Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, I share a tweet that reminded me of something else. (Image of the tweet appears at the end in case it’s ever deleted. ) To my knowledge, this tweet had nothing to do with RPGs. It was just a ridiculous design made for the sake of ridiculousness.
That said, it instantly triggered an image in my head. Is this the FASA Star Trek RPG equivalent of 3rd Edition D&D‘s roving mauler?
A few of weeks ago, I saw The Northman. I loved it but understand that it isn’t for everyone. It’s a Norse tale, which means it doesn’t fit the formula for what sells in Peoria.
The cast was great, but this post isn’t a review. The movie, like several others before it, got me thinking.
I didn’t study mythology because of my interest in 1st Edition D&D (“1e”); it was the other way around. Mythology (and dinosaurs) got me into 1e in the 1970s. I thought, “Wow! I can tell my own stories within these settings and characters?!” However, whether it’s D&D, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, or Bulfinch’s Mythology, western literature tends to sanitize the characters and their stories. The “good-aligned” deities are often presented as noble, loving, and helpful. There are certainly some exceptions — Zeus was an asshole — but the sense of right and wrong have been aligned at least to some extent to what the modern audience thinks as “good.” We really do make the gods in our own image. The Northman reminds us that the “good guy” is not someone you’d want to marry your daughter. Life was brutal and uncaring back then, and being that way yourself was an effective survival strategy.
That said, there’s a reasonableness to garnering lessons from these myths. In a very narrow, personal way, I relate rather strongly to the protagonist’s backstory (appropriately discussed today). I would never handle our similar predicament in the same way, but the character’s backstory loosely parallels my own. If you dig through the primitive details of the specific culture at hand, you can find some universal truths, or at least something to which you can relate (no more than vaguely, I hope). After all, people take from stories whatever message they want to hear. We tend to cut out the brutality from these stories, and thus also ignore how those that wrote them applied them to real life.
So no, you wouldn’t want to invite any of these ancient people to dinner.
Today, I kick off my death theme for the last throes of my one-year streak of daily posting to this blog, I’m going to reiterate and summarize the content from a couple other posts. More detail on my positions can be found by clicking through.
I’ve spoken about how dumb I feel the save or die mechanic is (though my stance has softened a bit since I wrote that and started playing 1st Edition D&D [“1e“]). Moreover, in that same post I’ve talked about how much I enjoy the way 4th Edition D&D (“4e”) applied their remedial mechanic (“save three times or die”) to one of my favorite creatures, the medusa: slowed on first failed save, immobilized on the second failed save, and petrified on the third failed save. In fact, I’ve adapted that mechanic to my medusa in my 1e game simply because I enjoy it. Even if you prefer save or die, petrification is far more dramatic when the character (and player) can feel it slowly taking over. That’s dramatic and immersive.
All that said, I never understood the aversion modern gamers have towards character death (at least among those that play D&D). I have a friend who refused to kill my character even though he knew I didn’t mind it. He minded. There are two reasons I’m completely okay with character death. First, without risk, the reward loses meaning (at least to anyone with an ego). Second, as with other forms of failure, it presents new opportunities. I can switch to playing a completely different character before having the chance to grow tired of the now-dead character. Moreover, the one time I convinced that friend to kill one of my characters, it was because I wasn’t enjoying playing the character. This character is the brother of two of my other characters, one of whom I played as recently as this year’s Winter Fantasy. His death was not only heroic, but has now enhanced my other characters’ backstories. Win-win. Besides, it’s not as if anyone is actually dying. This is a fantasy world and should be viewed as such.
Now, all that said, we can have overkill. I was in a 4e Dark Sun campaign where, over 9 weeks of gaming, I lost five characters. My barbarian died in week one, so I rolled up a new character that lasted two weeks, then another that lasted two weeks, and so on. Each of those deaths meant that I had to write one of my one-page-or-more backstories. To paraphrase a friend, I shouldn’t have to write that much for you unless the result is money or a university degree. Full disclosure: One of my characters was a reanimated revenant of the one that died the week prior. So, I prefer a balance between the two rather than choosing one at the exclusion of the other. As with most things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
With this post, I’ve posted every day for an entire year. That’s right. The last day that I didn’t post was May 1, 2021. Before that, I was last discussing Key Lime Kit Kat bars.
This blows away my current record streak.
But wait a second. Is this even real? Can the post announcing that I’ve posted every day for a year be the anniversary post itself?
I say yes, and if you disagree, just keep in mind that I posted a bonus post on April 9, April 13, April 19, and April 25, so there have already been over 365 posts in this time without this one. There may have even been a couple more bonus posts, but I’m too lazy to look.
On another note, today is the first day of May. May is hockey playoffs, college lacrosse playoffs, preparations for the summer, and — most importantly — the month when all the cool people are born. Plus, I was born in May.
So, in 11 days, the streak will die. I want to focus on other things, and consistency hasn’t led to a large number of non-spam followers. Rarely does anyone retweet the tweets linking to these posts (likes merely gauge your footprint, not increase it), and almost all comments occur on other social media platforms, so my streak hasn’t done anything to improve my online footprint (except for a brief moment). Besides, many of my recent posts have been rather lame. If I didn’t have something to say, I’d write anyway, and it shows. I have a few more posts scheduled for this week, some others in my head that will come soon, and a handful scheduled to publish as far out as December. However, going forward, if I don’t have something to say, I won’t say anything. I’ll never feel rushed, and anything goofy will have to be funny enough to be worth sharing.
This is a short one. I really love that there’s technology available for people to play long-distance. It allows you to reconnect with friends or make new ones. It also proved very useful in the pandemic. We all know these things, but they just don’t matter to me. I hate online gaming.
Gaming is a social affair. It’s about sitting around a table, eating pizza, drinking Mountain Dew, and rolling a physical set of dice. I’ve done it online, and at times it was better than nothing, but only barely. I’m forced to do it again this weekend, as a player in my new home game will be dialing in from out of state. Our first session was about a month ago, and I don’t want to put this one off any further, but I just don’t like it. On the other hand, I like having online hangouts with friends. Perhaps the difference is that I grew up with a telephone that allowed for (quasi-)hanging out when not in person, but gaming has always in person.
Whatever the reason, it’s just how I feel. I don’t expect you to feel the same way. It’s not an objective truth, so as with all things, YMMV.
And that was your purely destructive post for the day.
It’s been a minute since I’ve written about D&D, and it’s going to be a little while before I do so again. (The next couple weeks of posts have been written.) So, I wanted to get back on track. I’ve talked about how I prefer to play D&D, and why that drove me from the game for a while, and in that post I discussed puzzles a bit. This expands on that.
I like puzzles.
Acrostics, sudoku, crosswords, Wordle . . . you name it, I love to solve them or write them. I also like to be challenged, which means if I always succeed, I lose interest. I’ve noticed that many players don’t like puzzles, and that many who do like them will get frustrated unless they always succeed. That’s fine, of course; play what you like, but it’s part of why I stopped playing altogether, and even now am just running games. I seem to be in a small minority among the nerd circles I frequent. Crafting puzzles is as much about finding the right level of difficulty for the group as it is about the logic of its design.
I think I found the basis for a puzzle that many people can enjoy. I present to you the Cistercian numbers.
If you have a group that doesn’t like hard puzzles, then simply writing a number can be the puzzle itself. To make sure you get it write (intentional typo, because I think I’m funny), here’s a converter care of @dCode_fr. If you have a group that likes hard puzzles, this can throw a wrinkle into the mix. If they need to calculate or otherwise decode a number, make them read the puzzle, or write the answer, in this system. You could also provide a hint that the characters must add the appropriate markings in the order in which they appear in the Arabic numerals (i.e., if the number is 12, add the horizontal line running left first, and then the one running right second — 10 than 2). Perhaps a Cistercian clock could be counting down, so that you don’t know how much time you have. That would probably require some software engineering on your part, but if you can code and you like puzzles, why not?
Okay, I know I burdened you with a lame unboxing just 5 days ago, but this is a good one. This is without a doubt the nicest collectable I now own. Behold, the unboxing of a 1st Edition D&DWilderness Survival Guide with James Ward’s signature in the inner cover.
As a follow up to yesterday’s post, I provide a video talking about the history of vampires. Sure, I should have posted this last Monday, as I had just seen Morbius the day before, but I’m weeks ahead of schedule in my writing, and I’m too lazy to shuffle around the posts and rewrite them so their new order of publication jives with the text within.
My 1st Edition AD&D (“1e“) players’ characters are still in their adventuring infancy, so it’s too early to throw a vampire at them, but I look forward to it. Maybe I could create a more level-appropriate 1e Dhampir myself.
Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s an image shared in my social media stream. The title of this post serves a double meaning. As any reader of this blog knows, I’m running my first 1st Edition D&D campaign in 40 years, and I have no idea what I’m doing, so what’s old is new. The meaning I infer from the image below is to say that even something trite can shock the players.
As always, if you can translate the signature, I’d like to point people to the artist. EDIT: The artist is Miles Tevis. You can find his work here.