Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Madness

No, not the kind with college basketball, picks, or the final four.

Just a quick post to talk about the blog.  In the last month, as I have become more active in posting about the OSR, and have posted on other journals, I have reached a new high page view total with around 400.  Yes, I spent too much time looking at the "stats" tab on this thing.  In any case, this is an improvement of over 100 views over my previous high.

Thank you to my readers.  Blogging can be lonely, but at least I know that a few people come to this site.

Tomorrow we start off with the Deepest Sea A-Z... which should be interesting, for me at least.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10mm Musings

I know that I said here, that I do not have the time to make a 10mm castle for the Terrain for Hippos competition, yet somehow I find myself reading Warmaster Siege rules, and doodling castles in the margins of my meeting notes...

As reminder, Deepest Sea A-Z starts Friday, as part of the Blogging A-Z challenge. I have already written and queued up two posts, so I am somewhat ahead of things, for once.

Also, a warm welcome to follower #9 Greg Gorgonmilk, who has an excellent OSR blog, and follower #10, Talysman the Ur-Beatle who likewise has an excellent blog. (although not linked to his profile, you can find it on my D&D blogs page)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Battle of the Five Armies

Some day, I will get around to painting the figures from my set of Battle of the Five Armies. (I do have the Elvish knights painted, and a regiment of Uruk-hai)

In the meantime, here are two galleries of pictures showing the good and evil sides of the game.



Lovely stuff (particularly at 10mm!), and worthy of emulation once I get to that stage.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Last week I read the Hawkmoon book The Mad God's Amulet, by Michael Moorcock.  The book itself is very nice, particularly considering that I got it brand new as part of a library sale, and it cost me some fraction of $5. (paper grocery sack of books for $5)  That is unfortunately about all of the nice things I can say about it.  Set in some sort of post apocalyptic future, the dashing Hawkmoon is on the run from an evil empire, gets a McGuffin, saves his future bride, and then saves the day.  It had some of the flavor of a chivalry tale written for kids, but with far more blood and guts. Also, the mixture of super science technology and neo-feudal technology was odd, to say the least. If this is representative of the rest of the series, I really have no interest in tracking down the rest.  I suspect I lost something by reading this book, which is in the middle of the series rather than starting at the beginning, but again, do not have much interest in looking further.

On the plus side, it did have an interesting feel to it, and you could see how it influenced D&D.  Mad wizards, ancient cities out of phase with reality, technological artifacts, gratuitous plate harness, etc.

Now I am reading through the three most recent White Dwarf Magazines, which had accumulated unread on my nightstand.  My wife and I generally page through them together, looking at the pretty pictures, and then I read them later. Following that, I have Swords' Masters to read, which I am looking forward to.

I have also been working on my list of subjects for the A-Z blogging challenge.  I have pretty much selected all of the subjects, but some of the letters are more difficult than others (Q,XYZ for instance).  Plenty of content coming in the future.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Terrain Competition

Terrain for Hippos, a great online terrain blog, is having their second "Berfenday Compometition" [sic].  Basically, the idea is that you make some terrain following their plans or using the techniques explained, and then send in pictures before May 31st. 

Unfortunately, I probably will not have any hobby time to make anything (and indeed, there are more pressing hobby time needs than terrain), which is a real shame, because I would really like to make a 10mm castle using the concepts and plans here.  Something suitable for Warmaster, which would follow the rules presented in Warmaster Ancients for sieges.  With a bit of planning, I think that I could make it work as a frontier fort for either 10mm Lord of the Rings or WM Fantasy, by having removable hording.

Monday, March 21, 2011


An interesting post I read today is from Playing D&D with Porn Stars (quite often NSFW), which discusses the presentation of information in RPG books.  Zak argues that most people want to get to the crunch of rules, maps, and items etc, and skip over the story and background aspects of the book to get to it.  Part of his reasoning is that even professional writers struggle over the prose of creating and explaining worlds, and that amateurs are not likely to do this well.  While I am not sure that I agree with him, being someone who likes to read the details about settings, he does make the point that you can have little snippets of information about your carefully created universe attached to rules.

One of the more interesting blogs I read is Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets, which daily posts new spells, items, and monsters for OSR D&D games.  The information is presented "in universe" with great little short stories featuring a re-occurring cast.  It seems to me, that this is going in the direction that Zak is thinking of, little bits of setting tied in to rules, to give its flavor without bogging down the reader who is interested only in the rules.

Ultimately, I think both methods have something going for them.  Give the reader the "big prose" sections telling about the world, with the big picture about what is going on, but let the flavor of the world come through in the descriptions of items, the backgrounds of NPCs, and in the art.  What do you think?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Conquest Sac

I seem to find out about these things rather late, but there is a gaming convention this weekend in Sacramento. Further it is quite close to my house (and even closer to my freind's dad's place).

Looking at the list of games, there are a 4th edition D&D game, a late night Pathfinder game, a Starfleet Battles game, Settlers on an oversided board, a Fallout game (using Savage Worlds), Warhammer Ancients Tournament, and more.  Plus the usual bring and buy and markets.

Maybe sometime I will have to go to a convention and see what the fuss is all about.


I finished The Three of Swords last night, the first half of the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories from Fritz Leiber.  For those of you who do not know the stories, Fafhrd is a northern barbarian, and the Grey Mouser is a thief type, and together they roam around Nehwon having adventures.  Some of the stories in the book are lusty and bloody featuring wenches and sword play, and others are more creepy stories featuring just the two "heros" and some magical enemies.  Tons of inspiration for games, either as skirmish situations, or for role playing.  The city of Lanhkmar in particular is very inspiring for "huge old dark rotten city", and thieves guilds.

Casting about for a map of Nehwon, the world in which they live (mostly), I came across this site, which not only has a whole set of maps, but also has a ton of gaming material.  The World of Newhon is a pretty good one for gaming, because it is already "sword and sorcery" ready, has a number of countries and city states, races, magic etc.  As a bonus, Newhon is only sketched in by the author, leaving plenty of scope for invention.

Anyway, next up is a Hawkmoon story, The Mad God's Amulet, by Michael Moorcock, which will be the first fantasy I have read by him.  Previously I have read The Nomad of Time, which is more Edwardian interwar Scifi. This one is also actually a book I own for once, as typically I read books from the library.  (or in the case of the The Three of Swords, ordered through the local library from another city)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Deepest Sea: A-Z

As you may be aware, there is a challenge going around the "blogosphere" to blog 28 times in April, with posts organized by the alphabet.  Eager to embrace something which encourages me to blog more, I will accept the challenge, and further, will attempt to blog about the Deepest Sea setting, as a way to flesh it out a bit more.  I will try to collect the results together with an index at the end, that is if this posting plan works out.

This challenge will be particularly challenging, as 28 posts was previously about a year's output for me. So we shall see how it goes.

Also, a welcome to new follower Paul's Bods, who seems to paint 1/72 scale figures, amongst other things.  Glad to have you around!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deep Time

Hill Cantons had an interesting post recently about the handling of time in games. 

Basically, D&D, and most other games have three levels of time, Turns, where you explore, or search, or move in a dungeon, Rounds for combat and other time sensitive endeavours, and Campaign time, where there is something more like DM calculating the necessary time to do some task, or hand waving to move things along (e.g. "it takes three weeks for the armorer to build your full harness, during which time you regain 10 hp, and spend 30 silver on rent", or "your journey to darkest Endash takes 5 days").  Chris posits that there ought to be a fourth level of time, which has more to do with seasons or years, which has the benefit of making realm level play more reasonable, and might as a side benefit fit in better with a world where understandings of time were somewhat longer than they are now. (further discussion here)

There were a number of great comments discussing various ways that games had handled this sort of time,and what you could do with it.  Some of the discussion centered around the impact of campaign seasons on player behavior.  In a prototypical-Western-European-medieval-pastiche setting (pwemp), it would be very hard to travel in the winter season, as roads are impassible, and seas are more stormy.  Therefore, PCs should adventure abroad in the summer when travel is easier (and indeed when armies went to war), and adventures in the winter should be local or city based.  At the very least it encourages players to think about the world a bit more like their character would, in terms of seasons and years.

Another aspect of longer time spans is that it opens up the possibilities about what goes on at home when the player is away.  While we like to think about adventurer PCs as free agents, in most game settings they would be subjects to a king, have feudal obligations, have friends, patrons, neighbors, families, realms to guard, jobs to maintain, religious duties, and so on.  More so as they advance in rank and responsibility.  Normally these things are used by DMs as hooks for adventures, ways to include other game styles, or as ways to limit the growing power of higher level players; however, once you are opening up longer time spans, other possibilities arise.

For example, while Lord Graxnar is off slaying orcs in the dungeon for two months, his wife takes up with one of his retainers back at home, who works with one of the Dukes to have Lord Graxnar's fief given to a neighboring baron.  Lord Graxnar's daughter is promised to the baron on the other side as a counter.  Absence from the heart of things becomes another cost of adventuring, and one that the PCs have to recon with.  Going away for a season has a cost, both in loyalty of followers and possibly in money, due to the lack of the PCs firm hand on the tiller.

This sort of thing certainly happens in the real world too, think for instance about King Richard off on crusade, and his "loyal" brother scheming to get the crown.  Someone goes off to war, and is reported dead, and then comes back later  to find his wife remarried.  Phillip spends time in Thebes as a hostage to constrain his father, but learns about phalanx combat as a result. These more realm/clan/association events open up new game play opportunities to explore the world as well, which can certainly be a plus.

For those seeking greater verisimilitude in their games (which you know I do), this seems like an interesting avenue to explore.

Also, welcome to Beithir Seun, increasing my follower count by 20%!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ogre 6th edition

No, not the kind with a club and dim wits.

The kind that is a massive robotic death machine.  Originally released in 1977 as a microgame, Ogre has been popular for a while.  It features one of the aforementioned massive robotic death machines fighting against a whole army of weaker squishy regular tanks and their support elements.  I became aware of the game because there is a 6mm miniatures version, with several interesting units that I have some vague idea of eventually incorporating in my games.

Now, Steve Jackson Games is going to release a 6th edition of the game, with many of the expansions included, constructable standup buildings and Ogres, and anticipated retail price of $100.

Below is a picture I snipped from the PDF, showing the constructable Ogres.  Each of those hexes is 1.5 inches, so these suckers are big! [it also looks like someone has seen the WizKids Star Wars Game]  Also seems to have some pretty classic map graphics.

here is a link to a retailer PDF.  Anyway, pretty excited about this, although I am sure it would have been better if it had miniatures... not sure how that would have fit in the box though, if it really has as many units as indicated.

Friday, March 11, 2011

On verisimilitude

Verisimilitude is something which I perhaps have an excessive fondness for.  Building a Warhammer Army?  Let us spend too many brain cycles thinking about its origin, its likely "realistic" composition etc.  Imperial Guard army?  Let us worry excessively about the TO&E about the regiment from which the units are drawn.  Neo-Soviets?  Whole campaign setting just to justify various equipment options which are "cool". Warhammer Fantasy Battles 8th edition bothers me because of its frankly bizarre terrain rules, mostly because I wonder how civilization would exisit with a higher chance of magical trees than normal trees.

For the Deepest Sea, I worry about the relative abundance of magical creatures in regions.  I think about silver economies for their historical cachet, rather than for game-ist reasons [rather excellent ones too].  I try to justify monster placement in dungeons by thinking about the reasons that a killer toad might be trapped in this area, and what it might eat to survive, and how many would be needed for a breeding population.

A long list of thinking about details of various places and times, which may or may not ever matter to anyone but myself.

