Monday, October 5, 2009

Shadow Girls

I have been a long time fan of the webcomic Shadow Girls.

Well they have a few things going on that I'd like to let everyone know about.

First, it is a cool comic. Described as "H.P. Lovecraft meets the Gilmore Girls", which as far as mashups go has to be one of the coolest ideas ever, but the comic goes far beyond that.

Second they have a figure they are getting made that looks really awesome.

And they are being nominated for WebComicPlanet's awards. They are very much deserving of all of these awards.

Shadow Girls would make a great RPG (but the creators aldeady know that and are working on it), so until the official one is out I might try stating up the characters for Cinematic Unisystem or Witch Girls Adventures.

So go to the website, read the comic, vote, nominate and if you like, buy.

OH, and of note: the current running comic is a guest comic, please go to the first page to get the full experience.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Little Fears: Nightmare Edition


Halloween is coming and so is a new edition of Litle Fears.

Little Fears is game where you play children confronting the evils and monsters that adults can't see. This is the newest edition and so far it looks really cool.

Little Fears has the disticntion of being the only game I could not get at my FLGS. This is the same game store that I still could buy a copy of Eldritch Wizardry.

This new edition looks like it might cover some of the same ground as the first, so I am going to have to check this out.

BHB Review on

Sorry all, been a busy couple of weeks.

Here is my review and discussion of Bounty Head Bebop on


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: Bounty Head Bebop

“You know the first rule of combat? Shoot them before they shoot you.” - Faye Valentine, Cowboy Bebop.

Back in 1998 a new Anime appeared on the scene, something new called Cowboy Bebop. It dealt with the lives and misadventures of a group of bounty hunters in the solar system of the future that looked more like the wild west. There were guns, and terra-formed planets, a corrupt government, the mobs and of course lots of criminals. The crew of the Bebop spent their time doing jobs, keeping their ship together and avoiding starving. While this made for a great show in and of itself, the really cool thing about this were the characters. Larger than life, with secrets, agendas and a history of development that lead them to where they were at that point.

In other words a perfect setting for a Role Playing Game.

The game, Bounty Head Bebop, obviously takes some cues from the series. (AN ASIDE. I understand that this game was supposed to have been an officially licensed product, but I do not have anything to support that with. So instead of explaining all the time why they are the same, let’s just say they are cut from the same cloth and move on from there.)

Bounty Head Bebop (BHB), is a game where you can spend your time flying around a terra-formed solar system hunting down “bounty heads” for fun and profit. The game itself is a slick little RPG with a fun cinematic feel to it. It does what it says on the tin, and does it well.

BHB uses a system called the Inverted 20 system. Basically you have a Target Number (often set by the GM, with guidance), that is modified by ability, skill and or difficulties, your job is to roll that score or under (and different things happen if you hit the number or roll under). The die mechanic is really that simple. Anyone familiar with d20 will catch on fairly quickly despite the roll under mechanic. Now I will be honest, I am not a fan of roll under systems, but I think it works here. To me it seems that Anime based games work best as roll-under. Maybe it is all of those years of BESM or maybe it because it just provides me with a different feel.

Like other d20 games you attributes that despite the name changes look familiar, skills, various edges and flaws, all which work like GURPS. No need to reinvent the wheel, they work fine. Everything is point buy and you spend XP to raise them, like Unisystem.

BHB does something REALLY nice here. Puts in a Character Creation Summary so you can get an overview of everything you need to do. Figure out everything in order.
Attributes look familiar if you have been playing any game at all. They are scored from 1 to 5 for starting characters, but can go up.
Imitative and Movement are derived. As are Saves, Wounds and Vitality points. All pretty simple to figure out.

Skills are next and they are divided up into General, Combat and Specialty. General skills are your everyday skills and like d20 are tied to a specific attribute. Combat skills allow you to fight. Want to be better at aiming or hitting with your fists, then improve the skill. Specialty and Advanced skills are those that you can’t do unless you have a level/points in them. Advanced skills are like advanced sciences.

