Friday, February 28, 2014

Ha! That's Funny and I Don't Care Who You Are!



Batman's a Chump.

Forgive me for a moment as I take a dip in the crazy pool of a comic fan's what ifs. If you don't like it, here, read this instead it's role-playing related and funny.

This morning I saw a group of posts asking the question, "Who would win in a fight between Batman and Captain America?"



Naturally the majority of respondents slavishly proclaimed that Batman would win because he has his utility belt and that means that he's prepared for anything and blah, blah, blah, he punched Superman in the face, blah, blah, blah, totally could kick everyone elses asses in the DC universe, blah, blah, blah.

No. 

Batman would no more win this fight than would the Flash lose a foot race to him. Captain America isn't some punk who holds back his punches and has these long moral crises where he wonders if he's doing the right thing. Cap kills motherfuckers for breakfast and doesn't think twice about them.

I know, I know, in the crossover they drew with neither of them fighting the other and blah, blah, blah.

That was a company conceit and not a realistic result of the contest. 

Sure, Batman is this great guy who's pushed his body to it's peak, but in the end he's still a regular guy fighting a super human in Cap - you know, a guy who has a healing factor, super strength, intellect, and is deadly as fuck all. Look, you can argue that Bats has fought some really dangerous guys and I suppose that's true, considering that the creatives at DC have forgotten that he's just a fucking human being, but in the end he's not fighting guys like the Red Skull - you know, real villains who aren't laughable caricatures and actually pose a real threat to their imaginary world.


Sure, Batman fights the Joker who ain't shit on the big scale.

Look, Batman's villains are only on the small scale. They fight over Gotham and on the rare occasion that Batman steps out of his city they organize quasi-nation spanning conspiracies that don't even come up on Superman's radar. Compare him to the Red Skull who literally tries to burn the world (and may have succeeded on multiple occasions depending on which continuity you follow) and the Joker doesn't even rate. 

He's not even on the same scale.


Hell, while we're at it, let's be real honest for just a second. Until you get to Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, and the Green Lanterns DC's superheroes and villains don't even come into the same conversation as Marvel's. 


February Artfest: My Lasting Memory


All of us have a cover that says everything about the game; that has shaped our views of where the game came from and what it could be, and this is mine. I picked up the classic D&D boxed set as my first purchase and I've been chasing that fantasy that was inspired by its cover ever since.

As this is my last entry in the February Art Fest I just wanted to take a minute and say thank you to the men and women who made this hobby what it is today, and who continue to inspire my imagination, and the imaginations of so many of us. Thank you to the artists who gave us the visuals that have shaped us, and the authors whose words directed us. Thanks to the editors, playtesters, and all the unsung heroes who have made this hobby something that is more than just a game.

Thank you all.

Fan Mail.

I was sitting at my computer reading about the problems a friend of mine is going through and trying to find the right words to say that would somehow make things better when I got an email from a reader of my blog.

It started off well. 
Hey you fucking asshole, 

Why do you even put your chubby fucking fingers down on a keyboard? You cum gurgling ass monkey. It's you and unblown neckbeard fag buddies that have made this 'hobby' a goddamned joke. 

Fuck off and die.
It's nice to see that I'm developing a fan base that really gets me.

P.S. I did clean up the text a bit, couldn't tell what the asshole had sent originally.


She Did What?

I pulled up to the City Park for a game that was supposed to start at seven and didn't get going till nine. All the players were skating about the basketball court flipping a tennis ball back and forth between their sticks and talking about the scholarships they were never going to get. She was sitting there on the bench in a dark brown Carhartt jacket with a blanket pulled up to her neck.

Her girlfriend was chatting up all the boys on the court as she was already screwing one  of them and was looking to make the jump to another.

Naturally when the girl on the bench invited me to sit down I agreed. Temperatures were dropping as we sat there watching the game and she snuggled closer to me as I slipped my arm behind her. We talked for a long time as the game progressed and she laid her head down in my lap - "I'm getting tired, you don't mind do you?"

Fuck no, I don't mind.

Her head was laying there and my hand was on her side as we sat there watching the tied game go into overtime; when she slipped her fingers inbetween mine and slid my hand up her shirt. I was so startled at first that I couldn't do anything but dumbly cop a feel. She giggled as I stared down at her and whispered, "It's cold, I thought this might warm me up."

Well, if it's for warmth than it would be un-Christian of me to take my hand away wouldn't it?

She giggled again as I enjoyed this sudden intimacy between us. And then the game was over, she deftly slipped my hand out of her shirt, and kissed me on the cheek, "We should do this again."

Most definitely.

The following week was much the same as the previous one. Temperatures were dropping down into the single digits and the street hockey game was on per the usual. 

"I'll never understand," she said as she sat down beside me, "why they play in short sleeves."

It's harder for someone to call you a fag if you're more manly then them.

She giggled and threw her blanket about us. "You're such a fag."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tell Me This Doesn't Make You Want to Read a Book About a Raccoon and I'll Call You a Liar.

Rocket Raccoon by Scottie Young

You can read the MTV interview with the artist Skottie Young here. While you're doing that I'm off to buy a metric shit tonne (that's a scientific measurement right there) of Guardians of the Galaxy books in the bargain bins - if they haven't had their prices jacked up already.

February Artfest: Untitled by John Berkley

Untitled by John Berkley
I absolutely love this painting by John Berkley.

It has everything I think about when day dreaming about floating in space and being attacked by some unknown force. The ship seems to phase across reality, as though it weren't fully able to exist in this dimension alone. The fiery explosion near what I can only assume is its engines screams across the void of space, "Bad shit is happening and we're all fucked!" Then there's the near-by planets that seem far too close for comfort in a universe where distance is measured in the millions and not the thousands of miles.

