Thursday, January 26, 2023

Random Musings of Gaming-related Nature

 I had it spelled out to me recently (not in so many words, but the implication was pretty clear) that I am exactly the sort of gamer that isn't really welcome in the SJG Forums. After the stinging of the semi-public rebuke wore off, I came to the conclusion that they were probably right to do so, and since I have had poor luck with getting my own questions answered there I have, somewhat reluctantly but with resignation, decided to not participate there anymore (note, they have not asked me to leave, but I'm not likely to change my ways and those particular ways are ones they have made plain they don't want around). Better for us all. And thus passes from me the last forum-style internet site I had any interest in participating in; which I guess is a milestone worth marking in some way, thus this comment here. Blogs and social media work better for me. I should probably get back to paying attention to TikTok, though, as I am not really interested in social media with marked learning curves like Mastodon.

Speaking of SJG, they have hinted that they might be thinking about a 5th edition for GURPS, using similar language to the last time they were preparing for a new edition (20 years ago!) I've answered them as to what I'd like to see, but it's pretty clear from other responses that my interests for that game are not those of the majority of their customers so I don't expect to see them enacted. Meanwhile, I was reminded that Basic Roleplaying has an Open License (and is working with other companies like Paizo on a new one that WotC can't pretend to touch). I'd have to do some work to hammer that into the sort of game I'd be interested in getting deep into in the same way I've been getting into GURPS, but that remains a thought.

The ridiculousness of WotC, in trying to create a power in regard to the OGL 1.0a that is not granted to anyone, has certainly upended D&D significantly. Nobody knows what the future is going to hold, and so it feels like most of the industry is holding its breath, even the people who are loudly declaiming their disinterest.

I continue to think about the idea of a city-as-dungeon project and its practicality. Coincidentally, there's been an interesting series running on Mailanka's blog (I, II, III, IV) that is directly relevant to such a project. So, perhaps it draws closer to actual realization. I'm definitely thinking about a post on the concept.

I spent a lot of today thinking about The Beastmaster, a film from 1982 that was widely considered to be a low-budget coattail-hanger on Conan the Barbarian. Certainly, there are some similarities, but the differences are also pretty pronounced. One thing that both films have in common that I notice is a reliance on a sort of implicit Bronze Age setting, even though the tools and weapons are obviously made of iron. The village in The Beastmaster, especially, reminds me (vaguely, not in detail) of reconstructions of Bronze Age settlements on the Central Asian steppe. The same can be said for a number of "barbarian" films of the era. Deathstalker doesn't have a medieval flavor, The Warrior and the Sorceress employs Cyclopean masonry, which is a Bronze Age hallmark, nearly. So, I looked at Bronze Age architecture and design. Lots of fun sword & sorcery ideas to be found there. It also fits in with a recent interest I've had in sword & sandal adventures… with sorcery. A lot of adventure ideas to be found in Genesis, and there's a lot more sorcery in there than people want to say, apparently. The bit where Abraham forges his compact with God reads like a goetic blood rite with all the animal sacrifices going on.

Speaking of those films, The Arcanum includes a character class, aptly called the Beastmaster, directly modeled on Dar from The Beastmaster, and Tales from the Fallen Empire, a setting supplement for Dungeon Crawl Classics, includes a character class, called the Sentinel, modeled on Kain from The Warrior and the Sorceress. Those would seem to go along well with the Thief, modeled on the Grey Mouser, the Ranger, modeled on Strider/Aragorn, or even Unearthed Arcana's Barbarian, modeled on Conan the Cimmerian (though in my opinion that last was not very well done). For that matter, the Cleric owes much of its form to Peter Cushing as Van Helsing in the Hammer Studios Dracula films and perhaps Christopher Lee's character of Nicholas, Duc De Richleau in The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil's Bride in the US release, because the studio worried that American audiences would mistake it for a Western). I wonder what other characters from fantasy fiction might deserve to have a character class modeled after them?

