Monday, March 24, 2008

Bought Two New Toys, Got Hit By a Car

To call today 'eventful' would not be overselling things.

I finally got paid, and after cashing my check, promptly set out to purchase a new tower for my desktop, to replace the one that got fragged last week. Unfortunately, the 200 dollar desktop Wal-Mart was offering on their website was out of stock, so I hit Best Buy, Circuit City and some of the other electronics stores in my city's sprawling 'stripmall hell-zone'.

By the way, I was on my bike. (Not a Harley kinda bike or anything cool like that- two pedals and a seat that hurts your ass like prision-sex). Why? Because I am God's Chewtoy. My car died last year. My computer died two weeks ago, and now....

Crotchety old white man in a SUV way too big for him, making a right on red, without looking.... me being stupid enough to think a glowing walk sign protected me like a divine aegis..... crunch. It's not the first time I've been hit while biking, and no harm was done to me, but unfortnately the front wheel of my bike now looks like one of Salvador Dali's clocks.

Another fucking thing to spend money I don't have fixing. Lovely.

Equally lovely was the fact I was humping the shattered remains of my two-wheeled comrade in arms about 2 miles back to my house. I'm a little bit sore from that. After that, I dumped the bike, dumped my first purchase on the phone and did a bit more walking, to a computer store about 1 mile from my home, a little mom and pop place.

Good news there. I ended up getting a 40 gig desktop with all the usual office stuff and Win98 installed.... bascially the same as I've been working on for exactly 200 dollar. I got it home, and in addition to the stuff I saw in the store, I noticed it came loaded up with Adobe Acrobat 6, which is fricking like recieving a submissive supermodel for Christmas! I figure this fun little bonus is karmic payback for spending my money with a real, local small business owner rather than throwing it at some soulless mega-corp.

By the way, the first thing I did since this was a used, refurbed computer was to take it home, open up the Documents folder and see what kind of porn the previous owner was looking at (mostly making sure there's nothing with children or donkeys, I'm cool with pretty much anything else). No porno, drat. Turns out the previous owner was a sweet little old granny, who kept copies of all those stupid inspirational e-mails that get sent around, which is kinda funny. She also kept her will, with every bit of personal secure info (including SSNs, driver liscense numbers and bank account info) on the thing, which isn't.

I'll definately be deleting THAT. Yikes, I feel really bad for that woman if she knows that little about opsec.

Anyway, my new desktop is my first new toy. The second, which I actually purchased before the crash, and the one thing I can't stop smiling about is my newest Iron Man action figure, which will join the small but growing army of Tony Starks protecting my desk and bookshelves.

I stopped by Target in my quest for computational goodness, and though I learned they don't actually sell computers, like I always do I stopped by the toy aisle, and picked up this little honey: "Repulsor Red Iron Man", which is a Target exclusive appearently, and one of the coolest bits of corporate synergy I've ever seen.

Target's colors are red and white, and their logo is a stylized, circular bullseye. This Iron Man, a combo of Adi Gradnov's absolutely awesome design and the old red and silver Iron Man suit from the 80s is red and (metallic) white, and has a circular uni-beam projector on his chest. I don't know who came up with this figure, if it was somebody on the Marvel side, the Hasbro side or if it was a Target executive's brainchild, but this is probally the coolest store-exclusive action figure I've ever seen.

You know, even after being hit by a car, I'm still in a pretty good mood. Maybe becuase I just got paid, and my financial situation is slowly straightening itself out. Maybe it's because 3 different people stopped to offer me a ride when they saw me humping my bike down the street. Maybe its because I've got two days off in a row, a rarity at my crappy 'civilian' job, maybe because I can write again, which I'll be doing after I post this. Maybe because broken bicycle or not, it's a beatutiful day in Corpus Christi, Texas, and I've seen more pretty girls in tight shorts today alone than I have in the previous two weeks. Probally it's because of my new Iron Man though. I've got messed up priorities.

Also, in other good news, I recieved my author's copy of the "Rust Borg" from Reality Devaints Beyond Modern line. I really had fun writing this one. I was asked to create some classes for a grim, violent Mad Max or Rifts-styled post-apocalyptic D20 Modern game. Rusty here is the first of three: the Slaver and Memory Singer (a modern magic healer, source of courage and inspiration similar to an after the bomb Bard) will be coming out shortly. Anthony (the hardest working artist in gaming) did the art, and it's always a treat to see his interpretations of my characters.

