Saturday, 18 May 2013
New Arrows of Indra Review
So the pre-orders of Arrows of Indra have already shipped; and the general print edition goes on sale around the end of June.
Meanwhile, buzz on the game continues. For example, this awesome new review of the game. They sure liked it over at Game Knight Reviews, so if you're curious about AoI go check out why they did.
Meanwhile, stay tuned here for more updates and information about Arrows of Indra, as well as ideas and supplementary details that you won't find in the book!
Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja bent apple + Dunhill 965
Friday, 17 May 2013
Lords of Olympus: Curses and Benedictions
In Lords of Olympus, the power to utter divine curses and benedictions is part of Olympian Magic, though my own feeling is that in a LoO campaign, this should also be a power which other creatures and beings may have. I had almost considered separating the curses/benedictions power from Olympian Magic itself. The reason is mainly that this is a very important part of evoking the feeling of Greek Myth in the game.
A lot of Greek Myth ties in with ideas of destiny; there are things that are not destined, and that depend on the ability or choices of individuals, but there are things that absolutely ARE destined, in a magical sense, that in one form or another MUST come to pass. In many cases, this issue of destiny becomes a major source of drama (and often tragedy). Thus, in a Lords of Olympus campaign, I would strongly urge the GM to encourage the use of Curses and Benediction. Without some kind of subtle encouragement, PCs might be very reluctant to use such a terrible power, in part because of the 10-point cost to luck.
What the Players should come to see (through GM example!) is that Curses and Benedictions can have massive significant effects in a game. The GM should ideally demonstrate this by having NPCs make use of this power, and then making it clear to the players what a major force this power has. The GM also has to be careful, while not avoiding the collateral damage that a well-worded Curse or Benediction can cause, to avoid any temptation to end up discouraging the use of curses (or benedictions) out of fear that the GM will just make it come around and bite the would-be curse-er in the ass. The idea of collateral effects is in place to make people think about how they use Curses or Benedictions, and NOT to be used to just make these powers so inevitably self-damaging as to not be worth it; take my word for it, the 10 point cost will be more than enough to keep players from just frivolously throwing around curses (or benedictions). Thus, when they do show a willingness the pay that cost, the GM shouldn't make it any harder for them.
And it should be very powerful, a curse when uttered should be enough to make even the most powerful God very nervous. Fate cannot be avoided, only mitigated; and while a Benediction can remove the effects of a curse, that still brings a serious cost to whomever utters it; and it depends, of course, on the victim of the curse knowing that he has been cursed, which is not always evident! I would go so far in my own game (though I did not explicitly state it in the rules) that a benediction could only remove a curse if the person giving the benediction knows what the curse was and who uttered it (this makes the matter much more interesting than a costly-but-routine reaction to being cursed). And of course, any effects already manifested by a curse will not simply go away by the granting of a benediction.
Finally, as I mentioned above, Curses and Benedictions need not be the exclusive domain of Olympian Magic users. On the one hand, I could see very ancient and powerful creatures having access to this same ability. Certain Primordials, without a doubt, would be able to do something equivalent to curses or benedictions, only in their case it probably shouldn't cost them anything (however, just what kinds of curses or benedictions they can cause should be limited by their alien mentality and their specific primordial interests).
Similarly, there should be world/realm-specific "magic" that mortals might learn that allows for the creating of curses and benedictions as well; however, these would not be nearly as powerful as the Divine Curses or Benedictions available to those with access to Olympian Magic. In most cases, this mortal-curse or mortal-benediction power should only be able to apply in the specific world where it is given; and simply avoiding that world would allow one to "escape" the curse (not to mention changing reality on that world, of course). It could also be conceivable for there to be a kind of "Promethean Curse" power that mortal magicians could make use of, that could work in a greater range of the multiverse; though again in this case someone with access to the reality-altering powers of Olympian Magic should be able to rid themselves of its effects.
Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent Billiard + Rattray's Marlin Flake
Thursday, 16 May 2013
Back, at Long Last
So from here on there should be a return to regular posting, starting tomorrow. It won't be as soon as that but stay tuned for the long-overdue review of Red Tide!
