OOC – Happy cyberpunk day

70% of the thousands of hours I’ve spent playing TTRPGs has been on fantasy settings, mostly D&D.  15% has been on sci-fi settings, mostly Star Wars. 

But of the remainder, a good 5% has been spent playing cyberpunk games, mostly Shadowrun.  Superhero retains the #1 spot on my list of genres I wish I played more, but cyberpunk is a strong runner up. 

The first Cyberpunk game I played was called Cyberspace and I was just the right age for its glorious horrible awesomeness.  Up until that point I had mainly just played D&D and Palladium games so even though the system in retrospect was awful, I was enamored with its bonkers skill charts and amusing critical damage tables. 

We didn’t play it much because then (and for a long time) I was the only GM in our group and I had a hard time coming up with cyberpunk adventure ideas.  Fantasy settings are so easy – some goblins are harassing farmers trying to cross a bridge, adventure done!  But it seemed so much harder to come up with cyberpunk ideas at the time.  I realize now it’s not, some cybered up gangers are harassing people trying to get on the train to work, done!  I think part of the problem (besides the fact that I was 12) was that D&D isn’t really presented as an immersive world, in fantasyland you go on adventures and who cares what you’re doing the rest of the time, whereas cyberpunk games have rules for finding an apartment and paying your rent.  It’s a lot to take in when you’re in 6th grade. 

Later one of my friends brought me Cyberpunk 2020 which I found to be wildly inferior to Cyberspace even though it was obviously much better.  Thus began the short lived Cyberspace VS Cyberpunk wars amongst my friends.  In the end, as with most wars, there was no winner – only casualties, as I don’t think (aside from one weekend trip to the lake) we ever played either of them again. 

It was either in HS or shortly afterwards where Shadowrun came into the mix.  I had maybe sort of played a few times before (probably sat around and made a character and never played) but the time I really remember as the “first” was a gonzo campaign where basically all we did was attack Yazuka strongholds and have huge fights.  I remember Age of Apocalypse had just come out so I guess it was ’95, and I was indeed in HS.  Seems like the right time to Shadowrun.

It seemed so much cooler and more interesting than D&D even though that campaign specifically was just a big combat-fest and had far less roleplaying than we usually did playing D&D.  Maybe I just thought it was cool to be playing an RPG with guns. 

Since those days I’ve played in many attempts at Shadowrun games afterwards and a couple that actually had some legs.  They’re some of my favorite gaming experiences, although some of that is less about Shadowrun and more a combination of liking systems where I don’t know everything and can’t metagame, the ruthlessness of the GM which is a nice break from storytelling games sometimes, and the people I was playing with. 

Outside of the RPG realm though I haven’t been nearly as impressed with cyberpunk as a genre.  One of my friends told me that Neuromancer was the best book ever and I found it dull and uninteresting.  It almost destroyed our friendship!  My issues with my friends trying to cram Blade Runner down my throat and my rejection of it are well documented.  I hate anime and everything it stands for so Akira and Ghost in the Shell were right out.  I feel like there’s other fundamentals of the cyberpunk literary world I’m forgetting but whatever they were, I didn’t like them. 

But I’ll always have Shadowrun. 

Ela’s dead, the final Ela-mare

One time there was this movie called Adventures in Babysitting, the 1987 one I mean, I think they did a remake and I don’t mean that one.  In the movie Adventures in Babysitting, Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, tries to buy a hot dog from a hot dog cart guy by signing over a third-party check to him.  It is the greatest scene in movie history.   

When I was a kid I loved that movie for a variety of reasons, chief among them because one of the kids being babysat was a girl that liked the Mighty Thor and I didn’t know until then that girls could like comic books.  It was a revelation it was.  I found out later that not many girls like comic books but some of them do. 

It’s the first movie Elizabeth Shue was in, and the first PG-13 rated Disney movie.  There’s a lot of history there.  I know what you’re thinking “wasn’t esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller briefly married to Will Arnett?”  Yes, yes she was.  And you’re probably also wondering why Will Arnett and Amy Poehler got divorced.  Sometimes people just fall out of love.  Yes, Canadians are allowed to get divorced, I was surprised too.   

“Jeremy was esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller the lead in the movie the Relic?  You know, the lead character that got licked up and down by the titular Relic, which was a cabinet monkey lizard monster?” 

Yes she was, it wasn’t one of her more esteemed character roles.  But she got paid 1.5 million dollars for doing it.  Invested at a 7 percent rate of return, which is generous I admit, that’s 7.6 million dollars today.  A lizard licked me once and I didn’t get a red cent. 

“Jeremy why do you keeping spelling Ann with an E, isn’t that incorrect?” 

Yes it is.   

“Jeremy why wasn’t the Relic a better movie?” 

Well, it’s not like the source material was super strong you know?  And even if it was, the underlying message about museums and their negative role in society and the scientific community isn’t going to be easy to communicate in a movie.  Plus, 1997 was smack dab in the middle of the wonky CGI era so the creature didn’t look great.  I wonder if they used a practical effect tongue for the licking scene.  I wonder further what esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller would say about how you drop in to a scene where you’re getting licked by a cabinet lizard monkey monster.  I’ll ask her at the next family reunion. 

Dropping-in is a technique Tina and Kristin Linklater developed in the early 1970s as a method to create a spontaneous emotional connection to your role. 

https://wordsdeferred.com/2021/07/12/filling-plot-holes/

I thought this post about plot holes was pretty good, check it out if you want.  One time I “promoted” a post I thought was neat and the guy that wrote it took the time to message me and tell me that he has 20,000 followers and he doesn’t need me to help him.  I cried for three weeks.  Not because of that, because of the shark hormones I take.  And to be clear, no sharks are being killed to harvest these hormones, they’re taken from humans with shark DNA spliced in.  Which is fine. 

There are probably lots of plot holes in Ela’s narrative because the spine of it is random RPG tables and I don’t have an outline or anything guiding the tale.  There are probably even more unresolved plots.  My other blog is even worse and I don’t even have the excuse of RPG nonsense on that one.  The other day someone said to me “Why don’t you stop this solo campaign bullshit and do some real writing?” and I says to them I says “I don’t have the creativity for that” and then they reminded me of that other blog and that shut me up.  I had forgotten about it.  How did I forget a blog that I post on three times a week and write for almost every day?  Dunno.  But I did.   

For D&D Ela I was content to let the dice dictate everything, hence her sudden and unceremonious death.  For comic book Ela I’ve been more flexible, but I’m at a real crossroads now.  Not to give anything away but decisions need to be made.  Dice or free will? 

I can’t remember if I blogged about this, possibly blogged about it twice, or if I just thought about it and blogged about it no times, but now that I’m back in the swing of TTRPGs I’ve been thinking about running a campaign again.  And what I’ve been thinking is that I don’t know if I will.  I have a lot of desire but more and more I find it a stumbling block that my game friends all like games but they don’t really like the same thing.   

I’ll start planning a modern investigative spooky campaign and then remember that no one likes that but me.  Then I’ll start working on a cyberpunk intrigue-based campaign and then I’ll remember that no one likes that but me.  So then I’ll think about the kind of campaigns they like and I groan because it’s all stuff I don’t like.  My gaming circle is hilariously mismatched like sitcom roommates.   

And I know that it doesn’t really matter, we’ll all get together and have a fun time no matter what, but it’s hard to want to spend a lot of time on shit when you’re the only one who’s really into it.   

There’s a scene in Adventures in Babysitting where Brenda, played by esteemed character actress Penelope Anne Miller, loses her glasses and thinks that a giant rat is a fluffy kitty and tries to pet it.  When I was younger, one time when I didn’t have my glasses on, I thought a baseball cap was our cat TJ.  I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t come to me because she was super friendly.  It was because she was a baseball cap in that scenario.  And they’re not known for being overly personable.   

Now my eyes are great because I had the laser eyeball surgery.  Also, not for nothing, but I have fantastic knees.  Maybe the best knees in the world.  There’s no way to know for sure.   

The movie Adventures in Babysitting was released with the title A Night On The Town in other countries.  Does that mean babysitting isn’t a thing in other countries?  Or do they call it something else?  Must be the first thing otherwise they would have called it Adventures in BLANK right?   I wonder what that says about American child rearing.  I know the movie Date Night was called Crazy Night in many other countries because date night is an American concept.  I wonder what that means about Americans and our relationships.   

