Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Churchill’s Forgotten Laugh Line, AD&D’s Implied Megadungeon, and Rom’s Lost Legacy

Robert E. Lee (Student of the American Civil War) So you think you could command a civil war army? — “After it is all over, as stupid a fellow as I am can see all the mistakes that were made. I notice, however, my mistakes are never told to me until it is too late.”

Game Mastering (Tao of D&D) Auto Pilot — “At the beginning of any given session, my first task is to bring the players up to speed about what was going on before. Players will tend to challenge my memory or notes, so right off there’s often discord to settle. Once we begin, I’m anxious to stir up the player’s emotions, for I want them to re-invest to the level where they were a week, two weeks, or even a month ago. Within minutes I’m driving the game with new descriptions—and these have to be tailored, because different players will hear, or want to hear, different things. I need to stress certain things for certain players. Now I’m asking for responses from them. I need them to speak clearly, and to keep the pace, to answer quickly—too much hesitation, and the game drags. Yet I can’t browbeat them, I must urge them considerately and with empathy. At the same time, I’m fielding questions. They’re coming four a minute or faster, from all around me, on wildly different topics….”

Winston Churchill (The Churchill Centre) U.S. Congress, December 1941 — “They have certainly embarked upon a very considerable undertaking. [Laughter] For after the outrages they have committed upon us at Pearl Harbour, in the Pacific Islands, in the Philippines, in Malaya, and in the Dutch East Indies, they must now know that the stakes for which they have decided to play are mortal.”

RPG Design (Back to the Keep) Professor Tolkien on skill systems — “I want my characters to be competent unless chance or circumstance works against them. I want them to have skill with things there isn’t time to talk about because they are stuck in with a bunch of spiders in Mirkwood and the dwarves are hanging from the tree limbs. I want the excitement of the adventure, not another set of plusses to track on my character sheet.”

The Long Box (Digital Orc) The Value of Old-School — “We interrupt the raging comic argument between the two guys at the register to pay.  I hand over a twenty-dollar bill without even thinking about the prices, but when I finally get my daughter re-secured in her car seat and pull her Spongebob comic out to hand her for the ride home, the receipt flips out on to my lap.  I glance at it in surprise.  My several back issues of Conan and Kull were in very good shape and are full of relatively dense text and excellent art.  The page count is higher than most current comics.  However, I paid less for all of my back issues combined than I did for a single new comic for my daughter.”

Intelligence (Shadow Government) The Seven Impossible Demands Policymakers Place on Intelligence — “One of the dirty little secrets of intelligence analysis is how many products are overclassified and contain information about global events that is just as readily available in open source journalism. Yet while policymakers get frustrated if the intelligence they read only mirrors what they read in the morning newspaper, they also can get suspicious if intelligence products contain assessments that significantly differ from open source reporting, either in topic or viewpoint.”

Dungeon Design (Semper Initiativus Unam) Of Tricks and Traps — “None of which is to say that get-lost traps have no place in the game. Dead end corridors, one of the original suggestions, are a great feature – particularly if a wandering encounter begins chasing the PCs at a good clip. One way doors are also interesting, because they force the PCs to find a different way out without getting into the whole, ‘Hey, you’re lost and your existing map is FUBAR.’ And teleporters are just fun, although I prefer the kind that have to be actively touched – there are several great examples in Stonehell that lead to really interesting scenarios. But on the whole I think that get-lost traps should be used sparingly.”

Wandering Monsters (Telecanter’s Receding Rules) Monster Tactics cont. — “I think one way to address this is to allow for escalating numbers.  In other words, vermin that shadow the party for, say, a whole turn will accumulate more vermin.  Shadow for another turn more vermin gather, until the party leaves the dungeon or does something about the vermin.  Then all the number based behaviors become a ticking time bomb.”

