Thursday, October 31, 2013

GURPS Renaissance

No, I'm not talking about a GURPS splat book set in 14th century Florence.  I'm talking about my renewed interest in GURPS.  Steve Jackson's rpg isn't exactly old school, first appearing 12 years after D&D reared its little head., but I still count it in the first wave of role playing games.  It's not exactly OSR, so I'll just call it GURPS Renaissance in a category all by itself.

I first picked up GURPS in a boxed set at the comic book store while I was still in high school  I loved the whole generic universal slant on gaming, and liked the gritty combat, but really - I had no idea what to do with it.  It wasn't until third edition GURPS came out that a bell went off in my head and I could see playing something beyond "Caravan to Ein Arris" style fantasy games.  The 90s saw me flexing my GURPS muscle, and it turned out to be the rpg that I would spend more time GMing that any other one - ever.  But eventually, I  abandoned GURPS to go chase simpler, more 'pure' games.

Okay, yeah, well I'm back.  I made the mistake of saying I'd never play GURPS again - which my players basically consider a dare to get me interested in playing something again.  In two months I've amassed, through a well timed birthday and some horse trading at the FLGS, eleven GURPS books (GURPS Horror is not in the picture above, but instead, sitting beside me as I type.)

I like the new 4th edition.  Honestly, I don't know which is better - 3rd or 4th - all I can really say is that 4th isn't so different that I can actually remember what has been changed, and nothing about it bugs me so far.  What I am sure is the same is its effect on me.  It's superbly written and researched.  I can read just about any random paragraph and it sets my mind off is a creative fugue of immense proportions.  You know, some rpgs spark off an idea for a campaign idea or two - but GURPS gets me going something crazy.

I think the important thing for me is that core philosophy to have the rules approach a playable realism.  Some games have really cool mechanics and knobs and whistles.  GURPS has always been somewhat of a bland toolkit.  But I approach the game with an armload of imagination, it soaks that stuff up like a sponge.  It doesn't impose it's mechanics on my ideas, but rather, I impose my vision on the mechanics.

Perhaps every rpg works that way, but for me, GURPS has been the best example of a 'sponge game.'  I mean, I'd never would have picked up and run a horror noir style game, but in sitting around with my players and asking them what they were interested in, I whipped up the Limehouse Chinatown GURPS game we are playing right now.  

So, yeah, I'm jazzed. :)

I guess my biggest issue is that two of the 4th edition books that I would really like to have, High-Tech and Ultra-Tech, are out of print and are only available for a pretty penny.  If anyone out there is hanging on to a 4th edition High-Tech and Ultra-Tech that they are no interested in - drop me a line and maybe we can do some horse trading or arrange a trade. :)

Happy Gaming!

- Ark

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I'm a Super Star!

Okay, well, not exactly a super star.  Or a star.  Or even a brown dwarf.  But I did get a drawing assignment critiqued over on the Proko channel.  Stan Prokopenko posts shortened versions of his drawing lectures over on Youtube.  I've been enjoying them.

Recently he's been doing critiques on the assignments with another instructor named Marshall Vandruff.  The critiques are awesome - watching them really helps to address problems and frustrations.  Last week they picked one of mine. It was cool - and very odd to hear them saying 'Ark.'  I don't normally hear that nickname out loud.  Well, except at Cons. :)

So here is the critique.  You are probably not interested - but that's okay.  I am. :)

- Ark

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Limehouse Blues

I stumbled upon a movie set in the same place and time as our upcoming GURPS noir horror game - Limehoume Chinatown, London, circa 1933.  The movie was called Limehouse Blues, but renamed East End Chant.  Yay for the Internet Archive!

The film has introduced me to the lovely Anna May Wong, who apparently was the first Chinese-American movie star.  Judging from the way that Hollywood treated any non-white person at the time, that was some accomplishment.  Go look her up. She's got a fascinating biography.

On the RPG front, I'm really proud of the gang.  They've really come up with some interesting characters.  I worried everyone would end up being . . . well, I'm not sure.  Boring.  But no - they come up with some great stuff.  So, we've got one a British detective that knows all of the detective stuff and a Chinese policeman from Hong Kong who doesn't know how to police, but knows how to Kung Fu the bad guys.  We've also got an Arab-American demon hunter who might be the son of Iblis.  We've also got a Mata Hari type secret agent seductress from Brazil, and daughter of a South African rancher who hunts monsters for science.  And it looks like we will have a film actress who plays a vampire in the movies, and actually happens to be one in real life - or at least she will when she finally gets bitten.

So it looks like great fun.  I hope they all don't die right away. :)

- Ark

Limehouse Chinatown

Our upcoming GURPS noir horror game - The Directorate of Esoteric Affairs - will kick off in 1933 in London's old Chinatown.  The first installment will be 50 point characters, followed by 100 point characters two years later in 1935.  Then, the characters will move to 150 pointers in 1937, where we will progress at a more normal time/xp flow.  I'm trying to ease the characters into GURPS, and give them a tour of the possibilities.

London’s original Chinatown was located in the East End, in an area known as Limehouse near the River Thames.  Primarily inhabited by Chinese sailors and those who serviced them, records indicate that there were never more than several hundred inhabitants at any given time.  Despite that, legend populated Chinatown with an ocean of Yellow Peril, wall-to-wall opium dens, and the nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu - bent on world domination.  

My Limehouse Chinatown is a mix of both - a real neighborhood full of hard working immigrants - plus a dark underbelly of unknown terrors.  And heck, yeah, some Big Trouble in Little China too.  

But I'm ditching the whole Yellow Peril thing.  Besides, I'm sure the Directorate of Esoteric Affairs will have a lot more trouble on their hands, what with werewolf invasions, Aleister Crowley, and Cthullu's return to deal with. 

Below are some period images to help set the mood . . .

- Ark

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I'm Like A Million Years Old Today

Erin Palette was razzing me about not posting in like, forever.  So in an effort to make her wrong, here is a post!

The above was taken during my 44th birthday dinner tonight at Saltgrass Steakhouse.  I kilt a cow and eated it.  But before that, I got presentses, my precious.  Whatever could that be, clutched in my hand?  No, wrong hand.  That is The Boy.  Other hand.  Yes.  Could be . . . an RPG book?


I'm not a big fan of bloggers posting apologies for not keeping up with blogging, so no apologies here.  It will happen when it happens.  Meanwhile, I've been drawing up a storm, I'm running a Kids Star Wars bounty hunter campaign, I'm playing a psychotic assassin the Tephra steampunk game, and I just wrapped up an epic Big Kids Star Wars game that went on for almost half a year where they murdered the hell out of Darth Vader yesterday, minutes before the credits rolled.

So what's it's got in its grubby little hands, precious?  Well, yet another GURPS book.  Yup.  I'm about to run a mega epic campaign called Esoteric Affairs - which I see as something like Men In Black, but done in the black and white London of the 1930s with monsters replacing aliens.  A Noir Horror Mystery Thriller kinda thing.

Should be fun.

Now please excuse me as I waddle to a place I can lie down on and moan for a while.  Eating a whole cow can be painful . . .

- Ark