About Me

Thursday, July 23, 2020


Character development (of Player via imagined formative experiences) in my dog in DMing. Placyer character development is a huge part of my sandbox. I use Players Option Combat and Tactics, and say at level 5, charcater has to journey across the world to find renowned fencing teachers to grow as warriors. If a Thief joins the guild, he must select carefully, for the Guild will require allegiance, loyalty, services in exchange for the secrets they they may teach some will attempt to trap and enslave the entire party by making them Outlaws.

I let the players choose whatever character class they want, furthermore they get to choose from among the schools of magic and warrior cultures I have in my sandbox, I give players the choice of a coin - either they go by culture, and get the skills associated with it, sort of logical (You can be of peasant stock living near the center of the barony or you can be from the River People living along its edge). OR Players can opt for specific skills / schools (fencing, spell casting) and they get stuck in a setting that provides that.

If a player wants to get a hard to roll character class, he has a choice, player can roll 3d6 or 4d6 vs ability until they get it 150 rolled sets later. OR, they can ask for the DM to help them. I have them roll up stats, 3d6 or 4d6 pick highest 3 as they choose, then if any of their rolls fails to qualify them, I reroll those using percentile dice and a specially designed distribution table that shows what qualifying score they get.

There are in game consequences of how they roll their character. 4d6 versus ability is the default, and it assumed the Medieval equivalent of the "Middle Class", the AD&D default, which you must realize, is not the ***average person *** in the D&D world. If they choose to roll 3d6 vs ability, they grew up Medieval Average. There were wars, famines, servitude, they may not have gotten schooling or nutrition or love, hence the low stats generated by having to accept 3d6 vs ability. Of course, they had to have had some help in childhood survival. The illusion that you are an individual separate from other people is bought by sufficient wealth, power and social status to where you can afford privacy and your own room to go hide in. If your family lives in a single room and your privacy is on the street corner and you have to wear hand me downs and share boots during bad weather, you will be less a free agent and part of the Community.

In my game, if you roll 3d6, you are part of some community, and if you run into hard times later in the game, you can always go back to your community, that will shelter and take care of you. Inn Keeper will feed you, someone will give you a pace to stay, If you join the guild, they will treat you like one of their own and sacrifice some maladjusted rich kid with issues running away and slumming with the gang er... I mean, thieves guild... That is the reason you might consider rolling 3d6 vs ability in my AD&D MIdlands Campaign.

Now, what of those who asked for and received DM's help in becoming Monks, Paladins and Bards? If you HAD to be created for a prestige class, then Prestige Class OWNS your character. You were being raised by wolves, when a community of Rangers adopted you. You were dying in village, because you were too sickly to plow the field and the Abbot at the local monastery took pity on you and took you in to save your life. You were really and pretty and the Leading Genius at the Bard College (unnaturally old and beautiful) seduced you and pulled you away from home to become a part of the Bard Scene, hell, with you talent and the Man who made you, you ARE the scene!

If the DM intervention places the player in a hard to get character class and that player character tries to leave just to become a regular adventurer, that will be perceived as an act of treason and selfishness, and parent organization will go after the player character and the group. Chased by assassins or groups of outraged Rangers, Paladin Inquisitors, Monks or Bards creating nasty scenes whenever they run into that player character and making that person famous in an embarrassing ways.

In game consequences that provide the sound and fury to a sand-box and the multiple obligations of the members of the player character party will put them in harm's way without signposting or railroading. If the mind-flayers are taking over the realm, then every organization will want to know what's going on and will be sending the player characters in harm's way.

