Take a Hard Ride

As I am currently in the middle of writing a GRIT & VIGOR supplement for adventures in the “Old West”, I’ve been reviewing some favorite westerns. Today, the subject of Take a Hard Ride came up, and it occurred to me that working up some character stats for the film’s three heroes and main villain would make for a good post.

Take a Hard Ride was released in 1975, and starred Jim Brown, Fred Williamson, Jim Kelly, Lee Van Cleef and several others. A “spaghetti western”, it was filmed on location in the Canary Islands, and had as its three heroes some names made well known in the “blaxploitation” films of the 70’s. The movie does not come off as a gimick to me, though – Jim Brown plays Pike, a classic western hero, Fred Williamson is awesome as a Maverick-esque anti-hero Tyree, and Jim Kelly brings something akin to Kung-Fu into the picture as Kashtok, a man raised by Native Americans.

The story involves Pike transporting $86,000 to his boss’ ranch – he made a promise on his boss’ deathbed to do it, and he aims to get it done. Hunting down Pike, his allies and the money is Lee Van Cleef as Keifer, a bounty hunter and Kane, a corrupt sheriff, played by Barry Sullivan.

It’s well worth a watch … and if you want to put those characters into action in a game of G&V, here’s my take on their stats:

(For those wondering how I determined levels – I just used the actor’s ages at the time the movie was made, minus 16 years as a guide)

Pike (Jim Brown)
Lawful Good Cowboy, 8th level

S 16 I 12 W 11 D 15 Cn 13 Ch 11
HP 40
AC 11
ATK +5
F8 R8 W11

Knacks: Handle Animal, Ride Mount

Skills: Appraise Value (Livestock), Endure, Gamble, Handle Animal*, Jump, Ride Mount*, Survive Outdoors, Track

Feats: Bum Rush, Exploit Weakness, Mounted Combat, Power Attack, Pugilist

Weapon Proficiency: Club, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun

Special: +2 save vs. fear and anxiety, temporarily increase two physical ability scores, delay damage (8 rd), rope and ride, choose exceptional horse, surprised (1 on 1d8, or normal while sleeping), no penalty grappling creatures one size larger than cowboy

Tyree (Fred Williamson)
Neutral Gunfighter, 7th level

S 13 I 10 W 11 D 16 Cn 12 Ch 13
HP 35
AC 11
ATK +6
F10 R10 W13

Knacks: Bend Bars, Gamble, Move Silently

Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure, Gamble*, Lift Gates, Sleight of Hand

Feats: Ace Shot, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot

Weapon Proficiency: Brass knuckles, club, dagger, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun

Special: Extra attack, specialist firearm (revolver), +4 AC fighting defensively, +2 initiative with firearm

Kashtok (Jim Kelly)
Chaotic Good Boxer, 6th level

S 15 I 12 W 13 D 16 Cn 14 Ch 9
HP 42
ATK +5
AC 16
F9 R8 W12

Knacks: Survive Outdoors, Track

Skills: Acrobatics, Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Endure, Hide in Shadows, Jump, Lift Gates, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Dodge, Elusive Target, Far Shot, Lightning Reflexes

Weapon Proficiency: Bo staff, club, compound bow, jo staff, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, spear, tomahawk

Special: Extra attack, unarmed damage 1d6+2, 70’ movement, stunning attack (5/fight), deflect arrows

Kiefer (Lee Van Cleef)
Neutral Evil Ranger, 9th level

S 11 I 12 W 13 D 16 Cn 14 Ch 10
HP 54
ATK +8
AC 12
F7 R11 W12

Knacks: Track

Skills: Bend Bars, Break Down Doors, Hide in Shadows, Lift Gates, Move Silently, Ride Mount, Survive Outdoors, Track*

Feats: Blind Fight, Brawler, Great Fortitude, Improvise, Intuition, Mounted Combat, Pugilist, Rough & Tumble

Weapon Proficiency: Club, dagger, knife (large), knife (small), lasso, revolver, rifle, shotgun +1

Special: Avoid surprise, specialist terrain (desert Southwest)

 

Looking Back – Space Princess

Do you know I’ve been doing this blogging / game writing nonsense for about 10 years? Wow. That was never the intent. In fact, there was no intent – just me goofing around. I certainly never intended to write and publish books when I started.

So here I am, all these years into whatever the heck I’m doing, and I figure maybe it would be fun to look back. Today, I decided to jot down a few thoughts about an early publication of mine, and probably a mostly forgotten one, called Tales of the Space Princess.

