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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mail Call 04-30-11

Stuff from EBay that came in the mail today-

I didn't even know this boxed set existed before EBay showed it to me. I am pretty happy to own it now.

Z is for-

Zero the number of days left in this challenge and I have to admit I am pretty happy about that. This challenge has been somewhat tiresome at points along the way, and somewhat inconvenient from time to time. Before April I wasn't really an everyday blogger, I was shooting for three or four times a week, so the challenge has really added a lot of time I spent sitting in front of my keyboard being productive. Fun fact about zero- While various peoples had been using different symbols for zero since ancient times, the rules we still use today for how zero works mathematically were codified by an Indian mathematician only in the 7th century AD, then filtered through the Arab world to Europeans during the middle ages.

Z is for Zombie and I am not going to lie here, they got picked because they are the only Z monster in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual and I am having a hard time coming up with Z words. Z in not a widely used first letter for words in American English. Zombies are always the slow animated dead described in the MM in my games. I know Zombies are all the rage these days and have been for a while, but I just can't get all that worked up over animated corpses.

Z is for Zamora, crossroads of the world, you will find what you seek in Zamora.

Just so you there is no ambiguity here, Z is short simply because I couldn't think of anything else to write about for the letter Z.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for-

Y is for-

You. That's right you, if you are reading this then you get to be the first thing listed for the letter Y. I am not going to lie to you and say I started blogging for you, I honestly never thought anyone outside of my house would ever read my blog; but you keep me coming back trying to bring out coherent game thoughts and good stuff on a regular basis. My wife may have kick started my blogging efforts, but you readers are what keep me writing.

Y is for Yes, which is what I try to always tell players when they want to try something new. The chances might not be that great, hell they may be impossible, but I am willing to let you try.

Y is for Ygraine, the wife first of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall; then Uther Pendragon, King of the Britons. Mother of (at a minimum) Morgana LeFey and Arthur. When she was played by Katrine Boorman in the movie Excalibur I am pretty sure I understood for the first time why Uther was willing to ruin the peace to be with her.

Y is for Yeti which is not only the only Y monster in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual (not counting given names of certain demon lords), but is also the Himalayan version of the Sasquatch
or "Bigfoot", which never made an appearance in AD&D at all.

Y is for York. When the Romans founded it they called it Eburacum. When the Saxons ruled there it was Eoforwic and was the seat of a bishopric and later the kingdom of Northumbria. The Vikings called it Jorvik and made it the seat of their kingdom in England. It eventually became York in about the 13th century. Located at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss it has been an important trading center, particularly for the wool trade since it's founding. I mention York for two reasons, first it's pretty cool to see the evolution of a place name as different cultures dominate an area and second, like X, there aren't all that many Y words either.

Somedays you have more time than others for writing your blog, this is one of my short days, sorry folks.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jeff's 20 Campaign Questions

See- here

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

I just may be the best prepared DM around for this question. I have studied a wide variety of religions and have based the dominant religion of my main campaign area on the religion of the ancient Celts, based on archaeological evidence and primary source information with the gaps filled in from "sister" Indo-European religious practices ranging from ancient Rome to Hinduism. Non-dominant religions in the primary Garnia campaign area include Celtic Christianity, Anglo-Saxon Heathenry (reconstructed in a similar manner, leaning heavier on Germanic sources), some Turkic animist/shamanist beliefs and, of course, purely fantastic demi-human religions; mostly just the pantheons taken directly from old Dragon magazines. Other areas of the campaign world have other real world religions that have mostly not come into play.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

When you create your character you can buy it out of the book at standard prices, after character creation "standard" equipment gets a little harder to find, I give a random roll based on the item you're looking for and the size of the village, town or city that you are in. Obviously the more common the item and the more populous the area, the more likely you are to find it. Then, the price of the item will be based on the same criteria plus a reaction roll with the merchant.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

The short answer is no where, but if you insist, look to a large metropolis with a lot of expert armorers, expect to pay through the nose and hope for a good reaction roll. Most armorers aren't in the practice of armoring the enemies of mankind, regardless of what you might say this beast is.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Tough call there. Which land? In Garnia proper there are certainly some powerful wizards, mostly working out of the royal court like Merlin at Camelot. In Garnia the ability to become a wizard is genetic and not everyone with the right bloodline wants to do it, nor is every wizard created equal. The Witch-Kings of Frodia are certainly a very powerful cabal of wizards and they maintain an academy to train younger generations. The Necromancer is probably the most powerful sorcerous force that the world has ever seen, but he has been locked in magical slumber (some say frozen in death) for over a millennium.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Most people would agree that it is the once dishonorable mercenary captain, now noble lord of the Orcish march Erc Mac Cai.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?

That honor would go to the miserly chief of the union of trading guilds of the free city of Castra Alba, whomever that honor belongs to, usually a member of the UI'Mael family. They control all trade between Garnia and Frodia, as well as having a stranglehold on the river traffic along the Avergwyn and the Averyraen, which includes all trade with the Dwarven kingdoms.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

Most Temples in cities have priests capable of performing magical healing. Some towns have sacred springs or wells that can help too.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

This is where it gets trickier. You need much higher powered priests to do this sort of magic and they are either going to be located at major temples and holy sites or at priestly colleges. Regardless of where you find them, there is likely to be something more involved in getting your magical mojo done than just a monetary donation (although there will probably be that too), think Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series and scale the quest to the party's need.

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

Not so much an organized guild as a master/student relationship and an informal alliance of like minded wizards. A friend of your master is likely to help you out; a friend of a friend, maybe with a letter of recommendation; a rival of your master not too likely without a good reason. They also tend to break on a Good/Evil axis and evil magic or witchcraft (maleficium) is illegal and strictly enforced. Good wizards usually have to watch themselves, because popular myth tends to tell the story of their corruption by power.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

Large cities for the most part. Occasionally with lesser nobles or in "adventuring" towns.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Lots of places. Companies of mercenaries can be found sniffing around looking for hires in cities and sometimes the courts of nobles.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Depends on which map we're looking at. Garnia usually doesn't have any rules about carrying weapons, although you might get hassled for having weapons "above" your station, and most cities don't want to see armored men wandering about unless they wear the livery of their town guard. That's fine, nobody likes to wear armor all the time anyway, players just need to be reminded of that point of realism from time to time.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

It's usually just ahead on the right. Seriously.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

Orcs. Seriously, they breed like flies and are always on the move. They have the ability to level like Humans and a "standard" Orc is tougher than a "standard" Human. They have a secure, fortified home base that we Humans have not been able to drive them out of since they took it from us centuries ago. They can interbreed with us and plant spies among us. They are smart enough to use tougher evil races for their own ends.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

There's always a war somewhere. Most of them don't amount to much more than a feud and maybe produce a corpse or two before they get settled, but some get downright deadly. Major wars between rival nations are pretty scarce though.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

There's always going to be someplace where there are people willing to pay money to watch men fight, whether it's to the death or not. That said, it doesn't always have to be a seedy underworld thing either, there are plenty of festivals and tournaments where you can test your skills for cash and glory, but a full on Roman arena gladiatorial combat thing, not here, sorry.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

It really wouldn't be much of a secret if I told you now would it?

