Stopping Uwe Boll

So I have this co-worker at Flying Lab named Bert and he detests German director Uwe Boll. As both a movie fan and a gamer, he finds Boll’s film adaptations of computer games to be harmful to both art forms. Several times over the past 18 months I’ve heard Bert go off on rants about Mr. Boll and hilarity always ensued.

A few weeks ago I was reading Defamer and ran across the story of an online petition to make Owe Boll stop making movies. I tried to remember to tell Bert about this petition the next day, as I was sure he’d want to sign it. Turns out Bert was quite familiar with the Stop Uwe Boll petition: he started it! The story of the petition has spread and Bert was interviewed by several media outlets, including the NY Times. Even better, Boll himself responded. He said the petition would need at least a million signatures before he’d take it seriously. Over 275,000 people have signed already.

If you want to end this menace, you can sign the petition here.

Do the right thing.

Not a Good Start

If I was a game retailer, I’d sure be pissed this week. Not only have some book trade accounts broken the 4th edition D&D; street date by nearly two weeks, but also pirated electronic versions of all three core books have appeared on file sharing networks. Even worse, they seem to be from production PDFs, which probably means they were leaked internally or from the printer. Bad news for WotC and for retailers.

Having seen the books (and no, not pirated PDFs), I was most surprised by one thing. While art is quite good overall, the graphic design is really mediocre. I expected something better out of a flagship product from the biggest company in the industry. The best thing I can say about it is that at least the layout errs on the side of readability.

Fun Time Is Over

My getaway is over, sad to say. Tomorrow it’s back to both jobs. The weekend was a blast though. I ended up playing 7 games in 48 hours at Enfilade, something I don’t think I’ve pulled off since GenCon circa 1992. Here’s a brief roundup.

I kicked things off on Friday night with a WWII Wings of War game that used model planes on flying stands and oversized maneuver cards. The scenario featured six B-17s with fighter escorts on a bombing run over Germany. I commanded the worst German planes on the table, ME-110s, but I enjoyed the challenge. There were about 20 planes on the table, which was a big chaotic but overall the game was fun. We shot down three B-17s and won the game.

Saturday morning I played “Last Train to Smolensk,” a Russian Civil War game in which Reds, Whites, and partisans fought over statue reputed to contain the bones of the Tsar and his family. The game won for sheer spectacle, with hundreds of nicely painted 28mm minis and not one but two armored trains. The rules were a convention friendly version of Heroes of the Soviet Union. I wasn’t familiar with them but the one page summary gave all the info needed to play and everyone picked them up quickly. We ultimately had 18 people playing this game, and considering that it went at a pretty good clip. I ended up commanding Red Cavalry in the spirit of Isaac Babel, but unfortunately the table was so crowded and our starting position so poor that I had a hard time getting them into action. We started playing at 9:30 and I didn’t roll an attack until 11:20. I think it would have been better with maybe 12 people and 25% less figures but I still had a good time. I don’t know anyone in Seattle who has any interest in Russian Civil War gaming, so I’m glad I had the chance to participate.

In the afternoon I played in “King Batuve’s Mines”, a Sword in Africa game run by ex-TSR designer Steve Winter. In 19th century Africa English colonialists open a diamond mine on the land of King Batuve without asking permission. Mistake! The wily king marshals his forces and tries to capture the mine before a relief column can arrive. I commanded one of the African contingents and attempted to kill whitey. It turned out I was in the right place twice to sacrifice troops to better my side’s tactical situation. I lost almost all my troops but King Batuve took his mine back.

That night I played in a “The Sword and the Flame on Mars”, a Victorian scifi game that married the Sword and the Flame ruleset with the Space: 1889 RPG setting. This game was great to look at, with spider walkers and other steam engines squaring off on the red planet. I was on the British side, commanding the sole airship in the battle. I evaded Martian rockets, while pounding the ground with cannons and dropping liquid fire from above. It was a close fought battle but we pulled it out. Rule Britannia! This was my favorite game of the weekend.

After that long ass day I should have gone right to bed, but did not. Rick and I hooked up after his Medieval game finished and we threw down with some Memoir ’44. I tried and failed to stop an American assault after D-Day, then finally went to bed.

Sunday morning Rick and I got into a classic Battletech game. We hadn’t played any con games together the whole weekend and I knew he’d be up for it. I’ve played Battletech once in the last 10 years, so I was rusty on the rules but the GM was very good and did an excellent job of controlling the pace and keeping the action going. All the mechs started with some damage to even things out a bit, so my 100 ton Atlas was badass but didn’t dominate. We had 8 players with one mech each and our team won. I took out the enemy Atlas but then went down in flames. In honor of the biggest Battletech fan I know, Chris Hanrahan, I used the Endgame dice he gave me in Oakland back in February and they served me well.

