Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Dyvers: Guilds are for Losers

At one time there were as many guilds as you could ever hope to find in one location in the city of Dyvers but that changed after Greyhawk's guilds began to dominate commerce in the region and the Great Kingdom fell to the wayside. Already the city's merchants had been forming companies to explore new lands and to establish new trade in distant lands. Now they became more prominent as the people began to fully reject the old ways and to organize themselves more effectively borrowing liberally from the mercantile companies. 

Gone were the old power structures as the city rejected all the old ways. Where once the leader of the guild was either the most powerful or influential member among the elite now with the rise of companies it was the individual voted into office by all of the shareholders (a title that varied from group to group). The city became a political machine and ground those who couldn't navigate it down to dust. As a result the city has become a City of Companies, small and large. Adventurers, mercenaries, markets, teachers, laborers, and skilled artisans: nearly every one you meet in the city is a part of some company; and yet no one who holds power in the city's elected offices can have been in a company within the last ten years. 

Those are ten lean years.

Let's say that you wanted to make your own company to be used in your home game set in Dyvers; how would you go about doing it? My answer is make your own up as you go while drinking Long Island Iced Teas and screaming at the fucking Bears as they lose another game; but, you know, your mileage may not be very far on that sort of cocktail. So here's a chart to help you out, kids.

Creating your own Dyvers Company

Process
1) Roll on the d6 Company Theme table.
2) Roll or pick your favorite out of the theme.
3) Repeat as many times as you like. 
4) Roll on the d30 adjective table
5) Roll as many times as you like
6) Combine them as best suits your sensibilities.

Examples: 
The Terribly, Ugly Jackasses
The Ring-Ring Mule Distributors
Tom's Ogre Furnace
Anna's Embittered Terrapin Guns

1d6 Company Theme
1   Animal
2   Vegetable / Fruit
3   Mineral
4   Monster
5   Occupation
6   Person
7   Machine 
8   Object

1d20 Animal
1    Monkey
2    Mule
3    Lion
4    Hare
5    Jackass
6    Turtle
7    Horse
8    Lamb
9    Skunk
10   Opossum
11   Bear
12   Raccoon
13   Snake
14   Terrapin
15   Crocodile
16   Rat
17   Dog
18   Cat
19   Turkey
20   Beaver

1d20 Vegetable / Fruit
1     Carrot
2     Cucumber
3     Potato
4     Yam
5     Pumpkin
6     Kale
7     Lettuce
8     Spinach
9     Peach
10   Pear
11   Pecan
12   Peanut
13   Walnut
14   Strawberry
15   Tomato
16   Grape
17   Water Chestnut
18   Avocado
19   Squash
20   Kumquat

1d20 Mineral
1    Gold
2    Pyrite
3    Cubanite
4    Pyromorphite
5    Lazulite
6    Wardite
7    Vesuvianite
8    Barthite
9    Sphalerite
10   Creedite
11   Koettigite
12   Helidor
13   Amethyst
14   Endlichite
15   Adamite
16   Manganadamite
17   Silver
18   Copper
19   Malachite
20   Chalcanthite

1d20 Monster
1    Flumph
2    Ogre
3    Goblin
4    Troll
5    Dragon
6    Giant
7    Demon
8    Devil
9    Golem
10   Were-(roll on 1d20 Animal Table)
11   Rakshasa
12   Vampire
13   Zombie
14   Umber-Hulk
15   Aboleth
16   Mind Flayer
17   Gorgon
18   Hag
19   Modron
20   Mongrelman

1d20 Occupation
1    Baker
2    Distributor
3    Tailor
4    Boatswain
5    Weatherman (or woman depending on your needs and mood)
6    Fishmonger
7    Bar Hop
8    Musician
9    Physician
10   Alchemist
11   Laborer
12   Scribe
13   Fisherman (or woman depending on your needs and mood)
14   Hunter
15   Tanner
16   Trader / Merchant
17   Inn Keeper
18   Gambler
19   Prostitute
20   Comedian

1d20 Person
1    Oscar
2    Anna
3    Maxwell
4    Jennifer
5    David
6    Christine
7    James
8    Megan
9    Luke
10   Sylvia
11   Norvel
12   Zelphia
13   Lester
14   Della
15   Earl
16   Peggy
17   Charles
18   Alisha
19   Thomas
20   Jaimie

1d20 Machine
1    Clock
2    Television
3    Gun
4    Pen
5   Canon
6    Dumbwaiter
7    Oven
8    Furnace
9    Jukebox
10   Tractor
11   Carriage
12   Crane
13   Escalator
14   Power Wheel
15   3D Printer
16   Truck
17   Tank
18   Phone
19   Fan
20   Elevator

1d20 Object
1    Book
2    Door
3    Gate
4    Rose Petal
5    Thorn
6    Guitar
7    Stocking
8    Picture
9    Bank
10   Chest
11   Funnel
12   Model
13   Home
14   Dice
15   Cards
16   Umbrella
17   Pry Bar
18   Hammer
19   Wrench
20   Jacket


1d30 Adjective
1    Ugly
2    Morose
3    Violent
4    Drunken
5    Slovenly
6    Bucolic
7    Trustworthy
8    Nonplussed
9    Disinterested
10   Forgotten
11   Embittered
12   Hidden
13   Worthless
14   Diabolic
15   Exquisite
16   Beautiful
17   Dishonest
18   Worthy
19   Friendly
20   Lackadaisical
21   Holy
22   Blasphemous
23   Ambidextrous
24   Disoriented
25   Tardy
26   Poignant
27   Unfinished
28   Numerous
29   Great
30   Terrible

There you have it. Now have fun making up the names for your own Dyvers styled Companies!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

1,000 Scores to Settle

For the last two months I've been looking at a number as it slowly ticked its way forward towards a new milestone on the blog: post 1,000. It's weird because at a thousand posts it feels like I should be doing something monumental with the blog. A giveaway of things I don't have or perhaps a thousand blowjobs to strangers - only my jaw wouldn't hold out that long and I really don't like the idea of sucking dick. I mean, if that's your thing, more power to you but I just have this really terrible gag reflex and I'm not into dudes and their wangs. 

Perhaps I've gotten distracted and shared too much. 

Anyway since this is the thousandth post and we're way into the millions of words posted on Dyvers I thought it would be a fun time to tell you about what's coming up on the blog by using pictures. Remember, using images instead of words to vaguely communicate your meaning isn't a sign of my being a self-important bag of dicks but rather a test to see if you're cool enough for my corner of the internet what with its nerdy fucking D&D content and shit.

It makes it hardcore if I curse, fool. 

Yo. 










Fuck yeah, D&D.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Monster, Monster, Come to My Door; for I've Rigged It with Unstable Explosives and Am Loading My Shotgun as I Wait for You.

I was discussing villagers the other night with a friend of mine when she made the comment that the villagers in every book, movie, and game are just faceless masses waiting for their own destruction at the hands of the latest bad guy to pick up a rock and think that blood is a pretty color and should be used to paint a room with because no one ever considers the way that people actually act when they get scared. It's too difficult to imagine that we pick up guns and start shooting every mother fucker who happens to poke his head in our window. 

She's not wrong. 

Think about the games you run for a minute. When do the villagers pick up the torches and pitchforks? Do they do it once there's enough to get them scared? Or do they wait until things have really moved beyond the threshold of reasonable action? Do they ever do anything more than run away and die?

For a long time my villagers did nothing more than run and die (perhaps I was too busy concentrating on making sure that my bad guys lived long enough to be more than a footnote in the game's play). What turned me about on that noise was realizing that the people I lived around - men and women from a rural, mountain community - wouldn't act that way. They would have started shooting the monsters in their stupid, fucking faces for getting too close to their stills and meth labs. They would have picked up ball bats, axes, Bowie knives, pipe bombs, and every gun they could get their hands on and fucked up some monstrous creatures' days; and that might sound like a stretch to you but consider this: we have coyotes, bears, mountain lions, wild dogs, and all manner of rabid animals. When they get a bit too aggressive the people in my home town will kill every last one of them and drive down Main Street with the carcass tied across the hood of a pick-up truck while bitching that there was only one to kill. I know, animals are different from people. Except that they're not really treated all that differently in this area as I know old women who have incapacitated rapists that had intended to kill them by twisting their balls in different directions (when asked she said it was because she wanted to hear him scream); gangs of baseball bat wielding vigilantes searching for the sons-of-bitches that murdered some cats on an out of the way highway; and a group of twenty angry women armed with knives searching for the boy who raped one of their friends so they could cut his dick off and shove it up his ass (the cops caught him first for those wondering). 

This community isn't an aberration in our reactions. I can pick up a copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and read news stories about vengeance murders, gang attacks, posses formed to ferret out fugitives, and hunters killing wild animals. If it's something that happens in communities large and small then why isn't it happening in your home games?

My initial answer to that last question was that I wanted the players to be the stars of the show. After all, the game is about their adventures not a bunch of corn gobblers from a village that only the five of us know the name of and that I'll be the only one to remember. Only that's really a bullshit answer. See your villagers aren't suddenly becoming the main attraction of the story by reacting to the events in the game; instead they're becoming a catalyst that will help propel the players forward. While absolutely true that some of the villagers are going to be running for their lives you're also going to be having armed groups of regular people turning back towards the danger to try and stop it. Bringing these cats who are fighting rather than taking flight into the game has really made village situations something more exciting and far less mundane - especially since I just assume most everyone in my villages is a redneck with a rudimentary knowledge of explosives and born with an eagerness to see something blown to hell.  


Monday, November 23, 2015

The People of Yesterday Held Different Beliefs Than We Do Today! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THEM?

Lately I've been spending a lot of time reading through the TOR.com exploration of Gary Gygax's Appendix N and wondering what is wrong with these people. Their criticisms are often not about the works they're reading but instead about the people who wrote them - people who often reflected the times they lived in by holding outdated views about morality, sexuality, race relations, social justice, and the like. As a result their objections all tend to sound the same: "Author X was writing in 1910 and held views that were common during their lifetime but are completely wrong by today's standards. What the fuck is wrong with them?" I mean who would ever imagine that someone writing more than a hundred years ago might have moral and societal values that are vastly different from the ones we have today.

It doesn't end there, though, as so often the argument that they're making isn't just that these people lived in a vastly different society from what we live in today but that we should not read them because of that very fact. These authors from the past, Lovecraft and his Pulp contemporaries, should be actively avoided because they held the wrong beliefs and that is the exact opposite of a liberal's core belief, not only when it comes to reading, but to free speech in general

Look, liberals used to be the cat in the room who listened to too much jazz, drank whiskey, smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and was constantly pushing lists of locally banned books into your hands and rasping, "Man you got to read Hoffman, Thompson, Miller, Twain, Vonnegut, Heller, Faulkner, and Salinger because what they're doing is on another level from the rest of us." We used to be the guys who were telling the fascists to go fuck themselves because we're not going to use their approved language and walk down the road thinking their approved thoughts. We were the god-damned, liberal, pinko, commie, fags who were challenging the conservative elements of the nation by going out, doing, being, and trying everything until we found our own thing. We were the people who taught the world to, "Do you, bro," because what mattered was that each of us were true to ourselves and developed a morality and understanding of the world that we could live with rather than one that would grind us into dust beneath its heel. Somewhere along the line though the assholes infiltrated us and now we're sitting around looking at people demanding that they, "Do you, just so long as it's according to these pre-established guidelines of acceptable thoughts and actions." I've been a liberal for too long to suddenly begin walking down that line happily chanting the party slogans. "Think like us! Talk like us! Be an individual, just so long as you're exactly like us!" 

Fuck that. 

