Reality Is The Playground Of The Unimaginative

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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Spartacus: Vengeance - Episode Two Preview

After the wonderful gonzo opener of Spartacus: Vengeance on Monday (here in the UK), here's a sneaky peak at what's coming up in the next episode

Merlin's Miscellany: Part Seven

Animated Gargoyle
(From The Curse Of Cornelius Sigan)

A powerful sorcerer may have access to arcane spells which allow him to bestow 'life' on solid statuary, with a particular favourite for animation being the common-or-garden gargoyle found on the majority of castles, churches, temples and other large structures.

Creatures brought to life this way at night will return to their original resting places at the first rise of sun, and become statues once more, while those animated during daylight will return to statues at the first sign of nightfall.

#ENC: 2d4
Size: Large
HD: 2+2
AC: 5 [14]
Att: 2 claws (1d6+1)
Move: 6/18 (flying)
ST: 16
  • Damage Immunity: Any single, non-magical attack has its damage reduced by EIGHT points, making these creatures quite difficult to chip away at except by the incredibly strong or those fortuitous enough to have access to magical weapons or spells. 
CL/XP: 4/120

Draconic Special Ability - Spell Transfer:

Great and powerful old dragons have the rarely-used ability to transfer a magical spell (of their choosing) into a willing human host, through the 'simple' act of just breathing over them.

This is not a power that dragons use freely and will almost certainly require some sort of blood-pact/god-oath deal which the magician will eventually come to regret when his debt is called in.

A spell transferred to a sorcerer that way is a one-time only deal and will invariably be far more powerful than the magician would normally have access to.

Each attempt at casting requires the mage to make a spellcasting skill check (Save + INT mod) with a -10 modifier for the level of the spell (this negative ten is in lieu of the normal 'spell level' penalty). Remember a failed check means he just hasn't finished casting and may roll again next round.

Once cast the essence of the spell will leave the magician's mind and he won't be able to use it again, until he reaches the correct level and learns it from a new source.

Things Are Moving In Harbor Moon...

When Timothy Vance receives a call from a man claiming to be his long-lost father, he takes a trip to out-of-the-way Harbor Moon, Maine. But the man is nowhere to be found and unfortunately for Tim, the town doesn't take very kindly to strangers. As he struggles to stay alive and learn the truth about his father, Tim discovers that Harbor Moon is protecting an incredible secret... and it turns out that Tim may have more in common with its residents than he could ever imagine...
Long-time readers will recall back in December 2010, I reviewed Harbor Moona great werewolf graphic novel written, edited and financed by Ryan Colucci, with a writing assist by Dikran Ornekian and art by Pawel Sambor.

Ryan has now released a trailer (above) to continue his promotion of the graphic novel.

To find out more, including how to obtain your own copy, visit Harbor Moon yourself.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Game Of Thrones - Season Two: First Full Trailer...

[TEKRALH] Meet Bella, A New NPC...


Level 0 (any combat rolls made at -4)
Job: Maid
Hit Points: 2
Armour Class: 10
STR: 9
DEX: 11
CON: 10
INT: 10
WIS: 11
CHA: 9

Hired by Greyjoy, at the behest of Baron Tiberius, Bella's specific duties include helping Maud with her hairdressing, clothing, jewellery, shoes, wardrobe care, and all related shopping.

Although answerable to the Baron (and Greyjoy), Bella has a duty to serve Maud, but to also help out with domestic services within the castle when required.

She has also been charged with staying with Maud at all times, except when she is receiving her training in the magical arts from Greyjoy. At these times, Bella is required to sit outside Greyjoy's rooms (a stool will be provided for her comfort), until Maud is ready to leave.

A blind seer of Ilyat
Bella is a refugee from the waterless wastes of the blasted isle of Ilyat in the cold, northern sea off the coast of Kalevala.

The most remarkable thing about the island, which has been thoroughly ravaged and razed by raiders from Skandia and Pohjola, led by the powerful witch Baba Yaga, is that certain women have been born there with of gift of "magical sight", at the cost of their eyes.

The infernal devastation caused by the crone Baba Yaga and her minions has left the once-beautiful island barren and permanently shrouded by an unnatural pink sky.

Like most of the surviving population of Ilyat, Bella is naturally pessimistic, but honest and reliable. She came to Tekralh a couple of years ago and has travelled down from the north taking a series of menial jobs to pay her way "to be a better life". She hopes that this post, in service to Maud, will get her the "better life" she dreams of.

BONUS: As long as Maud has Bella with her, she receives a "free" (non-cumulative) Hero Point. However, if Bella dies while in Maud' service, Maud will immediately lose that Hero Point (if unspent) and a second one.

The Isle of Ilyat

Map-A-Monday: Narnia

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Bring On The Gore...

The new series of Spartacus: Vengeance erupts in a bloody geyser onto our TV screens tomorrow (in the UK) at 10pm on Sky One - as evidenced by the most certainly NSFW trailer above.

Also returning in the next few weeks (all on FX) are:
  • True Blood (I think we're a whole season behind the US), on Sunday (February 5);
  • Leverage (season threeat last), on Tuesday, February 7; and
  • The Walking Dead (season two, part two) on Friday, February 17.
And don't forget that one of the most consistently excellent, home-grown, genre shows returns next Sunday as well:
  • Being Human (season four) on Sunday, February 5, at 9pm on BBC3 - check out the trailer below!

It's All His Fault...

Saturday, 28 January 2012

[TEKRALH] Round-Up Of The Week...

Besides the opening session of our campaign - which seems to have gone over pretty well - there's not much to report on developments in my Tekralh campaign this week.

Of course, there's always the "in-campaign" version of events as well (with more illustrations).

All being well, I can spend more time at the keyboard next week and continue to develop the world in which the Tuesday Knights are adventuring...

28 Days Later - The Rage - Episode Two...

Following on from last week's episode. The Rage was shot in Glasgow over four days in 2007 and two days in 2008 and was made on a low-to-no budget. It was the second collaboration between Glasgow-based film makers Colin Ross Smith (Foghhorn Films) and Carter Ferguson (Ickleflix - formerly Icklepix).

Come back next week for the final episode...

Ladies & Gentlemen, Please Excuse The Sniffles...

Very much a good news/bad news week. The Tuesday Knights kicked off our new Tekralh campaign on Tuesday, which was great, but then I came down with the worst cold in six or seven years, which confined me to bed for several days... so not much else was done on the blog this week.

Normal service, hopefully, will be resumed next week.

However, the threat of germs has not deterred several new henchmen from signing up for our big adventure this week - so please welcome:

* Chris of Classic RPG Realms (a fine, old school roleplaying site)

* Satyr/Elfheim of Skull Valley (a blog about the Pittsburgh music scene)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Review Round-Up: Ironmaster; Army Of Darkness/Xena, Volume One: Why Not?; Red State

Ironmaster (1983): A totally bonkers 80's Italian barbarian flick from prodigious horror movie director Umberto Lenzi, Ironmaster is the story of two feuding brothers in a tribe of cavemen fighting for control of the valley they live in.

