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Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Gay Social/Political Media Star Said it's OK to Have Sex With a 13-Year Old; No, it Wasn't Milo

So Milo didn't actually ever say it was OK for an adult to engage in sexual activity a 13 year old. He was very clear in stating that he believes in the current age of consent, and in the full version of the video that was doctored against him he makes it very clear that he thinks consent laws are a big part of what makes western civilization better than other cultures.

But guess who DID say it's ok to fool around with a 13 year old?

Yes, George Takei! Mr.Sulu himself, gay icon of the ctrl-left, adored by every fashionable leftist everywhere!

At the 2:20 mark he's talking about how it's totally ok to get sexy with a 13 year old if the boy doesn't complain.

I'm now waiting for every one of the Ctrl-Left activists out there, the same ones who suddenly found a deep concern for the welfare of children, to denounce Takei for statements vastly more explicit than anything Milo ever said

Do it! Or you are just proven shameless hypocrites on a witch-hunt against a political enemy who always humiliated you and who you despised.

Only it won't happen, will it? We know the Left will give Takei a free pass, because they are blatant and total hypocrites.

Milo and Takei were both in sexual encounters at the age of 13, both by much older authority figures (a scoutmaster in Takei's case, a catholic priest in Milo's), and both talked about it very bluntly in a public context.

But while Milo (as much as he, like Takei, talks about how he experienced pleasure from the encounter) insists that it's wrong for an adult to try to do something sexual with a 13 year old, George seems to be clearly saying that it's totally cool if the kid's into it.

And yet it's OK for George Takei to say that, as far as the Left is concerned. Hell, Lena Dunham admitted to molesting her little sister (she wrote about it in her book!) and she got an HBO show and an invitation to speak at the DNC for it!  

Plus, it's just different for the left, because George Takei is a "house homo". He's one of the "good ones". The ones who behave; who say the things the Left wants their homos to say. Takei doesn't get all "uppity" like Milo does. He doesn't try to run off the Democratic plantation. Takei doesn't challenge them like Milo does on issues that matter to him, like how Islamists want him thrown off a building.

The Left only loves LGBT people as long as they learn how to behave. They love their gay stars when those stars act as mouthpieces for leftist propaganda.
Milo doesn't.
George Takei does, so it's OK for him to openly endorse man-boy love, because he has the right politics.

And that's what this whole assault on Milo is about. No one involved gives even the teenie-tiniest little baby-sized shit about "protecting children". Not even a tiny bit. It's all about the politics of Destroying Milo because he represents something three totally different groups hate him for. He represents the future.

This is a panic play by Neocon NeverTrumpers, the Establishment Media, and the SJW left.

The Neocons, angry about CPAC, were the ones who doctored the Milofootage. It was a group associated with famous NeverTrumper, Establishment Puppet, fake Presidential Candidate and Mormon "lifelong bachelor" Evan McMullin (ironic!).
Trump's victory has ruined this group, and Breitbart and Milo were a huge part of Trump's victory.
The Establishment Media, angry about Breitbart, disseminated it the video. They know Milo has been a massive contributor to pointing out media lies.

And the Ctrl-Left, angry about Bill Maher not following the script, as well as despising Milo in general for being one of the "uppity gays" who doesn't let himself be controlled, charged in like sharks smelling blood.

The first group are on the verge of becoming extinct in the GOP; the second are losing their grip over control of information; the third, control over culture.

In all cases, Milo represents the force that has thwarted them all: young Cultural Libertarians who despise being told how to live or what to do, who don't trust the establishment, who don't really give a fuck about racism or sexism or homophobia but despise having people calling them those things to manipulate them into doing what they say, and who value Free Speech above all else.

Milo is the symbol of the totalitarian's (left, right, or corporate) impending doom. So they're trying to kill him as if that will stop what's started already, and keeps picking up speed: change.

Personally, I think Milo is clever and bold enough that he is going to get out from this and be twice as huge and influential on the Right in a year's time.  But even if he's not, it'll only be because someone (or SEVERAL someones) end up taking his place.

They can't stop us now.


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

Monday, 20 February 2017

Break Monday: How to Become a Wizard Edition

In today's article, I talk about how all of the first things you have to do in order to become a wizard don't look anything like what you think of as "the occult".

Also, Harry Potter lied to you.

Check out my article on How to Become a Real Wizard! And if you liked it, please share!


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Classic Rant: Why Do Commercial RPGs Succeed?

A few days back I posted an old blog entry asking "why do commercial RPGs fail"? And a lot of people found it quite interesting, but a few of them have been cajoling me into sharing my thoughts as to the opposite end of the spectrum; that is, why do commercial RPGs succeed? What's the special formula for success?

So here's what I'd say on the subject:

1. Promotion: you might have written the greatest RPG in the history of the Universe; but if no one knows it exists, you're screwed. If we're talking about large-scale commercial endeavors, then the focus here is on things like advertising, but also Public Relations; a large gaming company will inevitably have detractors, so it will also need defenders and promoters.

If we're talking about a small-print RPG, unless you're the RPGPundit or something, detractors are probably not an issue you have to deal with; your main issue is going to be having people know you even exist. So besides focusing on writing a good game, you need to focus on creating good "buzz". You need to start talking about the game and getting people to talk about it long before it even sees print. This means posts on forums, on blogs, on G+, kickstarter campaigns (which are as much about getting attention as securing funds, a point some people don't quite gather sometimes), and generally creating an environment where there are people wanting to own the game before they even can.
This is, in fact, #1 by a HUGE margin. It's more important than your rules, your art, or anything else. There are less worthy games that have sold far better than truly great games purely on the basis of having been able to drum up more effective promotion. So if 'commercial success' is your standard, this is the single biggest issue. It's one reason to hire a Consultant like, oh say, me! Someone who won't just tell you what you're doing wrong in the rules, but who can also just by associating himself with the game create a buzz for it.

And, on that note, I'll point out that there's really no such thing as 'bad buzz'. That's why people send me books to review that they KNOW, without a shadow of a doubt, I will despise. Because me utterly trashing their product will make them more famous and sell them more books. 

2. Presentation: Not every successful RPG needs to be a full-colour hardcover, though that doesn't hurt. The thing is, just about every really successful game does something to create some kind of image for itself. With an old-school RPG, this might mean having a look that is intentionally retro, for example. Nor do you need to go insane with the art budget (that might even be detrimental, if it pushes the cost of your book beyond a certain tier), but it's important that it have some kind of appealing aesthetic, even if you're working mainly with public domain illustrations or the like. Having some cool maps can't hurt either. 

But really, there's one obvious element to presentation that I think matters more than any other: the cover. It's what people will see first, be it in the local gaming store, or on RPGnow/amazon/whatever. Having the right cover might make the difference between people passing right by/scrolling right through, or stopping to look. If you're going to to out of your way with one part, the cover is it.

