Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rules Lite

Most people are pushing for rules-lite systems.  The idea is is to get a game together and played, fast.  People like the 'out of the box' play-style. Chatroom roleplaying relies almost entirely on no-rules games, focusing entirely on storytelling and character development.  Rules systems are a means to an end, just a simple way of establishing conflict-resolution that is, at least on the surface, impartial or heavily tweakable by GMs so their carefully-plotted stories don't come to a crashing halt because a player had a lucky roll.

I really like rules systems, though.  I like a lot of rules.  People probably think I'm sick, but I enjoy knowing that there are specific situations that can be resolved through the application of multiple dice.  Dice are fun.  I like to roll them. 

I also like the feeling of full impartiality.  Despite what cosmic forces are involved, they still must follow rules of their own in order to preserve the nature of the universe.  In some ways I'm applying that heavy title of "cosmic force" to the GM, but it also applies to the game as a whole: the setting as played by countless game groups.  Someone suggested that the problem is a matter of trust - that I have a psychological problem because I can't trust people in my own game group to make proper decisions.  But that's not what I mean.  It has more to do with a philosophical approach to the idea.  There are things man was not meant to toy with, and having a strict rules system in place reinforces that concept . . . even when the GM is clearly ignoring or changing rules in favor of play style.

More importantly, I like the simulation aspect.  There is the idea that an entire world can propagate and continue based on mechanical application, and the variable or change to that world comes not in the form of arbitration by Lords on High, but by the actions of the individuals in that world.  The simulation of experience is also important, answering the question of what would happen if one were to enter this cave.  I want a livable experience in my fantasy, and rules that are meant to simulate reality as much as possible do that.  During a game devoted entirely to story at the expense of rules, I can feel the artifice.  I know it is a story told from someone's perspective.  I rarely feel like I, as an individual, can alter or affect much unless I take absurd or arbitrary actions.

I saw a couple of places online where people were advocating "no meta-plot" in their games.  Even though they usually refer to the published company material and not their own games, I have to admit, that's a refreshing find.  Even so, people enjoy the plot, they like having a "bigger goal" to be working toward as a group, and they like knowing that their actions have an effect on the world around them.  I admit that some of my favorite times around the game table were during large-scale, campaign-long stories.  But maybe that's been a little overdone.  Everybody does that, and the world is almost always at stake.  We forget our humble beginnings, and every character is worried about fulfilling destiny or trying to find a way to warp that destiny into their own game. 

So let's all step back.  Let's remember why we're doing this.  Think of ourselves as professional ball players who have to remind ourselves it's the love of the game, not the personal rewards, that drew us here in the first place.  Walk into the wilderness and make your own stories.

Related Links:
Grand Experiments

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No More

I was going to sit down with the old unaltered Star Wars movies tonight, maybe even break out the VHS tapes as opposed to the 'extra features' disc that was finally released with the DVD set a few years ago.  But I just can't bring myself to do it, now.  I feel like some poor bastard sitting down with home movies of him and the ex-wife before the divorce, crying into his whiskey.  Too many painful memories are associated with that, now, and going through all that again would open up old wounds better left alone.  Some day I'll be able to look back with fondness, but not while I have to see my former love hawked and whored all over Cartoon Network.  That really makes it hard for me to move on and overcome the bitterness.

Meanwhile, a shelf full of Star Wars D6 products collects dust in the basement.  They won't be used again.  I can't participate in a game ever again, neither as player or GM, without knowing that the whole universe has been reimagined and restructured, retconned and wrecked.  And it will be harder and harder for me to find people who don't think of the films as connected to the prequels.

But, ah, well.  Another chapter comes to an end, another era bleeds into the next.  The fall of Rome is upon us, and WotC fiddles while it burns.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

But I Digress... Quake 3

I haven't posted anything for a while (I've been very busy doing a lot of work for very little pay), so I feel a little sheepish about this post, which has little to do with pen and paper roleplaying games.  Still, I like talking about video games, especially from a roleplayer's perspective, because the attitude and approach are completely alien to what an RPG should be.  Granted, there are video games called RPGs, but that title is only an approximation rather than an accurate descriptor.

But this post doesn't even deal with that.  It deals with first-person shooter video games - specifically, Quake 3.

