Friday, February 25, 2011

NTRPGCon - 2011

It's official.  The boy and I are going to the North Texas RPG Convention in June.  Here's a little blurb about it from the website:

"The NTRPG Con focuses on old-school Dungeons & Dragons gaming (OD&D, 1E, 2E, or Basic/Expert) as well as any pre-1999 type of RPG produced by the classic gaming companies of the 70s and 80s (TSR, Chaosium, FGU, FASA, GDW, etc). We also support retro-clone or simulacrum type gaming that copies the old style of RPGs (Swords & Wizardry, Castles & Crusades, and others)."

Guests attending are:

"Erol Otus, Rob Kuntz, Jason Braun, Tim Kask, Dennis Sustare, Steve Winter, Frank Mentzer, Paul Jaquays, Steve Marsh, Jim Ward"

I am quite pumped.  Anyone else round here going?

- Ark

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Robot Holocaust and Hackmaster

I mentioned the Robot Holocaust in an earlier post, so I suppose I should introduce them.  Robot Holocaust - readers, readers - Robot Holocaust.

My son bought a bunch of little animal shaped erasers in those toy machines you find at the front of grocery stores.  I was more interested in the little clear bubbles that held the erasers, than the erasers themselves.  Coming in at an inch wide, they were perfect for my nefarious plan.  A touch of paint later - and I had a myself an army bent on taking over the world.

Regretfully, the campaign that I had intended to use them in fell through and they never got used.  But they are lurking on my craft table - waiting for their chance.

In other news, I picked up the HackMaster GameMaster's Guide at Halfprice Books yesterday.  Why was I not informed of this product?  If D&D is rock and roll, HackMaster is HEAVY METAL.  I did not realize that Gygax's lily could be gilded, but indeed it has.  Quite awesome!

But why, on every page that I turn, and I reminded of Zak of Playing D&D with Porn Stars? Must be Vornheim or something.

- Ark

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DMs Say the Darndest Things

"Sit down here." I patted the chair across from mine, a clipboard and pencil in my lap.

My son eyed me suspiciously and sat down.  I began writing on the clipboard with it tilted away from him.  I had come up with some awesome Middle English based names for my Labyrinth Lord campaign.  I just wanted to run them by my son to make sure they sounded okay.

"Why are you hiding that piece of paper?"

The boy is always to the point.  "I want to see what you think of a some words.  They are names for places that I've made up, and I want to see what you think.  I'll read them out loud."

"Oh. Okay."

"Great.  The first one is Aloftgres."

He tilted his head and made a 'thinking' face.  "Interesting," he said as he taped his lip.

Great.  He's posing and I don't even have a camera out.

"The second one is Duskenfaunt."

"Sound like something you do while on the toilet."

That one took me aback.  Duskenfaunt was a fine name.  A really good name.  What did that even mean - something you do on the toilet?  How dare he insult my word.

"What are you writing on the paper?"  he asked.

"I'm writing what you said."


"Because I care what you think,"  chuckling at myself and my word vanity.

"Oh," he smiled.

"Dweryen Doun."

He thought for a moment.  "Cool."


"Sounds like an insult for lazy people."

I'm not sure how long I kept my mouth open.  "Um, okay.  Yeah, I guess so.  Interesting.  The next is Nyrvylrem"

He laughed.  "Nervilrim . . . it's funny."




"That's weird"



I raised an eyebrow, just like Spock.  Well, just like Spock in my mind.  My eyebrows don't do that willingly.  He wasn't smiling.  It was a complete and utter diss of the word.  Wow.


"Bless you,"

Okay, so he's a smart-ass, just like me.

"Lefdikuss."  The minute the word left my mouth, I realized I had made a horrible, horrible mistake.

"Are there two? Is there a right one?  Left?  Dick?  Left?  Dick?  Huh?  Huh?" he guffawed.

Oh dear god.  I can't believe it.  I even put this up on the blog.  I blame you people.  I had no idea.  You should have warned me.  You saw it.  You knew.  You set me up.  On purpose!

I suddenly realized I was in a Monty Python skit.  After he calmed down, we moved on.




He chuckled.  "That's funny.  Rotten."


"Sounds like an epically failing ham."

"Flumrys Brig."

He smiled, "Sounds like the name of a ship."


"Sounds like a goblin giving a tour.  Or!  Or a tour inside of a filthy goblin!"

I tried to wipe the image of goblin intestines from my mind.  "Kyndrecchen"

"Interesting," he nodded.

There was one last name.  All I can say is, never say this word in front of my son.  Ever.


I mean it.  I have witnesses who will concur.

You have been warned.

- Ark

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm Literate!

After years and years of trying, I'm finally published.  I had to publish it myself, but dang it, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Now there is at least one hard-copy of my stories in existence that I can leave to posterity.  I should go bury it in the backyard in a Ziploc bag for when the Robot Holocaust comes rolling into town.

I'd like to thank my family, the academy, Lulu, and the hundreds of editors who have xeroxed millions of rejection letters just for me.  You can get a free copy here.

- Ark

Monday, February 21, 2011

More Wishes!

Click to embiggen.
Someone mentioned that if you took the AD&D rules and projected them forward as the physics of a world, you'd get one like Dark Sun - controlled by magic-user who run city-states.  I've been wrapping my head around a universe extrapolated from Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion, and I'm not so sure.

Wizards are in a nuclear arms race to attain the wish spell - plain and simple.  Upon reaching 17th level, the only sane thing is to pour all of one's time and money into creating a wish spell.  The next step is to use your new power to hunt down and destroy all other existing copies if the spell - and kill or incapacitate the creators of those spells. 

Of course, containment of the wish spell would be impossible.  Eventually, someone else would figure it out, or some extra-planar being will drop by with the power.  Magicians would have to form alliances to protect themselves, and as the power of opposed alliances grew, a stalemate like the Cold War would occur.  A wizard couldn't remain neutral in this conflict for long.  They'd be forced to choose sides. 

If the stalemate faltered, however, opposing sides would wish each other out of existence in a flash.  Wishes could even be delayed with dead-man switch type technology to obliterate the other side even if the original wisher was wishified.  (Which is kind of wishy-washy.)

So, assuming that the magic-users didn't devastate the planet and themselves, they would operate in Magic Unions formed around an agenda - usually the survival and increased power of the Union and its near immortal founder - the "Wish Master" (ick, probably need a better name for that.)  Operating out in the open would be the last thing they would do as they would want to be seen and detected by rival Unions as little as possible.  They would operate much like a cabal.

I can't see that running countries would be in their interest.  At least, not out in the open.  It would be much safer to pull stings from the dark.  Participating openly in military campaigns would even be iffy.  High powered magicians would spend much of their time in study and research.  I kind of see them as above (or below, if you will,) affairs of state.  They'd also want to have a way to get things done in a non-magical way - thus they would be assassins or ninja or some other stealthy, elite force that does not rely, or emit, magic.

So, it's magical cabals fighting each other in the dark over powers that can rip holes in reality, all the while, pulling secret strings in the mundane governments to futher their knowledge and survival.  Well, at least that is the way I see it.  Of course, it depends on how the rules are tuned.

What do you see?

- Ark

Sunday, February 20, 2011

His Name is a Killing Word

As I zoom down in drawing the map for my (as of yet) unnamed world, I begin to feel the urge to name things so that I start getting a frame of reference.  Naming things is fantasy worlds is one of the more fun things in world building, and also one of the most nerve wracking.  I want cool names. 

I mean, the last thing I want to do is call a city Confluzel and have the players, for the rest of the campaign, call it "Floozy City."

It's really easy to slap two English words together.  WotC seems to have made an art of it.  Wintermist, Stonemarch, Gardbury, Dawnforge, Witchlight, and Ogrefist sit within the the Nentir Vale.  So it's all pretty understandable and pronounceable to your average English speaking person.  However, it lacks some of the foreignness I like in a fantasy world.

A while back, I thought it would be fun to make a world where Common was actually English, and that the culture had been around long enough that many of the place names were a lot older - Middle English, in fact.  That would give the common sounds that would make the words easier to pronounce.  It would also, in theory, pluck at the ancient etymological strings inside the players brains.  WotC like to use this with the word "fell" and "dire" I think -  fell-this, dire-that, fell-tonsils and dire-cabbages.

Making English the Common tongue also explains why any notes I give the PCs would be in English, and why you might have a character named Roger.  I mean, if you look closely at the Middle Earth stuff, Tolkien did the same thing.  Hobbit-speak evolves into English, and is basically a tweak on old or middle English.  Good Old JRR probably explains it all somewhere, I'm sure.

So I've been working on names for some of the older towns and regions is the campaign staring region.  I started with an English name and/or concept, and attempted to translate it (horribly, I'm sure) into Middle English.  Here is a list:

Aloftgres (ME Alofte - on high + Gres - grass)  a town on a elevated plain.
Duskenfaunt (ME Dusken - dark + faunt - infant) town of the dark child.
Dwergyen Doun (ME Dwergh - dwarf + Yen - eyes + Doun - hill) a town near the hill of the dwarf eyes.
Ernslak (ME Ern - eagle + slak - gap between two hills) the town at eagle pass.
Failham (ME Fail - dirt clod + ham - home) a town of sod houses.
Flumrys Brig (ME Flum - river + Rys - branch + Brig - bridge) a town near a river bridge.
Fultum (ME Fultum - help) a town built around a religious sanctuary.
Gobelyntur (ME Gobelyn + Tur - tower) Fortress built to hold back the goblins.
Hethwalle (ME heth - health + Walle - well) a town near a well with curative properties.
Kyndrecchen (ME Kyn - cows + Drecchen - torment) Where the cows were killed.
Lefdikuss (ME Lefdi - lady + Kuss - kiss) The town of the lady's kiss.
Nyrvylrem (ME Nyrvyl - little man + Rem - kinddom) land of the halflings
Pricketholt (Pricket - buck + Holt - wooded hill) a town built on a forest hill known for a male deer.
Rotenslade (ME Roten - Rotten + Slade - valley) the rotten valley.
Senginbergh (ME Sengin - singe + Bergh - hill) a town on a hill known for burning.
Senginerd (ME Sengin - singe + Erd - land) the burning lands (the elven Razing Zone.)
Vathloof (ME Vath - danger + Loof - rudder) The place of smashed rudders.

