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Saturday 31 October 2015

Now Hiring: Marketing Specialist

Hey all! Do you have experience in Marketing and knowledge of the RPG industry?  I might be able to hook you up with some work.

One of my Consulting clients is looking for someone who could help plan and enact a marketing strategy for a new RPG project.  This project has a web-application component, so having experience with promoting web apps would be a big plus.   At least moderate (ideally extensive) familiarity with the RPG hobby and its varied fandoms and audiences would be requisite as well.

The position is a paying gig, with the specific details to be worked out with the employer after the interview process.

So, if you're interested, shoot me an email or private message on G+, or leave me your email address here if you like in the comments and I'll be sure to contact you.

If you don't have the background but you know any gamer friend that would and might be interested in the job, please pass this information on to them!  The employer will obviously welcome any candidates to apply, with experience, knowledge of the hobby, and enthusiasm being the main criteria for consideration.


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

Friday 30 October 2015

Gauging Interest in new Dark Albion Material

So, I've got an inkling of an idea to do at least a little something more for Dark Albion.  Something else besides the awesome Ghost of Jack Cade on London Bridge.  Of course, I'd want at least a serious part of what I'd be doing to be useful to anyone doing anything OSR, not just Dark Albion, but to also have a strong Dark Albion flavor to it.

So one of the things a lot of people who got the book were asking for was more material on Chaos Cults and some kind of material for chaos mutations.  I want to get an idea of who might be interested?

Also, if by chance there would be an adventure included too, and the final material would, right now, be anywhere between 2-24 pages depending.

So you tell me: is this something you want?
If not, what would you like?


Currently Smoking:  Winslow Crown + C&D's Crowley's Best

Thursday 29 October 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: How to be a Crappy RPG Writer

There's a very clever little article I recently found, entitled "how to write suckitudinous fiction"; by Holly Lisle. It is fascinating how many of the Swine writers out there have their counterparts with the Swine RPG writers, because you can take Holly's rules and apply it just as easily to the creation of bad RPG settings (and systems with default setting concepts). Here's the RPG version of her rules.

I. Thou shalt anoint no heros.
The PCs can, under no circumstances, be morally heroic. They have to all be shades of grey, incapable of doing or being truly good.

II. Thou shalt decree no villain.
There aren't any truly bad guys in your setting. The cannibalistic orcs are just misunderstood. The necrophiliac pirate is just making a lifestyle choice. The alien entity out to destroy the world just has mother issues. And if the PCs hate these creatures or try to resolve the problem by fighting them (instead of trying to resolve it by therapy or just letting the bad guy win), then its the PCs who are bad people and should be punished for it, especially since they're not supposed to be heroes (see point I, above).

III. Thou shalt express no opinion.
Your game system or setting must, under no circumstances, allow anything the PCs do to matter. Its ok to give them awesome powers, but for the magic deer's sake make sure that there are mighty deus ex machinas running around that make sure the PCs can't actually change anything from what the holy game designer intended.

IV. Thou shalt embrace no theme.
No, I'm not talking about the bullshit "theme" jargon from the Forge. I'm talking about your setting or game having a fucking point. If you want your setting or game to suck, make it about creating awesome dudes with kewl powers who then... ? what? Hang around? Do fuck all?
Make sure your players and GM have fuck all to do with the kewl setting you've given them. Make them all hip and exciting, but then make no obvious point to the game. Extra points if, when asked about this on the FAQ ("what do you actually DO in the setting"?) you respond with "You can do ANYTHING!"

V. Thou shalt sneer at conflict.
Make your game be "superior" to those other games because your game is "not about combat". Instead, characters are given cool powers and there's a two-hundred page chapter on combat, but you're explicitly told in the GM/setting material that you shouldn't focus on combat in the game. Heck, you should actively DISCOURAGE it. Make sure that anytime the PCs get into combat, they suffer terribly for it in one way or the other. Make it more trouble than its worth.
Extra points if you claim your game is an "investigative game" where you're supposed to find out what some great Evil (sorry, Misunderstood) Power is doing, but you aren't supposed to actually allow anyone to try to shoot or hack at said Power. The idea is that when you actually find it, its supposed to either kill you all or drive you all insane; if the PCs try to actually resist, they're "powergamers".

VI. Thou shalt commit no plot.
Your game world must not have any coherent backstory. Instead let a whole load of shit happen for no good reason and seemingly unconnected. Extra points if your game setting makes absolutely no social sense at all, like keeping all kinds of medieval trappings while people use magic L-Trains and live in Mithril Skyscrapers.

VII. Thou shalt eschew coherence.
Just make your game setting absolutely apeshit unreadable. Take utterly common things and give them in-setting names that serve no purpose other than to confuse ("There are no spoons on Myridia, instead there are Frry'thgans, which are just like spoons").
Write reams of unreadable wordy bullshit to the point that no normal human being would be able or interested in reading through your junk, and then claim its "art". Extra points if you don't actually have a sensible complete game system included in there, but you pretend you do and claim that anyone who protests just "doesn't understand it" and its their fault for being so ignorant.

VIII. Thou shalt flee from any hint of pace.
Write reams and reams of stuff about the mating habits of that rare monster your players might fight once, but don't include any details about the elven kingdom immediately next door to the default starting location for the new PCs.

IX. Thou shalt murder suspense.
Make sure your very first sourcebook takes any of the cool potential menaces that your setting had and either Destroy Them Forever, or reduce them to some kind of an ineffective joke.

X. Thou shalt excise vile passion like a nose wart, lest it shame thee.
Make sure that in your setting, the players aren't allowed to aspire to anything, or have any ambitions. They can never go above their relatively low station in the power structure of the group they're in, or become the greatest heroes of the land, because either that the position has already been filled by someone of a power level your pcs can't actually ever reach, or the social setup of the world is made so that your players can never actually come out winning in any way. The best they can hope for is to break even.

XI. Thou shalt mock hope as plebian.
A truly crappy game system must be one where not only is evil not really evil, it's the cool choice.
On the other hand make sure that if your setting involves fighting against an approaching evil, your setting material makes it perfectly clear to the GM and he must make it clear to the players that they CAN'T POSSIBLY WIN. It's not allowed.
Or make a snappy "intellectual game" where there's no actual way to win, but the "point" becomes how you address the "theme" of your inevitable decay.

