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Friday 31 March 2017

The Cycle of Denial/Adoption of Leftist Extremism

How it always goes with the Left:

STEP 1: Someone prominent though theoretically 'extreme' make a statement advocating censorship, violence, or other kinds of totalitarianism.

STEP 2: NO one on the 'mainstream left' actually denounces this view.

STEP 3: Someone like me, on the Right, points out the atrocity that has been suggested and endorsed by silence.

STEP 4: People on the Left claim that "x is an extremist", while still not literally denouncing them. Instead, they accuse the people on the right as being unreasonable 'fake news' hyperbolists. They point out how that's just one person's opinion and not actual policy.

STEP 5: two years later, the thing that was on the 'extreme' is now standard political policy of the Left.


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

Thursday 30 March 2017

RPGPundit's Playtest-Running Tips

Well now, having just finished the first draft of my upcoming Medieval-Authentic OSR RPG, "Lion & Dragon", my mind has wandered to thoughts of playtesting.  I'm lucky in that this is not my first rodeo, and that I have a selection-pool of literally hundreds of people wanting to play my games here where I live.  Not everyone is that lucky.

So anyways, if you are able to get together a playtest-group for the game you're trying to design, here's my main advice for you:

1) You should make it very clear to your players that you are engaging in a Playtest.  That you need them to point stuff out to you, and that they should understand it might not work like a regular RPG campaign; possibly including the rules changing as you go along.

2) Have at least one mechanics-nerd in your group (a guy who likes to figure out rules, how they work, and how they can go wrong).

3) Have at least one guy who tends to be a powergamer, and/or a rules-lawyer; people that will try to find loopholes in the rules you never intended for their to be, to abuse the system. This gives you a kind of 'devil's advocate' that you can try to proof a bit against.

4) Mainly, TAKE CRITICISM. Your first instinct might be to try to defend your current rules. If people tell you they're broken, or that they suck, and can either explain why or show you how by fucking up the game, you need to accept that and work through it.
Your job is not to try to defend your 'baby' here, or justify your choices. If you aren't willing to improve stuff, there's no point doing a playtest.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + C&D's Chestnut

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Weirdest Dark Albion Mix Yet

I'm sure it's happened to all of us at some point.

I'm sure you've woken up sometime in the last couple of years, and in those first moments just before getting up, asked yourself, "Could it be possible to combine Dark Albion with the 80s movie Krull"?

Well, over at the Swords & Stitchery Blog, the answer is Yes.

So go check it out, for the weirdest take I've seen yet on Albion.

I look forward to someone in future trying to combine Albion with The Goonies.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Egg + C&D's Chestnut

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Classic Rant: A Working Definition of the OSR

Because others have asked, and I've already expressed this idea before. If you want a positive definition of the OSR, and what it's all about, here it is:

I would classify the OSR as a design philosophy of creating systems, settings and adventures that fit within the boundaries of old-school mechanics and concepts; that is, either directly utilizing features that were in existence in the period before the advent of 2nd edition AD&D; or features that, in spite of not having historically existed at that time, could have existed in that period without the addition of material or design concepts that are clearly the product of subsequent ideas or later theories.

That's it. That's what OSR design is.


(october 9, 2014)

Monday 27 March 2017

Break Monday: Kung-fu Magic Edition

Today we take a look at the mystical ideas that inform Asian magic, martial arts, and medicine alike.

The fantastical stuff that you've seen in Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, and countless kung-fu movies, or at your acupuncturist's office, or in a Qi Gong class, are all based on some fundamental concepts.  Today, we explain them.

If you liked the article, please reshare it!


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

Sunday 26 March 2017

Wild West Campaign Update: Yellow Fever

This session in Dodge, the city was heavy into the Cattle Drive season, and the long awaited opening of the Beatty Hotel and Babylon Gambling Hall was taking place.  The ribbon-cutting ceremony was officiated by the mayor, and the mayor's girlfriend: the beautiful and famous singer miss Dora Hand.

At the same time, Bat Masterson invited over his surviving brother, James Masterson, to take the place of their dead brother Ed as Deputy Sheriff, and as his partner in the Lady Gay Saloon & Music Hall.

James turns out to be less gentle than Ed, and less genteel than Bat. He makes it clear that it's not just family-loyalty that brought him to Dodge; it's also Dodge's reputation as the "Gomorrah of the West".  He quickly makes it clear that he's looking forward to shooting someone, and gets into an argument that looks very tense for a few moments with Kid Taylor, when he takes an interest in Kid's younger sister.

Speaking of Kid Taylor, he ended up having a meeting with the Better People, the rival power-group in Dodge to "The Gang", the group of saloon owners who currently control most of the town's politics.  Kid Taylor was more or less associated with the Gang until now; his former employer Dog Kelly (current Mayor of Dodge) and current employer Bat Masterson (Ford County Sheriff) are both members of the Gang. But he feels he's been underappreciated, plus he's trying to get himself married to the daughter of Better-People member Judge Robert Wright.

The Better People decide Kid Taylor would be a good fit with them now that he's Dodge City's dentist, and want to essentially use him as a spy on the Gang, between now and the next election, in the hopes of getting information they could use.

At the same time, Miss Jenny, the saloon-owner and known beau of former Sheriff and current Marshall Charlie Bassett, gets a visitor of her own, in the form of a New Orleans gambler named Cole.

He's here for the big winner-takes-all high-stakes Poker Game being held at the Beatty Hotel Gambling Hall for its opening.  Bassett is none too pleased with this, but he takes it with his usual stoic resilience.

Then, on the day of the big Poker game, disaster strikes. The great Yellow Fever Epidemic hits (it would end up claiming 13000 lives that warm summer, mostly in the American South).  It turns out that 2 of the PCs get infected: Martin the telegraph operator, who had just secured a steady job writing a weekly article as a correspondent for a Philadelphia newspaper; and Hale the Mormon Gambler, who had just gotten a new job as the head concierge at the Beatty Hotel. Both became quickly ill, along with a few other people in town (most notably the old lady who ran the boarding house most of the PCs stayed at when they first got into town, David the Mexican, and Louie the town drunk - of those three, only the old lady would die).

Beatty and Miller, neither of them infected, had to make a gargantuan effort to try to hide the fact of the disease's presence in Dodge; even though the infection rate would actually turn out to be very low, the scare-effect alone could ruin everything for their new hotel enterprise, and especially, they had to get the Poker game started before anyone could find out, or the whole thing would be cancelled. They resorted to all kinds of shenanigans, most notably temporarily kidnapping Mayor Kelly so he couldn't blab the truth of the matter.  Then they remembered Kelly was actually on the list of participants in the big game, and recruited him as a co-conspirator.  He kept his silence until everyone had sat down, cashed in, and placed their first ante, meaning the 'winner takes all' rules were binding. Then he announced that there was Yellow Fever in Dodge. About a third of the participants up and left in a panic, deciding that the $500 buy-in wasn't worth risking their lives. Thus, the day was saved for Beatty and Miller; not so much for Dog Kelly, as he ended up losing the tournament to the Bar-T Ranch owner, Buck.

As the game ran well into the night, the gambler Cole went from doing moderately well to losing very quickly around 3am. Miller, who is very observant and was supervising rather than participating in the game, noticed this and found it odd. He'd noted (also being a pretty decent gambler himself) that Cole changed his style and took some unusual losses in quick succession; almost like he was trying to throw a game.  It made no sense for a winner-take-all game, unless he had a very good reason to want to leave quickly at a certain time. He also remembered that earlier in the day, Cole had paid a visit to the Dodge city bank.  Deciding to be better safe than sorry, he sent a quick note to Sheriff Bassett about these odd developments.

Sheriff Bassett got together Deputies Jeff Young, Wyatt Earp, and Bill Tilghman, and had them stake out the bank. He went to look for Miss Jenny, to see if Cole hadn't just slipped out to see her in the middle of the night.  It turns out he had been to see Miss Jenny, but to say his goodbyes. She confessed that Cole had lived a criminal life in the past, and was worried Cole was about to do something.

Bassett came back just in time for the lawmen to spot Cole and a couple of associates (one of whom had been working at the bank for the last three months); they were indeed robbing the bank, during a time of year when it would be likely to have the most money (the early part of the cattle drive).  They intervened, calling on the men to surrender. A shootout followed. The rogue banker hid in the bank and didn't participate, the man on the horses ran. Tilghman was too far away to join the fight, his only part being to call on the men to surrender themselves.  But Cole's associate shot it out with Wyatt Earp, and was quickly killed with two bullets to the skull. Cole himself shot at Bassett, the man who'd won Miss Jenny's heart, and Bassett and Young fired back; Cole missed, but the two lawmen put two bullets each in Cole's chest, and he was dead before he hit the ground.

As to the victims of the Yellow Fever, the Mormon Gambler got fairly ill, and in his moment of crisis even tried to settle his affairs with his fiance Becky, willing her his money. But he also prayed fervently to the Heavenly Father and the angel Moroni, and (the player rolling a natural 20 on his check against the disease), miraculously recovered! His faith was now redoubled.

Sadly, Martin, who had been a telegraph operator and journalist, and had only been in Dodge for a few months, was not so lucky.  The fever took him.

That means, though, that next month someone new will be coming into Dodge. Stay tuned next time as the cattle drive season of '78 ramps up!


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

Saturday 25 March 2017

Break Saturday: Obligatory Transgender-sex Edition

In today's article, we break down everything that's flawed about a video a feminist produced where she argued that if you are a straight man, and don't want to have sex with any trans women with penises, you are guilty of transphobia.

Historically, there are so many different definitions of 'homosexuality' or 'transgender', why is it that modern western feminists think that theirs is the only right one? Was everyone else just "gaying" wrong?

And as a pro-LGBT person, I'd say it serves no one to make the same assumptions about the changeability of other people's sexuality as some have made about yours.

Anyways, check out the article, and please feel free to share it if you liked it.


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary + Image Latakia

Friday 24 March 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Starcluster 4 Free Edition

This is a review of the RPG rules "Starcluster 4: Free", written by Clash Bowley, Albert Bailey and Klaxon Bowley. It's published by Flying Mice games.

This is a review of the print edition, which is a slim softcover volume, about 65 pages long. The Front cover is full-color and features an image of a type of centaur-creature running in a plain. The interior is black and white, and very sparsely illustrated, with just a few images of sample characters and sillhouettes of guns.

Starcluster 4 Free is an edition of the Starcluster series. Bowley has produced a number of different products in this series, each potentially stand-alone but set in the same universe.  Starcluster 4 Free is intended as an introduction to this system and its universe; the PDF version is free to download, and the print edition (which I am reviewing) is sold at cost.  It also includes a developer's license which would allow people to use anything from this book in 3rd party products.

The book starts right off with character creation, no introduction whatsoever. It includes only two species: humans, and german-shepherd uplifts.

Characters are created by using the species template to start with, and then modifying the base statistics (Strength, coordination, agility, endurance, charisma, intelligence, psionics, and luck) via a random die roll.
Each ability score governs a list of skills and of special traits.

Skills are purchased through 'templates', these are bought with 'template points'; the number of template points you receive are based on your character's starting age (the older you are, the more points you get to buy skills, but after a certain age you also start to lose physical attributes). All characters, regardless of age, start with one background and one education template; the former represents your origins (based on family social class), while the latter your early education (with options being 'hard knocks', apprentice, engineering, management, pre-med, science, art, military, or athletic).

Each of these templates provides certain basic skills, an attribute bonus, and in the case of backgrounds an 'edge' (for example, 'lower middle class' gets an edge in "urban", while 'plutocrat' gets an edge in "social").

Beyond these, skill templates (representing later studies and training) work through a series of skill-trees, where you have to take earlier choices before having the chance to get later ones. Each selection has a cost in template points, and sometimes have prerequisites; they grant you certain skill points and sometimes a new 'edge'.

There's a selection of basic equipment (with guidelines regarding tech levels).  There's also optional rules on having "Psi skills".

Some versions of Starcluster feature more than one resolution mechanic, a peculiarity of Bowley's game design. In this book, however, there's only one mechanic system included: the "Starpool" system.

The basic resolution involves rolling 1d20, plus 1d20 for each point you have in a relevant skill. Each die that gets equal or less than the governing attribute counts as a 'success'.
Using a trait point gives you an extra d20 to roll.
If you have a relevant "Edge", then the relevant attribute gets a +1 (so if you have an INT12, but your 'social' edge is relevant, the target number for roll-under would be 13).

Different circumstances could provide modifiers for or against.  A small modifier would adjust the target number by +/-1. A large modifier would add or remove 2 dice from the rolling pool.

Very basic rules for combat are included; they're based on the same mechanic, plus a choice of different damage methods (damage boxes, damage states, or an attribute pool of 'hit points').

And that's basically it.

So what's this product good for?

Well, it's very very basic.  I think it can be useful, mainly, as a way for people to check out the basics of the Starcluster system to decide if they like it, before buying other Starcluster products.
It provides the basic rule mechanics if someone wants to make a product of their own using the Starcluster system, with the license.

However, on the whole, this strikes me a just a little bit too barren to be of real use in actual play by itself.  I get why the designers would have gone the way they did, but I think that it would have been a useful touch to add at the very least a couple of pages of introductory material about the setting.

Still, you can't really argue with "free". And that's what makes the PDF worth while, as a kind of preview to give you an idea of what Starcluster looks like. Even if it's just a tiny hint.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Thursday 23 March 2017

DCC Campaign Archive: Dutchmen Just Show Up

When we left off, Bill was nerding out in the library, blissfully unaware that many of the other PCs had just survived the bomb implanted in Teal by the Guardian Robots (Teal didn't survive).  Now the secret of the Guardians' plans to kill all humans (and mutants) was out, and the PCs decided to warn the people and gather together the High Council of Wizards.

This was also the 4th anniversary of our campaign.


-"Celebrating 4 years of the DCC campaign escalated quickly into cake-buying!"

-Everyone watches Teal/Mu's player carefully to see if he eats cake as weirdly as he eats pasta.

-Mu's player asks the Pundit to make a ruling on Psychic powers.
"I'm torn. On the one hand, if Pundit gives Mu what he wants, that might someday benefit one of my characters. On the other hand, it would benefit Mu, so..."

-Pundit rules on it.
"I like that ruling! It might someday help my future characters, but it doesn't really help Mu!"

-"It's too bad Teal died.."
"Is it though?"

-"I'm cool, I'm in the library. I don't give a shit"
"Yes, but you need 2.6 more days to actually learn your spell."
"yeah, so?"
"You need the city of Lol to still exist for another 54 hours or so."
"Oh, shit."

-"OK, but technically, Bill doesn't need to be in Lol, right? He just needs the books..."

-Malaprex the Violent and Uncle Roman are whispering to each other.
"It's Ok, I trust Roman, he's family!"

-"Do you really think Bolt-1 and the Guardian Robots could hope to defeat the council's combined power?"
"I have INT 7; I don't really think that much about anything."

-"You see, BOLT-0 cannot perform magic because of his big claw hands. So he made BOLT-1, who can."
"...why didn't he just make new hands?!"
"He has mysterious ways."

-Malaprex confides with the PCs that he thinks Lol is doomed, and he really just wants to steal everything he can and get the fuck out of Dodge.

-The Guardians decapsulate Morris.
"Just relax, man."

"Ok, well, I know he fucked this green mutant witch-queen in the Shithole."

"Well, did you know he only has one testicle?"

-"Why are you lying about me to robots!?"

