Friday, September 5, 2014

Extremely Late Boxing Report 7-12-14

[And lastly, to catch up on the half-written sports reports.]


I only watched this fight because a couple of co-workers actually went to it.  I console myself that, unlike them, I didn’t pay to watch this, though I’ll never that time back.  The image above is from the weigh-in, which said co-workers were at.  I had hoped they’d supply me with a few more pictures.  I kept waiting and it never happened.  So, between the lousy fight and waiting, that’s at least some of the reason I held off posting this.

Let’s get down to it.  Our main event featured Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara.  If you’re a Mexican fight fan, you know Canelo (one of said co-workers, female, adores him).  He’s the pretty boy face of boxing and a marketing juggernaut.  Lara, meanwhile, is a boxer.  That’s all I know about him.  (I think I just got ruined any chance of getting media credentials, didn’t I?)

For the walk out, Canelo’s crew was in matching orange jackets and hats, while the young man himself was wearing a Mexican Superman shirt.  I was surprised during the introductions that they mentioned one of the judges was from here in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  The crowd was highly partisan in Canelo’s favor, including one adorable little fan screaming her head off, while the man next to her, applauded politely.  (At least, that’s how I’m imagining it.)

Here we go:

1st round, a little UFC as Lara’s arm hooked around Canelo’s neck and Canelo lifted him off the ground.

5th round, Canelo was looking kind of ugly as Lara focused his attacks on his face.  Canelo was focused on attacking Lara’s mid-section.  He may not have gotten a good look at the guy with his shirt off.  Lara has an armored six-pack, which was probably why he wasn’t making an effort to guard himself there.

6th round, Canelo had a really fiery outburst of swings.  I didn’t make note of which round, but one of the middle ones did feature the crowd booing loudly.  It seemed like they didn’t like the lack of action in the ring, since I didn’t notice any foul punches.  Canelo may have been trying to get the crowd back into it this round.

9th round, Lara falls to a knee in the corner.  On replay, it looks like he was jumping back from a punch, hit the post, and slipped.  However, this event may have won Canelo the fight.

12th round, the crowd was standing and cheering as the round started.  Canelo came out swinging.  He was definitely determined to win the round and may have thought he was in danger of losing the match.

The Decision: I don’t think anyone was surprised when a split decision was announced.  I’m assuming the Las Cruces judge was with Canelo, because otherwise the female co-worker would probably be after him when he got home.  Neither fighter had dominated fight.  There was a very dramatic pause as Canelo was finally given the decision.  He hadn’t looked that confident beforehand, and the crowd wasn’t either.  I might have given it a draw and wished I’d spent my time better.  The co-workers weren’t entirely pleased, but they had a nice trip anyway.  If you’re going to watch a lousy fight, at least do it somewhere interesting. 


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Baseball Journal 8-24-14

[I kept meaning to write about baseball, but all I did was write out little random notes about interesting events, without actually finishing the thought.  I didn’t even date most of this stuff, further complicating the writing a month later.  This is just going to be baseball mad libs here.  Worse, I’m going to be removing a bunch of stuff that deserved mention at the time.]

Ranger Notes
Speaking of soccer, the Rangers are lucky they haven’t been relegated to Triple A to play to the Chihuahuas.  Essentially over the last month, they’re losing about five times a week.  They’re the worst team in the league, looking up at the Astros (who Sports Illustrated thinks are going to win the World Series in five years, but with their cover jinx, there’s no chance of that).

*******

Eric Nadel was highlighted on the Fox’s Saturday night broadcast.  I was also listening to the Rangers’ radio call as Matt Hicks called attention to it.  The Fox guys mentioned Eric was from Brooklyn and that he used to go to games at Shea Stadium.  Eric told the story of the first game that he was old enough to take the subway by himself to go to.  His father told him to be back by 10:00.  The game went 18 innings, way past 10:00, but young Eric just couldn’t leave it.  Already showing his broadcasting chops as a teen.

Rangers vs. Mets: Can you believe a National League game running 4 + hours.  No, there wasn’t a rain delay.  Eric Nadel was complaining again about the length of the games.  Who can blame him?  He started waxing nostalgic, as he’s from NYC and was a big Met’s fan as a kid, though apparently a lot of his Met memories are kind of sour.  At least Eric and Matt had plenty of time to discuss Broadway plays.

