Mad Max: Fury Road

This is the Mad Max movie I didn't know I had always wanted until I saw it. Tom Hardy plays Max as crazy-mad instead of angry-mad, and it's the "seeing things that aren't there" crazy instead of merely being angry with grief (though, he's that too. And unhinged.) Also, we see him employ some skills beyond simply driving, taking a beating, and shooting things (though he does plenty of all three of those.)
Max's world is a familiar sort of wasteland, but it has an actual economy, requiring a bit less suspension of disbelief. Which is good because we'll need that stuff for more important things than "how are people still alive at all?"
Plot-wise, I loved how the fairly straightforward, convoy-on-the-run story has some actual, human motivation beyond "let's steal gasoline." I say "fairly straightforward" because there are a couple of twists in there, but I liked them, too.
I've heard that some folks are complaining that Charlize Theron's character was somehow too bad-ass, and was upstaging Max. 

I looked for that, and am happy to report that Max was every bit as awesome as I hoped he would be. If his star seems to shine a little less brightly, it's because that wasteland is chock-full of crazy-capable bad-asses (including Theron's Imperator Furiosa,) which makes sense since these are the people who are still alive.
Still alive at the beginning of the movie, anyway.
I love comprehensible action scenes, and MM:FR was full of them. The camera gives us several "savor the moment" shots where the action is so iconic we need to slow down a bit and soak it in before the flames and the dust muddle it up.
The post-apocalyptic aesthetic of the film has its roots in the original Mad Max film, obviously, but that aesthetic has passed through a number of hands over the years, so that by the time it arrives back home in the Mad Max franchise you can taste all kinds of things in the dust, including Fallout: New Vegas, Defiance, and Borderlands. I did not hate that one bit. If Gearbox ever makes a Borderlands movie, I expect it will look like Mad Max: Fury Road with better weapons and more hockey masks.
Mad Max: Fury Road comes in at #4 for me so far this year, clearing my Threshold of Awesome with room to spare. Extra headroom was added by the guy playing a flamethrower guitar while chained to the front of a stack of speakers on top of a vehicle that has an entire kettle-drum battalion banging away in back.
(That dude convinced me that post-apocalyptic role playing games have room for a bard, provided he has an electric guitar that shoots fire.)
(crossposted from

All The Ships, To Scale

There are only four days left in the Planet Mercenary RPG Kickstarter

It closes on Monday, May 18th. The project page has a timer on it, and nothing I can do will slow the ticking of that clock. We've had a very busy week as it has ticked away, too. Two days ago I blogged about The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries. I posted a sample page, and some text, and I provided a link that would let you back the Planet Mercenary RPG project at a level which ONLY includes the in-universe Maxims book. A day later we were joined by 440 backers, more than had pledged on any other single day of the project. 

This morning their enthusiasm unlocked the "All The Ships, To Scale" project.

Jeff Zugale, who draws spaceships for a living, has agreed to this commission. He'll do a big image with all (or many) of the named ships of the Schlockiverse, to scale (much like the posters famously done by Dirk Loechel, among others.) Here are a couple of Jeff's "spaceship-a-day" sketches. Yes, these are things that he dashed off in his free time. 

These are gorgeous, and I love them, but We don't want Jeff's free time. We want money time.

The PDF image Jeff creates will be included with all the game PDFs, and a print of the image will grace the Game Chief's screen, which is included (along with the core book, dice, coins, pins, and the Seventy Maxims book) at the $75 pledge level.

We have just one more lockplate to bust through on the Planet Mercenary RPG. If you'd like to learn about the $300k stretch goal, I wrote about it this morning. Whether or not we hit that one, we've made some pretty amazing progress.

