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Monday, 30 June 2014

UN-Cracked Monday: The Hippos of the Amazon

Today, an article that won't be so much controversial (as my usual Monday fare) but absolutely fascinating.  There are now possibly 90 hippos or so left in the Amazon.

Except, of course, if you know your zoology, this isn't some greenpeace plea to save the Amazonian Hippo from extinction; because there should be ZERO hippos in the Amazon.  Hippos are not native to South America. 

Soon, however, there might be; they were literally "left" in the Amazon following the fall of Columbian Drug Lord Pablo Escobar, and have apparently begun to thrive in the river, which has all of the benefits and none of the disadvantages of their native environment.  There's a very good chance, if they're not put under control, that if over the last 20 years they've multiplied at such an astounding rate, they could end up some day spreading out all over the region.

It's a crazy story. Check it out.


Currently Smoking: Winslow Crown Cutty + Gawith's Crowley's Best

Sunday, 29 June 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Qelong

This is a review of the LotFP adventure/sourcebook Qelong, written by Kenneth Hite.  The book is a softcover in the standard smaller-size format LotFP likes to use; it's about 50 pages long, with a very good full-color cover featuring some people in a flooded village fleeing from some fishmen, and it features some nice black & white interior illustrations, plus a particularly nice full-color fold-out hexmap.

When you hear the name "Kenneth Hite", you kind of expect something unusual; so it shouldn't be surprising that when it came to writing up an adventure for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, he'd have chosen to go with an "exotic" setting, in the sense that Qelong doesn't take place in the standard European-Fantasy milieu that most LotFP adventures are very much set in.  Instead, Qelong is set in a kind of Southeast-Asian environment, or as the back-cover puts it "a barely legendary land far to the southeast".  It is set up so that you can theoretically run it just fine playing your standard characters, however; the book almost assumes the PCs will be outsiders to the place.

Mind you, Qelong is not a standard "southeast Asian adventures" book (if indeed there is such a thing); what I mean is that it's not just set up as a kind of Siamese equivalent of Arrows of Indra. Instead, in a token of Hite-weirdness, Qelong is a small land that has for quite some time now been suffering the crossfire effects of an epic battle between two godlike beings happening "in the skies" above the land (or in the area past the mountains to the north).  For the most part, more information about the beings themselves is fairly limited; they're beyond the scope of play.   What is important bout them is that this war has been going on for a generation or more now, and has altered the very environment of Qelong; especially recently when an incomprehensible artifact fell to earth like a misfired shell from the celestial conflict, and began to radically poison the entire land.

So Qelong is a sandbox setting (I would call it a micro-setting; too small and too single-focused to be viable as a full-blown setting on its own, but perfect for "fitting into" a larger world), but more importantly it's a "sandbox with a mission".  The land is slowly being destroyed by this "misfired shell", and the default premise of the book is that the player characters would be there to try to find this object and defuse it, making use of a spell scroll provided to them that would send the object back from whence it came, to the other side of the mountains where the two godlike-entities are fighting.
Note that there's no pushy element to all this, there's no reason that you couldn't run Qelong with the PCs trying to accomplish something totally different, or nothing at all.  Hite provides explanations of other motivations, particularly for Chaotic or Neutral characters, to be in Qelong in spite of the danger.  There are plenty of Super-magical byproducts of this divine conflict that, if they could be harnessed, might be of immense power and value to mere mortals.

The environment of Qelong is accurately reflected in terms of game mechanics to show off the harshness of the region, particularly toward outsiders.  Weather and disease are meant to be important elements of adventuring there (and the game includes rules for both typhus and the plague!). But there's a further hazard, which is the material that the artifact (called "The Cylinder") is leaking into the environment (a kind of magical radioactivity called "Aakom").  It's some seriously harsh stuff, that at its best ends up gradually destroying anyone who has prolonged exposure to it; but beyond that it can also cause grave spell misfires for magic-users, and can generate spontaneous curses (as kind of 'mutations'). The presence of Aakom is what turns any adventuring in the setting into a kind of race against time, and a serious resource-management game to try to hold at bay the effects of the Aakom poisoning during the time spent in Qelong. There are also descriptions and encounters of unusual terrain types found in Qelong: things like canals, lotus fields, and the river; plus more setting-specific stuff, like the trail left by an army of mutant bugmen-warriors that are soldiers in the cosmic battle (who, like The Cylinder, got misdirected and are now wreaking havoc over the land).  There are random encounter tables by terrain type for the coasts, forest, hills, mountains, rice paddies, plains, the river valley, swamps, and villages.
There's also specific encounter areas keyed to the map, including (naturally) the Cylinder itself.

There is, as to be expected, a very good selection of monsters and opponents, most of which are culturally-related; including angry ghosts, the aforementioned bugmen (myrmidons), naga (and their ruler, the Naga Qelong, which is the demigoddess spirit of this land, awoken by the current strife), and others.
One thing of interest is the inclusion of Monks, done in a fairly LotFP-style; though it is explicitly stated that the intention is for these monks to be a strictly NPC class, not for player characters.   I think that's sort of a wasted opportunity; however, any GM worth his salt could use the material here to make a viable PC monk class of their own.

The book has some very useful features, including a large rumour table, and a random name table reminiscent of the ones I used in my own Arrows of Indra, to help out those who would otherwise be at a loss for naming conventions (unlike the ones in AoI, however, these tables do not include the names' meanings). Finally, there's a couple of new spells (one of which is specifically connected to The Cylinder, being the means to send it away from Qelong; the other being an LotFP version of "Stick to Snake").

So we can sum up what Qelong is, and what it isn't:  Qelong is NOT a direct parallel to any specific or authentic part of Southeast Asian history, much less mythology.  It doesn't try to be though; it lists its influences as including "Apocalypse Now".  In other words, it is trying to literally be "Fantasy Fucking Vientam".
So if you're looking for something very authentic in terms of the reproduction of history or culture, you're better off looking elsewhere. I'd suggest Arrows of Indra.

On the other hand, Qelong undoubtedly IS a fascinating micro-setting; it certainly is full of intensity, danger, weirdness, and an exotic flavor (that while certainly not being historically authentic, it definitely is inspired by Southeast Asia).  It is full, in other words, of the kind of stuff one would by now expect from Kenneth Hite if you are familiar with his works, and he certainly doesn't fail to deliver the goods in a neat and very appealing package.

Finally, for those who are old-school gamers but who have no interest in playing this setting out of the box, you could undoubtedly make use of a great deal of the material in here for other campaigns.  As I read it, I thought about how it could even work for providing inspirational material for the "Golden Lands" area beyond the map of my own Arrows of Indra setting.

So in all, a very worthwhile product.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Brebbia No. 7

Saturday, 28 June 2014

On Cynical Dungeons as a Substitute for Real Creativity

I'm about to rush out to watch the game (Uruguay/Colombia), but before that I wanted to post so you'd all know I still live (see my entry for yesterday if you're wondering why I might not have been).

Yesterday I commented on a comment thread about an article someone had written on the "negadungeon", which is to say a dungeon or general adventure (often exemplified by the works of James Raggi & LotFP) where the point is all but to murder the player characters, where everything is a trap or a trick, where it is (most crucially) a set up so that the player's own actions end up causing them to unleash the terrible problem (instead of the standard dungeon, where the PCs go in to SOLVE the problem).  And it is usually a dungeon with very high mortality and incredibly little reward, the reward often also screwing over the PCs somehow.

Now James Raggi is a very good writer, one of this best in this genre is Death Frost Doom. I've run it twice: in the first case, it did indeed unleash a zombie apocalypse, which I later had the players help to avert with a Cleric army.  The second time I ran it, the player characters figured out that things had been sealed up for a reason, and decided to go home without entering; naturally, I gave them the total XP for all the monsters and treasures found in the dungeon, because in this case they DEFEATED the undead army by not entering at all in the first place.   The players were very happy with the xp, but they also thought that it was a "retarded" adventure, because what's the point of a dungeon where the best possible thing you can do is not go in?

What's the point indeed?  I had an argument on said thread yesterday with James Raggi about this, and highlighting the difference between the particular kind of "weird fantasy" he likes, and the "dark heroic" fantasy I like and use in Dark Albion.

The "negadungeon" is hip right now, but in ACTUAL PLAY its something that gets old really fast.

Perhaps more importantly, in terms of design, it's always a lot easier (and actually far less clever than its authors think) to make something "against type" seem kind-of-interesting than to make something traditional turn out really interesting.

There are 'negadungeons' which are very clever; but there's a strong element of hipsterism to the obsession with them.  In a way, the competition to create ever more pointless fucked-up adventures where PCs only ever get screwed over has become its own meta-negadungeon, a trap those authors who are fans of the concept can't seem to find their way out of; kind of like being ironic for so long you never know if you ever actually mean anything anymore.

And at least James Raggi is a decent writer; god help you when you get a negadungeon by someone more mediocre.

Anyways, they're fine in small doses, but if you live in a "negadungeon world" then the whole becomes swiftly tedious.  I guess that's the difference between Raggi's nameless pseudo-europe and my own Dark Albion (which he declined to publish because it wasn't "weird" enough in the sense of fitting his own definition of that word; but I suspect also because it wasn't cynical or ironic enough).  Now its going to be published by and in collaboration with Dominique Crouzet (Fantastic Heroes & Witchery).
It will feature many barrows, tombs, goblin warrens, etc., which should probably stay sealed, or better yet lost, made by the ancient Cymri (the first men) or the Fae themselves; but places that will be opened because those who defeat the terrible evils therein will also gain fame, glory and the favour of the Unconquered Sun.

