29 July 2011

'Tea Party Hobbits'?

I (almost) never talk about politics on this blog, and I don't really intend to start now, but I found this piece on the current brouhaha in Washington over lifting the debt ceiling at Talking Points Memo rather amusing. Especially this part:
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) liked the analogy so much, he worked the piece into a floor speech calling on said "Tea Party Hobbits" to back a compromise on the debt ceiling.

Clearly hurt, Tea Partiers responded with LOTR reference of their own. Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots told CNN that "Clearly he's been corrupted by the ring of power." Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), an avowed fan of fantasy-inspired prog rock, took to the Internet to embrace his new title. "To those referring to 'Tea Party hobbits': I'd rather be a hobbit than a troll," he wrote, attaching a picture of Gollum. His followers quickly corrected him, however, noting that Gollum is not actually a troll but a corrupted hobbit. Go figure.
I find it hilarious that some of Rand Paul's 'followers' felt the need to correct him on Gollum's hobbit heritage!

(Also somewhat amusing is that Legolas, a Sindarin Elf, is used in the picture instead of, say, Frodo.)

Anyway, back to talking about RPGs...

27 July 2011

Gygax Memorial Fund at Gen Con 2011

If you’re going to Gen Con this summer (August 4-7), be sure to drop by the Old School Renaissance Group booth (#1541), which will have an exhibit for The Gygax Memorial Fund. You can donate to the fund there, as well as pick up some cool Gygax-related items.

The Gygax Memorial Fund website is here.

And here is a recent Onion A.V. Club article on the proposed Lake Geneva WI statue.

Milwaukee has a Bronze Fonz. Surely Lake Geneva deserves a Bronze EGG?

My Top 5 FRPG Artists – Number 4 – Peter Fenlon

I started a countdown of my ‘top-5’ FRPG artists in May, with Russ Nicholson at #5. Unfortunately, I subsequently dropped the ball on this series. Time to change that!

So here is some work from my fourth all-time favourite FRPG artist, Peter Fenlon.

Yes, Fenlon’s works are maps – specifically, maps from ICE’s Middle-earth campaign modules. Yet they also are works of art. I believe that they do an excellent job in capturing the ‘spirit’ or ‘ethos’ of Tolkien’s creation (even if other aspects of ICE’s Middle-earth series failed to do so).

This is an ‘artist’s interpretation’ of the continent of Endor, of which only the north-western corner will be familiar to readers of Tolkien’s works. The entire map is beautiful, and the ‘unexplored’ areas to the east and south really helped to fire my imagination as a young lad.

Here is a close-up of North-western Middle-earth, the regions famously covered in Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Here is a map that depicts the region around Bree, including Fornost Erain and part of the Shire. Like all of the ‘detailed’ Middle-earth maps, the scale is 1 inch = 20 miles. I loved that all of ICE’s detailed maps fitted together in order to create an amazing, massive, and beautiful map of Middle-earth!

And here is one of the earliest maps for ICE’s Middle-earth series (I believe that Umbar was either the first or second to be published). It depicts the bay around the city of Umbar, Haven of the Corsairs.

Well, that’s it for this instalment of this series. I hope to post the work of my #3 favourite FRPG artist sometime in August.

(Oh yes, if you are interested in maps of parts of Middle-earth, I should mention that Daniel Cruger has made some of his own superb work for ICE from the mid-1990s available at his blog ‘Tales from the Tower’!)

24 July 2011

OSRCon Toronto: a quick reminder

I'm taking a quick break from my epic journey to post a short reminder of the forthcoming 'old school' conference in Toronto on August 12 and 13: OSRCon - The Old School RPG Weekend!

I'll be running a Swords & Wizardry game on Saturday Afternoon, and playing in a Call of Cthulhu game, and one of Grognardia's 'Dwimmermont' sessions.

Hope to see some Toronto-area bloggers there!

23 July 2011

In the Western Lands (and some brief notes)

1. I’ve been travelling for the past week, and will continue to do so for another week. (Seattle, Vancouver, and the Okanagan valley – thankfully I’m escaping the heat wave afflicting the east!). So I probably will be unable to post anything until the end of the month.

2. I would like to apologise to my fellow bloggers for not keeping up with what they’ve been writing lately. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and now I’m wandering around in the Western Lands. I hope to be a better citizen of the RPG blogosphere in August.

