Wow. That's one of my longer breaks in between posts. What can I say - times have been dark and the light is just now dawning (Merry Christmas). Our gaming group just started another installment in our long-running (17 years) Gonen's World campaign. We're filling in the last "blank" on the map. As the party explores the lost island of Fotolk I'm doing a quick Sharpie sketch. It'll take awhile to fill, but no need to rush.
Of course, the players have already introduced tobacco and firearms into a weird new world, so after one session they've left their mark on it. I'm sure they'll end up taking over the place.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Thursday, September 28, 2017
here and here) I've shared my thoughts about the first two plays in the trilogy known as The Oresteia, surrounding the orgy of family-murder surrounding Agamemnon's return from the Trojan Wars. The final play is The Eumenides, and it wraps everything up neatly if not nicely. Orestes has murdered his mother, Clytemnestra, in revenge for her murder of his father Agamemnon with the help of her lover, who has seized the throne. Now, Orestes is pursued and hounded by a trio of vengeance-goddesses called The Furies. With the help of Apollo and Hermes, who have been in Orestes' corner all along, he escapes long enough to get to Athens where he stands trial under the authority of Athena. The goddess organizes the trial, said to be the first in Athenian history. The Furies and Apollo act as prosecutors and defense, and in the end the jury brings in a tie vote. Athena breaks the tie in Orestes' favor. She re-names The Furies "the kindly ones" (that is, The Eumenides), and convinces them to refocus their energies as spirits of vigilance and guard for Athens. The goddess then decrees that henceforth, trials are to take the place of blood vendettas. Frankly after the action of the first two installments in the trilogy, I felt like this one was a little boring - it just recounts and defends the various actions already taken, and smacks of civic pride and propaganda. That being said, it does wrap everything up in a nice little bow, and I'm glad I read the plays of Aeschylus.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
I wrote a collection of mystery stories set in the world our gaming group uses. I don't think the mysteries are all that unsolvable, honestly (I'd be a terrible criminal) but I think I did a good job with the setting and characters. It was a lot of fun.
The Fat Lady Screams & Other Mysteries
The Fat Lady Screams & Other Mysteries
Monday, September 25, 2017
Here's the first full-length record from 6 Demon Bag, which is Scott Chaffin and I. There are actually about seven thousand bands on bandcamp with the same name, proving once again how pervasive Big Trouble in Little China has been in my generation. This is not a rock record. It's an ambient/instrumental record. Enjoy.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Saturday, August 19, 2017
"This is the first song on our new album." - Robin Zander. Enjoy the debut single of my new super-band, Johnny Pharaoh Group. It's the extension of my old Electrophonic Foundation "character" into his solo career and Vegas years. Hope you like it.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
this article in the Space Opera group on FB today. Of all the science fiction magazines from the "old days" I think I like Planet Stories best. Obviously I wasn't around when it was being published, but stories from that publication have appeared in countless collections (especially those sort of low-quality "50 Sci-Fi Classics!" e-book collections of public domain stories). I've read a few at Comic Books Plus and thoroughly enjoyed the stories and artwork. A lot of greats cut their teeth in Planet Stories. It seems like it was about the best option for the sword-and-planet genre. My favorite writer of that genre, Leigh Brackett, earned most of her bread and butter here (that's one of her stories in the illustration). Of course, Planet Stories was mostly known for its "good girl" cover art, which was sort of a PG13 forerunner of the Barbarella look. Great compositions, bright colors, strong lines. They may not be politically correct, but they make great magazine covers, posters, calendars, etc. - these are in the public domain now, so you see 'em everywhere. A while back I printed a bunch of these and turned them into wall art for my hobby room. Note the triangles and zig-zags in these compositions, as well as what might seem like a preoccupation with light bondage - very common in the magazine covers of the day. Enjoy.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
here. The Libation Bearers continues the story that begun in The Agamemnon, picking up several years after Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus have murdered her husband, Agamemnon, who, admittedly, was kind of a prick (if you read The Iliad). Nevertheless, their children Orestes and Elektra are not at all happy about it. Orestes has been away for many long years (his mother sent him away to aid in her plan of murder). But once he hears about it, he comes back to Argos at the command of the god Apollo, who says Orestes must avenge his father by killing his mother and her lover. Disguising his identity, he comes home and, after revealing his identity to his sister, colludes with the Chorus to distract his mother, who welcomes him thinking he is a stranger. He enters the palace and kills his murderous stepfather. Orestes is then interrupted by his mother, and he begins to kill her, too, but hesitates - after all, she's his mom. His cousin, Agamemnon's nephew Pylades, reminds Orestes of Apollo's command. Orestes does the deed, and, despite the patronage of Apollo, finds himself victim of the vengeance of the Furies, who have an especial distaste for matricide. They hound Orestes unmercifully, and he is forced to flee Argos, the Furies hot on his heels. The story continues (and concludes) in the third play in the trilogy, The Eumenides. We'll get to that shortly.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
A member of the Deliberations of the Punk Duchess group on Facebook posted this. I've been really into more "experimental" classical music lately, so the timing was right for me to really get into this. The composer Scriabin (who I am now ashamed to have never heard of) apparently had a vision of music that would melt the universe. He never finished it, but it was pieced together and recorded in its entirety in 1970. It took awhile - Scriabin himself died in 1915. You can listen to the restored intro to the piece here, and follow the links to snippets of the original. I'd say Scriabin is a great choice for those who like a little Brian Eno in their Stravinsky. I'll have fun exploring his work.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
I wish I was born earlier, or you were born later, or that James Keach didn't exist. This is a rare pic from right before she did Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, I think. You usually only see her in good-girl outfits. What a beautiful person. I've had a crush on her since Live and Let Die. Arguably the best Bond girl, and certainly the best Sinbad girl.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Friday, July 7, 2017
Thursday, July 6, 2017
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Thursday, June 8, 2017
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
Friday, May 12, 2017
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
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
...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
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
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
Thursday, March 23, 2017
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.
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
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
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Friday, February 3, 2017
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).