robotnik2004: (Default)
Random idea I'm too busy/lazy to work up into a series of posts:

Anyone remember that "Just Imagine" series of comics where a wondering world "finally" got to see how Stan Lee would "re-imagine" the classic DC Heroes? So you had "Just Imagine... Stan Lee creating Superman," "Just Imagine... Stan Lee creates Batman," and so on. Insert Stan-bashing joke here, except it's just too easy, so instead I'll link to "Just Imagine... Stan Lee creating the Watchmen."

So I was thinking about how, in both good ways and bad, Gary Gygax was like the Stan Lee of gaming. And I started to amuse myself by "just imagining" Gary Gygax's Dogs in the Vineyard, or Gary Gygax's Unknown Armies, or any fairly non-Gygaxian game you have an affinity for, with all kinds of Gygaxian verbiage and random tables and anagrams of Gygax for all the place names.

And then [livejournal.com profile] jeffwik  and [livejournal.com profile] bryant  both posted postmortems on recent games they've run (and let me just say that you two may not be entirely happy with everything about them, but I'd have knifed a moderately-sized orangutan to play in either one) and that got me thinking about old games I've played in and old games I wish I'd played in, and that turned the Just Imagine idea into something where I'd mix and match the names of classic games from our circle onto the interests and obsessions of game masters from same.  In other words:
  • Just Imagine... [livejournal.com profile] jeffwik's Orlando Trash! (you know, because of Jeff's Disney thing)
  • Just Imagine... [livejournal.com profile] bryant's Airportation! (no idea what this would be - it's just a name with potential)
  • Just Imagine... [livejournal.com profile] robotnik's Uncanny Valley! (no idea what that would be about either - robots, presumably - I've just always been jealous of that as a name for a game)
  • Just Imagine... [livejournal.com profile] jeregenest's Through the Delbruek Gate! (dunno - the name just sounds like it could be Jeremiah's), that or else [livejournal.com profile] jeregenest's Unknown USA (that I'd dig).
  • Just Imagine... [livejournal.com profile] mgrasso 's Pantellos! (faeries, natch)
(I'm missing lots of key people, I know, but I'm coming up with these games off the top of my head. And the names of most of the cool [livejournal.com profile] head58 games I can remember reading about take the form "[adjective] Star Wars.")

So anyway: just imagine... I finished and fleshed out this post!
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I opened up my LiveJournal client to write about something else this afternoon and found this mostly finished post from a year ago, I think. I'm so out of practice on these Games I'd Like To-style posts anyway, rather than delete it or let it languish until such time as I get around to cleaning it up, I'mo just pull the trigger and post as is:

(Post title is, as is so often the case, an inside joke amusing only to me and maybe my older sister.)

Five half-baked settings for kooky indie games! Or vice versa... )
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In the old days, I would've held on to an idea like this for a while: polished it, come up with some extra riffs on it, built a whole GILT or two around it. But now I think I'll just toss it out there while it's amusing me. Remember Harry Smith, the eccentric artist/alchemist/derelict who assembled the Anthology of American Folk Music? And do you remember the anecdote I shared the very first time we mentioned Harry Smith in these pages?
Smith's parents were Theosophists, Smith's grandfather was a leading Mason, and his great-grandfather was one of many nineteenth-century mystics to refound the Knights Templar. Smith's mother sometimes claimed to be Anastasia, last of the Romanovs, and she told Smith that his true father was Aleister Crowley. On his twelfth birthday, Harry's father (or his step-father, if Harry's mother was telling the truth) presented him a complete blacksmith's shop and commanded that he turn lead into gold.
Twelfth birthday? Mysterious parentage? Lead into gold? I can't believe it took me four years to come up with the mash-up: Harry Smith and the Sorcerer's Stone.


Photo & caption by Allen Ginsberg: "Harry Smith, painter, archivist, anthropologist, film-maker & hermetic alchemist, his last week at Breslin Hotel Manhattan January 12, 1985, transforming milk into milk."
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So I recently read this book: The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture, by Jason Colavito. Colavito is an alternative archaeology debunker - he writes articles and runs a website dedicated to discrediting/debunking von Daniken style theories of ancient astronauts and UFO cults and the like. More power to him--didn't I make von Daniken a baddie in my retro-pulp game?--though I'm not convinced that a few nutbars appearing on In Search Of in 1976 constitute "the demise of the Western rationalist idea itself."

Anyway, the argument of his book is this: that our man Lovecraft was the originator of the ancient astronauts meme. Not that H.P. believed in alien astronauts, just that Lovecraft's fiction is where the idea came from: that nobody else before him had floated the idea, in fiction or non, that alien astronauts visited Earth in the distant past and spawned myths of ancient gods. My first instinct was to call bullshit. Surely somebody, some Blavatsky-style Theosophist or Donnelly-style catastrophist or Moonbat-style hoaxer cooked this idea up before the 1920s? But I realized I don't actually know of any. Maybe he's right? If only I had some friends who knew a thing or two about Lovecraft, or old pulps and fantastic fiction, or just general weirdness... Any thoughts, folks?

Whether or not you buy that central argument, the book's a breezy enough history of ancient astronaut hokum. The main part that was unfamiliar to me was the French connection: Colavito pinpoints two French writer-fans, Louis Pauwles and Jacques Bergier, as the missing link between Lovecraft in the 1920s and the von Daniken types in the 1960s and 1970s, and also the point where the ancient astronaut meme jumped the rails from fiction to alleged non. I can't say it didn't make me want to run a game about French New Wave-style filmmakers in Paris 1959 delving into Les Choses Qu'On N'est Pas Censé Pour Savoir. Kind of a Jean-Luc Godard meets Jacques Cousteau thing: The Life Eldritch with Steve Zissou?
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In other news, yesterday I read George Pendle's Strange Angel, a fun biography of Jack Parsons. I'm assuming the Parsons fans on my Flist know about this book already ([livejournal.com profile] head58, I'm looking at you), but if not, high thee to a library. Parsons is a great character: rocket scientist, wife swapper, black magic cultist extraordinaire. When L. Ron Hubbard is calling you loopy and Aleister Superfreak Crowley writes you from England saying, "Uh, maybe you ought to lay off the black magic for a while for a while, Jack--you're weirding me out" it's time to at least consider a sabbatical. But no, Jack summoned the Scarlet Woman of Babylon, then blew himself up.

One random tidbit I'd never heard about Crowley, from a life made up of random tidbits: in 1913, the Great Beast led an all-female string septet called the "Ragged Ragtime Girls" on a disastrous tour of Russia. What do you suppose that was all about? Game ideas featuring Crowley in an insane Some Like It Hot / Road To Tunguska mashup involving some combination of Tony Curtis, Tsar Nicholas, Jack Lemmon, Lenin, Rasputin, and Marilyn Monroe are left as an exercise for the reader.

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I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for Lions on the Precipice, [livejournal.com profile] foreign_devilry's notional Dogs in the Vineyard expansion. I'm still waiting, but in the meantime, this emo snippet of alterna-reverse Dogs occurred to me. I started out by thinking about that gloriously stupid bit of early D&D laser-sharking, the Anti-Paladin. Then I found myself actually sympathizing with these guys. (Oh, but if you've heard me mumbling about my "Dogs heartbreaker" lately, this isn't it.)

A Land of Thorns and Vice )
robotnik2004: (Kidney!)
Not a Route 96 post. Much much geekier. Mostly for [livejournal.com profile] mgrasso and [livejournal.com profile] head58, though [livejournal.com profile] gammafodder1 and [livejournal.com profile] sneech515 may be amused in spite of themselves.

So ever since Mike linked to that Star Trek reboot, and then started talking about running the old Dragonlance modules, and then news came out of the Dragonlance movie (Lex Luthor as Tanis! Jack Bauer as Raistlin! Xena as Goldmoon!), I've been threatening to write a big post on how one might revamp or reboot the Dragonlance series, scraping off some of the fromage and finding new hotness within. Battlestar Galactica is obviously the touchstone here, Exhibit A in how to resurrect, retool, and reimagine even the mustiest of old geek loves. (But see also many of Grant Morrison's superhero comics, and, if I may be immodest, my Starchildren game in a way).

But then Andy and the Story Games kids came along and stole this terrible, terrible idea right out of my head and made a thread of it, forcing my hand! (And probably saving me from mulling this over for another six months.) So I banged out my ideas in the thread. Here's my contribution (behind the LJ-cut) though if you're nerd enough to have made it this far, the whole thing is worth checking out: Dragonlance Gets Awesome-O-fied.

Read more... )

(No, I'm not going to link to the Hotties of Dragonlance Gone Wild '05 thread.)
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I admit I've only skimmed the website, but White Wolf's Promethean doesn't look like my cup of tea. I never loved the WW systems, and I'm just not feeling the six flavors of sad-eyed Mexican Frankensteins. But [livejournal.com profile] mgrasso's posts on it, plus this book I was looking at, somehow planted this idea in my head yesterday. So here you go, Mike, this is my one stab at twagic twee.

Michael Jackson in Disneyland
Don't have to share it with nobody else
Lock the gates, Goofy, take my hand
And lead me through the world of self
--Warren Zevon, "Splendid Isolation"

My Life With Michael
A GILT for My Life With Master, Puppetland, or (if you insist) Promethean

It has been ten years since his trial. Ten years since Michael Jackson closed the golden gates of Neverland and sealed himself away from every human soul. Yet he is not alone. You are Michael's twisted menagerie--his creations, experiments, and pets. The delicate bubble boy, his T and B cells swapped for Michael's transplanted fears. The moonwalking clockwork robot, assembled from discarded toys once used to lure and bribe young guests. The wan fading pixie, trapped in half-life by Michael's flickering belief in her. The grinning clay tulpa, into which Michael pours all the urges and rages and blackness he cannot admit to in himself. And loyal long-suffering Bubbles the Chimp, desperate to keep his master's affection from straying to younger prettier things. Together you dwell inside the gates of Neverland with the dwindling Fisher King of Pop. He keeps you. He needs you. He knows you will never grow up, never leave him, never blame him, never tell.

Time elapsed since my last game: 1 year, 1 month, 14 days.
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So how jealous am I of all you guys who have played or are playing in [livejournal.com profile] editswlonghair’s Caper game? Here’s a post (a bit long and kinda unedited) I started writing for the 20’ by 20’ Room (actually the first half of the post—it grew, like they always do) when [livejournal.com profile] head58 began talking up heist games a few weeks ago. (What happened to the “Bothans’ Eleven” idea, by the way?) I wanted to write this out before I actually sat down to reading John’s game, because it sounds like Caper works well enough to make much of my long-winded speculation on How A Heist Game Could Be Done kinda moot.

(John, let me know if it’s cool to post what follows, specifically the 3rd paragraph where I mention you and your game, on 20x20. If you want, I’ll take out the mention of Caper. Or I could just take out your name and the name of the game and say “a friend of mine.” My thinking is, it doesn’t hurt to mention your game, spread a little buzz, even if it’s not ready yet. I won’t include a link. But if you don’t want anything mentioned to the Teeming Dozens, that’s fine of course.)

Yoink! )

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"Pathological monsters! cried the terrified mathematician
Every one of them is a splinter in my eye
I hate the Peano Space and the Koch Curve
I fear the Cantor Ternary Set
And the Sierpinski Gasket makes me want to cry..."

—"Mandelbrot Set"

"It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes."
—"The Colour Out of Space"



Before he started kicking six kinds of Kryptonian ass this week with a series of Superman mythos posts, [livejournal.com profile] ezrael wrote something about "The Endless Black," a sci-fi horror game he'd like to run, in which humanity takes its first faltering steps into the endless dark of Lovecraftian outer space. [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo floated a similar idea in an old ST column a few years back (I know [livejournal.com profile] ezrael loves it when I lump him together with [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo, but hey, there's worse company to be lumped with): "Ships disappear, pilots go mad, colonies fall into dark worship on distant planets ... As the Earth's ossified systems splinter under madness and anarchy, the human colonies see themselves left alone in the dark." I dug Ken's take from the start, but Matt, who strikes me as just the fellow to GM a game where the universe is cruel and bleak and cold, added the crucial Catch-22: the very tools humankind must use to navigate the extra-cosmic gulfs of space—eldritch mathematics, Dune-like mentats and spice addicts, strange eons of cryogenic sleep—ineluctably corrode our humanity. Yeah, that's the stuff.

There's only one thing I need to make this G a G that I would truly LT, and that's comedy.

Seriously. )

Not GILTy

Mar. 16th, 2006 10:33 am
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Hey, what happened to all the game idea posts? There was a lovely harvest of them early this week and then nothing. Is it because arctic weather snapped back into effect?

There ought to be a name for that last blast of winter that comes after a week or so of premature warmth, just when you start to let yourself think that spring has arrived. It's like Indian Summer's evil twin. I've heard people call the sneaky warm period "Strawberry Spring", but I don't know if that's real or just from a Steven King story. I was thinking something more like "Fuck You Winter".

Yeah, you're probably going to say, where are my game idea posts? Good point, but I did just put up 1300 words on Superman, sex pulps, and the secret history of weightlifting. That ain't knockwurst! I do have a few new GILT ideas, or reworked old ones, but they don't seem to come as fastly and furiously when you're living in gamer exile. Actually, there was a period, about two months after leaving Boston, when I felt like I was generating scores of beautiful mad ideas a day. I think I was sweating them out of my system or something. But now, not so much. Maybe I need more structure to bounce things off of. If I started up something like [livejournal.com profile] bryant's old weekly idea mash-ups, would people play along?

You can always stroll down memory lane with my de.icio.us/robotnik/gilt tag. All of my old LJ games-I'd-like-to are there, and a number of yours, although I know I'm missing some goodies.

About a Pig

Jan. 3rd, 2006 06:32 pm
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Modesty shall not prevent me from noting that my game design General Mud, which I whinged for validation on discreetly mentioned back in November, won the coveted "High Ronnie" for the last round of Ron Edwards' eponymous game designing contest. Here is the link to Ron's very flattering feedback.

Until about three-quarters through, I figured it was merely a dialogue-based homage to Animal Farm, but it's not. Can the Soviet survive? Is the General's ascendancy a long-term curse to its downfall? Are bourgeois notions, in moderation, compatible with a secure economy? This should be taught and played in history classes.

I was especially pleased by that final line.

(I'm going to get even more immodest now and assert that there are actually some parallels between General Mud and [livejournal.com profile] neelk's terrific-looking Court of the Empress. But Neel being Neel and me being me, his design is elegant, cruel, and sexy, while mine is convoluted, twitchy, and mostly about a pig.)
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Behold the Empire of Ten Thousand Years. The palace at the center of the city, the city at the center of the world. Beyond the Empire is the Wall of Peace, guarded by fierce warriors with fell weapons of mass destruction. Beyond the Wall, there is nothing—only barbarians, howling wastes, and the yellow gulfs of Hell.

With apologies to Tsui Hark, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Akira Kurosawa, anyone with any historical-cultural sensitivity, Chinese and Japanese history, and Jeff Wikstrom. )
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"See all that stuff inside, Homer? That's why your robot never worked!"

A quiet Sunday reading the paper, and books, and other nonelectronic things, and copying Season 2 of MI-5 from TiVo to VHS for [livejournal.com profile] jeregenest, who was in a scary and freakish and random accident. It sounds like he's going to be OK, mercifully, but he will, I assume, be convalescing for a while. (On reflection, odds are good that Jere's already seen the MI-5s, but it's nice to have a project.)

I was amused by this quote in the Sunday Book Review:

Here's the problem with 'Write what you know': What too many aspiring writers know, it turns out, is that a suburban American adolescence causes vague feelings of sadness—especially when one's formative years include a dying grandparent or housepet.

Yes, indeed. Substitute "Canadian" for "American" in that sentence and I know that problem all too well. (See, Homer? That's why my novel never worked...) The review in question goes on to say "It's the lucky writer whose story is familiar to himself and exotic to his readers," which then made me think of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, a bit of a trendy must-read novel a few years ago that I had somehow missed. L gave it to me over the holidays, and it was great. Highly recommended. One of the funniest books I've read in a long time. The feckless Gen-X hipsters therein reminded me an awful lot of me and my own friends in the PC 1990s, at least until the Russian mob shows up and starts breaking their kneecaps. That didn't happen to me and my friends as far as I can recall. (See how my uneventful Canadian adolescence has prevented me from being a literary prodigy? Oh the pain.)

I posted another rambling essay today about Ben Franklin and the Turk and 18th-century robotica over at my big boy website. Halfway through that post I mention that I have "another cool anecdote about the Imperial Academy of Science in St. Petersburg in the 1700s that I want to tell you." I know, I know, most people would be content with just one such anecdote in their life, but you are blessed with me as a friend, so you might as well enjoy it. Check this shit out: Peter the Great, Tsar from 1682 to 1725, was a passionate collector of monsters. In the 1690s, he began assembling a collection of anatomical and zoological monstrosities and abnormalities, living and dead. In 1704, he ordered that midwives throughout Russia were strictly forbidden to kill or hide newborn children with deformations. All "monstrous" births were to be turned over to the clergy, who would deliver them to his Cabinet of Monsters in St. Petersberg. After Peter's death in 1725, the Cabinet came under control of the Imperial Academy of Sciences.

"Cabinet of Monsters." Nice ring to that. Well, I doubt I have to tell you what I'm thinking: If those "monsters" were not giants and hermaphrodites and hydrocephalic kids but actually, you know, monsters... you could have a crazy 1700s Russian League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adventure, or some very cool backstory for the Russian version of the BPRD in a certain long-threatened Soviet Hellboy Delta Green game.

What else? Oh yes. [livejournal.com profile] bryant's Best Movies of 2004 post is up, which is great, and relieves me of having to write one. I spent a lot of 2004 passing off a combination of Bryant and Anthony Lane's opinions about movies as my own, so it seems appropriate to just link to his Best Of list now. My only gripes with his list? I'd drop Sky Captain. I found it dull and disappointing, and I can't help thinking that caffeine and a sense that "I should like this" is deluding Bryant and my other geek chums who still champion the film. And where is the love for Napoleon Dynamite? But other than that, yeah, yeah, yeah.

GILT Trip

Jan. 2nd, 2005 11:33 pm
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Well, I was going great guns on the Xmas GILT exchange (that's "Games I'd Like To", with the final verb left up to you—"Run"? "Play"? "Pretend Never Existed"?), until stupid Xmas itself got in the way. The rest of you probably woke up on Christmas morning and ran to your stockings to see the shiny new game ideas inside, only to find a lump of coal or Silver Age Sentinels. It's just like that animated special they always show in December, The Year [livejournal.com profile] robotnik Ruined Christmas. But wait! It's actually more like that animated special they always show in early January, The Year [livejournal.com profile] robotnik Eventually Saved Christmas. At least if you are [livejournal.com profile] jeregenest, [livejournal.com profile] mgrasso, [livejournal.com profile] jeffwik, or [livejournal.com profile] head58. And if your expectations were nice and low to begin with. These aren't as fully developed as the earlier ones: I'm just pointing in a direction I feel confident you each could go. Call it "Game Ideas I'd Like You To Come Up With," if you like. Hey, if I could do erudite eliptony like Jeremiah or fantasy mind-breakers like Jeff I'd run these games myself.

Read more... )

Fubar

Dec. 21st, 2004 12:22 am
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This one is for [livejournal.com profile] editswlonghair and [livejournal.com profile] chrislehrich to share. I don't know if they've ever gamed together, but I know they both dig the essential elements of this mashup. It was a long, cold drive home, so I'm not working too hard on this. Just like at a retro Chinese restaurant: take one pulp standby from column A, one from column B, rip off Hite*, and it basically writes itself:

Read more... )
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Next up in the Secret Santa Game Exchange: [livejournal.com profile] narcissime. Enjoy.

We Are All Made of Stars

It is the world of the Starchildren. The world of Mother and Velvet and the Beautiful Fascists and Mary Pagan and Darling and Kai Summer and Clio and Jack Voltaire. Or it will be. Because this is the prequel, set forty years earlier, in the glittering skies of 2034.

White Dress and Stars, 1934

People they come together, people they fall apart... )
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So the "five games I'd like to run" post has mutated, X-Men style, into the "five games I'd like you to run" post, a far more virulent meme, because you can post it without even pretending you'll do the work of running the games you suggest. That's evolution, baby! Let's not argue about who suggested this variation first, let's just get down to it.

Kayfabe Confidential )
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It's Labo(u)r Day! (For a few more minutes.) And tomorrow is the first day of my new job!

Some of you with keen eyes have already figured this out, but L now has her own LiveJournal, under the user name [livejournal.com profile] papersource. She chose this user name, of course, in honor of Paper Source, the supplier of high end stationery and other fancy paper goods that certain artistically-inclined females find more addictive than Nazi crank. I couldn't convince her to go with any of my noms de cute for her, like [livejournal.com profile] cuticle or [livejournal.com profile] cuddlefish. But [livejournal.com profile] papersource is more than appropriate. L has been known to hit the joint with some of her rowdy coworkers after a couple of after-school martinis and just turn the sucker out of glassine envelopes and decoupage. Anyway, she is of course as witty and delightful online as off, and I encourage you to visit her LJ, Friend her, and shower her with the love and comments she deserves. I do hope this new hobby will survive the onslaught of back to school, but if it doesn't, c'est la vie. No impugning of L's stick-to-it-ive-ness intended, just that it's the day before school starts, and I've seen it before: September hits these poor teachers like Paul Anka's mighty hammer. We shall see.

But! L is not the only one the cool weather has imbued with super human energy and an illusory sense that all things are possible. Here I commemorate the last day of summer and perhaps too many cups of coffee with one of those ever popular "Games I'd Like To Run" posts.

Thirteen is a magic number. )
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Ziggy Played Guitar

I really am going to run that long-threatened Starchildren game shortly. In preparation for character generation and movie night this week (I think Jess has Hedwig and Velvet Goldmine on tap, both fine choices) I'll post some of my assorted notes. I've done a major overhaul of the system (we'll be using Hero Quest) and a slight remix of the setting (you'll note some Grant Morrison influences, plus I'm opening it up to 70s Funk and Metal in addition to the canon Glam). You may think I'm putting far too much thought into a game about alien rock stars, but it will get much sillier once we bring in the Glamour rules... and besides, do we really want to follow those kinds of thoughts (about what's worth putting thought into and what isn't) to their logical conclusions?

Mother, do you think they'll try to break my balls? )

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