Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Chargen: By Night Studios Werewolf: the Apocalypse

Hello, Smug Puggerinos!

It has been a long time since I have done one of these, so here is my latest in the Chargen (Character Generation) line of posts! I borrowed the concept from Matt McFarland aka Black Hat Matt. This game goes back to the days of Livejournal where we would get together and make characters for fun and then show people how we did it. In this installment, I am making a character for the By Night Studios version of Werewolf: the Apocalypse! BNS W:tA, as I will refer to it from now on, is a version of the Werewolf : the Apocalypse game that is meant for live action role playing (LARP.) It is the latest version of role playing rules for making a Garou for LARPs, and I'm going to use the rules to make one of my favorite Tribes for the setting: a Silent Strider!

Character: A Silent Strider Homid Theurge
Game: Werewolf: the Apocalypse
System: By Night Studios LARP Ruleset
Publisher: By Night Studios
Starting XP: Base +30 (60 total XPs)

Disclaimer: Though I have worked on World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness books, I do not work for By Night Studios. I received my copy of the game by backing it when it was on Kickstarter.


The By Night Studios system is one of my favorite systems for LARPing. This is not a slam against the older MET system or other systems out there, but I prefer the simplified rules used for it. Though the book is enormous and could probably be used to kill someone in a fit of Rage, it's really self contained and has systems for pretty much everything that can occur in the game. Instead of using Traits like the MET version, the character sheet for the game looks like a sheet you would use for tabletop. The system still uses Rock, Paper, Scissors as the mechanic for determining success, although now you add up your dice pools which provide bonuses in the case of Ties, Successes, or Exception Successes in a Challenge.

I've had this character concept in my head for a while, so that part is easy. I love the Silent Striders! Though my first and favorite tribe will always be the Shadow Lords, I love the story behind the Silent Striders. They are a tribe hailing from Egypt, and though they have been banished from their homeland and forced to wander through the world, they travel across the world and interact with spirits in the hope that they can one day return to their home.

For this character, I am making a Theurge. Theurges are the shamans and mystics of the Garou, and their responsibilities involve dealing with the spirits of the world and in conducting the rituals and ceremonies that are essential to maintaining Garou society. Strider Theurges see themselves as priests calling upon ancient pacts and powers, and in the BNS edition they have a very strong affinity with dealing with the Underworld and traveling there. Now that I know what kind of Garou I am making, now comes the part where I figure out what kind of person he is.

Djekat Owl's-Midnight-Watcher, or Miles Runner as he is known to the human world, was born in Ft. Wayne, IN. His family was always on the move as his father was a contractor, and his mother was a Silent Strider Galliard. He was very close to his family while growing up. Even though his mother would often go off on journeys and missions for local septs, she did her best to watch over her family, and Miles' father was a Kinfolk whose overprotective nature came from a few close calls when Black Spiral Dancers tried to kill Miles and himself over the years. When Miles' imaginary friend Djebati turned out to be a displaced spirit of the Underworld whose ties to Miles are still not well understood, Miles' First Change was met with great celebration from his extended family but concern from the local Elders, who cast their omens and saw a dark future lay in store for him.

As Djekat, his life as a Theurge of the Silent Striders may have been considered fairly ordinary until the day Djekat disappeared suddenly from the Sept of the Winter's Shadow. Djekat's disappearance into the Umbra led many to seek him out. He was found roaming the Underworld, but when the pack tried to reason with him, they discovered he had been possessed by an ancient spirit calling itself Heru. Djekat turned on his brothers, and for that was declared a Ronin from the tribe. Djekat disappeared for over a year until her emerged from the Underworld, his memory completely blank about the events of the last year. One of his eyes had turned gold in color, and those who interracted with him claimed to hear the sounds of spirits whispering around him. He also gained the attention of local birds and owls who would gather in his presence but sit quietly around him, as if they were almost mournful and solemn.

During the battle with the Dark Brigade (see the BNS W:tA rulebook for more information on that story) he managed to earn distinction and was welcomed back into the Garou nation in time to join the Concordidat of Stars, but the stigma remained about his disappearance. Some claim he has been permanently touched by an ancient Incarna, while others believe he spent his lost year in service to the Wyrm and will betray the Garou at the first chance. As for Djekat, he dreams of ancient battles of life in the distant past, though he has yet to learn the meaning of it.

So lets make the character!

Character Sheet 

I've decided his primary attributes will be Physical, as I would like for him to be a fairly physical Theurge. Though his role will be primarily mystical, the 2 point boost to his Physical pool will be useful for fighting Ghosts and Wyrm creatures. I've chosen Dex as his focus, as the Striders are fairly lithe and agile creatures. Social will be his secondary attributes, as interacting with other Garou is an extremely important task for him as a Theurge. Mental comes in third, but that does not mean he is dumb! It means he is average in that category. I see him as being a very lore and occult focused person but not very worldly when it comes to information.

