26 June 2011

25 June 2011

More on the two forthcoming 'Hobbit' films

From The American Prospect:

Jackson is filming The Hobbit as a two-part prequel to The Lord of the Rings, and as such, the film will feature many of the same characters. In particular, Ian McClellan, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee and Orlando Bloom, and Elijah Wood will reprise their respective roles (Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman, Legolas and Frodo Baggins), despite their thin or nonexistent presence in the book.

Fans of The Hobbit might cry foul at the inclusion of these characters (particularly Frodo, who isn’t even alive at the time of Bilbo’s journey), but they’re in line with J.R.R Tolkien’s stance toward his work. The Hobbit was originally written as a standalone story that took place in the mythology Tolkien had developed years earlier (and would continue to develop over the course of his life). The novel’s huge success prompted Tolkien’s publishers to ask for a sequel, which he subsequently commenced. This sequel would eventually become The Lord of the Rings, and its substantial departure from The Hobbit prompted Tolkien to make revisions to the original story, in an effort to better align the stories. Via Wikipedia, here is one prominent change made in later editions of The Hobbit:

In the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum willingly bets his magic ring on the outcome of the riddle-game, and he and Bilbo part amicably. In the second edition edits, in order to reflect the new concept of the ring and its corrupting abilities, Tolkien made Gollum more aggressive towards Bilbo and distraught at losing the ring. The encounter ends with Gollum’s curse, “Thief! Thief, Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!” This sets the stage for Gollum’s portrayal in The Lord of the Rings.

In the same vein, Peter Jackson’s additions are an attempt to add more and greater continuity between the two film series. For my part, I’m very excited to see what Jackson does with this element of Tolkien’s mythology.

That’s a pretty positive perspective (spin?) on what Jackson is doing with these two films. Nonetheless, I too am starting to get excited to see these films.

24 June 2011

No Way to Make a Living: Freelance Writing

The job market for philosophy professors is appalling bad. It has been for a long time, and only has gotten worse in recent years. For any given job, it is not unusual for 200+ people to apply. These are very smart people (well, for the most part) who spent 5+ years in graduate school, reading very difficult books, grappling with very difficult arguments, interacting with (not infrequently) very difficult advisors, and eating very difficult Raman noodles. So I feel incredibly lucky to have a job doing what I love, in a supportive and stimulating department (even if the location is not ideal, given the location of my partner, friends, and family).

I’m also grateful that I didn’t try to pursue a career in my other great love: fantasy role-playing games and literature. As soul crushing as a career in academia can be in the 21st century, it seems to be considerably less dreadful than pursuing a career as a freelance RPG or fiction writer.

Don’t take my word for it. A recent post by Robert Schwalb – entitled, appropriately enough, ‘Crapping on Your Dream: Freelancing 101’ – explains how suicidal it would be for someone to try to make a living as a freelance writer, either for RPGs or fantasy fiction, in this day and age.

16 June 2011

Mongoose RuneQuest II to become 'Legend' with an 'Open' License

Instead of renaming their RuneQuest II system 'Wayfarer', Mongoose instead has opted for (the vastly superior, in my opinion) name 'Legend'. Moreover, it will be released under an 'open' license!

From here:
Henceforth, the core RuneQuest II rules will be known as Legend.

We are still putting together the release schedule of this line for 2012 (though it is filling up fast!), but we can reveal the following books and their availability;

October
Legend: The core rulebook, providing all the mechanics you need to start playing - these rules will be 100% compatible with the current RuneQuest II line and _nothing_ will be invalidated. If you are using it now, you will be able to make the switch to Legend in October without so much as fluttering an existing campaign. They are the same game.

Monsters of Legend: The central bestiary for the game, it will draw material from all RQII settings thus far, plus include a few surprises you have not yet seen.

November
The Spider God's Bride: A real Hyborian-esque sword & sorcery romp with a classic extended adventure.

Rouen - City of Sanctified Sinners: A brand new supplement for Deus Vult, detailing the city of Rouen and the movers and shakers that trouble the people there. If you have read Sister Devout, you will know what to expect!

January
Arms of Legend: Every piece of equipment your fantasy or historical adventurer could ever need will be in these pages!