Brutish Vood (Luigi Montefiori as George Eastman) is booted out the tribe for killing his father, the chief, and the tribe's wiseman - but then stumbles upon a shaft of iron in the shape of a sword while hiding from a thunder storm in the shadow of a volcano.

With his new weapon - and a smouldering hot chick, Lith (Pamela Field) on his arm - he returns to the tribe, takes over (pointy rod of iron trumps flint-headed axe) and exiles his brother Ela (nude model Sam Pasco in his only non-porn role).

Wandering the lion- and ape-man infested wilderness, Ela teams up with the stunning hotness of Isa (Elvire Audray, star of the infamous cannibal movie Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story aka White Slave), who takes him to her lakeside village.

This is ruled by a grumpy old pacifist called Mogo (William Berger) - who sulks whenever Ela points out the need for weapons to defend themselves from the free-roaming lions and the threat of Vood's tribe.

Meanwhile, Vood hasn't been just sitting around - as well as creating an iron-forging, sword-producing production line, his tooled-up troops have been gradually subduing all the villages in the area - fuelling Vood growing megalomania so that he is no longer satisfied with taking over the valley, but wants to take over the world instead!

Eventually, Vood's scouts come across the village where Ela is hanging out - but before Vood can attack, Ela invents the bow (no, really!) and the concept of archery and then proceeds to train the village up as archers in the space of 24 hours.

The battlelines are drawn...

After a rather slow start, Ironmaster gathers manic pace until it's almost running away with itself - not bothering with such trivial details as how Vood suddenly knows to make swords or Ela suddenly invents archery.

Throw in some random encounters with ape-men and primitive plague carriers, a splattering of delightfully gruesome effects and an assortment of attractive women (although sadly no nudity), shake well and serve.

With its simplistic storyline, this is not a film to be taken too seriously. Ironmaster is well-loved in certain quarters and while I might not share that passion for this picture, there's no denying that it's a pretty unique barbarian film and is superbly shot, with some truly majestic scenery.

Look out for the brief shot of the plastic elephants near the beginning as well which are, thankfully, not a sign of things to come.

Army Of Darkness/Xena: Volume One - Why Not? Despite my admiration for both the Army Of Darkness movie and Xena: Warrior Princess the TV series, I've little experience with both of their comic book titles for the simple reason that what I have read, frankly, hasn't been that good.

However, how could I resist a crossover whose main joke is the fact that Bruce Campbell plays both Ash in Army Of Darkness and Autolycus, King Of Thieves, in Xena?

A collection of four issues, the first three by John Layman and the fourth by Brandon Jerwa, it tells of how one of the mini-Ashes from Army Of Darkness steals a mini-Necronomicon and heads back to ancient Greece to raise hell.

Ash, as the Chosen One, is dispatched to stop him and naturally ends up meeting Xena and Gabrielle, and mistaken for Autolycus (who they happen to be adventuring with at that time).

Much hijinks ensues that manages to capture the flavour of both franchises - right up until the final pay-off (in Jerwa's issue) when the joke is taken just a step too far and derails the good will the collection has garnered to that point.

To be honest it's a totally redundant - and pointless - two-and-a-half page sequence that has no real connection with the main story and could have been axed without anyone being any the wiser.

Miguel Montenegro's art has a beautiful flow about it, reminiscent of Alan Davies or John Byrne, which certainly makes the illustrations easy on the eye, with good likenesses of the central characters and suitably humourous expressions where appropriate.

Despite the hic-cup towards the end of the book, I'm intrigued to see where Dynamite takes the story in Volume Two: What...Again?

Red State (2011): Kevin Smith wrote and directed one of my all-time favourite films, Chasing Amy, but Red State is about as far as you could get from that charming, geeky, rom-com.

In a nutshell, three horny American teens are lured in by an online honeytrap and instead of the sexual gratification they were hoping for, end up prisoners in the compound of an extreme Christian fundamentalist sect led by the charmingly evil Abin Cooper (Michael Parks).

A rapid chain of events leads to a visit by the ATF, fronted by agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), and what could have been a "friendly negotiation" quickly develops into an all-out gun battle (with the ATF totally unaware of the presence of the three boys).

For its first two acts, Red State roars ahead like an out-of-control steam train barrelling from sex comedy to (potential) torture porn and finally into guns-a-blazin' action film, then just as it looks as though it's about to head off into further gonzo territory, the story leaps off the tracks and disappears into a very downbeat, low-key and rather unsatisfying, over-talky, ending.

There are signs of Smith's touch all the way through, from the creative foul-mouthness of the lads and the witty banter of their teacher in one of the openng scenes, through the moments of deadpan comedy and stylish camera work - also showing heavy Tarantino influence - but the movie belongs to the central performers - Michael Parks on one side as the demented Westboro Baptist-inspired preacher and harassed ART officer John Goodman on the other side of the divide (a long way from Dan in Roseanne), given orders he's not entirely comfortable with following.

Red State suffers from its own indecision over who it wants to hold up as its protagonist (given a particularly Hitchcockian twist near its middle), yet at times it's a very strong film when it's letting the characters' actions speak for themselves. However, to then sit down and spell things out at the end totally crashes against the cinematic maxim of "show, don't tell".

In the extras, Smith says that by the conclusion Cooper is a broken man who has realised that everything he believed in was a lie, but I just didn't see that on screen at all. He appears just as deranged as he did when we first met him.

Not To Everyone's Taste...

...but I'd book a holiday on Megan Fox Island!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

[TEKRALH] Actual Play One - Setting The Mood...

Left To Right: Konrad, Baine, Maud, Hob, Othwic and Alys

  • Alys (Meredith)
  • Hob (Kevin)
  • Maud (Clare)
  • Othwic (Pete)
  • Baine (Steve, unseen in village for weeks)
  • Jarl (presumed drunk and fallen in a ditch)
  • Konrad (off with a random serving wench)
The main aim of this first fame session, as much as anything, was to get the players used to the idea of 'operating' in a pseudo-Medieval world.

In their starting location - the town of Coggershall - there were no general stores or places selling "adventuring gear", they had to haggle with the blacksmith to buy one of his two horses (thank heavens for the Hackmaster random horse generation table), the journey to the adventure location was as much part of the adventure as the final destination and when they arrived in the small community of Ducksford there weren't inns or taverns to stay in - they had to sleep on the floor of generous serfs.

Events began the day after the May Day celebrations, which gave us a good excuse to not having everyone turn up, although it was quite amusing to see the faces of the players when - two game days into their journey to the mysterious ruins of Dyr Dwm - they realised that the person who had told them about the ruins, Jarl, and had the best idea of where they were they were actually were... wasn't with them!

After Ducksford the player-character entered Hex 001 from Christian's Loviator magazine, although, of course, I just couldn't resist tinkering and so - after being totally baffled by the 'sloughing tree' on the border of Baron Cenred's lands - they spent most of their time at The Iron Door inn, interacting with the landlord and fellow travellers.

All creatures they were told about were described as various 'faerie', except the dream catoplepas (pictured left), which they sensibly gave a wide berth because of it lethal gaze.

