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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Why the Traditional GM/Player Roles Matter

In a recent RPGsite thread, the age-old debate was once again reignited about the question of why it would be a bad thing to take away certain powers from the GM (in this case, the GM's authority to roll dice).  Some of the typical arguments were presented; and here's my response to them.


a. You maintain the traditional role of the GM as "it's all about meeee!"

No, I maintain his traditional role as "The GM is the final authority of the RPG game; NOT the loudest most annoying player, NOT the "rules-as-written-and-interpreted-by-the-best-rules-lawyer, NOT the Asshole Game Designer who thinks his own personal genius makes him a better judge of what should happen at a gaming table 3000 miles away from him than the guy actually running the table; NOT a movement that thinks GMs are a Product of Rape-Culture Imperialist White Patriarchy".


b. You want 'your' monsters to be as important as the player characters!

The monsters ARE as important as the characters. If you understood how RPGs worked, you'd know that. Shit, the weather is as important as the player characters. Whether or not there's gunpowder available in the market is as important as the player characters.
The player characters are just the Players' vehicles to interact in a VIRTUAL WORLD. Since the entire fun of the game depends on the realistic emulation of that Virtual World in order to achieve IMMERSION, all of those things are equally important for Fun to be achieved.

If a player feels like world is flat because he only ever interacts with the world through rolling his own stats, as if nothing in the world but his own PCs' stats were real or mattered, then the World does not become True, he can't achieve Immersion, and THE GAME FAILS.


c. We are ultimately in service to the players!

No. The GM and the Players are ALL there to have fun. The GM isn't a fucking slave there, to be punished for some imagined ancestral sin by having to be a toadie to whatever a group of fetishists want as fantasy wish-fulfillment. There's a reason why Forge games are all for one-shots.

The GM has a DUTY to make sure his players will have the most fun possible for the longest time possible. Why does he have that Duty? Because HE IS THE ULTIMATE POWER, and with great power comes great duty. If he didn't have that power, he would not have any such duty and could be whatever kind of piece of shit he wanted. And for that matter, if he did not have that power he wouldn't even have the capacity to make sure players have the most fun for the longest time possible, because to make sure that happens he must be able to have the power to say NO to their capricious little spoiled whims of the moment. If he can't say No to them getting whatever the fuck they feel like just now, the game ends quickly as one or two people at the table (again, the loudest, most annoying players) get a session that went exactly how THEY wanted it to, and everyone else feels cheated.


d. Yeah, well maybe there's better ways out there than your one-true-way!

There aren't. That's why none of the bullshit garbage ideas the bullshit garbage Swine have come up with over the years to try to hijack games has produced anything other than misery, and why Old School, my "one true way", and myself personally are all more popular now than ever.
Must suck to be you some mornings...


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Classic Rant: RPGPundit's Advice for RPG-Designers Being Targeted by the Ctrl-Left

I'm not going to say who it was, for obvious reasons, but someone recently wrote to me privately, about how there were some of the Usual Suspects (in this case on RPGnet, but it could really have been anywhere) attacking his rpg-writing. This particular designer had never had this happen to him before now, and he was quite concerned and didn't know how to deal with it. They were attacking his present work, looking at old posts to find things he might have said years ago to use against him, whipping up the mob into a frenzy, etc.; all the usual tactics. So, I thought I'd share here what I wrote to him, since other people might also benefit from it someday. 
Names have been withheld, but the rest of this posted for general benefit. You never know when YOU might be the next one targeted, because increasingly, there's no real criteria as to who get's chosen as the Pseudo-activists' next victim.


Without further ado:


Ok, first: don't apologize for anything, don't try to hide anything. Don't delete things you said in the past. If you honestly don't believe in it any more, say so, but don't hide it. If you do believe in it, be shameless about it. They're going to go for the throat anyways, NOTHING will make them stop, so don't think you can try to make some kind of compromise with them. If you show any weakness, they just get more rabid.

Second, why are you engaging them on their own territory where they have all the advantage? They get to say things you don't, they can paint you as the unreasonable one, and if you get mad they'll paint you as 'erratic', and then when they think its the right moment, they'll ban you.
You're already banned there, it just hasn't finished happening yet.

Find better places to promote your product. The rpgnet ruling clique has decided your game is evil, that's it. You're dead there. You should go promote it where you are likely to actually find an audience, in other forums (like theRPGsite), and on G+ or Facebook.

The best way to beat them is to be blatant about how they mean nothing to you, and to succeed in spite of them. Whenever you do that, it weakens them. When you take them seriously, or try to reason with them, it only makes them stronger.

One more thing: in my experience, in the long run, there's no such thing as 'bad press'. Some of it can limit your options in the future, but usually only if you're very clearly a controversy-hound (along the lines of James Desborough). If you are professional about it, getting slammed by a gang of assholes just makes people pay attention to you. You'll be crying all the way to the bank, if you work this right.




RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Poker + Gawith's Virginia Flake

(Originally posted May 28, 2016)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Update On My Project: Future Pundit Products

So, my little OSR products projects is continuing along. Today I saw what will probably be the final look of the cover of our series.  My publisher is eager and is doing a great job so far.

Over the past couple of weeks I've had to deal with a prolonged period of internet blackout and then personal illness. But I've still managed to get quite a few new products written. Here's the quick list of stuff you will soon be able to buy:


RPGPundit Presents: Three Medieval-Authentic Magical Grimoires

RPGPundit Presents: The Goetia

RPGPundit Presents: The Book of the Art of Hours

RPGPundit Presents: The Kitchen Sink!

RPGPundit Presents: Medieval-Authentic Firearms and Cannon


Anyways, that's it for today, I'll share more titles as I write them.


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Monday, 19 June 2017

Wild West Non-Update

Because I was a little under the weather this weekend, I found myself obliged to cancel my Wild West session. So there's not going to be any update this time around.

In place, I post this for my players (and readers) by way of saying sorry:





RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Egg + H&H's Chestnut

Sunday, 18 June 2017

A Spectacular Comparative Review of Amber, LoO, and LoGaS

I'm playing DCC in a bit here, so today I'm going to refer you to a very interesting review. No, not one of mine, but one of my games is being reviewed.

The review is by RPGsite contributor "Headless", and it compares the three classic Diceless RPGs: Amber, Lords of Olympus, and Lords of Gossamer And Shadow.

And yes, Lords of Olympus comes out of it looking really good. But that's not really what I found so good about the review. It was the detail and analysis comparing what each game has, what each game's strengths and weaknesses are.

So if you had any doubts about the differences and similarities between the three games, check out his review!

