Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Great Explorers

“These days there seems to be nowhere left to explore, at least on the land area of the Earth. Victims of their very success, the explorers now pretty much stay home.”
- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
One of the great motivations in medieval European history was exploration. Driven by trade, the prospect of loot, and later aspirations to Empire, the notion of expanding the boundaries of what was the Known World to the scholars and rulers of Europe was a prime motivator for explorers, merchants, and conquistadors.

It is, unfortunately, a motivation quite unlikely to be present in a typical D&D milieu.

By definition, exploration involves discovering what was hitherto unknown. In a world where ethereal travel allows one to cross vast oceans without difficulty (aside from the occasional ether cyclone, of course), the prospect of outfitting a small fleet of ships to see what lies beyond the horizon seems wasteful.

In a world where spelljamming ships can view a planet from orbit, one can know with certainty that Maztica lies between Faerûn and Kara-Tur. Mistakes such as those of captain-general Cordell (and, for that matter, Christopher Columbus) become much less likely. Determining the source of great rivers such as the Nile becomes as simple as looking down over the rail.

In a world with flying mounts such as dragonnes, pegasi, hippogriffs, and griffons, as well as magical flight through rings, flying carpets, and fly spells, the prospect of impassable rivers, reef-protected islands, and inaccessible plateaus is removed. Just as the jungles of Brazil have opened up to modern technology, so too would the prospect of flight severely change the exploratory landscape. When a Princess Ark can cross a desert in days, there's no need to take months in a caravan.

The motive of conquest and loot would still remain, of course, but the prospects for doing so successfully would increase dramatically, as intelligence, movement, and the prospect of reinforcement becomes as easy as if one had access to radios, satellite imagery, and helicopters. Trade would still take place using conventional means, but increased certainty of geography and what to expect on the journey would make the prospect somewhat less hazardous than was the case historically.

One would likely see more Pizarros and fewer Marco Polos.

Friday, June 28, 2013

HBO Plans 6 Season "American Gods" TV Series

Woah! I knew there were rumors bubbling around out there that Neil Gaiman's excellent novel American Gods was in development as a television series, but it now seems to be official, according to Screenrant:
The series is currently being planned out in no less than six seasons of 10-12 episodes each. The budget for each season will be in the $40 million range, with a heavy emphasis on CG. The earliest that American Gods would grace the airwaves would be 2013.
The central premise of American Gods is that gods and other mythological figures are real in the modern world, but their power and influence depends on the belief of humans. Obviously, that puts some gods in a tight spot due to modern sensibilities. Deities from the Greco-Roman, Nordic, Hindu, Egyptian, and Judeo-Christian pantheons all make an appearance.
I confess I have no idea how they're planning on getting six entire seasons (70 or so episodes!) out of a single book, unless they're planning on expanding way past what was in the original novel. It's a great book, but six seasons seems a bit much. Still, I'll definitely be keenly watching for more info on this.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bestiary Cover

Christian N. St. Pierre, the artist who did the covers for the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Players Manual and Game Masters Toolkit, has come through again with the third and final cover in the series. I give you the Bestiary:


The idea for the series of covers was to show a party of adventurers going through the various phases of dungeon exploration; the Players Manual shows them getting ready to face the unknown, the Game Masters Toolkit shows them fighting off hordes of undead to save the sacrifice from the evil high priest, and finally the Bestiary shows them in a final showdown with a pit fiend amidst a vast hoard of treasure.

I cannot recommend Christian's work highly enough to my fellow publishers. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dexcon schedule now up!

The complete schedule of events for this years's Dexcon convention in Morristown, NJ over Independence Day weekend is now up. Lots of really good stuff there, including some old-school stuff (a brief glance showed at least one Expert Rules game on the schedule, and there are doubtless others). I will be running/helping with:
  • Friday 2:00 - 8:00: Q0003: "OGRE Macrotures 2013" by Steve Jackson Games. Steve Jackson himself will be there to oversee the festivities!
  • Friday 8:00 - Midnight: R0268: Adventures Dark and Deep; "Tomb of the Pirate King" (which will be played on an enormous table featuring 3D terrain from Legendary Realms)
  • Saturday 8:00 - Midnight: R0325: Adventures Dark and Deep; "Tomb of the Pirate King" (ditto)
It looks like a light schedule for me, but that Ogre macrotures game is 6 hours long, and I will also be manning my first con booth as a publisher for the duration of the convention, so getting away this long was a bit of work.

