Comments on TWH #181


Dana Derryberry

Enjoyed the strip! Laughed out loud at the line, "how does the phrase 'Lifetime without female companionship' strike you?"

Doug Jorenby

When I lived in Spain, I got to meet many boring and pretentious people at the international cocktail parties my parents often held. As a small child, I quickly learned who was interesting to hang around by figuring out who was intelligent, witty, and/or piercingly truthful. There was a man that my parents often invited who was all three. He was one of only three survivors of the Communist massacre of the Polish cavalry officers in the forest of Katyn at the end of 1939. His name, as far as I ever knew, was Col. Zhyorjelski (spelling optional), and he told fascinating, slightly unreal and probably carefully edited (to me, at the time) war stories that I was later assured by my parents were essentially true. He was amazing, and always patient with a slightly confused and naive 10 year old who couldn't quite grasp the point or concept of war. He was this skinny little whipcord of a man, both physically and mentally. However, he didn't ride anymore. Teach, yes; ride, no. It was a self-imposed thing; he wished to move with the times, not be a withered relic of the Second War to end all wars.

One time he was giving my father a riding lesson. My father's horse was a big mare, about 17 and a half hands at the withers, and mean. She was far too free with her teeth, heels, and temper, especially with other horses. She respected my father and coddled me (from my father, "God protects fools and children, and I don't know which you fall under!) and that was about it. The only reason my father put up with this was because she had talent. She could jump. God, could she jump, and make you believe it was effortless.

Anyway, Col. Zhyorjelski got annoyed because he couldn't get an idea across to my father to make the horse behave. So, in a fury, he announced he would ride her. I'll never forget my mother's and his wife's faces going white when he said that. Remember, he must have been about late fifties, early sixties by then. People get brittle. One fall would be all it would take.

They tried talking him out of it, but the more they tried, the angrier and more determined he got. That day, he was an amazing example of the coldly contemptuous, rigidly controlled cavalry officer. He never forgot his dignity, he never lost his English, and he never raised his voice. He also rode my father's horse.

When you see someone in the same context all the time, you forget they can exist in any other context. I'd always seen Col. Zhyorjelski stumping around on the ground; never on horseback. I'd heard he was an excellent rider, like all the Polish cavalry officers, but that wasn't my mental picture of him. He'd always seemed short, stumpy, and somewhat graceless. Ah... but on a horse!

We watched him for about 15 minutes of riding. He and the mare argued, and she didn't even know she'd lost. They seemed to flow effortlessly around the ring, soared without a thought over a couple of jumps, nothing spectacular. But the easy, floating teamwork of him and his horse and the look of unalloyed delight on his face has stayed with me.

When he got off, he handed the reins to my father and said matter-of-factly, "You try now." The fact that the mare was impeccably behaved surprised none of us. But after that day, Col. Zhyorjelski started riding again. Not a lot, just when he felt like it; when he needed to. He always seemed more complete on a horse.

I suppose by now you've figured out what all this long-windedness is about, but bear with me. I don't have a problem with you not writing regularly; it's your choice. But there aren't enough people with art, intelligence, and wit, to completely lose one. Don't forget to ride when you feel like it.

Yah, I've read Baker Street -- hard to find and erratic, but well worth the wait. I love a good story! As an aside, anyone ever hear of Triad, The Boston Bombers, Balance of Power, or Empire Lanes? All four are excellent stories which I highly recommend. Unfortunately they're all black and white independents, and we all know what that means. I won't give away the stories unless asked, though (I hate teasers!:-). I still have hopes Triad and Balance of Power will keep coming out, but I really don't know about the other two. Empire Lanes managed to get quite a few issues out before disappearing. The Boston Bombers managed to get me hooked on a fascinating premise (what if Christ was a woman?) after only three issues. I haven't seen any of them recently, though I know comics come out differently on both coasts. Anyone have any news on these titles?

Scott Ruggels

Thanks for putting in my gaming classifications, Scott. Nicely done. However, I guess I'm not the typical gamer. I never went through the war-gaming stage. I just like to role-play; I always have. I will point out that the group Scott refers to as "Pretty much in stage three, contentedly savoring the mood of one of the storytellers," is not the Friday night game I run. Sorry, Scott, but I still think the "contented" group is somewhat incestuous. I'd still like to run with some of them, just not in the Sunday game. :-)

However, I strongly disagree with your assessment of Warhammer 40K's rules system. There was a period of time when I'd be sitting at Planet Ten with nothing to do, and I'd flip through rules books. WH 40K does have lavish and gorgeous art, even if some of the subject matter is truly disgusting. It does have an amazing marketing system, which works better in England than America (England doesn't have anti-trust laws). What it doesn't have is a good rules system. Indeed, the rules system is deliberately set up to be confusing -- that way "White Dwarf," the company organ magazine, can publish rules addenda which totally overturn the balance of play, and cannot be disqualified since all rules are supposed to always apply! Then, to add insult to injury, these addenda are published in glossy hard-covers and sold for $20 apiece. We're talking a small handful of previously published material which the players of tournaments must have if they expect to ever win. Neat scam, huh? And of course, if you're in a tournament, you must have all the miniatures for your army, all correctly painted. You can't, for example, use an Eldar mini to signify an Orc -- it just isn't "by the rules"!

What WH 40K has that the kids love is all the things you mentioned ("Big violence! Bodycounts! The acquisition and exercise of immense power! and the recognized superiority of the elite!" (I thought you liked that, Scott :-), but also gorgeous artwork and parental disapproval. Don't forget how important that is! :-)

"The system is not easy to learn and is intimidating..." I'll say! You try timidly offering your first attempt at a well-rounded Hero character to Rules-Lawyer Lad (who is doubling as the Storyteller GM tonight) and have him do a hatchet job on it, while telling you he'll loan you the rules-book, read it tonight, would you, and by the way, this isn't really any good, not combat efficient at all, tsk, tsk, won't work at all, oh, well, you'll get better, little girl. GRRR! I was asked just the other day how I'd stat up Hero Lite, and I said I'd GM with someone else knowing the rules. Weeell, it was Lite for me!

I've noticed one interesting thing about the "MTV generation" -- e.g. I've played (with MUCH frustration) with someone who I think qualifies as one. I found this person very hard to GM for, because I was raised to believe one should be willing to fight for the things one desires and believes in. I was also raised in gaming to believe that one wanted one's character to suffer occasionally, because that sparked the opportunity for good role-playing! This means the PCs don't always win the battles, even if they win the war. This player, on the other hand, believed his PC should win. Always. Sometimes without putting points into the things he wanted the PC to succeed at. Without effort. If his PC got pushed too much in his opinion, he'd just have the PC literally curl up and go fetal on us. Has anyone else noticed this?

*giggle* " magic has become a little more common...." Are you suuure, Scott? I dropped or toned down the magical barriers over entire cities that could be raised and lowered at the drop of a hat, the interdimensional gates through which armies passed, the "drunkenness detectors" at every single guard post in the North, the anti-magic shell over the entire royal palace (this in a country that is about 30% shapeshifters who get violently nauseous in anti-magic shells!), the 12 point magical and physical defense armor on a PC (this meant he never took damage!), and several other sorts of things in a similar vein. If anything, magic is less common! Also, initially I didn't add any mages to the game, I just required the one you allowed to define his spells! *grin*


Gad, the page color is awful! I'll have to try it again! :-)

David Hoberman

I may be in the minority, but I am one Pack member who does not believe it impossible to resolve player conflict (see previous zines). However, it is rather like addiction -- the best way to resolve player conflict is for everyone to want it resolved.

"Everyone together now, breathe deeeep!"

"Weee waaaant toooo chaaaange!" *grin*.

One example I was in involved myself and another player. I've described why his character got killed in the Vampire game in Peaceable Demeanor #2. The point I'm making is he wished to continue playing with us, but didn't understand why his PC was so universally loathed. We talked. A lot. All of us. After a while, he came up with another PC, and since we'd talked, this one clicked.

You mentioned you were interested in campaign endings. I've been through several. Most games end for me because I get bored and leave. I admit, I need a high-energy game to keep my interest up. In my defense, I will point out that I'm more than willing to pour energy into the game, via my PCs. I have noticed most of the games I drop out of seem to collapse soon after, so maybe I'm just good at noticing when a game has run out of steam.

One example is a Shadowrun game I was in. It ended shortly after I left. The GM was my inspiration for the Storyteller from TEAM FROM HELL! Anyway, I threw myself into making a PC that could be friendly with other PCs, would allow new characters to enter the game as she introduced them (something the GM had requested), and was new enough to the city that she'd need help (other PCs) in order to get by. Unfortunately, the GM decided that it was appropriate for another PC to publicly scold mine in a humiliating fashion. After that, I couldn't see why my PC would want to hang out with such a person, but I was willing to keep trying to game -- maybe the GM would have something happen that would bring the two PCs together again. An incident later in the same run convinced me this would never happen, nor would the GM try to help the situation.

Basically, the GM managed to get us all into the same bar. We were in the back; a disturbance happened in the front, upstage. The solo whipped out his sword, leapt up on the club's catwalks, and ran up towards the stage. The PC with whom I had problems called up one or two spirits (I forget what shamans call up -- AT&T? :-) which were described with loving detail by the GM as they gathered information for their summoner. The cop got to a vantage point, pulled his gun, and sighted on the stage, holding the rest of his action (yes, he was played by a real cop ;-). The mage did I forget what, but it too was lovingly described by the GM and was useful and productive. When it was my turn to go, I was informed my PC was so short, I'd have to take my action finding something to stand on so I could see what was happening.

I can take a hint.

Alternatively, there are some games which ended because of player conflict. As I've said before, if the players are willing to try working it out it can run. However, I highly recommend knowing when to call it quits -- if you feel you or your PC are getting morphed by pressure from others into something you aren't comfortable with, quit.

For example: a friend who just has a different gaming style from me. I like to play a three dimensional PC, in the act of her consistent character development, and he "roleplays broadly, and enjoys playing two dimensional characters with the gusto of a music hall performer" (thanks, Scott!). Had I been in a different, more "music hall" game, we probably would have hit it off famously. Unfortunately, we weren't. *sigh* We coulda been contendahs!

I've actually been in one solo game where the GM and I mutually decided to end the game -- we'd said all we had to say about the PC. It wasn't that we were bored; we both wanted to keep gaming. It was simply that the character had reached a pinnacle where there were no more challenges for her. It was a weird realization. Neither I nor the GM had ever had something like that happen before. So we started a new game. :-)

Finally, I've been in games where the GM, without input from anyone else, just decides to end the game. I suppose this happens because of GM boredom, inertia, insecurity, whatever. This is very frustrating. Usually the GM won't tell you exactly why they're ending the game. Sometimes there's the sneaking suspicion it's your fault, and you should have done something different. On the other hand, I would guess those games are usually doomed to failure. Some of the reasons I've both seen and heard are: the GM isn't really committed to the game, doesn't know what he's doing, isn't prepared, is scared of your intensity, or perhaps doesn't like you. This last one is to me a very sad reason to end the game -- better by far, I feel, to tell the player you hate to please leave, rather than make everyone else miserable. If it isn't fun, why game?

Peter Maranci

So! You're to blame for my untimely net harassment by Bob Butler!

[embarrassing pictures deleted due to space constraints ;-)].

BTW, an anthropology teacher defined "instinct" for me as that which cannot be trained out of the animal, human or otherwise. Thus to believe all females are helpless isn't an instinctual, but rather a cultural human trait. Nurture, not nature. However, (hmmm, this is difficult -- I don't think humans are very instinctual) to cling to something so you don't fall from a great height is. I think. Maybe you could train someone to happily fall from great heights, but I would think it a somewhat terminal exercise. :-) Okay, how's this: if you're a migratory bird, to fly south for the winter is instinctual.

re your powers: (drum roll, please) May I introduce to you -- Pear-Shaped Man! With his amazing abilities of SOO-per LAY-out! TA-DA!

Maybe not. :-)

Baile con La Muerte!


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    Last Updated: Mon Aug 4 1997