Hmm, Things that make you go

So this book crossed my desk at work yesterday and joins the legions of books about the “Paleo” diet. Now there are many, many things to mock about the “Paleo” diet idea (in short, eat like people did before the invention of agriculture) and especially a lot to mock about the dumbed down version that tries to equate paleo with the Atkins death diet, but the hilarious thing about this book to me is that it tries to cash in on two fads at once — the juicing/smoothie fad and the Paleodiet fad. Because in the stone age, we all had masticating blenders in our caves, right? And made smoothies from the kinds of stuff on the cover here: collards, broccoli,  kale … you know … highly cultured variations of plants that only exist because agriculture. Yeesh. That said, vegetable smoothies are really healthy, so my mockery is tempered by that. It’s just a hell of a lot of trouble to go, and a little sad that people need all this fussing around to get them to eat their damn veggies.

Published in: on March 12, 2016 at 7:55 am  Comments (5)  

Badasses of the old west

Badasses of the old west : true stories of outlaws on the edge, edited by Erin Turner

6920854

Man, the title and cover really oversell this book. It’s actually a collection of short profiles of criminals of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  I’m not sure I’d have counted coastal Oregon in the 1920s as part of the “old west” but one of the longer entries chronicles an escaped convict who spent weeks on the lam there, forcing people to cook for him at gunpoint whenever he stopped at a house. Other criminals that are included don’t really seem to rise to the level “outlaw” status — a burglar who murdered a sleeping woman with a meat cleaver, a man who went on a drunken rampage robbing some railroad employees and shooting his brother-in-law, and several other cases of murder. There are a few bona fide famous outlaws mentioned — the James brothers, the Apache Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as infamous killers like John Wesley Hardin and William Quantrill. A few of the less well-known characters are pretty interesting too — Old Tom Starr and Dart Isom, for example. But all too many seem to have been selected for their evocative nicknames rather than their deeds: “Bad Eye” Santamarrazo’s crime was trying to poison a miner, and “Rattlesnake Dick” Barter murdered and dismembered an eccentric old man in order to take over his farm; in both cases these were the only crimes the subjects committed. Worse, a lot of them seem to be included simply because the writers found a lot of details about their trials and executions, which make for pretty uninteresting reading when the criminals were spectacularly inept. So it’s really a very mixed bag, some of it entertaining and some it boring.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly; maybe tales of men who were “badass” by some standard other than simply being killers. Really the vast majority of the people profiled sound like sociopaths and bullies. Most of the killings are ambushes or surprise attacks on unarmed men. I know that this is the reality of most crime generally and most of the killings in the Old West. I guess I was hoping they would be enough true stories where a gunslinger did something that actually was “badass” to fill a book. You know, stuff like this. Evidently not. I know, I know. Most of the people from history who we think of as “badasses” were actually sociopaths and bullies. The “most badass” warrior cultures — Vikings, Romans, Spartans, samurai, knights — were basically sociopaths and bullies who won more by surprise, material wealth, and ruthlessness than courage or toughness. That’s pretty much how human history works. Still, the Old Western idea of a tough individual dies hard, and maybe if we pretend the intent behind this collection was demythologization, it works. Except that the obviously amateur and amateurish articles don’t really address the question, and it’s more on the editor for pretending these are about badasses rather than a collection of crime stories.

I also wish the articles were signed, rather than just having a list of contributors on the copyright page, because the style and tone of the articles varies a lot. I get the impression that the publisher or editor just wanted to cash in on a great title and classic photo for the cover (a cowboy standing on the saddle of a horse and aiming straight for the camera with his gun), reprinting chapters from various “Outlaw tales of…” books in the publisher’s stable. If this is meant to be a “best of” collection, I’ll skip the books they’re excerpted from.

Published in: on February 27, 2016 at 10:44 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Creature compendium by Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr.

Old School Adventures™ Accessory CC1: Creature Compendium

Oh god, not another monster book, right? OGL/OSR monster books are, all too often, crapulous retreads of existing D&D monsters, with maybe a few variations: these orcs are blue! here’s a 2e monster statted out for B/X! purple, cerulean, and amber dragons! another kind of elf, this one lives in the desert! Less than inspired, you might say. You’ve probably got one two on your shelf or hard drive, and it gives you pretty much all the standard monsters, tweaked for a specific flavor of D&D. Ho-hum.

Creature compendium is having none of that. The monsters are mostly things that are not in any other monsters manual. They are not slight variations or reskins of existing monsters. Well, a few feel a bit like reskins, but they also suggest something different. Even the most derivative monsters in the book are kind of cool. I will give you two examples: Dunters and Cyclorcs.

