Friday, April 17, 2015

Vornheim Costs 170 Bucks Now

So, yeah, the first and only printing of Vornheim (a three year old book) went for 170$.

That's more than ten times the cover price for a 64-page black-and-white book. So if you're still on the fence about buying a second (or, god forbid, first) copy of 200ish page, full color, gold trimmed, embossed Red & Pleasant Land, there's one more reason.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Puzzling And All His Friends

"You ever make your own comic books, Washington?"
"Yessir, I had one called 'The Puzzling And All His Friends;. No one but me could understand it"
"That's what always happens"
Some issue of Doom Patrol that Grant Morrison wrote and Steve Yeowell drew

Oh no it's the black knight!
This particular black knight is a champion of the Black Wing of Tiamat. Meaning he is slated to compete with Laney (the Knight Viridian) in the coming Tourney of The Five Churches.

Is Laney ready?

Well, judging from this weekend's Ren Faire...


Anyway the Knight was at the top of a tower rather than patiently waiting 4 in-world days for his turn to kill people.

Why? Nobody figured that out yet so I won't spoil it. The girls were just looking for the Heart King's missing food taster to get into said King's good graces after breaking into his castle and fucking around for a session and almost TPKing themselves.

We had a new player -- Morgan playing Lunessa. Elf thief. Far right.

Ladies love playing elf thiefs. Or like a lot of them do.

Also ladies bring Cactus Cooler. Or at least Morgan did.
Anyway ladies also apparently really like goat men, who occupied the lower reaches of the tower:

 Also, they like tentacles:

Anyway so in this tower there was a lot of like themes going on as they say in game design.

But also murder, so I was entertained.

There was also another Spinneskelle--a mechanized spellcasting statue which caused no end of trouble on account of it does something in reaction to whatever you do. The team had a good idea--they had these two small picture frames--putting something through one makes it come out of the other no matter how far they are from each other.

So Lunessa / Morgan managed to sneak up and hang that on the Spinneskelle's hand, thus separating the fiend from its wand. Rendering it harmless.

So rock on first-time girl. Always good when a new player gets to do something cool right off.

Now, weirdly or dumbly enough, the Black Knight had a sort of similar gimmick to the Spinneskelle because I rolled randomly and got the Hunter axe, which means he wouldn't die until he's separated from the axe.

This was an insane fight that took over an hour because there were like 7 or 8 players and we're playing high-level 5th edition including spellcasting firepower from a witch, two wizards and a druid and they managed to make pretty quick work of the henchgoats and would've iced the knight in a round or two (despite massive hit points) if it weren't for the axe.  But he just kept coming back and nobody could figure out why. I probably would've killed someone if there weren't so many damn players that night, but I still think everyone started to hate me a little, and the Black Knight more-- but they mostly hated themselves, which is the important thing, really.

In actual real GMing advice: puzzle monsters are a thing I think you should do increasingly in high level D&D There are just not enough hit points or AC in the world to deal with all the lunacy players will have accumulated by 10th level. This is barely a puzzle, to be fair, but it was enough.

Eventually somebody's was like "Let's take his axe" but then you know that thing when you have seven players and one of them says what you need to do but then there's seven players so who's listening? That happened. It was a few rounds until someone was like "Yeah, let's take the axe again" and I think Twiggy actually did it.

"It was the axe all along. Boy are we dumb."

No, dumb would be if someone was dead.

Then the knight became dust. Now everybody has to figure out why he was hanging out with the king's food taster in the first place.

Then Laney used a lot of emoji and I sold a book to a publisher and a new Manson album came out so Twiggy went on tour and Stokely and Connie's had their nipples cut off for a photo but not really and then Alondra got hers pierced really and kept complaining about it and we went to Ren Faire and I had a scotch egg.

So yeah alright.

Black Knight you suck they owned you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More Dr Strange and An Opportunity for the Ladies

First up:

May 16th and 17th, the best online game con -- Contessa -- is inviting women to think up and run some games. (Anybody can play, if you didn't know.) Got your own game? You can run that too. Here's Stacy:

ConTessa is already gearing up for another game weekend. We've got this process down, and we're getting to the point where getting these weekends running is more of a science than a lot of cats running around trying to herd other cats. Or goats. Depends. 

ANYWAY! If you'd like to GM something for us on air on either May 16th or 17th (you get to set the exact time), we'd love to have you! New or experienced, doesn't matter. All you need is a camera, a microphone, and the will to run a good game. :) 

This time, we'll be ending registration a week early to make sure we have enough time to fill the games up with players. So, we will be closing registration one week prior to the convention on May 9th. 

The earlier you get your game in, the more we can promote it! 

To sign up to run a game: 

Filth attracts filth spell

This is just a good place for a fight courtesy P Craig Russell.
The door leads to an ordinary hallway, pink things can be whatever you like.

