Here’s a brief rundown of some podcasts I’ve been listening to during my commutes and during some the more routine tasks I do at home or work. Not all are swords and/or dorkery related.

Save or Die! : a podcast about OD&D and the various “Basic” sets and their clones. This one is worth listening to only when the guest is a good one (e.g. John Peterson) or they are covering an interesting old supplement. Most of the time, there is far too much chit-chat among the hosts. My issue with the hosts is that they are very prone to saying some opinion or ruling they prefer is the only one that “makes sense” without making much effort to understand alternatives. That just gets on my nerves. YMMV. B.

Nerd Poker : a podcast about Brian Posehn and some comedian friends of his playing D&D. This is definitely not for people who are hung up on rules, as they stumbled through 4th edition for something like 30 sessions before giving up and going back to 2nd edition, which they actually don’t seem to understand any better than 4th. But this the only “actual play” podcast I’ve liked, because the table talk is always pretty funny and the campaign settings have been imaginative, even though the actual play part is mostly horrifically slow combat. Table talk is probably 50% or more of the run time, meaning they rarely finish an encounter in one episode if it involves combat. A.

System Mastery : A podcast devoted to making fun of RPGs, I think. I’ve only actually listened to one episode (about the Galloway Fantasy Wargaming), and I probably picked a bad one to start with because I actually know a fair amount about this one and have a soft spot for it. In this case they went directly after the low hanging fruit (sexist comments in the literature review, stat mods for females) but they did give some begrudging kudos for the magic and religion ideas. Listening was a good reminder about how incredibly easy it is be snarky and hypercritical of something if you studiously ignore context and only half pay attention. (I don’t think the podcasters here would disagree, since they bragged about doing “no research” and made a lot of bizarre errors about history.) As a comedy podcast, it had its moments though, and I’ll check out a few more before firming up an opinion. C.

Heavy Metal Historian : I don’t know how I found this one, but it is not bad at all. Each episode looks at some part of the development of and influences on heavy metal or a subgenre within it. The narration is mixed with excerpts of music and from interviews or documentaries, and this is a big plus. I was kind of impressed with an early episode that illustrated the influence of classical music on Black Sabbath (cf. Holst’s “Mars, the bringer of war” juxtaposed with Black Sabbath’s eponymous song), and I really like being able to hear snatches of obscure bands that I’ve heard *of* but never heard. A.

Welcome to Nightvale : I know this one has been around a long time and has been praised to death elsewhere but so far I’m really enjoying this too. I can’t listen to it at work for fear of laughing out loud. If you haven’t heard of it, it is supposedly a broadcast from a small town in Arizona where rivalry with the neighboring town, eccentric locals, and cosmic horror are all facts of life. A+.

Stuff you should knowStuff to blow your mind / Stuff they don’t want you to know: Howstuffworks.com has a whole portfolio of podcasts, blogs, and whatever the word is for video podcasts. So far I’ve really enjoyed a lot of them. In particular I’d recommend the ones on Vultures, Ergotism, spiders, and of course Dungeons & Dragons. A.

WTF with Marc Maron: This one is evidently really well-known too, I am late to the party, whatever. Comedian Marc Maron just has really in-depth conversations with people. The best on I’ve listened to so far is with Wyatt Cenac, a distant second is Jason Bateman. Bob Guccione Jr. was great too. Maron has a way of really probing his subjects and getting them to open up in a way you don’t often hear. A+


Published in: on October 8, 2015 at 6:13 pm  Comments (2)  

Turbo Kid! (with no spoilers)

So Turbo Kid ran its limited release in Akron and I did get to see it.The regular D&D group was down two players that week so we decided to catch a flick, and gathered an hour or so ahead of time at the hipster cinema to drink and loudly discuss politics while we waited for the show to start. It turns out that the several beers we tried were all ridiculously strong craft beers (9% ABV or so) so by showtime I was a little tipsy. I expected chemical enhancement to improve the viewing experience anyway and was not disappointed. Though I’ll need to see it again some time stone sober to see if it dampens my enthusiasm.

From the opening credits (listing the distributor as “The leader in laser disk sales”) it was pretty much perfect. Low budget? Yeah. But special effects can still look pretty decent these days on a budget, and the mix of computer and practical effects was never distracting, even though there were exploding bodies, geysers of blood, and laser-powered glove weapons. It all worked. The landfill sets and BMX chase scenes were filmed with love and the cheesiest lines were delivered with heart. You can tell everyone involved was having a great time and wanted nothing more than to make this gory retro sci-fi epic.

