Saturday, June 21, 2008

Curse/Or Chapter 1: Metastasis

Chapter 1: Metastasis

... in my professional opinion, the data is so outlandish that I would call it sheer fabrication had I not seen it firsthand. Cancer rates this staggeringly high would make sense only if the prison were built atop a toxic waste dump, where the prisoners regularly consumed dioxin-tainted food and breathed asbestos-laden air.

Without a more reliable metric, I cannot make any kind of intelligent recommendation other than "get those people out of there." To do any less would leave you vulnerable to criminal and civil suits, and frankly, I encourage you get a good lawyer anyway.

Relocate the prisoners, and tear that place apart brick by brick. Have it declared a Superfund site if you must. If this data is to be believed, what we are seeing is no less than a cancer epidemic across the prison population, staff included, and one that I suspect is airborne.

In addition, I strongly urge you to make an appointment with your physician for the most thorough physical examination possible, as soon as possible...

"My first day outta jail in twenty years and it's gotta goddamn rain," she muttered as the early morning wind drove cold rain and stinging desert sand into her face. Dressed only in a "Top Gun" t-shirt and acid-washed jeans, Theresa was soaked to the bone and utterly miserable. She had taken shelter, such as it was, in the doorway of an old boarded-up sidewalk church whose name might once have been "Apostle's State Street Church" but now the peeling and faded paint only read "Apos tate".

Shivering hands performed the age-old ritual without guidance or thought. Tear the cellophane from the box; discard. Tap box sharply against hand. Open lid; rip open foil. Select cigarette. Place in mouth. Smoke.

Except Theresa was thwarted in this last regard. "Oh, don't you fucking tell me," she muttered darkly, first fumbling in her purse, then dumping its contents onto the rain-slicked street and getting on hands and knees in desperate search for that one singular, magical, elusive object she needed to make everything right with the world, if only for one moment: a lighter.

Lipstick. Ray-Ban sunglasses. A ring of old keys. A packet of tissues. A used bus pass. Half a pack of chewing gum. A wallet.

No lighter.

"Oh, fuck me," she mumbled around the cigarette, which was beginning to droop in the rain. For a moment, Theresa contemplated crying. She had certainly earned an extended freak-out session, and the fear and powerlessness and nausea swept over her, fighting the cold and the wet for dominant sensation. Her arms trembled. For a moment, she thought she might take a header onto the concrete.

Then, just as suddenly, strength. "No," she said, softly at first, and then with more force. "No. Fuck this." Her back straightened. "Fuck you," sweeping the remnants of her life back into her purse. "Fuck the wind and fuck the cold." Standing now. "I am going to have a fucking cigarette."

Eyes tightly closed, body shaking with adrenaline and cold, Theresa concentrated on the cigarette in her mouth, willing it to light. She felt a burst of warmth in her chest as the tumor in her lungs radiated power outwards, up her neck and through the roll of tobacco clenched in her teeth, drying it, before settling on the tip and igniting.





*** *** ***

Theresa Esmerelda Reyes believed that, given enough cigarettes, she could outwait anything. It was one of the great truths upon which she hung her life, because for the last two decades her life had been little more than smoking and waiting. Sitting in the doorway, she was content to smoke, and wait, and think, because even cold and wet as she was, she was also free. Sitting in that doorway was a choice, freely made by her, and if she wanted she could get up and walk out into the wind and the rain.

She half-recalled something she'd read once, long ago, a mystery story that talked about the Santa Ana winds, how they caused meek little wives to finger sharp kitchen knives and glare at their husbands' necks. It was a sentiment she could appreciate, even if the winds today weren't hot and dry. The weather lent itself to dark introspection, and Theresa lost herself in thoughts and memories and self-recriminations.

"Hey, lady, you got a light?"

Theresa looked up at the owner of the voice and winced. Not because the young man it belonged to was ugly but because he was, well, young, and Christ did it make her feel old. She didn't recognize the kind of sneakers he wore, or know why his pants were too big for his skinny-ass legs, but god damn she knew that she didn't need to see his underwear. The ratty t-shirt was universal for teenagers, even if she didn't know the band it was fronting, and the pimply face with a scraggly beard and stringy hair only reinforced that opinion. She knew the type; back when she was in school, they'd have called themselves stoners and gotten high in their parents' basements smoking marijuana. Didn't know what they called themselves now, but it didn't matter. A punk was a punk.