If anyone is in the area, I cannot recommend this convention highly enough. They have something for everyone-- old school and new wave indie RPGs, Pathfinder, miniatures, board games, LARPing, computer games, console games... the thing is easily the finest fan-run gaming con I've been to. See you there!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vin Diesel on D&D and Riddick

I make these movies […] because somebody's paying attention. That's my motto about Hollywood and films, continuing these franchises. There's two lines of thought in Hollywood, one is the audience doesn't give a fuck — excuse me, it's late, I'm in Riddick mode, you're lucky I'm not killing you guys […] Then there's that world-builder, that D&D player that's really meticulous that believes the audience does care and can draw the similarity between Riddick's headdress and the headdress worn by Linus Roache [in Chronicles of Riddick] who reveals in one moment that he is a Furyan that went the wrong path. It's very subtle, but just the fact that you mention it means that it was worth the week-long dialogue about the construction of one little piece of [armor] […]
I haven't board-gamed in a while, and I have people that are asking me to board game. I have a buddy who wrote a beautiful Gary Gygax script. [Dungeons & Dragons creator] Gary Gygax's wife wants me to play him. [laughs] Yeah, I don't get it either. I was like, "Me? I'm Vin Diesel! How do you want me to play it?"
I guess that's cool. I guess some people think of me as a dweeb or something. It's beautiful. I haven't boarded as much as I want to, although friends of mine, like Michelle Rodriguez, she'll say she thinks I DM Hollywood, because I'm able to do these things that are just preposterous, like shoot Riddick.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bestiary Art

The prolific group of artists have begun to start sending in the first pieces for the upcoming Adventures Dark and Deep™ Bestiary, and I thought I'd share a few with you all. First up is the giant boring beetle by Chris Letzelter:


And I thought I'd also show you one of the new undead dragon types, the tumulus dragon by John Bingham:


So far with more than 25 of the new pieces received, we're right where I want to be in terms of scheduling, and will (hopefully) be releasing the book in advance of the official March release date.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review: Against the Slave Lords

As is well-known by now, Wizards of the Coast has been re-issuing a number of classic books and adventures in suped-up fancy versions, as well as making more and more of its back catalog available in pdf. While this is certainly laudable and speaks to their intention of serving fans of previous versions as well as new versions (doubtless with an eye towards bringing in the former when D&D Next rolls out next year), I've largely skipped the re-issues because I have all the originals, mostly purchased when they first came out.

However, when I heard that WotC was not only reissuing the original A1-4 "Slavers" adventures, but also including a brand-new A0 prequel module, I had to get the book, if only for the sake of completeness.

I have to say I'm pretty impressed.

The new adventure, written by Skip Williams, is A0 "Danger at Darkshelf Quarry". It takes up 23 of the first 28 pages of the book, and seems to be a suitable way to easy the PCs into the machinations of the Slave Lords (although it takes place in southernmost Nyrond, as opposed to the Wild Coast where the other adventures in the series take place). It's designed for characters level 1-3, but given that Slave Pits of the Undercity is for levels 4-7, and I don't really see any way the adventure could jump up PCs 3 or 4 levels, some more intermediate action is probably going to have to be invented by the DM to bridge the gap. One thing I really like is that there's a mocked-up module cover for Darkshelf Quarry on the back card of the book, done up in a similar style to the other four module covers. That was a nice touch.

The rest of the book is given up to the classic series of 4 modules. It's not merely a scan of the original; everything has been retyped and formatted to follow the original, although there are obvious discrepancies between the two in terms of where paragraphs begin and end on the page, etc. The book features the wonderful original art and maps from the 1980's modules, and ends with a gallery of modern fan-art inspired by the series (among whose ranks you'll find several artists who also appear in the Adventures Dark and Deep™ books). They did a very good job of recreating the original look and feel, and all in all this would be a fine way to introduce the classic series to new players.

The back cover card does indicate that the adventures are "Playable with D&D Next rules found at DNDNext.com". However, there are no mechanics for the new version of the game in the book; to use it with the new rules one must download a conversion packet from the website. Even the new adventure is written using the 1st edition rules. I didn't see any module conversion notes in my copy of the latest playtest packet, but I did see a bestiary with D&D Next stats for the various A0-4 monsters (well, A0-5; apparently this month's Dungeon magazine will feature another new adventure, "The Last Slave Lord").

