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Jeff's Gameblog
Tuesday, 18 May 2004

A member of the kindly editorial staff at the Chess Variants Pages has posted Game Courier presets I slapped together for the 44 squares contest. I sure wish they'd get my write-ups for Knight Chase and Enochian Chess posted!

Posted by jrients at 1:30 PM CDT
Monday, 17 May 2004

I dashed off a tiny missive to Mike Carr today in reply to his note from last week. Hopefully he won't think I'm prodding him too much, but this time I presumed to ask him for a photocopy of the relevant rpg passage from Fight in the Skies.

Looking at the pricing for books from CafePress.com got me thinking. I've come up with a rather ambitious idea for a journal devoted to the history of roleplaying games. It wouldn't be large, probably 52 pages at most (allowing me to use a saddle stapled binding), and not too frequent, maybe an annual. I'm sure there are other people out there who would be willing to contribute and who would be interested in reading it.

Posted by jrients at 2:29 PM CDT

I started a novel yesterday, Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear. Someone at RPG.net, though I can't recal who, recommended it as a book that exemplifies the game Lords of Creation. So far it seems to be a bildungsroman turned fantasy adventure, which seems mightily appropriate for a game with levels and nifty powers.

Pat came over last night. We chewed the fat about games and other stuff. After talking with him I'm more convinced than ever that I should tackle Gamma World as my next rpg. My brain is already starting to go to work. Last night as I was going to sleep it occurred to me that FASA's Orion material for the old Star Trek rpg could be easily adapted to a Gamma World society. Thinking about that kept me up for a while.

Posted by jrients at 11:43 AM CDT
Sunday, 16 May 2004

Boy, that was fast! I finished the little book on the Falklands this afternoon! Not only am I more interested than ever in Falklands wargaming, but I think the situation is mineable for James Bond 007 rpg material.

Posted by jrients at 3:16 PM CDT
Saturday, 15 May 2004

I finally finished The First World War today. Even written well, a 500+ page history book was a bit much for me. Before I had a family it would have been an easier ride, but nowadays I may only get to read a page or two before I have to go change a diaper or whatever. Still, it was a good read. I think I learned a lot.

Almost immediately after finishing The First World War I started into The Falklands War 1982. This one is a bit better suited to my short attention span: 96 pages with lotsa photos and maps and such.

Posted by jrients at 8:54 PM CDT
Home Team, Issue #2

Last night Don, Sue, Paul, and John came over for my Heroes Unlimited campaign "Home Team". Its set in Marvel Manhattan during the Secret Wars. The PCs have to hold the line against villainy while Earth's most famous heroes are off-planet for a year.

Highlights from last night's session:

Jill Montgomery was promoted to Field Agent and issued a snazzy SHIELD flying car.

The Dingo wrestled into submission a giant albino mutant sewer crocogator. He even got his picture in the papers posing beside his record-breaking sewer gator.

Batroc's Brigade (The Leaper himself, Zaran, Machete, and Living Laser) were all captured, as were about 20 HYDRA agents.

Mockingbird and Dr. Connors were rescued from the clutches of HYDRA.

The Mysterious Cloaked Hydra Cell Leader escaped!

All in all, I think everyone had a great time.

Posted by jrients at 8:33 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, 15 May 2004 8:46 PM CDT
Friday, 14 May 2004
Heroes on a Hill
Heroes Magazine was Avalon Hill's house organish magazine for its johnny-come-lately roleplaying line. (Gygax and crew had offered the original D&D manuscript to the boys on the Hill and got shot down. If you want to know why Hasbro now owns AH, I think the answer may go back to this one bad call in the early 70's.) As I recall AH rolled out 4 different RPGs, which Heroes was intended to support: Powers & Perils, RuneQuest, James Bond 007, and Lords of Creation. Each of these games are interesting to talk about in different ways. I've never looked at a copy of Powers & Perils or Avalon Hill's version of Runequest, so the information I pass on is totally second had. Please email me any corrections.

P&P, according to my sources, was an old school game involving dragons and dungeons and what-all. I've heard conflicting reports on P&P's playability. Some maintain that it was an unplayable mess. Others says that the game worked, but it was complicated and suffered from piss-poor organization. As I look back on it now I am struck by how naive the folks at AH were. D&D had its own cartoon and kiddie merchandise, for crying out loud. Taking on the 900lb gorilla of the rpg world with a direct competitor gets you nowheresville, man. Of course, I'm leveling that criticism through the lens of 20 years or so hindsight, where I can see that it took Vampire to put a real dent in D&D's leadership position. Either way, I've never had more than passing interest in P&P. By the time it came up on my radar my group already had 3 or 4 versions of D&D and maybe MERP and/or Rolemaster. We didn't need another game involving swords and spells. For chrissakes, we had way too many already by 1983.

