Monday, January 31, 2011

Sad Unknown Armies news

According to the recent comments, the three PDF releases for UA that had been planned has now been shelved:

Regrettably, we ran into some issues in the editorial process. To make a long story short, these projects are now on the back burner indefinitely. :( Sorry. 

Sad news.  Yes, the Unknown Armies line is thankfully complete as is, but some more surreal weirdness in the UA mode would have been a good thing.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Because it needs to be said...

(WARNING: contains non-graphic allegorical buggery portrayed for humorous effect)

Trollslayers - Attributes (part 2) and Encumbrance

After giving some thought on the matter, I've decided to revise the racial maximums for attributes.  The new rule is a lot simpler: whatever would be the maximum you could roll (including the bonus die) + whatever modifiers the attribute may have is now the maximum for that attribute that one can improve it to (not including changes to the attribute via magic).  For humans, all of the racial attribute maximums is 24.  If a race rolls 4d+1 for STR, the racial maximum is 31, and if they roll 2d-1 for DEX, the racial maximum for that is 17.

I've also worked out how encumbrance will be handled.  Instead of counting up every pound (or heaven forbid, every 1/10 of a pound), items carried will have an ENC rating, which will be compared against the character's Encumbrance score.  A character's Encumbrance score is a secondary attribute based directly off of STR; for the first 10 points of STR, you get 1 ENC point per two points of STR.  The next ten points of STR (11-20) nets you one ENC point each.  For the ten points of STR after that (21-30), you get two ENC points per point of STR.  The ten points of STR after that (31-40) nets you three points of ENC per point of STR.  And so forth.  Confused?  See the chart below:

STR   ENC     STR   ENC     STR   ENC    STR   ENC   STR   ENC

  1        1         11       6         21       17      31      38       41      69
  2        1         12       7         22       19      32      41       42      73
  3        2         13       8         23       21      33      44       43      77
  4        2         14       9         24       23      34      47       44      81
  5        3         15     10         25       25      35      50       45      85
  6        3         16     11         26       27      36      53       46      89
  7        4         17     12         27       29      37      56       47      93
  8        4         18     13         28       31      38      59       48      97
  9        5         19     14         29       33      39      62       49     101
10        5         20     15         30       35      40      65       50     105 

Not quite a smooth logarithmic progression by any stretch, but it does give us a range that shows off the difference between what an average (STR 10) person can carry, and what Conan (STR 24) can carry.

For items carried, an ENC of 1 equals roughly 5 pounds.  For items that are either bulky (a large sack of feathers) or has part of its weight significantly more at one end than the other (a pick ax), every 4 pounds equals an ENC of 1.  If an item is both bulky and not terribly well balanced in terms of weight distributional (trying to carry a suit of plate mail in your arms), the ENC is 1 per every 3 pounds.  If an item is designed to be carried on part of the body (backpack, shield), the ENC is 1 every 6 pounds.  If an item is designed to be worn over the entire body (clothing, armor), the ratio is 1 ENC every 7 pounds.  Edit: if a item is fragile (flask of holy water, bottle of wine), the ENC is 1 for every 2 pounds, with a minimum ENC score of 1.

A character can carry up to their ENC score and be unencumbered, suffering no penalties as a result.  They can carry up to twice their ENC score and be lightly encumbered, taking a -1 penalty to their DEX, and having their MOVE score multiplied by 3/4.  If they are carrying up to 3 times their ENC score, they are moderately encumbered, taking a -2 penalty to their DEX, and their MOVE score is halved.  If they are carrying up to 4 times their ENC score, they are seriously encumbered, taking a -3 penalty to their DEX, and their MOVE score is multiplied by 1/4.  Finally, a character can carry up to 5 times their ENC, in which they are fully encumbered, taking a -4 penalty to their DEX, and their MOVE score is multiplied by 1/10.    

Goes well with your vitamins and Ovaltine

Need a boost of sarcasm, witty writing, absurdity, and pure, undiluted awesome?  Why then, you need to make sure you take your daily dose of Warren Ellis.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review: "2112"

After the commercial failure of Caress of Steel, the band had one last chance to prove themselves, and had been given their marching orders by the record label: don't bother with long, prog-rock pieces, record short songs that would be radio-friendly. The group decided to stick to their guns, and record the album that they wanted to make. If this was to be their last effort, so be it, they would go out on their own terms. If they were to fail, then they were going to fail spectacularly.

The result was 2112, the album that put the band on the map.

The song '2112' runs about 20 ½ minutes, and like 'The Fountain of Lamneth' runs the length of an entire album side. Unlike 'Lamneth' and 'The Necromancer', '2112' succeeds in ways that those two previous extended pieces did not. The individual components that form the overall piece all function well on their own, and they flow well together to form a greater whole. The concept is intriguing and the lyrics are engaging. It should also be noted that, while the group would draw no small amount of flack for the dedication to Ayn Rand as inspiration for the song, Peart's lyrics here are much subtler here than they were on 'Anthem'. If one was not already familiar with the Rand story that in part inspired the song, the lyrics would not automatically be associated with Rand's philosophies had the dedication not been included on the album. '2112' is the story of one man against a society that has no use for him, not exactly a trope that Rand invented.

Additionally, the rest of the album holds up well. The most notable tracks include 'A Passage To Bangkok' (which for many fans is an excuse to 'light up' during live performances, but 'Bangkok' has more heft lyrically than most such songs), and 'The Twilight Zone' (inspired by the classic T.V. Series). However, the remaining tracks – and this is important – also pull their weight; there are no weak links in the chain, so to speak. 'Lessons' (with lyrics by Lifeson), the ballad 'Tears' (lyrics by Lee), and 'Something For Nothing' are all solid, well-done pieces. It should also be noted that, after the flaws on Caress of Steel, Terry Brown's production on this album nails it, showcasing both the power and the artistry of the songs.

The word 'masterpiece' gets bandied about a lot for anything that has any critical following, but the original use of the word had different implications. For craftsmen back in the middle ages, a masterpiece was a work that one could use to show that they had passed beyond being a mere journeyman in their trade, but was in fact a master of their craft. 2112 is Rush's masterpiece; not because it is their best or most famous album, but because it is the album that says, “we are not a Zeppelin knock-off or a half-baked prog band, we have a distinct musical vision and a unique sound all of our own.” 2112 was the album that no one else but Rush could have made, and this is the first album where the band really sounds like what one now thinks of as 'Rush'.