I choose Manipulation and Wits because they will come into play for the Gifts I want to choose for him.

Skills are so hard to pick for me, as I never know where to put a focus beyond what might be considered "Min/Maxing" but I really want to have a well rounded character. So for the sake of expediency, here's the skills I'm choosing for Djekat. I want him to be heavily focused into research and the spirit world, so Occult, Lore, and Academics are important. I want him to be good at Melee (more on that later), and being able to be alert about his surroundings and dodge blows is essential. I also want him to be empathetic to the needs of those around him, and he needs to be able to investigate mysteries. So here's what the final skills look like:

Occult 4

Lore 3 (Garou, Wyrm, Spirits)

Melee 3

Survival 2

Awareness 2

Dodge 2

Athletics 1

Investigation 1

Stealth 1

Empathy 1

I may pick up more later with my freebies, but lets move on!

Merits and Flaws

Merits and Flaws are extremely important in BNS, and give your character either new abilities or boost existing ones. Flaws do the opposite, and can often times be life or death for the character's story. My Merits are really easy to choose, because the Tribal Merits in this edition are to be blunt, supremely effective and worth it. There are no really wasted Merits in my opinion, and while the general Merits are also extremely useful, the Tribal ones really fit the theme of each tribe.

For Djekat, I'm taking Quick and the Dead and Omen of Doom out of the Silent Strider Merits. Quick and the Dead gives me a Stock NPC Wraith ally that I can use to spy on others and to assist me in dealing with spirits. Omen of Doom is essentially a free do-over in certain situations, and it fits with my character's connection to the spirit world and destiny.

I'm taking Wyrmspeak because it allows me to understand the secret language of the Wyrm. It's a Merit that can cause other Garou to look down on him, but I think that fits with his distrusted nature.

For Flaws I am taking Tainted Rank, which although that sets me back in the political game for W:tA, it fits with the idea that he was once Ridden by a spirit and is not trusted as deeply as he once was. I almost took Ronin, but as a Theurge I will need access to the Caern, so this seems like it will work out well for the character's story. I am also taking Monstrous, and Djekat's eyes burn a blazing golden color in his Crinos form, which is unnerving and considered not natural. Finally I'm taking Pied Piper, to befit his connection with Horus.


Backgrounds were tough for me, because I know where I want to go, but I need to build the foundation first. First and foremost will be Rank. He's a Theurge and was once well respected in the Garou Nation, and even though Tainted Rank hurts him in Staredown and social challenges, I feel he still needs to have rank that he's earned. So that will get 3 points. Next will be Fetish, as I want to design a special book for Djekat that he can consult to aid him in using his Lore skill. Finally, he gets 1 point in Spirit Pact, which represents his pact with the mysterious Heru.


Gifts are the mystical powers that Garou use, and there's perhaps more than a hundred Gifts in the book to choose from when you consider all of the Tribal and Generic Gifts to go through. For my Theurge, I want him to deal with spirits, so that helps focus me as well. For my starting Gifts I take Airt Perception so I can see spirits, Mother's Touch so I can heal others, and Spirit Skin to help him hide in the Umbra.

Now on to spending my XP! I gave him an additional 30 points to work with, so lets see what I can come up with.

For starters, I want to buy a couple of Gifts that are essential to him. I want him to be able to put up Wards, so I'll take Spirit Ward. Pierce the Ashen Veil is essential for the Garou who wants to tread in the Shadowlands, so I'll pick that up as a Rank 3 gift. Next I'll take Circle of Gai's Cleansing, since Djekat will want to rid the world of Wyrm Taint. I'll finish this out with Craft the Fetish, so I can make Fetishes for other Garou. I also take Umbra Tether to keep me from getting lost.

All of these Gifts are within the Auspice, Breed, or Tribal affinities for me, which helps me afford them. I end up spending a total of 48 points on them. Since I'm rank 3, I have to pay x2 for new levels in skills, so I'll pick up Medicine 2 for 6 points, and since I will need to know Rites for the Caern, I will take Rites 2 with my remaining points. That puts me at 1 point remaining thanks to Pied piper, but I will bank that point.

So here is my sheet!

