Open Letter to OBS

I have read your open letter about it and it does not pass the smell test.

“Similarly, no matter how one feels about Gamergate, it is likewise too current, too emotionally frought, and too related to violence to be an appropriate subject for satire.”

Let me introduce you to games you’re also selling:

ROLF: The Pimp, the Protester, and the Po-Po about OWS. May I point out that Occupy is active and unlike GamerGate actual violence including rape, assault, and police brutality occurred at Occupy camps. Why are those not too close to real violence to not belong on OBS?

Crack Wh-r-:–Solitaire-Adventure-Dice-Game?it=1 A game about being a crack whore. How is that not too emotionally frought or related to violence to remove? How is last night, which is the last time I saw a person that matched the title, not too current?

Porn Masters: The Board Game: Did the exploitation of women in the porn industry suddenly end? What is that, the exploitation of women in porn is overstated? Given there are zero actual events of physical violence in gamer gate, who exactly is doxxing is still debated, and there are questions about some people creating their own harassment to gain sympathy GG is clearly behind porn in terms of exploitation where there are documented events.

There are unofficial Cards Against Humanity sets. You do realize Cards Against Humanity has cards describing actual phyiscal harm occurring real life individuals, especially Glenn Beck who has at least three devoted to his being harmed:

Blenn Beck being harried by a warm of buzzards.
Glenn Beck catching his scrotum on a curtain hook.
Glenn Beck convulsively vomiting as a brood of crab spiders hatches in his brain and erupts from his tear ducts.

They did, however, apologize about the “passable transvestites” card.

As a result, I just don’t believe you. I believe one of your larger vendors made threats and you caved. Occam’s razor says it’s the easiest explanation for why this one game was so offensive.

The alternate conclusion is that the rejected game made fun of the wrong people and that OBS, like the makers of CAH, are fine with jokes about violence against people they don’t like (often in the name of tolerance) but if one of their sacred cows gets it the long knives come out (again in the name of tolerance).

If you look at my records you’ll see I’ve spent $674.28 and received $0.65 in affiliate credits in 2014. Clearly I’m a regular customer. With the addition of POD of the OWoD and some NWoD games I missed as well as lots of PDFs of out of print books and many games released only through you, you were a good hobby source.

Given your recent action I have to conclude you’re either happy letting people use their politics to dictate what games I can buy from you or you are happy to use yours. Even in the places where my politics agree with those of the gatekeeper in question I cannot approve of this practice for two reasons.

1. The precident established it can be used against things I like.
2. More importantly it feeds the politicization of everything. I can’t watch TV anymore to escape this. Movies are gone and most of mainstream publishing as well is more interested in being politically correct or safe than interesting. Gaming was one of the few refuges and I will not support those taking it away.

OBS has a strong corner on RPGs but as a result of your choice to police either people Red Hat or OBS doesn’t like you will be a source of last resort from this point forward.

It’s been fun but maybe we shouldn’t hang out so much anymore.

Monday Pointers, 2014-10-27

D4: Possessing the Elf

As plenty of people have pointed out over the past 40 odd years, D&D elves have evolved into Mary Sues, basically prettier, more graceful humans that fight like fighters and cast like magic-users. What could be the reality of this pretty facade? An alternate take on the LotFP (and similar games) Elf class.

D6: What Do Spells Tell Us

In the tradition of exploring the OD&D implied setting an analysis of what setting the Fifth Edition spell lists imply.

D8: More Implications

Speaking of implied settings, what are the implications of the original Fiend Folio as an implied setting.

D10: Rifter Reviews

An entire blog’s worth.

LBB Albums

I know a lot of people associate older versions of D&D with metal music but arguably that’s a latter assumption. A comment on the standard short name for Seven Voyages of Zylarthen post over at Save Versus All Wands claimed it made the commenter think of Seven Seas of Rhye by Queen reminded me I’d been thinking about a 1974 soundtrack for gaming.