Anyways, thanks all for putting up with my classic rants.
currently smoking: Lorenzetti Stanze + Image Latakia
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
RPGPundit Reviews: Titan: the Advanced Fighting Fantasy World
This is a review of the new printing of the "Titan" setting book, the primary setting where the vast majority of the old "Fighting Fantasy" gamebooks (as well as the "Sorcery!" gamebooks) were set, and the default setting for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy and Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2nd Edition RPGs. It was originally written by Marc Gascoigne.
This book is, like the Out of the Pit monster compendium I reviewed a short while ago, a straight reprint of the original book that came out in the 1980s. The main difference between the two (apart from printing date) is that the former was in a slightly larger-than-average "penguin book" format; while this one is in a typical RPG-handbook sized format. It has been reprinted by Arion Games and Cubicle 7. In this version, it clocks in at 128 pages.
I haven't looked at the Titan setting in literally decades, but I must admit that I still have a tremendous familiarity with it, because back in the day it was one of my favorite settings for gaming, alongside Mystara and the old Forgotten Realms. I ran the old AFF with it as a setting; I ran RC D&D with it as a setting. I ran 2nd edition AD&D with it as a setting. Relatively recently, I even ran a True20 campaign set not in titan but in the city of Port Blacksand taken directly out of a (sadly, yet to be reprinted) Sourcebook for that city in particular. So its fair to say that I loved Titan. But how much of that is nostalgia or the folly of youth? Is Titan too imperfect to take seriously in our later years? Let's find out.
For starters, we get an overview of the setting. The world of Titan has three major continents: Allansia (which I always guessed was named after someone called "Allan"), The Old World, and Khul. Allansia is the setting of the majority of the FF gamebooks, Khul a minority of the same, and the Old World is the setting of the "Sorcery!" gamebooks. These continents don't have much to do with each other, which makes it a good thing that they are each separated by monster-infested seas that makes regular contact very difficult between them.
Not that this really matters, because other than the Old World, which has some level of consistency, the individual places in each continent are setup like a total crazy-quilt. Remember when you were 12 and decided to make up your own fantasy world? And you just jumbled everything in all over the place with no consideration of why there would be a frozen viking wasteland right next to the tropical island chain; or why the Robot Kingdom would be right next to the land of the intelligent humanoid Rust Monsters? Well, its kind of like that. In Allansia and Khul you have jungles next to deserts next to tundra, with the lushest riches valleys next to the frozen wastelands; no real consideration of geography or topography or climate patterns, and kingdoms of utterly different cultures very close to one another. Its like the designers just threw darts to decide where to put everything. The "Chinese" type culture? its right next door to the European Medieval fantasy culture... but the Japanese type culture? Its on a totally different continent, right next to the pirate pastiche and south of the ruins of the old egyptian pharaonic kingdom.
I mean, I know I'm a big Mystara fan, and that's the setting famous for having Vikings right next to Arabs, but somehow Titan manages to make Mystara seem well-ordered by comparison.
I think the point, however, is that you're not supposed to care. This is "High" fantasy, in the fantasy sense of that carefree fantasy of your youth that doesn't really have to make a lot of sense as long as there's tons of adventure. Come to think of it, this might also be "high" fantasy in the sense of it being fantasy that makes a lot more sense if you're high.
The important thing is that the overall style is that of a fairly gritty kind of sword-and-sorcery most reminiscent (to me, at least) to the "young kingdoms" setting of the Elric stories. Lots of city states and small nations, chaos that surrounds pockets of civilization all over the place, danger at every turn, instability, and the sense that powerful gods of conflicting alignments use the setting for their battleground. The influence is very Moorcockian.
The first 25 pages of the book give you details on all three continents, complete with one big world-map and three more detailed maps for each of the three continents. Allansia is set up to be the default setting, more or less; the Old World is the one area that you can tell was all designed coherently and at one time by a single guy (Steve Jackson), and it seems a little out of place, being a more "civilized" kind of region of more stable, larger kingdoms that are often in conflict with one another. Khul is the dark lost continent where chaos is perhaps strongest and where small pockets of civilization exist on the fringes of that savagery. We're given details about some of the most interesting places in each continent, like the great city of Sardath, built majestically on giant stilts over a lake and between two mountains; or the theocracy of Arantis, ruled by the Overpriest. We're told about the vile Port Blacksand, city of thieves (and to me, still the very best lawless fantasy pirate-city ever designed for an RPG); and the lizard-man swamplands of Silur-cha. We're told about the Chaos Wastes of Khul; Shakuru, the city of beggars, and the Old World's Khare, city-port of traps. We get a lovely astrological map of the heavens over Titan.