All and all this is the sort of ship I dream about when I think of playing Metamorphosis Alpha or Star Frontiers; and it's the ship I wish I had in Spell Jammer.

Your thoughts?

Tales of Love from the Spam Bot: You've Been Awarded a Large Cash Settlement!

This morning I was working my way through my junk folder looking for something a friend had sent me when I found this little gem. Tucked deep in the folder was this rather officious looking email from the United Nations about my COMPENSATION SETTLEMENT. Clearly since it was written all in caps it had to be legitimate, so I opened it up and read away!

UNITED NATIONS OFFICE (scott@legal-island.com)
INTERNATIONAL RECONCILIATION AND LOGISTICS VAULT
UNITED NATIONS OFFICE (UN)
COMPENSATION SETTLEMENT OF ESCROW ACCOUNTS.

It is a pleasure to write you that we have reconciled with our logistic department on the reimbursement of some fund spent by you during the cause of your inadequate dealings with some imposters who claim to be staff in banks and other regional payment centers.

Our reconciliation teams with the prospectus instrument of the United Nations after freezing suspected imposters account. This support was fully effective with the help of World Bank after a summit meeting in London, on the financial analysis and financial stability issues fluctuating the economy with the international global standard.

After gathering of this sum, our logistic department gave us a list of beneficiaries to be paid a sum of $2.850,000.00 United States Dollars who fell victims to these imposters due to unawareness. And mode of payment was as well specified for proper conducts and financial regulations to kick against criminality during process of payment. We have arranged your payment through our swift card centers, with the latest instruction from United Nations Office And International Monetary Fund Reconciliation Office.

The card center will send you an Atm Visa Card which you will use to withdraw your money in any Atm Center, Banks and Union Pay Credit outlets in the world; You are hereby selected as an honor for this payment approval worth $2.850,000.00 United States Dollars, which you are to acknowledge the receipt of this mail in returning the required below to the Logistic Department by email listed below for immediately release of your above stated compensated funds so that there will be not mistake while delivering your funds to your home.

Office of Reconciliation and Logistics Vaults,
United Nations Office Representatives In Thailand
Contact Information Officer: Mr. Donald Bold
Email: mrdonaldbold@gmail.com
Tele: +66922879221

1. Full Name
2. Phone Number
3. Contact Address
4. Country

For your information, you have to stop any further communication with any other person or office claiming to be the right office to avoid any hitches in receiving your payment. Because of Impostors, we hereby issued you our code of conduct, which is (Atm-7750) so you have to indicate this code when contacting the Card Center by using it as your subject.

Kindly be informed that recipients shall be liable to pay $350 dollars which is obvious cost arising for the delivery of the donation parcel and there will be no hidden fees. This is due to Legal law protecting all donation funds misappropriation.

Yours in Service,

Mr. Ban Ki-Moon
UNITED NATIONS OFFICE
www.un.org/en/
You know when this really got real, like, for the really reals?

It was when this totally legit e-mail told me that I wasn't to contact anyone at the United Nations or any other organization, legal entity, or company who might be able to validate the authority of this e-mail, because fraudulent scammers who might try to impersonate them by going to a legitimate company and waiting for the possible call that might never come from me to ask if this whole thing were real are waiting for me to do just that. 'Cause if there's one thing that these scam artists are known for, it's going to extraordinary lengths to get my $350 dollars.

Also, Legal law.

Jesus, it's like these guys aren't even trying any more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February Artfest: Red Dragon Challenge by Chris Achilleos


Red Dragon Challenge by Chris Achilleos

While I don't particularly like the design of the red dragon there is nothing wrong with the way that this picture is composed. The female knight in the foreground with her massive shield ready to kill this mad lizard is clearly the wildest thing there. The backgrounds are neat and the castle at the top of the painting is grand, but look at all of that plunder she's been dragging along behind her!

That's one bad chick right there.

This is Why I Google the People I Read.

For those of you culture warriors out there, this will be old hat. For me, however, it's a new story that I hadn't heard before and wanted to put on my blog so that I could remember what NOT to buy in the future - too bad he's a compete and total fuckhead, guy could draw (though clearly he could not write worth two fucks).
I cant remember if Ive said this before, but Im gonna say it anyway. I dont give a crap.I appreciate a pretty Gal as much as the next Hetero Male. Sometimes I even go in for some racy type stuff ( keeping the comments PG for my Ladies sake) but dammit, dammit, dammit I am so sick and tired of the whole COSPLAY-Chiks. I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics.So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule. Heres the statement I wanna make, based on THE RULE: “Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis. But you have a couple of things going your way. You are willing to become almost completely Naked in public, and yer either skinny( Well, some or most of you, THINK you are ) or you have Big Boobies. Notice I didnt say GREAT Boobies? You are what I refer to as “CON-HOT”. Well not by my estimation, but according to a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls, and the ONE thing they all have in common? The are being preyed on by YOU. You have this really awful need for attention, for people to tell you your pretty, or Hot, and the thought of guys pleasuring themselves to the memory of you hanging on them with your glossy open lips, promising them the Moon and the Stars of pleasure, just makes your head vibrate. After many years of watching this shit go down every 3 seconds around or in front of my booth or table at ANY given Con in the country, I put this together. Well not just me. We are LEGION. And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER. And also, if ANY of these guys that you hang on tried to talk to you out of that Con? You wouldnt give them the fucking time of day. Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face. Yer not Comics. Your just the thing that all the Comic Book, AND mainstream press flock to at Cons. And the real reason for the Con, and the damned costumes yer parading around in? That would be Comic Book Artists, and Comic Book Writers who make all that shit up . . . 

