Tuesday, September 29, 2009

d30 Table of Taxes, Fines, Tariffs, and Fees

Ah yes, the fine art of separating a PC from his hard gotten treasures...Here's a d30 table that might provide some inspiration or aid in this endeavor:

1. Entering the City/Kingdom Fee. "We like people to prove they have some money and won’t be a drain on the economy should they need to be thrown in jail, executed, and disposed of."

2. Sales Tax. On Everything. Varies by locale. Fun to announce just after the party has carefully calculated exactly what items they need and can afford.

3. Firewood Tax. "Look around - Notice how we’re starting to run a little short on trees around here? We don’t appreciate outsiders warming their backsides with our wood." Yeah, those torches count.

4. Smoke Fine. "We got a bad pollution problem in this valley mister! You can only burn on the days specified on the public notice posted in the town square. You might want to check there frequently, as the days may change without much (any) notice."

5. Employer Tax. (per hireling)

6. Slave Tax. Fixed amount per slave, levied once per year. "Hey, we’re trying to outlaw it here! This is our way of progressively instituting a ban." Only an evil PC would keep a slave anyway, so you’ve probably nothing to worry about.

7. Hunting/Fishing Permit Fees. "That there’s our game!"

8. Tavern/Inn Taxes. Ostensibly to pay for periodic “health” inspections, state-run vermin exterminations... all part of the King’s Health Plan. Conveniently taxes travelers instead of townees.

9. Fines to Help the Poor. Or rather, to help us pay for their transport out of town, or for their imprisonment. This is usually levied by a tax collector posing as a beggar - if you don’t at least offer something, you’ll be fined. Yes, it’s hard to tell the difference between beggars and tax collectors, especially since some of those darn beggars are corrupt! At least the locals mostly know the real McCoy.

10. Army/Militia Tax. Barracks upkeep, pay, outfitting, and sometimes to keep from being conscripted.

11. Brothel Tax. Levied only on customers of course. Part of the King’s Health Plan.

12. Unbound Weapon Fine. Applies to spears, polearms, battleaxes, etc. whose blades aren’t bound with cloth and twine.

13. Unsheathed Weapon Fine. I mean, really. Put that away.

14. Corpse Disposal Fee. "These things don’t just magically disappear all on their own you know."

15. Horse Tax. Also known as the shit shoveling tax.

16. Inheritance Tax. "Your hireling told us that the magic user just inherited the dead fighter’s possessions...Um yeah, we’re gonna need a full accounting of those..."

17. Potions Tariff. "Well, really it’s a liquor tariff, but we’re gonna tax those potions too - unless you don’t mind us testing a few to make sure they’re not booze?"

18. Toll Bridge.

19. Toll Road.

20. Toll Dungeon. "You dungeoneers waltz in here with your whistle britches and fancy armor, throwing around yer money and thinking you can buy anything or anyone you want!"

21. Census Tax. You are taxed because you had to be counted, we had to pay the counters, and we had to count how many people there are to know how much to tax everyone.

22. Retirement Tax. "Not for you silly! For the guild masters."

23. Beard Tax. That’s right, if Henry VIII could tax beards, so can we. Dovetails nicely with the local prejudice against dwarves in these parts.

24. Paper Tax. There’s a paper shortage! Can’t pay the tax? Sacrifice your book for paper recycling. Why is there a paper shortage? "We need it to track tax collection and those who haven’t paid!" Yes, that scroll counts too.

25. Rations Tariff. Because “We support our local agriculture!”

26. Gambling Winnings Tax. Fun to announce just after the party decides to collect their winnings and leave.

27. Property Taxes. How nice that you could finally afford your own stronghold/tower/fortified building/etc. Pity you haven’t paid the king anything for it - annually, by the square foot.

28. The King’s Health Plan Tax. "Who do you think pays those clerics when the poor can’t afford it? What do you want, a plague?"

29. Thieve’s Guild “Insurance” Fee. Pay now or pay later, your choice. You don’t want to have to worry about pickpockets do you? Or about a group of well armed thugs jumping you at night, twisting a knife in your back, and taking all your possessions? Recurring fee on an irregular schedule.

30. Tobacco/Halfling Pipeweed Tax. Part of the King’s...oh you know the drill. Also, beware of number 4 above.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Limerick: The Stirge

Mr. Gygax the demiurge
Happily created the stirge -
It's like a mosquito
Except you're finito
If your paths should ever converge.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another Gambling Game Within The Game

Now those are precision d6’s! Not cheap, but it doesn’t get any better than brand new casino dice when trying to scratch that itchy dice fetish.

