Friday, September 30, 2005

[Article] Campus Surprise 2 (or Hashem Acts In Mysterious Ways)

Three days ago I posted about an article I read on called Campus Surprise, about the Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic situation in many university campuses, including my alma mater, FIU. Lo and behold, G-d has a great sense of humor, and I see the following article in the weekly FIU newspaper, The Beacon:

Jewish students strive for culture on campus
When asked their opinion of Jewish life at FIU, feedback from Jewish students ranged from mixed to negative.
Those views may change soon, thanks to the efforts of various Jewish student outreach organizations such as Chabad, Hillel Second Generation and the Jewish Student Union. They plan to increase outreach efforts to Jewish students, attempting to provide more programs and activities for them.
Read more.

I am incredibly happy about everything I read here. When I was at FIU I hadn't converted yet, but Judaism was a growing part of my life, and I always found that the Jewish presence at the university was very inadequate; the groups were there, but you had to really search to find them, let alone learn about their activities. Now, however, I feel optimistic about the future of the Jewish presence at the university. With Chabad alone we are guaranteed a very visible and very obvious ambassador; I mean, getting kosher food in the cafeteria alone is a huge step, one that the university did not feel like doing before (I remember asking about it once and being told that there was no need since the Jews in FIU were mostly non-observant and those who wanted something kosher could eat from the health food kiosk, which just shows how utterly uninformed the administration was). Alongside Hillel, I think the Jewish student population at FIU will have a renaissance, especially if they take full advantage of the programs, like Shabbat Dinner on Campus or the upcoming High Holy Days services.

I don't know if/when I'll go back to FIU, but just knowing that when it happens I'll be able to have kosher meals, a place to go and meet other Jewish students, perhaps even study some Torah with them, and a Rabbi right on campus makes me happy.

Now all I need is a Rabbi and kosher meals at Gen Con and I'll be set 100%. :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

[HMP Open Call] Writer for Mythic Vistas Adventures


HMP is looking for freelancers to write adventures for one of the following Green Ronin's Mythic Vistas settings:

We are initially looking for short, self-contained introductory adventures that can be expanded into series if sucessful. We want to see adventures that really capture the essence of each setting and make the most of each line's specific options.

We will make sure that all material strictly conforms with the OGL, d20 System License and Green Ronin's specifications of use for the Mythic Vistas material. New game content should be derived from the SRD and OGC of the Mythic Vistas setting being used, with OGC from other sources to be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Payment is on a royalty basis off the net profit of the product sold, after's and Green Ronin's percentages are taken off, for the life of the product (2 years in most cases).

For more information, please email
You can visit our website at and see our Vendor Page for a list of our products.

Daniel M. Perez
Highmoon Media Productions

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

[Article] Campus Surprise

From Campus Surprise

Sadly, at a growing number of university campuses, glib, ignorant and hostile anti-Israel (occasionally sliding into anti-Semitism) sentiment has become the lingua franca of an influential chattering class.

And it's not only in Middle Eastern Studies departments, but campus-wide. I remember dealing with this crap when I was at FIU, long before my conversion, and almost getting into a few scuffles over it. It was when the Intifada began, and the Muslim Student Association held a weeks-long campout near the Student Center showing pictures of dead and/or wounded Palestinians, including the very famous picture of the Israeli soldier "beating" an insurgent, a photo that has been proven (and was already proven at the time they showed it) to be a fabrication, as the supposed insurgent was actually an American Jewish student being defended by an Israeli soldier from a Palestinian mob. It angered me that these people were using the suffering of various legitimate victims to justify the acts of a bunch of terrorist bastards.

It always bothered me that, at the one place where I thought I could find refuge from the world, the world came to intrude so obviously. Then I realized that that was the whole point of college, to put the Real World right in your face and in a concentrated form to have you deal with it, and I became quite vocal in my classes and faculty, more than all the actual Jews I knew in the English department. Thank G-d I never encountered an Anti-Israeli/Anti-Semitic professor (not that there weren't, I just didn't have classes with them) or I don't know how my GPA would have suffered.

I don't know how things are today at FIU, but one hopes that pro-Israel and pro-Jewish groups have become vocal and visible as well. Hiding in the Hillel meeting room won't work anymore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

[HMP] Hellstone Deep Released Today!

Highmoon Media Productions and MonkeyGod Enterprises present Hellstone Deep.
Buy it from today!


There was a time when darkness reigned. In a war lost to history and myth, the dread God Chairos engaged on a campaign of destruction and conquest. His goal was to topple the existing pantheon of Gods, and to establish a dark new order in which he was supreme…a goal in which he was nearly successful. Only after a long and vicious campaign between Chairos' diabolic forces and the celestial armies of good were his evil plans torn asunder, and the God of Destruction himself forever undone.

But evil never dies. For Chairos' mightiest weapon in his dark campaign - the Chain of Scars - has been discovered. Draz Ghulan, a fiendish general with his mind set on revenge, has rekindled the flames of the ancient conflict with his burning hatred. In his possession lies the Chthonic Heart, the one item capable of reactivating the awesome power of the Chain of Scars. Unless Ghulan is stopped, Chairos' lost campaign of terror and annihilation will begin anew, and the awesome and untold powers of the Chthonic Heart shall be released unto the unsuspecting world.

To stop him, heroes will have to engage in a deadly race against Ghulan's own agents of evil, journeying through the stygian depths of the subterranean city of Il'drazza'kuul and to the horrific demi-plane known as The Sea of Endless Night. Ultimately, their quest will bring them to Hellstone Deep, an impenetrable fortress populated with Ghulan's Hellish minions. But within the Heart lie powers that even Ghulan cannot understand. Powers that, if released, could spell disaster for all. And darkness shall reign again...

Hellstone Deep is a d20 fantasy adventure for 18th- through 20th-level characters.

Written by: Steve Montano
Cover by: Jim Pavelec
Artwork by: Alan Dyson
106 pages, Fully Bookmarked

Buy it from today!


Daniel M. Perez
Highmoon Media Productions

Friday, September 16, 2005

Gotta Give It To Benedictus!

Pope Benedict XVI may not be John Paul II, but he's certainly setting up this papacy to be the most interesting one in some time, and the richest one in terms of plot hooks for gamers. I mean, take a look at this, from

Pssst! Where the devil is the exorcist meeting?
Pope greets convention members, urges them to continue good work
Updated: 11:49 a.m. ET Sept. 14, 2005

VATICAN CITY - Orthodontists have national conventions, as do lawyers and computer salespeople. So why not exorcists?

At the end of his weekly general audience on Wednesday Pope Benedict greeted Italian exorcists who, he disclosed, are currently holding their national convention. The pope encouraged them to “carry on their important work in the service of the Church.”

Problem was that until the pope spoke few people outside the inner circle knew that a convention of Beelzebub-busters was going on, presumably in Rome.

Read more.

I mean, it's just too easy! I have to admit, I like my Catholics old-school, and they don't come more old school than Ratzinger.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I am not a Magic fan by any stretch of the imagination. I used to play back in the day, but (except for three games when I went to Puerto Rico a couple weeks ago) I haven't touched a Magic deck in 5 or 6 years unless it was to search for a Rebecca Guay card for my collection. I state this caveat to make clear I am not a Magic fan, afficionado, or even a casual interested party and that my statements from now on are not those of a crazed card flopper.

RAVNICA looks awesome!!!

The first I read about it stated that Ravnica was set in a world that had been overrun by one huge metropolis (Ravnica); a world where nature had been incorporated into the architectural landscape, pushed underground or erradicated; a world ruled by ten world-spanning guilds that had been locked in a strained peace for the last ten thousand years. The copy sounded like the world was either very interesting or very lame. I followed the link in the story back to Magic's website and I beheld the artwork for one of the basic lands, the Ravnica Forest:

I was hooked. The art for the basic lands alone told me tons about this world, and gave me a dozen ideas in a second, more than any recent RPG product has done. (Top to bottom: Plains, Mountain, Island, Swamp - click on each to see a larger version, it's worth it.)

The artwork is incredibly evocative, and truly captures something I've always wanted to see/do in a game, a fantasy megapolis of truly epic proportions. The more I read about the setting, especially about the ten guilds, the more I've gotten hooked on the setting (heck, I'm even enjoying the articles on the design of the set!). Though I don't see myself buying cases and cases, I might buy a deck or two and then steal all the flavor from the online card database for this and the next two sets in the block. This is a world where I would like to run a game, where I can see myself developing stuff to fit the setting; in short, the first time I wish WotC would do a cross-over and release a D&D setting of their Magic material.

