Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

WFRPG 2nd Edition

On April 30th, 2004 Black Library, the publishing arm of Games Workshop, announced that they were launching a new imprint, Black Industries, to publish roleplaying games, and that Black Industries, working with Green Ronin (press release), would publish a new edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Early fear and trepidation on the part of some fans was quickly dispelled in a thread in the Critical Hits Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay forum when Simon Butler from Black Industries answered a great number of questions: WFRP 2nd edition would not be a D20 game, it would use a revised version of the original WFRP system, and it would strive to keep the grim and perilous tone of the original game, and many fans expressed their opionion that Green Ronin was a good choice to develop the new WFRP.

I was overjoyed to hear this news; WFRP has long been one of my favorite fantasy roleplaying games for its combination of interesting if quirky system and excellent setting and adventures. I'm looking forward to the new edition.

Recent Reading

  • A Question of Blood, by Ian Rankin; Little, Brown, and Company, 2003. An Inspector Rebus mystery.

  • The Glasswright's Apprentice, by Mindy L. Klasky; ROC, 2000.

  • Crashlander, by Larry Niven, 1994. Books on Tape, 1998. Larry Niven's science fiction is just plain fun to read, or listen to in this case.

Recent Reading

  • Sanctuary, by Lynn Abbey; Tor, 2003. This is the first of the books in the new Thieves' World series of collaborative anthologies; it's a novel that explains the recent history and sets up the current situation in the city offically known as Sanctuary but called Thieves' World by everybody. It picks up many years after the events of the last of the twelve books in the earlier series, and introduces a number of interesting new characters. I enjoyed the orignal series when it came out; it was perhaps the first intentional shared world anthology series, and proved an interesting experiment, although somewhat uneven in execution. It spawned a number of imitators; especially notable were the Liavek and Merovingen Nights. There were places toward the end of the series where Thieves' World dragged a lot, and it suffered from escalation problems, but overall it was very good. I was interested to see if it could be revieved successfully, and was pleased by this excellent bridging novel.(I actually read this a few weeks or a month ago, but forgot to write about it.)

  • Thieves' World: Turning Points, edited by Lynn Abbey; written by Lynn Abbey, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Andrew Offutt, Diana L. Paxson, Selina Rosen, Dennis L. McKiernan, Robin Wayne Bailey, Jody Lynn Nye, Jeff Grubb, Raymond E. Feist; Tor, 2002. This is the first of the collections in the new Theives' World series; it was a fun read, although somewhat uneven in excecution, and not as good as Sanctuary. I'm looking forward to the next anthology.

Recent Reading

  • Sun's End, by Richard Lupoff; Berkley Books, 1984. Ends without any resolution of anything; very annoying. Contra-recommended.

  • The Magic of Recluce, by L.E. Modesitt, Jr; Tor, 1991. Interesting magic and social systems. Recommended.

  • The Queen's Man, by Sharon Kay Penman; Henry Holt and Company, 1996. A very good historical mystery.

Recent Reading; Games in New Editions

Recent Reading

  • By the Light of the Moon, by Dean Koontz; Bantam, November 2003. Adequate as a time-waster.

Games in New Editions

Both GURPS and BESM have new editions underway.

I've read some of the discussion about the new edition of GURPS, the 4th edition, and I'm tenatively looking forward to the new edition. It sounds like they've really done some significant rework, tightening up the sprawl that the 3rd edition developed into and fixing some of the problems it had, without drastically changing the feel of the game. It's supposed to come out sometime in 2004, if things go as planned.

I have to admit that I never bothered to get either GURPS Compendium I or GURPS Compendium II; my last big GURPS campaign died away before they came out, and while I continued to buy other sourcebooks I didn't feel I needed the rules additions in the Compendiums. I like the division of the two new core rulebooks, and I like the increased size and better graphic design of the new version of the Basic Set, but those changes do have the downside of increased costs. It will be interesting to see how they turn out and what the reactions to the actual products are like. I'm not playing GURPS right now, so they're not on my “automatically buy” list, but I am interested.

I actually use BESM (2nd Edition, Revised) now for most of my crunchy gaming, since I find it makes a nice balance between simplicity (in character creation, actual play, and GMing) on the one hand and having enough detail and definition to create exactly the characters you want on the other hand. I think BESM is pratically perfect right now. However, Guardians of Order have explained some of their goals in revising BESM, and they look good to me. I will almost certainly buy the new version when it comes out.

Interestingly, much of the work on GURPS 4th edition was done by David Pulver, who is also doing much of the revision work on BESM 3rd edition, just as he did on BESM 2nd edition. It's interesting to see how the author of the incredibly complicated GURPS Vehicles also produced a much simpler mecha creation system for BESM 1st edition in Big Robots, Cool Starships and integrated that into BESM 2nd edition without losing the simplicity of the core game engine. Pulver is one of the reasons that I'm cautiously optimistic about both GURPS 4th edition and BESM 3rd edition; the quality of each companies work in general is another.

Guardians of Order have been busy in other areas too: they announced that they've signed a letter of intent to take over publishing the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game from Phage Press and they're planning to publish Nobilis.

Recent Reading

  • Song of the Beast, by Carol Berg; Roc, 2003. Competent fantasy that happlily avoids some of the worst cliches, this novel has a number of interesting points.

  • The Doorkeepers, by Graham Masterton; Leisure, 2003. An adequate horror take on the idea of parallel worlds.

Recent Reading and Viewing

Recent Reading

  • A Gentleman of France, by Stanley Weyman. Project Gutenberg, October, 1999, Etext #1939. This was the first novel I read on my wife's Palm m505, and I was surprised by how well reading on the Palm (using Weasel Reader) went. The novel is great swashbuckling fun, too.

  • The Cloud Atlas, by Liam Callanan, Delacorte Press/Bantam Dell 2004. A very interesting work that doesn't fit comfortably into any genre.

  • Protector, by Larry Niven, 1973. Books on Tape. 1998. This was just as absorbing to listen to as it was originally to read. Niven's interesting ideas retain their ability to enthrall.

  • Celestial Matters, by Richard Garfinkle. Tor, 1996. This is a very clever novel. Well worth reading for the interesting ideas.

  • Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson. Putnam, 2003. An interesting mystery, largely lacking the science fiction elements of his earlier works.

  • Dragon's Lair, by Sharon Kay Penman. Putnam, 2003. A Medieval Mystery. This is the third in her excellent series about Justin de Quincy, after The Queen's Man and Cruel as the Grave. Interesting characters and situations make an excellent historical mystery.

Recent Viewing (Akira Kurosawa)

  • Nora inu, also known as Stray Dog - directed by Akira Kurosawa, and starring Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, and Keiko Awaji. 1949. I saw this on a IFC Indie Pulp showing; it's an interesting look at Japanese police and criminals.

  • Dai-bosatsu tôge, also known as The Sword of Doom and Daibosatsu Pass - Directed by Kihachi Okamoto, written by Shinobu Hashimoto, based on a novel by Kaizan Nakazato, and starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Toshiro Mifune, and Yuzo Kayama. 1966. Another Samurui Saturday showing, this movie completely avoids a normal ending. Apparently this is based on a well- known story which is not all retold in the movie, and has been filmed a number of times.

Recent Reading; OpenRPG

Recent Reading

  • Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, by William King; Games Workshop Publishing, 2000. I finally got around to reading these Gotrek and Felix books set in the world of Games Workshop's Warhammer games. I don't play any of Games Workshop's miniatures games, but I do play Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay when I can, and it is set in what's more-or-less the same world. (WFRP was published in 1989 and GWs repeated revisions of their Warhammer games and the world they are set in has increasingly diverged from the grimmer, grittier, low-powered world seen in WFRP.) They're ok for gaming fiction, and have a few interesting glimpses of the world in them. I tend to leave the steam tanks and flying machines out of my version of the Warhammer world, though, and judging by Skavenslayer and Daemonslayer those elements are increasingly common in the stories of Gotrek and Felix.


I've been playing around with OpenRPG a little bit lately, and it seems to work reasonably well. It provides multi-user text-based chat, a shared map with miniatures, an a few other things useful for people playing pen-and-paper adventure games online. On problem that the current 1.6.1 release has is with the fog feature: in 1.6.1 there is a bug that causes massive instability when the fog feature of the map is used. However, there is a patch for it that fixes the problem.