Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Adventure Recaps: World of Samoth - 2014 - April 2019

It's been a long time since I've posted any recaps from my long-running World of Samoth game. We've had quite a few hiatus periods for some long stretches when players weren't available due to work, travel, or illness, but we have managed to continue playing since my last update in July 2013. Rather than provide detailed recaps from each session, this will provide a summary of the big events that have transpired since then.

Much of what transpired during those sessions involved learning many of the big secrets of my campaign world, such as where the different races came from, why the number "seven" is so important, why there are stories of dragons in mythology but no one has even seen one (except for the members of the Company while traveling through portals to other dimensions), and so forth. For those of you who have been following my posts about my campaign world over the past few years, the below includes a lot of information about how I planned things out in my campaign prior to starting play.

  • Shao left the company (the player of this character wasn't really into the campaign, which I can understand given that it started long before he joined, and it's not as truly sandbox as I would make it now if I were to start over)
  • After Sebastian returned to the company, "he" eventually revealed to the new members of the company that he was actually a female half-elf, disguising herself as a man to avoid being discovered by a group of evil sorcerers from the notorious Black School, who had somehow corrupted Sebastian's mother
  • Sebastian was eventually found, and kidnapped, by members of the Black School and the Company had to rescue her. During the battle, Sebastian's mother was killed, and the Black School itself disappeared completely, with Sebastian's sister trapped inside
  • The Company continued to try to determine the nature of the "six generals" and assign the names they had been given to the entities they had previously encountered
    • Eventually, after much work and research, the Company properly associated the names as follows:
      • "Chaos" is the entity they encountered outside the Banevault in Veundhi
      • The "Queen" was the entity referred to as the "Queen of Poisoned Winter" the Company heard about in Courriseux when they encountered a group of her cultists
      • The one known as "Crawler" or "Shade" was a powerful vampire-like entity the Company encountered in Margova
      • In an area outside the city of Barrid, the Company long ago had found a ransacked tomb, in which they found the bodies of some of their former comrades, and after which a trio of Jade Elf "Murchs's Guardians" had chastised the Company for "letting something escape." This entity later turned up in a library in Marlona and killed the head librarian. The Company believes this entity is the one known as "Depraved." 
      • In the Goblin Lugalate of Nur, the Company entered a sunken temple that had recently been thrust up from the earth, where they briefly encountered a somewhat succubus-looking entity that they have associated with the name "Consort."
      • Lastly, the entity known as "Scorned" was unknown at the time, until the Company did further research and determined that his location might be somewhere on the continent of Atkira. 
  • After returning home to Esoría, the Company checked on the status of the war between Esoría and Courriseux and discovered that the war had escalated. Huge sections of both countries, especially along the border, had been decimated by fire and sometimes magical means, thousands were dead, and both sides were recruiting more soldiers to their cause, even resortint to conscripting. Other countries were beginning to become involved and the war threatened to undermine the stability of the western continent. Upon learning that the two opposing generals on both sides were expert tacticians and appeared somewhat evenly matched, the Company began to have suspicions. Based on the numerical and technological superiority of the Esoríans, the Courrisians should have been defeated much more easily. The war, however, appeared to be turning into a war of attrition, claiming many lives on both sides. The Company began to wonder if somehow a higher power were involved, manipulating both sides in the war to reduce the available fighting forces as well as to distract people from other events.
  • The Company made their way to the city of Marlona, home of the largest library in the western continent, to continue to do more research. While they were there, they encountered strange groups of robed figures at nighttime, apparently conducting some strange rituals. They eventually discovered that these robed figures were all wraith elves, and they were attempting to somehow open portals or gateways to other dimensions. The Company, having encountered similar strange events in Verundhi while investigating the Banevaults, were aware of the dangers, and attempted to stop the cultists. However, the ritual went wrong, as the cultists were not learned enough in the dark magics necessary, and they accidentally called forth some form of eldritch horror, which was not their intent. The Company fought and eventually bested the creatures and the cultists, but the battle was fierce. 
    • The Company eventually learned that these wraith elves were attempting to open these portals at several different locations throughout the city, whereas all of the portals they had seen before had been fixed in location.
  • The Company also acquired an ancient map that was full of symbols, drawings, and locations but no actual words to mark the names of the locations. 
  • After more research, the Company learned that, throughout history, the number "7" had been seen as a recurring theme through different religions and cultures all across the world. However, the non-assimilated Goblins were different - they held that the number "6" was more important. In speaking with some "true" un-assimilated Goblins, the Company learned that Goblins do not have a written language, and it was due to a prejudice they had discovered long ago; that the written word can easily be changed and manipulated by outside forces. As a consequence, the Goblins had kept up an oral history, only, refusing to write down any of their legends and stories, but instead of pass them down only orally, via songs, poems, and stories. Their culture held that the number "7" was a bad omen. It was at this point that the Company began to recall all of the artistic motifs they had seen in the various ancient, ruined temples where they had encountered the powerful entities that they now believed were the "Six Generals." Many times, there were seven figures present, as statues or paintings on the walls, depicting six females and one male. In many occasions, the 7th, male, figure had been de-faced or scratched out, or the statue destroyed. 
  • Through speaking with the Goblins and doing additional research, the Company uncovered information that had the potential to shake the foundations of cultures throughout the world. The six female figures present in the artwork were six sisters, and the progenitors of the six "pure-blood" elven races. The seventh figure was their brother, who had mated with each of his six sisters, and then in secret also created a seventh race of elves, the wraith elves, who were corrupted by him. Additionally, and most shockingly, the elves had been the creators of the other sentient races in the ancient past, genetically molding them to perform specific tasks in a form of servitude. The dwarves, for example, had been a race built for manual labor, which explained why there were vague stories and recollections of dwarven slavery in their distant past, and why many dwarves always carried some form of chain on them as a decoration and reminder of their slave past, and an incentive to learn the truth about their people. The Company realized that if this information were ever made public, it could threaten to tear apart the relations between the various races and lead to centuries of hatred and even genocide. 
  • The Company also learned, through this research, that the "Six Generals" were the six main helpers to the 7th figure ("The Brother"), and that millennia ago, they and the brother had been sealed away for all time in ancient tombs which were then magically pushed through portals to other dimensions, known as "pocket dimensions," to keep them away. To guard them, the last remaining dragons in the world had agreed to go into the pocket dimensions, to ensure that the evil entities could never return. The portals were never supposed to have been opened and the entities were never supposed to have returned. However, it was clear now that the six generals had somehow broken back into the world, and were actively working to try to bring the Brother back. 
  • It was at this point that the Company realized that the dragons they had encountered before, while traveling through portals, had been stuck in these so-called "pocket dimensions" and had been corrupted by evil after millennia of being stuck there. It explained why the blue dragon with whom they spoke had tinges of silver on its scales, and similarly why the red dragon had touches of gold. The dragons had been turned into creatures of evil. More importantly, it was proof that dragons really did once exist on the world of Samoth. 
  • The Company also uncovered that the Brother, also known as "T'Nuri," needed to keep his machinations quiet. He had secretly made plans to be able to return to the world, all those years ago when he was first imprisoned. He was the one responsible for falsely planting the number "seven" into world cultures, to ensure that the rest of the world would not listen to the Goblins and their warnings. He also had somehow created a way to dampen divination magic as his return grew closer, which explains why there are sages and wizards in the world who remember being able to cast divination magic in their youth, but no longer have the power. 
  • Finally, their research uncovered some knowledge about "six artifacts" that needed to be acquired to defeat the Brother. The Company has begun to realize that some of these artifacts have been in their possession the whole time, such as the small bauble that Jeremi Udalls' mother had given him before he set out adventuring all those years ago (about 18 years in "real world" game playing time!). Other items included Cirend's sword, Sombra's shield, and Sebastian's cat-pin. The items begin to cast a faint glow when they are in proximity to each other, and each one also is apparently associated with a particular theme: Tyranny, Carelessness, Protection, Servitude, Curiosity, and Aggression. The Company believes that the items associated with Servitude and Aggression are missing, but have begun formulating theories on where those items may be located. 
  • With all of this knowledge, the Company surmised that the map they had acquired, that had no writing on it, may have been Goblin-made in the ancient times, and after consulting with various sages and learned individuals, they were able to roughly determine the locations on the map, which was for some mysterious place to the far north of the world. 
  • The Company also heard rumors of a temple that had "appeared out of nowhere" in the Kingdom of Nkoya on the eastern side of the continent of Atkira, near the city of Manpala. The Company decided to travel there, as they believed they would be able to find the remaining "general," Scorned, there. They booked passage on a ship known at the Green Misery, manned by members of the once-famed Knights Basilicar, an order of chivalrous knighthood that had ceased to keep up with the times and was now mainly a ceremonial organization. While aboard, the knights' historian recognized Jeremi's staff, an item Jeremi found very early in his adventuring career [our campaign's second adventure, way back in 2001 or 2002] and which had properties that had always remained a mystery to him. The historian explained that the staff's primary power was to protect magic-users from the corruption of evil, which is a danger that almost every arcane caster faces.  
  • After eventually reaching the location and finding the entrance to the recently-appeared temple, the Company entered. They found many of the same artistic motifs they had seen in similar temples before, all around the world, and realized that this was, in fact, one of the "temple-prisons" created to hold one of the six generals, which had somehow broken free of the magics that hid it in a "pocket dimension" and returned to the world where it was created. Inside battled a huge creature, in form not unlike a kraken, as well as three powerful undead corpses. 
  • The Company then encountered a strange entity, who looked something like a young child, but floating in mid-air. The Company assumed that this character, who seemed to whine and complain a bit, was probably the Scorned. During a brief combat, the Scorned cast powerful magic at the Company that nearly destroyed them, before he left. After tending to their wounds, the Company left the temple; upon exiting, they found that the entrance was surrounded by a group of native tribesmen, some wearing masks. The tribesmen escorted to the Company back to the city of Manpala, where they met with the Council of Elders and the main village Elder. 
  • The Village Elder explained about the properties and dangers of magic, as far as his people knew. The Council of Elders was aware of the six generals, and knew that all six had been released. After a long discussion with the Council, the Company learned of a cult that was somehow in league with the Scorned, and that they were conducting a ritual later that evening. The Company learned of the location of the ritual, on top of a high plateau out in the savannah, and they began to plan their assault on the cultists. 
At this point, we stopped our last session, as it was getting late, and we realized that most likely a combat was coming next. We're scheduled to play in about a week and a half, which is fitting since it will be almost exactly 18 years to the day that we began the campaign way back in May 2001. 

I've had a ton of fun running this campaign, and it seems like it's slowly starting to come toward a natural conclusion soon. When we started, I wasn't married (although I was engaged) and of my original group of seven players, only two are left, and we've added six new players along the way, of which two are also left. Of the remaining players, only one was married when we started, and none of us had kids when we began playing. So much has happened to all of us personally and professionally during our campaign. 

It's been a challenge to me, as oftentimes it's been difficult to find a date when everyone can play, to the point when last year in December I was trying to pick a Saturday or Sunday to play, and the first date we could come up with that we were all available was five months later, in April. That kind of thing is frustrating to me, as we lose momentum of the game and it makes it difficult for people to remember what's happening or to feel any true stakes in the game. We are trying to get a bit more on track, so ideally we'll be playing once a month at least for the rest of the year. 

I've also started planning my next campaign, which will most likely take place in the same world. And for this one, I'm really trying to figure out what rule system I want to use. I personally am much more wanting to use an OSR type ruleset, such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which seems much easier to tweak and customize, versus something like D&D 5E (which many of my players want to use). As a DM, I'm really just over using something as crunchy at 3.5/Pathfinder, and while 5E seems to improve on that to a bit, I'm not sure it's a easily customizable as I want (I know it can be customized, but earlier versions of rules seem quicker and easier to customize, as "balance" wasn't as much of a factor). We'll see what happens as the time gets closer. 

What are some of your longest-running campaigns? How did they, and you, change over time? 

Hanging: Home Office (laptop)
Listening: "Funky Drummer" by James Brown
Drinking: Tap water

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

New Comics Wednesday: Barbarians Fight Zombie Warriors Riding Dinosaurs. Also, Time Traveling Apes.

Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's new comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Every comic I feature here on Daddy Rolled a 1 is one that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from school.

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you're really interested in more comic reviews, I do "professional" reviews for the comic book site, ComicAttack where I post my reviews under the name "Martin." You can search my tag to see what I've reviewed lately. 

Today, I wanted to talk a little about one of the most creative, unexpected, and all-around fun comics I've read recently, Bronze Age Boogie, the first issue of which came out last week. The comic is published by Ahoy Comics, a relatively new publisher known for taking chances on series that the "Big Two" would never publish. A few of their titles include: 

  • Captain Ginger
    • When the human race died out, the cats inherited the Earth! Or at least one starship. Now the intrepid Captain Ginger struggles to keep his fellow felines united against a hostile universe. But there’s a rival for Ginger’s authority: his second-in-command, the savage Sergeant Mittens.
  • Hashtag Danger
    • Three heroes with three special skills: brains, strength, and unwarranted enthusiasm! Together they vow to confront fantastic perils and monetize them!
  • Egdar Allen Poe's Snifter of Terror
    • Drunk and alone, the acclaimed author of The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Masque of the Red Death is reduced to introducing horror stories in a comic book.

