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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Photos From Uruguay!

In today's edition, first, we have some architecture. In the neighborhood I live in, the Cordon, we have a particular type of housing structure that is not as common anywhere else.  It's called the 'reciclaje', which is a very old structure (manor, old tenements, or even religious housing like The Abbey apparently once was), that is completely restructured into very beautiful very creative smaller housing or apartments. Almost all of these are found in the interior of the city blocks, reachable by a long hallway from the streetside, making these places their own little havens in the middle of the city.  They usually have their own little interior alleys or central courtyards.

Here's a couple of pictures taken from the gate of one of these complexes (not my own):

The Cordon was, for a long time, the outer limit of the city (we're talking about until around the 1930s or so); now it isn't even close and counts as part of downtown.   So in any case, it keeps a lot of neat architecture from a wide variety of periods, including some very old.

Finally, for today, I know I've posted this before, but did I mention the many, many awesome little bakeries?



Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

RPGPundit Reviews: Beneath the Banshee Tree

This is a review of "Beneath the Banshee Tree", described as "an investigative city adventure" for the Sertorius RPG.  I have previously reviewed Sertorius' main rulebook, and reading that review might be useful as context.

Beneath the Banshee Tree is a softcover book, 69 pages long, published by Bedrock Games, and written by Brendan Davis. It feature an appealing though not action-oriented full-color cover, with an image of an elf maiden of some kind sitting at what appears to be the base of some odd tree, holding a skull in her hands. The interior art is black and white, and appears to be from a mix of styles (and of what I think is likely public domain art vs. commissioned pieces).

So, as always with adventure modules I'm going to try to balance this review between providing enough information for readers to judge about it, while not providing too much information that would amount to spoilers in case people were going to play the adventure.

First, if you're not familiar with the Sertorius RPG, you may want to read my review of that game in order to aquaint yourself.  In brief, it is a fantasy RPG where you play extremely powerful heroes (basically demi-gods); kind of like the better-known Exalted, but a lot less pretentious.

The basic premise of Beneath the Banshee Tree is that the PCs come to the city of Talyr hearing that the King is offering a generous payment to any Sertori (super-dudes) who will work for him in his government or trade guilds. When they get there, they find that someone is trying to drain the magic of visiting spell-casters. After this, some people go missing, and a reward is offered to anyone who can solve the mystery.  There is of course a particular villain, with sinister occult intentions.  Also involved is a "Grim", one of the dark entities that some Sertori might intentionally or unintentionally turn into.

The module presents a very nice hex-map of the region where the adventure takes place: the "Talyr Pass in South Eastern Gamandria".

The book then goes straight into the adventure, starting with the mystery of a sertori NPC who suddenly appears to have a doppleganger. The adventure presumes the PCs have just arrived in Talyr. It is set up very much as a semi-sandbox, with the PCs free to go around and explore, but there are certain hooks and certain events that take place. One of the earliest hooks, for example, is a banquet held in honor of the visiting Sertori, which the PCs will presumably want to attend. Now, I'd say this is as best a semi-sandbox because the adventure is fairly predicated on the PCs actually participating in most of the events that take place.  For example, no explanations are given of how to proceed if none of the PCs attend said banquet, or a subsequent audience.  They could just wander around the city, but would be cut off from the main 'mystery' plot (at least, until events relating to the plot ended up involving them by force).  This is not so bad as it seems, since the very nature of the plot means that, as Sertori, sooner or later they will start to be targets of the villain of the adventure; how soon will depend on just what spells the PCs have. Presuming the PCs don't just decide to leave town, they'll be involved sooner or later, though it might have been better if there were more suggestions as to how this should play out in the event that the PCs don't bite into any of the hooks.  In short, the adventure doesn't railroad, but it presumes the players will actively go along with the obvious hooks offered.

The accelerating nature of the mystery is applied through a table of random events that happen once per day. These are set up so that they can happen in any order. Each particular event has details on what happened, how the PCs can get involved, and what the clues may lead to.

Chapter 3 of the book details the city of Talyr, and includes a nice-looking full-page city map.

It gives you a decent overview of the city, and some details on the surrounding areas, as well as a random encounter table just in case the PCs venture abroad. Within the city, there are random encounters for the "lower city" and the "upper city", which is to say the slums vs. where the posh people live. There are also a few detailed encounters that can happen at the GM's discretion, whenever the GM might feel like it.
You also get information on Talyr's culture, its merchants, gladiators, slaves, gangs and other groups of importance, and different specific areas of the city.  The latter includes the assembly place, the baths, a couple of inns, a coffee house, the markets, a couple of taverns, the grand temple, the city's main water source, the library, an old grove rumoured to be haunted, the gladiator pits, the barber shop, and the slums.  Various areas have notes of certain events or knowledge the PCs can pick up only after certain events in the adventure have taken place.  This whole chapter takes up about 20 pages of the book.

The remainder of the book provides stats and information on the main villain of the story, and on various other NPCs that can be encountered.

So on the whole, I think that "Beneath the Banshee Tree" is a pretty fine adventure for Sertorius.  It is quite open, not rail-roady at all. The city is interesting and the plot intriguing, with a good element of peril for the PCs.

