Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Deathtrap Dungeon Makes No Sense

Baron Sukumvit decides to bring hard cash to the town of Fang by investing ridiculous amounts of money on building a dungeon called The Trial of Champions and running it as a snuff version of a fairground sideshow. He proves it's lethality by sending his personal guards into it and noting that they don't return. Success!

So year on year at the same time every year, suicidal adventurers turn up each after the acclaim of surviving The Trail of Champions (and the 10,000gp prize). Much money is put into the coffers of Fang as the population swells in order to witness.... well, what exactly?

A bunch of yahoos vanish into the Stygian depths. Everyone outside waits.

And waits.

And waits.


And then a few think "nah, they're all dead" and walk off home.

The others wait.


And then a few more get bored waiting for nothing to happen. Maybe somebodies arse goes to sleep or they think it might be an idea to go for a pint and drift off to the pub.

Some more people wait. For a while.


Maybe hours later somebody comes out. Maybe not. Maybe the successful adventurer crawls out of the dungeon only to find that everyone had lost faith in him and already gone home. How's that for an anti-climax?

Is it just me or does the plot of this much-loved gamebook make absolutely no sense?

We are going to spend millions of gold pieces on a dungeon THAT CAN'T BE SEEN and send adventurers into a life or death struggle THAT CAN'T BE SEEN and the audience is going to sit around wondering about events underground THAT CAN'T BE SEEN.

It's hardly great spectator sport is it?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Graham Norton Nerd-rage


If you're as narked about that as I was, do what I did - complain to the twats at the BBC.

Good open letter over at Den of Geek here.

I was about to say Very Rude Words Indeed - only the presence of the 6-year old Not Really A Nephew stopped me.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Now Playing - Beneath Nightmare Castle


Picked this up off eBay last year for something stupid like 50p or 99p. I got it because it was illustrated by the very Cthuloid Dave Carson who did so many of the Cthulhu illos in Dwarf in the 1980s but it's a little bit disappointing on that front - lacks the intricate detailing of stuff like his Dagon work. Perhaps it was done for the rent! Despite the prominent J/L splash on the cover it's actually written by Peter Darvill-Evans.

Anyway this is a highly rated Horror/Fantasy crossover so I've started to play this properly with the dice and all. First effort saw a death in three paragraphs (the book tricked me - after being untied in a prison cell I took the option to search the cell before fleeing because it seemed like it was an obvious "do this to find something vital" choice and of course - it wasn't) and second effort saw me recover a glowing green globe from beneath an abandoned tower before that exploded upon exposure to sunlight and took out most of the surrounding geography. This looks to be quite a good one so far, very open-ended with the option to explore a city and a decent atmosphere that's quite WFRP-like. Moonrunner and Legend of the Shadow Warriors are another couple of FF books that betray a clear "Warhammer World" influence.

Something floating around on the blogosphere of FF interest is noisms's running of Seas of Blood as a democratic exercise. Post in the comments as to your choice and the game follows the majority vote with noisms handling the dice. Neat idea, wish I'd thought of it first.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Lone Wolf Multiplayer Game Book Non-Review

I was going to capsule review the new Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook but then I decided not to bother. After all if Mongoose can't be bothered, neither can I.

Here's the problem. The back blurb and the press release say;

"The first book in this range brings you the core rules, introduces the Kai Lord character class and presents three introductory scenarios to get you started."

Except that it doesn't. The book contains one scenario.

That's right just one. Not three. Not the "probable three nights of entertainment" you might expect from a book that "presents three introductory scenarios". Now just "probable one night of entertainment".

The rest of the book is pretty good and a nice homage to the old days, even down to including the random number matrix and a chargen system that is spot-on to that in the first few gamebooks. But when you advertise three and deliver one that isn't acceptable. I'm prepared to accept that it's almost certainly poor editing rather than deliberate mis-advertisment. But that goes back to that "bothered" thing. If you can't even get that bloody right on the back of your bloody book then why should I be bothered when you couldn't be. On a quick skim-through (looking for my missing two scenarios) I've spotted two mistakes and that's before I've read it properly.

