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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Extras-

Since I didn't have a game on Saturday due to Ashli's Army Reserve drill, here's some of the stuff that I either forgot about, didn't have time for, or just plain got skipped on their proper day.

K should have had Klingons. Star Trek's best bad boy race from the Original Series that became their most honorable warrior ally during the Next Generation era. Borrowing elements from earth cultures that I have a distinct interest in to start with, namely the Vikings, Mongols and Samurai; it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that they were going to be among my favorites once they got fleshed out in the Next Generation era. What may come as a surprise to my blog readers though is just how big a Klingon fan I actually am. I am a not just a member of the Klingon Assault Group, the worlds largest costumed Klingon fan organization, but I am also a reasonably high ranking member. I command the vessel IKV Fist of Kahless (The Oswego, NY chapter of the club) and I am the Dark Vengeance Quadrant Commander*; as I write this it occurs to me that there are only two people in the club in the chain of command above me, my Fleet Admiral and the Thought Admiral (Supreme Commander of KAG). We dress like Klingons fairly regularly, love Star Trek and do charitable works.

M should have included Mandark the Barbarian. Mandark is probably the longest running player character I ever had. I created him the first day I played in Tim McD's campaign and he was my PC there until Tim went away into the army. That was from teh time I was in 5th grade until I was a junior in high school. He had a pretty full life, starting out as a rootless barbarian from the Soderfjord Jarldoms on a quest for riches and glory, he eventually laid roots in his adopted home town of Specularum, buying a controlling interest in a ship yard and marrying a woman who was as big a pirate as himself. He had friends there, mostly shady adventurer types, but also a Paladin. I like to think that he eventually just settled into a comfortable retirement, living off of his adventuring booty and the proceeds from his interest in the shipyard; and told stories about his adventures to his grand kids.

K should have had Keep on the Borderlands. Module B2: Keep on the Borderlands is my go to adventure for teaching newbies how to play. I cut my teeth DMing there myself. My first copy came with my Holmes edition boxed set, and I still have it; it's the only survivor of that boxed set. I have run this adventure for so many different groups of players that I am getting to the point where I don't actually need to have the module text, just the map. Almost every party takes the evil Cleric on their expedition and is SHOCKED when he betrays them. Almost every party finds the lizard men's lair before they find Caves of Chaos. Rarely does any party encounter the hermit. In my experience when the party does find the caves they either go directly to the Goblin cave on the left or the first Orc cave up the hill on the right. Players that started playing D&D with later editions of the game tend to do two things; first they try and clear out the entirety of the Caves of Chaos in one go, which of course leads to their untimely deaths even when the module has been converted to whatever later edition they want to play; and second, and this applies mostly to the 3e crowd, they get kind of pissed when they encounter the really tough stuff, as though avoiding an encounter or negotiating or fleeing are not options.

K also should have had Kara-Tur and, particularly, it's nation of Kozakura where the vast majority of my Oriental Adventures games have taken place over the years. I have run two pretty epic hex-crawls using just the maps from OA1: Swords of the Daimyo over the years, even before I had ever heard of the term hex-crawl. I love Oriental Adventures, I am pretty sure that regular readers have picked up on that by now, this love for OA was pretty much due to the excellent quality of the Oriental Adventures book and the first module OA1. I guess it didn't hurt that Kara-Tur was originally designed to be part of the world of Greyhawk, to which I have a strong sentimental attachment due to my near deification of EGG; but the early Gray Box Forgotten Realms didn't suck either, so when Kara-Tur got officially made the "Eastern Realms" I wasn't too terribly disappointed either. The Kara-Tur boxed set is also the sole surviving originally purchased boxed set I still have, so that makes it kind of special too. My wife has had to repair the box like a dozen times though.

Kiku the Cat Girl got missed on K day because I really couldn't figure out how to do her justice. She was a cat Hengeyokai Shukenja played by my wife Mona. She was kind of crazy, in that I guess she was just really cat-like, and spoke in a kind of dreamy prophetic way that really creeped out Mark K. who was playing the party Samurai Akihito**. She was also renowned for her hatred of Kappas.

Pictured- A sketch Mona did of Kiku immediately following a battle against a Kappa. The writing at the bottom I would guess is xp maybe?

While we're on Oriental Adventures and K we should mention the Katana. I am not a Katana fanboy that believes that it is a magical work of sword-making art that far surpasses anything ever made by anyone else in the history of ever, but it is a damned good sword. The Katana is elegantly designed to it's function and it's environment, when considered under that light it is practically unsurpassed. I own one and I am studying it's use. It is the most expensive sword I own by quite a bit and I have a small collection of pricey swords and a slightly bigger collection of decorative wall-hangers.

Pictured- A Samurai girl with a Katana drawn by my daughter Ember when she was maybe ten years old? I found both this and the Kiku sketch tucked into the equipment section of my 1st edition OA book the other day.

I guess to finish off the skipped on their letter's day Oriental Adventures theme I should mention the Daikyu. The Daikyu or Great-Bow is a Japanese composite longbow designed to be fired from horseback. I mention this because the samurai class is associated strongly with their sword, but their function on the battlefield, originally, was as horse archers; and that role was never completely lost to them until the suppression of the samurai during the Meiji restoration in the 19th century, which overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate.

M maybe should have had Magic: the Gathering. I cannot express in words my loathing for this game when I became aware of it, which was not immediately as it hit the scene, but only after it had saturated the gaming world. I first hated it because, despite what everyone kept telling me, it was drawing players away from D&D. I had players, particularly the younger ones bringing decks to my D&D games. It was like D&D for the ADHD generation. Only after I tried a different collectible card game did I realize the full horror of what had been wrought; players that invested the most money won the game. After that I hated everything labeled as collectible, including the WotC minis- they were just so cheap to buy that I couldn't resist, it was the Star Wars ones that drew me in, but I got into the D&D ones too, pretty big right before the end.

H really should have included Highlander and I don't know how I failed to mention it. Highlander was one of the big three go to fantasy movies for me and my friends, along with Conan the Barbarian and Excalibur. Highlander is the first movie I owned on DVD.

While we're on movies I guess honorable mentions in fantasy film should go to Beastmaster, Hawk the Slayer and Krull; they also got skipped but weren't as important in my personal RPG development. There was also a TV version of Ivanhoe in the 1980's that I thought was pretty cool at the time and have never seen since, but it's not really fantasy, more of a romanticized historical fiction.

For N I wanted to mention Nobles and Nobility. I spent a good potion of my young adult life studying the history of the European middle ages and then, just for a contrasting view of feudalism, feudal Japan. Every civilization on earth after they reach a certain level of development it seems, decides that some members of their society are just born better; aristocracy forms. I find it kind of interesting that we modern humans, who, according to my blogger statistics, if you are reading this probably live in a democratic society (and most likely the United States of America), almost entirely play our RPGs based on a feudal society with a system of nobility that we have outgrown and flatly rejected in reality. Perhaps this is some kind of buyers remorse and we all really would deep down rather have someone born to rule over us? Or maybe it's because our society is still struggling to come to grips with the rejection of a stratified hierarchy based on birth that is deeply rooted in our culture. The caste system is NOT unique to India, pretty much all European cultures have similar stratigraphy in their societies, from the ancient versions up through the 20th century in some cases. Look how much we seem to care about the impending royal wedding in Britain. British royals who the hell are they? The world's most successful scam-artist welfare family is what they are. They didn't even pay taxes until Queen Elizabeth II decided to voluntarily. There are all kinds of protocols and security and stuff when you have them around and all they are are members of the lucky sperm club. I categorically reject the notion that anyone on earth is better than me based on their blood line, but maybe that's just because I am an American. Or maybe it's because I have better ancestors than they do ;)

*Quadrants are how KAG breaks down their fleets into geographic areas, the Dark Vengeance Quadrant is part of the Dark Moon Fleet. The Dark Moon Fleet covers the eastern seaboard of the US. The DVQ is NY, NJ, PA, WV and DE.

**There were actually two Akihitos. The first one was a commoner Bushi masquerading as a Samurai. Random events in the campaign kept foreshadowing his death, and unsurprisingly, those prophecies came true. The second Akihito was a true noble-born Samurai, he actually had an imperial bloodline. Akihito II's major claim to fame was in actually talking an Oni into fighting an Iaijutsu duel with him. He then one-shotted the Oni with a critical hit combined with his Iaijutsu bonus.