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Monday 31 March 2014

UNcracked Monday: When "Justice League Canada" Isn't.

I recently told a young would-be comics fan "speaking as a fan of DC, I can tell you that most of what Marvel is doing it total shit right now.  And speaking as a fan of DC, I can also tell you that all of what DC is doing is total shit right now".

Case in point: I'm sure it will go over really well that "Justice League Canada" will have precisely ONE actually Canadian superhero. Two if you count that Adam Strange (wow, there's a real A-lister!) is now suddenly Canadian even though he wasn't at all for the last 70 years.   Even the utter numbskulls at DC seem to have figured out that its stupid to call a team with six Americans and one (theoretically two) Canadians a "Canadian" team, so they've renamed their comic Justice League United.  Apparently, their logical thought process has not extended so far as to figure out  that wait, this comic will SUCK ASS.  But then, since they haven't figured that out about pretty much every other comic they're printing just now, this doesn't really surprise me.

And of course, the one Canadian hero they'll have is a multicultural token female-native character with powers matching the stereotype of her Cree heritage.  Which is a bit like if every Italian superhero had pasta-themed superpowers.  That's the one figure in the comic we get to "represent" Canada.  Oh, and Adam Strange.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Sunday 30 March 2014

Golden Age Campaign Update

Last night the PCs went to Cairo, along with some other All-stars, to protect the President during the Cairo Conference. 

And of course what, would an adventure in Cairo be if it didn't include this scene?


Yes, Mummies! Thousands of them, and Anubis (really Ha-set, Hawkman's old enemy, having stolen the powers of Anubis).  Plus there were crazy sufi mystics, dark necromantic cults, and a blind Kung-Fu master as Chiang Kai-Shek's bodyguard.

A good time was had by all.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Saturday 29 March 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Lamentations of the Flame Princess Player Core Book

RPGPundit Reviews: Lamentations of the Flame Princess Player Core Book

This past week I received a package from Finland which contained (approximately) one metric fuckton of LotFP products for review.  So that's the good news: there will be quite a lot of upcoming reviews for one of my favorite OSR games.  Now, here's where I apologize to the authors of Stark City and Achtung Cthulhu, which are also coming up for review; but I decided to push this particular LotFP product up to the front of the pack.  Mainly, because I already reviewed it: the LotFP Player Core Book is a newer and hardcover version of the most important of the three books in the LotFP Grindhouse Edition boxed set, apart from a few slight differences. 

And its great that this book has come out in this format, for a number of reasons. First, because out of the three books in the boxed set, the Core Rulebook is the only one I ended up actually using; its got everything that's actually important, as opposed to James Raggi's ranting about his particular vision of what constitutes "weird fantasy".

Second, because my copy of the core rulebook has been getting quite worn and dog-eared; mind you, this is not due to any quality issues.  Its due to the fact that I used the shit out of it in a campaign that's been going on for about three years now.  So I'm glad to get a fresh new copy of the book.

The book is, as I mentioned, a slim short hardcover, apparently of very high quality. The colour cover is magnificent, as are the various colour plates in the middle section of the book; the black and white art in the rest of the book is pretty great too!  The book is 168 pages long, plus the front inside cover has the price list for equipment, and the back inside cover has reference tables for movement, encumbrance, saving throws, weapons, attack bonuses, armor and cover.

For simplicity's sake, if you have no idea what the LotFP rules are about, please refer to my earlier review of the Grindhouse edition box set.  Do keep in mind that this review was written before I actually played the game.  Now, I've been running the "Dark Albion" campaign (the free setting is available on the Pundit's Forum of theRPGsite) for several years, and if anything I have even more admiration for this game than before.

The new Player Core Book: Rules and Magic is a reprint of the rule book from that set, with a few changes and additions.  Aside from the new hardcover format, and changes in the art (the new art is equally good, plus many of the more gruesome and outrage-inducing pieces from the old set remain there), there are only a few significant changes worth noting.  The layout has been somewhat improved; it looks nicer and even more legible than before.  The spell sections have had minor modifications; for example, the "Gate" spell is no longer included, while the "lost dweomer" (a spell that is in the index list of m-u spells but isn't actually found described anywhere in the book) is still kept as a stupid practical joke on the reader.

Where you see the biggest difference is in the appendices; and a lot of this change, I think, has to do with what must have been a change of focus for James Raggi sometime shortly after completing LotFP.  The LotFP game as it is was clearly intended for a standard-D&D-type "fantasy medieval" setting.  But many of the adventures that came out for LotFP subsequently became more and more about a setting geared to the later renaissance; the "wars of religion" period from 1600-1660 or so. The appendices try to rectify this incompatibility with aspects of the rules, mainly the equipment rules.

So after a glossary of terms, we get an appendix that details the variant technologies of the 17th century meant to supplant or replace the more medieval equipment of the main book.  First, there are rules for firearms: pistols, arquebuses and muskets; in matchlock, wheellock or flintlock form. 

The rules for firearms are relatively simple, but fairly effective for representing this technology: pistols, arquebuses and muskets all do 1d8 damage, with rifles and muskets having a longer range (but pistols can be used one-handed; while muskets require a special stand to fire without penalty). All firearms ignore the first 5 points of armor at short range (muskets do so at all ranges).  They are finicky weapons, with chances of misfire (rolled on a separate d10; I would have personally just incorporated it into the attack roll, with natural 1-x causing a misfire) and difficulty in poor conditions (particularly in damp environments). They are essentially one-use items per combat, taking up to 10 rounds to reload (though the more advanced flintlocks take less time, and fighters take less time than other classes; though even in the best of circumstances you're still talking about 4 rounds to reload).

I have no objection to the idea that guns in this period should be somewhat less than ideal; that they shouldn't be utterly reliable.  Now, I've already designed my own house rules for guns in the Dark Albion setting, but even so I will likely incorporate some of this material into my game.  However, I do think that perhaps the effectiveness of guns has been slightly underplayed; even if the approach Raggi took with them wasn't historically inaccurate, I think it makes sense to make firearms slightly more appealing to players than these would be.  I would personally fix this by increasing the chance of damage in some way (in my own game, I do this by having a maximum roll result in an additional die of damage). There's also sensible rules for cannons (which aren't very useful for non-mass combat; but effectively devastating for warfare), firebombs, and scatter-shot ammo.

Of less use to my own (late 15th century) campaign but far more interesting on the whole are the new armor rules; detailing the rarely-covered early 17th century armor preferences.  You have stats for buff coats, helmets that do something without being unbalancing, pikeman's armor, and full armor for the mounted heavy cavalry and high-ranking figures.

I want to be really clear about Lamentations: while I don't really get or particularly like Raggi's ideas about "weird fantasy" (the bulk of which are, I repeat, NOT found in this book, but in the GM's guide, which in turn contains nothing of any importance to actual play, as my lengthy campaign without using it at all proves), and while I think the LotFP products evoke some mixed impressions on me (half of them are absolutely amazing, and half seem totally unappealing), there's no question to me that as a rules-set, LotFP is one of the absolute best in the OSR field.  Apart from my own Arrows of Indra, the two OSR games I think are the very best in the field are Dungeon Crawl Classics (which represents the ultimate "out-there" extension of what you can do with the D&D ruleset) and LotFP (which represents the most ideal distillation of capturing the essencial core of the D&D game). If you love old-school play, this is the book for you; and its certainly playable for far more than just "weird fantasy".


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Brebbia no.7 mixture

Friday 28 March 2014

Arrows of Indra Q&A Update

This is an update of the Q&A thread for Arrows of Indra.  You can find the full thread here; and if you wish to submit any question at all to me related to Arrows of Indra, you'll get a response here and on that thread shortly!

Now, as for today's update:

Q:I'm reading through my brand-spanking-new copy of Arrows of Indra, and a question pops up for me going through the Skills section (p 33 - p 43).
The text under Explanation of skills reads: "All regular skills (including special skills or actions based on bonuses granted by class or race) are checked by rolling a d20 ... "
I get this applies to background skills, but I'm not clear on what regular skills are (I don't see the term elsewhere). More specifically, do class skills follow this skill check rule (or perhaps some of them; some don't seem to reasonably call for rolls).
Likewise, are Enlightenment Powers subject to skill checks? I'd think not, given both what they represent and the fact that they aren't skills (or at all regular), per se.
Apologies if I'm being obtuse, or if I missed a prior explanation.
... as I continue to read, the The Task Resolution notes on p 64 seem to indicate yes, re: class skills. I'd still appreciate any clarifications. I feel particularly daft

A: First, thanks for your enjoyment of Arrows of Indra, and for sharing that here!

Second, Skill checks are done with any skill that actually requires a roll. "Regular" as a word in the description you mentioned was perhaps a mistake. It might have been better to just say "many skills use rolls; those that do all use the same mechanic...", but I suppose its too late now; though that's what this Q&A is for, in part!

Which ones require rolling? Any skill that has a relevant skill presented in parentheses somewhere in its entry. So in the background skills you see things like "Farming(CON)", Accountant(INT), Herbalist-doctor (INT), Merchant (CHA), Religious Dancer (CHA), or even something like "Spy (usually CHA)". Any of those can require rolling.

Note that this doesn't mean they MUST always be rolled. As the rules note, a big part of having even a +1 in an skill means that you don't necessarily have to roll. For very basic things related to the skill, the GM can just rule your character knows it, or how to do it. Even for simple tasks, you can now "take 10", rather than actually rolling.

You'll note that among background skills listed in the main book, only "Translator" would never be rolled. However, with class skills its quite different: only a few class skills are actually rolled. For example; the priest's "Theology (INT)" and "Demonology (INT)"; fighters' "Charioteering (DEX)" and "horsemanship (DEX)"; the siddhi's "Astrology (INT)"; or the thief's "Poison Knowledge (INT)", "Urban Survival (WIS)", "Appraisal (INT)", "Sense Motivation (WIS)", "Disguise (CHA)", and "Object Lore (INT)".

