Thursday, March 31, 2011
More Megadungeon Equipment
While plenty of adventurers make do with the mundane equipment available at the general stores common in most towns and villages, some enterprising entrepreneurs have made a cottage industry of providing and designing items specifically targeted at explorers and adventurers. While not available in every small village and hamlet, most larger settlements will have at least one merchant specializing in gear like the items detailed below.
An Owl is a strange contraption consisting of a glass bowl filled with about a half pint of oil, a waxed wick, and a balsa and gossamer set of wings and levers. When lit, the heat from the lamp causes the wings to beat, and the Owl hovers at the end of a string (tied to an explorer's backpack, for example) and illuminates an area of about 30' across until the fuel is consumed. While useful for hands-free illumination, Owls are fragile, and should be stowed securely when not in use.
Troll's Blanket (5gp)
The so-called "Troll's Blanket" is a wool blanket that has had random patterns of stiffening resins and natural stone coloring added to it. If thrown over an individual or object it can camouflage them to appear as part of the natural surrounding stone.
Bladder Pack (15gp)
This is an otherwise normal backpack that has been oiled and sealed to make it airtight and waterproof. When necessary, it can be emptied of gear and inflated via a thin leather tube to make a handy flotation device.
Explorer's Belt (20gp)
This is a double-looped belt (typically 5'-7' long) of extremely sturdy, fireproofed, leather with a hook and ring instead of a buckle. It can support the weight of two grown men, and makes a handy tool for climbing and swing short distances, pulling heavy objects, hooking and pulling things out of holes, binding captives, and so on. Several of them can even be linked together to form a strong rope.
Prayers of Hwyl (5gp)
These are small rectangles of white papyrus with a single black rune inscribed on them. If placed upon an object or creature that is evil, or a container that contains something evil, the papyrus slowly curls into char and crumbles away. The albino hermit, Conspectuous, is known to sell these more cheaply (2gp), but his are not so reliable.
Phoenix Eggs (5gp)
The are small white marbles that, if thrown forcefully to the ground, explode into ten cubic feet of white smoke that dissipates after 1d4 rounds. The possession of Phoenix Eggs is illegal in the local capitol, where they are known as Cuckold's Eggs, due to reasons that are entirely unrelated to Megadungeons.
Iron Sentry (10gp)
This is a foot-long wedge of two pieces of iron with a spring-loaded mechanism between them. It can be rapidly shoved under a door, where it will spring open and effectively jam the door until its broken free.
Rumored to have come from a far-off desert place, this metal-and-membrane tripod contraption may be set upon a solid floor. A plunger in the middle is raised and released, and will then thump onto the floor repeatedly, making vibrations similar to heavy footsteps. This is useful when it is necessary to summon or distract denizens of the Underworld.
Water of Ylalla (150gp)
This small vial of spring water has been blessed by the Goddess of Fertility. If poured upon seeds, they will achieve a year's worth of growth in just ten minutes.
Scrimm's Bottle (100gp)
This is a bottle of heavy green glass that has been etched with holy epitaphs and comes with a silver stopper. If presented in the presence of a ghost, phantom, shadow, or other such incorporeal undead, the spirit must save or be drawn into the bottle. The spirit will remain trapped in the bottle until such time as the stopper is removed. Each bottle may hold one spirit.
More Megadungeon Equipment here and here.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Continued from here.
BTBG: We all employ a game system that, in its root form, has been around for 30 years or so. Where do think these games will be in another 30 years? How about 90 years?
James M: I think the games will still be around in 30 years, thanks to the retro-clones, but they'll likely be played by even fewer people than they are now. In 90 years? Who can say? I'd be amazed if anyone outside of academia will even know what table RPGs are 90 years from now. I think the hobby in its present form is slowly dying and while “roleplaying” will continue to exist in some fashion, it'll be quite removed from what we know today.
James R: … I’ve got nothing. It’s probably going to be a very different landscape next year, let alone in thirty or ninety.
