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How Hershel Knew Sophia Was In The Barn.

Ok, so here's how I know that Hershel had to know Sophia was in the barn in the midseason conclusion of the Walking Dead.

Season 2, Day 0: Herd event, Sophia is lost in the woods. During the search, Otis shoots Carl.

This is important.

Rick takes Carl to Hershel, who then begins the process of saving Carl. Otis and Shane go for the supplies at the high school. 

Back at the road, Daryl and Andrea go out looking for Sophia.

This timeline is crucial, because it's in this span where Sophia is bitten, escapes and dies, and then makes her way to the farm to be captured. This means Herschel and Otis or Jimmy, possibly someone else must have helped put her in the barn-- as that's a two, probably three person operation. One person on the leash, one person on the entry door to the barn, and one person on the far side of the barn, drawing the attention of the walkers.

She can't have arrived later, because the Atlanta survivors had set a watch, and would have seen Sophia being put in the barn. It can't have happened while Carl was being tended but before Daryl, Andrea, and Dale arrived, because Otis was with Shane, Hershel and Patricia were with Carl, Maggie was going to get Lori, which only leaves Beth and Jimmy to put Sophia in the barn-- which could have happened, but then Jimmy would have to be either the most mentally challenged 17 year old male left alive or the most psychopathically capable liar, because he then later joins the search for Sophia, working hand in hand with Rick to find her.

Which means Hershel and likely one other surviving member of the Greene family not only knew Sophia was in the barn, but allowed the Atlanta survivors to continue searching for her-- after Daryl's injuries and the loss of the horse, after seeing them deal with the possibility she was alive when finding her doll.

The only way they might not have known she was in there was if Sophia got bit fairly shortly after Rick left her, stumbled towards the farm before dying and reanimating and Otis put her in the barn, by himself, before going hunting. This seems impractical for the simple fact that putting a walker into the barn required more than one person to do properly, and the Greene farm survivors, whatever their faults, at least seem to have figured out how to safely put a zombie in the barn without having the whole farm get overwhelmed.

Soooo.

The most likely conclusion leads us to the fact that Hershel knew Sophia was in the barn, and purposefully kept that information from the Atlanta survivors-- possibly to keep them preoccupied while Carl recovered well enough for them to depart to Fort Benning, at which time he might have (presumably?) told them the truth and offered to keep her there in the barn until a "cure" was found. Given his view on the walkers, I don't think he would have staged a "discovery" of the girl, knowing the Atlanta survivors (tearfully) just kill her. Which, overall, makes him just about the biggest monster we've seen so far; a deranged, manipulating, lying old man who can't accept the truth of the walkers, doesn't have the charity to recognize a good survival situation when it pulls up on his front lawn, and is too cowardly to come clean once the ruse is up.

If the Atlanta survivors had known Sophia was dead right away, they could have focused efforts on cleaning out the surrounding area of supplies-- using the horses with Maggie and Jimmy, and then splitting the take with the Greene survivors while not placing as much of a burden on the existing goods. Daryl wouldn't have suffered his injury, and they wouldn't be "going through the antibiotics so quickly." The scrambled poop sandwich of Season 2.5 is going to fall squarely on Hershel's plate. His choices were reprehensible, and the consequences could be pretty bad, too, depending on how things continue.

A Well Deserved Rest

At long last, undisclosed Ars Magica project #2 (UAMP#2) has come to its first milestone with the completion of my final edits on the third portion of the manuscript!

Yes, it was as painfully convoluted as the previous sentence implies.

And so now I'm prepping for another Gencon, finishing some edits for Sub Rosa-- side bonus, I believe I'll be interviewing Lisa Stevens at Gencon!-- and doing a little Pathfinder design for Rite and Open Design, which is a big relief after the crushing weight of the UAMP#2. I do, however, know a ridiculous amount about 13C REDACTED, so ask away if you have a burning desire to learn more about 13C REDACTED.

