SENSOR SWEEP: Mech Pilots, Skull Encrusted Thrones, Exiled Gods, and Fantastic Voyages

Monday , 25, September 2017 8 Comments

Appendix N (Cirsova) More Fafhrd & Gray Mouser Thoughts — “While there were a couple really good 60s stories in Swords Against Death, I think that the few from the 40s were my favorites. They were great short adventures and each stood nicely on its own. Honestly, the weakest parts (despite the excellent writing) of Swords Against Death (itself a repackaging of the much earlier ‘Two Sought Adventure’, tweaked for continuity shoe-horning) were the bridging pieces that fit those earliest adventures into the canonical continuity that Leiber had be welding together in the 60s.”

Pulp Revolution (David J. West) Walking Through Walls — “I looked at the project as a writing exercise since I had to come up with a quick tale of around 2,000 to 2,500 words an issue and hook the reader each time, have a wrap-up but also a cliffhanger for the next chapter. It was fun but perhaps lacks the flow of a novel. Most of it is first person featuring a character named Kenaz, who is no secret prince, no chosen one waiting to be called forth, no great fighter, no man of means or anything special, but he can travel outside his body and gather information. So that’s his semi-criminal profession, but then he gets wrapped up in a job for multiple employers that all conflict with one another and that’s where he gets smacked with a fistful of trouble.”

D&D (Gaming While Conservative) Dungeon Level H8 — “The most experienced player at the table was fully invested in Happy Fun OMG Slumber Party D&D, Like, my character has a pet raccoon, so random! Can I play a bard in Moldvay? No? Okay, so my fighter carries a didgeridoo that he plays to inspire his henchmen, and I’m not going to buy chain mail so that I can buy more retainers! Oh, I’ll call him General Greaves and say he has a heart condition to explain away his garbage CON score! LOL, like a Star Wars character! So random….’ I’ve never wanted to kill a character so bad in my life.”

RPGs (Walker’s Retreat) How To RPG: On The Mech Pilot Audience — “There are two things driving (heh) Mech Pilots. They want viscerality of experience, and they want as fast a pace of decision as they can handle, both of which conflict with strategic-level thinking and leadership skill exercises. If we shift over to movies, these folks are all about action films. They’ll eat up John Woo, Tony Jaa, Bruce Lee, and even slower-paced films like the mid-’70s adaptation of The Three Musketeers. Their fantasy is to be That Guy, and they have a competitive streak about it; this is why Fighting Games (e.g. Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Samurai Showdown) are favorites as are combat vehicle sims.”

Appendix N (PC Bushi) Thoughts on Tarzan: it was fine — “As is the case with Frankenstein and probably numerous other classics, the modern perception is far removed from the reality of the character. For one thing, the apes that raised Tarzan aren’t gorillas. They are more intelligent (even having a primitive vocal language of their own) and distinct from the other apes of the jungle. Tarzan himself may owe a spark of inspiration to Mowgli, but the character is basically a superhero, and I think it helps to think of many of ERB’s protagonists in this way. Tarzan is incredibly strong and adaptable, possessed of superior intellect, and is both primal and cultured. It takes him mere weeks or months to go from a savage ape-man to a European gentleman in speech and manner.”

Appendix N (Cirsova) Fafhrd & Gray Mouser: A Rebooted Franchise? — “There were six years between the last pulp-era Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser story and Lean Times in Lankhmar. There had been some lapses earlier (5 between The Sunken Land and Adept’s Gambit and 4 between Adept’s Gambit and Claws from the Night). The first several stories, however, were one after another from 1939 through 1943; and as I’ve noted in my reviews of pulps at Castalia House, a major tonal shift in SFF started taking place in the early 50s. The shift is even more dramatic in the 60s and 70s, the period during which the vast bulk of the Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser canon was written.”

RPGs (Dungeon Fantastic) No Town Game — “If you make town a place of adventure, people will adventure there instead. There is always one more thing to do in town anyway, even when the PCs are leaving. Ask this one guy something. Buy one more potion. Check to see if one more spell stone is for sale. Double-check if everyone has enough rope. Check and see if there just happens to be one more hireling ready. Adding actual adventure will mean you spend more time in town and less in the dungeon. Adding important adventures means you’ll turn the focus from the dungeon to the town. And that’s fine, for a town-centered game. Or a town-and-dungeon game. Or a game where dungeons provide clues and links and resources that influence town. But not for a game where the dungeon is the thing, and town is a way to allow people to replenish and recharge between delves.”

RPGs (Multiverse) Guest Review: Grimtooth’s Museum of Death — “Grimtooth’s Museum of Death is an adventure out of time. The cover art by Goodman Games in house artist, Doug Kovacs, to this adventure module depicts Grimtina, Grimtooth’s sister, who has just ecstatically cut a warrior’s body in half with a chainsaw, while a wizard, eyes open, with a severed head lay at her feet. Behind her a small wall of fire separates her and her victims from her brother. Grimtooth looks down upon the carnage from his skull-encrusted throne with a smirk of satisfaction at seeing the demise of the adventuring party at the hands of Grimtina.”

Science Fiction (Jon Del Arroz) Retro Review: King David’s Spaceship by Jerry Pournelle — “When it gets into part II, it really becomes a fantasy novel — kind of a book within a book. There’s epic battles, barbarians, pirates, great politics with the church, a lot of fun all around. The world building is so deep and so rich it’s incredible, some of the best I’ve ever read.”

D&D (Gaming While Conservative) Not That Hard, People — “In some cases you can see the surround hexes. In some cases you can see the features in hexes ten hexes away. Maybe you see a peak on the far side of a forest, so you mark it in pencil and blunder your way through. You got it a little wrong and come out of the forest a few hexes away, but now you’re closer. When you get to the mountain, you find a monster at the top, kill it, and now have a great view for ten hexes in every direction. Cool! More information – you fill in a big chunk of your map and spot three hexes with interesting things in them that you can look for later. Is that a crumbling tower over there? That lake in the woods has a strange red glow coming from it. Woah, did you see those trees wobble like something massive passed through? That really tall tree over there has a giant nest at the top – bet it has valuable eggs in it!”

Comics (John C. Wright) Diversity and Comics — “You cannot have any drama in a story where no one is responsible for his actions for the same reason you cannot have an exciting debate between two people who neither use reason nor have any ability to explain or defend their positions. Without reason, without an objective rational standard, the debate cannot be an attempt to find the truth by means of an adversarial exchange. There is no movement away from error toward truth. Likewise, without personal responsibility, without morality, there is no drama. No one is fighting the evil impulses in himself, or the evil men menacing the peace, and no one is crusading to defend and uphold the good, if there is no such thing as good and evil. No moral standard means no drama.”

Appendix N (Modern Appendix N) The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson — “So much happens in The Broken Sword, that Poul only hints at some of it. When Skafloc must seek to mend the Broken Sword, this cursed weapon forged long ago, a weapon whose fate spirals down time with such doom, that mighty Thor himself shattered it, Skafloc seeks out the heroes of Ireland. He sails with the lord of the Sea to the lands of Jotun where the sword is forged anew but the travel there and back is merely hinted at. Even at the start of the tale, when we are introduced to how much of the culture of elves flows through Skafloc, we are given a description of Imric, the ruler of the elves, the one who stole Skafloc, fighting against ‘with a troop of exiled gods, grown thin and shrunken and mad in their loneliness but still wielding fearsome powers.’ That in and of itself sounds worthy of more pages! Who were these old mad things that were once gods?”

Appendix N (Kairos) The Convergence of Science Fiction — “The highlight of the episode for me was when Max looked over Gary Gygax’s Appendix N–with which he was already familiar–and realized that most of the entries are a) not Campbellian and b) take Christianity–or at least some form of spirituality–for granted. It was an honor and a solemn duty to redpill a long-time SF fan on how the genre was purposefully hijacked by a clique of 50 New York editors.”

Video Games (RMWC Reviews) Beat-Em-Up to a Pulp — “The newly-elected mayor of Metro City gets a call from the Mad Gear gang. They’ve kidnapped his daughter Jessica to extort his cooperation. Since the mayor is Mike Haggar, the response is swift and decisive. He strips off his shirt and personally takes to the streets to suplex and pile driver anyone who gets in his way. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that he’s a former professional wrestler. And this predates Jesse Ventura’s governorship. Sounds insane, right? Sure, but its memorable, and Haggar’s design, moveset and moustache are so iconic that he’s the poster boy of the franchise and the only one to be playable in every Final Fight game.”

Trends (Nathan Bransford) What if Barnes & Noble went bankrupt? — “But the big publishers are only slightly less dependent on Barnes & Noble’s success than B&N’s shareholders themselves. All of the big publishers were built around their ability to ‘put books on shelves’. That’s what they can do that authors can’t do for themselves and, up until now, Amazon couldn’t do for them either. Although big publishers sell bestsellers that are on mass merchants shelves as well as bookstore shelves, Barnes & Noble remains the one stop for bookstore exposure which handles most of the output of the big publishers. B&N delivers as many retail locations as the indies do and, for the most part, more sales.”

Game Design (Lewis Pulsipher) Power Creep — “I’ve often said, about 1e D&D, that the ‘sweet spot’ for play was 3rd-9th level. Early on players were too fragile (not a problem in recent editions), and later on the game couldn’t cope well with double-figure levels. It got to the point that (as in WW II armored battles) whoever fired first usually won, because the attack capabilities were so strong. This is especially obvious where surprise is involved. If a game then ‘power creeps’ to where 9th levels are as strong as 11th used to be, the situation worsens.”

