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Monthly archive January, 2008

More abandoned Soviet structures

Comrades! Now to be inspectink werrry interestink “WebUrbanist” blog entry “7 Abandoned Wonders of the Former Soviet Union: From Submarine Stations to Unfinished Structures.” Vitness abandoned submarine base, abandoned prison, abandoned missile silo, abandoned oceanside fortress, and entire abandoned glorious city of Promyshlennyi. Werrry handy for Outdoors and Underplex Troubleshooter missions! (Rest of WebUrbanist blog also vorth long look.)


Via MAKE Magazine:

Opto-Isolator (2007: Golan Levin with Greg Baltus) inverts the condition of spectatorship by exploring the questions: “What if artworks could know how we were looking at them? And, given this knowledge, how might they respond to us?” The sculpture presents a solitary mechatronic blinking eye, at human scale, which responds to the gaze of visitors with a variety of psychosocial eye-contact behaviors that are at once familiar and unnerving. Among other forms of feedback, Opto-Isolator looks its viewer directly in the eye; appears to intently study its viewer’s face; looks away coyly if it is stared at for too long; and blinks precisely one second after its visitor blinks.

Check the Opto-Isolator video from the installation at Bitforms gallery, NYC, December 2007, and the Opto-Isolator Flickr photoset.

PARANOIA on Amazon

On Amazon.com’s United Kingdom site, loyal citizen Danforth recently posted a list of Mongoose Publishing’s PARANOIA products, as well as a companion list of “PARANOIA Oddities” that covers the card game, miniatures, unreleased titles, and sort-of-released-but-not-really titles.

Danforth’s list is lightly annotated, making it a bit more useful than the one by Bruce Moffatt on Amazon’s US site. But my favorite is still Paul Baldowski’s Amazon PARANOIA list. Paul, the proprietor of Omega Complex, includes not only the canonical roleplaying books but also quintessential source material like Stanislaw Lem’s novel Memoirs Found in a Bathtub.

(Note: Some of these lists include affiliate links, meaning the list-maker gets a cut of whatever Amazon earns from orders placed via these links. Don’t know whether this matters to anyone, but some bloggers argue good netiquette calls for disclosure of affiliate links. Update Jan. 9: Danforth’s links aren’t affiliate links, sorry.)

Amazon’s publication data is infamously error-prone, but with the PARANOIA line they plumb the depths. I can understand the many books credited to me (Allen Varney) as author when I actually edited them, or when I had little to do with them (such as Sector Zero). I can even sort of see how the PARANOIA Gamemaster Screen acquired the title “Drow War” (one of Mongoose’s D20 product lines). But somehow Amazon UK has credited my PARANOIA rulebook to one “Diane” Varney, apparently the author of Spinning Designer Yarns. Clearly, Communist saboteurs have infested Amazon. Three treason points!

RPG.net forum topics of note

The RPG.net forums typically see a couple of PARANOIA-related topics each month — or, sometimes, one topic every couple of months. The new year has started well with a presentation of a hilarious Equipment Requisition Procedures pamphlet by loyal citizen John Biles, and a fun topic where David J. Prokopetz solicits ideas for PARANOIA missions that work like X-Files investigations. “In true X-Files fashion,” he explains, “the standard investigation starts with a peculiar and seemingly innocuous report, throws in an apparent red herring or two, and ends with a Horrible Twist that ties everything together in a somewhat contrived — and often spectacularly gross — fashion.” Commendation points to both citizens!

PARANOIA: 2007 in review

As Year 214 of The Computer drew to a close, loyal Internal Security agents detected sabotage of the following year’s newly printed CPU forms by a previously unsuspected yet wide-ranging conspiracy of Communists, Computer Phreak vandals, rogue PLC supply clerks, and other traitors to be named later. These inscrutable saboteurs replaced all instances of “Year 215″ with “Year 214″ but left the forms otherwise unaltered. Acting on a sensible recommendation from CPU’s Form Wastage Prevention Bureau, The Computer advises all citizens to foil these saboteurs by simply repeating Year 214. Rest assured The Computer’s loyal servants will eradicate this conspiracy before next year!

For the last half of 2006 and much of 2007, there was no PARANOIA news. Mongoose Publishing delayed new books for the line while it installed a high-tech in-house printing system. In August the drought broke with the long-delayed Flashbacks 2, a 96-page hardcover mission collection reprinting and updating the 1980s West End Games adventures Orcbusters, Clones in Space, and The People’s Glorious Revolutionary Adventure. I had the honor to restore these long out-of-print classics, and I took special pleasure in one respect. For the original 1986 publication of Clones in Space, West End’s art directors gave Jim Holloway (The One True PARANOIA Artist) a tight deadline that prevented him from working at his accustomed high level. In Flashbacks 2, Jim created new illustrations — some of his best work — that do justice to Erick Wujcik’s text.

Another 96-page hardcover, September’s STUFF 2: The Gray Subnets, is a huge equipment book (written by Eric Minton and the Traitor Recycling Studio) that I packaged for Mongoose. A shady companion to the first STUFF volume (2005), STUFF 2 concentrates on illegal goods, blackmail material, and other contraband. The book offers extensive information about the illicit private data networks of Alpha Complex, the Gray Subnets, and about the illegal INFRARED Market.

And in the omnibus 96-page hardcover mission collection Alpha Complex Nights, Mongoose finally published three PARANOIA missions written in 2006 by staff designer Gareth Hanrahan: My First Treason, Spin Control, and Sweep of Unhistory. Gareth did a commendable job with all three, especially Spin Control, the mission that finally brings zombies to Alpha Complex — and then makes the Troubleshooters run public relations to promote zombie-hood to unsuspecting live citizens. I wish Gareth had had more than 32 pages to cover the millennia-spanning futurism in Sweep of Unhistory, but I’m glad all three missions finally saw print. (Collector note: Apparently Mongoose issued, in Britain only, a short experimental run of an abortive 64-page softcover with My First Treason and Spin Control bound back-to-back. They quickly recalled this volume, but apparently a few copies reached store shelves.)

After the long drought of 2006-2007, good order is starting to return to Alpha Complex. Mongoose CEO Matthew Sprange, in his annual “State of the Mongoose” posts on the company forum, shows his usual hardy optimism for the roleplaying biz, as well as continued fondness and support for PARANOIA. 2008 will bring a long-needed bot book, new missions, and The Thin Green Line, a treatise on the Armed Forces and the Vulture Squadron.

And there is one more book in the works. Throughout the last half of 2007, the Traitor Recycling Studio has been laboring — looong past deadline, which I must certainly regard as evidence of their careful attention (grumble) — on Brave New Complex, a book of alternate Alpha Complexes and variant settings. I have occasionally spoken of this book ever since PARANOIA‘s current edition debuted in 2004. In the event, it has transformed into something a good deal more ambitious and interesting than I’d imagined. I’ll have more to say about Brave New Complex and other PARANOIA projects in the year to come. Stay loyal, citizens! Loyalty is, of course, mandatory.

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