Next we get told about the history and legends of Titan, beginning with the creation myth, and the conflict between the Gods of Good, the gods of Neutrality, and the Gods of Chaos and Evil. We learn that once all the lands of Titan were in a single continent, but this was split asunder when Atlantis sank beneath the waves. You get 17 pages of legends of the past of the setting, including stories of great wizards, warring city-states, great lost empires (like Carsepolis, the great city over who's ruins the foul Port Blacksand was built), and how a great sweeping wave of evil chaos armies ravaged all three continents some 250 years ago, explaining why civilization is still in such a very tenacious state in Allansia, and why most of Khul is still today infested by chaos (as well as explaining the political state of the kingdoms of the Old World).
A lot of the material in this section amounts to backstory, but much of it is backstory that a clever GM could use as the basis for running a great campaign or two on.
The next three sections, taking up a significant part of the book, detail not just the gods but the overall forces of Good, Neutrality, and Chaos/Evil in the world of Titan. In each section you begin by getting details of the Gods, then races, heroes (or villains), artifacts, and other such things. The races of good, for example, are the Dwarves and Elves (as well as lesser races like sprites or pixies). Dwarves and Elves get great write-ups, including illustrations of dwarf weapons, a spectacular two-page map of Fangthane, the Dwarven capital in Allansia (a massive city-dungeon carved inside a huge mountain), the dwarven rune-alphabet, a nice one-page map of the Elven treetop-city of Eren Durdinath, and information on elven weapons and language. You get information on great heroes of good, like Colletus the Holy Man, the story of the three great wizards Nicodemus, Yaztromo, and Pen Ty Kora (as well as a great cut-away illustration of Yaztromo's wizard-tower in the Darkwood), and information on the Southern Mask magic and its healing powers.
The neutral gods are dominated by Logaan the Trickster, about whom you get quite a bit of information. Also, there's the court of the Animal Gods. On the whole, however, Neutrality gets short shrift compared to good or evil/chaos.
The Dark Lords of Chaos are detailed in the next section, including the gods of Death and Disease, the sibling gods Slangg and Tanig (gods of malice and envy) and the Demon princes. You get an abstract map-illustration of the Demonic Planes, and information on the Demonic Hierarchy of the Pit. A significant number of pages are devoted to Orcs, which are very warhammer-esque in style (or maybe we should say Warhammer Orcs are very Titan-esque?). There's info on famous Orc tribes, orc armies, and a full-page map of a sample Orc-dungeon, the Bonerat Caves. Goblins, Troglodytes, Trolls and Ogres get similar treatments, as well as the evil Snake-People who have sophisticated cultures in Allansia and Khul. You get lots of info on the Snake People, including a map of their desert cities. A related race who also get much coverage are the Lizard Men who rule a dangerous and powerful empire in Allansia from the swamplands of Silur-cha; considerable information is given about their society, capital, and armies. Finally, several pages are dedicated to the Dark Elves, your typical drow-like evil elves who live in vast subterranean kingdoms.
We also get a description of a number of the major individual servants of chaos, including Razaak the Undying, Malbordus the Storm Child, Shareella the Snow Witch, the "demonic three" evil wizards who are Balthus (lord of the black tower), Zagor (the warlock of Firetop Mountain), and Zharradan; Sukumvit (who built Deathtrap Dungeon) and his hated brother Carnuss; the Archmage of Mampang, and the mighty pirate-king Lord Azzur, mysterious ruler of Port Blacksand. Here we also get a spectacularly detailed two-page street map of Port Blacksand.
Next we get information about the underwater kingdoms of titan, including details on the sunken kingdom of Atlantis.
From there, the book moves on to more mundane details of life on Titan, including a calendar system (with names for years vaguely similar to the Chinese zodiac; "year of the horse" etc.; plus names for months and days), details for major feast-days, and travel times from one place to another. I'll note a major typo here; the header for this sections (which in the original book was "the Titan Calendar" and "The adventuring life") here accidentally reads "The Underwater Kingdoms" and "The Underwater Kingdoms", repeating the title of the earlier section on the same. I don't think that's a very big deal, but it may be confusing to some as these are clearly not the calendars, feast days or travel times of the underwater kingdoms.
Finally, in the end of the book you get information on money, trade, typical coins, and a list of costs for typical items (divided into three cost columns; for cities, towns, and isolated regions). You get a section on inns and taverns; with popular drinks and entertainments, and a map of a typical tavern (the "Black Lobster" tavern in Port Blacksand).
So, does Titan make sense? Only barely. Is it playable? Yes. There's probably more adventure per square mile on Titan than in most fantasy worlds; its absolutely packed with dangerous places, famous dungeons, and evil forces to fight. So I guess whether you'll like it or not, aside from the nostalgia factor, depends largely on whether you put more value on a coherently sensible world, or whether you're willing to just say "well, a trickster god made it that way" and just run with things as they are. If the latter is true, you certainly could do far worse than running a game on Titan.
I will note, finally, that there's is NO actual mechanical information from the AFF system in this book. The book is all, one hundred percent, setting. That means that you can safely buy Titan without having or wanting to have anything to do with Advanced Fighting Fantasy itself, and use it as a game setting for D&D; WFRP, BRP, or any other fantasy game.
On the whole, coherence aside, Titan holds up surprisingly well as a setting-book for an RPG fantasy world.
Currently Smoking: Raleigh jopo + Image Latakia
(Originally posted August 18, 2011)
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Roleplaying, Chess, and "Fairness"
I've heard the advocates of social mechanics in RPG going on about the subject from the perspective of "fairness". It is not "fair", they say, that your character should be able to swing a sword well whether or not his player could but your character can't give a convincing speech if his player suffers from chronic shyness. That's pretty much the argument, right?
There's a serious flaw in this logic, which is that the opponents of social mechanics aren't "unfairly" giving more weight to one thing that a character does than to another, they're just actually expecting an RPG to require that you be capable of doing the one thing an RPG is supposed to be for: Interpreting the character.
No one questions the fact that in chess you can move the knight piece without having to know how to ride a horse; nor do they question that to play chess you need a certain kind of intelligence. Its not "unfair" that people who lack that particular kind of intelligence cannot play well, its just an unfortunate fact. They can't play well. Maybe poker or tiddly-winks is more their style. No one would suggest that we create a complex set of mechanics to simulate the kind of skills that are involved in playing chess well, so that a person with low chess-playing intelligence could have a "fair chance" against a grandmaster, do we?
It would be absurd.
Likewise, in roleplaying games, the whole point is to interpret a character. A prerequisite to roleplaying games is being able to play out a character in social situations. If you can't do that, its not "unfair" that other people can; its just the nature of the game. Too bad for you.
But you know, its not all hopeless. Someone with relatively low chess-intelligence can still learn the game, practice hard, develop certain skills, and eventually compensate for a lack of natural chess talent. They might never become a "grandmaster" but they could, if they wanted it badly enough, end up playing a good game.
Likewise, if someone is a socially inept person, playing RPGs could theoretically allow one to develop skills that will help to compensate for that. If you work hard at it, play a lot of games, and want it badly enough, playing RPGs can help have a transformative effect on you. You might never be a social butterfly, but I've seen several people who went from being either terminally shy or socially-inept bozos for whom serious RPG play helped, in the long term, to turn into much more socially competent people.
Of course, that only happens if you don't substitute the actual roleplaying parts with a bunch of rolls.
Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia
(originally posted August 16, 2011)
Monday, 13 May 2013
Follow Up on Firefox vs. Chrome
So I've switched my little laptop over to Chrome, and I have to say its running quite a lot faster now. I hate to admit it but Chrome may have to become my default browser on all my machines.
Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Altadis' Balkan I
Sunday, 12 May 2013
"Real Magic" in RPGs, Continued
I realized after I'd covered Yoga that there was something even more basic, that could be quite important in a modern-day occult RPG, that I had skipped over: the "Magical Diary".