February
Vikings of Legend: We have a soft spot for these guys, so RQ Vikings will be converted into the new format sooner than most.

There will be many more brand new releases for Legend, but these are the ones we have currently locked into the schedule.

Three more points to be made...

First off, we have to stress that Legend will be 100% compatible with your current RQII books. If you have an RQII book now, you will be able to use it with Legend. If you buy a Legend book, you will be able to use it with your RQII books. So it is written, so it shall be.

We have had a few requests about tweaking the core RQII rules or adding some bits and pieces to them, and we are considering this. However, _if_ we add or change anything to RQII (and _if_ we do, it will be minor) then we will post any such changes, in their entirety, on our weeb site for free download. We are not looking at doing this lightly but where a tweak will make for a better game, we will have to consider it.

Second, All Legend books will be in 'digest' format, literally half the footprint of the current RQII line. The maximum price for these books will be $19.99, and a few will be less than that.

Finally, we have decided to proceed with an 'open' licence for Legend. This will allow anyone to publish pretty much anything they like using the RQII/Legend mechanics.

However, we are going to make it easier to operate and be a part of. There will be no registration required and no complicated contracts or agreements. You will simply abide by a few very easy rules (such as not copying the front cover designs of our books), put a Legend Compatible logo on the front, and you will be good to go! There will be no SRD - instead, you may freely use anything that appears in the core book range - from the schedule above, this will include the main rulebook, Monsters of Legend, Arms of Legend and Vikings of Legend. And yes, when they appear (likely in summer 2012), Samurai and Pirates of Legend too!

So, if you want to construct your own Viking saga, for example, you can do so using Vikings of Legend as the foundation, and then publish it alongside our core book. We recommend sticking to the digest format, but there is absolutely no requirement to do so.

We have lots more coming up for Legend, material both old and brand new, and we will be revisiting classic settings while exploring all new ones. The future is looking good!
I had been quite pessimistic about the future of 'Wayfarer-now-Legend', doubting Mongoose's commitment to the system. But this is very good news, and I'm feeling much better about the future of the system now!

My only disappointment with this announcement is that there is no mention of any future 'Eternal Champion' books. If Mongoose has no intention on producing any future Elric, Hawkmoon, or Corum supplements, I wish that they would simply drop the license so that someone else could give it a try. But perhaps I'm being too pessimistic again, and will be pleasantly surprised in due course...

I am very much looking forward to the 'Legend' version of The Spider God's Bride, and will definitely be picking it up once it becomes available.

Finally, as had been noted widely when Mongoose first announced their new name for MRQII, there already exists a 'Wayfarers' FRPG. It looks like Mongoose will be publishing and distributing the original Wayfarers for Ye Olde Gaming Companye:
Wayfarers RPG
First up, we have been chatting to those nice chaps at Ye Olde Gaming Companye and found out that they were not only prepping a new version for their Wayfarers RPG but that they were in need of distribution. Being familiar with their game and seeing they were obviously such nice chaps, we immediatly offered to print and distribute their game!

The Wayfarers RPG will be released by Mongoose in December this year, likely in the second week. We will be following it up with the first supplement in January, World of Twylos. Look for them in all good game stores.
I own the PDF for Wayfarers and quite like it, so I'm happy to learn that it will be enjoying greater distribution in the future.

In short, lots of unexpected good news over at the Mongoose website today!

The Journal of Edvund Yrvim – Entry 11 - Just Deserts

As my half-brother and Adralat relaxed in an opulent room in Nhagren’s Oldside mansion, I engraved a rune of Sleep onto one of my sling bullets, and infused with some of my power the rune of Speed that I had engraved onto my boots many days ago.

A couple of hours passed before Graive entered the antechamber, informing us that Nhagren had returned. Sure enough, the Pan Tangian noble entered a few moments later.

We explained to Nhagren that we were forced to burn down the Frozen Gem. I made a point of emphasizing the fact that while Zherez had discovered that we were the ones responsible for absconding with his most popular prostitute, we had not revealed to him Aneera’s actual location.