Despite not getting a lot of radio airplay, 2112 was a commercial success, eventually going multi-platinum. The album not only ensured their continued viability as a band, but also bought them their freedom from further interference from their record label. It's an album that stands up to repeated listenings even to this day, and if one is going to pick up only a handful of Rush albums, 2112 should be among that number.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Trollslayers - Professions and Talents

In Trollslayers, Professions encompass a wide range of skills and knowledges, and are essentially a shorthand that allow a character to be defined without having to list every single aspect of of that livelihood on the character sheet.  If you are attempting a task, and your Profession is relevant to that task, you get a +1 modifier on your skill check, in addition to any other modifiers you might have due to Talents (see below), attribute modifiers, or any other factors in play.

Experts automatically get a Profession, and it can be pretty much anything, as long as it isn't directly related to combat or magic.  Common Professions for PC's would include Woodsman, Thief, Bard, Spy, and Priest.  Some Professions are less useful for adventurers, like Merchant and Jester, but their use isn't restricted.  Noble would also be a Profession, but unless the GM wants to run a nobility-based game, having someone of noble blood in a group of non-nobles can be unwieldy, and will probably be forbidden.

Warriors also get a Profession, one that must be based on a martial occupation.  Sample Professions for Warriors would include Barbarian, Foot Soldier, Mercenary, Borderer, Pirate, and Bandit.  A Knight is also a Profession for Warriors, but for similar reasons to the Noble would also probably be restricted as a choice for PC's.

Magicians do not automatically get a Profession (some one say that the ability to use magic is their profession), but for the cost of two Talents, they can purchase either a Profession that defines how they use their magic in a social contest (i.e. Village Witch, Court Wizard), or, more commonly for PC's, they can purchase a Specialization, allowing them a bonus to a particular type of magic (i.e. Divination, Necromancy).

Paragons also do not start out with a Profession, as they are already busy trying to cram two opposing skill-sets into their head.  That said, for the cost of three Talents, they can have a Profession of the type that either Warriors or Magicians might have.  If they want a Profession of they type that an Expert might have, that would cost four Talents. 

Where Professions are broad in scope, Talents are more narrow.  Sample Talents would include Riding, First Aid, Stealth, Metalworking, Tracking, Seduction, Keen Eyesight, and Ambidexterity.  Talents also cover weapon and shield skills.  A particular Talent can be bought more than once, if desired.  A Talent gives a +1 to a relevant task for each time it is purchased.  For example, a sample character might have Dagger +1, Stealth +1, Sharp Hearing +1, Persuasion +2, Singing +1, and Strong Will +2 as their listed Talents.

Experts start out with INT/2 in Talents, Warriors and Magicians have INT/3 in Talents, and Paragons have INT/4.  Humans start out with a bonus Talent.

The maximum number of Talents that a character can possess is (INT+Level) x 3/4 for Experts, (INT+Level) x 2/3 for Warriors and Magicians, and (INT+Level) x 1/2 for Paragons.
Warriors may have half their starting Talents be combat-related.  Paragons may have one-third their starting Talents relate to combat, and Experts one-fourth.  Magicians can not start out with combat Talents, although they may learn them as they advance in Level.  The maximum number of combat Talents a Warrior may know is (INT+Level) x 1/2, a Paragon is limited to (INT+Level) x 1/3, an Expert is limited to (INT+Level) x 1/4, and a Magician is limited to (INT+Level) x 1/5 combat Talents.

The maximum level of any particular Talent is (Level+RA)/10, with RA being the Relevant Attribute for that Talent.  Usually, the RA for combat skills and anything requiring manual coordination is DEX; the RA for various knowledges and lores is INT; bonuses to the five senses (i.e. Keen Eyesight, Sharp Hearing) has OBS as an RA; the RA for various social skills like Persuasion and Seduction would be PRE.

Literacy & Languages - both of these are treated as Talents, but need only be purchased once, as there is no benefit from purchasing Literacy or a particular language more than once.  Literacy need only be purchased once to encompass any spoken languages the character may know.

Some characters may gain Literacy as a free Talent; this does not count against their total of starting Talents, but it does count against the maximum number of Talents a given character may learn.  Magicians and Paragons (unless from a truly primitive society) gain Literacy free, as do Experts whose Professions demand the ability to read as a given (i.e. Scribes).  Professions where the ability to read is quite useful, but not absolutely essentialist (i..e Bards, Merchants, most Priests) gain Literacy for free if their INT is 9 or higher.  All other character gain Literacy for free if their INT is 13+, unless they are from an exceptionally primitive society.

A character starts out being able to speak their native language as a free Talent (again, this does not count against their total number of starting Talents, but it does count against the maximum number of Talents a character may eventually learn).  Any other languages the character wishes to be able to speak must be purchased as separate Talents.  Non-humans speak their own racial tongues, and must spend a Talent to learn the regional human tongue if they wish to converse with the local human populace.

Monday, January 24, 2011

She did WHAT?!?!?

This will meander about a little bit, and take me a while to get to the point.  Bear with me.

Recently I was going through some of my comics, deciding which ones I was going to send out to my friend Greg Hatcher.  Greg teaches cartooning classes to middle-school students in the Seattle area, and every once in a blue moon I cull through my comics, set aside the ones I no longer want, and (if they're age-appropriate) send them to Greg to give to his students.

This brought me to a stack of Marvel's Micronauts comics from the late 70's and early 80's.  Specifically, Micronauts #6.

Now, when I picked these up a few months earlier, it had pretty much been on a whim.  I barely have room for the stuff I do pick up, but they were two for a buck, and I remember liking these as a kid, and wanted to see if they held up well all these years later.

As it turns out, they did for the most part.  One of the best things that writer Bill Mantlo did was not dumb the writing down, despite the fact that it was based off of a popular toy line of the time.  Drawing inspiration from both Star Wars and Jack Kirby's 'Fourth World' stories, as well as various other SF works, Mantlo and artist Michael Golden created a space-opera universe that could be just as gritty at times as anything else published by Marvel back then (seriously, the main bad guy, Baron Karza, used his prisons/death camps to harvest body parts from prisoners).

Still, there wouldn't be anything too out of line, right?  After all, it did have the Comics Code Authority seal on it.  Now, the Comics Code may have just recently went the way of all flesh (and good riddance, says I), but in the late 70's it still had some teeth to it.  Not as powerful as it was in the 50's and 60's, of course, but it could still cause problems for publishers.    

So I was more than a little surprised to see that Mantlo and Golden had managed to slip the following sequence past the CCA.  To set the scene, one of the book's subplots involved the Underground resistance leader Slug, who has been captured and held prisoner in the aforementioned prison (also referred to in the series as the 'Body Banks'), all the while trying to find and help free Prince Argon.  She eventually finds him, only to discover that he has been turned into a centaur by Karza's scientists, and is wallowing in self-pity as a result.  How is Slug to facilitate their escape?  (click on the panel below to enlarge)

That's right, she hid a disruptor in her hoo-ha.

