Category Archives: Random Stuff

Lost Franchise: The Micronauts

 

  For the past couple months, Chaotic GM has been working up what appears to be a fantastic, generic Science Fiction supplement for Savage Worlds (http://chaosmeister.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/savage-worlds-savage-space-space-opera-sci-fi-supplement-pdf-release/ ) .  I always enjoy his stuff but I’ve never really been terribly interested in SF gaming.  While I was mowing the lawn yesterday, I let my mind wander and tried to think of a SF type campaign which I’d enjoy running.

     My thoughts quickly lead me to the Micronauts.  For those who may not recall, the Micronauts were a series of action figures from the late 1970’s.  These largely interchangeable toys pre-dated the Star Wars action figures and were wildly popular.

     In 1979, Marvel Comics launched a series based on the figures.  All the makings were there for a classic SF tale.  Commander Arcturus Rann leads a ragtag band of heroes across the “Microverse”.  Among his crew are a love interest, pair of loveable robots, warrior prince, and even a wise-cracking insect man.

     Baron Karza, the lead villain (and perhaps one of the most recognizable toys) was responsible for the creation of the “body banks”, wherein he harvested organs and limbs from slaves, in order to build his genetically engineered armies of soldiers.

     While clearly borrowing quite a bit from Star Wars (which was just reaching critical mass at this time), the story and characters were fresh enough to put my imagination into a whole different place.  I certainly came up with plenty of different stories for the adventures of the Micronauts as a kid.  I’m thinking that I could build quite a campaign out of the whole thing.  As an added bonus, during the course of my reminiscing, I learned that J.J. Abrams has been in negotiations to produce a movie based on the Micronauts.

     At any rate, I strongly urge you to pop over and check out Chaotic GM’s work on Savage Space ( http://chaosmeister.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/savage-worlds-savage-space-space-opera-sci-fi-supplement-pdf-release/ ).  He certainly managed to get my imagination flowing and I guess that’s one of the best things about our hobby.

***

     Thank you for reading.  My apologies for having to type out the links in long-form.  My “insert/edit link” button has been acting peculiar and I’m not certain why.  Will have to look into it but I’m in the middle of a job-hunt and chefs don’t seem to be in great demand in southeastern Ohio.

     Do you happen to remember the Micronauts?  Any other “Lost Franchises” out there which you always thought would fit well within an RPG?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Good Gaming.

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Filed under Random Stuff, Savage Worlds

Is your “friendly neighborhood game store” really all that friendly?

     As a kid, my heart would leap when my folks would be headed anywhere near our local gaming store.  Whether I had any allowance saved up or not, I would ask to tag along, in hopes that we could stop for a quick visit. 

     In the early 1980s, if I wanted any new gaming accessory, there was only one place to find it.  A trip to the gaming store was not only a chance for me to buy something, but also my main source of information about the hobby.  Sure, every once in a while I might be able to get a copy of Dragon Magazine at the local news-stand but they were hard to come by.  If I wanted any real “game related news”, it would require actually setting foot in my local gaming store.

     Obviously that’s not the case these days.  With the Internet we often know about products relatively early in the developmental stages.  Want some out-of-print item?  Chances are that eBay or Amazon will be your best bet, and often be cheaper than if you found it in a store.  Hell, often even brand new items can be purchased at favorable prices online (and that’s assuming that you’re even going to buy a hard copy as opposed to a .pdf)

     With these changes, I would have to think that the brick & mortar gaming stores are feeling the heat.  They’re not alone, as video rental stores are increasingly hard to come by and even traditional bookstores are facing an uncertain future.

     With this kind of outlook, I would expect retailers to be doing everything in their power to tie themselves to their customers.  Unfortunately, in the few months since I’ve dipped myself back into the hobby, I’ve seen no signs of this. 

     As I was poking around and deciding whether I wanted to create a blog for myself, I spent a lot of time reading the blogs of other gamers.  This happened to be right around the time of Free RPG Day 2011.  In reading the pre-event buzz, I thought that this sounded like a fantastic idea.  This type of event could clearly be good for retailers.

     Unfortunately, in the weeks following, I must have read at least 20 blogs or forum reports  with negative impressions from the event.  Many complained that they had made the trip to a retailer (who had been using advertising materials for the event), only to find that the employees on hand knew nothing about the event.

     My biggest issue with the 5 stores which I’ve visited in recent months is customer service.  Perhaps I don’t look like a “typical” gamer, but when I walk into a store, I feel like I’m wearing a cloak of invisibility.  Not a single employee has greeted me or even looked up from whatever they were reading.  In and of itself, that’s not a huge problem.  I usually know what I’m looking for and enjoy browsing.  However, I AM a gamer.  I have to wonder about the scores of parents or significant others who have no idea what they’re looking for. 

     Take a moment and consider the parent of a young gamer, who comes in seeking birthday or Christmas presents.  Unless they’re into the hobby themselves, they’d likely be totally lost in a gaming store.  If confronted with a friendly and helpful employee, they’ll likely walk out of there with some heavy purchases (it’s not like there’s a rival gaming store on every corner).  On the other hand, if they’re treated rudely or ignored all together, “little Johnny” is likely to end up with an iTunes gift card for a present.

     Obviously, customer service issues can be common in any retail venue.  However, it seems to me that gaming stores and other “geek related” retailers (comic book stores & video game stores) are particularly challenged in this area.  Sadly, I’m afraid that this is directly because of the stigma which if often attached to these hobbies.

     By in large, it seems that folks who work in gaming stores are gamers themselves.  This should be a great asset.  However, it often seems that I encounter one of the three following stereotypes.

  • The Outcast:  This fellow never fit into any social group while he was growing up and he’s got a MASSIVE chip on his shoulders.  Having finally found a place where he is accepted, he views any customers who aren’t like him as “outsiders”.  Ironically, he’s doing exactly what was done to him for his whole life.  The sooner you’re out of his store, the better.
  • The Elitist:  This guy takes his job very seriously.  Oh he’ll talk to you, but he’ll only tell you what he wants to spout off at the moment.  He’s quite certain that he knows everything about everything (after all, he does work in a gaming store).  Interested in a product that he doesn’t like?  You’re in for a 10 minute soliloquy about why your game sucks.  In the meantime, he will make certain that you’re aware of his “gaming credentials”.
  • The Nerd-Rager:  This poor soul has his mind made up about everything (Star Wars vs. Star Trek, DC vs. Marvel, 3.5e vs. 4.0e).  He can actually be quite charming, as long as your views align with his.  However, should you be interested in a product outside of his particular likes, he will immediately become condescending.

     That’s not to say that there aren’t some awesome gaming stores out there with really sharp employees.  More than anything, it’s just to wish that I had one nearby.  I love this hobby and I love browsing through a good brick & mortar gaming store.  I just hope that they’re always around for us to enjoy.

     What’s it like in your neighborhood?  Do you still frequent an actual gaming store or do you make all of your purchases online?  Have you had any really positive (or negative) experiences?  I would love to hear your stories.

     Thank you for reading.  Good Gaming!

 

 

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Monsters in your own backyard

     Do you have any monsters in your own backyard?

     For the past year or so I’ve lived in a rural town in southeastern, Ohio.  On my first full night, while my girlfriend was at work, I grabbed my camera and headed off to a place which I’d been wanting to visit for over 20 years.

     A 30-minute drive took me across the border, into West Virginia.  In the town of Point Pleasant, I parked my truck and set off in search of my quarry.  It happened to be a dark, rainy night but I didn’t mind.  In fact, the weather made the experience that much better.  I walked up and down the quiet streets, craning my neck around every corner, not entirely sure that I would find what I was looking for.  Finally, about a half mile from where I had parked, I saw it.  There before me was the statue of the Mothman!

     45 years ago, two couples from Point Pleasant claimed to have encountered a 7-foot-tall creature with large wings and glowing red eyes.  They reported that the creature chased them for some time before they were finally able to escape it.  In the months to follow, more sightings of the “Mothman” were reported.  Some claimed it to be a supernatural creature, others said that it might be an alien life-form, others yet insisted that it must be a hoax.

     Ultimately, the reports pretty much ground to a halt after the Silver Bridge (connecting Point Pleasant, WV to Gallipolis, OH) collapsed on December 15, 1967.  While this tragedy likely calmed the hysteria that had been prevalent in the area, some claimed that there was more to it.

     Based on the frequent sightings of the Mothman prior to the bridge collapse, some claim that he was a  harbinger of doom.  In the years to follow, there have been reports of Mothman sightings prior to other disasters, in various locales around the United States. 

     While the story garnered enough press coverage to warrant a book and even a Hollywood movie (albeit only loosely based on the story), it’s still a rather obscure legend.  Compared to the Loch Ness Monster & Bigfoot, the Mothman is hardly a household name. 

     I’m drawn to legends like the Mothman specifically because of their obscurity.  They’re out there and just about every community has them.  Hell, I could just as easily be writing about the White Lady, who supposedly haunts the shore of Lake Ontario, in my hometown of Rochester, NY. 

     As gamers we’re all accustomed to having a level of familiarity with legendary creatures from thousands of years of history.  The words “dragon”, “vampire”, or “goblin” immediately bring hundreds of vivid images to our minds.  A party who is told that they’re facing a vampire will immediately have some ideas as to how to proceed.  Challenge that same party with a three-headed, crab monster and all bets are off.  For every superstar of the monster world, just imagine how many little-known myths there must be out there.

     I’ve been blessed in my life to be able to travel quite a bit.  One of my favorite things to do while I’m off adventuring is to ask people about local legends and myths.  I get some odd looks while doing this but every so often, I get some fantastic stories.  That said, I’ll now put that question to you.

     Since I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve had the pleasure of “meeting” quite a number of interesting folks, from all over the world.  Please take just a minute and leave a quick comment.  Are there any juicy myths or legends from your area?  You can be as brief or detailed as you like but I would love to hear about the monsters in your own backyard.

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Filed under Legends & Tales, Random Stuff