One Page Dungeon Contest 2014

The One Page Dungeon contest is, unbelievably, entering its sixth year.  It began with a discussion about how minimal an adventure module could be, and the blogger ChgoWiz created a one-page template. The idea is construct an adventure that could be used on the spur of the moment by a competent DM and which fits — map, key, and anything else — on one side of a sheet of paper.

Honestly I sometimes wonder if the arbitrary limit of one page is really better than, say, a one sheet dungeon, or five pages, etc.  I do appreciate the fact that imposing a form or limit actually fuels creativity, though, and most importantly as a DM I find OPDs to be an incredibly important resource!  Whether I just steal a map, an idea, or use the whole thing, I have often found that a one-page summary of an adventure is a great tool to have on hand for those all-too-common days when you have 30 minutes or less to prepare for the gaming session because of work, family, and other obligations.  They are also great to have on hand for when the players change course unexpectedly, or want to see what’s just off the edge of what you’ve mapped out, and so on.

In 2011 I began “giving back” and I have entered an OPD each year since.  My first entry (“The Belly of the Beast”) actually won a prize, which was nice, as I’d specially created the adventure for the contest, but I was able to use it in play before the contest, and since then I have resisted the temptation to create dungeons especially for the contest. (Honestly, the bar has been set so high for artwork that I am not in the running anyway.) Instead I have been adapting adventure I’ve actually used to the OPD format.  The “Misty Pond” and the “Panopticon of Peril” were both pivotal adventures in my “Telengard” Campaign, and this year’s  entry — “The Pit” — is a site that has seen some use in two campaigns.  So unlike many entries, mine have always been play-tested in some format before the contest.

Though I greatly prefer the traditional “dungeon crawl” OPDs to the more, ahem, clever entries that push the boundaries of what a dungeon is, this year I am trying something a little more ambitious.  The Pit has a very simple map, and almost no pre-established encounters.  Instead, it is more of procedure or framework upon which you could build an extended campaign.  And like my campaign, The Pit is designed to easily accommodate OPDs, improvised dungeons, or entire modules.  Each circle of the open pit mine is themed, like a dungeon level, and the DM can stock it with encounters from the included chart, but it will really come to life if you add on other OPDs.  I’ve selected one OPD from prior years for each circuit of the Pit’s winding path down.   In effect, the “big idea” of my OPD this year is to create an explicit format for what a lot of DMs might already be doing — constructing a megadungeon out of OPDs and other small adventures designed by other people.

Anyway, if I can put together something scanning a markers drawing and using Google Drive to create a PDF document, ANYONE can.  And if you use MS Office or OpenOffice you can use Chgowiz’s templates!  Get on it, there is still time to enter the contest.

<Update — just looked at some of the entries and I am pretty impressed to see a lot of new names as well as some really talented people who have entered before.  FWIW my OPD can be downloaded over on the sidebar under downloads.

I decided to stick with my original, crude drawing which I’d made one night with markers on some funky grid + diagonals graph paper. After messing with Google Drive’s drawing tool for way too long, all managed was this:pitdrawingWhich was basically a trace of the original spiral and a bunch of Telecanter’s awesome, public domain silhouettes replacing my icons.  Pasting them in and shrinking them down in Drive was laborious and slow, so I gave up.>

Published in: on April 17, 2014 at 10:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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Dungeon World

<This post has been sitting idly by while I tried to come up with a conclusion, gave up, and forgot it, and we got into another game. But by group, before starting the current game (ACKS in Barrowmaze), played a few sessions of Dungeon World. >

The mechanics are ok — most actions fall into one of several categories: attacking (“Hack & Slash” for melee, “Volley” for missiles), defense (“Avoid danger” for most saving throws and dodging, “Defend” for standing your ground/gritting your teeth or protecting someone else), informational (“Spout lore” to know things, “Discern realities” to notice something), and a general “Parley” which is sort of a “social combat” action, trying to gain some advantage or reaction from an NPC.  These are all 2d6 rolls, modified by a relevant attribute. A total 7-9 is generally a “partial success” (you accomplish the act but there is a complication or drawback); a 10+ is full success.  Class abilities add more actions, with various results for partial or full success.  Then there are a dozen or so “advanced” actions that are more specific to tasks like travel, or else do not involve rolling at all (like recovering or leveling up).  That’s mostly fine, although some players in my group really hated how abstract this made combat.