XII. Thou shalt equate faith with rankest superstition.
Make sure that any organized religions are corrupt and evil to the core, ESPECIALLY if they're monotheist. Any visibly religious people, with the exception of free "eclectic" new age types, are ALWAYS evil.
Make sure your game setting either creates gross misconceptions about Christianity itself, or, if its in a fantasy world, creates a religion that is meant to be an obvious equivalent and makes them evil scum.

XIII. Thou shalt declare RPGs dead, and do thy bit to kill them deader.
Make sure that you as a game designer rant on and on about how RPGs as a hobby are "dying", and the "traditional" models cannot possibly survive. Go on to claim that all the crappy self-absorbed self-serving second-rate junk that you have is actually the Master Plan for a "revolution" that will change RPGs, and that clearly everything that people did before must be thrown out and replaced by your glorious new vision of people playing only morally repugnant games where there's no good or evil, nothing for PCs to do, no way to win, the bulk of the game is about looking good in some way or another and putting on pretentious airs while nothing happens, and there's no fucking point.
Because clearly, there will be millions who will come flocking to that...


(Originally Posted November 12, 2007)

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Arrows of Indra on Sale!

Hey all, a blatant advertising post today: if you haven't picked it up yet, this would be a great time for you to buy Arrows of Indra.  It's on sale as are all of Bedrock's games, on RPGnow.  From now until Halloween, you can purchase Arrows or any of the others for 30% off!

So pick up Arrows of Indra for only $6.99, and be sure to look at Bedrock's other great games too.


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

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Pictures From Uruguay

Time for some more pictures!

First, some street scenes around my neighbourhood (the Cordon, which to me is one of the best neighbourhoods to live in: relatively quite safe, affordable, and becoming more hipster by the minute):

An interesting mix of architectural styles as you can see. And note the last pic: dude has a trophy display in his rooftop patio.  I have a rooftop patio in The Abbey too, but not quite so elaborate, and without any of the hunting trophies.

Montevideo is apparently one of the greenest cities in South America, with tree-lined streets throughout, and some lovely foliage.

Finally, here's a shot of the best place to buy coffee by far in the entire city:

El Carioca is actually a coffee wholesaler, but they have a storefront where they sell retail to people in the know. They have a ridiculous variety of coffee (especially by Uruguayan standards) of a much higher grade than anywhere else in town.  The owner is incredibly knowledgeable, and insists on giving you free shots of espresso to try his different blends, served out of a $1000 machine. Next to the tobacconist, it's pretty well my favorite shopping excursion (and only about five blocks from The Abbey).

Anyways that's it for today!


Currently Smoking:  Italian Redbark + Image Latakia

Monday 26 October 2015

RPGPundit Reviews: Yoon-Suin - The Purple Land

This is a review of the OSR setting book "Yoon-Suin - The Purple Land", written by David McGrogan and self-published. The book is a 320 page work in a strange non-standard 9x7 printed format, which frankly seems like a choice meant to just stand out but strikes me as a bit hipster and serves no useful purpose I could discern.  I have to note, that's probably the only critical thing you're going to see me say here.

I'll mention that the book is illustrated throughout with a sprinkling of magnificent little sketches by Matthew Adams.  These illustrations are in a weird style that's trippy and makes me think of a kind of gonzo-fantasy version of Ralph Steadman's art.  The art is, I think, a big part of what impresses the style of the setting onto the reader, in a similar way to how the art in Zak Smith's books inform his work, or the medieval art that absolutely plasters every page of Dark Albion creates a very particular atmosphere for that book.

Yeah, I love this book. I actually got it several months ago, as I get so many books for review these days, and review them in the order they were received.  So Yoon-Suin has been working its way up the queue for some time. But it hasn't just been sitting there. I've already made use of Yoon-suin. I "cheated" a bit and read it almost as soon as I got it. I've used it in Dungeon Crawl Classics, where I made great use of its "gonzo" elements, and in Arrows of Indra where I've used it for it's "eastern" elements.

Those two elements, gonzo style and eastern trappings, pretty much sums up the whole setting. Yoon-Suin is an example, quite possibly one of the very best examples (at least in the sense of being such an ideal example) of the style of what I've termed the "3rd Wave OSR" products.  These are the products like Red Tide, Dark Albion, or Vornheim that combine unusual settings (the kind that are not regular by OSR standards) with rule-material to modify the standard OSR (D&D) experience into an ideal format for the setting in question.  While the earliest (1st wave) OSR products were largely just dedicated to reproducing D&D-rules as precisely as possible or creating adventures that looked as close as possible to the same type of adventures that might have existed in the original D&D period, and 2nd wave OSR products were dedicated to experimenting in interesting ways with systems (LotFP and DCC being two great examples of 2nd wave), the 3rd Wave of OSR products is focused on doing very interesting things with Settings, and with rule-modifications to fit unusual settings.

That's definitely what Yoon-Suin does.

The lands of Yoon-Suin are vaguely inspired by Himalayan (Indian, Tibetan, Nepalese) culture and mythology, but with a truly weird twist.  This is in no way the precise historicism of my own Arrows of Indra, but there's certainly a strong stylistic element.  The setting chooses to push toward the weird and 'gonzo', rather than trying in every case to use the most conventional or traditional mythological material (as AoI does), Yoon-Suin always goes for the weirdest, plus a lot of stuff that as far as I can tell comes right out of the author's head rather than any historical/mythological source.  I don't think this makes it better or worse than Arrows; what I could say about it is that if you want to put it into an Arrows of Indra campaign, it could change the tone of that former game into something way more unusual.  And since you could place it in some remote area of the Himayant mountains, you could even do this while still keeping the rest of your campaign setting more "Epic India" conventional. Yoon-Suin could serve as the weird mountain wilderlands of your Arrows game, as indeed it did for me.

The book divides its setting material into four fairly different regions: the Yellow City and the Topaz Isles, The Hundred Kingdoms and Lahag, Lamarakh and lower Drak Yul, and The Mountains of the Moon and Sughd. The introduction of the book, besides providing a rough overview of these various regions, gives some advice to how to use the book to generate a campaign.  The setting of the book is not presented in a static way; instead the regions have general information, and then tables which are used to randomly (or by selection) generate details about the area where the game will be taking place. There are also tables for creating connections and groups linked to the PCs, and rumor/hook tables for providing adventure seeds. There's other tables too: random encounter tables, and tables for fleshing out smaller areas. So a GM would, at the start of a campaign, create a unique interpretation of the setting.

