Presented as a parody of the complicated RPG systems which were prevalent at the time while still being a playable game in its own right, its simple structure and humorous nature gave it unexpected popularity. The actual rules of the game are indeed extremely simple. Characters are defined by a single attribute, "Strength", which is used for determining all traditional role-playing elements, such as whether or not the character successfully hits in combat, how fast they can move and how much damage they can take before dying. Originally each installment of the TWERPS system was sold in a small plastic bag containing an 8-page leaflet, a sheet of cardstock counters to be cut apart, little cardstock hex-maps and a tiny ten-sided die , each being a down-sized imitation of elements often found in larger, more elaborate games. The initial run of titles was printed at low cost with black ink on various colored papers to distinguish the various titles the main rules were on pink paper, the kung-fu rules were on yellow, and so on.

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Punk-rock has been taken over by twerps. That's the inescapable impression from this year's Warped Tour, which packed seven dozen acts into nine and a half hours on Randalls Island on Saturday.

With four or five acts to choose from at any given moment, listeners voted with their feet, crowding the fields and breaking into mosh pits for some bands and vanishing for others. As twerps go, the lead singers of these bands have some good points. They're generally sincere, they're good with words and they don't shy away from expressing emotion, whether they're explaining it or screaming it.

They also lead skillful bands who pack songs with musical flourishes: churning shifts of meter, instrumental interludes and countermelodies, choruses begging for singalongs. But when they're not working themselves into a scream, they often have voices like overwrought munchkins: high tenors that conveniently match the vocal range of the many teenaged girls who sing along.

And what preoccupies the songwriters almost full-time is not punk's old taboo-busting, authority-defying ambition, but the petty particulars of their most recent breakups. My Chemical Romance keeps some punk-pop buoyancy on its way to screams; Fall Out Boy works up to crooning melodrama as the guitars grapple.

Bands like these are the latest swerve in punk's long and erratic evolution: from the deadpan ironies and deliberate limitations of the Ramones to the anticommercial and idealistic outbursts of hardcore to the sardonically catchy punk-pop of the 's to the heart-on-sleeve, ever more intricate songs lately known as emo or, for obvious reasons, screamo. Now there's even room for Christian rockers; they're the ones whose stage patter lacked profanity.

At this year's Warped Tour, bands playing the smaller stages started with what has become the cornerstone of emo -- a sustained melody rising over punk's surging double-time beat -- and added their own fillips.

The up-and-coming hybrid adds progressive-rock filigrees and counterpoint to emo; among the practitioners were Thrice which also unleashed some death-metal growls , Hot Rod Circuit, Senses Fail, Boys Night Out and Funeral for a Friend.

Other mix-ins included ska horns from Monty, grunge guitars for Yesterday's Rising and Saosin, and whiplash stops and starts from A Thorn for Every Heart. Yet as their music grows ever more ingenious, punk's heirs have reduced their aspirations. They don't want to change or wreck the world -- they just want a steady date. With so many bands, the tour wasn't entirely monolithic. It leaned toward thrash metal with Avenged Sevenfold and Atreyu, and it included the Dropkick Murphys, who tossed some Celtic bagpipes and accordion in with the punk-rock beat, playing a punk-powered rendition of "Amazing Grace.

Tucked onto tiny stages and in tents, for a few dozen onlookers, were rappers and bands led by women. Women were sparsely represented on the bigger stages, although they did sing old-fashioned punk-rock in Go Betty Go and the Dead 60s. What remains at Warped from old-school punk is the do-it-yourself spirit. Warped doesn't bother with fancy production values: there are no video screens or stage sets, and the smaller performing areas have club-size sound systems.

Its special effects are participatory ones: singalongs, jumpalongs, fists and fingers in the air, and roiling mosh pits that raise such thick dust clouds that it's impossible to see the bands onstage. Warped also has a tradition that more pop performers ought to follow: each band has a merch for merchandise booth where it meets fans after a set, breaking down the distance between performer and audience, with no backstage pass necessary.

Mest, a punk-pop band from Chicago, praised the audience for its multiple mosh pits, noting that it was an East Coast audience style. Tony Lovato, its lead singer, also dedicated a song to "all the kids in local bands," saying, "In a few years you're going to be up onstage. Women were sparsely represented on the bigger stages, although they did sing old-fashioned punk-rock in Go Betty Go and the Dead 60s What remains at Warped from old-school punk is the do-it-yourself spirit. Home Page World U.


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