28 December 2016

Rogue One is very good

I finally saw the new Star Wars film Rogue One today. It was a pleasant surprise! My expectations for the film were quite low, but it now ranks as my second favourite Star Wars film of all time, ranked behind only The Empire Strikes Back (and tied for second with A New Hope).

Here are three things that I especially liked about the film:

1. The character of the droid ‘K-2’. I think that this droid may now be my favourite in any Star Wars film. Sorry Chewy! (And I wonder if the name ‘K-2’ was a subtle reference to Inspector Jacques Clouseau’s sidekick from the original “Pink Panther” movies?)

2. The film explains what always struck me as an obvious hole with the original 1977 movie: namely, why the Death Star would include such a fatal flaw in its design, such that a single well-aimed shot from an X-wing fighter could destroy the whole thing. That Death Star design flaw now has a plausible rationale!

3. While the good guys succeed in their mission (this is no spoiler, at least not to anyone who has seen the original Star Wars film), it is not a traditional ‘happy ending.’ Instead, the ending is both tragic and hopeful.

Two minor criticisms:

a. The computer-generated ‘resurrection’ of Peter Cushing (who died in 1994) as ‘Grand Moff Tarkin’ struck me as rather creepy and even distasteful. Frankly, the film didn’t need to use Grand Moff Tarkin at all.

b. Forest Whitaker’s character ‘Saw Gerrara’ was pretty pointless. I was expecting more from him.

Those quibbles aside, though, Rogue One is my most pleasant movie surprise in a long time.

And the final scene with a young Princess Leia brought a tear to my eye. (RIP Carrie Fisher.)

21 November 2016

The Haunting (Call of Cthulhu adventure summary)

Since October 2014, I've been running a (very) sporadic Call of Cthulhu 7th edition campaign. Most of the adventures I've run have been new ones written for the 7th edition. The one exception is "The Haunting," which of course dates back to the beginning of Call of Cthulhu. Since "The Haunting" was included with the "quick start" rules for 7th edition, I started with it. Below is my brief summary of that adventure. (I will post summaries and impressions of the other adventures in the near future.)

The Setting:

1920s Massachusetts (Boston and Arkham), i.e., "Lovecraft County."

The Investigators:

Helen Tilton. Freelance photographer and journalist.
- Originally from Toronto.
- Sometimes works for the Boston Globe.
- Has Marxist sympathies.

Bertrand Smyth. Lecturer in Archaeology. Originally from London.
- Visiting lecturer at Harvard University (1922-23).
- Specializes in Ancient Greece.
- A veteran of the Great War.
- Cousin of Stephen Knott (property-owner and collector of rare artifacts).
- A bit of a ‘fuddy-duddy’ (dresses in an unstylish Edwardian manner).

Max Brewster. Private Investigator. Bostonian (originally from Lowell MA).
- A forty-ish, slightly greasy, gumshoe.
- A specialist in dodgy divorce cases.
- Plenty of street smarts, but little formal education.

The Scenario: The Haunting (September 1922).
[Warning: Spoilers below!]

Stephen Knott – cousin of Bertrand Smyth and owner of several Boston properties (‘Knott Properties’) – hires Max Brewster to investigate the ‘Corbitt house’. Knott has had trouble selling the house because of rumours that it is ‘haunted.’ Helen becomes involved because she knows of the house’s reputation and thinks that there may be a story worth pursuing. Bertrand agrees to assist in the investigation as a favour to his cousin. After some preliminary research the party investigates the house and discovers that it is indeed haunted. Poor Bertrand is tossed out of a second-story window by an animated cot, and later is attacked by a floating knife. Battered and frightened, the investigators leave the house.

Before returning to the house, in the course of their investigations, the party explores the ruins of the ‘Chapel of Contemplation.’ They come across some strange symbols amongst those ruins – symbols that look to have been recently painted. The symbols are of three Y’s arranged in a triangle, with a staring eye in the centre. 

A previously hidden basement also is discovered. There the investigators locate a moldy journal and an ancient tome (the tome later is identified by Bertrand to be the Liber Ivonis). Employing her connections with the Boston police department, Helen subsequently discovers that the church had been subject to a secret police raid years ago because of alleged unsavoury ‘cultish’ activities. The ‘pastor’ of the church, Michael Thomas, was arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison on five counts of second-degree murder. However, he escaped from prison in 1917 and remains at large.

