29
Feb
12

D&D is a desert

Why do we not use the video embed feature in OSR blogs more often? Greengoat knows much about death metal that is 100% relevant to D&D, and I am psyched to see Cyclopeatron posting again and the opposite of disappointed that so many of his recent posts have just been videos. Being not very cool myself, but not wanting to let that hold me back, I lifted this one off story-games’s Stuff to Watch thread:

Things I get from this:

  1. Given that D&D is the apocalypse, this is what it looks like. Magnificent horses and beat-up cars, ancient walls with spray-painted graffiti. The city of Greyhawk is like Dubai: an oasis of wealth formed at the place where riches can be extracted from a hole in the ground. All the wilderness around it should reveal, like the one-time Fertile Crescent, the consequences of having been civilized for thousands of years in which adventurers irrigated fields with salt water and let goats graze at will and used flaming oil to solve their problems.
  2. Since I should be busily promoting the Dwimmermount Kickstarter which launches on Friday, allow me to point out that the way James’ work inspired me to drive this home in Sunday’s game was to tell the players: “The statues you find in the dungeon all have had their heads replaced by that of Turms Termax. You recognize his face because it stares down on you all the time, in various states of crumbling ruin. The most remarkable thing about the mountain of Dwimmermount you climbed up to get here is that this is the only peak you have ever seen that isn’t carved with Turms’ head, Mount Rushmore-style.”
  3. This is brazenly stolen from Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun; tip of the hat to Play Unsafe for teaching me to go with the first, most obvious and derivative thing you can think of when playing an RPG because your goal is to hit the primal chords that others can riff off and maybe even be surprised by if they haven’t chewed over all the same stuff you have.
  4. Part of why I love Dwimmermount is that the presence of Typhon alongside Turmax in the pantheon is evidence that James has been chewing the same Wolfean roots, which is entirely appropriate because Gene is explicit about New Sun being an extended love letter to The Dying Earth just like Gygax’s work. It’s not like James is being coy about this either, Shadow & Claw is right there on his what I’m reading list.
  5. There is a room on the first level of Dwimmermount, which no party I know of has discovered yet, whose central mystery is straight jacked from another of my favorite foundational D&D sources. I am deeply impressed that James has the confidence to know that filing the serial numbers off of the stuff he steals will ruin what makes them perfect.
  6. What this taught me to do: the party is confronted by a Thuvian metal door at the entry to the dungeon, no visible handle or knocker or anything. They cast read languages so I decide that yes, they can now see letters damascened into the metal using alloys indistinguishable to the unaided eye. “What language are these in?” they ask. I suspect the correct answer is ‘have you ever seen ancient Thuvian?’ but I want everyone to be in on the fun; that’s why I argued for eliminating infravision in ACKS and make all my intelligent swords compulsively talk out loud even if they also have telepathy. So I say “it’s in Common, which is the language of the ancient Thuvians. All sentients you know about are born knowing how to speak this language.” OK now the players want to know what it says. “Speak Friend and Enter,” of course.
  7. The priceless thing about this: they still wound up using knock to get past the door. The glory and the tragedy of RPGs is that giving the players a clue that is totally obvious to you is often functionally equivalent to giving them a puzzle with no hints whatsoever.
  8. Back to the MIA video. The power she gets from having her face uncovered is the same OD&D affords you when you say “no, none of us are playing generic fighters in this edition; those guys are fighting-men, my character is a fighting-woman“.  James’ text brought these possibilities alive for me too; in the room I’m hinting about, he specifies that the face on the wall is the face of a Man. (Note how Carcosa squeezes even more juice out of this: is it the face of a White Man or a Green Man?) When the players found the statue my play-by-post group hauled out of the dungeon three years previously, this attention to gender deepened the mystery: did they haul the one statue of a Woman up the stairs and leave the Men behind because it was the only one not defaced with Turms’ head, or due to some deeper significance?* And would it be more or less creepy if Turms had slapped his beardy visage on all the statues regardless of gender? Instead it looks like he cast himself as five ancient male gods, and then apparently replaced one of the statues wholesale with that of his lover. Was the missing statue also that of a woman?

The other thing I should be promoting is that tomorrow night, Wednesday 2/29, is the last installment of Games that Can’t be Named at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art. True to form, I can neither confirm nor deny that we will be playing Dwimmermount with some non-disclosed ruleset or another.

However, it is known that I will be refereeing an expedition into this great dungeon on Saturday evening at the Brooklyn Strategist using the Adventurer Conqueror King System. I’ve claimed for myself the honor of inaugurating a series of events in which a host of other NYC-area GMs will present  their own takes on James’ opus, which will run each Saturdays for at least as long as the Kickstarter campaign – 3/3 (me), 3/10 (Paul Hughes),  3/17 (50% chance of John Stavropoulous), 3/24 (I hope Eric Minton so that he has less time for writing stuff that drives ACKS off the top slot at RPG.now), and 3/31, 4/7, and 4/14 all to be determined.

If you’re not in NYC, James will be running games via G+. More about all this soon.

* ACKS points to the correct answer; as I recall, we hauled out that statue because we thought we could sell it for more than the others.


16 Responses to “D&D is a desert”


  1. February 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Everything you posted and wrote today is kinda hard to understand and full of offhand references that are kinda inaccessible unless whoever’s reading tries really hard.

  2. February 29, 2012 at 9:12 am

    like this, your emails, your thread comments, the whole 9

  3. February 29, 2012 at 9:44 am

    One of the weekly features on my blog, Really Bad Eggs is called “Cinematic.” It features a short clip from a cape-and-sword movie or television show. Gamers talk often about cinematic action, and my goal is to show examples of swashbuckling action as inspiration.

  4. February 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

    @Zak, I blame Piraat ale which is totally tasty and has an awesome label so that I forget it also has a punishing 10% alcohol and thus I should not have a third one. Plus, having worked up a full head of steam, I forget that it is impossible that even in our echo chamber anyone else is stoking their fires with the exact same fuel. I will adjust my gaskets, and appreciate the heads up! One way internet communication sucks more than in-person (but is still better than the published word) is the time it takes for someone to say “you have to hold the mic closer to your mouth if you want us to hear you back here”, thanks for being that person.

    @Black Vulmea, I also dig the Wednesday Wyeth! Do you have the swordfighting clip from Robin Hood Mike Mornard talks about as Gygax’s explanation of why a combat round takes a minute?

  5. February 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I find this and the abortion post totally clear, but then I’m also familiar with Dwimmermount. I’m interested in Zak’s criticism though because I fear my own posts are completely opaque.

  6. February 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    @richard I often think I could make a whole career as a blogger just taking one of the sentences in your posts, cutting it with baby powder, and peddling it to people not yet ready for the hard stuff.

    But one thing about your style I like as a hardcore junkie, and approach myself in this post more than most, is a high density of links. As an academic I’m like “of course it counts as discussing an idea if I show people where they can read it themselves”, but I understand how that means trying really hard and I am interested in communicating; most of this post is not a case where I think it’s important for people to do it themselves. (I do mean to be mysterious about some of the Dwimmermount contents though.)

  7. February 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    @tavis, I sure do, and it will pop up in “Cinematic” at some point in the future – in fact, I’ve got a post in the hopper in praise of the lowly D&D hit point as a great swashbuckling mechanic.

    But up first on Sunday is Tybalt versus Romeo from the Zeferelli film.

  8. 8 Lord Bodacious
    February 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    > You recognize his face because it stares down on you all the time, in various states of crumbling ruin. The most remarkable thing about the mountain of Dwimmermount you climbed up to get here is that this is the only peak you have ever seen that isn’t carved with Turms’ head, Mount Rushmore-style.”

    In my brain I quickly substituted the beautiful mug of Jamie Mal for Msr. Turmax. I was charmed to have this familiar face staring down from all angles in the attitude of a conquering god-king.

    That riddle should be so very obvious, and I feel like we tried a whole load of solutions (friend in all languages, names of people who are friends, etc), but after 20 minutes of trying, several rounds of libation, and a random spell list best suited for arcane administrative work, we couldn’t say no to the knock (seriously, read languages, read magic, knock …. I think protection from evil was the only dungeon-worthy spell I rolled).

    ((PS – does anyone know where to find a guide to formatting wordpress posts? While I have given up on the outrageous desire to edit posts, I’d love to use links and even italics))

  9. February 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    LB, I will seek to ensure that all the art orders for forthcoming images of Msr. Turmax strongly resemble Msr. Maliszewski. Great idea and fully in the tradition of Gygax’s Zagyg and Ward’s Starship Warden!

    You should be able to put raw html code into comments, like with the brackets and href=”” and all. Also now that you are a contributor you can edit posts and comments in the dashboard, and twirl your moustache while laughing at those who cannot.

    I will post at Autarch about the take I used on the ACKS procedures for what spells you know, but you totally could have sought to cast spells that the stars weren’t right for. The idea is to speed up character creation and reward casting “letter of the day” spells by giving them a little bonus, not to cheat you out of some of the flexibility a third-level ACKS elven spellsword should have had.

  10. February 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Showing off my html link-fu, I started a thread at story-games to strive for Zak-worthy clarity there as well.

  11. 11 Lord Bodacious
    February 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Oh, I actually think the rolling for spells thing is awesome – honestly I would almost suggest all spells re-roll at each level, not each session for some more continuity (though this might make power-gamers heads explode). For players who enjoy randomness in character development, it’s tops, and really sealed the idea of the character as some sort of wandering warrior/bureaucrat/reality show judge.

  12. 12 Bargle
    February 29, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    D&D would be a cooler game if they took the female only classes from the early dragon mag. and ran with them. It remains the reason why wonder woman is much cooler than supergirl. Supergirl is just superman with tits and a -1 str score.

  13. 13 Mark Moreland
    March 1, 2012 at 2:13 am

    Nice read, Tavis. The “Thuvian door” threw me for a loop, though, as Thuvia is a nation in Golarion (and a princess of Barsoom) and I still don’t know exactly what it means in the context of this article.

  14. March 1, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Oops, it is the Thulians who were the ancient empire in James’ campaign, so a Thulian door is a mysterious science fantasy artifact. I was probably thinking of Thuvia, and given their shared love of pulp Eric and James probably arrived at a similar name by riffing off of the same source.

  15. May 30, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Very good blog! Do you have any helpful hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost
    on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform
    like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any tips? Cheers!


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