Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Canadiana: Hilarious House of Frightenstein

Before D&D, my Saturday mornings consisted of a wonderful, if twisted, children's show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

This show was created in the early 1970s at CHCH TV in Hamilton, Ontario. Basically, right in my backyard.

If you were a Canadian child in the late 70s or early 80s you likely remember this show.

The majority of the characters in the show were voiced by Canadian actor Billy Van - he was quite something and this show speaks to his range and talent.

Here's a 10 minute episode. Having said that, I always like the wolfman radio DJ. So I cut right to his bit in the second video. You can find more on youtube.

Some of it was pretty trippy for kids.

Happy Halloween!!!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Old School, Art, and Ideology

This morning I've read a few interesting posts dealing with OSR art.

The first was at The Temple of Demogorgon where he rants about the sameness of OSR art, specifically taking aim at the piece shown on the Grognardia Blog.

Although not as hard-core a post as the first, the other was at Aldeboran where Stefan Poag (one of my favorite artists) wrote that he'd like to see more diversity in OSR aesthetics.

In my opinion, there's absolutely nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from the foundational D&D line art of the 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, I love it. I want more.

People who focus on "another damned knight in platemail about to open a door" miss the point. IT TOTALLY ISN'T ABOUT THAT. Art forwards ideology and game-play style, and the ideology of the Old School is the DIY, thumb-your-nose at Whotsie, low fantasy, Hail Gygax!, low rules, yer-damn-right-I-want-platemail, screw dungeonpunk, piss on standard torch-lit dungeons in 4E, piss on rules crunchiness, we're using a ten foot pole, screw challenge ratings perspective, that makes the early editions so evocative and fun to play.

So, the next time you see an artist using line art depict a huge spider about to jump an unsuspecting party, or a dude in plate opening a door, or a bug-eyed adventurer fleeing a huge fucking monster, don't hate - instead let fly the devil horns and say RIGHT ON BROTHER! Because the art isn't value-free, it's value-laden - meaning the art of the Old School forwards the ideology and play-style of a game that we love and want others to try out.

So OSR artists, do what you do with conviction. Our game will be better for it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wanted: Deathknell Burning Skeletons

I'm looking for some Deathknell Burning skeletons.

I'll buy or trade. Ebay prices are a bit wacky, so I thought I'd try here.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Dude Goes Off :)

The Moldy Vale goes off on WotC.

I have my own bits to add, but I'm playing tonight and need to prepare.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chargen, New(er) Editions, and Game Designers

I just wanted to bring this post to your attention about character generation across the editions. It's great.

If character generation can't be done under 10 minutes that's a serious, serious impediment to the hobby. Chargen needs to be old school, insofar as you are up and playing immediately. Trash powers, feats, proficiencies, specializations, etc. Let role-players role-play.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my family doctor. I was contemplating a surgical procedure and his advice was, paraphrasing, unless it's life or death beware of surgeons bearing knives. Indeed, they do like cutting people open. Similarly, guess what game designers like to do? Make rules, and rules, and more rules.

Monte Cook. Take notes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Giant Mushrooms in TSR D&D

I wrote some time ago about the motif of giant mushrooms, or mushroom forests, as signifiers of otherworldliness in D&D modules.

I'm compiling a list. So far I have:

B1 In Search of the Unknown
D3 Vault of the Drow
EX1 Dungeonland
X8 Drums of Fire Mountain

I know there are others. Any additions?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Another Week, Another Softball L&L Article

Am I the only one that finds this type of softball article a joke?

Ooooh, look! Cook and WotC are riding in on their white horse to preserve D&D's past!


What a slap in the face. It's this type of article that, I'd argue, continues to drive people away as much as bring them back. I'm not looking for an olive branch.

The grassroots who play, write, create, DM, and publish Gygax's D&D are the people intent on preserving the past. Anything else is tokenism.

Sorry folks, this sort of thing just entrenches me further.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

S&W: Tome of Horrors Complete

I've finally had an opportunity to sift through the Tome of Horrors Complete for Swords and Wizardry.

I do think it has excellent upside, but I can't give it a resounding endorsement either.

Initially, I wanted the hardback book. The book is $99 from the Frog God Website (I still think they have a few available). When you add $30 shipping to Ontario, Canada plus and addition $20-30 in duty it totally wasn't worth it. I asked the guy at Frog God if he'd work with me, which he wouldn't. I understand, he has to cover his ass with shipping insurance, but you don't have to go far on the web to know that the OSR is alive and well north of the border. It would be nice if folks producing stuff in the US kept us in mind. So, I bought the pdf for $29.99 as I can get it printed for free on a super-sweet printer. That's better value than the better part of $200.

In terms of the content, this looks looks and feels like a Third Edition book - which it is and it isn't. The art (largely) has a black and white third edition aesthetic. That can be off-putting for some, I would include myself in that group. Old school D&D should look like old school D&D not 3E. You can see Frog God has applied this logic to the rest of the S&W stuff. That's a real shame and something Raggi commented about just the other day. Frog God needs to let go of the Third Edition vibe. To my mind, Mythmere had it exactly right in terms of using his own stuff (he's a good artist) and others like Pete Mullen.

I have one other issue with this book. The S&W ToHC is loaded with monsters you'd never see in an old school game. For many (but not all) an orc with a spear is enough. I've written about this before. Do old schoolers really need a Vapour Dire Rat, or a Flame-Spawned Troll, or a Plant-Imbued Ape? Really? Really? Let's leave all that behind with Third Edition, thank you.

In addition to players/DMs, I think the real value of this book rests with those who want to publish their own adventures and want to use/cite monsters from the MMII or the FF like Coffer Corpses, Groaning Spirits, Mudmen, or Sandlings. With the ease of translation between OD&D, B/X, AD&D and their clones, this could very well become a foundational text in the OSR moving forward. I suppose that depends on the monster books (if any) that other OSR publishers put out. There are other gems inside as well, including little enounter ideas and a set of demons for the plane of agony, but these are secondary to the monster access.

So, my 2cp are the following: If you want to publish adventures in the future this is a great resource to have, although there are a bunch of monsters I'll never use. Also, if I'm paying top dollar for an old school product, I want it to have an old school aesthetic. The art is critical.

Friday, October 14, 2011

That this needed to be said...

That Monte Cook felt the need to write this column is a reflection of how far off the beaten path the game has gone.

On the plus side, I like the cartoony art rather than the High Fantasy realism of the 4E PHB (aesthetically, anything is an improvement).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Cave/Dungeon Mouth Motif

We D&Ders see variations of the image above repeated periodically. This one, by Holloway I believe, is from one of the 3.5 Dungeon Crawl Classics (of which I'm a big fan).

A couple questions:

1. I'm assuming this motif stems from mythology and fantasy literature. Do you know of other examples?

2. What do you take from the symbolism? The cave-as-mouth can represent consumption. As if the landscape itself was swallowing the adventurers. D&D art is littered with anthropomorphic landscape. Alternatively, it could mean a subconscious exploration of ourselves. Finally, we also see the cave mouth as vagina. The one that leaps to mind would be the example of the Grendel cave in the movie Beowulf. The feminizing of landscape was a particular motif in the history of European exploration.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

If I was 12, I'd be playing...

If I was 12 with no children or profession, I'd probably be playing the Pathfinder RPG.

I don't talk about Pathfinder much, and I only talk about 4E when I want to slag contemporary RPGs. Having said that, I watched the 10 minute video of Eric Mona's crotch where he unboxes the new introductory boxed set for Pathfinder. It looks super-cool with crippleware after 5th level.

I'm torn when it comes to Pathfinder for a couple reasons. First, I have no interest in rules-crunchery and will never play 3.5 again or dabble in Pathfinder (see my rant on in-game checks below). Having said that, as an outsider I think Pathfinder is the spiritual successor of contemporary D&D, not 4E. I don't think I'm alone on that call. I'd like to see it do well.

The thing I really don't like about Pathfinder is the aesthetic of the game. They layouts are pretty amazing but the art itself looks very over-produced, much like the art for 4E. For me, the aesthetic of the game is absolutely critical. Much of it leans toward High Fantasy, and I'm totally not interested in that style of game. Their goblins are really hard to swallow.

Even if (like me) you don't play Pathfinder, you should check out the video. They did a great job.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ranks? Say It Ain't So...

I just read Monte Cook's first Legends and Lore article from last week.

There are some things in D&D that simply do not require quantification. They don't needs ranks, they don't need rolls. Fight the impulse to quantify everything.

Searching for treasure 'n' stuff is one of them.

Creating (continuing with) categories like passive and active perception is a pipeline to nowhere.

Don't kill role-playing in role-playing games.

That is all.