-The Guardian Robots explain to Morris how Teal was blown to bits when they implanted a bomb in him, but failed to kill Bill the Elf.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"..OK, sure!"

-in all this, Heidi had been on his way to Bellmunster's tower, when he was attacked in an alley by a group of vicious cats with paralyzing bites and the ability to sprout wings. They flew his paralyzed body to a tower, whose inner architecture had the form of an enormous cat-palace.

-Heidi is revived by Fluffy the Cat, archwizard of the High Council.

-He speaks telepathically, through his human, who is held in a human-sized carrying-cage.
"Tell me, Heidi... what do you most desire?"
"To save the people of Lol!"
"Such a selfless desire... this is odd for someone who chooses to travel with Bill the elf!"
"I never really got a choice."

-"Heidi didn't choose the Bill Life, the Bill Life chose him!"

-"I have an offer for Bill, to defeat Sezrekhan and keep his current level of power."
"Not interested."

-Heidi is allowed to leave, through the exit, which consists of an enormous brass door with a large cat-flap.

-Malaprex, Roman and the humans are in the sewers, trying to find another entrance into the turbolifts leading to the spacedocks, because the regular terminal is flooded with panicking crowds trying to escape the city. In the sewers, they run into a blob-creature, which malaprex promptly shoots to pieces.
"You know, that might just have been like, an alien guy."
"I don't care."

-Next, they run into a group of frog-people.

-"I guess you guys can come with us; welcome to the mercenary life."
"We are not mercenaries. We are freedom-fighters."
"well, we fight for economic freedom..."
"Economic freedom is a fundamental Kekistani value!"

-Having failed to use Heidi as a messenger, Fluffy the Cat sends a messenger-cat to Bill, in the Library. The cat explains to Bill that the city is on the verge of total chaos.
"Man, when did things start to go so wrong?"
"I'm pretty sure it was Bill's first adventure."

-Mu was looking for Bill, and gets to the library entrance after making his way past frantic mobs and rioters. There, he meets Grizlor the Library-Receptionist Wizard.
"I'm looking for Bill the Elf. I'm a wizard!"
"Are you his apprentice?"
"I was, until he left me stuck in the Shithole."
"Is that what the young people are calling it these days?"

-"Do you know what's going on out there, Grizlor? Aren't you going to run for it?"
"No. I was born in this library, and I'll die in this library."

-"The library is very large. It's larger on the inside. I'll get a page to guide you to Bill."
"Like, an animated page from a book?"
"No, just a servant."

-The page and Mu walk in on Bill stuffing books into his Breifcase of Holding, having been warned about the eminent potential destruction of Lol.  The cat-messenger was acting as his lookout, but Bill totally ignored his warning mews.

-"Theft!! Theft!!"
Bill Planar Steps out of there.

-Mu is pissed.
"That asshole of my former master left with a bunch of books."
"wah wah my ex is an asshole, he left me in the Shithole... man up, dude."

-"So is this place defended?"
"Not really, but I trust that the council will take care of these problems shortly."
"You're fucked dude, I'm out of here."

-Morris has been freed by the Guardian Robots.
"Is there any shooting happening?"
"no, though you hear shooting in the distance."
"That's music to Morris' ears."

-"Is my credit still good?"
"Well, most of the city is on fire, so no."

-Morris was left near the library, and he sees Mu coming out, all pissed. A bit later, both see this thing that looks vaguely like The Predator come out of the library.
"I'm betting that's something that's been sent to hunt down Bill for stealing books. Let's follow it!"

-Heidi gets to the outside of Bellmunster's tower, only to run into a crowd of people who have become Sezrekhan-zombies. He manages to bluff them by walking past them with the same blank stare repeating "all is Sezrekhan".

-Bellmunster's Owlbear Butler opens the door to the tower.
"All is.. er, I mean, I need to talk to your master."

-Bellmunster has other animals servants: a duck cook, disney-style animated brooms, and dire-weasel guards.
"Dire weasels are the deadliest predators of Bellmunster's tower!"

-Bellmunster is trying to get the wizards together to do an assault on the Guardian Robots' HQ, now that the Guardians have started to come out and Exterminate people. While Heidi waits, Bellmunster has a platypus in a doctor's outfit give him a healing potion.

-Roman, Malaprex, the frogmen and the humans had originally joined a merchant to get to his merchant ship, but then they set their minds on a much more impressive Grey Realms Transdimensional Mercenary Cruiser. Only, it's got a protective force field defense system that's disintegrated anyone who comes near it. Roman thinks he's figured out how to disrupt it; but to test it, they throw the merchant toward the ship. The merchant gets disintegrated.
"Hmmm... give me a sec."

-They try again, for which purpose the Blacksmith shanghais a random organge mutant. This time, the disruption worked!
"We're good!"
"I helped!"
"Yes, you did. Welcome to the exciting life of a mercenary!"

-"Yes Heidi, for getting past the Sezrekhan crazies, you get 1 XP. Which is more than any of you have gained in the last two sessions."

-"This has been a very interesting adventure, but not big on XP."
"Yeah, we haven't had many fights for the last while."
"Just you fucking wait!"

-Inside the mercenary cruiser, the Blacksmith and the Kekistanis raid the armory. The Blacksmith gets himself a top-of-the-line Exoarmor with a jet pack attachment. The farmer gets aquapants.
"What the fuck are aquapants?"
"They're pants that look like they're made out of water. Grey Realm beings are weird."

-While following the Predator, Morris & Mu find a giant hamster (about the size of a pig). It appears to be someone's pet, who was set free before they fled. Morris feeds it some peanuts, and Mu decides to take it with him.
"What are you doing with that thing??"
"I need love!"

-"I'm going to blow the Horn of Dutchmen"
"One sec, I have to look up just how that works again.."
"I'm pretty sure that Dutchmen just show up."
"...Yup, you're right."

-"You know, we could use this mercenary cruiser's dimensional drive to.. well, no, that would be a bad idea."
"A bad idea, Uncle Roman? Tell me more!"
"Well, we could try to make a short jump inside the dome that covers Lol."
"You really think that's a better idea?"
"Well, define 'better'."

-"If this doesn't work, will we all die?"
"I like those odds!"

-Heidi tells Bellmunster about Roman Beckett. Bellmunster decides that he will find him on his cystal ball, and teleport him over. He finds Roman working on his calculations in the ship.
"Should we take anyone else?"
"Yeah, take those two human guys with him."

-Roman and the humans are teleported to Bellmunster's tower. Seconds later they can see the flash of light in the sky as Malaprex and the Kekistanis take off, abandoning them.
"son of a bitch!"
"Well, there goes the exciting life of a mercenary."

-"I've brought you here Roman, because Heidi says you know a great deal about the Guardian Robots. You may be our only chance to defeat them."
"And why were we brought here?!"
"Heidi felt the two of you might also be useful."
"That's a fucking lie! You KNOW we're useless!"

-Bill gets to Fluffy's tower, but runs into Myla and the resistance. Bill agrees he'll help them to wipe out the Guardians (mostly just to shut the resistance up) but that first he has to go to the tower. Myla insists on going with him.
"I don't trust you!"
"Why not? I love genocide!"

-"I suppose I don't have much choice. But if you betray us, I will get you back!"
"Hey, I betray a LOT of people. But you never know, you might just be the lucky one!"

-Not allowed to follow Bill into Fluffy's sanctum, Myla comes back out just in time to see Morris, Mu, and the "Predator".
"Where's Bill?"
"He's inside."
"I'm here to kill him!"

-The Predator can't seem to enter the Tower, either due to wards, or its magical programming. So Mu steps up to the door and knocks. A cat comes out of the catflap.
"Is Bill here?"
"Can I come in?"
"Can you give him something from me?"
"This pinless grenade?"
"Oh. Ok, then I'll wait for him here."

