A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

[Operation Game Collection] Star Wars RPG/Hobby Gaming the D20 Years Part 1

  Well this WAS going to be a single parter but in preparing for it I realized it is entirely too much for one post.  In fact it might take THREE.  Maybe.  As is it is 11 months late.

Last year we covered the best Star Wars RPG ever made if not one of the best RPGs ever PERIOD, the West End Games D6 version.  Now in the age of the prequels and the massive dominance of the D20 ruleset used in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Wizards of the Coast had gotten the Star Wars license helped out by their being owned by giant IP swallower that is NOT Disney, Hasbro.

  I was at least a LITTLE bit excited.  Everyone plays D&D and the Prequel trilogy was starting up.  Now there would be almost zero reason for folks to not play Star Wars as the normal excuse of "Well I would have to learn a new game" was now dead.  If D&D was great being able to play in the giant galaxy of Star Wars would be even MORE GREAT.  No longer stuck being murderhobos going into dungeons on planets who somehow were an odd pre Renaissance Lord of the Rings technology level but with dozens of sapient races and massive amounts of fauna and flora capable of snuffing out said races before said races could even do it to themselves. THERE WERE NOW WORLDS TO EXPLORE AND SAVE over tons of different environments and cultures and technology levels with a timeline vast enough to allow for just about anything.


  Sadly, as always the RPG playerbase at large only wants bog standard D&D in usually whatever edition is currently in print and ONLY in as close to generic Tolkienesque Fantasy but with Murderhoboing as possible.   No other settings in that system, no other systems in that setting.

 I HATE HATE HAAAAAAATE this.  While I don't mind some quality D&D from time to time it has never ever been the one RPG I would want to play over any other.  In most cases it is merely me settling for it in the hopes that maybe people will become friends and be willing to try new systems and setting types.  This is largely a NO and as always my heart and soul get broken.  It is also why I have basically given up on tabletop RPGs at this point in my life.  Given my schedule, social circle (IRL so small as to be practically ZERO), and what I want to play or run I have just given up on RPGs.  (Something about insanity being doing the same thing and expecting different results.)  And at this point the people who do really want me to run anything still have extremely limited tastes and it would have to be online which I have never enjoyed doing.  (Although running something like D6 system or other lighter systems would work much better probably.)

  But I was still somewhat hopeful back then and gave WOTC a shot.  It did not go over well.  It only made my hatred for RPG players in general grow and the best thing I can say is it showed me how I should have dropped out of a number of groups sooner than I did.

  Anyhow, let's see what I have for the early days of the WOTC license eh? 

(You know the drill. Click for larger images if it is your thing.)
 We start out with a starter box that came with a Wookie action figure to maybe grab collectors of SW stuff to maybe try an RPG and also the character sheet pack.  As is kind of obvious the early WOTC SW was prequel based more than Original Trilogy (OT) though it fully covered both.  Like D20 D&D it was heavy on battle map combats but in this game's case they had action figure scale to use all your toys.  

 I really do like the art in the Theed box it must be said.  The character sheet pack also shows the Era designation which gives you information on what point in SW history it can be used in.  Which at this time was a rather large array of novels and Dark Horse comic books in what was known as the Expanded Universe  (EU).  Disney got rid of 95% of the EU.

 Our Mk1 character sheet.  The biggest difference between D&D and SW was armor worked much differently to the point of being useless (not too bad given how it normally seems useless in most SW media honestly..) and two HP systems as one was actual physical health and the other was the more abstracted D&D like value which rarely actually meant taking mortal damage.  Kinda.

 Besides the toy I think I gave away the box came with the character sheets, the rules, and the adventures plus a battle map to play on with counters I think.  This thing came out a good 16 YEARS AGO OH GOD I AM OLD.

 As is the normal case the starter set has simple adventure and scenario bits mostly based around combat stuff, in this case taking place alongside Episode 1.

 A bit of the battle map.  The other side is less fancy but in action figure scale.