Character creation guides take a similar approach to my own Dark Albion, focusing on how to fit a character into the setting (though the author also explicitly points out that there's no problem with the PCs being 'foreigners'). But native PCs get tables to determine area of origin and social background.  Here we also get the first presentation of the demi-humans of the setting: slug-men and dwarves.  Yeah, you heard me, slug-men. There's also a racial class: Crab-man. Yeah, crab-men.
Humans, dwarves and slug-men default to choosing class as well as race: humans can be any class, slug-men can be magicians or clerics (here called 'holy-men') and dwarves can be warriors or thieves (here called 'adventurers'). Holy-men roll randomly for their God on a set of tables that generate random appearance and 'portfolio' for the deity (no name list, though, which I think could have been nice).

The Crab-man class are the lowest social rank of the setting.  They're also dim-witted, and can't speak or read human languages (though they can understand them). Their large claws can be used to attack (for 2d8 damage!) but they can't handle many types of equipment that other races (who have hands and fingers) can. They get natural armor from their shells, that toughens as they go up in level.

The Bestiary has a large selection of monsters, over 40 pages. The creatures are all remarkably unusual.  Many of them, though not all I think, are based on Indian and Himalayan mythology. There are several, in fact, which are the same types of monsters I included in Arrows of Indra, but most of these take a very different approach than I did.  That's because most creatures in that incredibly varied and millennia-old mythology had many different descriptions based on region and in different periods.  So the Asura in Arrows of Indra were presented as pretty standard "demons", while here they are presented as three-headed giants. Bhuta in Arrows are undead; while in Yoon-Suin they are nimble goblins who steal babies. My Nagas were a race of NPC demihumans (because that's what they most resemble in the Mahabharata), while Yoon-Suin's Nagas are contemplative alien demigods.  In general, as I said, this is a question of opposite (but cool) design approach: I wanted Arrows of Indra to present creatures that would be easily approachable to D&D players, while McGrogan clearly wanted to emphasize the unusual. Which is frankly great for me, since it means that nothing in either book feels too much like a repeat of the other and both books meld well.

I had Giant Snakes in Arrows (a very common monster in the Mahabharata-period legends), Yoon-Suin has Flesh-eating Giant Oysters. There's Grasshoppermen, which I'm pretty sure are not a feature of Indian mythology. Oh, and there's also Mi-Go, but they're not the Plutonian aliens from Call of Cthulhu; they're more like Yeti. Note that this is not some conceit on the part of the author; "Migo" was the Bhutanese term for the (Tibetan-name) Yeti.

The setting material takes up about 200 pages to cover its four major regions. The Yellow City and Topaz Isles features the city (and environs), which is the biggest and oldest city of the world; ruled by the Slug-men aristocrats. Below them are the humans and then the crab men, the lower (and lowest) castes of the city obliged to serve the decadent slugs. The city is rife with opium, magic, giant cockroaches, gladiator pits, crime and all sorts of other stuff.  There's also huge sections of the old city that are abandoned and in ruins, perfect for adventuring. Almost all of the material is presented in the form of spectacular random tables.  This includes random encounter tables, but the latter aren't just lists of numbers and monsters, they include fantastic details that allow the encounter to set up itself creatively (similar to the sort of thing Kevin Crawford has done in SWN, Red Tide and his other great books). There's also some great mechanics for ancient magical artifacts, and the tricky process of figuring out how to use them.

Lahag and the Hundred Kingdoms feature the haunted wilderness of Lahag and the balkanized human city-states that pepper the region. So naturally this section has rules (again mostly in the form of setting-element-heavy tables) that generate random polities. These polities have different types of rulers and government, assets and challenges, and flavor details. Once again, you get tons of other detail-tables, including associations, encounter tables, local area generation, rumors, and some more 'sample hexes' of pre-loaded descriptions. The haunted Lahag also has a pretty great random-spirit generation table system.

Lamarakh and Lower Druk Yul are the "flooded lands", where boat tribes live, with great jungle. Beyond that (Lower Druk Yul) is a vast grassland devoid of civilization where the grasshoppermen are found. These are areas for long-term wilderness-exploration play. You can generate boat tribes, various monster lairs, river pirates, isolated cults, etc.  Of the four regional chapters, it's the shortest at 24 pages (compared say, to Lahag that has 54).

Sughd and the Mountains of the Moon are areas of forbidding mountain peaks (like the Himalayas); and the land of Sughd where mountain valleys produce fantastically wealthy plantations of wealthy Merchant oligarchs (in Tea, Opium or other things). Here you can set up oligarchies (with trade resources, issues, and assets; as well as flavor locations), social circles for the PCs, rumors, random encounters, etc.

All the different regions are presented in a similar way but each have a unique style, and are oriented to different types of play.  The focus on random generation of locations and encounters is of course an enormous pleasure to me, and also something extremely useful for quick application and for enormous variety.

The book ends with a set of multiple appendices (of course, it's OSR, so there has to be lots of appendices!).  I'm just going to go ahead and list them:
Appendix A: Poisons (random tables to generate a range of different poisons)
Appendix B: Opium (table with different colours, effects and methods of use of Opium; plus rules on addiction and prices)
Appendix C: Specialist Tea (table with colors, prep methods, side-effects and rarity; plus notes on effects, and prices)
Appendix D: Trade (simple rules to handle values at source and different sale points, random product tables, and rules to generate a random cargo)
Appendix E: Psionics (very simple psionic rules)
Appendix F: Fortune telling (very simple table for generating random prophetic visions)
Appendix G: Suggested Traditional Monsters (list of each region in Yoon-Suin with some Monster Manual monsters that might be found in each area)
Appendix H: Languages (a guide to languages and pronunciation)
Appendix I: Random Ruin, Lair and Dungeon Generation (actually only two tables: a random locale for a ruin/lair/dungeon to be found at, and a random twist to said location)
Appendix J: Useful Worms, Arachnids, and Insects (a list of trainable insects and giant insects)
Appendix K: Magical Tattoos (21 different magical tattoos and how they work)
Appendix L: Hirelings (random tables to generate hirelings)
Appendix M: Deities (random tables for deity appearances and topics of influence)
Appendix N: Inspiration (a short list of books, music and games that influenced Yoon-Suin)

After the appendix, we have some maps. At the start of the book there was a small map of all of Yoon-Suin.