First: Purple lich rules. Second: Replace the confusing term spell 'level' with spell 'age'.
Old spells are familiar to fewer protective deities & therefore hurt more.

It's tough getting levels.

There's..I can't even.

For when Cthulhu is too classy for what you've got planned.
Also, Zzarchov came up with some neat ideas based on last week's Dr Strange:
The Sun god is always the good guy who turns undead and is lawful,   demons are far-away stars (based on LotFP's contact outer planes bit).

Each star is a sun in its own right.

Stars are lawful to those evolving on their planets, nurturing them to pick up science and civilization and shun magic and disruptive sorcery.  Other stars meddle by granting power and sowing chaos, trying to get the local populace to abandon civilization and devolve to magic use.

Option A.) Each star hinders or helps civilization through religion to try and guide its populace towards advanced robotics prior to interstellar travel so the star can just shed off these corruptible biological entities and build itself a mobile Dyson sphere and eat the fuel of other stars.

Option B.)  Each star is looking to turn its people into a star faring civilization to act as conduits to begin psychically enslaving other stars.

Not sure which option I like more.   Leaving one as the story being told to the clerics and one as the story told by other stars is a good option as well, create doubt.

There are some other nice ideas in the comments threads Zzarchov started here and my repost of it here. Ask to be added to our G+ circles to read them.

Friday, April 10, 2015

7 D&Dables From Doctor Strange

Click to enlarge.
365-level wizard wants you to live in this crappy castle forever instead of him

Clock pendulum trap

Just show them that

The damsel you saved wasn't meant to be saved

You are divided into several poorly-rounded selves

Some freaks to fight

Each star is scheming against every other

Monday, April 6, 2015

Werewolves as Worldbuilding

Ok, so a thing about the second edition of the game Chill which is also about other games, too:

-Start out with addressing what Chill 2e was not:

-Chill 2e was not Chill 1e, that is: not a light-hearted Universal Horror RPG. So it took its monsters seriously.

-Chill 2e was not Call of Cthulhu, that is: it couldn't just say "Monsters are like go read Lovecraft or else make something up".

-Chill 2e was not Vampire or any other World Of Darkness game where the player was the monster and so, therefore, the monster had to be intelligible, fully describable and described to the player, and had to be within an arm's reach of what a person would want their own in-world player to be and act like.

-Likewise it was not Warhammer--where the existence of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 40k lines meant the that mythology of the monsters of chaos was fleshed out in such a way you could take the chaos side of chaos in a tabletop battle.

-Chill 2e was not D&D or the Marvel RPG or any other fantasy game or superhero games: that is, it didn't assume a world of magic operating on magical rules which the monster was part of. It was a horror game: magic is evil and operates as disruption. Monsters are not ubiquitous scenery that we can just assume show up now and then, each monster is a distinct mystery. Horror has to take its monsters one at a time.

-Chill 2e was not Dread or even Night's Black Agents, both of which have enough new school in their blood to constantly remind the GM that the monsters and world as presented are not canonical and there would be no point to doing that, these are just options anyway, pick what you like best.

-Add all this up and it suddenly becomes clear that the second edition of Chill had to do something that no other game I have played quite had to do. It had to present it's monsters as:

*Complete and original enough to form the setting of the game.

*Rare and shadowy enough to be a mystery the players must penetrate.


The way Chill 2e uses monsters is the template for how the current wave of RPG bloggers (and the products they make) has most productively used monsters: as secret worldbuilding, hidden from players until they adventure into it. A compelling but wholly GM-facing fiction that only needed to be nuts and bolts enough that players could fight it in the last scene.

The monster is no statblock or character class or random-encounter collage element--it is a piece of a new mythology, known to the GM, that the players slowly penetrate.  D&D only did this once a monster got a module about it--Chill 2e took it for granted: they don't give you a monster unless they can give you a backstory for it, and the backstory (the silver bullets, arctic hideouts and running water) needed to be penetrated to defeat the monster.

Chill was all about committing to the monsters, reworking them into something new and spooky no matter how cranky or cliche they were. Using the mythic resonance and building on it rather than taking it as read that it needed to be replaced. Which I think is a very OSR thing.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Nazi Games

I don't have answers to all these questions, but it seems to me far too many conversations go too far with out ever asking questions like these. People get stuck on boring, kindergarten-level questions like "Can art affect people?" (Yes) "Can art be racist, sexist, etc?" (Yes) "Can art be unconsciously those things?"(Yes) "Can fiction be racist, sexist?" (Yes, but it's relatively rare)  "Should we avoid offending people at all costs?" (No) and "Should we censor things" (No) and pretend the argument is about that. Here are some questions which are for adults.

