Thursday, December 29, 2011

d24 Reasons You're Destitute at Level 0

You know, I was very excited about the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game (uh, which was news back in the Summah) because it claimed to be a return to pulp roots, and because Joseph Goodman's posts about reading Appendix N were inspirational. (I hope inspiration keeps--I still haven't cracked the spine on any of those books I bought during my transport of 'inspiration' except The Dying Earth.)

I'm less excited now that I've, finally, with all deliberate speed, read some of the public beta rules. My impression so far is that it's D&D 3e with a bunch of clunky funk on top. I don't like, in an Olde Schoole leaning product, the Will/Fort/Reflex save system (remind me to post about saving throws, or direct me to someone who has abstracted the bonuses by class in OD&D and Holmes and such). And I don't like ascending AC--don't you know Delta's Target 20 system is objectively the best? And I don't like that it uses the Zocchi Funky Dice--even though I like the idea of polyhedral funk, I don't want to have to buy them. Which I don't have to do, but you know I'm going to, right?

But I like the art a lot, the funky spells business looks neat (and a giant headache), and the Level 0 funnel is worth a try.

All of which leads me to today's table. When your DCC RPG characters start at level 0, they have an occupation but at the same time no possessions. Maybe that's how it was in the Fake Middle Ages, but it seemed odd to me that one would be employed but own nothing, so I jotted down this table. I made it d24 because I was feeling the funk, but now that seems self-contradictory. Oh well.

d24 Reasons You're Destitute at Level 0

1) Cursed (witch, sorcerer, prophecy, ill-starred?)
2) Hornswoggled & Scammed (maybe it was too shameful to report to the Law)
3) Runaway (reset starting age to adolescent)
4) On the Lam (state the nature of your crime __________)
5) Shunned & Ostracised (race, color, creed, plague?)
6) Run Outta Town for Dalliances (is the mayor's daughter compromised?)
7) Employer Eaten (wolves, snakes, spiders, teenage hyenas?)
8) Taxed Outta Hearth & Home (swear you're paid up?)
9) Robbers, Highwaymen or Burglars
10) House Burned Down (did you lose family too?)
11) Prolonged Illness (feeling much better now?)
12) Caught Being a Cheat (who'd you rip off?)
13) Slander & Rumors (how far does your Bad Reputation stretch?)
14) Horse or Ox Went Lame (did you shoot it? This ain't the Wild West!)
15) Bad Investment (like Mark Twain and the Paige Compositor)
16) Foolish Generosity (get some, give it away--at least you have good friends, right?)
17) Drank It All Up & Pissed It Away (I'll bet you've got some good enemies)
18) Spendthrift (you just bought shit, but where did it go? Probably ate it.)
19) Never Had Nuthin' To Begin With
20) Mine or Well Ran Dry (both might cause a village to disappear)
21) Injured on the Job (and no TV commercials telling you how to get money for it.)
22) Got on the Boss's Bad Side (or the Boss's Spouse's)
23) Crops Failed or Supplier Vanished (might be the same as #20)
24) Your Trade Is Banned By The Goddam Gubmint

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

$3 Wednesday: The Sanctuary Ruin

The Sanctuary Ruin, the excellent first module from Ludibrium Games, isn't exactly new: Grognardia reviewed it in October of 2010 and Tenkar's Tavern reviewed its sequel, Ironwood Gorge, in February of this year (there are also video reviews on Youtube, but I didn't watch those), but it is good enough for me to spend some time with it now. Sadly, it seems that Ludibrium Games has been dark since the beginning of the year and only those two modules from the Blackmarch series and one more separate 1st-level adventure, Kingmaker, have been produced. I would like to see more work from Eric Jones, as The Sanctuary Ruin is first-rate.

It's presentation makes it a joy to read--it looks as good as any OSR release I've seen (I haven't seen this year's two big ones from Jim Raggi yet) and better than many. My impression is probably helped by the simple layout and the attractive illustrations--and the absence of the embarrassing pieces that every OSR release seems to have at least one of.

