Sunday, April 13, 2014

Switching Post part II

Today I forwarded an email conversation to my gaming group urging them to give another system a chance. Pathfinder is very complicated and the rules are heavy and in some places broken. Dungeon World is simple. The rules are easy to use and light as a feather.

More importantly every player at the table with Dungeon World will start with a unique character. To begin with the game has the players each select a different character type. Later players or characters can come from a class that someone is already playing. However, in the beginning everyone has their own unique niche.

I could start a game in an hour tops. I have a ready adventure just waiting for adventurers to brave the deeps of the Goblin King's realm. We'll see what the future brings.

Today is Mrs. Giant's birthday. Happy Birthday Mrs. Giant.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Awake in the Night Lands

Awake in the Night Lands is an amazing group of short stories set in William Hope Hodgson's 'Night Land' milieu. The stories are mesmerizing and immerse the reader in a nightmare scape of utter horror.  Set millions of years in the future the story and setting can really only be compared to the worst nightmares of Lovecraft. I cannot stress enough, read this book! If you like Lovecraft, the darkest visions of Stephen King, or the visions of H.R. Giger you will love this book. If you like science fiction especially the 'Dying Earth' genre of Jack Vance, Leigh Brackett, Michael Moorcock, you will love this book. If you've never heard of those authors or those books read this book. You'll be giving yourself a treat you will never forget and expanding your horizons.

The stories are on the surface grim and dark. At no point in the stories are the protagonists offered anything like hope. Nowhere outside the seven mile high pyramid, 'The Great Redoubt' is there any rest, any place, any living thing that is not utterly opposed to human life and even the human soul. The Great Redoubt is the last human dwelling in the entire universe. There are tales of other places that might have been but by the time of the stories no other humans are known or believed to exist. All human colonies on other worlds are lost. No real human history from before the tens of millions of years old Redoubt is remembered. Even the memory of the sun and moon have passed into myth, no longer even considered history.

The world is utterly heartless, cruel, and filled with mountain sized beings full of inhuman hate. However, the protagonists still beyond all reason maintain hope even when they know practically the day and hour the world and all human life will end. The stories despite or maybe because of the darkness of the setting maintain a humanity that reaches across the millions of years of the last races of man to touch our own hearts.

As horror stories go they are top notch full of darkness, crawling terror, sights that freeze the human spirit and people you care about put into real peril. The stories are usually about love that most human of emotion that travels down time and between stars and unites the people who love each other even after of millions of years.

The love that people feel is usually the impulse for the protagonists to put themselves into danger. It is perhaps the only motivation that is enough to send anyone into the darkness and soul-peril of the Night Lands. Now to the setting of the stories, the Night Land itself.

There is nothing else like the Night Lands. I have not read Hodgson's story so I cannot guess how close Wright has come to Hodgson's vision but whatever the case the Night Lands is a place that is full of nightmarish visions as real and compelling as any dream you might have. Frozen plains of black salt, channeled badlands filled with poison fumes, crusted black snow covering caustic liquids, poison springs of grey boiling waters, unholy houses whose doors never shut and call to the unwary, lost and abandon buildings either empty or filled with monsters squatting in the ruins, a whole ecology of beasts and spirits, inhuman and antithetical to everything human. And worse, creatures the size of mountains that are forever watching the last dwelling of man. Waiting and watching for the day they will break the adamantine doors of "The Great Redoubt" and hunt the last humans and even their souls to extinction and unlife. Even worse beings hunt the Night Lands creatures that merely seeing can cause madness or loss of life and worse soul.

If you love tabletop role playing you must read this book. There are so many inspirations for a game master or player that I cannot list them all. I have already cribbed ideas from this book for my own campaign setting. I cannot wait to share these creatures, artifacts, people, and especially places with my gaming group.

The Nisse

The first demihuman race for my campaign is the Nisse. They are named after one of the magical creatures my grandmother used to tell me stories about. I think there was a little song she sang at Christmas time but I don't remember that. It was in Norwegian which I no longer even understand much less speak (to my shame I tried to sing some of the songs and I couldn't even finish the ABC's). *hangs head in remorse*

Her stories of the Nisse are more complicated that the other stories of trolls, giants, witches, and stuff. A Nisse might be a little creature (I imagined them as three feet tall or so) but they were as strong as a strong man. While they were secretive and shy, they were intricately tied to a farm. Even though they might live in holes in the ground, they were attached to the local farm/s emotionally and in some ways physically. A Nisse enjoyed a prosperous and orderly farm. If there was something out of place, a Nisse was not happy. Expect to find the cow's tails liberally dipped in manure, hay stacks moved from one field to another or even taken to the neighbors and the horses tired with tangled manes in the morning.

A contented Nisse would see cows giving good milk, the beer (which my great grandfather brewed on a 'dry' reservation) would be tasty and frothy, the horses would be content with gleaming coats and shiny manes and tales from all the extra attention they got at night. Manure would be easier to clean, fields more fertile etc. The point was that Nisse like an orderly farm and would act accordingly.

As a character race I see them as a race of people who are much like the farmers of Norway. Nisse would love well cared for fields and gardens, a neatly kept (underground) house, outbuildings, sheds, and barns. In my campaigns adventuring Nisse would fit into a kind of fighter, cleric, or thief role. Non-adventuring Nisse would live on farms either in their own villages or sharing a farm with the 'big folk'. I see them in a privileged, tenant class on the farms that they work for 'big folk'.

Nisse are small sturdy folk between three and three and a half feet tall with work roughened red hands and weathered faces (the men more than the women). The men grow short beards after they reach one hundred and fifty or so years old. They have light blond to light brown or red hair, and blue or green eyes. Nisse live for hundreds of years especially if they live on an active and prosperous farm. If the farm they are emotionally attached to becomes rundown over time the Nisse will also begin to 'age' eventually becoming a haggard, angry creature, skinny and bedraggled with thick tangled graying hair and beards.

Male Nisse dress in an over tunic, under tunic belted at the waist with draw string trousers or leather britches, heavy farmer's boots. Most men dress in blues, browns, or greens or in undyed wool. Female Nisse wear a long outer tunic, an inner tunic, pinned at the front at both shoulders and belted with a leather or woolen belt. They wear low boots and shoes. The women wear a colorful inner tunic and light outer tunic.

In nature, Nisse are calm cheerful people with a good work ethic and strong desire to see things in their proper place. Adventurous Nisse are looked upon as not quite respectable as they do not stay in their proper place and fit in with the rest of the community. In a Dungeon World campaign they might be a subset of the Halfling race. They would fit nicely there.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dungeon World vs. Pathfinder

Okay, so my group is discussing playing Pathfinder and two of us are arguing for Dungeon World. It is not a retroclone. It is a new rules system that seeks to capture the feel of old school D&D. Gygax himself commented that D&D had become,
Gygax: I've looked at them, yes, but I'm not really a fan. The new D&D is too rule intensive. It's relegated the Dungeon Master to being an entertainer rather than master of the game. It's done away with the archetypes, focused on nothing but combat and character power, lost the group cooperative aspect, bastardized the class-based system, and resembles a comic-book superheroes game more than a fantasy RPG where a player can play any alignment desired, not just lawful good.

Now, should I tell you what I really think?
GameSpy interview Aug 14, 2004.

So Pathfinder is simply a continuation of this 'comic-book superheroes game' that Gygax had no time for. Meanwhile, Dungeon World is actively trying to recapture the feel of old D&D. I love the character creation, collaboration, and simple rules of Dungeon World. With about two pages of rules anyone can learn to play Dungeon World. With about twelve pages of rules anyone can learn to run a Dungeon World game. My ten year old son and I created a Wizard character for him in less than fifteen minutes. Now I know we need to do more when we get other players, bonds, questions and such but it was that easy. I asked him a few questions to see if he understood the rules (he already plays AD&D 1st e.) and he nailed it. He had a few questions himself because Dungeon World was so different but he understood.

So which will it be, simplicity and D&D feel or Pathfinder because it is popular? We'll keep you informed. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Switching Post


Here we are and our Pathfinder DM or GM dropped out. I'm volunteering to run a game. I suggested Dungeon World and OSRIC and I said I'd even do Pathfinder except I've never run Pathfinder and find it to be clunky as heck.

I am hoping that the group chooses Dungeon World I am anxious to play that game and I find it to be just about what I am looking for. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

There and Back Again - A Giant's Holiday

Well, I have been 'there' and now I am 'back' but I would hardly call it a 'holiday'.  This giant's life has been turned around more times than the clothes in the dryer. My household has changed, my life, and my whole day's activities.

What hasn't changed is my love for old school gaming, role playing games in general and my family. Although, not necessarily in that order. I have been playing 'Pathfinder' which while it is a good game and well supported and loved is not any part of the 'old school'. 

I have been taking part in the discussion over at Paizo, "Recapturing the Essence of AD&D in Pathfinder". For the most part the discussion has been pleasant and informative. There have been a few people who view such a discussion as an 'Us vs Them' proposition or a slur on the way they role play. Some are simply incapable of understanding what the essence of AD&D is. That is understandable, they never played the real game uninfluenced by the games of the modern era and more importantly by the computer games that came after.

Finding common ground amongst the old school gamers is easier although by no means universal. Some simply had bad experiences (often tinged by the general suckiness* of being a teenager and an outcast one at that) others started gaming with 2nd Edition or later and believe that those represent the old school feel you got from the Holmes 'Blue Box' or the bigger AD&D hardbacks that came out just shortly afterward. They are not entirely incorrect but by the time we hit the 2nd Ed. we were deep in the gestalt of the popular mind. The D&D Cartoon had come and gone hundreds if not thousands of columns had been written about D&D and the public at large had expectations about what D&D was coming into the game.

For the most part the old school players have found two different options (besides playing AD&D) first is to look at one of the retro-clones or retro clone 'feel' games like 'Dungeon World', the second is to slim down Pathfinder to the core book or perhaps their 'Beginners Box' edition.

Half of the participants took the first position as a direct attack on Pathfinder. They found the idea that Pathfinder lacked something that AD&D had to be actively offensive. The ones that focused on actually recapturing the essence made some very interesting observations.

Pathfinder players have come to expect a level of magical items and wealth that any AD&D player/DM would would immediately recognize as a 'Monty Haul' campaign. Well beyond Monty Haul as a matter of fact since those same players need the magical items and wealth simply to participate in the game in the manner expected by the players/GMs. Every campaign expects the same.

The second thing that was discovered was that nearly all the modern players of Pathfinders also thought of their characters in terms of what their characters could mechanically could do rather than in the character's personality, history, back story. 

Old School gaming is all about the real feel. If the player says, "I'll stop these goblins here! The rest of you stay back and prepare to defend the village. Com' on you green-skinned cowards! Come out and face the ax of Durgan Stone-Hand!" He's probably old school. If the player says, "I'll block the passage here using my set shield maneuver giving myself a plus three to defend and forcing any creature larger than tiny to roll vs acrobatics minus three to get to me to make their attack of opportunity." You're probably not playing with an old school player.

*Yes I know 'suckiness' is not a word however it perfectly describes the 'teenage experience' in one way or another.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Sorry for the slow posting been busy at the Giant's house what with back to school, grandkids, kids, nieces, nephews, and such. Will be back to our regularly scheduled blogging soon.