21 May 2016

Dungeon Master Drumpf

I don't pay that much attention to Twitter usually, but this account, "Dungeons and Donalds," is really quite entertaining!

Some samples:

04 May 2016

The Blade Itself a decade later

Joe Abercrombie reflects on the publication of his first novel, The Blade Itself, ten years ago.

If you're a fan of fantasy fiction and are unfamiliar with Abercrombie's work, you owe it to yourself to check out the First Law trilogy as soon as possible!

17 April 2016

Big Trouble in Little China

So I watched Big Trouble in Little China for the first time in decades the other night.

Some post-viewing thoughts:

  • Why don't people make great movies like this anymore?
  • Kurt Russell plays pretty much the same character in every John Carpenter film. (Okay, MacReady ["The Thing"] and Plissken ["Escape from NY"] are both smarter than Jack Burton. But varying intelligence scores aside, they’re all pretty much the same character.)
  • The whole ‘adventure’ in the movie reminds me of the way my old group used to play Call of Cthulhu back in high-school: essentially as modern day ‘D&D’ with lots of bad decisions.
  • Kim Cattrall is pretty good in this. (Pity she hasn't appeared in anything of note in recent decades. Well, I'm pretty sure she hasn't...)

  • The film includes a D&D "beholder" (or at least a creature clearly inspired by a D&D "beholder").  That was a fun surprise.
  • I love how Jack Burton – the purported ‘hero’ of the film – has a ‘sidekick,’ Wang Chi, who is braver, more intelligent, and much better at fighting than him.  (Although Jack does manage to redeem himself somewhat by killing the Lo Pan [the BBG] at the end.)
  •  Why don't people make great movies like this anymore?

Best quote (from Jack Burton): “I' m a reasonable guy. But, I've just experienced some very unreasonable things.”

10 April 2016

Classic Fantasy is here (for RQ6/Mythras)

Classic Fantasy – a supplement for RuneQuest 6 (soon-to-be Mythras) is now available for purchase from the Design Mechanism.

Here is the official announcement from the DM:
We are delighted to announce that Classic Fantasy is now available to pre-order in print, or buy for immediate download in PDF. 
Classic Fantasy brings Old School dungeon crawls to the Mythras and RuneQuest 6 rules. This 336 page book contains everything you need to emulate the fun of class and level-based adventuring, against the classic coterie of monsters, with the classic armoury of spells! If you've ever wanted to convert those old dungeon modules to a d100 system, then Classic Fantasy is for you. 
Packed with information and new rules additions, Classic Fantasy features a different approach to character creation based on classes such as the bard, cavalier, fighter, magic user, paladin and thief. Choose your race - human or demi-human - and then customize according to class, race and personal preference. If you're a magic user or cleric, the new magic rules for Arcane and Divine spells take the old staples such as Magic Missile, Charm, Fireball and more, and tailor them for the nuances of the Mythras and RQ6 systems. 
Or, for the more combat-oriented, the Classic Fantasy rules provide detailed miniatures-based combat adaptations for the traditional battle-board, complete with guidance on facings, positioning, and handling detailed movement. 
And of course, no book like this would be complete without monsters to kill and treasure to take! All the old favourites are accounted for, from Basilisks to Displacer Beasts, Grey Ooze to Gelatinous Masses, Kobolds, Gnolls, Hobgoblins and more. Forty pages of treasure and magic items helps you equip even the deepest dungeon with enough loot to satisfy the keenest adventuring party. 
You can buy Classic Fantasy in these ways...Preorder the Print Copy: $44.95, available in 6-8 weeks (shipping approx 1st June 2016) and get the PDF free of charge, with immediate download. Simply visit our online store (www.thedesignmechanism.com/products), and select Classic Fantasy from the Supplements catalogue. 
This is not a standalone game. Games Masters and players will need access to either the Mythras or RQ6 rules to play Classic Fantasy (although other d100 rule systems may suffice). 
Buy the PDF copy on its own, immediately: $19.95, either from our online store (and select Classic Fantasy PDF from the Supplements catalogue), or from DrivethruRPG (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/…/180255/Classic-Fantasy--TDM500) 
So break out the Mountain Dew and the Cheetos... Classic Fantasy is here!

Although the announcement does not mention ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’ emulating that style of adventuring with the RQ6/Mythras rules is obviously the aim of this supplement.  I remain a fan of what can be called the ‘D&D genre’ of FRPGs, and I obviously am a big fan of RQ6/Mythras, so I’ll definitely be getting Classic Fantasy (even though I likely will continue to rely primarily on a heavily house-ruled version of AD&D, or an ‘old-school-ized’ version of 5e D&D, for most of my future D&D-style games).

09 April 2016

The Angsty Dragon of Angst

Another great "Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophers" episode from Existential Comics!

Bards are mocked quite mercilessly in this one:

[Complete comic here.]

Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus was the first work of philosophy that I read carefully from beginning to end (I did so for a first-year university course on existentialism).  So I retain a certain fondness for Camus, even though my professional work has nothing to do with existentialism.

