Category Archives: random

Web Search II: Electric Googleoo

So, once again I got bored enough to do some ego-googling, and I actually found some interesting stuff.

On an Italian RPG message board there’s a thread about Mascot-tan, including illustrations for D&D-tan and SeventhSea-tan.

On Wikipedia there’s something that’s just pain odd. The list of fictional expletives article mentions an RPG by yours truly called F.U.N.C. (Furutistic Urbanized Needless Combat). The thing is, I don’t actually remember putting it out on the net or anything anywhere. It was something I made back in high school — cynical, satirical, ultra-violent cyberpunk with bits of Robocop and Project A-ko thrown in. I’ve toyed with the idea of reviving it, but it’d need to basically be redone from the ground up. I’ve gotten that much more cynical, and I’ve got a lot more sources of inspiration to draw on (Metal Wolf Chaos, for example) and topics to explore/satirize (violence in video games).

(BTW, it turns out that, not surprisingly one of my friends stuck the FUNC reference into Wikipedia…)

Some Neat Things

Go Play: I like this; it reminds me of something I need to do more of.

I got Push in the mail the other day; getting that and some comics from lulu took about 9 days total. I like it entirely too much, and I want to submit something for Volume 2.

Faery’s Tale and Panty Explosion are both available in print, through their respective publishers and through Key20. Way too many games coming out I want to get, and almost none of them are showing up at my local game stores (though I haven’t been to Game Kastle in a while). And I have entirely too many indie games on my shelf that call to mind the Go Play thing.

Guy Shalev, Vincent Baker, and of course Nathan Paoletta have kindly linked to this blog on theirs. Thanks guys! I shouldn’t have to tell you that they’re all doing some really neat stuff. :)

I finally announced to my friends that I want to playtest Tokyo Heroes in the near future, and we wound up scheduling the first session for this coming Saturday!

Random Things

I wound up getting inspired to work on writing stories, even though I seem to be sucking at it right now (I did at least finish one short story the other day). I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past couple weeks, with regard to everything, not just games, hence Thrash 2.0 isn’t the only thing I’m not making progress on. I’m trying to read more, and watch more, but my attention span is unusually short lately. So, I have jack to say about games I’m working on (or failing to work on), but plenty on some tangential things.

Comic Con
I went to Comic Con, and it took a while for me to recover. (Not totally coherent LiveJournal entry is here). There were a couple of panels on RPGs there, which was sort of surprising considering there was no RPG programming there apart from a small smattering of RPGA stuff. Chris Chinn covered it better than I could in his blog, but suffice to say the first panel didn’t tell me much of anything I didn’t already know, and the second I didn’t attend because it conflicted with some other panel I wanted to go to. There were actually a small handful of RPG things in the exhibit hall though. There was a dealer with lots of GURPS books (amongst other things), the guy who did Artesia was selling the RPG alongside the comic, and Annie Rush had a table in the indie area (appropriately enough). I picked up a copy of House of Horiku, though I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Snakes on a Game, indeed. I also picked up a sketchbook called Mariachi Samurai, and damn but I want to roleplay as the title character some time. I’m thinking his name would be Pedro. Or maybe Jesus.

No More Goo
It’s sad that Guardians of Order is done with, but Mark seems to be doing okay for himself, and most of their IP is going to be getting new homes, which in turn means that BESM3e will be coming out, even if it’ll take a while. For various reasons, I’ve had mixed feelings about GoO from their inception, but I never found fault with the quality of their products. The deafening silence hasn’t been good for PR (see this RPG.net thread), and it’s good to finally hear what the hell is going on. Plus I have an acquaintance who got a book green-lighted from them just before all this nonsense happened. My general opinion of Tri-Stat is that it’s a great, elegant little system that was never adequately explained in its rulebooks (hence the lengthy essays at the beginning of my netbook). It’s also one of those games where a younger me said immature crap about it on message boards, though there are those who make me not feel quite so bad about it, for all the wrong reasons, and in a few cases I was just pointing out stuff that really ought to have been addressed (like, why the insistence on using only SI units for a game predominantly played by Americans?).

Anyway, I’m definitely going to pick up BESM3e whenever it comes out, but (1) I’m glad I didn’t give into the temptation to preorder, and (2) right now OAV would be my go-to game for that kind of thing anyway (they need to get some more stuff out at some point though). Still, in the 9 or so years it was around, GoO wound up teaching me a lot about RPGs, and for that more than anything I’m grateful.

