The Sakuracon Desert

 

I’m a senior staffer working for Sakuracon, the largest anime con in the Northwest. I’ve been building a database or making costume parts in my remaining spare time for the last week and a half, and con starts in 12 hours. The next 4 days are a dead zone; I should resume posting on Monday, God willing.
In atonement for my asshattery in not posting, I present my badge image. The base is by an unknown fan-artist and found via Pixiv, a fantastic (if porn-riddled) Japanese art site.  I added the Zeon flag and photoshopped the gradient, admittedly a little crudely. Badge image 2013

And now, for something completely different:

I spent all day watching sports.
Figure skating.

…Well, that and a con meeting.

Here, you can watch Asada Mao perform to the Mary Poppins suite in the closing gala from the 2013 ISU championships. She’s done it before, but this is amazing work. She’s long been one of my favorite performers; watching her “thaw out” facially during a performance is always fun.

Patrick Chan’s world-record short program. Just… holy shit. Holy SHIT.

He deserves literally everything he got and more, the man is smooth.

Phoning it in: A review of Pokemon Generation V

So, now that Gen VI has heaved its bulk into view, and as Gen V is winding down, I thought I’d put up some of my thoughts on V.

Things I like:
• The breeding game is very, very well-supported. Dream World abilities add depth, the mechanics changed subtly but in helpful ways, and the addition of the Nursery, Restaurant, and Salon in Black 2 remove a lot of the drudgery, grinding, and shitty roadblocks in the game.
• Other endgame activities are also well-supported. The tournaments in B/W2 featuring the actual top teams from worlds is an especially nice touch, but it’s just nice to have something to do every day other than grind and breed.
• There are more opportunities to earn experience, and faster. The stadia in particular pull thirty levels of grinding down to a 5-minute proposition instead of a friggin’ day.
• Black and White threw out the “old standards” and completely isolated the Unova region. You had to start from scratch and work your way up. Many of the new pokemon were interesting or at least something original, and you had to explore the capabilities and uses of the new type combos and movepools. My favorite part of Black was not having to deal with the cruft from previous games.
• The new movepools were, by and large, interesting and fun to develop.
• The ancillary games and off-cart support provided by TPC – Dream Radar, the Dream World, the new pokedex apps – are excellent. Full stop.

Things that I don’t like:
• You know how they supported the endgame? It seems to have been completely at the expense of standard, one-player gameplay.
Stop holding my fucking hand, handing out all the “prizes” like candy and forcing me into long irritating expositions that literally lead me by the nose into the gyms or the next fight.
Make at least some of the fights an actual challenge, instead of 99% complete walkovers even on a speedrun. Most of the toughest fights in Gen V were ordinary trainers in the Stadia and on the field, and that’s bullshit. I shouldn’t be able to take a flying gym using only a water starter and a bug/grass pokemon that are both 10 levels under the Gym Leader’s… The Elite Four were particularly egregious here; all of their pokes were weak to either Ghost/Dark or Fighting, and you could easily sweep them with 2 Pokemon.
• Sidequests are basically nonexistent.
• Don’t take away my damned pokemon daycare/breeding until the endgame. It’s a useful tool, and one I miss sorely.
• B/W2 dropped the “isolated region” conceit, making the initial playthrough less fun for me.
• You know all those Dream World pokemon? The ones that make breeding more interesting? How about you release them all instead of dicking with us for three years and then, like all the other generations, abandoning support and any remaining un-released promotions and content as soon as the next gen comes out in Japan? (Yes, I’m still sore about HeartGold/SoulSilver and DPP, how could you tell?)
• Like many Japanese game companies TPC are, and continue to be, self-absorbed dicks (can you tell I played FFXI a lot?). If you release a Wi-Fi/Dream World promotion in Japan (I understand leaving the new pokecenter stuff, &c, in JP-land), release something, preferably at the same time, in the States and Europe; guarantee us support for the lifetime of the gen instead of the Generational Death March. For Arceus’ sake, it’s not like you actually have to write new friggin’ code,  all the releases are just sitting there waiting to go. Also, stop making JP-ONRY tournaments and then forcing all the other unwashed regions to compete only in global tourneys.
• Making “sight” count towards pokedex completion. Bear with me here.. because of this, they limited the Gym Leaders and Trainers to only things available to the player up to that point. It seriously diminished both the difficulty and the mystery of the game; fighting things you don’t have and can’t get until after you defeat the boss gives you an idea of their capabilities and a reason to want them.
• Making the game “all new” presented some problems. Many of the “new” pokemon were – just like in Gen II and III and IV – reskinned and slightly retouched versions of previous lines (Look, it’s a Blaziken only slow and a little beefier; a machop, only tragically ugly; a pidgey with better crits; a Muk only ugly as Hell..). Even some of the genuinely new things seemed like they were just trowing type combos at the wall and seeing what stuck (Chandelure stuck. Mmmm, did it stick).
It also prevented the devs from cleaning up real gaps in the Pokedex, which they haven’t touched since Gen III. I understand why they abandoned Jynx while upgrading Magmar and Electabuzz