Back then my initial reaction to Runequest was much the same. "Oh look! It has trolls! And magic! Gee whiz. Whoop dee friggin' doo." We were just a bunch of dumb kids and had no idea what Glorantha was. The Hill didn't seem too confident that we would care about Glorantha, since it sold some non-Gloranthan supplements for its edition of RQ. It didn't help. "Hey, the campaign world if so cool they'll sell you alternate settings!" For that matter Avalon Hill sure wasn't making it easy on themselves by trying to sell 2 fantasy games side-by-side. Prior to the OGL explosion you just couldn't get away with shit like that.

(Failing to get into one of the deep settings of the 80's (Glorantha, Jorune, Tekumel, etc.) may have been one of the great missed opportunities of my gaming youth. We played MERP but never really got into the setting. It was just D&D with kewler rulz. The other boat we missed was Star Wars. I still don't understand why we didn't try West End's Star Wars rpg. Maybe it had something to do with action figures. Or dice pools. I'm not sure.)

James Bond 007 has been hailed as one of the great games designs that successfully married setting with system. Unfortunately, like most licensed properties, it suffered a premature death. (Each side says the other expressed an interest in letting the license drop.) The system itself is so smooth that people still speak well of it today. Game guru Gareth-Michael Skarka looks to the 007 rpg as mechanical inspiration for his hopefully-forthcoming-someday 80's neo-pulp rpg. You can find on the net people who use the Bond system to replace game mechanics for Space Opera and Traveller.

I owned the Bond basic set and the Q Manual back in the day. We never did much actual gaming with it, even though we all acknowledged that it was incredibly cool stuff. It had guns and girls and gadgets. What else did it need? We went through all the usual ritual behavior associated with owning but not playing a well-loved rpg: making characters, pawing through the equipment book, etc. I think two factors kept us away from actual play. First, the two chart system, while smooth, is about one chart too many for a junior high gamer. Second, we had no idea how to write a decent espionage adventure. Twenty or so years later I'm still not sure if I can write one. That's why I'm looking into getting the official modules.

I have no memory of Lords of Creation making any sort of impression on me as a kid. Certainly I saw the advertisements in the Dragon magazines of the era. It wasn't until college or not long thereafter that I became interested in the game. Somewhere along the way I heard that one of the sample universes in the back of the LoC rulebook was based upon the visionary poetry of William Blake. Now I own the boxed set and all three published modules. That makes Lords of Creation one of the few complete sets in my gaming collection. For a "more than complete" set I would also need, among other things, all the published magazine articles.

Which brings us back to Heroes Magazine. Like many gaming magazines Heroes didn't last very long. Of the ten issues published (Volume I went to six issues, Volume II to 4), seven of them contain LoC articles. Two more have no LoC, but contain 007 material. That leaves one issue (Volume II, number 1) with no stuff of direct use to me. It's my uderstanding that the issue in question is chock full of RQ.

Posted by jrients at 10:56 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, 14 May 2004 12:45 PM CDT
Thursday, 13 May 2004

It looks like "Home Team", my Heroes Unlimited campaign set in 80's Marvel Manhattan, will be running tomorrow night. Paul Pomykala plans on dropping by. He doesn't know it yet, but I think I will ask him to guest star as Nomad. Of course, I'll need to stat him up and maybe alter my comic cover accordingly.

Posted by jrients at 3:15 PM CDT
Wednesday, 12 May 2004

I got to chat on the phone briefly with my buddy Pat today. It seems he picked up a copy of Jason Blair's new rpg Wyrd is Bond (review, official site) which has stirred up some interest over at RPG.net. Apparently its a game of magic-using hip-hop street gangs. With Aleister Crowley as the leader of one of the gangs. What?

Mr. Blair stirred up some controversy back in '01 with his dark rpg Little Fears (nine separate reviews in the RPG.net review section, Forge review, official website). Little Fears is a horror rpg in which all the PCs are children and the monsters in the closet and under the bed are all too real. Pretty creepy stuff, I've heard.

Posted by jrients at 8:56 PM CDT
Holes in the Pen & Paper database
The Pen & Paper database is one of my favorite online resources. However, it is not yet complete and basically relies on fan submissions to expand it. After some quick searches through the database, I discovered the following holes that I should be able to plug:

Boot Hill 2nd edition
Boot Hill referee's screen & mini-module
Gangbusters entire line
Lords of Creation modules
Gamma World 1st edition
Legion of Gold
Dawn Patrol
Dungeoneer magazine
various Judges Guild products
Transdimensional TMNT

Posted by jrients at 4:06 PM CDT

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