Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mindless fun.... Ubiquitous Orc style!

..and JUST when you thought this blog was getting all booknosey and educated-like, I've found you a new time-waster.

When you finally have had enough complex plot twists, overdeveloped characters, laboriously-custom-designed game settings and all the multicultural and multinational intrigue they entail..and you just wanna go on a rampage, then Shotgun Orc's the game for you.'s free, and it's in my sidebar right over there. >>

You gotta scroll down, but trust me it's there. I just lost an hour of valuable house-cleaning time because of it.

Basically, you're an orc. You've found a shotgun, and because you're an orc with a shotgun, you get to shoot people..mostly knights, wizards, elves and the like....hopefully before they can get a whack or shot or spell at you. The game is multilingual so you can play in English, Swedish or Japanese. Sorry, elves. It don't speak Sindarin.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review - Orcs, by Stan Nicholls

Around a week or so ago, a friend of mine was in a Books-A-Million and saw a copy of Orcs, by Stan Nicholls, and in his own words "If I didn't get it for Spike, she'd kill me." ..and also in his own words was initially compelled by "the badass orc on the cover".

Yeah...I was smitten too. And that was without even reading it.

As the blurb promises, this book will change how you feel about orcs..unless of course you are like me..but then, few are. Anyhoo, this is a story of the Wolverines, an elite warband of orc fighters, who are sent on a quest by a particularly wicked half-human queen who needs a magical artifact in order to further her evilness. After an unexpected delay in returning the queen's prize, the orcs realize they have likely brought her wrath down upon themselves and soon find themselves branded as renegades. Next thing they know, they are on the run from everybody including a trio of bounty hunters, a band of human religious fanatics, and a small army of orcs who still remain loyal to the queen.

These aren't Tolkien's orcs, nor WoTC's orcs, nor Blizzard Entertainment's orcs. If you are expecting brutish thugs who kill for the sake of killing, have low Intelligence scores, and speak gratuitous Cockney, then you'll probably be disappointed. These orcs never say "WAAAAGH", nor "Zugzug", though they do freely drop some of the more choice four-letter words. After all they are still orcs.

Without giving too much away, the story's "plot" almost takes a back seat to the real story, which is in my opinion about different perspectives of race relations and intolerance. The world of Maras-Dantia is a place gripped by spreading chaos. Glaciers are quickly advancing upon civilisation and the world seems to be dying. Worse yet, the magic that once coursed through the earth in ley lines has been bled almost dry. And it would seem the humans are to blame. Of course there are many races of beings in this world, but the course of their history has pitted the elder races and their many gods against the humans and their one god. Of course not all humans are "the bad guys", and throughout the story there are plenty of situations in which various characters learn to put their differences behind them and work together. During their adventure, the Wolverines (including a dwarf sergeant) encounter gremlins, pixies, brownies, centaurs, goblins, trolls, friendly humans, bad orcs, and even a dragon or two.

The battle scenes are quite embellished; a good thing for those of you who enjoy the works of Robert "Two Guns Bob" Howard. And so are some of the vignettes concernign the bloody rituals of the wicked queen. This isn't a book for the youngsters or the faint-hearted. If you don't care for adult language and some adult content, you may want to pass this one over. I'd say it's rated M14 at the very least.

The book picture above is actually a trio of shorter novels bound into an omnibus publication. A second trio of books bound under the title "Orcs - Bad Blood" should be coming available right about now. and I for one will be on the lookout for it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Seven Minute Orc

For some, painted miniatures are an essential part of the role playing experience. Back in the Long-Time-Ago when old-school was still new-school and TSR was known for historical games, it was necessary to improvise and compromise, because very few manufacturers of miniatures delved into fantasy at all, and those that did ran a rather limited repertoire of models to pick from. Luckily, the hobby grew, and so has selection. Nowadays you can not only find just about any creature imaginable to stock your dungeon, but if you shop around, chances are there's a model that can represent fairly well just about any player-character a player can conjure.

Of course, not only have miniatures "grown up" a bit in the last 30 years, but so has the hobby of painting them. Once, you could slap a quick base coat of model paint on an unprimed mini, and so long as the other guys at the table could easily guess what your mini represented, then you had succeeded. These days, however, mini painting has become an art form, complete with its own "masters" and numerous arenas of competition such as have sprung up so that novice painters can have their self-esteem put into proper perspective publicly..for better or for worse. There are painters who sell single painted minis for upwards of $300 apiece and often sink 40 hours or more into the mini to do so. (Do the math... minimum wage?) But the craziest thing to come about in the world of minis is that people actually paint the darn things and then DON'T PLAY WITH 'EM!

Three years ago or so, on the occasion of an upcoming local "convention" my husband and I organized, it was decided by mutual insanity that we should have a massive miniature skirmish game involving a single unified orcish horde taking on all the other races of the fantasy world. It was just a few weeks until the Con, and we were a few score orcs short..and he went to painting. My kitchen table looked like some kind of Isengard assembly line with queues of unpainted orcs lined up waiting for their latex makeovers. And of course he started bragging about how fast he could finish one. "I can paint an orc in seven minutes..quicker than you can make cake-frosting." said he. "Put up or shuddup!" said I, and I got my camera and stopwatch.

When I uploaded the video (no sound, bad focus, old camera) to Reaper Miniatures' forum, I think it scared some folks. He might be what you call an old-school painter. He doesn't use any of those fancy-schmancy Liquitex additives. He don't wash his brush in between colours, and he paints straight from the pot..sometimes even mixing colours in the lids. If he were any more old-school, he'd be pre-school..using his fingers and wearing a plastic smock.