Thomas: I'm an oddity. I am a devotee to the original D&D game, yet I love and admire modern indie RPG's. The more "cutting edge" the better. My favorite RPG of the last few years was Mouse Guard. Using the Burning Wheel system it cleverly incorporates modern ideas of roleplaying with good old fashioned gameplay. Mouse Guard was truly a cross-over product that bridged the gap from the rpg crowd and the "popular arts" (the young comic book crowd). It seems like the old RPG industry is dying and it is fascinating to watch as they wither away with no clue what is going on in the world. It is the most exciting time for RPG's ever, with new technologies like the Kindle and iPad making it possible for a gamer to carry her entire RPG collection with her - and the biggest company in the traditional RPG industry: Wizards of the Coast, isn't even in the game (in the stupidest move ever, they actually pulled all their PDF's from sale!). The future of RPG's is your entire library on your eReader of choice, fully indexed with instant access to any text in your collection, along with dice rolling, character generation, NPC generation, and Adventure generation software instantly available. People will still gather around the gaming table to play because we humans are social creatures, they just won't have to tote around a dumptruck load of dead trees to do it.
Zak: I think that the most likely thing is, like wargames, they'll be around, largely unaltered in the basics and played by small groups of fanatics, though there'll probably be a few technological advancements in post-skype technology along the way. Maybe someone'll devise a multi-use digital gametable where you can download all kinds of games, like Monopoly or Risk or whatever as 'aps' and so tabletop D&D'll migrate onto that. And in 90 years probably programming will be so easy and widespread that people will all be doing their own little avatars and maps and programming the sprites to talk and what-all and that'll be what GMing largely is, programming the table. My guess is the pizza will actually arrive slower, at
least here in LA.
Michael: I honestly don't know. We as a species are headed for some turbulent times and changes as we deal with an uncertain energy future and the possibility of climate change of some sort. I think that as a species, the oral tradition is strong and still vibrant. I think that as long as we can imagine and share that imagination, some sort of group fantasy adventure will happen.
BTBG: We haven't heard much widely-publicized outcry against D&D lately from the right-wing religious community in a long time (which we all know was great publicity). What do you think you could do to help get people outraged again?
James M: Me personally? Not much. I'm a pretty boring guy.
James R: Dude! Doing all I can!
I commissioned art depicting sex and extreme violence – sometimes in the same piece. I’m probably seriously on the line of obscenity laws in some territories. My game has boobs on the front cover, for crying out loud. I’m releasing Carcosa in a big deluxe format and the past controversy is going to be part of the marketing.
I just hope it gets into the right hands. I want to be on 60 Minutes, damn it, just so I can agree with everything that everyone says about me. “Do you agree with the critics that say role-playing games harm children’s minds, making them join Satanic cults and commit suicide?” “Yes.” “Are you a Nazi Child Molester from Mars?” “Yes.”
But I “consume” this sort of “media” anyway, so it’s not just a crass attempt at exploitation or antagonism – it’s a reflection of what I like.
Thomas: D&D long ago caved in to the zealous religious community by removing all references to devils and demons, besides there are bigger fish to fry nowadays. BTW. I consider myself to be a basic Christian, and I see no conflict with playing D&D and my faith. Any more than using an axe to cut wood, where an axe murderer might use an axe for other, more nefarious purposes.
Zak: Be a video game.
Michael: Walk naked while carrying AD&D books. Open to the page with the naked women.
BTBG: Obligatory Game-geek exercise: Describe yourself in RPG terms - Class, abilities, etc.
James M: In D&D terms, I'm probably a Sage with Humankind as my Major Field (History, Legends & Folklore, Philosophy & Ethics, Theology & Myth) and the Supernatural & Unusual as my Minor Field (Metaphysics). I'm Neutral Good with a tendency toward Lawful Goodness. My ability scores are all pretty mediocre except whatever one it is that represents having a good memory, in which I've probably got a 15 or 16.
James R: Normal Man, only stat possibly above average is Intelligence if I’m lucky, but no more than 13 or so.
Thomas: This is actually hard since my profession, artist, doesn't map well to D&D classes. But let us say an artist is like an illusionist which is like a magic-user: Thomas Denmark, Human CL 3 MU 5, S 9, I 13, W 12, D 10, Cn 10, Ch 8
Zak: I am seriously too hungover to handle that question right now.
Michael: Pass. :)
BTBG: Gygax said "The essence of a role-playing game is that it is a group, cooperative experience". How important to do you think this is, and why?