The actors are mostly obscure, apart from the always entertaining Michael Ironside. But they all do a great job. Even the wild-eyed, overly enthusiastic Laurence Labeouf doesn’t get old.

Someone has surely already described this movie as “The Road Warrior on BMX bikes,” or “Cherry 2000 directed by Luigi Fulco,” or “The Troma version of the Power Rangers,” so I won’t try to compare it to anything else. Go see it. You’re welcome.

Published in: on September 9, 2015 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Are you freaking ready for 1997?

Warning: link is to a trailer for an independent post-apocalyptic/horror/sci-fi movie that is rated R and shows graphic (but unrealistic and cartoony) violence.

Still with me? Great.

Go ahead, click THIS.


Review to follow after I see it in Akron next week.

Published in: on August 28, 2015 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  

Seneca Caverns

Finally, some pictures from my expedition into Seneca Caverns (aka The Earth Crack, the sign outside proudly proclaims!).

The first thing I noticed was the graveyard next door. This photo is from the parking lot, next to the picnic tables in the upper left of the cavern map from the previous post (reposted above for clarity).


the graveyard

Yup, the caverns are under a graveyard. I’m sure that’s fine.

i didn’t do a very good job of keeping track of what level each picture is from, and because I had to delete a few pictures for romm during the tour, they may be a little out of order. Here are some of the natural steps. (All the stairs on the cavern map are actually just natural steps in the fragmented rock; probably some were carved or cut into better steps but they were always very irregular and a few were kind of challenging — you need to use your hands and scamper up some narrow passes.)


The lighting was mostly pretty subdued. I saw some moss growing near the lights but because this is a fracture cave rather than a solutional cave, it doesn’t matter as much. There very few stalagmites and stalactites, they were all in one area, and otherwise there was not much that you couldn’t touch. Although the whole system floods occasionally, there is very little sedimentary activity. At this point I should stop for a little speleological trivia, because before visiting Seneca Cavern I didn’t know what a fracture cave was. Almost every cavern you can visit as a tourist, in the US at least, is solutional: it was formed by acidic water (probably rainwater with carbon dioxide dissolved in it) flowing through, and slowly dissolving limestone. But Seneca Caverns formed more dramatically. Something like 10,000 to 250,000 years ago (my guide couldn’t pin it down) the layers of rock far below the rock that Seneca Cavern is in now was washed away to the point that many layers simply collapsed. All the “level” of Seneca Cavern are voids left between layers of various types of rock. In this case I think the lower strat were gypsum or contained gypsum, which dissolves in water. A more detailed and accurate explanation is here. The upshot is that we are left with a number of roughly rectangular chambers connected by shafts. You can see fracture lines all over, and the broken rocks covering the floors can be fitted back into the ceiling with a little imagination.

Now more pics.


That’s a view from the “Cathedral” room on level 4. It’s called the cathedral because the cieling is highest here — perhaps eight feet in areas. I’m looking toward the “devil’s leap” which is off to one side, across from the tour path. It’s lit be a red lamp, and you can sort of tell it goes down. Our guide said that geologists found at least 13 levels going down, in  a very dry year, but could not explore further due to the water flooding the lowest levels. The water table always encroaches on Seneca Cavern, sometimes flooding all the way to level 1 but usually flooding level 8. It was a little higher when I got there, and level 7 was totally under water.


Looking down one of the ‘stairways’, I think between levels 5 and 6.


Another shot of the same.


There were lots of crawls-spaces you couldn’t safely access.


I think this is some fossilized coral. I missed the large fossilized Macropetalichthys sullivani. From what I read on the web site, it is an armored fish about 11 feet long. Maybe it is not readily viewed from the tour path.


Above and below some good shots of the jagged nature of these chambers. there were spots I had crouch down and almost crawl through. I wouldn’t recommend this tour for someone who is claustrophobic.

000_0012 000_0014

The fourth level also had a lot of graffiti. Apparently in the early days, tours were self-guided and people were fucking vandals. They call this are “inscription hall” and the graffiti is so old it is historical now. :)


A view of the stairs between levels 3 and 4, I think.


Below is a view of the best stairs in the cavern, which I think were between level 1 and 2. These were almost like real stairs.