The Pan Tangian nodded gratefully. “While this turn of events makes things more difficult for my work in Ryfel, needless to say, I shall continue to help you for what you have done for me,” said Nhagren earnestly. “I believe that you should accompany me now to the Citadel, my friends. For your own protection, of course!”

Since this was the course of action that we already had decided would be best, we readily agreed. As soon as we were outside of the mansion, though, the serpentine Pan Tangian lunged away from us before we could react. Surrounding us were six Black Guard warriors, their spears at the ready.

“Seize them!” shrieked Nhagren viciously.

I attempted to flee back into the house, my magical boots moving me more swiftly than before, but the door had been slammed shut by that weasel Graive before I could reach it. Blast!

A glance between the three of us confirmed that we were not going to be taken by this snake and his minions alive. We would fight to the death! Perhaps this was a rash decision – but my half-brother and I would never surrender to any Pan Tangian.

“Arioch take your souls!” yelled Bōdric defiantly, as he pulled out his blades.

Immediately, I was tripped by one of the soldier’s spears. Bōdric was ignobly disarmed before he could attack. Adralat’s arm was cut as he reached for his sword. Things were not going well for us.

Suddenly, though, ignoring his wound, Adralat deftly leapt to the side of the house, and grabbed Nhagren before any of the spearmen could react. Placing his dagger at the scoundrel’s neck, he shouted, “Call your men off, Nhagren, or I’ll slice your miserable throat!”

Shocked by this remarkable turn of events, the Pan Tangian’s pants suddenly dampened.

“Stand down, men of the Black Guard!” yelped Nhagren, his voice cracking.

I picked myself up and joined my human friend. Bōdric, recovering his rapier and dirk, did likewise. Adralat’s blade firmly held, we instructed Nhagren to tell the spearmen to drop their weapons and enter the house. The cowed Pan Tangian complied with our command. Once the Black Guard soldiers had entered the house, Bōdric and I moved a massive stone urn to obstruct the front door.

“Why did you betray us?” I asked Nhagren, genuinely puzzled by what struck me as a rather premature action. (I had no doubt that the Pan Tangian would eventually turn on us; but I had been confident that he would wait until we had at least first removed Malagan.)

“Need you ask, Melnibonéan?” snarled the sweating Assistant Governor, gesturing at his bandaged knee. It would never recover fully from the wound that I had inflicted just days ago.

Shrugging in irritation, I muttered my rune of Sleep, and placed Nhagren in a dreamless slumber that would last at least three hours. “Such petty foolishness,” I muttered to myself.

Realizing that it would not take long for the spearmen to escape from Nhagren’s manor, the three of us decided to proceed immediately to the Black Citadel. Fortunately, we had the letters of entry that Nhagren had given us a day ago still with us.

Looking at the pale gibbous moon as we trudged up from Oldside to the forlorn citadel’s entrance, I judged the time to be around midnight.

“We are helping the Assistant Governor return to his quarters,” said Adralat smoothly to the guards. “As you can see, he is not feeling well! Some shellfish seems to have disagreed with him. In case you doubt our friendship with the Assistant Governor, we have letters signed by him with us, giving us permission to enter the Black Citadel.”

The guards eyed us suspiciously, but our letters were clearly legitimate, and Nhagren unharmed, if strangely sound asleep. Grunting apathetically, they moved aside and allowed us to enter.

We rushed into the manse, not pausing to enjoy its spacious splendour, which was a marked contrast with the weary squalor found everywhere else in Ryfel. Asking a servant for directions, we carried Nhagren to his apartment, which was located in one of the dark fortress’s three towers. The apartment was opulent, filled with silk cushions, well-crafted ornate furniture, and exotic carpets.

Also within the apartment, chained to Nhagren’s luxurious bed, was the naked and barely conscious Aneera. It was clear that she had been abused viciously by the wretched Pan Tangian. Shocked and disgusted, we recovered a ring of keys from Nhagren’s cloak, and unlocked the captive woman’s shackles. We then gave her some clothing and water.

In silence, Bōdric and I looked through Nhagren’s items, taking a few coins and some clothing, but finding little else of use to us. In the meantime, Adralat comforted Aneera as best he could.

“My lady, I am pleased to inform you that we have liberated your sisters! The Frozen Gem has been destroyed and your sisters are on their way to our ship, away from this vile port,” said the dreamthief, his voice warm yet serious.

Tears of happiness flowed from Aneera’s emerald eyes. “By the Blue Lady, thank you so much for what you’ve done!” She hugged Adralat. Despite her dire condition, she was smiling brilliantly, her face full of joy and relief.

A few minutes passed as we readied ourselves to leave the apartment.

“Er, lads, what should we do about Nhagren?” I asked, pointing at our comatose captive, which we had deposited on a carpet in the corner.

Shrugging, Bōdric suggested, “Perhaps we should simply slay him? He certainly deserves it, by Mabelode, and we wouldn’t have to worry about him causing us trouble later. We need to recover Cora-Dru and Lord Salamir now, this very night, and it’s unlikely the Pan Tangian could be of any help to us any further, especially in his current state.”

“Besides, I’m bloody tired of carrying him.”

Adralat nodded in grim agreement. Sighing, I conceded the force of my brother’s argument.

In a brittle voice, Aneera asked, “If the snake is to die, may I be the one to have the satisfaction?”

We nodded in silence. Bōdric handed her one of his dirks.

“Is there any way to wake him, before I take his life?” inquired Aneera, her voice calm and icy. “By Eequor, I want this beast to know that he dies by my hand.”

“I’m afraid not, m’lady,” I replied, “My spell will last for a few hours yet.”

Nodding in regret, the former courtesan paused in silence for a moment, and then thrust the dirk forcefully into Nhagren’s neck, twisting it as crimson blood spurted and flowed from the gruesome wound. In seconds the life drained from our nemesis, the carpet on which he lay turning a vivid red.

I turned away from the Pan Tangian’s body. While I could not deny that he deserved death, the slaying of a helpless man sickened me somewhat. Perhaps my Melnibonéan blood was even thinner than I had suspected.

Ready now to leave the apartment, Bōdric opened the door to the stairway. Much to our shock, though, right in front of us was a massive wolfhound. Grey and black in colour, with shaggy hair, a scarred muzzle, and single eye that radiated savage malevolence, the beast seemed more demon than dog!

This was ‘Cur’ – the familiar of the sorcerer Malagan.

Immediately the hound bit at Bōdric, who barely managed to knock the beast’s maw away from him with one of his blades. Using my sling, I fired the bullet on which I had inscribed a rune of Sleep. The rune proved to be superfluous, however, as the bullet burst through the dog’s one remaining eye, slaying it instantly.

A second later, coming from another part of the manse, we heard a mighty scream of rage. And then an inhumanly loud shout: “Take them alive!”

The voice, I was certain, belonged to Malagan, enraged at the death of his beloved pet. No doubt some kind of mystical bond existed between the Pan Tangian sorcerer and the gigantic wolfhound.

Barely having time to recover our wits, we heard the stomping of soldiers’ boots from the stairway. As swiftly as we could, we shut the door, locked it, and then moved some of Nhagren’s furniture against it.

Gesturing at the window at the back of Nhagren’s sleeping chamber, I said urgently, “Any chance we might escape that way?”

“It’s worth a try, by Balo’s balls!” shouted Bōdric, drawing his blades again. “You and Aneera, tie the sheets into a rope; Adralat and I will stand ready!”

Nodding, I tucked my sling into my belt, and began ripping up the beautiful silk sheets, while Aneera began tying them together.

In the meantime, the Pan Tangian guards started pounding on the door...

14 June 2011

OSRCon Toronto: I’ll be Running a Swords and Wizardry Game

That was quick! Only hours after finding out about OSRCon, I’m signed up to run a Swords and Wizardry game – using my Akratic Wizardry house rules, of course!

Here’s the blurb for my game (to take place the morning of August 13):

Shipwrecked! The characters have washed up on an eldritch shore, and must work together in order to survive. Can a conniving merchant, a savage barbarian, an unscrupulous burglar, a decadent nobleman, and an enigmatic sorcerer overcome their mutual distrust and find a way off this unnatural island? (This is a ‘swords and sorcery’ themed adventure, using the GM’s ‘Akratic Wizardry’ house rules. Characters provided.)

I also will be taking part in a RuneQuest game (not sure which edition) and one of James Maliszewski’s ‘Dwimmermount’ games.

The current schedule of games is here. More likely will be added.

This should be fun! It’s been years since I’ve done any gaming at a con.

If you’ll be in or near Toronto August 12 or 13, try to come by and roll some dice.

13 June 2011

OSRCon August 12 and 13

As reported today over at Grognardia, there will be an 'Old School Renaissance' RPG convention this summer, August 12 and 13, in Toronto.

Here is the website for OSRCon. And here is its blog.

I hope to be there, in order to play a couple of games, and possibly run one!

Inexpensive RuneQuest II PDFs

I don't think that I've mentioned this already, despite my earlier posts on Mongoose's decision to drop the 'RuneQuest' license (see this and that), but the PDFs for the RuneQuest II books are now quite inexpensive!

I recently picked up the 'core bundle' and PDF versions of the three 'Elric' supplements. If you are fond of 'd100' games at all (BRP or earlier versions of RuneQuest), I highly recommend purchasing at least the MRQII core rulebook.

Mongoose's RuneQuest 'I' PDFs also are quite inexpensive these days, although, obviously, less useful for people who prefer RuneQuest II (and what sane person wouldn't?). Still, I may pick up the 'Hawkmoon' PDFs soon, as I think it's quite unlikely we'll ever see a MRQII/Wayfarer version of that setting.

09 June 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Beta – Some Impressions

Yesterday Goodman Games released the free ‘beta’ version of its forthcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics Role-playing Game (you can check it out yourself here).

This is how Goodman Games describes their ‘old school’ RPG:

Glory & Gold Won by Sorcery & Sword

You’re no hero.

You’re a reaver, a cutpurse, a heathen-slayer, a tight-lipped warlock guarding long-dead secrets. You seek gold and glory, winning it with sword and spell, caked in the blood and filth of the weak, the dark, the demons, and the vanquished. There are treasures to be won deep underneath, and you shall have them.

Return to the glory days of fantasy with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Adventure as 1974 intended you to, with modern rules grounded in the origins of sword & sorcery. Fast play, cryptic secrets, and a mysterious past await you: turn the page…

Rules Set: DCC RPG, an OGL system that cross-breeds Appendix N with a streamlined version of 3E.

It is one day later, and Ye Auld Skül blogosphere has been flooded with ‘first impressions’ of the beta version of DCCRPG.

A sample:

Bat in the Attic

Lamentations of the Flame Princess

Unto the Breach

The Fantasy Game

Retro-Role-playing

Grognardia

Tenkar’s Tavern

No School Like the Old School

Strange Magic

Greyhawk Grognard


Well, I certainly do not want to be left out of the fray! So here are my initial impressions:


Positive:

1. I very much like the art. (Perhaps there is too much? It is almost overwhelming. But it creates a wonderful overall ethos for the game.) Here is a sample piece by Pete Mullen:

2. I like that the game is dedicated to the recently departed Jim Rosloff (a fine artist from TSR's early days, whose work influenced some of my earliest impressions of D&D). Here is one of Rosloff’s pieces (from page 7 of the DCC RPG beta):

3. I dig the critical and fumble charts (they bring back some good memories of my MERP and Rolemaster days!). Not sure how well they would work in practice, obviously.

4. I like that magic is unpredictable, but I think that it may be too unpredictable. (The consequences for Wizards if they roll a natural '1' when casting look to be pretty dire [see pp. 97-99]. I suspect that higher-level wizards frequently will have beaks, bull’s horns, scales, gills, etc.)


Negative:

1. I dislike the ‘funnel system’ for creating player characters. Apparently, players are expected to start with four 0-level PCs, which subsequently are ‘culled’ in an initial dungeon adventure. Now, it might be cool to have this as an option for beginning players, but these days I prefer to let players choose what kinds of characters they want to run.

2. There is a certain haughty 'old school machismo' tone that runs through much of the text that I find grating. (E.g., all ability scores must be rolled randomly and in order; most of your 0-level ‘peons’ will be killed in their first adventure; the brutal 'corruption' spell failure chart; etc.). The tone reminds me of the ‘grumpy old man’ character that Dana Carvey used to play on Saturday Night Live. (“Back in my day, our 0-level characters died every twenty-minutes by impaling themselves with their own pitchforks while fighting house cats – And We Liked It!”)

3. The game, overall, seems to have a very specific interpretation of what 'old school' role-playing is like, and this interpretation has been hard-wired into the rules. Unfortunately, it's not my view of what 'old school' role-playing is like (but then maybe I'm getting too soft in my old age).


Overall:

Based on this skim, I doubt that I'll ever play this game, but I'll likely get a copy of the core rules simply for the art. However, this is only a beta release, and I haven’t read the rules fully, so perhaps I’ll change my opinion in the future...

07 June 2011

The Journal of Edvund Yrvim - Entry 10 - Burning Down the Inn

Bōdric, Adralat, and I returned to our room at the Frozen Gem. Our warrior-slave Myluk poured each of us a cup of cool wine. We sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping our wine and contemplating our predicament.

Then we heard a knock at our door. “This is Zherez, mates. Open up please!”

I gestured at Myluk for him to do so. Upon opening the door, however, the innkeeper and five of his henchmen burst forcefully into our room. Much to my dismay, the herbalist Auhora was with them.

[Zherez Zheringen]

“Are the men you saw yesterday here, old woman?” snapped Zherez.

Auhora nodded meekly, gesturing at Adralat and myself. The innkeeper glared at us, his face flushed with anger.

“So, you lot did take her! Where is she? Tell me now!” he shouted.

After a moment of tense silence, Adralat suddenly blurted out, “You know, man, you’re a complete and utter arsehole.”

The innkeeper stared in amazement at the strange human. His thugs drew their crude blades, clearly intending to intimidate us.

Our charade of innocence was clearly at an end. I said as calmly as I could, “The human female Aneera, whom you have quite unjustly been keeping captive here, is now halfway en route to the Isle of the Purple Towns. So Zherez, I think that you may as well forget about her. We are willing to compensate you a few hundred silver coins, but what is done…”

Cutting me off in mid-sentence, hatred burning in his eyes, the innkeeper snarled, “Look, you Melnibonéan scum, we can do this the easy way or the hard way. The choice is yours.”

Sighing in frustration, Bōdric snapped his Melnibonéan blades out of his scabbards, and muttered grimly, “We’ll try the hard way, then, you piece of walking offal.”

And so violence broke out, yet again. The elderly herbalist prudently fled.

Initially, Zherez’s thugs batted away the blades of Adralat, Bōdric, and Myluk – and vice versa. Adralat broke this cycle, and smacked the miscreant with whom he was engaged in the head. Stunning his opponent, the dreamthief struck again, this time cleanly severing the man’s head.

Myluk, who was engaged with two brutes that had flanked him, was less fortunate. A blow to his leg left him on one knee. He deflected further blows, eventually burying his axe in the face of the Frozen Gem’s main bartender. Myluk’s other foe, however, managed to trip him, leaving our mighty warrior-slave flat on his back.

My half-brother, in the meantime, had been knocked down thanks to a massive blow to his head. While Bōdric’s steel helm prevented any serious damage, the strike had left him stunned and quite vulnerable.

While my compatriots were engaged in mêlée, I muttered my rune of Reflection, and proceeded to march up to Zheren, hoping that he would assault me. My wish was granted, and the innkeeper thrust his rapier at me, only for it to rebound at him, cutting his thigh. Shocked at this evidence of sorcery, Zherez immediately turned about and began to flee. I pursued him, but as I left the room I saw him vault over the banister onto the second floor and disappear. Apparently his wound was not deep enough to slow him. As I tried to catch up with the villain, I slipped and fell on the stairs. Fortunately, the only damage done was to my pride.

Returning to our room, I saw that Bōdric had somehow managed to extract himself from his unfortunate position, and slay his attacker as well, his dirk implanted in the corpse’s eye socket. Adralat, remarkably, seemed to have severed another thug’s head! In contrast, Myluk’s luck continued to be poor, as had suffered a gash to his forehead. Shaking blood from his eyes, our warrior-slave continued to deflect further blows from the remaining thug with his shield.

