A blog about games, gamers, and various and sundry geek culture-related ephemera and paraphernalia.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Scanning Project: Caves of Despair

Here's another of my mid-90's dungeon crawls. This one's a sweet little two-level death trap - er, adventure. Nothing fancy, just a bunch of caves crawling with monsters waiting to be slain and relieved of their treasure.

. . . . .

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No Swimming in the Heavy Water

And no dancing in the acid rain.

While we're on the topic of post-apocalyptic games (see yesterday's post), here's another record sheet for you. This one's not for a post-apoc role-playing game, though - it's for Ganesha Games' awesome little Gamma World-esque miniatures game, Mutants and Death Ray Guns.

I wouldn't say that MDRG is a perfect game, but it's got an awful lot going for it. Its simplicity makes it easy to learn and play. Its easy-to-read two-column format and black-and-white illustrations remind me of the old-school RPG's I cut my teeth on. Its rules-lite nature also makes it a cinch to house rule - which, being the tinkerer that I am, I love (and which I know is also a big attraction for a lot of old-schoolers).

What's even better is that you don't need to buy army books and proprietary miniatures to properly play the game. All you need is the core rulebook, some ubiquitous gaming accessories (dice, pencils, etc.) and whatever minis you happen to have sitting around. (We play the game using a combination of other games' lead minis and plastic Dungeons & Dragons, Mage Knight, HeroClix, and HorrorClix miniatures - and even an old Disney Hercules toy.)

Simple, easy-to-learn system, lots of tables to roll on, a 40-page rulebook, and a game that lets you roll lots of dice and move little toy men (and women) around the tabletop - I ask you: how can a gamer go wrong? Oh, and did I mention that the game costs only $8 (US)? If you like Gamma World and playing miniatures games, do yourself a favor and buy this game.

Anyway, enough proseletyzing - here's the Mutants and Death Ray Guns four-character record sheet:
. . . . .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Leapers, Rot Dogs and Spider Goats - Oh My!

I've been sick since early last week, so please forgive the lack of posts.

I'm still feeling a bit under the weather, but here's a little morsel to keep things rolling around here: a character sheet for Goblinoid Games' Mutant Future. I've never played the game myself, and have only given the rules a bit more than a glance. But I like what I've seen, and if the support shown for the game by Gamma World fans is any indicator, I may have to break down and give it a go. (I've been reluctant to do so not because there appears to be anything wrong with the game, but because I'm perfectly content with first-edition Gamma World.)

Throw in the fact that the e-book of the game is free, and I suppose it's hard to go wrong. (The fact that it's based on Labyrinth Lord, Goblinoid's retro-clone of my beloved B/X D&D, really makes it even harder to go wrong.)

Whether I end up playing the game or not, it seems there are a bunch of folks out there who like it. So, here's a Mutant Future sheet, with a style similar to my Gamma World character sheet - in both plain and colored versions:

. . . . .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The NEW Geek?

Apparently, I am no longer a geek.

The self-proclaimed "Society for Geek Advancement"* has, via a helpful PSA*, been kind enough to inform us that geeks are no longer people who spend far too much time with computers, or who play Dungeons & Dragons, or who engage in/suffer from all other the things with which we have so long identified the term. It seems that the New Geek is a person who knows how to write a blog post, or add a friend on MySpace, or - as the video implies - even use an MP3 player. And - no surprise here - the New Geek looks down on all of those stereotypical Old Geek elements.

So it seems that the term "geek" has now been co-opted by users of "new media" (defined herein as blogs and social networking sites - not "new media" as I had come to know the industry definition of it over a decade ago). By this new definition of "geek," anybody who manages to swim in this century's sea of technology can label themselves such. But the geek stigmas we Old Geeks have suffered with for decades still exist - and the New Geeks still make fun of the Old Geeks.

Of course, I'm typing all of this with my tongue firmly inserted into my cheek. I don't honestly believe that one group's club-handed attempt to "advance" the geek either reflects or has the capacity to initiate a larger popular trend to reassign the label. All of this is really a means for me to sarcastically deride the Society's ill-conceived and shoddily executed attempt to do - well, whatever it was they were trying to do.

