deadly arena. Five captured Earthlings: the fearless Captain Akira "Chief" Kogane, the silent Takashi "Quiet" Shirogane, the strong Tsuyoshi "Hothead" Seidou, the reckless Isamu "Moody" Kurogane and the small but crafty Hiroshi "Shorty" Suzuishi, will attempt to escape the dungeons of Castle Galra before they are again forced to fight in the arena or worse, turned into massive Beastmen monsters.

Given the time of the series' production and airing, you can argue that the violence--both what is done and how it's handled--is a reflection of the cultural malaise within Japan at the time, especially among animation professionals (this is the heyday of "Kill 'Em All" Tomino), but you risk doing a disservice to the audience.

Don't lie to them; Principles Are Expensive. (Thank you, Oliver Campbell, for that one.) Doing Good isn't free or easy, and innocent people can and do get hurt in the process. It sucks, hard, but no one said that doing Good would be- and sometimes you don't have enough to cover the bill, so to speak, so you don't survive the doing. Not all heroes get their happy endings, and that's the case here. That's a degree of honesty I appreciated as a child, cherish as a grown man, and wish to pass on to succeeding generations.

That's anathema to the SJWs infesting our culture at all levels. They live for the lie, and die without it. Respect to the GoLion team for not lying to the audience. More big productions should be so honest. For that matter, GoLion should be readily available in its entirety in the West.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A RPG Setting For Alt-Hero? Really?

I'm listening to last night's Darkstream, keeping up on Alt-Hero and such, when I hear that Vox got approached to make a RPG out of it. While there are videogame RPGs about superheroes, the ones most superhero gamers talk about are tabletop games so I'll go there for now.

It's not like the tabletop world doesn't know who Vox Day is. The SJWs in tabletop gaming are tight with the SJWs in SF/F, so they got the memos early in the Gamergate lifecycle about Vox and dutifully detest and decry him lest they be cast out of the rabbit warren.

Green Ronin is based out of the Seattle SJW Warren, same as WOTC and Paizo, so it won't be them. They're too woke, so it's not going to be Mutants & Masterminds. It won't be HERO, as they're SJW-amendable (and cucky). That's the two largest tabletop superhero games right there. The third-largest is Palladium's Heroes Unlimited (Misleading: it's quite limited.) so that's our best bet, as Kevin Siembieda is something of an outcast and thus would not give a shit about the SJW narrative on Vox Day. The folks at Steve Jackson Games might go for it as a GURPS supplement, but it's unlikely due to SJG being (a) focused far too much on Munchkin and (b) far too cucky and amenable to SJWs. (Tabletop RPGs are so small a scene that all the major players fit in my house.) No one else has a superhero game of any significance, so there's the best tabletop option: Palladium Books.

It could work, if the entire system got a proper clean-up and presentation fix, because right now the rules for Heroes Unlimited are so muddled that any competent technical writer will scream bloody murder at how sloppy it is. (I can follow this up with a step-by-step walkthrough if enough of you wish.) M&M and HERO would be better choices, as would GURPS, but SJWs ruin everything so this is what's likely to come out instead.

Oh well. At least unofficial conversations can be done and posted online. If I'm wrong, and this is about a videogame, well then I am just as interested as you are about who wants to do it and how likely it will be to not suck. At least it's not a Heroclix thing.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Give Me Lightsabers, Super-Robots, Epic Sagas, & Mythic Heroes

Like others, I'm looking to riff on Star Wars for my own purposes. What I see a lot is a shift of emphasis away from the Knights & Wizards towards the more underworld and mil-SF aspects. I'm wanting to go the other way. Space Knights, Space Princesses, castles in the sky, and fantastic powers capable of wondrous things- including wondrous technologies. In short, more like this:

Flat out going good and hard for the Space OPERA, and laying on the myth and fantasy thick (like how I prefer the frosting on my cakes). There's not enough of the fantastic and mythic in science fiction, and I'm fully behind the #RegressHarder mantra. (And yes, you see it in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, straight and subverted.) If you've ever seen the original, non-Flanderized King of Beasts: Go Lion from which we in the West got Voltron, you will know that "Space Princesses" is not code for "Baby's First Sci-Fi". It's hearkening back to John Carter, but played out on a galactic or universal scope and scale.