The "magical diary" is a record of your magical workings; its something that's been used by magicians for centuries (John Dee, the 16th century magician, was an obsessive record-keeper and his diaries are preserved), and it has ended up being passed down even to more popular movements than that of ceremonial magicians; one manifestation, for example, is the "book of shadows" of your typical Wiccan. Even though the "book of shadows" was originally meant to be some alleged kind of "ancient grimoire" containing all the "old rituals" of "ancient wicca" that Gerald Gardner (inventor of wicca) claimed to have been "handed down" to him (it wasn't, he wrote it himself), since modern wiccans are very rarely actually practitioners of the rituals Gardner created, the word has generally evolved to mean a big blank book where you write down spells, herb recipes, ideas about wicca, prayers to the goddess, its like a big new-age scrapbook. Almost all wiccans start compiling a "book of shadows" at some point in their career, mostly listing or copying stuff they found elsewhere; though relatively fewer actually complete one or make an ongoing process of writing it.
Ceremonial magicians are made of sterner stuff, and like most things in the modern "serious" occult scene, this is thanks to Aleister Crowley. Uncle Al was an obsessive diary-keeper himself, and the majority of his diaries survive and have been published; thus, he's created an example by which others can slavishly copy him. Many try to make their diaries look as absolutely similar to Crowley's as possible, right down to using obscure latin or listing dates by astrological positions, saying "Sun in 19º Leo" rather than just saying "August 11th". Crowley's own diaries were at times remarkably extensive, brutally honest with himself at certain moments, highlited his own flaws and failings at others, and sometimes slip into the banal, with records of things like the menu of an excellent restaurant meal he ate, or records of chess games he played.
Generally speaking, however, a well-kept magical diary is an unbelievably important resource to a magician. This of course means that the average magician that you might run into will fail to have a well-kept diary. Most people who get into magick start one, stop again, forget to write in it for weeks, fail to make notes of important details like their states of health while trying some ritual or practice, etc etc.
But, if someone is practicing western ceremonial magic in a meaningful way at all, you're likely to find them at the very least keeping some kind of a diary. And hardcore practitioners, the ones who are really serious, will have a detailed diary they update nearly if not every day.
Why is the diary important to the magician? The same reason note-keeping might be important to a scientist; you want to keep a meticulous record of the work you've been doing, the conditions surrounding that work, and its results. You cannot trust your memory to these things. The diary serves for the newer student as a more accurate way then memory to chart progress. For the advanced student, as a vital way to compile information about detailed operations of invocation, pathworking, research, meditation, contemplation, etc.; when you're doing some magical work that will take the course of weeks to work out, you need to be able to keep a good track of things.
Why is it important in an occult RPG? Well, just fucking think about it: its the best macguffin you can get! Games like Call of Cthulhu talk about ancient grimoires, which is bullshit, since all of those can be got by anyone at almost any time these days. But the magickal diary of a real, working magician, who's got some real power, will be filled with his own personal discoveries that are known to no one but him! It will tell the reader what he was working on, just what he was summoning, or what went horribly wrong (or horribly right!). A magician will put his most private and personal victories or failures in the diary, often with details about how to perform a ritual and what it did; though also often missing vital information that the magician himself knows by heart, sometimes intentionally to keep the profane from being able to read and wreak havoc with things. That whole "it takes 1d6 weeks to read and understand the corpus hermeticum" thing from CoC? Bullshit. But I can see it requiring weeks and weeks of research to try to find the true names of a modern adept's four magical servitor demons in a pile of his diaries.
It can be something left behind to introduce a new character to the grimy world of the occult; or it can be the best clue to discover the fate of a missing or murdered occultist, or it might be a needle-in-a-haystack kind of thing, to find some detail about some event that happened on a certain day, out of a pile of volumes and volumes of a life's work of diaries.
And most of all, it is the smoking-gun of proof of how magick fucks you up; don't do it seriously enough and you're just a poseur, a fake, or a powerless wannabe. Do it seriously enough for real shit to start happening, and you've already had to go through a long slow slide into obsession and batshit looniness. A typical magical diary will reflect that; it will usually be written in a fevered, barely-legible scrawl of someone who's just pulled out his precious notebook in a flash and is writing down his thought with the desperate urge of that moment of insight, or the excitement of divine revelation; it will be filled with sigils, seals, diagrams, astrological charts, magical squares, I ching hexagrams and all kinds of weird shorthand that could require a master codebreaker to decipher; it will skip back and forth from the utterly mundane (talking about going out to dinner, or having a mild cold, or an argument with one's romantic partner), to writing with a completely straight face about friendly conversations with demons, angels and gods, travel to other dimensions, or visions of the future.