18. What is there to eat around here?

Mostly beef and dairy products. Mutton is also common, as is pork. Near the sea seafood is also common. All of this is supplemented by hunting, particularly in noble households. For vegetable produce the common grains are wheat, oats, barley and rye; flax is also grown but mainly for the production of linen. Other common vegetables are turnips, onions, carrots and peas. Fruits and berries include apples, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and grapes. Most houses also keep an herb garden for their own kitchens. Beef and Wild Boar are the highest status foods. Domestic pork and shellfish the lowest. Usually the higher your status the more protein your diet includes.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

Like the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords or the Rod of Seven Parts or the Wand of Orcus? I have a couple of things adapted to my campaign world, but mostly used the DMG as a template when I was designing, so I guess this part could use some sprucing up.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

Does anything other than a Dragon have type H treasure? Anyway, Dragons are rare and wonderful creatures that are generally far from civilized areas. Seek them hundreds, if not thousands of miles from the nearest lands settled by men or in the deepest levels of ancient megadungeons.

B/X Star Wars?

Pictured- Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan Ahsoka Tano

I was idly wasting some time today waiting for my minivan to finish being fixed and I picked up and read the newest Star Wars Insider; which I pick up when I see it sitting there on the shelf, but don't otherwise go seeking out*. I thought to myself, I have the D20 Saga edition of the game and the D6 West End version, but has anyone ever done a B/X conversion? B/X is certainly easier than D20 and has the advantage of NOT being a completely new system for my D&D group, who pretty much hate having to learn new rules systems. Since I am once again in love with B/X (with some AD&D added) I'd like to know if there is an available conversion or if my own gamer ADD will force me to start yet another project that will most likely bog down on some minor point and never see completion. My advisor at university called this "a tendency towards perfectionism", which I always thought was maybe the nicest way of saying it.

Anyway, my kids and I have been enjoying the Clone Wars animated series and I got a pretty good idea for a mini-campaign that takes place there.

*My wife will call me out on this one as a liar, I will admit that when we go to THAT grocery store where they carry it, I ALWAYS check the magazine rack; other than that I don't go looking for it.

X is for-

Xavier who was a rakish 1/2 elf sea dog that I ran in my wife's short lived, but much lamented pirate campaign back in the late 1990's. He was actually more fond of gambling and women and drinking than piracy, but he was a pretty dead shot with his pistol and a fair hand with his pimped out cutlass too. He was a clothes horse and a spendthrift with, presumed merely, affectations of aristocracy. He once shot a Giant Octopus in the eye during a raging storm from the deck of his ship, that was pretty cool.

X is for X which marks the spot on virtually every treasure map ever made.

X is for Xenophobia, which is technically the fear of alien or foreign things, but is usually expressed as a hatred for them; which, when you think about it is kind of encouraged by D&D. I am not going to go all crazy white supremacist and say that D&D is a coded game of race war, but it is a game where you go to places where the sentient species are different from you in significant ways; both with regards to their actual species (which is likely to be humanoid, but unlikely to be similar enough to interbreed,with a few exceptions), but also very significantly from a moral and philosophical basis (in that most of them are evil); then you kill them off and take their stuff to improve your own standing back home in your own culture, kind of like Cortez with the Aztecs or Pizarro with the Inca. Seriously, tell me that your favorite D&D character wouldn't be lauded as a great hero if he discovered an empire of say, Orcs, and then conquered it at his own expense, adding it's lands to his native nation and brought back enough gold to finance his native kingdom for centuries to come. Modern anthropologists have to be trained to recognize when they are being ethnocentric, most modern people aren't all that concerned about it at all; certainly no premodern person ever gave it too much thought.

And X is also for it's opposite Xenophilia, which in common usage is an attraction to foreign peoples, cultures or customs. In fantasy and science fiction settings it also extends to a sexual attraction to alien races, so I guess D&D (and Star Trek) encourages this with the clear number of hybrid races available. Various editions of D&D have given us 1/2 Elves, 1/2 Orcs and 1/2 Ogre Human Hybrids. HackMaster gave us Gnomlings, a Halfling/Gnome hybrid as a PC race. There are a myriad of hybrid races of monsters, the poster-boys for which are Mongrelmen. Orcs are probably the most prolificly xenophiliac species of humanoid since they are known to interbreed with Humans, Ogres and Baboons(!) and probably other things I missed over the years or forgot about.

X is for Xenocentrism which is also encouraged by D&D. Xenocentrism is defined as preference for the products, styles, or ideas of someone else's culture rather than of one's own. The 18th century primitivism movement in European art and philosophy, and its concept of the noble savage is an example of xenocentrism. I nicked that from Wikipedia, but I think that it is safe to say, if we are being honest with ourselves, that most of us playing D&D have a preference for these primitive, medieval cultures (with greater or lesser amounts of fantasy thrown in); I don't think we would like living in a feudal culture with a medieval technology level if we had to, but we have rose colored glasses view of the past here.

We also see this all the time in other nerdy subcultures that reject mainstream American culture as much as they can- like Japan worshiping anime fans, the ones that superficially attempt to "become" Japanese. They decorate their apartments with nothing but Japanese stuff (other Asian stuff will do in a pinch if an actual Japanese item can't be found at a reasonable price), not even just anime related stuff, although that will be preferred in every case. They affect a preference for Japanese, then other Asian foods. Even though their names are Machele, Paul and Kevin*, they start using Japanese names, mostly on the net (because we refuse to start calling them Akira or Chozen or Kimiko or whatever) where they actually try to hide their actual Caucasian race. I guess I'd be more impressed if they studied martial arts or traditional Japanese arts or the Japanese language. Instead they dress in cheap kimonos when they are at home, decorate their apartments with expensive Japanese toys, cheap knock-offs of Japanese swords and dollar store (or Chinese buffet) Asian stuff. They watch cartoons and eat ramen noodles or order Chinese take-out. They dye their hair black, or straighten it if it was already black, but curly; then get ridiculous anime inspired haircuts. They all have spent time as theater majors too, what's up with that? They have some Emo-Goth crossover too.

X is for Xanadu, not the Olivia Newton-John movie, but the city built as the capital of China by Kubilai Khan. Xanadu is more acurately known as Shangdu, but there aren't a lot of X words to work with and Bard already beat me to Xerxes.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

X is for XP and if there is a way to determine a winner in D&D, tallying these up is about as close as it gets.

X is for Xorn, which is the only X monster in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual. The Xorn is another of EGG's random weird monsters and I assume that it's name only begins with an X because he noticed a gap in the alphabetical listings for the Monster Manual. As to it's random weirdness and total D&D nonsensicalness, it eats treasure, it has a wide range of strange spell immunities (or altered effectivenesses) and it has a hidden weakness that kills it outright. Plus it has a really strange appearance with three arms, three legs and a giant mouth at the top of it's body and no discernible head, just a torso with eyes.

X is also a letter that people use when they want to make a word look exotic and foreign or alien, they'll also throw in apostrophes for maximum weirdness effect. I assume this dates back to the pulp writer's day when they needed an easy go to for exotic-alien-weirdness, so they create names like X'klalc'tn- note the use of only one vowel too, that must score extra points. Come to think of it EGG might have had this in mind with the Xorn too.

*Names of actual anime nerds have not been changed to protect the innocent. Not all of them are guilty of every charge laid here, but they share an amazing amount in common. Surprisingly, the fact that they all have anime inspired views of how Japan is, they all kind of suck at playing in OA games, despite begging for them ad nauseum. Commonly, we actually refer to these people as Japtards, which comes from their own derogatory term for Naruto fans- Narutards.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for-

The Latin inscription translates as "Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, having been consul three times, built it."; this will make more sense when you read the section on wealth.

William, which is a great and powerfully masculine name; pick a William from history and you're pretty much guaranteed a bad-ass. I am partial to the name because it is my own given name and, unlike so many less worthy of the name, I actually go by it*. So, William is the manliest name ever devised by humankind.

W is for Wilderness which is a catch all term for anyplace that isn't civilization. I have spent literal decades placing adventures in wilderness areas for my players to the point where "classic" mega-dungeon style dungeoneering is a skill I have to relearn.

W is for War and what is it good for? Absolutely everything. War is a DM's best friend. Trying to prevent wars are a good excuse for an adventure, so is trying to end a war. Fighting a war, pretty awesome too. The chaos created by wars often create some good avenues for adventure too. Literally everything related to war can be an adventure seed. The diplomacy can include trying to recruit or retain allies, or keep neutral parties neutral, or even make the belligerent parties make peace. War always has hidden stuff that plays out behind the scenes too. Maybe the rightful heir can end this destructive conflict King Arthur style and the party can find him somehow. Maybe an artifact will send the Lich-Lord back to Hell for 99 centuries and the party can quest after it to end his conquest of their realm. Maybe you have some wargamers who are into domain level stuff and want to wargame out the war, and that's cool too. I have played out continent spanning wargames across the map of Garnia using giant hex maps and counters and miniature battles for when major forces meet in important battles**.

W is for Wealth and in pretty much every pre-modern society wealth was defined by conspicuous consumption and public generosity. Wealth is power and prestige, if you hoard your wealth like Fafnir you are subverting it's purpose through your noxious greed. Wealth is intended to show your status and improve your standing in the community through the spending and giving. Wealth doesn't belong to just you, but to everyone linked to you through familial or social bonds reaching across your entire culture.

The ancient Romans used to build massive public works projects like roads, aqueducts and temples with their wealth; they also put on huge feasts for the poor and gave days of entertainment with plays, chariot races and gladiatorial games free of charge to the masses, to enhance their own status. The ancient Romans may not have been ideal***, but when it came to a sense of civic responsibility they had the right idea. The wealthy certainly abused their status, particularly as the Republic became an empire and then gave way to the Caesars, but can you imagine Bill Gates taking over the building and maintenance costs of even just the roads and bridges in Redmond Washington? Bill Gates is actually one of the most socially responsible super-wealthy people in America.

Now picture douche-bags like the Koch brothers even considering paying their own realistic fair share of income taxes, much less throwing their own money into public works projects; to be fair they do seem to be willing to throw inordinate amounts of money into projects like public disinformation campaigns and buying politicians, but those are really just so they can continue to enhance their own wealth and avoid paying their fair share or suffer any consequences for any illegal actions that may have been undertaken on their behalf with or without their knowledge.

W is for Weapons and I guess everyone has their favorites. I am a basket-hilt broadsword man myself, it plays to my strengths; which are being large and strong with a long reach. When I can I like to back it up with a shield, but I can live without it because the basket hilt is like a mini-shield that lets me manipulate an opponents weapon at any range.

W is for Weather, and since I live in central NY, it is always crappy. Too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy. Pick a combination. Make the PCs miserable with it, it sets a mood. When the weather changes to something nice, like "You reach the edge of the lake and a cool breeze blows in towards shore from the water", then hit them with Pirates or Orcs or Sahuagin or Lacedons. Fools, your never going to be safe and comfy in D&D! After you make sure they know that then you can actually give them some safe comfy time, they'll just be paranoid the whole while; much as I figure experienced adventurers usually are.

W is for Wizards which I have covered before here, but I also left out some of the less savory parts of my wizard experience, which I had more or less forgotten until reminded by playing one last Saturday. Wizards need to be at the top of their game all of the time. They also need to be the person at the table, with the possible exception of the DM, that knows the rules most thoroughly. It doesn't hurt to have a Special Forces level grasp of unconventional warfare tactics either. OK, that last bit was hyperbole, but you need to figure out how to squeeze every last drop of usefulness out of every scrap of information and every piece of equipment. You need to know unusual applications for any spells you have memorized, and you need to KNOW when to use them. I played a Magic-User in a party with my family on Saturday and they hated me for it, get used to being disliked but needed as a Wizard. Wizards rule the D&D universe in any pre-D20 version, even with their nerfed spells in 2nd edition, but being a Wizard is lonely and tiring; it's like playing chess all the time, if chess had odd team variant rules where your team-mates could move your pieces in stupid ways and they still expected you were going to carry the team to victory. I guess playing a Wizard is a great challenge to your ability as a D&D player, but it also makes me kind of a bitter, controlling dick to play with.

*Yes, I recognize the ridiculousness of using the net name "Jagatai" and saying that I go by "William"; to clarify, everywhere that is not the internet (and some of the internet too, like Facebook) I go by William, even my SCA name is William. William FitzWilliam actually, which I thought was rather clever because my father is also named William (although he goes by the nickname "Bud") and for that matter so were my grandfather and great-grandfather, although we all have had different middle names to avoid that annoying numbering thing. I am also slightly mocking grown men who go by the nickname "Billy", or really any other little boy's diminutive version of a man's name.

**I cannot stress enough the importance of only going to the "table-top" for important battles, it gets old fast when the battle is between the 2nd Goblin Raider Battalion and the Peasant Slinger Reserve Trainee Detachment. Trust me on this.

***Although they were clearly ideal enough for us in the USA to model our governmental structure on.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for-

Vambraces, which are forearm armor. I quit wearing them years ago, but I heartily recommend them for new fighters.

V is for Vampires, who I was mostly talking about yesterday when I covered the undead for the letter U. Remember Vampires as menacing bad-ass or even scheming arch-nemesis = good, pouty leatherboy goth = bad, sparkly teen-girl bait = abomination of concept.

V is for Village, this is where heroes are from and goblins raid into. Sometimes villages are used as home-bases too.

V is for Vikings who are barbarian bad-asses renowned for their goblin-like raiding of villages, their distinctive "Celtic" artistic style, their penchant for alliterative poetry, adventurous spirit, binge feasting and drinking, exploratory nature, awesome pantheon of gods- complete with totally bitchin' afterlife. All that cool runic stuff? Totally theirs. They were so awesome they have an age named after them. When Christianity started to lose it's stranglehold on western culture*, people resurrected their religion. I love them, I studied them in college and I have played one in the SCA.

V is for Vision. Having covered both infravision and ultravision in previous posts I figured I should probably mention normal human vision during the letter V just for the sake of completeness. We don't need any special scientific reasons or magical ones either to explain how it works, we all get it, unless we were born blind I guess.

V is for Visions which I sometimes like to use as plot hooks or, less often, as hints to move the plot along. Usually the party Cleric gets them, which is about as close to divine intervention as my games generally get. I do remember back in the day though, when the shit really hit the fan, people would be all like " I roll for Divine intervention", just because there were rules for it in AD&D. I don't think I ever saw it work though.

V is for Vendetta, honestly I couldn't let this one just slip by.

*Mostly after WW2, but also dating back into the 19th century there were romantic pagan revivals, this isn't intended to be a history of modern paganism and the decline of Christianity in the west though, I just mention it in passing.

Angry Rants and Damaged Vehicles

I am delayed in being able to get my V post written today because I am suppressing an angry rant at another gaming blogger and, mostly, because my damned minivan* is back at the garage again; this time having blown a break line that I replaced not six months ago. I also have a doctors appointment later today, so I may be playing catch up with V and W both tomorrow.

