Monday, December 24, 2007

Sad News About Eric Wujcik


This website is dedicated to Erick Wujcik, game designer, writer, artist, originator of ideas, thinker and kind soul. Friend to countless people and an inspiration to thousands upon thousands more.

He is one of my dearest friends, so it is with a heavy heart that I report Erick Wujcik, age 56, is dying of cancer.
The site makes it sound like Erick's situation is much more dire than that of Alexander Cherry, who last I heard (last week) was still fighting hard, in considerable danger but by no means beyond hope.

Erick made a big difference in my gaming life, starting with the fun Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the wonderfully deranged Ninjas & Superspies, and then of course there was this little article, in Shadis or something like that, where he talked about the nutty idea of "diceless gaming"...

He will be missed.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The King of Life never burdens you with more depleted uranium than you can carry.

Lore "Slumbering 'Brunching Shuttlecocks' Lungfish" Sjøberg mentioned some off-the-wall RPG ideas in his blog, and commenters including myself pointed him at many and various indie RPGs. He just grabbed Dogs in the Vineyard.

Your initiatory conflict: hold a depleted uranium beholder statue. The stakes: are you crushed by the 11-hit-die aberration?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

[The Emperor's Heart] Love and Death in the Imperial City

A few weeks ago I ran a play-test of Chris Chinn's new game, The Emperor's Heart. The report of the play-test can be read here. It was pretty cool game, and I look forward to trying it out again soon.

Friday, September 07, 2007

You Scratch And Scratch And Then You're a Cyborg

OK, the fact that everyone involved in this story is plumb stark raving nuts is sad, but man, this is an awesome article.

Remember the phantom disease people were complaining of a year or two ago, Morgellons, which dermatologists insist is really "delusional parasitosis"?

This dude has it figured out. It's nanotech.

The preliminary findings were disturbing. Morgellons appears to be a communicable nanotechnology invasion of human tissue in the form of self-assembling, self-replicating nanotubes, nanowires, and nanoarrays with sensors.

Other nanoconfigurations associated with Morgellons disease carry genetically-altered and spliced DNA or RNA. The nanomachines which precipitate Morgellons thrive in alkaline ph conditions and use the body's bio-electric energy and other (unidentified) elements for power. There is evidence that certain of the tiny machines possess their own internal batteries as well. The Morgellons nanomachines are configured to receive specific tuned microwave, EMF and ELF signals and radio data.

At this point, why this is happening is anyone's guess. We do know that Morgellons is commonly found in all body fluids, orifices and often even hair follicles, and are believed to routinely achieve total body systemic penetration.

If these findings are correct, and Morgellons is nanotechnology capable of taking over biological systems, the question remains whether or not these nanomachines were the result of an accident, or a deliberate release with the intention of infecting people for some unknown purpose.

It is almost as if Morgellons is in the process of reconstructing people into an entirely different life form; a cyborg-like creature, both biological and machine. As well, with the reports that the Morgellons nanomachines are capable of receiving radio signals, this could indicate that each infected person/system would be able to communicate with other Morgellon sufferers, creating the potential that each person would be like a single brain-cell of a larger, artificial intelligence.
That is AWESOME.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Actual Play: InSpectres West Michigan

Posted not because InSpectres is, like, in need of feedback or playtesting or anything, but because I get to play little enough that just about anything is worth an Active Play post.

Joe ran InSpectres on RPG Day in our little NotGenCon weekend. It was a pretty simple, standard game, but we had fun.

We made characters one by one, and ended up with a bookish PhD candidate/dropout desperately in search of a way to make money off his 9 years spent researching Akkadian Arcana or whatever, an Emasculated House-Husband whose daughter Addison just went to school and now he doesn't know what to do with himself, a Grease Monkey who contributed a big-ass van with the InSpectres logo airbrushed on the side, a dot-com survivor Techie, and an ex-world-famous BMX stunt biker (who finagled us the official InSpectres Lamborghini that the bookworm uses to drive to the library for research).

We decided to be local, and became the first InSpectres franchise in West Michigan. Set up our offices in the former offices of CyberNet Inc, which we imagined were huge but deserted and bereft of every possible item of value.

The initial interview was with the local media. I -- the bookish academic -- had volunteered to be the CEO of our franchise, so I got to put on my smarmy public relations face and look good for the media. Everybody got their place in the spotlight, especially the ex-stunt-biker, Pietro, who the female interviewer recognized and, upon recognizing him, focused on to the exclusion of all others. He's so dreamy!

Then it was time to meet the client. A stereotypical Italian businessman came calling; apparently he was in the process of opening a new Italian restaurant downtown named Guido di Beppo's, and, though it was nearly complete, suddenly his contractors had become spooked and were refusing to enter the place. Though details were vague it was a clear case of paranormal infestation and a job for InSpectres West Michigan! He gave us the key to the restaurant and we were on our way.

My bookish fellow went to the library to research the history of the place, while the others headed down to case the joint (the Techie, Mac, was carrying a big semi-functional Spectre Detector he'd jury-rigged himself, which had a bad habit of causing nearby electronic equipment to sputter and die...)

