One page dungeon 2016

I very rarely get a jump on the One Page Dungeon contest and finish an entry more than a couple of days before the deadline, but this year I have so many other things I ought to be focusing on that I found a nice relief taking a few hours over the weekend to pull an entry together. I am, as my previous OPDs demonstrate, pretty bad at drawing decent maps, so this year I found a public domain image to annotate. Writing it up went surprisingly fast. I am not expecting to win anything with this one, since the level of competition has really gotten steep in the OPD contest (maybe it’s time to introduce a master’s class or something so people who’ve won in the past aren’t competing with newbies?). Still, I enjoy the challenge of creating a usable adventure that fits on one page, and I think my “dungeon” is  something that hasn’t been done before. So apart from the execution, I think I have pretty good entry.🙂

The principal inspirations for the design are two things: one, the concept of the “Bridge of dread” mentioned in Lyke Wake Dirge, and two, the surprisingly developed and fortified bridges of the middle ages (old London Bridge, a sketch of which I used for my “map,” being an extreme example). Bridges had defenses like gate houses and towers, and being high-traffic spots attracted peddlers and shopkeepers. Because upkeep for them was expensive and not provided by the crown, some collected tolls (or tribute or bribes, if occupied by bandits) and some even had attractions like shrines and chapels, the offerings gathered at them helping pay for upkeep as well. The folks who earned a living via bridge traffic, officials who were responsible for it, and merchants even built their homes on the bridges, creating miniature cities. It’s not such a wonder that old London Bridge eventually fell down.

Below is the original sketch (after a 1616 engraving by Claes Van Visscher) I used for my OPD, taken from a nineteenth century book scanned by the New York Public library for the Internet Archive.

bridge-ill-onlyI also cribbed an image from Wikimedia Commons, for a close up of one spot.

I’ll post the finished PDF in my files area once the contest is closed.

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Bonus: viewing the text of this book at Project Gutenberg, I saw a transcription of the “advertisement” page for other books in the series, and one that jumped out at me was “Famous frosts and frost friars”. I was intrigued by the idea of a “Frost Friar” (which evokes Bellairs’ “The face in the frost”) but sadly it was just a typo, and the book is about frost FAIRS — festivals held when a river ices over.

Frost Friar

HD: 4; AC: leather; MV: 12” walking, 24” on ice; attacks: by weapon or special; SV: Cleric 4

Frost friars are evil spirits that emerge from the depths of the earth in or around winter. They look like mendicant friars, except that their skin is pallid white and their clothes are dusted with ice. They gather at rivers (the number appearing will depend on the river, generally d6 per 20’ breadth) and freeze it over, interrupting commerce and travel, and often inspiring the local populace to hold “frost fairs,” taking advantage of the unusual conditions. However their goal is to lure unsuspecting mortals onto thin ice, for those who die of exposure or drowning in icy waters become their slaves of the frost friars in the underworld. Frost friars can cast cold and ice-related spells (or reversed fire-related spells) as if they were 5th level magic users. They often hoard the valuables of their victims in caches buried in river banks.

Published in: on March 1, 2016 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Sumpters and mounts: a little data

My big on-again-off-again project is getting a little closer to being finished, at least in terms of writing, but layout will take a while and is out of my hands. In the meantime I have been filling in some gaps, and pulling at some threads where I thought I was finished.

One area I was bothered about is nailing down some numbers for how much a pack animal (sumpter) can carry and how much a riding animal can carry (the live weight of a rider being somewhat less burdensome than the dead weight of a pack load) and how much a draft animal can pull in a wheeled cart or sled.

I figured there must be a formula, so I enlisted my brother, who is both an engineer and more knowledgeable about the size and strength of animals than probably anyone, for some help with this. He had already looked into horses, and found some great sources, but I thought I’d like to include more exotic animals that people have used for sumpters, draft animals, or mounts.

