Friday, October 29, 2010

DJ Schmolli - Ghosts And Fear For Halloween


Thinking About AD&D

I've been thinking about AD&D the last few days, since a couple of the panels at Necronomicon and the discussions we had on them. When I say AD&D I mean first edition because I never played or followed AD&D 2e. I don't think I've played AD&D since 1986 or so. My last game in the "old school" of (A)D&D was a Rules Cyclopedia game of D&D in '88 or so. But I've been thinking about it again.

Yes, the game was a mess compared to "modern" rulesets, but I don't care. I'm not going to rationalize or justify the messiness of the rules. I liked them. That's part of what made them fun.

I'm not going to analyze them either. For me, personally, that defeats the purpose of the games when I was younger. They just were. We played and had fun.

But I do now want to pull the books off the shelf and play them again. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wallace Shouts "Shazam!" In 2011

Captain Marvel and the rest of the Marvel Family haven't been featured in their own, in DCU continuity, ongoing series for more than a decade, dating back to the 'Power of Shazam' series, which ran 48 issues from 1995 to 1999.

But Eric Wallace is doing everything within his power to keep Shazam! alive, first delivering the one-shot 'Blackest Night: Power of Shazam' #48 last January and then featuring Osiris – brother of Isis and brother-in-law of Black Adam – in his current run on 'Titans.' Next up, the veteran television writer ('Eureka') is telling a story featuring Freddy Freeman, Billy Batson and Mary Marvel in a 'Shazam' one-shot scheduled for January 2011.

Spirit of the Four Colors: Introduction

This post is going to be a bit of a text dump because I am going to start playing with the SotC SRD and molding it into Spirit of the Four Colors. Sometime these changes may seem minimal, while others will see more more extensive. One of the big changes you are going to see in this post deals with gaining Fate points, making them more "super-heroic" in my opinion. This is one of the places where I am looking at Eddy Webb's Marvelous Superheroes rules, not to mention my many years of super-heroic gaming. Assume these specific Spirit of the Four Colors posts are being released under the OGL (and only them). I will make a post with the specific section 15 designations once I know what I will, and will not, be drawing open content from. Spirit of the Four Colors is very much a work in progress, so keep that in mind when using material from these posts. Only Spirit of the Four Colors posts are considered to be open content.

One thing to keep in mind, that I won't be getting to just yet, is that I want to break actions down in more "comic book" way. That means a move to panels, pages, books as units of time measurement. If you've ever played the great super-hero game Golden Heroes (currently back in print as Squadron UK) you'll know the direction that I want to take.

Comments are appreciated, and I do moderate my comments because of heavy spamming. Don't fear, I get to approving comments pretty quickly.

All right, here's part one of Spirit of the Four Colors:


The Basics

Things You Should Have

You’ll need a few supplies along with these rules to play the game. Here’s a list of mandatory items, as well as some recommended ones.

You’ll need:
  • Four Fudge Dice for each player and the GM. If you don’t have Fudge dice, see Grey Ghost Games (www .fudgerpg .com) or your local RPG dice supplier for a pack, or just substitute regular six sided dice.
  • Some copies of character sheets or at least blank paper to record characters.
  • Writing implements.
  • Friends. (For running a game, the sweet spot’s somewhere between two and six. For creating characters, the more the better – the more folks you have with characters, the easier it will be to put together a game whenever you feel like it.)
You’ll find useful:
  • A set of poker chips or glass beads (to use as fate points).
  • Index cards to pass notes and to make notes on things that come up in play.
  • Snacks.

The Ladder

Most things in the system are rated according to the ladder below (when we say “the ladder” throughout the text, this is what we mean). Usually, the adjectives are used to describe things – someone might be a Good Pilot or Poor at Academics. The adjectives and numbers are interchangeable, so if a player or GM is more comfortable with numbers, it is equally valid to say Pilot: +3 or Academics: -1. The best compromise is often to use both, as in a Pilot: Good (+3) or a Academics: Poor (-1). On this scale, Average represents the level of capability that someone who does something regularly and possibly professionally, but not exceptionally.

(Right now the ladder isn't set in stone. I need to get some playtesting to see if and expanded ladder is needed for this, or if we can work around with the standard SotC ladder. I really want to keep this as close to SotC as I possibly can. Either tomorrow or later today I plan on posting my thoughts on an expanded ladder.)

+8:Legendary
+7:Epic
+6:Fantastic
+5:Superb
+4:Great
+3:Good
+2:Fair
+1:Average
0:Mediocre
-1:Poor
-2:Terrible

Most people are Average at the things they do for a living, like Science for a scientist, and are Mediocre or Poor at most other things. It is only when they are driven to excel that they surpass those limits.
Pulp heroes push the very boundaries of what “normal” people are capable of, and as such, they tend to be Superb at whatever their central passion is. This means that pulp heroes are genuinely exceptional individuals, and are frequently recognized as such.

Rolling the Dice

Whenever a player rolls dice, he rolls four Fudge dice (abbreviated as 4dF) to generate a result between -4 and 4. When reading the dice, a + equals +1, a - equals -1 and a 0 equals 0. Some example dice totals are shown to the right.
The total of the dice is then added to an appropriate skill to get a result. This result can be referred to as the effort made, but sometimes, it’s just "the result."

If you find yourself without Fudge dice, then roll 4 six-sided dice. Any die showing a 1 or 2 is treated as -, and any die showing a 5 or 6 is treated as +.

Difficulty

When a character rolls for a result, he is trying to meet or exceed a target value, which is the difficulty for the roll. The difficulty indicates how hard it is to do something. Difficulties are measured on the same ladder as everything else. For instance, it might be a Mediocre (+0) difficulty to jumpstart a car, but a Good (+3) difficulty to repair that same car after a serious breakdown. Guidelines for setting difficulties are found in the GM’s section of these rules.

The difference between the difficulty and the result of the roll (the effort) is the magnitude of the effect, which is measured in shifts. Shifts are used, primarily by the GM, to determine the potency of a character’s efforts and to govern the resolution of complex actions. We’ll talk about shifts more in upcoming posts.

Skills

Characters have skills, like Drive and Guns, which are rated on the ladder (see above). Considered on the most basic level, skills represent what your character can do. When a character rolls the dice, he usually is rolling based on his skill.

Nearly every action that the character might undertake is covered by his skills. If he doesn’t have a skill on his sheet, either because he didn’t take it or the skill itself doesn’t exist, it is assumed to default to Mediocre.
Skills are covered in greater detail in their own post.

Aspects

Characters also have a set of attributes called aspects. Aspects cover a wide range of elements and should collectively paint a picture of who the character is, what he’s connected to, and what’s important to him (in contrast to the "what can he do" of skills). For super-heroes, this part of the rules is going to be the real meat and potatoes of things. Modern super-heroes, whether in the modern world of Marvel mutants or in the post-Watchman realms as the super-hero story as psycho-drama, are "built" as much off of who they are and what motivates and drives them as they are their super-powers. One of the things that we are going to try to do in Spirit of the Four Colors is integrate these two things into one super-hero game. Being a long time super-hero gamer, I can say that any game can be turned into a super-hero game, but what I want to do with Spirit of the Four Colors is make an integrated super-heroes game, not just a game with super powers that can be used as a super-heroes game. Will I succeed? I don't know, but I hope so.

Aspects can be relationships, beliefs, catchphrases, descriptors, items or pretty much anything else that paints a picture of the character. Some possible aspects are shown here.

For many, many more examples see the aspects post. An aspect can be used to give you a bonus when it applies to a situation. Doing this requires spending a fate point (see below). In this capacity, called invoking an aspect, it makes the character better at whatever it is he’s doing, because the aspect in some way applies to the situation (such as “Dapper” when trying to charm a lady).

An aspect can also allow you to gain more fate points, by bringing complications and troubling circumstances into the character’s life. Whenever you end up in a situation where your aspect could cause you trouble (such as “Stubborn” when trying to be diplomatic), you can mention it to the GM in the same way you mention an aspect that might help you. Alternately, the GM may initiate this event if one of your aspects seems particularly apt. In either of these two cases, this is called compelling an aspect, and its effect is that your character’s choices are limited in some way. If the GM initiates or agrees to compel the aspect, you may get one or more fate points, depending on how it plays out.
We’ll talk more about fate points shortly.

Stunts

Stunts are those things that a character can do which stretch or break the rules. They are the special tricks the character has up his sleeves. Stunts have very specific uses and rules, and are detailed extensively in their own post. Starting characters will have ten stunts. (Yes, right now the number of stunts for starting characters is arbitrary. I think that a starting super-hero could have twice as many stunts as a starting pulp hero. Eventually I am going to write up a table with a sliding scale....the number of starting stunts and aspects per phase according to rough super-heroic power levels for characters.)

Fate Points

Every player begins the first session of the game with a number of fate points (FP) equal to how many aspects he has, usually ten. Fate points give players the ability to take a little bit of control over the game, either by giving their character bonuses when they feel they need them, or by taking over a small part of the story. Fate points are best represented by some non-edible token, such as glass beads or poker chips. (Previous experiments with small edible candies have left players strapped for points!)
Characters may, at any point, spend a fate point to gain a bonus, invoke an aspect, tag an aspect, make a declaration, or fuel a stunt.
Gain a Bonus
 
A fate point can be spent to add 1 to any roll of the dice, or improve any effort (such as an attack or defense) by 1. In practice, this is the least potent way to use a fate point – you’re usually much better off using one of the other applications, below. (Most games get rid of this rule once their players get comfortable using aspects; you can, too .)
Invoke an Aspect
 
Aspects (see above) are those things that really describe a character and his place in the story. When you have an aspect that’s applicable to a situation, it can be invoked to grant a bonus. After you have rolled the dice, you may pick one of your aspects and describe how it applies to this situation. If the GM agrees that it’s appropriate, you may spend a fate point and do one of the following:
  1. Reroll all the dice, using the new result, or
  2. Add two to the final die roll (after any rerolls have been done).
You may do this multiple times for a single situation as long as you have multiple aspects that are applicable. You cannot use the same aspect more than once on the same skill use, though you may use the same aspect on several different rolls throughout a scene, at the cost of one fate point per use.

Tag an Aspect
Scenes, other characters, locations, and other things of dramatic importance can have aspects. Sometimes they’re obvious, and sometimes they’re less so. Players can spend a fate point to invoke an aspect which is not on their own character sheet, if they know what the aspect is. This is referred to as tagging an aspect, and is covered in greater detail in the Aspects chapter, on page XX.
As a rule of thumb, tagging someone or something else’s aspects requires a little more justification than invoking one of your own aspects. For scene aspects, it should be some way to really bring in the visual or theme that the aspect suggests. For aspects on opponents, the player needs to know about the aspect in the first place, and then play to it.

Power a Stunt
Some stunts have particularly potent effects, and require spending a fate point when used. This is a sort of "meta-game" activation fee for your character's abilities. In a system like FATE, it is important to think of how you use Stunts and abilities as a story element rather than just "turning it on," as it works in a lot of other games. Using a Fate point to Power a Stunt is as much adding the impact of that ability to the story as it is anything else. If a stunt requires a fate point to be spent, it will be made clear in the description. See the section on stunts for more.
Make a Declaration
You may simply lay down a fate point and declare something. If the GM accepts it, it will be true. This gives the player the ability to do small things in a story that would usually be something only the GM could do.
Usually, these things can’t be used to drastically change the plot or win a scene. Declaring “Doctor Herborn drops dead of a heart attack” is not only likely to be rejected by the GM, it wouldn’t even be that much fun to begin with. What this can be very useful for is convenient coincidences. Does your character need a lighter (but doesn’t smoke)? Spend a fate point and you’ve got one! Is there an interesting scene happening over there that your character might miss? Spend a fate point to declare you arrive at a dramatically appropriate moment! Your GM has veto power over this use, but it has one dirty little secret. If you use it to do something to make the game cooler for everyone, the GM will usually grant far more leeway than she will for something boring or, worse, selfish.
As a general rule, you’ll get a lot more leniency from the GM if you make a declaration that is in keeping with one or more of your aspects. For example, the GM will usually balk at letting a character spend a fate point to have a weapon after he’s been searched. However, if you can point to your “Always Armed” aspect, or describe how your “Distracting Beauty” aspect kept the guard’s attention on inappropriate areas, the GM is likely to give you more leeway. In a way, this is much like invoking an aspect, but without a die roll.

Refreshing Fate Points

Players usually regain fate points between sessions when a refresh occurs. If the GM left things at a cliffhanger, she is entitled to say that no refresh has occurred between sessions. By the same token, if the GM feels that a substantial (i.e., dramatically appropriate) amount of downtime and rest occurs in play, the GM may allow a refresh to occur mid-session.

The amount of fate points a player gets at a refresh is called his refresh rate and it is usually equal to the number of aspects the player has. When a refresh occurs, players bring their number of fate points up to their refresh rate. If they have more, their total does not change.