There is a natural question of a character with guild obligations associating with other characters from other guilds. This was actually historically actually. PC/NPC Parties was how the nobles traveled in MIddle Ages, except they were cal;led retinues. To borrow Gary Gygax's example of who becomes an adventurer, let's take a knight (Fighter), a younger son of a landed nobility, whether he joins a crusade, goes to the Free City of Milan to get fitted for the new breast plate for his armor or goes to what is now Germany to learn the new (for 1300's) fencing school, he is traveling with his retinue - his one or more squires (fighters), lovers (any class), an artist, minstrel or a musician whom the knight is sponsoring, his Priest (cleric), his Doctor (cleric), his banker (handles finances and keeps in touch with the Parent Estate, the one Adult in the group), his teacher (Magic User). Historically speaking, members Retinues were often from lower classes, and could not survive physically or economically without their friend/lover/protector/benefactor. These people were kept for their whole lives if they were lucky, and became his Court, should the nobleman become a large enough vassal. If their Patron died or threw them out, the retinue member risked poverty, degradation, and ridicule and humiliation if they went back to plowing the field. Prostitution was a viable option to maintain lifestyle if looks allowed. In a way, historical retinues WERE the adventuring parties, since they traveled the known world, met wealthy and creative people in their travels and partied with them. Knights trained, gave fencing lessons, and performed in non-lethal (still dangerous) Jousting matches, They were the first professional athletes in Western Europe. Professional Warrior class in the Incan Empire actually evolved contemporaneously, and their real job was to oversee slaves on road construction projects and to govern the conquered people. Historically, Inca Warriors were the first group of people to realize that they had Leisure time on their hands and to use that time to recreationally get involved in art, writing religion and philosophy. Mayans had their own blood sport and they warriors became players who reaped the social status of modern professional athletes.

Anyway, retinue lifestyles still exist. In the D&D world, in my game, the payer adventuring party is considered a retinue of the wealthiest or most noble player in the group. I have a Social Status Roll in my game and you get a chance if being born to a couple of slaves or outlaws, or to be legitimately born into a Royal family. You have to roll pretty hard but not impossibly to be born into a family Coat of Arms.

The guilds are tolerant of their members belonging to adventuring parties, since Player Characters pay tribute and they spare the Guild they additional members hey would have to provide their PC to help with the mission. Adventuring Retinues are okay for the possessive guilds.

Retinues still exist in modern world. A word demimonde denotes a lover kept by a wealthy Patron who sits on the edge of respectability and for that reason is not called a whore or a prostitute. A number of semi-celebrity artists and actors are still demimonde. Very good looking and youthful crew members of modern billionaires yachts are not called anything.

Monday, April 13, 2020


When Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game evolved the Dungeon Crawl dynamic, it became extremely popular. We are talking about the Map & Room key format for writing adventures, also known as Site Adventures, and the game mechanic of Dungeon Exploration. It became so natural with Game Masters, that they took it for granted, running other games as if they were running D&D, ruining some games in the process. The reason for this widespread acceptance of the Dungeon Crawl is because the map of the labyrinth in which the adventure takes place - the layout of the rooms containing monsters, traps, treasure and secret doors, connected by corridors – also serves another purpose – it is the Flow Chart for the adventure, or the story which the players are exploring. Events of the story are contained in the rooms connected by corridors linking it with next events.

Dungeon crawl evolved so ubiquitously and no other form of fantasy role playing gaming had proved as successful. Look at many books written on urban adventuring, wilderness design etc., and none reach the elegance of generating a Dungeon, outlined above. That’s because as we saw, a D&D dungeon has more than one function. There is another concept similar in elegance to Dungeon Crawl, that can be useful to GM’s running outdoors tactical encounters. That concept is Terrain and Terrain based Topography. You can use this to represent almost any tactical encounter in the Outdoors, and it may be just as functional as the Dungeon Map.

Concept of terrain was a military invention paralleling the development of military engineering, which replaced castles and walls with the Casement and Breastwork in the new age of artillery. It is not what fantasy gamers think of terrain. A gamer, military or fantasy, might consider things like Plains, Mountains, and Forest to be terrain types, but that would be incorrect within the confines of this discussion. Plains and Mountains are Land Forms. Terrain features number few, specific and are self-exclusionary. One can be one and only one type of terrain, and not other. One can use them as building blocks to build outdoors encounter maps that will really be functional in the game.
This system assumes a flat terrain as default. Terrain types can best be viewed as obstacles to crossing clear terrain. I will not include topographic symbols here, you can google or better yet, figure them out to your liking. You DO NOT need topographic contour lines to mark elevation. Keep it simple, especially for a fantasy role playing game. The classic and the most ancient terrain concept is a PASS, as in a MOUNTAIN PASS, followed by the main terrain types: HILL, RIDGE, SPUR, and RAVINE. The lesser and more specific terrain types are as follows: SADDLE, DEFILADE, and BERM.

