Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pacific Rim: full trailer

I posted the teaser video earlier yesterday, then at mid-day the official trailer was released. (more details at Wired)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teaser Trailers: Star Trek Into Darkness and Pacific Rim

If there are two things that we like here at Kaijuville, it's kaiju and Star Trek. Last Thursday, the short teaser trailer for next year's Star Trek Into Darkness was released.

io9 has done a walk-through of the teaser, looking for clues about the plot. I've been keeping some distance from sources during the making of the film just to maintain some surprise. Even so, there's not much out there to go on. Klingons appear in the film, and we see some in this trailer. A standard trailer will be shown with The Hobbit, and the first 8 minutes of the film with The Hobbit in IMAX theaters.

Another highly-anticipated film for 2013 is Guillermo del Toro's giant robots vs. kaiju epic Pacific Rim. Two "viral video" teasers:

From what I understand, Pacific Rim will be a conventional action film and not a "found footage" movie.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Two rules-light 2d6 RPG systems

Boosting the signal here for anyone who hasn't seen these simple sets of RPG rules yet. Brendan posted a short and sweet fantasy game system with a 2d6 dice resolution mechanic, then Jack hacked it, adding more structure yet keeping it fairly light and easy.

Either one of these easy-to-run game systems would work out nicely for G+ Hangouts -- free to use, compact and easily expandable. Both iterations assume only "generic fantasy", and could easily accommodate pulp, sci-fi, historical, cyberpunk, and so on with a bit of tweaking. Both look like fun and a good start for building up something special.

I'd like to run a game over G+ hangouts at least once during the Christmas break and this 2d6 system is a strong contender. Now to decide what type of game and setting.

Update: Here's another hack of the system that lets you run games of Aliens against Predators.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Besides being a time for giving thanks and being grateful, the Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a space where one might have extra opportunities to enjoy one's favorite media. Many people watch football. I've always enjoyed it as a time for gaming (video or tabletop), reading and watching movies.

Web comic creator Aaron Diaz posted this to his Twitter feed:

I do highly recommend Kicksgiving on Twitpic

His invented holiday, Kicksgiving, calls for the eating of leftovers and watching kung fu films on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I need little excuse to indulge in a kung fu movie marathon, but I'll take it.

My first thoughts are of a Five Deadly Venoms triple-feature, or a series of "unusual weapon" movies: Master of the Flying Guillotine, Eight Diagram Pole Fighter, Legendary Weapons of China, etc.

What are your plans for the weekend?

(originally found through Gareth Skarka on G+)

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Comment word verification off (again)

At the end of October I temporarily reactivated word verifications for comments here on the blog. Spambots were hammering several older pages without mercy, and I thought this action would give me a brief respite and the bots might move on. Seeing a post on G+ today about captchas reminded me that -- since it's been more than a week -- it was time to discontinue verifications and open the comments again.

Blogger is excellent about automatically purging the spam messages. Notifications still get sent to me, and I'll continue to keep an eye on them. There has to be a better way to deal with the 'bots than to inconvenience real blog readers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Happy little trees": Bob Ross' 70th Birthday

If you watched any daytime PBS programming from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, you're certain to have seen The Joy of Painting with artist Bob Ross. Google celebrates what would have been his 70th birthday today with a Bob Ross Google Doodle on their main page.

My own artistic talent is confined to three-dimensional work such as gaming miniatures and terrain. Starting with a blank canvas and creating a scene is a huge challenge for me. If you watched Bob's show -- or attended his painting classes -- he encouraged you and made you believe that anyone could create art and love the process.

I think it's particularly fitting that the "g" in the Google art is blue. I can remember him saying on the show many times,"Perhaps a little more Phthalo Blue here... Phthalo Blue..."

Always upbeat, always engaged with the viewer, and always full of wonder for the beauty of the natural world, he created miniature worlds in his landscape paintings, and invited you to do the same. What I will remember is that optimistic joy, love of animals, and genuine passion for life that he projected on every show.

Bob Ross passed away in 1995.

Mental Floss has a great list of "5 (Happy Little) Things You Didn't Know about Bob Ross."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Still here

A busy time of work and other life issues has kept me from posting recently. I intend to be back to a more regular schedule soon.

The spambots have been hitting the blog without mercy this month. I've temporarily turned on the word verification step for comments in the hope that it will force them to look for different prey.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Gen Con 2012 report, part 3

Following from Part 1 and Part 2.

Saturday: Met our friend D. downstairs at the hotel restaurant for the breakfast buffet, then went to the show.

I dropped Mrs. Kaiju off at the Writers' Symposium room and then went to my first seminar of the day. Dennis Detwiller and Ken Hite presented their ideas on using alternative history in RPGs. Ken Hite is always entertaining and informative, and I had not heard Dennis Detwiller speak in person before. Overall, it was a very worthwhile seminar.

I had a free hour before my next seminar and while Mrs. Kaiju was in her Ghosts and Spirits seminar, so I went through a few more aisles in the dealer's area. On this go-around, I found Troll and Toad's bargain booth area for the first time. The stock area built up using magazine-sized longboxes and storage crates. On this day, all items were $2 each, and there were still boxes and boxes of gaming goodness -- plenty of the usual d20 book overstock, but also some oddball and out-of-the-ordinary items. I saw older military history and wargaming books, and several Judges Guild publications, including Traveller star maps, issues of their magazine Pegasus, and surprisingly, many copies of Ready Ref Sheets, one of the JG items I've wanted for a while. I also grabbed a copy of Tales of the Caliphate Nights, a fantasy Arabian Nights setting book for True20 developed by Paradigm Concepts.

Back upstairs to the seminar room for "History, Panic, and History Panic", featuring Ken Hite and Jason Morningstar on the running a campaign in a historical setting without tears. This was another great seminar. Beedo wrote about the seminar in detail at Dreams in the Lich House, and Jason Morningstar posted the audio of all his Gen Con seminars on G+.

I missed out on meeting Beedo after the seminar; however, I did meet Trey of From the Sorcerer's Skull and got a copy of his setting book Weird Adventures.

At some point on Saturday, I found the Media Blasters booth. Although mostly known for anime, MB also releases Asian live-action movies, including Shaw Brothers kung-fu and Toho monster flicks. They had a stack of their new Godzilla vs. Megalon DVDs -- a week before the official release date -- for a show special price of $10.

Saturday night we met up with another set of people from our local gaming scene at The Ram. Following dinner, Mrs. Kaiju and I got together with D. and crew in the hotel bar for the start of an ongoing Gen Con campaign. D. ran the session and we used B/X characters. There was some talk of converting to AD&D for Part 2 next year, and converting up through the editions following. We all had a great time.

Sunday: Mrs. Kaiju and I met D. again for breakfast before going to the convention center. With no scheduled events for either of us, it was a day of wandering the Exhibit Hall for the final time this year.