Eventually the investigators discover a hidden crypt beneath the Corbitt house, and encounter the undead sorcerer Walter Corbitt. It seems that it was Corbitt who had been causing all of the mysterious difficulties within the house since his ‘death’ in 1866 (including the deaths and mental illnesses of the house’s occupants over the past several decades, most recently the Macario family). After a tense struggle, the investigators defeat Corbitt, and the vile sorcerer’s body dissipates into dust. The investigators decide not to mention Corbitt’s existence to anyone else, including Stephen Knott. 

After their victory over Corbitt, the investigators resume their old lives as best they can, but remain in touch because of their shared experience (which they cannot discuss with anyone else). Bertrand studies the Libor Invonis and learns some things that mankind was not meant to know…

Thoughts on the scenario:

This is a solid adventure that (obviously) has stood the test of time. The players were appropriately creeped out as their investigators learned more about the Corbitt manor and the Chapel of Contemplation. The final encounter was quite tense, with Corbitt taking control of Helen and almost killing poor Max! 

One weakness with the scenario is that not much is provided in the text in terms of advice for bringing the investigators together and motivating them to work for Stephen Knott. In this respect, I think that "The Edge of Darkness" is a better beginning adventure, as it provides a compelling reason for the investigators to work together and go on the mission in question (it also provides more structure for players unfamiliar with role-playing games).

That criticism aside, though, we all enjoyed this adventure. It was a good way to test out the 7e rules. I would give it 8/10.

15 November 2016

Beren and Lúthien book coming next year

This news is a few weeks old, but since I'm too busy to write a proper post right now, I thought that I would mention that there is a Beren and Lúthien book coming next year. (More info available here and here.)

Last month I finally got around to reading The Children of Húrin -- and thoroughly enjoyed it! I've been getting back 'into' Middle-earth over the past few month (in no small part thanks to Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle-earth book), and so am looking forward to picking up Beren and Lúthien once it's available.

For someone who's been dead for over four decades, Prof. Tolkien certainly is quite prolific!

24 October 2016

The End of Dark Dungeons

Jack Chick has passed away.

Chick was the author of numerous fundamentalist Christian comics. The most famous, for fans of role-playing games at least, was the (unintentionally) hilarious Dark Dungeons—which eventually was adapted into the (intentionally) hilarious film by the same name.

At least Chick was spared yet another Halloween…

15 October 2016

Not the Sons of Fëanor again!

I've been busy with the damnable 'real world' of late (hence the scarcer-than-usual blogging here in recent months). But I would be unforgivably negligent if I did not mention this recent New York Times story: "After Mudslides and Flooding in Iceland, Elves Are Suspects."

I have a few things I'd like to write about once I get over my current pile of work and forthcoming journeys. Among them: Some thoughts on The Children of Hurin (and a couple of other novels I've read recently), the new revised Crypts and Things, some Mythras updates, some notes on my recent Call of Cthulhu (7th edition) campaign, and some further thoughts on the new Middle-earth supplement for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

Also, I'm planning to revamp this blog sometime soonish (among other things, I'll be revising the links, blogroll, and so forth).

So, gentle readers, I promise to be back with further musings at the end of the month!

17 September 2016

Initial Impression of Adventures in Middle-earth

A while back I mentioned that Cubicle 7 was producing a Middle-earth supplement for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition (“Can Gandalf be a 5th edition D&D magic-user?”). Well the PDF of that supplement is out now. It’s called Adventures in Middle-earth. I have it, and after spending a few hours going through much of it, I have to say that I think that it looks quite promising. It does a solid job of adapting the 5e rules to Tolkien’s world, something about which I had been somewhat sceptical.

Cubicle 7 provides a general overview here, and a preview is available here.

The game is firmly set in post-Hobbit northern Middle-earth. The starting date is 2946 of the Third Age, five years after death of Smaug and the Battle of the Five Armies. The maps and cultures focus on the ‘Wilderland’ (roughly, Mirkwood and its surrounding territories).

There are eleven ‘cultures’ available to player characters. (These cultures replace standard D&D ‘races’.) They are: Bardings (those people from Lake-town who followed Bard to re-establish the city of Dale), Beornings (the hairy followers of Beorn), Dúnedain (the ‘Rangers’ of Eriador, that is, the surviving ‘High Men’ remnants of the lost kingdom of Arnor), Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, Elves of Mirkwood, Hobbits of the Shire, Men of Bree, Men of the Lake (the townsfolk of Esgaroth, now largely recovered from Smaug’s attack), Men of Minas Tirith (Gondorians), Riders of Rohan, and Woodmen of Wilderland. So seven of the eleven cultures are from the Wilderland. This is mildly annoying, as simply adding a few more cultures – say, Elves of Rivendell and Lothlórien, Dwarves of the Blue Mountains, and another Gondorian culture or two (perhaps Men of Dol Amroth and Pelargir, the other two main cities of Gondor in the late Third Age) – would have covered most of the PC-worthy cultures of north-western Middle-earth. Ah well, this is obviously a minor irritation.