So heres my follow up commentary. Tried to “engage” my detractors on Twitter. Big mistake. Not gonna backpeddle. Not one step. I tried to be clear at the beginning by saying I know there are legit Cosplayers who know the material and love it. So if you wanna gloss over that and accuse my statements as being all inclusive of Cosplay, then blow me. See, this is why I posted this HERE, on MY page. You dont like it? Leave. Dont threaten to stop buying my work, because Im sure most of you who threw that gauntlet down, never did to begin with. Good riddance. Hey all you self righteous fuck-faces out there who are spewing even MORE hatred at me, than you accused me of spewing. pfffft. Really, thats how you come at me? Once you have moved on to hate on someone else….Good Riddance. But the one thing I HAVE to address is the use of the word MISOGYNY. So I am a Misogynist? Why? Because I frown upon Posers who are sad, needy fakers who use up all my air at Cons? Sorry, while you Cos”Play” Im actually at work. Thats my office. Fuck you. I actually dont hate women, I dont fear them either. Nor do I mistrust them. I do not portray or Objectify half naked women in my work. I never have. I have always been VERY vocal about my dislike of that practice, and that my view is and has been that T&A in comics is a Pox. If you wanna come at me with accusations of Misogyny and sexism, youll be wrong. I think there are several Hundred “PRos” I could rattle off that are doing a fine job of perpetuating that crap without ANY help from me. Its not helping to further our industry. Hey haters, Im not sad, lonely, stupid, uneducated, gay, nor do I wear Assess for a Hat. Im not a Sexist, and have been very vocal about the fact that its a GOOD thing to see so many female fans at shows, and I treat them with the same kindness and respect as I do ANY male fan I meet. I guess the one mistake I made in my original post was that I excluded Men. Let me rectify that…… SOME of you MEN, are as bad as SOME of the Women Cosplayers, I talked about earlier. There. Oh and to all of you guys who are my friends, and pros who I work with, dont go and try and defend me or anything I wrote. Youll just get shit on. Thanks though. And lastly, Bleeding Cool, and Rich Johnston are Shithead, scumbags, and this isnt the first time his camp has come after me. Fuck you Rich (Tony Harris via Bleeding Cool News).

Comics I Will Not Buy:

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #169-171 (2003)
Ex Machina #1-50 (2004–10)
Green Lantern Corps Quarterly #7 (1993)
Hourman #22 (2001)
JSA: All-Stars, miniseries, #4 (2003)
JSA: Liberty File, miniseries, #1-2 (2000)
JSA: Unholy Three, miniseries, #1-2 (2000)
JSA Liberty Files: The Whistling Skull, miniseries, #1-6 (2012-2013)
Legion: Secret Files 3003 (among other artists) (2004)
The Legion #25 (among other artists) (2003)
Starman, vol. 2, #0-5, 7-33, 35, 37, 39-40, 43, 45 (1994–98)
Superman: Lex 2000 (among other artists) (2001)
Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins #3 (1992)
Dr. Strange, vol. 2, #1-2 (1999)
Iron Man, vol. 3, #86-88 (2004)
Punisher Summer Special #3 (1993)
Spider-Man: with Great Power..., miniseries, #1-4 (2008)
Blade #1-2 (Buccaneer, 1989)
Down #1 (Image, 2005)
Frank Frazetta Fantasy Illustrated #2 (Quantumm, 1999)
Nightbreed #18-20 (Epic, 1992)
Nightmare on Elm Street (Innovation Publishing, 1991)
Obergeist: Ragnarok Highway #1-6 (Image, 2001)
Chin Music #1- (Image, 2013, with writer Steve Niles)

At a Girl.

Listen up, if you're thinking about creeping up on some unsuspecting girl I've got some advice for you: Don't do it. The best way to deal with a woman is to talk to her directly. If you like the girl in a store you frequent, introduce yourself to her and ask her out. Don't stalk her online; don't stalk her in real life.


From Kotaku


Moral of the Story: Don't be a fucking creep.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February Artfest: Best Dungeons and Dragons Cover of All Time?

Player's Handbook Cover by David Trampier
Yesterday I talked about David Trampier's Player's Handbook cover and how it wasn't my favorite cover from Dungeons and Dragons products. Not surprisingly this got a bit of traffic as I had people telling me that Dave's illustration was superior to just about anything else that came before or since. 

Poppycock. 

While Trampier's cover has become iconic, it's just as likely that this status is the result of its place as the original cover for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook as is it for its originality and evocative nature. If we examine the covers for each of the hardback books from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons it quickly becomes apparent that not only was David's cover not the best among the group, but that it wasn't even in the top five (I'd cover later editions of the game, but the point will be proven shortly so there's no need).

Original DMG Cover by David C. Sutherland III

DMG Cover Redux by Jeff Easley[1]
Deities and Demigods Cover by Erol Otus
Legends and Lore Cover by Jeff Easley
Fiend Folio Cover by Emmanuel

Monster Manual II Cover by Jeff Easley
Oriental Adventures Cover by Jeff Easley
Monster Manual Cover by Jeff Easley
Monster Manual Cover by David C. Sutherland III
Greyhawk Adventures Cover by Jeff Easley
Manual of the Planes by Jeff Easley

Dragonlance Cover by Jeff Easley
Wilderness Survival Guide Cover by Jeff Easley

Dungeoneer's Survival Guide Cover by Jeff Easley
Unearthed Arcana Cover by Jeff Easley
Out of the AD&D covers I personally am torn between the original DMG cover by David C. Sutherland III and the Wilderness Survival Guide by Jeff Easley. 

The DMG painting is like a glimpse into the possibilities of the Dungeons and Dragons game. You have the fanciful city in the background that mixes elements from Medieval Europe, Mezzo-America, and the Middle East. The wild, red sea with its frothing waves crashing against the jagged shore and the flaming horizon sends me reeling with the possibilities of what could be going on in this world we're seeing. It's the sort of cover that launches a thousand campaigns and keeps you traveling back to look at it for inspiration, and a prime example as to why David Sutherland should be higher rated as an artist.

