Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fursona III: Modern Anthros

I'm waiting on the cover art for Fursona III.
This cover will feature three characters: one representing the possibilities for Anthro characters in Otherverse America (the sketch of which we see at right), one representing Psi-Watch Anthros, and a third representing the general 'modern magic' type of anthros you'd see in something like True Blood. I told Amanda to give me a cover similar to the Dave Johnson D20 Modern covers: a trio of representative figures posed together, showing what you could build with the rule set.

I'm also finishing up the Kodiak Island sourcebook, and as I wait for the last art for that one to trickle in I've been going back and adding some more content.

Ghosts & Promises and Fursona III will probably close out the year, though I might put out some unplanned micro-PDFs between now and then. Yesterday I sent off a 5 page weapon book to Mark, and might do other short products.

As it stands, 2011 brought about 45-50 releases from me- most through Otherverse Games, but a few good sourcebooks I freelanced for Louis for. 2012 looks like it will be similarly productive.

Blessed Be,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Synthetic Heroes II is SELLING!

What the hell? I expected Synth Heroes II to be a decent, lower tier seller, maybe reaching 60-70 on the top 100 chart, but I just dropped into RPGnow and saw its fluctuating between the number one and number two slots!

Wow, thanks to everyone who's picked up Synth Heroes.

I figured I should tell all the fans of free-form D20 character generation out there, (and appearantly there's alot of you), that I'm doing some work on Fursona III RIGHT NOW! I'm putting together a 'mutant' character builder running off the Fursona engine. It'll include some conversions of Psi-Watch material, letting you build free-form versions of the Challengers and City Born, as well as converting the Mutant player race to a build-your-own version. In addition to the char-gen, you'll get some world info. This book will delve HEAVILY into Otherverse America's 'mutie-porn' underground- it should be kinky, transhumanist and body-horror intensive, everything a good sourcebook should be.

I should have a finished draft in a few more days, and I'll post a preview or two later. I was expecting to illo it mostly through stock art, but I'll probably get at least one or two comissioned pieces now. (The illo on the right is some TMNT fan-art I've found on line, unfortunately not a piece for the new book. I can dream, though).

Anyway, expect that soon. Also based on the content of my last post here, I'm wondering if I could pull together a Witchy Hero basic class, which not only allows you to play a badass witch girl type hero from level 1, but which explores the trope of the 'witch hero' genre the same way my Sentai Spectacular release a couple months back explored the tropes of sentai TV? Might be a fun way to end the year.....

Also, just as an aside, I'm looking forward to the revised Neo-Exodus Campaign Setting, from Louis Porter. That should also be up in a few days- I'll be picking it up, and hope most of you do the same.

Blessed Be,

The Witch As Superhero

The Witch As Superhero

One thing I picked up, as a result of ’s ‘Teach Your Kids to Game’ week, and the associated discounts is the Witch Girls Adventures roleplaying game (Channel M Games, 2009). I’d been curious about the book for a long time, and now that I own it, I figured I’d talk about it a bit here.

First off, I am in total love with this game. Character generation is my favorite part of gaming, possibly because these days, cut off from a regular game group, I can still bust out a rulebook and experiment with different builds for various systems. Witch Girls has amazingly quick and fun char-gen, which is a huge plus.

Let’s run through char-gen.

Chargen is freeform, but guided a little bit by a simple template. Basically you pick a Clique (your social group, which determines your outlook towards magic and the size of your Magic Die, and decides what spread of dice you get for your attributes), you then assign dice to your other attributes as desired.

Then, pick 2 talents (equivalent to D20 feats in utility and power), 1 heritage (like a mini-template, in D20 terms, that offers a powerful advantage and corresponding disadvantage). Finally, you pick choose your skills (which really help define your character’s personality and interests), your known types of magic, a few specific spells and some very fun magical equipment. I made my first Witch Girls character in about 15 minutes; in my experience only Big Eyes, Small Mouth (2nd edition) has faster or easier char-gen.

Oh, since most gamers want to know the basic resolution method used in a system, Witch Girls Adventures uses attribute plus skill versus either a target number or an opponent’s roll. Say you’re trying to hack a computer, and you assigned a D8 to Mind, and have 3 ranks in Computers. You’d roll D8 + 3 and hope you beat the difficulty. Quick, workable and easily understood. I also like the fact that combat (both magical and mundane) slightly favors the defenders, which should keep character death to a minimum. A character’s basic, passive defenses are equal to a defensive attribute +3, which makes it a bit harder, statistically speaking, for an attacker to kill a heroine.

As Witch Girls is targeted at young gamers, keeping the PCs alive for a few sessions is a plus in my book; leave cheap deaths and highly lethal settings for older and more experienced gamers. Of course, as characters (and their opponents) get more powerful, and gain more ranks in Fight and Casting (the basic offensive skills), these training wheels come off a bit. It becomes more common to find more and more stuff with significantly more than just 3 ranks in Fight or Casting.

Enough about system.

Why do I love this game so much? First off, I like elegant rules, and these are. The traits and heritages, which are the real meat of char-gen cover most of the possibilities commonly found in the genre (magical/ modern fantasy tween literature) and leave lots of room for future supplements without excessive power-creep, making them well designed from both a gaming and a commercial standpoint. I also am digging the artwork: adorable describes the gamebook nicely.

