Saturday, March 31, 2012

MAR Barker Memorial Service May 5

From the Tekumel Foundation:
Mrs. Ambereen Barker and the Tékumel Foundation invite you to a memorial celebration of the life and work of Professor M.A.R. Barker

Saturday, May 5th, 2012
5 pm - 9 pm
Sheraton Midtown Minneapolis Hotel
2901 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407

An audiovisual presentation will begin at 6:30pm, with stories and memories to be shared afterwards. Special announcements to follow. We hope that Prof. Barker's devoted fans, friends, colleagues and former students will be able to attend and share in this celebration.

Please RSVP to the Tékumel Foundation so we may keep you informed of any changes. E-mail:

A room rate of $99/night for Friday and Saturday evenings has been arranged; ask for "Barker Memorial" when contacting the hotel.
(612) 821-7600

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Opening Moves

It takes a few moments to shake off the weariness of the tough week-long ride up through the increasingly barren foothills and jagged peaks.

Twice the winding column passed through that invisible line of the Weird sending snorts through your sweating horses and long moans from the wagon oxen. Though it's early spring back in the cantons, this forlorn region seems to have forgotten that fact, especially at night when cold winds buffet the tents and drive soldiers back into their own thoughts.

Worn out and saddle sore you finally have spied the bustling camp of the company arrayed in a chaotic sprawl of pavillions, rough tents, and hearth fires around the tight, bleak walls of the watchfort.

Up here in the mountain pass you can see way off below you to the east the vast horizons of the steppes. A feeling of sudden apprehension wafts over you as you also note that out there in the Sea of Grass and dark, unfamiliar foothills lays a cruel, measureless enemy. Just down the road in the valley below lies the burned-out shell of the ill-fated border colony of Trnova as a grim reminder of that fact.

You, the motley, trans-dimensional crew of fresh column leaders and their deputies, are ushered into the largest of the tents, a tall-poled glittering mass of black and silver silk stripes to meet your Captain, Raugraf Androj Andimachus the Younger.

Centered around an elaborately illuminated map on a rough campaign table stands a young man, really almost a boy. The simplicity of his unadorned field plate stands in strict contrast to the elaborately flourished burgonets and breastplates of the ancient-looking and foppish staff officers around him. He greets each of you with a too-firm handshake and a cold, hard stare that belies his boyishness.

He's quick to get down to the brass tacks, stabbing at the campaign map with his dirk for emphasis: “Our mission is simple gentlemen...and...err...less gentle but useful others,” he states briskly. “Find and destroy the enemy without remorse or mercy.”

“Now here's we are at for the next fortnight. The froghemoth's share of the company will remain here at the fort until we can ascertain where the enemy's main body is. The following detachments will reconnoiter  in force the surrounding area.

Ba Chim's column will head along the ridge lines to the north. Evagoras's command will head northeast along the edge of the bowl. The Sea Blood's column will head east and investigate the trade road and kozak camps while the not-so delicate ladies of Barbarella will head south and east. Last but not least we send Angorax down south towards those ruins and caves.

Your standing orders are thus:
1. Scout all potential hiding places in your zone for the next fortnight before reporting back here. Every third day you should send a messenger back here reporting your current status.
2. If you engage the enemy in inferior numbers you are to give battle.
3. If you find them in equal or superior force, you are to disengage and either a. combine with any close columns to give battle, or b. delay the enemy while sending word back to the bulk of the company here.

All the rest is in your able hands. Any questions?”

OOC info for players.
All characters:
Personal Stance. On a weekly basis (minimally, feel free to drop me a note at any time), you will let me know what your character's basic attitude to risk and reward is: foolhardy, normal, or craven. Taking more risk will make you more likely to be harmed or lose property in a battle, but also much more likely to reap rewards. The converse holds true (your not likely to get much out of a battle at craven level for instance).

Personal Decisions. I may drop you a short email from time to time asking for a simple decision. Say if you are facing a particular opponent in a combat or you or your unit encounter something. Do not feel all hung up on

Graft. This being the Hill Cantons, chances to make a little “bonus” dosh abound in the chaos of the company. CHA, position in the company, being a mountebank or thief, and whatever precautions you take will help determine success. Drop me a line if you wanted to go the crooked route.

Column Leaders:
Column Stance. You will tell me your column objectives, line of march, and standing orders a couple times a week. Including hex numbers will be very helpful when talking about things on the map.

Column Decisions. I will be sending you short emails as above asking for choices of what to do based on what's happening with your column. If things get to overwhelming with the email part I may call for a special G+ session to sort through it all.

Supplies. Your column can carry up to a week's worth of trail rations, feed for horse, and other supplies without supply wagons. A half-week will not penalize movement, over that will you will get a small penalty to movement. If you want to hump supplies over a week's worth, you'll need to drag along some wagons which will slow movement especially in areas without roads (you are assumed to have access to enough wagons to do so).  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Into the Hills with the Reavers

The Hill Cantons have a strong martial borderlands tradition perhaps best summed up by their much-feared battle cry: “Live Weird or Die.”

Unlike the rest of the Overkingdom, most forces are directly drawn by the semi-autonomous cantonal councils (Radas) supplemented by the relatively small retinues of the nobility. Most able-bodied free adults have gone through at least rudimentary military training and possess some related arms and armor. While the cantons hold only 40,000 souls, they can field a combined force of almost 5,000 in a normal mobilization and another 4,000 in an emergency.

Military organization is loose and informal as it was in Earth's early renaissance. The Marlankh Reavers, the forces of Marlinko Canton, are called loosely a “company” but that has no numerical significance. The Reavers are subdivided into ad hoc groups called “battles” when the company is moving together in large numbers or “columns” when it needs to operate with smaller detachments (as it is now).

Ranks—themselves somewhat loose and informal--as such are more about a rough chain of vocal command than leading a set, formally-defined unit. Raugraf Androj Andimachus the Younger (NPC) is the current elected Captain and commanding officer of Marklankh's forces in the field. Each column leader is called alternately a “lieutenant” or “subaltern” depending on seniority and reports directly to the Captain. Non-commissioned officers are called “journeymen”.

Reaver Order of Battle at the opening of the Border War campaign
Total force
3 Hawkriders (courtesy of the Guild of Accipitaries and Drovers), giant hawk air cav, riders with studded leather, long bows and short swords.