As for the content, I do have to agree with Grognardia's assessment that "Unfortunately, what Eric Jones got right is something lots of other people have gotten right repeatedly since the dawn of the hobby" but I want to add that The Sanctuary Ruin makes up for its rather dull familiarity by being very well designed. The encounters are interconnected in simple ways that I imagine would greatly aid referees who are using it for those games when they haven't got time to write their own adventures. Many in the blognardosphere say (and prove it by publishing their own!) that they can write their own adventures and don't need to buy them, but there are plenty of other points of view: there's no shame in admitting that I'm not sure I could write an adventure as good as The Sanctuary Ruin, and there's no reason to assume that every referee would prefer to write their won adventures. I mean, we all buy adventures right?, and many of us love them.

I'm a recent convert to the Old Ways, in case you're just joining us: I haven't refereed or played The Keep on the Borderlands or The Village of Hommlet, and I really only started playing D&D for reals in the 3e era, so my perspective is much different from the Old Guard.

To recap, I think The Sanctuary Ruin is very well done, if too familiar, and I'll consider running it the next time I want to start a new campaign in OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord or LotFP or even D&D. I want to buy Ironwood Gorge and Kingmaker (which might be the subject of the next $3 Wednesday, given its price) as well, and anything else Eric Jones should publish in the future. Maybe I should send him an e-mail.

I should also mention that I found The Sanctuary Ruin on the sidebar of Gothridge Manor (um, I had already bought it, it turns out, but never read it. That's about par for the course.) I think his "Gaming Purchases" list is a great resource--especially, for someone looking or $3 or $4 dollar modules to review--and I want to make one of my own for 2012, if I can figure out how to do it. Thank you, Tim!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three-or-Four Dollar Wednesdays!

Do you have a comic book habit? Well, you should. New comics are delivered to a shop near you (if you're lucky to live in one of those quanit bourroughs that still hosts those brick-and-mortar relics of the Age of Handicraft), so go there today and buy something.

Meanwhile, I propose to seek out one new OSR product in the, perhaps rather narrow, $3-$4 price range, the price for one new 20-page comic floppy, every week and snatch that sucker up. There's a slim change I'll even review it, though it seems odd to review an adventure without running it, even if that is de rigueur* round these parts.

Up this week is The Blasphemous Brewery of Pilz  by Dylan Hartwell, the Digital Orc ($2.99 at RPGNow). It's been reviewed already by How To Succeed in RPGs or Die Trying, (who was involved in the module's production) Tenkar's Tavern (where I learned about it) and B/X Blackrazor (which I learned after buying it--good thing JB gives a positive review, I was worried for a second that this was a whole nother Sacrosanct Games situation.) Also, JB's review is nearly as long as the module.

Here's what I think of it: While the premise of the Blasphemous Brewery is hard to believe, and the illustrations give the module a homemade appearance, the game material itself is good enough that I consider my $2.99 well spent. It details, in brief, two-or-three-sentence entries the rooms of three small dungeon locations, which are pretty standard fare but work together to flesh out a mini-setting, aided by some details of nefarious elves, several NPCs with useful personality descriptions, and a couple of cool new monsters (I particularly the magical spiders--they even look really cool in Hartwell's illustration). Oh, and a very deadly artifact. I think it's a pretty good adventure and I might consider adapting it for Gamma World 7e (that's the D&D IV version, yeah) becaus ethat would also be blasphemous. My review isn't much, so be sure to read the three I mentioned above, and get to know the Digital Orc blog, which seems to have many useful links to OSR tools that I wasn't aware of.

*Oh, de rigueur means 'strictly required by etiqutte'. I thought it meant 'customary'. Pretend I wrote 'customary' up there. Have I ever mentioned that I love dictionaries?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Remember when Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser were in Wonder Woman?

