A domain for wargame enthusiasts, roleplayers and fans of E.E. "Doc"
Smith's LENSMAN series
Friday was all World War One. At noon, the Germans attacked a British/French trench line. They staked everything on a narrow, furious artillery preparation to break the wire and created a pretty good-sized gap. Then they proceeded to pour troops through said wire, in a column about twelve men wide and twelve men deep. Every turn was the same: 144 more Germans march through the wire. Allied artillery and machine guns blow 144 Germans away. Germans line up some more. ONE FOOT of the twelve-foot front was being contested by the Germans with the other 11 feet ignored. Admittedly, those other 11 feet had wire belts that would have badly slowed any advance, but when the game ended with a German failure, it wasn't hard to conclude they'd earned their defeat.
At dinnertime, the Allies had their turn to attack. A truly massive Anglo-Franco-American host (1300 figures, plus a few tanks!) attacked all along the German line and made painful gains in a few places. Once those salients were in place, the Allies rushed light machine guns into them and started raking the German trenches with machine gun fire and about 100 rifles. Allied artillery had concentrated on the German trench line, and a couple of lucky hits weakened the central sector so that the Americans got into it. The Germans threw them back, but lost heavily in the process, which made it hard to stem the repeated Allied eruptions on other parts of the flank. For the last two hours, the Germans were frantically rushing around to put out fires, with never enough troops to do everything, but they skillfully chose between what HAD to be done and what merely needed VERY BADLY to be done, and managed to last out the game's four-hour time limit. In both games the attacker lost, but in the first game the attacker lost because of his errors, while in the second he lost because of the defender's tenacity and cleverness.
Saturday was "Kids Day": Godzilla and Starship Troopers. We got through several games of Godzilla, which was of course based on Ogre. Odd results: it was four monsters trying to cross the city and smash the CP, I mean the City Hall. But what actually happened was the monsters walked about a third of the way across the map, then just stood there fighting it out with the army and the good monster defending the city. I learned that my current rules allow monsters to go down WAY too easily; I need to give them twice the hit points they currently have, or else reduce the defenders' strength proportionally. But because the players (kids, of course) didn't do as in Ogre and keep relentlessly grinding forward, it's hard to say how broken the rules are.
Starship Troopers worked awfully well, though. There were a lot of signups and many spectators, including the guy who runs Fall In!, the November game convention. He asked me to be sure and bring Starship Troopers to that con, which I might well do if I end up going. I played the Bugs and started to really get the hang of the subterranean close-combat tactics I had to use to beat the Mobile Infantry. I didn't beat the Mobile Infantry, of course, but they knew they'd been in a scrap.
Didn't buy anything except some half-price and apparently new Aubrey-Maturin novels, and some modern 25mm figures from a new outfit called Devil Dog.
PBEM game of exploration and conquest in the world of Babylon 5. The rules engine is Stellar Conquest, long out of print.
Vulpius Mundar, the Believer
Charybda, the Skeptic
Gaius Spurius Vindictus, the Anti-believer
Andromeda Falco , the Patrician Heiress
Rowena, the Zealot
Vettius Zamo, the Beat Cop
Rudius, the Gladiator
Styrokles, the Greek tutot
Lydia, the student of war
Amazing Ishkatar, street magician
Roleplaying game of a Slayer and her friends battling the evil of the Hellmouth located just outside Arkham, Massachusetts. Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Call of Cthulhu.
Episode 2: Second Night
Episode 3: Twins
Episode 4: Walker
Episode 5: Hunters
Episode 6: The Short Reign of Excellence
Episode 7: The Shadow Over Diligence
Episode 8: The Vampire Slayer
Episode 9: Raiders of the Misfiled Ark
Episode 10: Welcome to the Hellmouth
Episode 11: There Can Be Only One
Episode 12: Full Moon Homecoming
Episode 13: Diligence is its Own Reward
Episode 14: Bad Wolf
Episode 15: Thy Father's Keeper
Episode 16: The Circle
Episode 17: The Shadow over Fells Harbor
Episode 18: Across the Sea of Dreams
Episode 19 and 20: King of the Night (short summary)
Episode 21: Visitors by Night
Episode 22: Tunnel Rats
Episode 23: The Ladder
Episode 24: Cat Scratch Fever
Episode 25: Trick or Treat
Episode 26: A Father's Sacrifice
Episode 27: The Faculty
Episode 28: Cthulhu Season
Episode 29: Fish Fry
Episode 30: Immortal Clay
Episode 31: Moon Hunter
Episode 32: Shining Armor
Episode 33: Blood Rush
Episode 34: Bad Doctor
Episode 35: Second Thoughts
Episode 36: Unlife Tenure
Episode 37: Team Crow
Episode 38: Interlude
Episode 39: Arena Without Crowds
Episode 40: Beatification, Part I
Episode 41: Beatification, Part II
Episode 42: Twin Freaks
Episode 43: Damn Good Coffee
Episode 44: Dismember of the Wedding
Episode 45: The Jurassic Horror
1933 Omnibus: The Murder
Here's a comment from http://www.imao.us:
I want a new Trek movie! No more Captains, no more First Officers, no more betazeds! I want a whole new Trek Paradigm!
Here's what I want: I want Star Fleet Marines. I want the people who -aren't- nice, who don't speak in technobabble, who solve problems with the business end of a phaser rifle. I want crusty Gunnery Sergeants (who -will- be called 'Gunny'), who still think the Klingons are a bunch of long-hair wussies, and who smoke. Smoke -constantly-. I want to hear 'Smoke 'em if you got 'em', and I want to see more than half of the troops light up. I want to see alien Marines, female Marines, I want to see brutal hand-to-hand combat, I want to hear 'Boarders away!' when they transport. I want to have casualties, with blood, and screaming. I want people to die, heroically, and for no good reason. I want to have the writers strapped down and forced to watch 'Saving Private Ryan', 'Blackhawk Down', 'We Were Soldiers', 'Aliens', over and over again, while I whisper 'Trek, Trek' in their ears. I want the hundreds of deaths we see in Trek movies (go and estimate them, sometime, you'll be shocked) to -mean- something. I want too see grief and rage and despair, I want to see pride and honor and determination. I want to see bar fights and people in the brig. I want to see innovation and creativity, that don't involve making up new words on the spur of the moment. I want to see Marines pinned down planetside, and I want to hear them call in orbtial support from their starship - and I want to see that support -delivered-. I want fire from the heavens raining down on the enemies of the Federation. I want to see assault shuttles landing in hot LZs, I want to see dogfights that go from dancing in the treetops up to furballs in space. I want to see zero-g combat, I want to see ships venting sections to space. I want the full, awesome, terrible panoply of war in the Trek universe.
Is this too much to ask?
Posted by: Noah D. on December 30, 2002 03:35 PM
Well, so do I, but yes, it is too much to ask -- from Star Trek. For all that the original Trek was this close to being a World War Two naval epic in space, the later Trek series are as wussy as Hollywood gets. Ships spill open and explode left and right in the background -- ooh, pretty, but the casualties don't mean zip to the actors, or the writers. Bah.
War movies are hard enough to get right, what with most Hollywood types temperamentally opposed to thinking about war at all seriously. War TELEVISION just never works, with the exception of Babylon 5.
Think I'm off base? Got a counter-example? Return fire!
Now THIS is just too cool! Seems some Midwestern fellows decided to film a complete episode of the original Star Trek, set on the USS Exeter (the one which was depopulated by the water-removing Omega virus in "The Omega Glory"), and put it up on the web! It took them seven years, apparently. What am I doing wasting my time on wargames -- there's TREK to be made!
I can't seem to make the Quicktime movies work on my desktop, but that may have something to do with the fact that I don't have Quicktime installed. Or it might be sunspots. Yeah, sunspots.
Speaking of fannish indifference to copyright, the Mystery Men rules continue to slowly change (I'd say "evolve" if there were evidence they were improving, but each change is a leap into the unknown. Which is kinda how evolution works, too ...)
Right now, a bunch of protesters are outside INS headquarters protesting the mass arrests in California I mentioned yesterday. One had a signed saying "Muslim Registration equals McCarthyism" or near enough. He's an idiot; we aren't registering Muslims, we're registering people from potentially threatening states. Another guy's sign read "And then they came 4 me", which is a reference to Martin Niemoller's comment about Germany under the Nazis: "First they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists ... and when they came for me, there was no one left to speak up."
That guy is not an idiot. He argues that if the government can abuse its police powers against some groups hated and feared by the public, they can do it to others, perhaps less feared, because people get used to the government taking people away.
I'd argue it doesn't have a lot of relevance here, though, because we're arresting people whom we suspect of breaking existing laws regarding visas, immigration and so on. Do the protesters want us to NOT arrest people suspectedof breaking the law?
Two answers, both stupid:
1. Yes, they don't want these people arrested, because for years now INS has not arrested very many people accused of overstaying their visas or entering the US illegally. It just hasn't been a high priority, especially with a President who is, to be blunt, soft on illegal immigration. (Actually, so am I, but nobody takes their enforcement cues from me, thank God.) They'd like the immigration laws to continue to be enforced as vigorously as the 55 mile an hour speed limit.
2. Yes, they don't want these people arrested, because they're Muslims, therefore they are a victim group, and victim groups don't have to pay for their crimes. Their argument goes, "You've picked on these people enough -- go pick on rich white men for a change!"
Fair enough. But the INS has limited resources, and I'd much rather they were used to catch people who might be terrorists than Mexican illegals who, though technically lawbreakers, aren't going to kill us in skyscraper-loads.
These protesters have every right to express their opinion peacefully, as they are doing. And I have every right to express mine about them: they're aiding our enemies' cause.
We added Saudi Arabia to the list of "countries of concern" last Wednesday. Think it's a coincidence there are protesters outside today? The Saudis have money and they know how to work our media. Look for me on the evening news, flipping these "useful idiots" a double bird as I walk into the building.
The microwave "pain ray" is evidently ready for prime time:
The U.S. Marine Corps publicly released information on a crowd control
HPM device that look like a truck mounted radar. But the radar "dish"
sent out microwave energy tuned to penetrate about half a millimeter
of human skin and make the plentiful nerves there send an intense pain
Reuters continues to suck. Here's an article on the roundup of men from certain Arab countries who were required to register with the INS. Some of them came in to register and were arrested, because they'd overstayed their visas or were suspects in other crimes. But Reuters doesn't tell you that every single one of these guys is a criminal suspect until the fourteenth paragraph. This is the news service, you may recall, that puts quote marks around the words "terrorist" as applied to the guys who flew planes into the WTC.
But at least we're starting to wake up: the original list of countries from which visitors had to register with the INS included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan. Fair enough. Later other countries, including North Korea and (I believe) Yemen were added. Finally, however, we have added two freaking obvious ones: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the two biggest pillars of Al-Qaeda. This comes from the New York Times.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode 701: "Lessons."
The seventh season opens with a nod to the six previous years as Dawn starts high school and Buffy finds the new, high-tech Sunnydale High as creepy a place as its late predecessor. The spoiler-sensitive should avoid my Buffy page without SPF 15 spoiler-block, topically applied to the inner eye. The rest of you are welcome to comment.
Play-By-Mail Games More Reactive Than Active
I've realized that PBEM roleplaying tends to be less interactive than face-to-face. PBEM players tend, more than other groups, to react, to wait for the referee to say something startling and form a dramatic, instantaneous response. It's more call-and-response than chesslike or improv-like.
Why is that? Well, mostly, I think, because we're doing this from work. In other words, there's something else going on in the background, from which we steal moments to play the game. There isn't time, especially continuous time, to work up long speeches, rants, riffs and plans. Which can wear out referees, who have to be returning serves constantly. In face-to-face games, there are often times when the players talk, either to decide what to do next or just riff on the characters and elements a rich game background provides. I have never seen an extended sequence like that online. Quips, yes, in plenitude. Conversations without referee input, no.
On the other hand, it's easier to put together a series of carefully dropped clues and hints when all the messages are laid out for inspection. As I particularly like the slowly-building-in-the-background-menace plot (Buffy and B5 are my favorite shows for precisely this reason, and X-Files and Twin Peaks my greatest peeves because they pretended to be doing this but weren't), the PBEM format has some definite advantages. Perhaps the most successful use of this clue-adhesive phenomenon (clue-glue?) was in Mystery MenI and III, in which several players worked hard (and publically, and hilariously in character) to figure out what was Going On and what to do about it. Heck, in MM III, they figured it out so fast they busted the bad guys a full turn before the game was scheduled to end!
Maybe turn-based games like MM are better for producing that sort of fact-rich group interaction than turnless games like Tekumel. But I like my intricate slowly-emerging Tekumel plot, dammit. Perhaps it could be changed to a turn-based game ... but how? Although if I do, it will remove the artificial tendency of player-characters to clump together all the time. In Babylon 5, heroes have to go off on private missions all the time, and in Justice League, Superman and Batman have their own personal adventure-lives in addition to their JLA duties. That sort of thing makes for very history-rich encounters as everyone brings his own adventures to the table, but is almost impossible to do in a face-to-face game, in which everyone sits there while Sir Roland does his solo adventure. Hmm ... maybe this is the way to do Pendragon, in which the Knights of the Round Table have adventures and then tell each other about them. It certainly works for Mystery Men.
--Wednesday, 25 September 2002
I'm thinking of hosting a day of games up at the Game World in Aquia some Saturday soon. I'll have to check the dates, but among the games I would like to play are HeroClix (a superhero miniatures game), MechWarrior, and of course, Rollerball.
Plus I have a D-Day game at 3 pm on Saturday, October 5 at Game World. Everyone is welcome -- there should be plenty of player positions to go round.
--Wednesday, 18 September 2002
Historicon report, short form:
I won an award for my Pantographic War of the Worlds game, pitting Martian tripods against redcoats and cavalry. As is usual in Ogre-based games at a con, the Martians won, but it was very, very close. The British quickly learned how to use cavalry: dart in from six different directions, attack with grenades, dart out. Yes, the Martians can pursue you and heat-ray you down, but they can only do in one direction, not six.
The Martians were played by young fellows about 12 years old, and they set fire to lots of buildings just because it was cool. When the rep from the convention organizers came by, therefore, half the map was in flames with the burnished silver Tripods looming out of the smoke. VERY cinematic.
Also did three OTHER Ogre games: Borg Attack, Sheffield Ogre Works, and Technicolor War of the Worlds (the 1950s movie). The Ogres won most of them, except the actual Ogre scenario, in which the Pannies got stopped butt-cold AGAIN! I even reduced the Anglo-American defending force substantially, but no dice.
Of course, the attackers had a tough planning job. They had three Ogres (slow and tough) and 20 GEV hovercraft (fast and fragile). So while the Ogres are grinding forward, the GEVs rush into the defenses and get shot to bits. Oops. It's a hazard in multi-player convention games, which really shouldn't have such vast differences in unit ability. I had the same problem in Technicolor WotW, in which the Sabrejets flew to engage the Martians first, while the Army was still trying to catch up. Big, big mistake. The Martians got to fight one-fifth of the Human force with the entire Martian force. Then the tanks, which were faster than the artillery, came in and did it AGAIN, pitting another fifth of the Human force against the entire Martian force. "Defeat in detail" isn't just a river in Egypt, dude. Tactics MATTER.
So anyway, how to fix Sheffield? I think it's not so much that the defenders have too much firepower, it's that they have too many units. They can, and did, form a solid line across the entire board, backed up with artillery. Attackers have trouble punching a hole because you can't stack and you can't overrun.
A longtime Ogre player of my acquaintance and I tried to show it could be done. We used our Ogres to kill defending units, punching a big hole for the GEVs to swarm through. Yes, many of us died. Yes, our Ogres were pummeled by the defense's bigger, better Ogres. So what? Some of our GEVs scooted through the hole and shot up the command post, and in Ogre, if you get the CP, it doesn't matter what casualties you had -- you WIN.
But if I can conquer the "I painted it -- I'm gonna USE it!" tendency, the solution is obvious: remove one-third to one-half of BOTH forces, opening up the board to positional rather than attritional play.
--Monday, 19 August 2002
Two more game ideas: Man, Myth and Magic, a very old roleplaying game in which the players start as Ice Age cavemen, adventure, die, and are reincarnated as Egyptians, then Chinese, Greeks, Romans, etc., encountering different facets of a universal mystery along the way. The game designer, an evident sadist, did not specify WHAT THE BIG SECRET WAS in the initial release, saying that it would be revealed in later expansions which, so far as I can determine, were never published. Bastard.
But I can make up a universal overarching myth-theme as well as any goofball, so that's not a big lack. And the idea of continually-resurrected characters is pretty damn cool.
The other idea is Kult, a roleplaying game in which you learn the world is not what it seems. I'd take it in a Philip K. Dick direction, with the players unexpectedly wandering into a parallel timeline where the Axis won World War Two, as a result of either brain experiments or the artistic contradictions of a small piece of Japanese metal sculpture. It's The Man in the High Castle meets The Matrix, with Cthulhu-type investigators discovering that the world is bigger and less real than they thought. This idea grew from a Matrix game I was thinking about, in which I tried to patch the parts of the Matrix cosmology that didn't make any sense to me: using human bodies as a heat/electricity source, and the precognitive powers of the Oracle. I bridged both: the machines do not use us as a heat source, but as a source of psychic powers they cannot comprehend or duplicate artificially. The Oracle really can see the future, and others can do, well, other things. All the rest of the captive humans are held because the machines don't know why or how psychic powers emerge, so they try raising a lot of humans with a lot of different stimuli in hopes of being able to reliably create captive psychics.
One problem with this game is that players who like the "what in the hell is wrong with the universe?" mystery don't always like the "okay, we know what's wrong -- how the hell do we FIX it" stage, and vice versa. Tacticians get bored with the mystery, roleplayers get bored with the action. The trick, I think, is to have the mystery phase involve lots of danger, with fights, chases, escapes, fencing, true love, all that, and to have the action be partly physical and partly intellectual, i.e. "defeat the mummies guarding the Book of the Dead, but also answer the riddle or the book won't open."
Anyway, I may be able to do some of these before long. Say, you don't
suppose the reason the MMM characters are continually resurrected is BECAUSE
the Matrix machines want to test them for psychic powers ...
Currently I am hosting a Pendragon game in person and Tekumel and Colditz
games online. My ideas for my next roleplaying game (after more Pendragon,
of course) include
My fifth, sixth and seventh novel-length efforts were General's
All have what might be called "third-act problems" if they didn't occur
midway through the first act.
My fourth novel was Keep
of Glass, an Arthurian fantasy almost bought by numerous publishers.
I'll keep almost selling it until it almost fails to sell, and then I'll
almost sell the sequel. Already got a title: The Land of Blood and Stone.
Posted first three chapters of a superhero story, "Bulletproof".
They are, in fact, the ONLY three chapters in existence, though I do have
a complete outline. I'm going through and adding even more humorous strangeness,
as the tone wobbles from serious adventure to wacky, and for this story,
I like wacky better.
I'll probably never sell this
novel, so this may be your only chance to read it! It features teenagers,
guns, crime and drugs, so I can't imagine why the YA publishers wouldn't
be interested. "Wouldn't be" rather than "aren't," because I haven't actually
asked them yet.
Trek story was not chosen for "Strange New Worlds," a fanfic anthology
edited by a couple of people who put their own stories in the book under
the chapter heading "Because We Can." Draw your own conclusions, which
you can't do unless you read
"Robin's Laws of Good Game
Mastering" is a fun read and damn useful, too. His most useful
point? Figure out what your players want, and give it to them. Not as hard
as it sounds, once you realize that's what you're there for. My
own regular party, for example, has three "Method Actors" (okay, two and
a half) and no Butt-Kickers, Power Gamers or Tacticians at all. What on
Earth am I doing there?
The Justice Department has arrested a U.S. citizen charged with conspiring
to set off a "dirty
bomb" radiation weapon in the United States. He is said to be a member
of al Qaeda. Other reports suggest the target would have been Washington,
which makes sense. No word yet as to whether the enemy actually had such
a weapon, or the radioactive material necessary to make one. But it's not
hard to find nuclear waste, especially in the former Soviet Union.
Here's one reason we might be taking so long to attack Saddam ... for the first time in a while, the United States might be trying to set up a postwar government BEFORE we conquer the enemy! Which, given that no one doubts we can defeat Iraq, and that shaky governments out that way are the norm, may well be a good idea. And getting something as complicated as a replacement regime set up ahead of time, IN SECRET, probably takes a hell of a long time if you want to do it right.
If true, this means Bush 43 is trying to avoid the biggest error of
Bush 41, who won the war and lost the peace. And if he's trying to set
up the U.S. to have an Iraqi client state in the middle of the Middle East,
we can gain all sorts of benefits. With Iraqi oil taps in our hands, we
can do far more than lower the price at the pump. If Russia's feeling moody,
we cut Iraqi oil production, and Russia gets more per barrel for its own
crude. If Saudi Arabia keeps funding terror, we bring in modern American
management methods and crank Iraqi oil production through the roof, bankrupting
the Saudi regime when its oil price falls through the floor. Granted, we
can't do both at once ...
I'll have six games at this year's Historicon: two Red Dawn sessions,
War of the Worlds 1889 (tripods vs. redcoats), War of the Worlds 1953 (flying
manta-ray machines vs. the U.S. Army), Borg Attack, TimeTripper, and Ogre.
The Ogre scenario is Sheffield Ogre Works, which I have played several
times and has always been a close-run win for the defense. At Rick Wynn's
suggestion, I am removing the infantry rocket teams which made such a hash
of the Paneuropean hovercraft force last time. Will the Pannies walk away
with it? We'll see..