I think that if you are interested in Sertorius, you'll be likely to be interested in Beneath The Banshee Tree.  On the other hand, if you aren't, there are some difficulties for using this adventure in some other game; mainly because the power levels of Sertorii are well above the D&D-standard, and the nature of the plotline is very setting-specific.


Currently Smoking:  Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

No Blog Today

Putting the finishing touches on my next review and my DCC campaign update. Plus, recovering from the first Lodge meeting of the year.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Classic Rant: Sex, Corruption and Violence in Old Tibet

I don't want people to think that I'm only critical of organized religion if that religion is Judaeo-christian. My own personal spirituality is of an eastern lineage, but don't let that lead you think that I'm going to let the Buddhists off scot-free.

My practice is Tantric in essence, and the Tantric Buddhist lineage par excellence is what we generally term "Tibetan Buddhism", Vajrayana. And I love Tibetan Buddhism, its richness (tied only with Latin Catholicism and eastern orthodox Christianity in terms of the beauty and richness of its imagery and ceremony), the purposefulness of its teaching, and the general goodness that its Lamas have spread out to the world in the last few decades.

But it simultaneously amuses and annoys me to no end that people (in the west in particular) end up creating fantasies in their minds about the Tibetan Buddhist RELIGION (that is to say, the organized institution of the Tibetan religion), both in terms of its history and its present structure, and I'm convinced that the Dalai Lama and the rest of the priesthood actively foment these misunderstandings because it at times serves their purposes. These misunderstandings mainly have to do with the completely confused perception people have of the Lamas and how they work, and the mythical history of "Old Tibet" as having been some kind of peaceful cloud-kingdom utopia until the Chinese came along and ruined it.

Shit, where to begin?
Ok, imagine the Catholic Church. Now imagine that somehow a malevolent force, let's say the Dutch... no, wait, the Gnomes... no, no, the Dutch.. anyways, someone went and somehow conquered the Vatican and simultaneously shattered the Church's religious infrastructure, taking away all of the Church's lands, its resources and properties and its valuables. Now imagine that the Pope was some doofus kid that had a very limited connection to previous events in his own history, and now imagine that the remnants of the church hierarchy and some of their followers are transplanted to Mars, where the native martians know very little about the church, except that it came from the Exotic Earth, and most everything else they will learn will be told to them by the surviving Church officials.
Its not difficult to imagine, under those contexts, Catholicism evolving to become a generally peaceful and loving religion based on genuine humility, and where the entire history of exploitation, manipulation, autocracy and constant, constant boy-fucking is all conveniently whitewashed, isn't it?

Well, its kind of like that with Tibetan Buddhism. We're the Martians.

So let's start with the most basic element: Tibetan Lamas are not Buddhas, they're Boddhisatvas. Their original spiritual purpose was to remain on the verge of full enlightenment, perpetually reincarnating in order to be able to point the way to the fully realized Buddhas that existed in any spiritual generation, to guide people to truth. A pretty freaking humble job, actually. Instead, they are often now seen as perfect god-kings with magic superpowers who are authorities in and of themselves. Sort of like the catholic bishops were originally meant to be the humble administrators of local communities and over time turned themselves into the "princes of the church".

Another common misconception that people have about Tibetan Buddhism is that it is really ancient. It isn't. It dates only back about nine hundred years, making it one of the newest schools in Tibetan Buddhism; and the current structure of the hierarchy of Lamas wasn't really established until the 14th century, making that even newer.

By the way, do you know who created the Lama system? Kublai Khan.
Yeah, that Kublai Khan, the Mongol warlord become emperor of China Kublai Khan. The whole structure of Lamas presiding over monasteries was created as a kind of political exercise by the Mongols, who were then the Chinese, by the way, so in a way you could kind of say its a bit ironic that the Tibetan monks in particular are claiming sovereignty from China. I support freedom for Tibet, but let's not invent fairy tales to try to push it.

(the totally spiritual founder of modern Tibetan Buddhism)

The biggest fucking fairy tale of all, by the way, was that pre-invasion Tibet was a Shangri-la paradise of love and peace. It was a theocracy. Direct rule by the church, with massive control over property and power and absolute authority to rule over people's lives.
Authority given by the Chinese, by the way. The Dalai Lama (the first one to actually use that title, not the current one) was established as the "head" of Tibetan Buddhism with the help of a large Chinese imperial army, that assisted him in seizing monasteries and properties he had no natural claim to, and destroyed Sutras (holy books) that could be used to question his claims to power.

The Dalai Lama is not, contrary to what some believe, the absolute authority of Tantra, Vajrayana, Tantric Buddhism, or even Tibetan Buddhism. He wasn't even the first Lama (that would be the Karmapa Lama). He is merely the head of his order (one of several Tibetan orders), but that was inflated with the help of good political maneuvers and lots of help from Chinese Emperors and Mongol chieftains into being the King of Tibet.
In fact, the fourth Dalai lama was the grandson of the Mongolian Khan who gave the Dalai Lama his title (and thus a descendant of Genghis Khan). He was famous for his corrupt and decadent lifestyle, and was ultimately murdered, probably by his own priests.
The 6th Dalai Lama was famous for being a heavy drinker, womanizing and writing erotic poetry. He was murdered by his feudal Chinese masters.
The 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th Dalai Lamas all died very young, before reaching adulthood, many of them very mysteriously; almost certainly murdered by the regents and advisers who wanted to hold on to their political power through never-ending child-lama-regencies.