I chose Jewishness as an example because it is a form of marginality (however minor, in the US in 2015) that I can claim by birth--I am not, myself, religious--but these questions are still meaningful when ported to other, considerably more marginalized, groups of people. So here we go-- the easy ones are first:


1. Hitler writes a game. He intends it to clearly reflect his worldview but he's so bad at writing, no-one can understand it and it has no effect on anyone.

Is it anti-semitic? Why or why not?


2. The author of this game harbors no prejudice and is kind to everyone -- this is publicly known and is privately true. Or at least as true as it can be of anyone. No-one has ever even suggested she harbors any bigoted feeling or idea. She has sacrificed a great deal for the well-being of the marginalized.

Her game is rancid with prejudice, Jews are called kikes, every race is slurred and degraded. The imagery and experience system suggests it is heroic to slaughter anyone less well-off than wealthy blonde white men--and it is written at a level suggesting it is for children. Her motives are unclear: perhaps she wrote it as a kind of cathartic exercise to purge herself of wicked thoughts, perhaps simply as an intellectual challenge to write in a voice that was not her own--it's impossible to be sure.

However, this game is unreadable. It is written in a language that was lost forever and will never be remembered or recovered, even by the author. No-one knows anything about it.

Is it anti-semitic? Why or why not?


3. The motive behind the game is repulsive -- it seeks, proactively, to begin a race war. The author is unimaginably racist. No-one knows any of this.

The game is a ridiculous failure in its secret purpose and nobody even notices the racial overtones, they are so clumsily coded and poorly written. It comes across as a charmingly inept kind of Gamma World or Mutant Future.

A prominent celebrity of color is quoted as saying he is a fan. Its odd and accidental charm makes it not only popular but immensely, disproportionately popular among players of color. A statistically meaningful number of people who aren't white take up the hobby because of it. People who do play it generally walk away with a greater feeling of tolerance toward others than they walked in with. Universities where they study games, like UCLA and Columbia -- notice these things and report them. The results are confirmed. This goes on forever.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


4. Hitler writes a game. Or maybe Goering or Goebbels. Or the Grand Wizard of the Klan.

Nobody knows they are the author. They die.

The game is discovered later, author unknown. It is published, embraced. It has no content anyone ever accuses of being racist. It seems considerably less ideologically loaded than, say, Pong, to anyone whoever plays it. Let's say: even in these fraught times, it attracts less racial critique than any other RPG ever, though it is popular. The audience is skewed in no particular way. Social scientists can detect no notable change in attitude among people after playing the game. In fact: there is none.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


5. The game is produced with the best will in the world by the most progressive soul imaginable -- but not the most talented. It becomes popular.

Because it is kind of dull or because of the social circles through which it propagates or for some other reason that's difficult to trace, the earnest (and in no-way detectably offensive) game only manages to acquire a very WASPy audience. It changes their attitudes in no way, as it was preaching to the choir. Because it is popular, it actually makes the RPG audience less Jewish and more WASPy than it already was.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


6. A Jewish person produces a game. They harbor no self-hatred. Exactly half the Jewish community finds it offensive and anti-semitic. The other half doesn't and, in fact, hails it as a vital exploration of social issues essential to the community that couldn't have been addressed any other way. It changes the game audience in no way and there are no detectable changes in peoples' attitudes about race after playing or reading it.

Is the game anti-semitic Why or why not?


7. A white anglo-saxon protestant produces a game. They harbor no anti-Semitic feeling. Exactly half the Jewish community finds it offensive and anti-semitic. The other half doesn't and, in fact, hails it as a vital exploration of social issues essential to the Jewish community that couldn't have been addressed any other way. It changes the game audience in no way and there are no detectable changes in peoples' attitudes about race after playing or reading it.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


8. A person bearing no prejudices produces a game. It is broad and written for children and relies on stereotypes about people of many ethnicities either because they're oblivious or because they think this is a good way to get ideas across to children. It is incredibly popular among people of precisely those ethnicities and encourages everyone who plays it to learn more about those cultures. It is, in fact, more popular among a diverse audience than an earlier, less stereotype-riddled version of the same game.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


 9. A progressive person produces a game full of progressive ideas about people of all ethnicities, including Jews. It is dull and (measurably, like in a lab) makes people think these kinds of games suck.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


10. 30% of Jews say the game is anti-Semitic and offensive, 70% say it is a vital exploration of social issues essential to the community that couldn't have been addressed any other way.  It has not other measured social effect on the audience or the audience's attitudes.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


11. A person bearing no prejudice produces a game. 10 Jewish people play it and are offended and say it's anti-semitic and never play RPGs again. 10 Jewish people love it and have the best experience of their gaming lives and go on to do a great many game things. It has no effect on anyone's attitudes about prejudice except the offended people--people who like it just say it's fun.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

What if 20 Jewish people love it?



