Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Gun-Fu! Buy it NOW! Please?

posted by barsoomcore

At last! The very first EN Mini-Game, Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics is available on RPGNow even as we speak!

I'm very excited. This is the first product that I've been fully responsible for, and of course I hope it sells wildly, but more than that, I hope that people who are looking for mini-game fun start looking to this new line as a source of exciting products that fill their need. It is my ambition to turn EN Mini-Games into a successful line of great products that appeal to people who love mini-games like I do.

I know that there may be plenty of people who don't even really know what a mini-game is, and that's okay. We'll get them sorted out and on board in time. But the critical audience for me right now are the people who, like me, love mini-games and miss their monthly appearance in Polyhedron. If I can get you lunatics to help me figure out how to produce and sell great mini-games successfully, the rest of the world will come round.

So if you're in that crowd, step up and represent. I'm craving that feedback.


Monday, May 30, 2005


Orpheus Sings

posted by barsoomcore

Black Orpheus, by Marcel Camus, is (so I am reliably informed by Criterion's helpful liner notes) a re-telling of the well-known Orpheus myth, set in Rio's famous Carnivale.

I don't know the well-known Orpheus myth, I must confess. But then I've never been to Rio, for all that matters.

I bet David Lynch really likes this film. It doesn't have his trademark creepiness, but it does walk that effortless line between mundane and dreamy where his best films live. By the time the film reaches its climax, the characters have been completely engulfed in their mythic identities, and the whole thing has happened so smoothly, so easily, that you never notice any transition.

And the music doesn't hurt any. There's just no such thing as too much samba. Even as terrible things are happening, the drums and singing and all that keep chugging away. The few quiet moments in the film are striking for their contrast to everything else.

The story is simple enough: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, girl dies, boy dies, children dance happily. What else is there to say? We want to believe, like Orpheus, that our love can defeat all things. We want to believe that if we love strongly enough, and bravely enough, that nothing can ever part us from our beloved.

I'm reminded of the common phrase in the 1001 Nights: "And they lived happily together all the rest of their days until they were dead." Those last four words seem so out place, and yet, they speak so strongly of a truth we cannot afford to ignore: all things end in death.

Orpheus wants to overcome that. When death separates him from his love, he seeks for her all the same. Missing Persons, the police, the hospital... at last he finds her in the morgue, dead as dead can be, but he must take her out, bring her back into the world she has left behind. It does no good, of course, and there is more tragedy, as there always is in these sorts of things.

The children, grieving for the loss of the man they loved, carry on with the important things in life: music, dancing and laughter. The film ends with the image of the children playing music and dancing in the dawn.

Grief comes to us all, this film says to me, but beauty never goes out of the world.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005


Akira: The Shadow of Godzilla

posted by barsoomcore

It's maybe not surprising that images of urban catastrophe have become so emblematic to Japanese pop cinema. World War II was long ago, but I even know people who walked the ruins of Tokyo after the firebombings, and such images become part and parcel of the way a culture views itself.

Tokyo's sure taken a beating over the years, but not often is its destruction used to provide such a hopeful message as Akira puts forward.

Interesting that the movie actually STARTS with the destruction of Tokyo, as though that beleaguered city's annihilation were to be taken for granted in a science-fiction story. Of course Tokyo's been destroyed. Let's get that out of the way and on with the story.

Going to make no effort to summarize the plot here, other than to say it took me repeated viewings to understand all the connections in the story. At first it seems like a tremendous coincidence that Kanedo, Tetsuo, Kei and the children all cross paths, but now that I've really paid attention, I see that it's no coincidence at all. And that's one of the great strengths of Akira -- it assumes an intelligent, patient and attentive audience, and rewards you for being so. A rare thing in genre cinema, but then much about this film is rare.

For example, how many times have we seen a story that revolves around some absent element -- a character, or a place or a secret device -- that we don't see and don't see and don't see until finally it's revealed and it's not as cool or as amazing as you thought it would be and you're disappointed and it's lame and the movie sucks and why did we even bother watching this piece of crap?

