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Sunday, 1 February 2009
Ideology of Madness is HERE
Topic: Personal Commentary

Me and my buddies have put together a new site... Ideology of Madness.  We're blogging everything we're passionate about: comics, table top role playing games, music, movies, TV, books, cigars, beer, etc.  If we geek to it, we're writing about it.

This is the first stage of the wonder that is Ideology of Madness.  There's lots more to come.

Come and see!

Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead

Original artwork provided by Jamie Kirmser.


Posted by Aron Head at 8:38 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2009 8:42 PM CST
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Wednesday, 28 January 2009
Coming... February 1, 2009

Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead

Posted by Aron Head at 9:38 PM CST
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Monday, 19 January 2009
This Empire Earth: Character Generation
Topic: RPGs

The first session of my Savage Worlds homebrew setting, This Empire Earth, is just two weeks away.  Five of my six players have confirmed their attendance.  I've been busy getting things ready for it taking in  to consideration what my players had mentioned in our Sandbox Brainstorming Sessions.  It wasn't until James sent me a note a week or so ago asking about character generation that I had really considered making character creation part of game night.
Rolling-up characters can be a long process.  So normally, I manage that stuff in email.  Yet I'm going for a different feel for This Empire Earth.   I'd like for the characters to come into the game with integrated backstories and in keeping with the Savage Worlds system, the game will be both fast and furious.  Even a bit pulpy.

Y'know, Spirit of the Century has a TERRIFFIC character generation process designed to link characters to each other... Hrmm...
In the grand tradition of stealing only from the best, here's how character generation will roll on game night*:
  • STAGE ALPHA - Players generate character concepts.  A few 'types' are encouraged
1. At least one player needs ground vehicle skills
2. Two players need atmospheric piloting skills
3. It is recommended that one player have electronic/technical skills
  • STAGE BETA - The players develop their  characters' background addressing their years prior to entering the Ranger Corps.
  • STAGE GAMMA - There is a great tradition of western, pulp novels.  As the players will be playing Rangers in the final frontier, SOTC's novel approach to character generation is awfully organic.  STAGE GAMMA, then, involves the character's first pulp novel, starring him or her! Each player comes up with a title for the novel starring his character, in a fashion reminiscent of the pulps. The general pattern is:

Character Name (vs./in.../and) Adventurous Thing!

An example might be Sgt Skullison and the ManCake Massacre!

Then, each player writes up a brief story to go with his title. The story doesn't need to have a lot of detail - in fact, it should be no more detailed than the blurb on the back of the paperback.
Player Rules...
1. Write down the title and back cover blurb (a couple sentences at most) for your character's pulp novel. Don't nail down all of the details of it yet (you'll find out why below).

2. Write down two skills or attributes or combination thereof that are in some way tied into the events of the novel.

  • STAGE DELTA - At the beginning of STAGE DELTA, the book titles are logged on individual index cards.  The GM shuffles the stack and hands them out. If a player gets his own novel, he should trade index cards with the person to his right until everyone has a title that isn't theirs. The title of the book a player is now holding is a book that his character had a supporting role in. For each index card, the involved players - the player whose book it is, and the player who has just received that book's index card - should discuss the story, and add one or two sentences to the description of the novel to reflect the supporting character's role.

Player Rules

1. Add a sentence or two to the description of the pulp novel you're supporting cast in.

2. Write down two skills or attributes or combination thereof   that are in some way tied into the events of the novel.

  • STAGE EPSILON - EPSILON is identical to DELTA, with the sole caveat that no character can costar in the same book twice.

Player Rules

1. Add a sentence or two to the description of the pulp novel you're supporting cast in.

2. Write down two skills or attributes or combination thereof that are in some way tied into the events of the novel.

  •  STAGE ZETA - In this final stage of character creation, the players roll up their characters according to Savage Worlds system mechanics with a few nuances.  Skills or attributes used (and logged) in the "novels" receive bonuses.
The guys at the Bear Swarm podcast did a whole episode this week on developing backstory for the group.  Really, I think Fate/Spirit of the Century have a great mechanic for it.  Thus, stolen.
I'm thinking this will take two or three hours, still leaving enough time for a brief forray into the game.  Enough to whet appetities, eh?
Can't wait for game night.
Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead 
P.S. Big announcement this week... stay tuned...

(*) Stolen liberally from Fate 3.0

Posted by Aron Head at 4:02 PM CST
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Tuesday, 6 January 2009
The Last Couple of Weeks in Pictures
Topic: Personal Commentary

Still closing out a little bit of 2008 business.  Here are some images captured over the last few weeks...