Another crawlspace:


The entrance to “Tin pan alley,” named so because you have stoop like a panner. This was on Level 3.


Level 3 had at least three distinct chambers, though all were pretty low.


I think the above might be the “earthquake attic” on level three?

Below, another shot of the Cathedral room on level 4.


Below, another photo that came out pretty badly, but the brightly lit stone has a very nice cursive inscription made by a tombstone engraver who visited early in the Cavern’s history — the C.D. Royer rock mentioned on the map. I should mention that this cavern was discovered in 1879 by some kids who fell in through a sinkhole. It wasn’t until much later that someone bought and excavated the glacier-clay choked caverns and turned it into a tourist attraction. A lawyer named Bell (his family still owns the cavern) had some clients dig out the clay in lieu of paying his fees. Before that the upper levels were totally choked with glacial clay and you had to crawl through on your belly. The first tourists went in with candles and rope tied around thier waists. When their candles burned out, they were to follow the rope (tied to a maple tree near the entrance) out.

000_0024 000_0025

Because of the red light, I think the next photo is another view of the Devil’s Leap.


If you look closely, you’ll see tiny, pencil-eraser sized stalactites. They are white because they are wet and reflect my flash:


The stalactites are across from the Devil’s Leap and the only parts of the cavern you mustn’t touch. As you may know, the oils on your filthy fingers will stop the minerals in the water from sticking and being deposited, ending the slow growth of the stalactites which grow about 1 inch every 100 years. Because the cavern has only been cleared out for 70 years or so, the largest stalactite is less than an inch long!


More ‘inscriptions’:

000_0029 000_0030

I think the white specks below are chert deposits.


Level 3 I think.


More pictures of various areas I can’t really identify:

000_0033 000_0035 000_0036 000_0037

The next photo looks down into the flooded stairway to level 7. There is a metal railing that was added some time ago, and you maybe can see the clear water below. That’s the “Old Mist’ry River” — not a river at all but the water table. It might seem to flow from level 7, but it is just the water table. A ‘message in a bottle’ was released in the “River” and took four years to emerge about 14 miles away in a water hole to the north. That water hole is also known to be an exposed bit of the water table.

000_0038 000_0039

Down by level 6, I noticed this void between level 5 and 6 that is about 18 inches high and apparently reinforced or stabilized with re-bar.


Well, that’s it. If you find yourself near Sandusky, Ohio, do check out this cavern. The tour was about an hour long and very fun. You’ll also be pretty close to attractions like Ghostly Manor and Cedar Point, and short ferry ride from Put-in-Bay which boasts another cave to visit and geode big enough to go inside and conveniently located below a winery, as well as a neat naval museum.

Published in: on August 25, 2015 at 10:49 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: ,

Spelunking we shall go, and, A giveaway!

Well, visiting a tourist cavern, not hardcore spelunking into a cave.

This weekend we’re taking a little getaway and one of our stops will almost certainly be Seneca Caverns, a  little tourist stop near Lake Erie that I never even knew existed, despite my interest in caverns. It may not be huge or especially colorful, but I really dig the map of the caverns on their web site which makes it look like an eight-level dungeon.


Seneca Caverns map, used with permission.

My wife says that I will never make it to level 7, but thinks my daughter can get there (I assume level 8 is off limits). If you’d like to make your prediction about how deep I’ll get before becoming lodged, freaking out, or fleeing in panic, leave a comment. The correct answer (or a randomly selected correct answer if I get more than one) will win their choice* of fabulous prizes from my collection of stuff I’m trying to get rid of.

*Some restrictions apply: One prediction per comment. Excludes boxed games. Winner must live in North America or be willing to cover postage costs over $5 US.  Giveaway cancelled if I drown in Ole Mist’ry River, fall to my death, disappear in the Wild Cave Area, or am eaten by cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers.

Published in: on August 14, 2015 at 10:56 am  Comments (9)  
Tags: , ,

EGG biography coming this fall


This may be old news, as I don’t read the RPG forums any more, but I just heard about an upcoming book, Empire of the Imagination by Michael Witwer. As far as I can tell it is the author’s first book. I’ll keep an eye out for it. Judging by the subtitle it may be less of a biography and more yet-another-book-on-how-D&D-happened, but I’m holding out hope that it is a real biography.

