Thursday, June 8, 2017

All Beatles Songs From Worst to Best

My good buddy Dave Tice turned me on to this incredible read. I've gotta think this is interesting whether or not you like the Beatles. I'm not sure I agree with it all, but then again I haven't read through it all. Can't wait to burn through the rest of it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Look Out! Vikings!

More from the folks at Vintage News. Check out this collection of Viking and Norman swords. I'm surprised by the way the hilts and handles look. Read all about 'em right here.

Friday, May 12, 2017

From the River: An Iron Age Helmet

The Vintage News is one of my favorite web sites. Here's something they had to share recently. Not a lot of information on it, but this is an iron-age helmet they found in the River Thames next to the Waterloo Bridge. It's one of only three Iron Age helmets found in England. I don't know who wore this, but he probably felt like a badass every time he put it on.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Burroughs Via Japan

 The Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs were a huge influence on me as a child (and I was about 50 years too late for most of it - hell, guys like Ray Bradbury grew up reading this stuff). Anyway, a FB friend shared some illustrations from this original 1917 Japanese edition of The Gods of Mars. It's great seeing this proto-manga take on John Carter, Dejah Thoris, and the rest. My favorite is this top picture, which shows Carter in his famous pose, arms outstretched, imploring Mars to transport him there. Check out some more below.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Because I Love this Photo

...and pretty much no other reason. This is a tread-wheeled motorcycle from the 1930s. It went about 25 miles per hour and was incredibly awkward and unwieldy. Needless to say, it never saw any combat action that I'm aware of. Still - it's pretty cool-looking. :)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Fantasy Language Generator

If you want your imaginary world to have that sense of depth and background you find in, say Tolkien or Frank Herbert, you might want to check out this fantasy language generator. You don't need to be an expert linguist - you just need to be able to click. Of course, it helps if you know a thing or two about your own language. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Robotic Fantasy Mapper

On the Old School Gamers Facebook group, I saw a mention of this so I had to investigate. Sure, I like drawing my own maps. But this is worth checking out. It's a bot that spews out a random map of a fantasy world once per hour. How cool is that? I did read a comment from a bitter old grognard that such things would "kill the hobby." Of course, they're always saying that, aren't they? Anything that saves time and energy in a game - that is, pragmatism - gets my vote. Best thing about these maps is that they do have that hand-drawn look. I'm not a fan of those random fractal world generators. They look like satellite images. Cool for Classic Traveller...not so much for fantasy.

Monday, April 17, 2017

More Big Rock from SN@KES

Here's the lastest (and best, I think) track from our project SN@KES.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Hateful Place: A Review

Fans of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay like to talk about how "grim" it is. After perusing Dave Mitchell's fine game The Hateful Place (tHp), I will call no other game "grim."

Full disclosure: I have not played tHp "as written." In other words, I have not used the game mechanics - only because our group is in the middle of a more traditional retroclone game. However, we recently experienced a Total Party Kill. At that, we did a Referee swap and I took over (the Referee took my dead cleric), using Dave's excellent generators and tables to create a Living Hell for the now-dead party. I could not have asked for better tools.

Dave's game is for any setting, provided that setting is in darkness - both literal and spiritual. I'm a fan of rules-lite games, and this one is certainly that. Experienced gamers will get it within seconds and I'm sure newbies would quickly pick it up. Essentially, characters have three stats (Body, Mind, Soul), each with an associated modifier. Success at any endeavor basically requires rolling a 15 or more on a d20 (plus or minus your modifiers). Combat is simple, with a focus on the narration. I'd say this system is simpler and cleaner than any D&D retroclone, or perhaps any other game I can think of. Granted, it does require some maturity and deliberation on the part of the Referee. You'd have to work really hard to mess up these simple rules. I will say this - combat looks deadly. Very deadly. And magic is not for the weak. Every single spell (all of them simply and cleanly described with one sentence or so) comes with a terrible cost. Magic is elevated to the truly awesome in this system, without being complicated rules-wise. Rules for monsters and demons ensure that no creature of darkness will be predictable. The tables for Demon abilities are great fun.

