Monday, 25 August 2014

Edition whoring; fifth and seventh; and things unseen

So we've lived to see a fifth D&D and a seventh 40K. Who'd have thought it, back in 1974 or '87?

I've been reflecting. The more editions, the more I think the magic, and the truer quality, was in the first, in OD&D and Rogue Trader; and the more I think that after any new thing appears, if we love it, the way to honour what it represents is to carry on truly developing, to push the limits in corresponding ways, not just rework.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Return of the Jedi and/or the Rise of the Galaxy

I'd think that in a leg of western history that looks heavily shaped by and for the internationalist, disaffected and atheist 'nerd' with a moderately idealistic view of nature - I'm generalising and conflating a bit - the Ewoks would be more popular.

After all, they're an ungainly, galactic everyman, underdogs who come good, mastering a tyrannical aggressor with their own tech, even taking the first steps in a new paradigm.

And if not absolutely popular, at least relatively, compared with, say, the Jedi, presented as physiologically favoured, aristocratic alpha warriors not so much seeking progress by intelligence as led by an abstraction to restore a presumably established religious order.

Why this dissonance? Is it just the Jedi having more readily identifiable individuals, or traditional hero figures? Or is it the personally empowering mysticism of the Force, or the Jedi access to not just spiritual but worldly power? Or is it something more subtle..?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

When worlds collide! or share a barycentre for a while

I've not done a funky link set for a bit so here are some recent crossover posts, or more intricate combinations of theme, you might not have seen.

There's a lot more weirdness going on, especially in the upper three blogrolls on the left.

Making bones about Nagash

The 'leak' is here for the new official miniature for Nagash, the necromancer in the Warhammer setting. It looks like a sleek, comfortably variable plastic kit, nipped and tucked neatly using CAD.

The previous one gets a lot of stick and seems widely regarded, online at least, as one of the worst ever Citadel miniatures. There's mention in this thread of the idea the skull was badly sculpted on purpose. If true, not badly enough for me. I've always been quite fond of the model, and I'd argue the skull's the key feature.

So this is an alternative perspective, a reappraisal for posterity, or possibly Midhammer.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

From the Osteolix to the Inner Clumps

Underworld Lore #4 is coming this week, which means the Arcane Dwellings table needed to be done faster than expected, so I did the last nine myself, to be sure there are 30 ready to go.

If you want to add any, like Red Orc did with the Threshold of Eternity on Monday, go right ahead, and Greg can push that many of mine off the list.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Firepower of that magnitude: FFG, GW and licensing

Fantasy Flight's X-Wing has been causing a great disturbance in the FLGS, being unusually accessible with its well-known setting, light rules and prepainted miniatures. And soon there'll be Star Wars: Armada, for battles with capital ships.

Monday, 11 August 2014

At Offalmongers' Folly

I'm going to finish the Arcane Dwellings table at Gorgonmilk entry by entry. This is the first. If you want to jump in, no need even to ask: post here.

Here it is then, weird and maybe a little gross. If it's a mealtime, you might want to stop right now.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Unused, but useable die sizes

If you wanted to out-DCC DCC and recapture the magic and disorientation of early D&D with a new set of die shapes and ranges, what dice are left?

The classics of course are the d4 and d6 - the d2 and d3 included - the d8, d10, d12 and d20, plus the d100. Most are fairly useful, for the spread of factors. DCC uses the d5, d7, d14, d16, d24 and d30, which are still solid. We covered the d1 here.

The d9, d15, d18, d21, d25, d27 and d28 could all be useful, the d18 and d28 most of all, and maybe the d22 and d26 as well, but the rest up to 30 less so: the d11, d13, d17, d23 and d29. The d31 has a certain cracked old school charm, but does it exist? And of course, when rolling with larger ranges, extracting smaller factors can slow the reading.

The shapes would likely play a key role in the decision, given how analogue the hobby has been and is at heart - you might want that d9 and d15, say, for being more distinct.

Does unfamiliarity mean lower practicality from now on, or is there another way to do it?

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Waiting for Ragnarök - Oldhammer to win by default?

It's true. There's a new Space Wolf codex out for 40K, the fourth since the codex cycling began, and all three original characters - Ragnar, Ulrik and power armoured Njal - are still available, over 21 years after they first appeared in White Dwarf.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Fifth edition thoughts - the depriving background?

A quick comment on a piece of fifth edition D&D.

At first I was generally positive about the idea of the so-called 'background' - the personality traits, ideals, bonds and flaws. Now I'm not so sure. It seems more gimmicky as time goes by, more predetermining of narrative as if establishing the characters for the first chapter of a novel, a set narrative, rather than supporting an exploration of another world - and ourselves - wherever it leads; and a shortcut avoiding the need for fuller player engagement, or further restricting player freedom.

Why play to someone else's prewritten background if you can decide one for yourself or start vague, as light as in a DCC funnel, or with a single word or less, and let specifics emerge in play, based on choice and the elaboration of the world in the interaction between players and GM, and characters, factions and landscapes? I'm genuinely curious as to the justification. Surely not just to save more of that increasingly precious time..? If so, I've got a suggestion - do less. None of us have to do everything we're sold.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Pro-millinerial tension

Hats can be big in adventure fiction. Best known of all maybe is that myth made for Indiana Jones.

But how do we know how important they are, or more importantly when they've fallen off? In mass wargames, who cares? In skirmish games many might, and in tactical roleplay it could be critical, not least because there could be things under them. But where's the rule, or rather that option?

And what about wigs, bandannas or weirder, grimdarkling-ish things? The navigators of 40K have a third eye with an effect that in D&D and related games could be save or die: if it slips, we really need to know. They might be the season's must-have accessory - or not - and affect reactions. Here's a simple approach:

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

What's made 40K pay?