Comics (Ron Edwards) Recursion isn’t just a river in Egypt — “It’s pretty straightforward that comics and role-playing overlap, and not just among the purchasers of the former. Professionally speaking, the break-in crossover is quite real. I wrote about the interplay between Villains & Vigilantes (game) and Elementals (comic) in the post linked above, and plenty of artists built their early portfolios in the first flush of role-playing publishing, like Tim Truman and Pat Zircher. More writers did this than you might think. Significantly, as I’ll discuss in a moment, at the same time Mallonee began the Champions comic, he was writing an occasional issue for Marvel and working on the Deluxe edition of The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.”

Space Games (BGG) Talon: A Comparative Review with Federation Commander — “If I want to play a game with 4 or more ships I would choose Talon over Federation Commander. Talon’s streamlined rules and mechanisms make it relatively easy to handle a large squadron of ships. However, if I want to drill down into the details of each ship then I would choose Federation Commander for 1-2 (probably 3) ships. Federation Commander’s added detail gives you more decision points per ship at the cost of making it less friendly for handling larger squadrons. As a result, in Talon I prefer to play scenarios that don’t require destroying every enemy ship since I prefer not to risk the game coming down to two remaining ships battling it out. When playing meeting engagements with only ‘destroy the other side’ victory conditions I like to set a point value of losses that will result in retreat (loss).”

Comics (The Dark Herald) Marvel Comics Death Spiral — “These solid characters created a bedrock foundation. From the Silver Age on, Marvel’s fans developed a life long affection and affinity for the men behind the masks. It wasn’t Stan Lee who created Marvel, it was the hero whose story that you got to know. The hero’s conflict was often as not going to be internal rather than external. He was often struggling with his own identity. His problems were understandable and sympathetic to the average comic book nerd. These characters were what built Marvel. Guess what the SJWs threw out the second they had a chance?”

RPGs (The Mixed GM) The Difference Between An Ongoing Game & A One-Time Game — “In a one-time game, every second counts. This is not to say that you can waste time willy-nilly in an ongoing game, just that in one-time games, time is even absolutely critical. There is no “next session” if the players don’t open the big important dungeon door by 8:00 pm on Saturday night. In an ongoing game, it is not an issue if the players don’t open that door. You can just pick up the game in front of the door next time. However, in the one-time game, there is no next time. The GM has to have a tightly focused game that can realistically be done in the allotted time, or at least concluded somewhat satisfactorily.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) Robert E. Howard Wrote a Police Procedural? With Conan?? Crom!!! — “This is very much a closed-environment procedural: I think it could be turned into a play. All of the action takes place in a hallway and one adjacent room. Combined with the copious amounts of talking, this is likely a major reason why it seems like most Conan fans do not care for this story. It is quite different from every other one that Howard wrote. But ‘The God in the Bowl’ can be considered a very early police procedural, written over two decades before Ed McBain began to dominate the genre. As such, the story works better than merely as an early Conan tale.”

Appendix N ( Welcome to the Silmarillion Primer: An Introduction — “Despite the book’s sumptuous yet daunting language and larger-than-life heroes, it’s imbued with all-too-familiar patterns of human behavior—even in its nonhumans. There’s always this perception floating around that Tolkien’s world is black and white, that his good guys are all goody-two-shoes, that his villains are too simplistically evil. And I can kind of see where this idea comes from in The Lord of the Rings, even if I disagree, but my immediate reaction to that is always: ‘Oh, they probably haven’t read The Silmarillion, then.'”

Science Fiction (The Pulp Archivist) Wells vs. Verne? — “While a sense of ‘Hard SF’ as ‘Scientific-marvelous’ existed in the early 1900s, much of today’s hard SF would also fail to meet that definition. The Martian, by Weir, is seen as a hard sf success story, but it is closer to the spirit of Verne than Wells, as it is the engineering of the near future, not the extrapolation of a discovery into the mists of the unknown. Even most of Wells’ work fails to meet that lofty standard. And it also must be pointed out that Verne denied that he wrote science fiction, or ‘scientific romance’ in the parlance of the day. He was just looking for plausible methods to facilitate his fantastic voyages.”

  • deuce says:

    Nice pic from Stephen Fabian there at the top. One of the greats.

  • Nicholas Archer says:

    Watching “The Convergence of Science Fiction” video made me wonder. Are there other genres that have gone through similar transformations?

  • Cameron says:

    I love these posts, man. Thanks for doing them.

  • Aw, yeah! Double dipping in the E. Reagan Wright font of knowledge makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Jeffro, you can sweep my sensors any time, big boy.

    I ain’t got time to find this stuff, and ain’t got time to read everybody every time, so I lurves me some Sensor Sweeping. Helps sort the wheat from the soy.

  • @Nicholas Archer:

    It’s not just other genres. All media and every form of entertainment has been converged. Independent creators have started the long slog back from the brink of cultural oblivion.

  • Always appreciate the mention.

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