Support Your “Local” Content Creators

This recent series of tweets by Cirsova…

Fear

…and this post by Dominika Lein, particularly this part…

Fear 2

…have put the fear of God in me.

I love the Pulp Revolutions and what it is doing. I have been intentionally trying to buy and read as much as I can. I don’t have any writing talent to add more written works, I don’t have all the money in the world to be a patron, and I don’t have a massive reach with my internet presence.

What I can do is leave Amazon reviews and tell whoever I can that these are good stories. And I have not done a great job of that.The reviews I write may not be the most insightful or influential, but gosh darnit, I am going to do what I can!

If I (and you) want to see more of these stories, we need to make sure that we support our content creators. Since I assume that no one reading this is a multi-trillionaire, we only have so much money / time to support those who create valuable content.

I am going to try to use my time better and support content from writers who create good stories. I encourage you to do so as well. If they do not receive support, they may stop creating content.

To start with, here are some stories I read and reviewed recently. They are all good!

NTRPG Con Reflection

I am back from the North Texas RPG Convention and it was great!

I have never been to an RPG convention before, nor played a tabletop game with complete strangers before. I was a little nervous, but everyone I met was friendly. If all conventions were like this one, I would encourage you to go and check out your local con!

I tried not to spend toooooo much money.

Here are a few highlights:

– Playing Swords & Wizardry Light. It is a FAN-DAMN-TASTIC little game, if you need a serious rules-light tabletop roleplaying experience. My character died, right after saving another character’s life. I was a cleric with 1 hp for most of the game. I had one Cure Light Wounds spell, but I saved it, in case another character needed it, because that is what heroic adventuring clerics do, dagnabbit! After dying, my body was looted by the party and nearly set on fire. I wish I was kidding.

– Playing Index Card D&D with Cirsova! If you need a cooperative, rules-light party game. THIS IS IT. This is the Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity of RPGs. What other game has mummified paladins, hardboiled detective corgis, and yoga instructors?

– A great introduction to OGRE. I co-won the first game and lost the second game quite badly. Hex 2001 with some of the terrain changes was a rough starting position for a GEV-heavy scenario. Cursed forests.

– Seeing the 3d printed 1st level of Rappan Athuk. Apparently, some people were actually adventuring in it.

Big Bag and Dice Bag

Anyway, if I can go next year, you better believe I will be there. Heck, I might even run a game!

What Is Wrong With Steampunk & How To Fix It

Let me start this post by telling a little story.

I knew a guy in college who went to GenCon every year. He would go dressed as the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride film. He told me that he would find people dressed up as “Steampunk people” and ask who they were. When they inevitably responded “Steampunk”, he would ask them who Steampunk was. According to him, they never had an intelligent answer.

His point was that they were not dressed as recognizable characters from beloved franchises, which, in his mind, was the point of dressing up at GenCon. Even the crappiest Jedi costume was at least trying to evoke the Star Wars franchise and the positive memories many have of it.

Basically, what he is saying (and I mostly agree with), is that Steampunk is a fashion. It is a specific visual design, but that’s it. The pocketless Star Trek uniform is also a specific visual design, but it points to something (in this case, Star Trek). The Steampunk outfit does not point at anything. It’s just a funny outfit. Imagine if a man went to a convention with a full body spandex suit, a helmet, a jetpack, and a lasergun and said they were a “Spaceman”.

While I like the Steampunk visuals and the potential of great stories that could be told in a Steampunk world, it does not seem to have happened yet.

What is wrong with Steampunk is that there is no central media that all Steampunk can get around. For example, in sci-fi, you have the two big franchises: Star Trek and Star Wars, along with a bunch of other media properties (Doctor Who, Stargate, Bablyon 5, etc). These franchises all have something in common. They exist in a visual medium. I believe that is the key for Steampunk to break out.

For better or worse, movies / television shows are the rulers of mass pop culture media. If Steampunk is to become anything other than a reason to glue gears to otherwise normal objects…

… there will need to be a strong Steampunk movie or television series. Or possibly even a book / comic book that is immensely popular. If nothing else, this particular piece of media must have something recognizable among not just the majority of Steampunk fans, but also non-Steampunkers. Right now, I do not think that piece of media exists. There must be a strong, striking visual element that grabs the imagination. I know I am sounding anti-Steampunk, but I desperately want it to work. I think that there is some real potential to tell some really interesting stories in a Steampunk setting.

For instance, I had high hopes that Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura would be that breakout media, but it was not. The magic vs technology inherent in the setting (compared to the materialism found in most Steampunk), as well as being a PC-only isometric roleplaying game probably had something to do with it not lighting the fire of the Steampunk movement.

Another factor I have not mentioned yet, another hurdle that Steampunk will need to leap over, is the “realism” concern. Allow me to explain:

In a magical fantasy or a high-tech sci-fi future, it is easy to suspend disbelief because as long as the rules of magic / high-tech stuff is consistent, many readers will not notice or care about the unrealistic nature of it all. Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel is pretty much impossible as far as we know, so any sci-fi story with it is un-scientific and un-realistic. However, as long as the rules regarding the FTL are consistently adhered to, the reader/viewer won’t care. For example, if it takes 3 days to get to Earth from Alpha Centauri via FTL and the protagonist must get to Earth to save the damsel from being eaten by mutant roaches that wander the nuclear-blasted wilderness, don’t suddenly allow him to arrive in 2 hours (unless you have introduced a character earlier in the story that is working on a Mk. Two FTL drive that the protagonist is friends with)! Re-write the story so that she has to hide out from the roaches!

With Steampunk, there is just barely enough knowledge in the public mind about why it is an unworkable technology. Since Steampunk is generally on an alternate history Earth, the small amount of knowledge about real world history that the public schools allow to be taught makes it more difficult to believe a Steampunk story.

