Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1970s Fantasy Art: Philippe Druillet

Philippe Druillet is, along with Moebius and Caza, one of the founding visionaries of the movement that took french comics by storm in the 1970s. This movement found its locus in the magazine these artists founded known as Metal Hurlant. The American Heavy Metal magazine was the version of this material that manifested in the States, but Heavy Metal as a magazine lacked the artistic and idealogical vision of its progenitor. Metal Hurlant was about taking comics where they had never been while Heavy Metal seemed caught in an adolescent fascination with the "adult material" it featured. Now I retain a certain fondness for Heavy Metal as it was the first place I ever saw work by Bilal, Moebius, Druillet, and many others, but I also can see its limitations as compared to the creative vitality of Metal Hurlant.

I had largely forgotten about Druillet in particular until several years ago when I stumbled upon a copy of his Lone Sloane/Delirius collection at a used bookstore. This was roughly translated edition put out by Heavy Metal in the mid-seventies, but that didn't matter: my brain was already smashed all over the insides of my skull. The comics in this book were a fever dream of what every Heavy Metal album cover tried to be and failed. Here was the Heaviest Metal of them all.

Few artists have captured the same infernal imaginative ferocity that fills the work of writer's like Lovecraft, Clark Aston Smith, and William Hope Hodgson but Druillet has. His work evokes a demonic universe of howling gargoyles, beastial cyborgs, and satanically designed interstellar warships. Well you don't need me to TELL you. Just look at what this man puts down on paper.

I'm uncertain of the dates of many of these pieces, and Druillet has continued to work up until the present. Its entirely possible that some of these are from the eighties or even later, but I'd argue that his work retains a certain resonance with the decade which birthed D&D.

Here's a youtube video featuring more of his work:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pendragon Images

I've been thinking a bit about Pendragon recently.  In 2008 we ran a Pendragon campaign where we played out the Uther period in The Great Pendragon Campaign.  We're thinking of playing Pendragon again in a few months when our 4E campaign comes to a good stopping place.  I did a review of the game a while back which you can look at HERE.  So here's some classic Arthurian images for you:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

OD&D One Shot (Part I)

Last month, I ended up running an OD&D game for my weekly group that was very enlightening. We’ve been playing 4E weekly for a while now, and while I’ve enjoyed it-the combats do take quite a while. I’ve likely mentioned this before but here’s our situation: the group meets for around three to four hours and in that time it’s difficult to get through more than two encounters. Sometimes we only get through one! That said, the combats are quite nice in that the monsters create different tactical situations based on their particular abilities. This aspect of 4E’s monsters is one of the best innovations to the game. Combat is fun and is really the primary focus of the game.

One of my regular players wasn’t able to attend, so I thought we’d try a one-shot of OD&D as a change of pace. After having played in some great games at the So-Cal Mini-Con III, I was inspired to let the players have a free hand in making stuff up. I explained as per the OD&D rules you could play a fighter, a magic-user, a cleric, or anything else that you wanted to play. I was determined to let them play whatever they wanted.

I had them roll 4D6 in order (AD&D style drop the lowest) as I was feeling generous. I probable didn’t have to do that because my first player right out of the gate rolled some of the best stats I’ve ever seen on a character. AD&D style stat rolling certainly makes a big difference!

I also started them at third level as per Gygax’s OD&D house rules which were floating around in various places on the web a few years ago (I think I first saw them was at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse). Weapon damage was 1D6 with an additional +1 for two handed weapons.

One of the players arrived before the others and so we were discussing what he might like to play when he asked, “Can I be somebody from Earth who’s trapped in this world. What if he’s a gamer. He’s survived because he knows quite a bit about D&D monsters from his gaming days.”

“Okay. That’s fine. What sort of abilities do you think he might have—is he more of a Magic-User type?”

“No, I want him to be more of a regular guy. So I’ll basically make him a fighter.”

“But he’s from another world and he’s got this fantasy gamer knowledge?”


Thus was born Tom Prosec. Trapped in a world he never made! His special ability was eventually settled on as “Planar Weirdness”, and we were off. Tom also acquired a few henchmen. He asked at the last minute if one of them could be an Ewok.