On the whole, I'm very pleased with this book, and will probably want to integrate Darkshelf Quarry into my next Greyhawk campaign.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Top Five Star Trek Episodes

I happen to be one of the lucky folks who can watch MeTV, and they play the original Star Trek series on Saturday nights. They recently restarted the series from the beginning, and I've been happily ensconced in the first season of my favorite television show ever. I thought I would grace you with my own list of top five Trek episodes; ST:TOS only. I might do an all-Trek top ten list at some later date.

#5 Where no Man has Gone Before (Season 1, 2nd pilot). I love this episode because it has a strong and interesting villain; Gary Mitchell. Gary Lockwood (who would later co-star in 2001: A Space Odyssey) does a terrific job, but it's the slow and subtle betrayal of a friend of many years that really makes this for me. And at the end, when he's in full-blown psychic god mode; "Pray to you? Not to both of you?" "PRAY THAT YOU DIE EASILY!" Terrific.

#4 The Doomsday Machine (Season 2, written by Norman Spinrad). The performance by William Windom as Commodore Decker (apocryphally said to be the father of Captain Decker in ST:TMP) is just fantastic. When Kirk asks him what happened to the crew of the Constellation, and Decker tells him that he beamed them all down to the third planet in the system under attack by the planet killer, and Kirk says, "There is no third planet!" "DON'T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT!? There was! But not any more!" A really great performance, and the music really adds to the tension in this one. Bonus points for Decker playing with the tapes while sitting in the captain's chair of the Enterprise, just like Captain Queeg with his ball-bearings in The Caine Mutiny.

#3 Who Mourns for Adonais? (Season 2). For me, the last ten minutes of this episode catapult it from a good episode to an "oh my Gods this is amazing" episode. Michael Forrest as Apollo just captures the grief and pathos of the alien god who waited for 3000 years for humans to find him, expecting them to worship him again, only to be rejected. It's incredible to watch.

#2 Balance of Terror (Season 1). A submarine vs. destroyer film in the Trek universe. There's so much more going on here than just one ship hunting another; the play between Stiles and Spock with its undertones of racial prejudice, the (self-aware) parallels between Kirk and the Romulan commander, the unexpected ending where Tomlinson (who we see about to be married at the beginning of the episode) was killed... Just hits all the right notes.

#1 Spock's Brain. (Just kidding.) Space Seed (Season 1). Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh. What more do I need to say? It's a brilliant performance, and he created a character that remains even today as the iconic Star Trek villain.

No tribbles? No Mirror, Mirror? No City on the Edge of Forever? No... they're terrific episodes, no doubt about it. But if I limit myself to five, I've got to make cuts, and those just didn't make it. For me, anyway. Of course, everyone has their own thoughts on such things-- what would you put in your top five?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Monster Books

Since I'm deeply in the final stages of putting together the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Bestiary, I was wondering if there were any OSR-type monster books that I'm missing from my collection.

I've got Malevolent and BenignTeratic Tome, Tome of Horrors CompleteVarlets & Vermin, and Monsters of Myth. I've got the C&C books Monsters and Treasures and Classic Monsters. I don't have Treasures and Monsters of Aihrde or the three M&ToA supplements; can anyone tell me if they're significantly different than the regular Monsters and Treasures Book?

Please let me know if there's anything of significance I've missed. You can't have enough monsters!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Essential High Fantasy

Over at io9, they have assembled some links to several fantasy authors' lists of essential lists of works of "high fantasy". There's no definitive definition of what, exactly, that is, so there are some odd choices, but it's certainly worth looking at. There are also some more links to additional lists in some of those links.

Now, I do have something very specific in mind when it comes to high fantasy, and have a list of my own. I don't claim it to be definitive, essential, or exhaustive, but here 'tis, in no particular order. I don't include what I call "sword and sorcery" or science fiction, and my list also includes books, television, and movies.

The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings. I'd include both the books and the Peter Jackson films. The changes between the books and the films honestly don't bother me one whit; both are terrific and stirring in their own ways, and both work for what they are.

A Game of Thrones. I haven't read the books yet, so I can't rightfully include them in my list. But these are certainly epic in scope, and deal with themes of fighting evil (even if in some cases that evil is relative).

Dragonlance. Say what you will about the impact of Dragonlance on the development of D&D, the books themselves were quite decent (especially the early ones), and the quest to defeat evil was certainly epic. I found the characters very compelling, and the setting was certainly well detailed.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Not your typical high fantasy epic thanks to the nature of the anti-hero Thomas Covenant, but this series of books influenced my own gaming and writing for years, and still does.

The Mists of Avalon. This might well be the first book that self-consciously tried to conform to the tropes of heroic fantasy, but it's still good for all of that.

Excalibur. This film version of the Arthur legend can drag at times, especially in the final third, but man does it have gravitas. And a score by Richard Wagner for crying out loud.

Hawk the Slayer. Yes, it's schlocky, but the overarching theme of vengeance and the fight between good and evil place it firmly in the high fantasy category for me.

Conan the Barbarian. I place the original film in the epic fantasy category, but I wouldn't include either the stories or the other films. Complaints of the REH purists aside, there is something utterly magnificent in the cinematography, the score, and the primal theme.

Elric. This is a toughy, as there are so many elements of Elric that could legitimately be said to be firmly within the realm of swords and sorcery. The theme here is not so much good vs. evil as it is man vs. destiny, which in its own way is just as powerful a motivation as the most pure-hearted paladin could bear.

The Winter of the World. This little-known series of books deals with a prehistoric civilization that sortakinda retells the Norse myths, but against the backdrop of an impending ice age. Really worth checking out.

The Dark Crystal. Yes, the film by Jim Henson. When you realize the film isn't about the trials and travails of the Gelflings at all, but is really about the restoration of the UrSkeks, it takes on a whole new flavor.

Clash of the Titans. It doesn't get more high fantasy than this. Dashing hero out to save the princess from the evil prince cursed by the Gods.

Lacunae: In preparing this list I discovered just how many foundational works of high fantasy I have never read. Shanarra, The Belgarion, The Wheel of Time, the Riftwar Saga, the Chronicles of the Necromancer, etc. Time to stock up for some summer reading, methinks.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Magic as cargo cult

One of the standard tropes of both swords-and-sorcery literature and Dungeons & Dragons type game settings is the lost ancient civilization which was possessed of high technology, fell through some cataclysm, and is now known only through legends and a few obscure artifacts.

In fantasy, we see this in many places. The Dying Earth is an obvious example, the World of Greyhawk has its Mighty Servant of Leuk-O and Machine of Lum the Mad, the Judges Guild Wilderlands campaign setting has its share of technological artifacts scattered about the landscape, and Blackmoor has a veritable City of the Gods. We see it in Ralph Bakshi's wonderfully bizarre film Wizards. The theme is echoed in the legends of Atlantis and Lemuria, and even Middle Earth has its sunken Numenor, which ruled over what could be called a Golden Age, albeit without the benefits of high technology.

There is historical precedent for this as well. After the fall of the western Roman Empire, the successor barbarian kingdoms of the Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Burgundians, Langobards, etc. found themselves rulers over regions that contained architectural wonders that they were flat-out incapable of recreating. Roads of incredible durability, aqueducts demonstrating precision structural engineering, and even baths and villas with central heating that were simply not able to be replicated. Surely these were the works of gods or giants.

I can envision such a fallen technological civilization giving rise to a magical culture, as a sort of cargo cult attempt to replicate the now-unduplicatable wonders of the ancients. Stories are told of wondrous devices that can project an image from one end of the world to the other in an instant, complete with sound. Incapable of making a videophone, the barbarians in the ruins, through trial and error and hard work, manage to figure out the crystal ball instead. Hearing tales of weapons that could spit fire and lightning, but themselves incapable of creating a laser pistol or flamethrower, eventually come upon the secret of fireball and lightning bolt. And so forth. Use of magic develops because technology is no longer within reach.

Arthur C. Clarke once famously observed that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." That presupposes that the technology comes after the magic. What if a game setting reversed that trend and postulated the corollary?

"Any sufficiently sophisticated magic is indistinguishable from the technology of the ancients."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My Favorite NPC: Vert

This month's RPG Blog Carnival topic is "Favorite NPCs". I have several that stand out in my mind.

There was Beldo, the Rhenee crime boss with the vaguely eastern European accent who complained that the player characters once paid him off with a golden frog statuette ( "I send you for money and you bring me frog? Why don't you go someplace and sell frog, then bring me money. Then everybody happy!").

There was also the witch who tormented a different group of player characters with a hand of glory, transmuted their rivals into mice, and was generally a ruthless and brilliant enemy.

But my favorite, I think, has to be Vert.

