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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.

Random Checklist


So you copy this list and bold what you've done...good times. My apologies to the rest of the world...it's quite obviously Amurikan. :/

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band (I count an orchestra. ;) )
4. Visited Hawaii and danced on a lava cliff with the roar of the Pacific below.
5. Watched a meteor shower (2001 Leonids RAWKED!)
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train (I've slept on an overnight flight...)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (I rode a gondola at the Venice casino in LV...)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David (I'm assuming in person. Online's too easy.)
41.Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt (I'm assuming in person. Online's too easy.)
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50.Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (I've been to the top of the Vegas Tower, a 1/2 replica, due to airport considerations)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73.Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve

86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life (Wait, I donated blood...)
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
(Who knew it was surrounded by pavement?)
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake (I drove past it...)
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

So 60.5/99...I'll have to work on the rest...I'm not to certain on the bee sting option, though. I don't need to be kicked in the teeth to know I won't enjoy it, and the potential for anaphylactic shock is something I'll pass on, thanks.

-Ben.

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Silence...not static


So, it's been quiet around here, but with good reason.

Gencon came in August and it was playtest-tastic, then there were 4E Halls revisions, which went well into October and brought me to Novemeber, where I furiously hammered away on some posts until Thanksgiving.

Which brings us here...

I'm working on a conversion for Open Design, which should be cool. I'm trying to contribute to the three current Open Design projects, which is proving to be tougher than I thought, although the influx of new folks for the Azlant project has been....tough to adjust to and I don't get enough time to read the CoC rules the way I want to.

I'm also about to start up on Pathfinder project-- The Breaking of Forstor Nagar, so things should keep busy. That's been the best thing to keep in mind lately. Especially for anyone thinking of getting into writing and design-- this quote from Calvin Coolidge:

"Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

If I've got time to blog or regularly respond on boards, then I'd have time to write on a project...and projects are what keep things moving forward, not brilliant forum posts or blog entries...(well, maybe Chatty would argue differently on that point, but I would posit that a blog is a good way to perhaps get noticed and it might even offer a chance for some writing work, I'd rather be building a body of published material.) That's not to say you shouldn't have outlets-- I'm in two PbP games, I've got two regular home games. You've got to exercise those creative muscles, but you've also got to knuckle down and get writing.

For now, I'm back into the text mines. Those stories and projects won't write themselves.

-Ben.

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