Take that, Fredric Wertham!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Review: "Caress Of Steel"

Enjoying the success of their previous album, Fly By Night, the band went back into the studio to record their third album; it was to be a more ambitious recording, but unfortunately Caress Of Steel would fall short in places.

The first three songs are fairly straightforward rock songs, and these are the ones that work pretty well. 'Bastille Day' is a Zeppelin-esque rocker about the French Revolution, and probably the best track on the album. 'I Think I'm Going Bald' showcases an element of the band that sometimes gets missed by non-fans, their sense of humor (the song was written as a piss-take in response to the KISS song 'Goin' Blind'). 'Lakeside Park' is a slower piece, with Neil reflecting on his youth.

The rest of the album includes two longer pieces, 'The Necromancer' and 'The Fountain of Lamneth'. 'The Necromancer' runs 12 and a half minutes long, and has once again Neil looking to Tolkien for inspiration. The latter part of the song includes an appearance by Prince By-Tor from 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog', but here By-Tor is a hero, not a villain (presumably this takes place before By-Tor's fall from grace... or perhaps Neil just really liked the name). 'The Fountain of Lamneth' runs around 20 minutes, the first of three Rush songs that would span the length of an entire album side (back in the days of vinyl, when albums had sides one and two). 'Lamneth' concerns the span of a man's life, from birth to death.

Compared to 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog' and the group's longer pieces that would show up on following albums, these two tracks are somewhat disappointing. The individual parts of the two songs are uneven in quality, and don't gel together into a cohesive whole (Neil's drum solo in 'Lamneth' is especially out-of-place and jarring). Of the two, 'Necromancer' is probably the better piece; being shorter in length, it has less room to meander around. Lyrically, they're not as immediately compelling as one would hope, and musically, they're more indulgent than inspiring. Also, Terry Brown's production of the album, for whatever reason, isn't as strong as Fly By Night, or the later Rush albums he would work on.

The album was a commercial disappointment; the tour that followed to support the album was referred to privately by the band as the "Down The Tubes" tour, fearful that the album's low sales might spell the end of the band. This was meant to be their breakout album, but for the moment the group's reach had exceed their grasp. As a result, Rush had one last chance to prove themselves; the follow-up album would either make, or break, the group.

Capsule reviews: Comics from 1/19

Legion of Super-Heroes #9 (DC, $2.99, Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Wayne Faucher) - The Legion's struggle with the Durlan extremists continue.  The plot moves along nicely, but there's no real resolution as of yet.  Levitz's writing continues to entertain, but I really wish he would start working some subplots into the book; with it's huge cast, LSH is a title that practically demands a few subplots sprinkled throughout, here and there.  The art by Cinar and Faucher is clean and clear, for the most part, with some very nice panels as Tellus telepathically explores Dawnstar's subconscious.

The Spirit #10 (DC, $2.99, David Hine, Moritat) - A done-in-one story (a nice change of pace, given current industry standards), told from the POV of a small-time criminal whose delusions and paranoia chisel away at his psyche after he has committed what should be an untracable murder.  Hine does a good job of letting us get into the killer's head, and while the destination is easy enough to guess, the trip along the way is entertaining enough.  Moritat's art probably won't appeal to a large percentage of fans, but I think his particular art style works for this story.

Doorways #3 (IDW, $3.99, George R.R. Martin, Stefano Martino) - The penultimate issue of the storyline that adapts Martin's TV pilot from many, many moons ago.  We see yet another alternate earth, and Thomas finally starts to buy the clue.  Cat gets them into trouble, just about the time Thane and the Darklords (that would be a great name for a heavy metal band) show up.  Martin's plot is well-crafted, the secondary characters introduced are entertaining, and his pacing here is excellent.  Martino's art has several nice artistic flourishes, without losing any sense of clarity, and helps in conveying the new earth Tom and Cat find themselves in.  If you like alternate earth stories, and aren't reading this already, be sure to pick it up when it comes out in trade paperback form. 

Battlefields vol 6: Motherland (Dynamite, $12.99, Garth Ennis, Russ Braun) - A sequel to the earlier Battlefields story The Night Witches (and if you like war stories but haven't yet read 'Night Witches', go out and pick up a copy ASAP), 'Motherland' continues the story of Lt. Anna Kharkova, who has been promoted to a single-seat fighter squadron.  Due to the mental scars she bears from her earlier experiences, she wants nothing to do with her new comrades, simply desiring to kill as many Germans as possible.  Complicating matters are the attentions of a secret police operative.  Oh yeah, she's also having extended conversations with her dead friend.   Despite her misanthropy, and contrary to her wishes, she finds herself with a teenage mechanic who idol-worships her, and a group of rookie female pilots who look to her for leadership.  Overall, the story works to Ennis' strengths as a writer, and Braun's art conveys both the horrors of war, and the quieter, more human moments equally well.  If you like war stories with a human touch, this is well worth getting.  My only complaint is that Dynamite, contrary to industry standards, prices its TPB collections more expensively than the individual issues collected.  A TPB this size (the original storyline only ran three issues) should be priced closer to $9.99 than $12.99.

Trollslayers - Classes

Much of this will be familiar territory to anyone who has played T&T, although some of the details will wind up differing...

Warriors – The fighters of Trollslayers, who obviously excel at combat compared to the other classes. They have the easiest time wearing armor, as they are the most practiced with it. To become a Warrior requires a minimum score of 9 with the three physical attributes, STR, DEX, and END. Ideally, these attributes should be higher, especially as different weapons have various minimum scores for STR and DEX.

Magicians – Call them wizards, witches, sorcerers, what have you, these are the men and women who know how to lay down the mojo and smack you around with it. A minimum of 13 in both KNO and PRE is required, as well as a minimum DEX of 9. They are not forbidden from wearing armor, but take extra DEX penalties from doing so, due to lack of experience. Also, they must make sure that wearing heavy armor does not drop their DEX below the minimum of 9. As spellcasting usually requires two free hands, they rarely employ shields. They are not forbidden from using various weapons, but as spellcasting can drain STR, they tend toward lighter weapons as a result.

Experts – This covers a wide variety of Professions, which mainly cover anyone who is not considered a Warrior or a Magician. Experts who are adventurers often include such professions as Woodsmen, Priests, Bards, and Thieves, which provide useful skills for an adventuring lifestyle. There are no attribute requirement for Experts. Some experts can learn how to cast magic spells (this requires the same attribute minimums as Magicians have), but they generally have to spend twice the amount of time and money to learn spells that a Magician would; the exception being if the spell ties in thematically to the Expert's profession (i.e. a Woodsman learning plant- or animal-based spells, a Bard learning music- or charm-based magic, etc.). They can wear any sort of armor, handling it better than Magicians but not as well as Warriors. They can use any weapon they have the minimum STR and DEX for. They tend to have more Talents to call upon than the other classes.