Writing tip of the day – When writing a female character, make sure that in the middle of a scene apropos of nothing you have her start thinking about when she first started “developing”.  That’s totally cool.  Remember that scene in Die Hard when in the middle of a firefight, Bruce Willis starts talking about how he got hair on his balls?  You need to apply that same level of care to female characters.   

Red hair don’t care

It’s been brought to my attention that these random character creation posts are “unreadable” and “awful”. But it’s fun for me so I’m going to do it again. I could do it and not post it but what’s the point of doing something without desperately begging for attention afterwards?

I think all RPG people would agree that the best part of any game is character creation – before the gross GM ruins everything with their stupid plot. And the other players think their characters should get to do stuff too?! It’s lunacy.

I would say half of the people that I’ve gamed with that I didn’t care for should have been writing instead of playing an RPG, they would have been much happier if they were in control of everything.

Type – Hardware, Analytical Genius  

Appearance – Short, average 

Disposition – Mean, suspicious  

Age – Mid-20s 

Origin – Europe, English speaking, small city 

Background – Criminal  

Powers manifested – Recently 

Other – Legacy 

Budget – 4 million  

Analytical genius in this context means your standard super science person.  I would imagine that IRL most super smart people are only super smart in a couple of areas at best – if you’re a great heart surgeon you’re probably not also a wiz at coding and can build a new kind of airplane in your backyard.  But in comics, smart heroes can do everything.  They get budget instead of abilities for their super-gear. 

Europe-English speaking is an odd inclusion on a random chart, isn’t that just two countries, England and Ireland?  I’ll say this short mean suspicious lady is Irish.  Irish ladies in media always have red hair. The only Irish person I’ve met IRL had red hair.  It got me to wondering how common it actually is.  Per the internet no one knows really, but estimates range from 10% to 30%.  Remember a few years ago when it was “news” that red hair would be gone in a few generations because we’re not all trapped on an island anymore?  I do. 

I don’t know much about Ireland but I don’t think they have many cities there, I’m given to understand it’s more of a small-town vibe most places.  I’m not sure it matters much, but I’ll say she’s from Derry.  I was just thinking the other day for a period of time it seemed like all media portrayals of Irish people were related to the IRA and/or the conflict in Northern Ireland.  I wondered “is that not cool?”  But if you’re going to do something involving action and violence, I suppose it would be weird to ignore it.   

So I’ll cave to convention and possibly be un-PC to Irish people (sorry Irish people) and say that Maggie McGraw’s father was a Red Hand Commando.  Her mother was out of the picture at a young age so Maggie was reared by her hellraising father and his secret paramilitary buddies.  Having a knack for machines and the like from a young age, she was the armorer for her father’s “platoon” and if anyone had an issue with a little girl taking care of their weapons, her da would beat them senseless.   

Legacy usually means that you have the same powers or abilities, but I’ll say that’s not the case here.  The legacy in this case being that she followed in her father’s footsteps in the conflict.  Maggie is a genius intellect inventor type, her father was not, he was a hard charging, hard fighting, tough as nails SOB.  As Maggie got older she started building devices for her father and his crew to use, and eventually started participating in “operations” herself.  Not the really violent stuff, but robberies to support the cause and the like.  Which were still pretty violent. 

When she was a teen her father’s luck ran out – he and his commandos were caught and ended up dead or in prison.  Maggie was shuttled from relative to relative and hidden with various people sympathetic to the cause.  This continued until she attempted an attack on her own and was caught in the process. Playing up her youth and gender, Maggie got off “merely” with a ten-year sentence.  In prison she meets Mairéad Devaney, who unbeknownst to the authorities, was actually the tech-villain Complex.   

Mairéad spotted Maggie turning a radio into a transmitter and the two immediately began conspiring to escape.  Which they did successfully a few months later, by being smart and doing way cool tech stuff.  Once they were away from the prison at Mairéad’s hideout, Maggie did away with her new friend and occupied herself building and modifying equipment with the components and materials Mairéad had stored up.   