Not this week, but next week at the Study I'll start sharing my world-building brainstorms on how I'm going about this. Don't you folks who want the more romantic riffs worry; I've got you. It's just going to be a bit.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Narrative Warfare: Alt-Hero Is Where The Superhero Comic Action Is Now

The Supreme Dark Lord, Vox Day, had a very pleasant update on the Alt-Hero campaign today. You can ready about that here. But first, allow me to show you the breakout star of this superhero comic book project: Rebel.

That's the sort of superhero that DC and Marvel used to be openly proud of publishing, because both companies knew their markets and--being competent at business--marketed to it good and hard. That is still the superhero comic audience, which is why Rebel (imagine Daisy Duke as a superheroine) hit like the fist of an angry God.

I am not tired of winning, and Alt-Hero is very much a winning campaign. I fully expect that the comic (now that Chuck Dixon is involved) will be the sort of action/adventure series that the Big Two used to do as their bread-and-butter before the smart money left and the SJWs currently feeding off their decaying corpses like the maggots they are infested them.

Fuck the milkshake tossers. This is the real deal. Looking forward to all of this being published. You want to win the Culture War? You've got to show up and support those shaping it back to health and sanity- and not be like the Cuckservatives that shoot at their own supposed allies. Want in on the Alt-Hero campaign? You can do that here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

MAGA 2020 & Beyond Now Up For Preorder (& More)

One of my fellows has a story and an essay coming out with the publication by Superversive Press of MAGA 2020 & Beyond, which you can pre-order . He talks about it here.

This is how we start building parallel institutions, and the cultures that they promote. We form our own publishing houses. We start our own literary movements. We boost our friends and allies (in an ethical manner, of course; Brian Niemeier did this with the aplomb I've come to expect from his blogging now) as best we can.

Like it or not, this is a team effort. We don't have to be the bestest of buddies to be good allies working towards a common goal; we can, and should, argue amongst ourselves as needed- but never at the expense of dealing with common enemies. A unified fleet, a disciplined army, always routs chaotic and disunified opposition and crushes it underfoot. Civilization--so long as it asserts and renews itself--always defeats Barbarism.

And we are doing that now. Fork, Replace, Win. Good luck to Alfred and the others contributing to MAGA 2020 & Beyond, because I am still not tired of winning.

Monday, October 16, 2017

How To RPG: Lore is the Spice That Makes Campaigns Tasty

There's nothing wrong with your setting having some history to it. The issue comes when you got storygame wankers wanting to vent their writing/acting frustrations through a campaign, instead of doing the right thing and actually working on their writing/acting skills so they can actually satisfy those desires properly.

The trick is to put that history where the game is, and then to make it a treasure of its own, one where acquiring such actually makes acquiring the stuff most gamers are after--power and wealth--easier and faster. For my own D&D campaign, I make it clear that you're going to find that stuff only in dungeons and similar adventure sites. You want to know why the lizardmen have a mythology surrounding an exodus from a mother planet. Why? Because you'll never get that Staff of the Archmage without it.

This isn't an excuse to engage in pixel-bitching bullshit. You put the lore into the location that fits the site's original purpose. A temple, being a place of worship, has religious and mythological lore associated with it. Instead of reducing this to a die roll, as too many RPG systems do, putting it in the rooms' descriptions is the way to go; let players take notes, have their character sketch stuff, and run their curious asses to a sage in town to handle the gruntwork of research while they pursue other active leads.

History, mythology, architecture- all of this is the lore that makes campaigns feel alive in ways that mechanics can't handle, and with that in mind you can make the lore immediately and directly relevant without making it boring bitchwork players have to handle to get their gold, wands, and +1 swords. Put practical information into the lore and watch players embrace it, then get enchanted by it.

Summarized: Lore exists to facilitate gameplay in the campaign, not the other way around. It's grease for the gears, spice for the meat, and not the point of the exercise. Keep that in mind, and you will prosper greatly by using it. Too much and Gordon Ramsey's gamer cousin will scream at you while beating you about the shoulders with his dice bag. You don't want that.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

In Praise on the Open Table

If you listen to the surviving old-timers, you will learn that they didn't run their tabletop RPG campaigns the way that is assumed as normal now: organizing a specific group, which plays and acts like a team, that meets at specific places and times to performance as a team for a specific duration (in hours). It might as well be organizing a team for a bowling league with strict attendance rules.

