Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Paul Jaquay Bugbear!

If you don't get the joke please leave a comment guessing why the bugbear is getting so grabby with the shaman.  Then go here for an explanation.  If you've never seen a pumkinheaded monster referred to as a bugbear, go here.

Big thanks to my buddy Pat for sending this to me.

Arduin Grimoire, part 6

Okay, let's get back on track with this Arduin Grimoire thing.  Today I'll be looking at some magical spell type things, starting with


Did you ever stop and consider that the usual color scheme for Prismatic Walls and such was inadequate?  That prismatic effects clearly needed some additional colors?  Yeah, me neither.  But Dave Hargrave apparently dug on Prismatic Spheres and such so much that he expanded the list of possible colors to include Red, Violet, Indigo, Rose, Orange, Purple, Magenta, Cyan, Pink, Silver, Bronze, Copper, Gold, Blue Green, Yellow, Lavender, Black, Black & Silver, Black & Gold, Red & Blue, Green & Yellow, Purple & Silver and Green & Gold.  Each has a listed effect on people trying to cross a prismatic wall of that color and a NULLIFYING AGENT that will shut it down.  My favorite color is either Gold, which stops greater demons but not lesser demons from passing through or Green & Yellow, which keeps out dragons and which no dragon attack (breath, claw, spell, lobbed tomato) can pass through.  Magenta prismatic walls can only be nullified by Thunderballs of at least 8 dice, which amuses me to no end.  I just like saying the word, that's all.

Incidentally, don't look at a prismatic wall with True Sight.  There's a five percent chance per level under 20th that you will go permanently insane.  And even if you don't you will be stunned 2d10 months.

Moving along, let's tear through the new spells offered here.  I really dig on most of the names.

Yalynwyn's Spell of the Singing Winds - sounds so pretty it charms people into sitting and listening to it
Kharch's Spell of the Binding Earth - feet sink into ground, pinning you in place
Cuelchain's Spell of the Wonderful Wind Horse - magic air horsey runs fast or beats people up for you
Marlyn's Mighty Mystical Mouse Spell - tiny angel mouse can fly, put people to sleep with its bite, act as eyes and ears of the druid
Chastarade's Spell of the Stone That Weeps in Silence - don't like a dude? turn him into a rock that's still sentient.  harsh.

The Rosy Mist of Reason - Forces people to sit down and talk things out like reasonable creatures, but may enrage non-intelligent animals in the area of effect.  I tend to imagine the effects on everyone present as a really mellow high.
Anti-Web Aura - keeps of webs, both magic and cob
Stephan Le Strange's Spell of Instant Idleness - save or goof off the rest of the day
The Wailing Wheel of Fire - whirling disc of flame hurts folks, scares the bejeesus out of anyone under 4th level
Flames of Doom - single target bursts into black flames, taking 1d8 damage and losing a level for every round you keep the spell going, putting out the fire requires simultaneous dispel magic and cure disease
Rhoar-Eee's Transit Spell - object moves 10x normal speed
Masayuki's Mist of Malevolent Misery - a creepy ass version of cloud kill, good for wiping out low level foes
Morgorn's Spell of Red Death - turns a single foe inside out
Waragen's Wave - redirect river, pond, etc. to drown some poor bastard
Yorgan's Falling For Forever Spell - foe falls upward forever, if target saves they still fall 100' up, then presumably back down
Sulthoe's Blaze of Glory - either fire off all remaining spells and mana in a Death Blossom or one spell overpowered by all remaining mana, caster falls asleep for d12 turns thereafter
Stafford's Star Bridge - A rainbow bridge that you can selectively let people fall through.  I've heard this spell was written as a swipe at Greg Stafford at Chaosium for some perceived slight, but I have no confirmation.
Khurluu's Call of the Hell Spawn - summons one or more demon locusts to wreck some shit
Antigan's Shell of Silvery Safety - a forcefield that keeps out spells under 11th level, laser beams and bullets.  only has enough air inside for d10 rounds.
Gandolyn's Gates - target placed inside magic room with 8 doors, the only way out is to blast out with a phaser rifle or go through a door.  Seven of the doors lead to a random hell, eighth to deep space.
The Curse of Tindalos - target is 'claimed' by the Hounds of Tindalos in d20 days, no save

Aura of Evil Detection - your basic detect evil except the spell manifests as a whisper in the cleric's ear "something wicked this way comes".  Also one example of what can be detected for evil is a windowframe.  Clearly, I need to put more evil windowframes into my games.
Korgen's Cloud of Kindness - the Rosy Mist of Reason for clerics
Transfer Curse - cast before reading a scroll or trying a new magic item.  If it's cursed the effect lands on your designated proxy instead of you.  Hargrave warns that using this spell belligerently could anger your gods.
Gathering the Sheaves - Gathers up the pieces of a corpse.  Handy.
Wilamon's Wall - puts a wall between you and a foe.  wall moves to keep between you two.
Visions of Hell - basicly Phantasmal Killer for clerics
Heavenly Fog of Forgetfulness - amnesia fog
Aura of Angellic Fire - golden flame aura surrounds cleric, burns foes, burns/disrupts undead, absorbs level drains
Rhyton's Release - sets off all magic items in the area of effect  "This one's fun!"
Spell of the Horns of Joshua - Show those jerks in Jericho who the boss is.
The Askalonian Avert Spell - 75% chance to send a curse back at the one who laid it.  Works on the Curse of Tindalos.


If I understand the Rune Weaver class correctly, they can use all normal M-U spells but they cast much slower, using their ancient weaving technique.  They also get the following wicked cool web-themed attack spells.  Each one comes with a description of the energy web that they build during the rounds they are casting, which is nice.  I don't know about your players, but mine will probably never find out which description goes with which spell.  If they see some sinister jerkwad building a spiderweb out of laser beams in the back rank of the foes, you can bet dollars to donuts that guy is going to eat every attack the party has available.

Spell of the Web That Eats Men - cast green slime as an attack spell
Kaid's Web of the Wondrous Star Spyder - drags foes to another universe
Werthal's Web of the Fire Spyder - d6 fire damage per turn foe trapped
Spiraad's Spell of the Web of Pain - d6 acid per turn
Palazaand's Witch Fire Web - d6 fire and paralyzes, web "screams and roars!"
Spell of the North Wind Spyder - d6 cold per turn until frozen solid
Waziran's Wondrous Web of Paralysis - paralyzes, "can only be cut by magikal items", implying that the other webs cn be cut
Rorgoe's Spell of the Lightning Spyder - d6 electrical damage per turn, if you save take no damage but stunned
Argoth's Spell of the Spyder Golem - save: slowed, no save: petrified
Skylar's Web of Wondrous Entrapment - 10% strength drain per turn trapped
Web of the Hell Spyder - drains one level per turn
Moira's Spell of Shrinking Beauty - shrinks those trapped down to 18 inches tall

All in all there's some really great spells here.  Yet another section that leaves me wondering why I never tried a straight-up Arduin campaign rather than just cherrypicking from here and there.

