Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A New Coney Island For Me

This really has nothing to do with the place called Coney Island.

I don't think the word 'coney' is familiar to your average American, even though Coney Island is a household name. It probably has more currency in our hobby since Sam Gamgee traps and cooks some coneys somewhere in The Lord of the Rings. Seems it's time I read LoTR again, if I can't remember where, exactly--if only I could get my brother to return the treasured copies from my chidhood. . .

In the office this morning I said "You don't want the Easter Bunny hanging around out of season--it's getting to be barbecue weather, and coney is probably pretty good on the grill," prompting a colleague to look up this unfamiliar alleged "word."

She discovered that it's sometimes preferred to pronounce it to rhyme with "bunny," but we office mates agreed that perhaps "cunny" isn't the sort of word to bandy about the workplace.

So I head to the dictionary (that's what I do here at this blog, at least once a year) and discover a few interesting things about the humble "coney." The first is that the name can be used for both pikas and hyraxes. Anything that gives me an excuse to type "pikas and hyraxes" is self-evidently raditudinous.

The second is that on its way to English "coney" passed through French as "conis/conil" and started out from Latin as "cuninculus" which the American Hertiage 4th ed. suggests might could be from "cunus" or "the female pudenda."

Well, I guess "cunny" was on the mark after all.

I looked up "pudenda" too because, well, show me a pudenda and I'm going to look. Turns out it's a plural, so you could talk about a single pudendum, but usually two will do. But what interested me was that the word is a form of "pudere" (the neuter gerundive, if you really want to conjugate your pudenda) which means "to make or be ashamed." So, it's your shameful bits.

And that's why you will henceforth often find me on holiday in the Coney Island of my mind.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wet Spellbooks

There's just not enough writing (writing that has found itself before my eyes, anyway) about the hazards of getting wet. Dungeons are dank, dripping places often enough, but hardly ever has the wetness itself be a problem in my games. Say, just two weekends ago my Bahamuddan cleric was wading free as duck in waist-high frogwater, to say nothing of the juices of the frogs' interiors but not even his fussy white boots were any worse for wear.

So, with no more effort than it takes to type it (which is really the only kind of effort you'll find on this blog), here are the effects of falling in foul pools that should be making PC's cheap lives miserable:

Wet armor padding. It's at least going to slow you down. Maybe make it harder to swing your great-grandsire's single-edged sword, The Gummer. Maybe it's ruined altogether. If you want to keep that harness on, it's gonna chafe.

Wet thief's boots. You're probably gonna squeak, Sneaky.

Wet bowstrings. Yes, I wish you had written down "oilcloth to wrap extra bowstrings" too. Sodden arrows and fletchings probably don't work so well either.

Wet Spellbooks. This has huge potential. I can't believe I've never read the phrase "wet spellbook" before. Scrolls are going to be vulnerable to the smears as well.

Fssssss! Your torch went out. Aww, and the rest of 'em are soaked through as well. You didn't happen to make note of how your flint and steel were stored, did you? Too bad you weren't playing 4e and you could use one of those kewl glow-wands. Barf.

Soggy food. Uh, sure you can still eat it. What's your Constitution score? Thanks. Oh, and do you know what page the disease rules are on?

Foot blisters. Walking around all day in slippery boots and mushy skin has got to be hard on even the most iron-thewed. Maybe my milquetoast modern daintiness is showing through here--but shouldn't road worn feet be a concern to adventures even on the driest delves?

I'd love to hear about how you handle water hazards and suggestions for where to find treatments of these things in actual rules.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hey Everybody, My DM is in Houston Doing Microgravity Experiments!

You can read about it here: http://microgravityu2010.blogspot.com/

He's on the ground crew so he's the guy answering the phone when the flight crew has to say "Houston, we have a problem."

Sorry to repeat the oldest NASA joke since Apollo. I am not, whatever you have been told, a professional comdeian.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So this Milton cat, he any good?

Yes. Yes he is pretty good.

My book club is reading Paradise Lost (we're only up to Book Two) and (as I'm sure is obvious to some) the influence on D&D is stunning. Just about everybody from the Demon and Devil entries in the Monster Manual has appeared.

