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Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for-

Shunting at least half of the S words I wanted to use to Sunday, seriously, a whole lot of good words start with the letter S. Look forward to another Sunday special that'll cover a bunch of stuff I didn't have time for during my busy, busy week; but heavy on the S's.

S is for Satisfaction. Mick Jagger can't get none. I once convinced a guy that it was a federal law that you had to play that song in every movie about the Viet Nam war. Sometimes I use my Jedi BSing powers for my own amusement instead of for the good of all mankind.

S is for Soviet. The Soviet Union was THE enemy when I was a kid. Every American kid in my generation (and for the previous generation) just knew those bastards wanted to invade us to take over and destroy our way of life, or, failing that, simply blast us off the map with a metric ass-load of nuclear weapons. Plus they were the puppet masters for a whole bunch of other commie countries, like the entire Warsaw Pact and the Red Chinese, Cubans and Viet Nam. As it turns out the Soviet threat was greatly overstated, but it made for some good gaming. So many world war 3 wargames I played. Twilight 2000 remains a sentimental favorite RPG of mine to this day.

S is for Star Wars. I have heard it said that Star Wars is the Viet Nam of my generation; I disagree because I feel that Viet Nam still looms too large in the minds of even those of us who were too young to be there or even were born shortly after the end of the war. But Star Wars certainly is HUGE in terms of it's cultural impact. It introduced the concept of good versus evil to a generation of people that had been raised on jaded anti-heroes. Star Wars also made Science Fiction movies cool and mainstream. My dad liked Star Wars, I even took him to see every prequel and the stupid animated Clone Wars movie; if you can make my John Wayne loving dad into a fan you have changed the culture.

S is for Star Trek, and Ashli will say that I shouldn't put it next to Star Wars on the blog page because it will cause nerd-rage; but Star Trek is another huge influence on me. I discovered Star Trek when I was in kindergarten, it ran on a Canadian TV channel that we got because we moved to a house* near the lake (Lake Ontario). I think that it was a combination of Sesame Street and Star Trek that made me non-racist; as a kid racism just kind of confused me; when I got older it really just kind of pissed me off. I don't even like racist dickery in my D&D games, why would I even consider tolerating it in real life? Anyway, all of those lessons taught by the original series kind of stuck with me because I was watching them pretty much every day for years on end. That same Canadian TV station was still running Star Trek at 4:00PM on weekdays when I graduated from high school. I didn't always watch it by that point in time, but I always knew if I needed a fix it was there. This was the late 1980's and cable didn't make it to my home town until the early or mid 1990's; and my parent's didn't get a VCR until I bought them one for Christmas in 1988 so that's another thing to consider. New Haven, New York might just have well been trapped in the late 1970's in the late 1980's.

S is for Sengum, AKA Matt S., one of the ranking old school Steppe Warriors of the AOL NWN era. In real life he started out as a friend of my younger brother John and I "inherited"** him and a couple of other guys that my wife and I (and our other older gaming buddies) referred to as "the lads". I was the minister at his wedding a couple of years ago and this past fall he became a father; his son, thankfully, favors his mother in looks ;)

S is for Skills. I have a love-hate relationship with skill systems in RPGs. I love the secondary skill system in the DMG because it has one huge advantage, but it has a couple of flaws. It's advantage is that it is vague. It's flaws are that it assumes a couple of things that need fixing; first that the players are in a certain technology level and governmental type and second that they are human. I am told that the Harn game did this much better, but never really had a chance to examine the Harn products.

S is for Sumo. Dragon #64 had a Sumo game that was probably the first time I had ever heard of Sumo wrestling. Darryl C. and I played the hell out of that game. I have always wanted to somehow graft it in as a sub-game for an Oriental Adventures campaign, but for some reason most people fail to get Sumo fever the way Darryl and I did. We even learned some of the techniques and tried Sumo wrestling against each other and with some other crazy friends, it's harder than it looks.

S is for Swamps. I guess I am just a sadistic dick of a DM, I love to place adventures in crappy, hard to reach places; it makes sense to me because otherwise all this cool stuff would have been discovered; but I really like swamps. They make partys miserable, regardless of the weather, hot or cold, rain or shine, it's always wet and miserable. They have to worry about leeches. There are clouds of mosquitoes and gnats. Their equipment is getting wet and that'll make it rust or rot or at least be uncomfortable to wear. I like to set tone and mood with stuff like this, I find it makes it easy to drag the players into game when you can invoke these feelings. Good feelings work too, but I am talking about swamps here.

S is for Sewers which are absolutely indispensable for a city based campaign. I once ran a pretty long section of a campaign based on the party's hunt for a pair of Vampires that lived in the permanent darkness of a large city's sewers. Sure they had some minions and allies, including a Beholder, but it was a pretty awesome time for everyone involved.

S is for Subotai, which can refer to Conan the Barbarian's buddy in the Milius movie, Subotai the Hyrkanian Archer and Thief, who is cool as hell and deserves a shout out just because; or it can refer to Subotai Bahadur the Mongol general. Genghis Khan referred to Subotai Bahadur as one of his "Dogs of War". Technically Subotai wasn't a Mongol, but was an Urianqai forest tribesman and the son of a blacksmith. Anyway, he pretty much never lost a battle, and conquered Russia and defeated the combined armies of eastern (and some of central) Europe while on a reconnaissance mission.

*My dad and my grandfather built it, my parents still live there; it's quite nice.

**My brother John didn't die or anything bad like that, he just moved out of state and pretty much never came back. Matt S. and John DeG. and Carl D. and Ted D. stayed local enough that they could still game together and with us, at least intermittently. They are scattered to the winds now, but mostly they stuck close during their college and grad school years, or at least kept in touch during breaks.