Sunday, April 26, 2009

Word of the Day

What were the chances…

Word of the Day for Thursday, April 23, 2009

paladin \PAL-uh-din\, noun:

1. A knight-errant; a distinguished champion of a medieval king or prince; as, the paladins of Charlemagne.
2. A champion of a cause.

Once in power, though, Clinton stumbled repeatedly over obstacles created by the schizoid campaign he had conducted, in which he had cast himself simultaneously as the champion of a more conservative Democratic credo and as a paladin of the party's traditional activism.
-- Robert Shogan, The Fate of the Union

Even Columbia University economist Jagdisch Baghwati, the paladin of free trade, calls for controls on capital flow.
-- "Terrors in the Sun", The Nation, June 29, 1998

Matisse, paladin of modernism, is a long way from us now.
-- Robert Hughes, "The Color of Genius", Time, September 28, 1992

. . .the celebrated but distrusted paladin of imperialism and the romantic conception of life, the swashbuckling militarist, the vehement orator and journalist, the most public of public personalities in a world dedicated to the cultivation of private virtues, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Conservative Government then in power, Mr. Winston Churchill.
-- Isaiah Berlin, "Mr. Churchill", The Atlantic, September 1949

Paladin derives from Late Latin palatinus, "an officer of the palace," from Latin palatium, "royal residence, palace," from Palatium, one of the seven hills of Rome, on which Augustus had his residence.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dogs in the Vineyard : Red Rock

RED ROCK
Red Rock lies between one and two weeks south of Bridal Falls. An exclusive settlement of faithful, it spans over ten square miles of dry, harsh land. When the dogs arrive, it is fall and the harvest is coming in… shy of expectations.

SOMETHING’S WRONG
Seven or eight months ago, Steward Peter passed on. His son, Seth, was expected to take over the position, but quickly the townsfolk determined they could govern themselves without a steward. Without a steward, the church was locked up, and the people expected to “manage” their families according to the word. Brothers Jackson and Levi rose to the highest ranks of the town, openly displaying their strength. Brother Seth (expecting to be steward) has been cuckolded by Jackson. Sister Ruth holds private readings of the book of life with women in the community.

PRIDE
The people believe themselves capable of self-control and governance, rejecting the notion of a steward. Seth believed himself the “next in line,” with or without the sanction of Bridal Falls. Sister Ruth now reads to some of the women who need direction in households devoid of faithful leadership.

INJUSTICE
The weak are generally ignored. The elderly have nothing to offer, spending their days sitting in vacant wonder at the conditions of the settlement. Seth’s wife has left him for Jackson. Seth, without children, works tirelessly to provide for himself. The townsfolk generally disrespect him (some children openly throw rotten fruit at him when he pulls his cart through town).

SINS
General pride and selfishness — no one specific sin stands out as a great transgression
Laziness — some children do not work and most elderly are expected to step aside
Temptation — some have started playing games like checkers during working hours and others imbibe coffee

DEMONIC ATTACKS
The demons have subtlety planted the seeds of discord through prideful action. Seth’s quick ascension to steward was firmly rejected by stronger members of the flock, fomenting a healthy dose of ego into some settlement members.

FALSE DOCTRINE
We can govern ourselves. We are righteous and divine. No sin shall deter us from our faith.

“Iron sharpens iron.” Only the strong deserve to be considered divine in the eyes of the King of Life.

CORRUPT WORSHIP
Sister Ruth reads with some of the women. In addition, Jackson and Levi carry weapons openly in the streets as a demonstration of their “alpha” status. The two consider strength a virtue and equate bullish behavior with strength.

FALSE PRIESTHOOD
There is no priesthood any longer, as such, everyone has strayed from the path, even those who continue to live justly.

SORCERY
In the face of the “might makes right” ideals of Jackson and Levi, mediocrity has taken ahold of the settlement. Those who have what they need, grow content, and overlook those in need.

HATE AND MURDER
Children openly mock Seth and Jackson makes sure to put Seth in his place whenever possible. Humiliation and contempt are the order of the day. Many people see that Seth is nothing more than a cuckold now and few have sympathy for what has happened to him. If something isn’t done, Seth will either be killed or he will hang himself out of desperation.

WHAT DO THE TOWNSPEOPLE WANT FROM THE DOGS?
The people want a fair appointment of a steward. If possible, the punishment of those have turned so far from the faith.

WHAT DO THE DEMONS WANT?
The demons want the people of Red Rock to fall further and further from the teachings, every so slowly… so that none notice their complete disregard for one another.

WHAT DO THE DEMONS WANT THE DOGS TO DO?
The demons want the dogs to place Seth in charge of the settlement. In a few months time, he will be dead or infirm and things will return to normal.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE DOGS DIDN’T COME?
Eventually Seth would die — either through suicide or murder. Gluttony and slovenliness would overcome the town. In another year, it would hardly recognize a settlement of the faithful.

KNOWN ISSUES
Brother Jackson is the true leader of the community. He walks with a natural swagger and openly displays a pistol in his belt. He is a natural for the position, with Brother Levi acting as his second. Levi is less natural in the role of a leader and mimics much of Jackson’s behavior.

Brother Jackson — who already has two wives — has taken on Seth’s ex-wife into his home. While they are not officially married, enough townsfolk have turned a blind eye as for it to not matter.

Brother Levi treats his wife like property, sometimes going as far as slapping her in front of others (although this is rare).

Sister Ruth holds private vigils in her home. People know of this, but convince themselves that it’s not happening.

Seth is openly disrespected by over half the congregation.

Adah visits with Sister Ruth for readings and is considered her most trusted “student.” Her husband (Bartlby) is blissfully unaware that there is anything amiss in the town at all.

