Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Jackson/Livingstone Expo 2010 Interview

I mentioned back in June that I'd been to the GW history seminar presented by no less than Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone.

It transpires that yog-sothoth.com taped the talk and have released it as an mp3 here. Thanks to Newt of Sorcerer Under Mountain for the tip-off.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Empire of The Petal Throne 1974 - A Pictorial Review

I had no idea this was still available until all the Tekumel posts started up in the blogosphere a couple of weeks ago and so I bought the 1974 version as a PDF for a mere $11.

It's wonderful - a great looking OD&D variant, written properly as opposed to the crib notes of the original brown box and the background is nowhere near as intimidating as I always believed it would be. Perhaps it's because it's from an era before the setting fetishists had got hold of it but I think also because Prof. Barker is relaxed enough to know that what most players would want is a "lite" version of his world, tweaked for dungeon-based RPGing. And that's what we get.

It's immediately leaped up to the top of the pile of "RPGs I want to play some day".

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Spiderbite from White Dwarf 55

Over at the Fabled Lands blog, Dave Morris has reprinted Oliver Johnson's classic low-level D&D/AD&D scenario 'Spiderbite' from White Dwarf 55 (July '84). Well worth a look-see. It was used many years ago at Stourbridge & District Wargamers club as a tournament adventure for our annual(*) fantasy competition.

(*)Annual in this case meaning "annual whenever anybody remembers to organise it and assuming there is any interest". This is in no way synonymous with "every year".

Monday, 15 November 2010

Powdered Rhinoman Horn

Citadel of Chaos illustration, Russ Nicholson.

Rhinoceros are illegally poached for their horn which is supposedly regarded as an aphrodisiac in China (this actually is a myth, it's really for traditional medicine to treat fevers and convulsions. But the poaching problem is real).

Allansia, the Fighting Fantasy world has intelligent Rhinomen (I used to treat them as Bugbears under Mentzer Red Box rules). Who have horns.

There's a lot of encounter material potential from combining those two ideas.

Friday, 12 November 2010

It Has No Name

It has no name. Many brave men died to bring it here from the Galaxy of Pleasure... It will make your nights with Ming more... agreeable.

OK, that's not actually the right scene in the picture but I always rated Ornella Muti over Melody Anderson so that's what you get. (Anyway Princess Aura was clearly very, very dirty and probably really enjoyed Klytus and his bore-worms...)

That's a really inspirational line, reminiscent of the "Many Bothans died to bring us this information" line from Empire. Why do I like this and find it sets the ideas a-flowing when it's clearly just a throwaway thing in the original script?

OK, firstly what is The Galaxy of Pleasure? A whole galaxy dedicated to hedonism? The mind boggles. Perhaps it's a myth, a Shangri-La that many adventurers have died trying to find. So maybe that's just a story, there is no "Galaxy of Pleasure", but the thing with no name has such a reputation that popular myth can only see it coming from such because it's much more romantic than the reality which might be quite prosaic.

This doesn't help your adventurers when the artifact-of-the-month has a back story like this that gives no clues about it's location. Also, perhaps there is a Galaxy of Pleasure hidden away, and perhaps it gets better the closer to the centre you get, but then the flip side is that it becomes more difficult to drag yourself away. Obviously this doesn't have to a galaxy and for D&D it's almost certainly better than it isn't a whole galaxy. An Emperor's palace laid out in concentric rings? A temple of Slaanesh? The private estates of a decadent Dark Elf? You'd always be wondering what was at the very centre.

Secondly, the idea that this soma or liquor has no name. Why not? Maybe a superstition. If many brave men died whilst transporting it to Mongo and probably carry on doing so to fetch more perhaps it's regarded as akin to the Koh-i-noor and cursed because of all the blood metaphorically splashed up it's side. A treasure so whispered about and so potent that nobody dared to put a label on it. Names have power (as any demonologist is aware). If it has no name, then nobody can discuss it and that itself has power in a Newspeak fashion - I can imagine Ming making the uttering of it's name punishable by death to stop the peasantry getting any ideas above their station. Imagine if saying "The One Ring" brought Nazguls to your door. Imagine if saying it whilst in the servitude of Sauron brought swift execution.