Once again on the Fox Saturday game, they featured the Rangers and spotlighted Eric Nadel.  He was received an award on the field before the game.  Is Eric about to retire?  [Actually, he was about to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  I’m a little dense keeping up with team news.  Boy, Eric gave a great speech.] 

7-20
Matt Hicks hit by a foul ball in the booth.  Yet another Ranger injury.  Thankfully, he was laughing about it afterward.  Eric asked, “Was it your ‘scoring’ arm?”

I loved one of the calls in the game.  Just as Eric was mentioning Ranger pitcher,   Ryan Feierabend’s, pickoff move, he immediately picked off a runner.

Meanwhile, one of the team commercials is promoting the Ranger Fans singles match service.  Here you can find of the love of life and commiserate about how bad the team is this year.

7-24
Matt Hicks was discussing my favorite soccer team, Arsenal.  Apparently, he’s a big soccer fan.  And also apparently, it must have been another boring game.


MLB Notes
I’m not letting baseball off the hook either.  People say, “It’s boring.”  You know what, a lot of times when I’m watching, I find myself agreeing with that.  MLB has done NOTHING to pick up the pace of the game.  In fact, they’ve slowed it down with their video review crap.  I still think it’s a great game, but even long-time Rangers’ broadcaster, Eric Nadel, has been complaining constantly about how long the games have been dragging out.  Between two-and-a-half and under three hours, most people can enjoy a ballgame.  Beyond that, most people (if not everyone) start getting bored with it.  Three-plus hour, 9 inning games aren’t necessarily high-scoring, but are more likely to be low action, that is players standing around waiting on the pitcher and the batter to get their acts together.   






Lincecum pitched another no-hitter.  [And judging by the 2 1/3 inning, 6 run performance I heard today, 8-23-14, Good Tim has become Bad Tim again.]   















Check out this blurb from the same paper.  This would have been an interesting game to watch.


Kershaw also pitched a no-hitter soon after.  This touched off a broadcasting topic about whether the announcer should mention a no-hitter in progress.  Tim Hagerty with the Chihuahuas said he’ll do it.  In today’s instant mass media age, it would be absurd not to, and also Vin Scully does it.  On a Cardinal’s broadcast, another Tim (McCarver, who sounded happier than he ever did with Fox), said he wouldn’t, because he thought he’d jinxed one once.  They talked about Vin’s call of the Kershaw game.  He’d told viewers to call their friends.  During a break, an aide told him most people tweet stuff like this.  Vin came back and told everyone to tweet it, “Hashtag Kershaw!”

The All-Star Game got off to a rip-boring start with a four-hour home run derby.  They need to tell the pitchers to speed up their delivery.  (Okay, two rain delays might have been the culprit.)  Even Chris Berman was bored.  It’s his one trip for the year outside the sanitarium. 

During the game itself, I’m embarrassed to admit that I spent time watching an interesting roundtable discussion on baseball on the MLB Network.  Tom Verducci summed up what everyone else has noticed:  Scoring is down, but the time of the games going up.  I don’t know if anyone at the table had any worthwhile ideas to fix it.  Verducci is pretty astute, but then again he’s also championing the idea of the “Bonus Batter.”  I’m not even bothering to explain or discuss the concept, if for no other reason than the name.

[Hey, serious suggestion here.  I’m watching the Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day at the US Open Tennis tournament.  It’s always a great, fun event, especially for kids.  Why not dump the Home Derby at the All-Star Game for something similar?]   

7-26
Giants pick up Dan Uggla for Second Base.  Why didn’t they call me?  I’m available, and I could probably hit and field just as well. 

7-27
Giants trade for Jake Peavy, who immediately blew out his arm signing the contract.

******

Darwin Barney was released by the Cubs.  Great defense, lousy hitting.  Now instead of the Giants picking him up, they went after Dan Uggla, who was released by the Braves, because he could neither field, nor hit.  The “Uggla Experiment” went for a week.  He went 0 for 12 with three errors.  It wasn’t a good sign that he was double-switched for in his first game.  Uggla didn’t accompany the team on their next road trip. 

Meanwhile, just to rub it in, the Dodgers picked up Barney.  From a personal perspective this is terrible.  Now the Buy-a-Championship Dodgers actually have a player that I like, creating a rooting dilemma for myself.  If they end up playing the Angels in the World Series, I was going to reluctantly root for them anyway.

[Rookie Joe Panik has actually been doing a pretty good for the Giants at Second, so what do I know?]

8-4


Tigers vs. Yankees on ESPN.  They show Kate Upton behind the Visitor’s Dugout.  Now this was a highlight and then some.

7-29
Watching a Cubs broadcast.  Len and JD are sitting in the bleachers (or that beer patio thing in Right Field).  I start watching the game during dinner, but leave it to get to work.  I tune back in three hours later.  They’re in top of the 7th and it’s 3-3!  Len is complaining that because this game is dragging on so long, he’s eating too much sitting in the bleachers.  Little does he know at the time that he’s going to end up being there for six hours and extra innings.

8-14
Watching a Mets team broadcast on the MLB network.  One of their announcers called Yankee Stadium a “mausoleum.”  Awesome.

8-22
Gordon Beckham dealt to the Angels from the White Sox, for cash.  Another one of my favorite players, traded to a team I hate.  Yes, between Beckham, Barney, and Kinsler, I do seem to like Second Basemen.


Chihuahuas Notes
Southwest University Ballpark won the stadium of the year award.  When is somebody going to come up with a good nickname for that mouthful of syllables?  (The ‘U?’)  Here’s a review of the park.

The Chihuahuas July trip to Des Moines to play the ICubs was somewhat eventful.  After not being able to take their original flight, they ended up taking a chartered flight the morning of the game.  The team bus arrived an hour before the game.  The parking lot attendant asked them to pay for the parking while they were unloading.    

During the game, Tim called, “And there’s a foul ball straight back.”  Suddenly, there’s a crash and a scuffle.  For five horrifying seconds there was dead air.  Have we lost Tim?  Oh, no!  Thankfully, he composed himself and got back to the microphone, a little shaken.  It had just missed him.

Tim reporting smelling skunk while the team was playing in Omaha.  He couldn’t resist telling another minor league story about a skunk actually wandering out on to the field during a game.  The pitcher, from the Caribbean, not understanding why a black “cat” was holding up the game, walked over to it, picked it up, and took it off the field.  The skunk must have been so shocked by the friendly behavior, he forgot to spray him.  

7-9 vs Albuquerque
Tim reported a light mist to start the game.  By the start of the bottom of the first inning, the mist was occluding the outfield hill.  Then it started to rain.  There were flashes of lightning and thunder in the distance.  By the bottom of the second, it became a heavy rain, the heaviest he’d seen in a game.  Fans were starting to take cover.  With rising concern in his voice, Tim started to report hail falling on the field.  Finally, there was a loud crack of thunder.  “I’m sure you all heard that!” I’d have to think Tim was standing when he said that.  The field was finally evacuated.  Matt Wisler, the Chihuahuas’ pitcher on the mound, threw up his arms.  “Why couldn’t you guys have called the game before I gave up that two run homer!” 

Last month, El Paso county property tax went up for “quality of life” funding.  What a surprise that the new motel tax isn’t covering the cost of the new ballpark.    

[Okay, that was all over place, but fun.  Baseball is a great game.]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sports Journal-ESPN-Soccer Rant

[I wrote this a couple of months ago, thinking I was about to start sports blogging again.  Work on the my next RPG setting took over my writing life.]

Is it over?  Is it?  Is it over?

Somewhere in the middle of this World Cup crap, I flat out stopped listening to sportstalk radio.  That’s okay, I got to hear Tim with the Chihuahuas’ talk about it.  ESPN’s baseball broadcasts have blathering on and on about it.  Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter were talking about it.  My parents were talking about it.  It’s been inescapable in any media format.  The World Cup, the triumph of pervasive, marketing.  Hopefully nobody will use these techniques to get some hopelessly inept, Anti-American politician elected president.

Right before a Chihuahuas’ game, they were playing a Colin Cowherd ESPN promo, where he was all but threatening the audience with more soccer coverage.  “With the ‘browning’ of America, you’re going to get more soccer.  It’s here to stay, and it’s only going to get bigger.”  It’s amazing how outright racist you can be when you’re a liberal.  (“Browning” was a direct quote.) 

He’d say he could back up his racist statements with facts and statistics.  If I used facts and statistics to make some general observations about various races in this country, my blog would suddenly disappear due to inappropriate content, no matter how true they were.  Even threatening to use facts to back up racial statements is considered racist, depending on who you are and how you’re using them. 

Cowherd’s threat outlines ESPN sportstalk (and Fox Sports as well for the most part) agenda.  Let’s examine their content, from my own very personal viewpoint. 