Sometimes, maybe I should just play.  Just let all this obsession with reality, fictional reality at that, go, and play.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Towers Of Midnight

Finished reading Towers of Midnight, the 13th volume of the Wheel of Time books, this weekend.  Most of the book seemed to deal with getting the pieces in place for the last battle, and tying up a few loose ends in order to make it happen.  Then again, that is pretty much what the last five books have been about.  An annoying feature of this book is that most of the points of view are "behind" Rand and Egwene's timeline, as expressed in the last book, something which is not made very clear until half way through this book.  Also, and this may be a spoiler, the action indicated by the cover does not happen until nearly the end of the book, and the titular Towers of Midnight are not even in the book at all!  Still, far better than most of the books in the series, and makes one pretty excited for the last book, estimated to be out mid 2012.

From a game ideas standpoint, there are some interesting artifacts and situations which could be used in a lower magic setting.  For example having to abide by the rules of fairy land when dealing with the fae, or using teleporting gates in combat.  The One Power from Wheel of Time is massively more powerful than standard D&D magic, as magic users can pretty much do whatever they want until they become exhausted, and magic items exist to increase both their ability to "channel" the power, and their skill in doing so. 

There are also some interesting sections about dealing with the impacts of adventurers in previously underutilized portions of a kingdom, as Elyane has to deal with the Black tower being constructed in one part of Andor, and the possible secession of another portion, as the Two Rivers becomes more important.  This could be useful in a game where the heroes are starting to set up their strongholds, or try to subvert the power of the state for their own ends.

Now I am well into Citadel of the Autarch, book four of the Book of the New Sun.  Interestingly, Al, of Beyond the Black Gate has a recent post about the Book of the New Sun here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Appendix N, and Reading

As part of this whole "D&D kick" I have been on lately, I have been reading quite a bit about this history of the game.  One of the things I have learned about is Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading from the first Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide, which is a listing of inspirations for the D&D game itself.  Looking through the list, I have read some, but certainly not all of the books and authors listed.  I clearly need to rectify that.

The first book I read from Appendix N, was Tales of the Dying Earth, a compilation book of the various Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance.  Dying Earth here means a far future where Sol is creeping up to Red Giant in size, the Earth is different than currently, and humanity has changed as a result of millions of years of evolution and history.  Magic has been learned, and various magical items/technological relics are common. 

The book is comprised of two short story collections, and two novel length adventures of one character.  The stories themselves feel quite a bit like traditional fairy tales, and wits are typically the way to solve conflicts.  The stories are packed with instances of the clever hero tricking the villain (or the anti-hero tricking the good person).  Most of this volume is concerned with "Cugel the Clever", a lazy, greedy sort of hero, who none-the-less manages to succeed despite a number of setbacks over the course of two novels.

Where this book fits into the creation of D&D is fairly easy to see.  The magic system of the Dying Earth is essentially the one used for D&D, difficult spells in another language, spells have to be memorized, and limited ability to memorize.   The D&D naming convention for spells seems to come from this as well, with spells called "name's adjective noun" [e.g. Finneous's Flaming Fireball].  Indeed the D&D magic system is sometimes called "Vanican" in reference to Jack Vance.  Magical artifacts too could be said to come from this book, as they are common, powerful, and sometimes random in nature in similar ways to D&D artifacts.

In any case, a very interesting book to read, although perhaps more so as a window into early D&D than on its own.

Now as an interlude from reading Appendix N material, I am on to Towers of Midnight, the 13th  book in the Wheel of Time series [now over 11,000 pages!].  The books are now written by Brandon Sanderson, as Robert Jordan has died.  Pretty interesting thus far. The Wheel of Time is not very D&D in conception, although it does have great artifacts to search for, a number of political entities, and other things which could be useful for world building. [and WotC apparently created a d20 rulebook for the setting as well].  I will post a bit more about that when I am finished (tonight?).

Next comes the final segment of the Book of the Long Sun, Citadel of the Autarch, and after that is Three of Swords, a collection of the first stories of Fafhrd and Grey Mouser.  Looking forward to it!

All of this is happening concurrently to reading the Lord of the Rings aloud to my son while he goes to sleep.  So, plenty of reading going on lately.