Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Comments on Sad Puppies IV and Rabid Puppies II

The Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies have released their recommendation lists for the year… and I feature prominently on both of them. There’s just a few things I’ll highlight here:

  • I am at the top of the list in the Fan Writer category on both of them.
  • My work on Appendix N is singled out in the Best Related Work category on both lists.
  • The Castalia House blog is recommended for Best Fanzine, Morgan (Castalia House’s resident scholar of all things pulp) is put forward for Best Fan Writer, and Castalia House columnist Daniel Eness made Best Related Work, all on Rabid Puppies.
  • SuperversiveSF is down for Best Fanzine on both lists. (Note that these guys made my Top Gaming Blogs list last year– I think this one is well deserved.)
  • Finally, there are now many gamers and game blogs on both lists. Zenopus Archives is on the Rabid Puppies Fan Writer list.  Winchell Chung (the artist that created the iconic look for Steve Jackson’s Ogre Mark V) is down for Best Related Work on Sad Puppies. Ron Edwards and Charles Akins are both down for Best Fan Writer on Sad Puppies. Traveller creator Marc Miller is down for Best Novel on Rabid Puppies. And as I pointed out when I reviewed Ctrl Alt Revolt, Nick Cole is something of a gamer’s gamer; he is down for Best Novella on Rabid Puppies.

You know, I have to say… making the Puppies lists for Best Related Work was a real shock for me. That’s just not something that ever even occurred to me as being a possibility. Maybe it’s a bit ironic, but it’s actually humbling to have even a modest number of people think that well of me. I honestly don’t know what else to say, but “thank you.” So: thank you! 

Earlier this year on the Superversive Livestream, L. Jagi Lamplighter wondered what it must have been like for me to be writing about Appendix N and then have it blow up as much as it has. (“Imagine that you were Jeffro…!” Heh.) Now, how it’s blown up has been very surprising– not to mention entertaining as wall. But to tell you the truth, I never had any doubt that this was a really significant story that would be of interest to all kinds of people outside of the game blogging scene.

I just thought it was crazy that so little had been written about the topic. (Though to be fair, James Maliszewski had written rather more than I was aware of at the start.) It seemed obvious that there needed to be a book on the subject for the sort of people that would read Jon Peterson’s Playing at The World, Lewis Pulsipher’s Game Design, and/or James Lowder’s Hobby Games: The 100 Best. And the further along I got in the process, the more surprised I was that no one had taken the time to do it before.

While I had no idea where exactly the series would ultimately lead me, I was certain that a great deal of the best sff writing on the internet was being done by game masters digging into the origins of vintage rpgs. The fact that people in the sff scene were largely unaware of it looked like a golden opportunity. I thought that if someone could take what they were doing, buckle down and put together a book length work on the topic that non-gamers could conceivably read, then… well… something would happen.

And here we are. My supersized gameblog posts have (incredibly to me) inspired the creation of Cirsova, a new semi-pro sff ‘zine dedicated to creating new fiction of the sort that I have spent the past year and a half rediscovering. I am (as of January) blog editor over at Castalia House. And people kibitzing about the Hugos right now are talking about the literary antecedents for the Dual Brain mutation in Gamma World. For a guy that set out merely to share his love of Car Wars with the rest of world, this is a real trip.

As to the controversy surrounding the Hugos, I get that a lot of people want to talk about that but really, I just don’t have too much to say that hasn’t already been said on the topic. Several people have suggested that we would better off writing about the books we love rather than fussing and fighting so much. And while I have a small stockpile of popcorn laid back for the coming months, I will say that I’m fairly well in agreement with that sentiment. Certainly, that attitude motivated me to write as many books reviews and game session reports as I did the past couple of years.

But there is far more going on than I or even the rest of the Castalia House bloggers can keep up with. We really could use some help! Whether you are interested in delving into the history of science fiction and fantasy or whether you have a review of a book or game that nobody’s talking about but which people should be discussing… we want to see what you can do. So if you’ve got something along the lines of Penny Kenny’s take on Legend of the Galactic Heroes or Warren Abox’s piece on En Garde! or even Misha Burnett’s ambitious Appendix X series… please talk to me about doing a guest post.

Because that’s another thing I’ve heard critics of the Puppies saying: that it’s a shame that the Sad Puppies process only ran for a few months; it should be a year round thing… and it should go beyond a mere recommendation with a handful of “amens”! Well, the Castalia House blog can be something like that– for the sort of people that are more interested in books than they are in the fandom wars. As a reader or a writer, I invite you to join us as we dig into the works people are going to be talking about next year. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Cirsova Magazine Now on Amazon

You know, I missed my chance to get articles published Space Gamer, Autoduel Quarterly, JTAS, and Fight On!… but that just makes being part of Cirsova that much more exciting.

What is it? The basic thrust of the magazine is to pay money to people that want to do unironic, unsubverted “Appendix N” style fiction today. Its overall look is meant to invoke classic Weird Tales magazine, but the material can go so far as to recapitulate Planet Stories as well. Basically, it does for science fiction, fantasy, and horror what the OSR did for D&D.

