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In the "Wish I'd Thought Of It" Category...

It's just such a good idea. DMs are a persnickety lot, picking and choosing from the entire history of fantasy, sci-fi, and, uh, history. No DM just runs a campaign the way it's "supposed" to be run, and all the exceptions, additions, house-rules, hand-waves and addendum could never be anticipated or tracked by anyone.

But I never knew a DM who couldn't use a little help staying organized.

Which is where the very clever folks over at Obsidian Portal have staked their turf. Over at the "OP" (as those of us in the know like to call it (actually, I just made that up)), you can sign up, create your own campaign site, and BOOM -- you've got a site complete with adventure log, forums, a place to keep maps and all that good stuff. It's seriously really cool.

Looks like a great place to run a PbP campaign, but even for face-to-face games this is gonna be really useful. I mean, basically it's just a wiki with a few bells and whistles, but the bells are well-thought-out and the whistles carefully placed.

And, by the way, they also support DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND as a game system.

Too Slow! But I Don't Care

The Mad Pulp Bastard beat me to it, but the second I saw these I thought, "I would so read every issue and wait in the bookstore for next month's to arrive."

I mean, damn. I can remember spending hours lying on my stomach with a pad of paper and some coloured pencils, drawing scene after scene of cool planes blowing stuff up. This is what is best in life. Damn.

What a great imaginative boost these images are. I gotta fire up that WWII d20 Modern game I was thinking about. You know, the one where they parachute into Italy, and have to make the rendezvous with the sexy Resistance agent who leads them to the bridge that they MUST secure or the entire Allied advance is going to come to a crashing halt? Yeah, that one...

In other news, I'm off to Gryphcon in a couple of weeks to run a new DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND game -- only a couple of slots left so if you're gonna be in Guelph, sign up! I'll also be running a few games at Anime North in May. Shaping up for a busy spring!

Everybody Loves Orcs (Except Me)

They do.

Orcs are so handy. I mean, as a concept. One of the more offensive aspects of D&D-style fantasy is how races all get assigned particular personalities and natures. It really just sort of supports the whole notion of ethnic profiling, only this is even worse -- whole species getting branded with a single character.

But virtually every fantasy RPG has "orcs" of some fashion or other, mainly in order to provide bad guys that nobody needs to feel bad about killing a lot. D&D of course has a dozen or so variations on the "orc" theme, all twisted and evil in different ways, but all needing killing. A lot. Hobogblins, gnolls, mongrelmen, whatever you call them, they're just human beings who have no right to live, and so delivering them to death is what good guys do.

Personally, I find it boring. Why would any sentient race NOT develop the breadth of personalities and philosophies that human beings do? Most of these races are described in such a pathetically narrow way that it's really impossible to imagine. Hobgoblins like order and discipline. Goblins are impish and savage. And so on. There cannot be thoughtful gnolls, orcs are never swayed by appeals to compassion or long-term interest. These races are thin, amateurish cartoons of human beings -- which can work in some games, to be sure (Kobolds Ate My Baby, for one (by the way, Kobolds Ate My Baby is, like, the greatest game EVER, if you don't know)).

I like what Joshua has done with his last few campaigns -- the "monstrous" humanoids are just other races and everyone more or less kinda sorta gets along. Works best without elves, of course, but then so much does. Let's not discuss elves.

Anyway, the monstrous races are almost always used as this cheap way to have thrills without cost. Like the demons in Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- technically, right, they're demons, so Buffster can just murder them right left and center and never feel a twinge of guilt, but... A lot of the demons that start turning up seem awfully... not so terrible. Just kind of plain folks, really, who have a line or three and then get Buffercized. And then there seem to be some demons that don't ever get killed, and just hang out with everyone else. I don't get it, but more to the point, I don't LIKE it (I guess that's coming clear), since it sucks all the actual human drama out of the situation. All the killing ceases to matter, ceases to be exciting on anything other than the most trivial of levels.

Which, again, is fine in a cartoon where kobolds are running around stealing babies. But for a game I'm going to invest the time to run a campaign in, insufficient.

Which is why DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND doesn't have any races other than people. People are good. You have people, you have everything.

All that aside, Claudio did a pretty awesome job on this half-orc picture. That guy looks MEAN.


DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND games are popping up all over the place. In a few weeks, we'll be running yet another edition of MONKEY WARRIORS OF THE WALKING SWORD at this year's GryphCon event up in Guelph.

You can sign up for the event online. Our kick-off time is 7:00pm, Saturday, March 27.

We had a great session at last month's SpellStorm convention, and are really looking forward to hanging out with the good folks in Guelph for a weekend of gaming fun.

Hope to see you there! Tell your friends!

Haru Matsuri 2010: A New Year

Toronto Kenjutsu was pleased to take part in this spring's Haru Matsuri festival at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre on March 6, 2010. We performed there under the supervision of the senior Canadian instructors of Katori Shinto Ryu, including Wiens Sensei of Tokumeikan, who is Sugino Sensei's senior student in Canada. Also present was Tong Sensei who teaches at Dragon Fencing Academy in Richmond Hill.

This was a great honour for our group and we were very excited to be able to bring the practice of Katori Shinto Ryu swordsmanship to the public in this fashion. The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre has long been a supporter of our art, and we greatly appreciated this opportunity. We have participated in this event for several years now, and it is always a fantastic event. This year was no exception.

Katori Shinto groups from around Toronto came together to practice and to demonstrate traditional Japanese swordsmanship to the many folks attending Haru Matsuri. These events are always a great chance to practice with folks we don't usually practice with, and to learn new techniques and share our observations on this ancient art.

Working with new people means paying very close attention to each detail. When you always practice with the same folks, you get used to each other's styles and can unconsciously start to anticipate each other's moves. If I start anticipating my partner's moves, then I'm not using my senses to understand what I'm seeing and respond -- I'm interfering in that process with my expectations and my ego. One of the gifts of practicing with new people is that I am stripped of my expectations and am forced to observe, and react solely to what is there, rather than what I expect.

Of course I hope I can act this way even with people I am familiar with, but it's useful to have these chances to put that to the test.

Thanks again to the great people at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Tokumeikan for allowing us to take part in this event.

Photos by Owen Jacobson.