Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Vacation

I like my vacations slow, and it gives me a lot of time to just sit back and look at whatever is in front of me.  I developed an entire campaign world just staring at cliffs overlooking a lake.  This time it is the sea.   If the above video doesn't inspire you to assault your players with undead pirates, salt-kraken, eldritch sea dragons, buxom mermaids in the surf, and ancient bubble-cities rising up out of the waves, I don't know what will.  It's all there.  You just aren't squinting hard enough.

- Ark (Somewhere on the Texas coast)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dungeonspiration: The Golden Ass

The Golden Ass is a fantasy novel about a man who is fascinated by magic.  His fascination leads him to attempt to cast a spell without knowing what he is doing - and the rest of the book deals with the humorous and horrifying repercussions.

Oh, did I mention that the novel is one thousand eight hundred and fifty years old?

Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass, is the only Latin novel to have survived to the modern age with all of it's pieces intact.  Echos of its substance and structure are clearly evident in A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Adventures of Pinocchio.  The book inspired works by Franz Kafka and C. S. Lewis.  Some even trace it's picaresque style forward to Jack Vance's Dying Earth series, Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, James H. Schmitz's The Witches of Karres and L. Sprague de Camp's Novarian series.

Most of you probably have heard of it.  A few of you might have even read it.  Why not more?

Well, for one, it's an old ass book (pun not intended.)  People tend to equate old with dusty and boring.  Two, the novel can be Naughty.  Yeah, I capitalized the N.  Such books don't get spoken about in polite society.

What I find fascinating about The Golden Ass is that the novel provides a glimpse into an ancient world that has not been radically transformed by Christianity.  The setting is second century Greece.  Early Christians were living in the area, to be sure, but it would be a century or two before major political and religious shifts would occur.

While what The Golden Ass shows is a fiction, it is based in truth, at least from a cultural perspective.  We see the descendants of the Roman conquerors of Greece living the good life - to excess.  We see the destitute native population living in deplorable conditions.  Strange religions and cults compete for attention and believers.  Slavery in a natural part of the landscape.  Outside of towns, bandits run rampant and there is no apparent source of law.  Even inside of towns, nighttime is as dangerous as a war-zone.  Law and justice seem to be meted out more by angry mobs than by any official enforcement agency.

This world really screams for a band of heroes.  Even the main character is not very heroic at all.  He's just a poor sap swept up in the chaos.

If you are looking to get away from a 'Medieval American' viewpoint, The Golden Ass is a wonderful reference.  It answers so many questions, big and small.  What do the rich and poor think of each other?  How do people view magic?  What do they think of the witch who lives down at the end of the lane?  When is the right time to kill an accused criminal?  Is there really any difference between 'accused' and 'guilty' to a mob?  What do people do for fun?  What do people think about being 'something to do for fun.'  How do bandits live?  Do rural Greek peasants live in multi-storied houses?  What does an old lady keep under her mattress?

And so on, and so on. :)

There are various translation of the Golden Ass on the net.  Most freely available are the musty 18th century type.  I would really recommend going and getting a newer one - the Penguin Classics version, published in 1998 and translated by E. J. Kennedy.  It's a good read.

So go forth and read old shit and get inspired!

- Ark

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Ants

[Carefully I crept onto the New Post section of Blogger without scanning through the Blogroll.  My willpower is unexpectedly strong today. :) ]

I've got these beach beach recliners with pillows built into the head area.  The pillow can be flipped up, revealing a padded hole for your face.  I assume this is to so you don't have to char the side of your head if you fall asleep while tanning.

I didn't have much to do this afternoon, having declared a moratorium on reading blogs.  Its' a strange feeling.  I've been reading blogs almost every day for half a year now.  The Boy was uninterested in discussing the new idea for a Risus game, so I went outside to get some sun.  The Baby Momma nabbed me and slathered me with a experimental concoction to reduce sunburn.  We have bottles and bottles of sunblock, but apparently all of it gives you cancer now - thus the mix of grape-seed oil, baby butt cream, shea butter and aloe that I suddenly found myself wearing.