On my deck, watching the night sky.

Homer joined me for a little fire.  He enjoyed warming his backside.

After having our traditional Xmas Eve dinner at Joe T's, we then embarked on Xmas Eve Xmas Light viewing...

...After Xmas lights, we went to midnight mass.  We arrived at All Saints Episcopal in Fort Worth a little early...

Suzanne's tree on Christmas morning.  We're a two tree house.  Mine - the one with the Hulk, Spider-Man, and Star Trek ornaments - lives in the dining room.

Uncle Jimbone showed up on Christmas morning.  Dig my bed-head!

Iron Monger wants more mimosa!!!

Bup's provides the same eye for detail and quality that their signmaker does.

Happy New Year!
Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead


Posted by Aron Head at 9:52 PM CST
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Monday, 5 January 2009
Rolling into 2009
Topic: Personal Commentary

Yesterday, I highlighted a few of my favorite things about 2008.  Now it's time to preview a bit of 2009 for you. 

  • I have rededicated myself to art.  The Wife gave me a new set of Kohinoor Rapidograph technical pens for Christmas.  I have FINALLY organized the ManCave allowing me the space to draw.  I've laid in supplies of sketch paper, bristol board, etc.  I'm already tinkering with some sketches for a "masterpiece" I have in mind.  Really and truly, I think it will be STUNNING once complete.  I need to do a lot of studies on it, sketches, and tests just to get my arm loose and my "eye" working again.  I'm excited.  And - Dammit - this Bachelor of Arts is making some ding-dang art again!
  • I am continuing my work with Mark on the Mark Andrew PopeCast.  We've got some great topics lined up.  I get more and more jazzed about what we're doing there every week.
  • Later this month, fingers crossed, I will be running my first scenario in my sandbox, homebrew setting This Empire Earth.
  • I am in the process of coordinating the DFW V3 event for this February.  V3, or Veni Vidi Venatus ("I came, I saw, I gamed"), is the Podge Cast created/sponsored one-shotter-day.  The first V3 was held in December.  It was an event held in several states with rather positive results.  Dallas-Fort Worth doesn't have the dynamic RP community that St Louis and other areas have.  It is my hope that with some coordinated events, maybe that will change.  I've got my fingers crossed that I'll be able to find a home for V3 in north Texas.
  • I have discussed ad nauseum how much I enjoyed last year's Fear the Con.  It should come as no surprise, then, that I will be attending Fear the Con 2 in March.  I will be running two games... A follow up to the All Flesh Must Be Eaten one-shot I ran last year and a one-shot of my homebrew setting This Empire Earth.  My AFMBE game already has a full table!  Woot!  I also plan on getting in on some other cool games such as a little Don't Rest Your Head and Dread.  Should be a whole lot of fun.
  • I'm getting a new puppy!(*)
  • Something I and others have been working on for several weeks, and planning even longer than that, is a new website.  The new site will be the home of a multi-author blog in which we discuss all things geek with the intent of providing - at a minimum - daily updates.  Comics and movies, table top role playing games and TV shows, console gaming and books... if you can geek on it, we'll be writing about it.  We'll be podcasting, too!  I am proud of the talent we have pooled together in this endeavor.  It is my hope to launch the new blog this month with the podcast to follow soon after.  Watch this space.  Formal announcement to follow in rather short order...

That's a lot just for the first quarter of the year, don't you think? 

2009 is gonna be big, bold, and badass.

Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead

(*) Not really.  I just threw that in to see if The Wife is paying attention.

Posted by Aron Head at 9:45 PM CST
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Sunday, 4 January 2009
Closing out 2008
Topic: Personal Commentary

After taking off the last half of December from the blog, I sat down today to write about some rather big things I have cooking for 2009.  It occurred to me, though, that I really oughta close out 2008.  So here you go... here's my list of ten things I appreciate the most from 2008.