How To Do Stuff
Inspired by this thread on Story Games, I went and checked out Elements of Typographic Style from the library. I’ve only read a little bit (it’s really good), but it occurred to me that there are certain things that apply to any creative endeavor. As I’m seriously pursuing designing RPGs and writing, and have dabbled in graphic art, I started to see patterns. I’m going to write up an essay on this whenever I get around to it.

  1. Practice. A Lot.: Whatever you do, do it a whole lot. Every day if at all possible.
  2. Learn the Basics: In any medium there are basic, foundation type things that should be practiced to death. An artist needs to learn how to draw straight lines, which means pencil mileage.
  3. Learn From Others: Look at other works in your chosen medium and others close to it. Include works that you woudn’t ordinarily look at (i.e., even if you’re writing sci-fi with Venusian telepathic squids, go read literary classics).
  4. Find out the “Rules”: In each medium there are formulas that can be training wheels for beginners, “don’ts” that can be violated if you do so skillfully and for the right reasons, and principles that become tools you can use.
  5. Get and Recieve Useful Criticism: Get people to look at your stuff and tell you what’s bad about it and what’s good. If someone has nothing to say beyond “this sucks,” then Triumph the Insult Comic Dog could do the same job, and be more entertaining.
  6. Find Your Own Style: Don’t imitate your idols. Don’t worry that you can’t create something as great as . Concentrate on creating stuff that only you could do.

What’s in a name?

John Kim’s LJ has been home to a raging debate/discussion about “traditional” and “nontraditional” RPGs, along with some clashing personalities here and there. The Forge has put a lot of energy into defining itself as being a community that explores and transcends traditional roleplaying games. One of the things the comments on this post bring to light is that the notion of what constitutes a traditional RPG is pretty poorly defined.

Of course, if RPG.net is any indication, there are a lot of terms for which roleplayers have fuzzy and/or divergent ideas about what they mean. I distinctly remember a thread that turned into a raging debate over what constituted a “splatbook.” The term comes from how White Wolf had Clanbooks, Tradition Books, Tribe Books, etc. for their various lines, so people got into the habit of calling them “*books online, and then the * got pronounced as “splat.” But people couldn’t agree on whether or not (for example) the class-specific D&D books constituted splatbooks. I think this is partly because the RPG hobby is small and decentralized, and even the very basic bits of terminology that everyone can pretty much agree on vary, particularly among the big players, for no good reason. If you look carefully, D&D is an “Adventure Game,” and Vampire is a “Storytelling Game.” (Mark Rein-Hagen was trying to make a point with the “storytelling” stuff, even if WW has since tried very hard to distance itself from its early pretentionsness, just as the indie games that call dice rolling processes “Conflict Resolution” are doing it for a purpose).

Anyway, one point that was raised was that traditional RPGs have a certain kind of power structure between the participants. There’s some definite variability — no two groups play the same way of course, and the GM can ultimately do whatever he wants — but in general a game like D&D does more to moderate interaction through game mechanics. Character advancement, for example, is a detailed and complex matter, and moreover something a player with the knowhow can do independent of the DM. It’s quite a contrast to, say, Fudge’s subjective character advancement, not to mention Dogs In The Vineyard. I’ve been playing with a group that consists mostly of friends I’ve known for over a decade, so I’m not having to take chances playing with strangers, and thus not feeling any need for the added moderation.

With our current campaign, I’m starting to think that doing the superhero genre properly requires a certain amount of trust, because the characters are defined in large part by their powers, yet it’s a part of the genre that circumstances can remove, alter, or otherwise fuck with anyone’s powers from time to time.

The inevitable problem with definitions is that when you create a definition from the thing in front of you it works fine, but then when you try to use the definition to decide whether or not something falls within the area of your shiny new term there winds up being a lot of quibbling, especially with regard to stuff on the egdes. A lot of Forge games are based around altering the power structure of the game — shifting narrative control in mechanically interesting ways and such — but at a certain point (say with a game like Capes that does away with the GM entirely) you wind up with people questioning whether what you’ve created is really an RPG. For that matter “nontraditional” and “indie” aren’t the same thing (and for that matter, “indie” and “Forge” aren’t the same thing either). John Wick’s Cat and Enemy Gods have an unusual take on what kinds of characters and situations you roleplay, but the game mechanics aren’t anything unfamiliar. Mostly your cat or epic hero is rolling six-sided dice and counting successes, and the GM is the GM like usual.

This is turning out to be longer and more rambling than I intended, but that’s okay.