After Maud spotted the "winged cat" - or 'bat-cat'  as she called it - the party deduced that it was a witch's familiar and so they were on guard, as there must be one in the area.

The use of random weather, and a calendar, also delivered as on the last game day of the session, while Maud, Hob and Alys were exploring the ruins of the former Iron Door, a random thunderstorm erupted - playing straight to Maud's storm phobia, and sending her scuttling back to the inn for shelter.

All being well, Jarl (Simon) and Konrad (Nick) will join us next month (although it will be Clare's turn to look after Alec, so Maud will probably stay at the Iron Door, freaked out by the storm - even though it only lasted a couple of hours).

And how will Jarl feel about his 'friends' heading off without him, after he'd told them about the possible treasure located at the ruins of Dyr Dwm?

There's an 'in-campaign' write-up of the session over on The Chronicles Of Tekralh, with more details about what was learned and who was interacted with.

I have to admit I wasn't overly impressed with my prep for the game, I seriously underestimated how much the players would be able to cover and how uninterested they would be in dealing with all the shop keepers in Coggershall.

Except for the haggling with Wulfgar, they really wanted to just get on with the 'adventure' and I supposed they only had about two-and-a-half hours of games time after our traditional pizzas (and Meredith brought us a selection of delicious Krispy Kreme donuts!)

AFK Not TPK...

The first session of our Tekralh (Crypts & Things) campaign went off reasonably well on Tuesday evening, but then I awoke on Wednesday with a dreadful sore throat, thick head and a heavy dose of man-flu.

This meant all of yesterday was spent curled up on the sofa watching TV and DVDs - and generally feeling sorry for myself - instead of writing up a post-match report on our game. At least no-one died this time round, - in fact no combat dice were rolled at all!

The symptoms have continued for a second day, but I forced myself to sit in front of the computer for a bit early on to get the game-related stuff out the way, while I could still remember it. There is, of course, no guarantee that it won't be all gibberish...

I'll get round to replying to comments eventually, but first I need to collapse!

How Return Of The Jedi Should Have Ended...

One of the more amusing How It Should Have Ended videos.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Love At First Sight...

I love these little buggers. They're three goblins from the newly released range of Pathfinder prepainted miniatures from Paizo and Wizkids (Paizo once again picking up a market share that Wizards Of The Coast inexplicably dropped - you produce a game system that revolves around miniatures and battle maps and then stop producing miniatures!)

I wasn't even going to use goblins in my swords and sorcery campaign until I saw these guys - they have such a mischievous, fairytale quality about them that I couldn't really say no.

Now I know nothing about Pathfinder - except that it's a tweaked version of the loathsome Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D for accountants, lawyers, miscellaneous number crunchers and min-maxing power gamers) - so holds no appeal to me whatsoever, but if this is their non-Tolkien take on goblins then I'm impressed.

There is much more faerie about them than Middle-Earth goblins and that puts them squarely back in my ballpark. I can see myself amassing an army of these critters to take on the pseudo-Arthurian/Robin Hood heroes (or anti-heroes) of Tekralh.

the figures are also well-painted, with good detailing in their faces, eyes and mouths. These I got as singles off of eBay and am awaiting the arrival of my first, small, batch of blind boxes... but so far, so good.

You'll Want This Woman In Your Adventuring Party...

Just let her stand at the front... and don't mention Crow (from Hawk The Slayer)!

Monday, 23 January 2012

RPG Inspiration: Derinkuyu Underground City

So, I was watching a "well-researched documentary" on the History Channel this afternoon about how aliens came here in ancient times and taught humans lots of 'alien stuff' (hey, they had Erich von Däniken on there, so it must be true).

But between my guffaws at the shoddy journalism and ridiculous claims (one whole segment was based on a quest for an underground library of 'metal books' inspired by a single quote from a random Ecuadorian about 40 or 50 years after he was supposed to have found the 'secret, underwater entrance' to the hidden cave... but I digress), there was an interesting - and factual - piece about the an ancient multi-level underground city in the Derinkuyu district in Nevşehir Province, Turkey.

While unlikely that it was a nuclear bomb shelter for ancient people hiding from an alien war raging overhead (as was suggested, based on lifting a series of out-of-context quotes from ancient texts and applying very liberal, 21st Century interpretations to them), no-one knows who built this fascinating "dungeon complex " (to use my gaming parlance).

Wikipedia tells us: "With its eleven floors extending to a depth of approximately 85 m [almost 300ft], it was large enough to shelter tens of thousands of people together with their livestock and food stores. It is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey and is part of a network of several underground complexes found across Cappadocia.

"It was opened to visitors in 1969 and to date, only ten percent of the underground city is accessible to tourists

There's a blog entry here with more information about the discovery of the complex, its facilities and contents and pictures.

Now if that's not a real life example of a potential Dungeons & Dragons setting, then I don't know what is!

The Debate Continues: Acting Or Storytelling...

 It would appear that non-gamers hold the view that roleplaying games are "acting", which is something I've never considered.

This is a view held by my wife and top author Philip Reeve (who was discussing this with Rachel on Twitter after my recent article about the conversation she had with Zak on why she didn't game).

However, on Google+ this morning, my online buddy Chris Freeman - host of late-lamented Grimm Studios gaming podcast - made the interesting analogy that it could be considered acting in the same sense that some people make the brum-brum noise when moving the miniature race car around the Monopoly board or 'act' the role of the banker.

Thinking about it, I do sometimes - when running a game - put on a silly voice when talking as a non-player-character, but that's just the same as I would do if I was telling Rachel one of my awful jokes. And I don't see that as acting, but part of the narrative of the joke.

Conversely, it's not something I do when I'm playing a game and I don't expect my players to do it when I'm running a game. It's just a way of differentiating my "dungeon master" voice from my "NPC" voice.

Not that I would quosh anyone so enthused that they got into their role and adopted an accent, or waved their arms around while talking (I do that in game as well, because I sometimes get carried away, and I also stand up sometimes while DMing, but then I can also be quite laid back), but, again, I don't see that as an essential part of the game.

At its heart - for me - roleplaying games are about creating a shared story and that makes the game 'storytelling' to me. Acting suggests a script and a constant commitment to remaining in character.

I'd be interested to hear more views on this, both from gamers and - if any read this - non-gamers, as I find this perception of our hobby a fascinating topic. I wonder if cracking this perception could be the key to attracting more people to our table?

At least we have gotten beyond the "spotty, devil-worshipping nerds who live in their mum's basement" cliché. 

The Lurch...

Thanks, as always, to Monster Island News

Welcome To The Year Of The Dragon...

Surely this is an auspicious year for Dungeons & Dragons gamers, then?

For more authentic details on what the year ahead may hold, visit this site.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

For Those Not On G+ - Why My Wife Is So Cool...

Long-time readers of my blog will probably already be aware of the supportive, awesomeness of my wife, Rachel.

However this week - following Zak's GM Questionnaire which tore across the OSR blogosphere like wildfire - she took to Google+ to chat with Zak about why she didn't play RPGs.