I’m really happy to have my name on the cover– and even more, to have this magazine be the inaugural entry on my Amazon author search page. (Hey, it’s another notch on the “real writer” track.) Please support this endeavor!

It’s only $7.50 for the paperback and $2.99 for the Kindle edition.

This Week at Castalia House: Appendix X, Napoleon at Jena, Black Fleet Trilogy, and Space Oddity!

Lots of SFF Love to Go Around

Well, I don’t think it surprised anyone that I ended up on the Rabid Puppies Reading List™ this year. Seeing my name turn up in more than one category struck me as a little bit much, though. Not everyone felt the same way– here’s what John C. Wright had to say:

I second his recommendation of Andy Weir as best new writer, and Jeffro Johnson for Best Related Work.

Nice, right? That’s just cool. His commentariat goes even further, though.

Here’s Holmwood:

I am a lifelong fan of science fiction who had drifted away from the field, assuming that I had changed. Mr. Day’s work in the field has continued to revitalize my interest, as has Mr. Wright’s recently published work.

If I look at some of Mr. Day’s achievements in the last year or so:
– reviving Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s superb There Will be War series and publishing a new volume;
– creating Riding the Red Horse, an excellent debut for an anthology series
– publishing a speculative fiction novel by one of the finest strategic thinkers of our time
– establishing a superb SF group blog at CH that to me is better than
– discovering and promoting a series of excellent new writers
– helping incorporate a better understanding of gaming of all types into SF

And Astrosorcerer:

Andy Weir is a great choice for Best New Writer.
Appendix N and SJWs Always Lie are both excellent candidates for Best Related Work.
Erin Dies Alone and Gunnerkreig Court are both worthy for Best Graphic Story.
Abyss & Apex and Sci-Phi Journal are fantastic choices for Best Semi-Pro Magazine
Castalia House Blog and File 770 are excellent choices for Best Fanzine
Jeffro Johnson and David Freer are entertaining reads and choices for Best Fanwriter.

So much love!

I’m especially glad to see that I’m not the only person that thinks the Castalia House blog team is a superb group of writers. Way to go, guys!

Inside the Box: Lesser Gnome’s Death and Taxes

Remember when Ogre: Designers Edition came out and there was so much stuff in the box, you couldn’t possibly wrap your brain around the insane amount of gaming that was crammed inside…? You know, it was sorta like that episode of the Simpsons where Homer got to design the ultimate car. The results were so excessive, so awesome you really had to wonder how the publisher could keep their shirts in the whole deal.

Well, that same sort of “pull out all the stops and then some” mentality is alive and well at Lesser Gnome. This isn’t even the first time they’ve done this, either. Their first bog box set project was Whisper and Venom. Between their resolve, the power of Kickstarter, and the magic of the long tail, they were able to do this again.

Even better, they were able to send me a copy.

Now, you might ask why it is that anyone would shell out the big bucks to get a game box crammed with this much stuff. After all, you can get away with printing out a PDF or two, using the same rule set you ran thirty years ago, and then doing a rules-light “theater of the mind” session until 2AM. You just don’t need a lot of stuff to run a decent campaign, right?

Well, my answer here is the same that it is with Ogre: Designer’s Edition and Federation Commander. If you want to get kids or casual players or anyone that’s on the fence about jumping in excited about playing, then top notch components are worth every penny. It doesn’t make sense to me, but no one will play my vintage microgames. But they will beg to play the nice ones. That’s just how it is.

Anyway, let’s look inside…!

The first thing you’ll notice is that the box is bursting from the seams even while it’s still in the shrink-wrap. Yeah, the rumors are true: you’ll never get the stuff back inside once you open it! OCD board gamer types won’t be able to handle this. But hey, they don’t play role-playing games anyway….

The adventure details and the general game mastering information is broken apart into two booklets. I wasn’t sure how an adventure about a tax collector showing up could work at first beyond a few gags from Iron Monkey, but the backstory and premise here is in reality a bit gruesome.

The maps are not locked up inside of a book, but are duplicated in the map pack for easy reference. The setting guide is brief and does not fall into the usual error of flooding the DM with setting details that don’t add anything to the game.

Nothing is spared here. There’s not just old school monster cards, but magic item cards as well. There’s a dice set, a dice bag, and a button for good measure. And there’s a “feely” here that is on par with those that were included with the classic Infocom games way back. That sealed letter is a great prop– and yeah, people will agree to play just to find out what’s in it.

Okay, it’s one thing to have new monsters for an adventure. It’s another thing to throw in monster cards and NPC’s to make the game better. But to have an actual mini for this much stuff from the game…? That’s insanely audacious. There’s twenty-five in all.

Last, but not least… the big area map is flat out gorgeous. Even better, it mates up with the other one from Whisper & Venom. This map is so detailed and so good looking… people want to play it. I mean, they see this and they want to play whatever game is set in the world depicted on it. It’s that gorgeous.

That’s it!

You can find out more about this box set here.



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