jolsonovalPictured: the third evolution of Jynx.

– but a lot of the other holes have no such excuse. Gen VI is showing some promise here. The new Eveelution suggests that they’re finally rounding out those holes a little (or giving Gym Leaders or the Final Four personal unique pokemon, which I’m also cool with). Whether they’ll patch up some of the other type holes that were ignored in Gen II? Up in the air right now. At least we look to be getting three monotype starters again, which makes my Fire-loving heart go pit-a-pat.

I enjoyed many parts of Gen V, but HG/SS remains the best (if not best-supported) game TPC has put out in a long time. Here’s to seeing Gen VI fix a few of those problems; maybe I can even get my wife to start playing again. She abandoned Gen V in the Cold Storage zone and never looked back, for most of the gameplay-related reasons I outlined in the “what I don’t like” section.

[disclaimer: no challenge to trademarks intended, yada yada, all copyrighted materials presented for educational or review purposes under the doctrine of Fair Use. Copyright trolls can suck it and I live for the day the terms are reduced back to <50 years and required commercial exploitation, leaving you parasites to guzzle frantically at the teat of other people’s work instead of hoarding it. Image of Al Jolson in the public domain.]

Literary inspiration: The Works of William Morris

William Morris was an artist and academic who lived and worked in the mid-late 19th Century. He was a philologist and translator, concerned mostly (though not entirely) with ancient Germanic sagas. He also wrote poetry, illuminated and bound books, was part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement (of whom I am inordinately fond) and wrote the odd bit of fantasy. He pushed hard to beautify and improve book printing and binding techniques. Where does this intersect with gaming?
His linguistic works were an influence on many scholars of the early and middle 20th century – scholars like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. His fantasy works also influenced bloody Dunsany, and Wagner, and Tolkien, and Lewis… Indeed, they were so influential Tolkien called them the “foundation of his work”. By that he meant all his work, academic and creative. JRRT’s first work was a pastiche of one of Morris’ translations written in the style of House of the Wulflings. He even lifted characters and names from Morris for Lord of the Rings (remember, works actually went into the public domain for the first half of the 20th century..) and arguably improved both the characters themselves and the quality of his own work.

Morris’ interests jive well with my own (substitute “anime, weaponry, and martial arts ” for “socialism” and you’ve pretty much got the list). His works are showing me connections unthought-of  between all manner of topics, and between stories I never thought were related. Plus I’m getting helpful tips on book-binding :b

Since his work is in the public domain, I’ve taken the liberty of hunting up the best scans of some of his many works; I encourage you to delve into the writings of one of the foundations of modern fantasy, and into the sagas and legends that have provided me and countless others with inspiration.

Pdf Format:
The Story of Grettir the Strong,
The Doom of King Acresius,
The Story of Sigurd the Volsung, and the Fall of the Neibelungen,
The Sundering Flood,
The Roots of the Mountains, (and the 1879 version – much prettier, but some scan issues)
The Well at the World’s End
The First Adam and the Last Adam, (poetry)
The House of the Wolflings 1890 edition, and also the 1892 edition
Text (No PDF available)
The Hollow Land,

Books published by his press (these are smegging gorgeous)
Sidonia the Sorceress,
Some German Woodcuts.. (exactly what it says on the tin)
The Story of Glitterin Moor

Sunday Sun Tzu: Introduction

I’m starting a feature here as I iron out a posting schedule and fire up in earnest. Bear with me as I hammer it into shape.