Physical 7 (Dex Focus)

Social 5 (Manipulation Focus)

Mental 3 (Withs Focus)


Occult 4

Lore 3 (Garou, Wyrm, Spirits)

Melee 3

Survival 2

Awareness 2

Dodge 2

Medicine 2

Athletics 1

Investigation 1

Stealth 1

Empathy 1

Merits and Flaws

Quick and the Dead

Omen of Doom


Tainted Rank


Pied Piper


Rank 3

Fetish 2

Rites 2

Spirit Pact 1


Airt Perception

Mother's Touch

Umbra Tether

Spirit Skin

Spirit Ward

Circle of Gaia's Cleansing

Pierce the Ashen Veil

Craft the Fetish


The system was very easy to work with. The only difficulty I had was flipping back and forth through a book that size, but that's not really a bad thing. The system is very full, and seems to cover almost everything you need to make a character. Having bookmarks or a digital pdf reader will make it easier to navigate the book. I know some people were not happy with the story, but I enjoyed reading it. There is a wealth of info in the book and if players who use the book are like me the only other problem they'll face is an indecision on what to make considering all of the options.
And there's my character! Did I make a mistake? Let me know! Tell me about whatever kinds of characters you are making for your games in the comments section.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Skills By Any Name Are Invaluable

I've often considered social media, in almost all of its forms, to be like having a kind of low level telepathy. Sometimes you see a funny picture and immediately know if your friends are laughing along with it too. Other times it lets you know when your friend is feeling down, as you can pick out the subtext and go "Hey buddy, what's wrong?" Then there are the times when it lets you know what your friends are really thinking about you and your friends when you see comments like the following:

"Why should I pay taxes for someone who went and got a degree in art? They should be made to go and get a technical job where they're actually useful!"

"Yeah, they'd be too busy working but instead they got a job in liberal arts and now sit around all day doing nothing."

"Tax money shouldn't go to colleges that teach worthless degrees and instead focus on jobs that mean something."

First, let me get this out of the way: technical jobs, like electricians, plumbers, welders, mechanics, and the like are fucking INVALUABLE to society! When my house is flooded and I had no power, I relied upon the skill and expertise of people who know how to fix it. While I could try to put new wiring in the wall or pull up rotting floor boards, I'd much rather leave that to people with the skill to do it! There's this strange, fucked up elitist stigma that gets attached to jobs like those. "Of course he's a landscaper, he couldn't get a real job." Keep in mind that he's spending his day making your yard look beautiful for your Sunday brunch, but no, clearly there's something wrong with him for knowing how to safely cut limbs off a tree and dispose of them.

And that's wrong. Our modern society functions because of people with jobs like those. But you know what else is wrong?

Shitting on the artists, the writers, the make up artists, and the designers for "not having a real job."

Your grandparents knew how invaluable it was to have art in our lives. If you walk through your grandparents house, you will see paintings on the wall that they got from their parents. You may have even grown up looking at these paintings and dreamed about what they were and what was going on. I remember the old paintings in Grandma Spears place, even when they were as cheesy as a wood cutting of The Last Supper that was also a clock. I grew up looking at these paintings, and they added to her home. It wasn't just a blank wall that formed a shell for human habitation; the art helped make it a home.

The same goes for all the things we use that make life better for us. For all the posts I see shitting on those in the I see ten times the posts from them where they're excited about a new movie coming out or a book they read that they felt was amazing. I see people talking with their friends about how awesome DC Rebirth has been or how cute the new pair of earrings they found make them feel. 

Art is more than just getting paid to put color on a canvas, or sitting in front of a computer and writing words about Drake Manly and the Cave Of Endless Explosions. It's the thing that we use to fill our lives with. For some of us who sit around working jobs that we hate and wishing that we were anywhere but there, art is the thing that makes us smile. It makes us laugh. It's the glue that turns us from insects perpetually working a job until we die and instead makes us who we are. 

Art cannot replace the importance of technical jobs, and nor should it make people who do those jobs feel bad! I can write role playing games that provide escapism and fun for people but I'm not a plumber, and when I need to shower without sludge backing up into the tub I need the help of a guy who knows how that thing works. I could stand there and be haughty and pretend like his job doesn't matter, but then I would literally be stuck there with a tub full of shit because I disrespected the man or woman who knew how to fix it.

We need the Technical Schools to help us live as humans, and we need the Liberal Arts to feel human. It's not jockeying for position as King of the Hill, but instead a partnership for going through life.

No one needs to justify their job to anyone. Artists don't need to justify their work. You can critique it, and say whether you like it or not, but do not assume that just because the artist tried to make something that they are wasting everyone's time. 

So don't shit on people who went a different path than you. If I can make a suggestion, actually look at what they do for you. If in some way they make your life easier or brighter, then they've done their job. And if whatever they've done doesn't effect you in one way or the other? Then move on and find someone that does. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Job like Any Other - In Response To Christopher Helton's Article

Lighting up my corner of the Internet is this article by Christopher Helton on how tabletop role playing games often have costs that the public does not get to see, and how the pricing model for games either needs to change or other things will change. I enjoyed reading the article and found myself agreeing with parts of it.

Some of the commenters? Not so much.


Creating games is sometimes very easy, and I have played games whose rule sets were made available for free on old Geocities sites or were created at the spur of the moment on forums. I have also played games that have had hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in artwork, game design, publicity, and have had teams of well known writers and artists involved in the making. I have been fortunate in my life to have done both, and helped create rules for playing Transformers on forums as well as working on games such as the upcoming Infinity game or my work for Onyx Path. 

Creating games is often a time consuming process that can drag out days, weeks, and even years. A lot of the time put into making a game is not earning the creators a dime for their efforts; when I doodle a character sheet in my notebook, I am not being paid for it. When an artist spends an afternoon perfecting drawing elvish faces, they are not paid for it. When you Skype with fellow creators and discuss how a social combat mechanic is going to work, or how a new kind of card type is going to play out in the tabletop game you're working on, you are not paid for it.

And this can be financially crushing to creators, especially for two reasons: If they do not have a lot of financial resources to begin with, or if the game does not come into existence. Because you either end up spending money you really don't have to spend, or you do not make back any of the time and money you have already spent.

Games are exactly that: games! They are fun, and often a shared experience. I spend time with my friends fighting pirates and demons from beyond this world, and I always leave feeling like I've spent 4-6 hours doing something fun. The memories of past games I've played often make me smile, especially when I think of the time Dereke and I fought the Ghost Bear of Montaigne Mountain (aka watched a wandering black bear walk by the camp) or the time when I was involved in a brutal civil war in the vampire underworld of Lafayette where I was briefly Prince of my own little city. Games are social. They are fun. But just like video games, or novels, or any other kind of media we consume to help cheer us up of the tediousness that is the real world, they have to be made. Pen has to be put to paper, and as tabletop gaming has changed in its long history, the process of making a game has changed.

So let me start by breaking down all that goes on with the game creation process, because I feel that this would help people understand why creators are constantly concerned with how to make money off their work and why even making the slightest bit of profit is essential.

1. Wouldn't It Be Cool If...

All games begin as a "Wouldn't it be cool if..." Moment. Think of something you were daydreaming about recently. Wouldn't it be cool if you were the captain of a starship where all your friends could play different positions on the ship and fly around a combat zone, fighting to save a space station in the middle? Or what if you thought about how cool it would be to have a board game where depending on the number of Omens you have uncovered, you change the plot each time and so you end up with a different gaming experience? 

(That's Starship Artemis and Betrayal at the Haunted House, respectively.)

The creator will spend a lot of time thinking of these ideas and how to implement them. The game is thought up and when the player puts it on paper or on their word processor, it slowly starts to take shape. But that's just the beginning! If you are planning on having another studio make this game, you will have to write up a pitch, contact that company's department, and try to sell the game. All time that is not billable.

If it is a game you are making yourself, you have to sit down and figure out how you will create the game. You need to look for artists that fit the style of your game, find writers, editors, and layout people to put it together, and you have to figure out how you will pay for printing. Even a digital only method of distributing the game will still have costs, though less than physical printing. Until you start selling the game, all of this will take up time and money.

Here is where the big disconnect I am seeing for some people is. To sum up the arguments I have seen, it comes down to this: "But you're creating a game! Why do I care if you make money for it? It's not real work!"

It's very much real work. Whether you are someone who designs cereal boxes for a living or comes up with the jingles for cereal commercials, creating a game is real work. You are coming up with a game that is going to be played by people for fun, and players expect the game to work and BE fun! A game that feels haphazardly put together is always noticed by the players, and can lead to them telling their friends that "this game doesn't work. I wouldn't recommend it."

Even after the concept is done and you have all the people working with you on the project, you still have to play test the game, edit it, do the art direction yourself or have your art director do that for you, and you have to take it to layout. All the professionals involved in this process are more than likely going to be doing this for pay, and as their time matters as much as yours, they would like to be paid more than half a cent or a quarter of a cent per word.

Which means either you must pay them up front, or you pay them upon publication. Which means money needs to change hands. The era of having a stable of artists and writers who work for free is coming to an end outside of the journalism industry (boo on you, HuffPo.) Quality work means that people will need to be paid.

And as for profit, well profit is essential for more than just making money. I have worked on games where the amount of profits I have made have paid for the cost of the game and put money towards making the next. I see very little of that profit, because after I wrap one game I have to think of the next one. Maybe I want to make a board game expansion to the core game, or maybe I want to work on a supplement. These books will then take the money I made on the previous book as their start up capital, and the process begins again!

I saw people making the argument that they would prefer a 192 page book with limited B/W art and endless pages of text at a $20 price point as opposed to a $40 for a book that has art in it. While I think I would enjoy books like that, I have seen books at conventions that are made like that. They often do not sell well because people flip through them and are not impressed with what they see. Many gamers like to see pictures of the world they are about to step into. They want to be inspired by epic artwork of what their characters could do in that universe, and whether that artwork is little chibi drawings or pictures of massive armies going to war with each other, they want to see what the world is like. 