In Issue #202 of the first Wonder Woman series (a new series started at #1 in  '87, I guess):

(image taken from there and buy stuff)

I hate to admit it, but I haven't read any Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, except two aborted attempts to read The Snow Women. I know there's some kind of difference between the gods in Lankhmar and the gods of Lankhmar, but that's the extent of my knowledge. Therefore, I will begin my reading of this seminal contribution to pulp fantasy and the D&D hobby with this no doubt exemplary entry in the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser canon: a Wonder Woman comic from her Dig This Feminist Kung-Fu '70s period.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't forget to buy Weird Adventures today

Hat tip to Chis Sims via Twitter for bringing this to my attention--which is sure a weird way for me to find out about a product from From The Sorcerer's Skull. Or maybe not--I read Chris Sims's Twitter all the time.

Anyway, Weird Adventrues by Trey Causey. Buy it. I did.

Here's the product desription from Drive Thru RPG (which is also the immediate source of the above image):

Weird Adventures is a setting where traditional rpg fantasy meets the Pulp era. It's a world where hobogoblins hop trains, gargoyles nest on art deco skyscrapers, and celebrity sorcerers hawk cigarettes on the radio.

Doesn't that just sound swell?

Friday, December 9, 2011

2011: the Best Of

Twenty-Eleven wasn't just the year when I stopped blogging, it was also the year during which I consumed some pop culture in several media. What was the best?

Oh, and it looks like few of these things actually came out in 2011. What can I say, I'm slow.

Best RPG product: Anomalous Subsurface Environment. It's the dungeon I wanted to write.

Best Videogame: Skyrim, big surprise.

Best Movie: How to Train Your Dragon (I submit that this is the best D&D movie ever.) I also liked Bridesmaids a great deal, if you must have somethign from this year.

Best Wedding: Me and K.

Best Book: All Clear by Connie Willis (it's the second half of the story started in Blackout, and it probably came out in 2010). It gives more of sense of beingn transported to the past than Stephen King's otherwise very engaging 11/22/63 (which I'm 70% through).

Best Comic Book: Wonder Woman #1 by Azzarello and Chiang or maybe it should be Habibi by Craig Thompson, if it wasn't so detatched from reality.

Best Board Game: 7 Wonders . . . it's fantastic, if not from 2011. I bought a few games that came out this year, like Sun of York and Sekigahara (though those might be reprints.) I'll have to let you know how I like them . . .

And since the only value of a list like this is that it might draw your attention to something you missed, I hope that you'll share your own list, maybe even in the comments below, but on your won blog is good too.

I hope to be here more often in 2012--hey, I may even start up an Old School campaign again!

And there's no Best Music category because I don't really listen to new music. What can I say, I think I'm old. Oh wait, I'm really digging the new Megadeth:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Star Trek: Transporter Network Installation and Repair

I just noticed that the transporter has a number of implications that the various series don't focus on even though it seems they would be rather conspicuous in their effects on Federation culture.

First, even given a presumably limited range, the transporter implies that instant teleportation--which I dimly recall being at the top of GURPS Ultra-Tech tech levels--is already present in the Kirk era, but apparently no one has noticed. What I mean is, with a network of transporter relays, ships are probably unnecessary for travel between settled locations of Federation space. So, that's the first seed of my new campaign setting: A team of transporter relay installers, out of the frontier. They would need a ship, but probably not a fancy one. Tradesmen in space!

Second, I don't have episode citations, but there's one in The Original Series in which a person's transporter-code self is stored in a belt for later retrieval, and one early in The Next Generation in which Picard is restored from an archive copy of his transporter-code self. This means both that immortality has been achieved and personal identity, at least in terms of being a single enitity, is now outmoded. That is, there doesn't seem to be any obstacle to making infinite copies of yourself forever. So, Starfleet officers should probably be issued Immortality Belts with the ability to 'beam out' copies of themselves in the event of death--and away teams should probably just be made of copies (avatars, even) of the ablest bodies for the mission at hand.

Third, this is not related to transporters, but the Doctor of Voyager and his emitter raise the possibility of rouge holograms, so: Haunted Hulks. I'm sure the galaxy is just filled to the gills with space stations overrun with horrid fan-fictiony holograms endlessly murdering teeming copies of Wesley Crusher's loin-clout-clad barbarian-self as he tries to rescue a gender-swapped Picard-in-distress from the Traveler-beast.