From the descriptions, it's easy to see that these aren't your run-of-the-mill comics. Bronze Age Boogie is no different - it's an homage to the Bronze Age of comics (roughly, the 1970's and early 1980's) during which the author/creator grew-up. It was a time of Blaxploitation films, Kung-Fu TV and movies, Disco lifestyle, and lots of movies about intelligent apes taking over the world. All of those elements are present in this comic, as well as literal Bronze Age (i.e., ~2,000 B.C.) barbarian warriors fighting zombies and their dinosaur allies. To this, add an invasion by Victorian-looking aliens (ala "War of the Worlds") invading in two different time periods (the barbarian past and the 1970's "present"), a character named "Gogo Golem" (complete with gogo boots and mini-skirt) and another character named "Madame Ape" in a wheelchair who mentioned the existence of a team known as ATTAC (The Ape Time Travel Action Crew) and I was instantly hooked. 

The art has a Bronze Age of Comics sensibility as well, reminding me of some of the work done for the Savage Sword of Conan back in the 70's. 

There is so much fodder here for a gonzo post-apocalyptic or science-fiction role-playing game, and even combine some of the elements with Goblinoid Games' Apes Victorious RPG (based on the rules from their B/X clone, Labyrinth Lord) for a really fun, different game that could get you out of the standard Tolkiensian fantasy games that a lot of RPGs fall into. 

You can read my full review at ComicAttack here. I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you decide to pick up the comic.  

  • Format: Monthly series, full color. Each issue contains the main story as well as a few back-ups such as "Major Ursa" (a 1950's space program featuring a bear who is exposed to some "space radiation")
  • Where to Buy: As always, try to buy it at your local comic shop. You can find one by visiting the Comic Shop Locator. If you don't have one, try a bookstore, or you can buy the digital version to read on your PC, tablet, or smartphone by going to Comixology.  That link takes you to the Bronze Age boogie page, where you can find a link to buy the first issue.
  • Price: $3.99 per issue
  • Rated: This doesn't appear to be rated, but I'd say it's probably "Teen" or maybe "Teen Plus" if you're worried about violence. There was also a quick mention of drinking tequila and taking mushrooms. 
  • More Information: The official Bronze Age Boogie page on Ahoy Comics' website is here

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Cold brew coffee (iced)
Listening: "The Payback" by James Brown

Monday, February 11, 2019

Another Anniversary: 8 Years of Blogging

Another year has rolled around, and today marks my 8th year of blogging here at Daddy Rolled a 1. The short version, as always, is that I didn't blog as much as I set out to, but for the first year in the past five years, I posted more times than I did the previous year. That alone is a small accomplishment for me, although the downside is that I haven't posted since August 2018. The same old reasons apply: work, childcare, and general fatigue. I don't see those things changing any time until my daughter grows up and moves out of the house (or at least gets her driver's license and can drive herself to her own activities and also cook her own meals and buy her own clothes and school supplies; on the plus side, she was home from school today for Lincoln's Birthday and decided to make chocolate cupcakes with peppermint frosting from scratch, which I did not realize until I came out of my office to ask he what all of the banging around was in the kitchen).

Over the past year, I did blog a few new things, including my first ever character class for the B/X System (and its associated Retro-Clones), and a discussion about my failed 1st Edition game (after I posted my last post, we never played that particular game again). I created a fun infographic about my hardback game book collection, that a few people commented on, whether here on the blog, on the soon-to-be-dead Google Plus, or on Twitter, and a few reviews (one for an obscure late 1970's post-apocalyptic movie, one for a fantasy-Africa gaming supplement, and one on a few new comics I'm reading). I also posted some more of my old campaign notes and maps, which is something I've done from time to time here on my blog over the years as a way to document the changes in my campaign from "theory" to actual application as a backdrop for an actual game.

Outside of blogging, my geek activities have continued along. I attended my first non-U.S. convention this year by meeting my friends Cal and Terry in Vancouver for "Shut Up and Sit Down," which I will say is my favorite game convention I've attended so far (although my experience is rather small, being limited to several different Strategicon Conventions here in the Los Angeles area, and one in Seattle, until I went to Vancouver). We only played board games at this past convention, but I do enjoy those as well as role-playing.