After that we ended up playing a pickup game of Space Hulk with people we met in the Battletech game (three of whom were also named Rick!). This is another game I hadn’t played in a long time. A couple of the guys hadn’t played before and they made the mistake of thinking they could fight the genestealers in hand to hand combat. Their squad of terminators was wiped out in less than 15 minutes. Our squad kept fighting and made some good progress but eventually we were overwhelmed by the alien horde. After the game we took our leave of Enfilade and headed back to Seattle.

Today was a holiday of course, so what to do? Hey, how about playing a game? I had Ray and Jon over this afternoon and we played Descent. I was the Overlord and they each played two characters. This proved a good idea, as otherwise they would have been giant bait. The scenario was a bit repetitious but we had a good time.

I call that a successful gaming weekend.


It’s Memorial Day weekend and I will be doing my part to honor all the lead, pewter, and plastic toy soldiers who have given their lives in the cause of good gaming. Rick and I are heading down to Olympia today for Enfilade, a historical miniatures convention. I have no business to do there. I’m just going to play games for three days. I haven’t gotten to do something like this for a long time and I’m very much looking forward to it. I had planned to attend last year, but we ended up hosting the design summit for the Song of Ice and Fire RPG that weekend. No summits this year though, so I am free.

I am not sure exactly what I’ll be playing. The con website put up a preliminary event list but never a final one so we’ll be playing it by ear. Rick is throwing some boardgame favorites into his vehicle as a backup, so if we have downtime we can pull those out. I will not have e-mail or web access, so don’t expect to hear from me until next week. Once again, let the fray begin!

A Farewell to Kings

The first band I ever really got into was Rush. I was 12 or so and bought the album Moving Pictures. In one of my first bits of record collecting, I delved into their back catalog. As a kid already reading Lord of the Rings and playing AD&D;, I was easily sold on songs like The Necromancer and By-Tor and the Snow Dog. My first rock concert was Rush on the Signals tour at the Worcester Centrum. They started to lose me with their more synth-oriented direction and a few years later I got into punk rock and that phase pretty much ended for me. Every once in a while I will bust out some old Rush stuff, but I haven’t really kept up with them for ages.

I bring this up because my brother has been in touch with Donna Halper, the woman apparently credited with “discovering” Rush. She was telling him that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame won’t even consider honoring Rush, which pretty much follows the way the rock establishment has treated them for 30+ years. Some friends of hers are trying to get Rush a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as a way of drawing more attention to them so they might eventually get into the Hall of Fame. They are looking to get testimonials from fans about why Rush deserves a star. While there are few things less punk rock than the Walk of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I do find the idea of making the rock establishment recognize a band that has made a career of doing their own thing appealing. I know there are some Rush fans amongst my readeers (I’m looking at you, Wick). If you want to help out, send a testimonial to Kevin Purdy at

“Square for battle. Let the fray begin!”

Horror Business

Man, this year is just flying by. How can June be approaching already? How can Ropecon and GenCon be right around the corner? How is it was like 50 degrees a couple of days ago and it’s supposed to be 90 tomorrow? The hell.

Without really being conscious of it, I’ve been on a bit of a horror kick lately. It started musically, as I’ve been frequently listening to Danish psychobilly stalwarts the Nekromantix and the Horror Pops. I finally realized what it is about the Nekromantix I find endearing. It’s that their over the top, B-movie lyrics really remind of classic Misfits. I’ve kicked off almost every day at work for the past week with “Gargoyles Over Copenhagen.” The Horror Pops, who share a member with the Nekromantix, also should not be underestimated. “Walk Like a Zombie” is awesome. Their non-conformist anthem “MissFit” is also great. It’s got a ska flavor, which is only fitting when they break into the tune from “Our House” by Madness but sing instead, “My fist–in the middle of your face!”

I also just finished reading the first volume of Fall of Cthulhu, a comic by Boom Studios. It takes your basic Lovecraft storyline and updates it to the modern era. Not groundbreaking by any means (which I guess is par for the course with Lovecraftiana), but enjoyable and has a couple of good twists. I’ve got Jenny Finn: Doom Messiah on deck. This is a new title from Mike “Hellboy” Mignola that takes place in Victorian London and is said to be “reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, H.P. Lovecraft, and Captain Ahab.” Sounds good to me.

The Wacky Bus Driver

I have this wacky driver on my first bus of the morning. He’s got this practiced patter that he uses every day. It starts when we get to the International District. He says, “This is the first stop in the Ride Free Area; welcome, ladies and gentleman, to the Twilight Zone.” I’m not sure if that’s a commentary on the International District or the Ride Free Area. As we proceed downtown, he calls the Federal Building “the protestor’s Mecca” and the main branch of the library “the ziggurat of knowledge.” I appreciate the sense of humor, but I think he needs to mix it up a bit. It’s always the same thing.

