Monthly Archives: September 2014

THE TRIBUTARY TALES

I have decided that after I write The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha I will write a number of Tributary Tales.

And what are Tributary Tales? Well, in this case (aside from the fact that they are both tributes and confluence streams) my Tributary Tales will be single stories I write about those fictional characters that most influenced me over time. I will strive to write one Tributary Tale per month until my list is complete. Below is the list of characters I wish to write Tributary Tales about. This list may later expand though this seems about right to me.

THE TRIBUTARY TALES

Tales of the Fictional (or partially fictional) and Mythical Characters that had the most influence on me growing up or that in later life most appealed to me

Aeneas
Batman                                                                                                                                                                                                            Beowulf
Cole and Hitch
Conan
Daredevil
Doc Savage
Galahad
Hephaestus
Horatio Hornblower
Jack Aubrey
John Carter
John Galt
Kirk and Spock (Star Trek original series)
Lone Ranger
Merlin
Nathaniel Bumppo (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook
Orpheus
Parsifal
Philip Marlowe
Robin the Hood
Roland
Sherlock Holmes
Siegfried
Solomon Kane
Spenser
Taliesin (Taliesin Ben Beirdd)
Tarzan
Túrin Tarambar

 

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GAMING AS A MEANS OF UNDERSTANDING THE REAL WORLD

After many years of both observation and experimentation it has been my conclusion that the real reason games are superior to most neuroplasticity (or even educational) programs (no matter how good in design) is because games are by both design and play active and fluid, whereas most neuroplasticity and cognitive learning programs are essentially passive and static.

I don’t think it is a secret to anyone that the more you involve the body and the senses and the mind and even the soul (psuche) in conjunction with whatever subject matter is to be learned the more easily will that subject matter be later recalled and the more deeply it embeds itself into the memory.

Whether most people realize it or not most games are active tactile as well as mental in nature, and even in things like Role Play there is a huge amount of engagement with the imagination in a wide range of input fields (imagined sights and sounds and smells), not to mention the large amount of involved social interaction.

So whether it is the visual and tactile stimulation of a video or computer game, or the tactile and social and imaginative interplay involved in a role play or even a board game what is learned is much more visceral and applicable later on to the Real World. (And if you cannot carry what you learn to the Real World then what you have learned is pragmatically useless.)

Consciously or subconsciously the impressive sight and sound and the imagined impulse and acted-out (role-played) solution is a far superior problem solving exercise than is the static learning and answer format.

Games are alive in ways that most cognitive learning programs are not, and cannot be, unless radically redesigned to be directly applicable both to the Real World and to the entire human being.

So the solution to this problem is an obvious one, learning techniques that are active and tactile and sensory and that engage at problems as if they were Real (for the mind has a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy at the very moment of actual employment) are far superior to didactic and dialectical and other such static learning techniques.

Especially when it comes to skills mastery and skills employment gaming is far more vital and functional and efficient than mere instruction and static learning practice techniques.

That’s just the way it is.

ANCIENT HEALING

Even in the game milieus and worlds I create I much prefer Real World or even Miraculous Healing (Laying on of Hands) to magical healing. Unless it involves a potion or perhaps the Blood of an Uncanny Monster.

Medicine in the Ancient World

This article was originally published in November 2013. It has been updated.—Ed.


Life in the ancient world was risky business. The perils of war, disease, famine and childbirth are a just a few examples of circumstances that contributed to a much lower average lifespan in the ancient world than we have in the modern era. People in antiquity were no less concerned about the prevention and cure of maladies than they are now, however, and entire cults, sanctuaries and professions dedicated to health dotted the spiritual, physical and professional landscapes of the ancient world. So what exactly did ancient cultures do to combat disease and injury, and did these methods have any real basis in science as we know it today? The answers may surprise you.In many societies, the gods played an integral role in human health. In the Greek world, the god Asklepios was dedicated exclusively to healing.* Sanctuaries called Asklepions drew the ill and injured, who would often travel for days to seek the healing that they believed these ancient sanitariums could provide. Similar in some ways to the modern spa, Asklepions provided baths, healthy foods and sanctuary rooms intended specifically for sleep and meditation. Most Asklepions were located in remote and beautiful areas, such as the famous sanctuaries of Epidauros in Greece and Pergamum in northwest Turkey. Animal sacrifices and votive offerings were made at altars and temples to the god. Excavations at Asklepions have uncovered “anatomical votives,” so named because they represent the body part that was injured or affected by illness.

