Monday, December 31, 2012

The Games We Play: Multiple Venues/Genres

In the 80's, Palladium brought us a system with multiple universes (known as the multiverse), but they weren't actually connected. Then, in 1990, there was Rifts. This single game helped to bridge all the universes in the Palladium system under one big cosmological  convergence. Seasoned role players know Rifts well and there are many different viewpoints on it being a good thing or not. I for one am thankful for the invention of Rifts so that we could bring together concepts from different games together.

For instance... in the 90's, my group of friends and I were avid players of the Palladium system and began to utilize Rifts as a way to bring together our favorite aspects from other games. We brought together elements from Robotech, Beyond the Supernatural, Heroes Unlimited, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Rifts and Ninjas and Superspies into a single world under the banner of being heroes, researchers and inventors. This was our sandbox, and it was fun.

One of the biggest inventions that came from this sandbox was called the "Omega". It was a mashup between standard mecha and the Invid Royal Command Battloid. This was meant so that even "normal" humans could utilize it. I happen to have an artist rendering by the player who developed the actual idea behind it.
In the 90's, White Wolf published... what is now know as... the classic/old World of Darkness. Vampire, Mage, Werewolf, Changeling and Wraith comprised the core of this new world, and as I was a long-time fan of the supernatural, of course these games became quick additions to my collection and our playgroup.

The great part of the World of Darkness is that you can play each game separately, or combine them together for the rich feel that Mark Rein·Hagen and the other developers had in mind. As much as they can be played separately, I feel that they are better combined. This is something that has been lost on the powers-that-be who develop the live action rules for the Mind's Eye Society, who seem to prefer to keep each game separate.

Sure, Dungeons & Dragons has their different settings such as Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Ravenloft and so on. I never felt that inter-setting travel was not something that TSR and WotC had in mind... even though they do have inter-planar travel. I know there have been some DM's (myself included) that allowed for the inter-setting travel. This just helps to promote the rule of all RPG's that the no matter what the rules in the books state, the DM/GM/ST has final determination in their games.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Massively multiplayer online role-playing game's have eluded my attention. I tried playing a little EverQuest at the height of its popularity, but the fact that I was on a slow dial-up connection didn't really provide the experience I would have hope for from a game with a monthly subscription.

A friend actually bought it to give it a try and we used the free month, believing that if we didn't use the account after that free month there would be no additional charge. I will admit that I was the one who made that horrible assumption, and several months later there was the monthly fee charged to her credit card. I'm more mindful about such subscriptions now.

While I appreciate the graphic intensive trailers I've seen for games like World of Warcraft and Knights of the Old Republic, I have a strong aversion to spending so much money on something I wouldn't utilize all that ofter so feel as though I would never get my full moneys worth from it. Granted, I do have cable television and Netflix which are monthly services, but I feel as though I get my moneys worth... for the most part. The television is a bit of a wash because Comcast keeps raising their rates.

Another reason I will probably not get into MMORPG's is the fact that my primary computer is a Gateway desktop that is about 8 years old and still runs Windows XP. It does everything I need and I'm fairly certain that I have upgraded it to the fullest extent of its capabilities. If I ever have the need to upgrade it, it will be to buy a new desktop.

In the end, I view MMORPG's just like I view recreational drug use... Okay for others, but not necessarily for me. (Please don't take this last statement to mean I necessarily condone the use of recreational drugs, but more so the old adage "different strokes for different folks".)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Games We Play: Mortal Campaign

Over the years, my group of friends and I have gone through several variations of plot for our campaigns. I'm going to illustrate these various campaigns so that it may help to inspire you to try and think outside-the-box when coming-up with your next campaign idea.

Our first variation began around 1999 when our games began to get a little stagnant and one of the storyteller types in our group decided to do something out-of-the-ordinary. This became one of my favorite concepts for future games.

In the original mortals campaign, each of us created mortal characters in the original World of Darkness setting based on our real life. Yes, our characters turned-out to be us. We voted as a group to determine how many dots each character received for their abilities and attributes. We also used the group to determine things like willpower, merits and flaws for the characters as well.

The storyteller had setup a system to determine the possibilities for what our characters would become while traversing in the World of Darkness. (i.e. Vampire clan, Werewolf tribe/auspice, etc.) This information was kept quasi-secret from the players... but we each had our suspicions for each player. For example, because of my interest and skill with a computer, it was assumed that my character would likely become a Virtual Adept Mage. The first campaign I recall actually being embraced as a Brujah by one of the other PC's.

Another interesting aspect of this game was that our knowledge of the various games in the World of Darkness transferred into the corresponding lore. (i.e. Vampire Lore, Mage Lore, Werewolf Lore, etc.) This made for some cumbersome but fun interactions for our characters as we had foreknowledge of events through meta-plot. For instance, the aforementioned PC that embraced my character sought out a Methuselah Brujah in Chicago by the name of Menele... who just happens to be of the 4th generation. Also, in the hopes of awakening as a Virtual Adept, I remember actively trying to contact the archmage Virtual Adept known as Dante. Good times.

One variation that I ran utilizing the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rules was very interesting. I had the players make standard characters, but when the game began I stated that each of us were about to get ready for a game of D&D in character... breaking what could be called the fourth wall of role playing. As the "characters" were ready to begin the story, my "character" left for the bathroom... and it was at that time I employed the time honored DM tool of "there's a bright flash, and you wake-up somewhere else." When they each woke-up, they were in their character's bodies... yet they still retained their player knowledge. I guess you can say I enjoy using the meta-game to my advantage.

After being a storyteller and player for so many years, I've developed a great many PC's and NPC's that I appreciate using in my games. In my D&D version of the mortals campaign, I decided to use characters each player could somehow relate to by utilizing characters that each of us had played in our LARPing days. This added another level of interest for the players, and a good time was had by all.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Experiences as a Member of the Camarilla/Mind's Eye Society

I've already written about my time in Live Action Role Playing games, but I wanted to delve a little deeper into it as what I posted was more a brief summary of my experience rather than specific thoughts, feelings and moments.

When I first joined the local Camarilla, I was given my first opportunity to learn about the organization by becoming the Assistant Chapter Coordinator (ACC) for my chapter; Ascending Twilight. This also helped me to progress in the organization by earning "prestige"; the magical number that is followed to show your elevation in the organization by your assigned Member Class or MC. I thought this was great and jumped at the chance to earn as much prestige as possible. That was in 1996. Today, in 2012, the system has changed quite a bit but has also remained the same. I've been waiting for my MC review that has been sitting at the Regional level since about August. There is apparently some problem with the prestige reporting from 1996 - 1998. I'm not entirely sure what's going on right now, but I'm also in a position of not to complain or worry about it too much. I anticipate losing about 1 1/2 years worth of prestige that I earned while I was the Chapter Coordinator (CC) for Ascending Twilight because of this reporting error.

After a few months of being an ACC, I thought that I could do more but also wanted to spread my wings as a creative role players. That's when I first started down the path as a Storyteller (ST) for LARP.

In 1997, the organization decided to make some changes with the rules and reset the current campaign setting, or chronicle. This means that we began with a clean slate and new characters. Everything we had accomplished with our previous characters had no impact on what was going to happen in the new story. This gave me the perfect opportunity to begin as an ST, and we needed a new Domain Storyteller (DST). I won the election and there we were.