Now the next step is to say these names out loud in front of my son.  If he busts out laughing, I know that it's probably not a great name.  Hmm.  Maybe that means it is a GREAT name.  I need to think about this.

So how do you name things?

- Ark

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tim Shorts Did Not Rip Me Off

Over the years, I've been leery of PDFs for cash.  Rarely do I feel what I received was worth the money.  Most of the time, I just feel like someone took advantage of me and I need a hot shower and a good scrub down with a thick bristle brush.

Knowledge Illuminates, by Tim Shorts, has broken that mold.  It's a fifteen page, low level adventure culminating in a dungeon crawl.  I'm sure you had that figured out already.  What's nice about it is that it actually makes sense.  All the bits and pieces build into a cool story for the players, and it was an enjoyable read.

There is also a rather heavy, potentially campaign changing idea in here.  I'm talking about the Viz.  No, not the anime distribution company.  It's a . . . thing . . . which does a . . .  thing.  Let's just say it has to do with magic.  I quite like it.  But it has the potential of completely taking a standard D&D type universe and giving one heck of a tweak to the magically inclined.  I don't' know how that would play out in a campaign. 

However, the inclusion of one of Dr. Seuss' most lovable characters as the main villain is very confusing.  Hmm.  Oh.  Not Lorax.  Lorox.  Oooooh.  Um, never mind.  Forget that.  My bad. :)  The big baddy is particularly cool and creepy and - well - just imagining him - the way he is described - might give me nightmares tonight.

The adventure sprinkles all sorts of hooks throughout, and by the time the players are done with the adventure itself, they will not be lacking for things to do.  A lot of things.  A lot of scary things.

This is definitely one I can recommend.

- Ark

Friday, February 18, 2011

And They Say 'Geek'

I was driving my son to school, and suddenly remembered something important from the night before.

"Do you remember Beedo?  He had talked about starting up a blog for his boy when you set yours up?"

"Uh-huh," he nodded, confused that I had switched from the lecture on cleaning the bathroom to blogging all of a sudden.

"Well, his son is posting on his very own blog now.  I emailed you the link last night."

"Oh cool," he smiled.

"They have a game where there are a bunch of kids and a bunch of dads play D&D."

His looked at me, "Can we play with them?"

I took a deep breath, "They are not around here.  They are in Canada or Mongolia or someplace.  I'm not sure where, but not close."

"Oh," he looked down at the floorboard in the car.

"But we could set something up like that.  Are any of the kids in your school interested in fantasy stuff?"

"No, he said, looking out the window, "I say 'Dungeons and Dragons' and they say 'Geek.'

"Is there something wrong with being called a geek?"


I sighed.  "You know, people who use words that they think are an insult to you were not your friends to begin with."

"It's not people that I know really well that say it," he shrugs.

We do the school drop off thing and on my way home, I begin to think about the day before.  My boss was in town with a bunch of other manager and executive types.  A group of us go to lunch and for some reason the topic moves to Star Wars and I express that my favorite Star Wars movie is The Empire Strikes Back

My boss pops up that he preferred the stories when Han and Leia had kids.

Thinking for a second, I cock my head and reply, "You mean the ones with Admiral Thrawn?"

He points at me with a smile and says, "Yeah!"  Then he immediately looks embarrassed and covered his mouth.  "I shouldn't talk about things like that.  People will think I am a geek."

Too late, dude, too late.

I sighed.

- Ark

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kicking it Olde Schoole v3.5

The boy and I had a pretty busy weekend. We went to a micro anime convention at a local library, talked Labyrinth Lord over dinner with a old 4e friend, and attended the kick-off meeting for brand new Old School D&D Group in North Texas.

I've attended - and run - quite a few rpg-centric greet and meet-ups, ranging in focus from D&D 4e, Star Wars Saga Edition, and Shadowrun.  Really, the best formula seems to be shaking hands, reminiscing about the old days for half and hour, than taking out the dice and getting to business.  This new group did not disappoint, as the organizer guessed that to be the proper course of action.

The one thing that I didn't realize is that the organizer considered D&D 3.5 to be old school.

That was . . . okay.  Not what I was hankering for, exactly.  I had never player 3.5, but am willing to give anything a shot.  I took my pre-gen's backstory and ran with it, playing an cleric who had been told by his deity to meet up with the group.  I played up the creepy stalker guy who 'talks to God' aspect.

The boy was bored stiff.  He was playing an elf ranger.  Plink plink plink.

While he has some attention problems in day to day life, a good game usually snaps him into focus.  This was not one of those games.

I too wasn't incredibly impressed. The DM and the 'theory' behind adventure were fine.  But the actual fights took forever.  I once thought that 4e fights could be painfully long.  I had no idea.  And at first level even.

I don't really know all that much about 3.5.  I'm sure that some experts could have banged out the fights in half the time.  But these guys we were playing with seemed to know what they were doing - yet it still took freaking forever - and the time was mostly spent on the mechanical details - not in anything that I consider particularly fun.

