Sunday, February 11, 2018

Seven Years of Blogging

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the start of my blog, way back in 2011. As a way to "celebrate" today, I got my gang together to play my long-running World of Samoth game, including my friend from Vancouver who has been playing in the game almost since the very beginning (we started in May 2001 and he joined maybe a year or two later), so it was nice to have him here. I'll recap the session in another post.

I'd been reading "old school" blogs for about two years before I began my own blog. It all started late one night, when I was up in the middle of the night because my infant daughter had woken up to be fed and changed, and I couldn't get back to sleep so I went down the dark hole of the Internet and stumbled across a blog talking about Gygax's use of language, which I found interesting, and from there I discovered dozens of blogs discussing older versions of the game. After around two years of reading, I finally started my own blog.

As I've discussed before in my past "anniversary" posts, I don't blog nearly as much as I'd like, and sadly every year has seen me post fewer times than the year before. I always have intentions to blog more, but my only time for blogging is typically at the tail end of the work day, after I've picked my daughter up from school, shuffled her around to her activities, finished work, helped with homework, made dinner, and cleaned the dishes. After that, if I sit in front the computer to write, I usually end up falling asleep. I can't even remember the number of times that I've woken up hours later, with the lights on, sitting in my chair with the beginnings of a blog post not even a quarter finished.

With that said, this year I did made a New Year's resolution to blog more - ideally once a week, which obviously hasn't happened, but I do have a couple of new posts since the first of the year. Over the past year since my last anniversary, I only made six blog posts: One in April 2017 wherein I updated my list of the books I was currently reading, a July post updating what I was currently watching at the time, two more July posts about the human cultures from my World of Samoth Game, and then a review and memories of the Horseclans series by Robert Adams. After July, I didn't post again until last month, in January 2018, during which I wrote a post about two examples of why I read comic books (which was one of my most favorite recent posts, but didn't really generate a lot of commentary as I was hoping), and a new entry in my on-going "Game Store Memories" series, this one about Brookhurst Hobbies in Orange County, California.

Here are the Stats (Feb 11 2017 to Feb 10 2018 versus Feb 11 2016 to Feb 10 2017:

  • Page Views: 5,445 versus 5,564, down 2.14%
    • Although this was down from the year prior, it was a much lower drop than from the previous year; while my overall pageviews are down a lot from what they used to be, it's at least relatively steady year to year now
  • Unique Page Views: 4,856 versus 4,999, down 2.86%
  • Average Pages Per Session: 1.28 versus 1.24, an increase of 3.1%
  • Average Time on Page: 2:21 versus 3:18, down 29.04%
    • I think part of this might be because I tend to write longer posts and my guess is that  lot of people don't read them to completion, mainly because they aren't as easy to read on a smartphone due to the small screen size
  • Bounce Rate: 81.78% versus 81.10%, so a slight increase of 0.84%
  • New Users Percent: 92.5% versus 91.3% are "new"
  • New Users Total: 2,758 versus 3,075, a decrease of 10.31%
    • This is clearly due to a lack of posts from me in the second half of the year
  • Location: 71% of my readers from from the U.S., 5% from Canada, 4.4% from the UK, 2.2% Australia, 1.4% from Spain, 1.2% France, and 1% each from Germany and Japan.  
  • Device: 64% view on desktop, which is down 21% from the previous year, and 29% view on a mobile device, up 24% from the previous year. Only 7% view on tablet, down 3% from the year prior. 
The most popular pages, in terms of page views, over the past year are almost all "legacy" posts (meaning, they weren't new posts in the past year), including Fun with Any Edition: AD&D 2nd Edition, the Evolution of D&D Snacks, Character Classes: The Noble, a review of the old Gamma World Module GW2: Famine in Fargo, and part of my Game Store Memories series, about the Compleat Strategist in New York. 

I'll be posting a bit more about my World of Samoth campaign this year, as well as adding some more comics-related posts, discussions of using older products in different versions of the game, and the occasional book, movie, or TV show review. I look forward to your comments and suggestions of what you'd like to see more of on the blog, and as always, thanks for reading! I can't believe when I started doing this, my daughter was only a year and a half old, and now she's halfway through 3rd Grade. The players in the game I run are now 19th level, and I've run two "old-school" games (old AD&D Modules S3 and S4), and played in a variety of other RPGs including Call of Cthulhu, Torg, Star Trek, Warhammer 40k, and Pathfinder fantasy. I participated in my first LARP, and started more frequently visiting game conventions to play both board games and RPGs. It's been a great seven years. 


Hanging: Home office, new laptop
Listening: "Virgo," by Wayne Shorter, 2004 Remaster
Drinking: We had a Luponic Distortion Series 008 IPA during our game session today 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Games Stores: Brookhurst Hobbies

It's been a while since I wrote about my various game store visits. As a reminder, this series recaps my thoughts and reviews of various games stores that I've visited since I entered the hobby, back in 1982 or so. My intent was to write about my visits roughly in the order that I discovered each shop, but I've done a few out-of-order due to extenuating circumstances.

Today's entry is for Brookhurst Hobbies in Garden Grove, California. This was the second of two stores (the other being the Last Grenadier) that I had first heard about in a small classified ad in Dragon magazine, years before my family moved to Southern California. After we moved here in 1986, I didn't visit it, primarily because, living in eastern Los Angeles County, Garden Grove (in Orange County) may as well have been in another state, especially to someone like me who didn't have a car and was living in public transportation-starved Southern California.

My initial exposure to the hobby of "gaming" was via Dungeons and Dragons (both the Moldvay Basic Set and 1st Edition, almost simultaneously), and my gaming group did not use miniature figures for our games. We only used the rule books, modules (adventures), dice, and paper. Most of this stuff I could find at the various retail outlets that were available to me at the time, even if they weren't always all that well-stocked. The chances were that I could at least find the latest AD&D hardback or module at a Waldenbook's or Gemco.

Flash-forward a few years, and I discovered All Star Games in Diamond Bar, California, which is about as far south as you can get in Los Angeles County before crossing over into Orange County. Around this time, also, I had somewhat moved away from role-playing games and gotten into collectible card games and also miniature war games, specifically Warhammer 40k. During October of 1993, I had been laid-off from my very first advertising job after they lost a huge client. I was still living at home and I actually got a whopping two weeks' of severance pay (I'd only worked there for about six months) and I'd saved money during that six months because I had no rent or utilities to pay, or groceries to buy. Everything aside from my car payment was covered. My friend Mike got me into 40k, and we of course began to collect as much product as we could. All Star Games had a very good selection, and Games Workshop seemed to be coming out with new guides and figures almost every week, for different chapters of Space Marines, or Space Orks, or Eldar, or what have you. We bought tons of figures, books, paints, and brushes, and All Star Games was very well equipped and would even special order things for us.

However, after a while of assembling and painting scores of plastic and pewter 40k miniatures, we felt ready to begin experimenting. A Warhammer book about customizing miniatures had come out, and there were some really cool ideas in there that we really wanted to try. These were really advanced projects that involved steps such as sawing parts off of models and using drills and wires to assemble new designs of your own making. The 40k customizations were, to us, amazing, and we really wanted to start experimenting with some of those projects. However, All Star Games didn't carry any kind of modeling equipment beyond paints and brushes. No pin drills. No vices and saws. Nothing. And, we couldn't find another store in the area that carried anything like that, so we were stuck.

A short time later, my on-again, off-again girlfriend at the time (we were "off" at this time, but still hanging out... a lot...) mentioned that she had heard of a store in Orange County that carried that kind of stuff. I have no idea how she heard of it, because she was never into gaming (continually referring to my friends and me as "dorks" over our love of games, comics, Star Wars, and Monty Python style humor), but she mentioned it, and agreed to go with me to visit the store, about 30 minutes or so away. This is the same girl with whom I visited the Last Grenadier on my first visit.

She told me the name of the store, and I remembered having seen their ads back in Dragon. I was excited to visit another one of these "big game stores" from my youth, but I was a bit wary, as I recalled the last time I had visited a game store with this girl, she quickly became bored and we left after only about 15 minutes, despite having driven about 25 minutes one way to get there. We entered the store, and as I recall, it was almost divided into different sections, with one section being dedicated to modeling equipment. This was the only time I can recall visiting a game store and not making an immediate beeline toward the RPG section - instead I headed right toward the modeling display and loaded up with all of those things I needed for the fancy customization projects, including not only the pin drill, vice, and various saws, but also modeling clay and various new paints and brushes that my local store didn't carry. I do recall briefly glancing over toward the RGPs on my way out, but I didn't actually browse their inventory. I was fully into 40k and hadn't played an RPG at that point for probably four or five years. 

We unfortunately didn't stay very long (lesson learned - only took me two times to figure it out), but I do remember the staff being very friendly, and the store being very well laid-out and it being easy for me to find what I was looking for. I also remember that the store felt huge, even though I didn't explore the entire place.

That was the only time I visited Brookhurst Hobbies. I just checked, and they are still open for business! Their website lists a bunch of their offerings, which includes games, cards, hobby supplies, miniatures games, diecast, radio control, and tons of other things. It's making me very interested in going back for a visit.

Anybody in Southern California visit recently? Leave a comment to let me know about your experience!

Hanging: Home office
Drinking: 2015 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha
Listening: "Cut Chemist Suite" by Ozomatli

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Comics Wednesday: Two Examples of Why I Read Comics

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 

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.

As with all of my comic book overviews, I will attempt to explain what makes this comic interesting without giving away any spoilers. 

Today's post is a bit different - rather than talking about a comic I'll be picking up later tonight, I wanted to provide two examples of some recent comics to illustrate some of the things I love so much about comics. I know there are a lot of people out there who don't understand why an adult would want to invest time reading about "guys in tights who punch each other." I've met a ton of parents at my daughter's school who think this way and wouldn't stop to pick up a comic to check it out. 

