Monday, July 30, 2012

Flailceratops Comes to the PA Turnpike

Ahoy from Spawn:

Driving back to State College yesterday after flying back into Philly, I stopped for some beverage at a travel center (or whatever they call it) on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I happened to be wearing my least smelly of shirts at the time, that being the famed Flailceratops T-shirt. After having worn it in three countries, I received the only comments on it at this place (except when I met up with Hazel's player in Dublin last week; she said she loved my shirt). At the check-out counter the following exchange occurred:

Guy: Is that a real dinosaur or what?

SoE: Uh, no. It's made up. I mean the body's real, it's like a triceratops.

Guy: Yeah, I know triceratops but this flay ... flail-ceratops .... What's a flail?

SoE [with travel-scrambled brain]: It's a ... spiked ball and chain on a stick. [Motioning] For beating people with.

Guy: Oh. So why's it on a shirt?

SoE: It's a thing by an artist guy. For a book he made. So I got the shirt.

(I wasn't in a headspace to start talking about D&D at that moment, dear readers.)

Guy: Well it's amazing the way they come up with these names for dinosaurs and things that have been dead forever, not just dinosaurs but everything.

SoE: Yeah, there's a group of folks that check the Latin names to make sure they follow the rules and everything.

Guy: Yeah but for things that are so old and we have no idea what they were. Like right now there are ten flavors of ice cream that are exactly the same as Ben and Jerry's out there ...

SoE: Yeah?

Guy: ... but there are no names for them because they are completely unknown flavors. They were made up out of nothing. Unknown flavors.

SoE: Wow. Well it just goes to show ....

And then I left and got back on the turnpike. I have yet to fathom the true depths of that man's words.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What's Going On (in NY)

Carter Soles, Real American.

Since Spawn of Endra is abroad right now, having all kinds of fantastic adventures, it falls to me to update the Lands of Ara readership about what is going on in my personal gaming milieu at present.

First, it should be noted that I have been working very laboriously upon an academic article for the past several weeks -- it is coming along well but is eating a lot of my time and concentration. Not only has this limited my contributions to the blog of late, it has also meant a slowing down of my personal RPG'ing schedule as well. I am now cut back to running my so-called "home" Lands of Ara campaign via Skype, and running the twice-monthly Lift Bridge "Lost City" campaign, which is chugging away quite nicely.

I am also "preparing" for OSRCon 2012, by which I mean eagerly awaiting Spawn's return to the U.S.A. so we can make our travel plans etc.  I also greatly look forward to running this adventure of mine, Keep of the Zombie Master, at the Con this year. And, of course, to meeting the legendary (and legendarily nice guy) Ken St. Andre in Toronto!  Tunnels and Trolls rules!!

Once I get back from that exciting event, I will get refocused on finishing up two modules up for pdf-style and/or POD publication: first The Tower of Death, the adventure I ran at OSRCon 2011, and then Keep of the Zombie Master, this year's Con module. Both are completely drafted, and The Tower of Death is playtested and merely awaits artwork, cartography, and layout. Keep of the Zombie Master is receiving its preliminary playtest at OSRCon 2012, and may get run again with the Lift Bridge Group if I can make that work. Then, following manuscript revisions in response to those playtests, Zombie Master will need artwork and cartography and layout before it is ready to "ship."

Stay tuned!

Let's pray Spawn of Endra returns safely from this place.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

CityCrawl Paris: Rock Down to Goblin Avenue

There but for the grace of Endra goes Spawn:

I was staying near the Place d'Italie until yesterday, and had until then shunned one road sloping disconcertingly downward from the circle called:
That's right. Goblin Avenue. But I figured, whatever, it's just a bunch of goblins, I have no shiny objects on my person, now's as a good a time as any to check this out. Just after taking that photo a detachment of the Armee Gobelin tore through the P. d'Italie circle lusting after the 14 Julliet fireworks extravanga on the Champs Elysees.
I started down the Goblin Ave., and it wasn't clear who the goblins were. But everyone was really short. I assume there was some sort of tricksy magic spell on the street.