I’ve always liked the idea of games within the game. Gambling is an easy way to introduce this into a session - whether it’s on the street, in a shady alley or tavern, or just the PCs gathered around a campfire rolling bones.

There’s Appendix F of the 1e DMG for gambling ideas, but here’s another one you might like. Heck, you might even try this at your next real bar visit.

This simple game was called 2-4-24 by the person who taught it to me (my wife). We used to play this with some of our drunk friends in San Francisco dives, way back when we were dating. Ah... the idyllic days of yore. Anyhow, here’s how it’s played:

Before rolling the dice, everyone antes up whatever the agreed upon amount is (we usually did $1-$5 each). First, you roll 6d6. Every time you roll, you need to take away or save at least one of the dice and roll again, but you can finish on the first roll if you want - the idea is to end up with a 2 and a 4, and then have the highest sum of the other 4 dice. The highest sum would be 24, hence the name of the game, 2-4-24. Highest roller with a 2 and 4 wins the kitty. If you don’t have a 2 and a 4 saved by the time your last die is rolled, you’ve automatically lost - in the case of a tie, there’s a roll off. Play proceeds in a clockwise fashion, with the first person always being the winner from the last round (as a handicap). If someone is playing “the house”, they should always roll last, to give them the added benefit of knowing what number they need to beat. Of course, usually you’d never play with the house, but another way you could play it would be for the house to start with 7 dice instead of six. I’ve never tested that though, so I’m not sure how unbalanced it might make the game.

The game would scale easily with 1, 10, 100, etc. gold piece antes for example. Hey, if nothing else, now you’ve got another reason to take those six siders with you wherever you go.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Limerick: The Fearless Cleric

I've been out of town for a couple of days having fled for the coast to escape the smoke from the forest fires. Still catching up on my blog reading as I've had no internet connection for awhile...

Here's a limerick somewhat inspired by the Rusty Battleaxe's haiku postings. As far as following tradition goes, it's very tame. I've actually got a couple that are more genuine (ie. obscene and offensive) but I'm not sure if I should post 'em here as this blog is listed as family safe. :-)

There once was a cleric without fear
Who always kept cudgel and cup near
His last words, it is said,
were, "I'll turn those undead
Just as soon as I've finished my beer."

Monday, September 21, 2009

TSR's B9: Castle Caldwell and Beyond (1985)

I picked this up on a visit to Ancient Wonders near Portland recently. What a cover! The author seems a bit shy, unless he was seriously cursed with the name "Harry Nuckols". One of the things that appealed to me about it was that it contains five mini-adventures. From the back cover:
  • The Clearing of Castle Caldwell - A local merchant has recently purchased a small castle...but when he tried to move in, he discovered that the castle was already inhabited!
  • Dungeons of Terror - A strange trapdoor in the floor of Castle Caldwell leads to a terrifying challenge!
  • The Abduction of Princess Sylvia - One the eve of her wedding, the beautiful princess has been kidnapped! Can you save her in time?
  • The Great Escape - Imprisoned in an enemy fortress, without armor or weapons, your situation seems hopeless. Yet there may be a way to freedom...
  • The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent - A mystical chime of great power has been stolen - but by whom? In the wrong hands, the chime can cause untold harm! But can you find and defeat this mysterious and powerful creature?
I'm not even sure if that last line fully makes sense to me. Still, check out that front cover! :-) I can't remember ever playing any of these.

I was a little sad to see the pencil and pen marks on the map of Castle Caldwell...but then realized I could easily touch it up in the GIMP. In the process of doing so, I found that a previous DM had discovered an error in the map numbering, and corrected it in pencil. I verified this from the room descriptions, and went ahead and added his correction (seems only fair to share it here).

Update: Just to add that having read through this a bit now, it looks pretty weak...Still might be good for a quick session or two though.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Traveller - Roswell in Reverse

I've finally gotten around to replacing my original GDW Traveller little black books, today winning the last book I'd needed - the original Book Zero for $1.04 on eBay. I'm not sure how much I'll want to play just yet but I've been really looking forward to reading the books again (love that d6).