However, as a counter to that thinking, I'll borrow an example from Joe Mulvey over at Multiversity Comics, who writes an occasional features called "What Do You Really Know About Comics?" I encourage you to read the entire series - each time he finds someone who has never read a comic, or expresses no interest, and he interviews them about what they like to watch on TV and movies, and what they like to read, and then he gives them a stack of comics that have similar themes, and after they have finished reading, he interviews them about their thoughts. One thing he always says in his interviews, when the first reaction of non-readers it that comic books are all about superheroes punching each other, is:

"If you put on a TV for the first time and saw Mickey Mouse, you wouldn’t just shut off the TV and say that it’s all cartoons so it's meant just for kids, right?"

However, most people have this same reaction to comics. They were exposed to them as kids, maybe, in the form of superheroes, and they never bothered to shake that perception. Meanwhile, just like any other form of entertainment, there are dozens and dozens of different genres of comics - science fiction, fantasy, crime, horror, historical, novel adaptations, and more. 

On top of that, comics as an art form can tell a story differently than any other medium. Contrary to what some people believe, the art in the comic isn't a "crutch" - it's not there to replace what you can imagine. Rather, it's an integral part of the story-telling process in a graphic form that can relay information and emotion different than a prose book or even a movie. I hear a lot, "I guess I'd like comics but I just don't get the pictures. I'd like a regular story better." To me, that's kind of like saying, "I'd like musicals if it weren't for all the singing and dancing." You accept the singing and dancing as part of the formula for a musical and you recognize that it's a different type of medium than a straight-forward movie. The same is true for comics. And, I do understand that, to the novice comic reader, the unique combination of art and words on a page can be distracting or even confusing, but if you just settle in and give it a chance, I think you'll be quite surprised by the way the two work together to create a unique story-telling experience. 

Here are two examples of different things I'm reading in comics lately, to illustrate my two main points: the comics aren't all just about superheroes, and also that the images and words together are part of the overall story and that the words alone wouldn't necessarily create the same impact. 

Example 1
This is from a comic called "Lazarus," by author Greg Rucka, who is is a long-time comic writer and recently has been writing Wonder Woman for DC Comics, among others. Lazarus is a "creator-owned" title, meaning he owns the rights to the characters and concepts, and is published by an independent comics company called Image. It's been around since around 2012 or so, and has recently been licensed for a role-playing game by the awesome folks at Green Ronin Publishing by +Chris Pramas. It's also been optioned for an Amazon series. 

The introduction to each issue reads roughly as follows:

"The world now lies divided not amongst political or geographical boundaries but amongst financial ones. Wealth is power, and that power rests with only a handful of families."

It's dystopian future that's roughly 100 years in our future, and at the back of each issue, the writer will comment on real-world things like scientific discoveries, political unrest, or financial crises, that impacted that particular issue. Most recently, in issue #5 of Lazarus X+66, he discusses the issue of poverty (which is rampant in the world he has created for Lazarus), and he mentions the following:

"...Yes, hard work reaps its rewards, but that's predicated on the playing field being level for all, and a fidelity to a meritocracy that does not exist. The arrogance of those who argue that poverty is the result of not working hard enough seem to somehow ignore the fact that a man or woman working three jobs, all of them temporary because it's more cost-effective for the corporations in question to not have to pay for full-time employees, are not 'putting their backs into it.'
"Healthcare and poverty are intertwined, folks. Never mind the debilitating cost of medical care, the fact of financial insecurity leads to legitimate health problems. Instances of obesity in poor communities in the US aren't a result of sloth; they're the direct result of being unable to afford a healthy diet. When you're poor and your'e hungry, you'll seek the food that's most filling, not the most healthy. Pasta is cheap. It's also a crappy diet if it's all you can afford. Health food - fresh food, fresh veg, grains, lean proteins - are expensive. Poor diets lead to innumerable, and well-documented, complications, everything from heart disease to diabetes..." 

Probably not what you expected from a comic book, right? Yes, it's in the "back-matter" (in the back pages of the book, and not part of the actual story), but this kind of thinking informed the story that the writer wrote. And, whether you agree with his assessment or not isn't really the point. The point is that it makes you think and maybe question things a bit more, as all good forms of writing should do.

Example 2
The second example is going to illustrate a unique side-by-side panel layout to tell an emotional story of two characters who have known each other for a long, long time. Currently in the comics, they are depicted as usually being at-odds with one another and each other's methods when dealing with the world. However, they have a long history and can be counted on to help the other when push comes to shove.

One of the characters is married. The other just got engaged. Both of the characters' significant others are wondering why the two aren't talking to each other. Why isn't the one character telling the other that he's now engaged? Why does the other character, who knows already, not congratulating the first? A discussion happens wherein each of the two main characters tries to make an excuse - "He's too busy..." or "I'll get around to it..."

Then, this beautiful two-page sequence happens. It's easily one of my favorite pieces of comic writing and art in recent memory. I will point out that this is going to spoil a somewhat major thing that happened recently in DC Comics, but chances are if you've gotten this far, you've either already read it, or weren't planning on reading it.

That's a unique kind of story-telling device that can't be replicated in any other medium, and which still gets to me every time I read that sequence.

I hope I've helped explain a bit about why I read these things and why I am a big proponent of the medium. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below, or on my Google + page, Facebook page, or Twitter (links are all to the right-hand side).