Upon entering an expanse of forest, the PCs made camp and were approached by a man named Vert, who demanded from them all of their coins in return for being allowed safe passage through "his" forest. The one party member who had been on guard duty, and who had witnessed his transformation from human form to that of a green dragon as a means to convince her of the folly of resisting, convinced the rest to comply, and most did so, albeit somewhat reluctantly. (All dragons in my campaign can shape-shift between human and dragon form.)

Upon reaching the village on the far side of the wood, however, they were informed by the locals-- with no small amount of mirth-- that Vert was indeed a green dragon, but one only three years of age, and eagerly accumulating his first hoard of treasure! He was something of a mascot to the town, as he never harassed them at all (probably due to the fact that they knew he could be beaten off with a broom handle if it came down to it), and they took particular delight in hearing the tales of travelers whom Vert had fleeced out of yet another few dozen coins.

I don't think the PC who was on guard duty that night ever lived that down.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Climate, barbarian migrations, and icebergs full of trolls

One of the most profound developments in European history was the Migration Period, which lasted from roughly 400 to 800 CE and which saw the Germanic tribes come out of southern Scandinavia and Germany and into what is now western Europe (the Roman provinces of Gaul, Britannia, Hispania, north Africa, and Italy).

There were doubtless several factors leading up to these migrations. Climate has been cited as a factor; in the winter of 535-536 written sources tell of an especially harsh winter and cloud-occluded sun (perhaps caused by a massive volcanic eruption). With crops failing due to colder temperatures, tribes would tend to move southwards into more fertile lands.

Asiatic and Slavic migrations would also push the Germanic tribes ahead of them, who would in turn push other tribes, like billiard balls knocking into each other. This is how the Franks ended up in Gaul (which then became France), the Lombards ended up in northern Italy (Lombardy), the Burgundians in eastern France (Burgundy), etc.

Now imagine a similar mechanism at work in a fantasy world.

In cold and snowy Trollheim, vast numbers of trolls and ogres dig their warren-like homes deep into the glaciers. As the climate grows warmer, however, the glaciers fracture and some calve into the sea as icebergs, taking the troll-warrens with them. Currents bring those icebergs into proximity of Scandia, "Mother of Nations", which is inhabited by a number of human barbarian tribesmen.

As icebergs full of hungry ogres and trolls come ashore, at least some of the human barbarians decide that the time is right to pick up and move southwards, into the more civilized lands, where they begin their own raids and settlements along the frontier.

Not only does that give a reason for barbarian (or humanoid, for that matter) raids and migrations with an historical precedent, but also provides a ready-made excuse to have floating ice dungeons full of ogres and trolls. And that is a good thing in and of itself.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Adventures Dark and Deep Character Sheet Contest!

Well now that the Kickstarter for the third and final core rulebook is in the rear-view mirror (and thanks again to everyone who was a supporter), the time has finally come to see about an official character sheet (or sheets) for the game.

Up until now, I've been content to use the old goldenrod AD&D 1st edition character sheets in my own games, suitably scrawled over modified for the new and updated classes, or to just use notebook paper like in the good old days. But I'd like to have an official character sheet for the game, and that's where you come in.

Beginning right now, I'm holding a contest to find the official Adventures Dark and Deep™ Character Sheet(s). Here's the info:
  • All entries must be received by 11:59 PM eastern time on Friday, June 14.
  • All entries must be in pdf format.
  • All entries must be sent via email to joseph@brwgames.com with the words Character Sheet in the subject line.
  • All-in-one or one-per-class formats are fine (or anything else that you come up with), and no preference will be given to any style.
  • Submissions must not include any copyrighted work, trademarks, or other intellectual property belonging to anyone except yourself. (You may use the trademarked term Adventures Dark and Deep™ for this contest.)
  • Multiple submissions are acceptable.
  • Submissions will be judged based on aesthetics, usability, specific applicability to Adventures Dark and Deep™, and a certain je ne sais quoi. The decision of the judge (me) will be final.
  • The winning selection will become the sole property of BRW Games, LLC.
  • By submitting an entry to this contest, you are agreeing to these terms, which may change without notice. Any dispute concerning the rules is subject to a binding decision by the contest judge (me).
  • The creator of the winning entry will win a $50 gift certificate at OneBookshelf.com (the fine folks who run RPGNow.com, DriveThruRPG.com, etc.). 
Have at it!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Kickstarter after-action report

As is my wont, I thought I'd share some of the details of my just-concluded Kickstarter campaign in order to help those who might also be considering jumping into the crowdfunding ring. This pertains to the Adventures Dark and Deep™ Bestiary.

