About Me

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Once upon a time, a certain bit of Artificial Intelligence (AI), dedicated to playing chess has defeated a standing chess champion named Gary Kasparov. That was a first, at the time. Gary Kasparov complained that the computer had the analysis of every move ever made in any historic chess game at its disposal. No human player had that during a match. Kasparov went on to fund a freestyle chess league, where everything went - humans, computers playing each others, teams of players, and teams on players aided by AI. Today, any human chess player who is aided by AI is called a Centaur. Centaurs are the strongest players - consistently defeating both, the human and the AI players.

Historically, Centaurs were invented by the Myceans of the Ancient Greece, after they were invaded by horsemen - i.e. enemy warriors mounted on horsemen. Incidentally, other cultures invaded from horseback, also invented their own Centaurs. To them, Centaurs were real. Monsters were real in the ancient and medieval world, explained by means not available to the minds that invented them. So, the medieval and ancient worlds were rife with the Werewolves, Vampires and Witches, just as today's world is rife with today's monsters who scare people today, just as they did centuries ago. Today we have terrorists, serial killers, drug dealers, and child molesters. All of these exist, all of these are criminals who often perpetrate terrible and awful things, and just as in the past, the general public has a little or no knowledge as to the nature of the beast.

Werewolves were simple, by the standards of today - These were woodsmen, peasants living in the wilderness and their families, who learned to murder lone strangers on deserted roads, murder them, rob them, and take their valuables, disposing of the bodies. Few bothered with a stranger, unless they were noblemen, and nobody suspected anyone, who didn't have a personal connection to the victim. Of course, folks who murder and engage in predatory violence, develop predatory stares, which tends to unsettle others, hence the alien-ness that grew into a werewolf myth. Another name for a werewolf would be an economic serial killer. These proliferated well into 19th Century, where a friendly old lady inn keeper might poison her lone customers so as to enrich themselves. Witches of old, serial killer nurses of today, who intentionally kill patients in their care for whatever kicks that gives them.

Some of the most common creatures in D&D, such as Giants and the Dragons, have been imbued with philosophical and mythical meaning by the cultures that created them. Unfortunately mainstream D&D has none of it. Initially, it was a tactical miniature wargame, and the creatures were the mythological pawns for the battlefield, but then it became a more sophisticated role playing game with serious dramatic, plot and political elements, but the monsters did not grow up with the game, and it even retained its racist and/or colonialist tropes well into its Fifth Edition. Consider the way the game divides the non-human bipedal races into Demi-Humans, equal to or superior to humanity, and into Humanoids, sub-human and bestial.

When conceptualizing Midlands, in 2003 or so, I thought about making it a humans-only campaign precisely to avoid the racial stereotyping and race as character tendencies inherent in AD&D, which was superior in every other way to every other fantasy role playing game that I was considering for the campaign ruleset. Along the way I was deciding if I was going with no magic/low magic or with the standard AD&D magic spell system. Ultimately I decided in favor of realistic diversity and complexity, which meant that the human race had plenty of competition from other sentient species, some almost human, some not at all, and I came up with physics and cosmology for the campaign, that allowed spell-casting and I replaced the artificial concept of a level with a realistic concept of "Complexity", and thus, a first level Magic User can potentially learn a Fireball spell, but due to its complexity and lack of readiness on part of the novice Magic User, it will take a long long time to get the spell down, with a great teacher at the side, and chances of getting the spell are pretty slim, on the order of 2-5% per six months of full time study, but in theory, you can have a first level magic user throwing fireballs.

Regarding the non-human races, whether Elves and Dwarves, or Goblins and Orcs, I came up with suitable ideas for their origins, and I am sticking to the notions of the Pig-Faced Orcs, Pointy Eared Elves and Bearded Dwarves. I have also developed suitable ideas for the Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears. I was always fascinated as to what was the nature and differences of these three related creatures. Crappy work aside, I wanted to know if there was more to them, than the crappy artwork and varying degrees of Hit Dice to power these creatures. I worked out these creatures for myself, but I wanted to see what the official line was, so I stopped at one of the last few remaining Barnes and Noble bookstores to see what the Fifth Edition Monster Manual said about the Goblinoids.

I was quite disappointed, because nothing new has been added since the first edition. The Goblins are ruin rats, living in the darkness of caves and looted dungeons, sometimes riding wolves and breeding rats for household pets. They are weak and tend to be enslaved by the bigger Hobgoblins and Bugbears. Goblins are pictures as hook-nosed caricature of indiscernible origin, with large tubular ears, the kind plastic surgeons will modify for a fee. Next up are the Hobgoblins, they are bigger, stronger and better organized, than Goblins, and they fight an eternal war against the Humans and the Elves. Their identity is their military service. They have the same ugly faces as Goblins, but tend to wear their hair in a medieval Japanese topknot and are drawn dressed like the medieval Japanese men at arms. Interesting. Next, the Bugbears. These are big brutes, vaguely reminiscent of the great Bears, of course, these are cowardly and cunning, large sized and moving quickly. Again, these are portrayed as unidentifiable beast-men. We have one other interesting bit about the D&D Goblinoid race: Their armies are massed outside the human kingdoms, which serve as origins of the player characters. So, the Goblinoids are the literal D&D incarnation of the vilified enemies engaged in a war against the kingdom to which the player characters belong. The more interesting question is, why aren't PC's slaughtering human opponents, why are they looting and pillaging dehumanized humanoid enemies, evil by definition, to which the 5th Edition Monster Manual refers as an it? Could it be that the D&D writers are unknowingly perpetuating the stereotypes of the bygone era? I may be reading too much into a simple fantasy game, but the D&D writers also unknowingly perpetuate another dynamic, that of the weak and the dispossessed tribes. Consider that the Native American name Adirondack, means Bark Eater, at one time give pejoratively to a band of Native Americans who were forced out by other Native American tribes into a barren stretch of land, where they couldn't feed themselves. 