Brother Issac and Sister Mary (and their two children) stand as two of the beacons in the community. They have not been taken in by any of the malingering or false worship. Sadly, they have done little to stop it, either. Issac sees an obligation to his family first and the community second.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

There Can Be Only One, huh?

There is no arguing that gamers are fascinated with Scottish culture. Irish and Welsh are a far second and the English aren't even interesting to the English (with the exception of Arthur, who is argueably both Celtic and French). Every gamer looks for any excuse to remind the people around him that he is 1/18th Scottish and his family tartan is Raspberry Scone and Lemon Drop Vodka (or whatever colors he makes up, because no one challenges that nonsense).

But. Here's the question. When did it start? When did gamers become so obsessed with Scottish culture. Because it's not in D&D. Not initially anyway. Was it Highlander? Were we all growing pubes in 1985 at just the right time for Connor MacCloud to come along and be just "Northman" enough to itch our gamer-gene enough for everyone to be fascinated with this otherwise small portion of the world's geography?

Or is just that rampaging highlanders in kilts and big beards are going to be cool, even if Christopher Lambert's accent makes little to no sense?

Note: I love the original movie and hate everything else after it. I'm not a purist, I just think it's all stupid. So, I'm not going after Highlander to make fun of it. Rather, I'd like to know why people are so damn interested in pretending to be Scottish and not for instance… Bulgarian.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Industry Gamers

I've been designing and writing in the industry since 1996, when I started on Shadis magazine. Come GENCON, that will be 13 years of work.

Crap. That long?

In that time, I've worked with only a small percentage of the people I'd really like to do projects with. And some of the people I HAVE worked with, I'd like to work with again. So, in no particular order (other than alphabetical), is a list of people I'd love to do something with. Anything really.

Drew Baker. I think I bug Drew once a month to do something together. He's so damn lazy.
Wolfgang Baur. I think Wolfgang's present book line series is absolutely brilliant. I'd kill to do the graphics on one.
Jon Hodgson. We already did George's Children together, but Jon and I get along so well, there are about 20 games we could develop together with his art range.
Michael Kaluta. Comic book, game, whatever. Anything he wanted, really.
James Lowder. Technically doing something now, but I'd rather do a book series of some kind.
Craig Maher. See my notes on Drew Baker.
Raven J. Mimura. Raven and I were supposed to do a card game together years ago. He's among my favorite people and my favorite artists. Damn we'd make a good team as the leads on a vampire game.
Jason Morningstar. One of the most talented designers in the industry.
William O'Connor. One of my best friends. I miss you, man.
Chris Pramas. Another great friend. I think Chris and I would have fun making a modern cyberpunk meets psionics game.
Klaus Scherwinski. I'd kill to find a project his art WOULDN'T be perfect for.
Robert K. Schwalb. One of the best writers on the WLD, I will say this again. Robert and I would have made a great team for the design of 4th edition. That was before it came out the way it did. We talked about this briefly in 2005, but he had to go and make money on important stuff.
Mark Smylie. I won't stop pitching my comic book idea to Mark.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Friday, April 03, 2009

Logo : Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies

There's a logo contest going on over at http://www.7skies.net/. The game looks sweet too.

Very cool idea, too.

I made a couple, of course. Can't help myself, even if I'm not as good as Dale Horstman.



And one more…


… just for fun.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Grappling Rules Stupidity

For years, we gamers have mocked RPGs for complex and inane grappling rules. And thanks to a recent gag on Darths and Droids, I find myself ready to mock them as well.

Only, I don't have to. Because Skip Williams shows us exactly why even the BASICS don't work — in what can only be described as the biggest dose of irony the internet has ever seen — I really don't need a punchline to this level of mockery!

So.

To put my money where my mouth is, here is my attempt to make an alternative to the horror that is D&D Grappling.

Grappling
First. Let's start with the fact that D&D's combat rules are based on miniature play and have never changed. Monks "punching" their opponents is stupid enough, but alright. Trying to bear hug during a skirmish is beyond stupid.

So. To get back to where grappling was when Gygax wrote that annoying little paragraph back in 1st Edition, let's pretend that it's not about "hurting" an opponent, but about "holding" an opponent.

Also note, these are short-hand notes. They could be expanded a little, but this is certainly only about 300 words of text (max) in any rulebook.

Simple Rules
Roll your touch attack to grapple. However, the opponent's STR should also come into play, so add that to his AC as well. Unless he's subdued, he's not going to sit there and let you put your hands on him. There's no AOO. While it makes sense, it also slows play. 3.x is already a slugfest to play through. Let's keep it moving.

If you fail, then nothing happens. Move on.

If you succeed, you now have a HOLD on your opponent.

Whlie HELD, the opponent suffers a penalty to AC and BAB equal to the STR bonus + Size modifer (a small creature is less likely to HOLD you and a large one MORE likely) of the person holding him (minimum 1). Since this is a standard rule of the game (now). Everyone should just have a GRAPPLE stat on their character sheet. If this reduces the target's AC below 10, he is considered flat-footed. If this reduces the target's AC below 1, he is considered prone (pulled to the ground).

To extend the hold, the attacker must succeed at a contested Strength check. Failure does not lose the hold, but success adds 1 to the penalty for being Held.

At anytime, the target may use a Standard action or Move action (at -4) to break the hold, by making a contested Strength check. The attacker gets a bonus to the check for an extended hold (equal to the bonus accumulated so far). Watch wrestling. The longer you're held, the more tired you get.

Dogpile
Small creatures need to work en masse to pull a large creature down. Every creature beyond the first adds to the HOLD penalty. The increase is equal to the STR bonus + Size modifer of the person holding him, minimum 1. Get enough small creatures together and you can pull someone large down.

That's it. Done.

Grappling doesn't do damage. It holds people in place.