I'm still reading books like The Tropic of Cancer, The Great Gatsby, Slaughterhouse-Five, Red Nails, Huckleberry Finn, and Catch-22. I'm still reading adventure stories and murder mysteries that have no morality plays attached to them. And though I've long since stopped smoking I'm still listening to too much jazz and drinking whiskey late at night while pushing lists of banned books on my friends telling them they've got to give these guys a chance. 

Read Banned Books by Topher MacDonald (who makes some kickass stuff)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tiamat is Going Down . . . Wait, That Came Out Wrong.

Back when Fifth Edition first launched I order the Horde of the Dragon Queen (HDQ) with the intention of running it and then plunging straight into the Rise of Tiamat but life kind of got in the way. We moved, the little boy started day care, I got a new job, my old gaming group could never get together regularly because we're all adults now and time is a jerk that likes to punch your 'wants' right in the gonads. Still, I don't like missing out on things that I've wanted to do that are within my power to accomplish; so I ordered the Rise of Tiamat (RoT)and the accompanying DM Screen for my birthday.

I've already been making notes on the first part of the two adventures to run for the group. HDQ seems to be a pretty fun start, what with the attack on the town and all that, so I'm really looking forward to running it. I know there are some issues with the module (see Horde of the Dragon Queen [5e] from tenfootpole.org for more) but there's nothing there that I find really all that big of a deal because I tend to adjust adventures towards the tastes of my players and their individual play styles so I wasn't going to run it exactly as written from the get go. 

Maybe I'm a little too excited because I decided to make a cover for it that I'll be using for the campaign. I could have gone with the traditional look of Tiamat in her Dragon form that graces the cover of RoT but that's kind of been done a lot in our hobby recently with her appearances in Fourth and now Fifth. So instead I decided to in a direction that makes me kind of excited to see where it goes. A bit of trash talk; a bit of a wild woman on the cover; a whole lot of the way that I play in how it comes across.



What do you think?


Buy the Adventures Mentioned Here

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gaming Without a Net


This afternoon was a lot of fun, kids. It started off with my friend Z teaching me how to play Magic: the Gathering (totally going to be playing more of this in the future), followed by a few rounds of Are You a Werewolf (which I recommend), and then glorious D&D. This game of D&D was unusual for me in that I was playing with three players I had never played D&D with before and none of my regular players were there. What's more is that two of the players were relatively new and the third had never played before. Talk about wanting to do a good job for them! I mean if I fuck this up they might not want to play with me again (which would totally suck a whole bag of dicks) and the new player might never want to touch the dice again. 

So I throw them into my wheelhouse: Greyhawk. I avoid putting them into Dyvers or Greyhawk city right off the bat since that tends to take away their incentive to explore and the game is always more fun in my opinion when you're getting to do and see new things. We start in the state of Furyondy, in the city of Libemen (which I kept calling Lieberman so that's what it's called now). Anyway, since I had never gamed with them it was hard to really know what they were into so I offered them the opportunity to kind of do their own thing or go straight to a dungeon. They chose dungeon because these kids rock.  Now I've got them at the dungeon and it's clear that they're not really sure where to go so I throw a kobold at them expecting them to kill him fairly quickly. Not only do they not kill Thomas the Kobold but they talk to him and even attempt to find a way to pay him for entry into the dungeon. 

To say I was shocked is to put things mildly. Most of my old groups would have just killed the kobold; and then there are some of them that would have killed him and used his head as a hat (Shout out to John!). It was clear that I would have to adjust my strategy early with these guys and provide them with lots of opportunities to talk while still giving them the option to stop the words and unleash hell on these imaginary monsters. So I figured that I'd try something new with them since they were something new for me. 

Over the last few years I've toyed with the idea of a dungeon casino and this afternoon seemed like a great time to test it out; so I introduced them to the dungeon casino of Roth-Ron-Dar (said with a flourish of the arms). The idea of Roth-Ron-Dar was to provide the players with an environment that had lots of opportunities for mischief. There was gambling, creepy robotic waiters; a den of depravity that would have made Sodom and Gomorrah say, "Maybe you're taking things too far;" a steam room with ogres and trolls wearing tiny towels; rampaging, undead warriors; passage into the Underdark; and a devil named Bo-bob-bildering who wanted a Shadow Dragon for his lobby. Along every step of Roth-Ron-Dar I kept expecting them to fight someone, but they surprised me as it never happened, and as long as they had fun that's fine. 

See that's the thing that's most important when you're playing D&D: that everyone is having fun; and it's the thing that I worry most about when I play - and the thing I agonize over after it all done. Did I give them enough options? Did they have fun? Did they laugh enough? Do they want to play with me again now that we're done? Was it too weird for them? Not weird enough? Did I hold their hands too much and make them feel like I was babying them? Did I leave them out in the wind too often? Did they fight too much? Are the combats going too long? Or was there too little combat? Do the enemies feel like they're a challenge or does it all feel too easy? Insecurities abound in my skull kids. 

Anyway, hopefully next time we play Biggboy can join us because he needs to have more fun and these cats are our kind of people.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide Releases Nov 3; So Who Has the Best Deal?

I think that it's fairly safe to say that the Sword Coast has been the dominant region for adventure in the Forgotten Realms since the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons launched. We've been racing up and down the Sword Coast since hippies were getting murdered in Baldur's Gate to bring back 'dead' gods and now we're still there thwarting a group of raging Demon Lords in the latest adventure, Rage of Demons. So considering that we've all been spending a considerable amount of time hiking our way from one end of the Sword Coast to the other in an effort to kick some serious bad guy ass I've got to ask: how much do you actually know about the Sword Coast?

Before this edition of D&D I didn't spend very much time exploring the Forgotten Realms. I had read a few articles in Dragon magazine over the years but nothing really struck me as all that exciting. Then I played Murder in Baldur's Gate and I've kind of been enjoying the hell out of the Realms since; but I couldn't say that my knowledge of the setting is any deeper than the information presented in the modules I've been running. Which is why I'm actually pretty excited about the upcoming release, the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.