I invite everyone to check out the various articles on Ravnica at (both the Archives and the Ravnica section), if only to see the awesome artwork and the ideas they can spawn.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sept. 11

It was a Tuesday, and I had class later that day. I was up already at around 8:30 am, and as was normal at that time, I went to the living room, and turned on the TV, going to the kitchen to start breakfast. Something in the newscast, however, was different; there was none of the usual high-impact, sensasionalist music used by Channel 7 News, instead there was a cable newscaster voice, from Fox News or CNN, I can't remember. They were talking about something in New York. I went from the kitchen to the living room and sat on the couch, watching the images that would forvere be burnt in my mind. "A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center."

I'd never gone to NYC at that point, so I had no idea what the size, the scale of the Twin Towers was. When they said a plane, I thought a small jet, at best. Even the replay showing the plane hitting the tower didn't really convey to me the scale of it all. Then they mentioned what kind of plane it was, an American Airlines passenger plane, and the horror dawned on me. It was about 8:50 am at this point, and I went to the room to wake up my girlfriend (now my wife).

"A plane crashed on the World Trade Center," I said to her, three times before she registered it all. I left her getting up and went back to the living room. It was just after 9:00 am at that moment, and I saw, live on TV, the second plane hit the South Tower. At first I thought that it had been an accident, like pretty much the rest of America, but after seeing the second plane aim and go straight for the tower, the world as I knew it, as we all knew it, ended. I heard a gasp to my side, and turned just in time to hold my girlfriend, whose knees had just given.

For the next hour we sat transfixed, unmoving, watching history unfold in front of us: 9:45 am, a third plane crashes into the Pentagon; 10:05 am, the South Tower, the second tower hit, collapses, and with it us into the floor, crying; 10:10 am, a fourth plane crashes into a field in Pennsylvania.

We left the house shortly after this, my wife dropping me at the university for my class. Along the way we heard that the North Tower had also collapsed; we cried in the car, and we were not alone. The atmosphere in my classroom was one of utter confusion; we shared what info each of us had, and when the news came from the university president that classes were dimissed for the day, I took the bus home, and went back to the TV, where I remained for the rest of the day.

I will never forget that day, that horrible, fateful day, September 11, 2001. Four years later, though I just spent the day like it was just another day, this memory still plays in my head, and I feel a knot in my chest when I think about it. Nothing I can say really makes a difference, so I won't even try.

May G-d bless and keep all those who perished on that fateful day. Four years later, I still cry for them.

Monday, September 05, 2005

No True20 Setting Submission

I just got an email from the writer that was working on what was to be our setting submission to Green Ronin's True20 Setting Search. The writer feels really strong that what he has right now is not strong enough for the submission, mainly due to need for more word count to further explore new concepts of this setting. I am okay with his decision as I believe it's better to pass than submit an incomplete setting.

So right now Highmoon Media is without an entry for a possible True20 license, and there's just not enough time for me to write up Bardic Lore as a possible setting, especially because I am not 100% sure how exactly I will end up handling the True20 engine along with the additions I want to make. I also decided long ago to keep Project Shirah as d20 Modern rather than convert it to True20.

I'm not bothered by this, I have to say. The True20 license you'd win through the setting search would only be for support of that setting, and I am more interested in publishing world-neutral supplements for the game engine. I may yet start dual-statting all our original products with True20 mechanics and let word of mouth take care of spreading that knowledge (along with a vague reference to the system). We'll see.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The OGC Wiki Debacle

Two weeks ago, Mike Mearls made a post to his livejournal suggesting the implementation of an OGC Wiki containing "every scrap of open gaming content [he] can find." Since then, he has added only a second quick comment to say he's "reading comments, thinking, planning, and putting together some ideas." In the meantime, a lot of people have been having nothing short of a conniption over the idea of such an OGC Wiki being implemented. Discussion has been going on at EN World and at, though the thread at EN World has been closed due to flare-ups. Some publishers have warned/threatened to severely limit their OGC declarations if such a project were to get off the ground, and one (Ronin Arts) has already done so.

So what do I think about this whole bru-ha-ha? I think it's not worth even half the attention people have been giving it. The project, at least the idea of the project, is a good one; I would LOVE a place where I can go and check out what OGC is out there for X or Y application before I sit down to write and possibly end up wasting my time reinventing the wheel. Almost everyone, especially publishers, I think can agree with this. However, much like with communism, what looks good on paper does not necessarily translate well to reality, and I think this OGC Wiki will prove to be a good idea that never really works well. Oh, a lot of people will try, especially now that Mike Mearls has put his name (it remains to see if he'll put his weight behind it, too, in the form of his own OGC) behind such a project, but I don't think it will work out in the end.

One of the main problems such a project faces is the vagaries of the OGL. Sure, for products that give out 100% of the text as OGC this is no problem, but these aren't the products that are the main target of an OGC Wiki (IMO). It's products like Mearls' own Iron Heroes that are the ones with a big bullseye painted on them because of their convoluted and obfuscated OGC declarations. And you know what, I'd be the first in line to see the result after they are put through the grinder of an OGC Wiki. But for that to happen, the people involved in the project would need to be incredibly cognizant of the labyrinthine ways of these OGC declaration so that OGC can be pulled clean and without any PI attached that would compromise its usability, and (please pardon my skepticism) I don't think even Mike Mearls can do that for his own authored Iron Heroes, let alone for other Malhavoc products, or the rest of "crippled" OGC products in the market.

This OGC Wiki issue will have two end results that I can think of: one, OGC is pulled from products with convoluted OGC declarations, this OGC is still contaminated with PI and steps, including legal ones, are taken to shut down the wiki; or two, project participants give up trying to figure out the arcane formulas that these OGC declarations amount to, and simply start filling up the wiki with OGC from products with easy OGC declarations (can't get much easier than "100% of all text" or "all text in chapters X, Y, Z"), which then forces these publishers to restrict their OGC using the very arcane and convoluted formulas used by the indecipherable products, leading to a market where it becomes a bitch, at best, to get OGC from a product, and an eventual defeat of the whole concept of Open Gaming in the first place. Either one is possible, quite possibly both.

I think, however, that taking any action right now in the possibility that such a project would actually take off the ground is an alarmist knee-jerk reaction. I understand, sympathize and empathize with the desire to protect one's work, but all that's being done is punish people now for a threat that may or may not become true, one that I feel will fail even if it takes off the ground.

Please understand, I LOVE the ideals of the OGL and I am all for giving the most amount of information as OGC (my own products, for example, are pretty much all OGC--both crunch and fluff--except for a few terms here and there that I claim as PI) and I think that most other publishers fall into this camp. In essence we would be punished for our willingness to exalt the ideals of Open Gaming, but we really can't bitch because the possibility of someone doing exactly what the proponents of an OGC Wiki are saying they'll do is quite clearly implied in the OGL; we all knew it, and we all decided to use the OGL anyway. We may not like it (I certainly don't), but tough cookies, we signed off on it. What this means is that it's time for us publishers to be a little bit more selective of what we give out as OGC from now on, without getting into convoluted OGC declarations. Personally, I'll be looking at my future products with a sharper eye towards deciding what I declare as OGC and what not, though I cannot claim that I know exactly what I'll do yet.

The second thing I've learned from this issue is that it is time to start adding more than just crunch to products. This has been my belief from the start, and has shaped what I release and how I release it. There have been many times when I have wondered if I should switch to a more generic model where I just put out a barrage of short collections of crunchy stuff as it comes to mind, but I always end up deciding against it and sticking to my original concept for HMP, publishing rules along with story that ties it to a greater picture. Sure, I've opened up my story as well as my rules, as have many others, but perhaps that needs to change. We'll see.

This is not the first time that an OGC Wiki idea comes up, and even with Mike Mearls behind it, I don't think it will happen. Sure, some people will set sites up (some already have), and get started, but it will fizzle down and die in little time (if I am wrong, you have permission to come here and tell me how wrong I was). People need to take a step back and just see what happens before making any decisions. Perhaps it is, indeed, time to reevaluate the business model and make provisions for the future, but it is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. What OGC's out there is already out there and there's nothing we can do about it except trust people to be nice enough to not mess with our income (though I also think it is time people stop basing their businesses on the goodwill of people; if people are nice to you fine, but if they aren't and are playing legally, then tough - I don't like it any more than the next person, but it is a reality) while we evaluate the general situation and make plans for future products.