With what's left of the year, I'd like to do some posts reviewing the various kickstarter projects I've been supporting, reading up on ZFS, and perhaps catching up as a patron in Midgard and Dark Roads. I'm looking forward to autumn and catching up on a lot of things. :) 

Here's to a productive season!

EDIT: I'm closing comments because I keep getting spambots with garbage comments.

A (belated) New Year's Update.

 So, with a bit of time on vacation, I thought I'd post a quick note.

Streets of Zobeck is pretty much done-- I'm wrangling cartography and preparing for the web supplement.

Corrections for the Atlas Project #1 are just about done and sent back out.

Wordcount progresses for Atlas Project #2, where I have 2 weeks to finish up. That should be a busy 2 weeks.

The plan going forward is to post 4 times a month until deadlines demand otherwise, so I'll be starting down a few posts, and I'll try to make them up as we progress. I don't have any big projects in the queue right now, but there are a couple cooking. I'll keep you appraised.

I'm also planning on going to the Iron GM competition at TotalCon in about 3-4 weeks, so if you're going to be there, let me know and we can say hello! :)

So far I've been starting each new year here with a quote to drive the coming year...for this year, I saw it here in the park:

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." -- Walt Disney.

I hadn't thought of it before, but I think I might need to pick up his biography. I have a feeling there's a lot to be learned in there.

Here's to a productive 2011!

-Ben.

Woohoo!

Tomorrow, at O-dark-thirty, I'll be off to the airport and on my way to Gencon, where I intend to be covered in the gory bits of Cthulhutech and Pathfinder for a full five days. :)

However.

I wanted to take a moment to bring up a project. Not my project, Streets of Zobeck-- though I'd love to have all three of you who read this blog sign up... but this one:

Aruneus, Zombies rise. Heroes die. A High Fantasy, Post-apocalyptic RPG project.

Why am I telling you to sign up for this here? Why not pimp my project? Because I've been pimping Streets quite a bit over teh intarwebs, here and here. And I'm going to Gencon, where I will be ninja stealth flyer distributing all week. Maybe. Could be. You can't prove it. And I know these guys won't exactly be doing the same. Who are they?

It's being run by Ben Gerber, who's a great reviewer on RPGnet and a designer with quite a few PDF products over on RPG Drivethru.

I've already picked up a couple of his PDFs and the world has a great vibe to it and does a good job of working in the horror aspects of a zombie apocalypse into a fantasy world. This may just scratch my zombie survival game itch without forcing me to run d20 modern. :D

But he needs about $480 to make it go. I'm looking at kicking in a little more, and maybe seeing if he won't consider the patronage model, because I like me the patronage model, but regardless, I think this has a great way of setting a campaign world-- why are your heroes together? Because they're the last survivors of their town, they saved each other on the road, they ask no questions about their past. It's Walking Dead meets Pathfinder and it gets me all kinds of crazy excited. :)

Do me a favor. Sign up for this. Then sign up for Streets of Zobeck... but sign up! :D

-Ben.

Surfacing.

Wow...three months, it feels longer.

It's been a busy three months. I've finally seen closure of the Living Forgotten Realms debacle (Moral of the story, kids? Never, ever, never work without a contract. Ever. Seriously. Never.), written Grandmother's Fire for Tales of the Old Margreve, written a piece for an upcoming Ars Magica project which is in the hopper for first edits, sent Breaking of Forstor Nagar off to the editor, done a couple of reviews, and gotten tapped to lead an Open Design Pathfinder anthology of urban crime and steampunk adventures in Zobeck. Somewhere in there, I did a bunch of stuff for Coliseum Morpheuon, did a bunch of editing for Open Game Table, Vol2, and wrote a couple of short articles and reviews for Koboldquarterly.com. And so that leaves me working up a proposal for Atlas, outlining Streets of Zobeck in anticipation of greenlight, and desperately wishing it was time for Gencon, if only so I can chill out for a couple of days trying to shoot Cthulhu in the face. :)

So this is earning your spurs. :D I have a whole new respect for the guys who do this day in and day out, every day to buy the mac and cheese, keep the wolf from the door. The load is nothing like I thought it would be, not hard, just steady. The best quote I've seen in a while was a note I found on my brother's tumblr page: (distilled to the salient phrases for your reading pleasure.)