3.5 seems to be pretty damn fiddly.  There is all sorts of math and bizarre rules slapped willy nilly on everything you might want to do.  4e is much more cut because of what appears to be a rules consolidation and simplification from 3.5.  0e and 1e is much more clear cut cause THE DM JUST MAKES UP RULES ON THE SPOT AND NO ONE FUSSES ABOUT IT SO THERE.

The DM and players were all nice people and fun to be around.  My new buddy 3.5 - well - I don't know if I'll call him back for a second date.  I'm just not that into him.

That gives me some worries about Pathfinder.  I was thinking about taking a look at it - now I'm wondering if D&D 3.75 will do it for me.  How different is it?

I should probably give 3.5 another try - but - hmmm.  Yeah.

Talking to my son about it, he said he didn't like it much.  I asked him what he thought the biggest problem was.  He told me in no uncertain terms - it didn't have and POWERS.  All he could do was plink plink plink.

Ah.  I'm noticing a pattern here.  Options makes the game.  For my son, at least.

- Ark

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nettle Coral

As I was doing development work on my aquatic 4e campaign Sea of Tears, I started watching the anime series Eureka Seven.  I'm not a fan of giant robot anime, but this series had amazing characters, flying surf boards, great music, a green haired emo girl, and scub coral.  I highly recommend it.

The scub coral in Eureka Seven is part of the big mystery that the series unravels slowly throughout it's 50-odd episodes.  I won't spoil it for you, but my initial ideas of what scub coral was turned out to be dead wrong.  However, I used those initial guesses to fuel a major feature of the Sea of Tears campaign - Nettle Coral.

Nettle coral appears to be a regular form of coral, although a bit more straight and spiky and thorny in appearance - more like bleached brambles.  Its biological niche includes where normal coral lives, but it exists in deeper waters as it does not need sunlight to live.

When the sharp tips of nettle coral come in contact with skin, they delivers a sharp blast of pain and damage similar to a nettle, or other corals, for that matter.  However, nettle coral does something that other corals do not do - they reach out to and touch someone.

"Explosive growth" was how I described it to the wide eyed players.  A foot long nettle coral spike could suddenly grow ten feet long to stab its victim.  The coral commonly grows in large enough batches to take out entire pods of sperm whales.  The stuff was a major shipping hazard, and if a port became infested, it had to be abandoned.

Given the right circumstances, nettle coral grows in huge enough clumps to exit the water and form bone white, thorny islands.  Above water, the nettle coral thorns do not explosively grow, they simply explode, sending showers of randomly sized stinging needles in the direction of any movement or noise.  Pirates and other sea-farers used such island to their advantage.

Eventually the characters discovered that the nettle coral was undead - formed by swarms of zombie coral polyps and the nettle stings were actually the polyps sucking life from them like microscopic vampires.  Had the party a cleric, they could have even turned the stuff, but they didn't have one.  Silly party.

I did a search on Google for the term nettle coral, since I figured that the name was already in use somewhere - perhaps even a real type of coral.  I could only find one reference.  Strangely enough, it was mentioned once in the book Blue Lagoon.  I could not have invented such a bizarre non-sequitur if I tried.

So I offer unto you the humble nettle coral - vampiric and evil zombie polyp swarms.  It's Strahd von Zarovich under a microscope.  Do with it what you will.

- Ark

 (Check out the rest of the Sea of Os'r Project over at the Lands of Ara.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Surts' Island Draft

The weekend was pretty busy, and I swore to myself I wouldn't blog till I had finished up at least a rough draft of my island.  I kept to the letter of the law - but not the intent, when I saw one of Telecanter's found treasures and had to go on and on and on about it.  I swear, he always finds cool stuff.  You know that boy who stuck in a thumb and pulled out a plum?  Yeah, that's Telecanter as a kid.

So I finished the rough draft.  It needs a hacksaw taken to it - and maybe an arc welder - but it's done.  I couldn't keep it down to a page.  Verbal diarrhea I guess. So it's two pages.  With teensy font.  I apologize for your eye strain.

The link is here.  Again, this is on Goolge Docs, which makes pdfs look crappy.  Just click File and save it to your desktop and read it via acrobat.


- Ark

(Check out the rest of the Sea of Os'r Project over at the Lands of Ara.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Your Moment of Zen

"When I get 16 I'm going to get a car and drive to the game store and play Living Forgotten Realms with the RPGA." my ten year old son said suddenly from across the room.

"That's fine with me," I said as I worked on the map at my desk.

"I want to go play," he sighed, "I miss it."

"So do I. We had some good times there.  But you know I can't support the RPGA if they are going to allow those cards in the game."

"But I want to play D&D."

"We will be playing D&D.  Two of the guys from the old group are interested in playing Labyrinth Lord."

He perked up.  "They are?"

I chuckled.  "Yes, the are.  I've told you ten times already."

He looked as if it was the first time he had heard it.  "Oh."

"And you could play yourself, yanno.  You have friends around here.  You could DM a game."

He shrugged and grunted.

"And there is that map you drew and the character I made.  I do want to play with you."

The boy sighed.  "I don't know how to DM.  I'm too young."

I shook my head.  "You know, I was just a little older than you when I started to play  Less than a year older.  Practically your age.  I picked up the D&D book, read it, and started DMing without anyone teaching me how.  There was no one to teach me how.  There was just me and my friend Chris and neither of us knew anything."


