Tuesday, April 16, 2024

More Deadly Than the Male

Oh dear, I see the man-babies are apoplectic with rage about female characters in Warhammer 40,000 again. This time it's because it's been revealed that the Adeptus Custodes -- basically even more Space Mariney Space Marines -- include women in their ranks.

Gnash! Wail! Gasp! Etc!

This is sort of a retcon. I say "sort of", because I don't think it's ever been stated that the faction is all-male, it's just that no one's mentioned female members before.

Obviously the thing that's annoying these very mature and sensible people is the change to "established" canon and NOTHING ELSE, so I imagine that they are also furious about:
All changed or removed from canon, so all similarly rage-inducing, I'm sure, because it's about the sanctity of canon. Nothing else. Nope.


I don't always agree with Games Workshop's decisions -- release your old books as print-on-demand, you cowards! -- but this is glorious. Well done, GW.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Once DOOMED

I've been following The DOOMED since it was Grimlite and have been keen to get it to the table from the moment the final version was released by Osprey. Schedules -- and painted miniatures -- lined up at last and Stuart and I met up for an introductory conflict-slash-monster-hunt this week.

I put together a -- very expensive! -- Eldar band, mainly because they are the only consistent set of sci-fi miniatures I have painted, although Fateweaver Duu'ey stepped aside and let Ree'Parch lead the Exile Band into the DOOMED sectors.


(Which has nothing to do with me realising at the eleventh hour that my leader had a shooting re-roll but was armed with a sword. Nope!)

Stuart brought a much larger group of space killers, and we discovered that Reborn Covens look a lot like Genestealer Cults.


Here are the things I liked about The DOOMED before I played it:

  • The "use any miniatures you've got" philosophy, which has become trendy enough to be somewhat common in indie wargames, but I still like it a lot.
  • The semi-cooperative monster hunting aspect, which was added fairly late in Grimlite's development, but quickly became the main selling point for me.
  • The simple rules -- no measurement! Only one statistic! -- that promised a quick and easy game.
  • The rich campaign mechanics, offering lots of options and random events.
I am pleased to report that most of those things proved to be good and true in play too. It took us about three hours to play the suggested starting monster/scenario combo, but we were getting some mechanics around damage and monster actions wrong that were making the game longer. We were also a bit concerned beforehand that the simple rules would feel basic and flat in play, but they worked well and never felt simplistic. We quite enjoyed the damage table, which is just half a page but adds a lot of unexpected variety to combat. When you understand it. Which we did. Eventually.

My warband engaged with the monster early on and downed it, but it was the Coven that destroyed the beast, scoring one of the two victory conditions. Ree'Parch had been taken out by that point so the rest of the space elves legged it off the board, fulfilling the second condition. Well, Fl'Peebrd flew off the board, but same thing.

Technically a draw then, although The DOOMED is more about fighting against the game -- in a good way! -- than each other.

I hope we'll play again soon. We have generated the next monster and scenario from the impressive d66 tables in the book, plus some random events to make things even more DOOMy for our brave but DOOMED warbands. I'm going to have a look at Ree'Parch's band of exiles and perhaps bring some different, cheaper, soldiers next time.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Lost in Paris

Oooooooooooooooooops.

It has come to my attention that the pdf versions of Terror in the Streets -- both the DriveThru version and the one you get with a physical purchase from LotFP in Europe or North America -- are missing the player map. I'll see if I can get the pdf updated, but in the mean time here are some download links:

Greyscale map (about 1mb)

Colour map (about 1.8mb)

If the links don't work, please let me know.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Mistaken Identity, Yes?

It's #DrawDeathsHeadDay the most freelance peacekeeping day of the year!


This year, as well as wishing Simon Furman a happy birthday, I must also apologise to Gene Colan for my artistic theft. Sorry, Gene.

(If it helps, I re-drew the entire cover, when a more sensible person would have just photoshopped Death's Head in. I have never been sensible.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

We Are Moved to Tears by the Sheer Size of This Thing

I am a terrible person!

I forgot -- or rather didn't realise -- that Monday the 18th was the 20th anniversary of the release of Katamari Damacy, one of my favourite computer games of all time.



