Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Simple Spell Casting in Gamma World / Mutant Future


In our last Gamma World session two people played a new Gamma Wizard "character class" I whipped up. These Gamma Wizards only start with 1d4 mutations, but they have the advantage of being able to temporarily expend their Mental Strength (or Willpower, if you play Mutant Future) to cast magical wing-ding-zingers. Mental Strength is then regained 1pt per turn (assuming 1 turn = 10min in game time). Super easy! It seemed to work great!

There are many ways for a Gamma Wizard to learn a new spell: studying with a master, finding an old manuscript, receiving an anal microchip implant from aliens, etc. Radioactive cocaine and similar substances can give temporary or permanent boosts to a Gamma Wizard's magical powers!

Here's the "known spell" list I handed out at our last session. Just the basic D&D-type stuff this time around. Of course cooler spells may be found scattered amongst the wonders and wastes of the Gamma World:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Saddest Google Search in the World

My hit counter tracks search engine keywords people use to find my blog. Usually I get hits from searches like "gary gygax", "erol otus", or "gamma world". Yesterday I got a hit from the saddest keywords in the world:

"how to solo larp"

I can't decide if this is beautiful, depressing, hilarious, or genius. So many possible pictures come to mind... A title for a poem? An innovative new form of gaming? First line of a suicide note? Maybe they just want to learn to play harp and made a typo...?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Heavy Metalpocalypse in the Gamma World - Awesome Illustration and Session Recap

At the SoCal Mini-Con III I ran a session of first edition Gamma World. The game was set thousands of years in the future in a verdant and primeval post-apocalypse where few “humans” remain. For this session players were members of a mutant heavy metal band – traveling "Mohijrim" mystics moving from town to town, overseeing auspicious occasions such as births, weddings, funerals, harvests, etc. Metal Mohijrim seek to fulfill the sacraments of the Lords of Metal: intercourse, inebriation, and providing high quality musical performances to needy populations.

Player Troy Z. drew this highly accurate illustration of the climax of the game! Read recap below!

The PC's band Tipton Scrotus (note that Child-Eyes wants to call the band Van Tipton):


Mamlish and Child-Eyes Tipton: Young heavy metal magic users. Their mother Minerva was the greatest guitar shred master of her generation. They learned the magical arts from their gentle wizard dad! They seek to avenge the murder of their parents and restore dignity to the Tipton clan! Drums and vocals, respectively.

Charva Chynex: New age bass-o-maniac. Can bend light and turn invisible!

Battus Scrotus: Joker ape-man with gigantic scrotum. When he squeezes his scrotum a paralyzing musk sprays forth form his urethra. Expert at electronic guitar.

Timetrius Finster: This mystery freakus can turn invisible! He bears the battery-powered mini-amp the whole band must share.

Doktor Vernix: Some say he’s crazy, some say he’s just a simple fool. Whatever they say, he’s one of the best keytar synth players in the Gamma World! He also has cryonic powers and telekinesis! And epilepsy!

Giggleface Gynander: S/he is a gay spirited drum player (Tipton Scrotus has two drummers like the Butthole Surfers did in their heyday) with the power of pyro!

The Set-Up:
The PCs are part of the once proud Tipton clan of metal masters. Their parents and mentors were slain, the ancient family instruments were stolen, and now the band seeks to recover the instruments, avenge the deaths of their elders, and return the Tipton dynasty to its rightful stature!

As the game opened the band was down to its last domar, and all they had were crap instruments – coffee can bass, broken acoustic guitar, barely functioning Casio keyboard. They were little more than a pathetic jug band of the apocalypse. While traveling in the northern city of Yeshmiri they found this note posted:

The guitar in the picture was the Gibson once owned by their metal master Mother Minerva. The band headed north to Dyson's Camp - a town of wolf people in a forest if gigantic redwood trees - to find Zygotus. The band arrived a day before the big Zygotus equinox concert was to occur. The PCs spent some time fucking around with the wolf guards, then headed to the inn to pick up wolf babes, play some jug band metal, and maybe score some coke. They ended up putting on a show, befriending some wolf lasses and earning some baksheesh and rounds of fortified pine ale. In one stage antic, rascally Battus Scrotus paralyzed Doktor Vernix on stage with urethra musk emanating from the hole of his broken Samick electroacoustic guitar. After the show Scrotus “rented out” the paralyzed Doktor to the highest bidder for a few minutes of physical pleasure (as the band often does to make ends meet, they said). The taker was huge, almost genetically pure wolf named Lee Loup. (The Rainbow/Dio song “Run with the Wolf” came up). Overall, the band endeared itself to a small portion of the town’s population and was able to get fed, sheltered, and somewhat wasted. The only one who got laid that night, however, was the paralyzed simpleton Doktor Vernix.