Some idea, please add your own:

  • Queen II by Queen
  • Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes
  • Fragile by Yes
  • Demons and Wizards by Uriah Heep
  • The Magician’s Birthday by Uriah Heep
  • 666 (The Apocalypse of John, 13/18) by Aphrodite’s Child

I know I skipped that you might expect but that would be my inspirational music circa 1974 (yes, yes, I know, no Led Zeppelin, sue me). Also, the BOC that would inspire me is later (only barely as On Your Feet or on Your Knees came out in 1975.

I’ve often wondered what my D&D would have been like if I’d been a mere five years old when I got Holmes in 1977 (16 instead of 11). I look back at what I can only call hippie fantasy art of the period from weird wizards (immortalized here in Atlanta by the Mellow Mushroom Pizza mushroom) to Yes album covers and think about the worlds I want to build from them now.

On a totally different tack The “What is the OSR” d20 chart, specifically number 15, gave me some nostalgia for my old high school job at a mall pub in El Paso. I’d close it on Friday nights and come home. To unwind I’d read (often the latest Dragon which was in the Silver age leading up to 100 at the time) and listen to Weather Report (usually Night Passage or I Sing the Body Electric).

101 Days of Rifts: Rules IV

One of my trouble spots with Rifts, probably the biggest after MDC, is the untrained combat system in the Game Master’s Guide and RUE. The actions versus attacks system doesn’t work very well. It’s clunky and didn’t make much sense. If two actions for an untrained character is one attack why isn’t one attack for a trained character two actions. It would be easier to just ignore the additions and go back to the original Rifts method which is common in most Palladium games and just have attacks. The problem with this method is now that four attacks for breathing is the standard for trained characters untrained characters, especially mages, are at a serious disadvantage.

The problem is spells consume a certain number of attacks based on their level. It will take a full combat round for a mage to cast even a spell at levels one to three until sixth level. In that time someone focused on hand to hand combat can cross the intervening space and attack the mage or simply fire a weapon at them. Even if they miss the spell the attack spoils the spell.. It was precisely this issue the article “PPE Channeling” in The Rifter #21 addressed. Of course, that system relied on the Game Master’s Guide actions system to work. Also, as I pointed out in my earlier discussion, the shift from spells casting per turn to per attack in RUE provides the same value if in a slightly different form.

In looking for a substitute I’ve had a couple of ideas. One was to adopt a Champions or Star Fleet Battles like system for staggering attacks. You break the turn up into segments based on the largest number of attacks. The character with the largest number acts every segment and those with smaller numbers acts on segments such that their actions spread evenly over the turn . I’ve rejected this as too complex even though I’ve played my fair share of Hero System (I’m a backer for Hero Fantasy Complete) and Starfleet Battles. I also rejected it as alien to Palladium because I want a solution I can use in all my Palladium games.

A more recent thought has been to use the actual seconds system used in Hackmaster Basic. This is alien to Palladium but not as much as the staggered segments system. Also, it’s pretty straight forward. For those not familiar with the system characters have speeds to reflect how quickly they can reset after using melee weapon or how fast they can fire a ranged weapon or cast a spell with lower speeds indicating faster reset. The initiative roll determines how many seconds you have to wait before your first action. The GM starts the count at 1 second. On a second you can act you can move one second’s movement, take a second long action, begin a longer action, or attack. Longer actions and attacks prevent you from acting until their length (for attacks your speed with the weapon) passes. The biggest issue is it would require a lot of conversion work to figure speeds for each combatant type. Movement would be speed divided by five. You could simplify speed for all weapons to fifteen divided by attacks. It’s a lot of work and could get futzy.

However, about the same time I was think about the Hackmaster system I was re-reading Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looking for material for my first demo scenario (a HU game) and found my answer. This shouldn’t surprise me as before I’ve contended that TMNT was one of the best generic RPGs if you had the core book, TTMNT, and TMNT: Guide to the Universe. The answer it has is the Wizard Combat Table on page 42. This provided a combat skill which gave castings per melee. It had a handy note on how castings interact with attacks; each casting uses up a melee attack but if the wizard still has castings after he’s out of melee attacks he can keep casting. In the rare case of a caster having more attacks than castings I’d use the alternate. Essentially your total castings much be less than or equal to castings and attacks equal or less than attacks. If one of the two is higher than the other the total of castings and attacks cannot exceed the higher one. It also gives save bonuses to the wizard and penalties to his targets as his level increases. The biggest issue is Transdimensional Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is long out of print. However, the same table is present in Heroes Unlimited: Revised Edition on page 93. That game is available in pdf. It may be in Palladium Fantasy Roleplaying First Edition which is also available in pdf but I don’t have my copy handy to check.