RPGPundit


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Rhodesian + Image Virginia

Saturday, 17 June 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Kaigaku


This is a review of the OSR RPG "Kaigaku", written by Jacob Ross, published by Thunderegg games. As usual, this is a review of the print edition, which comes in the form of a slim but fairly dense 60 page softcover. It has a full-color cover, featuring a scene of a trio of Japenese-ish characters in the midst of a positive rain of petals, in front of a Japanese-ish building. The art style is OK, though not spectacular. The interior is full-color, and high-quality, with a dozen or so illustrations (mostly of characters) some of which are better than the cover, frankly. Plus, a shitty map (more on that later).



Kaigaku is described by the author as a game of "fantastic samurai adventures". It's based on the Black Hack, which in case you haven't heard is a modification of the standard OSR rules that has, for some reason, become ridiculously popular these days. At least, in the sense that after the original Black Hack book came out, a ton of people released a ton of other books called the "x hack", which was the original game modified to fit any variety of genres.

The Black Hack system  has several features I strongly dislike. More than that, distrust. Because they are the kind of things Forge assholes came up with. First: the GM isn't allowed to roll dice. Everything is rolled by the players, mainly in the form of roll-under ability-score checks. So to attack, a PC has to roll equal or lower than his strength (for a melee attack, Dex for a ranged attack). But if he's being attacked, the GM doesn't roll for the attacker, instead the PC just makes a Dexterity roll-under check to evade.

You see the problem with this kind of thing? It says, in game, that the player characters are the center of the universe; and out-of-game, that the players are the centers of the universe. It essentially prevents the GM from being able to alter the rules, because he has no authority to control the dice at all. He's reduced to being a kind of monopoly-banker. But the NPCs don't matter either. Yes, there's a slight penalty given for evasion if the NPC attacking you is higher level than you are, but regardless it is still based on your dexterity, not anything of his. There's no way, on account of that, to model an NPC who is a highly-skilled samurai (except to just pile on the levels).

Everything about the Black-Hack system is anti-emulative. It makes the very clear statement that the PCs are playing in some kind of abstract world, and not a real world.  For example, the NPCs are all vague and blobby, statistically speaking, as if they exist only in reaction to the PCs.

To give another example: armor in the Black Hack reduces damage, which of course makes sense (maybe even more sense than Armor upping your defense!), but then in turn, every time you take a hit with armor, the armor value goes down one point. Ok, so maybe that can represent the wear-and-tear effect of combat, the armor is being actually damaged as hits are suffered, right?  Only then, if the PC has a "good night's sleep", his armor magically fixes itself! Suddenly it's back to full quality.

Ammunition in the Black Hack is based on a die roll to see if you run out. You start out with d20 "usage die", and every time you use an arrow or a bullet or whatever, you roll the die in question. If you get a 1 or 2, the die gets downgraded (a d20 becomes a d12, then a d10, d8, d6, and finally d4).  So resource management, one of the key tenets of the D&D old-school game, is just utterly abandoned. Worse still, it means your PC exists in a universe where for some reason he can never actually know how many arrows he has left in his quiver.

So yes, there's a lot I find very shitty about the Black Hack system: it is anti-emulative, it's anti-GM, and it engages in needless abstractions.
Is there anything good about it? Well, basing all rolls off ability scores is not in and of itself a bad move. There's also good stuff it borrowed from elsewhere: for example, 5e's Advantage and Disadvantage mechanics.
There's also an interesting mechanic in the form of "intensifying", where you can do a check at a penalty (in increments of -2 to the ability score), in exchange for how if you make the check the amount you intensified by gets added to some kind of effect. The most common example is that you can try to intensify your attack roll to get a bonus to damage.

Now, aside from those couple of details, most of what's "good" about the system ends up being stuff that I'm fairly sure is specific modifications done by the designer for this game in particular.  For example, he has rules on honor and dishonor (with special things each does): characters who are Honorable can invoke their honor (under specific conditions) to make a roll with Advantage. On the other hand, any dishonorable act is rolled by them with Disadvantage.  A character can choose to start out already Dishonorable, in which case he can't call on his honor but he'll never suffer disadvantage for dishonorable actions.
The mass combat rules are pretty good. The Samurai-dueling rules are quite good. The rules for crafting items are good, particularly in that they aren't stupidly complicated! Even the 'social combat' rules for courtiers are not awful, and I usually detest social combat rules. I'm not quite sure I'd end up using them or anything, but they're not terrible.

In terms of character creation, you roll as standard for the ability scores, and there's an option to have three skills (that aren't really listed or anything, you just have to invent them). You choose one of four classes: Ascetic (kung fu monk, basically), Bushi (warrior), Ninja, and Courtier. Each class has its own special features, starting gear, weapon and armor proficiencies, hit points, damage (in this system, damage is by class, not by weapon type, though certain weapons can modify your basic damage), and also the way you roll to level up (in this system, every time you go up in level, there's a chance that your ability scores will go up).

After this, you pick a clan (of course, if I was running this, I'd probably not let PCs pick their clan, I'd want to choose it for them), and your "Ryu" or school of training. There are a number of different schools, for different classes, and that are sponsored by different clans. It's possible to attend a school different from the one your clan sponsors, however. Each school has its own special abilities, that are gained at every even-numbered level.

It's funny, as much as I dislike the base system, all the stuff that the designer did that was specific to the setting is really good.  But what about the setting?

Kaigaku is not set in history, instead it's set in a fantasy world "inspired mainly by feudal Japan, but with elements of Korea and China mixed in". In general, the setting has that kind of strictness, ritual-based-culture, and honor system that's stereotypically Japanese. In the setting, there is an Emperor, whose seat is divided between two branches of the imperial family (northern and southern), with each taking turns in the Imperial throne. However, the implication of the setting is that the emperor holds relatively little power; instead, the various clans have a great deal of power and control over their respective territories.  In addition to the clans, you also have a number of outsider groups: there's the northern barbarians who must be kept at bay, the aborigines of the setting (equivalent to Japan's Ainu people), and two different groups of Gaijin (equivalent to the Spaniards and the English), who have introduced firearms (and foreign religion) into the setting.

There's also magic, of a sort, in the form of the "kiseki", magical stones of power that can be added to objects to grant special abilities. Ascetics can also channel the power of kiseki directly, implanting them into their bodies. Non-ascetics can do this as well, but if they do so they're pretty much doomed to go insane.

The book details the 8 major clans of the setting. There's also a number of minor clans, two of which were detailed in the book. Each clan gets a description of what its general deal is, who its notable members are (and what they want), how they relate to the other major clans and the gaijin, where they're based, and of course the Ryu schools that clan sponsors. There's also suggestions for the type of adventures that can feature this clan.