Really, the main thing I like about the indie RPG scene is that it’s done a lot to bust wide open what’s considered appropriate genres and whatnot for an RPG. Ten years ago, if someone told you there’d be a brilliant RPG about mormon cowboy inquisitors, you’d probably have called them crazy. And now he have DitV, Cat, The Moutain Witch, Dead Inside, Breaking The Ice, and so on. Of course, White Wolf was started with a similar breaking down of walls in mind; you don’t have to kill the monsters, you can be one (and not quite in the Flying Buffalo Games’ Monsters! Monsters! sense), whether for deep roleplaying or simply a new breed of power fantasy.

I am so not going to comment on the social aspect of this traditional/nontraditional divide, mainly because it involves extensive wankery on both sides.

So, I’ll revisit that “I am 3d6” post from a while back. I’ve been playing New Super Mario Bros. on the DS, and looking at previews of Super Paper Mario, and realizing just how incredibly cool the Psychotronic Mario Brothers thing that dyjoots posted to RPGnet really is. I was in one of the castles in NSMB, and it occured to me that Bowser has the power to force his Koopa Troopers to serve him even after death, and for that matter he’s recruited rogue mushrooms, living bullets, and ghosts to his side, in addition to having statues of himself that shoot laser beams (in SMB3) in his main castle. I also noticed something that would only happen in a video game when Mario died from being caught between the scenery and the edge of the auto-scrolling screen. So the list of one-shots and mini-campaigns I want to run now goes:

  1. octaNe
  2. The Mountain Witch
  3. Halo: The Covenant War
  4. octaNe (Psychotronic Mario Brothers)

Blearg/The Little Model

With school going at full blast I haven’t had too much time to devote to any kind of RPG stuff, apart from playing in my group’s weekly Truth & Justice campaign (I’m not sure I would be able to keep up if I were running a game right now…). For that matter I haven’t really been keeping up on RPG blogs much either, just doing my usual lurking on RPG.net and occasionally having some RPG ideas percolate in my brain. I’d really like to get some more stuff done for Tokyo Heroes and Thrash 2.0 once I have a better handle on school stuff, especially since I’m starting to get more ideas together for the aforementioned Ether Star and its own custom flavor of Fudge.

Anyway, what prompted me to post was this thread on RPG.net. Levi Kornelsen has basically laid out a new (still evolving) set of terms for discussing RPG theory, based on the idea that the terms used should be as intuitive as possible, and created partly in reaction to GNS and The Big Model. Right now it’s primarily new terms for Forge theory, but the ‘little model’ (as one poster called it) has already started to evolve some on its own. Of particular interest to me is how in addition to Challenge, Theme, and Simulation-Focused games, it has “Open Focus” and “Multi-Focus,” stemming from the idea that an RPG that doesn’t concentrate on a particular focus/mode isn’t inherently flawed. To the extent that I’ve found Forge theory useful, I think moving away from “crazy moon language” is a step in the right direction. Where it’ll go from here is anyone’s guess though.

Status Report

I dug into Tokyo Heroes again after not looking at it for a couple weeks, and it looks like the actual rules are mostly done now. I need to fill out the rules for making bad guys, finish writing up the sample characters, and the last of the fluffy flavor text. Hopefully once that’s done I can get back into working on Thrash 2.0 — which is also mainly a matter of grunt work at this point. I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to get done once school starts, of course. This semester is looking to be pretty intense.

On the TH inspirational stuff front, Tokyo Mew Mew has been getting really good lately (I’m on episode 37 right now), mainly by finding interesting things to do with the different characters. I watched the first few episodes of Genseishin Jutsirisers and was surprised by how good it was (especially after seeing the first episode of Sazer-X). It’s basically a sentai show, but it has its own distinct feel, separate from the Super Sentai Series. Similar to Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (but in different ways) it deals with what it means to be a “hero” with weird powers. Two of the main characters are high school kids, and they’re fighting in spite of their misgivings and fears about the whole thing. I also like how the girl character is on the school’s lacrosse team basically as an excuse for the characters to have a metal stick handy when mooks show up.

Last night we had our first session of Truth & Justice, though it was mostly prologue and roleplaying. The real super action hasn’t started yet, but the campaign is off to a good start at least. We’ve been playing mostly on Sundays at the FLGS, and the first time we played on a Saturday it was much more crowded than we’ve ever seen it before. It’s definitely encouraging to see that many people playing games.

Mundane Details

Argh. So, when I finally got the postcard about my order from Kinokuniya it was one of those ones that says the book is out of print. Amazon Japan says differently, though I probably won’t get my copy of TRPG Super Session Daikyouen from there until early March. I haven’t gotten much done apart from some housecleaning for the past week or so, but having a cleaner environment to work in does help some.