The other significant thing is a mechanic called “bonds.”  You make a list of sentences describing some interaction of your PC and another PC  – “I want to keep X out of trouble” or “X knows incriminating information about me” or whatever.  These “bonds” come into play two ways: first, when you attempt to “aid” another PC, each bond your PC has with them adds to your roll; secondly, “resolving” bonds is one of the ways you gain XP.  Whether or not a bond is resolved is basically up the PC who takes the bond (the GM might veto this though).  It was strange that each PC would have four or five bonds that the other PCs were not even necessarily aware of.  This made the bonds seem a little forced and unnecessary.  During play our GM had the insight that the whether or not a bond was resolved should probably be up the other PC, not the one with the bond, which we all agreed would make more sense.  Adopting this change to “bonds” would probably help. (It would also help to keep a record of “resolved” bonds!  Because otherwise they are plot points that we throw away as soon as they resolve.) Still, I have a problem with the assumption that the bonds are somehow creating a story in a sense that just playing a game without them would not.  This is something I am probably being obstinate about but I just don’t agree with the theory that game-mechanics-driven-story-construction work, or work as well as just letting story emerge naturally from interactions at the table.  DW (and all the indie games) seem to try to “hard wire” storytelling into the game.

Another thing about that I’m ambivalent about is the style of DMing Dungeon World encourages.  The DW rules explicitly tell the DM to be very hands-off about giving players different avenues to explore, and in fact to prepare as little as possible.  The intent is to avoid wasted efforts and to allow as much room for improvisation as possible, I think.  I’ve seen this outlook praised fairly persuasively.  So I think the idea is well-intentioned, but I’m not sure it works, at least with my group.  The players are expected to come up with adventure seeds.  This is probably very empowering for a certain kind of player who wants their character to be central to the “story” of the game.  One could say, “Oh by the way, I almost married the bandit king’s sister but broke it off because she’s a werewolf, let’s go talk to her”.  Or: “Hey, there’s an ancient catacomb under East End. Let’s explore that.”  I don’t find that quite as satisfying as interacting with an environment that is “there” whether I explore it or not.  It seems to me that DW is more like kids playing “let’s pretend” than what I’m used to doing with D&D.

It took us a couple of sessions to really get the mechanics down, but once we did it was not bad.  My main gripe would be that the system makes it a little too easy to fall into the rut of going around the table with each player rolling to “spout lore,” “discern reality,” etc., and paying more attention to the applicable skills than to the situation the PCs are supposed to be in.  I’m not sure you can really blame the mechanics for that, or if it is laziness on the part of players, but in my experience, I am more motivated to come up with descriptions, look for clever stratagems, role-play interactions, and so one when there is no “base” chance for things to “just work” because of some numbers on my sheet.  DW certainly falls on the lighter side of rules systems when you look at the amount of math, modifiers, and dice rolling, but even so the broad categories of the rolls you can make still seem to steer players into the kinds of patterns that completely turn off to 3rd and 4th edition D&D.

TL;DR: Dungeon World is pretty good, and could use a little tweaking in how “bonds” work, and I’d probably play it again, but my group didn’t really love it.

Published in: on April 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Satanic panic revisted @ the BBC

There’s a pretty long article I haven’t had time to read through yet here at the BBC’s site, and some follow-up discussion here at FARK.  Saving these here to remember to look at it tonight after work.

From the BBC article:

[Pat] Pulling [founder of BADD, Bothered About D&D] described D&D as “a fantasy role-playing game which uses demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, satanic type rituals, gambling, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning, necromantics, divination and other teachings”.

That sounds like one hell of a campaign!

Published in: on April 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Romani ite domum!


Click to embiggen!

Click to embiggen!