Don't believe me? Well, tell me if you would play this game:

"You are in a world where the geography looks very similar to our own. In this world, races of elves, dwarves, and humans battle against the great forces of Chaos who seek to destroy everything. Players can choose what jobs they want to play, such as rat catchers and militia men, who then move up to warriors or sorcerers through dynamic game play. The game system uses d6s, and you can be an elven noble, a dwarf warrior, or a Germanic knight adventuring through dungeons."

Sounds pretty basic, right? Sounds like a generic ripoff of Lord of the Rings?

That is the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game, set in the world of Warhammer, from Games Workshop. It's one of the longest running games in the world, and though the generic description of the setting may make it seem pretty bland, it is a huge world full of heroes. Artwork of Tyrion the Phoenix Lord battling Archaon the Everchosen help the players see the real scope of the world.

Now that said, there are games with very minimal artwork that work VERY well. FATE, a game I enjoy, often has only a little artwork in their core books because it leaves it up to the players. These games are often a harder sell on people because while they can hear about how cool the setting is, they may not think the game is worth it on a casual flip through of the book.

2. "But you're doing this for fun!"

Fuck yeah, I do this for fun! I love making games! Making games is richly rewarded for me, and every time someone tells me they've played a game I've worked on I smile. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

But I can't allow myself to go broke for the sake of it.

In the beginning, I worked for exposure. I worked on small d20 adventures and wrote up new Vampire clans on forums with friends because it was fun. I wrote fiction for online fiction anthologies because I didn't mind getting paid in exposure because I thought the exposure would have been worth it. But at the time, I lived either in my Mom's house, in a dorm, or at a friend's place. I had no bills, and each paycheck I got from a comic book store often went back into the store in buying stuff.

I cannot pay my bills with exposure. I cannot feed myself or others with exposure. As the saying goes, "Exposure? People die from exposure!" It's a joke, but one that depicts the real problem here: creating games is time that could be used doing something else that would make money so that I could buy other games. Instead, I put that time into making games.

There is always a fine breaking point between doing what you love because you love it, and greatly sacrificing of yourself to do what you love because you love it. If all creators worked on the latter method, we would not see as many games out on the market today because people would not be able to put the time and effort into making them.

This is not dissing those creators who do manage to make games without charging for them. There's a game I greatly enjoy called Engine Hearts, where you play little machines surviving in a post apocalyptic world where man has disappeared and you are struggling to survive in it. It's a fantastic game, and the creators managed to make it pay what you want online because they got several people to donate their time and services for free for it. And the game is pretty damn awesome if you ask me!

But not every game company can work that way. If this was the 24th century in the Star Trek universe, we could. But the financial needs of the real world often do not allow it.

3. "I do not have the money to pay for a $60 game, and I feel like I'm being shamed for being poor."

I don't think the original writer was going for this, but I do want to take people's criticisms seriously. 

Let's face it: sometimes, we really want something that's cool but the price point steers us off. I would love to read every book that hits the gaming market, but some of them have high costs that I cannot afford. If you are someone who struggles to make ends meet, the idea of buying the $60 Iron Kingdoms Unleashed book or keeping up with each hardcover from Wizards of the Coast is just cost prohibitive. And I know the agony of really wanting something that I can't afford. 

Tabletop games have evolved to the point that everyone expects each book to have amazing artwork, crisp layout, and have plenty of pages full of content. I know that if I picked up a book that was only 16 pages long, looked like crap, and was priced $30 I would probably turn away. But many of these books have high costs because of their high production costs associated with making them. The previously mentioned Iron Kingdoms book has color artwork every 1 1/2 pages, is a weighty 400+ page tome, and took unknown hours of play testing and development. For a company to release a book like that, they need to charge it at a cost where they can make back money on it.

I don't have an answer for those who want such a book but cannot afford it. I'm not going to tell people how to spend their money or live their lives, but I hope that by explaining how the book is made, they may have some insight into why costs are high on some books and low on others. Games are a tricky business on how to make them, but finding the right price point on how to sell them is even trickier. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Let Them Play Too

Alternate title: Little Plastic Fighting Men For Everybody

I have played miniature games since I was 13 and I discovered a few friends playing Warhammer Fantasy in middle school. It grew into a hobby of mine and I have played miniature games for 18 years. I own miniatures that are old enough to vote, I now work in miniatures and tabletop role playing games, and I play so many games I have a little storage block that sorts my minis. You could say it's an obsession for me, even more so than my obsession of my pal Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

Shut up. One day we'll get married and move to a farm and raise puppies together.

(Somewhere Aaron raises his head and just quietly says "No thanks, mate.")

