Friday, February 19, 2021

After the Orange Emperor - And Some Reviews

 "Twilight of the Orange Emperor" was actually the name of a (very very brief) Google Plus campaign that I started when Trump announced his candidacy. At that time, I think we all thought it hilarious and a scam. And (let us breathe deep and recognize) it was a scam, but much more dangerous than we anticipated, let's agree or not I don't care. There's a problem with letting a toxic, self-interested narcissist run your space - it becomes about them, and about making money, and about them making money. Community be damned.

So, IIRC correctly, there was giant Ivana Trump Sorayama-style chrome-combiner robot, hideous mutant cyborg shocktroops, rebellious greaser mechanics, collectible canned sandwiches (don't laugh it's a real thing and god bless Jarrett C. who I miss dearly), and a thrilling hotrod car chase to grandma's house and we agreed it was a blast. And then it dawned on us, I think, that the guy was serious, and then G+ shuttered, and then... I don't know to be Frank, and let's be Frank shall we, Frank? My ninth chakra and mystic eye was closed, and peering easily into the Dreamlands became frightful and hideous, and sleep has been fitful.

I'm not saying a new day has dawned because Ewok orgies give way to brooding Fascism and bigger death stars, yeah? But when the Evil is vanquished a bit, it's time to get back to work. That's what all those movies I watched as a kid have told me.

Americana. I feel like the genre of Americana-gaming is ripe for an even bigger4 explosion at the moment - you just watch. Now Trump is gone and other (ahem) toxic personalities have subsided we will be able to fulfill our Manifest Destiny of RPGing - we turned away from L Frank Baum and the promise of Oz to focus on dreary Pseudo-Tolkienisms for the past, oh, I don't know. 60 years? Casually discarding a jillion capable American (particularly American women) scifi/fantasy authors to focus on the post-WW2 histrionics of Tolkien was a disservice to us all. I think I bought a copy of a 5th edition DnD Americana-based thing that is really cranked up to 11 on the parody (lots of Trump and, uh, Clinton)

Speaking of Americana, I Kickstarted my esteemed associate Tim Deschene's zine from last year "One of Us". There's been a fun trickle of stuff in my Americana awareness of late. Erik Jensen's The Lumberlands zine came out in the same batch of Zinequest 2 and arrived in my box a few weeks ago and is pretty terrific. More on that, later, probably. I can recall the Morgenzursturm the Manticore thing from a couple of years ago, David Baity's old west setting, and Eric and Carl's Black Magic Black Powder DCC setting. Not to mention The Shudder Mountain/Chained Coffin thing that Goodman Games put out back a few years ago was terrific. Listen: give up on the elfs and the dwarfs and the dragons n such and embrace the Tin Man and the Scarecrow and etc etc etc. I'm gratified in that I have run in the circles of these folks and nibbled on the edges of the pizza, some. 

It's Tim and One of Us is pretty fun, but the zine is a bit of a taste teaser. It feels fairly dense for a couple of dozen 6:9 ratio pages... The art is terrific. Essentially ONE OF US hints at that Freaks movie from way way back, and indeed the setting is focused on a travelling circus full of servants of The Madame wandering around, doing her will. A nice set up for a campaign. There are 100 new 0-level funnel occupations (Dust Bowl inspired), two new Classes (Strong-person and 'Natural Wonder' or mutant), the patron write-up for The Madame (without the d3 themed spells that the DCC kids love these days and are IMHO tedious to write) and some very evocative monsters. I've accidentally and coincidentally been on a 3.5e Ravenloft kick lately so this all feels very ominous...

MOre later - sadly my head not entirely in RPGs these days (I'm on an electronics and music kick that distracts me)

Empire of the East: Received

I had forgot i backed the kickstarter for this. I received the hard copy this morning (sitting at the local snowbound post office!), and the cover art and contents are terrific.

Quick breakdown before I need to get to work: relatively brief compared to some settings for DCC although much more is implied than given. Which is great. The flipside of the coin is that I have no experience with Saberhagen (except I did read some of the Berzerker stuff) and I promptly would discard  all the NPCs, which must account for a good chunk of the book. Page counts are not important but a chapter of NPCs is meant for fans of the books, which I could be but am not, and even then I  

Things to steal explicitly: science/technology. If you don't want a sentient tank and artificial intelligence in your fantasy, then you and I ought not to be friends. The idea that physical combat effectively nullifies magic is delightful and would save a lot of hmm-ing and hmm-ing at the table. Psychic combat, maybe even simplified further than what is presented (I tend to discard the DCC spellduel since it's infamously clunky - there's a blogpost on here from way back that has some proposed rule changes). Class limitations might feel restrictive to players, but makes sense to me sometimes. Gifting of spells - Wizards temporarily loaning another PC the use of a spell is a delightful idea and blows a whole world of cool opportunity wide open. The patrons Ardneh and Orcus. I read the PDF that came to backers pretty fully and totally skipped over the NPCs. I guess my DCC already IS Empire of the East except for some details - technology and aliens and AI more rampant in Thrend than what is represented in this fine book, but of the same cloth if you get my drift. Less tolkien and more asimov. 

The magic items are fun leftovers from the end of the techonological era of long ago... like all magic items they ought to be mysterious, powerful, and unpredictable (or else so haywire that they are dangerous to use)

More later, but i'd buy it probably just for the Ian Miller cover art! My group has sadly moved on from DCC since I don't run the majority of games, these days, but I may convince them to return so I can do some Ynn/Amberville/Xyntillian. The spectre of the Orange Emperor no longer clouds my judgement with the long shadows of fear and so I may rise again to wizardly prominence when these piteous fools drop their guard! Muwahahahah!

Anyways, more later (I forgot to post my One of Us review, also). Peace and Plenty be upon you, zero-level henchpeople!

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