I nodded.

"But it's a big book."

I nodded.  "Yes, it's pretty big.  But do you want to know a secret?"

"Yes," he said as if that was an extremely stupid question.

"Have you ever noticed how in fourth edition that everyone expects to follow the rules in the book?  Players even correct the DM and the DM nods and goes along with what the player said, or people will argue about a rule and someone will have to pull out one of those big hardcover books from their bags?  There are so many rules that it takes a whole table of people to try and remember them all."

He looked at me like I was telling him the sky was blue.

"Well, in classic D&D, the DM is the rule book."

He looked at me as if I was telling him that martians made all of the bubblegum in the world in a secret chicken coup in Mumbai.


"The DM is the rulebook.  You have final say on the rules.  Not some book."

"Oh," he said, staring off into the aether.  Then he looked at me. "I'm the rule book?"

I nodded.  Deep in thought, he stood up and wandered off in a daze.

A few minutes later, he came back with a crooked smile and a bag of dice.  "Can I use your book and some paper?"

"Sure thing," I grabbed the Labyrinth Lord book and some paper and a clip board and pencil and handed it to him.  "What do you want the book for?"

"Prickly the hobbit will need retainers, right?"

I tried not to smile.  "Yes."

He sat down across the room and began flipping through pages.  "Would he like short people to adventure with him?  Like a dwarf?"


He stopped at a page, put a sheet of paper on the book and began writing.  Then he started rolling dice and writing again.

"Just remember," I said.  "If the NPCs have all 18s, it makes the PCs feel kind of useless."

"Oh," he said, and began erasing.

I smiled and turned back to the map.

- Ark

Thursday, February 10, 2011


In my file rummaging I found another sea-faring related idea of mine that I had forgotten - the feycutter.  As my Sea of Tears campaign was 4e, it contained the requisite eladrin PCs and NPCs.  For those of you who don't know, an eladrin is like a super-elf, hailing from the Feywild, which is like the super-elf plane oozing with super-fairy dust.  Some eladrin lived in the 'real' world, and basically put their elven cousins to shame on how 'elfy' they were.

A feycutter is a ship of eladrin design, exquisite in form and durable in function.  The feycutter can travel up to 15% faster than a similarly classed ship.  This speed boost comes from having at least two masts - one normal, and one magically enhanced to catch the wind in another dimension - usually the Feywild.

As the feycutter's sails are pushed in two different directions, crew members must have extensive training on how to operate and maneuver these lithe vessels.  The fey-sail's immersion into the Feywild is variable, so the additional thrust can be carefully applied and much less tacking is necessary.

Also, since the feycutter uses 'more' wind than standard vessels, it can always outrun a standard vessel of similar class at a particular time.  Due to the difficulties inherent in construction, a feycutter will cost at least 300 times that of a similar, single-winded craft.

To translate the feycutter into more classical versions of D&D, one could say they were manufactured by elves and are their 'feysail' is actually tapping into the etheric wind.  Note that these are not spelljammer ships.  They float - they don't fly.

Feel free to use the feycutter in your own campaign.  They are particularly effecive when used by jerky, drunk elves who throw beer cans at the PCs, then sail away without any fear of being caught. :)

- Ark

 (Check out the rest of the Sea of Os'r Project over at the Lands of Ara.)

And a Star to Sail Her By

I ran a 4e campaign for almost two years called Sea of Tears.  The idea behind it was that an entire continent had sunk 100 years previously and there were only mountaintops above the waves.  Kind of like a D&D Waterworld, without Kevin Costner.  Ships and boats were very important, and the surviving halfling population, deprived of their forested lowland hills (or their natural habitat per 4e - rivers) had become the masters of the waves.

I found a folder cache of my stuff from the campaign.  I forgot that I had created ship layouts for use with miniatures.  Apparently I was pretty proud of them since I pdfed the thee pages of maps and scrawled name all over.  I submit them to you for your use in wherever a boat or small ship map would be appropriate.  What I did was to print out the maps and glue them to card-stock, then cut them out and had pirate attacks!  Follow the link here. Oh, and they look lousy in Google Docs, so after clicking the link, you'll need to click File and then click Download Original, and then open with that Adobe thingy.

- Ark

 (Check out the rest of the Sea of Os'r Project over at the Lands of Ara.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Living Forgotten Rant

No, this isn't about those cards.  Something has been festering in my gut.  It has to do with mandatory DMing.

I have no idea if mandatory DMing is an official RPGA policy, but it was practiced where I played.  I've seen mention of Living Forgotten Realms being run that way on other blogs, so I assume it's a common practice.  Other gaming groups attempting organized play probably use it too.

Now I have no problem with playing a game under a learning DM.  I have no problem playing with a horrible DM.  Once. (I always have the choice of who I play with.)  But the flip-side of mandatory DMing is mandatory NOT DMing.

You heard me.  Mandatory NOT DMing. 

How it works is this - I check out the games that are scheduled for play.  There is no game with an opening (there needs to be two openings for my son and I.) 

So I say "Hey - there are some other players who want to play, my son wants to play, I want to DM - lets' do this.'

And the organizers say, "No.  You have DMed this month.  You may only DM once every four weeks."

"But," I say, "No one is willing to step up.  No one wants to.  I would LOVE to DM.  Gimme a mod.  I will DM it.  Gimme the back of a cereal box.  I will DM that.  I want to play."

"Sorry," they say, "Someone else has to."

"But, if I don't DM, there will be no game.  I DM - there is a game.  I'm happy, people are happy.  Right?"

"Wrong.  If you DM, then someone else is shirking their responsibility of DMing.  They won't DM, they won't learn how to DM.  They'll just sit there and play and never give anything back to the community."

I then start chewing my leg off rather than explode in a volcano of cuss words that would flambe everyone within 50 miles.

So, because of the mandatory DMing policy, five to seven people don't get to play in the RPGA that day, even though they was space, they had enough players, they had a table, and they had a DM.

On an organizational level, I get it.  They need DMs.  If people don't try DMing, they don't learn and there will be no new DMs.


Yanno, if it was just me - well, I'd say, those are the breaks.  But my son was getting kicked around by this policy.  That is very frustrating.

The only way to be sure to have a spot was to hover over the sign-up sight and wait for a DM and sign up the second a table was posted - whether I knew we had Saturday free or not.

I never could resolve the whole thing satisfactorily in my mind.  It makes sense on paper.  In my gut, it feels all sorts of messed up.  I just don't know.  Since I don't play in the RPGA anymore - it's not really an issue - so I suppose I should just let it go.

There - I got it out of my system.  Grumpy post done.  Now I hope I can have a slew of ungrumpy posts. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Map's Up

Okay, not the island one - the boy's map.  He finally finished tinkering with it and coloring it and the wonderful work of art is up on display here.  It's the land of Flornar in the year 1207.  Apaprently, EVIL is afoot.

For the first itme in 25 years, I've rolled up a character for an RPG that I seriously intend to play.  I'm quite tickled.   Prickly Buckthorn is a gentleman adventurer who owns no shoes, but is proud of that fact.  He's from the Misty Isle of Isniri where, evidently, people disappear in the mist and never return - or so says my son.  

Prickly is kind of concerned about the whole mist thing and has decided to leave his home island as soon as possible.  After all, giant alien bugs could be in the mist.  That would be bad.  But luckily the boy doesn't read Stephen King.

The boy appears to be trying to drum up some players over there on his page.  I might have to help him redirect that energy to the kids in the neighborhood. 

Does anyone know of some low level OSR adventurers that are relatively short and easily digestible by a ten year old boy - adventures his father could just print out and hand him without having to read and spoil the surprise. :)

- Ark

Monday, February 7, 2011

Surts' Isle

Actual photo of the real island.
Sea of O'sr Island Teaser

Surts' Isle is modeled off of the real life island Surtsey off the coast off Iceland, but with some D&D twists. 

The island is not hard to miss.  Smoke continuously bellows from it, visible for miles around in the northern seas.  Merchants avoid the island as much as possible as flaming boulders have been known to fall from the sky nearby.  Pirates, dwarves, and mighty wizards have set sail to Surt's island on purpose.  Few have returned.

Fifty years ago, a cook on a trading vessel reported seeing a tremendous battle in the sky.  An Eftreeti and Djinn, each the size of a mountain, fought tooth and nail in the clouds.  Suddenly, the Djinn grabbed the flaming entity and cast him down into the ocean with such force that only molten rock rebounded from the ocean floor and solidified into a small island.  The cook was the sole survivor of the following tsunami.

Over the decades, the smoldering island has cooled and solidified.  The cook's stories have circulated far and wide, sending many to Surts' Island to seek fortunes.  Returning explorers have spread rumors of new magical alloys, huge rubies the size of watermelons, and the still beating heart of a dead Efreeti deep within a bubbling volcanic cauldron. 

Who would be crazy enough to go there on purpose?

Oh yeah - this is D&D.

- Ark

 (Check out the rest of the Sea of Os'r Project over at the Lands of Ara.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011


It's been quite a month since I decided to get serious about this blog.  Really, I had no idea where what I was doing, and where I was heading. 

I stumbled into the OSR blogosphere when, back in March or so of 2010, WotC posted about about a D&D show over at The Escapist called I Hit It With My Axe.  I loved the show and the fun group of players.  Especially Frankie.  Luckily the guy who ran the show also had a blog. 

Zak's writing on Playing D&D With Porn Stars was never boring and quite insightful.  The titalation factor of the show and blog was just a veneer hiding actual substance.  Imagine that.  And over at the margins, he linked to other gaming blogs. 

Jeff's Gameblog  was always great, and Alexis's mapping work over at The Tao of D&D spurred me to print out some hex paper and start drawing maps again in that time honored fashion.  There were others.  Inspired, I started up this blog.

The big problem was that they were all doing something that I was not - playing some form of earlier D&D.  I was plugging away with 4e.  I had a good group and a good campaign going - but I've never been in love with the system.  Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons is good for what it does - creating exciting and dynamic battles.  But in 30 years of gaming, it's never been the battles I remember.  It is the character interactions.  It is the role-playing.  It is the descriptive voices and the furrowed brows at having to make tough decisions. 