Dunters are goblin red-cap berserkers. Basically tougher goblins, who go berserk like Berserkers, so that seems like a shitty reskin on the face of it. But they also have the traits of folkloric the Red Cap, a specific goblin who haunts an old ruined castle and dips his hat in human blood to keep it red. Except of course this is a whole race, so they lair in ruins and believe they must keep their caps wet with blood. I’ve certainly seen goblins before, and berserkers, and even Red Caps, but this combination of the three is not terrible.

Cyclorcs are one-eyed, overgrown orcs who are distinguished by their slightly better melee skill and worse missile skill; they also speak a dialect most orcs can’t understand. They do not accept leaders of other races, making them more independent than regular orcs. This is, in a way, the worst monster in the book. The only saving grace is that I happen to have a handful of figures that are would be pretty perfect for cyclorcs, so I for one might use this monster too.

And again: these are worst the book has to offer. The rest of the creatures are stuff from folklore or pulp comics that I’ve never seen adapted to D&D, totally new monsters of the sort you might find in the Fiend Folio, or jokey monsters that actually manage to be kind of cool. The introduction explicitly states that this book is meant to fun both to use and to peruse, so: mission accomplished.

There are Carriage worms, which are creepy giant worms covered in smaller parasitic worms. The parasitic worms have a paralyzing bite, and the big worm doesn’t have a real bit attack but can swallow you whole once you’re paralyzed. That is nice and creepy. And it spits a slippery but harmless slime on you. You’re not going to forget this encounter.

A number of monsters appear to be Japanese yokai, like the Whipwhirl, which is a flock of strips of paper that will tangle you up and try to suffocate you. Then there are Revolving beasts, which polymorph continuously into other monsters. These are all solid, and potentially deadly.

The jokey monsters include Ligers (“Ligers are a lion and tiger mixed, bred for their skills in magic”), Rotmouths (the monsters from the movie Critters), and the Mothman.You’ll also find a few monsters from movies (Ymir from the Ray Haaryhausen design, water devils that look like something from Princess Mononoke). But even these derivative monsters are usable. The in-jokes are sometimes subtle (no doubt I’m missing some; but the “Bestial beast” I think must be named in parody of the unlikely names of Fiend Folio monsters) and not all of them are all that funny (Skunkbears). Still, it’s far cry from the full-on stupid of something like The field guide of encounters.

The art is not always great. But as far as I can tell, the author also drew all the monsters, and by the way every damn monster has an illustration. None of those monsters-without-pictures that you skip over in other manuals.

All the monsters are statted out in both AD&D and B/X terms. Those are my two favorite iterations of D&D so I’m happy with that. I’m not sure it’s necessary to give both, since you can kind of derive the briefer B/X stats from the AD&D, but that’s fine. Another thing I like is the index and treasure tables. The index doesn’t just list page numbers, but also gives XP values across several game systems, covering most of the OSR bases.

My main complaint about this book is that the stat blocks are not entirely explained. For one thing, a lot of monsters have a dagger symbol following their name in the B/X stat block and this is never explained (I broke down and sent Mr. LeBlanc an email asking about this, and he said that it just means the monster has spells or psionics or other things not in B/X). There are a few bits of text that either unclear or possibly typos, but nothing as egregious as pretty much anything published for Castles & Crusades. Lastly there is no bibliography or list of sources — a problem pretty much all monster manuals share, so I shouldn’t single out this one. I just wanted to go on record saying it’s something that really ought to be included in every monster book.

I didn’t actually pay anything for my copy — I won a copy in New Big Dragon’s 12 days of OSR Christmas. I’d mention that as a disclaimer, but Mr. LeBlanc did not even ask for a review.  If you want a copy, it’s ridiculously cheap anyway: $2 for the pdf at RPGNow, and print copies are cheap at Lulu (especially if you use a coupon code, right this minute it’s JANEND20 for 20% off; while you’re there look for Paolo Greco’s Kefitzat Haderech and/or Burgs and Bailiffs), or if you’re in the US you can also go straight to the New Big Dragon site.

Published in: on January 26, 2016 at 9:16 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

Attila the Hun (Command series)

Osprey books are usually researched pretty well and always have great illustrations. Attila the Hun is no exception. I haven’t read many titles in the Command series — in fact I think the only other one I’ve read is the older one on Alexander the Great. I usually just get the Warrior and Elite series books when I’m working on a wargaming army, and I haven’t really been as involved in wargaming for years. But — full disclosure — I got a copy of this one for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Previously published with a different cover, the 2015 edition is pretty slick looking.

26120922
Attila is a semi-legendary figure, as we know very little about him apart from what a few Roman writers have recorded about their enemy, and some mythologized impressions of him in the character King Etzel in the Nibelungenlied. What we do know, and much that is presented as reasonable conjecture, makes up the majority of this short book, along with brief looks at some of Attila’s major Roman and Goth adversaries, and short accounts of a few battles. The battles are illustrated with the customary Osprey diagrams. There is practically nothing on the Huns’ equipment, military organization, and orders of battle or army composition — partly due to the limited amount of information we have and partly because the Command series does not focus on these topics, unlike the other Osprey military history series. So if you are interested in knowing more about how the Huns were armed and fought, you need to look for The Hun : scourge of God, AD 375-565 in the Warrior series — also by the author of the present book. This book — being in the Command series — is mainly interested in Attila’s qualities as a strategist, diplomat, and leader.
What little we can guess about Attila’s motivations and psychology are explored in some detail, and though he remains shrouded by the legends that have grown around his name, the book does manage to give a coherent picture of the man. The author compares him, somewhat unfavorably, to Genghis Khan, but then Attila did not have the benefit of an organized propaganda campaign like Genghis did.
The art in this book is generally good, combining period art, later reconstructions, and a lot of indirectly related things (for example, an image of a 20th century Tibetan archer to suggest how the Huns shot their bows, and armor and other artifacts the Huns might have looted from Goths, Romans, and contemporary steppe nomads). The illustrations commissioned for the book are about average for Osprey’s books — reasonably detailed, well-researched, and explained exhaustively in the text. They don’t have the drama and power of the late Angus MacBride’s work, but I can’t fault this book on that score.
The bibliography provided in this book is also very detailed, and we see that the author used a range of sources, from the original Latin and Greek historians, scholarly articles, and more “popular” magazines. There is even an entry for John P. Greer’s Armies and enemies of Ancient China — a very dated work that has a lot of misinformation. I think this reflects more the comprehensiveness of the author’s research than sloppiness though. I didn’t see anything questionable here.

Published in: on January 21, 2016 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Christmas ghost stories, 2015 edition

I recently  read Ghosts : a natural history by Roger Clarke. For the record it is much less a natural history than a social history, and it really only covers the last 300 years and mostly in England. Clarke tries to be impartial but admits that he is fascinated by hauntings and seems to want, pretty strongly, to believe in ghosts. But I did find some really neat, perhaps gameable tidbits: (1) The ancient Greek taxonomy of ghosts; (2) the modern occultist taxonomy of spirits; (3) medieval lore on the color of ghosts; (4) what ghosts most fear.

  1. The Greeks believed in the mutilated dead who haunted battlefields (the biaiothanatoi, or the souls of those who dies violently); plaintive spirits of children and babies (aôroi) ; wandering spirits of those who were not properly buried (ataphoi); and the spiteful spirits of those who never married (agamoi).*
  2. Modern occultists apparently prefer the taxonomy developed by Peter Underwood, which has:
    Elementals (primitive spirits that haunt a location, often pagan fairy-folk, or demons connected to black magic or Satanism)
    Poltergeists (spirits that cause noises and pranks, often hurling objects at people which land so softly they cause no injury, associated especially with pubescent children)
    Traditional or historic ghosts (the souls of the dead which interact with the living)
    Mental imprint manifestations (a residual effect of powerful emotions, often repeating some action like closing a door or crossing a room like a loop of film)
    Crisis or Death-survival apparitions (the appearance of someone you know well or are bonded with, when they are either dying or facing a deadly ordeal)
    Time slips (a sort of flashback, where a whole ghostly setting is experienced; time slips were a bit of a fad from 1911-1915 but are otherwise very rare)
    Ghosts of the living (appearances of people who are alive, most often seen by people in the twilight between waking and sleep)
    Haunted objects (beds, chairs, weapons, or jewels that have ghostly phenomena connected to them)
    Underwood’s list omits the ghosts of animals, of which Clarke provides a few examples.
  3. Ghosts, to the medieval mind, must be the souls of those not in heaven (for why would they ever leave) or hell (who cannot escape), which is to say the souls of people in Purgatory. Therefore they are still expiating their sins and so they appear in various shades from black (for the most recently dead, still stained by sin) to white (for those nearly finished with Purgatory and nearly unblemished by sin). Of course Protestants would have to therefore deny that ghosts are possible, for there is no Purgatory in their doctrine. Any “ghost” must be a demon.
  4. Finally Clarke notes that exorcists held that the threat of banishment to the Red Sea was the most fearful threat one could make to a ghost (or a demon pretending to be a ghost). Clarke admits he has no idea why this is so, which is surprising. The legend of Solomon using a magic ring or seal to control djinn should be familiar to anyone who has researched magic beliefs. Solomon supposedly sealed the djinn in bottles and dumped them the Red Sea, where they have mostly languished since.

 

=======================================================

*A pretty decent overview of ancient ghost beliefs is here.