Paragons – A rare breed, Paragons are skilled in both the ways of the Warrior and the Magician. This requires a minimum of 13 in all primary attributes. While they can cast spells while wearing armor, the fact that spellcasting can drain from either PRE (which affects Health) and/or STR (which affects their ability to use weapons) means that they might not choose to do so while directly in combat. Also, they must make sure that wearing heavy armor does not drop their DEX below 9, the minimum needed for spellcasting. Likewise, the use of shields in combat will usually preclude spellcasting while doing so. Finally, because they have concentrated their studies into two opposing fields, they have little time left over for any other hobbies or interests, and as a result have fewer Talents than any of the other classes.  (Yes, I need a better name for this class...)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Happy birthday, Robert E. Howard

Thank you for all the stories and inspiration, Mr. Howard.

(no, I haven't posted much lately - been distracted by shiny things)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review: "Fly By Night"

Not long after Rush had released their first album, drummer John Rutsey left the band for medical reasons.  Shortly before they were to begin their American tour in support of that album, they hired on Neil Peart to take over on drums, which would forever change the band.  Not only was Peart, even in those early days, an astounding drummer, but he also would take over writing the band's lyrics, adding a strength to the songwriting that Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson had not been able to contribute. He was also more open to being experimental musically, something Lee and Lifeson were in agreement with, but Rutsey had been resistant to.

As a result, Fly By Night is a much stronger album than its predecessor. It's still a bit uneven in spots; there's a couple of songs that are holdovers from before Peart joined the group (even without looking at the liner notes, it's fairly easy to guess which songs these are), and the band is still finding their footing, musically. That said, it's still a huge leap forward, and you can start to see the real beginnings of what the band would eventually become, with the lineup that would remain in place for over three decades.

Standout tracks on the album include the title track 'Fly By Night', which holds up nicely to this day as a straight-ahead rock single; 'By-Tor And The Snow Dog', the group's first foray into progressive rock, and a nice display of each member's musical chops; and 'Anthem', Peart's first attempt at mining Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism for song lyrics (the group would later gain more notoriety for the Rand-inspired '2112', but 'Anthem' is much more blunt and unsubtle in its approach - “live for yourself, there's no one else/more worth living for/begging hands and bleeding hearts/will only cry out for more”). Other noteworthy songs include 'Beneath, Between & Behind', with a none-too-subtle condemnation of U.S. Policy at the time; the ballad 'Rivendell', which would not be the last time that Peart would look to Tolkien for inspiration; and the Zeppelin-esque 'In The End', the better of the non-Peart songs on the album.

This is very much a transitional album, with one foot still very much inspired by various British blues-rock groups, and the other reaching out toward the land of prog rock. The group is stretching their muscles, musically, but still haven't fully hit their stride just yet. That said, even if it's not the group's best work, it is worth a listen, if only to hear the band in its early days, as they begin to form their own unique musical identity. The production is also better on this album than on the previous one (this was Terry Brown's debut as producer, and he would go on to produce several other Rush albums). Overall, it's a good album, just not an exceptional one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trollslayers - Probabilities

Warning: math ahead

In Tunnels & Trolls, ability checks are determined by rolling 2 dice, with doubles re-rolling and adding to the result, then comparing that result to a difficulty number.  This will be the primary way of determining success (or failure) in Trollslayers for pretty much just about everything.  I think it would be beneficial to take a look at the probabilities that such a method produces.

First, by way of comparison, let's look at the odds of rolling 2 dice, straight up, without any additions from re-rolling doubles.  The number on the left is the dice result, the middle number is the percentage chance of that number coming up, and the number on the right is the percentage chance of that number, or a lower result, coming up:

2          2.78%          2.78%
3          5.56%          8.33%
4          8.33%        16.66% 
5        11.11%        27.77%
6        13.89%        41.66%
7        16.67%        58.33%
8        13.89%        72.22%
9        11.11%        83.33%
10        8.33%        91.66%
11        5.56%        97.22%
12        2.78%      100.00%

(yes, we're rounding fractions off, which makes the chart a little wonky - deal with it)

Now, let's look at the odds using the 'doubles re-roll and add' method, with up to two re-rolls figured (special thanks to Jasper Flick over on the forums for pointing out how to figure this using his AnyDice program):

3          5.56%          5.56%
4          5.56%        11.11%
5        11.27%        22.38%
6        11.27%        33.64%
7        17.13%        50.78%
8        11.58%        62.36%
9        12.05%        74.42%
10        6.36%        80.77%
11        6.83%        87.61%
12        0.99%        88.59%
13        1.47%        90.06%
14        1.02%        91.08%
15        1.50%        92.59%
16        1.06%        93.65%
17        1.39%        95.04%
18        0.94%        95.98%
19        1.11%        97.09%
20        0.65%        97.74%
21        0.66%        98.40%
22        0.35%        98.75%
23        0.34%        99.08%
24        0.17%        99.25%
25        0.15%        99.41%
26        0.14%        99.54%
27        0.12%        99.66%
28        0.10%        99.76%
29        0.08%        99.83%
30        0.06%        99.89%
31        0.04%        99.94%
32        0.03%        99.97%
33        0.02%        99.98%
34        0.01%        99.99%

This isn't an exact replication of the odds, because in theory you could keep re-rolling infinitely.  In practice, it's close enough for government work.

One of the odd quirks of using the 'exploding' dice is that in many cases, a number has a slightly higher chance of occurring than the number below it, expectations to the contrary.  This is because even numbers are more likely to have a set of doubles create that number, which would then re-roll and add again, creating a larger number as a result.  It looks a bit weird, but as long as we're aware of it, it shouldn't trip us up.

It also gives us a few benchmarks to work with.  Because there's almost exactly a 50% chance of rolling a 7 or less, we can say that any roll with roughly 50-50 odds needs a 8 or greater to succeed.  As a result, eight is the base target number in Trollslayers.  Also, if you wanted to define something as having a 'one in a hundred' or 'one in a thousand' chance of occurring, you could assign target numbers of 23 and 30, respectively.

Also, we can figure that a +1 die modifier represents roughly a 12% chance in altering the odds, based on the percentage needed to alter an 'average' number of 7 (or an 8, based on the mean average - works either way).

I think this gives us plenty of material to chew on.  More to come later...   