Those 'trees' are actually tall shrubs by human standards. As I progressed down that mad infernum of a road, I saw this spectacle: The Goblin Cave.

Of course they try to trick you into entering their stupid cave by saying it's all about wine. But seriously goblin folks, I read through B2 back when I was 10 years old. I'm not falling for that beeswax. Further on there were more signs of not just wandering goblins or rag tag groups, but a working goblin society. When goblins need a prescription filled they go to the Goblin Pharmacy.
But only a total dumbshit buys any 'healing potion' from a goblin. You goblins may say your store is gated shut because it's a holiday, but I know better. Not even 1st level schmucks are falling for your tired old shenanigans these days, and you're going out of business. As we speak Mike Mearls is getting ready to flatten your shit like a crepe with his 5e steamroller, fools.

But this was weary work, and I became edgier as I descended further down Goblin Street, not knowing who was human and who was goblin. So I stopped off at an ostensibly human brasserie and had a couple of beers. I was suspicious of the waiter, because when I asked what beer they had on tap (a presion, as they say in gobelinois), he told me they had Kronenbourg. Ha ha, Msr. Gobelin, how drole. I quaffed warily, as you can see:
My Flailceratops T-shirt probably protected me from the worst effects. In the middle of the second 50cL I developed a large vagina in my torso and lost my passport inside of it. I'm hoping that if I keep drinking Kronenbourg I'll be able to pull it out before I have to get on a plane again. I'll keep you dear readers posted on developments.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. There is a stop on the metro map labelled "Ourcq" on Ligne 7. I won't explore that without a better AC and a few NPCs. I guarantee hirelings a 10% share of the loot and 1/4 share of XP, but you have to pay your own way. (I'll pay for the metro tickets, but you have to get to Paris on your own.)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

F'ing White Apes

Your Parisian correspondent, Le Spawn, doth say:

You've got to keep your eyes on those white apes. I was in the Paris Museum of Comparative Anatomy and Palaeontology this afternoon. As you wait in line to buy a ticket you are greeted with this sculpture called (more or less) "A Borneo Savage being Strangled by an Orangutan":

Dig the detail of the 'quadramanous' orang's right foot grasping the sauvage's left calf and the screaming baby orang on the right. Comparative anatomy was no laughing matter back in the day, to be sure. More to come on my Old School visit to the museum.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Geeking out at 14C CON

Transmitting from UNESCO HQ, Spawn sez:

I've never been to a gaming con before, but I arrived in Paris Sunday morning for what turns out to be my heaven-on-earth geek-a-thon conference: The International Radiocarbon Conference. I'm heading to OSRCon in August with Carter, and I expect there will be some parallels between the last couple of days and what I'll experience there. I mean like on a human-being social level.

To wit: There is a radiocarbon community. It's fair to call it a community since it's actually surprisingly small (or the group that can get to a conference is fairly small), and everyone is connected to everyone else at least tangentially through collaboration, training, lineages of technical expertise, and so on. Very much like the OSR blogosphere, I realized that I know folks and am known to others through scientific publications (analogous to blogs and maybe some especially noteworthy posts). You get a sense of people from their writing, analysis, and occasional email correspondence, and you build up an image and identity for that person without ever meeting them. But you don't really know them.

When I arrived yesterday I saw my session organizer, who I first learned of while she was doing her brilliant dissertation because she cited an early article of mine (which made me think she must be pretty solid, obviously), who was chatting with someone else whose article I reviewed last year ... both having been students of a hero of mine that I ran into again later in the day. And then we all started geeking out on radiocarbon stuff, freshwater reservoir corrections (the veritable 1e weapon speed tables of radiocarbon dating), marine offsets, carbon cycling ... and that was the most serious fucking geek-out I've had about that stuff I've ever had IN PERSON. And suddenly you realize you're not alone in whatever lonely little corner of the blogosphere lab you're doing your work in: There are others just like me! And it's the only the first 15 minutes of the conference!!!!! AARAGAGARAJHHH!

