Saturday, April 30, 2011

Greyhawk Session 17

The various vicissitudes of fate conspired to cause us to cancel the last two scheduled sessions of the Greyhawk game, and we were all raring to go tonight.

Present were Present were Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Kabliska, human mystic; Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Mongo, half-orc fighter; and Sir Faust Ensign, human Cavalier.

After having gotten sorely wounded in their previous encounters with a hydra and giant beetles beneath the crumbling ruins of the Castle of the Mad Archmage, the group recuperated in the Cock and Bottle and then decided to assay the dungeons once more. This time they decided to explore a section they had previously visited, as the soundness of their map was in question.

Indeed, the party spent quite a bit of time re-exploring the section of the dungeon, but it was not entirely unfruitful, as they managed to discover linkages between sections of their maps that they had not previously realized, and thus discovered where the great central staircase fit into their previous means of entry to the level. Unfortunately, they managed to trigger a trap in their explorations, when a section of the floor pivoted down, dropping Sir Faust and the hireling Salvomar onto a bed of spikes.

Having reconciled their maps and figured out what was what, they struck out into unexplored territory. Sir Faust decided to attempt to knock down a locked door they encountered, which turned out to be made of balsa wood, behind which were... more spikes. He thundered through at full speed, crashing through the door and impaling himself on the spikes. Fortunately, first aid was at hand.

More exploration was done, and another door opened, this time revealing a group of reptilian humanoids. Sir Faust proved his dedication to the cavalier's oath and charged in, followed by several of his companions. The troglodytes ended up proving to be tougher opponents than they had realized, especially as their stench took effect and the party members started losing strength points. This was an especial blow to Mongo's pride, as he was used to enjoying massive bonuses due to his exceptional strength. "How do you people fight like this?" he asked.

Both Sir Faust and Salvomar went down during the combat, only to have their wounds bound and be sent back into the fray (albeit with hefty penalties, but they managed to score some hits even despite those handicaps). The trogs were eventually laid low, but it was a close thing, and almost everyone was reduced severely in hit points, and if a few more dice rolls had gone the other way, it would have been a TPK. But the party prevailed, and discovered a hoard of 10 pieces of jewelry for their troubles. When all was said and done, each had more than a thousand gold pieces as their share, and returned to the Cock and Bottle to nurse their wounds.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wargaming Videos

There are, at least to my mind, a surprising number of videos on YouTube relating to both hex-and-counter wargames and miniatures wargaming. The latter is perhaps not as surprising, as it's a game genre that's undergoing a decade-or-longer resurgence thanks to games such as Warhammer and Flames of War. Wargaming companies themselves have gotten into the act, and provided some videos showing what's in the box and how it's used. Some are reviews of specific games, which I think is a fantastic application of the video format for wargaming.

I've gone through YouTube offerings and plucked out a few for your perusal. I heartily encourage anyone with an interest to do some searching or look at the "related videos" and get a real feel for what's out there.



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sussex County Ruins

I took advantage of the good weather this past weekend (finally!) to take some photographs of some of the ruins in the woods near my home. Click to embiggen.

I would love to use them myself in a game, to give players a real feel for what I'm describing. Hopefully someone can make use of them.

Ruined bridge piling in the Musconetcong River

View from the north shore

View from the bank of the river


An overgrown wall near the Sussex Branch Trail

A ruined building visible from Waterloo Road

A piece of the corner

Through the doorway



Forgotten bridge mountings on a tributary of the Musconetcong River
Creative Commons License
Sussex County Ruins by Joseph Bloch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Casey at the Bat

In honor of my daughter's first ever softball game (two hits for singles --including her first ever at-bat-- and one earned run), and with no gaming content whatsoever, I present...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrected Deities

Mythology is replete with examples of gods who died and were reborn. The idea is one of several central to both Indo-European and Middle Eastern mythology. Frasier's Golden Bough argued that such myths were intended to explain the phenomenon of the ripening of the fields, their harvest, and subsequent re-planting. Unfortunately, he went a bit overboard with the explanation, finding vegetation gods and goddesses just about everywhere he looked.

