Monday, December 26, 2011

World Action & Adventure

It seems that OSR bloggers like to post about their 'Christmas swag' so why should your humble host be any different? Via the wonders of Alibris, I acquired the World Action & Adventure trilogy by Gregory L. Kinney. Yes, THAT is how much of a geek I am. I've been (moderately) intrigued by this game since seeing the above ad in Dragon #106. Back in 1985, the time of its publication, neither my interest nor my disposable income were sufficient to actually purchase the game. A quarter of a century later, my disposable income has increased somewhat and I can buy the books for less than cover price.

Kinney touts WA&A as “The Universal System for Realistic Role-Playing.” Although the concept of a universal system wasn't novel in 1985, the execution of such was still in its infancy; GURPS was yet to be published. Kinney's notion of 'universal' does not conform to what is usually meant as 'universal' in a role-playing sense; that's because WA&A is realistic. Yes, your humble host has excoriated 'realism' in RPGs, but only when 'realism' is forced upon the fantasy milieu. WA&A is universal only to the extent Kinney intends for it to simulate any historical or current setting in the real world. Extremely little provision is given for situations that could not reasonably be encountered in everyday existence.

So, WA&A is realistic in that it is supposed to represent the real world. It also contains a boatload of 'real world' information. However, the realism of the rules system is debatable; in addition to absorbing some degree of damage, armor makes a character more difficult to hit. Doubtless, Kinney's notion of RPG realism is heavily influenced by D&D; he even lists the Gygaxian array of pole arms. Kinney does go into detail but he manages to avoid the sort of convoluted mathematics that afflicts some systems. We will examine WA&A more thoroughly in later posts. For now, let me say that I am not disappointed in my purchase. The Animal Combat Table includes a line for “Spit (Camel).” How awesome is that? The SRD camel description doesn't mention spit at all. WA&A can sit back with a smirk on its face and say, “Camel spit? We got that covered.”

WA&A is not a great RPG, but it is playable. The production quality is less than perfect, but it puts The Realms of Atlantasia to shame (although that's not saying much). It seems that Kinney received fifteen units of college credit for his WA&A books. Any geek can write a role-playing game, but how many can get an institute of higher learning to give them credit for it?

One wonders whatever became of Kinney. The only definite reference I found is this. Alas, his attempts at being a screenwriter did not meet with success if his lack of an IMDB listing is any indicator. (I mean, even Alexis has an IMDB listing.) This is not surprising given his script ideas. A more cruel blogger would ridicule some of these ideas, but I just don't have the heart.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Your humble host's seasonal gift to you devoted readers is a custom level of the Warden for your Metamorphosis Alpha edification. This level features full scale replicas of 'wonders of the world' and other structures of historical and cultural import. As long as there's the space to do it, why not have recreations of these structures so that the colonists can have a better appreciation of their human heritage? This is the layout before the disaster; feel free to add radiation zones and whatever details you see fit. You can have type-4 humanoids inhabiting Petra and Angkor Wat infested by sword bushes!

The approximate scale of each hex is: 3 miles (4.83 km) from side to opposite side or 3.464 miles (5.577 km) from corner to opposite corner. Depending on which level this represents, the scale will vary slightly, but unless the characters have surveyor's tools (and know how to use them) they're not going to notice the meager difference. Please note, since there is no curvature of the Earth, there is no horizon per se.

On the map, the thick gray line represents a simulated section of the Great Wall of China. For other features, please refer to the following key:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paul Jaquays and the Darkside