Simple-Minded Theory on the Psychology of Game Design

1) Any mechanic introduced in the name of Realism is actually an unconscious attempt by the designer to deal with unspoken needs, desires, anxieties or tensions probably having nothing to do with the game.

Example: I've made several attempts to fiddle with the weapon reach rules of both D&D and Encounter Critical which probably stem from anxiety over the size of my weiner.  Too much information, I know, but it's the thought that led to this post.

2) Any mechanic that brings a game more in line with the source material is an attempt by the designer to replace the actual with the ideal, an attempt to attain utopia/nirvana via fascistic superego dominance. If RPGs are escapism, then "emulation" and/or "versimiltude" is a form of escapism from the realities of RPGs.

Example: Every licensed RPG that makes you learn a new way to roll dice.
3) Neither point 1 or 2 should be construed as an attack upon realistic or emulative mechanics.  I'm trying to analyze here, not judge.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Welcome to Mr. T'sday!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Shatner Successor Clue #3

Although originally trading on a badass persona, our mystery subject cut back on action roles following a diagnosis of a non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

All will be revealed tomorrow.

hey, here's a sci-fi font I made

Downloadable here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

it could only end one way

R.I.P. Shatnerday

Friday, September 24, 2010

Have you seen the moon tonight?

It's gorgeous.


Since they came up in the comments on yesterday's post about old Star Wars action figures, I thought I'd talk about the Micronauts briefly today. The Micronauts were a line of action figures and awesome vehicles imported in from Japan starting in 1976. They were slightly smaller than Kenner's 3.75" Star Wars figures, but close enough they could work together.  Here's what the basic figures of the line looked like:

I love, love, love the translucent plastic body/white plastic details/metallic head & chest aesthetic.  It's a rarefied example of the sci-fi look in the days just prior to Star Wars and its "used future" design ethos.  One thing I hate about Micronauts are the dull metallic pins used to hold them together, especially in the shoulders.  I can sort of stand it in GI Joe dudes, but it's just a terrible eyesore on an otherwise beautiful design.

I got this dude ("Galactic Defender") as a kid due to all of the sweet accessories.  That space helmet/jet pack combo is aces.  And anybody who carries both a laser sword and a zap gun is bad ass.  For reasons I don't totally understand, I often used the lightsaber with another figure:

This is the second Snaggletooth design from Kenner, after they figured out that his clothes were red and he was a midget.  As a kid Snaggletooth armed with his little blaster and Galactic Defender's sword was My Go-To Guy.  Every other figure in the scene was a secondary characters in my imaginary adventures prtending to be this little freak with his borrowed space cutlery.  Someone in the social sciences ought to do a study mapping personality types to preferred action figure avatars, but I'm not sure I want to know what playing a little hairy space goblin with a laser phallus really means about me. 

Anyway, back to Micronauts.  Here's another fave of mine from back in the day. 

This guy was one of the Micronaut villains.  He's called Antron but as a kid I always insited he was a spider because spiders are obviously cooler than ants.  There's nothing that isn't awesome about this monster.  Four arms?  Check.  Awesome purple color?  Check!  Mutliple bizarre weapons?  Checkity check!  And turn him around and you find his best feature:


I didn't own many Micronauts, but between the awesomeness of Galactic Defender and Antron I didn't need any others.  Serious Micronauts collectors undoubtedly focus a lot of energy on the vehicles of the line, which were definitely neat-o.  Most of the large ones were sufficiently modular that they could be pulled apart and put together in a variety of ways.  Unfortunately, this alos made it easy to lose parts to the toys and as a kid I saw very few complete vehicles, excepting those that had just been opened.

By request, here's page 616 of the same Sears Wishbook I posted pics of yesterday.  Bottom right is one of the cooler Micronauts vehicles, the Mobile Exploration Lab.  For more Micronauts toy goodness, check out

Thursday, September 23, 2010

go check this out

Brief review of Erol Otus and company's Booty and The Beasts by the delightful Mr. Lizard.  Minus half a point for slagging on The Field Guide to Encounters, but still a grade A piece.

a long time ago in a tiny plastic galaxy

I've been on a bit of a jag on old Star Wars action figures. Here's the state of play in tiny plastic space dudes as of the 1979 Sear Christmas catalog. Hope you find it as amusing as I do.

Shatner Successor Clue #2

Someone half my age or younger may only know our mystery subject through TV commercials and a short-lived reality show.

Clue #3 on Monday.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Arduin Grimoire, part 5

The nest two sections of the Arduin Grimoire are entitled MAGIC IN ARDUIN and EVEN MORE MAGIC IN ARDUIN.  I will try to summarize all of Hargrave's house rules and interpretations in bullet points.
  • Memorizing a spell takes one hour per level, divided by the number of that level you can memorize per day.  In other words no matter what level you are it takes one hour to memorize all your first level spells, another hour to memorize all your second level spells, etc.  To memorize fewer spells, just do the division.  That is so dang simple I am going to start using it effective immediately.
  • Vancian style memorizing runs in parallel with a mana point system.  You memorize fireball once, but you can cast as many as your mana points will allow.  Basically your list of memorized spells tells you what you can spend mana on that day.  Am I right in thinking that's how HackMaster Basic works?  I love straight Vancian magic, but this is one of the few spellpoint systems that work as an interesting compromise.
  • Unless otherwise stated, multiply spell level by 1.5 to find its mana cost.  You can under or over power spells.  So if you only have 3 mana left and want to cast a 4th level spell (6 mana) you can throw it at half effect.  Slick.
  • Unless you are a weirdo like a Rune Weaver or a drum-playing Medicine Man, here's what your Mana points look like:  If your Int is 8 or less take your Int score, multiply it by your level and divide by 4.  If your Int is between 9 to 12, use Int X Level divided by 3.  If your Int is 13 or more, it's Int time Level divided by 2.  So a fifth level magic-user with a 14 Int gets 35 Mana per day.  With only a 12 Int that becomes 20 Mana.  So if I'm reading this right the Int 14 MU could conceivably throw 7 fullbore fireballs and one underpowered one, while the dumber mage could only throw four and a fraction.
  • Mages can't wear metal but they are allowed leather armor and wooden shields, though Hargrave notes that few use shields because it "cuts down their dexterity".
  • Here's what I call the Gandalf Rule, which I use in my own campaign: Starting at 5th level Magic-Users may wield a magic sword and at tenth level they may use any magic weapon.  They are only allowed to carry one magic weapon at a time.
  • At most you can use a spell scroll every other round, because of the time it takes to find, unroll, etc.
  • If you save against Bob's fireball you never have to roll a save against his fireball again.  Handy when it's a matter of accidentally flaming your own parties members, but a hassle when a recurring villain makes a save.
  • Wands, staffs, etc. are activated by holding and concentrating rather than command word.  Rings are activated by twisting them on your finger, which Hargrave notes is impossible if you are wearing it under a gauntlet.  Amulets must be fingered or cupped in the palm.
  • The base chance PHUMBLE PHACTOR (screwing up spells use or item activation in the heat of combat) is a whopping 50%, minus 2% per level above first and minus 5% per point of Dex above 12.  (Plus 5% per point of Dex below 9).
  • Touch attack effects are at +2.  Ranged touch attacks are +4 (Hargrave never uses the 3e-ism 'ranged touch', by the way.)  Splash effects, such as "a jar of magic shrinking potion" are at +6.
  • Most elemental-based attack spells splash kinda like burning oil, affecting nearby non-targets.
  • The maximum spell level you can use is equal to your Int divided by 2.  Since spells go over 9th level in Hargraves system, even an 18 isn't going to be enough for high level MUs.
Next up is two paragraphs called NOTES ON PLAYER CHARACTER TYPES, which is basically a exhortation to stop being a whimp and let the PCs play whatever they want.  This is where Hargrave's famous line "Don't be lonely, take a troll to lunch." first appears but it's also where you get his unfortunate mention of a Jewish kobold begging people for pennies.  Let us move on.

The next page is the CLERICAL TURN-AWAY CHART.  This looks a lot like the standard chart, except that it adds banshees and morghouls to the undead axis, the cleric level axis goes in wider increments (one clumn for levels 1-2, one for 3-4, one for 5-6, etc) and it is d20 based.  Also, it seems pretty harsh.  A first or second level cleric needs a 16+ to turn friggin' skeletons, man.  I'm hard on clerics (one of my players opines that I outright hat 'em) but this is unduly harsh.  The notes in the paragraph below do make it two points easier to turn undead of the same faith as you, but, amusing as the idea is, as a DM I don't want to have to keep in my notes whether every dang skeleton keeps kosher or not.  You also get a +1 bonus if this is your "final try", which I guess implies you can try to turn undead more than once per combat.  Turn range is limited to 10' plus 5' every other level.  Also, if you roll double the required number you disintegrate the undead.

Page 32 is devoted to HARGRAVE'S DETECT ABILITY CHART.  You think casting detect magic is a surefire deal, huh?  Think again.  A magic-user gets 70% +3% per level above first.  Items also get a percentage rating when they detecting poison, evil, traps, curses, weather, etc, etc.  Probably the most annoying entry on this chart is ACTUALITY (TRUE SEEING), which suggests that a Gem of True Seeing only sees true 33% of the time.

The following two pages are devoted to saving throw charts.  First we get saves for magical equipment.  Hargrave's save categories are Heat, Cold, Energy, Disintegrate, Negation, Triggers, Electricity, Acid, Crush and All Others.  'Triggers' looks interesting.  Maybe it's a separate roll that needs to be made to avoid setting an item off due to damage?  Per Hargrave everything must save when the owner is killed by one of the above categories.  Also if you are knocked out of the fight but not dead you must roll for all your "highly vulnerable items such as books, scrolls, and glass potions bottles".  This chart seems entirely reasonable and useful to me.

Hargrave's SPECIAL OR EXOTIC CHARACTER SAVING ROLL CHART is a little more dubious to me.  I like his save categories here: Dragon Breath, Psychic Attack, Polymorph, Disintegrate, Stoning, Paralysis, Poison/Venom/Acid, Spoken Spells, Rods/Wands, Staffs, All Not Covered.  The other axis of the chart is a slew of non-human races ranging from elves to centaurs to phraints to undead to slimes to demigods.  Elves and half-elves are broken down by gender.  Females elves have the smae or slightly worse saves than their male counterparts, except for Psychic Attack where they save at 1 point better.  Half-elves work much the same way except female half-elves are also slightly less prone to Disintegration and All Not Covered.  What isn't on this chart is a way for saves to improve with level.  Do humans use the standard OD&D charts, getting better saves as levels improve, while everone else is stuck where they started?  I don't know.  Demi-Gods unsurprisingly get the best saves in most categories, needing only a 6 or higher versus the dread All Not Covered.

Following these charts is a percentile system for generating random magic weapons.  Throw d100 six time for a magic weapon, with more rolls possible for Special Attributes of really high Int weapons.  So let's say I roll 23/42/66/13/99/07.  That would mean I've got a Falchion, +3 to-hit, +3 damage, 4 Int, 23 Ego, that Detects Alignments.  Pretty functional.

That's enough for now, I think.  Next time we'll start with Prismatic Walls and Hargarve's wacky spells.

So this amused me. (slightly NSFW)


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

We had a ton of fun making this

Arduin Grimoire, part 4

When I started this cover to cover bit I promised myself that I wouldn't drag it out by talking about one page at a time.  However as I type this my Arduin Grimoire is across town.  What I have with me is a copy of page 27, the price list that I just happen to have lying around for no good reason.  So here I am, already goofing my plan up.

But there is some interesting stuff to discuss here.  The title of the price chart is MULTIVERSAL TRADING COMPANY PRICE LIST.  The Multiversal Trading Company has been mentioned once or twice in my World of Cinder campaign, mainly as the only outfit on the planet that will accept Dollars American (it came up).  Overall, the price list is not too different from what you'd expect in any fantasy game where you might need to buy a sword or a ship, with a few little differences.

All prices are random ranges.  A trident costs 10-15 gold sovereigns, for instance.  I like a little variability in little details like this, but I don't really want to have to roll for every dang item every time theparty goes shopping.  Also, you have to difgure out for yourself how to generate a price of from 30 to 85 gp to buy chainmail or 95 to 135 to buy leather barding or 375-1750gp to purchase a small sailboat.  It's the sort of thing where I would look at the chart, groan and just pick a number.

Poison and venom antidotes get their own section.  What's the difference between a poison and a venom from Hargrave's point of view?  I can't tell.  But it's cheaper to cure most venoms.  An antidote for a 1st through 3rd level poison costs 375gp.  The same level range venom cure is only 300gp.  I've seen other people assign poison a level, but I'm not sure what it means for Hargrave.  Maybe I'll find out in a later section.  Just below the antidotes is an entry for Doctor John's Salve, which costs a thousand bucks a pop.  Underneath is a vague note: "(heal heavy wounds)".