(this map, at the front, is the nicest one in the book)

Here at the back we get two maps for each specific region, first a map done in the artistic style of most of the book, and then a hexmap. I have to say that the sketch-style maps are pretty but not super practical, while the hex maps are pretty uninspired. Ironically, the maps are one part of this book that I don't think were done in a very effective way, failing to inspire.  But I suppose that's the consequence of absolutely all detail being generated randomly from one campaign to the next.  In a way, the maps are fairly bare so that the GM can fill it in as he cares to.

But really, there's barely anything bad you can say about Yoon-Suin. It's a masterpiece.


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

Sunday 25 October 2015

Traveller Campaign Update: Live From Guantanamo Edition

In this adventure, the PCs had been "renditioned" by the Empire to the Gash, the formerly-legendary decommissioned starship in the middle of nowhere that has been converted into the Empire's secret political prison for people they need to have "disappeared".

(The Empire Needs to Bury People in a Space-Hole for Freedom!)

Naturally, for the PCs, it very quickly became less like this:

And more like this:

(and yes, in this metaphor, I'm saying that the PCs are basically Dr. Evil; which is not far from the truth at this point)

While in the prison the PCs found out that one of their interrogators was none other than Agent Arisa, who they'd met ages ago when the campaign was considerably less batshit insane (though amusingly, they thought it was totally crazy back then and couldn't possibly get much nuttier... nowadays we refer to that as the "age of innocence").  Back then she was pretending to be the widow of Uncle Roman, the asshole who got them into all this mess, until she was revealed as a secret agent of the Imperial Intelligence Service.  Now, she's in charge of interrogating/probably-torturing them.

(this is likely to be the end result, I'm guessing)

The PCs decided to cooperate, but their story is so insane there's likely to be zero chance that anyone will believe them.

They also spent some time in the prison yard, where one of them got shivved, and one of them got beaten to a bloody pulp (twice).  This necessitated a couple of visits to the ship's doctor:

A few of them just had some interesting talks with the other motley crew of weirdos being kept here.  This includes the foppish upper class twit that inflicted just a touch of violent genocide and cannibalism on his own people:

(trust me, if you're Latin-American this reference is hilarious)

And then there's the mystery prisoner in room #13, the one that they never let out of his cell (and this is in a place where they let the genocidal dictator out... to say nothing of the PCs):

(speculation includes: the Emperor's twin, the real Emperor, Grandfather Paradox, the Doctor, and "some random asshole")

The interrogation team suspects the PCs of being either spies or dupes of the Zhodani Consulate, which of course makes it quite ironic that they get secretly approached by a Zhodani spy undercover in the prison who wants to convince the PCs to defect. They decide that they're actually pretty comfortable here and don't particularly feel like spending the rest of their lives in an alien culture where everyone can read their mind.

Oh yeah, and speaking of reading minds, one of the PCs is slowly becoming a god. Or at least, slowly becoming Grandfather, who's consciousness is trapped inside him as a desperate last safeguard against death.

(Sure, right now he's gaining incredible knowledge skills and psychic powers, but we all know this isn't going to end well)

Anyways, that's it for now. The PCs are still stuck in the Gash but none of them seem the least bit worried about getting out when they're good and ready. For now, they're almost treating it like a vacation.  After all the insane demented shit they've been through, being political prisoners in a forgotten hell-hole has become their definition of "taking a few days off".


Currently Smoking: Savinelli Oom Paul + C&D's Crowley's Best

Saturday 24 October 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The RPG-Forum Heartbreakers

Its funny, the number of people who've tried to create new webforums that sprung up out of or in reaction to theRPGsite. A few of them, the ones that are tied to specific ideas, are basically ok and could even be useful if they pull it off; like the forums for D&D 3.x fans, or Levi's Gamecraft forums. But even these, clearly, are fighting an uphill battle. 

I think a lot of people don't realize just how much fucking WORK it takes to actually make a forum succeed. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. So even if you do have a concept, like the Gamecraft forums, its very very hard to get the critical mass going and then dedicating the time to maintain it. Its not something to be done lightly.

So imagine, if those guys have trouble, what it is when you just get some wanker with a hate-on for me, wanting to create "TheRPGsite without RPGPundit!!", and said jerk-off is driven not so much by dedication and ability, as much as by a pathetic desire to outstage me or "take me down" or whatever.

Case in point, Blue Devil's forums, "the RPG lounge". They showed up, made a big hulabaloo, Blue Devil took every opportunity available to shill his forums (in which the basic selling point was always how I wasn't there), the forums were a fucking carbon copy of theRPGsite (except that the featured game with is own forum was D6 instead of Amber), and of course, to no one's surprise he failed. He never got more than 77 users, and when people quickly figured out that they could get pretty well everything on the RPG "lounge" from theRPGsite plus Blue Devil was sort of a dick, the whole thing fell apart.
The hilarious footnote to this pathetic story is how apparently, Blue Devil claims to have "sold" the forum. I would imagine that one of the more technically-minded proxies out there could actually do a search to find out if this is true, but its certainly the sort of pathetic self-aggrandizing kind of statement that makes these kinds of "rivals" to me seem so sad. If he did sell it, it was probably for what... a coke? a Big Mac? How much is a useless failed website worth? With a bit of luck, it might be a bottle of anti-depressants; I get the feeling Blue Devil should really think about making use of them.

So it seems that theRPGsite has started its own particular phenomenon: theRPGsite Forum Heartbreaker. How many people, I wonder, will think they can do what I have done, and will try to make their own sorry little clone of theRPGsite, arguing that the lack of my evil and tyrannical presence destroying all hope of fun/dialogue/ricepudding/whatever the fuck the idiot in question is on about, will end up making his replacement-clone forum a stunning success that will quickly outshine me, and of course he'll get all the glory and get to rule and have power and finally prove that he's better than me.

Come to think of it, I'm pretty stunned that James McMurray hasn't tried this yet, what with the penis-envy and all.


