General Ramblings

Today’s prompt was “examine”, and this led me immediately to the idea of the AAR, or after action report. Typically, every session or two I ask the guys how it went. Usually, you’ll get the non-committal “It was good”, or “It was fun”, or something to that effect. But it also gives the players a chance to give the GM feedback on things when they crop up.

For instance, when a player realizes the character they created has veered off in a direction, due to the stories and the direction of play, that they didn’t anticipate. The character may have become less interesting. Maybe they don’t like where it’s going and a course correction on their arc is needed. Maybe they want feedback on how they want to advance the stats, skills, etc. They might not be as interested int he direction of the campaign — it’s not bad to get that feedback; it’s best if everyone is interested in the game. maybe they don’t feel they’re getting enough “screen time” or there’s a personality conflict that they need to resolve.

It’s also a chance to let the GM know what’s working. When “that was fun” gets pretty explicit about why it was fun, the GM can adapt the focus, themes, adjust the “rating” of the game (maybe it got a bit too explicit or violent; or wasn’t enough of the same), or otherwise play up the good things. It’s also a nice ego boost to the guy or gal who put all the effort into putting the game together.

As a player, it’s also not a bad idea, as you play, to think about what your character’s motives are, how they might change with their experiences, and how you understand them. Is a new flaw/weakness/trait appropriate? Is a reduction in a stat a reasonable idea. (Most players aren’t looking to weaken their characters, but I’ve had some who have done just that because it “made sense.”) You can think about your character’s interests, the skills they’ve used, and what a reasonable vector of advancement might be. There’s nothing wrong with, “I want my ranger to become a multiclass with druid” — actually, that makes a lot of sense — but it’s also fine to have your ranger multiclass as a sorcerer. But it helps to explain why and how that’s going to happen. A character that gets their ass handed to them might decide they’re hitting the gym to up their strength, or take some self-defense classes to improve their fighting skill between adventures. That’s a perfect explanation for a skill increase.


Role playing games have been a big part of my life. Since I discovered the basic set Dungeons & Dragons in the late ’70s until today — probably four decades and a bit — gaming has been my main hobby through multiple careers, moves to various different places, sets of friends that came and went, or stayed. It helped me make dozens of friends, meet women, get laid, get married, get jobs (true!) Until I discovered motorcycling in the early 21st Century, it was one of the only outlets I had that wasn’t professional. My first novel was inspired by some game research. Adventures I’ve run have become products for other gamers — shared on DriveThruRPG under the Black Campbell Entertainment brand. (And thus endeth the shameless plug…) There are still stories that I and my gamer buddies will talk about, “Remember that time Antae kicked in the door and the Great Evil was standing right there?” “Remember when that dipshit we used to play with asked the guard [who had missed one of his blasters in a search] if ‘he wanted the other one, too?’ ” or “how ’bout the guy that thought his character was ‘haunting him in his dreams’ because the player did something stupid, got the character killed, and we weren’t a respectful as he thought we should be. I wonder if he’s killed someone yet…”

Stories and characters and moments that still stick with you across a decade or more, and that were a hell of a lot more interesting than your job, or your marriage (or divorce), or your life in general. That’s something to be treasured.

So image my delight when my daughter asked me to run a Dungeons & Dragons game for her. She had watched her whole life as Dad had “nerd night” with his friends, playing games and telling stories. She would occasionally get to roll for the bad guys. Now, I get to share something that has been a delight for me for much of my life I now get to share with my daughter.

She threw together a ranger character because “she wanted to have a bow”, and I built a simple campaign set in Arthurian Scotland, so there was some connection to places and things she knew. She wanted to hunt “undead”, so we’ve had encounters with trolls, hags, and most importantly wights and ghosts. Her mother starting playing, as well, so now we get to have a family game night that is either board games or RPGs.  It’s lovely.

So, I recently picked up a 1995-ish Ranger-made Walther PPK/S in .380 for $300. A decent deal, since you might get that in trade for 5he Interarms period PPKs. It was not the most comfortable gun to shoot, and they have a reputation (outside of the JB fandom) for being finicky Jam-o-matics. The one I bought, so far, has run through various round nose and hollow points without a single failure to feed or extract. As with the FEG knock-offs I’ve owned (great deals!), the accuracy from the fixed barrel is better than most large semi-autos, and the blowback action is…uncomfortable. This thing was designed to be a .32 (7.65mm), and the .380 is a bit robust for it.

I did immediately start having issues with the safety/decocker activating when shot. Not ideal in a stressful situation. “Excuse me, ol’ boy, but my safety keeps going on. Give us a mo’, would you?”. Not gonna happen. It was a common problem sorted by a Walther BBS search and a internet trip to Numrich for an extractor spring and detent kit and new safety lever. The problem disappeared. Then the light hammer strikes started.