Only 2?


12. A game divides the Jewish community. All the Jewish people you get along with and think are smart consider it a vital and necessary exploration of their identity. All the ones you don't and think are stupid consider it anti-semitic.

Is it? Why or why not?


13. A game is produced by a superlatively progressive person. The game is for adults. It has no measurable effect on the attitudes of adults or on the demographics of the adult audience.

It is not for children, but if children were to play it, they have a chance of adopting anti-semitic attitudes.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


14. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game has only one sociological effect on the audience and it is measurable: people who have anti-semitic beliefs are more likely to take an anti-semitic action after playing.

Is the game anti-semitc? Why or why not?

If so: is beer therefore anti-semitic? Why or why not?


15. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game has only one sociological effect on the audience and it is measurable: stupid people are more likely to be racist after playing.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


16. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game has only one sociological effect on the audience and it is measurable: mentally ill people are more likely to be racist after playing.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

17. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. Smart people become less racist when they play the game and understand important issues better and more viscerally, stupid people become more racist. There is no other way to address the complex issues in the game except via playing the game in its current form -- it, for example, requires people to adopt roles of real-life Jewish people who were guilty of banking-related crimes.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


18. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. The game is old: the game's measurable effect on the audience at the time was to diversify the audience and make it more progressive. No Jewish people at the time were offended. However, now, looking back, there are elements which are not as progressive as the language we use today -- however the style of the game is so dated that everyone who reads it, looks at it or plays it has a level of historical distance or irony akin to when they read the casual references to Jewish bankers in 19th century novels. It is not for children.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

19. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. It offends only extremely, orthodox conservative Jews who have some sexist or homophobic ideas built into their way of doing their religion. But it does offend pretty much all of them.

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?


20. Progressive author. Fun, popular game. No measurable effect on participants' attitudes or the wider game world's demographics. However, it is written in english and english is a language and so contains inherently racist constructions like "Hip hip hooray".

Is the game anti-semitic? Why or why not?

If not--how many Jewish people must claim to be offended before it is?

21. Let's assume you are not Jewish but you hold the purse strings at a company about to give money to the author of game 7 above money for another project. Let's assume that for whatever reasons you need to decide whether their game was anti-semitic or not and back that decision with your money.

Can you? Or do you leave that to Jewish people to decide? And assuming they are split -- how do you decide?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remove Kraken Insert Locus-less Existential Colonial Terror

It's likely that Lovecraft got the idea for Cthulhu from Tennyson's Kraken:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber'd and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

...which does paint a picture.

If Noisms' Yoon-Suin can be boiled down to:

Tibet, yak ghosts, ogre magi, mangroves, Nepal, Arabian Nights, Sorcery!, Bengal, invertebrates, topaz, squid men, slug people, opiates, slavery, human sacrifice, dark gods, malaise, magic.

....then a poem should be more than sufficient to describe a setting.

I imagine a Cthulhu game set in Martinique, with the tone set by Aimé Césaire's not entirely unKrakenlike Lagoonal Calendar (as translated by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith)

I inhabit a sacred wound
I inhabit imaginary ancestors
I inhabit an obscure will
I inhabit a long silence
I inhabit an irremediable thirst
I inhabit a one-thousand-year journey
I inhabit a three-hundred-year war
I inhabit an abandoned cult
between bulb and bubil I inhabit an unexplored space
I inhabit not a vein of the basalt
but the rising tide of lava
which runs back up the gulch at full speed
to burn all the mosques
I accommodate myself as best I can to this avatar
to an absurdly botched version of paradise
- it is much worse than a hell -
I inhabit from time to time one of my wounds
Each minute I change apartments
and any peace frightens me

whirling fire
ascidium like none other for the dust of strayed worlds
having spat out my fresh-water entrails
a volcano I remain with my loaves of words and my secret minerals

I inhabit thus a vast thought
but in most cases I prefer to confine myself
to the smallest of my ideas
or else I inhabit a magical formula
only its opening words
the rest being forgotten
I inhabit the ice jam
I inhabit the ice melting
I inhabit the face of a great disaster
I inhabit in most cases the driest udder
of the skinniest peak - the she-wolf of these clouds -
I inhabit the halo of the Cactaceae
I inhabit a herd of goats pulling
on the tit of the most desolate argan tree
To tell you the truth I no longer know my correct address
Bathyale or abyssal
I inhabit the octopuses' hole
I fight with the octopus over an octopus hole

Brother lay off
a kelpy mess
twining dodder-like
or unfurling porana-like
it's all the same thing
which the wave tosses
to which the sun leeches
which the wind whips
sculpture in the round of my nothingness

The atmospheric or rather historic process
even it if makes certain of my words sumptuous
immeasurably increases my plight.