So let's consider: at least a couple of the Dalai Lamas were completely in bed with the Mongols/Chinese; several of them were murderers and brutal dictators, others were just hedonists and degenerates, and then a few never got to be old enough to be degenerates on account of being murdered by their kindly monk-tutors in power grabs. Roughly half of the Dalai Lama's incarnations died violently.

The Dalai Lama's lineage, the "yellow hats", are actually the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism; and during the time of the Dalai Lama's rule, in particular the 3rd and 5th Dalai Lama, they engaged in brutal repression of the other lineages, particularly the older, and at times more popular Karmapa (Kagyu) Lineage. The 5th Dalai Lama invited a Mongol Warlord to sweep into Tibet and all but raze it to the ground just to break the power of the Karmapas, forcibly converting a great number of monks from the Kagyu lineage to the Gelug (Dalai Lama's) lineage. They conquered by sword & fire, no differently than the popes did in Europe.

The 13th Dalai Lama, the one just before the current one, was another man of skillful means, finally wising up to the fact that it kind of sucks getting murdered in your teens all the time, he made friends with a Russian who'd come to Tibet to become a monk, and got that Russian to help him flee the Potala Palace before the rest of his tutors could off him. He actually left the country, fleeing first to Mongolia and then to.. you guessed it... China. He spent 4 years away, then came back when he was old enough not to get murdered, then had to flee again in 1910 when the Chinese sent a military force to stop him from making reforms of the system, spending another 2 years in exile in India. He did finally return and make reforms of the whole system, and declared Tibet's independence from China, in 1913. 

So how the fuck do we get from that to the peaceful and loving perspective we see today? There's two parts to the answer to that question.
First, the Tibetan exile. Being forced out of Tibet, and material and political power, was without question the best thing that ever happened to Tibetan Buddhism. Political power corrupts. Removing it, and the hopelessly corrupt system that surrounding the Tibetan Theocracy, allowed for a reform of the whole structure of Tibetan Buddhism, not to mention the influx of new, western ideas and synthesis that has made Vajrayana Buddhism one of the most dynamic and spiritually powerful forms of Buddhism to emerge in a long time.

The second part of the answer is that it hasn't changed, at least not totally. There's still a powerful junta of monks whose chief interest is no different from the chief interest of the rich Cuban exiles in Miami, to get back their land and property so they can get back to exploiting people.
And remember, the vast majority of Tibetans living under the old Theocracy were serfs, with no rights, no education, no health care, no hope for anything better, being excessively and ridiculously taxed in order to maintain the lifestyle of their feudal Monk rulers, and being routinely beaten, raped and mutilated with impunity. The serfs lived lives of perpetual poverty, being taxed well above the level that most could ever hope to subsist on, then being loaned money by the monasteries at interest rates that made the debts impossible to pay back, and in Old Tibet debt was passed down from father to son to grandson. Most serfs by the time of the Chinese invasion were born owing more money than they could ever hope to earn. Female serfs were often used as sex slaves by their masters, and women, even nuns, received no education whatsoever.
There are reports also from monks who lived in Old Tibet that, since they were chosen for monastic training as young boys, and since celibacy was the expected norm inside the monasteries, you can imagine that the place became an absolute hotbed of sexual abuse.

And in all these material, physical and sexual abuses, the corrupt monks used religion as a justification. Not unlike the the way the Evangelical "prosperity gospel" types distort Christian teaching to suit their agendas, these Buddhist monks distorted the very notion of Karma to claim that anyone born a serf was being punished for "bad karma" in previous lives, and anyone born a ruler was being rewarded for their virtuous lives.
European visitors to Old Tibet often wrote about the horror of the feudal theocracy. One called it "the intolerable tyranny of monks"; another, Percival Landon, described it (in 1904) as "an engine of oppression".
In 1937, only 22 years before the Dalai Lama's exile, Spencer Chapman wrote:

“The Lamaist monk does not spend his time in ministering to the people or educating them. . . . The beggar beside the road is nothing to the monk. Knowledge is the jealously guarded prerogative of the monasteries and is used to increase their influence and wealth.”

This is the world that Tibetan Buddhism had created when it had power, and that some still want to imagine they can return to.
But even those others, who are western and reform-minded, are not the saints people make them out to be. The Dalai Lama, the current one I mean, has been taking support and money from the C.I.A. for decades now; and this is no conspiracy theory, he's admitted as much, you can google it.
He's also been in many respects a wonderful spiritual teacher, spreading an incredible message. He's expressed openly that the corruption of the Old Tibet was wrong. He's tried to reform the system. He's certainly a better spiritual leader than any Catholic Pope I've seen in my lifetime (having missed John XXIII).