A lot of folks don’t like the heavy double action trigger pull, because they haven’t figured out it’s a safety feature: as woth an old revolver, you don’t accidentally blow you bollocks off while pulling it put of a pocket (which is how you were likely to carry in 1929, when it was designed…) Cock it and shoot, or suffer through the first loooong double-action pull. Trust me, the adrenaline will get the trigger pulled. But a lot of users put in a lighter spring.

DON’T. It messes with the firing pin, and it makes the recoil more stout. Also, don’t cut your damned recoil spring (not a problem here.)

So while checking the trigger spring, I found it was very light. A Wolff spring at the factory 20 lb weight and a set of walnut Herrett grip to replace the plastic ones that broke taking them off, and Rolff (my PPQ is called Gunther) was ready to go back out to the range.

Rolff was fatter in the grip, but that and the heavier trigger spring mitigated a bunch of the harsh recoil. He also was pointing better. So my cheap $300 PPK now has another $150 in it, but it…was…flawless! Three different types of hollow point: no jams, superb accuracy, manageable and now non-painful recoil, and it still drops in my shorts pocket without printing.

Beats the pants off the S&W period PPK/S, which would bruise and cut my hand from the tail they put on it. I figure over the next year, I’ll do the rest of the springs and maybe have the local guy I know refinish him.

(Gunther and Rolff…sounds like a Bavarian confectionary shop.) I have to say that working on the pistol myself has been a good learning experience. The gunsmith I originally got to work on it did f*** all to fix it, so I got back in “company armorer” mode and tore it down after watching a few YouTube vids. It is much more complicated than a modern firearm, but it is beautifully designed and engineered. Going to replace a few more of the springs as I go, but right now, it lovely.

The James Bond: 007 Role Playing Game was written back in the early 1980s, and while it remains an excellent engine for espionage roleplaying, some of the mechanics are getting a bit like Roger Moore in A View to a Kill — a bit too long in the tooth.

One thing I’ve noted is that the firearms damage ratings, much like the structure points for electronic do-dads and performance modifiers for modern vehicles, do not take into account well the serious improvements in technology. I thought I would address the first in this post.

There’s one way to correct for this: hit the interwebz and find out what the ammunition the character is using has for muzzle energy. For instance, most modern 9mm is going to be running in the 330-360 ft/lbs. range. Using the Q Manual as a guide, you’ll see that most 9mm firearms of service weapon size (4″ to 5″ barrels) should be throwing lead with a DC of G. The Walther PPK in either .32 or .380 would have an E. Both 10mm and .40S&W run in the H range, etc… +P and other hot loads push this even further, but should lower the S/R by at least one due to recoil, and depending on the weapon, might increase the JAM rating, as the weapon takes a heavier beating than was intended.

For instance, running .32 +P through a Kel-Tec P32 is pretty inadvisable. It might do alright for the occasional firefight, but a steady diet with kill the weapon pretty fast. You might kick the JAM from a 98+ to a 97+ and add a GM Information tag that the weapons suffers a malfunction on 99 and 100, instead of just 100. Another good rule of thumb is that if the pistol has longer than a 3″ barrel, bump the DC up one. This holds pretty true for rifles, as well.

Now if game balance is your thing, you might find a close analogue to a weapon being used in the Q Manual or Black Campbell’s own Q2 Manual (and yeah, you’ll find it pirated on other sites…it’s my work) and riff on that. I’m planning a new gear manual in the future that addresses some of the changes the world has wrought on this venerable game system.

We finished the mini-campaign we were playing in Tales from the Loop two weeks ago and swung back onto our Hollow Earth Expedition game. The characters were investigating reports of a strange, lost island in the South China Sea near the Philippines, and had been tracking down the crew of a freighter that had escaped in Hong Kong. They found them in the recently closed Peak Hotel — a massive art deco pile from the turn of the century that was closed only a few weeks earlier. In the interim, it was being used by the British government to hold the crew of the Den Wu and question them as to what they had found.

Our characters slipped into the hotel — abandoned and a bit creepy — during a massive thunderstorm. After a bit of sneaking about, they were discovered by the members of British Intelligence, and specifically a group stood up in 1933, after the Hollow Earth Expedition by Admiral Bird and the characters (and with the help of the Ahnenerbe in the airship Deutschland).


