Monthly Archives: December 2010

Chivalry & Sorcery & Eyestrain, Part II

Prepare To Wear Out Your Dice

OK, let’s begin!

When last we left our intrepid hero, we had finished writing the introduction, but we hadn’t actually gotten around to creating a character. As noted in that section, you don’t pick a race, per se… you roll for your race. I’m surprised no game in the Cambrian Age didn’t have you roll to see if you were even in the game at all… oh, wait, that would be Traveller. (Infamous, and wonderful, for the fact your character could die before the game even began.)

We begin with Prime Requisites, which is what most other games just call “attributes”. I’m going to give C&S a pass on this one. The vocabulary of RPGs was still in a state of serious flux; this wasn’t some nineties¬† attempt to be different using all the same concepts but giving them goofy names (“Align the chakras of competence in opposition to the hazards of regret.” “What?” “Roll for initiative.” “Oh.”). The rules note, in very small type, that if your life horoscope is well aspected, you can reroll one crappy state.

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Merry Mutant Christmas!

Today, I finally got around to doing what I’ve been putting off for months — editing the monsters in Earth Delta (just in case you somehow got here from some odd link, Earth Delta is Lizard’s take on Gamma World style mutant adventuring using the D&D 4e rules). For a long time, I’ve been telling myself the lie that I would hook up my old PC, dig out the saved monster files from my old install of Adventure Tools, load them all, convert them all, and re-export them all. The truth is, after 6 months, it ain’t gonna happen, period. Furthermore, Adventure Tools does such a swell job of mangling converted custom monsters that I’d be better off just re-entering them, and, third, Adventure Tools doesn’t actually have the correct Monster Manual 3 attack and damage calculations anyway. So I just went through every damn monster in Earth Delta — that’s 114 so far, from Annihilation Army Alchemist to Wastelander Scout — and manually checked attack rolls and damage, and fixed a whole bunch of other errors as well — ranged attacks with no ranges, conditions with no end clause, confusing or poorly worded powers, missing keywords, typos, general inconsistencies, and more. The actual stat block format is still “old style”, which is a shame, but I don’t want to get stuck on stylistic issues when there’s content to be written.

I also decided to split Earth Delta into two books — the Core Rules, which has all the Player and DM stuff, and the Mutant Manual, because the file was just getting unwieldy in Word. I expect to be posting the core rules, chock-full of changes, fixes, expansions, etc (the last update published was October!), before the end of the year. The Mutant Manual… well, smeg it, it’s here now, and if I find a lot of errors I’ll just slip up another one while no one’s looking.

Anyway, here’s what the cover looks like. You can click on it to get the file.

Mutant Manual

Chivalry & Sorcery & Eyestrain

Chivalry & Sorcery

One reason I started doing my character creation walkthroughs was the fact that, well, I have over 2000 RPG items, and I’ve barely used any of them for actual gaming, despite playing constantly for the past 32 years or so. With such a cornucopia, it’s hard to decide what to do next, as I have games ranging from the common to the obscure, from the classic to the just-published.I’ve been looking a lot at the goofier, gonzoier, heavy metal, stuff from the “classic era”, but when D&D came out, there were a lot of reactions to it. Really, for the first few years of RPG history, every game was, in some way, a response to Dungeons & Dragons — some were slavish imitations of it, some were D&D on acid trips, some were “D&D but in a different genre but we copied over a bunch of stuff from D&D because it’s the only template we had for designing an RPG”, and some were more profound statements of disagreement with the design ethos of D&D. One of these rebuttals, Tunnels & Trolls, was pretty much the only game of the era consciously and deliberately designed to be simpler for the sake of simplicity.

This article isn’t about Tunnels & Trolls, as you’ve probably figured out from reading the frakking title. It is about another Noun & Noun game, one which looked at D&D and said “Unhistoric! Simplistic! Balderdash!”. That game, of course, is Chivalry & Sorcery, the SCA Authenticity Fascist to D&D Ren Faire dude wandering around in a T-Shirt saying “I’m just here for the wenches”.

This is Chivalry & Sorcery

This is D&D

Any questions?

Anyway, read on for more!

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Flint Baker Header.git

Flint Baker And The One Eyed Monster Men Of Mars

Tales From The Public Domain

Planet Comics #1

Flint Baker And The One Eyed Monster Men Of Mars

Not Gay Porn. Really.

OK, folks. Welcome to an exciting new feature here at mrlizard.com, I’m sure all (both) my readers will be happy with! In this feature, I look at some of the great (cheesy) comics from the Golden Age, with a general intent to look at non-superhero comics, because, frankly, the iconoclastic (lame) superheroes of the Golden Age (such as the Red Bee, a hero whose sole power was that he had a bee — a normal, everyday, bee — in his belt buckle) have been done to death. We’re starting with Planet Comics, which featured, in its 79 issue run, a variety of ongoing serials.

Here’s the cover of issue 1:

Planet Comics 1

Planet Comics 1

Remember this cover — it will come back later. There may be a quiz. For now, though, let’s move on!

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Two Cows, Special Lizard Edition

You Have Two Cows…

I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the “Politics explains by two cows” meme which was faxlore long before the Internet was invented.Over on RPG.net, there’s a thread which does the same for games. Because I am vain and egotistical, I decided to add an entry focusing on some of the games I’ve written…

Iron Lords Of Jupiter: When your Earth bull landed on the strange world jupiter, it had no idea it would fall madly in love with the Avalliania, the mysterious princess of the Green Cow people, and face endless trials as he struggled to protect her from the evil cows of the Iron Empire.

D20 Mars: Pretty much the same, just use “Mars” and “White Apes”.

GURPS: Lands Out Of Time: You thought you had prepared for the expedition well, but then a tyrannosaur ate your two cows.

GURPS: Tales Of The Solar Patrol: The Earth colonies on Venus are stricken with a lethal plague which is slaughtering their cattle! You are rushing two cows, selectively bred for generations to be immune to all disease, from the asteroid belt to Venus, when a fleet of pirate vessels appears on the astro-scope! Raise the nega screens and charge the atom guns! No matter the risk, the cows must get through! In the name of the PATROL!

Fields Of Blood: You can either spend the Resource Points to raise cows to feed your peasants, or you can buy another unit of light infantry and try to take your neighbor’s rich pastures for yourself…

Earth Delta: You will have two cows, and they’ll be totally awesome mutant cows with everything. At the moment, though, you’ve got one cow, and a note which says that second cow design is being heavily playtested and will be published shortly.

Cool Mini Links, And Preserving Our Heritage (Pun semi-intended)

‘Cause Heritage was a producer of Dungeons & Dragons minis back in the day, and… oh, never mind.

Anyway, one reason I went through the Hell Of Converting Hosting Programs (located just between the Great Screaming Hell and the Hell of Stringlike Worms) was to make it easier to post quick little posts like this, about whatever happened to intrude on my consciousness and was vaguely gaming related. So this post is about some cool miniature sites that I’m sure any (purely hypothetical) readers of mine would be interested in.

First, we have the Lost Minis Wiki, which is an amazing collection of old miniatures from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, with many having pictures (though, sadly, not as many as there could be). A few of my favorites are the multitude of ducks, being one of the classic gaming memes of the first decade or so of roleplaying (owing in the large part to Runequest deciding to use ducks as their “short race” instead of “halflyngs”, “hibbits”, “hoblings” or any other such attempt to avoid the deadly gaze of the Eye of Sauron’s Lawyers). One such example:

Duck Adventurer

Duck Adventurer, From Archive

And many, many, more. Fans of my Star Rovers articles are encouraged to check out this collection of Star Rovers miniatures.

But in the course of putting together links for this article, I had an interesting experience that leads to the second part of what I’d like to talk about, so, read on!

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OSRIC Wars (Or: Stellar Battles. Or: Lizard Has Too Many Ideas.)

Imagine, if you will, that around 1977 or so, a certain E. Gary Gygax saw Star Wars and thought, “Wow, you could make a fortune turning this into an RPG!”. He set about a parallel project to develop a Star Wars RPG that would use the still-evolving AD&D core rules, confident he’d have no trouble securing the license rights. By 1980, the game was done, but the licensing had fallen through completely. With hundreds of manuscript pages written and playtested, a hasty editing job scrubbed all explicit references to the films (and the books by Alan Dean Foster and Brian Daley), tossed in some sci-fi elements ripped off from other media sources, just to make the game more “generic”, and released “Stellar Battles”, the RPG of science fiction adventure. (Maybe “Galaxy Wars”. “Star Rebellion”? “Starships & Smugglers”?)