But that doesn't mean he isn't also still very concerned with his own political authority, and still playing some of the old games of conflicts with the other lineages, trying to bully them around. The Karmapa lineage in particular has been a serious thorn in the side of the Dalai Lama's Gelug school, because it turns out that the exile has been especially good for them: the Karmapa (Kagyu) school has been more popular than the Dalai Lama's own Gelug school in exile, and has grown incredibly fast, growing in power and influence as it outstrips the Gelug school in size. In great part this was thanks to the wisdom of the 16th Karmapa, the Lama of the Kagyu school who was (alongside the great Chogyam Trungpa) probably one of the greatest spiritual practitioners to have emerged from Vajrayana in the last several centuries, and who was really the first great proponent of bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the west.

When the 16th Karmapa died, the Dalai Lama became personally involved in supporting a particular claimant to the succession of that title (something he has NO right to do, no authority, as his lineage is totally separate); backing a claimant that was NOT the choice of the majority of the Karmapa monks. In fact, the Dalai Lama's choice was also the choice of the hated Chinese government! Why would the Dalai Lama back a puppet Lama chosen by the Chinese occupation? Simple: if the Karmapa was a prisoner of the Chinese state with no ability to rule over the Kagyu lineage in the west, the Kagyu school would find itself greatly disadvantaged, to the benefit of the Gelug school. As it turns out, that kid managed to also escape from the Chinese and now there are TWO Karmapas running around in the west, creating a religious clusterfuck of epic proportions and a decade and a half of infighting among Tibetan Buddhists that has escalated more than once to physical conflict, not to mention serious lawsuits going on in India over who has control of the Kagyu hierarchy and properties.

So where does this all leave us?
The problem is not with Christianity, or Buddhism, or with God, or even with religion; except inasmuch as people misunderstand these things and make absurd expectations, wanting Gurus to be perfect beings (rather than total humans) or priests to be infallible sources of spiritual wisdom and authority rather than administrators who should be looked upon as civil servants for the church rather than wise masters. The problem is when you create a hierarchy that allows very imperfect people to end up inheriting spiritual authority, not on their merits as enlightened individuals but on the basis of their following a set of misplaced rules or blood-inheritance, or their administrative skills; when you confabulate, in other words, wearing a fancy hat with being a truly spiritual person. The problem is with the Organization of religion beyond the immediate relationship of teacher and student into an administrative structure that quickly loses sight of what the fuck it was there for in the first place.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Argento Latakia

(Originally Posted April 29, 2010)

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Wild West Campaign Update

In this week's session, the PCs learned:

1. You don't go around telling the Sheriff that you found a man scalped within a quarter-mile of Dodge when you're in the middle of the saloon.

2. Before the Internet was invented, gossiping like wildfire was pretty much the only thing people could do to entertain themselves.

3. If you show off you're good with a horse, the next thing you know you'll be a front-runner in the 4th of July horse race.

4. Even when Wyatt isn't in town, Morgan Earp just can't catch a break.

5. If there seems to be a serial scalper right in town, it's not going to be an Indian.  If he scalps as well as the best of them, he's probably an old buffalo hunter.

6. The chase rules are quite good fun.

7. A crazed old buffalo hunter with a tomahawk and a bowie knife is as dangerous as any gunman.

8. Sheriff Charlie Basset will gun down the closest thing he ever had to a father, if it's what it takes to uphold the law.

9.  Losing a horse race by a nose to a New York ringer will bring you almost as much fame and prestige as actually winning. But it still won't give you back your betting money.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Gawith's Commonwealth

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Classic Rant: Bold Steps Backwards: Announcing the PSR

As of today, I am celebrating the recent announcement by some of the guys over at Dragon-foot, the Knight-and-Knave Ale-house, and other bastions of Old-School Purity, of the birth of the new, more purist (because we all know ideological/historical purity is the key to fun, don't we?) Paleolithic School Restoration.  Also known as the PSR, where we fix what went wrong with RPGs for good this time.

One cannot disagree with the argument some of that gang of moderates who call themselves the Old School Renaissance have said, that RPGs have "taken a wrong path". But where they are deeply wrong is in their timeline. The mistake wasn't 2e (as most of the OSR-ites seem to feel), nor was it 1e (as some seem to feel).

No, we at the Paleolithic School Restoration take this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, and judge that the place where it all went wrong was none other than 0e!
That's right, the original D&D booklets were an abomination that twisted the whole meaning of our great RPG hobby by altering the "fast and loose" style of play that existed before its publication.

We at the PSR want to bring Roleplaying back to what it once was: playing Chainmail and making your miniatures talk in funny voices.

THAT, and nothing else, is the pure fundamentalism of RPGs.

The PSR: because being an RPG luddite shouldn't be an unifinished task.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

(Originally posted April 1, 2010)

Friday, 25 March 2016

Urbanski: Sex With Ted

So, it has now come out that Ted Cruz has apparently been involved in affairs with five different women besides his wife.  As implausible as it sounds that there could really be a total of six women on the planet willing to sleep with Ted Cruz, it certainly seems like the National Enquirer (who broke the scandal, like they did the John Edwards scandal before this) have showed more actual Journalistic skill on this than the entire rest of the mainstream media.  They were very careful to cross all their Ts and dot their Is, because this is how they avoid lawsuits.  So it sure looks like it's the real thing.

In honor of that, I present to you my collection, thus far, of the @KasimirUrbanski "Sex with Cruz" posts from Twitter and G+. Visualize, if you have the stomach for it, what sex with Ted Cruz must be like:

Imagine this face, looking down at you, drenched in sweat, making animal-like moaning noises from his dead lips as he humps you to the sound of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" playing in the background...

He asks you if he can talk dirty to you while you fuck, and if you reluctantly agree, he starts telling you about how David smote the Jebusites.

He has a part of his body he  calls "'lil Ted"... but it's not his penis.

"Ted Cruz will show America the face of GOD" -Heidi Cruz

It turns out, "the face of GOD" was Ted's nickname for his penis.

Imagine that face, those lips, whispering into your ear in mid-coitus "Can I call you Hillary"?

"My son is an Anointed King, destined to take control of all sectors of society" -Pastor Rafael Cruz

Now we know what he was "anointed" with.

Imagine if you were a woman and Ted Cruz was going down on you. 

It would feel like if you were getting oral sex from a blobfish

If you have an affair with Ted Cruz, he won't promise to leave Heidi for you, but he will promise to speak with Jesus on your behalf on Judgment Day.  

It gets really awkward when Cruz asks you to dress up as Mary Magdalene and wash his feet with your tears.

When Cruz goes down on someone, he never stops talking about "carpet bombing"

Cruz also cries after sex, but he says it's only because he's thinking of the Founding Father's greatness.

But seriously, folks, the #CruzSexScandal isn't just fun and games. He gave $500K to the Fiorina campaign. If that was Hush Money, then Cruz may end up in prison.  Where the Cruz sex will be even more gross. 


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Everyjoe Thursday: Cuba Edition

Yeah, I know, I've been doing a lot of writing for EJ lately, but it seems like there's been a lot going on lately.  And when I get the urge to write, EJ wants to publish it because Urbanski writes good!

And how was I not going to write about Obama's visit to Cuba, what with me being EJ's chief (and only) Latin American correspondent?

So, here's the thing about President Obama's visit: it was not like Reagan going to the USSR or Nixon going to China.  Those were successes for the prestige of the United States.  This was an exercise in Cuban propaganda, because Obama seemed hellbent on getting absolutely everything wrong.

The important thing, though, is not so much what Americans thought about it, but what effect it had in the Latin world.  And the effect was this:  it delighted those Latinos who hate America, it severely disappointed those who love America, and for all the rest it seemed to make Cuba look strong, and the U.S. very, very weak.

I explain why in today's article: How Obama's Cuban Visit Hurt Latin-American Impressions of the U.S.

As always, if you liked it please reshare it on Twitter, G+, and Facebook, or anywhere else you can think of. Thanks!


Currently Smoking: Ashton Old Church Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

OBS Turns Around, Quickly Reinstates Alpha Blue, But This Resolves NOTHING

So, it is a victory, kind of!

Alpha Blue author Venger Satanis is now reporting that he had a conversation with Steve Wieck where the latter agreed to reinstate Alpha Blue.  This after they  had earlier pulled Alpha Blue and threatened to keep it out for up to two weeks while they 'reviewed' the case, based on complaints made by some Pseudo-Activist Swine who found the slightly naughty game offensive.
This was only possible because OBS has already surrendered to the notion of allowing this Outrage Brigade to act as CENSORS over the gaming hobby.

Now, it is great news that Alpha Blue is back and that once again Wieck has chosen to stand up for the right of these RPGs to exist, though it doesn't change the fundamental issue. I mean, what's to stop SJWs from mass outrage and pushing Wieck to fold and ban it again, which is exactly what happened with 'tournament'?

They are bound to be angry about this, and Wieck has a perfect track record of submitting to their demands thus far.   

It also doesn't change the deeper issue: that the whole 'report button' process of pre-censoring books while they are 'under review' is FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG.  It is deeply offensive. I'll go so far as to call it an active EVIL. 

And let's see whether the 'white list' really means anything or not.  Remember, Wieck so far has a PERFECT track record of SURRENDER and APPEASEMENT to the SJWs.  We'll have to see what happens now when Tracy Hurley or Fred Hicks or any of the usual suspects start to raise up a ruckus about how Wieck is "enabling rape culture" by having "endorsed" Alpha Blue.  We'll see just how long his newfound lack of utter spineless cowardice holds

It's great that Alpha Blue is back (and now has the theoretical promise of never being pulled again, though I suspect that promise isn't worth the paper its written on).  But this doesn't change the fact that the book SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN CENSORED IN THE FIRST PLACE.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Gawith's Commonwealth

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Everyjoe Tuesday: Christian Persecution Edition

I'm not Christian. But American Christians are kind of right about the massive double-standard that makes them feel under attack.  

If anyone treated Islam the way the Left treats Christianity, the Left would be up in arms and demanding blood!

Check out what I mean in my latest article on EJ, about Why Christian Conservatives Really Feel Persecuted

And as always, if you agree, or just find it interesting, or want to piss off someone you know, please feel free to retweet it, share it, post it on Facebook, on G+, wherever!  Thanks.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Bent Billiard + Image Latakia

Monday, 21 March 2016

OBS - RPGnow Has Claimed its First Victim of Outrage Brigade CENSORSHIP

Venger Satanis' Alpha Blue (an RPG currently on my to-be-reviewed list) has just been Censored by OBS, the largest bookseller of RPG products on the internet.