Lying on the recliner belly first, I stuck my head in the hole.  I noticed immediately that the backyard needed a good mowing.  The second thing I noticed was all the friggin ants.

We used to have a problem with fire ants in North Texas.  The sunabitches could swarm a dog or deer and take them down.  Their bites burnt like hell.  They were an invasive species that pushed out the original big red ants and big black ants that we had when I was a kid.  But another invasive group of ants came in and has driven the fire ants to who knows where.  These dudes are little and black and they don't sting like the fire ants.  Well, they sting, but it doesn't hurt near as bad.

So I'm chilling, watching these little black warriors like a god suspended in the heavens.  They like to go up one side of a blade of grass, hang out on the tippy top long enough to stroke their little antennae, and then down they go via the other side of the grass.  Over and over, from one blade to the next.  I guess they are patrolling their territory.  Occasionally they'll stumble upon another bug - a little spider, a beetle, or a ladybug, and run it off.  I know the ants follow scent trails and communicate to each other a lot by scent.  Watching then got me to thinking.

What if there were a good reason that dungeons were inhabited by monsters.  Perhaps there was a colony-based burrowing creature that took to dungeons because they liked not having to dig so much.  Maybe there were ant-like - but maybe not.  They were underground dwellers, so had no sight.  They didn't have very good hearing either - except for a sense to detect vibrations.  Their main sense was smell, and the entire colony communicated through scents - quite like ants.

So, a party of adventurers goes to loot the tomb of Rootin-Tootin-Ho-Tep and finds it infested with the critters.  The critters have evolved over the eons - or perhaps have been magically enhanced, to have very separate castes.  Some are warriors, others scouts - but some have drifted very far in physical form and act as doors - only opening with the right scent combination.  Others could have evolved into traps - slashing blade traps, crushing traps, pit traps, poky dart traps - all with a basic intelligence behind them.

Perhaps the goal of the adventurers isn't to loot a tomb - but to raid the critters colony and steal something.  Perhaps raw goods that the things collect - or something they produce - like royal jelly or some sort of secreted gem or the very collectable eyes of the queen herself.

You could have an entire world over-run by the critters - and the adventurers are the some of the last survivors of a post-insect-apocolypse.

Well, anyway, my mind can go crazy thinking about such things.  Go sit down in your back yard - or a park somewhere - and stare at some bugs for a while.  I bet they'll inspire you.

[Just a reminder - I'm not reading blogs for a bit - including my own.  If you reply to this post, I'll eventually read it and respond - but not just yet.  Feel free to talk amongst yourselves until then. ;)]

- Ark

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Trees

Apparently I have been reading too many blog posts and comments lately, because I am finding myself angry at odd times of the day for absolutely no good reason. So I declare a BOB ROSS BRAND HAPPY TREE MORATORIUM on reading any blogs. I'm not sure when it will end, but at least until July.

I'll still write a few posts, if I have a brain-gasm, (and the Dungeonspiration series,) but that is about it.  Forgive me if I don't even look at the replies for a while. 


- Ark

PS - If you need to get in touch, you can figure out how, I'm sure.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dead Simple Lock & Trap Mini-game Report

Back in April I posted rules for a Dead Simple Lock & Trap Mini-game.  This was created with help from - oh - just about everybody in the community.  I must say, it's working great.  The Boy is loving it.  Whenever there is a lock or trap, I start shuffling the deck of cards and he runs around the table and stands next to me, making his guesses and wanting to see the cards first hand as I reveal them.

The other players seem to enjoy watching - but I was surprised that one player reported using the mini-game in the rpgs he runs as well.  He said he used it for Pathfinder and it was a hit.  But even more surprising, he started using it in his Shadowrun flavored Savage Worlds games as well, to handle cyber-intrusion.  Seems like it works good for any time you need to create a little more tension than just a flat die-roll, but not take too long.

