Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

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“The Man Who Evolved” by Edmond Hamilton

I always had a terrible time with Gamma World. I mean, it was always my favorite role-playing game, but I just could not imagine how people could come up with the sort of stuff it would take to sustain an ongoing campaign for it. Back in 1931, this would not have been a problem, though, as this story from Hugo Gernsback’s Wonder Stories demonstrates. You remember the mental mutation de-evolution which gave a character “the power to strip abilities from a mutant opponent by regressing it along ancestral lines”? Well this short piece is all about what the opposite of that would look like.

Check out what each stage of transformation out hapless scientist subjected himself to:

  • “He was transfigured, godlike! His body had literally expanded into a great figure of such physical power and beauty as we had not imagined could exist. He was many inches taller and broader, his sin a clear pink, every limb and muscle molded as though by some master sculptor.”
  • “He was no longer the radiant, physically perfect figure of the first metamorphosis. His body seemed to have grown thin and shrivelled, the outlines of bones visible through its flesh. His body, indeed, seemed to have lost half its bulk and many inches of stature and breadth, but these were compensated by the change in his head. For the head supported by this weak body was an immense, bulging balloon that measured fully eighteen inches from brow to back! It was almost entirely hairless, its greak mass balanced precariously upon his slender shoulders and neck. And his face too was changed greatly, the eyes larger and the mouth smaller, the ears seeming smaller also. The great bulging forhead dominated the face.”
  • “At first glance the great head inside seem unchanged, but then we saw this it had changed, and greatly. Instead of being a skin-covered head with at least rudimentary arms and legs, it was now a great gray head-like shape of even greater size, supported by two gray muscular tentacles. The surface of this gray head-thing was wrinkled and folded, and its only features were two eyes as small as our own.”

There you go: three all-new mutant types that can be dropped directly into your campaign. Even better, read the whole thing and you’ll have everything you need to role-play their personalities and motivations. The brevity and broad strokes of this sort of pulp tale are far easier to improvise with at the table compared to the exhaustive (and exhaustingly tedious) ecology articles of the Ed Greenwood era of gaming.

And given the fact that nearly one third of the Appendix N list was actually science fantasy and not sword & sorcery at all, here’s a bonus gaming tip for you: there’s no reason you can’t add this sort of off the wall weirdness to your AD&D game, either! In fact, doing so would be well in line with the sort of genre mashups you can find in everything from the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons to the 5th edition of Tunnels & Trolls.

Go nuts, y’all!

Nerds at the Gym

I don’t wear headphones at the gym so it’s turned into a lot of time spent looking at myself in the mirror or else watching how people regular people behave. Seriously, this is the most time I’ve ever spent around people that didn’t involve a compiler or a Dungeon Masters Guide.

It’s surprising to me, though. Normal people are actually pretty nice. They find out I’m into biking and weightlifting and if they’re into it, too, they get so excited. They have to tell me about this thing that they did or some advice that they have. It’s like I’m instantly part of their tribe or something.

Now, I have never in my life given much thought to appearance. But there’s something about that moment when you catch your reflection somewhere and you fail to recognize yourself that can change that real fast. I know you’ve seen it happen with a girl you knew. Maybe you took her for granted because she just wasn’t that good looking. Then one day she shows up with her hair fixed up and a nice outfit and you can’t stop looking at her. You know the whole story… but your head just swivels around reflexively anyway.

My impression of nerds in general is that they don’t get that that sort of thing can really work in their favor, too. A lot of them got smacked down pretty hard in their school days and they’re stuck with this assumption that nothing they do can make a difference. Or maybe they just pretend like they’re not trying on purpose so they don’t have to feel bad about failing.

What’s been eyeopening for me is discovering that nerdy girls really do exist. No, not the cute girl that puts on geek glasses and then get into stereotypical male hobbies. I’m talking frumpy, pasty-white girls with absolutely no muscle tone. I’ll tell you, though… it’s not how they look that really makes them a nerd. It’s the way they act. They can’t just come into class and quietly do the exercises like everybody else. They’re always making noise: self-deprecating jokes, nervous laughter.

Seeing it from the other side is really instructive. But yeah, the biggest nerds of all are still dudes. It kills me watching some of this play out, too.

I walked into a section to do my routine one time and there was this really attractive girl there doing her thing. This trainer goes to give her some help she turned out not to need and then he just went off with this jokey faux-subservient routine. He was loud. He kept on. Some of his friends chuckled at his antics… but he was just plain dying. The awkwardness was painful.

My takeaway…? If you’ve put a lot of effort into improving your appearance and you don’t want it to go to waste, try this: SHUT UP. Goofy self-deprecating attempts at humor simply don’t have the effect you want it to. They really don’t.

Don’t be that guy.

In fact… flip the script altogether. Be the guy that patiently endures the nerdy girls embarrassing themselves in front of him.

It’s way more entertaining.

You Don’t Have to Be a Nerd

I have been unfit for my entire life.

Changing that wasn’t easy. Every other year or so for a long time I’d attempt to do something about it. Usually within two weeks I’d injure myself somehow. I had no idea what sort of things would yield the best results. And I had no idea how to actually get on the right track.

My advice now for nerds that are sick and tired of being nerds would be this:

  • Don’t waste your time jogging, doing exercise DVDs, and doing the stuff you remember doing in your high school P. E. class. If you are ignorant of how fitness works, there is no way you are going to get this right.
  • Join a gym… preferably one that has physical trainers that can give you constant feedback on getting your form right from the start. LIFT WEIGHTS.
  • Don’t go overboard too quickly, but try to ramp up slowly. However… if you are chronically unfit, you may find out where your physical limits are and end up in a lot of pain. If that happens to you, go to your doctor and make it a priority to get it figured out.

Here is what things were like when I got to the three week mark:

So I’m in the gym doing my routine, two sets of twenty on all the upper body machines I can comprehend. I’ve been at this for three straight weeks now. I keep going over to the dispenser to get the paper towels to wipe down each machine and I look at that guy in the mirror and I think. Ah, I just stand up straighter lately, that’s all. I look again the next time and I think… maybe I just look different when I’m doing weights because I’m flexing. Third time I look again, and I can’t deny it. SOMETHING IS DIFFERENT. I get home and take pictures for the before and after thing… and good gosh. I’ve got pectoral muscles. I’ve got a freaking chest.

Three weeks. Three days a week. A forty minute routine. It made a difference. Yeah, I was jogging and biking, too. I traded out cereal and replaced it with steak and eggs. I dropped soda and candy bars entirely.

I can’t believe it. I… I didn’t know this was possible.

And here is what things were like at the six week mark:

Okay, so it’s been six weeks since hitting the gym. I started out focusing on chest, shoulders, and back. It’s not that much difference, maybe, but I feel like a football player.

So Friday I’m walking my bike home after something went sideways on it. I walk past this mom with her lanky teen-aged daughter The girl steals a glance at me, locks her eyes right on my pecs, then looks down and away. (Hey, “eyes up here” is your line.)

Okay, maybe that’s just in my head. No big deal. Next day I head to the gym and this blonde is coming out as I’m going in. She looks at me… then she looks me up and down. Obviously I’m imagining things. But while I’m working out, I turn around and I catch this other cute blonde checking me out. Same girl twice.

Okay, so maybe this is just a gym thing. It still hasn’t sunk in.

Then I’m on the bus today minding my on business. This cute chick sits in the back sort of diagonal from me. Fifteen minutes later I glance up… and she’s freaking staring at me. I look at her with this sort of “what are you looking at” type look and just stare back… but she doesn’t look away. Her expression doesn’t change… except for just this hint of a smile.

No, this is not normal for me. This is new.

And I don’t know what I thought would happen, but this ain’t it.

What I think is weird is that it’s only the attractive ones that do this. The truly nerdy girls are… well they’re behaving like nerdy guys would. They hang back. They hide in plain sight.

This is nuts.

I see people that are like how I was. Slouching, skinny, pasty white. Creeps, basically. I look at these guys when I see them and I have to say… they don’t look particularly happy. I feel bad for them, because I know this isn’t working for them and nobody will tell them what they need to know to really get on top of things. Not their mom. Not their preacher. Not their guidance counselor. Not their therapist. And not the nerdy dudes they hang out with.

It bugs me that so many people are being propped up in an endeavor to make do with something that just can’t work well no matter how it’s spun. But that’s the shape of it. So let me tell you what nobody else will:

Get to the gym. Go three times a week. Eat right. Go outside. Be physically active.

The only reason you wouldn’t is because you’ve decided that you’re simply not worth that kind of investment. That vibe is all over you. And everyone around you picks up on it and takes it for granted that it’s true. Even your posture communicates it.

But you really don’t have to live like that anymore. You’ll be glad when you’ve changed. And you might be surprised at just how fast things can change.

The Dragon Awards are Teh Stupid

Well, that was fun while it lasted! Here is the latest scuttlebutt from the people behind the Dragon Awards:

Alison Littlewood, the author of The Hidden People, was nominated for a Dragon Award, which asks ordinary fans what they like to watch, read, and play. It’s a fan’s choice award, plain and simple. And it ought to be a good thing.

Though she clearly has a fan base of her own, Ms. Littlewood’s book was also included on a “slate” proposed by an individual/group she didn’t want to be associated with. She worried that she couldn’t trust the nomination was fairly won. And so, she asked if her book could be pulled from the ballot.

It put us in a jam. We have strong faith in the integrity of the Dragon Awards ballot because it was created by fans, the everyday people who actually read the books and nominate them. In seven categories for literature, there were 53 different novels that represented the broad spectrum of fandom and there was something for everybody. It made an excellent reading list for fans everywhere.

So we told her no.

And then, over the last couple of days, we got an earful from our fans and others. The issue also caused a second author to ask us to remove her book from the ballot as well. We’ve reconsidered and changed our mind. This is what’s happening next.

Anybody that has ever run a lot of old school D&D should immediately be able to see why this was a boneheaded move. Make a call like this in the heat of the game and all of a sudden you find out that the players have a reason why everything in the game could maybe be ruled differently. It’s way easier to just let the game be what it is and then leave it to the players to figure out how to deal with that.

But you do see the kicker there, don’t you? If you give this request your blessing, then you have basically agreed that Allison Littlewood was put on the ballot unfairly.

Gosh, if that’s the case… then maybe there are other people on the ballot that ought not to be there. Hell, you maybe even gave out awards last year to people that didn’t come by them honestly!

Seriously, did anyone running this thing give any thought to the implications of what they were doing here?

This is asinine.

If You Have Questions, We Have Answers (Interview Roundup)

I actually missed a couple of these when they came out. If you want to understand what is going on in science fiction and fantasy RIGHT NOW, this is the guy to talk to.


If you’ve just found out about Cirsova from our Hugo Nomination, hi! If you’d like to know more about us, who we are, and what we do, a great place to start would be these interviews we’ve done over the last few months.

Red Sun Magazine – Interview with Cirsova Magazine


Castalia House (Scott Cole) – A Conversation With P. Alexander: Cirsova Magazine

Chris Lansdown – Cirsova Magazine

Jon Del Arroz – Interview with Cirsova Magazine Editor P. Alexander


Sexy Space Princesses and Super Starship Battles! (Geek Gab, Episode 66!) (Audio)

Or, you can always ask questions here! We’re always happy to field questions!

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