Capsule reviews: Comics from 1/12

(another light week, and late to boot, thanks to the snowstorm that hit the South)

Doc Savage #10 (DC, $2.99, Ivan Brandon, Phil Winslade) - J.G. Jones gives us a very Bama-esque cover for this issue, and it is quite nice.  Once you make your way past that, you get a flashback story dealing with Doc and Ronan during the height of the war in the Middle East.  Brandon's story highlights the differences between the two men, and how those differences would eventually send them along vary different paths.  It's not badly done - better than the main story so far set in the current day, quite frankly - but there's still nothing exceptional here.  Winslade's art is solid, although occasionally uneven.

As an aside, there's no Avenger back-up story this issue, and it doesn't look as if there will be any more in future issues.  Which is a shame, as I was enjoying the Avenger stories more than the lead features.

The Sixth Gun book 1: Cold Dead Fingers (Oni Press, $19.99, Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt) - This collects the first six issues of The Sixth Gun, a supernatural/horror series set in the old west.  It concerns six guns of eldritch and malevolent power, and those who would seek to use them.  Our two leads include Drake Sinclair, an independent agent with a shady past, who by his own admission is not a very nice person, and Becky Montcrief, a young woman who, after the murder of her step-father, finds herself in possession of one of the six guns.  Against them is Oleander Hume, a former Confederate General during the Civil War, who isn't letting a little thing like being dead stop him from pursing ownership of the guns, which is only a stepping stone to even darker plans.

This is well worth picking up, especially if you like 'weird west' stories.  It has something of a Hellboy vibe to it, partially because of the supernatural and horror elements to it, and partially because Hurtt's art looks like it would fit right in illustrating a Hellboy or B.P.R.D. story.  Bunn's story is solid and engaging, making you care about our lead characters without ever taking for granted that they will survive the horrors they face.  Highly recommended. 

Of Cylons and Browncoats

It would appear that Margaret Weis Productions will be losing the rights to the Battlestar Galactica and Serenity licenses at the end of the month. Such is the way of licensed RPG properties. As a result, MWP is knocking down the prices of their PDF's for these games, so if you want to pick them up on the cheap, now's the time to do it.

Battlestar Galactica


Thank you, FoxTrot

You love us, even when no one else does:

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Thanks to my sharp-eyed and bargain-savvy wife, I was able to pick up no less than 21 issues of Dungeon magazine, for a mere 75 cents a pop.  Specifically, I got #48, 54, 56-63, 65, 70-74, 76-77, 79-81.  I may not be interested in D&D as a system so much these days, but a good scenario idea is easily translatable to other systems, so I'm going to be mining these issues for potential game fodder when I do eventually get around to running Trollslayers some day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It doesn't automatically mean that the sky is falling...

...but the fact that Wizards of the Coast has announced that they're scrapping their miniatures line and canceling three major releases from their book schedule is probably a sign that 2010 wasn't as good a year for the company as it might have been.

On one hand, this doesn't affect me directly, as I haven't picked up anything from WOTC in quite a while.  On the other hand, they are the industry leaders, so if they're having a rough time of it, the rest of the industry probably isn't doing so great either.

That said, it looks like WOTC actually made it through 2010 without yet again having to lay off staff at year's end, so I guess there's an upside, as well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trollslayers - Attributes

Okay, let's start knocking out some rules...

Trollslayers will have six Primary Attributes (how original!).  They will include the following:

Strength (STR)
Dexterity (DEX)
Endurance (END)
Knowledge (KNO)
Observation (OBS)
Presence (PRE)

The first five are pretty much what the names imply, and nothing you haven't seen before in other games.  Presence includes aspects of both charisma, willpower, and magical aptitude.  In other words, it's not a dump stat.

Humans roll 3 six-sided dice for all of their primary attributes (all dice in Trollslayers are d6's, and hereafter will just be referred to by the number of dice used, not bothering to say d6 all the time - one die is referred to as 1d, two dice as 2d, three dice and add two to the result would be 3d+2, and so forth.  Also, standard rules for fractions apply unless otherwise noted, with any fractions 1/2 or higher rounding up, and less than 1/2 rounded down).

Any roll can get a bonus die if all of the dice are of the same type.  For humans, or any other race that is rolling 3d for a given attribute, that means rolling triples.  If the race only rolls 2d for an attribute, they need doubles to get a bonus die, and if they roll 4d for an attribute, they need quadruples (when there are any additions to the dice roll, such as 2d+1, the addition (or subtraction) does not affect the multiples required to get a bonus die).  A bonus die is added to the total score for that given attribute.

All player characters (and any major NPC's, if you're bothering to roll them up instead of simply assigning them stats) get to roll an extra die for all of their primary attributes, and discard the least desirable result.  This will usually be the lowest number, but it may also be a number that otherwise precludes getting multiples to gain a bonus die.  Example: Jana, a human, rolls four dice for all of her attributes - three for being human, and one for being a player character.  For her Dexterity, the dice come up 2,2,6,2.  She could take the three highest numbers, getting a 10, or she could take the three 2's, giving her a 6, but also allowing her to add a bonus die to the roll... which might wind up being higher or lower than the 10.  She chooses to drop the 6 or order to get the bonus die, and rolls a 5, giving her a total Dexterity of 11.

The racial maximum for any attribute (not factoring in any magical modifiers that may occur during the character's career) is calculated as follows: (number of dice rolled including possible bonus die x 7) + (any additions or subtractions to the attribute when rolled).  As a result, all human attribute maximums are 28.  A race that rolls 2d+1 for Strength (for example) would have a racial maximum for Strength of 19.  The personal maximum for a given attribute is 3/2 times the starting score, or the normal racial maximum, whichever is lower.  Example: Jana has a Knowledge of 20 (obviously she got a triple there) and an Observation of 15.  Her personal maximums for these two attributes are a Knowledge of 28 (racial maximum) and an Observation of 23 (15 x 3/2, rounded up).  Edit: this has since been changed

Humans, and only humans, get to add a single extra bonus die to a attribute of their choice.  Example: Jana rolled up an Endurance of 5 - sucks to be her.  She opts to add her extra bonus die to her Endurance, and rolls a 4, giving her a total of 9, which isn't quite so bad.  If adding the bonus die to an attribute would result in exceeding the racial maximum, any points over the maximum are lost.

There will also be some secondary attributes, which are based in part, but not fully, on the primary attributes.  Three are listed below (and more may follow as I think of them):

Health (i.e. hit points) - END plus half the PRE score.  Some classes will get a bonus here, but not much.

Movement - STR and DEX are added together, along with another 3d (yes, add a bonus die if triples occur, and yes, let PC's roll an extra die and drop the least desirable).  Then divide the total by a given number, based on race.  Humans would divide the number by three.  Dwarves, being slower of foot, would divide by four, whereas elves would divide by two.

Essence - an extra resource for spellcasting, above and beyond PRE and STR, the two main attributes that power magic.  Starts out at zero for some classes, while some spellcasters would gets Essence points per level.  You can also temporarily access 'free' essence by casting under a full moon, at high noon, at a 'place of power', working yourself and others up into a frenzy through dance and prayer, etc.  

That's all for now, more to come later.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 1/5

(a short week this time around - picked up a TPB to help stretch things out)

Jonah Hex #63 (DC, $2.99, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti) - Anyone familiar with Jonah Hex knows he's a hard-nosed, cynical S.O.B., who often only seems to be out for himself.  That said, every once in a while we see that he does have something of a soft spot for children, and that shows up this issue, as Jonah is hired to track down and kill someone whose cruelty exceeds that of the usual criminal that Hex has to deal with.  We also see a bit of Jonah's childhood, and how that relates to the matter at hand.  The story plays out pretty much how you would expect, but how we get there is as important as the ending for a story like this.

Gray's writing is tight and harsh, but if you're familiar with the current run of the book that you know what sort of story you're in for.  Palmiotti's art is rough while also being slightly cartoony - it's not my first choice for such a book, to be honest, but it meshes fairly well with Grey's writing.    

Transmetropolitan vol 7: Spider's Thrash (DC/Vertigo, $14.99, Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson) - collecting together issues 37-42 of the original run, where we some of the repercussions of Spider Jerusalem's ongoing battle with President Callahan, a.k.a. the Smiler.  Spider has been cut loose from The Word, but that has only served to give him even more freedom in what he writes.  Going underground with his two female assistants (excuse me... 'filthy assistants'), he begins to work for free for a small newsfeed, telling of all the City's uncomfortable truths.

Of course, the Smiler hasn't forgotten about Spider, and at one point sends some assassins after him, although it's more of an attempt at intimidation than actual execution.   Meanwhile, the Smiler is slowly chipping away at various freedoms and liberties, journalistic and otherwise.  For his part, Spider seems even more cocky and arrogant than usual, freed of what few limitations he had on himself, but by the end of the book an actual sense of mortality has pierced through his normal haze of drugs and ego.

We get to see more of the dirty side of the city, most notably with stories concentrating on child prostitution and the mentally ill homeless, but we also see bits and pieces of the general insanity that exists on the streets of the City.  We also see Ellis play with the idea that the inhabitants of the City have lost much of their sense of history, as nobody knows what year it exactly is, no one can refer to past events in regards to a certain year, but rather only in terms of a certain amount of time passed.   As a result, the citizens of the City live, even more than would be normal, very much in the day-to-day present... and only memories preserves any remnants of the past.

Ellis is probably my favorite writer in the field today.  His stories are consistently entertaining, and often thought-provoking.  It doesn't hurt that he is one of the few writers in comics with an actual knowledge of, and interest in, science and the effects it can and will have on day-to-day life.  Robertson's art compliments Ellis's story wonderfully, detailing all the mad and dirty aspects of the City in all of its perverse glory.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: "Rush"

(This is the first in a series of reviews covering the various albums by the band Rush. Why? Because I feel like it, that's why.)

If a band has a large enough body of work, it's almost inevitable that one of their album will be regarded as the proverbial red-headed stepchild. For the band Rush, that would be their first album, the 1974 self-titled Rush.

It's not that the music is necessarily bad – even at this early stage, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson are excellent musicians, and John Rutsey is a decent drummer. However, while most of the music is solid enough, it's also for the most part rather uninspired. The band had been heavily influenced by such groups as Cream and Led Zeppelin, and most of the album comes off as somewhat generic hard rock. In addition, the lyrics for the most part simply aren't that interesting.

There are a few pieces of note, here and there. 'Finding My Way' is a fairly solid rock piece with some good riffs to it. 'In The Mood' has some amusing lyrics (“well you're makin' me crazy/the way you roll them eyes/won't you come and sit with me/I'll tell you all my lies”). 'Before and After' has a nice little acoustic intro piece, before transitioning into a different tempo, foreshadowing some of the musical time-shifts that the band would later become (in)famous for.

But the standout piece of the album is 'Working Man', a seven-minute piece that would showcase a excellent guitar solo by Lifeson in the middle of the song. The song got attention on a Cleveland radio station; the city's hard rock fans embraced the song's blue-collar ethic, and due to its length the DJ's found it a useful 'bathroom' song. Of all the songs on the album, 'Working Man' is the one that still holds up well today.

Had the band continued on in a more traditional musical style, this would probably be considered a solid-if-uninspired first effort. As is, it's more of a curiosity, not at all reflective of what the band would later become.


Shortly after Dungeons & Dragons was released back in 1974, a man named Ken St. Andre flipped through the rules, liked the idea, but disliked the actual implementation. He would go on to write Tunnels & Trolls, the second published RPG. For a while there, T&T was the #2 RPG out there, primarily on the strength of its simple rules, as well as a large number of solo adventures available for the game. Over the years, it's relative strength in the RPG market has diminished, but T&T has refused to disappear, thanks in part to a small-but-dedicated fan base.

I have been on the periphery of T&T fandom for several years, as the game is one that has simultaneously intrigued and frustrated me. I like the simple rules, the unabashed old-school feel it has, and the DIY attitude it seems to encourage. That said, there were also several elements present that didn't appeal to me. Some of these were fairly easy to house-rule, but others were more problematic; re-writing them to my liking would effectively mean re-writing the game from the ground up, instead of merely having some house-rules in effect.

In the past, I've always stopped short of making that extra step; too much work, and it's not like there were any lack of other games to vie for my interest. But recently, the kernel of an idea on how to rework T&T more to my personal tastes began to take hold, and wouldn't go away. Very little is on paper (or computer) as of yet, but the ideas are swimming around in my head; altering the basic attributes, scaling them so that increases are more linear that geometric, using the 'saving throw' roll as a universal action mechanic, deleting the need for a separate damage roll, re-writing magic from the ground up, adding some simple rules for professions and talents, and a few other changes here and there.

The tentative name for this new set of rules would be Trollslayers; I want to be honest and acknowledge the game's heritage, and having 'troll' somewhere in the title seems to be a good step in that direction. It would be very much 'old-school' in feel, with rules for things like hiring henchmen, morale checks, an emphasis on exploration, not shying away from player-character mortality, rules for building castles and ruling domains, etc. It would not be a 'retro-clone', but rather more of a 'heartbreaker' (albeit a self-aware one). It would have bits and pieces of several other games (D&D, Runequest, TFT, among others) mixed in, hopefully hitting that sweet spot between simplicity and detail that I like. It probably won't appeal to anyone else – if it does, great, but that's not the primary goal – but if it keeps me happy while running it, and my players happy while playing it, then I will have accomplished my goal.