One little problem I have is that the Boy tends to do a bit better than he should statistically.  Whether he is psychic or not is up in the air, but I'd say that the chance that he is reading his old man's unconscious cues is much more likely. :)

I'm impressed how fun the simple little thing is.  Go ahead - give it a whirl.  It won't bite. 


- Ark

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ode to a Tachikoma

Brave blue spider
Innocent as a child
Watching the sun glow through its fingers
Death bringer
Life saver
Downloading enlightenment
Yet possessing what so many strive for:


- Ark

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pecan Summer

My grandparents lived in Burkett, Texas - a stone's throw away from Cross Plains - the town where Robert E. Howard spent most of his life.  I spent many summers there, tromping through the surrounding wilderness.  Howard lived in Burkett when he was 11, and probably tromped through the same places.  Sometimes when I am relating that to others, I tell people that I grew up playing in Conan's back yard.

The rather lengthy poem below takes place when I was 11, the same age that Howard was when he lived there decades before.  This was mere weeks before I was to return home to Houston and discovered Dungeons and Dragons, and about a year before Conan the Barbarian was to grace the silver screen and provide my introduction to the man who's footsteps I had unknowingly followed.

Pecan Summer

The smell of dusty curtains slowly gives way to bacon
As wisps of back seats and long roads recede into dream land.
The morning is covered in gauze, with no impetus to remove it,
Aside from the growing glow through flowerdy yellow curtains.

A good stretch and grunt and smile are followed by a poke;
A rude reminder of the feathers in the pillow.
Bare feet against bare floorboards to the kitchen,
Where pops and splatters mingle with morning plans.

We dip heavy biscuits into the golden centers of eggs,
Sopping up the gooey goodness and finishing the whites
Using silverware stamped with eagles perched on bent crosses;
The old man's final stab at a long dead evil.

Armored against chiggers with jeans, tube socks, and tennis shoes,
We head out past the pecan trees with hammocks strung between,
And down the white gravel lane with the caw-honking sounds;
Peacocks and peafowls at the Peaflower Ranch & Tax Write-off.

The gravel crunches loudly beneath our feet as we march.
The spaces between houses widening as it gets hotter.
To the left we see the silvery glint of corrugated tin;
The old cotton gin still stands, but is filled with gourds now.

The sides of the road burst into color with an odd mixture;
Deep purple bonnets and the red and yellow stain of paintbrushes,
Which descend on either side as the road lifts upward
To an ancient silver and rust colored truss bridge.

The crunching abates as we walk on its paved surface,
Only one car width wide, but a faded black dashed line down the middle.
Trees crowd in amongst the trusses and create a green canopy,
While the gurgling sounds tell us of the unseen creek below.

We stick our heads out beyond the metal girders and look down
At the pebbles underneath the crystal clear water.
The dangerous move from girder to rebar to branches, then dirt
Would frighten mothers, but is far more fun than the safer path.

The journey upstream is filled with woods and pastures
And the occasional cluster of cow patties by the creek,
Then the land rises as white hills made out of chert push up,
Exposing veins of flint that make us dream of old Indians.

The air gets hotter and hotter until the vibration
Seems to match the buzz saw of the cicadas' wings and both
Sound and heat seem to penetrate into bone
And leave me with the lifelong feeling of the perfect Texas afternoon.

The creek widens and slows abruptly into a swimming hole,
With desiccated gar fish hanging from fishing line
Tied to tree limbs all around the lake, in a vain attempt
By the locals to eradicate the antediluvian creature.

In the middle of the water floats the huge trunk of a tree,
Its branches bare and stunted, but still reaching skyward.
We shuck off clothes and dash into the deep water,
Headed towards the mysterious platform of untold fun.

We grab branches, trying to pull ourselves up on the tree,
Only to be met with a swarm of countless giant red ants,
That emerge from the tree and coat it in a seething layer of
Desperation and anger, hell bent on finding dry land.