The fascinating conversation went as follows:

[from original survey, re: question as to why your significant other doesn't play]

Rachel wrote:
"There are several reasons; gaming has never particularly interested me and the parts I've overheard don't make me want to try – I see it as acting and quite intimidating. I don't understand a lot of what goes on which makes me feel unintelligent (which I don't think I am!). I also think it's healthy to have separate hobbies and I enjoy the fact that Tim is doing something independently from me."

Zak responded - on Google+ - that this was interesting because, rather than me just saying 'she doesn't get it':
 "[Rachel's] response includes some actual ideas (and it was good and let me hasten to add that none of these things are bad things in any way or reflect poorly on you, they're just interesting as data points about a kind of person who, by definition, we RPGers don't hear much about)...
* RPGing is "acting" and that's "intimidating"- which is something I have only heard once before (and it was from a girl) and the idea that acting in front of (friendly) people would be in any way intimidating is understandable but probably new to a lot of RPGers (me included) since a lot of people only get intimidated when there's sex or money on the line or if one of the people is like Stephen Hawking or something.
* You "feel unintelligent" and yet "know" that you are intelligent. Which is a conflict/emotion I've never had or at least never recognized. So that's an interesting idea.
* You say you don't understand what's going on. This is intriguing but since we don't know how much you've heard it isn't as helpful. I mean, nobody would understand the mechanics without having been taught them, but the idea that not understanding them is a reason not to want to play is also interesting."

I stuck my oar in at this point to give a bit of background and explain that:
"[Rachel] comes to wargames shows with me (as opposed to RPG cons) and admits to liking the look of wargames (she furnishes dolls houses as one of her hobbies and has a model railway, so appreciates the scenery and painting aspect of wargames if not the actual content). 
"I'm not sure how relevant that is to your discussion, but several years ago she did express a passing interest in maybe trying a 'wargame' at some stage - because it would just be the two of us and a table full of miniatures, I guess."

The following morning, once Rachel was back at her keyboard at work, she replied to Zak's comments:

"Firstly, I think the idea that RPGing is acting is fairly common amongst non-gamers. Perhaps if I was more confident in what a game really involved and how it worked, I wouldn't be intimidated by the idea.
"I also think the fact that the gaming group are primarily Tim's friends has something to do with it - I don't want to embarrass myself or him.

"I believe I'm reasonably intelligent (I have a good job etc) but I think most people, when faced with a subject they know virtually nothing about, feel at least a little out of their depth. This leads me on to the third point...
"I haven't experienced an actual game at all but it does get discussed during the 'pre-match dinner' a little. Because I'm into different things, I don't even understand the settings in which the games are based - words are thrown around that mean nothing to me and I don't feel I can join in because I don't want to have everything painfully explained to me. I overhear some very enthusiastic gaming during the evening (usually from the the next room) but I don't really understand what's going on.

"The fact is, I don't particularly want to know. I'm sure I could learn the mechanics of the game if I wanted to but as I mentioned, I like the fact that Tim has a social circle outside of our relationship.

"Because of his health situation, it's not common for him to socialise without me and I love seeing him after a game and how happy it's made him - I don't need to be involved. It's also the only time that I really get time alone and that's something I very much treasure.
"Finally, as Tim said, I love miniatures (both dollshouses and model trains) and this is a love that we share. If I was going to get into any type of gaming I'm fairly sure it would be wargames, purely for the beautiful scenery."
And that is (just one of the many reasons) why my non-gaming wife is so freakin' awesome!

Life? Don't Talk To Me About Life...

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Continuing To Impress...

Snow White And The Huntsman continues to look all kinds of awesome in this latest one-minute trailer.

[TEKRALH] Making A Date With Destiny...

IMAGE: A BRIGHT LIGHT suddenly flares...Frodo squeezes his
eyes shut, gasping.

Where am I?

A FAMILIAR VOICE cuts through the swirl of sound.

You are in the House of Elrond, and it is
ten o'clock in the morning on October the
twenty-fourth, if you want to know.

- Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (film script, 2001)

After a lot of thought, Google-fu and discussion with several G+ intelligentsia, I've decided that I'm simply going to use an ordinary calendar for my game calendar.

Tolkien did it in Lord Of The Rings, and I don't believe it was ever explained why the months of Middle-Earth were January, February, March etc and I believe it will just make things easier in the long-run.

Although there are some fantastic (and free) 'fantasy' calendars out there for gaming purposes (e.g. one for Arduin and one for Matt's NOD), these always require the players to remember the 'new' days of the week and the names of months, whereas everyone knows our calendar and the number of days in month etc

Ultimately, I'm not writing a carefully crafted novel here, but hopefully crafting a games world where the players can come and have some fun. I'd rather their concentration was on developing their characters and interacting with my pseudo-Medieval, fantasy-reworking of 13th Century Britain than trying to figure out what the days of the week were called.

Having settled on a calendar - and purchased a cheap, 'blank' 2012 calendar from WH Smith's (pictured above) - I can now plot out when 'national holidays' and festivities are, chart upcoming weather patterns etc rather than having to wing it at the games table.

You never know we might even get to the stage where the characters have birthdays! Imagine that - an 'in-game' birthday party for one of the characters... possibly while they're trapped underground in the middle of an epic mega-dungeoncrawl!

I know it's a bit lazy, but I think it's a short-cut that could have benefits in the future as it's one less thing for all concerned to be juggling in their heads.

In other campaign developments, this week's Tekralh-themed stories included:

* The Forester - a new character class I'd been toying with, but was prompted to put into action by the backstory of Pete's character, Othwic Of Darkling Wood.

* The Mythraic Creation story - a bit of background fluff that actually ties in with a number of the campaign's major artifacts (as well as introducing the idea of The Temple Knights).

* Jousting And Other Sports - an overview of the major sports of Tekralh, including quick rules systems for jousting and archery tournaments.

Meanwhile over on the campaign blog itself, The Chronicles Of Tekralh, we meet Clare's character, 15-year-old sorceress Maud Balliol.

28 Days Later - The Rage - Episode One...

A nine-and-a-half minute fan film, spun off the 28 Days Later rage zombie franchise and brought to my attention by wargames supremo Steve Blease over on Bleaseworld.

Ladies & Gentlemen, Do Come In, Out Of The Cold...

Despite the travails of the last week (being without heating during a cold snap isn't fun or conducive to creativity), and the subsequent screwing up of my sleep patterns, I'm delighted to see that my ramblings are still attracting interest - and new sign-ups!

My run of 900+ daily hits took a beating as well this week, which I attribute to the combination of Blogger's unfortunate (and erroneous) suspension of my account for a couple of days (just before the blog's fifth anniversary!) and, of course, the Net-wide blackout in protest to America's ridiculous SOPA bill.

Hopefully things will pick up again now...

In the meantime, please join with me in welcoming our latest batch of enthusiastic recruits:

* Omlet of Underworld Kingdom (a fine old school gaming blog with plenty of links and resources)

* DarkHerald of Greyhawk Adventures 576CY (a blog about gaming in Greyhawk, using a variety of rules systems)

* ClawCarver

* Logan of Fantastic Worlds (a German-language RPG blog with very similar tastes to I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters...)

Friday, 20 January 2012

More Behind-The-Scenes Magic From Game Of Thrones...

I'll say it again: where's my "Designing Westeros" book?

Fleamarket Friday: Elric - The Balance Lost

Fans of Michael Moorcock's tortured albino sorcerer Elric who haven't been reading the 12-issue mini-series from Boom! Studios - or simply can't get enough of the Multiversal madness - should think about picking up the two volume trade paperback collections of The Balance Lost when they are published.

Volume one is due for release on February 7, while the second volume is scheduled for publication on July 3.

The dizzying combination of Chris Roberson's script and Francesco Biagini's artwork captures the surreal nature of Moorcock's Multiverse, the multiple personalties of the Eternal Champion and the twisted, exotic natures of the sundry paragons of Law and Chaos.

A free, online, prelude can be read here if you are still undecided.

For my money, Elric: The Balance Lost is one of the strongest comic titles around at the moment and I sincerely hope that once the mini-series wraps, Boom! Studios seriously considers brining the team of Roberson and Biagini back for further adventures in Moorcock's Multiverse.

Review Round-Up: The Stone Tape; Man-Thing; In The Name Of The King 2 - Two Worlds

The Stone Tape (1972): Broadcast only twice on the BBC, then released on DVD by the BFI (with a commentary by writer Nigel Kneale) which went out of print and has never been re-released, The Stone Tape has become one of those hard-to-track down Holy Grails for genre fans.

Sure you can watch it cut up into segments on YouTube, but that's simply not the same.

An electronics company sequesters its research and development team away in a partially-refurbished old Victorian country house to work on developing a new recording medium (remember this is the early 1970s).

However, they quickly come to believe that the house - and in particular a dank storeroom - is haunted and hit upon the idea of using their technology to attempt to 'record' the ghost (or whatever the phenomena is).

With their boss, Peter Brock (Michael Bryant), pushing them ever harder because of pressures from the company chief as well as problems in his complicated personal life, it looks as though the scientists might have cracked the conundrum... or have they made it worse?

Nigel Kneale, of course, is best known for creating and writing Quatermass, the precursor to Doctor Who, and The Stone Tape stands alongside it as some of his finest work. While the visual effects haven't dated well (and are possibly introduced a bit too early), the high-calibre acting, creepy atmosphere (given that it's all obviously wobbly stage sets) and sound effects stir nerve-jangling memories of the mother-of-all haunted house movies The Haunting (from 1963).

The team's methodical and scientific approach to whatever is going on in the store room offers up a surprisingly plausible explanation for ghostly encounters, but the story goes beyond that - with hinted-at levels of almost Lovecraftian horror of the primeval unknown.

Very much a product of its time, complete with casual sexism and racism that wouldn't have even raised an eyebrow three decades ago, The Stone Tape laid the groundwork for paranormal investigation dramas such The X-Files and Fringe by treating the subject of ghosts as manifestations of scientific processes rather than anything to do with the afterlife or superstitious mumbo-jumbo.

If you manage to snag an affordable second-hand DVD of The Stone Tape (as I luckily did; thank you eBay!) accept that it is very much a 'period piece' compared to modern television and prepare to have your nerves jingled.

Man-Thing (2005): A lesser-known Marvel comics movie that is more monster-horror than eco-avenging superhero (as I believe the character is in the comic books; it's never been a character that registered too strongly with me as it just appeared to be a pale imitation of DC's Swamp Thing, which was addictive reading during Alan Moore's stint at the helm).

Nevertheless as cheap horror trash goes, Man-Thing isn't half-bad and certainly doesn't deserve a lot of the negativity it generally attracts on da Interwebz.

It may lack the '80s yumminess of an Adrienne Barbeau or a Heather Locklear, but Man-Thing is leagues ahead of both of the Swamp Thing movies simply because it plays it straight.

A new sheriff (Matthew Le Nevez - Australia's answer to Michael Shanks) arrives in the small community of Bywater (because it's "by the water") and is immediately drawn into a feud between local activists and an oil company drilling in sacred Indian land in the swamps.

There's also the multiple unsolved missing cases - including the previous sheriff - for him to look into.

Throw in some redneck good ol'boys, mystic Native Americans, legends about a "guardian spirit" in the swamps, a spurious romance and a heap of brooding atmosphere and you've got a solid B-movie base to build on, with a reasonably complex conspiracy at its core.

Director Brett Leonard wisely holds off on revealing too much of the "Man-Thing" until the final act, but still manages to splash a fair amount of gore about with a number of splatacular death scenes. Couple that with casual nudity and harsh language and this simply isn't what the average audience member would expect from a Marvel Comics movie.

But for those of us that love our monster movies, Man-Thing delivers the goods without being stupid, dull or boring.

While comic book fans may not recognise the movie Man-Thing as the one they know from the comics, writer Hans Rodionoff acknowledges his sources by naming several characters after prominent creators from Man-Thing's comic book life (e.g. Steve Gerber, Mike Ploog and Val Mayerik).

In The Name Of The King 2 - Two Worlds (2011): After the gonzo epicness of Uwe Boll's first In The Name Of The King movie (which I still really like), the sequel, Two Worlds, is a strangely low-key affair (presumably for budgetary reasons).

Ex-special forces officer Granger (Dolph Lundgren) is whisked away from our world to the war-torn Kingdom of Ehb (where the original film took place) by the sorceress Elianna (Natalia Guslistaya).

Time has moved on since the first movie, Farmer is dead and a new king sits on the throne, Raven (Lochlyn Munro). He needs Granger to fulfil his role in a prophecy and slay the leader of his enemies, The Dark Ones.

Accompanied by the court physician, Manhatten (Natassia Malthe) and a small detachment of soldiers, Granger heads off into the wilderness to assassinate The Holy Mother (Christina Jastrzembska) - belatedly finding out everything isn't quite what it seems.

Two Worlds is an enjoyable, if not wholly original, romp that doesn't overdo the "fish-out-of-water" shtick (Granger actually adapts to his new situation very quickly, although never makes any effort to blend in with the locals).

Hampered by an unnecessary, and thankfully infrequently used, voice-over from Lundgren, which I mistakenly took at first as the 'audio description track' as it was just telling me what I was seeing on the screen, and odd lines of clunky dialogue, Two Worlds nevertheless reinforces my belief that the fantasy genre is the much maligned Uwe Boll's strongest.

There's also a sad lack of monsters (only one - a CGI dragon - makes an appearance) and The Dark One's costumes are remarkably unremarkable, little more than fancy dress ninja suits.

While the "earth-man saves alien world" aspect works surprisingly well with the clever plot twists sown into the story, and the ending is clearly left open for a sequel (it was very John Carter-esque in that sense), I hope that if Uwe returns to this well for a third time the next In The Name Of The King movie is more akin to the original.

Two Worlds
is fun, but reminiscent of so many other low-budget fantasy flicks, while at least the first film had a flair of eccentric exuberance about it.

Fleamarket Friday: Ever Metamorphosis You Didn't Like?

The world's first science-fiction roleplaying game is available again to buy. James M Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha can be purchased through Lulu for under £10.

Originally published in 1976 by TSR Rules, this edition makes the classic game available to gamers of all ages again. This 35-page version incorporates all the changes included in the RPGNow version, minus the hex paper on the last page, and is published by Mr Ward himself.

Mine is already ordered and I'm thinking of whether it would sensible or not to somehow weave it into the framework of my Crypts & Things campaign. Maybe save that for a later date...

Every Day Is A Muppet Day...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

You Can Never Have Too Much Milla Jovovich...

This looks like another winner in the guilty pleasure franchise of the Resident Evil zombie flicks.

Pop this bad boy up to 1080p and watch in full screen (thanks to Major Spoilers for the hint).

Some Men Just Want To Watch The World Burn...

Tonight's reading material sorted - the latest issue of Knights Of The Dinner Table.

While BA, the master campaign designer, is my hero and inspiration in this title, you have to admire, and appreciate, the seriousness with which Brian (the rules lawyer) treats their Hackmaster campaign.

Zak's GM Questionnaire... [UPDATED]

Questions posed by Zak.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
I'm very proud of how well I think my house-ruling of the Crypts & Things character creation process worked out. But that's also still a work in process as little issues arise and I tinker further.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Just before Christmas - it was the character creation session for my new Crypts & Things campaign.

3. When was the last time you played?
November - wrapping up the latest leg of Pete's episodic Top Secret SI campaign.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
The player-characters have to rescue an imprisoned colleague from the depths of Hell.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Listen in on what the players are saying to see what 'wild speculation' can be twisted into future plot threads or ideas.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
Sometimes crisps, but we traditionally have pizzas before a game, so are usually full by the time the first die is cast.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Actually I find it makes me very hyper. It's usually quite difficult for me to 'come down' after a successful game and actually get to sleep!

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?
In Pete's Top Secret game we were trying to liberate a passenger ship from hijackers. I'd gotten caught and disarmed and was walked into the map room to be interrogated, when I burned off a luck point (or whatever they are called in Top Secret), swept the maps off the desk into the faces of my captors and then, in the confusion, launched a surprise attack.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
Not always as serious as I'd like, but then perhaps I take it too seriously sometimes. But at other times they really surprise me with insightful and probing questions.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Nothing as yet as my current setting is very swords & sorcery, so I'm still deciding what form 'fairy folk' will appear in. Certainly won't be the traditional D&D goblins, if at all.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
The Forest Of Weir, from Hawk The Slayer. Hawk The Slayer is considered part of the history of the land where my campaign is set (one of the characters actually lives, as guest, in Hawk's old castle).

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
More an on-going visual than a single moment, Steve's character in Pete's Top Secret campaign spent the entire last mission (on the cruise ship) dressed in his pyjamas and dressing gown (he happened to be a passenger on the ship at the time of the hijacking; the rest of us parachuted in later).

13. What was the last game book you looked at -aside from things you referenced in a game - why were you looking at it?
Ghosts Of Albion, from Eden Sudios. Because I adore the Cinematic Unisystem and like to support fellow blogger Tim Brannan who wrote the game.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
There are so many, from old school masters like Erol Otus and Jeff Dee through to Stefan Poag and Rich Longmore (who did the interior art for Carcosa)

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
Not yet. But that won't stop me trying...

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
Can't remember running anything I didn't write (or heavily modify).

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
Large, Gothic room, with comfortable seats, a big table with miniatures and terrain, suits of armour in the corners of the room, swords on the walls... you get the picture.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Arduin Grimoire
 and Pendragon.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
The works of HP Lovecraft/Clark Ashton Smith and kid's cartoons (like Thundercats, Thundarr, Dungeons & Dragons etc)

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
Enthusiastic and invested. I want them to be there because they want to be, not because they feel obliged for some reason.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
My years in journalism have helped with superhero campaigns in coming up with some interesting crime and investigation ideas for scenarions.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
Not these days, I tend to find if I think of something I'd like to explore someone's either already brought it out or is already working on something similar and will be ublishing it soon.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
After a games night, my wife likes to know if we "had fun" and if I "enjoyed running the game", but beyond that she isn't interested in the details (she certainly never says: "tell me about your character").

[UPDATE, 5pm] 24. So, to follow up, in her own words: why does your girlfriend/wife not play?
Rachel writes: "There are several reasons; gaming has never particularly interested me and the parts I've overheard don't make me want to try – I see it as acting and quite intimidating. I don't understand a lot of what goes on which makes me feel unintelligent (which I don't think I am!). I also think it's healthy to have separate hobbies and I enjoy the fact that Tim is doing something independently from me."


My first mobile phone was a Star Wars special edition Vodaphone deal (complete with Vader head phone holder, which still sits by my bed, and a Wookie belt pouch, which I've never used) and so it was immediately dubbed the "Yodaphone".

It also happened to be a flip-top one that made me immediately think of a Star Trek communicator - so two geek passions ticked with a single gadget.

It was these aspects that sold me on the phone rather than any particular use or versatility.

To be honest I'm not a great fan of mobile phones, but Rachel insists I have one "for emergencies" and you can't blame her for that.. given my penchant for passing out in unexpected places.

I've changed phones a couple of times since the original, but I still refer to my current phone as the Yodaphone...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Help Preserve The OSR For Future Generations...

A relatively new site has been established with the noble goal of ensuring the best, free material generated by the Old School Renaissance (or however you wish to describe those of us who prefer our Dungeons & Dragons-style games to more closely resemble the games we grew up playing) remains available forever.

The OSR Conservation Process is slowly collating free gaming material from our neck of da Interwebz to preserve it for posterity, and keep the files legally downloadable.

Check it out, download what you need and see if you've created anything that's worth uploading.

Haunted Houses, Spooks And Psychos... Oh My!

A wonderful montage of 64 horror movies in five minutes.

Thanks to the Fright Catalog for pointing this out.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Games Night Postponed Due To Cold Weather...

Our boiler has been out of action for almost a week and so our old, Victorian house is like a cold store.

Rachel - who is a lot more sensitive than I to low temperatures - has finally succumbed and spent today in bed with a demon cold, wrapped up under two duvets.

It seemed only right that I postpone games night (the inaugural outing of The Tuesday Knights in my new-look campaign world of Tekralh, under a houseruled version of the Crypts & Things rule system) as I didn't want to inflict our current housing conditions on others.

The cold also eventually saps any enthusiasm or desire to be creative from even the hardiest of humans...

Therefore, the campaign now kicks off next Tuesday instead (providing the boiler is finally fixed and Rachel and I haven't frozen to death in the meantime).

[TEKRALH] New Character Class - Forester [UPDATED]

Foresters are skilled woodsmen who enforce The Forest Law (for instance only authorised Foresters are allowed to carry hunting weapons within the confines of a forest without the express permission of the local baron or duke).