This morning I was going through some Facebook posts by my colleagues and I discovered a growing movement inside the Warhammer 40k fandom that was trying to get more women in the game so that they could feel included. And the thing that surprised me about this was not the fact that women want to play the same games as guys, but the fact that there was a huge push back against the very notion of their being women in the game.

There were the minor complaints, of course. "It would be too expensive to make female heads! Boob plate armor doesn't make sense! (I agree.) Do women even play the game?"

And then there were those guys. You know who. Those Fucking Guys. The ones who are shitting on the idea because they think it's bullshit to change the game even a little bit to make it more inclusive.

The three biggest complaints I've heard so far about trying to incorporate more women into the setting:

1. It would be a major rewrite to the fluff! What is written is Canon, and we cannot defy Canon.

I think a lot of these guys are forgetting that the Canon took an almighty punch to the face when the first of the Horus Heresy books was released and suddenly we could see the Primarchs and know their thoughts and feelings. The very nature of the war was changed and rewritten for us to enjoy. We saw things change over a 10 year period, and as holes in the story were filled in other parts of the fluff was changed accordingly.

It's also not a massive change. It's not like adding women to the ranks of the Space Marines invalidates the major stories of this universe. The treachery at Istvaan isn't made worse because women were fighting among the ranks of the Loyalists. The Warmaster still falls, and his fall brings about a new age of Chaos in the universe. Generic Shooty Army still fights Generic Shooty Army even if some members on the battlefield are women and not men.

Here is my solution for how to include them in the story of the 40k universe.

Story as it stands:

A. General Bloodypulp wins the Battle of Booyah.
B. Arch lord Demonicus Rex steals the Eye of Rulings.
C. The forces of the Space Elf Giddywiddyion invade Barnax Acultha.

Story as it changes:

A. General Bloodypulp wins the Battle of Booyah.
B. Arch lord Demonicus Rex steals the Eye of Rulings.
C. The forces of the Space Elf Giddywiddyion invade Barnas Acultha.

Did you miss that?

Nothing changed! It stayed the same! Maybe as the battles are written about in a setting book someone includes the character Agatha Dreadsword, captain of the Furies, or maybe Captain Varro has a heart to heart discussion with his battle sister Brunhilda before deciding if he should board the Eisenstein.

Maybe the hero of one book is Captain Arcades, who hails from the Segmentum Ultimate, and she is caught behind enemy lines while one of her tactical squad is secretly a traitor put in place by the Alpha Legion.


Just....OK. Dude. Over here. C'mon, I'm not going to hurt you. Just come over here. Here is some honest, 100% not politically correct talk going your way.

I remember when a girl walking into a game store was a rare thing, and I remember all the horny teenage boys becoming slack jawed and going "Guuuuuuuuuuuuuurls." I remember when a girl showing interest in tabletop games was a golden fantasy to us unlucky bastards who were partner less.

Do you want us to regress to that era?

And women are not objects! In fact, I have been informed by many people that women are in fact, people just like us! That they have thoughts, desires, and sometimes a willingness to take a motherfucking las cannon to fucking piece of shit Van Saar in Necromunda. That sometimes, SOMETIMES, they want to have fun too. And I'm going to come back to that point in a little bit.

What some people see as political correctness is actually the result of us no longer bullying and dehumanizing women to the point that they don't feel like they deserve to have fun with us guys. Now they're standing up for themselves, and guys are terrified that the hobby they have loved for so long will somehow die because of it. But as someone who works with miniatures for a living, let me tell you that the only way the hobby will die out is if it becomes so exclusionary and discriminatory that there are no younger generations to pick it up. Look at the classic war games where they've been reduced to a couple old men sitting around with dusty game manuals and wondering why people don't play their game with them anymore.

3. Women just can't game!

This is the one that actually blows my mind the most because it suggests that some people's mind sets are that women are all "Sparkles and Glitter and Makeup and Boys Tee Hee!"

(Did that preceding sentence sound dumb? IT WAS DUMB WASN'T IT!)

One of my gaming groups has a player whose character, Agent Joykill, once tore apart a tank with her bare hands and saved my characters life after my disastrous run on it failed miserably. I play a different game with a player who cannot stand the idea of devouring an animal hole but in combat she'll motherfucking rip out the throats of anyone who threatens her friends. I once got schooled really hard in a Warmachine tournament when a Retribution of Scyrah player did a weird and complicated hopscotch maneuver and eliminated my Warlock in the second turn. And this is just gaming! As someone who hails from a family of women who have earned their PHDs and multiple degrees in complicated fields, I can tell you three things:

A. Some women do like sparkles, glitter, and make up. And that's OK!
B. There's some women who don't, and prefer grit, dirt, and the blood of their enemies. And that's OK!
C. There's some women who do both. And sing it with me now....THAT'S OK!