So, to summarize...
OGC Wiki - a lot of hot air that won't amount to anything in the long run. Good idea, but will remain that, an idea.
Overgenerous OGC Declarations - open for abuse by the very same license that allows their existence, and will slowly disappear.
Convoluted OGC Declarations - the reason why this new round of the OGC wiki idea has come up, a bane to the industry, would love to see them disappear (I just don't understand what is so difficult about the phrase "you must clearly indicate which portions of the work that you are distributing are Open Game Content" in point 8 of the OGL, unless you are playing around with the letter of the license and not the spirit, in which case I am just as guilty of placing my trust on the goodwill of people).
My actions - none at the moment, except watch closely what develops so I can make an informed decision, most likely will restrict somewhat my OGC in future products so as to protect my IP.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

DaVinci Labs Competition - Winner

I just sent this post to the three contestants in our DaVinci Labs Writing Competition.

Hello, everyone. First of all, my apologies for having waited all week to contact you. I got back from Puerto Rico on Sunday to an apt. without power since Katrina passed by Miami on Thursday. I got back to my house on Wed night and have just finally finished arriving after a hectic two-week period. But enough of my life-story.

In the interest of fairness, what I did with the entries I received was remove all traces of names from the files, print them out, and read them without knowing which was from whom. In judging, I was looking for a combination of good game design, inventiveness when given an illustration to stat-up, imagination for story elements, and the potential to become a co-designer for the whole line based on these elements (not to mention good spelling, grammar, etc.).

All three entries were good, and this is not just lip service. It was hard deciding on a winner, because if I had my way, I would merge all three of you into a new creature that would justly earn me the moniker of "Mad Genius" and be done with it. Seeing as how that was not an option, I had to make a choice:

Congratulations to Joshua Hoade, winner of the DaVinci Labs competition and new co-designer for the whole line.

John and Chris, thanks a million for having taken part in this open call. Though you didn't win, here is something that hopefully will make you feel better: I will be using parts of your entries when editing the final version of the first DaVinci Labs release, because I liked some of your ideas a lot and I think they should see the light of day. You will both get Additional Design credit on the PDF, and get a free copy of the first two DaVinci Labs releases.If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. I hope that you will become members of the HMP-News mailing list, so you can keep informed of future open calls we may have.

Thanks again to all who replied to the DaVinci Labs open call, and expect the first release in this line very soon.

Congratulations to Joshua Hoade, and welcome to Highmoon Media Productions (wow, we now actually have a staff!).

Friday, September 02, 2005

Plans For The Weekend

My wife went to North Carolina (specifically, to Marion, about 1/2 hour from Asheville) to visit her best friend, who just recently moved there. Myself, I had planned to drive up to Orlando to visit my sister and see my baby nephew, Kevin, but with gas prices as they are in both Miami and Orlando ($2.89-$3.10/gallon) and the short supply on top of that, it looks like I'll be spending my Labor Day Weekend home. So I've decided to make the most of it and make a list of things to do in the next three days:
  • Notify the winner of the DaVinci Labs contest, as well as write comments to the runner-ups.
  • Write a blog entry on this whole OGC Wiki debacle that's been floating around.
  • Visit Dragon's Lair Games, my local gaming store, and just geek out for a few hours (quite looking forward to this, actually).
  • Send out to Green Ronin the edited MPM adventure I have, and bug them about sending the graphical elements for Testament and Medieval Player's Manual.
  • Start writing one of two new Bardic Lore releases, probably the one on the Giant's Causeway, along with the rules for Mythic Poetry, a new type of Bardic magic.
  • Try to figure out how to do a "horde" for d20 that's not cheesy and can be used as a type of cohort (if anyone knows OGC rules that partake of the spirit of the "mob" template from DMG II, let me know).
  • Finish updating my blog entries from Puerto Rico and post an index.
  • Sleep

I'm sure I won't do it all, but at least this way I can see the list and have an idea of what I need to do, and what I'm still slacking on.

Gotta go now, Shabbat is about to start.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Last 5 Days of Summer Sale at Digital Book Booth

Just wanted to let you all know, we are now in the last 5 days of the 10% Off Summer Sale at the Digital Book Booth. Sale ends Sept. 5, so pass by today and get any of our Bardic Lore or Liber Sodalitas releases for 10% regular price!