Earning New Fate Points

Players earn fate points when their aspects create problems for them. When this occurs, it’s said that the aspect compels the character. When the player ends up in a situation where his compelled aspect suggests a problematic course of action, the GM should offer the player a choice: He can spend a fate point to ignore the aspect, or he can act in accordance with the aspect and earn a fate point. Sometimes, the GM may also simply award a fate point to a player without explanation, indicating that an aspect is going to complicate an upcoming situation. Players can refuse that point and spend one of their own to avoid the complication, but it’s not a good idea, as that probably means the GM will use things that aren’t tied to you.

This isn’t just the GM’s show; players can trigger compels as well either by explicitly indicating that an aspect may be complicating things, or by playing to their aspects from the get-go and reminding the GM after the fact that they already behaved as if compelled. The GM isn’t always obligated to agree that a compel is appropriate, but it’s important that players participate here. See the upcoming Aspects post for a more detailed treatment of compels.

Another, important, way to gain addition Fate points during play is for your character to act like a super-hero.
As the story unfolds, the hero may earn more Fate points during the course of the issue:
  • If the GM uses one of the hero's subplots to further the story. For example, the Flame's weakness is water. If the Octopus tricks the Flame into submerging himself in water, the Flame's player gets a point of Fortune if the plan is successful. If the Magician from Mars rushes across town after fighting Hood to make a lunch date with her boyfriend or visit her a sick relative in the hospital, she gets a Fate point. Subplots are a way of dealing with Aspects that we are going to talk about in another post.
  • If a player goes along with the GM to further the plot. For example, if the Great Question mesmerizes Amazing Man and the player allows Amazing Man to have his mind controlled instead of trying to resist, then Amazing Man gets a Fate point.
  • If the hero is defeated in some way. This includes being knocked unconscious, being captured, or allowing a villain to escape. The GM may choose to automatically capture or knock out a hero through an ambush or inescapable trap – in such cases, the hero at least gets a Fate point out of the deal.
You'll notice that some of these look (and are!) similar to compels. Is that intentional? Well, yes. One thing that I have found in running and playing many, many years of super-hero games is that many players want to continue their behavior from other games (i.e. kill them and take their stuff) into their super-hero games. That might be fun for some, but to me really, that isn't role-playing a super-hero. So, because of that we have to reward players for having their characters act like heroes. This isn't a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, and the Fate point system in these rules already encourages that sort of meta-game player rewards.

All Fate points earned during a game session are temporary, and disappear at the end of an issue (game session).

Edit: Cleaned up a couple of copy references, changing things from old system to new.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Haunt Megamix

HALLOWEEN HAUNT MEGAMIX by cheekyboy

And if you want to download it yourself, click here.

Spirit of the Four Colors

For a little experiment I'm going to start hacking the Spirit  of the Century rules into something suitable for big screen, four color, super-heroic games. I'm looking probably hacking in the power skills from Legends of Angelerre along with some material from Icons and Eddy Webb's Marvelous Super-Heroes Fudge hack.

Watch this space for more.

Edit: I forgot to mention throwing Phil Reed's 4C rules into that blender too. :)

Edit 2:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Legion of Super-Heroes: Election

By the order of the LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES CONSTITUTION, a Legion leader will be chosen in a manner determined by its membership. Please review the following list of active members for the Legionnaire that you feel embodies the traits and skills of a strong leader. Remember Legion Constitutional Amendment to Section 8.0: Anyone attempting to use their superpowers to influence the election may be exiled to Shanghalla and their votes discarded!

Computo will tally the votes between the polling period of OCTOBER 20 and NOVEMBER 10.

Coroner rules that Harvey Pekar's death due to 'natural causes'

American Splendor comic writer and Cleveland native Harvey Pekar died July 12th of an accidental overdose of two anti-depressant medicines, according to the Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office.

The 70-year-old Cleveland Heights resident was found dead by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their home. His death was not a suicide, said coroner spokesman Powell Caesar, and Coroner Frank Miller ruled his death by natural causes on Pekar's death certificate Sept. 27th.

'He did not take his own life,' Caesar said. 'His death came as a result of accidental ingestion of fluoxetine and bupropion.'

It’s Official: Q3 Comic Sales Sucked

Now that the third quarter of 2010 is over, it’s clear that the negative trends that comic stores have been bucking for the last two years have finally taken their toll: sales of comics and graphic novels were down a combined 12% for the quarter. Comic sales were down 14% and graphic novel sales down 6%. This is the largest year over year quarterly decline we’ve seen since we started tracking these numbers in 2004.

September sales were a continuation of negative trends for the quarter, with a 12% decline in comic sales and a 2% decline in graphic novel sales.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DriveThruRPG Launches Charity Bundle for Pakistan Flood Relief

October 19th, 2010

DriveThruRPG Launches Charity Bundle for Pakistan Flood Relief

(Atlanta, GA) – DriveThruRPG, an Internet-based business that specializes in the marketing and distribution of RPGs and roleplaying accessories for traditional dice-and-paper gaming, has posted a bundle of products provided by participating publishers for the purpose of generating charity revenue for the relief of Pakastan's flood victims.

As was done earlier this year for the people of Haiti, DriveThruRPG is calling upon the gaming community to once again make donations towards a fund that will ultimately be wired to Doctors Without Borders. The bundle is priced at $25.00 and contains dozens of donated products valued at over $700.00. The entire amount received from those making donations will go to Pakistan relief.

“Though it has long since moved out of the primary news cycle, the plight of the Pakistani people remains a terrible story,” said Sean Patrick Fannon, Marketing and Communications Manager for DriveThruRPG. “Millions remain homeless, and many thousands of lives are at risk due to injuries, illness, and starvation. We proved once before that we can provide some help to those in need, and we are determined to do so again.”

DriveThruRPG remains committed to its relationship with Doctors Without Borders; thanks to their non-partisan, non-philosophical agenda and their dedication to provide medical assistance and aid all over the world, they remain the perfect choice to channel help where it is needed.

“Discovering the power to make a difference, as we did with our Haiti efforts, was inspirational,” said Steve Wieck, Co-owner of DriveThruRPG. “Once again we are driven to leverage our tools and our marketplace to reach out to those who suffer, and we are grateful that we have the ability to do so.”

The Pakistan Flood Relief RPG Bundle, provided at a donation price of $25, will remain available until Monday, October 25th, at www.drivethrurpg.com. As well, DriveThruComics (www.drivethrucomics.com) has a similar bundle for $10, containing over $100 in comics titles.

DriveThruRPG.com is the world's largest source of RPG products available for download, as well as a burgeoning source of digital content for gamers. It is an industry leader in modern business and technology developments for the tabletop gaming fan. For more information, contact Sean Patrick Fannon (
sean@onebookshelf.com, 614-946-9371).

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization working in nearly 70 countries to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe. For more information, contact Emily Linendoll, Press Officer (emily.linendoll@newyork.msf.org, 212-763-5764).

Grant Morrison Discusses 'Batman Inc,' Lord Death Man, and the Alan Moore Interview

It's been a big year for Grant Morrison. Between starring in a My Chemical Romance music video, contributing to the documentary 'Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods,' scripting the Vertigo series 'Joe the Barbarian,' working on a psychedelic indie film called 'Sinatoro,' and continuing his Batman mega-arc through 'Batman and Robin,' and 'Return of Bruce Wayne,' the superstar Scottish writer has kept up a frenetic pace with a host of projects as omnivorous and ambitious as his comic books.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Necronomicon 2010 Schedule

This will be my panel schedule for Necronomicon 2010 (I know the ePublishing panel for 2pm is on there twice editing is not my friend, it seems):


FRI 3:00 PM St. Pete 3 Game Mastering 101: Get tips from industry pros on how to make your game the best it can be.
SAT 2:00 PM HTC 3 E-Pub, POD, & Small Press Publishing: Traditional publishing is faltering and it may not be the right place to seek a venue for your work. Check out these alternatives.
SAT 2:00 PM HTC 3 E-Pub, POD, & Small Press Publishing: Traditional publishing is faltering and it may not be the right place to seek a venue for your work. Check out these alternatives.
SAT 4:00 PM HTC 3 Horror in Gaming : A discussion on how to create the right air in your games to invoke fear and terror!
SAT 6:00 PM HTC 3 Is Self Publishing Right for You?: Learn from those who've made self pub work for themselves. 
SUN 1:00 PM HTC 3 Making the Most of Your Gaming Character

Be sure to use your #Necro2010 hashtag, and if you want to reach me while at the con, try via Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dorkland or my contact info (if you're lucky enough to have it). I'll be actively using Twitter and FB from my phone and laptop after hours. Be sure to stop in and say hi. The con is October 22-24, 2010.

"Thought Experiments"

Like many Asimov’s readers, my diet of literature consists of a great number of science fiction novels, short story anthologies, and magazines. It is not the only artistic pursuit I’m interested in, but it’s accurate to say that reading science fiction has had a profound influence on my own day-to-day life, my intellectual development as an adult, and the formation of my attitudes about our contemporary American culture and its place in the present and future world. The other great artistic love of my life is electronic music, a sonic genre as diverse, innovative, and without boundary as that of the best written science fiction. Though it may seem an oblique comparison, the wildly diverse sub-genres of electronic music have influenced and informed my intellectual development in as profound a manner as the classics of science fiction.
I don't know that I agree with a lot of this author's suppositions about music. It seems to me, despite his saying otherwise, to be more than a bit stuck in a moment. I think that saying that musical styles couldn't have resurgences in future eras, or that icons can't have a certain memetic power to them is a bit hidebound, particular with his leanings towards electronic music (which I do love myself). I just think that becoming hidebound musically, or letting personal preferences overcome other considerations of appropriateness, isn't helpful musically, or from a genre perspective.

Of course I say this as I listen to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, Volume II because of this. Although, I think that the dissonance of the music might fit better with some of Ballard's works, or some of the 50s-60s output of Ray Bradbury than Moorcock's Cure For Cancer. These works are a bit too calm for Jerry Cornelius.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The TARDIS crash lands in America for series six of Doctor Who

The BBC announced today that series six of Doctor Who will open with a spectacular two-parter set in the US and penned by 'Who supremo' Steven Moffat.

In the special two-parter co-produced with BBC America, key scenes will be filmed in Utah for a story set in the late Sixties in which the Doctor, Amy and Rory find themselves on a secret summons that takes them on an adventure from the desert in Utah right to the Oval Office itself.

Production on episodes one and two of the new series starts in Cardiff this month and Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill will then travel to America in mid-November to shoot pivotal scenes. They will also be joined by Alex Kingston who reprises her role as River Song.

Showrunner and lead writer, Steven Moffat, said: 'The Doctor has visited every weird and wonderful planet you can imagine, so he was bound get round to America eventually! And of course every Doctor Who fan will be jumping up and down and saying he's been in America before. But not for real, not on location – and not with a story like this one! Oh, you wait!'

Piers Wenger, Head of Drama BBC Wales and Executive Producer, added: 'Steven's scripts generally inspire us to go that extra mile – this time we're going that extra four thousand. Thanks to our friends at BBC America and to the continuing ambition of our lead writer and production team, the first two episodes of Matt Smith's second series as the Doctor are going global and look set to become Doctor Who's most action-packed and ambitious season opener yet.'


Dieselpunk: Manifestos, Dogmas and Labels

I've been thinking about dieselpunk for a bit now, previously without realizing that was what I was thinking about and recently for a couple of projects that I have been working on (gaming and otherwise). Wikipedia, which is rarely helpful, was even less so on this topic:
Dieselpunk is based on the aesthetics of the interbellum period through World War II (c. 1920-1945). The genre combines pop surrealist art with postmodern technology and sensibilities. First coined in 2001 as a marketing term by game designer Lewis Pollak to describe his role-playing game Children of the Sun, dieselpunk has grown to describe a distinct style of visual art, music, motion pictures, fiction, and engineering.

Having read Children of the Sun, I have to first say that I have never seen anything that less fits what has become its definition, unless of course you thought Velvet Goldmine featured those from the Lost Generation. Using Google to nose around the corners of the internet, I have to say I find the more dogmatic elements of some online communities to be a bit saddening, and puzzling when talking about music.

This is a first post on this topic, because I feel that I need give this some headspace while I develop Crimebusters, my period role-playing game. I think that a part of my problem is that dieselpunk is such an ugly term, and frankly I don't think that the -punk suffix has been properly applied to anything since the Splatterpunk horror writers. There are a number of those in the geek communities who think adding that -punk suffix makes edgier than their outdated black outfits and mish-mash of occult principles makes them in real life. So, while I like the idea of dieselpunk, I think the name leaves much to be desired, outside of a quick short-hand for a group of stereotypes that are popping up in memetic fashion around the label. I guess that my other problem is that the -punk suffix has been done to death (literally in the case of the old gothic-punk worlds of the Vampire games of the 90s) and I would like to see/use a name that doesn't primarily sound like an offshoot of other genres/labels/movements like steampunk, cypberunk or the above mentioned splatterpunk. With steampunk more and more entering the public consciousness (movies like Sherlock Holmes or even this week's episode of the television show Castle), I think that these ideas need its own name. That's why I'm using mythic jazz age to describe what I like from this "genre" and what I plan to do with it.

Do I care if websites change their name from dieselpunk to mythic jazz age once this post is published and goes wild onto the internet? No. Frankly, as I have been for many, many years now, I am a movement of one. If people want to use terms or ideas that I come up with...I am happy. If people want to keep on keeping on...that makes me happy too. In a way, it comes down to the one part of the -punk suffix that I do subscribe to: do-it-yourself.

Commentary on DC Comics' New Pricing Initiative

The big news of New York Comic Con didn't involve the reinvention of a long-forgotten character or the next major event mini series by the top talents in comics. What dominated discussions at panels and on the floor was the ongoing question of the price of comics and how all the publishers in the business would compete for reader dollars in the next year, led by DC Comics announcement that it would drop all of its monthly titles to a $2.99 price point this January while dropping the average story length to 20 pages an issue.
I am still of the opinion that this (along with Marvel's similar announcement of a price drop) is one of the most significant pieces of comic "news" to come out of the NY ComicCon. Let's face it, all of the "announcements" that come out of these shows are PR/marketing pieces, the initial piece of the drive that will grind away at all of us as comic fans until the books finally come out.

This announcement is, to me, different. Yes, obviously it is PR in that "we listen to you and we care about you" kind of way, but it goes a bit deeper than that. A lot of the concerns that have come out of comic fans with all the BIG MEDIA announcements of the big two over the last year (i.e. Marvel being purchased by Disney and DC suffering from a corporate reshuffling so that their IP can be better leveraged by the rest of Warner) have boiled down to the thoughts that both companies are going to be reduced to nothing more than IP farms, causing us to lose the monthly comics we all know and love.

Honestly, in this day that should be a worry. Look at the announcements that have been coming out of the NY ComicCon, even smaller publishers talk about those media adaptations. However, with the attention that Hollywood is paying to comic properties and old beloved toy franchises the message is clear that it is Hollywood that drives these franchises, and not the fan bases. Most of that is because the geekier pursuits (comics and I'll lump RPGs into this as well since they belong) are becoming more and more marginalized and fringe. Ten thousand fans are small potatoes to the numbers that are wanted for movies, or a television series. Yes, they can court the geek audience (because they are often good for buzz) but unless that audience can be built upon from the "mainstream," then adaptations of properties are going to go no where.

There is also the one thing that everyone needs to keep in the back of their minds during all of this. Entertainment goes in cycles. Sooner or later something will happen with this trend of comic adaptations in movies and television, all it takes is a couple of bad movies or shows, and people will move on to the next thing. I think this is already happening with the trend of YA novel adaptations in the movie theaters, when even a classic like Narnia cannot hold up a franchise.

Hopefully those who are driving the comic publishing companies are keeping the fact that without these comics being published there wouldn't have been any of this IP that they are all so excited to option out for movies and television, because at the end of the day (once this fad has passed by comics again) all that any of us are going to be left with are the comics themselves. Kind of like where we all started.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Gangsters and Gun Molls

This Friday, from 6-10pm Second Life Time I will be hosting a night of retro jazz and blues at my new place in world, St. Dismas' Infirmary. The SLurl for St. Dismas' is: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Healy/217/37/98

Table Top RPGs and Second Life

This post is a bit rough, it's more about some ideas that are floating around in my head than anything else. After almost four years at it, I spend a lot of time in Second Life. I have friends there from all over the world -- geeks, gamers and in-between. There is a lot of gaming that goes on in Second Life, not a lot of it is what those of us who play and design table top RPGs might recognize (some might not even accept it as being what we do), but for me it is the same thing. Some use Second Life as a virtual table top, while others use Second Life for a more immersive, narrative style of play that is more about consensual choices than hard and fast rules.

As a game designer, it's the former that has more bearing on me than the later. One thing that I've thought about for a while is a way to sell to these people, people who are looking for in world tools to enhance their virtual table top. Setting up an in world store with scripted items that could handle things like dice rolling, and similar game tasks like that, is easy enough. My question has always been: How do we get them the rules? And in what format? Second Life doesn't support, unfortunately, epublishing formats that are used by game publishers. That means you end up with a split of in world for the gaming, out of world for the rules. At that point you might as well just use any of the virtual table top tools that are out there. I don't know. I think this is something that can be done. I think this is a market that can be reached, with people who are already involved with role-playing in some format or another but who haven't made that leap to table top gaming.

One of the other hurdles to overcome, would be the accessibility of rule sets. In a table top group it isn't unusual for one or two of the people to be the only ones possessing copies of the rules, while the rest of the group shares. That is a long stand and accepted practice for gaming groups. You can't really do that in the virtual world without promoting piracy, or using quick starts. Neither of which are really useful to game publishers. I know that Troll Lord Games released their StarSIEGE game with a set of core rules, and also a handful of player's books that could be used at the table. This is the sort of thing that would be needed for virtual table tops as well: a virtual boxed set that allows the GM to purchase the rules and then has a sub-license (perhaps) that allows the GM to share copies of player's guides with the people in his virtual gaming group. I imagine this would work something like a site license for software does.

