If Dungeons & Dragons, Choose Your Own Adventure books, and Tolkien were my early fantasy genre influences, my science fiction side was tempered in those early years by Star Wars and Robotech. And while Star Wars finally got a good ship to ship miniatures combat game thanks to Fantasy Flight Games, I relied on FASA’s Battletech to scratch my mecha combat itch. But I knew it wasn’t Robotech, and Robotech was what I wanted. After decades of waiting, Palladium Books is working with Ninja Division to bring me… well, us, I suppose, Robotech RPG Tactics. Continue reading
Everyone prefaces these sorts of things with “I don’t do chain letters BUT . . .” So consider mine prefaced as well. Jeff LaSala was kind enough to tag me in this chain that I think was begun by Elaine Cunningham. (Chain letters always make me think of the telephone game that starts at one end of the classroom as “I’m finished with our big stone calendar” and ends on the other end as “The calendar has predicted the date humanity is finished!”)
The idea behind the Next Big Thing is to answer 10 questions about a work in progress, and then tag 5 more writers who do the same thing the following week. I like the idea of promoting some good people. And a little self-promotion never hurt anybody, I suppose. My lead project for 2013 is a novel. –gasp– I’m always working on multiple things, but this is receiving the lion’s share of my efforts. Continue reading
System-neutral material for roleplaying games has recently caught my interest. Eldritch Entertainment’s science fiction adventure, Dark Outpost, is a system generic product that I noticed on the heels of Frank Mentzer’s Lich Dungeon. Once again, Eldritch Entertainment engages some names that might ring familiar to gamers of yore. Written by James M. Ward and Christopher Clark, it certainly carries with it the same “old school” approach seen in Lich Dungeon.
A brief warning, there might be some spoilers ahead. If you’re usually on the crowded side of the GM’s screen, just forward this link to your GM. But, if you’re here looking for hints to survival, your character deserves the cold, airless fate he or she suffers. Continue reading
On the heels of my review of the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game, I had the opportunity to take in a battle between the Rebels and the Empire while visiting Dropzone Games. Aside from its simple yet engaging mechanics, one of the lures of the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game is that you can steadily expand on your force with additional ships and, for the game I observed, the players fielded both the new Y-Wing Fighter and the TIE Advanced. Continue reading
I did not get to play the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game at GenCon this year. And I left the convention covered in shame for it. After all, I’m a big fan of Fantasy Flight Games, and the look and feel of the game was everything I love about tabletop games: elegant mechanics, cool Star Wars miniatures, and a self-contained game that did not require (the admittedly cool) extras in order to play. Continue reading
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I found a lady. I dropped credit. She found three more. Good times rolled, and a fresh set of bursts went out, “Coop’s here and he’s treating the world.” Partiers who just got home were turning around at their front doors to head back to Rubberneck. My four ladies turned into a crowd so big, I had to leave my own party and start a new one on a deck over the dance floor. But I brought my first lady. She ditched her friends and followed the credit balance. All those anarchist ideals fluttered away with someone else’s open and endless tab. She learned in one night what it took me years to develop: find the winning horse and get behind him, even if it means you’ll be shoveling some shit. Continue reading
<< back to Chapter 5
We cruised the streets further and further from the beltway, closer and closer to home, until I picked up an invitation-only burst from a substreet club I never quite managed to outgrow. It had been a while since I dropped into Rubberneck, so either the crowd started off thin, or the poli-punks had already started calling it a night. After being away so long, I imagined I was low on the guest list, low enough that I rarely even got the invites before the place was packed to the point where people started thinking of the fire marshal’s occupancy limit as more than just a suggestion.
The pylons that supported the network of overpasses above the sprawling warehouse made Rubberneck seem like a grand, sprawling temple. The first time I saw it, at twelve years old, the place might as well have been the Taj Mahal. But it was a Taj Mahal that was tossed off one of the bridges overhead, discarded out a car window, and nestled among half-crushed cans and plastic wrappers whipping in the wind. Back then, it didn’t matter to me that it was a gutted storage facility that probably hadn’t been swept out since the turn of the century. For a kid, it was easy access to cheap liquor, fringe music, and radical ideas.
As my teenage years drew to a close, though, I told my girlfriend at the time, “We all grow up, I guess.” And I left her and Rubberneck behind for a long time. Nearly everyone there eventually outgrows the place. Suddenly holding down a job becomes more important than a night out discussing the failure of government over too much house whiskey. A look around reveals that, instead of colluding with like-minded political souls, fueled by that same whiskey, you’re just sitting in a bar with different shit hung on the walls.
If you do you homework for real, and not just spout stilted facts from third-hand accounts, you realize that the same man who owns Rubberneck, owns seven other clubs between DC and Baltimore. Two of those clubs are tucked high up inside the Beltway. The men in those clubs know that their kids are down here, talking revolution, but they know those kids will realize the same thing I did. We all grow up. The difference is that those kids are bound for the clubs where their fathers smoke cigars and pretend they don’t know what house whiskey is. When I grew up, I was bound for a lot less.
But I realized a lot sooner than most. And I did my homework.
A few kids lingered at the fire door near the Crouch, a low concrete shelf jutting from one of the pillars that was a hook-up pad since I was their age, probably even before. The toughs smoked with a couple of dishwashers wearing dirty, white aprons. They wore retro suit jackets, vintage threads with their red ties unknotted, some sort of ironic statement, I supposed. One had drawn the classic anarchy A, but the red clashed with his necktie, and that symbol played itself out decades ago. Anarchy failed. He apparently missed the broadcast.
They all put on their best hard faces the moment I stepped out of the sedan that Walt had parked in the middle of the open lot. They sized up my suit, my age, tried to look harder. Walt swung his legs out of the car, stood up to his full height, and put the width of his frame on display. The kids went for broke, tried to stay hard. “The fuck are you?”
They hadn’t done their homework, not like I had when I was doing this same routine. My homework gave me names, names I dropped like precision munitions. “The guy Anders sent to tell you two For-Foods-in-waiting to get back to loading the dishwashers.”
“This guy for real?” Dishwasher One asked Two.
Two scowled, shook his head, but took a last drag like he was holding back spite. Sometimes, one name puts hard out of fashion. He ducked through the propped open door. “Whatever. I’m done anyhow.”
The three toughs stayed, but their feet shuffled. I remembered how hard it was to back down. But you have to know when enough is enough, and you want to learn that lesson without swallowing too many of your teeth. “Youth is bravery. Right, Walt?”
“S’what made me a monster.” I watched the nervous faces, but behind me I knew that the flecks were stirring across Walt’s skin.
I stepped through the middle of the group, through the doorway, and into a dark space filled with bass echoes. I glanced back. “We’re going to catch a different ride home, I think.”
Walt tossed the car remote at one of the punks. “It’s probably got ‘til daylight. Burn it down.”
The one face I could still see through the open door stared wide-eyed at the forged remote. Walt stiff armed him into the doorframe, on the boy with terrifying quickness, their faces separated by scant inches. “And stay outta the fuckin’ Services.”
He spun the kid out the door, kicking the doorstop out into the lot as part of the motion. The door slammed shut and, as my eyes adjusted, I picked up the gleam of the flecks in Walt’s eyes. “Really, man? Didn’t feel like doing the “stay in school” jingle for him, too?”
I heard Walt exhale lightly. “Sometimes bravery never learns.”
“Well, they’ll remember that, for sure. Think they’ll joyride it first or just head straight to a chop for the money?”
“I’m hoping it’s barely holding together when it rolls into a garage for stripping. Those punks earned a good time. Nobody pissed himself. Think I’m losing my edge, Mr. Cooper?”
“Your fleck batch is past it’s prime, sure. But that stopped being your edge a long time ago. Your edge is knowing that bravery never learns and still coming home to collect your due anyway, whether they’re intending to give it to you or not.”
“You softening me up for something?” As the darkness began dissolving into gray outlines I could see Walt looming over me, already scanning, probably seeing shades color in the darkness I’d never know.
“Yeah, you’re getting the night off so you don’t cramp my style with the ladies.”
“You find a lady here, and my ride home’ll probably be an ambulance.”
on to chapter 7 >>