My favorite section is the miscellaneous stuff.  When I stumble across a new game this is one of the places I check to find out how seriously the author takes the ardures of adventure.  For an early text the Grimoire really delivers in this regard.  Not only can you get a 10' pole (leather-tipped, in fact), but the folks at Multiversal will also sell you a 15' oak blank (6" x 4") suitable for al sorts of dungeony nonsense.  Grappling hooks and crowbars are both priced for bronze, iron, steel, mithral and adamantine varieties, with the crowbars given a break percentage based upon metal content (30% for bronze to 1% for admantine).  Like the poison & venom section, I'm left wondering what Hargrave's rule for actually using crowbars was, i.e. if I want to crowbar open a chest or a door how does that affect my chances?  How long does it take?  I don't mind figuring this stuff out for myself, but the dude brought the subject up so I feel it's on him to explain.  You know what I mean?  Spikes for doors and such are only available in bronze, iron and steel, by the way.

In addition to rope (1gp for 50' or spider-silk at 200gp per foot), Hargrave will sell you a 30' rope ladder (10 gold pieces.  Backpacks comes in leather or cloth.  Boots and cloaks are price for regular type and fur-lined.  Holy water can be purchase in normal vials or in bulk.  Two items that clearly developed from some fun events at the table are the Iron Doorstop with Pull Handle and the Aerial Saddle.

But the best items on the list have got to be the artificial limbs and pirate-style hook-hands.  I wonder how many PCs ended up buying one or both after a bad run-in with the infamous Arduin crit chart?

Shatner Successor Clue #1

Like William Shatner our mystery subject has starred appeared in movies, TV shows, comics books, an animated series and even on a musical recording of debatable merit.

Clue #2 on Thursday.

Monday, September 20, 2010

more Damnation Van goodness

Here's another Syd Mead design, this time for NASA!

And here's a Ralph McQuarrie Damnation Van!!!

need a wilderness hexmap?

Here are two boards from old fantasy wargames that might make decent campaign maps.

The second one is from Demons, from SPI I believe.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

an announcement

After serious consideration I have decided that next Saturday will be the last public observance of Shatnerday here on the ol' Gameblog. The following week I will begin a new ridiculous weekly observance featuring a different pop-culture icon. Going forward, my plan is to change subjects on a yearly basis.

Please try not to cry. You know, for the children's sake.

more Shatnerday music

Big thanks to Saito Hajime for the linky!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Donnie & Marie present: Star Wars

Kris Kristofferson made a pretty damn good Han Solo back in the day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Arduin Grimoire, part 3

Next up in our whirlwind tour of Dave Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire is five pages of random dice charts.  This probably doesn't comes as a surprise to any of my regular readers, but I friggin' love random dice charts.  Especially ones with results that push the flow of play in unanticipated directions and there's some opportunities to do exactly that on these Special Abilities Charts.  They're a lot like the random charts in Rolemaster/MERP where you spend some of your background points and try to come up with a random ability you like, only crazier.  The charts are broken down by class, one chart for "all warrior types and barbarians or those of similar nature", one chart for "mages, illusionists, druids, alchemists, medicine men, psychics and those of magical natures", one chart for "clerics of all types, bards, singers, witchhunters, pallidins and all of a more religious than magical nature", one for "thieves, monks, ninja, highwaymen, corsairs, assassins, traders, slavers, rangers, and all of those with a more or less 'secret' nature" and a final chart for "technos, normals, sages, and courtesans - all those not covered".  So druids use the M-U chart meanwhile rangers and traders use the thief chart.  That's not how I would have done it, which is one of the reasons Hargrave work is so fascinating.

I'd love to reproduce these charts in full, but I'm sure the folks at Emperor's Choice wouldn't appreciate it.  Each one is a percentage throw with about 30 to 40 possible results.  Most of the results are positive or a mixed bag, with a few outright character flaws.  Here are three results each from the first two charts.

Fighter et al.

17.  +1 with all crossbows, javelins, and throwing darts, but -1 versus cold
62.  A coward, -8 save versus fear and always have a 50% chance of fleeing
95.**  You are a secret were-creature, roll to see what kind.

The double asterisk indicates that anyone rolling that result is 98% likely to be secretly chaotic and 50% likely to be secretly evil.  One other result is so marked, the one where your dad is a demon.

MU and such

09.  Fire and light competent, _3 versus blindness but -3 versus insanity.
42.  Ability to smell poison (50% accurate), but -3 to its effects
54.  Dragon friend (also speak high and low dragonish)

"Competent" is a term used in many entries on the MU chart and a few on the cleric chart.  It's obviously related to spellcasting is some way, but if there's an explanation of the term in the first Grimoire I have yet to find it.  Armed with just this book a DM would have to figure out what that means in their own campaign.  If you own Welcome to Skull Tower, the second volume in the series, you can find an explanation in the second section labeled "Notes on Magik" (p. 76).  It means that saving throws, damage dice and other variables are 2 pips or dice in the caster's favor.  E.g. A fire competent MU is +2 on all saves versus fire and lobs fireballs that are -2 to save and do 2 extra dice of damage.

Folks who own the book should feel free to share a favorite result I missed in the comments, cause I need to move on to the new classes.  Hargrave introduces seven new classes in the first volume of the Grimoire: trader (merchant), psychic, barbarian, rune weaver, techno, medicine man and witch hunter.  Most of these classes come with so many oddball rules and weird abilities that I could do a whole blog post about each.  Here I'll just hit the highlights that interest me the most.


Gain 10xp per 1,000gp profit from their mercantile ventures.  Cannot advance past tenth level unless they lead a caravan or command a trading ship.  Gets monk abilities (??) starting at ninth level.  At 100th level they automatically become guildmaster of their country.


To qualify for this class all your stats except intelligence must be lower than 13.  I keep this class in my back pocket for when someone throwing 3d6 in a row comes up with a complete dud.  So far no takers.  Over the course of their level progression they get a passle of percentage abilities, mostly detects.  At first level all you get is "Intuit Traps" but at base 75% it beats the pants off the thieves and dwarves in the party.  At 50th level you gain the ability to explode people's heart with your brain.


A berserker type.  As written the class pretty much plays the game for you.  50% chance of charging every fight, except versus undead where you have a 10% chance of fleeing in terror and a 60% chance of an orderly retreat.  At first level you have a 60% of berserking against your will, which will last 19 rounds.  You get more control of your own PC if you survive to higher levels, but I just don't see the point of undermining player autonomy the way this class does.