A complicated game of chess didn't inspire me to write a blog at all.  I kept on reading the OSR blogs though.  It never made sense to me why I kept on reading about a game that I didn't play and had no interest in playing.

Early January saw me taking out the old musty AD&D books.  I didn't like handling them.  Something about the dust on them made my fingers itch.  But I just wanted to take a peek.  I started reading about alignment languages in the Player's Handbook.  It got me thinking and having no one to talk to about it, I just kind of wrote myself a note and published it on the blog. 

Strangely enough, a guy named Jayson answered, and we had a little exchange.

My brain exploded.


I've thought about D&D every day since - and have written about it too.  Over the years, I've had countless web sites and blogs.  No subject I'd write about would hold my interest for very long.  And certainly, no one bothered to read them at all.

Now I find myself with the inability to keep quite about a subject - and I'm attached to a community of people who actually will take the time to listen to what I say.  It's a bit overwhelming.  I was in West Texas in my AD&D years.  Only a handful of us knew anything about D&D - and we had to be quiet about it.  Satan was in those dice, you know.

People's responses have been very encouraging. I even got an award from Tim at Gothridge Manor. Talk about an ego boost.

Now it feels like I've been blogging about OSR forever - in a good way.  I'm excited.  I get to introduce my son the the game I enjoyed so much as a kid - and not just a modern glossy version with no soul.  People seem to enjoy hearing about his ride, too.

My mind reals with possibilities.  There is a tiny anime and comic convention coming to our public library next weekend - with some kind of big names there.  I'm thinking of crashing the gates with Labyrinth Lord.  All conventions need RPGs, right?  And there is that Islet Project that  Paul at Quickly, Quietly, Carefully made me get interested in.  Forced me.  At gun point.  I need more hex paper.  Not to mention my own campaign that I'm working on.  I'm getting quite busy.

So you of the OSR blogging community, and you readers too, thanks for helping my find my roots again.  I really feel like I have come back home.

- Ark

Superbowl Quote of the Day

Just uttered by The Boy - "Since the Cowboys ain't playing, I don't give a crap."

- Ark

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Resurrection as a Commodity

I've been digging through Labyrinth Lord with the idea of creating a world - not based on real historical societies - but on the mechanics of D&D.  Fighters are billy bad-asses, and high level magic-users are just frighteningly powerful with that wish spell of theirs.  It's probably even hard to imagine our world if you were from a fantasy universe.  But the clerics have some world-shaking skills of their own.

From first to eighth level, clerics gain the ability to cure disease, neutralize poison, and heal massive tissue damage.  Starting at ninth level, they begin to gain the ability to erase any affliction known, including death.  Sure, a magic-user can reincarnate you into a baboon or a unicorn, but the humble priestess can resurrect you exactly like you were, even if all that remains is a toenail clipping.  In fact, it's easier to bring someone back from the dead than to regrow a toe.

Death is only a speed-bump.  What does that do to a society?  Being not-dead has got to be a hugely desired product - more popular that even smart phones.  We have a problem here on Earth with not enough health care providers or the infrastructure to support it.

Loved ones will rush to the temple with their freshly decapitated loved ones - only to stand in line that would probably reach around the block multiple times.  Vendors would hawk their wares, selling roasted turkey legs and ale to bereaved - if hopeful - relatives of the deceased.  But there would come a point when some people would just have to be turned away.  There wouldn't be enough clerics to handle the load of bringing to life everyone that someone didn't want to die.  Resurrection refusal would lead to riots - and more dead people to resurrect.

Of course, the priest would have to charge for their services in order to meet costs and to find an economic balance.  Even the best of intentioned clerics would be tempted to charge exorbitant amounts of money for resurrections - since they could only do a very small amount per month compared to the actual amount of people who die.  Royalty, merchants, and successful adventurers would have much better access to the priests, of course.

Perhaps some temples would institute a raffle for some of the resurrections they would do to try to be fair.  Others might only resurrect those they deemed worthy - but eventually they might have to determine worthiness by forms filled in triplicate and authorized by local bureaucrats.

Of course, all this might be simplified by the god or goddess of the religion directly authorizing healing or resurrection or particular people - direct divine administrative guidance.  I can see a god getting pretty bored with that job, however, and parceling it out to avatars or angels instead - who would probably give it right back to the priests.  The entire system may eventually devolve into a series of bingo games.

If a PC cleric reaches ninth level, it's in their own best interest to not let anyone know - ever.  Our mighty adventuring priestess is supposed to be building a stronghold - a keep - at this point - not be working the night shift at Our Lady of Perpetual Life Hospital downtown on Washington and 10th Street as an intern.  A ninth level priest is supposed to have on average, 150 soldiers suddenly appear - and I think I know why now.

It's the health care plan.

What this all boils down to in lower level game terms is that when the PCs come out of the the dungeon carrying their dead companion, there probably won't be some hermit priest on the side of the road ready to resurrect them.  If that ninth level hermit priest was loitering in the ditch - a city would suddenly spring up around him overnight.

- Ark

Darmok and Jalad

When I'm creating a campaign world, there are many random, haphazard ways I begin.  The world that I am working on now popped into my head while reading Labyrinth Lord.  Half-baked bits and pieces swirled together until I could see clearly enough to identify a theme.  To hell with a world based in any sort of reality.  Toss my decades of study on ancient civilizations out the window.  Base a world on D&D.  Not on any particular D&D world form TSR or WotC, but take the props, take the mechanics, and craft a world that makes sense. 

