Saturday, April 30, 2011

A to Z. I did it.

I survived the A to Z challenge.
It took a bit and maybe I'll do a more indepth retrospective later.  Today's Z post was the one that made want to do this.  When I saw Z landed on Saturday, the day I do my Zatannurday posts then I figured what the hell.

Y was the hardest one.  I also almost didn't make my self-imposed deadline of 8:00am for this post.

Thank' to all the new visitors and followers.  I hope I give you plenty of reasons to keep coming back.

And I got another award in the process.

See all the winners at

Zatannurday: Z is for Zatanna and Zullo

I have recently been turned on to Chrissie Zullo thanks to the wonderful "DC Women Kicking Ass" site.

I also posted her versions of Wonder Woman and Red Sonja too.

So a quick trip over to her Deviant Art page, and I find these fantastic Zatanna pieces.

There is an anime quality to this one I really like.  I wonder what she is thinking of.  Given how young she looks and that the hat looks too big on her, most likely she is thinking about her dad.

And this one is cute and sexy at the same time without needing to resort to cheesecake to do it.

And some more.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for YAFGC

YAFGC or "Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic" is a webcomic by Rich Morris and can be found here,

I "found" YAFGC one night and spent the next few hours reading all the comics to get caught up.  I think I was done at something like 4:00 in the morning.  I was dragging hard that day, but very amused.

YAFGC, true to it's name, is a Fantasy Gamer comic and there are tons of gamer related jokes in the almost 1800 pages of the comic.  Too many to even recount honestly.  Each page is rough, but it is also daily comic, and a free one at that.  The stories are pretty clever, starting with a group of monsters (goblins, orcs, a crazy lich, drow and a beholder named Bob) and their extended family of friends, enemies and what ever Cap'n Fang is supposed to be to them.

It is gamer humor, but there are also pop cultural refs (but not too many to make it look dated in a s couple years) and a positive message about friends and family and the people you love.  Speaking of love, it you find inter-species love to be a bit squicky, then avoid this comic.  If you find the occasional same-sex relationship bothers you, then you might want to find other fare.  If you like good humor and occasionally poking a bit of fun at some of the tropes we use in a fantasy game, then this is a great place to be.

Favorite characters are Gren, the little goblin girl from the first strip. Arachne, the drow who has little patience for anyone and Cap'n Fang ("My sandbox is crunchy!").  But there are a lot of great characters too and a lot of different story arcs since 2006, many based on Rich's own 2nd Ed AD&D games.

Rich does a great job with this and I have not even talked about his other comics including on going Doctor Who ones!

So if you have a couple hours to kill and need a brain-break, then stop by, and read it.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fortune favors the bold

A while back I mentioned that I had gotten paid to write a some D&D material for WotC, well that article is now up.

In it I talk about how my boys and I used the new D&D Fortune Cards while playing Moldvay/Cook D&D (Basic and Expert).
Also posted are other uses for Fortune Cards by other bloggers, all of which are pretty cool.

Have a look at their pages as well and see what they are saying.

X is for X-Files


In the 90s everything was conspiracy theories, don't trust the government and the Truth was Out There.

On TV we had the X-Files.

There was a paranoia in the 90s.  Today it has boiled over into disgust about our government (believe I know, I live in Illinois, we have one ex-Governor in prison and another headed there).  But back then it was a general low hum of paranoia, suspicion and doubt.  It started with Iran-Contra, and moved on to movies like "JFK".  It was the climate that allowed the X-Files to grow.

It began on a start up station called Fox, long before they became synonymous for killing shows, good or bad, too early.  X-Files was their hit, their main show outside of the Simpsons really, and they kept it on for 9 years.

Let be honest here, the X-Files did more for genre TV than anything else. It was a cultural phenomena and most shows that we enjoyed in the 2000s and on are a result of this little show by Chris Carter.   People go on about Whedon, but Carter and the X-files has been nominated for more Emmys and the show had won more collective  awards.  Even in it's "worst" season X-files still had 3 times the views of Buffy.
Plus there is not an episode of Supernatural that doesn't in some way or another recall the X-files.  The Winchesters are this decade's Mulder and Scully.