Nerdy Saturday

Yesterday was pretty nerd-tastic. I took the bus downtown in the afternoon to go to Emerald City Comic Con. I generally far prefer gaming cons to comic and scifi cons because there’s a lot more to do. Emerald City had some seminars but nothing like the programming you’d see at a game convention. I was there to do a bit of business and then catch up with a bunch of people I don’t see that often. I also ran into some old friends from WotC, as well as some of the newer blood like Rodney Thompson (who contributed to Buccaneers of Freeport, at print now). I picked up volume 2 of the Walking Dead, which I’ve had trouble finding locally. Then I stopped by the Boom booth to chat with Ross. He’s an old gamer and I had sent him a box of GR stuff a while back. He loaded me up with 14 of their graphic novels and that put an end to my shopping, as my bag was stuffed.

Nik and Kate arrived mid-afternoon. Kate was a zombie because she had stayed up half the night doing a sleepover with her friends. I tried to find some things of interest to her but she was too tired and couldn’t muster any enthusiasm. After we left the con, Nicole suggested we make a second attempt to see Iron Man. That seemed only too appropriate so we walked over to Pacific Place and had no trouble getting tickets this time. I enjoyed the movie, particularly the performance of Robert Downey Jr., though I wasn’t as blown away as some of my friends have been. I understand the impulse for film makers to do origin stories in superhero movies but I wish they’d stop. This one was better than most attempts, but I’d rather they just got on with the superheroics. I also want to see the protagonists as part of a larger superheroic world. In the Superman movies, for example, you never get the sense there are other supers in the world and that’s too bad. This is why the scene after the Iron Man credits excited me a lot more than the movie itself. Until the promise of that movie is fulfilled though, my favorite supers film remains X-men 2.

Not as Small or Agile

Those of you who have worked for or dealt with large companies know that they usually move with agonizing slowness and this can be frustrating for all concerned. Getting an organization behind an idea can take time, and then getting it to act can take even longer. One advantage of smaller companies is that they can be more agile. With less bureaucracy to deal with, they can make decisions quickly and move on things right away. That kind of freedom is nice, but if you are always ready to turn on a dime your planning can never truly get long term.

I’m thinking about this because normally by this point I’d have a pretty firm idea of what Green Ronin will be doing next year. For a variety of reason I don’t and it’s bugging me. We have several deals in negotiation that are dragging on and on. They may come through or they may not. Another game line is getting a start but needs a firm hand to move it forward and I’m down one hand. And of course the saga of 4E and third party publishers goes on. So while I should be recruiting authors and such for a bunch of products, I’m in a holding pattern instead. Convention season is rapidly approaching and things will get crazier. It would be nice if some of these things could get sorted out before we start traveling hither and yon.

I guess the truth is that while GR is still a relatively small company, we do too much to be as agile as we used to be. When it was me, Nicole, and Hal concentrating on one project at a time, it was easier to jump on an idea and make it happen. Now there are always a dozen or more balls in the air at once and sometimes it takes only one more ball to cause total chaos.

Before I go to Finland and hopefully before Origins, I need to find clarity, solidify plans, and get new projects in motion. Otherwise 2009 is going to start chaotic and go who knows where.

More GSL News

So last week WotC released a FAQ about their new Game System License, which will allow third party publishers to put out 4th edition D&D; support books. It took them a few weeks but they finally did clarify that the choice of Game System License or Open Game License did not have to be made per company. This greatly increases the odds of Green Ronin doing some 4E material, as we could continue our own OGL lines like M&M; and True20. One wrinkle is that rather than going with the simple solution of making the choice per product they’re making it per product line. This is going to create a lot of corner cases, like Freeport, so I’m not sure why they are bothering. It will be interesting to see how they phrase this in the final license, which is due June 6.

Another thing that was made clear was that the GSL can be revoked, unlike the OGL. I don’t expect that it will be any time soon, but this does have some interesting implications. If most third party companies now make the switch that means at any later point the genie can effectively be put back in the bottle. I think it’s understandable that WotC wants more control this time, but publishers need to go into this with their eyes open. They need to understand that at any point the plug can be pulled, so supporting only the GSL has an inherent risk. For many companies the potential reward is worth the risk, but this is something each publisher will have to consider.

WotC also confirmed that the d20 System Trademark License will be going away in June and there will a six month sell off period for books with the d20 logo. I don’t know why they feel this is necessary. It’s going to flood the market with a ton of cheap 3E material at just the point when they should want it going away. In 1999 WotC actually bought up some 2nd edition D&D; books to make way for 3E if I recall correctly. GR is not the only company that has a fair bit of inventory with the d20 logo. PDFs at least can have the logo stripped and then continue to sell but actual books need to be sold or destroyed by the end of this year. I bet a company formed with the specific purpose of liquidating old d20 inventory could do pretty well.

Anyway, fairly positive news overall. I do still need to review the final GSL when that’s released, and of course I want to see the actual rules.