About 15 years ago (was it really that long ago? How old I feel!), a friend of mine, right out of high school, got a job working as a techie for a high school computer lab.  On the weekends, he'd use his door key and let us in, where we would play Quake 2 on a LAN line.  There were from four to seven of us, and even though I was never really that good, I had a great time.  We talked trash across the room and generally yelled and made a ruckus in the high school after hours.

Online, I don't get that kind of fun and excitement.  I never really played video games for the game itself.  I always enjoyed the comraderie and party atmosphere.  I bought a Nintendo 64, and later a Game Cube, back in the day because their group games were fun and fantastic.  But those days are gone, and every game system has thrown out (with the exception of the Wii, which I don't like very much) in favor of faceless competition.

That being said, I was looking for a nice little FREE online game to play as a time killer (okay, as a procrastination device), and I found Quake 3, online, for free.  Right now, the game is a beta test, as the providers want to see if an older shooter game can withstand a group connection in a browser game.  So far, it can.  When the beta is finished being tested, I hope they keep the game free.

Anyway, they have a ten minute test game for you to play and find out what your skill level is, so you don't keep playing games against disastrously weaker or overwhelmingly stronger opponents.  I took the test and dominated it, reliving some old fun times.  When I sat down to play the game, though, I had my ass handed to me.

Part of my problem is that I have a terrible sense of direction, even in non-virtual environments (read: real life).  Jumping around a 3D world gets me hopelessly turned around, and I never know who or what is behind me at any given moment.  The other problem I have, and maybe the bigger problem when it comes to playing games like these, is that I am a roleplayer, not a gamer.  I put myself in the role of a military or mercenary figure, working his way around an urban battlefield.  I skulk, sneak, wait, evaluate, act.  That's easy to do against a single opponent in these games (like the skill test I had to take), but in a free-for-all, or even team-based, Quake 3 environment, I'm cannon fodder.

The way characters move around in that game is crazy!  All the jumping, running, moving, ducking, and mostly blind indiscriminate use of firepower overwhelms me.  I can't imagine that there is anything in that style of gameplay that is at all realistic.  That might not seem like a problem, but I wonder about what that says about cognitive strategy.  Are realistic forms of strategy and critical thinking dulled?  Surely some kind of strategy is formed, but like most video games, those strategies are entirely dependent upon the nature of the game rather than any skill set applicable to the outside world.  Even games I enjoy, like the Civilization series, have strategy guides built for maximizing points that do not reflect the way countries and culture actually operate, which is what the game makes a pretense of doing.

As a roleplayer, I can't imagine the world.  There it is, right in front of me, and I have no idea what's going on in it.  Where does this place exist?  Where could it possibly?  Outside the stylized arena, I have no way of putting myself in the world, I don't know why I'm there, and I have little motivation to continue.  And the mentality that developed this game is at work in most contemporary pen and paper games - or the .pdf facsimiles thereof.  What good is a roleplaying game when the rules make sense only within the context of the game itself?  What does it mean, then?  People claim that it is a tool to be used however I see fit, and I can add or remove roleplaying elements as I wish, but I don't ever see groups do that.  They play their games 'right out of the box,' and that idea is encouraged.  You're not supposed to personalize it much, but you can plug in someone else's mod (once used shorthand for 'module' now used as shorthand for 'modification.'  What does that tell you about a game?) and away you go.  The general game is unchanged, except for a few personalized 'elements' that some programmer (read: DM) felt like adding for personal amusement, and most of those mods have nothing to to with story or even the intended style of the game - just sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Deulist - Factoring Constitution, Dexterity, and Strength in Swordplay (Is There Anything Wrong with AD&D? Part III)

 One of Hughes' (actually Kevin Mowery, according to his website) critiques is a question of how high ability scores reflect bonuses to combat scores.  Constitution adds hit points, Dexterity reduces Armor Class and Strength increases chances to hit.  He argues that the specific bonuses do not reflect the abstract combat accurately.

Only the Fighter class benefits from a higher Constitution, for example.  "A fighter with an 18 Con," he says, "is luckier and more agile than a thief with 18 Con, and has better divine favor than a cleric with 18 Con."  I understand the argument.  Hit points tend to reflect, according to the 1e Player's Guide, "combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers) and magical forces."  If the character has a bonus to hit points due to constitution, then that must mean all of those factors are considered, which is inconsistent with what Constitution represents.  Alternately, the fighter benefits from physical toughness more than other characters, which does not reflect a reality.