A MOUNTAIN PASS is simply a relatively level ground through a mountain range, where you can march a column of men or drive a wagon. A pass can be a simple gap between two gnarly hills that you can walk around, or it can be a trail hundreds of miles long, where to get off it means risking plunging off cliffs and crossing mountain glaciers. Mountain passes have historically become strategic military objectives because of their values to trade and communications. It is not really a terrain type, but it shows how military topography developed. You do not need a terrain symbol for it, since your characters are essentially following a road. You can describe the Passes for gaming in terms of locations and encounter tables, drawing it on your large-scale campaign map as a road.

HILL is self-explanatory – a summit point of a high ground. You draw it as a dot at the high point of a shape representing your hill from above. Some kind of a circle, contour lines to taste if you can read them easily and visualize the shape. High ground has obvious tactical implications.

RIDGE a ridge is a line in the high ground where you stop climbing up and start walking down. Your view of surrounding areas is cut off by ridges. You defend a hill with a defensive position, you defend a ridge with a defensive line. Topographical symbol for a ridge is a line. Hilly terrain on your map will be represented by a series of circles representing hills and lines representing ridges. Different lines will represent any roads and passes.

SPUR a spur is simply a shorter ridge running off a longer ridge. Required when mapping real world Mountains.
RAVINE is a natural trench cut into the ground. You have to bridge them for your troops to cross them. You can also sneak up and down a ravine to cover the ground unseen. You can draw a ravine as two dark lines running together or as a wider channel on small scale map, showing steepness of the walls of the ravines and ground features.

SADDLE is a feature consisting of two adjacent hills with a passable gap between them (“The Saddle”). In this case a hill can be a two-story pile of dirt on a small scale adventure map or a gap between two mountains that would qualify as a full scale Mountain Pass.

DEFILADE is a Pass or Ravine that is so narrow, that your troops can only get through them by walking in a single file. Topography was largely develop to move a battalion sized column of your troops from one location to another.
BERM – Great wall of China, Adrian’s Wall. A man-made feature separating open ground into two. Specifically refers to a two a three-story pile of earth around a military camp in the desert, of to block off one territory from the other or to make a grade crossing for the train tracks. Breastworks is a type of a Berm fortified with concrete and bricks to stop cannon-balls and further fortified to stop charging men.

You can represent any kind of an outdoor tactical encounter or an adventure using the system of symbols described above. These symbols can be used on large or small scale. Terrain describes the relief of the surface applied to troop deployment and to troop movement. You can set up a wide variety of tactical scenarios using these symbols. If you want to add the forest setting, you can add it as cover and describe the forested area in terms of Cover and Concealment that they provide. In case of Mountains, a mountain can be as complex as a dungeon adventure. You can best describe a mountain in terms of Land Forms which it consists of. Your mountain will have a Summit, a number of Ridges, various valleys between the ridges, glaciers, caves, settlements and various specific geological features such as Cirques and Washes, which will present additional challenges to players. You can do a key to a Mountain, or any other major geographic feature, just as you would do a dungeon room key.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


                   CHARACTER  SOCIAL  CLASS



I am a big fan of the “Social Origin Roll” for all my player characters in all my games. In AD&D starting money? LOL. I want the player to tell me about their character and that will be the campaign canon. You tell me that you are a scion of Royal Nobility with a valid claim for the throne, so be it. Of course, you will be on the run from your evil uncle, who deposed you after killing your dad, but as you make your way across the land and meet various former feudal vassals of your father, they will host you and they will help you with men, gold and equipment far above the “starting money” table! This is good, but players all somehow end up with comfy upper-class backgrounds, which give them more chances, than they can use, so, now everyone rolls on the social origins table. Roll low, and you will end up coming from a different place altogether.

The table below is derived from studies into social class and income conducted by the De Pew research institute and the IRS. The distribution of various classes in this table is derived directly from their statistics, some of which are listed in the End Notes. You need percentile dice to roll on this one. Social Classes are explained below. The income listed is for a FAMILY OF THREE, expressed in thousands of dollars (K) per year.

The researchers only classified social class by income, but I believe that there is another important variable, which defines the middle class and strengthens the class structure, and that is Social Stability and Support Network (SS&SN). In brief, this is the extended family structure, in which money, assets, and property has been passing from parent to child for several generations. This means family relatives possessing several homes and a business or two in the family, also various members if the extended family network having inherited sums of money from their respective parents, which they keep in savings accounts or invested in property or the assets. This kind of network provides social stability, which also serves as a safety net, which can help with transportation issues, childcare, and housing, temporary or long term should a relative lose income as a result of becoming unemployed. It is often this social safety net, which makes a difference between being working poor and being in the lower middle class. Consider for example two Mexican migrants. One stands on the street-corner and works as a day laborer or a farm laborer. He may be sleeping at a church shelter, or a boarding house, sends part of his earnings home to Mexico and the other part he spends eating and drinking beer with his buddies, when not working. The other one has his wife with him and they rent a trailer to live in and wife is unemployed, or barely employed, and she cooks meals, cleans, and walks their child to and from school. Even though they make similar wages, the one with his family in a trailer is part of the community, where he can get rides to better and more stable employment, and he is part of the community that will help him. That is the safety net that is part of social stability that defines middle class.


14% of the Americans are Poor, 6% are Upper class, and 80% are Middle class, which is broken as 20 Lower Middle Class, 51 Middle Class and 29% Upper Middle Class. The differences between the Poor, the Middle and the Upper classes are not just are matter of income, but also qualitative. Middle Class has the social stability and familial informal support network, poor do not. Middle Class can afford a car and some kind of rent. If the car breaks down, the middle class can, as a rule, still get to work. The poor do not have a car, or don’t have enough money to keep the car going, or had one or more DUI’s and they CAN’T have a car. The poor do not have savings or credit card cushion to fall back on in hard times, and usually can’t afford rent to live on their own. The poor are characterized by the lack of social and economic stability and lack of community roots, that would keep them in the Middle Class. Middle Class itself can be defined as making enough money to be able to afford mortgage payments on primary residence (or at least rent own place) and car payments to get steady transportation.

The Rich, or the Upper Class, have their own characteristics, which distinguish them from the Upper Middle Class, no matter how much money the Middle Class makes. One factor is that the Upper Class does not work for a salary, but earns a return on their investments. This does not necessarily mean some college drop out living in a room in his parents house investing his dad’s 401K and fancying himself a day trader. Nor does this mean some rich kid from another country, who lives in the U.S. investing his family’s money. He is most likely Upper Class in his own country, but not here. The second characteristic of the Upper Class, which distinguishes it from the Upper Middle and the Nouveau Riche is that Upper Class are rich not because of the high paying jobs they have, but they get the jobs because of who they are, because of who their families are. Nepotism is widespread, but whereas prominent middle-class families can get their kids into civil service jobs (police, firefighters) and local businesses or local politics, being of the Upper Class can open doors to Ivy League law schools, West Point or other service academies, corporate jobs with the fast track to upper management, clerkships to judges and internships at DC. They got ties that open doors.

There are two social classes not listed in the table, but which should be described to complete this picture. We are talking about the WORKING CLASS and the CAPITALISTS. Working Class are people who live pay check to pay check and who do not have any resources and who, if they lose they job, they are two or three paychecks away from homelessness. This does not mean someone drowning in debt because of poor spending habits. This means someone who barely makes enough money to live on. It is the same division as between the working poor and the lower middle class, except one can make six figures and still be working class. IT professionals making upper middle-class salaries can be considered working class, if they came from no money and until they get savings to put them in Middle Class. CAPITALISTS are not simply rich and they are not the guy with a construction business, a tow truck or a repair shop. Capitalists by definition are the ones who own the means of production – i.e., manufacturing. Someone, who owns a factory of any kind, or a machine shop, is the capitalist, people who do manufacturing overseas can also be considered Capitalists, if they are not the go-betweens, but actually own the manufacturing facility. These guys are few, and they tend to be way above the 1% in income.



This is a dramatic result to be used in the game. The character is under permanent care of the State and will always be under State observation or surveillance. You father was Hannibal Lector or a world infamous terrorist or a major underworld figure or the character is Harry Potter, or the Antichrist or Rosemary’s Baby. In the real world, if the parents are locked up for the rest of their natural lives, the child is placed with a family via adoption or is in foster care, if unadoptable, and that’s the end of the story – the child identifies with their adoptive parents and grows up as part of that family. In Nightmares and Suburbs, there is always a possibility of parents being not of this earth and of having un-natural lives. Player characters may have been in a psychiatric or a research institution or with the special guardians, from whom the character has to escape or has escaped, or was rescued by his parents’ supporters, who now take care of the character. Think Stephen King’s Firestarter. You can also play it non-weird with the character not knowing his parents and living in foster care, because both parental sides of the biological family are unfit parents.