One of my first armies in 1/72 was Imperial Romans.  Like most new wargamers, I went with something familiar, impressive, and badass.  Since then I’ve come to like more of the underdogs of history, but if you’re going to go with a winner, you might as well pick one of the winningest armies in history.*

I began with some recasts of the Airfix Romans set, made by HäT, and later added ESCI, Revell, and HäT originals.

roman-testudoFront line, Airfix recasts; behind them, ESCI, trying to form a Testudo or “tortoise” formation.  Third line, in blue, Italieri Republican-era Romans; fourth line, barely visible, Revell.  The blue uniformed troops I gave a dark wash.  Usually I avoid any shading on my wargaming 1/72s both to speed things up and to keep a cleaner, toy-soldier look.  The only exception is that I usually shade steel with black and flesh with a darker tone.

roman-legions-2Some stands with command elements.  Center, all Airfix; right, all ESCI; left, ESCI troopers but I think Italieri command.  Behind them a Revell tribune standing over a fallen Airfix trooper and an ESCI Caesar standing over a fallen Airfix Briton.  (They don’t serve any role in a DBA army; I had originally planned to use Might of Arms as my war game rules but found it a little too complex for what I was after, and I really the simplicity of DBx type rules.)   You can also see some cavalry (HäT Republican Romans) and a ballista in the background.

roman-legionsMore legions.

roman-auxilia-revellRevell auxilia — in this case, lightly armed recruits, probably Gauls in Roman gear.

roman-batavi-hatHäT auxilia — in this case Batavi, some Germanic tribesmen famous for using their traditional clubs in battle and for being excellent amphibious troops — or at least able to swim across rivers that gave the legionaries pause.  Behind them are some auxiliary archers.  Both the Airfix and ESCI sets had what looked like legionaries with bows, so I painted them in legionary colors, but really they would probably be archers from subject lands in more native dress — Syrian archers are often mentioned.  The second line of archers are Britons from the Airfix Briton set.  I’m not sure if any Britons served as archers for Rome but I didn’t need many missile troops for my Ancient British army so the Romans took them.

Some miscellaneous stands of troops did not get close-ups.  Those are more auxilia in Roman dress, camp followrs, and some skirmishers.  The army is far larger than I need for DBA and could probably form several Early Imperial Armies — perfect for a civil war.  I also made some Roman camps, as DBA armies usually need one unless there is a settlement on the battlefield.  I have couple of simple, generic palisades, but I also did a funner one, which I always get out for Good Friday:

camp-romanThree religious-supply store crucifixes and a pair of Airfix legionaries.

With any luck I’ll find some time to photograph some more stuff this weekend — my Roman mile fort, and the Republican Romans, as well as some Etruscans & Italian Hill Tribes, Thracians, Carthage, and so on….


*Well, that’s their reputation anyway.  They certainly conquered a big area and held it a long time.  Superior numbers, technology, logistics, and training seems to do that.

Published in: on April 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm  Comments (5)  
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men o bronze

The release of a new edition of De Bellis Antiquitatis, along with my hiatus from having to DM, and having just read a book on hoplite warfare, all converged to reignite my interest in ancients war gaming.  Or at least in building armies and painting them.

So this is the group shot of most of my Greeks (I have another dozen or so stands of Thracians, as well as some mercenary Greeks in my Persian and Carthaginian armies, and some unpainted hoplites probably).


Click to embiggen!

A lot of my Greeks are Spartans, naturally.  The lambda is really easy to paint onto a shield, and the red tunics look pretty awesome against the bronze everything else.

Come and take them.

Come and take them.

The general and piper are Zvedza; the rest are Nexxus recasts of the old Atlantic set.  The second line in the background is all Zvedza too.

greek-thracians-hatThese are the Thracians that I keep with the Greek army.  Like I said I have a whole army of them, I should post them next.  These three guys are HäT Industries minis.

greek-macedonainsMost ancient Greek city-states did not use a lot of cavalry (well Thessaly would big the big exception), but the Macedonians famously did.  Since my pikemen are actually hoplites with extra long spears, I use them interchangeably and the Macedonians are stored with my Greeks too.  Above we have mostly Zvedza cavalry (the guys way in the back are Nexxus/Atlantic) and some HäT hoplites/pikemen.

greek-pikes-hatHere’s another view of the HäT “pikemen”.  I think the shields are all off to the side because of the limitations of injection-molding plastics.  I wish they’d opted for separate shields instead but back when I was collecting plastics, I just bought whatever was available.  Nowadays there are so many sets available you could pick and choose.  Still, these figures are pretty solid and look OK.