However, part of the hit point "combat skill" involves how easily someone wears themselves out.  In combat, often the fighter with the most conservative movements lasts through the battle.  I have seen seasoned fencers dominate younger, faster fencers simply because of reserved movement.  Eventually, the younger fencer, who has been throwing themselves at the older, more experienced fencer left and right, tires and leaves themselves open for a simple attack.  Other times, the quickness of an experienced fencer's blade work tires his opponent for him, as the inexperienced one overcompensates his parry too often and starts to slow down.  Constitution, then, isn't about how thick the body is, but how it conserves its energy in a fight.  This is why characters receive a Constitution bonus for every level, rather than only once.  Similarly, fighters have more benefits from higher scores because that is what they are trained to do - manage their energy for combat.  Thieves, magic-users, and clerics, while gaining some experience in combat, do not have this focus.

So if hit points do not reflect simple physical damage, why does Dexterity offer bonuses to Armor Class instead of hit points?  If not every hit point reduction is due to a real and authentic 'hit' on the character, Dexterity could be used to represent that, instead.  However, considering Constitution bonuses partially represent how easily a character tires out, and level increases partially represent a learned conservation of movement, adding hit points because of movement is contradictory.  Instead, the bonus goes to Armor Class because someone does not need to train to have fast reflexes.  In combat, a reaction is rarely unexpected.  The strategy of sword fighting is to cause the opponent to act or react in a way that the attacker has already planned.  Even when attacks are expected, it is difficult for someone to respond to them if they have allowed their actions to be dictated for them.  Dexterity, though, represents that last-ditch untrained response to an attack - jumping back out of range at the last second, ducking or turning to the side to avoid a blow.  This is something that anyone with a high Dexterity can do, not just those trained specifically in fighting, thus Dexterity affects Armor Class.

Strength, though, is a raw ability that comes into play fairly often in combat, which is why only fighters have the benefit of exceptional scores in that ability.  Part of this is due to learning how to hold and use a weapon.  The rest, though, comes from someone bearing down on an opponent with sheer brute force.  More than once, I have had my blade knocked out of attack range, even when I was anticipating - or encouraging - a parry to my attack, simply because my opponent was a gorilla.  Other times, I've given up points or have been stung by a slapping blade because my parry against that gorilla wasn't forceful enough.  Sometimes, just fencing someone twice my size has worn me out because a) their bulk makes them slow, so I rely on my speed and move around more, or b) their attacks and parries are so strong my arm is wrenched left and right during the bout.  Now imagine someone with a rapier, an elegant and quick weapon, trying to parry a mad barbarian's bastard sword.  It can be done, but even a successful deflection is still going to result in some damage.

Other game systems I have seen, especially those that simulate direct play-by-play exchanges, do not take these factors into account.  A parry means a parry, simply, and no side-effects result from that parry.  Hit points are directly a representation of how much punishment someone can take, and fatigue, learned conservation, or the rigors of being in combat with someone twice the size of the attacker are ignored.  Worse is when dodging is regulated purely for defending against missile weapons, while parries are used only for melee weapons.  Where, then, is the side-step or retreat-step?  Besides, each and every attack made at an opponent is not necessarily intended to connect or cause damage; they're intended to bring the opponent into a rhythm of parries and counter-attacks, leaving them open to an attack on a different quarter.  If one of these attacks lands, great!  But there is no game system that accurately relates this idea in a blow-by-blow simulation.  It requires a generalization.

 This system, of course, relies on imagination on the part of the players and GM.  They don't rely on a series of dice rolls to recount the scene for them.  Instead, they take generalities and use them to tell an exciting story, as they interpret the dice. 

Related Links
Mark Damon Hughes: RPG: What's Wrong with AD&D?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Of Elves, Wizards, and Plate Mail (Is There Anything Wrong with AD&D, Part II)

This is my first response to a specific criticism of AD&D offered by Mark Damon Hughes on his website What's Wrong with AD&D?  In the section Metal and Magic and Multiclassing, he prints a few points made by Dr. Erin D. Smale on wearing armor while casting spells and the seeming irrationality behind multi-classing rules.  Like the other issues that Mark points out on his page, these are some valid points that really need to be addressed because as new games were developed, each with its own sensibilities, people demanded explanations for rules that seemed arbitrary.  Most of the choices that Gygax made in the development of AD&D followed conventions and standards of the (especially pre-Tolkien) fantasy genre.  Times have certainly changed since then, and most of those conventions have either been re-imagined, refined, or re-defined.