I took the first Confessional: "It seemed a harmless idea at the time for me to separate from the group, but I'd forgotten how twitchy Ben [the greasemonkey] could get when he's, well, unsupervised..."

It all began when Ben drilled a big ol' hole in the wall to see if the walls were sound, peeked in, and saw an eyeball staring back at him. He screamed like a man who's gone wading in Lake Michigan and has just been touched by the bloated corpse of a sailor who died on the Edmund Fitzgerald, and floated down through the Soo Locks to collect souls.

I won't go on through all the manifestations (demonic Pope Head anyone?) but it cost the party a lot of Stress Dice and melted the biker's comped iPhone. They had to drill through a spectral door which, when compromised, dissolved into a huge splatter of blood which drenched poor twitchy Ben. The Emasculated House-Husband, Gordon, was the only one relatively unfazed by it all, because as he said, he'd changed diapers containing scarier stuff than anything he'd seen in the restaurant.

Meanwhile my bookworm, Michael, had found out that the property had once been an abbatoir, but it had been forcibly shut down in about 1912. Checking the newspapers from the period, he found that front-page stories from that year, starting at the time the restaurant was shut down, had been cut out of the newspapers in the library's archives. There were big holes where some big story had been, that everybody wanted to forget about...

Long story short, we did get the name of the guy who owned the abattoir then, he was still alive in a nursing home in St. Joseph, MI, way on the other side of the state. We headed over there and there he was, an evil, evil old man, kept alive at the age of 100+ by some force of devilish hatred. We confronted him about what had happened at the abattoir back then and of course it came out that he had a Sweeney Todd operation going on there that spiralled out of control, and it ended up with most of the population of the city having eaten human flesh, hence the ripping-out of the newspapers -- everyone wanted it forgotten.

There was a big supernatural confrontation, where Ben's player kindly repaid my "twitchy" by giving my character "balls of steel" -- the old man's spectral cleaver-wielders waged war against us but we prevailed through the zaptastic power of the Techie's weaponry. The old man was banished to his final reward or something (he disappeared) and we ended up retrieving the one Evil Cleaver which was the source of his power and exorcizing it with a ritual that Bookworm Boy had handily cooked up.

Guido di Beppo's was saved, we were treated to a feast in the Pope Room (we all sat scrunched up on one side of the table with the Pope Head turned in the other direction) and we got our ten Franchise Dice, plus one from a Confessional I think... which barely replaced what we'd spent and taken in Stress Dice. A couple of us, I think Gordon and maybe Pietro? voluntarily kept the Stress rather than tax the Franchise too bad, which is an interesting development.

Overall, a really good little game, worked well with a fairly large group, we got some good use out of the Confessional (though I kind of hogged it), and the mechanics did their job well. I would really like to follow these characters up in another game, but getting everybody together again is kind of an iffy proposition. Might be able to swing a game with a small subgroup of the characters, and since I have a copy of InSpectres myself, maybe we can make it happen...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maxim: Gen Con! Sex! Is funny! Ha ha!

Nerd Sex Video Funny - Maxim Online Video Channel:

Popping up on the social bookmarking sites is this "Nerd Sex" video thing, which is supposed to be a funny video from a Maxim magazine interviewer about nerds and sex at GenCon.

I'm willing to laugh at myself and other gamers, and I wondered what the hell they could have found to say about sex and GenCon, so I checked it out, but there's really nothing to see. The interviewer tries to get various gencon attendees of various degrees of dorkiness to talk about getting laid at GenCon, and most of them look at him like he's an idiot, and when prodded, joke about it.

Plus there's a woman who was slipped a quasi-romantic come-on note by some guy she'd gamed with.

I was really ready to laugh at this if there was comedy, but I was disappointed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Come Not Near To Me, For I Be Indier Than Thou

Joe pointed me to a very hot thread on Story Games where the initial poster seems to think that a lot of "indie" game designers and fans sound too much like MC Frontalot...

soundly situated in obscurityland
famous in inverse proportion to how cool I am
and should I ever garner triple-digit fans
you can tell me then there's someone I ain't indier than...

and if you're slow on the uptake, I'll lay it out
hipsterism is a religion to which you gotta be devout
must be seen as in between unpopular and hated
or else get excommunicated
I'm not a regular Story Games poster so I'm going to indulge myself by spouting off here instead. The whole discussion is, if you want a diverting free-for-all, entertaining, and if you don't, tedious.

My favorite replies were from Matt Snyder, Tony Lower-Basch, Judd Karlman, and Christopher Kubiasik. I liked what Andy K and some others had to say, but I thought they made the mistake of wasting too much time on the issue.

I guess bottom line the problem is the many meanings and connotations of the term "indie." It can mean...

  1. Creator-owned and controlled
  2. Non-traditionally distributed
  3. Created with a consciousness of GNS Theory
  4. Consciously Narrativist
  5. Created by people who post on the Forge
  6. Sold at the Forge Booth at GenCon
  7. Non-broken with respect to creative agendas
  8. Cool and hip
  9. Part of a special community of creative rebels
  10. Having a delicious Creme Filling
One could try to define it better, but one can't force others at gunpoint to use one's favorite definition. As long as value judgments and identity issues are wrapped up in a term like that people are going to get bent out of shape over it. So it goes.

UPDATE: the thread continues apace, and with each post I read of it, I lose a few more brain cells. With a few exceptions, the authors of which don't need me to tell them they're exceptions.

I think this kind of thread is what forced Ron and Clinton to reorganize the Forge to try to minimize such wankery, the alternative being gnawing their own legs off.

UPDATE UPDATE: I almost posted the following to the thread, but stopped myself:

I'm wondering if Ron or others ever regret his choice of the domain name "" -- cause I think if he'd gone for something uglier like "" such threads wouldn't exist.

As far as I'm concerned, the only meaning of "indie" which is relevant to the "indie rpgs" movement which stems from the Forge is "creator-owned," because that's what Ron meant by it, and Ron is the one who by his choice of domain names attached the word "indie" to the community.

If that's not what the word "indie" means to you, then fuck the word "indie." Don't use it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

[Breaking the Ice] Xavier and Tricia: Funky Monkey and El Bandito!

A few weeks ago, Ed came over and we decided to fire up Breaking the Ice. My memories of the particulars may be be a bit hazy. I have the word webs and the character sheets, so maybe that'll help.

I started out with brown as my color, and had such interesting connecting words as chocolate, dirt, monkey, guitar and furniture. I should point at that our switch was that my character was a programmer, and Ed's was an office drone. Last time I played the gal, so this time, it was his turn. We set the game in Chicago, as per regulation.

I ended up with Xavier, who was a CAD furniture designer by day, guitar player in a funk band by night. He was honest, had a bit of a sweet tooth, liked to hike, and had a tattoo of a monkey. He also had an over zealous, stalker-ish fan. As a note, Ed and I had just watched a mini-marathon of "Flight of the Conchords" that I had TiVo-ed, and had Mel on the mind. If you know the show, you will nod and smile, if not, sorry.

Ed chose turquoise and ended up with stuff like ocean, jewelry, shiny, southwest, and tex-mex. His character, Tricia, was introspective, a fan of horror movies, made jewelry, liked flying kites, and worked for a restaurant chain, El Bandito! Tricia's conflict was that her office couldn't do without her. She basically, over the years, had been given more an more responsibility, but without promotion or higher pay. We had a lot of fun filling in information about the fictitious El Bandito! coming up with a mascot, commercials, and jingles.

Ed came up with the idea that one of her coworkers was the drummer in Xavier's band, and that they had met after a gig, and kinda hit it off. They agreed to meet at a park and she said she liked kites. If Xavier brought the kites, she'd bring lunch. So I described how Xavier had gone to a hobby store and bought a half dozen kites, from the cheap dowel rod ones, to slick, fighting kites. They ended up putting together the cheap ones, having fun until... crap, I can't remember the particulars, but Xavier ended up getting really pissed and just letting off a long stream of obscenities, just as a friend of Tricia's happened by, with her young child. Oops. I'm pretty sure that as some point Tricia got a call from work, as it was a very common theme throughout the game, her never getting a moment of rest. I remember them having lunch at a band shell, and he playing her some songs on his uke that he'd brought along. We ended the date with a few points of attraction, no compatibilities, and a few new traits: "Curses like a sailor" for Xavier, and "Friends hate Xavier" for Tricia.

The second date was kinda cool. Ed suggested that the date take place over a series of IM sessions. I came up with the idea that his band was on a long weekend tour out of town, playing in some clubs in Michigan. We had wonky internet connections, her getting work calls, him beginning to have doubts about being in the band. It was an interesting way to have a date, and I wish I could remember more about it. I know that they finally got some compatibilities: day job conflict, and love of old Motown songs. I seem to remember he wrote her a song, recorded it on his laptop, and sent it to her. Her conflict even dragged in the drummer/coworker who had to go to a Grand Rapids El Bandito! and help them get their computers working.

The last date was a night on the town. Xavier told Tricia that he'd quit the band. It wasn't going in the direction he wanted, and it was just a hobby for him anyway. After dinner, they were walking along Lake Michigan, when the "fan" showed up, upset that he had quit the band. Tricia stepped up and talked to the girl, and told her that the drummer/coworker kinda liked her. That seemed to placate her. Then Xavier and Tricia walked and talked about her job, with Xavier giving her some advice, telling her not to let her bosses take her for granted, etc. She got a frantic call from the office and told them she was busy and to call the bosses. Needless to say, the next call was from the bosses, and she put the smack down on them. She had demands, and they gave into every one. Starting that Monday, she'd be getting paid more, have the title of district manager, and have assistants. We ended the date with them going back to Xavier's place, and dancing to a song by Marvin Gaye.

In that last date, they scooped up three compatibilities: comfortable asking for help, night walks in the city, and dancing. I know at some point he showed her the monkey tattoo. The ended up with five attraction and five compatibilities. We decided that they'd stay together. For the life of me, and cannot remember when they fell in love with each other. I really need to take notes on these things! I think I decided that Xavier fell in love with Tricia when she stood up to her boss, showing her strength and determination. Ed, maybe you remember how it was for Tricia.

We had a little epilogue of the two of them hiking in northern Wisconsin (earlier in the game he had told her about hiking with the dad), sitting down to have a picnic lunch and him playing a song for her on the uke...

One thing that was interesting was that I used pretty much every trait I had, and even added a few, but Ed ended up with a couple that Tricia never used, or even came up. The making jewelry and horror fan for instance. I guess that happens some times. Once again, a good game of Breaking the Ice. This game is pure gold.

Next up, another game of Shooting the Moon. We played it last year, using the Talislanta setting, which was very cool, but I would like to try it again, maybe with just a modern world backdrop.

GenCon 2007 Notes

It was an incredibly low-key GenCon for me, and that was fine with me. I didn't actually do all that much of anything, but it was a break from normal life, I got to meet some new people, learn new things about games, buy some stuff.

I didn't get to actually play any full length roleplaying games. I didn't sign up for any. I never happened to come by Games On Demand at a point where games were beginning rather than in full swing or ending, and the couple nights I dropped by Embassy Suites I got there too late to get into any of the games there.

I did play a full-on Engle Matrix Game (the Jack the Ripper beginner's game) with Greg and Pat, usually dragging FiL in as referee. It was fun, and I can foresee some future matrix games.

My take on Matrix Games: awesome for simulation, crap for RPGs. I have bubbling in my head the idea of doing simulations of things like presidential elections (including the upcoming one?...) with Matrix Games.

I demo'ed a lot of things: a horror game Ron Edwards was pimping hard called Dead of Night, Seth Ben-Ezra's crime game, Dirty Secrets, Emily Care Boss's alien contact game Sign In Stranger,Tony Lower-Basch's Capes, Tim C. Koppang's Hero's Banner, Atarashi Games' Panty Explosion, demoed by one of the creators, Matt Schlotte, Vincent Baker's Poison'd! and Matt Snyder's 44. I also got a nice Burning Wheel combat demo at the BW booth. Virtually all of these games had very good demos.

I didn't buy a ton of games, but I was pretty happy with what I did get. Two items I really wish I had picked up but didn't (I'll have to order 'em) are Capes and Poison'd!. One thing I got that I really wasn't expecting was Judd Karlman's Dictionary of Mu. It's a kick ass setting for Sorcerer & Sword.

I met Ken St. Andre again and bought a couple new Tunnels & Trolls adventures, and the old Circle of Ice Pocket Adventure.

I got to say hello and chat briefly with a number of Forgefolk, met John Harper in person for the first time, saw Clyde Roher but never got to buy him that root beer... saw Lxndr but every time I saw him he was very busy GMing one thing or other... But on Thursday night I did catch Paul in the Embassy Suites and got to talk with him for a while; catch up on where he's at and get the skinny on the state of the indie world from his point of view. That was a lot of fun.

Oh, I almost forgot. My prize purchase was from the auction store: a copy of the original, three-book Arduin Grimoire ruleset: The Arduin Grimoire, Welcome to Skull Tower, and The Runes of Doom.

And I challenge anyone to come up with a cooler trio of titles for fantasy game books, ever.

So it was a good con. Incredibly low-key for me, but good.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Steve Jackson Revealed the Truth

Illuminati Card Came:

This is awesome. From the site:

In 1990, role-playing inventor, Steve Jackson, was planning his newest game, which he would ultimately call the "Illuminati -- New World Order" Game, or "INWO" for short. Jackson was creating a game that would hit very, very close to home, very close to the actual plan of the Illuminati to propel the world into the New World Order -- also known as the Kingdom of Antichrist. As we shall show you, Jackson issued playing cards, three of which foretold the events of 9/11, three of which correctly predict future events just ahead of us, and two that correctly foretell the last two events that the Bible foretells will occur during the final birth pangs that will produce Antichrist!

How did Steve Jackson know the Illuminati Plan so precisely? In fact, he knew the Plan so exactly he got a surprise visit from the Secret Service, who tried their best to shut him down and prevent him from publishing his game. As you will see from viewing excerpts of Jackson's account of the raid, they were very interested in his files entitled, "Illuminist BBS". Let us listen to Jackson's account of the raid [ ]

"On the morning of March 1, [1990] without warning, a force of armed Secret Service agents - accompanied by Austin police and at least one civilian 'expert' from the phone company - occupied the offices of Steve Jackson Games and began to search for computer equipment. The home ... the writer of GURPS Cyberpunk, was also raided. A large amount of equipment was seized, including four computers, two laser printers, some loose hard disks and a great deal of assorted hardware. One of the computers was the one running the Illuminati BBS."

The company, "S.J. Games" fought back in court and finally won, but nearly went under financially. The investigation zeroed in on "fraud" supposedly committed by the company regarding the hacker activity and the fact that the company promoted the hacker's newsletter, "Phrack". However, this is so flimsy that it makes no common sense; in fact, the affidavit made so little sense that a Judge threw the case out, awarding S.J. Games $50,000 plus $250,000 attorney's fees. That is a lot of taxpayer's money to pay for a stupid, nonsensical case!

But, it does highlight the fact that our Illuminist government, the Secret Service then run by President George Bush (Sr.) was worried about something that S.J. Games was up to, and cooked up a reason to invade their offices and confiscate their materials. We think, after you review these materials, you will believe, as do I, that the real reason the Secret Service invaded S.J. Games was to shut them down so they could not produce the game "Illuminati -- New World Order (INWO), for it revealed too much of the plan that was still 11 years in the future. You be the judge.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gencon Approaching

I'll be there the whole weekend. What to do?

Lurk about the Forge booth. See what's new, seeing as I'm totally out of touch with freakin' everything.

Lurk about the Spawn of Forge-shan booths, such as Play Collective and Das Äschkån-Frønt.

See if I can meet Ken St. Andre, elder trollgod of all gaming (to me anyway), again. And any other cool Flying Buffalos.

Head for McNiven's and eat haggis. When else am I going to get to eat haggis? Oh, I understand they have beer as well.

Buca di Beppo with my homeboys.

Maybe complete my Knights of the Dinner Table collection.

Collect the copy of Schock: Social Science Fiction I earned by reviewing it. Play it! With the Glyphmonkey himself if possible.

Find a pickup Burning Wheel game somewhere so I can see how it plays in real life with people who know the system.

Meet certain fine folk that I haven't seen in forever. I'm thinking particularly of Paul Czege, who I've been in some contact with despite not seeing him for a couple years, and Lxndr, who I last saw what, four years ago? At Gencon, for about 5 minutes?

I guess mostly just learn what I've been missing being out of touch for a long time. I've been busy at work and dealing with some personal stuff and so haven't been illustrating at all, so there's been no "I've been doing illos for this game, I can't wait to see it printed up for real!" like there was in past years.

So yeah. Day after tomorrow.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Kickass Review of Shock

Sweet review linked from Joshua's own blog. Gotta read it, if for no other reason, for the description of how the various characters' stories played out.

I gotta play this game. But as the reviewer points out, and as has been pointed out many times, the game text has big holes that need filling. Not Ron Edwards "Dude, read the text or Sorcerer again, it's all there, you just can't see it" kind of holes, but actual glaring "wait, there's no rule for this" holes.

Luckily another edition is impending which will fix this. I want that one.

The reviewer himself didn't suffer from this problem, he explains, because he was taught the game by existing players who knew how it went.

Overall the review is an excellent example of the presentation of a heavily narrativist indie game in such a way that an average mainstream gamer will understand exactly what it's all about.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

So I Married an RPG Designer

Egads! Accused murderer and Linux filesystem guru Hans Reiser used to be an RPG designer!

Says Wired --

I'm here because his defense lawyer thinks I will understand Reiser. The accused is a 43-year-old geek — he lives in his own world of computer code, videogames, and science fiction books. He spent his early twenties developing a role-playing game to compete with Dungeons & Dragons while writing a novel about aliens invading Earth. By age 30, he'd decided that his talents would be better applied to recrafting overlooked aspects of the Linux operating system.
I'm consumed with a desire to know more about that game.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Alexander 'Lxndr' 'Fastlane' Cherry treated for brain tumor -- contact info

I ran across this on a BBS where I first met Lxndr, author of Fastlane.

Thought I'd broadcast it, and encourage anyone reading this to take it further.

Some of you already know some of this, but I'm going to take it from the top.
I went to Spain this summer, through the study abroad program of Arizona State
University. I was supposed to be there from June 1 to July 22nd, gathering 8
credits in Spanish 201 and Spanish 202. Unfortunately, things did not go as
planned. The first weekend there (June 8th or so), I took a weekend
pleasure-trip to Morocco with 31 classmates (and 2 teachers) and, my final
night there, had a few convulsions (or seizures, or whatever you want to call
them). By June 13th I was arriving in LAX, to be remanded into the custody of
my family, who took me to the emergency room at UCI.

Turns out I have a mass in my head. Well, technically I have quite a few of
them (like a skull, a brain, etc.) but this particular mass isn't supposed to
be there. It's a tumor in my right frontal lobe, putting pressure on my brain.
Probably it's been there for years. As you might expect, this is bad. On
Monday, June 18th, I will be undergoing a 12 hour (or so) surgery to have it
taken out. After that comes recovery and rehabilitation, and who knows how
long that will take.

Well-wishes and other words can be sent to me at, or to my family
at Internet access at the hospital leaves much to be
desired - my being able to get online to send this myself is basically a fluke
that will probably not be repeated, so if you want your words to get to me
quicker, go the family route (but remember, my mother will read all those, so
try to be clean!). Otherwise I'll likely not be responding to anything until
after I'm released, as I won't be able to return to this terminal, but I will
be able to read the ones sent to the aol account pretty quickly.

Specifically, I am in the neurological wing of the UCI medical Center, in
Orange, California if you want to try to reach me (probably after Tuesday,
since most of Tuesday will likely be spent sedated). There's a phone by my bed
and everything.

PLEASE forward this to anyone you know might want to know about this, or post
it on message boards, blogs, bbs'es, or whatever. Without my home computer and
the address book therein, I am relying on my somewhat spotty memory, and the
email addresses I happen to know by heart. Though all the names are bcc'd, you
all should know I'm spreading this pretty broad, including even some former
classmates and professors. If this is something that really doesn't concern
you, just hit delete and move on - I'm sorry to have bothered you, but at this
point I'd rather spread the news too broad than wind up missing out on anyone,
especially considering my limited internet resources.

If you read down this far, thank you.

-Alexander Cherry

Monday, June 11, 2007


I find myself finally listening (at work) to some Theory from the Closet podcasts I downloaded long ago, and I hereby nominate Clyde Rhoer for the title of "The Terry Gross of Roleplaying."

Clyde, if I see you at GenCon I am going to buy you a beer.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Quote: Even in the 19th Century, Chicks Didn't Dig Gamers

Mr. Gardiner did not attempt to conceal these particulars from the Longbourn family. Jane heard them with horror. "A gamester!" she cried. "This is wholly unexpected. I had not an idea of it."
--Pride and Prejudice

Friday, May 25, 2007

Morrigan Press/Talislanta Status Update From Scott Agnew

Scott Agnew posted to the Talislanta list with his story:

Hey folks,
My extreme apologies for the lack of response from Morrigan these past few weeks but the stories of our death have been greatly exagerated.

The reason for the silence stems from the fact that one of the major Morrigan shareholders has opted to pull out of the company. Because of that, we have been asked to run silently while the lawyers work things out. NO, we have not gone out of business. In fact, we are doing everything possible to avoid that. All current orders have been shipped. To the fan who waited a long time for that Midnight Realm, my apologies. I was sent out within a few days of the order but mail from Canada can sometimes take unusually logn to cross the border. Subscription holders should now have everything upt to the Players Guide to Talislanta (5th) edition. We expect to ship The Menagerie out to subscription holders within the next two weeks.

The GM's Guide is all but done but because of the legal issue we're currently working out, it'll likely be late June before those start shipping. Also, because we are losing a major piece of capital in our shareholder loss, we now expect to only be able to get 2 or 3 more Tal books out over the coming year. Writers who have submitted manuscripts will be getting an email over the next month (once the lawyers give us the OK) regarding their works. If their work is not on the list that we hope to release in the next 12 months, we will be giving them the option to either leave it with us for later release (and payment) OR to have their work returned in which case they would be free to do with it as they please (jnclduing releasing it for free). Another option if the writer so chooses, is to self-publish under Morrigan. In other words, if a writer wants to actually do the work to layout their book, we will publish it for them under our label and return the lion's share of revenues to them. Anyone interested in this option should contact me ASAP.

Anyway, I've probably said more than our legal "team" would like me to but I just wanted to try and stop the rumor mill before it got out of control. So to recap, Morrigan has suffered a major setback but it is not the end of us. We're restructuring and rebuilding and will get the presses running again sooner than later.

Thanks for your patience folks,
Scott Agnew
Morrigan Press Inc.
I dunno, man. Sounds like tough times for Morrigan. I hope they pull through but this sounds a lot like putting the best face on a bad situation.

I can't say I'm impressed with the tactic of cutting off all communication with customers and artists/authors for weeks or months at a time, no matter what "restructuring" the company is going through.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Morrigan Press Rumor Update

[ UPDATE from Morrigan Press chief Scott Agnew available. ]

Another Talislanta list poster has dug up this notice, which lists Morrigan Press under the following heading:
Notice of decision to dissolve provincial corporations
Take notice that the Director under the Business Corporations Act has made a decision to dissolve the following corporations pursuant to paragraph 139(1)(c) of the Act, as the said corporations have been in default in sending to the Director fees, notices, and/or documents required by the Act. Please note that 60 days after the date of publication of this Notice in The Royal Gazette, the Director may dissolve the corporations.
The poster suggests that this is a standard governmental threat proceeding from delinquent paperwork rather than Scott Agnew absconding in the night. That would be nice, but it does leave open the question of why so many people are owed money or merchandise from Morrigan Press, with Scott incommunicado for a number of weeks now. Could just be a rough time for a guy running a side business. Or could it be... the curse of Talislanta?

Hm... also, it's been 84 days since that notice was published, giving 60 days' warning... I'm not actually a member of the talislanta-l list; I follow it via RSS, so I can't get to the file mentioned here. Maybe it clarifies things.


I got ahold of that status document. All it says is that the status was changed to "Intent To Dissolve" on Feb. 5 and remained so as recently as the document was requested. There were no filing fees for 2007 or annual returns reported for 2007 or 2006. Nothing more than that. So it does seem possible that Scott's just not in communication with the government any more than anybody else, rather than having taken any specific action to dissolve the company. Still. Man.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another Talislanta Publisher Disappears

[UPDATE from Morrigan Press head dude Scott Agnew available]

People on the Talislanta e-mail list have been making noises lately about the absence of Scott Agnew of Morrigan Press, current publishers of Talislanta. Nobody seems to be able to contact him. Including people who sent him money and are waiting for their copy of the brand new edition.

Tal groupies are understandably antsy, having been stung before, when David Bollack of Pharos Press had the rights to the title. A lot of money was sent to Pharos Press in pre-orders of the 10th anniversary edition of Talislanta (which had to have its name changed to the 4th Edition when the 10th anniversary of Tal's publication came and went), and no such edition of Talislanta ever emerged from Pharos Press, as time dragged on and on and on...

In the end some deft maneuvering by Tal's creator, Stephan-Michael Sechi, rescued Talislanta from Pharos. If my memory serves, and it may not, so don't quote me on this, Sechi quietly allowed Pharos's license to Talislanta to lapse, and then surprised them by refusing to renew it. During this time he had been working with the Shooting Iron web design company (John Harper & Jonathan Elliott) -- who hosted the Tal website -- to put together a new edition themselves. As soon as the rights reverted to Sechi, he and Shooting Iron published the new book, and there was much rejoicing.

John & Jon didn't want to be publishers forever, though, and so the rights were handed off to Morrigan Press, which has done a great job publishing & supporting the game, and which has just put together a really nice even *newer* edition of the rulebook, with a Burning-Wheel-esque character creation system.

I know this book exists; I have held one in my hands; Joe ordered it and received his copy already.

But it looks like Agnew's "low profile" was not without some unfortunate significance:

From the mailing list:

According to the province of New Brunswick, the status of Morrigan
Press changed on Feb 5th to "Intent to Dissolve"

See morriganStatus.GIF in the new area of the Files section for a copy
of the info I bought from the government for $3 or so.


I don't know what's gonna happen next but I don't think we're going to have web designers swoop in and save the day this time.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Anathema Sit

I don't know how I got to thinking about this.

Dogs and Firefly and Bishops

A while back Vincent Baker wrote a bit on about using the Dogs In the Vineyard rules to play a game set in the Firefly universe. To the question of "what happens to the Dogs' function of judging things as sinful?" he answered that the crew of the Firefly have to ultimately make the decision to participate in a (usually criminal) enterprise or not, and whose side to take if they do participate, and that is the same decision that the Dogs make when they make judgements of sin. "I will be a part of this. I countenance this" vs "I refuse to be a part of this. I do not countenance this" or even "I will stop this, at whatever cost."

I was just thinking, while washing dishes, that that equivalence between what seems to be an objective statement about morals or ethics, and an individual decision to take an individual stand with regard to someoene else's actions, shows up in other places.

I have a friend who was ordained a Bishop a year or three ago in an Independent Catholic line of succession, as part of her own personal endeavors to build a faith and perhaps a faith community that reflected religious truth as she understood it. Her own religious community, which was basically her and a few friends who agreed with her religiously to one degree or another, was an interweaving of Buddhist and Anglican rites and beliefs. She tried to make it fully orthodox Buddhist and fully orthodox Christian, in fact, with Mary understood as Kwan Yin. Anyway, the important bit is that some old friends of hers from way back, professors, husband and wife, who had been semi-parental figures to her in days gone by, refused to attend the ordination -- which was as important to my friend, as much a turning point in her life, as a marriage or a conversion and baptism! -- on the grounds that it was syncretistic and therefore *wrong*.

She was musing about this in her blog the other day and brought up just how hurtful and a betrayal that seemed to her, and wondered if she should still consider them friends.

Why? If they were simply informing her of what they saw as the moral and ethical facts of the matter, and behaving in what they saw as a morally correct manner, wasn't that something she should praise, while regretting their difference of opinion on the facts? Why did it hurt her personally, when it was about objective statements?

Because it was also an interpersonal act. It was "I do not countenance this. I will not be a part of this."

I wonder if that sort of thing is *ever* merely a statement of beliefs about impersonal metaphysical facts.

"This is sin."

Anathema Sit and Speech Acts

My mind moved back to the first centuries of Christianity, and the unfortunate business of condemning heretics and defining and enforcing dogmatic orthodoxy. The usual formula was: "If anyone says ___, let him be anathema." "Anathema sit" is the formula used in Latin, borrowing the Greek word to emphasize the connection with the Greek phrase "anathema esto" as found in Galatians 1:6-9:

"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed [anathema esto].
As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed [anathema esto]."

And also 1 Cor 16:22: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." (What "Maranatha" is doing there and what it means is a matter about which there has been some interesting misunderstandings over the centuries, which are only relevant here in that it was for a very long time believed that calling someone "Anathema Maranatha" was an especially terrible curse, and it was used as a formula of excommunication.)

Returning from digressions and searches of Greek New Testaments online -- the interesting thing about the Latin formula is that it's in the jussive subjunctive (Latin equivalent to the Greek 3rd person imperative "esto").

The jussive subjunctive is always used in direct "speech acts" or "performative utterances" which were written about by philosopher John L. Austin in his book "How To Do Things With Words." A "speech act" is an utterance which not only says something, but does something. Like agreeing, commanding, cursing, blessing, labeling, greeting, protesting, requesting. Speech acts do not merely state facts; when they do they state facts which come into existence only because of the speech act: "Do you take this man/woman as your lawful wedded wife/husband?" "I do." Performative utterances in English, in traditional, formal contexts, often contain the marker "hereby" -- "I hereby pronounce you man and wife."