The next day the band left the limits of Dyson’s Camp to explore a potential Zygotus encampment. They indeed found evidence of Zygotus, including some guitar strings and Honda Goldwing tracks, but no evil heavy metal bastards. Instead of following the motorcycle tracks, however, the players went back to Dyson's Camp. They decided their strategy was going to be to confront Zygotus on stage at the big equinox festival of the wolves. This surprised me as the GM, because it seemed foolish and dangerous in the extreme. But it turned out to be purely awesome!

With the help of a groupie the band befriended in the inn the evening before, the band talked the stage manager into letting Tipton Scrotus play a few songs on stage before Zygotus’ arrival. Once on stage the band started into rock n’ roll action rounds, where each round is ~4min - the length of a typical rock ‘n roll song (eg. Metallica’s Orion would take 2 rounds). The band worked to entertain more and more of the crowd before Zygotus arrived – the goal being to turn at least 50% of the crowd into cheering fans before the enemy arrived. They were able to do this through their (admittedly lackluster) charisma, musical ability, and some gammatronic pyrokinetic hijinx. Toward the end of their set they broke into a two-round power ballad with vocalist Child-Eyes Tipton (played by blogger Brunomac, by the way) singing about evil that befell the Tipton clan, and how Zygotus possessed the Gibson relic that was rightfully theirs! Zygotus arrived backstage at this point and were furious! Child-Eyes flipped them a magically bioluminescent middle finger and a heavy metal battle royale ensued…

Metalpocalyptic Showdown! Tipton Scrotus vs. Zygotus!

This next scene – the climax of the game - was purely rad. It is one of those moments that makes GMing worth the pain and humiliation of explaining to your normal friends what your hobbies are.

When Zygotus arrived Doktor Vernix used his molecular understanding mutation to determine that the evil heavy metal band was actually a bunch of androids and their leader, Larbchuck, was a cyborg. At that point Zygotus took to the stage and most rudely started pushing Tipton Scrotus around in an attempt to halt their rock.  Of course, some serious violence commenced – but Tipton Scrotus NEVER STOPPED ROCKING. The whole battle took place while Tipton Scrtous were playing an epic prog-metal composition. All of the android bandmembers of Zygotus had laser cannons hidden under their scalps / wigs, and I assumed most of the PCs would be quickly incinerated at this point - ending the game tragically. But the Lords of Metal were truly with Tipton Scrotus for this battle, because I kept rolling crap, 3… 7… 5…, for the robot attacks.  Once I even rolled a 1 and the Zygotus bass player ended up shooting himself with his own damn laser beam. The android leather daddies were complete buffoons, apparently! Meanwhile Larbchuck, the screaming cyborg lead guitarist of Zygotus, was gearing up to shoot liquid-light radiation beams from his eyes. Charva Chynex (played by blogger Nick B.!) used his light manipulation powers to defuse the beam. Then Mamlish the Metal Wizard cast an ajna Radionic Fireball spell and melted the cyborg’s face off (see illustration) to reveal to the people of Dyson’s Camp that Zygotus were not authentic Mohijrim – they were computronic purveyors of False Metal.

During the battle Doktor Vernix tried for several rounds to telekinese the Gibson guitar from Larbchuck’s hand, and failed. Finally he rolled a white-hot 20 (as shown in the illustration) and was able to float the Gibson out of the hands of the cyborg into the hands of Battus Scrotus in the middle of Scrotus’ left-hand tapping guitar solo. With his right hand, Scrotus then grabbed his electric cricket bat, rolled a sweet sweet natural 20 and knocked Larbchuck’s head off, sending it flying over the audience.

Lots of other kooky stuff happened, but nobody reads long session reports so I won’t bother relating it all to you… Needless to say it was a super fun game for me to GM and the players said they liked it too. For me the first part of the game where the band was cavorting about with the locals was a tad slow for my taste, but some of the players said they really loved it.  “Town & Tavern” preludes simply appeal to some people and not to others – it’s been that way since 1974, I’m sure. I think for future con sessions, however, I might plan better to downplay Town & Tavern action so players can get to the exploration and violence more quickly. Damn, I had tons of other material - NPCs and localities - for this adventure the players never touched.

One stylistic element I experimented with for this game was giving a longer background color spiel than I usually do for one-shots. I spent 10-15 minutes describing the world, context, heavy metal traditions, etc. I personally like hearing GMs give colorful and creative intros, but I also know at a con game there can be a risk of turning off players with short attention spans. I think it turned out okay this time, but I never got direct feedback from the players about it.