James M: I think it's very important, although I'm not sure I'd agree that it's the “essence” of a RPG. To me, the essence of this hobby lies in imagination, though it's a shared imagination, so, in that sense, Gygax was right. It's the act of entering into a shared fantasy that separates roleplaying games from other types of games and it's such a powerful idea that it's spread far beyond tabletop RPGs into books, movies, video games, and elsewhere. I may be pessimistic about the likelihood that our hobby will survive into the future, but I have no doubt that the core ideas laid down in those three little brown books in 1974 have very long legs indeed.
James R: For me that’s not the most enjoyable part, but it is the payoff and the justification for the parts I most enjoy. The best part is the creation of a world or adventure location, putting it together and making it work so that it feels like an actual place. The RPG context sets a boundary, and I find such parameters helps me be coherently creative. But all that is useless without real people to make use of it, to muck around, and to see if it breaks, and to see if they enjoy the process.
Thomas: Who am I to argue with the master? He summed it up pretty well.
Zak: That's the most important thing, to me. A lot of people rattle on about the integrity of the Game or the World or the whatever, but if I just want to be a creative little snowflake--well, I'm a painter, I get enough of that at work. For me, D&D is like a party, and the DM is throwing it, and all the arts and crafts are wasted if it's no fun and everybody isn't better friends afterwards.
Michael: It is the utmost important thing. Without a group, without cooperation, the game doesn't reach its potential.
BTBG: What's the most ridiculous thing anyone's ever said to you or asked you about RPGs?
James M: It was probably a teacher in the 9th grade (that would have been 1984) who genuinely believed that D&D was the work of the Devil. Fortunately, none of the other teachers I had at the time agreed with her, which, even at the time, suggested to me that the people who were “bothered about Dungeons & Dragons” were few in number but very loud in expressing their displeasure.
James R: “You mean the entire point of the game is to roll dice?”
Thomas: It was how he said it, more so than what he said, that disturbed me when I was 13. My dad asked, in fearful tones: "are you a...Dungeonmaster?" It was obvious by the way he asked the question that he had heard horrible things about D&D and feared that the answer was yes. It was.
Zak: Oh sweet jesus. The mail I get is like...Ok, probably the most persistently ridiculous reactions are the people who--despite massive documentary evidence in nearly all media yet devised by mankind--do not believe my gaming group exists. Yeah, dipshit, it is all an elaborate scam, because blogging about playing D&D and twittering "Hey @BobbiStarr, what about Friday?" pays so much better than making porn and selling paintings for five figures. Because really girls can't play D&D. Because of how it's rocket science. And only boys like rockets, or science.
BTBG: What's the biggest difference between a rock star and an old-school gaming blogger?
James M: I have to discard all the blue M&Ms myself since I don't have any toadies willing to do it for me.
James R: Rock stars have to travel to do their thing. Bloggers can get free stuff, women, and fans without leaving the house.
And rock stars are probably skinnier on average.
Thomas: Old-school gaming bloggers have really hot chick groupies? Oh, wait, I got that backwards.
Zak: In the local case, the difference is that we sleep with exactly the same women, only I do it first. Except Maynard, who likes them young.
Michael: Millions of dollars.
BTBG: When I sit down to run a game, I have to arrange my books, dice, etc, in a very particular way before the session starts. Do you have any pre-game rituals/habits you observe?
James M: Not really. I always sit in the same spot at the table and place my dice there, but, other than that, I don't really have any rituals I regularly observe.
James R: I “prime” my dice. I take all the dice I will use that session, and roll them as a big mass. I separate the ones that come up on their highest value, and then reroll the rest. Repeat until they’ve all come up their maximum value. If the d20 is the last to come up high, then I predict a bad session. If something else comes up high first, then I predict a good session.
Thomas: Brandy. Several shots of brandy.
Zak: My traditional opening mantra is..."Where the fuck is my orange notebook? Mandy, have you seen my orange notebook? Does everybody have their character sheet? Well why not, they're right there? I do not know where your dice are, can't you just use...WHOA, SORRY, ok...Alright, we'll start as soon as Kimberly is done texting" And she goes "No, I'm ready, I'm just..." and I just kinda look at her until she puts the iphone down.
Michael: Sort my dice. Roll the wandering monster dice (with the skull representing the 1 pip) and see what comes up.
BTBG: What's the sexiest piece of art in a pre-1984 gaming book?
James M: Gee, there are a lot of good candidates, but I'll confess to a certain fondness for Sutherland's illustration of the succubus from the original Monster Manual, although Jeff Easley's illustration of the slumbering Drelnza from The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is another worth considering.
James R: This is rough, since I don’t look at any of that art and think “mrowr!” But that succubus at the back of the DMG has that soft body and looks to be in need of some reassuring....
Thomas: Everyone knows that it is the succubus by Dave Sutherland III in the original Monster Manual. Duh!
Zak: I have no choice but to go with the infamous busty Succubus, but that's only by default. "Sexy" really took it on the chin in early game art.
Michael: I guess I don't see any RPG art as "sexy"? That's why the whole debate on sexism kinda passed me by. After seeing what's on TV, movies, etc... a huge chunk of mass media culture is aimed at sexualization and extreme stereotypes... and I just don't seem affected by it. Now whimsical... I love old school art for the whimsey.
BTBG: How about the most frightening?
James M: Again, there are a lot of good candidates but I think Erol Otus's illustrations of Lovecraftian beings and gods from the early printings of Deities & Demigods are among the most personally frightening I can think of -- his depiction of Shub-Niggurath, for example, is the stuff from which nightmares are made.
James R: Not much of that stuff scares me now, but based on what I used to think, Monster Manual – Night Hag.
Thomas: The cover of Eldritch Wizardry always disturbed me.
Zak: Mmmmm...Fiend Folio--Needle Man.
Michael: Uhhh... none? I don't find any of it frightening?
BTBG: Blogs and games can be largely private affairs. What's the "geekiest" thing you've ever done in public?
James M: When I was a teenager, I appeared in public as the Peter Davison version of the Doctor from Doctor Who. Mor recently I dressed up as Cosmo from The Fairly Oddparents for Halloween -- I even dyed my hair green!
James R: I’ve gamed in restaurants, made little amateur comedy videos in public.
I keep finding out about local zombie walks after they happen, and that’ll probably be the geekiest once I find out about one ahead of time.
Thomas: Um, this interview? No seriously, in high school I once asked the hottest cheerleader to go out with me. It didn't go well.
Zak: Well we did that TV show. That's kinda public. My paintings are sometimes arguably geeky--like the picture for every single page of Gravity's Rainbow or this thing I drew last year which as like a 12 foot wide D&D labyrinth. And, y'know, I've been seen in public with Keith Baker.
BTBG: Thanks guys!
BTBG: Thanks guys!
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Now, I like Zak's chart here, but it fails to address some of the intrinsic realities of the Wild World of RPG Blogging. So take off your rose-colored glasses and roll d10 on this chart to find out what you should really blog about today:
1. Why I hate (insert edition/clone/opinion of choice here) so much, and why you should care.
2. James Maliszewski is wrong. And pompous too.
3. Girls in camo bikinis with swords and guns.
4. Nineteen pages of my new house rule for determining the migratory patterns of my campaign setting's rabbit population, the genetic predispositions of their fur color and tooth length, the impact that has on tropical weather patterns, and why this is revolutionary.
5. WotC is raping my childhood. Please somebody call the authorities. Ow.
6. "Shut up Mom I'm trying to blog!"
7. New Monster: "Cockasaurus".
8. Something innocent doomed to draw the wrath of Your Dungeon is Suck.
10. "Sorry, the blog at ThingsIputinmyClericsAnus.blogspot.com has been removed."
Friday, March 25, 2011
Now and then, I enjoy adding new abilities to the standard roster of Str, Int, Wis, etc. Comeliness was used for a long time, and, after a long stint of MERP, another ability called Perception. Thinking along the lines of Alignment as Allegiance, I thought it would be interesting, from a role-playing perspective, to add an ability called Morality.
Stay with me for a moment: What if your allegiance to Law or Chaos could be chosen, but not your overall natural disposition toward good or evil? Its an interesting, and not unrealistic, idea. Some people seem to have just been born "bad seeds", while others are just goodhearted to a fault. There is even some compelling evidence out there that criminal or sociopathic tendencies are genetic predispositions, as opposed to wholly being environmental conditioning.
