New Article

There’s a new article under Game Writing called “I Was a Teenage Gamemaster.” It’s a primer on running good games at conventions, based on my experiences in the early 90s. From the intro:

This is an article I wrote many years ago, when I was living in Boston and trying to make a go of the original Ronin Publishing. I was doing mind-bogglingly boring tempt work to pay the bills (which should tell you how well the company was going). One of my gigs was at Tufts University. There was so little for me to do there that I wrote this article on the clock. None of the staff seemed to notice or care what I was doing. An abridged version appeared in Arcane Magazine, #20, which turned out to be its last issue. The full version later appeared in Pyramid Online.


Nothing But…Star Wars…

I finally found some time to work out a bit of background for the Star Wars game I’m running. I had kicked off the game with a short adventure that, true to form with my group, has take us over a month to finish. That was meant to be the exciting James Bond style intro to the campaign, though in reality all the stops and starts reduced the oomph considerably. When we started, I told the players that they worked for a secret Jedi organization they jokingly dubbed the Jedi Intelligence Agency. This was my way to dealing with the fact that practically everyone chose to play a Jedi (not that I can blame them for going with Jedi over some of those snoozer classes like Fringer). Anyway, I worked up a brief background document to give the game some context. I’m sure it will send Star Wars purists running away screaming, as it’s basically SW mixed with Mission Impossible. Nothing much else to report today, so I figured I’d post it here:

Ghost Knights of the Old Republic

It is 3,961 years before the Battle of Yavin (the climactic conflict at the end of the original Star Wars movie). The Mandalorian Wars have been raging for two years. They began when three Mandalorian fleets punched into Republic space and began driving towards the Core Worlds. The Jedi Order decided to stay out of the war, leaving it to the Republic military. This proved a costly mistake, and as a result the Mandalorians have won a string of victories that have humiliated Republican forces and caused huge losses of life and territory.

Recently, two young Jedi named Revan and Malak defied the Jedi Council and joined the Republic fleet. They also put out a call to other Jedi to join their cause. They are currently rallying Republican forces in the Outer Rim and hope to turn the war around. Revan and Malak are sure they are the only Jedi leaders that see the true threat of the Mandalorian war machine. They are wrong.

The Ghosts of Ossus

There is an organization within the Jedi Order so secret that even Jedi lords like Revan and Malak do not know it exists. It was founded 33 years ago, in the wake of the Sith War. In this conflict a renegade Jedi named Exar Kun fell to the dark side and attempted to topple the Republic. While he ultimately failed, the Jedi Order paid a high price. The great library of Ossus was destroyed when a nearby sun was made to go supernova. Countless irreplaceable artifacts and texts were lost, along with countless lives.

After the war the Jedi Order worked hard to renew its strength. Because Exar Kun had corrupted many young Jedi, a whole generation of knights was nearly wiped out. Amongst the survivors were three Jedi who felt it was time for the Order to evolve. In their minds, Exar Kun had been allowed to run rampant when he should have been taken to heel as soon as he fell to the dark side. The Jedi Masters, they believed, were so concerned with the purity of the Force that they often neglected the greater good. The loss of Ossus was a direct result of their shortsightedness.

The three mysterious Jedi (and to this day, no one knows their names) founded the Ghosts of Ossus, a secret organization dedicated to fighting the enemies of the Jedi Order. The ghosts go into the shadow places where other Jedi feared to tread. They do not shirk from using methods other Jedi would find distasteful. They do it because someone must. They do it for the greater good.

You are a strike team of the Ghosts of Ossus. You have been working behind the scenes to thwart the Mandalorians since the war began. If you are captured, the Jedi will disavow your activities and label you as renegades. Nor can you implicate your superiors in the Ghosts of Ossus because you’ve never met them and don’t know their names. You receive your orders via encrypted holograms and report back the same way. You pick up money and equipment from caches when needed. For the most part, you are on your own.

When the history books are written, you won’t be in them. You are, after all, nothing but ghosts.

God Could Not Be Reached for Comment

Here’s the final question from Sunday’s Democratic debate. It’s asked by a reporter from the NY Times:

BUMILLER: Really fast, on a Sunday morning, President Bush has said that freedom and fear have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them. He’s made quite clear in his speeches that he feels God is on America’s side.

Really quick, is God on America’s side?

KERRY: Well, God will — look, I think — I believe in God, but I don’t believe, the way President Bush does, in invoking it all the time in that way. I think it is — we pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence.

BUMILLER: Senator?

EDWARDS: Well, there’s a wonderful story about Abraham Lincoln during the middle of the Civil War bringing in a group of leaders, and at the end of the meeting one of the leaders said, “Mr. President, can we pray, can we please join in prayer that God is on our side?” And Abraham Lincoln’s response was, “I won’t join you in that prayer, but I’ll join you in a prayer that we’re on God’s side.”

SHARPTON: And I think that’s the point…

BUMILLER: Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: I think it’s important we’re on God’s side, as I said earlier, that we must (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

But I also think we’ve got to heal this president from feeling like he and America is the same thing. God is on America’s side. That does not mean He supports what George Bush…

RATHER: Fifteen seconds, Congressman.

KUCINICH: We need to break the spell of fear which is over this country. Remember where we come from as a country. When Francis Scott Key wrote that “Star-Spangled Banner,” he made the connection when he said, “Does that star-spangled banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?” The connection between democracy and courage.

I would call out the courage of the American people, and defend our rights, cancel the Patriot Act, reestablish the fullness of our democracy.

Is God on America’s side? What kind of ridiculous question is that? This is journalism? What did she expect them to say? “Yes, I spoke to God this morning and he assured me that he is on our side.” If there is a god, I’d imagine he’d answer a la Treebeard. “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side…”

Anyway, after “Super Tuesday” looks like it’ll be rich guy who married a richer heiress vs. rich guy who became president because of his daddy. Since Monkey in a Fez isn’t running this year, I guess I’ll vote for Kerry. At least he’s got that war hero thing going for him, even if he did vote for the war and Patriot Act.

Future and Past

I read an interesting article over breakfast about Homo Erectus, one of the ancestors of Homo Sapiens (i.e. humanity). Early in the 20th century two skulls (known as Java Man and Peking Man) were unearthed that were found to be made of very thick bone (much thicker than our skulls today). Various theories for this have been floated over the years (including the one positing that our ancestors were giants!), but this article had a new one: the species had thick skull protection because they beat each other routinely. They came to this conclusion by examining the many instances on the skulls of healed wounds caused by blunt force trauma. One of the skulls had ten such wounds. So basically, our ancestors beat each other in the head with clubs to such a degree that they developed thick skulls.

So, how will our current culture affect our descendents? Will the continued success of reality TV eliminate the “shame gene”? Will the American propensity for overeating lead to a more load-bearing skeleton? Will the use of botox lead to a new species born with paralyzed facial muscles? Ah, for but a glimpse of our heinous future…