Archive for the ‘other systems’ Category

en garde!

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

If I had been reading Strategic Review 1.4 in winter 1975, this ad would have caught my eye:

EN GARDE! is Game Designers’ Workshop’s newest, and most unusual game. The 17th Century, with musketeers, and swordfights in the streets, comes alive as the 40 pages of rules, charts, and tables unfold. In EN GARDE! each player finds himself a person, born and bred for the swashbuckling life of a gentleman adventurer. Status is pursued above all else, even above money. Social climbing is a way of life. The world is inhabited by the likes of Scaramouche, Cyrano and Roxanne, Errol Flynn, Porthos, Athos, Aramis, Rhonda Fleming, Franco is Villon, and, of course, D’Artagnan. There are people to be used, lackies to be abused, the Cardinal’s Guard to be trounced, friends to be cultivated, enemies to be humiliated, the hearts of fair ladies to be won, the ear of the King to be gained!

All you need to play EN GARDE! is a pencil, paper, a six-sided die, the EN GARDE! rule booklet, an adventurous imagination, and some friends. . . Rules cover a complete 17th Century society in some hypothetical country, (oh, call it France, if you like). Specific rules include a complete fencing system (to settle those disputes you may have), character generation, social climbing, money, carousing, mistresses, gambling, influence, the military, advancement, everything you need to live a full life, and enjoy every minute of it.

Come with us to those bawdy, rowdy days of yore. . . Sharpen your blade. . . Sharpen your wits. . . Take care not to insult a small man with a large nose. . . All for one and one for all. . . Good luck, friend, and may your swash never buckle!

EN GARDE! $4.00 ppd.

I like the Three Musketeers milieu, and Scaramouche, Flynn, and the rest of them. (I had to look up Rhonda Fleming, and I’m still not sure why she was on the list.)

The promise of rigorous rules for “social climbing, money, carousing, mistresses, gambling, influence, the military, advancement,” and “everything else” would have been enough to part me from my $4.00 ppd. It’s a lot to jam into 40 pages, though; my guess is that the En Garde rules are about as sketchy as the OD&D rules, or more so.

Also of note: “40 pages of rules, charts, and tables.” This was a time when people made a selling point of the quantity of their charts and tables. RPG design has sure changed over 35 years.

According to En Garde’s own wikipedia page, En Garde was mostly a play by mail game. I also noticed that Loren Wiseman was listed as one of the designers. That name was familiar to me, since I had just read it in the same 1975 issue of Strategic Review containing the En Garde ad, in this hilarious cartoon:

Apparently En Garde is still around and in its fourth edition. It seems to be mostly a play by email/messageboard game. It’s fun to see this list of all the currently-running En Garde games, so similar to the Players Wanted sections in the 70’s game zines or the Strategic Review list of all the DMs looking for players. I’m kind of tempted to try one of the En Garde games out.

unnamed Gygax and Grubb campaign setting

Monday, May 20th, 2013

This week, two exciting, unpublished TSR settings collided in my head to form a third setting.

setting 1: Jeff Grubb project

On the latest WOTC D&D podcast, Steve Winter talked about the great campaign-world books that came out of Second Edition D&D. He said that, for every kick-ass setting like Planescape or Al’Quadim, they had a bunch of ideas just as good – they just didn’t have time to print them all. Prompted, he described one of the settings that he’d never forgotten:

There’s one that always comes to mind: it was proposed by Jeff Grubb, and I forget what the name of it was, but the idea was, it was a world where there were all these mountain ranges, and all of civilization – the good part of civilization – has been driven up to the tops of these mountains, and then there’s a tremendously thick cloud layer, so wherever the sun shines is where good exists. Everything beneath the cloud layer has been overrun by evil. There are cloud ships that sail out from these mountain-top cities across the clouds, and the adventurers rappel down to the world where they go raiding the ruined cities that used to be down there, looking for gold, metal, and all the kinds of things that they don’t have in these mountaintop cities.