Still more hordes of bright red ants spew out as we paddle away,
Hundreds and thousands of the insects launching themselves
Into the water, creating rafts with their bodies for their
Compatriots, a nightmare version of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.

With more fun to be had, we stay away from floating islands of death
And swim and splash to our hearts content, then dry out in the
Texas sun, shake our clothes out for rattlers and cotton mouths,
Then make the long trek back to what some would call civilization.

Downstream is easier, but longer, as we linger to take in
As much fun as we can, and the dog skeleton we find helps.
Crickets take over from the cicadas as the sun creeps down
Beckoning new life that sleeps during the day, out into the cool air.

We pull ourselves up on the bridge while slapping mosquitoes,
But endure the bites a bit longer as the forest comes alive
With the green glowing streaks and blinks of fireflies,
Creating patterns that stay etched in our minds for a lifetime.

- Ark

Friday, June 10, 2011

That'll Do, Pig. That'll Do.

I was in the car with my son, driving to Rosa's Cafe for some Tex-Mex.  I like the beef fajitas, while the boy is a fan huge fan of cheese enchiladas - or as he likes to call them, inch-a-ma-la-kas. 

Suddenly the boy looked at me from the passenger seat and said, 'Can we go to the convention again next year?" 

"Of course," I smiled.  A couple of day's before, we had been knee-deep in the North Texas Role Playing Convention, strutting our nerd-boy gaming selves around a hotel in Irving and wallowing in the old school.

"You know those old guys you liked when you were a kid?" he grinned.  "I liked playing with them." 

I chuckled and changed lanes.  Luck and persistence had allowed us to play with the likes of Frank Mentzer, Jim Ward, Erol Otus and Dennis Sustare - names that were as unto RPG gods to me when I was my son's age.  "Me too."

"And you remember when you were talking to Harley before the game," he said, suddenly looking at is hands.  I got the feeling he was leading the witness.  "And you said that you had played a lot of 4e, but after a while, you decided you didn't like it and you just wanted to go back home?"

With a nod, I wondered what he was getting at.

"I . . ." he fidgeted, "I kind of understand what you meant by 'home' now."

I gulped and kept on driving.

- Ark

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Urutsk

Inspiration can come from unexpected places.  When I first heard of Urutsk, from Timeshadow's blog, my interest was  piqued, but I didn't know what to make of it.  Was is fantasy?  Science Fiction?  Science fantasy?  Scifant Fictastity?  What?

When the Boy and I finally got to play URUTSK: World of Mystery RPG with Timeshadows at NTRPGCON, it was great.  The experience is like what I imagine playing in Middle Earth with J. R. R. Tolkein as DM - only less English - or playing in Tékumel with Professor Barker - with less cinnamon.  Urutsk is an incredibly detailed world, rich in scope and depth.  Everything is new and different and weird and wonderful.  I really got the feeling that I was experiencing a complete world, with it's own fully developed history, ecology, linguistics, and physics.  There is blood magic, there is eugenics, there are crazy critters and shattered space.

As gamers we often sink into the same old comfortable tropes of fantasy or science fiction.  For the last few years, I've been working on creating ultimate plain vanilla D&D worlds.  While it's fun to go back and tromp through those tropes, and introduce them to my son, it bumps into the same problem I had with D&D when I was a kid.  How can you call it fantasy when nothing is fantastic anymore?  Oh, it's another orc.  Oh, I'll roll up and elf.  Oh, yeah, a dragon.

Timeshadows and her Urutsk has inspired me to get out of my self-imposed rut and start investigating the fantastic again, and to breathe life and depth into imaginary worlds.  I want the players eye to bug out - not becasue I just dropped Tiamat into their tea party, but because they can't quite come to grips with the thirty foot tall Giant Flea Herds of the Gombatar Velt.  Or something like that. :)

So go find something weird and wild and out of the ordinary - Urutsk, or something like it - and go get inspired to be fantastic.