So that year, at ReaperCon '05, somebody (Reaper Kit, I think) asked him to repeat his seven-minute orc feat in a much higher quality video with sound and titles and narrative and all kinds of groovy things. A few days ago, I got permission to repost the video to YouTube. it is..... kinda like Saruman.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Magical item - Hammer-pants - +3 to bustin' dope rhymes

And you were expecting something enlightening and/or sophisticated here? No?

The topic came up on Mythmere's S&W message forum about the alleged negative impact of the term "old-school", in which I responded with my $.o2 concerning the culture I grew up in. Methinks some folks are missing the difference between "old-school" and "old farts". But then The Venomous Pau came in behind me and REALLY "took 'em back to school" on the subject.

Here's quotage.

by The Venomous Pao on Thu Apr 09, 2009 8:12 am

Spike beat me to the punch on mentioning the Hip Hop connotations of the phrase (nice work, Spike!), so I'll just echo the sentiment.


Old School is cool, I must insist,
not negative, nor exclusionary
Brothers are whack if they resist
and claim the phrase is too contrary

Step back y'all and roll the dice
The way they did in seventy fo'
Don't need no lists of skills and feats
Just play the game, let imagination flow

Yo elf! Whatcha class?
I'm a martial striker with seven ranks in rules lawyer...
No, elf! Whatcha class?
Um, I'm a Fighter/Cleric/Magic-User with nwops in rope use?
NO, ELF! Whatcha class?
I'm an elf, pure and simple
Don't need no incidentals
I kick it hard, the old school way
Tomorrow I fight but I cast spells today


Step back y'all and roll the dice
The way they did in seventy fo'
Don't need no lists of skills and feats
Just play the game, let imagination flow

East Austin Represent, Yo!

WHO SAYS there's no Bards in Original Edition!

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Perfect Campaign

For those of you who just dropped in from RPGBN or other quality places, there's no doubt you've already read the news about WoTC's move to pull all WoTC-related PDFs from the various download sites such as Drive-Thru RPG and Paizo...and you probably also have heard the sad news concerning the ailing Dave Arneson. The fact that the former event has had the poor taste to concur with the latter event only makes both seem worse.

Therefore I will not try to contribute any furhter commentary on either. To quote that song by REM, "Let's try and find a happy game to play."

So, how about a campaign that lasts a long time? Yeah, I suppose we'd all like something like that, so I'm not really bringing any new suggestions to the table here. I've been playing on-and-off for a little over ten years and have yet to get a character past 5th level, not because she gets killed or retires, but because the campaign just fizzles out. Sometimes it's because one or more players leaves the group, or maybe the GM just gets bored. It's hard to say, but it just happens. And it has happened so often that I actually have a sense of dread for my poor character who has just reached 5th level. Rather the same sense of dread one feels when the 3-year bumper-to-bumper warranty has just run out and there's a strange new noise coming from the transmission. But what makes this so funny is that in all honesty I really do not care so much about gaining levels as I care about gaining experience. And when I say experience I'm not talking about XP either. I mean real campaign-setting worldly adventuring experience of the kind that turn ordinary game sessions into memorable stories and perhaps legends.

So how about a campaign where more XP is needed to gain levels? Or maybe let XP only count half? Yeah sure it would make the game take twice as long, but think of the extra time spent as opportunity for character development and growth. If I had my way in that regard, the game referee would not need to spend near so much time coming up with "epic" level encounters to challenge the player characters. Of course after a while, players might get bored with fighting the same level of creatures, so it would be up to the referee to find new ways to make the gaining of XP more challenging without pouring on more creatures or badder creatures. Players who like "kobold bashing" or "grinding" probably would not enjoy playing in my Perfect Campaign.

So, how about lots of new traps, monsters never before encountered in anybody's 'manuals", and maybe some new and imaginative cursed items to place in the path of ambitious PCs? Okay, so there would be players grumbling about "killer referees" spoiling the game for them. So maybe the ref should find other ways to challenge the players besides with deadly combat. Maybe the players could face other challenges that involve non-combat abilities. Maybe these could even help earn XP for the players if they succeed. We could call them "skill challenges"...........or maybe not!

So how about skills? Yeah okay I can see a few of you fellow old-schoolers rolling your eyes at me for such heresy. But seriously, there comes a time in a well-developed character's career that he or she has scaled enough walls, picked enough locks, or practiced his lute enough that he deserves a small bonus whether his chosen class dictates so or not. Now I know there are folks that play versions of The Game in which skills are bought with XP..and that's fine, but so much can be said for the personal satisfaction of having earned a skill through practice and mastery rather than having paid for it via a game mechanism. And maybe the character does not even know when he's actually achieved mastery of a new skill. Maybe it's the ref's little secret and the player is left to figure out that lately something has gotten a little bit easier to do.

So how about a sort of character sheet for the ref? Now I see you new-schooler folks rolling your eyes at me (all theee of you) and wondering why in heck anybody would spend so much time developing a character just to give control of that character over to the referee. Of course the player gets to keep a character sheet. I don't want the ref having to do all the work, but there are certain things about one's self that most people do not know. Remember the first time you ever successfully hit a baseball? Did you know your batting average at the time? Okay, so sports metaphors might be lost on a few of us, since we gamers don't like to venture out of our social stereotypes for fear of being penalized as 'multiclass', but you get the point, right? To quote Han Solo (perhaps a more familiar icon to us), "Never tell me the odds."

And that, my friends, would be The Perfect Campaign. It might be winter of 2025 before poor Janara the *cough* Fighting-Man has her own Barony, but dangit, the getting-there would make for one helluva saga.

So in closing..tomorrow is game-night once again after a three-weeks layoff. Perhaps a Level Drain spell awaits?

Also, remember Dave Arneson and his family in your prayers or meditations. Like others have said more eloquently than I can, his contributions to our hobby are great and he deserves to be memorialized with the perpetuation of the game he helped create.

Fight on!