So V, for the time being, is for Vehicle Damage. I suppose most people think of Car Wars when they think of damaging vehicles in a gaming context, I always default to Twilight: 2000; both of them have their post apocalyptic charm, but I grew up near both an Army base and an Air Force Base and have a lot of military and former military family members, so Twilight: 2000 was usually the go to game here.

*I never really wanted a minivan, I am too damned big for them and as an American man it's kind of like getting neutered to get one, we got one because we had kids and needed the space and they were good on gas and relatively maintenance free. What they don't tell you about the maintenance is that there is nothing you personally can fix on them and when something does breakdown it costs an arm, a leg and a testicle to repair. When I was single I drove bad-ass cars with big block V8s that could easily do 150mph and I could fix most of the minor problems myself.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for-

Usury, or the lending of money at interest or, even more broadly, using money to make money, ie. investing and expecting to get a larger return than you invested; in the medieval period this is known as usury and is strictly forbidden to Christians*. Jews and Muslims have similar usury laws, but those laws, as I understand them, only apply to other members of their own faith; this is one reason why European Jews were driven into money lending as a profession during the medieval period**. Since the practice of usury is the basis of free market capitalism it is pretty easy to see why the term has degraded over time to simply mean "Charging exorbitant interest rates", like mafia-style loan sharking.

U is for Ultravision. Seriously, what is the point. Infravision wasn't already dumb enough? I understand, some creatures see outside of our normal human visible spectrum, making it all scientific in AD&D was just a waste of time and DMG space, plus it made dumb-ass rules lawyers try and find exceptions to how and why they worked or didn't work from both sides of the DM's screen. That is just annoying.

U is for Undead. I have to admit, I always feel like I forget to use them, like I have to be reminded. I think that's odd since they are so iconic to D&D and they make the Cleric class feel special and all. My wife particularly loves to hate undead. I have liked a lot of published novels (and D&D adventures too for that matter) that have featured the undead fairly prominently. Hammer horror films and other "classic" style monster movies were always favorites of mine as a kid, thanks to Monster Movie Matinée. The Lost Boys and Fright Night both hit during my prime AD&D playing years, and it's not like I have never used undead monsters in my campaign, they just, maybe, get a little under used. I love to use Vampires as evil bosses*** and I have had some real good runs with them campaign-wise.

U is for Underwater Adventures. I have never really given this a go, the logistics of it are kind of annoying, it might as well be space flight. I am glad that EGG gave us the rules for it all in the DMG if we wanted to give it a try and the monsters for it in the MM, but I just always gave it a pass. Maybe if I got some DM to show me how it's done right and inspire me it'd be different, but right now, and for the last three decades, I just haven't been feeling it.

U is for Umber Hulk an apparently completely randomly generated monster or EGG had a serious phobia for giant quasi-magical beetles. I guess nobody really likes bugs and giving them some really freaky powers just makes them worse. So, created at random or subject of an intense Gygax nightmare?

U is also for Unicorn, which makes for a nice symmetry with the Umber hulk; a purely EGG D&D monster right next to a wondrous creature from medieval myth and legend in the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual; it kind of sums up the wild ride that you're about to take when you roll up a character, now doesn't it?

*It's one of those bits in the Bible that we modern folk like to ignore, medievals just found legalistic loopholes to avoid the sin of usury, like using Jews as middlemen since they were exempt from specifically Christian rules; it works the other way too, when was the last time you saw a Christian keeping kosher?

**Being largely banned from practicing a wide range of other professions probably didn't help much there either.

***By Vampires, I feel I have to clarify here because of some modern muddying of the mythos, I mean the traditional menacing bad-ass, not an angst-ridden wuss and not a sparkly fairy.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday's AD&D Game AAR 04-23-11

I wasn't feeling great and my DMing juices were running low, so we played a couple of games of Munchkin, which I won, and spent a bunch of time just hanging out and chatting; then Lee Ann decided that since she had come all this way to game, and her character had bit the dust last time anyway, she'd give DMing a shot. I consented and took over running her replacement character the Magic-User Illissa for the day. She was a replacement, so we brought her in using our standard replacement rule, starting at half of the average xp of the party; which made her 2nd level.

To introduce Illissa to the party, she was given a mission by her wizard master to rescue a kidnapped girl being held in a rich guy's house in town. I enlisted the aid of Sister Brangwen and her cohorts at the Temple of the Little Sisters of Mercy and we went on a recon mission that went bad. Fast.

We got separated from Sister Brangwen, who got trapped inside the rich dude's compound, which was surprisingly well fortified and heavily guarded.

So I came up with a rescue plan, that would hopefully also complete our original mission, that involved hiring thugs from the local thieves guild and committing arson. Needless to say our viking commando style assault on their house worked, but the entire operation was a set up from the get go. There was no kidnapped girl, just a wealthy family and a political assassination plot that I was apparently too stupid to not be the fall guy for. Fortunately, we noticed something was amiss before we killed the wealthy family, but only after killing their guards and torching house. The hired thugs also thoroughly looted it.

I still say that it's racist to think that it's OK for us to do this to a goblin lair, but when we do it in town it makes me a sociopath.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for-

Trolls; I get that EGG got the prototypical regenerating D&D troll from one of the books I haven't read from appendix N, I get that. My question is why? We English speaking (and I am guessing speakers of any Germanic language) peoples already had a vast wealth of mythology about trolls, so why on earth would you completely change that and confuse the issue? I guess it doesn't matter because the D&D troll won, they are everywhere now. Fantasy has adopted it pretty much wholesale, with a couple of exceptions. I was pleased to see the trolls in Harry Potter were old school.

T is for Taxes. Most D&D realms are libertarian tax free zones. I guess I get that, half the time you are getting hired by the local authorities to bust up the nearby humanoid tribes' encampments anyway, at least that's a pretty common adventure hook at low level. But taxes aren't just for peasants, adventurers should pay their fair share towards the maintenance of the realm too, all those roads and regular patrols and city watches don't pay for themselves. Adventurers just never seem to, and when confronted by the possibility of actually having to would rather raise a much more costly rebellion than pay a portion of their worth as a tax. Like most people, they enjoy the benefits of civilization but don't really want to help pay for it; and, as successful adventurers, they have the means at their disposal to not have to; and the benefits of civilization in D&D worlds are even better than they are in the real world.

T is for Time. I used to be a real stickler for tracking time in a dungeon too, it's one of my lost habits. I track time usually in hours and days and weeks now, all the game-isms are pretty much gone, but I do recognize their utility and plan to bring them back, at least somewhat.

T is for Towns, which are more than just the "home-bases" for adventurers. Towns are also the economic lifeblood of a medieval kingdom. Towns are where trade fairs take place and towns are where tradesmen craft their goods. Pretty much every specialty item in the medieval world is only going to be made in a town, and if you need something really specialized like, say, armor fixed or altered you are going to need to go to a town and hope that the right type of craft is represented there. Sure, you can get a lot of things in any no-horse hamlet in the middle of no where, maybe a warm meal, a strong drink and roof over your head, maybe some new clothes, maybe new shoes or old ones fixed, but the best quality stuff and the greatest variety is only going to be available in a town.

T is for Trades, which are kind of related to towns above. Trades are specialized, players always forget that stuff because none of these medieval skills means anything to us because we can buy anything we want at the local Walmart cheap and quick. I spent years in college learning about some of the boring aspects of medieval trades, like the fact that glovers are different than tailors or hatters. Blacksmiths don't make weapons or armor, they don't fix them either. They are different skills, related in that they all work with metal, but different. It's kind of like assuming that because someone can fix your car he can fix your computer too. Seriously, I went to college and studied the middle ages so I could immerse myself in the glory of their chivalrous feats and heraldic pageantry and romantic notions of nobility; instead I got competing law codes, a deeply religious society and it's attendant heresies, trade guilds and the embryonic middle class and a bunch of self absorbed power-hungry douche-bags at the top of both the ecclesiastical and secular power structures that make you wonder how Europeans ever came out of the medieval period when their leadership was like that.

T is for Travel, which in the real medieval period was bloody dangerous, ironically it's usually safer in "standard" D&D. I find myself seeing travel in one of two ways when I play, either travel is the adventure, like a sandbox hex-crawl; or travel is to the adventure, in which case it mostly gets glossed over except for the occasional random encounter or misery inducing swamp trekking scene :)

T is for Tithes and I think pretty much every PC should be paying them. When the presence of God(s) is (are) obvious and well known, particularly to adventurers who travel with Clerics, paying out a little of your income for the upkeep of the temples and the wages of the temple staff isn't really out of the question, now is it? When you see the healing magic you can't really pretend to be agnostic, much less atheist.

T is for Tactics. As a wargamer who DMs, particularly these days, for non-wargamers I find I have to tone down my tactics for most bad guys; to not try so hard to win every battle. I have found that randomizing attacks rather than using my metagame* knowledge and adding the B/X morale rules to AD&D has helped a lot.

T is for Technology, I was going to write a post about why D&D technology is medieval, but just read this instead.

T is for Temples and every no name village should have at least a small one. Here in the USA we call them churches, my hometown had something like 600 people when I was little and 3 churches. I am from the northeast, not the bible belt. Just something to keep in mind.

T is for Thieves. I kind of hate them. They took what should be handled by player skill and turned it into a skill check roll. That and all of my friends growing up loved the sneaky bastards. I never saw a use for any character that wasn't going to be a team player in the party, and even the illustrations in the Players Handbook seem to encourage maximum dickery for people that play Thieves. My standard contract for Thief characters that join any party in which I am a member is that if they get caught stealing from the party they will be summarily executed. Mike F. came up with that clause, it really applies to all party members, but we know it's there for the Thief. Thanks Mike!

T is for Traps and I have to admit that I hate them too. I think I remember a point in my life where I actually enjoyed traps, but then I realized that even minimal use of traps slows adventuring down to an absolute snails pace, or you get a PMD; neither of those is an acceptable outcome for me. I like to keep things moving along at a pretty brisk pace, it helps to keep everyone focused on the game.

T is for Temujin which is the birth name of Genghis Khan.

*You know, target the spell casters to disrupt spells, target the wounded to take them down, etc; all the stuff that EGG actually told us we should do to keep our players challenged, I am guessing he played mostly with wargamers.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mail Call 04-22-11

The mail for today, pics from EBay.

I like the cool Celt dudes, the others were just a bonus.

My Clan War miniature collection is getting huge now, I either need to start playing the game, painting and reselling the minis for profit or using them for my own currently nonexistent OA game.

These 9 Elf archers are all identical. They were a pretty good deal though, and I am a sucker for a really good deal.

S is for-

Shunting at least half of the S words I wanted to use to Sunday, seriously, a whole lot of good words start with the letter S. Look forward to another Sunday special that'll cover a bunch of stuff I didn't have time for during my busy, busy week; but heavy on the S's.

S is for Satisfaction. Mick Jagger can't get none. I once convinced a guy that it was a federal law that you had to play that song in every movie about the Viet Nam war. Sometimes I use my Jedi BSing powers for my own amusement instead of for the good of all mankind.

S is for Soviet. The Soviet Union was THE enemy when I was a kid. Every American kid in my generation (and for the previous generation) just knew those bastards wanted to invade us to take over and destroy our way of life, or, failing that, simply blast us off the map with a metric ass-load of nuclear weapons. Plus they were the puppet masters for a whole bunch of other commie countries, like the entire Warsaw Pact and the Red Chinese, Cubans and Viet Nam. As it turns out the Soviet threat was greatly overstated, but it made for some good gaming. So many world war 3 wargames I played. Twilight 2000 remains a sentimental favorite RPG of mine to this day.

S is for Star Wars. I have heard it said that Star Wars is the Viet Nam of my generation; I disagree because I feel that Viet Nam still looms too large in the minds of even those of us who were too young to be there or even were born shortly after the end of the war. But Star Wars certainly is HUGE in terms of it's cultural impact. It introduced the concept of good versus evil to a generation of people that had been raised on jaded anti-heroes. Star Wars also made Science Fiction movies cool and mainstream. My dad liked Star Wars, I even took him to see every prequel and the stupid animated Clone Wars movie; if you can make my John Wayne loving dad into a fan you have changed the culture.

S is for Star Trek, and Ashli will say that I shouldn't put it next to Star Wars on the blog page because it will cause nerd-rage; but Star Trek is another huge influence on me. I discovered Star Trek when I was in kindergarten, it ran on a Canadian TV channel that we got because we moved to a house* near the lake (Lake Ontario). I think that it was a combination of Sesame Street and Star Trek that made me non-racist; as a kid racism just kind of confused me; when I got older it really just kind of pissed me off. I don't even like racist dickery in my D&D games, why would I even consider tolerating it in real life? Anyway, all of those lessons taught by the original series kind of stuck with me because I was watching them pretty much every day for years on end. That same Canadian TV station was still running Star Trek at 4:00PM on weekdays when I graduated from high school. I didn't always watch it by that point in time, but I always knew if I needed a fix it was there. This was the late 1980's and cable didn't make it to my home town until the early or mid 1990's; and my parent's didn't get a VCR until I bought them one for Christmas in 1988 so that's another thing to consider. New Haven, New York might just have well been trapped in the late 1970's in the late 1980's.

S is for Sengum, AKA Matt S., one of the ranking old school Steppe Warriors of the AOL NWN era. In real life he started out as a friend of my younger brother John and I "inherited"** him and a couple of other guys that my wife and I (and our other older gaming buddies) referred to as "the lads". I was the minister at his wedding a couple of years ago and this past fall he became a father; his son, thankfully, favors his mother in looks ;)

S is for Skills. I have a love-hate relationship with skill systems in RPGs. I love the secondary skill system in the DMG because it has one huge advantage, but it has a couple of flaws. It's advantage is that it is vague. It's flaws are that it assumes a couple of things that need fixing; first that the players are in a certain technology level and governmental type and second that they are human. I am told that the Harn game did this much better, but never really had a chance to examine the Harn products.

S is for Sumo. Dragon #64 had a Sumo game that was probably the first time I had ever heard of Sumo wrestling. Darryl C. and I played the hell out of that game. I have always wanted to somehow graft it in as a sub-game for an Oriental Adventures campaign, but for some reason most people fail to get Sumo fever the way Darryl and I did. We even learned some of the techniques and tried Sumo wrestling against each other and with some other crazy friends, it's harder than it looks.