Impatiently, I uttered my rune of Sleep, placed my hand on the back of the last of Zherez’s henchmen, and thereby caused him to collapse in a sorcerous slumber.

“Well, that went reasonably well,” quipped Adralat, obviously pleased with himself.

“Not that well, I’m afraid,” I replied. “Zherez has fled, and no doubt will be returning soon with reinforcements. I’m sure he won’t be taking any chances this time. That wolf will want our blood!”

I bound Myluk’s head with some torn sheets as we discussed what to do next.

“Well, I think we have no choice, brother,” said Bōdric, an evil gleam appearing in his eyes. “I think we have to burn this inn down!”

“What?” I exclaimed in reply. “How could that possibly help?”

“Well, it would keep Zherez distracted, surely, while we escape!”

Nodding, Adralat spoke up, “I agree with Bōdric. A fire would create a useful distraction. While it rages, Myluk, who is now wounded, could accompany the eleven prostitutes, the sisters of Aneera, to our ship to the north. My promise to her would thus be fulfilled. Myluk would be able to recover away from here, and we could go to Nhagren’s house and hide there until the time of the banquet.”

I spent a few moments thinking over the plan. Despite myself, I had to concede that I could think of no better alternative.

“Very well. Bōdric and I will stay here and ready this vile place for Kakatal’s burning embrace. While we do that, Adralat, you should take Myluk and the human prostitutes to the edge of the city. Once you’re beyond the city walls, I’m sure that Myluk alone can accompany the females to the cove where our ship is hidden. Once our respective jobs have been completed, we should meet up at Nhagren’s house, and hide there. It is, of course, a gamble whether that wretched Pan Tangian will give us succour. But I suppose that we have little choice in the matter.”

And so our human companion gathered the prostitutes from the inn, and departed with them and Myluk. My brother and I, in the meantime, ransacked the bar’s supply of liquor. Strangely, the patrons in the common room seemed largely oblivious to what we were doing, delighted simply by all the free ale they were enjoying during the unexplained absence of Zherez’s staff.

Bōdric and I poured the liquor throughout the various upper halls and rooms of the inn. We set fire to the top floor, and then proceeded to flee with great alacrity. As we walked down the street away from the inn, we heard shouts of alarm coming from within, as the drunken patrons realized what was happening.

People shouted as they fled, “Fire! Fire! The Gem’s ablaze!”

As flames consumed the largest inn of Ryfel, Bōdric and I met up with Adralat at Nhagen’s house. After informing us that Nhagren and Aneera were now at the Black Citadel (apparently the Pan Tangian had an apartment there), we were shown into the antechamber by Graive.

Sipping gratefully from a glass of fine wine proffered by the painfully obsequious manservant, I commented, “Well, Gentlemen, this was quite an eventful day, no?”

Alas, life was only to become even more eventful…


04 June 2011

Ray Gun versus Nazgul

Here is a rather cool picture by Ian Baggley for North Wind Adventures forthcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (posted by Benoist).

More of Baggley's work for AS&SH can be found here.

I must say, I quite like the look and 'feel' of these pictures. They're a bit dark, grainy, and mysterious, but full of tension and energy.

03 June 2011

Crypts and Things News

Newt Newport reports that things have been quite active over at d101 Games as of late. Exciting things are happening for OpenQuest (the d100/RuneQuest variant rules system produced by d101 Games) and Crypts and Things.

Crypts and Things, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is a darker, ‘swords and sorcery’ flavoured variant of the Swords & Wizardry game (which, in turn, is a 0e D&D ‘retro-clone). C&T draws on my ‘Akratic Wizardry’ house rules for S&W, as well as Newt’s own fertile ideas and his intriguing ‘Zarth’ world setting.

It looks like ‘external play testing’ is starting up now, so if you’re interested, drop Newt a line!

(I just finished up the third adventure of my current Call of Cthulhu campaign tonight, so it may be a good time to take a break from the 1920s and run a few Crypts and Things adventures in between our Young Kingdoms sessions!)

02 June 2011

Some News on the Future of Mongoose's RuneQuest II System

I missed this statement when it was first posted a week ago by Matt Sprange of Mongoose Games. It addresses some of the concerns with 'the-game-formerly-known-as-RuneQuest II' that have been expressed at various forums and blogs, including my worry that 'Wayfarer' was simply an attempt to prevent Mongoose from being stuck with a backlog of MRQII books. It also broaches the general interest amongst MRQII fans in the possibility that the game might be re-released under the OGL.

Here are the relevant bits:

With the announcement of RuneQuest II becoming Wayfarer, the internet forums briefly lit up in a spark of debate and the inevitable analysis followed. Some of it was correct, a lot wasn't. So, time for a spot of rumour control!

First, we are not planning for Wayfarer to just limp along. It is not a ruse to keep selling stocks of RuneQuest books in the warehouse. If we were not serious about supporting the game, we would not be doing it - it has to be understood that we do not simply hang around the office all day playing games. The people here work extremely hard and they all have better things to do than prop up a game we are not serious about supporting.

It also makes perfect sense for us to have an in-house fantasy system that we can readily apply to any new settings we develop or licence, just as we have a science fiction system in Traveller. If we were to relinquish all fantasy RPGs, it would be a noticeable gap in our line up.

It has been said that all we are planning to do is shovel existing books into a new format so they can tick along. Well, that is rather a negative way of looking at it, and a little further analysis would reveal that producing existing work in the new format is a logical course of action. It has the following advantages;

1. It is quick, easy and economic for us. This means we can support the system indefinetly because the costs are greatly reduced. At the same time, we can release the books at a much lower price point, making them a much more attractive proposition for you. We are aiming for a £9.99 price point for most books, and it is difficult to see how even a big fat one would be priced at more than £14.99 - this is exactly what we have been doing with the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebooks, so we know the concept works.

2. The new format does not require existing players to buy a new book (in fact, it gives them the Pocket version people have been asking for since RQII came out). If we asked people to do that it _would_ kill the game dead.

3. If there are people out there who have been wavering on the edge, hearing about how good the game system is (and, as you will know if you have played it, it really is very, very good), then the new format is practically an impulse purchase.

We will re-release the core book (the mechanics unchanged, with the exception of integration of errata and a few clarifications - anything new will be posted, for free, on our web site for owners of the RQII rulebook), Arms & Equipment and the Monster Coliseum (renamed and potentially with the arena rules removed - we wanted the book to be more than just a monster manual, but it seems that is exactly what most people wanted!). Those will appear fairly quickly, as they form the core of the game, but we will also bring back Empires and Vikings, and likely Necromantic Arts a little further down the line.

However, we will also be bringing brand new material into play relatively quickly. We are currently looking at a one-shot Hyborian-esque grand adventure, new material for Deus Vult and some bits and pieces for Elric - we will be adding to this list over the next few months, and we have a strong interest in working with more historical settings, be they extensions to Vikings or brand new areas (and Land of the Samurai could certainly make a return in one form or another).

We have been asked whether we will make Wayfarer OGL. This will be a decision made later but, at this time, we are leaning towards it. However, I don't think it will be the usual OGL/logo licence combo, as messing around with SRDs is very time-consuming for us. If we go ahead with this, it is more likely to be a case of everything in the core book range is ripe for picking, just stay away from the setting books - aside from using a 'Wayfarer Compatible' logo, there will be nothing to sign or register for. Just pick up the rules and use them.

(Thanks to the rune under water for the link.)

The reference to only 'bits and pieces' forthcoming for the 'Elric' line is not encouraging. (And there is no mention of any other potential 'Eternal Champion' books, e.g. 'Hawkmoon' or 'Corum'.)

However, Sprange also has announced recently that a MRQII/Wayfarer version of the Spider God's Bride will be forthcoming (from 'Xoth.net publishing'; more on the world of Xoth here). This would be, I assume, the
"one-shot Hyborian-esque grand adventure" that Sprange mentions in his post.

If MRQII/Wayfarer is supported with more similar third-party products, then perhaps the future of MRQII/Wayfa
rer is not as grim as I had feared!

I think I'll have a couple of pints on that happy thought...

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.