Administrivia, Editorial, Letters

ADMINISTRIVIA

RPG Review is a quarterly online magazine which will be available in print version at some stage. All material remains copyright to the authors except for the reprinting as noted in the first sentence. Various trademarks and images have been used in this magazine of review and criticism. This includes Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium, Final Fantasy by Square Enix, Star Frontiers by TSR (*cough*), Mutants and Masterminds by Green Ronin, Star Wars:Edge of Empire by by Fantasy Flight Games. Obvlivion is distributed by Universal Pictures and World War Z by Paramount. Any use of images, material etc, is not to be construed as a challenge to any intellectual property and is under "fair use" as review. Any use of images, material etc, is not to be construed as a challenge to any intellectual property and is used under "fair use". Text is in Nimbus Roman, headings in Nimbus Sans, front page in Utopia. Any errors or omissions are unintentional.

Cover image is a screen shot from the Terminator series directed by James Cameron. Image in the Star Frontiers article by Thomas Verreault.

EDITORIAL

Welcome to RPG Review 21, where we've taken a slightly different tack from the tradition of being strictly interested in traditional table-top roleplaying games and have moved to looking at points of crossover between this hobby and the role of computers, including computerised versions of roleplaying games.

The issue begins with an hilarious crossover by David Cameron Staples of the true horror that systems administrators experience on an alarmingly regular basis - Code of Cthulhu. Interestingly the real monsters in that scenario are other people. This is followed by a trilogy of articles by yours truly on the representation of computers in roleplaying games, the representation of roleplaying in computer games, and some short examples of PHP to aid GMs.

From an advocacy perspective Karl Brown explains why dice are dead and Julian Dellar offers his personal experiences of the interaction between roleplaying games and computers. Karl also follows up with an very interesting and somewhat squeaky NPC for Mutants & Masterminds, satisfying our regular column for an NPC. Thomas Verreault, who keeps the flag of Star Frontiers flying, offers a range of programming languages for that game - but also compatiable for many others. Also as regular features we have Wu Mingshi keeping us up-to-date in her amicable style and Andrew Moshos (who also has style) with a movie reviews of Oblivion and War War Z.

As a new contributor offering a computer-mediated roleplaying game Damien Bosman gives a review of the Final Fantasy MMORPGs. Also as a new contributor Jim Vassilakos provides three articles; a DOS-based program, "Rand", for the generation of characters, a fact-based article on futuristic computers in RPGs, and even a complete game, AIs & Allies, Also there are new contributions by Sara Hanson, reviewing PAX Aus in Melbourne (where about 50% of RPG Review comes from), and Aaron McLin, reviewing the latest Star Wars RPG.

Another issue which I've been mulling around for a while (and, no, it doesn't make an article in this issue) is a correlation between the design of roleplaying systems and computer languages in terms of programming paradigms. Given that the rise of personal computing and tabletop roleplaying games has a strong historical correlation and, as some of these articles show, a connection, this is perhaps not so surprising. Roleplaying systems have been deeply encoded as games in both rulebooks and in software. Providing a most abstract model, early roleplaying game systems followed an imperative programming paradigm; there was a purpose for a rule and that rule had a particular procedure, and every case was a special case. Over time organisation of the rules became increasingly important, so there was a move to structured game design. From there an increasing desire for modular and procedural game systems. Finally, there is increasingly examples of object-orientated game design, with characteristics like abstraction, encapsulation, and inheritance.

A major item of note is the establishment of an RPG Review second-hand games store, hosted by yours truly. This has come about because after over thirty years of playing RPGs and an inability to refuse a bulk-purchase bargain I have ended up with quite a collection, dating back through the 70s, 80s, and 90s (and less of the 00s and 10s). Much of the material constitutes "classic", "old" "hard to find" and is worth having a look. Overseas buyers however should be aware that postage from Australia is hefty (it's heft too Australia as well) and may wish to consider surface mail options. The URL for the RPG Review store is: http://www.quicksales.com.au/shop/RPG-Review.aspx

But that's not all; starting from this edition, and working backwards to previous editoins, RPG Review will also be available online in an html-book format. This is, of course, something that should have been the case form the very beginning rather than just distributing it as PDFs. But it is better to do it now rather than never at all. Also, all subscribers to the RPG Review mailing list will receive an account for commentary on said pages, although that does come with the caveat of good behaviour.

Continuing this outburst of forward planning the next two issues already have some forward planning involved. The next issue is orientated with content-title “Continuum”, specifically looking at four roleplaying games that were among the “first generation” and remain with us today; namely Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, Traveller, and Tunnels & Trolls. The issue after this will be historical tangents, including games like Earthdawn, Hawkmoon, Space 1889, Dogs in the Vineyard, etc. Perhaps gentle reader, you may suggest what subject matter we could concentrate on after this? It's your fanzine too.

The choice of cover for this issue, a movie still from the Terminator series of movies, is quite deliberate. One of our irregular contributors has, for some years now, been collecting evidence that the Skynet (by any other name) is an inevitable conclusion of our technological trajectories. As we witness the development of running robots, automated assault rifle systems, drones, and self-driving cars, we're let with an uncomfortable question. What could possibly go wrong?

Rest well, water and carbon lifeforms. In the end, you know the machines will win.

Lev Lafayette (lev@rpgreview.net)