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Just because I am still seeing a good number of hits coming to this blog, I decided to post this again.

I have moved my blog over to my own domain and all future traffic will be seen over at msjx.org

Please update any links (or blogrolls) that you have listed as this blog will see no further updating.

msjx.org 

Once more for effect!

Just because I am still seeing a good number of hits coming to this blog, I decided to post this again.

I have moved my blog over to my own domain and all future traffic will be seen over at msjx.org

Please update any links (or blogrolls) that you have listed as this blog will see no further updating.

msjx.org 

A New Home

Just because I am still seeing a good number of hits coming to this blog, I decided to post this again.

I have moved my blog over to my own domain and all future traffic will be seen over at msjx.org

Please update any links (or blogrolls) that you have listed as this blog will see no further updating.

msjx.org 

Moving to a new home

Well, I am going to test this out. I have faith in Google and I like being able to connect everything, so last night I bought a domain name and am slowly moving the WordPress blog over to Blogger (soon to be Google Blog). I have nothing against WordPress and very much enjoyed my time there but I want to integrate all my stuff in one place. As I already pay for storage on Google, which is a steal btw, and have documents, pictures, email, calendars, etc over there, it makes sense  to put my blog there as well.

So From now on, please see my new improved (well, I hope it will be) blog at:

msjx.org

R.I.P. Destination Unknown

Well, the jerks of the Internet have taken their toll again. One of my personal favorite blogs has been taken down due to the actions of a few unkind persons and their flame blog.

I am very saddened by this as Christian’s Destination Unknown blog has been one of my biggest inspirations in the blogging realm and I would bet that somewhere around 30% of my posts we’re inspired or encouraged by his posts. Heck, I copied numerous maps designs from him, one just last week. My Lapsus Calumni zine is a direct inspiration of his work.

Christian is a great guy with an awesome personality and I am very sad to see him go. I certainly hope comes back with a vengeance.

Over on the Yahoo mailing list [Risustalk] Brent Wolke of the 8 Page Worlds has really summed up Risus and reasons people have issues with the game. I humbly admit that I have struggled with the system for years, probably for the reasons he mentions here.

I have come to the realization that my past in traditional games such as D&D has soured my ability to easily change modes and thoroughly enjoy a system such as Risus, but I am working on it. His recent work on his Old School Risus module has really put the game in a light I had not seen it in previously and inspired me to write my own little module. This week I am working on a second, much more ambitious module that should showcase the non-combat aspects of the game, least that is the goal. Instead of a combat laden dungeon crawl, this will be a murder mystery set in a blizzard locked inn.

Enough of that nonsense, here is Brent’s very astute  thoughts*:

Risus is a game of beauty. Sublime. It was built for comedy, but serves just as well for serious gaming. Ah, but therein lays a nasty issue, the so-called, “problem”. Built for comedy, it plays to its strengths. Take it out of its natural niche, and it requires effort from the players. It becomes a horrific hybrid of old school gaming and indie narrative style that can be a shock to the system, unless you have a penchant for horrific hybrids. Lemme’ explain.

If I were to play a D&D, I would dare say that nearly EVERY situation imaginable has some kind of rule that attempts to address it. I could reference stats versus rules, and tables; take into account listed advantages and disadvantages; situational modifiers and more…perhaps even spread over multiple books. By God, by the time you roll the dice you know EXACTLY what the result means, and can apply the various stats, rules, tables, advantages, disadvantages, modifiers and more as appropriate. I’ve nothing against D&D, it’s a style of play some prefer, but here’s the point…it’s all spelled out to leave nothing to ambiguity or vagueness.

Risus on the other hand challenges the players and the GM to essentially generate all those rules D&D has, on the fly, in our heads, hand waving what you don’t have time to contemplate or is really unimportant, and then rolling a some dice where even the results are not hard or fast, but vague and unknown. In Risus, you could lose for winning, and vice-versa. It requires players to think not of rules, but of story, and the dice results are not end conditions but rather variables that guide the narrative. My character lost a die in combat. Was he wounded, or just pushed into a corner? What if he was pushed into a corner, but now another character has distracted the enemy allowing my character to get free of the corner. Does he get the lost die back? Risus is not black and white, but rather many shades of gr…er…purple.

Risus demands more from its players than most games (oh yeah, I said it!), and that’s the “problem” with getting new people to play, or those familiar with lots and lots of rule books. For such a simple comedy game, it requires intelligence, thoughtfulness, and awareness. I know people who can’t play Risus simply because they cannot grasp that those dice can mean nearly anything.

For most of the Risus converted though, it’s not a problem… it’s a challenge, and opportunity, to explore some really fun ideas without limits.

Thanks for reading,
-Brent

* Posted without asking. :/
I hope you don’t mind Brent, I thought this was way too good and insightful not to reshare.

[eBook] Fuzzy Nation

Years ago while I wandered around the library as a teenager I stumbled upon a little book called Little Fuzzy. It was probably one of the books that made me love reading and still holds a place of endearment along side books such as Dune and Magician. Having never read any of Mr Scalzi’s work I was extremely nervous heading into this one. The original is quite a book and manages to be many things all at once: a science fiction story, a story of a man finding himself and a purpose, and a piece on the importance of protecting the environment. Could this one live up to the original?

Yes in some ways, no in others. The author did a great job putting his own mark on another author’s IP, but this one did not venture into the deep mental processes of what was happening on the planet nor what could happen to the fuzzies. Sort of glosses over the issue of environment devastation in just a few short passages. The original, least to me the young reader, seem to have more weight and depth.

The blurb:

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.

This retelling of the tale takes some departures from the original. Having not read the original in about twenty years my memory of that story is a little blurry but most notably thinking that Holloway was a bit of a turd. When I think about him these days, I am reminded of the character Bruce Willis played in the film The Last Boy Scout, a total burnt out and washed up waste of a man. Someone you did not know and did want to waste your time getting to know him. I remember that tale being one of redemption as Holloway does battle with the giant and powerful ZaraCorp to save his new friends. In the end he moves from the dark side to become their champion.

This books does the same thing but Holloway I thought was a bit softened. Scalzi’s writing is excellent and any thought I had of putting this book down was impossible. The interaction between Holloway and his dog Carl is a sheer joy to read and reminds me of my own dog. The life he breaths into these ‘voiceless’ characters, the dog and later the fuzzies themselves, is simply put, damn good writing. I am sure my neighbor heard me laugh out loud more than a few times at the hilarious interactions between Holloway, the dog, and the fuzzies.

As the story unfolds and pressures mount, Holloway turns into a bit of a master planer and organizer and outwit and out maneuvers the giant corporation almost to the point of unbelievably. This is only saved by Scalzi’s masterful writing ability. As the novel progresses it turns surprisingly into a very good page turning court room lawyering book. I tend to not like books that cover court room drama, but this one is just done so well that I hardly noticed I was reading about court room actions. Though the book is a familiar one, Scalzi still manages to put his own twists on situations and still have guessing what will happen next.

I did feel the book was a little short. The ending seemed a little rushed, but that could have just been my hands frantically trying to keep up flipping the pages as I tore through the book over two sittings. The very ending was a bit of a shock for me (and I would probably have left it out of the novel) and seemed a tad bit too much Walt Disney for me, but given the rest of the book was top notch, I will give it a pass.

For those looking for serious science fiction, this one is not that. It does have some elements of science fiction but Scaliz, wisely in my opinion, steers clear of the mumbo-jumbo of hard sci-fi and rather focuses on telling a compelling story. This book would be suitable for young readers, though a young teenager could probably better understand the morals of the story and protecting the fuzzies from those trying to rape their planet.

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