- Ark

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not Amused Door is Not Amused

My brain is still fried from a combination of NTRPGCON and a rather mean attempt by my employer to make me work when I'd rather be battling intergalactic space dragons from the planet Wurble. But I did manage to download the DCC Beta and give it a look-over.

I'm still mulling it over, but I like everything I've seen so far. The mechanics look cool - the art is awesome - and the ideas are great. Each little piece seems wonderful. My big concern is how it all fits together.

One of the ideas that seems to freak many people out is how you start the game. Each player makes 2 to 4 ZERO level characters with no skill, talent, or useful equipment whatsoever. Then these poor shmucks are tossed into an abattoir for an intro adventure. Then whatever chunks that get spat out of other end of the slaughterhouse that are still ambulatory get to become professional first level characters.

This horrifies the hell out of some commentators. I think it is glorious. In my head I am imagining it as a fantasy version of the game PARANOIA.

I mean, isn't that was D&D does anyway? It give you a magic user with a, on average, 2.5 hit points, and has a kobold stab at you over and over again with a spear that does, on average, 3.5 hit point of damage and you die at ZERO. DCC RPG is just being honest with that fact and institutionalizing a way to have your slaughter-fest and eat your cake too. Well, at least that is my take.

And there is something very attractive about a game where you could randomly roll up a character with a 3 Strength, a club, and cart full of dead bodies.   Yes - this is indeed a possibility.

In the playtest, I saw the game run and it was awesome, but I also know that Harley is a good enough GM to a make dog turd shine like a diamond. What happens if I try to run it? There are some major departures from standard D&D. Are these good or bad? I just don't know. I must play more to find out. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why I Am Broke

I had intended to regale you with more exploits at NTRPGCON, but I've found that my brain is fractured.  Instead, I offer you the contents of The Boy's and my swag bags:

  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing: Grindhouse Edition
  • Vornheim: The Complete City Kit
  • Sword & Wizardry: Complete Rulebook X2
  • Advanced Fantasy Miniatures - Lord of the Great Plains (NTRPGCON Exclusive)
  • Tourist Traps: A Swords and Wizardry Adventure by Dennis Sustare
  • The Dwarven Glory
  • Two sets of URUTSK: World of Mystery Player's Dice
  • B3: Palace of the Silver Princess
  • C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness
  • I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City
  • I3: Pharoh
  • L1: The Secret of Bone Hill
  • S1: Tomb of Horrors
  • X1: The Isle of Dread
  • X2: Castle Amber
  • Legend of the Five Rings GM's Screen
  • Pathfinder Bonus Bestiary

The Boy does have other things, scattered around the house - dice and doodads and whatnot that I'm sure I'll never see again.  And the last two were raffle prizes, so they didn't make me broke. :)

I'd like to thank Timeshadows, Frog God, and Mythmere (and other people I don't know of yet) who showered The Boy with generous gifts and priceless good times.  We may be broke in cash, but we are certainly rich in warm feelings.

- Ark

Monday, June 6, 2011

Gaming on a Harley - The DCC RPG Experience

Harley Stroh is a modest man who apologized profusely for us having to sit through a playtest of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, instead of getting some 'real' gaming in at the North Texas Role Playing Game Convention.

"Are you kidding?" I said, "Do you know the kind of buzz DCC RPG is getting out there?  Get on with it, man!"

I chose a fourth level pregen Wizard and named him Urlik the Blemished.  The big thing that intrigued me about DCC RPG was the variable nature of spells, in order to emulate 'true' Vancian mechanics - so I had to had to play a wizard.  Had to. 

The Boy picked a Dwarf fighter and, of course, named him Regdar.  One thing I've noticed about my son, he either wants a character who is exceedingly tall, or exceedingly short.  There are no inbetweens with him.  The rest of the party was comprised of another fighter, a cleric, and a thief.

