25 December 2011

Russ Nicholson Dungeon Crawl Classics Gallery

I praised the work of Russ Nicholson in an earlier post. Much to my delight, Goodman Games has posted a gallery of some of his work for their forthcoming ‘Dungeon Crawl Classics’ RPG here.

While I’m not thrilled about the DCCRPG – at least based on the 'beta' preview provided several months ago – the art for the game may get me to purchase a copy nonetheless!

21 December 2011

Hobbit trailer

Check out the new Hobbit trailer!

08 December 2011

Legend (formerly MRQII) News

From the ‘State of Mongoose 2011’:


Legend has gone with a far, far bigger bang than we expected. As I write this, we have already blasted through the first printing run and the book sits at the top of the Drivethru charts with the first supplement, Monsters of Legend, fast chasing it.

We had intended this game to be a continuation of the RuneQuest II mechanics, allowing us to provide support indefinitely for existing customers. Instead, it rather seems to have taken a life of its own!

This is, I believe, due to a number of factors, not least of which is that Messrs Lawrence Whitaker and Pete Nash designed a rock solid fantasy system that ticks all the right boxes. Added to this, the new format and the low price of £10/$19.99 means that instead of just buying one book, you can now get one for every player at the table for much the same price. We released the PDF version for just $1. We made the entire book (in fact, the entire core range) Open Content – not via an SRD but literally all the text of the books. Finally, we promised a quick amount of support material, from Monsters of Legend and the free Spirit Magic download, to brand new material for our various settings.

So, what have we got planned for Legend through 2012?

We are busy converting all our ‘historical’ settings over to the new format, so you will see Vikings of Legend, Pirates of Legend and Samurai of Legend in the first few months of the year. Again, all of these will also be 100% Open Content.

Cities of Legend (also Open Content) will start appearing fairly early on, each providing a full fantasy city that can be placed in just about any campaign. Each city will be mapped out, a short history included (just enough to start linking it with the rest of the campaign world, whichever one that may be) and all the interesting locations, characters and events detailed. And then there is Arcania of Legend, introducing new and varied magic systems to the game, allowing you to pick and choose which you want to use in your campaign worlds. That kicks off with Blood Magic.

We weren’t going to do a GM’s screen for Legend but, given the demand we have seen for one of late, we may have to! And yes, it would be landscape format.

Elric of Melnibone will be getting two new supplements early in the year, Secrets of the Steppes and Talons of Winter. The first describes a vast wilderness in the Young Kingdoms we have yet to touch, the latter a true sandbox campaign set within the steppes. We are already talking to several writers about new Eternal Champion material for later in the year, and we hope to have both Hawkmoon and (finally!) Corum out before too long.

Then there is Historia Rodentia, a new setting for Legend that came about from a chance meeting at Gen Con 2011 with On The Lamb Games, when I saw their range of miniatures for Brushfire, the tabletop version of the RPG. This is a very cleverly constructed setting that looks simple on the surface but has all kinds of interesting subtleties when you start digging beneath the surface. The basic premise is that of a world populated by intelligent animals, but one that mirrors our own.

For example, the soldiers of Axony appear as bulldogs in British Army colonial uniforms (think Zulu). However, Axony is populated by both cats and dogs, and has recently come out of its Civil War and… well, I think you can see where this is going. The English Civil War in this world was not fought between parliamentarians and royalists but cats and dogs. Other nations around the world get similar treatment and I personally am planning a campaign based on the exploits of Sharpe and the Chosen Men in their wars against the Empire of Aquitar (France, populated with moles, badgers and weasels). Overall, Historia Rodentia is not entirely serious but the characters within take themselves very seriously indeed. We’ll be previewing this soon, and it is one to look out for.