I knew that I couldn't handle the games all by myself, so I enlisted the aid of a couple friends, who became my Assistant Domain Storyteller's (ADST's). There were also Chapter Storytellers (CST's) to represent each Chapter in the Domain. We were full of ST's and ideas and this made the Domain a fun place to play. I was DST for about 7 months, and then something happened.

In those days, we didn't have the resources like Google Drive or Wiki's that we do now. I spent the 7 months of my term as DST trying to get answers to so many questions:
  • What was the proper format for my monthly reports?
  • Was there a report template for these reports?
  • Who/where do I send the monthly DST reports?
  • What all should I add in my monthly report?
Because I never received answers to these questions, it looked as though I wasn't doing my job. Also, important items that (I learned later) should be on my report were missing, and this became the inevitable downfall to my term as DST.

At one of our normal games, we received a large influx of out-of-town players that we were unfamiliar with. They were signed-in and we played game. (I should note that our games started at around 8pm and could last into the wee early hours of the morning.) At around 11pm, one of the out-of-town players shouted "Time out! Who is the DST? I need to speak with him." I came up to find out what the problem was and was informed that he was the Assistant Regional Storyteller (ARST) and he had some serious items to discuss with me. He, and 2 other ARST's, took me aside and began to berate me about certain item's that I had allowed to happen, such as:
  1. I allowed the diablerie of a Player Character (PC) happen without reporting it... even though I was not informed I had to do so. (Please see the definition of diablerie for more information.)
  2. I did not take serious action against the PC who committed the diablerie, even though doing so would have taken my out-of-character knowledge and brought it in-character.
  3. I did not personally verify characters that were brought into play from the 3 ARST's. Each of the ST's took responsibility for conducting sign-in. This was not a time where it was my responsibility and the ARST's apparently brought in characters that should not have been allowed in play.
I think the biggest mistake I made that evening was not allowing my ADST's to join in the "conversation" I was having with the ARST's. At the end of the very public chastising, I was told that I would no longer be the DST. This was my first instance of dissolution in the organization as I felt very mistreated by members of the Regional Storyteller staff. Life went on.

For the next several years, I would be a Coordinator and I would be an Assistant Storyteller, but until I returned in 2011, I would not hold a primary Domain position again. I think that this benefited me as others helped to define the basis of whatever reports were necessary. I'm thankful that today there is a defined process and even some templates that can be used for reports, and the scope of responsibilities for both the Storyteller and Coordinator offices are easier to understand.

After a personal setback in January 2000, I felt like I didn't fit-in with the people that I had literally grew-up with in the organization. Even though I was given responsibilities, I felt like I was looked down upon for mistakes I had made. I felt betrayed by several of the people I once called friend. This lead to my eventual departure from the Domain of Salem and joining the Domain of Dreams in Eugene.

I thought I could start new in Eugene, and it was working out fine until I was put into the position of Chapter Coordinator. There were decisions that had to be made, and I was not the person who should have been making them at that point in my life. I let people's opinions cloud my better judgement, and through that I made some bad decisions. I think I was CC in Eugene for about 3 months before I had to step away. I kept playing for a while longer until certain people started to bend the rules of the game way too much.

I'll admit that I put in a great deal of work when I create a character for these games. Because of this, I have felt personally slighted when people abuse the rules to manipulate me or (especially) to kill-off character's that are close to me and my character. This happened with my pack in our Sabbat game. Our pack was seemingly causing too much of a problem with certain people, so one of the players played a non-player character (NPC) that was specifically designed to kill our leader.

The way it was handled bent the rules of the discipline (power) called Vicissitude. This power allows the wielder to manipulate flesh and bone, however you need to actually use your hands to do so. The flesh and bone does not simply move to your whim and you cannot make yourself into a pile/pool of flesh with other disciplines or a certain combination discipline. Either way, the NPC could not (by the rules) drape them self over another person, yet this is what happened and our packs leader died. Shortly after this exchange, I decided to take a long sabbatical from the organization.

From 2004 - 2011, I stayed in contact with only a few of the friends that I had made while in the Camarilla. Without social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook, I probably wouldn't be in contact with many of them now... or vice-verse. Of the friends I made during my original tenure within the organization, I only have regular contact with a handful of people. Now that I'm back with the new organization, I occasionally get a chance to meet-up with old friends and reminisce about the old days.

Now it's 2012. The organization has changed quite a bit. It's now called "Mind's Eye Society"... at least in America. I don't feel as much of the camaraderie with other Domains as I once felt. Early on, there were week's where several of us would go to Oregon City, Portland, Vancouver, Corvallis, Eugene and still make it to the Salem games. This helped to breed an air of companionship, friendship and trust. It feels like that aspect has been lost to us. Back then, our core local group would host regular tabletop games and other social activities. Now it feels hard to get anyone motivated to do anything fun.

Maybe it's because I've done a lot of growing-up since those days and now that I feel like a responsible adult (some days), I feel like I don't have much time to take on extra activities. Perhaps this is a feeling that is shared with others. We're responsible adults now and not fun-loving youths able to stay-up until the wee hours of the morning talking, playing games, hanging-out at Denny's and the like. Perhaps what I'm feeling... and perhaps others... is the horrible side-effects of getting old. We are not as young as we were in 1996. Some of us aged more than others during that time.

There's talk about a new chronicle starting in 2013 and how the organization is going to make some major changes to the different games. There's talk about keeping the Camarilla and Sabbat in separate "universes", making a New World of Darkness venue and capping MC for certain venues to try and level the playing field. I'm not actively a participant in these talks so I'm very frustrated when I hear of new changes and I can't express my opinions on the ideas to the proper individual's. While I understand the reasons behind things like MC capping, the games I play are collectively called the "World of Darkness". It's not the World of the Camarilla or the World of the Sabbat. The system was originally setup to incorporate ALL aspects of the various games; from Vampire to Hunter and everything in between. If it's not the World of Darkness, then why am I paying an annual membership fee to be here?

I apologize that this ended in a bit of a rant. In writing this, so many emotions came flooding back to me. I hope you understand that I'm merely stating my opinions and I, just like you, have the right to express them. If you disagree with anything I've written, I welcome your feedback. Fair warning: I took speech and debate in high school, and I was fairly good at it. :)

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Comics & RPG's: A Mingling of Interests

About my sophomore year in high school, I had decided I wanted to become a writer. My primary influence at the time was the writings of Stephen King. I was hooked on his stories, and it was then that I was reading "IT" which set my imagination ablaze.

My sophomore English teacher adamantly despised King and insisted that his work was an affront to literature. I always felt that he didn't like me that much, since I always brought copy of "IT" to class. In my way of biting my thumb at him, I decided to chose King as the subject of my final paper for that class. I wrote an extensive biography citing references and everything. This was in the days before the World Wide Web and the abundance of information at your fingertips... I had to do some serious research through books and magazines. I remember spending house going through the computerized microfiche system at the public library to find articles written on King. Got a B... think I may have been screwed on the grade, but I accept it.

My junior year in high school, they offered a "Creative Writing" class. I jumped on-board, and then I learned who was teaching the class; the very same teach I dealt with my sophomore year. Our attitudes hadn't changed much and we butted heads a couple of times over my writing style and appreciation of the genre of horror and Stephen King. I received a B in the class that I actually felt I deserved. This made me want to become a published writer. I had a spiral notebook that I wrote outlines for so many different stories. I had pages of name combinations for characters. I even wanted to legally change my name when I was of age. It would have been Richard Baughman, in honor of King's pseudonym of Richard Bachman. Thinking back now, I'm glad I didn't make the change.

During my high school years, I continued to collect comic books and play role playing games. I never thought about merging my interests until my senior year in high school when I started to collaborate with my best friend and artist.

We had first met when he came to my high school my junior year. He played the french horn, where I played the baritone saxophone. We found common interests in role playing games and music. Later, he would open my mind up to anime and a different genre of comic books that I may have never noticed without his help.

On a casual phone call near the end of my senior year, the idea came about to create our own comic book. We each developed our own characters for the comic and even created them as RPG characters in Palladium's "Heroes Unlimited" game setting. They were Starshadow and Raven, collectively known as "The Shadows of Justice".

Our logo.
This was a design for t-shirts that we had printed. The shirts actually had color to them, though.
We played the characters in our previous Heroes Unlimited game that incorporated several different aspects of the Palladium multi-verse. They fit in just fine and we were able to better develop their personalities. Through the game, we tackled a few of the plot points that we had designed for the comic book as a series. I spent many hours working to write the script for the first issue and create an outline for the first 6 issues. In the end, we were able to put together a decent proposal that we sent to Dark Horse Comics. We chose Dark Horse because they're local to us (relatively) and the submitting editor was very receptive and helpful on our requests for information. (Remember, this was all before the WWW and we had to either call or send snail-mail to communicate.)

Here are the pages that were actually finished for our submission:

For those of you who understand comics and the industry, you can obviously tell that we didn't have Blue Line pages to actually put the sequential work in the industry format. The last 2 pages were drawn on a template that I had created. Unfortunately, our ideas were not accepted by Dark Horse... but they did provide some good feedback. My next attempt to get into comics as a writer wouldn't be for many years.

Before Jim Butcher published his character of Harry Dresden, I came up with my own version named Jonathan Spectre. This idea was based off of a human medium with some magic (Numina) in the World of Darkness. He even had a "sidekick" (of sorts) in the form of a wraith named Mimic. I had supporting characters outlined, a fictional town designed, a house where Jonathan would work out of, and an outline of about 7-8 stories. I even approached an artist (who I can't remember their name any more) to bring my characters to life. Here are the resulting pictures:


Unfortunately, I found that I had no real follow-through and never really progressed beyond this stage. If Dresden had not been published, I might have gone back to develop this idea.

All these characters, except for Marcus Jones, was originally a character of mine based in White Wolf's World of Darkness. As mentioned before, Jonathan was a hedge magician. Mimic was actually a Spectre based out of Wraith: The Oblivion. Rose was a Hollow One from Mage: The Ascension.

As much as I would have liked to bring my love of comics and RPG's together to break into the industry, it never seemed to be in the cards. What I think I'd like people to take away from this is that comics can be a great resource for ideas in your games, and likewise characters in your games can be a valuable inspiration for a comic book.

Just as a side note, I also write another blog specifically about comics books called Zanziber's Point of View. If you're interested, I'm going to write about my experiences of being a comic book inker. (Yes, mock me with your taunts from Chaising Amy all you want. I'm comfortable with what I do.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CCG's Follow-up

I am reminded of something that happened at the Portland Comic Book Show several years ago. This was the last time I had a table there to sell, and I had a 20 gallon storage container full of various size boxes with common cards from various CCG's I've collected over the years. Instead of recycling them, my wife at the time suggested I try to sell them by the box. I put a sign that read "CCG commons. $1 per box."

I didn't receive that must interest in them until a young, Asian boy came over and began to look through a box that was clearly marked "Yu-Gi-Oh". I didn't pay much attention to him, but noticed his father standing next to him. The boy began pulling various cards out of the box and setting them aside. My wife, who was kind enough to stay at the table with me, looked at the boy's father and said "Does he know that he get's the whole box for $1?" At this point, the boy's face lit-up like a kid at Christmas. He was so overjoyed. He did indeed buy the box of Yu-Gi-Oh, thanked us, and he and his father continued to look around the rest of the show.

I remember that moment very fondly, even if I may have gotten some of the specifics wrong. Even though I don't think I made much money that day, the moment I just related made it all worth while.

Live Action Role Playing (LARP)

I'm sure that most who are reading this are either familiar with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) or are actually members of the organization. This is the first organization that I was aware of as being a LARP group. I know there more to the SCA than LARPing, but you can't deny the SCA LARPs. Even if they don't have storylines like what we might expect from a LARP, the SCA is live action and they do role play the characters that each person has painstakingly developed.

My first actual experience with a LARP organization was in the Summer of 1996 when a group of people decided to bring The Camarilla to town. I tried it out for a couple of games, but since I was out of work and couldn't afford the annual membership, I didn't return until the Fall of that same year when the proprietor of the local game shop convinced me to come back and that he would help me with the membership fee. I agreed and this is where my LARP "career" officially began.

For those who do not know, The Camarilla was the original and official vampire fan association for White Wolf's World of Darkness LARP setting. Imagine... in the days before massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG)... your tabletop game expanded to include more people, more cities, more states and more nations. This was a global game where the actions taken by somebody in Salem, Oregon could have an effect on someone else in London, England. Above the game, The Camarilla was also about charity and community service. This aspect helped to bring your average roleplayer to the light of day and make them a useful, productive member of the community... or so that was the theory.

As with everything in life, there are those that will lead and those that will follow. There are also those that will help and those that won't. Getting some people interested in helping the community was difficult, even though there was a reward within the organization called "prestige". The more "prestige" you earn, the higher you Member Class (MC); a ranked system by which you receive benefits when making your characters. The higher your MC, the more benefits you received. This was to entice those who would normally not help their community to step out or expand their comfort zone. This system has been a topic for many debates since I first joined, and it continues to this very day.

I was convinced to play a Tremere for my return game. Tremere are a warlock clan of vampires who are very secretive about their magic. There's a more detailed backstory to them, and I highly recommend looking it up. And on my first night back, I took certain missteps that caused my character to lose favor within the clan. My character was put into torpor and a friend was able to get me away from those that would see my character dead rather than educated. That is when I was brought to Thomas Gunn; the pimus/head of the Brujah clan. The Brujah are stereotyped as gang members and anarchists. Thomas Gunn had lived longer than anyone at that evenings game, and he took pity on my character after hearing the plea's of my friend. From that moment on, my character was no longer Tremere... he was a Brujah. I kept that up for about 5 months before I met with an untimely accident. Not many people knew my character's secret and I had been accepted by the Brujah without question because of Mr. Gunn.

Back in those days, it was not uncommon for a group of us to travel to various other Domains to play game. In a single week, we would go to Oregon City, Salem, Vancouver, Portland, Corvallis and Eugene for games. I made a great deal of friends from all over. I wish those days would return. I feel that the current state of the economy make this wish very cost prohibitive. I will look on those days with fondness.

After becoming a member of the organization, I was thrust into the need to increase my MC. My Chapter Coordinator took me under her wing and made me her assistant. This started the process that has helped to mold me who I am today in the new organization; Mind's Eye Society. Not sure if that first step was a good idea or a bad one. In my time within the organization's known as The Camarilla and Mind's Eye Society, I have held many hat's:
  • Assistant Chapter Coodinator
  • Domain Storyteller
  • Chapter Coordinator
  • Assistant Domain Storyteller
  • Assistant Chapter Storyteller
  • Assistant to the Assistant Regional Storyteller
  • Assistant Global Storyteller
  • Domain Coordinator
  • Assistant to the Assistant Regional Coordinator
  • Venue Storyteller
In 2004, I decided to leave the organization because I was just not having any fun. I didn't see a reason to pay for something that I should be having fun doing when I'm not enjoying it. In 2011, I was convinced to come back by some friends who were looking to resurrect the old Domain. That's when I found out that the Domain of Salem had gone away due to lack of interest soon after I left. There was a resurgence back in 2008, but it was short lived. So, in August of 2011, we began the process of reviving the Domain under a new name: the House of Redemption. As of this writing, I am currently the Domain Coordinator as well as the Venue Storyteller for Sabbat.

I want to delve into the darker times that I encountered while in this organization, but I'll leave that for a future posting.

Monday, November 19, 2012


From my junior year in high school to several years later, I was inspired to become a writer. I felt that my time in role playing had given me the keys to open the creative juices for writing fiction. I took a creative writing course my junior year. Worst mistake ever! The instructor had a serious distaste for Stephen King, and since I had had him for sophomore English the year prior and wrote a report on King, I’m sure he had low expectations for me.
I put my heart and soul into my writing for this class. I wrote short stories, came up with concepts, kept a journal of potential stories to write about, and even devoted an entire spiral notebook to character names. My goal at the time was to become a writer like Stephen King. He was my idol, I wanted to follow in his footsteps and I felt that I had the talent. My instructor made sure that these feelings were quashed. I felt he gave my papers a very critical view because of my interest in the horror genre and Stephen King. He had expressed in the sophomore class that he found horror to be a “distasteful genre” and that he would prefer our writings to be of a more “literary” style. I ignored his requests. I received poor grades in his classes. I probably would’ve received even poorer grades had I not aced every single test in gave us. Even though I didn’t like doing the work he had asked of us, it didn’t mean that I didn’t understand what he was teaching. I feel that his influence may have led to the inevitable decline of my writing interest.
After high school, I kept the notebooks for a while. I even entertained the idea of creating a comic book with Ernie, since he was a very talented artist, based off of a couple of characters we had created for one of the Heroes Unlimited games we played. It was called Shadows of Justice and I had scripted the first issue, came up with a synopsis for a 5-issue mini-series to start, and Ernie had penciled/inked/lettered the first 6 or 7 pages. I sent our proposal to Dark Horse comics, who I had corresponded with to find out the guidelines for submitting the proposal, and after 3 or 4 stressful months, they sent us a form letter of rejection. Yet another crushing blow to my dream of becoming a published writer. I believe that it was shortly after this time that I finally threw-out my notebooks from high school. I can only remember one of the plots that I had in there. Perhaps I will finally write it when I find my inspiration for it again.
This transition also came to a head when I walked into the local Waldenbooks to find new role playing game books on the shelf. Titles of Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse from a company called White Wolf Games. I had always been interested in the supernatural, so these games caught my attention. I bought the first editions of these books, even though the cover of the Werewolf book was badly torn. This book is infamous for having a claw mark on the front cover. The first edition was a paperback, and the claw mark was through the front cover instead of an illustrated claw mark; which they did in the revised edition of the book.
The games were a part of the system collectively known as the World of Darkness along with games like Mage: The Ascension, Wraith: The Oblivion and Changeling: The Dreaming, they would be the core of the system that would take over my life for the next 16+ years.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Title: Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

ISBN: 9781936685165
Price: $19.99
Publisher/Year: Margaret Weis Productions, 2012

When I first started this site/blog, I didn't intend to write reviews for RPG's and I especially didn't feel that I was going to write reviews for specific books. And then I started to read the "Basic Game" book for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying from Margaret Weis. Though I don't intend to give a rating (usually X out of 5), but I felt compelled to express my thoughts, feelings and opinions on this as I read it.

As I've noted in the past, I spent most of my life playing role playing games and I feel that I have a good idea of what's a good system and what should be scrapped or may be too horribly complicated to be considered "basic". I've played games from the original basic "Red Box" edition of Dungeons & Dragons to the less basic classic World of Darkness. There have been many good games along the way, and fortunately I have not come across anything I would consider too complicated for a beginning player.

Than I began to read this book.

I usually don't mind a system that is dice intensive (such as the Hero system) or have need for multiple dice (such as Dungeons & Dragons or just about any other RPG). This system, however, is too dice intensive and not very player sensitive as you need to have multiple sets of dice D4 to D12. I think this decision may have been an intentional slight towards the D20 fad. The rules for what dice you use for rolls are easy to understand, but then you have different factors that allow you to add dice and increase dice. Depending on how you roll, the Watcher (the ST/DM/GM for this particular system) adds dice to their pool. If you want to spend Plot Points, you can increase the outcome, dice pool or push one of your dice to the next step (i.e. D4 to D6, D6 to D8, etc).

In this first chapter alone, I found myself getting a headache trying to process all the various rules for dice and dice pools. I can only imagine what a new role player who likes the idea of playing one of the favorite Marvel superheroes would go through coming into this system. This book would have left a bad taste in my mouth if it had been my first game system. It would have possibly kept me away from collecting comic books and playing RPG's. <shudder>

As you can imagine, I would not recommend this game for a new player, and I'm hard pressed to even suggest that veteran roleplayers even throw their money at it. I wish I had kept my old Marvel Super Hero RPG that TSR published back in the 80's. I'm sure there are ways to easily create the newer characters that have spawned from the 90's to today, and even adapt the older characters (such as the X-Men) to their modern versions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Collectible Card Games

Collectible Card Games (or CCG's) are a part of my RPG repertoire. If I had been more focused on games and less focused on getting laid, I probably would have started my on-again/off-again obsession with Magic: The Gathering starting at either the Beta or Unlimited set;but because I was more inclined to find a girlfriend, my real introduction into the world of CCG's began around The Dark. More information about the various sets and expansions of Magic: The Gathering can be found here:

I say on-again/off-again because I have (at the time of this writing, at least) bought into and sold out of Magic 3 times each. I currently have a couple of per-constructed decks that I bought on a whim but I only actually play Magic on my XBox 360. Due to some of the players in my local area, I never really enjoyed playing Magic outside of my group of friends. I tried playing in a couple of tournaments, but washed-out really quickly in each attempt. The attitudes of the other people at the tournaments really left me unimpressed with maintaining a long lasting relationship.

Over the years, I have played many different CCG's such as:
  • Star Trek (Decipher)
  • Star Wars (Decipher)
  • Arcadia (White Wolf)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Score)
  • Galactic Empires (Companion Games)
  • Illuminati: New World Order (Steve Jackson Games)
  • Jyhad/Vampire: The Eternal Struggle (White Wolf)
  • Legend of the Five Rings (Five Rings Publishing Group/Wizards of the Coast/AEG)
  • Middle-earth Collectible Card Game (Iron Crown Enterprises)
  • Netrunner (Wizards of the Coast)
  • OverPower (Fleer)
  • Pokémon Trading Card Game (Wizards of the Coast/Nintendo)
  • Rage (White Wolf)
  • The Lord of the Rings (Decipher)
  • The X-Files (Voyager Promotions)
  • XXXenophile (Slag-Blah Entertainment/Studio Foglio)
I have recently rekindled my obsession with both Star Wars and Star Trek. I'd also like to get back into playing Vampire: The Eternal Struggle. What draws me more than the game is the art and pop culture fondness I have for these games. They are all out-of-print now and the companies that produced them are either out of business or no longer deal in cards. I have been fortunate enough to find Star Trek and Star Wars collections for sale locally. Vampire, I have been able to acquire a few per-constructed decks.

Sometimes I wonder why I actually keep buying the cards if I don't actually play the games. There's probably a psychological condition that afflicts me, or perhaps it greed that lures me to continue to acquire these cards. I'm sure someone could have a heyday studying me.

When Star Trek first came out, I was luck (or unlucky as the case may be) to be working at a sports card shop that was looking to diversify by getting into CCG's. I remember that I bought a few boxes of Star Trek and several of Fallen Empires expansion of Magic. With an easily obsessive personality as my own (never gone stalker on a person, to keep your mind's at ease), having regular access to boxes of CCG's and an employee discount was a terrible mix.

As an avid Star Wars fan, this drew my interest instantly. It was when Star Wars was first released that I started delving into the secondary market of CCG's. Each card has a specific rarity (common, uncommon and rare) due to the number of that specific card that was actually printed. Because of this, there was value in many of these cards. I recall selling my first binder of uncommons and rares for only $100. I immediately spent that money to purchase more Star Wars cards. It wasn't until later that I realized I had sold several hundred dollars worth of cards for just $100. I know better now.

In the mid 90's, I wondered about a new game called Overpower. It was a CCG based from Marvel comic book characters, and that seemed to call my name. I was at a comic book show in Portland, Oregon and I was trying to sell some of my comics. I came across a guy who had some Overpower cards and I asked if he would be willing to make a trade. He ended-up trading me a full box of booster packs for my copy of Amazing Spider-Man #300. Those that know comic book probably felt your stomach drop upon reading that statement. To those readers who do not understand what this issue represents, it is the first appearance of Venom. When the 3rd Spider-Man movie was released, the value for this book was at an all-time high... much more than the value of that box of Overpower. The worst part about it was that none of my friends played and I never met anyone who did. I can't remember if I actually sold those cards or if they were recycled during one of my moves.

I still have some Legend of the 5 Rings, Jyhad/Vampire: The Eternal Struggle and Rage cards stashed away somewhere. I pulled characters from these games that I thought I could use as NPC's for future games. So far, I don't remember ever actually using them. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Some time in my life I'm not so proud of...

We were not your archetypical "gamers". We did play basketball, football, climb trees, ride bikes, go fishing and other outdoor activities. As we grew-up, those activities took a back shelf to our role playing. In middle school, I tried joining the football and wrestling teams, but neither worked out.
The day after the first practice for the football team, I had gotten into an argument with a fellow classmate in gym glass. This argument abruptly ended when the kicked me right in the kneecap. I went to the doctor and he told me that I had torn my meniscus. (Meniscus, plural: menisci, from the Greek for "crescent", is a curve in the surface of a liquid and is produced in response to the surface of the container or another object. It can be either concave or convex. A convex meniscus occurs when the molecules have a stronger attraction to each other than to the container. This may be seen between mercury and glass in barometers. Conversely, a concave meniscus occurs when the molecules of the liquid attract those of the container. This can be seen between water and glass. Capillary action acts on concave menisci to pull the liquid up, and on convex menisci to pull the liquid down. This phenomenon is important in transpirational pull in plants. [Definition courtesy of Wikipedia.]) This ended my football career before it even started.
Later that same year, with my knee injury a faded memory, I tried to join the wrestling team. I lasted only a single day because I was teamed with the most effeminate guy in our class. Being in my pre-teen years and not yet fully developing my sexual persona, this made me uncomfortable and I decided that I would not return to the team. Thinking back, I also think that I was disappointed that the wrestling in school was not like the wrestling I would watch on television. I really just wanted to body slam someone.
Once in high school, the rules began to change. Our little group of gamers grew, and so did our interests with other games. This was the period of time where I experimented with any type of role playing game that I could find. It was also during these 4 years that my group became more aware of the local game store; Creative Pastimes.
Creative Pastimes was the only store in our city where you could purchase various RPG books. Sure, we had a B. Dalton and a Waldenbooks, but their selection was very poor. (More about these bookstores later.) This store not only had the books and boxed sets, but also had an incredible selection of dice! This is when we were introduced to superfluous dice such as the 30-sided and 100-sided dice. You really didn't need these dice, but they were like a status symbol because of their oddity and price. I recall that I spent $5 on my first 100-sided die. This was a time before the creative dice that we have now, such as steel dice, gem dice and other odd-sided dice.
This store also carried various other hobby and collectible items, such as dolls, trains, models and other toys. This made for divided attention on the part of the store clerk on duty. Please let me note this for the record: I do not condone the actions that I am about to describe that I and my group performed, and I do not feel good about what I have done. Do not take this as a suggestion that it is alright. The actions that I am about to describe here are illegal and immoral, and I have been living with these action on my conscious for years. I do not feel good for what I have done, but to tell my story properly, I must tell it right without omission.
Because Creative Pastimes was a fairly busy store, they generally only had a single clerk on duty, and the role playing section was in the back of the store, it was a prime target for shoplifting. We took advantage of this obvious flaw. We gained much of our Palladium system book collection from this method. I remember the first book I ever stole from them; Rifts. I loved that game for years, and the book became well worn. In an interesting twist of fate, after my high school years were behind me, this book would be stolen from me. I guess some might consider this a bit of Karma.
In 1993, Creative Pastimes closed its doors for ever. I felt horrible, and still do. Several years later, I would make friends with a man named Star. It turns out that he was the son of the couple who originally owned Creative Pastimes. The knife in my stomach that was the guilt began to slowly turn. I found out another several years later that Star died. The information I was given is that he took his own life, but I have never been able to confirm that. Nevertheless, I continue to feel the guilt of what I had done to Creative Pastimes and the family that owned it.
While in high school, I became friends with more people who would end up becoming my core gaming group. One of these friends, Ernie, had even developed his own role playing game that everyone enjoyed playing. I became so addicted to playing the game that I would call Ernie nearly every day after he returned home from working at a gas station so we could do some role playing over the phone. His shift ended at 9pm, he would get home around 10p, and my call would usually come at around 10:30p and we would end up gaming until 2a or later.
Needless to say, my parents weren't all that happy that I was on the phone for so long during the hours that I should be asleep. It got so bad that my father actually disconnected my phone jack from the main phone line. Some days later, while my parents were gone to work and I had time to myself, I opened the phone jack and figured out how to reconnect my phone.
In high school, when we weren't playing Ernie's game, we would play various games from the Palladium megaverse. Ernie was primarily interested in Robotech, my interested varied throughout the entire megaverse, and others in our circle were more interested in Rifts and Heroes Unlimited. The solution was simple... we play a game that included elements from all the various games.
I recall my favorite character that began in Beyond the Supernatural as a Parapsychologist (I believe), came over to Rifts and learned how to create and item that would allow him to use a power called Mechanolink. (At least, I think that is what it was called and how it was spelled.) This allowed him to learn everything about a devices, including how to repair it, how to make it work, and how to use it. This became very interesting when he came into contact with the various "mecha" in the world of Rifts, but became more useful once we ended up in the Heroes Unlimited world with other characters from Robotech. The character I had started out as a scientist now became someone who would pilot any vehicle or mecha he came in contact with. I wish I still had his character sheet so I could relate his actual evolution, but it has been lost to me for years. I believe that I may have thrown it away during one of the various moves I've made over the years.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Continuing my humble beginnings...

(This text actually taken from my original attempt at the RPG4EVR blog, unedited.)
In the cold month of October in 1984, my journey into the realm of role playing games began after several months of anticipation. In those days, games like Dungeons & Dragons had a label stating "Ages 10 to adult". For some reason my friends and I adhered to that. Once I turned 10 years old, I was officially inducted into role playing.

I started like many role players, with TSR's Dungeons & Dragons. I remember the first book I received from my parent's one Christmas after becoming a role player: Fiend Folio - which was a monster book for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I had a book no one else in my friend group could claim or find, and I was very proud.

It took a while, but I became so accustomed to the rules that I started Dungeon Mastering. I allowed my imagination to take me to lands I had never seen or even dreamt of before. My biggest problem was that my imagination only went so far. I admit that in those early times… and even sometimes today… I take plots and storylines from movies, TV and books and warp them to my design. I forget how many different versions of Conan or Merlin I had created as characters or how many times I've used the plotline from movies like The Professional or the Indiana Jones films. I never took the entirety of the story, though; just key elements of the story to get the feel of the adventure.

When the George Lucas movie Willow came out, my attentions were focused. I had stories revolving around it, designed characters based off of it, and began my interest in drawing melee weapons. Swords were my favorite, since they were the easiest to draw. I had a spiral notebooks devoted to these ideas and drawings. I had double-bladed, triple-bladed, double-ended, wavy, bent, long, short and various other types of swords. It was never about the functionality of the sword, only the way it looked to me.

During my phase of sword drawing, I came-up with an idea for a set of 5 swords that corresponded to the 5 major evil dragons in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Each sword had powers reflecting the dragon it was based from. The red sword would give protection from fire and have other fire-based powers. White would have cold protection and powers. And so on. I initially designed these because of my interest in dragons... much like any young boy. But then my interest came around to Her. She took my breath away every time I looked at Her. I was smitten. This wasn't my first love, but it had a deeper impact than the childhood crushes before. The She/Her I refer to is none other than the Queen of Dragonkind - Tiamat!

She first came to me in the Dungeons & Dragons Saturday morning cartoon. She was the perfect combination of all the dragons I had already grown to admire. I didn't really think about that fact that She was evil. It never really entered my mind. I understand the difference between Good and Evil, but it didn't really mean that much to me at the time.
In the early months of my role playing "career", it was just my friend Scott and I. We would get together several times a week to play Dungeons & Dragons. At this time, we only had a few books. Thankfully, our local library carried several of the books we didn't have and we checked the out on a regular basis. As time went by, these books would be the target of theft from the library and they would discontinue carrying them or similar books. The last time I was able to check-out a copy of Wilderness Survival Guide for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was back in 1988, I believe. That was the last role playing book I had ever checked-out from the library.

We soon discovered that Scott and I were not the only boys in our neighborhood that enjoyed the occasional game of Dungeons & Dragons. We soon made friends with another role-player on the next street over. His name was James and he was a year older than I, just like Scott. James brought our interest into games other than Dungeons & Dragons, such as Champions.

Dungeons & Dragons involved having an entire set of dice; d4, d6, d8, 2d10, d12 & d20. Champions only needed the tradition six-sided die. When I first started playing Champions, I raided every board game we had in the house for extra dice. Yahtzee, Monopoly, Aggravation, Kizmet and so on. At one point, I had a collection of about 32 six-sided dice. At one point during a session of Champions, I think I only ever used 20 at the most.

While we focused ourselves on Champions, we made friends with another role playing soul; Shawn. He had recently moved up from California, and had been playing about as long as any one of us. He became the friend we always wanted to game with because he was innovative and exciting. He also introduced us to new games such as Marvel Super Heroes, Top Secret and the Palladium role playing system which includes games like Robotech and Heroes Unlimited. We were gradually increasing our realm of interest of games we would play. This would later turn into trouble for many of us… myself included.

The next-door neighbor to James had purchased a mobile home trailer that he had parked near James' house. One summer, we asked if we could use it for a Memorial Day weekend, and he agreed to our request. We didn't take it anywhere, as none of us were old enough to have a driver's license at that time. We lived in it for the next 3 days just role playing. I remember that we started with a session of Champions, but we spent the bulk of the weekend playing TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). It was James, Shawn and I and it was one of the best weekends I had spent in a long time. (This was also well before puberty, so none of us had those interests, yet.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shorthand and other definitions

There will be many shorthand and terms used throughout this blog. I will explain them here as best I can:

DM: Dungeon Master – Common term associated with the  individual actually in charge of the game in progress: also called GM (Game Master) or ST (Storyteller). The term Dungeon Master was originally derived from TSR's Dungeons & Dragons.

IC: In Character – Actual things that happened in the chronicle's events or interaction taking place within the game format. Not to be confused with Out Of Character. This is when we are role playing and using our imaginations. A time where we are merely impromptu actors portraying character's that we alone have conceived in our very own minds.

OOC: Out Of Character – What could very well be called "the real world". This is where we are our real selves rather than our characters. We are not Vampires, Werewolves or anything supernatural. We are simply human beings. This is to represent thing that happen in our real lives and don't happen in the fictional world. Not to be confused with In Character.

TT: Tabletop – Term for what can also be called "Pencil & Paper" type role playing games. These include titles such as Vampire: The Masquerade™, Werewolf: The Apocalypse™, Dungeons & Dragons™, GURPS™ and Palladium™. These are what can also be called "traditional" role playing games.

LARP: Live Action Role-Playing – Term for games that happen as a performance and acted out rather than discussed and described to a group gathered around a table. This is what organizations like the Camarilla, Mind’s Eye Society and One World By Night are created for.

WW: White Wolf – This is the name of the company that  created games such as Vampire: The  Masquerade™ and who currently own the Camarilla organization.

WotC: Wizards of the Coast – This is the name of the company  best know for bringing the collectable card game (CCG) to life with games like Magic: The Gathering™ and Pokémon™. WotC also currently holds the rights to role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons™ and Star Wars™.

CCG: Collectable Card Game – Games whose card have rarity and value. Titles include Magic: The Gathering™, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle™, Yu-Gi-Oh™ and Pokémon™.

CC: Chapter Coordinator – This is the title given to the person elected to keep the organizational side of things working at a Chapter level within the Camarilla/Mind’s Eye Society. These coordinators also have assistants who are entitled as ACC, or Assistant Chapter Coordinator.

CST: Chapter Storyteller – This is the title given to the person elected to keep the gaming side of things working at a Chapter level within the Camarilla/Mind’s Eye Society. These storytellers also have assistants who are entitled as ACST, or Assistant Chapter Storyteller.

VST: Venue Storyteller – The storyteller for a specific venue within a Domain for the Mind’s Eye Society.

Venue: Meaning the genre of the game. i.e. Cam/Anarch, Sabbat, Requiem, etc.

DC: Domain Coordinator – This is the title given to the person elected to keep the organizational side of things working at a Domain level within the Camarilla/Mind’s Eye Society. These coordinators also have assistants who are entitled as ADC, or Assistant Domain Coordinator.

DST: Domain Storyteller – This is the title given to the person elected to keep the gaming side of things working at a Domain level within the Camarilla/ Mind’s Eye Society. These storytellers also have assistants who are entitled as ADST, or Assistant Domain Storyteller.

RC: Regional Coordinator – This is the title given to the person elected to keep the organizational side of things working at a Regional level within the Camarilla/ Mind’s Eye Society. These coordinators also have assistants who are entitled as ARC, or Assistant Regional Coordinator.

RST: Regional Storyteller – This is the title given to the person elected to keep the gaming side of things working at a Regional level within the Camarilla/ Mind’s Eye Society. These storytellers also have assistants who are entitled as ARST, or Assistant Regional Storyteller.

Chapter – Local group of members within the Camarilla/ Mind’s Eye Society. Several Chapters create a Domain.

Domain – Generally several Chapters within the Camarilla/ Mind’s Eye Society. Several Domains create a Region.

More to be added as necessary.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Disney Buys Lucasfilm, “Star Wars” Franchise for $4 Billion

(Originally from Cartoon Brew.)

It’s not April Fools’ Day. The Walt Disney Company is acquiring Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise for $4.05 billion. The press release:

Global leader in high-quality family entertainment agrees to acquire world-renowned Lucasfilm Ltd, including legendary STAR WARS franchise.

Acquisition continues Disney’s strategic focus on creating and monetizing the world’s best branded content, innovative technology and global growth to drive long-term shareholder value.

Lucasfilm to join company’s global portfolio of world class brands including Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel and ABC.

STAR WARS: EPISODE 7 feature film targeted for release in 2015.
An investor conference call will take place at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 p.m. PDT today, October 30, 2012. Details for the call are listed in the release.

BURBANK, Calif. & SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm Ltd. in a stock and cash transaction. Lucasfilm is 100% owned by Lucasfilm Chairman and Founder, George Lucas.

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney stock on October 26, 2012, the transaction value is $4.05 billion, with Disney paying approximately half of the consideration in cash and issuing approximately 40 million shares at closing. The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.

“Lucasfilm reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of its founder, George Lucas,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content including Star Wars, one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and “evergreen” Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

Kathleen Kennedy, current Co-Chairman of Lucasfilm, will become President of Lucasfilm, reporting to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn. Additionally she will serve as the brand manager for Star Wars, working directly with Disney’s global lines of business to build, further integrate, and maximize the value of this global franchise. Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.
The acquisition combines two highly compatible family entertainment brands, and strengthens the long-standing beneficial relationship between them that already includes successful integration of Star Wars content into Disney theme parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo.

Driven by a tremendously talented creative team, Lucasfilm’s legendary Star Wars franchise has flourished for more than 35 years, and offers a virtually limitless universe of characters and stories to drive continued feature film releases and franchise growth over the long term. Star Wars resonates with consumers around the world and creates extensive opportunities for Disney to deliver the content across its diverse portfolio of businesses including movies, television, consumer products, games and theme parks. Star Wars feature films have earned a total of $4.4 billion in global box to date, and continued global demand has made Star Wars one of the world’s top product brands, and Lucasfilm a leading product licensor in the United States in 2011. The franchise provides a sustainable source of high quality, branded content with global appeal and is well suited for new business models including digital platforms, putting the acquisition in strong alignment with Disney’s strategic priorities for continued long-term growth.

The Lucasfilm acquisition follows Disney’s very successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel, which demonstrated the company’s unique ability to fully develop and expand the financial potential of high quality creative content with compelling characters and storytelling through the application of innovative technology and multiplatform distribution on a truly global basis to create maximum value. Adding Lucasfilm to Disney’s portfolio of world class brands significantly enhances the company’s ability to serve consumers with a broad variety of the world’s highest-quality content and to create additional long-term value for our shareholders.
The Boards of Directors of Disney and Lucasfilm have approved the transaction, which is subject to clearance under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act, certain non-United States merger control regulations, and other customary closing conditions. The agreement has been approved by the sole shareholder of Lucasfilm.

Note: Additional information and comments from Robert A. Iger, chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company, and Jay Rasulo, senior executive vice president and CFO, The Walt Disney Company, regarding Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, are attached.

Investor Conference Call:
An investor conference call will take place at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT / 1:30 p.m. PDT today, October 30, 2012. To listen to the Webcast, turn your browser to or dial in domestically at (888) 771-4371 or internationally at (847) 585-4405. For both dial-in numbers, the participant pass code is 33674546.
The discussion will be available via replay on the Disney Investor Relations website through November 13, 2012 at 5:00 PM EST/2:00 PM PST.


As we just announced, The Walt Disney Company has agreed to acquire Lucasfilm and its world class portfolio of creative content – including the legendary Star Wars franchise – along with all of its operating businesses, including Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound.

George Lucas is a visionary, an innovator and an epic storyteller – and he’s built a company at the intersection of entertainment and technology to bring some of the world’s most unforgettable characters and stories to screens across the galaxy. He’s entertained, inspired, and defined filmmaking for almost four decades and we’re incredibly honored that he has entrusted the future of that legacy to Disney.

Disney has had a great relationship with George that goes back a long way – with Star Wars theme attractions in our parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Paris and Tokyo. This acquisition builds on that foundation and combines two of the strongest family entertainment brands in the world. It makes sense, not just because of our brand compatibility and previous success together, but because Disney respects and understands – better than just about anyone else – the importance of iconic characters and what it takes to protect and leverage them effectively to drive growth and create value.

Lucasfilm fits perfectly with Disney’s strategic priorities. It is a sustainable source of branded, high quality creative content with tremendous global appeal that will benefit all of Disney’s business units and is incredibly well suited for new business models, including digital platforms. Adding the Lucasfilm IP to our existing Disney, Pixar and Marvel IP clearly enhances our ability to serve consumers, strengthening our competitive position — and we are confident we can earn a return on invested capital well in excess of our cost of capital.

Star Wars in particular is a strong global brand, and one of the greatest family entertainment franchises of all time, with hundreds of millions of fans around the globe. Its universe of more than 17,000 characters inhabiting several thousand planets spanning 20,000 years offers infinite inspiration and opportunities – and we’re already moving forward with plans to continue the epic Star Wars saga.

The last Star Wars movie release was 2005’s Revenge of the Sith – and we believe there’s substantial pent up demand. In 2015, we’re planning to release Star Wars Episode 7 – the first feature film under the “Disney-Lucasfilm” brand. That will be followed by Episodes 8 and 9 – and our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years. We’re very happy that George Lucas will be creative consultant on our new Star Wars films and that Kathleen Kennedy, the current Co-Chair of Lucasfilm, will executive produce. George handpicked Kathy earlier this year to lead Lucasfilm into the future. She’ll join Disney as President of Lucasfilm, reporting into Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn and integrating and building the Star Wars franchise across our company.

Our successful acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel prove Disney’s unique ability to grow brands and expand high-quality creative content to its fullest franchise potential and maximum value.

We’ve leveraged Pixar’s terrific characters and stories into franchises across our company – from feature films to consumer products online games, major attractions in our theme parks, and more.

The 2006 Pixar acquisition delivered more than great Pixar content — it also delivered the means to energize and revitalize the creative engine at Walt Disney Animation – which was crucial to our long term success. Animation is the heart and soul of Disney and our successful creative resurgence will be on full display this weekend when Wreck-It-Ralph opens in theaters across the country.

Our acquisition of Marvel three years later combined Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and an integrated business structure that maximizes the value of creative content across multiple platforms and territories. Our first two Marvel films – Thor and Captain America grossed a total of more than $800 million at the box office. This year, Marvel’s The Avengers grossed more than $1.5 billion to become the world’s third highest grossing movie of all time – and an important and lucrative franchise for us.

We’re looking forward to a robust slate of new Marvel movies – starting with Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World next year, followed by Captain America: The Winter Soldier in 2014. And, as we announced previously, Joss Whedon is writing and directing Avengers 2 and developing a Marvel-based series for ABC.

Pixar and Marvel both fit our criteria for strategic acquisitions – they add great IP that benefits multiple Disney businesses for years to come, and continue to create value well in excess of their purchase price. The acquisition of Lucasfilm is in keeping with this proven strategy for success and we expect it to create similar opportunity for Disney to drive long-term value for our shareholders.

We’re clearly excited about this move forward. We believe we can do great things with these amazing assets….we have a proven track record of maximizing the value of our strategic acquisitions…. and we’re poised to do the same with this one.


Lucasfilm, and more specifically the Star Wars franchise, fits perfectly within the Disney portfolio of intellectual properties and the strategic and financial implications of this acquisition are compelling. Our team has spent a tremendous amount of time evaluating this deal and we have concluded we are uniquely positioned to maximize the value of Lucasfilm’s IP in a manner that can generate substantial value for our shareholders above and beyond the purchase price.

In this transaction we will acquire rights to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, a highly talented and expert team, Lucasfilm’s best-in-class post production businesses, Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound, and a suite of cutting edge entertainment technologies. Our valuation focused almost entirely on the financial potential of the Star Wars franchise, which we expect to provide us with a stream of storytelling opportunities for years to come delivered via all relevant platforms on a global basis.

There are a number of ways our company will derive value from Lucasfilm’s intellectual property—some of which can be realized immediately while others will accrue to us over time. George and his team have built Star Wars into one of the most successful and enduring family entertainment franchises in history, as well as one of the best selling licensed character merchandise brands in the U.S. and around the world. However, we believe there is great opportunity to further expand the consumer products business. Today, Star Wars is heavily skewed toward toys and North America. We see great opportunity domestically to extend the breadth and depth of the Star Wars franchise into other categories. We also plan to leverage Disney’s global consumer products organization to grow the Star Wars consumer products business internationally.

Let me note that in 2012 Lucasfilm’s consumer products business is expected to generate total licensing revenue that is comparable to the roughly $215 million in consumer products revenue Marvel generated in 2009, the year in which we announced our acquisition. With renewed film releases, and the support we can give the Star Wars property on our Disney-branded TV channels, we expect that business to grow substantially and profitably for many years to come.

We also expect to create significant value in the film business. We plan to release the first new Star Wars film in 2015, and then plan to release one film every two to three years. These films will be released and distributed as part of our target slate of 8-10 live-action films per year, and will augment Disney’s already strong creative pipeline for many years to come. Lucasfilm has not released a Star Wars film since Revenge of the Sith in 2005. However, adjusted for inflation, as well as growth in both international box office and 3D, we estimate the three most recent Star Wars films would have averaged about $1.5 billion in global box office in today’s dollars. This speaks to the franchise’s strength, global appeal and the great opportunity we have in the film business.

We also expect to utilize Star Wars in other businesses including Parks & Resorts, in games and in our television business. These initiatives were also considered in our valuation.

Under the terms of the agreement, Disney will buy Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion, consisting of approximately fifty percent cash and fifty percent in Disney stock. Based on Friday’s closing price of Disney stock, we expect to issue approximately 40 million Disney shares in this transaction. We continue to believe our shares are attractively priced at current levels and therefore, we currently intend to repurchase all of the shares issued within the next two years– and that’s in addition to what we planned to repurchase in the absence of the transaction.

Our valuation of Lucasfilm is roughly comparable to the value we placed on Marvel when we announced that acquisition in 2009. Our Lucasfilm valuation is almost entirely driven by the Star Wars franchise, so any success from other franchises would provide upside to our base case. I realize it may be a challenge for you to quantify our opportunity given the limited amount of publicly available information. But to give you some perspective on the size of the Lucasfilm business– in 2005, the year in which the most recent Star Wars film was released, Lucasfilm generated $550 million in operating income. We’ve taken a conservative approach in our valuation assumptions, including continued erosion of the home entertainment market, and we expect this acquisition to create value for our shareholders.

In terms of the impact on our financials, we expect the acquisition to be dilutive to our EPS by low single digit percentage points in fiscal 2013 and 2014 and become accretive to EPS in 2015.

Our capital allocation philosophy has been consistent since Bob took over as CEO. In addition to returning capital to shareholders, we have invested, both organically and through acquisitions, in high quality, branded content that can be seamlessly leveraged across our businesses. Our acquisition of Lucasfilm is entirely consistent with this strategy, and we’re incredibly excited by the prospect of building on Lucasfilm’s successful legacy to create significant value for our shareholders.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In the beginning...

In the fall of 1984, my friend Scott lead me down the long, dark road I am on now when he introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons the day after my 10th birthday. At that time, TSR had "For ages 10+" on the covers of their materials... and for some reason, we adhered to that.

Starting in Basic and quickly moving my way through the ranks until finally getting to Advanced, I was hooked. I created characters based on movies I had watched. The Conan archetype was the first attempt, but wouldn't be my last. Here's some of the cast of TV and movie characters I remember making RPG characters for: [Mind you, this list is based on characters over the course of years and not just from D&D.]
  • Conan (The original movies, but I think I'd like to make one based off of the re-imagining staring Jason Mamoa.)
  • Madmartigan (Val Kilmer's character from the movie Willow.)
  • Gen. Kael (Another character from Willow.)
  • Bowen (Dennis Quaid's character from Dragonheart.)
  • Azeem (Morgan Freeman's memoriable character from Robin Hood, Prince of Theives.)
  • D (From Vampire Hunter D.)
  • Leon (The Professional)
The 80's also brought me visions of my first love: Tiamat. That probably sounds real wierd, but I've had a horrible appreciation for the 5-headed chromatic dragon since I first laid eyes upon her animated version in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. To this very day, Tiamat is close to my heart. Her's was the only D&D mini that I saved when I sold my collection and I have this printed signed and on the wall in my living room:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

1st post & mission statement

I go by many names:
  • Zanziber
  • Inking_zanziber
  • Wraith_Man
  • Starshadow
I've been playing roleplaying games since 1984. Dungeons & Dragons from TSR started it all, and now I am entrenched in White Wolf's classic World of Darkness; which I have been a fan of since 1992. I've been an active collector of RPG's since around 1997.

This blog is intended to post about my past experiences in gaming, my current struggles and observations on gaming and the gaming community, and thoughts on the future of the pen-and-paper format that has brought me so much joy and angst over the past several decades.

I have been a player, a dungeon master, a game master, a storyteller and whatever else you want to name the leader of the games. I hope to provide some interesting ideas to my readers and hope to help inspire a new generation of roleplayers.

Please don't think that the above statement makes me arrogant or egotistical. This is simply a hope that what I put out here helps someone in some, small way. In my own little way, I would like to continue the culture and experience that is the pen-and-paper RPG.

With the introduction of card games and online games, I see a decline in the number of people who actually gather to play traditional RPG's. I am reminded of a quote from Dr. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory; "It runs on the world's most powerful graphics chip: Imagination."

I have also played a multitude of collectible card games as well, so I'll likely post about them as well. From Magic to Yu-Gi-Oh. I've had a little experience with miniature games as well, like Heroclix. I'll occasionally post about them, but they will not be a frequent source of material right now.

I welcome my readers to also join me on Facebook.