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Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Frothing Irrational Vitriol, Plaster Saints, Sexist Publishers, and Yankee Treachery

Appendix N (Fantasy & Science Fiction) Interview: Matthew Hughes on “The Curse of the Myrmelon” — “I thought I’d like to do a Cugel-the-Clever type story, set in my Archonate universe, so I invented a rather unlucky thief named Raffalon who is starving in a forest at the end of an unsuccessful career. The story, ‘The Inn of the Seven Blessings,’ tells how his luck finally changes. After I sold the story to Gardner and George, I decided the character had potential, so I began writing stories about him during his earlier years. ‘Myrmelon’ is the fifth one to appear in F&SF. In each of them, I’ve tried to show a different element of the society in which Raffalon operates – kind of a thief’s-eye-view of a fantasy world.”

Books (The Atlantic)  ‘My Atticus’ — “What are we—we readers and watchers and admirers of Atticus Finch as a father and a fighter, we who have embraced his heady symbolism, we who have named our children in his honor, we who have, finally, no say at all in his fictive fate—to make of that shift? What are we to do upon learning that the man who was so stubborn in his sense of justice has chosen, in the end, to live on the wrong side of history? Syllabi and screens and the soft promises of imagined worlds have made Atticus an intimate figure in many lives; suddenly, though—literally overnight—there are multiple Atticuses (Attici?), and they represent not just competing characters, but competing cosmologies. The canon—and, you could add with only very slight melodrama, the culture —has been dented.”

Hugo Awards (The Sacred Cow Slaughterhouse) NO AWARD — “There was some push back this year, and one could argue about the merits of doing so, or the merits of the works in question. Instead, what has happened has been egregious ad hominem to the point of Godwin failure (Referring to us as ‘neo-Nazis’) followed by false apologies (‘I’m sorry it upset you to be called a neo-Nazi’), defense of the false apologies by alleged professionals in the use of language, with simultaneous denial that apologies were necessary or even actually took place (we agree. No apologies were actually made). One former winner, whom I feel did in fact deserve his award, piled on to the point of equating us in exact words to domestic abusers, which is not only egregiously ridiculous, it is morally corrupt and a gross insult to actual victims and survivors of domestic abuse. Including me…. The sheer, frothing, irrational vitriol aimed at us makes it clear that content will not be considered. We are Unclean, and many have stated they will not even look at our works.”

Books (The Guardian) With critics like these, it’s no wonder Harper Lee stayed silent — “One of the most enduring criticisms of Mockingbird has been that it is too simplistic – particularly the character of Atticus. In a 2006 essay in the New Yorker, Thomas Mallon described him, with some justification, as ‘a plaster saint’. So there is an amusing irony that some fans of the book are so outraged at this suggestion of shades to the character. Truly, an author cannot win.”

RPGs (The Secret DM) Setting Idea: DEATH PLANET PUNK! — “I know its a harsh place with a brutal, killing surface that hates life. The interior of the planet isn’t any better but its the only place to find supplies. The alien death cults are insect-like creatures that live underground and go through cycles of dormancy like cicadas. There are a ton of artifacts from all times and dimensions stored away in the underground complexes.”

Books (Tor UK) Sexism in Genre Publishing: A Publisher’s Perspective — “That means that every genre publisher in the UK has female commissioning editors and 90% of the genre imprints here are actually run by women. So you can imagine there’s a slight sense of frustration each time I see yet another article claiming that UK publishers are biased towards male writers. And I do wonder if those writing the pieces are aware who is actually commissioning these authors?”

GURPS (Jeff’s Hobby Blog) The Future of GURPS? — “GURPS is probably the best system out there for a gritty, realistic role-playing game. It does a superb job at making thing feel actually dangerous. It lacks many of the gamy constructs other RPGs have that make them feel contrived and procedural. It is a game where you actions feel like they have significant mechanical and narrative weight. Hitting someone with a sword (or getting hit by a sword) in GURPS feels significant and nerve racking. In games like D&D it feels procedural. It is this very gritty realism that makes GURPS unique.”

