Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Night, Bruised Ribs, Gameblogging

-Read Dread yesterday, the horror RPG where you use Jenga blocks instead of dice. Looks good for a one-shot. Others have also commented on how you might use the Jenga mechanic for Cthulhu or other games.

What I'm wondering is: would it be worth it to build the system out so it has a little more crunch? Possibility: like build a skill system where if you're good at something it requires you to pull one block off the tower to do it, but if you're bad it requires like 5 pulls. Ability scores generated with a d6 and low is good...or do you just end up with characters that are detailed for no reason since at least one is going to die by the end of the night anyway?

(For the uninitiated, knocking over the tower means you die, so more pulls=more danger.)

-Has anyone ever made a setting based on 2112?

I lie awake, staring out at the bleakness of Megadon. City and sky become one, merging
Into a single plane, a vast sea of unbroken grey. The Twin Moons, just two pale orbs as
They trace their way across the steely sky.

If not, why not? Get on that shit. I would play a cleric of Syrinx.

Oh wait, looks like some Randroid kinda did...

-sigh- Yes, I know, without Ayn Rand we wouldn't have Rush. And without Andy Warhol we wouldn't have the Velvet Underground. But then the question is would I trade Rush away if we could have the economy back? I should probably move on before Alan Greenspan gets dragged into this and I really get angry. Isn't this blog supposed to be about D&D?

-Yesterday Mandy ran another game. We fought a thought eater which is an ethereal skeleton platypus. We ran away from it because it was immune to all of our weapons and spells and was trying to eat our brains. She cackled. Now she is in our room where strangers are paying her to masturbate and I am on the couch in the living room writing about it.

-Marvel's Fantastic Four Supplement has this, if you're having one of those too-lazy-to-generate-your-own-spaceport days...

-Looking at Mayfair's old DC Heroes supplements... Ladies and gentlemen, I now present the least useful diagram in the history of role-playing games, (click to enlarge into full hideousness):

And it's not small, either. It's like most of a page.

No I did not just whip that up in MacPaint in 8 seconds. This is actually in the game. Someone at Mayfair just whipped this up in MacPaint in 8 seconds.

Then they invoiced someone for it.

Then someone paid this person.

Question for any Mayfair employees who may be reading: how many of the people involved in this process were high, and on what? What is the drug that makes you crave boring diagrams? Dudes, avoid the (Elliot R) Brown Acid.*

Or was it a dare?

And does that make it any better?

I mean, it doesn't even have scale indicated, so assuming someone didn't know what a wand was, you'd still..oh fuck it, I have so many better things to do.

-That was so lame I have to find an unimaginably awesome picture just to balance it out...ok...

Why is the Juggernaut of Khorne standing on a stage painted to blend in with a Hawkwind lightshow? Because that was the most awesome of all possible places for it to be standing.

*Speaking of whom....I went over to Elliot R Brown's page and found's a spreadsheet the DC editors used to keep track of a Batman crossover, interesting maybe sort of...


  1. Notice how, on the lateral view, the line on the right doesn't even line up correctly with the curve that represents the "bottom" of the wand (which is, for some reason, at the top of the drawing).

    On a tangent, are there any truly cool rock pieces about D&D or role-playing?

  2. But the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx were the bad guys! The heroes are the guys who are wielding the guitars. Hmm - how to make a hero class that wields a guitar as a weapon - and isn't as annoying as a bard.

    Well, if someone figures that one out, not only can 2112 be made into an RPG, the album Kilroy Was Here would be a breeze.

    - Ark

  3. I'm hoping the wand pic was a joke, because if so, it's kind of funny.
    If it's serious, though, it's just sad.

  4. 2112 would make a great drop-in section for a larger post-apoc or dying-earth milieu. I remember considering it a couple times, but as far as I got was having an NPC priest of Syrinx show up from a botched summon one time. If I remember right, he had a lot in common with Kull's snake-men sorcerers. Somehow.. :)

  5. My experience of Dread was that the Jenga got in the way of the game. That is to say that Jenga is such a powerful game experience itself that it becomes the centerpiece to the detriment of the roleplaying (or, rather, story-generating, since a lot of these new games are more like glorified writers' workshop exercises than actual games or roleplaying experiences) aspect.

  6. I'm pretty sure I saw Geddy Lee on a bicycle near my uni. I'm not sure how that adds to the conversation.

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  8. @faoladh: And Monopoly is a glorified economics class? :)

    I think Rush would fit fine in a Heavy Metal-esque post-apocalyptic romp. Tarna and all that. Barbarians of the Aftermath maybe?

    &The platypus & masturbation paragraph is the most surreal thing I've read all week and I've been reading a lot of weird stuff.

  9. This is the best post. It is the best.

    Sidenote: Zombie Psyduck is so happy to be on acid right now.

  10. I miss GW's rock and roll era. It's all so boring nowadays. Even John Blanche has had his hair cut.

  11. Now I'm going to run MERP with ent characters. Alignments are maple and oak.

    Can you ride all over Megadon in your brilliant red Barchetta from a better vanished time?

