Friday, February 21, 2014

Play On Target takes on Settings with Serial Numbers Filed Off

So this post is a set of reactions to Play On Target's podcast episode on Settings with the Serial Numbers Filed Off. As always, these are one sentient's opinions and not meant to be a review or critique -- in the hopes that this feedback will help the podcast creators gauge how their podcasts are impacting their audience.

Stuff that I Really Enjoyed

Play On Target provides useful information in the podcast site about the episode in question!

Not only does it tell you what the episode is about -- "we talk about the pros and cons of releasing a product that is obviously a licensed property with the numbers files off" -- it also gives a list of relevant links to each of the games mentioned in the podcast.

Great for research, and to figure out how a game's name might actually be spelled, especially if composed of a homonym friendly play on words (I'm looking at you InSpectres).

I'm also grooving to the fact that my opinions on the Fading Suns reactions (It's not Dune with the serial numbers filed off. Nor is it Warhammer 40k with the serial numbers filed off.) match my own. I also find it hilarious that my reactions to the 'almost-Highlander' RPGs (Legacy: War of Ages,
Immortal: The Invisible War) were so similar, despite the fact that I never bought either -- just looked 'em over in the game shop. To be honest I felt that purely on visual appeal alone, Legacy: War of Ages was clearly the superior product -- but neither convinced me to shell out money.

Dread. That game again. I must buy it -- when I have the money.

I liked the reversal of the premise also -- just before the middle of the podcast -- that led into the discussion of the murky issue of vampire / werewolf / frankenstein's monster / world of darkness / new world of darkness intellectual property.

Bounty Head Bebop. Cute and Fuzzy Seizure Monsters. Really? Frickin' A! Thanks!

And yes, Fiasco & Hollowpoint are also things I must play soon.

All this stuff in the space of an hour! Amazing!

Stuff that I Found Interesting

I didn't know that d6 Space was effectively Star Wars with the numbers scraped off. I mean, I know that the d6 systems are really close to that original system -- a friend of mine picked up the Metabarons RPG, and I could really see the Star Wars D6 system that I knew and loved underneath everything -- but I didn't know it was that close in the generic system as well. I should really go through it now that they're free on RPGNow.

I also agree it would be cool to find out about the 'cease-and-desist' rumor about either or both 'almost-Highlander' RPGs. Keep us posted on that, guys!

I also found it interesting that InSpectres came across to some folks as more of a Ghostbusters-alike RPG, rather than as the indie game / collaborative RPG approach. Which is how I know about it -- and I'd pretty much dismissed the analog to Ghostbusters, because of that confessional mechanic that was mentioned. But it's true -- it really owes a lot of its inspiration to Ghostbusters.

Lords of Gossamer & Shadow is also interesting, because of its original incarnation as Amber: The Diceless Roleplaying Game, and because of its expanding sources of inspiration. In fact, I was immediately thinking of integrating an equivalent of the TimeLords and the Daleks into the list of other factions to run into. It has a different feel that the other forked setting / ruleset -- Lords of Olympus -- which is really more in the vein of gods and demi-gods and politics and epic universe-shaking and -shaping adventure.

With one exception -- see below in Stuff I Didn't Like -- I got a nostalgic thrill on the rundown of the X-files inspired RPGs. I was surprised that C.O.R.P.S. 1st Edition wasn't mentioned, but I guess I'm one of the few remaining BTRC fans.

When talking about Cyberpunk, I flashed back to the Fading Suns RPG and wondered how much some RPGs are less [insert property here] with the serial numbers filed off, and are just very niched genre/sub-genre emulation games / game systems. Cyberpunk 2020 certainly qualifies, and so does the Mekton series of games.

Burning Sands: Jihad. There is such a thing?

It's interesting that the Price of Freedom still has that stigma to it. Greg Costikyan has mentioned before that he really didn't believe everything in Price of Freedom, or at least to the extremes described in it. He seems to have been going for a Paranoia type of vibe for it in modern day(especially since it was also under the West End Games banner), but I think it was too close to reality to jump over to the humorous side of things.

I also like Crimson Skies, and enjoyed reading Warbirds. I wasn't as put off by the setting. Just think that it's not an alternate dimension but an alternate dimension timeline. Besides, they might have been trying to avoid the whole intellectual property landmine just waiting there.

The brief discussion on why getting licensed properties can be difficult for RPG companies, and thanks for the "Blake's 7 RPG" link reference. Although, I would posit my suggestion for such a game: Cold City / Hot War + Stars Without Number.

Stuff I Didn't Like


I know that this is all by fans for fans, and that we're not all professionals here, but consider this constructive criticism -- and just imagine me making these expressions while listening.

There was a point where the podcast crew was trying remember the game 3:16 Carnage Among The Stars that made me cringe a bit, and I was trying to figure out why. God knows the same thing happens to me on occasion, and it can be annoying. I do suggest that in the future, you can just say you'll put it into the the show notes and move on -- I felt that we wasted some time there remembering (subjective, because I KNEW what you meant guys, but screaming it across space and time wouldn't help). I also cringed at the mention of Hot War, because it was such a different type of game from what was being discussed -- but that's just me.

Also: come on, guys. Delta Green was written that way before X-files came out, everybody knows that. It's in the preface thingy in the book. As hard core Call of Cthulhu enthusiasts (which you are, right?) at least one of you would have known that bit of geek trivia. But, to be fair, it was very much in the vein of that conspiracy-laden zeitgeist.


You may wish to...

Technical stuff. Sometimes the difference in the audio quality can be jarring. Early on, some of it was choppy -- and then some times staticky. Mostly okay though, don't get me wrong.

Also, because there are so many of you guys -- rather than just a duo -- I kind of lose track of who's talking. Not that it matters, since most of the time I'm listening to the content -- but perhaps once in a while an identification of sorts might be great, 'cause in my mind I don't want to keep score of whose talking by labeling them (in  my mind only): Lowell; Not Lowell; Lowell again, maybe; Sam? Not Sam -- wait no, Sam, so who was the other guy?; Brian???; Not Brian, definitely not Sam, maybe Andrew????

Be careful when you guys end up talking over each other -- the volume can be painful to folks with earphones!

Structuring. Perhaps you can try to group things together and create artificial breaks at various arbitrary points (Sci-Fi, then Fantasy, the Horror OR 80s, 90s, 2000's) so that folks like me who squeeze the show in can feel like we're finishing a chapter or two and then come back to it later taking on the next chapter and so on.


  1. Price of Freedom is a great game and clearly written tongue-in-cheek. I treasure my copy. Would love to play it. Too many people assume you have to be of a particular political bent and have little if any sense of humor or satire.

  2. I wanted to play it too! But then, I'm not American, and always assumed it was tongue in cheek, because none of the Americans I met were that hard core Anti-Commie.

  3. To be fair, my other exposure to GC's political leanings came from his notes to the board game Pax Britannica in which he attacks people for anti-colonialist sentiments. He goes on further from there IIRC. But beyond that I'm not sure about where he stands.

    The DG thing's a miss on my part. As I posted in my comments on the blog, "I’d say tnat’s technically correct if we date Delta Green to the original proto-concept presented in The Unspeakable Oath. DG first appears IIRC in TUO Volume 2, Number 3, Fall 1992- as a flesh out for the Convergence scenario. I remember running that several times with the downloaded sound files. On the other hand, we could also date DG as a fully-fleshed concept and supplement to 1996 when the actual sourcebook came out. I think there’s an argument to be made that the X-Files atmosphere had some impact on that final version and on players’ hunger for it. But yes, the core idea comes out in parallel at the start." So I'll call my DG statements wrong, but with some reasons for being wrong.

    The audio's particularly problematic in this episode with the switch over to the new recording system. That's particularly glaring at the end where we get out of sync. Hopefully we'll get better at using the new Mumble set up (this was the first episode we recorded with that).

    Your suggestion about breaks is a good one- and a division of segments. We don't do any planning or structure beyond the topic, leaving that in the hands of the host. We should probably set up some more definite breaks, perhaps in fifteen minute chunks. Thanks for the observation.

  4. Thank you for such a great post and for listening to our podcast!

    This isn't the first time we've heard the "mention your names" thing from someone. We hoped that giving our names the first time we speak in a podcast the issue would be resolved. It's good to know we may want to look at just dropping in who is speaking every so often.

    As to the technical this episode when it sounds like we are talking over each other (particularly towards the end), it's actually technical issues with Mumble (the new program we started using once Skype wasn't letting us anymore) putting us out of sync. We are very much hoping that will be resolved in future episodes once we get the hang of things. You know, like what Lowell just said and I probably didn't need to repeat, heh.

    Anyway, thank you SO much for listening and for all the awesome feedback! This is the kind of stuff we need to make sure we stay on top of things!

  5. Thanks +Lowell and +Andrew for commenting -- I'll see you next time on some of the newer (and older) podcast reviews!

  6. Thanks so much for your comments. I like all of your suggestions, especially the one about segments. Even if we don't break it up that formally, we could definitely be more aware of transitions from one subtopic to another.

    I'm the one who didn't catch the satire of Price of Freedom. I guess it's too close to the opinions of some other people I've run across.

    Yes, it's by fans for fans but we strive to make the best podcast we can and your suggestions are a big help.

  7. +Vaklam -- no worries about _Price of Freedom_. As +Lowell mentioned, there's apparently some other material out there that also put CS's possible humor attempt into doubt.

    And good luck on the future podcast episodes!

  8. Didn't the same guy who wrote PoF write Toon? I know nothing of Greg Costikyan except every game I have that he worked on is great.

  9. Yes:

    Designed by Costikyan, developed by Warren Spector.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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