Gryla & the Yule Lads

The yule lads

Now that the hipsters have ruined Krampus for everyone (“About 20,800,000 results” in Google), I predict that the fad for Xmas 2016 will be all Gryla and her brood of Yule Lads: Sheep-Cote Clod, Gully Gawk, Stubby, Spoon Licker, Pot Scraper, Bowl Licker, Door Slammer, Skyr Gobbler, Sausage Swiper, Window Peeper, Door Sniffer, Meat Hook, & Candle Beggar. Gryla is a child-eating ogress and the Yule Lads, her sons, each come on a different night (December 12-24) cause mischief. The Lads seem pretty innocuous for trolls, but since most of them are stealing food in the winter in Scandinavia, their antics were probably pretty scary back in the day.

Anyway you have eleven days to prepare for their onslaught.

Gryla catching lunch

Dimmu Borgir, one hopes, is working yuletide concept album on them. (Dimmuborgir is supposedly the home of Gryla and her family.)

Published in: on December 2, 2016 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  
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The poor pilgrim’s almanack

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To no fanfare, my first game book — Burgs & Bailiffs Trinity : The poor pilgrim’s almanack, or The handbook of pilgrimage and relic theft —  has become available via The Lost Pages! So you can get it now in PDF, or pre-order the printed version and get the PDF along with it.

Paolo Greco, proprietor of the Lost Pages, did a bang-up job laying out the text, which was sort of complicated because the original manuscript had dozens of footnotes and sidebars, as well as some really big tables. Not everything could make it into the final product, so once I see the final product myself I’ll post some of that material here. I’m thinking of some of it as “research mathoms” — stuff I found or created that’s too good to throw away entirely but which didn’t fit in well enough to keep, either in terms of flow or formatting, like the giant table of carrying and pulling capacities for animals ranging from rats to elephants (if you need to know how much a goat can carry, how heavy different types of camels are, or how much traction a moose can pull with, it was in there!). So watch this space for research mathoms…

I eventually envisioned this as a sort of source book like the ones Steve Jackson has been producing for GURPS — chapters of informative text that is as well-researched as I could manage with gameable material (rules). I tried to keep it as system-neutral as possible, but really it’s meant for the, ahem, World’s Most Popular Fantasy Roleplaying Game, in the B/X or first Advanced edition. Thus the sidebars, dozens of brief “adventure seeds” like the GURPS sourcebooks, and so on. I’m not an historian by training but I do read a lot, and did my research at one of the largest public research libraries in the US, where I was also working.

I’m not sure what else to say about this, and as I’m on my lunch break now I don’t have time to get long-winded anyway, but for what it’s worth here’s an excerpt from my foreword, which really explains the project:

Although I’ve always been a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, another game has long haunted me: Fantasy Wargaming, by Bruce Galloway (and others). That infamous rule book has haunted me because of its unfulfilled promise — the idea of an historical, logical setting for adventures like those in D&D. In part FW failed to fulfill its promise because it was a haphazardly presented system of rules, and frankly the rules seemed unnecessarily complicated. But the real failure was that the game focused strictly on recreating medieval legends and sagas, which while interesting, were too esoteric for someone used to simple generic fantasy to get a handle on. My forays into running FW were pretty disastrous — I subjected my players to retreads of Viking sagas and Beowulf, which were OK for what they were but did not deliver the exploration and adventure we expected from a fantasy game. What I didn’t know then was that all the elements of dungeoneering could be realized in an historical setting. There really were adventurers who entered subterranean mazes, seeking treasure and braving dangers (real and imagined). They could be rogues, warriors, holy men, or magicians, just like in D&D. They might be seeking gold and gems, but they might just as well be seeking items with supernatural powers: the relics of saints. To find these underground complexes — catacombs — the adventurers would undertake long, perilous journeys: pilgrimages.

While this supplement could be used simply to rationalize dungeoneering in historical or pseudo-historical campaigns, the medieval superstitions and practices detailed here should also inspire new and interesting adventures, over land, at sea, and in town and city. Pilgrimages to shrines and other holy sites, whether for secular or sacred purposes, invite all manner of encounters and obstacles that will create exciting adventures. Lastly, the veneration of shrines and relics suggests a new conception of divine magic and clerics: the pilgrim miracle-worker. Paolo and I are excited by the idea of clerical magic which is grounded in historical beliefs, completely different from the usual wizardry and spell-casting that games use for secular magic-users, and which provides a justification for adventuring holy men and women. We hope that you will find ideas you can adopt in your own games, whether you follow the historical precedents herein or reskin them for your fantasy world.