My excitement, though, doesn't get in the way of my worrying about the state of my wallet because I'll be damned if I pay full price for anything when there's a deal to be had. So before I place my pre-order for the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide I decided to go out and find who was offering the best deal. Here's the results; hopefully it'll help some of you out too (Oh, and you can click on the Current Price link of each to go directly to their pre-order page).
 
Amazon

List Price: $39.95
Savings: $13.90 (35%)

Barnes & Noble
List Price: $39.95
Savings: $13.64 (34%)

Books-A-Million
List Price: $39.95
Savings: NO SAVINGS

Walmart
List Price: $39.95
Current Price: NOT CURRENTLY LISTED
Savings: N/A

!ndigo
List Price: $50.95
Savings: $5.61  (11%)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Child Thief of Greyhawk, Murq the Wizard



Last night I was reading the Glossography for the Guide to the World of Greyhawk when I ran across a villain that actually made me catch my breath.
". . . Fifteen years ago, the city of Greyhawk . . .  was plagued by a series of strange disappearances among the youth of the noble families. The children simply disappeared at night, never to be seen again, though sometimes they were replaced by simulacrums that committed vile blasphemies and had to be destroyed. After investigation both magical and mundane, the city magistrate determined that the wizard Murq was behind these awful outrages. (His exact purpose was never ascertained.) When a grim and determined group of high level guardsmen was sent to apprehend Murq, he had already fled, leaving behind only another simulacrum that was killed vowing vengeance upon the magistrate and the city.

The magician Murq and his outrages have almost been forgotten. Recently, however, the respected magistrate’s sleep has been invaded by evil dreams. In these nightmares, mad Murq appears surrounded by a cold fen, threatening the magistrate and the city with doom. He boasts of having found an ancient volume of great power, whose secrets are enabling the magic-user to create a mist golem. This creature, Murq claims, can slay others, but cannot itself be slain. When the stars are right, the golem shall be finished. Then it shall be sent to kill; first the magistrate, then anyone it can find, until everyone is slain or driven out of the city . . ." (Gygax, pg 26)
The abduction of a child is one of the most terrifying things imaginable for any parent and here is Murq, the child-thief of Greyhawk. Think about him for a minute. He comes in the night after you've put your children to bed and takes them away, never to be seen again. Not only does he take away everything that really matters in your life in that moment but if you're really unlucky he leaves you a present that looks just like your child. Only in the place of your child is an abomination before the gods.

It's hard to imagine what act Murq could have the Simulacrum perform that be so vile that it must be destroyed. Did he have them simply doing their best impressions of the Exorcist? Or did he have them begin summoning demons from the abyss into their bedrooms when their parents entered? Was he trying to bring one of the Demon Lords into the heart of aristocratic Greyhawk?

Murq is a perplexing monster in the setting. On the one hand he feels as though he could be just another serial killer hunting down and sacrificing children to vile gods; but what if there's more behind his actions? He's only attacking the nobility in this blurb. Could he an extension of the anarchists who murdered and rioted their way through the early 1900s and were popping back up in the 1960s and 1970s? Or is he just a nightmare given life in the world of Greyhawk?

No matter what his motivations the son of a bitch needs killing and I would have gleefully joined any party rushing his home and would have rushed headlong into his room hoping that my axe would be the one to sever his head from his dainty, little shoulders. But that wasn't how it ended for Murq because he got away and then he did got on the edge of doing something that terrifies every player in the game: he nearly created an unbeatable opponent. The mist golem he haunts the magistrate's dreams with is the sort of thing that no player in his right mind would ever allow to enter into the game's world - nor would any of us allow that technology to slip through our fingers if there's a chance that we might be able to send that bad boy against our enemies later in the game (hey we might be the good guys, but we're just not that good).

What happened to Murq? Did the players kill him? Did they save the kids? We wouldn't know the answer sixteen years when he would be mentioned in 1998's Greyhawk the Adventure Begins:
". .  . Hardly less notorious was the rogue wizard known as Murq, who, in 561 CY, kidnapped two-score children of Greyhawk’s noble families and fled the city. The fate of the children was never determined, though a group of adventurers (subtly guided by the Circle of Eight) tracked down Murq in the far north and, through a magical construct, prevented him from attacking the city again. The fate of Murq and the children was never revealed to the public . . ." (Moore, 61)
So the answer is we don't know for sure but there is a possibility that appeared in Murq's final appearance two years later in the article Greyhawk Grimoires from Dragon Magazine #269:
". . . A search of Murq’s abode offered no insight into his motives for the kidnappings, nor what became of the children (though it was frequently postulated that they had been sacrificed to some nefarious deity), Furthermore, investigators found nothing that could be used to track down the wizard. Indeed, Murq had disappeared without a trace, just as his victims had done . . ." (Mullin, pg 64)
It's obvious that the conclusion that the Mullin reached is that he children were sacrificed to some dark god but I have this crazy theory that Murq was actually playing with powers far deadlier for Greyhawk than just some distant god that barely notices some robed loser sacrificing children in their name. No, I think that Murq was trying to bring in one of the Demon Lords in a bid to take over Greyhawk. Which one?

My money's on Franz-Urb'luu.



Works Cited
Gygax, Gary. A Glossography for the Guide to the World of Greyhawk. TSR, Inc. USA: 1983. PRINT pg. 26

Moore, Roger E. Greyhawk the Adventure Begins. TSR, Inc. USA: 1998. PRINT 61.

Mullin, Robert S. “Greyhawk Grimoires” Dragon Magazine March 2000: 64, 66. PRINT


Buy the Books Mentioned Here

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dyvers, Part 3: The Rejection of Your Values is the Core of Ours



As I've already mentioned in The City You Don't Remember, Remembers You Still the rivalry that Dyvers has with Greyhawk colors a lot of the way that the people of Dyvers see themselves and the way that they see the world, but there may be an underlying reason why they've been so willing to engage with Greyhawk  that goes a bit deeper. In the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer Dyvers' history begins as follows:
". . . Long a trade port, Dyvers was also the capital of Aerdy's Viceroyalty of Ferrond. In that role, it served as a welcome port to goods and travelers who braved the unexplored shores of the Nyr Dyv. The palace of the viceroy rivaled that of his colleagues in the west, and its domed central structure and austere stone towers have long been cited in travelogues as among the finest examples of Oeridian architecture.

By 254 CY, the degradation of the Great Kingdom had grown too profound for the lords of the west. In that seminal year, the heir to Viceroy Stinvri was proclaimed King Thrommel I. The Viceroyalty of Ferrond was no more. In its place stood a vast independent kingdom, Furyondy, with Dyvers as its cosmopolitan capital.

Dyvers had been the region's capital for more than 150 years. Despite the gradeur of the palace grounds and the long tradition, however, Thrommel and his newly installed court desired a grander seat for their new realm. A short time after the coronation, plans were drawn for a new capital, Chendl, far to the north. By 288 CY, the king had abandoned the "City of Sails" for his new seat of power, the meticulously crafted architectural wonder of Chendl . . ." (Holian, 41)
I like this bit of history in the steady progress of Dyvers from the city you never remember until you need to sell something (and can't get to Greyhawk), towards the city that you need in your life. It adds another layer into why the city would use the gigantic statues of lake monsters and why it would move away from the classical Oeridian architecture that characterized the Viceroyal's Palace and towards new innovations in architecture and art. The more I delve into this the more I see Dyvers clearly in my mind's eye as a place like Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, and Charleston. A city that was rejected, put upon, and stuffed away to be forgotten by the rest of the world because they had moved in a new direction: cleaner lines, baroque art forms, and an expanding dependence on magic as the solution to all the world's problems. 

But not Dyvers. 

Dyvers is the counter-point and the center of the counter-culture in the world by the willing rejection of what everyone else proclaims as the standard. Instead the city has been forging its own path using the natural benefits that it was founded upon to bring everyone else along, kicking and screaming. Dyvers is where you'll find colleges, technocrats, and all manner of mechanical wonders. Dyvers isn't looking to bind it's people up in the stagnant guilds that dominate elsewhere; instead they're looking for innovations. They want people to make new technologies, submarines, and robots that can fight the lake monsters. They want to push the whole damned continent into a new direction that reshape the world in their image.

The rejection of what the rest of the world considers the standard for things has some odd consequences. As this passage from the Gazetteer notes:
". . . In recent years, Dyvers has gained the unfortunate reputation of being a good place to "get lost" - or, rather, to lose one's pursuers. After the Horde of Elemental Evil was routed at Emridy Meadows, some adherents to darkness who did not flee to the Wild Coast instead traveled north to Dyvers, bolstering the criminal element in the city. . . ." (Holian, 41)
Undoubtedly this is a narrow interpretation of what is happening in the city (the Gazetteer is named for Dyvers' rival after all). It would be far more accurate to state that some of those refugees from the Elemental Evil Horde joined the criminal underworld of Dyvers, BUT that the vast majority of those refugees have integrated themselves into the city as any others would. After all, the city of Dyvers isn't concerned with who you were before you came here - only with what you do once you're here.

Fuck yeah, Dyvers.



Works Cited

Holian, Gary; Erik Mona; Sean K Reynolds; and Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. USA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000. PRINT. pgs  41

Buy the Book Mentioned Here

Read the Whole Series
Part 3: The Rejection of Your Values is the Core of Ours

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

But Don't You Care About the Orc's Feelings?

The other night I was following some incoming traffic to the blog when I found a new forum that I hadn't explored before. It seems that several of the people there were taking exception to the idea that I don't believe that orcs are black people and that all the other monstrous creatures are just stand-ins for the various minorities found in the United States. To them it was manifestly true and my refusal to look deeper beyond the thinly veiled exterior of these creatures was inexcusable. Some people just love to project their issues on the rest of us.

Here's the truth of the matter: Dungeons & Dragons is a game of heroic fantasies and that means something other than a repetition of the real world and it's troubles in our games.
". . . Heroic fantasies are laid in an imaginary world - either long ago, or far into the future, or on another planet - where magic works, supernatural beings abound, and machinery does not exist. An adult fairy tale of this kind provides pure escape fiction. In such a world, gleaming cities raise their silver spires against the stars; sorcerers cast sinister spells from subterranean lairs; baleful spirits stalk crumbling ruins of immemorial antiquity; primeval monster crash through jungle thickets; and the fate of kingdoms is balanced on the blades of broadswords brandished by heroes of preternatural strength and valor. Men are mighty, women are beautiful, problems are simple, life is adventurous, and nobody has ever heard of inflation, the petroleum shortage, or atmospheric pollution . . . In other words, heroic fantasy sings of a world not as it is, but as it ought to be. Its aim is to entertain, not display the author's cleverness, nor to uplift the reader, nor to expose the shortcomings of the world we live in . . ." (Sprague de Camp, ix - x).
The world is simple in Dungeons & Dragons. The bad guys are bad because they are. It isn't a question of what terrible thing happened to them when they were children; or where their parents when wrong in raising them; or what their psychological underpinnings are: they're just terrible people. It's not that complicated. The monsters are evil because we're the good guys and fuck 'em because they're not us. 

Kane on the Golden Sea by Frank Frazetta
Look, I'll answer all the questions that get brought up most every time that I post something like this. 
  • We kill dragons and monsters because that's what heroes do.
  • We rescue princes and ride unicorns that shit rainbows because it's awesome.
  • We dive into our treasure piles like Scrooge McDuck because that's what sounds like a lot of fun. 
  • We play gay, straight, trans-gendered and every race that we want because fuck anyone who thinks that there's a restriction on our imaginations.
  • We have monks because Kung-fu movies are the shit and we don't give a damn about your culturally appropriate classes.
  • We spout catch phrases because Arnold Schwarzenegger made it cool and everyone wants that experience (haven't you watched Hot Fuzz?).
  • We do every stupidly exciting idea that pops into our heads and laugh our asses off when the dice comes up with a one because it's fun and that's why we're playing Dungeons & Dragons to begin with, Holmes.
  • We go into dungeons, underground cavers, forbidden tombs, mad scientists' lairs, vile sorcerers' towers, and every other unthinkable place because Doc Savage, James Bond, Doctor Who, Conan, and the Avengers said it was cool and we've been reading their books and watching their movies our whole lives.
  • We spout catch phrases from our favorite movies because their our favorites. Stop judging us for liking things you smug, hipster bastards.
  • We max our abilities because it's fun.
  • We gimp our characters because Man Rider is damned champion and everyone needs to have a character that fun in their lives. 
  • We argue about editions because it's the internet and we're all insecure about a hobby that is about as cool as stamp collecting. 
  • We make up rules because it's fun and our groups enjoy them.
Now that that's settled let's go play some D&D.



Works Cited

Sprague de Camp, L. Conan and the Spider God. Bantam Books. 1980. PRINT. pgs. ix - x

Monday, October 12, 2015

GREYHAWK FOR THE WINS KIDS!

Last night I was sipping whiskey and giving +Mike Bridges unwanted and unneeded advice on how to run a bard (because +Mark Van Vlack and I are unheralded geniuses) in a campaign where I'm pretty sure he was playing a Caviler - of course it was Call of Cthulhu so I may be mistaken. Anyway, on the third cocktail it occured to me that I hadn't made any new Greyhawk posters in a while. 

Let's fix that.






Oh, and here are some of the Dyvers covers I've been doing lately because that's what I do when I'm bored.



Check Out the Rest of the Greyhawk Poster Series

As always if you like these Greyhawk posters, or just enjoy making Mearls and Co. miserable by filling their twitter feeds with Greyhawk noise, send it to them. Send them your favorite cover and tell them I WANT MOAR GREYHAWKS! Don't let them think that the only people who need official products are the Forgotten Realms kids!
 
The Wizard Cats on Twitter (that I know about)
@Mike Mearls Co-designer of Fifth Edition and Ideas Man Extraordinaire
@Chris Perkins Dungeon Master to the Stars, Lead Story Manager, and more
@Jeremy Crawford Co-designer of Fifth Edition and Rules Guru
@Greg Bilsland Senior Producer for D&D
@Nathan Stewart Brand Director of Dungeons & Dragons
@Bart Carroll Producer of Wizards D&D website
@Greg Tito Communications Manager for D&D
@Trevor Kidd Master of Social Media, Wizards Guru

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Steady Boys, the Girls Have Cats and We're On Our Way to Greyhawk!

It's quiet over here because I'm sick with a head cold that I've been fighting with pseudoephedrine and hate. So let's direct that into a more constructive outlet. 


Right, now that I've done that I need to get back to work on that little Dyvers city project I've been working on . . . Perhaps tomorrow. After I've bought a box of wine and drank it. And then bought another one. You know, with that much wine I probably won't be doing much writing now that I think about it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The D&D Guidebook, 3rd Edition Part 3: Styles of Play


There is an old argument against the Dungeons & Dragons that goes like this: "D&D is a game built around the idea that the players should largely engage in combative behavior without worrying about the 'story' of the session or campaign. The game emphasizes combat by rewarding players only for killing monsters and looting treasure, and not for accomplishing important moments for the character in the context of the game's larger story. Therefore it is not a game that anyone concerned with the idea that the world is more meaningful than the next walking experience point waiting to be felled should spend any time playing."

When 3e was published the argument became louder with many of its proponents posting on a wide array of forums decrying the way that this newly popular version of the game was being played. Too often, for them it seems, D&D players were gleefully killing Orcs, Dragons, and Trolls and too rarely talking about how the death of the Duke's daughter affected their character's emotional well-being. The 'murder-hobos' were decried for their lack of imagination and 3e was pointed to as the source of this murderous non-sense. "The game," they reasoned, "did not reward true creativity and only indulged in the baser instincts of its players - never challenging their moral understanding of the world."

They are, of course, full of shit.


D&D is a robust game that allows for a wide array of play styles from the aggressive play of the most notorious, bloodthirsty player to the deeply immersive explorations of what it means for a character to navigate the political intrigues of the free cities of Dyvers and Greyhawk. D&D is a game that reflects the play style of the group playing the game - Dungeon Master and players alike. If your group is looking to go from dungeon crawl to dungeon crawl spending as little time playing out their characters' time away from that exploration than that's something that D&D can provide you through monstrous encounters, deadly traps, and vile malefactors in every wild space of the campaign world. By the same token if the group wants to spend weeks dallying with Dukes and petty nobles of various houses, exploring the political intrigues associated with them and pitting each against the other for the players' benefit, than D&D, and especially 3e, can accomplish that with ease.

While Dungeons & Dragons is a game that can provide players with an experience that focuses on either end of the spectrum (murderous vagrants or political dilettantes), it works best somewhere between each spectrum. In the Dungeon Master's Guide it was put this way:
". . . Most campaigns are going to fall between these two extremes. There's plenty of action, but there's a storyline and interaction as characters too. Players will develop their characters, but they'll be eager to get into a fight as well. Provide a nice mixture of roleplaying encounters and combat encounters. Even in a dungeon you can present NPCs that aren't meant to be fought but rather helped out, negotiated with, or just talked to . . ." (Cook, 8)
Reading that paragraph again for the first time in a few years I find myself remembering how I was sitting at my desk plotting out Duke Niles's motivations when I picked up the DMG and read that paragraph. It was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and suddenly I stopped worrying about every possible plot hook and instead concerned myself with focusing on what my players wanted when they played. I started listening to what they were talking about - the next fight, what would happen to the little girl if they didn't figure out what was going on, whether they could stop everything from collapsing in on itself and save the world - and began attempting to provide them with an opportunity to find out.

In the eleven years I've been running D&D since I've had games that ran the gamut from deeply immersive experiences to murderous rampages where no ogre was left alive and the game has always provided me with a framework to experience the game we had been looking to play (which isn't to say that I've never played other games or that they didn't provide me enjoyable experiences as well). During the majority of that time I've played a lot of 3e and enjoyed the hell out of it; which is why I decided to start this series for the D&D Guidebook with 3e.



Works Cited

Cook, Monte. Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide, Core Rulebook II. Wizards of the Coast. USA, 2000. PRINT. pg. 8


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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You Say the Underdark is Going Crazy? Diinkarazan Started That.

Buppido, who thinks he is the reincarnation of Diinkarazan in Out of the Abyss


For the last couple of years I've been looking occasionally at the boxed set The Night Below (TSR 1125). The adventure fascinates me as it's a massive undertaking designed in such a way that it test both the players' ability to improvise and plan effectively, as well as, the Dungeon Master's. That's been a rare commodity in the modules that I've examined over the years and so the Night Below has captured my imagination. Still, I've never made a concerted effort to really plow through the adventure from beginning to end so that I'm prepared to actually run it.

I'm changing that.

Anyway, there's a character that has kind of gotten my attention lately, Darlakanand (a Derro with a terrible name) who is driven by the mad Power, Diinkarazan (again, a terrible name). Diinkarazan is one of the many Second Edition divine powers that you run across every so often when exploring a module from that era that will send you off through other books trying to figure out who the hell they're talking about.

The first time that I noticed Diinkarazan was when I ran across the Isle of Derangement: 
". . . This small island has, in the center of its one cove, a single 6-foot-high standing stone with a Derro handprint indelibly etched into its surface. This stone was once touched by the mad Demo demi-deity Diinkarazan, and it causes insanity in anyone approaching within 30 feet (saving throw vs. spell to resist). However, from time to time creatures swim too close to shore and are affected; as a result,a community of wholly deranged kuo-toa lives here. They have become the dominant group by killing anything else that arrives . . ." (Sargent NB, 35)
There's something about the idea of a divine presence coming in contact with a location and leaving a part of its will behind to forever affect the world afterwards that just strikes a perfect tone for me. I mean, Diinkarazan has manifested real evidence of his presence in a world where few even acknowledge his existence and in so doing has indelibly changed a whole section of the Underdark. Sure it's not as sexy as a bunch of Demon Lords running amok in the Underdark as is happening with this year's Rage of Demons story BUT wouldn't it be wild if the ultimate secret of that storyline was that the players had come into contact with the Isle of Derangement from Night Below and were living out the Rage of Demons story in their minds?

Diinkarazan is an interesting character who is really only developed in three places that I know of: the Night Below (TSR 1125), Monster Mythology (DMGR4, TSR 2128), and On Hallowed Ground (TSR 2623). In the Night Below Diinkarazan is a passing presence mentioned but not really defined. Monster Mythology Diinkarazan is granted a whole paragraph where we learn about his relationship with the Derro's primary god, Diirinka. Here it is revealed that Diinkarazan is shunned in Derro lore because the shamans who revere his twin brother, Diirinka, are doing their best to make sure that Diinkarazan is never powerful enough to seek his revenge on his brother for betraying him. The betrayal happened like this:
". . . The two young gods, probably children of one or other of the lesser dwarven gods (this is most unclear), sought to expand their dominion and wished to create their own race of dwarves. They wanted their creation to be distinctive, typified by qualities hill and mountain dwarves lack - speed, dexterity, and magical prowess. Drawn to deeper places than to other dwarves, they explored the Underdark and found a vast cavern glittering with the elemental force of raw magic. They began to gather up strange, alien magical artifacts scattered about a central green crystal sphere floating just above the ground, and as they did so a vast spectral brain floated up from the sphere and surveyed them coldly. Ilsensine, the god of illithids, did not take well to his secrets being stolen by a pair of diminutive dwarves. Diirinka backstabbed his own brother and left him to be consumed by the spectral horror, fleeing for his life. He left his brother to be cursed most horribly by the furious illithid, and banished to the Abyss where he still dwells . . ." (Sargent MM, 59 - 60)
It should come as no surprise to longtime D&D enthusiasts that both the Isle of Derangement and the god Diinkarazan come from the man who moved the needle of D&D away from what had become a tired and banal system and into a whole new realm of possibility: Carl Sargent. Sargent's work has always been the sort of thing that inspires my imagination in ways that few others before him have been capable of doing and almost no one has done since. Just look at that description for the relationship between Diirinka and Diinkarazan! Betrayal, family, power, horror! It's all there and yet so little is defined. It's tantalizing and in the equivalent of two paragraphs Sargent has created a demi-god that I want to make a part of my campaigns. He's everything I like about the Gods of Chaos from Warhammer without the baggage.

I have yet to read On Hallowed Ground yet, but I've ordered it. If anyone would like to fill us in on Diinkarazan's role in that supplement while I wait on UPS to show up I'd love to hear about what he's doing there.


Works Cited

Sargent, Carl. Monster Mythology. USA. TSR, Inc. 1992. Print. pg. 59 - 60

Sargent, Carl. Night Below, Book II, The Perils of the Underdark. USA. TSR, Inc. 1995. Print. pg. 35


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Monday, September 28, 2015

The Van Dyke Papers, Part 1: D&D Only Allows You to Play White People



This morning I was reading an old article put up by Chris Van Dyke about how racist Dungeons & Dragons actually is and how we should be aware of the assumptions the game makes about race. The article has an odd sort of logic to it that I would like to discuss for a few moments.
". . . In D&D, humans are the normative race, and given the Anglo-centric depiction of human culture in the game, humans can be interpreted as representing “white people.”  They are “normal,” while all other races, whether good or evil, are to some extent “exotic,” and otherized.

First, lets just look at race as it relates to the real world.  How are different human ethnic groups – black, white, Asian, Latino – depicted in the world of D&D?  In a word, they aren’t, and their presence is felt strongly through their near total exclusion.  This isn’t a great surprise, as the source material for high fantasy primarily stems from Anglo-Saxon and European folk-lore. Additionally, the vast majority of players are white males.  I actually have no statistics to back this up, but anyone who wants to argue that point can after I’m done.  In a game based around “role playing,” players are encouraged to take on the part of elves, dwarves, half-orcs, assassins, and warlocks, yet it is assumed that in all these roles they will still be white.  Not that this is ever stated, of course, but this assumption lies both in the lack of any mention of human ethnicity in the character creation process and the illustrations of player characters found in the core texts . . ." (Van Dyke)
In certain segments of our hobby there is the belief that Dungeons & Dragons is a game where racial prejudices are given free reign by allowing us to place the non-white man in the place of elves, dwarves, and other humanoid races. These proxy races then allow us to freely kill, maim, and defile the other with wanton abandon. For these people, and it's clear that Mr. Van Dyke should be counted among them, unless it is expressly mentioned that there are Black people, trans-gendered people, homosexuals, or any other minority group present in the game than they are excluded from the setting and are then shoved into the category of the "other." This "other" category represents anything that your character cannot expressly be allowed to play and into it are shoved all the repressed minorities that you find in the real world so that your white characters can go about smashing their brains in.

As you can imagine this is all complete bullshit.

The argument that games like Dungeons & Dragons are creating an assumption that all your player characters are white - half-orcs, drow, and all the other playable races included - is ludicrous. D&D isn't a game that says, "You can only play one type of character here, kids: white." It's a game that let's you build any sort of character that you want. Would you like to play a gay, trans-gendered, Hispanic Wizard? You got it! Want to play a Black, female Barbarian who rides a mechanical horse in search of treasure and male booty to plunder? Do it! Thinking about rolling up an Asian Rogue who only speaks in riddles? Get on it! The only person preventing you from picking any sort of minority group to represent in your game is you.

Van Dyke then moves on from this series of false assumptions to bring up outright misinformation:
". . . In the over 100 illustrations of adventurer’s in the 2nd Edition Player Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide (both published in 1989), there are NO non-white adventurers.  Finally, after 25 years the 3rd edition, published in 2003, makes some passing mention of race in the character creation process
". . . Most humans are the descendants of pioneers, conquerors, traders, travelers, refugees, and other people on the move. As a result human lands are hom to a mix of people - physically, culturally, religiously, and politically different. Hardy or fine, light-skinned or dark, showy or austere, primative or civilized, devout or impious, humans run the gamut . . . Thanks to their penchant for migration and conquest, and to their short life spans humans are more physically diverse than other common races. Their skin shades range from nearly black to very pale, their hair from black to blond (curly, kinky, or straight), and their facial hair (for men) from sparse to thick . . ." (Tweet, 12)
There you have it – “dark” and “kinky” are they only two adjectives in the first 25 years of D&D core texts that acknowledge that PCs might be something other than fair-skinned Anglo-Saxons.  Yet the illustrations still show an almost purely white world.  In 80 illustrations spread over the two core books of 3rd ed., there is one black woman and no black men.  Coming across this picture after flipping through 982 pages of rules, I wasn’t sure whether the correct reaction was to be glad that the editors of the 3rd edition were broadening the concept of who a PC might be, or wonder why the first trace of race was a scantily clad, busty black female warrior . . ." (Van Dyke).
Van Dyke presents the passage he quotes from the 3.5 revision of Dungeons & Dragons as the first time in "25 years of D&D core texts that acknowledge that PCs might be something other than fair-skinned Anglo-Saxons;" which is outright false. Three years earlier the 3.0 version of the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook was published with the exact same text. Going even further back my Second Edition Player's Handbook, which he apparently only examined the illustrations from and not the text, expressly states that: ". . . Although humans are treated as a single race in the AD&D game, they come in all the varieties we known on Earth . . ." (Cook, 32). If we do as Van Dyke suggests and limit our inquiry into D&D's racial bias to the core books than it is clear that the game has explicitly acknowledged the wide variety of racial differences possible for human beings since 1989, eleven years after the publication of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Yet even if we were to ignore those earlier, explicit acknowledgements of humanity's racial diversity in the game we would still have things like Oriental Adventures (1985), The Greyhawk Boxed Set (1983), and the myriad of Setting supplements that came out after the publication of First Edition that had peoples in a wide variety of hues that would contest with Van Dyke's assertion.* From this point forward Van Dyke is so wrapped up in his misinformation and false assumptions that he wildly jumps to conclusions that are not supported by evidence he has presented.  

More later.




Notes

* Van Dyke will later mention Oriental Adventures in his article by first making a snide comment about the term Oriental, as though everyone in 1985 had the same understanding of the term and it's offensiveness as we did in 2008, and then quoting a Something Awful post that said ". . . it wasn’t until 1985’s Oriental Adventures that you could even play an Asian person and when you think about it they are just smaller magical white people, which is what elves are . . ." (Sumner). He then follows this up by stating that ". . . 1992 saw the publication of the Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures.  And really the less said about that the better . . ." (Van Dyke). He might as well be saying, "I know that I'm wrong here but I feel like I'm right so rather than present you with evidence that I am correct I'm going to malign the two things I know about that punch holes in my theses - especially since I missed illustrations of clerics from different races in the AD&D Player's Handbook from 1978 and there are lots of other illustrations in products before 2003 that I'm ignoring because they undercut my point as well."


Works Cited

Cook, David "Zeb." Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook. USA. TSR, Inc., 1989. Print. pg. 32

Sumner, Steve "Malak." Is Faerun Ready for Its First Orc President?. Something Awful. Something Awful, 25 April, 2008. Web. 27 September, 2015

Tweet, Jonathan, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams. Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook. Core Rulebook I v.3.5. USA. Wizards of the Coast, 2003. Print. pg. 12

Van Dyke, Chris. "Nerd Nite Presentation – November 18th, 2008" Race in D&D. Race in D&D, 28 November, 2008. Web. 27 September, 2015. 

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Let's Make Something Challenging Together

The more that I've thought about creating a 30 Day Challenge list the more that I've become serious about actually doing it; and a...