I returned to the Troll and Toad bargain booth to find that much of their stock had been cleaned out, as if vultures had picked through it. Prices had gone to $1 an item. All of the longboxes were missing, with some scattered items left on the tables and a glut of d20 books remaining in the storage crates. I should have picked up more of the Judges Guild material the day before. Some good gaming books remained, so I purchased Argos and Zingara for the Mongoose Conan RPG and another copy of Caliphate Nights for a friend.

Wandering back toward the OSR booth, I saw a small group standing and talking in front of the tables. We had turned the corner before I realized that the skinny tie one person was wearing had to signify that it was Dr. Rotwang!. He and his wife were there chatting with Trollsmyth. We talked for a short time before moving on in our separate directions.

By 1pm, we decided to pack up and begin the trip back home.

This year's Gen Con had a strange vibe for me. Nothing went horribly wrong, most everything went smoothly. We even had some extra time at the show this year. Even so, it didn't feel like the usual full Gen Con experience. We were on the move a lot, going here and there, and still didn't see everything that I had hoped to see. Even so, we had very fun times with the usual crew that we meet up with. I played in two games (which doesn't seem like enough for a gaming convention). The highlights of the show were being with our local gamer friends and meeting very cool people we know though gaming blogs and G+.

The countdown begins for next year!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Three New Mario Bava DVDs/Blu-rays

Two weeks ago, Kino Lorber released three DVDs and Blu-rays of director Mario Bava's films Black Sunday, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, and Lisa and the Devil/House of Exorcism. These had been previously released on disc by Image, and new editions of more Bava films should be on the way from Kino soon.

Of these three releases Black Sunday is the one to check out first, as an important film in the history of horror cinema. You can find my observations about the film here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Season of Monsters

As a kid, September was a drag because it meant the end of summer vacation and back-to-school time. What got me through was thinking about October following after.

I never thought of October as my favorite month, although it is fun. It wasn't so much about costumes and Trick-or-Treat-ing for me; instead, it was all about haunted houses and the plethora of monster movies and specials shown on TV at Halloween time. That doesn't happen so much anymore on network television, aside from the marathons on Turner Classic Movies. With some luck, I might get my Cult Classic movie series restarted this month.

Later this week: the third and final installment of my Gen Con report, and new DVD/Blu-ray releases.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gen Con 2012 report, part 2

Following from Part 1.

We continued to wander the Exhibit Hall for a while, pausing to eat some of the snacks we brought along with us instead of taking time for a sit-down lunch. Eventually we made our way to the block of rooms on the second floor of the convention where the Writers' Symposium events take place. Mrs. Kaiju was scheduled for Mike Stackpole's "21 Days to Writing a Novel" seminar.

I went out to navigate the maze of rooms and low-ceiling hallways that is the Crowne Plaza Hotel, looking for the room for the RPG Blog Allance meetup. Jeff from RPGBA and The Bone Scroll was the moderator, although there wasn't a large unruly crowd to moderate -- myself, Nate from d20 Pirates, and Riley from Jeff discussed the origins of the RPGBA, site maintenance, and we spoke pretty generally about the state of RPG blogs. We hoped that there might be a better turnout the next time.

I returned to the con center to pick up Mrs. Kaiju, and toured part of the hall one last time. I had my Red Box Basic D&D books with me so I could get Frank Mentzer's autograph, although he wasn't at the OSR booth any of the times we walked by.  He probably spent most of his time at the auction area. Later we met up with some of our local gaming group friends at the Ram. We all had a great time and the food was decent.

After dinner, the Mrs. decided to crash, while I met up with another of my good local gaming friends, D., at the bar in the Marriott. He was playing Descent 2e with R. and J., two of his long-time gaming friends we meet at the con each year. I got in on the last game of the evening and then went back to the hotel.

Next: The third and final part, Saturday and Sunday

Thursday, September 06, 2012

South Bend Games Day

If you are in the Northern Indiana/Southwest Lower Michigan area, check out the activities planned so far for South Bend Games Day on October 13th. There are still a few open slots for GMs to run games. Games will open for players to sign up soon.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Neil Armstrong, RIP

43 years ago, humans first set foot on the Moon. Even though we haven't been back in 40 years, the dream of walking on another world still lives on -- most recently with Curiosity, the latest Mars rover.

Today is the official day of mourning for Neil Armstrong, with flags flown at half-staff until sunset, and also the day of the private memorial service. This article has a great image gallery of his career, and details on tributes. As the article suggests,
...the family has made one other suggestion for honoring Armstrong. Remember? "Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

Friday's moon is a good one to wink at: It's the second full moon in a calendar month, which is known as a "blue moon." The moon won't actually be blue, but if the skies are clear, it should be big and bright and shining all night.
If it's cloudy where you are on the planet, you can click over to the online viewing party where remote-controlled telescopes worldwide will be focused on Tranquility Base and beyond.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Gen Con 2012 report, part 1

Thursday: Mrs. Kaiju and I arrive downtown around 6pm and get checked in at the hotel right away. This was important, as our usual procedure is to arrive Friday morning. Last year, a fraternity reunion helped to sell out the hotel, and we had a long wait before a room was ready. When you are tired and sick from travelling, hanging out in the lobby for hours is no fun.

We decided to brave the light rain and walk over to Scotty's Brewhouse for dinner. We were met by a contingent of Stormtroopers and Jedi at the door and immediately seated. A later dinner time and farther away from the ICC helps with quick seating. While the overhead TVs played the DVD of Wrath of the Titans, we had a really nice dinner in a fairly quiet corner. Two managers stopped by to talk with us and I was able to get the special con d6 for Thursday.

Following dinner, I went to the convention center to pick up my badge and tickets, along with a con program that I could study that evening. I walked right up to the Will Call booth easily. All of the programs put out for the day were gone. We ran into some of our local gaming friends who were also staying at the hotel.

Friday: Got ready and went downstairs to the hotel restaurant for their breakfast buffet. Met up with our friend G. there, and then went out to the show.

After getting Mrs. Kaiju's badge and program books, we hit the Exhibit Hall. First stop: the Crystal Caste booth, each with coupon books in hand, for our Gen Con d6.You might sense a theme here -- I like collecting dice. I was sad that many of the swag bags from Gen Con 2010 were missing the commemorative dice.

Next, picking up my pre-ordered copy of Night's Black Agents from the Pelgrane Press booth. To make up for the shipping charge, we could add it to their "4 for 3" con special.

I added the NBA adventure book The Zalozhniy Quartet, Bookhounds of London, and The Book of the Smoke. Mrs. Kaiju spent more time talking to Paula Dempsey than I did. We continued on our wandering of the hall. I never did get back to the Pelgrane booth during the show to check out the tables along the other side, where The New Hero and the other Stone Skin Press fiction titles were located. This will be a theme of the convention this year.

Update: As shown in the photo, I also found one lone copy of Open Game Table, Vol. 2 at the Studio 2/Pinnacle booth.

Continued in Part Two...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Three RPG-related items to watch

I have not even opened and emptied my gaming bag since returning from Gen Con -- except to pull out the giant tennis-ball-sized d20 that Mrs. Kaiju purchased to use for her Composition I class next week. She's going old-school with a random writing prompt table. Therefore, my after-the-con notes will need to wait until Monday. Instead, I wanted to mention three other RPG events to watch.

Trey is looking for adventure seeds for Weird Adventures at From the Sorcerer's Skull. Check out all of the details at the contest page.

Reaper's Kickstarter project for expanding their unpainted plastic minis line will be closing 56 hours from the time of this post. I'm sure I will be kicking myself later for not getting in on the Vampire pledge level. If only this ended a month after Gen Con, and not the week after. Maybe the $15 Dungeon Attack set...

Secret Santicore is gearing up soon. Jez is looking for elves to help Santicore with the art and layout on the book. If you have such skills, let him know.

Bonus item:  The Lost Pages of Tsojcanth also has a open call for submissions on life in the Middle Ages for an RPG project titled Burgs & Bailiffs. The deadline for proposals was yesterday, however, I think I'll still send something tonight.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Gen Con report soon

Post-Gen Con report soon, probably Wednesday or Thursday. Lots of homework to grade first...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This year at Gen Con

I have been neglectful at keeping up with new game releases and events happening at Gen Con this year. I only have a handful of events and products that are on my radar for this year.

In the past few years, we've been catching up with some of my friend D.'s childhood friends at the con. This has included some memorable Saturday night gaming sessions:
  • Playing Munchkin inside Champions Sports Bar. This was made more memorable by the cheers of the crowd that night watching Michael Phelps win gold in the Beijing Olympic Games.
  • Playing Descent in the bar at McCormick & Schmick's
  • Playing D&D Miniatures at the hotel, with Mrs. Kaiju bringing in more role-playing to the minis game, asking J. for more details about the world and what brings the party into this particular dungeon
Last year before everyone left town, the group discussed playing the module B2: Keep on the Borderlands this year. I'm assuming that this will happen, as D. recently picked up the Moldvay Basic and Expert books, B2 and X2: The Isle of Dread from the used section of our FLGS.

If schedules permit, I hope to meet some of the gamers I've chatted with online through blogs and G+. A panel discussion about the RPG Blog Alliance is scheduled on Friday. There may be other informal meetups.

The podcast This Just In from Gen Con will be recording two shows daily throughout the convention.

I have two main goals for shopping in the Hall this year. First, receiving my pre-order print copy of Ken Hite's "Jason Bourne vs. the vampire conspiracy" RPG Night's Black Agents. Although one loses out on the shipping charge, it does count for their con special 4-for-3 sale. Second, a copy of Barbarians of Lemuria from Cubicle 7. It has received great reviews, and it's one of a group of rules that I'm looking at for running pulp-inspired sword-and-sorcery.

I have a small list of some other items that I will look for while there, particularly some OSR products such as Carcosa, Stonehell, The Dungeon Alphabet, and the like. I just found out about a 10mm sci-fi miniatures game titled Dropzone Commander. Some friends have been playing it already and the minis look neat. That reminds me that I've been wanting to check out Uncharted Seas, a fantasy naval combat minis game, as well.

Games on Demand/Indie Games Explosion gets a larger dedicated space this year, and I hope to find a couple of hours to try some of the indie/story games that we don't normally get a chance to play. I'm very curious about Fiasco, Dungeon World, and Swords Without Master in particular.

EDIT: I forgot to mention two board games: Star Trek Catan and Relic, the 40K version of Talisman.

If you are going to Gen Con, have a safe and fun trip! If not, check out the online activities for CONcurrent, also running at the same time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A quick update and Games Day link

Work has kept me super-busy yet again this week, so I've not had the chance to think about or write up some notes on the WaRP system as I had hoped.

Next week is Gen Con, and I will have some thoughts about that posted here on Monday. I haven't keep up with the new releases for the show. One RPG item that I intend to get is Barbarians of Lemuria, and that might inform some of my ideas concerning WaRP. I really need to pick up one of the flavors of FATE eventually, either Spirit of the Century or Strands of FATE.

In the meantime... if you live in the Northern Indiana/Southwest Lower Michigan area, the official announcement and call for GMs has gone out for South Bend Games Day in October. More information on the SBGD blog.

And did I mention that it's Kaijuville's 7th anniversary this month?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

WaRP OGL rules, reformatted

Mrs. Kaiju and I were going out of town for part of last weekend, which I thought would give me an opportunity to read through Atlas Games' released-as-OGL WaRP System in one sitting. Until now I had only given it a glance. Friday evening I printed the PDF and put it inside a binder folder for easy reading.

Later that same evening... I saw Rob Donoghue's blog posting about reformatting the SRD for his own use and making the PDF available for all. Still later, I saw a post from Jonathan Tweet about another reformatting by Avram Grumer, this time in landscape format (looks good on a laptop screen). If I had only waited an hour...

I have yet to read either of these two versions, although they do look sharp. I had planned to do my own layout of the SRD with tweaks --which I may still work on -- and these will be handy for checking various options.

Next week I'll post more about the system in detail.

Monday, July 23, 2012

23 days to Gen Con

Less than a month until the big show. Are you going to Gen Con? If so, what are you most excited about?

Friday, July 06, 2012

A disappointing mid-year blog review

It's the mid-point of the year, and a time to look back over the past six months.
Work and other real-life issues took up much of my time this year and prevented me from posting as much as I had intended; for example, an emergency -- and unexpected -- dog-sitting escapade this week (with the 90+ degree heat). We seem to fall into these kinds of misadventures regularly.
These responsibilities took precedence, and understandably so, although they also made it difficult to either get in the right frame of mind for writing or find the time to do the proper research for certain posts. I had several new ideas for regular blog features here this year that I have not yet been able to develop, such as game reviews, a look back at Fantastic Four comics, and my Cult Classic of the Week movie spotlights.
However, no need to cue the sad trombone sounds. I remain optimistic that I can juggle my schedule such that I have time for fun projects, because they are also important to me and this blog is one of my strongest creative outlets. Gen Con is approaching, as is the 7th anniversary of Kaijuville. Thank you for reading and for your support!

Monday, July 02, 2012

More Hammer Horror on Blu-ray next week

I have been neglectful in posting details about upcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases lately. Next week sees the release of the long-awaited final installment of Hammer's "Karnstein Trilogy", Twins of Evil, in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.

Extras include a new feature-length documentary on the Karnstein Trilogy, a featurette on what appears to be Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey's prop collection, stills, a deleted scene, and an isolated music and effects track.

Vampire Circus, the first of Synapse Films' Hammer Blu-ray series, was released near the end of last year. Two more are expected in the near future: Hands of the Ripper and Countess Dracula.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Free RPG Day 2012 downloads

Many of the publishers involved with Free RPG Day release PDF copies of their giveaway products during and in the week after the event. Here are the ones that I've found:
Other freebies:

  • Timeless Adventures: Pathfinder module "The Tribute" (free this weekend only)
  • Postmortem Studios: Irrepressible!, full game (today only)

I'll update this page as I find more.

Free RPG Day 2011 links here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Free RPG Day is tomorrow!

The annual celebration of Free RPG Day is tomorrow. Based on the highly successful Free Comic Book Day, it's a chance for the gaming industry to show off new products, give away free quickstart rules or accessories, and get more people involved in our hobby.

See if one of your local game stores is participating with giveaways or game demonstrations. Many publishers also have free downloads for the occasion at their sites or RPGNow/DriveThruRPG.

Some of the publishers involved (and others) make Free RPG Day products available on PDF over the weekend or on the Monday following. My list from last year continues to be one of the most popular pages on this blog, so look for it again this year -- watch this space later tonight or tomorrow morning.

As I mentioned last year, I always have good intentions about volunteering to run a game demo at a local store, although schedules seldom seem to work out. I'll be grading papers and final exams this weekend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A thought about using WaRP for pulp sword-and-sorcery

The upcoming end of the semester is freeing up my mind to think about gaming (and posting here) again. Trey's recent post about using bits of Atlas Games' newly-OGL WaRP system in D&D got me thinking about how I could use it for running Conan/pulp fantasy/sword-and-sorcery.

I have a list of possibilities that I've been kicking around for far too long now, and I'll just add WaRP to the list. Traits in WaRP remind me of Aspects in FATE, which I've already considered incorporating for their method of building pulp storytelling right into the game mechanics. Maybe hybridize WaRP traits with the best part of D&D Next, Backgrounds and Themes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Birthdays of horror legends

I have been so wrapped up in work and school lately, I completely forgot about the anniversaries of Peter Cushing's birthday (May 26th) and Vincent Price's birthday (May 27th), along with Christopher Lee's 90th birthday (May 27th). Mrs. Kaiju and I hold these gentlemen in very high regard as masters of the horror genre, with legacies that extend throughout film making, popular culture and gaming.

I have posted tributes to them here in the past on these occasions. The video below is a clip that was added to the end of part 2 of Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror when it aired on BBC1.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

D&D Next Public Playtest starts on Thursday

The day is almost here -- those folks who have signed up should get their announcement emails that the D&D Next public playtest materials are available. Being very curious about how the rules will be shaped, I signed on for the notification when it was first announced.
The only real contact anyone has had with the new rules so far (to my knowledge) was a playtest using only character sheets at the D&D Experience event in January, a playtest at PAX East, some closed groups, and several gamers well-known in the online community giving feedback as consultants for the project. This public test will give the rest of us a glimpse at what the design team has been working on.
Much of the speculation about D&D Next on the internet has been over what small bits and pieces have been revealed from these closed playtests and the public articles on the Wizards website from Mike Mearls and company. The departure of Monte Cook from the project has also fueled the chatter.
My thoughts on the speculation? We've see these kinds of high-profile product releases before, and I don't think we can really draw any conclusions from any of the rumors or the articles yet, at least until we see the playtest material. I take anything mentioned in the designers' articles or the choices in associated user polls with a huge grain of salt. Topics in the articles have included the core classes, the role of the magic-user, what's important for paladins, hit points and "healing surges", just to name a few contentious areas. If I were Mearls, I'd throw all sorts of crazy ideas out there into the wild and see what sticks, or what the public shoots down. It's free advice and feedback. Why not use that?
This public playtest is not the same as the beta tests for Pathfinder or the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, where fairly complete PDFs of the rules were given out freely for trial. The D&D Next playtest materials are said to be a short adventure, pre-generated characters, and enough of the rules to use the adventure -- I assume it would be similar to the quickstart adventures for Dragon Age or Castles & Crusades. There may be a playtest agreement required, keeping any discussion and feedback to official WotC channels.
I want to give the playtest rules a try. I don't know if I will be playing D&D Next as a regular thing. Our group has multiple other rule sets that we work with: homebrews, Pathfinder, Unisystem, BRP, FATE.... the list goes on. We as a local group of gamers are not that dependent on it. Having said that, I still think we want the 900-pound gorilla of the gaming world to be successful.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Favorite Music Friday: Beastie Boys

A much-delayed tribute to Adam Yauch. Thanks for all the great music, MCA... and thanks to Nathanial Hörnblowér for the excellent videos.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Giving Forgotten RPGs Another Chance

What RPG in your collection that you haven't played in years (or ever!) do you have the urge to pull off the shelf and try again? Do you want to see if it still plays the same way you remember? Have you just not found the right group of players to try it yet?
I can name three titles right away:
  • James Bond 007 (Victory Games)
  • Indiana Jones (TSR)
  • Star Frontiers (TSR)

What would be on your list?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Blogging will Continue Until Morale Improves

Work and other real life issues have kept me from posting anything since the beginning of last week. My hope is that things will ease up some beginning next week and I will have more gaming related posts here then.

It's not like there's anything else happening in the gaming world now, right?

I would also like to get back to the woefully neglected Cult Classic of the Week movie reviews and some of the other series posts I had in mind at the beginning of the year. And I have some ideas for a new blog layout that I need to test.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Link: D&D Mystara Gazetteer series reviews

Lowell at Age of Ravens finished his series of reviews of the classic Mystara Gazetteer series for Basic/Expert D&D last week. I never picked up any of the Gazetteers, and this series helped me discover what I was missing. Each review is an overview of what you will find in the book along with ways to use the material in a campaign, regardless of rules system. Links to each review are here; the wrap-up and final thoughts are here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Not much has changed since 1981

Following on from my previous post about The Encyclopedia of Military Modeling, I wanted to share a few choice quotes from the book. They could have been written to describe the RPG community today.

First, from the Foreword by Donald Burgess, editor in chief, Campaigns Magazine:

"What emerges is a picture of a hobby in a state of continuing flux, a constantly growing and expanding force. The sweeping changes of the past years are healthy ones, rediscovering and drawing on the past, moving into new areas of expression, provoking new attitudes and approaches -- a hobby that keeps moving forward, bettering itself in many ways, providing impetus for extraordinarily fresh talents on all levels, making stronger demands on all miniaturists, no matter what their area of interest." (p. 6)

The last paragraph of the Introduction by Dennis Knight:

"More and more people are getting bored with watching ball games and banal spoon-fed television entertainment and, with rising fuel costs making travelling a luxury, they will be inclined to adopt hobbies that can be pursued in their homes. We welcome you to the world of Military Modelling." (p. 13)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

South London Warlords Wargaming Club

Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade, I got a copy of The Encyclopedia of Military Modeling, published in London by Octopus Books in 1981. It was on a bargain books table at Ayr-Way (which later became Target). Building model kits was a hobby of mine as far back as I can remember -- even if I wasn't very good. Lots of cars, tanks, planes, the USS Enterprise (and the bridge kit, and Mr. Spock firing a phaser at the alien snake creature) and others were hastily assembled at my house in those days.

When I saw The Encyclopedia, then, I was naturally intrigued. This was relevant to my interests, and did it ever deliver. Many a day was spent pouring over the color photos, reading about the histories of model kit and figure manufacturers, and the instructions for creating detailed dioramas.

This was right before I had my first experiences with The Gaming Hobby™, and it's easy to see how this prepared me for it. Step-by-step instructions are given for scratchbuilding models, conversions, creating molds and casting. I studied the two-page spread on model scales when I started to look at what kinds of military model kits I could use for my own Warhammer 40K conversions.

In the introduction, there is some discussion of the wargaming hobby. What really struck with me -- and one of my main memories of the book -- is the photo of an example wargame in progress. I'm not sure if it captures a actual moment of the game -- it strikes me as being posed for the photographer. Even so, what I love about it is the overall feeling it conveys, encapsulating much of what I remember about seeing historical wargamers at conventions around that time. Even better, I wanted to think that there were cool gaming clubs out there where players wore ties, or sweatshirts with club logos.

I had a little story about the photo that I made up in my head early on. I got the sense that the gent in the suit jacket and tie is measuring the distance to move his unit of figures, while the fellow next to him is pointing out a place in the rules that counter-acts what the first is trying to do.
"I'm going to move this unit 15cm forward!"
"Hmmm... according to the rules, that unit can only move 12cm!"
This matched up with what I saw on our own 40K tables at various times.

I also love the "British-ness" of the book, if you will excuse the term. It uses those spelling conventions of course (influential on a young impressionable American lad) and mainly covers the military modeling hobby in England, reinforcing my idea about it being a place where everyone took part in intellectually stimulating hobbies like military modeling and wargaming. The Encyclopedia of Military Modeling, along with Warhammer 40K, White Dwarf Magazine, 2000AD and others ensured that my early days in the hobby were heavily influenced by the British gaming scene.

The South London Warlords are still an active group and run Salute, the largest wargaming convention in the UK (the 40th anniversary show is later this month). You can read a short history of the club, with more great photos, on their blog.

Friday, March 30, 2012

First Edition AD&D reprints delayed until July

It appears that the 1e reprints have been delayed until July 17th. That is OK; I was in for a DMG, and with the delay perhaps I can save my pennies for the other two books.
I'm still curious about how "limited" this edition will be. Did Wizards get more orders from distributors than they expected, sending them back to print more copies?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flying Swordsmen -- Old-School Role-playing in Mythic China

I meant to post this over a week ago, so you may have already seen it. Lord Gwydion posted his Flying Swordsmen RPG rules at his blog. He uses the base rules from Your Favorite Fantasy Role-Playing Game and incorporates an incredible amount of detail in a wuxia-influenced Mythic China that could-have-been. Imagine if Oriental Adventures had been more focused on China rather than Japan, and you might have had something almost as good as Flying Swordsmen. It's filled with great rules, adventure ideas and period illustrations; a solid presentation of the material. Roll up some characters and shake the pillars of heaven!

Monday, March 19, 2012

John Carter (of Mars): go see it

We finally saw John Carter on Saturday night. It was great fun! To me, it was reminiscent of the Saturday afternoon matinee, "Family Classics" style of film, like Journey to the Center of the Earth or Jason and the Argonauts.
It strayed from the storyline of A Princess of Mars, but not terribly so. If you enjoy sci-fi/fantasy adventure movies, I think you'll like this. (we saw the 2D version)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Back From Being Sick (and Star Wars Links)

I lost the last week or so to some pretty serious sinus problems. For a day or two it was almost like having the flu. I'm on the mend now but not back to normal yet. With luck, by next week I'll have the restored brain cells to think about games and movies and important stuff like that again.
For now, I'll leave these links here.
Machete Order: A New Way to Watch Star Wars
What if "Star Wars Episode I" was good? (some NSFW language)
Topher Grace edited the 'Star Wars' prequels into one 85-minute movie and we saw it

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Too Many Kickstarter Projects

There are too many great Kickstarter/IndieGoGo gaming projects in the wild right now. How can I choose?
* Mobile Frame Zero, the new edition of Vincent Baker's Lego robot game Mechaton
* Battle Blokx wargaming terrain
* Tectonic Craft Studios laser-cut wargaming terrain
* Story Forge brainstorming cards
I had already decided to use my March allotment of gaming funds to pre-order Night's Black Agents, and then I see that Skyrim is on sale at Best Buy this week...

Monday, March 05, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie, RIP

My friend K. reflected that, concerning the appeal of Star Wars, Ralph McQuarrie is at least the equal of George Lucas. I have to agree.

Lucas invented the characters and story and hired conceptual artist McQuarrie to create art and designs to show 20th Century Fox. These designs and storyboards convinced skeptical executives to greenlight the project.

My own understanding and visualization of the Star Wars universe is based heavily on three sources: the original film, the Marvel Comics series, and Ralph McQuarrie's art. I never followed his career as closely as I should have, as much as some other favorites. However, I have a strong and distinct memory of seeing those images from his imagination on the pages of Starlog Magazine and others. Some of the designs made it into the films intact, some were changed like the Millennium Falcon design, and others -- such as "Luke Starkiller" and the original Chewbacca design -- were dropped from early drafts. But they all have that great, grand feeling of adventure and they tell stories. You want to know who these people are, where they are from, what the source of conflict is.

Ralph McQuarrie designed concepts for many films and other projects, including Battlestar Galactica and the "Planet of the Titans" Star Trek film project, part of an outstanding visual legacy that will be long remembered.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Bizarre Gaming-related Dream

This is a dream I had on Sunday morning right before I woke up (i.e., before being awakened by cats). I was teaching a college course on the history of role-playing games. The building reminded me of an older mid-century high school building. Two senior faculty members were observing the class. It was a tough crowd of students, not very engaged and not interacting, perhaps a freshman level course. I was talking about Tékumel at the end of the first class (which I wouldn't plan to discuss on the first day of such a course, but hey, it's a dream) when I was interrupted by a student with a question.

"This is all very interesting, but we can't afford to play any of these games."

I told the class, "Not a problem. There are many great RPG products available for free, even complete games. You can enjoy playing them without spending a dime." This changed the tenor of the class. The mood of the room improved completely and they were alert and engaged to the end.

The class was over just a minute later. As I was leaving the classroom, a turtle and a duck jumped out of the trash can. One of the observers -- who looked very much like John Rhys-Davies -- closed the door slowly behind us, saying "Don't worry, we'll take care of it."

