Sunday 30 September 2012

S is for Sandbox Recap

Before I can start adding more to this series, I need to do a quick recap.  The various “S is for Sandbox” posts can be found here:

Sometimes it is difficult to keep all of these various ideas for blog posts going!  In any event, I’ve spent some time on reviews, house rules for the DCC RPG, and projects that I am working on.  While these other threads will no doubt continue, those threads discussing gaming theory and “how to” for prospective GMs are also important.

This post is to remind the Gentle Reader of the “alphabet” thread, and to give me a quick reference as to where I am on the “S is for Sandbox” portion of it.  We were about to see the Temple of Hermes and the dungeon below in as part of a minor adventure site, written for the DCC RPG.  More to follow!

Saturday 29 September 2012

AL3:  Through the Cotillion of Hours is now available, in print-on-demand or pdf format, through RPG Now or DriveThru RPG.  (EDIT:  Now available at Paizo)

Sooner or later, characters are going to want to quest to achieve some specific end – to raise a fallen comrade, to regain lost ability points, to discover a new spell, to find some new magic item…the possibilities are nearly endless. This scenario can occur at any time during the course of overland travel, and gives characters the opportunity to meet some of these goals.

In this adventure, sleeping characters are invited to the Cotillion of Somnos, the Dreaming God. If they can make their way past the entertainments at the Masked Ball, they can petition the Dreaming God to fulfil some request on their behalf.

Through the Cotillion of Hours is a Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game adventure designed for  any number of characters of any level.  The basic description and invoke patron results form Somnos, the Dreaming God, are included in this module.

Scott Ackerman does his usually amazing artwork in this product, and Kristian Richards supplies some excellent cartography.  Many thanks to Mark Gedak at Purple Duck Games for making this happen!

EDIT:  First review here!

EDIT:  Second review here!

EDIT:  Third review here!

EDIT:  Fourth review here!

Thursday 27 September 2012

Reading Appendix N: Lavender-Green Magic

There are a few difficult issues to resolve when one wants to blog about Appendix N fiction.  One of the obvious problems is deciding where to start.  At first, I considered writing about the authors and their works in the alphabetical order used by Gary Gygax in the first edition Dungeon Master’s Guide.  If I did that, though, I would be writing dozens of posts about the extremely prolific Edgar Rice Burroughs, and perhaps never get to Manly Wade Wellman.  I think that would be a mistake.

I am kicking this off with Lavender-Green Magic, by Andre Norton, mainly because I just finished reading it, and because it was suggested to me that this novel isn’t the type one would seek inspiration from for the Dungeon Crawl Classics role-playing game.

The Story

When their father goes missing in Vietnam, three children have to move in with their grandparents, who live in a junkyard in Dimsdale.  They discover an old embroidered pillow that allows them to penetrate an overgrown maze, leading them back through time to the young (good) witch, Tamar.  Basically, sleeping with the pillow causes dreams which point the way.  The first penetration of the maze occurs when the younger sister, Judy, sleeps with the pillow.

The older sister, Holly, then jealously cheats in order to get the next turn, and things go wrong.  Going “the widdershins way” through the maze, the children instead encounter Hagar – an evil witch, more beautiful than Tamar, and perhaps more cunning.  Certainly more ruthless.  She snares Holly in a spell to bring out her worse emotions, and to create a tie between the past where the witches dwell and the present where the children come from.

Research in the present reveals that Hagar’s acts are going to result in Tamar being accused of (evil) witchcraft.   A resultant curse has stung Dimsdale in the past, and seems ready to strike down the children’s grandparent’s home in the near future.  The children must go again into the past to save both Tamar and their home, facing down both Hagar’s malice and Holly’s insecurities.

In addition to the story, my copy includes a section entitled “To Make Tamar’s Rose Beads and Other Old Delights” that gives instructions for making rose beads, “tasties for tea”, sugared mint leaves, and pomander balls.

Elements for Gaming

One of the other dilemmas one faces writing about Appendix N fiction is this:  Should you talk about all the good ideas that are available to steal from make homage to?  Or should you just use them yourself?  There are several elements in Lavender-Green Magic which are useful to the aspiring DCC judge, either to create outright homages of, or to demonstrate game principles.

First off, Tamar and Hagar are usable almost as they appear in the novel.  Two witches, sisters, one Lawful and one Chaotic.  They both live in the same house at the centre of a hedge maze.  If you follow the right-hand path, you reach Tamar.  If you follow the widdershins way, you reach Hagar.  You can only follow either path by sleeping on a specific pillow, and your intentions determine which path you take.

Not only is Hagar an excellent example of the “standard” DCC witch, but Tamar is a great example of the “good Wiccan” type witch one also finds in several Appendix N works.  In addition, either could be considered a potential patron – it is fairly explicit that Tamar becomes Holly’s patron at the end of the novel.  Both Tamar and Hagar clearly have their own agendas.

A cat in the novel, Tomkit, is implied to be Tamar’s familiar, and offers some guidance to judges for using familiars or other creatures that might be sent by a patron or other supernatural power.  A creature need not be obviously supernatural when first encountered in order to be so.

This novel makes good use of travel through time, both in terms of its plot and the way in which the plot is staged/conveyed.  Judges interested in using time travel effectively in their adventures can certainly get some ideas from this novel.

Finally, the aspiring judge might gain some ideas for encounters or setting from the section wherein the children navigate the maze widdershins. 


Lavender-Green Magic is not a Sword & Sorcery yarn by any stretch of the imagination, but it does contain many elements that are firmly usable in the DCC rpg. 

I can easily imagine a 0-lvl adventure designed to allow players to take the roles of modern-era children, which could borrow even more heavily from this book.  Such an adventure might not be an actual “funnel” (so that you aren’t killing the kids off), but it could be designed in two parts, so that the first part of the story is when the characters were children, and the second part takes place when they are adults, perhaps dealing with ramifications (good and ill) from their childhood decisions.

That might actually make a good module.  Perhaps when I get some more free time, I will write it!

Monday 24 September 2012

In Memoriam: David Gower

On August 27th, 2012, my friend David Gower passed away at the age of 64.

What can I say about David Gower?

He was an atheist, but he wasn’t afraid of opposing views.  He was a philosopher who was respectful of others.  David was a true skeptic.  He would actually listen to what you thought, and actually cared why you thought it.  If he thought something different, he was always willing to discuss, but not disparage.  David Gower loved the truth.

David sought to understand his world, and the people within it.  He was a thinker who didn’t believe that the true answers were necessarily the easy answers.  He was a poet whose work deserves recognition, and who – in the times I saw him perform – never failed to draw an enthusiastic response. 

David loved the outdoors.  Years ago, when we all had more time, we would go on hikes along places like the Caledon Rail Trail and the Bruce Trail.  Sometimes these were also excuses for long conversations, but the reality is that David really loved to be outdoors.  He enjoyed camping, campfires, and seeing the stars.

The last time I actually saw David, we met at a pub off Yonge Street to have a beer, a meal, and just to catch up.  It was amazing how quickly we could pick up threads left dangling from a year or more ago.  That was about a year ago, because, with a young child, and running back and forth between two households, I just didn’t have the time – or I thought I didn’t have the time – to see him more.  I wish now I had found that time.

In all of our talks, though, it was very clear that he loved, and was proud of, his immediate family.  He spoke of them with genuine respect and affection.  Simon, Sarah, Justin, and Nigel, and especially his wife, Frankie.  David was human.  He was subject to the same irritations, doubts, and regrets that we all are.  But he never regretted the course of his life, and he was thankful for who he got to share it with.  We talked a lot about life, and relationships, over the course of the years, and that never varied. 

What can I say about David Gower?  He was as intelligent, as open-minded, and as loving as anyone I have ever met.  I am better for having known him, and I will miss him.

(The photo was taken by his sister-in-law, Alison Groves, a last campfire that he sadly did not make.)

Monday 17 September 2012

Help With Identifying Something

I was in Ottawa on 20 August 2012, walking along the Rideau Canal near Riverdale Avenue.  The time on the camera says "8:30 am", but it was probably 8:30 pm, our having arrived late due to the transmission on my Ford Windstar saying goodbye to us in Smith's Falls.

Being of that mindset, I decided that a picture of the treetops along the park would make a great desktop for my laptop.  But, when I actually checked the picture, I got this:

That is the original, unchanged picture, exactly as it came off the digital camera.  There was nothing visible at the time.  When I first saw the photo, I joked about fairies, because the area we were walking in is near the site of the Grugach's house in Charles de Lint's Jack the Giant Killer.

Then I zoomed in.

 Now, what I imagine is that there was some kind of insect flying around the treetops at the time I took the picture.  I am guessing that the glowing light is caused by their reflecting the flash back at the camera.

What I cannot figure out is what kind of insect would make an image like the one in this picture.  But, then, I am no expert.  So, here I have cropped the image a few times to allow for a little higher resolution.

They are clearly not some form of flower or catkin, because they are in the sky around the trees as well as within them.

So, if you know your area bugs well enough to venture a guess, I'd love to hear from you.

No matter how mundane the actual explanation turns out to be, the result is an utterly cool picture!

Sunday 2 September 2012

Reading Appendix N: Overview

So, I got a new camera from my son and his girlfriend this year for my birthday.  So, of course, my thoughts immediately ran toward cataloguing my Appendix N collection.  This proved a bit more difficult than I expected, though, for a number of reasons.  The first is that some of my collection is not at home.  Some of it is on loan to friends and family, especially to those I am trying to interest in the DCC rpg.  Other books are at work.  A few more are in a back room and are currently a little difficult to reach.

So, this is an incomplete view of the Appendix N books I have.  Nonetheless, here we go!

That last picture was taken because, as soon as I had cleaned up from taking pictures of all the others, sure enough a group of Appendix N books appeared sitting close by.

I am still wondering where I set The Moon Pool and some of my Lord Dunsany books, which do not appear in these pictures.  And, of course, as I was scouting my bookshelves for Appendix N books, I saw many books that I thought should appear in Appendix N, but do not (either because they were post-publication of the 1e Dungeon Master's Guide, or because they were not books Gary Gygax selected for whatever reason).  I might later do a photo-spread of these as well.  I am also aware that some might not include a few of these books in Appendix N -- some of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels are not fantasy, for example, although they all have elements that are worth including in a DCC adventure, IMHO.  YMMV.

In any event, I have now read about 3/4 of the books on display, and I am currently working my way through the remaining well as seeking out some notable books that are missing from my collection.  In subsequent "Appendix N" posts, I'll be looking at these books individually or in related groups.