Anyway, a couple of secrets about this class. It was inspired almost completely by the "Four Horsemen" sculpt of Trap-Jaw from the revamped He-Man line; I basically built the "Trap-Jaw" advanced class, which is one of the absolutely coolest things I've ever done. Another thing, the name of the Rust Borg gladiator who got killed during the opening flavor text.... he's a small time gang banger in my home town who keeps graffiting my mom's back fence. Seeing that little SOB chainsawed to death, even in a work of fiction, warms the cockles of my heart. So naturally, I'm having a great time with Reality Deviant's post-apoc stuff, and I've been comissioned to do some more work for them.

I love getting cool emails saying things like "give me 30,000 words or so on a post apoc magic system" with a few very fun and very flexible writer's guidelines to follow, most of which consist of me and the clinet BSing about favorite books and cool movies. The post-apoc magic stuff for Reality Deviants will be one of the first things I'll be working on now that my computer is back up and running, along with Psi-Watch and Otherverse America.

Anyway, I'll talk to you all later, and I'll probally share my thoughts on Final Fantasy x2(which I've been playing addictively during my involuntary hiatus from writing), interactive storytelling techniques and confess my undying love for Rikku.

Blessed Be, and Adios,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bad Reviews, Good Products

I'm going to get a little cantankerous here. I just saw this review of D20 Decade on Rpgnow.Com, by Dana Jorgensen and thought I'd respond to a few things right here. My responses are in red

"I usually like Skortched Urf products, but this is without a doubt the worst they've done to date.

I don't even know where to begin in pointing out where it went wrong.For starters, it is plagued by horribly inaccurate research. A prime example is making malls out to be inventions of the 80's when outdoor strip malls date back to the 1950's and indoor malls date to the middle of the 60's. Of course, why limit oneself to claiming events of the 60's and 70's as part of the 80's, when post-80's events can be referred to as part of the 80's as well, like Magic Johnson's HIV infection, which wasn't made public until 1991.

Read through the text again, you'll notice I never claimed that malls were invented during the 1980s, just that the 80s were a decade where the mall took on major social importance. The mall became the quintessential 80s hangout, started influencing the way we shopped, and showed up in 80s popculture and fiction. The late 70s and early 80s were, in my belief where America stopped being an industrial economy and transformed into a low-wage, service and retail economy. Malls may have been invented decades earlier, but they became very important during the 80s; I also mentioned the space race, the Cold War and the rise of video games and home computers- all those things had their genesis during the early 1950s as well.

Yes, I did rever to Magic Johnson's HIV infection, because it made a nice counterpoint and contrast to the way people with AIDs were percieved and treated during the 80s. I included several things from the present day which give historical context or a bit of irony to the events of the 80s. For example, I referred to September 11 and the rise of the Taliban in many places, linking those events firmly to the Cold War and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That's not bad research, that's a basic understanding of history.

Why is there a section called "Spells of the Cold War" when everybody now knows that the Cold Warriors in the USA, UK and USSR were researching psychic phenomenon?

Not arguing with you there, there's a lot of inspiration to be found in wierd government programs. However, I really dislike the D20 modern psionic system, and don't want to mess around with it. Psi-Watch, with its completely different Psionic system, will touch on this element, but not in a major way.

Also, incase it slipped your mind- D20 Decade is 175 fricking pages..... for 7 dollars. A few things are going to fall through the cracks, and new D20 psionics elements (which I dislike) were one of the first things to get cut, along with a section on vehicles.

Was "Romanova Survivor" really a phenomenon of the 80's worthy of a starting occupation when there were only a couple people subject of this wild claim? The Rubik's Cube craze lasted longer than the Romanova Survivor craze.

Actually, I didn't know about the Romanova Survivors until I started researching the project. I found a couple of articles on the subject and it just fascinated me. I included it as a starting occupation simply because I thought being the last surviving heir to the Czars was a cool origin for a Russian hero or major NPC. There's a couple of exclusively Russian starting occupations, so if you want to play a Cold War era campaign set in the USSR, with exclusively Russian heroes you can. Besides, the Romonova Survivor is about 200 words out of a 175 page (7 dollar) document, so why even bring it up, other than just to be bitchy?