3. I’ve deleted a number of blogs from my ‘blog roll’ (located on the right hand side of this blog), namely, those that are now defunct or haven’t been updated in several months. I hope to do some more fixing up once I return.

4. I’ve added a few blogs to the roll.

5. While I’m away, please feel free to recommend (in comments to this post) any blogs or websites to which you think this blog be should be linked. I’m especially interested in blogs that cover ‘old school’ role-playing games (including – but not limited to – TSR-era D&D, anything BRP-related, such as Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, and RuneQuest, and anything related to MERP or ‘classic’ Rolemaster). Blogs or websites covering fantasy art or fiction also are of interest. I suspect that I’m missing out on a lot of cool stuff out there, but I just haven’t had the time or energy lately to track down the newest exciting blogs and websites. Thanks in advance for your help!

That’s it for now. I hope that you’re all enjoying the summer! (Or winter, if you’re in the Antipodes.)

16 July 2011

RuneQuest 6th edition is coming!

I've been exercising an uncharacteristic amount of self-discipline for the past few weeks, somehow managing to keep my lips sealed about this exciting development, but now, finally, Loz (a.k.a. Lawrence Whitaker, the co-author of MRQII) has made it public:

RuneQuest VI is on its way!

The official announcement:

Its with great pleasure and excitement that I'm able to announce that The Design Mechanism, the new company formed by myself and Pete Nash, has successfully reached an agreement with Issaries Inc to become the new licensee for RuneQuest. The full Press Release can be found on the RuneQuest page at www.thedesignmechanism.com along with a detailed Q&A sheet for those who want to know more about what we have in store for RQ.

Greg Stafford, Issaries President, had this to say on the agreement: "RuneQuest is an old, highly respected brand that requires creativity, dedication and knowledge of the product. I know that Loz and Pete have that, plus enthusiasm and professionalism that will keep up the reputation and good name. I am pleased."

Clearly its early days for both Design Mechanism and RuneQuest's 6th edition but we have exciting plans for the game building on the work Pete and I have already done with Mongoose's RuneQuest II and we look forward to sharing them with the roleplaying community as we develop the new rules.


This is very exciting news! I look forward to learning more about RuneQuest 6th edition from Lawrence in future weeks, and will be posting more about it here.

15 July 2011

Fight On! #12 now available!

Issue # 12 of Fight On!, the premiere fanzine of the 'Old School Renaissance', is now available!

Calithena's blurb:
Mutants! Androids! Robots! Pure Strain Humans! Fight On! is back, with another 88 pages of gut-wrenching, laser-pulsing, fist-pounding action! Rules variants, tables, adventures large and small, science fiction and fantasy, races, classes, monsters, spells, magic items, NPCs, history, opinion, and lore can be found herein! Featuring art and articles by Mark Allen, Ian Baggley, Lee Barber, Erin "Taichara" Bisson, Daniel Boggs, David Bowman, Simon Bull, David Coleman, Fat Cotton, Michael Curtis, Liz Danforth, Ndege Diamond, Ron Edwards, Kelvin Green, Tim Kask, John Larrey, John Laviolette, Lester, Gabor Lux, Heron Prior, Jeff Rients, Chris Robert, Zak S., Alex Schroeder, Jason Sholtis, Tim "Sniderman" Snider, Jennifer Weigel, and this issue's dedicatee James M. Ward, alongside many others! If want to take your FRP experience to the next level, don't delay - buy this issue and Fight On!
The table of contents:
Champions of ZED (Daniel Boggs) 3
Fast Company II – Nonhumans (Schroeder & Shieh) 11
It’s All in the Cards (Michael Curtis) 12
The Tomb of Kaman-Doh Rey’d (David Coleman) 17
The Apen (Andrew “The Venomous Pao” Trent) 20
Geologians (Tim “Sniderman” Snider) 22
The Witch Doctor (Scott Moberly) 24
Knights & Knaves (Barber, Green, Rients, & Cal) 25
Grognard’s Grimoire (Erin “Taichara” Bisson) 27
The City State of Dusal Dagodli (Gabor Lux) 28
The Darkness Beneath (Heron Prior & David Bowman) 32
Education of a Magic User (Douglas Cox) 44
Doxy, Urgent Care Cleric (J. Linneman & K. Green) 45
Sir Tendeth (Tim “Sniderman” Snider) 46
Creepies & Crawlies (T. Snider and Jeffrey P. Talanian) 60
Monstrous Ecology (Ron Edwards) 63
Random’s Assortment (Peter Jensen & Random) 64
Curses Gone Wild! (John Laviolette) 65
Artifacts, Adjuncts, & Oddments (Jason Sholtis) 67
Treasure Types (Simon Bull) 68
Dungeon Modules: The Rondo Rooms (Jeff Rients) 69
Pigdivot! (Chris Robert) 72
Where the Action Is (Zak S.) 80
Merlyn’s Mystical Mirror (Gabor Lux & Jo Kreil) 84
Notes from a Master (James M. Ward & Tim Kask) 86
Here are the Lulu links for the print version and the pdf.