Edges and Flaws work like GURPS or any other point buy system, though there are no points. You start out with 3 Edges and get up to 6 with 3 more Flaws. Edges can be bought with XPs and Flaws bought off. The list is pretty typical, your Hard to Kill, various “Gun Fu” moves, various pilot and criminal related Edges too. The list looked good and nothing jumped out at me as not being there. There are also various new Psychic/Feng-Shui powers too (details in a bit). And some computer related ones, with the promise of new book dedicated to hacking and the net (for your own “Radical” Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky the IV). Now you don’t need to take any Flaws at all if you don’t want, but I think that might be missing the point of this game really. These characters are yes over the top Anime characters, but they also have issues.

Feng-Shui gets it own chapter and it is the province of the Inuit Indians (yeah, that confuses me too, but I’ll go with it). None of the powers seem out of control, so no anime style Ki based special fx here, but a lot of good solid powers. Danger Sense, Locate Objects, manipulate objects, things like that. More power masters can influence minds or regenerate their bodies. There are seven areas of power (spheres) you choose one and you progress through it. It reminds me of the pschic powers from AFMBE’s “Enter the Zombie”. Given that, an ability to bend bullets might be cool in this game. Of course with power comes psychotic episodes. Do it too much and you WILL go crazy, just like they said.
Given this chapter I can see, and hope that the cyber book works the same way.

A money and equipment chapter follows. Money, though very important to the focus of the game, is game mechanic rather than collected. Similar to D20 Modern in a way. And of course lots of guns, spaceships and other things you need, like food and permits. While money is always going to be an issue, since that is the primary motivation of the characters, doing the system like this was a nice cinematic way of dealing with things.

A chapter on “doing things” follows after that. It is your basic rules chapter, but most things are handled with the same mechanic, so this chapter breezes by. I appreciate transparency in my games. “You can do this and this is how you do it.” BHB takes the basic d20 system and really streamlines it to it’s barest essentials (even more so than True20) yet nothing seems lost. Thus this chapter is very short.

Combat is more involved, since the bounty heads aren’t likely to go quietly. The combat chapter is again, easy to read and uses the same simple mechanics. Skills and your rank in them are what is important here. This sets it off from the d20 crowds and puts it back into GURPS/Unisystem territory. In a neat twist you can use the same “to hit” roll as a damage roll, thus speeding up your games. There is logic in this and I like the effect.

The Setting Chapter both pleased me and irritated me. The solar system is the setting with a nearly uninhabited Earth and terra-formed planets and moons. Briefly object hits the Moon, destroys it, sends Earth into chaos where meteors rain every day. But some of those rocks were used to jump gate tech to allow quick travel throughout the solar system and was a key element in terra-forming.

Now humanity is all over the system. There is a real wild west feel to the plaents. Mars is the center of human population now, Venus is like a giant mob controlled Vegas, the moons of Jupiter have food production and so on and all have their own hazards. There is a Solar System wide police force, but they are few, overworked, underpaid and spread too thin. This gives us lots of crime and the opportunity for bounty hunters (like you!) to capture bad guys and bring them in for fun and profit. Mostly for profit.
What irritated me was that this chapter was so short. Sure, I know it is so I can later buy the Mars book or the Io book, but it just touched the surface. Yeah I could go back to the anime (or other shows, Blake’s 7 comes to mind) for ideas. But I was enjoying reading when it was over.

The book has a very nice index, a character sheet that looks familiar to us all and a summary page on how to spend XPs. But the coolest thing is the included adventure in the back. Gets you and going on your first Bounty Head hunt in no time. The adventure itself is good, and even shows you what can be done with the system in terms of story. Sure this could have been a simple bounty hunt, but this one has moral layers and corruption and the hosts of a “Big Shots” like show (nice touch).

What Did I Like?
Simple system, very easy to figure out. Plus it was also easy to figure out what to do with the game. Concepts came with every page (more or less).
The book itself has a nice simple layout and it is easy to find everything. Plus it “reads” well too. The text is concise and gets right to the point.
I also like the Luck and Surge points, which are basically like Drama Points or Hero Points.

What Didn’t I Like?
Still not a fan of roll under mechanics. They seem wrong to me. Would have loved more setting information and some basic computer hacking rules.