Our own RuneQuest II settings, Deus Vult and Wraith Recon, will be continuing apace. Our own Charlotte Law has been working on a sourcebook for Deus Vult, covering the city of Rouen (if you have read our Deus Vult novel, Sister Devout – available at Drivethru and on Kindle – then you will already know what a hotbed of cults and corruption 12th Century Rouen can be!), and we are talking to other writers for more material to appear later in the year. The RQII books for both of these games are already fully compatible with Legend, and we will be keeping them available until their stock is gone, then republishing them in the new Legend digest format.

And then there is third party setting, Age of Treason, for which we believe a new supplement is already in the works! One way or another, 2012 will see an awful lot of support for Legend.

I’m glad to see that Legend is doing well, even though I’m confident that RuneQuest 6 will prove to be the superior RPG. (After all, RQ6 is not simply a ‘scrubbed’ version of MRQII, but rather a revised and improved version of MRQII by that system’s co-creators.)

Especially interesting is Mongoose’s plan for the Eternal Champion series. It looks like Mongoose will not simply be ‘repackaging’ their back catalogue for Legend, but actually will be coming out with some new products for the line. While I’m not holding my breath for a Legend-based version of Corum, I certainly will pick it up should it ever appear!

The Cities of Legend supplement also sounds intriguing. On the other hand, Historia Rodentia sounds positively dreadful, the kind of product that makes my day a little worse simply by implanting an aesthetically unpleasant concept in my sluggish brain.

More positively, Age of Treason sounds intriguing. And it’s nice that everything in the core Legend book is Open Content!

Sale on Lamentations of the Flame Princess PDFs

Fans of the old school RPG products of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess publisher may be interested to know that there is a sale on a number of LotFP pdfs over at DriveThruRPG. Many items are available for only 1.35 USD.

I (finally) picked up Vornheim, about which I have heard many positive things.

04 December 2011

Here Be Monsters

There is an interesting – though very speculative and somewhat rambling – article entitled ‘Why We Invented Monsters’ over at Salon. People familiar with this blog may find it to be an enjoyable, if unusual, read. It’s not really scientific (despite its pretensions), but certainly grist for a chat over a few pints…

01 December 2011

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Cakebread & Walton have taken Newt Newport’s excellent OpenQuest system (essentially a ‘rules light’ version of RuneQuest, with some bits from Stormbringer thrown in), and retooled it for Renaissance-era fantasy role-playing. Their new system – called, appropriately enough, ‘Renaissance’ – will fuel the second edition of their excellent campaign setting, Clockwork & Chivalry.

Today Cakebread & Walton announced some exciting news concerning Renaissance and Clockwork & Chivalry at their website:

Cakebread & Walton are pleased to announce the launch of the Renaissance System Reference Document, available for free download. The Renaissance system is a new D100 system based on Newt Newport’s OpenQuest, and is designed for historical and fantasy gaming in the age of black powder weapons. Released under an Open Gaming License, which allows companies and individuals to incorporate the rules into their own games, it features familiar mechanics, grim and gritty combat, extensive period weapons and equipment lists, dozens of professions, and rules for factions and belief systems. It also includes two magick systems – the powerful battle alchemy first introduced in Clockwork & Chivalry 1st Edition, and a streamlined and expanded version of the witchcraft rules from the Silver Oggie Award-winning supplement Divers & Sundry.

Renaissance can be downloaded in two forms: as a zip folder containing all the Word files needed to introduce the rules into your own system, or as a printable PDF for use at the gaming table.

Also released today is a 40 page preview of the forthcoming Clockwork & Chivalry 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, due out from Cubicle 7 Entertainment in January. This 400 page rulebook incorporates the Renaissance system into a fantasy world of mud, blood, mayhem and magick, in an alternate 17th century England where the giant clockwork war machines of Oliver Cromwell do battle with the battle alchemists of the Royalists, and Adventurers struggle to survive in a world of religious persecution, splintered politics, corruption, ghouls, witchcraft and chaos.

The Renaissance system will form the engine for all future Clockwork & Chivalry releases, as well as other exciting new Renaissance products for 2012 and beyond. Products in the pipeline include the first four volumes in the Kingdom & Commonwealth campaign re-released in two omnibus editions (currently in preparation), followed by the final two adventures in the series, Hobbes: Leviathan and London Calling; a series of “pick-up-and-play” books for the Renaissance system, including Clockwork & Cthulhu and Clockwork & Deviltry; and a new “airships and flintlocks” fantasy world, Realms of Gold, featuring, faeries, shape-changing lizardmen, plunder, pirates and revolution in a world almost, but not entirely, unlike our own.

I’m especially intrigued by the reference to a ‘Clockwork and Cthulhu’ book, which is something that I would snap up in a second!

Overall, I must say that it is good to see that Cakebread and Walton not only have survived the unexpected early end of MRQII, but now are authors of their own destiny with Renaissance!

23 November 2011

Cover Art for RuneQuest 6

Here is the blurb from the Design Mechanism website:

We're delighted to share with you the stunning cover art for RuneQuest Sixth Edition.

By Pascal Quidalt, the picture is, of course, an updated version of the iconic original RQ cover (originally painted by Luise Perrin). Pascal, who has done some outstanding covers for roleplaying games, has taken that original and created a beautiful and unique take on the imagery.

The artwork depicts Anathaym, a Meerish warrior of the Cult of Theera, under ambush by a cunning, predatory, Slargr (pronounced SLAR-guh) when she mistakenly wanders into its hunting territories. The hulking creature tears away her shield - a typical slargr tactic - leaving the shocked Anathaym to rely on her spear and its Bladesharp matrix.

Will she survive? The RuneQuest rules, using Anathaym as our example heroine, will give you the answer...

It’s a gorgeous picture, in my opinion. Kudos to Pascal Quidalt!

I would love if it were available as a print — I want it framed on my wall!

Moreover, as the blurb indicates, it’s a nice tribute to the classic cover of RuneQuest 2, while nonetheless clearly establishing a distinctive identity for RuneQuest 6.

Now I'm very much looking forward to seeing previews of some internal art…

09 November 2011

Gygax Memorial Tile

Here is a picture of the memorial tile for Gary Gygax at the Riveria in Lake Geneva, WI. (Photo gained from Ignatius Umlaut via that facebooky-thingie.)

Very nice. (Although the 'nitpicker' in me thinks that it should say "Co-creator".)

I really have to go to Lake Geneva one of these days. I've been based (partially) in Milwaukee for over three years now, but the only other place in Wisconsin to which I've ventured has been Madison.

08 November 2011

Exciting Crypts and Things Update

Newt Newport of d101 Games has announced that PDFs of Crypts & Things have been sent out to everyone who has pre-ordered the game! I hope that they like it.

Crypts & Things is based on the 0e 'retro-clone' Swords & Wizardry by Matt Finch (a.k.a. 'Mythmere'). In addition to Newt's many additions and modifications to 'core' S&W, it draws upon some of the 'Akratic Wizardry' house rules that I developed a couple of years ago. It also includes Newt's dark continent of 'Zarth', ideal for 'swords and sorcery' style adventuring in a dying world of savage barbarians and eldritch horror.

More information on C&T, including details on how to pre-order the game, available here.

Order now, and you'll be as cool as this dashing hipster:

07 November 2011

Cthulhu and Lovecraft Political Campaign Posters

More here!

(Hat tip: Christopher Robichaud.)

31 October 2011

29 October 2011

15 October 2011

Cliffs of Dyrhólaey

The Cliffs of Dyrhólaey, on the south coast of Iceland. (Suitable for use as a visual aid in any fine fantasy role-playing game.)

04 October 2011


The beginning of Clark Ashton Smith’s short story, The Dark Eidolon:

On Zothique, the last continent on Earth, the sun no longer shone with the whiteness of its prime, but was dim and tarnished as if with a vapor of blood. New stars without number had declared themselves in the heavens, and the shadows of the infinite had fallen closer. And out of the shadows, the older gods had returned to man: the gods forgotten since Hyperborea, since Mu and Poseidonis, bearing other names but the same attributes. And the elder demons had also returned, battening on the fumes of evil sacrifice, and fostering again the primordial sorceries.

Many were the necromancers and magicians of Zothique, and the infamy and marvel of their doings were legended everywhere in the latter days. But among them all there was none greater than Namirrha, who imposed his black yoke on the cities of Xylac, and later, in a proud delirium, deemed himself the veritable peer of Thasaidon, lord of Evil.

Those two paragraphs alone make me want to run a campaign set in ‘Zothique’!

(The entire story is available on line here.)

28 September 2011

Crypts and Things Final Cover

Here it is:

Great work, as always, by Jon Hodgson!

Apparently the scene was inspired in part by this cover of Dark Horse’s The Savage Sword of Kull collection (a reprint of the Marvel Comics’ ‘Kull’ tales from the late 1970s and early 80s):

As always, more information on Crypts and Things can be found at Newt Newport’s blog, Sorcerer Under Mountain.

(FYI: Newt used my ‘Akratic Wizardry’ house rules in writing C&T. So, needless to say, I’m a huge supporter of this project!)

25 September 2011

A Real Hobbit-Hole

There now exists a real 'hobbit house' in Wales (as reported in this article):

It looks rather nice and livable. And, at £3,000, surprisingly affordable!

The article refers to it as a 'hobbit house', but Tolkien fans will know that the proper English term is 'hobbit-hole', and that hobbits themselves refer to them as 'Smials' (widely believed to be one of the few words that they retained from their pre-Westron tongue).

16 September 2011

Conan, Lecturer at Trinity College

I taught at Trinity College Dublin for three years. And although I was a lecturer in a different department, I am amazed that I did not encounter this remarkable academic during my time at that venerable institution!
Dr Conan T. Barbarian, B.A.(Cimmeria) Ph.D. (UCD). F.T.C.D.
Long Room Hub Associate Professor in Hyborian Studies and Tyrant Slaying.

Dr Conan T. Barbarian was ripped from his mother's womb on the corpse-strewn battlefields of his war-torn homeland, Cimmeria, and has been preparing for academic life ever since. A firm believer in the dictum that "that which does not kill us makes us stronger," he took time out to avenge the death of his parents following a sojourn pursuing his strong interest in Post-Colonial theory at the Sorbonne. In between, he spent several years tethered to the fearsome "Wheel of Pain", time which he now feels helped provide him with the mental discipline and sado-masochistic proclivities necessary to successfully tackle contemporary critical theory.

He completed his PhD, entitled "To Hear The Lamentation of Their Women: Constructions of Masculinity in Contemporary Zamoran Literature" at UCD and was appointed to the School of English in 2006, after successfully decapitating his predecessor during a bloody battle which will long be remembered in legend and song.

In 2011/12, he will be teaching on the following courses: "The Relevance of Crom in the Modern World", "Theories of Literature", "Vengeance for Beginners", "Deciphering the Riddle of Steel" and "D.H. Lawrence". He strongly objects to the terms of the Croke Park agreement and the current trend for remaking 1980s films that he believes were perfectly good enough in the first place.

He is happy to hear from potential research students with an interest of any of these topics, but applicants should note that anyone found guilty of academic misconduct or weakness in the face of the enemy will be crucified as an example to the others.
(Found on this [seemingly legitimate] webpage. It looks as though a practical joke had been played on the TCD English Department?)

13 September 2011

In Praise of Erol Otus

Ranking my top five favourite fantasy role-playing artists of all time is a difficult endeavour. On any given day, any one of the five artists I’ve selected could be my ‘number one’.

Perhaps I should not have bothered with an attempt to ‘rank’ them at all? It certainly would’ve been simpler to declare them all to be my ‘five favourites’.