These are indigent non-working poor surviving on welfare and as part of their extended families, and who are allowed to keep their kids. If the parents were in homeless shelters and half-way houses, kids would be in foster care as in Permanent Ward. They may be working off the books and or by committing petty crime and drug dealing, but as a rule, their income hovers around the poverty line. See the rule about the Oddballs and Eccentrics for the possibility of the criminal background.



Researchers identify the Working Poor as full-time wage earners making at or below the poverty line (18.8K/Annum), also calling them Minimal Wage earners. Another study identifies people earning up to 2.5 times the poverty line as being especially vulnerable of sliding back into the underclass, should something happen (loss of transportation, loss of job). They also use that as their definition for the lower middle class. I split it based on the availability of the social safety net. Working Poor are struggling to get on their feet, they don’t have a social safety net save for welfare, for which they don’t qualify because of their earnings, and the job they have, for them it’s day to day you got lucky thing you are going to hold on to until your car breaks down or your rent goes up.



Defined as the income from just above the poverty line to 2.5 the poverty line. These people struggle economically and their daily lives often resemble the working poor, put they are minimally enfranchised in society, usually belong to some form of a community and they have a better social safety net.



These people carry the torch for the State. Their income allows them to support the economy by being able to purchase their cars and homes via loans, which they repay. They can carry the full burden of taxes and credit card debt. In fact, the full standard of living of the American middle class is predicated on their ability to carry debt, including student loans. Other than financial burden, the middle class is the most invested in society and as a result, they are the last to flee in wars and other upheavals, being tied by their families and possessions, they are the ones who get the most out of the hope that things will work out for them eventually. As such, they form the bulk of the civilian casualties in any war or genocide. Also, they form the client demographics for the right-wing dictatorship and during the civil war in Colombia, they formed the ranks of the autodefensas, rural armed militia that was formed to defend themselves against the Marxist guerillas, which eventually turned into Colombia’s right-wing paramilitaries and death squads.




These are professionals, who earn 100K and above. There is really no limit. If you have to work for a living, then you are in the middle class, no matter how much you earn. There are people who talk about making “their first million” but that is mostly empty boasting. There is a talk of “fuck you money” among the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, who sell their start-ups. FU money mean that you sold your company for enough money that can quit working for the rest of your life (thereby joining the upper class). In 2008, the Silicon Valley Execs bandied the sum of 8 million dollars, which is $11.4 Million in today’s money, which means that in Silicon Valley, they were accustomed to living on $342K per year. Just under the 1%.

It is very hard for the Upper Middle-Class professionals to make their wealth and retire early, because they are required to maintain the trappings of their wealth and professionalism as a condition of their success. Basically, you won’t get promoted to the next higher level on your ladder to success, unless you drive a certain type of car, wear a certain type of clothes, own a home of certain luxury in a certain location, and send your kids to a certain prep-school.  And the higher you go, the more expensive these trappings become. If you don’t follow the Joneses and you don’t wear that suit and that watch, then you won’t be seen as worthy material and the higher ups will lose their confidence in you. An upper-class professional typically carries a debt burden of five times their annual income and sometimes as high as nine times. That is why it is very hard for a highly paid professional to become a millionaire. Some highly paid investment bankers working in Hedge Funds are even required to buy a full-size yacht as a rite of their passage (and indebtedness). Consider the operating costs for the ship.



These are extended family members of the Upper-Class members. They themselves tend to have regular jobs and lead comfortable middle-class existence, however, they get the benefit of the association with a prominent family. This could mean getting into West Point or being accepted into Harvard. This can mean getting a job on the Capitol Hill as a Congressional Staffer or finding a job in the publishing industry. These people work for a living and they may not be rich in any sense of the word, but they get the maximum opportunity, social support, and good will from the upper management by virtue of their family ties.



They don’t have to work for a living, unless they choose to. The trappings of wealth, which bankrupt the Upper Middle-Class is painless to them. Partly it’s associated with the corporate image they are projecting. Not all of course. South Asian millionaires, who control dozens of McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts franchises will not be wearing $100K watches or prance around in leer jets. Those, who are CEO’s Fortune 500 Companies will ride around in a luxury leer jet, but the jet will be bought and paid for by the corporation and they are projecting the company’s corporate image of wealth and power, and everything they say or do represents their company. There is one other fallacy that surrounds the Rich. Everyone assumes that they invest their wealth in a mythical portfolio on Wall Street. They have assets on Wall Street and they have Portfolio Managers working for them, it is true, but they also tend to hire several Business Managers. These look for investment opportunities in local economy – trucking companies, stores, sometimes even medical practices, and they go in as silent partners – they front the money in exchange for a percentage of the profit, usually around 15%, and some rich families have most of their disposable income come directly from small businesses they invested in. In essence their family fortune becomes a business empire.



These are people who are heirs to great American fortunes. They are wealthy, but often they do not have control over their wealth until they reach the middle age, say around 50, and everyone is sure that they will not lose or give away their wealth. Until then, they live on a stipend and their fortune is overseen by a Board of Trustees, which are very conservative with their money and some times they control the lives of the heirs, whose fortunes they administer – what they study in college, who they sleep with (supposedly) as well as financial decisions. If they want to buy a house, they have to apply to the board of trustees who may deny the request, because the house is too expensive, too extravagant, or for some other reason.

They have certain traditional aristocratic values, which reflect on their lifestyle. They have to build character, which means that they take to sailing (sports yachts) or they climb mountains, or they serve their country, typically as a military pilot, in intelligence, or as a diplomat. At times they also strive to live a simple life, as Henry David Thoreau, living in the woods or on the ranch, and doing manual labor there. This is in stark and sharp contrast to the Upper Middle Class, which tend to establish themselves by showing how much money they have. Rich foreign students in Manhattan all have their parents’ Platinum American Express cards, and everyone is invited to go hanging out with them, they tend to go Dutch and cost for the evening racks up thousands of dollars. Regular American kids sometimes tag along and end up burned with what they charge on their credit cards, and to talk about the money, id of course, vulgar in that company.



Not everyone conforms to values and traditions of their social class. You got professional criminals collecting disability and welfare dads working off the books. You have trust fund babies from the old money teaching in the inner-city schools and living with room-mates. You have respectable doctors living as bohemians and single mom secretaries centering their lives around the healing powers of crystals and unicorns.

When people are isolated and under stress, they tend to go off the deep end and invent strange and wonderful alternative belief systems and conspiracy theories to explain the complexities and patterns of their world, not to mention the real force of the supernatural in Little Fears’ setting. People who can’t afford health care will believe in alternative medicine. Societies evolve. Like serpents, they cast off their old skins, moving forward and leaving the past behind. When the past is left on the dust-bin of history, it leaves behind people whose jobs, ways of thinking and ways of living become obsolete. These people often end up becoming eccentrics, once the experience of their entire lives becomes invalid and obsolete. The rest of the worlds experiences these changes every 60 or 80 years. In the United States, these changes are GENERATIONAL – every 20 or 30 years, and coincidentally, United States has the highest concentration of people whose job skills and industries become obsolete after they invested their adult lives into it, about 22-24%.

To account for this in Nightmares and Suburbs, if you roll a Prime Number on your Social Class Roll, your parents can be considered to have been non-conformists to their social class. Prime Numbers are given below the table.


+/- $18.8K
UP TO $47K
18.8K TO 47K
$47K TO $100K
$100K +
$200K +
$390K +


Prime Numbers to 100:




- $18.8K is the Poverty Line.

- If your salary is $100K and above, you are in the top 10% of the highest paid individuals in EARNED INCOME.

- Upper Middle Class income range is $100K - $150K.

- 6.1% od Americans claim to be living off their investments.

- 10% of Americans claim to be millionaires. Current annual sustainable interest off a million-dollar investment is $30K. Not enough to live on. To live at the Upper Middle-Class level off your investments, you need a fortune of 4 million dollars or more.

- 14% of Americans are living at or below the poverty line.

- $390K per year is the minimum income that would classify you as being “The One Per-Cent”

- According to the IRS study done in 1992 and adjusted for today, the cost for providing for an upper middle-class household with a mortgage, a single car, and two school age children, where reasonable thrift is practiced and all the needs are met, and no credit cards are used, is $140K. The rest can be reliably banked into savings.

Sunday, December 31, 2017


The day was cold and gray, but the students were busy and worked to exhaustion without knowing it. They spent the day building a tower and a section of the ramparts, life-sized, made of snow and solidified into ice with buckets of water. There was a circular stairway through the mock up tower and sawdust was spread everywhere so that they could practice fencing and not worry about slipping on ice. Greyhead, they fencing instructor in charge of the school had a few ideas to teach them on taking of walls and fighting their way up the towers. The wall would last three months or so, and then he would have them demolish it with a battering ram.
At the end of the day was the New Year's feast. This year he would be serving his students swan and hare. He could hunt any game he wants, and he could serve it to anyone he pleases, he could wear purple and had it in his coat of arms. He had it in the checkered pattern on his shield - dark purple and robin's egg blue squares, signifying the purity of his innocense and his house's royal lineage. A master swordsman with innocence in his soul and an open table. Everyone wanted to come to his feasts, but only his fencing students were invited, but they could bring a friend with them to dance, only few men at arms danced and few did.
Val had a cup of hot grog for anyone coming in from the cold and snow-building was play, not work, so anyone could go inside to get warm at any time, though again, few did, unless he went inside himself. Now he was sitting at the head of the table in stockinged feet and undershirt, over which he was wearing his breastplate. He did not have a ceremonial suit of armor despite being a knight errant with a retinue of his own, instead, he had his familial coat of arms subtly hammered into his breast plate, which he wore into battle. Being the only one in the entire barony to aford such craftsmanship, his field plate was his ceremonial armor.
Now he sat at the head of the table, brooding over his grog while the junior students were setting the feast under Val's direction. Gone were the healer, the magician and the priest. His best friend and confidant, his own healer, kept spendign more and more time attending to whining peasants until he stopped attending his fencing practice and now he did not know where he was. The priest went back to his seminary, but Greyhead suspected that he took his share of the loot and went back to his father, a tailor in some far away town. The magician, too, seemed to have gone to a semionary to get better acquainted with Christianity. And now he lost Xadas, his lead student, but hopefully not forever.
Xadas, a mere ditch digger's son, met Val and him some years ago at a county fair, where Greyhead was taking on all comers with a wooden sword, all for a few coins to spend at a taverns. Xadas behaved like a street rogue, which he wasn't, actually a barely literate laboreer with a string back, who strived to improve his lot by becoming a swordsman of the froetier, and in Greyhead, he saw his golden chance. First, he became a studious student and his manservant, then he developed consciensciousness and initative in his practice, and took Val. Not that Greyhead saw it coming or reacted affronted, for who could be affronted by a mere tavern wench, albeit one who slept with guild magicians to learn their magic and looking fifteen years or so youngerm than she actually was. Xadas, of course, could see none of it and charged in, becoming a genuine swordhand along the way.
Now he wanted more action than just leading class in practice and openign and closing the place. Few controlled adventures, to which Greyhead exposed his students were not enough. Finally, a well to do local brewer popular among the craftsmen called a meeting at his Christmas Feast. Xadas and Val were invited, and of course Grayhead himself. The four of them went into the Brewmaster's sitting room. A long haired elf and a foreign looking merchant joined them. A rich merchant's daughter was taken for ransom in a large fishing village not to far away and taken to a hideout at a ruined tower. The reward of several thousand gold pieces will be theirs if they can dispose of the kidnappers and put an end to this problem. Xadas was all for it, but Greyhead pulled Val and didn't let her go. The three of them went outside and Greyhead told Xadas that he thought the adventure will be too much for Val, and that there was another Magician at the party, the rich one the scion of a trading house, already in a guild and with many more spells, than Val. Xadas stared at him, and nodded his understanding. There was nore than understanding, there was bovine trust, that can make some people squeamish. Stupid or not, Xadas trusted that Greyhead was only concerned with Val's safety and nothing else. It was decided right there and then, but Val was unhappy.
Riding home took the better part of the Christmas Day. She didn't argue with him as much as she pushed him for the explanation. They all adventured together, and now they were his liveried servants in name only, but was it in name only? Didn't he just assert his rank and ordered Xadas to proceed without her? There had to be more to the situation than meets the eye, he patiently explained to her. Why would a merchant travel at least half-way around the known worldfor the sake of some ruin used as a temporary refuge by some bandits. The Elf was a naive local yokel, who could handle the bandits, but not enough for whatever awaited that merchant down below. Why else would he travel for twod ays and bring a fair haired e;f along to sing the story to them? Xadas was a competent swordsman, who could handle himself, but Val was just a self-taught magician, and he, Greyhead wasn't going, nor was his priest or his healer. Val's eyes widened. Why didn't you tell all this to him? It wouldn't matter to him, he shrugged. I respect him too much as a warrior to try to talk him out of this. He saw in her face that she wasn't believing him. The merchant mage's family paid a lot of gold to that town's Warch to bring recover his body and bring the remains to them should anything go wrong. He said. I dd the same thing for Xadas. They will bring him back to me and I will bring him back, even if I have to go and get him myself. He said. Her mouth dropped open. He is not my best student, he said, but he is best assistant, and you love him." He stared at her as if he said nothing. Her mouth dfropped open and they rode the rest of the way in sulence.
Greyhead waited until the table was sat and everyone took their seat, and then he strated eating. There was mulled wine and cold water and more grog, and then the Christmas carolers came and started playing dance music, and a few got away from theit food to curtsie and dance. Grey saw that Val was beckoning him on the dance floor. He gave her a nod and got up from the table.