  1. I became officially famous.
  2. I attended the Ben Folds concert.  One of the best acts I have ever seen live.  Excellent from the opening act (Missy Higgins) to Ben's final encore.
  3. Jackhole Justin Farmer left WFAA.
  4. I blogged a lot for Newsarama.
  5. I got an iPhone.  Mock me all you want, but this 'phone' completes me.
  6. I traveled to St. Louis last year for Fear  the Con.  It was a small, single day event coordinated by the fine folks at Fear the Boot.  Without a doubt, the best gaming con I have ever been to.  Sure, there were no celebrity game designers on hand and only one vendor.  But this con was all about game and building community  I met people there with whom I have maintained friendships throughout the year.  In fact two of the guys I met at FtC are now regular members of my local gaming group.
  7. Energized largely by such RPG podcasts as Fear the Boot, The Podge Cast, and Bear Swarm, I ran and played in and wrote more role playing games in 2008 than in any of the last eight years.  These shows have had a direct impact on my desire to game, rekindling that flame.  Based on their feedback and commentary, I have also bought more games this year than in any other recent memory (e.g. Savage Worlds, Burning Wheel, Houses of the Blooded, etc.).  I have written dozens of pages for my This Empire Earth setting and even ran my players through a sandbox brainstorming session.  One might say, for me, 2008 was the year of the game.
  8. I was asked to write for The Outhouse Wall and was published in the first issue.
  9. Mark and Libby moved back to town.  The Popes were out-of-state for several years.  Shortly after returning, Mark and I sat on his patio sipping beer, chatting.  We brainstormed a few things and the next thing you know, the Mark Andrew PopeCast (a podcast about music, worship, and points in-between) was born.  The first episode (episode 0) went live to the feed on November 30th.  Today, our ninth full episode  (Politics from the Pulpit) rolled out onto the internets.   The podcast  scratches a number of itches for me not the least of which is a regular, weekly man-date with Mark, one of the finest people I know.  
  10. Suzanne and I, after eight years of marriage, moved into our dream house.

2008 certainly sucked in a lot of ways, but a lot of good things happened for which I am awfully thankful.  I'll chat about plans for 2009 tomorrow...

Happy New Year, y'all!

Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead

Posted by Aron Head at 9:34 PM CST
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Thursday, 11 December 2008
Sandbox Brainstorming: Rangering in The Frontier Batallion
Topic: RPGs

Wow.  I've kinda taken some time off since Thanksgiving.  Okeydoke... well, back at it.  Where were we?  Oh yes, my This Empire Earth sandbox brainstorming session!

Earlier in the sesion, I framed the evening's discussion and led the boys through the overall setting and spent a lot of time detailing the races of the Empire.  They even created a brand new race!  After that, we plunged headlong into the what they'd like out of the first several games.

At the conclusion of James' game in October, I briefly ran down a little of the setting and explained different types of games we might play in it.  All in attendance were unanimous in their desire to play Rangers on the Empire's distant frontier.

The Rangers of the Frontier Batallion have much in common with the Texas Rangers of Earth's nineteenth century.  They are over worked and under paid.  There is no formal training program.   Very few supplies are made available to the Rangers, thus they are accustomed to foraging in order to meet their needs. You got your own gear?  You can work in the Batallion.  As such, individuals of varied backgrounds  with as many different motivations comprise the ranks of the Rangers.

And, oh yes, Rangers are cool.  That aspect all agreed on. 

The guys held that Rangers, while perhaps individually morally ambiguous,  as an institution they are held in high regard.  Rangers have a mystique about them.  They've a reputation for dealing hard law.  They're fearless, running to the danger.  Children want to be Rangers when they grow up. 

With their role as Rangers clearly defined, I directed them to consider the types of adventures they'd enjoy playing.

"You want to do cool things," I said.  "Tell me about them."

Giant Monsters!  The first thing recommended was 'giant monsters' which drew a full chorus of agreement.  Of course, this may just be because we had been playing with my recently acquired Godzilla figure.

Rangers, they directed, should be responsible for responding to disasters, riots, and outlaws (brigandage?). They also liked the idea of rescue missions.  Further, the guys wanted a recurring villain.  Someone to be hunted down.  Perhaps for crimes, but also for personal revenge.

One last thing, the players wanted cool rides.  

I'm working on that.

Brainstorming the sanbox was a great success.  My players are awesome.  They totally brought it.  They gave me lots to work with.  I think we're going to have a tremendous amount of fun playing in the Empire.  I

'll be running the first session in January for m'boys.  After that, I plan to also run it at V3 in February and at Fear the Con 2 in March.

Details to follow.

Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead 

Original artwork provided by Jake Ekiss who draws one mean-ass Devil Dinosaur!

Posted by Aron Head at 5:10 PM CST
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Wednesday, 26 November 2008
This Just In: No New Comics in Dallas
Topic: Comics

I received a tweet from Richard Neal, proprietor of Zeus Comics in Dallas:

"No comics at the trucking point this morning! All of Dallas has no comics! They're scrambling trying to find them. Stay tuned"

No new books with Thanksgiving tomorrow?!?  WTF?!? 

