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You know something is amiss when the original editor of a game system offers an alternate take on a maneuver that he was not there to edit. He offered this version of the maneuver during some email exchanges a while ago.

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My half-Japanese heritage has bequeathed to me a rather distressing condition:  allergy to ethanol (grain alcohol).  I first discovered this when, at about 13 or so and in Austria, our group (a wind ensemble which was travelling around playing relatively bad music for Austrians who pretended to be interested) we stopped at a small rural inn which served bland food and excellent homemade wines.  After making a total idiot out of myself (as American teenagers will do when suddenly thrown into a permissive society with free access to alcohol), I went to the bathroom, where I noticed my face was entirely beet-red, and my pulse had shot up to somewhere around 135 beats per minute.  This was the first sign of my allergic reaction, which is a fairly common one among Japanese and was well-known in my particular family.  Meanwhile the other parts of my genetic makeup (primarily the English, Scotch and Sioux) were pushing for me to drink more than ever.  This is the fine line I walk.

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One day, as I was sitting around with absolutely nothing to do and discussing the Street Fighter system with Tony Faber, I realized that just about every single unbalanced thing in Street Fighter is a product of the Players’ Guide. The system as it exists was fairly balanced in the basic rulebook (with one minor exception, the Ear Pop, which I suppose you can balance out with special effects), and even the slew of silly styles introduced in Contenders wasn’t too bad (as long as you stayed away from the amusing but silly Silat Zen No-Mind/Sonic Boom guys), and Secrets of Shadoloo had really interesting material, but the Players’ Guide introduced us to such fantastic numbercrunches as the Animal Hybrid rules, Cyborgs, free damage bonuses for Savate, and everyone’s favorite cheap-ass terrible maneuver, the Cartwheel Kick. I have to wonder who was pretending to playtest these rules.

It seems that the authors of these various styles were not really interested in adding value to the game, but rather they just were pandering to their own "my style is better than your style" syndrome of old chop-socky flicks. A similar thing happens through some of Contenders (i.e. Silat, otherwise known as "Improved Kung Fu", and Jeet Kune Do, also known as "All Crunchy Maneuvers"), but tends to affect their NPC’s more than their styles and game mechanics.

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…Nothing appears quite right to you.  The air itself is electric and unnatural, not charged with life, but blurred, as if this part of the world has been neglected by a forgetful god.  As you turn your head objects seem to disappear even before they leave your field of vision and return lazily, clumsily, slowly coming in focus as you try to catch their disappearance.  You see flashes of places you have never seen, sights and sounds that are always gone when you clear your head to attempt to focus on them.  Even your life seems hollow and stale in the same way; you have been attempting to solve a mystery that has no end, only continuing threads of leads that loop back upon themselves and lead nowhere.  Logic itself seems absent.  And then, again, there it is!  That recurring scene, the one you keep seeing, the tired or dying man lying on a divan.  His face looks familiar, as if you have seen it in a dream or another life.  Beside him, out of focus, is a strange blockade or screen set upon a table.  You somehow need to know what lies behind it, as if the answer to so many mysteries is behind that shimmering screen…

Welcome to The Shimmering Screen, a reality warping adventure that will test your player’s creative skills.  Tired of the same old cliched RPG plots?  Watch the players attempt to solve the ultimate mystery, one that strikes at their hearts more than they’d care to admit…

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Although buggy beyond belief, overrun by murderous idiotic k3w1d0oDz and running on servers which have the processing power of a cheap wristwatch (they claim they are Suns, must be circa 1983 Suns), for some reason UO is extremely addictive and immersive. It’s inexplicable; I’ve been looted about 3 times, have to deal with morons every time I leave my one remaining secure house, have my friends constantly beg (or demand) money from me so they can waste it, and yet I still come back. There really is no other game currently on the market like UO, and the absurdist in me loves the interaction, even when it becomes utterly stupid (which is most of the time). The biggest problem with UO is not the bugs, the bad servers, the lag, or the unbalanced combat system, it’s the players. UO is designed to make money for Origin Systems Inc., and that money comes from players, many of whom simply wish to run around, act k3w1 and kill other players, loot their houses, and ruin their gaming experiences while enriching themselves. However, k3w1d0oDz have the same sort of money that serious gamers do (or at least their parents do), and so OSI looks the other way as the UO role-playing environment is systematically cut to pieces by their customer base.

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A bewildered, oddly pleased expression decorated Musashi’s face as he took inventory of his one remaining "secure" dwelling.  "Reagents still there… my weapons haven’t been moved to Kagero’s bank for ‘safekeeping’… my cloth is where I left it… the place isn’t looted clean… hmm…"  After only a week away from Sosaria, Musashi had fully expected to return to a looted and emptied house with some annoying graffiti scrawled on his signpost, or at least most of his belongings gone and a note from Kagero whining for more reagents right away.  After all, the other times he had been looted, it had seemed only one evening between a full and appointed home and an empty box in the woods; the lucky rogue of the week who took Musashi’s housekeys off of the somewhat absentminded Kagero certainly worked with all possible haste.  The shock of returning to his home and finding that it had not been burgularized left Musashi with only one logical conclusion to come to.

"Kagero is gone."

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"Slow business…" thought Musashi gloomily, having visited the Occlo tailor shop for the third time that day.  The proprietor Clyde, usually a reliable buyer of fine linens and cotton garments on this somewhat remote isle, semmed to be having problems finding captial.  "I cannot afford any more of that," he would say repeatedly.  Feeling badly for the poor merchant, Musashi was giving him a few complimentary shirts, gaining both the merchant’s gratitude and perhaps paving the way for good future business, when a young person in full plate approached.

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Such a dreary day, thought Musashi as he trudged along the streets of Magincia, another load of cloth weighing him down.  Even though his house had been broken into and looted by a vile thief while he was away tending to other business at a pleasure palace in Nujelm, he still needed a place to sew in peace and quiet, and so had taken to purchasing cloth in towns from his various suppliers, weaving them on the spot, and hauling the completed bolts of cloth back to his house where he could sew without the constant pressure of selling constantly, or the evil looks from his competitors.  There was an unspoken, deep rivalry amongst tailors, oh yes, and things might get ugly if any of them could actually fight.  (Actually, some could, which was another reason Mu was happy to take his leave of the shops when his business there was concluded.)

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"Hmm, lots of newbies here" thought Mu as he stood in front of the loom at the smaller of Britain’s two tailor shops, mindlessly passing shuttles of thread back and forth as his foot worked the pedals with the practiced ease of someone who has been doing this way too much.  Around the shop, an assortment of new citizens of the realm, obviously looking to earn some easy money, were wandering to and fro looking at the shop’s wares and trying to figure out how to proceed.  As they asked their questions ("How do I make cloth?… What should I sell?… Why isn’t there any thread in this shop?") Mu did his best to answer them, secure enough in his position in the market to be able to show some goodwill to these apprentices.

As he stood there, unconsciously passing the thread back and forth, a young, shabbily dressed man came up and stood near him.  "Hmm…" thought Mu; thieves sometimes liked to prey on those near the loom, and Mu kept a sharp eye on his pack.  However, he was somewhat startled to see the young man draw a rather cheap-looking dagger from its sheath and assume a combat stance.  "Wonder what he’s up to…" Mu thought, as the young man lunged at him.  Instinctively, Mu reacted by hurling a fist at the hapless attacker.

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Grimly, his muscles aching from the strain of continuous katana wielding, his face pale from the stress of being wounded and healed repeatedly in a short period of time, his breathing ragged and shallow, Musashi glared at his enemy.  Sorely wounded, his vile opponent had reduced Musashi to near-death several times; only his recent trip to Maegara’s Greater Heal potion vendor and comfortably margined expense account had saved him thus far, as evidenced by the assortment of bottles that lay strewn about the greenery they battled upon.  However, his supply was almost gone, and with each exchange of blows it was Musashi who fared the worse; unless he could receive some assistance, he feared he might not walk away from this conflict.

"Help!  Prithee, assist me against this vile creature!  Aaahhh…"

Sighing, Kagero turned around briefly from the tree where she was carving kindling, and without looking, slashed once with the skinning knife she was using to pare deadwood from the branches.  One slice into the neck of the surprised hind and the inoffensive woodland creature fell gurgling to the forest floor.

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