Das Reitschwein. Image presumably out of copyright. Source: http://onyourownadventures.com/hunttalk/showthread.php?t=264040

Well, maybe not EVERY animal…but certainly more than just the usual horses and mules. He found a study on agricultural uses of animals and the article included a table of the recommended pack-loads for various animals from (water) buffalo to yaks! Apart from wanting to have some details on the usual animals you find in medieval settings, I thought it might be useful to extrapolate the ratio of an animal’s mass to the load it can reasonably carry or pull.

The draft numbers are incredibly complicated because you really ought to figure in the type of conveyance and its weight, the wheels, the road, and so on — apparently teams of animals lose significant efficiency too. I will probably just have to give round numbers for “a wheeled cart, on a packed dirt road,” “a wheeled cart off road,” and a “a sled on snow,” and just fudge something where I assume the conveyance is around ½  of the weight of the load for carts and ¼ for sleds — so to convey 1000 pounds of stuff, you need a cart of 500 pounds or a sled of 250 pounds. Instead of putting that in the charts, I’ll just give estimates of how many animals of a given type is needed to pull a given load, and how many carts, wagons, or sled you need to have to do it, because my aim is just to have some information useful for planning long journeys in a medieval world. “I want to take three tons of goods from Paris to Rome. How many pack mules would I need, or how many oxen and carts?” The relative speed of each mode would also be a factor. But because one player in our group has repeatedly economized on mounts by riding an ox, and other PCs have been unusually large and unlikely to be able to ride a horse, it seemed worthwhile to figure out how heavy a rider each type of animal can bear.

Once I had a bunch of numbers, I started plugging them into a spreadsheet to see what patterns emerge. My brother had warned me that the ratio for horses would not apply across the board — generally speaking, the larger the animal, the lower the ratio of load:mass. But the animal’s build is also a factor, and camels, though bigger than horses in mass, carry a greater load both absolutely and proportionally.

Now my brother might be able to use calculus or some other dark art to come up with an accurate formula to cover how increasing mass lowers the ratio, but that is a convenient place for me to throw up my hands and say, well we have dragons in the game, let’s ignore that reality of physics too.

So, without further ado, I have a very crude ratio that works for various animal types. Bear in mind these are not the absolute maximums the animal can carry; they are the maximum safe loads for travel. For a short time you can certainly overload an animal with no long-term harm, but exceeding these loads on a journey will lame or even kill a sumpter or mount. Much more complete data, including rates of travel for various species and guidelines on average mass for them will be in the book. All loads are expressed as multiples of the animal’s mass. For example a rider load of .25 means the animal can carry a rider & gear of up to .25 x its mass (or ¼ or its mass)

Type of animal working load max load rider load
Horse, buffalo .12 .16 .2
Ox, elephant .16 .2 .25
Flightless bird .18 .25 .3
Canine .2 .4 .5?
Yaks, Yak hybrids .25 .3 .3
Camel, llama, reindeer .3 .4 .5

The reader will notice that horses don’t seem to be very strong, relatively speaking. They aren’t. But they combine the critical advantages of being obedient, large, and fast, making them very good choices for general use as well as mounts for warfare. (Camels are much less tractable; oxen and yaks are slow; canines and ostriches are too small to carry humans any significant distance; etc.) Some animals like oxen and yaks have shorter work-days than horses as well, needing more time to graze and/or ruminate.

Anyway these numbers should get you started. How much can a 1000 kg giant ram carry? I’d compare it to a buffalo, and say a rider of 200 kg, or a load of 160 kg. (In fact I do have some stats for goats and sheep — which are used in some mountainous areas like Nepal — but they are close to horse/buffalo range. My book will have the exact numbers too.)

The rider weight for the canines seems improbable to me, but pack dogs do carry a heck of a lot, relative to their weight. It might be more reasonable use .4 for riders on oversized dogs, wargs, etc., if you like.

*I couldn’t find any data for pigs, but a 250 kg hog is routinely ridden  by an elderly man in China, so I’m guessing a pig type animal can carry a rider of at least .2 its mass.

Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 8:56 pm  Comments (4)  
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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  
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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)  
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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  
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The hateful eight

Just quicky review. I went to see The Hateful Eight over the holidays, which was perfectly timed to coincide with the Boot Hill campaign my gaming group is now running.

If you usually like Quentin Tarantino’s films, you’ll like this; if you like Westerns, you should like this; if you enjoy ensemble casts, you’ll also like this movie — but only if extreme violence is not is a problem. The level of gore and blood is far beyond your normal Hollywood movie and fairly strong even for Tarantino. The (minor spoiler) effects of a poison reach horror-movie levels of gore. If you’re still in, it’s a really fun movie. The three hours it takes to tell the story never feel overly drawn out. In fact the time flew by. The writing is good; the 70mm panavision is used to good effect for about 10% of the film when the action is outdoors, but oddly wasted on a movie that mostly takes place inside a single-room building.

It’s tough to say too much about the plot without spoiling the mystery aspect of the movie, but my one complaint about the plot is that the bad guy(s) has to know that a blizzard with detain the main character(s) well before the blizzard hits. I’m not sure how good forecasting was in the 1870s, when I guess the action takes place.

Some of the other things that caught my attention:

  • great music
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh was great, and I wonder if the script was written with her in mind, as a few incidents (like the poisoning) seemed to reference her role in the somewhat obscure movie Flesh + Blood.
  • the voice-over midway through the film was unnecessary, or should have been

On a scale from derringer to buffalo rifle, this one’s a freaking Gatling gun. The best Western I’ve seen since Unforgiven.

Published in: on January 8, 2016 at 9:00 am  Comments (3)  
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The Force Awakens (no spoilers)

  • They did not resurrect Mr. Spock
  • Jar-Jar Binks played a pivotal role which redeemed him for his crimes against the galaxy in previous films
  • Highlights from The Life Day celebration featured in the 1978 CBS Star Wars Special are included in the end credits

OK, maybe not. I was kind of holding out hope for Jar-Jar to return though.

Anyway I had the opportunity to see the movie last night and it was WAY better than I would have expected. I’d been avoiding news, spoilers, and even trailers for this, so my expectations were pretty much based on knowing Lucas is doesn’t make the best judgement calls, and Abrams was pretty roundly criticized by fans of the Star Trek franchise for straying so far from canon. My only thought was that straying from the prequels would probably be a good thing. I still haven’t even seen episodes 2 and 3, but I guess I will have to give them a fair shake.

Anyway The force awakens was pretty terrific. Does it owe a lot, in terms of plot, to episode 4? Sure it does. That actually didn’t bother me too much because after all the franchise itself is an homage to old serials that were themselves very derivative and repetitive. Does treat the old characters with reasonable respect? Yes. Does it introduce new characters that are as engaging as the old characters? Yes, pretty much so. Presumably they’ll more of a chance to develop in sequels with less involvement of the older characters. Maybe the best thing about the movie was that it was slightly darker. My brother commented that the action seemed pretty consistent with the old d6 Star Wars RPG, and I think he’s right about that, so that’s another plus. Overall, a good sci-fi/fantasy film, a really good action film, and one of the better Star Wars films — I’d rank it right up there with episodes 4-6, especially considering that as an adult I know I’ll never experience any movie the way I did the original Star Wars as a child.

Published in: on December 18, 2015 at 9:49 am  Comments (10)  
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Die Geburt Krampuskind

nat-der-kra-2

In just ten days, I believe, we’ll be celebrating the nativity of the Krampuskind. Left to right we see a manger animal (Reaper Miniatures), an angel (Ral Partha), Joseph (Heritage Models), the Krampuskind (Dollar Tree),  Mary and two magi (Metal Magic), and a third magi (Grenadier).

Krampus gloriam in excelsis!

Amen!

Click the image below to embiggen…

nativity der krampuskind

Published in: on December 14, 2015 at 11:15 pm  Comments (3)  
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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.

 

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

 

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