***Begin Transmission***

DO NOT COVET YOUR IDEAS.

Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you.

...

The problem with hoarding is you end up living off your reserves. Eventually you'll become stale.

If you give away everything you have, you are left with nothing. This forces you to look, to be aware, to replenish.

Somhow the more you give away the more comes back to you.

Ideas are open knowledge. Don't claim ownership.

They're not your ideas anyway, they're someone else's. They are out there floating by in the ether.

You just have to put yourself in a frame of mind to pick them up.

***End Transmission***

So. That's part of why I've been running so hard. Put it on the page, give it up and give it away, stay hungry and lean and searching, so I can pick stuff up like Solomon's Thieves or Virtuoso, or talk theory at "How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less" or rummage through Colonial Gothic, or Amethyst or Mouse Guard for ideas, devouring movies as fast as blockbuster can mail them, or dive into the rich vein of Eureka. Look for that throbbing pulse of emotional investment, figure out how to plug into it and juice the story up with a jolt of hard excitement and make it ache all the way to the base of your spine. Take the dross of the day and spin it into glamoured coin...I don't figure this ride's stopping anytime soon, thanks for coming along.

Let's get back to rocking it out,

-Ben.
(Reposted from Paizo.com)

I loved the first year of the Ultimates... Ok, I read through Kick-Ass, despite the storyline. I'm all for helping someone experiment with a story concept, and it had a "what if a normal kid tried this" vibe.

And today I picked up Nemesis.

Wow.

I'm nearly at a loss for words to properly describe this steaming scrambled poop sandwich.

Imagine someone decided Batman needed to be not only evil but violently psychopathic. Now, because it's "opposite and therefore cool," evil-Batman is clothed in *white*. He then proceeds on a senseless, gore-filled rampage that culminates in the comic-book-President of the US kneeling, cut and mangled, during a pirated television broadcast.

Why?

BECAUSE! F$&% YEAH! *fistpump*fistpump*

This feels like the aborted initial attempt of a junior high roleplaying group saying, "Less do uh eeeeeevil game, guysh."  And then their characters kill each other in a dispute over who gets to ride the black horse.

Seriously. I do not need to spend $2.99 to be reminded we're 9 meals from anarchy and the world's a terrible place. Thanks, but no. Just in case you were considering it, I'd vote to pass on this one. It doesn't even get the redeeming value of clever dialogue or an intriguing initial premise that'd I get from Warren Ellis (whose _No Hero_ was graphic, violent, and yet considered the price one was willing to pay for power or whose _Supergod_ explores the dangers in man seeking apotheosis.). Millar just seems to freebase a slurry of wanton destruction and profanity, then gratuitously splatter-vomit it back on the page while Du Hast* plays in the background with the volume cranked to 11.

-Ben.
--
*With apologies to Rammstein.

A Horse in the Race.

I've got a pitch running for Tales of the Margreve, and it's neck and neck-- which drives me nuts. Voting closes at 11:59 tonight, so I've got the day to see if the support rolls in.

*sigh* Who knows, if it's beat out for something more smashtastic, well, maybe I'll do it on my own.

I've got a fire in my belly for this one.

-Ben.

EDIT: 7 hours to go and I'm down a vote. >_<  C'mon voters!  

(I will say, not being able to alter one's vote puts a big negative on the forums for me. *sigh* )

An Unfettered Gencon.

I've been attending Gencon for about four(?...!) years now, and I've been running a lot of games there, at least for the last two years...

Well, this year I decided to take a break and run nothing at all.

