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. 

Feat Suggestions:
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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Currently Watching List: Updated (July 18th, 2017)

Similarly to what I just updated with my Currently Reading list a few months ago, I just updated my "Currently Watching" list. As with the reading list, this one has changed quite a bit over the past four years.

My list of TiVo shows I have on Season Pass has grown quite a bit to include all of the DC shows on the CW (but not "Gotham," which I gave up on halfway through Season 2), and a few other shows, and also I dropped quite a few other shows that I used to watch with my wife, such as "Once Upon a Time." Interestingly, she has been watching that show with my daughter.

I noticed that I'm not getting out to the theater as often as I used to, which is natural with having an 8 year-old (she just turned 8 about 10 days ago!). Also, due to her growing up a bit more, we've dropped most of the Disney Jr. and Nickelodeon shows, and she's been watching a ton of older shows with me, including Looney Tunes, the early 2000's "Teen Titans," and I've introduced her to things like "Samurai Jack," and "Young Justice." She also loves "Animaiacs." It's been great that so many of these shows are on Netflix or other streaming services.

I also noticed that I watch a lot fewer movies on Streaming/Cable than I used to. I think it's partly due to my work schedule and how at the end of the day, my wife and I are just so tired that we typically end up falling asleep even when we do try to watch something. Ah, the life of a middle-aged working parent. Full of thrills and excitement at every turn.

However, I have been going back on streaming services to re-watch old TV series that I haven't watched in years, including "Star Trek: Voyager" which is surprisingly not as bad as I remembered it to be, and I just recently started re-watching "Game of Thrones" beginning with the first season.

I'd love to hear about the things you're currently watching, and hear your comments on the shows and movies on my list. Put a comment below, or leave a comment on Google +, Twitter, or Facebook.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "And Your Bird Can Sing" by the Beatles

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Currently Reading List: Updated (April 11th, 2017)

It's been nearly four years since I updated my "Currently Reading" list, so I took a few minutes this afternoon to do so, as obviously a lot has changed in the past four years. Oddly, this is one of my pages that tends to get a lot of viewers month after month even though it hasn't been updated.

My list of comics has changed - even though some of the titles might look similar to those from the last update, the Batgirl, Batman, Flash, and Justice League comics (among others) listed before were the "New 52" versions of those comics, whereas last year DC rebooted their universe again and now I'm reading the "Rebirth" versions of those same titles.

In terms of fiction, I'm about two chapters into The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and on the non-fiction front, I'm reading several different cocktail books that were all gifts from around the time of the holidays. Over the past few years, I've really gotten into craft cocktails and I enjoy making my own syrups and bitters, infusing spirits, and barrel-aging cocktails, so I enjoy reading new tips and techniques.

Have a look at my list and let me know if you're reading (or have previously read) anything on here.

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "Black Gold" by Esperanza Spalding from "Radio Music Society"

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Six Years of Blogging

This past Sunday, the 11th of February, marked my sixth year blogging here at Daddy Rolled a 1. As per the tradition of my most of my years blogging, I missed the actual anniversary, although this year I did remember it on the day, but just didn't have a chance to get to my computer to write about it.

Year after year, I blog a little less - last year I only averaged about one post a month, which is much less than I'd really like. Much of this has to do with a combination of increased workload (which is a good thing, given that I own boutique ad agency that I started myself, so having "too much work" really means "you have some job security") and also some lingering effects from my daughter's accident that I wrote about in the autumn of 2015. I've just not felt much like blogging because I feel like I'd like to spend my free time with my daughter playing games or reading to her, and then when I'm not doing that, we've had to deal with multiple medical and legal appointments for her, and the rest of the repercussions from her accident have honestly just been emotionally draining on my family and me, so blogging tends to take a back seat.

I hope for that to change this year, as I still have a long list of topics I want to blog about (many of them still on the list  made for myself when I first started my blog), and I have slowly but surely been continuing to work on a project that I eventually intend to publish, and I've been thinking about maps and art styles that that. I'd say it's about 50% written at this point.

Unlike the last two years, I don't have a "Top 10 Things from the Past Year" list, nor a "Things I'm Looking Forward to Next Year" type of list, but I can recap a few of my posts from last year before I get to the stats.

I actually started off last year pretty strong, with two posts in January, including the first of a new "series" I started wherein I review forgotten, under-the-radar D20 books (starting with From Stone to Steel) and talk about how you can apply them to modern systems like Pathfinder (easy!), D&D 5th Edition (relatively easy), or stuff like Savage Worlds (not as difficult as you might think).

My biggest month of blogging was in February, when I wrote another D20 post about The Book of the Righteous and also a sort-of "accompanying" post for my "Victorian Era Mondays" series in which I reviewed the D20 version of Masque of the Red Death. I also blogged about my first participation in a LARP and previewed that I had been honored with being selected as a Judge again for the One Page Dungeon Contest.