I remember first discovering the game on a Penny Arcade text page. The description was wonderful, a gameplay first sort-of-puzzle-sort-of-action game of the kind that you would get on the Commodore 64 or Spectrum in the 80s, but had become basically non-existent by 2004. I knew I had to have it, and have it I did!

(Although I was apparently quite lucky as it had a limited release and only about seven copies made it to North America, where I happened to be at the time.)

It more than lived up to expectations. Simple in concept but often challenging, and quite bonkers, with bizarre imagery and a plot that had zero to do with the game itself. To get a feel for how mad it is, here's the first thing you see when you start the game:



As you can probably tell from that video, the soundtrack is great too.

I always thought it was a shame the series never made it to the Wii as it would be perfect there, but some version is available on pretty much everything else these days -- the first video above is from the PS4 re-release -- and you can even play it -- sort of -- in your browser if you go to google and search for "katamari".

Happy (belated) birthday Katamari Damacy!

Monday, March 11, 2024

REDBOX MUSCLE WIZARD

Muscle Wizards are ace. Redbox Hack is ace. So here's a Muscle Wizard for Redbox Hack.

The Muscle Wizard was, I think, first birthed by Monstrous Television and then further developed and remixed by Basic Red, Ten Foot Polemic, and Goblin Punch.

Basically, I am very late to the party.

MUSCLE WIZARD

You are a wizard, but instead of learning magic through arcane study, your awesome power derives from your extreme muscularity. Books are for nerds. Armour is for nerds. Even weapons are for nerds. All you need is confidence, muscles, and lots of oil.

LIMITATION: PUMPING IRON

Maintaining your physique requires constant exercise. While others rest you work out, which keeps you nice and fit but the combination of increased endorphins and sleep deprivation makes you a bit erratic and strange.

"BONUS" LIMITATION: (POSING) OIL AND WATER DON'T MIX

You may never borrow a Cross-Class Talent from the Magus, nor may they borrow from you, but don't worry, you can still be friends.

FIVE TALENTS

ALWAYS AWESOME: You are flamboyant and impressive and you treat Showing Off rolls of 7 or less as 8.

CUTTING A PROMO: You have a knack for rambling and borderline nonsensical monologues that can nonetheless entertain and entrance a crowd for a scene, or minutes equal to your Eloquence score if you need a more exact duration.

MAGICO PUUUUUUNCH: You channel your sorcerous power through an unarmed strike, which doesn't have to be a punch! You always cause normal damage, plus anything from Awesome Tokens, and the target must roll Stubbornness versus TN7 or lose their next action as they are swept up in a swirl of magical energy. You must speak the name of the spell as you attack -- and please come up with your own evocative names! -- otherwise your punch is just a normal punch.

PHYSICALLY FIT, PHYSICALLY FIT, PHYSICALLY, PHYSICALLY, PHYSICALLY FIT: You gain a +2 bonus to Armour, Size rolls, and any other rolls involving feats of physical might, except attacks.

QUITE THE FLEX: You flex your mighty thews and in doing so warp reality in your immediate vicinity. You define what is true within a bubble of a radius roughly an arm's length from you, for as long as you gurn and strain. To maintain the flex for an extended length of time -- longer than a short scene, say -- or if you are somehow distracted, you can take a point of damage or roll Stubbornness vs TN 9, your choice.


Appendix MW:

I did have a few more punch spells in my original draft and allowed the Muscle Wizard player to choose which spell was "cast" when they attacked. I realised that this was both making the class more complex than the other RBH classes, and it was making the Muscle Wizard more versatile than the Magus, when they should be more or less equal. So I stripped the other spells out, but I also didn't want to lose them as an option, so here they are:
  • Blast: 2 Damage. A Magus will consider this a grotesque bastardisation of their Talent of the same name. You probably don't care what they think.
  • Confusion: the target rolls Stubbornness versus TN7 or loses their action.
  • Darkness: The target's vision is obscured until they Move.
  • Dispel: A single magical effect or spell is negated for a turn. Permanent effects can be dispelled if you sacrifice an attribute point.