Published in: on November 30, 2016 at 12:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Coming soon…

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Published in: on November 17, 2016 at 7:38 pm  Comments (3)  
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Orc ID

So blogging has mostly ground to a halt since I’ve taken a new job at an academic library; maybe it will resume some time. But today a publisher got in touch to get a license to publish a short article I wrote and they recommended I get an Orc ID.O_o

Orc ID

No, not like that. But that is definitely what I imagine.

An ORCID is actually an identifier used to disambiguate people. Libraries have been doing this for centuries, but in the past couple of decades there’s been a push to use numerical identifiers rather than textual ones. Libraries have long kluged the problem of many people with the same name by adding qualifiers to names, such as middle names, years of birth/death, or other titles or even activities. So because there are many “Michael Monaco”s in the world,  I might be established as “Monaco, Michael Joseph” or “Monaco, Michael Joseph, 1972-” or something like that. But a simple number would make the identifier more useful worldwide. Consider Tolstoy — written in Cyrillic his name is be Алексей Константинович Толстой; “Толстой” is various Romanized as “Tolstoi,” “Tolstoy,” or “Tolstoĭ”. Likewise Korean, Japanese, and Chinese names may vary a lot depending on the language they are publishing in. There is an effort to bring all the forms together in individual countries’ authority files (for example the US has the Library of Congress’ National Authority File or NAF) and the NAF-equivalents of many countries are brought together in the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF.org — where Tolstoy is VIAF # 96987389). But these are focused mostly on people publishing books, albums, films, and so forth. More minor works like journal articles don’t get cataloged individually in library catalogs and there is no need to disambiguate the millions of academics who publish worldwide for library catalogs. So the ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor Id.) is meant to work a bit like the VIAF but for researchers and academics (as well as journalists, etc., in principle), so that my publications as “Michael Monaco” are not confused with other “Michael Monaco”s, and it uses a string of numbers (in my case, 0000-0001-7244-5154).

So anyway it’s nice work and hobbies encounter each other like that.

Published in: on September 16, 2016 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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The rioting saw

This week there’s been some kind of crazy machine operating in front of my building. I think it’s some kind of saw or grinder — they are tearing up and replacing a bunch of pipes. But the thing is, the sound it makes is very much like a huge crowd — roaring, occasional whistles or screeches, and the volume rises and falls like some kind of riot (or a football game) is taking place. It’s creepy as hell when there is no one else to be seen (the workers are in a hole six feet deep).

I recorded a snatch of it on my cheapass MP3 player. Listen closely. Do you hear muffled voices? Half-formed words? Is that someone called your name?

Enjoy. (Click for MP3)

Published in: on September 8, 2016 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beautiful Mutants!

The guy who runs the “2 Warps to Neptune” blog started an online magazine, “We are the mutants.” Check it out!

The image isn’t on 2W2N or WATM, as far as I know, but it used to have Duty Now for the Future on LP and never forgot the image.

Club Devo ad from the inner sleeve of "Duty now for the future." Original image source: Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Club_Devo.jpg

Club Devo ad from the inner sleeve of “Duty now for the future.” Original image source: Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Club_Devo.jpg

Published in: on August 31, 2016 at 9:17 am  Comments (1)  
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The Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier

I have never backed a game-related Kickstarter campaign — I simply couldn’t afford to at times, and I also grew very cynical about how they’re used by amateurs and conmen.  But there is one that I am backing: Terence Gunn’s Kickstarter to publish a revised and expanded version of his book on Grenadier Models. I was never able to track down a print copy of the first edition, and was not interested in an ebook, so I’m really happy to see this KS launch. Technically this seems more like a pre-order system for a self-publisher, as he’s already done the writing and layout, or is pretty close to being done, from the activity I’ve seen on the Collecting Grenadier Models Yahoo group. If you look at the tag cloud over the right-hand sidebar, you’ll notice Grenadier is one of the most common topics of my posts. For years they were my favorite miniatures company. Such a shame they couldn’t bounce back from the lead scare of the 1990s.

In addition to photos of most if not all of the miniatures Grenadier Models produced, Mr. Gunn interviewed the people who founded and worked at the company, so this looks like it will be the reference for Grenadier Models.

 

 

Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 1:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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2016 One page dungeon contest winners announced!

And I’m literally one of them!