The material on the clans is some of the best work of the book. It's easy to read, interesting, and exciting (in the sense that in spite of the issues I have with the system, it made me think I'd want to play this setting sometime).

There's also a chapter (supposedly for GM's eyes only) that details the secrets of the major players in the setting. This is also very good.

Then we get to the most unforgivable part of the book: the map.
Holy shit is this map godawful. I mean, seriously, you're writing for a branch of the hobby that loves their maps, there's even people who would likely make a map for you for free if you asked nicely, and instead we get a dull near-featureless piece of crap.  I wish I could show you this map so you'd know what I mean, but I wasn't able to find one on a google search (if I was the author, I wouldn't want this map shown anywhere either).  It's basically just a peninsula with a mountain range, no other features; no forests, hills, cities, rivers, roads, or anything. You just get the clan names superimposed in areas of the map that we presume are their core regions, but nothing else.

This game setting, and the otherwise very high production values of this book deserved so, so much more than the map it got.

There's also a character sheet in the back of the book, which is fine, except that it's facing the map so you have to look at that godawful thing to see the character sheet.

What can we conclude about Kaigaku?  Well, I find the system flawed, but the setting really is awesome.  If you like the Black Hack, I guess you have it made with this product.  Otherwise, you could probably run it, with a little modification, using a more traditional OSR system. The setting is really cool, and would be well worth playing.

Such a shame about the shitty map, though.


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

Friday, 16 June 2017

Classic Rant: What the D&D "Satanic Panic" did to a Whole Generation of Geeks

So, there's a new academic book on RPGs: "Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds". 

There's an article reviewing the book, sort of, here. Note, I have not read this book myself; what follows is my own speculations on the subject, not something related to the book.

As to the book, I think the concept is interesting, but as always I am HIGHLY dubious of anything that comes out of academia regarding RPGs, even if it's from my own Religious Studies background. Strike that - ESPECIALLY then, since I know just how indoctrinated that field is by anti-perennial Marxist ideologues who want to see all religion is a meaningless product of local cultural factors.

It does sound like it could be good, though. And there's also this quote:

"When grown-ups told me that playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was going to drive me insane or cause me to worship the devil, it suddenly dawned on me that adults were fallible: They ran the schools, the churches, and the police, but they didn’t always think rationally or know what they were talking about."


As far as the comment above: my own observation as a religious scholar would be that the RPG hobby, and indeed the whole generation of geeks from the time of the Satanic Panic appears (to my observation) to be disproportionately populated by two groups: atheists, and people involved in what is sometimes termed 'alternative religion' (that is, people not in a standard mainstream Christian or Jewish denomination or in an orthodox mainstream version of the traditional religion of their own cultural background, but have become converts to some fringe movement or the westernized version of a non-western religion). We're talking here about just how many gamers are Wiccans, Pagans of other sorts, call themselves Buddhists, Taoists, some form of fringe or ultra-personal Christianity, or New-age "Spiritual" (not really following any religion, but practicing Reiki or Yoga or Crystal Healing or all of the above). 

I think that the phenomenon quoted above, the early realization that the very accusation of D&D as "satanic" by trusted authority figures when any young kid playing D&D knew it wasn't, had two effects:

a) A lot of those kids felt like they could never just trust anyone's word unquestioned again. It was a potential moment (like many others can be) where you realize that most people don't actually know fuck all about religion/philosophy/reality and are just quoting dogma, rather than a product of their own thought processes brought about by personal experiential experimentation.




b) Half (not literally half, but whatever) of the kids for whom (a) happened decided (not necessarily that very instant, but this event was something that contributed to that direction) that clearly nothing could be real then except for that which is immediately materially quantifiable, and (again, EVENTUALLY) rejected spirituality altogether; while the other half decided (eventually, as a gradual product of, among other things, etc.) that if most people didn't actually know FUCK ALL about religion, they would want to seek it out themselves and find out that experiential Truth.

Ironically, I think that the first 'half' above were the kids who were internally horrified at the idea of being accused of being satanists for liking D&D. They became atheists because deep down they were scared of some sort of "divine punishment" for an inherent spiritual wrongness they didn't even know they had until that moment, and (most horrifyingly) didn't seem to be able to even identify, and so would prefer a world where no such danger could possibly exist. The other kids, who became Wiccans or Pagans or Neo-Buddhists or Tantric Sex Polygamists or hippie Etheogen Experiencers or Ceremonial High Magicians (or, for that matter, literal Satanists), are the ones who deep down weren't afraid of god but outraged by the betrayal of a society that seemed like reality to them and suddenly very clearly wasn't. That moment (among others, blah blah etc.) was a realization of the fundamental illusion of Paradigm, and thus a Paradigm Shift into the weird, in search of the Real. 

Of course, that's all just a poetic way of saying that when their parents said "D&D is evil because it teaches you Real Magic!!", some kids said "my parents are retarded; that must mean there's no Jesus and no Real magic!", and other kids said "my parents are retarded; so fuck yeah I'm going to go find me some 'Real Magic'!"

RPGPundit


( Originally posted March 28, 2015)

Thursday, 15 June 2017

DCC Campaign Report: Most of the Guards are Playing With Fidget-Spinners



At the end of our last session, our stalwart non-heroes had managed to get to the Azure Tower, only to have the Azure Order magicians send them off on a whole other side-quest; this time to save Coolland from a zombie invasion.

Now:

-Before leaving the Azure Tower, Mu finishes studying his new spell, making use of the Spinal Fluid of Drewmij to successfully learn Magic Missile.
"I bet he was just telling you that was 'spinal fluid'!"
"Hey, if it gives me +2 to learning a spell I'll drink any of his fluids!"

-Publio the page is broke and sorely lacking in equipment, so he tries to sell his services as a page.
"Where would we even send a message? The town is tiny and there isn't another settlement for days that isn't full of cannibals!"

-"Why don't you just make like a leaf and go away?"
"That's not how that phrase goes. It's 'why don't you make like a tree and go away'!"



-Publio leveled up as a Warrior, but doesn't have that many hit points.
"Well, Mu is pretty robust for a wizard!"
"You mean chubby; Mu is pretty chubby for a wizard!"
"You mean fatass; Mu is a fatass!"



-Since there's a gigantic horde of thousands of zombies between the tower and Coolland, the Azure Wizards decide to teleport the PCs to Coolland. Unfortunately, on their first try they fumble the spell, and all the PCs weapons disappear, teleported to an unknown location.
"Son of a bitch!"
"We had plasma rifles!"
"My grenades!"
"You fuckers owe me a +4 mace!"