As Steve Winter says, that idea isn’t quite as fresh as it was in the late 80s (he’s seen elements in anime, and it reminds me of Final Fantasy) but I think it’s still an evocative and inspiring world. I’m ready to play it! But, since all we have is a podcast sound bite and not a campaign book, I’m left with a lot of questions: exactly what kind of evil lurks in the cloudy lowlands? What does the wilderness look like?

setting 2: “The Original D&D Setting”

Here’s the other great setting I read this week: The Original D&D Setting, a series of blog posts by Wayne Rossi. This teases out the weirdness that you get if you take the original OD&D books and play its assumptions to the hilt. Griffin-riding Arthurian knights wait inside sinister castles, swamps crawl with dinosaurs, there are Martian creatures in the desert, and undead shamble through cities.

Wayne Rossi provides a “campaign map” of this strange wild land: James Mishler’s version of the Outdoor Survival map that Gygax used for his wilderness adventures. When I took a close look at it, I noticed that three areas had little snow-capped peaks – presumably impassable. That’s when the Steve Winter idea crash-landed into the setting. What if those white-capped peaks aren’t covered with snow, but shining with sunlight? What if they’re the only safe places in the setting, and the PCs descend from the mountains to explore the misty lands of Wilderness Survival?

A couple of nice things happen when we combine these settings:

getting lost

Getting lost is a big deal in Wilderness Survival, and in the OD&D exploration rules. If you roll badly, you can end up wandering north when you think you’re going south. I’ve always wondered how getting lost by 180 degrees can happen on a sunny day, when you always know which ways East and West are. But suddenly, in this setting, it’s possible! Beneath the cloud cover, you can’t see the sun or the stars, and navigation is much harder than it is in a traditional outdoor adventure.


Even if you’ve played a campaign on the classic Wilderness Survival map before, this setting inverts it. Usually, peaks are impassable and towns are your home base. Now, peaks are safe in a way that no valley village is. Cities will be places of horror: mockeries of safety.

In OD&D, in a city encounter, 50% of the time you roll on the “men” subtable and 50% of the time you roll on the “undead” subtable. Even in straight OD&D, there are way more undead in cities than we’re used to from later adventure settings. It really makes sense in this below-the-clouds horror setting, where, as Steve Winter says, the ruined cities are the primary dungeons. Since it’s always cloudy, you’re never safe from sun-fearing undead like vampires. Maybe the cities are filled with vampire lords who keep humans (the “men” encounters) as their cattle; maybe anyone who dies down here becomes undead, so cities are amoung the most dangerous places in the world; maybe the cities are straight-up dungeons ruled by necromancers and evil high priests (who together form 1/6 of the encounters on the “men” subtable).

Wayne points out that the arrangement of the cities is odd: there are five in a cross in the middle of the map, and the central one is in the forest. If we’re saying that ruined cities are the main dungeons of the settings, the central one, overgrown by eerie forest, is probably the scariest and most dangerous dungeon.


Most OD&D castle encounters, with wizards and clerics who enslave you and high-level fighters who challenge you, fit squarely into Steve Winter’s description of the wilderness as “overrun by evil.” While cities are the megadungeons of the settings, castles might be the bite-sized minidungeons that the players can try to clear in a single adventure.

Wayne Rossi makes the point that, according to the number of castles on the Wilderness Survival map and the castle-inhabitant charts, you’d expect three of the castles to be controlled by good clerics. I have my eye on the three castles in the mountain pass near the largest mountain peak area.

Wayne suggests that these good clerics are all part of one holy order dedicated to recapturing the land from evil. This makes sense to me. We can say that, while the surface of the world is nearly overrun with evil, there is one little area where a holy order has a foothold. This is the likely starting point of the PCs’ adventures: these castles control the only safe way to ascend to the mountain peaks. From the southernmost castle, it’s only 4 hexes to the closest city. That will undoubtedly be the first dungeon that the PCs tackle.