S is for Swamps. I guess I am just a sadistic dick of a DM, I love to place adventures in crappy, hard to reach places; it makes sense to me because otherwise all this cool stuff would have been discovered; but I really like swamps. They make partys miserable, regardless of the weather, hot or cold, rain or shine, it's always wet and miserable. They have to worry about leeches. There are clouds of mosquitoes and gnats. Their equipment is getting wet and that'll make it rust or rot or at least be uncomfortable to wear. I like to set tone and mood with stuff like this, I find it makes it easy to drag the players into game when you can invoke these feelings. Good feelings work too, but I am talking about swamps here.

S is for Sewers which are absolutely indispensable for a city based campaign. I once ran a pretty long section of a campaign based on the party's hunt for a pair of Vampires that lived in the permanent darkness of a large city's sewers. Sure they had some minions and allies, including a Beholder, but it was a pretty awesome time for everyone involved.

S is for Subotai, which can refer to Conan the Barbarian's buddy in the Milius movie, Subotai the Hyrkanian Archer and Thief, who is cool as hell and deserves a shout out just because; or it can refer to Subotai Bahadur the Mongol general. Genghis Khan referred to Subotai Bahadur as one of his "Dogs of War". Technically Subotai wasn't a Mongol, but was an Urianqai forest tribesman and the son of a blacksmith. Anyway, he pretty much never lost a battle, and conquered Russia and defeated the combined armies of eastern (and some of central) Europe while on a reconnaissance mission.

*My dad and my grandfather built it, my parents still live there; it's quite nice.

**My brother John didn't die or anything bad like that, he just moved out of state and pretty much never came back. Matt S. and John DeG. and Carl D. and Ted D. stayed local enough that they could still game together and with us, at least intermittently. They are scattered to the winds now, but mostly they stuck close during their college and grad school years, or at least kept in touch during breaks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mail Call 04-21-11

More EBay booty-

This time only most of the pictures are from the EBay auctions.

First some old Ral Partha Samurai stuff

These are Gun Shields- I know they aren't much to look at, but it was kind of a set completion thing.

Samurai Standard Bearer.

Ashigaru with naginata, I actually already have some of these guys, but I figured what they hell; the more, the merrier.

This guy was listed as "Patriarch" I figured he looked pretty cool, and it looked like I was going to win a bunch of stuff from the same seller so I wanted to save on shipping.

She is the "Adventuress", I have a lot of ladies playing in my D&D games, so extra female character miniatures come in pretty handy when I can find a good deal on them.

This guy is a Clan War Earth Dragon. Usually they go for an arm and a leg, so I was pretty happy with what I found him for. When he is assembled (and painted) he'll look more like this-

I had to Google for an assembled and painted picture, this is absolutely not my work and is used without permission.

R is for-

Rangers. I can't decide if Rangers were invented by EGG as a class when someone said to him "Hey Gary, can I play Aragorn?", thus prompting him to create a prestige class (or sub-class as he called them) of Fighter during the dungeon crawl days or if EGG decided after running a couple of wilderness hex crawls that something like Aragorn would be handy to have around. No other AD&D class refutes EGG's argument that LotR was NOT a real influence on D&D's development particularly. In retrospect maybe this is why they decided to "Drizzt" up the 2nd edition Ranger, so it wouldn't look like such a Tolkien rip-off?

R is for Rogues, not the renamed Thief, but the bunch of rogues that all adventurers usually are. Most of the roguish PCs aren't even cooly roguish like Han Solo, but are more like the dick guy in the Cantina that picks a fight with Luke and gets himself and his buddy schooled by old Obi-Wan; PCs just think that they are cool like Han (or cool and menacing like pre-Jedi Boba Fett). Keep trying guys, your better when you are trying to be the good guys.

R is for Robin Hood, the contrast to the knights are virtuous ideal; in the Robin Hood story the knights and nobles are the bad guys, ranging from slightly corrupt and bumbling incompetents to the truly malicious. So a force of disaffected peasants and clergy rise up to oppose this corruption and manage to not get themselves killed until, finally, a true noble knight arrives and leads them against their evil oppressors- in most recent retellings to put Richard the Lion-Heart back on his rightful throne.

A lot has accreted to this legend over the years. Robin Hood is a favorite though because he robs from the rich to give to the poor, something that most of humanity can get down with; without getting too political, i think most of us can agree that the bulk of the burden of taxation should not fall on the people with the least amount of money (or goods). Prince John is unpopular in England because he raises taxes that put the screws to ordinary people, but as a prince must still be seen as living a life of conspicuous consumption or lose status in the eyes of both his people and his peers, neither of which is a good thing if you are dependent on your status to keep peace and maintain authority in the realm; and it was all Richard's fault.

Richard was busy waging expensive overseas wars and conspicuously consuming goods and services himself, then he got captured by that dick Leopold, whom he had insulted, on the way home; forcing another high special tax for his ransom. So, basically, because Richard had a penchant for war and insulting other high ranking nobles, England was forced to pay for two separate royal courts, the Third Crusade, a home defense (that included defending half of France from the French king Phillipe, whom Richard had ALSO insulted) and a crippling ransom payment to get their popular warrior king back from that nefarious Austrian Duke; all of this in addition to the normal expense of running a nation- and somehow this is Prince John's fault, at least in the eyes of popular historical myth.

R is for Religion which I have covered tangentially a few times here and here and here and here and here a bit and probably at least a little bit elsewhere in my blog too.

R is for Revenge, which I am told is a dish best served cold. Honestly, I usually would rather just take care of the matter while I am still pissed off.

R is for Roads. We modern folk don't appreciate what a giant pain in the ass it is to create a road out of nothing. I have hacked trails through the woods using modern tools that weren't intended for much use beyond getting a tractor through a few times and it's real work. I read somewhere once that most of the roads roads that the Romans built in Europe were still in use in some capacity; I don't remember where I read that now, so I can't check the quote for veracity, but it is at least plausible. When the effort is taken to build a proper road it is unlikely to be completely abandoned in my opinion. Proper roads are built by skilled crews using engineers to design them. They have proper foundations laid. They are quite impressive feats actually, and we take them for granted because most of them were already there when we were born and the new ones take practically no time to build because of the modern labor saving machinery. They are the life line of modern nations.

R is for Rivers because rivers do everything that roads do, almost as well, for less effort. There is a reason that most ancient cities developed on rivers and it's not just because of access to fresh drinking water; trade builds cities and river borne water craft can carry a huge amount of cargo for a small amount of labor. Rivers are so efficient at moving cargo around the interior of a continent that we make artificial ones, canals. Until the invention of the railroad nothing could compete with the river/canal system for moving a high volume of goods and even afterwards it was still a pretty competitive mode. Trust me, I know, I grew up in Oswego county. The city of Oswego is the terminal point for the New York State canal system (the famous Erie canal), goods shipped to the port of New York were loaded onto river barges and moved up the Hudson river and into the canal until they reached the Oswego river port of Oswego, NY; where they were then loaded onto great lakes ships. Now the NYS canal system is mostly for pleasure craft, since the St. Lawrence seaway opened up ocean traffic from the Atlantic can make it directly into Lake Ontario cutting out us middlemen. I try not to take it personally, but my father and my grandfather were both Longshoremen at the Port of Oswego. That solidly middle class union job should have been my fall-back position.

R is for Ranged Weapons. I have to say I have been looking at some of the older rules stuff on ranged weapons and they are pretty cool, the way they work with initiative in early editions where everyone declares there action before initiative is rolled, then the specific order in which actions take place. That said, I think that my long tendency towards running wilderness based adventures that are, you know, out doors, has kind of over inflated the importance of ranged weapons in the minds of my players, specifically Ashli, who keeps searching for ways to use a bow even when it's not advantageous to her or the party; it's become her crutch, she gets a good rate of fire and a dexterity bonus to hit, so she really wants to do it. Now that we are back to dungeon crawling they might as well be muskets, fire them once, drop them and draw a mêlée weapon. Short distances, poor visibility and lots of cover make them next to useless.