There are six new classes. They are (with options in parentheses): Scholar (master healer, master scholar); Slayer (rider, foe-hammer); Treasure Hunter (agent, burglar); Wanderer (hunter of beasts, hunter of shadows); Warden (counselor, herald, bounder); and Warrior (knight, weaponmaster). The classes strike me as quite flavourful and appropriate for Middle-earth.

You may notice that there are no traditional spell-casting classes! While there are some (quite limited) magical abilities available to characters in the form of ‘virtues’ (cultural feats, such as ‘Wood-Elf Magic’ or the Dwarves’ ‘Broken Spells’), or higher-level class abilities (such as the Scholar’s 17th level ability ‘Words Unspoken’ and 18th level ability ‘Words of Command’), none of the classes can prepare and cast spells in the manner of D&D clerics and wizards. The authors note that you can add such classes (or any other D&D class for that matter) if you think that they fit into your vision of Middle-earth, but they did not want to include them amongst the ‘core’ set. This strikes me as the right approach. While there are characters within Middle-earth who have magical abilities (both ‘goodly’ individuals like Malbeth the Seer, and certain other Dúnedain, as well as the dark sorceries practiced by likes of the Mouth of Sauron and other ‘black’ Númenóreans), the D&D magic system is generally a rather inappropriate way of modeling them.

The backgrounds are rather flavourful as well, and help explain the characters’ goals and motivations. They include: loyal servant, doomed to die, driven from home, emissary of your people, fallen scion, the harrowed, hunted by the shadow, lure of the road, the magician, oathsworn, reluctant adventurer, seeker of the lost, and world weary. Each background gains two skill proficiencies (so ‘loyal servant’ gets ‘insight’ and ‘tradition’, whereas ‘the magician’ gets ‘performance’ and ‘sleight of hand’) and a special feature (e.g., ‘doomed to die’ has the feature of ‘dark foreboding’). Players also should select a ‘distinctive quality,’ ‘specialty,’ ‘hope,’ and ‘despair’ for their characters based upon their backgrounds. I really loved this section. It shows how D&D 5e backgrounds can be shaped to immerse characters within the ethos of the setting.

The equipment section covers coinage, trading and bartering, and the world’s different standards of living (e.g., ‘martial’ and ‘prosperous’), which are determined by characters’ cultures. Also covered are weapons, armour, and special culture-specific items (like ‘Dalish fireworks, ‘Dwarven toys,’ pipeweed, etc.). The discussion of herbs, potions, and salves is brief but very good – and quite ‘Middle-earth-ish’ in flavour. Finally, a number of colourful ‘cultural heirlooms’ are presented – such as ‘Dalish Longbow’ and ‘Axe of Azanulbizar’ – that characters can gain if they take the ‘Cultural Heirloom virtue’ or (rarely) find them as treasure during their adventures.

I haven’t gotten to the rules for journeys, the Shadow, the Fellowship phase, and so forth yet, but my quick skim of them has me rather excited. I think that this is going to be a fun game to play! I am looking forward to checking out further books in this line.

Indeed, I’ve already started digging though my old MERP collection, thinking about what materials to convert, what campaigns to run…

For a more complete overview and review, see this post by Rob Conley at his ‘Bat in the Attic’ blog.

Oh yeah, I should mention that the book is beautiful in terms of art and layout!

30 August 2016

Dungeons and Dragons artifact from 1983

I found this slightly damaged artifact in the basement of my parents' house today. I'm pretty sure that I drew it in 1983. I was 12 or 13 at the time, and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons had become my life.

Ah, memories!

