The 90s Syndicate

It was 1987, and I was super excited in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. This was not uncommon in childhood, of course – it just took an awesome prize in a box of sugar goodness – but I was a teenager in ’87 and the excitement was due to an ad for something called Star Trek: The Next Generation on the back of a cereal box. This was my introduction to the show, and I remember telling my dad – the source of my Star Trek love – about how cool it looked, with a new ship, new crew … and that there was going to be a klingon on the Enterprise!

Back in the 80’s, syndicated TV was mostly the domain of game shows like Wheel of Fortune until Star Trek: The Next Generation showed up. I remember that it was a big story when The Next Generation managed to beat Wheel of Fortune’s ratings. Fast forward 30+ years, and though I’m sorry to say the show doesn’t do much for me these days, I am thankful for the syndicated TV goodness it helped spawn.

The syndicated shows of the 90’s almost never had as much budget as they needed, but they were all cool and creative. Because of the time in which they were made, they have a distinct look that I suspect really triggers good vibes for many Gen-X’ers.

Here are a few of my favorites – check them out if they’re new to you, or renew an old friendship if you remember them from way back when:

The Flash (1990-1991)

Not syndicated, but I sorta wish it had been after it was cancelled. We’ve been watching these lately, having scored a super cheap DVD set of the complete series at Zia Records, and I must say I’m enjoying them. The show was far from perfect, but it had some great moments and I genuinely like the people in it. The sad thing about Flash is that it only made it to TV because of the success of 1989’s Batman, and as a result ended up with a Danny Elfwood score and an awkward aesthetic borrowed from Batman and Dick Tracy. The style just seems out of place to me, and though it doesn’t ruin the shows, it doesn’t help them either. On the other hand, it’s full of absolutely beautiful mid-century cars, so that’s pretty cool. The Flash costume was a little jarring as well, but c’est la vie.

We were watching some of the new Flash episodes, but gradually got out of them when they did the stupid time travel bit for the umpteenth time. I really loved see Shipp reprise his role in the series, though.

Oh – and who doesn’t love Amanda Pays? So smart and cool – on Flash as well as Max Headroom. She did a fun guest appearance on Psych as a date for Corbin Bernsen’s character on the series, which is another family favorite.

I think my favorite Flash episode is “Beat the Clock”, which has a pre-What’s Love Got to Do With It Angela Bassett, and good performances by Ken Foree and Thomas Mikal Ford.

Highlander: The Series (1992-1997)

In my normal backwards way, I discovered this show way before I saw the movie … and if I’m honest, when I finally saw the movie I preferred Adrian Paul to Christopher Lambert as the immortal. I think it was that darn overcoat they had him wearing in the movie – looked like it belonged on Harpo Marx. I did enjoy introducing my daughter to the Kurgan, though, and then revealing he was the voice of Mr. Krabs.

Being a history-buff, I loved all the past lives of Duncan McLeod. I think I enjoyed the stuff set in the past more than that set in the modern day. I remember being super-jazzed to see Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals and Roger Daltry in some episodes. Highlander really had some legs, but I didn’t stick with it all the way to the end … by 1997 I was married and about a year away from having a kid, so life sort of got in the way. Still, the awesome opening will always stick with me. God bless Freddie Mercury!

Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990)

Okay – this series sort of screws up my premise that Next Generation led the way with cool syndicated shows, since it was also first-run syndication and showed up at about the same time. Oh well – it’s my story and I’m sticking to it, facts or no facts!

I don’t have a long-term relationship with the horror genre. I was never into the Friday the 13th movies, or really any contemporary horror movies in my youth. I didn’t grow up with that stuff, so all the blood and guts and shock horror really freaked me out. Classic Universal horror movies I could do … but Leatherface, Jason, Freddie, Michael Myers, flesh-eating zombies, etc. – no sir. Not my cup of tea.

That’s why I don’t know how I ended up watching Friday the 13th: The Series. It has almost nothing to do with the movies – I might remember there being some tiny thread connecting them, but I’m not sure. The premise – which would work beautifully for a horror RPG campaign, is as follows:

Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the devil to sell cursed antiques. But he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul. Now, his niece Micki, and her cousin Ryan have inherited the store… and with it, the curse. Now they must get everything back, and the real terror begins.

It now occurs to me why I started watching it – Louise Robey as Micki. She was pretty darn cute. Still, it was the show’s concept that got me to stick with the show. Each week, a new evil artifact was introduced and off the two leads went, trying to bring it back to the shop to end the curse. It was much more in the vein of Outer Limits than gory 80’s horror movies. I remember it fondly, and should really check back into it.

She-Wolf of London / Love & Curses (1990-1991)

Originally titled She Wolf of London, I caught one or two of the later episodes when it was renamed Love & Curses , and always wanted to see more. A bunch of them are posted on YouTube (how do they not get fined a billion bucks a year for aiding and abetting copyright violations?), but I’m happy to say I picked up the entire series on DVD last week for $12 – sweet price, even I end up not liking them much.