Frasier's excesses notwithstanding, the lineage of gods and goddesses who are said to have died and then been returned to life is impressive, revealing a strain of thought deeply rooted in the shared cultural heritage of Europe and the Middle East.
  • Zalmoxis died and dwelt in Hades for three years, then returned to spread the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.
  • Dionysus was devoured by the Titans, except his heart, which Zeus used to bring him back to life. The cult of Dionysus celebrated with a feast of bread and wine, and the Greek Orphic tradition placed a great emphasis on salvation of the soul in the afterlife.
  • Osiris was slain by his brother Set, and chopped into pieces which were then thrown into the Nile. The pieces (with one notable exception... ahem) were gathered up by their sister Isis, and Osiris was brought back to life. 
  • After Krishna was slain by an arrow, his soul ascended into heaven and his body was cremated. Thereafter, he was resurrected as a god.
  • Ishtar descended into the underworld and, after having sat on the throne of Ereshkigal, was slain and her corpse hung up on a nail(!). She was later rescued and brought back to life by Tammuz, who remained in the underworld in her stead.
  • Odin was hung on the World Tree for nine nights as a sacrifice "myself to myself", whereafter he emerged from the trial with the knowledge of the runes.
  • Balder was slain by his brother and descended into Hel, the Norse underworld. There he will remain until the Ragnarok burns the entirety of the multiverse to ashes, after which time he will re-emerge to lead a new generation of gods in a reborn universe.
This is but a small representation of the dozens of such figures in mythology. It does get me wondering, however, if such a figure might not be found in Greyhawk mythology. I would probably see Rao or Pelor as the most likely candidates for the role of life-death-rebirth deity, although Atroa, goddess of spring, is also said to have "renewal" as part of her nature, so she would also be a likely candidate.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Aaron Uses His Staff of the Serpent...

The bible forms part of our shared cultural landscape, even if I don't personally believe it to be divinely inspired or anything more than a collection of stories about mythological figures, Noah, Moses and Jesus included. But from a literary point of view, no other book has had the impact on Western civilization of the bible in terms of the imagery, the characters, the situations, and the phraseology. It should come as no surprise that these influences are to be found in Dungeons and Dragons, particularly as Gygax was himself a keen believer. For example...

Staff of the Serpent: When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast before Pharaoh, it shall become a serpent. (Exodus 7:9)

Horn of Blasting: So the people shouted when [the priests] blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:20)

Robe of Scintillating Colors: Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he [was] the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of colours. (Genesis 37:3)

Create Food & Water: And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave [them] to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men. (Mark 6:41-44)

Exorcise: When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with [his] word, and healed all that were sick. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare [our] sicknesses. (Matthew 8:16-17)

Cure Blindness: And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. ... And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way. (Mark 10:46-52)

Cure Disease: And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Part Water: And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go [back] by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry [land], and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry [ground]: and the waters [were] a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.  (Exodus 14:21-22)

Raise Dead: Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:41-44)

And then, of course, there are all those dinosaur entries in the Monster Manual...


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Castles & Crusades Introductory Set Coming

Scott Thorne over at ICV2 has an interesting bit of news; apparently the good folks over at Troll Lord Games are planning an introductory set for Castles & Crusades. The whole article is interesting as well, with Scott musing on the utility of such introductory sets, and bemoaning their relative lack on game store shelves today. Definitely worth reading for that, but here's the money quote for the C&C fans:
I am keeping my fingers crossed that Troll Lords Games comes out with the product they described in our discussion; a boxed set with quick start rules for Castles & Crusades, pre-made characters, a short adventure and maps for $10 to $15. That will give me two great value intro sets to use to move customers further into their respective product lines, with the hope of more to come from other companies. A store owner can wish.
Hey, I've got all the C&C rulebooks (some in several copies and/or iterations) and that's something I'd wish for, too.
 