And of course I still play Dungeons & Dragons. And I like bards! Indeed, they're my second-favourite class (after mages).

30 March 2016

Curious about OpenQuest?

There is a very good OpenQuest bundle of holding’ deal available until April 4th.  It consists of four PDFs – the 2nd edition rules and three adventure packs – for only 8.95 USD. 

So if you’ve been curious about OQ, the ‘rules-light-ish’ OGL version of RuneQuest published by D101 Games, then this would be an excellent opportunity to satisfy that curiosity! 

And for some interesting background on OQ – why and how Newt Newport created the system – check out this post at Newt’s ‘Sorcerer Under Mountain’ blog.

14 March 2016

Can Gandalf be a 5th edition D&D magic-user?

Cubicle 7, publishers of The One Ring role-playing game, will be coming out with a series of Middle-earth products for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

Here is the official announcement:
Cubicle 7 Entertainment and Sophisticated Games have announced plans to make a Dungeons & Dragons® compatible roleplaying series for J R R Tolkien’s legendary fantasy world of Middle-earth, the setting for The Lord of the Rings® and The Hobbit®.
Cubicle 7’s CEO Dominic McDowall said, “We’re all very excited to be building on the success of The One Ring Roleplaying Game and bringing Middle-earth to D&D® players. Uniting two things very close to the hearts of gamers, me included, is very cool – I can't wait for the summer.”
The best selling The One Ring Roleplaying Game will continue as a separate and independent line, with some very exciting announcements coming this week. The new series will be based upon Francesco Nepitello’s highly praised work in The One Ring®, with Francesco acting as creative consultant.
Further details will be released in the coming months, with the release set for Summer 2016.
This is exciting news, at least for me, as I played a ton of ICE's Middle-earth Role-playing ('MERP') during the glory days of my gaming youth (from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s). I haven't used Middle-earth  for my gaming in fifteen years, but I still very much like the world, and look forward to seeing what Cubicle 7 produces for it. (I assume that the standard 5e rules will be heavily tweaked, as they are quite inappropriate for Middle-earth as written.)

Do you remember the classic Dragon article: "Gandalf was a 5th level magic-user"? I guess we'll soon find out whether Gandalf can be a 5th edition magic-user...

[Gandalf by Frank Frazetta.]

08 March 2016

Are you in a Viking Saga?

"How to tell if you're in a Viking Saga."

I especially liked: "Greenland is horrible, but you have persuaded people to move there with false advertising."

[Picture by I, Berig, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2287417] 

07 March 2016

Review of Curse of Strahd

My friend Christopher Robichaud has given me permission to repost the following short review of WotC’s new 5th edition D&D adventure, Curse of Strahd.
The significantly disappointing thing about Curse of Strahd is that it's just the 5e version of I6: Ravenloft. And the thing is, I'm exhausted with that scenario. 
I6: Ravenloft, for its many flaws, is among the greatest D&D adventures of all time. And since no good deed can go unpunished, its popularity and success have made it the single most remade D&D module ever. The 2nd edition remade it with House of Strahd. The 3rd edition remade it with Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. And now the 5th edition has remade it again with Curse of Strahd
All these adventures are basically the same story, with the same maps, told with a different rules set, and getting ever more bloated. (I6: Ravenloft is 32 pages, House of Strahd is 64 pages, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft is 220 pages, and Curse of Strahd is 256 pages.) 
I longed for something more. Princes of the Apocalypse was, in my opinion, an ultimately disappointing reboot of Temple of Elemental Evil. But at least it tried to do something new with the mega-dungeon, as did its predecessor, 3e's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, a direct sequel to the original and quite good in its own right. We've gotten very little of that with Ravenloft. The original module has a weird and wild sequel, Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill, and of course, House of Strahd was part of 2e's entire Ravenloft campaign setting, which in addition to featuring lots of other villains, revisited Strahd on occasion with From the Shadows and Roots of Evil. But that's about it. 
Of all the 5e campaigns WOTC has put out, this one is the biggest letdown. It's just a rehash of I6 with more of Barovia fleshed out, an idea already explored at length in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. We don't need a 5e version of the same story. You can convert any of the 1e, 2e, or 3e Ravenloft modules just fine. What would've been great would have been a reboot along the lines of Princes of the Apocalypse. Even if it fell short, it would've been something fresh. Alas, it was not meant to be. Curse of Strahd, I'm afraid to say, is as stale as the air in the catacombs beneath Castle Ravenloft. What a shame.
In a follow-up message, Robichaud added:
I didn't mention that I think, as far as it goes, it's a fine 5e version of the module. It nicely expands the lands around the castle in a way that allows players to play in a sandbox more than just showing up and then heading right to the castle.
So perhaps there is a reason to get the adventure after-all (namely, if you want to use I6 in your 5e game, but can’t be bothered to convert I6 to 5e yourself).

01 March 2016

Cthulhu 2016!

I'm not an American citizen. But if I were, I know that I would be supporting Cthulhu for president! The stars are right.

I look forward to reading this on the US dollar bill after 2017: "Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!"

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