Anyway, as I’m reading the rulebook, I start seeing thematic commonalties between Witch Girls and other tween/teen-focused magical fiction, and even mass media stuff aimed at a slightly older audience like Charmed. Call it the concept of “witch as superhero”…. to me, as a pagan and an author, it’s a fascinating concept.

What is the Witch as Superhero anyway? What kind of character fits that mold?

  1. Female, of course.
  2. Magical, intelligent, wise, attractive.
  3. Able to cast spells, and usually only supposed to cast beneficial or pleasant spells- healing magic, love spells, ect. Witch Girl adventures breaks this aspect of the trope- its characters can throw full on D&D combat magic. In other media, some Witch Girls might be pure ‘white mage’ types, completely unable to cast any kind of harmful (read: tactically useful) magic. This part of the trope varies a bit by writer.

So far, I’m describing Clea, right? Zatana, maybe? Nothing specifically pagan, right. Here’s where it gets a bit different.

  1. Witch superheroes are hereditary. Most of them are fundamentally different from ordinary people- the descendents of Lilith in WGA, homo magi in the case of Zatanah, the descendants of ancestral asskickers in the case of Charmed, ect. There’s an almost classist theme here, one which is explored explicitly in WGA. The trope says “WE are not YOU. We’re BETTER.”

  1. Correspondingly, these characters seem to be outside of the law, outside the social structure, above it or around it. These witches follow their own rules, screw mundane social mores. WGA is HEAVY into this.

  1. Fast. Witches are fucking FAST, both physically and emotionally. Decisive, quick, able to rapidly come to a conclusion, to act as they see fit. WGA has witches on broomsticks- that folkloric assumption carries over in comic books and TV as superspeed, and with superspeed comes DECISIVENESS. The sense of speed in Rob Zombie’s ‘American Witch’ is palpable- the speed of her passage sets the ground on fire beneath her. Though The American Witch is by no means a superhero, meets this criteria, as well as criteria 5 above and 7 below. Part of the Witchy decisiveness might be a result of freedom from outside moral constraints: these Witch Heroes do what they need to, with only their own conscience as guide.

  1. Vengeful. Witch Heroes are occasionally angry, and most times rightfully so. Lots of fictional witches have some unfinished scores to settle from the Burning Times. Usually in fiction, this a specific grudge against some semi-immortal witchhunter or a demon that manipulated medieval Christians to hunt innocent witches, not the Christian power structure as a whole, but the righteous anger is there. Zombie’s American Witch is a great example of this somewhat optional requirement for the trope, as is the film version of Silent Hill.

  1. The vengeful and ‘outside the law’ traits go hand in hand if you think about it for a minute. A few years back, I saw some crappy Hallmark Channel made for TV movie about a magical, “Bewitched” style Witch Hero who moves into a small town and gets screwed with by the bigoted local rednecks. Over time, and with good deeds and love, she won everybody over and improved everbody’s life. That’s sorta a fucked up morality tale if you stop to think about it. This fictional witch has to be the good one, has to prove her worth time and again, just to eventually enjoy the acceptance her Christian neighbors take for granted?

She has to kiss ass for 90 minutes just to be treated like a decent human being? Fuck that. My thought, if society’s majority-written laws do not respect the rights of the minority, they become morally worthless. Obeying these laws becomes not a moral duty- you don’t refrain from killing or stealing from your oppressors because it’s the right things to do in such a situation, you do it merely because you fear the reprisal of the powerful. Anyway, Witch Heroes are often powerful enough to be outside the law (#5), decisive enough to break any law they feel is unjust (#6), and have a legitimate root for their anger (#7). These traits are optional, but when they’re placed together, there’s something really powerful there, story-wise.

  1. Finally, Witch Heroes rarely follow any recognizable magical tradition. Sometimes their powers are a jumble of different styles- a little Goetic summoning, some half-assed kitchen witchery, a little Voodun, a whole lot of Dr. Strange. Other times, the author just makes something up: Charmed makes up its cosmology as it goes, taking the majority of its inspiration from lame-ass angel calendars as far as I can tell. Even if the character calls herself a Wiccan, like Willow, the fictional definition of Wiccan is closer to the definition of Jedi than what I believe. Belief tends to be blandly, inoffensively spiritual- faith devoid of context, but in a way even that’s daring, because it shows a world without Jesus, even if that world is created by omission more than intent.

Back to Witch Girl Adventures.

Here we’ve got ‘witches’ as heroines, as the reason the game-world exists, but they are divorced (mostly) from real world concepts of ‘witch’. These girls aren’t Wiccans or Pagans, not really, even though they are nothing recognizable as Christian, either; they aren’t ‘witches’ the way I am a Witch. They also are not baby sacrificing black magicians either, which negates the other definition of witch, one I struggle against often. They’re inoffensive witches, PG-rated witches. These girls didn’t hang at Salem, but they’re not reading Gardner or Crowley (or even, Goddess help us, Silver Ravenwolf ™ ) either.

More Effective Than a Gun

So what are the Witch Girls, then?

They’re witch archetypes, in the same way Superman is a messianic archetype.

Inoffensive, cute, loveable, the Witch Girls are weapons. So are the sisters on Charmed, so is Willow on Buffy, so are a dozen different pop culture heroines I could name. These Witch Girls, in all their many forms mutate real world Wicca and Paganism into something unrecognizable- a slightly feminist action movie world with no bearing on real practices or beliefs. In most cases, realism isn’t desired, nor is it necessary. In fact, realistic portrayals of my faith would turn off Christian publishers, advertisers, ect… who are anxious to avoid controversy and boycotts. So we get in under the radar, but more on that later…..

