Overdue Who Review: Talons of Weng-Chiang

Final episode of Season 14, 1977

So I’ve never actually seen Phantom of the Opera but I expect if you threw in a dash of Jack the Ripper, ‘Oriental’ racism, and an enemy from another time this would fit the bill.

This is a six-part serial that could have been compressed to 4. Briefly, real British actor John Bennet puts on yellowface to portray evil “Chinee” (to quote the local copper) actor Li H’san Chang, a hypnotist with an animated ventriloquist dummy (that we later learn is part pig). They both serve a Chinese god Weng-Chiang who of course isn’t actually a Chinese god but a despot from the future. The Doctor refers to him as the Butcher of Brisbane so I guess he’s a (white) Australian?

Anyway this is a series of Leela having good ideas and actions that either end with her inconceivably failing to stab someone in the back after successfully sneaking up on them, or simply being told by men to not get involved because it’s too dangerous for a woman (even the Doctor, who knows she’s a capable warrior).

There are several actual Asian actors, though they all play opium-addicted thugs. Racism aside, the intrigue and characters are mostly enjoyable, although the time despot chews almost as much scenery as Jeremy Irons in the Dungeons and Dragons movie.

The writing includes lines like “In my country we have saying: Man who goes too quickly may step in bear trap” and “On my oath, you wouldn’t want that served with onions. Never seen anything like it in all my puff. Oh, make an ‘orse sick, that would.”

Next up: The Horror At Fang Rock

Voice Acting Tips for Dungeon Masters From An Actual Voice Actor

Don’t eat the lead miniatures

Hi! I’m Toren Atkinson! In addition to being a Dungeon Master and an illustrator for D&D and other RPGs, I’m also a professional voice actor! I’ve done voices for video games, cartoons and commercials.

While voice acting is not necessary to be a good DM (or player), I think we can all agree it adds a lot to keep characters lively and memorable. But I’ve heard a lot of people say that they just can’t do voices. And to that I say – you can! And I’m here to help!

Let me tell you my secret: If you’re like me, you’ve got a notebook that you bring with you to your gaming sessions. In my own notebook – on the last page (the back inside cover, in fact) – I have a list of character voices that I am comfortable with (I’ve included it below). Every time I need a new non-player character to interact with the players, I flip to that page and pick a voice that’s suitable, and when I’m not in the thick of roleplay, I’ll remember to make a note beside that voice as to which character it belongs to, so that if the players come across that NPC again, I can refer to the list and keep things consistent. Some of the voices are impressions of celebrities or existing film & TV characters, while others use broad accents or my own repertoire of character voices.

“But Toren,” you say, “I’m not a professional voice actor. I can’t do impressions or accents!”

There are a lot of ways to provide vocal character without doing accents or impressions. Let’s say you’ve got an English noble character, but you can’t do a British accent to save your life! Well, you can try to simply use refined, proper diction. It helps if you literally look down your nose at your players while doing so. Conversely, for a lowlife dock monkey, slurring your words and talking in slang, with every second word a profanity can absolutely get a great character across (for added fun, they don’t have to be offensive or modern curse words)

You can change your cadence – maybe someone speaks super quickly with run-on-sentences, with eyes darting and face twitching. Or, they speak robotically with the same emphasis of every syllable. Or portray the always bored and/or “too cool for school” cynic – who speaks in slowly and monotone, like Daria or the teacher from Ferric Bueller’s Day Off (“Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…”). Perhaps an old shell-shocked veteran speaks softly while staring into the middle distance. Another character speaks only in whispers, but they do so with wild enthusiasm. You can whisper, can’t you? Meanwhile there’s that guy who doesn’t have an ‘inside voice,’ always talking to you as if you’re on the other side of the street. And how about the character who is chronically constipated, with the strain coming through in their voice?

An old voice actors trick is to actually change your voice by physically interacting with your face, whether it be holding your nose, pulling your cheek out with a finger, or whathaveyou.

Don’t overstay your welcome.

For throwaway NPCs a strident or grating voice can be amusing and memorable, but for main NPCs that the players will see over and over, I recommend not going over the top. Nobody wants to hear your Gilbert Gottfried or Elmo impression for 3 hours.

It needs to be said: avoid offensive caricatures. My rule is if a player of a minority was at my table (let’s say a South Asian) and I did a stereotypical caricature of that minority (Apu, for example), would I feel weird? If the answer is yes – don’t do it. This goes for sexual preference and those with any kind of disability as well. Your mileage may vary.