So, what do all of you know about these ideas appearing in the various series--and novels, comics, etc.?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Here's what's inspiring me lately [Beware of Swears]:

From a piece by Abhay Khosla on Savage Critics:

Those first six pages of KIRBY GENESIS are a laundry list of things I am most snide about in Big Two comics right now. Until… until the Kirby characters show up. Then, all that shit stops, and the comic turns into a blast. Because it’s a COMIC BOOK again. Suddenly, there’s no time for Jay Baruschel and his shitty life because some lady is screaming out “You’re in the presence of a Galaxy Green Apprehension Squad.” Yay! And the lady from the Galaxy Green Apprehension Squad doesn’t look like Pam Grier– she looks like a fucking comic book character instead! Yay! No more attempts at pretending to be hip and young just by doing nothing else but imitating SCOTT PILGRIM. Yay! There are still caption boxes but now they have things like “An unknown codex, found in a viking treasure hoard on the Orkney Islands in 1914” in them. Proper comic book bullshit! Yay! Old comics values save us from shitty modern comic storytelling! Yay!!!

It's not the polemic against modern comics that appeals to me--lord knows I read plenty of Thoroughly Modern superhero comics--but rather the idea of "proper comic book bullshit."

That's what I strive for in my creations, I think--it's why I love Angel being turned into a Muppet (and making that a not-so-rare curse in my D&D games), and Robert Kirkman's excellent new all-ages comic Super Dinosaur, and superheroes that transform my saying a magic word and being struck by lightning (that's both the Captain Marvel and He-Man families at the top of the list).

And it's why I'm tickled by my new idea for The Vanisher, a ray that makes you SMALLER THAN TIME. The Vanisher is believed to have caused the disappearance of the Diamond Amateurs, a band of hapless adventurers.  The band was lost to history but they did not vanish; rather, they were shrunk at a metaphysical level. The Vansher happens to be located near the 'hulk' of an earwiggle spacecraft, the generation ships of the Virusmen, and the Diamonds have been there for centuries, SMALLER THAN TIME, and thus undinted by its ravages, fighting the good fight against the Virus Menace. Or something.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Did You Ever Know That You're My She-Ro?

She-Ra's name never made any sense to me--sure, there's the She to correspond to He-Man, but how does Ra correspond to Man?

There's no connection to the Egyptian god or the Reiner Knizia game named after him which was published long after She-Ra was produced so why even bring it up?

I suppose it has been obvious to most the whole but I only figured out just now that it's She-Ro as in Hero, but with a feminine (in Spanish anyway) ending.

But let's not discount the influence on She-Ra's theme (are you singing She-Ra! She-Ra! right now?) of this Allen Toussaint song, as recorded by Betty Wright:

If you like it, do seek out Toussaint's performance of it at the 1976 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, say on this CD.

Friday, April 8, 2011

d30 Magical Mishaps

These are the thirty Officially Recognized Classes of Magical Mishaps for which students at the Academy of the Imperial Science (of Bonham, the Three-Lobed City and Seat of State of the Republic of Aalor) are trained in their Emergency Response courses.

I thought I might note how each of these mishaps would affect EVERY SINGLE OD&D SPELL but after copying out the 1st-level spells from Delta's Book of Spells I decided I'll just play Risus. So, the rule is whenever you use a sorcery cliché (or some such) and the dice come up 13 you have to take a mishap roll. There will less chance of mishaps if the 13 result is a success.

This table probably requires more referee interpretation than it should. (That's weasel-talk for Some of these result just don't make any sense.) I wrote it that way just so it would be a list of Latinate nouns-derived from-verbs. Are there eggs involved? Happy Easter!

d30 Magical Mishaps
  1. Reversal
  2. Inversion
  3. Diffusion
  4. Dispersal
  5. Dilution
  6. Sublimation
  7. Diversion
  8. Contusion
  9. Expansion
  10. Contraction
  11. Explosion
  12. Expulsion
  13. Efflorescence
  14. Mitosis
  15. Fission
  16. Recursion
  17. Amalgamation
  18. Ignition
  19. Conjugation
  20. Truncation
  21. Lactation
  22. Ovation
  23. Absorption
  24. Replication
  25. Deferral
  26. Extension
  27. Inundation
  28. Adumbration
  29. Coronation
  30. Bifurcation (roll twice more ignoring 30's (or not--see Recursion (#16) above))

Then you'll want to see who or what to apply the effect to:

  1. Caster
  2. Intended Target
  3. Other Target (among the people and/or monsters nearby)
  4. Spell in Caster's Mind
  5. Spell in Caster's Spellbook
  6. Spell not in caster's mind
  7. Original spell itself
  8. The general area
(So I guess I'm playing Risus with D&D-type spellcasting. Yes, I believe that's correct.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

d30 Potion Containers Besides a 1 oz. Flask

You know, I always picture a flat-bottomed flask, or a round bottom flask, of more like 12 oz. Or 16, if this orange juice bottle beside me is to be believed.

d30 Potion Containers Besides a 1 oz. Flask
1) Intravenous drip bag (but you can bust it open and drink it)
2) Snortable powder (go ahead and extrapolate to all the recreational drugs here)
3) Hypo-spray
4) The Old Fart's Clever Air-Bulb Invention (or Pepe Le Pew atomizer)
5) Candy (say, Pop Rocks--or chewing gum)
6) Pharmaceutical pill capsule or little paper pouch of grains
7) An ingenious replica of a dove's egg
8) Pop-top aluminum can
9) Bladder or other organ sac
10) Lick-and-stick tattoo
11) Eye drops, ear drops or inhaler
12) Wax cylinder (to drink) or scented candle (to burn)
13) Laser pointer to the eye
14) Whole body of a tiny bird (or mouse)
15) Pickle or other queer fruit
16) Ear funnel (for warm oil )
17) The Very Eucharistic Host of the Body of Mazirian the Magician
18) Subcutaneous microchip
19) Skin (or face) cream
20) Hair tonic
21) Lipstick (I hear ladies use lip gloss or something nowadays)
22) Dissolving square of film (on the tongue, or one of those fortune-telling fish)
23) Just stuff a bee in your ear
24) A tiny tornado in a glass cube that spins in your palm (that's from Bravestarr, ep. 26)
25) Blow smoke in a soap bubble and then eat it
26) Spice flakes (take with food)
27) Magical cheese
28) Spores of a puffball fungus
29) Muscular pink earsmoke released by the breaking of a chicken bone
30) Deep whiff of a nosegay

And, the inevitable: a suppository. I do apologize.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Etymonday: Crannogs and Conlangers

First, let me say Hail and Welcome to my new Thralls! I hope I can occasionally write something of some interest to you.

A now, a flash from the past:

(source) (I hated this game so much, but you know I'm going to buy it again.)

Re-reading A Game of Thrones I encountered this word 'crannog' which I guess I never looked up last time, because I didn't have any idea what it meant. (Here's the American Heritage version, via Wordnik: An ancient Irish dwelling or fort built on an artificial island in a lake or marsh.) So, no surprise it's an Irish Gaelic word, a welcome addition to the small family of Gaelic words in English: crag, leprechaun, shamrock, whiskey, bog, gob, brogue, cairn, loch, phoney, smithereens, and apparently, spunk. Go here and here for more.

While perusing the wikilands for infos about the HBO Game of Thrones production, my wife learned that a Dothraki language has been created. This, along with the event with the creators of Klingon and Na'vi we went to down to the college, prompts me to share with you all something that likely comes as no surprise: I have tried my hand at making up languages.

First, it was some Elven, back in '89. Inspired by The Lord of the Rings, yes, but also the Elven words in the Dragonlance Chronicles. I remember one from those books, shalafi, but all I remember from my own is the possessive suffix, -ki. All my notes from those days are long gone, he said through a sniffle.