Published in: on July 30, 2015 at 9:07 am  Comments (5)  

A petition

There are a lot of people I sort-of-know through blogging, and once in a while I have an opportunity to be of some help. Here’s one. Please consider following this link to http://www.change.org and signing the petition. He is asking his state’s supreme court to hear an appeal filed on behalf of his late nephew, who appears to be the victim of a horrible miscarriage of justice. Thanks!

Published in: on July 23, 2015 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

In the dust of this planet / Eugene Thacker


This book has a gained a small measure of notoriety because its cover appeared in a few places in pop culture and because professional moron Glenn Beck singled it out as a destructive force in American culture. However I can’t imagine many people reading this — it is essentially a short work of philosophy that looks at how twentieth and twentieth-first century horror (in fiction, films, and music) might help us comprehend the unthinkable world we now face: the world that might be: the world after human extinction. (I am reminded of the ancient skeptical quip that just as we do not fear the nonexistence we enjoyed before we were conceived or born, we should not fear the nonexistence that follows our death, but Thacker would probably want to say: The individual’s nonexistence is one thing, the nonexistence of humanity, perhaps even of rationality, is another.)

Thacker’s basic idea is subtle and difficult to paraphrase. If I am understanding him (and as someone who studied philosophy pretty extensively, and in particular a lot of nihilism, as well as someone interested in or familiar with most of the writers he uses to illustrate or explore his ideas, I may be among the relative small minority of people who actually comprise his audience) — if I understand this book, the first premise is that we need to distinguish among three “worlds”: the world-for-us, the world-in-itself, and the world-without-us. (For my money this distinction alone was worth the price of reading this short but difficult book.)

Briefly, the world-for-us is the world understood instrumentally*, the world as something for our use as humans; the world in relation to humans. This concept of the world is most fiercely promoted in myth and religion, but it is also how we usually think of the world in our everyday interactions with it. Thacker uses the generic term “World” for this world.

The world-in-itself on the other hand is the world as it exists independently of human concerns and interests, the subject of scientific inquiry perhaps but potentially hostile. Paradoxically our scientific investigations generally convert the world-in-itself to the world-for-us because we normally undertake these investigations to solve some problem or gain some understanding of human problems, however it was the rational, scientific mindset that reveals the possibility of the word-in-itself. But philosophically, at least, we acknowledge that the world-in-itself is not just some human construct or a world made for- or by- us. The Kantian noumena (“thing-in-itself”) is obviously being invoked here, but Thacker is not strictly being Kantian here. For one thing he doesn’t necessarily agree with Kant that we know nothing about the world-in-itself; we in fact have a concept of the world apart from human concerns. Thacker calls the world-in-itself “the Earth”.

Lastly the world-without-us is the world that is, by definition, hidden from us and beyond our reckoning, and its reality is most plain when we think of the world after human extinction. This concept is of fairly recent vintage because it is only in fairly recent times that we’ve had any idea of a world with no humans. In the mythological/religious past, we could only think of the end humans as the end of the world itself. But climate change, the threat of nuclear annihilation, the threat of extinction-level pandemics, the notion of civilization-ending disasters generally: these possibilities evoke the world-without-us. Thacker calls the world-without-us “the Planet,” because when we imagine the world without us we are considering our world “objectively,” as one planet among many, and not merely in-addition to humanity but apart from and independent of humanity. The Planet is not even hostile to us; it is indifferent to us. This indifference is terrifying to us, because it negates the humanocentric world. I should hasten to add that the alienating thing about the world-without-us does not depend entirely on human extinction. The very idea of the multitude of worlds, the near-infinity of time and space, and the possibility of alien intelligences also invoke the world-without-us.

Thacker’s thesis is that modern horror (in film, fiction, and even music) provides a non-philosophical approach to grappling with the Planet, that is to say: the world-without-us. The bulk of the book tries to illustrate this thesis, drawing on everything from black metal music and Hammer films to H.P. Lovecraft and Georges Bataille. Theological and occult writings on magic and demonology are also analyzed as precursors to modern horror. Along the way Thacker uses a variety of philosophers, especially Schopenhauer and Aristotle (!) to explain how the world-without-us can be understood philosophically. Perhaps obviously, Lovecraft’s notion of “cosmic horror” very aptly describes the human response to the idea of the world-without-us. Towards the end of the book he suggests a mystical approach to comprehending the world-without-us, using certain “darkness” mystics (Bohme, John of the Cross) to analyze a strange, supposedly anonymous poem that is probably the work of the author himself.