"Hello? Lady?" he repeated, leaning forward. "You got a light? Uh -- hay tengo un lighter-o?" he added, his voice louder, as if volume alone could force understanding of a foreign language. God, had she ever been that young and stupid?

"No," she said sharply, then blew a long stream of smoke from her nostrils. "I ain't got a light." She noticed that his hands were deep within his pockets, and given the size of those jeans there was no telling what he had in there. Theresa was suddenly very aware of how vulnerable she was, with no one else on the rainy early-morning streets and no place to run. Even her temporary shelter had become a cage, a wall to her back and sides, the young man between her and the rest of the world. She shifted slightly to the right, trying to put as much space between them as possible, right hand slowly freeing itself from her purse while her left clutched the cigarette between trembling fingers.

"If you don't got no light, then how'd you get that smoke?" He was threateningly close now, she could smell his breath as he loomed over her, his eyes were bloodshot with vicious little pinpricks for pupils, and he was going to attack her and beat and rape her or...

Her left hand shot out and up, the burning ember between her fingers grinding itself into the man's right eye. He started to scream, but was cut off as her right hand shoved his head against the brick doorway, a shudder running through his body on impact. Then she was pulling, grabbing him by the hair and yanking him off balance, using her entire body weight to drive him down.

She landed on top of him, her left arm firmly against his throat as the first two fingers of her right hand, stained dark with tar from decades of smoking, hovered just millimeters above his one good eye like a raptor's talon. "Listen closely, you little shit," Teresa rasped, her throaty voice making her words thick and vicious. "You so much as twitch, you'll never see again. Got that?"

A whimper.

"Good. Now here's how this works. You close your eyes, and I'm gonna go through your pockets. You look, you move, you so much as fart and I'll end you. I've been inside for murder already, so don't think I won't grease your sorry ass."

*** *** ***

Theresa seemed to be outside of her own body, looking down as she helped herself to the cigarettes she'd taken from him. She wondered, somewhat numbly, if she'd broken a new speed record for parole violation.

She opened the pack of cigarettes and lit a fresh one with the smoldering butt of the old. She'd allowed the boy to keep his wallet, mostly out of shame, but she'd acted like it was the greatest act of generosity she'd ever performed. He was just some damned stupid kid with bad hygiene coming down off some kind of high, not a predator intent on theft and rape and murder. He'd wet his pants and cried softly as she frisked him, and she was glad that he'd kept his eyes tightly shut, because otherwise he'd have seen her starting to cry as well. She'd almost mauled a poor stupid kid, still a child, some mother's precious baby. Again.

Jesus. It'd been a while since she let anything faze her, and here she was breaking down with every goddamn breeze. Pull it back. Let nothing show. Watch the kid run away and stay stony. That's how this worked, after all. How she kept it together.

She let the emotions flow out of her with every exhalation. Sit. Smoke. Don't think about it. Let it go, let it flow, with the time. Given enough cigarettes she could deal with anything.

*** *** ***
She'd just lit another when the car pulled up.

It was old even by her standards: a big, boxy station wagon from the 1970s with dark blue paint and fake wood paneling along the sides. The driver's window shushed downwards, and an elderly black woman's face appeared.

"Are you Theresa?" The voice was warm, like syrup over pancakes.

"What if I am?" she shot back.

"If you are, sugar, then I'm here to give you a lift. But you'll have to put out that Satan Stick before you get in."

Theresa took a long look at the car, and then at the cigarette she'd just started. She didn't like having terms dictated to her, but sitting in a warm car beat the hell out of wet and cold. With a sigh of regret, she slowly ground out the ember before pocketing the stub.

Another great truth of her life: a ride always arrives after lighting up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

In Conclusion

Having spent most of a week talking about 4th Edition D&D, I am now tired of it. Only time will tell if the conditions dictated by Hasbro were brilliant or sheer folly.

That said, I now offer two final parting shots.

