30 January 2016

Original Dungeons and Dragons PDFs available again

Scans of the original Dungeons and Dragons rules from 1974 ('0' edition) used to be available for sale, but Wizards of the Coast pulled them during the dark, terrible times of 4th edition.  

Now, thank Crom, they are available again!  However, they are scans of the 2013 reprint.  So the covers of the booklets are 'new'.  Nonetheless, the interior text and art are from the original booklets, and thankfully much clearer than the earlier scans.  

One of the great things about the 5th edition era (in addition to the superiority of the 5e rules over those of 3e and 4e) is that Wizards has decided to make a lot of the material (perhaps eventually all of the material?) produced for the earlier editions of the game available again in PDF.

29 January 2016

Free Joe Abercrombie short story

A short story by Joe Abercrombie, "Two's Company," is available at Tor.com.

Abercrombie is the author of the "First Law" trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings), as well as three subsequent 'free standing' novels set in the same world (Best Served Cold, The Heroes, and Red Country).  I read all six of these novels last year, and highly recommend them to all fans of swords and sorcery fiction.

Abercrombie's world would make a brilliant setting for a RuneQuest 6 campaign. The grim and gritty combat described in the novels match up nicely with RQ6's system of 'special effects' and hit locations. Perhaps I'll design a couple of adventures to try out this summer...

21 January 2016

Altered Carbon coming to Television

Truly we live in the Golden Age of television, at least for fantasy and science-fiction fans, with shows like The Game of Thrones, The Man in the High Castle, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Black Mirror, and so many others, available these days.

And soon Altered Carbon will be coming to the small screen via Netflix.

I really enjoyed Richard Morgan's "Takeshi Kovacs" novels when I read them a decade ago.  My memory of them is now somewhat fuzzy, but I still recall the main ideas, especially for the first story.  I think that Altered Carbon could make for a great series.

Now if only someone would do something with Iain Banks's amazing "Culture" novels...

20 January 2016

Yuggoth discovered?


H.P. Lovecraft famously speculated that Yuggoth probably was Pluto.  Yet we now know that Pluto is not really "a strange dark orb at the very rim of our solar system."  (Indeed, Pluto's not even a proper planet!)

However, based upon recent findings by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology, there may very well be a "Planet Nine" at "the very rim of our solar system."  This "strange dark orb" seems to be exerting a malevolent influence on some members of the Kuiper Belt.

Could Planet Nine be where the Mi-Go colony in fact resides?

12 January 2016

5th edition Dungeons and Dragons SRD now available

Here it is (link opens PDF).  It's released under the OGL (Version 1.0a).

I haven't had time to look through this yet, but it strikes me as a very positive development...

08 January 2016

Happy Birthday Roy Batty!

Everyone’s favourite replicant, Roy Batty, was (is? will be?) born today!

Ah, replicants.  They grow up so quickly!

(More seriously, while Blade Runner is perhaps my favourite film of all time, setting it in 2019 always struck me as a big mistake, even when I first watched it in 1984.)

06 January 2016

Fantasy and Science Fiction films and television shows in 2015

2015 is over, and this article does a decent job in covering some of its highlights in terms of fantasy and science fiction pop culture (films, television shows, and novels).

One problem with getting older is that the years seem to blend together.  I now have a difficult time remembering which films, television shows, or novels (or role-playing games) came out in which year.  So I always have a hard time when asked, for instance, what was my ‘favourite film of 2015’.  For instance, I think that Ex Machina is a great film, one of the best science fictions films in recent years, but I can’t remember if it came out in 2015.  (Okay, I just checked Wikipedia: it did.)

Another problem with getting older is that I don’t seem to be able to see nearly as many movies or television shows as I used to when I was a twenty-something with loads of spare time.  (Heck, I haven’t even owned a television in over a decade.  I used to rely on DVDs, and now I rely on internet subscriptions, for most of my television series watching.)  And of the films and shows that I do watch, I often get to them months (or even years) after their release.  So many of the films or television shows that my fellow nerds talk about, whether in person or online, are things that I haven’t seen yet (and in some cases will never see).

All that having been said, I thought that I would mention that my favourite science fiction film of 2015 was Mad Max: Fury Road.  (If you want a fun afternoon, watch The Road Warrior and then Mad Max: Fury Road.  The two films go quite well together.)  My favourite new television series was The Man in the High Castle (about which I plan to write a post once I watch the final episode [I just finished episode 9 last night]).  The Game of Thrones continues to impress, of course, and I quite enjoyed Black Mirror, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil as well (the latter two are surprises for me, as I am not a huge superhero fan).

I still need to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens (I have plans to do so this weekend).  And I want to watch the first season of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (as I loved the book 10 years ago). 

So many great shows are being produced these days, especially for television, it’s a surfeit of riches.  And I look forward to what 2016 will bring…

30 December 2015

Crypts and Things versus Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Both Crypts and Things and Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea are products of the 'Old School Renaissance.'  Both games present ‘swords and sorcery’ variants of different versions of ‘old school’ Dungeons & Dragons: 0e D&D (as reworked into Swords and Wizardry) in the case of C&T, and 1e AD&D in the case of AS&SH.  And both games draw upon the same literary sources: the ‘weird fantasy’ writings of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and the like.

I quite like AS&SH, especially the art and setting, and I highly recommend that people check it out.  But I’m partial to C&T.  This should not be surprising, I guess, given that I contributed some ideas to it.  (The industrious Newt Newport, author of C&T, drew upon a number of my house-rules for Swords & Wizardry when writing the game.)  I’m looking forward to the new, expanded version of C&T, which should be coming out in 2016.

Anyhow, the reason why I mention these two fine games now is that there is an interesting conversation concerning them over at the RPGsite.  I encourage all fans of classic swords and sorcery fiction to check them out!

19 December 2015

Old School Con 5.5: Featuring VIPs Loz and the Grognardia Guy

If you live in Toronto or are within easy travelling distance, and feel like playing some ‘old school’ role-playing games for a day, consider attending OSCon (5.5) on Saturday, January 16th, 2016.  There will be a number of different games available, including Call of Cthulhu, Dungeons and Dragons (various editions), Labyrinth Lord, and RuneQuest 6.

Design Mechanism’s Lawrence Whitaker (‘Loz’) – author of numerous RPG books over the years, and co-author of RuneQuest 6 – will be there, running a couple of RQ6 games: a Luther Arkwright adventure in the morning, and a Mythic Britain adventure in the evening.  I highly recommend playing in one of Lawrence’s games if you have the chance, as he is a superb Game Master.  I know this from experience, having played in a couple of his campaigns (one set in the Young Kingdoms and one set in Mythic Britain) over the years, as well as few shorter adventures from time to time.

Also running a few games of Empire of the Petal Throne is James Maliszewski, the fellow who used to write the Grognardia blog.  I have to confess that I’m a bit surprised to see Maliszewski as one of the Con’s VIPs, given how his ‘Dwimmermount’ kickstarter turned out.  I was not interested in, and hence did not back, ‘Dwimmermount.’  And I only casually followed the massive disaster that it became.  But my impression is that there were, and presumably still are, many within the ‘old school’ community who feel that they were badly burned by his abandonment of that project.  Perhaps, though, all that is water under the bridge now?  (I have no idea.)

In any case, OSCon should be good fun.  I took part in the second one (summer of 2012, I believe), during which I ran a Call of Cthulhu game.  I won’t be running a game this time around, but I look forward to playing in a couple.

14 December 2015

Chaosium Comment Confusion

In response to my last post  in which I criticized Chaosium’s decision to abandon RuneQuest 6 and instead develop yet another version of the game (the fourth one in less than a decade) – I received the following comment from 'MOB', Vice-President of Chaosium:

You are of course welcome to voice your opinion about Chaosium's plans for the new edition of RQ. But what's with the OTT headline? Anyone reading just that could come away with the impression the company has been mortally wounded and is about to go under. Which is absolutely not the case. Not cool at all. 
Despite whatever "insider knowledge" you say you have, the ongoing relationship between Chaosium and TDM continues to be completely amicable: we are not just professional colleagues but long-standing friends. Someone's already posted the link to our Q&A about the new edition, which makes clear it is far from being just a "modified version of RuneQuest 2" and in fact retains many core elements of RQ6. Loz and Pete will rightly feature in the credits of the new Chaosium edition, and we have wished them well for the direction they are taking with the TDM successor to RQ6 (just as they have wished us well). While Chaosium and TDM have mutually decided to work on our own things for now, we all agree the door remains firmly open for future collaborations. 
MOB  VP – Chaosium
While I’m grateful to MOB for his contribution to the discussion, I found this to be a rather strange comment, for a few reasons:

1. I can’t imagine that anyone who read my previous post would interpret it, or its title, as commenting on Chaosium’s financial condition. I think that it’s obvious that my remarks concern only Chaosium’s decision regarding the future of RuneQuest. I cannot control how others interpret what I write, obviously, but Chaosium’s interpretation does not strike me to be a very plausible one at all. (And anyone remotely familiar with Chaosium would surely know that the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game is far more popular, and thus presumably far more important for Chaosium’s financial health, than Runequest.) 

2. As for my “insider knowledge,” I didn’t reveal any of that knowledge in this post – except for the timing of Chaosium’s decision not to use RQ6 in the future (which MOB obviously does not dispute, as it's knowledge that I did in fact have).   

3. Chaosium goes to great pains in the comment to emphasize how amicable things are between them and the Design Mechanism. That’s wonderful. But it has no connection to anything that I stated in the post. At no point did I claim or even suggest that relations between the two companies are now unfriendly or hostile. 

In any case, RuneQuest aside, I certainly do hope that the new Chaosium succeeds, as I am a huge Call of Cthulhu fan. Moreover, I actually am pretty happy with the (somewhat controversial) 7th edition of CoC – as is clear from my review of it (the RPGsite version), and my ongoing use of it in my current CoC campaign. I was a backer of the kickstarter, and am grateful that the new management has taken charge of sorting that out. My impression is that they’ve been doing a very fine job with it. I’m also excited about Chaosium’s reinvigorated Cthulhu Mythos fiction line.

To conclude: (a) I don’t intend to post anything more about Chaosium’s new direction for RuneQuest here (unless something especially newsworthy occurs); and (b) I wish them well, and likely will continue to support (and blog about, etc.) their work on Call of Cthulhu. So that’s that.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.