EDIT: Hey, I just realized that I made my 500th post a couple of days ago. Woot!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Wandering Monsters

Sung to the tune of "Interjections", from the old School House Rock songs, and inspired by this thread over at Rather Gamey. Those of you who don't remember the song, or didn't grow up in the U.S. in the 1970's and 1980's, might want to listen to the original song at the bottom of the post first.

----------

Wandering Monsters
by Joseph Bloch
(To the tune of "Interjections" by Lynn Ahrens)

The party wouldn't leave level two, uh-huh-huh
The DM knew just what to do-hoo
What came down the hall were
Some carrion crawlers
When the dice said there would be a wand’ring monster…

Hey! They’re tough!
Damn! I’m hit!
Jeeze! It’s not fair sending 6th level monsters at us up here!

Wand’ring monsters (Hey!) mix the game up (Damn!) keep it moving (Jeeze!)
They’re generally monsters that don’t fit into the regular dungeon key
Or nearby monsters when the dungeon is too small…

A ranger beat a ghoul in the woods, uh-huh-huh
His friends were fighting over grave go-ods
The raucous commotion
Put ghasts into motion
When the dice said there would be a wand’ring monster…

Ack! There’s more of them!
Wait! They seem to have more hit dice than before.
Ugh! What’s that smell?

Wand’ring monsters (Ack!) mix the game up (Wait!) keep it moving (Ugh!)
They’re generally monsters that don’t fit into the regular dungeon key
Or nearby monsters when the dungeon is too small…

So when the game’s lagging (Damn!) or slow (Jeeze!)
You’re squabbling (Ack!) or loud (Ugh!)
Fate says (Aw!) or whim (Frack!)
A wand’ring monster’s sure to start a fight!

The troupe came to the end of the quest, uh-huh-huh
The lich found he was second be-est
The magical fighting
Drew demons like lightning
When the dice said there would be a wand’ring monster…

Aw! We cleared out that room already!
Frack! Anyone have any healing potions?
Lookout! That one has an ebon skull-tipped wand!

Wand’ring monsters (Aw!) mix the game up (Frack!) keep it moving (Lookout!)
They’re generally monsters that don’t fit into the regular dungeon key
Or nearby monsters when the dungeon is too small…

So when the game’s lagging (Damn!) or slow (Jeeze!)
You’re squabbling (Ack!) or loud (Ugh!)
Fate says (Aw!) or whim (Frack!)
A wand’ring monster’s sure to start a fight!

Wand’ring monsters (Damn!) mix the game up (Damn!) keep it moving (Damn!)
They’re generally monsters that don’t fit into the regular dungeon key
Or nearby monsters when the dungeon is too small…

Wand’ring monsters mix the game up keep it moving
Tee Pee Kay now, Tee Pee Kay now, Tee Pee Kaaaaaaaaaaay… YEA!

Darn! I’m at zero h.p.

----------

The original:


Poll Results

So last week I asked a question; "Do you currently play an 'old school' RPG?" with the definition of what constitutes an old school RPG left to the individual responders. Before I take down the poll, I thought I'd repost the results and offer a wee bit of commentary.

There were 226 votes, with the poll lasting one week. Not too shabby. The answers were as follows (respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer):

No: 44 (19%)
Yes, I am a player in a face-to-face game: 69 (30%)
Yes, I GM a face-to-face game: 125 (55%)
Yes, I am a player in an online game: 25 (11%)
Yes, I GM an online game: 18 (7%)
Other: 7 (3%)

The poll was originally set up to put the lie to the assertion that people in the OSR just talk about games, rather than actually rolling dice. It is a self-selected sample, of course, but I think the question is solved to my personal satisfaction, pending some other, better, source. 81% of the respondents play in some capacity.

I personally find the preponderance of GMs (as opposed to players) interesting, and I mentioned this in the original comments. 62% of the respondents were game masters. Does this mean that more GMs frequent my blog in particular, or OSR blogs in general? It's possible, as blogs like this tend to be written by, and thus have more to offer, game masters.

