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Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Infernal Stories, Sweetened Fat, Fey Alignment, and Left-wing Zealots

Appendix N (Castalia House) The Pink vs. Blue in 1930s Weird Tales — “Will Robert E. Howard ever cease writing his infernal stories of ‘red battles’ and ‘fierce warfare’? I am becoming weary of his continuous butchery and slaughter. After I finish reading one of his gory stories I feel as if I am soaked with blood.”

RPGs (Necropraxis) Defeating gods — “Given that no god is now safe from direct assault, many deities also scheme against each other, seeking to become sole claimants to ideal offices. In this way, for example, Zeus may seek to defeat and incorporate reality principles currently presided over by Thor, since they both claim the endless principle of Thunder. Gods of opposed concepts, such as darkness and light, also are often at odds.”

Game Mastering (Dice and Discourse) GURPS Misconceptions: Rules required — “In other games systems when a situation comes up where there isn’t a rule to cover it, the GM rules on the fly using his or her best judgment. But GURPS has rules for just about everything. Because of this, people think that when a situation comes up that those rules cover, then those rules must be used. But the fact is, there is no reason why a GURPS GM can’t just rule off the cuff.”

Appendix N (d-Infinity) H.P. Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep: The Dreams in the Witch House and A.D.A.M. — “One serious problem the story contains, however, is it’s seemingly random namedrop of Nyarlathotep onto a figure more deliberately Satanic than Nyarlathotep’s previous appearances. Here, Nyarlathotep is distinctly a demonic figure, asking for sacrifices (of a child, no less!) and making bargains for massive power at great personal cost. He even has cloven feet, completing the illusion.”

Books (Foundation for Economic Education) Amazon Liberates Readers — “The readability of many best sellers is much like the edibility of junk food. Agribusiness and the food packagers sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we come to think that’s what food is. Amazon uses the BS Machine to sell us sweetened fat to live on, so we begin to think that’s what literature is.”

Comics (Doctor Xaos Comics Madness) Today I am a man — “I think the issue was the drive to establish them as licensed images, to commoditize them, or for meme-creation to use the modern term. Once the first cartoon, the newspaper strip, and Slurpee cups are in place, well, going somewhere with Spider-Man creates a conflict of interest.”

Appendix N (Cirsova) Short Reviews – Flashing Swords! #4: Barbarians and Black Magicians — “We also get a little bit on Fey alignment here. Merfolk are not of the mortal world (though these are half-human), and therefore are regarded as not having souls. So, why are Fey ‘non-lawful’? Well, they don’t have souls, therefore they cannot swear oaths upon them. Unable to swear by God, the Saints or their soul, they cannot be trusted to be bound by strictures of man’s laws, natch.”

Game Design (Violent Resolution) And the rockets’ red glare — “Direct damage spells using the standard GURPS Magic rules, which treat spells as learnable skills powered by fatigue points, are relatively weak compared to their high-fantasy ancestors. While supplements such as the ever-expanding Dungeon Fantasy line can up-gun this a bit, the fall-off of damage with distance means that even a 6d fireball (which in GURPS is basically a contact-only spell) turned into an explosive fireball will mostly be a point or so of damage past about two yards.”

Science Fiction (The Guardian) Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world — “Every fantasy reflects the place and time that produced it. If The Lord of the Rings is about the rise of fascism and the trauma of the second world war, and Game of Thrones, with its cynical realpolitik and cast of precarious, entrepreneurial characters is a fairytale of neoliberalism, then Dune is the paradigmatic fantasy of the Age of Aquarius. Its concerns – environmental stress, human potential, altered states of consciousness and the developing countries’ revolution against imperialism – are blended together into an era-defining vision of personal and cosmic transformation.”

Games (Black Gate) Adventures In Cards: Munchkin! — “A gentle word of warning for anyone considering taking the Munchkin plunge, which is a lot like the Polar Bear Plunge but not as wet, the game was clearly designed by counter-culture, left-wing zealots out to pollute your children’s minds. Consider the frequent drug references. In tonight’s game, the first two cards played were the Stoned Golem and (I kid you not) the Snails On Speed. After my fourteen-year-old casually noted that the golem appears to be holding a large blue bong, I asked him what he thought his school D.A.R.E. officer would think of this game – or of a happy family playing it. Both my boys burst out laughing, and more or less refused to answer the question.”

Geek Life (Just the Caffeine Talking) Accidental Prophets and Texas Sharpshooters (Part 4 of 4) — “Just in my lifetime I’ve seen being ‘nerdy’ go from being a badge of ostracism to being a badge of defiant outsiderdom to being a form of insider. We’ve reached the point now where there have been some minor twitterstorms over who is a ‘real’ nerd and who is just a poseur. Let me tell you, when I was a nerd back in 1982 there were no poseurs trying to get in with my and my friends by pretending to be interested in Dungeons & Dragons or Tron.”

RPGs (Lesser Gnome) This is for Jim Ward — “Is that the game where you are on a lost spaceship? My grandfather and I used to play that all the time when I was a little girl. Where did you get the shirt?”

Tabletop Games (Shut Up and Sit Down) Volko Ruhnke’s Modern Wargames — “There are major advantages to physical games over digital, not only in exploring but especially in conveying political themes. Returning to the concept of game as communication of a model. I am transported in playing a game because I can operate the model myself, as if I were in that role in real life. I can take command of Caesar’s legions and subdue the Gauls.”

RPGs (RPGPundit) How You can get the Dark Albion Hardcovers Even Cheaper! And, What You can do With a Dark Albion Campaign! — “In Albion, all the fantasy stuff tends to be out on the periphery. So these adventures involved the PCs going to some lonely places in the countryside (The forest of Dean, the Welsh Hills, the Reiver Lands in the north, Sherwood, Scots Land, Transylvania, etc. etc.), and either resolving supernatural dangers for locals (usually based on actual folk tales of the area) or investigating ruins – these are never generic D&D-style dungeons, they always make sense in the Albion context: so you have abandoned manors and castles, or Barrow-Mounds, or Cairns, Mine complexes, Arcadian ruins, temples or catacombs, or ancient Elven sites.”

Game Mastering (Dungeon Fantastic) Reading Tables, Not Rolling on Them — “I rarely roll on these tables. I have, on occasion, when I’m really stuck for either meaningless detail I could potentially turn into something meaningful or when I’m just bored. But it is rare for me to do that. Not only that, but when I do roll if I don’t like the result I won’t use it. I asked the universe a question, as they say, but disregard the answer. I’m the master of my made-up universe, and the dice are just advice. I need to hear from them to know what I’m actually thinking deep down inside. They get a free hand in combat but not in campaign generation.”

2 responses to “Blog Watch: Infernal Stories, Sweetened Fat, Fey Alignment, and Left-wing Zealots

  1. Cirsova July 10, 2015 at 8:30 am

    I can’t help but think that LeGuin is just butthurt that her books don’t sell as well as they used to. I don’t know when the cut-off date is, but at some point, she stopped writing interesting F&SF and started writing incredibly ponderous thought pieces in her F&SF settings where nothing happens. I’d’ve much rather the Telling have been about a lesbian from Vancouver riding around on a giant flying cat fighting with space barbarians or alien invaders than about a lesbian from Vancouver spending hundreds of pages taking anthropological notes and meditating on the structures of oral tradition as folk religion. I tried to tell myself as a kid that Tehanu was just an interesting change of pace to look at a ‘life after heroic fantasy’, but apparently somewhere along the way LeGuin decided she’d rather write contemplative feminist introspection instead of adventure. And now that I’ve discovered Leigh Brackett, even my childhood favorites of LeGuin’s seem kind of ‘meh’ by comparison.

    The thing about a lot of these Appendix N authors that you’re right on the money about is that outside of people talking about them in the context of Appendix N and gaming, almost no one is talking about them. And with books, it’s not like with music, where you might have heard a few songs by a band off some album here or there even if they’re not on the radio; in most cases, it’s just a name. And in keeping a casual eye out, you don’t really see that name on the shelves of common places and you end up forgetting about it and you stop keeping an eye out. And you realize you have NO IDEA what these writers were like anyway. But when you do get your hands on some, it’s like hearing Dark Side of the Moon for the first time. You’re completely blown away. Some old fogies will be all “oh, yeah, I had that back in the day, it’s pretty alright, but there’s a lot of new stuff that’s even better”, and you’re just like “Fuck you, I’m hearing Dark Side of the Moon for the first time! What about everyone else who hasn’t heard this yet!?” Only in this case, Dark Side of the Moon hasn’t been repressed dozens of times with millions of copies and you can only find it at Flea Markets & Antique Stores with that one cool booth out of the dozens of people selling doilies, wicker furniture and Dale Earnhardt commemorative plates.

    • jeffro July 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

      In the space of one generation, half a century of great science fiction and fantasy went from being ubiquitous to being practically unknown. I still haven’t wrapped my head around that!

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