Hanging: Home office (on a brand new laptop!)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "The Very Thought of You" by J.J. Johnson

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Horseclans Series

My first exposure to fantasy and science-fiction, other than fairy tales found in kids books, was Star Wars, as I've talked about before, both the movies and the comics, while I was growing up in Modesto, California. A few years later, I discovered the The Hobbit novel, and Greek Mythology., while living in Sparks (a suburb of Reno), Nevada.

It wasn't until my dad's job transferred him to Sandy (a suburb of Salt Lake City), Utah, that I really discovered the rich and deep history of classic science-fiction and fantasy, particularly the pulp stories of authors like Robert E. Howard. My friend at school, John, introduced me to these, and while books like these were a bit hard to come by in early 1980's Salt Lake City, we could find them from time-to-time at a library or used book store. It was at one of these used book stores that I first discovered the Horseclans series, in the form of the second book of the series, Swords of the Horseclans.

This was purely a case of me judging a book by its cover. This was the Pinnacle edition of the book, published in 1977, and featuring cover art by fantasy and 1960's rock music poster artist Carl Lundgren. At this time, my friend John had exposed me to Gamma World, and I was immediately enthralled with the idea of a post-apocalyptic world full of mutants with strange powers and buried "treasures of the ancients." While Lundren's art on the cover of Swords of the Horseclans caught my eye, it was the copy on the cover that sold me on buying the book:
"A savage, earthy tale of the wars to consolidate a federation of nomads in 27th Century post-holocaust America!"

That's all it took for me to grab this novel and dive in, not realizing that it was the second in a series. I was all about everything post-apocalyptic at this point in my life, particularly "Thundarr the Barbarian," which was still airing on Saturday mornings, and Hiero's Journey, which I had stumbled across on a paperback spin-rack at a drug store in downtown Salt Lake City library. Finding yet another post-apocalyptic book was a boon to me. The fact that it was a very different style than Hiero's Journey, and more like Conan, was another bonus, as I was also obsessed with Conan at the time (another thing my friend John had introduced me to).

The Horseclans series belongs very much to the "pulp" genre of stories, which is interesting given that they were originally published starting in 1975, many decades after the "classic" pulp stories such as Conan, et al. However, there are also quite a few science fiction elements to the Horseclans stories, (such as the prairiecats, allies to the Horseclans, which are actually descendants of successful 20th century genetic programs to recreate prehistoric sabre-toothed cats), and some really fun, fantastical elements (such as a form of telepathy that has developed between members of the Horseclans, their mounts, and their prairiecat allies).

While there are a lot of characters in the series, including the main character, Milo Morai, what I really liked about the series was the world-building. The author, Robert Adams, was an amateur historian and a career soldier, so his battle scenes are very vividly (some would say graphically) described, but there are also lots of political entities, religions, and cultures that are all very well described and just calling out to be included in a post-apocalyptic role-playing game world.

Adams' writing is pretty straight-forward, he does get a bit preachy at times, despite his claim in the first book (The Coming of the Horseclans) that the stories were not intended as any kind of political commentary, and his characters tend to be relatively under-developed. But, it's really the ideas of the societies that have developed in the 700 or so years since World War III (which took place in the 1980s, in the series) that caught my interest as a young Gamma World aficionado. Adams' world includes groups such as Gahniks (former hippie communities, or "organics", whom Adams clearly has no respect for), The Ahrmehnee (formerly Armenian-Americans who devolved into a state of corruption), the Ehlenee (former militaristic Greek invaders onto the East Coast of America following World War III, who eventually became corrupt), The Burkers or Middle Kingdoms (descendants of the survivors of World War III in the middle of America, who became farmers, and are viewed with contempt by the nomads of the Horseclans)... if you notice a theme here, you're catching on to a central point of the series, which is the theme of civilization versus barbarism. However, Adams turns the concept around by creating "noble savages" who are the primary protagonists of the series, and "decadent civilization." In this way, the stories are very much in the vein of Howards' Conan stories.

A note for parents of younger readers - as the series continues, Adams' depiction of sexual scenes grows more and more graphic, to the point where he pretty describes in detail the actual sex acts that are being performed. There is also a certain scene in the first book of the series that's quite uncomfortable to read, as it involves under-age girls essentially being offered as tribute to become wives of enemy combatants. There are all common tropes of the pulp genre, but it's something to be aware of when thinking about books to recommend to younger readers.

What are all your thoughts about this series? I actually never finished all of them (Adams wrote 18 books in the series before he passed away in 1990), and I've never played (or even seen) the GURPS campaign setting for the Horseclans. However, I have incorporated many elements from the series into my Gamma World games over the years, and even into a Savage Worlds post-apocalyptic game I ran for my friends a few years ago, and I suspect that many of you have done the same. Do you have a favorite book in the series? How did you first hear about it? Drop your comments below!