(And here is Calithena's full RPGsite blurb, including some information on discounts and other products!)

14 July 2011

ICE's Middle-earth Ad in Dragon

This one is from Dragon #67 (November 1982).

I remember finding that ad incredibly evocative as an adolescent infatuated with The Lord of the Rings.

I loved ICE's Middle-earth products during the 1980s and early 1990s. I still love them, although my fondness for the system has cooled off somewhat (and even more so for Rolemaster).

Around 1985, MERP supplanted entirely AD&D as my high-school group's main game. I ran it (and occasionally played it) almost every week for three years. I remember being impressed at how much more information was included in a typical MERP campaign module than an equally expensive TSR AD&D module.

I especially loved Peter Fenlon's gorgeous colour maps! (I’ll talk more about these maps in a future post.)

Even today I still pick up the occasional ICE Middle-earth book if I can find one reasonably priced. (Much of my high-school collection was 'borrowed' and never returned by a 'friend' once I went away to university. Since then I've gradually replaced most of the lost books, as well as gained some I never owned back then.)

Just thinking about ICE's Middle-earth books makes me want to break some out and run a campaign!

(Thanks to this post at Grognardia for the image of this ad, and for prompting me to write this post.)

13 July 2011

07 July 2011

Call of Cthulhu 30th Anniversary Edition

The announcement (from here):

2011 MARKS THE THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the release of our Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. To celebrate this important and rare occasion in our Adventure Gaming industry, Chaosium is proud to offer a special binding of the current edition (6th edition) of the Call of Cthulhu rulebook. It features thick (3 mm) leatherette hard-covers with the front cover and spine stamped with luxurious gold foil. The interior pages are printed in black ink, on 90 gsm matte art paper, and each book is individually numbered on the title page. The binding is thread sewn; square backed. Each book is individually shrink-wrapped, with the barcode stickered onto the wrapping so as to not mar the book cover.

I'm somewhat surprised that this will be a special printing of the 6th edition rules, as I had been under the impression that the 7th edition would be released this year. But given how little difference there is, rules-wise, between different Call of the Cthulhu editions -- one of the game's enduring virtues, in my opinion -- this hardly is a big deal. I merely was hoping for better layout in the special anniversary edition (I find the 6th edition too 'grey' and somewhat unattractive in places).

'ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!'

06 July 2011

The Journal of Edvund Yrvim - Entry 12 - The Demon and the Sorcerer

Trapped in dead Nhagren’s apartment, the seconds felt like hours, as the guards banged away at the door that we had barred. Weapons drawn, Bōdric and Adralat stood ready, while Aneera and I tore up and tied together the silk sheets of the dead Pan Tangian, in a desperate effort to create a rope by means of which we could flee the tower.

After several minutes of frantic tearing and tying, a strange eldritch scream emanated from below. The guards’ pounding ceased, only to be replaced by screams of horror and the sound of strange, pulpy explosions. Unnerved by these noises, I paused in my work with the sheets, and looked at my comrades. Worry was plain in their eyes.

A thudding noise became louder and louder from beyond the door. Some entity, much larger than a man by its sounds, stomped up the stairway. It reached the door and seemed to pause for a moment.

A scream of anger, no doubt belonging to the sorcerer Malagan, commanded: “Slay them all!”

Then the door burst open, revealing a demon from beyond the bounds of this mortal plane.