-On their second try, the Azure Wizards manage to teleport the PCs, but not to Coolland's capital. Instead, they end up in the coastal city of Minaj.
"Can we contact the Azure Wizards?"
"I don't think so."

-"So this is not the capital?"
"No, adventurers. For all we know, the city of Gaga may have been overrun."

-The commander of Minaj's militia, currently making preparations in case the zombie army comes that way, is the old peasant woman/minotaur-slayer Elsa.



-The PCs decide to risk the overland journey to Gaga.
"Will you come with us, Elsa?"
"Niet. Elsa will stay, protect village. Make up for time when all Elsa's old village in Old Country was all killed. This time if Elsa here, maybe only half this village die!"
"That's progress..."
"In Old Country, that is Miracle!"



-"Mr. Old Woman, what was the source of these zombies?"
"It is from time ago, when Queen Zoey uncle try to take over kingdom. Other group of adventurers, led by Bill Elf, they go in forest and Bill Elf make great toxic cloud that kill whole army.  Zombies are whole army."
"So this is Bill the Elf's fault?"
"In Old Country, we have saying: Fuck Bill Elf!"
"I think a lot of countries have that saying."

-"Uncle Evil of Queen Zoey return and send zombie army that Bill Elf killed."
"Is the uncle a zombie too?"
"Not sure. If he was vampire then Elsa could help. Elsa was vampire slayer in Old Country."
"How many vampires have you actually killed?"
"One. How many you kill?"
"Ok, never mind."

-Tonut the Cleric shows off his flying armor, as Tonut tends to do.
"Oh, he is Rocket Red, like from Old Country!"



-The PCs say goodbye to Elsa and start on their way to Gaga.  Soon they encounter what they at first think is a zombie.  They send Publio to bash its head in, but it turns out to be Heidi, who they had last seen at Highbay. They discover it's Heidi when he pulls a gun on the ex-pageboy just as Publio was about to bash his skull.

-"He can talk!"
"Yes, Heidi usually does that."
"You knew it was me?!"
"Yeah, we wanted to see what happened, though."

-It turns out that when Heidi was in Highbay, he went sightseeing and ended up in The Factory, where a group of artistic weirdos drugged him, and he ended up posing in a series of pictures with a Yak, some naked women and a land-octopus.



-"What happened to all your weapons??"
"We have shovels now. If you don't have a shovel it means you're just square."
"Ok, fine, I was going to share some of my five weapons but since you're all happy with shovels..."

-"Who's the kid that tried to kill me?"
"That's Publio the page. He wants to be a warrior. We're training him wrong as a joke."



-Continuing on, the PCs end up running into a sort-of "adventurer" named Gilbert. They immediately identify him as a kind of con-artist more than an adventurer.
"In the Shithole we used to eat people like you."

-"Tonight I will cook us a nice curry!"
"Again?"
"Oh! I love curry! Back in Gaga there was this shop called Spicy Bharatan Tender Pork Tacos, and they were fantastic. So authentic! But then they mysteriously closed.."
"They were making their tacos from mutant children."
"What?"
"Yeah. You ate mutant children."
"Oh my god!!"
"They were poor children.."
"That's even worse, I don't know where they'd been!"

-"I'm from the Shithole. I'm not going to make a big fuss about having eaten children."
"Well, if you're from the Shithole it's probably not the first time you did that. Or the worst thing you ever ate."

-"Do you guys even have any idea how you plan to deal with the zombie army??"
"We need a bomb."
"There's a LOT of plans in this campaign that just come down to making a big explosion happen..."

-The party encounters a small zombie raiding party.
"Attack!"
"Huh, what? A duck?"
"No, attack!"
"Oh, that's much worse!"

-The zombies appear to be strays, unfortunately-undead local coollanders  dressed in adult male rompers.
"Nothing of value was lost."



-Kumar accidentally fumbles his chill touch attack, and ends up chill touching himself.
"Does he go blind?"
"He will if he keeps doing that."

-"Well, that was a really successful first round of combat: not one zombie was even slightly injured, and Kumar chill-touched himself."

-Gilbert runs away after that first round, only to come back and act all heroic when there's only 1 zombie left alive.

-Publio fumbles his attack, breaking Heidi's borrowed spear.
"Oh that's OK, that's only the spear my father gave to me!"

-With the zombie still alive, Gilbert tries to run away again, only to have the zombie strike him down. The zombie dies right after.
"Hey great, I've got a new spear!"
"You mean I have a new spear, right?"
"Can I have my shovel back?"

-"Do you want your father's broken spear back, Heidi?"
"You really are ingratiating yourself into this party, Publio."

-The next day the party proceeds along a large-ish river; they see tons of zombies (mostly orc zombies, but also some Coollanders) milling about on the other side.
"They can't cross the river, its no problem."
"Those ones over there seem to be doing something..."
"It.. it looks like they're chopping wood?"
"They're building a bridge."
"Oh shit."

-Realizing that the zombies are definitely being guided by some kind of superior intelligence, Tonut and Heidi fly up above them and try to talk to their master. The zombies all respond in unison:
"You may speak!"
"Are you Uncle Evil?"

-"I am the rightful ruler of Coolland, Duke of Abstinence, Chosen One of the Lord of Blood and Fire!"
"Hey Tonut, he's like you, an asshat!"
"You realize we're 200' up and I'm carrying you, right?"

-"My zombie army will cross into Coolland, take the city of Gaga, and bathe its streets with blood!"
"And fire?"
"And fire!"

-"Cool, but could you teleport us to Lol?"
"Dude, he's the bad guy!"
"We've never been totally clear as a party on that whole good/evil divide.."
"Yeah, and remember, this is just a stupid side-quest!"



-"Who is it you're seeking revenge against, Duke?"
"My niece 'queen' Zoey, and Bill the Elf!"
"We know where Bill is!"
"Yeah, we'll totally give him to you."

-"Bring me Bill the Elf and I will teleport you!"
"We need to teleport in order to get to Bill the Elf!"
"We have quite the catch-22 going, don't we?"

-"Ok, here's the plan: we tell the Duke we'll capture his niece for him, then we'll put Publio in a bag."
"What? No!"
"GM question: do any of you actually HAVE a bag?"
"We'll get a bag in Gaga."
"We should probably get a dress for Publio too. You know, to make it believable."
"I don't want to do this!"
"Look at it this way, Publio, have you ever gotten to spend time inside a bag before? It's a new opportunity."

