Monday 27 November 2017
But fast forward 6 1/2 years and things have stabilised, as they inevitably do. There is a new normal. Recovery is underway. Homes have been rebuilt. Huge white-elephant "economic stimulus" public spending projects of the kind in which Japan specializes have been completed. Children have been born and others have grown up. Time has healed psychological wounds. Thing will never be the same as they were - the land is permanently scarred, friends and family members have died, the decline in the population levels in coastal towns may never be fully reversed. Yet the post-apocalypse, it turns out, is the green freshness of spring. Sometimes the apocalypse isn't an apocalypse at all; but it takes years to find that out.
One thing I'm always struck by when in the hills of Scotland, Wales or Northern England is that walking through those landscapes is to walk through the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe that in totality if not in scale far eclipses the deforestation of the Amazon. Once, Britain was almost entirely covered in woodland. In 1919 only 5% of the country was forested. The hills have been stripped bare. Entire ecosystems have disappeared, to be replaced by bleak windswept humps picked clear by sheep. What remains has great beauty, but it's almost a dead landscape. Just the merest fragments are left - some songbirds, badgers, foxes, the occasional buzzard. Refugees of a disaster that took place in slow motion over thousands of years. To them, modern Britain is like Gamma World.
It isn't over yet, though. Sheep were the unlikely harbingers of doom in previous centuries. Now it's monocultures and other modern agricultural practices. Turtle doves have declined by 97% since 1967. When I was a kid vast clouds of starlings would swarm in city centres at dusk. Their population has crashed by 89% since 1967. Sometimes a post-apocalypse isn't the end of the matter. Sometimes the apocalypses keep on coming.
Sheep - innocent, stupid, fluffy sheep - are often at the forefront of the apocalypse game, as it turns out. Visitors to the Scottish Highlands and islands are usually staggered by the emptiness of the landscape. It's one of the least-populated areas of Europe. The reasons for this are complicated, but one of the main ones is that during the 18th and 19th centuries landowners decided sheep were more profitable than people, and the latter had to give way as a result. An entire way of life disappeared over the course of a few generations; the island of Tiree had a population of nearly 5000 at one time; now it's a little over 500. Gaelic culture effectively no longer exists, the language is barely spoken, and all that's left is whisky distilleries, the occasional ceilidh, and holiday homes for rich people from Edinburgh or England.
A post-apocalypse may have its benefits for outsiders.
Monday 20 November 2017
Friday 17 November 2017
One feature that I had forgotten about was a regular update on RPG fanzines: basically, fanzine creators would send their wares into the magazine and the editor would provide details on how to get them. Out of curiosity, this evening when I got home from work I started googling some of them. I quickly found myself descending into a rabbit hole. There is something unbearably nostalgic in reading about these artifacts of an ancient era - the time of geocities, letters, international postal reply coupons, photocopies, staplers, the post. You can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of affection for that distant and optimistic decade, and a huge warm fuzzy glow for all of these dedicated amateurs slaving away over labours of love for (presumably) scant reward.
Here is what I have found regarding the 'zines mentioned in Issue #2:
Sumo's Karaoke Club: Described as a "well-written" 'zine respected for its direct attitude (the publisher "isn't afraid to print what he sees as the truth"). It seems to have been primarily focused on board games. It cost £2.95 per edition. I have managed to track down an index and some further information to this site (http://pages.pacificcoast.net/~greg/); apparently it ceased trading in 1998 but has a still-living descendant, Counter.
For Whom the Die Rolls: A play-by-mail 'zine which ran its own games (including Rail Baron and Railway Rivals) and had articles on how to run PBM games. It is listed as costing 30p plus P&P. Staggeringly, it still apparently existed through to 2014 (2014!!) and had 215 issues in its run. Its website and a back catalogue are all available here: http://www.fwtwr.com/fwtdr/
The Ides of March: Another play-by-mail 'zine specialising in Diplomacy. It is described as being "held together by one cock-eyed staple in the top left corner" and having a "lively" letters column. It cost £1. I have had difficulty finding information on it, although it is listed as number 64 diplomacy-archive.com's list of Greatest UK Diplomacy Zines of All Time (yes, really); in the same website's 1995 Zine Poll it came in at number 7 (although the publisher is castigated for his "insistence of winding up his subscribers through his own brand of moral Conservatism" - the snail-mail version of shitposting?).
Vigilante: A free (yes - all you needed to do was send an SAE with international reply coupons to the Irish publisher) RPG 'zine specializing in WoD games. It is described as "pushing hard to achieve professional status" with "surprisingly good layout". I can find out absolutely nothing about it on the internet, and it seems to have disappeared without trace.
Flagship: This seems like it was a big fish in the PBM pond - it even had separate editions for the UK, USA and Europe and its own Wikipedia entry. "Slick, clean, and extremely useful for anyone who is remotely interested in PBM games". It was £3 and staggeringly (again) it lasted for absolutely ages - 1983-2010. Its website states that it widened its coverage to board games and RPGs in later years.
Life's Rich Pageant: Another PBM specialist - a "grassroots fanzine that simply bubbles with enthusiasm". Information on this one is thin on the ground, although I found mention of it in another Diplomacy zine, Spring Offensive. (Why do I begin to get the impression you could write an entire PhD thesis on the world of Diplomacy 'zines?)
PBM Zine: An "amateurish" looking affair with well-written advice but "annoying" layout. It cost £1.50 and looks like it was very yellow. It has such an un-Google-able title I just couldn't find anything on it online. I expect there must be something on it somewhere.
One Man's Rubbish: Described as being expensive because it is £1 (£1!) for 24 pages, this is another PBM-focused affair which also published reviews of RPGs and card games. It "does not have any content of sufficient interest to make it worth buying regularly" (ooh, the burn). Oddly, there is an entire scan of one volume available online - you can read it here: http://www.whiningkentpigs.com/DW/oldzines/rubbish2.pdf. It is an amazing thing - articles on the Proper Care of Floppy Disks nestling alongside rules for Armchair Cricket and a History of Motorsport. It already had fifty readers by its second issue and what looks like a lively correspondence with its readership; to think that we used to actually communicate with each other with letters and do so voluminously. How the world has changed in 20 years.
Games Games Games or G3: Originally titled Small Furry Creatures Press, this 'zine seemingly had ambitions of getting into retailers and had a good reputation "as an oracle of advice and reviews for gamers". It was £1.95. There is a Wikipedia stub entry for the publisher; I also dug out this page, which says the 'zine went quiet in 2001 after its anniversary issue - which staggeringly (again, again), was #150.
Games Gazette: A "genuinely amateur magazine" stuffed with reviews of all kinds of games. It seems to have been old even in arcane's day (it had recently celebrated its 15th - 15th! - anniversary) and, staggeringly (again, again, again) still exists in the form of this website (which definitely has the same owner, a man called Chris Baylis).
There is way more - way, way fucking more - of this to follow.
Wednesday 15 November 2017
Pupa man hates person man.
Pupa Man: HD 1+1, AC 14, #ATT 2 (1d2/1d2), Move 120, No. Enc. 3d20
*Pupa men attack relentlessly, chanting their hate. For inspiration, roll 1d20 on the following table:
1 - Pupa man hates oily sweat!
2 - Pupa man hates noisy chatter!
3 - Pupa man hates swallowing lips!
4 - Pupa man hates oozing pores!
5 - Pupa man hates fleshy skin!
6 - Pupa man hates hairy bodies!
7 - Pupa man hates squirming legs!
8 - Pupa man hates wriggly fingers!
9 - Pupa man hates floppy arms!
10 - Pupa man hates grunting coughs!
11 - Pupa man hates stupid eyes!
12 - Pupa man hates reedy voice!
13 - Pupa man hates gibbering words!
14 - Pupa man hates veiny hands!
15 - Pupa man hates mammal stink!
16 - Pupa man hates phlegm-snot-spit!
17 - Pupa man hates breeding organs!
18 - Pupa man hates filthy orifices!
19 - Pupa man hates feelings!
20 - Pupa man hates person man!
Tuesday 14 November 2017
HD 7, AB +8, AC 16, #ATT 2 (War fan 1d4+2, Tetsubo 1d6+2), Move 120
Lion: HD 4, AB +5, AC 14, #ATT 2 (Bagh nakh 1d4+1 x 2), Move 120
Tamers: HD 2+2, AB +3, AC 14, #ATT 1 (Lassoo), Move 120
HD 7, AB +3, AC 14, #ATT 1 (Cane, 1d4), Move 120
1 - A random magic item
2 - A random 'special' treasure
3 - A random gem stone
4 - A random item of jewelry
The Wrestler and Strongman both have STR 18.
HD 5, AB +6, AC 15, #ATT 1 (Sumo rush 1d6+2), Move 120
The Old Widower can also cast Command, Glyph of Warding, Sticks to Snakes, and Insect Plague three times a day.
Old Widower: HD 3, AB +2, AC 12, #ATT 1 (Stick 1d4), Move 90
Old Widower's Child: HD 2, AB +1, AC 12, #ATT 1 (Tanto 1d4) Move 120
The Garuda is only interested in hunting, stalking and killing.
HD 7+3, AB +9, AC 16, #ATT 2 (Karambit 1d6+2 x 2 [special]), Move 120
The Chinese Maiden is pursued everywhere by the Drunken Persian King and his Followers (see below); she is almost never seen without them being within earshot. The Drunken Persian King longs for her hand in marriage; she will never give it, but will call on him for aid without compunction.
The Chinese Maiden undertakes to marry anybody who can bring her a blue rose. She can cast ESP, Audible Glamer, Phantasmal Force, Stinking Cloud, Confusion, Fear and Passwall, all once per day.
HD 3+3, AB +1, AC 12, #ATT 0, Move 120
Followers: HD 2, AB +3, AC 14, #ATT 1 (Halberd 1d8), Move 120
If the Monk is attacked or his bowl stolen, it is revealed to be empty.
The Monk's cane can be used to cast Teleport three times per day.
HD 2+1, AB +1, AC 12, ATT 1 (Cane 1d3), Moe 90
Friday 3 November 2017
Comments on the last entry raised the possibility of playing a PC sage-with-bodyguard double-act. The sage gets the glory; the bodyguard gets the XP. This keeps sages nicely wimpy (why bother with the frivolities of combat or the hocus pocus party tricks of spellcasting?) while providing an outlet for their XP gains and proper protection for dangerous expeditions. I like the idea.
I wonder if it could be expanded to general play. Every time your character garners enough XP to gain a level you can instead elect to find him a henchman who the XP goes to. Your first level fighter could go up to second level.... or, instead, get a first level thief as a glamorous assistant. The XP left over (because a thief level costs so much less than a fighter one) gets saved towards that nice new first level magic-user you've had your eye on.
The DM might want to restrict the number of henchmen, chiefly at higher levels - big XP rewards could theoretically allow a PC to employ a miniature army of first level thieves. But then again that's not all that different to what happens at name level anyway. There's also a natural break on numbers because XP rewards get diluted the more henchmen there are - if a PC has five henchmen, all getting shares, he garners less XP to spend on his growing throng.