Problems (?) With the Portrayal of Witch Heroes

There’s problems with the Hollywood Wiccan Superhero stereotype, of course. First off, in fiction, you will NEVER find a male Wiccan, and other forms of Pagan are rare. (The most visible male neo-pagans, unfortunately, are Neo-Nazi Ásatrú- which is unfortunate. The Norse myths are pretty bad-ass and inspiring, and its tragic, unforgivable, that a bunch of bigoted, tattooed skinhead fucks have stolen that from all of us.) Anyway, back on topic- female Wiccans. The mass media making Wiccans exclusively female is annoying to me, as a male Wiccan, but not unforgivably so. It provides a nice feminist slant on faith, and justice, which I can’t argue with, and provides a nice contrast between feminist Wicca and patriarchal monotheism. I actually don’t mind defining my faith by that contrast, because it’s a struggle that needs to be undertaken.

This emphasis on feminist paganism also shortchanges gay pagans a bit, but that particular can o’ worms goes back to Gerald Gardner himself, so I can’t blame Hollywood for it too much. Most Witch Hero/Witch Girl media is pretty heteronormative, but I expect that the whole concept of hetro-noramlity will start fading a bit as the culture changes, the old bigots die off, and a new, freer, less reflexively homophobic generation comes of age.

The other problem with Witch Hero media is that as mentioned above, it tends to be classist- there’s usually some kind of race of hereditary witches, usually passing the power down the matriarchal line. In most fiction, Witch Girls are portrayed as inherently superior due to their powers, which makes story sense: if these girls can cast spells, and nobody else can, they ARE superior. End of story. Of course, teaching prejudice of any kind, even in the harmless context of an empowerment fantasy is a bit of a bad idea. It’s my understanding that WGA has taken some flak for making this classist power fantasy such a big part of the setting fiction. Of course, most of those doing the criticism are RPG nerds on message boards, 90% of whom are some form of Christian themselves, and don’t have anything similar to say about far more obvious and far more pervasive Christian-based power fantasies, ranging from Narnia to Left Behind. So take the criticism with a family-sized grain of salt.

I also wonder if spreading the meme that witches are special, superior, is necessarily a bad thing. The hereditary lineage of witch powers in fiction is actually pretty close to the historical concept of ‘hereditary witchcraft’ that’s been a working, if oft criticized theory of Wicca heritage since the beginning. But more to the point, I’ve noticed that every oppressed group in history needs some arrogance, some elitism, some swagger, even if its only false bravado in the face the bad guys. Sooner or later, that swagger settles down into true and quiet factional pride, and the oppressed get to work on true equality, now with the unity and sense of pride that swagger gives them. Before you had real gay rights, you had camp. Before Barack Obama got elected, before black pride, you had black power- raised fists and afros. Superficial, angry, maybe a little shrill, but both camp and black power were full of the bravado that told a people that had been stepped that they were worth fighting for. My opinion, modern pagans could use a little bit more of that swagger, and if elitist fiction gives it to ‘em, great.

Why do I like the ‘Witch as Superhero’ concept so much?

Witch Girl media are building the modern stereotype of what a Pagan is; these Witch Heroes reappropirate the noun ‘witch’, branding the term, the concept of a witch not as a demon-worshipper or mewling, ineffectual victim of Dark Ages Christian persecution but as a spell-casting superhero. Not too shabby. Of course, nobody really expects Witches like me to cast spells like witches like them, but look at what else comes with the sterotype. Witch Girls are smart, noble, able to see and do things mundane humans (read: Christians) can’t even imagine.

You get a kid at 12-13 reading Twitches, playing Witch Girls, watching Charmed re-runs, even if he abandons them when the kid puts away the things of childhood, he has been shown something. The lesson might go unremembered, consciously, but the lesson has still been taught. The lesson is this: witches are the good guys.

Even if that kid later goes to the most fundamentalist Evangelical church on the planet and gets the line from Leviticus “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” tattooed on his ass, the counter-thought is rattling around in his brain. The meme ‘witches are the good guys’ is a part of that kid’s soul now, and maybe, just maybe, that meme will break through the relentless Christian conditioning the kid is exposed to every other minute of his life.

Maybe this theoretical kid someday meets a real Wiccan or Pagan, and when he picks his jaw up off the floor that there are real ‘witches’ out there, starts asking questions. Now, the first question this Witch meme-infected soul is going to ask is going to be dumb as fuck, probably even unwittingly offensive. So, Pagan readers, if you get asked a question born of genuine, if ignorant curiosity, answer it honestly. It’ll be the second lesson about witches this theoretical pre-teen Charmed watcher has learned: witches teach.

We enlighten. Our simple existence, outside of Christianity, uncaring about the Christian themes of salvation and judgment, not having Jesus, and not wanting him either, offers a different way to live.

WGA plays with this trope explicitly. At one point in the setting fiction, WGA states the great moral purpose of Witches, the reason they exist is to bring Wonder (they even capitalized it) into the world. There’s a similar motif in Changeling: The Dreaming (White Wolf), in that fey characters are simply more FUN then mundanes, and it’s the duty of every fey to bring joy and enlightening, childlike wonder to mundanes. WGA has some obvious White Wolf influence, especially in the contrast between the drab mundane world and the colorful, joyous world of witches and magic. In both these campaign settings, remember that the mundane world IS the Christian world, our Christian world- the world built by 2,000+ years of monotheistic domination.

I’ve spoken before about the difference in attitudes towards art and craftsmanship as perceived by Christian and pagan artists. I feel it is our duty as pagans, and I certainly consider it my duty as a pagan artist to create simply BETTER art than my Christian competitors. It proves my superiority as a person, a creator, and my faith’s superiority. Let Christians build a Starbucks on every corner, write one repetitive ass sitcom after another, I’ll do something a bit more kick-ass, thanks. So I can definitely get behind the concept of ‘Witch Hero as bringer of wonder and enlightenment.’

So maybe a kid’s adventure game, one that has characters called Witches who worship no god nor goddess, carry no atheme and have no politics beyond the politics of the cute, can show the next generation of real world Pagans something transdescent. I’m a big believer that secular entertainment can inspire, as much if not more than traditional religious works. So if a secular work like Witch Girls can inspire a few kids in the direction of my faith (or even better, in the direction of my politics), awesome. This game, possibly by accident, is showing ostensibly ‘Witch’ heroes in the same light I want to show modern neo-pagans. WGA is like the Disney Channel version of Otherverse America.

Somewhere along the way I read something about how media depiction of black people progressed. You started off with them exclusively as villains, subhuman- the blackface, spear-throwing tribals in King Kong. Then, black people in media became comic relief in minstrel shows and blackface comedy. Then they become the sidekicks, loyal and stupid but dependable- heroic, but in an extremely limited way, and existing only to make their white superior look good. Then, and only then do you get to complex, well rounded portrayals, and in a bit of irony, you got extraordinary black heroes (Black Panther, for example, the king of his own Utopian African nation) before you got realistic, interesting black villains.

So I’ve always kinda wondered where the media depiction of Wiccans and Pagans falls along that same continuum? Right now, we’re in the goofy sidekick phase, with a few genuine heroes here and there. Of course, you could also argue that since very few media portrays our culture than any more depth then the minstrel shows portrayed black folks of the 1920s maybe we’re still in the ‘comic relief’ phase. Who knows. Do you consider the Witch Heroes of Witch Girls Adventures to be close enough to pagan to count as genuine pagan characters, or to paraphrase Dr. Evil are they ‘the Diet Coke of paganism’? Again, who knows. It’s a good question though, and gives me a few ideas to write about myself.

Anyway, hope you were able to slog through my rather convoluted thoughts here.
Blessed Be,

Post Script

As a Wiccan author, a military vet, and a longtime GI Joe fan, I wonder one thing: have there been any Wiccan or Pagan members of the Joe team? I only ask because the Joes are the most crazy-diverse team in comics, which is appropriate considering they are a reflection of the real US military.

I sorta remember a jungle warfare expert joe- Recondo, maybe- leaving a ‘sacrifice’ of some captured Cobra weapons at a jungle totem pole. I can’t quite remember if it was a joke on his part, him just being quirky in that Larry Hama-written way, or just trying to fit in with the locals, or a genuine expression of belief. And there is the IDW version of Breaker, who is a member of Serpentor’s cult, though that seems to be more “Scientology + Snake Motifs” rather than anything neo-pagan. I’m willing to count those two if you are, but I’d love to know if there’s anything closer to my definition of Pagan on the team.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Three Books

My weekend is Wednesday and Thursday. The very poor, which I am, rarely have the luxury of Saturday and Sunday off. But I guess I get by. It’s been a productive weekend for me.

I finished up Synthetic Heroes II, and am right now, taking a break from working on Fursona III, which will ‘hack’ the Fursona character builder to create a variety of mutants and animalistic post humans that don’t have a ‘furry’ look or feel. Instead, these guys will be more like Marvel Comics mutants….. It’s going to basically tweak the Mutant race from Psi-Watch, removing its connection to the now outdated D20 Future Mutation rules, and plugging it into the more flexible Fursona system.

The Christian Bible

Also, yesterday, I took my mom out for Chinese. Good family fun there. We ended up talking about this fat, perverse recovering drug addict (and evangelical Christian whakjob) who lives in my complex and has decided I must be capital-S Saved. Dude leaves a Bible on my front steps while I’m at work. I come home, see a book on my steps, and think a friend left me something cool; I get there, pick it up and see it’s a Good News Bible. So I pick the thing up, set it on the chair near my front door, and leave it there. It can stay there until it rots for all I care, or until somebody who wants it takes the damn thing.

It infuriates me that this guy is trying so hard to convert me. First off, I’m not going to take religious advice from a fat, washed up old junkie under ANY circumstances. Second, it galls me this guy thinks I’m just a non-Christian because I’m unaware of the Bible’s contents. I’ve read the fuckin’ thing from cover to cover before, because it is referenced in so many other literary works, and is a cornerstone book of Western culture. I wanted to better understand Western history, so I read the thing, probably deeper than Fatso ever has. It’s that kind of magical ‘all I have to do to convert the heathen is quite randomly from scripture’ false and easy evangelism Fred Clark writes about so eloquently on his Slactivist blog.