10 Brothers of the Other Mother, martial clerics, half-plate, shields, maces.

160 Lancers, medium cavalry with scale mail, metal shields, lance, and longswords or maces.

420 Border Ruffians, light cavalry with studded leather, small wooden shields, javelins, and short swords or hand axes.

100 Amazon Outriders, light cavalry with ring mail, composite bows and hand axes.

300 Landsknecht Pikemen, medium infantry with slashed poofy doublets and hose (with half-plate), ostrovan pikes, short swords.

60 Landsknecht Swordsmen, medium infantry with slashed poofy doublets and hose (with half-plate), two-handed swords.

180 Hill Wardens, light infantry with leather jack, long bows, hand axes.

40 Skullcrushers, half-ogre medium infantry with ring mail, assorted pole arms.

60 Bushwhackers, black hobbit light infantry, short bows, sharp pointed sticks, barbed knives.

1200 Camp Followers, civilian “logistics workers”

By Column:
Main Battle, reserve stationed at the watchfort in the pass. Commanded by the Raugraf.
3 Hawkriders
10 Brothers
100 Lancers
300 Landsknecht Pike
40 Landsknecht Swords
20 Wardens
1200 Camp Followers

Column A*, led by Ba Chim
NCO's: Manzafrain
100 Ruffians
20 Lancers
40 Wardens
20 Landsknecht Swords

Column B*, led by Evagoras Sospiri
NCO's: Sir Eustace
100 Ruffians
20 Lancers
60 Wardens

Column C*, led by Ooluu the Sea Blood
NCO's: Donnal MacDonnal
120 Ruffians
60 Wardens

Sorcha's Stinging Whip Column, led by Barbarella
NCO's: Sir Eusyram
100 Amazon Outriders
20 Lancers

The Penal Brigade, led by Angrox
30 Skullcrushers
60 Bushwhackers

*Name TBA
(Note that some NCO players are still yet to be assigned to columns.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Border War Campaign Map

Forgot to post this with the call to arms for the border war this morning. The image below is the mini-campaign map showing an area just off to the north and east of the Hill Cantons proper. Each hex runs five miles across.

The burned out border colony of Trnova is shown on the west side of the map due east from the pass and watchfort leading back into the Overkingdom. Most of the map area resides in the Sea of Grass, a vast steppe of coarse gray-green leafed, purple-veined prairie grass stretching off to greater and greater stretches of the Weird to the east.

Bands of kozaks, smelly horse-lovin' and warlike nomads, maintain two trade camps in the area along an old caravan track. One sits at the feet of an ice-cold, deep-watered lake at the old rounded cone of a massive and presumably extinct volcano.  
Click to Enlarge

The Border War Has Commenced

The Hill Cantons border war mentioned last month is now off the ground.

Round One will be a 2-3 week playtest of the abstract mass combat rules that I finished the draft of this week. I will be running it as a small-scale, same-side campaign with me as the referee before possibly moving on to a side vs. side showdown with Emperor Don of the Brazonians.

To keep it interesting I will be integrating it into the Hill Cantons roleplaying campaign proper—and to up the ante make it open to characters from across the FLAILSNAILS pocket universe. The events of the campaign can and will have an impact on the day-to-day micro-stage that adventurers tool around on.

I am envisioning it mostly running as a very modest play-by-email campaign (only involving a few choices per week) with perhaps a mini-session on Google Plus or two to help supplement it if absolutely necessary. The players will take on roles inside a dreaded (and occasionally dreadful) irregular cavalry company, the Marlankh Reavers, in a search-and-destroy operation against border marauders.

Think Fantasy F*cking Bleeding Kansas here.

Basically there are two roles players can take:
1. Sign up as a Column Leader. The player will need to take an active leadership role (ie make some command decisions as a leader via email). Only characters native to the HC will be eligible (sorry the Cantoners can be a xenophobic and ornery crew at times) and there are only 4 positions open. Any character taking this role will receive a 200 sun (gp) signing bonus plus an officer's share of all loot.

2. Sign up a Non-Com or REMF. The player takes on a passive role (you are basically along for the ride with only as much effort or input as you desire) in one of the player-led columns. Any character—open to any from the FLAILSNAILS world--taking this role will receive a 50 sun (gp) signing bonus plus an NCO's share of all loot.

Be forewarned that both roles will place your PC in harm's way up to an including loss of property and life. I will be playtesting a PC battle effects subsystem in the course of the campaign. On the flip side you have the chance to win exp or swag too. Players can opt to roll up a new character as per the rules of the Hill Cantons Compendium at their leisure. 

My mind is a bit groggy this morn, if you need some clarifications about what the differing roles entail or the like fire away.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hill Cantons Travel Tips Contest Winner(s)

All righty, having announced the winner of the Barker contest, it is high time to announce the winners of the HC travel tips contest. All entries—all uniformly creative and interesting--win or lose will appear in the Rough Guide to the Hill Cantons. A big hearty thank you to all who entered.

And the winner is...err...are...

Allandros (aka Ba Chim in the campaign) AND the husband and wife team of Mack (Mandamus) & Monica (Uma).

Snippet from the pen of Allandros:
A Landsknecht’s Guide to the Borderlands
Fellow landsknecht, if you find yourself near Marlankh or its environs, you have likely made some extremely questionable choices in your life. While recent conflict with the nearby Brazonians may be brewing, and you may have heard tales of the Marlankh Reavers and their glory, the Hill Cantons are not generally conducive to the large battles of maneuver that are so beloved to us condotierre. Indeed, combats here are often small in scale, brutal, quick, and soon over. At least in the more civilized segments of the cantons, your foes may engage in some amount of verbal badinage.

How, then, is a landsknecht to survive here in the hinterlands?

I shall answer this by asking another question. What makes a landsknecht?

It is not the sword. It is not the hat or the clothes. All these are necessary, but ultimately it is the reputation of the name “landsknecht.” It is the knowledge of fearless combat while the odds are reasonable, of adherence to contract and utter punctiliousness when it comes to the receipt of pay. It is the knowledge that the landsknecht is capable of dealing with both the civilized and the exotic, because of their membership in that august company.

Reputation. Your garb, the puffed sleeves, the jaunty hat, the bright colors – these mark you as a lord of war! They mark you as a being of decision, prowess, and ability. The more striking your garb, the better you can signal your ability to both honor and breach the custom and practice of the civilized lands. But in the hinterlands of Marlankh, this does not necessarily come through for the residents here. And thus, it falls to you to bring the reputation of the landsknecht forward, advancing both it and your own name.

Snippet from Mack and Monica:
The Eye of Huakuawa
The Chronicles of the Second Epoch tell us that when the Rod of Aaqa was shattered during the great Battle of Pesh, one of the fragments of this artifact fell into the Eye of Huakuawa.  While some sages speculate that the Eye lies in the face of giant or a godling, it is in fact not a visual organ, but actually a natural landmark.

The Eye of Huakuawa lies deep within the jungles of the Southlands.  This body of water is a spring-fed, oval-shaped pool in a deep valley, approachable from a narrow path down the side of the canyon.  Visitors descending the path notice, palm trees on the other side of the Eye springs up, slightly overhanging the spring like eyelashes, even as the jungle growth further back resembles an eyebrow.  The pool is surrounded by white sand, and the water itself is light blue on the edges, but the spring bubbling up in the center gives the water a darker tint, much like a pupil.

Long ago, a tribe of jungle dwellers worshiped the spirit of the Eye and served to protect it from outside intruders.  To this day, if a descendant of the Eye’s servants is poisoned or cursed, that individual will be drawn to they Eye for healing.  Someone summoned by the Eye will instinctively be drawn toward it, they will not speak to anyone and must be physically restrained to prevent them from wandering in its direction.  The pool is guarded by werejaguars who attack anyone not summoned by the Eye.  Its waters work as a healing potion or a remove curse spell, but only if consumed directly from the pool.  Any liquid taken away from the Eye functions only as normal, if clear and refreshing, springwater.

M.A.R. Barker Homage Contest Winner

With a loud boom on the gigantic tunkul gong suspended above my writing desk, I am pleased as punch to announce the winner of the Barker Homage Contest, the first of the two-headed contest from last week (the HC travel tip winner coming in a couple hours).

And the winner is...Barry Blatt with his entry for the Gétlen, an ever-lovable arachnid found on that hot, metal poor planet. Just keep that nasty f*cker away from your skull cavity. Big congrats to Barry for this excellent bit.

Gétlen – The Phase Spider
NA: 1-6
HD: 2
AC: 2
T: nil
M: 12”/18”
L: 90%: 1-12
T in L: A:75

“One must beware the glowing eyes of the Gétlen; they hang in the dark and she espies all through their pallid light. Then she shall creep by way of the eighth corner of the Nexi, reaching grél-ward with her left claw and vráz-wise with the right and thus clutch the Báletl before extracting it and delivering it unto the Demon Chegéth…”
- Anonymous document on the Underworlds, found in the Library of the Temple of Qón in Khirgár.

“May a spider f**k your brain!”
- Traditional tomb-curse used by the Temple of Grugánu.

The Gétlen is usually only found in caves and in the underworld. It is the result of the wave of mutation that followed the fluxes of trans-planar power when Tékumel was isolated. It is 50-70 cm across, with eight very long and skinny legs, though when it runs it appears to have more than this and in repose it is hard to make out all its limbs at once as some project into other dimensional spaces.

It is usually a pale dirty white color, though it can change to black or any monochrome pattern it chooses using chameleon like color cells in its skin. Its dozen or so eyes are always a beady black, and have a disconcerting habit of disappearing and reappearing as the spider espies matters in other planes than our own.

They make labyrinthine webs up to 100m across in tunnels and caves, and even along especially dark and dank forest floors. These are hung every couple of meters or so with small glowing globules of transparent slime, each with a tiny black eyeball floating inside. These provide enough light for the spider to see normally, but are dim for humans. While the spider is hanging onto certain magically enhanced strands of its web they also enable it to spy on who is passing to and fro. Its sense of touch is also exquisitely sensitive and the merest breath of a draft from a moving creature will attract its notice and it will scuttle along its web to investigate.

The spider has two innate psychic abilities. It can detect invisible creatures and attack them at no penalty. It is alleged that some Gétlen have opened nexus points to escape foes or to summon demonic assistance and that they have driven people insane using magic.

Their poison induces hallucinations, terror and then convulsions and results in 3-18 hours of unconsciousness (see below). The fate of the victim depends on how hungry the Gétlen is; may insert its transplanar mouthparts through the skull and suck out the brain via the fourth dimension, leaving the rest of the corpse for scavengers or it may lay eggs inside the skull. A corpse with a missing brain but no visible sign of head injury is a sure sign of a Gétlen attack.

The host of a clutch of Gétlen eggs may not know anything about it, waking up in a dank underworld corridor or a grimy back alley in a city thanking their lucky stars that they are uninjured. Bit by bit they will succumb to a strange disease of the Pedhétl, losing emotional affect and becoming very placid and calm while also subject to random visions of the horrors and delights of the planes beyond, which they will relate in a deadpan fashion while stumbling around cross eyed. After a few weeks they will become possessed by an irritating urge to sneeze while being unable to do so.  When they do finally snort, the roof of their nasal cavity will collapse releasing what is left of their brain and dozens of Gétlen spiderlings from their nostrils.

The symptoms may be treated with Khapá cactus berries and even a mix of ordinary stimulant like Chúmaz with Mághz powder can keep a person awake and dull the intensity of the hallucinations. Treating the egg infestation itself is more difficult. Only an expert in psychological disorders will recognise the source of the problem, and those who know the spell Seeing Other Planes may perceive the infestation quite easily. A spell of Cure Disease will kill the eggs, which will then putrefy inside the skull causing the loss of 1d20 Intelligence and 1d20 Psychic Ability, requiring a Heal Serious Wounds spell and several months to repair. The priests of Meshmúr, the aspect of Thúmis who cures internal injuries, have a specific ritual to remove these eggs and expel them into another plane, but it requires many costly sacrifices and incenses to perform. The other alternative is brain surgery, an uncertain process in an age without antispectics, sterile operating rooms and anaesthetic.

It is alleged that the priests of Grugánu have spells that enable them to control these beasts and to use their webs as spying devices, and that some Thúnru’u keep them as pets. It is also thought by some scholars that the Gétlen is not native to Tékumel but is instead a demon, with the substance of Avánthe and the essence of Hrü’ü.

Those that know their underworld lore recognize that the presence of Gétlen is an indicator of high magical energy in the vicinity, perhaps a powerful magic item or a major protective spell on a secret shrine or tomb. It would appear that Gétlen require this kind of magical aura or an area of local interplanar weakness to survive; they have certainly never been encountered in any magically barren or semi-barren areas, and those who are very knowledgeable about the beasts know that surrounding it with a Sphere of Impermeable Quiescence will kill it outright, and a successful Dispel Magic spell renders the creature blind and stuns it for a few seconds. They induce utter terror in the uninitiated, but a knowledgeable sorcerer can handle them.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Contest Deadline and Holmesian Scroll Creation

A few quick reminders on this lazy day of our Sun Lord.

First of all the two-headed contest ends today at 17:00 CST (-6 GMT). If you have an entry (or two) drop them my way by my email or in the comments section below. The triumphant victors will be announced tomorrow.

Secondly and this is more for players in both the home game and Google Plus Hill Cantons campaign. I am posting below the scroll creation house rules. Long story short, I lean way over to Holmesian liberality allowing spellcasters a chance to pen scrolls as early as 1st level.

Scroll Creation
Scrolls are the simplest of items to make, all spell casters (except for mountebanks) can make them at first level. All scrolls take one week per spell level to make assuming full-time work.

Magic users create scrolls through arcane research and the use of a wide range of obscure ingredients particular to the make of inks for each individual spells. As such the cost of materials for scroll creation fluctuate wildly as many of the necessary inputs become plentiful or scarce. Thus a magic user making a scroll must pay 50 gp times the roll of a d4 per each spell level.

Clerics scrolls are made through sacrifice and sacramental devotion to their patron deity that cost 150 gp/per spell level. White Wizards on the other hand achieve the same means by arcane research at a cost of 75 gp/level.

The renowned scholar and mage Mandamus has just reached fifth level. To celebrate his new attainment of a vaunted new spell level he begins work on a scroll of the Fireball spell. Since Fireball is a third-level spell he rolls 3d4 for a total of 7, multiplying by 50 this gives him a total cost of 350 suns (gp) for the scroll's creation. It will take him three weeks of full-time work to complete the scroll.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

Playtesting Mass Combat Rules and Contest Extensions

Two announcements and housekeeping bits today.

First of all, I just finished the playtest version of the abstract mass combat rules for the Complete Book of Fantasy War. Yay me. If you are interested in playtesting them in your old school D&D or fantasy/medieval wargaming campaign, drop me a line at kutalik at gmail dot com.

Note that if you do want a copy that:
1. I am looking for real feedback and/or playtesting. If you really can't or don't want to do either of those things, please wait for the (likely free) finished version coming down the pike in the next couple weeks. Nothing personal, but I get the sounds of silence from 70-80% of respondents when I do a general release of freebies and that doesn't really help me deliver a tighter finished product.

2. It is assumes some basic knowledge of the (simplish) units stats in By This Axe I Rule. If you have a playtest version .4 or later you should be good. I will send you a copy of this again if you also extend me the courtesy of abiding with the above condition for that too.

Secondly, about the two contests I announced the other day the entries have been pretty slack for an HC contest. I am going to extend the deadline for both contests till Sunday at 17:00 CST. If you have an entry send me an email as above or leave it in the comments here. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mock War on the Field of Honor

In the weeks to come I will be hoisting a very, long pointy stick and riding out to feats of arms.

No, I'm not talking about my usual quixotic turns here at the blog, but about yet another fantasy alter-ego, Sir Eld the Equipollent. The completely personality-undefined bachelor knight—he's first-level in a old school D&D game, he has to earn the right to have a face—will be tilting a lance in Mike D's play-by-post jousting tournament.

Mike's done a bang up job of modifying and supplementing the jousting rules found in Chainmail and it got me thinking again about some of the supplemental bits I wanted to add to my own fantasy and medieval mini rules, By this Axe I Rule. Among those many procrasti-tasking add-ons are some bits about running tournaments as scenarios.

Since Mike has the jousting business covered I am sharing the pieces (inspired by a section from Knights & Magick) I have on the mock war of foot combat you could have found in those festively martial events. (I have adapted them some here to be more helpful for roleplaying game situations.)

Mock Battles
Beyond the jousting lists, small-scale, ostensibly non-lethal foot battles were often fought as part of a tournament. These battles can be fought in brackets between groups of knights or in a single one-shot conflict.

These mock battles are divided into two rough types: round tables and grand melees. Round tables are fought between two teams of 2-4 knights (team size must be equal and consistent through the tournament). Grand melees are fought between two equal sides of 5-30 knights (squires and men-at-arms can also be allowed).

Both types are fought over a “field of honor” that a participant is forbidden to leave without forfeiting and a loss of honor. That field is bounded in one of two ways:
1. on a flat field that is either square or oval roughly 200 feet long and 120 feet wide with entry gates on either end.

2. in a marked off area between two close settlements or buildings. This area will vary wildly; sometimes being a space of a couple hundred feet between a castle and its manorial village or up to a mile between two hamlets.

In both cases the rules of engagement are the same:
1. All missile weapons and long-hafted weapons over six feet in length (lances, long spears, pikes, polearms, etc) are banned.

2. Weapons will be either blunted (half damage) or used “without intention to slay” (full damage but see below).

3. Any participant can at any time plead for mercy at which times they are considered defeated by their opponent and removed from the field.

4. Upon reaching 0 hit points or less, the participant is considered knocked out and removed from the field. He must then roll on the following chart.

Roll d6
Dead. Very sad, but a noble death that gets the local bards a titter with the chance to trot out a melancholy romantic airs.
Fatal Wound. Without magical healing, see above. Out for tournament.
Crippling or Maiming Wound. Limb, digit, nose, ear, or eye mutilated, severed, or whatever. -1 to CHA. Out for tournament.
Painful Injury. Wounded but no long-lasting effects. Out for tournament.
Knocked Out. Unconscious with perhaps some ego bruising but able to compete further.

Using blunted weapons +2
Each 4 hp below 0 -1
Not wearing helmet -2

5. Any defeated knight must surrender his arms and armor as ransom to the opponent that defeated him.

6. The melee continues until one side is completely defeated.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Two-fer Contest

It's been ages, darling reader, since the last dumb HC contest. Today in the interest of catch-up I present a “two-fer”, two contests with two distinct prizes:

Best M.A.R. Barker Homage. Design a single creature, culture, spell, region, or what-have-you as a tribute to our departed titan. The sky is the limit, but bonus points for making them jive mechanically with Empire of the Petal Throne.

Winner receives a very nice, crisp copy of Barker's first published novel, Man of Gold that I rescued six months back from a used bookstore. (Anyone slain in the course of this contest waives their right to shamtla.)
Radegast says "bring it."
Best Travel Tip for the Hill Cantons. Write a travel tip for the HC. It can be anything: something based on a brush with some brutish or strange; a place encountered in the Weird; a city/region back home in the Corelands; etc. Half-truths welcome.

Players in any of three iterations of the Hill Cantons (Austin, San Anto, and G+) will have obviously an edge here, but feel free to try and plop something that hasn't actually occurred in play (weight obviously going to something that “feels right” tone wise.)

Winner shall receive a copy of Jack Vance's Showboat World (a personal, picaresque fave from the man).

Both contests end Thursday 19:00 CST (I believe that's -6 GMT to you foreign barbarians). Before entering I would love dearly to secure your permission to reprint any entries in the Rough Guide to the Hill Cantons, a free (and non-commercial) compilation of setting who-ha from the campaign.

Contest entries can be left here in the comments or emailed to me directly at kutalik at the gmail dot com. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Óró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile

Marching off to storm the Nike store this St. Patrick's Day. Those of you avoiding the green mardi gras beads today, you are welcome home I hear.

Friday, March 16, 2012

M.A.R. Barker has Passed to the Isles

Very sad news for us Tekumel lovers. I just received the following press release from the Tekumel Foundation about the passing of Phil Barker and my heart skipped a beat. More later on this beloved and creative man.

Excerpt from the release:
“Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 16, 2012: Professor Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman (MAR) Barker, known to his friends as “Phil,” died peacefully in home hospice on March 16, 2012 with his wife Ambereen Barker at his side.

A Fulbright Scholar (1951) of vast accomplishment, Professor Barker is probably best known for his creation of the world of Tékumel which he developed for over 70 years and which has been compared to Tolkein’s ‘Middle Earth’ in its scope, sophistication, and complexity. Barker was a Professor of Urdu and South Asian Studies at the University of Minnesota during the period when Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax were developing Tactical Studies Rules’ (TSR) first role-playing games in the Twin Cities and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

In 1975 Barker’s game “Empire of the Petal Throne” was the first role playing game published by TSR, Inc following the release of “Dungeons and Dragons.” Role playing games set in Tékumel, have been published every decade since the 1970’s, including the 1983 ‘Swords and Glory,’ 1994’s ‘Gardásiyal,’ and 2005’s ‘Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne.’ Beginning with “Man of Gold” in 1985 Barker published five novels, several game supplements, and a number of short stories set in Tékumel. In 2008 Barker established the Tékumel Foundation as his literary executor to protect and promote his intellectual property...”

Professor Barker is survived by his wife of 53 years, Ambereen. Details on memorial services will follow. In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Tékumel Foundation are preferred, visit the Foundation website here. (Donations to the Foundation can be made via Paypal on the front page of their website.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Do We Even Need an RPG Industry?

By now you have probably seen a certain blog post from erstwhile WOTC and TSR employee Steve Winter (if you haven't skip over here). Reading his perceptive remarks about how near-impossible it is to maintain a rpg company with a full staff given the cycle both fans and companies are locked into, I kept nodding my head absently.

And then I hit this comment:
“The game, the one fans love so much that they bought 100,000 copies and clamored for more—odds are high that it was self-contained. That's the way RPGs are packaged. If an RPG isn't complete as-is, then you can't really play it, and fans won't love it and clamor for more.”

I couldn't finish the rest of the post without the same dogged question pushing itself into my brain pan: do we actually need a rpg industry? Do we really need commercially published rules, adventures, settings, supplements at all anymore?

When it comes to new, smaller cutting-edge games, I am sure one could still make the case for “yes” and not sound like your flying on auto-pilot. But for the Game--let's be clear we are talking about the Big Kahuna, D&D, in all it's iterations, clones, and heart-breaking spinoffs—I can't help but feel it is time for it to just wither and die as a (failing) money mill.

I don't frame that as a melancholic set of questions looking backward wistfully, but more of a paradigm shift. There is a dawning thought in my head that DIY rpg hobbyists most likely don't need to shell out a single dollar to have a rich and robustly creative life with this Game.

Sure, there will likely always be the small-scale projects we do want to see succeed and financially support—for me almost always a labor of love of a single or small group of people less than interested in making serious money—but I can't help but think that the activity that is most vital to me is the grassroots community and cultural ferment. It's in the actual play and the achingly-creative (and often freely given) amateur worldbuilding that follows behind it. I read Huge Ruined Pile,  From the Sorcerer's Skull, HereticwerksTales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque or the many other comparable blogs and damn it if I can't help think that the content there rivals and often surpasses many of the best larger commercial projects.

Is it time for the Game's "second soul" to take charge? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mastering the Golden Barge

Slammed today on several real life fronts, so I happily turn the HC helm over to Allandros with his play report of this week's Google Plus romp.

Journal of Ba Chim of the New Hampshire elves 
After the last incident at the barge, Manzafrain the Mirthful was in a coma and my poor Kochka was slain. We returned to Marlankh bearing both their bodies. After depositing Manzafrain at the house of his father-in-law, I buried Kochka and retired to mourn. I took her hand axe in memoriam, and intend to slay as many ghouls with it as possible.

Five days after we returned, Manzafrain emerged from his coma, raving about descending from a higher plane of existence. Taurus Hells-heart, Karl Smallberries the hobbit, Ooluu the Drowned Man, and I were all present, awaiting his return to (relative) lucidity that we might essay the golden barge once more. Its glimmering towers beckon us onwards with the promise of riches…and power.

We followed the usual route to the Slumbering Ursine Dunes, stopping at the house of the “rambling and foolish” old smith. My earlier assessment of the smith may have been in error. He has brought his extended family to his house, and they are now seeking to construct a small settlement. It is named Kugelberg – after the dead thief? Ominous, especially given what we learned from the smith’s son, Pavel.

Though he was taciturn, a few carefully chosen words from Manzafrain led to him sharing some unbelievable secrets. He led us to his family’s secret, which caused us all to draw some intriguing and potentially maddening conclusions (which I dare not set down, even here!), but we chose to forego further investigation until a later time. He also dropped some hints as to why the area might be called the Slumbering Ursine Dunes, and what this had to do with the Master of the Glittering Tower.
The next day we set out for the Barge itself. Damn those dunes! Damn them! They get steeper by the day. Still, we made the arduous journey across the dunes and reached the barge itself. Manzafrain, in a moment of lucidity from his godlike maunderings, had been diligently keeping a map of the barge, and had carefully marked areas that we had not yet delved into. Rather than set down all the twists and turns that we made, I will relate briefly:

We first encountered a room with a strange mucous membrane covering the door, and several glowing glass spires within. After someone (perhaps Taurus, or Karl) attempted to pass through and was stung by the barrier, we decided that attempts to pass through might damage the barge.

We then made haste to the room with three large blue circles of runes, radiating magic. I cast a simple dweomer to understand their arcane inscriptions, and recognized them as bearing three cryptic legends:

“Ga [ed note: smudged]umel.” “The Red Orb.” “Sig[ed note: smudged].”

Though we tried to activate the third, it was soon apparent that they were not functional, and we vowed to return later once we got the barge in working order.

We next came to a tower opposite the first one we had investigated, surmising that it might bear another [ed. note: smudged] similar to the first. When Taurus sought to push the trap door open, he encountered strong resistance and heard a loud squawk. I recalled that we had in fact tested this tower before, but had decided to pause before assaying the trap door. Now, however, the time for action had come.

Ooluu and I struggled to raise the trap door, while Karl prepared a strange alchemical fuse to throw into the above room. As he lit the fuse, we strained, shoved the trap door open…and a grayish tentacle snaked its way into the opening, seeking to enmesh Ooluu. Quickly, Karl hurled his missile and we abandoned the trap door. The resulting explosion provoked a flurry of enraged squawks, and we shared grins of triumph. Yet the job was not done; we would need to face the creature directly. The party took up firing positions at the bottom of the tower, while Taurus prepared to throw open the trap door, then rappel down a rope to avoid attacks from the tentacles.

It was at this point that my vision blurred, and I cannot speak exactly to what happened immediately thereafter. When I came to, I beheld the horror that had been lurking above – a gigantic vulture, infested with a strange cancerous growth that had sprouted tentacles. Both halves of the creature sought to slay us; when I regained consciousness, I saw that the cancer was choking the beleaguered Taurus to death with its tentacles, while the buzzard bit at him savagely. (Taurus also had an arrow sticking out of him; I cannot imagine how he hit himself with his own bowshot!) Ooluu and I struck at the creature, and the two of us ultimately slew both halves of the creature.

Searching amongst the ruins of the creature’s nest, we discovered three sky-blue eggs, untainted by any visible signs of cancerous growth, as well as an elongated skull with molten gold covering the back of the head, as a skullcap. This made sense given our earlier discoveries; however, Manzafrain blanched at the sight of the elongated skull, and muttered about some forbidden lore he had acquired. While the mountebank is a wily one, the expression of sincere terror on his face allayed any doubts about the truth of his fear.

Pressing on, we discovered the room where the Slip had retrieved the pearl above the ominous tank of water. Recalling its flooded state, we chose to press on, and soon came to a locked door behind which the rumble of machinery could be heard. Taurus deftly produced an arrow and manipulated the lock so that we could enter; we discovered a large chamber with several wheels, being turned by small faceless homunculi running in place. We did not see any immediate opportunities for profit or knowledge and left the room.

We finally discovered a [ed. note: significant portion missing]. Buoyed by this success, we retrieved what treasure we could carry and returned to Marlankh.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On the Topic of International Write Like Gary Gygax Day

There is no reminder in this post that it is International Write Like Gary Gygax Day today. 

That is because the inclusion of such a reminder will either tell you little, Gentle Reader, or it will abridge your freedom with respect to development of your own blog milieu. There are dozens of possible blog posts, each of which will have varying puissance, mutability, or verisimilitude. That is, if such a reminder tells you only a little so as not to force a writing choice upon your blog, the reminder can contain nothing of use.

While this blog is loosely based on Hussite-era Bohemian history and myth, it also contains elements from the Holmesian Kitchen Sink period, parts of my suppressed Id, and the smythos of many other authors as well. Within its boundaries all sorts of posts can exist, and there is nothing to dictate that their needs be Gygaxian. In GAWKER there appeared an article written by me which outlines this very precept and lists a number of posts which can be employed by the blogger in his or her milieu. To aid the harassed blogger, I have listed these types of posts again.

AUTOCRACY. Blog posting which rests in a self-derived and inflated sense of authority about pretending to be an elf in a game in the basement.

GERIATOCRACY. Blog posting ruled by an age-befogged sense of generational entitlement.

And so forth...

(In all seriousness, one thing my recent reread of the DMG has rekindled is my appreciation for the quirky charm of his writing style. It's just not D&D without it.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Leiber Ghuls, Blood Rains, and Doleful Bandits

With the mysterious (and possibly living sentient) Golden Barge of the Hill Cantons, finally verging on conquered after two years of play, I feel comfortable releasing a few of the details (a few, a ship must maintain it's secrets after all). Below you'll find the write-up for one of the most commonly encountered inhabitants of that vessel.

All similarities between the Ghuls and other creatures of other world, is of course, purely coincidental. Ahem.

Leiber Ghuls
No. Enc.: 1d6 (5d6)
Alignment: Lawful (Evil)
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: Weapon+1
Save: F3
Morale: 11

Leiber Ghuls are practitioners of the Illuminated Doctrine of the Septuagint Anthropophagite (Authentic), a rather extreme mystical sect that maintains that human flesh corrupts the spirit-self.

Unlike other ascetic doctrines, however, the Leiber Ghuls posit a rather straightforward solution: ritual cannibalism. By liberating (ie eating) human and demi-human males of their flesh—women are believed to be inherently too corrupted and hobbits a delicious veal-like delicacy—they believe that they make their little corner of the world a spiritually uplifted place. Resistance is seen as a corrupted mental trick of the meat-demons and is dealt with by an upright and furious force.

Over the aeons, Leiber Ghuls have themselves been transformed by their flesh-eating practices. Their flesh is now wholly composed of a near-invisible translucent goo leaving only a dull pink skeleton to view. Because of this translucence in shadowy environs they will surprise on a 1-3 roll.

The ghuls are highly intelligent and are inordinately fond of debating amongst themselves and others the fine points of their doctrine—even in the midst of a forcible liberation. Once engaged in combat the ghuls will maintain a steady stream of locution about the urgency and inherent rightness of their doctrine until their dying breath.

When found inside their sect quarters, the ghuls will be accompanied by a Sub-Patriarch of the Cleansing Palate (6 HD of their species) and 1-3 lieutenants (4HD). Obsessively-compulsive pyramids of the clothing and bones of those liberated will be found throughout the area, occasionally items of interest will be found within said piles (luxurious clothing, dropped items) totaling up to 50-400 gp. Any weapons of worth picked up in their duties will be employed in use (though they are particularly fond of big nasty barbed weapons).

The ghuls maintain a long-lasting interdimensional friendship with the Gentlemen Ghouls of Stonehell and some distant relations in the world of Nehwon.

And now the news:
The biennial blood rains have been falling all through the Cantons this week. Expect great big buckets of thick sanguine downpours throughout most of the week. Old wives maintain that the rains are due to water miraculously forming into rain clouds over the Scarlet Sea. Men of learning, of course, reject such superstitious claptrap and counter sagely that it's the Lady's beating of the Sun Lord with her silver chains that creates the soil-enriching rain.

Renowned highwayman and scoundrel, Libor the Lugubrious, is working the main road south of Marlankh again. The canton Rada has set a bounty of 1,000 suns for his head and 50 for each of his dolorous band.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Location, Location, Location

It would be difficult to top Jeff's living arrangement's list for Wessex posted today. I can't and won't, but it did give me the excuse to rework and post the wee subsystem I have for real estate in and around the Marklinko and Ostrovo cantons in the HC.

Like most luxury items in the campaign, PCs get 1 exp per 2 suns spent on buying a place. Players can also choose to custom build (or expand an existing structure) according to these rules. The price for land will vary wildly. Land ownership of arable land is difficult without engaging into the complicated dance of social relations.

Cost (in gp/suns)
Rural hut
Menstruation hut
Rural longhouse
Meadhall, faux-Hyperborean
Farmstead, semi-fortified
Slum hovel
Slum flat
Tower, onion-domed
Townhouse, whitewashed
Townhouse, stuccoed
Manse, creepy and decrepit
Manse, swanky

The actual cost is variable and the GM will adjust to fit campaign circumstances (a rush of refugees might drive up the price or what) . It is assumed that this price represents the best deal that can be found in a week's search.
Roll d20 (modified by CHA)
list price

The number housed represents relatively comfort conditions. Twice as many can be housed in cramped, unpleasant, bitch-at-your-companions-out-of-annoyance conditions.

Availability is rolled on a d20 (add levels of thief or mountebank as a modifier) to equal or beat the target number. Again this may be adjusted due to campaign circumstances.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Background Charts Say About Your World

One of my favorite quirks in that lovable mess of a book adorned with a scarlet butt-ugly hollering efreeti on its cover is the sudden, inexplicable lurching into polemic.

Take this section on Social Class in the DMG:
“There is no random table for determination of a character's social status to be found here. That is because the inclusion of such a factor will either tell you little or nothing of useful nature, or it will abridge your freedom with respect to development of your campaign milieu. That is, if such a table tells you only a little so as not to force a social structure upon your campaign, the table can contain nothing of use...There are dozens of possible government forms, each of which will have varying social classes, ranks, or castes. Which sort you choose for your milieu is strictly your own prerogative. While this game is loosely based on Feudal European technology, history and myth, it also contains elements from the Ancient Period, parts of more modern myth, and the mythos of many authors as well. Within its boundaries all sorts of societies and cultures can exist, and there is nothing to dictate that their needs be Feudal European.”
On the surface that's a totally bizarre way to begin a passage in a rulebook, “let me tell you all the things that aren't in here and why in detail.” Gygax was obviously responding to the trend of second-generation fantasy game competitors to tout background charts as providing a deeper social context.

Leaving aside the obvious self-interest, I love this passage as it reveals two things: 1. a profound insight into the imaginative big-tent reach of classic D&D and it's latitude for personalizing worlds (“why do any more imagining for you”); and 2. it's a concession in a way to the fact that such tables are a powerful way to subtly hardwire setting logic into character generation.

A quick paging through a few of the contenders of that era seems to validate this. Chivalry and Sorcery's starting background chart is a laser-focused on a long list of professions and classes--from serfs up to the lesser nobility--that clearly reflect a very narrow implied campaign world based in Northwestern Europe around the end of the 12th century. It's random distributions while slightly weighted “unrealistically” toward not playing the bottom part of the pyramid. (Harnmaster would go full hog later giving you a 65 percent chance of playing a wide range of dirt-rooting peasants).

On a radically different note, let's take Stormbringer first edition, a game whose more flatly-distributed and divergent class background table typically generates a weird, wonderful, unbalanced grab bag of a party. It's not unusual to have a strange chaotic blend of PC backgrounds. A Melnibonean sorcerer-warrior-assassin tooling around with a pygmy hunter from Oin and a leprous beggar from Nadaskor. It's a set-up for campaigns even weirder than the books really.

Point is that each of these tables alone said as much and more about the setting and how the players fit in as the many pages of text yakking on about medieval society or the twisted words of Michael Moorcock. It's an elegant way to get around info-dump.

Winding up for my second point. What I take away from that DMG rant is not so much that such tables will break your D&D campaign, but that you have a choice as a DM to either run a “background is wholly what happens in the first three levels” approach (banking on bottom-up development) or custom fit a background table or subsystem to fit the contours of your own world.

Either works well I can attest from years running and playing—players in the HC are free to choose either road--but long-time readers will know that I have loved me some campaign-specific background generators over the years.

The background subsystem in the Hill Cantons Compendium says a good deal about the implied HC campaign world. There is both the obvious flavor elements—the landsknechts, dwarven indentured servants, mountebanks—and the somewhat deeper bits in the campaign logic itself.

The Weird touching the borderlands amplifies the chaos of human society. To be in that rootless group of crazies willingly exploring it something must have broken in your head. So the system tends to generate a background that is really tumultuous and zig-zaggy, a childhood and adolescence spent running from a crime to pushing a pike to having a mystic experience and the like.

I'm throwing a wall of text at you—and forgive me if it all sounds like a big stinking pile of pretentious poo—but it's a topic that I come back to a lot in my homebrewing. And I notice more than a few of my friends out there in the ether custom fitting their own tables and it makes me just want to play in their own worlds all the more.

And you? Have you made—or want to make—your own custom fits? Did it work?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hobgoblins of Foolish Consistency

No. Enc.: 1d8 (4d8)
Alignment: Lawful (Evil
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: 1 (weapon)
Damage: Weapon
Save: F1
Morale: 9

Foolishly Consistent Hobgoblins appear much like slightly-smaller Hobgoblins except for their unremittingly gray skin color and attire.

Although nominally as intelligent in cognitive functions as the more common sort of hobgoblin, their pathological small-mindedness frequently undermines their stratagems. Thus if a party finds away around pitfalls and a response strategy in one of their lairs, it is 90 percent likely on each return to the lair that these hobgoblins will be falling back on the same plan.

Foolishly Consistent Hobgoblins found in lair will be ruled by an autarch (sometimes styled as a “lifecoach”), a 5 HD member of the species known for mapping cradle-to-grave “career plans” and exacting economic accounts for his followers. There is a 80 percent chance that the autarch will be attended by 1-2 barristers, 3 HD tribal witch doctors that can cast Hypnotism once a day.

Because of their bull-minded predictability they are much loved by city officials, sages, and clergy as bodyguards.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hill Cantons “Appendix N”

I put this together ages ago and with the three year anniversary of the campaign having just reared its ugly head, it's a good a time as any to post.

What follows is the reading list that went into the HC mental stew, I was reading or rereading (or just remembering) these books about the time the campaign (2007-2008). This list concentrates on books, but of course there are a myriad other influences such as the West Marches in particular and the general internet effervescence of the so-called OSR around that time. It's also conspicuously missing all the influential gaming materials (like Griffin Mountain).

The list below is organized in rough order of influence both by author and book. In parenthesis are my guesses of exactly what they influenced (though with all the heavy synthesizing it's even a bit of a mystery to me at this point).
Jack Vance: Lyonesse trilogy, Dying Earth, Eyes of the Overworld, Cugel's Saga, Showboat World, The Last Castle (campaign tone, themes, viewpoint of human civilization and religion, talky monsters, picaresque journey and characters etc.)

Fritz Leiber: all Nehwon stories (campaign tone and themes, direct homage in Marlankh, monsters)

John Eric Holmes: Mazes of Peril (kitchen sink, gonzo D&D)

Michael Moorcock: Elric stories (cosmology and visitors from other worlds/planes)

Clark Ashton Smith, Hyperborea cycle (well Hyperborea and some campaign backdrop)

Henryk Sienkiewicz, With Fire and Sword, The Deluge, Fire on the Steppe (eastern borderlands ambiance, both books and movies)

M.A.R. Barker, Flamesong, Man of Gold, Book of Ebon Bindings (some deep background and cosmology)

Michael Shea, Nifft the Lean, Quest for Simbilis (Vance lite)

Umberto Eco: Foucault's Pendulum, Name of the Rose (esoteric ideas, societies)

Poul Anderson: Three Hearts and Three Lions (the war between human civilization and the Fae)

Ivan Bilibin, Russian Fairy Tales (aesthetics)

Eric P. Kelly, Trumpter of Krakow

George MacDonald Fraser, Flashman series (picaros and scumbaggery)

John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (eccentric characters)

C.V. Wedgwood, The Thirty Years War (the autarkic HRE as a model for the Overkingdom, internal religious conflict)

Stephen Turnbull, The Hussite Wars 1419-36 (backdrop of the Cantons proper)

Fernard Braudel, Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Centuries (all three volumes), The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (the breakdown of medieval European society and general political, economic, and cultural contours of the early Renaissance)

James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

Steven Runciman, The Fall of Constantinople 

Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas (big weird ships and exploration)

Monday, March 5, 2012

More News from the Hills

A fine report on the third anniversary face-to-face session of the can be found here. A hearty thank you to all the players both past and present. May you never face a roll on the Death and Dismemberment chart (unless you have it coming).

And now the news...

Wild rumors are circulating in Marlankh that agents of Frantisek the Striped Mage have found four pieces of the fabled rod of the Wind Dukes of Aqa'a only to sell them back to a mysterious inter-dimensional being called the “Great Rientz”. Incredibly the pieces are to be re-scattered among several different alternate realities

The centaurs of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes are in a righteous froth about the murdering of one of their toll-collectors. Raids have been made into human settlements as far as the farm belt south of Marlankh. Reputedly the hirsute Master of the dunes has sent away for skilled carpenters in the borderlands to cross over into the Weird at premium triple-pay, an offer to be extended to any men-at-arms willing to escort the craftsman to his tower. It's unclear if there is a relationship between the two developments.

The Rada (council) of the Marlinko Canton has heeded the Overking's recent call to arms against the Brazonians by raising the Marlankh Reavers back to active duty. A number of tough and seasoned officers have been pulled into service including a renowned, local Colonel. It's unclear if the heavily-armed band of border ruffians is to serve as a unit of badly-armored medium horse or as an armed-to-the-gills unit of light.

Authorities are investigated the foul murder of Drogo, the much beloved half-ogre manservant of Hurloj Kladivo, master of the Guild of Accipitraries, Ankle Beaters, and Drovers. A 150 sun bounty has been posted for return of the culprits to the Guild.

Several of the 43 known children of the old smith Jaromil have brought their families out to settle back around the patriarch's fortified stead near the dunes. The extended family has petitioned the Overking for a charter for the new settlement tentatively called Kugelburg after the old man's dear departed friend (may the Sun Lord illuminate his spirit-self).  

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Old and Dear

Given my preoccupation with bemoaning blog content that flits away into the ether, here's a blogging “movement” worth supporting: Old Stuff Day. Basically it's a chance for bloggers to show off the old blog posts that they feel have become neglected with time or are particularly fond to the blogger.

Here's my own run down starting backwards chronologically in the misty past of 2009:

This was my first post to break the blog out of its role as merely a campaign hub for players. It was the first time I combined broader tones and personal story into a post and it just felt right at the time. Rereading it today makes me want to keep fleshing out that melancholy, besieged city lurking just off the southern map of the Hill Cantons.

This post kicked off the HC's long love-affair exploration of M.A.R. Barker's world. It also served as a manifesto of a casual sort, guiding my own approach to gaming in Tekumel. Best of all it put me into accidental contact with Jeff Berry, the old Petal Throne salt that I only half-jokingly refer to as the HC's resident Tekumel expert. The four-part interview with him (very much worth checking out in its own right  kicked off my interview series and really deepened my insights into that world.

This post kicked off a multi-post exploration of the truly marvelous “worldgame” that miniature wargaming titan Tony Bath ran in the UK in the 1950s-70s. The series rooted around in the kind of big-stage roleplaying gaming that predated D&D and what people now refer narrowly as RPGs. It also opened up a number of domain-play themes that I started to explore later.

Follow the “Tony Bath” label if you want to read the whole thing.

The stirrings of the Domain Game and more importantly the attempt to not just recycle and extend “beancounter” domain-play but take it back to old-new areas in D&D that were dropped as the game developed.

First time I really remembered to use a few tricks I learned from my old day job journalism work to write a good, compelling story.

More exploration of how some of the interesting holdovers from wargame play got dropped out too early in the development of RPGs in the 1980s. Should be read with this one, if you are interested in that theme.

Far and away my most solid writing on the blog has been the personal entries. This one details my relationship through my combat vet father to the Vietnam War and how it colored D&D play back in the day. Read this one if you read anything today.