In this series, a woman named Randi Wallace (played by Kate Hodge) who travels to England to study the occult is attacked by a werewolf on the moors and becomes a lycanthrope. Her companion, Professor Ian Matheson (played by Neil Dickson), helps her deal with her curse while they run around encountering all sorts of supernatural evils and stuff. I love good, old fashioned episodic TV with fun characters.

Love & Curses could be a good set-up for a campaign as well, with one PC having a werewolf curse (or something similar) and the others having to survive dangerous adventures AND their dangerous friend.

And yeah, I had a thing for Kate Hodge as well …

So what 80’s/90’s syndicated stuff do you remember loving? Let me know in the comments – remember, sharing is caring!

Dragon by Dragon – April 1982 (60)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but things have sure been stressful lately. I’ve been working hard and praying for peace, and trying to relax with old TV shows, old movies and some podcasts about fun things. I will readily admit that my interests tend towards the old – movies from the 30’s and 40’s, TV from the 60’s through 80’s, “bronze age” comics, old games, etc. There’s something about the design and awkward charm that really get me, not to mention nostalgia for places and people I’ll never see again.

To that end, before I present the wonders of Dragon Magazine #60, I must say goodbye to an old family friend. When I went over to my dad’s house to help work on his patio this week, he let me know that the old Panasonic microwave had finally radiated its last cup of tea.

We bought the microwave back in 1980 (two years before this particular Dragon magazine was published), and I still remember where the shop was, though it’s long since been replaced. It was my parents’ first and only microwave oven. I don’t have any deep emotional attachment to the item, really, but I was rooting for it to stay operational forever. Still, 40 years is pretty damn good for an appliance.

So, farewell Panasonic – I learned to cook hot dogs in you, enjoyed chocolate candy my mother made in you, consumed waaay to many Tony’s microwave pizzas heated by you in my formative years (as in “forming a husky body”) and found about 20,000 cups of water placed in you for heating and subsequently forgotten by my dad. Salute!

Now – to Dragon Magazine. This baby was published in 1982 – so it is still prior to me discovering D&D, which would have been 1984. I don’t remember ever checking this one out from the library, so the contents are new to me – and as always, this is less a review than a “here’s what I dug about this issue”.

We start with an ad for a video game called Temple of Apshai. No memory of this one, but I do agree with their sentiment about slaying monsters. It came with a 56-page “book of lore”, which reminds me of the old Ultima and Might & Magic games that I had. Ultima had a cool cloth map (a tapestry, you know), and M&M had a book with all the spells and stuff in it. A little perusal of the interwebs reveals it was part of a trilogy, and that there are many places to download/play it, including the good old Internet Archive.

Nerd alert:

Dear editor:

There are a couple of problems with Robert Barrow’s article, “Aiming for Realism in Archery,” in issue #58 of DRAGON™ Magazine. From my standpoint, it seems that the good author spends too much time with modern archery and has read nothing of medieval history dealing with the subject.

I mean, the writer of that missive is probably correct … but jeez – can’t I just roll 1d20, maybe do some damage, and move on with my life. I’m not sure there’s any real value to re-creating an historical battle, but I’m positive that re-enacting a fictional fight with some orcs is positively goofy, to quote Jan Brady.

The first big piece in this issue is “All About Elves”. You get Roger E. Moore’s “The Elven Point of View”, with super cool Erol Otus art – the ultimate elven fighter/mage. I really dig the idea that only elves can be fighter/mages. There are, of course, lots of cool ideas in the article – Roger E. Moore is one of my favorites. Roger and Georgia Moore then present the Elven Gods – these are the additions to the pantheon beyond Corellon Larethian in Deities & Demigods. These days, I’m more apt to make up my own, but as a kid, articles like this were eye-openers to me. Notions I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

Speaking of elves – here’s a question from Sage Advice:

Why are elven thieves always children?

Anyone who has a relatively recent edition of the Dungeon Masters Guide will probably think this question doesn’t make sense. The latest edition of the DMG lists 100+5d6 as the starting age for player-character elven thieves (page 12). This puts them into the “young adult” range according to the Age Categories chart (page 13) for high elves — the only kind of elves who can be player characters. However, it wasn’t always so. Earlier editions of the DMG gave 50+5d6 as the starting age, which would indeed mean that all elven thieves would start their adventuring lives as “adolescents” of 55 to 80 years old. Fortunately, this inaccuracy was spotted and corrected in later editions; anyone with an old book can simply make the appropriate change in the text.

Who else likes the idea that only elven teenagers become professional thieves? Sometimes, the “mistakes” are more fun and more inspirational than the corrections.

We also get the “Half-Elven Point of View” by Roger E. Moore to round things out.

Gygax’s “From the Sorcerer’s Scroll” is a big load of cantrips. AD&D cantrips were 0-level spells before later editions pumped them up and made them more useful. I think it would be cool to make these available to non-magic-users on scrolls. Most of these cantrips require the player to really use their imagination and creativity to make them useful in a dungeon adventure – so naturally, I love them.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I absolutely love the illustrations some companies used to illustrate the miniatures they produced. They always look cooler than the actual miniatures, and I just think they’re little works of art.

Ed Greenwood has an article on firearms for D&D which is aptly named “Firearms”. A semi-controversial subject, since Gygax went the direction of “gunpowder doesn’t work in a fantasy world” and many adopted that idea. As with so many articles in these days, it’s pretty thorough, and looks to me like it would blend nicely into the game. Handguns, for example, do 2d3 damage, firing every other round, with a max range of 50 – so they aren’t going to dominate the game. It might be a cool idea to use orcs in the way Tolkien did, as harbingers of the soulless machine age, and arm them with gunpowder weapons, while the heroes use the “elegant weapons of a more civilized age.”

I often include the first paragraph of short stories in Dragon, so here’s a sample of “Wear Wolf” by an unknown author:

The head of the Cheetah seemed to smile mockingly at me. You’ve forgotten something, I could almost hear it say. I resisted the urge to answer back, But I always forget something when I’m late. There are enough aFnimate objects to talk to; talking to inanimate ones is a waste of time.

Dragon #60 includes a complete game – Flight of the Boodles – by Chuck Stoll of Louisville, KY. It recreates the epic journey of the boodles through the “Grumjug-infested passes of the Snagrock Mountains”. The art makes it look like a fun game to me. The map and counters are included – with a little work you could probably recreate them in a cleaner format and print them out to play the game. Each player takes the side of the Boodles or Grumjugs, purchases the pieces they are going to use in their force, and then goes at it, the Boodles trying to break through the mountains and the Grumjugs trying to stop them. Basically – a fun little wargame.

This is an April issue, so April Fools Day jokes was a requirement. In this issue we get one pseudo-joke – the Jester NPC class by Roger E. Moore – who had some thief abilities – climb walls, pick pockets, catch objects – and some jester spells (levels 1 to 8). The spell list is not extensive, but the spells are pretty darn good. I think you could do a great campaign where a hidden evil threatens a kingdom, and the evil in question is a high level jester who wants to sieze the throne for his own, or maybe who is trying to spread chaos for the chaos gods.

Roger Moore also does “Midgets in the Earth” – a comical version of the usual Giants in the Earth articles presenting D&D stats for literary characters. This one gives you the likes of Eubeen Hadd, 20th level halfling thief, and Morc the Orc, 12th level snaga orc idiot. The Dragon’s Bestiary follows up with monster stats for Donald Duck by Tom Moldvay (which could work well in RuneQuest-inspired games) or any game where you’d like your PC’s to get whooped by an angry duck, the Tasmanian Devil by Steven Sullivan, the Jolly Green Giant by Michael Nystul (name sounds familiar), Marvin the Martian by David Cook (which one could use as the basis for a whole planet of martians in a cosmic adventure), Baseball Bugbears by Karl Kesel and Tom Richmond (probably a reference to the Bad News Bears) and the Werebeaver by Jeff Goetz (which looks suspiciously like Jerry Mathers). They’re all joke monsters, but all usable as well.

To follow up on the April levity, you get an in-depth article on the Pooka by Michael Fountain. I’ve seen many takes on this monster, which would take some real skill to make work in a game, as there’s such a big emphasis on illusion.

You also get some background stuff for agents in Top Secret, some variant scenarios for Trojan War and a big article on Alignment (since it’s the 80’s and there were many articles on alignment).

“Wormy” by Dave Trampier presents the secret handshake of trolls … which, of course, I cannot show in all good conscience.

“What’s New with Phil and Dixie” by Phil Foglio looks at minigames, including one called “Escape from Cthulhu” that just includes a short incantation …

And a tall order!

Fare well, lads and lasses, and find some love and happiness amid all the troubles of the world. Better yet – be the love and happiness in a troubled world!

Into the Unknown

Happy Fourth of July folks! Remember, it’s not enough to value your own liberty, you have to love other peoples’ liberty just as much as your own.

And also remember – two or three hotdogs is probably sufficient unless you want to put on a fireworks display in your gut to rival the one outside tonight.

Now then … I’m busy working, as I’ve mentioned before, on an Old West supplement for Grit & Vigor. I love working on things like this because they give me a chance to learn about things about which I only have a passing knowledge. A couple days ago, I started working on something like random encounter tables for PCs wandering around in the wilderness. I wanted to keep them relatively simple – just suggestions a VM could use to spice up an overland journey. I started out with some general categories of “encounter”, and then realized that I had no idea how frequent these things should be. What to do?

Then it occurred to me … Lewis and Clark kept a diary!