I know, from decades of experience, that this scheme leaves the least committed with the most leverage over the group. If they don't show up, for whatever reason, it's not uncommon to abandon play altogether because some combination of player and GM decisions made the no-show guy a mission-critical element. As with a car without an ignition key, getting going otherwise tends to be beyond many to pull off, and can often lead to other troubles.

The Open Table paradigm avoids all of that. It's a paradigm of Pick-Up Play. The GM shows up, sets up, and runs the game with whomever shows up. You want a (somewhat humorous) example? Go read the posts by The Alt-Right GM about his ongoing Open Table campaign. Very little needed in terms of preparation, no need for narrative elements at all, and self-sustaining once the players start becoming players in the setting because cause-and-effect gain sufficient momentum to keep play going indefinitely.

Which is why more videogame designers and publishers of RPGs--MMO and otherwise--are doing the smart thing and adapting this more and more to their own medium. They have been for years, but business and technical limitations still forbid the fullest degree of implemenation. Especially the MMORPGs with persistent worlds, like World of Warcraft.

Fire the frustrated wanna-be novelists and get more wargame veterans on the payroll instead. Embrace the Open Table paradigm, and its key feature of drop-in/drop-out play, and enjoy adaptation and retention (in both tabletop and videogame media) as people stop being bothered by the fear of commitment to a psuedo-bowling league. Instead, knowing that they can dip out whenever something that matters comes up--job, kids, whatever--they can just go handle it and never leave anyone else in the lurch.

The Open Table is good for players, good for publishers, good for developers, good for retailers and convention organizers (for tabletop, specifically), and good thereby for the community as a whole. No hobby should yoke you like a job. (Yes, World of Warcraft, specifically the Raid-or-Die crowd, I'm looking at you. "Raid Guilds" should not be a thing.) "Schedule Your Fun" needs to be dragged into the street, beaten into a pulp, and then shot dead for good measure- for the good of all forms of gaming.

The Open Table. The superior play paradigm. Adopt it today.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

In Case You Missed It: RazörFist Arcade: ALIEN Isolation: Crew Expendable

In case you missed it, Razorfist played Alien Isolation last night to mark Friday The 13th. Admist the xenomorph survival horror, you get Razor and Terran Gell being their usual awesome selves dropping truth bombs as he answers questions from the chat. Sit back, enjoy, and be informed as you are entertained.

If you are not following this man on YouTube or Vidme, do so and ensure you'll get notified when he goes live. His livestreams are not to be missed; as with Geek Gab and Metro City Boys, the live chat is as entertaining as the stream itself. In particular, when he comments on music or comics the man has golden insights and exhibits a depth of knowledge.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Geek Gab's Game Night: Douglas Cole Talks Adventure Design

Dorrinal hosted Geek Gab: Game Night against last night, hosting Douglas Cole to talk about adventure design. Set the DVR to record and put this one on instead. This podcast goes places, but it's worth it.

I was there live, and it was quite the animated podcast. Doug talked more than Daddy Warpig, and if you've heard Warpig go then you know how impressive that is. Get your notepads ready; you're going to get good knowledge and hard-earned wisdom here, allowing you to skip the pain of making those errors yourself.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Last Jedi: See Through This, Fans Do

The vibe for The Last Jedi continues to sour, outside of the official line promulgated by Lucasfilm. Below I'm embedding another World Class Bullshitters video reading the reactions to the trailer, and Midnight's Edge doing a roundtable on it; the latter crew is far more positive.

But no, after reviewing the trailer and listening to some of the PR shilling, I cannot help but to conclude that this will be a mirror of The Empire Strikes Back- an inferior one. No amount of past brilliance can overcome executive mandates from above when you're a hired gun. Some admixture from Return of the Jedi is present, but otherwise we should expect that we're getting another Original Trilogy recycle.

The more I hear about what the narrative is, combined with what I see and know, the less confident I am that this film will be any good- let alone the creative powerhouse that it has to be to repair the damage done by The Force Awakens (and yes, by Rogue One; the Han Solo film doesn't look promising either). While some narrative events are inevitable due to external circumstances (RIP Carrie Fisher), most of them are the deliberate choice of someone other than Rian Johnson. This may not be a bad thing, depending on who is responsible for what narrative decisions, but I default to "Degrees of Suck".

