The Dark Age is here

forsakenI have received my contributor copies of Forsaken, the latest game manual for the Dark Age miniatures combat game from Cool Mini or Not. Woohoo! Oh, wait, did I not mention that I’ve been contributing freelance work to a game company? Yeah, guess I should have said something about that, this being my own blog and all. Okay, count this as the official announcement, for immediate release to all the Google site crawlers and spambots that comprise my readership.

Dark Age is a damned cool game from a damned cool company. They have successfully launched a variety of games like Zombicide and the forthcoming Xenoshyft Onslaught, both powered by wildly popular Kickstarter campaigns. And hey, I get to work with friends who are talented writers in their own right. Not bad!

Forsaken is out now and, as the name implies, details the Forsaken faction in the ongoing war for dominance on the planet Samaria. What’s more, I’m wrapping up work on a second volume that will follow in a few months. And there’s talk of more, but I’ll save that for another time.

So, yeah. Definitely an awesome opportunity. Check out the section on Getting Started if you’re interested in the twisted world of Dark Age (the Core Rules are available for free!) or visit the store if you’re so inclined.

Three tomatoes are walking down the street

Continued slippage!  I’m becoming more infrequent with my updates here, and I shall try to rectify that. At least it’s for a set of good reasons, the most important being preparation for Paradise Lost III this weekend.  Yes, it’s finally arrived. I’ll be in San Antonio tomorrow afternoon and commiserating with fellow VP alumni.  I’m looking forward to a good time with a group of talented writers.

Meanwhile, have a jumble of random musings that I should have been posting all week, served up stream-of-consciousness style!

What a terrible week for all media. First the dreadful news about Iain M. Banks. Sickness is upsetting in any circumstance, but I’m especially saddened that he won’t be serving as the Guest of Honor at LonCon3, which I am already planning to attend. My heart goes out to a giant in the field. Unfortunately that was merely the opening event: Roger Ebert and Carmine Infantino both passed away, leaving their own voids behind. Never one to be outdone, the Iron Lady herself rounded out the week of doom, though reactions to her passing are decidedly more mixed. Russell Brand, of all people, delivered perhaps the most fitting sendoff to Maggie in the Guardian. Hopefully we’re done with the bad news for this cycle.

Politicians keep insisting that corporations are people, too, so I’ll also throw in an obituary for LucasArts. A bit of a shame that The Mouse appears to have no stomach for adventure games, as the genre appears to be on the verge of a comeback thanks largely to indie developers. We’ll always have Steam!

In better news, Christina Blanch’s Gender Through Comic Books MOOC is into its second week (that’s Massive Open Online Course for the buzzword-challenged), and it’s off to a rousing start. Awesome stuff. I have no idea if it’s still open for registration, but if so you should definitely join. I plan to post more about it after the long weekend away.

See you in San Antonio!

Anti-social

Fair warning: this is one of those posts. I’m about to rant and rave about social media like a septuagenarian exhorting those youngsters to get off my virtual lawn. If this doesn’t interest you, feel free to close the window and go back to your streams and timelines.

I don’t hate social media. Hell, I run this blog, I tweet, I’m on Facebook (although I check in about once every other month, to the chagrin of my “friends.”)  What I loathe is this idea that every activity throughout the day needs to become part of this single, unwieldy meta-narrative about myself that gets disseminated throughout the world. It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything; I just don’t see the benefit — to me — of dumping every possible scrap of data about myself into someone else’s virtual landfill. (This is not about privacy concerns, though as it turns out, they are legion.)

Oh, I see the benefit to Google and Apple and Facebook readily enough. Targeted advertising alone is worth more than most countries’ GNPs combined, and that merely scratches the surface. What I take issue with is that these companies are insisting that it’s all for my benefit, not theirs. Look how fulfilling my life will be once everything I say or do is connected online!  And the latest of the latest? Now all the social networks insist that things will be so much better if you use your real name for everything.  Follow on, Interweb lemmings!

