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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Revolutions vs Regimes

Regimes win again!!!


I get to thinking about the Internet/table top RPG intersection somewhat often. It's interesting because in many ways it answers a lot of wishes I had when I was a kid and had time to game all the time - namely, in theory anyway, always being connected to other people and therefore able to 'game' all the time, or whenever you wanted.

When I finally got a stable internet connection a while back and was able to relax into the net and do idle searching and such things, gaming cropped up quick. I was amazed at the creative wealth and vitality, inquiry and general thoughtfulness, etc - the whole bundle. So, naturally, I had to investigate what it was like to play games on the Internet - here was this 'dream come true' technology come true.

Jumped into Alexis' blog game and also a Yahoo group Warhammer game run by Noisms. I started running a game at the Trollbridge, and a (rough and) brief experiment in high level generic D&D-ish play, brief games with Vedron of the potion shoppe, jumped into A long-running game of Snorri's for a minute - tried to use the blog to help write a solo module. So there was the act of gaming, but also it became clear that the web allowed for amazing feats of collaborative work. I feel like an unfrozen caveman in writing that down, it seems like such a no duh thing - but anyway, I was just pretty stunned by the scopes and the scales of possibilities. So I started trying to translate Epées & Sorcellerie from Google english. Got to help compose some the monster tables in the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book, that was fun! Speaking of fun, does anyone remember the rush, the total creative burst, when Snorri dropped Delver of the Unknown on the OD&D board? That was a totally beautiful thing to watch IMO. There's amazing, persistent projects all over the place - the Dragonsfoot project placing encounters on the rest of the D1 underworld map - OSRIC players handbook and Danger Dungeons! - magazines and ezines - the links of wisdom wiki - etc etc etc - again I feel like a caveman...

So, anyway, I think about this stuff and my experience has been mixed (likely the case with most ongoing, consistent elements of one's life). The balance weighs more on the positive side, though I wonder if I got a bad rep from my actions in Alexis' game, or from my initial enthusiasm for a project slowing to an off-putting pace - I wonder if I let my Trollbridge game devolve into tedium for the players, things like that. It is sometimes hard to read people, or be read by people, over the computer, to get a sense of who they are or whatever.

Now I am starting to get back into projects. The other thing about the Internet is the (assumed) persistence of it ('assumed' like assuming the sun will rise tomorrow, assuming that it did today... I suppose the Internet could disappear tomorrow...). The main frustration of gaming by blog/post/email/etc seems to be the pace. So it seems to make sense to play games that are intentionally slowly paced.

While I'm at the total navel-gazing thing, one thing that keeps occurring to me is that I don't buy or read very much by way of products being released. An example is Mythemere's Adventure Design Deskbook. (It was actually Fitz's post that got me thinking about this tonight). It looks like precisely the kind of book I would really get a lot out of, one of my favorite kinds of game aids - but I haven't gotten it. So why? Granted, I'm not in much of a position to buy everything I want to, but that's not expensive, and the fact is that I have picked up old material that I used to have or always wanted to (Jesis! I wanted Monsters Monsters! for 30 years! I had to get it!). I've found that I keep myself away from a lot of the products that have made an impact in the last few years with the internet ol' school gang, and I think the reason is this: my work is already really derivative. Like really - when I write adventure material or setting material or something and look back at it, I see B1. There's the ogre's cave from B2 outside of the "home base" (which reminds me of little more than Hommlet...). So, I'm making this sound like it was an intentional decision on my part, and I don't think that it was. It's a weird dialectic to be really moved by the material being produced and also a little leery of it... ugh.

Anyway - yah. Looks like I need to lighten up!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Number Appearing

On the whole "close to the bones of AD&D" thing - one experiment that has always appealed to me is to treat the number appearing entry of things in the Monster Manual as absolute maximums. This is already the case with the most powerful creatures therein, they are unique. So do this with all of the monsters - since you can encounter 10-100 pilgrims according to their Men entry, that means there are but 100 pilgrims in the whole world. Ah, but wait! There's 5 alignment groups of pilgrims... so there's 500 pilgrims in the whole world! 400 elves & orcs, 4 dragons of each type (I only use green, black, red & white, so there'd be 32 dragons, 1 of each color and age...), 6 barbed devils, etc...

I know! Big deal! Still, this is a setting I would like to play with more. There's 1 lich, 100 sprites, 6 ogre magi... I'll append to this post later the total population list I culled from the MM (it's on a different computer) so I don't lose it.

The only way I'd diverge off the ridiculously strict read with a little Holmesian thing I've never been able to shake - the way that the alignment for many creatures is listed with options (dwarf LG or N, giants & dragons too... must revise my dragon # again... gah!) - more creatures in the Holmes book are listed as being possibly neutral, and I adopt that because I really like neutral! So this could boost the number of demi-humans, unless the differences are within the already established total population (are there 400 LG dwarves AND 400 neutral dwarves, or 200 of each?)...

Anyway - it makes for a small world, or creates the sense of it, because these numbers are smaller, but still not small. They do become more manageable and comprehensible to me though. And interesting points come up all over the place - in the issue of pets & guard animals. Dwarves, elves, goblins, gnolls - several demi-human and humanoid species have animals - stone giants w/cave bears, etc... Given the # Appearing for the cave bear, chances are that these are the only cave bears in the world. Another decision point comes up with the issue of the classed-types that show up with the Men groups - should these then be the only classed beings in the whole world? Should the PCs have to be drawn from this pool of pre-existing classed characters?

It definitely reinforces humanocentric AD&D, men far outnumber any other race. Again, I'll post the numbers in a minute.


1 aerial servant, beholder, demon prince, succubus, arch devil,
ice devil (11 HD), pit fiend devil (13 HD), djinni (7+3 HD),
dragonne (9 HD), efreeti (10 HD), elemental (8, 12, or 16 HD),
gelatinous cube (4 HD), ghost (10 HD), golem, homonculous (2 HD),
hydra (5 to 12 HD) , imp (2+2 HD), invisible stalker (8 HD), lich (11+ HD),
mimic (7 to 10 HD),morkoth (7 HD), neo-otyugh (9 to 12 HD), night hag (8 HD),
nightmare (6+6 HD), pseudo-dragon (2 HD), quasit (3 HD),gynosphinx (8 HD),
sylph (3 HD)
1-2 cave bear (6+6), bulette (9 HD), barbed devil (8 HD), bone devil (9 HD),
megalosaurus dinosaur (12 HD), otyugh (6 to 8 HD), purple worm (15 HD),
rust monster (5 HD), shambling mound (8 to 11 HD), giant constrictor
snake (6+1 HD), titan (17 to 22 HD)
1-3 black bear (3+3 HD), catoblepas (6+3), “typed” demon (8 to 11 HD),
erinyes devil (6+6), horned devil (5+5), gray ooze (3+3), medusa (6 HD),
spirit naga (9 to 10 HD), ochre jelly (6 HD), roper (10 to 12 HD),
giant amphisbaena snake (6 HD), water weird (3+3 HD), will-o-wisp (9 HD),
wind walker (6+3)
1-4 basilisk (6+1 HD), black pudding (10 HD), chimera (9 HD),
ceratosaurus dinosaur (8 HD), dragon (5 to 11 HD), ettin (10 HD),
storm giant (15 HD + 2-7), gorgon (8 HD), jackalwere (4 HD),
giant fire lizard (10 HD), werebear (7+3 HD), manticore (6+3 HD),
mind flayer (8+4 HD), nymph (3 HD), rakshasa (7 HD), giant scorpion (5+5 HD),
sea hag (3 HD), criosphinx (10 HD), hieracosphinx (9 HD), phase spider (5+5),
umber hulk (8+8 HD), vampire (8+3 HD)
2-5 displacer beast (6 HD), giant owl (4 HD), owlbear (5+2 HD),
salamander (7+7 HD), giant poisonous snake (4+2 HD), giant spitting
snake (4+2 HD), unicorn (4+4)
1-6 anhkheg (3-8 HD), axe beak (3 HD), brown bear (5+5 HD), carrion
crawler (3+1), cockatrice (5 HD), dryad (2 HD) , ghast (4 HD),
cloud giant (12 HD + 2-7), green slime (2 HD), jackal (½ HD), giant
subterranean lizard (6 HD), ogre mage (5+2 HD), spectre (7+3 HD),
wyvern (7+7 HD), yeti (4+4 HD)
1-8 fire giant (11 HD + 2-5), frost giant (10 HD + 1-4),
stone giant (9 HD + 1-3), giant minotaur lizard (8 HD), minotaur (6+3 HD),
giant spider (4+4 HD), giant poisonous toad (2 HD)
2-8 carnivorous ape (5 HD), giant boar (7 HD), hell hound (4 to 7 HD),
wereboar (5+2), mummy (6+3 HD), satyr (5 HD), shrieker (3 HD),
winter wolf (6 HD)
1-10 hill giant (8 HD + 1-2)
1-12 wild boar (3+3 HD), huge spider (2+2 HD), giant toad (2+4 HD), troll (6+6)
2-12 griffon (7 HD), harpy (3 HD), giant lizard (3+1 HD), wraith (5+3 HD)
3-12 bombardier beetle (2+2 HD), fire beetle (1+2 HD), doppleganger (4 HD),
dire wolf (3+3 HD), worg wolf (4+4 HD)
2-16 gargoyle (4+4 HD) , hippogriff (3+3 HD), wight (4+3 HD)
4-16 blink dog (4 HD), brownie (½ HD), manes demon (1 HD), wild dog (1+1 HD)
3-18 boring beetle (5 HD), pteranodon (3+3 HD), giant killer frog (1+4 HD),
werewolf (4+3 HD)
1-20 giant eagle (4 HD), leprechaun (½ HD +1), treant (7 to 12 HD), giant wasp (4 HD)
2-20 flightless bird (1 to 3 HD), ogre (4+1 HD), shadow (3+3 HD),
large spider (1+1 HD), wolf (2+2 HD)
5-20 pixie (½ HD)
2-24 giant centipede (¼ HD), ghoul (2 HD)
3-24 zombie (2 HD)
4-24 centaur (4 HD), wererat (3+1 HD)
3-30 skeleton (1 HD), stirge (1+1 HD)
5-30 lemure devil (3 HD)
6-36 bugbear (3+1 HD)
5-40 giant frog (1 to 3 HD)
10-40 larva (1 HD), lizard man (2+1 HD)
5-50 giant rat (½ HD)
10-60 triton (3 HD)
20-80 nixie (½ HD), sahuagin (2+2 HD)
1-100 giant ant (2 HD)
10-100 berserker men ((1+1 HD (d6)), cave men ((2 HD (d6)),
pilgrim men (1 HD (d6)), sprite (1 HD), troglodyte (2 HD)
10-120 tribe men (1 HD (d6))
20-200 elf (1+1 HD), gnoll (2 HD), hobgoblin (1+1 HD), bandit men (1 HD (d6)),
brigand men (1 HD (d6)), merman (1+1 HD),
30-300 nomad men (1 HD (d6)), orc (1 HD)
50-300 merchant men (1 HD (d6))
40-400 dwarf (1 HD), gnome (1 HD), goblin (1-1 HD), kobald (½ HD)