Published in: on April 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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C’mon, internet, show us yer owlbears!

I decided to paint this Reaper owlbear I picked up really cheaply a year or two ago (it is from their “PB” line of retro lead/tin castings, so it was cheaper than the modern lead-free metal version, and moreover the FLGS had it 50% off!).  I found some pictures of other people’s paint jobs which I used for ideas.  Once I was done with it, I thought I ‘d repaint my TSR owlbear.  Back in the early 1980s, TSR, in a fit of hubris, decided to tank the AD&D license from Grenadier, give it to Citadel (though I never saw any Citadel AD&D minis anywhere in the US, maybe it was a UK-only deal?), and finally in 1983-1984 they produced their own line of minis which were pretty uneven in terms of quality.  I only had a few of these, including an owlbear that came in a blister with a rolly-polly polar bear.

Anyway I looked, in vain, for a painted example of this guy and came up with nada.  I did my best to make him match the Reaper owlbear’s colors and markings, though really he looks a bit more like a vultureracoon than an owlbear.

tsrowlbearThere he is in all his glory.

Below, the Reaper owlbear, looking much more obviously owly and beary.


Look at that glorious plumage!


Even accounting for the puffed up plumage, the Reaper mini is a good deal bigger, so maybe these are a mated pair.

owlbear family

In which case that weird Grenadier hawk-goat thing would be a an owlbear cublet.

Sadly, owlbears are getting to be as rare as hen’s teeth due to the fad for owlbearskin rugs.


My only regret is I forgot to put any feathers on the rug.  Maybe I’ll touch up that some time.

I did recall seeing a painted TSR owlbear in an ad once, in a Dragon magazine, and by chance I found it in the first issue I checked (#62).

owlbear ad Not a bad paint job at all.  I would like to point out that their painter noticed the racoonish features too and put bands on the tail.

The rest of the ad has some of the character minis and you can see that the hand on the right has a spiked leather bracer. \m/  I guess TSR was feeling threatened by the Grenadier ads of the same period which featured a dude in full armor sitting at a table with their competing line of minis.

Do you, or did you, own any owlbear minis? Leave a comment and/or post a link if you’ve got something to show off.  Or draw an owlbear.  C’mon, internet, show us yer owlbears!!!


Published in: on April 3, 2014 at 9:10 am  Comments (9)  
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Sword of Rhiannon


Cover image from Goodreads, I think.  I have this same edition and actually the aspect ratio of the image is a little off — this image is a little squashed along the Y axis.  The serpentman is actually more slender and tall on the cover, making the image more unsettling.

The book is a one-off adventure, as far as I know — the central character does not reappear in Brackett’s other books set on Mars, though the same world is explored in some of her other books under the name “Skaith”.  As you may have guessed from the location on Mars, this book was written as an homage to the E.R. Burroughs “Carson of Venus” and “John Carter of Mars” books, and like them it is a very light but enjoyable adventure yarn, full of cliffhangers, occasional swashbuckling, and card-board thin characters (especially the protagonist).  I think that for Burroughs, the undefined protagonists are meant to allow almost any reader to identify with them. Maybe Brackett intends the same thing. Either way, it is fun, with a lot of plot twists and action, very concisely written and never boring.

As a “planetary romance,” the story blurs the line between science fiction and fantasy.  It takes place on Mars, involves time travel, and features aliens with psychic powers, so by modern standards it is more in the fantasy camp, but this is all presented as rational and scientific — the time travel and psychic phenomena is apparently just beyond the scientific understanding of the hero.

The villains of the book — serpent men and their human minions — remind me more of Howard than Burroughs.  Brackett packs a lot into this very short novel, and it is worth a look.