So now I’ve spent a few hours going through the diary and making notes on what they encountered each day, both while traveling in the summer and fall, and camping in the winter. Pretty interesting stuff – I highly suggest giving it a look – and here are the results, according to my encounter definitions (with the definitions following):

Encounter Travel Camp
No Encounter 01-46 01-31
Danger 47-57 32
Ruins 58-67
Herd 68-76 33-34
Predator 77-84
Warriors 85-91 35-40
Settlement 92-96
Travelers 97-99 41-00
Omen 00

Danger: This is a danger of some kind that strikes a person unawares, such as a snake bite, illness, a fall that results in injury, pests, etc.

Herd: This is an encounter with numerous large her-bivores, such as bighorn sheep, elk or bison.

Omen: This is an event that has spiritual significance to one or several of the adventurers.

Predator: This is an encounter with a large predator capable of killing an adventurer, especially if it achieves surprise. In the American West, this is probably a bear, cougar or pack of wolves.

Ruins: The remains of a settlement, such as mounds left by the Mississippian Culture, or an abandoned settlement (see below).

Settlement: A settlement appropriate to the region and time period. This includes trading posts and forts.

Travelers: An encounter with a small or large group of travelers. These people may or may not be capable of defending themselves, but their purpose is not one of violence and the group probably includes women and children. This could be a wagon train, a migration of American Indians or a prospector and his mule. There is a 1% chance that they are accompanied by a famous person appropriate to the time and place.

Warriors: An encounter with a relatively small band of armed men. It could be a hunting or war party of American Indians, a troop of U.S. Cavalry, a gang of outlaws or European fur trappers. There is a 1% chance that they are accompanied by a famous person appropriate to the time and place.

That’s enough for today – I have to prep the dog for the horrors of fireworks tonight. Be good to one another folks – love each other – it’s the only way forward!

Notion – One vs. Many

Here’s an idea I had today while walking the dog. It’s about combat with multiple attackers in RPG fights of the B&T variety.

When a character is facing more than one opponent, they can make a choice on how many of their foes they want to “actively engage” each round. For each foe they actively engage beyond the first, they suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to their attack. Any foe they do not actively engage gets a cumulative +1 bonus to attack the character.

For example: A fighter is facing three goblins. If he decides to actively engage one goblin, he gets to attack that goblin with his normal chances. The other two goblins, because they are not actively engaged, attack with a +2 bonus (+2 because there are two goblins not actively engaged).

If the fighter actively engaged two of the goblins, then he suffers a -1 penalty to his attack that round (-1 because there is one “extra” goblin he is engaging). The one goblin who is not engaged gets a +1 bonus to hit the fighter (+1 because there is one goblin not actively engaged).

If the fighter actively engages all three, the goblins get no bonus to attack, but the fighter suffers a -2 penalty to his attack.

If you use a rule wherein the fighter class can attack multiple opponents, you can still use these penalties, but apply them to each of the fighter’s attacks during a round.

Note – I planned to use an image from Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) where he was fighting several men, but couldn’t find it. I stuck with Cyrano anyways, because he’s my hero.

Daddy-o Appreciation Day

Hey all you cats and kittens – just a quick note today in between Father’s Day festivities (my dad and fam was over yesterday, wife’s dad and fam today) to wish all the dads and their loved ones out there a happy day.

In case you have some time today for fine cinema, enjoy this little gem from MST3K (ah, the old Comedy Central days – MST3K, Kids in the Hall) … Daddy-O:

Fun side note – a guy I worked with at the Video Park was friends with Dick Contino’s son. It’s a small world afterall!

For GRIT & VIGOR fans out there, here are some game stats for good old Daddy-O (or just about any other similar character from an old misunderstood-teenager b-movie)

Daddy-O

Grease-Monkey

AL NG, LVL 3, HP 14, AC 12, ATK +1, SV F12 R10 W12

Str 12 Int 11 Wis 13 Dex 16 Con 12 Cha 14

Special: Fearless (+2 save vs. fear), temporarily increase physical ability score (+1 for 3 rd), use wrenches as maces in combat, maximum performance from motor vehicles, +10% to motor vehicle’s top speed, apply combat feats to vehicles, +1 to attack and +1 damage to constructs

Knacks: Communicate, Mechanics, Perform

Skills: Appraise Value (Cars), Drive Car, Endure, Mechanics, Ride Bike, Search

Feats: Fancy Driving, Leadership, Stuntman

Weapons: None

Bar Fights Updated

Bar fight from The Spoilers (1942) – click for source

A few weeks ago I began writing a supplment I had long planned for my GRIT & VIGOR rules concerning the “Old West”. I’d been working on the High Frontier supplement, which covers the retro-future imagined for the late 20th century (now in editing – hopefully ready soon) and was cleaning up the G&V file folders. That led me to opening a few files to see what was in them, which led to doing some organization in an “Old West” word document, which led to .. well, let’s say I’m about 50% finished with writing the supplement now, when I should have been completing other projects (i.e. NOD 36 and Gods & Legends).