1. The NFL.  I think the sport’s fixed.  Since all of the main networks partake of the Shield, no one except TMZ would ever investigate it.  I also think I’ve heard enough of their Top Ten Mad Libs lists (“Who are the Top Ten . . . Receivers. . . Right now!”)
2. LeBron James.  The entire rest of the Association only matters in their relationship to LeBron.  He can lose in the Finals and that’s the only story.  Whoever actually won didn’t matter.
3. Tiger Woods.  Need I say more? 
4. Soccer.  We’re shoving this down your throats bitches!  Like it or not, our demographics say that this is going to be popular in this country.  It’s still the same boring sport that Americans have snubbed their noses at for decades.  It’s just better promoted now.   
5. Baseball.  Only denigrate it, to make soccer look better.
6. Tim Tebow.  Cowherd: “I just want all of you to understand what a terrible football player he is.  I’m not a homosexual for obsessing over this man, really.  And what if I was, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Now, he works down the hall from me at ESPN.  I hate him!  I hate him!”  (Starts weeping like a Jane Austin heroine.)  You almost have to feel sorry for Cowherd, having to work next to his gay crush.  Professionally and politically despising him, yet having such a strong, embarrassing attraction to him. 
     
LeBron James going back to Cleveland has at least momentarily knocked the World Cup off the top of sports feed.  Well, the day came when I stopped hating the New York Mets, my previous least favorite team (now it’s the Angels).  He certainly didn’t have to go back there, and there were plenty of personal reasons not to.  But LeBron really wanted to go back home and wants to play for Cleveland (unlike every other athlete who has to be assigned there or doesn’t have any better option). 

Just for that act of hometown loyalty (a little late and after he’s won championships in Miami), I’m lifting his “Jerk” tag on a probationary basis.  If he can actually bring a championship to Cleveland (I’m not putting much hope in Manziel, who as a white rookie quarterback with questionable NFL abilities (in other words, he’s not black) is destined to be Colin Cowherd’s next gay crush, Tebow will heartbroken), I may actually give him a hearty round of applause and think highly of him when his career ends.  As far as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, however, the feud is still on. 

[That went explosively out-of-control and off-topic.  Why even bother complaining about the ISIS conglomeration that controls sports broadcasting and metaphorically beheads everyone who listens and watches?]


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Baseball Journal 9-1-14

Texas Rangers
8-31-14
The Rangers lost to the Astros.  Does the score matter?  Does the result even matter?  Eric Nadel’s complaints about the length of games are becoming continuous.  He is definitely trying to get the league’s attention (since the Ranger’s season is long finished).  Now that he’s a Hall of Fame broadcaster, perhaps that will help.   

Eric and Matt Hicks talked about an Independent league that has experimented with enforcing the 20 seconds between pitches rule (as per the rulebook), forcing the batter to stay in the box, and limiting trips to the mound to three per game. Implementing these ideas in the Major Leagues would require the Players Union’s consent.  An informal poll in the clubhouse, showed that pitchers and batters were against these ideas.  So, “The fans don’t matter,” as Eric put it.

Another foul ball went into the broadcast booth.  This time only Eric’s laptop got hit.  He rubbed some dirt on it and put it back into service.  Amazingly, the computer did not require season-ending repair work, unlike everyone else associated with the Rangers this season. 




El Paso Chihuahuas
I picked the wrong game to keep a scorecard.  I usually do this once a year, and I picked the last game of the year for the dogs on Labor Day.  I have a hard enough time doing it when watching it on TV, much less over the radio.  I never got all the positions written in.  In the third, the Pups batted around, destroying my scorecard.  In the fifth, there were the twin disasters of my radio reception going sideways and head huckster-used car salesman-General Manger, Brad Taylor, talking for the most of the inning.  Look, if you’re a guest and plan on talking a lot, then you have to keep up the call of the game.  So I ended up with some of question marks in the boxes.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play? 

It was a swell game.  For a high-scoring game, it clipped along pretty quickly at a bit more than two and half hours.  There were only a handful of walks, which usually drag out games.  The pitchers worked quickly and the hitters did the same.  Going back to Eric Nadel’s complaint, it’s a pity that it has to be a day game on the last game of the season that everyone plays the game the way it was meant to be played.  I have to think that most of the fans would concur that this is how they would like baseball to be.      