OK, there’s something I haven’t figured out. According to OD&D, rivers are just swarming with buccaneers and pirates. Who are they preying on? Each other?

Steve Winter said that cloud ships travel from mountain peak to mountain peak. Maybe the buccaneers and pirates are based on the river, but their ships can ascend to the clouds to attack cloud shipping. Maybe the pirates even have flying submarines.

That said, if pirates can fly, why do they spend so much time on the river? Maybe someone can solve this for me.

Another thing: there are a lot of flying monsters in the original OD&D encounter tables – dragons, griffins, chimerae. Can they threaten the mountain settlements and cloud ships, or are they confined to the lowlands?

This week I’ll try to delve more into the implications of this setting.

why you want Domains at War

Friday, May 17th, 2013

There’s about a day left in Autarch’s Adventurer Conqueror King: Domains at War kickstarter. I was lucky enough to get a Domains at War war-game playtest with Tavis Allison. It’s very impressive for the same reason Adventurer Conqueror King is impressive: it marries simple D&D mechanics with rock-solid behind-the-scenes mathematical rigor. That may not sound like much, but that combination is a rock on which many RPG-design ships have foundered. I still can’t believe that ACKS has pulled it off, and I keep peeking behind the curtain, only to find that the system is even more solid than I expect.

Let me tell you two stories: the first is why you should have ACKS on your bookshelf, and the second is why you should back Domains at War right now.

Ask Adventurer Conqueror King: How many knights per square mile?

Right now I’m reading Charles Oman’s A History of the Art of War, a giant volume that, according to Jon Peterson, was a primary text for Gary Gygax’s Chainmail. I’m reading a chapter chock full of the meaty medieval economic information I love:

We have seen that “knight-service” and “castle-ward” were ideas not altogether unfamiliar before the Conquest, and that the obligation of every five hides of land to send a mailed warrior to the host was generally acknowledged […] A landholder, knowing his servitium according to the assessment of the vetus feoffamentum of the Conqueror, had to provide the due amount of knights. This he could do, in two ways: he might distribute the bulk of his estate in lots roughly averaging five hides to sub-tenants, who would discharge the knight-service for him, or he might keep about him a household of domestic knights, like the housecarles of old, and maintain them without giving them land. Some landholders preferred the former plan, but some adhered, at least for a time, to the latter. But generally an intermediate arrangement prevailed: the tenant-in-chief gave out most of his soil to knights whom he enfeoffed on five-hide patches, but kept the balance in dominio as his private demesne, contributing to the king for the ground so retained the personal service of himself, his sons, and his immediate domestic retainers.

OK, this seems pretty clear: each knight needs five hides of land to support him. Problem is, what’s a hide? Apparently, it’s an extremely variable amount: the land needed to support one farming family. Its area is most often given in old texts as 120 acres.

Given this information, I extrapolated two useful pieces of information: how many families can be supported by a square mile of farmland, and how many knights defend it? (Stuff like this can be very useful for D&D worldbuilding, whether you need to know, for instance, the size of a country’s army or, conversely, the size of the country needed to support the army you want to use.) According to my initial calculations, a square mile of farmland, 640 acres, contained about 5 hides: about 5 farming families and one knight.

I thought I’d compare this to ACKS. I discovered that each hex of civilized land contains, according to ACKS, about 4x as many peasant families as I expected. I had a feeling that Autarch hadn’t missed a trick here. I emailed Tavis and Alex to see if they could unravel this riddle for me. Alex responded:

It’s quite confusing because a hide is not a fixed area of land. It’s 60-120 acres, but the acres in question are “old acres”. ACKS uses “modern acres”. A hide is about 30 modern acres. See […] Now, 1 6-mile hex is about 32 square miles, which is 20,480 acres, which translates into 682 peasant families. At sufficient densities I assume a surplus that includes non-farming craftsmen, so we end up with the cap of 750 families per 6-mile hex in ACKS.

In any event, 5 hides supports 5 families in ACKS. Each peasant family generates on average 12gp per month in revenue for their lord. 5 x 12 gp = 60gp. The monthly cost for a knight is 60gp (see Mercenary Wages, Heavy Cavalry). So each 5 hides can support 1 knight, as per The Art of War in the Middle Ages.

Mystery solved! My estimate for peasants per mile was off by a factor of 4 because the area of an acre had increased 4x! Furthermore, I was delighted to see that five families exactly supported one knight, as Oman suggested.

That’s one of the big selling points of ACKS for me. I like to do historical research and tweak my game accordingly, but if I want to double-check my answers, having ACKS on my shelf makes things easier. And if I consistently fall back on its prices, domain rules, end economic model, I’ll end up with something more plausible than what I could cobble together on my own.

Domains at War: Richard and Saladin

A few nights ago I went over to Tavis’s house for a playtest of the Domains at War system. I hadn’t read the rules, but I was deep in Oman’s descriptions of the major battles of the Crusades, and I’ve read a lot about medieval tactics. I figured that my ignorance of the Domains at War rules was actually a boon for the playtest. If I could command an army using only the tactics described in historical battles, and get plausible results, without knowing rules, that would be a win for the system.

On the train ride over, I’d been reading about the battle of Arsouf between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. I think Tavis had some other playtest planned, but after I enthusiastically recounted the battle, he said, “That sounds fun: let’s play that.” Oman gives a rather detailed troop breakdown of both sides, including the generals in charge of various divisions of the Crusaders. D@W includes rules for subcommanders, each with their own initiative and attributes, so the wings of my army were led by their historical commanders: King Richard at the center, King Guy of Jerusalem in the rear, and the Duke of Burgundy in the van. I put the Bishop of Bauvais, a cleric, at the head of the small band of heavily-armed Templars at the fore. Although D@W includes rules for battlefield heroics by PCs, King Richard and Saladin never met for a decisive D&D-encounter showdown.

The Battle of Arsouf is exceptional because the Crusaders, for once, held their ground and stuck to their game plan instead of charging disastrously into traps set by Saladin’s more mobile cavalry. I set myself the same challenge: could I maintain discipline and resist the temptation to charge Tavis’s skirmishers?


After a few turns of being peppered by arrows, I deviated from King Richard’s strategy. I saw an opportunity to send my cavalry into the flank of Saladin’s wheeling cavalry. It was worth it to see how beautifully my rolling cavalry charge checked Tavis’s advance and sent a few of his units fleeing for the woods.

After a few turns of opposed cavalry charges and countercharges, I was rolling up Tavis’s left wing while my own left wing was close to routing. We’d each taken a lot of casualties. Tavis needed to kill only one more of my units to force a potentially game-ending morale check; I needed two. And in real life, it was well after midnight. We played one more turn. On my left wing, Saladin concentrated his forces on one of King Guy’s cavalry units, trying to force it to flee, but it held. Meanwhile, on my right wing, I chased down and defeated one of Saladin’s light cavalry units, and sent a thundering charge into a second, but, bad luck for me, it made its morale check. Night fell on the battlefield, ending the battle inconclusively after a tense final turn. I got home around 3 AM on a work night – the sign of a good game.

As the game went on, I found myself trusting the rules more and more. If I had just role-played the part of King Richard, I think the game system would have given me the victory. In fact, I role-played the part of an undisciplined, impetuous Crusader cavalier, and, as they so frequently did, I nearly turned victory into defeat. Maybe Tavis will give me a rematch sometime. This time I’ll stick to the plan.

the art of titan: the fighting fantasy world

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I had Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson’s Titan: The Fighting Fantasy World when I was a kid. If I may Grognardia for a minute, I have to say that I didn’t think much of it when I was a kid. For some reason I perceived it as a pretentious challenger to D&D’s dominance. Now I see that it’s a loving D&D pastiche, with orcs, elves, and D&D off-brand monsters like Tua-suo and Dvorgar. It’s not pretentious at all. It’s enthusiastic, and very charming. I’ve already stolen a few ideas for my D&D game.