Obviously, this is a high trust option for publishers. There's really nothing that would keep GMs from giving out the player's guides to anyone that they wanted, since PDF technology doesn't really allow for a "cap" on the number of copies you can make of something. It also wouldn't stop players from passing along their PDFs either.

These player's guides wouldn't be complete games. They would be minimal, at best, explaining the basics of how the games mechanics works and allowing the options for character creation. Of course, that is a lot of an RPG. It would be up to the publisher to include as much extra value into these "virtual boxed sets" as possible: rich, well-developed worlds, lots of advice and help for GMs in running virtual games, and etc. It would take some doing, but I can see this as something that has the potential to fly. It has a lot of potential risks too, obviously.

Something to thing about today.

Friday, October 08, 2010

NYCC: Godzilla Finds New Stomping Grounds at IDW - Comic Book Resources

The biggest star in motion pictures prepares to wreak havoc once again! IDW Publishing is thrilled to announce a partnership with Toho Co., Ltd. to create all-new GODZILLA comics. Starting in 2011, Godzilla will smash his way back onto the scene with a cast of characters from his films never before seen in comics.

'This new series will be monsters and mayhem, but most importantly, it’s going to be a lot of fun,' said Yukio Kotaki of Toho. 'Godzilla has been gone from comics for too long and we feel that IDW is the perfect company to welcome him back in 2011.'

In addition to the King of the Monsters himself, the new comics from IDW Publishing and Toho Co., Ltd. will feature many of Godzilla’s friends and foes, including MOTHRA™, KING GHIDORAH™, RODAN™ and more that have never before been featured in an American comic book series alongside Godzilla. With an impressive cast of monsters both old and new, IDW’s series will treat fans to both familiar themes and original takes on the pop culture legends that have stomped, smashed, and fought their way across movie screens for over five decades.

'Not only is Godzilla known worldwide, he’s loved worldwide, too. Having a film career with more than 25 movies and going on a 56-year span pretty much solidifies you as a legend, and IDW is really looking forward to contributing to that legacy,' said Chris Ryall, Chief Creative Officer and Editor-in Chief for IDW Publishing. 'We wanted Godzilla to return to comics, but this time we wanted him to have some company. I think fans will be pleased with the monster guest appearances, which will really offer something for every fan of these films. There are the classic characters, but there are also a few surprises, too.'

Debuting in February 2011, fans can expect to see a number of unique storylines from some of the industry’s top creators.

Visit IDWPublishing.com to learn more about the company and its top-selling books.


Thursday, October 07, 2010

DC and Marvel Cut Prices on $3.99 Books to $2,99

DC Cuts $3.99 Ongoing Series to $2.99

Beginning January 2011, DC Comics will implement a line-wide pricing adjustment, lowering the prices of all standard length 32-page ongoing comic book titles currently priced at $3.99 to $2.99, it was announced today by DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio.

'Today’s announcement re-affirms DC Comics’ commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers,' said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. 'For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.'
and then, an hour later:

Marvel Drops $3.99 Price on New Titles


Less than an hour after their primary competitor announced an across the board drop to a $2.99 price point, Marvel Comics today also announced at least a partial move away from the often criticized $3.99 price for new serialized superhero comics.
During the ICv2 Conference On Comics & Digital – a Thursday afternoon industry pre-event to New York Comic Con – Marvel Senior Vice President of Sales & Circulation David Gabriel confirmed that new books launching in January 2011 will not debut at $3.99. 'A lot of talk I've heard [today is] about the pricing increases overall...because of the digital comics sales, prices will decrease,' he said as part of a panel whose focus was Print Vs. Digital.

I wonder how much of this is due to economic trickle down factors? Yes, there is the usual counter argument that comics are a luxury item...but do the people making the books seem to think that? I would think that a luxury item would increase in price due to economic factors rather than decrease.

I wonder what impact, if any, this will have on table top gaming? I know that a lot of people say the same about gaming, that they are luxury items and already underpriced as it is. But comics have always been remarkable inflation (or bad economy) proof. Historically comics did best during times of economic downturn. I know that a lot of geeks tend to have fairly bad credit due to too many impluse purchases outside of their means. Could all of this be catching up to the geek industries?