-Bellmunster and Roman set up a plan whereby they'll teleport inside the Guardian HQ and sabotage the Guardian's communications network.
"Well, good luck with that, guys!"
"We should all go!"
"...fuck you, Heidi."
"you can go if you want, dude, but not me."
"We should take them all, Bellmunster. Random cannon fodder was very useful to me last time I was in the Guardian's base."
"'re becoming my least favorite uncle."

-"Don't worry, I've been against worst odds."
"I haven't."
"Oh.. well, in that case you'll probably die."

-Bill meets Fluffy.
"Welcome, Bill the elf! The city of Lol is doomed!"
"That's too bad, the brains were pretty cool."
"Yes, I also like brains."
"Um, I meant in the mausoleum, the brains of deceased archwizards."
"...Yes... that's what I meant as well..."

-"Man, I would have liked for Bill to hang out with Emirikol."
"I think one Bill per era is more than enough."
"Zero is really the ideal."

-"You must see by now, Bill the elf, there is no purpose in serving Sezrekhan anymore. You could serve MY master instead: Rataxes the Imprisoned."
"Could we free him?"
"That is the idea. Together, we could free him."
"Yes! That sounds totally awesome!"

-Fluffy explains that he is not only the diabolist in the High Council, he's also the one who's responsible for the Hippomagus' disappearance; having tricked him into going to get a powerful artifact called the Sunstaff and then imprisoning him.
"But.. you're not going to trick me, are you?"
"Of course not!"
"Ok, cool."

-According to Fluffy, Rataxes (if liberated) could use the Sunstaff to pierce the Crown of Creation itself, kill Sezrekhan, and take the place of G.O.D.
"But then wouldn't we have the same problem as with Sezrekhan"
"No. He would not wish to assimilate all into himself like Sezrekhan does. He would want to rule over the world and plunge it into eternal darkness."

-"So he's a sadist, not a narcissist. Cool!"
"The 'darkness eternal' thing isn't sending any warning signs to you?"

-"So, after we conquer the world, we can still go adventuring, right?"
"... we, the loyal servants of Rataxes, would RULE the world! There would be no need to adventure!"
"But, then what would we do all the time?"
"Torture lesser creatures, eat, sleep, groom our fur, many things!"
"So, stuff cats do all the time..."

-Bill takes a look out the window of the tower, sees that Morris is still down there.
"Hey, Morris!"
"Hey, Bill!"
"Tell the rest of the group... goodbye!"

-"Bill, wait... can I go with you? Look at my puppy-dog eyes!"
"sorry, no time!"

-"So, are we ready to teleport to the Guardian Headquarters?"
"Remember, even if we die, what we do today we do for the city of Lol, and the High Council of wizards!"
"Screw you, you bearded asshole!"

-In spite of the Farmer and the Blacksmith wanting nothing to do with it, they (along with Bellmunster, Roman, and Heidi) teleport into the Guardian Headquarters.
"Now what?"
"We need to get in that room, guarded by two of the robots.  We can use the farmer as a distraction."
"Don't worry, we'll rescue you."
"Why did you just laugh as you said that??"
"It was nervous laughter."

-After the farmer provided a distraction, the rest of the team broke into the control room. While Roman frantically tried to hack the communications system, Bellmunster and the PCs were forced to hold off oncoming Guardian Robots. Bellmunster demonstrates his awesome wizardly power, but he's also quickly taking hits (hits that would have killed any lesser mortal). The blacksmith hides behind a panel. Heidi shoots his gun at the robots, knowing full well his bullets can't actually hurt them, and counting on the robots ignoring him and hitting Bellmunster instead.

-Roman gets control of the Comms, and issues the order that all the Guardian Robots should move immediately to the main entry hall of the HQ. Bellmunster prepares to teleport the other PCs out.
"but... you're staying?"
"Don't fear for me. I will finish them, and survive."
"I wasn't really fearing for him, but I'll let him think I was. I'm actually thinking about looting his tower if he dies."

-Bellmunster teleports the team outside, near the market. In the distance they can see massive signs of damage from the epic battle the rest of the Council members (those who answered Bellmunster's call, that is) had with the Guardians.
"I wonder if any of them are still alive?"

-Just then, the Guardian's Headquarters explodes in a massive fireball! Bellmunster clearly used some serious spellburn to blow up all the Guardians after hacking them to gather in one place... but did he live?

-Finally, Bill and Fluffy teleported themselves to another high-orbit asteroid, a seemingly uninhabited one called Gebo.
There, they see a large black monolith.
"Within, we shall find our destiny."

-"I hope Bill gets the AIDS."

That's it for this session. Who on the council survived? Is Bellmunster alive? Has the threat of the Guardian Robots been stopped? Will Bill and Fluffy free yet another universe-threatening demon?

Stay tuned for these and other exciting developments in our next session!


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

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Classic Rant: "Only Players Roll" Is Precisely the OPPOSITE of 'Good Design'

I know it's become a trend lately, in some RPGs in certain quarters, to have a system where the GM never gets to roll the dice, and only the players roll for everything.

Now, in some cases, we could say that there may be nefarious motivations for this, based on a longstanding distrust certain groups have toward GMs in general; there's been for a long time a line of thought among certain gamers that the GM should be if at all possible 'deposed' from "power"; and if that's a motive then forbidding the GM from rolling dice is a particularly egregious case of anti-GM paranoia; it presumes that the GM will "cheat" on his rolls and thus abuse the players. 

But let's ignore that for a moment. Let's assume that these games have no anti-GM bias going and their motivation for making all rolls the responsibility of the players is some kind of attempt instead to make the game somehow more 'fun' for the players. If that's the case, this mechanic is still really bad design.

It misses the point, you see, of the fundamental purpose of the RPG: to Immerse in a character you play in an emulated world.

It would seem the people who push forth this notion of taking the dice away from the GM never really got that point. A lot of them are some of the same people who were at one time trying to equate Immersion with either Fraud or Mental Illness, so go figure.

But for most gamers, as fun as rolling dice can be, the real epic moment is that instant where you are totally immersed in the game, where you are just your character, and almost forget you're playing a game. Where it feels real.

Any time that you are suddenly interrupted and told "roll the dice" is a moment that snaps you out of that state, at least a tiny bit. It interrupts immersion.

There's a reason why players of games like Amber, Lords of Olympus, or Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, end up talking to everyone who'll listen (and some who don't care to) about these intense roleplaying experiences, campaigns full of epic character development and close personal attachment to the game: it's because in these games, the rules almost disappear for the player. You just know your strengths and weaknesses, and you just play your guy. You don't have to fiddle with points, you don't have to interrupt what you're describing to roll the dice.

If anything, if the point is to get the best possible roleplay experience, the exact OPPOSITE of what the anti-GM crowd are suggesting is the ideal scenario: the GM should roll all the dice.

That's a theoretical, of course. There are plenty of players for whom the rolling of dice is part of the fun, even if it's not the central aspect of RPG play. And there's a reason why the formula that's worked so well all these decades is one where both GM and players roll dice at particular times and to varying degrees. But really, of the various options (no dice, GM rolls all, Players and GM both roll, only players roll), the least useful for developing roleplay and immersion is the scenario where all the dice-rolling responsibility falls on the players.


(august 20, 2014)

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Break Tuesday: Real Magic Items Edition

So today, I present to you a short list of historical objects which were attributed with magic powers. Most of these real "magic items" through history can still be seen today.

And for my part, I've used at least 4 of them in my different RPG campaigns. 

So, check out these Magic Items That Really Existed!  And if you like it, please reshare!


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Virginia

Monday 20 March 2017

The Heroic Fantasy Handbook (plus some Sword & Planet Barbarians)

I'm working on my medieval-authentic fantasy handbook, and have very little time to write.

So instead, I'm going to point you guys to a kickstarter my friend Alexander Macris at Autarch Games is working on: the Heroic Fantasy Handbook! It's an OSR book (ostensibly for ACKS) which will cover the heroic fantasy genre and take some bold moves in changing some of the fundamental assumptions of how the standard D&D mechanics worked.  Here, heroic fantasy is defined as being "everything that Tolkien and Robert E. Howard have in common, when you take away everything they don't have in common". Other influences include Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith, Moorcock, and Lovecraft.

But that's not all! Being offered in the same Kickstarter is the Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu book, which is a kind of barbaric Sword & Planet science-fantasy book to bring the elements of that genre to your ACKS or other OSR game.

So check it out. I'll note I haven't read the products myself, but Autarch's track record is pretty good, so I'm sure the nature of these books will be of interest to some of my regular readers.

(also, I'm not working on these books, or for Autarch at all, and am not being paid to promote this, duh)

Anyways, I'll probably share some more details of my own Lion&Dragon Medieval-Authentic RPG in some coming blog entry. Stay tuned!


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Virginia

Sunday 19 March 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Bloodshadows, 3rd Edition

This is a review of the RPG Bloodshadows (3rd Edition), published by Precis Intermedia. It's the 20th anniversary edition of the game, originally created by Greg Farshtey and Ed Stark. The current version was designed by Brett Bernstein, and uses the Genrediversion rules, which he designed.

The book comes in softcover format (as always, I'm reviewing the print edition), which is about 255 pages long. The front cover is full-color, featuring a trio of pulp-style characters (a femme fatale and a couple of gumshoes, one male the other female). One of the characters is clearly using some kind of magic, and there's shadowy figures in the background. The interior is in black and white, and features a number of pulp-comic style art pieces, as well as some floorplans and the like.

I should note before proceeding that Precis publishes two of my RPGs (Lords of Olympus, and Gnomemurdered).  I don't think that will cause any bias in my review, but for the sake of transparency I'm mentioning it.

So, in brief, Bloodshadows is a slightly odd genre-mix. It's a pulp fantasy/film-noir type of game but with dark fantasy/magic built into the mix. As a game, Bloodshadows has gone through three incarnations with three totally different systems: first it was published by West End games using its "Masterbook" system. Then they republished it using their D6 system (the same they used for Star Wars).  Finally, there's this edition, which uses Precis' "genrediversion" system; the same they've used in a wide variety of games.

In spite of using a visual style that totally looks like 1930s America, Bloodshadows isn't actually even set on earth. It's set on the world of "Marl".  It was a world of high magic, which went through devastating wars between the forces of Order and Chaos.  Now, civilization in Marl is only found in its cities, each of which is very different in culture or even levels of technology. Magic and monsters are extremely common, and many types of monsters co-exist with humans in the cities; you can see vampires standing in bread-lines (well, blood-lines), changelings turning tricks on street corners, or ogre-type creatures working as mob enforcers. In between the cities is raw wilderness, filled with much more terrible and dangerous monsters.

In other words, it's a setting that makes no fucking sense, moreso than most worlds. How do the cities get enough to eat? How do they have a capitalist-style system and levels of production that allow them to mimic a 1930s north american industrial civilization without secure and massive transport infrastructure?  I mean, magic can explain some of it (the book explains that magic is so endemic that almost everyone knows a few cantrips to use in everyday life), but it doesn't rationalize all of it.  If this is the sort of thing that drives you nuts, well, consider yourself warned.

There's just a ton of stuff that's really weird about the setting of this game. If they'd made Bloodshadows in an alternate-history Earth, the suspension of disbelief to imagine a 1930s New York City where people knew magic and vampires were hobos would seem a lot less weird to me than being asked to imagine a post-apocalyptic fantasy continent where somehow a culture and look identical to 1930s NYC emerged.

That's not all the stuff that grates me about what I see as bad world design in Bloodshadows. Take this line from the book, for example: "Some people like to imagine that the unnatural, the cursed, and the damned don't really exist.  They are exaggerations of history or products of hysteria."
Dudes, you're in a world devastated by a magical 'God-war' to the point that humans can't leave the cities without being eaten, and vampires and four-armed ogres walk your streets. How the FUCK could there be anyone not in an insane asylum who would imagine the unnatural doesn't exist?!

Anyways, now the dark forces are rising again, and a second 'god-war' is beginning to be fought on the dark streets of the city's underworld. This new god-war is not really meant to be the point of the game, but rather a kind of backdrop to the main action of noir-style detective/gangster stories on the streets.

The system is based on a set of ability scores: Fitness, Awareness, Creativity, Reasoning, Influence. Each of these are placed on a scale of 0-5. Some supernatural creatures may have more than 5 in an ability.

You'll note that unlike most RPGs, there isn't a physical/mental balance here.  While D&D (for example) has 3 physical stats (str, dex, con) and 3 mental stats (int, wis, cha), the Genrediversion system has only ONE physical stat (fitness) which covers all of physical strength, prowess, and resistance.

In my past experience with this system, the result has been something of a mixed bag.  Campaigns that depend a lot on physical action are not served well by the system.  Characters who end up with a high Fitness utterly dominate.  On the other hand, if a game is more based on investigation, roleplaying, intrigue, etc, the system works quite well.

In addition to abilities, characters also have Pursuits. These are basically skills, and are rated from -1 (incompetency; that is, no knowledge of the skill at all) to +4 (grand mastery).

Pursuits are tied into specific abilities.  Fitness-based skills include things like archery, athletics, brawling, driving, firearms, etc.
Awareness includes things like gambling, interrogation, investigation (and also Divination magic theory).
Creativity-based Pursuits include carpentry, design, disguise, forgery, etc (plus Alteration and Conjuration magic theory).
Reason includes skills like boating, first aid, lore, streetwise, etc (and also Apportation magic theory, and Cantrips).
Influence includes intimidation, negotiation, oratory, etc (plus Hypnotism, and Invocation magic theory).

Actual magic casting pursuits (other than Cantrips, which are 'ordinary household spells') are their own particular category. The various Magic Casting pursuits are: chronomancy, elementalism, necromancy, photomancy, somniomancy, sorcery, technomancy, vitomancy, and wizardry.

Finally, there's one other pursuit not directly linked to any ability: composure. This is used to make rolls to resist panic, pain, or temptation.

Beyond this there's also "Gimmicks", which are special character features. Some abilities can be detrimental, working as disadvantages.  Ability gimmicks change the effective level of one's ability for a specific purpose; so for example, having a "Strength +1" gimmick means the character has a +1 to fitness for any tests related to physical strength; a person who is very weak could have a "Strength -2" gimmick, which means they'd have a -2 to fitness for strength-related feats.
Cultural gimmicks reflect special advantages and disadvantages not related to ability scores directly.  Things like "allegiances", "amnesia", "debts", "fame", "lip-reading", "wealthy", etc.
Special gimmicks reflect specific powers or afflictions, things like "allergy", "change form" (the character can alter their appearance), "extra sense", "fast healer", "incorporeal", "magic resistance", "natural immunity", "rot", "stench", etc.

There's a significant variety of 'species' for play in the game. Aside from humans (the predominant species), there's also catrarms (four-armed humanoids), Elkists (half-demon/half-ghouls, who eat intestines and can make one part of their body intangible at a time), Face-Shifters (humans who can change their faces), Ghouls, Granis (stonemen shape-shifters), Gris (garbage-eating dwarves), Hugors (half-human/half-ogre), Humbi (half-human/half-succubi), Orris (shapechanging humanoids), Skethspawns (half-human/half-demons who smell terrible and fear water), Skitter-rats (ratmen), Succubi/Incubi, Taxims (demons who possess dead humans), Vampires and Werewolves.

Each species is described, and includes suggested alignment and gimmicks.

Roles are the equivalent of classes; each come with a description of prerequisites (in terms of which Pursuits must be taken), and recommended other pursuits, plus gimmicks and equipment. Roles include Crooks, Merchants, Newscribes (journalists), Private Detectives, Sentinels (cops), Socialites, Spellslingers (professional magicians), streetsingers (musicians), Thugs, and Average Joes.

