Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pwnage and ownage

A bloglag starting with a long weekend visiting family has stretched out to more than twice as long as that thanks, above all, to the 'block'. Efforts to break on through had finally awakened a glimmer, but it was still a slog. Thank goodness then for Badger's visit last night.

Glorious carnage!
This phrase could so easily've applied to dinner as much as to the games that followed. I was cooking haddock with bacon and mushrooms, one of my favourite quick recipies from Good Food for Busy People- a book which delivers exactly what it says on the cover. Tasting while stirring everything together for the final five minutes' cookoff I immediately knew something was wrong. Sure enough, I had grabbed the wrong jar of red powder from my spice cupboard: those 2 added teaspoonsfuls of paprika were actually cayenne pepper; a disaster in the making on a par with the great pepper catastrophe of 2008.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Resistance is futile!

My last words after reporting a few weeks ago on the games of Ivanhoe I'd played with Badger and my neighbour Liam were, "He'll be back!" This prediction was proved correct when Liam joined Donald, Gav, Tony and myself for our recent Sunday session. Liam being new to that table first choice went to him, which left us playing Risk, a game Liam knows.

In my innocence I thought we'd get the game finished in 2-3 hours but we were still playing 4 hours later, when the game had to be put away unfinished so that we could eat in time to settle down for the latest Doctor Who special, The Waters of Mars. Still, the game was great fun and Liam is keen for more. I guess I'd call that a result.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This, that and the other

I've got various ideas simmering away at the moment, looking for the hooks that'll make them into stories. Meanwhile, it's time for another pot pourri...

So it goes...
I warned you yesterday dear readers, of my intention to follow through on the story of the controversy generated by the RPGpundit's 6th November blogpost about FFG and its GW RPG licences. El pundito posted his 4th installment today. To keep this brief, I will just make a few points:
  • This post is a succint example of the hate-filled bile (here aimed at two of his favourite targets- and the so-called "Storygames Swine") and overweening sense of self-importance which have defined the pundit's hyperbole from day one.
  • The pundit's excuse for "not post[ing] this link" (to a Storygames thread)- his "policy of not providing assistance to the Swine in promulgating their filth", is lame almost beyond words:
  1. Embedding links is so easy that I cannot help but imagine the man with the red flag from the early days of the motor car.
  2. The pundit's persistent unwillingness to enable this technologically trivial cross-checking cannot but cast further doubt on the credibility of his commentary.
  • The pundit's celebration of the publicity the whole affair has garnered cannot be said to have proved my speculations of yesterday, but I believe they remain valid and open.
There will be more I imagine. :-\

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Something rotten? But where?

I feel I have to tread a careful line with this post. Why? Because it'd be so easy to get snarky about the storm in a teacup the RPGpundit generated with his recent blogpost about FFG and WFRP3, all the while forgetting that I am part of it all myself by virtue of making not just one, but two posts on the topic here at RD/KA!. For example, I could make some cheapass jibe about how el pundito has managed to pad the whole story out into 3 posts (#2 and #3) on a blog whose reputation for padding is surely second to none, but that would be to enter into pot and kettle territory don't you think?

All that said, I cannot but suggest that a measure of gentle ridicule is called for in respect of the tone of wounded innocence our 'intrepid' self publicist conjures under the title of 'Responding to The FFG Controversy', as if said controversy (spread now across 3 threads: FFG's own WFRP3 forum; theRPGsite- the Pundit's own forum; and RPGnet) wasn't entirely the intended outcome of his own efforts in the first place.

If controversy was the Pundit's goal, then why am I getting involved? Does this not mean that I'm giving him what he wants I hear you ask dear readers (Andy, I'm thinking of you in particular here!). That's as may be, but I have my reasons.

To begin with, I feel I have an obligation to follow this story because I took it up in in the first place. That may sound strange, but that's what happens when you start reporting on stuff: you feel the need to follow through.

In addition I must confess to having a soft spot for the Pundit (pauses for the obvious jokes to flit through readers' minds); I'd hardly be keeping tabs on his blog to this day if I didn't, don't you think? Seriously though, as I wrote more than 3 years ago, the Pundit was the individual most singularly responsible for inspiring me to take to blogging, for which I remain grateful. Precisely where this fits in the cocktail of reasons prompting me to return to this story is as invisible to yours truly as it no doubt is to everyone else, but there you go.