That's why it's so interesting that the formula was "anathema *sit*/*esto*" and not "anathema *est*/*esti*". "Est" or "esti" would have been a statement of fact: "he is accursed." It would have had at least the superficial appearance of impersonality, of objective statement of facts in which the speaker has no direct involvement. "Oh, looks like it's going to rain today. Oh, and anyone who denies the Trinity is accursed."

"LET HIM BE ACCURSED!" That is an outright speech act, something the speaker is doing, something the speaker is involving himself with; an utterance which establishes the facts, not merely states the facts.

Those early Christians, following Paul's lead, had no illusions about their personal involvement in matters of judgement of sin.


For the past few years I've been interested in a school of thought about communication and personal interaction called "Nonviolent Communication" or "NVC." One of the basic procedures of NVC is reinterpretation of supposedly objective statements, which cause conflict and division, in terms of the personal involvement of the individuals involved.

In NVC, if you heard someone say something like "that is a sin!" you would work towards an acceptable reinterpretation of the statement in terms of the individual person's feelings and needs, hopes, wishes, and fears, and the choices they had made and wished to make with regards to other people. The idea is that these personal factors are always there, and you can choose to use language which exposes them, or language which ignores them, and the language which exposes them, so that they can be understood and respected and addressed, is more conducive to speaking peace in a world of conflict.

And it all comes together...

How do you translate Dogs to Firefly?

You just pay attention to the implicit, which remains the same, though it is implicit in *different things* in the two different settings.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I haven't seen the film. I've checked out the comic. This is the problem I have with it (I mean, the basic gut problem I have with it, not the intellectual-critical problems I might have with it if I thought about it too hard.)

You know in Men In Black, where Will Smith is sitting next to a bunch of other potential Men In Black, all of them super hardcore military badasses, "THE BEST OF THE BEST OF THE BEST SIR!" and he can't help laughing at them all?

The Spartans, in 300, are those guys. A whole city full of them. And the author thinks they're really really cool.

That's the basic problem I have with 300.

People who have seen the movie tend to love it so much that it's gotta be pretty sweet in a turn-your-brain-off-and-enjoy-the-violence, hey-did-Mel-Gibson-make-this-film kinda way. So I might still enjoy it if I saw it. But that's the impression I got from the comic.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Cluing In on Sorcerer Actions....

Neat stuff here... (If that works... I can't bring up indie-rpgs all of a sudden...)

"I'd really like to emphasize that narrations in Sorcerer are not about what it will look like if the character succeeds, but rather what it looks like when he or she goes into action."

Ooh. OK. That means your narration of your action is not going to get shanked by a failure on the dice. Cool.

Christopher K adds:

"We _declare_ what we want to get done, but we get _Bonus Dice_ for what we're actually doing right now."

Beyond that...

In some indie games, you have three or four people who propose different ways the story can go (which may or may not be related to what different characters accomplish). You roll dice to see whose idea about where the story can go goes into effect in the game's reality.

In Sorcerer, that is not the case at all. You get to say what your character does and how he does it. You roll dice to see how that works out.

In "Indie Game X" you might have two people who propose the two possible story directions, "My character grabs the vase successfully," and "your character fails to grab the vase because of the interference of my character," and there's a roll to see whose goes into effect.

In Sorcerer, that's not it at all. Not at all. You are declaring intent for your character and narrating the actions that will be taken to achieve that intent or not. It'd be like, "my character reaches out and takes hold of the vase" and "my character knocks your character down before she gets to the vase."

If that's all there is to it, you could just roll Stam vs Stam to see how it all plays out, but in a complex, combat-type situation, you'd consider each of those actions separately.

Dude A may or may not grab the vase. If Dude B knocks dude A down, it's going to make it a lot harder to grab that vase. Victories = defense dice for the vase. But Dude B knocking dude A down doesn't settle the matter if Dude A still has actions!

The problems in the thread arose from reading a Sorcerer conflict as if it were an Indie Game X conflict, which it isn't.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Jared Wins!

I don't really read, but I still found this funny... Jared Sorenson got permabanned. And I'm not laughing at Jared, I'm laughing with Jared.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I didn't realize Spione was even out, but Emily's review of it here makes me realize I will want to buy it. I was not much of a spy geek but the first edition of Top Secret fascinated my twelve-year-old self, with its glossary of espionage terms and agencies and stuff. It sounds like Spione has that kind of loving attention to historical and realistic detail, in a new generation of game. The cold war is generally remembered by kids today only in partisan and caricatured terms, but it was important. I might well enjoy a game about it.

When I think about the Cold War I always think about the musical "Chess."

Monday, January 01, 2007

Devils Rising From The Dust

Go Matt Snyder!

The new edition of Dust Devils includes 70 pages with new artwork, completely revised and re-written rules, and much additional content. (File size is 8.5 MB)

Dust Devils Revenged also includes three alternate setting supplements. Deathwish is espionage and covert action. RONIN (by Jason Blair) captures the samurai drama of feudal Japan. And, Concrete Angels (by Jared Sorensen) is a grim and gritty neo-noir crime romp.