An idea for a campaign or adventure I had for Traveller recently was based on having to patrol an Earth-like planet at close to our current level of development but just about to develop intersteller travel capability. The general idea is that there's an alien species with whom we haven't had contact, but we've been watching their development and for legal and ethical reasons haven't made them aware of ourselves in order to be able to better to objectively study them as well as allow them to sort of self-actualize as a species.

Complicating this are other, less ethically inclined species that have no compunction about dealing with less technologically developed civilizations with their own self-interests in mind, as well as the less than admirable, profit-driven and other factions of our own. Could be fun to throw a type of Roswell in Reverse incident into the mix, where our guys crash and get discovered.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire

Josiah and I paid a visit to the Shrewsbury Ren Faire outside of Corvallis here in Oregon today. I seem to remember more role playing by the faire participants in previous ones I've been to a long time ago, but there were a couple of fun exchanges - when approached by a drunkard with wooden flagon in hand, I asked if he knew where I could find any rats on a stick. To this he responded in a booming and incredulous voice "RATS ON A STICK?!? Well I could certainly point you in the direction of a turkey leg if you've a few quid." Drawing the stares and attention of the nearest forty or so attendees. :-) Josiah was too shy to pose with any knights or rogues, and spurned the attention of the wench or two that spoke to him.

We timed it very nicely, arriving about ten minutes before the jousting and sword fights. Great sparks coming off of that steel! Perhaps a few too many kicks to the groin though...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Have You Heard About That Soda?

A friend asked me if I'd heard about or seen these yet...

Hey, someone had to do it...

Update: Seems like a good time to start up a poll about our favorite beverages while gaming...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tavern Menus and PC Bait

I really like the tavern menus at these two blogs... Thinking about the colorful descriptions there made me realize how I'd been under-utilizing them in our role playing.

I suspect that in most games, DM and players usually limit menus and food descriptions to something along the lines of “What’s on the Menu? Oh? I’ll have the blank,” and then the DM continues along the same lines with, “The blank arrives. It actually tastes blank. Be sure to deduct blank gold pieces from your inventory.” Maybe that suspicion is unfounded, but I’ll confess to personally having been guilty of it in the past.

In the case of Amityville Mike’s Tavern Meal Table however, one item on the menu caught my eye in particular. Dog Head Soup immediately reminded me of an Andrew Zimmern moment, and the role playing possibilities in my head started awhirling...

I imagine some cocky player deciding to select this particular item in order to provoke reactions from his fellow players, or to somehow accept the bait offered by the DM without fully understanding the consequences. Once the dish is served, a young boy (say, aged 8 or 10) bursts into the tavern, crying loudly and asking anyone that will listen if they’ve seen his missing dog. Whereupon he will suddenly see the dish in front of the PC, scream in a loud, high-pitched manner, and then attack the PC most furiously in a fit of insanity and outrage, presumably recognizing and knowing about this type of soup being served here and assuming that's where his dog ended up...

At this point of course, there are a number of ways which this can go - but let’s assume that no one else in the bar seems to notice or do anything about this attack. Perhaps the characters themselves will try to not take any action, preferring to wait this out, until such time as the boy begins to do a real hit point or two of damage, escalating his attack by grabbing a chalice from the table and striking the offending PC with it.

Once the party or PC in question actually responds in any way at all that can be interpreted as violent towards the child, an indignant and self-righteous hero will appear to defend and avenge the boy, perhaps with allies. Should the party attempt diplomacy, the hero will demand restitution for the boy’s assault. If the party should in turn suggest the tavern be held responsible, it will be brought to their attention that they are the ones who ordered the meal (thus contributing to local demand for such a dish), that the chef can’t be expected to find every stray dog's owner, and it was the PC and not themselves that assaulted the dog’s owner... Local constabulary may need to be consulted.

If on the other hand the boy’s hero (and potential allies) are defeated in grappling or combat, or perhaps Charmed, it may suddenly be confessed that the entire thing was a setup and con, that the boy, hero, and tavern owner were in on it from the beginning, with restitution being offered to the party, rather than demanded of it, perhaps being provided in the way of valuable information of some sort that will become the hook for the next major adventure.

I used the Dog’s Head Soup example here because it was just too easy, but I’m going to make a strong effort, when I plan to use menus like these, to briefly mentally sketch out some ways in which the meal can be used to broaden the game environment and role playing other than just as more wallpaper. In other words, as DM, suggesting that the “Fruit is wonderful, and strangely out of season in these parts” might be a hook to dangle in front of the players. Maybe there’s a magic portal to a distant land or other plane near by. “The mutton is wonderful, but seems ridiculously overpriced” - that’s because a nearby infestation of orcs/goblins/monster X is responsible for the slaughtering of the local flocks. Even a choice of spirit might provoke the server to exclaim, “Well! The 21 year old Bloodhound Brandy! A fine choice, they just don’t make ‘em like that one any more, ever since the Battle of blah blah ruins blah blah...”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

OSRIC Game Play Journal: You're Getting Very Sleepy...Now Give Us Your Potions!

Yet again another short session, I still haven’t gotten it together to jumpstart the LL game, but at least we put in a couple of hours tonight. There was a power outage (car accident or something, who knows) and we stopped at that point.

I’d been looking forward to playing again because I’d been thinking of having Dennis the Gnome Illusionist hypnotize Ouze, the mysterious NPC mystic and adventurer. I remembered mentioning to the DM a month or so ago the horror movie “The Stuff”, and was surprised he’d never heard of it. It seems like the kind of pulpy horror film he’d enjoy and he agreed when I described the plot. Now back in the game, I had to wonder if he’d gotten around to seeing it and if this strange amber ichor that came out of both the paladin’s assassin and the crazy bear was somehow an allusion or just inspired by the film. That combined with the NPC’s name “Ouze” (Ooze?) got me all paranoid, and that’s when my little plan got hatched.

Dennis (INT 17, WIS 7) conspired with Gladric and Anrid, and had Benedict the Cleric (the lone good alignment character in the party, as far as we know) ride off with Demerarg and Vadco on horseback to do a quick recon of the tower a half mile away from camp or so. During their brief time away, the idea was to nonchalantly approach Ouze from the front and rear at the same time, with Dennis out of striking range but close enough to cast his hypnotism spell and Anrid almost right behind him should he make his save and become hostile.

“Ouze’s eyes appear to lose focus as you finish casting your spell.” Great, success! Now what? There was a little too much discussion about what was acceptable to suggest or attempt to glean from him and how to go about it, but basically he was hypnotized to see the remaining party members as "his best friends". If he had any ill intentions towards his fellow party members, he seemed confused by questioning about this. He was asked if he knew anything about the amber ichor and he seemed confused and genuinely perplexed about the stuff himself. Finally, feeling the hypnotism spell’s power waning, he was asked if he “was hiding any helpful potions from the rest of the party” to which he responded that he had no potions. At that we had to let him awake, and all safely retreated a short distance from him and engaged in trivial camp pursuits lest it appear that we had just been leering over him.

Crap! No further to solving the amber ooze mystery, but at least we can reasonably conclude that Ouze is not conspiring against any of us. After he awoke, Dennis tried to engage him in some idle chit chat about his family and other trivialities and Ouze became a little defensive and excused himself to go meditate. Ha, if he only knew. Anrid congratulated Dennis on his spell-casting, and the three began to consider when and how they might use it against Demerarg, the female magic user, should the need arise. They’re not exactly evil, these three, just neutral and very chaotic.

The tower recon was largely uneventful other than discovering a number of ruinous small structures in a semi-circle near the back of it. The tower itself was described as being composed of volcanic like black rock, and that there seemed to be a kind of humming or vibration the closer one got to it, perhaps emanating from the stone itself. The recon party had kept just out of short bow or light crossbow range of the structures and tower itself, so not a lot of detail was made out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RPGs as Art, Non-Roleplaying Aspects

If one's willing to entertain the notion of RPGs as art, it's probably the more obvious role playing aspect of the game that first seems to justify the view. The voice acting and discussion of what the game's characters say and do is the most spontaneous and dynamic aspect of the creation of the meta-space (or playing field). It’s also the most overtly collaborative, and for most people the part that's the most fun.

However - if we continue with the idea that, as I said earlier, in many ways the creation of the imaginary entertainment environment (to use McKay’s term again) is the game, then the game is still being played (that is, the art is still being created) even when the actual role playing isn’t occurring. It’s being played when the GM creates the campaign world: when he maps it, populates it, when he creates new magic items or spells that will be discovered and used in it, etc. Similarly, when players roll up a new character, they’re using the game rules to help them create a framework from which they’ll know how to interact with the shared meta-space. They may go on to invent a personal history to deepen the meta-space and further inform their actions - in short they're creating a unique brush with which they will add their own flourishing touches to the larger canvas. From this point of view, anything you do with creative intention that will impact the shared play meta-space is in essence playing the game.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mauri Legend of Man-Eating Bird is True, Scientists Say

I'd intended to post a few more brief thoughts on RPGs as Art, but saw this news item and thought I'd share it here...

