Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paranormal Romance

I have a new short story up on the Wily Writers site. Wily Writers makes electro-published speculative fiction available on the mojo wire, and my story, "Happily Ever After", is available both as text and read by the talented Scott McGough, who in addition to having a warm, reassuring voice, has written more than his share of Magic: The Gathering Novels over the years.

For other writers who this missive reaches, the Wily Writers site is an excellent place to engage in the act of the short story. Editor Angel Leigh McCoy picks a topic for the month as a "jump ball" and at the end of the month the site picks the top two contenders for publication. They are just closing out "Alienation" as their February reading topic, and next up is "Flash" fiction (what we used to call short-shorts back in the day - fiction under 1000 words). Back in January, the topic was "Paranormal Romance". I had an idea and crafted it into the story you see (or hear) on the site.

Check out Wily Writers, and check out my take on paranormal romance. Yes, I'm being cagey about what its about exactly - just go and enjoy.

More later,

Friday, February 26, 2010

Funny Pixels

A couple new things over on the linkbar to your right that bear mentioning.

First off, the unsinkable Stan! has launched a new site, 10' by 10' Toons, in addition to his continuing Doodle-a-Day site. 10x10 is more gaming oriented and worth a look every Friday.

Second, I've added Tree Lobsters by an anonymous and entertaining skeptic a while back, but haven't mentioned it here. But now I have.

More later,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Guild Warriors

Those of you who follow this blog know that I don't tip my hand early (which is probably the point of an entire 'nother post, but we'll let that pass for the moment). But yesterday ArenaNet officially announced the upcoming release of Ghosts of Ascalon by Matt Forbeck and myself. The book is being released this summer, in advance of the game itself, as it covers a lot of the stories of what happened between the time of the original Guild Wars and the new game, in particular as far as the relationship between the humans and charr. At one point I referred to this as "The Canterbury Tales with more explosions", and the description is still apt.

It's been a pleasure to work on this project with co-author and fellow Alliterate Matt Forbeck, who had the monumental task of weaving an exciting story through a rich, deeply developed world while the game design was still ongoing, a task I can only compare to building a locomotive with the train is already in motion. The final result should be a treat for both long-time fans and people who want to know what all the fuss is about with Guild Wars.

And while on the subject of Guild Wars, I'd like to point out that ArenaNet's own Linsey Murdock and Katy Hargrove are interviewed by as two of the Most Influential Women in MMO Development. That sort of thing is really, really cool, and you should check that out as well (at least, while waiting for the novel to hit the shelves).

More later,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Other Roleplaying Game

My regular Thursday night gang took a break recently from D&D4E and cracked open an old copy of TORG for a few weeks, and it was an interesting experience, in that step-through-the-looking-glass sort of way.

TORG, for those who don't know, was published in 1990 from West End games as a universal (multi-genre) system with a central thematic spine. There are different worlds based on different genres (fantasy, cyberpunk, superheroes, pulp, high adventure, horror) so your home campaign can be in a particular genre but have guest stars with other genres, all under the same system. In our case, we were Victorian Super Heroes with our home "cosm" (universe) being invaded by cyberpunks, wolfmen, and agents of The Gaunt Man.

We did see a lot of character transformation between the games, Our 4E bow ranger usually takes it as personal insult if he has to move during combat, but the same player ran "Yoo Die, the West Texas Ninja", who sounded like George Bush and came up with lines like "I hide in the shadow of his fear, and leap out, dance the lethal fandango on his face". Our melee ranger, a semi-legendary figure with dreams beyond his halfling proportions, ran a rabbi who was such a mensch. Even I found myself more in David Niven dry martini hero mode than in wise-cracking punster phase.

The mechanics of the game have a couple nice grace notes worth mentioning. Rolling for results is a three stage process - first a random roll to get a modifier from a chart, with additional rolls for results of 10 and 20 (related to Spelljammer smokepowder weapons and 7th Sea's exploding dice - allowing the potential for large modifiers). Then the modifier is applied to one skill number as a to hit result and to another number (sometimes a skill number, sometimes not) as a damage or effect result. The hardest part is remembering the modifier between the two applications, but it gives the game its own charm.