So roll 3d6, and see what your character's Morality score is:
3 or less: You are a hopeless sociopath, everything you do is aimed at harming humanity.*
4-5: Bad to the bone, you can't help yourself - even with the best intentions you still end up hurting people.*
6-8: While not wholly evil, you are wholly selfish. Your own interests always win any moral debate.*
9-12: You tend to make moral decisions based on your mood, whim, or what sort of day you're having. While you see evil acts as extremely distasteful, you have also never believed that honesty is always the best policy.
13-15: You are decent person, and like to keep the best interests of others in mind, but you're not giving everything away to charity either.**
16-17: You are honest, upstanding and reliable. Helping others gives you more pleasure than helping yourself.**
18: You are a paragon of virtue. You couldn't tell a lie to save your own life. You give as much to charity as you can, and would take a knife for the lowliest criminal.**
*Able to use "evil" aligned items and spells without harm.
** Able to use "good" aligned items and spells without harm.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Still compiling part two of the Round Table. In the meantime, here's a peek at how BIG my Megadungeon, the Forsaken Halls, is getting. I'm going to try to get to some cons (as well as my local D&D Meetup) this summer and run the Halls a few times, sort of a Megadungeon Missionary project, so folks that normally play newer editions can see what a Megadungeon with Old-school rules is like.
I'm putting together a pack of 10 pre-generated characters for the project I'll post on the blog for others to use as well.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I thought it would be fun to interview several of your favorite old-school game bloggers, so here's a Round Table with James M. of Grognardia, James R. of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Thomas of Original Edition Fantasy, Zak of Playing D&D with Porn Stars, and Michael of Chicago Wiz's RPG Blog.
BtBG: Introduce yourself and your blog, and what its about.
James M: I'm James Maliszewski and I write a blog entitled Grognardia, which is about old school roleplaying games, with a special focus on those published prior to 1984 or thereabouts. I also spend a lot of time examining the literary inspirations of the early hobby.
James R: My name is James Edward Raggi IV and I write the Lamentations of the Flame Princess blog. The focus of the LotFP blog is promoting the publishing work I do (under the name Lamentations of the Flame Princess) and put forth my views on various game-related things. I have this two-headed goal with this gaming stuff - to be able to say what I feel without compromise and get people's pulses pounding. This is imagination! Fire up! Get excited! Go! Go! Go! Of course some people consider that abrasive, but I'm OK with being human sandpaper.
Thomas: Thomas Denmark, artist and game designer. I've illustrated for the top publishers in the game industry: Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, World of Warcraft. And I've designed games (www.dungeoneer.net). But my heart is with old-school RPGs. Original Edition Fantasy is a place where I can express my admiration for pre-80's RPGs (and Original D&D in particular).
Zak: Well it (the blog) says "I'm Zak, I live in Hollywood. Most of the people I know in LA I know from work - so they're porn stars and strippers. So that's who I play D&D with." Which is all true. If I had to describe the blog itself, I'd say its a little more often about DMing players who aren't D&D veterans than, say, Grognardia.
Michael: Hi, I'm Michael and I'm a father, granddad, Classic D&D gamer, miniatures painter, ex-amateur stock-car-racer, geek guy. My blog is pretty much a reflection of the gaming I do - centered around OD&D, AD&D, my miniatures hobby, my ongoing solo OD&D campaign with my wife, my ongoing AD&D campaign with a group of people in the Chicagoland area and other stuff that my d30 tells me to write about.
BtBG: Briefly describe the first time you were introduced to RPGs.
James M: In the summer of 1979, D&D was all over the news thanks to its supposed role in the disappearance of a college student, James Dallas Egbert III. My father was very interested in this "strange game" and so my mother bought him a copy of the Holmes-edited Basic Set to look at. As it turned out, my father never even opened the box and it sat in a hall closet until shortly after Christmas that year. That's when I returned home from a friend's house, who'd gotten the boardgame Dungeon!. I cracked it open and tried to make sense of its rules. It took some time (and some instruction from a friend's older brother) but I eventually wrapped my mind around it and have been playing RPGs ever since.
James R: My mother for some reason wanted to paint minis. Being a single mother of two, i think she didn't feel justified starting a new expensive and time-consuming hobby. I already like things like Savage Sword of Conan (I was eight years old, somewhere around there), and she heard about this D&D thing, so we went to the hobby shop and we got some figures and endless quest books.