In other gaming news, while running my World of Samoth game has slowed down more than I would like, I continue to play in a monthly Cthulhu role-playing game, which has been running on and off since 2007 using the same characters but different systems (we're currently using the Realms of Cthulhu supplement for Savage Worlds). Someone recently commented to me that he had never heard of a Chutlhu RPG lasting longer than a few sessions because the players get depressed about the ultimate hopelessness of the game. I mentioned that, for me, playing a Cthulhu RPG is more about exploring the milieu than it is about focusing on your character advancing and getting better over time, and we both then agreed that the main emphasis for a Cthulhu RPG is on the skill of the games master (as well as the time commitment to make the setting as detailed and engaging as possible, which is something I've blogged about before). I'm curious to hear other peoples' thoughts, as this particular game is my only exposure to a Cthulhu RPG.

I also was honored once again with being selected as a judge for the One Page Dungeon Contest in 2018, which is something I really enjoy, and which I'm always excited to be asked to participate. It's so difficult to articulate how much I always appreciate being asked to be a judge for this contest, how it inspires me, and validates my love of the hobby.

My daughter and I also continue to make weekly trips to our local comic book store, and I am still writing reviews for There are a lot of great fantasy comics out there right now for those who are interested in something outside of the superhero genre. In particular, I can whole-heartedly recommend Coda and Isola (the art alone in Isola is enough to get a recommendation, but the story is also fantastic).

On the TV and movie front, I'm sadly really behind, although my wife and I do try to see the big "tentpole" movies every year, especially if isn't something we can take our nine year-old daughter to (she goes to all the Marvel and Star Wars movies with us). I have a bunch of "Star Wars: Resistance" recorded to watch later, and I am completely caught up on "Game of Thrones" and the third season of "Young Justice," but I haven't watched any of the second season of "Star Trek: Discovery" (although I did enjoy the first season quite a bit). I have really been liking "Black Lightning" on CW, but my wife and I are 6-7 episodes behind on all of the other CW DC shows ("Supergirl," "Flash," "Green Arrow," and "Legends of Tomorrow").

In the coming year, my goal is to try to blog at least once a month. That pales in comparison to most of the blogs I follow that are updated usually daily, or at least a few times a week, but it's what I currently have time for given my work and family commitments. I still continue to work on a big RPG supplement project that I've been working on for a few years, and for which I need to figure out a way to get some illustrations and maps and get it illustrated.

Thanks for reading. And, with that, here are the stats for this past year, with a comparison to the previous year. Cheers!

  • Page Views: 5,853 versus 5,445, up +7.5%
    • I think this might be due to my concentration of more blog posts in the first eight months of the year versus the year prior
  • Unique Page Views: 5,198 versus 4,856, up +7.0%
  • Average Pages Per Session: 1.48 versus 1.54, down -3.6%
  • Average Time on Page: 02:13 versus 2:21, down -5.3%
  • Bounce Rate: 80.16% versus 81.78%, down -2.0%
  • New Users Percent: 92.5%, the same percentage as the previous year
  • New Users Total: 3,338 versus 2,758 up +21.0%
  • Location: 56% of my readers are from the U.S., 8% from France, 6% from Canada, 5% from the U.K., 2% each from Australia and Brazil, and 1% each from German, Japan, Iraq, and Italy. It never occurred to me before, but now I wonder if at least some of those numbers are from the military service? 
  • Device: 66% Desktop (up, percentage-wise, from last year), 28% mobile (down percentage-wise), and 6% Tablet (down, percentage-wise). 

The most popular posts from all time are a mixed-bag, including one of my comic posts from this past year:

Hanging: Congregation Ale House, Pasadena Chapter (while my daughter is at ballet lessons down the street)
Listening: A live version of "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones was playing on the loudspeakers as I finished typing this
Drinking: Epic Brewing Company "Hopulent" Double IPA, on Nitro

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New Comics Wednesday: Recent Reviews

™ and © 2018 Simon Spurrier and Matías Bergara
This is a splash page from Coda #1. 
Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's new comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Every comic I feature here on Daddy Rolled a 1 is one that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from school.

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter here.

Lastly, if you're really interested in more comic reviews, I do "professional" reviews for the comic book site, 
ComicAttack where I post my reviews under the name "Martin." You can search my tag to see what I've reviewed lately. 

For today's post, I thought I'd actually point folks over to some recent reviews I've done for comics that might be of interest to the role-playing game crowd. 

I am always a big fan of supporting local comic book shops, so my suggestion would be to look on the Comic Shop Locator to see if you can find a shop near you that might have these issues, but if not, I've also included links below to where you can buy digital versions on Comixology. 