I am gratified at the number of face-to-face games happening. Fully 85% of the respondents either GM or play in a face-to-face game (or both). Being an old-fashioned coot, I think that's the best way to play, and it seems like most of my readers agree.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Oerth Journal Returns

Well this is a bit of good news indeed!

The Oerth Journal, a really top-notch fan publication (which, in the past has scored articles by such Greyhawk luminaries as Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz, to name but a few) is under new and energized management and looking for submissions. Plus they have set up a website for the Journal itself. From the announcement over at Canonfire:

The Oerth Journal is back and looking for submissions! New leadership and a new staff means we are hungry for material (literally - we don’t feed our editorial xvarts unless they work!).

What is the Oerth Journal and what are we looking for?

The Oerth Journal is a long-running and distinguished online periodical first published in 1995. Devoted to the World of Greyhawk Campaign Setting, the Oerth Journal explores facets of Greyhawk untouched by “official” development, from the mundane to the macabre, including adventures, gazetteers, esoterica, and “alternate” Greyhawks, as well as NPCs, deities, adventure sites, and simple lore.

The Oerth Journal is always looking for submissions for our regular departments and features: Denizens of the Flanaess; Of Oerth and Altar; Rogues Gallery; Tales from the Green Dragon Inn; and With Boccob’s Blessing, among others. (Summaries of all the regular features can be found in the guidelines document.) These features give many authors an easy “entry point”, but we welcome articles of any nature related to the World of Greyhawk. We also accept any rules edition or game system, including (but not limited to!) Basic D&D, OSR systems, AD&D, 3e, 4e, and Pathfinder. In addition, we welcome fantasy art and Greyhawk fan-fiction submissions!

All inquiries and proposals can be emailed to oerthjournal@gmail.com , and will be answered promptly. Submission guidelines are available at http://www.canonfire.com/cfhtml/modules.php?name=Downloads&d_op=viewdownload&cid=13&min=20&orderby=titleA&show=10 - scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “The Oerth Journal Submission Guidelines and Templates” to open or download the document.
Looks like I'll have to start keeping my Oerth Journal Index updated! It's the good kind of extra work, though.

EDIT: Hey, I just realized this was my 500th post on the blog. Go me!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Game of Thrones Premiers Tomorrow

Just a reminder that tomorrow night HBO will premier the first episode of its "Game of Thrones" miniseries based on the novels by George R.R. Martin. I've never read the books, being much more a fan of his science fiction works, but I've heard good things both about them and this miniseries. My only regret is that its on opposite "The Borgias" on Showtime. Thankfully, I've got Tivo.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary Now Available!

It's a little late, and it doesn't have everything it will eventually have, but it's now available!

You'll find the download link for the bestiary --> HERE <--

What it's got:
  • All of the monsters from the original Monster Manual (some in other guises for legal purposes)
  • Some of the monsters from the original Monster Manual II
  • A couple of the monsters from the original Fiend Folio
  • A few new monsters

What it's not got, but will eventually as new playtest versions are released:
  • Most of the monsters from the original Monster Manual II
  • Most of the monsters from the original Fiend Folio
  • The rest of the new monsters
  • Random encounter tables (can't be done until the final creature list is nailed down)
  • An index (ditto)
  • Lots of formatting changes
  • Artwork

We now have a complete set of books for playtesting purposes, even if we know that the Bestiary will be considerably expanded as the playtest period wears on. Enjoy!

More Medieval Erudition: Bad Air

Stemming from the Classical period, and running through both the Medieval and Renaissance periods through even to the mid to late 19th century, was the idea that diseases were caused by areas of "bad air", also known as misasma. Though this was disproven in the 19th and 20th centuries, when the germ theory of disease was established and proven (to just about everybody, it seems, except Bill Maher), it was the prevalent explanation of epidemics such as cholera, plague, malaria (from the Italian, mala + aria, literally "bad air") and the like for most of recorded history. Including, of course, those periods of history that are the basis for most fantasy RPGs.

Miasma was caused, the theory went, by poisonous fumes emanating from both venomous animals (snakes, etc.) and decomposing bodies. These elements, sometimes called 'effluviums', were the actual things responsible for diseases. The air itself was literally the cause of disease.

