Chaosium's "System Reference Document"

4 months or more since announcement; for old Chaosium that would have been super fast, for "Moon Design sans Greg Stafford now doing business as the walking corpse of Chaosium" we don't know, they haven't shipped anything on a schedule before.

So, it's 23 pages, with 2 pages of license and an artless cover page. And no interior art except two colors of the conformance logo, which must be plastered on your book. The license isn't too different from the D20 SRD, except the massive list of "prohibited content".

The book is moderately useful mechanically, it's a quickstart version of BRP. They've eliminated characteristic/skill bonuses, and very few skills use characteristic bases. One of the nicer features of most D100 variants is either a skill category bonus from characteristics (say +1% to all Manipulation skills per CHA over 12), or direct characteristic base (Influence starts at CHAx2); in BRP SRD, Persuade starts at 15% whether you're a hideous slime beast or George Clooney.

There's a bunch of professions ranging from Cowboy to Warrior, with no theme or note about culture and era, none of which have magic. Equipment is mentioned, but there's no shopping lists for any period; very generic lists of weapons and armor ("Sword, Broad", "Pistol", "Pistol, Laser", etc; I thought I was terse!) are later given with no costs, and the armor uses the same craptastic fixed-defense mechanic as later-era Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest, rather than the die rolls that made Stormbringer, etc. combat dangerous.

BRP-SRD still has 4 almost totally disconnected task systems: Characteristic rolls, which are score x 5%, pass/fail; Skill Rolls with Critical, Special, Success, Fail, Fumble levels of success (Critical/Special used to be Impale/Critical? Or the other way around?); Skill vs Skill where levels of success are compared; and Resistance Rolls on a big table where characteristics are compared to get a % roll, which boils down to (Attack-Defense+10)x5%, pass/fail. Modern D100 games have simplified that down to just skill rolls and four levels of success, with specific resistance/characteristic test skills.

The classic skill-roll experience system is here, but it barely addresses over-100 skills, and has the classic "golf bag of weapons" flaw: No limit on how many skills can be improved, so everyone is encouraged to try every skill until they succeed once, then never do it again that session. Legend's Improvement Points mechanic somewhat fixes that, and certainly has much more serious over-100 skill rules, as well as paid training, time training, and improving characteristics. This is barely, minimally adequate to play a few sessions in, a campaign will be severely hamstrung.

Combat is minimalistic, with 2 pages of spot rules, heavily whitespace-padded. You don't technically need many rules to run D100 combat, you can make your own spot rules for most things. But there's no off-hand or dual-wield weapon use, for instance, and I like to fight Florentine or with a cloak in any medieval game. Everyone will have their own set of needs and the much longer section from most D100 games standardizes them.

There is no magic system at all, and they've forbidden use of any of the standard BRP systems of the last 45 years. OK, making a new magic system isn't that hard, but if you want it to be like Stormbringer, or Mythic Earth, or Magic World/Big Green Book BRP, you can't. You can't just pick this SRD up and have a usable game for any genre except mundane reality.

There's one animal stat block, and they've forbidden use of essentially any monster ever written because they forbid use of:

All trademarks, registered trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, place names, etc.), plots, story elements, locations, characters, artwork, or trade dress from any of the following: any releases from the product lines of Call of Cthulhu, Dragon Lords of Melniboné, ElfQuest, Elric!, Hawkmoon, HeroQuest, Hero Wars, King Arthur Pendragon, Magic World, Nephilim, Prince Valiant, Ringworld, RuneQuest, 7th Sea, Stormbringer, Superworld, Thieves’ World, Worlds of Wonder, and any related sublines; the world and mythology of Glorantha; all works related to the Cthulhu Mythos, including those that are otherwise public domain; and all works related to Le Morte d’Arthur.

Well, that leaves… subtract nothin' from nothin', uh, nothin'. You could publish a game of normal people, possibly medieval peasants to 19th C, who never encounter any monsters except a Bear. They can't go insane, because that's owned by Call of Cthulhu. They can't fight demons or elementals, because those are owned by Stormbringer. They can't be knights errant because that steps on Pendragon and Prince Valiant. I'm not actually sure "Humans" are allowed by this license. Possibly change them to Care Bears Koala Friends to be safe from "DBA Chaosium"'s vampiric lawyers.