What's more you can see from the record that this is more than just lunacy; that whatever the magician is doing is invariably having an effect on him, his magick "works", in one sense or another, to make changes in his world and make him either a better or more effective or more conscious or more successful human being; or to make his life a total disaster (usually because he ends up resisting the very consequences of the magick he himself started doing).
Anyways, "magical diaries" of wizards modern or old are probably the best prop an occult/horror RPG GM could possibly want.
Currently Smoking: Savinelli Autograph + Argento Latakia
(Originally posted August 12, 2011)
Saturday, 11 May 2013
RPGPundit Reviews: Out of the Pit
This is a review of the "Out of the Pit" sourcebook for the Advanced Fighting Fantasy game; recently republished by Arion games in conjunction with Cubicle 7. It was originally written by Marc Gascoigne.
Out of the Pit is the "monster manual" for Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Its format is not unlike that of D&D's Monster Manual, just lists and lists of monsters, with stats, illustrations and details. These monsters were originally compiled from virtually all the monsters that ever appeared in the old "Fighting fantasy" gamebooks (the ones that were like Choose Your Own Adventure books, only much cooler because you could kill things). If I'm remembering the hazy distant past correctly, I believe that Out of the Pit came out as a book before Advanced Fighting Fantasy, even before the "Fighting Fantasy" RPG. So more accurately, it could be said to have been a compilation book from the original fighting fantasy gamebooks, and not technically an AFF sourcebook at all. Even so, anyone who ever played AFF and had OotP would have used the latter as their monster manual.
I should note one important point here before proceeding. A short while ago, I reviewed the new 2nd edition of Advanced Fighting Fantasy, written by Graham Bottley. That new edition provides a number of important rules changes meant to balance the AFF game to make it more effectively playable than the old AFF game was. Unfortunately, it was explained to us that the license for Out of the Pit, unlike that of Advanced Fighting Fantasy, was for a straight reprint ONLY. That means, on the one hand, that if you own the old Out of the Pit, this is the exact same book. And likewise, the information in this book has NOT been re-done to suit the new rules system. On the other hand, a full list of the modifications necessary has been provided in the new AFF book, so that's not really a major problem.
The book opens with a map and short description of Allansia, the main continent of the world of Titan, the fantasy world of Fighting Fantasy; it is on Allansia that the majority of the FF books were set. You also get a nice map of Kakhabad, another region of the world of Titan. But after that, all the pleasantries are put aside, and we get to the monster descriptions.
Each monster is statted up with Skill, Stamina, Number of Attacks, Habitat, Number Encountered, Type (as in, type of monster class), Reaction (friendly, neutral, unfriendly or hostile) and Intelligence.
There are a total of 250 monster descriptions; as well as the stats listed, every single one of them has an illustration (done in the early-80s British fantasy style that we know so well from the FF books themselves, as well as other comics and games of the period), and also each one has a description of the creature and its nature. We're told for example that the brutish Ape Men live in huts perched on tree-tops, that swing on vines, wear loincloths and use large bones as clubs. If they fight from the trees any opponent must reduce their attack roll by -2 to hit them. We are also given the hint that Ape Men are attracted to shiny objects that twinkle in the light.
The pictures, and the creativity of some of these monsters are truly wonderful. You get some relatively mundane creatures like the aforementioned Ape Men, and copies of monsters by now common to fantasy games, like the tentacle-headed "Brain Slayers" (a Mind Flayer by any other name will still suck out your cerebellum); as well as demons, dragons, elves (in such varieties as black elf, dark elf, mountain elf, and wood elf), or even Gnomes (which are listed as only unfriendly; a serious error as anyone knows Gnomes should be hostile; but at least readers are quite rightfully warned to stay away from them!); but then you also get far less standard humanoid races, like the Hamakei, vulture-men of the desert wastelands who are powerful sorcerers, ancient remnants of a powerful magical empire, or the Red-Eyes, spindly humanoids distantly related to the elves, who are arrogant tricksters with a deadly beam-gaze. You also get your standard monsters, giant worms, scorpions, spiders etc.; plus unusual combinations like the dreaded Skunkbear; and also truly original monsters like the Slime Sucker (a swamp creature with octopus-like tentacles and a huge toothy mouth), or the huge fat leathery cave-dwelling Tarrator, or the bizarre disk-shaped four-handed Wheelies.