-"Duke, we'll bring you your niece!"
"..in a bag.."
"In a bag! But we have to present her to you personally!"
"Why?"
"because... we want to meet you! You're pretty famous."
"Also, we want to be sure you follow through and teleport us."
"Oh yeah, also, this kid we have with us that looks a bit like a princess won't be coming back with us, so don't suspect anything if he's not with us when we return."

-"Wait sirs, is it not the case in fact that Mu can change into a girl?"
"Kumar is right!"
"No!"
"Yes it is true sir!"
"OK, new plan!"

-"Actually, Duke, the kid will be coming back with us after all, but not the wizard, he's got other things to do!"
"I hate you guys so much.."

-"So when we give him Mu, he will teleport us?"
"No, we're going to kill him."
"Oh."
"Wait, Kumar, you thought you were going to just give me to him??"

-"I'm just happy I won't have to crossdress anymore!"
"Actually you sound a little disappointed."

-The PCs finally get to Gaga.
"Who goes there?"
"Adventurers!"
"Did Gilbert send you?"
"Uh, yeah, sure."
"Sergeant, the adventurers are here!"

-The glitterati of Gaga all come out to see the PCs. Queen Zoey is there, as is the hip young handsome prime minister, Zoe's attendants Emily the elf and Queen Priscilla of the Grey Realms, the court wizard (the only old person in all of Coolland), and of course, Queen Zoey's head of security, Harembe the gorilla-man.



-The defenses of Gaga and their army do not look very promising.
"Do you think we could whip them into shape?"
"Most of the guards are playing with fidget-spinners right now."
"So that would be a no."



-Queen Priscilla hasn't become any less annoying.
"You guys all look lame, if only Bill the Elf was here. He was hot for me, we totally did it once."
"Bill did it with.. that thing?"
"Oh man, if only Bill were here!"



-"We have a plan your majesty; our wizard Mu is going to make himself look like you."
"Um.. he doesn't look much like me?"
"Well, he can magically turn himself into a girl."
"Goddamnit, I am a girl right now!"
"Seriously? This is you as a girl?"
"Holy shit you guys that girl is really fucking ugly!"
"Even Priscilla thinks you're ugly, dude."
"That's the pot calling the kettle ugly."

-"Our best plan is still to make Mu look like the queen."
"I have a question: has the Duke gone blind??"

-"I still say we can integrate the zombies."
"You definitely can't."
"In a generation they'll adopt our values!"
"Mr. Prime Minister, they're undead. In a generation, you'll all be zombies!"
"Don't be racist."
"It's not racist, because they're really ugly!"



-"If you want Mu to be able to pass for me, I and my ladies of the court will have to give him a makeover! Guards, seize him!"
"What??"
"To the makeover room!"
"Will it hurt??"
"Well, the bikini wax will."
"You'll pay for this Tonut!!"

-While Mu is subject to a makeover and a sleepover party with the Queen and her girls, the rest of the PCs get some shopping done.
"We'll want to leave town first thing in the morning; we just spent 12000gp worth of counterfeit smithplium pieces here."
"Yeah, we should definitely leave, and then come back with more fake smithplium pieces!"

-"If you succeed, you'll all be heroes of Coolland!"
"Yeah, and I'll probably do it with one of you!"
"I'd probably do Priscilla."
"Shit, Mu, you have serious serious self-esteem problems."

-Mu's makeover was largely unsuccessful.
"If you put a princess-dress and facepaint on a cow, it'll still look like a cow."



-Along the way back to the zombie horde, Tonut the cleric uses Divine Aid to temporarily change Mu's appearance into a copy of Queen Zoey.

-They find the Zombie horde; with them are a group of Uruk-hai zombie guards, a zombie wizard, the Duke, and a Fire Vampire.



-The Duke is not a zombie, apparently he survived Bill's cloudkill, but suffered horribly disfiguring burns.
"Give me my niece!"
"We will, but only once you lead us to the Blood Gate so we can teleport back to Lol."
"Or the Fire Gate."
"They're the same gate!"

-"My men will take you to the gate, but I will have my niece now!"

-"psst, what's our plan?"
"We kill the Duke."
"He's surrounded by thousands of zombies, his guards, the wizard and the Vampire!"
"I've seen Bill make some bad plans, but this one is just ridiculous."

-While the PCs are busy debating their options, Mu is starting to change back into his usual ugly visage.

-The PCs decide to not give a fuck, and attack.
"Oh man this is not good."
"If Bill was here we wouldn't be in this mess."
"If Bill was here we'd probably be in a bigger mess!"

-"Which one is the Fire Vampire?"
"The Fire Vampire is the one that's on fire."
"I miss Captain Obvious!"



-The Fire Vampire disappears in a puff of fire.
"Not blood?"
"No, this is a fire vampire. There may be a blood vampire somewhere that disappears in a puff of blood."
"So, by 'blood vampire', you mean a vampire, right?"
"Yes."

-"Betrayers! Destroy them all!!"
"Morris sent us!"
"So we're trying to badmouth Morris now?"
"Yeah, Morris is the new Bill."

-The fire vampire reappears next to Tonut, who had obviously taken to the air to save his own life.
"Oh shit, it can fly! G.O.D., Sezrekhan, Nikos, Ack'basha... whoever is up there, save me!"

-Tonut fails his divine aid, but Kumar manages to slay the zombie wizard, which causes the zombies to go out of control. This helps, but there are still thousands of zombies trying to kill and eat them.

-The Duke is getting away, and the PCs are in terrible danger of being slaughtered by zombies, except Tonut who is about to be destroyed by the Fire Vampire. Tonut tries one last Divine Aid, to teleport them all back to Gaga.
"Oh, almighty G.O.D.... Screw This!"

-The Divine aid works, and the PCs are all teleported away, but there's a slight error in the teleportation and they end up crashing into the city wall. Several of them are terribly injured, but they all manage to survive!
"I can't believe we're alive."

That's it for this session. The planned invasion of Gaga has been thwarted by the PCs, and incredibly they're all still alive. But the Duke of Abstinence got away, and there's still thousands of zombies in Coollandish territory. Plus, the PCs still have no way to get back to Lol, and they're no closer to getting past the side-quests and onto the job of stopping Sezrekhan from assimilating the entire universe.
We'll see what they come up with, next time!


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Gawith's 1792 Flake

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

New Stuff For Dark Albion? Well, Yes and No.

I've had some people asking me if I have any plans to release any more future products for Dark Albion; which has been by far the most popular RPG product I've worked on (not counting 5e, of course).



