Showing posts from July, 2017

Historical Gaming without Magic or Alternative History

If I see a game based on the Old West it's a pretty safe bet that the Confederacy is still alive and kicking. Similarly, there have been games set in the Roman Empire that have vampires and or beasties of the Cthulhu Mythos.

What I'm writing about is the tendency of historic RPGs to take place in an alternate past, usually with some fantastic elements. It's not a universal tendency - for example, TSR had both Boot Hill and Gangbusters, covering the Old West and the Prohibition-era. But I'm pretty sure that's a minority. And to be fair, there's not a lot of games set in the modern age that don't bend reality pretty hard - typically with a heavy dose of the supernatural or of superpowers.

I get the inclination to play with history and add the magic - setting a game in a historical era can feel a bit overwhelming and changing the past gives a lot more leeway for historical inaccuracy - "what do you mean you're upset that Perceval is listed as becomin…

A Woman as the Doctor

With Jodie Whittaker announced as the Doctor there have been a variety of reactions. This isn't too surprising - pretty much every new Doctor announcement has been met with reactions ranging from "this is the perfect Doctor" to "Doctor Who is ruined".

Unsurprisingly, the fact that a woman has been cast as the Doctor for the first time in the 50+ years of the show has a higher percentage of "Doctor Who is ruined" folks out there. It's definitely a big change in casting. I recall Usenet discussions in the 1990s about a hypothetical woman Doctor - and it should be noted there were people who questioned whether there could even be a non-white Doctor. Similarly, as the cast of Star Trek: Voyager was announced, some people went a little nuts at idea of a black Vulcan - Tuvok, as played by Tim Russ. It's worth noting that for me, Russ was one of the bright spots on what I saw as a fairly mediocre show. (I also greatly like Kate Mulgrew as an actress…

OSR Innovations

One thing I've enjoyed in the OSR is how it's allowed fresh looks at the games many people first picked up in the 1970s and 1980s, taking those games in directions that were, at best, rarely explored in their original era.

Probably the innovation I've enjoyed the most is the emergence of products to support sandbox play. It's one thing to advise a GM to let the players wander the "map" freely. However, that isn't always all that easy in practice. Enter a number of products designed to support free ranging players. Companies like Sine Nomine Publishing, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Autarch, and many others have all released products designed to give a GM tools for such adventures. Now that I think of it, this has even entered more "modern" style games. For example, The One Ring and Adventures in Middle Earth both have tools for wilderness adventure that have that old school hex crawl feel to them.

Old school D&D style games have also …

Film Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Peter Parker is a high school sophomore in Queens. He's also Spider-Man and has just returned from a trip to Germany, recruited by Tony Stark/Iron Man to help in a superhero conflict against Captain America and his Avengers faction, as seen in Captain America: Civil War. [Note I'll try to steer clear of spoilers in this review but I'll of course have to say something about the plot to do a review...]

This dichotomy, between the big and the little, is at the heart of Homecoming. Peter wants to be an Avenger. However, Tony Stark keeps him at arm's length. One gets the sense that Tony is perhaps rethinking the wisdom of having brought a kid into the super-powered big leagues.

While waiting in vain for "the call" Spider-Man is keeping his friendly neighborhood safe. He stops bicycle thieves and carjackers. But he soon discovers some ATM thieves packing some superscience hardware.

In parallel to Spider-Man's street level tale we have that of Adrian Toomes/the…

Mapping the Dungeon

It's been a long time since I've made a dungeon map for D&D or similar games. I suspect my copy of Campaign Cartographer was rather sleepy when it got taken for a spin for a dungeon map.

I love maps - which in gaming can be a blessing and a curse. I was the kid who tried his hand at making his own track maps of the New York City subway (and making suggestions to my grandfather as to places we should go based on that).

So I like maps as entities unto themselves as well as serving as tools - whether in real life or in gaming. In the living room I'm writing this I can see hanging on the walls a 1970's New York City subway map and a map of Colonial-era New York City. When I was a teenager there was a map of the World of Greyhawk hanging up on my wall.

That said... my own artistic ability is crap. I've seen some absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn maps that absolutely fill me with envy. I've even supported some cartographers via Patreon. Over the past few years I…

Adventuring in the Partially Abandoned City of Khromarium

During the Roman Empire, the city of Rome reached a peak population of around a million people. However during the Middle Ages its population dropped to the tens of thousands of people. One source I've seen says 20,000, another 50,000 - in any case, a monumental decline). The Coliseum at one point served as a landfill.

I've been thinking about this as I prep for a campaign in Hyperborea. There, the largest city is Khromarium, with a population of around 30,000. However, a reading of the Referee's Manual for AS&SH shows how much Khromarium has fallen from its peak. Depopulated twice - once upon the advent of the Ashen Worm, with Khromarium buried under ice. The second time, in more recent history, in the aftermath of the Green Death.

Having once been the capital of the Hyperborean Kingdom - for "untold millennia" I picture it also having once had a population in excess of a million. Reduced to 30,000, that is perhaps 3% of its former glory. Page 208 of the Re…

Colonial Gothic July 2017 Bundle of Holding

I don't think I've ever pitched a Bundle of Holding before but I'd encourage people to check out the Colonial Gothic Bundle of Holding, valid for the next 15 or so days. Richard Iorio II, owner of Rogue Games, is donating 100% of his proceeds, to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Richard lost three friends in succession to suicide in 2015. Having dealt with mental health issues and a daughter dealing with depression and suicidal ideation it is a cause quite dear to my heart.

Colonial Gothic is a great reference for gaming in Colonial America in the period of and around the American Revolution (with expansions covering other periods). Even if the rules don't grab you it provides a massive amount of information and inspiration for gaming in the period. The rules and supplements cover Native American and colonist characters, French North America, British North America, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, etc. And of course there's a supp…

Reviewing Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea in Preparation for a Campaign

It's been a while since I've done an old school D&D style campaign. I'm in the process of prepping it, aiming to kick it off some time later this month (or early in the next).

We'll be using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. AS&SH is awfully close to 1st edition AD&D, at least mechanically. However, there's a number of key differences I'm keeping in mind:

The game is closely linked to the Hyperborean setting. This is strongly inspired by Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean stories (no real surprise there), with some good does of Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, and Fritz Leiber (among others). It wouldn't be impossible to pull from the setting, but the setting is a great old school setting, one which on its own is very flexible and easily fine-tuneable by the GM.All the characters are human, though there are different human ethnicities or races.Like the Holmes edition of D&D, there are five, not three or nine alignments. T…