Friday, March 28, 2008

Wigs? Tea?

So thanks largely to Doc Rotwang's cheerleading for the random tables in it, I finally got myself a copy of Castle Zagyg vol. I, Yggsburgh, the setting book for Uncle Gary's Castles & Crusades-powered attempt to finally get Castle Greyhawk into print. (As a note to local readers, I ordered my copy through Armored Gopher Games. Special orders with them are fast and hassle free.) I'm really digging this book. The old Gygax charm is there in spades. And the random tables are as awesome as reported. There's a set of charts where not only can you roll up a random encounter with a bear, but you can then determine that the bear is wounded and angry. How can I not love that? And there are all sorts of nice little touches, like giving the heraldry of all the great knights of the realm and even going to the trouble to explain some of the trickier coats of arms in plain English. And the big pull-out map? One word says it all: Darlene. In my experience no other game cartographer combines form and function so flawlessly. If only the hexes were numbered, the map would be perfect.

But one thing is kinda freaking me out about this book. The general period of history being riffed on is way later than I usually dig in my D&D. Believe me, I'm no stickler for medieval accuracy at all. At the game table I tend to mix and match bronze age Conanery and faux-medieval Athuriana with whatever else happens to float my boat. But tea with breakfast? Nobles wearing wigs? That's just a little too renny for me. Not that I loathe renfaires, but rather that sort of late period game reminds me too much of the art and adventures of the sanitized, homogenized, and generally vanilla 2nd edition AD&D era. No doubt I'm extra sensitive to this concern right now because I'm also reading Margaret Wade Labarge's A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century. The 13th century comes off as positively barbaric compared to a world of perrukes and earl gray.

Still, the book is great. And ignoring the two pages devoted to fashion isn't going to break my brain. And on the other hand, I could maybe see trying for a more renaissance-inspired look in a Hackmaster game. Refusing the PCs an audience with a lord because they aren't properly dandified sounds like the sort of thing that could happen in Hackmaster.


  1. James Maliszewski11:32 AM

    Not that it will help your reaction to the tea and wigs, but Gygax is on record in multiple places as having said that he always felt a more Renaissance/early modern feel jibed better with his conceptions of D&D, in part because the implied social structure of the game doesn't sit well with the existence of rootless adventurers. If you think on it and realize guys like Francis Drake and Hernando Cortes are good historical analogs for your average D&D character, it seems less bizarre.

    That said, I can understand the culture shock. Me, I'm coming round to the notion that the use of creative anachronism is a hallmark of old school fantasy gaming. Bits of weird, alien, and downright goofy "But they didn't have that in the Middle Ages" stuff is what makes D&D for me. Truly, anything that gets it away from trying to accurately model European history is alright by me.

  2. Jeff,

    I had some of the same reactions and some of my own. I recently asked Dr. Rotwang what tables he used and was surprised to hear him mention Yggsburgh as I remembered being sorta disappointed by it. So I got it out and the first thing I found was the the random charts are indeed pretty cool. Must have glossed over them the first time. But I was disappointed by the town, far too quaint feeling for me, in part that's matter of my own tastes, I tend to prefer a grittier Swords and Sorcery feel, like Lhankmar, or City State of the Invisible Overlord.
    But I also sorta felt like it was ground Gygax had covered before and to better effect with Hommelet.

  3. I've always gone for the shameless stew approach, setting my games in a time period unrelated to earth, but broadly evoking everything from the 8th to 18th century [with some remote areas evoking earlier periods, and the occasional crashed spaceship evoking later ones], with the bell-curve usually peaking somewhere between 1330 and 1490 :)

    Tea ... yeah, my games always include at least a tea analogue. No wigs, though. I like to leave open the possibility that a given noble isn't pure evil, and if he's dolled up in a powdered wig, there's just no question anymore. :)

    As for Yggsburg, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Maybe I should give it a second attempt ... dunno.

  4. So now I'm over at wikipedia trying to see what significance S. John is placing (if any) on the years 1330 and 1490. So far I'm not sure what the deal is, but I did find this item for 1490:

    *A small asteroid kills thousands in China.

  5. I looked up their location. Is Armored Gopher in the same strip that Bear Productions was in the 90s? I can tell it's in the same part of town but can't remember if it's the same location.

    When I lived in Champaign, Bear Productions and the comic store on Green were the only rpg sources.


  6. There is broad signifigance to the decades, but not to the particular years :) That's all kinds of awesome about the asteriod, though.

    And to clarify: that's the bracket I tend to center (very approximately) on for the _most_ developed part of the worlds I run. There are always entire countries far less along the track (in Uresia, for example, Orgalt is very 10th/11th-Century ... in contrast to the Rindenland, which is much more 14th/15th, etc). I always prefer a world where the party can include both an honest-to-thor Viking _and_ an Inigo Montoya you-killed-my-father-prepare-to-die type, along with Red Sonja, "mouse" from Ladyhawke, and a mutant with a magic sword that just _might_ be some kind of lightsaber, but we never say it out loud.

    Fighting dinosaurs.

  7. (well, honestly I use undead a lot more than dinosaurs, but I need to know that there's at least at least one Island That Time Forgot _somewhere_ around, in case the mood strikes)

  8. Armored Gopher is NOT in the same location as the old Bear Productions, but we're close to it. We are just north of that location and on the other side of First Street, on the corner of Chester and First Streets.

    Panoramically, from our windows we can see the back of Corson's Music, the south side of Manzella's Italian Patio, the back of Dallas and Company (including their huge parking lot), Glass FX (in Bear Production's last location, First Street Antiques, and the west side of Illini Plastics.

    I know that means nothing to any non-CU local, but Stan was curious. =)

    As far as game stores go in C-U, there's us at Armored Gopher and the Dragon's Table in downtown Champaign (near Jos. Kuhn & Co.). Other Realm (the comic shop on Green with a slightly different name than it started out with), Leisure Time Pet & Hobby, and a Master Consignment also sell game stuff, but it is not their prime focus.

    Hope that helps folks...


    Dave Hoover
    Armored Gopher Games

  9. By the way, Jeff... Thnaks much for the plug!

    Dave =)

  10. Thanks Dave! I had forgotten about Leisure Time - I had them classified mainly as the only local brewing supplier in town at the time.

    I'll have to stop by next time I'm in or going through.

  11. I feel the same way about Yggsburgh; there's a lot about it that I really like, but I'm not fond of the "wigs and tea" aspects. It feels more "Prospero" from Face in the Frost than "Thulsa Doom." (Melan/Gabor Lux said Yggsburgh had the "Wiz-o-Phone" feel.) Fortunately, it's easy to ignore the wigs and tea stuff.

  12. Melan6:48 AM

    I did not say it had a Wiz-o-Phone feel (I don't know what a Wiz-o-Phone is), but there was just something about Yggsburgh that didn't click. It bored me in the same way The Village of Hommlet bores me... too much on mundane inhabitants, not enough swords and sorcerying.

    I am curious about the East Mark Folio, which is supposed to have an adventure in the vein of B2, but there was always something else to buy.

  13. Hey, Melan -- Sorry I misattributed that phrase to you; I guess my memory isn't what it used to be. Somebody used that term to describe a setting where there's a lot of magic standing in for technology (like you find in Yggsburgh and Living Fantasy.