Friday, March 08, 2024

Roll Out!

Look at this handsome lad!

This is the new "Missing Link" Optimus Prime. Or technically it's Missing Link Convoy as I seem to have the Japanese version, but whatever.
Anyway, he's quite special, or rather I think he's quite special, because he is something for which I've been asking for years.

The problem with almost every Optimus Prime toy -- that I know of, anyway -- is that they cheat with the transformation, usually with some sort of false chest. By which I mean the front of the lorry does not form Prime's torso, and instead there is some sort of hidden chest somewhere in the toy that only looks like the front of the lorry.

I fully admit that I'm being pedantic and more than a little weird when I say that I want the transformation to be "true" and not involve such deception. After all, he's an Autobot, not a Decepticon!

(Transformers joke.)

They got it right first time with the 1984 toy, but he's a bit clunky and not very poseable at all. And that's where Missing Link comes in. He looks more or less identical to 1984 Optimus; in fact the metal chest piece may be the same one from the original toy.
But...

He has multiple points of articulation! He's super poseable! You can, in fact recreate the "jumping and shooting" pose from Transformers: The Movie that is subtly hinted at on the box art!

Now mine is a bit stiff around the upper leg joints and I don't think his, um, groin (?) would take the strain if I tried to force them, but overall I'm very happy with this Optimus. I had the original and broke his arm off almost immediately, then spent the following decades rejecting various replacement Primes for their misleading transformations -- which is more a me problem than a Takara/Hasbro problem, I know -- so it's lovely that the quest is finally over.

Monday, March 04, 2024

Strict Location Records Must Be Kept

I've had a handful of questions -- or rather what is more or less the same question restated in slightly different terms -- about my adventure Strict Time Records Must Be Kept. Before I try to answer it/them, I should explain the context.

In Strict Time Records Must Be Kept -- henceforth STRMBK -- the player-characters are dosed with a slow-acting poison and are given the task of finding an antidote hidden somewhere in a mansion, before they die a messy death. There are some "dials" that the Referee can use to adjust the difficulty and fairness of the adventure -- whether the antidote exists at all, whether there's one antidote or many, the speed of the poison, and so on -- but for today's purposes we are assuming that it's being played straight and there are enough doses of antidote available for all the player-characters.

(A brief aside here to answer another question that so far I have been asked only once. Yes, the antidotes can be scattered throughout the house; they do not have to all be found in the same place. In fact, I recommend that multiple doses are not found in the same location. That's far too easy.)

The idea is that the Referee looks through the description of the house and picks the locations of the antidote bottles based on their knowledge of their own players, but also -- and most important -- based on what seems most fun to them. As such, no specific locations are defined, and this is quite deliberate. The decision, Oh Referee, is yours.

That said, the question I've been asked a few times since release is something along the lines of: where should the antidotes go? I can see how that would be useful for the time-starved -- ha ha -- Referee, so here are my "suggested" antidote locations:
  • p18: Inside one mannequin, but only one! I would perhaps indicate a glint of something glass -- a bottle? -- in the folds of a mannequin's clothing, just to give the players the idea. Taking a whole Turn to search a mannequin seems a bit long, but it's consistent with other activities, and no one wants to be dicking around with Half-Turns or some other arcane nonsense. There are 26 mannequins and they should be everywhere around the ground and first floors, but I suggest putting the one with the antidote in the corridor outside the dining room (p49).
  • p37: The Abaddon or Mammon rooms -- but not both! -- with the blunderbuss traps. A relatively easy one, to give the players some hope.
  • p41: The Apollyon room, in the puzzle box. Another somewhat easy one, or at least an obvious one. There's potential for damage and wasted time here, so it seems only fair to reward those risks with an antidote.
  • p42: The Eblis room, among all the threads. I like this one because the bottle is visible but difficult to approach. I would consider making it more tricky even; maybe making it a five Turn task, with a saving throw each Turn.
  • p43: The Erasmus room, in one of hundreds of bottles. I like that this one isn't difficult, and isn't really a puzzle as such, but wastes time.
  • p53: Room F, inside the "corpse". Assuming the players work out that there's a bottle inside the victim, they then have to make a choice to cut them open, and that choice has serious consequences. This is one of the first puzzles I wrote for the adventure and I adore the gruesomeness.
  • p54: K, the barbed wire room. I would put the bottle in plain sight in the middle of the tangle. The bastard in me suggests a chance of smashing the bottle if someone falls in from above (p43); perhaps by rolling an even result on the Paralysation save.
That's seven doses; when writing these blasted things, I assume a party of four player-characters but I know that's a bit on the light side for many OSR groups. If you're running with more than seven player-characters then bear in mind that there are 10 puzzle rooms, plus 26 mannequins so there are plenty of places to hide bottles.