And why are so many of the "hidden races" of the 80's tied to the faerie mythology of the British Isles? The genetically engineered soldiers, transformers-inspired Manifold, and Chuckie/Puppetmaster-inspired Living Toys I understand, but what's with all the fey nonsense?
Are you talking about the High Solstice Sidthe? One race out of several? That's 'many of the hidden races?' You ever see Labryinth? I figured that celtic/Hellboy inspired fey were basically the best way to create a "Jareth" style player race. The Arcadians are video-game fey, inspiried more by Captian N: The Game Master, than anything else, and the Imajin are Jim Henson style, Dark-Crystal or Fraggle Rock inspired little creatures. All three have the 'fey' type, but only the High Solstice Sidthe even mention real world mythology.

Again, I think the substance of your argument says something positive about D20 Decade even as you're criticising it. You mention four different, (to my mind at least) interesting player races in one sentence, while you're complaining about how many fey are in the game. Again, I have to say this: 175 pages, tons of new content, seven dollars. Or four dollars if you bought it during the GMs day sale. What exactly are you complaining about, when WOTC releases 15 page adventure modules for nearly the same cost?

Finally, the layout is horrific, looking like it was done in Microsoft Word, with problems like text overlapping the inane and grossly oversized little nintendo controller page number graphic, (an experiment in design which has been universially drubbed, which I won't repeat) a lack of paragraph juctification, highlighted text where colored text boxes should be, what colored text boxes exist are cropped off at the ends as they autoflow to extra pages and a general lack of conformity (some feats underlined, while others are boldfaced and in a larger font size, for example).

You know why D20 Decade looks like it was produced with Microsoft Word? Because it WAS. You know why?

Because I don't have several hundred dollars to drop on purchasing Adobe Photoshop and I haven't been able to find a bootleg which has worked worth a damn! If you want to help me out with either, you go right ahead, skippy. Until than, stop harping on my layout abilities. You've got 2 columns of text and art, you can read the damn thing, so stop complaining.

It seems like was produced in a hurry with with little fact checking, haphazard memories of the 80's, and no proofreading or examination of the final product. Save your money for a second edition.

After reading your review, I checked out every review you've ever posted. All 2s or 3s, not a single review higher than that. I don't know what you look like, but I'm picturing you sorta like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, fat and indolent, wheezing out "Worst. Gaming. Product. Evvarrr!" in between handfuls of Cheetoes.

I also did a search on your name, seeing if you'd actually ever written anything, and all I could come up with were a handful of D20 weapons books. Really impressive, dude. Do you think cut and pasting a bunch of information from Jane's and writing up weapon stat blocks qualifies you as a trailblazer on the frontier of D20 game design? Let's see you do better, instead of just bitching, moaning, criticising and feeling superior. Write something that requires a bit more thought than statting up sniper rifles and the OICW and then we'll talk, rookie.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's computer shopping time!

Well.... my computer works. Sorta. For about 45 minutes at a time, than freezes. With a single Microsoft Word document open. It stutters like Porky Pig, freezes, shits itself and dies. And than when I reboot the fucker it takes 2 hours to log on.

Needless to say, my computer is now the world's largest, most expensive paperweight, so it's going to be time to get a new one. Damnit.

What's worst is that since I don't have any cash on hand, and won't until my next payday, late next week, I'm without the ability to write. I hate not being able to put down my ideas, and work on the projects I'm trying to get out. My life has been... well, it's been extraordinarily crappy lately, but at least I could go home at the end of the day, and write for a few hours. Now I can't even do that, and it's frustrating.

What's even worse, I've got some good ideas I want to put into Psi-Watch, but if I can get my computer to work, I'm writing 3-4 pages at a time at most, before having to do the Restart Dance. Anyway, nothing I can do at this point except wait for that paycheck.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not As Bad As I Feared

Okay, though I am fairly technologically iliterate, I was able to retrieve my documents from my computer, meaning I've still got the first draft of Psi-Watch, the completed Guide to the Known Galaxy and the current draft of Otherverse America. Thankfully, nothing was lost.

As far as I can tell, my Wacom graphics tablet's drivers crashed which was slowing my computer to a crawl (IE: taking over 2 hours to complete frickin' startup!). I deleted it, and will try reinstalling my tablet later. Hopefully, I don't be left with a $400 Wacom paperweight after all this is done.

At this point, the computer is running again, and I can write on it (though I'll definately be backing stuff up to my flash on a much more regular basis), though I may have to start looking into buying a new desktop pretty soon. Fortunately, WalMart and BestBuy are selling their PCs pretty cheap these days, and it's been time to upgrade for a couple of years now.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Once again, Fate Screws Me

Is there a smiley icon for murderous rage and or suicidal depression? Because I need one.

My computer died yesterday, and hopefully, with the help of my younger brother, it may rise again like some unholy undead abomination. If not, than not only have I lost all my porn, but even more tragically, I will have lost around 30K good words on the Otherverse America Campaign Setting..... fortunately I'd backed up an earlier draft to my flash drive two weeks ago. Still, I'd written a bunch of good material about the APEX organization (the setting's supercops basically), the role of the federal government, its technology and the role of corporations in the future government. I can recreate it, if necessary but it still hurts losing it.

Worse, unless I can recover my documents, all the art and text for Guide to the Known Galaxy is gone. That'll take some work to recreate.

On the good news front, I've recovered the first draft of Psi-Watch, so at least that project is still on track. As for the rest of my previously published material, I can retrieve copies from the publishers later, so I can have a collection of my own writing. Other than some possible delays to Otherverse America and the GTKG, this doesn't delay my plans too much. Psi-Watch is going to be my next big release, and it's still on track.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


It's odd that a product can not yet be released and yet be on its second edition, isn't it?

I learned a few lessons from the criticism of Black Tokyo, and want to apply them to my equally massive, but more 'general audience' Psi-Watch. In it's first draft, Psi-Watch was going to be a tool box for players, a book of feats, new classes and gear, lots of crunchy bits for D20 Modern powergamers. There was information about "PSI-WATCH" itself, a heroic organization that's as vaguely defined as Department Seven, which the psionic supersoldiers in the book work for....obviously an analogue for government funded Image teams like Youngblood or Stormwatch.

However, one of the biggest criticisms of Black Tokyo was a lack of world info, of fluff to back up the crunch, and I don't want to fall into that trap again. I'm revising the draft to add more information about the organization of Psi-Watch itself, what serving in the organization is like, as well as information about a generic 'Image-style' campaign world.

I'm also adding at least one more advanced class. A while back I heard about a Turkish or Afghani (I forget which) bootleg of Star Wars, which got wide play simply because of the hilarious grammatical errors and funky dubbing. One of the things that stuck out in my mind, was that since "Jedi" had no equivalent in the Turkish (or Afghan) language, the dubbing crew had to come up with a substitute: Hopeless Situation Warrior. To my mind, that's probably the coolest name for a character class ever- you are the one guy left standing when all hope is lost, and you can win against anything.

That name is one of the most evocative phrases I've ever heard of, a far cooler job description than "Jedi" and it's been in the back of my brain for a couple of years now. I can see it in the context of a Cable-inspired soldier, come back from a hopeless future to make things better, and that's probably going to be the concept behind the advanced class.

On the subtraction side, I'm going to remove the chapter dealing with combat genetic engineering, since it's alot of reprinted material, and include it elsewhere. The combat genetic engineering and military genemods will probably migrate over to the section in the Otherverse America Campaign Setting dealing with commercial genetic treatments.

Finally, I'd like to share an e-mail I sent to Amanda Webb, who did art on Black Tokyo, and who will hopefully be contributing some pieces to Psi-Watch as well. The letter gives a few hints as to the style and content and 'feel' of Psi-Watch, as well as an idea of what it's like to be a small press publisher working on a shoe-string budget.


I’ve finally got a bit of cash available to me and I would like to commission a bit of art for Psi-Watch. This one is based heavily on early Image comics- the art of guys like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld especially…. Definitely keep your own style- I like the details and quirkiness of it, but keep the design tropes of early Image comics in mind:

    * Lots of equipment pouches, web-belts, military gear.