Space Princess started out as my response on a message board thread that asked why science-fiction rpg’s had not become as popular as fantasy rpg’s, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. I don’t remember the other responses to the thread, but they were all genre-specific. My theory was that it had nothing to do with sci-fi vs. fantasy. D&D worked because it was a game above all else. Players controlled characters who wandered around a maze in search of treasure. Monsters and traps hindered them. Simple. Anything could be grafted onto D&D, and with each fun thing you added to the mix, D&D became itself more popular. It just so happened that the game was born out of a fantasy supplement to a medieval wargame.

The problem with early sci-fi games, I figured, was that they set out to replicate sci-fi movies and stories. RPG’s aren’t very good at that. Stories have plots, with characters under the writer’s control. They have pre-determined outcomes, which is anathema to games. Checkers works because you don’t know who will win – black or red. Dungeons & Dragons, early on, was the same way. If the characters died delving for treasure, you made new characters. Their death didn’t disrupt a plot – the characters were not central to a story, they were just “avatars” of the players. As a game, this works beautifully. In a novel, it would suck.

I went on to surmise that a sci-fi D&D could have been as popular as the fantasy D&D with the same focus on being a game that borrowed the trappings of science fiction. I took Star Wars as an example. In Star Wars, Luke, Ben, Chewie, Threepio and Artoo venture into the Death Star to rescue Princess Leia from Darth Vader. If we make this more generic, we get a party of adventurers go into a space fortress to rescue the space princess from the dark lord.

Of course, this got my brain popping, so I decided to actually write the game I was describing. I had published a few NODs and Pars Fortuna (more on that in another post), so I figured why not try something else new. I didn’t exactly base the rules entirely on the SRD because I wanted to try some new things. The characters, for example, didn’t have levels. You could start them out as novices, veterans or old-timers – their skills improved with age, but they got fewer luck points to get you through scrapes. This was designed to deal with the fact that, in the source material, you had young Luke Skywalker, old Ben Kenobi and Han Solo somewhere in the middle. How do you make a game work so that different “levels” of characters could adventure together? I had a similar challenge in Mystery Men – the Superman/Batman conundrum. Did my idea work? I decided to use “luck” as a balancing mechanism. Did it work? Heck – that’s for others to decide.

Beyond the rules, I tried to pack the game with all sorts of sci-fi stuff just the way D&D packed in the fantasy tropes. The playable species included humans, of course … which included anything that was basically humanoid and didn’t have special powers … androids and gynoids and “aliens”. The alien species had rules to allow all sorts of alien species to be created, either in imitation of species from existing sci-fi properties – such as vulcan and wookies – or something completely invented by the player.

The classes in the game are psychic, scientist, scoundrel, space ranger and star warrior. Looking through the book for the first time in years, I realize that I had forgotten about my sample characters in the game – Athena Laserwolf, the human star warrior (and an obvious homage to Morgan Ironwolf), Scrimshaw McGurk, the human scoundrel, and Zazzix, the alien psychic. The original art in the project was done by Jason Sholtis, and it was fantastic. It’s fun to rediscover things you wrote long enough ago to have forgotten!

For monsters, I tried to hit the highlights of sci-fi. Space brothers from UFOlogy rub shoulders with the ro-man from Robot Monster and martians from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The olvugai from Pars Fortuna made it into the game – I love sticking things from one of my games into others, to keep them all in the same “universe” – as did H.G. Well’s martians as zarks, the vulcans and klingons as red and blue voltans and the vampire from TV’s Buck Rogers made it in as the space vampire. I stuck girallons in the game because they were inspired by the white apes of Burrough’s Mars, and flail snails because I love flail snails. The point was to mix and match all sorts of nonsense to build gonzo space fortresses (i.e. dungeons), and that was what I did. I also included a way to build random (or non-random) alien animals.

I kept the equipment pretty simple, with some basic gear like weapons and spaceships, and then super-science gear – essentially the same as magic items.

Gameplay was designed to be divided into two phases. The first was the exploration of the space fortress to find and rescue the “space princess”, which can be an actual captive princess or a captive prince, or super weapon, or space station plans, or whatever you want it to be. The second phase is where the adventurers escape in their spaceship. They need a few turns before they can jump into hyperspace, and in the meantime have to battle some enemy fighters, a la Star Wars. Just as old D&D didn’t really deal with life outside of dungeon delving and stronghold-building, Space Princess kept it simple.

Space Princess … it originated in a message board discussion, turned into a chance to try new things in a game, It was a fun little experiment for a new author. Looking through the game, I’m actually pretty impressed with how much stuff I packed into a 44 page game! I guess maybe I should pull Tales of the Space Princess back out and give it another go. My daughter had a blast testing it when she was 14, and I think we have the old character sheets tucked away somewhere …

Dungeons and Dragons in 3-D

And by 3-D, I don’t mean a movie, but those splendid D&D action figures made by LJN in the 1980’s.