Anyway, the game was cool. Maybe I’ll run a follow up at Orccon in February. I’m skipping out on Gateway this year because of the new baby.

PS: Click here to read Brunomac's recap of the session.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pictures From SoCal Mini-Con III

Yesterday was the SoCal Mini-Con III in Anaheim, California. Everything seemed to go perfectly great and everyone I talked to had a blast. Special thanks to Bedivere for arranging the event!

There were six games and over 30 people total:
  • Tavis Allison running OD&D
  • Trent Foster running AD&D
  • Joe Goodman running Dungeon Crawl Classics
  • Telecenter running Swords and Wizardry
  • Cyclopeatron (me!) running Gamma World
  • Brunomac running OD&D
I was able to get  few pictures of the Mini-Con. Also, special thanks are due to David B. for the Gamma World pics. I tried my best to attach names to people in the pictures, but I couldn't remember everyone's name. Please let me know if I got your name wrong and I'll correct it. Sadly, I wasn't able to get pictures of Telecanter's or Brunomac's games...

 (Clockwise from far left: Jeff, Tavis, Nick Bielik, Kirk 'Telecanter', Alexey 'Monk', Javi, Staples, Chris 'Staples', Mobad Deathprong)

(Left to Right: Javi, Chris 'Staples', Mobad Deathprong)

(Clockwise from far left: Bedivere, son of Wheggi, Wheggi, Chris 'Cimmerian', T. Foster, Thorkhammer, The Shaman, Jeff, Rick?, Gary?)

 (Clockwise from left: T. Foster, Thorkhammer, The Shaman, Jeff, Rick?)

(DM: Joe Goodman, Guy in Hat: Louis)

(Clockwise from left: Troy, Bob 'Cyclopeatron', Banjo Chris, Nick Bielik (blocked from view), Jorshus playing air keytar!)

(From left: Troy, David, Bob)

(Can't remember what I was gesticulating about, exactly...)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mutants of Metal Pregen Characters - Take Your Pick!

Tomorrow is the SoCal Mini-Con! Here are eight pregen characters for my Gamma World game. If you are a player and want to reserve one of these characters, leave your request in a comment. First come, first served! Possessions and mutations will be determined by drawing cards at the beginning of the game.

One more thing... Players should bring a few extra 6-sided dice if possible because I use Xd6 ability checks.

See y'all tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mutants of Metal - Inspirational Photos

I am seeking psychic preparation for this weekend's Old School Mini-Con III in Anaheim. I will be running a session of Gamma World where the players are members of a mutated heavy metal band that tours the Gamma World, seeking to right wrongs, fighting false metal, and partying hard along the way...







Thanks to Test Your Metal for the band promo photos!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Downloadable Archives of Eiglophian Press and Quantique

As some of you know, yesterday it became apparent that the creative and influential blogger G. Benedicto suddenly dropped offline. G.'s three blogs - Eiglophian Press, Quantique, and SF/F Booklog - have all gone dead, and his blogger profile is no longer accessible.

Although I am sure G. has good reasons for his departure from the online world, it is a sad loss for those of us who followed his blogs. Eiglophian Press in particular had a rather large following inspired by its creative and entertaining content ranging from gaming, to sf/f literature, to comics. I especially appreciated G.'s bent towards the more weird and fantastic corners of our daydreamish pastimes.

Luckily for us fans of G. Benedicto's postings, blog reader Restless assembled PDF web archives of the entire content of Eiglophian Press and Quantique. I have posted these archive files on my own server for you to download. While we are lucky that the content of G.'s posts have been saved, unfortunately all of the reader comments have been lost.

R.I.P. Eiglophian Press...?

Tonight I've been trying to get caught up with blog reading. Eiglophian Press is near the top of my must read list, so I was quite sad to find that the only thing at the site was this message:

The blog you were looking for was not found.

Is this as tragic as it sounds? Does anyone know what's up?

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Epicenter of 1930s Pulp Sci-Fi: Clifton's Cafeteria

If there is a single city that must be associated with the Golden Age of Science Fiction it has to be Los Angeles. While Chicago and New York were centers for pulp publishing and illustration in the early 20th century, a disproportionate number of the actual writers lived, wrote, and socialized in L.A. One of the suburbs North of L.A. is even named Tarzana in honor of past resident Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Most destinations for literary tourists are either authors’ houses or localities featured in books. Because of the solitary nature of authors’ labors there are few places I can think of that really represent actual literary scenes – especially for sci-fi and fantasy. 15 or 20 years ago I would have cited Forrest Ackerman’s house in the Hollywood Hills as one of these nexus points, as it was a pilgrimage destination for all stripes of sci-fi fans and professionals and housed one of the greatest historical collections in the history of the genre. I actually had the amazing experience of visiting the “Ackermansion” when I was a teenager, and it was there I saw my first original pulp art, Harryhausen animation models, etc.

Since Ackerman passed away and the Ackermansion is now only a memory, I would currently promote Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles as one of the best places to feel the ghostly presence of early American science fiction. Although I love Clifton’s super creamy heart-stopping mac and cheese, I don’t go for the food - this place is all about history and atmosphere (and observation of eccentric old vine Angelinos, if you care).

Clifton’s is important in sci-fi history because it was the original meeting place for the Los Angeles Science Fiction League (LASFL), which was founded in 1934. The Brown Room in the back of Clifton’s was virtually an imperial court of the masters, where gathered on Thursday nights many of the formative minds of science fiction and fantasy. A partial list includes: Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Ray Harryhausen, Leigh Brackett, Forrest Ackerman, Henry Kuttner, Fredric Brown, Hannes Bok, and Jack Williamson, among many others. Many of these folks lived in L.A. full time while others lived there for a short time or were just passing through. The conversations in this court of imagination must have been wonderful – perhaps more so than the chicken fried steak.

The modern facade ain't as cool as the original.

I stop to eat at Clifton’s whenever I can. Even outside of its significance to sci-fi history, it is a bizarre and outrageous place to be. Opened in the mid-30s, most of the restaurant is decorated like a surreal artificial redwood forest, with log cabins, taxidermy animals, and two story-tall fake trees:

 Margie and Banjo Chris dining. 
In the back on the top right you can see the little door to the Redwood Chapel.

One of my favorite features of Clifton’s is a mystical redwood tree bearing a blue neon cross. After eating your mashed potatoes you can sit inside this tree on a little bench, look at a model of a miniature redwood forest behind a piece of glass (mind blowing – a forest within a tree within a forest, I love it!), and listen to a pre-recorded monologue about transcendental redwood spirituality:

 Margie contemplates the nature of trees and the universe inside Clifton's Redwood Chapel.

The Brown Room on the second level of Clifton’s, where the LASFL used to meet, is dark and wood paneled and evocative of a log cabin. Unlike most cabins, however, there are large backlit glass panels showing nature scenes from around California. Most of these images are quite faded out after many decades of service, which makes everything even more surreal. There are also cozy little cabin/rooms on this level that I didn't get pictures of because it was near closing time when I last brought my camera:
 Closing time on the Brown Room level. Apologies for the poor photo.

The third level of Clifton’s is decorated in red velvet Victorian theme. Weird. I always peek at this level, but I’ve never seen anyone up there:

 Level 3 of Clifton's Cafeteria.

On top of everything, the clientele of Clifton’s always offers a spectacular ethnographic profile of old school Los Angeles. Mexican cowboys, preachers with electric hats, pimps with chains, guys with bandaged heads, hipsters and losers and loners and families. I could sit there all day, watching people, eating custard pie with the ghost of Leigh Brackett.

 The entry tunnel!

Margie and Banjo Chris grab some chow.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Starship Valkyrie Dates Announced!

Here's a message from Christian Brown, the designer / GM of one of the coolest sci-fi games I've ever played. Click here to read my review of playing this game.

Hello Player,

Starship Valkyrie, the sci-fi LARP that first ran at Wyrdcon One in June 2010, will be running again in August. The dates for the game are:

Saturday, August 21st, 6:00 to 11:00 at a location in Culver City, CA.


Saturday, August 28th, 6:00 to 11:00 at a location in Burbank, CA.

Cost: Free.

The games will use the same rules, but have different plotlines, so you can play in both games and not spoil anything. If you want to play, please respond to this email with the games you wish to play. There is no charge, but contributions of food/drink to share may be solicited from the participants.

Players will be contacted regarding character options.

About Starship Valkyrie

Valkyrie is a cooperative LARP with board game and card game elements. The immersive atmosphere aims at creating urgency and excitement rather than drama or player conflict. After the first run of the game, participants said that the game:

                is effective at making you feel like a crewman on a starship.

                is exciting and engaging.

                has fun props that contribute to the atmosphere.

Valkyrie is driven by the camaraderie of the crew, which is what makes it a cooperative game. There are no traitors, and no back-stabbing. Everyone is trying to do their duty and save the Earth Republic. That may lead to well-meaning conflicts, but no betrayal.

Please contact me with any questions you may have.

Yours sincerely,

Christian Brown

Starship Valkyrie GM