No clue that this wasn't D&D, no idea what the figure were for in these game books. I got a couple of modules (Keep on the Borderlands and Village of Hommlett, since they were low level!) at my elementary school book fair(!), but still had no rules and no clue. I was gathering friends, setting the Caves of Chaos map out and moving pieces around like board game ("Damn these spaces are too small for normal playing pieces!").
I got the Mentzer Basic box soon after, and oh boy did that clear some things up.
And then soon after my mother found out about D&D causing suicide and blah blah blah, so she made me watch Monsters and Mazes like it was a documentary.
Damn you Tom Hanks!
Thomas: It was in math class when I was in junior high school in 1982. The kid who sat in front of me brought the original DMs Guide to class every day and he let me look at it. It, quite literally, changed my world. I immediately asked my mom to get me "D&D", I got the red box, then Fiend Folio, Deities & Demigods, DMs Guide, and Player's Handbook - in that order. Yeah, a weird order to get them in, but I suspect most people's introduction to D&D was similarly erratic.
Zak: It was birthday. It was before my 12th birthday and my dad gave me this book that was for people who were "12 & up". I was flatterd.
It was Unearthed Arcana, though, so it took a little back-engineering to figure out what the hell the book was.
Michael: I bought the Holmes Basic box set from either Rinks (a long defunct discount store - competed with KMart) or from KMart and was instantly transported to a world that I never wanted to leave. From there, I bought the AD&D core books (or 5 finger discounted in the case of the DMG) and my journey was complete. I stayed with D&D till the mid80s when I started playing Battletech/Mechwarrior.
BtBG: You're all GM's; why? No one else wants to, you like the creative outlet and/or the power;)? Do you think GMing so much affects how you play characters on those rare occasions you get to?
James M: I'm usually the GM because, yes, it's a role most other people don't like to take up, but also because I enjoy creating a world and situations and then turning players loose on them to see what they'll do. There's nothing quite else like it. I'm not sure that being a GM has had a huge impact on my playing style, although I do have a tendency to play quirky and/or humorous characters, perhaps because it's something I wish I saw more of from my own players.
James R: I was the first person I knew to get into gaming, and within my own age group growing up didn’t really trust the others to provide good setting/adventure environments (not that I did at that age either, but…). I was the one recruiting and trying to play. I had some good experiences with older GMs in those days though.
Thomas: Interesting, as much as I love playing I find that I end up being DM most of the time because few others want the job. I can understand, it is a lot of work, but I love the ability to create - and control worlds. Though the DM only has so much control because I find players tend to do whatever they want despite a DM's best laid plans. It is this collaborative experience that makes it so rewarding.
Zak: I hate power. Or, more accurately, I hate responsibility. I try to pawn off GM duties at every opportunity. But my friends want to play and since most of them are from the West Coast, they're too flakey to organize it themselves and I, being originally a New Yorker, pick up the slack.
As for how I play my characters, I think it makes me a little more relaxed about them, since I can kind of see the scenario from both sides. I think I'm a little more willing to
let it go when they fuck up or die.
Michael: I like creating the worlds and presenting them to the players and discovering it with them. I also have not found anyone who GM's the way I like worlds to be presented/ran. So I do it myself. :) I'm sure it does affect me to some degree, but I try to forget about being a GM and just do what the little voices in my head tell me my character should do. :D
BtBG: Youre off to a desert island – what’s the one RPG book you’d bring and why?
James M: Well, if I'm going to be on that island alone, I'd definitely bring the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide.
No matter how many times I read it, I always find something new. If I'm not going to be alone, I'd probably bring The Traveller Book, because that single volume contains everything you'd need to play for a lifetime.
James R: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing is a box with multiple books, but since it’s one package, so it counts.
Or if it doesn’t… hmmm… HERO System 5th Edition.
Thomas: D&D Cyclopedia. It is the most complete D&D RPG TSR ever made. Though I think the text is tremendously tedious and too often redundant, it is still the best RPG book written. I dream about someday writing (and illustrating) it's equivalent for the "OSR".