28 August 2016

Loz Con 2016 summary

So "Loz Con 2016" took place over the weekend of August 12th—14th. The generous host, Lawrence Whitaker, summed up the grand event in the following Design Mechanism post:
LozCon 2016 was a lot of fun. With 7 attendees, it had grown by over 25% on 2015's venture, and the variety of games was, as ever, eclectic. 
1. Cthulhu 7 - in which an intrepid band of Irish hoodlums investigated a strange tenement in Arkham. Lots of madness ensued. 
2. Into the Odd - in which an intrepid band of semi-Undead residents of Necrocarcerus went for a fun day out in the theme park of the demon Muurl. Lots of madness ensued. 
3. Bridge Over Troubled Parallels - in which an intrepid band of Valhalla agents ventured to an alternative Edinburgh, encountered an alternative Billy Connolly, an alternative Sean Connery, some alternative killpanzees, and almost died in very horrible ways. Most controversial scenario of the con, and madness ensued. 
4. The One Ring - in which a hand-picked fellowship (chosen by Elrond himself) escorted a twitchy Ranger to his ancestral home, that appeared to be in the hands of bandits and a creature known as 'The Eye'. Fighting ensued, and the madness was confined to the 'Ranger'... 
My thanks to the marvellous attendees (Blain, Chris, Jude, John, Sean and Erich) and compliments to the chef (me)...
One quick correction regarding Loz's comment on the Mythras/RQ6 'Arkwright' game ("Bridge Over Troubled Parallels"): "in which an intrepid band of Valhalla agents ... almost died in very horrible ways." One agent — my character, the Scottish revolutionary hero Duncan Barr — did die in a very horrible way. He was shot to death by machine-gun wielding chimpanzees. I guess I should've expected that that would happen, as we were in Edinburgh after all. Still, it was an ignoble way to go. Indeed, the entire adventure went pear-shaped over a period of five hours (red herrings pursued, mission failed, parallels destroyed, one character killed, multiple characters near death, etc.). Ah well...

I ran the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition game. The scenario I used was "Missed Dues" from the 7e Keeper Pack. It worked quite well as a 'one shot' adventure. It also was quite effective at introducing some new players to the CoC universe. However, given the adventure's hook — all the characters are gangsters who owe the local 'boss' a favour, and thus agree to try to track down a burglar behind in his 'dues' — it probably would not fit within a regular 1920s campaign. But if one did want to run a campaign in which all of the characters were criminals, this adventure would work well with the other one in the Keeper's Pack, "Blackwater Creek." (The latter adventure can be run either for a group of bootleggers or a group affiliated with Miskatonic University. When I ran the adventure last year, I used the latter hook, as one of the characters was a professor at MU. [I plan to write more about my sporadic, but still ongoing, CoC 7e campaign here in the near-ish future.])

Finally, I enjoyed The One Ring role-playing game a lot more this time around than I did the few sessions I played of it a few years ago. I had a small issue with the way the 'madness' mechanic worked, but other than that I thought that the game did a rather good job in capturing the feel of late Third Age Middle-earth. Consequently, I would be happy to try TOR again, and am considering picking up the new hardcover version for my collection.

This is the second Loz Con I have had be pleasure of attending. My thanks again to Lawrence for hosting. I hope to attend again in 2017!

25 August 2016

Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper discuss Dungeons and Dragons

This exchange (within the first three minutes or so) between Stephen Colbert and Anderson Cooper is pretty hilarious. (And of course Cooper's favourite character was an elf.)

12 August 2016

Tolkien Elf or Prescription Drug?

Two months ago I posted a story about my experience with the 1980s ‘Dungeons and Dragons panic’. I mentioned that one of the friends with whom I gamed regularly during my early teens (~ 1984) had an elf character named ‘Feldene’ (an anti-inflammatory drug, properly known as ‘Piroxicam’).

Well, it turns out that many prescription drugs have names that sound quite elvish! Indeed, there is a quiz: “Prescription Drug of Tolkien Elf”? (Much to my shame, I scored only 24/30.)

It’s good fun. Almost as good as the high from some Finarfin

31 July 2016

C is for Cthulhu

I was excited to discover today that a new ‘children’s book’ based upon the Cthulhu Mythos has been created. It’s called Mythos ABC, and a free PDF version is available. I think I just failed my Sanity roll!

As you can see, the art is wonderful. (Since the PDF is free, I assumed that there would be no problem with sharing a few of the pictures in a smaller format.)

There is an article at Vox on it (a friend linked to it, which is how the book came to my attention). Truly, if Vox is reporting on Cthulhu-related items, Lovecraft has permeated all aspects of our culture! (I’m not sure that’s a good thing…)

11 July 2016

And so the crown passes from RuneQuest 6 to Mythras...

Here is the Design Mechanism's statement on the end of their 'RuneQuest' license and their transition to 'Mythras':
On Monday, our time as custodians of the RuneQuest license formally draws to a close. We've felt honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to work so closely with such an iconic brand, but all things change, and so we transition from RuneQuest to Mythras. We do, of course, wish our friends at Moon Design and Chaosium every success for the next edition of RQ and we look forward to seeing the results of the game returning to Glorantha. 
Our arrangement with Moon Design allows us 6 months to dispose of all remaining RQ6 stocks, and fortunately we only have a handful of the RQ6 hardbacks left in stock, so this won't be a major issue. We'll leave them on sale until we either exhaust stocks completely or the 6 months come to a close. All our supplements remain on sale and can do so for up to five years, although we are rebranding all our PDFs will be most likely rebrand the physical stock with the Mythras logo. 
As for Mythras itself, we will be releasing the game in hard copy and PDF most likely in mid-August. We want to ensure that the print process is well underway before opening for preorders - a slight change in our usual procedure. It means that people will get their copies quicker after making payment. It also means that we can release Mythras and Mythic Rome together (or very close together), alongside another product that been our Super Secret project, and will be given its own announcement in due course. We will release a preview of Mythras, so you can see the new layout (and if you have Imperative, you know what to expect already). One thing that we can tell you is that Mythras is 304 pages - a good 34% smaller than RQ6, but with no loss of content (in fact, we've added more). It will also be cheaper - probably around $40. For the new content you can expect: 
[Some new art pieces (courtesy of our friends at Runa Digital in Spain)
Reorganized and expanded Animism rules, including Special Effects for Spirit Combat
Additional Special Effects, including firearms SEs and a couple of brand new ones developed for Mythras. 
We're looking forward to getting this book out there.
Another piece of extremely good news is our partnership with Aeon Games Publishing. Aeon is based in the UK and is our fully licensed production and distribution partner for the UK and Europe. If you're outside North America you will be able to order all our books from Aeon Games Publishing directly, and receive them quicker and at much reduced shipping than from our US warehouse. As the company's CEO, Oliver Rathbone says: "Aeon Games Publishing is committed to new and innovative role playing games. Our team of dedicated gamers runs the gamut from old school to cutting edge. We are proud that our first publications combine the two in the Design Mechanism's Mythras Ruleset which takes the best of the classic Runequest rules and brings them into the forefront of modern gaming. Please see our website at www.aeongamespublishing.co.uk for more details and forthcoming publications." The website goes live early next week. 
So it's farewell to RuneQuest 6, but Well Met to Mythras. This is an exciting time in The Design Mechanism's evolution and we continue to be indebted to all our fans and customers for their support, encouragement and enthusiasm. 
Loz and Pete
I'm looking forward to checking out the new Mythras core book once it's available, and playing the game for the foreseeable future. But it'll feel strange not to refer to the game as 'RuneQuest', as I've been doing for almost six years now (ever since I started playing MRQII in the Young Kingdoms).

16 June 2016

Remembering the 1980s panic over Dungeons and Dragons

I finally got around to watching this ‘retro-report’ from the New York Times: When Dungeons and Dragons Set Off a ‘Moral Panic’.

I think that it’s quite good. It summarizes some of the main elements of the great D&D panic of the early 1980s, including the claims that playing D&D ‘causes’ suicide and murder amongst teens (by making them loose touch with reality, by glorifying violence, and the like), and that it promotes ‘Satanism’ and ‘the occult’.

It has some interesting clips of Gary Gygax from 30+ years ago, as well as other news reports from that era, and some recent comments from Tim Kask. It also includes some contemporary reflections on the hobby, including great remarks from well-known authors like Cory Doctorow and Junot Diaz. Towards the end of the report, Diaz touchingly comments on the value of role-playing games like D&D in cultivating creativity, providing a ‘safe place’ for ‘unpopular’ kids to socialize and develop self-confidence, and so forth. It’s a very ‘pro’ D&D piece overall.

Watching the report reminded me of my own experience with the 1980s hysteria over Dungeons and Dragons. Fears of ‘Satanism’ and the like concerning the hobby were never as intense or widespread in Canada as they were in the United States. (I think this was, at least in part, because of the absence of anything comparable to the American ‘Bible Belt’ in Canada. While of course there are Canadian fundamentalist Christians, they are a much smaller portion of the overall population than they are within the United States.)  Nonetheless, there was something of an echo of the panic in Canada, and especially in southern Ontario where I grew up, probably because of its proximity to Michigan (where one of the famous incidents that inflamed the D&D panic occurred in 1979, as explained within the retro-report).

Here’s what happened to me. There was a role-playing club in my high school in London Ontario (I think it may simply have been called the ‘Dungeons and Dragons club,’ even though we played games other than D&D; I can’t remember now). One day, in 1985 I think, a news reporter and a cameraman from the local television station asked to film one of our games. Needless to say, this was quite a thrill for a gang of nerdy adolescent boys!  And it was especially thrilling for me, since I was the Dungeon Master. I was dizzy at the prospect of having ‘my’ game displayed on television. The glory!

So we played our game for about an hour. Afterwards the reporter asked us some questions about it. Stuff like:

  1. “Were you scared when the creature in the well surprised you and attacked your character?”
  2. “Why is your character named ‘Feldene’? Isn’t that a drug?” (I’m amazed that I still remember this.)
  3. “Do you get upset or angry when your character is hurt or killed?”