First, Geek Related (which is rapidly becoming my go-to source for 4th ed insight) offers this excellent article on why grognards maintain that 4e isn't really roleplaying. A snippet:
All this is just so you understand what the real issues are when someone says “4e sucks donkey balls because it’s not a roleplaying game!” What they usually mean is “I like simulation and am used to D&D catering to that approach! This new D&D doesn’t and thus it fulfills my needs less!”
At this point, whenever someone asks me about 4e I think I'll just point them to Geek Related and be done with it. The writer is intelligent, thorough, and clearly "gets" what I like because his criticisms of the new system touch on those points. Accuse me of being lazy if you like, but it's nice to be able to say "I have people handling that for me now."

Secondly, if you're in the camp that thoroughly hates 4th Edition, may I humbly suggest Pathfinder? Written, published, and supported by Paizo (the company that used to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines), they have decided to capitalize on Wizards/Hasbro's abandonment of the 3.5 engine and, through use of the Open Game License, have decided to publish their own book of rules. This quite deftly sidesteps certain legal issues -- they are not competing with WotC, because this product uses 3.5 rules -- and furthermore they are taking the opportunity to patch certain parts of the engine which are broken, kludgy, or otherwise suboptimal.

It is, in effect, Dungeons & Dragons 3.75e. It looks very good, and has the full backing of Monte Cook -- the guy who, along with Johnathan Tweet and Skip Williams, actually wrote Third Edition and thus might have some valid insights in how best it could be improved.

The Alpha version of Pathfinder is available, free for download, here. It is essentially a combined version of the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide. Come August, it will be released in softcover as the Beta version ($24.95), and August of 2009 will feature the polished final copy, in hardcover, for $34.95.

Oh, and there are already scads of Pathfinder products already published: adventure paths, modules, a campaign setting, and all sorts of other stuff. If you want to keep playing D&D without ever giving another cent to Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast, this is your game.

Hopefully, I'm now done with this topic. Thank you, and goodnight.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

You. Never. Know.

Fresh from the intertubes comes a touching story of a father playing 4e with his son:

All in all, we had a terrific time with it as a tactical war-game. There was plenty of roleplaying, in the form of us bending the little lego-figs arms in order to swing swords and axes, and to bop opponents over the head. There was some dialogue, in the form of "Gah! Get away from me you little lizard thing! I'll kill you!" on D's part and "GGRRHRHRR! SSSSSS! Glibble-glaggle ffft! AAARGH!" on mine. Naturally, with one person playing all five PCs, there wasn't very much in-team banter ... D isn't that schizophrenic.

D was extremely interested to get to Winterhaven (which we had to put off in order to do dinner). He was very insistent ... "Daddy, we have to go there! We have to! I don't even know what those things were, and if I find out what they are then maybe I can talk to them. And what about my guys teacher? He went to Winterhaven, and we have to find out what happened to him. Daddy, can we do it now, pleeeeeeeasssssse?"

That said, when I sat down with him to play Winterhaven, he immediately said "Hey? Where's the map?" I explained that some parts you just imagine. "There's a little walled village," (I set up a shoe-box) "With some guards on the walls" (lego mini-figs) "and farmhouses here and there in the valley below the hill."

This did not satisfy him. "But daddy, WHERE are the farmhouses? I have to know. How do I know if I can move to them, if I don't even know where they are?"

"Sweetheart, this is just a village. You probably won't have to fight here, and if we do then I'll make up a map on the spot."

"No. I need to know now. It could be a monster village, daddy. You. Never. Know."

Isn't that adorable? It makes me estrogen-groggy just reading it.

I also find it highly entertaining that a lone 7 year old boy can run roughshod over an encounter that has resulted in Total Party Kills with groups of adult, experienced gamers, simply by using some imagination (spoilers ho, if you plan to play this module):

Now I will tell you, straight up, that I was worried about this encounter. I am intensely against the notion of fudging games in order to help D win, since I think it teaches terrible skills for later life. At the same time, he had so much emotionally invested in this ... and I've heard all manner of rumblings online about how Irontooth has a tendency to kill and eat entire parties.

I'd looked over the scenario, and I saw the very real possibility of this happening: The encounter is set up in three layers. If you hit the first layer outside the waterfall in a tentative fashion, they'll retreat through the water and then you're dealing with a second layer that's almost twice as powerful God help you if you let that second layer survive intact long enough for the third layer to support it. The concentration of force gives Irontooth the support to rampage unstoppably ... and PCs have no good places to retreat to, with their back against a raging torrent of water. This looked like something that could easily turn into a meatgrinder. Was I going to walk D right into heartbreak at the mercy of the lego-monsters?

As it turned out, I was worrying needlessly.

When D got to the waterfall, I started setting out figures immediately. He noted this change from previous kobold ambushes on the road. "When do I put my figures down?" he asked. "Well," I said, "This time you aren't being surprised. In fact, this time they don't even know you're coming." "Oh!" D said immediately, "I get to be SNEAKY!"

So he asked about the stealth rules, and I confirmed that he would be only as stealthy as the least stealthy person he sent in. Mogue the Rogue went in scouting. He crept around, and I filled in the rest of the units on the map. Once D was sure that he knew where everyone (at least out front of the waterfall) was, he moved his other heroes into position in a nearby grove of trees.

"Now, D," I said, "There are more kobolds, and Irontooth, behind the waterfall. These guys will probably try to go through and warn their friends." "Sure," D said without concern, "They'll try."

So he's all ensconced. What does he do? He starts looking over the situation. "That's a magic circle. Do kobolds know how to do magic like that? Hrm. I don't know. There aren't any magician kobolds out here. I bet they don't know how it works. Daddy, I'm casting Scorching Burst right on the edge of that circle, to make it look like it just exploded."

Would kobolds know whether Scorching Burst came from the bushes or from the circle? I have no rules to say one way or t'other, so I say "They're shocked! 'What that?' they cry, looking around in complete confusion."

"I want to use Ghost Sound," D says, turning over his paper to show the cantrip that Mizard the Wizard has on hand.

This, my friends, was the beginning of the end for the overmatched kobolds.

So, despite whatever flaws 4th Edition may have, it is excellent for teaching the next generation of players to learn and love our hobby. And that is a worthy endeavor.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WNW: Dwarves vs. Elves

Okay, this one might need a bit of explanation.

The PHB PSAs (Player's Handbook Public Service Announcements) are humorous skits featureing actors playing the parts of 3rd edition D&D signature characters.

This particular skit is part of the "D&Debate" line, and features Tordek and Mialee.

Got it? Good.

Tordek rules ass! :D

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

4th Edition is a disaster of epic proportions


I've lost track of how many times I've had to re-write this post, either due to blogger crapping out on me and not saving my progress, or (having learned my lesson and composing on a word processor) getting side-tracked and sucked into discussions/critiques/outright flame wars regarding 4th edition D&D.

So you know what? I'm not going to review the heck out of it. If you want to know more about it, let me suggest some interesting links:

However, if you don't feel so inclined, let me give you an Executive Summary:
  • 4th edition, judged on its own merits, is not a bad game. However, in my experience it only slightly resembles previous editions of D&D.
  • Many, many sacred cows were sacrificed. Whether this is an improvement is a matter of opinion. I assume most grognards will opine "no".
  • There is far too much emphasis on combat and not enough on role-playing. I base this statement on the huge amount of combat options available to each and every class (including healing), while an excerpt from the Dungeon Master's Guide indicates how best to turn a roleplaying opportunity into a series of die rolls.
  • In general, more is missing (Barbarians, Bards, Druids, Monks, Sorcerers, Half-Orcs, Gnomes, most of the alignment system, prestige classes, cosmology) than is added (Warlocks, Warlords, Tieflings, Dragonborn, epic levels). And I have no idea how to classify the Elf/Eladrin divide.*
  • Not only is the new engine NOT backwards-compatible, it is in fact completely incompatible with 3.5 edition.
  • It just doesn't feel like D&D any more. You've probably heard this a million times by now, but it looks and acts (and probably plays) more like a pen and paper MMO. Given the extreme popularity of World of Warcraft, this is not terribly surprising.
  • In Conclusion, if you love 3.5 edition, you will hate 4e. However, if you think 3.5 is stupidly complex and/or horribly broken, you will probably enjoy 4e. Maybe.

There. Review over. Now I can start ranting about the subject I am truly passionate about: how 4th Edition has been, start to finish, a blisteringly stupid business decision.

I began talking about this back in August 2007 . It's poor form to quote my own work, I know, but for the sake of completeness, and because I know most readers won't click a backlink, I'll just include the original post here:

Dear Wizards of the Coast:

Did you fail your saving throw vs. Stupid Marketing Decisions?

Putting aside the fact that a promotional video for your own product shouldn't underscore all the ways it has sucked over the years...

Putting aside the annoying, lisping little Frenchie...

Putting aside the fact that even a casual D&D player knows you can't just behead a troll like that without using fire or acid to overcome its regeneration...

All of that aside, you have still made a huge and stupid blunder: You announced 4th edition before Christmas.

Goodbye, Christmas sales of 3.5 edition books.

You remember Christmas, right? The one month of the year that brings in more revenue than the previous eleven combined? Yeah, you just screwed yourself out of that money.

I know that I, for one, will certainly not buy any D&D product until 4e comes out, because it's 99% certain that it won't be backwards- compatible, and I know I'm not the only one to think like this. Regardless of whether or not I switch to 4e, since I know that 3.5 lifespan ends in May 2008, I'll just wait until the hordes of fanboys sell their "obsolete" books back to the stores. I'll bet I can get a very nice discount on them....

Seriously, that's a totally bonehead maneuver. What you should have done was wait until January to make the announcement, and then release the books in August at GenCon 2008.

See how tidy that is? You get your Christmas sales, you announce "A new edition for a new year," and you release that edition at the biggest fucking gaming convention in the U.S.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go stake out a place by the bargain bins.

That was back in August, and the pooch has only gotten more thoroughly screwed. Fast forward to April of this year, where in yet another blog post I happily announce that Wizards of the Coast, or at least Porter Novelli, their PR firm, is going to be conducting phone interviews with game reviewers:
We are actually planning a desk side tour in April, which will end with a series of phone briefings at the end of the month (April 21-24). Although we're still working out which spokespeople will be available, if you could send me your (or I guess Erin's) best time slots to do interviews during those dates and we'll work something out from there. It would still be helpful to have Erin prepare her questions so if the phone briefing falls through we could go back to the questions.
So naturally, I'm all "Hell yeah, I want a piece of this," and I get fired up and announce to the world that I get to ask the developers of 4th Edition D&D questions about their new upcoming game.

Surprisingly, no one contacts me in April. I don't just mean the interview, I mean that there is "We are confirming that you have an interview scheduled at X time and date" kind of thing. I am shocked and worried by this, because I fear it's because I somehow screwed things up. Did I not get my availability dates to them in time? Did my latest article offend them?

I pester my Editor, Jason Dobson, who calls Porter Novelli and leaves several voice messages. On April 23 -- ironically, the day that I had indicated I wanted to have the interview, and please note that this is two days past the date that this "deskside tour" was supposed to have begun -- Jason forwards this message to me:
"Hi Jason,

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner.

It looks like we’ll have to push the briefing back due to our executives being extremely busy right now (apparently there is a Fourth Edition coming out, with lots of books or something).

In the interim, we do have the first Fourth Edition adventure module, Keep on the Shadowfell, available for review. Featuring quick start rules and pre-generated characters, this is currently the best way to learn about the new ruleset; by playing. The product doesn’t release until May 20, so if you and your writers are willing to agree to an NDA until then, or until I say otherwise, then we can work on getting that out to you/Erin.

Let me know if you have any questions, and I’ll keep you posted on the briefing opps."
Let me rephrase that, for you people with poor reading comprehension: The PR Company retained by the publisher of the most popular RPG in the world has allowed its client to blow off its commitments to reviewers. This is unconscionably bad. "Hi, we're too busy to keep our promises, but trust us when we say that our product will be awesome!"

(Allow me to digress for a moment as I talk about bad movies. There is a practice in Hollywood whereby films that are expected to do poorly -- usually cheap horror films and teen comedies -- are not sent to film critics to review. This is done so that the films can at least reap the benefits of opening weekend receipts before poor critical review and word of mouth can do any damage. Sound familiar?)

So at any rate, while they can't answer my questions, they'll at least mollify my hurt feelings by sending me some free swag with a preview version of the rules. Hey, that's cool, I guess. Shoot me that NDA so I can sign that bad boy, maybe I can kinda-sorta review 4th Edition on May 20th.

Guess what happens?

Not a god-damned thing, that's what happens. It's "Shut up, Erin" all over again. So that's twice now that Wizards, or at least Porter Novelli, has completely blown me off. This is way beyond unprofessional and well into reputation-destroying carelessness.

Once again, I harass my editor. Once again, he comes through for me with a reply:
5:27 PM Jason: You around?
5:28 PM me: Yep.
Jason: I'm about to run, as is typical of me, but WotC emailed me apologizing, apparently the rep left the country and forgot to hand off the promise to send an NDA and module to me before he left.
This conversation, by the way, happened on May 19. Keep on the Shadowfell was scheduled to release May 20. Of course, they never did get back to either of us after that. And it turns out that it's not just us that have been treated like this, either. I cannot speak for every reviewer, of course, but I know for a fact that it happened to at least one other person [name pending, following his permission to use it in this article.] So if it happened to two of us, what do you think are the odds that it happened to all reviewers who aren't affiliated with Wizards of the Coast?

[Edit: It now turns out I was operating from incorrect information, and that the person I thought had been neglected was not. So I guess it's just me that was treated shoddily? Doesn't matter. I'm still going to raise holy hell about this, because promises were made and were broken.]

So not only is this Equine-Canine Extravaganza a complete Charlie Foxtrot, but now WotC's attitude seems to be KMAGYOYO, because now the other shoe has dropped:
... Wizards has stated that any company hoping to publish products for their new edition must agree to discontinue any current open licensed products and produce no further open products at all - Dungeons & Dragons related or not. In a phone conversation about 4e licensing with Clark Petersen, president of Necromancer Games, a company representative explained this policy and was adamant that it was not going to change. A number of companies are leveraging the OGL for their independent games, for example the pulp game Spirit of the Century; the gaming community adopted the OGL on good faith and more than 90% of the openly licensed games in existence are using it. This “poison pill” clause means that in exchange for any further involvement with the Dungeons & Dragons game line, a company must abandon any past OGL products and vow not to produce any more.

(from Geek Related)
In case that's not clear, let me quote a post from the aforementioned Clark Peterson:
I believe, in fact, that it is even a bit more restrictive than people are seeing. It is not just that you can't mix the two licenses in one product. It is that if you use the GSL you cannot also use the OGL for 3E products.

In other words, publishers have to decide if they want to stay 3E or if they want to come along for the 4E ride.

It is not a product by product choice. It is a business by business choice. It is not "well, this product will be 4E using the GSL but the next one will be for 3E under the OGL."

In other words, Necro can't do 3 books for 4E then decide to go back and do a 3E book.

Or, along the same lines, if Paizo wants to do Pathfinder 3E, it cant do 4E products. If it does, it can no longer do 3E ones.

I have, however, specifically clarified that Necro can do 4E and Paizo can keep doing 3E Pathfinder stuff and that is just fine.

Once you are in for 4E, you are in, and can't go back (well, you could but you would presumably lose the right to use the GSL from that point forward).

I have to clarify if I will be able to do 3E stats as seperate downloads for 4E books. My guess is that I will not be allowed to do that under the GSL. But I haven't asked that direct question.

By the way, this info was from Wizards. Unless I am misunderstanding what they told me or they didnt understand my question, this is how it will be.

Are you, dear readers, beginning to grasp why 4th edition is beginning to look like a disaster of epic proportions? It seems poised to become the Windows Vista of the RPG world: it looks pretty, breaks upon upgrade, and even on a fresh install with a system made for it, its performance is such that most folks would rather revert back to the previous edition.

Wizards of the Coast is making a very dangerous gamble here. They are effectively wagering that the early adopters who stay with 4e, plus whatever new converts who come as a result of the system being MMOlike, are equal to or greater than the amount of disgruntled fanbase who says "Screw you, I'm staying with 3.5" plus those early adopters who said "This is crap, the old version is better."