 

Published in: on December 13, 2015 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

CIP for self-publishers

Did you ever open a book and notice that back of the title page has, probably beneath a copyright notice and a mailing address for the publisher*, a little block of text that says “Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data”? For those of us of a certain age the layout is familiar, as it is pretty much what you’d see on a catalog card from the pre-digital library catalog**. If fact it is there for exactly that reason: it give librarians a head up on how to classify the book, what the main subjects are, and it presents the author’s name in a form that will distinguish it from other similar names. So part of the function is that the cataloging in publication (CIP) provides an analog catalog record which can be copied into a library’s catalog. But CIP’s other function, when it come from the Library of Congress (of some other national library like Library & Archives Canada or the British National Library) is to tell librarians that this book is serious enough to have been submitted to the national library. (Actually they just submit a title page, table of contents and/or summary, and biographical info about the author, since the book may be unfinished. That’s why CIP doesn’t include the page count and other details you will find on an actual catalog record, and occasionally the title changes by the time of publication, and in some cases the subjects don’t really match the finished book.)  Getting CIP is a detail the big publishers bother themselves with because it makes sales to libraries that much easier, but it also demonstrates the publisher cares about details, and might have performed other traditional publishing roles like fact-checking, proofreading, and editorial review. Small presses and self-publishers might do all that too, but in my experience a lot of them don’t. Sadly getting CIP isn’t very easy for them either. The Library of Congress has some requirements about the number of books and authors published by a publisher before they will even be eligible for CIP, which effectively shut out self-publishers.

Naturally a number of companies are happy to fill this void, and they charge from $50-120 for the service. Of course most writers of fiction probably don’t need to bother with CIP, since the subject analysis and call number assignment of fiction is not a big issue for libraries. But nonfiction — especially nonfiction that the author thinks has some lasting value and would like to have preserved in a library — has a much better chance of getting into the libraries with CIP. I wouldn’t say it is as important as having an ISBN but it is on the same list of priorities. You can read more here, if you are interested in why CIP is important and how to get it. (The linked article mentions three companies that provide CIP for a fee. I’d also add Special Libraries Cataloging, Inc., to the list. The owner “Mac” Elrod has a fairly impeccable reputation.)

Anyway all this is a preamble to say that if you

  1. are self-publishing a book on RPGs, miniatures, or other topics likely relevant to this blog, and
  2. would like CIP as a small measure to help get your work into libraries

I’d be more than happy to provide CIP. I am professional cataloger, so I won’t screw it up too badly. And I’ll do it for free because I want to promote the hobby and the DIY community. Depending on response, I ought to be able to do this pretty quickly for you — quickly enough that it shouldn’t delay publication. All you need to do is send me

  • a mock up of what you title page will look like (front and back) — preferred title, author, and publisher place/name/date
  • a table of contents listing chapters or sections if that helps explain your content, and/or a summary, and
  • enough information about yourself that I can distinguish your name from others already in the national authority file (NAF)

See, I’m not asking for a free copy or anything like that — after all your book is presumably unpublished if you plan to add the CIP, right? I’d be doing this on my own time, not my library’s, so unless we do actually acquire a copy I can’t add your record online to WorldCat, nor can I actually add your name to the NAF if you don’t already have works in WorldCat or in my library like I do for books at my library; it will just be an email back with text to cut and paste onto your book’s title page verso (verso=back, recto=front, in bibspeak). Also I will be doing this from home, since it would not be kosher to use library resources for outside stuff. So it’s not exactly a guarantee of anything, you’re be getting what you pay for, etc., but it could help.

 

——–

*And perhaps a series of numbers like this: “15 14 13 12 11 10 09     10  9  8  7  6  5  4 3”, which printers use to note printing year and number; they just pull off the previous number, so in this case the first group of numbers might be the year and the second group the printing number, so here we see a 3rd printing made in 2009.  Other printers don’t bother with the year and list numbers out of order: “2 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 1”.  This is kind of dying out as printers no longer need to literally remove the numbers from the printing block, but for older books if you see a “1” in the sequence you know you have a first printing.

**Actually the CIP standard has recently been updated to match changes in cataloging rules and to be, theoretically, more web-friendly.

Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags:

EGG biography coming this fall

23848482

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)  

In the dust of this planet / Eugene Thacker

11944741

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 (2)  
Tags: , , ,
Save Vs. Dragon

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

Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs

booksandopinions.com

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.

hosercanadian

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

CYCLOPEANA

playable with paper and pencil and miniature figures

A Book of Creatures

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

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.

Cirsova

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

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

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

daggerandbrush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain creation and more

Fractalbat

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

tenfootpole.org

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

inthecitiesdotcom

Just another WordPress.com site

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"

chieflyill

gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Metropollywog

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

pipeandscotchdm

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

Wrathofzombie's Blog

A blog of Role-playing Dorkiness!

Atroll's Entertainment

A Troll's Account of Having Fun

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 276 other followers

%d bloggers like this: