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Blade Runner Sketchbook

March 10, 2012

Blue Dolphin published the Blade Runner Sketchbook back in 1982 and it’s been a prized commodity ever since. The book is a collection of concept artwork from Syd Mead, Mentor Huebner, Charles Knode, Michael Kaplan and Ridley Scott for the movie of the same title.

It’s now been uploaded to issuu and can be viewed through their pdf reader.

Back to 2e?

January 9, 2012

The New York Times published an article this morning about the much talked about 5e for AD&D. It was an interesting article, particularly as it attempted to educate readers, who likely know nothing of the edition wars that have peppered blogs in recent years, or the issues that have emerged within the industry.

The NYT illustrated the problem with a sports analogy:

When the N.B.A. adopted the 3-point shot in 1979, purists cried foul at rules changes, just as many D&D devotees dismissed the rules of the game’s fourth edition as dumbed down, overeager to mimic multiplayer online games like Warcraft — and favoring killing over the role-playing and storytelling roots of Dungeons & Dragons. Some began playing other role-playing games like Pathfinder, which won over disgruntled players.

It winds up highlighting a number of the key complaints heard on blogs for the last few years. Mike Mearls posted an announcement following the article, stating that:

We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire. We want a game that is unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become your D&D, the game that you want to run and play.

I think this is a fantastic sentiment; and yet, I have no idea how you construct a game that accomplishes such a feat. Furthermore, I wonder if you should even attempt such a thing, as everyone’s tastes are different.

For example, I agree with much of the arguments against 4e but that doesn’t mean that I’m only interested in “old school” games. I appreciate games from various decades (OD&D, Savage Worlds, Star Wars d6, etc.) and all of them have one overriding trait in common: they are all rules light. I’m not certain how you create a game that would entertain people like me as well as the hardcore crunch players who like all the fiddly bits you find in a 4e campaign.

The only solution would seem to be the “options” method. If you start with a basic core set of rules that are lightweight and easy to use, you can then add options to the system in order to increase the level of detail as desired by the game master. Ironically, that’s sort of what TSR produced with 2e, before the game began to fork uncontrollably.

Wrath of Khan

February 7, 2011

I’ve commented a number of times previously that I enjoy the idea of gaming in the Star Trek universe but ultimately pass it up for its cumbersome tropes. The idea that “adventures” are constructed around the crew of a starship is awkward at best and often impossible. The same problem arises in almost any space-faring Sci Fi setting which I imagine is one of the reasons that Fantasy frequently wins out as the genre of choice.

Yet, whenever I come across a Star Trek clip I find myself studying the possibilities and wondering if there isn’t a way to make it work. After all, there’s few better examples of high drama in science fiction than the Wrath of Khan. It has everything a futuristic adventure should — space & personal combat, NPC/PC conflict, and scientific underpinnings.

Minor Artifact (Scimitar)

August 24, 2010

Scimitar of the Nymphs
by Tim Hensley

The Scimitar was originally given to the Archdruid Leofrick by the Nymphs of Gallish in exchange for acting as guardian of the river. It remained within druid society for nearly four hundred years until it was stripped from the dead body of the Great Druid Namist who was decapitated during a battle with the Wyrm Tycus.

No one knows how long Tycus kept the artifact buried in his hoard, but the blade eventually surfaced during the Bauwater Rebellion when Arthur the Crocked attempted to use it to claim “supreme executive power.” The rebellion was squashed by a counter-rebellion led by a peasant hero named Dennis, who immediately returned Bauwater back to an “anarcho-syndicalist commune.”

As with other objects in Bauwater, the scimitar was treated as community property and used by each adult on a bi-weekly rotation until the town was sacked by troglodytes. The blade has not been seen since.

The Scimitar of the Nymphs acts as a +2, +3 vs. aquatic creatures weapon. It also confers the ability to breathe and move freely underwater.

I x 2 ___ ___
III x 1 ___

Browncoats inspiration

August 23, 2010

I’ve been a long time opponent of the accountant-heavy trader campaigns that present themselves as the default story arc for classic Traveller. It is possible to pull together a game that centers on transporting cargo but it takes a great deal of work and ingenuity on the part of the GM. With that in mind, it would be hard to find a better example of pulling this off than Joss Whedon’s Firefly. The short-lived series could have been born at the gaming table; more importantly, it ought to be used as inspiration for new GMs.

Over the last year, a diehard core of Firefly fans have been working to pull together a new film based on the franchise entitled Browncoats: Redemption.

While it lacks the polish of the original series, it does continue the idea of a group on the fringes of society who are eking out a living transporting cargo. The reason Whedon’s series makes for good inspiration is because he either turns hauling cargo into an adventure or uses it merely as a way of moving his characters around in order to put them in harms way. If Browncoats follows this pattern it will be worth watching for ideas.

Traveller…the skill based OD&D

August 18, 2010

James Maliszewski started an interesting conversation on his blog about the literary influences of Traveller. What struck me is how a fair number of people thought that the game’s overall setting has not aged well. To me, these conversations are fascinating as I’ve never treated the core rules — the first three LBB — as being in any way concrete.

In fact, I see the basic ruleset as being synonymous with OD&D when it comes to house ruling and setting. As I’ve mentioned before, I seldom use the Third Imperium. But how I’ve used Traveller goes beyond changing the setting — I’ve stripped out interstellar travel and used it for an Earth-based Blade Runner game; I’ve taken out space travel and limited the tech level to create modern espionage games; I’ve created a pulp horror/science fiction smorgasbord; not to mention changing the shape and scope of any given campaign in order to create unique space opera or hard Sci Fi sagas.

With Mongoose’s relaunch of Traveller, you can see evidence of this as publishers begin to pull together setting books outside the long-standing norm. I should also point out that Mongoose has effectively left the core mechanics as they were but have added updated equipment books and technological tweaks without upsetting the balance of the game in the least.

The beauty of the game is no different than the clones we love so much. If you don’t like something, change it. The system underneath is solid and can do far more than allow players to explore the Third Imperium.

Odd Troll

August 17, 2010

If you haven’t stumbled across it on your own Oddysey and Trollsmyth have posted a podcast about their experiences at GenCon. You can find it here or here. Goes well with your morning coffee.

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