Friday, December 9, 2016


While on topic of Elven food, I came up with something nifty, wine that Drow Elves pay a lot of money to drink. Made by Drow Elves of the Underdark from surface ingredients expensive in the underwold, this wine is either made from almonds, apple seeds, or cherry pits. In keeping with the traditions of antiquity of our own world, this wine is fermented by a Drow non-magicsl process unknown to us, and then distilled so as ti refine its aromatic essence, this drink is known among the Necromancers as Leichwein, because it is one of the ingredients in making the potion to send a would be Lich into eternal existance. Among the scholars of the Underdark, this drink is known as Pit Wine of the Drow, since it is made form the seeds and the pits of the stone fruit, not the Pits of the Underdark, how laymen imagine it. Among the Drow, this wine is known as Almondine, of it is made from Almonds, Apple Green, if made from apple seeds, and Cherry Deep, if made from cherry pits. Almondine appears a clear liquid with a slight aroma of bitter almonds. Those with artistic talent will [erceive a barely noticeable green hue across the wine surface. Drow aficionadoes will claim that you can tell thhe high queslity Almondine because no two glimpses of that hue will be of the same shade.If one is trying to whiff the aroma of these wines, the smell will become sweeter, then cloyingly saccarine, then will make one nauseous and will make your head spin and you might even faint. Ironically, the Apple Green has no color at all. You can't see it, but you have the fragrant aroma of fresh apples, faint at first. And it is that aroma that the Drow connoseurs fall over. Cherry Deep has its own unique aroma as well, what the Drow think our cherries smell like, but it smells nothing like it. Most people won't amell anything, those whi can smell cyanide will smell bitter almonds. Drow Elves prize Cherry Deep for its powerful intoxication. Despite its complex aroma, Drow Wine tastes awful to humans. One sip will make you nauseus and give you a powerful buzz, two sips and you will be fighting to keep from passing out. Thirs sip, or a large gulp, and you will most likely pass out and die. The Elves, on the other hand, enjoy its intoxication. Like alcohol to humans, these wines serve to loosen the Drows' inhibition, making them more capable of enjoying themselves, making them more arrogant,.more reckless, morfe violent and more sadistic, more cruel among each other at their high fancy social gatherings. Drow wine has a different, but simlar effect on the surface Elves, who consume it. Surface Elves get drawn to its powerful aromas and subtle flavors and easily get addicted to it. The effect of the Drow wine intoxication on the individual Elf must depend on the elf's personality. On intellectual introverts it acts like LSD, mesmerizing them into catatonic stupor, from which they do not want to emerge. Drow wine has the effect of the PCP on the aggressive warrior leaders among the surface Elves. On the extraverts, it has a peculear effect not observed among the men. Elves, who tend to be socially outgoing, lose their inhibitions and all awareness of themselves as they set off to gratify their basest needs in the most desperate and immediate manner possible. Some haters of Elves among men have wryly commented that Drow Wine turns Elves into desperate sluts. In the surface world, Drow wine is as highly sought by humans in the know, as it is by the Drow themselves, except on the surface it is much, much more expensive. There are connoseurs of Drow Wine among humans, the Kingly set, who like to experiment with it, and this non-magical substance is highly sought after by all sorts of wizard who use it for study ad to make powerful potions from it.

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.