An Actual Weekend

Somehow, without me even realizing it, Nik and I have lined up a bunch of social engagements for the weekend. I mean, sure, we’re working this morning and then have a business-related lunch, but after that it’s on to something more relaxing. Last night we were over at Ray and Christine’s for drinking and conversation and got to meet some of Christine’s friends from Chicago. It’s an unusual weekend for us, since we normally just keep on working. I intend to enjoy myself.

Nothing much to report otherwise. I caught the Daredevil movie on late night cable this week and it was a total piece of shit. The writing was bad and even the action scenes were bad. Ugh. And Colin Ferrell’s Bullseye was just embarrassing. I mean, he literally points at the bullseye on his head and says, “Heh heh, bullseye, heh heh.” He’s supposed to be all cool and badass and is just laughable. And Jennifer Garner only appears once in her Elektra outfit and then it promptly killed. Just a terrible movie.

No Fun

I’ve been looking forward to GAMA Trade Show, the game industry’s only real trade show, for months now. With all the stuff we’ve got going on, it should be our most triumphant GTS ever. We’ve got a lot of great books coming, including the Nocturnals book that just went to print and looks like a million damn dollars. We have cool licenses like the Red Star and the Black Company that we’ll be marketing there. The Origins Awards nominees will be announced at GTS and hopefully we’ll see a few of those too. And, of course, it’s always nice to spend some time in Vegas (no, not gambling, but eating in fine restaurants and socializing with friends I don’t see as often as I’d like).

Now though, the GAMA nonsense I alluded to in my last entry is putting a pall over the whole show. I’m going to have to go to meetings that are sure to be bile-filled and contentious. I’m going to have to debate with lying sacks of shit I’d rather not even see, let alone talk to. Nicole is likely to be pissed off the entire time as well, which will certainly cut down on the fun aspect of being in Vegas.

It would be so easy to just give up, to let the fuckers win. I just can’t do it though. My bullshit detector is in the red. The lies are piling up, the innuendo doing its dirty work, and the backroom shenanigans are in full effect. Certain people have crossed the line and I’m not going to sit idly by. I can’t, in good conscience. So GTS will certainly be triumphant for Green Ronin, but it’s also going to be bloody and ugly.

As Iggy Pop said, “No fun.”

But as David Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

I can be a cantankerous son of a bitch when I’m pissed. And I am officially pissed.

Future Legacy

There’s a 19-page (and counting) thread over on about the current GAMA brouhaha (that’s the Game Manufacturer’s Association, the only trade organization for the game biz, for you non-gamers). That whole thing is vitriolic enough that I don’t want to discuss it here, but Mike Mearls opined thusly in the thread:

“I think 10 years form now, Ryan [Dancey] will be judged as the savior of RPGs.”

First I laughed out loud. Then I reflected on how Ryan did a much better job marketing Ryan than marketing D&D.; Finally, I decided to respond to Mike. Since I doubt many folks are still following this argument (and since this makes an easy blog entry), here’s my reply. Discuss.

“I say this as someone who has benefited from d20 and the OGL as much as anyone: I don’t. I think Ryan will actually be known as the guy who first saved D&D;* and then hamstrung it by creating d20 and the OGL.

As I said, I’ve done very well with d20, so I have no complaints on that score. If I ran WotC though, I’d release 4th edition next year and never add the new rules to the SRD. I just don’t think d20 has been good for WotC financially. I don’t think anyone foresaw how many new companies would start up and how much product would be pumped into the channel month after month. I simply can’t believe that this hasn’t caused WotC to lose sales. And note how 3.5 was brought out earlier than originally intended.

*For the record, I don’t think Ryan saved D&D;, but I think that most gamers will by the time 10 years have gone by. I think the dozens of designers, artists, editors, graphic designers, etc. had a little something to do with the game’s success. And Ryan had a marketing budget that was simply astronomical by RPG standards. To give you an idea, the budget for one event alone (the D&D; College Tour, which you likely have never heard of) had a budget five times that of the Chainmail game’s for its entire first year. But I digress.”

Monkey in a Fez: The Only Choice for America

I see that Ralph Nader is going to run for president again. While I admire the guy’s gumption, I think he’s going to be disappointed. This comes from someone who voted for him in the last election. At the time I felt I couldn’t in good conscience vote for the Democrats and reward their “cozying to the right” strategy. I wanted my vote to show them that they couldn’t just assume anyone on the left would vote for them, while they tried to woo “liberal republicans.”

Well, this time all my high-minded moralizing is out the window. In 2000 I didn’t think four years of Bush Jr. could be THAT bad. I fully admit that I was dead wrong. So very wrong. Oh my god, I was wrong. The Bush administration has been an unmitigated disaster for America. It will take decades to fix the harm done to this country. So in 2004 I’m going to vote for whomever the Democrats put forward. Kerry apparently. Well, whatever. I’d literally vote for a monkey in a fez to get Bush and his cronies out of power. I have a feeling that many people who voted for Nader last time feel the same way. I would be surprised if his total votes were even half of what they were in the 200 election.

Sorry, Ralph, but sometimes who you’re voting against is more important than who you are voting for.

The Littlest Gladiator

A few days ago Kate was asking Nik and I if we could play a game after dinner. When I asked what kind of game, she said, “A miniatures game.” Now Kate’s played her share of boardgames and whatnot, but she hasn’t really played a minis game before. She has seen me play, of course, and there’s barely a room in the house without minis in it, so I suppose her request should be no surprise. I’ve wished for some time that Hero Clix was more kid friendly, because Kate likes the minis and knows many of the characters. I’ve thought about designing a kid’s version of the game for home use, but haven’t gotten around to it (something about working seven days a week crimps my “design for the hell of it” style).

After dinner I went up to the office and started poking around through my game collection. Nearly every actual minis game was out. “Hey Kate, how about some grand tactical Civil War action with Fire & Fury? No? How about Normans vs. Vikings with Warhammer Historical? No, eh? Hmmm.” Just when I was thinking I’d have to sell her on a boardgame, my eyes fell onto a game I got when I was only a couple of years older than Kate: Melee by Metagaming. My friends and I played the shit out of that game, because making new characters was so easy it didn’t matter if you died. I pulled melee out for the first time in probably 20 years. The rules were as easy as I remembered. I figure if I could read and learn the game at age 10, Kate could play with adult help at age 8.

When I was a kid, we played with the counters that came with the game because none of us could afford minis. A quick check of the hex map showed that 28mm miniatures would work just fine though. I dug out my “pirates and gladiators” case and offered up gladiator minis to Nik and Kate. Once we had all picked our minis, I showed them how to make characters. Then I briefed them on the key rules and the coliseum opened for business. The game was quick and bloody, thanks to Nicole double damaging me right off the bat. Kate, however, was the winner. Although the game itself didn’t take longer than 15 minutes, she seemed perfectly satisfied.

Now I’ve got something we can pull out and play with Kate on short notice. I have enough figs that we can do a bewildering array of fantasy or historical scenarios. I think next time I’ll offer a bigger selection of weapons and armor types, so Kate can start to see the tradeoffs that make the system work. Train ’em young, I say.

Amphibian Gladiators

Took a weekend trip to Vancouver, BC with Nik, Ray, and Christine. You can read general details at, while I confine my entry to one anecdote.

So Sunday the rain limited our options. We ended up at the aquarium, which is a good one that features critters like sea otters, sea lions, and beluga whales. They had a cool frog exhibit, with all kinds of funky frogs from around the world. Man, those African bull toads are huge!

While I’m making my way through the assorted frogs, I come upon a group of four 8-10 year old kids (both boys and girls) crowded around one tank. In it, a frog is hunting an insect for dinner. The kids are staring intently at the hunt, and chanting out, “Kill! Kill! Kill!” in unison. It was pretty creepy. At last the frog struck and the kids cheered and high-fived each other. Then one noted, disappointed, “Aw, he’s just sitting on it, it’s not dead yet.” At this point I moved on, so perhaps I missed the frog, shouting out, “Are you not entertained?”

Maybe I shouldn’t even mention this on the internet. “Amphibian Gladiators” will now be a mid-season replacement reality show on FOX.

Ork! Das Rollenspiel

Well, today is obviously “we’re big in Germany day” because we got a package from our German licensee, Truant Verlag, with the German translation of Ork! The Roleplaying Game, which was Green Ronin’s very first book. I honestly wasn’t sure this was going to happen, but we’ve got six copies and it looks awesome. Truant got all new art, much of which is hilarous. One of the illos is a parody of the classic Frank Frazetta “Death Dealer” painting, but featuring a mounted Ork instead. Another Ork is done up like a prussian aristo, with a spiked helmet, monacle, and little moustache. Oh, it’s a riot. It’s also hard to beat such headers as “Orks und Krieg”, “Orksprache”, and “Die Namengebungszeremonie”. Ironically, despite being in German, it’s 16 pages shorter than our version. I wish I had more than six.

A German website also reviewed our big mega-adventure Black Sails Over Freeport and gave it a very good rating. The best line from the Google translation: “BSOF is a multicolored wonder-bag of an adventure.” I couldn’t have said it weirder myself!

Chainsaw Warrior

Back in the 80s, Games Workshop made a wacky boardgame called Chainsaw Warrior. The character was later imported into Talisman, another GW game that kept me up until dawn many a night in college. Today, I wish I were the Chainsaw Warrior. For the past two days, there’s been a work crew cutting down a big tree right outside my office. And it’s not just a matter of cutting it down and shouting, “Timber!” Oh no, it’s a huge tree, so they have started at the top and are cutting off a little bit at a time. I’m trying to drown it out by blaring the Adverts and Bad Religion, but the sound of a chainsaw cuts right through even the most raucous punk rock. I sure would like to get some work done but it’s quite distracting. Urge to kill…rising. Maybe I could borrow the chainsaw just for a couple of minutes…

On the upside, the latest Bad Religion album is really good. They returned to Epitaph and returned to form. Good stuff.

Die, Nazis, Die!

Since finishing KOTOR, I’ve been playing Medal of Honor on the X-Box. As a WWII buff, I’m enjoying the period detail (and the array of weapons you get to wield!). It’s amusing to start with American weapons in the early missions, and then marvel as you get the much better German ones. The American sniper rifle, for instance, only has a 5 round clip, while the German Gewehr 43 has double that. Very nice when you’re in a jam.

The missions do a nice job of taking you on a tour of 1944 Europe at war. You start with D-Day and later fight through Operation Market Garden. As an OSS agent, you also get to infiltrate submarine bases and an armored train. I do have to wonder if the EA guys know what the word infiltrate means though. “Infiltrating” a train station meant killing everyone in sight. Ditto the submarine base.

My only real gripe with the game is that you can only save between missions. This means if you die at any point before finishing, you have to start the mission again. Goddamn, is that annoying. There have been multiple times when I’ve been killed in the very last room or encounter of a mission. I nearly gave up the other day, while trying to get through one of the “Bridge Too Far” missions. At the end you have to blow up a tank that’s protected by an MG42 and a bunch of infantry. It’s insanely difficult to dodge ripping shreds of MG fire while aiming a panzerschreck (and ludicrously, you have to hit the tank like five times at point blank range to take it out; one hit that close should do it). Up to this point in the game, it hadn’t taken me any more than three tries to finish a mission. Took me at least 15 times for that one and I was getting super frustrated! Finally, yesterday morning, I gave it a fresh start and managed to take out the goddamn tank. I really wish Medal of Honor used the much more sensible “checkpoint” system that games like Halo use. I didn’t need to re-fight the four other big combats leading up to the tank battle over and over again.

To sum up: killing Nazis good, no checkpoints bad.