One element I needed for the Old West supplement was rules for saloon fights, which I’d written up for generic Old School fantasy games a few years back (2012, to be precise). I hadn’t looked up the old post yet when I got an email mentioning that I’d left something off a table in that article, and would I please update it. Strange coincidence!

So, here are the rules as modified (just slightly) for the Old West supplement. The updated table (the first one) is suitable for the old post and use in fantasy games (or sci-fi games if you want to host a slugfest in the Mos Eisley Cantina).

Saloon Fights

A staple of western movies and television shows, especially those of a less serious nature, is the saloon fight. Sometimes it starts with an insult, or sometimes with an accidental bump, but in no time at all an epic free-for-all slugfest erupts.

Running something like this in a game is difficult because there are so many moving parts. These rules are designed to make it easier.

The first thing to determine is the size of the brawl. If you do not know how many brawlers are present, you can roll dice and consult the table below:

D6 Fight Size Combatants Hit Points
1 Kerfuffle 6 to 10 3d6
2-3 Dust-up 11 to 20 6d6
4-5 Donnybrook 21 to 30 9d6
6 Slugfest 31+ 12d6

Hit Points in the table above refers to the total hit points of the crowd of combatants. When the crowd’s hit points are reduced to zero, the saloon fight is over because all the non-PC combatants have either fled, are unconscious or are otherwise unable to fight.

While the fight is still happening, characters can choose one of the following actions each round:

Fight: Character jumps into the fight with feet and fists flying – he’ll take all comers

Flee: Character tries to scramble out of the fight

Hide: Character hides under a table or behind the bar

Loot: Character wades through the fight picking pockets or stealing drinks

Seek: Character wades through the fight looking for a specific target; the target could be a person or an item

The VM rolls 1d10 and checks the matrix below, cross-referencing the roll with each character’s stated action. Any time a character suffers damage, they must pass a Fortitude saving throw with a penalty equal to the damage suffered to avoid being either stunned for 1d3 rounds or knocked unconscious for 1d10 minutes. There is a 50% chance of either. A stunned character is considered to have chosen “Hide” as his action each round he is stunned.

D10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Fight N F F B A A A A A A
Flee N N N F F F M M M M
Hide N N N N N N F F B A
Loot N N N F F B A L L L
Seek N N F F B A A A R R

The letter codes are as follows:

A is for “Attacked”: The character is attacked by other combatants, and can attack them back. Roll 1d6:

1 AC 10, ATK +0, DMG 1d2
2 AC 11, ATK +1, DMG 1d2+1
3 AC 12, ATK +2, DMG 1d2+1
4 AC 13, ATK +3, DMG 1d2+2
5 AC 14, ATK +4, DMG 1d2+2
6 Attacked by two combatants, roll 1d4 to determine each attacker’s stats. If both attackers attack successfully, the PC must make a Reflex saving throw or be lifted and thrown. Roll 1d6 for the effect:

Lifted and Thrown Sub-Table

1-2 Slid down the bar for additional 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone
3-4 Thrown out door and into street for 1d6 points of damage and knocked prone
5 Thrown out window and into street for 2d4 points of damage and knocked prone
6 Thrown off balcony or stairs onto a table, suffering 2d6 points of damage and knocked prone; if this doesn’t make sense, re-roll

B is for “Bystander”: The character catches sight of an innocent (or not) bystander

1-2 Child hiding from the fight; good characters must attempt to save them by fleeing
3-4 Saloon girl motions you to a door; you must “Seek” to get there, and once inside consult the Saloon Girl sub-table below
5-6 A damsel faints, roll under Dexterity to catch her for 100 XP; you now fight with a -2 penalty to hit

Saloon Girl Sub-Table

1-2 Quit the fight and do some wooing and cooing (50% chance of being slipped a Mickey or simply being pick pocketed, 10% chance you are hunted down by a jealous lover afterwards) – either way, you earn XP per a 3 HD monster you dog!
3-4 Suckered into an ambush, roll as per “A” above, but roll 1d3+3, and you don’t get to hit back
5-6 Punched by the girl/guy (AC 10, attack at +1, 1d2 points of damage) – this is a surprise attack, so you don’t get to hit back

F is or “Flying Debris”: The character is struck by flying debris; boxers can attempt a Reflex saving throw to avoid it, but all others roll 1d6:

1-3 Hit by bottle for 1d3 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious
4-5 Hit by chair for 1d6 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious
6 Hit by a flying body for 2d4 points of damage; Fortitude save or knocked unconscious; if a compatriot was thrown this round, you were hit by them

L is for “Looting”: The character acquires some loot – roll 1d6:

1 Acquire a single mug of beer or a shot of whiskey
2-3 Pick pocket check to acquire 50¢ or its equivalent
4 Pick pocket check to acquire $1 or its equivalent
5 Pick pocket check to acquire $10 or its equivalent
6 Pick pocket check to acquire a treasure map or some other plot device; only use this once!

On a failed pick pockets roll, you are instead attacked – see “A” above.