One thing is clear. The Force is not with Disney. For all the hype, the merch rots on the shelves and opinion turns on their films shortly after they leave theaters. The new, post-Disney games get more flack than love in all media; the Original Trilogy remains the dominant era, followed by the Prequels. Few, by their deeds, want or care about the Sequels. The viewing of films has quickly turned into empty ritual, and the next step is to stop going entirely.

This is what happens when you don't comprehend the property you're working with, no matter if you respect it or not. You can't make good product when you don't know what the hell you're doing with it.

Go read the Galaxy's Edge series by Nick Cole & Jason Anspach, or Brian Niemeier's Soul Cycle series instead. When I have my own stuff to shill, I will not be shy in doing so. Fork & Replace Star Wars, folks. Fork & Replace.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Boy Scouts No More

This happened today:

I was a Boy Scout. I was a Cub Scout. I was one of the first Tiger Cubs. I attended the 1989 National Jamboree at Ft. A.P. Hill in Virginia. While it wasn't all sunshine and roses, my time in the Scouts was a great benefit and I had hoped that someday I'd be able to pass this on to a son of my own.

The best part of my time was that there were no women at all involved. The entire point of the organization is to train boys to become men, something that only men can do. Women--however well-meaning--are fundamentally incompetent and incapable of performing that task. One need only look at the statistics regarding the sons of single-mothers to see this truth in all its horror.

If grown women have no place there, then girls most certainly don't. The few times when women or girls--rumored, not confirmed; it was worse when confirmed--were present (usually the nurse at Many Point Scout Camp) during Scouting operations, it had exactly the deleterious effect on discipline and morale that you would expect for a group of boys. I remember well what co-ed environments were like in school; that it wasn't a thing in Scouting was a great blessing- something whose lacking I noticed when I met co-ed scouts from foreign organizations. (Quite frankly, they're jokes.)

And yes, that Eagle Scout rank means a great deal when entering adult life. Nothing short of holding a military officer's commission (be it through a service academy or otherwise) would trump that on a resume. That the Girls Scout equivalent doesn't have the same level of respect says a lot more on the failure of the Girl Scouts to properly publicize the rank and its requirements than anything else- and yet the resentment goes on the Boy Scouts, instead of where it belongs. Female entitlement to male achievement is once more at work, under the fraud of "social justice", and the cucks on the board folded like cheap suits because they are cowards.

This recent decision reveals that the Boy Scouts of America has betrayed its mission. It is no longer fit for purpose and must be destroyed lest the rot spread further. If your boys are in, pull them out; if your boys aren't in, don't join. Find or form a fork that maintains the mission of the organization--a male-only Scouting organization focused on training boys to become men--and continue the work there, in time to supercede and replace the converged corpse-thing corrupting all it touches.

Why? Because the Boy Scouts of America are no longer morally straight. A corrupt leader cannot pass on a pure philosophy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Last Jedi (Doesn't Inspire)

During Monday Night Football, the new trailer for The Last Jedi debuted.

YouTube has all sorts of reactions and analysis and autistic screeching about this trailer right now. Below is the World Class Bullshitters video on it. Call the boys, crack open a cold one, and have some popcorn handy. You know this is going to be goofy.

The going vibe is that this is a shit remake of The Empire Strikes Back. Nothing in this trailer convinces me that this vibe is invalid; the only real difference is the Prequel-themed emphasis on why Ben Solo became Kylo Ren. Regardless of what the crew at World Class Bullshitters, Midnight's Edge, etc. say all that needs be said is this:

The trailer does not get me excited to see this film.

That, folks, is damning. Even up to Revenge of the Sith, 12 years ago, the trailers got me excited. Now? Nope. It's been a whopping two years since The Force Awakens and one since Rogue One, and I can't get excited for it anymore. The Mouse has managed to fuck that up.

Sure, a miracle could occur and this film turns out to be good. I'm more likely to see Godot arrive than for that to happen. We'll see soon enough, but I'm not bothering to hold out hope. Instead, I'm making my own Star Wars. You should too. Hookers and blackjack optional.


The folks at World Class Bullshitters follow up on Wednesday of this week. The video is below. They're reading the comments from the official YouTube channel's posting of the trailer.

Monday, October 9, 2017

How To RPG: Your Setting Needs Interesting Interests to Interest Players

When listening to the old-timers talk about their campaigns, I see something that far too many newer players miss: competing interests at work. It's never a simple You vs. Villain scenario; even in a fight against an Evil Empire, there are competing interests at work who must be dealt with- on both sides.