All the other class skills, things like the priest Arcana; fighter's Proficiencies, combat Maneuvers, or Command; siddhi's Asanas, Mantras, and Mudras; or the thief's Language/Literacy, Manipulation, kukri, katar or sling Training; all of these are NOT rolled. No standard checks are performed; they all do what they do. Some of the descriptions of these skills clearly provide bonuses to other types of rolls (attacks, damage, reaction checks, etc), others require other types of roll (saving throws on the part of the victims of a Mudra to avoid mind control, or disintegration or to believe an illusion, etc). But there's no "D20+ attribute vs DC" check for the skill itself.

Likewise, Enlightenment powers require no checks.


That's all for this week; please feel free to send us your questions, on theRPGsite thread, and check out Arrows of Indra if you haven't yet!

Thursday 27 March 2014

On Brothels, Boobs, and James Desborough

Over on, the Pseudo-activism Swine have risen up again, triggered by the news that James Desborough has been given a job (because clearly, he is a pariah who should never work again in the industry because he wrote some stupid sourcebooks about sex, and this in their minds is just like being a registered sex offender.. no seriously, on the thread in question they posted his picture with the text added below that he is a sex offender and should be required to report himself as such in his neighbourhood.. that’s the level of viciousness we’re dealing with here).

They’ve risen up to try to push the company that’s hired him as their creative director to fire him in shame, and probably to apologize and pay a fine for its sins or be driven out of business themselves, like they tried to do with Mongoose.

(to explain for those who don’t know or don’t remember or almost don’t care but care just enough to keep reading: Desborough wrote some “book of erotic fantasy”-type books that were full of pretty sophomoric sex-references; that he claims are “funny” but some could interpret as pervy (I probably would), and then he went on to double down in the face of accusations of misogyny by writing an essay where he argued that rape and the threat of rape in fantasy writing (and I presume, RPGs) is a useful and important literary device/theme; but he couched it in the sense of “Rape (in literature) is awesome!”, which infuriated everyone, which I assume was his point. So he’s an attention seeker, very open about his sex-obsession, and lacks any sense of tact or social charisma.  There are certainly things worth criticizing about him, but the real point is that it also makes him an easy target, a poster boy that the Pseudo-activism Swine can hold up and pretend that every regular gamer is just like him).

But they don’t stop there! No, at the same time, there’s a very interesting thread going on where they claim that the presence of Brothels and tavern wenches in D&D is a sign that the game is irredeemably sexist, is the reason why girls don’t play D&D (that’s funny, I’ve got lots of girls in my gaming groups, including a couple who enjoyed playing tavern wenches), and is a sign that everyone who likes D&D is just a sex pervert like Desborough.

But wait... there is an important difference, and this is what pisses me off: they equate something like a single line in a blackmoor book, out of 75 building entries full of farmers and bowyers and city guard posts, a single line that says “this is a brothel”, with the fucking Book of Erotic Fantasy or Ian Warner’s Courtesans.

The latter ARE puerile, they are something you can even have a justifiable discussion about. On the other hand, when you are arguing that ALL D&D is morally questionable perversion because there’s an entry for a bawdy house in greyhawk city, then you are just attempting to engage in a self-righteous (feminist)-puritanical pogrom of political correctness.

The assertion that Ian Warner or James Desborough might be perverts is a valid one (though they’re making these assertions for the wrong reasons, like pseudo-activism). Never mind the likes of the guy who wrote Carcossa, or for that matter Vince Baker, who are both perverts of a much greater magnitude than the benny-hill sexy-party rumpy-bumpy bullshit of Warner and Desborough’s sophomoric writing!

And yet, of these four, three are routinely condemned by the Pseudo-activism Swine while the one who went around talking about how awesome it is to engage in raping the throat of a dead cabin boy in your RPG sessions (Baker), and wrote games that regularly feature much more degenerate (bordering on the illegal) sex than anything that Warner or Desborough have done, and didn’t even have the sense of self-shame to hide it behind the idea of “evil wizards” like the Carcossa-guy did.. he’s a fucking hero to them. I don’t hear any of the Pseudo-activist Swine calling for a boycott of his games. I wonder why that is.. it couldn’t possibly be that they’re a bunch of cloying hypocrites who don’t actually give a damn about sex in RPGs and just want to control and change RPGs to fit their vision, a vision that Baker is the foremost representative of, and his games exemplars of what they’d want the future hobby’s games to be?

 And meanwhile these degenerate hypocritical dead-child-throat-rape-fans want to assert that the average D&D gamer who RPs their PC drinking ale in a tavern full of wenches before or after the dungeon crawl, like in VAST numbers of fantasy sources that inspired or were inspired by D&D (Conan, Moorcock’s novels, Zelazny’s stuff, Lankhmar, Thieves’ World, and not to mention literally THOUSANDS of pulp fantasy novels by lesser writers) in what is a convention of the Genre, is somehow equivalent to LARPing out acts of gang rape or something.

It is, in other words, just an absurd tactic of people who have no other interest than expressing their Hate for D&D and their desire to shut down the RPG hobby as we know it.

The Swine are using Desborough’s writings as an excuse for a crusade to take over the hobby and bully it into their vision of what acceptable gaming is or is not, but at least there they have a credible excuse.  On the other hand, now they revealed their true interest (taking down regular RPGs in general) as soon as they started pushing the notion that you can’t possibly have a seedy urban setting a la Lankhmar, Sanctuary, Port Blacksand, or half the fucking cities in the Forgotten Realms. Once again, the pseudo-activism swine have overplayed their hand. They’ve shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that they wouldn’t be interested in stopping at banning Desborough or driving him out of business; they wouldn’t want to stop until they’ve driven all the aforementioned out of business, and D&D too.

So be glad; this shows you their extremism, and now we can point it out to others.


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Bent Apple + Dunhill 965

(originally posted February 16, 2013; on the old blog)

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Why Acknowledging that Truth Exists is Important; Even if You Believe We Can Never Achieve It

This is a blog entry based on comments from the earlier entry of a couple of days ago, that I thought was just too important to be left to languish in the comments section.  Truth, after all, is a very important subject.  Relativists consistently try to argue that its unfair to say "they believe in nothing"; they claim that they have very strongly-held beliefs, they merely also believe that there's no such thing as an objective Truth.  They also point out the foolishness of some who claim that they've found the one objective Truth already, and generally use it to beat up on others; this is, ultimately, an illogical and sentimentalist argument, but its the best argument the relativists could possibly muster.   Its one strength is that there are indeed stupid and mean people, who think they already have and are sole owners of Truth.  This was what led people in the West down that long slippery slope of slow civilizational suicide that starts with rejecting the very idea of objective Truth.

In fact, its been going on for so long now that most people can't even understand the idea of objective Truth at all!  They have been so thoroughly indoctrinated, for three generations now, that the average 'millennial' understands, at best, a ridiculous parody of the concept; some notion that if you think there is objective truth you must think you know everything (and ergo, no objective truth).  Its most noteworthy that even when they TRY to talk about objective truth they get all tangled up in the paradigm they're stuck in; they fall back to discussing "different truths".  And then they argue about it from the point of view of semantics or rhetoric (as if these are what truth is based on), or blend or recreate truth (for the sake of tolerance), or one imposes truth on the others by rhetorical force or actual violence. It is "truth" as a malleable meaningless substance with no real core.

The anti-postmodern position is of course that there IS such a thing as actual objective Truth. This Truth must be approached by imperfect people, and thus we can disagree about theories of truth, we can make errors and have to correct them; indeed, we can never actually "reach" or "achieve" core Truth within the boundaries of our own intellect, only keep trying to approach it, but there's still really only one thing that is actually really Truth.

On one level, this might not look all that different, right? Because in both cases you have to admit that (even if there is core Truth) our own ability to observe, understand, and discover Truth has limitations. Our individual understanding of core Truth will still be imperfect. So really, how is that any different than just saying "everyone has their own truth, and there is no objective Truth"?

The big difference is this: in the model that says "There is objective Truth", that means that by definition there are things that are NOT TRUTH. We may not ever be able to completely and perfectly understand the objectively True, but we CAN know and prove that certain things are NOT true.

On the other hand, if you take on a paradigm of there being "no such thing" as actual core Truth, then there is no truth at all, as what you call "truth" becomes nothing more than a matter of "Feelings"; it is true because I feel it is true. This means there is NO effective counterargument within that paradigm for someone saying "well, my own feeling is that some sexist probably could have/might have wanted to draw a rape threat on my front door, because they're so evil and I'm so special and important to them; so even though I actually did it myself and then told everyone I was a victim of a misogynist attack, its still basically true because I feel it might have happened!"

If one recognizes the existence of Objective Truth, then you can say "NO. You engaged in a falsehood. What you did was NOT True". On the other hand if you subscribe to the idea that truth is about "differing visions of truth", that there is no actual core Truth that exists outside our narcissistic self, then you have no way of arguing with that person's statement, it is indeed "her truth". All you can do is try to manipulate language in such a way as to try to diminish the impact of her truth, rhetorically invalidate her, or manipulate the message of 'her truth', in order to serve your own purposes. Those, and not the search for actual truth or a concern with what is real, are the only viable tools of Post-modernism.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Compact + Image Latakia

Tuesday 25 March 2014

DCC Campaign Update

In this weekend's exciting second-parter to the previous adventure, it was revealed that:

-Being a snail-feeder is one of the least-rewarding jobs possible; to the point that if any drunken maniac asks you if you want to be an adventurer, you'll jump at the chance.

-Taking a shower or using a toilet on Arkhome can sometimes be a deadly proposition.

-Tentacular Horrors are no match for the ethereal armies of Elfland.

-The Halfling definition of "do the right thing" is "betray your trusted ally at the first sign of weakness".