AD&D ( More Magic Than You Can Shake a Wand At — “I think it could have been neat to come up with a basic ‘common-uncommon-rare-unique’ scheme and not only define these spells as rare and unique, but define how widely known the bulk of the ‘normal’ spells from the Players Handbook and Unearthed Arcana are. Most low-level spells should be ‘common’, but defining a few as ‘uncommon’, and then mixing it up more at higher levels could have some very interesting effects on a campaign”

Books (The Atlantic) Finding Humanity in Gone With the Wind — “Mitchell remembered hearing, as a child, numerous stories about the heroic battles, about Southern bravery and Yankee treachery, and about Southern life before, during, and immediately after the war. It was not until she was ten, she joked, that she realized that the South actually lost.”

Appendix N (Castalia House) The Pulp Swordsmen: Flane — “Right behind Leigh Brackett was Gardner F. Fox (1911-1986), probably best known for his comic book writing. He had started in the funny books in 1937. His pulp story was in 1944 for Weird Tales. He had a total of ten stories in Planet Stories from 1945 to 1953. He had three stories in Weird Tales, one in Amazing Stories, and two comic strips in the pulp-comic hybrid Out of This World Adventures.”

Comics (Dr. Xaos Comics Madness) The book that wasn’t there — “So … is she a deconstruction, straightforwardly but cleanly-missed liberation, an unreconstruction (is that a word?), ironic, or PoMo before her time …? And all that analysis simply fails in the face of the costume change in #40: from black swimsuit + boobcups to slinky gold skintight Vegas hooker? What?

RPGs (Dungeon Fantastic) Does Post-Apoc need a sense of loss? — “It’s not enough to just have the remnants of older civilizations around to explore, use, or play with. It’s not enough to have old tech or old magic to be found in the ashes of destruction. The players need to feel some kind of loss for what’s gone. I think that’s why Gamma World is effective. I think that’s why Metamorphosis Alpha works (it’s a ship, but it’s a world gone bad based on a world you live in now). I think that’s why T2K works. You can’t go home again because home – all of it – is wrecked. But you can try to build something new out of it. There isn’t some great shining beacon to retire to, but you can try to build one.”

History (History Matters) Historical Bronze Plaque at Gate 10 — “If you read the above text carefully you shall learn of the four flags this yard has had flown from its flagstaff (British, Virginia, Confederacy & United States) and you shall learn of the three different burns (1779, 1861 & 1862) of the shipyard. From the first dry docking in 1833 of a ship in the United States (USS DELAWARE) our Drydock 1 still remains in operation today a testament to the craftsman that built it. Other facts contained on the plaque high lite the conversion of the ironclad (CSS VIRGINIA) of which was important because it helped changed modern naval warfare, it too can trace its heritage to Drydock 1. The US Navy’s first Battleship (USS TEXAS) and the first aircraft carrier (USS LANGLEY) also were constructed here. Finally the plaque gives the various specific dates that this great institution underwent formal name changes.”

Game Design (Pulsipher Game Design) Video (screencast): Pitching a tabletop game? Don’t Talk much about Mechanics — “Keep in mind players rarely think of themselves as doing worker placement or building a deck. They think in terms of winning and of the context of the game.”

AD&D (Save vs Total Party Kill) Reading the DMG: Time is like a clock in the heart. — “Gygax clearly wasn’t out to model spiderman when developing his thief class. To aid DMs when their players attempt to scale oil slick glass walls, the DMG includes a table–of course–that outlines how hard it is to climb up surfaces of various textures based on how slippery they are. I recently learned Gygax was an actuary, which actually explains so much about Dungeons and Dragons.”

Game Design (Violent Resolution) His Back Was To Me — “A quick note – none of the other game systems really deal with facing explicitly in a way that drives tactical decisions. Fate and Night’s Black Agents are narrative-driven games that don’t resolve themselves on a tactical map. Savage Worlds and D&D do use such maps, but also don’t explicitly use arcs of vision by default. It may well be a GM call that one figure is behind a foe, but that’s not automatic. How games play this out or allow for such in-game occurrences does vary, of course, and while no explicit allowance for arc of vision is made, implicit or results-driven allowances are made.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) The Omnibus Volumes of Andre Norton, Part One — “If you’re like me, you enjoy vintage science fiction and fantasy, and tracking down old paperbacks to add to your collection. But nothing beats the convenience of having those fragile old books available in a modern reprint. Unless it’s having multiple books in a single omnibus volume, under a great new cover, for the price of a single paperback. When that happens, we like to make some noise about it here — especially when the books involved are true classics of the genre.”

The End of Gawker (The Other McCain) Congratulations, ‘Dishonest Fascists’ — #GamerGate Destroys Max Read — “So, in departing from the Web site he helped destroy — because Gawker’s foolish war against #GamerGate has cost them more than a million dollars in ad revenue — Max Read inflicts still more damage, by declaring that there is no longer any “editorial integrity” at Gawker. Because “editorial integrity,” apparently, means smearing private citizens at the behest of extortionists. Or, to quote the Headline of the Year: Gawker Staff Smears Feces On Itself, Boards a Schoolbus Loaded With Gasoline and Napalm, Then Intentionally Drives That Schoolbus Into a Cargo Train Transporting Toxic Waste and Retarded Clowns

Geek Life (Dyvers) 1d10 Reasons You Should Have Done Something Else . . . Like Drink. A Lot. — “You should have just rolled dice for the answer instead because the game should only be played as it was written – and by game I mean Dungeons & Dragons; by which I mean Basic Dungeons & Dragons; which, as everyone knows, means Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons.”

TV (Black Gate) Looking at The Dukes of Hazzard as a Fantasy Story — “I played the show’s intro, and as soon as he saw the General Lee leaping the dirt pile and driving off, he was already squealing. ‘Oh my God! Did you see the tires bend when it landed?’ he said, beside himself with excitement. So, we started with season one and have been working our way up. My son loves the bows and arrows, the car chases, the car jumps, and when things explode. Interestingly, he also seems to love being smarter than Roscoe and Boss Hogg.”

D&D (Cirsova) Doing It Wrong When It’s Right There In the Book pt 2: Magic in B/X — “This one paragraph at the beginning of Part 3: Spells radically affects the implied setting of B/X, moving it away from the Vancian implied setting (if not the system) as it’s usually understood. In two sentences, Magic Users go from scroungers of lost arcana to part of what will eventually morph into the magitek society settings of continuous light street lamps and tinker gnomes. Magic users would always need to find higher level characters to teach them new magic. Even more significantly, Magic Users cannot add spells they find to their spell book, whether in the form of scrolls or rivals’ spell books!”

GURPS (Gaming Ballistic) Increasing Dodge through skill — “GURPS already gives perhaps too little credit to overall spatial awareness for fighters crossing over disciplines. I could easily see using something like the Trained ST progression to give a skill-based bonus to Dodge, either from your best skill, or perhaps using the skill that’s thrown at you. So boxers dodge punches with their Boxing Trained Dodge, but kicks using Brawling or Karate if they have it. You’d need some sort of weapon skill to get Trained Dodge from a weapon. But the notion of having so many points dumped into a combat skill floating some of that bonus to Dodge? Not crazed. After all, the damage bonus one gets for Boxing or Karate is up to +2 points per die of damage – the equivalent of about a 60% boost to ST. Getting a defensive benefit either in addition to, or in lieu of, the offensive boost has a certain amount of logic to it.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series: The Young Magicians edited by Lin Carter — “A number of people, myself included, have said that Lin Carter’s legacy will ultimately not be his writing or his Conan pastiches, but the work he did on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. It’s hard in this day and age of ebooks and specialty presses to remember how hard fantasy was to find on bookstore shelves in the late 1960s. The commercial fantasy boom wasn’t far off, but it hadn’t gotten there. It was possible to read just about all of the titles that were easily available at the time.”

History (Duffleblog) West Point Revokes Diplomas Of Confederate Graduates — “The ceremony will be held next week, when cadets will symbolically burn hundreds of recreated, historically accurate diplomas in a bonfire at the cadet monument. After the diplomas are consumed in the blaze, the monument will be torn down, since it was built to honor Vincent Lowe, a cadet who died in an 1817 artillery misfire and had an uncle who once owned a slave, explained a source familiar with the event. Jackson also said that USMA leaders are debating the merits of removing Gen. Robert E. Lee’s half of the Appomattox surrender document that ended the Civil War, currently stored in the Cadet Library.”

One response to “Blog Watch: Frothing Irrational Vitriol, Plaster Saints, Sexist Publishers, and Yankee Treachery

  1. Pingback: FMJRA 2.0: Common People (William Shatner ST:TOS Video Remix) : The Other McCain

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