I came to the show late.  I was working on my thesis at the time and I rarely watched TV.  Once I graduated I became a fast convert.  It became my Friday night ritual (I was watching them with my then girlfriend, so that is ok).  It was also one of the shows I did not invest in any of fandom.  I have an X-files CD and Mulder and Scully action figures, but I got them as gifts.  I really got into it the show all the same.  One of the first desktop "themes" I had for my brand spanking new copy of Windows 95 was an X-files one.

I loved the season long and multi-season long story arcs, I loved the characters, I didn't even care when my then girlfriend (and now wife) would go on about how hot Mulder or Skinner were.  That was fine with me.  I got to see Scully; hot and smart.

The trouble with X-Files is it was doomed from the start.  You can't keep the characters or the audience in the dark all the time and have a god show, and the more secrets you reveal the less the characters have to uncover.  They kept it up though for a good long run.

The same is true for any conspiracy game.  Conspiracy X, also by Eden Studios, is a great example.  You can totally run an "X-Files" game with it, but how often can you keep the players in the dark when they are looking for secrets?

The Godfather of the X-files is "Kolchak" and Darrin McGavin even made some guest spots on the show.  X-Files, while the "mythos arc" is lauded, sometimes worked the best on the "monster of the week" episodes.  Sure the aliens were great and those were the ones I got excited about, but the ones I recall the best, Flukeman, "Theef", the freaky weird family, the hallucinogenic fungus, the chupacabra.  Like Kolchak, X-files did it's best job when it dealt with "small stories"; episodes that dealt with a local myth, legend or monster and came at it with Mulder the one ready to believe anything and Scully looking the reasoned explanation.  I also liked the "spin-offs" Millennium and the Lone Gunmen.

One day I am going to go back to the world of the X-Files.  Back when Clinton was still president, freaky half-worm/half-man things lived in chemical toilets, cigarette smoking men and well manicured men sat in dark rooms with darker purposes, aliens kidnapped little girls and the Truth Was Out There

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Post 626

Todays post is brought to you by a monster.

Ok, just a little one.

I have a rather good relationship with the movie "Lilo and Stich".  It came out at a time when my kids were really little and loved to watch it over and over.  But I was working on a lot of game stuff then too, so watching the movie is very much part of the genesis of "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and even later "Ghosts of Albion".  So much so that Marion "Cobra" Bubbles made a guest appearance in one of my games.

Plus you have to give props to Disney on several points here.  First they used AC/DC in ads for this movie, I think that is a first ever for a Disney cartoon flick.  And Lilo is not your skinny little pale princess that Disney seems so fond of.  She is a normal shaped little Hawaiian girl, with issues.  And the soundtrack is full of Elvis songs.  How cool is that?  My boys loved this move and I can't say that I blamed them.

W is for WitchCraft RPG

W is for WitchCraft, and by that I mean C. J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG.

WitchCraft is, hands down, my favorite game.  Period.  Picking up a copy of this book back in 1999 was just like picking up a copy of the Monster Manual in 1979.  Everything I ever wanted in a game was right there.

WitchCraft had such a profound effect on my gaming that I can draw a rather clean line between what came before and what came after it.  Granted a lot was going on in 1999/2000 both gamingwise and personal that may have added to the this effect, it was an effect all the same.

Back in 1999 I was really burned out on D&D.   I was working on my Witch netbook and reading a bunch of different games when someone, I forget where, must have been the old RAVENLOFT-L that TSR/WotC used to run, told me I really need to check out WitchCraft.  At first I balked.  I had tried Vampire a couple years ago and found I didn't like it (and I was very much out of my vampire phase then, see yesterday's post), but I was coming home from work and the my FLGS was on the way, so I popped in and picked up a copy.  This must have been the early spring of 2000.