M is for “Move”: The character moves 1d10 feet to-wards his chosen exit.

N is for “Nothing”: Nothing happens to you this round, nor do you get to do anything

R is for “Reach Target”: Character reaches the target they were looking for!

Break It Up!

Each round of the saloon fight there is a 5% chance that the town sheriff and his deputies (or deputized citizens) shows up to break things up. The number of deputies depends on the size of the town – use your best judgment – but they are armed with pistols and are willing to use them to restore order.

Combatants, including the player characters, are arrested unless they find a way to sneak out. If the sheriff is on his way, there is a 50% chance that some old coot yells “Sheriff’s coming!” the round before to give the combatants a chance to flee.

Bringing a Gun to a Fist Fight

Pulling a knife or gun during a fist fight is a cowardly and low-down act, and results in you being avoided by other combatants for the duration and suffering a -4 penalty to reactions in this town in the future.

Death and Dismemberment

Saloon fights should not result in PC death, because death just is not the point of these things. At 0 hit points, a character is knocked out and awakens in jail.

 

Buried Treasure

In my youth, I thought he really did speak in word bubbles

Folks who regularly read my blog will recall my “timely reviews” of old games. I love old games (which reminds me – review of the Six Million Dollar Man coming soon), sometimes for the nostalgia, sometimes for the design, and sometimes for the discovery value. When it comes to buying old games, there are two different kinds of discovery.

The first, of course, is discovering a new system and new ideas about how to simulate whatever the game is trying to simulate. Even simple games meant for children can have clever ideas in them. The old game I just recently bought does not offer that kind of discovery, because it’s a game I used to own. Well, sorta.

Our old logo was a rip from the NFL Vikings – this is the new one

Back in 9th grade, in which I was technically a freshman at Valley High School (Valley Vikings Rule!), but was still being taught at Cannon Junior High (it was how they did things back then), there was a small corps of gamers (meaning role-playing gamers … everyone played video games back then, so they didn’t get a special designation) at the school, and we all knew each other. I remember a friend named Irfan who carried a briefcase to school so he could screen from the teacher that he was reading the AD&D Monster Manual in class – very smart guy, as well, got way better grades than me – so it was that sort of group.

At some point, a new kid in school discovered that I ran D&D games, and he wondered if I would run a game for him. The kid in question was new to town – I got the feeling that he moved around alot – so he didn’t have any friends in school. He lived close to the school, so I went over to his house one day to see the game he wanted me to run. It was something new.

It turned out to be the Marvel Superheroes RPG. Well, it also turned out that he had a big box full of old Playboys, which is another story, but this MSH game and the Secret Wars module he wanted me to run was the point of the visit and it was intriguing. Beyond the Spider-Man bits on the Electric Company, the Super Friends and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, I knew nothing about comic books. I had a few war comics, but that was it. This was all very new to me.

The kid lent me the Secret Wars booklet, and I had my first introduction to the likes of Storm (in her 80’s punk phase, which is still my favorite) and a host of other characters. It got me interested in comic books, and I remember the next time we were at a 7-Eleven I convinced my dad to buy me a comic book – a slugfest between the Avengers and the Hulk, so it had tons of characters in it, and it made me a comic book fan. The same way D&D got me into reading  the Lord of the Rings, the Marvel Superheroes game got me into comic books. I do everything back-assward!

My first ish – Hulk #316

Naturally, along with reading comic books, I also got my own copy of the game – the advanced version! The kid in question moved away before I could even give him back the Secret Wars booklet, so I had that for years in my own advanced game set. Some time in the late 1990’s I gave virtually all my RPG stuff away to some friends. When I got back into gaming later, it turned out they had kept most of it, and I got it back … but not the Marvel game. Somebody claimed that beauty.

Recently, my daughter, who digs the movies and has an interest in the comics, found out about the game and wanted to play it, so I went looking for a copy and … WOW! I made a huge mistake giving that sucker away – copies are so expensive these days! Fortunately, last week I found a copy of the basic game at a reasonable price and snapped it up. It arrived yesterday, and this is where the buried treasure comes in.

As I perused the contents, I found some old character sheets filled out by the previous owners. The first one was for Wolverine, but the next was for an original hero created using the game rules. I love that kind of find. It made me wonder who the old owner of the set was … and a few pages more, I found out. It turns out that the owner not only filled out the application for the RPG Association but never sent it in (me to), but also weote a letter asking some questions about how Wolverine’s powers worked, also never sent, with his name and address on it.

It was fun reading the letter, because it reminded me of myself back in the day – a wide-eyed geek trying to wrap his head around these games and things that were so new to me. Going back in time like this is nice. The times really weren’t any simpler then than now for adults, but my life was much simpler as a kid. I miss the people I’ve loved and have lost – friends and relatives – and although I cannot get them back, looking through old games and books and photographs sparks cherished memories of them and makes me happy … a bittersweet happiness, but happiness just the same.