Character creation is done by point-distribution, in the case of the Abilities (12 point spread among them), and pursuits (14 points to buy various pursuits, with rising costs per rank). Magic Casting pursuits are included among these, with a limit that a character can't start with more casting pursuits than their level in Reasoning.  Each type of magic has a list of spells; characters begin with a number of spells in each casting pursuit equal to their bonus in the pursuit.

Gimmicks are obtained based on species and Role.  Some gimmicks are automatically assigned to each, while others are randomly rolled from a table for that species or role.  Characters can take additional gimmicks, but have to balance them out by taking detrimental gimmicks.

Health is divided into four types: Fatigue, Injury, Tension and Mania.
These worsen according to different thresholds, based on ability scores.
Characters have protection (damage resistance, you could say) in the form of padding, armor, immunity, will and ego.

Characters start with a certain amount of cash for purchasing equipment.

Tasks are resolved by rolling 2d6, adding the Pursuit value relevant to the check, and the Ability rating. A "routine" task has a Difficulty of 10; difficulties range from 8 for "trivial" to 18 for "impossible".
Margins of success and failure don't always matter but will sometimes have an affect. If a character succeeds a check by more than 5, in some cases they can use this to perform an 'exploit', some kind of additional effect; for example, accomplishing things faster, recognizing hidden details, increasing the effect of force, gaining a bonus to a subsequent check, etc.

A double-6 is always a success, and an extra d6 is added to the total value. Double-1 can cause a "calamity" but only if you had no relevant skill bonus to use, or if the difficulty was 14 or higher.

Tasks can be 'contested' (opposed), in which case whoever succeeded by the wider margin wins.
Passive tests (reactions) use no skills but are based on the relevant ability times two.
There are various other rules regarding tasks, including working together, handling investigation, using contacts, handling intoxication, and using cantrips or spellcasting.

Characters surpassing damage thresholds will get penalties to the difficulty of checks based on certain abilities.  If a character gets to five full levels of damage in any of the damage tracks, they are incapacitated in some way.  If it is on the "injury" damage track and they take any more injury, after being incapacitated, they die.

Experience in the game is measured through points that can be expended to augment task checks or to reduce damage levels. It can also be used to increase protection levels, lessening spell feedback, or use certain gimmicks.

Combat is resolved by the same task resolution. With ranged attacks, the distance determines the difficulty to hit. In melee attacks, the difficulty is 8 plus the target's Fitness plus their Pursuit.

There are (unfortunately) also rules for social combat, which work similarly but using Influence rather than fitness, and skills like charm, empathy, intimidation, negotiation, or performance.
If you read me regularly, you know my policy toward "social combat": just fucking roleplay it.

Rules are also provided for chases (on foot or by automobile).

The equipment section is only 6 pages long but covers most of the very basics, including some magic items.

The magic chapter is of course more detailed.  There are various schools of magic. Chronomancy is magic that manipulates time (it is a lost-school, and thus not recommended for starting PCs). Elementalism deals with manipulating the four elements.  Neocromancy with talking with or raising the dead. Photomancy affects light and darkness. Somniomancy affects sleep, dreaming and the dream world. Sorcery has to do with portals and otherworldly realms. Technomancy integrates magic with machinery. Vitomancy is magic related to life. Wizardry has to do with demons and other supernatural creatures.

Magic checks are done by combining the casting pursuit level one has in the school with an ability score. The ability in question depends on which 'theory' the magic is based on. So for example, the Elementalism spell "acid bath" uses one's Elementalism skill, plus their Creativity Score because "acid bath" is based on alteration-theory.
Different spells have different difficulty levels. Some have special spell requirements: material components, gestures, incantations, inscriptions, or they can be cast into objects (like wands or potions).

If a casting check fails, a caster suffers "Feedback".  The level of feedback is determined by dividing the margin of error by two, and adding it to the 'feedback rating' of the spell in question (plus some other modifiers if the character has certain gimmicks).  When the level is determined, a random table is rolled for that level. Effects can vary from taking some damage, to losing memory of a skill, to random teleportation, physical mutation, to opening a hole in space and time, bursting into flames, or summoning some monster to the area.

The spells take up about 30 pages of the text. Each school has between 6 (in the case of Chronomancy) to 32 individual spells, with the average being about 15.
Additionally, characters can try to design spells of their own (as a GM, my first reaction was "oh christ, this is always total shit!"). Designing spells requires that the PC have both a relevant casting pursuit AND a relevant spell-theory pursuit. The mechanics of spell design involve a semi-complicated system of assigning point values to all kinds of details of the spell (effects, range, duration, casting time, if it requires components, etc etc), and then from this figuring out the difficulty and feedback ratings of the spell.

Obviously, min-maxers will have a field day with that. I know that if I was running this game, the first thing I'd do is ban new-spell design.

One important detail in the setting is alignment. Aside from  having no alignment (neutral), characters can be aligned to Order, Chaos, or be Oathbreakers of either order or chaos. Those who follow order or chaos serve one of those two primary powers that struggle over the world. Oathbreakers have turned against their alignment and wish to free the world of the destructive influences of those powers.

The GM section elaborates on this, as well as a lot of other details on playing a noir game. It provides some further options for character development. Characters can advance to learn new spells or cantrips through research, and gain some new pursuits or gimmicks by training. They can also invest in materials or property.

The section also has some options regarding a grittier health system, and long-term injuries. There's also material on NPCs, and guidelines to running stories. There's even some simple tables for randomly rolling basic plots.

The section on adventuring provides material on the different cities of the setting, each is quite isolated and so has different cultures. The main default city is called "Selastos" and its a gritty sort of place with tall buildings, rampant poverty, and all the stylings of the typical noir campaign. There's also Galitia, a city with harsh industrial oppressiveness; Guildsport, a smaller and somewhat wealthier city that makes use of undead labour; Padarr, a corrupt hellhole where non-humans have no rights; Dela, an overcrowded city where the ruling families oppose any form of organized labour; Gimm, a city run by elementalist wizards with some racial strife, and various others. Blah blah blah.

To be honest, I find the setting utterly pointless. It doesn't appeal to me in the least.  I think that game-wise, Bloodshadows would be vastly better if it was set on an alternate-universe Earth, doing the same to 1930s North America as I did with 15th Century Europe in Dark Albion.  In other words, just play in New York or Chicago or Detroit but with magic and non-humans.  This would get rid of a lot of the ridiculousness, and keep all the pulp-noir flavor.  I see nothing in the use of a fantasy settings with 1930s trappings that adds anything, it only really adds a pointless level of complexity.

Fortunately, it would be ridiculously easy to accomplish this with Bloodshadows. You wouldn't really have to change any of the rules. All you'd need is to familiarize yourself a little with the era in real-world history; or use some source RPG-material like Precis' own Mean Streets.

Speaking of which, at the tail end of this chapter, you have conversions. This includes conversion rules for Genrediversion I, Ghostories, and the aforementioned Mean Streets; as well as the Pacesetter system and Active Exploits.

The next chapter is the bestiary, and provides descriptions, details and statblocks for a variety of demons, monsters and the undead.

After that, we get back to the setting.  There's a chapter that covers the default city of Selastos in detail. It gives the details on its history, its power players, the wealthy people, and money and economics.  Then there's a breakdown of Selastos' districts, which include the exclusive neighborhood of the ultra-rich and powerful, the banking sector, the middle-class residential area, the seedy entertainment area, the area for heavy industry and the residential zone for the lower classes, and the taxim quarter. Finally, a brief description of some of the cults of the city. The whole chapter is 8 pages long.