Akira does one of the finest "extended reveals" of all time. By the time the title character is shown, you've been hearing about this Akira person for nearly the whole film, but there is absolutely no sense of disappointment or let-down at this moment. Akira exceeds our expectations in every way. For a character who has no lines and is only on-screen for a few minutes at most, this is no small achievement.

What's Akira about? There's been an interesting and lively discussion on the nature of fantasy versus science fiction over on EN World, and obviously I'm pleased that Akira fits so tidily into the definition of SF that I've been putting forward. Akira takes two very ordinary kids, a little on the rough side but not psychopaths, and puts them into a situation completely unlike anything any of us have ever faced. It uses their reactions to that situation (and the reactions of others around them) to offer thoughts on the nature of humanity, society and the universe.

Friendship can be temporarily forgotten, especially when we are provided with what feels like all-new capacity to control our own fates, but when we are frightened and overcome, we seek out those bonds that sustained us in our hard times. Indeed, those bonds that we seek out literally define us as people, as the final sequence of the film suggests. Tetsuo's fundamental nature is his dependence on Kaneda, his faith in his friend to always come through for him.

One way of reading the film, I think, is as a story of a dependent person becoming truly independent for the first time. This is a painful and destructive process, but because the people he depends on are so willing to give themselves for him, he is able finally to make the transition into a world of his own. Quite literally, in this picture. Tetsuo begins this journey when his bravado leads him into an explosive encounter with something utterly outside his experience (Takashi the fleeing psychic child), and it is his working-out of that moment of wonder and terror that takes him on his journey.

Akira offers an optimistic view of things. Yes, growth is painful and often violent and savage, and things we love will be sacrificed in the process. But there is peace to be found, if we have the courage to seek it -- and possibly one or two devoted friends who will stand by us throughout the journey.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005


There's Done And Then...

posted by barsoomcore

Okay, so it wasn't quite done. Morrus didn't care for the cover and sent it back, thankfully, because Chris (my hero) discovered that the two classes I'd detailed in careful tables had EXACTLY THE SAME table for each, which kind of reduces the uniqueness of one character or another.

So that's fixed. Choosing a different class actually means your character is different from the other guy's. Phew.

And a bunch of marketing/licensing stuff got updated and it's all much better now. Here's the revised blurb:

Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics is a brand-new d20 mini-game that lets players swagger through the hyper-violent, wildly stylized world of Hong Kong-style shoot-em-ups. Trenchcoats swirl and nickel-plated automatics blaze as bad guys die in truckloads. Heroes never run out of bullets (until the final showdown), bad guys get knocked down only to stagger to their feet one more time, and if you do go out, rest assured you’ll go out in a blaze of glory.

The first product in EN Publishing's new EN Mini-Games line of products, Gun-Fu uses the d20 Modern role-playing game as its starting point, but features an entirely new class system, a completely different hit point system and revamped firearms rules to create a distinctive, cinematic style of play that favours wild action over careful maneuvering. Characters have a Panache score that lets them pull off crazy stunts, but when used up leaves them vulnerable to their fatal Flaws. Players take the parts of dedicated police officers, ambitious Triad members or just folks caught up in the violence.

Take hold of Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics and step into the world of larger-than-life, louder-than-bombs and cooler-than-thou shoot-em-up heroics.

Huh? Huh? Tell me that doesn't make you crave it. Oh yeah.



Speaking of the Hustle

posted by barsoomcore

We saw Kung-Fu Hustle recently and it was, I'm sad to say, somewhat disappointing.

Stephen Chow is funny, but there's a coldness to his stuff that puts me off a little. The sentiment never seems as big-hearted, or as honest as it does in films by, say, Jackie or John Woo. And I'm a sucker for that sentiment, as is Steph, so we walked out a little bit, "Huh."

Worth a peek on disk, for sure, but it wasn't the triumphant over-the-top cackling comedy I was hoping for.

Some really good bits, though.