Seventy Maxims, at Long, Long Last

Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that you're not interested in the Planet Mercenary RPG. How could I possibly tempt you into that Kickstarter? What product could be sufficiently enticing to bring you over to our project page and enter a pledge?
The answer? Provide something that I've been anxious, thrilled, and quiveringly-excited about for months now:
The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries
We have a pledge level for the Seventy Maxims book.
[UPDATE: We actually have several. Do not panic about the sold-out ones. We screwed up and broke them. will take you straight to the Maxims-only pledge. And now, back to the plug!]
This isn't just 70 pages of aphorisms. It's far too substantial for a poster. This is the hardback version of Karl Tagon's personal copy of the 3001 CE Edition of The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries.  This is an in-universe artifact.
To introduce you to it, here is a block of text from the introduction:
In 2992, in a speech to the CDF Academy graduating class, Rear Admiral M. Randall Aarikaida dismissed the book as “an irreverent, irresponsible volume of malevolent canon.” In that same speech, however, he paraphrased maxims 9, 15, 35, and 70 without attribution, unconsciously cementing its importance in the field, and launching countless dissertations which focused on the cultural ubiquity of the very thing he was dismissing.
This edition serves as a distillation of that scholarship. The maxims are accompanied by commentary and corollaries, paraphrased, and in many cases translated from the original, unintelligible jargon so that the modern reader might grasp the essential point. By so doing we've made this book more accessible, and more affordable because now we don't need to pay any of those scholars the ridiculous royalties they demand.
Barring handling them for yourself, the pages themselves are best experienced with an image:

This page is one of our early proof-of-concept versions, but it shows off the spirit of the thing. Don't worry: the paper we use will NOT have a printed weathering on it. The weathering in this image is there to evoke the fact that we'll be using a very toothy, heavy paper with a cream color to it.
The boxed text contains the maxims themselves. The text below that is "schlolarly commentary" which, as suggested by the excerpt above the image, is going to be all over the map.
The red-pen notes are from Karl Tagon, who acquired this book as an enlistee in 3044. His sergeant at the time told him he should use it as a journal of sorts, and so we'll get an unordered series of snapshots of his military career. Paging back and forth to put the notes in order will be part of the joy of having this in hard-copy.
The blue-pen note above is from Alexia Murtaugh, to whom Karl loaned the book. (Well, "will-have loaned." That bit of story has yet to appear online.) While the book is in Murtaugh's possession it is going to get picked up and scribbled in by a few others, including Sergeant Schlock.
We will leave room for you to write in it yourself, of course.
If this is a thing that you want, and you're not interested in the RPG, click here for the $20 pledge level that gets you just the Seventy Maxims book.
Note: If you pledge at the Company Commander ($75) or Commodore ($100) level, the Seventy Maxims book is included in the Extended Mag, along with the rest of the goodies. Chat with Alan Bahr

This coming Wednesday, May 13th, Planet Mercenary's game designer Alan Bahr will be taking questions over in the chat. Follow Alan or me on Twitter and we'll tweet you a reminder.

I'm not sure how the chat room over on works, but if you're already a member of the role playing cognoscenti I suspect you're already on top of this.

Speaking of Planet Mercenary (which is pretty much all I'm speaking of this week,) the Kickstarter just crossed the $200k threshold, and we have now promised an additional 16 pages in the core book. There will be four new playable races, including the Uklakk, who have two bodies and a shared, radio-networked brain. If you've ever wanted to throw down as a bicameral life form, that's going into the book now. We'll also add some weapons, some ships, and some playable locations.

Our next stretch goal puts Game Chief screens in every Extended Mag, and makes them available as add-ons for just $5.00. Beyond that? Check out the most recent update for the full reveal. The reveal includes the blue-lines for Jeff Zugale's cover for the book.


We have entered the final week of the Kickstarter for the Planet Mercenary Role Playing Game. Expect me to talk about it rather a lot. I promise to try to be interesting. 

If you haven't yet looked at the project, please click here and see what we're building! We've already hit the stretch goal that will let you acquire the COMPLETE Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries (it will ship with the game, in April of 2016), and we're about to add an additional 16 pages of content to the core book.

And now I shall try to be interesting!

The very first mechanic I dreamed up for this game was the one that involved cards. At the time I was unclear on exactly how it would work, but Alan spent eighteen months grinding on it with is alpha-test team, and out of that effort sprang the thing we now call the MAYHEM! deck.

Many of you have asked what the MAYHEM! cards will be like, and we've teased you a bit by dropping some card names on you. This, unfortunately, is not the post where we reveal the MAYHEM! deck in its full glory. This is the post where we show you our late-beta designs for the cards.

Here's the card back and the face of the card currently designated as A-11. This one falls into the category that we call "beneficial, permanent." It's generally beneficial, and its effect lasts for as long as the character does. 

Here are four more samples. Click on them to bring up larger, more readable versions.