By the fifth century B.C., physicians and the god of healing had become intrinsically linked, with Asklepios as the divine patron of the medical profession. Hippocrates, the most famous physician of antiquity, lived during this time, and medical treatises that he authored would be used as medical textbooks for centuries to come. From such writings, as well as other inscriptions, we see that ancient physicians knew that lancing, draining and cleaning infected wounds promoted healing, and that they knew of certain herbs that had healing and disinfecting properties.** Wild ginger was known to be helpful for nausea, and a particular clay found on the Greek island of Lemnos was believed to be helpful for ailments such as dysentery. This clay, called terra sigillata for the stamped discs that were formed from it and sold as medicine, contains the counterpart to elements such as kaolin and bentonite, which are used in modern medicines to treat diarrhea.

Surgical techniques in the ancient world could be surprisingly advanced. The famous Roman physician Galen (c. 129–199 A.D.), who was born in the city of Pergamum near the Asklepion, is generally regarded as the most accomplished medical researcher of the Roman world, and some of his surgical procedures would not be seen again until modern times. He successfully conducted cataract surgeries by inserting a needle behind the lens of the eye in order to remove the cataract, and his described methods of preparing a clean operating theater reveal a keen awareness of contagion.1 While some of Galen’s practices and theories are still followed and praised by physicians today, others, such as his rejection of the stomach wall as having no role in digestion, have been proven by modern science to be erroneous…

 

FLY NOT, BUT TURN AND HUNT

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THROUGH THE AGES…

Changes and consistencies through the various incarnations…

A HANDFULL OF CLASS-IC HISTORIES

(article continued at link)

Clerics, fighters, rangers, rogues, and wizards all have long histories in the D&D game.

Throughout the Tyranny of Dragons storyline, we’ve been following the online comic adventures of five heroes—representatives of their factions, but also of five key classes to the game. In today’s D&D Alumni, we take a brief look back at the history of these classes, and how they’ve evolved into their current inception in the Player’s Handbook.

Fighters: 1972-Present

The fighters of D&D can trace their genealogy back to the heroes and super heroes of the Chainmail (1971) miniatures game, who were “well-known knights, leaders of army contingents, and similar men”. However fighters more obviously appeared in their modern form as the “fighting men” of OD&D (1974)—who became heroes at 4th level and super heroes at 8th.

From there, D&D fighters embarked on a long road to balance their power levels with their magical brethren. When they picked up the name “fighters” in AD&D (1977-1979), they also got multiple attacks a round, going as high as two attacks per round at 13th level; while Unearthed Arcana (1985) introduced weapon mastery and specialization for fighters only. Meanwhile new subclasses like the ranger, the paladin, the cavalier, and the barbarian were proliferating—and usually overshadowing the original fighter class. AD&D 2e (1989) was more of the same, except the fighter was temporarily a member of the warrior category.

The 21st century has seen the biggest changes to fighters. With D&D 3e (2000) their damage potential went through the roof, helped in part by the game’s new feats, which made high-level fighters truly dangerous for perhaps the first time. Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords (2006) made fighters even more interesting by giving them evocative special attacks, an idea that also underlay D&D 4e (2008).

In D&D 5e (2014), fighters now lie somewhere between earlier editions. The base class has more class features than early incarnations, while players who want to have more tactical options can play the Battle Master archetype and select different fighting maneuvers each turn.