Well, literally in the popular usage that means not literally at all but almost, maybe metaphorically.

What I’m saying is that I am not winner winner, but I did place in the “Penultimate Winners Circle,” and that’s pretty damn flattering, considering the caliber of the other entries.

Congratulations to the real winners, and to the penultimate winners, and a big thank you to everyone who entered and provided more free resources for game masters everywhere.

My entry, Bridge of Dread, is downloadable at the OPD site (“Submission archive”) and directly from my site here.

Published in: on June 5, 2016 at 9:51 am  Comments (2)  
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INT(RND(1)*20)+1

So, CRPGs. I guess I really missed the boat on these. Way back in the day I vaguely recall seeing a D&Dish game on a friend’s TRS80, and year or two later my brother & I got a Commodore 64, which meant Telengard (an effectively unbeatable game with no real ‘end’), various text-based games like Zork (I think we only ever beat Zork I), and then Ultima III,which is really the standard against which I’d always measure CRPGs. I’d have to admit that the Bard’s Tale was a little better, but Ultima IV and V were the best. From what I recall though we never actually beat IV (we had a pirated copy which lacked a whole town of clues, and a critical PC), or V (either the C64 broke down or we found better uses for the time, I guess). Somewhere in between we tried out Temple of Apshai (not great), several others I can’t remember the names of, and my favorite, Phantasie III which let you assemble a party of humanoids, if you wanted. My brother was a little more into CRPGs, probably because we rarely had a decent DM other than him for real RPGs and they were his only outlet for playing until college. So he played the early AD&D games (Pool of Radiance, and others) as well as the CRPG version of Der Schwarze Auge. In college I played only tabletop games, but by grad school I needed a computer, and might have tried CRPGs except that Doom and Doom II happened. My only dalliance with CRPGs after that was Nahlakh, which was a throwback to the Ultimas and a great deal of fun, but somehow I never finished that one either. I think there might have been a bug in the game — it was shareware in an era where if you wanted to get a manual you had to send the programmer a check, which I eventually did, but I never made it any further. I also tried a few games that were pretty similar to old Commodore games but with better graphics — Dungeonmaster (which was pretty boring), Might & Magic : Darkside of Xeen, and first person dungeon crawl that was explicitly based on AD&D but I forget the title. After that, my only forays into CRPGs were Diablo and Diablo 2, which were basically graphics-intensive throwbacks, but the network games were pretty fun. Oh, and Dungeon Robber, which has some clever ideas but is an endless loot & scoot time sink.

Handy summary chart follows. First comment to explain the title of this post wins buku brownies points.

CRPG Pros Cons
Telengard Simple gameplay, funny narration, tons of randomness to tricks and monsters Repetitive with no endgame, so you need to create your own metagames (how deep can I get without resting, how much treasure can get in 15 minutes, etc.)
Ultima III Interesting quest with lots to explore and lots of choices for making up a party; ability to ‘go rogue’ and loot towns Many of the character choices are underpowered and you’re better off with a stereotypical party
Phantasie III 15 playable races, and fairly cool turn-based combat system Silly pun names (J.R. Trollkin)
Nahlakh Still available!; lots of races and classes; skills increase with use; dozens of weapons Possibly fatal bug involving a tomb
Autoduel It’s frikkin’ Car Wars! And set in the part of the country I grew up in! There are missions but the endgame was kind of underwhelming
The Bard’s Tale (1, 2, maybe 3?) Challenging, unique setting in the first game (a city overrun with monsters), includes half-orcs None that I can think of
Might & Magic: Darkside of Xeen Relatively short Basically a Bard’s Tale rip-off

 

 

Published in: on May 1, 2016 at 9:37 pm  Comments (6)  

Good news!

Congress has been so effective at getting things done and solving problems that they can focus on telling librarians how to do their jobs!

So when the Library of Congress Policy & Standards Division decided that “Illegal aliens” was not a useful and objective term for use in subject headings (with good reason), Repugnant congressmen raced to compose a bill that would undo their deliberations. For some reason every other PSD decision made that week was fine, but this one change demands action from our normally sessile representatives.

What next, a Senate hearing to investigate subversive call numbers? (“Why is Islam listed before Christianity? Why is the Bible filed under BS?“) A Supreme Court ruling on permissible story time books? Maybe we need a congressional oversight of reference librarians to make sure every question is screened by the Heritage Foundation.

FFS, man.

Published in: on April 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm  Comments (8)  
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