And I guess that's not entirely accurate, I am running a couple of games, but I'm doing so off the grid. Last year, I ran a group through "Redcloak Ruckus," from Tales of Zobeck, and it was entirely unintentional. I'd seen a game entry in the catalogue which seemed to be Ruckus-- since I don't know of another adventure set in Zobeck's Kobold Ghetto, and thought I'd swing by to observe. I've never gotten to see someone run an adventure I'd written other than my first Living Greyhawk adventure, and so I thought it would be an interesting exercise.

When I arrived looking for the game, I was nearly tackled by a group of gamers. 

Me: "Is this The_Game?"

Table guy: "Uh, n--" Them: "AreyouourGM?"

I chuckled, "No, I think I'm the author, I just wanted to see how it ran."

Well, it turned out that the GM never showed, and I did the quick run back to the hotel to grab my stuff and run the adventure. They loved it, and then a couple of weeks ago I got a request to run something for them this year. They were a fantastic table; one of the players was giddy when I pulled a soulknife/psychic warrior out of my pregen folder. Another one demanded I send him a copy of my bard. They loved the adventure and finished it handily.

So this year, I've agreed to run them off the grid. Once a day, in a session, I'll run From Shore to Sea, by my friend Brandon Hodge and published shortly by Open Design. They asked for fun Pathfinder, and I know Brandon makes a great adventure.

And that seems to be that. Nothing else planned, though I intend on having a couple of adventures in my pack, a steampunk adventure, maybe a Cthulhutech one I've been percolating, perhaps an Ars Magica tale, or a Grimm story, and probably a 4E piece I'd like to carve out of Wrath of the River King. There's one gentleman cartographer who's been at my games the last two years, too, and I'll probably shoot him a message to see if he wants to set up a game, but otherwise, I'm going to fly free. No schedules, no pinned down sessions other than what I feel like hunting down.

And by God, I'm going to play Wings of War this year! For now, it's back to the keyboard and furiously working to minimize my writing before vacation. I'd love to read the backlog of magazines and books I've accumulated recently more than explore the text mines of Myrtle Beach!

-Ben.

 

Review-- Cthulhutech: Core Book

Imagine a game where you could play Mulder and Scully one session, a team of special forces marines the next, a group of symbiote-wearing monster hunters after that, followed by a group of mecha pilots--oh, and you'd have the choice between traditional mechs, and giant angry monsters barely held in check by the armor grafted to their nervous systems?

Sounds insane? That's because it is, literally-- it's Cthulhutech, by Catalyst Games, and it rocks the house. The cover is Ennie award winning, and it shows, giving you the vibe for the game before you even crack it open. Inside, you're going to be dealing with magic, tentacles, and all kinds of giant robot death.

Now I've got both the pdf and the print copy. There are a couple of print copies out there--those prior to Catalyst games and those by Catalyst games. The Catalyst games versions are all color, and a little more expensive, but let me tell you, it's worth it. The creators did not skimp on the artwork for this book, and it shows. The pieces are done in a couple of different styles, but it all sets the mood well, gives you a very good feel for life in the C-tech future world. The women in the book are often quite "stripperiffic" in their depiction, but it's a conceit I can live with.

The core book has a layout that's becoming more accepted amongst storytelling-based systems; it starts with a short piece of fiction and then presses forward with a section related to the fiction. It's not overdone here, like I've seen in the core books for other games. The fiction is engaging while serving its purpose: setting the tone and foreshadowing the coming material. One thing I don't know if I like very much is the placement of the page numbers-- it's in the middle of outer edge, rather than in the lower corner.

Because this world and system has a lot of breadth and depth, there is a lot of jargon and terminology. The first 10% of the book is spent establishing the setting and getting you familiar with current events.

With that task done-- and more than likely, your curiosity piqued-- the designers dig into the job of teaching the rules for Cthulhutech. C-tech uses a d10 system that will seem familiar to White Wolf or 7th Sea players, but it's intuitive enough that d20 players shouldn't have any trouble taking to it. Everything in the game is accomplished by rolling a pool of d10s (adding a modifier for the appropriate ability) and then attempting to reach a target number. The cool part of this system shines when you're rolling three or more dice. Usually, you'd take the highest number, add it to your attribute and see if you beat the target number for success. However, with two dice, you can add pairs, and with three or more dice, you can sum a straight (like 5, 6, 7, making 18) for your total. Along with this is a mechanic allowing you to add additional dice to your pool, your fellow players' pools, or-- and quite possibly the coolest aspect, take dice away from the enemy's dice pool. This system is pretty elegant runs smoothly once you've got the hang of it.

Character building is a matter of selecting a race and attributes, (Yes, Virginia, even in Earth of the future, you've got options! There's an alien manufactured race which sided with humanity in one of the few bright spots in this otherwise grim future history of the world.) profession, then buying skills and Qualities. Qualities are broken down into Assets and Drawbacks, but you might recognize Qualities as Merits and Flaws, or Advantages and Disadvantages. This system is good for providing the little touches that personalize a character, and also gives a Storyguide the various hooks to tailor material. I like it, and my only real issue is that some powergamers could potentially use it to run roughshod over an inexperienced Gamemaster. These really do run the gambit of possible options, and I found the list to be pretty complete. It's augmented with some additional options in the Vade Mecum book, but you're probably good with what's in here.

With characters created, the book goes on to cover technology-- explaining why things like nanotech don't play a bigger role, or how medicine has advanced. It's useful for the setting, and helps answer questions or create a few story seeds. And then, of course, there's the requisite supply list to give you the guns you'll want when the unspeakable horrors arrive for your characters. ;D

The characters are ready, the guns, skills, and assets chosen, and C-tech gets into the details of its combat system. There are a few interesting quirks here, but nothing overly complex, and it's fairly abstract. You won't be marking out five foot steps in this system, but you can still do things like disarm or make called shots. The rules for handling terrain are there, but they're not essential. The health and vitality system for people scales upwards for mechs, too, making a seamless transition for groups that shift between profession options within the game. Of course, it wouldn't be a game referencing "Cthulhu" if it didn't present rules about insanity and fear-- and there are plenty of opportunities to exercise those rules in this very much for-mature-audiences game. As will most of the system, this portion is comprehensive and clear. The designers did a good job of providing a text with examples and details, which is a real benefit at the table.

The second half of the core book covers mecha, engels-- the giant cthulhuoid monsters in metal shells you can drive like mecha, tagers-- the awful symbiotes from the beyond that grant their partners fantastic powers, spells and then a section for the gamemaster with a limited bestiary and some story ideas-- including two complete scenarios.

Really, you're getting four or more games in one with Cthulhutech, and that's part of what makes it so cool. This isn't just a cult investigation game, an espionage/intrigue game, or a military strikeforce game, or a mecha combat game, its all of those things or just one of them, with enemies that integrate nicely into each option. Cthulhutech is a robust system with a detailed world and an expansive metaplot you can use or cast aside. I totally recommend this game, it's got a lot going for it in a futuristic setting that's close enough to be recognizable, but far enough out to qwell naysayers. If you're looking for a change of pace that just might become your routine, I recommend Cthulhutech!

Disclosure & Thanks: I received the PDFs for the existing CthulhuTech books to date in order to do my review. In no way was my review altered or edited by Catalyst Game Labs or Atomic Array, and if I didn’t think I could give the product a good review you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Thanks also to the fine folks at Atomic Array for providing the opportunity to review a fine product.

Want to learn more about CthulhuTech? Read on...

New Year New Motto Redux

So, new year means new post...

The plan? Keep living the dream--these spurs are a privilege, not a right.

And the motto going forward?

One thing, baby, one thing:


"You gotta burn to shine."

Word.

I'm back to the keyboard. Drop me a line, we'll grab a beer...

-Ben.