Also, computer-generated fight scenes are dull. They just are, and that's all there is to it. Go watch Ong Bak again.


Monday, May 23, 2005


Kung-Fu Hustler

posted by barsoomcore

Elevator Handbag Surprise

Moral: Be suspicious of innocent-looking young things in elevators.


Sunday, May 15, 2005



posted by barsoomcore

But only for a short while.

The big news round here is that Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics is done done done. Sent the finished PDF off to Morrus at EN Publishing last night. Not sure if the cover is going to fly -- it's a rip job done on the famous image of Chow Yun-Fat sliding down the banister from Hard-Boiled. But we'll see.

It's homage, not rip-off. Honestly.

Otherwise, I'm very pleased with the book. It's not very long (16 pages) but there's lots of good ideas and solid mechanics throughout. It was fun to write and the art turned out better than I was worried it would. I want to get a tablet, though, for doing proper artwork on. And a keyboard -- like a MIDI keyboard sos I can make more music. Cause that's fun.

And a pony, while I'm at it.


Thursday, May 12, 2005


Almost There....

posted by barsoomcore

The very first product in my Mini-Games line for EN Publishing is nearly ready to release.

Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics is laid out, edited, proofed, and awaiting a cover. I didn't get as much time to work on it as I really wanted, but I'm very happy with the final result. There's some (ahem) innovative rules combinations in here that really help to drive a very specific kind of feel to the game. It doesn't play like d20 Modern.

We used the Damage Save concept from Green Ronin's Mutants and Masterminds, along with the firearm rules from Bad Axe Game's Grim Tales (both excellent products in their own rights), and created a whole new mechanic to handle Panache and Flaws, and blended it all together with a little fizz and bubble, and it's a whole new kind of game.

In my mind, THIS is what the Open Gaming License is all about: allowing someone with the limited resources that I have create new products to serve small markets without having to re-invent the wheel every time. The gaming industry is TINY, and it's mainly supported by hobbyists like myself who do the work as a part-time endeavour. Anything that makes it easier for us to create and release products is a good thing.

Keep your eyes peeled for the official launch announcement!


Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Cool Stuff

posted by barsoomcore

Monday, May 09, 2005


On Foot is out!

posted by barsoomcore

Hot Pursuit: On Foot, the follow-up to my very successful (ahem) Hot Pursuit: The Definitive d20 Guide to Chases is now available on RPGNow.com.

Blurb: Hot Pursuit: On Foot focuses exclusively on foot chases, the most common sort of chase encountered in any game setting, and includes brand new rules for manuevers, obstacles and incorporating chases into combat.

It's more fun than it sounds, actually. I certainly had a great time writing it. And if you're planning a foot chase in your game, and you haven't watched Ong Bak, you aren't aware of the possibilities. Tony Jaa lays it down. Big time.


Sunday, May 08, 2005


This Is Not America

posted by barsoomcore

Just saw Napoleon Dynamite, which is as brilliant as everyone says.

Although I must be getting old because I can't really figure out the era the film is set in. 80's music with rollerblades and chat rooms. I dunno, maybe they do things differently in Idaho or wherever that was set.

But funny.

New publication for my name to grace: Buccaneers and Bokor, Issue Four -- pirate adventure, arrrrrr... My contributions include the adventure The Secret of Manjack Cay and the encounter Balancing Accounts. Fun stuff, for sure.

And Hot Pursuit: On Foot, the follow-up to the successful Hot Pursuit is in to the publisher now, so it should be showing up on the "shelves" very soon.

AND the first Mini-Game, "Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics" is being laid out right now. Still a little more writing to do but it's coming along, it's coming along. A matter of days now, we hope.


Thursday, May 05, 2005


Okay, That's Brilliant

posted by barsoomcore

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Cool Links

posted by barsoomcore

James Jean: Illustration

Hate entering mp3 tags? MusicBrainz saves you. For free.

Time Management For Anarchists

Why We Fight -- an amazing online documentary. Over an hour long but fascinating...


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