27 September 2015

Eldritch Apartment for Rent

If you will be spending some time in Providence, and you are a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, you now can rent Lovecraft's old apartment...

Perhaps it should be advertised on "Cool Airbnb"?

24 September 2015

"Frodo, Don't Wear the Ring!"

This song from the excellent Flight of the Conchords is quite entertaining...

13 September 2015

The Dungeons and Dragons film that never was

I was playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons on almost a daily basis during the early 1980s.  I read every issue of Dragon magazine in those days (which I loyally purchased every month from a hobby shop called ‘Fads’), paying special attention to the writings of Gary Gygax.  So I remember quite vividly Gygax indicating that a ‘major’ Dungeons and Dragons film was in the works.  Ultimately, and – I thought at the time – unfortunately, no such film was produced.

I always wondered what had happened with that promised film, and what its script might have been like.  This recent article at The Escapist sheds some light on the matter.  In particular, it presents an outline of the plot of the film.  Frankly, the story is terrible.  Best that this stinker was never produced!

05 September 2015

A Year of Great Gaming Comes to an End

[Spinoza with his huge d20 in Amsterdam]

I spent the 2014-2015 academic year (roughly, September 2014 to August 2015) on sabbatical in Toronto.  Amazingly, I managed to get some research and writing done while at the Centre for Ethics at the University of Toronto.  More importantly, though, I managed to get some great gaming done!

Here is what I did:

1. I played in roughly 15 (I can’t recall the precise number) sessions of RuneQuest 6 within the Mythic Britain setting (GM: Lawrence Whitaker).  This was one of the finest role-playing experiences I’ve had as a player – surpassed only by the Young Kingdoms (MRQII) campaign which I played in during the spring and summer of 2011.  (The GM for that earlier campaign also was Lawrence.)

2. I played in 3 sessions of RuneQuest 6 using the Luther Arkwright setting (GM: Lawrence Whitaker).  Lawrence ran the sample scenario from the book – which, amusingly, is set in an alternative parallel version of Toronto.  Hopefully I will be able to return for the final session of this adventure sometime this autumn or winter.

3. I ran (‘keepered’?) 7 sessions of Call of Cthulhu 7e, covering 3.5 scenarios.  (My initial impressions of 7e are noted here.)  I hope to return to this campaign, on occasion, in future visits to Toronto.  At the very least, I have to finish up the current adventure, set at the famous (and infamous) Miskatonic University.  (The classic 1920s New England ‘Lovecraft county’ setting was used.)

4. I ran (‘DM-ed’) 2 sessions of Dungeons and Dragons 5e.  (The first two parts of the ‘Mines of Phandelver’ adventure included within the 5th edition ‘Starter Set.’)  I would like to continue this campaign in the future, but I’m not sure if that will be possible.

5. I played in a ‘one shot’ session of Trail of Cthulhu (GM: Chris).  (This was most definitely a one shot, as all of the PCs turned into giant worms at the end!)

6. I played in 2 sessions of … something.  It was a Cthulhu-esque adventure set in the Free Congo State during 1907.  I can’t recall the name of the system, unfortunately, but the adventure was quite compelling (very reminiscent of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness).  (GM: Chris.)

These were all live tabletop games.  (I also ran a few sessions of AD&D 1st edition online.)  That’s is pretty good, I think, at this stage in my life and career (viz., a middle-aged professor).

I plan to write up an overview of the Call of Cthulhu campaign at some point, as well as some more of my impressions of D&D 5.

In the meantime, alas, back to teaching…

27 August 2015

New Tolkien novel

For someone who has been under the sod for more than four decades, J.R.R. Tolkien certainly is quite prolific.  He has a new novel out: The Story of Kullervo!

I have yet to read The Children of Húrin.  Now I think that I'll read the two novels together sometime this autumn.

08 August 2015

The future of RuneQuest and the Call of Cthulhu

The dramatic recent developments at Chaosium, and its new relationship with the Design Mechanism, generated a fair amount of discussion on a number of RPG discussion boards (e.g., RPGnet, BRP Central, and the DM forum).  Overall, though, I think that these changes clearly bode well for the future of both the RuneQuest and the Call of Cthulhu games.

The biggest downside to the new arrangement, in my view, is the likely disappearance of an in-print setting-free version of RuneQuest one year from now.  That’s a real pity.  I worry that baking Glorantha into the RQ core book will create a barrier for potential players who are interested in RQ – say, for their own settings, or for those supported by the DM (e.g., Mythic Britain, Luther Arkwright, Classic Fantasy) – but not in Glorantha.  I have nothing against Glorantha.  (It’s not really my cup of tea, so it’s unlikely that I would ever run games in it myself, but I’d be fine with playing in a Glorantha campaign.)  I just think that everyone would be better served with a setting-free version of the RQ core rules and a separate campaign book for Glorantha.  It’s early days, though, so perhaps a setting-free version of RQ (even simply the ‘RQ Essentials’ PDF) might survive.

That complaint aside, though, having RuneQuest distributed alongside Chaosium’s other games will be a great boon for the game and its community.

As for the Call of Cthulhu, the print version of the new edition has been stalled for far too long, and the PDF version needs to be cleaned up.  Getting the 7th edition rules finished up and in stores is key to keeping the game and its community healthy.  Right now one can purchase modules that use the 7e CoC rules in game shops, but not the rule books for those modules.  Fixing up, publishing, and distributing 7e CoC is the top priority for the ‘new’ Chaosium, and rightfully so.  Whatever one thinks of the 7e version of CoC (I think it’s fine, though I thought 6e was just fine as well), it is time to get those wheels turning!

In short, with the new leadership at Chaosium, and its new relationship with the Design Mechanism, the future for the two premier ‘BRP’ (‘d100’) games – RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu – looks very bright.

05 August 2015

Six-packs of Ancient Greece

Ever wonder why the cuirasses of those ancient hoplites had such well-sculpted muscles?  Well here is the answer.

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