"A Maori legend about a giant, man-eating bird has been confirmed by scientists. The Hokioi was a huge black-and-white predator with a red crest and yellow-green tinged wingtips, in an account given to Sir George Gray, an early governor of New Zealand. It was said to be named after its cry and to have "raced the hawk to the heavens". Scientists now think the stories handed down by word of mouth and depicted in rock drawings refer to Haast's eagle, a raptor that became extinct just 500 years ago, shows their study in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology...

...With a wingspan of up to three metres and weighing 18kg, the female was twice as big as the largest living eagle, the Steller's sea eagle. And the bird's talons were as big as a tiger's claws. "It was certainly capable of swooping down and taking a child," said Paul Scofield, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Canterbury Museum. "They had the ability to not only strike with their talons but to close the talons and put them through quite solid objects such as a pelvis. It was designed as a killing machine..."


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Further Thoughts on RPGs as Performance Art

Continuing from my earlier posts on this subject, McKay mentions that simply substituting “activity” for “game” can help put into perspective the artistic element of RPGs. In fact, he goes so far as to describe players as artists.

The point I’ve been trying to formulate in attempting to frame the nature of art and RPGs centers around our shared play space. To use McKay's term, in most forms of entertainment, there is an entertainment environment. A circus is an example, and so is a theatre. In the case of role playing games however, the entertainment environment is imaginary. Yes there are rules, and there is even a director of sorts (the GM), but the imaginary entertainment environment is where the game play itself happens. It is a cooperatively constructed meta-space, consisting of the player characters, NPCs, mythology, place descriptions, etc. of a game’s campaign world. It has both static and dynamic aspects, changing spontaneously with the players' (ie. artists') actions and at the director’s discretion and with his or her guidance. In many ways, the construction of this meta-space is the game.

If you still think that role playing games should not be considered an artistic endeavor, as a new type of performance art, consider again that there is no way to win or lose them. Like art, their enjoyment lies in the act of creation - in the case of role playing games, that enjoyment is made greater by the process being explicitly collaborative.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Monk Asks Master Chao-chou...

Does an orc also
Possess the buddha nature?
Master shouts: "Breeyark!"

(with apologies to Andy "Atom" Taylor)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A New Performing Art

I picked this book up a little while ago, partly intrigued by the fact that the writer lives here in my little town. I finally starting reading it today being a little under the weather and having some extra time... From the back cover:

"Performance is a major part of fantasy role-playing games, and this book is about role-playing as a performance art. This work introduces an appreciation for the performance aesthetics of such games, and it provides the framework for a critical model useful in understanding the art - especially in terms of aesthetics - of role playing games.

The book also serves as a contribution to the beginnings of a body of criticism, theory, and aesthetics analysis of a mostly unrecognized and newly developing art form.

There are four parts: the cultural structure, the extent to which the games relates to the outside cultural elements; the formal structure, or the rules of the game; the social structure, which encompasses the degree and quality of social interaction among players, and the aesthetic structure, concerned with the emergence of role-playing as an art form."

Very academic, but I do find this type of take on RPGs interesting - I've briefly mentioned here before (blog name change since) how role playing is very much like improvisational theatre, and how it reminds me of an exquisite corpse, provoking a short discussion on a Canon Puncture podcast. I'm sure there are players that might find academics describing them as artists or actors to be silly or even somehow find such remarks offensive (hey, we're just playing our favorite game here!), but I think there's a lot of insight that can be gained from stepping back a bit and framing things in this manner, that may actually enhance our game experience.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old School Armor Class Systems Comparison (Tables)

I read with interest that there was going to be a minor change to armor class in the revised and just released Labyrinth Lord rules. What started out as some simple comparison calculations spiraled into a desire to compare armor class across the spectrum of the Old School systems I play and am interested in... I'm sure others have done something similar or exactly the same, but thought I'd post some PDFs of my calculations and tables here. I don't consider math a strong point of mine, so wouldn't be surprised if my calculations are off somewhere. I'm thinking about charting this somehow to make it a little easier for my brain to make sense of (what can I say, I'm a lefty)...

Old School Armor Systems Comparison Tables
(includes B/X, LL (old and new), OSRIC/AD&D, and S&W)

OSRIC/AD&D Armor Cost vs. Starting Money by Class

Monday, September 7, 2009

Peter Mullen is an Ogre?

I was over at my nephew’s place, and saw the small poster sized print out of Peter Mullen’s ogre I’d given him up on his bedroom wall (above). He loves it! Then he said, “So the ogre’s name is Mullen?” I had to look a little closer at the poster to see where he got that idea. :-)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Yet Another Torture Chamber

Today I'm recycling a post I made over at the Goblinoid Games forum. Dan Proctor was giving away an extra copy of a Gamerz DVD he had and this was my attempt at a quick grab for it in the contest there. There was a 300 word limit.

I realized while writing this that I may have a deep urge to torture halflings. The vaguely LotR thing going on was intended as just a set up. Well, here it is, with a minor edit or two. Stat blocks are for Labyrinth Lord...
14. (Yet Another) Torture Chamber

It’s immediately obvious that this is a chamber of torture: various implements of pain hang from the North wall. The room is more pungent than others already explored in the dungeon - the odor from the waste of prisoners and blood smeared walls is overpowering. Locked and chained to the Eastern wall are five prisoners - four halflings and a goblin. Three of the halfings are dead, but the fattest still lives and will begin crying loudly, begging for release.

The surviving halfling’s name is Tuttle (AL L, MV 90’, AC 9, HD 1 (4HP), #AT 1 FOR DG 1, SV T1, ML 6). He’s been tortured extensively and is missing a finger, but held up well considering his ordeal and promises a great reward if freed. Released, he will attack and try to kill the goblin with his bare hands, but may also try to retrieve his sword for this purpose if he feels he can get it without being stopped.

If the goblin (”Krok” - AL C, MV 60’, AC 7, HD 1-1 (4HP), #AT 1 FOR DG 1D6, SV F0, ML 6) is released he’ll make an attempt to retrieve the sword and necklace hanging from one of the hooks on the North wall before fleeing the chamber, exclaiming “My ring!” in Goblinoid while doing so. If captured or threatened with death, he’ll offer to lead them out, pointing out pit traps.

A corner holds bloody rags and two suits of halfling sized leather armor. Hanging from a hook on the North wall is a short sword in scabbard and a silver necklace bearing a gold ring. The ring is inscribed in two languages: in common “Wear on your sword hand”; and in an unknown language “Present to your enemy.” It will magically sever the finger it’s worn on after 1d6 rounds (permanent DEX -1, forces weapon drop). Tuttle will claim ownership of it, without revealing that he knows what the ring says or does. It’s worth 200gp.

Friday, September 4, 2009

OSRIC Game Play Journal: Crazy Bear

We only managed a couple of hours of play, seems a 9pm start is a bit late for us near 40 year olds! So we're going to try moving it to a little earlier in the evening. Next week we'll be back to alternating with LL play with a new group of PCs following the near TPK...
The party was about to leave the settlement with Ouze, the NPC magic user, when it became more apparent that they’d need horses - they opted to get another draft horse and a pony, trading in a suit of armor for them... This put the two dwarves on one of the drafts, the gnome and cleric on another, Ouze had his own horse, and they bought a pony as a spare.

Without too much trouble they were able to find Vadco, the recently exiled murderer, hiding in some rock outcroppings to the East of the settlement. He was very happy to see the party, and they gave him some food and water. Anrid the Dwarven fighter fashioned him a meager spear with his axe, and journeyed back to the horse trader on the edge of town with Ouze in order to re-acquire their armor (which would reasonably fit Vadco) and some additional provisions.

On their return, they were attacked by a bear that seemed either rabid or extremely hungry, keeping just out of its reach by virtue of being on horseback and utilizing their slings in an effort to drive it away or kill it. At some point, Gladric the Dwarven thief saw what was happening back at camp, and was able to score a good hit on the beast with a crossbow bolt. Shortly after that though, the bear attacked the campsite, and Gladric was able to gut it with his short sword, helped slightly by Vadco (with his new wooden spear). Oddly, the bear bled out and foamed at the mouth the same strange amber ichor that had oozed out of the paladin’s assassin back in the settlement some time ago.

The party pitched a camp, and the next day carried on, traveling East, until to the Northeast they saw a large tower loom. Approaching it, they were yelled to by a voice from another rock outcropping, and after some discussion parleyed with a plain appearing, human, female magic-user. Her name was Demararg, and she’d previously adventured inside the tower with a group of gnomes (!). They’d all died, but she’d escaped and been camping here awaiting a chance to avenge their deaths and further explore/exploit the tower. They agreed to join up with her, and she hinted that she had some (presumably magical) abilities that would come in handy in accessing certain parts of the tower, which she said had a number of collapsed levels.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

D&D in Spielberg's 1982 "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" movie

I was talking with a couple of friends last night about playing D&D back in the Eighties and one of them mentioned seeing it being played in the movie E.T. - I vaguely recalled that, but couldn't remember exactly how the scene went. So I found some clips online and further chopped them up for the most relevant bits. Here's the result (apologies for the atrocious quality and mouse):

Direct YouTube Link

The basic script:

Steve (GM): 5
Mike: Oh, great...
Steve: You got an arrow right in the chest and you’re out ten melee points.
Greg: Don’t worry about it Mike, I got Resurrection - I’ll bring you back.
Mike: I’m already one of the undead Greg, I can still throw death spells, huh Steve?
Greg: Just tryin’ to help you out man, don’t be so cranky.
Other kid: How about throwing a spell Order The Pizza Man? Order that pizza man, get it, huh?
Elliot: Well I’m ready to..now to..play - I’m ready to play now you guys.”
Someone: We’re in the middle Elliot. You can’t just join any universe (”Any Universe”?) in the middle.
(Some banter...)
Elliot: Mike? ...Mike?
Mike: You have to ask Steve, he’s Game Master. He has absolute power.
Elliot: Steve?
Steve: Gonna wait for the pizza first.
Elliot: Then I’m in?
Steve: Yeah, you’re in. Figure out your strategy because you’re playing after Greg.
...(Some banter)...

Mom: So how do you win this game anyway huh?
Steve: There’s no winning, it’s like life, you don’t win at life.
Greg: Money helps.
Steve: Yeah, but...

Melee points? Referencing a specific body part that gets hit? What's this about Mike playing an undead PC? Is the name of their game "Any Universe" or is that just another nonsensical remark?

It looks like Spielberg wanted to throw in a cultural reference, but either wanted it to sound like what he thought typical parents might have heard or know about the game, or he knew very little about it and got a five minute primer on the subject just before the shoot, and it was largely ad-libbed. Or maybe they were just concerned about trademark infringement. Anyway, it's pretty ridiculous.

Later in the movie, Elliot references the earlier scene and the power of the game master when attempting to swear his older brother Mike to absolute secrecy about the alien which he’s about to reveal to him:

Elliott: Michael, he came back...
Michael: He came back? He came back? Oh my god!
Elliott: (persistently) One thing. I have absolute power. Say it. Say it!...
Michael: What have you got? Is it the coyote?
Elliott: No. Look. OK. Now. Swear it. The most excellent promise you can make. Swear as my only brother on our lives.
Michael: Don't get so heavy. I swear.

So there you have it, a synopsis of D&D (or something fairly close to it) as shown in the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Update: Just to add, it only just dawned on me the connection to E.T.'s glowing heart later in the movie and the reference to Mike's character getting hit in the chest by an arrow, as well as the mention of casting a Resurrection spell, considering that E.T. pretty much comes back from the dead. Hmm..

Another Update: On this page: http://books.google.com/books?id=ZBEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA85&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false the author talks about how Spielberg staged "an evening long game of D&D for all the younger members of the cast..."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

JG Cover: Book of Treasure Maps 1977

The cover to this "D&D approved" 1977 Judge's Guild publication features a photograph of what might now be interpreted as an early example of LARP. I think it's an interesting picture - partly because of its B&W charm and also because of the time it was taken (pre-Mazes & Monsters).

I'm happy to report that I've sold both the Tegel Manor and the Tradervale I'd posted about previously here. The Tegel went for $60 and the Tradervale for over $111, just in case you're wondering what off-eBay sales of these items are like these days. Between those and a few eBay sales of 2nd edition TSR modules, I'm now within a $100 of breaking even on the big Craigslist lot I bought some time ago. I still have a large number of 2E books and a few modules for cheap, as well as some early Grenadier/Ral Partha minis I'm looking to unload so let me know if you've interest.

In brief o.s. rpg news, Labyrinth Lord is moving towards another printing, sporting a new cover and some (minor?) rules revisions. The cover looks great! A far cry from the JG days pictured above... Still looking forward to Goblinoid Game's "Advanced Edition Characters", although there's no word as to when that will be available yet.