After that, we get to a chapter with two adventures. It includes "The Lady is a Vamp" which involves investigation into a mysterious series of killings; and "Trail of Riches", which involves an investigation into some missing gold.  The chapter as a whole is about 25 pages long. The adventures are laid out in detail, and include some floorplans and the like. I suppose either could make a decent enough starting point for a Bloodshadows game set in the default world.

Finally, the book ends with an appendix listing various premade characters, a character sheet, a spell-designing sheet, and various pages of reference sheets of the most important tables and rules.

I can't question the construction and layout of the book, that's all pretty decent. The rules are for the most part fairly decent, with a few areas that on a purely personal note I find a bit too burdensome, but the game avoids the worst potential sins or excesses of its point-distribution and advantages/disadvantages mechanics.

The fundamental conceit behind Bloodshadows is very interesting. But to me, the choice of using a fantasy setting is just awful.  I suppose there might be some group of people out there who might prefer to play in a mediocre (and fairly illogical) fantasy setting designed by "some guy", and be freed of having to worry about real-world elements except for the facade of '30s pulp.
But I'm betting there's far more people out there who would be WAY more interested in playing the same set of rules (more or less) in and 1930s magical New York, with Mayor La Guardia, Nicola Tesla still tinkering around in his old age, Mobsters like Lucky Luciano to face off with, hunting monsters in the NYC subway tunnels, weird goings-on in Chinatown, or maybe even fighting some Nazi magicians up to no good; rather than playing in the weirdo setting in this book (with its HUGE required dose of Suspension of Disbelief, humanities and economics edition).

I have no idea what kind of deal Bernstein has with the original owners of Bloodshadows, but if it was at all possible for him, I'd strongly recommend his first sourcebook for this game be an alternative 'magical earth: 1936' setting or something like that.  Until then, people who want the Bloodshadows game but a Earth-based pulp setting can probably pick up Mean Streets for some assistance.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Classic Collection Rhodesian + C&D's Bayou Evening

Saturday 18 March 2017

Break Saturday: McMystery Edition!

Today on Break, WHO hacked McDonald's and made them bad-mouth President Trump?

Was it lifelong-democrat Mayor McCheese?

Evan McMuffin and the CIA?

Or Todd from the mcnuggets department who got into too much of the 'special sauce'?

Check out my list of suspects in my latest article, and if you like the article please share!


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Peterson's Old Dublin

Friday 17 March 2017

Lion & Dragon RPG Project: Well, I've Done It Now

God help me, I'm going to have parrying rules.  So shields actually matter.

See what the guy at the front line is doing with his buckler-shield? You'll be able to do that too, soon!


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

Thursday 16 March 2017

Classic Rant: Can You Engage With Someone Who Thinks "Aleena the Cleric" is Sexist?

Remember Aleena the Cleric?  If you're a D&D player of a certain age, you undoubtedly do, even if the name doesn't ring a bell.

Maybe this will jog your memory:

For those of you who weren't part of the two million or so kids for whom the Red Box D&D "Mentzer" box set was one of their earliest RPG experiences, let me put it into some context:  Aleena the Cleric is the NPC that shows up in your very first (solo) adventure, in the introduction booklet of the Red Box.  She is in some ways one of the earliest "iconics".  She is a brave and heroic adventurer, slightly more experienced than your own character, dedicated to fighting evil.  She ends up teaching you a lot of what you need to know to survive in the dungeon.  She is determined to stop the evil wizard Bargle, but tragically dies at the hands of Bargle's sorcery for you to avenge her.
She is at no time a 'helpless princess' type of character.  She is, if anything, the Roy Fokker or Obi Wan Kenobi of the red box, the mentor-character that shows you what you need to know and then dies so that you can continue in your Jungian Hero's Journey.

Oh, and as you'll see above, she wears full head-to-toe armor.  No 'chainmail bikinis' or 'slave girl outfits' for her.  The only skin she shows is her face.  She could only be more covered up if she wore a burqa.

Tracy Hurley, one of the Outrage Brigade who has recently been trying to smear me all over the internet, and who complains about how it is impossible to 'engage' with me (when her definition of 'engaging' was to slander me in mid-argument with a made-up story about me looking at some vaguely titillating picture and then pretending to be all stunned when I got mad at her dirty pool), thinks Aleena the Cleric is sexist.

I think, frankly, it's pretty much impossible to 'engage' with lunatics of this level.  With people so determined to undertake their crusade to impose their will on the hobby that they'll try to claim that a heroic female warrior figure from 1983 (a time when fantasy art routinely depicted women as naked as legally possible for them, and often in some kind of pseudo-bondage position) is a bad representation of women.

I'm not making this up.  Why would I lie when the truth is this damning?  Here's a partial transcript of the conversation where Hurley shows just how extremist she is.   Note that it's been edited, and so it doesn't necessarily reflect the full radicalism of her views, but it's pretty damning enough by itself.

The following are ACTUAL QUOTES of Hurley's about Aleena the Cleric:

"she's drawn to please a heterosexual man"

"the woman is being made to fit into a world view where women are there for display first, their power second."

Seriously, about Aleena!

Want some more?

 " There's an emphasis on femininity in the drawing that I don't find overly practical, especially the long piece of fabric between her legs"

This one makes Hurley look ignorant more than anything: that "piece of fabric" is a tabard.  It's an actual thing that knights wore, including templar knights, which Aleena the CLERIC is clearly being modeled after.  So far from an "emphasis on femininity", Aleena's full body-covering armor including the tabard is meant to make her look more like a MALE KNIGHT.
I guess she can't be blamed for not knowing  a tabard was a real thing, and mistaking it for something the artist put in to 'sex up' Aleena in some vague way.  She was probably too busy doing other things in her education to bother studying history.

Ready for the one that will leave you speechless?

"To me, the purpose (of the tabard) is to soften her and to play cat and mouse with the viewer. The pose is opened up to give greater access to her inner thighs but the "money shot" is hidden behind the soft, flowing tabard."

That's right, "money shot". To Tracy Hurley, that drawing of Aleena the Cleric is like pornography.

 I think you must have something seriously wrong with you and how you look at art and the world if you look at that image and think 'that tabard further covering that fully dressed warrior-woman is just too arousing'. But then, I guess if you're a professional witch hunter you'll want to find witches everywhere. The more you do, after all, the better it pays off.

But anyways, I'm not writing about this to make fun or just to insult; but to raise awareness. I want people to understand exactly the type of people we're dealing with, and to consider the source. It puts a context into the mentality of our opponents. They want to present themselves as the "reasonable" ones, the "inclusive" ones.

For me, "inclusive" means putting a heroic transgendered character on the cover of an RPG I wrote, or making casual mentions to LGBT relationships just like I would heterosexual relationships in another RPG I wrote, or writing a detailed and carefully researched RPG on a non-european culture, which I also did.

For my opponents, "inclusive" means going after Aleena the Cleric because a depiction of a brave, dashing, heroic warrior woman dressed in head-to-to armor that reveals no skin whatsoever aside from her face is just far too sexist and must be stopped.

A year ago today, the exact same people who are now engaging in a campaign to blacklist me and Zak S were engaged in a campaign against rpg writer Shanna Germain, accusing her of having created a 'sexist' monster in the Numenera RPG.  Tracy and her friends were going after a female RPG writer in the name of feminism. 

A year and a half or so ago, they went after Stacy Dellorfano for daring to make an woman-centered RPG Convention ("Contessa"), which featured all-women panels and women-run games. Why on earth would they go after that?  Isn't that exactly the kind of thing any feminist, or just anyone who wants to encourage women to have a bigger voice in the RPG hobby, should be cheering about??
Well no, because Dellorfano wanted the con to be about actually running and playing RPGs, and not about talking about how horribly sexist the hobby is; they went after Stacy mercilessly in essence because she wouldn't give them center stage and support their 'narrative' that the hobby is just far too awful to actually let women play at all.   A con where women were playing and running games and everyone was happy about that fact ruins their whole argument.
Somewhere in between those two events, they were trying to push for a supposed 'anti-harassment' regulation for all gaming cons that would allow them to kick anyone out they thought was dressed too provocatively.

At the time, I made a blog entry which implied that the Outrage Brigade wouldn't be satisfied until they saw women in Burqas in the name of feminism, but of course that's not true. What Tracy Hurley wants is for WOMEN TO DRESS LIKE HER.

She'd be equal in condemning a naked porn star, a bikini-clad booth babe, a cosplayer showing too much leg, or a conservative muslim woman in a niqab/burqa/etc. because they are all different then her particular view of propriety, a view informed by and conditioned by a type of feminism very rooted in middle class ideas, which (ironically) descend directly from victorian prudery.  The point is any woman who CHOOSES to not look like her is wrong and misguided in her eyes, and must be shown the error of her ways including by coercion is necessary; she has to be forced to dress right for the sake of feminism. Likewise, any art that does not reflect her personally is wrong and misguided.

She's doing this:

All of the Outrage Brigade are.  One of the few things that makes Hurley exceptional is the fact that she's actually a woman; the majority of the Outrage Brigade are actually men, telling women like Shanna, Stacy, and Mandy Morbid what they should write, how they should act, and what they should or should not wear.

And apparently this even extends to Aleena the Cleric, which is a sign of a REALLY extreme extension of that kind of 'prudery' based not on actual interest in modesty so much as a desire for homogeneity of thinking.   The Outrage Brigade can't stand anything that doesn't think like they do; and Tracy Hurley suspects that while Aleena is a figure that would be seen as a role model for some young girls into D&D, this is actually dangerous because it represents a type of D&D she despises as contrary to her thinking of what is proper.  Aleena is sexist because D&D is sexist, because D&D does not agree with her about how her ideas are best.  It's a neat little logical pretzel.

Aleena would not be out of place as a heroic female figure in 2014, but in 1983 she was almost radical, compared to much of what was around her.

To say this is 'not good enough' is to suggest that NOTHING in fantasy or RPGs is good enough.  It betrays your real motives: to never ever be satisfied because your real issue is with the entire hobby/culture, and you want all of it to be taken down completely, so you can rebuild it forcibly under your control and in your own image.

There's no 'middle ground' to be found with people like that.


Currently Smoking:  Lorenzetti Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Break Wednesday: Banning Scales Edition

You know, I believe people have the right to be as fat as they like. And if they're happy with their weight, that's fine.

But you don't have the right to make choices for other people. Like what's happened at Carleton University, where Ctrl-Left activists in the "Fat Acceptance" movement have forced the school to remove all scales from their gym facilities, because "Scales are triggering".

Check out what I have to say about it, in my latest article!

And if you like it, please share it!


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Diplomat + Image Virginia

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Pictures From Uruguay: street art!

Well, my latest article is a little late to come out, so it's time for some more pictures from Uruguay!

I thought today I'd show you some of the local color of the streets and its art:

Check out this angry-looking door!

All of this street art comes from the general area of my neighborhood, the Cordon:

Even the storefronts have some great street art:

Nor is all the street-art on the walls:

Anyways, that's it for today.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + Solani's Aged Burley Flake

Monday 13 March 2017

Break Monday: "King Allan I" Edition

So, a Tolkien fanboy and Colorado local named Allan Evans has paid a lot of money to put up a big ad in the Times, informing the people of the United Kingdom that he is their true and legitimate king, and letting them all know he'll be coming over there next month to claim what is rightfully his. His claim dates back in an unbroken line, according to himself, to back when Wales was known as the Kingdom of Gondor in the days of Middle-Earth.  Yeah.

But in today's Break article, I decided to give Mr. Evans the benefit of the doubt.  Let's say he's serious about all this; now, what would he really need to do to get the British throne?

If you like the article, please share it!


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

Sunday 12 March 2017

Wild West Campaign: Prairie Love Story

The session started out with the consequences of the death of Ed Masterson.  After some discussion among "The Gang", it was decided that Charlie Bassett would take over as city Marshall, while Jeff Young would move over to the office of under-sheriff.
It almost went the other way, and Bassett would have been OK with that, but he told Young that he thought Young should take the lesser job as Masterson's deputy, because Young needed to know how to work outside the town and connect with the people in the county, if he ever wanted to run for Sheriff. He also felt Young would, in the long run, become a better lawman that way.  He basically guilted Young into it.

The real story started out at a high-stakes poker game put on at the Palace Saloon by Miller.  No one thought much of it at the time, but there were two ranchers there, by the name of Dawson & Jennings, who clearly had a long feud going on with each other.  At the end of the game, they went onto the street and fought it out with fisticuffs. Jennings won.

Around the same time, Miller found that his friend the "reverend" Tilghman was selling out his 'church' on Front Street.  Clearly, the preacher's path wasn't working out for him. Tilghman decided he'd be heading off to try to find his future abroad.

A few days later, the PCs heard that the rancher Dawson was up in arms (literally, with a bunch of his men) because he thought Jennings had something to do with the disappearance of his 18 year old son, Freddy.  He'd come riding into Dodge, looking to rough up any of Jennings' men who happened to be around, and to generally cause trouble.  Jeff Young, who had been warned ahead of time by his jailor Billy Houston, had gone off to Dawson's ranch to ask some questions. He didn't get much from the caretaker there, but the caretaker's Mexican wife, who had all but raised Freddy, confided with Younger that he had a beau, one Freddy's father wouldn't have approved of. A nearby farmer's daughter.

Said Farmer, meanwhile, had come into town asking for help from the Reverend Wright.  His daughter had disappeared and he didn't know who had taken her. Reverend Wright went to seek out the help of his newest parishoner: Kid Taylor. Taylor, who had just started attending church as a way to try to find some eligible girl from a good family to marry (or some eligible man of almost any standing to marry off his troublesome sister to), agreed to help the Reverend Wright, hoping to get on his good side.

Young found out from the farmer girl's mother that she'd gone missing, and realized that Freddy and the girl had run off together. He headed back to town.  When he got there, he let the other town lawmen know and they faced off with Dawson and his men at the Gillie Bar, letting Dawson know that the lovers were probably halfway to Elkader to get married by now.  Dawson and his men headed off that way hoping to intercept his son before he made the 'mistake of his life'.

When Kid Taylor and the farmer found out, the farmer pleaded with Young to come with him to find his daughter, but Young said it wasn't any of his business. The farmer and the Reverend Wright then pleaded with Kid Taylor, and for whatever reason, Taylor agreed to go with the farmer in search of his daughter.

It's lucky he did, too. Because when they caught the trail, they found that the two young lovers appeared to have been intercepted by a trio of horses, which then led them off in the direction of Jennings' ranch.  At top speed, Taylor (on his horse, "General Stonewall Jackson") and the farmer headed after them.  They intercepted them at a creek where three of Jennings men (with Freddy and his girl tied up with them) were facing off against Bill Tilghman!

Tilghman saw that the three cowhands were taking Freddy and his girl against their will, and even though he was just one man to their three, couldn't stand to let them pass. Just as Kid Taylor and the farmer arrived, the shooting started.  There was a quick shootout, at the end of which the three men were all but dead.  Tilghman had been the only one hit on the other side, but it was just a graze to his hip.

They headed back to Dodge, where Tilghman quickly commandeered his former chapel to conduct a wedding ceremony for the two lovers. The farmer had been made to accept his daughter's marriage to Freddy Dawson, when he realized that she wasn't "in trouble", that Freddy intended marriage and not just seduction, and of course, when Kid Taylor reminded him that his future son-in-law was the only heir to a very sizable ranch!

As for Bill Tilghman, when the story came out of his brave stand, Charlie Bassett convinced him to stay on in Dodge through the summer, as a town deputy.


Currently Smoking: Missouri Meerschaum + Gawith's Aged Virginia Flake