3. The Right Balance of 'New' and 'Approachable': while just what's in your game matters less for commercial success than promotion, it can make a big difference for long-term viability. You want to have a game that has a reason for existing; if your game has nothing at all that's new in it, there will be little reason for anyone to get it. That's why the 53rd exact-Clone of OD&D is not going to really sell well even with the OSR anymore; but if you do something like Dungeon Crawl Classics, it will. You also can't be "too weird to live", at the same time. Something radically different (or just very radical) will end up costing you customers; it may get a tiny core of fanatics, if you're really lucky, but that will only matter if you can find ways to keep milking that core.

A safer bet is to produce something that is definitely approachable, that people will immediately know what to do with it, but that provides something different from what is already around. Arrows of Indra, for example, has been a success by combining old-school D&D familiarity with the more 'exotic' element of Indian Mythology.

4. A "Killer App", Without Re-Inventing the Wheel: it is a mistake to recreate the whole notion of RPG rules just for it's own sake. Likewise, cheap gimmicks ("task resolution is done by using a dreidel instead of dice!") may generate a little buzz but is just as likely to turn people off. What you want is to generally have a system that is quite familiar to people, even if it's not an OSR or D20 system game; even if you are making a new set of rules, have the familiar 'formula' of how to make those rules work: attributes, skills, abilities, etc.

But it can certainly work for you if, within either your rules or your setting, you have some kind of clever new application, a mechanic that sets your game apart from other OSR games, or other point-buy-games-vaguely-similar-to-WoD, or whatever. 

Look at D&D 5e, for example. One of the things that is being praised about it is how much more approachable it is to D&D players than 4e was; it "feels" more like D&D. It uses "the best of all the older editions", etc. But the areas where there has been innovation are getting huge buzz too, especially the "Advantage/Disadvantage" rules. These are the "killer App" that differentiates 5e from other editions and makes it stand out in its own right. Now, had they tried to reinvent the wheel at every turn, you wouldn't be seeing the same kind of praise, and the truly awesome innovative bits would have been lost in a quagmire of needless and mediocre innovative bits. 

It's tricky to know just how far to go with this, or just where the line is between "innovative mechanic" and "cheap gimmick"; that sort of thing is, unfortunately, largely a question of game design craft, not something that can be easily delineated into some kind of formula. Another reason to get yourself a good game Consultant! Did I mention I'm available at reasonable rates?

5. And Finally, Not Fucking Up: There's a reason I wrote a blog entry about why RPGs commercially fail, before ever getting around to why they succeed. A large part of success amounts to Promotion + Not Fucking Up. In fact, while I put this in last spot, it should really be number two, right after Promotion. It matters more than the other points. If your game is full of shitty writing, huge sections of irrelevant game fiction or weird jargon, a crappy system (for any of the reasons systems can be crappy; but mainly extreme-complexity... note that I'm not saying you can't do a rules-heavy game, but there's a huge difference between a rules-heavy game written in a way that is easy to quickly get into, and one that requires that you read through 400 pages of text and figure out complicated formulae before you could even make a character), or extremely limited appeal (due to extreme pseudo-artistic pretentiousness, or an over-specific theme or subject that hardly anyone would want to actually play), then hardly anything will save it.


(Originally Posted July 26, 2014)

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Break Saturday: Anti-Trump School-Teachers Edition

Today on Break: a public school teacher has just been shown to assign her kids vocabulary homework that includes disparaging remarks about Donald Trump.

In the latest article, I take a look at some other possible anti-Trump school assignments you can expect to see any time now from leftist teachers that think they have a right to impose their politics on your children.

Think I'm being too extreme in suggesting there'll be a pattern of this happening?  Well, there's a twist to these assignments...

Check it out, and if you like it, please share!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Cutty + C&D's Crowley's Best

Friday, 17 February 2017

DCC Campaign Update: Let's Go Assault a Child

We left off with the party massively split-up, mostly in the city of Lol (though a couple of PCs were still down in "the Sphincter" and presumed dead).  Bill the Elf was imprisoned by the High Council of Wizards in a place called the Infinity Pit.  Yarr the halfling had ingratiated herself to one of the council members, Princess Fairywinkle, in an attempt to negotiate Bill's freedom. Morris had ended up 'encapsulated' for fighting in the public thoroughfare with Rainbow Deva. The yellow mutant boat-arsonist had received an important message from Jal'udin the rogue, and was absolutely sure not to deliver it.


-"I don't want to play Muu anymore. I want to roll up some new characters."
10 minutes later, Muu's player has generated a blob-man, a furry space insect, and a techno walrus.
"I just wanted to play someone normal!"
"He wants to play what he's not."

-"Dude, you know how many players would love to play any of those characters?"
"fuck it, I'm playing Teal the mud-mutant warrior from my last batch."
"Thank you for wasting all our time."

-"Your mental-defective boat-arsonist is sleeping in a closet."
"Hey! He's not a mental-defective. He's Handi-capable!"

-"Notice how everyone associated with Sezrekhan is terrible at who they actually choose to trust with important things?"
"That's because Sezrekhan is the Ayn Rand of Daemons."

-"What's going to happen to Bill? I wouldn't really care, but he's sort of my ride..."

-Heidi and Teal both regain consciousness at the bottom of the Sphincter. They both survived their last plummet into the depths as they tried climbing down the canyon because their fall was broken by a large mass of rotting radioactive sludge.
"You know what this is from, right?"
"Feels like it's from a dead shoggoth who was blown to bits with dozens of atomic mini-missiles."

-"so Arnok actually saved FIVE PCs now?! That was so not the plan!"

-Teal enters the crystal shard and transmats to Lol. There's a nerdy intern waiting at the transmat platform on that end.
"Are you a wizard??"
"Um.. yes. I'm the knife wizard!"
"You're not on the list!"
"...can I see the list?"
"I'm...this guy!"
"You're Raistlin?"

-Seconds later the intern starts to see through Teals pathetic ruse, and Teal runs for it, rushing into the flying Space-Kirin's corral and hiding in a storage room.

-Heidi beams up to Lol as well.
"Hello. Have you seen a mud-mutant around here?"
"The 'Knife Wizard'? He's not a real wizard you know! He lied to me! I put my trust in him!"

-Meanwhile, Teal is quickly found by the Guardian Robots.
"I stab one with my knife!"
"The knife breaks."

-Bill and Pertinax are in the Infinity Pit, getting high as all fuck to try to contact Bob Shoggoth. Actually, Pertinax didn't want to smoke any, but second hand smoke ruined his efforts to avoid having anything to do with Bill's crazy plan. Soon, they're both stoned out of their gourds, talking about cheese.