Other Notes
Art. The art is nice, but a lot of it is used again throughout the book. Pictures of some of the planets would be nice, what does Venus Vegas look like? How about the domes of Mars? That sort of thing.

What Can I do with This?
Well there is basic premise, go out and hunt bad guys. But there are plenty of other ideas.

The Stainless Steel Rat: Play the bad guys. Sure hunting them is fun, but wouldn’t it be more fun to be the bad guy or the mobsters avoiding the SSPB and the Bounty Hunters?

Reservoir Dogs: You get pulled into a heist gone really, really wrong.

The Usual Suspects: You bring in your small fry bounty head only to uncover that maybe, maybe the most notorious criminal mastermind might be involved or even one of your marks.

Witch Hunter Bebop: Let’s combine Sunrise’s two best anime ever, Cowboy Bebop and Witch Hunter Robin and make a game where you need to hunt down marks using their Feng-Shui powers illegally.

Firefly: Yeah it has a game and I really like Cortext, but I’ll be blunt here. There is nothing in Firefly that Cowboy Bebop didn’t do first and better and with a better soundtrack. You can do the same here. Plus the solar system of BHB makes more sense.

Who should get this?
If you like Anime or space adventures with bullets rather than lasers then this is your game. If you want to do something like Traveler but don’t want the overhead of the system or the mega-plot then this is your game. You might be able to do “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” but we have better choices for those games. This would be perfect for “Buck Rodgers” or “Flash Gordon” though and of course “Cowboy Bebop”.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kids Stuff: Bogeys, Imaginary Friends and Childhood Terrors

"Fairy tales do not teach children that monsters exist.
Children already know that monsters exist.
Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be defeated."
- Attributed to G.K. Chesterson

Adults are far removed from the dreams of childhood. When we were children we thought, spoke and behaved as children do or so the Book has told us but so has Freud and Piaget. As adults, we are also removed from the fears of childhood. The Thing Under the Bed, the Monster in the Closet, the Beast Outside our Window. We grow up, get older and forget these things.

They do not forget us.

Children are the keepers of an ancient secret; that the monsters of childhood are real.
For a child, there is a certain magic in innocence. They believe with all their hearts that something magical is real. In sort of a converse of WitchCraft's crowd effect, the "innocence effect" can cause spontaneous thaumotogenesis; the creation of something by magic. In children where the Gift, Sorcery or Magic runs strong these imaginative beings can take shape and live. Or maybe they were always there and the children only brought them into our world.

Bogeys are the name given to harmful creatures created by children. They are mischievous and in many ways are very similar to faeries. Bogarts, Buchwans, Bwcha, and Bogeys all share the same semantic roots and the creatures are very similar. Bogeys though are also akin to demons. Some can be as cruel in their mischief as the worst demon lord.

Bogeys have one quality about them that is unique; adults can not see them. Anytime a bogey preys on a child it will scamper away if an adult comes by. The only way fight a bogey is to see it and the only way to see one is through magic. Some magic sensitive can see them (ie The Sight or Greater Sensing), but the best way to see them is through the eyes of a child or to become childlike.

Some occult scholars will blame the strange goings on around children as poltergeists or nascent magical ability. These maybe true. But there are also bogeys, and since most occult scholars are adults and not looking for them, they never see them.

All bogeys differ and can have any combination of abilities, powers, qualities and drawbacks. Even ones that are restricted to a particular group are available to bogeys. All bogeys do have Innate Magic, though some have been able to learn Magic.

Bogeys and BastIn a Classic Unisystem game or a Cinematic game with Bast, an added dimension can be used. Bogeys are the ancient enemies of the Bast. In the earliest days of Egypt's Pharos, the Bogeys entered our world and began to plague the children of Egypt. The High Priest beseeched Ra, the Sun God, to send them a protector to guard over their children. Ra turned to his protector Bast and she sent her minions to Earth.
Bast, regardless of age, always see Bogeys and most will attack them on site. In the war between them, Bast has decimated the ranks of the Bogeys. Though this is not true everywhere. In Ireland, the ancient Celts were superstitious about cats and they killed many Bast. This allowed the bogeys to gain a strong foothold in the lands of the Celts. To this day this is why you see more bogeys in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales than anywhere else in the world.