“Fine, one of your henchmen is an Ewok. He’s got leather armor and a spear.”

Another player rolled up a Chaotic Elven cleric named Darkwood Fiddlestix who was a worshipper of Gozer the Gozarian (“The Destructor”). I only gave him some of the Elven abilities as he was varying from the typical model of the Fighter/Magic-User Elf character. His henchmen were two dwarves named Tomax and Zamot.

Rounding out the group was a Dwarf Wizard. Okay, so I decided she must be from an offshoot mutant race of magical using Dwarves rather than one of OD&D’s “true” Dwarves. Her name was Kore, and she had high charisma and five henchmen including a Lizardman who was named “Bob”.

With all that they were ready to descend into the dungeons of Castle Dragonscar.

Part II coming soon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Music From Another World

I'm currently on an Arthurian kick and so here's a song from another world: France in 1300 A.D.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Marvel Super Heroes Campaign Wiki

Here's a link to the campaign wiki for the Marvel Super Heroes game that our GM has put together for the game. He assembled it our the last few weeks, and he's got quite a lot of good stuff there including some incredible artwork he's assembled from across the interwebs. We're playing the children of various heroes who've belonged to the Avengers of this alternate Marvel Earth. For example my character, Archon, is the child of Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and Ms. Marvel.

We ran our first session of the game on Friday and it was a total blast. Tempest, the son of Thor and another one of our PCs, got a grandslam and knocked Ultron a whole city block. I figured out how to get Avengers Mansion's defenses back online by smashing a gizmo in one of Ultron's vehicles. The system did a great job of giving the feel of a Marvel comic book. We've added a couple of tweaks to the combat system, but we're mostly playing it by the book.

The link for the wiki is HERE.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Marvel Superheroes 1966

I'm back reading comics after a long hiatus where my reading was heavily fantasy oriented. Right now I'm reading some old Captain Marvel (or rather Mar-vell) comics and so I thought I'd post some video nostalgia.

I used to watch this show on Channel 44--a UHF channel broadcast out of Chicago in the late 1970s, and it was my introduction to many of these characters. Yes, the animation is practically non-existent, the dialog melodramatic and obvious, the voice acting over the top, but as far as I'm concerned this show is the closest anyone has ever come to distilling classic Marvel Comics onto the small screen. I can feel the crazy energy in these shoestring budget "animated" shorts far more than I can in whatever big budget productions come down the pike for the cineplex. These stories were directly adapted from the comics and the artwork was actually drawn from the comics as well. So here is the 1966 Gantry-Lawrence animation version of Lee and Kirby's Thor for your viewing pleasure:

Part 1 The Power of Pluto

Part 2 The Verdict of Zeus

Part 3 Thunder in the Netherworld

What I've Been Doing When Not On The Internet

I've been spending time away from the internet recently as I've been feeling like it was eating up too much of my free time. Oddly enough, despite my lack of posting I've been doing some good reading and gaming recently. Here are some of the highlights:

My wife and I have, in the past, enjoyed reading books out loud together. We did this a few years ago with The Count of Monte Cristo and it was great fun, but we decided to read the Alan Dean Foster novelization of Star Wars which we'll be following up with Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Its a fun book that's reminding me what I loved about the first film when I saw it as a kid. Interestingly, violence isn't quite as sanitized: lasers blow holes in Stormtrooper helmets and melt bone and flesh.

Our 4E game is going well, and last week they did some actual dungeon exploration besides just killing stuff. They're currently exploring the Castle of Teraktis, an ancient dragon that was said to have been slain more than a hundred years ago. The party was hired to find the legendary Casket of the Ancient Dead: a small carved box which is said to contain great mystical secrets and power. They investigated a deserted sorcerous laboratory (complete with demon summoning circle), found a place where some prisoners were being held, checked out a tapestry which featured Demogorgon devouring sacrificial victims, found a mystically sealed door, and they also kicked some Kenku ass (dudes with the heads of ravens). We're playing again on Friday, and I'm looking forward to them finding some of the other stuff in the dungeon.

We also played a game of Wizard's Castle Ravenloft Boardgame, and it was quite fun. I don't recommend splitting up your party!

One of my regular players is working on his dissertation this school year, and he's not going to be able to make it every week so the rest of us decided we should play something else in the weeks he's not able to attend. One of my other players has long wanted to run a superhero game, and three of us are old fans of the TSR Marvel Superheroes game.

Thus we've decided to play a Marvel Superheroes campaign where we play the teenage offspring of the Avengers. I'm playing the child of Captain Mar-vell and Ms. Marvel. One of us is playing the child of Thor whose been basically been raised by Jocasta (who in our Marvel Universe is the computer which oversees Avengers mansion). The third member of our group is the child of Crystal of the Inhumans(and thus royalty I suppose) and an as yet undetermined father. Rounding out the group is the child of the Skrullian Skymaster (the Squadron Supreme's version of Martian Manhunter who was only briefly featured and never really appeared in the comics except in flashback). We rolled up our characters and we'll be playing our first session in a few weeks.

My group, as I mentioned in a previous post, recently played a game of OD&D which really emphasized the differences between the editions for me. My thoughts on this have been percolating for a while and I'll post about them soon enough.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

OD&D Characters

Here are the character sheets for three of my players who I roped into playing OD&D the other week. I'll post about the session in my next post. Now off to work. . .

Friday, August 27, 2010

Doctor Who 1970

I grew up watching Doctor Who on PBS on Sunday mornings, and while I'm a big fan of the new series the old show still has something special about it.

I'm currently in the midst of watching a pile of old Doctor Who stories featuring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. This follows up on my watching a number of the old series episodes several years ago. I just finished watching "The Frontier in Space" and "Planet of the Daleks": excellent Who episodes with topnotch writing and acting even if some of the effects aren't quite up to our modern "standards". I've known people who refused to watch the show on the basis of the effects, but if you can look past that aspect of the show (or even learn to enjoy it) there is some brilliant stuff there. I'm currently in the midst of watching "Doctor Who and the Silurians" which has turned out to be another great one.

The beginning of the Third Doctor's era saw him stranded on Earth without access to a functional TARDIS (his travelling space-time machine for those not in the know). The series has him cruising around England in his roadster "Bessie" and acting as a consultant for UNIT. The tone of the show had darkened from the previous era, and it often took on a definite anti-establishment tone at times. The series was clearly influence by Nigel Kneale's excellent Quatermass stories.

Here's a list of five of my favorite old Who serials*:

1. Inferno (Third Doctor)
2. Genesis of the Daleks (Fourth Doctor)
3. City of Death (Fourth Doctor)(Written by Douglas Adams)
4. The Ark in Space (Fourth Doctor)
5. Planet of the Daleks (Third Doctor)

I've got a copy of the old FASA Doctor Who roleplaying game which I picked up at the San Diego Comic-Con in around 1990. Maybe I'll dig it out and try another round of RPG Excavations like I did for Rolemaster. I've never played the game, and I only have the barest recollection of the rules. Stay Tuned.

* The show is broken into half hour episodes. A serial is a single story and can be comprised of anywhere from four to ten individual episodes!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

1970s Fantasy Art: Rodney Matthews & Roger Dean

Right now I'm feelin particularly inspired by these Rodney Matthews pieces and their odd feeling. A Matthews inspired campaign might be interesting. Giant mushrooms, weird skull mountains, insect dudes wearing robes, huge trees, unearthly flowers, crystalline cities etc.

This first piece is an illustration from the Michael Moorcock novel The Champion of Garathorm, which I recently read, and whose protagonist is Ilian of Garathorm the only female incarnation of the Eternal Champion featured in one of Moorcock's novels.

And how about some Roger Dean too?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I Got Raggi's Game.

When I came back from an appointment this morning I found a present on the doorstep from the mailman.

The summer class I teach just ended and so this is perfect timing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I think someone is paying attention. . .

Okay, well the OSR is a pretty small niche within a small niche but I just noticed this over on Wizards website concerning GenCon 2010.

Here's the quote:

Embrace Your Edition!
This year, we’ve invited many independent D&D DMs running games of any D&D variety to come up to the Sagamore Ballroom and host their tables alongside ours! Whether it's 1st Edition, 2nd Edition, 3rd or 3.5 Edition, or the original game, all fans of D&D have a place in the Sagamore Ballroom. If you have a hankering for an old-school game, the Sagamore is now the destination for all things D&D!

Here the link back to the page here.

I don't know what to think, but it would be cool to see some folks running OD&D in the midst of 4ELand. There's some recognition at least that there are still plenty of folks who prefer the older editions of D&D.

And have you seen the rather familiar cover to the new 4E "Starter" Box?
Check it out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hey, you got OD&D in my 4th Edition!

So, yeah, I'm running D&D 4th Edition right now. I've been wanting to run a nice campaign of OD&D or AD&D 1st Edition with my weekly group for a while now, but they pretty universally were more interested in 4th Edition. So NEW D&D is better than NO D&D I suppose, and, besides, it appears that everyone is having fun.

However, almost immediately I started to figure out ways to reference back to these older editions--if only to entertain myself while I'm being DM. Okay, nobody in my group knows about stuff like how the Outdoor Survival Map was the original campaign map but that wasn't going to stop me from using it. I originally filled in far more of the map, but I soon discovered that I needed the breathing room to let things grow more organically, so I've pruned the map back a bit from the earlier version. I'll fill in more of the castles and adventure locations as time goes on.

As you see:

(BTW: big thanks to Snorri over on the OD&D boards for posting this redo of the Outdoor Survival map.)

I'm also thinking of using the wilderness travel rules from OD&D or the 1st Edition DMG. I've never really done a hex crawl type game before, but I've been curious about this style of play for a while now. The campaign won't be a "pure" sandbox, but I definitely want to incorporate some sandbox like elements into the game. If I'm going to run this game old school I'm going to have to make some good wandering monster tables, but it isn't as easy as I'd like it to be. Looks like they may have to be "wandering encounters" or something, but I think it can work.

My most radical move though is going to be this friday: running a mass combat using Chainmail!

I'll post more about that today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

H.G. Wells, Uncle Toby, & The Really Old School Gamers

I perpetually haunt used book stores in my area, and I recently picked up a copy of Little Wars by H.G. Wells. This book was originally published in 1913, and it is, essentially, the first modern book outlining rules for tabletop wargaming. My edition is a paperback reprint from the late seventies. I hadn't planned to even read it right now as I'm deep into teaching my summer English class, but I just was looking it over and its proving to be an interesting little book (no pun intended).

The opening chapter has some interesting speculations concerning the prevalence of this type of activity in the past. I was particularly struck by the following passage. Quoth Herbert George:

But first let it be noted in passing that there were prehistoric "Little Wars." This is no new thing, no crude novelty; but a thing tested by time, ancient and ripe in its freshness--like spring. There was a Someone who fought Little Wars in the days of Queen Anne; a garden Napoleon. His game was inaccurately observed and insufficiently recorded by Laurence Sterne. It is clear that Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim were playing Little Wars on a scale and with an elaboration exceeding even the richness and beauty of the contemporary game. But the curtain is drawn back only to tantalise us. It is scarcely conceivable that anywhere now on earth the Shandean Rules remain on record. Perhaps they were never committed to paper. . .

Tristram Shandy, for those unacquainted with Eighteenth century literature, is a remarkable book in which the above mentioned Uncle Toby spends most of the novel staging and re-playing a battle with toy soldiers. This battle is a re-creation of the events of an actual battle Uncle Toby was wounded in when he was younger. The specifics of his war wound are never gone into, but it is repeatedly implied to have been to his genitals.

What interests me about Wells' quote above is his particular interest in the rules of the game that Sterne was writing about. Wargaming, as Wells is pointing out here, has been with us for a very long time. You might also be surprised who some of the enthusiasts have been. James over at Grognardia posted an interesting Little Wars connected post a while back here featuring one of my favorite horror actors.

My weekly group is currently playing D&D 4E, and one aspect of it that I'm enjoying is the arts and crafty element of preparing a physical landscape and playing with miniature figures which is something I never really did when playing earlier editions of D&D.

This aspect of using the figures has got me more curious about Chainmail than I've been in some time, and after reading aldarron's wonderful distillation of the rules which you can get here. I'm rather excited about trying to play OD&D with Chainmail.

See you in the Garden!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Freaks & Geeks D&D

Here's the most sympathetic portrayal of the game we love in popular media. The writer's clearly knew what they were talking about right down to the 1E items referenced in the episode. In this episode James Franco's stoner character plays D&D with the titular geeks.

This was also the last episode in the series "Dungeons & Discos".

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lovecraftian Metallica

This is a wonderful live version of "The Thing That Should Not Be":

And here's the studio version of their instrumental "Call of Ktulu":

Saturday, June 12, 2010

OD&D Science Fantasy Campaign

One of my regular players and I were discussing what he likes about 4E. He liked all the new races, classes, and how things like psionics seem to have been incorporated into the system in a way that finally seems to make sense. He's also a bit bored by the standard Tolkienian races of Elves, Dwarves, Halflings etc.

I pointed out how flexible OD&D is, and it got me wondering what would happen if we came up with our own OD&D game made to to fit our specifications. We've been talking about doing a Science Fantasy game for a while and it dawned on me that this might be a way to incorporate some elements of games like 1st Edition Gamma World or Mutant Future. The campaign would be a mixture of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Flash Gordon type stuff along with Eighties adventure cartoons like Masters of the Universe and Thundarr.

This is still a work in progress, and there are a few more races I've been having trouble with: Titans and Wolf People. What sort of abilities might they have? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

I previously had a thread going on more playable races over at the OD&D Discussion Forum, but I thought I'd post them here as well. Hopefully, I'll eventually post ALL of the house rules I create for this campaign.




• Able to see into the ethereal plane (50 ft. range).
• Prophetic dreams and visions.
• +5% Bonus to Psionic Abilities.
• +1 to Hit and Damage when engaged in Hand to Hand combat.

• +1 bonus to Hit Dice.
• Immune to aging, sleep, charm, poison, and disease.
• No unconsciousness at O HP. Able to function until killed at –lvl HP.

• Able to fly at a speed of 15”.
• Ability to speak with any winged birds.
• Enhanced vision allows +2 on vision based perception checks. Avians can also see great distances.

Cat People
• Bite and Claw attacks (1D4)
• Detect invisible opponents at a base of 30% and with a +5% bonus every two levels.
• Only -2 to hit invisible opponents.
• +1 bonus to Dexterity.

• Able to see into the astral plane (50 ft. range).
• +1 Bonus vs. Infernals and infernal associated creatures.
• Immune to fear (and fear creating magical spells)
• Able to generate create Light once per day for a number of rounds equal to 3 + the Deva’s level.

Dhamphir (1/2 Vampires)
• Bite attack for 1D6 damage. They gain Temporary Hit Points equal to ½ of the damage they do up to their current Hit Points level.
• Able to transform into a wolf or bat.
• Double damage from silver weapons and fire.

Forest Folk (Elves)
• Infravision (60 ft. range).
• Find secret and hidden doors (1-4 on a D6).
• +1 to hit when using a sword or bow.
• +1 to hit vs. Orcs.
• Racial benefits when acting as Thieves.
• They speak the languages of orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls in addition to their usual tongues.

• Humans automatically receive a +10% bonus to earned experience.
• +1 bonus to an attribute of their choice.

• They possess a limited form of telepathy (send and receive thoughts only). Range: within sight.
• Immune to Fire and Cold damage.
• Able to create Darkness once per day for a number of rounds equal to 3 + plus the Infernal’s level.

Lizard People
• +1 to AC due to thick hide.
• Immune to poisons.
• Poisonous bite (1D4 Damage). Save vs. poison or bite deals double damage.

• Able to breath underwater and swim at 24”.
• AC 7 natural armor class (may be improved by Dexterity bonuses and armor).
• They speak the language of Dolphins and Whales.
• They receive a +1 Bonus to their Constitution.

Mountain Folk (Dwarves)
• They have a high level of magic resistance, and they thus add four levels when rolling saving throws against magic.
• They note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground settings; and
• They are able to speak the languages of Gnomes, Kobolds and Goblins in addition to the usual tongues.

River Folk (Halflings)
• Saving throws vs. magic are (as Dwarves) four levels higher.
• +2 to hit with simple melee weapons.
• They gain racial bonuses when acting as thieves.

Shadow Folk (Drow)
• Infravision (100 ft. range)
• Able to move silently (even in armor).
• +2 bonus to all saving throws vs. magic.
• Shadow Armor receives an automatic +1 to its AC.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dragon's Lair Opening

I'm currently experiencing a bit of old school video game nostalgia. So here's the opening and bit of gameplay for one of my favorite frustrating arcade games that I spent waaay too many quarters on when I was younger. I never got near the end.

Hmmm. . .I wonder if anybody's made a dungeon that's a homage to this game? I should do that for the 4E game were playing right now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Rock & Roll Moorcock


This one isn't directly connected to Moorcock's fiction but its the opening tracks from the album Warriors on the Edge of Time:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moorcock Video Inteview

These's been a few posts today in the OSR sphere about Moorcock, so I thought I'd round it out with some multimedia goodness from YouTube.

The interview is interesting, but I will say it just sort of wanders where it wants to. I'm just imagining young Marc Bolan following Moorcock around as he was trying to work.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

RPG Excavations: Rolemaster 2nd edition (Part 2)

I think one reason I’m enjoying figuring out Rolemaster is that I’ve always been addicted to tinkering with games. However, I’ve noticed with my deconstructions of both AD&D 1E and Rolemaster was that I started thinking I’d create some sort of homebrew that took elements from these systems, but I ended up adopting more and more of the system until I felt comfortable with the entire ruleset and felt like didn’t really need to create a house ruled version. It may be wrong to go into a game thinking, “how can I change this?” or, in my case, “how can I make this simpler?” Yet I’m relatively certain that I wouldn’t have as intensive an understanding of these games if I hadn’t approached them with my game designer’s hat on.

So I’ve been reading Spell Law, and I’m very impressed once again. The spell system is pretty simple, and the spells are just brief writeups with a few notes such as range or duration. They remind me of OD&D’s spell write ups. Spell Law is also the easiest system to port into another game. Using Arms Law in D&D would require the wholesale replacement of the combat system and alterations to the monsters (already too much work), but, I feel like, Spell Law could be adopted without disrupting the other systems of the game. Spell Law is something to consider if you want a more holistic magic system that has a rationale for its various parts. One aspect of Spell Law that is rather well thought out is the fact that psionics, known as Mentalism in Spell Law, is incorporated from the start as a distinct sphere of power. It is a part of the system rather than being an entirely new system that was awkwardly bolted onto D&D. Psionics haven’t really worked very well in D&D, in my opinion, until the most recent addition of the game (largely because all of the various powers now use essentially the same exception based design elements).

I can see why people looking for more detailed rules have often preferred Rolemaster to D&D, but I’m also very aware that this system is also quite a lot to take on. Rolemaster also seems to have been a fairly influential system as there are elements to the system that clearly influenced later games. For example, you can see D&D 3E as a descendent of Rolemaster. They are both Class and Level systems, for example, that also use extensive skill systems.

I’ve been reading various posts about Rolemaster and the one complaint people often have about the system is that it take quite a while to resolve combat. We’ve been playing D&D 4E, and the combats can be rather long sometimes. As a result, I’m becoming increasingly aware that two hour combats are not the thing that keeps me coming back to the table each week. Combat can be intense and fun on its own, but if it’s eating up all of the time you have at the table then I’m less certain about its usefulness. So I’m torn about Rolemaster in regards to this issue. On one hand I admire quite a bit about the Rolemaster system, but I’m unsure if it wouldn’t be too much to take on as a system. I could be wrong though—other folks claim if you stick to mainly just the core system then combat moves along fairly quickly.

I’m looking at maybe using the combat charts from Rolemaster Express, which I recently downloaded, to begin with. I figure if you started with the more simplified charts it might not bog things down too much, and you could move onto the full on Arm Law system eventually if you felt like you wanted the additional detail.

If anybody has some advice on this it would be great.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Frazetta's Spider Man

I didn't comment here on Frank Frazetta's passing the other week largely because I didn't know what to say. I've loved the man's work for a good portion of my life. I loved Fire & Ice, for example. However, I didn't become a full-on Frazetta fan until I was in my mid twenties, and I checked out a book of his artwork from my college's library. I posted a gallery of Frazetta images a few posts back that had some of my favorites (Silver Warrior and Dark Kingdom in particular). It is the image below which just blew me away when I first checked out the Frazetta book. The hellish intensity of the picture is amazing. Please click on the image to see it larger.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blue Oyster Moorcock

There's been a fair bit of discussion in the OSR recently about the connections between Heavy Metal and D&D.

So here's Blue Oyster Cult with lyrics by a certain Michael Moorcock (one time resident of Ladbrook Grove and author of this writer's favorite fantasy adventure novels). I'd put Blue Oyster Cult in the "Hard Rock" category I suppose but in the late 1970s Fantasy and Rock were definitely cross polinating.

So as you listen just imagine the stories of Elric. . .Hawkmoon. . .Corum. . .Erekose. . .Cornelius. . .von Bek. . . Arflane. . .

Thursday, May 13, 2010

RPG Excavations: Rolemaster 2nd edition

I’ve had copies of the Iron Crown Enterprise’s Rolemaster books among my rpgs for about fourteen years. I inherited them from a friend who was moving away and wanted to get rid of his gaming manuals. During the time I’ve owned them I would sometimes take them out and try to read through them. I had trouble making any kind of sense of these books. They were filled with charts and abbreviations which were, to say the least, inadequately explained. Arms Law’s notorious critical hit charts were fun to look at, but I had very little idea of how they might be used. MERP was supposed to be a simplified version of Rolemaster, but I found myself lacking the patience to even get through that book. I considered getting rid of them numerous times, but I hung on to these tomes because, for all their obfuscation, they still called to me: there’s a good game in here somewhere.

Back in my rules lite days of playing Amber Diceless and Fudge, I used to make derisive comments about the guys who I saw at the local game store who were all clearly Rolemaster heads. They couldn’t have been roleplaying, right? They were just sitting around looking at charts, weren’t they? The even more complicated versions of Rolemaster that came out in the 1990s seemed to confirm to me this vision of the game as “Chartmaster” or “Rulemonster” as its often referred to by its detractors.

So the other day I was taking a look at Arms Law and suddenly the light came pouring in. I found myself understanding more and more. This led to much more intensive investigation of the game than anything I'd previously done.

My reaction? Holy $*%#! It is quite a game, and it has some brilliant aspects. However, this is a game for hardcore gamers who are looking for a very detailed system, but it actually uses a fairly simple system at its core. The game's major flaw isn't the system itself, but it is the confusing organization of the rules. Like the AD&D 1E Dungeon Master's Guide, there's more here than you'll need and sometimes important things are not clearly spelled out.

One of the things you have to realize about Rolemaster is that the system was designed to be modular. The golden rule is: use only what you need. You can always expand things later. I initially was thinking that I’d create some bastardized homebrew drawing bits from Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying system (which I love) and Rolemaster, but I’m becoming more enamored of Rolemaster on its own.

The character creation system is interesting because it combines elements of a skill system and a class/level based system. Basically you buy skills as you advance in levels with what are called development points. The catch is that different skills cost different amounts to buy depending on what your class is. Fighters can buy weapon skills relatively cheaply while they pay much more for magic based skills. The nice things is though that you can build whatever skills you want into any class. Swordwielding mages are totally a possibility here.

I’ve got a pretty good handle on Arms Law, which contains the combat rules, and I even managed to roll up a character using Character Law. Spell Law, the game’s magic system, still eludes me, but I’m confident that I’ll soon get a handle on that as well.

I likely won’t be playing this game anytime soon as my group is currently deep in 4E territory, but I’m glad I’ve got a better understanding of just what’s under Rolemaster’s hood. Now I just need to take her out for a spin. I’ll being doing a follow up post soon.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Gamma World Wilderness Maps

Here's two maps I made a while back for an abortive Gamma Wold Campaign. It was set on a ruined colony world hundreds of years in the future. There were going to be mutants, robots, genetically altered supermen in suspended animation, and even some aliens for good measure.