I should finally comment on the utterly strange but effective structure of his book: we are treated to a series of medieval scholastic forms (quaestio, lectio, disputatio) each exploring specific questions or topics.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Thacker does not settle on a clear conclusion, but there are at least two more books in his “Horror of philosophy” series.

*Thacker doesn’t specifically use Heidegger’s concept of “instrumental rationality” here, but Heidegger certainly applies: The world-for-us is the world for Dasein.

Published in: on July 22, 2015 at 8:57 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

A 7th century D&D party

A cleric, a thief, and a fighter (or possibly an assassin) set out to slay a dragon (or a “Gargouille,” depending on your source).

From Ebenezer C. Brewer’s A dictionary of miracles (1910):

“What renders the name of St. Romanus [aka St. Romain] especially memorable in all France, is his victory at Rouen over a horrible dragon, of a shape and size hitherto unknown. It was a man-eater, and also devoured much cattle, causing sad desolation. Romanus resolved to attack this monster in his lair; but as no one would assist him in such a dangerous enterprise, he took with him, as assistants, a murderer condemned to death, and a thief. The thief, being panic-struck, ran away ; but the murderer proved true steel. Romanus went to the dragon’s den, and, making the sign of the cross, walked in, and threw a net over the beast’s neck. The murderer, then taking the net in his two hands, dragged the monster through the town into the market-place, where was a huge bonfire. Into this bonfire he led the beast, there was it burnt to death, and then thrown into the Seine. All the people thanked the saint for delivering them from this pest, the murderer was set at liberty, and Romanus appointed a day of public thanksgivings. — Propre de Rouen.”

No word on the dragon’s hoard, but the murderer was pardoned for his part in slaying the dragon, and after Romanus’ death there was annual procession of his relics ending with the pardon of a convicted criminal.

A surprising number of saints took an active role in slaying or banishing dragons. A pretty good list is here.

Published in: on July 8, 2015 at 8:47 am  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , ,

False advertising

DMGR1/2112. The Campaign Sourcebook and Catacomb Guide.

This is actually a pretty good reference book for DMs. There is general advice on designing dungeons and indoor environments, and lots of stuff about running a game — practical table-manners type stuff, managing players, DMing style, all that. World-building and mapping and even suggestions on the hows and whys of in-game dungeon construction. It’s co-written by Janelle Jaquay, an icon of early D&D. So it has to be good, right?

It’s a little unusual for a 2e splatbook, in that some of the art is pretty bloody (pages 9, 33, and to a lesser degree 89), and there seem to be a couple of half-orcs among the PCs in various illustrations (pages 11 & 96 — though the guy on page 96 could be full orc).

There are great sample maps of various structures and environments that you might run as “dungeons” (understood here in the most basic sense as an boundaried adventuring environment, limiting where you can go). A pyramid, caverns, a temple, that sort of thing. All done in Sutherland’s neat perspective mapping that he pioneered in the 1e “Survival Guides”.

But you what it hasn’t got? Catacombs. Nothing about them. Nada. The biggest word on the cover & title page, and as far as I can tell the word doesn’t even turn up in the text. Disappointing. That’s OK though; I have something in the works that will cover catacombs.

The other odd thing about this one is the annoying illustrations of a nerdy DM and his gaming group, which is so mocking as to be unsympathetic. It’s supposed to be comical but really comes off as pretty contemptuous.

I haven’t read any of the later editions’ Dungeon Master Guides so I can’t say how much of this was carried over to them — honestly I haven’t even read the 2e DMG in years so I don’t know if this redundant to stuff in there. It does give a very concise set of guidelines that you can use in any game, so it’s worth checking out for that and for the handful of maps in the back. For as much I hated most of the brown splatbooks of character options back in the day, this blue splatbook is surprisingly good.




Published in: on July 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,
Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs


The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Zombies and Miniature Wargaming

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.


Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut


playable with paper and pencil and miniature figures

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore


Geek Gaming Goodness

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.


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

2 Warps to Neptune

Documenting the 8-bit era and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

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


Miniature painting, wargaming terrain creation and more

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness


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


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

Role Play Craft

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

The Rambling Roleplayer

A collection of advice, essays, and rambling rants about tabletop gaming.

Sheppard's Crook

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

10 Bad Habits

Where the Wild Things Aren't

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time


Just another WordPress.com site

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"


gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead


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


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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 264 other followers

%d bloggers like this: