Tuesday, September 20, 2011

L.L wandering monster chart

I finally got around to making the wondering monster chart for The Forgotten Ruins adventure which I have posted on Scribd. I'll post this chart over there so anyone can use it who might like. I did adjust some the stats for these critters so the p.c.s will survive to find the second level of the ruins.

Here's the chart post as a Google Doc too.

And, at Scribd.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Birth of Modern Nations

I had a few spare minutes recently so, of course, I went to a book store and found two bargain books that I couldn’t pass up. One is and adolescent non-fiction volume tiled; Birth of Modern Nations and this is about European History during the 17th Century. I imagine that the 17th Century is roughly the end of the historical period/s we can use as settings for fantasy role playing games. Any game set after the 1600s I would call a Historical RPG or Modern or Alternate Reality. Sure, fantasy can also fit into any of these other setting or genres; I guess my thought is that, we have more modern thought, government and industry and less superstition in the years and centuries following the 1600s, mostly.

The book Birth of Modern Nations consists of brief articles, two pages each that I have noticed, on the emerging modern European Nations during the 1600s. The first article concerns the Hapsburg Empire which provides a nearly perfect plot for any style espionage rpg you may desire. I’m sure many of you are familiar with ol’ King Charles I (Carlos) of Spain so just consider this a pleasant reminder. As if Charles didn’t have his hands full in Spain, he was elected Holy Roman Emperor. There’s at least one big problem, which I can see, in attempting to rule Spain and the Christian Roman Empire and that’s France. This Holy Roman Empire consisted of the Netherlands, modern Germany and Austria so modern France is sitting right in the middle of the two Empires of Charles I. Change the names, to protect the innocent , and here’s a great plot device for a fantasy rpg campaign, land grabs, power struggles, court intrigue. Just add player characters and let them stir the mix.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

This is another old book review from my_space:

A Google search of Alas, Babylon will establish that it was published in 1959 and is one of the first novels published with a post-nuclear setting. Alas, Babylon also has the dubious distinction of being the first book on my “It’s been sitting on my shelf too long” booklist. I remember this book sitting on the shelf at my family home when I was in high school. I’ll not bother you with calculations of how long it has been since I was in high school. The statement, “since I was in high school,” is proof that this book has been sitting on my shelf too long!

I suspect that one of my brothers may have read the book for a high school reading assignment. If I had read this book as a younger man I would have enjoyed it more. I may have been delirious about the opportunity to receive a grade for my report on Alas, Babylon. Fifty years after the original publication date, I fear the events and circumstances of this book would have little meaning to the youth of today.

By no means do I intend to imply that this book is great literature. My estimate of this book’s value is pulp, pulp, pulp, the dreaded triple pulp! For the first fifty pages I wondered if the writer and his story would sustain my interest. Frank surprised me with the climax, I felt genuinely worried about the nuclear strike. It was around ten at night when I read of the nuclear attack and I attribute my excitement to the stress of my workday as much as the skill of the author Pat Frank.

Frank hints at satire and sarcasm throughout the novel and managed hold my attention to the end. His main character, Randy Bragg, is a very modern man by the standards of the 1950s. Bragg unites a mixed racial group in his community, River Road, after what they call The Day. Bragg is prone to sarcasm himself but Frank never develops the satirical tone to buoy the book out of pulp status. The closing chapters of the book are the closest thing I can imagine to post-nuclear-bliss. Episodes include how they make their own moonshine which becomes a valuable commodity in the now necessary barter market and how they are forced to catch fish from the middle of the river during the heat of August. Post-nuclear pulpy bliss!

Frank applies one sarcastic sting at the end when the residents of River Road meet some Air Force Patrolmen. Bragg asks, “Who won the war?” The Patrolman responds, “We won it. We really clobbered ‘em! Not that it matters.” I’ve finished the book, not that it matters, now I will return the book to the pulpy pile from which it came.

Besides the simple enjoyment of reading, the one thing I have learned from this book is, if you use a quote from the Bible as your books title it may become a famous work as well. Frank has written a few other works and I’ll not relegate him to the list of authors I’ll never read again; Piers Anthony, R. A. Salvatore, V.C. Andrews and Louisa May Alcott. Many would add Weis and Hickman to this list. I enjoyed Weis and Hickman years and it's possible I may continue to read their works in the future. For now, I’ll get back to drinking my over priced beers and reading Sgt. Rock comic books and Philip K. Dick novellas.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Remember My_Space? Some old book reviews;

Once upon a time I wrote my blogs over at my_space, now that site seems to have gone the way of the Dodo Bird. I only wrote a hand full of blog entries over there before I started writing at blogger/ blog spot. I don't want those old entries to be missed by any who might enjoy them so I am going to repost the entries that are related to our gaming hobby here at the, new fangled, Dicebag...

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick

At 111 pages this surely qualifies as a novella. This is the story upon which the move Blade Runner is based. Had I never viewed Blade Runner I would have found this tale far more bizarre. Blade Runner is one of my favorite films and I can only guess the number of times I have seen the movie and it’s bits and pieces. Likewise, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep has been on my personal “must read” list for a very long time.

There are elements in the movie version that Dick did not write and there are also elements of the original that were left out of the movie. A healthy dose of imagination is required to appreciate either version of this tale, perhaps more so for the manuscript than the film. The similarities begin with the major characters. Rick Deckard, Harry Bryant and Dave Holden are the three policemen central to both versions. The villains are the androids; Leo/n, Pris and Roy Batty. Dick never uses the term blade runner, he refers to Deckard's job simply as bounty hunter.

This story is based on a post-holocaust rather than a post-nuclear strike Earth. A chemical agent has poisoned Earth killing a large majority of all insects, birds, reptiles and lower mammals. This mystery poison is much less effective on humanity but most surviving humans have fled to the stars, specifically Mars. The androids were commissioned to help man colonize space. Everyone remaining on Earth keeps a pet to psychologically absolve himself of his crimes against the lower animals. The few surviving species are very expensive when they are available. Robot animals are available as pets, in Rick Deckard’s case an electric sheep.

Bizarre yes but a witty and ingenious expansion on Asimov’s plot for I, Robot. My outline of Dick’s tale has been only the cornmeal he uses to cook an even more bizarre and meaty tortilla pie. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is not one of the 501 must read books and is not part of my bookshelf cleaning plan, I read this tale in PDF format. P.K. Dick's book on the 501 list is The Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, I will read it in due time. In a freighting example of life imitating art I recently saw a television advertisement for Fur Real Friends. These are electronic pets offered by Hasbor toys. I've also just finished reading Lizard by Dennis Covington but I will spare you a review of it. Lizard's a good book. I’m all out of Sgt. Rock comic books so I’ll get back to taking my seasonal allergy medication and reading Iron Man.