-"Man, I've lost all respect for Pertinax now. He used to have some dignity!"
"Yeah, until he met Bill!"
"He has that effect on people."

-Bill contacts Bob Shoggoth, and just for shits and giggles has Bob show Pertinax his true visage. Pertinax starts screaming hysterically, having lost all his Sanity Points from the encounter with a Thing Man Was Not Meant To Know.

-Bob Shoggoth is leaving all of creation, because of Sezrekhan. After totally disbelieving everyone who had warned him Sezrekhan was going to fuck everything up, from his fellow PCs, to important NPCs, to the High Council, Bill instantly believes in the danger when a rastafarian shoggoth tells him so.

-Also, Bill forgets to ask Bob Shoggoth to rescue him from the Infinity Pit.
"I forgot. Things kind of went another way and I got distracted..."
"It's because he got high!"

-So Bill is still stuck in the Infinity Pit with Pertinax, who won't stop screaming and has started to bleed out of his eyes from the Lovecraftian horror.
"..this is fine."

-The blacksmith and the farmer had found a cheap inn to stay the night, and the Blacksmith goes to de-encapsulate the prisoner he'd bought at the auction earlier that day. His new indentured servant turns out to be a seemingly ditzy prostitute named Myla.

-lost in the city of Lol, trying to find absolutely any of his team-mates, Heidi (who keeps insisting his name is pronounced 'haadee') runs into a crazy madman that's screaming about how "All is Sezrekhan!!". Some of the pepperpot-shaped Guardian Robots show up and encapsulate him.

-He then runs into a whole group of people, really creepy people who are also chanting in unison that "all is Sezrekhan". They are stalking toward him trying to grab him.
"hey, look over there, it's Sezrekhan!"
"They turn to look"
"I wasn't sure that would work. I run like hell!"

-He runs into another alley where he sees a couple engaged in man-blob sexual intercourse.
"I back away slowly."

-The blacksmith and the farmer desperately  need money, in order to buy Morris' capsule at the auction tomorrow.  Myla tells them she can get them some money.
"Ok, just don't tell me where you're going to get it from..."

-Heidi runs into a weird guy who apparently mistakes him for someone else. He tries to use a secret code with him.
"The crow flies at midnight..."
"I guess so?"
"oh. Sorry, nevermind!"
"Hey, wait!! You don't know where Bill the Elf is, do you? I came with him.."
"You're with Bill the Elf?? Come with me."

-The guy leads Heidi into a hovel where there's several shady looking characters. He has found The Resistance!
Their leader is a tough smart blonde woman in a tight dress.
"Wait.. is that Myla the prostitute? The one that was with the other guys?

-"Had Bill come here to destroy the Council?"
"He wasn't very clear... he said something about joining them, or destroying them... I think Bill might be dyslexic."

-"So Bill is in the Infinity Pit... what about Morris?"
"He's been Encapsulated."
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me."

-"The council has been subverted by one or more diabolists. Those wizards who aren't corrupted are too decadent to do anything. Bill is our only hope!"
"Oh man, you're so fucked."

-"He isn't our only hope... there is another."

-Meanwhile, the next morning Yarr goes with Princess Fairywinkle to meet Cylor the Cyclops Wizard, who they hope to convince to join Fairywinkle in sponsoring Bill to go through the test of membership in the High Council, which would get him out of the Infinity Pit on a technicality.

-"You know how I found that book of zoology last night in Fairywinkle's bookshelf and spent most of the night reading through it?"
"Well, you told me that Cylor is an obsessive collector of rare birds?"
"Yes, now that you're here you see that as well as attractive young male and and female slaves, he has many gilded cages with fancy birds, plus magnificent giant cats, and a menagerie full of monsters. He's quite the collector."
"Good. So I use everything I read to talk with him about some of the animals I recognize and flatter him about his collection."
"...damn, you're good."

-As Yarr enters Cylor's tower she notes a great statue given to him in gratitude from the people of Minotauria.
"Wait.. Minotauria??"

-Yarr succeeds in convincing Cylor. But she can also act as a witness to the fact that Bill couldn't have had anything to do with the disappearance of the Hippomagus, since he'd been in the Shithole for the past several weeks.
"If Bill was not the culprit, that means that someone on the council has betrayed us all! I'm fairly sure it's Zak the Grey Alien Wizard."
"Well, I think it's John De La Pole!"
"So why do each of you think that the person you named is the traitor?"
"Well... Zak thinks he's so cool..."
"And De La Pole is all stuck up."

-At this point everyone realizes the High Council of Wizards are much like a gang of high school students.

-"So now we are allies, eh, Fairwinkle? Well, Cylor has had worse allies!"
"And once we free Bill you'll have a worse ally again!"

-"I only hope we don't come to regret this."
"They're freeing Bill, of course they're going to regret it!"

-"Man, Cylor is like one of those guys from 'I Claudius'!"

-Meanwhile, Myla has agreed to help the blacksmith and the farmer purchase and decapsulate Morris. She takes them to a Frog-man loan shark. He demands the Farmer as collateral, and gives them a 2000gp loan in exchange for them paying him back 3400gp and 98sp.

-"you just sold out the farmer, and you guys call me the psycho!"

-Heidi ends up a prisoner of the Resistance. Myla brings the blacksmith there too, hoping to confirm that Heidi isn't a secret double-agent of the High Council. Unfortunately, the two had never met until just then.
"One or both of you could be spies."
"Probably him!"
"Who were you trying to free?"
"Really? You probably don't want to free him."
"Ok, I think Heidi's legit."

-"I think Bill broke Pertinax."

-With Pertinax a 0-San lovecraftian-horror-victim, Bill does the obvious and loots his cellmate. He finds a horn which turns out to be a Horn of Dutchmen!
"Yes, you have summoned us for a while.. isn't that weird?"

-He also finds a ring of weakness and puts it on, instantly dropping his Strength and Stamina to 3.
"Damn. Oh well, I chop off that finger."

-The auction begins, and the Blacksmith turns out to be outbid on his attempt to purchase Morris. He notes that the winner of Morris' capsule happens to be a frogman.  He realizes he might have made a mistake by mentioning that Morris had thousands of gold pieces on him.
He does manage to successfully bid on Rainbow Deva.

-Teal is being auctioned at the same event. He ends up being bought, and subsequently de-encapsulated, by a mercenary bounty-hunter named Malaprex the Violent.
"What do you do?"
"I mostly kill people!"
"Me too!"
"Great! Let's go drinking!"

-At the meeting of the High Council, Cylor and Fairywinkle manipulate the technical rules of the Council to get Bill released from the Infinity Pit. They're all stunned to see him horribly weakened and missing a finger.

