Sunday, August 19, 2018

BlackkKlansman

Contrast black power with white power and don't say anything that isn't obvious: what's the point? And then Spike Lee has the police come out in favor of black power. The ending has the clips of Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer. The film is very insistent that the white supremacy of the 70's has evolved into what we have today, we see the typical piece-of-shit Klan members and sort of the rituals and banality and the one guy who's actually dangerous, and then a character study of David Duke which is interesting. But the logic of the film falls apart constantly, the writing is flagrantly flat pretty often, Adam Driver apparently decides to stop acting a few scenes in. It's not really the comedy of contrasted positions it could have been for these reasons... it's a mess with some good scenes... I like Laura Harrier a lot and I was shedding tears in the early scene at the bar which is like, she recounts getting molested by a policeman earlier in the evening, and then the whole bar disco dances.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

reviews: lotfp new yields GOING THROUGH FORBIDDEN OTHERWORLDS, SHE BLEEDS, SOUNDS OF THE MUSHROOM KINGDOM, and OBSCENE SERPENT RELIGION 2

These are mostly bad.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the role playing game publisher, reintroduced me to trpgs and I’ve bought $100s of their products and love most of them, legit lit. ok reviews:

GOING THROUGH FORBIDDEN OTHERWORLDS:
Zzarchov is talented so it’s weird to see something so bland. The crux is either melted-together maggot men, some summoned demons, or some one-off magic items. The layout is standard “constantly refer back to the map on page one” stuff. It’s a dungeon with some basic features and no strong attractions. None of this is inspired.

INTERIOR ART: Scrap Princess’s pieces are nothing special, for Scrap, meaning they’re moody and fun but nothing is huge or central it’s just accents.

SHE BLEEDS:
The most interesting of the bunch, this is basically a lotfp prestige class based around menstruation. Takeaway is, there’s no referee-only information, so this could be a very gory player’s tool and would work best as managed by a player.

However there are several unwieldy elements-- tracking rituals and the timing of the moon’s phases, overspecific bonuses/penalties. Also the blurriness of the in-fiction cult writing, like the use of capitalized pronouns and only capitalized pronouns to refer to the goddess and her cult, is just bad literary technique. The last couple pages which clarify some of this content read as sort of an apology for the unclearness of the text.

INTERIOR ART: the soft compositions of Rachael Tew here seem like DeviantArt quality, not much detailed, sketched together pictoral symbols. really did not enjoy these.

SOUNDS OF THE MUSHROOM KINGDOM:
Easily my least favorite although Raggi is usually my go-to. This just details some samey mushroom mans (I do like how they’re “mans”) and some like mushroom monsters. There’s no dungeon, nothing feels clever or interesting, it’s like a joke.

There’s a couple good bits: the psychadelic f/x table is decent, the mushroom king is kinda good.

It's like if Slügs! just had same-y boring slügs.

INTERIOR ART: Serviceable and cute and detailed illustrations by the Magnussons albeit they can’t do much to help.

OBSCENE SERPENT RELIGION 2:
My favorite of these. Rient’s writing is inspired and well-informed when describing a medieval hamlet. I feel educated on what any such hamlet would be.

Nonetheless the central premise: “The point of this adventure is to provide the players with a little slice of the world they can get invested in, then to cruelly rip it from them to see what they do about it” is flawed, for my use. No hamlet is particularly special enough to deserve all this detail in my games. To go into detail is suspicious- if we play Lamentations of the Flame Princess there’s misery around most corners.

That being said it might work. I have a player who would loves personal and peaceful detail like Fraulein Gela and she (the player) would possibly get sucked in. These characters are well-written enough to stick in my mind after one reading. The end result would be yet another terrible outcome from hope which is a commonality in the games I’ve ran.

This writing is skilled enough to be subtle, it’s effective, and simple, and the she-creature at the end is a concise image attached to a long table with fucked-up shit on it. My group might not be a match and I have doubts that the structure of the module-- luring people into safety with a detailed hamlet-- is a good bet.