Original DMG Cover by David C. Sutherland III
My other favorite, the Wilderness Survival Guide possess all the elements to a great game of Dungeons and Dragons. A treasure guarded by a vile monster, a damsel in distress (sometimes the maiden in need of rescue isn't a woman at all, but a idiot Bard who should have died when he was used to check for traps on the way up the top of the mountain), and the Heroes are on the way. Unlike Trampier's cover the adventure isn't behind the party, but in front of them - that's the way things should be. We shouldn't be looking at the aftermath of the adventure but at the potential for where things are going and what they will be in the future.


Wilderness Survival Guide Cover by Jeff Easley




Your thoughts?


-----------------------------------------------
[1] While the cover is credited to Donald Sutherland III in my copy the signature on the painting is clearly Jeff Easley's. My guess is that mine holds a misprint when crediting the cover illustration.

Monday, February 24, 2014

February Artfest: AD&D Player's Handbook Cover by Dave Trampier

AD&D Player Handbook Cover by Dave Trampier
Over the last few years this cover by Dave Trampier has been fetishized by the old school community and been recreated countless times. Some have even called it the Greatest Cover Ever.

It's not though. 

This cover tells a lot about what it means to be an adventurer in the world of Dungeons and Dragons but it isn't the most inspiring cover. The adventures are shown after the battle, after the danger is long over, and other than the gigantic gems the idol uses for eyes there really isn't a lot here for you to want to emulate. 

They aren't heroes ready for battle, their bored adventurers hoping that something exciting will show up on the map around the next bend. 

Two Great Recreations of an Icon. 

By Dan Scott


By SaxonAngel

True Life Story

Kid Icarus had been running fourth edition for us shortly after it had come out, and by and large I was finding it so-so. Nothing against Kid Icarus, but I really wasn't feeling the game. 

My Warlord was fucking around with these kobolds and one of them actually got lucky and hit me. My turn came immediately after, so I turned directly to Kid Icarus, stood straight up and screamed, Did this mother-fucker just hit me? I'm a fuck his world up! I grabbed the kobold and used him as a club to beat his friends to death. When the lifeless husk that had stabbed me was reduced to goo I grabbed the closest kobold and went back to killing. 



After that, I kind of got into the game.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Marvel, DC, WTF?



For the first time in five years I'm actually able to afford a subscription to my favorite comics instead of waiting for them to show up in the bargain bin a month or two later. So I go to the websites and what do I find? Oh, I can buy the fucking digital version no problem, but want to buy it in print? Nah, Brah, that shit is for the birds. 

Just fucking give me my hard copies so that you soulless fucks don't one day decide that I don't own them and wipe them off my fucking hard drive like the apple want-a-bes you are!

<RAGE QUIT>


Sunday Hopes, Far Flung Plans, and Questions.

Projects, projects, projects.

1. Great Blog Roll Call Redux: This continues along at an incredibly sluggish pace due to my restricted bandwidth and due to the sheer size of the damned thing. Since I published the original version of the GBRC I've read nearly 10,000 blog posts and have written up introductions to more than 300 blogs. I'm hopeful that by the time I post the Redux that I'll have been able to push that number higher, but this project is a killer. 

2.  Preparing for Fifth Edition: I wish that I could say this has been moving along swimmingly but the truth is that my creativity in this avenue has been stymied by my lack of ability to share anything publicly. One of the great things about having a blog like this is that I can put out my ideas on where I want to go with the skills or other abilities and other players will show up and leave me some really great notes on the subject. 

3. February Art Fest: Really has been going well so far. I've seen a noticeable up tick in views on these posts which is really quite cool. Comments have been fun and I love hearing about what pieces people identify with and why. Love this project and I'm so glad that others have been coming along for the ride. 

d6 Random Questions

1. Why is it that some folks seem to feel it necessary to shit on those of us who weren't around for the earlier discussions? No, I wasn't here for the great Alignment debates of '08 or for the Carcosa persecutions. So fuck off and let me talk about them without asking me why we're still talking about these things.

2. Who has the best blog out there in the blogging landscape? I'm genuinely interested in this answer because I want to see who is the considered the best and then figure out what makes them so great. Is it their writing style? The topics they cover? Their longevity? Their posting frequency? 

3. Why is ABBA in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? What about Dancing Queen screems Rock or Roll?

4. Which is the better read, The Man of Gold by M.A.R. Barker or City of Hawks by Gary Gygax? I have both and am trying to decide between the two. 

5. Over the last few years I've completely convinced myself that James M. Ward is a fucking amazing guy. Am I completely off my rocker here or is he actually that cool?

6. Has anyone ever figured out how to keep a 2 year old clean? Cause that shit's eluding me.

February Artfest: Emirkol the Chaotic by David Trampier

Emirikol the Chaotic by David Trampier
When I first saw this picture I thought it was simply amazing, but over the years I've I've found that I like this picture less and less. Which is odd because I absolutely love Tramp, but there's just something about the cross-hatching that I don't like. Perhaps it's that you lose the definition of the buildings on the right or that the men coming out of the doorway on the right just seem unfinished. Or maybe it's that the woman fleeing on the left skirt gets lost in the shadow of the building.  

Either way, it's a favorite of many an OSR blogger and I feel like I would be remiss not to feature it during this month, but I'm really not that thrilled with it.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

February Artfest: Berserker by Chris Achilleos

Berserker by Chris Achilleos
I don't play Dungeons and Dragons to imagine myself hiding in the back of the pack, hoping that the vile hordes never make it to me. I play it to the hill; climbing over the table and chucking dice at the Dungeon Master.