This is one of my favorite recent comics. It's an independent title from Boom! Studios, and in my review of the first issue, I described it as essentially a mash-up between Tolkien and Mad Max. The premise is essentially that, only a few years before the beginning of the story, there was an apocalyptic event that succeeded in destroy all magic. The characters are living in a post-magic world full of paladins, bards, and various fantasy creatures, but magic is gone. The main character is Sir Hum (he calls himself "X" but given his penchant for saying "Hm..." when people ask him questions, he's picked up the name of Sir Name), a wandering bard scoundrel who is searching for a way to save his missing wife. He rides an interesting creature referred to as a "pentacorn," which is basically like a nightmare version of a unicorn, and one that speaks, except the only thing it ever does is curse. 

The visuals are done in a uniquely cartoon-like style, but they are very detailed, and the world-building in the story is incredible. It's a world that would make for a fun D&D campaign, and it seems pretty clear that the creators have at least some experience with role-playing. They even include a map of the world in the back-matter of the first issue. 

I reviewed both the first and fourth issues for I suspect that you should still be able to find all of the issues relatively easily, but there's a chance that it might come out in a trade paperback version of the first few issues relatively soon as well. 

If you don't want physical copies, you can always buy them digitally at Comixology here

Sandman Universe
Neil Gaiman's Sandman was one of my favorite comic series, and one of the first I read that made me realize that comics don't have to all be about superheroes in capes. I highly recommend it to everyone, whether they are into comics or not. 

Recently, a new comic came out, called Sandman Universe, that sets the stage for a variety of new titles that take place in the Sandman universe. I reviewed the first issue here. You can buy digital copies at Comixology here

A short and sweet description: 1970's Blaxploitation noir story of a black woman reporter for a small newspaper in impoverished Detroit, investigating the murder of a young black kid, and dealing with the rampant sexism and racism of the time. Also, there's Cthulhu stuff. 

I really loved this book, also published by Boom! Studios. It was a short limited series that just recently ended, but you can find the issues at Comixology. There is a trade version coming out soon, but the individual issues are also available. 

Aside from these, I also review a lot of DC comics for the site. If you search for my tag on, you can find all of my reviews. 

Let me know whether you end up reading any of these, or what books you're currently reading. 

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Primordial Double IPA by Mother Earth Brewery (at lunch)
Listening: "Sunny" by Wes Montgomery

Monday, August 27, 2018

My Gaming Hardback Bookshelf

This is something I've wanted to do for a while. A few years ago, I received a fun book called Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe, as a gift. The entire book is full of fun, creative, and informative graphs for comic books, with very unique graphs such as a table of "True Colors" showing what looks like a periodic table, but with different colors to illustrate the color of each hero. On the top left is the Crimson Cavalier, along with Crimson Dynamo and Crimson Daffodil. The Scarlets are next (Scarab, Witch, and Spider), then the Reds, Pinks (light and dark), Oranges (one only: Agent Orange), Yellows, (in two tones, light and dark), and so on, until you get to the bottom right-hand corner, the "Whites" (Queen, Ghost, Dragon, and more; nine in all). Another graph uses the three primary colors of Red, Yellow, and Blue, to show which heroes utilize any/all of those colors, and the ratio of each (Spider-Man is about 60% Blue to 40% Red, for example). There is a Venn diagram of Superhero Comic Tropes (Underwear on the Outside, Tragically Dead Parents, and Cape). These are just a few examples, but it's a fun book and I highly recommend it to both comic book fans as well as those interested in design and creative ways to express data.

Shortly after finishing the book, I wanted to do some similar graphs, mainly to see if I could try to replicate some of the styles from the book. I've been bitten by a bit of an artistic creative bug recently; I've started sketching again for a start, and making these graphs was a fun way to get my creative juices flowing. I chose to make a few graphs for my hardback book gaming collection, partially to see what the data would look like, and also to see what kinds of ways I could divide up my collection in a fun and different way.

Depending on peoples' reactions, I might do some more of these, with my paperback RPG books and modules, my gaming PDFs, and maybe some of my comics collection.

Let me know your thoughts, and if you end up making your own graphs, be sure to let me know!

I created all of these below in Microsoft Excel just to get the size ratios right, but then for the bar graph and the bubble graph, I re-drew them so I could arrange the data the way I wanted without being held to the built-in graph formats in Excel. The pie charts are right out of Excel with the only manipulation being the colors and hand-created legends. I tried to do some interesting things with the colors, such as for the different editions, using the main color of the book spines as the associated color of the graphs (e.g., more than half of my 1st Edition books have that orange-colored spine, the 2nd Edition books mostly had a black spine, etc.). Some were more difficult, especially when I had to pick just one color to represent a bunch of different books/publishers (such as the gold-yellow color for "D20/OGL 3rd Party," which I picked based on the gold-yellow color of the Dawnforge book by Fantasy Flight Games, mainly because I hadn't used yellow for anything else).