See that picture I put at the top of the post? That's from my friend James T Wulfgar and his friends who went to a convention dressed as Space Wolves. That is his wife and one of their friends rocking the completely amazing cosplay as soldiers of Fenris. Not only do they look like they could kick a Thousand Son in his arcanic giblets, but they look like they are having fun!

And that's what this is about. We were all kids once. We all saw cool things going on and wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to do the cool things I saw other kids doing, and younger kids want to do the same thing. Why? Because it looks awesome and is fun! And we play games because they're awesome and fun!

So why is it that as a hobby there is such an enormous push back against women? Especially since what they're asking for is such a little thing.They want to have fun with us, and that's not a huge thing to ask. And part of having fun with us is feeling like they can be included in the game along with guys. They don't want to destroy the game, because then they couldn't play it either. They want to feel like they matter, and that in a universe of Big Damn Heroes they can be Big Damn Heroes too.

There is a big opportunity here to see our hobby grow, and when the hobby grows, it gets more awesome. Let's grow the damn brand, guys. Let's find more players to play with. Let's roll the dice, and have a good time.

Unless little toy soldiers mean more to you than being a decent person. And making sure that your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, mother, daughter, niece, aunt, or even just stranger on the street who could turn into a pretty damn awesome friend to you are welcome at the table? That's not a huge thing to ask. That's asking so very little from you that if you do it, it doesn't seem like very much effort at all.

P.S. People who say "Girls have Sisters of Battle, so they should be grateful" are literally saying "We shit out some figures for you once and never touched them for 5 editions and made them ultra expensive to buy." I like the SoB's too, but that's like saying "I once said MLK JR. Was pretty cool once! RACISM SOLVED FOREVER!"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pulsars: More than a Superhero Boss Fight

Hello, Corpsman! We've got some amazing things to share regarding the Pulsars universe but I wanted to encourage any of you that have questions to leave them at the Smug Pug Games Facebook page or to leave them hear. I'll then take the questions and answer them each Monday as we continue our development on Pulsars. I'm going to go ahead and take the few I've gotten so far and answer them here, but I thought I'd like to tell you how the progress is going after the cruel Battle of the Lost Data.

1. Our artwork is in the 1st draft phase, and I will post pictures of them once they are finished. We are using Gunship Revolution as well as artwork from Christopher Dunn for Pulsars, and the artwork we've received so far has been amazing! You guys are in for a treat.

2. We lost a few documents from our Cloud data storage last month, but we have backups on our computers as well as other places. We may have lost about 30% of what we had, which included mainly Blog write ups, information on the Corps, and information on the world. We still have the rules, the system write ups, the character sheets, and setting material. All of the lost information can be easily replaced, it's just some of the backups were not the most up to date files. BUT EVERYTHING IS OK! Never fear, Pulsars is coming!

3. Yes, we are planning on running another Kickstarter in the Fall. We are waiting because after receiving the feedback from the last one I want to put every ounce of effort into not only improving the Kickstarter but improving the game and fixing the faults we had before. We also plan on having a special surprise at Gen Con 2016 for our fans, including a first look at the game.

Now, on to the biggest question I have received from other people. That is...

"So what is the appeal of this game? It seems like you're creating a game that's just guys in Iron Man suits going at it."

While Iron Man was a big inspiration on me growing up (I started reading during the War Machine era) the game is much more than people fighting each other in super suits. While the armor is at the center of the setting, Pulsars aims to show that there is so much more than becoming Mega Man and blasting robots. The Suit amplifies what you are good at and makes you even better at it.

Pulsars is set in a massive galaxy full of mystery. Not every problem is solved in Pulsars by aiming a weapon at it and shooting it. The Free Zones are full of billions of refugees who need food, shelter, and clean water. Preacher Cults, the fanatical bands of followers of the Enemy who seek to undermine and destabilize the region, need to be uncovered and their plans stopped. Feuding Free Zones need mediators who can reach a compromise between starving groups who are often only reason resorting to conflict because they have lost any hope. There are also countless relics, lost Suits, and mysterious phenomenon that need Pulsars to investigate them to find if they are helpful in resisting the Enemy or could be a threat.

And one of the primary motivators of the setting, beyond the Suits themselves, is perhaps its most personal: that of dealing with loss.

As I've said before, being a Pulsar is more than just wearing a shell of armor around yourself. You are fighting for not only your life but the freedom of the all sentient species across the galaxy. Even on the most insulated worlds that are the farthest from the Front, people have been affected by the Long War. Countless lives have been lost, great civilizations have been destroyed, and the Enemy keeps advancing. It echoes in a very real way the struggles that we all go through in our daily lives.