The Red-Legged Scissor Man
(From The Menagerie Series by Christopher Golden and Thomas Sniegoski)
A particularly nasty bogey is the Red-Legged Scissor Man. Named for the giant pair of scissors he wields as a weapon. He gets the other part of his name from what he does with the scissors. The Scissor Man plagues children, especially ones that others would describe as having emotional problems. He visits them scaring them with his presence and then uses his scissors to cut off their thumbs. He will then hook the thumb onto his belt with dozens more like it causing the blood to run down his naked lower half, staining his legs in blood. He is unnaturally tall and thin, maybe 8 feet tall, but weighing only 95 some pounds. His face is fixed in a clown-like grin displaying sharp yellow teeth. His tiny red eyes dart everywhere as he nervously laughs as he talks.

The Scissor Man was believed to have been defeated in the middle of the 20th Century, but who is to say he will stay that way.

Name: The Red-Legged Scissor Man
Motivation: To frighten and maim children
Creature Type: Bogey
Attributes: Str 2, Dex 4, Con 4, Int 3, Per 5, Will 2
Ability Scores: Muscle 10, Combat 12, Brains 12
Life Points: 34
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Attractiveness -3, Emotional Influence (causes fear)
Name Score Damage Notes
Scissors 12 8 Most often used to chop of thumbs
Deflect 15 - Magic defence action; deflects spells 45º

Imaginary Friends
While Bogeys are harmful to children the same creation process also can produce imaginary friends. Like bogeys, imaginary friends are created by the nascent magical ability of children. And like bogeys, imaginary friends cannot be seen by adults.

There are very few demons that actually pay attention to strife between bogeys and imaginary friends, considering both to be too far insignificant to even merit their notice. But there is one imaginary friend that they do know about and the mere mention of his name fills them with fear and dread.

That name is Buttons.

Buttons the Bear began just like another childhood toy. He was a handmade stuffed bear given to a now-forgotten child one Christmas morning in the early 1800's. As his child grew older Buttons (and this was not yet his name) was discarded for newer playthings. That is till he ended up as a donation to an orphanage. By this time Buttons had seen a fair amount of use, in particular his glass eyes were gone. The matron of the house, a young Irish nun sewed two buttons on his face for eyes; one green the other red. She gave him to a small child who had nothing and had never received a Christmas present before. It was there that Buttons felt the first tinges of Awakening, the love of this young child stirred up the spark of divinity that is in everything; even in a stuffed bear with mis-matched buttons for eyes.

An orphanage, especially one in what was now the mid-Victorian era, was ripe for all sorts of bogeys. Generally, these were the pestering kind, but every so often something more dangerous would prey on the unfortunates. Buttons (as he was now known) went from merely scaring them off to actively hunting them down at night. For many years Buttons protected the children here and in return he knew he had their love.
Things changed shortly after the Blight. Taking advantage of the suffering and death many demons moved into Ireland, one chose to use the orphanage as a staging area. He would hide in wait, corrupting the adults and torturing the children. It was not though till the demon had fully manifested itself and prepared to kill a child did Buttons attack. Though he was no longer a child's stuffed plaything; instead he had manifested into a towering black bear with razor-sharp claws and a mouthful of teeth. He attacked the demon full on.

The demon, while still very powerful, was only expecting some starving children, not seven feet, 1,200 pounds of fur, claws, and fangs. Within a few seconds the demon was not only on the defense, but nearly ripped to shreds.

On the demon's home plane a portal opened. The demons there were awaiting their Lord's return to bring them the bounty from the orphanage. Instead, the bloodied corpse of their lord was flung through followed by a huge bear with a fire red ruby for one eye and a burning emerald for the other. It let out a deafening roar; a clear warning to the demons. Since that time Buttons has killed no fewer than 17 demon lords and wounded many others. The orphanage suffered no more attacks as long as there was one child holding a tattered old bear with buttons for eyes.