In other words: We bet we can get more people to like the game if we change it, so we don't care if our previous fanbase leaves.

The sad thing is that if 4e bombs -- and to be honest, I don't truly know if it will -- Wizards of the Coast is committed to supporting this product line for what, 6 months? A year? More? Having alienated large portions of their fanbase, having given affiliate companies a "Do or Die" choice, having effectively told reviewers either "We don't care about you" or "We don't want this reviewed before it hits shelves"...

... how can ANYONE say that this has been handled well? Or even professionally? (Not I, that's for sure.) It's almost like Hasbro, WotC's parent company, wants 4e to fail, so they can jettison the holding under the cover of "bad management decisions" or "poor profits".

It's like Gary Gygax is being given a Viking funeral with D&D as his pyre.

Now playing: Nine Inch Nails - Demon Seed
via FoxyTunes

* Actually, I do: STUPID. I don't understand why elves need to be pigeonholed into either "granola-eating leaf-wearing tree-hugging ranger culture" or "grand high artsy fartsy ancient magical race". Why can't they be both, or neither? It's like every D&D race, with the exception of humans (natch), must be a Single Hat Culture.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Testing, testing

This is a test post.

Blogger hasn't worked for me since Thursday.

If this posts, I'll know it's working again.

Test, test.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

State of the Palette Address

I've been gone, but I'm back now. These past couple of weeks have been very tough for me.

Two weekends ago, I had to put down one of my dogs. Angel was 15 years old, and while her internal organs were fine her back legs had stopped working a year ago. I got around this by putting a sling under her belly and "wheelbarrowing" her outside to potty. This worked fine for a while (even though it was a massive pain in my keister), but in the past month her front legs started to go, too. Pretty soon she was taking headers into the floor as her front legs collapsed. Figuring it was only a matter of time before she was completely quadriplegic, I took her to vet to be put to sleep.

Angel wasn't ready to go just yet. She fought the sedative every step of the way. I still can't shake the feeling that I made a mistake, that I had her killed because she was inconvenient rather than out of any concern for her quality of life.

Secondly -- and probably related to the first -- I've been having terrible migraines in the afternoon. These usually coincide with periods of exercise and/or my afternoon constitutional, which lead me to believe that it's related to blood pressure. (Migraines are a type of vascular headache.) If you've never had a migraine, imagine the worst hangover you've ever had: that's a migraine. While I never reached the "dear god kill me now please end the pain" stage, I did have to lie down in a very dark room and be very still for at least three hours. In one instance, the headache took over 24 hours to fully dissipate. As you can imagine, during these periods I wasn't fit for doing much else other than breathing.

Thirdly, I was depressed. Go figure.

I hate whining, and I hate outright pleas for sympathy, which is why I never let on that anything was wrong (other than a decided lack of decent posting). I feel better today, though, so hopefully I'm on the mend. At any rate, now you know why posting has been sparse, and I thank you for your patience.

Since this is turning into a bullet-point post, I might as well address a few other concerns while I'm at it.

  • The reason I haven't posted any new I Attack the Darkness columns is because Another Castle is currently on hiatus, due to the fact that the guy who runs the site is changing jobs and moving his family from Oklahoma to Oregon. I, like so many other contributors, are waiting to hear back from him. If he decides to start it up again, great; I have more articles for publication. If he says he doesn't have the time for it, I will post what I have here -- or perhaps seek another e-zine to publish them. Either way, at the very least you'll get the complete God Complex series.
  • 4th Edition D&D. Sweet Buttery Me, what a clusterfuck this is. No, this isn't a review, because Wizards of the Coast's PR Department completely screwed the pooch on this one. I'll go into more specifics later -- it'll make a nice rant post -- but the short version is, apparently the company that handles Public Relations for the most popular role-playing game in the world decided to completely blow off any and all commitments to reviewers. So, as much as I'd love to give you an in-depth review of the 4e game engine, I can't. However, let me summarize what I've learned, based upon research and leaked information:
If you liked Third Edition, stay the holy hell away from Fourth Edition.

I'll explain in detail tomorrow.

The Fine Print

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