I told you it was bizarre.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Photo-palooza

Grading homework assignments has been keeping me busy the past two weeks. In lieu of something original today, here are some images of interest. Identify them all and win a shiny new No-Prize!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Link: Playing AD&D, then and now

Beedo put up a great post yesterday at Dreams in the Lich House about playing straight out-of-the-book AD&D 1e today. His group's observations about the game are informed by the years of play since 1e and modern retro-clones -- particularly OSRIC -- that have smoothed over many of the bumpy spots. It's worth taking a look at what they discovered, especially with the limited edition 1e reprints on the way. And I love the Gygax quote he found.

Monday, February 13, 2012

GURPS: Conan now available in PDF

You have probably already read the news that Steve Jackson Games is re-releasing the GURPS Conan sourcebook and 4 adventures as PDFs. Perhaps this is a great side-benefit to their licensing for Munchkin Conan, and Mongoose no longer owning the RPG rights.

It's good to have these available again, at least for a short time. The sourcebook is a great starting point for anyone running a Hyborian Age RPG campaign, for use with ZeFRS or any other rules system. The map is as good as those done for Mongoose's Conan RPG. I've never read the adventures, so I'm eager to see them without paying used and rare prices.

Even so, the sourcebook does tend to be L. Sprague de Camp- and pastiche-centric, particularly the story chronology and the bibliography, which was the nature of the Conan Properties license at the time. All the pastiches and re-edited stories were jammed into the timeline as "official". de Camp wrote the sourcebook's introduction. He praises Howard's writing style more here than usual, which is welcome. However, de Camp does include a paragraph of his amateur psychoanalysis concerning issues that have been "deBunked" by Howard scholars in recent years.

It would be great to see the bibliography updated with more recent publications like the Wandering Star/Del Rey series, Mark Finn's excellent Howard biography, and others, and then available on the product webpage.

Check out a preview of the sourcebook PDF here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Zak's GM Questionnaire

I printed the questions and wrote down answers as they occurred to me over the course of a few days. Maybe I'll come back to some later, as they are all worth further exploration.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

My film noir/Red Scare 1950s setting notes for a Call of Cthulhu one-shot, "Atomic Noir". I should redo the layout and post it here.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

I ran the Dragon Age quickstart module during the first week of January.

3. When was the last time you played?

Last Friday night.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

Gothic D&D fantasy mashup of Warhammer Fantasy, Ravenloft, and Hammer Horror movies.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Think about the possible outcomes for whatever things they are doing and planning, and how it will affect later scenes.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

I usually don't [when I am the GM] unless we are taking a break. Sometimes I'll sneak something I can eat quickly, like cookies.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

It can be, especially if I've done many different NPC voices or we've had a big combat to keep track of.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

In our fantasy/steampunk/magical school campaign, my gentleman thief character rescued his apprentice from a deathtrap simulation (for our Death Traps class in school).

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

Not the entire setting. I don't mind, it's all fun. I think making jokes about situations and NPC names is a way to have fun and reduce tension.

10. What do you do with goblins?

In my last long-term campaign (Freeport), we had a half-goblin PC. The player took the lead in realizing the goblin culture of the setting. I also like Pathfinder's goblins.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

The final location in the Freeport campaign was a serpent-people temple on a sunken island based on the Mayan pyramid at Tikal.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

We had quite a few "that's what she said" moments at the Freeport table.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

A friend let me read his hardcover copy of Graham Walmsley's Stealing Cthulhu. Good stuff...I need to get my own copy.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Someone who's work evokes the ideas behind the setting. The illustrations give the reader a sense of the place, and inspire adventures or at least cool things to include in the game.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

Horror is difficult to do. I'm still working on it.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

It's been quite a while since I ran an published adventure straight though as is. Mostly I mine them for ideas. That Dragon Age module was a lot of fun.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

A well-lit office meeting room, with a large table, comfortable chairs, whiteboards, a projector, sound system... but honestly I like the comfort of my house or those of friends. Or this.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

It took me some time looking over my shelves to make a decision. Ultimately, I went with these two items that were sitting right next to each other: Suppressed Transmission 1 and 2, and 10 Million Ways to Die.

The Suppressed Transmission books are collections of Ken Hite's alternate history columns from Steve Jackson Games' Pyramid Magazine. Each book is stat-free and has a metric ton of inspiring ideas from history usable for any RPG.

At the other end of the spectrum, 10 Million Ways to Die is six pages of universal combat system based on Rolemaster, followed by 100 pages of detailed attack, fumble and critical strike tables with conversions for a dozen different RPGs.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

The classic random-table, DIY ethic of the OSR, combined with the "Yes, but..." shared-narrative-control of indie story games.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Someone who is understanding that things don't always go as planned; is willing to suspend disbelief; plays well with others, that is, someone who works to include everyone in the fun.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

In some way or another, all my experiences have informed my play styles. I can't think of a specific experience I incorporated directly.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

Customizable plastic miniatures available in bulk using a 3D printer. Design it, print it, done.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

I usually only talk about RPGs with other people who have played. When someone asks about what I do for fun, I mention "gaming", usually explained as "tabletop games, board games, video games", then I wait for the social cues from them if they are interested in knowing more. I want to be a better gaming ambassador. I could probably do better at that.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Conan: Queen of the Black Coast Issue 1 now available

Yesterday I picked up Dark Horse Comics' Conan the Barbarian #1: Queen of the Black Coast Part One and gave it a quick read late last night. This is the first of a planned 24 issue run adapting the events of the story and filling in adventures only hinted at therein.
I can't do any better at describing it than Aaron Duran's review at Newsarama. I wasn't sure what to expect from the creative team of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. I've mentioned before that I know Wood's previous work, and Cloonan was new to me. I wasn't disappointed -- mostly. For two pages near the end, I thought to myself, "Huh? What does that mean?" Overall, however, I think it's off to a good start. I'm eager to see what they do next, particularly "unseen" scenes from the story such as burning the Stygian port of Khemi.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Monster Stock Art & Minis project on Kickstarter

I'm sorry to see the Monster Stand-Ins project at Kickstarter has been cancelled. However, the new project might have a better chance of being funded.
Monster Stock Art & Minis is a library of stock art covering the most common creatures from the 3.5 SRD. Backers can get a PDF of the art designed for printing as paper miniatures, and laminated cardstock miniatures are available at another level. The creators hope to include more SRD monsters depending on the funds pledged.
This project is close to the funding threshold and appears more likely to succeed. Best of luck to the project designers!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Link: More about Money in RPGs

Marshall Smith talks more about money and its function in RPGs, with examples from Spycraft and FantasyCraft, over at his game blog Division Nihil.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Money in RPGs, Part 2

Last Friday, I looked at a couple of ways in which money is used by characters in RPGs. This time, three more examples.

GURPS by Steve Jackson Games has a bit of a reputation to some role-players. I can't speak to 4th Edition; I do have the core books but I haven't played. However, I do like 3rd. Edition. It's very simulationist, and you can add on any number of extra rules, following down the rabbit hole as far as you wish. At it's heart, though, it's just 3d6 versus a target number. The sourcebooks are my favorite part of GURPS, by far. They can't be beat for detailed campaign background information suitable for any system.

The GURPS 3rd. Edition Basic Set, Revised, has several passages in the main text and sidebars about money use in a campaign. Because it is meant to encompass any genre and time period, these are vague; however, several passages apply to the money characters might carry on them in a standard fantasy game.
Starting Wealth

"Starting wealth" covers both money and property. Start with the amount of money your "wealth level" entitles you for your world....Realistically, characters with a "settled" lifestyle should put 80% of their starting wealth into home, clothing, etc., leaving only 20% for "adventuring" gear....

Standard starting wealth depends on the game world....Some suggestions:

Fantasy/medieval worlds: $1000 (that is, 1,000 copper farthings). (p.16)

In a low-tech world, rings and jewelry are also money. They may not have a set value imprinted on them -- but they are small and portable, and are easily traded for coins or bartered directly for needed goods. In fact, many societies exist largely by barter -- which can be a test of the players' ingenuity. (p.189)

Bankrolls and Possessions

The money a character has on his person should be listed on the front of his Character Sheet, just like his other possessions. If a lot of transactions are taking place, this can be recorded on a separate sheet of paper to avoid erasing a hole in the Character Sheet! (p.190)
This section of the rulebook also has details on historical coinage and its possible weight and volume, noting that in a 14th-century English economy, the "dollar" value listed as standard in GURPS would be treated as a farthing, a copper coin equivalent in size to the U.S. quarter. A character could conceivably carry $20,000 in a backpack. There are also some guidelines for possible ways to "relieve" characters of their wealth, and ways that treasure might not be portable, recognizable, dangerous or illegal. Clearly, coinage is meant to be kept track of in detail under the standard GURPS rules.

Conan: The Roleplaying Game from Mongoose uses a derivative of the OGL/d20 rules as its main system with some changes such as Base Parry Bonus. As such, coinage is assumed to be used:
Starting Equipment and Money

Each character begins the game with a very small budget with which to buy equipment. This is usually just sufficient to buy a weapon or two and cheap, light armour for those who need it. Starting equipment budget is dependent on character class....Note that this budget is not the same as starting money. If the budget is not used, the character does not get to keep the money. The budget represents items he has managed to acquire and keep for himself over the years prior to the game beginning, not actual money. Any player can choose to have a starting equipment package for his character instead of a starting equipment budget. These are similar in value to the appropriate budgets.

Starting Money

In addition to his starting equipment, each character has 2d6-2 silver coins at the start of the game. At the Games Master’s discretion, this may be reduced to zero, if he wishes to start a campaign in which the characters begin desperately short of money, rather than just very short!
However, Conan reinforces the ideas found in many sword-and-sorcery stories, where money isn't the ultimate goal of characters. It isn't even that important to game play, as illustrated by passages right at the beginning of the Equipment section:
Acquiring wealth and objects of value is a central theme in many adventures. However, spending it is a good deal less interesting....The only times money should be especially useful to your characters are when their weapons or armour are lost or destroyed and when it could be useful to them to buy influence or power, usually in the form of followers. Certainly there should be no need to have players keep track of every last silver piece in their purses. Either they have enough money to get by, or else it is time to go adventuring again.

High Living

It is in the nature of adventurers to spend money like water whenever they have it. Folk who regularly risk their lives in the hope of gaining unimaginable wealth live for today, spending their gains on gambling, good company, expensive food, fine wines and spirits in enormous quantity and even more frivolous pursuits. The Games Master should feel free to enforce the High Living rule whenever characters have a large quantity of cash and no definite plans for spending it:

Every week, all characters will spend a minimum of 50% of their current wealth on high living, if that wealth is currently over 50 silver pieces.

This expenditure includes all ordinary living costs such as food and accommodation. The Games Master should also consider granting circumstance bonuses to Gather Information checks made by adventurers who are spending particularly large amounts of cash.
Finally, I want to take a look at Green Ronin's universal OGL system, True20. Among other changes, including the use a Toughness save instead of hit points, True20 has the Wealth Score. This number is equal to 5 plus Charisma (ability scores in True20 range from -5 to +5). The Wealthy feat adds a +4 bonus. It's meant to be abstract, although there is a table in the rules that gives general guidelines -- +5 to +10 is considered middle-class, for example.

This score includes all cash on hand, credit, and regular income. Instead of making purchases with money, the player makes a check by rolling a d20 plus the Wealth Score versus a difficulty number. The normal price of an item of equipment is labeled Cost, and this is the usual difficulty number for the check: a battleaxe is Cost 9, a sword is 11.

The Wealth Score is fluid:
If you successfully purchase an item with a purchase Difficulty higher than your current Wealth bonus, your Wealth bonus decreases by 1 point for every 5 points the purchase Difficulty is higher than your current Wealth bonus (1 point for 1–5 points higher, 2 points for 6–10 points higher, etc.). (p.74)
When I ran a True20 Freeport campaign, I didn't use the Wealth Score rules. Instead, we used coinage as given in the system-neutral Pirate's Guide to Freeport.

I'm uncertain on the idea of how to handle money in RPGs. There were good comments on the previous post concerning the idea of abstract money or recording individual amounts, especially where it makes sense to use abstract monetary values in modern games. Pulp fantasy heroes regularly chase after extraordinary treasures, but rarely have two silver pieces in their purse.

I would want to use whatever method make sense for the campaign at hand. My priorities would be 1) what is "in character" for the campaign world and the genre, and 2) what is easy for the players to keep track of, and doesn't lead to excessive paperwork.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Money in RPGs: Counting Coppers, or Just Wing It?

“Everybody needs money. That's why they call it money.”

I'm not necessarily talking about found treasure and loot, but the cash an adventurer carries on hand. For a bog standard, D&D-style fantasy game, keeping track of money seems like the right thing to do. It fits the model of adventurers who need to scrape together the coin necessary to buy a new sword, spell components, or bundles of crossbow bolts. It also fits the sword-and-sorcery genre, which I'll discuss later.

The strange thing about keeping track of coinage on hand is the problem of large amounts. Thousands of coins can be converted to gems and other high-priced baubles, but then you might run into the issue of paying for smaller daily expenses. Not many taverns would be able (or willing) to make change for that opal you just found in the lich's tomb.