 The main rulebook and part of the GM screen in this case showing the OT cast which is on the back of the Core Rulebook here.  (See what I mean?  They were aiming at the currently running Prequels more than the OT.)

 A bit of the info in the GM screen.  

 The rulebook is full color and quite large.  But the abstracted vehicle combat systems and the weird armor rules would not last too long.

 We also had some cheaper black and white (mostly) supplement books which were sought after for a while as they had smaller print runs and OMG ITS NOT DEE UN DEE meant less people buying them in the first place.

 Yes at this point in time even the original Marvel Comics Star Wars series was mostly still part of EU canon.  Thus Hoojibs!

 I didn't go too crazy on getting D20 SW stuff.  Rebellion Era was kind of a no brainer as was Dark Side.  New Jedi Order was more to see what the basic story was all about.  The answer to me was REALLY STUPID.  From all reports of the New Jedi Order series and what came after it was even worse.  So this book kind of helped me to see I didn't want to read those books.  

 Showing the backs of two of them.  Obviously not the NJO one.  Also one can see prices and stuff.

 And a page of the Rebellion book with one of my favorite machines in Sci Fi on it, the mighty AT-AT!

But it didn't take off.  Between the uneven response to the first prequel, some of the wobbly rules, and RPGers mostly being snotty prats who only want their one precious game no matter the edition (although in this case people already had a fantastic RPG system I talked about last year in D6 so it had more hurdles!) it didn't make too many waves.

So around the time of the next (really really BAD) movie they did another mostly compatible go at it:

 Now with all the movie stuff on the front cover!  They still made some cheaper supplement books though!

 I would say if you wanted a D20 D&D Star Wars game that played like 3.0 and 3.5 they pretty much did it right this time.  

 They also helpfully tell you its for the Revised edition.  Nice of them!

 And our new character sheet.

 I again realized early on even with the fixes most people just weren't going to play it so I again did not exactly spend fat stacks on the game.

But the Hero's Guide back does show it was clearly doing the 3.x character building thing with piles of new stuff to mostly be there to kill stuff better or do stupid tricks if your GM decided to want more than just a combat game.   Basically Revised is more or less Pathfinder to Core's 3.0.  

But again it didn't go over as well as Hasbro, Lucasfilm, and WOTC probably wanted it to.  But they had some folks working on the next edition of D&D so they had an idea on how to test a few things out with less risk,

  Join me next time for SAGA EDITION, the Star Wars Gamer magazine, and possibly the collectible miniatures games depending on how big the next installment will be.  It probably won't have me whining.  (Besides, for all I know I am the failure.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Atari 8 Bit Computer Collection Update/Gripe Session Part 3: Books, Books, I Love Books

  Well some extra purchases kept this post from being done exactly when I wanted but it makes things easier on me to keep my collection more updated as my idiot ass does buy more stuff and doing blog bits makes me fired up to GET MORE THINGS I DON'T NEED BUT WANT ANYHOW.

  So let us show off my books for the Atari 8 bits and some collection updates.  As usual click images for larger if you want.

 My "Core" manuals plus some handy print outs and other cheat sheet like things from Atarimania or Atari Age.   The Internet is great for when you buy an old thing without a manual you can almost be assured somebody has scanned that sumbitch!  And the Atari 8 bit community is practically obsessed with scanning and archiving every little thing no matter how miniscule.  Bless their autistic little hearts!

 I think I got this little programming quick guide online with some other books.  Its kind of useful and handy.  I have a few more of such guides I have printed out but it is nice to have a legit copy from time to time.  Like most of the time, money and luck permitting!

 Our DOS manuals teach you how to.. use DOS.  Atari DOS not MS.  Being an 8 bit computer of the 80s computer code is all but expected of the user to some degree.

 Atari had really great full color guides to get you moving.  

 As mentioned I was looking for that Gateway to Apshai manual.  I found it somehow mixed in with all these books and that Atari magazine.

 The four Compute! Magazine Atari books I have full of reprinted articles from Compute! before it slowly morphed into a MSDOS PC magazine like most surviving computer mags did back in the day.