In this way, the foul smell of air around marshes and swamps, and on some rivers (such as the Thames in London) was seen as indicative of its nature as the source of disease.

It's easy to see this applied to a fantasy RPG. Those entering certain areas, particularly those adjacent to areas of stagnant, foetid water, or those frequented by poisonous snakes and other creatures, would be more likely to be struck by a disease of some sort. This is actually already reflected in the AD&D rules, which give modifiers to those in crowded cities and in marshes, making them more likely to contract some sort of disease. Too, the areas around certain temples dedicated to the princes of daemonkind would be similar hotspots of disease. Such places could be combatted, not with disinfectant, but with strong winds to blow away the disease-causing miasma...

Ironically, the misasma theory of disease did lead to some sanitation-related health reforms, due in part to false connections between improved sanitation and the remittance of disease. But it wasn't until germs and viruses were really discovered to be the cause of such diseases that surface disinfecting became the norm, as we see today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Do You Currently Play an "Old School" RPG?

In the upper-right corner of the blog, you'll see a new poll. The question is simple:

Do you currently play an "Old School" RPG?

I don't want to get into pained discussions about what does or does not constitute an "old school" RPG. For purposes of this completely unscientific poll, if you think it is one, it is.

I'm trying to get a feel for the accuracy of the intermittent criticisms of members of the OSR that many of us simply talk about games without actually playing them. How many of us are really "armchair paladins"? I like to think my own "current-gamer cred" is established, but I'd like to hear what you're playing, how often you're playing, and anything else you think might be relevant. Please feel free to expand extensively here on what you voted and why. Bonus points if you're also playing wargames!

This Day in History

I don't normally do these sorts of "this day in history" posts, but I've been on a history kick lately, and today is a real biggie with connections to both science fiction and military (wargaming) history. 

Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most significant achievements in human history.

On this day in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to ever travel in space, opening up the era of human spaceflight. He is quoted as having said, "Someone who never met God on Earth, would never meet Him in space."

Поздравляю, Герой

Today also marks the 150th anniversary of one of the most significant dates in American history.


On this day in 1861, Confederate troops began the shelling of Fort Sumter, SC, inaugurating the Civil War. There were no casualties during the actual bombardment of the fort, but two Union soldiers were accidentally killed during the surrender ceremonies. 620,000 American soldiers (on both sides) would end up being killed, as well as an indeterminate number of civilians.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Medieval Technology

Most D&D-based campaigns are set in a setting more or less analogous to Medieval Europe. We tend to think of such times are backward in the extreme, driven by media images such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail. However, the Medieval peoples had fairly sophisticated technology that we might not realize they had. Here are ten pieces of (mundane) technology that you might want to consider including in your campaign.
  1. Central Heating (9th century). Hot air was forced through channels beneath the floor. The Romans had something similar much earlier; the whole floor was raised above a small chamber filled with hot air (called a hypocaust).
  2. Mechanical Clock (13th century). Wound springs turn precision-made gears to move hands on the clock face. 
  3. Magnetic Compass (13th century). Magnetized needle is placed on precision-floating pin, without needing to float on water. Magnets themselves are used as early as the mid-12th century.
  4. Eyeglasses (13th century). Convex lenses allow for correction of eye defects and magnification.
  5. Watermarks (13th century). Mark pressed into the paper itself helps prevent counterfeiting.
  6. Distilling (12th century). Distilled liquors were sometimes used for medicinal purposes.
  7. Liquid soap (9th century). Solid soap came later, in the 12th century.
  8. Cannons (13th century). Originally cannons were made with iron staves held in places by metal hoops. That's why a gun's muzzle is still called a "barrel" to this day.
  9. Paper (8th century). Much easier and cheaper to produce than papyrus, vellum, etc. 
  10. Incendiary Grenades (9th century). Made with "Greek Fire", a mixture of petroleum and bitumen that can burn even underwater.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We Game: Ogre Miniatures

Tonight we had a small contingent for gaming-- myself and three players-- so we struck on the idea of doing a game of Ogre miniatures rather than an understaffed D&D game. Since it's now my new favorite game, I was naturally all in favor. None of the other players had been present for the previous Ogre minis game, but the rules are pretty quick to learn, and they are quick studies. Besides, they're gamers, damnit. They Game!

Since it was another beginners scenario, we paired off much like the last game. Each side got an Ogre Mk III and about 100 points of infantry and armor, pretty much equally divided in terms of units. This time, rather than strictly identical forces, we gave the PanEuropeans twice as many light tanks as the Combine had heavies, and swapped out light GEVs for the PanEuro regular GEVs. It was another "smash the command post" scenario, with each side defending (and attacking) a command post on a mesa.

The battle begins. Off to the left is the Combine infantry, which I left to tie up the advancing PanEuro units while my partner raced his MK III up the right flank. That big force in the middle is missile and heavy tanks, and they pretty much made straight for the PanEuro MK III.

The Combine units were concentrated in squadrons by type...

...while the PanEuropean forces were more dispersed.

The PanEuropean MK III (in red) is surrounded by a force of combined missile and heavy tanks, and a few light GEVs into the bargain. They took out the mains and damaged the treads, and the missiles were gone as well. All the PanEuropeans had to stop the Combine MK III was a squadron of 3 GEVs. They went for a strategy of ignoring the Ogre and making for the Combine command post. It wasn't pleasant.

The big picture of the same turn. The Combine light GEVs (in the center) are there to support the infantry, stopping the PanEuropean light tanks and missile tanks from sneaking into the command post.

Concentrating all that armor around the Ogre meant that it wasn't destined to last very long. Between overruns and straight shooting (it still had all 4 secondary batteries intact throughout the entire game), the Combine armor got pretty chewed up. But it brought the Ogre down to 5" movement, and took out the main battery and the missiles.


A Combine light GEV takes out a PanEuro missile tank single handedly. And that was the 6 that made it possible.

The PanEuro Ogre amid the wreckage of the Combine armored center. The mains and missiles were gone and some treads were damaged, but the secondaries were all intact.

See that big blue thing in the upper right? That's the Combine Ogre with only a couple of infantry units and a howitzer between it and the command post.

Those light GEVs don't pack much of a punch, but if you can't get them in range, they can still wear you down.
 
In range of the Combine MK III's secondary batteries, the PanEuropean command post is toast. Victory!
I am pleased to say that I seem to have corrupted three more players from our D&D group into Ogre players. Next time we're planning on doing a pure point-buy game, with enough points on both sides to bring in MK V's and Fencers, along with a bunch more, and different types of, armor and infantry, plus a much more varied terrain. Good times. Game day is May 7!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Four Humors

From the Greeks and Romans through the 19th century, health and wellness was thought to revolve around four "humors". When the humors were in balance, the individual was healthy. When they were out of balance, the body became ill. Thus, the thinking went, the way to treat illness was to bring the humors back into balance. They are blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.

Humour Season Element Organ Qualities


Ancient characteristics
Blood spring air liver warm & moist


courageous, hopeful, amorous
Yellow bile summer fire gall bladder warm & dry


easily angered, bad tempered
Black bile autumn earth spleen cold & dry


despondent, sleepless, irritable
Phlegm winter water brain/lungs cold & moist


calm, unemotional

This is the origin of such practices as "bleeding" a patient; if someone was thought to have too much blood (their blood humor being out of balance), by removing excess blood, health could be restored.

This could be used as the basis of a healing system in an RPG, of course. Characters could have points for each humor, and diseases or other illnesses would cause one or more of them to be out of alignment. Spells could affect specific humors, with specific results; four different types of "cure disease" spell, for example. And, of course, if magical healing is not available, a chiurgeon would use humorism as the basis for his diagnosis and treatment.

If nothing else, humorism can provide some interesting background for your medieval-themed campaign.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Black Blade to Publish the Castle of the Mad Archmage™

Press Release

02 APRIL 2011
WICHITA, KANSAS

Black Blade Publishing is proud to announce that it has reached an agreement in principle with Joseph Bloch to publish his Castle of the Mad Archmage™ for old school fantasy campaign gaming. While the essential terms of the publishing agreement have been settled for some time, the formal agreement between Black Blade Publishing and Mr. Bloch will likely be signed later this week. Black Blade hopes to have the finished product available in time for Christmas, 2011

Jon Hershberger, President of Black Blade, said, "It is an honor and privilege for Black Blade to publish The Castle of the Mad Archmage in partnership with Joe Bloch. This mega-dungeon is one of the really great old school projects to come out of the old school gaming community in the past five years. It is a mega-dungeon in the grand tradition of the early days of our hobby. I’ve been running scenarios using Joe’s Castle of the Mad Archmage at gaming conventions for the past couple of years. Being a mega-dungeon, the Castle of the Mad Archmage fosters a style of play that differs from gaming scenarios based on traditional adventure ‘modules’ or tournament-style adventures where the objectives and scope are more rigidly defined. With the release of the free pdf version of the Castle of the Mad Archmage, Joe demonstrated his ability to create a setting that serves as both an educational experience for introducing the hobby to new gamers and a challenging adventure locale for veteran gamers."

The agreement includes the publication and distribution of all twelve of the Castle of the Mad Archmage dungeon levels included in the previously released pdf of the same title, plus two additional levels that Joseph wrote exclusively for inclusion in the Black Blade Publishing release of the Castle of the Mad Archmage. These two additional levels will be

-- Surface Level – The Upper Ruins, and

-- Level One – The Storage Rooms

The Black Blade release of the Castle of the Mad Archmage will be published with several other design features that will make this a truly stand-out print product, including:

-- A 220-240 page hardcover containing the encounter keys and level by level detail for all 14 levels;

-- Full-color poster maps on heavyweight stock for all 14 levels;

-- A folio or folder to organize and store the poster maps when they're not in use;

-- A deluxe box or slipcase for storing both the level key hardcover and the map folio with all of the poster maps;

-- The addition of a number of original black & white interior art pieces to highlight specific set piece encounters or unique features of the Castle levels;

In addition, Black Blade Publishing and Joseph Bloch have discussed plans to release further expansions of the Castle of the Mad Archmage, including several sub-levels and level-expansions for the twelve primary dungeon levels beneath the ruins of the Mad Archmage’s Castle.

Black Blade Publishing launched publicly in June, 2009, with its first adventure module for First Edition gaming. Since that launch, Black Blade Publishing published Swords & Wizardry: Core Rules and Knockspell magazine in partnership with Matt Finch. More recently, Black Blade Publishing partnered with Usherwood Publications to release an imprint of the OSRIC™ rulebook in hardback print format. For additional information, please visit http://www.black-blade-publishing.com.

Black Blade Publishing and the Black Blade sword logo are trademarks of Black Blade Publishing, LLC. "Castle of the Mad Archmage" is a trademark of Joseph Bloch. All other trademarks, service marks, registered trademarks, or registered service marks are the property of their respective owners.

Lou Zocchi on Dice

I know that these have been floating around the web for a while, now, but I hadn't actually taken the 20 minutes to sit down and watch them until last night. It was worth it. Absolutely fascinating stuff, including a lot of information on how dice are actually manufactured. Now I feel compelled to go out and spend $30 on a set of his dice.




I love all the old wargames in the booth, including the very prominent "The Next War" by SPI.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Blackburn Family Charity Auction

Jolly Blackburn (creator of the Knights of the Dinner Table comic) and his wife Barb recently and unexpectedly lost their daughter, Amber.

The good folks at RPGGeek have set up a charity auction on their website, where you can bid on several different items, with all the proceeds going to the Blackburn family to help them out in their time of need. There is also a paypal address on that same page where direct contributions can be made.

If you can spare a little something or make a bid, I would urge you to do so. The auction runs through April 10.

My heartfelt sympathies go out to the Blackburn family.