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Saturday, 21 July 2018

Classic Rant: Some OSR Factions Erase the Past They Claim to Treasure

The worst thing about the OSR-Taliban is that they make the past so fucking tiny.

They reduce the huge variety and possibility that was happening in the Old-School period into playing ONE edition of D&D in ONE particular style (which was by far not the most popular style, I should note). And use absurd interpretations of "scripture" to justify it.

After the last couple of days' responses to my blog entries, no one has the right to question my calling them the "Taliban" again. They have exactly the same goal: to go back in time and wipe out all the wide variety and diversity and innovation and change and just say that one tiny sliver of the past is the one and only truth, and worse, pretend that's all there ever was.

But Old-school can be bleeding edge gaming, if we let it. Tons of 3rd-wave OSR games have proven that, completely contrary to the perspective of the OSR-Taliban, if we open up our minds about how you can play D&D and what you can do with it mechanically (instead of looking for some mythical purity), we have hardly just begun to explore how far you can take old-school D&D

And ironically, this latter point of view is WAY closer to how people actually thought and felt in the old-school era. To quote someone else who, unlike J. Maliszewski, was actually fucking there:

" I started playing in 1978. Every gamastermaster I knew was strictly Anti-Gygax and we ALL created our own rules systems. So it's kind of laughable to me having been there to hear people claim that there was only one version of The Beginning. "

Admiration for Gary Gygax grew over the years, organically, in part because as he got older he became less of an asshole. Slavish Adoration of Appendix N emerged almost overnight, when Internet Fraud James Maliszewski invented the idea that this appendix is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PAGE IN THE HISTORY OF D&D by pulling it out of his own ass. Look at conversation on the internet about D&D, even old-school D&D, before that, NO ONE was talking about appendix N. It is not a long cherished legacy of our hobby, it is like a Mullah having taken some obscure line in one of the secondary sayings of the Prophet and declaring this to be the justification for his own personal jihad against any style other than the one he thinks will best suit his own gain.

In the REAL old-school era, people weren't obsessing about how to keep D&D "pure". Just the fucking opposite: they were going nuts with creativity. They were so excited about making new worlds, changing up the rules, inventing new systems, with FUCKING CHANGING STUFF.

THAT is what old-school is all about: creativity and innovation. Not 'purity' and backward-looking elitism. The OSR shouldn't be about picking apart apocryphal minutiae and trying to let the wise men amongst us decipher for all the rest of us "what gary really meant" by it so we can all go play in that same pure way. The OSR should be about taking a set of rules, a set of limits, and seeing just how much crazy stuff we can do within those limits. We shouldn't be going backward until there's no further backward to go; we should be looking at all the cutting-edge potential D&D had in that early era, and realizing that we have barely even started to push the limits of what you can do with it. 

The OSR has to decide: it's either a Nostalgia Cult, or a design movement. It can't be both at the same time.

Actually, fuck that. The OSR HAS decided. The success of products like Red Tide, Arrows of Indra, Yoon Suin, Slumbering Ursine Dunes, the Islands of Purple-haunted Putrescence, and yes, Dark Albion (as well as many, many more) has made it very clear that the Nostalgia Cultists have lost. We don't need JMal or his followers pretending to have Gygax's Authority to tell us all how to play Old-School.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Image Virginia

(Originally posted June 7, 2016)

Friday, 20 July 2018

RPGPundit Reviews: Alpha Blue: Battle Star Trek Wars

This is a review of "Battle Star Trek Wars", a sourcebook for Alpha Blue by Venger Satanis, who is obviously increasingly unconcerned with blatant name-dropping/parody.  The book is published by Kortthalis Publishing. It's a softcover, about 70 pages long, with a full-color cover featuring some spaceships flying past a planet, the ships look vaguely reminiscent of the original Battlestar Galactica. 

The interior is full-color, with magnificent glossy pages that are beautiful to both sight and touch. In terms of production values, this is a very high-quality book (we'll see in the process of this review whether the content comes close to matching up). The interior art is a mix of color and b&w, featuring mainly spaceships, weird aliens (often with tentacles) and (most of all) sexy women in suggestive poses (some of them featuring full nudity) that would make the Tracy Hurleys of the world go apeshit.