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yes I have been drinking, but I think this needs saying

The death of David A. Trampier, a wonderful illustrator of D&D and some other games from the mid-70s to 1988, has been reported.  A lot of blogs started posting brief RIPs and a few pictures as tributes, which is fitting.  Now I am noticing that there is some kind of race to report more details as quickly as possible, be the first kid in your webring to post the news, and other star-effing.  One blogger who is probably well-intentioned has started digging into the details of Trampier’s funeral arrangements and encouraging gamers to crash what has already been communicated to him to be a private event.  What.The.Fuck?

For whatever reason — and now is not really the time to get to the bottom of it — Trampier wanted out of the “gaming community” and politely refused requests for interviews etc. for the last decade.  Apparently his mounting medical bills did convince him to consider publishing and/or making appearances shortly before his death.  Still, I think the gaming community needs to back the fuck off.

If you did not know the man personally, you don’t need to be crashing this funeral.  You can sign the online guestbook if you need to let his family know how much you loved his art.  Hordes of strangers (especially the unwashed masses of gamers) showing up at a private funeral for a man who wanted no attention (or anything at all to do with the general public gamers really) –  hordes of gamers showing up at his funeral would be in incredibly bad taste.  The cynic in me suspects all the gushing about going to the funeral is just online braggadocio and trying to be grognarder-than-thou.  I will try to be more charitable and assume it is just talk coming from a real sense of vicarious loss.  Yes, all of us who loved D&D in the 70s and 80s, or appreciate the classics now, can feel a sense of loss at his passing, and as humans of course we can feel sorry for the family’s loss.  But imposing ourselves on DAT’s grieving family & friends does not honor him nor respect his or their wishes for privacy.

Published in: on March 29, 2014 at 1:46 am  Comments (9)  
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non-D&D qns part three