I won't get much into the mechanics of the game, as they are discussed elsewhere - and the beta should be available for download on Wednesday from the Goodman site.  Interesting features include:

  1. A wizard can 'burn' her stats to increase the power of spells and also to invoke the power of her patron,
  2. Thieves appear to be able to burn luck points in order to improve the chance of pulling something off (although I think anyone can burn luck points - it's just more likely that thieves have more,)
  3. And the warrior has a special 'Mighty Deed of Arms,' kind of a carte blance combat maneuver where the player can describe some combat feat of awesomeness and roll a d5 to pull it off.

That reminds me.  ZOCCHI DICE!  DCC RPG uses zocchi dice.  I love those dice and try to invent ways to use them in my Labyrinth Lord campaign.  DCC RPG uses them inherently.  Of course, you can emulate a d5 easily enough - but it's much cooler just to have and roll one.

The set-up for the game was that I, Urlik the Blemished, hired the rest of the party to go and beat up some baddies, basically.  However, Harley took me aside and gave me the skinny on just what was going down.  While it wasn't horribly nefarious, that fact that I refused to give the party specifics of what was going on, and that I played Urlik the Blemished like a very creepy Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, made them very untrusting.

The game culminated in a scene to stop the big bad.  The fight was going poorly and Urlik called upon his patron.  An amazingly lucky roll allowed Urlik the Blemished to suck the souls out of the big bad and the henchmen, gaining their power.  This completely freaked out the other players, who decided to kill poor - and somewhat evil - Urlik. The fighter began to smack Urlik with a grate, to little effect. The thief gained part of Urlik's true name (long story,) and tried to turn his spells back on the wizard.  That didn't work too well, and Urlik charred the thief into dust.  Then the cleric popped off a super-charged banish spell and blew Urlik to kingdom come.

The rest of the day, people came up and asked me why our table was cheering and whooping so loudly near the end of our session.  I had to tell them, "Well, they were cheering so loudly because they killed me."

I've heard some moaning on blogs and forums about the complexity of the spell-casting charts.  Yes, They are more complex than OD&D or AD&D.  They require spell casters to have a copy of the book, or at least a print out of each spell.   If you are wanting dead simple - this isn't it.  But you know, compare DCC spell-casting to the obnoxious spew of powers in 4e, and you still have something incredibly simple - and what that small amount of complexity buys you is an awesome spell system that feels like a book, not video game.

It was an great session and Harley Stroh is an awesome DM.  This is the first new system in quite a while that I've wanted to play.  Let me be clear about this.  I DM.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, I'm the DM.  I look at games as a DM - think about them, analyze them, digest them - as a DM.  But I want to play this.  I want to roll up another wizard, hunt down a  DM, and be a player in a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG game.  I haven't had that strong a feeling for a new system since - oh - 1981, I think it was.

Well done, Goodman dudes, well done.  Thanks, Harley

- Ark

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Get Thee To A Convention

As I sit here, winding down from three days of convention going and getting ready for a fourth, my mind keeps on going back to the huge joy it has been, meeting people like Jim Ward, Tim Kask, Erol Otus, Frank Mentzer, Jeff Dee, Paul Jaquays, and Dennis Sustare.  These were people I knew as a child - I knew them from their words and art and designs.  I knew them, but I never really met them.

With the smiles also comes the sighs that this is my first RPG convention.  I am kicking myself that I never went out to meet Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson or Eric Holmes or Jim Roslof or the many others who contributed to the early days of rpgs and have passed on.

Go to a convention - these smaller conventions especially.  Meet these people.  Meet the other game designers and publishers who are following in their footsteps.  Go meet an ocean of people who love rpgs as much as you do.  It's well worth it.

- Ark

Friday, June 3, 2011


Spent day at NTRPGCON.   RPed with The Boy, Timeshadows, and Cyclopeatron.  Big ass smile stapled to face.  Bought too much merchandise from Finland.   Exhausted.  Must sleep now.