So let's look at these questions that Dr. Smale asks about AD&D:
1. Why are multi-classed demi-human magic-users permitted to wear metal armour but human magic-users are not? . . . 2. Why are demi-humans restricted in level advancement? . . . 3. Why can multi-class demi-human magic-users wear armour but single-class demi-human magic-users can't? . . . 4. How are other multi-class character abilities justified in contrast to their single-class restrictions?
The good doctor points out the inconsistencies in logic with the usual answers to those questions, and I agree:  those answers are inconsistent and incorrect.  Game balance has little to do with the answer (at least, if we understand game balance to mean equalizing power between characters of comparable level).  In fact, game balance in relation to level limits was considered after the fact, with the publication of Unearthed Arcana

Why are demi-humans restricted in level advancement?  Looking to Dr. Smale's specific questions, it's easier to answer the second one first because the answers to the others are closely related to one another.  Part of the issue with AD&D multi-classing is a loose distinction between racial culture and genetics.  Are elves adept at magic due to their nature or hundreds of years of their society's development of mystic arts?  Like most of the ideas behind AD&D, there is a tendency to blur specifics - this time done in an attempt to leave things mysterious and exciting.  Either way, there was a specific idea people had in their head when they thought of high-fantasy elves, and while original (Basic) D&D preserved that idea by making demi-humans their own classes, AD&D had to do the same thing while still allowing some variation to class.  This was done by limiting single-class levels for demi-humans but opening the door for multi-classing, something that humans are not allowed to do.  It suggests that multi-class identities are more likely among the demi-humans, especially since a multi-class character can assume a combined level almost twice as high as a single class.  As one can see, the limits to character class are meant to guide identity and character more than balance power.  Furthermore, most of the reasons that the mechanics work the way they do are meant as an explanation of why we see particular conventions at almost every turn. 

To address one of Dr. Smale's other criticisms, elves show their affinity for magic through their likelier multi-class choices: fighter/magic-user, fighter/magic-user/thief, magic-user/thief, and fighter/thief.  Elves and half-elves are the only characters that may multi-class as magic-users.  Elves are not more "adept" at magic use than humans, but they certainly are more used to it as part of their lifestyle and culture. 

This sounds a bit as though I'm defending a purely mechanical choice that reflects an idea without supporting a real-world (even if that world is a fantasy world) rationale.  However, keep in mind that while elves, dwarves and halflings have preconceived ideas attached to them, so do humans.  In most fantasy, and in most science fiction, humans are always able to overcome what seems to be impossible odds and defeat more powerful (as a whole) races.  Two conventions about humanity's place in the world (or universe) raise to the forefront: human beings' "insatiable curiosity" and their unlimited potential.  Only from the human perspective do we see demi-human levels as "limited."  It might be more accurate to think of humans as "unlimited" in relation, instead.  Therefore, it doesn't matter how long an elf lives.  Only humans have unlimited potential in noble or demanding pursuits, while anyone can pursue ignoble skills as far as the highest-level thief.

Why are multi-classed demi-human magic-users permitted to wear metal armour but human magic-users are not? . . . Why can multi-class demi-human magic-users wear armour but single-class demi-human magic-users can't?  The first and second questions have the same answer because they are basically the same question: Why are multi-classed magic-users permitted to wear metal armour but single-class magic-users are not?  The answer is in training.  A single-class magic-user simply is not trained in the use of arms and armor, while a multi-classed magic-user is.  Even a dual-classed magic-user has not been trained in the use of armor while casting spells.  Also, as I stated above, AD&D tends to err on the side of generalization.  There are so few spells that do not require somatic (physical) components, that AD&D generalizes all magic spells in regards to casting while wearing armor.  This idea was either unpopular or misunderstood enough that it was changed in 2nd edition AD&D.  Multi-classed magic-users could no longer wear armor while wearing spells, unless they were elves (not half-elves) and were wearing elven chain, "as magic is part of the nature of elves."

How are other multi-class character abilities justified in contrast to their single-class restrictions? Dr. Smale's final question leads him to, perhaps, the best argument for fair game balance between single- and multi-classed characters.  When demi-humans are restricted in single-class pursuits, having multiple classes is a benefit.  Furthermore, they are, more often than not, on par with their single-class human counterparts, if not better due to their versatility.

Eventually, though, a multi-class character will reach level limits.  An elf fighter/magic-user, for example, can only reach levels 7/11, while their human counterpart will continue to advance.  That means the elf's experience total will be 70,001 for the fighter and 375,001 for the magic-user, for a total of 445,002 experience.  An equivalent single-class fighter will be level 10, and an equivalent single-class magic-user will be level 11.  At these levels, the multi-classed elf is a superior character.  But he has reached his limit.  How long will that superiority last while the human magic-user continues to advance? 

Again, humans have unlimited potential, while the other races do not.  This is part of why human beings, in most fantasy settings, are expanding their lands while the other races have been driven to seclusion or face dwindling numbers.  Also, multi-classing suggests that the lines between distinct human concepts are fuzzier for demi-humans.  For elves, magic is such a part of their lives that they would benefit more by including it in their studies.  Similarly, dwarves spend their time fighting underground, sneaking through tunnels and digging through earth, so of course they will have the option of being fighter/thieves.

One can infer that contemporary players are much more interested in seeing characters break conventions than succumb to them.  They don't want to know how an elf's character would develop.  They want to know how their character would break tradition.  This is due in part to our general American philosophy of individualism.  White Wolf games certainly pushed this idea, by explaining factions of monsters and describing how each faction is seriously flawed in one or more ways.  Players were expected to fight against nature or society and, through their individuality, become something better.  Other games, such as D20 D&D, accentuate that idea by making individual characters highly customizable, so much so that characters are rarely restricted by the normal class limitations.  In D&D, this is a trend that started with the AD&D Player Handbooks for the various classes, escalated with the Players' Option line of books, and finally culminated in D&D 3.0.  This is what contemporary players want out of  the hobby - customized personalities instead of roles to play.

Unfortunately, AD&D was always about playing traditional roles, not customized inventions.  The last thing I wanted to point out was that, again, these rules are meant to explain why we see the same conventions over and over again.  Any in-world explanations are going to be after the fact, whether after mechanics are in place or after the racial conventions are decided upon.  Even by the time 2nd edition was printed, people's ideas of certain character races had changed, so the 2nd edition had to reflect that.  For example, dwarves were no longer restricted to 9th level as fighters.  They could reach as high as 15th level!  That's an increase by two-thirds!  This comes from the increased suggestion that dwarves are fighters, rather than the thieves and tunnelers they are portrayed as in The Hobbit.

What happens when we remove all of these restrictions?  Why would a particular race have a preference for one class over another?  Character races will start to lose their individuality.  Aside from superficial differences, such as height, there will be no reason to choose one race over another.  Worse, what happens when multi-classed characters are allowed to advance to unlimited levels?  If the multi-classed character is already more powerful than an equivalent single-class character, allowing unlimited advancement only makes that relative power permanent.  Ultimately, the total personal customization of characters means that lines between races and classes are drawn arbitrarily because, in the long run, they mean nothing.

Related Links
What's Wrong with AD&D?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Is There Anything Wrong with AD&D?

I came across an old website (last modified in 2002) explaining the problems in the AD&D system.  I have heard these arguments before, and to be frank, I've had a lot of the same concerns.  It's funny, though, that when I have sat down to work on developing a game system of my own, I often realize that solutions to apparent problems in the mechanics I am developing are dealt with easily by AD&D rules.  What I've found, more often than not, is that the seeming inconsistencies with the game are usually the result of my own misunderstanding of either the rules or the concepts behind them.  Furthermore, I also realize that despite my preference for older games, I am still a product of the threshold of fantasy storytelling as a preference to adventure gaming.  To be honest, most of the things that are criticized in the AD&D game come from a different style of play and the incompatibility of that play with older game systems.  Furthermore, the older style of play is seen as something that was less refined than today's style of gaming, when that simply isn't the case.  Others more insightful than myself have pointed out that contemporary roleplayers are unable to play in the old style while older gamers have no problem moving between the two.  To me, that suggests that the contemporary style is less refined than the older.

However, it is important that even us older roleplayers look back on the rules systems that we enjoy so much and remind ourselves why they worked so well in the first place and what their intentions were.  To that end, in the next few posts, I'll address some of the issues that Mark Damon Hughes points out on his website (the same one I mentioned earlier).  For the sake of argument, let this first post be a response to his Manifesto.  I believe that most of his criticisms result from a combination of 1) a lack of information about the function of the rules and 2) a completely incompatible playing style with vastly different expectations.  I do want to point out that Mark's criticism and commentary are neither ignorant nor inarticulate.  He makes some good, valid points (and as I said earlier, ones that I have made before, myself).  I even applaud his intentions of contributing to the ongoing process of refining and raising up the hobby.  He just wants something out of AD&D that isn't there and was never intended to be there.  Gary Gygax even noticed the perspective that Mark represents, and Gary had implied on more than one occasion that he intended the game to be played in a certain way that newer and newer players did less and less.  In short, AD&D may not stand up as a purely storytelling game (as the term storytelling is defined by contemporary rpg players), nor does it exist as the height of unadulterated combat-focused gaming.  AD&D is a roleplaying game, and the best of them. 

Related Links
Mark Damon Hughes: RPG: What's Wrong with AD&D?
Lulu download: A Quick Primer for Old School Gaming

Friday, March 19, 2010

Character Project: Let's Get Silly

Man, what a stressful week.  In an effort to relieve some of that stress, I'm hitting that often neglected Steve Jackson game, TOON.

Products: TOON: The Cartoon Roleplaying Game (1984) & Son of TOON (1986)

Aaron Aardvark

     Description:  Aaron looks like a typical aardvark.  He stands three feet tall and has a long snout.  He usually looks tired and unkempt.  He wears rumpled shirts (no pants) and carries a cup of coffee that always seems to be full.  He speaks in a low monotone voice and acts like nothing surprises him.

     Beliefs and Goals: Sleep during the day and stay up all night.  Scrounge for ants and termites to eat, and wash them down with a nice, hot cup of java.  Try to look unimpressed and unaffected by even the most bizarre occurrences.  Watch out for lions, leopards, dogs, big snakes, or anything else that might want to eat me.  You can usually out-think them (but try not to work too hard or look too stressed while doing it).
     Hit Points: 11

Muscle: 3
     Break Down Door: 3
     Climb: 3
     Fight: 5
     Pick Up Heavy Thing: 3
     Throw: 3

Zip: 2
     Dodge: 2
     Drive Vehicle: 2
     Fire Gun: 2
     Jump: 2
     Ride: 2
     Run: 2
     Swim: 2

Smarts: 6
     Hide/Spot Hidden: 8
     Identify Dangerous Thing: 9
     Read: 9
     Resist Fast-Talk: 9
     See/Hear/Smell: 9
     Set/Disarm Trap: 7
     Track/Cover Tracks: 7

Chutzpah: 4
     Fast-Talk: 7
     Pass/Detect Shoddy Goods: 7
     Sleight of Hand: 4
     Sneak: 4

     Incredible Speed (Burrowing) 5
I was starting to like this character by the time I finished him.  I tried putting myself in a mindset of the old animators, who would develop an idea around an almost real situation first - an animal in its natural habitat that otherwise acted human.  The TOON game, though, has no such 'logic' controlling it (they make a distinction between 'character' animals and 'real' animals, for example).  Still, the two or three times I played the game was enjoyable, for what it was, and I'd play it again.

Of course, I wonder how much contemporary players would get of the game, considering Saturday Morning Cartoons are pretty much over (I think Cartoon Network helped to kill that notion).  Unless the younger kids go out of their way to educate themselves in old Warner Bros. and MGM mayhem, I think a lot of the concept would be lost on them.

Then again, the TOON game was never intended for great things - it's a pick-up game, after all.  It's something to do while you're waiting for the rest of the players to show up.  The game was reprinted as a Deluxe Edition in 1991, comprising over 200 pages (up from the thin module-size prints of 40 pages or so), and that was followed by three additional 200+ page supplements. The supplements were increasingly silly, and by the time the last one was printed (TOON Ace Catalog) the already-difficult-to-take-seriously game was almost completely unplayable because they abandoned any comprehension of rules and started to violate their own premises.  It's one thing to be funny, but another thing entirely to be unusable.

Related Links
TOON at Steve Jackson Games