Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Donation Fund


Normally, this is something that I would post to social media (because of its immediacy and short duration), but I was having trouble with getting the links to work...so off to the blog.

+Jerry Grayson of Khepera Publishing has put together a gigantic bundle of gaming material, crossing back and forth between indie and traditional games, in order to raise money to help the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. From the bundle page:
You can support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its fight to protect its waters and sacred places by purchasing this RPG bundle. All proceeds go to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe - Dakota Access Pipeline Donation Fund 
http://standingrock.org/
You get full games like +Meguey Baker's 1001 Nights, the English translation of the Spanish retroclone Adventures in the East Mark, Age of Arthur by +Paul Mitchener and +Graham Spearing, Reign by +Greg StolzeAMP Year One by +Eloy Lasanta, Grayson's Atlantis: The Second Age and Mythic D6 and others.

You also get support for White StarLabyrinth Lord and Adventurer, Conqueror, King and other games.

You get fiction from Evil Hat Productions and other publishers.

You get all of this for $40 from RPGNow.

There is so much good in this bundle, and $40 for all that you get is a steal.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Warhammer 40K Comic From Titan Comics


After a thousand years, violent warp storms have receded from the Calaphrax Cluster, and an ancient battlefront in the war against Chaos has again been opened to the universe.

Now, multiple forces risk complete immolation to attack the sector – drawn by the lure of ancient relics, lost knowledge, and powerful megaweapons, buried for aeons. Chief among those forces, the fearsome Dark Angels, emerald-armored Space Marines, shock-troopers of the Emperor’s Imperium and indomitable defenders of humanity. But Chaos stirs in the warp, and the Dark Angels will not be alone for long!

Based in the universe of the ever-popular miniatures game, novels, and videogames, this new ongoing series is perfect for both the hardcore Warhammer 40,000 fan and the complete newcomer!





Hitting stores on October 12, 2016, the new Warhammer 40,000 comic sees writer George Mann (Dark Souls, Warhammer Black Library, Eighth Doctor) and artists Tazio Bettin (Independence Day, Sally of the Wasteland) and Enrica Eren Angiolini, take the series to new heights with the first adventure, entitled “Will of Iron”. The story follows Baltus, a Dark Angel newly-elevated to the rank of Space Marine, as he is baptized on the bloody battlefield and uncovers the price his Chapter has paid for victory! Secrets as old as the Horus Heresy are on the verge of being revealed...






Titan Comics has released a variant cover that will be specific to comic shops that are taking part in Local Comic Shop Day. Check the event's website to see if your local store is participating.




Monday, September 12, 2016

Lucky 13: The Thirteenth Anniversary Of The Dorkland! Blog


Typically I just let the anniversaries of the blog come and go. For the 10th Anniversary I launched the short-lived Geeky Voices Carry vidcast/podcast. It was short-lived because of scheduling, and because doing that sort of thing was a lot of work.

I just thought that I would commemorate things with a quick post for the 13th Anniversary of the blog.

I started the Dorkland! Blog in September of 2003 because there was a lot going on in my life at the time and the blog gave me a place to talk about things that were unrelated to all of that, and give me a little bit of mental breathing space that I might not have had otherwise. The blog has always had a general "geeky" focus to it because I felt that would give me the most space to talk about whatever it is that I want to talk about. I drift around between comics, gaming and music mostly, because these are the topics that most interest me.

I've never really been a constant poster. My idea has always been to post when something grabs my attention, and I want to talk about it, rather than because I think that I have to have X number of posts in a day, or a week. Honestly, I think that is a big factor as to why I have kept the blog going for so long.

A long time ago, around 2002, I found a book at the library by an author named Rebecca Blood. It had the weird title of The Weblog Manual, and it talked about something that I had never heard of before: blogging. The book is still in print (even available for the Kindle these days). Even though most of the information is rooted in those early days of blogging, it can still provide a valuable insight into where blogging came from, and what people thought that it would become.

When I started the Dorkland! Blog I was still living in Cleveland, trying to work out the path of a new "adventure" that I had started upon. Most of what I do here is opinion writing, my reviews and talk about trends and happening in geeky things, but that is because when I was studying journalism in high school and college, opinion writing was always my preferred style of writing. It could be more personal, and a better reflection not just of ourselves, but of the world that we wanted to see outside of our windows.

I still feel that way. Guest writers and semi-regular posters have come and gone throughout the last thirteen years, but each of them were picked because they fit into what I thought was the point of view of this blog.I think that is important, having a point of view, when doing something like a blog. Some use blogging to grab attention for themselves. Some use blogging because they are angry about something. For me, blogging and the Dorkland! Blog has always been about a desire to share the things that I love, and to talk about why I love them. However, just because I love something, it doesn't mean that I am blind to its faults or shortcomings. A lot of the problems that I have with geeky communities, online and off, come from the fact that I love these things and think that we can all do so much better than we are doing. Because I love these things, and I want to share them with as many people as possible, I don't want hate in our shared spaces: hate of race, hate of gender, hate of sexuality. Like Walt Whitman said in the epic American poem of Song of Myself: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

The geeky communities contain multitudes, a teeming mass of people defined not as much by the similarities but by their differences. It is these contradictions that give the communities their richness, because there is so much that we would not see or experience without those contradictions.