First, the basics. Here is the adjusted backers report day-by-day for the duration of the campaign, May 1 through June 1. It is "adjusted" in that I have removed one backer who pledged an unrealistically large amount early on, and pulled it as the campaign neared its end. I never expected that particular pledge to actually happen, and removing it makes the true trend easier to visualize. (If you'd like to see the unadjusted numbers, you can check them out at Kicktraq.)


Some points to note:

Kickstarter itself accounted for about 28% of the total pledges. That includes things like being on the "just started" page, the "Tabletop games" page, searches on Kickstarter.com, etc. This blog accounted for about 10% of the pledges.

On March 7, stories about the Kickstarter campaign went up on various websites like ENWorld, Tabletop Gaming News, etc. That produced a noticeable bump starting on May 8. On May 30, the 48 hour warning notices went out automatically from Kickstarter to all the people that had clicked the "remind me" button on the campaign, and we see another big bump then.

One new thing I tried was advertising. I did a small buy (100,000 impressions) as a test from Gamerati.net, which feeds image ads to various websites like ENWorld, RPGNet, etc. I ended up getting 569 clicks, which is a .569% clickthrough rate, which I'm told is very high. The ads ran from May 25 through June 1.

However, as far as I can tell, there wasn't any appreciable uptick in pledges due to the advertising. I can tell this because on May 27 there was a freakishly high clickthrough of 228 on that day alone. If the ads were responsible for pledges, I should expect to see a spike on that day. However, I saw nothing beyond the normal slightly-up trend that came before and after. Just as a guess, I'd say the ads paid for themselves, but were a net zero overall. Did I do a fantastic job creating the ads, and couldn't clinch the sell on the Kickstarter itself? Maybe. I'm not sure I'll do ads if I do another Kickstarter. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

On Transhumanism in RPGs

From time to time, various RPGs present themselves that are billed as being transhumanist in nature. As a transhumanist myself for more than a decade, I find myself both disappointed and annoyed by the vast majority of such outings, as they clearly do not understand what transhumanism actually is.

My own bona fides; I've been a transhumanist for more than a decade, served on the board of directors of the World Transhumanist Association for two years (now HumanityPlus), have given lectures on transhumanism, and wrote the WTA's pamphlet on human cloning. I think I know whereof I speak.

One of the greatest misunderstandings about transhumanism is that it is merely high-tech, technophilia, genetic engineering, bionics, cyberpunk, virtual reality, a technological Singularity, or a combination thereof. It is not.

Simply put, transhumanism is the process of consciously improving oneself, or a group of people, beyond the limitations of "baseline" humanity, and thereby create a new, post-human species. Without that conscious desire to exceed humanity, one is neither a transhumanist nor a transhuman. One can be a technophile, or a cyborg, or genetically enhanced, but unless that is coupled with the goal of moving beyond "humanity", it is not transhumanism. There is a reason that a common transhumanist symbol in the early days was >H.

Now, transhumanism certainly can involve all those things I mentioned above. Space exploration, nanotechnology and post-scarcity economies, cybernetics, virtual realities, cryonics, artificial intelligence; all these things and more are staples of transhumanist interests and projections. But they do not, in and of themselves, make something transhumanist. For that, one must have the desire to create (or become) a new, post-human species.

In game terms, as well as in fiction, the ripest field for exploring this theme is the conflict between baseline humans and the transhumans (and/or posthumans). Conflicts between different transhuman factions are also possible, maybe based on their attitudes towards the baseline humans. (And yes, there are definitely "factions" among contemporary transhumanists along such lines, as well as how transhumanist-potential technologies should be distributed or made accessible.)

So when I see a game, or read a novel, that makes the assumption that having a bionic arm or having a virtual reality world is de facto evidence of someone being a transhuman or posthuman, I get irked. On the one hand, I'm happy that transhumanism is gaining more mainstream acknowledgement, but on the other hand I'm bothered by the fact that it's being misunderstood, watered down, and made "safe" for the corporate, mainstream world (which is a phenomenon certainly not limited to RPGs).

Sort of like punk music. The punk label got noticed by the mainstream, and once that happened, it started getting applied to all sorts of things that were anything but punk:



Yeah!

__________

Also, please don't forget the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary Kickstarter ends at midnight (ET) Saturday! 900 monsters, suitable for most OSR-type games, all under one cover. Can you help get us to having an illustration for each and every one?