-Giant Crocotoads are a tastier raw-flesh dish for feral Halflings than Tentacular Monstrosity; but neither hold a candle to delicious human-flesh.

-The Torture-Chamber staff of the Assassin King is surprisingly inclusive of Gender and Sexual Preference. Also, his secretarial pool is beyond reproach.

-The Halconlords are extremely good at planning coupes d'etat.

-Gang Wars in Arkhome very quickly get out of hand.

-On the other hand, Halconlords are not that keen on the "sanity" department.

-The Tower of Corpses is just a name, it's actually a decent enough place.

-Halconlords are excellent, however, at cryptic esoteric statements that make no sense but have an air of significance.

-Clerics in Arkhome, or in general for that matter, have a hard life; but once in a while being able to download the Wrath of G.O.D. makes it all worthwhile.

-Halconlords have seen the Ribond, and think soon you will too, and then take up the Halconmask.

-Duke Halcon is a take-charge kind of homicidal maniac; so is his second in command, "the Thrush".

-Ogres make surprisingly good wizards, by ogre-standards.

-Dropping a tub full of man-fat into a swordfight doesn't necessarily make anything better, but it does make things a hell of a lot funnier.

-Some second-parters end up being three-parters.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Perique

Monday 24 March 2014

UnCracked Monday: How A Civilization Commits Suicide

So the other day we talked about step one: destroy any meaningful definition of Truth.

Step 2: under the pretense of the collective good, create a generation (its been two generations going on three now, actually) of stunted children who have never been allowed to learn how to take risks or do things without supervision.  The result: stunted little narcissistic adults who expect to be mollycoddled and protected, first by mom and dad and then by the state; and who consider the very notion of "taking risks" or showing individual initiative as something akin to a moral evil.

Case in point, this excellent article that shows how we've destroyed children by not actually allowing them to even play by themselves.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Egg + Rattray's Accountant's Mix

Sunday 23 March 2014

Lords of Olympus: Making Eris the Bad Guy

There are some old gods who have been given a bad name over the years, and there are others who have been given a vastly nicer interpretation than they ever got back in the old days.

Eris is one of the latter, largely thanks to the discordians in the 80s, and of course due to our decadent civilization’s idea that chaos is a really exciting and cool thing, and stick it to the man, and merry pranksters, and you can’t tell me what to do, and all that. So Eris was re-envisioned as a goddess of “chaos” in the sense of going to a college protest or writing a monty-python sketch, and not what she in fact was to the Greeks, and this has stuck ever since.

In Lords of Olympus, I’ve sometimes played along in my Deities section with the post-modern pop ideas about the gods (Morpheus is a bit of a goth, Heracles is known to hang out in superhero worlds sometimes), but with Eris there was just way too much potential for villainy to have her wasted on the sophomoric philosophical stupidities of the discordian bible.  Instead, I went all old-school on her: she is the Goddess of Discord, Strife and Hatred. She spreads conflict and woe wherever she goes. 
In the Olympian myth, all the gods are descended from Kaos, who is a primordial.  Eris is not quite the goddess of Chaos, she’s the goddess of Discord, and in fact has a very difficult relationship with the other gods. She is not seen as some kind of neutral figure, or a funny or liberating figure (like modern discordians want to imagine) or like some neil-gaiman-esque hipster; she was seen by the Greeks as an Evil.

On top of that, she has a whole family of villainous children to back her up: Dysnomia (spirit of Lawlessness), Ate (spirit of Ruin), Ponos (spirit of toil), Lethe (demigoddess of forgetfulness), Limos (spirit of Famine, mistress of the Scythian Plain), The Algea (spirits of Sorrow and Grief), Horkos (aka Orcus, Daemon who brings the strife caused by the breaking of oaths), and the Hysminai (Spirits of Brawl), Makhai (Spirits of Battle), Phonoi (Spirits of Murder), Androktasiai (Spirits of Manslaughter), Neikea (Spirits of Quarrel), Pseudologoi (Spirits of Lies), and Amphilogiai (Spirits of Disputes). She has used all of her children to spread discord on countless worlds.

Zeus dislikes Eris and her brood, and has even banished some of the children of Eris from Olympus, though Eris has alliances with Hades (who’s underworld is filled with the dead brought to him by Eris’ actions), Ares, and secretly Hera.

In Lords of Olympus, Eris gets a full treatment, and it would be easy to imagine an entire campaign built around the PCs as opponents to Eris’ villainy (or insanity, if you prefer). Opposing the evil that she brings to the world would certainly be a full-time or major theme for any Lords of Olympus game; just take my advice and don’t make her the cutesy-poo prankster modern interpretations want to make her out to be.  The Greeks didn’t see her that way; if anything, a much closer comparison would be to Heath Ledger’s Joker.  He’d have fit right into the discordian family.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Oversize + H&H’s Beverwyck

(originally posted February 15, 2013; on the old blog)

Saturday 22 March 2014

Campus Pseudo-Activism Frauds and the Fall of Civilization

I watched today an episode of "Vikings", an excellent show overall, though not without its problems (for example, that its writers can somehow go into meticulous and careful attention to historical detail when it comes to portraying the vikings, while falling into total and utter ahistorical absurdity whenever coverage of christians is involved: seriously, motherfucker, Crucifixion as a punishment for apostasy, in the 9th fucking century?! Is there not a single christian historian, or hell, christian, among the lot of the show's writers???).  It had a very interesting scene (aside from the idiotic lets-punish-someone-for-apostasy-by-dressing-them-like-jesus-and-crucifying-them scene aforementioned);  this (too) was a scene that almost certainly never would have happened for real, but it was very evocative nonetheless.  In the scene, a Viking has made his way into the manor of a saxon chieftain (as a hostage); walking along, he marvels at the half-ruined vestiges of the Roman villa the place clearly once was.  He turns and asks one of his captors "who made these things?", his voice tinged with amazement.  The man shrugs and responds that no one knows, but they say that there were once giants who lived in these lands.

I had to wonder, then, if someday people won't be walking through the crumbling ruins of our own civilization and say of us "I heard there were once giants who lived in these lands"?
We're not substantially different from the Romans; I'm sure its an argument that you've heard before.  Except that we are perhaps even more immune to outward pressure.  Barring certain truly apocalyptic scenario, there is no way that Western Civilization is going to collapse if there were, say, a horde of Arabs trying to invade us; contrary to what Right-wing partisans sometimes present as the terror scenario, there's no way the Al Qaeda's of the world will destroy us; and the idea of the Turkish Army being able to invade us in this day and age is understood to be patently absurd. 
But that was only half of what ruined the Romans; and we're more vulnerable than ever to the other half: if we die, we die by suicide.  We die because on the INSIDE we are corrupted until we give up every virtue that has made our civilization great (and, if you ask why this matters, when we do we will surely lose all the concepts that rest and UTTERLY DEPEND ON those virtues: things like equality, tolerance, human rights, democracy, personal freedom, and each and every form of civil right you can imagine; all of which were born in no place other than the west).

So this is why I get so pissed off by a culture that has lost its rudder enough that at the institutions of higher learning, we are failing to create principled thinkers.  We are creating morally bankrupt pseudo-activists instead; people who "feel" that it is very important to stand up to certain very fashionable ideas, while lacking either the knowledge to actually realize the philosophical foundations those ideas totally depend upon, or the morality to be able to actually represent those ideas.  We are creating a generation of civilizational illiterates (which will only get worse with the implementation in the United States of the "Common Core", along with all the other public school curricula in other countries that, insanely, intentionally seek to alienate young students as much as possible from the foundational literary and historical concepts of the west), and then it is no wonder that they are completely morally bankrupt.

The latest case: last month, a student at Grand Valley State University found the whiteboard at the door to her dorm room had been decorated with hateful and horrific racist statements and drawings (including the phrases "black bitch die", a stick-man drawing of a lynching, and "fuck black history month"). There was tremendous outrage; there was talk of taking measures, of the need to suspend classes to provide 'tolerance education', there was a Huffington Post article talking about how this incident "Proves" that Racism Persists.  It was not unlike a wave of recent events displaying the horrific and brutish intolerance of certain evil sectors of society: last year at Oberlin college that famously liberal and progressive school was targeted by a vicious hate attack that involved the spreading of posters, graffiti and emails full of highly racist material. At the University of Wyoming, a well known feminist activist received vicious rape threats on the local social network (with the claim she would be "hate-fucked" and the statement "one night with me and she's going to become a good republican (expletive)"... I'm not suddenly being prudish there, I can't find a single report that hasn't censored out whatever the expletive might have been).  And there have been various other similar cases as well. The gay student at the CCSU in 2012 who had anti-gay slogans drawn on her whiteboard and hateful menacing notes slipped under her door, for example; that student bravely stated that she "wouldn't be scared off" by these attacks, at an "Educate Over Hate" rally the school held in her honor.

And of course, all of these have in common, aside from the vicious hateful speech, the fact that they were all hoaxes perpetrated by the alleged "victims" and "activists" who would then jump forward to express how important it is to fight the kind of wrong that these things allegedly represent. In other words, these were complete frauds.  The Wyoming feminist rape threat was a fraud.  The Oberlin racist posters were a fraud perpetrated by a group of well-known liberal activists on campus. And yes, the brave lesbian student who would not be scared off by the homophobic hate mail, which she wrote herself.
And now, the racist whiteboard message of last month has likewise been proven an intentional fraud.