Megadungeons (Dungeon Fantastic) How Mega Is My Dungeon? — “A megadungeon is a fundamentally interconnected underground area. I think if you blow that up too big, and spread out the connections too much, it goes from ‘megadungeon’ to ‘series of dungeons’ (Caves of Chaos) or ‘underground wilderness’ (ala D1-2). Those are cool, and great campaign settings, but once it’s ‘travel for a week to the next encounter’ it’s really just a wilderness game with travel via tunnels.”

Star Wars (Star Wars Blog) From World War to Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon — “Pictured here is the 5 ft. Falcon model, used during the production of Episode IV. The main structure of the ship was made from scratch, but much of the rich detail was added using existing model pieces. On the hull of the Falcon you will find pieces of Panther tanks, Tiger tanks, Messerschmitt 109 fighters, Kubelwagons, and many more.”

Implied Setting (Greyhawk Grognard) Megadungeon-Based Game Mechanics — “There are a number of game mechanics built into the AD&D rules… that directly support the idea that megadungeon play… was the norm for which the game rules were originally designed. These feature huge dungeon environments that are ‘living’ in the sense that the environment is itself changing, even physically, as more levels and side-levels are being added, features and creatures change over time in reaction to the players’ actions and the internal logic of the place, and as a rule it is never possible to ‘finish’ the adventure. Several game mechanics point to this as the original intention of how the game was to be played.”

Dungeon Metaphysics (Dreams in the Lich House) The Dungeon as Estuary — “The dungeon represents an estuary, a confluence of diametric forces – Chaos and Law.  The very deepest sections of the dungeon open upon otherworldly vistas and allow the forces of Chaos to bleed into the world; the surface bathes in sunlight, the ultimate symbol of Law.  The dungeon is a brackish mix of diminishing Law and increasing Chaos the deeper it extends.”

Implied Setting (Dreams of Mythic Fantasy) Cultic Greyhawk Pt. 1 — “In a world where Leveled Characters are so closely married to the gods and supernatural powers, a Fighter as high as 8th level, especially one as well connected as Rufus, would have an idea of where he stood with his god, church and the Greater Supernatural Realm.”

Gaming Theory (The Rhetorical Gamer) Everything Is an Argument — “One of my favorite things about the old school spirit of Adventurer Conqueror King System has been the fact that I feel that same freedom to embrace the play experience and just immerse myself in the conversation of the game.”

Have You No Decency? (Dungeon Magazine) Issue 1, September/October 1986 — “Wandering monsters have been omitted, as the creatures which dwell within the tower and dungeon are, for the most part, charmed or trained to protect an area, or have no choice in their actions by the way their room is designed or by what is protecting their exit. They are also enchanted to resist hunger and have no desire… to leave the dungeons.”

Game Mastering (Atomic Banana Press) Comfort Food: Running the Same Game Twice (or More) — “Coming back to the Haunting after three years with BRP enabled me to continue my practice of minimizing dice rolls, and it seemed to engage the players more, especially toward the beginning of the session, where they most needed the freedom to stretch, you might say. What I found interesting was that the action never really slowed down while the characters were in the house, only when they took breathers to investigate more. This difference in kind, you might call it, is a great way of increasing dread for investigators who must once again venture into the unknown. I find it quite appropriate that even the resting periods serve to amplify the tension of horror games, and look forward to experimenting with the concept more in the future.”

Game Design (3DTotal Games) Understanding and Choice — “Choices need to be partially but not fully comprehensible in order to be meaningful. If you want a player to choose whether to take a ‘flarg’ or a ‘bilge’ with no concept of what these things are they don’t really have a choice, sure one will turn out to be better than the other, but with no more information the player might as well flip a coin…. On the other hand if you ask a player if they want “+1 point” or “+3 points” that’s just as bad (unless your game has some very unusual rules). Anyone would take the greater number of points, again rendering the choice meaningless, it’d have been quicker to have the event just provide three points and not insult your player’s intelligence.”

Writing (Bloomberg Opinion) Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail — “By writing amusing if vulgar notes to my classmates, I was learning to write — not learning to write in a way that would please English teachers, but learning to write in a way that would hold the interest of people who had no reason to read the note, other than the expectation that they would enjoy reading it. That’s much, much closer to writing books than writing insipid research papers to please bored English teachers. The adults in charge thought they knew what was important, but in retrospect they were just completely wrong.”

Railroading (Tenkar’s Tavern) Experience Points, Levels and the Demarcation Line of the OSR — “That ‘story-driven campaign’ crap reminds me of the old Dragonlance series of adventure. No matter what the players did, they always ended the same way. The players were not part of the story, but detritus carried along by the pre-ordained story plot.”

Palladium (A Megaversal Miscellany) It Has Begun… — “I think there is a shortage of blogs devoted to the Palladium products so I wanted to make one.”

Campaign Structure (The Rusty Battleaxe) The Funnel–Sandbox to Conclusion — “What has developed in our group is an unspoken practice of GMing for about 18 months and wrapping up with a clear climactic conclusion. No one has told me to do it as GM, but it is clear that this how the guys who have been in the group the longest do it (intentional or not, I don’t know).”

Adventure Writing (Ten Foot Pole) Dungeon Magazine #25 — “One of the greatest examples in all Christendom of bad room writing is contained herein. It’s not platonic, but pretty damn close. I leave you with it, as an example of the joy you can find herein….”

Spaceknight Lore (Delta’s D&D Hotspot) Super Sunday – How to Keep a Comic Character Dead, For Real — “Rom is so deeply woven into the fabric of the Marvel cosmos that he keeps being referenced as a past epic hero, or even appearing in-book in his human guise, it’s just that no one can refer to him by his name ‘Rom’ anymore. Neither, again, can his old stories be reprinted.”

Ogre image used with artist‘s permission.

4 responses to “Blog Watch: Churchill’s Forgotten Laugh Line, AD&D’s Implied Megadungeon, and Rom’s Lost Legacy

  1. aka.john February 24, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Funny thing about failing, it works. Long, long ago a young boy – that would be myself – wanted to play chess with his father. He remember fondly watching his father and his father’s friends staring intently at the chess board, pipes dangling from their mouths and barely speaking. I had taught myself how to play and now wanted to challenge my father (the smartest man I knew at the time).

    When we first started, early in the summer of my 12th year, we decided to play three matches a night. My father warned me that the best way to learn how to play chess better was to lose. Three or four nights a week we battled on the kitchen table. When we first started he would win all three games. Early on he was apply to apply the Fool’s Mate to me.

    After a few weeks I started to win one of the three games during our evening match. Soon I was grabbing two games a night. I eventually was able to win one night using Scholar’s Mate. By the end of the summer I was regularly winning 2 out of 3 games, and some nights winning all three. What is said about losing to learn to play better was true then and it is still true now.

    I have used that lesson every since it was taught to me long ago. When my in-laws clean my clock playing Boogle a couple of times, I spent months playing a Boogle like game online until when we got the chance to play again, I beat them so badly they have never invited us to play board games with them again (not my goal, but what can I say).

    I’ve used that lesson with my daughter with both sports and games. I know how it feels to lose, and I still don’t like it, but knowing you are going to learn something and come back better the next time is a great comfort when you do lose. She is 12 years old now and I still need to remind her every once in awhile to learn something from a loss and be ready for next time.

  2. Charlie Warren March 1, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Thanks for the mention in Blog Watch; that’s two consecutive appearances!

    I am sure that some of the people out there think it’s kinda crazy to do something of a fan site for Palladium products because of all the rumored cease & desist letters. I am doing my best to ensure that everything is good to go before it gets posted. There are other successful fan sites such as so I am sure that it can be done again.

    My main contributions at the moment are going to be some Dead Reign material along with a few house rules. I have some old Palladium Fantasy material and Heroes Unlimited stuff that I could update if I find it.

    I have had some inquiries about contributing so I hope to see some of these articles soon.

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