No word yet if the issue is limited to Dallas only, DFW, or is a region-wide concern. I'll update this blog entry throughout the day as this story develops.

Updated 8:40 AM:

From Richard...

"...should be all DFW; I saw angry comic shop owners drive off. Lone Star gets theirs delivered but I think its from the same place."

Updated 9:04 AM...

More from our man-on-the-street, Richard Neal...

"No eta on new comics yet but they should be in Dallas and to shops today."


Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead


Posted by Aron Head at 8:28 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, 26 November 2008 9:06 AM CST
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Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Sandbox Brainstorming: Player Character Races
Topic: RPGs
Starting wide and working more narrow at Saturday night's sandbox brainstorming session for my Savage Worlds SF setting, This Empire Earth, we discussed the Terran Empire itself and then moved on to player character races.  Designing the game, I wanted the players to have a wide variety of choices, enough to please almost any taste.  I had already developed a lot.
I presented what I had so far:
Gary at once expressed interest in playing an android.  That tickled me as I designed the artificial intelligence "race" with Gary in mind.  
Rodger loved the idea of playing a hard-boiled talking chimp who's hella smooth with the ladies.
Of course there are humans.  The Empire is lousy with them.  Can't swing a dead farzipple without hitting one.
Imperial humanity comes in many flavors:
  • Genetically engineered;
  • Bionically enhanced;
  • Cybernetically modified;
  • Mutated;
  • Psionic; and
  • Just plain old normal.
Despite all these choices offered, I felt something missing.  So I threw it out to guys.  What else?
"Can I play something with four arms?" Rodger asked.
"Sure," I said.
He nodded, pleased.  Then, "Wait.  Are those other two arms vestigial?"
I didn't respond.
"I knew it, dick!"
Seriously, though.  A four armed dude could be an alien, a mutant or a product of genetic engineering or bionics. 
Other suggestions...
James offered, "Something big.  Really big.  Bigger than the Bigozians.  Like an ogre or something."
Protoplasm was suggested and living energy, too.
"Are these things you want to play?" I asked.
"No" was the consensus, but they did say they'd make nice non-player character races.
And then it happened... 
The guys created a badass-effin'-cool player character race.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Empusans...

The Empusans are a race of insects resembling large Portuguese Praying Mantis'.  Very large.  Like ten feet large.
The Empusans are an old race, their history ranging back more than a hundred millenia.  By contrast, they are incredibly short-lived living for only ten to fifteen years before succumbing to old age.
They have no interest in pursuing longevity science as the humans have, yet they are a race of scientists.  Their technology is centuries beyond what other Imperial cultures have developed.  Their science, their technology is overwhelming.
More than one historian has observed that it is indeed fortunate that Empusa science has never been interested in tactical applications.  It is difficult to imagine how even the mighty Imperial fleet could have withstood a war machine powered by Empusan design.
The Empusae are a peaceful people.  They are not pacifists by any stretch or cowards, they simply see no point in warfare.  It has been many thousands of years since war was waged on the Empusan homeworld. 
In those days, the Empusae fought amongst themselves, against other genetic lines.  They were bloody wars and did not stop until one line remained.  Since then, they have known peace.
One shouldn't confuse their disinclination to combat as cowardice or weakness.  The Empusa will fight when provided no other choice.  It would just rather be doing something else.  
They are meticulous record keepers, their written histories date back to the early days of the race.
In a room full of aliens, the Empusan is invariably the smartest one in attendance.  As such, they tend to insufferable smugness.  These damned bugs are hard to like.  It doesn't help that their insectile nature is instinctually disconcerting to almost all of the other Imperial races.  
The Ambriidans alone are immune to the Empusan's "creep factor."
An unsettling trait of the Empusans is there fondness for the consumption of brains  Among their own, it is traditional to eat the brains of family members at their death.  In doing so, memories and experiences are transferred from the deceased to the diner.
This practice also works with non-Empusans, but to a lesser extent.  For instance, the brain of an alien must be consumed within moments of death - otherwise the knowledge will be lost.  Also, the knowledge that is absorbed from non-Empusans is rarely complete.  Often, only a few pieces of information are extracted and they are not always pertinent to the situation.
It is not unheard of for the personality of the consumed brain to temporarily overtake the Empusan.  
The Imperial Navy is rumored to utilize Empusan interrogators from time-to-time.
"Anything else?" I asked, furiously jotting down the guys' thoughts.
That's it, they said.
"Is this a race you want to play?" I asked.
"Yeah," Rodger was the first to answer, "I'm gonna play one of these guys instead of the monkey."
I haven't had an opportunity to right up the stats for the Empusa.  I'll do that in the next few days.  Pretty cool, though, right?
This was 100% group think with very little input from me.  I am amazed at what they came up with.  I now feel like my PC races are complete.  Or at least complete enough for now.  I'm sure we'll come up with other stuff as we go along.
Badass, I must say.
Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead 

* I have not posted details on Uplifted Chimpanzees or Oenerans, yet.  Soon, my friends.  Soon.
Empusa artwork provided by Rodger.