This will be an analysis and commentary on the Art of War from the perspective of a gamer, veteran, and sometime philosopher. I am using three translations at the moment:
The first is the Sonshi (a Japanese translation of a very early date), which preserves more of the original commentaries, but is very, very hard for me to read.
Second is Lionel Giles’ solid but somewhat archaic translation from 1910; he eliminates most of the commentary for readability.
Finally, I’m using Gen. Samuel Griffith’s frequently unduly free translation of 1963. That’s a vicious insult in interpreting/translating circles, but justified here: the General rearranges large sections of the book to fit his own notions, and frequently attacks commentators for their “incomplete” understanding, while rendering many clearly idiomatic passages* literally and vice versa. He does, however, preserve more commentary than Giles, and all his changes are indicated in the excellent footnotes. Griffith also has a very readable style.

*For instance, ignoring the common usage of “one thousand” in both Japanese and Chinese to mean “A great many” and niggling over the exact distance one thousand Li covers in the footnotes.

There will also be annotations and quotes from other relevant works: when I’ve exhausted the man from Ch’i, I’ve got quite a library to pull from for other discussions. I’m sure someone else has done this, but like any interpretation there’s always new and personal ground to cover…

So, on to our first quotation.

Griffith: Chapter II, verses 4-9 (he splits the first verse of the chapter)

When the army engages in protracted campaigns, the resources of the state will not suffice. When your weapons are dulled and your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, neighboring rulers will take advantage of your distress to act. And even though you have wise counsellors, none will be able to lay good plans for the future. For there has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefitted. Thus, those unable to understand the dangers inherent in employing troops are equally unable to understand the advantageous ways of doing so. Those adept in war do not require a second levy of conscripts nor more than one provisioning^1.

1:(From Griffith’s commentary:) [The commentators indulge in lengthy discussions as to the number of provisionings. What is written is, “they do not need three”. That is, they require.. one when they depart and a second when they come back.. Following Cao Cao.. ‘they do not require to be again provisioned.’..]

Giles: Chapter II, verses 3-8

Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays^1. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.

(from Giles’ own commentary in the 1910 edition) 1: [This concise and difficult sentence is not well explained by any of the commentators. Ts`ao Kung, Li Ch`uan, Meng Shih, Tu Yu, Tu Mu and Mei Yao-ch`en have notes to the effect that a general, though naturally stupid, may nevertheless conquer through sheer force of rapidity. Ho Shih says: “Haste may be stupid, but at any rate it saves expenditure of energy and treasure; protracted operations may be very clever, but they bring calamity in their train.” ..[Sun Tzu says] something much more guarded, namely that, while speed may sometimes be injudicious, tardiness can never be anything but foolish, if only because it means impoverishment to the nation…]

Heavy-duty logistics questions? For the first analysis? Why not!
There are several good points in here for both the dungeon crawlers and the wargamers out there.
First: The longer you dick around in a situation, and therefore the more rolls you make, the more likely it is that something shitty will happen to you. Don’t be a dumbass, charging around overstretched, but the only thing “resting for the night” every time your wizards’ spells are exhausted does for you is waste time, light, and food.
When you run out of food, of HP, of oil and rope, that’s when kobolds and 0-level human bandits stop being nuisances and start coming for your scalps.
As a wargamer: if you sit around constantly, never attacking and always playing the safe game, you’re going to get sloppy. You’ll miss the chance to attack when you should, or chose keeping to cover over hammering the unit going for a critical objective.
Second: You have to remember that you’re bleeding resources every second you’re in a dungeon or the wilderness. Get your shit done and go home, or you’ll waste all your money on boring things like arrows and food and torches instead of the true motivation of an adventurer [image slightly nsfw]1286939396890Third: Remember that fighting isn’t always wise – or profitable. You’re risking your life and your bottom line every time you draw steel: make damned sure you know what you have to gain, because it’s pretty obvious what you have to lose. For those of you who actually have “sacred” honor, of course, losing it far worse than just dying – but you can lose that honor in a fight just as easily as you can defend or gain it, and often preserve it without risking a shanking.