I'm not going to say anything else about the graphs, as hopefully they convey the information clearly, but I'll happily answer questions on the comments, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Club Soda with Angostura Bitters
Listening: "Detour Ahead (Take 1)" by the Bill Evans Trio

Friday, August 10, 2018

Early Documents for My World of Samoth Campaign

A very early map of countries, some of which eventually
made their way into my current World of Samoth campaign.
Drawn on a yellow legal pad in the summer of 1986.
Today is my househhold's unofficial "last day of summer" - our daughter starts school next Monday, August 13th, which I still think is way too early, but that's just the schedule that her district is on. As this is the last day of her summer vacation, I got to thinking about some of my past summer breaks. Back when I was a kid, my mom didn't work until I was much older, so summers were spent at home, hanging out with the neighborhood kids, going on adventures on our bikes with a promise to be home before dinner, and maybe sneaking into a movie or mixing every flavor of soda at the 7-11 into one giant cup and sitting on the curb with our soda creation and the latest copy of Avengers or X-Men comics. In contrast to this, my daughter goes to a variety of different summer day camps, which is fun in its own way, but just different than how I grew up.

One of my original list of countries and rulers
for my campaign. I made this list in a yellow
legal pad, around the summer of 1986. You can
see in this list at the top, the name "Samoth" which
at the time was the name of a country as opposed
to the name of the planet. The country names are
very inspired by the naming habits of Gygax in the
World of Greyhawk boxed set. Of this list of
countries, only Stadhof and Verundhi survived to my
current version of the world. The "Confederation of
the Greyclans" is still around in a very different
form. The small village called "Rowland's Hundred"
is based on my middle name, and also on an article
I had read in a National Geographic magazine about
an early English colonial settlement in Virginia
called "Martin's Hundred."
As I got older, we had moved several times and often I would go through the summer before school started with no friends, as we moved on the day after the last day of school, and it was harder to meet kids because the "neighborhoods" were more spread out and I didn't have a car, so I would have to wait until school started to meet the new kids. As such, I spent a lot of time alone, reading, researching, drawing, and working on D&D campaigns. At this stage, I had played with some friends in the past, but moving caused me to lose my game group. I had never DM'd, but creating a campaign world is almost a way of playing D&D "by yourself," and it indulged my creative streak to develop cultures, religions, and societies, draw maps, and the occasional sketch of various characters. I've talked before about how I used a hodge-podge of different resources to create what eventually became my World of Samoth campaign, including Earth history, the world of Conan, access to my parents 1963 World Book Encyclopedia series, 25+ years of National Geographic magazines, and a variety of TSR game worlds including Dragonlance but most importantly the B/X D&D "Known World" and of course Greyhawk. I also mentioned how I would incorporate the personalities and even the names of my various classmates into my game world cultures and countries.

I still have all of my old notes that I used to develop my game world; pretty much everything from fully drawn maps to hastily written notes on a scrap piece of paper or post-it note that I jotted down at a library while researching a topic. It's a very weird personality trait that I can't seem to break - I keep everything, such as email folders full of every personal email I've sent or received. I never go back and read them, so I'm not sure why I keep them, but my penchant to keeping and organizing everything carries over to every aspect of my life. I guess you'd call it a collector's mentality.

Another, different list of countries, about 5
pages into the legal pad, following the other
list shown earlier. The world had a very "pulp"
feel, closer in style to the world of Conan,
as evidenced by things like the "overgrown
jungle" for the South American equivalent.
In this version, I was going to make the
Elves more like Native Americans, with
different types of elves named after animals.
This world also had gnomes and a race
called the "siee" which were the equivalent
of halflings. Neither made it past this
version, for reasons I've discussed before.
In any event, back in the summer of 1986, right before my junior year of high school, I spent a ton of time alone in my room drawing maps and writing notes concerning a D&D campaign I wanted to run some day. I was really into the band U2 back in that time; this was right before the "Joshua Tree" album came out, and I had discovered a small 4-song "EP" on cassette tape called "Wide Awake in America" that included live versions of two songs from the "Unforgettable Fire" album and two new tracks that hadn't made the album. One of those songs, "Three Sunrises" became one of my favorites and I used to listen to it all the time. It's one of those songs that, when I hear it, I am instantly transported back to that summer of 1986, lying on my bedroom floor at my parent's house, with my maps, notebooks, comics, and D&D rulebooks and modules all spread out in front of me, working on my campaign. I heard the song recently pop up on one of my playlists on Spotify, and I had an urge to go searching for a bunch of my old notes. Here are a few pictures of them for those that are interested to see some very early, "proto-Samoth" materials.