Posted by Aron Head at 10:50 PM CST
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Sandbox Brainstorming: Considering the Empire
Topic: RPGs
At Saturday night's brainstorming session for the sandbox SF setting I've been working on, This Empire Earth, we started wide and worked our way down to more narrow items.  The first thing we discussed was the empire itself.  I described the setting as I have envisioned it up to now.
The Terran Empire is an overwhelmingly powerful presence in the galaxy.  For more than five hundred years it has subjugated the weak, conquered its peers, and subverted the mighty to its own ends such that today none stand as equals to the awesome puissance of the Terrans.
"Terran" no longer means "human."  Those who many would call "alien" call themselves Terran.  Terran citizenship is a cherished prize in the Empire.  In fact, the great success of the Empire is its willingness to absorb the cultures of not only its allies, but also the conquered.
The Empire is ever changing.
In its core worlds, the empire is civilized, wealthy and technologically advanced.  There is almost nothing that is beyond the reach of a wealthy citizen dwelling within the heart of Terran space.  Even virtual ageless immortality is within the grasp of those with sufficient resources.
The question then, Josh was the first to ask,  where's the conflict?
Imagine the width and breadth of the Roman Empire at the height of its glory.  Despite its laws and arts, its military prowess and standing in the world, Rome was beseiged by internal political conflicts both dark and deadly amongst the noble houses.  Enemies from without tested mighty Rome's borders and its conquered peoples were one riot away from rebellion.
The Terran Empire is not dissimilar.
Just like the open seas of the ancient days of Rome, the enormous spaces between the core worlds, the colonies, and the border worlds are frequented by slave traders and pirates.  The Imperial Navy can't be everywhere, after all.
Along the border or on the frontier, conflict is present as well.
One major border is shared with The Eparchy of Iker, a theocracy built on a foundation of cultural purity.  The Eparchy was founded by human pilgrims fleeing humanity's continued "corruption" by alien cultures more than four hundred years ago.  The Eparchy has grown to a prosperous nation in its own right, fiercely protecting its borders, yet freely sending "missionaries" into the Empire.
The Empire has declared Ikerianism as an outlaw political organization.  Those found to be practicing their faith are arrested and, if when found guilty, put to death for treason. 
Ikerianism is not a religion, according to the Empire, it is sedition.
The Empire is ridiculously wealthy, but that wealth usually flows back to the core worlds.  The frontier is generally poor in cash and operating on early generations of current technology.  The further you move out, the less "Imperial" the culture.  People move to the frontier for opportunity, for liberty, to get away from their past.
When I described the setting, two things in particular snagged the players' attention:
  • Noble houses; and
  • Frontier opportunities.
The prospect of playing members of warring noble houses (ala the Dune novels) got some imaginations running.  I described great houses and minor houses, once great houses now in decline, great houses at the edge of a fall, minor houses on the rise... There's a lot there to play with.
The guys agreed earlier on that they'd like the first session to be set on the frontier, the players assuming the roles of Rangers.  Like those Texans of the 1880s, these Rangers are the law of the frontier.  More on this later.
The guys asked a lot of great questions about the empire assisting both myself and them to visualize the universe we're creating.   While this was the one area where the boys didn't have a lot of new ideas for the setting, their inquiries were infinitiely valuable to me.  There's a real benefit, I think, in just talking about the setting without the pressure of having to also squeeze in four hours of gaming.   Verbalizing things for them was a great exercise for  me.  The leisurely stroll through the game world allowed me to show off what I've been building and gave them a chance to kick its tires. 
Tomorrow, we'll talk about the badass player character race they created for the game.
It's freakin' cool.
Aron Head
Twitter + AronHead 

Original artwork provided by Jake Ekiss.

Posted by Aron Head at 6:08 AM CST
Updated: Tuesday, 25 November 2008 6:08 AM CST
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