Goblins, dwelling in caves and looted dungeons, filthy and ready to eat anything, ripe for enslavement by stronger others, sound a lot like a dispossessed weaker indigenous nation forced to live in a barren or non-productive area by stronger tribe. Furthermore, Goblins correspond to the weaker member of the tribe - the elderly and the young, the last ones to take food at the table, the bottom of the pecking order, the ones living in most squalor and poverty. Eventually, some of the little goblins grow into adulthood, pick up spears and other soldierly accoutrements, and morph into martial Hobgoblins. With years, some of the Hobgoblin soldiers, or Braves, develop into Warriors and capable leaders of men...er Hobgoblins into battle. Notice how the Bugbears are imbued with the attributes of a capable warrior - they are large, intimidating, they are strong, as warriors should be, and they are also deceptively quick, in other words cunning, Speed is what makes a fighting pro, as well as all those other Bug-Bear-ish attributes, and the Alpha-Male-esque language of barely legible grunts, growls and hollers. The Life-Cycle of a Goblin.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


A couple of days ago, Noisms posted an interesting article in his Monsters and Manuals blog. It deals with the cultural context in which D&D emerged in the U.S. in the 1970's and 1980's and measures it against the cultural kitsch of the Tiki escapism. The post is here.

I just want to add, that Tiki was not all kitsch to the California people, who enjoyed it. This was late 1940's and 1950's, those dudes fought a horrifying and a brutal war in the Pacific, and when they came back, they got engineering degrees on the G.I. Bill and took on well paying engineering job in the Aerospace industry. In the meantime, they were enjoying themselves, and their social privilege, such as that they had, and having money and enjoying the world of sex, shiny cars, booze, and tobacco. And escaping into Tiki bars, lifiting weights on the muscle beach, and surfing, and martial arts and occasional bouts of eastern philosophy, that was just staring to take hold on the left coast. To their hippie offspring, they became squares, but they themselves were simply enjoying life after not dying in the horror of the Pacific. Skip a few years into the future, and you get a fairly decent, I enjoyed it, article about the context of D&D, and then Noisms wrote about his unique context of his D&D in 1994, and I got to thinking about my 1994 and the context of my D&D, The Midlands, and here it is:

D&D was on an eleven year hiatus for me in 1994. I started playing in 1981 with the Tom Moldvay Red Box basic set, when I was 13. It was a model hobby shop that sold it to me. I had no idea what it was, I ran a newspaper route for the guy, little did I know that I worked for next to nothing. The guy sold me the Basic Set and went out of business the next day. I heard of D&D scare among the parents and teachers and knew nothing else. By 1985 I was into Gygax’s AD&D 1st Edition.

I went to seventh grade at the IS 145 in New York, and they had a temporary building to handle the overcrowding. Someone painted a mural along the entire length of the temporary building facing he school playground. It was a mural depicting a panorama of the gray lakeshore and heavy pine forest featuring dark greens and browns. There was a silhouette of a castle in the distance against the backdrop of grey mountain peaks, and there were dragons! There was Red Dragon, and there was a Green Dragon, and there was a Blue Dragon and a Black Dragon. They were not life-size dragon drawings, as the temporary building was only one story tall, but they were definitely larger than man-size. In one corner, instead of the artist’s name, someone signed it simply as “Dungeons and Dragons”. The year was 1979-1980. I looked at it and was mystified, every time I went to that playground during lunch. So, to me, D&D was always about the Wilderness, the Exploration, and the Mystery, and dungeon building and room stocking was a guilty pleasure. That is why I always write my own adventures and settings to DM.

I quickly got disillusioned with D&D, because it did not have a realistic combat system, combat is never linear, and moved on to other games. I owned pretty much everything that came out between 1982 and 1988. AH Runequest, Man Myth and Magic, Espionage! Gamma World, hated Top Secret as unrealistic, Escape From New York was my favorite movie and Aftermath and Twilight 2000 (first edition), were my favorite two games. Also had Call of Cthulu and Chill! which was like Cthulu Lite. Somewhere there also were the Illuminati card game, and Car Wars and Battletech, both quasi-RPG’s. Met dedicated martial artists in high school, who were religiously playing the Iron Crown’s Character Law, Arms Law, Claw Law, Spell Law series of books, each was hard bound and cost a fortune, I couldn’t afford, so I never got into it. In the military I ran into a bunch of much older guys playing GURPS and talking how Steve Jackson’s ex-wife was driving him nuts and taking his money. By 1992 I got my college degree and found my first professional job. Idiot that I was, I gave away my treasure trove, thinking I will have a career and not enough time for D&D!