Now, I present a forgotten superhero of the 1980’s, discovered in a beat-up old game box and created by a person whose name I will not reveal (but who I think I found with a search on LinkedIn) … Spazmo Joe! Maybe his creator will come across this, and it will bring back some happy times. I sure hope so!

SPAZMO JOE … of SHIELD!

Fighting: Excellent
Agility: Remarkable
Strength: Remarkable
Endurance: Amazing
Reason: Excellent
Intuition: Remarkable
Psyche: Good

Health: 130
Karma: 30

Known Powers: Extra attacks, Weather control (Amazing)

Talents: First aid, law enforcement, guns, special weapons, martial arts

Special Devices: Plasma gun, 30-cal machine gun, mandarin armor (at least, I think it says mandarin)

And yeah … there was art!

Is that a SHIELD-regulation haircut?

‘Nuff Said!

The McNod Group

Hey all you cats and kittens … just writing a grab bag today because hey, sometimes you can’t focus … especially not on the last nice week of weather Vegas will see until October!

I’ll be covering things today like they did on the McLaughlin Group, hence the stupid post title.

ISSUE ONE – Slipgate Chokepoint

Andrew Walter has a Kickstarter running for a pen & pencil re-creation of a 90’s era first-person shooter video game. If those games make you all goose-pimply, then check it out. The product is a supplement to the Stay Frosty RPG, and aims to turn the action in that game up a notch – faster and more deadly. Give it a look see, ladies and gentlement. There are still 22 days left on the campaign, so plenty of time to get in on the ground floor.

ISSUE TWO – MEMORIAL DAY

Another Memorial Day rolls around, and unfortunately we have even more American warriors to remember in 2020. My grandfather served in World War II as a doctor in a field hospital set up to take care of the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing. He didn’t tell stories about it, because I imagine the things he saw he didn’t want the rest of us to struggle with. A great-uncle of mine was a Seabee. I remember him talking about how eerie it was to be on an island, thick with jungle, and know that there were Japanese soldiers out there, just beyond the lights, watching.

I also have a couple uncles who served in the Korean War, one in the US Army, the other the Marine Corps. My father served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War. What I’m saying is that I’ve been lucky enough to know many people who served their country, and I’m sure many of you readers have as well. If you don’t know anyone who served, I’d say get out there and get to know one – it enriches your perspectives about a great many things. There aren’t many World War II veterans left, nor veterans of the Korean War. It’s hard to believe that the Vietnam Veterans are now as old as the WW2 vets were when I was a little kid. I’m not saying you should try to drag war stories out of people – those tales can be very painful. I’m just saying it’s very worthwhile to get to know people who have survived the experience of war. And honor them, because they need the love.

ISSUE THREE – THINK SMALL

I suppose there are some readers out there who aren’t mired in Great Depression-era unemployment as a result of lockdowns from COVID-19 – count yourselves lucky. My own state of Nevada has hit 28% unemployment, the highest in the country and double what we had during the Great Recession. Folks, it’s tough out there, and especially for small businesses. If you have the ability to do so, throw as much of your business as possible their way. The giant megacorps will suffer, but not nearly as much, and frankly, if half the McDonalds or Starbucks had to close, there would still be lots of McDonalds and Starbucks … though I’d hate to see their employees lose their jobs.

Still, when little independently run businesses give up the ghost, they’re gone forever. In the last couple weeks we’ve gotten back out to Cash 4 Chaos, the punk/rock shop we dig – got a VHS copy of Ladyhawke we watched last night and a some bitchin’ shirts for my daughter and me. We hit our favorite antique mall on Saturday, all masked up, and then ordered dinner from our favorite mexican restaurant, Casa Don Juan, which re-opened this weekend. We’ve been hitting as many of our favorite spots as we can, including the awesome Omelet House 50’s Diner we’ve patronized for the last 25 years – it’s run by some really beautiful folks. It sounds like Zia Records is open again, so I’m itching to visit them, and to get back out to Boulder City and all their great restaurants and shosp. Remember, these folks are really hurting, and they need your help to stay open, so please consider throwing your coin their way.

ISSUE FOUR – LADYHAWKE ON VHS

Since I brought it up – how great is Ladyhawke? It’s such a cozy movie in many ways – up close and personal, not grand and overbearing like so many modern flicks. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but Broderick is great (and I wonder if this movie had any effect on him getting Ferris Bueller), Michelle Pfeiffer is wonderful and so lovely and Rutger Hauer just loosk perfect on that black charger, hawk on his arm, zweihander by his side. The curse of the lovers is tragic, keeping them apart, and I dig the ending, whereby it becomes more a “man vs. self” story than “man vs. man”. If you haven’t watched the film, give it a shot. The uber 80’s soundtrack lends the movie an air of weirdness, but if you grew up on that sound, it’s just nostalgic gravy.