(I have a half-memory from somewhere in Tolkien, that the inhabitants of Mordor were forbidden from speaking Sauron's name, but I may be wrong in that respect. Even if not it's a good idea).

Thirdly, it's clearly a fantastically valuable treasure and it's acquisition is as much a demonstration of raw power as anything else. How do your adventurers feel about a well-paid quest to recover something so trivial but the whole job is so dangerous and possibly other big cheeses feel the need to demonstrate their raw power and take it from the adventurer's cold, dead hands. It's one thing to risk life and limb bringing the important antidote to Nurgle's Rot back to your home city, another thing entirely to risk life and limb admittedly in exchange for fabulous wealth but for something this trifling - I find that an interesting proposition. You could even take it to it's logical extreme in that the item is of no real value at all - the wine is dreadful and barely palatable but the difficulties involved in reaching it's lands of production such that it becomes priceless.

Flip flop that and perhaps the patron wishes to prove his power by taking something that is priceless and of incomparable quality and then showing how he gives it to his slaves to clean the drains with. How do your bloodied and battered adventurers sitting on their newly minted piles of gold think about that one?

The Quincunx

I had an idea many years ago for a puzzle in a text-adventure game. It never got used, but it would work well as a player-testing puzzle in a dungeon. (What's a quincunx? Five points arranged with four in a square and the fifth point being central. Look at the #5 face on a spotted d6).

The PCs hear of a level known only as the Quincunx. Descent into the level is via a vertical ingress, such as a ladder, spiral staircase or even a fireman's pole. If they hadn't previously heard of the name then perhaps it's engraved on the floor "You Are Now Lost In The Quincunx" or a Magic Mouth solemnly intones it. Entrance may even be one way - once they are in they are committed to solving the puzzle.

Quincunx Take #1

The level is vast, empty and smothered in magical darkness or magically opaque purple fog or similar. Only by heading off in a NE, SE, SW or SE direction will the party find an exit. Each exit is of the same type and the entrance and levels to the level below. If they wander off in any other direction, they get lost and face whatever hazards people lost in magical darkness in a dungeon face.

Quincunx Take #2

In this version, the ingress leads to a central chamber with eight straight passageways radiating off into the distance with the far ends of the passageways far beyond the reach of the party's light sources. The NE, SE, SW and SE passageways all lead to exits down a level with exits of the same type as the entrance (as in Take #1). The cardinal directions all lead to very nasty traps and nothing else.

Quincunx Take #3

This is a large and sprawling maze with shifting walls and magical illusions hiding passageways and implying that non-existant passageways exist. Navigation is all but impossible unless the party aim to set out in a NE, SE, SW or SE direction and try and keep on such in which case they will eventually lead to an exit, again of identical type to the entrance.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Harry Clarke (1889-1931)

A trip to The Works (remaindered bookstore) in Birmingham on Saturday was rewarded with finding a lovely large-format hardback of Edgar Allan Poe's works with the classic 1919 Harry Clarke monochrome plates, and for just £6.95.

As a small child I found the above illustration for "The Premature Burial" absolutely terrifying and to a degree I still do - Clarke's masterful use of that expanse of black space with the hungry tree roots that take the eye down and then the contorted shape in the coffin with the staring, mad eyes. Fantastic composition.

Happily somebody else has already scanned all of Clarke's full-page plates from this work so have a look here for more wonderful monochrome grotesqueness. Fans of Russ Nicholson (i.e. most of you) really should click that link.

Sadly, like Poe, the Irishman Clarke died incredibly early - he was a mere 41 years old when tuberculosis claimed him.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Links from Facebook?

As a man of taste and sophistication I obviously have no truck with Facebook, nor indeed Twitter. I've noted a fair few hits coming over from Facebook (to the Brit OSR post) but have no idea why nor can get on and take a look! Anybody able to offer me a link so I can see what (if anything) is being said? Cheers.