So, the world has lots of places for the PCs to go and get experience points, instead of lots of places to go buy mead and torches and doorknobs and palantirs.  I think this is a completely new paradigm I am dealing with here.  For me, at least.  I think some other people may have worked this way for a while.

Enjoy the map.   I'm slowly zooming into what I intend to be the main campaign area.  I've discovered that some guys from my old 4e group are interested in flying in the wayback machine, so I may need to zoom faster.  But what is displayed is a closer view of the Gulf of Labrys Basin.

Click to em . . . make bigger.  You'll notice that I was watching Star Trek while drawing the map - a very dangerous prospect indeed.

Oh, the boy was drawing his own map as I was drawing mine.  We'll get it up on his blog tomorrow probably.  It completely rocks.

- Ark

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Of My Heart Now Baby

First off, I'd like to apologize.  I am deeply sorry for getting a Carly Simon song stuck in everybody's head.  I'd like to rectify the situation by installing some Janice into your ear.  Go on.  Take a listen. I'll be here when you get back.

Don't you feel better now?  Good.

Now I'd like to welcome The Boy, my son, to the world of Blogging.  He has crafted a blog entitled Most Impressive and it is impressive . . . most impressive.  He even mentioned D&D so he's pretty much an OSR Blogger now.  So go on over and say "Hi" if you so desire.  He is currently doing the 'happy dance' upon learning that school will be closed again tomorrow.  The fourth day in a row.  Somebody please save me.

And the picture?  That's an actual photo of him.  Okay, not really.  I drew an avatar for him when Fairly Odd Parents was all the rage. Looks just like him though.  Still.

Oh, and I am so pumped about this Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Episode of Community coming up tonight (whatever the heck Community is.)  Yeah!  Chevy Chase!  And a drow!  Less yeah!

- Ark

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I Bet You Think This Song Is About You

Vanity publishing!  Yes, I have just done it!  I've been slinging around a pile of short stories at poor, unsuspecting publishers for years.  Regretfully, they were on to me and I've never had anything published.  Well, not anymore!

I stitched together the best ones (and a couple of odd poems) and come up with 90 whole pages of content.  If you act now, you can get all of this in a pdf for free.  Okay, if you act in a hundred years, you still can get it all for free in a pdf.  This is really just an excuse to bundle up all my old work so I can start fresh in this new decade.  I really enjoy them, but it's time to go send them to human lands where they can meet a wife and have children.

The cover has absolutely nothing to do with the stories.  You may recognize the little red dude.  Yeah.  He's up there growling too.  Hey - I bought the picture - I'm going to use the picture.

I also made a  hard copy version available.  That's really just so I can print out some copies for the family.  If you really want to buy it - go ahead - but I warn you - I haven't even seen a copy and have no idea if it looks horrific or not.  I did edit and proof the actual contents over the last few years - so that should be halfway decent.  But how the printed bit looks - no idea.

What you get inside:

Table of Contents

The Value of a Second - (sci fi vignette)
Where to Play - (post apocalyptic Beatles story)
Dawn at Olympus - (the gods must be drunk)
Tech Support Mantra - (outsourcing poem)
Don't Cleanse Your Scent Glands for Me - (smelly sci-fi)
Robert E. Howard’s Last Manuscript - (what evil lurks in Cross Plains?)
Drops of Jupiter - (mopey sci-fi)
Bacon Ranch Salad y Happy Meal - (um, not really sci-fi, more geek)
Reflections - (hard sci fi)
Customer Service - (throbbing sci-fi)
The Squirrels - (RUN!)
Beacons of Light - (power suits galore)
Lyman Alpha Blobs - (astrophysics poem)
Sidebar - (what hath man wrought?)
The Transformation of Harvey in the Valley of the Butterfly Spores - (thump thump)
Ode to a Tachikoma - (Ghost in the Shell poetry)

Here is the Link - > The Value of a Second and Other Flights of Fancy

Enjoy!  Or, well, don't enjoy.  Your choice. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fish in the Sea

Today my son asked me when I was going to sign us up for the Living Forgotten Realms games happening this weekend.  I came clean with him.  I told him that with the RPGAs inclusion of Fortune Cards in the LFR campaign, we would no longer be playing.  I could no longer support an organization that ran a role playing game where you could get additional character benefits the more cash you shelled out.

He went to his room and cried.

I hate Hasbro and WotC and the RPGA for forcing that decision on me.  But it is my decision, and I stand by it.

My son eventually calmed down and we had a deeper discussion about rightness and wrongness and fairness and treating people with respect.  There are many more gamers outside the RPGA than inside.  We will find more people to play with.  And there is a nearly endless variety of games to play.

I do realize game designers' families gotta eat.  I do not think this is the right way to go about it.  But it's not my company - and I can walk away.

We are now deciding what do on the weekend.  The Superbowl is here, so there is no point in even trying to drive on that roads Saturday or Sunday, so it's a good time to stay in.  He's thinking about it and will get back with me later. :)

Stay warm.

- Ark