Combining castings with the attacks used by spell level in RUE should give mages some flexibility in combat and uses Palladium rules only. I think this will also work better for a consistent rule across games where often everyone gets the two attacks for breathing being heroes but no advancement unless they take a combat skill such as Heroes Unlimited.

101 Days of Rifts: Side Journey to Nightbane

Rummaging through old files I found one titled ‘Nightbane notes’.

And on 5 Lamat 1 Mol the people shall leave their fields and potteries. They shall gather at the temple. There they shall celebrate the eightieth Calendar Round passing since my glorious ascension. – Pacal, King of Palenque

I wonder if they will, Pacal. Will you be remembered on October 21, 4772? Will there be anyone to remember? As I write this it is December 21, 2013 (insert Mayan date). Many of us think the world ended a year and a day ago and it just hasn’t noticed yet.

Children of the New Creation or Outcasts of the First World
Basic outline: this setting is a riff on Nightbane taking the Dark Day as the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice 2012. Start time will be exactly when the sun reached the Tropic of Capricorn and then 24 hours. Much of the description will be straight from Nightbane.

The question is: did the 4th creation end on that day and the last 24 hours of the long cycle were the creation of the new world?

The Nightlands are the remains of the first world and the Nightlords and their servants are the Mayan cycle equivalent of Qlippoth

The date on it is 2012/08/12 but I can remember working on the idea when I lived in Texas so some of it dates to 2007 or so. I was very interested in using the planned end of the world/end of the Mayan calendar as The Dark Day.

The Qlippoth reference is to a GURPS book, Cabal. Cabal presumes two creations, one mapping to Genesis 1 and one mapping to Genesis 2. The Qlippoth are the remains of the now gone first creation trying to undermine the one that replaced them. With the Mayan calender interpretation that each cycle ends with recreation of the world I wondered “what if the Nightlands” are the remains of the first world trying to use the cycle to recreate themselves.

I’d love to return to these ideas at some point.

101 Days of Rifts: Audience Participation

As I said Saturday I’m now a Megaversal Ambassador. For my first demo game I want to cash in on Guardians of the Galaxy with a comic book space opera game. Generally, I consider all Palladium games comic book games (which is an upcoming post). While the current Guardians book, like its predecessor, is a superhero book to a degree it’s more sci-fi space opera. It is even more so than my first love in comics, The Legions of Superheroes. So, while Heroes Unlimited might be the logical first choice I’m also thinking Phase World is another possibility.

So, audience participation, if you were going to create a Palladium demo game with a GotG like setup which game would you use: Heroes Unlimited, Phase World, or something else?

101 Days of Rifts: Rules III

My buddies and me are getting real well known
Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone

I get around
Get around round round I get around
From town to town

A classic part of old school campaigns, and Rifts&reg is no exception, is travel. Old school D&D players often use hex maps and I was initially inclined to do so for Rifts&reg Laramie. However, since I sat down to write encounter charts, the next big project, I’ve had second thoughts. What are the important issues with travel on Rifts Earth and how should we handle them in-game.

Referencing Zak S. of Playing D&D with Porn Stars seems to be a habit but again it is appropriate. What can I say, the man makes you think about what you want and how to get it. We can, for Rifts&reg paraphrase Zak and say your characters know more about Rifts Earth than Kevin Siembieda and your GM combined. His point is the characters in the setting know the choices about travelling between two places such as time, danger, and even the amount of knowledge available about that route. As a result the key information in getting between two places is not a map directly but two or more ways of getting there. A map for a game where travel is more about getting interesting places than mapping a large unknown area might be better represented by a network graph than a hex map.

Getting back to Rifts: Laramie let’s take an example. The party is seeking to meet The Great Dream Snake of Yellowstone whose existence is unconfirmed. Perhaps the party has contracted with the Lone Star produced reality program, Demon Hunters. The most recent sighting is at Devil’s Tower to the north and slight east of Laramie. In broad terms there are two general ways to get there: well traveled routes and cross country. In this case the well traveled route would be the remains of the pre-rifts railroads. You would travel south east from Laramie to Cheyenne then in a zig-zagging line north towards Gillette and finish up with an eastern route until you’re almost directly south of the site. A short overland trip of about 20 miles finishes the trip. Using Google Maps on roughly parallel highways (which are just as reasonable but the railroad give the flavor I’m after) this is about 350 miles. A straight line is about 240 miles. The well traveled path isn’t a road so we can assume the same 20 miles a day for riders.

Based on distance and movement rate clearly we want to go overland. The trip is 12 versus 18 days give or take. Why isn’t the other route well traveled (beyond Devil’s Tower having a lot of magic and a place that is generally avoided). Well, the number and risk of encounters is different. Also, your ability to arrive unseen or avoid being detected by someone hunting you is different. What if we developed a table that looked like this:

Point A Point B Route Days Encounter Table Encounter Rate Stealth Hiding
Laramie Cheyenne Trail 2 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 10% 15%
Laramie Devil’s Tower Overland 12 Eastern Wyoming Wilderness 2d6 40% 60%
Laramie Casper Trail 4 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 5% 5%
Cheyenne Devil’s Tower Trail 16 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 10% 15%
Casper Devil’s Tower Trail 13 Eastern Wyoming Traveled 3d6 5%

The encounter rate is how many and what type of dice to roll each day. For every 1 roll once on the encounter table. Stealth is the odds of arriving at the destination unknown while hiding is the chance each day of avoiding pursuers or someone searching for the party.

Now the encounter rate, their danger, and how much delay they might cause is a factor. We can just let the party know the contents of the table as well as the encounter charts because the characters would know this. Also, if they are being chased they know the odds of being found.

A chart like this shouldn’t be hard to draw up. Major points would need one line for each pair on wilderness travel, but route travel would only need to be covered for the nearest points. For Wyoming I might use Laramie, Cheyenne, Casper, Jackson (as a proxy for the Teton region), Rock Springs, Medicine Wheel, and Devil’s Tower. I can fill in later as needed or approximate points along those routes.

This avoids the need to hex map everything while giving the players an easy way to understand their choices. If they need to get to Devil’s Tower within 14 days to stop the summoning of The Eight Demons of the True Diseases or they are heading there to take a rift to the Happy Hunting Grounds while being pursued by a group of traditionalists out to stop their entry overland might be worth the risks. If they just need to take some shots of them searching for a Great Dream Snake but don’t even need to see it before it leaves (think of what you get in an episode of Ghost Hunters) but want to get the film back to make a buck a leisurely, possibly full of delays, but relatively safe trip up the old Union Pacific roadbed probably fits their needs better.

101 Days of Rifts: The Rifter Index Tiddly Wiki

I love The Rifter but sometimes it’s a pain to find what you want or even what’s available for a given game. There are some fan indexes but the ones I’ve seen don’t make it easy to see contents sorted by game line or author. To that end I’ve started a TiddlyWiki indexing issues. Right now it’s fairly empty with contents for only three issues and few details on those but it’s a start.

Right click and save to download

101 Days of Rifts: Burried Treasure Rifter #21

As a general rule in the Buried Treasure series I’ve tried to highlight items of broad use to the OSR community. This time the item is much more limited, at least the reason I selected it limits it to Palladium fans. However, I consider it important for Palladium GMs to at least consider.

For those not familiar The Rifter is Palladium’s house organ. It comes out quarterly and while a periodical it resembles a typical Palladium game book. It is perfect bound and on the heavy but not glossy paper that is Palladium’s norm. In terms of content it has what you’d expect of an RPG house organ: company news and ads, scenarios, setting info, optional rules, and some fiction or comics. However, those last four have much more of a fanzine feel than a professional publication. That is not a criticism. I have enjoyed The Rifter more than I expected. I have a standing order for it at Teahouse Comics in Atlanta, GA. Most issues have material I think any old school GM would find useful. A well picked issue would be perfect for someone using Jeff Rient’s Alchemical Formula.

Issue 21 articles for Heroes Unlimited, three Rifts articles, one Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game article, a general Palladium rules article, and a lot of company info and ads. To be honest it’s a bit sparse with a catalog of Palladium’s fantasy game dressed up as an article and a couple of full-page ads.

The Heroes Unlimited article describes organizations of psions created with organic implants that are the offspring of psionic creature that melds with a computer. It includes background, a point building system, descriptions of the Motherframe creature and their offspring systems, and a character class for the psions created with the system. They have a strong cyber/gene-punk feel and would be at home in a much broader variety of games than just supers. In fact, I can see them fitting in as an odd remnant tech or a post-Scream evolution of AI tech in Stars Without Number. This is probably the most generally useful article in the issue.

The three Rifts articles cover familiars, expand techno-wizardry, and fan fiction. The familiar article has a few rules, some spells, a variety of creatures, and a character class of magic users who work mostly with familiars. While the rules might be adaptable too many of the creatures are either Rifts specific or a bit silly for my taste (baby Cthulthu as a familiar anyone or an air elemental in essentially a bong). The Techno-Wizard rules focus on device creation which ties them strongly to Rifts. Some of the notes and ideas might be useful to Mage: The Ascension players who are members of the Sons of Ether but I’m iffy on that idea. The fan fiction is chapter 21 of The Hammer of the Forge, a Phase World novel that ran through issue 54. I have a soft spot for it but it’s fan fiction.

The fantasy article (as opposed to the catalog) is the beginning of an adventure path (called an adventure campaign) built around the quest of the Mighty Hammer of Ra. It takes up nearly half the pages and includes multiple adventure setups, setting details, and some additional adventure ideas. The individual adventures are pretty spare compared to a Pathfinder adventure path providing a few npcs, a goal, and maybe some items or a map. The setting detail provides some connective tissue. Finally, the additional adventure ideas are in hook, line, and sinker format. Thinking about it this is closer to a Savage Worlds plot point campaign than a Pathfinder adventure path. It could be adapted to non-Palladium setting and rules.

The big feature of this issue, though, is the general Palladium rules article called PPE Channeling . Palladium uses a magic-point system for casting spells. The points are called Potential Psychic Energy or PPE for short. In a classic Palladium move psychic/psionic powers also use a point system but those points are called Inner Strength Points (ISP). Spell level drives the casting times expressed in melee rounds despite the system using spell points. By contrast each psychic attack uses one melee attack. GMs interpreted this to mean that a caster declares his spells when his initiative comes around and they don’t take affect until the end of the round (or a later round for higher level spells).

A combat where three characters of level 4 and 5 got the drop on a level 10 magic user inspired the article. Because casting times were in melee round regardless of level a caster got no better at casting spells. With even lower spells taking a full melee round (technically two could be cast but there were no timing rules) and the fact that merely dodging an attack would disrupt casting magic-users without a fighter wall really could not cast during combat. His solution was to set casting time in melee actions with a certain amount of PPE per action. This made some high level spells after than their low level counterparts but made nearly all spells faster.

This was a pretty big rule at the time and was even included in The Best of the Rifter. With Rifts Ultimate Edition casting times were revised to be stated in melee attacks but still tied to spell level arguably making the article obsolete. I consider it an interesting variant and was planning on using it until I started reading Rifts Ultimate Edition. I’m now torn between using it or the RUE version. I suspect they work out similarly but how many actions/attacks a given spell take changing here and there. I still think it is worth reading especially for Palladium players who don’t have RUE but one of the rule sets still using the melee round rules.

So, while perhaps not the most generally applicable issue of The Rifter I think for Palladium GMs playing anything other than RUE this is a must read if your magic-users are not doing well in combat.