17 November 2019

Interview with the Mythic Lawrence Whitaker

Gentle readers, as many of you already know, Lawrence Whitaker (‘Loz’) runs the Design Mechanism with Pete Nash. Whitaker and Nash created the Mythras role-playing game together (the immediate successor to RuneQuest 6, also authored by them). In addition to Mythras, and many fine supplements for it (e.g., Mythic Britain), Loz has written numerous excellent RPG books over the past few decades. He’s also a superb gamemaster.

Anyhow, ENworld’s Charles Dunwoody recently interviewed him about his RPG work. Among many interesting things, Loz mentions the forthcoming Lyonesse role-playing game:
“The Lyonesse RPG will be released next year for the system, licensed and approved by Splatterlight Press. It will be self-contained and powered by Mythras. Lawrence described the setting as consisting of an archipelago between England and France that is said to have sunk in the modern age. The RPG spins out of a setting created by Jack Vance. The books are evocative and filled with interesting characters and the RPG will follow suit. It combines traditional European folklore with violent action. The setting has a complex set of magical rules. Some humans can use faerie magic which is a less powerful form. Higher level magic works through demon summoning. The demons work magic on behalf of the sorcerer.”

(The DM’s PDF overview of the Lyonesse RPG can be found here.)

Curious about Mythras? Check out Mythras Imperative for free!



14 November 2019

Another article on the popularity of D&D

There is an article on the current popularity of Dungeons and Dragons in today's New York Times: "In a Chaotic World, Dungeons & Dragons Is Resurgent."  It's a nice piece, and I'm glad that the game is doing so well these days (including with a wider range of kinds of players than ever before).


I certainly like 5th edition far more than the previous two. In fact, I'm running a 5e D&D game right now. But I just wish that other role-playing games would be mentioned sometimes in these articles! It's a bit frustrating that 'RPGs = D&D' for most journalists.

*sigh* 😞

11 November 2019

Cthulhu, utilitarian

Only Existential Comics could portray the great old one Cthulhu as a rational utilitarian:


EC’s series on ‘Philosophers and Dungeons & Dragons’ is simply wonderful. If you haven’t read them yet, I highly recommend doing so! (I previously posted on parts I, II, IV, V, VI, and VIII—hmmm, not sure why I didn’t mention parts III or VII here.)



30 October 2019

A thing that went surprisingly well

For once in my life something went more smoothly than I expected it to...

Last Sunday I finally got my Greyhawk campaign going with a couple of old friends. One of the players was in Toronto, the other in Montreal, and I was DMing from Milwaukee. We used 'google hangouts' for the session. The few handouts I used were emailed to them at the appropriate times. We all rolled our own physical dice (rather than use some online dice-roller), etc., and generally relied on the 'theatre of the mind' to follow what was happening.

I was surprised how well it worked. Indeed, I regret having bothered with 'Roll20' years ago (for a short-lived AD&D campaign), which was far more trouble than it was worth. I also regret not trying this much earlier. While I prefer meeting in person (who doesn't?), this was pretty close to that experience.

We all had a great time and plan to continue with regular sessions in the future. However, I suspect that things would not run as smoothly if we were a larger group. Three or four participants probably is optimal for online gaming (at least using a video conference tool).

Anyhow, I hope to write more about this campaign -- and Greyhawk in general -- in the near-ish future.

27 October 2019

Past visions of the future: Germany 1930

I’ve always been fascinated by how people in the past envisioned the future. (Here’s a post from 2015 on how some 19th Century French artists thought life would be like in 2000.)

So I was delighted to stumble upon this article: “Wonderful Futuristic Visions of Germany By Artists In 1930.”

The pictures are all quite delightful, but this one struck me as especially prophetic:


Here is the caption:
Wireless Private Phone and Television.
Everyone now has their own transmitter and receiver and can communicate with friends and relatives. But the television technology has also improved so much that people can speak to each other in real time. Transmitters and receivers are no longer bound to their location, but are always placed in a box of the size of a camera.
These optimistic visions of the future are especially poignant given the hell into which Germany would descend in only a few years.


19 October 2019

Role-playing games and self-discovery

I thought that I would mention a couple of recent first-person essays on role-playing games in the popular press. Both essays reflect on how playing RPGs helped the authors learn about themselves and develop in important ways.

Recently in Vox: “The best $1.16 I ever spent: a set of loaded Dungeons & Dragons dice” by Jessica Xing.

And in the Washington Post: “How my role-playing game character showed me I could be a woman” by Joan Moriarity.

I found both essays rather interesting. They were written from perspectives radically different from my own. Nonetheless, I can relate to the power of role-playing games in self-discovery and self-development. I know that I would’ve been a very different person—less imaginative, far more shy—had I not opened up the blue ‘Holmes’ Basic Set of Dungeons and Dragons (the one with chits!) many decades ago…

24 September 2019

OSRIC fanzine: Saving Throw

Miss Fight On! or Knockspell? I know I do!
 
Well Saving Throw is here to give you that ‘old school’ thrill again.