On to the game itself.  Unfortunately, fan-fav Jeff Francoeur had left the night before.  Manager Pat Murphy took him off the field in the 9th to let the fans say goodbye to him.  Being a long-time major leaguer, he was the most recognizable Chihuahua.  But it was playing with a smile and interacting with the fans that made him a favorite.  It’s a pity he wasn’t around today, he could have pitched the 9th.  The Pups won 10-4 over the Salt Lake City Bees thanks to a scorecard-breaking 3rd inning, where they sent 12 men to the plate, where they scored a team record 8 runs. 

Tim Hagerty properly spent most of the game reminiscing.  (No matter how much it was killing my scorecard.  Lesson learned.  I’ll pick another game next time.)  The Pups made a pretty big splash this year for being named after a small dog.  They won Stadium of the Year, Best Mascot of the PCL, Best Hat in the Minor Leagues, and even beat the Toledo Mudhens in Facebook Likes.  Over 530,000 fans were in attendance at the Doghouse, easily an El Paso sports record.     

Tim gave the radio station personnel a special, “Thank you.”  On the one hand, I have been disappointed with KROD’s lack of a pre-game.  We were teased a few times, but for the most part, it’s just been a couple of minutes at the end of local sports talk, if that.  However, the station’s commitment to baseball has been solid.  I wondered what they would do with Dallas Cowboy game conflicts, but they moved them over to FM.  They even held their Friday High School football show until after the ball game last week. 

[Unless you live here, you have no idea how big a deal High School football in Texas is, even in El Paso, whose teams are routinely beaten by out-of-town teams.  (Probably doesn’t help that here in nearby Las Cruces, we have two teams that routinely win state championships and beat El Paso teams.)  It may be a good thing that the Canines didn’t get into playoffs.] 

There were two guests in the booth, the general manager and team president.  It probably helped the interviews that the game wasn’t close.  The team execs were very complimentary of El Paso, if not somewhat humbled.  Little wonder.  The ownership group probably didn’t anticipate their scheme working this well, what with the questionable civics antics and team missteps (mostly the name, but that turned out well too).  I’m still skeptical of them, but the good people of El Paso have apparently decided they will enjoy this team and stadium that have been forced upon them.  Perhaps some good gate will help mitigate the inventible tax increases.  I was hoping Steve Kaplowitz would show up, or that we might get a pre-game, but it’s a holiday.  So much for that.
     
It was a holiday and a day game in 90+ degree heat, but they drew over 9,000 for another sell out.  In the 8th, up 10-4, the crowd was chanting, “We want a hit!”  They had reasons to cheer in the 9th.  Cody Decker and Jason Lane were taken off the field to loud applause.  Lane was probably the most talented Chihuahua, pitching and hitting well.  Decker, meanwhile, had a rare mix of talent, hustle, and showmanship.  After a couple of successful YouTube videos, appearances on network TV, and doing local sports and weather, he’s at least got career options.  With two outs, the fans were standing and then let out a big cheer at the end of the game.  They were still there after the game as players came out and tossed hats and stuff to the crowd.     


Before an end-of-season montage, Tim ended his broadcast with a jaunty, “See you next year!”  I actually got choked up a bit realizing it was over.  At the end of the baseball season, I miss baseball, but I don’t think I’ve missed any particular team before.  The broadcasts and the players have really been endearing.  The El Paso Chihuahuas finished the season at .500, but clearly they have convincingly won over their fans.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

5e Confessions

[I'm off Monday.  I plan on doing sports posts next week, and then posting the new setting mentioned here.]

I’ve got one last new setting (doesn’t that sound unintentionally ominous) ready to be posted.  It uses the Fantasy Core rules and has lots of monsters and NPC stats.  I’ll be putting it up shortly, but I thought I’d pause and reflect here for a moment.

Somewhere in the middle of this project, I completely lost confidence in my own rules.  I still think they’ll work reasonably well and would be fun, but over the course of stat’ing out a bunch of monsters, I started getting really frustrated.  There are certain limitations, not just with my own homebrew, but with the underlying system they’re based on, that just creak and moan with age and poor design.  These issues go straight back to the origin of the game and through every succeeding version. 

Don’t get me wrong.  The rules work well enough to provide an enjoyable time with friends and strangers, who will soon be friends, around the table.  Gygax and Arenson created a whole new genre of gaming, a highly impressive accomplishment.  That game was made from with adaptations of other games, and from drawing upon widely varied mythic sources.  It’s allowed the game to be changed to be whatever you want it to be and however you want to play it.  But there’s never been any real innovation since those original rules. There are any number of dopey conventions that gamers adhere to, not because they’re good, but out of tradition and familiarity.  D&D is like a ship with a leaky hull, still floating because of the mass of encrusted barnacles attached to it covering them.