Well first, I should mention what you can already get for Dark Albion. Aside from the main book, there's also the awesome Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos which is loaded with all kinds of tools for creating awesome and intricate medieval-authentic cults, sects, heretics, witches and more!
Then there's also the great introductory adventure, The Ghost of Jack Cade on London Bridge, written by Dominique Crouzet. It provides you with a fine first adventure, and an up-close look at the neighborhood of London Bridge in 1450s London.



Now, will there be more Dark Albion products in the near future?  The answer is actually "yes and no".

No, there is no plan right now for another book that will literally say "Dark Albion" on the cover. However, almost everything I am working on right now will be stuff that will have a direct utility to Dark Albion fans.



My next projects, depending on when their respective publishers get them out, will be chock-full of "Medieval Authentic" stuff.
First, with DOM (the publisher of Dark Albion) I'll be releasing "Lion & Dragon", which will be a medieval-authentic OSR ruleset that expands from the "appendix p" rules found in Dark Albion itself.
Lion & Dragon will also get rid of Vancian casting and replace it with clerical miracles and magister rituals that are directly based on Medieval authentic magic. It will have tons of medieval-authentic monsters, and magic items. A system for resolving medieval trials. Some expansions and changes to the equipment lists found in the Dark Albion book, and more medieval-authentic character creation and combat rule mods.

Second, with a publisher I haven't named yet but am about to, I'll be releasing a series probably called "RPGPundit Presents..." which will be a weekly release of short (2-8 page) supplements with a wide variety of stuff, for a low low price. About half of this series will be Medieval-Authentic roleplay products (the other half will be more "gonzo" stuff). Among those already written up are a guide to how to keep Vancian magic but make it slightly more medieval authentic (for those who don't want to go the full Lion & Dragon route) and three different supplements detailing one or more Medieval magical Grimoires and their uses.

So while there may not be a product with "Dark Albion" on the cover in the near future, you'll still be very likely to find a lot of material coming out in the next while that will satisfy your itch for more Medieval Authentic stuff to work with.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Neerup Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Monday, 12 June 2017

No, I'm not dead. But thanks to a problem with the Uruguayan internet infrastructure I've had no desktop internet for the last four days.

And it's just too much of a hassle to do blog posts over the phone.

So, I'll be back as soon as I can. Which could be in a day, or in a week or more. That's the wonders of Uruguayan Socialist Monopolies for you.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Davidoff 400-series + C&D's Pirate Kake

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Another Product Title Spoiler

So what was I working on just now?

The latest work is tentatively titled "The Medieval-Authentic Vancian Wizard's Spellbook".  It will give you a whole new way to work your wizards.

Stay tuned, and in a month or two it can be yours!


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Gawith's Virginia Flake

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Fleeting Nature of the Wild West Campaign

There's a lot of reasons to love Wild West gaming.  But to me, there's no wild-west gaming better than historical Wild West gaming. I know that a lot of gamers disagree. That might be why makers of Wild West RPGs tend to want to make alternate-history Wild West settings, with or without magic and monsters and whatever other crap you want.



I suspect they do this because they feel like the real Wild West is somehow too "boring". That's bullshit, but what's more bullshit is how they try to cover that up by claiming that they're altering the timeline to "make the Wild West period last longer".  And worse still, pretending that it all "makes sense".



Now, if all you want is to run a game in Fictional Wild-West Themepark Land, more power to you. Just don't pretend your alt-history meant to make the west last forever "makes sense". Shit, just don't even try to explain it, just admit that you're running a game with no historical coherence and be done with it.



There are so many ways that every "Alternate History Wild-West" timeline I've ever seen doesn't make sense (especially the ones that find ways for the CSA to keep existing while somehow abolishing slavery and even racism at the same time: I'm looking at you, Deadlands). But fundamentally, whatever way you do it, the thing that makes the most nonsense is the idea that you can significantly expand the Wild-west period and have it still be the genre it's supposed to be.



 A key historical theme of the wild west was that the cowboys and the lawmen and the ne'er-do-wells moved around so much because they had to keep going further west to keep escaping the encroaching civilization.



The Indians not getting wiped out and having their own nations able to stand toe-to-toe against the white man is great for a PC alt-history fantasy of the late '90s or SJW revenge-porn of the 2010s, but that's also not the Wild West. A huge part of the Wild West was the tragedy of the Indian Wars and the horror that was for all concerned. If that goes a different way, it changes everything.



Having the civil war still going on in the 1870s or 1880s, or having the CSA win the war and the two states now have an uneasy stalemate doesn't "make the Wild West more interesting", it means the Wild West could never have happened. Because the Wild West, at least the period most of us think of, only  happened as a direct result of the war ending, and with a Union victory. 

(Jesse James only existed the way he did because of the South losing the war, but he's only the most obvious example)

A surviving Confederacy destroys the fundamental nature of Wild West society. The west was full of people who retired haunted from the Union Army, or fled the defeated South seeking their fortune and holding grudges. The fights between Republicans (northerners, pro-railway, pro-industrial, dressed in black, generally lawmen) and Democrats (southerners, anti-industry, anti-progress, pro-taverns-and-shootouts, dressed in colorful combinations, generally outlaws) was a central backdrop of all kinds of conflicts that happened in the Wild West. The OK Corral, for example, was a direct result of that (the Earps were Republicans, the Clantons were Democrats).



You have a civil war still going on, or a cold war, you're not going to have the wild lawless west. You're going to have a totally different setting. No Tombstone, no Dodge City, probably no Deadwood, no Las Vegas, no Fort Worth, no Dog Kelley or Earp Brothers or Masterson brothers or Doc Holliday, probably no Billy the Kid, all kinds of stuff would have been utterly impossible unless you just wave a gigantic magic wand of "I think it would be really cool if the CSA never fell but everything is somehow magically the same anyways, except maybe they're all politically correct and have black confederate colonels and everyone forgot about racism somehow". 



And if you think "the Wild West setting will be more awesome if it lasts longer" then you frankly just plain don't understand the Wild West, either historically or as a genre. The Wild West had to be something that happened fast. That was part of the deal: even if they didn't consciously realize just how fast, everyone knew that it was a moment that was quickly going to be lost forever. The real Wild West as we truly think of it was ridiculously short; it went from around 1870-1885. And the real real wild west, the part that most of the most important stories and movies and whatnot are based on was even shorter than that, from 1876-1882.



Custer's last stand (hell almost ALL the Indian wars), Wyatt Earp in Dodge city, the great cattle drives, the lawless Deadwood, the death of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, the end of the buffalo trade, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid, the rise of the Cowboys, the Las Vegas gang, Tombstone and the Gunfight of the OK Corral, Wyatt Earp's revenge ride, the death of Billy the Kid, and the death of Jesse James all happened within a six year period from 1876-82.

