24 March 2019

Not one but two forthcoming Vance-based games

I’m a big fan of Jack Vance’s fantasy works—in particular, his Lyonesse trilogy and his Dying Earth stories. So I’m quite excited about the Design Mechanism’s forthcoming Mythras-based Lyonesse role-playing game. (For an interesting discussion of the first Lyonesse novel, go here.)

To my amazement, though, I completely missed the announcement a few years ago of another Vance-based role-playing game: namely, one from Goodman Games set in the Dying Earth. Since the original announcement claimed that the game would be available in ‘late 2017’, I was worried that the project had been abandoned. However, this GG post from about two weeks ago (March 12th) indicates that it’s still on the cards.

It looks like the Dying Earth RPG will be based upon the Dungeon Crawl Classics role-playing game. I’ve never played DCCRPG, but based on my reading of the ‘quick start’ rules (which I picked up a couple of years ago), I’m not sure I’m too keen on it. While I quite like old school games—I even contributed to one (Crypts & Things)—the particular interpretation of ‘old school’ offered by DCC (e.g., the ‘funnel’ for 0-level characters; the randomness of the magic system) does not really resonate with me. At the same time, though, I’m open to the possibility that my ‘pre-play’ assessment is off, and I’d be happy to try it someday. And if the DCC system is suitably adapted for the Dying Earth setting, I’ll definitely pick it up and give it a shot!

(Goodman Games has a brief discussion of Vance’s writings here.)

21 March 2019


After 10 years of the same thing, I'm testing out a new look for this blog.

Initially I just wanted to replace the picture. (The above 'Dragon Slayers' drawing is something that I did in 1983 [when I was 12 or 13].) But that led me to make other changes...

I'm not sure I like this current look, although I do think it's more 'readable' than the old one.

I may tweak it some more in the near future. Comments or suggestions would be appreciated (but, obviously, not necessarily acted upon).

17 March 2019

Larry DiTillio, RIP

According to RPG.net, Larry DiTillio has passed away.

Within the role-playing games community, DiTillio is probably best known as the co-author of the classic Call of Cthulhu campaign, Masks of Nyarlathotep.

Masks one of those amazing campaigns that I've read and read about -- and want to run someday...

Sad news. RIP Mr. DiTillio.

07 March 2019


By the Valar! It looks like the forthcoming Amazon Prime Middle-earth series may be set during the Second Age and will encompass Númenor.

If you go to the most recent map of Middle-earth and scroll over to the bottom left (southwest) corner you can see the legendary island kingdom of the high men:

And the map does not merely depict Middle-earth at the end of the Second Age, but an earlier time. This is because it includes Ost-in-Edhil and Eregion—the land of the Elvish smiths, including Celebrimbor (second only to Fëanor in his skill), which was destroyed by Sauron’s armies following the creation of the Rings of Power in the middle of the Second Age. (The surviving Elves fled the ruins of Eregion and, under the leadership of Elrond, founded a hidden enclave: Imladris, better known as ‘Rivendell’.)

For further discussion of this map and what it might portend for the series, check out this article at Tor. (Among other things, the article wisely cautions us against becoming too excited about the prospect of a series set during the Second Age. Perhaps there will be only some ‘flashback’ scenes set during the Second Age, but the story itself will take place well into the Third Age.) 

UPDATE: This Polygon article seems confident in asserting that the series will be set during the Second Age. And an Amazon Prime tweet from earlier today says: "Welcome to the Second Age." Hmmm....

04 March 2019

Hawkmoon is coming to the small screen

Well this interesting: BBC Studios is adapting Michael Moorcock’s Runestaff tetralogy into a television series.

Hawkmoon is not my favourite character amongst Moocock’s ‘Eternal Champions’—I find Corum, Elric, and von Bek to be more nuanced and engaging protagonists. But some of Hawkmoon’s companions, such as Huillam d'Averc and Oladahn, are quite colourful. And the main villains of the series—like the withered and ancient Emperor Huon, who dwells in a fluid-filled sphere in Londra, and the sybaritic and cunning Baron Meliadus, who is Hawkmoon’s chief antagonist throughout the series—are brilliant. The Granbretans in general should be interesting to watch, as they wear animal masks at all times in public (the subjects of the Emperor belong to various ‘orders’, each with their own totemic animal).

But the star of the series, if it’s done properly, may be the setting itself: the post-‘Tragic Millennium’ future earth, wherein the vile Empire of Granbretan threatens all of Europe and, indeed, the world. The series encompasses much of this world—from Syria and the Ukraine in the east, to North America in the west—so it has the potential to showcase some amazing scenery and sets. And then there are the battles: I look forward to scenes wherein the warriors of Count Brass’s Kamarg, mounted on giant flying flamingos, are met by the Granbretans’ baroque ornithopters and terrible ‘flame lances’. 

Hopefully BBC Studios will do justice to Moocock’s world and story. I’m cautiously enthusiastic…

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