Known as the “Weird Boys” or the Scientific Intelligence, MI-13 is under the authority of the Home Office. Led by the Chief, MI-13 General Aubrey Milton, and his Deputy Chief, Dr. Trevor Ansom — the man who discovered the White Apes of the Congo, the service hires its people from an eclectic mix of scientists and explorers, soldiers and spies, and mystics. Unlike their other secret services cousins, MI-5 and MI-6, the Weird Boys are not headquartered in London, but in a large country house near Oxford University. Their major stations are Hong Kong, Calcutta, Jerusalem in the Palestinian Mandate, Toronto, and Sydney.

Small teams are sent to investigate sightings of strange creatures possibly related to the “ghost world”, as the emerged Hollow Earth was called, strange events that cannot be explained by current science, and advanced research being conducted by other countries that have recovered some of the technological marvels of the Atlanteans. They have a friendly rivalry with the American Office of Scientific Investigations, but their dealings with the paranormal division of the NKVD have been more violent. Of great concern is the rapid development of repulsion technology by the Ahnenerbe division of the Gestapo, which has been reverse engineering Atlantean flying saucers.

One of the least “secret” of their agents an apeman who had been deposited by the emerging Hollow Earth in Hong Kong — a philosopher named Artistotle who has since adopted the name Aristotle Strange. He has actively immersed himself into the culture of his adoptive Britain.

I’ve been doing teaching certification, teaching at the local community college, keeping the seven year busy, and engrossed in pushing two books out the door for Black Campbell Entertainment (Airships of the Pulp Era and Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean), so I’ve been remiss in doing some stuff for various games, and posting play sessions.

We’ve finished this portion of the late Roman/early Arthurian Britain campaign, and have rolled back onto Hollow Earth Expedition — which has seen some fun moments — so I’m hoping to drop a couple of play reports soon.

Between the teacher certification classes, the classes I teach at college, the fast-paced publishing schedule at Black Campbell, game prep, and the dad thing, this blog took a real hit on updates and responses to comments.

Sorry to those who have been reading and were kind enough to ask permission to quote or link to us — have at! Just tell people who and where you got it from.

We’re in editing for both Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean and Airships of the Pulp Era. These should be out in September and late July, respectively. They also might be the first publications to get watermarked. We’ve been finding our stuff turning up on the usual websites. Really, guys — if you’re going to share, cool. Just make certain you 1) say whose work it is, and 2) if you pirated our stuff and like it, drop the $2 per adventure. It’s the right thing to do.

This website is due for an update — it’s been up for nine years (!!!) — and I want to clean up the blog, the fan-based materials for the various games we’ve done things for, and create Black Campbell Entertainment page so that we can keep the commerce out of the blogging, and vice-versa. You know…be professional. Ish.

So keep an eye out for the updates.

So, I’m way behind on game play recaps, as I am trying to get two books out the door, do teacher certification, and run herd on a seven year old in a age where you can’t just let them go out and play without getting arrested.

I hate summer: Too much to do and no time to do it.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some more stuff up for the Britain campaign, as well as more on the upcoming Airships of the Pulp Era. There’s also a big website redo planned.

Did I mention I hate summer?

I closed out 2017 with a nasty flu that had me down for 14 days. One of the gamers in my group showed up hacking up a lung and like clockwork five days later I was running a fever and coughing up mine. I had a day or two where I felt almost well enough to do a little work on Black Campbell products, but it was a fortnight of no gaming, missed Christmas with the in-laws, and a missed anniversary dinner, and a missed New Years Eve party.

It was a crappy end to, what for me and the others working with me, has been a pretty good year. Black Campbell Entertainment made back its investment on the products we’ve created and (more importantly) everyone has gotten paid, we released our first print book, Queen of the Orient — a guide to ’30s Shanghai, then followed it up with a print version of all our adventure scenarios to date in the bundle Thrilling Action Stories! We’ve got a small board game designed by a 6 year old kid, for kids called Monster Killer! that should be out soon, and a couple of new ’30s pulp adventures, the first of which is going to be Secret of the Jaguar Temple. Progress has been made on the Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean sourcebook for Fate and Ubiquity, which will provide a campaign setting and adventures for sky  pirates and mercenaries in the 1920s and ’30s.

So a Happy holidays and New Year to all of the readers out there, but especially to susan Rhymer, Jim Sorenson, Adam Blahut, Matt Bohnhoff, Chirs Colguin, Bill Forster, and all the others that have made this year so good!

The proofs for Thrilling Action Stories! are on their way to me. If they look good, a print version of the first adventure bundle from Black Campbell should be available in a few weeks. There looks to be some f#$@ery about whether I can have this set up as part of the bundle, so there may be a delay if I have to talk to the folks at DriveThruRPG about making this a completely separate product.

Publish and learn!

thrilling action stories

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