As well as rousting outlaws and preventing illegal felling of trees and hunting, the Foresters are required to negotiate with merchants and legitimate loggers to ensure the best prices for lumber etc

Every piece of woodland will have at least one Head Forester, who is answerable to the local noble, and he will have under him at least a couple of assistants (known as "under-foresters" or "rangers").

In their own environment, a Forester is generally considered at least the equal of a barbarian in manners of hunting and survival.

In Tekralh, they all tend to pledge their spiritual allegiance to either The Green Man or Arbora (but rarely both) and are generally considered as 'priests' of those gods by the simple, village folk who live near the woods and forests.

This gives a Forester a circumstance bonus for STAT checks involving Charisma - when dealing with villagers or merchants - of at least +1 (up to a temporary bonus of +3 to his CHA if the villagers/merchants are inclined to like him anyway).

Most Foresters are also tied to their jobs and only a rare few get the opportunity to roam the countryside freely because of their special circumstances (such as their Head Forester being brutally murdered by a pack of rabid wolves), but eventually they will be expected to return to their home woods and pledge fealty to the local nobility as befits their calling.

When progressing in levels, their Base Attack Bonus (BAB) rises as per the Barbarian class (as shown in the table below):

Prime Attribute: Strength & Constitution (if both 13+ then 5% experience bonus)
Hit Dice: 1d6+1/level (gains 2HP/level after 9th)
Armour/Shield Permitted: Any except platemail, anything heavier than ring interferes with some of their abilities (as noted).
Weapons Permitted: Any, but prefers sword, axe and bow.

Forester Class Skills:

Weapon Preference: At first level must choose either sword, axe or bow as his signature weapon. He will gain an additional +1 to hit with this at first level, fourth level, seventh level, 11th level, 15th level and 20th level.

Damage Bonus: At sixth level, the Forester must nominate a favoured enemy - a type of creature or race of beings (e.g. giants, wolves, Malte Volk, ogres, bears, Delosians, zombies etc) against which he will receive a +1 bonus to damage inflicted with signature weapon. This increases by one point every other level after that (ie. +2 at 8th, +3 at 10th etc).

Stealth: If wearing ring-mail or lighter, the forester gains +3 on his Saving Throw for attempts to move silently, hide in shadows, conceal himself in dense foliage etc.

Tracking: A Forester can track prey or game in the wilderness (but not in cities or typical dungeon environments) with a +3 bonus on his Saving Throw, taking into account the following modifiers -
  • Hard Ground -3
  • Raining Or Snowing -5
  • Quarry Crosses Water -7
  • Per day (after first) old tracks are -1
Othwade, (Former) Chief Forester of Darkling Wood
He will be able to follow the tracks for up to five hours before needing to make another check. A success will also allow him to say roughly how many "people" he is following, while a modified die roll of five over his Saving Roll will ascertain general clues towards the disposition or condition of his prey (wounded, exhausted, encumbered etc) and eight over he will be able to identify the make-up of the party he is following (e.g. is there a magician in the group, a priest, a knight etc).

Direction Sense: As long as above ground and outdoors, a Forester is able to ascertain the direction of true North on a successful Saving Throw (with a +3 Bonus).

Sense Danger: Again as long as the Forester is above ground and outdoors, the Dungeon Master can make a flat Saving Throw (no bonus) to see if the character gets a gut feeling about impending trouble (no more specific details than that). This has a range of 200 yards (600ft) outside, and 20yards indoors/underground.

Foraging: If the Forester is free to hunt for at least six hours, he can find enough food (if it is available) in the wilderness to keep a party of up to six people alive and well with a successful Saving Throw at +3 (if he fails, he may spend another six hours hunting and roll again, if the time is available). If he is in a hostile environment (e.g. a desert or polar ice cap) he needs to make a successful Saving Throw at -2 to procure food and shelter to protect 2d3 people for the following day.

Predict Weather: On a straight saving throw, a Forester can make a rough prediction of the prevailing weather for the next 24 hours.

[UPDATED, Feb 1]

Knights Of The Round Table (1953)

It may lack the magic and monsters of later cinematic or televisual outings, but for its romantic portrayal of knights and chivalry, 1953's Knights Of The Round Table can't be beaten.

Just check out the manic fight sequence above! And this isn't even at the climax of the film, this scene comes near the beginning of the film - so you know you have great things ahead.

Revel in the sumptuous colours and sweeping scenery.

Even when the action is clearly taking place on a movie set it fails to undermine the rock solid verisimilitude of this marvellous, almost Shakespearean, tale of love, loyalty, deceit and downfall.

If you can (I don't know how the stupid territorial boundaries work with these things) check out the four-minute trailer for the movie download on iTunes.

And you have to love the dig at gimmicky '50s 3D in the poster (below) and in the trailer. See, even almost 60 years ago, it was obvious that the fact you had to wear special glasses to appreciate 3D rather detracted from the 'cleverness' of it!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Fifth Anniversary!!!

Just a quick note to point out that this is the FIFTH anniversary of this blog (formerly known as HeroPress).

I dealt with all the statistics the other day, when we had our 500,000th visitor, so won't repeat them here.

Google's inexplicable/accidental/unjustified suspension of my account on Friday 13 was a frightening reminder of The Great Blooger SNAFU last year (also on a Friday 13 - coincidence? Methinks not!) and had me wondering if we would ever reach this anniversary.

But to be fair to Google and Blogger they corrected their error within 48 hours and everything is now back to normal - and backedup - now!

On a slightly techie note (although all I did was press a button) to mark this date I've changed the formats of this blog and The Chronicles of Tekralh campaign blog so that they can be read more easily on mobile devices (what with this being the 21st Century and all).

If any of you regularly read my blogs on a handheld device I'd like to hear what you think of this change.

We've come a long way since HeroPress Reborn on January 16, 2007, and who knows where we'll be in five years' time? But I'm excited to find out... and hope you'll come along on the this big adventure with me.

It's A Trap!

There was a post on ENWorld the other day - which you can read here - asking if the good old 10ft-drop-onto-spikes pit trap has had its day?

I, of course, say: "Hellz no!"

What I've been kicking around in my noggin is actually the possibility of a dungeon that is just all traps (obviously many, many variations - not just pit traps).

Think about the start of Raiders of The Lost Ark or the end of Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade - those "dungeons" had no monsters, just a succession of traps, and they worked pretty well.

Has anyone ever tried that?

[TEKRALH] Mythraic Creation Story...

3. Into the Void of Eternal Blackness came Mythra, bearing the Seed Of All.

4. The seed he planted in a golden chalice, filled with soil. He watered it with his tears and the seed grew.

It became a tree.

5. And around the roots of that tree formed all the lands of Erph.

But the branches were bare.

6.  So Mythra climbed into the tree and cut open his arms so that his blood could feed the tree.

And then blossoms appeared and these became all the creatures of the Erph.

7. Into the sleeping figure of Man did Mythra breathe his own essence.

Thus Man was created part tears, part blood and part breath of the All-Father.

- from The Book Of Mythra,  Ch 1, v3-7

A Temple Knight
Priests of the Mythraic religion take a wooden cross as their holy symbol to represent The World Tree and its branches, while the elite Knights Of The Temple of Mythra use a red cross to symbolise the blood their god spilled to create Mankind.

The Temple Knights are the order of fighting monks that guard The Supreme Temple of Mythra located in Vallon's capital city, Thera, and the priest-king known as the Hierophant - Mythra's representative on Erph.

As well as guarding The Supreme Temple, the Temple Knights are also at the forefront of any conflicts where Mythraic nations are fighting against non-believers.

Map-A-Monday: Hyboria

So, this is a new feature I'm trying out. Every other Monday a gorgeous, fantasy map for your jollification - starting with Robert E Howard's Hyboria.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

[TEKRALH] Jousting And Other Sports...

Jousting: If you were to ask the Teklish what the best thing was that the Valyards had done for their island they would - almost to a man - agree upon the introduction of jousting.

A formal jousting match is the subject of much pageantry, especially when it is part of a larger tournament (as most are), with a pair of knights in plate mail armour, bearing couched lances thundering towards each down the lists, to the cheers of the attendant crowds in the stands.

Should a player-character find himself in a tournament, here are some quick and dirty rules for determining the outcome.

Both participants roll a d20 to hit (adding in their Basic Attack Bonus, of course) and consult the following table -

A lance's standard damage is 2d4+1. A blow to the shield does this amount of damage, to the body one and a half times this, to the head double damage.

To resolve a possible unhorsing the struck knight (having taken 4d4+2 damage from the blow initially) must make a STAT check with his STR. If the attacker's STR is less than his, then he rolls 4d6 vs STR+ LVL, if the attacker's STR is equal to greater than his own, then he rolls 5d6 vs STR+LVL. If the attacker happens to have a STR that is four points greater than his target, then the roll is 6d6 vs STR+LVL.

If the roll is made then there are no further consequences and the attacker is counted as scoring a head hit. If the the roll is failed however the struck knight is unhorsed and takes a further 1d6+1 damage from the fall and must make a STAT check of 2d6 vs DEX+LVL to avoid breaking anything (see rules for Falling Down - and, yes, a Hero Point can be spent to automatically pass this roll). Should the dice come up double sixes, then one of the dice must be rolled again and added to the score.

A knight rendered unconscious from blows sustained in the normal run of exchanges will also topple from his horse - and lose the match.

Tournament lances are designed to break upon impact, so unless a knight misses during his run, he must replace his lance after every tilt.

Therefore it is important that the knight ensures he has enough spare lances (at 6gp each) to last the tournament, and probably a squire to hand him fresh lances and maintain his armour between contests.

Individual jousts are decided on points, with each knight riding off against his opponent until he has accumulated four points (unless one is unhorsed) and each rider scoring as follows:
  • Shield Strike: One Point
  • Body Strike: Two Points
  • Helm Strike: Three Points
  • Unhorsing: Automatic Win
Remember, between each tilt, both knights can 'catch their breath' and regain 1d6 lost Hit Points.

The winning knight may claim either the armour or horse of his defeated foe (or an item of treasure or weaponry of similar value), although it is generally regarded as bad form to leave a fellow knight totally defenceless.

Sometimes the prize will be waived in lieu of some kind of debt-of-service, that must be agreed between the two knights and the host of the tourney (or his representative).

Campball aka Futeball aka Gameball aka Mob Football: Popular legend has it that this brutal, dangerous and noisy sport began with two groups of villagers kicking around the severed head of a felled bandit - but these days balls ranging from the size of cricket balls up to stitched pigs' bladders filled with dried peas are kicked around.

Beyond this the similarities to modern football (soccer to my American readers) are minimal.

The captains of the two teams decide how many players will participate on each side (ranging from dozens to hundreds, depending on the amount of room available) and then a village maiden will throw out the ball and the chaos begins.

The object is to kick the ball through your opponents' goal (or goals - larger games, usually played in fields covering several miles and with a hundred or more players per side, will have two goals at each end. And there are no designated goal keepers).

There are no other rules. While the use of actual weapons is looked down upon, as every man carries his knife with him most of the time, blade-related injuries (and even deaths) are not unknown.

Mob football matches are played on certain holidays, between villages or towns, on a designated 'camp' (the playing field - which may be within a certain perimeter in a town or in the surrounding fields).

The game, however, has been banned within the walls of Kaerlud since the reign of King Cherin in 794, due to the excessive amount of damage caused and the number of fires that broke out because of upturned braziers.

Handball: Tennis without racquets. A net is slung up between two posts (trees, houses etc), sometimes even across a road and the players hit between each other - scoring a point if it hits the ground on their opponent's side (or goes through a window!).

As with most Teklish sports the match continues until the participants decide to stop, lose interest or are moved on by the authorities.

Animal Sports: Comparatively large sums are wagered by the common folk of Tekralh on a number of pastimes that would be labelled as cruel and inhumane by today's society, such as cockfighting (a pair of trained birds with fitted metal spurs thrown into a cock pit to fight to the death); baiting (setting a number of trained dogs against a larger animal - e.g. bear, bull or badger - in a pit); and dog fighting.

Blood-Games: A variation on the various animal baiting sports, the 'blood-games' sets two human fighters against each other in a pit - often to the death.

Although not banned, this is a hugely frowned upon pastime and is usually the province of slightly decadent Valyard nobles who like to torment Teklish and foreign prisoners (or volunteers) in pit fights, with the promise of freedom or a large purse for victory.

Traditional Sports: Wrestling matches, archery, horseshoes, hammer throwing etc are also common place, especially as part of larger tourney or fair.

The nobility also treat hunting as a sport, while to the lower classes it's a way of putting a rare piece of meat on their table.

Archery: The most popular sport in Tekralh as it is a great leveller; peasants are just as likely to be good shots as nobles - even though competitions that allow different social classes to compete against each other are very rare.

The only people not inclined to take part in archery contests are knights, who prefer the visceral thrill and challenge of jousting to demonstrate their martial skills.

With targets set at 50ft for a shortbow and 75ft for a longbow and then moved further away each round, scoring for participating player-characters is a simple matter of rolling a d20 for each shot (adding in BAB, range modifiers, DEX modifiers etc) and then consulting the following table:

Scoring is 10 points for a bullseye, six for an inner ring and three points for the outer ring. Trick shots (like splitting an opponent's arrow) require both a roll to hit and the expenditure of a Hero Point.

Each contestant is allowed a set number of arrows (usually three per target) and their overall points are tallied at the end of the contest to determine the winner.

In an upper class contest, the prize is often a silver or golden arrow (worth 1d10 x 10gp), while lower class archery tournaments usually offer a simple cash prize of around 3d6 to 4d8gp.

Roleplaying Research Resources:
  • Relics & Rituals: Excalibur - by Swords & Sorcery for 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet - by Stephen Gardner, White Dwarf, issue 81

Thor: Love & Thunder (2022) + Dr Who (2022)


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