A blog about games, gamers, and various and sundry geek culture-related ephemera and paraphernalia.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

How We Roll

In a sense, the D&D game has no rules, only rule suggestions. No rule is inviolate, particularly if a new or altered rule will encourage creativity and imagination.
Says it all....

...And, it's why I love B/X Dungeons & Dragons - it's easy to alter or create a rule without causing massive structural flaws in the system.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Holy flurging shnit!

Pinch me... I must be dreaming...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Public Service Announcement...

... for my fellow Acquisitions Incorporated fans out there:

Maybe I'm late to the party, but I just discovered that Acquisitions Inc. has a new website - and a new weekly series!

Check it out:


I have to tell you, I love the mid-nineties aesthetic of the site, right down to a "talking assistant" and a spinning 3-D web graphic. (Although the ubiquitous spinning, flaming skulls are notably absent.) It takes me back to the humble beginnings of my career, when the web was the "World Wide Web," and we adventurous designers and developers were taking the first steps into a brave new virtual world, assisted by tools such as Homesite and POV-Ray. (And those in the know shunned FrontPage for the evil it wrought on the world!)

But I digress. The important thing is: no more watching reruns of live D&D games at PAX to get our Acquisitions Inc. fix! (Now, I'll just have to watch them to get my Aeofel fix...)

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Saturday, December 24, 2016

"The greatest Christmas gift I had ever received, or would ever receive"

Christmas Day, 35 years ago - 1981. I imagine there were more gifts than the three I recall clearly - most likely a variety of Star Wars toys, very few of the origins of which I can mentally track due to the sheer volume I've collected over the years. But these items were the big three that year, two of them still see semi-regular use to this day, and the first one is the greatest Christmas gift I've ever had the good fortune to be given:

The D&D Basic Set ("Moldvay" Basic)
Where it all started for me. This was my introduction to the rules of the game, and will forever be what first comes to mind when I think of D&D. Clean and concise, easy to understand, and oozing with character, the Moldvay Basic rule book is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of D&D evolution. I'm sure that opinion is based upon a good amount of nostalgic bias, but you have to at least agree that the "red book" is a worthy entry into the game's pantheon of rule books. Every time I play another form of the game, no matter how much I'm enjoying it - be it AD&D, the Rules Cyclopedia, 3.x, 5E, or even one of the retro-clones - I find myself occasionally having to suppress the urge to ditch what I'm doing and pull out that beloved red book...

Grenadier's "Denizens of the Swamp" Set
Prior to Christmas that year, I'd discovered that a local store carried a small variety of Grenadier's AD&D miniatures. I'd never seen game miniatures before and - being in the early stages of D&D mania - found myself coveting each and every set in stock. I managed somehow - I've since forgotten how - to score a set called "Specialists" before Christmas. As the holiday approached, I recognized the need to provide opponents for the heroes in said set, and that's how "Denizens" ended up on my Christmas list. Out of the box, one of the lizard men refused to stand, the basilisk's horn was broken off, and I thought the troll was too goofy for words - but I loved the set, nonetheless; especially the gnoll with the cross-dagger! Alas, I parted with many of these minis several years ago, but I still recall them fondly.

Milton Bradley's Dark Tower
What can I say? Dark Tower rocked, plain and simple. I recall suffering near unbearable angst as my brothers attempted to repair the game Christmas morning; it didn't work out of the box. This was a recurring theme for my childhood Christmases and birthdays, so by 1981 I was more or less used to this scenario. Fortunately, they successfully repaired it. (Much more successfully than earlier Christmases, where such repair efforts often left toys scarred or barely functioning, and less than enjoyable to play with.) When our first attempt to play D&D resulted in a boring session of murdering and looting the bodies of residents of the Keep on the Borderlands, this was the game that we turned to. It was - and still is, when I can get it to function - an immensely enjoyable way to pass the time with friends and family. (And the game's artwork still inspires me.)

I've had the good fortune to have enjoyed many good Christmases as a child, but none seem to stand out so clearly as this one - the "D&D Christmas" of 1981...
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(Last photo borrowed from gamehermit.com)

Here's hoping your holiday marks as wonderful a beginning for you, as well.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster: There's More Than One Way to Skin a Gator

The saga of Fred Carter continues with today's installment, Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster:  There's More Than One Way to Skin a Gator

Who is Fred Carter? You can find the answer to that question here.

What's Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster? That one's answered here.

Enjoy!

Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster
Part 3: There's More Than One Way to Skin a Gator

I thought for sure I was done for as the lizard-gator-man-thing prepared to clamp its massive, tooth-filled maw over my head.

Then, just as the thing was about to bite my head off, a machete seemed to appear out of nowhere and embed itself deep in its neck. A gout of black, brackish blood spewed upward and splashed across the bare fluorescent bulbs above. The beast reared back, a gurgling hiss issuing from its mouth. It let go of me as it started flailing at the blade. Its head rolled to one side, as half of the muscles that held it in place had just been cleanly severed.

I rolled away, and realized that the machete was attached to a man: the bruised and battered archaeologist dude.

As the creature frantically attempted to simultaneously halt the spray of blood that had begun spurting from its neck and keep its head from flopping to the side, the dude worked the massive blade loose and brought it down, again. This time, the thing's head fell right off. It stood there for a couple of seconds, flailing at the stump, then dropped to its knees and fell in front of me - spraying me again with the dark ichor that passed for its blood.

I stared at it for a moment, then heaved a heavy sigh of relief, as I realized that was the last of the monsters. As if in response, the headless body lurched up, and a massive, scaly skinned arm reached out for me. Its hand curled around my leg, and the corpse jerked forward as if to pull itself on top of me. I beat it with my fists and kicked it with my free leg, but it held tight.

The dude jumped on the thing's back and brought the heavy blade of the machete down on it again and again and again, chopping its hands from its arms. Then, its arms from its body. Finally, he up-ended the blade and drove it straight down between its shoulder blades.

The corpse twitched twice, then lay still. Its severed hand was still tightly wrapped around my calf.

"A little help here," I said to the dude as I tried to force the  disembodied hand to release my leg. He knelt down and the two of us began removing the hand, one broken finger at a time. Fortunately, there were only three of them.

"Colorado Jake," he said, helping me to my feet.

"Carter. Fred."

Jake looked around, found his brown fedora. I looked around, found Jeanine. She was sitting - dazed - against the side of the Honda, where she'd fallen when she tripped. I helped her up.

"You okay-"

"Look what you did to my car!" she snapped. She pulled herself away from me and punched me in the chest. "You wrecked it!"

"In my defense, we were being chased by swamp monsters," I said, not that I thought it would help much.

She didn't seem to care - she stood looking at her car, her back to me. She shook her head.

"I just made the second payment," she said. "Now look at my baby."

"You must be Jeanine," Jake said, extending his hand.

"This is as much your fault as it is his!" she barked, slapping his hand away. "If I hadn't come looking for your missing ass, none of this would have happened."

She turned and went to the beast she'd capped. She kicked it in anger and turned again to face us.

"And what the Hell are these things? Huh? Frickin' swamp creatures? What's up with that?"

Suddenly, her expression changed, as her brain switched gears - from stress-induced anger to sudden realization of what had just happened. Then, her eyelids fluttered and her eyes rolled back into her head. Jake and I caught her as she wilted to the pavement.

Continue reading...

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Monday, October 17, 2016

A Lesson in Humility

We wrapped up our Beyond the Supernatural adventure Saturday night: a cosmic horror was trying to force its way into our world, and our intrepid heroes stopped it in its tracks with a liberal application of psionics, magic, gunfire and dynamite.

At the climax of the game, It became visible and tangible, and any player character looking upon it had his or her sanity pushed to its limits. Madness was a real possibility.

So, I asked each player who decided to look (three out of four) and whose character failed the abysmally high Horror Factor check (all of those who looked at it, as it turns out) to make a roll under their character's Mental Endurance score.

The first made it with a critical roll (a natural 1, since they needed to roll low); the second failed and would face temporary insanity; and the third, well... herein lieth a lesson, my children:
Player: I automatically pass - my ME's 23. 
Me: Nope - you still have to roll. You could roll a fumble - a natural 20. 
Player (rolling his eyes and rolling the die): Not a problem!

Every person at the table - including the player in question, who - too late - recognized his hubris - knew from the moment the die fell casually from his fingertips what the result was going to be:



To add insult to injury, in a game where a natural 20 is usually an awesome thing, this was the only natural 20 he rolled during the entire game session.

The moral of today's lesson: the Dice Gods giveth, and the Dice Gods taketh away. And perhaps most importantly: the Dice Gods do not suffer hubris lightly.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster: Start the Engine!

The saga of Fred Carter continues with today's installment, Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster: Start the Engine!

Who is Fred Carter? You can find the answer to that question here.

What's Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster? That one's answered here.

Enjoy!

Fred Carter and the Mardi Gras Monster
Part 2: Start the Engine!

I just sat for a moment as my brain tried to process the scene before me.

Jeanine, however, had gone into full-on journalist mode. Meaning she'd lost all situational awareness as her camera flash went off like a strobe light as she snapped photo after photo... and walked straight into the path of the now-blinded dude and his linebacker-looking pursuers.

I saw this and my first thought was to get her out of the way. Unfortunately, as I tried to open the car door, I discovered that she'd parked within inches of the hydrant, effectively locking me in. All I could do was yell for her to:

"Look the fuck out, Jeanine!"

She must have heard me, because she left the zone and lowered the camera. She glanced over her shoulder at me, then at the oncoming wall of flesh. She dove out of the way just as one of the thugs caught up to the dude - stumbling and half-blinded, thanks to Jeanine's camera flash - and hooked his leg. It sent his large frame spinning though the air like a G.I. Joe.

Jeanine barely ducked under the flying man, diving to the pavement in front of the car. A taxi jerked to a stop - thankfully having been slowed by the traffic - just short of her head. The dude hit the hood of the Civic with a "crunch," and bounced off. He landed on the pavement right next to Jeanine.

I watched, helpless, as the costumed thugs stopped. Two of them were rubbing their eyes - a bizarre sight to see - as the third stepped to the curb and glared down at Jeanine and the stunned dude. Then, he looked around, as if searching for something. I was just beginning to wonder what he was looking for when he moved to the passenger side of the car, knelt down, and hooked his hands under it.

That's when I understood that what he was looking for was something big to crush the dude and Jeanine with. And I just happened to be sitting in that something.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How About Kult? Anybody Still Playing this Game?

While we're on the topic of niche 1990s role playing games, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to this one: Metropolis Ltd.'s Kult.

Kult is one of those games with which I have a deep love-hate relationship. In this case, that means that I love the game and I hate the fact that I haven't been able to spend more time enjoying the Hell out of it.

I discovered Kult at a time in my life (1991-92) when I was really embracing the horror sub-genre that I like to call modern dark fantasy (which would probably get lumped under "urban fantasy" these days). I'd recently been introduced to DC Vertigo's Sandman and Hellblazer comics, and was working my way through such Clive Barker works as The Books of Blood, Hellbound Heart, and Imajica. (The latter book I wanted very badly to like, but I started it four times in two or three years, and I could never get more than ten percent of the way through it. It just never hooked me.)

Around that time, I was also toying with a World of Darkness mash-up featuring characters from Werewolf, Vampire, Mage, and the Vampire splat book, "Hunters Hunted." That particular creation only saw play once, but it was a memorable game session with a few memorable characters. Also, by 1991-92, my group was solidly entrenched in our Bureau 13 modern horror campaign. We played at least once every weekend (more often, it was two or three times) so we had plenty of time to try out new material, and we were way into the horror genre.

When the group's other primary game master introduced me to Kult, I was at once entranced by the setting and repulsed by the game system. It was a clunky system (granted, far less clunky than our beloved B13) at a time when system design was undergoing a renaissance and moving away from clunky, toolkit-like systems toward sleek, focused ones. It was that, more than anything, that drove me away from Kult, initially.

Furthermore, given Kult's built-in setting (which is where it really shines) it wasn't likely to become a contender to replace our existing horror campaign. It was just too dark. (Which, interestingly enough, is why the brief campaign I ran a decade later crashed and burned: too nihilistic, according to the players.)

So, in honor of a game that I would really love to have played more but never did, here's a character sheet for Metropolis' first edition of Kult:


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