Do it properly or not at all.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Face of Eyjafjallajokull



Eyjafjallajokull under the glacier. Yes, there really is an evil face vomiting his chaotic bile (probably Warpstone) out into the upper atmosphere. Get down there and lamp him one, high level Norse PCs!

(Reminds me of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

From visir.is (http://visir.is/article/20100416/FRETTIR01/82399558), mentioned in passing at The Guardian.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Fanboy Alert!

There's been some grumbling at the Stourbridge club (well on it's online incarnation at least) about the price rises of this year's UK Games Expo in Brum. While it's still comparatively cheap, it has increased a lot in several large steps since it's first year and has caused a few questions about whether it's worth the admission money.

That was until I discovered that the demi-Gods of the BritOSR will be there on Saturday signing Fighting Fantasy books. Messrs. Jackson and Livingstone in the flesh. I wonder if Steve J will sign my tatty copy of Fighting Fantasy?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Things I Have Attempted To Blog About And Failed Miserably...


Don't you hate it when you can only get part way through writing a blog post before running out of steam?

Recent failures have been

- What I think of Final Fantasy XIII
- What I think of a new-to-me discovery, the rogue-like Fatal Labyrinth on the Sega Megadrive
- An AAR on another game of Cold War Commander
- Photographs of some modern microarmour I've painted
- A big spiel about how 40K changed sci-fi in Britgaming from looked-down-up ghetto inhabitant to being more important that regular fantasy in just one issue of White Dwarf (WD93 to be precise)
- How 40K's imagery is still stuck in the mid 80s and early 90s and needs reinventing.

Just imagine I've given you wonderous prose about all of those things and we'll just carry on with whatever comes next :)

Friday, 9 April 2010

The British OSR Starts Here...


Right then, let's out with it. Form ranks, King's Colour to the fore. We don't recognise much of the American-led OSR. The Brit experience looked something like this...

WHITE DWARF

Yeah, we could say "White Dwarf" and leave the whole post there.

It was brilliant, essentially from about the first issue you bought up until the point where you gave up on it. The exact year and month of each of these two issues will vary wildly between people but the fundamental point remains unchanged.

Mostly it was about the scenarios. Dwarf had absolutely brilliant scenarios and pretty much from The Lichway onwards they were scenarios that you wanted to run. Compared to scenarios in Dungeon they reeked of atmosphere. It's no surprise that GW went on to produce the atmosphere-RPG of RPGs, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

I wanted to play CoC and became a fan of Lovecraft not from discovering the writer in book form, not from reading about CoC but purely from reading the scenarios in Dwarf and thinking "Bloody hell! This stuff is mind-blowing!". I can't be the only one. Paranoia and Judge Dredd likewise. In fact, and something I will yak about next time I pull my bloody finger out and carry on with the White Dwarf Time Tunnel series of posts is that GW used the Dwarf scenario to sell the games they either produced or printed and this approach worked very well for them. It was clearly a deliberate strategy.

In a pre-Internet age, Dwarf was the point at which nearly all Brit gamers touched. It's contents were the communal geek language we used.

Admittedly this made the brilliant scenarios totally sodding useless because everybody had read them but it was a nice thought anyway.

2000AD

2000AD could be like a sleeping giant whose pockets have been picked by a gaggle of Liliputians. They all now what they've done, and they all know that one day he might wake up and then he'll know what they've done. And then they know that they are well and truly fucked.

In the hands of ligitious lawyers, 2000AD could fuck everything and everyone. Games Workshop would be in proper shit, but to be honest they are only the first name on the list. And it's a big list.

Dredd, Nemesis the Warlock, Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Rogue Trooper. Warhammer 40,000 your Fathers and Uncles are here and they would like a quiet word.

Happily, 2000AD is more like a generous Grandfather who knows the Grandchildren are stealing his Werther's Originals, but bollocks to it he doesn't really care because he loves them all too much and is secretly proud of their ingenuity recognising himself in them. It makes him happy and all warm inside.

Very much like Iron Maiden (see later), we knew we had a truly great thing here and nobody in America seemed to notice. In a perfect world it would be held up as one of the great influences in sci-fi and satire but of course it stayed forever hidden from view in the ghetto of "boys comics".

If you are going to talk about standing on the shoulders of giants, then 2000AD is the giant, but one that nobody remembers. I'm feeling all Loved Up about 2000AD now so we'll move onto...

FIGHTING FANTASY

Nothing ever managed to get D&D style fantasy right into the faces of the British populace with such a huge impact as the early FF gamebooks did. The perfect gateway drug.

We read them, we cheated at them, we looked at the artwork (such an essential part of the whole FF experience), we read the monster stats and we went away and wrote 25-paragraph epics in imitation.

Because of FF everything else made sense. They were perfectly placed, positioned and designed to be the baby steps into RPGing and general geekery. Ask any Brit gamer aged between his early 30s and his early 40s as to what his introduction to RPGing was and 9 times out of 10 he will say FF.

The whole D&D style fantasy milieu was suddenly common currency amongst people who didn't care about such things. Parents, teachers and the like knew about dungeons under castles and mountains and monsters and traps and treasure and were delighted that boys were sitting down and actually reading.

Obviously the fad would never last, and it didn't but it means that a huge demographic within the UK would understand the RPG and it's mechanics and the D&D fantasy setting even though they never actually sat down and played/read one.

They are still the place I go to for inspiration. It's significant that a few years down the line when they had faded somewhat from the public eye, D&D fantasy wasn't at all clear to people.

And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, Mr. Dever gave us...

LONE WOLF

...which took the gamebook experience and made it more like an epic campaign in a believable campaign world rather than one which just existed to hold a dungeon. Gary Chalk's illustrations showed us a Renaissance world rather than a High Medieval one and WFRP followed along shortly afterwards.

LW was rather expertly placed in that it's target readership was slightly older than that of FF and so coming along a little bit later managed to catch an audience that felt it had grown up and out of FF.

And all being well, assuming he remembered, fellow Stourbridge club member Antony C will have collected my copy of the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook from the FLGS and will have it waiting for me at the club tonight.

COAT-TAIL-HANGERS-ON

Golden Dragon, Grailquest, Blood Sword, Proteus, Way of the Tiger etc etc. All came along to chase the FF/LW revenue stream. Notably, nearly all of the gamebooks sold in the UK were British and aimed at a British market.

BRITART

I'm sorry but I just can't take to the artwork of Otus, Sutherland and Trampier. It wasn't what I was raised up, it was alien to my sensibilities. The first D&D artwork I ever saw was the mighty Red Box cover. The OSR generally dislikes Elmore and Easley. I like them. I am completely out of kilter with the OSR here.

In the UK, it was all John Blanche, Gary Chalk, Iain McCaig, Russ Nicholson, Leo Hartas, Gary Harrod, Tony Ackland and many others. Illustrators who had a clear lineage from Beardsley, Bosch and Durer. The US artists seemed to have a lineage from comic books. That may actually be appropriate to the US style of gaming but in Britain it just never worked.

(Another two important Britart artists were Peter Andrew Jones and Chris Achilleos but their work was generally in colour covers. It was the monochrome illos in the FF books and similar that showed the link back to Beardsley & co.)

One of the early decisions that Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone got right was the importance of good art and graphic design. Two anecdotes illustrate this perfectly (pun not intended).

Jackson & Livingstone told TSR that the artwork for Holmes was not up to the standard that the UK market would expect. The UK printing they printed had a Blanche cover and Fangorn re-drew everything inside.

Likewise, when they sorted out the book deal for The Warlock of Firetop Mountain they told Penguin that they wanted interior art and would sort it themselves, via Russ Nicholson who was freelancing for GW. Penguin grumbled but relented, deciding that as the owners of GW they probably were the experts on this matter. Then Jackson & Livingstone made a totally outrageous demand. They told Penguin that they would supply the cover as well via Peter Andrew Jones.

This was unheard of for a Penguin author, let alone debutant writers. Nobody picked their cover artist. Responsibility for the jacket design was purely in-house and always had been. But Jackson & Livingstone insisted and were prepared to walk away from the contract if this demand was not met. Eventually it was agreed to despite many misgivings from within Penguin/Puffin.

But Jackson & Livingstone were right - they understood the importance of getting the graphic design right and linking WoFM back to the rest of the "Games Workshop Hobby" within the UK. It looked like it fitted right in with the rest of what was going on in UK gaming. Left to Penguin's graphic design team (producers of much classic and highly rated graphic work as it happens) the course of UK gaming could have been much, much different and almost certainly not as successful.

(For the record I suspect that the cover would have probably had a studio photograph of a few fantasy/cod-medieval props, an off-the-shelf font for the title with no fantastical elements and that right now Coop would be interested in something entirely different. I hold that insistence upon keeping the cover "in-house" for GW as really being that important).

Strong artwork has always been a trait of GW - you never saw crap like this on the front cover of the Dwarf.

(A quick footnote - in the comments section of another post on my blog, Chris of Vaults of Nagoh makes this very insightful point when talking about BECMI hottie Aleena -

"Her fresh-faced 'California girl' look suited the All-American tone of Mentzer in much the same way the twisted, scratchy b+w linework of the FF books suited their British nihilism."

Brilliantly sums up the difference.)

GAMES WORKSHOP

How do you make a veteran wargamer froth at the mouth? Mention the words "The Games Workshop Hobby" to him.

This hated modern phrase (taken to imply that GW is both the Alpha and Omega of wargaming and effectively the inventors of the whole hobby) is reviled but actually the 1980s was no different. If you lived near a major city then GW was the one stop shop for everything. If they didn't stock it, it effectively didn't exist. If they released a new game, everyone bought it.

Even non-RPGers and non-wargamers and the school cool kids were to be found playing games like Bloodbowl and Talisman.

This is a parallel of the attitude I see on OSR blogs whereby people talk about buying Game X because TSR released it. Hence the apparent good sales figures for what really should be minority interest games like Top Secret, Gangbusters and Boot Hill.

We ignored them because we didn't have brand loyalty to TSR. We had brand loyalty to GW. We rushed out and bought Warhammer and WFRP and Block Mania and Blood Bowl and Chainsaw Warrior instead. Even games that weren't traditional GW fodder like Railway Rivals sold well because they had GW on the box.

TOLKIEN/MOORCOCK/DONALDSON

The only three that mattered. (Sir Pterry and his residential in every WHSmiths in the land came along a bit later). Donaldson seems not to get mentioned these days but back then, there were three authors that mattered and you had to read all three of them. Nothing else even blipped up on the radar. .

Lovecraft, if you could find him in print, was essential reading for CoC but not for anything else. Howard (and all manner of pastiche) was quite commonly found in second-hand bookshops, as was ERB but T/M/D were the Holy Trinity. Every public library stocked these three.

You were a Britgamer? You read these three. End of. The pulp writers being mentioned by all the OSR cool kids? You'd never heard of them despite the prevalence of...

SECOND-HAND BOOKSHOPS

In every town in the land, stacked full of Moorcock and ERB paperbacks from the 1970s. The Net Book Agreement (ruled illegal in 1997) was an unlawful cartel that kept book prices high and forbid retailers from discounting. With new books being expensive, the second-hand market thrived.

IRON MAIDEN

I was on an exchange visit to New England in 1992 and watching MTV with some of the American lads and lasses. Mostly MTV was showing rock and we all knew and loved Faith No More and the Chilis and Metallica. Then Iron Maiden came on and, astounding though it seems now, I was the only one in the room to know who they were.

"You don't know Maiden? Seriously? No, honestly these are huge in England. They've been going years. No, really!"

Suddenly it looked like "huge in England" was akin to "big in Japan".

Funky album covers, lots of imagery from fantasy and horror and sci-fi and the Second World War and Maiden fitted UK gamers like a glove. It was a perfect fit and nobody in North America at that time knew them from Adam.

You can't separate gaming in the UK in the 80s from Maiden.

8-BIT MICROS

Firstly, lets get this vitally important point clear. My Spectrum was better than your C64 then, and it's still better today despite the fact that I only have the top half of the keyboard left with the other half having vanished at some point. Don't ask why the rubber-keyed beast was in two halves - I honestly have no idea.

In England it was if The Great Videogame Crash of 1983 never happened. Despite being a huge retrogamer I never even found out about it until the late 1990s when reading Leonard Herman's "Phoenix - The Rise And Fall Of Videogames". The VCS was an expensive toy but then bald genius Clive Sinclair single-handedly built the UK 8-bit home computer industry in his shed (all truly great British ideas come from blokes in sheds) and fired the UK into the front line of computer development.

By 1983 while the US market was going tits up, we were playing games from tape on Spectrums, C64s and ZX81s. Pay £20+ quid for last generations games or £4 for this generations games (with the ability to do tape-to-tape copies)? Adventure or The Hobbit? Combat or Manic Miner? No question. VCSes got relegated to younger siblings.

There was a massive growth in this market in a space of about two years. Many proprietary machines (all incompatible with each other) appeared and dwindled leaving the market in the hands of just four - The Sinclair Spectrum, the Commodore 64, the BBC Micro and (a bit later), the Amstrad 464.

The important point is that, discounting the very small amounts of North American-specific clones created by Timex, the Spectrum was almost exclusively a British Isles machine in it's early days. Software was made by Brits for Brits and the cheap cost of the machine, it's ubiquity and a scene whereby most software was made in back bedrooms meant that the UK could support it's own dedicated games scene a situation that would be impossible in today's big budget industry whereby games costs millions of dollars and years to produce.

We were used to doing it on our own on the cheap and we didn't need the Yanks. The Japanese gave us arcade machines, but hey they'd all be converted for the home machines (officially or just cloned). Nobody saw anything unusual in producing a game that would only sell in the UK, chock full of UK-specific references and humour.

I'm talking about computer games, but the parallel with the geek gaming world should be clear. We were small enough and dynamic enough and low budget enough to entirely met our domestic demand with domestic product.

The Brit home computer gaming only started to align itself with the rest of the world in about 1993 when we slowly moved over from our Amigas and Atari STs to PCs and Megadrives.

IMPORTING

Shockingly expensive. Much of GW's genius was realising that it was cheaper to print in the UK and be a distributor and printer, not importer. If GW got it (CoC, MERP, Paranoia, RQ etc.) it took off in the UK. If they didn't, it languished in obscurity. (See earlier comment about GW)

Shipping across the pond and import taxes meant that a lot of stuff that was of virtual pocket money prices in the US (i.e. xD&D modules) wasn't particularly cheap in the UK. Including dice in a box set of rulebooks incurred the dreaded 15% Value Added Tax because according to the taxman, a box of books comprised a book and was exempt from VAT (for political reasons as VAT on books would look like a tax on children's literacy) but the same box with even just a single die was a boardgame and hence VAT-liable.

Products that appeared in the US market with no apparent importer were often dismissed as being "unobtainable" in the UK. Nowadays, I know that anything that appears stateside will be in my FLGS within a week or two and if not - trans-Atlantic mail order is a trivial thing.

Where the American-led OSR raves about modules and talks about ideas filtering down from them, I never came across this in the UK in the 1980s. This is a massive, massive difference between the two scenes. I didn't own a single TSR D&D module until 1993 when I bought one from the Virgin Megastore Birmingham, merely because I needed to break into a £20 note to get some change for the bus ride back after going to a job interview in the city and was feeling a bit flush. Strange interview too - conducted by what we would now call a Cougar who sat on the desk on my side while wearing a microskirt and tittering all the way through whilst admitting that she knew nothing about the technicalites of the job I'd applied for...