- Ark

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dungeonspiration: Wonders

Earlier this week I was digging through a stack of Renaissance paintings. They were un-inspiring me and making me frustrated and mad. After all, this was to be only my second blog entry for Dungeonspirations. But I had an idea. Screw a period piece. Go with someone I knew could inspire me - Salvador Dali.

After flipping through countless images of melting watches, elephants with mile long legs, burning giraffes, and people with their insides on their outsides, I came upon something non-surreal. It was the Lighthouse at Alexandria. A great painting, but pretty normal. There were others in a similar vein - the Statue of Zeus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Pyramids of Giza. What was up with Dali? Why was he painting normal things?

It hit me and I started laughing. Here I am thinking that the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are ordinary. They were the most fantastic and surreal things that commentators of Ancient Greece had ever seen. In fact, this was a period where tourism was just beginning to take hold in Greece, and the Seven Wonders were kind of a bucket list.

Set your mind back before skyscrapers, before electricity, before cathedrals, before the glories of Rome, and take a look at Dali's Lighthouse. From what I understand, this image is pretty close. It must have wowed those who saw it. Imagine sailing and you see it on the horizon - perhaps just before down with the light flaring brightly. And as your ship approached, it got only bigger and bigger and bigger.

So what are the wonders in your worlds? Where do people dream of going? Do they have bucket lists? What wonder would they travel days upon days just to see? What sorts of architecture are unlocked with magic or high technology?

Are there travel industries devoted to hauling people from one amazing sight to the other? Are there crooks and thieves ready to bilk tourists out of their savings? What about those poor, dirty people on the side of the road, selling little carved statues of the giant obelisk that almost touches the clouds? Does the local Tourist Board try to squash them out of existence?

Imagine Salvador Dali, backed by the purse of a wealthy King, given arcane support by a council of wizards, and the muscle of an army of skilled dwarven craftsmen. Would he chisel a hill into Möbius strip? Would he carve an entire mountain range into a mile high herd of four legged eyeballs? Would he carve the moon into a wedge of Swiss cheese?

I would certainly hope so. :)

Happy dreaming.

- Ark

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Players Pondering Alignment

Tim, one of the players in my Labyrinth Lord campaign wrote me today about alignment.  He came of age in the 2e time frame, so his understanding of alignment can be sometimes different than mine.  He wrote:

I was thinking about the game world, with the razing lands and everything, and how things seem to be divided among chaos and law, rather than good and evil, and it got me thinking.  What would a lawful society with no regard for good vs evil look like?  I mean, I think that Imbroglio (Tim's character) is pretty obviously straight Chaos - or Chaotic Neutral in 2E parlance.  He commits acts of kindness with the same lack of regard as he does acts of . . . questionable morals.  So what would the lawful version of Imbroglio be, writ large to a society?  This got me thinking, and it reminded me of a game that I'm playing on my X-Box, Dragon Age 2 .  In it, there is a race of beings called the Qunari that are as close to an amoral Lawful society that I can think of.  It's actually kind of interesting.  They have a philosophy called the Qun, which basically amounts to institutionalized slavery, but slavery to themselves - the goal of their every action being the betterment of their society.  Over the course of the game, some Qunari come to the human lands and are disgusted by the rampant chaos endemic to human society.  Eventually, their need for order overcomes them and they try and take over the city, which I thought was fascinating - their need for order was so intense that they had to capture the world around it and bend it to their will. 

Tim continues on with interesting quotes and links about the Qunari, which you can go dive into with Google's help if you want. I don't know much about Dragon Age,but the Qunari do seem like an interesting spin on Lawful Neutral.

My idea of Lawful Neutral, on an organizational level, is a mindless machine - like the US Post Office, or the British Civil Service.  It's a soulless machine bent on doing what it was designed to do and following the rules, with no attention paid to whether the results are good or evil, beneficial or destructive.

So are the Qunari Lawful Neutral, or is Tim high on drugs?  What does Lawful Neutral look like in your games?  Are your games more involved with the struggle between good and evil, or law and chaos?

- Ark