This painting by Chris Achilleos exemplifies how I play the game. Everything from the orc raising his club overhead to the knight leaping onto the hordes' outstretched shields just so he can be the first one to meet the enemy. I love this painting and I love this style of play.

A Point of Order

If you are dumb enough to believe that handling poisonous snakes will prove your faith in god, and that by refusing the antivenom when you get bitten furthers that goal, then you deserve to die. 

The days where the night was filled with imaginary monsters and every sneeze was a demon looking to get out are over. We build skyscrapers, iPhones, and have robots on the face of another-fucking-world now. We can actually see beyond the farthest planet and out into the vastness of space. 

We have a god-damned space station!

We have discovered evolution - and it's only a theory in the sense that gravity is just a fucking theory - climate change, and relativity. We've built nuclear bombs, leveled mountains, and peered into the depths of the sun seeing things that no man has ever dreamed. 

Yet you want to wave off the paramedic as he comes to you with the anti-venom because, "God will heal me."

Mother-fucker, God gave us minds that could think beyond the vagaries of thousand year old books and that could invent medicines, vaccines, and satellites that could traverse the solar system and beyond.

Take the fucking anti-venom you inbred, hillbilly fuckhead and stop embarrassing the human race.

Friday, February 21, 2014

February Artfest: Untitled by John Blanche

Untitled by John Blanche

Oh, the glory that is Warhammer!

When I first encountered the world of Warhammer it was through the art work of John Blanche. Back in the early '00s I ran across a collection of Warhammer art when I was at school and I could not stop flipping through that old, battered book. And it smelled of smoke and failure but the art was more than anything I had ever imagined when it came to fantasy art.

Just look at this magnificent painting above!

That's the world that I send my players into time, and time again. We fight demons and impossible odds because of the art of men like John Blanche - only unlike most games influenced by Warhammer, we still have hope of victory.

The Lost Caverns of Tsjoconth, Part 5: The Dungeon Proper, the Lesser Caverns

 

In each version of the module play within the caverns begins at position 1, in the lower center portion of the Lesser Caverns, and while the basic journey of the module is the same the differences are stark. Consider the Main Entrance:
Immediately upon descending the stairs the party will see the narrow passage to the left, and if they enter see “B.”

The large cave is high vaulted (30’ at least), and the roof is hung with some stalactites, but few stalagmites are on the floor. On the right hand wall before each tunnel out of the place there is a face in bas relief. The visage is rather horrid and doleful. When any member of the party comes within 2’ of one of these carvings it will speak with a magic mouth: “TURN BACK, THIS IS NOT THE WAY.” If asked specifically to tell the truth (truth is the key word), all will lie except the right passage: “THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY. (I WARD THE ONLY WAY).” If the stone mouth is watched closely it will be seen that there is a gem inside each. A command to give or yield the gem will not work, but simply stating that the visage should open its mouth will: “AAAAHHH . . .” The first gem taken is worth 1,000 GP; all others are worth 10 GP (original, pg. 6).
By comparison the sequel begins with the following boxed text, which will appear in bold, and then expands further for the Dungeon Master:
After descending the long flight of steps, you pass north about 20' into a natural chamber some 70' wide and 50' deep. You have ignored a narrow passageway to your left (west) in order to enter this area, for your light has glinted off something on the far wall of the place. Now you see that there are weird faces carved in bas-relief around the walls of this cavern. There are, in fact, six such visages hewn from the rock itself. Each face is by the side of one of six tunnels leading off in one direction or another from the cavern to unknown. Although each face is slightly different from its fellows, all are strange and doleful looking: one has doglike ears, another protruding tusks, a third drooping wattles, etc. There seems to be no relationship between the size of the passageway and the stony visage beside it. Nothing else in the chamber seems remarkable. There are a few stalactites on the ceiling above, a few fallen to the floor amid a handful of stalagmites.

Each of these bas-relief carvings has an animated mouth with a permanent magic mouth spell cast upon it. When any party member comes within three feet of one of these faces, the mouth will move and it will say with a bass, mournfully dire tone: "TURN BACK ... THIS IS NOT THE WAY!" This will be repeated endlessly each time the same or another individual comes within three feet. If any member watches the stone mouth, he or she will note that it has something glittering within it. Each mouth has a gem in it. The colors are, from left to right, amber, purple (amethyst), pale blue (aquamarine), deep red (garnet), olive green (peridot), and dark pink (tourmaline). Regardless of which is taken first, the first gem is worth 1,000 gp. The others, although just as large, are flawed and worth but 100 gp each. The stone of these faces is very hard and nearly impossible to break. Each mouth will bite for 1d10+2 points of damage if anyone attempts to take the gem within. A command spell or a demand for the gem will not avail. However, if any character simply asks the face to stick out its tongue, or open its mouth and stick out its tongue, or any similar request, the face will obey. The mouth will open, the sound "AAAHHH" will be heard, and the gem will be on the tongue. If characters attempt to speak with a visage, it will only repeat its deep voiced warning. However, if the word "truth" is used in any question or demand, then each face will lie and state majestically: "MY WAY IS THE RIGHT WAY." Only the visage in the far southeast, beside the 2' wide passageway south, will say anything different. That mouth will speak as follows: "I WATCH THE ONLY WAY!" (sequel, pg. 13).
It is clear that in the intervening years since the publication of the original module and its sequel a lot has changed in the philosophy behind dungeon design. No longer is the cavern described by its height and nebulously sketched out as "large", but instead it is given definitive dimensions. The bas relief faces are no longer uniformly deformed, but now each is unique in its deformities. Additionally the gems are no longer of up to Dungeon Master discretion but instead have been ascribed color and composition. The values of the imperfect gems have also been raised from the measly 10 gold in the original to a 100 gold.

While these differences I’ve just described are minute it is the clarity of the sequel that stands head and shoulders above the original. The original suffers both from a truncated page count and brevity of prose that Gary Gygax could abandon with the sequel; and it’s good that he did.

