Only the Harebrainedest Schemes

On a Roll


Awwwwwwwwwwwww, yeah. The kids’ll love this one

So, you guys have known me long enough to know that every so often I get a harebrained scheme into my head and then go crazy at it until it either gets done, I run out of steam, or get distracted and go ride bikes. Some of them, like my Savage Robotech conversions, actually worked. Others, well, let’s just say I ride a lot of bikes. Not this time, though. No, this time it’s for real. I know I’ve mentioned my good friends and colleagues Ross and John before. Solid dudes. Good designers, good writers. Well, the three of us have the best harebrained scheme. We’re making a game! An actual, factual, really real RPG that, if the Good Lord is willing and the creeks don’t rise, you will be able to buy, with money, and actually play inside of a year. Seriously. Would you like to know more?

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Coming in for a soft landing

Hey, friends! Well, I’m back from spa…I mean…Orlando. It was a whirlwind trip wherein I brained a lot, drank a lot of coffee, pretended to be a ten year old aboard the ISS, wore funny hats, played with Lego, drove a small Italian car at very high speeds on the 408 around Orlando, and made some pretty great contacts. There was more to it, of course. Would you like to know more? Of course you would!

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The Big Announcement and Other GenCon 2012 Ephemera

Let’s just cut straight to the point, shall we? GenCon 2012 was a riot. It was also very, very good for me. I’ll admit, before the show I was kind of reticent about going. You see, and I’m not gonna lie to you kids, I’ve been feeling both burned out and discouraged these past few months. GenCon fixed that problem for me, and quite handily. So, what all did I do at GenCon? What games did I play? Did I run anything? What’s the big announcement? Well, I’m glad you asked!

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I Want to Play This Game and Never Stop

This eagle is stunned by all the awesome

Like them or not, Muse has an awesome song called Knights of Cydonia, with an equally awesome video that you need to go watch right now. Go. Okay, back with us? Awesome, right? Yes, I know this is old news, just humor me here. I first got hip to this song through Guitar Hero III, and then to this hysterically campy video through some casual YouTube surfing. I watched, mouth agape, and in the silence I looked around at Jacko and Munin and Riff and Shade and everybody else and said, “We need to play this game, right now!” I do that a lot. I’ll see some crazy thing like the Knights of Cydonia video or get really into a book (or series) and decide that I need to do some role-playing in that setting. So, let’s talk about great and/or hilarious settings we want to play in, shall we?
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Something New!

Hey look! My latest book, Edge of the Abyss is now on sale. Get your ass to your FLGS or to your favorite online retailer, and lay your money down for this newest addition to the Rogue Trader library. It’s chock-a-block with setting info, NPCs, planets, crazy people, and it has more hooks than a fishing trawler.

Still Not Dead

It’s true, I’m still not Dead. I’ve been quiet lately thanks to dadding, a sort of creative malaise, and plain writerly laziness. I recently finished up another big ass project for FFG, and now I’m casting about for other paying projects. Right now, though, I’m starting pre-production on my Cold War super hero/super spy setting AEGIS vs. SPIDER. I’m looking to put together maybe a fifty page PDF covering the setting including the main agencies (AEGIS and SPIDER) and other affiliated agencies, important NPCs, player and GM guidance, and a bunch of other stuff that I think you’ll think is neat. We’ll see though. The inestimable Jason Richards has offered to help me with layout, since he’s got some experience and I know dick about layout/design. We’ll see how it goes. Right now I need to digest a bunch of OSS/CIA and Imperial Russian/Soviet intelligence history and set to work. Updates may be sporadic. No more sporadic than they’ve been, though.

Gilding the Lily

You have got to be shitting me…

So, I’ve got this thing where I see wonder in relatively ordinary things. When you look around, you can find a lot to be amazed at in your surroundings. Little things like the fact that this computer I’m working on has more computing power than was used to put a man on the moon or build this beautiful thing, and big things like, well, the fact that we put a man on the goddamn moon. I’ve said it before, but if you look at something hard enough you can always find something about it that’s fascinating. I find more beauty in the gaunt symmetry of a turbofan engine, and more terror in the simple thoughtless, workaday evils that we perpetrate on one another, than in a million horror movies or sci-fi epics. What drives me crazy is the tendency some writers and game designers have of embellishing something that is already perfectly awesome and, well, ruining it frankly.
You know what’s awesome? Dinosaurs. I can’t even begin to put words to how much I love dinosaurs. Seriously. It’s like I’m eight years old whenever the subject of dinosaurs come up. Carnivore or Herbivore? Apatosaurus or Brontosaurus? Allosaurus or Tyrannosaurus Rex? Doesn’t matter. I have my favorites sure, but in my eyes a dinosaur is a dinosaur and all are welcome in my house. So it goes without saying that I fucking love dinosaurs in my games and in my fiction. Especially in my games. I’ve mentioned it a few times here, but Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is my favorite game I’ve never played. It’s got that mash-up thing going for it that I like so much, dinosaurs in a quasi-modern setting, and just look at that cover! It’s got dinosaurs right there in the name! 
GDW, and the original creators of the Xenozoic Tales comics, got it right. They popped the dinosaurs into their setting as is, and let their intrinsic awesomeness do the heavy lifting. They’re big, violent animals with short tempers who can take thirty or forty rounds from a .50 cal and keep coming. Only the brave or stupid will tangle with the big carnivores. You know why? Think about it, can you imagine the kind of carnage a hunting pair of Allosauri could wreak, say, among infantrymen mounted in light vehicles? How about a pack of small raptors run rampant in a town? See, dinosaurs don’t need embellishing. Even in their grade-school banality they’re fearsome, implacable, and nearly un-killable eating machines. They’re totally awesome as they are.
I’m sure you can see where this is going. Back in the day when I still played Rifts, I was stoked for Dinosaur Swamp, a world book written by my good friend Todd Yoho. Written by a Southern paleonerd, DS was chockablock with awesome hooks, dense Mid-Atlantic jungles, haunted playgrounds, sunken cities, and lost spaceports. Oh, and dinosaurs. Tons of dinosaurs. See, dinosaurs had been members of the Rifts charismatic megafauna club since day one, along with allusions to Dinosaur Swamp. There was always a chance if you were traipsing around the eastern seaboard or out west that you’d run into some hard-charging thunder lizard from Earth’s past. And it was awesome. 
Sadly, thanks to Rifts over reliance on the badly designed and poorly implemented MDC mechanic, every living thing (save humans) had to be a MD creature so that they could pose a threat to the characters, including dinosaurs. I didn’t care at all seeing as how it gave me the opportunity to do things like stampede a panicked herd of Stegosauri through my players’ encampment one night, wrecking their shit and then leaving them to deal with the hungry raptor pack that was chasing the herbivores. So when Dinosaur Swamp dropped, giving me even more big-assed lizards with which to hassle my characters, I was stoked. Until, that is, until I saw the magic.
Oh yeah, didn’t I mention? Dinosaurs in Rifts can use magic! This is, in technical terms used by Rifts designers, ZOMFG AWESOME! Yes. In dinosaur swamp our ancient friends could do shit like turn invisible and throw fireballs or breathe cones of ice. Like dragons. Which were already in the IP. Right. See, like I said earlier, dinosaurs don’t need embellishment. They can already do things like have mouthfuls of foot-long, razor sharp teeth, and weigh sixty tons, and have two brains, and generally be dangerous and beautiful and awesome right out of the box. They don’t need to spit fire or turn invisible. Being alone in a dark forest being stalked by a smartish, stealthy, very fast carnivore the size of a horse while you’re armed with a rifle that has more of a chance of pissing the thing off than killing it is already terrifying. Giving it the ability to use magic on top of that doesn’t make it better, it makes it a farce. The whole Palladium “Just add magic and TA-DA instant awesome” design philosophy does more harm than good here. It doesn’t make the dinosaur any more dangerous or frightening, it makes it a joke. A clown in a dinosaur suit with a pocketful of squibs and sparklers. 
This is what I mean by gilding the lily. A lily by itself is breathtakingly beautiful. Dipping it in gold kills it, cheapens it, makes it a gaudy parody of itself. Magic using dinosaurs are in the same boat. It’s a trap that writers and game designers fall into easily as imaginations run rampant and we all sit there and ask, “What if?” Don’t do it. Don’t gild the lily, you’ll just ruin it. I’ve been accused more than once of “not getting it” or “limiting my imagination.” You know what? If thinking something is beautiful despite its lack of gewgaws and trinkets and magic bullshit is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

Two Great Tastes that Taste Great Together

What the hell is this? Awesome, that’s what.
So, today’s post isn’t going to be very long or insightful, ’cause I’ve got Rogues and Traders to write about. I’ve got something on my mind though, and that’s the time-honored tradition of the mash-up.

I love a good mash-up. I love the juxtaposition of disparate settings or technologies or ideas to make something new. That’s why I made AEGIS vs. SPIDER. It’s why I like the idea of robbing a train with a goddamned spaceship and why I will always love Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. I mean, it’s Cadillacs! And Dinosaurs! That’s an awesome story that writes itself. A well done mash-up, like Firefly, can make you look at some careworn ideas, say space opera and western serials, in a new light. Getting your flavors mixed, as it were, stretches the creative muscles and presents previously unknown questions and answers to game masters and writers alike. So tell me, Gentle Readers, what are your favorite mash-ups? What do you like in a good one, and which ones do you think have failed miserably?

PS: I’ll probably expand on this at a later date, but right now, seriously, I’ve got deadlines to keep.