There is still a lot of work to be done within many aspects of these communities. I think that the first step is to realize that we aren't all the same, outside maybe of the "geeky" things that we like to consume. Even those things aren't all the same, nor are they consumed in the same way. We need to better see the contradictions within ourselves, and each other, so that we can find the commonalities that can shape communities, rather than doing it the other way around.

One of the things that has changed the most in the years that I have been a blogger has been blogging itself. You can see this by looking at the earliest posts on this blog. Then called a "weblog," the idea was mostly to keep a log of websites that you regularly visited so that others who shared the same interests as you could find sites and articles of interest to you. Search engines existed, but they were no where near as refined or ubiquitous as they are today, so often that meant that you relied on discovering others with your interests to guide your way through the internet.

Slowly, but surely, blogging developed into something akin to journalism, when in the right hands, and that was alright with me because of my background in journalism. But it shows that blogging isn't something static, and how you approach it should change with time. Let's see what happens in the next thirteen years.



Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Second Alternity Design Blog

Sasquatch Game Studio has released their second design blog for their new Alternity game, and this one actually has some meat to it, because they are talking about the core die mechanic for the new game. I think that this will also please a lot of fans of the original Alternity.

We do have to remember that they're still early in the design process, so this can all be subject to change.

The original Alternity used a roll under a target number mechanic. They used a "step die" mechanic to modify the rolls, where the total of other dice would be added or subtracted, according to the difficulty.

The new game is going to use an interesting flip of that idea. You have a target number. Attribute and skill ranks are subtracted from that number, making that the new target number. Then you roll a d20, add or subtract the step die depending on how it is modifying things, and if your roll is greater than the target number you succeed at the action.

While the thinking may take a little getting used to in play, it does seem like an easy enough way to handle resolution.This is going to have a degree of success (or failure) as well, and I think that this will add verisimilitude to the rolling. I am all for adding critical success and failure to game resolution because I think it can make the rolls more meaningful. I know that bidding mechanics can do a similar thing, but I think that you lose some of the uncertainty, and degree of success can add a thrill to a particularly well-done die roll.

So, we're starting to get an idea of how the mechanics will shape up for the new Alternity game, and I think that is good. Since the nature of this new game precludes using the old mechanics that means we need to see how the new game will work. I'd like to see some character creation information up next, hopefully a sample with enough meat to it that we'll get an idea of what characters will look like, and be capable of, in the new game.

It looks like science fiction/fantasy gaming is getting its turn at a resurgence, between the return of Alternity, EN Publishing's role-playing game N.E.W. and Paizo's science fantasy game Starfinder. Since science fiction is one of the genres that I enjoy most, I am excited to see that my tastes are getting some love from RPG publishers.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Flashback: Empire of Satanis By Darrick Dishaw

A lot of people probably don't remember the indie RPG known as Empire of Satanis. There are some pretty good reasons for that, but I thought that on this long American holiday weekend that we could take a look at the "classic" game by Darrick Dishaw.

My capsule review is that Empire of Satanis is a jejune attempt at horror role-playing that draws upon the overused tropes of 80s and 90s horror movies that you have probably already seen used (often more intelligently) in a multitude of other games.

He might be better remembered as the guy who "cursed" RPGNet after he received some bad reviews for his game on the site. The "curse" is probably of better quality than some of the writing in Empire of Satanis, which is kind of disappointing. The curse is kind of funny and sad, and definitely worth repeating here:
Hail Satan! Lord of the Pit! King of Hell! Ruler of the Earth! Master of the Abyss! I open the unknowable doorways and touch the violet flame, drink the revitalizing blood and break the skulls of those who cross Him or His brothers. I call upon the most vicious demons of Hell to intervene. From this night forth, you will be plagued by self-doubt, weakness, failure, hopelessness, hunger, pain, loss, insecurity, and envy. Nothing can save you and no one will come to your aid. All who have befriended you will now desert you in your hour of need. 
In the name of the Ancient Ones, I curse those who tear down Empire of Satanis! May Satan have no mercy whatsoever upon your miserable souls. 
Hail Satan! 
So it is done! 
Darrick Dishaw 
However, it does help to demonstrate the mishmash of conflicting influences that went into the game, not to mention how the author seems to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Empire of Satanis is presented as a metatextual attempt at creating a religion that draws upon Satanism and the fictional worlds of H.P. Lovecraft. We will, of course, overlook the obvious inconsistency of using the writings of an avowed atheist as the basis for a religion.

This review looks at the revised and expanded version of the game from 2011.

The presentation isn't much to look at. It looks as though the PDF was made from a Microsoft Word file with minimal formatting and no art. This is DIY RPG at its most basic. The image above is apparently the front cover, but it isn't included in the PDF.

The ideas of this game: demonic forces powered by corruption, Satanic Hell dimensions and progressing through acts of evil are nothing new in RPGs. But games like the horror classic Kult and writers like Rafael Chandler have handled these themes in much more intelligent and entertaining manners.

With Empire of Satanis we get a regurgitation of imagery stolen from movies like Hellraiser.

The presentation of the material moves between first and third person. I would assume that this is an attempt at immersion into the setting of the game. Perhaps it could work with a more skilled hand, as it has with the many other games that have dipped into this overdrawn well of inspiration.

The game outlines a number of demonic races that can be the basis of player characters, as well as some very, very brief ideas on how they react to each other. There are some interesting ideas to be found in this section of the game, but the brevity with which they are handled makes them hard to utilize within the game.

Creatures that you will encounter aren't given writeups, however. Most of the pieces of the setting are only given a page or two of description at most. The information isn't going to be enough to be useful in running a game without a great deal of work on the part of the GM.

Mechanically, the game uses a simple d6-based mechanic. There is an interesting idea to it because, while you roll a certain number of six sided dice each time, you don't add them together. Instead, you just take the highest roll on all of the dice. This is the "success number" for your roll. If it beats the target number of the task being resolved, the character succeeds at that task. Rolls of a six are what is commonly known as an exploding die. Each six is rerolled, until you get something other than a six. Add all of those together for the "success number."

On the surface, this mechanic is simple and it seems like a good way to handle things. But, the problem is that there aren't any modifiers to rolls that will significantly impact the resolution checks. This means that, without an exploding die action, characters will never be able to succeed at tasks more difficult than the highest number on the six-siders. Ironically, this means that a character can't succeed at an average (target number of 7) difficulty task or higher. That sounds like it could be a problem for characters.

There are interesting mechanical ideas that fall flat because the implementation of them haven't been thought out by the designer.

The character creation rules are jumbled. Things that should be advantages, or special abilities, for characters are instead set up as skills. This means that a character's inborn ability to see in the "secret darkness of the universe" will as often as not fail. That kind of sucks for a character.

Now, the "indieness" of the game comes in the "story alteration" mechanic. Again, it is a good idea spoiled by a mechanical implementation that was not thought out by the designer. The player gets to "declare a basic idea" of what will happen, and then they roll a single d6. On a six, the player's idea occurs in the game. This is a popular idea that you see in a lot of indie games anymore. There is a sort of sacrifice that is built into the game, where you can spend points of the character's Social Standing attribute, or Hit Points, to modify the story alteration roll. These expenditures can change the chances from 1 in 6 to 3 in 6.

Magic is freeform in the game (which probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone). Damage is easy, you pick a difficulty for your spell, and that is how much damage it does. Of course, due to what I talked about earlier, your character isn't going to be able to get an Average difficulty success or better.

Basically, Empire of Satanis is a role-playing game like so many that has a lot more enthusiasm than merit, rending the game to be practically unplayable by gaming groups. The background could be of use with a gaming system that works, and it wouldn't take anymore work to get the setting material to work in that setting than it would to use it with the "system" presented in this book.

The book is also peppered with enough Thomas Ligotti quotes that he should get a cut of the profits.

Check out the links provided at the top of this post. The PDF is freely available at Lulu.com. I think that you'll find out that I'm not exaggerating about the lack of quality in this game. Empire of Satanis isn't even FATAL, because at least the awfulness of that game was original. You aren't going to find anything original in Empire of Satanis.

Dishaw is still nipping at the edges of the online RPG scene, these days under the uninspired nom du guerre of Venger Satanis. These days his strategies seem to be built around whipping angry, middle aged white guys into a frenzy over a world that has passed them by. Like a lot of "personalities" in the online RPG community, whipping up anger is easier than having creativity.

I await the flood of minions sealioning this post. I thank you in advance for the traffic to my blog.



Friday, September 02, 2016

Munchkin Grimm Tidings Comes To Walgreens?


Once again the people at Steve Jackson Games kick in a door and take some loot. This time the door that they're kicking in belongs to the retail drugstore chain Walgreens. Their latest Munckin game, Grimm Tidings, will be available exclusively at your friendly neighborhood Walgreens drugstore.



After getting their games into mass market chains like Wal-Mart and Target, as well as bookstores like Barnes & Noble, the company is looking to a place that you don't see many hobby games in: the drugstore toy aisle. Will it succeed for them and get Munchkin an even bigger market than it already has? Time will tell. But, say what you will about Steve Jackson Games, when many other companies are looking for new markets, they are making them.


Munchkin: Grimm Tidings is due to arrive in Walgreens locations in the next couple of weeks.