16 Which RPG besides D&D has the best magic system? Give details.
Probably GURPS.  The default system uses ‘power points’ that come from the PC’s Fatigue.  This is equal to the Strength stat, so most mages have a limited pool of power points, and casting spells causes the mage to be weaker with clear mechanical implications.  Very nice.  More skilled mages spend fewer points.  It’s pretty elegant; the only downside is some of the spells are too powerful and some are too weak.  There are lots of optional magic systems for GURPS, but my favorite is the ritual magic system introduced in the Voodoo supplement.  It is perfect for more historical or “realistic” settings as the magic is mostly indirect, affects probabilities rather than making big booms so it can be explained away by skeptics, and mirrors a lot of real world occult ideas about invoking spirits.
17 Which RPG has the best high tech rules? Why?
I am not much of a fan of high-tech stuff but I would, true to form, say GURPS does it the best.  During a heavy GURPS phase, my brother and one of our friends got a Guns Digest type book and converted used the information there about muzzle velocities etc. to stat out EVERY FRICKING GUN in production.  GURPS could tease out some subtle differences.  And yet a gunshot will probably kill you period.  Gritty as hell. Plus don’t forget Steve Jackson Games was raided by the government while working on their Cyberpunk book.  :)
18 What is the crunchiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?
I think “crunchy” means “has rule for everything”?  D&D 3rd edition, and no it was not.  If “crunchy” means “has calculations that will cause you to learn all the functions on a scientific calculator in order to level up,” probably Rolemaster with “All options” in play from the Companion books.  They got a little out of hand.  We still enjoyed it once character generation was done though.
19 What is the fluffiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?
I don’t understand this question.  I hear “fluff” used a lot of different ways. If “fluffy” just means rules-light, I tried some FATE and it was pretty good; it is just not my choice for fantasy, and fantasy is my preferred RPG style.  I think I’ve heard “fluff” used to mean all the stuff that is not in the “mechanics” of the rules, in which case I’m not sure how to approach the question — does it mean which game is most interested in background and setting over rules?
20 Which setting have you enjoyed most? Why?
My last D&D campaign, set in the ruins of a previous campaign setting (Telengard).  Because I made it up.  The setting I enjoyed most as a player is hard to pin down.  Maybe the semi-historical Norman England game I mentioned last time.  The setting was interesting and dangerous.  We mostly fought humans with complicated motivations rather than simply going after monsters.  And our characters often had to make major sacrifices — some dying horribly — to prevent worse things from happening to the NPCs.  We were very “immersed” in the story, is what I guess I mean.  The fact that my brother, who was running, really understood and communicated the period to everyone helped a lot.  No anachronistic characters for one thing.
21 What is the narrowest genre RPG you have ever played? How was it?
“Over the edge” — Atlas Games’ weird mix of film noir, William S. Burroughs, and the X-files-before-there-was-an-X-files.  Or maybe Call of Cthulhu set in the 1920s.  Both were so specific and so strange that it was probably too much to ask of any player.  I don’t know if the GMs enjoyed them but both were very short-lived.
22 What is the most gonzo kitchen sink RPG you ever played? How was it?
Ha!  This guy I know, Chip, who is both intentionally and unintentionally strange on every level, ran what he called “Wacky World.”  It was GURPS with every sourcebook in play — Space, Supers, Fantasy, Cyberpunk, Ice Age, whatever.  The player characters were ridiculously min-maxed.  One PC had robotic legs (“crazy legs”) and neural implants and martial arts that basically made him capable of wiping out the entire crew of the Enterprise using two force swords.  Which he did.  Single-handed.  Another carried around a laser cannon that could destroy anything.  My character was a sharpshooter who could shoot things — from the ground — that were in orbit.  He needed to because the galactic police decided to nuke us from orbit.  It was mostly played for laughs.  Chip loved imitating various political figures as NPCs.  We laughed, but we were probably stoned too.
23 What is the most broken game that you tried and were unable to play?
I honestly object to calling any system “broken,” but the two stand-out stinkers IMO are Gamma World which fails to deliver the game I expected based on the art and the early 80s zeitgeist about nuclear war, and Battlelords of the 23rd Century, an incoherent mess that was basically ‘alien supersoldiers with big laser guns’.  I could never run GW now, it just has too many silly things going on.  Battlelords I tried back in college.  I believe the author was running it, and he had lots of enthusiasm but it was just stupid.  Couldn’t get past character generation.  (Sorry Larry!)
24 What is the most broken game that you tried and loved to play, warts and all?
Fantasy Wargaming.  I still think there is something worth salvaging in that confused mess of a game.
25 Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?
Maybe Dungeon World, or FATE?  Not really to my taste though. 
26 What IP (=Intellectual Property, be it book, movie or comic) that doesn’t have an RPG deserves it? Why?
None, dammit!  I honestly have never enjoyed an IP-based RPG other than the old d6 Star Wars, and that was really in spite of the IP.  We just had a great GM who loved Star Wars but loved it enough to mock and humiliate the setting some too.  Star Wars, being a mess of tropes from science fiction and fantasy, works the same way D&D does — it just taps into a million themes you’ve seen elsewhere and assembles them into a gamable state.  Sort of the opposite of Tolkien-based games, where the IP/setting so carefully tied to a plot that you feel like a minor character in someone else’s story.
27 What RPG based on an IP did you enjoy most? Give details.
Oops, already answered that.  More details: the gaming group was some of the nicest, funniest, smartest people I’d played with; one player was totally new to RPGs and was having a Freaks & Geeks experience (10 years before Carlos the dwarf).  I went through at least four or five PCs, all of them dying gloriously, except for the last one, Lothar of the Hill People.  My Gomorian killed a damn AT-AT. Bitchin.
28 What free RPG did you enjoy most? Give details.
The “Optional Resolution System” in “Out where the buses don’t run”.  (Is that a free module?  I got it free for helping with proofreading.)  You have a d6.  When you try to do something, you need to roll a 4+.  If you get hurt once you are kicked don to a d4; hurt again you die.  Simple and elegant and you could play blind drunk.
29 What OSR product have you enjoyed most? Explain how.
1. Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  The skill and encumbrance systems are still one of my favorites for D&D, and the whole thing is a great re-imagining of what D&D could be.  2. Every other retroclone of OD&D or Basic, for giving more fuel and examples of workable revisions.
30 Which non-D&D supplemental product should everyone know about? Give details.
The whole family of GURPS sourcebooks, especially the historical/cultural ones, like Vikings and Swashbucklers and Old West. They have the perfect amount of research, focused on how to game the settings.  My own blog posts on finding D&D-fuel in unlikely books is inspired by their examples.  I am in awe of them.
31 What out-of-print RPG would you most like to see back in publication? Why?
I have no answer for that, because almost everything I can think of is back in print or has been “cloned” in some form or another.  I could gripe that nothing quite recreates B/X, I guess.  Oh wait a minute — maybe Boot Hill.  The original was great and there was a second or third edition that fleshed out the role-playing rules that I liked.  I have not investigated other Old West options though.
Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 10:01 am  Comments (1)  