 We gave pretty boring answers to all of her (rather leading) questions:

  1. “No, I wasn’t scared, this is only a game.”
  2. “My dad is taking Feldene, and I thought it sounded like a cool name for an elf.”
  3. "I get a little upset when my character dies, but, you know, this is just a game.”

Over the subsequent two weeks I watched the six o’clock news like a hawk, waiting for my 15 minutes of fame. But it never happened. There never was any news story on our amazing high school RPG club. I was crushed.

One of my friends in the group understood why: “We just weren’t controversial enough; actually, we weren’t controversial at all.” If only my friend had named his elf ‘Heroin’! Or if only one of us had started weeping and screaming at the prospect of his third-level cleric being killed!

Perhaps having a DM like Ms. Frost would’ve helped us get on TV:


11 June 2016

Mythras Imperative is now available

Well that was fast! Design Mechanism has made Mythras Imperative -- the core elements of the RQ6 version of the d100 system -- available for free as a PDF and available for a very reasonable price in print from Lulu.

I'm amazed that Loz and Pete could distill the essentials of Mythras to 34 pages. Nice work!

06 June 2016

Some info on Mythras Imperative

Here is some more information about the forthcoming Mythras Imperative (a couple of pictures of which I posted yesterday):
What is Mythras Imperative?
A 34 page introduction to the Mythras system, designed for both newcomers and old hands. It gives you a pared-down, simplified version of Mythras but still with enough options and depth to be a playable game. The rules cover character creation, skills, the core mechanics of the game, spot rules for different circumstances, combat mechanics, and several creatures from fantasy, real life and science fiction. 
Is this a fantasy game?
We’ve made Mythras Imperative generic. Skills cover the ancient, modern and futuristic worlds, and the weapons include firearms. So Mythras Imperative gives you the starting point for adventuring in any time period you want. Other supplements, and the core Mythras rules themselves, expand on things like magic, vehicles, psionic powers and so on. 
So no magic then?
Not in Mythras Imperative. We’ve kept things at a high level to make it easy for everyone to get the hang of the basics. When you’re ready, trade-up to the full Mythras rules for a total of five different magic systems! 
What else can I do with it?
Mythras Imperative can be used by third party publishers to develop their own, Mythras-powered games, in conjunction with the Mythras Gateway License. This simple agreement extends our permission for the Imperative rules to be used wholesale in new systems people want to create. Contact us for more details. 
What else is available for Mythras Imperative?
We have several free scenarios ready for adventurers – fantasy and science fiction so you can see first-hand the scope of the Mythras rules. 
Does this replace RuneQuest Essentials?
Yes it does. From summer 2016, RuneQuest Essentials will be discontinued. If you have a copy already, you’ll find it fully compatible with Mythras Imperative.
(From Loz at DM.)

05 June 2016

Mythras Imperative?

Some intriguing photographs from Loz at the Design Mechanism forum:

That's a great looking cover, one that nicely captures the 'ethos' of the game!  

The subtitle is: "An Introductory Rule Set for Mythras and d100 Roleplaying." So I guess this will replace the "RuneQuest Essentials" PDF that will be discontinued in the very near future? (I'll be sure to ask Loz next time I see him, but he sometimes can be tight-lipped on what DM is up to...) 

Above is a picture of the interior of the book. The layout is clear and clean. And no ligatures!  ;)

I'm really looking forward to getting this.

02 June 2016

King Tut’s meteorite dagger

Cool: “A famous dagger found in the wrapping of Egyptian King Tutankhamun's mummy was made with iron from a meteorite.”

My D&D stats for this meteorite dagger: +3 to hit and damage; double damage versus undead creatures; mummies hit have a 50% change of being disintegrated (no save).

21 May 2016

Dungeon Master Drumpf

I don't pay that much attention to Twitter usually, but this account, "Dungeons and Donalds," is really quite entertaining!

Some samples:

04 May 2016

The Blade Itself a decade later

Joe Abercrombie reflects on the publication of his first novel, The Blade Itself, ten years ago.

If you're a fan of fantasy fiction and are unfamiliar with Abercrombie's work, you owe it to yourself to check out the First Law trilogy as soon as possible!

17 April 2016

Big Trouble in Little China

So I watched Big Trouble in Little China for the first time in decades the other night.

Some post-viewing thoughts:

  • Why don't people make great movies like this anymore?
  • Kurt Russell plays pretty much the same character in every John Carpenter film. (Okay, MacReady ["The Thing"] and Plissken ["Escape from NY"] are both smarter than Jack Burton. But varying intelligence scores aside, they’re all pretty much the same character.)
  • The whole ‘adventure’ in the movie reminds me of the way my old group used to play Call of Cthulhu back in high-school: essentially as modern day ‘D&D’ with lots of bad decisions.
  • Kim Cattrall is pretty good in this. (Pity she hasn't appeared in anything of note in recent decades. Well, I'm pretty sure she hasn't...)

  • The film includes a D&D "beholder" (or at least a creature clearly inspired by a D&D "beholder").  That was a fun surprise.
  • I love how Jack Burton – the purported ‘hero’ of the film – has a ‘sidekick,’ Wang Chi, who is braver, more intelligent, and much better at fighting than him.  (Although Jack does manage to redeem himself somewhat by killing the Lo Pan [the BBG] at the end.)
  •  Why don't people make great movies like this anymore?

Best quote (from Jack Burton): “I' m a reasonable guy. But, I've just experienced some very unreasonable things.”

10 April 2016

Classic Fantasy is here (for RQ6/Mythras)

Classic Fantasy – a supplement for RuneQuest 6 (soon-to-be Mythras) is now available for purchase from the Design Mechanism.

Here is the official announcement from the DM:
We are delighted to announce that Classic Fantasy is now available to pre-order in print, or buy for immediate download in PDF. 
Classic Fantasy brings Old School dungeon crawls to the Mythras and RuneQuest 6 rules. This 336 page book contains everything you need to emulate the fun of class and level-based adventuring, against the classic coterie of monsters, with the classic armoury of spells! If you've ever wanted to convert those old dungeon modules to a d100 system, then Classic Fantasy is for you. 
Packed with information and new rules additions, Classic Fantasy features a different approach to character creation based on classes such as the bard, cavalier, fighter, magic user, paladin and thief. Choose your race - human or demi-human - and then customize according to class, race and personal preference. If you're a magic user or cleric, the new magic rules for Arcane and Divine spells take the old staples such as Magic Missile, Charm, Fireball and more, and tailor them for the nuances of the Mythras and RQ6 systems. 
Or, for the more combat-oriented, the Classic Fantasy rules provide detailed miniatures-based combat adaptations for the traditional battle-board, complete with guidance on facings, positioning, and handling detailed movement. 
And of course, no book like this would be complete without monsters to kill and treasure to take! All the old favourites are accounted for, from Basilisks to Displacer Beasts, Grey Ooze to Gelatinous Masses, Kobolds, Gnolls, Hobgoblins and more. Forty pages of treasure and magic items helps you equip even the deepest dungeon with enough loot to satisfy the keenest adventuring party. 
You can buy Classic Fantasy in these ways...Preorder the Print Copy: $44.95, available in 6-8 weeks (shipping approx 1st June 2016) and get the PDF free of charge, with immediate download. Simply visit our online store (www.thedesignmechanism.com/products), and select Classic Fantasy from the Supplements catalogue. 
This is not a standalone game. Games Masters and players will need access to either the Mythras or RQ6 rules to play Classic Fantasy (although other d100 rule systems may suffice). 
Buy the PDF copy on its own, immediately: $19.95, either from our online store (and select Classic Fantasy PDF from the Supplements catalogue), or from DrivethruRPG (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/…/180255/Classic-Fantasy--TDM500) 
So break out the Mountain Dew and the Cheetos... Classic Fantasy is here!

Although the announcement does not mention ‘Dungeons and Dragons,’ emulating that style of adventuring with the RQ6/Mythras rules is obviously the aim of this supplement.  I remain a fan of what can be called the ‘D&D genre’ of FRPGs, and I obviously am a big fan of RQ6/Mythras, so I’ll definitely be getting Classic Fantasy (even though I likely will continue to rely primarily on a heavily house-ruled version of AD&D, or an ‘old-school-ized’ version of 5e D&D, for most of my future D&D-style games).

09 April 2016

The Angsty Dragon of Angst

Another great "Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophers" episode from Existential Comics!

Bards are mocked quite mercilessly in this one:

[Complete comic here.]

Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus was the first work of philosophy that I read carefully from beginning to end (I did so for a first-year university course on existentialism).  So I retain a certain fondness for Camus, even though my professional work has nothing to do with existentialism.

And of course I still play Dungeons & Dragons. And I like bards! Indeed, they're my second-favourite class (after mages).

30 March 2016

Curious about OpenQuest?

There is a very good OpenQuest bundle of holding’ deal available until April 4th.  It consists of four PDFs – the 2nd edition rules and three adventure packs – for only 8.95 USD. 