INTERIOR ART: pretty good and has an impressive full-page piece featuring two snake-bellied mutants which sold me on the mutants. that full-page illustration of snake mutants is detailed and moving and graphic and beautiful. art by Journeyman



Common between the texts:

covers:  Yannick Bouchard’s covers are shocking and attractive as per the usual.
copyediting: lots of errors which are slightly inconvenient, in one case a table has a duplicated entry. the errors are often quite obvious, it’s strange to see this from this publisher

Copyediting errors.

overall: I have these pdfs in my back pocket, but I’m not tempted to run any of them, even fragments of them, very much at all. That’s a huge departure from my lotfp experience. They do not seem high quality or innovative (exception: OSR2 - ed).

thanks to +K Yani for purchasing GTFO for my review.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

fun, non-threatening combat system by peter

melee
--attacker rolls d12 and adds strengthmod + ab
--defender does same
--winner does damage to loser equal to difference between results
--you can only deal damage in melee x number of times per round where x= your bab (overcomplicated rule, might drop -ed)
--ties = miss

example: smaug has +6 to hit and he swipes at bilbo baggins (+2 to hit). smaug rolls a 10 for a 16. bb rolls a 4 for a total of  6, so smaug does 10 damage. this kills the hobbit :(

ranged
attacker rolls d8 and adds dex + ranged ab.
if they roll higher than the defender's Dodge score, they do damage equal to their result.

Dodge is a stat, for 1st level humans is like 3+ dexmod. max is 8

example: bilbo baggins shoots smaug (dodge: 4) with an arrow. BB rolls a 4 and has a ranged attack bonus of +1 so he hits (5 vs. 4 dodge) and does 5 damage.

weapons
weapons don't have different damage values but have various bonuses and drawbacks like
greatsword/greataxe +3 damage, two handed
rapier +1ab
dagger = light weapon can be used in grapple
heavy crossbow +3 damage, takes a round to reload

armor
just gives damage reduction and dodge penalties.

shield = 1 dr, one hand
light armor = 1 dr
medium armor = 2 dr, -1 dodge
heavy armor 3 dr, -2 dodge

consequences
  • ranged weapons are likely more deadly than melee
  • dodge isn't that great bc you still take the big hits
  • dodge stat max is 8 or whatever the ranged roll is if adjusted
  • dr and dodge interact strangely 
advantages
  • no need to roll for damage, potentially faster combat (depending if considering armor dr and weapon bonuses doesn't take up more time -ed)
  • less misses = faster combat
  • ranged attacks should be even quicker
  • if you're good at melee fighting you hit more, are better at defense, and do more damage all at once
troubles
  • "roll over for damage" is already a thing
  • armor dr seems like it should be folded in somewhere
  • no critical hits or automatic hits
inspired by troika! 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

TWO "K/NIGHTS": ACHIEVEMENTS IN "COMPREHENSIVE" GAMING: FORTNITE AND HOLLOW KNIGHT

FORTNITE
  • I hate the aesthetics. "It's the ugliest game ever"- my ex 
  • tactics
    • fortnite is one of the few games in my experience which takes a comprehensive view of tactics. I mean there are territories. you plan and search and decide what your encounters are going to be like. or you get spotted first, if you didn't do enough reconnaissance. 
      • if you play squads it's exponentially tacticaller bc mics
    • my brain enjoys this sort of comprehensive planning which accounts for long-range decisions. everyone's gathering materials which they'll likely never use but they need them in case they make it to the end game. you think ahead to your future15-20 mins ahead. you have to think about sightlines. you can spend time gathering your kit, getting resources, getting a positional advantage, finding targets, there's a ticking clock, you have to balance many real long-range problems at once.
    • there's several different playstyles available so there's always a sense of competing psychological contracts
  • nerves
    • it's incredible how much making your opponent panic while you don't is a winner in this game
    • majorly bc there's so much space between encounters, far more than you'd expect in a deathmatch game, it's an attitude that I saw first with Day Z that has been refined and cartoonified
  • servers
    • were good when I started, now they're still good enough, a little worrying tho
  • sniping
    • EXCELLENTLY balanced bc of bullet drop
      • it takes a while for the bullet of death to reach you if you're far away and it drops in a way that's hard to predict so it's flat out chancey to take a shot at somebody and if you do you're pretty much giving away your location
      • but if you get a headshot with the blue one it's a kill. so it's like playing the lottery resting on your nerves and skill
      • you can be mostly secure vs. sniping at distance if you take some precautions but not 100%
      • it gives you something to do to pass the time as the storm closes
      • finally it's also a great stealth mechanic.
        • like a popularly imagined sniper if you're stealthy (at long range!) and patient you can find a target and get a easy or not-so-easy chance at a one shot kill
        • if you fuck up tho you've exposed your location to a bunch of people
        • so it rewards patience, true stealth, and having the nerves and skill to pull it off :)
  • it's a game where I hate the aesthetics but I can't deny it's effectiveness

