Tuesday, May 24, 2022

More Disgusting than I Realized

I've been really siloed from the greater RPG community, and even the OSR the past few years. There are a handful of blogs I read regularly, and a bigger handful that I read occasionally. I'm not active on any forum sites, and don't watch a ton of RPG YouTube content. Actual gaming with my friends have been enough to scratch my gaming itch for the most part. Yeah, I blog here occasionally. I tinker with my house rules document for a potential public release. That's about it. 

I've been using Treasures, Serpents & Ruins (TSR) as the name for those house rules for several years now. I thought it was clever to have a game title that abbreviated to the same acronym as the original company. And the name is fitting, as well. Dungeons & Dragons is a great game name, but it leaves out the most important part of the game - finding treasure! My name has all three! So clever, right? [Yeah, I know, I know...]

Anyway, thanks to Pauli Kidd's post on Facebook, linking to this video (also Pauli) and also to screenshots of social media posts they posted, I learned about just how terrible the "new" "TSR" group (TSR3 some are calling it) really are. 

Tenkar's Tavern has been posting about them from mostly a legal-ish standpoint. Or at least what I've seen has been. Apologies to Erik, but since he appointed himself the Kickstarter Police many years ago, I don't follow his blog as closely. But I have read some of his posts exposing Justin LaNassa's attempts to steal the TSR trademark. So I knew they were sketchy grifters, but I didn't know anything else about them.

Thanks to Pauli, I know now just how disgusting some of the people LaNassa is working with really are. Seriously, the guy who wrote their version of Star Frontiers is a blatant white supremacist, often posting Nazi symbology and slogans on social media. 

I want nothing to do with that crowd, and as was suggested by Donjondo a while back, it's probably confusing enough having two companies trying to be TSR already. With one of those companies being blatantly white nationalist, I need to find a new name for my game if I plan to release it to the public. 

This is probably a dumb idea, but reordering it to Ruins, Serpents, & Treasures would abbreviate to RST (alphabetical order!) and would be in the order that these elements are usually encountered within the game. Or maybe I can just call it something else entirely and stop trying to be clever/cutesy with the name.

Sunday, May 22, 2022


Well, it took 10 years (over 20 if you count since the release of Dragon Fist), but I'm finally getting to be a player in a game of Flying Swordsmen! 

As luck would have it, I had a post on RPOL.net's GMs Wanted board asking if anyone would run a game of d6 Star Wars on there. I'm enjoying running the game for my group (our next session starts in about 40 minutes), but would like to experience it as a player. 

I went to bump that thread and saw someone else had posted asking for a GM to run Flying Swordsmen! I jumped in on the thread saying I'd like to play, too. And since my RPOL ID is Lord Gwydion, it took the OP all of about no time at all to realize I was the writer! Well, we found someone willing to run it (the Star Wars game, too!), so I've now rolled up my first Flying Swordsman player character:

Spitting Tiger Zhao, Outlaw Thief. 

The GM messaged me to sort out a few things, since he is new to the rules. I told him I'm happy to answer questions about my intent when I wrote the game, but it's his game so I'm happy to run with it the way he wants it to go.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Moving in a New Direction

My plans to run a play-by-post Gamma World game are on hold right now, as is my live D&D West Marches game. I've been running the West Marches for about 4 years now, and I have enjoyed it, but just need a bit of a break. Also, I'm seeing now, as the PCs inch closer to Name Level, some of the cracks in the system. 

The original West Marches was for 3E, an edition that supposed the adventure life cycle to be: explore dungeons, fight monsters, and collect treasures until you reach 20th level, then go on EPIC!!! adventures across the multiverse or something (never got the Epic Level Handbook, never even got close to those levels in my games). So the system had explore/fight/loot baked in to the design from level 1 through 20. 

BECMI, and AD&D, the two published editions I crib the most from for my home game, both have a different expectation. Explore dungeons, fight monsters, loot treasures at low levels. Mix dungeon exploration with wilderness exploration at medium levels. Become a ruler at high levels and get involved with political stuff. Go on planar adventures and epic quests at very high levels. 

I'm getting close to the point in the campaign where in a normal game, players would be planning on where to set up their baronies and whatnot, dealing with the local power structures to make alliances, stuff like that. But West Marches gaming is premised on just continuing to explore the wilderness, and the players in my campaign have only explored about half of my map, maybe a bit less than half. And the feeling that the deeper campaign (which Tao of D&D, and recently BX Blackrazor often post about) isn't really a West Marches thing. 

So I'm going to retool my ideas for an East Marches module to release to the public to go along with Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins: Jade (yeah, I'm renaming that as well, and given enough time, it might end up just as Jade). Instead, I'll keep the ideas for adventure sites but instead of scattering them around an unexplored wilderness, they'll be scattered around a map with various political factions and established towns and cities. 

Most of the Asian fantasy media that inspires me requires civilization. I think there is room for an Asian fantasy wilderness exploration game (Journey to the West/The Monkey King being one example), but not one that's expected to last from levels 1 through 12+. 

When I was in Japan, I would often watch a jidai-geki called Abarenbo Shogun. In it, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune would disguise himself as a low ranking samurai and wander around Edo (Tokyo) looking for trouble. 

Two other shows, Mito Komon and Sanbiki ga Kiru (Three for the Kill), were about the hero(s) wandering from town to town, solving problems of the week in each location. A lot like American shows of the 80s like Knight Rider or The A-Team. 

Chinese novels like Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marsh are all about political power struggles. 

I want competing feudal warlords. Scheming Civil and Military bureaucrats. Peasant rebellions and tongs/yakuza gangs and marital arts societies. And some strange unexplored lands as well. 

So, time to make a new map, pull ideas from previous campaigns and a few new ones I've had over the years, and also the ideas for dungeons and other points of interest I developed for East Marches, and work them into a new campaign that has potential not just for typical D&D murder-hoboing done Asian style, but also all that other good stuff mentioned above.

 I think the potential for richer gaming will be there. 

Until then, I've got another Star Wars d6 adventure to prep based on the events of the previous session.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

I'm going to keep this brief to avoid spoilers. I took the family to see the film on Children's Day (May 5th), a national holiday in Korea, and the day after it opened. 

Is there cursing in the film? Parents want to know. There's a little. Disney seems to frown on too much cursing in their movies. Black Widow got away with a fair amount, and the Disney+ TV shows, but this one doesn't have too much in the way of bad language. 

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. The movie is very much a Raimi film. Lots of little touches and callbacks to his previous work. Of course there's a Bruce Campbell cameo, but beyond that. This movie touches on horror more than any previous MCU film, but never goes full bore horror. There's plenty of humor, as well, but not chock full of it like Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok. It has a pretty good balance of drama, comedy, horror, and action. 

Of course, there is a TON of CGI in this film. The magic is over the top, as is the dimension hopping. Very fun visually, especially the musical magical duel. That was fun, although maybe it went on for just a touch too long. Won't say more to avoid spoiling it. 

As for character development, Stephen Strange has to deal with the fact that Christine Palmer is getting married (lost his chance) and his need to be in control of every situation. America Chavez has a very typical introduction character arc, trying to control her powers to dimension hop. Wanda the Scarlet Witch was a big part of the movie, but her portrayal was a bit off after her development in WandaVision. Can't really say more without spoiling things, though. 

Cameos? Besides Campbell and Patrick Stewart (his voice is in the trailer, it's no secret he's in it) there are a few more, mostly fan-service oriented. Since they're jumping through multiple universes, they can play with the characters they throw in without it affecting the main MCU continuity. 

I was entertained by the movie, and I liked it, but I'm still not sure how it stacks up to other MCU films. Of the recent offerings, it's better than Black Widow or Eternals, but not as good as Shang Chi in my opinion. Probably need to watch it again before deciding how it holds up overall, as it's a pretty busy film. It does break the trope of recent MCU films of degenerating into a big messy CGI final battle. The whole movie is kind of a big messy CGI experience. 

It doesn't dig deeply into the characters, and it's messy, but still I found it fun.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Adjustments and Circles

My Treasures, Serpents, & Ruins East Marches rules (seriously need to rename that if I want to release it to the public*) have just undergone a small revision. 

I originally had 8 classes: Cleric, Fighter, Kensei, Magic-User, Sohei, Thief, Xia, Yakuza. 

Then I dropped it to 5: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Thief, Xia.

Now it's back to 8 again (with some adjustments to the three that were dropped and re-added). 

The archetypes just seem better as their own classes instead of weird multi-class combos. 

Oh, and I've scrapped the multi-class system and did not add in the dual classing system I blogged about a few days ago. For now, I think I'll add those as options in a DM's book that I need to get around to heavily editing and completing. 

I did a mock-up of layout, including public domain art. Printed it out, and it looks pretty good. Still needs a cover. As of now, it's just got a title page on the front, and the character sheet reverse as the last page. 


a) Convert the title page to a proper cover. Don't worry about a back cover. Keep it simple as an ebook. 

b) Add in cover (front/back) and back cover (front/back). Turn the 40 page document into a 44 pager, with the two blank pages on the reverse of the cover pages. Can be easily printed as double-sided. 

c) Leave it as is for the ebook version, but create a proper print version with a cover. Cheap looking, but easy.

Of course, I still need to figure out bookmarking. No matter how many times I tried, and how many tutorials I watched, Scribus will not save bookmarks in Chanbara's PDF. So now I'm not bothering with Scribus, and am simply doing the layout and PDF export from LibreOffice. Gotta watch a few LO tutorials for bookmarking PDFs. 

Oh, and the TSR-E Monster book is sort of ready. The text is ready, anyway. I've got a big host of monsters, plus treasure tables and lists & descriptions of magic items. The only problem is, most of the pages are crammed with monster stat blocks and descriptions, without any art at all. If I want to add art, I'll have to sort through my public domain folders for good images (or pay some artists to create new art) and reformat it from the ground up to include the artwork. It'll take some time, but the text is sound so it probably won't be too onerous. 

The only big thing left is that pesky Game Master book. Since I know the Classic D&D system, I don't really need it at the table as a reference most of the time. But other people could definitely use it, especially if I want to include suggestions for things like multi/dual class PCs or suggestions on creating a game with the right feel. 

What I do have keeps drifting between the sort of thing you'd write for a complete newbie (introductions, careful explanations of the systems and why they are the way they are), and bare bones rules with little explanation (reference for experienced DMs). I really only need the bare bones one to run the game. But other people might want/need the more expansive version. Maybe I should make both, a rules reference and a game master guide with lots of (questionable?) advice and suggestions and explanation. 

Anyway, the players book is something that I could release soon. And with a bit of editing, the monsters & treasures book could follow soon after.  

*Current thoughts on renaming: copy Pokemon games and use something like TSR Ruby (standard Euro/Tolkien D&Disms version) and Jade (kung fu/samurai/wuxia version). Potential future releases could be TSR Marble (Greek/Roman myth inspired), TSR Bone (prehistoric), TSR Steel (Arthurian/Carolingian romance), TSR Uranium (rockets & rayguns retro sci fi), etc.