Fourth:
Good planning isn’t just about getting out alive. The best plan is one where you get in and get out with what you came for.  If you need to reload on henchmen and horses every time you come back to town, what little there is left to buy is going to skyrocket in price (see also ch. II, verse 11/12). You’re not going to be getting the bravest and best in the city if every man who follows you dies – you’ll be lucky to recruit the hopeless alkie beggars before long. Even the Chaotic/Evil thieves that normally volunteer to go along (and rip you off) will take one look at your people and go, “not worth the blade-venom”.
Wargamers: it doesn’t matter if you seize the objective quickly if your force isn’t enough to hold it, because you’re just going to have to keep reinforcing it. Every reinforcement you divert wastes not just units (and by extension, the points you buy them with), but time. As a general on the tabletop, that’s your most limited resource

An interpretation that both of the G’s ignore here is “Stop throwing good money after bad”. If you’re losing a struggle, look at what the best outcome could be for you. Weigh it against what you have to lose. If you can’t really “win” anymore, lose as fast and gently as you can.. There are things you can’t unsay and shit you can’t undo, but you can recover from an easy loss and go back in later.

From the Archives: The Song of Silence (Monster)

The Singing Seeming
Outsider, incorporeal, magres50, Lawful, Mindless, Flying, Solitary, No Treasure, Non-aggressive, d30 table

#Appearing: 1 (v. rarely, 1-4)
AC 9 (10)
MV: 30′ (float)
HD: 3
Lair: 0% (no lair)
Morale: 9
Treasure: None
Attacks: 0, Special damage (see below)
Defenses: Incorporeal, limited spell immunity (see below)
Magic Resistance: 50%
Alignment: Lawful
Intelligence: Mindless
Size M (3-6′)
XP: as 4HD creature (non-damaging balances against its special attacks and defenses)

.     .These ghostly beings are lost, wandering notes – warped echoes of the forgotten songs of Creation. Seemings wander the Prime stealing the voices of all they encounter, trying desperately to correctly reproduce the complex chords that are their very existence and rejoin the Great Song. They manifest as translucently glowing humanoids with long, ornamented hair in violently unnatural colors. Strange lights play about a Seeming, reacting to nearby sounds (treat as permanent Dancing Lights, shifting colors to match songs or mood) as it hovers gently in mid-air, moving at a walking pace unless disturbed or frightened.
.     .When it finds a being who captures its attention, the Seeming will point at it, open its own mouth, and seem to inhale violently. Only a being who is physically capable of speaking meaningfully and making vocal music can be affected (they don’t have to be good at it, but someone with their tongue cut out or a mechanical blockage is immune to the effect). The character, who is chosen randomly unless someone is singing, humming, whistling, &c in the initial encounter, must save vs. Polymorph (Fort) or lose their voice instantly. If the theft is blocked, the creature will make a Morale check: if passed, it will try to harvest another voice from the party each round.
.     .Only one voice at a time can be stolen. The Seeming will keep it for 1d6 rounds, or one round per “level”/HD of the voice stolen, whichever is larger. Each round, they will attempt to sing a note, with slightly different effects each time (roll on the table below). After the duration given above, the Seeming will appear angered or frustrated, and choose another target. The previous voice is returned to its owner as soon as it steals a new one. The player receiving the voice must make a second save vs. Polymorph or remain unable to speak coherently for 1 turn for each round the voice was stolen; if they pass, the effect lasts the same number of rounds. If the Seeming flees or tries all available voices, it will move off, singing softly as it goes in the last voice stolen: this voice is not returned until the Seeming is killed/banished or finds another victim.
.     .Singing Seemings are completely non-hostile and take no overtly offensive action, even though their activities have dangerous side-effects. They are incorporeal, and their deep connection to Creation shrugs off most magic. A Seeming will attempt to flee if it takes damage or is subjected to a particularly discordant (though not necessarily loud) sound. If Silence or a suitable anti-magic spell is cast on a Seeming, it automatically affects the Seeming: it must release its current voice and cannot sing or generate visual effects and will usually flee immediately. They appear mindless, and cannot be affected by psychic emanations or mind-controlling dweomers, though Protection spells hedge them and block the theft effect.
.     .An observant Magic-user may be inspired to recast their own spells into song, or use songs to reproduce a magical effect. The exact difficulty and effects are up to the DM, but with the Seeming’s primal connection to True Name magic, they are a grand muse for research.

