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Close to the Edit

26, 33, 29, 23?

by Ross Winn
Oct 25,2005


26, 33, 29, 23?

Here we are in October 2003...


It is 2005.

Here we are in October 2005.

This is column 26 for Close to the Edit. It has been two years since I emailed my esteemed editor at RPG.net and said "can I shoot my mouth off? I have some thing to say, and I'd really like to use your bandwidth to do it." In some haze or caffeine and drug induced dementia they thought that would be a fantastic idea; once the intoxicants wore off I assumed they would come to their senses. Either they are on the longest bender in RPG history, or they are trying to figure out who to blame.

Either way, I am still here. I am having a blast. In between the scathing recriminations, I get some really cool letters from readers. My life is about as perfect as it can possibly be. I wanted to thank each and every person who has read the column over the last two years. I couldn't have done it without you.

As I may have mentioned here and there over the last two years, I do not have a television. I do not want one either. I enjoy the silence in my house. I enjoy the time it affords me, and I miss almost nothing about TV. Yesterday Apple announced the iPod with video, which is amazing for several reasons, but not the least of which is that it would allow me to watch Battlestar Galactica without resorting to either BitTorrent or Giganews. Just the first episode, titled "33", is pretty amazing, and they get better. I love the new series. It is everything that the original was not. It isn't bright or shiny, but it is an amazingly well-realized future with some incredible elements. Yes it is dark, yes it is harsh, and yes it is also the best acted, best written SF show I have seen, possibly since Space: 1999. The new Galactica is one of the huge reasons why I chose to write a new SF game. Galactica isn't available for download yet, but I am fairly sure that it and everything else will be soon. For now I will watch episodes as I see them, and buy seasons as they come out on DVD.

This year's Necronomicon will take place from October 28th to the 30th 2005 here in Tampa. They show has expanded since I started going in the early nineties. This year's guests include Lynn Abbey, Peter David, and last on a long list of guests will be me. When I am not sweeping up after Tim Zahn, fanning Lloyd Kaufman, getting Richard Lee Byers a drink, or shining Frank Fradella's shoes, I may be on a few panels. I usually moderated the "What's New in Gaming" panel, but this year I am moderating "Gaming a Paradigm Shift" and a few others. Necronomicon has grown so much that this year we are in a new hotel. Gone are the crappy elevators and bad food of the Crowne Plaza Sabal Park. This year we are at much swankier digs, the Hyatt Regency Downtown Tampa! Saturday night (the 29th) I will be hosting the 2005 Papa Tiki's Undead Luau in the Presidential suite. You do not have to buy a badge for the show to come to the party, but we do encourage you to come to the show and support the Stone Hill SF Association. Look for the Papa Tiki signs for directions. Costumes are not required, but they are not discouraged. Many of the revelers come directly from the Necronomicon Masquerade, but most of my friends only wear black. So come by, have a few drinks, pass out in the bathtub, and wake up wearing someone else's clothes. We just want you to have a good time.

On a completely different related note, one of the things that I love about the column is the idea of topical reviews. Reviewing things is all well and good, but I prefer reviews with specific context. When I reviewed the World of Darkness, Wu Shu, or Dead Inside, each of these had a context. Sometimes you read something and it is taken out of context and you say to yourself "why would someone say a boneheaded thing like that?" Other times someone explains their context to you and you think they must have completely missed the point.

You see I used to never write bad reviews. I loathed them. I figured that if I couldn't say something good I shouldn't say anything. My Mom taught me that. I usually do what my Mom asks. Enough said. One day a guy asked me why, after giving me a copy of his game it did not appear in my column. I told him that I didn't want to write a negative review. So I didn't review it at all. As third edition D&D was published in 2000 and the OGL became a reality all hell broke loose. The DDL onslaught was in full force when I started this column. I was talking to some other writers about my theory and one of them stopped me mid-sentence and said "what were you thinking?" So I told him. I remember he laughed and said that I should feel just as strong an urge to protect people by telling them not to buy this or that steaming pile of crap.

The reason I mention all of this about context is that I am having problems with it. I cannot find a context for Mage: The Awakening. I do not know if there is a context for it; at least not in my column. It could have been that the intellectual jar from jumping into Mage from my SF game was possibly too much of a cognitive disconnect. I am still trying to get my head around it all, so if the column feels a little light, it is.

In this context, I am going to talk about the Serenity RPG. When I approached Margaret Weis at GenCon to ask for a review copy she said simply "Everyone wants to review this game, what is your angle?" I answered her simply. "I have never seen the television series, the film, or the comics. I have no idea what the background is, I just want to review it as an SF game." I had her. Evidently, no one else on the planet that both roleplays and writes reviews has never seen Firefly. I figured as much, so eventually a review copy arrived in the mail. Just so you people did not think I was insane, I did go see the film with my wife after I did the original rough of my review.

I did not find the film good at all. Eeek! Ooh! Sacrilege! I did not like it. I thought it was well-acted, and the characters were superficially interesting. However, I thought the dialog was weak and the story weaker. As someone not familiar with the series, it was not good at all.

That being said I like the game. The mechanics are straightforward and evenly written. The idea of the ship as a character is particularly well handled. I just do not like most elements of the background. I really do not get what the fuss is about. Whedon can be a decent writer, but he is no Orson Scott Card, and not ever terribly original.

I also got hit in the head with Dawning Star last week and the only real flaw in the setting is a deus ex machina so big it blocks out the sun and a world where the PCs can seemingly have little effect. Now it does have the only D20 Future compliant setting I have seen, and some GMs may prefer this style, but it wasn't to my taste.

You now these games not being to my taste may have nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me. I am, after all, working on my own SF game because I see a vacuum that needs to be filled in SF RPGs.

Thanks for two great years, come by the luau, watch Battlestar Galactica, and keep those cards and letters coming.

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What do you think?

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