In the Nine-Tays I wanted to write a noble-savage type books about orcs--I wanted to call it "soft-science fiction" because it would be all anthropological. Yeah, I'm kind of embarrassed for me too. Call it confessional time. Anyway, the lead was named Gorak Nannak-klu, the nannak-klu being the Orcish for "demon-heart" and the Gorak just sounding cool, despite being a real-world name. Google wasn't a thing back then. As for the language I origianlly wanted it to have creole prototype grammar (for the minimum work for me) but I also wanted it to have infixing, so then I gave up.

Not that I think that's very interesting. What I am interested in is YOUR made up languages. What languages have you made up? How long before you realized it was a huge Tolkien-esque diversion from anything useful in playing the game it was probably intended for? How deep are you in conlang? What do you know about the Language Creation Society? I promise not to ignore your comments this time!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hot Elf Dude Welcomes You To The OSR

For an explanation of what's going on with this post, try here at the Underdark Gazette.
Meanwhile, a d30 Table:
d30 Unnatural Character Origins
  1. I'm from a planet where everyone has my super-power
  2. I'm from Middle America in the '80s
  3. I used to be a turtle
  4. I'm you, but from the future
  5. I'm your father, but from Earth 11 where all the genders are reversed
  6. I feel asleep a thousand years ago
  7. My home planet exploded
  8. I was born of the love of a moonbeam for a dewdrop
  9. I woke up in a vat of goo
  10. I started life as a gray cube found on a dusty shelf
  11. My parallel universe collapsed with this one but somehow I'm still here
  12. I was raised by snakes
  13. I'm evolved from a simian species from the literature of your choice
  14. I'm evolved from an insectoid species from the comic book of your choice
  15. This is actually just my larval form
  16. This isn't my body and I want my body back
  17. This isn't my body and its owner wants it back
  18. I'm a super-intelligent gorilla brain--I just took this body because I liked it
  19. I'll be a god again once I find my trusty whatsit
  20. My father is the Sky God and he will acknowledge me just as soon as he sees how great I am
  21. I'm a stone robot
  22. I change shape every 28 days, but it's not really my call
  23. I'm a freakishly intelligent squirrel
  24. I'm a figure from an enchanted painting
  25. I'm a snow wife
  26. I'm a mermaid who sprouted legs (I might have a debt with the Octopus Lady)
  27. I used to be a toy
  28. I haven't always been a toy
  29. I may look like an elf but I'm a flower quickened by starseed
  30. In my village we all breed like Mogwais so it's hard to tell us apart

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Costumery Etymonday

Before we begin, an aside: I have determined (based solely on my rigorously anecdotal evidence) that Proust, his novel I mean, is lengthy and absorbing enough for one to become addicted to it--but if that happened to me--and I'm not saying it did--would that be a bad thing? Speaking of addiction, I brought you here today to talk about what I only too late realize is a TV trope: the mad scientist. We were watching The Magnetic Telescope episode of the Fleischer Superman series (1942) wherein the villain is this cat: And The Lady posed a great question: See how he's dressed? That's how Mad Scientists dress, of course, like chefs without the floofy hat--just look at Dr. Horrible. (source) But why do they dress that way, and how long have they been doing it? TV Tropes mentions Dr. Frankenstein and Rotwang as early representative of the type. Rotwang is from Fritz Lang's Metropolis, a thing well in the region of my ignorance, but look at this photo gallery here, he dosn't seem to wear the now-traditional costume, but he's not far off: So Rotwang is 1927. Dr. Frankenstein is of course much earlier, in 1818, still pretty much the 18th century so there's no way he was described as dressing that way--but Frankenstein, apart from the monster's Universal Monster ubiquity, is well in the well of my ignorance as well. And only now I make the connection that wizards are the medieval version of Mad Scientists, and Mad Scientists are the electrical age version of wizards. Anyone have a page citation for the R.E. Howard story where a sorcerer refers to what he does as science? Can anyone antedate the white-coated Mad Scientist costume from 1942 (the date of the above Fleischer Superman)?