R is for Race. As I get older I see less and less need for a multiracial world. It's another D&D trope inherited from Tolkien and I lean more toward Howard. Other races should be other planar entities, degenerate forms of man, magically mutated animals or some combination. I always liked crazy Gygaxian monsters like Owlbears and Rustmonsters.

R is for Resurrection and Raise Dead. These should be rare and wonderful and come only at great price, an example might be Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series. I hate games where death is just a minor inconvenience with a monetary penalty attached, if that's the case why don't wealthy aristocrats live forever in those worlds?

R is for Ruins & Ronin. Until quite recently Ruins & Ronin was the ONLY OSR product I actually bought. Ruins & Ronin has gotten some pretty lukewarm reviews, but I don't get that; R&R is exactly what it claims it was going to be. It's Swords & Wizardry as if the base game were written from an east Asian, specifically Japanese, point of view. Reviewers complained that they didn't get taught how to run a R&R game mostly and I think that means they were just too lazy to figure this stuff out for themselves and wanted to be spoonfed. OSR S&W style (or OD&D) is a tool box, it's up to you to make something with the tools. Could there have been more tools in R&R? Sure. Maybe a future supplement or something will take care of it. Mike Davison has been pretty cool about supporting the game on his blog with free stuff too. So check it out!

R is for Rikishi or "Sumo wrestlers". Rikishi in modern Japan live pretty regulated lives and, apparently, it has been the case since the great sumo crack down during the Tokugawa Shogunate where they banned "street sumo". They live in special houses where they take all their meals and work out and practice wrestling practically all day every day. There is also a religious element to their sport, so it's all pretty serious; but for big, fat guys* they are like rock stars; these guys are always surrounded by hot chicks. Being a pretty big fat guy I always kind of respected this.

R is for Ronin or "Wave-Men" or master-less Samurai. These poor guys have lost their jobs as Samurai, maybe it was their own fault, maybe it wasn't. Often despised by their former social peers they become the Robin Hood types in the movie "The Seven Samurai", in reality they often become mercenaries, bandits or hired muscle for Yakuza because they have no marketable skills beyond being trained warriors. As with so many things in Japanese history, the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate changed the role of Ronin too. Many Samurai were forced to become Ronin after the Sengoku Jidai by economic circumstances and mostly just moved down into the merchant class, although some took the plunge and became craftsmen and farmers**.

*Don't let the fat fool you, the bulk is there just to make them harder to push or throw; these guys are athletes and quite muscular and skilled.

**Which is actually LESS of a social hit in the Japanese caste system, merchants rank above outcasts only.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mail Call 04-20-11

First a couple of Grenadier finds-

This is the Wizard's Room, which I never had as a kid because it is, more or less, a pure diorama piece; and therefore somewhat useless for us to actually play D&D with. I found it real cheap though, again without a box, and the completist/hoarder made me want to buy it; plus I saved on shipping combined with the next one.

Grenadier's Hirelings, which I did have and I found every damned one of them useful. OK, maybe not the spike driving guy. I suppose the potion taster was of limited usefulness too. But a bunch of guys holding light sources and carrying stuff was pretty handy.

Now Bushido was one of those games I always wanted. I saw it advertised in the Dragon back in the day. Now I have it. As near as I can tell it is complete and in near mint condition, so the seller really undersold their product here; seriously, it looks like back in like 1983 someone bought this, opened up the box, looked through the stuff once and then put it into a nicer form of storage than I was aware existed.

Just made Level 5!

Having reached 41 followers I am now a level 5 Thinker!

Thanks Trey for giving us a mathematical and old school way to gauge our advancement as bloggers :)

Now, everyone go over there and help him level up too, jeez!

I'd also like to once again thank you all for following me.

Q is for-

Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Really there wasn't any other lead off choice for me here. I love the module. I know a lot of people hate it because of the Spidership- but that's really a matter of presentation, right? I mean, if you were a demon-spider wouldn't you want a magically animated spider-fortress to tool around the vastness of the Abyss in? Anyway, I ran that adventure for several successive years at my parent's Christmas party for my mom's best friend's son Paul K., who I rarely, like almost never, saw otherwise. We had a good time as kids at a party that was mostly people in their thirties and forties and I remember it pretty fondly.

Q is also for Questing and frankly I don't think we do enough of it. I guess we do a lot of small q questing, where we get an adventure hook and run with it to see where it takes us, or we say we are on a "quest for riches and glory"; but capital Q Questing like for the Holy Grail largely eludes us. On the one hand I get that because it can be seen as anti-sandbox and railroad-ey, but it doesn't have to be. Unless you consider it to be a railroad if the villains win because the heroes did nothing to stop them. I am a big fan of the world in motion, it does not revolve around the PCs, if they choose to ignore a rising evil or fail to take advantage of an opportunity there are natural consequnces of their actions.

Q is for Quasqueton. I have to admit I almost skipped this iconic entry because I never played B1 or DMed it. I only got a copy of B1 sometime after 3e came out; sorry, they just appear to be rare as hen's teeth. From what I have read it seems like a pretty cool, trippy dungeon-crawl trainer for both the DM and the players, so I can see why it's remembered fondly and I have run a party through the HackMaster version of it and that was a fantastic lot of fun.

Q is for Quarrel, the alternate name for a Bolt, the term used for an Arrow when it is fired from a Crossbow; if I had been EGG, I probably would have just picked one word or the other to use exclusively to avoid confusion, but then avoiding confusion doesn't really seem to have been really much of a concern for him.

Q is for Quiver, the thing you hold your arrows in (unless they are quarrels), which I included simply to increase my Q content.

Q is for Queens. I have a couple of things to say about Queens. First, apparently we are still a bunch of sexist bastards because we'll kill or die for a king, but rarely think twice about taking a queen seriously. Princesses are are either in peril or prizes to be won or both, but their mothers? Bah! I try to combat this by having some really strong queens from time to time, women that are either the real power in the kingdom or are co-equal partners with their husband the king. Ruling a nation isn't easy and a king needs a strong partner. I want people to think of Eleanor of Aquitaine when they think of a Queen, sadly they mostly think of Marie Antoinette. Columbus' "discovery" of the new world was financed by a queen* after all.

Secondly, I still want to make my wife Queen of Aethelmearc. I have come pretty close before and I know I don't have a lot of good tournament fighting years left in me, but the hard training time starts as soon as the ground dries up here. I am not going to try for Spring Crown, but I plan to enter Fall Crown Tourney, and this time I plan to honor my lady wife by winning and making her the queen she deserves to be.

Pictured- the arms of my wife the lady Mattea Di Luna

In Glorias Aethelmearc!

*There are a great many myths about Columbus and Isabella ranging from her selling the crown jewels to finance the expedition against her husband's wishes, to Columbus using his superior Italian love-making skills to convince her to throw money his way. The fact is, that it was a risky venture, she talked it over with her financial advisors and went back and forth on the decision a few times before throwing the bare minimum at him that she could expect to see successful returns on; it was a gamble and it paid off huge.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award!

There are four rules attached to the award:
1. Thank and link back to the person giving you the award.
2. Share seven things about yourself
3. Select 10-15 blogs who you think deserve this award
4. Contact these bloggers and let them know about the award

So, thank you very much Bard. I appreciate it.

