Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Gygaxian Jargon, Mutton Chops, Rich Kids, and Evil Universe Atticus

GURPS ( Holy Powers — “GURPS developed a very strong magic system in one its first supplements. Other systems came later, and Fourth Edition has done a great job expanding the options, and systems available. But religious magic has been stuck with the advice from GURPS Religion, which boiled down to ‘use the normal skill-based magic and substitute Clerical Investment for Magery’. GURPS Powers: Divine Favor is a small PDF product that introduces an entire new system based on the precepts in GURPS Powers (which is not needed to use this).”

ACKS (Kickstarter) An Exhibition of Artwork, Part II — “What’s really exciting about this illustration, though, is that it’s the first time an ACKS gnoll has ever been illustrated! A long-standing debate in ACKS is ‘what do gnolls look like’? By Dungeons and Dragons tradition gnolls are gnome/troll crossbreeds; but by D&D tradition, gnolls are also hyena-men. This is quite a conundrum because it’s not evident why gnome/troll hybrids would look like hyenas. This illustration presents the solution that Micheal came up with to accomodate both sentiments.”

History (The Christian Science Monitor) Remains of Confederate general and KKK leader no longer welcome in historic park — “On Tuesday, the Memphis City Council unanimously approved a resolution to move the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from Health Sciences Park.”

Books (mishaburnett) Gingerbread Wolves by Misha Burnett — “Drawing the reader deeper into his universe of gnostic metamathmatical outsider gods and human insignificance – but rejecting Lovecraft’s obsession with depressed moaning about degeneracy – Burnett delivers a fast-paced thriller that doesn’t skimp on consequences.”

Myth (Black Gate) Ancient Worlds: Arachne and Hubris — “In the entryway of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, there was an inscription that read Gnothi Seauton, Know Thyself. This aphorism has been popular with various segments of Western society, particularly in the last century. When we use it, we typically mean it in the context of self-understanding or enlightenment, of introspection or even psychoanalysis. We mean self-knowledge as a deep delving into our own personality, our tastes, our desires, and our goals. Which is slightly funny, because that is not at all what the Greeks had in mind when they carved it on the wall.”

Star Fleet Universe (Hailing Frequencies) Federation Commander Newsletter July 2015 — “Because of the burn-through rules, even a small ship can manage to score some damage against a larger ship, assuming it can get close enough! The trick is to make sure that you hit the target with at least 10 points of damage, and to make a real difference, you should target weapons. Because burn-through damage can be targeted, your one point of internal damage will still have a 50% chance of hitting a weapon on the target ship.”

Yes… and? (Raging Owlbear) Dangerous Journeys – Delving the Design of Gygax – Part 1 — “Gygax’s verbosity and non-standard jargon is a major roadblock to comprehension. He seemed to have a real challenge breaking his ideas into digestible bits and the editor on the project appears to have had little to no influence on the development of the text…. Also his love of random roll charts and math formulas makes what could be a relatively elegant idea into a mess of overly complex mechanics. The game is also full of odd and seemingly random idiosyncrasies.”

D&D (1d30) Everyone is a Cleric — “Not everyone has to get spells – but why not? Give Thieves some low-level illusions, Invisibility, Silence 15′ radius, etc. But give it to them at higher level like Rangers and Paladins do, and lower caster level and spell capacity. That way he defaults to his skills but he can bust out something special for the really difficult parts.”

Movies (Jason Sanford) Tansy Rayner Roberts on Mad Mad: Fury Road — “There are just as many outmoded, broken, severely damaging tropes about men as there are about women across many, many genres of film, literature and art. Let’s burn them all down, and find what new stories grow out of the ashes.”

Game Design (Dungeons & Donuts) Comparing Books: A Red & Pleasant Land is different, doesn’t waste your time — “I am of the opinion that art and art assets are the most important thing in RPG books, even ahead of design. If a game has some aspects of bad design (awkward mechanics, rules that are too complicated, poorly implemented rolling or dice pools, etc) the reader can fix them. Once you buy and read an RPG book, you become a designer. You tweak and add and subtract and houserule to make the game you purchased work for you. You can’t really do that with art.”

Role Playing Games (Something Awful) Heroes Unlimited: Villains Unlimited (1992) — “Heroes Unlimited launched in 1984, introducing the world to Kevin Siembieda’s peculiar form of statistics-based autism masquerading as a game system. The book represented a complex system of character creation tools and basic rules and little else, it wasn’t until Villains Unlimited was released in 1992 that Siembieda and company bothered to create a roster of villains for the game. The villains contained in this volume are derivative, they are dorky and they are often unintentionally hilarious. In short, they are vintage Siembieda.”

Role Playing Games (Google+) S. John Ross — “Expecting the rules to provide a great RPG experience is like expecting the spatula to cook you a great meal.”

D&D (Last Gasp) Arts & Crafts: Morbidly Encumbered edition — “And suddenly they were actually paying attention to what they were carrying and moving things around and watching how close they were to being over-encumbered and I DIDN’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING TO PROMPT IT.”

Comics (Doctor Xaos Comics Madness) How did I get these mutton chops? — “All told, no one can say it was a bad idea for anyone who stood to gain from it, and if the arc of comics-character history is long but bends toward something, well, Wolverine today is it. My observation is that the ‘it’ is many layers of plaster encasing a void.”

D&D (Zak S) Radical Game Critique Isn’t — “And I just thought: what rich kid buys modules? You draw a maze and put cute shit in it, you make up some voices and attach people to them–how hard is that? I know 5 year olds who can do that. They were critiquing a consumption-based culture I’d never seen or cared about–and that none of the people I played with saw or cared about, like basing their ideas about the game off the quality of a buttskin dicebag they’d bought. Sure there was some inane Vietnam vet behind the register at the game store–but he’s as ignorable as the pamphlet-sized pap he was selling. And conventions? Come the fuck on. You buy your dice and run–that DIY is the soul of the game.”

D&D (Tenkar’s Tavern) Player Mapping in OSR Games (Guest Poster) — “Player mapping of a dungeon can facilitate emergent gameplay. By drawing out their explorations they may discover dimensional magics at work, divine the possible location of secret chambers, or solve puzzles based on the very construction of the dungeon rooms and corridors.”

Horror (Charlie’s Diary) Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology Is Indistinguishable From Cthulhu — “In Lovecraft’s universe, the Grand Universal Theory isn’t a mathematical equation that allows us to understand everything – it’s a mathematical equation that lets us understand that, in order to survive, we need to supplicate ourselves to horrible entities whose motivations we are literally not capable of understanding.”

Game Design (PAXsims) AAR from RAND’s Gaming Center Open House — “The art vs. science debate is an old standard in the field. In addition to a discussion of Peter Perla’s concept of games as part of the cycle of research, highlights of the discussion include the analogy of gaming methods to method acting, discussion of ‘the cult of spurious precision’ that falsely seeks precise quantification rather than broader insight, and the importance of good design.”

AD&D (Don’t Split the Party) Thought Experiments in the OSR: 1e without Elves — “What if Elves were not a playable race? And by this I mean; elves are ‘monsters’ (only seen as random encounters in groups as described in the monster manual) that do not mix with humans. They are, effectively, tall, less magical, Brownies. If, if, half-elves exist they are also ‘monsters’ like Cambions or something. How would this impact your game world?”

Books (Cirsova) The Gray Prince, Jack Vance — “Vance cleverly subverts our expectations by making the titular Gray Prince not a hero out to save save the world but an agitating grievance monger masquerading as a populist upon whom political agitators and people concerned with feels can project their various hopes and desires.”

D&D (Zenopus Archives) Yuggoth Resolves — “Dave’s Paladin had incurred the enmity of one of my sorceresses. She held him responsible, with some justification, for the death of her husband and swore unholy revenge. She sought out a particularly dangerous book of magic and successfully summoned the Mi-Go, the Fungi from Yuggoth, some of H.P. Lovecraft’s more hideous interstellar demons. It was a moonlit night. The paladin and his friends were busily engaged in fighting a tribe of gremlins in another part of the forest. The awful Fungi swooped down on the unsuspecting knight, snatched him into the air, and vanished into the night sky before his companions had time to react.”

D&D (Bat in the Attic) Faeries of the Majestic Wilderlands Part 2 — “The Sidhe appear very similar to elves, however they are faeries and not one of the Children Races of Elves and Men. The Sidhe born of positive emotions (love, charity, etc.) are considered to be part of the Seelie Court and are ruled by the King and Queen of Summer. The Sidhe born of negative emotions (hate, greed, anger, etc.) are considered part of the Unseelie Court and are ruled by the King and Queen of Winter. It is a mistake to consider the Seelie as good and the Unseelie as evil. Their motivation is to recreate the emotions that gave them birth regardless of the desire and needs of those they interact.”

D&D (Trollsmyth) What is Interesting? — “I want to return to that ‘inside-out’ thing, though. Monsters that invoke fairy-tale logic are some of the best because they prod the players to interact with the world in non-standard ways.”

Books (Mashable) What if ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is fantasy and ‘Go Set a Watchman’ is reality? — “Things in Watchman aren’t so Manichean. Its Atticus is both vehemently bigoted and a loving father, infuriatingly paternalistic and good-humored, a man who disagrees with his daughter’s viewpoints and is proud of her for ‘hold[ing] her ground for what she thinks is right’ all at once. He’s human in a way that Mockingbird’s Atticus often isn’t — and if Watchman had been refined and edited instead of scrapped in favor of Mockingbird, he may have emerged as an even more fascinating figure than the Atticus we know and love.”

10 responses to “Blog Watch: Gygaxian Jargon, Mutton Chops, Rich Kids, and Evil Universe Atticus

  1. PeterD July 17, 2015 at 8:13 am

    What rich kid buys modules? Geez, did that guy never have parents, aunts, uncles, or friends buy him gaming materials for a present? I bet about half of the stuff I owned back in the day was gifted to me for my birthday or for Christmas. I know all of my early minis and paints were gifts, as was the DMG, the Basic Set, the Expert Set, and some modules I still prize to this day. And yes, I bought some – saving allowance and gifted money and spending it on gaming materials I held and hold dear.

    Sounds like the usual “Why can’t you uncreative jerks just DIY like I did?” line.

    • jeffro July 17, 2015 at 8:24 am

      It’s a mild form of insanity that is key to his contributions to the hobby– ie, providing tools to help people DIY on the fly.

      Seriously, though… when I was a kid, I couldn’t afford the games, much less the supplements. I created everything based on experiences playing one session at the YMCA summer camp. All my friends in elementary school played my ultra-simplified version of D&D. It was awesome. We’d draw dungeons in class and then run them during recess. (The were all single player maze games, but still.) When I got old enough to mow lawns, every penny went to games and modules.

      • PeterD July 17, 2015 at 8:33 am

        Oh sure, and he writes good stuff. It’s tiresome to me to see people who write and sell RPG stuff groan about the consumer culture of purchased RPG stuff, though. He’s not the only one that does that. Personally, I’m happy to be part of that consumer culture AND to DIY. The stuff I sell is the stuff I DIY, and the stuff I buy is my chance to see how other people perceive the games we play. The games of all of the writers and players are just a big Venn diagram and it’s cool to see where we overlap and where I can expand my circle.

        And, also, like I said, my first reaction really was, “I didn’t buy them, I got them for Christmas! Didn’t you?”

  2. Rindis July 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Blink, blink. Thanks for for the call out! I’ve been meaning to do a few reviews beyond the flood of Neverwinter-fueled early Forgotten Realms stuff, and this will help encourage me. (Always nice to know someone other than me is actually reading it.) ~_^

    On the other conversation, I’ll note that I have lots of modules and such because… TSR kept sending my dad review copies for years after the business failed. I would never have seen half of it, or afforded a quarter of it otherwise.

    But, I actually enjoy reading adventures, even if I know I’m not going to run it, so I’m extremely happy to have the collection. It’s a very interesting genre of writing.

    • Cirsova July 17, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      Though i wouldn’t jump on whassisnames’ bandwagon of wanting to celebrate modules as a new form of literature, I also really enjoy reading well written modules even if I’ll never end up running them. The problem is when the market ends up full of modules that are to gaming what John Stump’s ‘Fairie’s Aire and Death Waltz’ are to music (Die, Vecna, Die! springs to mind). On the other hand, I do have a friend who has made a point of trying to work stuff from “Fire on the Velvet Horizon” into his games whenever he can…

      • jeffro July 17, 2015 at 1:40 pm

        It’s just not obvious what to do with a set of rpg core rules. I love seeing people that know what they’re doing show me how it’s done. Especially when they actually play their own stuff. If they don’t actual play or intend to play I just can’t stand it, though.

    • jeffro July 17, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      I didn’t know you were doing reviews. People dig them on Google+, by the way. Your F&E game raised eyebrows as well. Great blog!

      • Rindis July 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm


        I did some RPG reviews ages ago. Got distracted. FR3 sat half-read for about a year and a half with me constantly meaning to get back to it. And, suddenly, the dam burst, and I’ve written a bunch over the last month.

        Now I’m wondering when I’m ever going to get around to polishing off the last two paragraphs or so of my Victoria II review, which has been sitting since March….

        Feel free to comment on any post, new or old. (This goes for the people on Google+ as well. ~_^ Afraid I’m not on there or Facebook.)

    • Cirsova July 20, 2015 at 8:35 am

      It is providence that I found your blog here; Saturday I picked up Bloodstone Pass dirt cheap at a thrift store(!). I probably would’ve passed it up otherwise.

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