Figure this one out. Dungeons & Dragons hits big with kids in the 1980’s. It hits so big that it gets a Saturday morning cartoon and an action figure line. But here’s the weird part – the cartoon and action figure line are separate, as in barely any overlap. Why?

TSR was almost an overnight success, and its leadership wasn’t necessarily ready for prime time. Anyone who knows the TSR story knows this, so there’s no need to cover it here. By the 1980’s, toy companies and cartoon makers had figured out how to join forces and sell crap to kids – G.I. Joe, Transformers, Go-Bots, Chuck Norris’ Karate Kommandoes, Rambo … they were all doing it. But not TSR.

Instead of Hank the Ranger and the gang, the action figure line featured a collection of characters of whom nobody had ever heard, with no real adventures or exploits to inspire childhood play. Some of the action figure line made an appearance in the Shady Dragon Inn (a book I love, by the way), and in a module called XL1 – Quest for the Heartstone, but that was about it.

And since I’m complaining – remember how the G.I. Joe figures had the cool file card on the back of the packaging with data on the character, and how Transformers came with stats that required the red translucent plastic to read. I mean – Transformers had ability scores! Did D&D figures have that? No. The game that’s all about ability scores and character sheets doesn’t use this on their packaging. Jeez!

OK – Complaining over – let’s take a look at the toys the younger siblings (yeah, right!) of D&D geeks were enjoying in the 1980’s, along with some handy links to buy these sweet babies …

There were apparently two waves of figures, which were divided into GOOD and EVIL sides. The top dog on the good side was Strongheart Good Paladin. I had this figure as a kid, and it was pretty groovy – nice cape, sword. I also dig that it looks something like a real knight. Strongheart showed up in the D&D cartoon, although there he was armed with a magic golden hammer.

Strongheart also got a bitchin’ mount – Destrier Mighty Battle Horse. He looks like he works the same way the Star Wars tauntaun did, where you stick the rider into a spring-loaded door atop the mount, with the rider’s legs molded onto the horse’s body.

Other mounts included a nightmare and bronze dragon.

Along with Strongheart, the forces of good included …

Elkhorn Good Dwarf

Melf/Peralay Good Elf

Mercion Good Cleric

Northlord Good Barbarian

Ringlerun Good Wizard

Bowmarc Good Crusader

Deeth Good Fighter

Hawkler Good Ranger

Northlord looks like he borrowed his helmet from Dark Helmet. Mercion is apparently super hard to find these days, in case you happen to be sitting on one and need a quick infusion of cash. Also, notice how the slightly realistic Strongheart gives way in the second wave to the somewhat silly-looking Bowmarc. ‘Tis the way of things, I’m afraid.

This brings us to the evil figures. I don’t know who the leader of EVIL is, per se, but Warduke EVIL Fighter (above) has to be their coolest figure – he’s like the Boba Fett of D&D action figures. His quest to do horrible things to people is aided and abetted by such jerkwads as …

Kelek EVIL Wizard

Zarak EVIL Half-Orc Assassin

Drex EVIL Fighter

Grimsword EVIL Knight

Mandoom EVIL Warrior

Zorgar EVIL Barbarian

You can’t say that the forces of evil were underrepresented here – plenty of foes for the good guys. It’s really a very good toy line that I think would have been pushed over the top with an accompanying cartoon. Zarak, the other figure I had, might have showed up in the cartoon. I definitely remember that Kelek and Warduke were in an episode of the cartoon series.

There were three “giant” figures in the line – Ogre King, Young Male Titan and Mettaflame the Fire Giant. I don’t know if the dragonne was a mount or just a monster. Ogre King is pictured below:

Along with the articulated figures, there were numerous molded figures in the line. As a kid, I assumed they weren’t really for playing alongside the other figures, but maybe I was wrong. I’m trying to remember how they measured up to Strongheart, but frankly – it’s been too dang long. I remember having the troglodyte and goblin and two men-at-arms, but there were also skeletons, a bugbear, troll, hook horror and some others. The hook horror is pictured below.

Finally, the existence of Castle Greyskull meant that every good toy line needed a playset to go with it. D&D got the Fortress of Fangs, which is admittedly not super awesome – at least, not as great as Greyskull.

Lazy Sunday on the Couch

Well, 2021 has begun and I’m out of gas, so here are a couple things I watched this week that I found notable for weird reasons.

Up first is an episode of Lights Out entitled “Beware This Woman”.

Frankly, the show didn’t do much for me. The story was okay, but then you have Veronica Lake without her classic 40’s hairdo – very upsetting! What amazed me was the fact that Phil Hartman apparently traveled back in time to appear in the episode. When I looked up the actual actor, I discovered that he was Glenn Denning, and that was about it. To my mind, the lack of biography and credits for Mr. Denning proves that my Phil Hartman theory is correct.

