Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Only Rebel Can Save Comics

Not sure what it is about this character that gets so many people’s panties in a bunch, but it’s real. Me? I can’t get enough of her. She’s just so danged fun!

And yeah, you can go read the pulps for yourselves and see all the things that could be taken for granted as normal back then that are utterly beyond the capacity of creators today to make. Chief among my favorites would be John Carter of Mars, the Confederate cavalryman whose increased strength at ability to leap prodigiously would provide the template for the rationale of Superman’s abilities.

It does strike be as being more than a bit odd: the number of things that are unthinkable grows every day. Far from the spirit of the “dangerous visions” of seventies science fiction, everything from Gone With the Wind to the Dukes of Hazzard is suddenly supposed to be across the line. This is a world where Apple and Amazon will ban historical wargames that utilize the Confederate flag.

Utterly asinine.

This sort of weird cultural aggression is not just dangerous and creepy. The sort of limitations on expression it embodies is absolute death to creativity and imagination. Sure, people are going to line up to explain that you really shouldn’t go out of your way to violate the demands of today’s commissars of correctness or the “normies” that live in fear of accidentally offending them. I would argue that those days are gone. There simply isn’t a whole lot of space to fall back on at this point. They’ve already called us every bad name they can think of. And far from being the sort that can simply live and let live, they can’t even be appeased.

The fact that something that would have been completely unexceptional forty years ago causes them to literally start shaking isn’t really my problem. But if that’s the way they want it, that’s the way they’re going to get it.

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Appendix N and the Good News of Gaming


You know, this whole journey into the literary antecedents of D&D was motivated more than anything else by a desire to get more enjoyment out of the game. So I can’t tell you how pleased I was to get this feedback the other day:

As someone who read LOTR before encountering DnD, I can’t say I found them to have anything much in common, with the exception of the word “elf” and the concept of “halflings”.

It was only later, approaching DnD as a very different thing and finally, reading Jeffro’s Appendix N, that DnD became something fun rather than frustrating, and then began to make actual sense.

The notion of Clerics or even paladins is completely foreign to Middle Earth, as is the spell caster per-se, and the range of DnD spells in particular. Summoning, planar cosmology, etc, are all at 180 degrees to Middle Earth.

That’s just plain awesome.

And I’m not joking when I say this, but I’ve heard accounts of what people’s D&D sessions were like before they read my book. It’s not pretty, y’all. But the thing is… there are things that people took for granted back in the seventies that are nearly unimaginable today. Fortunately, getting into the head-space of that first wave of designers Dungeon Masters, and referees is not just mind blowing. It’s a lot of fun– not just for you, but for your players, too!

Now… one thing I didn’t see coming as I delved into all of this was that… not everyone would be open to the Good News of Great Gaming. I know, that sounds crazy, but it’s true! One crowd I’ve had a particularly hard time getting along with are the sort of people that are really heavy into old school “hard” style of science fiction. And this is freaky, but… the books on Appendix N represent an oeuvre that this tribe has been at war with for so long and at such a degree of efficiency that most people don’t even know that something happened to rewrite the history of fantasy and science fiction.

Usually I get a lot of guff from this crowd. But very recently, something different happened. Someone that had read not just mass quantities of science fiction by also scads of books from the Appendix N list got confronted by a thesis from my book. This was all recorded, so you can actually hear this guy as he starts to connect the dots on a very big story.

It’s epic. Check it out:

Appendix N: An Amazing and Rewarding Journey

Praise for Appendix N continues to roll in!

This article over at Shop on the Borderlands drops this particularly nice shout-out:

If you look around on the internet, you’ll find plenty of other articles about Appendix N, including plenty of reviews of the (sometimes obscure) works listed. I would particularly recommend Jeffro Johnson’s work, including his excellent book “Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons”. Johnson has a true appreciation for the style of writing typified by Appendix N, and for old school roleplaying.

Meanwhile, I’ve pulled down yet another five star review over at Goodreads with this entry from “DNF with Jack Mack”:

While reading The greatest Modules of All time, I discovered a lefthand D&D path I hadn’t pursued, having been lured away by the Advanced label. This path was mostly Arneson and largely Science-Fantasy. Disappointed by Fourth Ed., I switched to DCC. Goodman’s Game had been inspired by Appendix N, so I followed suit. It’s an amazing and rewarding journey that I am still on.

I had a blast reading Johnson’s book, and I was shocked to discover how much our views are in accord– considering how fussy I usually am. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I’d wager there are less than two thousand living people who have completed this quest, so it’s remarkable that Jeffro would write such a thing. Salud.

Join us: the few, the well read, the Appendix N’s!

Meanwhile gaming legend Ken St. Andre recently dropped this on Twitter:

“I got a copy of Appendix N from @CastaliaHouse in the mail yesterday. Well written and researched–almost too much knowledge there.”

(Okay, that last one especially blows me away. Wow!)

If you haven’t already picked up a copy… now’s the time! It’s not only a survey of a great many lost treasures of fantasy and science fiction, but also details their relationship to some of the most iconic works in tabletop gaming.

Check it out!

Fitness Answers

Okay, I’m thinking I’m starting to get this. But it’s not easy.

