The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

RPGs and Fighting Fantasy Books

When Bud (of Bud’s RPG Review fame) did his RPG DNA on Twitter, it featured something not quite like a traditional RPG: Fighting Fantasy books. I remember going “_huh_” when he mentioned this in his “*First, Last, and Everything*” in the Grognard Files podcast #41, because Fighting Fantasy books were also a big part of my early gaming life. I can’t remember exactly if they came before or after The Dark Eye (more here), but of all these adventure books, one is forever etched in my memory: “**Le Manoir de l'Enfer**”, a.k.a. “**House of Hell**”.

House of Hell cover

This is a classic horror story where, if I remember correctly, the protagonist (the reader!) is lost at night and caught in a storm, taking refuge at some nearby isolated house… only to find that he should have stayed outside!

Under the storm

Ghosts, zombies, and cultists await in the labyrinthine manor, with awesome illustrations to be startled with!



I mean, to this day, I will literally read or watch anything if it has evil priests wearing farm animal heads:


The book was pretty brutal as I remember it, forcing the reader to backtrack a lot after each death using the good old “*stick a finger in it*” method of saving your progress. It featured a “Fear mechanic” where you could be driven crazy, and you had to stop evil worshippers from sacrificing poor innocent victims.

Human sacrifice

Yes, this was a couple years after Call of Cthulhu had been released, but I didn’t know that, as I wouldn’t play that game until a few years later… still, between this and my RPG DNA analysis, it makes you wonder if I’m just sticking to my first loves with my gaming life, or if these would have been my personal tastes all along even if I had started with more classic games…

The Roku Remote

From The Verge:

In a sign of how far Apple is willing to go to continue raising the profile of Apple TV Plus, the company has worked out a deal with Roku that will give the streaming video service its own shortcut button. This is the first time a branded Apple TV Plus button has appeared on any remote control.

I’ve been a Roku user for years, dating back to when their devices were basically shitty under-powered little pieces of cheap plastic with a laggy interface (the current models in comparison are good, decently smooth-going, and get the job done).

At first, I got a Roku as an alternative Plex machine, when turning on a video-game console was slow and noisy, and I was growing tired of maintaining a DIY home-theatre PC machine with a custom IR remote. I had an Apple TV at the time (which didn’t run third party apps yet back then), so consolidating everything under the same puck-sized device made sense.

What got me hooked to the Roku brand, though, is the remote.

Roku didn’t minimize their remote past the point that it doesn’t feel good in your hand anymore. It’s designed so you can quickly know which way it is in the dark, and work it through feel alone. It always had volume buttons, which can go through protocols like HDMI-CEC to adjust the volume on your super expensive receiver. The remote is still the thing that keeps me with Roku instead of going to an Apple TV.

However, I always had ambivalent feelings about the “quick buttons” on the remote. On the one hand, they’re purely and simply advertisement, right under your hand, and that’s gross. On the other hand, a couple of them are actually useful because they’re apps I do want quick access to. Obviously the ideal thing would be for Roku to offer the ability to reprogram these buttons (some special models do allow that), but that would probably not get them as much money from partners.

Either way, it’s a big deal to see Apple spending some cash to get a space on this remote as one of the “quick buttons”1. It’s well known that Roku does tracking and advertisement on their dashboard2 in order to get enough revenue, as the hardware sales alone don’t cover all the manufacturing costs3, so hopefully they managed to get a sizable chunk of money from Apple. In fact, I wonder how much is Roku’s cut on in-app purchases on their hardware… it would be funny to see Apple lose 30% on all their transactions there, even if that would barely make a dent on their business. In fact, my cynicism leads me to believe that they struck a backdoor deal on that, the same way Apple itself also has backdoor deals with select companies on the App Store… oh well.

  1. Although arguably it was an even bigger deal that Apple TV Plus was even available as a Roku app in the first place. I did a double take when I saw it there the first time. 

  2. Which you can somewhat opt-out of. Go do that. 

  3. Another stupid side-effect of capitalism, where few companies really sell stuff at the price they should. 

Fans: “Ghostbuster: Afterlife will finally be the sequel we deserve, faithful to the original!”

Ghostbuster Afterlife: (cringy merchandising opportunity)