So if you’ve been curious about OQ, the ‘rules-light-ish’ OGL version of RuneQuest published by D101 Games, then this would be an excellent opportunity to satisfy that curiosity! 

And for some interesting background on OQ – why and how Newt Newport created the system – check out this post at Newt’s ‘Sorcerer Under Mountain’ blog.

14 March 2016

Can Gandalf be a 5th edition D&D magic-user?

Cubicle 7, publishers of The One Ring role-playing game, will be coming out with a series of Middle-earth products for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.

Here is the official announcement:
Cubicle 7 Entertainment and Sophisticated Games have announced plans to make a Dungeons & Dragons® compatible roleplaying series for J R R Tolkien’s legendary fantasy world of Middle-earth, the setting for The Lord of the Rings® and The Hobbit®.
Cubicle 7’s CEO Dominic McDowall said, “We’re all very excited to be building on the success of The One Ring Roleplaying Game and bringing Middle-earth to D&D® players. Uniting two things very close to the hearts of gamers, me included, is very cool – I can't wait for the summer.”
The best selling The One Ring Roleplaying Game will continue as a separate and independent line, with some very exciting announcements coming this week. The new series will be based upon Francesco Nepitello’s highly praised work in The One Ring®, with Francesco acting as creative consultant.
Further details will be released in the coming months, with the release set for Summer 2016.
This is exciting news, at least for me, as I played a ton of ICE's Middle-earth Role-playing ('MERP') during the glory days of my gaming youth (from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s). I haven't used Middle-earth  for my gaming in fifteen years, but I still very much like the world, and look forward to seeing what Cubicle 7 produces for it. (I assume that the standard 5e rules will be heavily tweaked, as they are quite inappropriate for Middle-earth as written.)

Do you remember the classic Dragon article: "Gandalf was a 5th level magic-user"? I guess we'll soon find out whether Gandalf can be a 5th edition magic-user...

[Gandalf by Frank Frazetta.]

08 March 2016

Are you in a Viking Saga?

"How to tell if you're in a Viking Saga."

I especially liked: "Greenland is horrible, but you have persuaded people to move there with false advertising."

[Picture by I, Berig, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2287417] 

07 March 2016

Review of Curse of Strahd

My friend Christopher Robichaud has given me permission to repost the following short review of WotC’s new 5th edition D&D adventure, Curse of Strahd.
The significantly disappointing thing about Curse of Strahd is that it's just the 5e version of I6: Ravenloft. And the thing is, I'm exhausted with that scenario. 
I6: Ravenloft, for its many flaws, is among the greatest D&D adventures of all time. And since no good deed can go unpunished, its popularity and success have made it the single most remade D&D module ever. The 2nd edition remade it with House of Strahd. The 3rd edition remade it with Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. And now the 5th edition has remade it again with Curse of Strahd
All these adventures are basically the same story, with the same maps, told with a different rules set, and getting ever more bloated. (I6: Ravenloft is 32 pages, House of Strahd is 64 pages, Expedition to Castle Ravenloft is 220 pages, and Curse of Strahd is 256 pages.) 
I longed for something more. Princes of the Apocalypse was, in my opinion, an ultimately disappointing reboot of Temple of Elemental Evil. But at least it tried to do something new with the mega-dungeon, as did its predecessor, 3e's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, a direct sequel to the original and quite good in its own right. We've gotten very little of that with Ravenloft. The original module has a weird and wild sequel, Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill, and of course, House of Strahd was part of 2e's entire Ravenloft campaign setting, which in addition to featuring lots of other villains, revisited Strahd on occasion with From the Shadows and Roots of Evil. But that's about it. 
Of all the 5e campaigns WOTC has put out, this one is the biggest letdown. It's just a rehash of I6 with more of Barovia fleshed out, an idea already explored at length in Expedition to Castle Ravenloft. We don't need a 5e version of the same story. You can convert any of the 1e, 2e, or 3e Ravenloft modules just fine. What would've been great would have been a reboot along the lines of Princes of the Apocalypse. Even if it fell short, it would've been something fresh. Alas, it was not meant to be. Curse of Strahd, I'm afraid to say, is as stale as the air in the catacombs beneath Castle Ravenloft. What a shame.
In a follow-up message, Robichaud added:
I didn't mention that I think, as far as it goes, it's a fine 5e version of the module. It nicely expands the lands around the castle in a way that allows players to play in a sandbox more than just showing up and then heading right to the castle.
So perhaps there is a reason to get the adventure after-all (namely, if you want to use I6 in your 5e game, but can’t be bothered to convert I6 to 5e yourself).

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