Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Village of Gallowsthorn

Using Inkarnate to do simple ISO maps of the villages and settlements on my regional map. This is the village of Gallowsthorn. Back during the bad old days of the Kingdom of Asmogar there was a prison here where they used to inter and execute those who fought against the Wraith King. The prison is just a ruins now although one of the wizened old hanging trees can still be seen out front.
There is a comfortable Inn in the small village, The Rosethorn Inn, which was built before the Kingdom of Asmorgar and has been the only tavern and Inn within the village for nearly three hundred years.
An overgrown old segment of road, now a barely visible trail leads off to the Southwest where another tumbled ruins from the Kingdom of Asmorgar sits.

Hate for the OSR?

Over the last year or so I've been somewhat perplexed by the hate being sent online in the direction of OSR writers and game designers.

It seems to me that a few isolated instances of bad behavior by a few bad actors has been used to try to throw shade over the entire thousand or so people who have been involved in OSR fandom and creativity from the beginning.

I don't believe for a moment that the motivation at the core of the anti-OSR movement is based in some altruistic attempt to create a safe haven from the mean, bad wrong, exclusionism of old white men and their dungeons and dragons hobby.  The anti-OSR movement is about identity politics.  Namely it is about labeling people as insiders versus outsiders, good people versus bad people, with the goal in mind of ripping the hobby out of the hands of the people who were there all the way back at the beginning so that some younger, more "enlightened" group, namely the handful of actors at the center of the anti-OSR movement can become the money makers and gatekeepers of that segment of the hobby.

When you step back and watch the anti-OSR crowd play out in their own forums they are more about social dynamics and who is "in" and who is "out" in certain social circles than in anything regarding the creation of cool RPG games or campaigns based on the original rules of dungeons and dragons.  In fact very little of anything that is being produced, if anything at all, has to do with the rules from basic dungeons and dragons or 1st edition D&D - which was what the OSR movement was about in the first place.

I think that one of the things that sticks in the craw of the anti-OSR leadership is the fact that most of them cannot share a direct personal experience where they were growing up in 1976 to 1982 when RPG's were in their infancy because they weren't even born at the time.  As someone who was there and lived through the infancy of roleplaying games and early RPG clubs, I can say from direct personal experience, that we were one of the most inclusive and safest havens for people from different racial, cultural and sexual backgrounds of any social group in high school or college at that time.

Our circle of gamer friends included men, women, people who were black, hispanic and asian and several friends who were out of the closet gay or lesbian (to those of us in the game club, where they could be themselves) who were still in the closet elsewhere in their lives because of the general intolerance of the times.

The D&D kids were very welcoming.  We were the punk rock kids.  We were the metal kids. We were the goth kids.  We were the art and theatre and the band kids.  We were the math and computer nerds.  We were, together, all of us, the social outsiders of our age and we stuck together and forged bonds of friendship which have lasted for more than thirty years.

I would ask anyone in the leadership of the anti-OSR movement making spurious claims about how it was all a bunch of mean old white guys from the beginning one question.  Were you even alive and old enough to be playing in an active dungeons and dragons group or club back in 1980?  If not, what are you basing your comments upon other than a bunch of made up garbage about events happening in a time and a place when you weren't even born?

It is with some relief that I can say that I've seen the following of the anti-OSR movement slowly dwindle over the last few months.  Part of this comes from them eating themselves alive in hateful back and forths about who is more self righteous and woke.

The OSR was always about a fandom for the original, simple roleplaying games from the period of the late 1970's through the 1980's.  It was always about writing alternate rules, new dungeons and adventures and material for those out of print rules sets.  Period.

The OSR was never about excluding anybody from any walk of life from contributions of their own ideas and materials.

With this one caveat.  As with any writing or creative endeavor, it IS possible that any writer or artist may find their work not well received because it is poorly written or poorly executed or just poorly received by the audience.  While the OSR is very inclusive, if your bag is writing Furry sex roleplaying material, your work is going to probably only be of interest to a very small subset of the OSR community.  Why?  Maybe because its just not fitting into the core hobby interest of that group - which is 1970's and 80's vintage roleplaying games and not Furry fandom or sex roleplaying games.  Now there is a pretty huge furry fandom culture out there where that particular kind of RPG might find a wider audience.  Which is cool and awesome and have at it.  But don't walk into the Star Trek fan club with your game about Star Wars and get all offended when none of the hard core Star Trek kids have any interest in your Star Wars stuff.  In the same way if you want to hang out with the OSR kids then at least bring games and adventures written for those 1970's to 1980's era games with you to the club meeting.  Otherwise your exclusion has zero, zippo to do with your race or sexuality and everything to do with you bringing completely off topic material into a hobby group.  Like...bringing your passionate love of RC airplanes to the model train club.  Take your RC airplane stuff to the RC airplane club where it can be appropriately appreciated.  You won't get very far waving your RC airplane in the air screaming against social exclusionism and unfairness at the model train club...the people there who would otherwise be happy to have you join them to talk about - model trains- (go figure) will just look at you like you are completely bonkers.

So.  The OSR crowd will keep writing adventures and dungeons and zines for the hobby that they love no matter what crazy arm waving and hate spewing the anti-OSR crowd is throwing their way.  Because after all...we put up with a lot of bullshit from the jocks and the popular kids going all the way back to high school when we were the punk rockers, metal heads and goth kids in our D&D groups back in the day and we survived all that rash of BS and hate without any problem, thanks very much.

Maybe when this particular subset of the woke crowd figures out that we were woke twenty years before they were even born, they will come play D&D with us and stop throwing hate.  Like I said.  The D&D kids were always one of the most accepting groups at school, even thirty to forty years ago when it all started and there will always be an open chair for the new kid who wants to play at the table...so long as they aren't taking a huge verbal dump on one of the other players at the table.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The Town of Bolgrad

Bolgrad is the only significant town on my current adventure map.  There are several other smaller villages, much smaller really compared to Bolgrad and I plan to do these Inkarnate maps for each of them.

Bolgrad is situated on a tall plateau left behind by the activity of glaciers in the region hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Within the walls of the town there is a substantial hill.  The hill is the highest point on the plateau and it has steep grass covered slopes leading up to a stone statue of the Northern god Balder, the god of warriors and heroes.

Within the hill and below the town in the limestone rock of the plateau, there is a substantial network of natural caverns.  The caves closest to the surface and entered through a large cave mouth on the South side of the hill, have been used as burials for the people of the town since it was established, two hundred years ago.

Bolgrad is the major trade center for the surrounding lands.  The next closest substantial town of this size is the Warhold of King Gudbrand, roughly forty miles to the Southwest.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

DCC RPG - After Report

So.  I managed to get to play DCC RPG as a player tonight.

It was ok.

The DM was super nice and did a great job.  The players were super nice.

What got in the way, for me, of the game being fun was the game system.

Simple rules does not always equal fun in a game system.  Yes I know.  I am a super big advocate of early RPG games but when you create an introductory game experience for new players where the zero level characters are so ineffectual and paper thin that a single average roll...not even a bad roll...but an average roll means instant death, it just leaves me bored and unimpressed.

I felt absolutely zero investment or interest in whether any of my characters lived or died, were successful or failed and as a whole I think that most of the players were feeling the same way about their characters as well.

The comedy of your character gets shredded into a thousand bloody pieces is funny, sure, the first time or two but two hours into the "funnel" it was just boring.  No.  Boring is not the right word.

Stupid.  It was stupid.

All together I think we played about a four hour session.

At the end we got to roll to see how our "stars aligned" to get us ready to convert the characters from zero level throw aways into first level throw aways, or at least that was the impression I got.

Get this. If you rolled lower than a six on 1d20 your character, that you just did your level best to keep alive through this funnel despite only having three hit points and no actual skills or abilities to draw upon to make any of it even vaguely interesting...if you rolled less than a six, your character was zapped back in time as if nothing ever happened and you had to turn them over to the DM.

Yes, that is correct.

You spend four hours of your life playing the game trying to be clever and keep a couple of your paper thin goons alive and at the end of the game, one low dice roll and randomly nothing that you did, no creativity, nothing, allows you to keep that character. 

So.  I am going to keep playing DCC RPG in the hopes that somewhere down the road the game gets better.  I own the books.  I've read through good chunks of them and I am hopeful but reading through something and actually playing it are two very different things.

For now I am giving DCC RPG - the introductory play experience in the funnel with zero level characters a one half star out of five. 

Descriptive words for the published adventure for the funnel I would use are boring and overly simplistic.  Descriptive words for the introductory experience playing through the zero level part of the game would be...boring, uninteresting and a waste of four hours of my life that I will never recover.

If you haven't purchased DCC RPG - I would hold off until you play it a few times to make sure the game is worth the money you are going to drop on the books.  The books are cool looking and like I said, the rules once you get playing seem interesting so I am holding out hope that this will improve.

Hopefully when I post again about DCC RPG I will be able to rave about how awesome the game is after you create a level one character.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Wraith King of Asmorgar


The Wraith King of Asmorgar

Pazuran-Sin was the provincial governor of the city of Hasna-di-kifo on the Western border of the Necrogarchy of Leng. A successful garrison leader and cunning magician, he was called before the secret masters sealed beneath the capital city of Pi-Atum three hundred and twenty years ago and ordered to prepare a mighty army for war.

Pazuran-Sin had only ten years to organize and plan for his undertaking and by recruiting and slave raiding throughout the wilderness called the Outlands of Dust, he was able to raise any army of a hundred thousand warriors.

The army of Pazuran-Sin was one of three great armies of the Necrogarchy of Leng which were readied for a full scale invasion of the Kingdoms to the West. Immediately before the invasion, Pazuran-Sin was rewarded for raising such a significant force by being granted the undead form of a lich and the title of Necromaster of Hasna-di-kifo.

The army of Pazuran-Sin was unleashed against the three central Kingdoms of Daria, Etruria and Kyrene. The marching of the armies of Leng into the Dragonsmarch, the violation of the Xianian frontiers of Iranam and the invasion of the Griffonwild began the most devastating period of warfare in the written history of Chimera.

The Nightshade war raged across almost all of the Eastern and Central kingdoms and territories of the known world for one hundred and fifteen years.

Pazuran-Sin suffered a significant defeat at the hands of the Guild Mages of Kyrene and Daria when the Great Weatherstone of Icegale tower was purposely shattered. The destruction of this powerful artifact resulted in the death of most of the Guild Mages involved, the explosion and ruin of the Guild's primary magical fortress in the area, namely Icegale Tower and the plunging of a wide region into a permanent winter.

Fully half of Pazuran-Sin's forces were present at the battle of the Icegale and most of these were flash frozen when the artifact was shattered.

Pazuran-Sin managed to barely escape the disaster but realized that his failure would not escape the punishment of the secret masters of Pi-Atum. Instead of returning to Pi-Atum in chains and in disgrace, Pazuran-Sin fled into the West, protected by a hand picked bodyguard of a hundred of his best troops.

Ultimately Pazuran-Sin left his old identity behind and wandered from place to place until finally arriving by ship in the territories of the Northmen, roughly two hundred years ago.

Once he established himself as a warlord within the barbarian lands of the North, Pazuran-Sin adopted the persona of the Wraith King and successfully subjugated the lands which are now the Kingdoms of Sorthvik, Zavdir, Hraedir, Ostvick and Western Morgwen. All of these lands fell under the red banners of the Kingdom of Asmorgar.

Pazuran-Sin ruled over the Kingdom of Asmorgar under the disguise of the Wraith King for just over a hundred years.

During his reign, Pazuran-Sin managed to seduce roughly half of the Druidic groves in the North into abandoning their devotion to the spirits of nature with promises of immortality and a greater domination and eldritch might wrought from the black void between the stars.

He used the evil spells he was taught during the Nightshade war to impart a supernatural strength and endurance to those warriors who swore to serve him as his Captains. The Wraith King's promises, of course, always came with a hidden cost and while long lived and powerful, all of the Captains of the Wraith King ultimately slipped into the shadow realm of undeath, being cursed forever to dwell as wraiths, entombed and imprisoned by their own master.

The Wraith King always carried with him a massive battle axe, which would have required two hands to wield by any mortal. Pazuran-Sin was so powerful in his Lich form that he could wield the weapon with a single hand and either leave his left hand free for casting spells or use it to bear a shield.

Pazuran-Sin's axe was named Soul Grinder and the blade of the axe was made of a single enormous and faceted red gem. As a lich, Pazuran-Sin was required to secure his own soul within an object and he chose the unlikely location of his primary weapon to serve as his phylactery.

Fifty years into his conquest of the lands which became the final extent of the Kingdom of Asmorgar, Pazuran-Sin embarked upon a crusade to hunt down and kill all of the Druids who had resisted his overtures and who remained loyal to the spirits of nature and to the welfare of the common folk living in the free Warholds of the North.

These were the Ragged Cloak Druids, who were also lycanthropes, shape shifters and skin changers. It is interesting that a part of the process of joining Pazuran-Sin and becoming a member of the Druids of the Henge, was the curing of the lycanthrope disease which each of the Druids carried.

Pazuran-Sin hunted down as many of the Ragged Cloak Druids as he could find, often personally, like a wealthy lord might run down a fox using hounds and mounted hunters.

Near the end of his reign barely a dozen of the shape shifters were left and all of these were isolated to the lands of the Kingdom of Skyerga, the territory controlled by the then young and beautiful Queen Gerrid.

In fact, it was Queen Gerrid herself who organized an ambush of the Wraith King, using one of her shape shifting brothers as bait to lure Pazuran-Sin into a hunt and eventually cornering him somewhere within the Ogre's March Hills.

A vicious and bloody battle was fought. The Wraith King was destroyed. His mighty enchanted battle axe Soul Grinder was shattered into four pieces and the North was finally free from the tyranny of that undead monster.

Queen Gerrid kept one of the four jagged pieces of Pazuran-Sin's enchanted battle axe. Aided by her friends among the Dwarves living in the settlement of Two-Beards Delving, Gerrid had the shard fashioned into an enchanted dagger.

Gerrid's enchanted dagger is named Dark Splinter. It is a +2 enchanted dagger to both attack and damage. It contains none of the artifact powers once possessed by the battle axe Soul Grinder, except that it can slice through any unenchanted material with a single, strong blow.

Example: If Gerrid is confronted by an enemy carrying a two handed steel great sword, she can draw forth Dark Splinter and slice straight through the blade of the great sword as if it were constructed of paper.

Yet, final victory was not to be handed to Queen Gerrid so easily.

The Wraith King's allies among the Druids of the Henge arrived just on the setting of the sun on the day when Pazuran-Sin was slain. Before the Queen could grind and burn the bones of the Lich to ash and further destroy the fragments of Soul Grinder, the evil Druids arrived in force. They managed to drive off Gerrid and her shape shifting allies and secured the skull of Pazuran-Sin along with all three of the other fragments of his enchanted great axe, Soul Grinder.

Because his skull was not destroyed, and because the magical weapon used as his phylactery still exists, albeit in several pieces, it is possible, that the Wraith King could be returned to his Lich form.

If this were to happen, Pazuran-Sin, The Wraith King of Asmorgar would almost certainly desire to rain down horrible retribution upon all those who had contributed to his defeat. He would almost certainly attempt to rebuild the lost Kingdom of Asmorgar.

It is equally true that the Druids of the Henge would immediately rise to serve at the side of the Wraith King.

Pazuran-Sin was defeated and destroyed a little more than a century ago. While all of the former towers and strongholds of the Kingdom of Asmorgar have been pulled down or otherwise exist only as ruins, the Warholds which once were contained within its territory have only known freedom for a few short generations.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tea Ceremony and Dungeon Mastering

Tea ceremony is a beautiful cultural treasure of Japan which has resonated through history for hundreds of years.

I see some parallels between tea ceremony and Dungeon Mastering.

Tea ceremony requires attention to detail, personal preparation, the creation of a space where a theme or experience can be shared among a small group of friends.

Tea ceremony is not performed for personal gain or for profit.  It is an art which incorporates many different forms of artistry into bringing people together in a present space.

Now, for many of us Dungeon Mastering might be the sloppy American cousin of tea ceremony complete with orange stained fingers and Mountain Dew, but there are some interesting parallels and it makes me think, and maybe hope, that Dungeon Mastering can ascend to be something a little more, a little better than unprepared off the cuff adventures and bags of nacho cheese Doritos.

I admit that I am attracted to the idea of Dungeon Mastering or Game Mastering being a distant but similar relative to tea ceremony.  I believe that informal schools of different styles of Dungeon Mastering have been evolving over the last decade.  Certainly running a top notch RPG for friends can demand a range of artistic talents.  There is writing up the adventure, the making of maps and an entire dramatic world to immerse the player characters into, even if the world is tiny, only a few dozen miles from end to end to start with.  There are those who prepare terrain or draw battle maps, paint miniatures, pick out appropriate music or sound sets for their games.  Some of us invest a certain amount of time and preparation into the gaming space, including the sharing of food with friends which can range from pizza and pop to sushi and glasses of wine.

When you list out all of these specialized artistic endeavors involved in preparing for a top notch RPG night with friends and you look at the list of art and protocols involved in preparing for sharing tea ceremony with guests you can see that these two social gatherings are both profoundly different and profoundly similar.

I also love the notion that working to become a master of tea ceremony is an act very much worthy within its own right.  You don't need any other reason to want to master tea ceremony other than the personal dedication that this is a part of who you are and who you want to further become.  In the same way I feel that it is perfectly worthy to want to improve and master the art of DMing or GMing your favorite RPG game for your group of friends.  There needs to be no other outside reason for doing so.

The desire to be a great Dungeon Master is sufficient in itself. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Druids Lair

I was going to do this picture later in the week but decided to put it together during a short break in writing.

This is the home of the evil Druid, hidden away within the shadows of the Old Woods.