(Originally posted October 1st, 2007)

Friday 23 October 2015

Sci-Fi Dark Albion?

So, how about the War of the Roses in space?

Game of Thrones crossed with Star Wars?

(Lord Vader of House Skywalker; motto: "the Force is strong in us")

Sounds pretty good, right?  Well, over at the Swords & Stitchery blog, a post has been made suggesting that we could combine Dark Albion with Stars Without Number.
Now, mechanically there would be no more problem doing this than with any other OSR game, but the question is how to incorporate the setting?  The blog entry above takes inspiration from some weird Russian Sci-Fi and suggests that the PCs could be characters from some galactic empire who are forced to land on an primitive world (Albion's earth) and have only limited access to technology or permission to interfere.

But why not take it all the way?

Imagine if, like how Star Trek is basically a space-western, and Star Wars at least started out as a space-samurai-story, you were to combine Dark Albion and SWN to have a campaign that was the War of the Roses in space? Have the two great families struggling for the throne of a galactic kingdom, in a setting with a medieval aesthetic in the Fading Suns sense, maybe in a galaxy that was once far more advanced and now interstellar civilization is just barely holding on.

Magisters could be keepers of now only half-understood ultra-tech (nanites? quantum sorcery?) or psionics.  The Clerics may be Jedi-like servants of some kind of super-advanced cosmic entity they only partially understand.  The forces of chaos (frogmen, goblins, Elves, etc.) are hostile alien races in a galaxy where mankind has never found any friends.

Doesn't sound too bad, does it?

You wouldn't have to use SWN of course. You could use White Star, given how much James Spahn likes Albion; or pretty much any other sci-fi game (though a sci-fi OSR game would be best). Which system you use might alter slightly what you'd be blending into the setting, mind you, so it's still a consideration.

But yeah, stuff like this is to me part of the genius of 3rd Wave OSR thinking.


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

Thursday 22 October 2015

Aquelarre Kickstarter

Today I'm here to tell you about how there's FINALLY a kickstarter for creating an English translation of one of the oldest and by far the very best of all Spanish-Language RPGs: Aquelarre.

Set in a magic-infused version of 13th century Iberia, with a system that very clearly "cloned" BRP, this game is a gritty majestic and very dark kind of tour of medieval adventure.  If you like Dark Albion, you will undoubtedly like Aquelarre. In fact, you will probably be able to use Aquelarre as an Albion sourcebook, if nothing else.

So yeah, absolutely, unconditionally (as long as they don't actually change anything other than the language), I totally endorse this product to any of you.


Currently Smoking: Neerup-Burlington bent billiard + Image Latakia

Wednesday 21 October 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: More Proof of Storygamer Elitism

If you thought that the Storygame-Forge Theory-IPR people were all honest brokers who were really all about advocating for the Small Press Publishers, whatever their ideology or "coolness" factor might be, and yesterday's article didn't convince you; why don't we ask one of the original and most small-press guys out there; Gareth Michael Skarka?

In a recent Storygames thread, he had this to say about the Forge and their booth at gencon:

"What this all gets down to is the rather insular nature of the Indie games crowd -- which appears, at times, to border upon hostility to perceived outsiders. This sort of badge of self-identification that sets the "Indie" folks seperate from everyone else.

As some of you know, I was once told on The Forge, that I wasn't "Indie", mostly because I work with d20 in addition to my original designs. Sadly, I heard this said in a discussion at GenCon as well, at the IPR booth, in reference to another small-press publisher....specifically saying that his company would not be welcome at the booth, because they "weren't Indie enough."

I also had the misfortune of having someone relate a conversation back to me, wherein a third party was apparently critizing me for being a "carpetbagger", because I was coming in, taking the FATE system, and using it for a "commercial" product (Far West). Like I am somehow "The Man", cherry-picking from the Indie movement, just so I can sell it to the masses. I was told by the relator that I should expect a cold shoulder from "Indie" fans when FAR WEST is released, because they know that "I'm not one of them."
In another instance, I was on a shuttle bus, talking about my plans for Adamant with someone I had just met, who self-identifies as part of the "Indie" community. He took the opportunity to lecture me on the fact that "The Supplement Treadmill Is DEATH." And, when I pointed out that I was aware of this bit of Ron-Edwards opinion, he shook his head and told me that I obviously "just don't get it, because I'm in the industry."

What the fuck?"

And this:

"I also see statements from Indie folks like "people are annoyed by Indie games" -- which speaks to a sort of "oppressed underdog" indentity, I suppose......but really, as someone on the "other side", I don't see the annoyance, or even negative comments about the games. What I do see, and see a lot of, is a general dislike of the attitude which spurred this thread. For better or worse, I think that this is the "Indie movement's" biggest problem -- that this view of the attitude is fairly widespread. Or, to put it another way -- Indie Games don't annoy people; Indie Attitude does."

Ah, and this too:

"The attitude: "Gamer than thou." How many times have you heard this, or something like it? "I get more value from a 150 page indie game than from a 300 page mainstream game." The pervasive sense of chic that comes with the belief that somehow, because you've decided to use an odd format and don't offer your product through three-tier distribution, that it somehow makes it better or more "pure."..I'm talking specifically about the attitude of "Indie" designers towards the "Traditional" or "Mainstream" industry -- that we're somehow separate, and (again), that "indie" is somehow a badge of distinct value."

and here:

""Creator Ownership" as a distiction of "Indie" (which is often the fall-back definition) is meaningless, as most games in this industry ARE most cases, the creator owns the publishing company. For example, Shane Hensley created Deadlands and Savage Worlds, but you'd never hear Pinnacle referred to as "Indie" by the self-declared "Indie" movement. The closer-to-actual-use definition of "Indie" which is communicated by behaviors (i.e., more pure in intent, more "cutting edge", more "artistic", more meaningful, better, etc.) has even less meaning, as you might imagine."

So there you have it. GMSkarka, one of the first great innovators of the small-press publishers, pointing out that the whole "Indie" label has more to do with who you're friends with or what newsletters you subscribe to than with whether you're actually a Small Press company or not. Which is why certain incredibly good products (like the stuff being put out by P.I.Games, or Better Mousetrap, or Hinterwelt) will all get ignored or even shat upon by the "IPR" people, while pathetic dull games no one gives a shit about involving victorian university professors and sexual decadence will end up being hailed as "masterpieces".

Of course the answer from the storygames crowd is to blame GMS for his statements, to suggest that it was just his own isolated personal experiences, that there couldn't possibly be anything wrong with IPR or the "indie" movement that makes them feel exclusionist to others, or to suggest that anyone who criticizes the (often smarmy) self-promotion tactics of the Story-gamers to push their gamebooks could only possibly be someone who's jealous. They never stop, do they?


(Originally Posted August 28, 2007)

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: Rate Your Socialist Craphole

In today's Everyjoe, I'm presenting you all with a new way to rate just how much of a shit-hole your socialist country is like. It's called the "Corrupt/Crazy Craphole Index".

Plus, I talk about my recent visit to Buenos Aires and explain exactly how Argentina's shitty government and insane president has slowly trashed that place before my very eyes.

So please, check it out! Retweet, Like, Share, +1, blog about it, whatever!


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

Monday 19 October 2015

Dark Albion and the Third Wave in OSR

So Jeffro Johnson (of the often-controversial Castalia House) has published a kind of non-review of Dark Albion.  In it he kindly points out the significant amount of praise Dark Albion has received from all kinds of OSR corners, but for his own part expresses a kind of confusion as to why this 'game' (Dark Albion, that is) could get away with not actually having rules in it and just tell you to use the RPG you most like (even -gasp- 5e!) and then offer you modifications for how to run the game with whatever rules you like.

I think he's a bit confused about Dark Albion, particularly in calling it a 'game'.  Dark Albion isn't an RPG, it's a setting.  What might be confusing Jeffro is that for a long time, the OSR didn't really give a shit about settings.  It didn't value them at all. It had Greyhawk, the Wilderlands, or Blackmoor, the old stuff that was venerated for being old, and some people just made their own homebrews.  And that's fine, but since the OSR in its first wave was about venerating ancient history and not wanting to introduce anything new, there clearly wasn't much room for the idea of doing anything creative with setting.

This gave rise to people, like Jeffro claiming that they have no use for settings. I really fail to understand this mentality. Someone claiming they have no use for published settings is like a musician saying he doesn't need to listen to any recorded music beside his own. I don't care how good your homebrew is, there is stuff out there you literally will be INCAPABLE of thinking of. Be it because you're not as bright as me, or because you don't have the educational background I have, or because your brain is just wired differently from mine, there are going to be things I will have thought of in setting-design that you will never ever think of on your own. And, of course, other people will have thought up things in setting-design that I would never ever think of on my own.

And this is what the 3rd Wave of the OSR is all about.  I talked about this before, but let's review, shall we?

1st wave osr: clonemania. As precise as possible copies of existing old edition versions of D&D. What I once not very affectionately termed "the OSR Taliban".

2nd wave OSR: Innovation of Design. OSR rules that worked within the old school framework but did radically new things. LotFP. ACKS. DCC. SWN. 

3rd Wave OSR: Innovation of Setting.  Games where the interesting part was less about what rules were being changed as how the D&D-type rules were being applied to fit radically different settings.  Vornheim. Arrows of Indra. Yoon-Suin. Dark Albion

So Dark Albion is a 3rd Wave product (according to James Spahn, who knows a thing or two about making great OSR games, it may be the best RPG product of the last 5 years, period). It is not a full game that once again copies the D&D model, but it's also not 'just a setting' in the the sense of being a book with no rules in it at all.

The 3rd Wave OSR aesthetic is about a synthesis of rules meant to create emulation of specific (almost always non-standard) settings with the D&D framework.  So you don't "only" get a setting.  You get a full set of rules you can use to adjust your own favorite game. Why am I going to make a whole new RPG for Albion instead of letting you run it with the OSR game you already love most, whichever that is?  The Appendix P rules are there, if you want, to replace huge chunks of the core rules of your game if you want to, making Albion ALMOST have a complete RPG in it (all that's really missing is the filler of explaining how the mechanics work, which every OSR guy already knows, and the descriptions of the spells, which you can find in any D&D book).  But if you don't want that, if you like your S&W or your LotFP or your 5e D&D for that matter, and want to run Albion with that, you also have the much lighter guidelines to just show you how to tweak it (and stuff like the background tables, social class rules, authentic names tables, etc. to help out with that too).

That's the whole idea of what 3rd wave OSR is about: it's not just a completely barren setting, but it's not obsessive rules-wankery, much less obsessive OSR-taliban wankery where you jizz over some recently rediscovered scribble Gary Gygax wrote on a McDonalds' napkin in 1977.  It's a setting with a bunch of very creative rules material to let you play an OSR campaign in a context that no other OSR campaign was ever done.  It's Setting/rules Innovation.

So Dark Albion has some pretty big rule-changes (look at the Demonology stuff, or at the Appendix P rules, if you doubt that) but they are there in the service of making the game work for the setting, a setting different than anything that has come before. And in Dark Albion's case, that's particularly interesting given that instead of India or Fantasy Tibet or Wonderland, the "radically different" setting is the exact same place as almost all D&D campaigns ever think they are riffing from: medieval Europe.  Dark Albion is "Medieval Fantasy Europe", those exact words we've heard to describe so many D&D worlds, but done like they have never ever been done before.  Anyone can do weirdo-gonzo land in a different way, but Albion's triumph is that it takes the most trodden fantasy ground of all and does that with a new freshness of historical detail and rules to match the world.

That's the spirit of Dark Albion, which when you think about it, is the same spirit of the best of the OSR: to take oldest most traditional RPG in the world and do new things with it, within it's framework.


Currently Smoking:   Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Thursday 15 October 2015

Gone Wizarding

I'll be away Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Almost certainly no posts until Monday.

DCC Campaign Update: Giant Flesh-Ripping Weasels Redux

This week's adventure began with the PCs following the escaped Night Goats into the Badlands and Yeti Country.

They were being accompanied by their old friend Bolt-O the bolt-tightening conversation-loving robot (who they'd recently learned was talented in the lore of necromancy).  Incidentally, it had been almost exactly one real-world year since the last session they'd seen Bolt-O, which tells you a bit about just how long-running and detailed this campaign is.