Even though Maggie was imprisoned only for a short time, she lost her passion for her father’s cause.  Her goal now is to make money and live the high life.  She plans to do this eventually by becoming a supplier of high-tech gear for other criminals but first she needs the seed money to get started.  And what better place to make some quick cash than the wealthiest and most corrupt city in the world, Madripoor? 

Maggie’s sweet gear –  Armored bodysuit w/ telemental multi-optics combat computer helmet, rocket boots, wireless communication, reflex enhancers, and supercharged punchin’ gauntlets with frickin’ lasers 

Roleplaying Game : The RPG

The GM of the Shadowrun game I’m playing in asked for requests and constructive criticism about the campaign so far.  For reasons unknown, that made me think about how long I’ve been playing RPGs.  I doubt this is of interest to anyone but no one is forcing you to read this.  I hope anyway.  If someone is forcing you to read this please let me know.  I doubt I can do anything about it but you never know. 

Here is my thrilling tale.

The year was 1987.  Iron-Contra was a thing.  A person was convicted of a crime based on DNA for the first time.  Prozac hit the market.  A bee parasite was killing all the bees in the US.  Wrestlemania 3 happened and somehow I watched it on Betamax and became a wrestling person.  The first Final Fantasy game was released (I would sue when Final Fantasy 2 came out for deceptive advertising just like I did with the Neverending Story).  Baggy dresses were WAY in.  Karate Kid action figures were totally radical.  World population reached 5 billion.  Whitney Houston released “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” from her album “Whitney”.

I was at my grandma’s house hanging out with my cousin.  We were best pals when we were kids.  I haven’t talked to him in several years now.  Life, you know?  Plus he’s a like a good person who works for the UN and feeds starving people and I spend my energy on blogs and D&D campaigns that no one is even playing in. 

My cousin had a copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness, the TMNT RPG.  I thought it was super cool.  He said it was a game and I asked if we could play and he said “no” and my little 10 year old brain couldn’t comprehend what was happening.  Later on when I figured out how RPGs worked I realized why he said no, but at the time I was hurt and pissed.  But he was only 9, so it’s not like he could explain really. 

When I got home I VOWED that I would get my own RPG book and play.  I saved up my nickels and dimes for a few months and then rode my bike to the local game store and asked the dude behind the counter what I should buy if I wanted to start playing RPGs and with an aggrieved and HEAVY sigh and without looking up from his tentacle-porn hentai bullshit comic, he pointed at a weird upright rack that looked like it was for greeting cards.  Upon it was the “red box” – the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set.  I think I paid 8 dollars for it.

I was hooked immediately.  I didn’t even really understand what RPGs were until I read that book and my mind was blown.  My friends, since they were friends with me, were all down to play and we were off to the races.  I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like had they turned their noses up at D&D and I had lost interest.  Two of those people I still game with today. 

I few months later when I saw my cousin again, I was telling him all about how I was playing D&D ALL the time and I bragged to him “I’m the best DM ever, no one ever survives my adventures” and he looked down his nose at me and asked “But do they have fun?”.  My little head exploded.  I never thought about trying to maximize the fun of my players before. 

I say this as a joke, but kind of not, right then I became a better DM/GM/whatever than a lot of people. 

Eventually I saved up enough to buy my own copy of TMNT & Other Strangeness (note to self, start erotica blog called Other Strangeness) and we started playing that a ton in addition to D&D.  As an adult I realize that the Palladium System is pretty terrible, but as a kid I loved it.  Especially TMNT with the pages and pages of hundreds of different animals (that were 97% exactly the same statistically) you could make into characters. 

We still have fun laughing at our young selves and the adventures we went on.  Two staples were “you go to this place for a fighting tournament and fight!” and “you’re going to rob Fort Knox”.  We have a personal meme of saying “How could I miss, I rolled a 20?!  You need special training!” I was by far the best GM of the group because my adventures had a little tiny bit of a story and sometimes even NPCS you weren’t supposed to kill! 

As someone once said, “On some level, it’s natural to look at the things your teenage self liked with some amount of disdain. To distance ourselves from our most embarrassing years, we often throw the things we loved under the bus.”

When we were a little older and had some money we got into a cycle of someone buying a new game, which we would play for a while, and then always coming back to D&D.  It was pretty much an unbreakable cycle of New Game – D&D – New Game – D&D. 