The hellspawn leapt straight for Bōdric, lashing out with its fearsome claws. My half-brother’s abdomen was slashed, blood flowing from cuts that, thankfully, were not too deep. Adralat struck at the creature, but his blade was turned easily away, as though it were a pesky gnat. In return, the demon’s claw banged onto Adralat’s breastplate, dazing him and knocking him back.

It seemed clear to me that we were in deep trouble. I began chanting my rune of Reflection.

Ignoring his dripping wound, Bōdric darted past the demon, and headed straight for the sorcerer Malagan, who was lost in concentration. My half-brother thrust forward with his rapier, which swerved past Malagan’s desperately raised arm. The Melnibonéan steel slid into the sorcerer’s mouth, forever silencing the foul orifice. After a brief gurgle of saliva and blood, Malagan slumped to the ground.

Alas, the demon still remained, now liberated from any form of control by its summoner. It chose to use its newfound freedom in a most unfortunate way: by pressing its attack against Adralat.

Fortunately, the dreamthief had recovered his wits, and, with what was no doubt the best backward slice of his life, severed the hellish creature’s head!

(By the Grey Lords, I continue to be amazed at my human companion’s propensity for beheading foes.)

The demon’s skin burst as its body collapsed, and the stench of sulphur became thick within Nhagren’s room. Its remains then desiccated into a vile black ash.

“Well done, human,” I muttered in gratitude.

01 July 2011

The One Ring RPG Characters Preview

Cubicle 7 has started posting previews for its forthcoming The One Ring Middle-earth RPG. The first one concerns 'Characters':

Adventures over the Edge of the Wild begins the epic of The One Ring in Wilderland – the land that ranges from the Misty Mountains in the West to the Iron Hills in the East, and from the Grey Mountains in the North to the Southern tip of Mirkwood.

Players create their characters from the heroic cultures that inhabit those regions of Middle-earth that Bilbo the Hobbit explored along his journey to the Lonely Mountain:

Bardings: Led by King Bard, the Bowman and Dragon-slayer, the Bardings have rapidly rebuilt Dale and are the fastest-growing power in Wilderland. A prosperous culture, Barding merchants seeking new markets for their goods are the driving force in the efforts to reclaim Wilderland in the name of civilisation.

Beornings: The followers of Beorn are a rugged and self-reliant people. Their loyalty to their chief and his teachings is strong, and they protect their lands and oppose the Shadow with matchless ferocity.

Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain:Having reclaimed their ancestral home of Erebor, the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain are rebuilding their domain. Their successful re-occupation has caused some of their number to consider which other long-lost holds could be likewise recovered.

Elves of Mirkwood: Centuries of battle with the Shadow has left the Elvenking suspicious of all other peoples. But with the alliance made between Elves, Men and Dwarves for the Battle of Five Armies and the eviction of the Necromancer from Dol Guldur, perhaps he and his people can forge stronger links with their neighbours.

Woodmen: The Woodmen, aided by the wizard Radagast the Brown, have endured in the Shadow of Dol Guldur for many years. Now, with the Necromancer gone, their culture has the opportunity to flourish and grow.

Hobbits: Mainly a cautious people, content to stay at home and tend their gardens, Hobbits are not usually given to adventures. But inside many young Hobbits is a thirst for adventure, a desire to see first-hand those things described in the old tales.

The first set of a trilogy of core publications, The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild puts players on the road to different realms and regions, towards the final confrontation against the Shadow many years later: the War of the Ring.

(Taken from here.)

I have to confess that I'm not especially keen on the approach that Cubicle 7 is taking with this game, namely, providing rules and information only for certain regions of Middle-earth in different products. (There apparently will be 3 'core' publications.)

Nonetheless, this approach will certainly distinguish TOR from its predecessors, ICE's Middle-earth Role-playing (MERP) and Decipher'sLord of the Rings RPG. In any case, given my abiding love for Middle-earth, I remain curious about the final product, even if I never end up playing it.

Dominion Day 2011

Happy Dominion Day! (Yes, I know that it's been called 'Canada Day' since 1982, but I have a nostalgic attachment to the older name.)

Above is an image of the Canadian flag from 1921 (which reminds me, I really need to update my 'Cthulhu Canada' campaign log!).

I hope that everyone in North America enjoys the long weekend! Sláinte!

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