Back in 1999, I was working at a local music store at the mall. Opening boxes of DVDs to shelf, I came across this one movie, an independent film of the kind that was so popular in the late 90s. On the cover stood this guy, dressed like Buddy Holly, that is if Buddy Holly had survived his plane crash, crawled up from hell and through the wasteland, picking up martial arts and swordfighting mojo along the way. The movie was Six-String Samurai; it was cheap, I had a really good discount, and it looked just weird enough to appeal to me, so I bought it. I saw it that night, and I thought it was a hoot; I mean, it was one of those movies where the bad acting was such a natural part of the overall melodrama, and the whole rock-n-roll mythology was so over the top, that you just had to laugh and love it for what it was. I shelved the movie with the rest of my collection, and though I saw it once again with a friend, I pretty much forgot about it after that.
That was 1999, and in 2006, it all came back to me.
Early last year I started listening to podcasts, and one of them was the Harping Monkey’s Misfit Brew, along with occasional episodes of The Round Table, hosted by Mick Bradley, among others. In some of these episodes, Mick started to talk about something called “Vegas After Midnight,” this roleplaying game he had been working on, put aside and now come back to. I sort of caught the idea behind it–big cataclysmic thing happened, Vegas is the remaining beacon of civilization (you figure out whatever that says about society at large), and Mad Max-like post-apocalyptic cool stuff thrown around–enough to think it was neat and make a mental note to keep an eye out for it. In the meantime Mick put it aside again, I kept listening to podcasts and working on my own games, and eventually starting my own podcast.
Early this year, Mick decided he was going back to Vegas, this time with a different game system to fuel his car, and a lot of bravado to fuel him through the design process. By now I’d met Mick through various forums and mailing lists, and knew a bit more about the behind-the-scenes process of the game design, but since I was busy myself with my own company, and my own podcast, I basically just kept an eye out, deciding to exercise restraint instead of offering my help, as I normally would have done. That lasted all of a month. Mick revamped the Vegas After Midnight (VAM) website and told people to drop by and take a look; so I did. Next thing I know, Mick had granted me backstage privileges, and I was able to see the forum where some of the design talk was being conducted. I was a little fish and those forums were a well-baited hook; I bit, and I bit hard.
Next thing I know I had jumped in on some of the ongoign conversations, dropping my two cents here and there like some sort of Johnny Pennyseed, and what’s more, Mick and David (Mick’s new partner in crime for VAM) liked what I’d said! So against my better judgment I continued to post, throwing some random ideas here and there, telling myself I was only visiting and saying a few things here and there just to help out, nothing more. I still tell myself that.
And Six-String Samurai? Still a cheesy-cool movie, and very much in the style of what VAM is going to be; except VAM is darker, a lot darker, yet retaining some of the rock-n-roll myth and humor. I’ve never been to Vegas, never really cared to go there, and yet here I am, being dragged to it by this cool little game I am (I keep telling myself) not helping to design, just talking about it with some buddies.
Vegas rocks, baby. Just not quite how you may think.
Next time I’ll tell you about my playtest character for this game I am not designing. He’s cool, he’s dark, he does the horah. Think about that.