Rune Weaver

In short these are slow magic-users.  They take much longer to weave their spells but can attempt to cast spells at a higher level than MUs and are really good at unweaving (i.e. dispelling) spells.  The details of this class tie directly in with Hargrave's mana-based magic system, so I won't say anything more until we get to the magic section.


I written about this delightful class before.  I can't hardly oppose a D&D class that allows you start tinkering with atomic reactors at 40th level.

Medicine Man

Your basic shaman type.  On the one hand nowadays I don't think I need a separate divine spellcaster for each culture in a campaign, but on the other this is the perfect class to stat up the fat witch doctor from Gilligan's Island.  Also each member of this class gets a pet puma or wolf every three levels and at 6th level can cast spells by playing drums.  I would go with bongos or maybe that big drum Ricky Ricardo used to play when he sang "Babalu" down at the club.  I really wanted to include a screencap of that witch doctor dude at this point in the post but google image search failed me.  So here's Gilligan with a robot instead.

from The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.

Witch Hunter

Last up is a great class for folks who want to ruin the fun of everyone else at the table.  They are "religious fanatics (99% Christian) that are obnoxiously 'holier than thou' in their attitude towards just about everyone and everything".  Witch Hunters always attack Chaotic types and go after Neutrals 75% of the time.  Their righteous fury has all same drawbacks as barbarian berserkergang.  Basically these guys take all the worst stereotypes of paladins and make the rules enforce their jerkish behavior.  And you can bet your ass that I wouldn't hesistate to use them as bad guys.

One interesting quirk about the Witch Hunter: it may be the only class I've seen outside of Men & Magic that has a column Chainmail-style Fighting Capability.  A 1st or 2nd level Witch Hunter fights as a Man, a 3rd level hunter as a Man +1, etc.  That suggests to me that this class was one of the earliest Hargrave wrote, as no other class in the book uses this quickly-dropped-by-TSR notation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Arduin Grimoire, part 2

Today I'm going to cover pages one through thirteen of the original Arduin Grimoire.  Maybe that sounds like a lot bust most of these pages are bigass charts.

At the top of page one is the title HOW TO PLAY THE GAME and then it immediately dives into rules for overland travel.  This is pretty much how Hargrave operates throughout the trilogy; lots of interesting stuff but no obvious organization.   Anyway, Hargrave's stated rule is to roll a 1 in 6 chance of a wilderness encounter  every dang hour, with chances doubling for terrain like woods and swamps and also doubling at night.  So if you're camped in the woods you have a 4 in 6 chance of going to the wandering monster charts every 60 minutes.  And I thought the rules for this in the first edition DMG were harsh.  Honestly, I can hardly believe this rule was ever used as written except by total dick DMs.

Hargrave hides two neat charts in this section.  In more than one place in his books he describes a dice chart via a sentence in a larger paragraph.  Here's his idea in chart form:

Initial Wilderness Monster Reactions, unintelligent critters (roll d12)
1-3 frightened off
4-6 shies back, hesitant
7-9 warily approaches party
10-12 berserk attack

Initial Wilderness Monster Reactions, intelligent beings (roll d12)
1-4 flee
5-8 indecisive
9-12 unhesitating attack

So dumb monsters are less likely to throw themselves at you than intelligent ones.  Another gem in this section is when Hargrave gets around to applying his wandering monster rules to dungeons.  He assumes that the basic unit of dungeoneers is the three person party and that wandering monsters should be increased for larger groups.  "[I]f you have a party of three than only one red dragon shows up, if you have 4-6, then it's two and so on" (Emphasis mine.)

Next up is Hargrave's experience point rules.  No xp for gold in the world of Arduin.  "After all, it is the act of robbery, not the amount stolen, that gives the thief his experience."  The chart that follows reminds me just a bit of the system used in Rolemaster/MERP.  Does anyone know if those guys played Arduin early on?  You can score experience by acquiring potent magic items, defeating foes in single combat and taking important roles in the party like group leader or point man.  Hargrave awards 400 xp for dying and being brought back to life.  Killing a demi-god in single combat is only worth 350xp, so I hope these are bonus awards in addition to standard fight XP but the rules here don't say one way or the other.  All in all it's a fun-looking system, but I think I'll stick to 1gp = xp and 1HD = 100xp for sheer simplicity.

Pages three and four are XP charts for a buttload of classes: thief, slaver, techno, courtesan, assassin, alchemist, rune weaver, saint, "all outlaws", warrior, cleric, monk, mage, illusionist, druid, "singer or bard", ranger, normal, barbarian.  Not all of these classes are statted up in this volume.  The XP progressions looks fairly normal just glancing at the chart, but in fact advancement is much faster starting around level 5 or so.    For example a thief needs 21,000 xp to reach 8th level, but only 24,500 xp for 9th and 28,000 for tenth.  So maybe killing a demi-god really is worth only 350 points.  Another oddity is that the chart goes to 105th level for each class but after 20th level you seem to go up 5 levels at a time.  I.e. there is no 21st level.  A Techno with 100,000 to 149,999 experience is twentieth level.  Score one more point and that character is now 25th.  At least that's what the chart seems to imply.

Next up is the level limit chart for a huge variety of races, including giants, tritons, "piscoids" and all sorts of other stuff.  Note that two classes on the chart here, psychic and paladin, do not appear on the XP charts on the immediately preceding pages.  This is another common occurrence in the Grimoire: page 4 and page 5 don't seem to be on speaking terms.  Given that the XP charts go up to 105th level (with a 'for every level thereafter' amount as well) most of the level limits are quite low.  Most races have one or two classes they are allowed unlimited advance, with the rest severely capped or outright forbidden.  The absurd part comes in with the last column, which is labeled for All Others.  Most races have unlimited advancement in every class not specifically mentioned on the chart.  So if I made a Cave Man PC (which I totally would) I could play up to a 4th level Mage, a second level "Thief, etc.", an 8th level Warrior, a 2nd level Psychic or a 105th level Techno.  Personally, I love the insanity of this chart, but I could see how it would frustrate normal people.  On other note: only humans and half-elves can become paladins.  All other races are barred from this class.

Pages six and seven are a stat min-max chart by race.  Some races appear here that weren't on the level limit charts on the preceding pages.  For example, I can tell you that Balrogs have Wisdom scores between 5 and 10 and that Silicate Life characters are rated between 1 and 12 for Charisma.  This chart is the first place we Hargrave's expanded ability score list: Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, Ego, Agility, Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Mechanical Ability, Swimming Ability.  There's also a column labeled Magic Resistance, but it's not a 3-18 score.  Rather the entires here look like a saving throw adjustment between -2 to +4, or "even", presumably indicating no bonus, or "special", which according to a note indicates 50% magic resistance.