First, let it be known that your humble host is happy for Jaquays. This post should not be construed as an attack upon that person or a condemnation of that person’s recent choices.
Next, allow me to provide some background information for those readers not “in the know.” Back in the day, Paul Jaquays was a talented designer of table top role-playing game material, especially adventure modules. Jaquays, also a capable artist, provided graphics for various RPG products. Eventually, Jaquays transitioned to the computer gaming industry. Given the money involved, I can’t blame Jaquays for abandoning table top RPGs. Now, Jaquays is undergoing a different transition. Jaquays recently announced the adoption of a feminine identity, “both socially and physically.” Paul Allen Jaquays has become Jennell Allyn Jaquays.
Nowadays, gender transitions aren't exactly front page news and the fact that one of the RPG 'old guard' is transsexual shouldn't be a big deal. What makes this case interesting is that it's Paul Jaquays and to appreciate why this is interesting, we must venture to the Darkside.
Around twenty years ago, Jaquays designed the first few installments of a generic system series of sourcebooks branded as 'Central Casting' by Task Force Games; specifically:  Heroes of Legend, Heroes for Tomorrow, and Heroes Now! Each book provided a system of tables that could be used to provide depth and 'color' to player characters (and non-player characters). This was good stuff – boatloads of random tables for character generation. What's not to love? Someone needs to reprint these or at least make them available as cheap PDFs on RPGNow. The young folks these days don't know about good products like these. There is more to this hobby than the 3.5/4E pablum that gets churned out and marketed to our unknowing youth. This is why the OSR is important. This is why we need to preserve and cherish our heritage. Excuse me, I digress. Where was I? Ah, yes...the Darkside.
Via the tables, characters could acquire personality traits. Pleasant and worthwhile traits were called Lightside. Unpleasant or immoral traits were called Darkside, representing the baser aspects of humanity (or, one assumes, other species). Starting with the second book, neutral traits were also included. Characters could have a combination of traits. Possession of Darkside traits did not necessarily imply that a given character was evil; such traits could be interpreted as 'flaws' that a character could work to overcome. However, “...more often than not, characters who exhibit several [Darkside] traits are either knowingly evil or have become trapped in a lifestyle of wrong behavior.”
The problem is that “unpleasant” and “immoral” are subjective concepts. Because Jaquays created the books, it was his paradigm that determined what traits qualified as Darkside. At the time, Jaquays was an unabashed religious conservative. (I have no doubt that Jaquays remains religious, just not as conservative.) Among the Darkside traits were “sexual perversions,” including “transsexualism.” (Other listed ‘perversions’ included homosexuality, bisexuality, and transvestitism.)
Let’s put this in perspective. Jaquays went on a personal journey where she confronted and accepted that she is, in fact, what she once vehemently condemned. This is especially courageous and deserves admiration. Gender – and the explicit division thereof – is a core component of identity in our civilization; so much so that we have distinct pronouns for different genders. Essentially, Jaquays had to fundamentally reassess an identity she held for over fifty years. After that accomplishment, wearing high heels doesn’t seem so difficult.
Anyway, Jaquays was criticized (perhaps justifiably) for his deprecatory treatment of alternative lifestyles in the Central Casting books. In Heroes Now!, references to specific “sexual perversions” were removed and replaced with a section that touted ‘wholesome’ values and decried “popular” trends that sought to “brainwash society” into accepting “perverse behaviors” as normal. Your humble host is given to understand that Jaquays now has a different attitude, allegedly* saying that “There is content in my Central Casting Books which represents a different mindset than I now hold.”
In closing, I would like to provide a paragraph from the original Heroes of Legend:
I would think that Jaquays stills subscribes to this sentiment, although she has a different perspective as to what “deal with their problems” entails.
* Although it seems reasonable that Jaquays would say this, I cannot find the actual source for the quote.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Robots, Androids, and the Ship's Computer

wherein your humble host continues his cover-to-cover analysis of Metamorphosis Alpha

Starting on page 6, there is a section called “Ship Devices and Units.” Most of the section is devoted to descriptions of equipment; however, there are also details about the ship's features and not all of those details are intuitively organized. For example, the presence of an artificial moon and stars for “natural areas” is incongruously indicated under the description of “City Units.” The term “unit” is rather vague and the rules use it in a variety of contexts throughout the section. First, 'unit' refers to a dwelling unit. The artificial gravity generators are also described as units. A unit can be a portable device (such as the 'Engineering System Hand Unit') and, apparently, it can be a robot (or at least a robotic drone). The next section (page 7), “Starship Equipment,” provides details about robots (occasionally referring to them as units), but the “Ship Devices and Units” section provides details on the 'Ecology Energy Tracer Unit' and the 'Security Tracer Unit.' The Security Tracer Unit includes yet another unit – a propulsion unit. (This might make a decent drinking game. Maybe Jim Ward was getting paid 'by the unit.') Given that they have means of propulsion, the tracer units are not hand tools. The Ecology Energy Tracer Unit can summon a forest robot; this suggests that it is a robot. A drone would not summon a robot, a drone operator would.