Name: Buttons the Bear (Manifested Form)
Motivation: Protect the Children
Creature Type: Bogey (Imaginary Friend)
Attributes: Str 7, Dex 4, Con 9, Int 2, Per 3, Will 2
Ability Scores: Muscle 20, Combat 18, Brains 12
Life Points: 83
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Bogey (Imaginary Friend), Hard to Kill (3), Manifest
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw (x2) 18 18 Slash/Stab
Bite 16 12 Slash/Stab
- Break Neck 20 28 Bash
Deflect 15 - Magic defense action; deflects spells 45º

Mrs. Cully Mully and her Pink Dog
No one is really sure who, or what, Mrs. Cully Mully is. Was she a human witch that became more imaginary over time. Or an imaginary friend that became more like a real human? No one knows for sure. Mrs. Cully Mully appears to be a woman in her 70's wearing a pinkish frock coat, horned rimmed glasses and carrying a small handbag purse.

She is known to walk the areas between Dream and Reality, between this world and the next one, and between childhood and the end of innocence. Always between worlds, but never in any one world properly. She will say things to make you believe she was once human, like "when I taught kindergarten…" and things to make you think she is imaginary, or at least question her sanity; "…of course the sky was pink then and we had three moons."

She walks the "in-betweens" helping those who are lost, or of need information. In her bag she almost anything the Cast could need, almost. She has no (and no use for) weapons. If the Cast is hungry then she might have their second-favorite sandwich (she is always out of their first favorite) or some magical bauble that may not seem to be useful now but will be priceless later on. She will of course claim she is just walking her dog.

Her dog, who is completely pink, will bark constantly in its small yippish barks. It is only when it stops barking is there reason to fear. That usually means bogeys, spirits or demons are near.

She will try to hastily retreat, pulling the Cast in-tow. IF she has to fight then her true nature (or is it?) is revealed. She has never been known to get into a fight, but in one case an occult scholar (who has since retired to working on a small farm) was lost in the in-betweens when he encountered Mrs. Cully Mully. He described her as pleasant, if seemingly addled. She agreed to walk the man home since it was "on her way" when the object of the scholar's search appeared, the Great Demon Abraxas (so he claimed). Abraxas demanded the scholar's soul and threatened to kill everyone else. Mrs. Cully Mully, he then claimed, walked right up to the demon lord and called him by his true name (also, so the scholar claims) and proceeded to scold him like a schoolboy. She was stern, but never once raised her voice. The demon, angered beyond rage, roared and disappeared in a pillar of flame. She took the man's hand and told him that we're taking a short cut, walked two or three steps and were in front of the man's home. She told him to give up this life, get a real job and find himself a nice quiet girl to marry.

Some say she is a good-natured aspect of the Crone, Goddess of the Witches. Others say she is really the Goddess Ceriweden. And still, others say she is a retired kindergarten teacher out walking her dog.

Mrs. Cully Mully
No Stats. She does not engage in combat. She does have a handbag and small pink, yippy dog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Games Plus Fall 2009 Auction

I would like to draw your attention to my Favorite Local Game Store, Games Plus in Mount Prospect, Il. I have been going to this place for years and years and I will continue to do so.

But this is not an advertisement for Games Plus.
This is an ad for their Game Auction! ;)

Every Fall and Spring Games Plus hosts a game auction. This is the BEST way to find some really rare games, unload some games you no longer need or just hang out and see some fellow gamers and maybe catch a deal or two.

Typically the FAll auction is my time to unload those impulse buys from Gen Con. This year though I bought so little at Gen Con and have not had the time to even go through what I did buy that I might not have much in this auction at all.

I am sure though I will be there. I'll talk to my kids and see what they have they want to get rid of and then also check out some of the other nights. I could use some cheap minis and Pokemon cards are always welcomed in my home.

Here are some links with information:

Stop in. Get a number and who knows that game you have been wanting for years just might be there.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jury Duty

I will be out of contact for a bit. I have Jury Duty all this week, so any "free" time I have will be used up in getting work done I couldn't do during the day.

Back with more updates soon including what Nel is doing in "Witch Girls Adventures" and a review of "Bounty Head Bebop".