At the moment, not one word has been written on this; it’s simply an idea. A science fiction RPG based off the OSRIC retro-clone, as it might have been written in 1980 or so, drawing from the first wave of Star Wars material (pre “I am your father” and all that), with plenty of nods to Lensmen, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and John Carter. Classes, levels, lower-is-better Armor Class… in this fantasy alternative universe, a good chunk of the development work was passed to freelance writer David Hargrave, who brought his own unique worldview and style to the project.

It’s hard for me to even think about working on this, as my time is very accounted for over the next few months, and the parts which aren’t accounted for are given over to Earth Delta, which is going to be one of the few projects I actually finish, by Ghod. Still, if there’s interest expressed at all, I might post whatever random dribbles of text I actually create for this, or whatever thoughts, however inchoate and unformed, I have about it.

This would be old-school as I remember it… big, bold, balls-to-the-wall attitude, a deeply personal and raw writing style, a somewhat adversarial player/DM relationship, a chaotic mix of concepts and mechanics, rules that are highly abstract (one minute combat rounds) and highly detailed (weapon vs. armor class) at the same time, and yet, eminently fun and playable. A small dollop of affectionate parody of the era, but mostly as close as I could come to a game that could have, would have, should have, been published a couple of realities over.

Gameplay vs. Graphics: The Eternal Struggle

I posted this over on MMORPG.com, but I figure it’s just as appropriate to post here:

http://www.atarimagazines.com/compute/issue53/012_1_Is_A_Picture_Worth_A_Thousand_Words.php

Included in this article are various corporate talking heads spewing their usual excuses for shallow games that appeal only to WoW kiddies:

  • “The market demands better graphics, so that’s what we’re going to give them.”
  • “Getting stuck and frustrated is no fun; we make sure the player always knows what to do in order to progress in the story.”
  • “Even if the game is less complex, the graphics make up for it.”

On the plus side, they get Richard Garriott to talk about his next big project! — “It’s basically a game in which you’re living out your life. And you can do anything you want.”

Sounds cool.

I wish we had more of this sort of cutting-edge debate over here on MMORPG.com, instead of just rehashes of the same old topics over and over. Didn’t want to post the whole article for copyright reasons, but it’s well worth reading to get a good sense of how important and timely this new issue of trading solid gameplay and real challenge for snazzy graphics and hand-holding is. This is something we’ve got to talk about now, before computer gaming is changed forever.

I’ve played most of the newer games they mention, and while they’re fun enough, I guess, they just don’t offer the kind of real experience and involvement that older games did, and if this kind of focus on pandering to the lowest common denominator and simplifying gameplay with built-in cheats and published cluebooks continues, eventually, real games that have depth to them will just vanish or be reduced to niche markets.

Again — this is a great article, and I recommend that anyone on MMORPG.com who is passionate about how modern games are being dumbed down to appeal to more consumers read it. It really places the issue into the proper perspective.

Necromican, Level 4

The Necromican

Necromican

Necromican

Level 4

OK, this is, I think, the first real, content-laden article written for the “new” mrlizard.com . (Much like the new boss, it’s pretty much the same as the old boss.) Anyway, we (by which I mean ‘me’, in much the same way that ‘we have to clean out the garage’ means ‘you have to clean out the garage’ in wife-speak)¬† are continuing our walk through the pages of the Necromican (note, no “nom”, no “con”), the 1979 highly unofficial supplement for Dungeons & Dragons published by Fantasy Art Enterprises. Levels 1-3 were covered here.This section covers level 4. I’m trying to do more, shorter, articles to give this blog the illusion of life. Hmm… if no one sees the illusion of a tree falling in the forest, does it make a sound? Of course not, moron, phantasmal force doesn’t produce sound, you need audible glamer (sic) for that!

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The Tale of Gramlak Boarskewer And Mister Kettlehead

By Way Of Introduction

This was submitted for the Blizzard 2010 writing contest; it did not win, place, or show. Sigh. The version below is very slightly different than the one actually submitted, mainly in that it was not cut back to 7500 words to fit the contest guidelines. Much as I’d like to delude myself into thinking otherwise, I doubt the extra 500 words would have made much difference. This story references places, characters, events, etc, in World of Warcraft and is not intended as an attack on their copyrights or trademarks yadda yadda yadda, the actual story is mine and remains copyright to me, etc, you know the drill.

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