Strange cousins from the East

Some of our strange cousins in Oriental lands, according to the anonymous book De Rebus In Oriente Mirabilibus (Marvels of the East or Wonders of the East).  This is a 4th or 5th century anonymous work which has survived in three manuscript versions, the most well-known being a copy that was copies with a number of works in a manuscript identified as the “Cotton MS Vitellius A XV“.  (Cotton as it was in the collection of a Sir Robert Cotton, MS being an abbreviation of manuscript … I’m not sure about all he details of naming conventions for ms. in the British Library though.)

Some of the familiar “monstrous races” seen in Medieval art and romances are here, but given different descriptions than usual.  For example, the dog-headed men or cynocephs of Pliny are described as having the dog face we expect, but they also have a horse’s mane and boar tusks, and can breathe fire.  They are called Cinocefali or Conopenae.  (Speculation that cynocephs are a garbled account of baboons seem to be confirmed by the mane and tusks, anyway.)  The usual blemyes, sciapods, and so forth are cataloged.

Other monstrous races are, as far as I know, unique to this book:

  • Near the Nile, there are 15′ tall giants with white skin, two faces, long noses, and red knees.  They sail to India to give birth to their children, which are three-colored, lion-headed, twenty-footed monstrosities.
  • Near the river Brixontes, there are 20′ tall, man-eating giants.  Their skin is black and their legs alone are 12′ long.
  • There are also 13′ tall women with white skin, boar tusks, ox-tails, and hair to their feet — which are the feet of camels.
  • Also, there are bearded women who wear horse-hides, and hunt with trained tigers, leopards, & other wild beasts.  They are normal-sized but still rather fearsome.

More info, and pictures, here.

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 8:35 am  Comments (2)  

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain creation and more


A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.


An Alternative Cultural Daybook

I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.

2 Warps to Neptune

Documenting the 8-bit era and the origins of geek

300 stories

A continuing mission to produce flash fiction stories in 300 words (or less)

Role Play Craft

Crafting ideas, options, and modules for your role playing campaign.


An encyclopedia of the Cirsovan empire, thoughts on Gaming, Music and more.


Blog of writer Bia Helvetti

Taking Games Seriously

Because Fantasy without Philosophy is Garbage

The Rambling Roleplayer

I play roleplaying games and sometimes I write stuff about them.

History fetish? What history fetish?

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

An idle mind is the devil's wood shed.

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time


A vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.


Just another site

Bunker Club 55

Another Dump of Stuff for your RPGs, D&D, Microlite 20, OSR

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"


gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Go Make Me a Sandwich

(how not to sell games to women)


Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.


Tabletop gaming, Dungeon-Mastering, pipesmoking, and single malts


The only completely consistent rationale for these restrictions is to say that they are necessary for the sake of game balance; the gods have so decreed it. But that is not an answer that satisfies the mind. page 8, Dragon 78 News

The latest news on and the WordPress community.


Tales from South Zierden Alley

Wrathofzombie's Blog

A blog of Role-playing Dorkiness!

Atroll's Entertainment

A Troll's Account of Having Fun

Three Lil Pigs Painting

talking about painting miniatures for display and heritage figures

Architectural History At Sea

Richard Guy, Cornell

The Mule Abides

New York's Old School Dungeoneers


This is the Venn Diagram of my Life

stefan poag

The Weird Fantasy Art of Stefan Poag


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