Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Blog Watch: Stormbringer, Admitted Gamers, Amazonian Nudists, and Offensive Depictions of Mental Illness

If you’re not crazy, you can do that thing with your eyes.

Journalism (Wired) The Media Still Owes Dungeons & Dragons an Apology — “The dangerous reputation of Dungeons & Dragons hasn’t faded entirely, and television preachers still sometimes rail against the game. Ironically, the bad press only made D&D more popular with rebellious teens, causing sales to quadruple in the year after the controversy broke.”

Awesomeness (Dorkland!) Talking Stormbringer — “As often as not in the early days of gaming, I think that Ken St. Andre and Steve Perrin accidentally created a game that was so much better than the one that they intended to create. For example, Stormbringer characters were much more ‘heroic’ than early edition D&D characters, without being the ‘super-heroes’ that a lot of old school gamers disdain. I like a ‘heroic’ character much more than I like the zero-to-hero approach. I want to play Conan or Elric. I don’t want to play the guy who is going to be Conan or Elric.”

Appendix N (Logic is my Virgin Sacrifice to Reality) Appendix E: Appendix N, Alive and Expanded — “Several of the new authors are admitted gamers, including Mieville, Martin, Saladin Ahmed, and Patrick Rothfuss (man I still can’t believe I didn’t mention him in the original); I don’t know if Glen Cook and Gene Wolfe were gamers but they write like it. Leaving Mervyn Peake, Ursula LeGuin, and Clark Ashton Smith off the original list always felt a crime, like it betrayed the limits of the creators’ libraries. Prattchet is a nice touch. And there’s a bit more diversity there, with more than three woman—Leigh Brackett, Margaret St. Clair, and Andre Norton are joined by Margaret Weis, LeGuin, Elizabeth Bear, and Patricia McKillip.”

D&D (Greyhawk Grognard) Review: Empire of Imagination — “What we have is not a biography of Gary Gygax, but only the first half of one. Everything past 1987 or so is mentioned almost as an afterthought, covering thirty years in thirty pages. Suddenly Gygax has a second wife, of whom we have not previously heard. His later work with other companies such as Troll Lord Games is given but a single sentence, and no word is given at all to his rapprochement with the publishers of D&D (by that time Wizards of the Coast) and his renewed series of articles in Dragon magazine.”

Science Fiction (John C. Wright) Drake Equations and ‘It Ain’t Gunna Happen’ Science Fiction — “Space colonization not only is possible, but Venus is occupied by bathing beauties who need Earthmen to fend off the vicious space-dinosaurs, and Mars is occupied by Amazonian nudists who lounge about the dead sea bottoms and in the jeweled, deserted, antique cities, yearning for Earthman love. For some reason, these advanced alien societies all prefer to use swords rather than firearms.”

Traveller (Ancient Faith in the Far Future) Mercy Ships for the TAS — “Mercy ships will be most commonly encountered in systems with lower populations, lower tech levels, and poorer starports (D, E, & X); as these systems will have less access to quality medical care. Any solar system will have its outposts and settlements on moons, planets or planetoids away from the mainworld, where life is rougher, and help may be far away. On the standard CT Starship Encounter Table, the referee can substitute a mercy ship for any listed encounter, or add a W for mercy ship wherever a dash appears on the table.”

Books (SuperversiveSF) Is This The Golden Age of Publishing? — “Wringing royalties from a publisher is a legendarily Sisyphean task. Most of the major ebook retailers pay either monthly or quarterly, and the results are usually neatly totaled in an Excel spreadsheet. Compared to the cryptic twice-yearly (if that!) royalty statements from a traditional publisher, the monthly sales spreadsheets of most ebook retailers are models of crystalline clarity.”

D&D (Zenopus Archives) Part 52: “No End to the Rats” — “Holmes gives chances for independently encountering a rat or treasure as the tunnels are traversed. A 50% chance of a rat every 100 feet, and the same chance for 5 gold pieces ‘or a piece of jewelry’ every 200 feet. Notably, the jewelry is deleted from the published rulebook. This is a big change, as a piece of jewelry is worth 300-1800 gp (3d6 x 100 gp; the average value is 1050 gp) in these rules. Once again Gygax/TSR has reduced the amount of treasure Holmes placed in the dungeon”

Madness (Go Make Me a Sandwich) Wednesday Freebie: An interview with the creators of Lovecraftesque — “I guess just about everybody has either struggled with mental illness themselves or knows people who have. Lovecraftian stories are replete with simplistic, offensive depictions of mental illness, which much of the time boils down to portraying characters that have simply ‘gone mad’, an idea which doesn’t bear any relation to actual human psychology. But of course, the idea that the horrors of the mythos have a baleful effect on the human mind is a pretty core theme in Lovecraftian tales – you can’t completely abandon that and stay true to those stories.”

D&D (Searching For Magic) Starting my new 5e D&D campaign… — “I’m excited about this hybrid setting! All this material blends well and gives me a lot to work with before we add the influence of the players who may change things as they go knocking bout the world and looking for trouble and making assumptions about how things work. There’s no better source for material than the paranoid musings of the players after all.”

Traveller (That Boy’s Just Not Right) Confessions of an Andre Norton Fan — “I have never played or ran a session or campaign that was anything like a novel. Not that that is bad it is just that analogy should never be used. RPGs are much more like real life a chaotic mess of half baked ideas and bad decisions that are irritating and utterly fascinating.”

Reading (Mad Genius Club) In Defense of Fiction — “Reading fiction is not like watching TV because it engages the brain far more. You aren’t just watching a story play out, you’re painting the story in your head as it does. You’re exercising your brain just as much reading fiction as non-fiction, because you’re using the same reading skills. So reading fiction, which you would probably prefer to non-fiction since it’s actually fun, builds the skills and brain power you use in the real world, like for reading that non-fiction stuff when it’s required.”

10 responses to “Blog Watch: Stormbringer, Admitted Gamers, Amazonian Nudists, and Offensive Depictions of Mental Illness

  1. ronaldchrismata October 28, 2015 at 9:57 am

    The zero to hero approach is entirely underrated.

    • jeffro October 28, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Judging by the sheer number of hours that have been spent by people gaming under that paradigm, it really must have something going for it. Not only does it have an incredibly low barrier for entry and not only does it break the learning curve down into more manageable chunks, and not only does it, but it feels freaking awesome to finally make it to second level after spending weeks scouting for opportunities and losing player characters in bizarre ways.

      Gygax formalized an approach to gaming that is reflected in successful video-games such as Starcraft.

  2. Zenopus Archives October 28, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for the plug. That reminds me I need to get the next installment underway. Almost finished.

  3. Sky October 28, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    I like zero to hero personally. I remember playing 4th edition a while back and reaching 3rd level and thinking, man, let’s get this guy a stronghold and start a new game. As a dumb kid playing the red box we never even got that far before death, atari, or football in the park interrupted the campaign. We really stank. Its fine, no one had the next set anyway. Nintendo was the final nail in that coffin. I am really envious of people’s great gaming memories. I won’t even get into what a hot mess we made of AD&D. All assassin party? Oh yeah.

    So what is Jeffro’s fantasy rpg of choice anyway? Its ACKs right? Just curious.

    • jeffro October 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm

      I ran Dwimmermount with ACKS this year. The local players went wild over it and demanded multiple marathon sessions. I’d probably do it again now that I know the first couple of levels inside and out. I was a die hard B/X guy before that and I’d probably switch back only if I was breaking in new players for B2 again.

      I’ve been looking at Tunnels & Trolls off and on the past couple of years. I haven’t graduated from solitaire adventures to “real” gaming yet, though. (First edition, fourth edition, the recent deluxe version from the Kickstarter and Porphyry: World of The Burn.)

      I just had the boys roll up Classic Traveller characters. I’m currently smitten with the idea of CT without the “official” Traveller universe (ie, as it was originally designed) and with a good jolt of E. C. Tubb’s Dumarest providing some spin.

      The Appendix N series really put a dent on board gaming, but the boys are playing Star Trader, G.E.V., and Federation Commander lately. (They are really into it!)

  4. BobtheRegisterredFool October 29, 2015 at 2:24 am

    ‘Offensive depictions of mental illness’?

    Much of Lovecraft’s stories were written during or after the Great War. Said war did not have a trivial effect on the minds of his peers. This was widely known. I learned of Merritt through Jeffro’s list, and he has a story that could be considered a ‘missing link’ between the military experience and weird fiction cosmic horror. (Or maybe I’m deluded by my vague recollections.) Lovecraft’s efforts are as fair an extrapolation of that, as mine would be noting Leopold in the 19th, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao in the 20th, and concluding that the 21st will suck.

    Lovecraft died before Freud did. There are reasons to be skeptical of the state of psychology in his era. This isn’t comparable to criticizing a modern for gross failures to have correct thermodynamics or orbital mechanics.

    (Today, we are not necessarily all that better where certain things are concerned. See Van Name’s bit in Onward, Drake! More generally, we have a lax attitude to chemicals with enormous potential for harm, we celebrate mental habits that are detrimental to mental health, and we seek to normalize certain qualities that, per their outspoken advocates, might be considered mental illnesses which should be treated instead.)

    Lovecraft was artsy and overly sensitive, and many of his set may have been artsy and overly sensitive. Exactly the sort one would expect to be mentally fragile, and to freak out over things those accustomed to hardship might take in stride.

    Lovecraft had grounds to assume humans are more fragile than they are, he didn’t have information an interested layman has today, and he may have been inspired by things that SJW whiners likely have very little even second hand experience with.

    That whole section does not sound like they practice good habits for maintaining mental health under challenging circumstances. I wonder about their personal experience, and their assessments of what speech actually harms the mentally ill.

    • jeffro October 29, 2015 at 5:37 am

      When they talk about Lovecraft “being offensive or perpetuating negative stereotypes” I have no idea what they are talking about or who would care. It’s just bizarre.

      Why can’t people just let Lovecraft be Lovecraft? Yeah, it’s different. No, people today wouldn’t do it that way. So what?!

      • BobtheCertifiedIdiot October 29, 2015 at 10:52 am

        In fairness, he was a Democrat, and that doesn’t exactly put him on my Christmas card list. Chesterton expressed sympathy for the Democrats as a foreigner speaking about American politics. I count that as a demerit against Chesterton.

        1919, Elaine, Arkansas, one hundred dead. The Holocaust is held against Nazis and Nazi sympathizers despite that it wasn’t publicly documented until after they lost. I do not see that more successful secrecy gets Wilson’s supporters off.

        I wouldn’t refuse to read Lovecraft or Chesterton. They are fine writers, and a lousy political eye is not the worst or rarest flaw.

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