Yes, these places will be full of unspeakable horrors: things man was not meant to know, like wraiths, or goblins --  and see, that's the thing too, the difference: the cynical-set wants to make a "tentacle-eyestalk-thing infused with the spirit of collective despair" into something really scary and inhuman for PCs...  I want to make an Elf into something really scary and inhuman for PCs.  There's a very big difference in that.

 I think that its possible get so stuck on this kind of cynical idea of design that you really miss out on what is the bigger challenge.  It's a bit like that time on the Simpsons that Lisa pointed out that while Smashing Pumpkins might be a good band, making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel.    Its less 'hip' but takes far more genius to make a song that is actually good and will also make teenagers feel optimistic.
Likewise, any idiot can make a bad traditional adventure. It is also easy for anyone of mediocre talent to make a mediocre "anti-traditional adventure".  It might take someone who's fairly talented to make an actually great "anti-traditional adventure".  But it takes a fucking genius to make a really great traditional adventure.

Making a cynical and pessimistic dungeon or adventure that:
a) screws over players and demands moral ambiguity of the PCs, while it features
b) some twisted tentacle-creature or whatever
is certainly something that can be done better or worse; Raggi generally does it well.. but it's still a lot LESS clever than figuring out how to make an adventure about
a) good (having a meaningful chance of) triumphing over evil and
b) where the PCs can (have a reasonable chance of) coming out the triumphant victors (whether morally ambiguous or otherwise as they so desire) that
c) at the same time doesn't seem corny or rehashed, and that figures out a way to
d) make a goblin (or any other archetypal monster the players have seen a thousand times) into the central and fearsome featured enemy.

I can't help feel that, in some sense, the fans of negadungeons don't technically actually TRUST Old-School gaming (and its archetypal concepts and virtues) to be any good; or at least trust themselves to be any good at doing it. That's why they need to twist it around with cynicism and irony.


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Perique

Friday, 27 June 2014

I'm About To Unwisely Piss Off a Lot of Uruguayans...

Ok, here's the deal. If you don't see a blog entry tomorrow, it may mean something very unsavory has happened to me.

Or as they call it in the rest of the world outside North America: football (or in Latin America: "fuuuuboool").

Even those of you who have zero interest in the World Cup, even if you agree with Ann Coulter's recent screed against the "beautiful game", you have probably by now heard of the scandal that went down in Uruguay's latest world cup game (against Italy). But to recap, a guy named Luis Suarez... well, not just "a guy"; actually, probably the best soccer player in the world right now...  ended up BITING an Italian player.

Biting, if you haven't guessed, is not allowed in world cup soccer.

There was no good reason for him to do this.  Did I mention he's probably the best soccer player in the world right now? He actually scored both stunning goals in the game before this one, against England (effectively destroying its world cup hopes).  But bite he did; and at the time, the ref didn't see it. But it was enough of a bite that it left a mark, and the video footage was pretty much unmistakeable.

And yesterday, FIFA (the association that governs world cup football) gave him a nine-game ban.

Uruguayans were OUTRAGED.  Everywhere I have been hearing about how wrong it was that he will have to miss the entirety of the rest of the World Cup, that this could effectively ruin Uruguay's chances, that its a massive act of injustice.... only, perhaps it bears mentioning that this is actually the THIRD TIME that Suarez has bit another player in mid-game.

So what happened when he returned to Uruguay? Did he slink back home in disgrace, his tail between his legs, trying to avoid angry mobs out to stone him for having potentially ruined Uruguay's world cup hopes?

No. He was greeted by two thousand adoring fans, waving flags and cheering for him.  Even the President was there to greet him, like he was a conquering hero. President Mujica stated that FIFA should be ashamed; not Suarez, note, but FIFA should be ashamed for their judgment against him.  He claimed that it was a conspiracy and there is no justice in the FIFA, that it is an association for rich and powerful countries against small countries like Uruguay and on Diego Maradona's Argentinian TV show (Diego Maradona, by the way, was the best soccer player of his generation, but won his country the world cup by cheating with a hand-ball) Mujica implied that it was revenge against Uruguay for eliminating England and Italy "which must have cost them a lot of money".

This is not an isolated sentiment. Uruguayans en masse believed, even before all this, that FIFA has it in for them, that they often rig games and the entire tournament against Uruguay because they never want Uruguay to have a chance to win the cup. Conspiracy theories abound.

Now, to be fair to Uruguayans: there is absolutely no question that FIFA undoubtedly IS corrupt.  As John Oliver points out in the link, they're not only corrupt, they're utterly blatant about their corruption.  But it's quite a stretch from there to say that they specifically have it in for Uruguay.

And do I need to mention again, that this is the THIRD TIME Suarez has, in a fit of pique we consider unjustifiable behaviour even from toddlers, BIT another player?

Once every four years, I get obsessed with football.  I love the world cup. And I desperately want Uruguay to win.  The celebrations in the last world cup, when Uruguay did the best it had done in 40 years, was just amazing, and it literally changed this country.  Uruguayans became optimistic, not just about soccer but about everything, in a way they never had been before.  There was a sense that the country could do anything after that, and I think it has seriously and permanently altered the social fabric of this nation, having seen it both before and after the last world cup.    Nothing would make me happier than if Uruguay once again became champions of the world in the historic Maracana Stadium (not least of which, because it would psychologically destroy Brazil, since Uruguay beat them there the last time they hosted the finals, in 1950, and they never totally got over it).

But there is clearly a culture clash here.   In another country... that is to say, an anglo-saxon country (among others), a guy like Suarez would be the brunt of shame and infamy now. He'd be pilloried. He'd be unable to show his face in public, instead of waving cheering crowds from his balcony like he was a national hero. This moron, who had everything going for him, who had the luck to be born with an incredible (and incredibly profitable) talent, and the benefit of having people who noticed that talent and helped him nurture it until he was able to do with that ability something that even other professionals, even other titans of the sport, can only dream of, pisses it all away because he can't control his childlike temper; and now he's being told by an entire country that what he did was somehow right in a way, and those who are punishing him for it are wrong.

What kind of example does that send Uruguayan children, who adore and look up to this guy as their hero?

I'll accept that you can argue what you want about the severity of the sanction (it was the most severe sanction given in the world cup in its entire history; and even the Italian player who was bitten felt it was too extreme in that he is not even allowed to be physically present to stand by his team-mates in the rest of the world cup games), but to treat this neanderthal as though he was the good guy in all this is a sign of a serious cultural disorder.

Whatever you think, Uruguayans, of how fair or unfair FIFA was, of how corrupt they might be, this situation WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING if Luis Suarez hadn't decided to bite another player on the field for the third fucking time.

I feel bad, but not for Suarez; I feel bad for the rest of the Uruguayan team and what this costs them.  I still hope Uruguay's team will be able to get through this to play that final game and bring home the cup that everyone here has been dreaming about for 64 years.


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Volcano + Brebbia No. 7 Mixture

Thursday, 26 June 2014

DCC Campaign Update

In this week's adventure the PCs went on a long overland trek to:

-Find the Gemstone River, where nary a gemstone was found.

-Bypass the Smug Elves' dome.

-Burn a magical feather-boat, to magically create a boat that was slightly too large to navigate the river.

-Find that in spite of not being programmed for aquatic service, Bolt-O the robot makes a decent gondolier.

-Float past a purple-mutant barbarian village to an unfriendly reception.

-Leave the purple mutants confused as to whether a boat with a cloud of darkness was actually a demon or not.

-Discover that at least one purple mutant wanted to cast magic missile at the darkness, but could not, because he was not a wizard.

-Encounter a living tree (a "Trent"), who collected potions.

-Discover that apparently all Trents enjoy collecting curios of some sort or another.

-Realize that camping outside the boat runs the risk of Kobold marauders trying to steal your boat in the night.

-Get some serious Divine Aid overkill when G.O.D. turned a significant part of the river to a block of solid ice to "make sure the kobolds couldn't get away".

-Learn that being stuck in a block of slowly-melting ice for much of the day leaves you vulnerable to a massive orc attack.

-Note that casting darkness on your boat may confuse purple mutants, but does nothing to dissuade orcs.

-Find that at least one orc wanted to cast magic missile at the darkness, and was indeed a wizard, but could not, because he took a arrow through the heart (from Uhm, the Psychic Red Mutant Caveman) before he could pull it off.

-Nod with wisdom at how what Divine Aid causes, Divine Aid can cure.

-Realize that "scorching ray" does not do well against drenched orcs.

-Leave behind a perfectly good boat when the river turns.

-Note with confusion that the "wasted lands" are actually a fairly lush verdant plain.

-Learn that the "wasted lands" may be called that because of an overabundance of very hostile humanoids.

-Learn that on the other hand, its also possible that the "wasted lands" may be called that because of the preferred vices of the Beach Giant Chiefs.

-Take zoological record of the fact that Imp Familiars are a favored food of Giant Prarie Owls.

-Encounter a particularly tough horde of dog-faced humanoids.

-Discover that when imploring G.O.D., a "burn the heretics" mentality seems more effective than a "help me to show them the righteous path" mentality.

-Finally reach the Bungalow of the Beach Giant Chiefs, only to have to pause there, with almost a month to wait until the next session. Damn.


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Perique

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Arrows of Indra: Quick Overview of the Bharata Kingdoms

The following is a quick review of the various human kingdoms of the Arrows of Indra setting.  To recap, the world of the setting is called “Jagat”, the particular region is known as “The Bharata Kingdoms”, which are a group of kingdoms all relatively connected by race and culture.

So, roughly speaking from west to east you have:
Gandara Kingdom: Insanely ancient mountain kingdom; the bharata people came into the region from here.  Necropolises and Naga cities.

Madra Kingdom: rough and tumble western kingdom, don’t follow all the same traditions. Bandits, frontier lands, Naga cities and Demon cities.

Bahlika Kingdom: backwater western kingdom, almost barbarian.

Kuru Kingdoms: a powerful kingdom now split in two by a succession crisis. Home of the Kauravas and Pandavas, rival cousins who are some of the greatest heroes of Jagat.

Matsya Kingdom: a quiet kingdom a bit to the south, tranquil and prosperous.

Mathura: a city state ruled by a usurper that has been turned into a place of evil.  the king’s nephew and true heir to the throne, Krishna, plans to liberate it and slay his tyrant uncle.

Panchala: Another kingdom split in two, this one after a civil war between two best friends; one a king, the other a priest (and the greatest strategist in the world).

Kichaka: A city-state, the king here has turned unholy and is said by some to be possessed.

Kosala Kingdom: once the largest and mightiest kingdom in human history, its glory days were thousands of years ago; now it has split into many principalities, and is in danger of being overrun by the upstart Maghadan Empire.  Still the epicenter of civilization, full of ancient secrets and mysteries.

Kunti and Avanti kingdoms: two kingdoms on the southward trade route. Frontier places on the edges of civilization.

Southern Kosala and Vidarbha: the lands to the south of the riksha mountains, far away from civilization; settled by colonists from the Kosala kingdom when it was at the height of its power. Gateway to the massive Dandaka jungle and its monkey-kingdoms and demon-ruins.

Maghadan Empire: The new up-and-coming powerhouse. Ruled by a favorite of Shiva, said to be able to regenerate any wound, the empire is spreading out and conquering through submission or war every other land in its path.  Its ruler wishes to be emperor of the world.
Videha Republic: an ancient mountain land of seers and sages, now conquered by Maghada.

Ceda Kingdom: a vassal state of the Maghadan Empire, ruled by a wicked and degenerate ruler.

Anga Kingdom: another vassal state of the Empire, ruled by Karna, the greatest warrior in the world, said to be the son of the Sun-God himself.

Dwaraka: Far to the west and south, an island kingdom of rich seafarers. A mystical place of one thousand temples.

I think that’s the lot of them; hope that fires up your sense of imagination for what the game is like!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Rattray’s Marlin Flake

(originally posted April 23, 2013, on the old blog)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Apologies to American Readers, who may not get What This is About


(also, careful Group C winner: apparently, we bite!)

Monday, 23 June 2014

Cracked Monday

Today: a surprisingly good article about "Check Your Privilege" on Cracked.   I really do crack up at those people who try to pretend with a straight face that using the term "privilege" is meant to do something other than Frankfurt-School Us-vs.-Them, and "check you privilege" is meant to in any way be productive for anything other than saying 'shut up, you don't even get to talk, and i don't have to actually refute any of your arguments with logic or even rhetoric'.


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia

Sunday, 22 June 2014

OSR-Fundamentalist Ironically Proves My Point

After yesterday's blog entry, a certain blogger by the name of "Venger Satanis" (who I think may be the guy I previously mentioned as one of those who not only thinks Cthulhu is real, but worthy of worship; and no, I'm not kidding here, this is his "church" website) decided to try to explain to me in gentle terms that the reason that even though James Maliszewski had referred to himself as "OSR Taliban", I am not allowed to use those words because, and keep in mind I'm quoting the idiocy here: "I liken this to certain African American individuals who call themselves or each other the N-word."

You see, OSR guys are like ganstas who can call themselves Taliban, but I can't. Wait... why can't I? Because, according to Venger, I'm not actually OSR: "you're considered an outsider, RPGPundit.  Hardly any OSR gamers consider you one of us.  That means you don't have the tribal rights to throw that phrase around without consequences."

So wait, apparently Venger is saying that its offensive that I talk about the existence of an "OSR Taliban" but at the same time he declares I'm not "Old school" enough to be in the OSR? Isn't that just proving my point?!

I mean shit, what do I need to do to be "old school enough" for OSR?
I WROTE an old-school OSR game.
I wrote an earlier old-school game too, but it was pretty well ignored by the OSR because that was at the height of clonemania and it was when the Taliban ruled that anything that wasn't just a slavish copy of specific D&D editions was unwanted.

I've posted at enormous lengths about my several old-school campaigns, including an RC D&D campaign which started at level 1 and ended 5 years later or so with the pcs at level 36; after starting on a 60-hour marathon and being run for 10 hour weekly sessions after that.  That was back when JMal hadn't yet "discovered" that he wasn't actually a White Wolf Swine at all, and had secretly been an Old-school fanatic all along now that he would get more attention doing that than he would continuing to shit all over class-based systems (like he did in his earlier writing before discovering he was an old-schooler).

I could have been writing long fatwas about interpretations of specific bits of the Gygaxian Hadith too, but you know, I was too busy ACTUALLY RUNNING OLD-SCHOOL CAMPAIGNS for the last two decades while he was wearing makeup and pretending to be a vampire.
And have continued to do so now: two of the three campaigns I run weekly are Old-school games, for both of which I've posted regular and extensive play report material, for one of which I'm now converting to a major OSR commercial product with the writer of FH&W.

So please, tell me motherfucker, what do I have to do to be "in" the OSR? Say: "There is no God but Gygax and JMal is his prophet"?  Suicide-bomb a 5e thread?

So thanks, Venger, for being extremely helpful at proving my point about how there is a group within the OSR that are exclusionary and fundamentalist when someone with my credentials can be casually dismissed as an "outsider".

I see now how it's not appropriate for me to talk about the OSR-Taliban because the guys who call themselves the Taliban declared I'm not actually OSR. Funny how that works.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Post-Masonry Thoughts on the OSR

I'm just so exhausted from all the masoning that I lack the strength to write up a full blog entry.  For that matter, I lack the time, since my duties include attending a Masonic lunch today, and later I'll be paganing it up a notch with a solstice ritual with The Wench (who was for some reason unimpressed at the suggestion she would now have to call me "worshipful master").

So for today a brief thought that's come out of the whole "OSR Taliban" conflict; you know, the one where people who have themselves proudly proclaimed themselves "OSR Taliban" in the past, or adore and support those who have, are suddenly outraged that I would point out that an OSR Taliban exists.

Here's my thought for the day: The OSR I love is not the OSR that is a "reaction AGAINST" modern play but a "reaction FOR" old-school play.

I think, actually, that sums up the key difference between groups of the OSR, between the enthusiastic and creative OSR, and the OSR-Taliban.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Friday, 20 June 2014

Thursday, 19 June 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Blackmarsh

This is a review of the setting book “Blackmarsh”, by Robert S. Conley.  It's published by Bat in the Attic Games; and I’m reviewing the print edition, which has a colour cover (though the centerpiece of the cover is a black and white hexmap) and black and white interiors.  The cover is very clearly as much an Homage to Greyhawk as the name “Blackmarsh” is to Blackmoor; the cover clearly copies the covers of the old Greyhawk setting books, with a central hexmap and numerous heraldic shields all along the borders (sadly, the heraldry is not explained or referenced in the book itself). The interiors feature a few small illustrations and a few really amazing maps, of the sort anyone familiar with Rob Conley’s work is used to (a note of bias here: Conley was the artist responsible for the frankly amazing setting maps for my own Arrows of Indra RPG).  The Blackmarsh setting is apparently included in the “Delving Deeper Box Set”.

Blackmarsh is Conley’s own “ready to run setting” that can be played on its own or put into a border region of one’s existing campaign.  Its very OSR-themed; the title is a direct evocation of Blackmoor, and the content has a great deal owed to Blackmoor, Greyhawk, and the Wilderlands.  The Blackmarsh setting is built around a bay, and the implication of the setting that it is a place where great empires once stood long ago but that is now a frontier region, with only a few outposts of civilization (making it easy to place in a border-area of one’s own campaign world). The setting is marked (some would say centrally defined) by a pre-historic event in the setting: “The mountain that fell”; a meteor that created an area of strange monsters, and more importantly a material called Viz.

Viz, we are told, is “pure magic” in physical form; it can be used to aid in the casting of spells or creations of items; one can use Viz to cast a spell without losing it from memory, though it gets consumed in the process.  The actual details for using this wonder-material are left quite sparse; do not expect lengthy or complex mechanics on Viz-use.

Apart from the introduction, one of the first things we get in the book is a great hexmap of the Blackmarsh region, advice for how to fit it into your existing campaign world and a cool “rumours” table, complete with true and false rumours.

After this you get a page and a half’s worth of geographical descriptions; and then several dozen “locale” descriptions (keyed to numbered hexes on the setting map); these are locations of preset encounters, of ruins, lairs of major creatures (a female black dragon and her offspring, for example), communities (complete with population, race, alignment, ruler info and resources, as well as descriptions), terrain hazards, and other such things.

There’s also a map and full description of Castle Blackmarsh and its town environment; complete with keyed locations of particularly interesting places, like inns, adventuring societies, the magic store, and temples.

The whole book is only 15 pages long, but its quite complete as a small setting.  The keyed hex-descriptions set up the environment for a sandbox game, and there’s plenty of encounters and interesting details in the product to keep an old-school adventuring group busy for quite a while; though of course there’s plenty of room left over in the setting-region for the GM to add his own adventures and locales.

All in all, Blackmarsh is an excellent setting book that hearkens back to some of the best details of settings like Blackmoor or the Wilderlands; its the kind of supplement material that any old-school gamer would be glad to get.  If you’re less familiar with the old-school aesthetic, you might find the structure of the setting fairly odd though I’m sure that within the content you’d be able to find more than a few useful ideas.  The only thing I could really say that’s “bad” about it is that, like with some of Conley’s other works, the brevity of it all leaves me wanting more.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

(originally posted April 17, 2013; on the old blog)

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Working On Dark Albion

Today I'm going to cut this blog entry short, because I'm starting serious work on preparing my Dark Albion setting to be released as a commercial product!

Yes, at long last, I've found a viable partner in the form of Dominique Crouzet, the author of the OSR game "Fantastic Heroes & Witchery", a mammoth tome of old-school rules that has generated quite a lot of buzz (and that I will be reviewing in a while).  Crouzet approached me a couple of weeks ago, and since then we've been planning and organizing, and Dark Albion will eventually be much-expanded from the basic form currently found on theRPGsite.  Crouzet will not only be publishing Albion but will be contributing material as a collaboration with me on the book.

The commercial version of Dark Albion will include some really amazing maps, excellent art and production, and all-new material, including:

-A complete Chronology of the Rose Wars
-A complete detailed list of significant NPCs, Yorkist and Lancastrian, and noble houses
-New Rules and setting-specific modifications to old-school play
-Expanded details on some of the important areas of the setting (including rules on firearms, poisons, alchemy, character backgrounds, and social status, among others)
-Guidelines on how to run a variety of different games in Albion, including campaigns focused on adventuring in the frontier regions, court intrigues, and warfare.
-Expanded information on the Church of the Unconquered Sun and the Clerical Order
-Expanded information on The Continent, including Frogland and the various other nations of the mainland.
-Some really excellent rules and tables on encounters
-And, no doubt, much more!

The book will be designed to be system semi-neutral, intended to be easily used in any OSR or older-edition D&D rule set, and relatively easily convertible to later-edition D&D and other fantasy RPGs.  There will also likely be an appendix for running Albion specifically with FH&W.

So stay tuned for more information as work proceeds on this.


Currently Smoking: Dunhill Shell Diplomat + C&D's Crowley's Best

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Guidebook To The City of Dolmvay

(NOTE: I'm editing this to add that the Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay is FREE to download as a PDF, so you may want to check it out and make up your own mind)

This is a review of the RPG sourcebook "Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay", written by Peter C. Spahn, published by Small Niche Games.  The book is a 210-page softcover, written theoretically for Labyrinth Lord, but obviously usable directly by any older D&D edition; and because a considerable portion is system-neutral it could theoretically be used in any fantasy RPG.

Dolmvay was apparently the product of a Kickstarter campaign, which speaks to the fandom either Spahn as a writer or his game setting in particular has.  I suspect the former; Spahn's adventuring material has been consistently good and occasionally brilliant ("Inn of Lost Heroes" and "Blood Moon Rising" are particularly recommended).  On the other hand, while I've found his larger-scale setting material adequate (and occasionally clever and somewhat innovative, like with his "Ghoul Keep and the Ghoul Lands"), on the whole I feel that his setting stuff is just slightly too mundane to be really fascinating.  Dolmvay is no exception in this; its perfectly "O.K.", but there's nothing about it that hugely stands out to me.  Its a solid, but slightly pedestrian, fantasy city setting.

I should start by mentioning the cover art; in that I think some very unfortunate choices were made there.  The background of the cover features a (very awesome) map of Dolmvay itself. This, by itself, would have been a fine choice; but the effect is ruined by superimposing over it the image of three dudes, who I have come to call "The Three Beardos" on account that each has a fairly stupid-looking beard.  One is just a disembodied head wearing some kind of tiara; the other two are full-body drawings, the first of some kind of long-haired balding swashbuckler, the other of a guy in some kind of armor, with a cloak that looks like a white wolf's-head in what can only be considered some kind of dubious pseudo-medieval furry-cosplay.  Tiara-guy and cosplay-guy have goofy looking grins.

I'm not sure what the author was thinking; the style is kind of 'realist' (while being somewhat poor in quality) so it may be that these are people he knows (or Kickstarter backers?), but in any case artistically it just doesn't do it for me, it makes a very poor first impression.   I'll note on the other hand that the interior art is uniformly of good quality, particularly the maps and floorplans (but the rest of the art is quite good too, which makes the dubious choice of cover that much more of a mystery).

The default location of Dolmvay is the Amherth setting, which is Spahn's default setting, detailed in his Chronicles of Amherth book. Its a relatively vanilla setting, set up where humans are the dominant species, demihumans are somewhat rare, magic is uncommon (and distrusted), and the setting is set-up for low-level play (its rare to run into an NPC higher than 9th level).  Its thus neither grim-and-gritty nor high-fantasy.  The city's particular features are that it is quite ancient (featuring ruins and a vast underground network of sewers that serve as a kind of easy-access dungeon), the church of law is very powerful, and the noble houses engage in all kinds of power struggles. Its a port city and ostensibly a bastion of the forces of law and yet it has a thriving criminal underbelly and a lot of intrigue at all different social levels. There are various organizations pertinent to adventurers; first and foremost, the Adventurer's Guild.  Membership in the guild is obligatory for adventurers in the city. There are also specific sub-groups adventurers may wish to engage with: the Wardens (who are the city guard), the Company of the Wall (who are the only group legally allowed to adventure in a megadungeon known as the Great Valnwall, sadly not included in this product), the Knights of Mor (who are specialized in adventuring in the ruined city of Mor, also not included in the product), and the Gulf Sail Society (seaborne adventurers who adventure all over the Gulf of Valnwall).

As you can see, this is all very well and good, you have plenty of seed-material to run a variety of different types of campaigns, most of them D&D hallmarks, in the city of Dolmvay: scheming political campaigns, law vs. chaos campaigns, criminal underworlds, dungeon (or at least, sewer) crawling campaigns, etc.  You can even have maritime adventures. So let's check out how the product fleshes out this potential.

The chapter on ancient history gives a (by now) pretty standard litany about how this fantasy city is based on a hugely old set of ancient backstory: there was a golden age, and three great cities arose. One used tech-magic, and was destroyed by its own creations, a second was the city of Mor (mentioned above) which fell to ruins due to twisted magic, and the third was the city of Vay which fell to a civil war; but of course, much much later, a powerful duke built a new city over the ruins. This duke was the "Duke of Dolm", hence the city was named Dolmvay.  Other than providing backstory in which to set present ruin-diving adventuring there's not much of practical use in this (mercifully) short chapter.

The next few sections detail some of the standard elements of the city.  You have information on the government (a duchy with council), religion (one interesting detail is that as written, Dolmvay is a bit more medievalist than most D&D-settings, since it has a single monolithic church, the Church of Law and Order), crime and punishment (including a very useful list of punishments for various crimes), and commerce.  The calendar is covered with important feast days. You also have details of typical life in the city (which is pretty bog-standard medievalish), styles of dress, arms and armor (adventurers are allowed to carry weapons and armor on the streets, something I've never particularly liked, but that kind of fits the style of the setting); and then you have a table of 100 different pieces of gossip (some of which are listed as definitely true, some as definitely false, and some as left up to the GM).  There's also a list of common customary gestures, phrases, curses, and titular forms of address. The section on city layout details the architectural style of the city, its types of housing, street lighting (lamps in the richer neighbourhoods, shit out of luck everywhere else), water and sanitation (Dolmvay has an ancient sewer system after all), transport, walls and gates.  You get stats for typical members of the city watch and harbor watch, and the "Lawguards", who are the Cleric police of the church of Law. You also get provided the very nice city map that was the background for the cover before it got blocked by the Three Beardos.

All this and we're only about a tenth of the way into the book!

The next several sections deal with the specific neighbourhoods within the city.  Each section starts by giving broad information about the neighbourhood's location, the type of area it is (a slum, lower class, middle class, etc.), typical businesses found, guard presence, and important details to remember in general.  Then a few locations of note are detailed, and then several important local NPCs or factions (the NPCs are given background details and stats).  Most of these areas are very standard and typical; the Market district, for example, contains as locales the "market gate" (which, we are basically told, is a gate), the Dolmvay market (which is a "sprawling" market), the Inn of the Red Flagon (a tavern that's large and modern, with entertainments, good quality meals, and a specialty drink), the Pig Whistle (a pork slaughterhouse, where the pigs are kept in underground chambers, and whose owner is secretly a wereboar), the Painted Wheel (a wainwright's shop owned by a halfling), the Orphanage of St. Lucia (operated by the church, not well-maintained, currently undergoing reforms), the Open Temple (a curio shop specializing in foreign goods that very occasionally has a magic item or two for sale), and Trep's Footwear (a cobbler's shop; owned by a retired member of the thieves guild, who can make special thief boots on order that give a bonus to the "move silent" skill).
So, not bad, but nothing that really stands out as amazing adventure fodder.

Some of the NPCs or factions seem to largely be just flavoring, some are useful as contacts or to provide important services, and a tiny fraction appear to be set up for potential adventure seeds (like an assassin with orders to assassinate the Duke).  Again, however, little that leaves me truly amazed.
It is thorough, however; it covers about 50 pages.

We get a little bit of details about the places near to Dolmvay's surrounding environment (including some islands, which means that wisely the author didn't forget the maritime angle); and then details on other NPC factions of note: the King's army and navy (which are really only the Duke's, since there hasn't been a king around for a while now), knightly orders, mercenary companies, religious factions, the pagan druun cult, the church of chaos, organized crimes, demihuman groups, and then several NPCs that can't be linked to a single location or that are special enough to merit being placed here. This last list includes and "Eye of Terror" (beholder by any other name) that lives in the sewers, the aforementioned wereboar/butcher, a vampire, a female gold dragon posing as a rich moneylender, a wererat that plots against the city with his tribe (reminiscent of WFRP's skaven), a sea witch/troll living in the bay, an evil hag, and a doppelganger/assassin.

We also get a list/description of common shops and businesses, which literally include a butcher, baker and candlestick-maker. A significant part of this six-page chapter feels like filler to me.  Do we really need a paragraph devoted to describing what a candle-maker does, or a cloth merchant?  There's almost nothing of value here.

On the other hand, the chapter on Taverns and Inns is somewhat more useful, since its one of the sections most usable in general rather than just for this city in particular. There's lists of general quality levels of taverns, some special dishes and drinks found in Dolmvay, and then a set of general guidelines for how to design an interesting tavern/inn.  Finally, there's a list of 12 sample taverns.

The section on random encounters is also very decent, in line with the talent Spahn has shown in most of his adventure for making interesting random encounters that are more than just a statblock.  There's a table for each neighbourhood, and they vary from relatively standard encounters (a charming courtesan or a gang of halflings), to very special encounters that can form mini-adventures; for example, a nobleman running in fear for his life as he suspects he's being betrayed by his former bodyguards.

There's a chapter on new flora and fauna; the flora are herbs that can be used for a variety of purposes, some are for poison-resistance or healing, mild poison, but a couple are more interesting, like the vine that if untended makes it easier for thieves to climb walls, or the lichen that glows at the infravision spectrum. The fauna vary from animals (alligators are in there) to creatures unique to the Amherth setting (some of which have been previously detailed in adventures).  None of them are truly astounding.

The first appendix goes into more detail on the "Valenon", Dolmvay's very own Vatican city, a sovereign area within the city that is governed directly by the Church.  There's quite a lot of material here on church of law hierarchy, rituals, history, and politics, along with one new cleric spell, a handful of holy relics, and a list of the important Church NPCs (with stats, as usual).  There's a useful list too, of the church's Saints, with their aspects and symbol; these include "Saint Aleena" (the cleric from the Mentzer box set), and "Saint Klaus" who's the patron saint of "winter joy" and governs over the yule feast.  So in theory, you could be a cleric of the sainted order of Santa Claus...

The second appendix deals with the ins and outs of the Adventurer's Guild of Dolmvay; what they offer, what they cost, their super awesome island headquarters (really, not so much super-awesome as kind of silly), the opportunity to pay 1000gp for your party to go into their fully-stocked adventurer's dungeon.  It seems to me to be kind of nuts.  Worse, there's full floorplans and details about the Guild headquarters, even though there doesn't seem much of a point to me in having this so detailed, and not, say, a place the PCs would be more likely to actually have an adventure in (other than the dungeon level, of course). Finally, again we get a list of NPCs associated with the Guild.

The third appendix is far more promising, giving details on the vast sewer network under the city.  Here access is discussed, as is the nature of what is found at the different levels of the sewer system.  There's quite a lot of detail, including quite a lot of different hazards that can be found, and both "stock" and "detailed" encounter tables.  The former are just your standard monster or hazard, the latter are more detailed in the style Spahn is so good at writing; this latter category is divided by sewer level. Crucially, there are also several pages of full-page template layouts of sewer corridors and chambers, which can be photocopied or printed out, and then mixed and matched.

The fourth appendix is NPC Generation, which features random tables of common names and surnames for male and female NPCs as well as professions, and a d100 table of detailed personal quirks.  There's also rules for 0-level humans (and demi-humans), establishing them as baseline NPCs.

The fifth and last of the long line of appendices is on Treasures; and it starts with rules for picking pockets.  It also has some random tables for food, jewelry, precious metal, gems, and "interesting", "valuable" or "unwanted" items. There's also similar tables for "household treasure" (items you might find when robbing a home), including tables for clothing, furniture, books, common items, cosmetics, dinnerware, jewelry boxes, weapons and armor.  These last two appendices would be generally quite useful in any fantasy setting.

So what to conclude about the Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay?  Pete Spahn has certainly be thorough.  If you were looking for a very detailed and minutely attentive guide to this city in this fantasy world, you'll likely be well pleased. Of course, most readers of this review likely were not looking for that ahead of time.
So is the city really great in its own right? I'd have to say "no"; I would say its "OK" in its own right, its perfectly passable, but there's nothing about Dolmvay that makes me want to play it more than Port Blacksand, or Waterdeep, or any number of other fantasy cities.  Its not really unique in any sufficiently special way.
If not that, then what about the book's utility for cannibalization; is there stuff here that will be useful for general utility in other city settings?  In that sense, Dolmvay fares a bit better; there's certainly good stuff here that you could quickly rip off for your own fantasy city, or to borrow for any other vaguely medieval fantasy city. 

In the end, its impressive for its detail and dedication, but otherwise nothing to write home about.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Monday, 16 June 2014

Uncracked Monday: A Conservative Defense of Universal Income

Today, I present to you another typical left-leaning apologetic for Universal Basic Income. 

What I really can't get is why the Left is so enamoured of this idea that, if implemented in its basic and sane form, would destroy the need for overwhelmingly large bureaucracies of public employees they so love, would significantly reduce the size of government, and most importantly: would eliminate the entire moralistic basis for their class-warfare ideas. With UBI, they would no longer be able to claim that people who work would "owe" those who can't or don't anything.  What's more, at the same time, it would remove their excuse to allow them to socially-engineer the lower-classes into what they want those classes to be: no more "you get a juicy welfare cheque from the state if you do what we think is best for you...".  Instead, everyone would suddenly be gloriously free to do what THEY thought was best for them with the government's money, instead of what bureaucrats or social workers or liberal college professors or anyone else thought was best. 

And again, I continue to be astounded as to why the Right is so madly stupidly opposed to the idea.

Its a totally Libertarian concept.  Yes, it does involve the government; and for some ultra-libertarians, that's an instant no-go.  But we're never, ever, going back to the "good old days" where it would be acceptable for the poor to starve in the streets. 

So if we begin from the point of view that the government IS going to take tax money from you: what is the best way to then have that tax money redistributed? What's the most freedom-positive way possible?
Is it for a team of college-educated politically correct bureaucrats to use a bloated series of government agencies to decide who is "worthy" of that money because they fit the right demographics or have played the system in the right way?

Or is the better answer to FIRE 90% of the bureaucrats, DOWNSIZE all the government entitlement offices save for one very streamlined one; and then take all that money that was previously going to public employee salaries plus the dole money, divide it by the number of legal citizens, and then say "Ok, everyone gets this much", and its EXACTLY THE SAME AMOUNT, whether you're living in a box or living in a 50-room mansion? And then, each person gets to DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES how they spend that money: they can invest it in stocks, put it in the bank, buy a new car, start a small business, save it for the kids' college, quit their job and live off that money while being an artist or writer or musician, quit their job and live off that money while playing video games and eating chips, or blow it all in 3 days on hookers and beer.
And, and here's the crucial point: whatever you do with that money, AFTER ITS GONE SOCIETY OWES YOU NOTHING.

If you blow it in three days on beer and hookers, after that, its up to the church, or your friends, or private charities to help you; or you can go die in a gutter, because the taxpayer already gave you your fair share. You made a choice. YOU WERE FREE. Then you live or die by your own choices.  Some people could use UBI to get rich. Some might use UBI to live the life they want to live without fear. And some will waste their lives on UBI just like they're wasting their lives on welfare now.  But now its up to each individual, rather than the state, what they do with the public money.

That, to me, is the closest we can possibly get to Libertarian Utopia that is actually fair.

So seriously, conservatives, start changing your thinking on this.  We have to try to get this implemented before the progressives figure out it will ruin their entire thought-control collectivist scheme.
If you're a conservative, and I've convinced you (or you already agreed) please reblog this.


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Apple + Dunhill 965

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Arrows of Indra: Making Epic India more Epic

A while back I wrote a short description of how you could adapt Arrows of Indra to be an even more “indian” game in flavour; today, we deal with the other part of the “Epic India” equation, the “epic” part.

Some people have claimed that being an OSR-game, it would be very hard for an AoI game to really reflect the “epicness” of what you see in the Mahabharata and other indian Epics.  Keep in mind the following facts, however:

1. There are different power-levels in the different Indian epics.  The really old stories (about how Shiva takes down three floating cities, for example) deal with a power level that’s way out there; the power level of what would be the ancient history of the Bharata Kingdoms (the stories of the Ramayana) are also quite huge, the sort of thing that might be more suited to an Amber-based game than to D&D.  However, by the time the Mahabharata rolls around, things have calmed down a little.  You don’t see dudes blowing up cities with a single arrow, or catching the sun from mistaking it for a mango or the likes; instead, most of the characters in the Mahabharata are pretty well humans, albeit some that have some very superhuman abilities.
What you’re mostly talking about, in other words, are high-level characters.

2. There are of course things that happen in the Mahabharata that would be well beyond anything a regular high-level D&D PC would typically be capable of; but 99% of these are due to direct or indirect divine intervention.

So here’s the simple formula for making your AoI game more Epic:
First, start off the PCs at higher level. I personally love the D&D zero-to-hero formula, and think its the best way to go; but there’s nothing to stop you from skipping ahead to the high-power high-level play.  And AoI has tons of stuff in it (including the entire appendix) to support higher-level play.
Second, take note of the nature of things like the Celestial Weapons, and also of Divine Intervention.   IF you want to make the game especially epic, remove the “once per level” stipulation for Divine Intervention (I’d suggest leaving the other parts of the formula, however, including the idea of having to do divine tasks after obtaining divine intervention). I specifically included the Divine Intervention rules to allow people to add that crazy-ass stuff you sometimes see happening.  Most of the Celestial weapons are taken right out of the Indian myths.

So there you go; I would argue that high-level AoI play will be a very good mimic of the kind of action you see in the high-powered but still-human action of the Mahabharata.  Of course, people could argue that some other system might do it better (some of those people might even not be D&D-haters), but I think the kind of things you gain from the AoI system is worth the translation, personally.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

(originally posted April 13, 2013)

Saturday, 14 June 2014

RPGPundit Prophecies on the Impact of the Basic D&D PDF

Its important to understand, and thus for me to reiterate, that the D&D "basic" PDF is:

a) Not just a "quickstart" product. It is the complete core rules of D&D, which will be used as the sole basis for all future D&D products; it will contain everything you will ever need to use any future D&D adventure or sourcebook.

b) Not just an "SRD".  A system reference document for rules is very nice, but it's not set up to be used in play. The Basic D&D PDF will be a free pdf RULEBOOK, not a reference doc.  The intention is that people will certainly be using it to play D&D.

Some people accidentally or intentionally continue to mistake the Basic D&D PDF with either a 'quickstart' or an 'srd'.  Some people continue to wish to claim it is just a gimmick; many have said "sure, it has all the rules needed, and technically it might be true that you could 'play D&D without ever having to buy a rulebook'; but seriously, does anyone think people will actually PLAY D&D with just this product?"

So here I put my Prophet Hat on, and say that in fact, the answer is YES.

I predict the following will happen:

1) There will in fact be quite a few people who will play D&D using only the Basic PDF. Particularly old-schoolers or people who prefer a more basic style of game.

2) In fact, I predict that people will take the basic PDF and create modifications for it that are totally different from the 3 rulebooks.

3) People may form communities (or use existing ones) online to exchange such ideas and modifications.

4) We may very well end up seeing a bunch of 5e D&D Basic "Clones", or more accurately "mutants", which will take the core D&D Basic PDF rules and add and change them in weird and unexpected directions that the designers could never have envisioned.

5) This is less a prediction than a hope: if the above is true, and the people at WoTC have any brains, they'll actually ENCOURAGE all of this, and keep a close eye on what's created, to see what can be brought into the official product.  It may even be a way to look for talent.

So there you go.  Am I sure it will pan out that way? No. There's all kinds of things that could modify the situation; but if Wizards does everything right, and gamers being gamers, I expect that point 1 is extremely likely to occur, points #2-4 fairly likely.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Friday, 13 June 2014

Have I Come to Bury Dragonlance? Or Praise it?

Only a few weeks ago I wrote a review of an old-school book, Isle of the Unknown, where I trashed it as just about one of the worst old-school gaming products I'd ever seen (for good reason).  The author, Geoffrey McKinney, responded by a vicious retort that I didn't get it because I "wasn't a true old-schooler"; and then he used the absolute worst insult any OSR-guy could probably give: he called me a Dragonlance fan.

That's a sign of how low an opinion the old-school scene generally has of Dragonlance.  A guy who writes RPGs unapologetically featuring satanic child-rape and human sacrifice thinks that "dragonlance fan" is the absolute worst thing you can accuse someone of being.   But we forget sometimes that for the rest of the gaming world, Dragonlance was something of a success story; and there are people who look back on it fondly.  So much so, that this guy at the AV Club has written an article about how wonderful it was.

So are we wrong?  I mean, the original trilogy was a hugely best-selling set of novels; which sold better than quite a few of our beloved fantasy novels.  It made TSR millions.  But more importantly, it created a second wind for D&D; as much as for many of us the old basic box or the AD&D 1e manuals were our first great experience that drew us into the hobby, there is a whole generation for whom their gateway into D&D was Dragonlance. You can forgive them for looking back fondly at it.

Plus there was this guy:

As the essay does a good job of explaining, there was certainly a lot that young and often outcast teenage nerds could sympathize with in Raistlin.  These novels were hardly works of great literature, but they were also very far from pretentious dreck; if anything, they were archetypal dreck, really masterful at using all kinds of fantasy stereotypes that, importantly, were being used by old-school gamers all over the place.  Look at just about any Dragonlance character, and you can see a pastiche of a mix of characters that appear in (arguably better) novels from the DMG's Appendix N. 

There is in fact an argument to be made that Dragonlance was in many ways the culmination of the entire D&D experience up to that date.

But that argument is also incomplete, and thus ultimately wrong.  Because the conclusions Dragonlance reached ended up being the wrong conclusions on almost every level, and led the hobby in a troubling direction.

Dragonlance was a story first and foremost.  Thus, it convinced a generation of gamers that D&D was about "playing a story"; its modules were the worst kind of railroad ever.  And it began the trend in D&D (and other RPGs) where adventure modules stopped being about adventuring and started being about trying to tell a really clever literary tale.

Worse, as a setting, Dragonlance became all about adjusting to the developments of the novels.  Since the novels were so central, there was relatively little for PCs (who weren't Tanis or Tasslehof or whoever) to do.  The core of the action gets resolved by these literary characters in the novels; the PCs are stuck adventuring in the before or the after.  This infection quickly spread to just about every setting TSR would go on to produce.

And from a business perspective, it was that obsession with novels that ultimately destroyed TSR.  It created a situation where the production of novels (and the quick influx of cash created by successful novel sales) started to overshadow the actual RPG as a priority.  From the game perspective, this meant that almost all the game designers were also (usually frustrated) novelists and insisted on treating their rpg material as novel-substitutes.  Many of them were just waiting around for their chance to try to write their own trilogy.  From the perspective of the business as a whole, this ended up being TSR's doom, because many of these game designers were actually very shitty novelists; and the rush to produce reams and reams of TSR novels of increasingly dubious quality meant that the quick flush of cash from sales of successful novels turned into a quick plunge into debt from unsuccessful book returns.    As much as the original Dragonlance trilogy was a triumph, it ultimately destroyed TSR.

Fans from that era can still feel free to look fondly on those books or on those characters; but ultimately, it represented more clearly than any other single moment in D&D's history the start of the wrong-turn that was ultimately the fount of some of the worst ills in the hobby.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Thursday, 12 June 2014

DCC Campaign Update

In this weekend's adventure, the PC party came to the conclusion that:

-The village of outcasts under the Azure Tower was a fairly good place to spend a gap year.

-Unicorns are actually assholes; especially Lightning Unicorns.

-The Red Mutants don't mess around.

-The fundamental curse of the Brassiere of Femininity is that the clasp is really really difficult to get off.

-The Azure Order's Transmutation Lab facilities are second-to-none.

-It was a tough year to be a Cleric back in Arkhome.

-If you're a cleric who gets tortured by people everywhere you go, after a while you just start to assume its going to happen.

-The Eye Tyrants must be stopped.

-Only Grenoble the Pious, the greatest Cleric who ever lived, might be able to stop them.  Unfortunately he's lost somewhere in the outer dimensions, and would first need to be found, and possibly rescued, before he can call down divine aid against the Eye Tyrants.

-To do this, the team would need to find Anthraz the Destroyer, the greatest adventurer of all time, according to his reputation.

-Red Mutants may not mess around, but they're also definitely not fireproof.

-The Orc Hills are conspicuously absent of Orcs; it remains to be seen whether the Limitless Mountains have any limits.

-When you're facing down 90 Black Mutant Dervishes, its time to call for Divine Aid.

-When that Divine Aid takes the form of a Hologram of Anthraz, it means he probably does live up to his reputation.

-When Tiamat, who usually promises her faithful she'll send a dragon to help, makes it explicitly clear she will not be sending any dragons, that makes you pay attention.

-Even if your campaign-long wish is to grow dragon-wings, doing it when you're about to meet the human who single-handedly slaughtered more dragons in his life than you've eaten cheetohs is probably the worst possible time.

-No matter how much you might want to own Caliburn, the deadliest magical sword in the world; or a suit of Quantum Knight Plate Armor; its probably not worth having to fight the guy who won them in the first place, no matter how wizened and decrepit he might appear.

-Nor would it seem a good idea to try to steal some of his loot and run for it when he can casually dig out and freely give away a trapped Ifrit with a teleportation boon from under the nearest pile of huge diamonds.

-Anthraz sounds a little like Grandpa Simpson, if he was crossed with Dirty Harry.

-These days, Anthraz is mostly interested in playing checkers.

-When you hit level 10, there's really not much left to motivate you to go adventuring.

-While he fought back the Lord of the Dark Ones, murdered the Evil Dolphin King, defeated the Cult of Skaros, and wrestled a really large crocodile, Anthraz's greatest accomplishment may be his ability to spot a Brassiere of Femininity from a mile away.

-The temptation to have one last checkers match with his last surviving party-mate is almost enough to convince Anthraz to seek out Grenoble, but only if the PCs will first complete a quest to prove they aren't just "a bunch of dumb kids".

-If they have to fulfill a quest to satisfy Anthraz, the ultimate choice for the PCs is that while it might be easiest to slay the Peaceloving Dragon of Corannion Pass, the cost in terms of PC-dragon relations would be too high; and while stealing the Magic Wafer from the Cyborg Grandmother's Death Fortress is tempting, they already know that high-tech traps are extra-deadly. Thus, the wisest quest to embark upon will be to burn down the Bungalow of the Beach Giant Chiefs.

-When you're a Red Mutant who was charmed by someone with a Brassiere of Femininity, only to later encounter your charmer sans bra, everything you know about your life suddenly comes into question.

And the quote of the night? "DCC sure has taught us a lot about tolerance!"
There's a string of words that might never have been heard in that particular sequence before.

For the record, since some people have apparently been under the impression that the order of gender-variant wizards might be an insulting sort of mockery that's going on; its actually not. Yes, there's some funny elements to the Azure Order; if you haven't guessed already this is a campaign that is poking a bit of fun at everything.  However, the humor has never been at the expense of either gender identity or sexual orientation.  And in fact, the Azure Order are, thus far in the campaign, the only large-scale group that have been depicted as both:
a) unquestionably the good guys (their mission being to protect the weak and outcasts and oppose evil in all its forms)
b) at the same time actually both competent and powerful.  There's a reason the PCs have taken to hanging out with them; from what they've seen so far of a shitty post-apocalyptic fantasy world, the Azure Order are a shining light, even if things occasionally get a little "Portlandia" with them.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Golden Age Campaign Update

So in this weekend's ICONS game, set in August '44, we had the Nazi super-speedster Zyklon break out of prison and wreak havoc all over the eastern seaboard to try to slow the supply lines for the allied invasion of Europe.

A couple of new characters were mentioned, though not met personally by the PCs.

First off, the liberation of Paris brought the allied forces into contact with the French resistance, and particularly the mystery woman who was for years the bane of the german occupation forces:

Marie Laroche; the "Black Venus".

Meanwhile, Green Lantern faced off against the game-of-chance based crimes of The Gambler:

One wonders sometimes how "mentally ill guy who thinks he's an old southern poker player" can really pose a meaningful threat to "dude who has a power ring that lets him do anything he wants".

But there's no doubt that this other guy can pose a challenge; its technically not the first time he appeared in the campaign (because he appeared in a time-travel adventure once) but this is the first official appearance of Green Lantern's toughest foe, who also faced off with the Mystery Men:

Solomon Grundy!


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Lords of Olympus: World Walking

Lords of Olympus is a “multiversal” setting; that is, there are infinite numbers of possible universes, and there are special beings (Gods, some monsters, and a few very able mortal magicians taking extreme risks) who are capable of traversing from one world to another. There are of course similarities between this and the Amber setting; however, one particular difference (not just in World-Walking but in most of the major LoO powers) is that the use of World-Walking is more complicated and takes more time than “using the Pattern”.  This was an intentional design goal on my part, to try to change how the powers are used; they tend to require more planning and forethought than what you see in an Amber game.

In Lords of Olympus, World-Walkers will have one, two, or three of three possible “roads” that allows them to travel the multiverse.  Each of these roads is tied to a specific type of terrain (the Olympian road requires that one be in the open-air outdoors; the Atlantean Road requires that one be in or next to a body of water; the Hadean Road requires that one be underground).  A character can’t just start to walk, they have to first find the right kind of environment for the road they want, and then find where there is an “opening” to the divine road they seek.  How long this takes depends on their Ego Class; where a standard Olympian Class Ego character would take a couple of hours (though a High-Ego-Class character might be able to find a road in just a few minutes). A character’s Fortitude Class determines how long they can stay on the road (which requires concentration), without slipping off into the universe the road currently traverses.

Its my intention that this kind of setup creates all kinds of interesting gaming potential.  Consider in the first place that there can be universes that are reachable only by one or two roads rather than all three.  For example, a universe with no bodies of water would be unreachable by the Atlantean Road.  If you knew an opponent can only walk the Olympian Road, you could dump him in a universe that has no “open air” (an infinite underground world, for example; or a world that is an enormous artificial construct of corridors and buildings with no open spaces).  The time it takes to find a road entry, and the terrain requirements, mean that PCs who are thinking of using World-walking as a potential escape route will have to have a known exit point beforehand; and of course, to be able to reach it if things get hairy!


Currently Smoking: Blatter Diplomat + Altadis’ Old Professor

(Originally posted April 12, 2013, on the old blog)

Monday, 9 June 2014

UNCracked Monday

Today, a gaming-related Uncracked Monday; a very interesting post-mortem on the catastrophic failure of the development of the "World of Darkness" MMORPG

It had been very highly promoted in some gaming circles; it was being made by CCP, the creators of the very successful "Eve Online".  And yet, now it is as dead as disco.

What I found interesting was the irony of the most famous pretentious Swine RPG having been bought up by what was apparently a computer game company that gradually became Too Pretentious To Live, having bought into the hype of their early success.

One could almost think Pretentiousness is infectious.


Currently Smoking: Winslow Crown Cutty + C&D's Crowley's Best

Sunday, 8 June 2014

And Now, a Commercial Break

Today I'm running DCC in just a few minutes, after having ran ICONS late into the night last night; so I'll only grace this blog to send out my monthly ad about how if you look to your right, you'll see a little paypal donation button.

If you find yourself regularly reading this blog, please consider sending a donation as a token of your appreciation, regard, entertainment, or to continue having someone to get pissed off at every day.   The more contributions I get, the more time I could justify working on this blog every single day.

Shit, if I ever got $1000 I'd take a month off and write up an entire old-school sourcebook to post in serialized fashion on this blog.

Anyways, that's all for this month; hate me or love me, if deep down in your heart of hearts you want to keep reading and getting the best quality of rants from me, send us some encouragement to get our pavlovian juices flowing!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Egg + Gawith's Navy Flake

Saturday, 7 June 2014

If These Revelations Don't Make you Think the new D&D is "Old-School" Enough, you Must Admit Nothing Ever Would Have

How about the fact that we've now revealed that the adventure in this:

Will be based on this:

Yes, the adventure on the D&D Starter set will be based on the classic Night's Dark Terror, one of the great old-school sandbox adventures.  I think that clears me to say that not only does the Starter set adventure contain several dungeons but it also contains a mini-sandbox setting for classic old-school play.

Seriously, between this and the fact that the BASIC rules, which will be the purest, most distilled, least character-op-laden version of (official) D&D produced in at least 20 years, will be inspired directly by the Rules Cyclopedia, what the fuck more can you possibly want if you're an old-school gamer?

Seriously, at this point if you still feel that the new D&D isn't doing enough for old-school gamers, then you just have to admit you were determined from the very start, consciously or unconsciously, to hate it, and nothing would ever have convinced you otherwise.  Because if this doesn't, nothing will, nor could have.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Rhosdesian + C&D's Pirate Kake

Friday, 6 June 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Fuck for Satan

This is a review of the LotFP adventure "Fuck for Satan", written by James Raggi, published by LotFP.  The print edition I'm reviewing is a small 32-page booklet-style paperback, with a full-colour cover (of a flaming skull that doesn't actually appear in the adventure), and the interior is black & white with a few very attractive illustrations.

I suppose that, being the most foul-mouthed RPG celebrity around, it was kind of inevitable it would come to this. This is the adventure I was born to review.

But "Fuck for Satan" is ultimately not nearly as intense or extreme as its name would suggest. Its very far from what I had imagined; I had certainly expected a sophomoric rebellious-teenager type of adventure full of ridiculous evil-for-evil's-sake type of posturing, a kind of Carcosa-on-steroids.  But that's not it at all; Fuck For Satan really fails to live up to what the name might suggest: it's mostly a kind of silly romp, and the title is much less some sort of manifesto as it is a kind of pun on a plotline of the module.

Thank god for that!  As recent reviews proved, there's little worthwhile about cheap gory rebelliousness that takes itself way too seriously, like some 15 year old who thinks that he personally is the first human on earth to have ever discovered punk music.  On the other hand, something well willing to mock itself can occasionally end up providing a work of crazy genius.  Fuck for Satan just about gets there.

As usual, I will avoid going into excessive details about the adventure itself.  Let's say that the entire thing is, far from really controversial, more of one long Penis Joke.  The action starts in a town called "Schwartzton", where the villagers are in a panic over several missing children, suspecting that they have been kidnapped by a satanic cult that they think gathers in an ancient site in the hills.  And, as has already been heavily-reported, there is indeed a vaguely penis-shaped monster involved.  But you won't find anything here along the level of Carcosa's ritual child-sacrifice.  On the contrary, what you do end up finding is pretty ridiculous.

Which is not to say this adventure isn't also potentially deadly.  The dungeon complex which forms part of the dungeon is incredibly dangerous to low-level characters and includes a couple of demons that are utterly fucking awful (including one that is literally a "Shit demon"), and a number of traps that will almost certainly cause casualties to all but the most cautious of parties.  There is in fact one (magical) trap that can only be escaped if at least one character dies, and there's no other way around it; so GMs that don't want to put their D&D party into that kind of position may need to slightly modify the adventure.

There's a general joking attitude in the text; and there's also a couple of things that are just dumb, including a ritual that has a total meta-effect (not even on this adventure, but on the next adventure you run), which reads to me as pointless filler, and which I'd suggest you ignore.

A lot of this adventure is made to screw with the players: its a 'shaggy bear' story (literally, in that there is in fact a bear involved), the dungeon is very high risk with relatively little reward, the evil cult is actually mostly comic relief. But all that said and done, the adventure actually works, to my surprise. I  know this, because I ran it last week when half my Dark Albion party went missing, so the other half chose to run an adventure with their secondary characters rather than risk Castle Dracula with only half the crew.  The overall opinion was that the adventure was a bit of a mindfuck but also interesting and worth playing.

Fuck For Satan succeeds because it laughs at itself; its intentionally "edgy" but in a way that shits all over the very notion of edginess, its the polar opposite of the sort of syndrome visible in products like Carcosa where they treat offensive ideas and extreme gore as though it were totally serious.  So to my surprise, I recommend it.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Famous Pipe Smokers

So, today's famous pipe smoker was quite famous for smoking a pipe, something he never regretted:

He was also famous for inventing this guy, which he ultimately did regret:

Well, actually know, he actually invented this guy:

The Disney corporation invented that other guy.  I'm guessing A.A. Milne wouldn't have been any more pleased with that, either, given how the commercial success of Winnie the Pooh led him to be completely typecast as a writer.

Anyways, A. A. Milne was a pipe smoker! 


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Arrows of Indra: Dice in the Bharata Kingdoms

In Jagat, the setting for Arrows of Indra, dice are a hugely important pass-time, and also of significance in ritual (as they were in epic India).

The “dice” of the Bharata lands (or of the historical India) are typically cowrie shells or knucklebones; though in some cities they use square (2 or 4-sided) sticks to the same effect.

Cowrie shells were typically used in gaming and gambling, while knucklebones were used for the former but also had a powerful ritual significance; the bones (coming from dead creatures) were connected to Kali in her form as Nirrti (the utterly black manifestation of Kali who represents dissolution).  Thus the knucklebones are a powerful oracular tool; used by shamans or priests alike, typically by rolling three knucklebones to get one of 64 combinations of possible fortunes.
Cowrie shells were usually rolled in groups of three or four; where the top (opening) part of the shell was “1″ and the bottom was “0″.  However, rolling all 0s was usually given a double-top score (so that with four shells, rolling four 0s meant you had a result of 8; so that the possible results for the shells was 1, 2, 3, 4, or 8).

Just as Bharata citizens like to gamble on the kalari arena, and horse races, and almost anything else, they love to gamble on dice games.  Most dice games involved the use of a board or track, where pieces must make a full  circuluation in order to win (in a game not unlike parchesi, ludo, or “Sorry”, with the chance of eating other pieces). But it is also common to have straightforward rolling-contests where after a number of tosses the higher roll wins.

(it should be noted that a dice game forms a crucial part of the Mahabharata, as the even that leads to the inevitability of the apocalyptic Kurukshetra War; where the fate of the entire Kuru kingdom is gambled on with a roll of the dice)


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Bent Apple + Dunhill 965

(originally posted April 20, 2013)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Interview: Ross MacKenzie (Spartan Games)

In all the hullabaloo from the last couple of weeks with the D&D announcement, I'd been putting off this entry.  I had visited a special exhibition of gaming put on at City Hall (the Intendencia) here in Montevideo.  That tells you something about how much impact gaming is starting to have in Uruguay (though of course, it also says something about how the city government, for all its flaws, does put on quite a lot of public activities for its citizenry).  In any case, while visiting this mini-con, I saw a table where there was a demo of a very interesting-looking miniatures wargame, the likes of which I'd never seen in Uruguay before:

I soon found out that the source of this was a Scotsman now living in Uruguay, who was associated with a wargaming company named Spartan Games.  They produce some very interesting games, and miniatures to go with them:

So without further ado, here's my interview with him:

1. Who are you, and what can you tell us about Spartan Games?
I'm Ross MacKenzie, Proofing Team Leader, one of the Senior Play-testers, and a Vanguard for Spartan Games: specifically for their Dystopian Wars line of games.
Spartan Games is a UK Table-top company that started up in 2008, and has been going strong since then. I got involved with them around 2012 or so, through my local war-games group back in Scotland, as a play-testing team, and, over time, we got more involved in the process until we got where we are now. 
2. More specifically, what are Spartan's current miniature wargame lines?
Spartan has three main wargame lines: Uncharted Seas, launched in 2008, a Fantasy Naval game, which is currently mail-order only; Firestorm Armada, launched in 2009, a Sci-Fi space battle game, which got a 2nd edition last year; and, finally, Dystopian Wars, which launched in 2010, a naval and land-based Steampunk wargame, with its second edition coming out on the 28th of May.
There is also Dystopian Legions: a 32mm Skirmish game in the Dystopian Universe, Armoured Clash, again in the Dystopian Universe, and Planetfall, a Land variant for Firestorm Armada.

3. The miniatures I saw at the event at the Intendencia were very impressive, anything else you can tell us about them? Were they made in-house?
The miniatures are all made from resin, with some metal drop-ins, usually for turrets and the like. Spartan is trying to move to using resin as much as possible because it's cheaper, lighter, and easier for everyone to work with. Spartan does an amazing job on the detail and quality of the models, which are all made in the UK and shipped world-wide. They come un-painted, and, for the larger models, with some assembly required, so the hobby involves a bit of DIY and artistic skill, which is a big part of the fun!

4. What were the inspiration for the games?
The games are all original ideas of the head of Spartan Games: Neil Fawcett, with amazing background information written by Franco Sammarco.
From what I understand, Dystopian Wars is pretty much a "what-if?" setting. It's a world where, in the 19th century, people discover technology far beyond what we have even today, along with a new element "Sturginium" that powers much of this. The discoverers hoped that freely gifting this new knowledge to the Great Powers of the world would bring about a utopian society, but, instead, it brings about a World War of epic proportions: indicating mankind's predeliction toward greed and power. Unlike a lot of other Steampunk settings, Dystopian Wars really feels like Victorian Science Fiction with a strong basis in taking actual historical events and changing them in reaction to the discovery central to the Dystopian Universe.
Firestorm Armada, similarly, feels a lot like the older, hard science fiction of Asimov and Clarke, with some of the elements of Frank Herbert's Dune thrown in for good measure. People travel by "folding" space, there are strange alien races with advanced technology, but the two most important players are the "Terran Alliance" and the "Dindrenzi Federation": two human organisations that have brought in the other races of the galaxy in a massive war, effectively over how humanity should be governed.

5. how do you think spartan's games compare to GW's; what would be the incentive for fans of GW's games to check out Spartan's, what do you think Spartan does better than GW that would make it worth investing in?

Well, I've been a player of Games Workshop games since the age of 4 (the benefit of having a much older brother!) so I'll say here that I am a massive fan of GW's lines, and have far too many models back home in Scotland (one day I'll get them here!). When comparing Spartan's games to GW you have to remember that all of Spartan's lines (except Dystopian Legions) are more on the scale of 40K's Epic, and Battlefleet Gothic Lines, at least when we're talking about the size of the models.  I'd argue that Spartan's games tend to involve a lot more thought and strategy than GW ones, and the scale of Spartan's games allows for bigger battles.

The biggest incentive for fans of GW games to check out Spartan though is the price: Spartan's models are very high quality resin, but are sold much cheaper than GW's models. Not only are they cheaper, but they package their products mostly in "sets" that allow for a much more pick-up and play feel. If you want to get into Firestorm Armada, for example, you can buy the two-player starter set, which comes with a rulebook, and enough models for a small fleet for each player.  There are also "Patrol Fleet" boxes, that come with the tokens, cards, and models you need to make a small fleet, and then all you'd need to do is to buy the main rulebook: the stats for each faction's models are available from the Spartan website for free!

This system is also being ported over to Dystopian Wars with the new 2.0 rulebook, 2-player starter set, as well as Naval, and Armoured Battle Groups being released in June, that will allow people to simply buy a box of the faction they like best, get a rulebook, and get playing!

6. What are you doing in Uruguay? How long have you been here now? Are you here for good?
I'm in Uruguay because I fell in love with an Uruguyan lady, I arrived in the country last December, and we got married in mid-January, after having dated long-distance for 4 years. I can't say for certain if I'm going to be in Uruguay for good: I'm from Scotland originally, but I also have strong ties to the USA, so we're keeping our options open, but I can say that I'm likely to be here for at least 2 years, if not more.

7. How are you finding Uruguayan life in general?
Very different from life in Scotland, certainly! The weather is one of the things that has taken the most getting used to, but now that we're heading towards Winter I'm feeling a lot more comfortable! I got a job offer within two months of arriving in Uruguay, which made me warm to the country considerably! The people here are very friendly, and I like how everyone seems to know everyone else here: there's a definite community spirit in Uruguay which reminds me a bit of home.

8: What sort of work are you doing in Uruguay?

I'm currently working in Zonamerica, where I've found that pretty much everyone I bump into is into some kind of hobby scene, and pretty much everyone has native-level English there too: the place feels a bit like I've wandered into the USA!

9. How are you finding the hobby scene here?

I'm very impressed with the hobby scene here! I did not know what to expect at all, and was pleasantly surprised to see that there are so many people into role-playing, card games, board games, comics, animé, etc.  One of the best things about the community here, in my opinion, is the gender ratio: the Uruguyan hobby scene has a very healthy mix of men and women. What's even better is that it doesn't feel like there's been any particular effort to make the hobby scene more inclusive here: it just is. It's a lot better than the scene back home in that regard, where there’s still a very “boy’s club” feel to the scene, even if there's some progress being made, slowly. I was also really surprised to find that there's actually a community of people who play Games Workshop games here, though I've not yet had the time to meet up with them. The conventions and events have really impressed me so far, and I'm looking forward to attending Montevideo Comics (where I'll be showing off Dystopian Wars again!), as I hear it's the biggest event in the country.

10. The roleplaying hobby in Uruguay is huge, and very strong in terms of networking. But its also fairly cheap, as a hobby, to get into. Most gamers here don't own their own books, those who do often use pirated copies. Do you think that this would make it a challenge for the types of miniature wargames Spartan does to catch on here?
I was worried that people would find Wargames prohibitively expensive, but I've already convinced at least 5 people to buy fleets, with more people asking for details on where to get models at each convention I attend, so, on the price side I'm not so worried. Maybe the community will be a bit smaller than the role-playing one, but we'll have to wait and see.
Spartan actually releases the rules for their models online for free, all a player needs to pay for to get into the game after that is a copy of the rulebook, which are sold at a very reasonable price. I wouldn't be surprised if groups shared a rulebook between them, at least at first, but the fact that everyone gets to know what their models do without having to spend a single peso should, in my opinion, be a big draw.

11. Have you found the language barrier to be a big issue for you, in terms of getting involved with gamers?
My Spanish is, I must admit, pretty much non-existent at the moment, but it's something that I'm working on! However, I've found that most gamers here have pretty good English, even if they don't speak much, they understand me. I also have the advantage that my wife is into my hobbies, is a native Uruguyan, and happens to be an English teacher, so she's able to interpret for me if things get difficult. I've also met a few people here with impeccable English who are very exciting by Dystopian Wars and have been helping me out immensely.
I am hoping to learn enough Spanish to get by by the end of the year, but we'll see how that goes!

Well,  thanks to Ross for the interview, and if you dig wargaming, check out Spartan games!


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia