Monday, July 26, 2010

Recent Acquisitions: RPG and RPG related

Hello, my name is Chris and I have Gamer A.D.D. When I'm not distracted by my job or family I'm usually hunting to add new items to my collection of role playing games and related material.
Three of these items, Fight On! issue 1, The Encounter Critical Phaysic Cyaborg Edition and Miscellaneum of Cinder are the products of my first order from Lulu. I received two Perry Rhodan novels from Paperback Swap dot Com. I also received a copy of the Edgar Rice Burroughs based rpg, Red Planet, compliments of the author Clovis Cithog. Thanks Clovis!

The dice are from e-bay. When I'm not surfing the blog-o-sphere or otherwise looking for rpg material, I randomly shop for dice on e-bay. The six sided die is actually numbered 5 through 10 and should come in quite handy when creating npcs. All these items should add plenty of content to my gaming table and blog.

An almost forgotten Encounter Critical post.

I was browsing the ol' local rpg forum and found this post I had made last year. It was the start of my Encounter Critical thread over there. A recent poll at our forum, KnoxGamers, has produced only ten responses so I thought I'd repost these comments here for the wider audience of the blog-o-sphere.>>>

I've said a lot of things about this game and I'll add a few more comments now. Perhaps it's not "role playing through the imagination of a 12 year old boy" but, rather, the imagination of at 12 to 22 year old young man. Any one who reads the rule set will certainly understand these comments. Said rule set is available for download at:

That copy of the game looks like a photocopy of an old beat up copy of the game. This is intentional and explained at the web site. There's a yahoo group for fans of the game and members can download a clean pdf of the game. This copy doesn't look old and beat up but the gazette format isn't easy to assemble. We end up with a game that appears to have been designed in someone's basement with either file. So, what is the allure of such a low budget game?

The character creation begins with the standard 3d6 ability scores. The fun begins with the list of twelve basic character races; Amazon, Dwarf, elf, Frankenstein, Hobling, Human, Klengon, Lizard Man, Planetary Ape, Robodroid, Vulkin and Wookie. The alternate spellings of Hobbit, Klingon, Vulcan and Wooky were supposedly used to avoid copy right violation. In all the information I've read about the game, the dwarf, elf and human races are rarely used. What twelve year old could resit the chance to play a Frankenstein, Klengon, Lizard Man or a Wookie? And what Forty two year old game-boy could resist the same opportunity?

The character classes begin with the standard Warrior, Warlock, Criminal and Pioneer but the last two are a bit out of the ordinary. These are Doxy, or harlot, and Psi-Witch or Psychic Warrior. There are even rules now for ninjas and bikers.

The game mechanics consist of pages of old school charts. Each ability gives a percentile chance to succeed at a desired action. Thus, all actions are determined by the percentile dice. For example, a strength of 14 gives a 68% chance to succeed in a melee attack, 16 strength = 77% success, 18 strength = 86% success. Warriors have 20% chance to increase their strength each level. With some luck, or a friendly and liberal Journey Master, pc's could be facing 100% success rates for their actions around fourth or fifth level.

If you need further proof that this game is equally brilliant as it is stupid just imagine, remember being a young gamer? You probably wanted ray guns or pistols in your D&D game. Maybe you wanted space travel or time travel or bikers or robots? I know I wanted all that in my D&D game as a young lad, now I can have it all in the form of Encounter Critical.

You've all been fairly warned, if you see me approaching with an ugly photocopy of a rule book in my soil stained paw, run away. Run far, far away.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rudie Can't Fail!

Here's one for Lawrence and all the rest of us hard working stiffs sturggling to keep a roof over our head, food on the table and more books on our shelves.

The disappearance of R. Lawrence Blake

Exactly one month ago another of our fellow rpg bloggers stepped away from the keyboard, at least for blogging purposes, and I've just slowed down long enough to bid my regards. Mr. Blake's blog was the excellent Prime Requisite Games and I know that many of you where followers of his work. I've been known to draw an occasional doodle but generally shy away from most forms of graphic representation. Lawrence impressed me with by his ability to design rpg adventures as well as produce the art work for the adventures. I'm sure it's safe to assume that he did the layout and word processing for these, Labyrinth Lord based, adventures.

In his last blog, Lawrence mentioned that he would no longer have time for rpg or Prime Requisite Game related activities due to the responsibilities of regular life. He implies that he should eventually return after an undetermined hiatus. I'm certainly sorry to lose such a productive member of the rpg blog community and look forward to, what I hope is, the eventual return of R. Lawrence Blake and Prime Requisite Games.

Good luck, Lawrence, with your presuits in the day to day and thanks to the contributions you have left for us to enjoy.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tarnsman of Gor Revisited

As predicted, I did enjoy reading Tarnsman of Gor again. The hero of the novel, Tarl Cabot, gets into a fight and/or eludes death in every chapter. The story telling has an obvious foundation in classical English Literature. In fact, Cabot was employed as a college professor before he is abducted to Gor, the Counter Earth. He is returned to Earth at the end of the novel, where he avoids returning to his employer due to the embarrassment that would surround his disappearance.

He is abducted to supposedly serve the Priest Kings, the megalomaniacal leaders of Gor. He seems resigned to his abduction after finding a message, left by means of alien technology, which self destructs after he has read the message. I can’t help but to parallel this plot device with the works of Ian Fleming and George Lucas since the message was from Cabot’s father. “I rose to my feet. As I did so, a door in the side slid quietly upward. I must go in. My father’s word recurred in my memory: The fate is upon you.” p. 21

When he arrives on Counter-Earth, Cabot receives an education in Gorean culture which emphasizes the Code of the Warrior Caste. Gorean culture is a caste system. The upper classes, scribes, priests and administrators are well educated and better informed of politics and technology. The lower castes, laborers and slaves have a cultural and intellectual level of nomadic barbarians. An individual’s movement into an improved caste position is strongly influenced by financial power or brute force.

He is given lessons on prayers to the Priest Kings which he does not memorize. “…they were in old Gorean, a language cultivated by the Initiates but not spoken generally on the planet, and I never bothered to learn them. To my delight, I learned that Torm (his instructor) had forgotten them years ago.” p. 40

One of the first creatures Cabot meets on Gor is a servant of his father’s. He is shocked by his initial introduction to the caste of servitude but must accept the tradition as commonplace in Gorean culture. The evening before he is to receive his quest from the officials of the city of Ko-ro-ba Cabot is sufficiently accustomed to the caste of servants. “I remember, too, the girls in the last tavern, if it was a tavern… If there were natural slaves and natural free men… those girls were natural slaves.” p. 61

The quest which Cabot is given is an elaborate version of capture the flag. He is to steal the Home Stone, the central alter, of a rival city. In the process will also kidnap the daughter of the city’s administrator, a man how seeks to become dictator over all the tribes of Gor. This has been the focus of his training in Gorean culture and his instruction as a Tarnsman. Tarns, giant predatory birds of Gor, are use for aerial cavalry and scouting by warriors, or Tarnsmen. On Tarn-back he enters the rival city at the appointed time and is able to seize the stone and the girl but is subject to the many anticipated threats to his own life. “…she suddenly locked her arms around my waist and with a cry of rage hurled me from the saddle. In the sickening instant of falling I realized I had not fastened my own saddle belt in the wild flight from the roof…” p. 81

Our hero is miraculously saved, in the style of all serialized adventurers, when his fall to death is stopped by the web of a giant spider creature. The creature has an intelligence level of man and since he, the spider-man, has no argument with Tarl, he has no desire to kill Tarl or prey on him. Immediately after this startling introduction Tarl and the spider-man engage in rescuing the kidnapped princess, Talena, from a giant lizard. Telana agrees she must submit to Tarl’s leadership if she is to survive the many perils of the swamp in which they have landed. But since she is the proud daughter of an Ubar of Gor, Talena attempts to betray Tarl at the first possible opportunity. “We were near the Ka-la-na trees when I heard a slight rustle of brocade behind me. I turned, just in time to seize the wrist of the daughter of the Ubar as she struck savagely down at my back with a long, slender dagger.” p. 97

Later, Talena comes to understand that Tarl is an honorable comrade and helps as they struggle to escape capture form a group of military scouts. “Suddenly his eyes emitted a wordless scream, and I saw a bloody stump at the end of his arm. Talena had picked up his sword and struck off the hand that held the dagger.” p. 104

This outline I’ve provided covers the main plot of Tarnsman of Gor while omitting a majority of the supporting characters of the 219 page tale. The attraction of this novel to fans of fantasy role playing games or too a reader of adventure novels or fantasy fiction, I believe, is apparent from this outline. The action, intrigue, combat and culture of Gor could easily be the setting for D&D, Hack Master, Encounter Critical or any role playing system desired. Here’s a final combat sequence for your hungry, adventure starved, appetites;

“As the burly magistrate hastened forward, I seized my spear and hurled it with such force as I would not have believed possible. The spear flashed through the air like a bolt of lightning and stuck the oncoming magistrate in the chest , passing through his body and burying itself in the heart of his companion.” p. 205

Friday, July 9, 2010

OSR debate?