The “Starship Equipment” section begins with the sentence, “Here is a listing of the various features and equipment on board the starship.” This introductory statement more accurately describes the previous section. Regardless, the “Starship Equipment” section has a “Weapons Systems” sub-section; otherwise, the section is devoted to describing the various robot models – along with brief entries regarding anti-grav sleds and androids. This section describes six models of robots: (1) standard general purpose, (2) ecology “forest,” (3) ecology “garden,” (4) medical, (5) engineering, and (6) security. Each model is described as an outline list of equipment; each item is identified by a capital letter. This wouldn't be so bad if the lists were uniform; for instance, if Item 'F' for each model referred to the robot's propulsion. As it is, each model is a haphazard list that is not consistently organized. For example, the security robot has a gas pellet ejector (Item 'E') and two slug ejectors (Item 'J'); the gas pellet ammunition is not a separate item, but the slug ejector ammunition is (Item 'K'). All in all, the robot descriptions in Gamma World would be more consistently organized and take up less relative space.

As I pointed out before, robots are subject to the vocal commands of anyone with an appropriate color band. They also have standard programming. Some robots possess “independent action circuits,” implying some sort of artificial intelligence. Page 8 states that “robots will never kill any type of life – this program is implanted in all primary logic circuits.” Ecology robots are equipped with herbicides and insecticides so, clearly, this is a misstatement; perhaps robots will never kill any type of animal life. The special note on robots concludes with:
Robots are programmed to assist humans, and they will react to the harming of life with immediate force (but to subdue rather than kill) – even if the aggressor is wearing a command color band.
All this suggests implementation of some variation of Asimov's Laws of Robotics.

While the description of the robot models is about equal to an entire page, the discussion of androids consumes less than one-quarter of a page. Androids are vat-grown chemical life. How are they perceived by robots? For robotic purposes, are they human? The 'Security Hand Unit' described on page 6 can differentiate between the energy reading of a human and an android, so it is likely that robotic sensors can also detect the difference. Are androids “second rate” humans; to be served and defended as long as real humans are not inconvenienced? Do androids have priority over 'natural' animal life or does their status as constructs mean they are less important?

According to page 8, “Each android is designed so that when it is almost at the end of its life expectancy it will change color.” Are androids available in a variety of colors? I would think that, given the controversy about androids indicated in the text, androids would have a 'non-human' coloration. Perhaps they start out blue and become violet near their expiration date.

Also on page 8, “All programmed androids are implanted with the idea that to harm or even touch a human in any way is impossible for them.” (Are there any androids that aren't programmed?) This is interesting. A robot can move a human out of harm's way, but an android cannot. A robot can perform a life-saving medical procedure, but an android cannot.

Page 23 devotes a couple of paragraphs to the ship's computer. The computer seems to be quite versatile as an artificial intelligence. According to the “Languages” section on page 24, the computer has learned the common language of the ship and “continually updates its that they will be usable by humans on the ship...” The computer is aware of the problems caused by the radiation catastrophe.
Its program makes it want to help humans on the ship in any way possible – not only to live on the ship but to someday reach a safe planet, even though that is now impossible under the new conditions borne of the radiation disaster.
Why does it have to be impossible? The organizers of the expedition realized the potential for calamitous events. They included a supply of security robots on the ship. Per page 4, they made it possible for the command center to flood any area of the ship with paralysis gas. Certainly, the computer would be programmed with catastrophe protocols or, at the very least, the computer's artificial intelligence could adapt to exigent circumstances. Why can't the computer educate some humans or directly program some androids (an ability indicated on page 8) to reinstate whatever control it lost due to the radiation catastrophe? According to the Introduction on page 3, disaster struck “some one-third of the way to the planetary destination...” Since the Warden had not yet reached the half-way point, perhaps turning back might have been in order.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Why We Need to Trash Atlantasia