Wizards: 1972-Present

Like fighters, wizards originated with Chainmail (1971). They appear there in a surprisingly mature form, already possessing well-known spells like fireball, lightning bolt, phantasmal force, protection from evil, cloudkill, and anti-magic shell. Seers, magicians, warlocks, and sorcerers also appear as less powerful wizard variants.

When the wizard returned in OD&D (1974), he was now called the magic-user, but all the wizardly variants from Chainmail appear as level titles: seer at 2nd level, magician at 6th, warlock at 8th, sorcerer at 9th, and wizard at 11th. Magic-users now also had to memorize their spells, then lost them when casting. Those primeval OD&D wizards got just six levels of spells; they’d have to wait for Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975) to learn higher level spells like power word: kill, time stop, and wish.

AD&D (1977-1979) kept magic-users largely the same, though the illusionist subclass from The Strategic Review #4 (Winter 1975) also appeared. 2nd Edition (1989) saw magic-users reclassified as mages, who were a member of the wizard category—which once more became their official name. More importantly, mages could now specialize in specific types of magic, changing the special rules for illusionists into a much more general framework that allowed for eight types of magicians. When Dark Sun (1991) was published a few years later, it introduced even more variety with defilers and preservers who cast magic in connection with the world (parasitically or cooperatively).

More variants appeared in D&D 3e (2000), which introduced new sorts of magic-users who cast their spells in different ways: the core rules brought in sorcerers, who didn’t need to memorize spells; while Complete Arcane (2004) premiered warlocks, who could cast spell-like invocations at will. These ideas created a foundation for D&D 4e (2008), which allowed wizards to cast many of their spells round after round—with more powerful spells limited to fewer uses.

More recently, D&D 5e (2014) brought back the fire-and-forget mage of old with a few compromises: wizards can recover a few spells more quickly through the study of the spellbooks in the middle of day and at high levels can cast a few spells constantly. Meanwhile, fans of other styles of casting can still play the newest versions of the sorcerer and the warlock.

 

HEAD IDIOTS

It was an extremely inventive ploy. For such as this…

Head of Vecna

If you aren’t a role-player, you might not get this …

From Steve Jackson Games website….

Many years ago (back when we all were still playing D & D), I ran a game where I pitted two groups against each other.

Several members of Group One came up with the idea of luring Group Two into a trap. You remember the Hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna that were artifacts in the old D&D world where if you cut off your hand (or your eye) and replaced it with the Hand of Vecna (or the Eye) you’d get new awesome powers? Well, Group One thought up The Head of Vecna.

Group One spread rumors all over the countryside (even paying Bards to spread the word about this artifact rumored to exist nearby). They even went so far as to get a real head and place it under some weak traps to help with the illusion. Unfortunately, they forgot to let ALL the members of their group in on the secret plan (I suspect it was because they didn’t want the Druid to get caught and tell the enemy about this trap of theirs, or maybe because they didn’t want him messing with things).

The Druid in group One heard about this new artifact and went off in search of it himself (I believe to help prove himself to the party members…) Well, after much trial and tribulation, he found it; deactivated (or set off) all the traps; and took his “prize” off into the woods for examination. He discovered that it did not radiate magic (a well known trait of artifacts) and smiled gleefully.

I wasn’t really worried since he was alone and I knew that there was no way he could CUT HIS OWN HEAD OFF. Alas I was mistaken as the Druid promptly summoned some carnivorous apes and instructed them to use his own scimitar and cut his head off (and of course quickly replacing it with the Head of Vecna…)

Some time later, Group one decided to find the Druid and to check on the trap. They found the headless body (and the two heads) and realized that they had erred in their plan (besides laughing at the character who had played the Druid)…The Head of Vecna still had BOTH eyes! They corrected this mistake and reset their traps and the Head for it’s real intended victims…

Group Two, by this time, had heard of the powerful artifact and decided that it bore investigating since, if true, they could use it to destroy Group One. After much trial and tribulation, they found the resting place of The Head of Vecna! The were particularly impressed with the cunning traps surrounding the site (one almost missed his save against the weakest poison known to man). They recovered the Head and made off to a safe area…

 

NIGHT WRITER

Wyrdwend

Last night, well, this morning actually – at about 2:00 AM I made significant advances on my novel plus I wrote the entire introductory section (freehand – in one of my short story notebooks) of the first draft to my Conan story, The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha. (Which I will later post or serialize here.)

I was also able to entirely plot out Tôl Karuţha, though that might change if I decide to later add some things. But I am very pleased with the start of the story. I feel the story is very Conanaesque and Howardesque while still being my take on Conan rather than Howard’s. This is the version of the story that shall be a more or less straight out Howard-type Conan prose-story rather than in the style of either a Nordic Saga or a Skaldic rendering.

I really enjoy writing at night and in…

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AFTER CONAN

Wyrdwend

One more thing before bed. After I finish my Conan story, and probably sometime this Winter, I will write a Lovecraftian-type story. Something else I’ve long wanted to do but never got around to actually writing. It will not be Cthulhulian in nature (as that is usually thought of) so much as more like At the Mountains of Madness (one of my two favorite Lovecraftian stories), but rather than being set in modern times I am more likely to set it either in the distant future (sci-fi horror) or the ancient past (fantastical horror or even historically based horror).

I don’t have a real plot yet but I do have a couple of ideas to work off of.

Titan Releasing Lovecraft-Inspired Anthology The Madness of Cthulhu in October

The Madness of Cthulhu AnthologyAre you a fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness?…

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MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS

If this actually happens it would be extremely interesting. I’ve also long thought that At The Mountains of Madness would make a superb home-brew adventure or campaign for nearly any gaming genre (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, action-adventure, detective/mystery, super-hero, mixed, etc.)

Guillermo del Toro: His Version Of At The Mountains Of Madness Coming Soon!

By screenPhileson September 8th, 2014 at 5:47pm· 3k saw this· 3+ people are talking
image courtesy of Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos
image courtesy of Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos

Guillermo del Toro’s version of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness was a passion project for the director, and for awhile was moving full-steam ahead at Universal Studios. As if fan-favorite director del Toro at the helm wasn’t enough, it would have starred Tom Cruise and been produced by James Cameron, the director of films like The Terminator, Aliens, Avatar and Titanic.

Yet somehow it wasn’t because Universal pulled the plug on the project.

Ostensibly, the reason for doing so was the cost, as well as the rating. The horror movie was based upon a H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name and budgeted at $150 million. Ratings-wise, del Toro was adamant that the film be R-rated, which I still think is a really good idea, despite that it contributed to the project falling apart (If you’ve never read Lovecraft, you can download a copy of At The Mountains Of Madness here and The Shunned House, here. Both are available in most popular ebook formats)…

THE PEASANT GIRL AND THE WITCH

…Then (Baba) Yaga broke her (the peasant girl) in pieces and put her bones in a basket.

Now the stepmother sent her husband for his daughter. The father went and brought back only her bones. As he approached the village, his dog barked on the porch: “Bow! wow! Bones are rattling in the basket!” The stepmother came out with a rolling pin: “You’re lying!” she said. “You should bark, ‘A young lady is coming!'” The husband arrived; and then the wife moaned and groaned.

There’s a tale for you and a crock of butter for me.

 

Hmm… That was even more vicious than I was expecting. But that entire tale was fascinating as it involved a little peasant girl being sold into bondservice to the witch Baba Yaga.

Meaning it was really about being sold into the service of a well-known murderer.

There’s a lot to be pulled from this story. And  a whole nother story embedded in it about how to regain your freedom.

I keep thinking how much good such an obverse Baba Yaga tale might have done those little girls abducted in Nigeria had they been properly trained in escape and evasion.

Or even just simple observation and patience.

CONAN, BABA YAGA, AND TÔL KARUŢHA

Wyrdwend

Now that the days grow colder, the nights lengthen, and the Earth grays my creative impulses grow great indeed.

Not only have I recently done some superb research that should further enrich the plot to my High Fantasy novels (The Other World) considerably, but today while at the library I decided to do something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid (teenager actually) – I am going to write a Conan story. Based upon Robert E Howard’s Conan character.

When I was a teen every year, during the Autumn and Winter, I would read certain material, such as Conan stories and the horror stories of HP Lovecraft. Today while searching for my typical Autumn fare of Howard and Lovecraft stories (and long ago I had read them all, still I re-read them most every year for the atmosphere they evoke in my mind and imagination…

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EARENDEL, BRIGHTEST OF ANGELS

Actually I know something both of this poem and of the source materials from which it arose. Earendil actually refers to the angel Earendel from the Advent Lyrics of Crist (Christ) in the Exeter Book. That was Tolkien’s real source material for the Flying Mariner who sailed the Silmaril upon his shining brow.

 

Eala Earendel engla beorhtast

ofer middengeard (as the Anglo-Saxons called Middle Earth, our Earth, and similar to what the Vikings called Constantinople, Miklagarð) monnum sended…

 

Still, the article is interesting in some background sense.

Birth of a new world: the Tolkien poem that marks the genesis of Middle-earth

On this day in September 1914, as war broke out, Tolkien created the mythical land that led him to The Lord of the Rings. Here’s the story of the poem that changed his life

Mordor, he wrote: how the Black Country inspired Tolkien’s badlands

Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit
Origin story … Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit. Photograph: Warner Bros/AFP/Getty Images

A century ago today, Russian forces were beginning the 133-day siege of Przemyśl and the German army took Péronne. Meanwhile, in a Nottinghamshire farmhouse, a young man wrote a poem about a mariner who sails off the earth into the sky. The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star deserves its day in the spotlight alongside war commemorations. It was the founding moment of Middle-earth.

Neither elves nor hobbits were yet in JRR Tolkien’s mind. But the star mariner is remembered in The Lord of the Rings, as Eärendil, forefather of kings, whose light in a phial wards off Mordor’s darkness. In the vast backstory of The Silmarillion, he carries the last Silmaril, a jewel preserving unsullied Edenic light, seeking aid against the primal Dark Lord.

None of this is in Tolkien’s poem from 24 September 1914. As an invented origin myth for the evening star, it is all energy and enigma:

Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean’s cup
In the gloom of the mid-world’s rim;
From the door of Night as a ray of light
Leapt over the twilight brim,
And launching his bark like a silver spark
From the golden-fading sand;
Down the sunlit breath of Day’s fiery Death
He sped from Westerland.

 

 

 

THE ORACULAR STONE

I use Oracles and Seers and occasionally even Prophets in my Game World.

This is an interesting and useful archaeological article on how the Oracle at Delphi might have operated.

The Oracle of Delphi—Was She Really Stoned?

Read the full article as it appeared in Archaeology Odyssey

Archaeologists are good at recovering things left behind by the past, such as buildings, incense altars, tools and relief carvings. What they are not so good at recovering are the ideas, feelings and emotions—the innerness—of sentient ancient beings. It’s one thing to examine a temple’s holy of holies; it’s another thing to understand what went on there and what people experienced. Sometimes, however, there’s an exception to the rule.Numerous classical authors report that natural phenomena played an essential part in one of their most sacred religious rituals: the oracle at Delphi. According to the geographer Strabo (c. 64 B.C.–25 A.D.), for example, “the seat of the oracle is a cavern hollowed down in the depths … from which arises pneuma [breath, vapor, gas] that inspires a divine state of possession” (Geography 9.3.5). Over the past five years, a team of researchers—a geologist, an archaeologist, a chemist and a toxicologist—has put that claim to the test, making it much more likely that we will actually understand what happened at Delphi…

THAT ANCIENT ENIGMA

I’ve very often wondered the same myself…

The Mystery of the Tomb of Alexander the Great

Posted: 09/16/2014 6:39 pm EDT Updated: 09/16/2014 6:59 pm EDT

2014-09-13-Alexander.jpg

The recent discovery of a unique burial monument in Amphipolis of Macedonia in Greece, has made everyone thinking that maybe this is the long lost tomb of Alexander the Great. The disclosure of the remains of the great conqueror and demigod to many, Alexander, is nothing less than a dream-discovery to the archaeologists and historians around the world.

After conquering all the known world of his time, Alexander the Great died in Babylon on the 10th of June 323 BC. The legend says that the ambitious young king wept when he realised there were no more lands to conquer.

Although Alexander himself had expressed his desire to be buried at the temple of Zeus Ammon at Siwa Oasis, his body was transferred by Ptolemy in Alexandria. Later, his body will disappear so that no man could ever find it…

GOTHAM, SLEEPY HOLLOW, BLACKLIST

Ordinarily I don’t watch TV during the week. I record any show I want to watch and watch it on the weekends.

But tonight I’m going to make an exception. Gotham premiers. As does Scorpion (which I’m iffy about so far).

Sleepy Hollow and the Blacklist return with new seasons. I may even record Forever.

It is going to be an extremely entertaining evening.

 

By the way I just want Gordon to be a good Dick. If he’s a good Dick then Gotham will be fine by me.

5E AND FUN!

To a large extent I agree. My family’s first 5E D&D game was superb, simple, easy to play and run, and an extreme amount of fun. I’ll write up a complete briefing and recount later, but suffice it to say it was the most fun I’ve had playing D&D since Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and the most fun my family has ever had playing D&D.

This is the best, most exciting kind of D&D we’ve had in twenty years…It’s never been more beginner-friendly.

 

It’s The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

Quintin Smith

It's The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

You might know that the long-awaited new edition of Dungeons & Dragons is upon us. You might be playing it right now, waving an HB pencil around, informing your friends that they’re up to their nips in orcs and should roll for initiative.

Or maybe you’re the other kind of person. Maybe you’ve never played D&D, and news that the new, 5th edition returns to the roots of the game is like me telling you that scientists have discovered a new gender of swan. You’ve got some interest, though. You’re two paragraphs into an article called “It’s The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons.” And yes, yes, yes you should. This is the best, most exciting kind of D&D we’ve had in twenty years, and that’s not all. It’s never been more beginner-friendly.

Half of that’s down to the beginner box they’re selling, which contains a quick-start rule booklet (forget any images you might have of stacks of hardback books), a set of dice, a load of pre-filled character sheets and an epic adventure that’ll fill a month of pizza-powered Sundays. You just add pencils and friends…

SCABARD

This is an interesting product and Facebook page I recently discovered.

Some of you might find it interesting and useful.

 

SCABARD

THE IAGO OF WESTEROS

BABY FINGERS (The Secret Song of Lord Petyr Baelish)

DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS GAME – WIZARDS BEWARE!

Playing D&D with the family this afternoon. All new adventure, all new 5th Edition characters, all new figurines.

Really looking forward to it and expect a great deal of fun.

Plus there will be pizza, ale, and “Plush Pippin!”

BAM!!!

Have a good day folks….

A MAN’S WORD-HORDE

For the Bard and Skald in you…

Wyrdwend

Last night, while studying the single best book on Tolkien I have ever read, I discovered that the term Word-Hoard was originally, in some uses, Word-Horde. (Derived from ancient Czech, “hord” or Polish “horda.”)

Now Word-Hoard is one of my very favorite Anglo-Saxon/Olde English terms and to me the implication here is that not only was a man’s Word Hoard an innumerable treasure by which he cunningly manipulated the world (buying favors and gains and influence with his word-hoard), it was also (at least by implication with the word Horde) a vast and unstoppable army or a “huge swarm” (of people).

This adds an incredible layer of meaning and metaphor. For it means that a man’s Word-Hoard is not just a static treasure that he accumluates and “hoards” over time, but that it is actually an active and living force, a Horde that he sends out into the world…

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