I can recall sitting in my office reading this book over and over. Everything was so new again, so different.  This was the world I had been trying, in vain, to create for D&D but never could.  The characters in this book were also all witches, something that pleased me to no end, it was more than just that.  Plus look at that fantastic cover art by George Vasilakos. That is one of my most favorite, is not my favorite, cover for a game book. I have it hanging in my game room now.

WitchCraft uses what is now called the "Classic" Unisystem system.  So there are 6 basic attributes, some secondary attributes (derived), skills and qualities and drawbacks.  Like I mentioned Monday, skills and attributes can be mixed and matched to suit a particular need.

WitchCraft uses a Point-Buy Metaphysics magic system, unlike Ghosts of Albion's levels of magic and spells system.  Think of each magical effect as a skill that must be learned and you have to learn easier skills than harder ones first.    In D&D it is possible to learn Fireball and never have learned Produce Flame first.  In WitchCraft you could not do that.  But also WitchCraft is not about throwing around "vulgar magics".  WitchCraft is a survival game where the Gifted protect humanity from all sorts of nasty things, from forgotten Pagan gods, to demons, fallen angels and the Mad Gods; Cthulhoid like horrors from beyond.  WitchCraft takes nearly everything from horror and puts all together and makes it work.

The Eden Studios version was the Second Edition, I was later to find out.  The first one was from Myrmidon Press. I manged to find a copy of that one too and it was like reading the same book, from an alternate timeframe.  I prefer the Eden Edition far more for a number of reasons, but I am still happy to have both editions.

The central idea behind WitchCraft is the same as most other Modern Supernatural Horror games.  The world is like ours, but there are dark secrets, magic is real, monsters are real. You know the drill.  But WitchCraft is different.  There is a Rekoning coming, everyone feels it, but no one knows what it is.  Characters then take on the roles of various magic using humans, supernatuals or even mundane humans and they fight the threats.  Another conceit of the game (and one I use a lot) is that supernatural occurances are greater now than ever before.  Something's coming.  (dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria).

It is most often compared to World of Darkness, but I think it is vastly superior in nearly every respect.  Unlike (old) Mage there is no war between the (good) Mages and the (evil) Technocracy.  There is a war certainly, but nothing so cut and dry.  And unlike new Mage there are rarely clean divisions between the factions.  Yes, yes Mage players, I am being overly simple, but that is the point, on the simple levels new Mage dives everything into 5 because that is how the designers want it.  There are factions (Associations) and there are different metaphysics for each, but also overlap, and sometimes no clear and defined lines are to be found or given.  It feels very organic.

C. J. Carella may be one of the best game designers out there.  WitchCraft is a magnum opus that few achieve.  I took that game and I ran with it.  For 2000 - 2002 it was my game of choice above and beyond anything.  The Buffy RPG, built on Cinematic Unisystem took over till I wrote Ghosts of Albion also using Cinematic Unisystem.  I mix and match the systems as I need, but WitchCraft is still my favorite.
I ran my very first Willow & Tara games using WitchCraft and I still feel in many ways they are more at home there than anywhere else.  I also used it for various other media and book adaptations of witches, such as the Owens from Practical Magic (movie and book), Elizabeth Bathory (who was going to be the Big Bad) and the girls from Vampyres.

WitchCraft was also one of the first Wikipedia articles I ever worked on.  The images of the covers are scans of my own books.

But you don't have to take my word for it, Eden Studios will let you have it, sans some art, for free.

Download it.  If you have never played anything else other than D&D then you OWE it yourself to try this game out.

My thing is I wish it was more popular than it is.  I love the game, I even wanted to do Ghosts of Albion as a WitchCraft game, but there were other, better reasons to go Cinematic with that.
Back in the day I did work on the Wicce Association book.  I would love to see that printed.  I also have on my hard drive "WitchCraft 3rd Edition".  Not complete mind you, but it takes the rules and re-organizes them and improves on what little I can improve on.

Eden Studios WitchCraft Page,
Mixing WitchCraft with Witch Girls Adventures,
Get WitchCraft RPG for free,
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