At first glance, tHp seems a little vague in terms of setting. This is intentional. Early on, Dave points us to the real meat of the book, which is the second half - the Generators. This is where the intended tone and atmosphere of the game come to life (not much of a life - after all, it's a hateful place). In fact, the Generators make tHp useful for absolutely any system. The Generators spark the game master's imagination and provide inspiration for everything from the state of the world, the time period, a horrific starting place (such as dangling from the end of a rope or being bricked up alive), cursed magic items, and other general weird darkness. Of particular use are the tables for missions and rumors, which give any skilled Referee fodder for an entire evening's play with just a sentence or two. Dave respects the individual Referee's place in making these his or her own; he provides just enough to whet the appetite for grim darkness. It's left to the Referee and players to fill in the blanks. That's just my cup of tea. Dave provides more "modules" that are a bit more fleshed out, but even these could fit on a standard index card.

Book B (sold separately) provides even more, with some setting-specific rules for things like time travel, superheroes, science fiction and western missions, and, best yet, more generators.

Looks-wise, these books are striking. Like Dave's previous offering Sirenswail, the covers are enigmatic, with no text whatsoever. The cover for The Hateful Place is totally appropriate - just a vaguely unsettling painting called "Riot", AKA "The Pentagram of St. Nobody" by David Paul Hellings. The cover of Book B appears to be a zoomed-in detail of this. Interiors are clean and easy to navigate. They're not fancy, but they get the message across and the job done.

One aspect of tHp I'm in love with is that it makes provisions for solitaire play, much along the lines of Classic Traveller. With the help of some tables and a little imagination, you can visit the dark parts of your own private soul to do some solo gaming on those nights when your fellow players have other plans. I've not delved into this, but having played a solitaire Traveller campaign before, I think I'd enjoy this as well...and I'd probably freak myself out and sleep with the lights on that night.

I'd recommend this to anyone who is looking for a rules-lite, grim game, or if you're looking for tables of creative bits to populate and inform a campaign for any other system - provided it's in darkness. Once again, Dave proves himself to be a thoughtful and sophisticated writer and gamer, and I eagerly await anything else he does.

Visit Lulu to purchase his books. You can get them in paperback or hardcover, and the price is reasonable for the amount of hideous amusement likely to follow.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Felicien Rops: Not Safe For Work.

The Facebook group for Lamentations of the Flame Princess featured a link to the work of Felicien Rops, a decadent French artist of the Victorian era who did some fairly blasphemous artwork. Even today, it's controversial. I like it. Like most fist-in-the-air-I-dare-you-to-be-offended art (like a lot from Lamentations, frankly), it seems a little on-the-nose in places. But that's the point, right? Anyway, this is not at all safe for work, but I have a feeling you'll scroll through all of it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rabbit Hole leads to Templar Caves

If you put this at the beginning of a horror movie, people might say it was unrealistic. Well, they'd be wrong. This is a very cool story from BBC News. Farmers, keep looking down those holes.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

If the Moon Were Only One Pixel...

This "tediously accurate" scale map of the solar system allows you to scroll from the sun outward, and get a sense of just how massive it really is. Thanks to Randall Munden for sharing this link with me. Great stuff.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Rock'n'Roll Machine Returns

Some of you will remember the fabulous band Electrophonic Foundation from back in the day. After years of thinking I had no rock'n'roll left in me and a weird ascent/descent into ambient music, I've gotten back together with the original EF members for a new project, Sn@kes. Too bad Tony, our old drummer, is so far away or I'm certain he'd be on this recording too. Here's a rough mix of our first song. I'll keep 'em coming as we make 'em. Enjoy! (Warning - Heavy Rock Ahead).


Yep. I'm getting divorced. Wife fell in love with someone else. It happens. I'll get through it. Just wanted to let some of you folks know. I don't want or need to talk about it. Here's to the next chapter...