Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Eye of Argon by Jim Theis

I have just spent the last week, or so, reading The Eye of Argon and it was the most difficult thing which I have ever read. It was not challenging from an intellectual or conceptual approach, it was a painful trap of typographical errors and misplaced modifiers. I dare to compare The Eye of Argon to James Joyce’s Dubliners, stories about drunks, swindlers, unhappy young brides and generally miserable people. The Eye of Argon was as painful to read as Joyce’s close up of cultural misery.

Here's a typical passage from the tale;
“Taking hold of the rodent around its lean, growling stomach with both hands Grignr pried from his crimson rent breast, removing small patched of flayed flesh from his chest in the motion between the squalid slack claws of the starving beast."

This sounds to me like the “growling stomach” has “both hands” and a “chest” is “in a motion between squalid slack claws of the beast.” The modifiers and the sentence structure make me cringe but, on the other hand, I wish I had the stomach to emulate this style, I might become the next Lionel Fanthrope.

The Eye of Argon is available as a Google Book but only seven, or so, pages of the introduction are available through Google. But that’s enough because the introduction contains the “publication history” or The Eye of Argon. There are a few web sites dedicated to this wondrous work and a Wikipedia entry but I am convinced that this whole tale is a hoax. I’m not certain when it started, it may have begun in 1970 as reports claim or the hoax may have begun in the year 2000, but I’m almost certain this work of fiction is a brilliant and elaborate, internet perpetrated, hoax. I’m also convinced that the cover photo of the Google edition of this book is a photo of Old Faithful or a geyser very near that famous frequently flowing fellow.

While Joyce challenges us to investigate our surroundings and origins more closely, The Eye of Argon has taught me not to investigate bad pulp fiction too closely. From now on, I’ll be inclined to believe internet reports of really bad pulp fiction and avoid the work in question. (Unless the work in question was spawned from the mind of Mr. L. Fanthrope.) The Eye of Argon is actually available in a print now and I have to wonder if the typos have been corrected in the print edition, it might be handy to own a properly edited edition of this nighmare.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Tale of Two book purchases; part 2

Book purchase 1; Hackmaster Player’s Handbook and Hackmaster Game Master’s Reference$12.99 + $3.99 shipping from e-bay. The player’s handbook is a bit more beat-up than I’d like but I did pay 60% off the retail price, including shipping.

Book purchase 2; The Hacklopedia of Beast, vol. 2 from a local used book store: $2.00.

I’ll offer comments about those old copies of The Space Gamer soon. Now, to come up with a plot line wacky enough to use with Hackmaster, oh yeah, I found Little Keep on the Borderland at the used book store earlier this year!

Next at the Polyhedral Dicebag; I offer my two cents on The Eye of Argon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

RPG Brain Storm Questionnaire

Last week I got an idea to give my game group some random questions to use in generating plots for rpgs. I’m not out or plot ideas but I thought the questionnaire would be fun and, perhaps, inject a bit of creative thinking into our group. This is certainly no insult to my group, they are all great fun and I’m often guilty of running out of creative ideas while we’re sitting at the gaming table. Here are the questions which I presented along with their responses and my comments about the responses.

1. What type of character have you always wanted to play but have never gotten the opportunity? (Any genre or setting is acceptable.)

Reverse Dungeon, a mob boss, a young Jedi or a paladin. A hybrid character of Conan, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Dracula and Elvis.

Comments: Yeah, my guys are a bunch of jokesters but these are some creative ideas.

2. What book and, or movie contains elements which you would like to use in an rpg?

Dune, the Mad Max series, Hellraiser, King Kong, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Robin Hood, Reservoir Dogs, Land of the Lost and Raiders of the Lost Ark

Comments: I haven’t seen three of these films but they all sound like good ideas.

3. What rock band and, or song would you like to see used within an rpg plot?

Michael Bolton; the whole collection (a joke)
Rush (Another joke, I think based on the recent film Fanboys.)
The Ramones (This is an idea I could work with.)

4. What historical event or period would you enjoy in an rpg?

Victorian, 1930s, Prohibition, South Central L. A. circa 1990, The future as envisioned by the past.

Comments: I like the 1990’s L.A. idea and “the future as envisioned by the past,” brings to mind the novels of A.E. Van Vogt, Doc Smith and Poul Anderson.

5. Insert any additional comments here:
I want to level like a Mofo and; Brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

Thanks to by pals in the OSP for answering my random nonsense with their own brand of nonsense. It’s entirely likely that this first questionnaire will lead to a second set of questions and I may get around to developing some of these ideas and suggestions in 2011.

Guest Book Review of Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother

One day, a few weeks ago, I found my wife, Sally, searching around her bookshelves. I immediately ask her if she had run out of things to read. Her response was the “uh huh” which I anticipated. I remembered that I had purchased a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and began searching through my piles of books. I found Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and two other books for her to choose from. One of the books was The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey and this was the book she chose to read first. Once she finished reading the book I got the idea that she could do a guest book review for the ol’ blog and composed the following questions for a brief interview.

Q. What genre would you consider The Fairy Godmother?
A. It’s fantasy but not what I would consider romantic fantasy. It is really a modern twist on fairy tales. The setting is called the Five Hundred Kingdoms and the main character, Elena, is ushered into “the tradition” of the Fairy Godmothers. Elena was supposed to be the Cinderella of her kingdom and became a Fairy Godmother initiate when this plan went astray.

Q. How long did it take you to read this novel?
A. Two weeks.

Q. As a point of reference, would you compare the style of The Fairy Godmother too Shrek?
A. Yes, the characterization is similar.

Q. Would you recommend The Fairy Godmother for male readers?
A. Yeah, sure.

Q. Was this book better than an Archie comic?
A. Yes

Q. Was the book better than a Hellboy comic?
A. No

Q. What are you reading now?
A. Wild Fire by Christine Feeham

Q. Would you do another guest review for the Polyhedral Windbag in the future?
A. Sure

Thanks to Sally for this brief view into this novel which we received through a book trade we established on Paperback Swap dot Com.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A tale of two book purchases

This is actually the tale of three book purchases from two ends of the same subject.
Book purchase #1, Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition, Player’s Handbook = $14.99.
Shipping = 3.99.
Knowing I bought this book for 30% less than the cover price = priceless.

I’ve been shopping for the Fourth Edition Player’s Handbook for a while. I wanted to get a copy of the book so I can form my own informed opinion of this new edition of the game. I can’t believe this edition of the game is broken or think it’s the bee knees until I’ve read the rules and devised my own opinion and owning a copy of the book will facilitate this process.

Book purchase #2, Fantasy Role Playing Games and Mahars of Pellucidar by J.E. Holmes.

Fantasy Role Playing was $12.49 with shipping and Mahars of Pellucidar was less than $5.oo. I remember that my college library had a copy of Fantasy Role Playing Games. I also remember looking through the books in those days too. I'm pretty sure I never read this book back then because I was too concerned with trying to pass Biology, Anthropology and Speech. I also didn't have the money to buy Dr. Holmes' book at that time. I believe that the original cover price is actually $12.50. This was in the late Eighties and we were still playing 1st edition AD&D. Of course, that is what I still play today too, when my group isn't playing Mutant Future or Encounter Critical.

I should have a tale of two book purchases, part two, to write about pretty soon. It's an even better deal than the 4th ed. Player's Handbook. I think it will be around 75% off the cover price after shipping. I also hope to have a guest book review posted soon too.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Old School Files

I've been digging through my old gaming material with the intent to use this material to create a generic system adventure. Yesterday, I found this old character record sheet which I had created for 1st edition AD&D. I've edited it a bit to share with my blog-o-sphere faithfuls. I think this file should prove to be useful as a record sheet for retro clone and weird fantasy gaming.

Generic RPG Character Record

Friday, May 7, 2010

Raiders of the Mercenary Coast

I’ve finally completed my adventure design for Encounter Critical and posted it at Scribd for the world to enjoy. I can’t claim that my design up holds the EC standard of scientific realism because I’m certain that some of the stats I’ve listed are incorrect. I’m certain I over looked some attack bonuses or have some attack percentages listed wrong. In my defense, when I ran the original design of this adventure with my game group we laughed out loud as the players bulldozed through everything in their path. Which is the true spiritual realism of role playing games, I believe.