There’s basically no one whose job it is to help me figure this out. The chiropractor thinks the spine has all the answers. But not one of them ever thought to tell me that working out could help me hold an adjustment to the point where I don’t need their services so much. At the gym, the physical trainer is quick to say, “I’m not a doctor.” And the doctor…? I’m just glad she had the sense to throw me at a physical therapist. Because some of her direction was just plain wrong.

I write down everything I do. Every type of exercise. Everything that hurts. When it hurts. How it hurts. How long. I get out these papers and start talking and they tune out. Most of these people, they have a lot of patients to serve. The system is to get as many people in and out as quickly as possible. Thinking and listening isn’t so much on the agenda.

So the answers come from comparing notes from people that are genuinely into fitness. The medical type people… they can confirm this sort of common sense stuff… but they never really get the idea that it would be a good thing to convey it to anyone. (Your mileage may vary. And I hope it does.)

So here’s the problem. I go on a fitness kick… end up working my way up to doing five mile run. I do three in a week… but we’re going hiking. In my head, hiking doesn’t count as “real” exercise. So I go on this hike the same day as I do a five mile run. And I find out that rapid elevation changes can make even a four mile hike into a killer. I wipe myself out and end up hurting my knee.

Then after doing some physical therapy a while… I end up run/walking about three miles. (Longer than I expected.) I stretch. I ice it down. I don’t hurt it all… until the next day. Muscles in my leg start spazzing out…!

Then I switch to biking more. (It’s not as hard on my knee.) Again, a lot of what I do doesn’t register in my brain as being “real” exercise. I don’t count my commute as exercise. It’s just “activity” in my head. I bike to the gym, work out, and bike home. Then later that afternoon I do this 20 mile bike ride and my knee ends up complaining for the last six miles of it.

Maybe you already see the problem. Good!

So I ask a trainer how she trains for a marathon. She does 40 minutes on the treadmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Saturdays she runs only one mile. Sundays she does her “big” run… steadily increasing it up until the event.

Here’s another clue: if Vox Day has a big soccer game, he doesn’t do a huge workout the day before.

This sort of planning real athletes take for granted has not been on my agenda at all. And another thing. My approach to fitness is to pick one activity, and then do more and more until I injure myself. All of my assumptions about how to work out are setting me up to find these breaking points. Like… if I was training for a marathon, I’m the sort that would do two in one week. (I know, it doesn’t make any sense. But that’s the gist of my “method”.)

So I know what my limits are– five mile runs and twenty mile bike rides are right about where my reach is right now. The physical trainers have evened out the muscles in my legs. (I’m symmetrical now. Long story.) And I know it’s worth my time to go get some real running shoes from people that know what works.

But my plan now is something more like this:

  • Gym workouts Monday, Wednesday, Friday… but I don’t do leg stuff on Fridays.
  • Four mile bike rides to and from work on week days.
  • The big bike ride on Saturdays. Working up from 12 to 15 to 17 to 20 miles… hopefully with no knee weirdness.

If that goes well, I’ll cool it. Maybe switch to some jogging to make sure I can get back to those one and two mile runs I used to do all the time. Take a break… and then maybe plan out how to hit that 30 mile mark in a completely separate plan.

(The strength training at the gym is what makes going beyond the limits possible. Especially the running can take its toll. Cranking that up arbitrarily doesn’t do anything for my health. I really like running for some reason. But mainly… it’s most useful as a test to prove that I’ve gone beyond wherever I was physically three months ago.)

But yeah, I suppose picking reasonable goals, changing things up, and leveraging your rest periods is just common sense. I’m just glad it only took ten weeks for me to piece this together.

Two Months of Fitness

My favorite trainer was back today after being gone for a few weeks. He could tell right away that I had gone up on the size of dumbbells I using.

Back then I was working through my first case of tennis elbow and was terrified that I would hurt myself somehow. I quickly moved up from the five pound weights to eight pounds. And I would have hung around the tens for a while longer. But if there are a bunch of women in the class, then all the eights and tens get used up. So I moved up to the twelves and have gotten used to them.

I think back to month one and it seems like nothing. I was doing five mile runs then because I didn’t know what was wrong with my knee yet, but gosh it was a real struggle to get into the gym three days a week for forty-five minutes each. I never really got sore, but I was dog tired a lot of the time.

Lately, I’m doing closer to six days a week and between an hour and a half to two hours each time– plus biking to the gym and back on top of that. I suspect I’m at the point where improving my diet will give more results than spending more time at the gym. But I’m much less afraid of getting hurt at the gym now. In fact, due to a chronic knee problem I have always been terrified of the gym. Of course, weights turn out to be a huge part of the cure for that sort of thing, so my instincts were opposite from what I really needed to do for years.

I know exactly how far I can run or bike before hurting myself now. A month of time consuming physical therapy did not work a miracle, unfortunately. I don’t know what to think of that. Surprisingly, I don’t skip leg day anymore. In fact… lifting weights makes my ailing knee feel better.

Gaining a newfound familiarity with your limitations… it can be a real downer. I can’t tell you how bad I wish I could be training for a half marathon right now. But it’s off the table at the moment. And I can’t console myself with insanely long bike rides while I work through this, either. On the plus side I’ve got a pair of biceps that I just didn’t have four weeks ago. And there’s nothing stopping me from hitting the gym as much as I want. But I tell you… there’s nothing like not being able to do something that really makes you want to be able to do it.