I scan through image search on Google a fair amount while doing research for my work. Recently they’ve taken to popping up these annoying modal windows at random, framing their marketing chores as questions.  Do I know that I can share what I’ve found with my online pals? Do I want to?  No?  Well, how about converting all my accounts to use my real name? No? Am I sure?  Here, they’ll  show me what my real name would look like in print. Still not convinced?  (All with no close button, of course. If I’m lucky a condescending button that amounts to: “No thanks, I’m a wet blanket. Give me a few sessions before you hound me again.”)

Sony’s recent PS4 presser insisted that we should all get excited about how their next console will scrape all your social networks and connect all your gaming experiences to everyone you know. Even better, it uses your real name rather than all those pesky, outdated internet handles.  Am I pumped yet?  Yeah, not so much.

Here’s the thing. I have a large family. I have many friends and acquaintances worldwide, some of whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in years. I have a day job. And I’m also cultivating a presence as a neo-professional writer. Do I really benefit by sending my tech co-workers updates on my niece’s drunken bachelorette party? (Theoretical, mind you!)  Do people who enjoy my writing and want to find out about my recent projects need to weed out vacation photos and company milestones?   And whose life is enriched by seeing that I just watched an episode of Jersey Shore online? (I didn’t!  Honest!)  Again, this is not about hiding anything. No doubt it’s all out there if someone truly wants to find any of it. But why would I connect all those dots for them, just to ease their algorithm crunching? And at what benefit to myself?

I have many lives. We all do. And the idea that only one of them is the true me is BS.  I don’t begrudge the latest social start-up their revenue stream; what irks me is the dishonesty of the claim that this is all for the benefit of the individual. These companies are building valuable, marketable databases of information. And more power to them. All the same, I’d like to manage my own presence online. But thanks.

 

Top Secret: Operation Rapidstrike!

One benefit of housecleaning is the inevitable rediscovery of treasures from another age. Case in point: two dust-covered bins filled with old tabletop roleplaying paraphernalia. One such gem is a module for TSR’s ill-fated Top Secret espionage RPG. Operation: Rapidstrike! is a holdover from TSR’s salad days in a  Geneva, Wisconsin warehouse.

Top Secret module cover

Full disclosure: I have never actually played through an entire Top Secret campaign, and picked up most of the material from discount bins long after the company had merged with Wizards of the Coast. Some friends and I made a couple of half-hearted attempts that never strayed far from the launchpad. (I vaguely remember some elaborate system in the rulebook for determining whether an agent’s actions warranted suspension or termination from his or her shadowy employer. Go figure, I wasn’t too excited about an RPG in which I’d have to worry about losing my job.) Still, there’s a schlocky appeal to the entire package, from the passé Cold War scenario to the trippy artwork.

Speaking of trippy artwork, there’s some amazing stuff from the inimitable Erol Otus between these covers. Many of the illustrations are amusing renderings by the usual stable of D&D artists, with secret agents that bear disturbing resemblance to elves and gnomes. But Otus gets to cut loose with some strange and cool imagery of an agent tripping balls on the designer drug Zucor, a house specialty of the module’s main villainess.

Erol Otus

“Oh my god” seems a perfectly understandable reaction to such a powerful hallucinogen.

We’re also provided with fairly elaborate instructions for creating a drug trip for the unfortunate victim of a Zucor dosage (and I quote):

 

SUGGESTED HALLUCINATIONS

Smell:   smoke; rotten meat; honeysuckle; chlorine; almonds

Feel: chills; breezes; pressure change; vibration; heat; gelatine

Hear: footsteps; gunshots; screams for help; large engine sound; rushing river

Taste: oranges; cordite; onion; chocolate; coffee

See: Man with weapon; Man with melted face; small child; grenade floating in the air; gas

Erol Otus

Ian Fleming meets William S. Burroughs! Almost makes we wish I’d stuck it out. But something tells me this is better perused than played.