Just like in life, the Game focuses on what we can and cannot control. In a way, wearing a Suit does not prepare the wearer for dealing with loss. Being given the power to take on a battleship in combat and win may bring a temporary victory, but as the Long War goes on, even the strongest Pulsars find themselves drained and dealing with loss. The game gives a look at how despite how godlike someone may seem, they too are going through life as best they can with whatever means they can.

The game has more to it than just combat and loss, though. It also offers the chance to explore a world that is every bit as fantastic and horrifying as it seems. The battlefield stretches across space, and the remains of fallen empires and new worlds to explore offer new opportunities. Pulsars must take their skills to alien worlds and each day offers something new. One day they may be stopping Kelliostro's pirate raiders from stealing food shipments and the next they may have uncovered a strange monolith on a forgotten world that constantly swirls with color and sings music that soothes the soul.

In addition to combat, here are some examples of what a player may build their Suit to do.

Anita Cole, our chief protagonist, wears a Guardian suit which enhances her skills as a warrior. With her C-Beam emitters and pulse jets, she's a formidable opponent. Her Suit also allows her to read her squad and keep track of them, and she possesses enhanced sensors that allow her to know if they have been hurt, need assistance, or find them if they become lost.

Laura Hightower, our Navigator Corpsmen, is able to activate her own Stardives in space. She spends most of her time flying around the galaxy and performing recon. But her Suit has sensors that let her explore planets that she flies by, because this is her one true love. Her Suit was created to help the Pulsars fight the Enemy but to her, it's freedom. She gets to explore the massive frontier and see sights no one else can see. She has looked at stars while being so close that anyone else would have been incinerated.

Caesar's Suit, or rather his Rig, is a giant hulk of servos and tools that can be used to repair damaged buildings or quickly replace missing parts. For Caesar, he works himself ragged to repair the damage he sees around him. Part of his Strain is the sadness that he may never be able to fix everything, but he wants too. As such he rarely gets to leave his Suit, but while he is in it he will help anyone who needs his help. Though he follows his orders to the letter he will take time out of his mission to fix damaged wells, solar panels, and buildings if it means bringing people the slightest bit of comfort.

Morpho, a member of the Investigative Corp, uses her Suit to gather a constant stream of information around her. Though she is paralyzed from the waist down, she is able to move as capably as anyone else. Her Suit's sensors gather information about the environment around her and filters it into her display, allowing her to scan for clues and analyze the mysterious relics left across the galaxy.

Monday, January 11, 2016

RIP the Sovereign

This is a very sad Smug Pug Games post. I realize that everyone who is a Bowie fan is sad right now, and to the rest of the world who did not care about him then this post will just seem like more noise in hum of social media, but I'm doing this post for those of us who are truly saddened by the passing of a legend.

I discovered Bowie early on in college. I remember watching a Venture Brothers episode over at Joe Fowler's apartment and Doc Hammer had written an entire episode around the song "Space Oddity." It was a funny episode, but I remember at the time wondering why the opening lines were so confusing and stilted. Why were we being shown a pilot crashing into those ocean? Why were the lines of dialogue so short? 

It was only when I was in the Venture Brothers Livejournal community (that's right, good ol' LJ) and someone mentioned how it was taken from a Bowie song. I listened to the song and fell in love. I wouldn't have classified myself as anything more than a casual Bowie listener until they had their season finale, where Bowie was revealed to be the mythical Sovereign of the Guild of Calamitous Intent. After that amazing season finale, I had to listen more to him.

From there I discovered that some of my favorite songs that I had heard on the radio were by him. Under Pressure, Let's Dance, and Life On Mars were amazing, and I went on to John, I'm Only Dancing and Young Americans. I then began to read about him, and was touched by the strange ups and downs of his career. His role as Jareth in the Labyrinth, his bizarre flirtation with Nazi fashion in the 80s, and how his songs pushed the boundaries on song writing. 

I think the biggest thing I took away from David Bowie's songs was that you songs were more than just catchy jingles, and that you could tell a short story in them that could be happy, sad, and linger in your brain as you heard the story over and over again. I can't listen to Space Oddity without imagining the poor astronaut resigned to his fate, and how before he died he got to see space as the beautiful nightmare it is. 

I have not heard Lazarus yet, but I plan on listening to it tonight while enjoying some Jameson. 

And for those who I have seen mocking people who did not listen to Bowie, you should do what Bowie would have done in that moment and shown them the brutally honest nature of his work. Then get very excited for them, because they might just start listening to Bowie, and then they get to go through that phase we all went through: they get to listen to Bowie for the first time, and that's just fucking amazing!

RIP Ziggy Stardust, Klaus, the Starman, the Thin White Duke, Tesla, the Sovereign, the Goblin King, and best of all, David Bowie. Thank you for all the memories.

Sent from my iPad