And they're happy to meet me! They've read my posts articles, and thought this one was great. And then some of the big old school names are here and all the old school radiocarbon people call each other out in the middle of their talks to joke or point to some useful unpublished data that one has (like a great d30 mechanic for resolving mass demon-summoning combat that they need to finally work up into a post), or remind each other of how the ion-source from LLNL ended up in Denmark. And chuckles abound. I chuckle too. These are world-class mother fuckers doing the best radiocarbon science there is, and they're the full range of surly, awkward, earnest, smelly, well-dressed, sharp, sarcastic, or polite geeks that you find in any such rarefied environment, and they're having fun. Happy to see each other again.

And there are subtle factional rivalries that ostensibly center on differences in technical protocols, but in fact probably can be traced to some difference over a sciencey or social thing that few people remember from the late 1980s. But the intellectual offspring are subtly influenced in their interactions because of that history. Can some of them overcome this and bridge the gap? Forget the past? Or is it time to mount an all out offensive to eradicate their ridiculous pretreatment protocols once and for all? And which side am I on, having just galloped in from the wastelands of North America, a veritable John Carter of radiocarbon, but now with a renewed sense of purpose and a wholly unknown and desirous magical protocol?

It's the chemistry version of the Edition Wars, basically. At any rate, that's enough obliquery.

So: I've wondered whether blogospherics and other distanced interactions aren't usually enough to make an effective community. They aren't on their own, I think. But as with close scientific collaboration at a distance, when you DO get to meet those folks, then you have laid some groundwork for starting to talk and joke, share stories, getting some serious work done, and for reinvigorating your joy and excitement about your own work/hobby/obsession. Camaraderie, essentially. There's no real substitute for the game (of Science, of D&D, or the D&D of Science or the Science of D&D) shared with other people.

So keep enjoying your cons, in whatever form they manifest, my friends.

Monday, July 9, 2012

OSRCon 2012 Approaches!

OSRCon 2012 Registration is still open! OSRCon only costs $25 CDN (about $26 US) and it is well worth every penny for what you get: two full days of old-school gaming, exciting celebrity panels, and general OSR camaraderie. I cannot wait to return to Toronto again this year to create some new OSRCon memories. And as an added bonus, my collaborator and friend Spawn of Endra will be attending the Con with me this year!

OSRCon 2012 takes place August 10-11 in Toronto; this years' guests of honor include Ed Greenwood (Elminster), James Maliszewski, Chris Huth, and a personal idol of mine, Tunnels and Trolls creator Ken St. Andre. In addition to running my own Labyrinth Lord games (see below), I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream by playing T&T with the Trollgod himself at the Con.

Last year's panel discussion featuring, among others, James Maliszewski and Ed Greenwood. I am sure many folks are eager to get a chance to play at both of these guys' gaming tables again this year.

Other games being run at the 2012 Con include James M.'s OD&D-based Dwimmermount campaign, Greg Gillespie's Barrowmaze, a couple of Boot Hill sessions, a B/X game, and a very promising looking AD&D game featuring a run through G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief ("there shall be much slaughter").

This year I will be running two Labyrinth Lord games (straight LL, no AEC), playing a homebrewed adventure called Keep of the Zombie Master with my usual OSRCon House Rules:

(1) Multiple Round searching for secret doors allowed, and

(2) Shields Shall Be Splintered!

Like last year, I will provide Pre-Generated PCs to all participants.

My GM code on the linked schedule is #6421; I'm at Table 2 during Session Two (Friday 3:30pm to 7:30pm) and Table 1 during Session Three (Saturday 9:30am to 1:30pm). I hope you'll strongly consider attending OSRCon if you can, and that you might even join me at my Labyrinth Lord game one of those sessions.

I really cannot convey in words how special this Con is, though perhaps this post, this postthis post, this post, and this post can convey some sense of the excitement and fun to be had at this event.

Please keep your eye on the official OSRCon website and blog for updates about the Con, the schedule, and so on.

This guy is going to be there -- need I say more?