One of the most charming things about the book is the art. Like the content of the book, most of it looks like it would be at home in an 80s TSR product. One of my favorites is this painting of the world’s fantasy metropolis, the City of Thieves:

Perhaps more useful in a game is this sideways map of a wizard’s tower. It’s presented as the home of a friendly wizard, and it isn’t immediately useful in that context. But as a dungeon it would be tops. It reminds me of Jeff Rients’s vertical dungeons. It looks like it would be great fun keying each one of these rooms – though it is a little linear, I’ll admit. And because it’s so detailed, you could actually simulate a character making a search check by having the player find an item – possibly folding or covering parts of the map so that only one floor could be searched at once.

It would also be a kick-ass tower to give to one of the PCs as their home base.

Finally, here’s a nice Russ Nicholson critter for your collection:

Why is that one guy pouring from his cup into another cup? Don’t goblins care about GERMS?

Dungeon Robber rules ready to download

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Here are the beta rules for Dungeon Robber, the solo board game played on the Random Dungeon Generator poster. (If you don’t have a poster, buy one now!)

I’d describe Dungeon Robber as the next evolution of D&D. It’s important because it has an open playtest, and tons of optional “modules” for changing the game experience. Wow! Download it now!


Play it! Test it! Send feedback to me, paul, at blog of holding!

Play Yourself

One of my favorite of the optional Dungeon Robber rules is “Play Yourself” mode, where you stat yourself up by answering a series of highly scientific questions (do you have all your wisdom teeth? Then you have high Wisdom!) and, unprepared as you are, enter the dungeon. I like it because it speaks to one of the central D&D fantasies.

What would you do if you – you yourself – found yourself at the dark entrance of a D&D dungeon?

Smart money’s on turning around and going home. But if I were feeling bold, I might take a sword from the skeletal hand of a dead guardian (not that I know how to use a sword), light a torch, and creep into the quiet labyrinth. I wouldn’t be looking to explore the whole thing. I’d just be looking to see if I could find a souvenir: a nice statue, or a few gold coins. Guys, gold is selling at $1600 per ounce now. That means a single gold piece is worth about $600 (or $3000 if it’s one of those big 1e ten-to-a-pound coins). Even the faded tapestries that D&D parties routinely ignore are probably worth something, or at least would look nice in my Brooklyn apartment.

With every room I entered, I’d be pressing my luck, because I, Paul, am no match for even a level 1 monster. The first time I saw a kobold’s whisker, I’d flee – and hope I remembered the way out.

Of course, this isn’t how D&D does dungeoncrawls. D&D takes all of the scary trappings of a haunted house – monsters, vampires, traps – and lets you and your well-armed friends punch them in the face. It’s like you’re a squad from a World War II movie that wandered into a horror film.

Dungeon Robber is a fear-drenched, cowardly, haunted house, press-your-luck dungeoncrawl. It uses lightly-abstracted D&D rules, with more emphasis on the OD&D fleeing rules than on combat. In an RPG, the level of rule detail lets you know what you should be doing. In OD&D, there’s a lot of rules about fleeing: your chances for losing pursuit by turning corners, passing through doors, and dropping food are specified. In Dungeon Robber, I tried to preserve those rules.

Dungeon Robber is a board game, so you can win or lose. You win if you retire alive and rich. If you retire richer than someone else, you’re more of a winner than they are. But really, if you survive your plunge into the dungeon, however brief, you’ve won.