If we played a scenario (for any game) that wasn't home brew, i.e. was in print commercially it came from one of two sources - it was the scenario included in the rulebook, or it was the latest and greatest thing from this month's White Dwarf. Which, obviously, the players had already read because all of them got Dwarf in every month religiously.

SATELLITE DELAY TO THE COMMONWEALTH

Before wide use of barcodes for POS systems, UK periodicals would have a mass of different currency prices on the front cover. As well as the UK cost they would carry the cost in the Irish Republic, South Africa, Australia, NZ, Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Spain (ex-pat communities), Western Samoa and many more. Specificially though, not the US. Letter pages had a strange time delay whereby the magazines and comics would take so long to reach the rest of the non-American Anglophone world that far-flung readers would be using them to comment on issues from six months ago.

This created the impression that we were in an Anglophone world seperate from America. We were hearing (admittedly not with any rush or urgency) from gamers and geeks in apartheid-era SA, the Antipodes, Cyprus and the like. And they we were playing like us. What were the Americans doing? Very few of us knew or noticed.

ANTI-AMERICANISM

Touchy one this. There was in the 1980s a huge streak of Anti-Americanism running clean through British society. I'm not sure when Britain's attitude towards it's ex-colonial cousins changed from gratitude and admiration post-war (not counting the continual sniping and grumbling about "late to the show twice in one century") over to anger at perceived Yankee Imperialism but I suspect that the Vietnam War might have started the trend, most notably visible in the famous Grosvenor Square riot of 1968.

Certainly by the 1980s it was rampant. There were two main faces of this, firstly Thatcher was a very divisive figure and her stoking of the Special Relationship with Reagan seemed to bind the US with Thatcherism so that much of the left regarded the hated Thatch and Cowboy Ronnie as essentially two halves of the same marriage and much of a muchness.

The left definately were the main axis of the Anti-American thing and much of their support came from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament pressure group. In the 1980s this was huge and membership was virtually a right of passage for anybody left of centre (and quite a few vocal members came from the other end of the political spectrum) - Tony Blair used to receive flak when PM for having been a member as young man, a attitude which seems bizarre today. I would be more supicious of Blair if, as a young Labour Party member he wasn't. This was the age of Greenham Common protests and a time in which a piece of graffiti "U.S. OUT!" could stay on a road bridge passed by thousands every day near where I grew up for years without anyone thinking to remove it. America was the main target for CND, a movement which is today almost completely forgotten having crumbled rapidly along with the Berlin Wall once the Cold War dribbled out.

It was a different time then and not even post Bush/Iraq/Afghanistan has the UK experienced anything similar - perhaps the nearest has been vocal Muslim anger at the US and this is generally ignored as being from shouty young men who will grow up and out of it at some point.

The English speaking world was not as homogenized as it is now. The student populace was far more suspicious of all things American. Unsurprisingly, suspicion of American things was patchy - the most rabid anti-American would still rate Hollywood movies higher than British rubbish and join in with the brief craze for American football that flared up in the UK in the 1980s.

(There were Ameriphiles about, but they were treated with contempt, driving stupidly large left-hand drive American cars around stupidly small UK roads and doing excrable things like line-dancing and wearing cowboy hats.)

This attitude and the times may explain much of the rise of GW - yes it was importing and printing US games but here was a British company doing British things and pushing the British way. It was a message that fell upon fertile ground. Anti-Americanism was just one facet of how British society was really not at all in sync with American society.

Our gaming was shaped accordingly.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bugger the Notes Just Play the Music

(Being a slightly scruffy post in which Coop clumsily tries to cram two arguments into one.)


There are a number of reasons why, despite the consensus of the OSR that it's actually Holmes, Mentzer Red Box is the best version of D&D ever released. Here are four.

1 - It is the first one I owned.
2 - It has a funky cover that screams "PLAY ME! NOW!!", despite the fact that we know the situation presented is a bit of a lie under the included rules.
3 - Dead Aleena is DAT ASS.
4 - It is the first one I owned.

All of these reasons are why the old Red Box holds such a place in my heart. It carries onto the artwork as well, Erol Otus for me looked as if his work belonged in some weird 60s counter-culture scene (Keep On HackandSlashing!) as a Brit growing up in the 80s, the mono artwork that sold me on fantasy gaming was the likes of John Blanche, Gary Chalk, Iain McCaig and Russ Nicholson. Everything before was primitive, everything after just changed everything and ruined it. (This is not a unique case - notice that videogamers adore the games they started with and much of what came after but can't stomach the generation of games that came before them). I like Elmore and Easley, I know others don't but for their illos were the first exposure I had to what I regarded as "D&D" art.

On a more serious note, I've never subscribed to the school of thought in the OSR that seems to look at differences between the rules with a critical eye, mainly because I've never cared and mainly because I don't find differences between the flavours of D&D pre-3rd edition are important at the workface when the game is undergoing, where I aways adopted a "soft" approach of rulings as I went along and rules that seemed, well, reasonably close to the original words and intentions.

For example, the only differences I have ever taken note of between AD&D and 2E are

1 - I didn't like the new logo
2 - They changed the names of the classes which is enough to damn it in my eyes. Marathon and Opal Fruits please, not the US-centric globalisation bollocks of Snickers and Starbursts.
3 - The Monster Manual was a ring-binder which seemed to me a good idea but went down like a lead balloon.

So, when your game is Red Box with a bunch of stuff ripped from AD&D and ran in fashion that owes a great deal to just chucking a d20 and comparing it to a stat, who really cares which is the best version? The game is never tight enough to end up banging it's head against different versions of rules. It just works. I even managed to use both Holmes Basic and Menzter BECMI together in the same game without ever noticing that actually they shouldn't fit.

As for the title, it comes from something Keith Horsfall, my old music teacher said. Exasperated by the way our schools orchestra kept stumbling over a complicated and dynamic few bars of music he put down his baton and calmly and slowly declared "Bugger the notes - just play the music".

Never was a wiser word spoken.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Medinet Habu Part 3

Back with part 3 of the Medinet Habu shots.

From Medinet Habu, Egypt


More surviving paint. When dreaming up pseudo-Egyptian dungeon locales we tend to think of them as being mono-coloured and the same colour as the surrounding arid wastes but really the original structures must have been shockingly gaudy when new.

From Medinet Habu, Egypt


This is not actually a collection of pots and urns out in a courtyard. This is the remnants of what is known as a hypostyle hall. This is noteworthy for dungeon design. Essentially with contemporary building technology a large open space couldn't be roofed without making use of many closely-spaced pillars. In some cases the pillars would be taller than the walls, allowing for shorter "spacers" to be placed atop the walls to support the roof at it's edges - thus creating windows high up with which to admit light. If you are creating large open spaces in a dungeon with a flat ceiling, you will (barring use of magic or similar hand-waving to keep the roof in situ) need to make it a hypostyle. Here endeth the lesson.

In this case, this is all that remains of a hypostyle right at the western extreme of Medinet Habu. I'm not sure what happened to the rest of it, perhaps looted for building materials.

From Medinet Habu, Egypt


More of the hypostyle.

From Medinet Habu, Egypt


This is what I saw when I came to after failing a SAN test when sighting the chtonian horror. It begs to have a 1920s explorer in the shot.

From Medinet Habu, Egypt


From Medinet Habu, Egypt


A lot of Egyptian statues have been defaced, mainly by the iconoclasm of Islam which has something of a downer on the depiction of the face. Other statues and carvings I saw showed a lot of degradation that didn't appear to be sufficient to suggest that human hands had deliberately effaced them, but was marked enough so that the difference between them and the surrounding stone was notable.

This is a guess but I suspect that the final finishing of carvings, bas-reliefs and statues might have been undertaken with lime or similar caustic and abrasive substances and this has weakened the stone such that it has aged worse than the areas of identical stone that wasn't finished in the same fashion. Perhaps your Living Statues could be heavily pock-marked or defaced by later iconoclasts who wanted to deny the original gods.

From Medinet Habu, Egypt


From Medinet Habu, Egypt


From Medinet Habu, Egypt