Anyways, here are some more crazy things overheard this session:


-"so wait, it takes Bolt-O a half hour of loudly issued commands to enter 'silent mode' but getting out of 'silent mode' takes two seconds?" Well, he is a conversation robot...

-"Bolt-0 has a personality; that means that he's doing most of this shit out of choice. He could in fact help being a dick."

-"Oh shit, not vicious flesh-ripping Giant Weasels AGAIN!"

-"The Elephant got the first kill! ...unless you count the weasels killing the Dwarf"


-"G.O.D. must have something against this elephant"

-"Giant weasels are the Badland's deadliest predator!"

-"It's hard to spot the Night Goats' trail of destruction in the Badlands, what with everything here being fucked up already"

-"we may be on the trail of the Goats... I can see fire, and shit."


-"when we're ready to attack, we'll signal you with the cry of the giant weasel: Ka-Kaw!"

-"I like how Ack'Basha has managed to turn Holy Sanctuary into a Complete Asshole spell"

-"only the Untouchable could survive a spear blow right through the head"

-"Enlarge is the one spell every dwarf wizard wants"

-"You can't solve everything by faking a heart attack"

-"Giant Weasels are the Meth Addicts of the animal world"

(this is what my DCC game is like)

-"You have lost control of the giant weasel" (not something you want to hear)

-"Ack'basha, I've made a huge mistake. Run away!"

-"Yes, you are still armed, both in the sense of still having your spear and still having your arm, somehow"

-"G.O.D. is a bureaucrat"

-"G.O.D. is not a bureaucrat, he's a maniac"

-"He used Divine Aid to cause Religious Genocide"  "Wouldn't be the first time"

-"You all hear a mysterious silence"  "It's not really mysterious, it's because Ack'Basha gassed all the goblins to death"

-"I note that at this point the cleric has gotten pretty good at appraising gems"



-Bolt-O also has a 'jest mode' which he rarely uses.

-"Ack'basha is definitely turning into the new Bill the Elf.  Casual genocide is one of the signs".


-"Call me the Untouchable Dragon Slayer!"


-"I wanted to change the details of the deal" "How surprising of you, Ack'basha"

-"We can track the Night Goats by the burn trail they leave behind" "Do they fart fire or something?"

-"We need to sneak up to the Yeti encampment" "Oh yeah, because the Elephant with the cowbell makes us particularly sneaky..."

-"The Yeti are coming! Cheese it!"

The party got away from the Yeti only to be surprise-attacked later. They managed to beat them off, and after banishing the last of the Night Goats back from whence they came, they were about to head home, only to find that in the cave of the Dragon (which the Untouchable slew with a single backstab attack!) Bolt-O has discovered a long-abandoned functioning Ancient Transmat Device, which apparently leads to a place called "Living Unit 32". Obviously, the PCs decide they're going to go check it out.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Quiete + Dunhill 965

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Everyjoe Thursday?! Libertarian Stage Magician Edition

Yes, it's another special edition, this time on the subject of Penn Jillette, from Penn & Teller, and some recent comments he made.

But it's actually not so much about Penn as about what Libertarians need to change about their attitudes if they want to make actual change happen.

So please, check it out, retweet, like, +1, share, and comment!


Currently Smoking:  Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

Tuesday 13 October 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Does the Magic Deer Trample on Roleplaying?

John H. Kim has written a rather interesting sort-of FAQ, where he claims to "debunk" the criticisms people have made about Blue Rose. What follows will be my own point-by-point rebuttal to his statements.

The Nation of Aldis
Aldis, the primary kingdom of the Blue Rose game, is a fairly Utopian little monarchy that is prosperous and happy, unlike its "Shadow" misguided Christian Neighbors, who live in misery and who's land is harsh because they deserve to be punished for being quasi-christians. 
Does Aldis have organized crime and occasional monsters? Sure, occasionally. After all, the Queen's own guard has to have something to do, because they sure as hell won't be stopping any rebellion that by all rights should be happening against an oppressive government where anyone who is a free-thinking individualist is automatically excluded from the upper classes, and where a godlike entity (the Magic Deer) makes it impossible for anyone to overthrow HIS chosen system of government. In other words, Aldis is a nation of slaves to the Magic Deer.  And yet the writers of Blue Rose (who are a gang of self-described feminist gay and bisexual ultraliberal Wiccans; I'm not saying that as some sort of attempt at slander, but because it really does bring into question their repeated claims that they don't personally support the Collectivist ideology of Aldis, doesn't it?) have chosen to design Aldis as a nation where everyone (even the crime lords) are basically happy with being slaves to a magic deer. Like there's not a single man among them who would give up the security of being in a relatively comfortable venisonocracy for the freedom of self-determination. And woe betide your character if you should choose to be that man! Because according to the rules of Blue Rose your character would then be at best Shadow or more likely Dark aligned, would accumulate all sorts of penalties, and ultimately would be bound to fail in any case, because there's no way to defeat the magic deer, it's the unstoppable god of the game.

The Government Of Aldis
On paper, the venisonocracy is ruled by a king (the king is chosen by the Magic Deer, and the deer stops anyone who tries to choose otherwise). There's also a council consisting of nobles, merchants, and talking animals. But all the real power is in the hands of the king and the nobility. And the Nobility is chosen by.. you guessed it... the magic fucking deer. It's not an inherited aristocracy like in a normal fantasy kingdom, instead its determined via a test. What's more, the deer has provided a magic scepter (hereafter referred to as the Magic Deer's Rod), that will detect if you're one of these evil Individualists. You can't lie to it, you can't fake your way through it. If you are one, you will FAIL your noble's test. Thus there's no way for anyone who isn't a Collectivist to be able to get into any position of influence by which to make any change in the venisonocracy, not that anyone in the kingdom seems to want to change it, all of them being happy little sheep according to the stupid fucking game designers.

The Magic Deer
The Magic Deer personally shows up every time there's a need to choose a new king. The only method of selection is the Deer's own choice; though it appears that the Deer chooses the most "Light" filled person in the land (that is to say, the most Collectivist little drone that's been best brainwashed by Aldisian society to believe in the Nanny State) and picks him or her (though of course in the current moment of the game it's a Her) to be ruler of us all. The deer will instantly and automatically succeed in any attempt to stop the coronation or assassinate the ruler, stomping on the would-be freedom-fighter's head with its hoof that automatically renders them unconscious (no save vs. anything, but then that shouldn't surprise you since John Snead, the main designer of the game, has stated unequivocally that he hates D20), and the person will then be left with a permanent hoof-mark and be sentenced to exile from Aldis. So not only can't you kill the fucking puppet that the Tyrant-deer wants on the throne, you WILL be exiled if you try, and you'll be permanently marked so that you can't go back in secret to Aldis to keep trying. What's the fucking point anyways?
The Magic Deer also shows up anytime the King or Queen stops acting the way it wants them to.

Is Aldis a Socialist Utopia?
No, it's a ridiculous medieval-collectivist state that should not be. There's no way it can exist in any real way, it's a nation that makes no sense, its suspension of disbelief is only held together by the Magic Deer. The setting doesn't feel like the medieval world, it doesn't feel right for the technology level, it doesn't feel right for the society; the writers have chosen to make the setting medieval whenever they think it's cool to be medieval but utterly and totally MODERN (and by that I mean American Liberal Post-modernist Feminist Collectivist) in its culture and values, so feels like if you were to go to a Rennaisance Faire in San Francisco sponsored by the local Wiccan Church.

Doesn't the Magic Deer trample on people's freedoms?
Yes. Clearly. Any other system of government, be it a totalitarian dictatorship or a democracy or a monarchy or even anarchy would be preferable to any right-thinking person than a Venisonocracy. Because under the former ones, at least it is human beings, choosing of their own free will to participate in their political system; or having the freedom to oppose it. But the Venisonocracy, which is John Snead, Steve Kenson and Nichole Lindroos' idea of a good time apparently, is a state where human beings are chattel to an alien entity that has taken away any and all possibility of self-determination, and goes on systematically breeding it out of its human sheep from one generation to the next by encouraging those humans with the most slave-oriented mentalities (the ones that accept the Deer's rule and approve of its governance) to get special favours (the nobility) while punishing those who dare to defy its control.

Doesn't Blue Rose have freaky sex stuff in it?
Not really. It has got open homosexuality in it, but if you consider that freaky you really need to purchase an imagination. It also has these sailor-folk who practice polygamy. But in any case, if you were to compare it to Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms (the RPG-setting's answer to the Satyricon), Blue Rose is positively vanilla.

Does Aldis Represent Modern Liberal Values?
Let's see now; first of all let's keep in mind the people who wrote the game: one is an acknowledged self-described feminist. The other two are "male feminists", gay and bisexual respectively, and one of them is a hardcore "Wiccan" with a history of imposing his Wiccan values on the books he writes (to the point of having ruined a Shadowrun sourcebook by doing so). Now, Aldis is a setting where there's absolute equality of the sexes, no racial discrimination, all sexual orientations are accepted, everyone runs around in medieval garb but practices collectivist post-modernist morality, everyone is running around talking to magic spirit animals, they have Real Psychic powers and "Magick" all over the place; in short, Aldis isn't so much a marxist manifesto or anything like that as it is a West-Coast Wiccan's wet dream. Like a Ren Faire or New Age Convention that never ends. It is utterly modern and liberal in its values.

Isn't every animal in the world intelligent and psychic?
No, but there are a lot of them.

Did the Magic Deer choose two insane sovereigns out of eleven? Isn't that bad judgement?
Yeah, I guess so. But the setting does state that even though the Magic Deer is unbeatable and omnipotent, and can sense people's goodness, the one thing it can't do is sense the future, apparently. 

Do alignment rules advocate collectivism?
Absolutely. Compare the following two descriptions of alignment. First, D&D's description of "good":

implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. ----- characters make personal sacrifices to help others.

Second, Blue Rose's "Light":

believe in community and the good of all over mere self-interest. They seek peace, harmonious coexistence, and the general good although, there is sometimes disagreement as to what exactly is the best for everyone.
The first says "be a good person, help others". The Collectivists have no monopoly on that, in fact that's not what they're about. The second says believe in the COMMUNITY, help the community and it will help everyone. The community, together, must determine what is "best for everyone".
So the D&D definition is one person, as an individual, helping other people as individuals. The BR definition is each person having to rely on the community to help everyone, and the community, not the individual, determining who should or should not be helped and how, and then everyone following the dictates of the community.
That's Collectivism, bucky!

So why are people complaining about this? Surely there must be something wrong with Blue Rose for people to complain about it so.
Well, JHKim sadly falls back into the "they must be homophobes" argument for this. You'll note that in the above my issues have FUCK ALL to do with BR being either girly or gay. My issues, and most people's issues with Blue Rose are that:

1. It intentionally presents alignment rules that dictate that if your character is an Individualist (which is the standard kind of character in an RPG party), he must be Shadowy or Evil. You have no choice about that, because the game defines individualism itself as evil, something that is quite insulting to the rather large part of the population in the real world that still believes Individualism to be a virtue and not a vice. Oh, and it also insults Christianity and Monotheists in general (presenting them as either objectively evil or misguided in the setting).

2. It pretty well acts as an advocacy piece for Collectivism and new agey wiccan philosophies. It shows a setting that is a relative paradise for following these values, and one where the population as a whole is very happy to be living in these conditions. Its as stupid a piece of propagandism as if a Christian created a utopia where everything was ok because the Religious Right was in power in the US. It smacks of preachiness.

3. It presents a cheap-ass deus-ex-machina Fiat-by-Game-Designer where you cannot actually do anything to change this setting, because of the alignment rules and because of the invulnerability of the Magic Deer. Its bad gaming where the Game Designers are trying to force you to play the way they want the game played. In other words, my issues with the game are the same as my issues with countless other games I've disliked.

4. Its not even good Emulation of Genre. In most Romantic Fantasy novels, the setting is one that is fairly standard medieval, with discrimination of all kinds, and the heroes are brave freethinkers who are out to succeed in spite of the difficulties caused by that discrimination. Not here, where the setting has no discrimination, and the "heroes" are the powerful enforcers of state collectivism.

Frankly, I really would have expected more from Mr.Kim. Specifically, that he would try to hide behind such cheap claptrap like "if you don't like Blue Rose it must be because you're a sexist homophobe" is extremely disappointing. Anyways, now you've gotten the real facts, my proxies!


Currenty Smoking: Lorenzetti volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

(Originally posted July 26, 2007)