Let me know about your experiences playing Dungeon Robber! Did you emerge with a handful of silver pieces? Were you killed by a rat? Did you retire with enough money to buy a kingdom?


the trapmonkey cleric: basing perception checks on wisdom

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

5e says that it is going to make attributes more important than skills: if you want to open a door, you roll your Strength. If you want to notice something, you roll your Wisdom.

This really highlights the fact that Perception has been a problem since early D&D, when it was briefly its own attribute. That’s not a great solution, but the 3e+ solution, making it a skill based on Wisdom, is not great either. It’s strange when the cleric is the best member of the party for finding secret doors and noticing ambushes.

This issue was less central in 3e and 4e, where skill points and training bonuses could be used to shore up the Wisdom shortcomings of alert rogues and rangers. But in a system where perception checks are made by a more-or-less unmodified use of your Wisdom stat, we’ll find ourselves in a world where clerics and paladins are scouting ahead of the party to look for traps.

To decide how to deal with perception, I think we should think about what classes we expect to make difficult Perception checks. I think that the best watchmen in the party should be rogues, with their trap sense; rangers, with their keen eyes; and barbarians, with their feral alertness. Clerics should be solidly middle-of-the-pack.

Based on this class-down design, it actually makes sense for perception skills to be folded under the Dexterity attribute. In most editions, rogues and rangers usually have high dexterity. Barbarians can sometimes get away without high dexterity, but they shouldn’t: warriors who wear only loincloths had better be quick.

It’s a bit of a conceptual stretch to jam sharp ears and keen eyes under Dexterity. It might help to rename “perception” to something like “alertness” or “quick wits” that does a better job of implying speed and subtlety.

Moving perception-based skills to Dexterity doesn’t really solve the base problem, which is that perception doesn’t really go with any of the six attributes. It does, however, better model people’s expectations about what characters are good at what.

The other solution? Go OD&D. Get rid of Perception checks altogether. If people are searching a room, ask them where they are searching. If they listen at doors, or try to ambush enemies, give everyone a static 33% chance of success (maybe more if they’re an elf). At least this approach dethrones the hyper-vigilant cleric.

try an easy rpg: d4 basic

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I’m a big fan of easy D&D, which means, for me, two things: “easy for the dm to prep” and “easy to explain to a first-time player”.

For me, the ideal prep for a game involves brainstorming a few characters and gimmicks. My DM notes generally look like this: “whenever the PCs search a house, they have a 1 in 3 chance of finding the black-handled knife. Whoever owns the house is the witch.” and I never get around to looking up the Night Hag stat block.

I’ve also played a lot of D&D with first-time players, and the more rules they need to learn before they start playing, the more ashamed I feel for wasting their time. I think the ideal situation for a new player is to choose between a few pregens of recognizable archetypes, each of which has a couple of cool, simple attacks.

Experienced players should have lots of customization options, but experienced players can look after their damn selves.

I’ve been trying a playtest version of Jason Hurst’s d4 Basic game. It’s sort of a D&D-style RPG/board game which takes the “easiest” elements from each. From the RPG corner, it keeps the idea of the game master who makes judgment calls and referees actions outside the rules. From the Descent-style board game corner, it uses pregen characters and scenarios, clockwise play, and win conditions. The result is a rpg manual that’s about 7 pages long: and actually, when you subtract art, table of contents, and the usual “what is an RPG and “what are dice” sections, it’s probably 3 or 4 pages of rules. There’s more text in the scenarios, treasure cards, and so on, but it’s still probably 1/4 of the length of the Descent rules and a tiny fraction of the length of any D&D edition. You could play it with zero prep, and you could probably have a RPG n00b run the thing.

D4 Basic is in open beta right now.

If we beat ACKS, we can take its stuff: $20,623 kickstarter goal

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

When I worked with Tavis Allison for the Gygax Memorial Fund last year, I got a copy of his Adventurer Conqueror King: it’s sort of the missing manual for high-level D&D play. Our kickstarter is coming up on what is, to me, a major milestone: we’re almost at the giddily high funding level of the ACKS Player’s Companion. This calls for a celebration – and more swag! Tavis says:

“Paul Hughes, I challenge you! If you can surpass the $20,622 funding level achieved by Autarch’s Kickstarter for the Adventurer Conqueror King System Player’s Companion, I’ll use ACKS to create a PDF for every $17+ backer. In it, I’ll lay forth the fantasy economics of your dungeon-generating dungeon, from construction cost to upkeep. I’ll also create versions of the DMG sample party at the appropriate level to rule a domain containing such a dungeon, and provide details on all their henchmen, hirelings, and military forces (using Autarch’s forthcoming Domains at War). This should be useful to everyone because the ACKS framework is a synthesis of economic data from the earliest roots of the game, and designing mundane goods for Mordenkainen’s Magical Emporium convinced me that the fundamentals haven’t changed significantly from OD&D to 4E. Plus, it’ll create a new way to use the poster in play – raising an army to take over the land surrounding the dungeon-generating dungeon!”

Sounds great to me! I especially look forward to high-level versions of the DMG characters. Maybe at name level, the sorceress and the halfling can afford shoes.

Playing D&D with Mike Mornard: D&D as a loving pastiche

Friday, March 9th, 2012
This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series D&D with Mike Mornard

During last night’s D&D game, DMed by original Greyhawk player Mike Mornard, we talked about a story I’d recently heard on an old episode of RadioLab, about a composer named Jonathan Cope. Cope wrote a computer program that could analyze the works of a classical composer – their musical intervals, chord progressions, and other patterns – and instantly generate new music in the same style: pastiche Bach, or pastiche Mozart. To my untrained ear, some of the music sounded pretty plausible. One faux-Beethoven piece sounded a lot like an alternate-history version of the Moonlight Sonata. (As Mornard noted when I told him the anecdote, Bach would be especially easy to analyze, since he was consciously playing number games in his music.) Other composers resist the idea of Cope’s computer-generated music, but Cope, I think, was acting on a respectful, loving desire to have more of the music he loved. I think that’s what gaming, fan fiction, and other forms of fandom are all about, at some level: the desire to understand the rules of the world you love, so that, for a little while, you can live there.

During our D&D game, we also talked about something seemingly unrelated: the upcoming John Carter movie. I’ve been a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Martian books since I was a little kid, and I waver between a hesitant optimism and a fear that Hollywood’s Mars won’t live up to twenty-five years of memories. That’s a look into the soul of a pessimistic fan, the kind who just isn’t prepared to be happy.

Mike has a different attitude. “If I can see some Tharks tearing it up, I’ll be happy,” he says. That’s a look into the soul of a happy fan.

The Martian books are very influential on D&D and TSR, Mike reminded me. The original D&D books are rich with Martian references. The wandering monster tables contain references to the following monsters, all natives of Burroughs’ Barsoom: Thark, Thoat, Calot, White Ape, Orluk, Sith, Darseen, Apt, Banth, Red Martian, Black Martian, White Martian, and Yellow Martian.

do you want to play some Mazes and Monsters? what about Dwimmermount?

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

I’ve been remiss in finishing my retro-clone of the bizarre RPG from the movie Mazes and Monsters: maybe if my planned Random Dungeon Kickstarter works out I will try to print M&M as a game book. If you’re not yet familiar with the rules, check them out: they’re insane.

I mention this because, next week, I will be running a game of Mazes and Monsters in a museum, and, if you can make it to Brooklyn, you’re invited.

Come to Brian Droitcour’s Big Reality show on March 15, at the 319 Scholes gallery in Brooklyn. One of the pieces will be “Lawful Evil”, where I will run a game for a party of evil players. The game system will be a Mazes and Monsters/OD&D hybrid, and the adventure will be a preview of Dwimmermount, James Maliszewski’s megadungeon.

If you want to play, though, be warned: Mazes and Monsters is the game that drove Tom Hanks INSANE!