I’m writing this post in response to what Greg Christopher says here. Yes, as of this writing, that post is more than a week old; however, I did not notice it until very recently. This is part of the reason I am posting here rather than commenting there.
I respect Greg Christopher. He puts out a quality product for free and his material looks more professional than much of the RPG material on the market. I don’t take what he says lightly. After careful consideration, I find that I do not agree with all of his points.
Christopher talks about the disparaging remarks recently made by the RPG online community against John Holland and his The Realms of Atlantasia role-playing game. Specifically, he says these remarks are more telling of the makers than the target. As any devoted reader of this blog knows, your humble host has issued some of these remarks. I stand steadfastly by these remarks and I believe they should be voiced.
As I indicated previously, I believe there are two valid complaints against Holland; his “arrogance” and the abominable production values of his book. Note that I have made no judgment regarding the quality of the game. Among the other concerns aired by the community, there are: (1) the quality of his website, (2) his alleged misogyny, and (3) the ‘stolen’ artwork. Although I do not find it esthetically pleasing, we should not judge Holland or his game based upon his website. I do not think Holland is a misogynist, but the half-elf thing is silly. I pointed this out, but we should not let such a small matter affect our view of the whole. With regard to the cover art, we should refrain from lynching Holland until we have all of the facts. (Personally, I think Holland is innocent.)
Christopher thinks that the RPG online community is insular. I concur. He believes that most people in the RPG hobby are not as informed as our online community. Lacking evidence to the contrary, I concede this point. He also states that the RPG online community is an elite group, both privileged and lucky. I do not concur.
Holland is not ‘just anyone’ in the hobby. He tenders a product that he claims is different than comparable products and that is not passé. (It is new and different; therefore, it is innovative.) Although Christopher’s objective is not to “defend the author,” he manages to offer some excuses for Holland. The fact that Holland resides in “rural Canada” is irrelevant; Raggi is in Finland and he is very much involved in the RPG online community. The keyword here is “online.” You don’t need to be privileged and lucky to participate in the RPG online community (other than to the extent that you have an Internet connection), you just need to be online. There is no exclusive password; no secret handshake. Yes, there is jargon. Learning jargon is not insurmountable. Everyone learns jargon the same way, by interacting with the community.
The Wikipedia entry for ‘role-playing game’ has a direct link to If you want to sell stuff to tabletop role-players and start “going after the big boys” (as Holland says), a minimum of research into the market reveals the presence of the online community. The fact that the tabletop RPG hobby – like every hobby – has an Internet presence should not be a surprise. Christopher says that Holland “is coming from a place of ignorance, not arrogance.” If someone asserts claims without establishing the validity of those claims (as seems to be the case with Holland), then ignorance IS arrogance.
Christopher notes that professional publishing software is expensive and requires some degree of technological sophistication. I can't argue with that, but using a spell-checker doesn't take much skill. Holland forgoes basic formatting of his work. I can almost forgive Holland for not providing an index, but the lack of a table of contents is inexcusable. Holland is not exactly deficient in funds; he was able to pay for the services of iUniverse. (Speaking of which, iUniverse should have been able to help with some of Holland's formatting needs – unless they're a rip-off).
I have found that the online RPG community can be very supportive and helpful (at least to people not perceived as arrogant). Someone on with the user name of “jaerdaph” created an Atlantasia map without being asked (and it looks quite good). Supposedly, Holland is “not in this for the money.” If so, he could provide the PDF for free – like other small publishers; like Christopher himself. Alas, Holland wouldn't know about these things because he never bothered to find out. Holland is the object of derision because of things that he could have avoided with a modicum of effort.
Should tabletop RPG hobbyists be encouraged to share or publish their efforts? Absolutely. However, if we want to bring new people into the hobby, products like The Realms of Atlantasia do not help – they hinder. Atlantasia might be a decent game, but the presentation so awful that people don't take it seriously. It reflects very poorly on the hobby. If we want people to take our hobby seriously, we need to be serious about the hobby. Kid gloves are not the answer. Let us not pity John Holland; let us encourage fundamental standards of quality for our hobby.
P.S. The other reason I didn't comment at Greg Christopher's blog is because I can't.  So if someone could contact him and let him know about this post, that would be great.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Scenes From the Class Struggle Aboard the Starship Warden

