Friday 30 June 2023

Preview of Work in Progress


Pursuant to this post, I think I have arrived at the decision that I will keep Monsters & Manuals going here, but start a new parallel endeavour on substack. Tentatively called (somewhat pompously) Multiverse of Noisms, the idea for that project will be to produce a series of settings posted/delivered piecemeal. Free subscribers will get setting overviews, random encounter tables, bestiaries and 25-mile hex maps. Paid subscribers will get all of that plus 5-mile hex maps, fully keyed, for each respective setting.

The first setting I think I will release will be Lost Eskinoot: 

‘Spoken in hushed tones in the city states of Yu Quan; remembered in the epic poetry of the nomads of Waisimadun; sung in the hymns of the Priests of the Red Lilac in Old Koesy; written in the skin-bound volumes of the High Chroniclers of the sorcerer-kingdoms of Ebbw - is the name of Lost Eskinoot, that grand and ancient realm which, swathed in mist and storms, appears on summer nights or winter mornings like a ghost and remains for a week, a lunar month, or a year and a day, before disappearing from whence it came. Its mountains are high; its forests are deep; its deserts are scorched; its cities are proud. Its sherbets and wines make the tongue sing, yet its poisons are the deadliest known. Its people are by turns beautiful and grotesque; generous and cruel; capricious and steadfast; honest and deceitful; hateful and loving - they know no intermediates. Its halls contain knowledge, arts and magicks which can be found nowhere else on this world, and its wild places contain wild things that are wilder than the most infamous of monsters found elsewhere. Its air is hazed with gold, pink, purple or green; its breezes carry unearthly cries and whispers; its waters are sweet; its rocks and earth are sometimes themselves alive. It throngs. It seethes. It throbs. 

'And when it has vanished the people who saw or visited it do not forget it even to the ninth generation, nor even the ninety-ninth. And hence it is spoken in hushed tones in the city states of Yu Quan; remembered in the epic poetry of the nomads of Waisimadun; sung in the hymns of the priests of the Red Lilac in Old Koesy; and written in the skin-bound volumes of the High Chroniclers of the sorcerer-kingdoms of Ebbw - that mysterious and legendary name of Lost Eskinoot.’ 

 -From the Account of Yezekal Sqrn, a Traveller, Chapter XI.

Thursday 29 June 2023

Goodies versus Baddies: Good or Bad?

D&D PCs kill lots of ostensibly sentient beings, and often other humans, and don't usually think twice about it.

Is this good or bad? In some ways, the OSR can be understood as a backlash against a predominant squishiness on this point that had emerged and gained traction during late-TSR/early-WotC era. Whereas Gygaxian D&D had been 'intensely relaxed' about the idea that orcs and the like were simply there for the killing, that approach had gone out of fashion during the course of the 90s, to be replaced by two somewhat paradoxical impulses. On the one hand, there was a growing desire to 'humanise' (for want of a better word) the traditional evil humanoid races and treat them essentially as misunderstood 'others' whose very 'othering' was problematic. And on the other it had become de rigeur for the PCs to be conceived as morally complicated, edgy anti-heroes - the pinnacle of this trend being the creation of the Tieflings as everybody's favourite PC race - and as a consequence it had become hard to commit to good versus evil as a legitimate metaphysical struggle; what we were into were shades of grey. 

These two trends, which never quite sat well alongside one another, nonetheless somehow combined into the notion that there isn't really any metaphysical difference between humans and (say) orcs, that there was something a little embarrassing about 'black and white' moral thinking, and that it was terribly grown up to feel a certain amount of angst about traditional D&D's purportedly simplistic goodies-and-baddies style morality. 

The OSR was in many ways a rejection of this dominant paradigm. This did not come in a return to goodies-and-baddies style morality, however; if anything, it took the form of an even more wholehearted embrace of moral relativism. Indeed, we saw during this period the expression of a strong antagonism towards qualms. D&D PCs, the proponents of the OSR used to say, are murder-hobos. They are rogues. They do not have alignments; they are not heroes; they loot and kill for a living. Therefore, the reasoning went, there is no point in being moralistic about what goes on in a game, and no point in being squeamish. So the PCs encounter a load of orc babies. What difference does it make if they kill them or not? This does not mean anything - it is just part of the slightly arch, detached tone of the game.

Until recently I too broadly would have broadly gone along with this view of things. But at a certain point in the career of concepts, what was once counter-cultural becomes the mainstream, and what was once mainstream becomes counter-cultural. And so it is with 'goodies versus baddies' style morality. It is now very far outside of our cultural comfort zone to accept stories in which there are good characters who are just intrinsically good and bad ones who are just intrinsically bad (have you noticed how almost every villain in the movies for the last 25 years has needed to have been given a reason for turning out the way he has?). And it is even further outside of our cultural comfort zone to accept stories in which an unquestionably 'good' person attacks and kills vast swathes of enemies on the basis simply that he is a goodie and those enemies are straightforwardly evil and recognised to be such. (Top Gun: Maverick was execrable but a possible counter-example.) We tend to think of that kind of story - Rio Bravo, The Lord of the Rings, The Adventures of Robin Hood, etc. - as at best corny and at worst childish.

This, though, makes the timing ripe for a rediscovery or reinvention of the notion that the PCs in a D&D campaign could actually be heroes in the old-fashioned sense and the creatures they encounter unreconstructed villains. In a tired, jaded, cynical world, would there not be something refreshing about embracing the goodies-versus-baddies motif, and doing something fresh and interesting with it?

Thursday 22 June 2023

The Crisis of Masculinity and Pen and Paper RPGs

Pay careful attention to social trends and you will soon become aware that there is a crisis of masculinity afoot. Men are doing badly in school, badly at university, badly in the jobs market, and are turning to suicide at a genuinely alarming rate. At the same time, young men are increasingly told that their very maleness is 'toxic' and that, irrespective of their own personal struggles and background, they benefit from an inescapable 'privilege' that renders their failures deserved and their successes moot. Quite naturally, this embitters them and leads many of them to turn to conmen like Andrew Tate and internet dead-ends like inceldom, pick-up artistry and 4chan.

This is not an issue of 'men's rights', nor just a 'manosphere' talking point; it is a problem that affects everybody. The relationship between men and women is not zero-sum (it is one of the great absurdities of our age that so many people seem to have convinced themselves that there is actually a battle between the sexes), and the worse men do, the fewer good ones there are for women to pair up with, the more genuinely toxic ones there are to do society harm, and the more sons, brothers, fathers, friends etc. there are who will end up on the scrap heap. This suits nobody, men or women, and as a father with young daughters, I take the issue seriously on their behalf. I don't want them growing up in a world populated entirely by half-baked adolescent man-boys consumed with resentment and ill-will. I want them growing up in a world of fully-formed, decent men.

In her recent, excellent book Feminism Against Progress, the cultural critic Mary Harrington (who styles herself a 'reactionary feminist' - a position neatly summarised here) makes the case that a big part of the problem facing young men in particular is that society has gradually winnowed down the opportunities for older men to act as role models for boys in single-sex groups. As she rightly recognises, boys need to have civilised adult male behaviour modelled for them in order to grow up into proper men themselves. And there is a kind of alchemy that takes place in a single-sex environment that fosters this kind of interaction, and which I think particularly benefits young men - who, in the company of young women, often find it almost impossible to avoid either acting the goat or retreating into their shells. As Harrington herself put it in an interview somewhere (I forget where, annoyingly), there is a certain amount of 'chimp-like' behaviour that needs to take place amongst men, whereby the older, sensible ones discipline the young ones and show them what's what - often, in fact almost always, unconsciously - and it is very difficult for this to happen in mixed company.

The issue is that as soon as you start acknowledging this obvious truth (how could it be otherwise?) you immediately open yourself up to the familiar litany of accusations about being exclusionary, non-inclusive, etc., etc. I have nothing to say to those accusations except that only an idiot would suggest that the sexes cannot or should not mix in almost any activity you care to name, and likewise only an idiot would deny that single mothers (for example) often perform absolutely heroic feats in bringing up boys without fathers around, but that does not mean there is something wrong with - and nothing at all beneficial about - male-only and female-only groupings taking place here and there and from time to time as we make our way through childhood and adolescence.

These issues are illustrated very beautifully and poignantly in Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight, whose plot can be understood as a meditation on the theme of male role-modelling. The main character, Able, fatherless and apparently being haphazardly raised by his brother, stumbles from the real world into one of fantasy - wherein he resolves to become a knight after a chance encounter with a man called Sir Ravd. Sir Ravd - who instills in Able the notion that being a knight means to 'live honourably and die honourably', and to always tell the truth - provides the model for Able's subsequent adventures, and through the book we see Able transform from a boy into a man. Initially (having been granted great strength and size by an Aelf woman) he is little better than a fractious bully throwing his weight around, but through constantly keeping his vision of perfect knighthood in mind, he gradually attains discipline, self-control, and above all wisdom. In the end, his greatest achievement of all - his apotheosis, in fact - is not to kill, but to heal - and in achieving this he becomes worthy of manhood, and marriage, and all the rest that follows. 

This is not a complicated metaphor for the process of growing from a boy into a man - achieving sudden and surprising strength and power as a teenager, as well as plenty of rage, aggression, and good old obnoxiousness - and learning to tame and shape those impulses and eventually hammer them into a usable shape, so they are not deployed for harming others but for doing work that is of value. And achieving that status is, as Wolfe reminds us, the key to the door to so much more: marriage, family life, the contentment of adulthood as one who has made peace with oneself and one's position as somebody who contributes to the society in which one finds oneself a part. The critical point is that it is so much harder to do this alone than it is with role models - Sir Ravds, if you will - to teach and guide us through example, and it is therefore profoundly important that opportunities for such role-modelling are available to the young. Some will call this a conservative or old fashioned or even bigoted position, but it is a whole lot more useful and positive than any alternative vision I know of, and has the benefit of according much more closely with my own experience and with providing us with a plausible account of what we see going wrong all around us.

Which brings us to D&D. Let me say straight away that my earlier comments hold true: only an idiot would suggest that there is anything undesirable about mixed-sex gaming groups, and only an idiot would suggest that deliberately (or for that matter unconsciously) excluding people from any hobby is a good idea. But these things can remain true, even while we acknowledge the other truth, which is that lots of people who pay pen and paper RPGs are men, and that the hobby can itself therefore be a vehicle for the kind of male role-modelling that I am talking about (and indeed, probably has fulfilled this function to a certain degree ever since the 1970s). There is, in short, nothing so terribly dreadful about male bonding and probably quite a lot that is good about mixed-age but single-sex gaming groups from time to time and when nobody is being deliberately left-out. It might even in its own small way provide part of the picture by which the masculinity crisis can begin to be unwound. Should we not at least consider whether it could do?

An anecdote to conclude. I have practiced karate for a long time, off and on. At my club there is a young lad, we'll call him B, who is being raised by a single mother after his father went to live on the other side of the globe. A very good-hearted, sincere kid, he absolutely exudes the air of a lost soul - somebody adrift in life, at the position of having quit school after his GCSEs (the British equivalent, I suppose, of dropping out of high school before graduation), with no idea what to live for other than his natural athleticism and love of sport. His problem in karate was for a long time his tendency to seize up - to want to succeed so much and to perform so perfectly that he would literally sometimes freeze, incapable of moving, for minutes at a time. This problem persisted until one evening, after class, B, a few of the other old men at the club, and our instructor were doing a little extra practice and B (much younger than the rest of us) was afflicted by seizure again. Stuck in the middle of the gymnasium floor, shivering with exertion, dripping with sweat, and just unable to make his arms or legs move, it was painful for the rest of us to witness. But then our instructor simply walked over to him, slapped him quite hard on the back, and said, 'Don't worry about it, B. The worse thing that could happen is that you could die.' 

B instantly cracked a huge grin, we all laughed, and it was like the weight of a thousand planets was suddenly lifted off his shoulders. And he never had that kind of issue again. He was like a different person after that point - much more relaxed, much more willing to smile - and all it had taken was a brusque, probably instinctive comment that, crucially, I don't think a woman would have made in that context. It took a man's instinct for what a younger man needed to hear. And sometimes life is like that for human beings. It is crazy that we have become squeamish about the fact, to the real and lasting detriment of so many of the young.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Campaign Settings: Noble and Debased

It is my strong belief that being a writer is among the most noble of human activities and that its nobility lies in its capacity to give other people the ability to imagine things that they could not themselves imagine, and thereby frees them from the drudgery of everyday life.

(I am trying to think of a way to pithily express this so that it can be printed on t-shirts and baseball caps and thus make me millions.)

It sounds a bit pompous, perhaps, but this is why in its own humble way the writing of RPG campaign setings can also be a noble endeavour. You will all, I am sure, have experienced the strange sensation of reading an RPG splatbook and having it conjure in your mind all kind of images that would never have entered your thoughts otherwise; this has in itself made the author's efforts worthwhile, in my view, irrespective of whether the book is even going to be used to run games. He or she has succeeded in transporting your awareness to hitherto-unknown places. And he or she has moreover engaged you as a co-creator (since the images that are appearing in your imagination are in a very important sense your own, being comprised of the pre-existing contents of your own mind rather than simply being an unfiltered replication of the author's). 