★☆☆☆☆ Too little, a decade too late. Not worth the cover price of "free".

OpenCthulhu (see my comments ), Legend, OpenQuest, Mythras, Delta Green, and other D100-systems are much more open, and provide much more material to start working from.

Ghosts V-VI

WEIRD TIMES INDEED…
AS THE NEWS SEEMS TO TURN EVER MORE GRIM BY THE HOUR, WE’VE FOUND OURSELVES VACILLATING WILDLY BETWEEN FEELING LIKE THERE MAY BE HOPE AT TIMES TO UTTER DESPAIR – OFTEN CHANGING MINUTE TO MINUTE. ALTHOUGH EACH OF US DEFINE OURSELVES AS ANTISOCIAL-TYPES WHO PREFER BEING ON OUR OWN, THIS SITUATION HAS REALLY MADE US APPRECIATE THE POWER AND NEED FOR CONNECTION.
MUSIC – WHETHER LISTENING TO IT, THINKING ABOUT IT OR CREATING IT – HAS ALWAYS BEEN THE THING THAT HELPED US GET THROUGH ANYTHING – GOOD OR BAD. WITH THAT IN MIND, WE DECIDED TO BURN THE MIDNIGHT OIL AND COMPLETE THESE NEW GHOSTS RECORDS AS A MEANS OF STAYING SOMEWHAT SANE.
GHOSTS V: TOGETHER IS FOR WHEN THINGS SEEM LIKE IT MIGHT ALL BE OKAY, AND GHOSTS VI: LOCUSTS… WELL, YOU’LL FIGURE IT OUT.
IT MADE US FEEL BETTER TO MAKE THESE AND IT FEELS GOOD TO SHARE THEM. MUSIC HAS ALWAYS HAD A WAY OF MAKING US FEEL A LITTLE LESS ALONE IN THE WORLD… AND HOPEFULLY IT DOES FOR YOU, TOO. REMEMBER, EVERYONE IS IN THIS THING TOGETHER AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AGAIN SOON.
BE SMART AND SAFE AND TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER.
WITH LOVE,
TRENT & ATTICUS

Serial Experiments: Lain

You know how so much of anime has a naïve teenage protagonist with a lot of school drama, who gets powers, and saves the world? Well, Lain starts there and then veers wildly off, into Internet Protocols, simulationism, UFO/Gaea/psionics conjectures, secret societies, radical home computer upgrades, and not only doesn't save the world but there may never have been a world to save. There's also a lot of really great music; the OST and Cyberia mixes are big parts of my Coding Soundtracks playlist.

Diaspora* (footnote missing)

So I see some "joindiaspora" articles. I'm bored and no longer frequent some techbro-heavy forums like h4xx0r n00z. Sure, let's see how to read it.

The asterisk in the name is going to drive me crazy. It's apparently not a footnote. I constantly look for a footnote when I see* after a word. 👀🗡🗡

joindiaspora.org has no register link, only a "Sign In". Ironically, you can join nothing from "joindiaspora". Going over to the diasporafoundation wiki (oh no), apparently there's "pod" servers? So it's like Fediverse but not connected? All the servers I click on just lead me to their Mastodon servers. I don't need another one. I gave up after 10 minutes.

After someone helpfully linked a more useful tutorial to me, apparently open servers do have a register link, so I searched some more, there are a few servers up and not on the far side of the world, so looks like my choices are FriendsMeet.win and bobspora.com; I feel like "Friends Meet, Win!" is some kind of Amway or EST cult for Windows users, so I pick Bob's Pora (wasn't that an Italian car?). None of these have any useful information on their front page, no "about this instance", no personality, no server policies, just the default frame. Many Mastodon servers are like that, too, but they usually show something of interest on their /about. May regret this. I really dislike giving admins I don't know power over my posting (thus the recent unpleasantness with the wannabe-dragon-fucker).

OK, so now the usual profile setup. There's a fancy hashtag editing interface, that you will never see again. It's not on the profile. The way you add hashtags to follow in the front page is totally different.