Like playing cards, we've grouped the MAYHEM cards into four "suits." For now they're designated A, B, C, and D, which, while not very imaginative, is easy to keep track of.

  • A (blue): Beneficial, Permanent
  • B (green): Beneficial, Temporary
  • C (orange): Detrimental, Temporary
  • D (purple): Detrimental, Permanent

As I detailed in the D6³ permutation post, these cards will come up on about 25% of your successful die rolls. You can spend a RiPP to ignore the card, and the Game Chief can override your decision to play or not to play the card by awarding everyone a RiPP. If you've spent a RiPP to dodge the card, you're getting two RiPPs back.

An Alternate Mode of Play

This is not where we tell you that you should omit the MAYHEM! deck from your Planet Mercenary game.

This is where we tell you that if you feel so inclined, you can use the MAYHEM! deck as a regular old deck of cards, mapping A, B, C, and D, to Spades, Clubs, Hearts, and Diamonds (or mapping letters to suits in whatever manner you prefer.) There will be at least 13 cards in each category, and if there are more than 13, the additional cards can be set aside. There may also be a wild card or two whose effects are "Cosmetic, Hilarious" or some such, and these will make good Jokers.

Rolling With the Mayhem

The trick with the MAYHEM! cards is to NOT think of them as helpful or unhelpful. All of them will add to the story you are telling, and taking the bad with the good will make your story better. The flavor text on each card might help that along a bit, but ultimately it's going to fall to you to take the effect from the card and turn it into something awesome.

Consider the Duckling card (A-04). If a fire team has bonded to you, but they're heavy weapon experts, and you're usually running with a team of stealthy types, you now have a conflict. Role play that!

Player You: "Sergeant Tibbs, I need you and your team to go with Lieutenant Player Character Rosa for this operation."

Game Chief (as Tibbs): "But sir, you're our favorite. You're amazing. We TRUST you!"

Player Rosa: "Tibbs! The fanboy thing is bordering on insubordination. I need you and your big guns backing me up, because there's hamburger to be made and I don't want it made out of us."

Game Chief (as Tibbs): "Yes Ma'am. If you say so Ma'am."

Player You: "Tibbs, do me proud of over there. I want to enjoy burgers WITH friends, not OF them."

and so forth...

That piece of story conflict will allow you, Rosa, and your Game Chief to ham it up in character any time the heavy weapons fire team is in the scene. The fun you have will be worth the -1 skill check penalty Rosa's team suffers from, and the results of their slightly-more-likely failures will further color the role-play.

(Note: We do have cards that will un-bond your fire team from you, and we have a card that will anti-bond a fire team to you. They're terrified of you, and it makes them extra effective right up until you need ablative meat...)

On the subject of role play, there are a few cards whose effects are non-numeric, and some that are "neutral" in terms of benefit/detriment to the character or the party. X-01 is a good example. 

How you play this with your game group is entirely dependent up the social dynamic of that group, but note that establishing a nickname for a player character is the sort of thing that can earn RiPPs at later points. 

Does This Make You Nervous?

We've heard from a lot of people, including a few play testers, who have expressed concern about the MAYHEM! cards "screwing up their game." They're nervous. Perhaps you are too. It's possible that this anxiety stems from a fear of failure, a tingling sense of doom-around-the-next-corner.

Jeff Goins wrote: "Without conflict you don't have a story. You have a reality show."

If you're nervous, that may be because there's an actual conflict waiting for you in Planet Mercenary. And fortunately, conflict is not only the source of story, it's at the heart of humor, and trust me, you want this in there.

No Need To Proof These For Us

These are drafts that Howard bashed out across eight hours on Saturday. They'll get bashed on repeatedly by Howard, Alan, Sandra, and the late-beta wave of play testers before they end up in people's hands. Sandra just wrote about the page design process, and has included an animated GIF showing how much better the pages in the book begin to look after a few iterations.

Little things like text alignment and font consistency will be fixed long, long after we've refined the text and checked the numbers and ensured that these are the best RPG tools they can be.

Note also, 52 is a semi-arbitrary number. We picked it because it was easy to get a price-quote using it. Should we over-fund with sufficient over-fundage, additional cards might be added. Sorting them out of the deck in order to play Poker might get tedious, but a bigger deck would be worth that hassle.

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