The Wild West was already disappearing practically the moment it 'started'. 



And the people who were part of the Wild West, who wanted that way of life, were literally running from place to place, further west and further south and north to the ever-narrowing fringes of civilization because they could literally see it vanishing before their eyes. That's why Wyatt Earp started out in Illinois when the Wild West both began and started to disappear, and within two years he was in Kansas, and within less than 5 years after that he was off to New Mexico, and a year after that he was in Arizona (in his own words: "In 1879, Dodge (Kansas) was beginning to lose much of the snap which had given it a charm to men of reckless blood, and I decided to move to Tombstone (Arizona), which was just building up a reputation" - He was in Dodge less than four years total, and in Tombstone less than two). After Arizona he was in Idaho, San Diego and the Klondike but by then it was just a shadow, there was nothing really of the Wild West left.



If you don't capture that in the setting, you're not doing the Wild West. You're doing some kind of Buffalo Bill wild-west show, and then you might as well set it in FakeName County, Southwestern America because what you're creating is a pantomime.  



Which can be a lot of fun, too, even if I don't think it's as fun as seeing the real history unfold.  But just don't pretend you're doing something other than a pantomime.  


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: End of an Era



In this week's session we had two different plot-lines going on in two utterly different locations.  First, Hale the Mormon (ex-)Gambler had gone back home to Utah, with his new wife Becky, to present her to his family.  She was to be baptized into Mormonism so they could be married within the LDS church in Salt Lake City.



Hale's family were very happy to see him and very welcoming to Becky, but while she was going through the hoops necessary to her conversion, a family incident took place.  Hale's young cousin Hiram had run away from home, to the only place that the Mormon's thought of as a worse den of iniquity than Dodge City: San Francisco. And since Hale was the most world-wise member of the family and was thought of by them to be something of a renowned adventurer, he was sent out to San Fran to find him.

Meanwhile, in Dodge, the time had finally arrived for the trial of Spike Kenedy, who had very obviously murdered the famous singer Dora Hand a month earlier (though it's true that he had actually meant to murder her lover, Dodge City mayor Dog Kelley). For the trial, Spike's father Mifflin Kenedy had come to town with a dozen strongmen and a carpetbag allegedly full of money (in fact it had about $25000 inside).



Dora hand had been so beloved that on the day of her funeral every saloon in Dodge closed its doors for the first time since the city was founded, and her  gorgeously-bedecked funeral carriage was followed by 400 men on horseback.

Dog Kelley had drunk himself into a month-long stupor, but the boys at the Alhambra Saloon were all plotting to take the law into their own hands if necessary. They were joined in this by Kid Taylor, and ironically by Deputy Young, though both of these had very different ideas of how to handle things. Young was assuming that justice would be served but Mifflin would use his men to try to spring his son, while Kid was pretty sure that Mifflin would bribe his son to freedom and vigilantes would have to take care of justice themselves.

Over in San Francisco, Hale had arrived into the largest metropolis he'd ever seen and had no idea where to even start to look for his young cousin.



He got the idea, in a bar, that maybe he could hire the Pinkertons to find Hiram, so he went to see them.



 Unfortunately, he was quickly "identified" as his doppelganger, the famous and missing outlaw Derek McClue. They apprehended him, in spite of his pleas of mistaken identity, though they did finally agree to send a telegram to the Dodge city sheriff to check out his claim.

Unfortunately, the telegram was sent on the day of the trial. As Judge Wright had ordered a closed court, the town's population were out on the street. Sheriff Masterson ordered that no civilian was allowed to carry weapons on Front Street for the duration of the trial, and all the lawmen (plus "Other" Miller, who'd been deputized) were busy trying to keep order.

The Alhambra bunch had settled on a plan: assuming that Kenedy and his men would leave Dodge along the Cimmaron Trail, they went to Turkey Bend to set up an ambush. Kid Taylor would stay behind in town and would immediately rush off to warn the other men when the trial was over and Kenedy was on his way. But Taylor was acting very suspicious on the street and Bat had him arrested. Taylor admitted to the plan and Deputy Young was sent out to intercept the men and convince them to call off the plan, which he did.

After only a couple of hours, the verdict came out: Spike was found not guilty! People were enraged by the travesty of justice, but with the lawmen as guards, the Kenedys and their men quickly rushed off to take the train to Cimmaron. The ambush wouldn't have served any purpose.

No one was more devastated by how the trial had gone than Charlie Bassett.



He was already in a foul mood on account of having had an argument with his girl Miss Jenny. She had demanded that he marry her, and he wasn't willing to do it. Then the result of the trial, where Mifflin Kenedy had very obviously bribed Judge Wright and the prosecutor, was more than he could take.

He went to angrily confront the Judge, and the Judge said something that implied that Wright wasn't the only one who had taken a bribe. Bassett had taken this to mean that Bat Masterson had also been bribed, which he thought would explain why Masterson had done nothing as he saw this obvious corruption unfold.  Upset beyond his limit, Bassett threw down his Marshall's star. He was done with the law.

Had Masterson taken the bribe? History is unclear on the matter, and from the GMing point of view I kept it a mystery too. My players were very divided as to what had really happened, and that's just how I wanted it.

Meanwhile, Hale was now in the San Francisco jail, in a cell with a number of nasty characters including a very large Chinese thug.



When the police guard called him McClue, the Tong man went nuts, apparently his gang had some kind of problem with McClue.  The jailhouse violence was halted when the police came back, with Hale's cousin! The Pinkertons had chased him down just to check the facts. Unfortunately, young Hiram, not wanting to be dragged home to Utah, claimed that his cousin WAS in fact McClue, having heard the "celestial" saying the name.

Everyone was now fairly convinced that Hale was full of crap, and he was left alone again, with the Tong enforcer about to slit his throat, when he was saved by the police for the second time. The Pinkerton had come back, as they'd finally gotten a telegraph reply from Dodge city. Since Hale had kept his trip to Salt Lake (and his Mormon heritage) a secret by claiming he was taking Becky on honeymoon to San Francisco, the sheriff's assumed that this was their Hale, so they quickly advised the Pinkertons to that fact.

The Pinkerton head office, it turns out, had also already been observing Hale and had concluded that he was not really McClue, so the local SF Pinkerton had to do the right thing and arrange for Hale's freedom. Hale rushed off to try to find his cousin. He tracked down his last location in a horrible slum-flophouse and there heard Hiram was planning to go sign on to a whaling ship. Hale was about to rush to the port, when he ran into his old cellmate and his Tong clan! Cue a kung-fu chase through the city, with Hale having no idea where he was running to. Unfortunately for him, he actually ran straight into Chinatown.