Anyone else out there hold on to old things like this? I can't be the only one, right?

Another early map in my old yellow legal pad, from the
summer of 1986. For another early map. see this post

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "Three Sunrises" by U2

Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review: Ravagers (1979)

I had originally intended for this to be one of my "80's TV Thursday" posts, as I had recalled this being a made-for-TV movie from the early 80's that I saw precisely one time right around the time that I had learned about the Gamma World role-playing game. But, as it turns out, it was actually a theatrical release from 1979, so it qualifies as neither "80's" nor "TV."

Back in the early 1980's, after I learned about Gamma World, I had gotten onto a huge post-apocalyptic kick and this movie was right up my alley. I stumbled across it after seeing a small ad in our TV Guide, and had to watch it by myself because no one else in my family was interested. Thankfully I remember that my parents were out that night (doing, of all things, square-dancing) and my sister was studying so I didn't have to fight anybody over the TV.

"Ravagers" is based on a book from 1965 called Path to Savagery, which sadly hasn't seen a lot of reprints so it's quite expensive on Amazon right now. The novel is, however, highly reviewed, with only 5-star reviews. 

The movie, unfortunately, didn't receive much critical acclaim, being somewhat praised for its sense of aesthetics but receiving less enthusiasm for its acting and story. It has a large cast, including some pretty heavy-hitters from the time, including Richard Harris, Ernest Borgnine, Ann Turkel, and Art Carney; combining the salaries of the cast and the production designs, it couldn't have been an inexpensive movie to make. 

"Ravagers" is a post-nuclear holocaust movie in which the survivors do their best to protect themselves from the dangers of the world, which mainly comes in the form of wild humans called "ravagers." Opposing the ravagers are other groups of survivors, generally divided into a group called "Flockers," who are relatively primitive and not well organized to defend themselves, and another unnamed group that live on an old naval vessel off the coast for protection, are well-armed, organized, and much cleaner than most humans of the era.

The point-of-view character is a loner, living with his wife, trying to find a place they can settle down in peace, and scavenging for small comforts like old cans of food. The film focuses on his journey as he is attacked by Ravagers, makes his escape, kills one in revenge, and then makes his way across the countryside, interacting with other survivors, all while being followed by the Ravagers.

Honestly, the plot of the movie is very thin and extremely slow-paced, and the characters are very one-note with no personality. The main villain of the movie has maybe one or two lines of dialogue at most, and is so unmemorable that I can't recall his name. His fellow Ravagers are even worse. The fight scenes are also poorly choreographed, especially by today's standards.

The main character, Falk, comes across the ruins
of the Alabama Space & Rocket Center. 
I had very vague memories of seeing this on TV as a kid, and had never seen it offered on video or DVD, but discovered that it's available for streaming on Amazon, so I watched it yesterday, and can say that pretty much the only thing this movie has to offer is its landscapes and set designs. There are a variety of different locations, but the one that really sparks the imagination for a post-apocalyptic type game is an old, abandoned space port, which was shot on location at the Alabama Space & Rocket Center Museum. In particular, the back of the museum, which holds a bunch of rockets, was aged for the movie, so you have old, rusted rockets poking up from the landscape and the effect is suitably creepy and nostalgic at the same time. Those scenes, along with the huge matte painting of a destroyed cityscape shown at the beginning of the movie during the credits, definitely fit within the design aesthetics of 1st Edition Gamma World.
The opening credits backdrop. The destroyed city reminds
me of the cover of 1st Edition Gamma World. 

Other than the set designs, there is little to offer from the movie for players of post-apocalyptic role-playing games. The different cultures of the survivors are barely fleshed out; the cryptic alliances as described in the Gamma World rule-book offer much more role-playing opportunities than the Ravagers, Flockers, and Loners as portrayed in the movie. My understanding from reading the reviews of the novel upon which the movie was based is that the book has much more detail, and is more creative, in the description of the different post-apocalyptic cultures.

However, on the note of role-playing games, I did stat up the three main characters from the movie, as well as a band of Ravagers, way back when I was a kid as part of my encounter tables for Gamma World, and a few years ago, I updated them to the Mutant Future rules here on my blog. I changed the names to "Wanderers" and "Pillagers" to avoid copyright infringement.

Does anyone else remember this movie? What were you thoughts? Did you try to incorporate any of the elements into your post-apocalyptic role-playing games?

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Listening: "You Know - Extended Mix" by Herald, Gee
Drinking: Coffee
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