  • * Shoulder pads, body armor, and guns- I don’t know if you can draw realistic tech, since it wasn’t really an issue on Black Tokyo, but don’t worry. Just make ‘em look cool and futuristic- if it worked for the comics I’ll work just fine for the game!

  • * The guys are tough, battle ready, ruggedly handsome- the women are impossibly voluptuous, despite the fact they should have a flatter, more athletic build for the kind of martial arts they practice. So remember…. Men= two days growth of stubble. Women= big boobies!

  • * If you want to go crazy with poses, anatomy, and do a less realistic, more energetic style that looks great on the page, but has no basis in reality or real physics go ahead. Same thing with the ‘600’ tooth Rob Liefeld grimace.

You said you read the old Image stuff, so you know what I’m talking about…..if you need more reference or any ideas, just ask me. Right now, the art budget is pretty slim, so I won’t buy more than 2-4 pieces this month, probally in B&W. I might end up doing some of the coloration myself, or may leave some pieces B&W, based just on how they look.

I’m sending over the whole document, just so you can give it a read see if anything else catches your eye, or not, at your leisure. I definitely trust your judgement. The document is a 80% completed draft- I’m probably going to be deleting the section on genetic engineering, rewording some stuff and adding a bit of content, and a couple of new classes…. As well as more information about the world- a lesson from the Black Tokyo reviews.

For you, I’d like you to take a look at the following stuff, because I think any of the items below would look incredible in your style. First and foremost, I’d like to get a rendition of either a Blooded Ghost (pretty much equivalent to the Daemonites from WildC.A.T.S.) or a Patriot Ivory (think Diva from StormWatch)… both are player races…. If you feel like working on a monster, go with the B.G…. if you want to play with a humanoid, go with the P.I.

I’d also like a color piece of the Shiftsteel Symbiotes (think Witchblade, or better yet Void or Warblade from WildC.A.T.S.- a human covered in living metal armor) in this first batch of art. Give the character’s armor a kind of a ‘oil on water’ pearlescent sheen if you can.

After that, take a look at the character classes and see if any jump out. I’d really like your take on the Final Sword especially. I’d also think you’d do some really cool stuff with the Frontliner’s facial tats- I’d love to see your rendition of a Cable (X-Force) or Cabbot (BloodStrike, a really obscure Liefeld comic). After that, I’ll scounge some more dinero together and commission some additional art.
And that's me in my role as art director- yippie! I'll do some of the art myself, simply because I have a great time doing art, and my coloring style is well suited to aping the early Image house style- very bright, intense, garish and relying a lot on Photoshop special effects to convey mood and do cool energy FX (actually Corel Photopaint for me, since I like that program better, but you get the idea).
Obviously, Anthony will be contributing some art, and I'll probally post an open call for artists on in a month or two to get some more peices, as well as beat the bushes of Deviant Art looking for artists.
Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Quick Post Before Work

The D20 Decade: 1980s will be coming out tonight or tomorrow, which is good. Black Tokyo continues to sell well, which is better. I went to the cheapie little pawnshop next door to my house and bought a used Playstation 2 and Final Fantasy X-2, which is better. And having some money in my pocket from the sales of Black Tokyo, I've started sending 'love notes' to my favorite artists on Deviant Art, seeing if any of 'em would be willing to do some art for me, which is best of all.

Of course, I just noticed a new review which criticized Black Tokyo for "not being like Ghost in the Shell or Armitage III" on ENWorld. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees; I'm personally hoping the reviewer is fairly young and new to anime, because he obviously didn't understand the differences between the genres. All anime is not just one thing and Black Tokyo is as far from cyberpunk as you can get. The review does spark my imagination though: what would a Bubble Gum crisis, GitS or Armitage styled cyberpunk D20 Future setting look like in my hands? I've always always enjoyed scifi....

Otherverse America is pretty cyberpunk, and owes alot of its genesis to my love of anime and comics, filtered through my political views and pagan beliefs. Still, it might be fun to do a cyberpunk setting without those signature elements, something more anime-inspired and generic (without being cheesily generic, if you know what I mean). I'd have to work pretty hard to top the old Fusion-engine Bubble Gum Crisis rpg, that's one of my favorite old RPGs, and I constantly reference it for inspiration.