Pages 8 and 9 are random height and weight charts.  Per the height chart Hargrave goes in for Tolkienian tall elves.  The height chart and weight chart look to me like they were written at different times, as the height chart is all Tolkien races. (And Amazons. Hargrave always sneaks in some amazons wherever he can, a policy I heartily approve.) The weight chart contains a lot of other races.  So I can tell you the weight of a Arduin gnoll but I have no idea how tall he is.

Next up is a large illo of an Amazon (see, I told you) and a Vampusa throwing down.  A Vampusa is a vampire/medusa hybrid.  This is standard operating procedure for Hargrave: If two monsters are interesting, why not smoosh 'em together?  Also on this page is a small chart.  It's percentage based but is structured such that a single d10 will do.

Body Type Determination Table
1-2  Skinny-Boney, -1 Str
3-4 Wirey-Tough, +1 Dex
5-6 Average, "As It Says"
7-8 Muscular, +1 Str
9 Very Muscular, +1 Con, +2 Str
0 Obese, -1 Con, -1 Dex

Given the odds here, I would gladly roll on that chart.  Maybe I'll start using it.

The next two pages are another bigass racial chart labeled NOTES ON FANTASTIC BEINGS.   Basically for a whole passle of races you get average life span (noted as "Arduin years"), age of majority, usual alignment, ability to mate fertilly [sic] with humans, general temperment [sic again] and "Notes, Observations, Typical Stuff".  Again there are races here not appearing on any of the previous charts.  Elves, orcs, trolls, titans, pixies, nixies and demons are all immortal.  About half the races listed are interfertile with humans, but about half of those produce sterile offspring.  By the chart half-orcs are one of the mule races.  The last column has all sorts of brief stereotyping going on.  Amazons are "pushy, men-baiters, frequently lesbian" while kobolds "love to gang up on cripples, thieves", the sort of thing that can be useful to a DM but a terror to players whose jerkwad DM insists they play their PC 'by the book'.

Next up is the random alignment chart, which is labeled as being specifically for players.  Hargrave starts with Gygax's ninefold system but adds some edge case alignments like Marginally Lawful and Amoral Evil.  Each alignment is rated with a percentile Kill Factor, Lie Factor, Tolerance Factor, Loyalty Factor and Cruelty Factor.  The usage of these percentiles is not explained, but these numbers do a better job explaining alignment than most text descriptions, including most of the text descriptions in the far right column of this chart.  I do like that Marginally Lawful is the alignment of 'those losing faith in the system', though.  To ruin a perfectly good system/make things more interesting everyone has a 10% chance of their alignment secretly being Insane.

Whew.  That's all for now.  Next installment will feature two of my favorite sections, the random special ability charts and the new classes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Arduin Grimoire cover to cover, part 1

Okay, let's do this like Brutus.  The Arduin Grimoire is one of the seminal books of the early gonzo D&D period and by the time this series is done you'll know more about it than you probably want to.

Pictured to the right is the cover from my own copy of this gem.  I pick "cheap and crappy but legible" over "mint condition" pretty much every time and my copy is pretty dang crudulated.  Still, the awesomeness of Greg Espinoza's cover art comes shining through.  Clint Eastwood, Dungeoneer, and a dual-wielding bug dude and a lady adventurer with Gamora/Marionette style facepaint are throwing down with some serious lizard dudes.  Later we'll learn that the bug dude is called a Phraint, one of the mainstays of the Arduin universe and quite possibly the inspiration for the Thri'Kreen and/or Vrusk.  Click on the pic to see a bigger version.  The detail work is worth a closer look-see even with my sorry-ass copy.

A lot of game books have acknowledgment or dedication pages that mention PCs in the author's home campaigns.  The gang at ICE we're always good for this, but Hargave's dedication page here contains one of the best such lists I've ever seen:
Koryu, leader of the forty-seven ronin; Elric the Hell-Lost; Daniel the True Defender of the Dreaming Isles; Jothar, Champion of the House of the Rising Sun and Baron of the Realm; Kazamon, the Ring Bearer, hobbit and changeling; Benk the Benighted; Hamal Assad's Twelfth Lancers; Mithrom, bandit turned demon; Mogadore the drunken dwarf; Zorella, amazon leader of the doomed Hell Raid; Lasuli, elven and unafraid; Fredrick the Bold, slayer of Smaug and Sauron; Bolo Mark Nine, destroyer of a dungeon and near slayer of an entire world; the Seven Spartans and their never broken shield wall; Talso the grim mage; all of you are forever graven in the iron legends that will forever follow your steps through allternity.  To you and the shades of near four hundred dead I lift a tankard of Rumble Tummy's ale in respectful salute.
So by 1977 in Hargrave's game Sauron had been iced, Hell itself invaded and almost 400 characters killed in campaigning.  That, my friends, is hard effin' core.  On the other hand, in the foreward Hargrave makes a point of apologizing to anyone his work offends.  Which leaves me with the distinct impression that Mr. Hargrave will readily kill your PC but he tries to be a nice guy about it.

Anyhoo, I should take a moment to talk about the publishing history of this book.  The first edition was self-published in 1977 and featured different cover art and maybe slightly different content.  I've seen a copy of it floating around the internet for download. or mediafire or someplace like that.  But I'm not sure I kept a copy because I already have a fully functioning print edition.  The second edition published by garage band Grimoire Games is copyright 1979 which is what I've got.  Almost.  There's at least three only vaguely documented changes made along the way in these earliest printings besides the cover art.  First, the inside front cover on my copy is dated 1980 (pictured left).  Second, at some point TSR got grumpy about some of the text, leading to a couple of obvious changes that are hilariously similar to the kind of slapdash editing the game wizards themselves had to do when the Tolkien estate got all huffy.  Mentions of D&D by name get genericized and a mechanic or two are renamed to remove the word 'fuck' from the grimoire texts.  You can't call a fumble a fuck-up without incurring the wrath of TSR circa 1980 apparently.  Thirdly, my eye for such things tells me that the back cover of my copy involves some editorial swimwear to cover up the amazon's vast tracks of land.  But I'm not going to show you what I'm talking about until the last post in this series, since that involves the end of the book.  And also I'm a jerk.

The original Grimoire saw at least two further editions.  Emperor's Choice, the official keeper's of the Arduin flame, have put out over the years an Arduin Trilogy boxed set and more recently an Arduin Trilogy hardcover which is still available.  Both contain the text of the first three Grimoires but I've not seen the insides.

Next installement of this here series we'll get serious and dive into the rules.  Following Hargrave's lead we'll start with the only logical place to begin a collection of crazy OD&D houserules: outdoor encounters.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Cover to cover?