 A mixture of tutorials and programs to type in.  These pages give you an idea what to expect.

 And what the books look like within.  I love the spiral binding type books.  So easy to open up and refer to.

 Some of my other Atari books.  The FORTH book is mostly known because the cover is hilarious.  The two Micro Adventure books are kid oriented stories where you have to put in a program on your computer at various points to like solve a thing in the story and you learn a little about programming.  There are a bunch of these but I want to see what they are like and what the programs actually DO before dropping 20 bucks or so to get a bunch more.  The Consumer's Guide is a general purpose book about the Atari and what was available at that time, Atari Experience is a book of programs, and the Beginning Beginner is a nice super start book to get into both using the computer and learning some BASIC.

 More books of self learning!

 And the 101 book is mostly another book of programs.  That really won't even TELL YOU WHAT YOU ARE TYPING IN.  For reasons I guess?

 The Graphics book is pretty nice and friendly.  Makes self teaching easy and fun!  Lots of good stuff does this.  For you hex and chit wargamers go look at the original Squad Leader versus the Advanced Squad Leader Starter Kit series.  Squad Leader was great at teaching you and considered you at least somewhat of a novice but not a complete moron.  The ASLSKs are practically GIBBERISH like most ASL books are.

Then I had another goal now that I had photographed all my stuff.  ORGANIZE IT.  My collection had basically exploded past the small plastic storage tub.  And my multiple disk holders.  I dropped 18 bucks for a festive multi tub from Walmart and now we can see it all looks almost organized!

 Bottom shelf is mostly boxed Atari carts, lots of my books, and my SSI games with some other wargames in tow.

 Most of my EA styled album games here, a few more books, and the rest of my disk games.

 All of my other cartridge titles on the top shelf.  Sadly lots of carts make it a right bastard to know what is on them but in another post hopefully to be out before 2018 will show how I won't really need or care what game is what...

 The original tub now gets the Compute! books, and all my big box games.  So SSI and Avalon Hill now have a place of honor.  Until I need another bin for them.

 Heading up top is where my four disk caddies go, plus most of my controllers so things are a bit tidier and I have less issue wondering where the hell certain controllers are.  (Some of my Nintendo peripherals seem to be in the Warp of Warhammer 40K fame right now.)

 The cases need to have the funk of 40,000 years removed off them.  I have since done some of this.  

 Some of the disks I have gotten are just ill gained copies and will become blank disks as I am a man of honor.  Others may be legit titles I need to poke around and see what I can see.

 Now my legit stuff is more organized in the various cases, and my loose C64 disks are hanging in the back waiting for me to actually get a C64C or 128D.  I'll get one again someday yes?

 And my new acquisitions!  The little black box will get most of a blogpost as I inform yall what it does and how it can save things like my HALF A PHANTASIE 1 GAME.  (Research that you are getting a complete game before buying kids!  On the upside I have the manual and it was cheap enough.  Again, that magic black box will cure what ails me.)

And more general retro computing pickups I got cheap like the above Perfect General 2.  LUNK APPROVED.   I do love me some 80s EA game cluebooks.  Though I expect to never get the Deathlord cluebook in spite of wanting it badly.

  I am now way more organized in my Atari computing!  But there is always new stuff to buy and that mysterious black box will bring magic and POWER to me that needs a post all it's own.  Plus the 8 bit's brotha from anotha motha, the 5200.

  Should time permit we will see that all next time!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Atari 8 Bit Computer Collection Update/Gripe Session Part 2: Solid State Society

  Last time was my disks, in all their fragile magnetic glory.  This time its the cartridges!  See a lot of game software was cartridge based back then.  Most home computers had slots for them which meant no loading or additional hardware needed.  Just buy the program and plug it in!

  Except it was expensive to make cartridges compared to a floppy disk or cassette tape.  You needed your own molds for the cart (at least in those days before the machine publishers put in lock out chips and required a licensing fee and THEN they would print X number of copies they got a cut of the profits on.  Or even no profits.  They already charged you to make the things and have the "privilege" to do so, probably with lots of other rules and restrictions.), and then lots of expensive board and chip fabrication only to make games that were limited in size in comparison to the magnetic media based ones.  Thus a cartridge game generally had to sell for 2-4 times what a disk or tape program would. Although on some of these early systems the hideously low amount of RAM most machines came stock with (like 4-16 kilobytes for some of the late 70s/early 80s machines) meant a cartridge game could actually be bigger and more complex than the magnetic media titles that required both RAM to run said device but also hold the program.  On a cartridge title most machines can access the program ROM as a form of virtual RAM since the CPUs of the day could work with about 64 kilobytes of RAM total so your average 16kbyte ROM cartridge wasn't taking up even half of what the CPU could actually address.

  Thus like many things there were pluses and minuses to each format.  As a modern collector cartridges have the benefit of being vastly more durable than their magnetic brethren and easier to use as worrying about the magnetic drive itself is also taken out of the equation!  Cleaning some cartridge contacts is a LOT easier than cleaning a drive read/write head plus keeping all the connection and power cables in good shape and hoping all those moving parts and belts that connect to many of the moving parts all keep working.

  But here in Atari 8 Bit land we find that most cartridge games are of the arcade style variety with limited releases of other genres.  Arcade styled games had mass appeal whereas a wireframe flight simulator running at maybe 10 FPS tops or a complicated turn based wargame had a lot smaller audience.  Anyhow let us get on with the show, yes?

At this point do I even need to say one can click for larger images?
 We begin with my boxed Warner era Atari games.  At the top are the larger sized boxes of the XL era including one of the only full 4 level versions of Donkey Kong.  Ms Pac Man is a smaller box but the same format.  Star Raiders is of course one of the 1979 era launch titles.  The platform's KILLER APP.  (As opposed to Apple II's which was Visicalc, a spreadsheet.)

 Four of the XE/GS Tramiel era releases in blue, with what was probably a new old stock Moon Patrol.  Its a sticker so probably a cheap and easy way of clearing out all the excess inventory the Tramiels got when they bought Atari's home division.  Some they got, others ended up in the hands of companies to sell on Ebay decades later, others ended up in New Mexico landfills.  

 And the rest of the Atari carts.  As we see, most of them are original era titles outside of Jungle Hunt in the XL era format.  Unlike the XE/GS carts though these all had the fancy shield for the contacts and metal backs.  And thanks to Atarimania any manuals I don't have I can print out.  But in the back we see what the original era manuals looked like with Missile Command, and the various XL ones with Caverns of Mars, Defender, and Qix.

 Three companies' worth of boxed carts with Spinnaker's being on one of those fancy Trapper Keeper vinyl styled things, and Roklan's using the manual as the cover thanks to the open hole on the box.  Printing costs are quite a large percentage of a product's cost and this generic packaging was a great way to save money.  Albeit it makes things look a little ghetto.

 The last of my boxed carts by Thorn Emi Video.  They used custom VHS style plastic clamshell cases with the covers being a paper insert which is another and probably better way to save a few bucks.  Everything else is loose here and it lets you see some of the variety of cartridge types these companies made. 

 And we finish up with the best Atari 2600 publisher's Atari 8 Bit titles and an Epyx game.

Now if you vaguely remember when I started blogging about this machine back in 2011 a couple things seem missing.

Yes I have currently misplaced my River Raid and Gateway to Apshai manuals.  I know they are in my living room somewhere but I have too much nonsense out and about right now so they are hiding somewhere. I am sure I will find them eventually and the fact I have so much stuff out means I... HAVE A BIT TOO MUCH STUFF MAYBE?  and should ease up yeah?  Yeah.  Or at least get more and better storage/display/organization options before spending more money on this stuff!

Ok this was too good a deal (3 bux shipping!) for me to pass up, and RetroWorld Expo is next week but I will take my collecting from a 5-6 down to a 2-3 if you will.  Play more of what I have.

Next time I will finish this update out with all those lovely books I have involving this nifty little computer line history seems to try to forget.


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