Zak: Warhammer, Realms of Chaos, The Lost And The Damned. Because the art is sublime and it will soothe my troubled soul. Though maybe it'd be smarter to bring one of those Top Secret or Cthulhu supplements with Morse code in them. Be Romantic or be Rational? Always a tough call...
Michael: Rules Cyclopedia - although it has a lot of Moldvay'isms and Cook'isms, it is still the best presentation of a complete Classic D&D game. Now if I were allowed to bring 4 books.... the 3 core AD&D/1e books and Holmes.
BtBG: How about the one non-RPG book?
James M: That's harder to answer, because I don't have a hands-down favorite book. For now, though, let's just say I'd bring along my one-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings, since Tolkien's masterpiece is a book that repays repeated readings.
James R: Assuming “for entertainment purposes” and not a smart-ass survival guide choice …
The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe. The beautiful leather-bound gilded edition I have!
Thomas: Dune. Best sci-fi book ever written. Though if I was asked for one author's libary I'd say Robert Heinlein's (except Number of the Beast) he's my favorite.
Zak: Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow. Though ever since I drew every page of it I get kind of tired of it quicker. Maybe "The Information" by Martin Amis. Or, y'know, the SAS Island Survival Guide.
Michael: Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival by Tom Brown, Brandt Morgan
BtBG: The one album?
James M: No idea. I'm not a huge lover of music, popular or otherwise.
James R: I think I’d rather have none than just one.
But because dodging questions is crap, I’ll say Iron Maiden’s Live After Death – with the bonus tracks. It’s not my favorite album, but it’s long, has good songs on it and a lot of variety, and when I get utterly sick of the sound of it I haven’t ruined any of my favorite bands.
Thomas: Black Sabbath: Sabotage, the first four Black Sabbath albums are Ozzy's voice at his best, and Sabotage, their 4th album, represents their best song writing.
Zak: Eyehategod "Take As Needed For Pain". You'll want something loud so passing helicopters can hear you down there.
Michael: Ugh - you have me there. I can't choose one. One artist/band would be Led Zeppelin - so I'd probably go with a compilation album of their best stuff -- although some of the more non-commercial, bluesey stuff is what I like best.
BtBG: You've all been involved in DIY publications - how do you think your blogging helps get your stuff out there? Do you think self-publication on the same scale would have been an option 10 or 20 years ago?
James M: I see blogging as occupying the same niche that fanzines used to back in the day. They're a great way to share the fruits of your ongoing gaming with others -- and quicker, easier, and cheaper than any of the alternatives available in the past.
James R: The blog helps sell the work (and thus helps the next project be biggerbetterfancier), but it doesn’t really much affect putting the work together in the first place.
I think the history of the hobby is self-publishing. TSR, Palladium, White Wolf, GDW, etc., those were all at least partially creator owned… And their scale was much larger. So yes, it would have been an option.
Thomas: Self-publication has certainly become much easier. The most startling development is the popularity of PDF's. I think self-publishing is the present and future of the RPG "industry". I don't know if blogging helps or hurts because I haven't really published anything since I started my blog, but I intend to soon.
Zak: Well I never self-published, but yeah, obviously, blogging and the internet and cheap graphics programs and printers make all this stuff easier.
My friends who do 'zines used to have to pound the pavement much harder.
Michael: I think it's a mixed bag. It certainly gets the word out to the 137(squared) of us, but it's a closed loop. I think self-publication is probably more today only because of the Internet, but I also think that it's no less/more vibrant compared to the fanzines, gaming clubs and local gamer scenes that have been around. It's far easier to put your stuff out there, but it's also harder to stand out and be noticed.
BtBG: What’s your favorite blog or gaming site right now and why?
James M: I'm not sure I have a single favorite, but I will say that I regularly find myself visiting both Cyclopeatran and The Underdark Gazette, as they both do a better job than anyone of keeping up to date listings of old school blogs and news.
James R: Does Oglaf count as a gaming site?
Thomas: James over at Grognardia has really mastered the OSR blogosphere. The quality and quantity of his posts really surpasses anything else out there.
Zak: Jeff's Gameblog, always. He's so good at being a human being. He reminds me of in Twin Peaks when Agent Cooper gets shot and he's lying there talking into his tape recorder "I wish I had been nicer to people"... Always trying to be better, that guy.
Michael: I visit Troll & Flame's site daily because he has one of the best blogrolls to see what's going on. I have this weird thing that I don't like to fill up my reader with blogs, but I like "overviews" in case I find something interesting to read elsewhere.
My favorite forum continues to be the OD&D Forum - I have a game going there, I'm participating in two games there as a player.
BtBG: What’s your favorite monster and why?
James M: I'm a big fan of the undead in all their forms, particularly intelligent or cunning sorts like ghouls, wraiths, and liches. I suspect my fondness for them comes from my own fascination with death and morbid topics. Plus, I enjoy being frightened as much as the next guy and there's something undeniably frightening about the walking dead.
James R: Man.
Jules Lavesque, Iri-Khan, the Knights of Science, Garvin Richrom, Archibald Kohler, the Duvan’Ku, if you could demi-humans as “people” then there’s the elves of Weird New World and Mâr-Rune. I just think having something identifiable as a “big bad” makes the whole thing more intense than a “slay the monster” kind of thing.
But if you’d like a traditional monster, I’ll pick the Doppelganger (or the customized variation I’ve been using lately). It’s so great for screwing around with the players.
Thomas: The Beholder is one of the best original monsters Gary Gygax ever invented, and he's invented quite a few. Gary's imagination really blows me away - you have to look at the context, before him there were no RPG's. Or the Drow: but I don't think of Drow as a monster so much as a playable character race, though strictly as a monster they are certainly Gary's greatest "monster" invention.
Zak: Flail Snail. Because at first it's silly but really it's disturbing and sublime and weeeeeeird.
Michael: Kobolds. Why? One name... Tucker. 'nuff said.
BtBG: Tell us about the funniest (or scariest) thing that’s ever happened at your game table recently.
James M: I think the funniest thing to happen around my table recently were the extended interactions between the player characters and the various Animal Kings who have set up shop in the central city-state of my Dwimmermount campaign world. The Cat King, for example, is arrogant and lazy and is surrounded by cages filled with mice his minions have captured. He treats humans as his inferiors and the characters needed to tread lightly to gain his help. The Rat Boss, on the other hand, was likely a Hollywood mafioso, right down to the “New Yawk” accent and a coterie of toadies with nicknames like “Specs” and “Johnny.” We had a lot of fun during the sessions involving these guys.
James R: I’ll preface this by saying I really don’t have a lot of sex in my games, because especially here in Finland these perverts have no problem role-playing out (in detail!) a sex scene while six or seven other players are looking on, bored that the focus isn’t on their characters. It gets awkward. Mostly for me.
Recently I was running games for some younger people (though not kids… damn I’m getting old), and I threw in a bit where an inn was run by an old wrinkly woman – 70, 80 years old. And she was horny and was after one of the PCs.
I thought it would be a comedy ha-ha bit where the player went “ooh, gross, old woman, RUN!” but I should remember to never underestimate the desire for players to get their characters laid. My comedy bit was ruined when he went for it. (plus he saved the money for a room that night… players… *sigh*)
We didn’t role-play it out, but I then tell all the other players that all night long they hear screaming coming from the end of the hall. “YES! MORE! OH YES! I LOVE ADVENTURERS! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
We did this at an in-store game, mind you. Our table erupted in laughter there, and I think some of the Warhammer-playing people at the other tables had a momentary interruption as sexual comedy interrupted their war…
Anyway, next morning, the party gathers in the common room of the inn, and all the other players are looking at this other guy really weird…
Thomas: I was running an adventure from Dungeon magazine #73 called Quoitine Quest. There is an undead creature that mistakes the adventurers for her "children". I tried to invent a unique voice for her, and somehow this terrifying shriek that came out of my vocal cords - I have no idea how - freaked the players (and myself) out! The player's loved it, and it was definitely the scariest thing at my gaming table.
Zak: Kimberly Kane got stung by a jellyfish man--so she's out for 1 to 4 rounds. And apparently science tells us that the ammonia in urine
counteracts the poison in a jellyfish sting, so Kimberly keeps saying...ok, well I'm sure you can figure out the rest from there.
Michael: There is always laughter at the table, and I always try to award a "Line of the Game" to someone who comes up with a funny line.
To be continued...
To be continued...