What's too debate? We are what we are and we play what we like. It's that simple. Well it's that simple for me because I have no idea what all the debate is about. I do have to comment that given recent qualifications; If you play a game published before 1989, my gaming group and I definitely qualify.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

OSP play Encounter Critical

My game group, the Old School Pastafari, played Encounter Critical this past Tuesday. We played the adventure which I wrote for our local convention, Three Rivers Con. As has been mentioned in the Encounter Critical corners of the entrĂ©e-net, the adventure is titled The 36 Chambers of Darth Viraxis. Darth Viraxis is the token evil overlord of the EC setting, the world of Vanth. I intend to keep this adventure on ice as a backup plan for future gaming conventions. I imagine myself traveling the South East U.S. and running E.C. in various ‘burbs; Chattanooga and Birmingham are definite possibilities for this plan. I can, for the blog, reveal a few details of the adventure without revealing any of the main plot points.

The guys choose a variety of characters from my pregens and surprised me by staying in character more than usual. The characters where a dwarf warrior wearing a ten gallon hat and long red mustache and armed with twin Colt revolvers named O’ Cinnamonie Sham, an ammunition expert with superior driving skills and a nifty van named Mr. S.U.V. and a high school kid acting as a wizard named Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon managed to make friends with the Tyrannosaurus Rex at the beginning of the adventure and the killer robot at the end using his Ensorcel and Monster/Machine Friend skills. I, acting as the J.M. (Journey Master,) forgot to attempt saving throws against these magical acts but the successful magic didn’t break the game. In fact, these two successful uses of magic by the pc kept the plot moving smoothly.

A majority of the plot of The 36 Chambers of D.V. involves problem solving and I occasionally had to prompt the players for solutions. As if often the norm in rpgs, the guys wanted to solve all of the problems or puzzles through violence. The solution to the puzzles was, at least one, simply solved by my reading the “flavor text” a second time. (No taunting occurred during the playing of this rpg adventure.) The players managed to escape the legendary chambers of Darth Viraxis in two hours.

My next rpg design projects will be:
1. The Epilogue for Raiders of the Mercenary Coast. I've already started typing this and it's very short. I will probably be two pages with one page dedicated for a list of the NPCs involved.
2. On simmer on burner number two we have another free adventure. I’ll be converting one of my few remaining old adventure designs for use with Labyrinth Lord.
3. Burner number three: Infinity and Beyond!

Friday, July 2, 2010

A brief discussion of Brian Aldiss' novel; Hothouse

How is this for imagination, the sun is going nova and Earth and the moon are locked in a plan of gravity and no longer rotate, plants have evolved to take on characteristics of animals and giant plants, a mile long, spin their webs between Earth and the moon? These are only a few of the features which will grab your attention in Hothouse by Brian Aldiss. Some of the human characters decide to travel between these satellites by riding the traverser (giant plant – spider.) The group knows that riding on the outside of the traverser is dangerous, so they break into a tigerfly nest which has been injected into the body of the traverse. Their encounter inside the tigerfly nest could be a scene from a E. R. Burroughs or R. E. Howard tale.

"'Look out,' Band Appa Bondi cried. From the terrible dark, something launched itself at them... The tigerfly's eggs had hatched. An uncountable number of larvae with jaws as wide as a man's reach turned on the intruders, snapping in fury and fear... Even as Band Appa Bondi sliced his first attacker, another had his head off. He fell, and his companions launched themselves over him in the dark. Pressing forward, they dodged those clicking jaws." p. 68

This battle continues until the group of humans defeats all of the tigerfly larvae; "They killed unceasingly with neither hate nor mercy until they stood knee deep in slush. The larvae snapped and withered and died." p. 69

The book is full of fantastic species of plants which Aldiss has created like the giant seaweed and the gunpowder tree. "...a great mass of seaweed had threshed itself far out of the water and covered a gunpowder tree. By sheer weight, it was pulling the tree down, and a fight to the death raged about it." p. 83

Each chapter of Hothouse if full of new adventures with new plants species. Aldiss has created a mystery of adventure with his wild, imaginative variety of alien life forms and alien ecology without leaving the previously familiar setting of Earth.