The design for the Warden “was the most ambitious ever attempted” and it was “the wonder of the Interstellar Colonization Age.” Doubtless, exorbitant amounts of resources were necessary for its construction. What would motivate the United Western Starship Cartel to do such a thing? During the (first) Age of Exploration, there was a commercial motive to establish colonies. The Warden, even if successful in its colonization mission, would not be a profitable venture because it would take generations to travel between Earth and the colony. To the Cartel, the Warden represents a huge cost but no return. Why bother? I think that the Warden construction project must have boosted the 23rd century economy. Maybe that was the entire purpose: to create jobs and stimulate growth. The Warden is merely incidental to the Cartel's financial objective of influencing the economy of the entire Solar System.

Although the Warden is a ship, in some ways it is a society; at least it was before the disaster. There is a crew of 50,000 and a colonist population of 1.5 million; a literal microcosm, self-sufficient by virtue of the vast environments and the miracles of 23rd century technology. According to the Introduction:

...[T]he colonists were not rigidly screened for the expedition, for it was held that the Warden's accommodations would place few physical or psychological stresses upon colonist or crewman.

If you want 1.5 million volunteers, I guess you can't be too choosy. I suppose that genetic engineering would have eliminated the more commonplace hereditary disorders. Besides, if the economy rather than the expedition was the goal, you might as well fill up the ship with telephone sanitizers and send it off.

Presumably, it would take the Warden several generations to reach its goal. The crew, at least, has a purpose. On the other hand, the colonists aren't really colonizing anything; their descendants will. Until they reach their destination, each generation of 'colonists' is merely breeding stock. Even a crew-person could be disheartened by the knowledge he or she will never reach the destination. I think it's possible that the ship's computer withholds the knowledge of how close the Warden is to the colony planet. In this way, any given person (beyond the first generation) might expect to arrive at the ship's destination. This would give the colonists something to do with their lives – prepare for the arduous tasks associated with establishing a colony, because they could be the colonist generation.

Society on the Warden comes with a built-in caste system in the form of color bands. The color of your skin doesn't matter, but the color of your band does. Imagine how the divisions among the crew might be perceived: Greens are so flighty; that's typical red behavior; I don't have anything against greys, but I wouldn't let my daughter marry one. Of course, if you're not crew, you're colonist – a 'commoner' with a brown band. I mean, without the color band system colonists might “stray into command or possibly harmful areas.” Dumb colonists. You know how they are. Last week I went slumming in the colonist levels and I heard this joke. Two whites, a green, and an android walk into an alcoholic beverage dispensary...

Given the multi-generational aspect of the ship's journey, there must be a system of education – up through advanced stages – so that responsibilities can be handed down from generation to generation. Perhaps all children undergo competency testing and are trained accordingly; a bright colonist child might even become a crew person. I suppose young children don't have bands at all. Perhaps “getting one's band” is a sign of maturity, a rite of passage akin to getting a driver's license back on 21st century Earth. Of course, the color of a young adult's band would be brown until he or she is accepted into one of the crew castes. Someone who flunks out will have a colonist's band for the rest of his or her life; a mark of shame for someone from a crew family.

According to page six, “The command personnel band is alternating blue and red...The security band is red.” What blue represents is not defined, but I think it must be the ship's bureaucracy. This would mean that command personnel would be drawn from the security and bureaucrat castes. Scientific and engineering castes would not qualify for command positions. Thus we have the basis for starship politics.

Page six also states that the Warden has four captains. Does that mean a primary captain and three 'deputy' captains? Or does that mean each captain has equal power, but that their responsibilities are distributed among them? Perhaps there is a council of captains with shared power and responsibilities. How are captains appointed? Are they democratically elected from among the command personnel? Who gets to vote? Is there colonist suffrage? Are the captain appointments for life? Maybe the ship's computer determines the captains via a meritocracy algorithm.