Call of Cthulhu was the first RPG with an abstract money system that I remember. Although equipment and weapons are listed with prices in dollars, money really wasn't an issue -- most likely because treasure hunting wasn't an objective of the game. Unless the characters were going on an expedition or they needed an outlay of cash at that level for some reason, it isn't necessary to keep track of how many dollar bills are in your pocket. At least that's the way we always played.

Additionally, characters have a skill called Credit Rating. This is a measure not of cash and credit reserves, but social status and influence, and the ability to raise cash through loans or even panhandling.

From the 4th. edition (1989):

The players' investigators -- the journalists, authors, professors, and so on -- will need money for their investigations. Their cash can come from (1) wages, royalties, and remittances; (2) from previous savings; and (3) grants, gifts, and loans from various non-governmental sources (government is no granter of largesse in the 1920s).

Money is only a problem if the investigators must perform extended investigations. Incidental investigations can be assumed to take place on weekends, or evenings, or days off.    (p. 14)

From the 5th. edition (1992):
Investigator Income
Income may or may not be important to your play. Take dollar signs with a grain of salt. Many Keepers never mention money or personal property, and rarely do published scenarios raise the subject. Only in campaigns does earning and spending hold much interest or significance; campaigns, however, can be quite detailed. Learn the Keeper's intent. (p. 24)

Savage Worlds has a similar approach to money, at least for starting characters. In the 1st edition rulebook, we find the following at the end of the character creation section:
Next you need to purchase equipment. Some settings may provide your hero with all the gear he needs. In others, you may be assigned a certain amount of money with which to purchase your starting gear. A list of some common gear and weapons can be found in Chapter Two.
Unless your setting book or GM says otherwise, the standard starting amount is $500. (p. 18)

The only other real mention of money is at the beginning of Chapter Two: Gear.
Cost: Equipment prices are relative both to the starting funds of $500 and to their tech level, so a Springfield musket doesn't really cost $250 in 1862. That's just the "worth" of the weapon relative to the tech level and the typical setting it's intended for. (p. 43)

Monday: Three other approaches.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Link: Using Microscope to Plan Goals in a Zombie RPG

Derek at Harvester has taken some of the ideas that Lowell used at Age of Ravens for Microscope as a city planning tool, and changed them up as a goal-planning device for his All Flesh Must Be Eaten campaign. Take a look at what both of them are working on for new ways to handle idea generation, campaign planning, and setting preparation -- make a game out of it!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hammer Horror and Godzilla DVD/Blu-ray News

I have been out of the loop and not keeping track of DVD news this month, and I am ashamed. Big thanks to Gareth Skarka for posting about the news related to Hammer horror films.

The studio has been working on restoring "more than 30 films", utilizing print sources in the UK and the US. Quatermass and the Pit has already been released on Blu in the UK, with Dracula, Prince of Darkness on the way next in March. They plan to announce a US/Region 1 distributor soon.

The restored version of Dracula (1958, Horror of Dracula in the US) is being screened in London in mid-February. The exciting news about it is that this restored edition uses the extra footage from the Japanese release, cut from UK and US prints. The footage was found at the The Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. At long last we get to see the full original film. More information about the ongoing restorations at the BBC and the official restoration blog.

The Criterion Collection's DVD/Blu-ray release of Gojira (1954)/Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956) is on track for release this week. Toho Kingdom has an interview with Curtis Tsui, the producer responsible for this disc.

Godzilla getting "the Criterion treatment" has been a goal since the laserdisc days, so it's great to see that it's finally happening. It's quite possible that, as suggested in the interview, this may be the greatest amount of pre-sales for a title in Criterion history. Everything I hear about the print quality and restoration efforts suggests that it has been worth the wait.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard!

This Sunday marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of pulp writer Robert E. Howard. It has become a tradition on this date for Howard fans to read a favorite story and toast to his shade with a favorite beverage.

You can't go wrong with any of the stories, and there should be one to suit your preference: sword and sorcery, hard-boiled detectives, weird horror, historical fiction, boxing, westerns, pirates and sword-wielding puritans. One of my favorites that I often choose for a birthday reading is "Worms of the Earth", a story of Bran Mak Morn, last king of the Picts, and a weapon "to terrible to use, even against Rome". It's available in many publications but I would suggest the text found in Del Rey's Bran Mak Morn: The Last King.

This year I might look for another story I haven't read.

For more information on his life and career, start with the following sites:

I would also recommend Mark Finn's Howard biography, the Locus and World Fantasy Award-nominated Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard. An expanded edition is due later this month from the REH Foundation.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Music from my D&D years

A special Thursday edition of Favorite Music Friday: embedded below are videos for a few songs I remember on the radio or on MTV while playing Dungeons & Dragons -- or reading the rulebooks, or flipping though issues of Dragon -- during my high school years. I distinctly remember hearing the last song in this list on the radio during the first (and so far only) time I played the AD&D Battlesystem mass combat rules.

Ratt - Round and Round (this one can't be embedded)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Your Character Does Not Belong to You

Often, it belongs to the other players.

I recently started playing in a new campaign of All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Eden Studios' RPG of zombie survival horror. I planned for my character to be a skilled professional -- not a doctor, soldier, or something useful like that. My idea was for a cable TV installer. He would have seen a lot of interesting and weird things already by going into people's homes (I know a few real-life satellite installers), and would be an expert in electronics.

The other part is that I wanted to model the character's personality after the TV character of Ron Swanson. He would know a little about everything, and be very secure in his opinions (but with room to grow), all good hooks for role playing. He would also have a Ron Swanson mustache. And that's how I lost control of the character.

Once the other players start discussing his mustache, and the fact that he has a van... any serious ideas about the character among the other players disappear. The idea of the character that you had intended is replaced in the minds of the other players by the ideas that they have discussed -- or joked about -- around the table. That becomes the character they react to in game, from then on. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, it is something to think about when planning your character and his/her personality. Certainly, it's on the same level as a GM trying to develop names for NPCs that can't be twisted around into jokes by the players.

How might this play out differently at the table? What could you do to change this?

Think about your character's initial impressions and play them out. Plan to work your ideas about your character's personality into the game from the first session. Take opportunities and risks in games to show what your character is like to the other players. Then do this every session. One of the best pieces of player advice that I've been given was to think about how to work your character into the story at the table. I tend to be passive as a player, in the background, and wanting to get other players into the spotlight. Sometimes, you have to take a leap -- make a decision, take an action, be bold. There's a fine line between being an assertive player and being disruptive. Don't be disruptive or demanding. But if there is trust at the table, jump in.

Tell the other players -- in game -- what your character thinks about.  Ben Robbins wrote a great post about character monologues. Not necessarily dialogue, but actions and thoughts in the character's head. Get these out at the table in play. Your character has traits, advantages, flaws... whatever the system might call them. They might be on the character sheet or in the character background you wrote, but if you don't work them into play, or tell the other players about them, then they may as well not even exist. They don't truly become part of the game until they are worked into the shared experience of all the players.

Any others that I missed?