So what does this all have to do with the fall of civilization?  Sure, its pretty fucking bad that a bunch of college students and sometimes college professors (like Kerri Dunn, the Psychology Prof at Claremont college who spraypainted her own car with racial epiphets on the day she spoke at an anti-racism riot) are faking these things, you could say its a blow against political correctness or the like; but the real issue to me is WHY its happening.  And the reason is because we've created an intellectual culture (in Colleges especially, which is why so many of these fraud incidents happen there; but its filtered down gradually into the general population) where we suggest that Truth is not the highest virtue; where in fact we suggest that there is no such thing as "truth".  The philosophy of the relativists has created an environment where people have stood up to defend the likes of Meg Lanker-Simons (the Wyoming fake-rape-threat victim) or Kerri Dunn even AFTER they did what they did; and on a much wider scale to say "yes, well, we know technically these things didn't turn out to be true, but they're true in some kind of symbolic sense of how we FEEL about them".

And that is the thought process that goes through these hoaxer's heads: having been taught time and time again that Truth has no inherent virtue nor can it be determined, and having a sincere conviction about how there must be "evil conservatives" out there who would probably do "something like this", they decided to go ahead and do it themselves, because they felt that it was just "representative" of what their imaginary "evil conservative" would likely do. 
Fraud isn't wrong to them because they can't understand the very notion of true or false, and they think that drawing attention to the "cause" even if its based on a lie, is more important than the truth.  And this view is consistently supported by the Universities in question; Kerri Dunn's university, for example, cancelled classes to hold a rally in support of her even while the administration was already aware she was under investigation for having committed the "hate crime" herself!

In the end, its not fake hate crimes that will destroy us, of course. But this is a symptom of the bigger problem, of a culture that has completely lost the notion of the most absolutely fundamental of values that created our civilization, and a culture that seems to rush to tear down anything that would connect us to those values, often ironically in the alleged name of the very advances in human rights that ONLY those values created and that only those values can be capable of protecting and defending!  If there's no truth, then there's no truth to the notion that people of all races are equal, its just a matter of opinion.  If there's no truth, then there's no real reason other than the threat of contrary force as to why someone shouldn't raid your town, or rape your women.  The absence of truth and objective values is what leads to the very barbarism that creates atrocity; its an absurdity to pretend to be an activist for any human rights cause if you reject those very values and the objectivity of truth which are the only way these values can be protected.

That's how we're going to end up ruins: because we've now taught four successive generations of our own people to believe in nothing except our own narcissism. We've taught them to think about nothing except shallow posturing about feelings and niceness. We've taught them to regard all authority as implicitly illegitimate, to regard all institutions as implicitly exclusive; to regard all achievement as inherently unfair. We've raised them all to feel nothing but disgust and guilt at their own civilization.  How can we not end up destroying ourselves?
And the irony is that, having been taught nothing by history, none of them even realizes what nightmares would come next, when this civilization is lost; their minds instead clouded by nonsensical fantasy utopias, like as if civilization folded we'd all just slip into a giant hippie-commune of peace and love powered by reiki crystals, instead of a centuries-long bloodbath of war, disease, and the strong brutalizing the weak.

That's the future that awaits us when we finally let go of our "restrictive" insistence on believing things can be true. We'll get to be the forgotten giants of hopeless savages, and if there are some very few left who will still have the intellectual capacity to grasp what we were, they will shake their heads in astounded incomprehension as to how we could have just willingly torn it all down. I already do.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Friday 21 March 2014

Real Magick in RPGs Cont.: Aliens!

So yesterday I left of talking about Kenneth Grant.  You might remember him from an earlier blog entry as the one-time leader of a movement in occultism that argued that Cthulhu and all of Lovecraft's other creations are real.

Again, the fact that he died peacefully of old age in his bed a couple of years ago and didn't end up splattered all over the walls of his temple, or simply disappear without a trace, is pretty much proof that Grant was wrong about Cthulhu being real, in my eyes.  But in any case, long before he was a Cthulhu-loon, he was an alien-loon.

Now, you can take all of what I'm about to tell you and, for your own RPGs, postulate "what if its real??".  That would be the easy path. 
What I'm saying is, I dare you instead, to ask "what if its all total bollocks and the dudes who believe this are just nuts?"; potentially with the addition of "but what is real, and interesting, are the kind of spiritual forces that lead one to this madness".  If you're running an occult game, to me its way more interesting to talk about the Qlippoth, about these broken shards of never-reality that do not exist and yet can have an effect on reality; and that drive insane those fools who call out to them for power.
If you're running a horror game, then the real horror is if its absolutely all in your head.  Note that one of the things magick teaches is that "its all in your head" doesn't mean what we think; it doesn't mean that the thing doesn't actually exist, or that it can't do stuff in the world.

All of that is way more interesting than little green men, but let's get back to them.

First, some context: the mid-1940s.  Aleister Crowley was a very ill old man by that point, and practically penniless, having given all of himself to magick.  He had, to quote his own words, "little left but pipe and wit" (something I suspect I'll end up saying when I'm that age too).

Kenneth Grant was, in 1944, a 20 year old weirdo; he'd been interested in the occult from puberty; and had been reading  Crowley from the age of 14.  Finally, he had gone to meet the great old wizard, and Crowley immediately hired him to be his secretary (and de-facto general butler and caretaker).
What's all this to do with aliens?  I'm getting there.

What happens next really depends on who you believe.  If you read Grant, Crowley and he had an idealized guru-chela relationship, they were both crazy about each other, and Crowley clearly meant for Grant to be his successor.  If you read Crowley's letters and writings from that period, Grant was one of several students, clearly one he had some hope for, but there was always a sense from Crowley that he was making use of Grant as one of the few hopefuls of a bad crop; by that time, almost all of the O.T.O. and the A.'.A.'. (the two magical orders Crowley had run) had collapsed.  Crowley's original students who could have been his great successors, particularly Frater Achad (but also people like Victor Neuberg, J.F.C. Fuller, and a little later Israel Regardie) had all betrayed or abandoned him.  Now, many of Crowley's steadfast remaining students (like Karl Germer, Jane Wolfe, or Gerald Gardner, the founder of wicca) were of near-equally advanced age to his own.    Crowley was looking for a long-term successor, a spiritual heir, and there were three good candidates: Jack Parsons, the brilliant rocket scientist (but he was unpredictable and Crowley felt he was often immature), Grady McMurtry the soldier (but there was a risk he might die in the war, and he was the least tested of all the students), and finally Kenneth Grant.  I think that Crowley felt Grant was weird; he knew Grant was always a social misfit, he probably saw the glimpses of obsession and the risk of delusions in the boy even then. 

In any case, Kenneth Grant, on visiting Crowley's home, noticed and fell entranced with an old picture piled up among the things in his cramped quarters.  Specifically, this picture:

See where this is going?

Now, this is a very interesting picture.  Crowley drew it in 1919 (note, decades before the whole "grey alien" thing became a big deal; and it sure looks a bit like a grey alien). The picture was titled "LAM".  As far as anything else we know about it? Once again, the story differs whether you listen to Kenneth Grant, or to anyone else.

According to anyone else (including Crowley, via his diaries): The picture was something Crowley drew for a hipster art exhibit while he was living in the U.S., then he used the image once for one of his books (to illustrate "A lama"), and then never paid any attention to it ever again. He never again mentions it in his diaries, for example, except to mention the day he gives it to Grant (where he once again calls the painting "the lama"). He had originally refused to give the painting to Grant until he passed a basic magical test, which Grant failed; but eventually relented and gave it to him anyways (clearly, Grant had been quite obsessed with it) when Grant helped Crowley overcome a severe asthma attack (probably by getting Crowley medically prescribed heroin).

According to Grant: Crowley and Grant engaged in a powerful working on the astral plane. Crowley's giving Grant the portrait was of extreme significance, because it in essence singled Grant out as Crowley's true heir. The figure of "LAM" is an extraterrestrial entity from the star Sirius, who was also Crowley's "holy guardian angel" Aiwass, the two were one and the same.   LAM is meant to guide mankind to some unspecified transformation.  Later on, it was revealed that he was in contact with Yuggoth and the Great Old Ones.    It is also connected to the "Tunnels of Set" which can be voyaged by "Tantric Time-Travellers" through "intra-cosmic Cthonian capsules".

After Crowley's death, Kenneth Grant ended up becoming the de-facto representative of the O.T.O. in England (the official successor in England was supposed to be Gerald Gardner, but a serious illness and a trip to the U.S. for health reasons disqualified him at the time).  He started a new lodge, which he ended up quickly turning into a kind of cult (possibly the closest thing to a real life mythos cult that ever actually existed), and got himself expelled from the international O.T.O., only to claim that he was in fact the one true worldwide head of the order (in what was only the first of several major schisms in that group following Crowley's death).  Then he spent the next sixty years of his life writing book after book about Sirius, tantric time travellers, the dark side of the tree of life, Cthulhu, and LAM.
Most occultists think he was absolutely crazy; but there were quite a number of occultists, and still are, who actually believed every word.  Of course, most of these don't actually do any work.  Nor did Grant go into great detail about practices to actually do (with LAM, for example, he outlined a very basic ritual that involved doing a banishing, devoting your aspiration to the "great old ones" and then staring at the picture for a very long time while chanting "Lam lam lam, etc.".

Anyways, there you have it.  Some occultists actually think that when they do magic, its to speak to aliens.  Most occultists make fun of them.  Do with that information what you will.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Thursday 20 March 2014

Real Magick In RPGS: Space Gods!

Yesterday's "classic rant" gave you some very tiny glimpse of the weirdness that can be one's life when one plunges deep down the high magick rabbit-hole.  Of course, that's 'material' weirdness, which takes the form mostly of what Jung called "synchronicity", combined with what Peter Carroll calls "apophenia" (the power of finding connections in things that do not appear to be connected).  Both of these, to someone who is outside the experience, seem like they could amount to nothing at all really happening; sometimes to those inside the experience the same doubt is left planted.

But its when you get to the non-material level that cosmic-scale weirdness comes into play: conversations with what Crowley called "praeterhuman intelligences", and astral trips to insane psychedelic visions.  That's the stuff no one but the magicians can experience, though sometimes the effects it produces on Earth do.  So I thought I'd share a bit about the level of craziness that these kinds of things can get up to in the real recent history of occultism, so you know just what kind of thing you could put into a "realistic" magical campaign:

Take today, for example.  Today is the Equinox (spring, for those of you in the northern hemiphere, autumn for those down in the south).   The Equinox is a cosmic event, the moment where there is a perfect balance of light and dark; it was important to the ancient pagans since we first started figuring out the stars.   Most modern neo-pagans celebrate it as a fertility or harvest festival (in spite of most never having planted or harvested anything more serious than a pot plant in their life), for Thelemites and magicians, this is remembered as the celebration of the "Equinox of the Gods".

Back in March 20, 1904, the apocalypse happened.  Aleister Crowley was on his honeymoon with his wife Rose in Egypt.  This being 1904 where if you were rich and British you could do any fucking thing you wanted, Crowley actually arranged for the two of them to spend the night in the King's Chamber of the motherfucking Great Pyramid.
At this time, Crowley had kind of given up on his old magical training, and was mainly a buddhist, but he couldn't resist the temptation of doing some little magical ritual inside the ancient pyramid; so he tried to summon up some sylphs.

This would be such a significant moment that future Thelemites would produce art about it:

That was when Rose, who had no experience in magick or knowledge on the subject, started to experience some odd states where she claimed to Crowley that the god Horus was looking for him.  Crowley, more annoyed the credulous, proceeded to perform a dozen tests on her to test her claim, all of which she passed, guessing at details about Horus that a woman of her education had no hope of knowing.  This led to Crowley performing a grand invocation of Horus on March 20, 1904, a ritual that broke all the regular "rules" of magick, following the precise instructions given to him by his non-magician wife; and from this Crowley made contact with a being called Aiwass, who was both Crowley's Augoeides (his "Holy Guardian Angel", his higher self) and a messenger of the god Horus.  And by "made contact" I mean that according to Crowley's own description he was literally hearing Aiwass speak to him in a strange voice from the left corner of the room.

Crowley was told that this act has marked the "Equinox of the Gods", the end of the previous Aeon or age.  But this is more than just a calendar question (though indeed this is the Thelemic New Year), the end of an Aeon means the end of all collective reality as it is understood, the end of the way human beings relate to the world.  Its a fundamental "Paradigm Shift"; in this case, away from the Aeon of Osiris (which was typified by the relationship between humanity and the divine being a parent-child relationship) into the Aeon of Horus (being humanity's "adolescence", where the childlike attitude toward creation is gradually abandoned, and humanity begins to "play god" for themselves; learning how to control its own physical and spiritual evolution).  Crowley had essentially experienced the "end of the world", and the start of a new one.  That would only be the start of his strange experiences in Cairo; the Thelemic Holy Season runs from March 20 (the Great Invocation of Horus and the Equinox of the Gods) until April 8th, 9th, and 10th, when Crowley received, in a magical dictation from Aiwass, the Book of the Law, which, even if you don't believe a word of it, would still have to classify as a truly astounding feat of automatic writing.   The Book of the Law is a SAN-burning holy book full of strange visions, numerical tricks and mysteries, Egyptian imagery, and the declaration and details of a profound moral philosophy of self-transformation, the law of Thelema, which governs the new Aeon.

So anyways, back to that ritual in the pyramid: here we have an ancient structure (Great Pyramid) meant to align with astronomical details, and Crowley unleashed something inside it.  That something was apparently Horus.  To a magician, a god like "horus" wouldn't be thought of as some literal dude with a hawk-head living in a physical heaven; rather, this would be a "discarnate entity", an "intelligence" that represents a set of ideas, a kind of archetype. 

Except of course, there are a few magicians who think that the Gods are literally:

That is, more accurately, hyper-advanced extra-dimensional beings who are trying to communicate with us as part of a plan for human evolution, or possibly for some other far more crazy shit.

Did I say "Crazy Shit"?  That means Kenneth Grant, the Cthulhu-worshipping insane last-disciple-of-Crowley's can't be far behind!   I mean, the guy already literally venerated the Great Old Ones and believed that the Cthulhu mythos was real, and they're a kind of alien, so no surprise that he would be into aliens too.

He was actually into aliens first, they're what led to most of his nuttiness.  Why? Because Crowley was once nice to him and gave him a painting.   But I'll save that for tomorrow's entry.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Real Magick, Not in RPGs...

So yesterday I was basically at my wits’ end with the UTE, the uruguayan state-owned monopoly power-company.  For over two weeks now I’d been trying to get temporary power set up at our new house, the Abbey,  so that we could get renovations underway.  This had involved, thus far, 5 visits to their offices, a dozen phone calls, and 3 technician’s visits to the house, none of which had resulted in anything.

Thus, yesterday, I decided that I had exhausted all reasonable options, and proceeded to judge that my sense of necessity had reached the point that it was time to rely on supernatural means.  Remembering the success I’d had some months back when I was having a lengthy and seemingly unresolvable problem with my baning website, I decided to take the same tack this time.  I created a bindrune, drew it while vibrating, and charged it.

Then I went one last time to the UTE offices.  This time I managed to speak to a manager there, who actually behaved like quite the human being; he managed to order one of his underlings to just cut through all the red tape and send me the installation the next day (ie. today), and she seemingly obeyed.
So that took care of that right? Well, not quite. Today I had sent one of the workers to stay there (the last time, when I waited at the house for hours and no one showed up, was enough sitting around for me), and when noon had rolled along without any sign of these people, I decided to do as I was taught, and be cautious.  I called the UTE line, and they passed me to the technicians (someone they don’t often allows the mere citizens to interact with directly, lest we realize that the bureaucrats are unnecessary!), who told me that in fact, in spite of the assurances of the day before, they were NOT coming.  They claimed that they lacked some kind of inspection form.  I asked if they had planned to let me know they weren’t coming or would it just be a surprise? Apparently, the answer was (as usual) the latter.  They just don’t give a flying fuck about anything, these guys.

So here I was, thinking that yet again I was going to be forced to go down, in person, to the UTE offices. I was getting ready to go, and I remembered I had to record (every good magician keeps records) the failure of the bindrune to do its job this time around; when I opened my magical diary, I looked at the bindrune (which was written on separate paper but I had tucked into the diary for safekeeping) and at that very moment that I laid eyes on it my phone rang. It was the manager from yesterday; without being called by me, he had somehow found out about the alleged screw up, and told me he personally was going to fix it and that I shouldn’t do anything, that he had already sent the crew out specifically to the Abbey right now. I was a bit dubious but when I called my architect, it was in fact confirmed that the technical crew from UTE were there at that very moment installing the temporary power.

So there you have it, the nightmare (or at least this one particular nightmare in the process of Uruguayan Home Ownership) is over.  And I’m not demanding that anyone believe that it was thanks to the bindrune (2 out of 2 now when it comes to magically dominating huge heartless bureaucracies!); only that everything in my description of events is true.  Could it be that I’d made such a nuisance of myself that the manager decided to keep an eye on my case? Entirely possible, though they had been damn good at not giving a shit until that very moment.  Maybe he was just being a decent human being? That’s certainly possible; it has now been my definite experience from a number of these bureaucracies in Uruguay (the mail, the phone service/internet service, UTE, immigrations, and others) that the regular union-member public-employee in Uruguay, who talk so much about the “power of the people” and how they’re working-class, seem to assume that since they are “the people” they don’t actually need to ever give a shit about the customer, client and/or citizen they’re supposed to be serving; while on the other hand the managerial staff have in each case proven to be far friendlier and more concerned with setting things right and actually being public servants rather than entitled uninterested bureaucrats.

So yeah, it could have been the manager. It is also pretty much a given that sooner or later, power would be turned on at the Abbey, so that if that were the only thing we were looking at here, that would be pretty underwhelming as “results”.  But rather (on both occasions) what really made an impact was just how fast, and when, everything turns around after doing the operation. That’s the interesting part.   The next time I hit a dead end dealing with some kind of large public or private entity, I know what I’m going to be doing…


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

(Originally posted February 7, 2013)

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Arrows of Indra: The First Age Mod

First, my inspiration was this: the Harappa or Early Indus civilization.  This fairly awesome website led me to think of what it would take to run Arrows of Indra way earlier in time than the Mahabharata-era, the very dawn of the human age.

So if you have AoI, here's what you'd have to change:

1) there are no Bharata Kingdoms.  The only human territories that already exist are the area known as the Bahlika kingdoms.  Most of these consist only tribal nomads and very small and extremely primitive villages, not yet in the Bronze age.
Pushkalavati is already a city, and old by human standards, currently at its peak.
The Naga cities of Anantanaga and Takshasila would already exist, but even the Nagas would be relatively more primitive in this time.  On the other hand, the Pishacha kingdom in the north would be less degenerate than it is at the dawn of the Heroic Age.
 The Island of Dwaraka would also already have a very small community of humans.
There would also be a few cities in this region which would not even exist by the time of the heroic age, being completely abandoned (and even the ruins long since having been devoured by the dust) by the time of the heroic age thousands of years in the future.  Cities like Harappa, and Mohenjo Daro, which are both on the Sindhu river (the river's course being different at this time than thousands of years later), rival Pushkalavati for significance among the free humans. Likewise, on the Anarta peninsula, the ancient city of Lothal, which at this this time eclipses the Dwaraka community in prominence (as indeed Dwaraka is only a colony of Lothal).   It too would later be completely abandoned as its inhabitants move to the safer island in the second age, leaving the peninsular city to be entirely reclaimed by the swamp.  But in this time, Lothal is one of the most sophisticated human cities in existence; being the first humans to master the sea, and engaging in trade for beads, rice, cotton and gems with the human tribes to the north and the demonic Asura Empires to the south.  They had developed canals and baths, the oldest dockyards ever built by human hands, a market, an area, a sewer system, and an industrial area with forges and production centers for trade goods.
Here's Lothal:

2)  The free human kingdoms are technically vassals of the mighty Flying Cities of the Asura Demon Emperors.  All the world is ruled by this Empire, including a number of allied Vassal provinces of Asura demons on land.  The empire has ruled over the world for ten thousand years, and the efforts of the Gods to oppose them have met with limited success. The Asura Emperor is named Tarakasura, and his sons Tarakaksha, Vidyunmali, and Kamalashka each rule one of these floating cities.  They are among the most powerful Asura demons who existed (the Demon King Ravana, for comparison, is only one of their vassals).  The floating cities are marvels of magical technology and architecture, and were built by the Demon-Architect Mayasura.  He used powerful magic to ensure that the cities were completely indestructible, unless a single arrow could somehow pierce all three.  The cities float in separate patterns, rarely coming close to each other; all over the lands of Jagat, where these Demon Princes oversee all the kingdoms of the world as literal overlords, collecting tribute and slaves from the helpless beings below.

3) None of the other cities of the Bharata Kingdoms exist.  All the lands of Kuru, Panchala, Kosala, Matsya, Kunti, etc. are populated by stone-age human tribes. All of the major northern forests and jungles are larger and thicker than in the heroic age: the Khandava jungle has a bronze-age Naga kingdom; the Madhu forest features a small but important Asura Kingdom.  The Dwaita Jungle features a Gandharvan Kingdom (Gandharva Teertha, which is larger in scope than in the heroic age), where the gods themselves frequently reside on earth; it is the battle-front for the war against the Asura Empire.  The area where the Maghadan empire would be is in this time a patchwork quilt of Asura Kingdoms; and the whole of the Dandaka Jungle is ruled by very powerful Asura Kingdoms, including the territories of the powerful Ravana in the island of Lanka, to the south.
The area now known as the Desert of Thar is in this time a fertile land surrounding an inland sea (the sea of Lavanasagara); it is the home of a very powerful vassal kingdom of the Asura Empire, run by Asuras and populated by Rakshasa and Asura-worshiping humans.

4) The technological level is generally lower than in the heroic age.  There are no steel weapons; and in human lands bronze weapons and armor can only be obtained in the largest cities.  In the non-human kingdoms (Naga, Asura, Gandharva, etc.) the technological level varies considerably; steel does not exist anywhere, but bronze is common to the Naga and iron to most Asura lands.  The human lands have relatively little in terms of magic items, but all the non-human lands are loaded with magic (in comparison to the heroic age); its not uncommon at all for even lower-status Asura or Rakshasa of the important vassal states to have magic weapons or armor, and much magic is used as a substitute for 'high-tech'.  The armies of the Asuran Empire come and go from the flying cities using Vimana flying chariots, for example.

5) Religion:  many of the gods listed in Arrows of Indra don't exist yet.  Only the "old gods", the river goddesses, Vishnu and Laxshmi currently exist.  Vishnu has replaced Indra as chief among the gods, only recently by divine standards (about 1000 years), by intervening to defeat an important invasion from the Asuran Empire onto the divine realms themselves.  This was an important victory for the gods, who had been fighting a losing war with the Asuras for the last ten millennia.  They had managed now to push the threat back down to Jagat (the world), but the war has since been stuck in stalemate once again.  Now the Gods have decided on a new strategy by which to triumph: through the most powerful of divine magics, the supreme creator-god Brahma will transform the age by placing a shard of his pure divine essence into human form, the first Avatara: Shiva.  It is he who will be destined to form a rag-tag army of wild men and monstrous gunas, make war against all the demon kingdoms, and shoot down the three demon cities on the one minute in a millennium that the orbit of the three cities aligns in the sky (making such a shot possible, however incredible).
Most humans of this age live as either slaves or willing citizens in Asura kingdoms; and worship the Asuras.  The free humans worship the old gods, and the river goddesses.  In particular, Indra is still venerated by Kings and Chiefs as well as by barbarian tribes.  In Lothal, the principle deities are Agni (there are fire-shrines all over the city), as well as Varuna the sea-god (sea trade being the source of their prosperity) and his consort Vanuvati (venerated as a great mother-goddess).

I'm sure there'd be other stuff to cover, but I hope that gives you a glimpse of how you could run a game set tens of thousands of years earlier than Arrows of Indra's default setting.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Volcano + H&H's Beverwyck

Cracked Monday: When Sci Fi is Really Ignorant and Luddite

A very late Monday blog entry, but I think an important Cracked Monday entry:  you see, we have to admit that one serious problem with sci-fi, even often the kind of sci-fi that caters to intelligent people who should really really fucking know better, is that it tends to play heavily on a ridiculous fear of the future.  And an incredibly ridiculous idea that doing anything better than we do it today is somehow "playing god" and will lead to our own destruction.

This has been going on for a very long time:

Its funny, but it also has truth to it.  We know, for example, that things like harnessing electricity met with that kind of reaction.  That the automobile met with that kind of reaction.  That the study of human anatomy was treated with fear and disdain.  Frankenstein is a story about that and its 200 years old.
Older still is the claim that the printing press would destroy social morality.  And while we don't have the evidence, I would bet every last peso in my possession that back when our most amazing ancestors invented the written word, there were other assholes around saying "you're playing gods by doing this! It will destroy and/or enslave us all!"

We have that going on right now, with things that we know right now are making our lives better rather than worse.  Most educated people (though perhaps not enough for comfort) look at the anti-vaccine idiots and understand them to be idiots, for example. And yet some of these same people turn around and proclaim that genetic modification or man/machine interface or virtual reality will doom us.

Our failure is a product of our success.  Far too few people, even supposedly intellectual sci-fi nerds above it all, really understand or even appreciate that the lifestyle they (average schlubs) lead today is greater than that which even the mightiest kings of the earth could have even dreamed about only a few centuries ago; and that almost ALL of this is due to inventions and innovations that ignorant fucktards of earlier time claimed was "playing god".
Our civilization is in desperate need of a history lesson.   Anyone who has really studied history would NEVER wish for a return to the halcyon days of constant struggle for survival (and no, I'm not talking about how you have to work 40 hour work-weeks; I'm talking about how from one month to another most humans didn't know if their children were going to starve to death or not), of being powerless to a monstrous bitch called 'mother nature' who far from being a Wiccan Love-Goddess was actually an uncaring she-demon who your life had to be a constant and direct struggle to survive against (its not surprising that most 'nature-loving' real ancient pagans actually venerated anything that would give them an edge against nature!).  A past where you could never know or learn anything about anything more than a couple of miles from your house or what shitty bits of wisdom got spread by word of mouth, and where you might have had a thousand great ideas but no way to disseminate or preserve them for the future.  A past where if you didn't shit blood that week it was a cause for celebration, where you could literally expect half of the children you ever knew to die as children, and where even in China (one of the most advanced ancient civilizations around) if you lived to the age of 60 it was considered an accomplishment in and of itself worthy of bringing prestige and blessings to your entire fucking clan.  A bigger deal than if someone lives to 100 today, which most of us just think of as "filler news".  The fact that we now have people with significant frequency nearing or reaching the triple digits; that we have added DECADES to the lives of almost every human being around (particularly if you consider that half of you reading this would not have live to see your 10th birthday if you did not live in an industrial society), is just something we ever even talk about in the news when there isn't a more amusing story about a puppy or something.  THAT is the absolute proof of how successful we have been at harnessing science and playing god.  We've done a shitload better than those "gods" we're so afraid of offending that to this day spend most of their busy schedule systematically murdering african babies.

So fuck anyone who fears what we're capable of doing.  What we've done so far is drag ourselves kicking and screaming, through mountains of corpses and pools of blood, in a struggle against everything that ever wanted to destroy us as a species, and make our life so comfortable that we have reached the danger of not knowing how fucking lucky we are, and thinking that 1% infant mortality rates and old-age pensions are just " natural" and have nothing to do with the incredible efforts of human science.

With that, I give you 5 technologies portrayed as "dystopian" in sci-fi that would potentially radically improve our world.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Poker + Brebbia no. 7

Sunday 16 March 2014

Golden Age Campaign Update

So, in yesterday's game, we had a new PC, the Beetleman, who is a buglike alien come to Earth to try to study humanity.  We also had the notable membership drive for the Mystery Men, wherein every PC finally joined the group.

The adventure involved a conspiracy that reached the highest levels of the (newly minted) Pentagon, the engineered escape of The Fiddler, plots and manipulations from the crafty head of the O.S.S., King Faraday, and a guest spot by D.C.'s own superhero, Black Condor (who's a Senator in his secret identity).

But the real treat of the night was the first appearance of one of my favorite DC Comics villains:

Yes, the immortal 100,000 year old mastermind: Vandal Savage.  He had plotted to manipulate a secret intelligence service to put him in a position (in his false identity) as FDR's potential Vice-presidential candidate (to replace the contentious socialist Wallace) in the next year's upcoming 1944 election.

Luckily, the Mystery Men stopped him, foiling his plot to end up one (ailing) heartbeat from the Presidency.  But they didn't get even close to capturing him, or even to defeating his larger schemes.  Or King Faraday's for that matter, leaving the PCs wondering if the "good guy" isn't just about nearly as bad as the bad guy, this time.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Saturday 15 March 2014

Arrows of Indra Q&A

I've decided to start up a new Q&A for Arrows of Indra, after a year of not having one.  So if YOU have any questions about Arrows of Indra, please feel free to go to this thread, where you will get an answer from me.   I'll also provide a digest of questions and answers here on this blog as needed, to a maximum of once in a week.

So, let's get started!

Q:Are there any further products in the line planned? Adventures, etc? 

A:At the present time there isn't any material being actively worked on, however there is a very good possibility that sometime down the line there will be a setting book that will detail at least one region (probably the Bahlika Kingdoms) in more detail.

Furthermore, as the game is "open" there's always the opportunity for someone other than myself to produce adventures or source material for it, if they wanted to.

Q: Any plans to use a similar set of rules for a different setting? There's no shortage of other mythologies that haven't been covered. 

A: These rules were, on the whole, created for this specific setting. If I did some other pseudo-historical setting (say, fantasy epic china, or aztecs, or something like that), I might use the some similar rules in terms of the very basic core mechanics, but I would not (for example) use the same magic system, monsters, magic items, races, etc. because so much of this additional material is directly driven from the Indian mythological concept.

Q:  What method of going open did you pick for the game? How much of the rules stuff is open? How much of the setting? What parts are not able to be used by another author without getting your permission first?

A:I think for the specific of this answer you'd need to ask Bedrock Games (Bedrock Brendan on here). As I understand it, all the rules are open; what you can't do is just cut-and-paste the setting material into your book, nor can you use the art or the maps. Aside from that, anything goes.
Note that its not quite right to say the setting "isn't open"; because of course most of the setting is just directly taken from the Epic Indian milieu itself. For me to say that you can't use that would be like if Greg Stafford claimed you couldn't use Camelot or Silchester or the Welsh in an RPG because those are in Pendragon.
So really, as long as you aren't doing a cut-and-paste of the specific way I wrote up the setting stuff, and as long as you don't use the maps or art, you can do anything else with it.
And I'm sure that if you talk about it with Bedrock games, they'd be glad to consider endorsing it; and if you talk about it with me, and I found it interesting enough, I'd be glad to endorse it too and maybe help out a bit with it. I'd be tickled pink if old-schoolers wanted to write adventures or sourcebook material for Arrows of Indra.

Q: When I meant the rules, I didn't so much mean the India specific stuff, but the basic stuff, like the skill system, which is really one of the better ones I've seen in an OSR style game.

A: Not a question, but thanks! The skill system is definitely something I'd use (again, not the exact same tables, but the same structure) if I were ever to do another OSR rulebook; and that I'd be glad to see other people doing too. I think its one of the most innovative parts of the game.

Remember, if you have a question about Arrow of Indra, go ask!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Friday 14 March 2014

Forget the Cthulhu Mythos...

If you really want to know terror and madness, try dealing with the state-owned Uruguayan electric company.  I’ve been trying to get electricity at the Abbey so that the architect’s crew can get started on the renovations for two fucking weeks now, and every time one thinks that we’re approaching a solution, some fucking public employee comes up with some new reason not to do anything.
At this point it looks like the power will, in the best of all possible worlds, only be installed in mid-february, meaning work will only start in late-mid-february, on a project that was supposed to be done at the end of the month!

My absolute favorite of all the electric company’s moments of sub-reality were when I was assured, after waiting at the Abbey (sans light, plumbing, food, or so much as a place to sit) an entire morning for an “inspection” that never came, where I had been verbally assured that for sure the inspector would be there “sometime between 8-12″, I angrily call the company only to have it explained to me that when they say that they “absolutely guarantee” that the inspector will be there by no later than 12, they ACTUALLY mean that “he could get there as late as 1pm”. And then, when I ask if its assured he’d be there before 1pm, I’m told “no, its possible he’s just decided not to go”.  So apparently, they’re allowed to do that, to assure you that they’re going to be there by noon and then just not show up at all in the entire fucking day!  And of course, in that eventuality, it is the responsibility of the client (the one who’s been sitting there like a fucking rube all day) to call to make another appointment for the next day because the poor inspector couldn’t be bothered to actually come and do his job.

Fuck it. I’m off to solve this with drastic fucking measures.


Currently Smoking: Masonic Meerschaum + Image Perique

(originally posted February 6, 2013; on the old blog)

Thursday 13 March 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: The Shrine of St. Aleena

This is a review of "The Shrine of St. Aleena", an adventure module for low-level characters (ostensibly for Labyrinth Lord but usable in any OSR game), published by SNG games, written by Peter C. Spahn. The module softcover, about 20 pages long, with B&W art.

Most gamers of a certain age will know who Aleena is, if they wrack their memory.  In the introductory adventure of the Mentzer "Basic D&D" box set (possibly the most-sold D&D product of all time), Aleena was the NPC cleric who accompanied your fighter on your very first (solo) adventure to learn the D&D rules; only to suffer a terrible death at the hands of the evil wizard Bargle.

Remember her?

No wonder she had such a powerful effect on the infancy of so many gamers.

Apparently Peter Spahn was no exception because he wrote an entire adventure in homage to his prepubescent fantasies about her.   Don't worry, there's no actual dirty parts involved, its all pure and innocent and an adventure very much in the fashion of the good old days of early-80s four-colour adventuring, when evil wizards were evil (not misunderstood), goblins were evil (not culturally oppressed), undead were evil (and not sparkly), and brave, attractive, but G-rated cleric girls were friendly to you just because.

So while it is a low-level adventure (for 3-6 characters of level 1-3), and decent enough as it is at that, its also a big in-joke. The background story is that the death of Aleena made such an impression that she was turned into a saint, and the site of her death at the hands of Bargle (who's never called that, but instead is referred to as the "Infamous One"; I'm not sure why the author felt they could use the name "Aleena" but not "Bargle") has become a holy temple. The "infamous one" is still alive and has sent out goblins to desecrate the shrine (pissed off at the celebration of one of his early failures).  There are quite a few other references to the Mentzer Red Box and its initial adventure in the module; including a place called "Zerment's Bluff" named after the "renowned sage Zerment the Red" (get it?).  You also see (based on my own recollection at least) pretty well all of the monsters that featured in that early adventure: the aforementioned goblins, a rust monster, a medusa, skeletons, etc.

As usual with modules I don't want to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but what I'll say is that what you get here is:
a) a nostalgia trip IF the Mentzer Red Box was a big deal to you
b) a decent though not astounding dungeon-crawling and surrounding-environs adventure either way.

The adventure itself is fun without being in any particular way groundbreaking, but for 20 pages or so you get a pretty decent and very classic kind of adventure for low-level D&D characters.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Lords of Olympus: Now Cheaper!

Yes, that's right, Lords of Olympus is now cheaper, in both PDF and Print!  If you had been on the fence about it you should buy it now!

No word on just how long it will remain at this price, so make sure you don't miss your chance.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Rhodesian + Image Latakia

Tuesday 11 March 2014

DCC Campaign Update

The last adventure was a bit shorter than usual, as our youngest gamer was starting his school year the next morning.  But anyways, here are, very briefly, the things we learned, with varying degrees of surprise or the lack thereof, that:

-Astrology based on following the path of the floating islands in the sky is about as unreliable as most other methods of fortune telling.

-Some halfings have a vested interest in being nicknamed "binky".

-Indoor plumbing is one sophisticated comfort of living in Arkhome; or would be if it wasn't for the tentacles in the sink.

-The Halconlords appear to be planning to become the next major power in Arkhome on the basis of graffiti alone.

-Evil nightingales are total assholes.

-Nobles who post rewards for the rescue of their kidnapped child get flooded with annoying treasure-seekers.

-Bourgeois secretaries have little patience with absurd claims of allegedly psychic halflings.

-The Halconlords appear to actually be planning to become the next major power in Arkhome on the basis of kidnapping the children of the aristocracy.

-"Never split up the party" is apparently an ancient axiom, but one that this particular group of PCs has decided is just superstition.

-Most locally produced meat products, milk, and ink in Arkhome comes from the giant snail farms of the Tower of Snails.

-"Never split up the party even further to include various groups of one" is not actually an axiom, but if it was this particular PC group would shit all over that one too.

-While most young gender-fluid 3rd level wizards would consider it suicide to go into a dungeon totally by themselves, apparently at least one does not.

-The Halconlords are in fact planning to become the next major power in Arkhome by assaulting the turf of the feral halfling tribegang.  Queen Boo-boo does not look kindly on this, and halflings everywhere are going apeshit with paranoia.

-Slathering a tied-up halfling in honey and threatening to unleash a half-starved dog at him is probably an effective way to get him to talk, but Charm Person might be easier.

-While most young gender-fluid 3rd level wizards would probably die horribly at the hands of a giant Toadgator, 14 brain-eaten slaves, and a vicious brain-eaten axe-wielding maniac; apparently at least one will end up miraculously kicking all their asses instead.

-Aside from everything else, the Halconlords apparently also plan on becoming the next major power in Arkhome by being incredibly well-dressed total bad-ass fighter-assassins with scary halcon-masks.

-That Evil Nightingale really is a complete asshole.


Currently Smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

Monday 10 March 2014

Uncracked Monday: True Detective Tears

(I don't normally care about spoiler alerts but I guess I'll post one here: there are spoilers to the final episode of True Detective ahead. Do NOT read this if you haven't yet seen the last episode of the show; or indeed, if you haven't watched the show at all, you shouldn't even be fucking here at all, you should be downloading all 8 episodes and watching them, motherfucker!)

Today will be an unusual "Un/cracked Monday" because I won't actually be posting a link; there'd be little point.  Since today's entry is dedicated to the "true detective" thread on, which someone suggested I take a look at.  Why? Because it is full of the delicious tears of nihilists, secular relativists, and general pretentious fuckwits disappointed with what 95+% of viewers thought was the utterly magnificent finale of True Detective.

Why again? Various reasons, including that they were reading into the show all kinds of feminist messages that led them to hope would have some big payoff in the end with some really heavy-handed message to the viewers about how awful men are (rather than the heroic example of fraternity and masculine heroism we actually see); but the biggest and my favorite is because in the end the show "betrayed" the propagandist message all the fashionable atheist-nihilists were getting wood about from Det. Cohle. 

They all wanted meaninglessness. They wanted Cohle to see nothingness; they wanted Carcosa to be their vision of the utter meaninglessness of existence and wanted other people to come away from the show feeling hopeless.

Instead, the creators provided the most amazing twist they could have done: instead of making the supernatural real, instead of making one of the detectives un-heroic (or even the 'real killer'), instead of revealing some other hokey spin of plot or character; in the end, they had Cohle discover fullness and meaning, existing even in the dark.

They wanted Carcossa and instead they got Nuit, the body of the stars. The luminous emptiness of Vajrayana. Nothingness, with twinkles. The Great Work.

So yeah, fuck them. I wasn't hoping for such a result, and it was the best surprise ever when it came to pass; when the end message was something other than pointlessness, and they really graduated up from "freshman philosophy" into something profound.


Currently Smoking: Mastro de Paja Bent Apple + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Sunday 9 March 2014

RPGPundit Reviews: Ghoul Keep and the Ghoul Lands

This is a review of the sourcebook “Ghoul Keep and the Ghoul Lands”, written by Peter Spahn as a Labyrinth Lord compatible product, published by Small Niche Games.

This is a review of the printed edition, which is about 128 pages long, softcover with a colour cover (though not very colourful, as it depicts the ominously dark Ghoul Keep aforementioned in the title, I presume), and black and white interior. The interior has some nice maps and dungeon blueprints and relatively few actual art pieces.

The setting material is nominally for a small and isolated kingdom found in the world of Amherth (see my previous review of the Amherth book), but in fact due to its isolation the Ghoul Lands could easily be transported to any isolated region of any other fantasy setting; at least, any fantasy setting that would find it within tolerable parameters of weirdness to have a kingdom governed by Ghouls.

The concept is quite interesting: from the outsider’s perspective, its assumed that past Ghoul Keep there is nothing but Ghouls-all-over as far as the peoples to the south of the Ghoul Lands know. But in truth, anyone who somehow gets past Ghoul Keep will find that north of the mountains there is a small feudal kingdom of humans; albeit a very weird and dark kingdom, where the King himself is  an intelligent Ghoul, as are many of his court, the only church allowed is the cult of the death god, and the people live to serve the ghouls (and eventually have the “eternal reward” of becoming one).  In other words, a strange and dark lawful evil kingdom, where nevertheless the people themselves are not necessarily evil, just trapped.

The Ghoul Lands are a smallish kingdom, with five major regions; each is described in decent detail, along with information about the (human) nobility that rule them and the major settlements (including a few nice town/city maps).  The interesting thing about the Ghoul Lands is that we’re not talking about something like the old D20 “Midnight” setting; the Ghoul Lands aren’t even quite like many of the Ravenloft domains.  There’s no question that the people are oppressed and live in some terror of the ghouls (they are forced to securely lock themselves in at night when hordes of ghouls come out and walk the surface world) but like people in crappy horrifying societies everywhere, they have mostly learned to adjust to terrible situations and daily life as portrayed in the book seems mostly quite normal. “Normal”, that is, for a kingdom where your King is an immortal Ghoul-wizard, your princes are his half-ghoul children, the human nobility are bound to his service, the only religion allowed is the cult of undeath, the priests of the aforementioned cult are obtained by taking the firstborn child of every family away forever to be raised in the priesthood, where hordes of undead roam the night and no one will ever do anything to stop them, and where you will almost certainly be turned into a ghoul when you die.

But you get a lot of information in the book about people’s lives, their work, dress, festivals, and what is perhaps quite successful about the setting is how this seeming normality gets intermingled with the insanity of what’s happening in the Ghoul Lands in just the right way. Its quite well done; in some ways much creepier than if it was just despair and terror all the time.

There’s also one very interesting choice on the part of the author, something that I don’t think was in any way required by the setting itself, which is that the Ghoul Lands have no system of monetary commerce. Everything is done by simple or advanced barter of trade goods.  Coins found in treasure hordes from ancient dungeons can be of use only as a kind of trinket for nobles, who indeed collect them, but you can’t use them to buy yourself a horse or a sword (though since normal citizens aren’t allowed to manufacture or trade weapons, you couldn’t get a buy a sword regardless).There are guidelines for the barter system and haggling provided in the chapter on the “Commoner’s hall” (a sample starting area for native PCs); this chapter also provides an excellent viewpoint of what normal life is for people in the Ghoul Lands, while set up as a “village of homlet”-style “home base”, with a map, stats for shopkeepers, a rumour table, and adventure ideas; it is followed by a short starting adventure set in the city where the hall is located which involves examining some ancient ruins and fighting some undead rat-monsters that are part of a rival (unsanctioned) undeath cult.

Where exactly do adventurers fit into the Ghoul Lands? One option is of course if they’re foreigners, where they will find themselves in a very creepy and hostile place (particularly if they’re wizards, who are strongly regulated and must serve the ghoul king, or clerics who are outlaws if they worship any cult other than the “cult of rebirth”). The other option is to make a party of natives; adventurers are not outlawed in the Ghoul Lands; rather they must be sponsored by a nobleman and be officially registered. This allows them to carry weapons and the like, and to go out and fight monsters of different kinds (though of course, they cannot go to kill ghouls; in fact, adventurers must go through a fairly terrifying ritual that will keep the hordes of ghouls that roam the night from attacking them, though the ritual effect will be broken should they ever slay a ghoul).

In addition to the location material (both regions, cities, and geography), there are character descriptions (with full LL stats) of the major nobles, the Ghoul King Lorrgan Makaar and his half-ghoul children (who are some of Makaar’s major lieutenants, though some of them plot against him), the high priests of the Cult of Rebirth, a lengthy list of adventuring companies of the ghoul lands, and some of the monstrous rivals to Makaar’s rule (including a blue dragon and a vampire, both of whom hate Makaar and have tried to destroy him in the past; as well as the elves and dwarves who live in the outlying regions, and halfling gypsies(!)).  What Makaar is most worried about is an ancient prophecy;he was almost destroyed by an ancient hero named Valen (who actually cut him into pieces, most of which are still lost to this day, so that Makaar is really just a head that gets attached to some poor human host body each year… recovering other lost parts of his body is one of the major reasons the Ghoul King sponsors adventurers).  Valen also created a magical barrier which keeps all the ghouls inside the Ghoul Lands, preventing them from being able to sweep out southward to other kingdoms.  Makaar is obsessed with re-building his body, breaking that magical ward, and watching out for rumours that one of Valen’s descendents will come back and complete the prophecy by finishing the job of killing him.

I should note that in following with the balance concepts laid out in his Amherth setting, Spahn has kept the character levels of NPCs on the low side. The Ghoul King himself, the most fearsome creature in the book, is an 18th-level ghoul wizard; but most of the other NPCs in the book are far lower in level (even the Dragon and the Vampire are both just 9HD creatures), and many of the priests and nobles are only 0-level NPCs. None of the 20 or so “famous adventurers” listed in the NPC section are higher than level 5.  This is a setting quite apt for low-level play and where mid-level characters will be fairly kick-ass.

The setting also introduces a couple of dozen new items, quite a few of which (but not all!) being somehow undead-themed (be it undead-creating, undead control, undead warding, etc).  The most interesting non-undead-related item is a magical ink that is used to put a tatoo on a person; when it is used in this manner a random permanent magical effect is bestowed on the subject (in true old-school fashion, some of these random effects are more powerful than others, and some of them are in fact negative).

The book also has a number of new flora (of interesting varied medicinal or quasi-magical uses) and of course fauna. You get a number of specific subsets of Ghouls, of course; but you also get a half-dozen or so monsters that aren’t ghouls; quite a few aren’t even undead, though most are quite scary in some form or another.

As for the eponymous Ghoul Keep itself, this is a fortress in the southernmost end of the Ghoul Lands, in the mountains, blocking off the only mountain path to and from the Ghoul Lands.  It is just a bit north of the great ward that ghouls cannot pass.  People who come from foreign kingdoms to the south often mistakenly believe that Ghoul Keep is the epicenter of the Ghoul Lands, and that this is a kingdom composed entirely of ghouls (rather than the keep being just the frontier post of a larger human kingdom ruled by ghouls). They also often mistake the commander of ghoul keep (one of the Ghoul King’s half-ghoul sons) for the Ghoul King himself.  I could see this being a great campaign switcheroo: a group of brave and mighty PCs go to the “ghoul lands” to slay the “ghoul king” of the keep, and after the job is done find out that they’ve only killed the REAL Ghoul King’s son, and that the real kingdom is much larger and scarier (and weirder!) than they could have imagined.

In the book, Ghoul Keep is presented as a classic dungeon, complete with graph-paper dungeon maps and numbered locations. Its quite well done, too.

I would classify the Ghoul Keep dungeon as a very large dungeon (while still shy of a full-blown megadungeon); you have three surface levels of the keep itself, and three cavern/dungeon levels, each with a map that covers an entire page of the book.  That should give you some idea the size you’re dealing with.  Most groups would get several sessions of play out of the keep alone. 
The book is split about 60 pages of setting material to about 65 pages of adventure material.

So how do we conclude this review? If it is what you’re looking for; that is, if a really great dungeon and an unusual micro-setting is what you’re looking for (as I doubt many people woke up this morning thinking “I would love to play in a setting where a Ghoul King rules over a human society”), then you will find this a very worthwhile product.

The good points are undoubtedly the dungeon of Ghoul Keep, the interesting and thoughtful way Spahn has presented the society, and that its still recognizable and gives adventurers a clear set of roles in spite of its uniqueness as a setting.

The bad? Only that its a very unusual setting; the Ghoul Keep itself could probably be ported into just about any fantasy setting (I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t use it in my Albion game) but the Ghoul Lands would be quite unusual and might not fit even as a “microclimate” in every fantasy world. So it is a bit limited in scope. But if its range fits your aims, then you have a surefire winner here.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4k Collection Canadian + Image latakia

(originally posted January 26, 2013; on the old blog)