Before proceeding, I should note something: I have nothing to do with the production of this game nor do I have any kind of publishing relationship with Venger, but he is one of my co-hosts on Inappropriate Characters, my talk show about (mostly controversial) subjects in the D&D and RPG hobby.  I sincerely don't think that this relationship will affect my ability to provide a clear and critical review, but I wanted to make sure it was stated so that there wouldn't be any questions of transparency.

The book is introduced as quite possibly the last Alpha Blue sourcebook, which makes sense I suppose as Venger has done quite a lot of them now, and I guess he might be getting ready to move on to other things. There's only so much comedic smut even he could produce, though he's sure determined to give it one last stab at milking this genre for all its worth.

The first 8 pages of the book are eaten up by the introduction and then some in-setting short fiction, which is as bad as almost all in-setting short fiction in RPG products.

From there we get into the material, which is as usual a mishmash of stuff in more or less random order as far as I can tell.
First off we get a name change, from dungeon master to Bold Dungeon Space Master, just so that you can abbreviate it as BDSM.

Second, we have a method of creating characters by asking seven key questions (about who the character is and what they do). The ultra-simple (and, as I've covered before, non-OSR) system of Alpha Blue would then have a PC roll 1d6 for any attempt to do something that isn't covered by their answers to those questions, or 2d6 for anything that can fall under those categories.

Then there's an optional rule that involves determining damage based on your attack roll rather than a separate damage roll.

After that, some advice on social situations in the game, and then a mechanic for shortening combat by having a random table roll to resolve any combat that gets too long.

Suddenly, we switch to a random table about what happens when an alien you're having sex with has an orgasm. And a random table to determine what type of underwear a female lover is wearing, and the condition of said underwear, and her 'vaginal area'.  Yes, I'm serious.

Then a description of an encounter with a 'slut bot'.

After that we suddenly switch back out of Pervert Mode, and have a table for "how to start an Alpha Blue adventure", a table for what an NPC will want in exchange for information/favors, and a random table of exotic weapons.

Suddenly, we switch back to a supposedly popular game in the galaxy involving getting other people of the same sex as you to see your junk.

Then back to a random table of communications your comms pick up. And a lengthy random table of 100 random NPCs you might meet in the campaign, each comes with a short paragraph's worth of description.

At this point we're about halfway through the book. The next thing we get is another large random table of Alpha Blue Loot. Followed by a small table of "reasons why she says no", a table to determine how "pussy whipped" you are, a table for "recovery time" after sex, and a description of an Alpha Blue crypto-currency called MeowMeowBeanz.

Then we get to an adventure scenario called "I Wear my Heart on my Sleaze". It involves a party where the PCs have to get laid within 3 hours or they'll die. It also involves a weird alien bio-condom, some "bi-sexual nymphomaniacs", and a pickpocket. It's 5 pages long.

The next adventure scenario is called "Emergency Escape Sequence Delta Cream". It has the PCs getting involved in a fight to save a rebel moon from the Federation.  It is a much more traditional adventure, and it's 4 pages long.

After this we get a 9-page long scenario called "Outer Rim Jobs of Ta'andor". It's an incredibly ridiculous adventure involving a truly wacky job for the PCs. There's a singing contest and an evil psychic orange.

The last scenario is "Panty Raid on Palyrus 5".  It's a 5-page scenario, set in a system full of University Planets. Each of the 5 planets is focused on a different set of disciplines, and Palyrus 5 is the one that focuses on Women's Studies. And there's a hot market for panties raided from that world. Yes, it is basically a dangerous mission to steal panties.

So, as usual with Venger's Alpha Blue books, the end result is a mixed bag of stuff.  If you are a tried and true Alpha Blue fan, you'll probably like this product.
If you aren't, you will really want to read up on Alpha Blue first.

As far as using material from here in other games or settings, the good news is that there's hardly any actual rules material here. It's almost all descriptive and setting. So in theory, you could take the stuff in Battle Star: Trek Wars and put it in whatever sci-fi system you're running. Of course, it would absolutely have to be gonzo.  If you were to use all of the stuff in here it would also have to be extremely smutty.

There are redeeming elements in the product: almost all the material that isn't explicit could certainly be transferred to an appropriately sci-fi gonzo setting and work, there's certainly tables that would require little to no 'cleaning up' if you didn't want your game to highly sex-oriented.

Personally, I still can't quite get that there's a ton of people that really want the sort of sex-focused comedy sci-fi that Alpha Blue offers. But the fact is I know that there is, because the material was crowdfunded.

Anyways, before I devolve into rambling, I'll say that it's likely that I might use a table or two from this book in my Gonzo Scifi/Fantasy DCC campaign. So I guess that's a kind of mild endorsement. I don't think I'd be buying this book myself.

I also have to say I'm amazed that with the type of (admittedly 'brave' in the sense of being intentionally offensive) material that Venger writes, he's not far more censored than James Desboroughs, whose material looks outright tame in comparison. Machinations of the Space Princess is a freaking disney movie compared to this.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Classic Series Rhodesian + C&D's Crowley's Best

Thursday, 19 July 2018

All RPGPundit Presents Issues now 25% off! (and Lords of Olympus Too!)

The RPGPundit Presents series of small supplements are already very good bargains to begin with. You're basically sending me a tip for my time. Issues of RPGPundit Presents range from 99 cents to $3.99.

But if any of you have honestly been saving up your pennies until now to be able to buy these products, this is the time.  Until the end of this month, all the RPGPundit Presents series is 25% off!

In fact, all of Precis Intermedia's products are 25% off, if I'm not mistaken, by going to their online store and putting in this coupon code:  J86MG8Y9GV

In fact, this means you can also pick up Lords of Olympus at the Precis store for 25% off, which is a great bargain for a beautiful book! 

While you're at it, if you're a Spanish-speaking gamer, be sure to check out the latest Spanish issue of the series, with RPGPundit Presents #38: 20 Siniestros Encuentros Supernaturales en Tierras Salvages!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Hawkbill + Image Virginia 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Video: CriticalRole Reaction Proves There's No "D&D Community"

In today's video: When a PC died in the popular Youtube #DnD based Reality-Show Soap Opera "Critical Role", there was an outcry of complaints from their fans (the "critters").
This proves that a big part of the audience are not D&D players, do not actually care about the game, just want to see a story, and have NOTHING IN COMMON with actual D&D gamers. Ergo, there's no such thing as a "Community" with them.

Because in D&D, character death is a huge part of making your character's life worthwhile.

Guest starring: Bill the Elf!


Currently Smoking: Crown Cutty + C&D's Crowley's Blend

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Adventure: The Great Tree Druid

A brand new adventure from my Last Sun DCC Campaign has now come out as RPGPundit Presents #39: The Great Tree Druid.

In the depths of the Tangled Wood, an ancient evil has been busy taking over a tribe of Orange Mutants and preparing to wage war against the forces of technology. It is the Tree Druid, and his goal is the destruction of the Science Dome of the Smug Elves. To do that, he will need blood magic, and has sent his mutants out to kidnap sentients for sacrifice all over the forest.

In this adventure the PCs will have to try to save themselves from the Tree Druid and his mutant and undead forces, and maybe even try to stop him. Set in the same forest region as The Saga of the Green and Blue Mutant Chiefs, the PCs will also potentially have to face down evil chipmunks, Smug Elf hunter-drones, the dreaded Shit-Eater, and a randy and foul-mouthed Unicorn.

They may even run into Priscilla, the most annoying NPC of the entire Last Sun campaign.

That plus a climactic battle (which the PCs may or may not involve themselves in, this is an OSR sandbox after all) will make The Great Tree Druid an exciting outdoor-adventure scenario for any Gonzo-style D&D or OSR game campaign.

You can get RPGPundit Presents #39: The Great Tree Druid at DTRPG, or at the Precis Intermedia Webstore.

And while you're at it, be sure to pick up the rest of the great supplements in the RPGPundit Presents series:

RPGPundit Presents #1: DungeonChef!

RPGPundit Presents #2: The Goetia  (usable for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #3: High-Tech Weapons

RPGPundit Presents #5: The Child-Eaters (an adventure scenario for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #17: The Hunters (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)

RPGPundit Presents #21: Hecate's Tomb (an adventure for Lion & Dragon!)

Stay tuned for more next week!


Currently smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

Monday, 16 July 2018

My RPG Campaigns Can Predict the Future!

Remember when I posted the first Amber play report?

In that campaign I had Elon Musk being a would-be superhero who also had an obsession with submarines.  And was kind of crazy.

Did I predict the future? Or did I create it?


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + McClintock Syrian Latakia

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Wild West Campaign: Retribution

In this session, Kid Taylor has gone off for Christmas in Dodge city with his family.

The rest of the PCs were in Tombstone, where an old friend of Virgil Earps, a newly-retired sheriff named Oren Bailey, had come to town on the way to California. He was living it up and enjoying the bustling town, and had fallen for a girl at the saloon of the Cosmopolitan Hotel where he was staying.

The next day, though, Virgil came back and told the Millers to keep an eye out for any suspicious characters. He'd noticed that Oren had suddenly gotten nervous, and he wondered if his old friend hadn't spotted an old enemy, like one of the cattle rustlers from Derek McClue's former gang that he'd helped break up in Oklahoma. They agreed to keep an eye open for him.

Meanwhile at the Oriental Saloon, Big Nose Kate had a favor to ask of Jackson and Luke Short. Doc Holliday had been playing and drinking for the last 48 hours straight, and he was not looking good but didn't want to stop. He wouldn't listen to Kate or to Wyatt, so she asked them if they could think up a way to get him home.

Jackson decided to try by convincing Doc that next day some high-stakes player was going to be coming in and he should get some rest before that. But Doc saw through his ruse; and when Jackson refused to admit he was lying on Kate's behalf, Doc made Jackson a deal: he'd go to bed but there'd better be a high-stakes player tomorrow night when he comes back. Or else.

So Doc headed off, while Jackson and Luke Short were left wondering just who they could get that would be willing, or just dumb enough, to lose a lot of money to Doc. They decided that Ike Clanton might just be dumb enough, if he had any money, and headed to the pool hall to look for him.

But along the way, they suddenly heard two gunshots! Heading into the alley the sounds came from, they found a trio of men who had apparently been assaulting a fourth; but one of the three now had half his hand blown off and a second shot in the shoulder.   Getting closer they recognized two of the men: the one taking the beating and doing the shooting was Doc Holliday! The guy who was leading the assailants and just got most of his hand blown off was Johnny Tyler.

Those of you who watched Tombstone the movie might remember Johnny Tyler as the bullying but cowardly faro dealer who Wyatt Earp threw out of the Oriental, and who Doc Holliday later abjectly humiliated.  Both of those events truly happened (though not at the same moment), but so did this one, where later on Tyler got a small gang and tried to beat Doc Holliday to death.  Only someone as dumb as Johnny Tyler would bring clubs to kill the best shootist in the west.

Even so, Doc  would have been in real trouble had Luke and Jackson not spotted the attack. They drew fast (well, Luke drew fast; Jackson is known as the slowest gunfighter in Tombstone), and while they drew Doc shot another of the attackers in the thigh. Tyler tried to run but Luke shot him in the back of the thigh too. The men surrendered.  Tyler was bleeding severely, and Doc, apart from his bad beating was also struck by a severe attack of his consumption.

Doctor Goodfellow arrived, and the injured parties were quickly taken to his clinic. He saved Tyler's life (and would eventually even save most of his hand); though he was particularly mystified by Doc's condition.  He'd had severe tuberculosis for 7 years now, which was six-and-a-half years longer than one would be expected to live; and he'd managed to survive while engaging in neronian levels of drinking, smoking, gambling, sex, and gunfights. Even the greatest doctor in the west found him a medical mystery. He ordered Doc Holliday to take bedrest, but of course Doc would have none of it and by the next evening he was back gambling.  But he was truly grateful to Luke Short and Jackson; the latter had been quite nervous about the lack of a high-roller for Doc, but he told him to forget about it. He bought Jackson a drink and asked him, in a somewhat vulnerable tone, if he'd ever chanced to hear about the first man he'd ever killed: it was back in Georgia before he'd finished his dental studies. He and a group of friends had gone to a swimming hole and found three young black men there. They warned them to clear off, but the other men wouldn't leave, and Doc shot at one and killed him. This was a year before the consumption, before he'd known anything about how to really handle a gun, or what killing was, or dying. He mused on just how strange life was, that now these many years later, his younger self would never have imagined owing a black man his life, or having a drink with him. Jackson was a bit shocked by this whole revelation and Doc's frankness, and answered that he'd never expected to be sharing a drink with someone like Doc either, and that it's funny how the west changes a man.

The next morning found another tragedy: that same night, undiscovered by anyone in the tumult of Doc's fight, someone had murdered Oren Bailey. Virgil Earp was bereaved but also determined to find out who was guilty of the crime. Crazy Miller had asked around and in a chat with Buckskin Frank Leslie found out there were two suspicious characters who'd spent the day before hanging around the Cosmopolitan Bar that had "the look of being either Texans or Okies".  Virgil decided to check to see if anyone matching their description had been at any of the various livery stables in town; and sent Morgan to talk to the saloon girl Oren had been sweet on.

They found out that the two "Texans or Okies" had  indeed left that morning, picking up their horses from a stable. Other Miller also discovered evidence that they had been watching Oren when he took the saloon girl (Daisy) to dinner.  Virgil had sent word to Oklahoma about Oren's death, and the town where he'd worked immediately put up a $500 reward for information leading to the capture of whoever was responsible. At this point they were fairly certain that these were the killers, so Virgil planned to lead a posse to go after them.

They were just about to leave, when suddenly Daisy the Saloon Girl showed up and claimed that she knew who killed Oren: her boyfriend, a miner named Clem. She claimed he'd told her so himself just after she'd met with Morgan. She also told them where to find Clem, and warned that he'd likely be violent.

Virgil, Morgan and the PCs were quite confused now. All the evidence they'd found so far pointed to the two strangers, but there was apparently a new suspect, who'd claimed authorship of  the murder and had every reason to have done it. In the end, they decided to split up; Morgan and Jackson would stay behind and go arrest Clem, while Virgil and the Millers would go after the two Okies.

Morgan Earp and Jackson headed to the miner's shack where Daisy said Clem would be found. Morgan gave Jackson a rifle and told him to keep it aimed, then he told Clem to come out. Clem seemed to have no idea what was going on but was quite aggressive nonetheless, until Jackson called out to him warning that he shouldn't try anything. Clem surrendered, insisting he hadn't killed no one and didn't even know what in tarnation they were talking about.  Later, when they told him that it was Daisy who accused him he became furious and swore he'd kill her, which certainly didn't win him any points. But even so, Jackson felt he seemed so sincerely baffled by all this that he had to be telling the truth. On further interrogation, Clem claimed that he'd been at the Tombstone Mines until 4 or 5am that morning, and had only arrived in town around 8am, long after Oren had been killed. He'd been up and drinking at the Mine camp until sometime after 10pm, and there were at least 20 men who could testify to that. This all made it even more unlikely he was guilty, but they couldn't understand why Daisy would have lied.

Meanwhile, Virgil and the Millers followed the trail up to the Dragoon Hills, where they eventually spotted and snuck up on the Okies' camp at night. They got the jump on them, the Millers both armed with rifles, and Virgil with his pistol, and ordered them to surrender. The older of the two men stayed put but the younger tried to run for his horse: Other Miller shot off most of his foot. They surrendered, and after some intimidation from Virgil they essentially confessed to having killed Oren. As Virgil suspected, they were cattle rustlers out for revenge.

They got the prisoners back to Tombstone. They still had the problem of Clem the miner, but Virgil suspected he knew what had really happened: he went to check and confirmed that shortly after the news got out about the $500 reward, Daisy had checked at the post office to confirm that it was true. She'd obviously been mistreated by Clem, and figured out a way to be rid of him and to make herself enough money to get a new life for herself (something she'd clearly had the hope of doing with Oren Bailey before he'd been murdered).

So even though none of them liked him much, they were forced to let Clem go, and to arrest Daisy for her false accusation. It wasn't a perfect ending, but it was justice.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + Gawith's St.Jame's Flake