This capacity to partake in wonderful daydreams at the instigation of some talented person you have never met is a great gift to humanity and is what makes the written word so superior to visual storytelling: it is not mindless escapism but participatory escapism in which the reader is enjoined to exercise something of their own creative faculties in imaging a world and its occupants from purely verbal cues. 

What is all the more remarkable about an RPG, of course, is that in that context the circle of participation is widened out so as to include not just the author and reader, but the author, reader, and group of players. Through the author's creative effort, the imaginations of the wider circle are brought together around a collective vision - unique in the mind of each individual, and yet also shared. This is a strange and powerful alchemy, which is utterly distinct in the universe as we currently know of it. 

We should celebrate that more. But we should also expect more from ourselves. Setting creation is debased when it merely produces pastiche and cliche - when the author is simply serving up what the reader could himself easily prepare (the RPG equivalent of a microwave meal). This is the central complaint against ChatGPT, but it is one that we could equally level at the banal fare that is generally on offer at DM's Guild: it does not instigate a participatory creative process of note, but simply operationalises a kind of mimicry - the parade of tired Forgotten Realms-esque fantasy archetypes that we all now know by rote. Mimicry is not a fundamentally human activity - monkeys can do that. To be human is to have one's own imaginative faculties be expanded through inspiration, and that is when it is proper to describe the author's work as noble.

Thursday 15 June 2023

Scenes from an Ancient Notebook: List of Old Naacal Servitors

Going through old papers in my office I came across a notebook containing a list jotting down ideas for Old Naacal servitors, due to make an appearance some day in Behind Gently Smiling Jaws. The Old Naacals are the now mostly-disappeared original race who discovered the crocodile's memory-palace and made their homes there; they created strange servitors to serve and amuse them, and these remain here and there in the crocodilian post-apocalypse. 

I must have written these down in a stream of consciousness when half asleep and already on the threshold of dream world, but some of them are rather good little germs of ideas.

Here are the pages in question, with transliteration of my scrawl underneath:

TIGER LILY - swarm of disc spores

PORCELAIN MULE - ceramic horse-type carrier

CAT WITH COBRA - paired assassins

DWELLER IN THE REEDS - small gardener type

PADFOOT - Tree frog/ibis  - spy

PTHALO HOUND - Blue powder hound

PINION BIRD - Like that African squae-bill with German name, pinions enemies with blade-wings

BARBED WANDERER - Like a nest of barbed/razor wire on 'feet' waddling around - snags things and puts them in bed [?]

SEXY ARTIST - Ceramic woman, crafted to paint surreal compositions - or abstract pieces?

VERMILLION COOT - Waterfowl, dives to collect stuff?

DREAMSCRIBE - Writes stray thoughts of ancient Naacals (or those around it?)

HORNED FOX - Giant fox, antelope horns, hooks - cuts out livers of prey

CADMIUM CHILD - Made of cadmium, follows relentlessly

ACID LION - Lion made of acid [duh!]

IMPACT SPIDER - Like 'impact hound' [I think I was referring here to the 'impact hounds' in the *band roguelikes]

INERTIA BOAR HOG - Like 'inertia hound' [see above]

FIVE SNAKES - each clasping other's tail with teeth - but separates

SCULPTOR APE - Can't come up with own ideas - creates repetitive copies. Or copies of the PCs? Or random ones which come alive

JASPER ANT - Fetches and carries

DUELLIST - A particular colour (like Pthalo)

FLAG/BANNER BEARER - Scorpion? Uses semaphore style communication

PURPLE SNAIL - Hunts pests

SEWER BIRD - Sews flesh with razor sharp bill? Or beast which does it with hooks/fingers etc? [No, apparently not that kind of sewer]

IRIDIUM BULL - Gorgon type? Other types (many) of [illegible]

GOLDEN PLOVER - Flock which forms shapes?

WATER CARRIER - Ape/monkey with amphora. Or massive mouth and belly - walking amphora

DIGGER  - Jaguar with pick tail, shovel forepaws

COLOUR PYTHON - Constricts to turn prey to spray of colour

PARROT TOTEM - Piled on top of each other like a pillar

Monday 12 June 2023

On the Thinness of Fantasy Thinking

Regular readers can give themselves a treat and listen to/watch this fascinating discussion of the philosophy of Owen Barfield. You don't need to know anything about Barfield to enjoy it (I didn't, except that he was a member of 'the Inklings' along with CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien) - what you hear will make you very curious.

The conversation's subject, really, is the way in which ancient people thought - and its difference to how modern people not only think but think about thinking. It ranges across all manner of subjects, from the importance of religion and the gods, the 'nature' of nature, the distinction between process-based understandings of human interaction with the world and dualistic/instrumental ones (very McGilchristian one for you McGilchristians among my readership), the bicameral and unicameral mind, and so on. But ultimately I suppose the most fascinating observation of all comes right at the beginning: why is it that, for all that modern people have read and written about the classical philosophers, there is still a sense that we don't quite know what they were driving at, and our understanding of their work seems so thin?

I have often been similarly disappointed with fantasy writers and fantasy role playing games in this regard. It just so happens that I am currently re-reading Julian May's Sage of Pliocene Exile after it came up in conversation on StuPat's blog, and have been very struck by this sense of disappointment during my reading. Don't get me wrong: I think Julian May was a very gifted storyteller and writer, if a little hackneyed in her dialogue and characterisation, but what impresses me about the various alien and early-hominid characters she creates is how thoroughly modern their thoughts and concerns are. In their needs, desires and perceptions of reality they are totally comprehensible and relatable to a contemporary readership - and this just doesn't ring true to the richness of difference that must surely exist between a late 20th/early 21st century reader and a member of a race from a foreign planet or a people from a distant time.

What you could say about Julian May is of course true of 99% or more of fantasy fiction (think of how George RR Martin's characters all behave - like us, but a bit more sociopathic and 'Machiavellian', or think of the internal dialogue of China Mieville's characters and how completely they come across as modern day Londoners even while purpotedly inhabiting Bas-Lag). Nobody ever stops to consider how different the structure of thought itself would be in a world in which magic genuinely exists; in which there are actually supernatural entities walking around; in which there really are many gods with whom one could personally interact. What would it mean to be a human being in those circumstances? How would humans think about themselves and, indeed, about the nature of thinking? How would one interpret one's relationship to the magical and divine?

To give a brief entry point into how big and interesting these questions are, the discussants in the Barfield discussion I linked to earlier on bring up the ancient Greek word pneuma (which apparently has cognates in many other ancient languages), which simultaneously meant both wind, breath, and spirit. To the ancient Greeks, it seems, these concepts were not distinct, but the same, and Plato even describes this concept as being a process wherein what we call the 'wind' is taken into the body in the 'breath' and becomes 'spirit'. What, phenomenologically, would it be like to concieve of things in this way: the act of breathing, and hence living, being part of the same unity as the wind itself? And what would this mean for one's understanding of the world around one?

To give another from my own experience: imagine there is somebody who you vaguely know or have seen around and who you find attractive - not just objectively physically but because there is 'something about them'. You'll know what I mean, I'm sure. How would you describe that feeling? You might say you fancy them, if you're where I'm from, or that they're 'fit'. In Japanese, somebody would, informally, say something rather like ano hito ga nanka ki ni naru, meaning that, with regard to that person, 'something happens to my spirit'. The nuance is totally different, and so, also, I think, the thought itself. It's not just the use of a different word, but the use of a different concept, which says something different about the nature of the relationship between beholder and beheld.

The only fantasy writers who I think come close to capturing something of what I am talking about - going somewhat deeper into the matter of how different the human experience would be in a world not our own - are JRR Tolkien and Gene Wolfe (and it's probably no accident in this regard that Wolfe was such a Tolkien fan). For Tolkien himself it was probably a case of having imbibed so much in the way of medieval texts in various languages that he almost unconsciously developed the capacity to think in a different way; for Gene Wolfe it seems to have been an act simply of great creative genius and imaginative insight. (Think of the scene in the last book of The Book of the New Sun with the storytelling contest, for example, to see this creative power at work.) There may also be a hint of this ability shown in M. John Harrison's Viriconium stories, too: a genuine attempt to think through how people in the very distant future would themselves think. 

But it is vanishingly rare in my experience. And what is rare in fantasy fiction is even rarer in fantasy role playing games (is Pendragon or Ars Magica an exception?). Let's leave aside the question of what it would really feel like to 'be' a dwarf or an elf. What it would really feel like to be a human being in a standard D&D-type world? According to almost everything I've ever read, it would be like being a modern post-enlightenment liberal person but running around in chainmail or a spangly star-covered magician's robe. How would such people think, and how would they regard the world around them and the other living things within it? Well, like a modern post-enlightement liberal person given the incentives thrust upon them by the game system to gather gold and XP.

This is fun, but imaginarily unsatisfying and, to use the word I deployed earlier, thin. I understand why things are that way: it's because sitting around trying to operationalise abstract ideas about the structure of thought is not exactly an exercise that has mass-market appeal. I'm not even arguing it would have appeal for me, most of the time. But it would have appeal some of the time, and I'm interested in the exercise of trying. 

Wednesday 7 June 2023

The Best Spells - YOU DECIDE

So, let's imagine you were a 1st level Magic-User going on a first foray into a dungeon. Which spell would you choose to memorise assuming you had access to the entire range of spells you were able to cast at your level?

Now, imagine you were a 2nd level one. Perform the same exercise. 

Do that up to 20th level.

Post the results in the comments. There are only two rules:

1. Use the default number of spell slots for magic-users from AD&D 1st edition. For reference, these are:

2. Use only the 'core' spell lists from the AD&D 1st edition PHB. Again, for reference, these are:

At the end, we shall collate the results and thus, objectively, conclusively and categorically prove which the best spells in AD&D are.

Monday 5 June 2023

15 Years of Monsters and Manuals and the Future of the Blog

The 17th of May, 2023 was the 15th anniversary of the Monsters & Manuals blog. Yes, I have been writing this thing since 2008, when I was on a break at work one night (I was routinely working 12-14 hour days at that point) and idly surfing; suddenly inspired, I opened up a new browser tab, started a Blogger account, and got typing. 1,878 posts, 24,809 comments, and 3,441,525 page-views later (according to Google, which I think underestimates page-view numbers from the era before it bought Blogger), I'm still here. 

But not, I think, for all that much longer.

Now, hold your horses - don't throw yourself out of the window in a pique of despair just yet. No, I am not going to stop writing Monsters & Manuals. And no, I am not going to do a 'Huge Ruined Scott' and delete what I have written so far. However, I am giving serious thought to shifting over to Substack in a slightly rejigged form at some point during the course of this year.

Why would I do such a thing? And, more importantly, why should you inconvenience yourself by having to type in a different web address in your browser a couple of times to visit my new blog until its address comes up first in the auto-fill?

There are three reasons, of which one has a sub-reason.

1) Substack has a nicer interface and is a more direct (dare I say intimate?) way to communicate with one's audience. You subscribe, you get my posts in a pleasantly readable form in your email inbox. No more navigating to a (rather clunky, let's face it) site.

1a) The sub-reason to reason 1 is that I have always had a feeling of foreboding that at some point Google will yank the plug on Blogger - as its occasional wont (and as most of us remember with respect to what happened to G+). I would like to have my exit strategy already executed before that happens.

2) I have recently found that old posts of mine are being reviewed for 'sensitivity' by Google and having warning signs put on them. I'm not sure if this is a step towards a more robust form of regulation on Blogger that will mirror what Google already does on YouTube, but the whole exercise of sensitivity reading just gives me the willies and sours me on the platform. I don't plan to post anything I consider to be 'insensitive', but whether I do so or not is my responsibility, and whether people want to read it or decide to be offended by it is likewise their prerogative. That is the position that appears to have been adopted by Substack and it is one I endorse.

3) Substack provides an opportunity for monetising creative content that is much more interesting and exciting to me than Patreon or its equivalents. Let me make clear: I have no intention to move to a model under which people pay for the type of content I post here and will continue to post when/if I make the switch. I will go on posting much as I currently do - about twice a week on average - and that side of things will remain free. But I like the idea of releasing content (campaign settings and adventures) in portions to paid monthly subscribers as an alternative to the Big But Rare Kickstarter Release Model that has become standard. 

This decision has not been decisively made yet, and if I do ultimately make the switch there will be an extensive swap-over period during which I post both here and at the new place, so you will have plenty of warning. 

I daresay that some of you will have opinions about this - please feel free to tell me what they are in the comments. Let me take the opportunity in closing to say what I rarely (if ever) say, which is that I greatly appreciate my regular readers and commenters here at the blog. I wouldn't have kept on doing this for 15 months, let alone 15 years, if it had felt like howling into the void. That it doesn't is largely because people read my writing, comment on it, and share it. I am grateful.