Here’s the blurb (from DrivethruRPG):
Saving Throw — a fundraiser fanzine to help James D. Kramer
You may know Jim Kramer from his Usherwood Publishing modules & supplements, or his work helping produce works like OSRIC and Knockspell. You probably didn’t know Jim had multiple brain surgeries to remove tumors, and the battle has gotten much harder. To help Jim and his family during this difficult time, a group of his friends, collaborators, and first edition enthusiasts banded together to make this fundraiser fanzine, where all royalties go directly to Jim and his family. 
This 60+ page issue of Saving Throw contains:
Introduction by Ron Redmond
Island Tables - random generation and inspiration tool by Steve Smith aka “EOTB”
Sorcerer’s Stone - dungeon level by Keith Sloan
Trolls of the Simpolo Swamps - leech-mated trollish variations by Joseph Browning
Perladon Manor - adventure module by Gabor Lux
By The Runes - fiction by Dan Rasaiah
Magic Item Intrinsic Material Values - variant magic item value rules by Guy Fullerton
Goblin Garbug Cavalry - new monster by Andrew Hamilton
The Tiled Labyrinth - mini-dungeon by Guy Fullerton
Lotus Blossoms - magical and special properties of these exotic flora by Keith Sloan
Burly the Baker - ready-to-use NPC and cantrips by Gary Francisco
Darkworld Troll - new monster by Bryan Fazekas
Offig’s Tomb - treasure map by Steve Smith aka “EOTB”
Lizard Man Lair - outdoor module and new monsters by Steve Smith aka "EOTB"
Mephitic Geysers of the Intaglio Rift - treasure map by Allan T. Grohe, Jr. (“grodog")
The Mere Beneath - dungeon level by Guy Fullerton, Allan T. Grohe, Jr. (“grodog"), and Henry A. Grohe
Sarendra’s Crew & Kelurrin’s Crew - ready-to-use NPC parties by Allan T. Grohe, Jr. (“grodog")
Rescue from the Sanctuary of the Leopard Goddess - dungeon module by Matthew Riedel
Featuring illustrations by Jimm Johnson, James D. Kramer, Wind Lothamer, Gabor Lux, Denis McCarthy, Peter Szmer (soon), Del Teigeler, and Alex Zisch. 
For the lucky price of $13, you get two treasure maps, three referee tools, five new spells, six modules, at least nine new monsters, twelve ready-to-use NPCs, and more. Plus the knowledge that your purchase helps a family during a difficult time.
Thank you!
I have it, I’ve looked it over, and it’s the real deal.  Fight On!

Also: check out the OSRIC webpage.

16 September 2019

Mythic Babylon cover

My friend and gaming colleague Chris Gilmore (‘Hartmut Hare-Eye’) is the co-author of the forthcoming Mythras setting book Mythic Babylon (it will be part of the Design Mechanism's 'Mythic Earth' series). The book won’t be coming out until next year, alas, but the Design Mechanism has previewed its cover. It looks suitably epic:


I know little about Babylonian mythology aside from the Epic of Gilgamesh (a novelization of which I read years ago). So I’m really looking forward to this, not only for the gaming content but for educational purposes as well.



08 September 2019

Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophers: The Sci-Fi Debate

It’s been a while, but there is a new installment (number VIII) of “Dungeons & Dragons & Philosophers” at Existential Comics!


Read the whole thing here.

Kudos to Dungeon Master de Beauvoir for adhering to the old school D&D philosophy of permitting ‘science fiction’ elements into her campaign.

(A pity, though, that the comic doesn’t mention the ‘classic’ role-playing game Cyborg Commando!)

28 August 2019

The Lost City (B4) to rise again

Cool! The fourth ‘Original Adventures Reincarnated’ book from Goodman Games will be The Lost City (B4). 

From GG's announcement:
“First published in 1982, B4: The Lost City was designed as a stand-alone adventure for use with the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set. Author Tom Moldvay wrote the adventure with the intent of teaching novice gamemasters how to craft and run a dungeon. For that reason, many areas of the original adventure—including much of the titular city itself—are left undefined. And if you’ve read any of our earlier releases in the OAR series, you know that those areas are not going to be left blank for the Fifth Edition translation!
OAR #4: The Lost City will combine scans of the original edition of the module with 5E conversions and new material, as we’ve done with prior books in the OAR series. The conversion is being handled by Chris Doyle and Tim Wadzinski, the same team responsible for OAR #1: Into the Borderlands and OAR #2: The Isle of Dread.
At this time, the target release date is June 2020, but we will keep you updated as time passes. And not just about the release date—we’ll also be giving you sneak peeks and behind the scenes info on the book!”
I'm very happy with what Goodman Games did with B1-2 and X1. I'm looking forward to their treatment of S3 (Expedition to the Barrier Peaks) and am thrilled that B4 is now in the queue.

It's a bit odd, though, that Goodman Games will be lurching from the Basic/Expert (B/X) Dungeons and Dragons line to the 1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons line for S3, and then back to B/X for B4.

[Some adventurers versus 'Zargon'. Picture by Jim Holloway]

Also, it’s a pity they're skipping B3, Palace of the Silver Princess. It would've been nice to have a reprint of the 'forbidden' version along with the 'expurgated' version! (For an interesting discussion of B3, check out “The Day the Old School Died” at the Alexandrian blog.)

[The original orange cover version of B3. Picture by Erol Otus.]

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