There's six feeds chosen on a sidebar (which doesn't stay pinned to top, so it's a total pain in the ass to scroll down, then scroll back up to change):

  1. Stream: "posts made by your contacts; public posts made containing you follow; posts that @mention you; posts from the “Community spotlight,” if your pod has enabled this feature (see Part 7)." which seems entirely to be the pod's sysadmin for me.
  2. My Activity: Narcissus would be proud.
  3. @ Mentions: More me me me.
  4. My Aspects: Checklist of Family, Friends, Work, Acquaintances, which I suppose lets you post more "privately" but not really. Just like Facebook. 100% like Facebook.
  5. # Followed Tags: Something useful, and does show people off the current instance. I've immediately had to go block a bunch of spambots, because I couldn't see the Humans, if any, for all the bots.
  6. Public Activity: The public firehose. Or garden hose on trickle, anyway, I see a couple posts a minute, it's not like mastodon.social's public timeline which is very hard to stop and read.

Very very Facebook-like, really. I dunno what hashtags I need to follow to see more interesting technical or whatever conversations, guess I have to lurk Public until I see one, then add that? Ugh. I'd like it to find my fediverse or old twitter friends, but there's no obvious contact searcher. There's a Twitter connect, but it wants total account permissions in order to crosspost, which is insane.

Editing in it has Markdown, but no custom emoticons, and it's kind of annoying, again very Facebook-like.

Anyway, I'm mdhughes@bobspora.com for now, dunno if I'll hook up a crossposter or what.

PortalWorlds Progress

  • PortalWorlds 0.9 on mysticdungeon.club

  • 2020-03-18:

    • Mob names
    • Boss monsters (only ones with a nametag, and much tougher than the rest of the level)
  • 2020-03-17:
    • Structures: circle tower, box tower, campsite
  • 2020-03-16:
    • All levels are solveable
    • Map indicates map name and row/column of player

Pop back over to itch.io or my Patreon if you want to support this!

What I'm Watching: Kingdom S2

After a brief flashback to the first use of the resurrection flower against the invading Japanese, S2 picks right back up with the zombies out in daylight, and a fantastic retreating battle, and heroic sacrifices winnowing the cast a bit.

There's more straightforward conflict this season, since we know who the villains are (anyone named Cho). A little of what they'd previously done fills in backstory, and desperate measures against the Japanese make sense, but not so much why they're still doing it; ambition, sure, but hitching yourself to the Queen's clan or using the plague as a weapon are not things sane people do.

A cop with an impressive feather hat tries to investigate the Queen, and gets further than I'd expect from feudal investigators, but politics makes that entire subplot pointless. She isn't especially cunning, her plots and tricks are very blunt and obvious, but nobody can call her on it, and her impossibly loyal guards and court ladies go along with it.

The Crown Prince does more swordfighting this season, though mostly it's hacking up zombies instead of duels. The "Tiger Hunter" peasant with a gun amuses me, and he finally gets one backstory flashback, but he's low on dialogue.

Nurse Seo-Bi in any other era would be a boss, with the most valuable medical/murder tool ever and the cure for the zombie plague, but in feudal Korea she's just pushed around as a pawn, and treats entirely the wrong person. Half the plot could be avoided if she just told the Crown Prince what she knows earlier, and doesn't help the villains.

By E3 & E4, I'm really missing the zombies; there's too much Human backstabbing and just chasing around the countryside which is zombie-free except at the surrounded fortress. And some of the death scenes last a very long time, many minutes of weeping and flashbacks.

Finally by E5, we get some zombie action again, but it's taken forever. Zombies vs guy in toilet is always a great set piece. The "camera following unseen action behind a wall" scenes get annoying quick; I prefer to see the combats.

"People aren't screaming. The screams have stopped."
"What's going on?"

The plan in E6 relies on zombies not being able to climb, which eventually they do, an ice lake breaking in a way that it doesn't (ice is bouyant, so breaking it in one place doesn't shatter the entire lake).

The "7 years later" setup for the next season is a little heavy on tell-not-showing, but we have a new villain teaser at least.

I did get bored mid-season. Zombies, ever since Night of the Living Dead, have existed to put pressure on people, and keep a plot advancing fast. Without the zombies, you just have people whining at each other, making too-elaborate plots, and they don't even have to stay in the house/castle. With zombies, you get desperation and quick, bad decisions in enclosed spaces.

★★★★½