Format: 18 different books, in paperback, all of them around 230 pages+ or so.
Where to Buy: Hopefully you can find these at your local bookstore, but if not, there's always Amazon. The covers on these are horrible (in my opinion), but you can also go to Abebooks to find the older, out-of-print versions with more classic pulp-style fantasy art.
Price: The paperback versions on Amazon are all $12.95; Kindle versions cost $4.99. Prices for the older out-of-print versions vary, of course, based on scarcity and condition.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Bashful Creatures" by Hippo Campus

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Humans of the World of Samoth (Part 2)

While looking over my notes for my campaign world, I discovered a few items from my ancient Yahoo! Geocities website, and found the write-up for the Druid class (which I thought I'd just chosen not to include; see Part 1 of "The Humans of the World of Samoth"), as well as discussions of a few others classes.

Some of the information below was from 3rd party sources, such as feats and some of the character classes. My intent here isn't to provide rules, but rather gave you a sense of the flavor of the world by seeing how different classes could be integrated into the campaign.

The druid is becoming something of an anachronism in the new, "modern" world. With the conversion of barbarian tribes to the more civilized religions, druids find themselves more and more considered outsiders by society. There are cases of druids banding together to protect endangered forest lands or to help crops grow for hungry people. There are even legends of an ancient society of druids stretching back to an age before the time of humans. Most druids in these times, however, are loners and know nothing of such stories.  
Feat Suggestions: Totem, Totem Link, Brew Potion are good choices for the example Druid, below. (Note that Totem and Totem Link were both feats from Green Ronin's Shaman's Handbook for 3rd Edition).
Medicine Man (Example):You are one of the spiritual leaders of an unconverted barbarian tribe in Kovlich. Many campaigns have been waged upon your people, but you have held steadfast in your faith of the old ways of local folklore and superstition. You are determined to keep your traditions alive in this new age.
Suggested Skills: Craft (Alchemy), Knowledge (Religion - Superstition), Survival


With GM approval, certain other classes may be appropriate for a World of Samoth campaign. The statistics for these classes will come from the GM. Descriptions and the roles of some of these classes are noted below.

Note that many of these alternate classes can be played with the standard classes (such as a Cleric or Druid in place of a Shaman or a Fighter or Paladin in place of a Samurai). The information presented below and the character concepts listed therein would still be appropriate.

The shaman can be found throughout the more uncivilized areas of Samoth, acting as spiritual leaders for barbarian tribes or as lone hermits leading ascetic lives in remote regions. Shamans are found mainly in the outlying areas of the Supreme Empire (particularly the Chu Province) and in Atkira. There are also a few shamans in the Lugalate of Nur, and in Kovlich and Margova. Their deep connection with the spirit world frightens some and entrances others. Many shamans are unable to handle their spiritual gifts and not a few are known to have become mentally unstable.
Suggested Feats: Craft Fetish, Craft Charm, Totem (Horse) (Note: These feats were all mainly from the Shaman's Handbook for 3rd Edition).
Chu Dreamer (Example): You are part of a nomadic group of horsemen in the dusty deserts of Chu. The Emperor mostly leaves your people alone except when he requires cavalry to bring the other provinces into line. Since the consolidation of the Supreme Empire, however, wars have been almost non-existent and you are now free to tend to the spiritual needs of your people. The Shamans of Chu have long been seers of great power by interpreting dreams. Of late, however, your dreams and interactions with the spirit world have become dark, and you have left to find the answers that you can't find by staying with your tribe.
          Suggested Skills: Knowledge (Spirits), Heal, Ride, Knowledge (Religion - Chu Animism), Dreaming (Special) (Note: The Dreaming skill was from the 3rd Edition Shaman's Handbook)

The samurai class is part of the nobility of the Supreme Empire. They have powerful martial abilities that make them indispensable for the Emperor. There are few samurai outside of the Supreme Empire, but some can be found among the Sepoy Kpeshiya of Verunhi. The Bellin of the Lugalate of Nur also have a tradition very similar to the Samurai of the Supreme Empire. (Note: This version of the samurai was most likely from Mongoose Publishing's The Quintessential Samurai).
Feat Suggestions: Mounted Combat, Mounted Archery, Dodger, Spring Attack
Lone Wolf (Example): A samurai without a lord, you are known as Ronin. Many such lordless samurai are sellswords, but you have chosen a different path by becoming a protector of the weak and helpless. The lower classes are treated poorly by the aristocracy in the Supreme Empire, and you have decided to try to change that. Your chosen path will be difficult, for not only will you need to fight to protect the innocent, but you will constantly be hunted by the ruling classes of the Supreme Empire as an outlaw.
     Suggested Skills: Bluff, Intimidate, Perception

Other Alternate Classes: Shugenja (Elemental Imperial Bhuwani Rishis of the Sun Court of the Supreme Empire), Sohei (Temple Guardian of the Bhuwani Faith), Witch (primitive nature spellcaster).

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "I'm Leaving You" by Miles Davis & Robert Glasper

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Humans of the World of Samoth

My long-running World of Samoth game still continues - as of May, we've been playing for 16 years now, starting with the 3rd Edition Rules, then to 3.5, and currently using a mix of Pathfinder and Trailblazer.

I'm back to having four players, including my friend Brian who has been with me since the very beginning, playing the same character, Jeremi Udall, a cleric/sorcerer. My wife, Jody, is another one of my players that was there at the very first session, and she's also playing her initial character, a half-elf thief/fighter/shadow-dancer. She had to stop playing for a bit after my daughter was born, but that was eight years ago (gasp!) and my daughter is now old enough to entertain herself when we get together to play. My friend Cal has been with the group for probably about 14 out of our 16 years, and is back to playing his first character, a human fighter name Cirend (he "retired" Cirend for a short time to play a holy warrior/sorcerer character named Sameer, but somewhat recently retired Sameer and brought Cirend out of retirement). Nick is my "newest" player, but he's been with us for well more than half of the 16 years we've been playing, so he's definitely a veteran. His character, Nicodemus, aka "Sombra" ("Shade") has a human holy warrior, and Nick created a very detail history of the knightly order to which his character belongs, which has had an impact on the history and politics of the world.

I've posted before about the Dwarves and Wraith Elves (aka "Dark Elves") of my world, and on my campaign website, I did a write-up of the Goblins of Samoth, but I haven't delved too much into the human cultures of the world. I was recently re-reading all of my World of Samoth posts here on my blog and found a comment by long-time reader +Kelvin Green who mentioned (years ago) that he wanted to see more posts about the World of Samoth. So, this is for him!

For the humans of my world, I mainly gave a sense of their culture by giving examples to my players of each character class from the 3rd Edition Player's Handbook (with the exception of the Druid, for some reason I can't remember right now), and some ideas of how, and where, that class might fit into my world. This was part of my "Campaign Primer" that I sent to my players before we started playing all those years ago, and I patterned the format off of the old 3rd Edition Hero Builder's Guidebook.


Humans are the most varied race on the Samothian World Continent.  They exist in almost every environment, and they explore the world with great enthusiasm.  Human settlements and farms spring up quickly in the explorers' wake.  Humans excel in commerce, the study of arcane arts, and military campaigns.  At the same time, humans tend to live in a "human-centric" universe.  They can be sheltered and unwittingly unkind to members of other races. 

Human characters are the standout members of their race.  Successful humans often become vastly powerful, ruling entire nations or becoming the counselors of kings and generals.  Human characters are drawn from many backgrounds.  Some are raised for a life of adventure, while others find the path as escaped slaves, runaway apprentices, or simply farmers' children who hear the call of their heroic hearts. 

Your human character can come from almost any background; the decision is up to you.  Below are some ideas for human characters for each class in the World of Samoth.

All barbarians are relatively rare in Samoth, particularly in the more civilized nations.  In Buchlayne Major (a continent to the far West), most of the barbarian tribes were either wiped-out or converted to
Ætonism and “civilized” centuries ago.  The few remaining barbarian nations can be found in the
Esorían Highlands and in Stadhof.  The barbarian tribes of Buchlayne Minor (a smaller continent to the east of Buchlayne Major; the bridge between East and West) can be found thinly scattered in outlying areas of Kovlich and Margova, and as desert dervishes in Zhivod.  The continent of Atkira (a mysterious southern continent) is home to many barbarian nations, which live mainly in the southern part of the continent.  There are no barbarian tribes left in Verundhi (a "sub-continent" east of Buchlayne Minor), but there are some to be found in the remote jungle, desert, and mountain regions of Sonsia (a massive continent to the Far East). 
Feat Suggestions: A human picking barbarian as a first-level character may want to consider Alertness, Power Attack, and Track. 
Zhivod Dervish (Example): You are a member of a proud tribe of nomads who make their home in one of the most inhospitable regions on the continent, the fiery deserts of Zhivod.  You do have contact with other more “civilized” societies, but you would never give up your freedom for the constricting ways of city life.  Your tribe does trade with other peoples when it sees fit, and so you have access to a good array of weapons and equipment.  Your loyalty is to the tribe first and to yourself second.  Having left the tribe for an adventuring life, you earned the scorn and disrespect of your elders, but you are determined to find a better way of life for your people so they don’t have to go hungry and thirsty so often.
Suggested Skills: Handle Animal, Heal, Ride, Wilderness Lore

This class covers a wide array entertainers, historians, storytellers, and morale boosters.  They are common throughout the World Continent, not just as musicians and singers but as important repositories of ancient lore and forgotten cultures.  They are common through both Buchlayne Major and Buchlayne Minor, particularly in Courriseux, the Imperial Theocracy, and the City of Ryn.  In the far east, bards tend to focus more on the acting craft instead of singing.  They are entertainers and masters of court intrigue. 
Feat Suggestions: Skill Focus (Perform) should be first on the list.
Ibaran Court Artisan (Example): You are rarity among those in the Supreme Empire, a commoner who is training to be allowed to have access into the Emperor’s Sun Court.  Your bard skills will be used to perform perform Noh or Kabuki drama (a combination of acting, singing, and dancing) for the Emperor.  You have also learned the highly valuable skills of calligraphy, origami, flower arranging, painting, and landscape gardening.  Your skills are highly sought after by nobles and religious figures in the nicest establishments in the Empire.  You have begun a life of adventuring to broaden your skills and for a chance to learn something that no other Court Artisan knows. 
Suggested Skills: You should focus on skill ranks in Perform (Noh or Kabuki), Craft (many kinds, including Calligraphy, Origami, Flower Arranging, and others).  Profession (Artisan) and Gather Information are good secondary choices. 

Clerics are found everywhere throughout the world.  In the civilized areas of Samoth, most clerics will follow one of the four main world religions (Universal Ætonism , Eastern Ætonism, Bhuwani, or Holism).  A quick glance at the Religions page will show that even clerics within these religions are very different from each other and may follow very different paths in their faith.  In the outlying areas, clerics may be found espousing the virtues of local folklore, superstition, or ancient, “pagan” religions.  Clerics are a favored class in Esoría, the Imperial Theocracy, and Zhivod. 
Feat Suggestions: The choice will depend greatly upon the religion that the character follows and preaches.  Guardian Bhuwani Priests as well as Ætonists should take Martial Weapon Proficiency or Combat Casting.  Holem Clerics may want to consider Improved Initiative or Alertness. 
Illuminator (Example): You are being trained in a highly secretive, highly militaristic order of  Universal Ætonism to rid the Buchlayne of non-Ætonists, starting with all dwarves, orcs, and arcane magic-users in Esoría.  You have been recruited for this elite group based on your strength, determination, and desire to see everyone enlightened to the superiority of the Ætonist faith.  Will you choose to continue on this path, or do you find the methods of the Illumination Council to be too extreme for your tastes?
Suggested Skills: Concentration, Diplomacy, Knowledge (Religion – Universal Ætonism)

In the World of Samoth, one will find fighters of all types: guarding merchant caravans, patrolling the streets with the city guard, protecting nobles, and going off to war.  The world can be dangerous, and many people find it prudent to learn basic fighting skills from a local hero or soldier’s guild.  Some people are even self-taught in the warrior’s arts.  Most people who decide to go adventuring in the world would never think of doing so without one or two strong-armed fighters in their group.
Feat Suggestions: The best choices for a first-level fighter include Weapon Focus, Dodge, and Power Attack.  For fighters wishing to specialize in a particular form of combat, Point-Blank Shot or Mounted Combat may also be good choices.
Throecian Mercenary (Example): The Empire of Throecia has dwindled down to but a pale reflection of its former glory.  The Emperor desires to increase the power of Throecia through any means necessary, including war.  He is recruiting strong, able-bodied mercenaries to build up his army and regain some of his lands lost over the centuries to places like Zhivod, Margova, and the Goblin Lugalate.  You are expected to be ready to answer the call for war, but in the meantime you can adventure to gain experience and treasures to make your status in the army even greater.
Suggested Skills: Ride, Climb, Intimidate, Spot, Craft (Weaponsmith)

There are orders of monks throughout the World of Samoth, mainly in the Far East of Sonsia and in Verundhi.  But, even the continents of Buchlayne Major and Minor have their own orders, which have developed spiritual teachings and fighting styles that are a direct reflection of the areas in which they are based.  Monks tend to be lone, solitary figures who spend their days meditating.  There are a few areas where groups of monks work together to overthrow despots or free prisoners from religious persecution.  In other places, however, some orders of monks have been perverted into unholy killing machines by dark, unspeakable magics.  Take care, adventurer, that you do not succumb to these temptations.
Feat Suggestions: Your best bets are Ambidexterity, Dodge, and Mobility.
Ryn Protector (Example): Living in a cosmopolitan city like Ryn can be difficult at times, given the misunderstandings that are bound to occur with different cultures, racial groups, and religions start to mix.  As a Protector you help to maintain law and peace in this large trading metropolis, no short order in a place where conservative Ætonist priests may live side-by-side with Dwarf Holems and “pagan” Orcs. 
Suggested Skills: Tumble, Diplomacy, Move Silently, Listen, Spot, Gather Information

The life of a paladin is never easy.  Picked by higher forces for a life of servitude, the paladin must be ever-ready to answer the call of his god.  This includes fighting the forces of darkness, ministering to the sick, and setting a good example for all people to live a life of good deeds and piety.  Few are capable of managing all of these tasks.  Those special few who do manage can typically count on the admiration of their fellows and grudging respect from their enemies.  A paladin who fails in his duties, however, can expect banishment, excommunication, and perhaps even the direct intervention of his deity.  It is a tough, but very rewarding life, if you are up to the task.
Feat Suggestions: Mounted Combat, Power Attack, Weapon Focus, and Skill Focus (Heal) are good choices.
Sepoy Kpeshiya Guardian (Example): You are a follower of the Bhuwani Faith, and as a resident of Verundhi, you have chosen the Sepoy Kpeshiya path of the Guardians.  You are expected to uphold the tenets of the faith and defend the followers of Bhuwani against outside forces, be they human, magical, religious, or demonic in nature.  Your status as “divinely blessed” will help the morale of your comrades, and puts you in a good position to become a leader.
Suggested Skills: Knowledge (Religion – Bhuwani Faith), Knowledge (other types, including arcana and history), Ride, Intimidate.

Many rangers are the epitome of the classic woodsman.  But, just as many are not.  Rangers operate in many different settings, including mountains, deserts, plains, and even urban areas.  As more or the world is explored and settled, rangers help lead the way by scouting ahead for dangers and using their skills to create settlements.  There is call for the ranger’s varied skills all throughout the world continent, particularly on the fringes of civilization. 
Feat Suggestions: Alertness, Ride, Point-Blank Shot and Far Shot will come in handy for most Rangers.
Stadhof Border Scout (Variant): The land of Stadhof is a bit backwards compared to the rest of civilized Buchlayne Major.  The country still clings to the institution of feudalism and its various lords are always in a state of uneasy truce trying to hold the country together.  To make matters worse, some of the only barbarian tribes left in the Buchlayne are found on the outskirts of Stadhof’s borders.  This is the setting for the Border Scout, who may work for one of the armies of a local prince or duke, or even for the ArchCleric of Stadhof, patrolling the border and keeping a watch out for barbarian raiding parties, or even worse, orc horselords from the steppes. 
Suggested Skills: Hide, Listen, Move Silently, Ride, Search, Spot, Wilderness Lore

There are all types of rogues in Samoth: petty criminals, wilderness bandits, court spies, and even metropolitan lords of the underground.  There are even some honorable rogues to be found, although such are rare.  Just as any good adventuring party knows the importance of keeping a few fighters around, such parties will also acknowledge the value of a highly skilled rogue who can scout ahead undetected, open locks, and spy on enemies.  If he is carefully watched by his party members, the rogue can work well in a party situation.  The rogue comes into his own when operating independently, however, and many will take on side adventures to keep their skills sharp and their purses full.
Feat Suggestions: A rogue character should consider Alertness, Ambidexterity, Blind-Fight, Dodge, Improved Initiative, and Mobility.
Rijnbosch Merchant (Example): The life of a merchant may originally not sound that exciting, but the merchant guilds of the Rijnbosch Republic are powerful organizations that basically created a nation.  A Rijnbosch Merchant is more than just a seller of goods, she is a community leader, explorer, trader, and an “acquirer” of exotic goods.  Many guilds will send out the more adventurous of their members to find new and mysterious goods to sell or export all throughout Buchlayne Major.  A good Rijnbosch Merchant is well-rounded with a lot of skills, and often serves as the public face for the party rather than sneaking around in the background.
Suggested Skills: Knowledge (lots of different kinds), Diplomacy, Bluff, Sense Motive, Gather Information

The powers of sorcery are a mystery to everyone in Samoth.  Most arcane users of magic study for years until they are able to create powerful spells.  For a sorcerer, the power just seems to come to him naturally.  One day, without training, the sorcerer discovered that he had powers to cast spells.  Many legends have grown as to the source of the powers, many believing that they are divinely inspired, and some that they are given by demonic creatures.  Others believe they come from nature, from the very earth itself.  A small few among the faith of the Hol believe that sorcery is given to them through the blood of the djinn that runs in their veins.  No one knows for certain.  All that is known is that sorcerers add an element of mystery and danger into the world.  You should use this as an opportunity to make some notes on how and when you discovered your powers. 
Feat Suggestions: Combat Casting and Scribe Scroll are two good choices.  Characters with low constitution may want to consider Toughness as well.
m’Boro Society Sorcerer (Example): It is rumored that the m’Boro Society are the real rulers of Atkira (at least in the north).  Almost nothing is known about the society, but many believe that powerful families from Zembari are the power behind the m’Boro.  The majority of the Society are ritual magic-users.  Very little else about the Society and its goals is known.  As a member, you were born into the Society.  Will you exploit its power, or will you investigate it from within to discover its true purpose?
Suggested Skills: Alchemy, Knowledge (arcana), Spellcraft, Intimidation, and Craft (weaving) are good choices.

Wizards are the subject of debate and heated conversation in many parts of Samoth, particularly in Buchlayne Major where they are nearly outlawed by the Universal Ætonist faith.  In other parts of the world, the reputation of a wizard is looked upon in varying degrees of suspicion.  Some countries, however, have embraced the wizard for the immense hours of study and dedication it takes to master the arcane arts, and look to them for advice and information.  Many wizards get their funds for continued spell research from such advisor-roles.  As a newly freed apprentice, you should make some notes about your previous Master, such as his personality, the type of magic in which he specialized, and the morals that he taught you about using magic.
Feat Suggestions: Combat Casting and Scribe Scroll are good choices.
Zhivod Astrologer (Example): As an astrologer, you are a source of information and fortune-telling for the common people.  As your reputation grows, you may even end up as an advisor in the court of the Caliph.  Astrologers are part-mystic, part-showman, and oftentimes part-charlatan.  How you want to play your particular Astrologer is up to you.  Zhivod has a long tradition of astrologers, and there is most certainly one of the type that appeals to you that will take you as a student.  Learn well, and one day you may be able to pass your skills onto another.
Suggested Skills:  Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (Astrology), Scry and Spellcraft are good areas to focus.

I'd love to hear from others out there running their own homebrew campaigns, and how closely, or how differently, their classes in their worlds follow any of the above examples.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Deschutte's Pinedrops IPA
Listening: "Dear Prudence" by the Beatles
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