So that's the mission statement, I guess. Future posts will break down and detail different aspects of the rule system as I work on them. Hopefully, by year's end I'll have enough to knock out a basic playtest document, and then see what happens from there.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Something for my godson...

I've just spent the last few hours discovering and looking through The Land of Nod, an excellent blog (which has quickly been added to my blogroll) with a lot to offer for the gamer looking for something new and imaginative.  One of his posts included the link to the Lego Castles website, which my nine year old godson should get a kick out of.  As a bonus for gamers, the floorplans translate into gamer maps with virtually no effort whatsoever.  Even if you're not into Legos, if you like castles in general it's certainly worth a visit.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

D&D: the CCG

Dungeons & Dragons Fortune Cards, sold in booster packs of 8 cards, give players fun new ways to survive the challenges of the D&D Encounters in-store play program, as well as their home campaigns. These cards give characters fun, temporary benefits that feel different from the benefits gained from powers and feats, without adding undue complexity to the D&D game.


Now, I don't have a dog in this fight, to use an old Southern saying.  The current (4th) edition of D&D isn't my preferred edition of the game (for various reasons that aren't relevant here), and as a result I've never actually sat down and played it.  Lots of people do enjoy it, and that's great, but it's not my thing.  However, if I were playing (or running) a 4th edition D&D game, this would annoy me quite a bit.  You are essentially paying for extra in-game bonuses, above and beyond what your character is already capable of.  There person who doesn't want to buy these booster packs is put at a comparative disadvantage, and the more packs you buy, the better you can arrange your personal deck.

If the deck being sold was a single, non-collectible (i.e. no booster packs) collection of cards that everyone drew from, I wouldn't have a problem with it.  That's how TORG handled their Drama Deck back in the day, and it worked quite well.  It's the collectible aspect to it, that drives the player to buy more and more cards to get the 'perfect' deck, that irks me.

Of course, this is Wizards Of The Coast we're talking about here, whose original claim to fame was Magic: the Gathering.  It doesn't surprise me that they're doing this... it just surprises me that it took this long for them to do so. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It wasn't that funny the first time around

A couple of days ago, I posted about all of the dead birds falling from the sky in Arkansas. Well, not only is Arkansas now also having to deal with dead fish as well, but also Louisana and Kentucky are also dealing with dead birds falling from the sky, as well.

Seriously, WTF?                  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 12/22 and 12/29

(meant to have this up sooner - gotta love being sick with the crud)

Legion of Super-Heroes #8 (DC, $3.99, Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Daniel HDR) - Ah, at long last the tradition of letting the fans choose the Legion leader has returned.  Legion elections tend to be fun, if for no other reason than a sizable number of fans will vote for a particular character just to try to screw over the writer (okay, I'll admit it... I voted for Tyroc, a character Levitz had admitted he doesn't like, just to see what he would have done with him if the character was forced into the spotlight).  The actual result isn't as much of a plot-stopper if someone like Gates or Earth-Man had been elected, but given that the character who won was exiting the book an issue earlier, it's safe to say that some plot lines may have to be re-written a bit.  Still, this isn't Levitz's first time at the dance, so I'm sure he work things around without too much hassle.

Oh, and there's other stuff going on, as well.  The aftermath of Brande's assassination, and the ongoing battles with the Durlan assassins, form the crux of the issue.  There isn't really much else in terms of other plots or subplots showing up, which is somewhat odd; LSH is a title that pretty much demands long-term subplots, and Levitz has handled that sort of thing pretty well in the past.

The art by Cinar and HDR(?) is solid.  Not spectacular, perhaps, but all of the characters are visually distinctive (an important thing in a book with a cast this large), and the action flows smoothly enough.  There's a nicely framed cover by Cinar, as well.

Neonomicon #3 (of 4) (Avatar, $3.99, Alan Moore, Jacen Burrows) - Just in case you haven't heard of this title before, let me get the disclaimer out of the way... HOLY CRAP NOT FOR KIDS NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH AND DEFINITELY NOT FOR THE EASILY OFFENDED.  Okay, that said, after last issue's horrific torment of agent Brears, this issue comes off as a little bit of a breather, before the conclusion next issue.  Oh, she's still in pretty dire straits, but not everything may be as it seems, and she just might have two unlikely allies to help her out when things come to a head.  Well, okay, one might not be an ally so much as someone playing their own game, which just happens to not be actively seeking to destroy her life in the process.  Given her current predicament, that's better than nothing. 

Moore is working the hell out of the meta-text on this one, which should surprise no one familiar with his work.  I also suspect he's having fun with Carcosa's lisp, possibly hiding some clues in plain sight.  Burrow's art really helps to sell all of this, with the weirdness (and a lot of playing with angles) grounded just enough to make it work.  A lesser artist could have easily screwed this one up, but Burrows knows when to pull the reins in, and when to cut loose.

Return of the Originals: Battle For L.A. (Moonstone, $9.95, CJ Henderson, Mark Sparacio) - Moonstone is trying to brand their various pulp characters as the 'Originals' (in the sense that these were often the original inspirations for many of the super-hero characters to follow), and this 84-page one-shot is meant to showcase several of these characters - the Phantom Detective, the Black Bat, Domino Lady, G-8, and Secret Agent X are the stars of this particular yarn, concerning a plot by Japanese forces late in WWII.

The layout is not that of the typical comic book, but rather uses text along the top and bottom thirds of the pages, with black-and-white artwork in the middle (readers of Moonstone's Spider: Judgment Knight will be on familiar ground).  Henderson's story isn't spectacular, but it is serviceable, with bonus points for some good characterization thrown into the mix.  Sparacio's art is quite nice; I'd like to see how he handles a more traditional comic book layout. 

Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword #1 (Dark Horse, $7.99, various writers and artists) - This is the first issue of an 80-page anthology series featuring various REH characters.  Page-wise, there's a lot of bang for the buck, but as with any anthology a lot will depend on how many of the individual stories work for you or not.

We lead off with part one of a three-part Conan story ("Conan and the Jewels of Hesterm"), by Paul Tobin and Wellington Alves.  It's decent enough, but there's little that distinguishes it as a Conan story, as opposed to any other sword-and-sorcery hero.  There is a good line from Conan, upon being asked by a tavern wench if he is a merchant. He responds, "I trade in lapses of attention, and practical lessons on how to protect one's wealth."  Heh.

Next is "John Silent: The Earthbound Dead" by Scott Allie and Ben Dewey.  Silent was a supporting character in one of REH's Solomon Kane stories, but here is the lead.  Unfortunately, this one isn't very engaging; a lot depends on how much you can accept this particular presentation of the character, which isn't terribly appealing.

Mark Finn gives us "Six Guns and Scimitars: the Wild West in the Middle East", an essay concerning REH's character El Borak, who will show up in future installments.  Finn does a good job of covering all the bases, giving us a hint of the kind of stories to follow.

"Dark Agnes: Storytelling" is the first of a two-parter by Marc Andreyko and Robert Atkins.  I've always liked Agnes as a character, whom REH only wrote twice if memory serves.  The art here doesn't work for me - I'd prefer something a little less cartoony, but the story does a good job of introducing the character.

Finally, we have a classic Bran Mak Morn story, "Worms of the Earth", by Roy Thomas and Barry-Windsor Smith, which appeared many moons ago back in the original Marvel run of Savage Sword of Conan.  This is easily the best story in the book; Thomas and Windsor-Smith are firing on all cylinders, adapting one of REH's best stories.  If you haven't seen this one before, it's easily worth the price of admission alone.

Jack of Fables #49 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99, Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Akins) - All of our supporting characters begin to converge toward a mystical land called... Canada.  Manitoba, to be precise.  We get to see Jack Frost, the librarian sisters, Wicked John (who looks amusingly like Alan Moore at this point), and other Fables, as well as Jack-the-dragon and his one remaining friend Gary.  This is the penultimate issue of the series, and there's definitely a sense of finality as all of the pieces on the chess board come together.  Jack (the original) seems somewhat resigned to his fate, whatever that may be... but this is Jack, after all, so he may have a few surprises yet up his scaly sleeves.  Good writing (and humor) by Willingham and Sturges, and Akins (as usual) does a good job making all the different characters easily distinguishable from each other.

DMZ vol 1: On The Ground (DC/Vertigo, $9.99, Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli) - I picked this up on a whim (75% off the price will help do that), and I'm glad I did.  This trade paperback collects the first five issues of the comic book, setting up the basis for the ongoing story.  We start off five years into the second American Civil War, with Manhattan the demilitarized zone that the book's title alludes to.  The reason for the fighting isn't made clear, but that's probably because that's not really important to the story.  What is important is life inside the DMZ,  and how people continue to live with a war going on around them.  Our main character is Matt Roth, a naive photo-journalist intern who finds himself trapped inside the DMZ, and as the only journalist around, begins reporting on what life is like there, something that people outside of NY have no real concept of.  

Wood's wring is solid and grounded; he takes what probably shouldn't fly as a believable concept, and plays it just straight enough so that you're willing to buy into it.  Burchielli's art is gritty without becoming muddy.  The coloring is a bit too dark at times for my tastes; that's probably deliberate, given the setting, but it's still a minor detraction for me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What goes up...

One of the games that I eventually want to run is Unknown Armies.  For those not familiar with it, UA is a game concerning modern-day conflicts between various factions of the 'occult underground', with strong elements of weirdness and horror.  I tend to keep an eye out for news stories that that might act as fodder for a UA campaign (like I need an excuse to look for weird stuff).  I think the following qualifies:

Holy crap, that's a lot of dead birds

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A work in progress

Been playing around with the backgrounds and color scheme for the blog; will probably do some more tinkering before I'm happy with it.  Not that I'm expecting it to be particularly stunning (it should be abundantly clear at this point that a strong sense of visual aesthetics is not among my talents), but hopefully it won't be too eye-gouging.  Unfortunately, at one point some of the links in the sidebars weren't showing up, and first and foremost I want the blog to be easy to read, fancy color schemes be damned.  I still need to get a handle on the various options and tools that Blogspot is offering me; this may unfortunately take a while before I get myself up to speed.  Until then, your patience will be greatly appreciated.

It's waaaaay too early to already be linking to another blog...

but screw it, this pretty much sums up my annoyance at a certain breed of gamer, the type that just can't get it through their heads that their fun isn't necessarily your fun:


“What the world needs now is another geeky blog...”

“ I need a hole in my head.”

That said, it's hardly a perfect world, and hey, no one's forcing you to read this, right?

Like most people, I usually make one or more New Year's resolutions at the beginning of the year. Like many people, I often fail to carry through on those resolutions. However, last year I made one that I actually followed through on, paying off all of my credit card debt, and starting 2011 debt-free (of course, I still have to work with my wife to help her to become debt-free in the years to come, but that's another story).

Actually having followed through for once, I figured I would see if I could manage that once again. One of my resolutions is to lost some weight (specifically, to lose 30 pounds by Labor Day), but that's not the point of this blog. My other two resolutions are to start gaming again in 2011, and to work up a playtest document of a RPG that I want to write (tentatively titled Trollslayers), having at least a beta version available to give to others no later than the year's end.

I've been gaming since I was thirteen, ever since one of my older brothers gave me a copy of the D&D box set (the one with the Holmes 'blue book' in it) back in the summer of '81. RPG gaming has been one of those things that has permeated my life, in ways large and small. However, for various reasons, 2010 was the year I didn't get to do any gaming, for various and sundry real-life reasons (no face-to-face gaming, at least; I have been doing some online gaming, which has helped me from going into total withdrawal). So the simpler of my two gaming-resolutions should be fairly easy to accomplish; get the dice rolling again, either to finish up my Castles & Crusades campaign that I had been running, to start up an Unknown Armies campaign, or to at least play in someone else's game.

The other resolution will no doubt be more difficult to follow through on; I am by nature a rather lazy person. That said, I believe that most gamers are tempted at one point or another to try to create their own ruleset; not for publication, necessarily, but simply to see if they can do it. It's pretty much a natural extension of the creative drive that gamers feel, to try to devise the 'perfect' rule-system (perfect for them, of course... it's when one assumes that their system would be perfect for others that the tears start). In this, I am not so different from all the other gamers who have put their thoughts down on paper, trying to come up with something new, or failing that, something workable and usable in a manner that other games for whatever reasons fail to satisfy. My attempts to do so will (hopefully) form no small amount of the content for this blog.

I have also been an avid comic book reader for as long as I can remember; I truly believe that reading comics helped my reading skills as a child when learning to read prose, fiction or otherwise (it may not have helped my ability to write, but if you choose to suffer through my wretched prose, it's nobody's fault but your own). My tastes have changed a lot over the years, but I still like to pick up a few new comics every Wednesday or so, and what I like (and dislike) will also be fodder for the blog.

Of course, anything else geek-related that strikes my fancy may also find it's way here. I'm going to try to post at least three times a week, all told. I suppose that's another resolution to try to follow through on.

Will I actually make good on these promises to myself? I guess the only way for you to find out is to keep reading...