And as always, be mindful of others within earshot of your game. After overusing ‘shouty guy’ in your friends living room you may find you no longer have a place to play.

This is the list that I use. I hope that it will inspire you to try something new next session!

Stereotypical Brooklyn guy
Stereotypical Canadian guy, eh? (McKenzie Brothers)
Stereotypical Scandinavian
Stereotypical Russian
Stereotypical Australian/Steve Irwin/Bruce
Stereotypical Italian/Mario
Yarrrr stereotypical pirate voice
Edward G Robinson
James Mason
Alec Guinness
Wolfman Jack
Sir Ian McKellan
David Attenborough
Dracula (Bela Lugosi)
Tim Curry
Tom Waits/Nick Nolte
Jason Statham/Ray Winstone
Christopher Lloyd
Tracy Morgan
Billy Connolly
Inigo Montoya
Charlton Heston
Lennie from Mice and Men (“I will call him George”) AKA Patrick Star
Bane
Emperor Palpatine
Dustin Hoffman
Ricardo Montalban
Christopher Walken
Christoff Walz
Kennedy/Mayor Quimby
Morgan Freeman
Jay Baruschel
Brando
Beavis/Butthead
Montgomery Burns
Transatlantic accent
Elvis
Watto (Star Wars)
Ed Wynn (Mad Hatter/Mayor McCheese)
Brian Blessed/John Rhys-Davies
Jesse Ventura
Bob Dylan
Kermit the Frog
Hagrid (Harry Potter)
Chris Rock
Wallace Shawn
Jack Nicholson
Clint Eastwood
Sean Bean
Korg (Taika Waititi)
Harvey Fierstein
Drunken Dudley Moore
Thurston Howell the 3rd
Samuel L Jackson
Cobra Commander
William Shatner/Zap Brannigan
Gomer Pyle
Grimlock (Transformers)
Jimmy Stewart
Maude Flanders/Fargo
Alice Glick/Maude Frickert/Old Lady
Monty Python old British lady
Teen with Cracking Voice
Fat Albert
Hank Hill
Boomhauer (King of the Hill)
Al Pacino
Owen Wilson
Jack Sparrow
Michael Caine
Aku/Mako
Robin Leach
Hippie surfer dude
Caesar with lisp (Life of Brian)
Ozzy Osbourne
Comic Book Guy (Simpsons)
Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel (Simpsons)
Doctor Girlfriend (Venture Bros)
Red Skull
Agent Smith/Hugo Weaving
Alan Rickman
Ahnold
Raphael (Sarcastic clerk from The Simpsons)
Humphrey Bogart
James Cagney
Peter Lorre
Jack Palance
Marvin the Martian
Lumpy Space Princess (Adventure Time)
Southern Belle/Tree Trunks (Adventure Time)
Mayor of Townsville (Powerpuff Girls)

Gaming Stuff for Sale (Pathfinder, Dungeon Magazines, Etc)

See me and my stuff on facebook marketplace https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/profile/571600226/?ref=share_attachment

Dungeon Magazines – see below or make offer for lot

Fantastic Locations: Hellspike Prison: Dungeons & Dragons Accessory Paperback – Nov. 1 2005 $20 (missing 1 double-sided map)

PATHFINDER THORNKEEP – $30 OBO

Thornkeep, a 96-page softcover book, was a reward for backers of the Pathfinder Online Technology Demo Kickstarter project to fund the initial steps in the development of the Pathfinder Online MMO. It was written by Richard BakerJason BulmahnEd GreenwoodJames JacobsErik Mona, and the Goblinworks staff. The PDF of the book was released to Kickstarter backers in October 2012, and at retail in both print and PDF versions in January 2013.

Creature and Cultists first edition – Pagan Publishing – $45 obo

Star Wars Miniatures Map STARSHIP BATTLES SPACE Coruscant / Tatooine double-sided paper battle map, 22″x34″ – $20

DUNGEON MAGAZINES:

Dungeon Magazine 83 – $10

Dungeon Magazine 83 – $10

Dungeon Magazine #85 – $10

Dungeon 85

Dungeon Magazine 87 – $15 obo – well used

Dungeon 87

Dungeon Magazine 91- $10

Dungeon 91

Dungeon Magazine 95 -$20 obo

dungeon 95

Dungeon Magazine 105 – $20 obo

Dungeon Magazine # 114- $15 obo

dungeon 114

Dungeon Magazine #124-$60 obo

Dungeon 124 – age of worms part 1

Dungeon Magazine 125- $40 obo

Age of worms adventure path 2

Dungeon Magazine #126- $30 obo

Age of Worms adventure path 3

Dungeon Magazine #127 -$30 obo

Dungeon Magazine #134 – $30 obo

Dungeon 134

Dungeon Magazine #138 – $12 obo

Dungeon 138

No Blade of Grass (1970) Post Apocalyptic Movie Review

Pollution somehow causes a virus that kills grains and so the world begins to starve.
Some countries, including Britain, may or may not plan to exterminate a large portion of their population with nerve gas so that the whole country doesn’t starve to death. As society breaks down around them, a family led by an ex-military with an eyepatch and various tagalongs escape the city and head for a relative’s farm where I guess for some reason they aren’t worried about the grass blight.

More an apocalyptic than post-apocalyptic movie, but civilization goes to pot relatively quickly and there’s a biker gang in Nazi Viking accoutrements so I’ll give it a pass.

The conceit of over-saturated, fragmented flash-forwards doesn’t much help this heavy-handed narrative, and the whole film looks very cheap, but, refreshingly, the children don’t do anything too stupid and are mostly in the background.

Tropes: trigger-happy frenemy; off-screen cannibalism; soldiers mutiny; unlimited ammo; pregnant lady gives birth; coughing gives away hiding spot; gang rape; guy with no depth perception is still a good shot

Toren’s rating: 5.75/10

Go to Toren’s Post-Apocalyptic Movie Guide

No Blade of Grass (1970) — Contains Moderate Peril

Fluid Spaceship Zero (repost from 2003)

(Reposted on my current blog from my old blog – for proper formatting of the Table 2003-9 see this pdf or this image )


Fluid Spaceship Zero is a worldwide, multi-player SSZ campaign, typically run at gaming conventions and game days. Players create characters that run in and gain experience from a set of adventures, as in a normal SSZ campaign, but in the case of Fluid SSZ they can bring their characters to the table with any ZM who is running a game in any location around the world. Players walk away from a game with Experience Points and in some cases, equipment that they can keep from game to game.

SETTING


Spaceship Zero is on Earth 2. The year is 2026. The ship and her crew are part of the Human Underground Movement Action Network (H.U.M.A.N.) and as such are called upon to undertake many dangerous missions against the hydronaut empire and for the
good of Earthkind.

What happened to the original crew? Professor Ashton is alive and well and working on a new and (hopefully) less apocalyptic BTL Drive in Antarctica. Captain Stackhouse is dead, but his clones live on. Gearbox is fulfilling his destiny on a long-term ultra-secret
mission for HUMAN). Space Commodore (yes he got promoted) Dick Ross takes a hands-on approach to commanding the fleet of rocketships at SNAFFU headquarters in Calgary, Alberta.

PLAYER GUIDELINES


Obviously, you can’t play the same scenario twice, even with a different character. Knowing the ending would spoil the fun!

Archetypes: No player archetypes are forbidden, but players cannot play any sample characters from the book. These are now the ZMs regular NPCs. Assume that the SSZ had a myriad of deconstituted clone crewmembers, if your players want the option of being
from Universe 1.

Official Rules Changes/Clarifications: Dodge Penalty is 40, no matter what a character’s Dodge Bonus is.

During character creation, after the player assigns free points for Basic skills (Step 8, p 30) but before spending skill points (Step 10), that player gets free default values for most of her skills, as listed on table 2003-9, below.

Quirks: Avoid Plot Quirks unless they are very broad and general.

Space Navy Military Ranks: If your character is/was in SpaceCorp or is part of SNAFFU or H.U.M.A.N., you can assign her a rank, providing it is not higher than Space Commander. Exception: the rank of Space Captain is allowed to the Captain archetype.

Equipment: SpaceCorp space suits and anything in the SpaceCorp General Equipment section (pp 137-139) is allowed (limit 1 per customer) excepted the below items, which are restricted (only ZM can provide):

RESTRICTED ITEMS:

Insta-Cure Health Tonic
Rocket Belt
All atomic weapons, grenades, and other spacey guns must be approved by the ZM on a session by session basis! Keep track of your First Aid Kit uses and ray gun charges, when applicable.

ZM GUIDELINES


Running Scenarios: With some minor modifications, Asteroid X is the perfect platform to launch your Fluid Spaceship Zero campaign (pdf and maps available on greenronin.com). Sign up to the official Spaceship Zero mailing list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/spacecorp/ and visit the Green Ronin Forums at http://www.greenronin.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=14 for up-to-date news on further scenarios. “Have Raygun, Will Travel” AKA “Errant of Mercy” is being polished up by yours truly, but in the meantime please submit your own scenarios to add to the pool!

List of Adventures:
Asteroid X (www.greenronin.com)
Have Raygun, Will Travel (coming soon)

Advanced/Optional Rules: Use them if you like them, but make sure your players know what optional rules you’re using. I recommend using the Blunder rules (p 16)

Characters: Recommend to your players to come to your game with a character made up ahead of time. You can provide pregenerated sample characters if necessary, including the samples given from the book, but don’t let players accumulate EP for sample characters. Don’t let players play Professor Ashton, Gearbox, or Dick Ross, except by special arrangement. If they want to play a clone of Captain Stackhouse, they may at your discretion.

Equipment: Your players should not have access to restricted equipment (see above) unless you give them permission. Feel free to hand out SpaceCorp Atomic Batteries to recharge weapons if necessary.

Ship modifications: It’s probably a good idea to dismantle the BTL Drive aboard Spaceship Zero. HUMAN has the capacity to install one 3″ coil turret to Spaceship Zero. They can also paint the ship with a special coating that protects against hydronaut smart bombs
90% of the time. Since we are assuming the PCs are all H.U.M.A.N. agents, it is quite possible to play Fluid SSZ without Spaceship Zero itself. H.U.M.A.N. can provide the group with vehicles specific to the task at hand.

Rulebook Errata: p152. Star Skipper Weapons: 3″ atomic coil turret. Galactic Frigate Weapons: Rocket Torpedo Launcher, one 6″ atomic coil turret, two 3″ atomic coil turrets. Star Cruiser Weapons: Three rocket torpedo launchers, three cosmatomic missiles, four
3″ atomic coil turrets. Space Hopper Weapons: one 6″ atomic coil turret, two 3″ atomic coil turrets.

Rewards: Typical Experience Point awards at the end of a session is 5 EP for each player. Be mindful of what kind of equipment you provide characters – they may unbalance another ZM’s game.

Optional New Archetype: REPORTER
The BTL Drive could be the story of the year – if not the millennium. At least that’s what you thought when you started out on this assignment. Now you’re lost in time and space, but you’re still a reporter by heart, and oh the stories you’ll have to tell!
Minimum Attributes:
Minimum 10 Brains
Minimum 10 Bravado
Fixed Zero Skill:
Backbone
Skill Points: 250
200 of these points must be spent on Specialty Skills.
Specialty Skills:
Brains
Disguise
Hide
Language & Lore: Omnibus*
Language & Lore
Psychology
See
Balance
Lockpicking
Sneak
Bravado
Administration
Backbone
Persuade: Bargain
Persuade: Bluff
Persuade: Charm
Persuade: Debate
Streetwise
Perks :
Scooped! — The reporter, whose job it is to be in the right place at the right time, seizing every opportunity and always alert, may roll an extra d10 when Initiative rolls are called for. Add the Initiative Bonus as normal.Liberal Arts Education — The reporter gets a special, exclusive specialty skill called Language & Lore: Omnibus. This skill represents the
body of miscellaneous information that the reporter has come in contact with over his years of education and research. The player distributes skill points normally into the skill, however the skill functions differently than regular skills: Once per gaming session the player may switch that skill score with any other non-basic Brains skill (including other Language & Lore skills if the ZM warrants).
For example, a Wilderness Survival skill check is called for, but the reporter only has a score of 15 in that skill. He recalls, however, a story he once wrote about the famous author M. J. Durall, who forsook civilization and became a hermit. Durall showed the reporter his cunningly built lean-to, among other things, so the reporter may use his Language & Lore: Omnibus skill score of 70 in lieu of his Wilderness Survival score of 15.

What people are saying about Spaceship Zero the sci-fi serial roleplaying game:

“…the breadth of the rules is marvelous…the quality and quantity of the setting material…are unambiguously excellent…” 5 out of 5 – Dan Davenport rpg.net

Fearsome Critters – Toren’s Guide to Everything Podcast Episode 8

Around 1900 there was a tradition among lumberjacks in North America to ascribe mysterious noises and happenings to a growing menagerie of fabulous beasts that became known as ‘fearsome critters.’ If there was a strange noise in the woods, it was attributed to the treesqueak. If a windstorm knocked down a tree, it was the splinter cat. If a ‘punky’ branch fell on or near a lumberjack, it was the agropelter. In episode 8 of Toren’s Guide to Everything I go into great detail about these and many more folklore cryptids.

Listen to the podcast:

https://anchor.fm/torensguide/episodes/Fearsome-Critters-Episode-8-etqfc7