Like I mentioned above, since I got a couple working VCR’s last year we’ve been enjoying grabbing some favorite movies on VHS. In the last month, we’ve done some old school viewings of Ladyhawke, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Legend (which I’d never seen straight through) and the three Star Wars films (there are only three of them, you know … Return of the Jedi was the last one they made … just leave me to my illusions) before that Lucas guy messed with them.

Watching the movies on VHS is partly nostagia, since I grew up not only watching those things, but working in the World’s Largest Video Store (and meeting my future wife there). The picture below is of the music video section at my store, the Video Park – it was a rereation of the Beetle’s Yellow Submarine. We had a real haunted house for the horror movies, a circus tent for the kid’s movies, and a brothel for the adult films. We also had some really awesome bosses in Dale & Lisa Clark and Harold Vosko. I notice that in the left-hand corner of the picture below you can just see a bit of the sports section, which looked like the Thomas & Mack center. God, I miss that job!

I also like VHS tapes because DVDs sort of piss me off. Too much nonsense before you get to the film, and too little control over what button you can press and when. A VHS tape is simple and friendly – put it in, hit play, maybe fast forward through some previews if you’re not in the mood – and you watch your movie.

Just remember – be kind, rewind!

ISSUE FIVE – DANCING TURKEYS

To end on a happy note, here is a video of Jimmy the Turkey dancing from the Kyle The Rooster channel. Stay strong folks, and try to keep that glint in your eye and grin on your kisser.

More game related fun coming soon!

Hex Map Redesign

I spent most of Mother’s Day 2020 celebrating my wife, the mother of my daughter, who is just plain awesome. My best friend in the world and the best thing that ever happened to me!

But while I was waiting for her to get ready to go out and celebrate the re-opening of one of favorite shops in Vegas, I had time to play around with a new way of doing my hex maps. I thought I’d provide a sneak preview to what I’d currently call a rought draft.

I’ve been using Hexographer for about a decade now to produce my hex maps, and I really like it. The maps it creates look great, but they do present a few small problems for me. First, I just recently switched to using a new computer, and last night had to do some digging to find my license key. If I hadn’t found it, I might have been in a sticky situation, so bringing the map creation completely “in house” would be safer for me, and give me more control over my product.

The second problem is that the hex maps I have been creating do not reproduce well in the PDF format. I’ve done just about everything I can think of to improve them, but I just cannot get them to look right. That’s why I provide the hex maps as downloads on the site … but if the site ever went away, the maps would go with it, and that wouldn’t be good at all. In addition, having the maps more at hand for GM’s would be a big bonus. I really want to include the maps in the books.

The final problem has to do with the format of numbered hexes. When you are looking at a map, you can see right away where cities, towns and villages are located, but you cannot see where all of the other enounters are located. As a GM, you have to reference every hex the party travels through to see if there is something in it, which is a pain in the rear and makes it really easy to miss something.

Thus, the new design:

My idea is to include with each hex crawl an overview map without hexes to give the GM a general overview of the region being described. This map is then subdivided into smaller sub-maps. The sub-maps look like the one above. Descriptions of the settlements and numbered encounter areas would be located after the sub-map in the hex crawl.

Each sub-map is labeled A, B, C, D, etc., to allow encounters on one sub-map to be referenced in the encounters for another sub-map, something like [A3] or [F4], rather than the current [0122].

I won’t use this new style on the next hex crawl – that map is already created in Hexographer. They will probably premiere in the next crawl, and in the compilation books I’m hoping to start publishing in 2021 under the title The Nodian Cosmography. These will collect the old hex crawls, starting with the Wyvern Coast and Nabu – and the city-states of Ophir and Ibis – published in the first issues of NOD. The new books will update the hex crawls to the 2nd edition Blood & Treasure rules, fix errors, and include some new material where appropriate.

Abbeys & Armorials

Hey all – just a quick tidbit today. Work has been hectic and I’ve been writing a bunch and playing with heraldry for the upcoming halfling hexcrawl – fun, but boy am I tired.

Anyhow – I was working on making simple schematics of a halfling abbey (or klaster) and cathedral (or kotella). As alluded to in an earlier post on the halfling saints, I am doing a faux-medical Catholic church vibe for the halflings, but using a mother goddess and her “kitchen saints”. The design, though, is pretty much the same – I copied these from Canterbury Cathedral and … well, I don’t remember the name of the abbey. I figured these might come in handy for other folks looking for a simple representation – just ignore the stuff about pantries and holy kitchens – it’s a halfling thing – and sub in a more traditional altar and such.

Halfling Abbey

Halfling Cathedral

They’re both a bit crude, but they’re good enough for now.

And just for the heck of it – here are some sneak previews of halfling heraldry I’m working on for the hex crawl.

Bagno

Grumsk

Jabilka

City of Jablona

Mark of Kamostya

Kopek

Malthy

Misha

City of Mook

Notska

City of Nunc

Rumzi

Yore

Zelenia

Just an FYI – I built all of these in Excel. So help me, it’s the best graphics program in the world for non-graphic artists.