This comes several months after they instituted a policy agreeing that if anyone (but we all know that by 'anyone', they meant fashionable Pseudo-Activist Swine with totalitarian agendas) were to complain about any product at any time, this product would be pulled to be examined, and possibly permanently censored, rather than let it 'offend' anyone.

Venger Satanis publishes weird, sometimes juvenile products with a touch of rumpy-bumpy salaciousness.  But it's not porn. It's not something that would warrant an X rating.

But it offends the sensibilities of dangerous, censorship-happy Swine who want to take control of the hobby.

So here we are, TWO WEEKS of review time, during which Satanis won't be able to sell his products.  Are they going to pay him back for lost profits in that time? Is OBS going to make it up to him if his product is ruled to be Politically-correct enough to be allowed to stay?  Of course, if it is, and the Outrage Brigade rises up in complaint and say mean things to the FUCKING SPINELESS COWARDS that run OBS (like Steve Wieck, who in censoring Alpha Blue has proven what a WORTHLESS FUCKING SHITSACK COWARD he is), then what will save Satanis from OBS fucking bending over again and turning around on its decision (to avoid being called 'sexist' by thought-control TOTALITARIANS like Tracy Hurley or Fred Hicks, who think THEY should get to decide what books you should or should not be allowed to read)?

So here is what all of you can do:

1. Write to Steve Wieck, at and tell him to stop being a fucking cunt, find his backbone, and stand up for free expression and against censoring his own website.

2. FUCK UP HIS SYSTEM. Go on the website and report every fucking book you can. Let him know the wages of sin.

3. Start going to the alternative. We now have the Tabletop Library. PUBLISHERS: put your products there and let Wieck know you will be putting your products there.  Gamers: let publishers know you'd rather buy books there than on RPGNow or DTRPG (which are both owned by the same company, OBS, and run by the same FUCKING SLIMEBALL COWARD, Steve Wieck). 
Buy all the stuff you can at the Tabletop Library!  

Wieck, you piece of shit, get ready. I'm not going to let a Professional Sea Slug like yourself hand over the entire hobby to a gang of Pseudo-Activist Fascists just because you personally lack the vertebrae to ever ever stand up to them.   You don't want to fight them because it's hard and they're really mean?  Well, bitch, you haven't seen hard or mean yet. I'm the motherfucker that's stopped them before.  And since you won't learn the easy way, the only option you leave us is to make it MUCH MORE UNCOMFORTABLE for you and your company to keep listening to the fascists and censoring products than it would be to stand up to the pseudo-activists, propping up your invertebrate mass however you can manage, and let out a sluglike meep of refusal to them, even if only out of fear of what people like me will do to you if you don't. 

Do yourself a favor: put Alpha Blue back where it was. Now. 


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Sunday, 20 March 2016

DCC Campaign Update: Pandassasins!

So as of last adventure, the PCs found themselves in the Dust Sea, looking for the Archemaster's new lair, determined to get from him the Arrow of Seeking which has the possibility to lead them to a surviving Ancient.  They need to do this, because G.O.D. has woken up from his "emergency mode", and apparently plans to wipe out most life in the world in order to start again from scratch (to make things worse, according to reliable information, the tools needed to remake the world don't actually exist anymore, which means it would be the end for everything)!
G.O.D. has ensconced himself in the highest dimension, the Crown of Creation, which can't even be reached by anyone other than an ancient with the correct control codes.

So here's what happened:

-"Ack'basha might be trying to kill the world, but you're a weirdo!"
"We're not so different, you and I"

-The fanfic-porn-writer quickly gets himself in over his head by getting hired as Sandy the Bikini-Chainmail-barbarian Warlord's 'chronicler'.
"so... I'm guessing you're a 'top', right?"
"...I'm a top warlord!"

-Suddenly, horrific mutant creatures with a hideous appearance come forth out of the sands and attack the PCs!
"Are we seriously being attacked by six-armed Sand-assholes?"

-"I like how Ack'basha still keeps pretending like he's thinking about what he's going to do at the start of combat. Like he's ever going to choose something for the good of the party, and not just cast Holy Sanctuary on himself"

-"This is one fight where no matter who the winner is, it's going to be some sort of asshole".

-Ack'basha fails to cast Holy Sanctuary, and is actually taken down by a deadly grab-and-bite combo that the PCs immediately dub the "sphincter attack".

-"I, Sandy the Warlord, devastated the asshole! I want your chronicle to say that!"
"Oh, believe me, it will"

-"Ugh.. I'm covered in whatever fluids that sand-asshole had inside it."

-The PCs finally find their way to the Archemaster's new base.  A huge, rusted, semi-ruined Ancients' structure in the middle of the Dust Sea.  It is covered in magical runes that the fanfic-writer identifies as being wards preventing access to Daemons and annulling Daemonic magic.
"What a craphole!"

-As soon as they enter, they are confronted by a group of incorporeal undead that seem to be the phantasms of long-dead technicians.
"Look out, Nerd-Wraiths!"

-"This door is sealed, Doctor Theobald, do you know how to get it open?"
"Possibly, but I don't have any tools".
"I have some thief tools!"
" just gave me medieval thief tools to open a super high-tech Star-trek slidey-door."
"Can you do it or not?"