Monday, April 4, 2011

March - Steerpike, Nie the Hever, and Golem XIV

In lieu of gold stars on the fridge, I am awarding myself 3 Dioses, 1 per book read in March.

1. Imaginary Magnitude, Stanislaw Lem - A re-read (it was loaned out for a long time after I first read it), this book is a brilliant and absurd collection of book introductions and sales pitches from the future, building up to a recording of MIT scientists “conversations” with GOLEM XIV, a luminal machine, a tough pill to swallow.

2. Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake - This is the first time I have read it. Wow. I remember that Scott often sung the praises of this and it is really an amazing sustained effort. Paragraphs are scattered though out the book that end finer than anything I’ve ever read. It is an absolutely unique read. Operatic, baroque poetry about the creepy mundane, the doom of responsibility.

3. Maske: Theary, Jack Vance – 1st read, I’ve read enough Vance now to see how almost all of his books are the same. This is not a criticism or a point against in my opinion because I like how all of main characters talk to each other. I also like how there’s hardly ever aliens or monsters in his stories – makes them stand out more when they are present (Dragonmasters, some of Magnus Ridolph… how very few monsters are to be found in the Dying Earth? I can think of a few only, even considering Sandestins seems a stretch - they just as much a-holes as every other character there...)

Sometimes after reading Lem I just can't imagine reading anything else. Golem's like that, the first time I read it I felt shocked. I still don't think I have the right words to express it. The first part of the book is frenetic whimsy, hilarious. I do not want to say anything spoiler-ish about this book, to not color anyone's particular reading of it - it is certainly on the short-list of must-read Lem - so do it!

I took a long time reading Titus Groan. I think I started it in February. Ordered a copy of the second book of the trilogy (! this stuff is dense!), but the book smells horrible. I can't open it and put my nose near it enough to read with out the grossness getting to me. Note to world of book sellers on the Internet at large: if your book stinks like rot, don't sell it to me (or at least tell me in advance. I suppose a stench attendant of Culte des Ghouls might be a selling point).