Also, there are cards (I had an original deck from my set, unshuffled for all these years). The cards have different effects for players (give a +3 on a result roll, or 3 bonus points at the end of the adventure), than for the GM (flipped at the start of each round, it sets (or changes) the tone of the battle - do the Villains go first this round, or do the Heroes? Are there any special attack rules? What kind of actions will get you bonuses? If you are intent on a single style of attack, you can work through it, but it is an attempt to budge players into thinking differently. And with a deck-based system to influence play, you don't have a typical initiative roll situation.

In part due to these changes, the game ran differently in play than our normal 4E session, and it was a hoot. TORG is what they call these days a "High Trust" game (I've seen the phrase tossed about a number of places - I think I saw it first on The idea of a "High Trust" game involves that the players are setting down with a general idea of what their purpose is - both from the idea of genre and the rules themselves. Yeah, the mechanics might be cheesed, but that's not the point - you have a big ball of examples and different ways to resolve them. The GM has to think on his feet to resolve issues, as do the players, and often the GM and the players are teaming up to figure out the best way to resolve a situation. TORG is nicely High Trust, like Marvel Super Heroes and the wayback machine version of D&D of the late 70s. You're not quite sure where you're going to end up in the proceedings, but you know its going to be an interesting trip.

At the opposite end are "Low Trust" games, which try to map out all the possibilities and set down specific rules for handling different situations neatly and effectively. 4E is pretty solid on that, but we can also add Champions from back in the day and GURPs as well. The current thick-booked Basic Roleplaying is Low Trust, but one of its ancestor systems, Call of Cthulhu, is High Trust, but then, if you find yourself in combat in CoC, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Despite the names, I don't want to say that one gaming style is superior to the others. High Trust games tend to engender unique playing styles for the players and the GM, while Low Trust games have as a general goal a repeatable, enjoyable gaming experience regardless of the abilities (or state of mind) of the participants. High Trust can be more casual, while Low Trust more tournament style.

Both have good points, both have bad points. I tend to see more "killer DMs" and "Monty Haul Dungeons" among the High Trust games, and more rules-layering and "Mr. Memory" encounters in Low Trust games. But the interesting thing was that our group could spin on a dime and go from one style of gaming to another without missing a beat. It sort of puts a hole in some of the edition wars craziness, and points out that you can play the style of game you and your gang is most comfortable with. Even it is a handful of different styles.

More later,

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I've spent the past few days wrestling with a nasty headcold, which has manifested with an ever-rotating cascade of symptoms like a demonically-possessed Simon game (Today - sore throat! Tomorrow - uncontrollable coughing!).

And worst of all, when I'm sick like this, I sing. Badly. And not good songs, either, usually bits of doggerel made up on the spot, or things like the Donny Most song from that Family Guy episode:

Donny Most, Donny Most
He was "Ralph" on Happy Days
Donny Most, Donny Most
Now he rises from the haze.

So its not a good idea for me to be around others, and I've been working at home for the past couple days. Now, the fact that this coincides with the Olympics, which are being broadcast by the network nation of NBC, is completely beside the point. So the fact I can curl up and let the TV run while I slurp down hot tea and review manuscripts is totally a small bonus.

As you've probably heard, it has been a snakebit Olympics. Warm weather. Tough venues. A fatality in the luge. Protesters. Breakdowns in equipment and transportation. The torch trapped behind a chain link fence like it was in Free Speech Zone. Still, it is the Winter Olympics, and I've always liked the Winter Games more than the Summer. Skiing, speedskating, hey, I'll even watch figure skating. And adding the polar cold-weather opposites of curling and snowboarding just adds icing to the cake.

And I've been happy with the coverage. One of the grumbles in Seattle right now is that we get the games in the evening NBC feed instead of live. Vancouver is two hours away (plus an hour at the border) - why are we getting everything on tape delay. Me? I'm glad I don't have to watch the announcers fill time for two hours while the IOC Judges are on the women's alpine course praying for snow, or waiting for the fog to lift so you can see the top of the course from the bottom.

As much as I bash on large corporatism, the network nation of NBC has done a good job so far - highlights in the evening in prime, and live/semi-live events during the day on CNBC, MSNBC, and USA. And while they cut some of the action (like the opening rocks for curling each end), they have been showing full games (which is just as well, since the US team is 0-3 in the round robin and not looking at all well - will there still be coverage when the US is no longer a contender?). In addition, NBC has eschewed the mawkish sentimentality and jingoism that often haunts Olympic coverage.

So for the moment I've got my laptop, manuscript, blanket, and tea, and I'm happy the Olympics are on - because otherwise the only thing on TV would be reruns of "Phineas and Ferb".

Donny Most, Donny Most
Sunday Monday, Happy Days.

More later.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Play: Guy Talk

Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet, Directed by Wilson Milam, Seattle Rep through Feb 28.

Not a great choice as far as a "Valentine's Day play", but one of those great things about Season Tickets is that you don't necessarily control the dates. But I have to admit, I love this play. I loved it when I read it, and I love it in this performance.

This is a guy's play. It deals with a group of real estate salesmen selling undesirable properties to unwilling prospects. In short, selling swampland to chumps. They are the dog soldiers of real estate speculators, the boys uptown, and are being scammed much as they scam their clients. But they are so wrapped up in their own cons, their own tricks of survival that they subject themselves a sales contest in order to get the precious leads (prospective buyers) from corporate.

Williamson (MJ Sieber) is the office manager who controls the leads. Shelly (John Aylward) is an old pro on a bad patch. Roma (R. Hamilton Wright)is the new hotness, picking out weaknesses in clients like Lingk (Ian Bell) and zooming in on them. Moss (Charles Leggett) is the office blowhard and George (Russell Hodgkinson) is the struggling middleman. We get to know them individually, then there is a break-in and with the arrival of the police (Shawn Belyea as Baylen) puts the screws to the group.

I've seen all the actors in other works at the Rep (underscoring the Repertory nature of the title), but they all disappear into their characters seamlessly. R. Hamilton Wright, who've I've seen in numerous pieces from light and fluffy to Shakespeare, is so effective as Roma that I didn't even tweak to the fact it was him until the second act. These are men playing male roles, and they are very, very effective.

They're helped by the play itself - Mamet writes like people talk, with the pauses, and the interrupts and the zigzags. Everyone gets a moment, everyone gets a chance to make their case. Mamet is the exposed brickwork of American Theater. And yeah, he writes guys like they talk when they are among their own, in the machismo environment of competition. There are a lot of good moments here, but what I noticed was that there was a lot of male laughter in the darkness at the interactions. Anyone who has had to deal with a coworker explaining the way of the world to anyone who'll listen knows where these guys are coming from.

Its a tough play to grok as well. Those who don't know about the high pressure and sketchy nature of "vacation real estate" can be at a disadvantage, as would someone who would not know the importance of getting good leads. The play's structure itself is jarring - we meet the agents not as a mob, but in a series of scenes in a Chinese restaurant. Only in Act II, after the robbery, do we get into their dingy sanctum sanctorum and watch them triumph and self-destruct.

This is a great play for language and great play for actors. It's brief but meaty, and yeah, is more comprehensible on the stage than on page. This is a recommended.

Oh, and the big Alec Baldwin "Coffee is for Closers" bit? Mamet wrote it, but that's just for the movie, in part to give it a bit more grounding for the cinematic audience. Just so you know.

More later,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gaming Tables

One more dip into nostalgia, but I promise to return to the present and show a cool future before we get out of this.

I started playing D&D in 1975 at college, and brought the game back with me at Thanksgiving break to my friends in Pittsburgh. By 1976 we had a number of campaigns set up, including a weekly one at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) - Wean Hall, in one of corner conference rooms overlooking Panther Hollow. We used that meeting room so often that one of my housemates and borrowed one of the folding tables from that room. And by the time we got around to returning it, well, that room was no longer a meeting room and CMU didn't use that type of table anymore.