Rules like Fantasy Core could be classified under the broad category of a “Fantasy Heartbreaker,” a D&D-like game that offers a few novel ideas, but ultimately disappoints.  I think everyone who’s really looked at D&D’s rules at least subconsciously recognizes that they’re fundamentally flawed in almost every aspect.  The mechanics are unsatisfying and unrealistic.  The milieu is a goulash that forces everything to be included.  The goals are arbitrary and self-defeating.  (The more powerful a character gets, the less fun the game gets.)  The Fantasy Heartbreaker tries to keep the inherent spirit of the game, while correcting some of these flaws.  They fail because the rules can’t be fixed.  It’s like sending reinforcements to the battlements of a sandcastle.  Maybe certain aspects can be improved, maybe not, but it doesn’t matter, if the whole initial concept has problems.

Here’s part of where 4e went wrong, in my opinion.  The rules were incompatible with the preceding versions of the game, but offered no real innovation.  It was a Fantasy Heartbreaker.  Pathfinder has been a success in the meantime, but only because they’re using 3.5 with some minor houserule adjustments.  They’ve since gone wild with supplements of the sort that have weighted down other editions.  Pathfinder is the hobbyist game with its complex layers of rules, because a newbie is going to have a steep learning curve just making their character, much less playing.    

That brings me to 5e.  I haven’t seen the rules yet.  I plan on acquiring the basic rules at some point in the near future.  (My Internet connection is through work and the WOTC site is blocked.  I’ll see if I can get them through a friend.)  I’ll consider buying the books if I’m impressed enough.  What I already know is that these rules are considered to be a “best of” mix of other versions with the addition of the new advantage/disadvantage mechanic. 

In other words, 5e is nothing really new.  The playtest was well, but cautiously, received.  The beginner box was panned instantly upon the announcement of its contents.  This grief turned to joy, as shortly thereafter, with the news of the online release of the basic rules.  I think most gamers were predisposed to being standoffish up to that point.  The new rules might have their merits, but aren’t especially better, in fact, simply a retread of familiar ground.  The free version meant you could try the rules, in large part whole, without any monetary obligation.  More importantly, these rules are now out in the wild forever, like the retroclones, so 5e is going to be around for a long while if you like it.

WOTC’s free release has been a boon to book sales.  With the basic rules being fairly simple and free, this should allow new players to be brought in easily.  New books will be brought out to expand options for continuing serious players.  But there is going to be a price to this.  5e will be last published version of D&D by WOTC. 

This version had a long development cycle, and the rules had to be given away to get gamers to try them.  Unless they intentionally put in a show-stopping broken feature, there’s not going to be a 5.5 version, much less 6e.  There’s going to be mild updates, but they’re not going to be able to change them radically.  The expectation is going to be that any rules changes are going to be put into that free version, which will have to be compatible with the books. 

WOTC will ride the high on this as long as they’re getting good sales.  But I have to think the executives have already got an exit strategy planned.  There’s no way they’re going to sit through another long development cycle/sales drought, like they did between 4e and 5e.  Gamers aren’t going to be interesting in another slightly improved nostalgic version of D&D, not five years from now, probably not even ten.  This is it.

I think WOTC is already handing out licenses to other RPG companies in preparation for this.  Right now, it’s for publishing 5e adventures.  I’d almost think they’d offer to work with Paizo again, whom they’ve worked well with before.  Paizo’s game world and adventures would surely make 5e an even bigger hit.  Perhaps that’s why they won’t.  Paizo has already proven they can do D&D better than they can.  Paizo would end up profiting off of all of WOTC’s development by simply converting their existing material and at little cost.  Again, remember the free rules and how locked in WOTC will be to those.  Their core rule book sales will taper, while Paizo 5e products could end up dominating the market. 

The real question is: What will WOTC do when 5e reaches the end of its product cycle?  Frankly, I’m hoping they consider selling the name and IP to another company to produce the traditional tabletop RPG.  Meanwhile, Hasbro (WOTC’s parent company) uses the name and IP to make other games, perhaps even a non-hobby version of the RPG (something that can be simply set up like a traditional board game, but allowing the free-form action and imagination of an RPG).  In sum, I think the RPG experience is great and it works as a hobby to tinker with, but the current legacy rules suck and need a complete makeover. 

For my part, I have a couple of other last projects in mind (though just a couple).  If I like the 5e rules, I may use those instead of Fantasy Core.  There’d probably be some dubious legitimacy in posting such an adventure here, even if I’m not selling it and there’s no advertising on the site.  It might be worth the risk anyway.  I’d still like to clean up, make a couple of changes, and make a pdf out of Fantasy Core, but with 5e being the thing, it seems like a waste of effort at the moment.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Endless Night: Notes

ENDLESS NIGHT
A Fantasy Core Adventure
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)


Endless Night Notes

This adventure was somewhat inspired by the movie, Thirteen Ghosts, which I’m not really recommending.  Great concept though, with everyone locked in a prison-like house, having to defeat the ghosts in order to escape.  Given the appalling lack of traditional ghosts in this adventure, I obviously didn’t stay very close to the source material.  
 
If you can believe it, this adventure started off being called The Haunted Dojo.  It used a pagoda map out of a Dungeon magazine.  I re-did the encounters and roughed out the adventure where the characters needed to cleanse the temple.  Every time they defeated one of the ghosts, the gong in the foyer would ring out.  Somewhere along the way, I decided I’d want to post it, so I’d need an original map.  At that point, I decided to go with a more traditional haunted house.

From there, the main inspiration was from a computer game: Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, specifically the Oceanside Hotel encounter.  I will recommend this game.  It’s a good time.  The old haunted hotel is a unique challenge in the game.  There’s nothing fight.  It’s just a matter of finding clues and avoiding traps.  The atmosphere is awesome.  Play it at night, in the dark, you will jump.   However, this adventure was going to need some monsters to fight.   

From there, I ran through a couple of concepts.  How about the house was the residence of an occult-obsessed serial killer?  He was a mortician, who let’s say drummed up his own business at times.  He took mementoes of his victims and that’s what did him in.  He was killed by the ghosts of his 13 victims.  The house would have to be cleared of the 13, then the party could face the mortician.  Hey, that sounds good.  Why didn’t I use that?  It just fizzled for me. 

Next inspiration was Castle Amber, as mentioned at the beginning.  From there, I toyed around with the notion of a bunch of insane ghosts, family and servants.  They were all demented in some way to begin with.  Their undead existence would reflect their flaw, such as compulsive gambler, gluttonous hoarder, sex pervert, or renegade scientist.  Some of this stayed, but Undead Downton Abbey (as sure as I post this, somebody will start on the manuscript), faded into the background a bit.  I wanted ghouls, grimlocks, and gillmen fighting in the behind the scenes as bickering servant classes, but ultimately had to trim that down.

Inspired by the movie, Clue, I would have liked to have inserted a murder mystery into the house, unlocking a dark secret and the treasure.  Of course, there’d be multiple possible endings.  But in the end, it seemed a little too complex, maybe too subtle.  I thought it’d be best to stick to the action.

So, where’d the Astral Plane stuff come from?  It was definitely inspired by the Sandman comic book.  Likewise, some of the spirits are clearly super-villain inspired.  Elves and goblins fighting over the house took after several sources, like Thor and a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  A couple of quests were added.  One doesn’t just walk into a fey party after all. 

There’s a little Lovecraft here and there, though I haven’t read much of his stuff.  Carter the cat certainly came from the Dream Realms.  Lastly, the more ambitious ideas I had about portals to dream kingdoms or distant foreign kingdoms for adventure quests (a la Castle Amber again) proved too daunting for me.  I had to content myself with the psychedelic landscapes of the second floor.

There’s lessons to be learned here.  Go where your ideas take you, rather than forcing them to follow your initial impulse.  You’ll save yourself a lot of time, effort, and frustration.  Also, when you run out of ideas for adding to a project, that’s your signal that that is the project’s limit.  Again, it’ll save time and sanity.  Finally, let ideas that don’t fit fall away.  Don’t expend a bunch of effort trying to force them in.  You can always recycle them for something else.  If the adventure itself doesn’t give you some ideas, hopefully this behind-the-scenes epilogue will.  Have fun with this in whatever form you choose.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Endless Night: The Astral Graveyard

ENDLESS NIGHT
A Fantasy Core Adventure
© Jerry Harris 2014
(This link will take you to the Fantasy Core Index.)




The Astral Graveyard


Description: The characters appear in a foggy, nighttime, full moon, Hollywood set-like graveyard.  Of course the characters see several open graves with their names on the tombstones.  They also see graves for any of the characters lost during the adventure.  I’m sure we’re all seeing where this is heading.  Underneath a pair of large, dead trees is a short stairway leading to an ornate throne.  Upon it sits, the Goblin Queen.

Status: Wide open, like an open grave.

Inhabitants: Natasha the Goblin Queen, her two (?) pet Drakes, and some pissed off dead Characters.

Objective: Defeat the Goblin Queen’s attendants and win the gold.  Award 3 XP for this final encounter.  This counts as a major accomplishment.



Natasha sits on an elevated dais upon a highly Gothic-looking throne, attended by two small pet dragons.  “You’re here for the treasure?  I thought as much all along.  Well, you’ll have to go through them to get it.”  Crawling out of the graves are all of the dead and reserve characters from the adventure.  Natasha motions to her dragons to join the fight, and it’s on.

It’s impossible to know what the character party’s composition is by this point in the adventure.  There should be at least four.  Use a 5 HD Elven, Goblin, Gillman, or Ghoul hero to round out the group, if needed.  Adjust the number of dead character opponents (or even Drakes) so that the party isn’t outnumbered by more than double.

This fight will probably get confusing, since you’ll be running a party of characters instead of monsters.  Given that the dead characters are dead, I wouldn’t play them terribly smartly, the Drakes as well.  (Natasha will not want her pets fighting to the death, at less than 10 hp they fly off at her command).  But, you should know your group pretty well by now and what they’re capable of, even playing the wrong characters.  (Certainly, the players will be highly motivated to beat you in this encounter, and possibly physically afterward.)  You might want any additional characters killed here to join the fight on the other side, or not.  I also have the dead Characters having only ½ their hp to move things along quicker, but go full if you think it’s necessary (but make the decision before the fight starts).

Natasha will not join the fight.  (The group is no match for her at this point in their lives.)  She’ll only applaud or taunt the characters and their actions.  If she’s attacked, in the unlikely event she’s hit and takes damage, she’ll simply fire a Magic Missile at the offender in a huff, “How dare you!  You miserable worm!”  No, the only way to win this is to kill off the dead Characters and Drakes.  

Goblin Queen Natasha
10th level Wizard, Hp 60, AC 20 (+2 Protection Ring, Permanent Shield spell, blocks any Magic Missiles), Permanent Reflection Spell (see below),
Enhanced Init +4
Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +11
Melee: Does not engage in melee
Ranged: Natasha owns an assortment of magic wands, none of which come into play here.
Reflection Spell (Unique spell): Any hit (melee, ranged, magic) that does not roll at least a natural 16 and up is reflected back on the attacker.  

Spellcheck +9 to cast, DC 17 Save Against, 3 failures per turn/encounter
Has a full assortment of powerful, high-level spells, but will only be using this one in the encounter.
1st level, DC 13
Magic Missile: 13 impact damage + Knocked down. (Ref Sv all damage) Short range.

Dead Characters
All stats and weapons the same, but half their hp.

Drake (Brutus, Butch)
HD 7 (d12), Hp 59, AC 18 (natural)
Fort +7, Ref +6, Will +6
Melee: Talon +10 to hit 2d6+4 and bite +10 to hit 2d8+4
Ranged: Fire Blast 3d6 fire damage + 1d6 continuing until extinguished, DC 12 Ref Sv ½ damage, once per encounter
Can Fly


Afterward
Natasha applauds the remaining characters, “Well played.”  She snaps her fingers and suddenly a pile of riches appears before them, “Your reward.”  Suddenly, the group reappears in the real world, at the house entrance, with the treasure.  (And bodies switched back.)  There’s 100K in gold (coins or bars) and another 100k in gems and jewels.  Also of this is in 20 wooden boxes and chests.  If any of the residents from the house joined the party, they take their cut, and disappear back into the Astral Plane. 

Fairy gold always comes with complications.  If this is part of an on-going campaign, the first problem is going to be how to move this very heavy stash and where to.  From there, there’s no telling who’s going to suddenly be after them for the treasure.  Earthly Goblins and Elves are likely candidates.  Somebody is also probably going to notice the characters moving a bunch of stuff out of the house.  That’ll cause rumors around town.  Until the characters figure out how to spend this wad, they should be in constant jeopardy of losing it and living very nervous lives.

If not part of a campaign, as soon as the group’s made an initial count of the booty, suddenly Natasha appears.  Leaning over the pile of gold and stroking it, she purrs, “I’ve got a proposition for another adventure.  How about double or nothing?”  And you’ve got your hook for a follow up adventure.