Friday, April 15, 2011
M is for-
Mongols. It would be remiss on my part to not mention the Mongols when we got to the letter M. The Mongols had the world's largest land empire. The Mongols invented the concept of diplomatic immunity. The Mongols practiced religious freedom and tolerance*. The Mongols had the world's largest free trade zone. The Mongols were great patrons of both the arts and science. Mongol women had rights and privileges that their settled sisters could not have even dreamed of. Not bad for a bunch of smelly horse-riding tent-dwelling nomads, eh? Seriously, Jack Weatherford wrote a couple of books on the subject that are pretty easily accessible for non-historians, find them on Amazon here and here.
M is for Morgana Le Fey, particularly the deliciously evil Morgana played by Helen Mirren in Excalibur. Smart, sexy and evil with an agenda all her own. She plays Merlin and steals all his secrets. Seriously, the women in that film totally set my taste in women going onward into adulthood.
M is for Manorialism the economic system associated with feudalism. A manor is held by a lord, of some rank or another, and it is his means of support. The, very much simplified, main idea is that a manor be essentially self sufficient in the production of food and necessary goods, or as close to it as possible. What they can't produce for themselves they can trade their surplus for. The system assumes that there will be a labor force tied to the land. In the end two things destroyed the manorial system. The first was the black death, which made labor scarce and valuable. The second was the rise of the money based economy, which caused often wide fluctuations in the value of tradable commodities and the general rise in the price of labor, which led subsequently to the raising of rents. Obviously, a system that reigned over western and central Europe from the Carolingian period until, in some places, the early modern period had a lot of variation over time and geographic area; but this is a pretty simple definition.
M is for Monelun, which is the online gaming persona of my lovely wife Mona. She is also a founding member of the Steppe Warriors gaming guild in AOL's Neverwinter Nights. Probably because the internet became omnipresent at the same time that we were using these names online a lot, she too has managed to keep using her old gaming persona name as her nom-de-net. She is a talented fantasy artist and has been moderately successful. She has an art blog here, that she rarely updates and a deviant art site here that receives only slightly more attention. There is a great corpus of work just waiting to be scanned and uploaded and I am sure that if there were enough of a clamor...
M is for Mind Flayers. Creepy, alien looking, brain-eating things. Psionic on top of that. Bastards. I hate them.
M is for Medieval, presumably the default setting for D&D and the SCA, but both of them have serious issues there. In D&D the problem is that they can't really decide where in the middle ages they want to be and seems that this ranges from late antiquity to the renaissance with fantasy added, usually all thrown in a blender. With the SCA it's pretty much the same minus the fantasy**.
M is for Magic. A long, long time ago I made a decision to keep magic rare and wonderful. Lately, I have been making more of an effort to randomize treasure items, including magic, and just let the dice fall where they may. I may have to alter this via DM fiat if it drops the Wand of Orcus into the hands of a lone gimpy kobold, but it seems to be working out OK so far.
M is for Magic-Users, but I covered them here not too long ago.
M is for Maps and Mapping, which fell into the same category of laxity on my part that lighting and food/water and encumbrance did. We're doing a megadungeon now and I am working harder on forcing them to map better, but a lot of the time the battle mat comes out and makes it easier on them and sometimes I feel the need to correct their map when they ask me if something is right. I know I need to start being a more of a hard-ass about this and I am working on it, but it is my wife and kids...
M is for Miniatures and boy do I have a complicated relationship with them. When I was a kid we played with them as often as not, just because they were cool, not because we thought we needed them. Then I got older and we used them less and less. My collection dwindled due to sales and never really replacing them thoroughly and most of the people I played with wanted to invest, at most, in a single mini for their own character. DM's burden then, eh? Some of my players had collections and some didn't over the years, but most of us didn't want to haul them around to wherever we were playing; so we mostly quit using them. Then I started playing in a 2nd edition game where the DM had a huge collection of his own, so we started just bringing our own to the game***. After several years of play that campaign ground to a halt due to personality clashes, and I went back to mostly not using miniatures for the rest of the 2nd edition era; then 3e came along. 3e made the damned things practically mandatory. I had a number of frustrating years as an old school style DM running 3.x D&D and ultimately gave it up for HackMaster. I bought the HackMaster PH and DMG and was quickly convinced you could play it as a straight game rather than a parody. I convinced some of my older gaming buddies to give it a try and we had a great time with it. Probably the greatest moment though was when we realized that we had played through a combat encounter with out the use of miniatures. The next combat was larger, so I offered to "battle-board" it up and everyone emphatically said NO! We felt freed from the shackles of 3.x D&D's bondage and we saw the miniatures as the manifestation of everything we had felt was wrong, what had gone wrong with D&D. I have miniatures today and I use them for combats more often than not. My kids have a hard time visualizing combat without the battle-board; I blame video games.
M is for Monks, seriously my least favorite class for standard D&D play. Clearly these guys are Shaolin Monks, not Benedictines. The best thing 2nd edition did was remove them from the game. Bards make more damned sense in an occidental setting, they're still useless wusses, but at least they make sense there. Monks on the other hand are pretty cool on Oriental Adventures, so I don't hate them completely.
M is for Monasteries, you know the places where all these Monks come from? Except in almost every case D&D monasteries are A: ruined and B:the kind where Benedictines would have lived. Maybe it's because the D&D setting logic gods have ruled that all player character Monks are travelers from distant lands AND that all of the occidental Monks are dead so there wont be any confusion.
M is for Morale. Here is my question why does B/X D&D have easy morale rules and AD&D have a quagmire of judgment calls and unrelated systems? In all my years of DMing I have always used simple morale rules and never really remembered where I got them. They certainly weren't from any AD&D book, but I always liked morale rules; probably the wargamer in me. Since I started playing AD&D and DMing I have apparently been using a modified version of the B/X morale rules for AD&D and I have to say I think it makes the game better. Morale isn't the only non-AD&D rule to filter into my AD&D game either. Holmes and B/X really have molded my AD&D quite significantly.
*Unless you were an Assassin, them they hunted down and destroyed. I wont argue that the world is a worse place because of the loss of the Assassin cult.
**The SCA of course has the suspension of disbelief required to have events where people from across over a millennium of time and all over the world, usually not including the Americas, can somehow get together and peacefully co-exist. Hell, my wife and I are neither from the same country nor the same century; and our oldest daughter has a persona that predates both of ours by centuries.
***Except Lance W., always a trooper willing to go the extra mile for a D&D game he hauled around those hard plastic army cases full of D&D miniatures to those games too, just in case Marty Van B., the DM, needed something he didn't have a miniature for.