HOLLOW KNIGHT

I've been saying the word "comprehensive" a lot lately. HK is comprehensive. It feels like a total package, the developers accounted for everything and really had the opportunity to make the crowning metroidvania xperiene they wanted.
  • It's a generously big map populated by unique and uniquely behaving enemies and environmental challenges per territory with quite generous portions of environmental assets + storytelling per territory as well as secrets and music tracks
  • the boss battles are I'm sure the best in total in any game I've ever played: there are so many of them they are all unique each one has enough mechanics. they're challenging but beatable, "fair" and sometimes tightly scored. good rewards too
  • the storytelling is environmental and yeah set in the post-apocalypse but doesn't reveal too much. The survivors don't say much. There's a bunch of elements that reward deduction and flavor the whole experience. You get the sense of a large world with some real dark stuff.
  • Something about bugworld makes it simultaneously ok that there are corpses everywhere but still fundamentally creepy. Very watership down
  • I still don't like the aesthetics! I don't like the voice acting, I don't like a lot of the music, but they got me with the creepier vibes in the deeper territories and the overall work that's been put into the game: all the mechanics are tight, there's really more than enough stuff to find, yadda yadda
I think with both these games I got the sense of developers working really hard while having the funding to take a lot of care with their product. there is so much and it is so generous and well-apportioned. you sit with the other nervous teens at the feast and everybody eats

Saturday, August 4, 2018

THE IMPROVISED DUNGEON

common dungeon elements
mazes:
drawing a maze as they explore is actually fine. you can easily put things in the maze while you sketch the paths and make decisions about which way is the right way. trick is to make those decisions before the players decide which way to go if possible

riddles:
difficult to come up with a good riddle on the spot

monsters:
a good monster can just be something stereotypical with a twist

traps:
seriously easy to think up... again just think of it before the players encounter it. blades in the dark jab out at you... there's a magical energy field generating blades. and uh it's coming from a little magic machine running in the corner. great trap.

treasure:
can actually be negotiated with players as described or invented randomly

puzzles:
I would say that you can actually make this up as the players solve it, similar to a maze. you see a bunch of colored blocks that can be rotated. green yellow blue orange. they correspond to... some charts on the wall. the charts? well there's a series of checkerboard patterns that have those colors... no, it's too difficult for me to draw out... yes, let's just have someone roll an intelligence check... you can bail out

secret passageways:
as convenient (goes without saying) and you get to use fiat  whether they find any in a search. it's important to use fiat. because life is arbitrary

an overall sense of dungeon logic:
will emerge as you play.

advantages

  • no prep
  • don't need to reference prep
  • dungeons are pretty random collections of elements anyways
  • surmising quickly thought-up elements into larger overall themes is actually easy
  • I might be better at improvisation than reference
  • can elide easier, bring out the important bits easier
  • can use fragmentary prep easily
  • simple stuff is probably easier to play with
  • good work flow: make or find fun fragments and improvise rest
  • credible way to run a red & pleasant land

disadvantages

  • some elements are hard to improvise such as riddles (solved via fragmentary prep -ed)
  • a sense of prewritten secrets being divulged is perhaps lost
  • requires the ability to improvise
  • "fairness"???

Friday, August 3, 2018

what I want and do not want in rpgs

I read " I feel the compulsion to explicitly state the things I desire in play and assumptions in the material I write, " in scrap's post and have, honestly, been gushing over the pig pip stuff zak put out lately. 

what I want in rpgs:
1. a framework of power
in the game, the king's guards can protect the king from most threats, there's a military logic behind it. you can always refer to that logic. this is how you get cool stories in like plays. in "sexy beast" a retired mob employee is being pressured by his superior to come out of retirement. the retired mobster does not want to come out of retirement because he is afraid of death, but he is also afraid of angering his superior who has the freedom to beat him up and maybe even kill him. the superior doesn't want to kill the mobster, his former friend... thus a drama. in the end the mobster kills the superior and then has to go deal with the superior's superior... consequences for the actions along a framework of power, a basis of drama like they taught me in playwriting class. 

not just the drama but also clever circumnavigation thereof... fun shit.

2. fun potential power levers
this is what lotfp has with the "summon" spell, or all the little rules which can be cleverly used, like casting "bless" to aid a pickpocket attempt. fun because they're clever, fun because they're dangerous, fun because they feel fair... that's one of the great uses of magic in games. powerful artifact has bad downsides.

honestly #2 is optional because with #1 I can just come up with fun power levers in whatever setting it is. my "top secret" campaign was one of the best bc the players would just use their knowledge of 80's airport security to bypass challenges.

.do not want:
1. railroading- a loaded term but basically any understanding applies
2. complex world of warcraft style combat which will always always be difficulty and pixel-bitchy and take too long to run.
3. non-optional homework. I should be able to drop in, having like library content to pour through can be good but I shouldn't have to or we should be able to do it quickly at the table.

interesting note here is that both categories above reflect a player's desires. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

d20 wizards

Grindle.
  1. wizard has a successful funerary company and uses bones but he has to eat glass so suffers digestive issues etc. spouse knows about the studies but just lumps it under "blasphemy"
  2. in a major city: a person in rags that lives under a bridge, is not bothered by local authorities or travelers, emits a not quite unpleasant radial stench, occasionally has social events, carries out all the local assassinations although only from people who can pay, does not apparently carry out assassinations in person. this person will not be moved is not assailable and seems to always be there
  3.  in the palace of papers there they is, completely cut off from the rest of the world, has traps among the papers, distilleries to produce edible glue. seeking a lost record of some rarity means tripping relatively near the wizard, who is audible. to be in the palace is to be among his things, they is the only resident allowed
  4. wizard has a rolling horizontal towertube in the desert
  5. wizard has invented skateboarding and has a modified mountain
  6. imprisoned wizard on fiendish toilet commands mirror-holding golems from an undisclosed location
  7. wizard is only local who's managed to figure out library has spellbooks and is retired
  8. mangled sibling wizard in pocket dimension uses famous saucier for edicts
  9. gordon ramsey wizard stumbles drunk into royal courts kills the monarch impregnates the spouses loudly criticizes everyone kills some eats some dahmer-style wakes up mortified leaves protected whole time by confusing veil of ego illusion. witnesses assume shakespearian drama responsible
  10. wizard's whole face looks like a village which throws stuff (milk, eggs, butchered pigs in quantity) down well mouth. casts the spells from sleeping place of feathered swine and infrequently uses summon 
  11. wizard has airship which floats by dimensional conflation only, thus airship is permanently travelling through parallel dimensions which collapse in shunting electrical shunts seconds after airship breaches them
  12. wizard is currently living as panda in imperial zoo, has a habit of getting too personal with courtesans and eunuchs and has to make big ol excuses which typically resemble morality lessons involving a wise panda
  13. christina's world wizard has muscular dystrophy and protects zone
  14. wizard is either an eagle eating a mouse or a mouse being eaten by an eagle, physically manifest as well as a throbbing psychic image in those it communicates with
  15. large diamond wizard zooms around and communicates in the booming psychic voice. not a diamond shaped like a wizard, a wizard shaped like a cut diamond
  16. wizard goes to public places cries and gets drunk a lot. otherwise stereotypical
  17. grassroots wizard is big into political organization wildly unsuccessful has caused disasters
  18. wizard tower larger on the outside than on the inside on a huge scale
  19. alan alda but he kills 
  20. reroll