  12. I used to listen to 2112 over and over growing up while painting minis. To the point where nowadays when Geddy screams: "My life blood.. spills ooooooooover....." that I can actually smell Testors Enamels.

    I find it fascinating how non sight sense memories trigger each other.

  13. @Zak S:
    Bruised Ribs:
    Ouch. Swift recovery!

    Just another gimmicky mechanic employed on the part of designers who want to be recognized for their 'cleverness', imo. Faoladh's pretty much got the right of it, I'd say. Jenga in CoC, that'd be pretty good for a laugh with my group! But then again, a friend did tell me that his GM had him play Guitar Hero to mimic some type of challenge in Shadowrun 4th(which kinda pissed him off.... :-)), so maybe this is supposed to be 'immersive' for some people? Of course, in the past there's been cards of various sorts, including Tarot, custom dice, and even spinners as mechanics(poorly, ime), so this isn't exactly new! Next could be Tic Tac Throw or Jarts! ;-)

    Mandy's Game:
    Coolness! Sounds awesome. Looking forward to further posts!

    'Why is the Juggernaut of Khorne standing on a stage painted to blend in with a Hawkwind lightshow?:'
    He's now the Ayatollah of Rock 'N' Rolla?

    Ha! Batman as Urban Myth again! Even though he's been SEEN on camera, at the JLE/JLI gatherings, on the streets, etc... This obsession on the Bat Editors during the 90's was inexplicable. Of course, now he's Inc, so...(Waits for a deboot...) Note the reference to Year One. Still in the shadow of Miller's stripmining of the Golden Age. Sad. BITD(Pre-Crisis), the Editors(Of course they didn't need extensive notes either, they had E. Nelson Bridwell!) didn't need these shenanigans. Wow. Sometimes I really do miss the 80's!

  14. If your adventuring party includes Geddy Lee, Alan Greenspan, the Juggernaut of Kohrne, and a masturbating skeletal platypus on're probably playing Rifts.

  15. I have never heard that Jenga thing, but I am intrigued.

  16. Maybe it's just because I've been reviewing the early Rush albums for my blog, but I think there's a lot of gaming material to mine in the early proggish Rush songs. Granted , I agree with migellito with using it as a drop-in scenario, but for me it's a stand-by world for a sandbox Traveller campaign (TL 6-7, theocratic dictatorship, Red zone). For an extended campaign, you might be better off using 'Hemispheres', perhaps with mixing in 'By-Tor and the Snow Dog' for good measure.

  17. By-Tor and The Tobes of Hades - An extraplanar adventure for 4-6 characters of levels 10 through 14.

  18. @Faoladh and Velaran, I think you're missing the whole point of Dread. The Jenga game is the centerpiece of the whole game for a good reason: it generates its own special kind of tension. With every successful action generated by a successful pull, the tower becomes more and more unstable. When there's a tense roll in D&D or any other dice-based system, it's tense for a second and then it's over. But if you need to make two draws on an already teetering Jenga tower in order to hotwire the car that you need to escape from your cannibal captors, you'd better believe that it's going to be unbelievably tense for the entire duration of those draws.

  19. @Jamie Albrecht:
    Jenga(rather than the emotional resonance of the setting) is the centerpiece of the game? That basically confirms my beliefs that this was some one's kewl idea interpolated into an RPG. I'm not a fan of that approach, ymmv.(And yes, I've played Jenga....) And I still say something like lawn bowling or Tic-Tac-Throw could be the gimmick for a similar game. Will the throw go askew, will the pin topple? Think of the tension! :-)

  20. @velaran

    your comments seem pointlessly glib and dismissive, and based on the way the words sound strung together rather than imagining the actual experience. You can say you're not interested for your group, but saying this is just newness-for-newness sake begging for attention feels like you're not honestly considering the fact that different physical activities actual do different things to your attention.

    yes, i can see how the jenga tower would be the centerpiece of the game. it represents the level of tension in the game before someone dies. horror movies use similar devices all the time. Cthulhu uses your SAN score.

    Nobody complains about how dice are non-immersive.

  21. @Zak S:
    'your comments seem pointlessly glib and dismissive, and based on the way the words sound strung together rather than imagining the actual experience.':
    I think they are coming off that way, regardless of intention. And I actually do think you could try some other board games as mechanical placeholders!(Except for Spinners, I can't stand 'em.) My earnest apologies for sounding like I'm calling somebody out on BadWrongFun. To both you and Jamie Albrecht.

    'newness-for-newness sake begging for attention':
    I see it a lot, so I'm jaded. I don't think it's a bad idea, though, just not particularly involving from my standpoint.

    'You can say you're not interested for your group':
    Actually, no I can't!(We're pretty democratic.) They might be interested. That's how we ended up playing WW's Street Fighter!

    'Cthulhu uses your SAN score'
    I ditched this one pretty quick, myself. I didn't think it worked too well, imo. I'm no mechanics purist. Can't use RAW in anything I've bought so far.

    'Nobody complains about how dice are non-immersive.':
    Not around here. But they do! :-)


  22. I've been using the Jenga tower in my homebrew D&D games as a way to influence the world, usually to mitigate damage to PCs. Any roll can be influenced using the Jenga tower, though combat actions always cost more. I used to assign the # of pulls on a case by case basis, then switched to using the number of draws using a Three Dragon Ante deck. I'm still toying around with the right amount of dependence on the tower, and how many pulls are fair. I was exposed to this mechanic at a con game which used, I believe, Dread (though not sure). I thought this would be a nice way to have another step before PCs bit it as I was running with a bunch of 3.5 players who weren't used to old school lethality. I've been doing it for little over a year, and it's been a fun addition to the game.

  23. I've masturbated to a number of critters in the Monster Manual. Thought Eater? Never!

  24. Full disclosure: I know some of the guys who wrote Dread. One of them was a groomsman at my wedding. I may be biased.

    I guess if you see Dread as a gimmicky game, an anecdotal story won't change your mind, but here goes. I've played Dread at a convention, and I didn't see the Jenga tower as a gimmick. If anything, think of it as fate, or a Sword of Damocles: you know that it's only a matter of time before something bad happens, and you hope that you won't be the one it happens to. When the stack gets high and unstable, the tension around my table was palpable. People scooted their chairs back several feet from the table so as to avoid even bumping the table to tip the stack over. It DOES sound a bit gimmicky when I write about it, but during play it was one of the more intense gaming experiences I've had.

  25. 'an anecdotal story won't change your mind':
    Anecdotes are very welcome. I enjoy hearing reminiscences of games. And I'd like to think I'm not close minded. ;-)

    'I may be biased.':
    Or it's just that fun to you.

    I was using it in the non-bad sense! :-) i.e. "an ingenious or novel mechanical device". And I don't find gimmicks objectionable(though y tone through the screen may have seemed a bit supercilious; a few of my favorite, in the colloquial sense:

    Bring the arcade action home! You decide what Chun-Li, Ryu, Blanka and Cammy will do in, or OUT, of the ring(Or the Street, as it were.) Don't you want to play without quarters?

    Start your own paranormal pest control comapany and sweep the streets of your franchise town clean of ghosts 'n' ghoulies! Are you a Scientist, man?

    Face down alien, inscrutable, relentless beings with only your courage, and fragile sanity to hand.(Psychic Hitpoints!) Shoot Cthulu in the face, and die alone in the gutter, penniless, and agoraphobic.

    Fight dragons, wizards, politically radical hobbits, jabberwocks, and balrogs in a world full of magic and mayhem. Buckets of dice not included!

    Remember star wars? Now you can be Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie! Fight the Empire! Save the Rebellion! Or make new Legends. Buckets of Dice not included! :-)

    Gimmick in the sense first mentioned; TSR's ACT charts, which I loved in Conan, Marvel Superheroes, Star Frontiers(with Zebulon's Frontier Guide!), Top Secret S. I., Gamma World 3rd Edition(Talk about changing gimmicks; an ACT, then it's a joke game? >_< whut.). The flowcharts in FGU products didn't faze me none, either.Aftermath has a rule for EVERYTHING! Awesome!) Jenga's no big deal(More expensive than dice, though.). I just don't see why it would particularly be more nerve wracking, especially with really good players!(I have a friend who never seems to lose at this!:-)) But, 2 things stand out: the element of player skill, and the inability of anyone to calculate percentage chance of success.

    'If anything, think of it as fate, or a Sword of Damocles: you know that it's only a matter of time before something bad happens, and you hope that you won't be the one it happens to. When the stack gets high and unstable, the tension around my table was palpable. People scooted their chairs back several feet from the table so as to avoid even bumping the table to tip the stack over.':
    This all goes for dice, too, and in slightly different ways, the drawing of cards.(One of my acquaintances once had to build a house of cards for a skill challenge...) I've especially noticed anxiety over rolls in new player, children in particular really get into it.(Does that count? Roll Over! NO!!!, It's not cocked! :-) High Number High Number! Fun times...) Several different ways to have fun, the point of the exercise, imo.

    'It DOES sound a bit gimmicky when I write about it, but during play it was one of the more intense gaming experiences I've had.':
    I don't think it sounds 'gimmicky'(in the negative sense) from your recap, honestly. Thanx for sharing! I'll play the game if I get a chance. I'm a sucker for horror games: CoC, Whispering Vault, Chill, GURPS Horror, Dark Conspiracy, Sine Requie Anno XIII, Unhallowed Metropolis, Noctum, Dead Reign, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Beyond the Supernatural, Armaggeddon, etc.....(I convert everything to a different system though, I'm weird like that!)

    Here's where I get gimmicky, in several ways:
    I'm running D&D games using the Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Boardgame rules, including those 'specialty' dice! It's very fun. The people playing wanted to play some 3rd Edition era 'D&D' without complicated rules, and so... Gimmick! I'm loving it.