Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Forbidden Knowledge, the Letter of the Law, Owl Bear Variants, and Formulaic Genre Writing

Appendix N (Howard Andrew Jones) The Coming of Conan Re-Read: “The Tower of the Elephant” — “The cosmic stranger’s plight is the strongest condemnation of civilization in the story, going right back to that theme that was there from the start. The vile man who has tortured the creature for its secrets is not described as a magician or sorcerer, but a priest — in the fact the High Priest of the city, a man whom the ruler of Zamora fears and obeys. A barbarian thief might cut your throat, but he won’t enslave and torture you for centuries to get at forbidden knowledge.”

D&D (Don’t Split the Party) A Little Love for AD&D 2e — “Maybe it’s best feature is you can have two characters that are the same race, same class, same level, even the exact same stats, and yet have them be very different in abilities and roles because of the use of non-weapon proficiencies and kits.”

Game Mastering (Cirsova) The Dolphin and the Deep, Thomas Burnett Swann — “Some DMs will fret if players are familiar with certain exotic monsters and their abilities and worry that somehow this outside player knowledge will somehow ruin the encounter. The opposite is true. Outside player knowledge of monsters is similar to these adventurers’ knowledge of the Phoenix, the Harpies or the Pygmies: even though they haven’t experienced these things first-hand, they are well aware of them. Just like in Swann’s stories, D&D takes place in a world where all the myths may be true. Your character may not have seen this or that monster before, but there’s a decent chance they may have heard of it. And knowing about it doesn’t make the wonder of seeing it any less. In fact, it may increase it!”

D&D (Tunnels & Trolls) A World of Your Own – Devising a style of play in T&T by Ken St Andre  — “Unlike Mr Gygax, who seems to feel that if you aren’t playing by the letter of the law in AD&D, then you really aren’t playing AD&D, I feel that T&T is your game and you can make it into whatever you want.”

D&D (Big Ball of No Fun) Why 5E is the Last Edition of D&D — “D&D has nowhere to go now as a system. Throughout the various editions D&D has slowly changed with the times. The first edition and the various iterations of that gave us the core concepts of role-playing games and what D&D is…including the concepts of variability and additive systems that can be attached to the core system. Future editions gave us further enhancements and refined ways of doing things. 2E gave us a more streamlined system and near its end more sub-systems. 3E took the concept of additional material/systems to the max. 4E added in system balance. D&D has been ever evolving and showing us new things with each edition.”

Game Mastering (The Rhetorical Gamer) The Simple Pleasures — “It’s a lot of work. It’s not really necessary. And as I read what I wrote up there, it sounds a little too self-congratulatory for my tastes. But here’s the thing. I don’t do all these things just to make game run smoother or to make life easier for my players. Those are by-products of the process. I do this because it’s fun for me.”

Books (mishaburnett) Clutching For The Mantle Of Hephaestus — “Science Fiction used to be the literature of big ideas, and the Hugos used to be reserved for works that made you think, that filled the reader with a sense of wonder at the possibilities. I’m not getting that from traditionally published science fiction any more.”

Journalism (The Guardian) Get real. Terry Pratchett is not a literary genius — “I have never read a single one of his books and I never plan to. Life’s too short.”

RPGs (Lawful Indifferent) I AM ME, I AM MATT — “My body is still flabby but soon I’ll be the model of strength and power that will allow me to perform my dungeonmastery to its highest level.”

D&D5 (Dungeons & Donuts) Out of the Abyss Review — “What makes this egregious is that Out of the Abyss has a bunch of great ideas, setups, and game-ready things to do, but they’re buried under paragraphs and paragraphs of text.”

Journalism (Christopher Priest) You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You, Mister Jones? — “Unsurprisingly, the online comments on this pathetic piece of ignorant journalism have swarmed in (at the time of writing, just under one thousand), and for once almost all of them agree with each other. I will be surprised and disappointed if Mr Jones retains his job with the Guardian, at least in the capacity of an arts correspondent. I have rarely seen a letter of resignation so overtly and shamelessly revealing as this.”

Comics (Dr. Xaos Comics Madness) It was already happening — “Kirby and Ditko weren’t seeing painted vans and funky rock posters in 1966 – the people who’d soon be doing those vans and posters were reading these guys. Not even fantasy and SF had broken it open yet; the future Bodhisattvas and apocalyptic runeswords were at best contemporary and most would come later – again, by people who had nursed at the teats of the Negative Zone and dialogues with Eternity in cheap newsprint.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) Discovering Robert E. Howard: Rob Roehm – Tragic Things — “Mr. Price, the most tragic things have come to me: 2 bros., 3 sisters all dead, one sister was burned to death, one bro. killed, his body mangled beyond description by a railroad train. My wife died after a terrible lingering sickness, my only child going at the same time, leaving me alone of my father’s family”

D&D (The Geometry of Madness) Monster – Owl Bears — “In one of my more successful ventures, though, I ignored ogres and trolls and in every adventure there was an Owlbear instead. After a time, it became the campaign schtick, and I developed variants on the Owlbear to the amusement and dismay of my players. I present a small selection of the more successful strains of this glorious beast (as originally developed for a B/X campaign) for your delectation.”

Traveller (Searching for Magic) Classic Traveller: Playing for the First Time! — “What I love about Traveller is the scope of it. The universe is a vast sandbox of worlds where anything can be happening! The rules of space travel make communication a matter of going to a place with the news as cargo with weeks of time spent travelling in hyper/jump space. This means worlds can be lost. Wars are slow and devastating. Opportunities abound for the people who have managed to be at the right place at the right time.”

Appendix N (Tunnels & Trolls) Demon Issue Interview with Ken St. Andre in 1986 — “Yes, when I was a kid of 13 or so I discovered a library that had some of the old Tarzan books in it. I think what got me started on fantasy forever was reading Tarzan and the Ant Men. In the next year or so I discovered cheap copies of some of the Tarzan books published by Grosset and Dunlap for only $1.50 each. Every penny I earned went towards buying these books. At the same time I was already into comics, the more fantastic the better, and had quite a good Tarzan collection. A couple of years later in high school I discovered Conan in some of the Gnome press editions, and after reading those, I was hooked on fantasy forever. Today I have a huge collection of fantasy/adventure books, and I very much doubt that you could name any major fantasy hero that I haven’t read or collected.”

Books (Cirsova) Binary Star No. 1: Destiny Times Three, by Fritz Leiber and Riding the Torch, by Norman Spinrad — “You’d better believe that if these guys weren’t busy organizing a transdimensional invasion they’d be flagging stuff on Onebookshelf. The Servants also reflect the cultists who stole the Probability Engine in the first place; they’ve done all of these things because they see themselves as benevolent god-like beings who are doing what they do with the best interests of humanity at heart. The worst tyrants are those who justify their tyranny as being for the people’s own good.”

Books (The SF Site) A Conversation With Jim Butcher — “I fought my writing teacher tooth and nail for the longest time, flatly rejecting a lot of very good advice she was giving me. When I finally got tired of arguing with her and decided to write a novel as if I was some kind of formulaic, genre writing drone, just to prove to her how awful it would be, I wrote the first book of the Dresden Files.”

Books (Monster Hunter Nation) Back from DragonCon — “Speaking of Jim Butcher, total geek cred nerd moment for me, I was told about this later by people who’d been in the audience. Butcher was on a panel and they were asked the question, other than your stuff name one thing that you would really like to see made into a movie or a TV show, and Butcher said Monster Hunter International… Oh, hell yeah.”

Appendix N (Black Gate) Out of the Mouth of Madness — “Derleth loved H. P. Lovecraft’s works and singlehandedly set about preserving them through his Arkham House imprint. He took Lovecraft’s burgeoning Mythos and continued to shape it and mold it in His Own Image, but doing so helped ensure the original’s longevity.”

Appendix N (Dr. Xaos Comics Madness) A dangerous vision — “Time to hurt you again: Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke weren’t a triumvirate of gods. They were merely the authors whose old work could be easily re-issued and whose new work could be beefed into mainstream promotion – mainly because it was politically and culturally ‘questioning’ without being confrontational. Go ahead and point to two or three good stories from each, and I’ll nod; that doesn’t change anything. 2001: A Space Odyssey pretty much sucks. And yes, Dune too, and Herbert as a writer in general: beta at best, and usually considerably lesser. Once you read Leiber, calling these three/four the ‘greats of science fiction’ is merely laughable.”

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7 responses to “Blog Watch: Forbidden Knowledge, the Letter of the Law, Owl Bear Variants, and Formulaic Genre Writing

  1. Cirsova September 11, 2015 at 10:01 am

    I think the Guardian has gotten trolling for profit down to an art: they post an obviously trolly opinion piece, on some writer or game, and a counter article saying why the trolly piece is wrong. The troll piece drives outrage traffic, and the folks who are outraged in the comments can find their own opinions and outrage validated ON THE SAME WEBSITE that had outraged them in the first place. Genius!

    • jeffro September 11, 2015 at 10:05 am

      That type of Journalist only pretends to be serious when they’re using an unrelated article as a means to plug the career of somebody like Junot Díaz. The stuff they write is never actually about the thing itself.

    • BobtheCertifiedIdiot September 12, 2015 at 12:42 am

      The Guardian is fit only for lining slit trenches. (Health and safety guidelines prevent its use as toilet paper or bird cage lining.)

      I think there will definitely be future editions of Dungeons and Dragons. Twenty or thirty years from now, the property owners will not have the same impression of the market they do now. I imagine the market, should it exist at all, would be open to a new edition by then.

      • jeffro September 12, 2015 at 10:58 am

        Evolution is precisely the wrong analogy to invoke when describing the succession of editions.

      • BobtheCertifiedIdiot September 12, 2015 at 8:35 pm

        Never is a long time.

        Right now, I’m mainly interested in free retroclones that are close to original D&D, ACKS, and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy.

        Tastes differ. Sooner or later you get a bunch differing in one direction or another and have a fad. If I could predict the fashions of youth ten or twenty years down the line, I would probably be using that to make money. If the market for tabletop games is to stay healthy, it probably needs anchoring by a major product with widespread appeal, and accessibility to newcomers.

        It’d be surprising if the status quo actually turned out to be the end of history and perfection.

      • Cirsova September 13, 2015 at 12:17 am

        When I think of “evolution” in gaming, I think of obnoxius dice with a prime number of sides; the d7 is a flipper-baby with a vesigal arm that has no bones in it. That’s really the only thing so far I don’t like about DCC.

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