More later, I think.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

A Minor Point In The OGL Dustup

 I watched an interview with Ryan Dancey, architect of the Open Gaming License, in which he discussed what is copyrightable and what is not. His example, though, was the combat tables in AD&D (1st edition, naturally), which he claimed were not made according to a formula, but were instead adjusted by Gary Gygax manually according to "what looked good", and were therefore art and copyrightable. That, though, is not the case at all. All of the combat tables in AD&D (and the "alternative combat system" in the original D&D booklets) were simply a highly "at the table" usable expression of a fairly complicated, but still systematic, formula. This can be attested to by the existence of THAC0 ("To Hit Armor Class 0") in the listing of monsters in the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide. There was also an "AL", standing for "Attack Level", listed in the Monster & Treasure Assortment, Sets One-Three: Levels One-Nine, which is effectively a "To Hit Armor Class 9" (where Armor Class 9 represented an unarmored target) entry. Dancey is simply confused by what he thinks his team was able to add to the D&D legacy in terms of rules systems.

Anyway, that's just a thing that I felt I had to get out there.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

New Year, Who Dis?

 It's been almost a year since I last posted in this blog. Does it have any point anymore? Should I just set it aside and let it die? I don't know. Maybe I'll figure out an answer by typing words in this box.

It's not like I've been doing a lot of gaming. I played in a Call of Cthulhu campaign which was a run through the classic Masks of Nyarlathotep adventure/campaign. That was fun, with many gasoline explosions, dynamite explosions, 'splosions, 'splosions, 'splosions. Soon, I'll be playing in a Chronicles of Darkness game, as a high school history teacher who has a yearning for adventure and a burning desire to prove to herself that the paranormal exists. I have a couple of games I want to run in various states of preparation, but lacking a group or venue to play them with or in. I keep considering getting and learning Foundry VTT for GURPS, but that is both a fair amount of money and a serious commitment of time; not even to mention that I have other games than GURPS I'd like to run as well. Perhaps I'll just give up on the idea of using maps and automated tools over the internet and play on Discord, or maybe vanilla Roll20. We had plenty of technical problems getting just the Roll20 videoconferencing feature to work reliably, though.

Now there's the whole OGL 1.1 kerfluffle going on. In the end, I think it's probably for the best that people are giving up on it. Now, we can openly speak of Mind Flayers and Umber Hulks again, no longer constrained by the terms of a peace treaty that WotC offered to settle the T$R/They Sue Regularly wars of the '90s. It seems that they want to return to those days, which they should already know they are doomed to lose. You can't copyright procedures or rules. And good luck telling computer game publishers that you're trademarking "hit points" or "levels". Those ships have long sailed into the public domain. People not even involved with WotC have gotten nervous, but there's no way to revoke a contract that you aren't any party to, so WotC has no say in what happens with other companies that chose to use the same or similar language in their own contracts. Cepheus Engine remains safe, as far as I understand it (though I am not, myself, a lawyer). Still, people should probably switch to a better Open License, like CC BY 4.0.

I've spent time watching anime this past year. Such a fount of creativity, much more so than the really constrained and conventional shows on regular or even streaming TV of the US and UK and related regions. My top five of the last year were Bibliophile PrincessSPY×FAMILYMobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury, SHADOWS HOUSE (second season), and MADE IN ABYSS: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun. MADE IN ABYSS, particularly, is quite amazing fantasy that I can't recommend highly enough, and the anime so far consists of a first season, a movie that serves as a connection between the first and second seasons, and of course the second season, subtitled "The Golden City of the Scorching Sun". There is also a manga, which is the source material. I'd also recommend Requiem of the Rose King, which is loosely adapted from Shakespeare's Richard III with much added queer romance, and Urusei Yatsura, a remake of the '80s sitcom that gave rise to Teenagers from Outer Space and so served as a brilliant launch pad for Mike Pondsmith's career (not to mention, the creator, Rumiko Takahashi, has a tendency to create series after series that would each constitute the highlight of an entire career for anyone else). Speaking of Mike Pondsmith, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is also a great bit of anime from the last year. Includes one of my favorite voice actors, Aoi Yuki, if you watch the Japanese dialogue version.