Nonetheless, given that I’ve started this ‘countdown’, I may as well continue with it. And so I declare my third favourite FRPG artist of all time to be the truly unique Erol Otus.

Here is the cover to the first issue of Dragon that I ever purchased:

Even after thirty years, I still find Otus’s cover to Tom Moldvay’s version of the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set strangely evocative:

Otus’s pictures for the Cthulhu Mythos in the AD&D book Deities and Demigods forever shaped how I view H. P. Lovecraft’s alien, eldritch creations.

Here is Cthulhu himself (looking slightly hung-over, I think):

And a Shoggoth!

Also from Deities and Demigods, from the section on the Michael Moorcock’s world of Melniboné and the Young Kingdoms, is this picture of Elric’s great nemesis, the Pan Tangian sorcerer Theleb K’aarna:

Here is the creepy Mad Hermit from the classic module, “The Keep on the Borderlands” (B2):

(I wonder how many player characters, over the decades, have been ambushed by this unsavoury fellow’s pet cougar?)

No survey of Otus’s work would be complete without a picture of the seductive Queen of the Demonweb Pits, the Drow Goddess Lolth:

Here is one of Otus’s own player characters from the Rogues Gallery:

And finally, here is a very recent tribute to Gary Gygax:

Anyone interested in seeing more of Otus’s work should definitely check out Jeff Rients’ ‘Erol Otus Shrine’!

(FYI: my post on number 5, Russ Nicholson, is here, and my post on number 4, Pete Fenlon, is here.)

12 September 2011

09 September 2011

Drunk Swedish Elk in Apple Tree

This story has absolutely nothing to do with FRPGs, but I found it too entertaining not to post here, if only to get this blog up and running again.

31 August 2011

End of Summer 2011

It’s with some sadness that I note the approaching end of summer. I’ve been living in Toronto since January, thanks to a research grant that gave me one term of ‘teaching relief’ from my regular job ‘professing’ in Wisconsin. This enabled me to focus on writing a few academic articles.

(Why did I choose to do this in Toronto instead of Milwaukee? The main reason is that my partner, Jo-Anne, has a full-time job in Toronto. Yes, like many academics, I presently am trying to solve my own version of the ‘two-body problem’. Additional reasons for spending 8 months in Toronto include my old friends here, and the fact that I love this city, despite its warts.)

During the past eight months I’ve enjoyed some great gaming. I ran a sporadic but fun Call of Cthulhu campaign, set in 1923 Toronto. We only managed to complete three adventures (in four sessions), but I look forward to restarting it again in the future.

Of greater note is the epic Elric of Melniboné campaign that was ‘game-mastered’ by MRQII co-author Lawrence Whitaker. We met about 2-3 times per month since late January (although somewhat less frequently, unfortunately, in June and July). It was probably the greatest campaign in which I’ve ever played. Much to my relief, despite some difficult schedules over the summer, we managed to get a couple of thrilling sessions in during the last half of August, which brought the campaign to a pretty astonishing ‘holding point’. We all hope to continue the campaign, even if in order to do so we may have to play online. (Not only am I moving back to Milwaukee this week, but another player is moving to Paris in September. The gang is dispersing!)

I’m horribly far behind in the logs for both the ‘Cthulhu Canada’ and the ‘No Reason for Waking’ (Elric) campaigns. But I have good notes for both, and look forward to bringing them up to date during my gaming hiatus in September.

Since I’m about to move back to Milwaukee, and have to get ready for the autumn term, I doubt that I’ll have time to post anything new here for at least a week (possibly longer).

On an unrelated note, here is a picture of yours truly with the Wizard of Hope:

(While travelling through British Columbia during my vacation in July, Jo and I stopped in the charming town of Hope. There are numerous chainsaw woodcarvings throughout the town, and this one in particular appealed to me, for obvious reasons.)

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).