-In fact, the Ape-man academic was not able to open the star-trek door with medieval thief tools.  So Sandy starts working on bashing it to pieces with her axe.  She does this for about ten minutes before the PCs remember they have a super-strong Industrial Robot on their team.

-In the next area, they encounter some highly emaciated Snow-creatures.
"What kind of idiot would stock his desert-dungeon with snow-golems?!"
"Well, remember, the guy used to be based in the tundra..."

-They quickly dispatch the pathetic creatures, who were already on their last legs.
"Anyone actually hurt?"
"No, the only casualty here was the Archemaster's dignity"

-Next they get to an area that has an ancient (now insane) robotic brain, guarded by a few Robo-wasps, which have a decent amount of hit points but pathetic armor and weapons. They too are quickly dispatched.
"What the fuck is this, The Dungeon of Pathetic Creatures?!"

-The Insane Computer demands that all the PCs bow before it, and swear allegiance to eternal Evil!
"That's not even an alignment here!"


"I have a couple of fanfics that start that way..."

-Ack'basha tries to convince the computer
"The Evil that G.O.D. will accomplish is greater than any other considerations!"

-Sandy finally gets tired of the evil computer and smashes it to pieces.

-The PCs move on to a huge chamber that looks like the central power-plant.  As they arrive, they're confronted by more of the Archemaster's Ice Golems, coming in from the other entrance!
These are in slightly better shape than the ones at the start, but with the extreme heat of the room, they start to melt all on their own.

-Chu is a bit impatient.
"If the heat doesn't get them, my flamethrower will!"

-They move on into a room where a Dark Elf is sitting meditating.  It turns out he's a sinister Dark Elf warrior/wizard, who like most Dark Elves looks totally badass but has a stupid name and a squeaky little voice.
In this case, he is "Darth Tobias" and came to this complex to try to control some ancient artifacts, giant statues, in the other room.  The PCs try to recruit him but he's not interested in joining their quest to save the world, only to gain the awesome power of the God-statues.

-"So, he's trying to control superpowerful ancient artifacts that have dark power?  Yeah, boys, I'm pretty sure this is a problem that will solve itself..."

-Instead of fighting him, the PCs just go past him, and then seal him in the room with an extra-powerful Ward Portal spell, just to piss him off.   There's nothing more fun than pissing off Dark Elves. They deserve it.

-The PCs are nearly at the Archemaster's chamber, when suddenly, Pandassasins attack!
Yes, those are Pandas who are also assassins.

-They also have some magical abilities.  Unfortunately for the PCs, one of them involves mentally dominating Sandy the Warlord, and having her start to attack the PCs. Somehow, they've managed to turn the most pathetic dungeon they've been in into the deadliest encounter they've had in ages!

-Bill the Elf tries to use a Planar Step to get out of Dodge, misfires, and ends up making all the PCs switch places.  Suddenly, most of the party is left out in the statuary room with the Pandassasins, while Bill and Chu are left stuck with a still mind-controlled and murderous Sandy!  Well, she's ALWAYS murderous, but usually its toward people other than the PCs.

-"Chu, do you have anything that can stop Sandy?!"
"Only my spear, and a desperate will to live!"

-Chu impressively manages to disarm Sandy!
"That gives us a chance!"
"She'll probably just start punching the shit out of us.. please please just punch the shit out of us!"

-Bill tries to counter the mind control with magic, and this causes a Phlogiston Disturbance, which leads to a "bullet time" confrontation between him and the Chief Pandassassin-wizard, while everyone else is moving in ultra-slow motion.

-Bill takes advantage of "Bullet time" by touching Sandy with the Primo Staff, leaving her stoned out of her mind.  Then he goes and kills the fuck out of the Pandassassin boss.

-When ordinary-time comes back, Sandy is tripping balls next to the panda corpse.
"This dead panda is soooo fuzzy..."

-The remaining Pandassasins are made to flee, but not before the fanfic-writer was tragically slain.  His last request is that his final erotic fanfics be published.  Ack'basha immediately burns them all instead.

-The party finally encounters the Archemaster, in a room filled with treasure, and a Sand Elemental, and a couple of very sickly looking dire snow-apes.  Just by looking at him, the PCs can tell the Archemaster is bugfuck nuts.

-Everything else in the world of the Last Sun may be facing extinction, but there's no risk of running out of crazy wizards any time soon.

-"what the fuck happened to you, man?"
"I'm having a temporary staffing problem!"

-The Archemaster is willing to peaceably part with the Arrow of Seeking, but he demands one of two conditions: he must either be given a "perfect human girl of marriageable age", or the death of the Council of Really Old Wizards (who drove him away from the Tundra).

-The PCs use the Arrow of Seeking, and it teleports them all to a half-collapsed deep underground chamber with a single Cryo-statis Tube.  Inside, there is a healthy-looking adult male Ancient wearing the uniform of the Command Staff.  Exactly what they need to get to the Crown of Creation and have a chance to stop G.0.D.'s insane plan.

-The second they free him, the Wizard Nikos teleports in from nowhere, grabs the Ancient, and teleports away!  He was playing the PCs all along.  Unable to get into the Archemaster's warded lair, he manipulated Bill and later the whole party to get the arrow and lead him to the Ancient he needed, presumably to go to the Crown of Creation himself.

(crazy old Greek wizards are the worst of all!)

"What a fucking asshole!"

So, we stop off there, once again finding that the PCs have potentially fucked up the world even worse than before.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Rattray's Old Gowrie

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The New Game (store) in Town (Online): Tabletop Library!

So, first, I have to say I had another great time last night at the "Tavernorca" RPG game night. It was quite the blast having people come over asking me to sign copies of Lords of Olympus!

And of course, my Dark Albion: Inquisitors Campaign game went very well. I had a full house of players: two returning from the last game, one of my regulars who dropped in, and three new players.  It was damn fun, and I'm guessing a lot of them will be back for next time.  I'm playing it as a casual kind of campaign; players can drop in or not depending on if they can make it, which is the format necessary for that kind of game.

Meanwhile, there's also some news about Arrows of Indra!  You can now find Arrows in a new storefront; as well as its existing sales venues, you can find Arrows of Indra in the Tabletop Library.   That's a brand new online RPG-focused store.  More specifically, focused on OSR products, but importantly, not exclusively!  There's already quite a few interesting products for sale on there, so go check it out.

And if you haven't already bought Arrows of Indra, here's a great chance to do so and to support a badly-needed competitor to the RPGnow monopoly.  Having stores like this around can help prevent the big boy in town from choosing to bow to pressure to committing censorship, and that's important.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Solitario + H&H's Beverwyck

Friday, 18 March 2016

MORE Everyjoe?! More on Trump?!

Yes, more on Donald Trump in another special edition extra from Everyjoe!  Why?

Because I think we need to look at what Trump's success says about the Establishment.

Uprisings like the one Trump is leading can only happen when the elites are hopelessly corrupt. And the people who think they deserve to rule us have proven themselves so utterly self-serving and inept, even as they are so infuriatingly self-congratulating of their own decadence. They’ve taken off their masks and have shown us just how little they think of us all.

As always, please share, retweet, +1, etc etc.!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Gawith's Balkan Flake

Thursday, 17 March 2016

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Beta Gamer

I've waxed on repeatedly in the course of this blog's years about the GM as the "Alpha Male" of a gaming group. I've even occasionally talked about the Omega Male, the one the rest of the group tends to shit on.
And I've certainly talked a great deal about Prima Donna Players, would-be Alpha-Males who want to usurp the GM's role and ruin the fun for everyone but themselves.

But what I haven't talked a lot about is the Beta. The real, faithful Beta; not the competitor for the GM's power but the loyal sidekick and leader of the Players.

In the history of my experience with RPG campaigns, I had noticed that the group dynamic was absolutely key to whether a game was successful, or indeed any good; not the group dynamic in the sense of "what kind of games they like" or some nonsense like that, but in the sense of "what are they like as people"? Can they fill the necessary roles to make the group a good functioning and stable group.

And I would say that I've come to at least three very solid conclusions on this subject:

1. A group/campaign with a weak GM, where the GM is not the Alpha of the group, is doomed to fail.

2. A group/campaign that has an Omega, strange as it may sound, is more stable and successful than a group that does not.

3. A group/campaign that has a good solid Beta is far more likely to experience long-term success and enthusiasm.

This third point is interesting. Because what it says to me, what my experience is, is that its just not enough for the GM to work really hard and be really excited about his RPG. How many times have you seen it happen, where a GM is telling his group "This campaign I'm planning is awesome, its going to be really great! Really!", and then it isn't? I'll bet you that a lot of the times, when you think about it, no one but the GM himself was very enthusiastic about that campaign. He was trying to sell it to the players, but no one was really buying, so it was doomed.

On the other hand, if even ONE player is very keen about the idea, that enthusiasm will be contagious in a way that the GM's enthusiasm alone is not. Maybe because the player is "one of them"? I don't know.
And in the course of the game, having one player that regularly shows, that is deeply into and committed to the game, and is gung-ho about the group getting things done in the setting and succeeding in the adventures, is pretty much a guarantee of awesome.
With one caveat: that player can't just be any player. He has to be a player who the others will follow. That's what it means to be the Beta. And usually, for that to happen, he has to want the whole group to have an awesome time, to succeed, and not just himself. There can be would-be Betas as much as there can be would-be-alphas in a gaming group. When a player has enthusiasm but simply isn't all that charismatic, he can flop as a Beta.

In fact, pretty much all those "prima donna players" are likely Beta-flops. They can get really excited about campaigns too, but because they want to be the star; and that kind of ego-centric attitude is not a characteristic of the good Beta. A good Beta is not necessarily someone with great leadership qualities, or the smartest in the group or certainly not the loudest in the group, but the one that gets deeply into the campaign as a whole, not just his role in it; and therefore wants everyone to enjoy the game as much as he does. And he does all this without ever trying to be in control of the campaign itself, but out of real joy to be in it, in his assigned and chosen role of Player.

Of course, unlike an Alpha, there can be more than one Beta at a time in a gaming group. And being a Beta by no means suggest someone who isn't capable of being a good Alpha. A Beta may or may not be a great GM in his own right when he plays that part.


(Originally Posted January 8, 2010)