Song Effects Table

Roll 1d30, or 1d6 and 1d10 (with 1-2 = 0nes, 3-4 = add 10, 5-6 add 20)  Add the “donating” character’s Charisma modifier to this roll. Clerics’ voices add +1, Bards’ +2, and Elves’/Mages’ -2. At GM’s discretion, other modifiers may be applied.
Effects are considered to be cast by a Magic-user of the 5th level.
All: all beings in the area
Area: everything in the area
Single : one random sentient individual
Special: see description
Seeming Table

A Sauce of the New Worlde

The which made with Peppers, Tomatillos, and such other Sundries as a Housewif might find in that Place

………………………………………………………………………………

To Make a Quater-Gallon by the English Measure

Take up a pair of Tomatoes, firm and Ripe, and chop them rough. Put them to a slow fire in a Pot not of Metall with such Vinegar and Water as will cover them. To them put a half-spoonful of flavor-full Salt.

Chop fine a Sweet Pepper and a Half, or thereabouts, and cast it into an Earthen bowl.

To this add one chop’t Onion and three Cloves of Garlick crushed and fine minced.

Over it, strow a Heap’t Spoon-full or a little more of Smok’t Peppers (Those of Ancho provide Savor, but no great Heat) and dried powder of Garlick in the same Quantity.

When the Tomato be soft and yeilding, let it Cool.

Put all the Mixt’res to a Crock or Jar and remove to the Root-cellar or such other Place, dark and cool as ye may find. In Three Days will it be ready for the Table.

Top Five games ever, played and run

Gnome Stew and the Tower of Zenopus (not to be confused with Zenopus’ Archives..) brought up an – apparently rather old- trend, naming your most-played/most run games. Because I am both lazy and running short on floor space, I’m only doing the top five of each. This actually boosts the difference between the two lists, which I think will be more interesting than just repeating the same shit a couple of times. Note that these aren’t my favorite games, just the most-used ones.

So, Most-played

SDC10061
AD&D 2e: The obvious one for a dude my age. I started playing in ’98, and played intermittently through 2011. My longest-running character – one who survived three campaigns, and currently sits at the elbow – was a 2e guy. I’ve probably been in thirty or forty AD&D2 games, although more than half died in one night. I’ve run it a lot less, because the 2e groups I got into in the Navy meant I didn’t have to run the fucking game all the damned time (a running theme, in fact, for the rest of the “most played” section).  While 2e died on the vine once 3e came out, I still played a few games in it, and even ran one for about 6 months a couple years ago.

Old World of Darkness, by way of Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Combined, because otherwise they’d take up too much room all by themselves. Of my groups in Lemoore, one ran OWoD pretty much exclusively (even though it overlapped about 60% with my other group at the time). Never ran it, but love the game to bits. My group was rather more combat-oriented than most, which led to a LOT of character deaths among my, ahem, less-optimized characters. Ironically, one of my longest-running characters was a “squishie” Human hunter with no supernatural abilities whatosever (other than balls of pure steel, high social stats, and True Faith 5). Total games/campaigns? I think ~25 or so. In terms of hours played, OWoD may actually beat out AD&D2, but I only played it between ’99 and ’01. Also, 2e OWoD’s combat system sucks and NWoD’s fluff can choke on a bucket of.. um, I’ll just stop now.

AD&D 3e: We all switched eagerly to 3e about mid-2001. Then we started arguing. In late 2001, I went on my first WESTPAC; for those of you not familiar with the Navy, that means I spent 10 months doing doughnuts on a million-ton airfield in the middle of the Indian Ocean while we bombed the fuck out of the Graveyard of Empires. Not noted on the Wiki page: we were the first nuclear-powered ship to go to Japan in ever, or any of our more hilarious accidents. Anyway, since 3e was the current lingua franca among gamers, I played two or three campaigns out there, and another one on my second cruise. I’ve played in a handful of games since, mostly just to keep my hand in, and may be doing a Pathfinder game soon. Also, if you have a problem with me designating it as “still AD&D” go look at the Skills and Powers books for 2x, at the house rules most people were using in 1999, and then go fuck yourself.

Battletech: This may be cheating a bit, but there was certainly a shitload of roleplaying. I’ve only been in three campaigns, but each was an enormous amount of fun, and all lasted for months (the most recent, for example, was a 5-month, weekly campaign). I’ve been playing off and on since 1998, although I actually got my first BT books back in 1991 or so. Since I started right at the birth of 4e and the Fedcom Civil War, I was spared much of the chain-yanking the older fans got, while still being able to enjoy the anime themes and stylings in the game. I should mention that I discovered Robotech’s provenance literally 2 weeks before Battletech, and I’d been powering through fansubs (3rd-gen CanadianVHS, those were the days…) of Macross right up to that weekend. I still love it, still play it, and I’m looking to start a campaign soon (my first as GM! Wheeeeee)

Big Eyes, Small Mouth: So, remember that anime thing? Where I help run a convention we expect to break 30,000 attendees this year, and I’ve been watching anime ravenously for 15 years+ now (knowing what it was) and about 25 years total? Yeah. It’s already a great low-crunch universal system, and playing it basically announces “Hey, you want to play a catgirl mecha pilot? Fuck it, that’s the most normal character anyone’s rolled up in this game!”. It’s fun, it’s gonzo, and it’s my best friend’s favorite game (link goes to his BESM wiki). The main system is free now, too (see the bottom of my free games page; Tri-Stat dX). Its producer, Guardians of Order, is one of the many companies taken down at the throat by the D20 crash, unfortunately. Played in only one campaign that got anywhere, but I’ve played intermittently for years and even run it once.
(the next two would be Star Wars D6 and Necromunda)

Most-Run
SDC10063
“But wait”, you say, “What the Hell?”
It’s true, I tend to run almost completely different shit than I actually play. In part, it’s shared DMing responsibility, in part, it’s that I started out with two of these games and ran them for so much longer than anything else…

Holmes Basic with or without elements from AD&D 1e: So I’ve already talked about this like a week ago, in quite a lot of detail. TL:DR: I’ve been running it since 1989 and I’m not stopping anytime soon. My most recent game was an unholy mashup of Mentzer, Holmes, and LotFP‘s skill and encumbrance systems. As I got ahold of the other books, I started adding in random crap that I liked from 1e. I’ve been using that particular Monster Manual since about 1994 (it’s currently my oldest gaming possession). I used it in 2e, I use it in LotFP occasionally, I use it in 0.5e – because it’s one of the best fucking gaming books ever published. All the information you need is right there, it’s evocative and readable, and they don’t spend 85% of the book telling you about their boring-ass default setting or using that bullshit “mail-order pages of the book on our subscription model” thing from the 90’s (looking directly at you here, 2e and 3e…). It works.

West End Games Star Wars (SWd6): Got it in the early 90s’s, lost it a few years later (a cat had a critical understanding failure about the respective roles and locations of my gaming books box and the litterbox). I mourned for years, but I could still run the game from memory. Found a hardcopy at Gary’s a few years ago and nearly shit myself with glee. This was my first universal system (what’s that? It’s not universal? My ass. I wrote an Outlaw Star conversion for it, I’ve used it to play cyberpunk and steampunk games for crying out loud), and I love it with a large portion of my heart. The 1e books are fun, funny, and really well-written. They set a beginning GM or player off on a very good path.. I’ve run this dozens if not hundreds of times, and used it as the basis of a wargame (heh, sensing a trend here?) called Trench Run which I still have on my bookshelf. It’s.. different than the official space combat rulesets, let’s put it that way.

AD&D 3e: Lingua franca. Gamers. A lot of time deployed between 2001 and 2005. I’ve said my piece. I can still run it on demand, but strongly prefer not to do so; the longest campaign I ran even when I was having some level of fun with it lasted only about 3 months.

Spycraft: So.. yeah. I’ve run 3 campaigns in it, one lasting for 8 months. Why do I like it and not 3e? Because the system (mostly) does what it’s supposed to do – let me play a superspy game. The extra crunch is well-presented, it discourages twinking your characters, I can use my real-world knowledge to make things more interesting, and it’s an eminently hackable system. I don’t like the chase/other shit mechanic (2e psionics? Really? That’s what you had to base it on?), but I’ve got my own card-based variant that seems to work well enough. A critical component is putting actual time stress on the players, and on myself as GM, to make snap decisions. I set a 15-second timer when each round starts (or rather, when I finish describing the results of the last round). Means that the chase scenes actually flow, drivers occasionally make really bad decisions, and the players get properly stressed and panicky. It also makes an excellent background for Shirow-style espionage games; I’ll have to post my conversion notes for Appleseed and GitS sometime.

Mekton (Zeta): I liek rorborts. A LOT. Indeed, to an almost uncomfortable degree for those around me. Mekton lets me play mecha games. I’ve played a little in the Virtual (mekt)On campaign run by the Mekton Zeta Mailing List, and run a couple long-playing campaigns; characters have bled out of them into other games as well. My only problem with it is the sheer amount of restraint and hacking it requires to be fun(ctional). A new edition could help with that – but R. Talsorian* has been in the pits for years. Again, mostly because of the d20 crash, although they were only caught in the blast radius, as opposed to GoO or White Wolf.
The thing I like most about it is the scalability: you can go from super-hardcore Real Robot action all the way to a wargame level of mass-combat depending on the game you want to play. It also simulates anime gameplay a lot better than Battletech..
(the next two on the list would be AD&D 2e and BESM)

So, now you know even more about me. Join us for our next episode, where I natter for an hour about Masamune Shirow (someone slap me if I actually do this, please).

*I’m sorry for linking you to that hideous frickin’ site, but it had to be done. Remember, kids, if your audience can’t tell that you’re being ironic, they’ll just assume you paid five bucks to a “web consultant” in 1995 and never updated your site..

Memories of ECCC2013

Spent the weekend at Emerald City. Most all of these were taken on Sunday, when my wife was in Oly attending her uncle’s funeral. You may notice a certain bias in my images: the camera’s batteries died partway through the Lego shoot, and one of my replacements was dead. Had to husband the shots carefully from there on out. All images click through to larger ones.

Lego displays


This was about 8 feet by 5. Pretty nifty


I love the little Vic-class ramming the Kraken in this one.


Check out the recharge booths! Also, play “find-the-non-Lego-parts” – I see at least 3 (no, I don’t mean go hunting Mega Bloks or some pedantic shit like that)


Clappy! Also other farm animals.


Batcave. The turntables spin, the launch ramps open, the bat-arsenal flips out of the wall. Holy CRAP.


Burt and Adam apparently loved the display, according to the guys running it.


The real reason Hobbits worship pie. Also, note the expression on the guy with the shovel behind the cow on the top right


You can’t see the Mermaid’s tail in this one, but, well, she’s being a Siren.


Merc with a Mouth and Wolverine jumping a pack of Daleks and Magneto? Mmmmm, nerdy


Better view of the Imperial and the TARDIS. I didn’t wind up buying the cape, but I seriously thought about it.


~1/4 minifig scale Space Needle.

Panels

Small human dragged out in front of Chris Sarandon to promote the kid’s area. She had Spider-man facepaint, and was in general adorable if incommunicative.


This is the expression a Sarandon gives you when you ask him about his “homoerotic bromance” with Christopher Guest. He held this facial expression for like a minute and a half.


He begins to respond. Face = priceless.


Sir Patrick Stewart, ladies and gents. Let us film you and you won’t look like a dork.


The only other halfway decent shot of him. He was very funny and somewhat informative, if not exactly capable of staying on-topic.

Posting break

I’m at the Emerald City Comicon. No posts for  while, and with Sakuracon ramping up I’ll honestly be phoning in a lot of stuff. I’m still keeping up with my resolution (mostly), however.

I also found another local source for casting resin.. which is more than $10 cheaper a batch than my previous source. So yay.