Things slowed down in March, when I blogged only twice, once about a half-history/half-biography about the Comics Industry by writer Grant Morrison, and also reviewed one of my favorite comic series, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (again, the comic, not the movie).

I didn't blog again until June, when I posted some comics reviews including the new DC Universe Rebirth Special, which rebooted their universe. My next post wasn't until August, when I blogged about one of my favorite drawing books (or really, just favorite book, period) from childhood, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. And that was it for the year, unfortunately.

Here at the Stats
  • 5,512 Page Views. This is down from the 8,235 I had last year.
  • 1.43 Pages/Session (last year: 1.53 Pages/Session, down 6.07%)
  • Average session duration 1:26 (last year 1:44; down 17.79%)
  • 81.19% Bounce Rate (last year 79.55%, down about 2%)
  • 79.73% of visitors were "new" instead of returning (70.85% last year, so this is an increase of 12.53%)
  • 81.21% of the readers are from English-US readers (last year, 83.96%)

My goal this year will be to blog more and increase those stats above.

Over the past month, eight of the Top 10 posts are older posts on the site (some dating back to the year I started blogging in 2011), and one of the perennial top posts is actually a page on the site, "Currently Reading" which is funny because I haven't updated that in years. 

I look forward to hearing from you all, particular with topics you'd like me to cover (or to resurrect). Leave me a comment below, or message me on Google Plus, Facebook, or Twitter (links are all to the right-hand side).

Cheers, everyone!

  • Hanging: A conference room in West Los Angeles for a mediator (related to my daughter accident) on my laptop
  • Listening: Nothing right now
  • Drinking: "Talking Rain" sparkling water

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

New Comics Wednesday: Kamandi Challenge

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.

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

For today, I'll be focusing on Kamandi, which I know holds a special place in the heart of many old-school gamers, especially those who enjoy Gamma World. Kamandi is described in the comic as "The Last Boy on Earth" - he is the protagonist in a post-apocalyptic earth following the "Great Disaster" in which most of humanity has been reduced back to a savage state in a world that is now ruled by intelligent animals that walk upright, can use tools, and speak a common language.

Kamandi was created back in the 1972 by Jack "The King" Kirby as DC's answer to The Planet of the Apes franchise, to which they did not own the license but which was a very popular science-fiction property at the time. It ran for about six years, through 1978, and the character has popped up since then in a variety of ways, most notably in the "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" animated series on Cartoon Network from 2008 - 2011.

Today's comic I'll be picking up is the Kamandi Challenge #1, which is the first issue of a 12-part limited series by DC Comics. As part of a centennial celebration of Jack Kirby's birth back in 1917, DC created the Kamandi Challenge wherein each month, a different creative team will write and illustrate a chapter in a Kamandi story and leave off with a cliffhanger, and the following month, the next creative team has to pick-up where the previous team left off to propel the story forward. The teams include some of the best names in comics, including Peter J. Tomasi (current writer of Batman), Neal Adams, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Bill Willingham (yes, the same guy who used to illustrate old D&D products), Gail Simone, Keith Giffen, Greg Pak and so many more.

If you're a fan of Jack Kirby, post-apocalyptic stories, or fun comics with a Silver Age vibe, you'll definitely want to pick this up. I haven't had a chance to read the actual issue yet, but everything I've seen leads to believe that this will be right up my alley. The original Kamandi comics had a ton of inspiration for a post-apocalyptic style role-playing game and have impacted a current project I'm working on, so I suspect that this new series will add even more ideas.

Note that last week, DC also published the Kamandi Challenge Special #1, which is a reprint of the classic Kamandi #32 double-size $0.50 "giant" issue from 1975, which in turn also included a reprint of the #1 issue of the series. It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the world of Kamandi and its cast of characters.

Anyone else picking up the Kamandi Challenge today? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

  • Format: Monthly 12-issue limited series, full color
  • 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 Kamandi Challenge #1 page, where you can find a link to buy the first issue.
  • Price: $4.99 per issue
  • Rated: "T" for Teen
  • More Information: The official DC page on the Kamandi Challenge

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Just came from a pub where I drank a Mikkeller "George" Imperial Russian Stout
Listening: "Waltz for Debby" by Cannonball Adderly

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Old Campaign Maps & Drawings

Old map I drew in one of my high school notebooks. Based
on the names I used, this was probably from my junior
year, circa 1986/1987.
I don't typically do "throwback Thursday" posts (not even on social media), but I thought this particular one would be a bit fun and hopefully spark some discussion, as it deals with creating maps for fantasy worlds.

Over the summer, my dad moved out of the house that he'd been living in since around 1991/92 or so. I lived in this house for only a few years, while I finished college and started my job, but I had moved all of my old stuff into the house and much of it did not come with me when I moved out in 1995. Over the years, tons of my old stuff has been safely tucked away in my old bedroom, in the closet or garage, untouched for the better part of two decades.

I am, for better or worse, a bit of a pack rat. I tend to carefully pack things away rather than get rid of them, mainly from a weird sense that one day in the future, my descendants can get a better sense of the type of person I was based on the things I collected rather than just from the occasional picture or greeting card. My family on both my mom and dad's side kept very little in terms of personal keepsakes or mementos, and both families went through a very significant purge when they moved from the South and Midwest and made their way out West in the 1940's or before. As part of my mom's genealogical research, I have a pretty long collection of names and dates of my ancestors, but very little that tells me what kind of people they were. This was always very frustrating to me as I grew up, and I believe contributed to my personality quirk of never wanting to part with my things; I have this feeling that some day, someone might want to know that I read a certain book, or wrote or received a card from someone, or that I drew a picture or map, or that I played D&D or Warhammer 40k.

Cleaning out my dad's house was a huge task that included going through not only my old stuff but also my mom's, grandma's, and uncle's possessions, all of whom had already died and whose things had been boxed up and packed in the garage at my dad's house for years. It was a monumental undertaking that took weeks, and we ended up throwing many of the things out (much to my chagrin) due to lack of time, and throwing a lot more of it into a storage unit (family photos, a couple of pianos, etc.).

This particular map was from either my freshman or
sophomore year of high school. It was based on the
students and friends in my Third period Spanish class.
©1985 Martin R. Thomas
While focusing on cleaning out my old closet and boxes in the garage, I found a bunch of my old notebooks from high school and college. Yes, I know it might sound strange, but I actually kept all of the notebooks that I used to take notes during class, and even all of my old paperbag book covers that I used on my school textbooks (mainly because I drew pictures all over the book covers). One thing I was happy to discover during this process was a bunch of old maps I had drawn in various classes. I used to love doodling during class to pass the time, and I would create maps of fantasy worlds based upon the people in the class I was in, and then I would develop the political history of the region based upon the relationships of the people in my class. I'm sure I'm not the only person who ever did this, but I've never talked to anyone else who did this. I found two of these maps in my old notebooks, which I've enclosed here with this post. One of them that really cracks me up is "The Continent of Shinaps Drith" which was based on the students in my Third period Spanish class (I took a lot of my naming conventions back then from Gary Gygax). Looking closely at the map, you'll see a country named "Samoth" and another one named "East Samoth" (tweaks of my last name); this was a very early proto-campaign that morphed with a few other maps and notes I had that eventually evolved into my World of Samoth campaign, which I've been running since May of 2001.

One of the earliest maps and list of countries I created for
what was to eventually become my World of Samoth D&D
campaign. This was probably from my sophomore year
of college.
©1990 Martin R. Thomas
In addition to maps, I would make notes, and the back of one of my notebooks included notes on various countries I was planning on developing into a campaign world. The picture that includes a sketch of a goblin with a spear would have been from my sophomore year of college around 1990 (I can tell because I took Ancient Greek for my language requirement that year and I was clearly experimenting with some of those letters), and it also includes the start of a list of countries including Esoría, the Holy Ætonist Theocracy, and Kovlich, all of which became part of my campaign world. The small map to the upper right might be one of the first (at least, that I can still find) maps of my campaign world.

Lastly, just for fun, I also included a drawing I made on the back of one of my notebooks. This was based on a drawing from one of Marvel's old Conan comics, from around 1987 or so. Despite what it may look like from all of the drawings I made in my school notebooks, I actually did quite well in school. We moved around a lot and by the time we moved to where we lived when I made most of these drawings, it was in the middle of high school (my dad got transferred between my Sophomore and Junior years in high school) and so I was constantly the "new kid" and would spend a lot of time drawing and working on a campaign world even though I didn't have anyone to play with because it always took me forever to make friends. My drawings were my passive-aggressive way to get people to talk to me. I was really shy, but I figured if someone saw me drawing, it might be an ice breaker to a conversation. It worked sometimes but backfired a lot more as I got labeled as "that weird kid who draws maps and strange creatures."
This drawing was based on one of Marvel's
Conan comics from around 1987. I was
practicing my figure drawing.

Anyone else out there used to draw maps in their school notebooks, and did you ever base the politics of your worlds on the relationships of people in your class? 

For more info on my World of Samoth campaign, you can of course on the World of Samoth tag, and also read this post celebrating my 14th year of DM'ing my campaign back from May 2015 which includes a bunch of my drawings from my campaign notebook. 

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "Christmas in Rio" by Tony Martin

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