In all seriousness, given what happened to Hartman, I’d love to believe he escaped his fate and was still entertaining people somewhere out there.

Lights Out originated on radio, and the episodes are worth finding – moody and creepy and very well done.

I also watched Murder Is News this week, a 1937 mystery.

Again, not a tremendous storyline, but I love b-movie mysteries from the 40’s, and I dug that the lead character, reporter Jerry Tracy, worked for the Daily Planet. Tracy was flying high in 1937, but a year later that new guy Clark Kent and ace reporter Lois Lane would be getting all the attention and poor Jerry was out of luck!

Tracy was played by John Gallaudet, who was in a favorite old TV show of mine, Burke’s Law – it was like the Love Boat of detective shows (which makes sense, since it was produced by Aaron Spelling). Also appearing in the cast was John Hamilton, who would later play Perry White in The Adventures of Superman.

OK – a lazy post today I know, but maybe the rest of you are feeling lazy as well and could use a couple hours of mediocre black and white entertainment to round out the day. Be well, everyone – and I hoped you remembered to eat some black-eyed peas on January 1st – we’ll need all the help we can get to deal with 2020 II: Electric Boogaloo!

Not Since the Leg Lamp …

… has an old man been so excited about something.

In this case, a gift I gave myself, which I know sounds bad, but this was one thing I could not resist:

The C64 – a retro computer based on the Commodore 64 and Vic-20!

All my friends had Ataris, and I wanted one sooooo much, but my dad wanted a computer that did more than play games, so I got a Vic-20. To this day, I am thankful for how responsible he was. The Vic-20 had games, of course, and I love them – Radar Rat Race and Gorf come immediately to mind. But I also learned some basic BASIC on the old Vic-20, and I still use a little of that knowledge to this day. I can still remember cracking open a computer magazine and spending hours typing in pokes and peeks to generate a static image of a jack-o-lantern or Christmas tree on the TV … only to know that when the computer was turned off, all that work was gone!

For the  children in the audience … let me take you back to time when console TVs doubled as computer monitors and programs were lost when you turned off the computer (unless you had the Commodore datasette!) It also meant that when dad got home from work and it was time for the news, you were done playing with your computer without some serious begging!

Flash forward to 2020 – I come across the C64 retro computer (I already do not remember where I saw it). It is apparently already released in Europe … but an unknown release date in North America. I had to have it. I hit Amazon, and lo and behold, it was available for pre-order. Pre-order I did!

I was not, however, going to hold my breath until it arrived, because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t. Just seemed to good to be true, and without a set release date – probably was not going to happen. Sure enough, a week or so after ordering it the shipping date was pushed back. And then pushed back again. Now it was supposed to arrive in mid-December. Yeah – right!

Out of sight, out of mind, and then I get an email notice … sometime around mid-December … that an order has shipped. I had a couple Christmas gifts for the fam on order, so I assumed it was one of those. Happily, I was wrong.

Here it is folks:

It’s a beaut!

And someday, if I’m really good and my puppy gives me a couple free minutes, I’ll get to play with it. I can’t wait!

(By the way – I still have that Vic-20 stored away in the closet – it’s the stuff I’ve gotten rid of that I regret, not the stuff I kept.)

I hope you folks get something you want for Christmas this year, or whatever holiday you might celebrate, and I also hope you get something you need.

Love and peace, folks!

Dragon by Dragon – May 1982 (61)

Wow – May of 1982. I was on the verge of being 10 years old, so probably 2 years away from discovering D&D, three from Tolkien and may five from superhero comic books. My only nerd-cred at the time was probably reading encyclopedias. What I do remember being excited about in 1982 – and begging to get for my birthday – were these new army figures called G.I. Joe. Have you seen these things? They’re like Star Wars figures (which I loved), but military (which I loved)! Awesome! I don’t remember exactly what I got that birthday, but I know I got a few of them, and I think I got the jet pack launch pad thingee. Unfortunately, within just a couple years I was done playing with toys, so I never had more than the originals and Doc. Good times, though!

If I had been into D&D in 1982, though, I know I would have enjoyed issue 61 of Dragon Magazine. We have a moody wizard cover by Susan Collins, some articles on weapons and fighting without weapons (always rich territory for needlessly complex rules in early AD&D), monster cards and a module! Shall we proceed …

First up, we get some illusionist cantrips by Mr. Gygax. These “0-level” spells were brand new, and were designed to make the spellcasters more “magical” – i.e. doing interesting things with a wave of the hand like magicians in books and movies. Naturally, later editions didn’t get the point, and turned them into yet another level of spells. The cantrips in this issue are for illusionists, and include colored light, dim, haze, mask, mirage, noise, rainbow and two d’lusion. For readers unaware of what old-style spells looked like, and what old-style cantrips looked like, here’s an example:

Two-D’lusion (illusion)

A of E: 4 sq.”

CT: 1/6 segment

This cantrip is virtually the same as a phantasmal forces spell in most respects. The caster creates a two-dimensional illusion of whatever he or she desires. If any viewer observes it from an angle of more than about 45° from its horizontal or vertical viewing axis, the nature of the illusion will become immediately apparent. It is dispelled by touch or magic (dispel illusion or dispel magic). The illusion is invisible from the side or the rear. It lasts as long as the caster concentrates upon it. To effectuate the cantrip, the caster must speak a phrase descriptive of the illusion while making a circular motion with his closed hand.

Just so you know, “A of E” is “area of effect” and “CT” is casting time. I think 1/6 a segment would be 1 second, but I might be wrong on that. It’s been a while since I played AD&D.

It wouldn’t be until high school that I discovered Warhammer, and thus White Dwarf magazine. 

I always dig Giants in the Earth, either because it covers characters I know, or introduces me to new characters. This issue we get C. J. Cutliffe Hyne’s Deucalion, John Norman’s Tarl Cabot and Charles R. Saunders’ Dossouye. While I am aware of Cabot and have read some Saunders, I have never experienced first hand the characters described in this issue. I have, however, read Hyne’s The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis, from whence Deucalion comes (well, not really – it’s from ancient mythology really), and I can recommend it. A ripping yarn that, in my opinion, was reminiscent of Conan and such barbarian literature long before REH got his sandaled hero off the ground.

I always wanted one of those Dragonbone electonic dice rollers as a kid. A quick search on ebay revealed none for sale. Oh well – maybe some day.

Next are “Without Any Weapons …” by Phil Meyers and then “… or with a … Weird One” by Rory Bowman. The first has new rules for pummeling in AD&D, the rules for which were never very satisfying and always overly complex. They could have been quite simple, but the gaming zeitgeist of the time was all about complexity – a far cry from the old days when the game was the thing. The later article introduces new weapons for AD&D such as atlatls, blow guns, chakrams, bullwhips, etc. I had no interest in complex fighting rules, but always liked new additions like the weapons article.

For the gnome-curious out there, Dragon 61 had some groovy articles by Roger E. Moore about the littlest adventurers in AD&D. “The Gnomish Point of View” fleshes out the gnome characters – of course, your campaign may vary from Moore’s ideas, but it was always helpful, especially when I was young, to see how these things could be fleshed out. It is followed up with “The Gods of the Gnomes” – Baervan, Urdlen, Segojan and Flandal. Of course, Garl Glittergold was introduced earlier. I can remember thinking Flandal Steelskin was cool.

“Quest for the Midas Orb” by Jennie Good is the included module in Dragon 61. It was the third place winner at IDDC III, and I’ll admit I don’t know what that is. Here’s the introduction:

“Long ago in the land of Gnarda lived the worshippers of Kalsones, the god of wealth and power. Kalsones was a fair god who treated his followers kindly. As proof of his fairness and kindness in an era long past, he had presented the people with an artifact called the Midas Orb. Legends say if the Orb is held in one hand and another object is touched with the index finger of the other hand, the object touched will turn to pure gold.”

The adventure is a groovy dungeon crawl with some cool ideas in it. Well worth the read and probably well worth the exploration.

The “Dragon’s Bestiary” includes the Firetail by Ed Greenwood, the Umbrae by Theresa Berger, the Light Worm by Willie Callison and the Tybor by Jeff Brandt. Here’s the Light Worm for Blood & Treasure:

Light Worm by Willie Callison
Type: Monster
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 14
Attack: Bite (1d6 + Poison IV)
Movement: 20′
Save: 16
Intelligence: Animal/Low
Alignment: Neutral
No. Appearing: 1 (25% chance of 1d3)
XP/CL: 1,200/6

SD – MR 75%, Immune (charm, hold, illusions), vulnerable (cold, fire)

Light worms are dungeon denizens with poisonous bites. They look like giant snakes with black underbellies and violet and light blue bands on their backs. The monster’s have two small bumps above their eyes, and stubs on their underside – perhaps vestigal legs. Victims of the light worm’s bite must save vs. poison (at +1 from the first bite, and a cumulative -2 penalty for each additional bite) or die in 1d8 minutes.

There is a 35% chance each round that the worm creates a 20′-diameter sphere of colored lights around victims within 120′. All creatures within the sphere are made dizzy for the first three rounds of their entrapment (-2 to attack, cumulative). In rounds four and five, they are so dizzy as to be incapacitated, and in round six they fall unconscious for 1d10+1 minutes, during which time they are devoured by the monster if at all possible.

Creatures that save against the sphere of lights are only made dizzy for three rounds, shaking off the effect thereafter. Dispel magic, mind blank and true seeing cut through the sphere of lights, as does a helm of telepathy.

The sphere of lights can be generated once every 12 hours.

Light worms are stunned for 1d3 rounds by the sticks to snakes spell, and the spell cancels a sphere of light currently in play.

The Monster Cards described in this issue were really cool. Each one depicts a monster painting on the front, and the stats on the back. If you can find some out in the wild, grab them, cherish them, and use them to kill player characters.

There is an article about introducing aging into the Ringside game, of which I know nothing. It is followed up by the “Jo-Ga-Oh – Little People of the Iroquois” by Conrad Froehlich. These are stats for three “monsters” that are quite groovy.

Gary Gygax has a supplement to Top Secret. Again, I know next to nothing about this game, but I like the level titles for infiltrators – snitch / foist / inside man / plant / ringer / contact / insinuator / penetrator / subversive / infiltrator. Given the title for 8th level, I guess we can assume that’s James Bond’s level. The article also has info on different types of missions, the XP value of them, and other notes. 

Boy – What’s New? With Phil and Dixie was just the best when you were in junior high …

It was fun discovering Phil Foglio’s art in old Star Trek fanzines. Everybody has to start somewhere!

Tramp’s Wormy has some gorgeous artwork – he was just getting better and better!

That, folks, is a wrap! Have fun folks, and please be kind to one another. 

Missing in Action

Holy Smokes – I missed the entire month of November on this blog! I do have a good excuse, though … the newest member of my party, Toby the 1st level Dingo.

I’m only half joking about him being a dingo – apparently he is a mix of Labrador retriever, border collie and Australian cattle dog. Those Australian cattle dogs have dingo blood, so I’ve enjoyed calling him my little dingo, or saying in my best bad Australian accent “the dingo IS my baby!”

For the last month, I’ve been chasing the little dingo around, playing with him, disciplining him, being chewed on by him. Exhausting! We’re finally to the point where I can put a computer on my lap and type for a few minutes each night. It’s also been busy busy busy at work, due to our network going down for a week. I’ve been scrambling to catch up – the fourth quarter reports are looming, and missing a week’s worth of data collection has not helped matters.

That’s my life at the moment – work and puppies. God knows it could be worse. On the bright side, I have my GRIT & VIGOR supplement, High Frontier, ready to go. I just need to combine the PDF files together (which I just realized I cannot do on my “new” laptop computer, because the software is on the old Samsung) and upload them to Drivethru and Lulu. That should be fun – I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. I should have the next NOD issue up pretty soon as well – it’s written and laid out – just needs the final touches.

So, until next time, this is your erstwhile blogger signing off. I’ll update everyone when High Frontier is available, and I’ll endeavor to get a post up this weekend – probably a Dragon by Dragon review. Have fun and please be kind to one another!

Happy Halloween Kids!

Hey all you little ghosts and ghouls – maybe the most appropriate holiday of 2020 is upon us – HALLOWEEN!

However you’re planning to celebrate (and I hope you’re planning to celebrate in some way – don’t let all the bastards out there get you down!), maybe this little wallpaper I made will help get you in the … spirit!

(Special No-Prize if you can name all the namable characters in there!)

I actually turned this thing into a poster, which I had printed at bestofsigns.com … and they did an absolutely fantastic job. Just a free plug for some folks who really came through. Oh – and no, the poster isn’t for sale anywhere. Just a personal project.

In the various and sundry category … RIP Sean Connery. I have a tremendous fondness for Roger Moore’s James Bond, since he’s the one I grew up with (mostly seeing the movies on TV – always a big event!), but you cannot deny the greatness of Connery in the roll. Then there’s his turn in The Hunt for Red October, Outland, Indiana Jones, Darby O’Gill and the Little People (in which he sings!) … Old Tam will be missed on the silver screen.

Also – I make a solemn oath to have the next issue of NOD, and the High Frontier supplement for GRIT & VIGOR out this November. I’ve dragged my feet on finishing them off and uploading them for sale (a process that becomes more tedious with each passing year and each passing revision to the process) for a couple months, so I need to finally cross that finish line.

Finally … I messed around with turning a classic piece of art by J. C. Leyendecker into a template for designing old-time football uniforms. Why? Because I’m writing a second edition of Pen & Paper Football with rules modifications for different eras of professional football, plus rules for the Canadian game, recreating old rosters (i.e. the last blog post I did) and some rules tweaks that I think improve the game. Of course, if I was going to playtest a league in the 1930’s, I needed to design helmets and uniforms! Here are a couple of my designs. My league is up to 1937 … I’m going to play it through to the 1980’s to test everything out, and then spend a couple weeks playtesting the Canadian rules. Fun fun fun!

Have a Happy Halloween folks! Eat some treats, watch a movie (I think we’re doing Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein tonight), and please choose love and fun over hate and despair!

Sometimes, You Get Lucky …

Sometimes you get lucky … but only after wasting lots of time getting it wrong.

I had a request, probably back in 2017 when I wrote Pen & Paper Football, to come up with a scheme to put stats to actual historical football teams. It was an interesting idea, but it required more work than I had the time for then, so I let it go.

When I was playtesting my game, I came up with a crude way to generate stats for teams using the 2016 stats of pro football teams. For my playtesting, I wanted a wide range of stats so I could see how the rules would work with extreme differences in stats. To do this, I took each team’s rating in passing, rushing, receiving, etc. and assigned stat scores starting at 18 for the top two teams, 17 for the next two, and so on from there. Fortunately, the league has 32 teams and I had 16 numbers between 3 and 18, so the process was pretty simple. This approach was crude, but it served my needs. Unfortunately, it was not what the person making the request was looking for to simulate old teams.

The problem with generating ability scores from game stats is that the ability scores in PPF are abstract. The QB/Passing stat, for example, overlaps to some extent with the WR/Receiving stat. It involves not only a team’s starting quarterback, but also the back-ups, and the offensive line’s ability to protect the passer and give him time to find his targets. Then there’s the coaching – the head coach, the quarterback coach, etc. – and their game plan and philosophy. How do you quantify this?

What I needed was an approach that didn’t just compare one team to another team in a given year, but which laid down an ideal quantification and compared any team, from any era, to that ideal. Back in the 1960’s, the league created the concept of a Quarterback Rating, and I figured I could use that as a basis for my work. It’s a somewhat complex formula (at least for hobby gaming), and I put some work into modifying it to rate running backs, but I would need it for receivers as well, and the defense, but defense stats weren’t compiled very well in the old days, and the receiver stats for a team were bound to mirror the quarterback stats, and … oh boy – what a mess!

My post showing off my brilliant scheme was going to appear last weekend, because I was sure I could clear it all up and produce a spreadsheet for people to use. Oh brother – what a huge waste of time. My whole philosophy about gaming is that it should be simple and fun – quick and easy. This wasn’t.

And then it happened. I was working at my desk the other day when a thought popped into my head. A simple way to simulate a team’s stats, using easily obtainable information, without any formulas or much work involved at all. Like I said – sometimes you get lucky!

Player-By-Player Stats

We begin by dividing among the PPF stats (QB, RB, WR, LM, LB, DB) the actual player positions. For each stat we take the three best starting players on a team that are tied to that stat. The position-to-stat breakout is as follows:

QB Quarterback, center, offensive guards
RB Running back, fullback, offensive tackles
WR Wide receivers, tight end
LM Defensive tackles, defensive ends
LB Linebackers
DB Cornerbacks and safeties

We rate players by their highest level of achievement while playing. This can make things a little tricky if we’re trying to recreate teams from the recent past, or from the present day, but with a little brain work and argument, I think one can figure it out.

Each player is scored for their lifetime achievement in pro football:

Achievement Score
None in particular 3
One pro-bowl/all-star game 4
Multiple pro-bowls/all-star games 5
Hall of Fame 6

Rookies deduct two from their score. One can also knock a point off for a player in the twilight of their career if they have clearly lost a step.

For each stat, you take the three best players, by rating, associated with that stat and add them up to get the relevant ability score.

For an example, I give you the 1984 Miami Dolphins:

Stat Players Score Bonus
QB Dan Marino (6), Dwight Stephenson (6), Ed Newman (5) 17 +5
RB Tony Nathan (4), Woody Bennett (3), John Geisler (3), Cleveland Green (3) 10 +3
WR Mark Clayton (5), Mark Duper (5), Dan Johnson (3) 13 +4
LM Bob Baumhower (5), Doug Betters (4), Kim Bokamper (4) 13 +4
LB Bob Brudzinski (3), AJ Duhe (4), Charles Bowser (3), Mark Brown (3) 10 +3
DB All players rate a 3 9 +3

The Minnesota Vikings were less successful that year – their stats are as follows:

Stat Players Score Bonus
QB Tommy Kramer (4), Ron Sams (3), Curtis Rouse (3), Terry Tausch (3) 10 +3
RB All players rate a 3 9 +3
WR Sammy White (5), Mike Jones (3), Steve Jordan (5) 13 +4
LM Charles Johnson (5), Neil Elshire (3), Mark Mullaney (3) 11 +3
LB Matt Blair (5), Scott Studwell (5), Dennis Johnson (3), Fred McNeil (3) 13 +4
DB John Swain (3), Rufus Bess (3), Tom Hannon (3), Carl Lee (5) 11 +3

The value of this system is that it requires little in the way of mathematics, and it is broadly applicable to different eras of football, since concepts like all-star games are pretty old, and players from the very beginning of football have been enshrined in the Hall of fame.

You can also use this system to create pro squads from the starting players of a given year instead of rolling a team’s stats. Use a random draft for the first year of play, then hold real drafts each year thereafter.

Earlier Eras of Football

To prove one can use this for different eras of the game, I present the 1920 Canton Bulldogs, with a couple caveats:

First – the game of football was different then, so the ability scores must change a bit. This is something else I’m working on for the next edition of PPF. For football before the forward pass dominated that game, you use the following ability scores:

BK (Backfield) = Tail Back, Full Back, Blocking Back, Wing Back, Center

RL (Right Line) = Right End, Right Tackle, Right Guard

LL (Left Line) = Left End, Left Tackle, Left Guard

Note that you only need the one set of stats, since players played both offense and defense in the same general spots.

In this version of the game, the defense commits to stacking their defense on the right or left, rather than against the run or pass, and the offense runs their plays to the right or left. Also keep in mind that the offense’s right is mirrored by the defense’s left, etc.

Using these stats, the 1920 Bulldogs look as follows:

Stat Players Score Bonus
BK Jim Thorpe (6), Pete Calac (3), Tex Grigg (3), Joe Guyon (6), Al Feeney (3) 15 +4
RL John Kellison (3), Pete Henry (6), Bulger Lowe (4) 13 +4
LL Bob Higgins (3), Cub Buck (3), Cap Edwards (3) 9 +3

So the Bulldogs are stronger on the right than the left, and have a pretty good backfield. With just one more all-star in the backfield, that could bump their backfield bonus to +5. Even without another all-star, Coach Thorpe can win some ballgames with these guys.

Ready for Some Pen and Paper Football

It’s an October Sunday, and by golly I was in the mood for some football. I’m not a huge fan of the modern iteration of the game (or the modern iteration of anything, for that matter), but I am a fan of a little game I wrote called Pen & Paper Football. It’s easily my top seller – being priced very affordably probably helps that. I haven’t really messed with it for a while, so this weekend I rolled up a quick league, spent a ridiculous amount of time designing uniforms to go with my helmets, and even made a few football cards (because it was fun, that’s why) … and eventually got around to rolling up some quick games. For the playoffs and championship I’ll play the games out longhand.

In the process of opening old files, I found a bit I wrote a while back and never published … well, I don’t think I ever published. It was some random “quirks” for football teams, to give them a little more personality.

D20

QUIRK

1

No quirk

2

+1 to d20 rolls during the first half of the game

3

+1 to d20 rolls during the second half of the game

4

+1 to defense while leading in a game

5

+1 to offense d20 rolls when more than a touchdown behind

6

+1 to offense in dome stadiums; -1 in outdoor stadiums

7

+1 to offense attacks in the red zone

8

+2 to passing attacks on 4th down

9

+2 to running attacks on 4th down

10

+1 yard per dice while passing in second half of game

11

+1 yard per dice when running  in second half of game

12

+1 to offense attacks on special plays

13

+1 to DR inside the red zone

14

+2 to DR when opponent is still scoreless in the 4th quarter

15

+1 to passing attacks when opponent is down by more than a touchdown

16

Anytime the defense sacks the QB, there is a 1 in 10 chance he must sit out the remainder of the offensive series (i.e. lose star QB, or -1 to QB bonus)

17

Get do-over when playing on the road instead of at home

18

Launch one cheerleader battle per game; roll 2d6 – opponent has to roll higher; if they do, you have to roll higher still, and so on until somebody falls; winner gets a do-over on the last play

19

After one blitz results in a sack, sacks now occur on a roll of 1 or 2 on offense attacks

20

Gain one do-over when opponent is ahead in the second half

Sorry for the brief post, but it’s been a busy weekend, and between California setting itself on fire and blowing the smoke in Vegas’ face and good old fashioned fall allergens, I haven’t had much sleep. Still, not a bad weekend overall – I made my pumpkin pasta that officially begins the fall season in the Stater household, discovered that Mr. T made a show in Canada (T and T) that ran from ’87-90, watched Rock & Rule for the umpteenth time and had the family over for a birthday party.  Ooo – I also found a Sony combination DVD/VHS player for my old TV for $4 at a thrift store … and it works!

There’s plenty of cruddy stuff going on out there folks, so accentuate the positive and do the best living you can do!