More fortunately, though, he ended up in a small Buddhist temple. The old monk who managed the temple was apparently no friend of the Tong, and when they faced off everyone was sure they were about to see a kick ass kung-fu fight... except instead, the monk pulled out a shotgun and blew away the Tong ringleader. In fact, the monk (named Liu) was an old buffalo hunter who'd traveled with Buffalo Bill. He didn't know much kung-fu but he sure knew how to handle a shotgun.

Hale decided at this point he had no more fucks to give, and introduced himself as Derek McClue. Monk Liu was even more impressed and presented Hale to the Tong's rival, the Big Swords Society. They escorted Hale to the port, where he managed to catch his cousin at the very last moment before signing up to a whaler. After an impassioned speech, he managed to convince him to come back to Utah and face the family, promising that later if young Hiram wanted to leave home, Hale would give him a hand.

All ended well for the Mormon ex-gambler, but not so much in Dodge City.  People were expecting, at the very least, that Bassett and Miss Jenny would ride off into the sunset together, but it was not to be. Bassett turned her down, feeling it would always be unfair for her, for him to have chosen her second after his badge. Instead, Miss Jenny and Bassett both ended up selling their parts of the Long Branch Saloon to Chalkley Beeson, a recent newcomer to Dodge who'd already build the city's first Billiards Hall.



Miss Jenny went back to New Orleans, while Charlie Bassett headed off to Colorado with Mysterious Dave Mather, the two of them planning to go pan for gold.



To the players, Charlie Bassett was the archetype of the white-hat lawman, and probably the most important NPC in Dodge.  His departure clearly marked the end of an era for the campaign. Dodge will never be the same.

RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Monday, 5 June 2017

Classic Rant: Just What the Fuck is "Gonzo Gaming" Anyways?


This is a question that I think is worth providing an answer to, and someone recently asked it of me.

These days, it seems that Gonzo has come into its own in terms of popularity, to the point that some people are claiming "Gonzo" status for their RPG products when they're not.  Note, just having magic in your fantasy RPG doesn't make it "Gonzo"... it just makes it a fantasy RPG.

So what is Gonzo, then?

First, this is NOT Gonzo:


This is a farce that bowdlerizes Gonzo in the same way that Cthulhu Plushies are not "Lovecraftian Horror".
Gonzo is not meant to be cute, or safe, or "loveable" as such. The Muppet Gonzo was 'gonzo' for about two seconds in his earliest appearances before he (and all the other muppets) completely sold out to become totally sanitized safe sources of amusement and obsession for children and mental-children.

THIS is real Gonzo:


If you've never read this, which is quite possibly the greatest American novel of the 20th Century, you should go fucking read it, and then you won't really have to ask "what is Gonzo"?


(the movie isn't as good as the book, but it is still pretty good; so if you're too much of a lazy semi-illiterate dumbass to bother reading a book that you could get through in an afternoon, you could at least watch the movie)


So Gonzo in RPGs must be understood by its original definition:  as a weird kind of trans-realism (like 'magical realism' on drugs).  It is NOT just "make up whatever"; but rather it is a kind of hyperbole: the mundane exaggerated to a bizzarre extreme.  "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is a true story, it really happened; but the presentation of it is in such a way as events are exagerrated until they take on a surreal and magical quality. 
But it is not just mindless random weirdness; here things very explicitly are supposed to make internal sense, even if the end result is something very crazy.

How can I better explain this?

Ok, so "Lost" is 'bad gonzo', because even as it claims that it makes sense it actually had no larger plan, never did, and was smug about how 'surreal' it was for its own sake.  Any media where you just have weird shit happening just because is not Gonzo (if anything, its dadaism).  

On the other hand, "Adventure Time" is GREAT Gonzo, because it's really crazy, but it generally DOES make sense (you gradually find out or can read-into the story that underlines the reason the world in Adventure Time is what it is), while not being in any way smug about how awesome it is.  I know I earlier said Gonzo is not meant to be cute, and you could say parts of Adventure Time are in fact cute, but here cute takes a back seat to "weird" (real 'weird', not some Disney/Henson-media executive committee's idea of what they can tell children and imbeciles is 'weird'); and in spite of appearances "Adventure Time" is not really "safe"; it's a highly subversive show.  For starters, its notable in that basically all of its main characters are pretty much assholes (while clever in that it never just comes out and says that, even indirectly).


In RPG terms, the difference between a good and bad gonzo setting is that the bad one is pretty much a world that makes no sense, and the designer is almost proud for that fact. He may as well have (and indeed, may well have) just rolled totally random tables to get his world and made no effort to tie it together coherently (though sometimes alluding to some kind of Super-Secret Purpose he doesn't care to discuss).  He's often found frantically juggling a bunch of unrelated things in the air and shouting "look! look! it's gonzo!!", as though that is all it takes.

A good gonzo world can be totally weird and crazy and fucked up, but if pressed can actually can say "these fucked up things are the way they are because of a and b and c and d".  Yes, there are stylistic elements like the mixing of genres, strange anachronisms, allusions to drug culture, or the presentation of the mundane in some bizzare fashion, but the main thing that defines Gonzo is that sense of 'magical hyperbole'.   It is encapsulated in many ways by Hunter S. Thompson's famous quote: "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro".

So this is gonzo in an RPG setting for sure:




Obviously I would say that my DCC campaign is gonzo.  But Arrows of Indra, which is epic and can be weird and has a lot of high-magic stuff and whatever, is not what I would call Gonzo. Awesome? Totally. But Gonzo? No.
Neither is Lords of Olympus, though with its multiversal quality and the way its magic works it could be pretty easy to make a LoO campaign that was gonzo.


This is probably just trying too hard:



This is probably the most Gonzo thing D&D ever did:


Whereas this is not Gonzo as much as it is slapstick:


It's important to get this: gonzo is funny but it isn't comedy.  The kind of 'nyuk nyuk'/we-realize-we're-in-a-comedy thing shown above does not fit into the conceptual seriousness of gonzo.   Fear and Loathing is a hilarious novel to read, but because you can't believe the insanity of the situations it's describing, not because the characters at any time take themselves or the situation they're in as anything less than Gravely Serious Business.

So, that's today's lesson.  Go read Fear & Loathing; and never will any novel about a reporter covering a Las Vegas motorcycle race do so much to change your perspective on how to run RPGs.


RPGPundit

Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Rhodesian + Gawith's Balkan Flake


(Originally posted April 29, 2015)