I never really stopped playing CRPG’s at home late at night, starting with the Gold Box games, and moving on to the Baldur’s Gate and Fallout, when they first came out. When Fallout 3 came out, it was transformed into a first-person shooter, and I didn’t like it any more. In 2003, I found some friends and decided to start gaming again. I thought for a while, decided on D&D, though a while longer, decided that between all of the versions, I will get into Gygax AD&D first edition, but it will be mixed with Runequest skill system and Vancian Magic had to go – not enough action for the Magic Users, also MU’s can learn the sword and the light crossbow, if they spend skill slots on them. Historically, the crossbow was the rule changer. It took a British Yeoman a lifetime to learn the Longbow, but the crossbow can be taught anyone in 1-3 days, and a mere untrained man can punch through a knight’s breast plate at a close range. For that reason, Crossbows were banned in the British Isles. Magic User with a Crossbow reflects that reality. I got everything ready and ran the first session in 2006.

Regarding music, it is a part of my writing process as a soundtrack to a movie. I have invented stories for songs, and found songs that complement the story. The first D&D Midlands campaign ran from 2006 to 2009, and I made a music CD for the with the songs to match the key moments in the story and in the game. It is an eclectic mix of obscure stuff and some unreleased cafĂ© bardic music. I like all of the songs, naturally; the players inevitably found a song or two that knocked their socks off, but did not like as much the collection as a whole. Notable songs on it were – Ashes to Ahes, live, by Steve Earle; Rainmaker, Sand and Blood, The Amulet by Planet P; Take Another Look, by The Cars; Still I Am Sad instrumental version by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow; Ice by Medeski Martin and Wood; Black Blue White by Wang Chung, and Betrayal (Sorcerer Theme) by The Tangerine Dream (that’s a 1977 tonka truck jungle adventure movie, not anything magical. This music sounds so scary and unsettling, I matched it to the moment, where the players burst into the Necromancer’s laboratory and discover evidence of human experimentation. One of the major treasure troves in this adventure was a set of antique silver vivisection tools that could be worth a small fortune to a Necromancer, unfortunately if the players were to get caught in possession of said tools, it would be the hangman’s noose for them. It never crossed he players’ minds, that the surgical tools can be valuable, and they did not take them.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


RPGPundit loves to insult others in the name of protecting hate speech. RPGPundit revels in Latin American racism and celebrates the fact that there are bigots at his Wild West game who like Cubans and look down on Mexicans, because they are darker people. That is what he wrote on his blog entry.

RPGPundit reviewed a Spanish role-playing game, called Walkure, which fetishizes Nazi imagery into cosmos and features an alternative history line, where Nazis won WW2. RPGPundit's review was remarkably restrained, tolerant, and well behaved, where he praised the production value of the game, where he could, and did not raise any moral or ethical issues of the game that celebrates Nazi Germany. Don't get me wrong, I would have reviewed the game, if anyone asked me, but I would have written on how the Jews and East Europeans are treated in the game. In his review of the game, RPGPundit showed remarkable ignorance of history, when it comes to Spain's neutrality in WW2 and of Franco's negotioations with Hitler during his attempt to get the Spain into the war on the Axis side.

In light of RPGPundit's self-proclaimed commitment to free speech, it comes as a surprise, that he gave a short shrift on his RPG game website to some supposed neo-nazis, who wanted to talk about some role-playing game, which apparently features a race war. Such self-censorship on RPGPundit's part is amazing, when you consider that everyone is entitled to free speech, especially those hated and ostracized by society at large. I despise any racism, prejudice, fascism, as well as authoritarianism, but I would have allowed the conversation to discuss the merits and flaws of the game, including its racism, so long as the discussion did not degenerate into slander and racism.

This is over RPGPundit's head, or more precisely, RPGPundit does not believe in free speech. RPGPundit's only purpose in blogging is to promote his writing, and he shies away from anything that would hurt the sales of his games. Any real or imagined association with Neo-Nazism may certainly do that, and so RPGPundit will give up on his commitment to freech speech, if he had any to begin with, for the sake of his bottom line.

He banned me from his blog, because I remarked that the Social Darwinist underpinnings of his Livertarianism and his disdain, for what he considers to be weak and decadent Western youth of the authoritarian mindset and of thinking in Nazi Germany. Nobody would overreact to a comment like that, unless it applied to them.

What prompted me to write about him today, was not his reprehensiveness, but his trashing of the Appendix N, in the Gary Gygax's Dungeon Master's Guide as totally useless. On the surface, this is more of RPGPundit's saying shit to draw attention to himself for the purposes of controversy and self-promotion, but underneath the surface, there are several reasons for him attacking the Appendix N.

RPGPundit will attack anything to make himself stand apart for the sake of name recognition and notoriety, he believes will promote his writing. He is too young and came the hobby in a different country and does not understand the significance of the fantasy books in the Appendix N on the conceptualization of the game. Underlying this is his position that D&D is just a game with no significance beyond the die rolling experience of the game. He does not understand that most people have a more complex relationships with their fantasy worlds. People typically invest a portion of themselves in the role-playing experience, and often grow and strengthen their identity as a result of that. There is hard scientific research that proves at least this much, not to mention the intangibles such as inspiration, escapism, and vicarious learning.

I believe that RPGPundit has this hardline position for two reasons (beyond making the grab for the OSR Torch-bearer). Fits reason is that he exists in Uruguay, a different country, where Catholicism is part of political ideology. He has a working relationship with some youth development center or such state run organization, and he may not want to scare the conservative powers that be with weirdness that can be associated with role-playing.

The second reason is that he wants to keep his potential competition ignorant. He made a statement, that the players can use the random adventure generation tables for inspiration, but not the books in the Appendix N, that inspired those tables. He can not be that stupid, so I am guessing that this is deliberate, so that no budding writer can threaten him. You read a bunch of sword and sorcery books, you might think out of the box. RPGPundit has used his knowledge of the comparative religions to his advantage to create a unique setting for his OSR clones. This gives his games the edge over competition.

However, one thing I noticed, is that his games lack spirituality and mysticism, or any sense of the unknown. His game set in Ancient India, has no mystery I associate with Ancient Indian religion and philosophy. His second game, dealing with witchcraft, treats the Cults of Chaos as Satanic and any deviatiomn from the Mother Church as a Heresy in the same way, that a medieval inquisition might view it. RPGPundit is probably too ignorant to know how and why the medieval inquisition actually functioned, but he penned a great game based on occult, where witch-hunting is justified, and witches have the evil powers, that were ascribed to them in the middle ages. I find that deeply disturbing. As a contrast to his ancient india game, I am actually aware of the 1960's hippie commune, that was centerd around the teachings of an Indian guru, who created a theater production company, to introduce the audience to concepts and idea oof the ancient indian religion and philosophy (ZBS Productions, Meatball Fulton) They did a number of radio shows into 1980's, that featured Space and Haunted Houses and explorations a la Indiana Jones). Their last offering was an early CRPG style text adventure in the early 1980's. This is exactly the opposite direction from what RPGPundit is doing. The real question is whether this behavior on RPGPundit's part is deliberate or he genuinely doesn't get it.

What I find fascinating, is that RPGPundit claims to be an occultist, a free mason, and a scholar in comparative religion studies, who has participated in esoteric rituals and has explored his past lives. He has got to be a poser, who does not really believe in anything. One thing that sets apart spiritual leaders from any tradition, is their universal kindness and tolerance of others. RPGPundit does not tolerate much, so his claims of religious enlightment are bullshit. The other thing that fascinates me about RPGPundit, is that here is a man, who claims to be an occultist, and yet he publishes a game, where occult is reduced to something inherently evil, something to be burned at the stake. How can anyone live in a free and democratic society, and betray his faith and his ideals like that? Either RPGPundit is utterly spineless and will do anything to get published, or he is so cynical that he doesn't believe in anything, and it's all an act with him.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


I ran the second game this Memorial Day Weekend. It was great, but it turned out a one-shot deal. Next time we get together will most likely be sometime in October. We played the game over the course of two day between watching reality TV, bouts of drinking, BBQ, and action movies.

My character generation and introduction are story-games. I think that someone has defined role-playing as consensus reality building, and this is what it turns out to be, a process, where DM and the player mediate and come turn with the setting, the player's desire and the die roll results.

Not only have the characters turned out to be amazing, but the older vets playing pushed the game way in the different direction. I thought that they would all want to be warriors, but behaved otherwise. The Alpha remained a warrior. I told everyone to come up with a basic character story that would fit in with the Alpha. Alpha rolled first and ended up with a STR 16 fighter, who had most scores over 12 and the lowest was 12. I told Alpha that his father was a full time house warrior and that his PC spent his life (short 17 years) practicing to be a warrior. Alpha immediately set up the group - Red is a best friend for life, they work out together, Wraith is the kid always getting into trouble (wink and a nod, a thief), Stephan is the kid whom Alpha defends from bullies (a bookish Magic User or a Cleric, anyone?), and the last player was the kid he practice archery with.

After much conversation, die rolling and picking of cards a la fortune telling, I ended up with four dynamite player characters. Leader if the pack was Solla Tere, baptized into Christianity as Exavier, known as SAVIOR, because he rescues people from bullies. This is a well-off fighter, son of a sergeant at arms, who believes himself to be a descendant of a legendary half-elf mercenary, a character in the fantasy novel that the player is writing, and indeed, THE SAVIOR is a striking 5'7" 200 lbs. strapping youth with natural platinum blond hair and steel-grey eyes, who can dance with girls, and is skilled with the long sword, long bow, dagger, and weapon and shield fighting style. He uses chain mail armor, like a typical man at arms and is skilled in Outdoors survival and Horseback Riding. It seemed to me, and thus became part of Midlands canon, that the parents (themselves of humble origins) spent their lives preparing THE SAVIOR to be a squire at the Baron's Court.

RED, Savior's best friend turned out to be of humble origins, a laborer's son. A tall and skinny youth with shaggy red hair, who decided to live by the sword and that he will never work in his life, and who sees violence as a means to that end. A dark character, but a straightforward fighter.

STEPHAN was a surprise. This was a natural 18(85) STR character with all other stats above average and a social standing slightly above Savior's. Now, how does someone like that get bullied? Answers came gradually from other rolls. There was a miniscule chance, but Stephan's father turned out to be a high-level adventurer. His random non-adventure skills were Gardner and Cook. I decided that Stephan was born out of wedlock to a local woman, sired by a fencing master from another and culturally different warrior house. The father never abandoned his son, but he set him up a good six-hour ride away from his own home. Stephan's father is well regarded as a go-to fencing instructor by the local men at arms and thus Stephan started getting trained by them as well as by his father, who trained him as a 2 Handed sword specialist and prepared him for Plate Mail Armor. When not practicing, Stephan helps his mom and grandma in the Garden and helps his grandfather, who is the Chief Cook at the local manor house. Stephan is another blond beast, also tall, who was bullied by others as a child, because he was different, also because he was shy, soft, and a fatherless bastard, according to some. Stephan grew up into a withdrawn squire, who writes poetry, practices martial arts, and lives Chivalric code and courtly graces.   

WRAITH turned out another fighter, fascinated by demons (Midlands is essentially a frontier bordering on alien and demonic), and with a low charisma of 6. His random non-adventuring trade was animal husbandry. I was thinking, maybe, life-energy, Necromancer (a big deal in Midlands - Assassins, Slavers, and Necromancers), but the player was nice and not really a dark type. Then he picked Chaotic Neutral for his alignment and the die was cast. WRAITH was getting into trouble not because he was stealing or being a bad boy; he was getting into trouble, because of his abrasive personality and talking weird stuff. Here was a guy, his hands stained with the blood of farm animals and horses that he helped deliver, talking demons and obsessing about cleanliness! That was the source of his problems, and I made the character a Fighter/Self-Taught Magic User, an Abjurer (protective spells), practicing traditional White Magic. Player had no clue as to any of that, but I had him pick a protective spell and told him that he wants to advance any further as a Magic User, he will have to dedicate gamin, time, gp and effort in pursuit of that goal.

WOLF turned into another dark character. He had to be superior in Archery to Savior, and he rolled a natural 18 for DEX. He wanted to be an Archer specialist, so I made him into a Fighter/Thief. His background dovetailed naturally into Outdoorsiness - a Forester's son. Player picked short-sword and spear as his other weapons, and a bunch of outdoors skills. Other players assumed that WOLF is an outdoorsman and a fighter. WOLF is the only outsider in the group. he is 22, but he is passing himself as a 19 year old, to better fit in with the 17-19 other characters. Based on player's inclinaton and if the game went in that direction, I think that the player would have joined the Assassins Guild. Players have caught the hint, that there is more to wolf, but they aren't familiar with D&D concepts, and none of them, really cared.

Anyway, this older group rolled better and produced more colorful characters, that my regular group. Players too, pulled this game into an unexpected direction. I was going to run them through the Journey to the Rock Module. Sort of Outdoorsy, nice, but also D&D kitsch from 1984. I had to make it fit into Midlands. I decided to keep the corny names, such as the Krayzen Mountains and the Wizard named Arkayz, which sounds suspiciously like a 1980's chain of movie theaters. So, I decided that Out West in Midlands is a kingdom called MLODY AVOT, an anagram of Tom Moldvay, where all of the Basic D&D Elves and Dwarves and corny names and modules from 1980's are going to live. I wrote the City of Tuma into the setting and added a new nation to Midlands Campaign - a nation of Greckland (Old English for Greece) that sits south of 'Avot.

I wrote the module into the setting and further developed the different types of terrain that players will cross during the adventure, to make the outdoors adventure more vivid and to enable characters to explore off trail. I also created an end-of the line frontier large village cum town of Vilna.

Essentially it is a sprawling prosperous village that grew into a large town or a small city. I needed the place with all its interesting venues so that the players can recruit a Cleric and a Magic user for the adventure. They forgot about the Thief, but there were a couple of clandestine thieves as it were. The Patron of the adventure needed some fresh and unknown faces to recover the objective of the module, and so he contacted a wealthy merchant from a land a month's journey away by horseback. If the patron can resettle the City of Tuma, locked in a dimensional warp of sorts, he would be able to claim the region as an instant landed baron, the area will become a colony of Midlands and the Baron Of Blacklands will become the overlord of the area. To make that possible, he provided the merchant with the most promising future squires and men at arms that he could find - SAVIOR, RED, STEPHAN, WRAITH, and WOLF. He also made the merchant aware, that the merchant need not return should anything unfortunate befall the four.

The essence of the Midlands campaign is that it is a frontier  region to an alien world. On this side of the world, the humanity is holding the alien tide back for the corrupt and oppressive Ancient Realms of Humanity. On the other side of the divide, in the areas being colonized by the human settlers, the humanity adapts to the alien world it finds itself in by becoming a part of it. To give the frontier its spirit, I developed a bunch of intricate and detailed tables to give any NPC encountered and willing to talk, a point of origin, from all over the fantasy world, and a motivation. There are adventuring NPCs who are explorers, raiders looking for easy gold, people on personal quests of enlightenment, philosophers, missionaries and others. They total less than 3% on the encounter table, but they are there. They define the frontier. Also, there are delusional people. An NPC might think themselves a Ranger, but only be a Fighter with outdoorsman's skills, or they may fancy themselves a warrior, but only be a 0 level Normal man with a sword skill.

The players went to town to look for a Cleric and a Magic User to join their party. They had one of the adventure patron's NPC's act as their guide. The day was running late, and they entered a place called Asseghai, a high-level adventurers' brothel (picked from a dozen or so other venues). Of course, it wasn't just high level; adventurers there, just as there are Magic Buffs hanging around the Magic Shops, there are rich merchants, landowners, noblemen and their retinues, spending their gold at the asseghai. Players spent 45 minutes real time checking out the patrons and dancing with the local girls, before taking them upstairs. SAVIOR spent time conversing with a randomly encountered 9th level monk, who was sitting at the bar dressed in foppish finery. It was an interesting role-playing encounter. First one player, then the others started scanning the imaginary dance floor looking for the type of girl that they like. Most found what they were looking for, role played the dance and the small talk before taking them upstairs.

Next day they went to the Magic shop, where there was a lively crowd of eight patrons. They waited for someone to break away from a crowd admiring a newly arrived magic ring on display. The first person that broke away was not a charlatan or a zero level magic buff, as I hoped. it was a lower level Journeyman Wizard at the Guild. In practical terms, this meant more than the average number of spells in his spell book. I rolled the dice, drew his cards, and decided that this was an ambitious wizard, who joined the party and charged them a really bizarre contract, written in such a way as to satisfy the Wizard Guild's pay scale and make it affordable for the (largely) penniless players to hire him. His real motivation was that he wanted to work with a great wizard (the adventure patron).

Things got interesting thereafter: Players told him that they were looking for a Cleric to join the adventure. QUINT, the Journeyman Wizard told them that je knew a Priest who might be able to help them. The players encountered a Cleric, who ministered to their needs and they let him join. I was thinking a 3rd level Cleric, however, the dice decided otherwise. What I got was a delusional catholic priest, someone, who might function well in our world, but without any spell-casting ability or Clerical abilities. Oh, he could minister to the needs of the players and adventurers, and he even has the healing and herbalist skills to stabilize the wounded and speed the recovery, he just can't cast a Cure Light Wounds Spell or turn the undead. It was a brilliant roll of dice to complicate the game for the players.

Players also spent some time at the Magic Shop finagling a Healing Potion without having any money to make the purchase. After some decent role-playing, they dropped the adventure patron's name, and got themselves three free Healing Potions in case the Cleric gets hurt and could not cast the healing spells. SAVIOR insisted om giving the merchant all of his money and stating that he will pay fully for the three potions once they come back with some treasure from the adventure.

Just as the real adventure was about to start, the players called it a night, and we went to sit in front of TV and watch Jack Reacher. This was a bit of a disappointment for me, but I don't force anyone to play. I did as much with the wilderness setting of the module as I did with the town. I described the forests and the rest of the terrain in terms of topography and geographic features to give the unique feel to the wilderness, and I will run the adventure with my regular group at some later point. The Magnificent Five too, will be featured prominently as NPC's in the upcoming gaming. The one thing I am working to explain, is how the regular group and the Five have never come across each other previously. The regular group consists of a Fighter with an epic Strength of 18(00), of noble blood, and the rest of the players are his friends of humbler origins and poorer means, middling first level characters, a power gamer's nightmare. The Five, by contrast, are the ambitious, talented, and popular group of future men at arms and squires. I suppose that the characters in my regular group always were aware of them, but paid them no attention.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Life happens. Spring came and with it came the thaw. Like the ice breaking on the river, small events happened one after another, and before I knew it, I was swept into real life off my internet chair. I buried my father last October and was behind on rent for some months. God bless my landlord for his patience and kindness. Winter was a gray haze of overtime and my car’s engine burned out on Valentine’s Day 2016. Life is a free-fall in which things will get ripped apart like space shuttle Colombia disintegrating on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. I used to have a great roadster. It lived long past the designed obsolescence, planned for it by the GM, until it literally started falling apart at the seams and I couldn’t find the spare parts to maintain it.

I got a new awesome vehicle. I can’t quite classify it. Teal Ruby was my Roadster. This one is my Little Two Scoop. Only one air intake, actually, to feed the turbo. Not quite little, but compact as SUV’s go, a 2006 Subaru Forester XT, police uniform dark blue in color. Its turbo engine and the glass roof that it has for a Sun Roof (or Moon Roof or whatever) were selling points for me. I rode the Greyhound bus up north for a few hours to upstate New York to pick up my new car. Paid for it outright from my savings, no car payments to speak of. That was November 2014. The car had miles on it and its 4 cylinder turbocharged engine eats gas like my old Roadster that had the biggest V-6 engine the GM manufactured at the time when the car rolled off the assembly line in 1996. Two Scoop has more horsepower than the GM Roadster, and it is all torque and speed. All wheel drive and better ground clearance. I guess this be my scout car. And so, this thing needed an engine job.

The engine started overheating and my very experienced mechanic could not diagnose it in time – head gasket was failing and leaking compression gas into the engine water jacket, causing sporadic overheating. Ultimately, the engine block warped and seized thanks to overheating on one extraordinarily cold day in February. I took it to technicians at the Ramsey Subaru dealership in New Jersey for their expertise and for a loaner car that they can provide. I was ripped off by the tow truck company servicing the supposed AAA free tow, shame on the AAA incompetent road service operators who would not back me up and made me pay the driver $100 for the $64 dollars in tolls that it took to get me to the Subaru dealership. But, the car was fixed over a period of six weeks, and I was not without wheels. The costs threw me in the poor house, but I was able to get in debt to pay for the engine job.

When I bought the car, I foresaw the major systems on it failing and invested in a service contract, for all a service contract is worth on a used vehicle with over 100,000 miles. The company came through, and made a partial payment. It was a good return on my investment and made the repair affordable for me. I would not have been able to raise the full amount to cover the cost of repairs otherwise.

If I am to play a D&D character, I would not want to be a Dwarf, a human Ranger or a Druid. Real life being what it is, I would most likely wind up a Half-Orc (or a Bugbear) with brains. In Midlands, Orcs are pig-faced, and Bugbears have Ursine relatives. My more innocent and better half is basically a Malloy from Brikleberry, so that theme is prevalent in Brooser’s World, but anyway, even though I am not keen on Dwarves, I have a Dwarven outlook on life – There is no luck in my universe. Everything will go wrong and the point of all planning is to minimize loss and amortize damage. Every operation is an exercise in controlled attrition. Win or loss is determined by whether or not the damage and losses exceed the damage that was anticipated and planned for.

Spring crept up unseen and things started improving gradually. During the weekend of beer, movies, and board games I was asked by a friend to start running a D&D game again, and then my other set of friends wanted the same over a game of Scrabble. It was going to be a generic game, just some modules, but then I felt the call of Midlands and started work on the campaign again.

Another thing that happened, was that they opened a new LA Fitness gym practically across the highway from where I live. Keep in mind, that this is a stretch of the roads, where people drive like ass-holes, literally. You try to cross this stretch of highway across the urban no-man’s land, vacant lots and flood plains overgrown with sparse vegetation. You look at the driver behind the wheel, and it speeds up as if to run you over or discourage crossing before it goes past you. Other than that, a pleasant 16-minute walk or a two-minute drive (literally), if no traffic. This too, has crept unseen and accidentally. See, I don’t trust my checking account to gyms and gym’s contracts, but I participate in a program with my health insurance, that lets me go to any gym in their network. They dragged their feet for about six months, or, correction, nobody was running with the ball. One fine spring day I called up the offices to see why they could register the gym that I wanted to be in the network. Stayed on the phoned for three hours or so, made additional phone calls, but in the end of that afternoon, I got the gym and I started going the next day.

The consequences of that day on the phone were more profound than I thought. I am essentially doing triathlon training, I am a six day cycle and it takes me 2 – 2 ½ hours to get through the routine. Now I am juggling overtime and gym, and somehow D&D got sucked into the routine as well. Before you know it, I ran two game sessions with my local friends, and I got a session with the other group over the Memorial Day weekend. I am running Castle Caldwell with the local group and will run B8, journey to the rock over the upcoming weekend. Both are written into my midlands settings and NPC’s modified for local flavor.

Somehow, in between all this, I got a few interesting D&D projects going. First, I decided to write a Midlands Gazetteer and outline the flow of the campaign. I read the Grand Duchy of Karameikos Gazetteer to become familiar with a Gazetteer structure, and will review it later. I also read the mega-module B1-9 series, because they have an “adventure flowchart”, a rudimentary structure to be sure, but a good starting point. The second project essentially involves consolidating all of D&D text from the first White Box Booklets, through Moldway and Mentzger colored boxed sets, and core AD&D Books that were written by Gygax. It is a journey of discovery. I am working on two projects. The first one is the Compiled Monster List. I got a spreadsheet going, that lists every monster listed in the OD&D and B,E,C,M sets as well as Monster Manual, MM2 and Fiend Folio, all first edition. I keep track of where each monster appeared first and will see which if any ideas were lost by the wayside. Eventually, I will populate the Spreadsheet with the pertinent information such as the creature type, level, and areas it inhabits. Then I will drop it into an Access Database, and will be able to do searches to select my special monsters – I need the plains dwelling humanoid levels 2-3, and see what comes up. Every creature that has ever been invented for the AD&D game will come up.

The second project I am working on is the Dungeon Design Document. I love the Dungeon Master’s dungeon adventure writing section, Moldway Basic rulebook Section 8. I also have Gygax’s DMG appendices on the same topic, similar, but not the same. Moldway better organized it, but it lost the level of the descriptive detail. Normally, I scan the dungeon module, convert it into a word file, and edit it to write the generic adventure into Midlands. In case of dungeon design, it is a labor of love, and I type the relevant sections of text into the document by hand. I am scouring the Holmes Basic set, all the other sets and the Core Books for relevant tidbits of information, to see how it changed and what not as it migrated from one version of the game into another.

Some people study the Bible or other religious scriptures. Some people read up on String Theories and subatomic particles. My text, my passion, is Dungeons and Dragons.

Friday, April 15, 2016


I was with my Pennsylvania friends again, last weekend. I brought over Game Of Thrones season 5 and a bunch of board games, namely Loot Letter and Pandemic. We collectively kicked Pandemic's ass and then did a bunch of rounds of the Loot Letter. An awesome little game. I think that it makes more sense and has a better context for its cards than does its original version, Love Letter.

As we were getting ready to go out and eat and I was packing up the board-games, I heard the litany of what games they liked best - there was Escape From New York, Dungeon!, Elder Sign and Dungeons and Dragons. Wait, Dungeons and Dragons? That was the group that didn't want to play that game anymore after I finished my mega-dungeon in August 2009!

Did I hear them correctly? They want to play D&D again? I am not ready to run the Season 2 of Midlands again, but I can run them through classic AD&D Modules... they would like?... Really? Game on next time!

The other day I was playing Scrabble with a couple of members of my erstwhile New York City group. Same mega-dungeon ran out of steam with them back in the fall of 2012. This time it was because I got a new job and my G/F moved into my walk-up flat, and that brained me as a DM for a while. That and a loss of my arguably best player - mapper and caller combined - to an unhappy spouse who neded more quality time. For a year or so he was waiting for his player character to die, so that he could gracefulluy bow out, but he never got killed. That's how good that player is. Anyway,

I told them that I could run through my collection if AD&D modules, if they were interested... and they were.

So, I broke out my collection of AD&D Modules for starting characters. There are B1, B2, B3 on Horizon, Horror on the Hill. For my Pennsylvania group, I decided on the B8, Journey to the Rock as the first adventure. They are all former military, innocent of any knowledge of D&D rules or tropes. So, the wilderness adventure suits them better, to be followed by Horror on the Hill and Keep on the Borderlands, since they seem to like military patrol type of gaming. I was planning to use In Search of the Unknown as an opener to Season 2 of Midlands campaign. Of course, it wasn't going to be so easy, players will have to track the doomed expedition to that site, it will be a rescue mission, but before they can do that, they will have to investigare all over the Blacklands barony to figure out where the teen-age wouold be adventurers snuck off to. That was the big plan for the Quesqueton site.

For my New York City bunch, I will start with the clearing of the Castle Caldwell, from the B9 Module, to be followed by the Journey to the Rock. PA players already cleared that one way back in 2006.

Initially I was looking to run these adventures separately from the Midlands setting, but the more I think about it, the more stuff I come up with to incorporate these adventures into Midlands Season 2. It looks like I will be running two parallel campaigns in the same setting.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


They say that silence is acquiescence. If I can't call Pundit on his vileness on his blog, I will do so on my own, where this will get wider dissemination.

RPGPundit is beneath contempt. He wrote a good article on Tantric Buddhism, and got zero comments. Wrote a few more mediocre posts and got the same results. He then proceeded to ridicule and trash a rape victim and got a lot of comments. He then did a subsequent post and did more of a the same. Before I offer a glimpse of what RPGPundit actually is, I will address the original comments, which he ridiculed.

Comments here

While I don't agree with author's point of view, and I am well aware that there may be some political context behind this, I do not doubt the veracity of what she is describing, because I have seen much of the same over my years in gaming.

She confuses terrorism with mundane daily bullying and intimidation, which under U.S. law amounts to hostile work environment and makes employers liable for not providing people like her with a safe work environment. Secondly, this type of bullying harassment, in which RPGPundit freely engages, serves to drive the outsiders, the non-whites from their hobby community. The kind of crassness, which she describes is not accidental, but deliberate, and that type of rude boy harassment on the internet serves to deny access to outsiders to discussion forums. Again, if the internet space is employment base, the administration of the site may be liable for such harassment.

I will second the game store incident with one of my own. I was once talking to a similar kind of a clerk about the communication and cultural exchanges in antiquity, and that particular person started glorifying the rape and pillaging of yore. I was taken aback by the glee, and later understood, that this was a sexually frustrated individual, who was stuck in the same dead end low salaried position twenty years later, product of a white middle class household, where he could not afford the lifestyle of his parents in our modern shrinking economy. She is right on the money on that one. The ugly underbelly of suburban middle class geeks doomed to economic destitude if not for their parents.

I am not sure what to make of her Keycon rape incident. It sounds like she is describing the effect of Rohypnol on her body in accurate detail. This was Canada. had this happened in the US, presence of Rohypnol confirmed with a blood test and with the proper measures taken by convention staff and the police to identify the alleged rapist, would have gotten a mandatory minimal 8 year sentence if this was prosecuted in the U.S. Sounds like something had happened to her at that convention and she did not get justice.

Racism is real. I was talking to some otherwise sane Australian cops once, when the subject of the Australian Aboriginals came up. It was as if a dam burst - the stream of disgust and derision that poured out, driving the point that aboriginals are something less than human. Most angry boy D&D gamers are too insulated inside their geekiness and their parents' suburban homes to actually be aware of what racism is and how it is played out. Case in point: I am with some of my friends at an archery range. They are decked out in camouflage hunters tactical gear head to foot. All of a sudden a dozen or so LRP archer march on the range, all dressed as elves. They got simple wooden bows you can get for 20 bucks. There is a black guy with his white girlfriend, who is dressed as an Elf. The black guy is handsome, obviously former military who spent a few years in Germany. He is uneasy and is giving us nervous looks, thinking that we might be trouble. The entire LRP contingent is oblivious. They had no clue.

Regarding the RPGPundit, he is a shameless opportunist who will do anything to market his materials. Notice how he will never criticize any publisher, who could potentially help him. This is a man, who never threw a punch in anger, dug a ditch, or put in a full day of real physical labor. Despite his obsession with supernatural, spirituality eludes him, the way empathy eludes a psychopath. He is a short fat man with a scraggly beard, reminding one of an Ettercap, a Forgotten Realms mythical humanoid spider creature, hiding behind a mask on a photograph, and hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet. Make no mistake, he is a right-wing racist. Just look at his description of his wild west game - he thinks in terms of racial and ethnic stereotypes. If his writing offends you, do not buy his products. Boycott him, until he apologizes to your satisfaction. I understand that everyone has a right to make a living, especially, when you can't make a decent living doing what you love best, but the vileness of his recent posts does not allow me to ignore him.