Seven things about me personally.

1. I am 6'6" tall and very broadly built, people notice that right away.
2. I spent six years in college and never got a single degree.
3. I am a giant history nerd.
4. For extra cash I have also worked as a bouncer pretty often; starting back in high school, when I was actually too young to get into bars myself.
5. I have been shot, stabbed and set on fire; not all at once though.
6. I am an ordained minister.
7. I was a military cadet in high school, but never served in the actual military.

My nominees-

All of my nominees are there for the same reason- they are smart, talented, they inspire me and I feel they deserve recognition; so in no particular order-

Carmen's fun painty time

The Man Cave

Iron Mitten

Don't Throw a One

Duke of the Blood Keep


Swords & Dorkery

Dark Horse Game Design

B/X BlackRazor

Savage Timmy's Playhouse

The Tao of D&D

Havard's Blackmoor Blog

Hill Cantons

P is for-

First, I must apologize, this post is going to be much more brief than I had intended; I have a lot going on this week and my kids have the week off from school. So, without further delay-

P is for Paladins, probably the first Kit/Prestige Class/Whatever you want to call it; they took all the best bits of being a Fighter and threw in all the best bits of being a Cleric, then added some extra stuff too. Sure, they level slower and the Cleric bits come at a level regressed rate, but the Detect Evil (at will), Disease Immunity and the Lay on Hands are right from the start. As a player I love these guys. I love to play them (from time to time, not always a first choice) and I love to have them in the party. Conceptually I love them. They are the purest form of knightly hero, a Galahad or Percival for the D&D game. As a DM I hate them. Their Detect Evil ability is practically a game breaker, as a DM you need to rules lawyer that to the max if you ever want to include any kind of intrigue in your game; plus that ability is like sonar in a dungeon. You can only have so many neutrally aligned monsters waiting in ambush before they start to get suspicious. I guess what I don't like about them is that they get, at will, a 1st level spell. Nobody else does*.

P is for Princesses who are, apparently, hard-wired into human consciousness as either needing to be rescued or as a chattel reward for a job well done. Historically this meme was popular enough that Attila the Hun used rescuing the Princess Honoria (and taking her as his bride)** as his excuse to invade the western Roman Empire. You would think that this meme would have changed over time as human society became more mature and progressive, but popular video game franchises such as Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda would seem to argue against this.

P is for Peasant, you know, the other 98% of humanity that wasn't a member of the lucky sperm club. They do most of the work and reap the fewest rewards, in feudal times this was a fairly equitable system; training and equipping a fighting man took years and was greatly expensive, now my oldest daughter is a soldier. In RPGs peasants mostly serve as part of the background scenery or as a plot device. PCs want to rub elbows with the noble-born, not some smelly peasant! With the exception that, particularly back when I was a teen-ager, PCs knew they could entice peasant girls to occasionally give them a roll in the hay, the noble-born ladies were far too dangerous game; at least until they got high enough level to marry themselves into the nobility.

P is for Poison. Since practically no one is allowed to use it AND it has a horrible tendency to go awry, I am not really sure why EGG felt it necessary to include poison rules for PCs; but there you have it. Probably because somebody felt the need to "explore" their "dark" side in the Lake Geneva game. I assume it's the same reason we have Assassins as PCs.

P is for Potions. My favorite treasure items to give away as a DM. Usually one use and they're gone from your campaign. I guess I am just gun-shy of too much permanent magic in D&D; I've seen it really screw things up.

P is for Psionics, man I have always wanted to love them and never have. I guess I have two main issues with Psionics: first, they are a clunky subsystem that doesn't really work well with the rest of AD&D, kind of like "Pummeling, Grappling and Overbearing"; second, and I stress this is my opinion, the whole idea fits better with a pure sci-fi game than it does with a medieval fantasy one***.

P is for Politics, not the real world politics that I mention from time to time and try not to annoy people with my political views, which- for the record- are pretty far left of mainstream American politics, which I guess would make me somewhere right of center in most other countries :) But, no, I want to talk about the political game in D&D, the part that so often gets skipped over. All of my best villains have been politicians and all of my most tragic heroes have failed to understand politics and that was their downfall. Everyone seems to think that D&D politics can only begin when your characters are high enough level to be granted land or carve out their own domain; I am here to tell you that political seeds can and should get sown at level one. Maybe it won't matter who the mayor of the PCs home town is when they're all 20th level, but maybe it will. Not every political seed you sow will reap fruit, but enough will over time that it gives your entire world verisimilitude and your players will think you are a bloody genius.

P is for Pilgrimages which were a pretty important religious rite in the middle ages and, if Chaucer is to be believed, a good excuse for a vacation filled with bawdy story-telling. EGG knew that Pilgrims were somehow important to making your setting seem more medievally real, he included Pilgrims in the Monster Manual under Men, Pilgrims appear in the DMG encounter charts; so I ask you this- has anyone ever had anything other than a throw away encounter with Pilgrims? Keep in mind, from a purely technical standpoint, the Crusades were a series of organized pilgrimages. Maybe it's because here in the US we always think of those lame Puritans wearing black clothes and shoes (and hats) with buckles sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner with the natives.

P is for Polearms and by God do we have them! I know Gary was of Swiss descent, but for Christ sakes, there are like 16 different types of polearm in the PH. In my experience there are something like 4 types in reality, those being, in no particular order; longer than normal spear, axe with really long shaft, sword at the end of a fairly long stick and, lastly, the combination of two of the others. Swords, which are by far more useful in a close quarters environment like, say, a dungeon; got no where near the fiddly variation in the PH that EGG gave the polearms.

*OK, Thieves eventually get Read Languages, which acts as a Comprehend Languages spell and at high enough level even works as Read Magic, but there is at least a chance of failure there.

**There was a whole thing, Honoria was the sister of the reigning western emperor Valentinian III. Valentinian wanted her to marry a Roman Senator of his choosing and she refused, he placed her under house arrest until she changed her mind; and in one of the most stunningly stupid plots ever hatched by a woman who didn't want to be forced into an arranged marriage, she sent a letter to Attila begging for his help and apparently offering herself as his bride if he would rescue her.

***Yeah, I know, Gamma World cross-over rules in the DMG and S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but by and large AD&D was sold as a solidly medieval fantasy game.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mail Call Highlights from 04-15 through 04-18

I never tried RuneQuest before, it's probably the only big name RPG system I am unfamiliar with, but I do love Japan and I found it pretty cheap on EBay.

This guy just looked cool.

Him too. Can't have too many bad-ass looking Cleric types, eh?

This might as well be EXACTLY the same set I got as kid, the same Slinger miniature is missing, replaced by the same Thief from the Thieves boxed set. Only other downside is the Look-Out's spearhead is broken off, but they were always kind of the useless mini in the box anyway.

I never owned these guys back in the day, they belonged to my buddy Tim McD. so these guys are kind of a new purchase for me rather than a repurchase. I have to say, aside from the guy whose legs are severed, which actually looks like a mold defect; and the missing crossbow for the Light Crossbowman, this is probably the best shape I have seen a set of these Grenadier Fighting Men in for decades; usually all the spear guys and pole-arms are broken. It'll be nice to have my old Mandark mini back too- he's the guy with the battle-axe and the kite shield on his back.

Best thing- both Grenadier sets .99 cents each, sold with out the original box; is the box really that important?