I had intended to have a larger treasure haul in this adventure but the final draft only contains a pile of gold, a pile of copper and a pile of bottle caps. What is not written into the adventure is the fact that the basement warehouse is full of trilithum crystals which are far more valuable than gold. (The crystals are the power source of all Vulkan technology, don’t ya know!)

After my group steam rolled through my original npcs I beefed up the final design. I’m not sure that first level characters can survive the killer robot encounter or the final scene with the crime boss and his gambling buddies. If any of the player characters should survive there’s a lead to follow for more adventure at the end of this design. I also have an epilogue to this adventure which I need to type up and share. At the rate I produce game designs; I may have the epilogue released around December of this year.

The pdf has italic text and plain text. The plain text is like the text boxes in the old module designs of our youth. This is the information the GM/JM can read or explain to the players. The italic text is the information the players should learn through role playing. I thought this would be a simple enough system but I found it difficult to work with. Like all things rpg, perhaps this system will work it’s self out in time.

I hope some of you give this file a read or run through and, please, share your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The OSP still play AD&D and blog name change.

First, since I have a second blog now for social commentary, Fanatical Recycling Inc, (link to the right) I thought a more rpg related title was in order for this corner of the blog-o-sphere. No matter what we play, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, old school or new, we can all relate to the polyhedral dicebag.

My current game group, the Old School Pastafari, formed in March of 2009 and we still have a core of three of the original group members and we’re still playing AD&D 1st edition. Recently our party of six player characters hired twenty-two men at arms to invade a bandit camp. The bandits had attempted to rob the player characters in an earlier adventure and the party hoped to turn the tables on the bandits a second time. The party thief, Nigel, scouted the hills where the camp was located. He found a well kept farm and farm house at the foot of the hills. The farm appeared to be an odd form of watch tower guarding the bandit camp. That night Nigel counted twenty-five to thirty camp fires within the camp.

The party attempted to find employment guarding the merchant caravans on the route which the bandits were harassing but were informed that their group was too small, inexperienced and ill prepared. Plan B was instigated; follow the merchants and enter the woods along the trade route before the bandit ambush. This plan worked well and all twenty-eight members of the adventure party entered the woods and blended into the landscape before approaching close to the bandit camp.

With the body of the brigade concealed in the forest, Nigel drank a potion of invisibility and snuck into the camp to snoop around. He noted that there were simple timber fortifications used to guard the camp. He slipped past the fortifications and under the floorboards of the one cabin in the camp. All the bandits appeared to be in the camp, it must have been their day off from ambushing merchant caravans. Nigel didn’t hear any conversations containing information that would be useful to the party. He started a fire under the floorboards of the cabin and hid among the tents to watch the bucket brigade. The bandits quickly rescued some valuables from the cabin and began burying them. Nigel returned to the party with the knowledge of the location of the bandits’ treasure.

Nigel, still invisible, set fire to the barn on the farm to create a distraction. The bandits promptly streamed out of the camp to distinguish this fire and then began a search for the pesky arson. The player characters set their hirelings into an attack formation and charged the bandit camp. The hirelings formed three ranks, a first row of seven pike men, a second row of six crossbow men and six long bow archers as the rear guard.

This brigade approached a timber fortification and attacked from the range of the bowmen. The fortification was protected by five or six men which were quickly defeated. The brigade remained in formation and marched into the bandit camp and soon discovered a group of bandits gathered around the freshly buried treasure. The brigade again attacked this group from crossbow range. As this battle proceeded a second group of bandits joined the fight, thus attacking our heroes from two directions. The pickmen were instructed to turn at a right angle to protect the bowmen from this second attack. The bowmen finished off the treasure guards and all hands began to dig for treasure with and stick, spear or make-shift shovel available. (The plan at this point was; “Grab it and go.”)

The events of the evening concluded with the party/brigade safely escaping the bandits and finding they had enough loot to progress to the next experience level.

Next up for the blog, I share my Encounter Critical adventure design with the world.