Would folks be interested in a multi-part section-by-section discussion of either the original Arduin Grimoire or Encounter Critical?  I'm thinking about something along the lines of Sham's forty part OD&D overview or Jamie Mal's look at the Holmes Basic rulebook in seventeen installments.  Though maybe I wouldn't need 17 posts for either book.  (On the other hand, I could probably talk about Encounter Critical for a lot longer than 40 posts if I wanted to.  I'm just not sure I want to in a systemized, page by page way.)

Anyway, let me know what you think about this idea in the comments, please.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

She's going as a princess

Today my daughter asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween. She thinks I should go as Strong Bad, but if I were to dress up for trick-or-treating I'd really prefer to go as this guy:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cinder campaign update

Two weeks ago the party was victorious in the Unknown Dungeon's annual Chaos Parade. Obviously the next logical thing for them to do would be to go into business as purveyors of pornographic vampire novels.  Click to embiggen the frontispiece of the new bestseller in the Kingdom of Verbosh.

It all started with Our Heroes in dungeon approaching a vampire lair. The key says there's a single vampire with no treasure. Boring. I reach for my favorite oracular die, Big Red. Hey, Big Red, is this one of the vampires the party pissed off last run? 1-3 Yes, 4-6 No. Big Red says yes. Is it Vampirella or one of the two Draculas? 1-2 Vampirella, 4-6 Dracula. Big Red says Vampirella.

So now I've got a sexy vampire babe in an empty room.  Nature abhors a vacuum and I feel the same way about empty dungeon rooms.  I have great trouble leaving well enough alone when the key says no treasure and doesn't list any contents.  So of course I put in a coffin.  And I decide that under the pillow of the coffin is her steamy diary, written in Draculese.  I made up the language based upon the fact that Vampirella is not native to Cinder, but rather an immigrant from planet Draculon (it's a fact, you can look it up).

So the party makes its usual fiasco of opening the door to Vampirella's lair, so she turns to mist and floats up to the ceiling.  No one ever specifically looks up while searching the room and the extra roll I secretly threw on their behalf came up empty.  Vampirella is not amused when Orleck the MU horks her diary into his backpack, but she doesn't immediately attack.  Half the party is waiving around obviously badass magical swords.  The other half of the party is a dire wolf, a grizzly bear and an ape.  Oh and the guy with a chainsaw for a hand is riding the Silver Surfer's board through the dungeon.  A little planning seems to be in order rather than a full out attack.

So she floats just outside of visual range, still in mist form, near the peak of the arched-ceilinged chamber, until the party opens the room of her pet ghoul.  I decide the ghoul next door is a Renfieldesque nerd but also perverted.  I describe/demonstrate how he's hunched over in a corner of the room, sloppily chowing down on some dude's arm and covering his face with blood in the process.  He's wearing a sweater vest, a bow tie and nothing else.  Needless to say they waste little time in icing this freak.  While the party is distracted by this vile wretch Vampirella coalesces into her corporeal form and attacks the rear guard of the party.   That happens to be Orleck the diary thief and his pet bear Sasha.

Two things save the party from energy-draining annihilation at this point.  One is a series of utter crap rolls on my party.  The other is Kelgar the dwarf's magic sword, with which he manages to impale Vampy right through the heart.  But I had a lot of fun chasing Orleck the magic-user and Albert the elf around the dungeon before that happened.  Albert's player seemed particularly terrified of a vampire attack and the elf ran away screaming like a little girl.  I found that hilarious, as Albert was a first level elf with one hit point max.  He probably should scream and run from anything larger than a gnat, but he waits until the sexy lady in the skimpy swimsuit shows up to freak out.

So now the owner of the diary is dispatched and Orleck uses comprehend languages to discover that the contents are rather explicit in detailing the author's dalliances.  So the party decides to go into business.  While Orleck translates the contents into the Common Tongue the rest of the party lines up a print run.  They of course already know some printers, the halfling Chaos Party agitators.  A bookbinder can be located in Verbosh City.  After meeting with the showrunner at the Royal Theater of Verbosh they line up both a saucy illustrator and sell rights to produce a stage version.  Meanwhile the party cleric researches a new spell, a medieval copy protection curse that actually works called copyright plague.  After finishing the translation Orleck researches a variant of continual light he calls continual pillowbook illuminator, which enchants books with their own integral nightlight.  An initial print run of 100 leatherbound, doubly enchanted and lavishly illustrated codices of Confessions of a Damned Lady is ready to go on sale just a few days after the opening performance of Strumpet of Blood.

Our heroes of course get free tickets to opening night.  Sir Roi of Cribbet is invited to sit with his liege King Verbosh XXXI, whose box is in a terrible location because the actual ruler of the realm is a different guy, Lord Hagor.  He just holds onto the family title and a few meager royal rights.  Sir Roi bought his knighthood from him for five bucks, if I remember correctly.  Attendance is brisk opening night and the play is a hit.  The next night the house is packed but that's the last night of the play as the moralistic types in the city convince Lord Hagor to shut it down.  But all 100 books become available for sale the next day and they quickly sell out with enough interest to do a second print run.  They quickly sell through 62 more copies then get out of town, their pockets fat with gold, just before mob justice catches up with them.

And since the book needed an ending, Orleck writes a few additional pages where Vampirella falls madly in love with him.  So now anyone who has seen the play or read the book will probably think twice before messing with him.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

found googling for old clip art

Someone needs to use this for an encounter.  Hell, everyone needs to use this for an encounter.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

it's greek to me (no, seriously)

Can some kind soul translate the underlined word below?

I must say it's a little unkind of Mr. Hardy to spring this on me 300 pages into an otherwise monolingual novel.

game stores

Over the weekend the whole Rients clan visited Six Flags amusement park in Gurnee, Illinois. I managed to get to a couple of games stores while up north. A brief foray to the Gurnee Mills mall lead to the discovery of Board Games Barrister. They had a respectable selection of boardgames and a few shelves of Wizards products. One guy at the store tried to give me the hard sell on the new WotC Basic box. I would have bought a copy for my nephew, but the little dude told me he wasn't interested. I found it interesting the Board Game Barrister also stocked the Dragon Age boxed set.

I had an interesting exchange with the clerk who tried to sell me the boxed set. He asked me what, if anything, I currently played. I said I mostly played Labyrinth Lord right now. He had never heard of it. When I explained that it was an emulator of '81 Basic/Expert he said "Oh, you mean like Pathfinder but for an older edition?"

The next day my wife, my sister-in-law and I journeyed to nearby Grayslake, IL in search of a used book store I had googled up. We showed up the one day of the week the shop is closed. But just down the street we found Unique Gifts and Games. This was a nice little nerd shop with a friendly staff. Though the open gaming area had a few tables spaced way too close together. It looked like it would be hella cramped on nights when every table was in use. The oddest part about Unique Gifts & Games was that the stock was 75% standard game shop and 25% New Age magical/occult stuff. I know there's a certain overlap between customers of both types of store, but I had never seen a combo affair before where you could buy both a book of D&D spells and an actual witchity spell components.

I was greatly disappointed that there was no used section, unless you count the D&D shelves:

If I remember correctly the joint had three shelves of 4e above that sign and 2 shelves of 3.5 below it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Bestiary of Liff

As a bit of a folow-up to my last post, here are three monsters inspired by The Deeper Meaning of Liff.

Bog Hag
# Encountered:  1(d3)
Alignment: Chaos
Movement: 90'(30')
AC: 6 [13]
HD: 3
Attacks: 1 wicked slap
Damage:  d6
Save as:  Magic-User 3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class:  XX + 1,000gp

Bog hags are swamp-dwelling radical feminist ogresses, rejecting male-dominated ogrish family life in favor of lonely seclusion or covening with sister hags. Every bog hag knows a single curse, which they can inflict once per week (save allowed).  One hag might be able to turn you into a frog, while another causes all your iron to rust, etc.  1 in 6 of these creatures also cast spells as a magic-user.  Roll d6 for level of ability.

All bog hags keep d4 lap pets, usually either mangy wolves or psychotic mountain lions.

Horned Umberly
# Encountered:  d2(d2)
Alignment: Chaos
Movement: 90'(30')
AC: 6 [13]
HD: 7
Attacks: 2 claws and 1 gore
Damage:  d6/d6/2d4
Save as: Fighter 7
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XVIII

These shaggy three-eyed beasts are non-burrowing cave-dwelling relatives of the common umber hulk.  Every other combat round they can focus all three eyes on a single target, shooting them with a lightning bolt for 3d6 damage (save for half).  This lightning attack may be combined with their melee routine if all attacks are directed at a single target, otherwise they may opt to zap a foe up to 240' away.

Horned umberlies are of nearly average intelligence and not always immediately hostile.  They are susceptible to bribery with food and drink if hungry (4 in 6 chance) or treasure.

Ballycumber Wyrm
Rar! Ima bite Teri Polo's shoulder!
The lair next to my comfy chair. 
# Encountered:  1(0)
Alignment:  Neutral
Movement:  90'(30') or fly 180'(60')
AC:  3 [16]
HD:  1+1
Attacks:  1 bite
Damage:  d3
Save as:  Fighter 1
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: 2d6+4 books of various sorts

A member of the same family of drakes as the pseudodragon and faerie dragon, these creatures take up lair on a stack of books numbering at least 6 volumes.  Some wizards use a variant of the find familiar spell to summon a ballycumber wyrm to guard their spellbooks.  Volumes may be removed from the wyrm's stack as long as alternative books are provided to keep the total number of books constant and the swap is made while the ballycumber wyrm is elsewhere.

Three times per day a ballycrumber wyrm may breath a small gout of fire for 2d6 damage (save for half).  Books are normally not affected by the magical fire of the wyrm, unless its lair has been disturbed or some other offense has angered it.  In which case it will burn all the books in the immediate vicinity and seek a new lair elsewhere.  A ballycumber wyrm has the intelligence, habits and attitude of a housecat.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

I think I've played with this guy

Hoggeston (HOG-us-tn) n. The action of overshaking a pair of dice in a cup in the mistaken belief that this will effect the eventual outcome in your favor and not irritate everyone else.
Found in The Deeper Meaning of Liff, a delightful dictionary by Douglas Adams and John Loyd.

redneck damnation van


Saturday, September 04, 2010

Friday, September 03, 2010

Jason of Star Frontiers

Here's a pic of Star Command base and/or the Space Academy, from the post-Star Wars live action kiddie shows Jason of Star Command and Space Academy.  I remember really digging the Star Command version.

It's only a model.

That thing just oozes sci-fi goodness to me.  Now here's Jim Holloway's illo of the space pirate base from Warriors of White Light, the in-box starter module for Star Frontiers Knight Hawks.

Looks like more than a passing resemblance to me.  Not a direct swipe by any means, though I can't say I would have held it against Mr. Holloway to have done so.  Asteroid bases rule.

PS - I know it's not very good technically, but I'm immensely proud of this:

a not-so-subtle change

Remember those weird dual-pod vehicles flying around Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back?  They were giving Han hassle as he tried to come in for a landing and visit his ol' buddy Lando.  I think my cousin Greg had a toy version of one of these things back in the day.  Of course you could get an official pilot figure.  Dude looked like this:
I like the design on this figure.  White jumpsuits always come off as futuristic to me, especially when combined with those single lens goggles and the swept-back style helmet.  Maybe this guy doesn't scream Star Wars specifically, but he's definitely got a solid sci-fi vibe.

Last weekend I was at a Toys 'R' Us with my buddy Pat.  They had a new display of Star Wars toys with a new version of the Cloud Car Pilot.
Dig that moustachio!  Not only does this new version have more detail and articulation, but it looks like he could be played by Tom Selleck circa Magnum P.I. Watch this fall for Fox's new crime series Space Chicago PD

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Gygaxian Building Blocks

This post is nothing more than a quote swiped from a longer post over at theRPGsite, written by my favorite Prussian, Settembrini.  I just wanted to save a copy and thought I'd share.
The REAL and HUGE as well as BASIC innovation in D&D was the following:

1) Providing radically new building blocks for fictious situations.
2) Providing a robust model for interaction of said building blocks.
3) Providing the idea for interacting building blocks

Building Blocks:
- spells
- magic items
- monsters
- special abilities
- traps
(- planes & gods)
the combat stuff was already there in some form. Just look at the monsters, at the spells and realize how this stuff was basically made from whole cloth!
I cannot emphasize the importance of that enough.
Whole cloth!

Sure there are conceptual sources. But the procedure in which source material and original ideas were mixed and mashed and formed
into interactive building blocks for challenges and their resolution, is creative genius of the highest degree!
I really think identifying the Gygaxian Building Blocks (spells, magic items, monsters, special abilities, traps) is one of Sett's great contributions to the understanding what it is we do when we play this thing called D&D. You want a way to make the game your own but still recognizably D&D? Make your own blocks but don't change how they operate/interrelate.

Arkham Horror

I played the Cthulhu Mythos themed boardgame Arkham Horror for the first time last night. I ended up leaving before the game was over and here is where my guy was when I got up from the table:

That's just beautiful.