And the players? They're like these guys:

Yes, even the Monks, Rangers and Paladins. They made it work, somehow; being Lawful or Good doesn't mean being nice or doormats.

This isn't hard to implement. It's easy to do, and in large part because you can do so in small portions as you go; you roll up a NPC, make up somethings he wants done and where to do it, and off you go. A few of those and you will end up with contradictory goals; there's your conflict, and in that liminal space you have a place for players to (a) play the damned game and (b) make consequential decisions that have an impact on the setting going forward.

And it happens emergently, organically, without any need for Storygame bullshit (or any other not-gaming mechanics). Maybe that Goblin band wants something that the nearby Ogre doesn't, like not being the Ogre's bitches. That gives the players an opportunity to negotiate. Start throwing a bunch of these interests together into a setting, and let the players do as they will; they will gladly get themselves into all sorts of trouble just figuring out how to navigate this maze of socio-economic interests you've randomly rolled up.

That's the magic at work: just trusting the dice and letting things happen. Screw plot, narrative, drama, and all that stuff. Just let the game be the game, and the people in your setting be people--be they men or not--as they would be in real life, and things will take on a life of their own quickly. You don't need that Evil Empire, that Overarching Omnipresent Threat, by default; you can, and many have, done just fine with more small-scale. Again: Less Tolkien, More Howard. Less Save The World. More Make Your World.

And in those Evil Empires, you better believe that factions competing for power are a thing. Just because the Faceless Hordes mass on the border doesn't mean there isn't a faction fight going on that players can't find a way to make useful to them. When the players decide to engage a setting like that, Black Knight and Evil Wizard aren't likely to be True Friends- and Evil Genius General certainly isn't. Similarly, Resistance Leader, Sympathetic King, and Sketchy Mystic aren't always on the same page either. If you can't find a way to make that fun, you need to level up as a gamer.

Good settings have compelling and competing interests- it's part of that wargame heritage. Roll with it, literally. It's fun.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Loot Boxes: Gambling By Another Name

Over the last week, I heard--as did many others--that both Star Wars Battlefront II and Shadow of War--will follow the trend of including a virtual loot box system. Furthermore, these will be available for sale online with real currency; you can spend your Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Yen, etc. on these crates. The contents are random, following the model of Magic: The Gathering and its Booster Packs.

This is the micro-payment monetization model that's so popular in videogames these days. The problem is that not only do many games lock away most or all of their high-end cosmetics (which, believe it or not, do drive a lot people), but also actually power upgrades that make the game easier to play. As the contents are random, you cannot guarantee that you will get what you want when you pay your money. You can't even guarantee that you will get anything of use at all. It's a crap-shoot, so what we have here is a virtual slot machine.

That's gambling, folks, and if the gaming companies don't start doing what it takes to stop being so obviously gambling then the State will step in and make them stop. Why? Because actual gambling companies aren't going to put up with competition that is not as regulated as they are, and once they start clamoring for it you can count the days until the State does just that.

Fix your shit, gaming industry, before the other gaming industry shows you how its done.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

On Birthdays: Why Celebration of Yours Matters

Today I turn 43 years old.

For an adult well past 21, that doesn't seem like something to get excited about. There aren't piles of presents awaiting me (and so there aren't going to be pictures of me being thrilled about getting stuff), and the wild party will be me enjoy my favorite pizza as well as a birthday cake (in the oven as of this post) and some coffee, but I still get excited every year as if I were a child anyway.

You're missing the point, folks. Your birthday is the one day in the year where, for all intents and purposes, it IS about you. Specifically, it's a celebration (especially after your 21st) that the Sandmen haven't gotten you yet. No Carousel for you. (Logan's Run, folks. Read the book.) You're still here, and therefore still able to be there for your friends and family. Still there able to fix what you can, work around what you can't, and therefore to Git Gud at whatever it is you care about.

Your birthday is your day to celebrate the fact that you're still here. Still in the game, in the fight, on the scene- that you are Not done yet. Even if you're old, or infirm, or otherwise near that end you're not there yet and until you do get there you've got something left to do.

That is why it's right and proper to get excited, to celebrate, and mark the occasion. Sure, the presents are great, but they are symbols of the real significance of the day: that you are still here, able to love and be love, and Make Life Great Again.

Yes, even if your life is a worse comedy than Jar-Jar Binks, it's still worth celebrating. You're still alive, so you can still fix it. So have that cake, and let that inner child out to make that celebration as enthusiastic as it can get. You can be stodgy and stoic when you're dead. On this day, be that enthusiastic child again, ready to take on the world and pierce the heavens. Be like this:

And be grateful to still be alive. Until you're shot down, you can still be the Ace of Aces, so go for it. Happy birthday indeed.

(On the off-hand that you'd like to throw a gift at me, check the tab above for relevant links to Amazon and Steam.)

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Cinematic Universe Paradigm is Collapsing

The folks at Midnight's Edge and Midnight's Edge After Dark had a pair of good podcasts about the entertainment business (in the United States, of course) this week. Before I forget I'll embed them both immediately below. Slot them into your Watch Later queue and give them both your full attention. The former focuses upon the ongoing trainwreck that is Star Trek: Discovery, and the latter focuses upon the "Dark Universe" of the classic Universal monster movies (which The Mummy, the Tom Cruise film, was meant to launch). We'll come back to that below.

What isn't really addressed here is that DC's attempted at a cinematic universe is also feeling the strain, and I think that Marvel's go at it is about to come to its collapse point now that the decade-long Infinity Gauntlet arc is coming to a close with the final Avengers films.

If it were just DC and Marvel, you could write this off as Superhero Movie Fatigue. It's not. All of them are failing, to varying degrees- even the two that pioneered it (Star Wars and Star Trek) are suffering the fallout. What it really comes down to is that more and more people in and out of the business are recognizing what I said previously: Transmedia Doesn't Work.

What we're finding out now with podcasts like these is that it's not just the audience that isn't buying into the transmedia thing, but also a lot of people on the inside- and by that I mean the key talent cohorts, along with some front office and moneybags people. Filmmakers don't like being constrained by outside parties, including other films that they didn't make; we see that with both the PR spewed by folks like Gareth Edwards as well as the behind-the-scenes stuff revealed in podcasts like this, and they get their way by default- only a Kathy Kennedy can check them. More and more of the two latter cohorts will join the talent cohorts as the failures become too obvious to ignore and they find that turning their coats will keep them in the business as the wreckage clears.

In short, we're watching the decline and fall of the Cinematic Universe as a viable business model. Once the final Avengers film is done, count on Marvel's universe collapsing as the initial fans take their payoff and (emotionally) cash out of the franchise- much as Warcraft 3 fans did with the end of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft. It may go on for a while thereafter, but in permanent decline; the tell will be when the SJW bullshit ramps up hardcore, because (once again) all of the smart money had already left.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Axanar, Alt-Hero, & Why NOW Is The Time to Strike Boldly

Below is another video about the Axanar fiasco. I'm not using this to talk about Axanar specifically; that's for another post. The point here is to bring to your attention the hows and whys leading into the unexpected success and quality of Prelude to Axanar. Compare this with the situation surrounding the Alt-Hero project, which is also an attempt to satisfy an audience that is not being served by the purported holders of that niche of popular culture.

Do you see that now is the time to strike out on your own? To launch new ventures that satisfy demands going unmet? If you do your part properly, get ready for all the success you can handle and more. The hunger for true, authentic culture is ravenous. You need not be a master, though it helps, but rather be eager to learn all of the skills necessary to succeed in your venture- something too many of the "mainstream" converged by the SocJus Death Cult refuse to do because they refuse to Git Gud and confront reality as it is.

You don't need the old institutions. You can--and should--build your own capacity to do all that work yourself, building a parallel structure that forks and replaces your competition over time. You can--and should--embrace the haters and make them do your marketing for you through their inability to stop going "REEEEE!" and antagonize the very audience you seek to serve. Learn from the successes and failures of others, and you get both in the video above, before making your plan and launching your own venture. Sure, you may end up like Jek Porkins, but Death Stars don't blow up themselves either- don't be like the Cuckservatives and not even show up to fight.

The world is yours. Go take it. The culture war is won just by showing up and not backing down.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Original Star Wars RPG Returns!

With all the crap flying around the last few days, I thought something more pleasing would do for today. Yeah, it's on my Wish List, but it's not actually going to be in anyone's hands until February of next year.

That, right there, is the original official tabletop RPG for Star Wars. It too is under license, as a one-time offering, published by Fantasy Flight Games. This is the game that bought the day after Thanksgiving in 1987 when I had poker winnings from a foolish cousin in my pocket and a local store worth a damn to buy it from. (Shinders, if anyone cares.)

This is the game that gave us the Shantipole reference for the B-Wing's origins in Rebels (Strikforce: Shantipole), introduce Adar Talon and Jodo Kast (Tatoonie Manhunt), and founded the Extended Universe that the Mouse discarded like so much scrap. West End Games formed the EU bible that writers like Tim Zahn referenced in their own work; without this game, Grand Admiral Thrawn and his brilliant machinations would never exist at all.

Sure, this original version and its original supplement lacks a lot that later editions of both the d6 and succeeding versions of the game would include, but it's also the fastest-playing version both at the start and on-going thereafter- and most of what is not there can be added in quite easily. (You really only need stats for vehicles/ships and some form of scaling accounted for, lest you have stupidity like blaster pistols blowing apart TIE Fighters- the latter being easily handled by the GM and not a mechanic.)

My birthday is on Saturday. If I get a copy, I will gladly run this game next year and show you all how it's done. Make it happen.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

It's Still "Raid Or Die" in World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft, being one of two MMORPGs that define the entire category, has outsized influence. (The other is EVE Online; WOW usurped Everquest over a decade ago.) In particular, the norms of the game impose themselves on every competitor that arises and players define others in terms of how they compare to WOW.

This is not a good thing, because WOW has a monkey on its back: raiding. Instanced dungeons requiring large teams of players, all of whom must gather to meet at a specific time to play for a specific duration- often multiple times a week. It's not unfair at all to say that raiding is a part-time job. It's "Schedule Your Fun" bullshit, and it's long been a thorn in the side of this entire category of videogames.

The dev team made a choice over a decade ago, after first the original version of Naxxramas and then The Sunwell had participation rates far below every other instance of any size in the game for their period of relevance. (Late Vanilla for Naxx, late Burning Crusade for Sunwell.) As they developed Wrath of the Lich King, they had a choice to make: to turn raiding into the focus of the game, or to de-emphasize its importance in favor of alternatives. The devs chose the former.

Raids take plenty of time and resources. To recoup that investment they must see supermajority participation rates. Since Wrath, more and more gimmicks got used to raise those rates. Gear that dropped being flat-out superior to what you could get otherwise was the first. Then exclusive utility items, especially mounts. Legendary items (having always been raid-exclusive) got reused twice (Val'nyr in Ulduar, Shadowmourn in Icecrown Citadel). Come Cataclysm, more such items appeared and also required raid participation to acquire them- lengthy participation at that. While the items changed since, their use as funnels for participation did not.

More and more of the game focused around the raids, such that "Endgame is the only game" really took off as a meme- confirmed when Blizzard began selling character boosts, tacitly admitting that everything outside the current expansion is utterly irrelevant and should be skipped. (This is even worse now, as the constant implementation of catch-up mechanisms shows that you don't even play the expansion- you play the patch!)

This is no good for the health of the game, and it shows when one looks through the older zones and instances. You're sold a role-playing game, when what you have is really an interactive lobby focused around a series of obstacle courses of varying sizes and difficulties. Add in live-streaming and videos by the players, and the comparison to Roman Collesium and Hippodrome antics is complete.

This isn't even a theme park anymore, really. It's a glorified arena, and all because the devs would not let go of raiding. If any would-be competitor wants to distinguish themselves, do this: don't follow Blizzard into the raid-focus trap. Hell, don't do Theme Park design at all. You can't win, you can't place- you can't even show. Don't bother; it's a fool's errand. Do something else.

Monday, October 2, 2017

How To RPG: Fortune Favors The Bold

A proper tabletop RPG is not for passive players who only react and never take the initiative. The fundamental feedback loop favors the Man With a Plan, the enterprising player who actively seeks out opportunities to make his fame and fortune manifest in the world.

You, Mr. GM, have to do your part. You have to present a setting where that opportunity exists. Putting them on a Chosen One path is not that, at all. (Yes, this means the bad aping of Epic Fantasy "Save the World" plots has to stop because it does nothing but keep all these bad habits going.) Take your Not-Sauron figure out back, pop a bullet through his dome, and be done with it. Less Tolkien, More Howard.

The setting needs monsters, traps, and ruins. Not overarching villains trying to conquer or destroy the world. Far too often this push to ape Tolkien turns into Railroad Roundup- and videogames do this style of play far better than tabletop does, which is why so many who prefer that style quit tabletop RPGs for that competing medium. Tabletop does sandbox play, especially West Marches play, far better than any videogame can do (or will for years to come). The excuse is always Muh Story, but games don't need stories- and RPGs sure as hell are not storytelling media and don't need them to be good games. Never have, never will.

There is absolutely no need whatsoever to fudge things for or against the players. The dice are plenty sufficient to account for random factors, so if the players legitimately secure victory before engaging in battle, don't you dare fudge it otherwise. Let them enjoy the victory that they properly prepared for and executed effectively. This is why RPGs are not a Narrative medium; if you earn your wins, you get them.

You, Mr. Player, need to get off your ass and show up with a plan. You are responsible for your man's success, just like in real life, and not the Gm. Your failures are your own. Your successes are your own. There is nothing and no one to shirk the blame to when the shit hits the fan; it's all on you. It is not the GM's job to entertain you. Neither is he a server there only to send and receive data; the campaign is his, not yours- you are an invited guest, expected to be personable and friendly. You can, and will, get kicked out if you don't measure up.

The reason you need a plan is because the campaign relies on you to drive it, not the GM. You are to go out there and explore that wilderness, those ruins, etc. and see what's there. It's on you to decide what to do with the more intelligent NPCs and monsters you encounter. It's on you to recover the treasure (whatever it is) and bring it back to town. How you do it is on you also. Make friends, court allies, and all that stuff- just like real life. Sure, you'll have to do some favors in return; suck it up. That's the price for having those friends and allies, and you want them because it makes getting what you want done a hell of a lot easier.

Screw "Save The World". Take some real risks, and Make Your World instead. Fortune favors the Bold fora reason. Go for it.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Year Three Begins Now

I want to expand this coming year. I will need help to make that happen.

Livestreaming & Podcasting: It's apparent to me that part of what makes an author grow his audience is to be visible. Part of that visibility stems from having something available, daily, for that audience to enjoy. That's a big reason for why I started and maintain this 'blog. Building on that means going into other media, and livestreaming makes you available to your audience far more than a radio-style podcast does. It has the additional benefit of creating a file for later playback. This means that streaming live on (e.g.) Twitch grants me something to upload to YouTube (et. al.). Several streamers I follow (including Razorfist) do very well using this approach.

So why not get into this? The chokepoint is my computer; I use a Toshiba Satellite A5050 from 2010. I can intimidate it into running World of Warcraft, but its age shows. There's no way I can play the games I usually do and stream them. What I can reliably do is make use of the Hangout feature, as the Geek Gab and Metro City Boys crews do, but if I really want to go beyond that (or get into video production), I need to get a newer rig.

The lesser option (for me) is a PS4. (Lesser only because I can't do some of the other things I want to do with it.) The console has just enough desirable games that I can make that work as a streaming platform for me until I get that PC rig sorted; I'd just need to get a few to get started. After watching Oliver Campbell stream Mad Max from it over this past weekend, I think the PS4 Pro is the most future-proof console option there is, for now, with the Switch coming in second.

Eventually, I want to put up a proper tabletop RPG show, streamed live at Twitch and archived at YouTube, because the ones we have there now are done by Mech Pilots, SJWs, or Storygame wankers (save for the Palladium shows, which have other issues). Time to show folks how it's done; a proper old-school exploration campaign, with hexcrawls and dungeons and West Marches play styles.

Books: I want to learn to do more than just write. That means expanding the skillset, and thus the toolset. In particular, I want to get into the skills (and tools) to produce ebooks and the files necessary for Print-On-Demand production. I have Calibre on the laptop, but at the very least I will need a better rig if I get serious about book covers or start making promotional videos.

Acquiring these skills enables related side-hustles and their revenue, something I need to consider going forward. This, in turns, means I can contribute more to my fellows in the #PulpRev, #Superversive, and #OldSchoolRenaisance than an occasional story or article and these blog posts. If I can also learn how to produce decent location maps, I can start focusing on things that are always in demand: ready-to-go dungeons to drop-in and play.

A new PC rig will help with all of this. If you want to help get me the tools I need to do this, I would be grateful and appreciative for your support. I'd love to see my birthday this year (on Saturday) be spent putting that rig together and getting it up and running.

Regardless, I will do what I can to make this happen on my own. I just don't mind asking for a little help from my friends now and then.