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Jim Cambias
I am a writer, game designer, New Orleanian, cook, parent, and cat-slapper.
Recent Activity
Picking up where we left off, we reach a milestone: the first story in this anthology — published, let us recall, at the height of the Space Race in 1963 — which actually takes place in outer space. Poul Anderson's "Kings Who Die" is an odd blending of swashbuckling space... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at Just The Caffeine Talking
ENCOUNTERS IN POST-APOCALYPTIC HOUSTON (Roll d20 if the party is moving, d10 if they are staying in one place.) Roll Twice and Combine Plot-Advancing Encounter: Something or someone related to whatever brought the adventurers to Post-Apocalyptic Houston in the first place. (If they're just passing through then this is an... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Just The Caffeine Talking
I picked up a copy of The 8th Annual of the Year's Best SF in a used bookstore a couple of years ago, and recently re-read it. It was published in 1963, so the stories represent the best of 1962 — at least in the opinion of Judith Merril, the... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at Just The Caffeine Talking
I'm starting a new feature of the 'blog this week: your Weekly Random Encounters. Each week I'm going to post a new random encounter table for a particular setting. Use these for roleplaying games, story prompts, or as a kind of I Ching to predict your week. I'm also appending... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
This weekend sees the return of Philadelphia's legendary science fiction convention, PhilCon! And once again I'll be there. If you're anywhere in the mid-Atlantic region, come down to Cherry Hill, New Jersey and join the fun! My schedule for the con: Saturday, November 11, 12:00 noon, Executive Suite 623: Readings.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
(Blogging has been interrupted lately because I bought a new computer and had to spend far more time than I liked getting it set up. That's done, so with luck I can return to my two-or-three-times-a-week schedule.) A couple of weeks ago, on October 28, I attended JiffyCon, a mini... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
In the course of a recent bookstore raid I got a copy of Arcana Mundi by Georg Luck. The bulk of it is a compilation of writings by classical authors on occult topics. While reading it I stumbled across a passage translated from Homer, describing how the enchantress Circe turned... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
One feature of American life during my half-century in it has been the annual complaints about commercialization of holidays. The primary subject is Christmas, of course. Christmas gift buying is such a key part of our economy that devout believers have given up trying to keep the focus of the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I grew up in the post-Apollo era of space exploration. Skylab launched when I was in elementary school, and the Shuttle made its debut when I was a freshman in high school. What this all means, among other things, is that I have spent most of my life hearing ambitious... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Friday, the final day of the conference, opened with a very high-powered panel discussion on current space policy and future directions for NASA. The participants were Dr. Paul McConnaughey of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Representative John Culberson of Texas, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama (who represents Huntsville... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
The first day of the Interstellar Workshop featured the Starship Century and Breakthrough StarShot groups. On Thursday the Tau Zero Foundation took center stage. The Tau Zero group aren't as wedded to a single goal or mission profile. Instead they've put a lot of effort into identifying key technologies which... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Why "Tennessee Valley" for a conference in Alabama? Look at a map. The mighty Tennessee River meanders into northern Alabama on its way west. What with Knoxville, Huntsville, and Oak Ridge, the upper Tennessee River valley is quite the high-tech corridor. Just the place to plan how to send a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Throughout the history of roleplaying as a hobby, there have been attempts to remove the dice from the games. The argument usually goes something like this: real life isn't random, at least not on the scales at which humans act in day-to-day life. Events have causes. So why do we... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
This may rival Droids as the most obscure game on the Island of Lost Games. Tales of Gargentihr was published in 1994 by Sanctuary Games, a startup game company based in Scotland. Unfortunately, that meant that Tales of Gargentihr hit the market precisely when the initial success of Magic: the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Most roleplaying games display a curious paradox. The player-characters, the ones controlled by the players, are literally the only people in the game setting with free will, yet they tend to show a crippling lack of agency. Player-characters are forever getting hired by bossy patrons, handed orders by their commanders,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I know, I know: I'm about ten years late to the party on this one. Sous vide cooking techniques have become universal in the restaurant business, and probably half of the "foodies" in North America have a sous vide gadget sitting in a kitchen drawer somewhere. I'm a late adopter:... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Nephilim, published by Chaosium in 1994, is one of the handful of French roleplaying games which have been translated or adapted into English-language editions — Steve Jackson Games's In Nomine is the only other one I'm familiar with. Compared to Anglophone games, the French ones all seem more cerebral, more... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Once the main event was over, we spent another couple of days on vacation in Charleston before the long drive back up the East Coast to Mole Hill. There's a lot to see and do in the Low Country, and we could easily have spent another week. The day after... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
I've got a second ebook out for Amazon Kindle: Monster Island Tales! It collects two of my short stories, "Return to Skull Island" and "The Dinosaur Train." Both of them are gonzo pop-culture alternate history stories orbiting around the idea of a lost island in the East Indies where monsters... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Finally, the whole reason for our trip to Charleston arrived: the great eclipse of 2017! And it was . . . cloudy that morning. The forecast called for overcast skies and a chance of thunderstorms. Uh-oh. We had picked our rental cottage precisely because it was in the path of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Charleston is a fascinating city to visit, but in August its most insistently noticeable feature is the heat. I have ancestors who lived in Charleston before relocating to New Orleans, and now I understand they were looking for a place that wasn't quite so hot and muggy. The high temperatures... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
Until last week I had only ever seen one eclipse before: the annular eclipse of June 1984, which had a path of totality which passed just north of New Orleans, my hometown. That one was pretty neat, so a few years ago when my wife and I learned about the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
One could write a whole series of blog posts on the theme of "unlikely licensed roleplaying games," and somewhere near the top of that list (but below GURPS Planet Krishna) you would undoubtedly find Mike Pondsmith's Dream Park: The Roleplaying Game, from R. Talsorian Games. The 1981 novel Dream Park,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
What is the climactic moment of the movie Star Wars? Is it the point where the Death Star explodes just as it's about to vaporize the Rebel base? Is it a couple of minutes earlier, when Han Solo swoops in to knock Darth Vader into deep space so that Luke... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking
For years people have been recommending Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel Gravity's Rainbow. So, when I saw a copy on sale at the bookstore a few months ago, I decided to pick it up and see what all the fuss is about. I was prepared to like this book a lot.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2017 at Just The Caffeine Talking