This season of anime has a lot of interest for me, so much that, for the first time in years, I'm probably not going to be able to watch every series that caught my eye. Aoi Yuki has a role in Spy Classroom, which has resemblances to Princess Principal and perhaps Assassination Classroom, the Urusei Yatsura remake is ongoing, The Magical Revolution of the Reincarnated Princess and the Genius Young Lady had a remarkable opening episode, In/Spectre is finally getting its second season, Chillin' in My 30s After Getting Fired from the Demon King's Army was recommended to me by someone who knew I liked Banished from the Hero's Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside (please do not fault me for these unwieldy, overdescriptive titles, they are currently fashionable in Japanese fiction) so I'm giving that a go, NieR:Automata Ver1.1a sounds interesting, and there are no less than three new fantasy series that caught my attention, Giant Beasts of Ars, Kaina of the Great Snow Sea, and The Fire Hunter.

I should probably add that anime isn't a perfect dreamland of endless creativity. There is plenty of convention there and potboiler series are not exactly uncommon. I can't bring myself to watch hardly any series that is billed as "isekai" at this point (some exceptions include InuYasha, The Executioner and Her Way of LifeThe Saga of Tanya the Evil, The Vision of Escaflowne, and Ascendance of a Bookworm), anything described as shōnen causes me to reevaluate any interest I might have had, and even my beloved mahō shōjo stories have sort of bogged down into endless repeats of Pretty Cure (with some notable exceptions—the latter being much better than you might expect) or start off strong and then collapse. This season, outside of Pretty Cure (Delicious Party♡Pretty Cure is coming to an end and Hirogaru Sky! Pretty Cure is getting ready to start), there isn't even a single magical girl series, unless you really stretch the definition. At least there is a second season of Tokyo Mew Mew New to look forward to next season.

Back to gaming, I find myself with a renewed interest in Fading Suns, and both Barbarians of Lemuria and Majus are on my shortlist of games I'd run. I'd really like to run a GURPS Voodoo: The Shadow War game, though rather than train a new group to that system I'd rather run Majus. If I were to run GURPS at this point, it would either have to be players who already know the game or else start off with a run-through of Caravan to Ein Arris as a means of teaching the game, starting with a stripped-down set of rules and adding more options as the journey across the desert continues. I still need to go through that adventure and adjust the characters, as it was converted at an early stage when 4E was still operating under the assumptions that governed 3E. As a result, the characters are extremely over-skilled for their descriptions, with mere bandits (to pick one example) wielding weapons at a level of skill more suited to highly-trained commandos. It's like running across 8th level fighters—level title: "Superhero"—everywhere.

That last reminds me, too, of the old City-State of the Invincible Overlord. I've been thinking about that product a fair amount. The idea of "city as dungeon crawl" is one that holds a lot of sway in my head. However, both because that product's copyright is currently owned by a less-than-savory person and because it was always operating under some odd assumptions as to the demographic makeup of its setting, I would rather create my own version, one where there are perhaps fewer shopkeepers who qualify to run their own domain and attract a body of troops, even where not every noble is given a class and level. It would also give me a chance to refine some of the mechanics (I'm not fond of rolling for one type of encounter in the even turns and another type in the odd turns, for example, maybe use a d12 instead of a d6, with type I, general city, encounters on a 1 and type II, local neighborhood/street, encounters on a 2 each turn). I am still interested in the "crapsack city" feel of the CSIO, too, which is not something I am seeing in other city products I've seen under development lately. Maybe I should write an entire post on the "city as dungeon crawl" idea sometime.

Well, I don't think I've come to any conclusions about the future of this blog now, but I do seem to have come to an end of things to talk about at the moment. Maybe I'll write more before another year has passed.