One final note: I would like to point out a mistake I made in my post on November 20, 2011. According to page 6, an artificial moon and stars appear during night cycles in the natural areas. I have added a postscript to that blog entry. The wolfoids do have something at which to howl after all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Elf Sex in Real Life

or ‘Realistic Fantasy’ is a Contradiction

John Holland claims to offer “complete realism (or as close to realistic as a game can get)” in his memorable role-playing game, The Realms of Atlantasia. Last week, we discussed the sexual mores of Atlantasian elves, but are those mores realistic? Not according to the woman in this article (also, this video – probably NSFW). Clearly, Holland doesn't have a clue about the sexual attitudes of real elves.

Holland says that The Realms of Atlantasia is “the most realistic fantasy based role-playing game...on the market.” Holland thinks that “fantasy” RPGs should be “realistic.” Holland is hardly the only designer with this viewpoint, but he allows me a convenient way to broach the topic. Why, in the name of The Great Svenny, do some designers feel the need to adulterate fantasy with realism? Fantasy and reality are – by definition – contrary. Fantasy RPGs are vehicles for escapism; realism defeats the purpose.

The goal of playing a fantasy RPG should not be to simulate reality (I have enough reality, thank you). The goal is entertainment. Rules (and whatever realism they encompass) are guidelines toward achieving that goal; they are the means, not the end.

The fictional setting of a fantasy RPG acts as a ‘consensus reality’ for the game master and players. It is convenient to model such consensus realities upon objective reality; however, this should only be done to the extent it facilitates a common understanding among the participants. The source material for fantasy RPGs is not objective reality, it is fiction. Designers shouldn’t add realism to fantasy RPGs, they should add unrealism. They should intentionally deviate from objective reality in an effort to inspire the wonder that the source material generates.

Assigning a numerical value to represent the durability of a character’s cotton breeches (The Realms of Atlantasia The Game Master's Bible, p. 47) does not contribute to a sense of fantasy and it is not something that I find entertaining. We can assume that the durability of clothing is finite and if such needs to be addressed, common sense and/or game master fiat will adequately meet our needs. Don’t focus on the mundane, focus on the fantasy.

To paraphrase Jack Kirby, why mirror reality when you can surpass it?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Skills in Metamorphosis Alpha

For role-playing games prior to the publication of Traveller in 1977, skills (as opposed to class abilities) were not a significant feature of player characters. An arguable exception is Empire of the Petal Throne (1975), where players had some choice regarding their characters' background skills, some of which were “useful for adventuring.” The rules for Metamorphosis Alpha contain sparse information about character skills. A character's 'skill' derives from what the player discovers about the environment as well as what the character discovers about the function of new items pursuant to the Item Complexity Table on page 22. Regardless, there are hints that skills could play a more prominent part in defining a Metamorphosis Alpha character.

The character sheet (human and mutant) contains a block for “Judge-Given Skills & Items.” Clearly, there was some expectation that the judge would determine which skills each beginning character would have. However, none of the beginning player character examples address this.

There is an interesting statement in the 'Distribution of Monsters (Mutations) and Treasure' section on page 21:

Note: a player cannot shoot a gun on board ship just because he or she can in real life! The player must learn how first. If trial & error is used, this may take up to 6 months time.*

Does this mean “up to six months” after the gun “has been understood by the character” by virtue of the Item Complexity Table? Or is this an assumption of the amount of time that the Item Complexity Table would require? Expertise with a gun suggests a more in-depth aptitude beyond the mere knowledge of how the gun operates. If so, with what 'weapon classes' from page 19 can we assume beginning characters are proficient? Weapon class 3 (swords & daggers & bludgeon types) would seem to be basic knowledge. Would weapon class 1 (bows & blow guns) require a tribal/settlement background? With regard to weapon class 2 (crossbows & spear types), might a character have a working knowledge of spears but not crossbows?

In issue number 14 of The Dragon (May 1978), Ward wrote “The Total Person In Metamorphosis Alpha” which provides (among other things) charts that can be used to define a character's background. Specifically, there are four 'background' charts: (1) environment from the earliest times to the pre-adult years, (2) actions in the pre-adult years, (3) basic interests and/or talents, and (4) special abilities.

The first chart presents twelve possible environments including “Island” and “Fully Operational City.” With regard to the second chart, there is a 25% chance that “time was spent hunting.” Other 'pre-adult years' possibilities include “healing and helping others” and “fighting mutated creatures.” There is a 40% chance that a character will not have any basic interests and/or talents. Otherwise, the third chart lists options such as “collecting domars” and “knowledge of transportation devices of all types.” There is a 60% chance that a character will not have a special ability. For those fortunate enough to have a special ability, the possibilities include “knowing the effects of plants and herbs” and, intriguingly, “communicating with and beguiling creatures of all types.”

The article lacks information about how to implement these background options into game terms; the judge is left to his or her own discretion. Ward does provide an example through which we may gain an idea of what he intended. An “engineering section” environment allows a character “a certain knowledge of metals and the opening and closing of doors.” A “combat of any type” talent provides “a plus to hit and on damage.” Lastly, the “attacking with a sword” special ability grants “another plus.”

* Of course, we understand that 'player' in this context refers to 'player character.' In other words, a player's capabilities are not necessarily shared by that player's character. 'Player' is used for 'character' at other points in the rules. From our perspective, we are able to interpret the distinction; however, it is not surprising that contemporary critics developed incorrect assumptions about how players assumed the roles of their characters.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Elf Sex in Atlantasia

Mike Mearls is sweating.  “[T]he most realistic fantasy based game around,” is now among us and “it’s a taste of what’s to come.”  It seems the way we think about role-playing games is about to change.  John Holland, resident of Vulcan, Canada, has graced the world with his masterful role-playing game, The Realms of Atlantasia, and he’s “going after the big boys.”  Hence the reason for Mike Mearls’ anxiety.

Of course, given the staggering importance of this event, your humble and intrepid host has acquired a (PDF) copy.  Thoul’s Paradise is here to sate your curiosity as to this new standard among RPGs.

There remains some question as to whether Atlantasia is a parody.  If it is a parody, it is brilliant, exquisite, and colossal; it eclipses Encounter Critical as the mighty Sequoia overshadows a simple shrubbery.  Given this unlikely level of attainment and the pricey set-up costs of the publisher (iUniverse), your humble host has difficulty accepting that it is a parody.  We are compelled to treat Atlantasia as a sincere effort and more’s the pity.  If Holland is indeed sincere, he might want to swallow his pride and act like it was a parody from the start.

Regardless of the quality of the end product, should we disparage a truly sincere effort? Did not the esteemed Zak recently encourage us all to publish our pet projects? I concur with Zak's sentiment; however, Holland has committed two unpardonable sins. He has engaged in naïve pomposity and he offers a work of absolutely dismal production values.

Apparently, Holland hasn’t seen any RPGs that have been published since he began work on his magnum opus eighteen years ago (nor does he seem to be aware of any advances in website design since then). Holland considers percentile dice and different schools of magic to be innovative.

The book is 545 pages long. There is no table of contents; there is no index. Other than the cover, there is no art. Internal organization is lacking (for instance, creature listings are not alphabetized). Obviously, Holland's word processing expertise does not extend to the use of a spell checker.

Somewhere, Mike Mearls breathes a sigh of relief.

There are only so many hours in a day and there is so much to deride. (A text search for the phrase “anal circumference” does not yield any hits, so at least it’s not a hack of F.A.T.A.L.) Rest assured, Thoul's Paradise shall soon revisit The Realms of Atlantasia.

Heaven forfend I should conclude this post without mention of elf sex. Recently, around the blogs, there has been some discussion of the sexual mores of Atlantasian elves. Page 3 of 'The Game Master's Bible' states:

On Atlantasia, you will NEVER find a half-breed elf (if a female elf was ever raped by another race she would commit suicide).

From this remark, we assume that elves are not attracted to other races but, since there is a possibility that an elf may be raped, other races may be attracted to elves. We also assume that elves are inter-fertile with these other races or else there would be no concern that a half-breed might result from a rape. What if a non-elf used a disguise (magical or conventional) to appear like an elf and thus engage in consensual relations? I mean, there's more than one way to shag an elf.