04 July 2020

New Lyonesse and Mythras adventures

The good people at the Design Mechanism have released a couple of new adventures for Lyonesse and Mythras: 'In High Dudgeon', and 'Meeros Doomed'.

Below are the adventure descriptions.

Games Without Frontiers...
Every year, the villages of High and Low Dudgeon meet for the midsummer games. Every year for the past 10 years, Low Dudgeon has lost. The villagers are suspicious; what is High Dudgeon's secret? Could it be magic? Could it be some secret training technique? Is it outright cheating? Enter the intrepid characters, visiting the villages to enjoy the games, but drawn into the intrigue of Low Dudgeon's misfortune. And if the true source of High Dudgeon's success isn't found before the current games end -- well, things could get ugly.
In High Dudgeon is a Lyonesse scenario for 2-6 characters, and involves a high degree of investigation and social interaction. The adventure is complete with maps, and a plethora of colourful non-player characters. Also included are four pre-generated characters -- Madam Neneveh's Festive Fellows -- designed for use with the adventure.
The City State of Meeros lies broken. Queen Herathos wants the renegade priestess, Kara, brought to justice to atone for her treachery. The characters are tasked with venturing to distant Kopash, and charged with making her arrest.
But is all as it seems? Powerful forces are plotting to destroy Meeros completely, and those who have protected the city may well be the ones who secure its doom.
The characters must uncover traitors, travel into monster-infested swamps, confront sorcerous fiends, and perhaps even ally themselves with Meeros' ancient foes, the Badoshi Warlords, if they are to avenge the Doom that has come to Meeros!
This mini-campaign follows on directly from events found in the Mythras core rules, and the scenarios Sarinaya's Curse, and Meeros Falling, although it can also be played stand-alone.
I’ll be getting both of these. My hope is that once a few more adventures come out for Lyonesse I can string them together—and add some of my own—to run a campaign later this year (or possibly early 2021). 

Speaking of Lyonesse, I finally picked up my printed copy of the rules, which had been languishing in my post office box for several weeks. It’s a beautiful volume. And it is thick (almost 4 centimeters / 1.5 inches)! 

I’m really looking forward to reading this tome properly over the next couple of weeks. I already have the PDF, which I’ve dipped into occasionally over the past month, but I generally find that I need a proper physical book to read something like this from cover to cover. E-books and PDFs are helpful and convenient, but they can’t replace proper paper.

27 June 2020

Four months of Chaos

I am starting to think that serving as Chair of my Department during a pandemic is highly suboptimal with respect to my ongoing happiness and wellbeing. 

Since my university closed all of its physical buildings and switched everything online in mid-March, my life has been consumed by work (learning how to use new online tools; managing the transition online for my own teaching as well as helping my colleagues; frequent meetings with other Chairs, Deans, and so forth to address the endless problems caused by the shut down; more meetings since the end of term to figure out what to do in the autumn; and—unrelated to the pandemic—trying to finish my obscenely overdue book).

Consequently, blogging here has been quite minimal. I also haven’t done any gaming at all.

It’s been a grind. The only thing that has kept me sane was hiding from the world with my wife in my parents’ cabin on Lake Huron. Alas, that’s over now.


I’m in the midst of moving right now, but hopefully things will settle down in July and I can return to at least a bit of gaming and somewhat more frequent blogging.

Sorry for the whine.

24 June 2020

Review of Crypts and Things Remastered

There is a quite informative review of Crypts and Things Remastered at Ynas Midgard's RPG Blog. (It was posted over a year ago, but I only just recently came across it.) 

Since I’m a great fan of C&T (and contributed some rules to it) I thought that I would mention it here, in case anyone was curious about the game.


Do you have that “Orcish” look? The splendid brow of a Uruk-hai?

"Lord of the Rings TV series issues New Zealand casting call for 'funky-looking' people"

"Talent agency job ad lists long skinny limbs, acne scars, facial lines, missing bones and large eyes as desirable features.”


Some of my friends would be perfect for these roles ("skinny limbs," "large eyes," etc.). (Not me, of course...)

19 June 2020

Ian Holm sails to Valinor

The actor Ian Holm has passed away.

Most readers of this blog no doubt will be familiar with Holm’s role as the android “Ash” in the original (and best) Alien film, as well as his portrayal of “Bilbo Baggins” in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth films (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit). He was perfect in both roles. He also superbly played “Napoleon” in Time Bandits. I’ve long been a fan of his work in general, including his portrayal of “Fluellen” in Kenneth Branagh’s version of Henry V.


RIP

15 June 2020

Living a life of real value

I've mentioned it before here, but I'm a great fan of Existential Comics. And I quite liked today's strip (reproduced below).

Just replace "playing video games" with "playing role-playing games" and I'm pretty much this guy...


30 May 2020

The Elite Hollywood Dungeons and Dragons Club

If you have seven minutes or so to kill you might enjoy this Variety story and video on “Hollywood’s Elite Dungeons and Dragons Club” (the sound quality of the video is better here). 

The Dungeon Master of this ‘elite’ group is Joe Manganiello. Among the players (in addition to actors like Vince Vaugh) are Kyle Newman, who is one of the authors of the excellent Art and Arcana book (the history of the art of Dungeons and Dragons), and D.H. Weiss (co-creator of the Game of Thrones HBO series, which I was quite fond of despite the final season [which I found disappointing but not terrible]).

While I generally find these kinds of stories somewhat diverting, I don’t really care about or ‘follow’ celebrities. I only know who Joe Manganiello is because he sometimes shows up in D&D or RPG-related stories and segments, like this one from Stephen Colbert’s show from two years ago. (He does seem like a decent fellow, though, and his gaming basement looks amazing.) 

Insofar as these tales of celebrities enjoying Dungeons and Dragons helps to promote and further destigmatize the RPG hobby, though, I am happy to have them appear. (But as much as I like D&D 5th edition, it would be nice if a different role-playing game might be mentioned in these ‘mainstream’ articles once in a while.)

[Picture by Chuck D of “Public Enemy”]

02 May 2020

Lovecraft Country coming to HBO

Looks like HBO may have a something to fill the void left by The Watchmen and The Game of Thrones: it’s Lovecraft Country, a series based upon the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff.

The novel has been on my ‘to read’ list for a couple of years now (it’s actually sitting in a stack of four novels on the table beside me as I type this). I just promoted it to the top of the pile, so that I’ll have read it before the series starts in August.

01 May 2020

Sail to Lyonesse today!

The Lyonesse role-playing game is now available! The system is based upon Mythras, adapted to Jack Vance’s classic fantasy setting.


I’ve mentioned this book a number of times before in this blog. It combines one of my favourite role-playing systems (Mythras) with one my favourite fantasy settings (Vance’s ‘Elder Isles’) –- so it’s pretty much the ‘Reese’s Cup’ game for me. I’m really looking forward to digging into it over the summer.

Here is the official announcement from the Design Mechanism:
We're delighted to announce that Lyonesse, the roleplaying game based on Jack Vance's award-winning trilogy (Suldrun's Garden, The Green Pearl, and Madouc) is available to buy from our DrivethruRPG store in Print+PDF versions.

We're offering the game in hardcover and softcover formats. The softcover is slightly cheaper than the hardcover (and yes the prices really are meant to be that close - one of the quirks of POD publishing), and both formats are Print On Demand, largely because in these uncertain times, we do not know how long it will take our regular printer to get back to normal operations, and our distributor, Alliance, is still closed for business.

The book costs $79.99 (hard cover), $74.99 (soft), or $25 (PDF only). You also received a free download of the main interior maps at full size, regardless of the format you buy.

Based on the award winning fantasy trilogy by one of Science Fiction and Fantasy's greatest wordsmiths, Lyonesse transports you to the Elder Isles, where King Casmir plots to seize control of the Ten Kingdoms, assassinate his foes, and prevent a disturbing prophecy from being fulfilled. Elsewhere, the magicians Shimrod, Murgen, and Tamurello are locked in a private battle of wit, will and magical intrigue. All the while, the brutal, disdainful Ska are drawing their own plans of conquest.
And in the immense Forest of Tantrevalles, the secretive fairies watch all that happens with wry amusement, and occasionally meddle in mortal affairs for reasons of their own.

Players in Lyonesse take on the roles of adventurers of the Elder Isles, seeking fame, glory, profit, magic, or simply the promise of a good meal and a soft bed for the night. Characters can be mercenaries or spies in the service of one (or several) kingdoms; oath-sworn knights eager to do battle with their lord's enemies; thieves, tricksters or even honest merchants, out to make a just living (sometimes). Perhaps characters are aspiring magicians, keen to emulate the likes of Shimrod, Tamurello, or even the mighty Murgen himself.

Lyonesse is a complete roleplaying game. This book contains everything needed (except dice and friends) for creating fabulous adventures in the Elder Isles. Exhaustive information on the kingdoms and lands of the islands; full rules for characters, skills, combat, magic, and monsters.
 
Great care has been taken to recreate the style and atmosphere of Jack Vance's novels, so that Games Masters and Players can fully immerse themselves in the Lyonesse setting. Special rules for creating towns, taverns, tavernkeeper, and even lovingly described meals are all included, emulating the quintessential elements of the books.

Don your armour! Take up your weapons! Sharpen your wits! Get ready for adventure across Hybras and beyond!
And here is a recent review of the game at RPG.net.

During these dark times, I’m so happy that this is now available. Praise Lucanor!

16 April 2020

JRR Tolkien: Procrastinator Extraordinaire?

This article — 'Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work? is rather dense. However, it reveals that the good professor’s time spent procrastinating went into thinking through the elements of Middle-earth, including the storylines that eventually would be realized in the The Lord of the Rings.


The author John Bowers notes:
For so many years, in short, he [Tolkien] had been loafing in his scholarly career as a losel who squandered time on children’s stories when he should have been whipping his Beowulf book into shape. He confided to his publisher in 1937 that Oxford would merely add The Hobbit to his “long list of never-never procrastinations” (Letters, 18). Fiction-writing simply did not count in terms of academic production, especially after Tolkien had idled away his two-year Leverhulme Research Fellowship. “The authorities of the university,” he would lament when The Lord of the Rings was in press, “might well consider it an aberration of an elderly professor of philology to write and publish fairy stories and romances” (Letters, 219). He explained to his American publisher this widespread view of his failings: “Most of my philological colleagues are shocked (cert. behind my back, sometimes to my face) at the fall of a philological into ‘Trivial literature’; and anyway the cry is: ‘now we know how you have been wasting your time for 20 years'” (Letters, 238). His enormous effort during the late 1940s in the cramped row-house without even a desk—”I typed out The Hobbit—and the whole of The Lord of the Rings twice (and several sections many times) on my bed in an attic of Manor Road” (Letters, 344)—was little known because it simply did not count.
I take comfort in learning that Tolkien was a procrastinator with respect to his academic work, as I am a terrible slacker myself. Unfortunately, this blog is the main product of my work-avoidance. *sigh*

Ah well. We can’t all be Istari.


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