Second, if I wanted a Bible, I know where to go to get one. I could check one out of the library, go to any bookstore and have my pick of any of 20 different translations and editions, or go to any church in town and ask for a free copy. The reason I don’t have a B Bible in my house is quite simple: I don’t want that crap in my home.

Each day I roll out of bed, put my pants on and step out into the world, especially in Kerrville, TX, I have to step into a Christian world. I’m fricking alone out there, and I have to tolerate all the petty little prejudices and misapprehensions and the sense of entitled cultural superiority the Christians show me. I hate to put up with REALLY far right bumperstickers on at least 20% of the cars in town, with a 90 ft tall wrought iron cross on a hill just outside town, marking Christian territory like garish gang graffiti, with Christians believing I practice black magic, or kill animals (or even in extreme cases, babies) for sacrifice, or use Ouija boards or whatever other sterotypes they believe about me.

I put up with that nonsense all day, and you know what, it’s fucking exhausting and infuriating. I want my home to be a sanctuary, a purely pagan place, a place I can take off my mental armor and relax and just…. Be. Blessed motherfuckin’ Be.

A place where I can do my work- my pagan work, to my mind, my Craft if you will- of writing to the best of my ability and occasionally creating a meme that might, just might make a Christian reader reconsider some of their cultural assumptions. Having Bibles dropped off on my front stoop is not exactly conducive to this. To me, it feels like a scouting mission by the onward marching Christian soldiers, a prelude to full invasion.

JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit

I also hit up a couple of local thrift stores, picking up several novels for like 50 cents each, and a copy of the live action GI Joe movie for 3 bucks. I know, as a movie that thing was pretty crappy, but for 3 bucks, it’s fairly entertaining.

Among the books I got were copies of the Hobbit and the Similarion…. I don’t really want to trudge through the entire Rings trilogy, but as I expected, Hobbit was a fast read, and the Similarion is really just an anthology of loosely related short stories. I finished the Hobbit last night, and I’m amazed at how many of the tropes Tolkien established are being used un-modified today. Seventy years since Lord of the Rings first hit, and it’s kinda sad how little fantasy as a genre has grown.

My thoughts…. It was a good, fun, light read. The Hobbit is a straight up kids story, and had quite a few of the problems inherent to the genre. There were tons of dues ex machine last-second rescues. I know that the real point of the book’s climax was the Battle of Five Armies, but Smaug died like a bitch. All of a sudden, this character, who we’ve seen speak like one line before the climax picks up a bow and kills the thing? I’m reading it, and thinking, who the fuck is this Bard asshole?

Seriously, the lackluster death of the dragon really hurt the book for me. Still, like I said a fun read. And its interesting to look at the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game’s Halfling racial traits right after reading the Hobbit. Really, really off. I know, intellectually, that Halflings and Hobbits are evolutionary different creatures- D&D Halflings had to evolve along different lines to fend off the super-predators known as the Tolkien Estate, but jeez…. These two races are NOTHING alike. There’s a part of me that wants to do up a quick race book for more Tolkien styled Halflings. I might do that in the next week or two…..

The Robotech Novel Series

Another book I started reading is a collected edition of the first three Robotech licensed novels. I figured I deserved some trashy, juvenile literature, and this fit the bill. Holy crap, are these things ludicrous. It seems like the poor author was basically shown the anime, and told to write something to make all this shit make some form of sense.

Now, this is really my first exposure to Robotech. During its original run, the Robotech saga played at like 6 AM in my market, so I missed it as a kid. As a teenager, when I was first getting into anime (then referred to as Japanimation, to give a linguistic clue to how long ago my teenage years were), I passed over Robotech. It seemed juvenile and outdated compared to edgier, more modern (for the time) like Bubblegum Crisis and Wicked City. So I missed Robotech both times.

The books are so bad they’re good. There’s these incredibly lurid descriptions of space-folds, the Zentradi (who I’m picturing as 60 ft tall Klingons, basically) and ‘proto-culture’… okay, I gotta ask? In the anime, were Veritechs really powered by some kind of funky alien flowers? Really? I just figured they had a mini-reactor aboard or something. This ‘flower of life’ bullshit is sorta…. it reminds me a lot of Cobra-La, which I definitely do not consider a compliment. Or maybe the Fire Flower from Super Mario Brothers, neither concept which really fits into a story that is basically “Top Gun in space!”.

Of course, I pretty hate all the characters and wish they would all fucking die. Roy Fokker is sorta cool, if a completely generic stock character: he’s dashing fighter pilot #4723, nothing more. He gets the job done and doesn’t detract from the point of the books- cool mecha blowing up aliens. This Rick Hunter idiot, who I think ended up being the POV character for the anime, is a juvenile, whining asshole.

And his sorta-girlfriend Minmei…. She may be the single stupidest character in all sci-fi. Seriously, is this vapid, immature bitch retarded or something? Seriously, she’s gotta be somewhere along the autistic spectrum: she constantly misreads fairly basic, fairly obvious social cues to a level that makes her seem either terminally self-absorbed or else neurologically atypical. Of course, considering she basically suggests to her adoptive parents that they basically become war profiteers after Macross City gets warped out to Pluto-orbit (which makes even less sense in context) and goes on a shopping spree while rescue crews are still digging out the rubble of her rebuilt (twice over now) city…. I think self absorbed is a more likely diagnosis.

I actually stopped reading (by throwing the book at the wall, hard as I can) during the shopping spree scene. You’ve got this novilization of a shitty anime-slapstick scene where Rick Hunter, the whining little douchebag, goes on an accidental rampage through a lingerie shop. It was physically painful to read, but you gotta give the poor author credit for doing the best he could with the crappy, cliché material he was given. But the waste of talent involved was pretty obvious.

Anyway, I don’t think I need to read any more Robotech. I feel like I’ve gotten the full treatment, about 20 pages into the second book in the trilogy. On onehand, you’ve got bad ass space mecha and military sci-fi… on the other, you’ve got Three’s Company. And guess which side of the story the books choose to emphasize. If you said military sci-fi, you’re wrong…..

I’ll start up the Similarion later, and let you know how that goes.

Blessed Be,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Synthetic Heroes II

I've been doing a bunch of work lately on some Black Tokyo related products, and I realized that I haven't really put anything new out this month.

So take a look over to the right of the page. I've put out a sequel to the Synthetic Heroes robotic character builder, which is in turn based off Fursona.... one of my most popular and one of the products I've had the most fun writing this year.

Inside you'll find 6 new design schemes, a couple dozen new minor and major racial traits, some new disadvantages to balance them out, a couple of new templates and a new robotic/cybernetic disease.

This is a character builder, so what would you be able to build with the new content inside? Try this list of characters: Robocop, Battle Angel Alita, any of the girls from Strike Witch, Snout Spout (from Masters of the Universe), Fanotomex (from Morrison's X-Men run) or Warlock (from New Mutants).

Anyway, this book will be out in a couple of days, and look for a couple of small releases. I think my next major release will be the PFRPG Black Tokyo conversion. At this point, I'd expect that in late December or early January. I'll roll over the profits from it into Pirates of Bronze Sky and Guide to the Known Galaxy, so those will come later in the spring of 2012.

Talk to you later,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dragon Strippers Vs Zobmies

Saw this on Topless Robot this morning, and I loved it. I'm ABSOLUTELY stealing this for Black Tokyo!

Also, I need some advice and marketing data from you, my readers. Are any of you guys doing anything with Psi-Watch and Battlechangers? I'm trying to decide if I should continue supporting those worlds, or just consider them dead universes?

Especially with Psi-Watch, should I just pull out the variant Psionics rules, and character builder stuff and leave off the setting fiction, or is it a world you're still interested in gaming in?

Leave me some comments here, please.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Talented Perverts

Last post, I mentioned starting talents for Races of the Tatakama. Here's a preview of the first few starting talents, A-D, excerpted from the manuscript. Enjoy.

The new talents described below offer another way to customize the heroes, gods and monsters of the Tatakama. Each trait is roughly as powerful as half a feat, a little less powerful overall, or only useful in certain situations. Players can each select two feats at character creation, which must be chosen from different categories. As the Tatakama is steeped in magic, many of these new talents offer obvious supernatural abilities, while ordinary feats usually are limited to extraordinary abilities, the result of training or drive. These Tatakama-specific starting talents join the roster of available talents described in the PFRPG Advanced Player’s Guide.

A few of these talents have prerequisites that must be met. You must meet any prerequisites listed (such as gender, ability score minimums, or ranks in a particular skill) to choose that talent.

Angelic Little Loli

Type: Faith

Restricted: good aligned, female or bishonen characters only, young adults or younger characters only

Ability: WIS 13+

Your beautiful girl’s body hides a saintly and pure heart. Your innocence provides a measure of protection against oni-spawn horrors. You gain a +1 holy bonus on all Saves made against the hostile attentions of evil outsiders and undead.

Hostile creatures of those types who confirm a melee critical hit against you must succeed at a WILL Save (DC 10 + your WIS modifier) or be shaken for as long as they remain in your presence and for 1 round after they leave it. Once a creature saves against this effect, it cannot be affected by your purity again for 24 hours.

Limitation: You lose the benefit of this talent for 24 hours if you engage in consensual penetrative sex, though you can engage in masturbation, oral or fetish acts with a lover.

Bara (EX)

Type: Social

Restricted: Male characters only, adult age category or older only

Ability: CON 13+

You are bara “bear” a healthy, virile and sexually insatiable gay man, proud and strong. Your hyper-masculinity makes you desirable, especially in the eyes of younger lovers. You may add your CON modifier as a luck bonus on sexually oriented Bluff and Diplomacy checks involving other men.

Bishonen / Bishojo (SU)

Type: Social

Ability: CHA 13+

You are a bishonen ‘beautiful boy” or bishojo “beautiful girl”, a seductive and androgynous beauty. Your strange, gender-bending beauty makes you particularly adept at seducing members of your own gender. You receive a +2 bonus on sexually oriented Bluff and Diplomacy checks made against creatures of your own gender.

Bless Gohei (SU)

Type: Faith

Ability: WIS 13+

You can bless the zig-zagging ritual streamers commonly found in Shinto temples. This minor magical artifact is common across Tatakama and even the strange world of Black Japan. Blessing a gohei requires a short ceremony requiring 1d4 rounds, and a token sacrifice of religious oils, herbs or incense worth 1d4 GP. Once created, a gohei can be worn on a believer’s clothing, affixed to a weapon or a shield, or hung from a structure such as a temple gate or the entry arch of a private home.

Once blessed, a gohei retains its blessing until the next dawn. Evil outsiders suffer a -1 morale penalty on all attack rolls, skill checks and saving throws within 60 ft of a blessed gohei. This penalty is not cumulative if the outsider is exposed to multiple gohei simultaneously.

Broken Doll (SU)

Ability: CHA 13+

You are at your most beautiful bloodied and with your face swollen and deformed by bruises. When you are reduced to half your maximum Hit Point total or less, you receive a +2 enhancement bonus to your CHA score.

Carnal Inspiration (SU)

Type: Magic

Restricted: Ability to cast arcane spells

For 24 hours (or until you next sleep) after a sexual encounter with a partner who has a charisma score of 15+, you are blessed with a gift for the magic of change, creation and lust. You cast all spells from the Conjuration and Enchantment schools at +1 caster level.

Charming Seducer (EX)
Ability: CHA 13+

You have a knack for talking lovers into your bedroom. Once per day, when attempting to seduce a new lover, or to convince a current lover to accede to some specific sexual request, you may add +20 to a single Bluff or Diplomacy check to do so. You must declare the use of this ability prior to making the check.

Carve Netsuke (SU)

Skill: Craft (bone or woodcarving) 1 rank

Using techniques passed down from your parents, you have mastered the art of carving netsuke- tiny charms often used as decorative clasps, made from bone or wood. With a successful DC 12 Craft (bone or woodcarving) check, and about two hours of exacting work, you can carve a netsuke.

While carrying a netsuke, a character receives a +1 luck bonus on a single skill check, represented by the activity depicted by the carving. A netsuke will only function for the specific person it is carved for, or that character’s child or heir. A person can carry any number of netsuke at any given time. As an art object, most netsuke can be purchased for 2-5 gp; as a gift to a trusted friend, their value is far greater. Netsuke are Fine magical trinkets of negligible weight.

Cherry Blossom Touch (SU)

Ability: WIS or CHA 13+

You have been blessed with the mysterious ability to touch a cherry blossom tree, no matter how ancient or sickly it is and return the tree to full health. The tree is covered in fragrant blooms, as if at the height of spring, no matter the season. You must touch the tree for at least one minute to use this ability, and this touch has no affect on a tree that is truly dead, nor upon processed wood or lumber.

Anyone of a non-evil alignment who sees you make a cherry blossom tree bloom when it shouldn’t is favorably deposed to, and you receive a +2 luck bonus on Diplomacy checks against that person for a day.

Demon Hunter’s Semen (SU)

Type: Combat

Restricted: Male characters only

You have been blessed by luminous semen that can strengthen a lover against demonic violence. For one hour after accepting your semen into their body, characters receive a +1 luck bonus on all saving throws against spells and effects generated by creatures of the Outsider type.

Dreams of the Earth Realm (EX)

In dreams, you walk the neon-soaked streets of Black Japan, remembering a previous incarnation in another world hung in the branches of the Great Universal Tree. Each time you awaken, you may attempt a DC 16 WILL Save to remember some fragment of your dream. If successful, you receive one of the following benefits, determined by rolling D4.

  1. You can speak and are literate in modern Japanese, as spoken in the Black Tokyo campaign setting.
  2. Your faint memories of otherworldly science provides you with a +1 insight bonus on Craft and Disable Device checks.
  3. Your previous incarnation’s karma provides you with a +1 luck bonus on WILL Saves.
  4. You gain proficiency with firearms, which may or may not be of any use depending on the technology available in this incarnation.

These benefits last for 24 hours, or until you next sleep or rest.

Dimwitted but Mighty (EX)

Type: Combat

Ability: at least a -1 penalty in either INT or WIS

You aren’t exactly brilliant, but you are as strong as an ox. If you have a penalty to either your INT or WIS scores, once per day, you may add that penalty as a luck bonus on any STR check, STR-based skill check or melee attack roll. You must declare the use of this talent prior to making the roll.


Yesterday, I collected all my separate files relating to the "races of the tatakama" into one big working document. Right now, it's standing at about 38,000 words (about 100 pages). To celebrate, have an image of the Strike Witches, all pantsless. Enjoy.

So the format for Races of the Tatakama will look like:
1. The twelve races, with a minimum of 4 alternate racial traits for each species.

2. Alternate racial traits for the Core Races, designed to give them a distinct hentai feel.

3. A new innovation: cultural templates. Edo period Japan was ridiculously class conscious, so to emulate that, I've got seven cultural/caste templates. Pick one, add it to your character, and the game will treat you like a member of the caste automatically. It takes something that would normally be a purely roleplaying advantage or disadvantage and gives it mechanical support- support that is effectively invisible. The seven castes will be:
  • Ainu (a primitive animist culture that were the first inhabitants of Japan)
  • Burakumin (untouchables that are considered ritually unclean)
  • Heimin (the merchants, the middle class)
  • Samuari (noble warriors)
  • Ninja (spies and blackmailers, more subtle and pragmatic than the flashy, Hollywood style ninja)
  • Nobility (exactly what the name implies)
  • The Imperial Family (super nobility, a direct connection to the current ruling dynasty).
After that, you'll have starting talents, similar to the ones in the Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide, but with a distinct hentai flavor. I'll be using the starting talents from Black Tokyo II as a base, converting everything over with a more medieval mindset and flavor. I'll preview a few of the starting talents at the end of this post, in fact! I'm having a ton of fun with these- they add a lot of flavor, and tell you tons about the WORLD and CULTURE of the Tatakama without large blocks of text, just in the game rule info about them.

Finally, the book will include hentai feats- lots of high power, gory, supernatural talents. Feats from Black Tokyo like Armor of Filth, Moonflit Wings, Unbirth, Mother to Demons, Rebuilt by Lust, and other 'favorites' will be included, often in heavily modified form. The differences betwen D20 Modern and the Pathfinder ruleset are great enough that a straight conversion is flat out impossible, plus I'm going back and revisiting Black Tokyo after four years of design experience and improvement- I'm a better writer today than I was then, and a better game designer, so I'll be bringing those new advantages to the table.

Plus, the Pathfinder magic system is a lot tighter and more comprehensive then D20 Modern. Let me do a side by side comparison. I'll post the D20 Modern and the Pathfinder version of the "Mother to Demons" feats side by side, and you can see the differences. Mother to Demons was one of the most complex feats in the original Black Tokyo, and I'm amazed how much smoother it works and how much smaller the text box is in the PFRPG version.

D20 Version: Mother to Demons (General SU)

Your womb is a gate to a dark and hellish dimension of monsters and foul things, and your vaginal lips are a torrii gate that opens between worlds. You can give birth to powerful, deadly creatures that defend their mother with the dark devotion of a monstrous son.

Prerequisites: Racial Exotica, Vaginal Prison

Benefit: You can give birth to a variety of creatures, an entire ecosystem of monstrous beasts and animalistic demon-kin who emerge naked and feral from your vulva. Many of your creations lack the divine spark that would allow them to remain in existence for long, dying within minutes or hours, but a few of your most beloved ‘children’ are imbued with a portion of your soul. These favored children can survive indefinitely, and can learn, grow, and gain XP and character levels.

The children of your womb are fully described in chapter eight of the D20 Modern Core Rulebook. Your children have average statistics and abilities for a member of their species. Sentient ‘children’ have an unshakable loyalty to you as their primary allegiance, but as sentient creatures may change their opinion towards you over time. When first created, even your sentient children will gladly obey even suicidal and atrocious commands.

Most of your children only remain in existence a short time, determined by their relative power level, before dying and rapidly decaying to dust and dried blood. You may spend action points and/or XP to bind your children permanently to the world.

You may birth different combinations of monsters each day, from hordes upon hordes of pitiful creatures to single hulking guardians. The monsters you birth are organized into rough ‘birth point’ categories, based upon their power level. Each category has an associated numerical value. Each day you may birth any number or combination of creatures, provided the total birth point cost does not exceed your CON score.

Birthing your dark children is incredibly painful and difficult, just like natural childbirth. Birthing a child requires at least 1d4 minutes per size category, and after the birth, you are nauseated for 1 minute per size category. During the birth, you are effectively helpless.

There is no limit to the number of demonic children you can birth or have in existence at any one time. Your demonic children may be used as familiars, though they provide no nutritional value if consumed nor leave any useful components unless they are made permanent.

Table: Mother to Demons

Birth Point Category

Creature Types

Life Span

Cost to Make Permanent

One Point

Bat, Cat , Ferret, Toad, Viper

48 hours

25 XP per creature

Two Points

Dog (medium), Kobold, Hawk, Spider (medium)

24 hours

50 XP per creature

Three Points

Goblin, Horse, Spider (large) Constrictor Snake, Wolf

12 hrs

50 XP + one action point per creature

Four Points

Ape, Crocodile, Gnoll, Troglodyte

6 hours

100 XP + one action point per creature

Five Points

Bear, Bugbear, Crocodile (huge), Tiger

4 hours

200 XP + one action point per creature

Six Points

Minotaur, Monstrous Flytrap , Ogre

2 hours

500 XP + one action point per creature

Seven Points

Rotlord Fiend, Gargoyle, Medusa

1 hour

1,000 XP + one action point per creature

Special: Only females can select this feat.

PFRPG Version: Mother to Demons (General SP)

Your womb is a dark and hellish dimension of monsters and foul things, and your vaginal lips are a torrii gate that opens to the darkness between worlds. You can give birth to powerful, deadly creatures that defend their mother with the dark devotion of a monstrous son.

Prerequisites: Vaginal Prison, Knowledge (the planes) 5 ranks, female gender

Benefit: You can give birth to a variety of creatures, an entire ecosystem of monstrous beasts and animalistic demon-kin who emerge naked and feral from your vulva. Birthing your dark children is incredibly painful and difficult, just like natural childbirth. Birthing a child requires 1d4 minutes plus an additional +1d4 minutes per size category past size Small, and after the birth, you are nauseated for 1 minute per size category. During the birth, you are effectively helpless.

Each day upon awakening you can cast up to 10 levels of Summon Monster in any combination of Summon Monster spells you desire, up to a maximum of Summon Monster 6. For instance, you may choose to cast Summon Monster 5 and Summon Monster 1, cast Summon Monster 6 once, or any other combination that adds up to ten and does not duplicate a higher level summoning spell than Summon Monster 6.

Once summoned your creature (s) remain in existence for one hour after leaving your womb. You can have any combination of summoned monsters at any given time, so long as the limits of this feat are requested.

Hope that gives you an idea of the direction I'll be taking Black Tokyo in 2012.