In ‘91 when Vampire the Masquerade came out, like all dorks we got super into it.  It seemed so much more mature and grown up than D&D.  I mean what’s a better sign of being a budding adult than being 14 and sitting in your parent’s basement pretending to be a vampire?  That’s when some cracks started to appear in our group though because some people didn’t WANT to pretend to be vampires, they wanted to be werewolfs and when you’re 14 you don’t know how to deal with that.  I’ve lived a SUPER hard life, these are my problems.

One guy in our group drifted away because he wanted to get drunk and throw up on girls while he was having sex with them, but for the most part we stayed strong.  Things slowed down a little during college but we still played a lot on weekends.  At this point I got into Shadowrun and various superhero games and we didn’t play D&D too much – we still Vampired sometimes. 

Gaming precious memory.  A guy I played games with but who had never played Vampire before came to play and I asked what clan his character was and he said “Wu-Tang”.  Classic.

A few years after college but before everyone had kids was the golden age of gaming.  There were times when I was playing (running mostly) three games a week.  Then came the dark times when everyone started having babies and I was forced to start going to game stores and playing with STRANGERS!!!

Those games were 99.99% stupid but at least I could laugh about them with my real friends.  It was interesting to find out that there’s 40 year old men that never “outgrow” the “my character is better than yours!” PVP all the time style of play.  It was also fun to find out how terrible a lot of people are at running games.  I suppose it’s mean to reminisce about how other people suck, but I still do it. 

Gaming precious memory.  I was running a game for STRANGERS at a game shop and during the third session one guy who was uber min-max power gamer man looks at me suspiciously and says “you’re just making this up aren’t you?!”  He was super pissed that I had the gall to create my own adventures instead of using published materials.  How was he supposed to win if I wasn’t using established material? 

It was at this point I was also introduced to the gamer phenomena of the guy who always plays sexy dark elfs with a weird BDSM background who want to roleplay out their seduction-assassination attack.  I assume with the internet and the free flow of porn, that’s not as much of a thing anymore.  I hope to god it isn’t anyway. 

Then came the times when people’s kids were old enough that we entered the silver age of gaming, still quite a lot but not enough for me.  The only bumps in the road were everyone wanting to have games at their house so they didn’t have to get someone to watch their kids and the great Jimmy Johns scandal of 2008 when everyone felt like they were getting ripped off because they always put in $10 and all they got was a $5 sandwich and a pickle and they never got any change!  “Dinner” was a part of gaming no more!

Then came the times when everyone was getting to a stage in their life where they had serious stuff going on at work and lots of activities to take their kids to and for SOME reason they started enjoying hobbies other than gaming!  They went on vacations and did things and went places and had non-gaming friends.  It was madness. 

Sidenote, I was single for most of this time and when I would hear about my couple friends getting together with other couples to game as a couple thing, I was jealous.  But then one time I did get invited with the other single dude in the group and that was worse.  Be careful what you wish for. 

For a while games dried up and I figured it was done.  I was bummed about it for a couple years, but I made my peace with it.  I came to find out that my friends were still my friends even if they didn’t want to play D&D all the time – shocking!  Just about the time I figured it was all done though, we started up a regular game night again. 

It became semi-regular instead of regular at times, but it was still going on when the pandemic hit.  Some of the crew stuck with gaming on Roll20 and the like but I didn’t care for it, I popped in and out here and there.  Now that we’re all getting vaccinated, hopefully in a few months we can get something going IRL again. 

Some people I know talk blatantly about gaming to anyone, I tend to keep it on the down low when I’m around outsiders.  At my core there’s a part of me that says “dude you’re 40, this is childish” but I don’t really let it get to me.  There’s not so much awesome fun stuff going on in life that you can afford to not do something you like just because it’s not “cool.  Because “dude you’re 40 and you were never cool anyway”.

What does the future hold for old Jerdog?  Once in a while at a game store or a convention or something you run into an old gamer dude.  I hope to be one of those.  I think it would great to be an old man in a nursing home playing D&D.  But if my friends stop being into it, probably I will too.  At this point I love RPGs but mostly I just love an excuse to shoot the shit with my pals.  There’s not as much appeal for RPGs just as RPGs for me anymore.  That’s a young man’s game. 

Out of character interlude – a couple magic items and some serious jibber-jabber

Whenever I do a non-story post (except for the map posts which are the best) I feel like I’m cheating.  Then I remember that I only have one reader so it’s fine. 

I read a lot of D&D blogs because I am very cool and have a rich full life.  Many of these blogs talk about problems during games and many of those problems, in my opinion, stem from people taking the game too seriously.  However I would say I prefer too serious to not serious enough.

Roleplaying is by its nature kind of silly, but unbearable silliness is a quick turn off for me in a game.  Passing no judgements of course, but I don’t like being in a game where someone says they want to play an Elvis Presley impersonator that fell through wormhole and is now in D&D and has magic blue suede shoes.  Let’s take our silliness a little seriously can we?

I like wrestling, which is very silly, and everyone knows that I like it so sometimes they try to inject it into our games when I’m a player.  They’ll introduce a magic lucha mask or a +1 Folding Chair into the game.  I hate it.  Quit getting your chocolate on your peanut butter.

I admit that sometimes I am the culprit of too much silliness.  Especially when I first started playing Shadowrun.  I’m going to blame other people for that though.  The other people in the game were all DEEPLY versed in Shadowrun lore and knew everything about everything.  I knew nothing.  So I often had no clue what was going on.  Plus they characters were often involved in super-secret shit that only they and the GM got to know about so even when I knew what was going on I didn’t know what was going on.  So my character mostly did stuff that made no sense.  But it was a cry for help.

I’ve been accused, rightfully so, of not being good at bringing along new players – but they were just as bad.  Come on guys in 1994, give me a break, tell me something about the campaign and how it works.  I play with a dude now who’s really skilled at nurturing new players, I find it fascinating and grotesque both.

One time the Coen Brothers made a movie called A Serious Man.  It’s the kind of movie where after it ends you go “whoa, I’m going to have to think about that for a while” but instead you immediately forget that you ever saw it.  The internet can probably tell me what the opening scene of that movie was about but I’ll never remember to look it up.

I take this blog way too seriously, but not too too seriously.  Such as, it annoys me that there’s a blog that has 20,000 followers that literally does nothing but post how many followers it has but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.  Not much sleep anyway. 

Stumbling on that blog was a fun reminder that if you do something genuine it’s tough to get attention because if you’re serious about something you have to be really good at it.  If you do something stupid people can get on board to matter what.

It reminds me of the early days of the internet (I’m old) when a friend I played Warhammer 40k with all the time used to often complain that there was a website that just showed live video of meat rotting.  He couldn’t understand why anyone would go to that website – that he went to all the time to see how many people went to it.  You see kids in those days websites had little counters on the bottom that showed how many people visited it.  It was a primitive time. 

I hope in the future when they talk about the internet as we use it they actually do think it was a series of tubes delivering packages.  I think historians get most things 33% right at best. 

Once I stopped playing tabletop wargames I fell out of touch with that dude because we didn’t have much else in common.  That bothers me occasionally, but such is life.  If you’re reading this dude, which seems insanely unlikely, how’s it going? 

Vagabond’s Staff

This sturdy ironwood walking stick is free of any markings or adornments. 

In the hands of a wielder with a home of any kind the Vagabond’s Staff functions as a masterwork club.  When used by someone without a fixed residence or landholdings it becomes a +3 Impact Leveraging Greatclub that grants the wielder a +1 luck bonus to skill checks and saving throws. This enhanced form can be planted into the ground and transformed into a guardian as per the Liveoak spell.  Once this ability has been used it cannot be used again until a new owner has traveled at least 100 miles with the staff in their possession.  

Wanderer’s Boots

These rugged and solid wyvernskin boots are unremarkable and plain despite their exotic material.  They are incredibly light and comfortable, with thin soles reinforced by strips of tough hide that provide an unexpected amount of support and protection to the foot. 

Wearing these boots grants a +4 bonus on the Constitution checks made to continue running and to avoid nonlethal damage from a forced march.  These boots also protect the wearer’s feet as if they had hardness 10. This hardness applies only against effects that directly affect the target’s feet, such as caltrops, spike growth, spike stones, or stepping into lava.