Where are all the trees required to keep the engines powered? Why aren’t all the gears exposed to the elements stopped up? In the real world, a lot of steam technology was replaced by more efficient technology, so the Steampunk author must figure out how to deal with why people have not searched for more efficient technology than steam. Maybe a genius created a more efficient steam engine. Maybe Gary’s Gear-Gunk-Be-Gone only needs to be applied once a week to keep all the gears turning. In any case, this needs to be figured out and consistently applied before the disbelief can be properly suspended.

So how does this get fixed? How do we create some sort of media that will visually inspire people? The point of this post is not to criticize, whine, and nag. I merely want to point out the issues and then try to brainstorm some ways to overcome them.

Step # 1) Someone needs to write a great Steampunk story. Not a story that completely ignores Victorian values and is just a modern-thinking lady in a corset trying to decide between a werewolf and a vampire boyfriend, but an actual story that takes the pseudo-Victorian values assumed in the Steampunk setting and honestly engages them.

Step # 2) The story, if a book, needs great cover art that catches the eye, in order to lead to …

Step # 3) Someone creates a movie based on the book with striking visual design that DOES NOT OVERLY RELY ON CGI.

Step # 4) More people will know about Steampunk and appreciate it.

Steampunk will be a success, in my not-so-humble opinion, when someone comes to a convention covered in gears and a top hat and everyone there says, “That is a great Engineer Edward cosplay!”.

Thoughts?


P.S. While writing this post, I had the Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura soundtrack on repeat. I am musically inept, but the string quartet featured is mesmerizing. Take a listen:

http://benhouge.com/arcanum.html

P.P.S. If there was a mod for Divinity: Original Sin to replicate Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (minus the real-time combat), that would probably make my brain explode in joy.

Fighting Man, Priest, & Magic User Only?

After reading the tweet below…

…I decided to write this post.

For the record, I started playing D&D with 3E. I am not someone who has been with the hobby since Day One. Therefore, whenever I look at 2nd Edition or earlier, I am viewing it as an outsider. Also, I want to start by saying that I respect Mr. Oghma and his opinions.

All that said, I disagree with his tweet. Slightly.

I think that Thieves, Rogues, Ne’er-do-wells, whatever you want to call them…they have a place in D&D as the fourth pillar. Using the Thief class as someone who can scout and backstab people is a good addition to the game. I know many people do not like the additions to the game made in later editions, and there are a LOT of bad ideas in the history of D&D, but there are plenty of good ones too. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Raising the Thief to the same importance as the original three is one of those good ideas. From an Appendix N perspective, Fafhrd may be a Fighting Man, but what is the Gray Mouser? A Thief!

However, I think that Mr. Oghma is onto something with reducing the number of character classes. More classes = more mechanics, which can equal more headache for the GM that does not know how all of those mechanics interact. Also, in a high-death game, having only a few character classes makes it easier for players too. Many players do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the 47 classes and their unique mechanics. Yet, having a few more options than just 3 or 4 may give players some interesting concepts to play with.

While pondering this tweet, I was reminded of a couple of features in some recent roleplaying games. The first is Pathfinder’s archetype system. With this system, a character can trade class feature A, B, & C for new class feature X, Y, & Z. Rather than create a new class (although Pathfinder has PLENTY of those), you could use an archetype, which has most of the usual features, but enough of a twist for someone to play a unique character concept.

The second is 5E’s character archetype system. Each character class is required to pick an archetype sometime between 1st and 3rd level. Each class has a core set of abilities and then a few archetype abilities as well. In fact, someone could take what I would call the 4 base classes (Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, and Thief), and turn all the other classes in the 5E Player’s Handbook into archetypes of the above. For instance, the Paladin, Barbarian, and Ranger could be reworked as Fighter archetypes.

Now, let’s tackle the Monk and Bard comment. The Monk and Bard may have been implemented poorly in 1E, but the concept of those characters was solid. In a fantasy roleplaying game, there should be a way to replicate just about any quasi-medieval or fantasy literature character. People will always try to create Monks, Bards, Jesters, etc. Let’s find a way to make them work!


Check out Oghma’s blog Temple of Iron and follow him on Twitter/Gab (@Oghma_EM). He’s a great guy with great content.

A Word We All Need To Use More

FAN-DAMN-TASTIC

When I really like something, I will sometimes say that it is “Fan-damn-tastic”. I try not to let it slip in polite company, but it is tempting sometimes to see what certain people’s faces would be if I said that.

But in all seriousness, I think a lot of “new school” tabletop RPG people need to sit down and play Earthsiege 2, which is the game that this video came from. Now I can hear what you are all thinking:

“But The Mixed GM, why would we play a mostly-forgotten mech game from the 90’s?”

“Why don’t you use consistent branding online?”

“When will you finish Demons in Space?”

In Earthsiege 2, you could fail some missions and still progress in the story. Admittedly, things might be more difficult for you, but you did not have to succeed all time. When I mean fail a mission, I mean you fail the objective. If you are told to protect the base from attack, it actually matters whether or not you protect it well. It is your skill and your skill alone that determines how the game continues. This is generally NOT the kind of game where you protect the base for 30 minutes and then, in a cutscene, it explodes due to plot nonsense. If the base explodes, it is because you failed. However, you can pick yourself up, dust off your giant robot, and fight on.

If you want to reload from a previous save, that is an option. Or, you could soldier on despite the hardship.

Now apply this thinking to tabletop RPGs.


To answer the other questions:

Yes, I use @NotJohnDaker on Twitter / Gab / Discord. My online branding / persona / whatever is not consistent. I probably should care, but I don’t/

It’ll be done when it is done.