I hope that helps! If anyone has any more questions or thoughts then let me know in the comments. You could email or message me too, but I'll probably want to add any answers here. Also, if anyone needs any tech support for any of my other adventures, then I'd be happy to do more posts of this sort.

If you're reading this and thinking "I'd like to give Strict Time Records Must Be Kept a try" then that's a bit weird because the post is for people who already have the book, but stranger things have happened and you can buy it in print here and in pdf here.

Huh. I didn't need to shorten Strict Time Records Must Be Kept to STRMBK again after all. Except just there.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Fantastic! Fantastic?

Yesterday, Marvel announced the cast of the upcoming(ish) Fantastic Four film, and the announcement was Valentine's Day themed because... Reed and Sue are a couple?

(I've heard that there was a leak imminent and Marvel wanted to get ahead of it.)

Anyway, I hope it will be good. A decent film adaptation has been a long time coming -- yes, I know, The Incredibles -- but part of me does wonder if it's cursed and should be left well alone. But it's the Fantastic Four, you know? They are very much a cornerstone of Marvel, even if all the films have been rubbish and -- if we're honest -- no one really likes the comic either.

Ahem.

I have two main hopes for the film, neither of which I feel confident will be happening.

  • Skip the origin. The origin story of the Fantastic Four is by far the least interesting bit. They go up in a spaceship. Cosmic rays. Crash. Superpowers! If we really must have this on-screen, it can be covered in a credits montage, like the opening of Superman II, and the film can start with them already established.



  • Do not make Doctor Doom the villain. Doom is one of Stan and Jack's greatest creations, and he's an integral part of the Fantastic Four concept, but most of the best work with the character was done after they moved on and Doom engaged with the wider Marvel Universe. It would be an awful waste to reduce him to the bad guy who gets done over at the end of two hours. The rumours that Marvel is rejigging the big Kang metaplot to use Doom instead give me a bit of hope that he won't be squandered. Fingers crossed.

The casting of Pedro Pascal as Reed Richards also worries me a bit. Pascal seems to be one of the genuinely loveliest people on the planet, which makes me think that in casting him as Reed, Marvel thinks Richards is a nice guy. He really isn't. In the Four's very first appearance Reed causes an accident that gives his friends powers (yay?), calls himself "Mr Fantastic" in response, and dubs his alleged best friend Ben -- who has been transformed into a hideous rock monster and probably needs some support right now -- a "Thing". And this is in issue #1! His behaviour does not improve.

You can make a complicated, difficult Reed who is still a good guy; it occurs to me that Peter Capaldi's Doctor is probably the best accidental adaptation of Richards. He's fiercely intelligent, infinitely curious, generally on the side of good, but absolutely weapons grade terrible with people, because empathy is not a legitimate scientific discipline. Will Marvel go in that sort of direction or will it be Cuddly Daddy Reed? I fear the latter.

(At this point, I should link to my article on Reed Richards, which was apparently the most popular thing I wrote in my former life as a comics journalist. Enjoy.)

So there you go, my thoughts on the Fantastic Four film, which won't be out for a year and a half, if at all. A comics -- sort of -- piece on the blog. What is this, 2006 or something?

Friday, February 09, 2024

Celebrate?

I feel terrible posting this video, because of my crippling self-loathing, but I also realise it's good for my "brand", whatever that is. There's also a US sale going on, so:



I feel sick.