Take for example the questioning of the bas reliefs.
If asked specifically to tell the truth (truth is the key word), all will lie except the right passage: “THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY. (I WARD THE ONLY WAY).” (original, pg. 6)

From pg. 9 Uncredited Illustration
While it is easy having read the sequel to realize that the parenthetical text is actually the response of the bas relief that tells only the truth, that is not the case here. Had I been running this adventure off the original text I would have boomed the phrase “THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY,” and then whispered as loudly as I could “I WARD THE ONLY WAY.”

Mad as that sounds my assumption would have been that Gary was encouraging me, as the Dungeon Master, to really mess with my players and poke at them in the most enjoyable manner.
. . . if the word "truth" is used in any question or demand, then each face will lie and state majestically: "MY WAY IS THE RIGHT WAY." Only the visage in the far southeast, beside the 2' wide passageway south, will say anything different. That mouth will speak as follows: "I WATCH THE ONLY WAY!" (sequel, pg. 13).
Comparing these two versions of the text there is no doubt that as the Dungeon Master I am supposed to use the separate phrase only for the true way. While this tends to produce a clearer version of the game it does take away a bit of the mad cap nature of the original. 

One final note, before I move on, the only illustration of the bas reliefs occurs not in the sequel - where you would expect to see them - but in the original. Which seems odd considering the expanded descriptions Gary wrote for them and the bigger budget afforded to the sequel.

The Chinese Giants

In the original you’ll find 2 Chinese Hill Giants in location O, in the upper right hand corner of the map who have amazing hearing and the strangest sense of fashion I’ve ever read about. After killing the pair your players will find among the plunder two cloaks and two pairs of boots. One cloak is poisonous, and one of the pairs of boots is a set of Boots of Dancing.

Every time I read about that possible combination I have this image of a twelve-foot tall, transvestite, Chinese, giant who really wants to win the drag ball but hates himself for cheating. I don’t know why he’s a transvestite or why he’s cheating but I really want to play that encounter right now.

They’re gone in the sequel.

Instead they are replaced by formorian giants. Their home is described as the sort of garbage pile hovel you expect some heroin using degenerate to occupy; and while the possessions are the same the humor is gone. Instead of wanting to play this encounter I feel like if I let nature take its course the giants would have died of a drug overdose within the month.

Adding through Subtraction

There are an impressive array of additions in the sequel. As well as the expanded descriptions of each area and boxed text, you’ll find 43 more monsters (well, 2,041 if you count all the individual bats). There are also seven new monsters that have not appeared in other sources at this time. Yet for all of that I feel like I’m missing out as I find myself missing things like the Bronze Dragon who’s no longer there in the sequel and the vague descriptions of each area.


Works Cited
Gygax, Gary  The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth. MDG, USA: 1976. pg. 6, 9.

Gygax, Gary S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth. TSR Hobbies, Inc. USA: 1982. pg. 13.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Lost Caverns of Tsjoconth, part 4: The Greater and Lesser Cavern Maps


Given the increased page volume between the original module and the sequel you'd be forgiven for imagining that the sequel would have a larger area to encounter; but that's not the case.

Original Maps from pgs. 4 and 5

Sequel Maps from pgs. 4 and 5
Surprisingly there aren't a lot of differences between the two maps. In the sequel the lines are cleaner and more visually appealing. The water is easier to distinguish in the lesser cavern and the features of the map are far and away more discernible.

The big differnce between the two maps comes from the keying of each. In the original Lesser Cavern you have six non-combat encounter areas keyed (denoted by numbers) and 16 combat areas (denoted by letters). By comparison to the sequel you have 22 combat and non-combat areas all signified numerically. Most of the keyed locations occur in the same place on the map, but not always. For example, encounter 7 on the new map never occurs in the original.

In the Greater Caverns we see some more significant changes. Additional cavern features are clearly evident, such as the sink hole in location 7. The circular wall that encompasses the central area in the original map has also been removed. You also have the changes in encounter location that occurred in the lesser caverns and less keyed encounters in the sequel. In the original you have 23 keyed and signified by letters, while in the sequel you have 20 denoted numerically.

While you might be tempted to feel robbed by this shortening of encounters, let me put your mind to ease. The sequel more than makes up for this dearth as I'll be discussing later in this series

February Artfest: Mindwerks by Kevin Long

Mindwerks Cover by Kevin Long
Long before I began collecting Dungeons and Dragons books I wandered in many comic book/gaming shops in search of Defenders comics, and this book was always there. The woman with the impossible bosom and that menacing smile, surrounded by those neutered, demonic clones in vats. 

For years I dreamed about that cover wondering what sort of mad game RIFTS was and what sort of strange people must play it. Every time I would wonder about those comic book/gaming shops I would pick up this book and wonder what those scientists wandering about the laboratory were thinking. Did they think that growing sexless demons was a good idea?

And why is that woman wearing a cape and holding a mechanical heart?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February Artfest: Jabberwocky by Rodney Matthews

Jabberwocky by Rodney Matthews
While not a part of the Dungeons and Dragons grouping that I've been running with as a theme for this month I had to add this to the group. Rodney Matthews is a phenomenal talent who can create these sort of mind bending illustrations that make you long to reread old books and go careening off into forgotten dungeons and foreboding woodlands.

And am I wrong, or is there no way in hell that, that knee-knocked little girl is going to beat the Jabberwocky in front of that pregnant tree?

TSR's Code of Ethics

This morning I discovered that TSR had a Code of Ethics and tracked it down for my future reference and contemplation. I'm trusting that this version of the code is authentic as I was linked to it by Colin McComb in his article, Now the Twist: The Price of Freedom.

I'm republishing it here so that I can find it later.

--------------------------------------------------------

There has been a great deal of discussion as of late regarding TSR's
policies and their perceived constriction of the flow of information. This
should clear up some of the confusion that has been generated.

First and foremost, TSR wants the players of the ADVANCED DUNGEONS &
DRAGONS (R) game to exercise all of their creative energies in making the
game more enjoyable. Sharing your ideas with fellow gamers is something we
encourage. A few methods for distributing your written works appear below.

FOR PAYMENT


If you've written the next great combat system or other work for AD&D (R),
you can try to get it published. There's nothing quite like seeing your
name in print. Below are a few options for you.

DRAGON (R) Magazine publishes virtually everything imagined for the AD&D
game except for adventure modules. A copy of their guidelines are
available on the internet in the newsgroups as well as on America Online.
You can leave messages for the DRAGON staff at tsrmags@aol.com or
tsr.mags@genie.geis.com.

DUNGEON (R) Adventures publishes adventure modules for various TSR game
systems. A copy of their guidelines are also available on both the
internet and America Online. DUNGEON staff can also be reached at
tsrmags@aol.com or tsr.mags@genie.geis.com.

POLYHEDRON (R) Newszine is the official publication of the RPGA (R)
network. This magazine publishes both stories and adventures for a variety
of different game systems. You can contact the network staff at
RPGAHQ@aol.com or tsr.rpga@genie.geis.com.

FOR DISTRIBUTION

Sometimes, you just want to get something you've written distributed to
everyone else. You can do this by uploading the file to an authorized TSR
site. These sites are:

MPG-Net (mpgn.com): This is the free access that most users on the
internet know about.

America Online (AOL): TSR's forum on this service draws tens of thousands
of gamers every month.

GEnie: The TSR Roundtable also draws thousands of users each month.

OTHER SITES

There are currently no other authorized sites to carry TSR-related
materials as they relate to the AD&D game. TSR is currently considering
other sites (both on the internet and pay services) to provide files to
the gaming public. TSR setting up its own web page is also a possibility.

WHO OWNS WHAT?

A disclaimer is attached to all files uploaded to any of the TSR sites.
This disclaimer provides protection to both TSR and the author of the work
by assuring that neither TSR or the author will distribute the work
without the other's permission.

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN'T BE DISTRIBUTED?

Yes. Anything that violates TSR's Code of Ethics cannot be stored at any
site. The Code appears below.

TSR CODE OF ETHICS

TSR, Inc., as a publisher of books, games, and game related products,
recognizes the social responsibilities that a company such as TSR must
assume. TSR has developed this CODE OF ETHICS for use in maintaining good
taste, while providing beneficial products within all of its publishing
and licensing endeavors.

In developing each of its products, TSR strives to achieve peak
entertainment value by providing consumers with a tool for developing
social interaction skills and problem-solving capabilities by fostering
group cooperation and the desire to learn. Every TSR product is designed
to be enjoyed and is not intended to present a style of living for the
players of TSR games.

To this end, the company has pledged itself to conscientiously adhere to
the following principles:

1: GOOD VERSUS EVIL

Evil shall never be portrayed in an attractive light and shall be used
only as a foe to illustrate a moral issue. All product shall focus on the
struggle of good versus injustice and evil, casting the protagonist as an
agent of right. Archetypes (heroes, villains, etc.) shall be used only to
illustrate a moral issue. Satanic symbology, rituals, and phrases shall
not appear in TSR products.

2: NOT FOR DUPLICATION

TSR products are intended to be fictional entertainment, and shall not
present explicit details and methods of crime, weapon construction, drug
use, magic, science, or technologies that could be reasonably duplicated
and misused in real life situations. These categories are only to be
described for story drama and effect/results in the game or story.

3: AGENTS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

Agents of law enforcement (constables, policemen, judges, government
officials, and respected institutions) should not be depicted in such a
way as to create disrespect for current established authorities/social
values. When such an agent is depicted as corrupt, the example must be
expressed as an exception and the culprit should ultimately be brought to
justice.

4: CRIME AND CRIMINALS

Crimes shall not be presented in such ways as to promote distrust of law
enforcement agents/agencies or to inspire others with the desire to
imitate criminals. Crime should be depicted as a sordid and unpleasant
activity. Criminals should not be presented in glamorous circumstances.
Player character thieves are constantly encouraged to act towards the
common good.

5: MONSTERS

Monsters in TSR's game systems can have good or evil goals. As foes of
the protagonists, evil monsters should be able to be clearly defeated in
some fashion. TSR recognizes the ability of an evil creature to change
its ways and become beneficial, and does not exclude this possibility in
the writing of this code.

6: PROFANITY

Profanity, obscenity, smut, and vulgarity will not be used.

7: DRAMA AND HORROR

The use of drama or horror is acceptable in product development. However,
the detailing of sordid vices or excessive gore shall be avoided. Horror,
defined as the presence of uncertainty and fear in the tale, shall be
permitted and should be implied, rather than graphically detailed.

8: VIOLENCE AND GORE

All lurid scenes of excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes,
depravity, lust, filth, sadism, or masochism, presented in text or
graphically, are unacceptable. Scenes of unnecessary violence, extreme
brutality, physical agony, and gore, including but not limited to extreme
graphic or descriptive scenes presenting cannibalism, decapitation,
evisceration, amputation, or other gory injuries, should be avoided.

9: SEXUAL THEMES

Sexual themes of all types should be avoided. Rape and graphic lust
should never be portrayed or discussed. Explicit sexual activity should
not be portrayed. The concept of love or affection for another is not
considered part of this definition.

10: NUDITY

Nudity is only acceptable, graphically, when done in a manner that
complies with good taste and social standards. Degrading or salacious
depiction is unacceptable. Graphic display of reproductive organs, or any
facsimiles will not be permitted.

11: AFFLICTION

Disparaging graphic or textual references to physical afflictions,
handicaps and deformities are unacceptable. Reference to actual
afflictions or handicaps is acceptable only when portrayed or depicted in
a manner that favorably educates the consumer on the affliction and in no
way promotes disrespect.

12: MATTERS OF RACE

Human and other non-monster character races and nationalities should not
be depicted as inferior to other races. All races and nationalities shall
be fairly portrayed.

13: SLAVERY

Slavery is not to be depicted in a favorable light; it should only be
represented as a cruel and inhuman institution to be abolished.

14: RELIGION AND MYTHOLOGY

The use of religion in TSR products is to assist in clarifying the
struggle between good and evil. Actual current religions are not to be
depicted, ridiculed, or attacked in any way that promotes disrespect.
Ancient or mythological religions, such as those prevalent in ancient
Grecian, Roman and Norse societies, may be portrayed in their historic
roles (in compliance with this Code of Ethics.) Any depiction of any
fantasy religion is not intended as a presentation of an alternative form
of worship.

15: MAGIC, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY

Fantasy literature is distinguished by the presence of magic,
super-science or artificial technology that exceeds natural law. The
devices are to be portrayed as fictional and used for dramatic effect.
They should not appear to be drawn from reality. Actual rituals (spells,
incantations, sacrifices, etc.), weapon designs, illegal devices, and
other activities of criminal or distasteful nature shall not be presented
or provided as reference.

16: NARCOTICS AND ALCOHOL

Narcotic and alcohol abuse shall not be presented, except as dangerous
habits. Such abuse should be dealt with by focusing on the harmful
aspects.

17: THE CONCEPT OF SELF IN ROLE PLAYING GAMES

The distinction between players and player characters shall be strictly
observed.

It is standard TSR policy to not use 'you' in its advertising or role
playing games to suggest that the users of the game systems are actually
taking part in the adventure. It should always be clear that the player's
imaginary character is taking part in whatever imaginary action happens
during game play. For example, 'you' don't attack the orcs--'your
character' Hrothgar attacks the orcs.

18: LIVE ACTION ROLE-PLAYING

It is TSR policy to not support any live action role-playing game system,
no matter how nonviolent the style of gaming is said to be. TSR
recognizes the physical dangers of live action role-playing that promotes
its participants to do more than simply imagine in their minds what their
characters are doing, and does not wish any game to be harmful.

19: HISTORICAL PRESENTATIONS

While TSR may depict certain historical situations, institutions, or
attitudes in a game product, it should not be construed that TSR condones
these practices.

PLAGIARISM

It has come to our attention that some freelance writers are committing
plagiarism (literary theft), which is a punishable crime. Your contract
now reflects this (see page 3, no. 3; page 4, no. 5; and page 6, no. 12).
However, TSR feels it is necessary to underscore these sections of the
contract in an effort to clarify this important issue.

Please understand that this reminder is not addressed to any one
individual. It is included in your contract in an effort to heighten your
awareness of the severity of plagiarism.

If you have any questions regarding your contract, please do not hesitate
to contact TSR, Inc. Your cooperation and understanding in this matter is
appreciated.

AD&D, ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, DRAGON, DUNGEON, POLYHEDRON, and RPGA are registered trademarks of TSR, Inc. c 1995. All Rights Reserved.

This document may be freely distributed in its original, unaltered form.

Jim Butler
TSR, Inc.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Not One Crazy Theory Today.

I have to admit, I'm kind of disappointed. 

I thought that when I posted Isn't That Interesting . . . that we might all have a bit of fun and write up crazy conspiracies involving reptilians and the Illuminati but everyone has been all, "It's a typo," and "Here's my really well thought out answer for why this might actually be legit."

No one foamed at the mouth and tore their hair out as they screamed about how Wizards had dug Gygax out of his grave and was satisfying themselves with his corpse by making that sort of move. Yet I didn't even get so much as a "These guys are dick bags."

That's what I get for having a bunch of people who read me that are intelligent, rational beings instead of over-reactionary jack holes.

Isn't That Interesting . . .


Just in case you aren't able to expand the picture to an appropriate size to read, the two red circles up there show 4th edition and 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons products as being part of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons line.

First time I've ever seen that anywhere, let alone on the Official website. I wonder what it means?

Alright conspiracy theorists, let's put on our thinking hats and really push this issue into crazy town! 

What do You Mean Kickstarter Was Hacked?

On Wednesday, February 12 Kickstarter was hacked. 

Photo of Yancy Strickler from his KS Profile
According to Kickstarter CEO, Yancey Strickler, they didn't know about the incident until law enforcement officials contacted them. While it is not uncommon for law enforcement officials to know about these sort of incidents before the companies involved it is uncomfortably disheartening that an internet based company such as Kickstarter wouldn't find out about the incident first.

The hackers were able to gain access to customer usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords, but not credit card numbers. This last saving grace is apparently due to the fact that Kickstarter does not store any of your credit card information - except for the last four digits and the expiration date - and that what information is stored wasn't accessed by the hackers.

While older passwords were uniquely salted and digested with SHA-1 multiple times. More recent passwords are hashed with bcrypt. Which means that the data is reasonably safe, but it is recommended that you change your passwords to prevent industrious hackers from cracking their encrypted passwords and gaining full access to your accounts.

At this time you should be preparing yourself for the possibility that the hackers will be using your information to contact you and perpetrate a scam. Don't give out your information and contact Kickstarter about any suspicious contact you receive.

NEW D&D SURVEY UP AND IT'S ALL ABOUT SETTINGS! GO GREYHAWK GO!

The new D&D survey has gone live and it's mostly about new settings for the game to explore. GET YOUR GREYHAWK VOTES IN NOW KIDS! ...