Not Tiamat, of course, but I think Milton's Portess of Hell has her beat:

". . . [A]t last appear
Hell bounds high reaching to the horrid Roof,
And thrice threefold the Gates; three folds were Brass
Three Iron, three of Adamantine Rock,
Impenitrible, impal'd with circling fire,
Yet unconsum'd. Before the Gates there sat
On either side a formidable shape;
The one seem'd Woman to the waste, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fould
Voluminous and vast, a Serpent arm'd
With mortal sting: about her middle round
A cry of Hell Hounds never ceasing bark'd
With wide CERBEREAN mouths full loud and rung
A hideous Peal: yet, when they list, would creep,
If aught disturb'd thir noyse, into her woomb,
And kennel there, yet there still bark'd and howl'd
Within unseen."

Now, why don't I remember the Hell Hound bit making an appearance in D&D?

She is Sin, and the other "formidible shape" is Death. Maybe you'll get a quote about him some other time. Or you can read it yourself at literature.org.

An idea I got from a footnote in the Norton critical edition were using, about the etymology of adamant--that it literally means 'untameable'--gives me an idea about how weapons forged of this popular metal should behave. Sure, you have an Unbreakable Sword of Legend now--or, wait--does the sword have you?

Well, okay, Ego weapons already have the potential to do that. I always look for something new, but it's hard to find.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Is Angband Olde Schoole?

In case you don't know what I mean, this picture will take you to the Wikipedia entry.

This is my favorite video game. Thanks are in order to reader Erik who introduced me to it in the form of Moria for the Amiga round about 1991. He is the humble acorn from which sprouted and thickened this mighty oak of . . . a stupid blog.

So, then the question I posed at the top: is it Olde Schoole?

Actually, I don't care, so sorry for ambushing you.

Here's why I love Angband:

It's pure dungeon crawl. There is a bit of a nod to social interaction in the haggling with shop keepers, but that is exactly as exciting as you would expect having a chat with a robot from 1985 to be. I am attracted to "purity" but I should really not say "purity because" that sounds like "ethnic purity" and fuck that. I'm attracted to minimalism: stand up comedy: just a guy talking. Fiction: black marks on paper. That's infantile, I guess, but that's me. Angband has one town and a dungeon. That's all it needs.

It's brutal. If you make a mage, you will die in a pit of poisoned stakes on the first or second level. Or be eaten be a snake.

It continues to hold mysteries for me after nearly 20 years of playing it (every few years or so). I have never gotten close to the level where Morgoth lurks, with his halting gait and dented iron crown. When your character dies you don't get to go back to your last save; you get to start a new pathetic 1st-level peon. You can get around that with the slightest effort, but then you've robbed yourself of 20 years of fun, you snot-nose little punk. Are you happy now?

I love this game so maybe I should try to put what I love about it into the next campaign I run. Ahh, well, that's probably going to be Marvel Super Heroes, as I have mentioned. That requires a slightly different tone.

I feel like putting together a side project while my regular group takes a couple of weeks off. Better lock your doors, America!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's Saturday: Saturday is the Day I Play D&D

May that never change.

Well, a different day is fine. A different game is fine too. But still, is all I'm saying.

Full Poser Disclosure: we're playing 4e (I was out-voted) but we did just enter the Ruins of the Moathouse.

But maybe that just adding sacrilege to apostasy--it is this Moathouse:

As penance I'll say 6 Hail Jeffs and order a copy of Advanced Edition Companion from my local game shop (all About Games in Boise).


Friday, April 2, 2010

The Voidship, Cloudsource

This is obvious and probably too of-the-moment (or worse, totally last year), but I've just come to fear that this really is the future:

The first generation to grow up texting and twittering--always in contact with everyone and living in public--is completely comfortable with the hive mind concept, so comfortable that it just happens organically without anyone even taking notice.

So now the human race is a single consciousness. If you thought the overnight eruption of Wikipedia was a marvel, wait till the same principle is applied by a whole planet to manufacturing starships.

This is what interstellar civilizations will look like.

Individuality is hopelessly outmoded. Resistance is . . . well, you know the rest.

An early design of the voidship Cloudsource.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Favorite Trickster This Year

It's not the Flash rogue named The Trickster. He died and spent a year hand handcuffed to the Pied Piper (in Countdown to Final Crisis) but that's still not as bad a fate as seeing Mark Hamill and Corinne Bohrer dressed like this:

It's not Mr. Mxyzptlk, which that same Countdown to Final Crisis identified with the Trickster God outright. I haven't read many Superman stories but I plan to dip my toe in the Silver Age shortly, so who knows, the Imp From the 5th Dimension may well take the honors next year.

But the Trickster I celebrate this year is that red-headed rascal, that boater-hatted be-bowtied Beau Brummel, History's Least Efficient Assassin,


Platform shoes and a white tuxedo. Consider that a shopping list.