-"What happened to you??"
"Well, first I contacted a Shoggoth.."
"He serves the Void!"
"I don't serve the Void! I just sometimes smoke weed with someone who came from it.."

-The Archemaster was supposed to be at that meeting of the council, to complete his re-application for membership. But he's conspicuously absent.  Meanwhile, Heidi discovers that the Archemaster has been recruited into the Resistance.
"Do you serve Bill, Heidi?"
"Not really."
"...good answer."

-"Should we really be trying to blow up the high council with an enormous bomb?! I mean, what about the Sezrekhan problem? Shouldn't we be trying to form a coalition?"
"Let me tell you about coalitions: when G.O.D. awoke, a grand coalition of the great and the good took place on Mt.Parnassus. You know what they did? NOTHING. They talked and talked all through the crisis."
"Well, we're here now!"
"So if it wasn't those guys, who stopped the crisis?"
"...that's not important."

-Myla and the blacksmith follow the frogman who bid on Morris to a ki-rin rental store that appears closed. The frogman knocks on the door and gives a secret password to enter.

-a young frogboy leaves the shop shortly thereafter, heading toward the Loan Shark's shop.
"We have to stop him!"
"OK, let's go assault a child."

-Meanwhile, Malaprex the Violent and Teal (the also violent) learn that Bill has been freed by the High Council.
"Bill's head would fetch us untold riches in any of a dozen kingdoms! You need to infiltrate Bill's group again and then betray him."

-Teal gets to Cylor's tower, where Bill is staying.
"Oh it's you."
"Yes, I'm here to help"
"Good. Well... um.. go find Morris!"
"Does he even know how to find Morris? Does he know this city? Do we even have any idea where Morris is?"
"He has resources!"
"He doesn't look like he has resources. He looks like an imbecile."
"Hey! I... don't know what that word means!"

-Teal immediately proves himself an imbecile by mentioning that he's been sent by Malaprex to betray Bill.

-After taking out the little frogboy, the Blacksmith and the resistance break into the Frogman shop and steal Morris' capsule. Then the Blacksmith and one of the resistance get to the Loan Shark's place before he's been alerted to anything, and pays off his loan, freeing the Farmer. They head to Decapsulate Morris, but on the way they get intercepted in an alley... by Jal'udin and his assassins!
"Have you contacted Bill?"
"Um.. yeah, sure."
"Did he get my message?"
"...tell him to meet me at the Dancing Harpy Saloon.  It is time we worked together to stop Sezrekhan."
"Weren't you allies once before?"
"Yes, long ago... then stuff happened."
"That sounds a bit sexual..."
"What?! No! I meant I killed him"
"Ohh.. that's much better."

-Before the blacksmith can get Morris de-encapsulated, the Resistance member who'd come with him suddenly goes nuts and starts shouting that "all is Sezrekhan". The Guardians come along and "ENCAPSULATE!" the guy.
"Shit, that's too bad. Well, I'll go de-encapsulate Morris"
"The resistance guy had Morris' capsule"
"Oh fuck."
"Wow, a capsule within a capsule, how does that work?"

-The blacksmith and the farmer decide to screw the resistance, and head to find Bill at Cylor's tower.
"Wow, you must save a lot of money on sunglasses..."

-Cylor has Teal act as bait to draw out Malaprex and then quickly subdues him with his Spider Web spell.
"So, Cylor can do whatever a spider can?"

-Heidi tries to convince Myla and the Resistance to let him go to Bill, promising them he'll recruit Bill for them.
"Do you really think you can get Bill to betray the council?"
"Bill can't stop betraying people! It's in his blood."

-Worried that the blacksmith betrayed them, Myla lets Heidi go.  She and the Resistance (including the Archemaster) will go to a new undisclosed location, and carry on with their plan to blow the council to bits.

-Finally, the boat-arsonist ended up wandering the streets of Lol utterly aimlessly. Eventually, he came across a troubling scene: BOLT-1 was meeting with several of the Guardian robots. He told them that the "Organics cannot be trusted to deal with the oncoming crisis", and that their 'plan' had to be accelerated.
"You must proceed on my signal, to cleanse the entire city of all organic life."

-Naturally, he did the only thing he could. He wandered off again and stole some eggs and a skillet from a nearby household. Literally, with his intelligence level it's the only thing he could do.

That's it for this session.  Not a lot got resolved, and instead, as usual, the PCs find themselves in a rising storm of oncoming shit about to hit multiple proverbial fans.

Will they be able to solve all the various problems, save Lol, the council, organic life, and the universe? Let's face it, probably not. But it'll be fun to see just how they fuck everything up! Stay tuned.


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Peterson's Old Dublin

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Busy; Working

I'm working like crazy on my new Appendix P Authentic-Medieval Rules (I'm currently flirting with a new name for it, but I don't think I want to float it quite yet).  Currently, I'm doing the work of filling out the character-creation section.  This will borrow a few parts from Dark Albion, so that people won't need both books as far as play is concerned.  But I'll also be introducing some new stuff, like background skills for each social class.

Anyways, since I'm too busy to do a proper entry, I'll mention that my article about the Alan Moore/Grant Morrison Wizard War in Comics has apparently gone kind of viral. So feel free to go check it out if you haven't yet, it's really a good read if I say so myself!


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

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Starcluster 4: Dark Orbital

This is a review of the RPG "Starcluster 4: Dark Orbital", which is part of a series of "starcluster" games. It's published by Flying Mice, which for the interest of disclosure I'll mention once published my "Forward... to Adventure!" RPG products. I don't think that'll affect my ability to review the product, but now you know.

Dark Orbital is written by Clash Bowley, Albert Bailey, and Klaxon Bowley. This is as always a review of the print edition, which is a softcover book, 85 pages long. It has a full-color cover featuring some people at what looks like some kind of futuristic diner, one of said 'people' is a humanoid racoon smoking a cigarette (is Clash trying to cash in on the Guardians of the Galaxy?).

In what represents a disturbing move toward furry art, the back cover features what appears to be a female humanoid cat dressed up in a slutty red outfit.
Interior art is moderately sparse, featuring some of the images of sample races, some planets, and some images of some designs.

The back cover that "dark orbital is a nasty place", without actually saying just what kind of place it is. And that people are 'trapped there by cold hard economics".  It also suggest that you can "put the punk back in cyberpunk with Dark Orbital".

So let's find out what this is all about.

Like the other products in the Starcluster 4 series, this one appears to be set up for quick character creation so you can get right into play.  So right off on the first real page of the book you jump right into the character creation process.  You have to choose a template, which can be either human or from a selection of 'uplifted animals' (which explains the furry stuff).

From the basic species profile you personalize the stats slightly, then you choose your starting age, purchase a number of skill templates based on your age, pick some specialties, and traits, equipment and then you get right to play.

Humans are just humans, but the uplifted species are strangely specific: you have Spotted Hyenas, Angora Cats, Shepherd Dog, Raccoon and Hare. The artwork isn't really the typical 'furry fandom' style.  They look less anthropomorphic and more like images of actual animals stood upright and then photoshopped to give them some slight human articulations. The dog one looks ridiculous, like a German Shepherd on its hind legs given human hands and holding a gun (the rest of the body still being completely animal).  The hare and the raccoon are not much better. But hey, at least it might not turn the furries on.
Though, maybe that's too much to hope for.

As with other games in the Starcluster series, your skills are obtained based on your age.  You get a background set of skills based on where you came from (if I'm reading this right, apparently cats all come from the 'sex worker' background, which I have to say as a cat owner is profoundly disturbing).

 Then you get another set based on your 'apprenticeship' in your youth. After that you have a  number of points, based on your starting age, that you can use to buy more sets of skills, along career trees (eg. 'advertising', 'civil service', 'criminal', 'gambler', 'security', 'sneak', etc).  So for example the 'tinker' career tree starts out with "tinker", and then someone who has that bundle can buy either "machinist" or "expert tinker".  An "expert tinker" can move on to "mainteneer" or "master tinker". And so on.  Each pick gives you a few skill bonuses.

There's also rules, as to be expected in a game advertising itself as cyberpunk, for 'implants'. They seem pretty straightforward. There's only 22 examples offered, so it's not definitive, and that list included several 'cosmetic implants', which have no mechanical effect in the game, they just change something about the character's look.

There's a bit more other equipment (mostly weapons) and then some optional rules on psionics, identical to the ones in the other starcluster 4 games.

The resolution mechanics are the same too. In brief, you roll 1d20 plus 1d20 per each rank you have in a skill. You compare the various die rolls to the relevant attribute.  Any result that is equal to or lower than the attribute counts as a 'success'. Invoking a trait gives you two extra d20s.  Edges, when applicable, add 1 to the value of the attribute for the purpose of the skill check. Situations can modify the roll by up to two dice, or the attribute value by 1 point.

There's also a totally different mechanic available; the one above is the 'starpool' mechanic.  The alternate is called the star100. In this one you determine the percentage of success by adding 40 + a modifier based on your relevant attribute + a modifier equal to the skill rank times five.
Then you roll a percentile die, and if you roll under the target number, you succeed.  The level/quality of your success is judged by a number of multiples of ten by which you made the check.  Traits give you +20 to the target number, edges give you +10. Modifiers can alter the target number by up to 20 points.

Next, we get to the setting: the "Cry in the Dark" star system.  It's a small dim red sun, with two planets, five moons, and two space stations. Right off, you get that the place seems unappealing. Apparently it has great mineral wealth, though.

The planets are Friday XIII, which has a slightly toxic atmosphere but is hotly contested.  It has lush vegetation and some ancient ruins;  and Bantu, a gas giant with the five moons. The only place that isn't completely crappy is "Cry in the Dark", one of Bantu's moons. But the main setting of the book is Dark Orbital, which was originally the colony ship that brought the settlers to this system.

Dark Orbital now serves as a space station. It's quite large, and a lot of it has been adjusted for living quarters.  There's some areas that don't have artificial gravity. The people living in the edge of the antigrav areas are basically slum-dwellers, surviving off scraps from the higher rings of the station/ship where the well-to-do live.

There are various important families/gangs that run things in the slums, chop shops for cybernetics, unauthorized black markets, cat-prostitute dance halls, raccoon fences for stolen tech (raccoons were originally uplifted to work maintenance on the colony ship), hare mediators, free clinics which act as fronts for drug lords, gangs, vigilantes, pirate entertainment networks, and more.

Most of these things are only detailed with single paragraphs. There are some floorplans, but not in detail of the entire station.  You do get a page which lists the various neighborhoods in Dark Orbital, along with their specialty stores, manufacturers, and services. None of these are elaborated beyond their names (stuff like "Guierrez Family Electronics Store", "Mao Boonmee Guinea Pig Farm and Butcher Shop", or "Spotted Pack Recycling Center").  It's clearly up to the GM to fill in a lot of the gaps in terms of what these places are about or what to use them for.

You do get a random-table "Situation Generator". It lets you roll at random (d20) for an "actor" (eg. local gang, Hop Congress, gambler, rickshaw puller, etc), "reason/object" (eg. token cache, mechanical part, illicit love, secret passage), "location" (eg. local noodle shop, brothel, empty tanks, internal stairwell), and "action" (eg. Kidnapping, cheating, take-over, politics). Again, none of these are detailed in any way. What it basically does is give the GM four words/phrases, that he then has to put together into an adventure.

There are some examples of actual play, which can give you perhaps some hints of the type of stuff you can do in Dark Orbital.

So on the whole, I'd say I'm not quite as impressed by Dark Orbital as I was by Zero Stage , the last Starcluster product I reviewed. Zero Stage seemed a lot more detailed, and presented a lot more interesting stuff. It was more vast, and more unusual.

But if you're looking for a skeletal framework for a claustrophobic cyberpunk type of setting inside the shell of an old starship, there's some utility to this product. It just requires rather a bit more work on the GM's part to fill it out.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Classic Rant: On Cynical Dungeons as a Substitute for Real Creativity

Yesterday I commented on a comment thread about an article someone had written on the "negadungeon", which is to say a dungeon or general adventure (often exemplified by the works of James Raggi & LotFP) where the point is all but to murder the player characters, where everything is a trap or a trick, where it is (most crucially) a set up so that the player's own actions end up causing them to unleash the terrible problem (instead of the standard dungeon, where the PCs go in to SOLVE the problem). And it is usually a dungeon with very high mortality and incredibly little reward, the reward often also screwing over the PCs somehow.

Now James Raggi is a very good writer, one of this best in this genre is Death Frost Doom. I've run it twice: in the first case, it did indeed unleash a zombie apocalypse, which I later had the players help to avert with a Cleric army. The second time I ran it, the player characters figured out that things had been sealed up for a reason, and decided to go home without entering; naturally, I gave them the total XP for all the monsters and treasures found in the dungeon, because in this case they DEFEATED the undead army by not entering at all in the first place. The players were very happy with the xp, but they also thought that it was a "retarded" adventure, because what's the point of a dungeon where the best possible thing you can do is not go in?

What's the point indeed? I had an argument on said thread yesterday with James Raggi about this, and highlighting the difference between the particular kind of "weird fantasy" he likes, and the "dark heroic" fantasy I like and use in Dark Albion.

The "negadungeon" is hip right now, but in ACTUAL PLAY its something that gets old really fast. 

Perhaps more importantly, in terms of design, it's always a lot easier (and actually far less clever than its authors think) to make something "against type" seem kind-of-interesting than to make something traditional turn out really interesting.

There are 'negadungeons' which are very clever; but there's a strong element of hipsterism to the obsession with them. In a way, the competition to create ever more pointless fucked-up adventures where PCs only ever get screwed over has become its own meta-negadungeon, a trap those authors who are fans of the concept can't seem to find their way out of; kind of like being ironic for so long you never know if you ever actually mean anything anymore.

And at least James Raggi is a decent writer; god help you when you get a negadungeon by someone more mediocre.

Anyways, they're fine in small doses, but if you live in a "negadungeon world" then the whole becomes swiftly tedious. I guess that's the difference between Raggi's nameless pseudo-europe and my own Dark Albion (which he declined to publish because it wasn't "weird" enough in the sense of fitting his own definition of that word; but I suspect also because it wasn't cynical or ironic enough). Now it's going to be published by and in collaboration with Dominique Crouzet (Fantastic Heroes & Witchery).

It will feature many barrows, tombs, goblin warrens, etc., which should probably stay sealed, or better yet lost, made by the ancient Cymri (the first men) or the Fae themselves; but places that will be opened because those who defeat the terrible evils therein will also gain fame, glory and the favour of the Unconquered Sun. 

Yes, these places will be full of unspeakable horrors: things man was not meant to know, like wraiths, or goblins -- and see, that's the thing too, the difference: the cynical-set wants to make a "tentacle-eyestalk-thing infused with the spirit of collective despair" into something really scary and inhuman for PCs... I want to make an Elf into something really scary and inhuman for PCs. There's a very big difference in that.

I think that it's possible get so stuck on this kind of cynical idea of design that you really miss out on what is the bigger challenge. It's a bit like that time on the Simpsons that Lisa pointed out that while Smashing Pumpkins might be a good band, making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel. It's less 'hip' but takes far more genius to make a song that is actually good and will also make teenagers feel optimistic.

Likewise, any idiot can make a bad traditional adventure. It is also easy for anyone of mediocre talent to make a mediocre "anti-traditional adventure". It might take someone who's fairly talented to make an actually great "anti-traditional adventure". But it takes a fucking genius to make a really great traditional adventure.

Making a cynical and pessimistic dungeon/adventure that:

a) screws over players and demands moral ambiguity of the PCs, while it features
b) some twisted tentacle-creature or whatever certainly something that can be done better or worse. Raggi generally does it well, but it's still a lot LESS clever than figuring out how to make an adventure about:

a) good (having a meaningful chance of) triumphing over evil and
b) where the PCs can (have a reasonable chance of) coming out the triumphant victors (whether morally ambiguous or otherwise as they so desire) that
c) at the same time doesn't seem corny or rehashed, and that figures out a way to
d) make a goblin (or any other archetypal monster the players have seen a thousand times) into the central and fearsome featured enemy.

I can't help feel that, in some sense, the fans of negadungeons don't technically actually TRUST Old-School gaming (and its archetypal concepts and virtues) to be any good; or at least trust themselves to be any good at doing it. That's why they need to twist it around with cynicism and irony. 


(Originally Posted June 28, 2014)

Monday, 13 February 2017 Monday: Occult Comic Book War Edition

Today on  Grant Morrison and Alan Moore are two of the world's greatest living comic writers. Both have had a huge influence on geek culture, pop culture and even mainstream culture.

Both are also wizards.  Serious wizards, who've dedicated their lives to the occult.  Their literature and writings on the subject are taken seriously in the occult world.

They also hate each other.

Find out the whole story, about Moore and Morrison's massive wizard-war they've been fighting with each other for the last 25+ years.  Not only in the occult world, but also in the world of comics, where their comics are like spell-volleys, squarely aimed at each other.

As always, please share!


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Virginia

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: Wedding Edition

It's a bit hard to figure out how to write up this session.

For starters, Kid Taylor's kid sister Lily caused a huge commotion trying to get Miller to marry her. Miller wanted nothing to do with it, but this got him into some very public trouble when a poor choice of words made it sound like he was propositioning her to an illicit non-marriage relationship.

This in turn led to the consequence of Miller's long-time beau, the Widow McKnee, deciding that they would now have to marry to avoid any hint of scandal.

That in turn led the Mormon Gambler to ask Miss Becky, the saloon girl he'd been courting for some time, to marry him.  This would eventually require them to visit his family in Utah, and for her to at least nominally convert to Mormonism.  She accepted even so.

Miller was not happy at all about the idea of marrying a late-sextagenarian who had outlived 4 previous husbands.  But he'd been stuck with her for a series of increasingly terrible mistakes.  As a wealthy and well-connected town dowager, she was useful to his early career and fortune in Dodge, and later he found out that she was actually Doc Holliday's aunt.  Meaning that if he broke her heart, he'd probably end up with a bullet through the head. Now, a scandal caused by Kid Taylor and his equally-crazy sister Lily meant he was going to be stuck with the widow until one of them died.

Things got even crazier at the Bachelor's party, when David the mexican showed up brutally beaten. It turns out there were two men asking about the Mormon Gambler, who they had mistaken for a famous bandito named McClue. The two men are apparently the spitting image of each other, and this wasn't the first time this had happened.

On top of it all, they ended up kidnapping McClue's fiance Becky.

Luckily, he was in a room with all of Dodge City's lawmen and several of its most dangerous criminals, most of whom were only half-drunk.  They planned an ambush.

What followed was a gun fight, that devolved into a knife-fight, that devolved into a wrestling match in the snow. By the end of it, one of the two men (brothers, it turns out, who had come to avenge the death of a 3rd brother at McClue's hands) was dead, and the other brutally injured.

None of this dissuaded the progress of the wedding, and finally, Miller and McKnee were wed. Becky was rescued, and in spite of her ordeal still wants to marry the Mormon Gambler.

And even Lily Taylor is making progress, having now turned her girlish wiles toward Ed Masterson, in the hopes of winning herself a husband that will have all of the Mastersons' growing influence in Dodge, with none of Bat's bad habits.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Progress In Medieval-Authentic OSR Game: the Magister

So, to give you another update, at this point I've finally managed to get through the magic-user magic bits.

I think that was the truly hard part. The rest will take time but it will be a lot less challenging. I think I've ended up with a pretty good set of rules for the different forms of magic that were practiced in the medieval/early-renaissance period.

I haven't covered absolutely everything that was being done back then, mind you, there could be room to add more stuff. But the ones I included are (I think) enough to make it work.  Importantly, Magisters are also masters of knowledge, not just magical power, which is very true of the medieval/renaissance wizard. They were the academics of their age.

So what can a Magister know?

Well, they have the ability to have lores in (non-magical) alchemy, astronomy (which includes cartography and navigation), court politics/etiquette, apothecary, history, law (religious or secular), medicine, natural philosophy (basically, science as understood in the middle ages), occultism and languages.

And in terms of magic?  Here are the different techniques of magic that the Magister will be able to master:

1. Summoning, which will be more or less the same as it appears in Dark Albion.

2. Astrology.

3. Cures: a variety of different magical techniques for healing, to cure illness, injury, parasites, madness, blindness and hunger.

4. Banishing: to cast out evil spirits, create areas secure from magical interference, and establish a magical temple for assisting wizardly work.

5. Battle Magic: spells for aggressive use, including a magical 'blasting wand', protective bread, invisibility, breaking out of bonds or through locks, earthquakes, and curses.

6. Talismans: magical amulets or objects that grant special abilities to the wearer. There are 32 of these, with a variety of effects, connected to different 'planetary' spirits.

7. True Alchemy: magical alchemy, which I previously covered in this blog. It covers everything from rain-making to immortality (and of course, turning lead into gold).

So that's it for now. I'll post more updates as I keep going with the project.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti half-volcano + C&D's Bailey's Front Porch

Friday, 10 February 2017

Classic Rant: Have I Come to Bury Dragonlance? Or Praise it?

Only a few weeks ago I wrote a review of an old-school book, Isle of the Unknown, where I trashed it as just about one of the worst old-school gaming products I'd ever seen (for good reason). The author, Geoffrey McKinney, responded by a vicious retort that I didn't get it because I "wasn't a true old-schooler"; and then he used the absolute worst insult any OSR-guy could probably give: he called me a Dragonlance fan.

That's a sign of how low an opinion the old-school scene generally has of Dragonlance. A guy who writes RPGs unapologetically featuring demonic child-rape and human sacrifice thinks that "dragonlance fan" is the absolute worst thing you can accuse someone of being. 
But we forget sometimes that for the rest of the gaming world, Dragonlance was something of a success story; and there are people who look back on it fondly. So much so, that this guy at the AV Club has written an article about how wonderful it was.

So are we wrong? I mean, the original trilogy was a hugely best-selling set of novels; which sold better than quite a few of our beloved fantasy novels. It made TSR millions. But more importantly, it created a second wind for D&D.  As much as for many of us the old basic box or the AD&D 1e manuals were our first great experience that drew us into the hobby, there is a whole generation for whom their gateway into D&D was Dragonlance. You can forgive them for looking back fondly at it.

Plus there was Raistlin.

As the essay does a good job of explaining, there was certainly a lot that young and often outcast teenage nerds could sympathize with in Raistlin. These novels were hardly works of great literature, but they were also very far from pretentious dreck; if anything, they were archetypal dreck, really masterful at using all kinds of fantasy stereotypes that, importantly, were being used by old-school gamers all over the place. Look at just about any Dragonlance character, and you can see a pastiche of a mix of characters that appear in (arguably better) novels from the DMG's Appendix N. 

There is in fact an argument to be made that Dragonlance was in many ways the culmination of the entire D&D experience up to that date.

But that argument is also incomplete, and thus ultimately wrong. Because the conclusions Dragonlance generated in gamers, game designers, and TSR, ended up being the wrong conclusions on almost every level and led the hobby in a troubling direction. 

Dragonlance was a story first and foremost. Thus, it convinced a generation of gamers that D&D was about "playing a story"; its modules were the worst kind of railroad ever. And it began the trend in D&D (and other RPGs) where adventure modules stopped being about adventuring and started being about trying to tell a really clever literary tale.

Worse, as a setting, Dragonlance became all about adjusting to the developments of the novels. Since the novels were so central, there was relatively little for PCs (who weren't Tanis or Tasslehof or whoever) to do. The core of the action gets resolved by these literary characters in the novels; the PCs are stuck adventuring in the before or the after. This infection quickly spread to just about every setting TSR would go on to produce.

And from a business perspective, it was that obsession with novels that ultimately destroyed TSR. It created a situation where the production of novels (and the quick influx of cash created by successful novel sales) started to overshadow the actual RPG as a priority. From the game perspective, this meant that almost all the game designers were also (usually frustrated) novelists and insisted on treating their rpg material as novel-substitutes. Many of them were just waiting around for their chance to try to write their own trilogy. From the perspective of the business as a whole, this ended up being TSR's doom, because many of these game designers were actually very shitty novelists; and the rush to produce reams and reams of TSR novels of increasingly dubious quality meant that the quick flush of cash from sales of successful novels turned into a quick plunge into debt from unsuccessful book returns. As much as the original Dragonlance trilogy was a triumph, it ultimately destroyed TSR.

Fans from that era can still feel free to look fondly on those books or on those characters; but ultimately, it represented more clearly than any other single moment in D&D's history the start of the wrong-turn that was ultimately the fount of some of the worst ills in the hobby.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

(Originally posted June 13, 2014)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Break Thursday: Where Are All the Refugee Celebrities Now?

We take a look at some of the thousands of Hollywood Celebrities who totally kept their promises and left the USA after Trump won the election.

Who lived? Who died?

Who became a Canadian cabinet minister?
Who got eaten?

Check it out, and of course if you like it, please share!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Horn + Argento Latakia

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Universal Exploits

This is a review of the RPG sourcebook "Universal Exploits". It is a supplement for the "sleazy sci-fi rpg" Alpha Blue.
Universal Exploits is written by Venger Satanis, and published by Kort'thalis publishing. The book is a softcover, 106 pages long (including character sheets at the back).  Its cover is a full-color piece featuring a sci-fi landscape backdrop, and some sci-fi characters on the front, including a woman dressed in very skimpy clothing, and what looks like a trandoshan wielding a light saber.

The interior art is fairly full of black and white drawn images, many of which look like pretty standard sci-fi fare with a 70s aesthetic, but some of which looks like full blown pornography including realistic drawn nudity.

So I've had mixed feelings about Alpha Blue. It has some neat material but most of what's neat about it has nothing to do with the smutty elements that the author seems so fixated on.  And frankly I feel that this is what weakens it as an actually useful RPG.  It might be good as some kind of 'political statement' against puritanical feminism, it might be good amusing reading for people who like that. But my suspicion is that most people don't want to spend time actually ROLEPLAYING a setting like this in a group when that means hearing the 300lb guy sitting across from you talking about how his sexy space-prostitute PC is being fingered by a lizard-alien.
That means that if you like Alpha Blue as a playable RPG product, you have to excise most of the pornographic material from actual play.

The previous Alpha Blue supplement I reviewed, Girls Gone Rogue, had a couple of small sections that were focused on interesting sci-fi material or mechanics, and a whole lot of smut-related content that was essentially worthless if you're not into watching obese gamers living out their sex-fantasies in public like that was normal.
Let's see now, if Universal Exploits turns out to be as disappointing, or if it turns the focus back toward the 70s sci-fi and away from the gratuitous sleaze.

After three pages of game-fiction, which is of the same bad quality as all game-fiction, we get to some new rules and random tables. Nothing wrong with that, in principle at least!

First you get an alternative table to the ship-to-ship combat rules presented in Girls Gone Rogue; said rules being one of the only things I found really worthwhile in that book. This makes those rules even a little better (note: only the modification, not the full rules, are printed here).

Then you get a rule for carrying-over damage in combat.  And then a random table for 'freezer burn' (when a characters spends more than 10 years in suspended animation).
There's also a very simple table for determining the level of xenophobia for a character (presumably NPCs).  A very short rule clarifying unarmed combat. A rule to make characters a little more impressive. And an expanded set of "prior experiences" tables.

Then you get some alternate rules and tables for making Alpha Blue into a slightly more dystopian setting where there's a big underclass, with random rolls to determine which "caste" (really social class) you came from, and to randomly determine your motivation for becoming a spacer.
Also, a random table for determining why someone joined a revolutionary movement.
This is followed by a table to determine random pre-existing relationships between characters.

After that, you get a short random-table of alien languages, each entry having descriptions of how the language sounds and works.

There's random tables to determine where in the galaxy a given planet/destination is located, and another for random travel times to get to a given location in the galaxy.

Then we get psychological, with an optional rule for people to develop a very special kind of psychosis when they visit Alpha Blue, called "blue effect", where they basically go crazy with libertine orgiastic decadence for a while.

If you want to add some horror to your campaign, there's a small random table to determine creepy effects or events for a 'haunted starship/planet' type of scenario.

This is followed up by some rules and a table for managing cloning technology.

After that, some random tables and very broad rules for generating random 'domains' (things like a huge ship, a city on a planet, a whole star system, etc), how it was acquired, and some mechanics to govern domain management.
There's also a very short table of a few random names and descriptions of galactic 'leaders' (boss-types).

All of a sudden, we jump back into the sleazy side of things, with rules and a random table on the subject of 'cockblocking'. Something I have to say has never really come up in any campaign of mine, and if it did I think it could just be handled by roleplaying. But, whatever.

There's a set of very basic 'where are you' tables, mostly generating level numbers, sector letters, or area 'colors', of the type you might find on a starship/base/whatever (stuff like "Area C" or "Red Section: security").
A bit more interesting are the random tables for use when a PC ends up in a detention block. There's a table to see who's in the cell with you, what they're in for, and what the inmates are doing.

You also get tables for "random federation agents", random passengers (and rules for managing cargo jobs), random career benefits, rules for telepaths, and new drug rules and tables.

We then get some brief descriptive material and an adventure-seed table of sorts for another space station, called Revan 111, which is quite different from Alpha Blue. It's a "multicultural cesspool", a semi-lawless refuge for exiles from all over the galaxy. It's when you want to do something closer to 'Deadwood' or 'Casablanca' and less like "Las Vegas in space' or 'the best little whorehouse in the Horsehead Nebula'.

There's a short table for determining a random stereotypical characteristic for an alien race (like, they're 'social', or 'mysterious', or 'warriors', etc.).
This is followed by a much larger random table of events that happen "after the party".
There's also a large random table to determine alien religious practices. And another large random table to determine a motivation for an NPC.
Then a large random table for aspects of an alien world.

One thing to say about this book, and indeed about the other Alpha Blue books, in terms of layout: it doesn't seem to me like there's any kind of sensible order to the tables or sections.  There might be some kind of organization I'm not seeing, but it looks to me like the various random tables or optional rules were all just put together in the order in which the author thought them up, more or less.

Like, right after the tables above, we get a few pages of GM advice. Then into a half-page section for generating Federation spies. Then the topic suddenly changes again, to a description of "Universal Exploits", which is a recruitment firm that connects spacers to profitable-assignments.

This premise segways into an adventure, involving finding a lost shipment of aphrodisiac drink for an alien ambassador. The drink turns out to be something much more than just alien viagra, though.

After that, there's more adventure material: a black ops mission for a galactic burger & cola megacorp to wipe out their Federation-funded competition.

Then a curious adventure called "Pussy Chasers: The Legend of Oral" (which the back cover of the book claims was going to be the original title of Universal Exploits). It's pretty absurd, more than a usual Alpha Blue adventure; the basic premise is that the PCs are in an alternate universe, one that is 'sex-starved' and puritanical. A scientist has discovered a way to travel to the Alpha Blue universe, but the Anti-Sex Federation is trying to stop them. It also involves the ancient scrolls of a 'prophet' named "v'ger z'tanys", and a "star blade" that has the power to "destroy the oppressors that keep women clothed and blowjobs few and far between".

Next we momentarily jump out of the adventure section to present a description and encounter table for the "red hologram district", the seediest part of any planet, starbase, city, etc. (other than Alpha Blue, I suppose, which is just one big Red Hologram District). This segues into a short adventure featuring a prostitute and a pimp that ends up leading into a heist job.

Next there's a section on a crime lord creatively called "Grabba the Butt", which mostly consists of a vague description of Grabba, a list of adventure seeds related to Grabba, and a table for unexpected things that might happen while dealing with Grabba. 

Next there's some random NPC tables, then some random tables about territorial claims finishes the textual part of the book.

Seriously, the ordering of all this is like it was written by an 11 year old with ADHD. 

Finally, you get some character sheets and ship or location plans, several pages worth. These include the floorplans for "Grabba the Butt's pleasure palace".

So, the crazy-quilt order aside, what do I think in the final equation?

It's certainly better than Girls Gone Rogue, in terms of having what I think is actually playable material.  They're pretty much diametric opposites of each other: "girls" has mostly got smutty stuff with a little bit of non-smut sci-fi stuff, while "exploits" has mostly got playable sci-fi stuff, with a little bit of smutty stuff.

The material on here is a mixed bag. Some of the tables are too short. Some of the material is too basic and should have been developed more. Other stuff is really great, as a resource for Alpha Blue or for any other kinds of 70s/80s-style space-opera sci-fi RPG play.

So, I guess, if you are one of those people who wants to get more smutty sexual roleplay material in your Alpha Blue game (or any sci-fi game) than it already had, you should go with Girls Gone Rogue. But if you want a book with some decent (but quite gonzo) random tables and material for space-opera, then Universal Exploits would be better.


Currently Smoking: Blatter Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best