On top of those more personal motives I feel compelled to point out something that has, at the time of writing, been missed by all concerned on the threads linked above. That is to say: the Pundit's own motives. I believe the Pundit essentially gives these away in today's post on the controversy (#3 above) when he includes the link to Brett Bernstein's post of 10/11/09 on 'Brett's Blog' over at Precis Intermedia. There Brett reminds us of what he points out in the RPGnet thread inspired by the Pundit's original rumour-mongering: that the Pundit's second RPG - GnomeMurdered - is soon to be released by Precis Intermedia, as is RPGPundit's Guide to Game Mastering. And there you have it in my opinion: the whole thing is just an advertising stunt by someone who has already revealed a genuine talent for internet self-advertisement of the lowest sort.

What this might reveal about the initial rumour is straightforward enough. If we take at face value the official FFG statement that there "is nothing accurate in this fabricated post whatsoever", then we have to ask ourselves about the rumour's credentials. Was there a genuine email? Or did the Pundit just make it up so that he could generate some timely publicity? That is speculation on my part but, having followed the Pundit's online career these past 5 years I for one believe that he quite capable of such lies and deception in pursuit of his selfish interests. You, my dear readers, must make up your own minds. ;)

- Stuff and... nonsense?
- This, that and the other

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stuff and... nonsense?

He is The Law!
Passing through Borders bookshop the other day in search of a classic 20th century novel and that search proving futile, I made a beeline for the graphic novels there to surrender gleefully to the impulse I'd carried over from my last visit to those same shelves, picking up what I know will only be the first of many more: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 (59 progs' worth of strips in 320 pages for £13.99?-: a real bargain!).

Moments when a cultural encounter profoundly define a person are relatively few and far between I reckon and become rarer as the years go by, for simple reasons I would suggest:
  • There is naturally some kind of limit to people's self-definition through cultural consumption; a limit determined both by the dynamics of human growth and maturation on the one hand, and by the available cultural wealth on the other.
  • I would aver that there is too a limit to people's capacity for reinvention; a limit imposed ultimately by age.
Perhaps rarer still even in our increasingly rich and diverse culture are those moments when you can get in right at the very beginning of something that proves to be a genuine phenomenon.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Echoes of a master's wordage

If James Ellroy's in town when unexpectedly so still are you; and one of the 'Men in Black' of late 80's Albacon infamy tells you he's got a spare ticket for the gig; there's only one thing to do: be there.

So it was last night I found myself at the GFT for the Glasgow leg of the promotional tour for Blood's a Rover, the latest novel by this master of modern American noir; best known- thanks to Hollywood's stylish 1997 adaption, for L.A. Confidential, a novel of brutal and corrupt law enforcement in 1950's California. I knew very little about this new book, not having kept up with volumes 1 and 2 of the Underworld USA trilogy the completion of which Ellroy trumpets with all the shameless hucksterism of a 2-bit street-corner hustler you might meet in the pages of his wordage.

I'd seen James Ellroy talk about his work on TV, and this same promotional tour had taken him to BBC Radio 4's Front Row only last Monday (Ellroy starts at 14:45 in), so I knew him as forthright in his opinions and entertaining in his wordplay. And the sight of Ellroy squaring up to the lectern like a boxer grabbing the ropes to keep himself from bouncing out of his corner before the next round's bell rings; well, I couldn't but sense that we were to be treated less to a talk than to a verbal doing in the form of an author's reading.

The notion barely formed, Ellroy was off; and nothing could've prepared me for the salvoes of wordage he delivered in those first few minutes. Bam! Take that. Again, bam! And another, and another. Starting slow and building up like a boxer working the speedball, Ellroy threw wordbomb after wordbomb into the mix until he had us at his mercy in a bravura display of the primal power of word and movement in the transports of delight that are the narrative arts.

I can say little more about this great performance; the clip below gives another taste to go with the R4 link above.

OK, I said I could say little more, not no more. What little I can add is that Ellroy's performance was an examplar of Rule of Thumb #1 for GM's and PC's in Matters of Description: Less is More. Sure, it'd take a roleplaying genius of a very rare (if actually extant?) kind to be able to extemporise with the poetic precision and rappers' beat of Ellroy's intensely worked prose. But to be drawn into Ellroy's world the way I was made me acutely aware of several things:
  • Roleplaying description should focus on the barest mininum of crucial attributes, described as briefly as possible so that the immediate effect of the words still linger while that which has been so described plays its part in the story; to use an obvious example:
  1. Sight- raucous gang of men.
  2. Sound- drunken shouting.
  3. Smell- beer and piss.
  4. Then blammo- an attack by suddenly surprisingly sober assailants.
  • Movement and gesture is as important a tool for working on people's thoughts and feelings as are words.
  • There is a certain universality to the kinds of characters who people sleazy underworlds, genres notwithstanding- eg. the snoopers; so modern crime novels like Ellroy's can inspire GM's and PC's both in any game.
These are not novel insights on my part, but I would say that anyone who was interested could bring something new to their roleplaying by tracking down and watching over and again a few times some of these performances by James Ellroy, or by reading some of his books.

The reading over Ellroy opened the floor up for questions, as you'd expect. Away from the honed text long rehearsed to be pitch perfect he must still've been wearing his performer persona to some extent. Even so, he came across as frank, honest and impressively open to his audience; eg. he readily admitted that the stylistic approach he'd taken in The Cold Six Thousand (volume 2 of the Underworld USA trilogy) had been a mistake from which he'd learned due to criticism.

The 'Man in Black' had got his oar in before yours truly realised that the situation demanded blatant self-advertisement. So I challenged Ellroy on his casual dismissal of the electronic media- warriors against which we were all presumed to be by Ellroy in his introduction. Feeling compelled to defend my media I pointed out:
  • It's the power of TV that gives us- his audience, the dynamic visual sense enabling us to walk the streets of America with his characters.
  • That his ever-more telegraphic prose style might be construed as an attempt to give artistic expression to the ever-diminishing attention spans we are told the electronic media inflict upon younger generations.
I confess I was a bit nervous about this but... Well, let me put it like this: I'd like to think that the merit of a question resides in the quality of its answer. James Ellroy's answer to my question was considered, thorough and illuminating. I couldn't've asked for more.

After all the talk about wordage there was signage, naturally enough. I'll be waiting for the paperback omnibus of Underworld USA, so I took along my battered copy of L.A. Noir. Yours truly cleverly forgot his digicam (sheesh, what kind of blogger am I?), so this blurry pic from the 'Man in Black's iPhone is the only record. Ah well. Still, I guess it gives James Ellroy a degree of plausible deniability should he feel the need for it!

James Ellroy is a man who famously has little interest in the gadgets and gizmos of the electronic age. So the small kindness he showed this blogger last night was much appreciated. Remembering as I write this the sight of him surrounded by fans snapping away with phone cameras, I have to ask how Ellroy feels about the way ICT has made his public appearances more immediately the 'property' of fans who hitherto were a mere audience. How, I wonder, might Ellroy's sense of being out of step with the modern world influence his wordage? If last night's performance is anything to go by, it's not for the worse! ;)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I shall have my rewen-ge!

Recently preoccupied with a new member of his household- a kitten (cue pause for wave of 'Aaaaahs' from the audience- including yours truly I must confess: Andy and I visited Gav later to meet Kai the kitten and she is indeed the cutest little furball), Gav was missing from the table last Sunday. This was a bit of a shame because with Dave and Tony present we'd've made six for a Sunday session for the first time in many moons.

Battlestar Galactica
Anyhoo, it was my turn to choose our first game. After all that I've recently written on the subject, it was a cinch that I was going to choose Battlestar Galactica. There was more to this decision than the obvious desire to play the game over which I'd expended so much digital ink to expunge my doubts about its lasting merits. No, I had a whole other agenda, a 'political' agenda if you will. Y'see all that analysis had also convinced me that BSG gameplay could be improved if you brought ulterior motives and other sources of paranoia to the table.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Geekish grab bag!

As I said on Friday, I want to celebrate the latest small landmark in the life of RD/KA! by looking to what the future might bring for this geek and his games.

Regular readers will know that Badger and I have recently taken a break from our 2½-year Combat Commander odyssey. We'll be returning to this great game for sure (there're scenarios still unplayed and more to come); and then there'll no doubt be a taste of Chad's next WW2 tacsim- Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Infantry Division; but not before we've indulged our taste for Conflict of Heroes.

Superior tacsims all though these games are (or promise to be), none are intrinsically more exciting than Memoir'44; nor do they relegate the game from its well-deserved status of light wargame to some nether region of little or no interest to this grognard. Days of Wonder themselves are doing their bit to maintain interest in the game, with their planned December release of Memoir'44 Battle Maps Vol. 3: Sword of Stalingrad, featuring:
  • 2 Overlord scenarios.
  • 2 Standard scenarios.
  • Summary cards for the previously published Battle Maps and Mediterranean Theater expansion.
  • Additional cards for in-game play - the new Combat Deck (see above) specifically designed for urban warfare (DoW News centre).