The conclusion of the book provides some very basic treasure tables, superseded by the more complete treasure tables available in the AFF book; and also some encounter tables.
This book is very much a case of "what you see is what you get"; its pretty much a no-thrills monster manual, only with some wonderful illustrations and more than a few extremely creative entries. Obviously, it will be primarily of use to those who intend to run an Advanced Fighting Fantasy game. Even so, I can see it being useful to give some inspiration for anyone interested in a list of monsters for any fantasy game, particularly with a kind of slightly-dark sword & sorcery feel to it. Its the kind of monster manual I like, inasmuch as I like those kind of things at all; in that it doesn't try to be fancy in ways that get in the way of being useful. It focuses on the practical, while still providing a very attractive presentation.
The best point: Does what it says it does. Also, the pictures kick ass.
The worst point: Too soft on Gnomes.
Currently Smoking: Stanwell Compact + Image Latakia
(August 6, 2011)
Thursday, 09 May 2013
Getting Mentioned on Boingboing is Enough to Wake My Slumber
Apparently, anyway. Yes, yours truly, in spite of being on a self-imposed break, was namedropped in a bb article on the OSR.
Its funny to see the number of Anti-RPGPundit comments on here. "he's been banned from most major gaming forums"; actually from like, two, and he's the Owner/Operator of one of the major RPG discussion forums where thousands of members engage in dozens of threads every day. "No one takes him seriously": Wizards of the Coast does. They've hired him to be a consultant on 5e D&D.
I'd say plenty of people take the Pundit seriously, given that some people have clearly come to post comments on here that otherwise have no interest whatsoever in the OSR or the original article. Some to engage in outright slander.
Anyways, in reference to how I was quoted in the article, its not inaccurate but its certainly incomplete. My criticism of the "OSR-Taliban" was a criticism made BECAUSE I love old-school and what it can be when used positively. The OSR was, at the time, stuck in a kind of clone-mania, and being heavily influenced by people who just wanted to shut out anything that wasn't already extant prior to some arbitrary cut-off date (usually 1979, but it could vary). In contrast, what has now become by far the more dominant influence of the OSR, and the REASON why it has become big and influential enough to be having a massive impact on mainstream RPGs (with things like the reprint, and known Old-Schoolers like both Zak S. and myself being hired on by WoTC to help shape the new edition of D&D; as well as the phenomenon of games that clearly are NOT old-school trying to adopt the outer trappings of what looks like old-school product or even label themselves OSR in an attempt to leech off the movement's success) is all due to the OSR's (other) quality of wanting to be extremely innovative WITHIN a specific framework.
Like certain genres of art or schools of design, the modern OSR has produced masterpieces by working within the set of "rules" of game design of what constitutes old-school while thinking up utterly new applications (LotFP, DCC, Stars Without Number, Majestic Wilderlands, Red Tide, Mutant Future, and dare I mention Arrows of Indra?), games that do not look anything like a "clone" of any specific pre-1983 game but are absolutely do follow the rules structures of that Old-School concept.
This is contrast to either the wretched reactionary fervour of that extreme cave-dwelling wing of the old-school movement, who have nothing new to say; and to the almost nihilistic pretentious drivel you saw from movements like the Forge, who had plenty to say but none of it good.
The OSR-ideal is not "only the Old and nothing else", nor can it be "absolutely anything goes"; rather, the formula that has led to its explosive success and influence is "Within Old-School, anything; outside Old-School, nothing".
Currently Smoking: Burlington Neerup Egg + Burlington's Lapis Lazuli
Wednesday, 08 May 2013
Firefox is Driving me Fucking Nuts
I've been far too busy lately with something kind of major (not gaming related) to be able to post regularly here. This is a NEW post (such as it is), by the way, not a classic; I probably have to say so because by now you're all thinking its just prior stuff.
One element that has been driving me crazy lately and making my work harder is that on my netbook, Firefox is slower than fucking molasses. It lags constantly, seizes up, and quickly builds up a "private working set" memory of 700 000K or more, on a machine with 1 Gig of RAM.
So what the fuck can I do? Is switching to Chrome any better? Will it mean I have to sacrifice my No-script?
I'm open to suggestions.
Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Burlington's Dublin
The wielder of the Flaming Keystrokes of Truth, daily rants about the RPG hobby and Industry