Category Archives: Amusing

Disadvantage: Enemy (Secret Service)

Cover image of GURPS Cyberpunk

Here’s a nice writeup of a famous tale from the game industry: the 1990 Secret Service raid on Steve Jackson Games in which they confiscated the manuscript for GURPS Cyberpunk.

It was perhaps not our country’s finest hour:

In spite of the fact the rulebook contained rules for having your consciousness transferred to a gender-swapped clone, when [Steve Jackson] spoke to them the day after the raid he was told that his company was publishing “a handbook for computer crime”. When he protested that it was clearly made up, he was repeatedly informed: “This is real.”

I’ve heard versions of this story retold over the years. According to this article, GURPS Cyberpunk was a target of opportunity, not the official reason for the raid: the Secret Service was poking around, equally ridiculously, for evidence that Steve Jackson Games was connected to some suspected BBS shenanigans. They grabbed the GURPS book when no other nefarious evidence presented itself. From a SJ Games post about the raid:

Their agents were very critical of [GURPS Cyberpunk], and on March 2 in their office, one of them called it a “handbook for computer crime.” Since their warrant was sealed, and they wouldn’t comment, our best guess was that they were trying to suppress the book. They did suppress it, but apparently it was through bureaucratic inertia and stonewalling rather than because it was a target of the raid.

Imagine if terrorists had gotten hold of the information in that or any GURPS tome—they’d know exactly how many one-inch hexes away from a target they can be before they get a -4 penalty to pickpocket attempts unless they paid 50 character points to replace their arms with telescoping cybernetic limbs. I feel safer already.

You know, it’s crossed my mind over the years that the game-prep Google trail of a typical gamemaster probably sets off all kinds of red flags in the various Orwellian surveillance systems keeping tabs on us. “Siri, how much C4 would you have to use to topple the Statue of Liberty onto a shoggoth that’s rising from New York Harbor?”

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There’s a rule for that: a spell by any other name

Some time ago, I ran a very (very!) short-lived tumblr called There’s a Rule for That in which I posted unusual and/or ridiculous rules I came across in roleplaying (and other) games. I hadn’t thought about that for a while, but after coming across this gem, I’m officially reviving this as an every-now-and-then series here on the blog.

Without further ado, then, I give you:

Source: Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game, 2nd Edition, p. 191.

It’s a second-level wizard spell. If they had just called this Spectral Sound or something, it would (well, might) be possible to not giggle.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Don’t be a nerd—listen to Officer Byrd

I was pleasantly surprised after my last post (so very long ago, I’m afraid) to learn that so many of you remembered Cal Worthington, his dog Spot, and the ubiquitous television ads which made him a part of my childhood. But imagine my joy when I discovered this morning that, thanks to the internet, yet another memorable character from my TV-watching youth is still out there, teaching impressionable young children to wear bike helmets, avoid downed power lines, and never eat from the colorfully-packaged boxes of poison under their parents’ sink.

My friends, let me introduce you to… Officer Byrd.

That horribly catchy theme song has been stuck in my head for about 25 years now. I’ve sung it for my wife, but I suspect that until today, she didn’t believe Officer Byrd really existed. (Michele, I expect a full apology and a retraction of those things you said about my mental health.) But oh, how he existed. There are 14 Officer Byrd videos out there for you to watch (check out the sweet special effects in episode 4). No word on the controversial episode 15, in which Byrd’s cheerful partner Officer Mike is brutally killed by the Mob two days before retiring and Officer Byrd has to break all the rules and take justice into his own hands.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Darth Vader is Luke’s father (spoiler alert!)

I don’t go to many concerts, but oh, how many times I’ve wanted to write a variant of this brilliant letter upon leaving the movie theater. My particular curse is not the annoying music fan, but the Guy Who Narrates Everything That Happens in the Movie to his girlfriend/wife, a tragic woman who apparently is incapable of discerning for herself that yes, Batman is getting into the Batmobile, and yes, he is now driving through the streets of the city, which is of course Gotham City in case you’ve not paid any attention to anything Batman-related over the last few decades. And that guy wearing the scary scarecrow mask? That is in fact the Scarecrow, who you may recall was introduced to us several minutes ago in this very film.

Most recently I had the pleasure of sitting next to the Guy Who Loudly States Plot Spoilers Before They Happen, since it’s important that his wife/girlfriend (and the people sitting nearby) not be surprised by anything that happens in the movie. Fortunately the movie was Pirates of the Caribbean 3, the garbled narrative mess of which stripped spoilers of their usual movie-ruining power.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

You’re gonna love the Nam

This is quite amusing and well-done.

That scene in Platoon, by the way, is one of the Andy’s Favorite Film Moments. I suspect that if I were to watch the film again today, it would come across as heavy-handed and overly dramatic. But when I first saw it back in college… wow. The slow-motion shot of the US choppers’ shadows flitting past overhead as it happens–good stuff. And it helps that it’s set to one superb piece of music.

update: and here’s the original scene from Platoon.
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Watch your head, TK-421

This is probably old news to most of you, but on the off chance that a few of you have not seen this priceless Star Wars blooper, I must post it. During the escape-from-the-Death-Star sequence midway through the film, a group of stormtroopers comes through a door; watch the one on the right closely:

It happens very fast and is easily missed if you aren’t paying attention. The sound of his helmet smacking the bulkhead is audible, so I assume it was deliberate. Nevertheless, I watched this movie dozens and dozens of times throughout my childhood years before noticing it one day in college. It was something new in a film whose dialogue I (and most of us back then, before the dark times, before the Empire) could recite entirely from memory. I recall scrambling frantically to the orange dorm room phone to summon my fellow SW geek Jeff, one of only two people I know who can recite poor doomed Greedo’s cantina dialogue in the original Rodian. We probably rewound the tape (VHS, in those days) to watch that scene 20 times.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather