Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lean Back and Relax, for Music From the Hearts of Space

Back in the early 80's, I used to tune in late at night to the local public radio station for Music From the Hearts of Space. The show featured the dreamy washes of synthesizers you've likely heard in your local planetarium, sounds designed to take you on a sort of head-journey to the stars. For a kid enamored with Star Wars and Dune, it was the best thing in the world to fall asleep to on a Sunday night. Especially with "Timotheo" and "Annamystic" hosting, sotto voce, in the in the background.

Eventually, the show was replaced (by my local public radio station) with some sort of wonky New Age show, and visions of silver starships approaching slowly spiraling galaxies were replaced by visions of elderly nudists placing healing stones upon each others' wrinkled brows in the depths of a nightmarish patchouli-scented sweat lodge while toga-clad men with long beards slapped even hairier women around with tambourines. All under Yanni's deceptively benevolent-seeming gaze, of course. So, I quit tuning in.

Imagine my surprise, 30 years later, to discover the show is still in syndication. See if its on near you.

In the meantime, here's one of the giants of the genre to listen to.

All space-cadet; no patchouli or tambourines.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Europa: the Hex Crawl

I've always loved the idea of gaming in historical Europe, and here's a cool hexmap of Europe I stumbled across online. Looks like it was made with Hexographer, which is a fun program to play around with, if you haven't before. Numbered and everything. Its pretty easy to cut up / crop, in Paint, into bite-size regions, so you can enjoy that road-trip from Brugge to Rome, or guard the pilgrimage trails of the Crusade-era Middle East:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Do this now

1. Go to any YouTube Video.

2. Pause it.

3. Click anywhere outside the video.

4. Type 1980

5. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lazy Blog Post - Black Mage ( FInal Fantasy NES )

This is in honor of the inimitable Black Mage of Final Fantasy fame. I had a blast with this game (the original NES version) 20+ years ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find that, following a quick iPhone download, the game holds up surprisingly well.

The game sports several early "D&Disms", especially in the monster arena, with "Crawlers", "Sahagans", Green Slimes, and such. But the Black Mage follows an especially D&Dish path - weak and near useless at early levels (excepting a very potent Sleep spell), at high levels he becomes a Nuclear-level Terror.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dungeon Robber

"Pablo Deathdrinker, a level 0 Dungeon Robber. Descended to level 2 of the dungeon and won 0 GP. Defeated a Fire Beetle. Poked by a poison needle in a lock on level 2! REST IN PEACE"

That was the short, sad epitaph of Pablo Deathdrinker.

If you've got a few minutes to kill, you can do a lot worse than take a spin through Dungeon Robber, a browser, text-based game that utilizes the Random Dungeon Generation charts from the 1E DMG.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Diversity Quotas and the Traditional Adventuring Party

It's interesting to me, as a Pulp Fantasy fan, that the "traditional adventuring party" of D&D (and its attendant offspring) has been so thoroughly "multi-racial". Not only does the well-balanced party contain the (hopefully) optimum range of character classes to overcome the various challenges they will traditionally face, it is also standard to have many different player races represented.

Obviously (and I'm using "obviously" here because it seems obvious to me, perhaps I'm wrong) this must be some sort of holdover from the composition of the Fellowship presented in Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. Representatives of each "good" race band together to take on the Dark Lord.

How much sense does that make, however, in the treasure hunting / mercenary role most adventuring parties play? Also, to what extent did the mechanics of the earlier systems influence the "multi-racial" party. For a long while, only demi-humans could multi-class. If you wanted to wield sword and spell at the same time, you kind of had to play an elf. Similarly, if you wanted your 1st level thief to have more than a 10 or 15% chance to pick a lock or whatever, it helped to play a halfling and soak up all those sweet bonuses. Then there are things like seeing in the dark, never growing old, etc, etc.

Without all those mechanical differences (or, to be fair, "advantages"), would the multi-racial party still be as common? What if only humans could be warrior-mages, or got much better thieving abilities than halflings? To be honest, I can't really remember anyone playing an elf or dwarf much different than they would a human, personality and mannerism-wise, aside from the usual strereotypes (arrogant elf, grumpy dwarf, mischievous halfling). Where was the real depth, the sense of playing or interacting with what should have been wholly alien personalities and mannerisms.

Then there is the question of human diversity - why have D&D and its offspring shied away from presenting more mechanical variety for different types of humans. This was something I thought Rolemaster did admirably, with "Rural", "Urban", "High" Men and so on. As a Pulp fan, I'd rather see a party of Mystic Easterners, Savage Southrons, Unkempt Northmen, and Sneering Imperials than yet another munchkin convention. But that's just me?

What are your thoughts on the "traditionally diverse" adventuring party?

Friday, August 2, 2013

The proper attire for your Weird Science/Fantasy character...

I see this image alot on the interwebs lately.

What more do you need for an excursion to Fomalhaut?

This is on my Halloween costume wishlist, right next to Manos.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Whence class level titles?

Here's a random encounter subtable from Hints for D&D Judges (Joe Fischer, Best of Dragon 1980):

Sub-Table 1
1 Heroes
2 Thaumaturgists
3 Swashbucklers
4 Magicians
5 Evil Priests
6 Myrmidons
7 Enchanters
8 Superheroes
9 Sorcerers
10 Lords
11 Wizards
12 Evil High Priests

Which got me wondering, whatever happened to class level titles?

None of what I would consider the "bigger" retro-clones, SW, LL, nor OSRIC, saw fit to include them. I don't believe that was a copyright omission, as I'm pretty sure no one can copyright a word like "Thaumaturgist", even in the context of a 5th level Magic User.

Original D&D didn't even number levels originally - there was no such thing as a "5th level" Magic User , according to Little Brown Book #1 pg. 16. Yet by 2nd Edition AD&D, 1989, the class level title was gone completely, all that flavor gone, reduced to a sterile number. Something that seems to have been, for a good while, as integral and iconic a part of the game as AC, hit points, and alignment was lost to the mists of time after a scant 15 years of use.

What happened?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

132 Roman Soldiers!

Inside of a lot of comic books,way  back when, were these enticing ads depicting battlefields full of struggling soldiers, cavalry, tanks, airplanes, battleships, etc. And all for just a few bucks, something a 70's/80's kid on a meager allowance could afford!

I ordered several packs of these over the years. At first, I can remember them being sort of underwhelming; the were sort of thin or flat, nearly two-dimensional, compared to the typical barrel-chested, dimestore, olive-drab army man. But they sort of grew on you - it was easy to line up impressive ranks of them across from you friend's battle lines.

A few years back I traveled back home to FL to visit my aging grandparents. In the spare room I slept in I discovered a single yellow roman legionnaire inside a long-unused ashtray, a strangely poignant memento of long childhood summers lost to time. Last spring I traveled there again, this time, sadly, for a funeral, and discovered another gladius-wielding bravo hidden near the couch I slept on.

I have to wonder how many more of those brave fellows are still hiding in my grandparents' soon-to-be empty house, having waited so patiently in ambush these last thirty-odd years?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Still waiting on a retro-clone...

For this awesome game.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Armory AD&D character record sheets

Anyone else remember these thick pads of character sheets? "50 Sheets to a pack!" as the cover proclaims. That was almost enough to get the group through Temple of Elemental Evil. As dense and cluttered as these sheets are, there is no contesting their thoroughness, nor their inestimable old-school charm.

Here's a link to a .pdf version of the sheet kindly cleaned up and reconstructed by a fan over on Dragonsfoot.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Nostalgia Overload

Check out the blog 2 Warps to Neptune for some classic pics of young folks in the 70-80's playing D&D. Its great stuff, and there's some good info on the infamous Summer Adventure Camp from days of yore.

These pics are fun to blow up and look at closely for all the little details - snacks, books, clothes, etc, you probably haven't seen much of since the early 80's.

See lots more at the blog here!

The whole blog in general is pretty cool, actually.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Kickstarter Hell

So it seems yet another Kickstarter has crashed and burned. Which means someone has crashed and burned along with it, leaving lots of peeved folks wondering what will happen to their "investment".

As unfortunate as the loss of a bit of cash might be when these products fail to materialize, it's also unfortunate that the folks behind these failed kickstarters almost always become pariahs in the same community that supported them to begin with. Not that the public shaming is unwarranted, but it would be nice if Kickstarter had more restrictions in place to protect irresponsible or unrealistic founders from themselves.

A lot of folks know I'm not a big fan of the whole Kickstarter thing. Crowd funding gaming stuff is a neat idea and all, and sometimes even pulls off something really cool (like the Reaper Minis deal), but all too often it ends up throwing way too much money at someone who has no real idea what they are doing and how they are realistically going to follow it to fruition. I have a feeling its only a matter of time before outrage over one of these failed Kickstarters ends up spilling over into a legal forum. Especially as some of these failures are starting to look less like naive incompetence and more like bald-faced fraud.

If you're curious, check out Tenkar's for a good list of overdue Kickstarters.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saturday Morning, circa 1979

Came across a 1979 "CBS Saturday Morning's!" ad in an old comic the other day (Shogun Warriors, ftw), and thought I'd share:

8:00 Mighty Mouse / Heckle & Jeckle

9:00 The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show (Coyote can't catch him!)

10:30 The ALL NEW Popeye Hour (Olive and Bluto add to the fun!)

11:30 The NEW Fat Albert Show (those funky kids are back in town!)

12:00 Jason of Star Command

12:30 Tarzan and the Super Seven (the King of the Jungle Challenges Crime!)
The "Super Seven" apparently includes Bat Man (spaced that way in the ad, though it was plain old Batman), the Freedom Force, and maybe Isis?

Apparently, my pre-adolescent favorites, Ark II and Shazam! had not started yet :(

Remember your favorite Saturday morning shows?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Moons of Minaria

For my upcoming old-school reunion one-shot:

(Extra bonus fun - the three pregens for the session are based on the three characters in the old D&D ad)


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