You see, I'm offended by this video. I'm offended because it - under the banner of "advancing" geekdom - makes digs at the foundations of true geekdom (although these are, allegedly, intended to be humorous) while simultaneously presenting a series of "pretty people" claiming to wear the badge of "geek." (Some of whom are just geeks, but most of whom wouldn't know a real geek if one put down his polyhedral dice and crawled out of his parents' basement long enough to bite them on the ass.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not claiming any "geekier than thou" status - even though I do believe it takes more than listening to your iPod or posting to a blog to make one a geek. (And just because you appear in an allegedly pro-geek PSA full of subliminal advertising for Apple doesn't make it any more true or believable.) I'm not upset that these people called themselves geeks. I'm upset because, at the same time, these talking heads derided things that are inherent to so many of us, whether we wear the geek label willingly or not.

I have been called both "nerd" and "spaz." I do play Dungeons & Dragons. I would drink Mountain Dew (if I weren't diabetic). I do speak Klingon (well, a few words - at least enough to get me beaten up by a bunch of costumed attendees in an alley behind a Trek convention). I have suffered from social anxieties. I have been a misfit - and I suppose I still am. I have been teased, picked on, tormented, harrassed, and beaten up for not being like everyone else.


*Note: I won't post a link to this group's site, nor to the PSA in question. Sorry - if you want them, I'm sure you know how to find them.

Oh, and by the way: this Society's Web site indicates that proceeds from the sale of its t-shirts go to "Room to Read." (At least they've done one thing right.) I happen to work for a not-for-profit company that supports adult literacy programs in the U.S. and abroad. We don't sell spiffy "I am a Geek" shirts (like a geek needs one of these to identify him-/herself) but if you donate, at least you can sleep soundly knowing that 100% of your money is going to help the cause. (As opposed to knowing that some of it might go to help the Society produce more PSA's like this one. /Shudder)
. . . . .

Friday, May 8, 2009

I Never Much Cared for Erol Otus' Work

I know, I know: this is the sort of statement that is likely to get me lynched by a torch-and-10-foot-pole-wielding mob of old school gamers, or beaten up in a dark alley by a pack of geeks armed with polyhedron-filled socks.

But it's true: I couldn't stand Erol Otus' work. From my first taste of it - the illustration on the front cover of Moldvay Basic Dungeons & Dragons boxed set - I disliked it. (Although I think it was the interior illustration of the party divvying up treasure that really turned me off.) It wasn't like I thought to myself: Hmmm - I don't like this. On the contrary, it was a purely subconscious reaction. On some lower level, my brain simply had a very negative reaction to Otus' highly stylized characterizations.

And I think I know now why that was. You see, to my teenaged mind, the more realistic the artist's depiction, the better. I mean, how better to bring a fantasy world to life than to make it look like life? To that end, I believed that Larry Elmore's fantasy work was the height of fantasy illustration.

Well, They say that as we grow older, so too do we grow wiser. (I don't totally agree with the veracity this axiom, but let's run with it.) Insofar as appreciating Otus' distinctive style, I'd have to say that I have indeed grown wiser. I now realize that making the fantastic look real is not, nor should it be, the fantasy artist's ultimate goal. In fact, in our day and age, I believe that it's far easier to depict the fantastic in terms of our modern, cynical perspective than it is to preserve its strangeness - much less extol its phantasmagorical elements. As I grow older still (a strange effect that seems to be neither slowing nor halting) I find myself realizing more and more just how challenging it can be to keep fantasy, well, fantastic.

But somehow, Otus did it. Through a style that - regardless how you feel about his work - was all his own, Otus showed us a world of true fantasy. Not a world of fantasy seen through a modern lens, but a world of fantasy seen on its own terms. Otus' Dungeons & Dragons illustrations, prolific as they were, depicted a fantasy world that was fantastic. As I grow older - and, hopefully, wiser - I've come to appreciate this work in ways I could never have predicted two-and-a-half decades ago. And Otus continues to do it: I'm glad to see his artwork still gracing our hobby to this day, and hope to see much more of it in days to come.

Nope, I never much cared for Erol Otus' work; but now I love it.

Oh, and so as not to exit this post without providing you with a little eye candy, here is a trio of Otus' pieces that I really love (as published by TSR in 1980's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Rogues Gallery):

. . . . .

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gee, I Wish We Had One of Them Doomsday Machines

Sorry for the dearth of posts - I seem to have become unexpectedly busy lately.

So, to make it up to you, here's a nifty little Gamma World hex-map I've had kicking around for about 12 years. Granted, this is a more polished version of the original, but since the original consisted of only a coastline and four or five locations, I didn't figure I'd hear much complaining.


(Note: You'll no doubt notice that this map uses some strange lettering. If you'd like, I'll post a guide to the "gammabet.")
. . . . .