In any event when I got an invite to see the Microsoft Surface D&D table, I had to accept. The demo was created by the SurfaceScapes team, a group of students from CMU using Microsoft Surface technology to play the game. Thirty-five years ago, the big projects from the CMU CS departments were things like the driverless van and the hopping robot, so this is a pretty cool thing.

The Surface device itself is about the size of a small coffee table, with a projector beneath and four IR cameras on the corners. The projector displays the map (any size - it scrolls). Items on the board (like your miniatures) have IR tags beneath them, so the program can track their movements. You can hook the table up to the DM's computer, where a program can control the monsters, maps, and other sundry.

Where the challenge lies in this sort of thing is the surface itself, the interface between the programs and the users. What the CMU team has done (incredibly well) is identify how much and what types of information the players want on the table. Your miniatures are on the table, the monsters can be either part of the display, or can be miniatures as well (at the close of the demo, the DM dropped a dragon on the table to fight. As he put the dragon down, dust kicked up from the table and there was a deep audio thump of it landing - very nice use of interface).

Now I remain deeply aware of D&D and its minutia, but I am very trailing edge as far as tech is concerned (my phone, for example, is only used to make phone calls - it's so retro). But I quickly got the hang of how to use the screen, and was incredibly impressed by the amount of raw D&D material they made available. That's another challenge of D&D - you may not need to know you AC all the time, but when you need to know, you need to access it instantly. How they made the information available was pretty darn elegant.

According to the CMU team, the Surface was originally created with an eye towards board games, but that did not pan out, and the CMU team was looking at more real world applications, when they showed it to the Penny Arcade guys (yeah, the comic strip guys). Penny Arcade walked through the original demo, and said, "you could play D&D on this thing". And so the wheel turned back. Plus the fact that 4E is the most computer-friendly version of the game yet, while there is programming for every new spell and ability, it is easier than in the eldest of days.

Here's the thing - this is a student project. It is unfunded (and they could use a few of the newer D&D books (hint hint)). The device itself is more commercial than home use (Surfaces are in use for information kiosks and the like). A D&D table would likely work better in game stores than in the home. It is a demo, so there are pieces that are still work in process (Version 2.0 is going to be ready for GDC and PaxEast, in case anyone is interested in seeing it live).

The big question I thought of was: In the home, what piece of furniture would this replace? The device we played on was about the size of a coffee table, so I could see it in the middle of the living room, surrounded by low chairs. A larger version would replace, say, a pool table (oh, you don't have a pool table? Me neither, but that's part of the problem), and would be priced accordingly.

The "Ultimate Gaming Table" has been a Holy Grail for DM's since the publication of the first D&D box. This project has done an incredible job bringing that day forward.And it is a great improvement over a folding table liberated from Wean Hall.

Oh, and that original gaming table we .. borrowed from CMU? It's still in my basement. You guys can come and get it anytime.

More later,

Update:Monkey King was with me, and has a great writeup of the device and the app as well.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Civic Responsibility Nag/Reminder

For those reading the blog in the King County area, today is election day. Go down to the pile of unopened mail by the front door, dig out the mail-in ballot and the voter's guide, take the five minutes to read up on what you're voting on, and go vote.

In general, voting for schools and libraries = Good. On the specific issue of Renton Library joining the King County Library system, Grubb Street knows enough to know he doesn't know enough to advise, so seek answers elsewhere.

More later,

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Roger Moore Connection

So, thanks to new father Steven Schend, an ancient evil has been unearthed. I am referring, of course, to the sanity-sharding horror that is "Jeff Grubb Day".

The short version of the tale is that someone tried to imitate me, saying that Jeff Grubb was a house name at TSR, and an editor (Hi, Anne!) thought it would be funny if everyone was Jeff Grubb, and as such passed out "Hi, My Name Is Jeff Grubb" name tags to the entire staff. On what turned out to be Steven Schend's first day of work.

My name tag read "Hi, My Name Is Roger Moore". But I never really explained the significance of that comment.

Here goes: Before the insanity of Jeff Grubb day, we had another case of identity-grabbing, involved long-standing and talented DRAGON editor Roger Moore. Um, make the Roger E. Moore to separate him from the Bond actor (though our Roger was much better looking).

Roger was invited to a convention on the West Coast as a guest. As such things happen, he was unable to attend, and sent his regrets. Life went on, and then we got a letter.

The letter was from a fan who claimed he had attended the convention, and was very concerned that Roger Moore could not attend. So concerned that he stepped into the breech, and for that weekend was an imitation Roger Moore on our behalf. Sat on panels, signed autographs, and provided information about upcoming TSR product. Furthermore, he wrote, he would be more than happy to continue to do so as our "West Coast Roger Moore", freeing the real Roger Moore to his editing duties.

Needless to say, the real Roger Moore (and the management of TSR) were not tempted by this offer. In fact, they were rather taken aback by Roger Moore imitators. The fan did not sign his name, but did provide his RPGA number, and we quickly tracked him down and sent him a note that impersonating TSR employees was really, really ,not apprecitated.

And that was why my name tag that fateful day, twenty years ago, read "Hi! My Name Is Roger Moore". While others will go for the fad of the week, I will stick with the classics.

And Roger? I think his name tag read "I am the Real Roger Moore. All others are spuds!".

More later,

Friday, February 05, 2010

Secret Origins

The recent post in Grognardia about the original Marvel Super Heroes game has garnered a lot of comments, most of them of the "boy, we loved that game when we were kids" variety. In fact it has been picked up by the blog for the Stranger, one of Seattle's free weeklies. And its gotten me all nostalgic about the old days. So here are thirty things about the Marvel Super Heroes and its history. Some of these I've said before, but here they are in one place:

1) What was to become the Marvel Super Heroes game was originally a homebrew super hero game I ran in college as a break between D&D campaigns. At that time I called it Project Marvel Comics. It was set in the Marvel Universe (a smaller place back then in the late 70s, when there was one X-men book and it had until recently been bi-monthly), in West Lafayette, Indiana, home of Purdue University, my alma mater.

2) The heroes were all members of the Junior Achievement branch of the Avengers (this was before the West Coast Avengers or others of that ilk). They were all original heroes, with guest stars from the Marvel Universe. The group of heroes (both in campaigns at Purdue and later in Pittsburgh) included such luminaries as Big Man on Campus, The Crimson Ram, Carl the Firebreather, and Super-Pin, the pro-bowler of steel. It was a pretty light-hearted game that involved destruction of large chunks of the wherever we were playing. Eventually the heroes got to visit New York City, where they met Spider-Man and fought Mayor Koch. I originally intended that to work out the other way around, but that was the nature of the campaign.

3) Soon after I joined TSR in Lake Geneva, all the designers were asked for "Blue Sky" projects - what they would do given their druthers. I did not suggest PMC first. Instead I suggested a very dark cyberpunk campaign (this would be, 1982 or so). Very dark and bleak. So bleak that it ate a hole through the bottom of the file cabinet. The management came back and asked what my second choice was. At this point I suggested Marvel Super Heroes.

4) The two dominant Super-Hero games at that time were Villains and Vigilantes, which was relatively light and popular in the East Coast and Midwest, and Champions, with was number-crunchy and popular in the West. I liked both games - V&V had my favorite power - Mollusk Control. Champions was very much about fine-tuning your character and was the first RPG I encountered that encouraged serious min/maxing of the characters.

5) About that time, Mayfair games announced they had the license to do an RPG for Marvel. TSR double-checked and found that they did not have the license. TSR then got the license with Marvel. Mayfair soon afterwards got the license for DC. When their game came out, I gave it a nice review in DRAGON magazine. Mayfair used part of that review in its marketing. I was asked TSR's management not to write any more reviews.

6) FASERIP was the listing of the stats of the game - Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intelligence, and Psyche. In the original PMC it was FASECMT - Fatigue, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Cosmic, Magic, and Technology. We also had FEATs - Functions of Exception Ability or Talents. Very Marvel Universe.

7) Karma, a spendable experience point that could be used to increase abilities or modify die rolls, was a descendant of the Hero Points from the earlier Top Secret game, but more granular.

8) The original PMC was more number-crunchy in its first incarnation. We quickly moved to what would become the Universal Table, a color-coded chart that was the one-stop shop for task and combat resolution. It is a descendant of the old Combat Result Table from Avalon Hill and SPI wargames.

9) Once I started working on the game for TSR, I think I went through about five different version of the Universal Table during the design at TSR before ending up with the one you see in the game. I would lay one out on Monday, Zeb Cook would shoot holes in it Tuesday, and I would try again Wednesday. I think it was five versions - it only feels like a dozen.

10) Original credits for MSH (later called Basic Marvel or the Yellow Box) were Jeff Grubb and Steve Winter. I did the mechanics and very rough draft, and Steve turned it into the Marvel style text. I think he did a great job at it, and that's why we're co-creators on the original, a veritable Claremont and Byrne.

11) We playtested the rules in-house with other designers. They also playtested it with kids, about 9 or 10. They videotaped the playtest, and made me watch it. I think they had to tie me into the chair. It was very illuminating about how kids used the game, but I really hope someone burned that tape.

12) It took longer to work out the licensing deal than it did to design the game. In the end, we were at the printer, ready to run, waiting for the final language for the legal statement.

13) The game was almost called "Marvel Comic Book Heroes". Our marketing department changed it because that was what people thought of when they thought of Marvel - comic books. I protested and was told that they didn't want "everybody and the janitor" getting involved in the marketing process. I ended up in a couple comic book shops in the Wisconsin and Illinois area with a questionnaire to disprove their point.

14) I would take liberties with the legal indicia (the mouse-print in the front of the book) on future projects. I think I used the phrase "Mess with Hulk's Lawyers, and Hulk will smash!" and that one got through, and soon afterwards I stopped writing the legal indica.

15) The original game got a mixed critical response. The reviews of the time were of the type of "Well, its OK if you like that sort of thing" or "It's a little basic" (well, yes. Yes it was). Champions did a very nice job holding down the very-complex end of the spectrum, and this one was going to be easier to run and play. One review dinged us for our "Face-front, True Believer" tone. A few years later, when we did the more hobby-market Advanced set (the Blue Box), the same reviewer complained that he missed the "Face front, True Believer" tone of the original.

16) The contract called for a dozen products from TSR in the first year. We were unsure if that meant a calender year or a full year from the first product. That was one reason we had so many early products, 16-32 pages in length. We had the advantage that we had the entire Marvel Universe to play with.

17) We were also an early pioneer for full-color maps in the gaming product, since the game used area movement. The city maps could be eventually fitted together into a larger city. It was kinda New York, but I made the mistake of making the numbered streets East-West instead of North-south. The businesses were all named after other people in the company, until someone in management found out that didn't like the idea and we stopped.

18) I was incredibly excited when we got John Byrne to do a cover for us - Murderworld. On the back of his original art were some sketches re-drawing the TSR logo.

19) Working with Marvel was great. In those days, all the art was in a warehouse "across the river". To get pick-up art, I could ask by issue and page number, and they would send out the stats. It was very easy, and the process made it possible for us to do a lot of things very quickly.

20) Another Murderworld story - Someone at Marvel's legal department asked us to put all the trademarked names in ALL CAPS. We pointed out this was a bad idea but they insisted, which is why the names in Murderworld are in ALL CAPS. After they saw the product in print, they changed their minds and we went back to the original presentation.

21) Marvel owned all the characters, of course. I created one character, Cascade, for an Alpha Flight adventure. They never picked him up. Pity.

22) When we did the Basic MSH, Marvel didn't want us to put in any character generation - they wanted people to play Marvel character (which makes sense). We put in a rudimentary system in the back. When it came time to do the Advanced Set, Marvel sent the note "Whatever you do, be sure to put in a character generation system. That's what fans really want to see." I'm not bashing on Marvel here - they were learning like we were learning.

23) MSH did a wonderful job opening the doors of the comic book shops to RPGs. It arrived at a great time, when local direct-sale shops were blossoming, and looking for ways to expand. I'm sure a lot of them would have picked up D&D on their own, but it provided a nice bridge.

24) The first time we showed up as a company at the Chicago Comics Con (then in a hotel in Rosemont), we had a table in the hallway outside the main dealer's hall, and were armed with a map, a tripod with a picture of the cover on it, and some metal miniatures. We gave away a lot of Wolverine miniatures at Comics Con to people who would play our demo, and to this day people tell me they got a miniature from me.

25) The Ultimate Powers Book came about because one of our editor's boyfriends was in the office, making a list of every superpower he could think of. One of the managers found out about this and thought it was a great idea, and that was how the UPB came about. That sort of thing happened more often than you would think.

26) Similarly, the Official Gaming Handbooks came about from the same sort of inspiration - A manager reasoned that Marvel must have computer files of all the text from the original Official Handbooks of the Marvel Universe (OHOTMU), so all we have to do is add the game stats. Unfortunately, Marvel DIDN'T have all the text in a computer file, and we had to input it all in. In-house, we referred to the large books as "The Phone Books" since they were the size and shape of the Lake Geneva White Pages.

27) Early on, we had a knack for publishing things that were immediately outdated in comic book continuity. We would publish a map of the Baxter Building and they would blow it up. We would do an Alpha Flight adventure and they would change the line-up dramatically. Peter David once suggested we do a New Universe adventure so they could wipe out the line (they did, eventually, without my help).

28) Most of the fan comments I got about Marvel over the years fit into three categories:
1) I love your game!
2) I love your game, and here's how to fix it!
3) I play Champions, but I buy all your stuff to convert it over!
29) Eventually, I drifted off to other projects, and the responsibility for running the line moved to Steven Schend, who did a great job through the phone books and later projects. He was also our next door neighbor in Lake Geneva. Thanks, Steve!

30) We ran the Marvel-Phile articles in Dragon magazine for what seems like forever - so much so that I became a "Contributing Editor" on the masthead. The main purpose for the articles were to cover characters that changed suddenly, or character that would never show up in a regular product (say, Howard the Duck). We even did ROM, Spaceknight, which resulted in Marvel and Hasbro getting together to figure out who actually owned the character.

Finally, my best Marvel games were always ones were people brought their own heroes into the world of Marvel Comics, mixing their own stories with the "established continuity". It was a blast, and I really enjoyed it, and it feels very good to know that the game still has a warm spot in a lot of gamers' hearts.

OK, enough being old school and nostalgic.

More later,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Verities and Balderdash

It hasn't been like I've been busy the past few days. Chalk the absence up to general exhaustion. But here are a few things I have stumbled across:

Author and fellow Alliterate J. Robert King is posting a conversation with Ed Greenwood in his Twelve Days of Ed Greenwood.

Grognardia has done a retrospective on the Marvel Super Heroes RPG. Now I'm feeling all Old-School.

Looking for an instant location for your D&D campaign? How about Calendria? Kinda cool looking.

And I've lost some time watching Llewtube. The idea of the podcast is that Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from Red Dwarf) drives people around in his Prius and interviews them. Like Patrick Stewart and Stephen Frye and local officials. Quirky and British and you couldn't do this in LA because after a half-hour you've only gone one exit.

And did I ever share with this Close Encounters/Dueling Banjos mashup?

More later,

Update: The Internets are a wonderful thing. Got an email from Robert Llewellyn saying that he has done some of his "CarPool" shows in LA, both for the web and iTunes. But he stays off the freeways when he does them. Thanks!