My post on aesthetics in 40K, Von's follow-up and Patrick's comparisons produced some solid discussion and several insights. This builds on it.

The success of GW's various games hasn't given it a license to print money, but once the company captured a critical mass of attention* it's quite possible it did gain a set of very powerful tools for keeping the money flowing. Thanks to the responses to certain events over the past few years we've probably all got a better idea of what they might be.

* I'm thinking especially of the UK in the early days and the benefits of importing D&D, opening shops in so many towns and having White Dwarf in newsagents large and small, especially as WD moved towards coverage of GW exclusively, and of course creating one or maybe two major settings and several major systems amid a whole constellation of smaller. It's worth bearing in mind that a tabletop game producer can't sell one key piece of the puzzle - fellow players, who have to be numerous enough to make play worthwhile.

Once the interest was there, and assuming the interested parties had their own income or the income of parents or others to fund it, transfers of cash could well have been regulated by a set of general processes I'm going to call elaboration, recodification and devaluation in the case of three primary, and rotation in the case of a secondary.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Dragons & Dungeons

I wonder how different the world would look today if 'D&D' actually stood for 'Dragons & Dungeons'?

Maybe no different. The typical module might be creature-focused rather than site-based. But the cascading consequences of even that fine change, in minds across the lands and down the years, could have done odd things.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Grimdark?

This particular thread is one of the more useful discussions on the aesthetic trends in 40K that I've seen in a while, going beyond level of detail, phwoar factor and producer ranking. It's at BoLS believe it or not, on a more or less ephemeral post.

One of the arguments corresponds to that idea that D&D is now its own set of reference points, which came up again with the nods to past fiction in fifth edition. A couple more:

Friday, 1 August 2014

Deep thought Friday

Haven't done one of these in a quite a while now.

The background reading includes two posts from today: Trey's review of Guardians of the Galaxy, and the idea certain aspects suggest Farscape, and a post at Realms of Chirak on 'citogenesis', essentially a lack of care in recording knowledge.

What's the connection? Read this article at the IEET site on the idea of intelligence limiting itself.

The question then. Is intelligence an evolutionary dead end and what role does culture play in this?

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Rule of the Jungle and the self-invasive species

This just squeaks in as my contribution to this month's Blog Carnival, hosted this time round at Hereticwerks with the theme Invasive Species.

It's partly inspired by the recent release of sixth seventh edition 40K and rerelease of past fifth editions of D&D, and maybe the latest report from GW, or some of the reaction to it. It's for tabletop gaming in general, so no specific system, a form of propluristemic content. It's an off-the-wall rule or regulation for more fully marketizing the gaming group.

In the wording of the rule, a gamer providing support is a Financier, but this could vary by setting: maybe Lender or Rentier for pseudomediaeval or historical settings, anything from Bloodsucker through Shareholder to Saviour for modern, depending on tone, and for an overblown grimmer and darker setting maybe Splitgripper, Souldealer or God-Enabler.

The Rule of the Jungle

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Digging the Gravelands

Have you seen this? While I was in stasis, Hereticwerks released a first shortform module, GL-1, Taglar's Tomb.

It's a revised and expanded take on a site they posted for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day last year. If you're a regular reader, you know what I think of Hw, and this is as accessibly weird and as dreamily expansive as ever.*

If you play a tabletop game, or like a speculative genre, you can probably do something with the contents. If you play a rules-light roleplaying game, like D&D or a game inspired by it, like S&W, you can probably do even more.

Even for wargaming, and not just for Oldhammer. For an unusual scenario, the tomb could be set in a hill in the centre of the field, with a scaled up version of the map on a side table and troops entering moving between. The objective would be to get in, hold the line while the diggers go to work and get out with more goods. Assign a tolerance to the surrounding slopes and walls, agree a rule for collapse and let the madness commence.

The trek with the guide could also work as a rolling road, with one side deploying hidden.

It's PWYW so you can get it for free and if you like it go back to pay what you think it's worth. They've also got a page of extra material, developing some of its vaguer elements.

As ever, check out their blog too, and Bujilli especially - he's got a big decision to make.
* As says André Breton via their sidebar: "Objects seen in dreams should be manufactured and put on sale."

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Weapon patterns, marks and mods, and the squearoll

This has been on the list a while. It was sparked off by a discussion on weapons in 40K at an old Outside the Box, but could work for all kinds of games using dice to resolve success and failure.

The starting point was the fact 40K is nearly 27 years old now, in which time a lot of the core weapons have been sculpted in various forms. Compare the original lasgun for the Imperial Guard - or Army as it was - and the Squats, cult etc. to more recent versions. In the real world, reflected in historical and modern wargaming, various modifications and variants also exist, and the same could well be true for other more fantastical settings.

Think about all the possible forms that slings, bows, crossbows etc. can or could take, let alone the range of melee weapons. This is true also for many if not all technologies in conventional science fiction, science fantasy and fantasy, possibly even innate abilities.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Near future wor*fare

When mum came back from the war her skin was on inside out and she was crapping through a hatch in her belly button. That was nothing. Last time she'd coughed her lungs up and if not for the nanopills we'd have needed to stuff them back in ourselves. Like we did with aunt Claire's. Hanging down her front like a forked bib they were. *Yeugh.*

We did laugh though.

But this time it was the baddies came off worse. She had a vid to play us and it was a case of your tote destruxor. She took out two bungalows and the playground beside the old folks home, and Mrs Moggins vaped the brick flats on Mill Street. They pulled everyone back when the 'topes came in.

'Topes? No snopes. We never opened the windows anyway these days, what with the smell from next door. All just piled up out there they were. Good neighbours. Plain bad luck...