Category Archives: Article

THE MURALS OF DATONG

This interests me for purely archaeological, cultural, and historical reasons, but it also goes to show that in gaming and in writing fiction, authors and creators (and modern people in general) often overlook the near ubiquitous artwork and coloring that often existed in many Medieval and certainly a great many Ancient urban centers.

The answer seems self-evident to me if you think on it awhile. Lacking things like cinema and film and television, etc. then what would be your source of visual and imaginary stimulation in a world devoid of such things? Indeed, what would be your method of advertising your skill and craft and wealth compared to that of a neighbor or competitor? How would you communicate with foreigners? How would you establish yourself even after death?

Art work.

Impressed everywhere you could impress it as strikingly colorful and vibrant as you could make it.

I don’t think our ancestors were less impressed with visual imagery than we are, I think they were likely more conscious of it because they had less of an opportunity to render it in motion and in a way that was seemingly active and alive. They had to do so not “in the air” (images transmitted by carrier waves) but by time and by place as “solid images,” fixed by time and place. Art then was not shifting energy, but actual craft, and anything that called attention to that craft would have been a vital element of that craft. Color, skill, literary allusion or merit, design, complexity of composition, etc.

So they looked for every opportunity to do so that leisure or condition allowed.

This is why the Ancient world (especially) and any sufficiently advanced corner of the Medieval world looked as it did.

Writers, poets, game developers (even historians and non-fiction writers) would do well to note that in their own works. It would add real depth to their efforts…

Ancient Tomb Decorated with Vibrant Murals Found in China

Ancient Tomb Decorated with Vibrant Murals Found in China

The tomb’s entranceway is located on the south wall of the tomb. It was blocked off with bricks 1,000 years ago. Images of two servants can be seen flanking the entrance.

Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics

A 1,000-year-old circular tomb, whose walls are decorated with colorful murals, has been discovered in Datong City, in northern China.

Because the tomb’s entranceway is sealed off with bricks, archaeologists had to enter through a hole in the deteriorating arch-shaped roof.

The team, from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology, found cremated human remains in an urn in the middle of the tomb. No texts were found in the tomb, but the archaeologists believe that the tomb likely belonged to a husband and wife. [See Photos of the Circular Tomb and Colorful Murals]

The murals on the walls show servants, cranes and numerous articles of clothing that hang on several stands, their colors still vibrant despite the passage of a millennia.

Colorful clothing abounds on the tomb’s murals. One clothes stand, painted on a mural on the west wall, has “sky blue, beige, bluish-gray, yellowish-brown and pink clothes,” wrote the archaeological team in a paper published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. “The garment to the far right has a green-diamond grid pattern, each diamond of which has a small red decorative flower in it,” wrote the archaeologists, noting that another article of clothing has what appears to be a jade ring that “hangs at the waist.”

 

The murals on the west wall of the 1,000-year-old tomb depict articles of clothing as well as two servants.
The murals on the west wall of the 1,000-year-old tomb depict articles of clothing as well as two servants.

Credit: Courtesy of Chinese Cultural Relics

Additionally, the mural shows that “in front of the clothes stand there is a long rectangular table, on which are placed four round plates, black on the outside and red inside, holding, respectively, a headdress, bracelets, hairpins and combs,” the archaeologists wrote.

 

On the east wall of the tomb the mural shows another clothes stand. “On the stand hang beige, light green, bluish-gray, pink and brown clothes,” the archaeologists wrote. “On one of the garments hangs a ring-shaped pei pendant accompanied by a string of black beads.” Pei is a word that can mean “matching” or “accompanying” in English.

The team believes that the tomb likely dates to the Liao Dynasty (A.D. 907–1125). Historical records indicate that this dynasty, controlled by the Khitan, flourished in northern China, Mongolia and parts of Russia.

At that time, people in northern China were sometimes buried in tombs decorated with murals. In 2014, Live Science reportedon the discovery of another tomb containing murals, which was found decorated with images of stars as well as numerous animals, including a crane, deer, yellow turtle and even a cat playingwith a silk ball. That tomb was also excavated by a team from the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology.

Archaeologists believe that both mural-decorated tombs will help shed light on  those who lived during the Liao Dynasty.

The tomb with the murals showing colorful clothing was excavated by the Datong Municipal Institute of Archaeology team in 2007. The team published a report on the tomb in 2015, in Chinese, in the journal Wenwu. That report was translated into English for publication in Chinese Cultural Relics.

Original article on Live Science.

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GREEN ICE OF THE ANTARCTIC

This gives me an interesting idea for both a science fiction story and an element to add to my fantasy novel…

 

Strange Green Ice Seen Floating in Antarctica’s Ross Sea

Strange Green Ice Seen Floating in Antarctica's Ross Sea

An imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured this image, on March 5, 2017, of Antarctica’s Granite Harbor, a cove near the Ross Sea, where the sea ice has a green hue due to a bloom of phytoplankton.

Credit: NASA

No, Antarctica isn’t busting out the green beer for St. Patrick’s Day. But a new satellite image of the continent shows strange green ice floating in the Ross Sea.

The green-tinged ice is probably the work of phytoplankton, marine glaciologist Jan Lieser of Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center told NASA’s Earth Observatory, which released the image yesterday (March 9).

Photosynthetic plankton called phytoplankton (and algae) grow all around Antarctica in summer (which runs from October to February, because Antarctica is in the Southern Hemisphere). It’s now autumn on the icy continent, but algae blooms can happen in the Antarctic fall, too, the Earth Observatory reported.

In 2012, Lieser and her colleagues noted an enormous bloom in late February and early March that was 124 miles (200 kilometers) long and 62 miles (100 km) wide. Scientists on an expedition to observe the green swirls found that the bloom was not free-floating algae, but green sea ice, or sea ice with algae growing on it.

A zoomed-in patch of green ice near Antarctica's Ross Sea can be seen in this Landsat 8 image captured on March 5, 2017.
A zoomed-in patch of green ice near Antarctica’s Ross Sea can be seen in this Landsat 8 image captured on March 5, 2017.

Credit: NASA

The current late-season bloom appears to have gotten trapped in the slushy, just-forming sea ice, lending it a green hue. It’s unclear whether the algae bloom is on the ice, or trapped within or beneath it.

On the other end of the globe, Arctic waters experience phytoplankton blooms, too. As in Antarctica, these tiny organisms are the basis of the food web. Scientists have found, however, that the Arctic’s spring phytoplankton blooms are coming earlier. What’s more, a second season of algae blooms has emerged in the fall, as sea ice has retreated.

Original article on Live Science

ARCHIVES AND HELP


Writing Your First Adventure
Part 1 of 6



If you are ready to design your first RPG adventure, or learn how to improve the adventures you’ve already got, you’ve come to the right place. The “Adventure Builder” will cover all the bases, from hooks to background to traps and treasures.

This time out, we’ll cover the foundation you need to build a great adventure. It’s not the background, the stat blocks, or even the main villain. It’s monster selection, and figuring out the size and style of the adventure.

How Big is Your Design?

A common rule of thumb among the Wizards of the Coast design staff is that a typical group of adventurers will level up after about 13 successful encounters of the party’s encounter level (EL). That’s a great number to work from, especially if you want to design a large adventure that spans multiple levels.

In an adventure with dozens of encounters, the party will level up half-way through. Since the party will be tougher and more capable from that point on, the adventure you’ve planned for them needs too scale up as well. It’s better to scale up the second half of the adventure appropriately, but if you don’t want the PCs to level up midway through your epic you can prevent it by keeping your number of encounters small or by lowering their EL (to reduce the XP per encounter).

At the same time, just because you map an encounter doesn’t mean that it will be played. Some areas are never explored, after all, and not every encounter leads to combat (some are resolved or defeated through stealth, magic, bribery, or roleplaying). So if you do want the PCs to level up after your adventure then you’ll need more than 13 party-level encounters to provide enough options and fallbacks if the party doesn’t follow the expected path.

So, not too many encounters and not too few. As a general idea, you want to prepare about 20 to 25 encounters for your party per level of advancement. If you prefer mostly lower EL encounters, perhaps closer to 25 to 30. If you run marathon play sessions every weekend, you might want to prepare 40 to 50 encounters ahead of time, and assume the second half will be at a higher level. If you run short game sessions, you’ll want to make sure that the adventure breaks into small sections of 3 or 4 encounters with a satisfying conclusion to each.

Now you know how many encounters you should prepare. What should be in those encounters? And what mistakes should you watch out for?

Common design mistakes

There are four fairly common errors in beginning adventure design. When I worked on Dungeon magazine I saw them constantly, and the errors haven’t changed.

1) too much useless backstory
2) slow starts
3) random encounters
4) too many encounters

Each of these is easy to fix. Here’s how you do it.

Simple Backstory: Most DMs and designers hate to hear it, but much of the time lavished on history and background is wasted energy. Players never find out who dug the tomb, how the wizard was betrayed by her apprentice, or why the assassin guild changed sides and disappeared. Working on backstory doesn’t improve the gameplay experience for anyone but the bards and scholars obsessed with legends or lore. Unless it connects directly to action in the current timeframe (and the PCs have a way of learning it), skip the involved history. Save that for sourcebooks.

This is not to say cut it all. Details of which faction can be turned against another, which guard might take a bribe, or what the villain ultimately plans to do if the party doesn’t stop him are all appropriate. Make sure your backstory is recent and relevant; avoid anything that starts “Thousands of years ago…”

Start the Action Quickly: When players arrive at the game, they are looking to roll some dice. You can start the action immediately and draw the players away from pizza and other distractions by giving them what they want: a short, simple combat encounter to start off the game. Ideally, the encounter is pitched at an encounter level (EL) no more than one level above or below the party’s level.

The best of the “start in midstream” kick-offs are aimed at all the PCs when they are together, and raise questions that lead the party to the adventure hook. For instance, the party might see raiders attacking an inn where they had planned to spend the night — survivors of the attack tell the party about the black knight who leads them. Or a teleporting extraplanar threat might appear during broad daylight and accuse a cleric of breaking his vows — and threaten to sacrifice his corrupt church elders to a greater power. Where these encounters go ultimately isn’t the most important thing: they can be a little tangential to the plot, as long as they get the party thinking of the right sort of threat.

I’ll discuss this in more detail next time in “Adventure Hooks.”.

Don’t Be Random: Time is precious, so be careful how many tangents and red herrings you include in your design. In particular, random encounters might be fun, or can be useful to get a dawdling party going, or to work off that frustration players sometimes get where they just need to have their characters kill something, but they don’t usually make your adventure any better. If they are tied into the core adventure, then they shouldn’t be random at all; those clues should be built in to the design. If they aren’t tied in to the adventure core, then you are just wasting game time on an encounter that doesn’t advance the mission or the story goals for you or your players.

Trim Excess Encounters: If you create too many encounters and you don’t play every day, players forget what their mission was, or start to lose hope of making progress. They wind up grinding through so many nuisance encounters that they lose sight of the important clues, or they don’t talk to the important NPC, or they don’t search the critical room for documents — because they are too busy grinding through combats. If the encounters are just there to fill up space on a map, they might as well be random. Leave some rooms empty to speed up play.

Encounter Selection: Fitting Together a Cast

The real challenge is balancing encounters to present a variety of challenges for every member of the party. The adventure, after all, is a chance for the heroes to triumph over opposition (or fail miserably and go home).

Selecting for a Coherent Look and Feel

Story, setting, and immersion are all easier to pull off if your monsters fit a theme. That theme might be “united tribes of humanoids” or it might be “desert raiders”, but either way it cuts out many choices. Avoid the kitchen sink approach of just taking creatures that match the party level. Instead, make good use of the EL chart in the Dungeon Master’s Guide (page 49) to create encounters of small groups, pairs of monsters, and single creatures.

In particular, consider linked encounters for your cast. A guard dog or a sentry might be a much lower EL encounter from a combat perspective — but if the party fails to use a silence spell or a sneak attack to take it out quickly then it could make later encounters more difficult.

Balancing by EL and by Class

The Dungeon Master’s Guide offers direct advice on how many easy, challenging, very difficult, and overwhelming encounters a typical adventure should contain (see page 49). Hint: not many overwhelming encounters.

While this breakdown is good advice, it’s not complete. You’ll want to be sure that your 20 or 25 encounters include encounter variety by class as well as by EL. That is, make sure to include each of the following types of encounters, to give every class and every player a chance to shine.

1) Two Skill Encounters: These are creatures or obstacles that can be defeated by stealth or skill, such as guards, castle walls, cliffs, informants, or low-hp creatures that can fall to a single sneak attack.

2) Four Pure Combats: You need some no-negotiation, straight-up combats that play to the fighter classes. Think orcs, wolves, ogres, giants — or dragons. Consider tactics first here: ambushes, charge, bull-rush, something to make it more than just attack rolls and damage rolls.

3) Two Magical Challenges: Include two magical challenges that require a knock, a fireball, or whatever other strengths your arcane spellcasters have. They might be lore-based challenges, such as knowing the weaknesses of an extraplanar creature, or they might require the use of Concentration or Spellcraft to manipulate a magical object or unravel a mysterious warding.

4) One Divine Challenge: The divine caster in the party is more than just a medic, so give him or her something to do with at least one undead turning, Knowledge (Religion), or nature-knowledge encounter (if your divine caster is a druid).

5) One Puzzle or Trap: This could be as simple as finding the key to a tough lock, deciphering an ancient script, or finding a secret door with Search, but you should include traps and puzzles for your party to solve. If the party doesn’t have a rogue in it, use Knowledge skill checks as a substitute.

6) Two Roleplaying Encounters: Social skills play an important part of the game too, and bards don’t like to just sit and do their stuff in the background. Provide at least two roleplaying encounters that can be defeated by the right social skills, bribes, exchange of services, or clever conversation. Examples include a scholar with a clue that the party needs to bypass some defenses or wardings, or a devil who will ally with them against a common foe.

7) One Mook Encounter: This should be against foes of at least 2 CR less than the party, and ideally 3 or 4 less. Think kobolds, bandits, skeletons, wild animals, or any other group of many foes that play to Cleave and area-effect spells. It’s fun to see heroes cutting a swath through hordes of foes.

8) One Polder: “Polder” is a Dutch word describing land reclaimed from the sea, but here it’s a more general term. As described in detail in Dungeon 135, polders are safe havens for adventurers, places where the party can regain strength. Think Rivendell in Lord of the Rings. Your polder could be a xenophobic elven tree city, a magical rope that generates rope trick spells as a charged item, a bound archon who wards a treasure, or a dwarven merchant caravan. If the party wishes, they can heal up to full strength and level up.

9) One Bigger Fish: To keep the blood flowing, you should have one overwhelming encounter that the party can’t handle without serious risk of a total party kill. This could turn into a roleplaying bit of Diplomacy, a chase, or a stealth challenge, depending on how the party handles it — but they should see that not every encounter in every adventure should be fought.

10) Big Finish: A grand finale encounter with all the trimmings: villain, minions, and a room or terrain that provides interesting combat options.

That list of recommended encounter types covers 17 encounters out of the 20 to 25 in your adventure, but you could easily double up on any of those categories. For example, if you know that the players like intense combat you could set up the remaining encounters as pure combats. If you know that your arcane caster is itching for a magical duel — or that the rogue will always try reconnaissance first — prepare those kinds of encounters.

Tailoring an adventure to show the heroes in the best light means more fun for everyone. Making an adventure that plays to the party’s weakness might be fun for you, but will only frustrate your players. Don’t take away their spells, sneak attacks, or combat items very often — those are the tools of heroism and the key to fun. Instead, give those strong points a challenge and a chance to shine.

To further tailor an adventure, consider some special encounter types if you have, say, a mounted knight, an archer, a monk, or a paladin in the group.

1) A mounted encounter
2) A ranged attack encounter
3) A chase (see Dungeon Master’s Guide II page 57 for chase rules), either hunting or being pursued.
4) A single-combat encounter or challenge from an honorable foe
5) Another class-specific encounter, such as one that requires bardic song, barbarian tracking, or fighting a ranger’s favored enemy.

Conclusion

Adventures work if they are fun and easy to play, and give every kind of hero a chance to shine in different encounter styles. The most important part of design isn’t the details of a stat block, but the type and variety of opponents and encounters.

About the Author

Wolfgang Baur is the author of dozens of adventures, from the “Kingdom of the Ghouls” and “Gathering of Winds” in Dungeon magazine to upcoming releases from Wizards of the Coast. He offers custom-tailored adventures and professional advice to patrons of the Open Design blog.

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ISIS DOES MORE EVIL SENSELESS SHIT

ISIS Has Destroyed a Nearly 3,000-Year-Old Assyrian Ziggurat

The ziggurat of Nimrud was the ancient city’s central temple

Nimrud Ziggurat
American soldiers in Nimrud in 2008, with the Ziggurat in the background. (Staff Sgt. JoAnn Makinano via Wikimedia Commons)
SMITHSONIAN.COM
NOVEMBER 15, 2016
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In addition to the many human atrocities committed by ISIS, one of its regular calling cards has been the destruction of irreplaceable archaeological sites. Now, even as Iraqi forces work to drive the insurgent group from its strongholds, satellite images show it has left behind a trail of destroyed heritage sites, including a 2,900-year-old ziggurat in the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq.

Predecessors to structures like the Great Pyramids, the ziggurats of Mesopotamia were massive step pyramids built as religious sites. For Nimrud, the capital of the ancient Assyrian civilization, the 140-foot-tall temple was the center of its spiritual life, Caroline Elbaor reports for artnet News. Built about 2,900 years ago by King Ashurnasirpal II, the mud brick structure was dedicated to Ninurta, a god of war and the city’s patron deity.

Iraqi forces announced that they had recaptured Nimrud on Sunday, Dominic Evans and Ahmed Rasheed report for Reuters. While experts are still waiting for permission to examine the damage inflicted on the ancient city, recent satellite images indicate that the ziggurat is no more.

ISIS has made a habit out of publically destroying and vandalizing ancient historical sites throughout its reign in the region, nominally as an attack on traditions and culture that do not fit into its religious beliefs. However, as Benjamin Sutton reports for Hyperallergic, experts unsure exactly why the group destroyed the ziggurat.

“The ziggurat mound is the highest point in the nearby landscape, making it an ideal defensive position for encroaching forces. However, the archaeological site is located in a remote area far from strategic points,” the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives says in a statement. “Alternatively, like the Northwest Palace and the Nabu Temple at Nimrud, the attack could have served a dual purpose: intentional destruction for the composition of future propaganda and retributory violence to demoralize local populations and goad invading military forces. ISIL militants could also have been searching for antiquities in the mound.”

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FCulturalHeritageInitiatives%2Fposts%2F423303684460130&width=500If the militants were looking for treasures to loot, they would have been sorely disappointed by the ziggurat of Nimrud. Unlike the Great Pyramids, which contained internal chambers and passageways, ziggurats were solid mounds made from mud brick, with nothing on the inside but more brick, Richard Spencer reports for The Times.

John Curtis, the president of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, was told about the Nimrud’s destruction in September by Iraqi sources, but was asked to keep the information confidential, Martin Bailey reports for The Art Newspaper. The site at Nimrud still needs to be secured and swept for mines and booby traps left behind by ISIS fighters before civilian experts will be able to visit and assess the damage in person. But whatever the insurgent group’s reasons for demolishing the ziggurat, the result is the destruction of yet another priceless piece of humanity’s cultural heritage.

THE OLDSTERS VAD

October 17, 2016

Tim

Sean is 26 years old, and he runs a game of D&D for people in their 70’s – who just started playing. Read their story below.

(With a bonus interview with the players themselves at the end of the article.)

From left to right: Maureen the Human Fighter, Margiella the High Elf Wizard, Darrak the Dwarven Cleric, Kangaroo the Human Fighter, and Jeffro the Halfling Rogue

Tabletop Terrors: So Sean – your players seem to be a bit more “seasoned” than most—what’s the median age of your players not including you?

Sean: Well it’s a good thing I’m not included here because I would certainly bring down the age a bit, being 26. My grandma is 72, my grandpa is 71, and I’m not exactly sure how old their neighbors are (and I feel like I might lose a couple players if I ask!) but they are in their early-to-mid 60s. We also picked up my mom once she heard about the fun everyone else was having. She’s 51 so that puts our median age at about 63.

It seems like you’re having an absolute blast – what made you decide to try to get these wonderful folks to play D&D?

Honestly they were the ones that pushed for it. I was down at my grandparent’s shore house a few weeks ago relaxing and drawing some maps for another group’s campaign. My grandma asked about what I was doing, and I explained that it was for D&D. She said, “Oh we’d like to play, we love games!”

I actually tried to talk her out of it at first, thinking it would be a waste of time because there was no way that my grandparents would ever be interested in playing D&D. But they pushed the issue and invited me over for dinner, telling me to bring everything I would need for them to play.

I think if I was the one that pushed it on them rather than having them be the driving force behind playing, they never would have gotten into it.

What rules system are you using?

We’re playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition with a little homebrew here and there (mostly because when I don’t know a rule I just try to make something up that sounds fair and then stick with it rather than spend 10 minutes searching through the rulebook).

Are you running pre-made adventures, or making up your own stories? Similarly, are you using pre-generated characters, or did everyone roll their own up?

I’m running them through the 5e starter set campaign, Lost Mines of Phandelver. I may throw in some of my own sidequests here and there if I think of anything they may be interested, but for the most part we’ll probably just stick with LMoP. They’re using the pre-gen characters that come with the starter set, but only for the stats and abilities. I had them decide what their characters’ personalities were like, what drives them to go off and adventure, and what flaws their characters may have that could be problematic. I think they did a great job coming up with their backstories and I also think that by letting them decide on their backgrounds, it helped to get them more invested in the story.

Is everyone using your books and dice, or have any of the players made the leap into buying their own adventuring gear?

For now everyone is using my books and dice. I have enough dice for everyone to have their own set while we play, and I give them the starter set rulebook to use so they can look up their own spells or check on rules that they have questions about. Meanwhile I have the Player’s Handbook on my side of the screen. The plan is for us to play pretty consistently, at least for the next few months. I personally don’t mind them using my stuff for as long as they want, but I could see them wanting to get their own gear as they get more into it.

What has surprised you the most about this endeavor?

I would say I’m most surprised by my grandpa and how he has taken to the game. Out of everyone that’s playing, he is the one that I least expected to get really into his character. He’s a tough guy who has certainly done his share of manual labor, but he’s playing a sneaky, Halfling rogue named Jeffro. He’s really dived in headfirst and has even texted me to talk about his character’s backstory in between sessions.

What has been the most challenging thing that you’ve come up against while trying to play with this group? How did you overcome them?

I think at the end of the day, this group provides a lot of the same challenges that any group of first time players would provide. It’s a balance of simplifying the game in a way that they can learn the rules as they go while still not losing the depth that makes D&D so great.

Right now I think the biggest challenge I’m dealing with is just going to be getting them all on the same page. They are thinking of themselves as individuals – all of them are the heroes of their own story – and that’s not totally a bad thing because it’s helped them get into character. At some point though, they’re going to need to really work together to overcome some tougher challenges. I think they will, though. They’re all smart people, and part of learning the game is learning how your character can synergize with the rest of the group (in terms of decision-making and also in the use of abilities in combat).

The other challenge is going to be finding ways to motivate them in ways other than gold. So far their first question to NPCs asking for favors has been, “how much will you pay us?” Gold is a great motivator, especially for new players, but my hope is that the intrigue of the story starts to cause them to make decisions based off of a desire for information more than for coin. That’s not totally on them though; if I do a good job as DM, that change should happen naturally.

What has been the most rewarding thing?

The most rewarding thing for me as a DM is always just to see my players have fun. That’s true of any group, and even moreso with a group that I didn’t expect to really get into the game the way my grandparents did. I am fortunate to have a really good relationship with them, and being able to share something with them that brings me as much joy as D&D does is awesome.

In general, it’s just really cool being able to play D&D with them. Most people my age who spend time with their grandparents probably have to compromise a bit when it comes to activities. Mine have fortunately always been cooler than the stereotype of what people think of when it comes to older relatives, but this definitely makes Tuesday dinners at their house a lot more interesting.

 

Here’s the DM himself, Sean

*** BONUS: WE INTERVIEW THE PLAYERS. ***

We were able to ask a few of the players their thoughts on D&D. We posed the same three questions to all of them:

1.) What surprised you the most about playing D&D?

2.) What did you find the most challenging?

3.) What is your favorite thing about D&D?

Maureen the Human Fighter’s Answers

1. What surprised me most was even though the names are unusual, I found it easy to follow.

2. The most challenging thing was following my team when I wanted to take a different path.

3. My favorite thing is how everyone embraces their characters and fits into their roles.

Margiella the High Elf Wizard’s Answers

1. I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the adventure. I was not sure when we first started but it challenges your thought process and makes your brain think of strategies to win.

2. The most challenging thing is deciding how to fight the enemy and what is the best weapon to use.

3. My most favorite thing about D & D is that you can play with others as a team and work together to make decisions. We played last night and had a lot of laughs on the adventure. It was obvious that some of our decisions went badly, but we all still laughed about it. This is a game that can bring together people of all ages to have a great time. My grandson is the host and in his twenties, so it is especially enjoyable for me to be able to have that time with him at this point in our lives. I can’t wait for our next game.

Jeffro the Halfling Rogue’s Answers

1. The biggest surprise to me was the intricacy of how the game plays out and how your

choices help to move the game along.

2.  The most challenging thing is as a new player it’s getting familiar with my character and what he is capable of doing.

3.  The thing I enjoy most the molding of my character to what I feel he is supposed to be like.

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VIKING HOMES (ACTUALLY, DANISH HOMES)

What colour did the Vikings paint their houses?

October 16, 2016 – 06:25

Archaeologists in Denmark are busy building one of the largest experimental archaeology reconstruction projects. But what colours would the Vikings have used?

How did the Vikings decorate their houses? Archaeologists from across Denmark have been trying to find out. (Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre)

Did Vikings paint their houses white or red? Which colours were popular, and when?

These questions were the focus of a furious debate among researchers during a seminar entitled “Colourful Vikings” hosted by the Centre for Historical-Archaelogical Research and Communication in Denmark (as also known as Sagnlandet Lejre).

Archaeologists at Sagnlandet Lejre are currently reconstructing a full sized royal Viking hall.

When finished, it will measure 60 metres long, be slightly oval shaped, and built from planks of oak. But exactly what colours the original hall was painted with, remains a mystery.

Eighteenth century preservationist repainted Viking objects

Archaeologists have found a range of wooden Viking objects that have retained some colour, and preserve some evidence of the fashions of the day. But even so, we cannot be completely sure about the exact colours used, says Mads Christensen, a chemist from the National Museum of Denmark.

He refers to objects found in the tomb of Gorm the Old, one of Denmark’s earliest kings, in west Denmark.

“Various wooden objects found in Gorm the Old’s tomb in Jelling were probably painted with white, red, green, black, and yellow. They’re dated to around 960 CE,” says Christensen.

The colours of these 1,000-year-old pieces of timber are no longer visible, but Christensen was able to chemically extract traces of pigment from the wood. But he still cannot tell how intense the original colours might have been.

“We can determine that the colours were there, but we can’t tell how intense they were,” he says.

On top of this, the objects were likely repainted with a protective layer by a well-meaning conservationist in the eighteenth century, which somewhat muddles the results.

Read More: Fashionable Vikings loved colours, fur, and silk

Quicklime was probably a popular choice

Other archaeologists take another view: that Viking houses, or at least royal halls, were painted entirely white.

Should the Viking hall interior be painted white to meet Viking standards? (Photo: Sagnlandet Lejre)

“We found traces of clay with white chalk at the excavations of the Viking halls in Tissø and Lejre. So we think that the houses were covered with quicklime,” says Josefine Franck Bican, a research assistant at the National Museum of Denmark.

This would make a lot of sense, she says.

A white house would be visible from far away, making it a suitable status symbol and landmark. Using quicklime both in and outside the house would have provided effective insulation and a good indoor climate on top of providing light during the dark winter months.

During the Viking colour seminar, Bican ignited another lively discussion when she suggested that the royal hall most likely had windows.

Read More: New Viking graves discovered in Denmark

Glass beads suggest a change in fashion

In any event, it is likely that something exciting happened with colours during the Viking period, says Henriette Lyngstrøm, a Ph.D. student at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

A comparison of coloured glass beads from before the Viking age, indicate that a shift in colour fashion took place, she says.

“When we compare glass beads dated to 600 and 700 CE, there is a clear difference in colour and pattern. Beads dated to 600 CE are predominantly red-brown and have a single colour, whereas beads from 700 CE are variegated with strong colours,” says Lyngstrøm.

The beads cannot tell us anything specific about the Viking period, which was between 800 and 1050 CE. But Lyngstrøm thinks that the early shift in colours might have influenced the Vikings later on.

Read More: Unique jewellery from the British Isles found in Danish Viking grave

“Did they perceive colours as we do?”

Many of the researchers questioned the whole premise of reconstructing colours in the Viking hall. How can we ever know whether we agree with the Vikings about what a colour is?

“There are, for example, many historical sources that suggest the Romans perceived colours differently than we do today,” says Amalie Skovmøller, a Ph.D. student at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

Facts

In 2009, archaeologists excavated the royal hall at Sagnlandet Lejre, near Copenhagen, Denmark.

It is one of the biggest buildings from the Viking period.

The Centre for Historical-Archaelogical Research and Communication (Sagnlandet Lejre) has begun a full size reconstruction of the hall.

Archaeologists are now discussing what colours best represent the original Viking hall.

Source: sagnlandet.dk (in Danish only)

Romans may have perceived colour more as an expression of different hues and nuances, than as an actual perception of red, yellow, or green.

“For example, the concept of purple is used in historical texts to both describe the surface of the sea and a glow in a woman’s eyes and not just the colour that we associate purple with today,” says Skovmøller.

The same could apply to the Vikings, she says.

Read More: Photo gallery: The six styles of Viking art

Can we ever create a truly authentic reconstruction?

But should the archaeologists really be so concerned with figuring out how such a hall may or may not have been painted? During the seminar, discussions often touched on the underlying premise of such an archaeological reconstruction.

“What does ‘authentic’ mean anyway?” says Tobias Jespersen from the Saxo Institute, referring to the ongoing discussion among archaeologists as to whether any reconstruction project can be considered truly authentic.

Jespersen has just written his master’s thesis on the subject.

“Regardless of which colour we choose, the reconstruction will always be inauthentic. Our task as academics is to give the best estimate of a previously impossible task–to recreate the past,” he says.

One suggestion would be to paint the hall in different colours to reflect different time periods.

Archaeologists behind the reconstruction will continue to investigate.

THE GOOD BARBARIAN

Brett | October 14, 2016

A Man’s Life, On Manhood, Podcast

Podcast #243: Becoming a Barbarian

Seven years ago, my guest today published what has become an underground cult classic on masculinity. His name is Jack Donovan and that book was The Way of Men. I had him on the podcast a few years ago to discuss it — check it out if you haven’t listened to it. In The Way of Men, Donovan argued that for men to really live what he calls the “tactical virtues” of masculinity, they need to join an all-male honor group, or what he calls a gang or tribe. In his latest book, Becoming a Barbarian, Donovan lays out what creating these honor groups would look like.

On today’s show, Jack and I discuss why masculinity is often tragic, why today’s modern world makes it hard for men to form male honor groups, the difference between a club and a tribe, and what it means to start the world.

Show Highlights

  • The runaway success of The Way of Men
  • How Becoming a Barbarian is a continuation of The Way of Men
  • The difference between a tribe and club
  • Why masculinity is tragic and requires conflict
  • Anti-fragility and masculinity
  • Why men need other men to fully experience masculinity
  • Why the lone alpha male is a myth
  • Why belonging to a group can make you a more interesting person
  • Why modernity makes it hard to be part of a community
  • Why individualism can make us less free
  • What it means to be a barbarian
  • Why social media gives the illusion of action and influence
  • Can you have an online tribe?
  • Why technology is the opposite of manliness
  • How the Amish can serve as a template for living in a community
  • What do you build a tribe around?

Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast

barbarian

Donovan and I admittedly have different conceptions of manliness. To me, “primal” anthropological/biological manhood should always be coupled with the ancient conception of manliness as virtue. Donovan champions a stripped-down, raw masculinity over and above more lofty conceptions. But even if you disagree with some of his views, his sharp and compelling insights into the core of masculinity force you to re-think your assumptions about what it means to be a man and to live in a community; after all, you can’t build towards higher manhood unless you understand the foundation — you can’t become a Gentleman Barbarian and neglect the barbarian virtues. The ideas in his books are thus worth grappling with. You can pick up copies of The Way of Men and Becoming a Barbarian on Amazon.

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)

THE INDO-GREEKS

Archaeologists Discover Ancient Indo-Greek City in Pakistan

 1545  16 Google +0  1  0  1562

discovery (1)Italian and Pakistani Archaeologists have discovered large layers of an Indo-Greek city with weapons, coins and pottery forms, in Barikot, Pakistan, according to a Dawn report.

Barikot was called Bazira in ancient times, a city captured by Alexander the Great during his advance to India.

Dr. Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, told Dawn that during their recent excavation in April-June they unearthed some very important discoveries in Barikot, in the Swat river valley. Excavations at Barikot are funded by the Pakistan-Italian Debt Swap Program.

“Very little is known in the archaeology of the sub-continent about the material culture of the Indo-Greek. However, this time we discovered at Barikot ample layers associated not only to the Indo-Greek city (when the settlement was encompassed by the Defensive Wall, 2nd century BC), but also to the pre-Greek city, the Mauryan settlement (3rd century BC),” Olivieri told Dawn.

The archaeologist also said that during the excavations it was discovered that all pre-Greek layers were destroyed along the Defensive Wall at the time of its construction, to make space for the fortification, revealing conspicuous traces of the Iron Age village (7th century BC).

– See more at: http://world.greekreporter.com/2016/06/27/archaeologists-discover-ancient-indo-greek-city-in-pakistan/#sthash.mpaOZXsG.dpuf

GRAVEYARD ENCOUNTERS

10 Graveyard Encounters

A collection of graveyard encounters, adventure seeds, and half-baked thoughts…

1. The group stumbles upon a cemetery with tombstones a quarter of the standard size. Engraved on the tombstones are names like Kitty, Tiger, Max, etc. Half the grave soil has been disturbed as if something dug its way out. A meow can be heard in the distance as dozens of undead cats prowl the perimeter of their resting ground.

2. There are numerous mausoleums spread throughout the graveyard. Each one has four gargoyles leering at each of its roof corners. Anyone who crosses the shadow of any of the perched gargoyles will have the shadow come alive and attack. Once slain that gargoyle will no longer cast a shadow.

3. You encounter an elderly man who is digging up a grave. If questioned he tells you that he recently had a dream where his dead wife was calling for him to rescue her.

4. A young girl scream pierces through the cemetery. She is running frantically and crying for help. She and her partner came to the cemetery to make out when decaying arms rose up from the ground and dragged her lover beneath the surface. All that remains is a broken picnic basket, a shredded blanket, and a used sheepskin.

5. You cross paths with a half dozen gravediggers. Their cart is filled with dozens of bodies. Half of them deceased, the other half clinging to life. They tell you the other half will be dead soon enough and there is no point in waiting for the inevitable.

6. As you pass by a gravestone you hear scratching and clawing coming from the ground. The soil begins to break apart and you faintly hear mumbling asking for assistance. A few moments later a ghoulish man in victorian dress and a top hat pull himself out. He believes he is awfully late for a dinner engagement and ask your were Wilson Pub is.

7. A cemetery with a hundred gravestones and 12′ tall memorial plinth in the center. Once a living being enters the cemetery the dead begin to rise from their graves. Wave upon wave of zombies attack. Once a zombie is slain it will reanimate 1 hour later. The plinth in the center of the cemetery has the name of every person buried here. Only by crossing out their names will they stay dead.

8. You stumble upon a gravestone with a square glass in the center of it. Next to the glass are two dials. With the right combination on the dials or a successful disable trap check you are able to speak with the person who’s grave this belongs to. Their image will appear in the square glass and will gladly answer questions.

9. You enter into a graveyard and suddenly realize that the exit is no longer there. As far as the eye can see appears to be an endless rows of tombstones. You quickly realize that all gravestones bear the same name. Only by putting that soul to rest can you escape this distorted reality.

10. In a long abandoned cemetery you meet a farmer planting seeds on the burial plots. He claims that the dead are wonderful fertilizer and the crop yield has remnants of their past memories.

FORE AND AFT, PORT AND STARBOARD

Useful for a wide range of Naval Adventures and Campaigns.

June 23, 2016

Mark S. Cookman

     This is another post following our nautical theme and it includes one of my oldest tables. The table is a simple one and is honestly little more than a nautical vocabulary list, but it was the result of a hard won lesson. My hope is to help novice GM’s learn this lesson in a less painful manner than I did. Let me tell you a story.

     It is the late ’80’s and I am in college. I have a job and am a full time (15 credit hours) student of organic chemistry with a B average. For some reason, I believe that I can also have a social life and maintain this status (BTW, I could NOT.) so I also play various RPG’s. Currently, I am the GM for a game of Flashing Blades, for which I had prepared a murder mystery in a roadhouse type of adventure. Because I was an inexperienced GM, I allowed the PC’s, a group of rich and powerful French nobles, to purchase a ship and set sail away from my adventure.

     At the time though, I thought that I was in control of things. I believed that I could just adapt the adventure to occur on the boat during its trip to the New World. At the time, I didn’t want to make my players unhappy by telling them no. It was a dreadful mistake. The copious notes that I had on the roadhouse and its occupants were now basically garbage. I could salvage some names and other stuff, but that was it. I wasn’t going to say, “I’m sorry guys, but I just don’t really have anything prepared.” The group seemed excited to be on a boat, so I thought I could just go with the flow. The adventure went wrong from the very beginning because I wasn’t able to just say, “The ship will take at least a day to prepare to sail. You will need to spend the night in the inn.”

     It was truly a disaster of a gaming session. I knew less than half of what I needed to know to run a good adventure. I knew the name of the murder victims and how they were killed. I knew who (what actually because it was a shape-shifting demon) the murderer was and how the PC’s had to kill it. I did not, however, have a map of a ship (or even a good idea of what places there were on a ship), nor did I know what crew positions the murdered people filled. When the players began to ask completely reasonable questions, I couldn’t answer them at all. I had spent 3 hours earlier in the week preparing for the roadhouse adventure and yet our session fell apart because I wasn’t prepared to answer some simple questions about the setting, which was now a ship. The group was forgiving, but I had let them down. I started learning things about ships for our next session and today’s list comes from some of that research. Here are 20 Positions on a Ship Besides the Captain. Happy Gaming!

  1. Quartermaster

  2. Sailmaster

  3. Navigator

  4. Bosun

  5. Gunnery Master

  6. Carpenter

  7. Gunner

  8. Common Sailor

  9. Cook

  10. Loblolly Boy

  11. Cabin Boy

  12. Powder Monkey

  13. Shanty Man

  14. The Lookout

  15. First Mate

  16. Officer of the Watch

  17. Ship’s Pilot

  18. Coxswain

  19. Sailmaker

  20. Cartographer

NO, SET PHASERS TO KILL

Disgusting, lawyered-up pusses…

New “Star Trek” Fan Film Guidelines Appear To Take Aim At Several Productions

“The fan production must … not exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.”

Star Trek Continues. Trek Continues

Set phasers on stunned: The vast ecosystem of Star Trek fan productions is about to undergo a radical change after CBS and Paramount Pictures released a set of new fan film guidelines.

According to the 10-point guidelines released on Thursday, Trek fan productions cannot “exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes,” cannot include “Star Trek” in their titles, cannot involve anyone who has worked on Star Trek films or series, and cannot raise more than $50,000 for an individual production. In return for following these and other guidelines, CBS and Paramount state they “will not object to, or take legal action against” any “non-professional and amateur” fan productions.

Most prominently, the guidelines would severely restrict plans for Axanar, the Trek fan film that CBS and Paramount sued for copyright infringement in December, and the production that appears to have sparked the guidelines in the first place. Gary Graham was set to reprise his role from Star Trek: Enterprise as a Vulcan ambassador; the production raised over $1.2 million in crowdfunding campaigns; and creator Alec Peters had planned for Axanar to be a feature-length production well over the 30-minute time limit.

The guidelines also seem to directly affect several of the most popular and well-regarded Trek fan productions over the past two decades, many of which operate as ongoing “series,” including Star Trek Continues and Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. The former has raised well over $300,000 via several crowdfunding campaigns to support its elaborate recreations of the sets from the original Trek TV series, and the latter has featured episodes guest starring established Trek actors like Walter Koenig and George Takei.

Meanwhile, Star Trek: Voyager star Tim Russ is currently directing and starring in Star Trek Renegades: The Requiem, which co-stars Trek alum like Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Terry Farrell, Robert Picardo, and Robert Beltran. According to the new guidelines, none of these actors would be able to continue with the production.

In response to the guidelines, Star Trek Continues creator and star Vic Mignognanoted in a Facebook post that the production “has the utmost respect for CBS and their right to protect their property as they see fit,” and that he is not yet certain what impact the new guidelines will have on his production. (The other aforementioned productions did not immediately respond to requests to comment, and a spokesperson for CBS said she could not comment on how the guidelines would affect individual fan productions.)

Alec Peters in Prelude to Axanar. Axanar Productions

As BuzzFeed News detailed in a story last week, the lawsuit between Axanar Productions and CBS and Paramount has drawn so much attention that J.J. Abrams — who is producing the latest film, Star Trek Beyond — announced at aTrek fan event in May that due to lobbying from Beyond’s director Justin Lin, the lawsuit would be “going away” in a matter of weeks.

CBS and Paramount subsequentlyannounced in a joint statement that, along with its ongoing settlement negotiations with Axanar Productions, the studios were “working on a set of fan film guidelines.” While those guidelines are now official, however, the suit continues to be litigated by both sides.

In a brief joint statement from CBS and Paramount to BuzzFeed News on Thursday, a spokesperson said that lawsuit talks are still “ongoing,” and that the companies “continue to be hopeful that we will reach a settlement shortly.”

Peters told BuzzFeed News in April that he had specifically asked CBS executives for fan film guidelines in August 2015. “They told me, ‘We can’t tell you what you can do, and we can’t tell you what you can’t do, but we’ll tell you when you’ve crossed the line,’” said Peters. “I kind of was frustrated, because I wanted guidelines.”

In a statement to BuzzFeed News on Thursday, however, Peters made clear that the guidelines CBS and Paramount ultimately created were not what he wanted:

I’m really disappointed that this set of guidelines represents the studios’ best efforts on behalf of fans. These guidelines appear to have been tailor-made to shut down all of the major fan productions and stifle fandom. In no way can that be seen as supportive or encouraging, which is very disheartening.

While CBS and Paramount claim to want to encourage the passion of fans to produce “reasonable fan fiction”, the restrictions presented do just the opposite, willfully ignoring over forty years of fan works that helped buoy the Star Trekfranchise through some very lean years and enthusiastically spread the magic of the franchise in more plentiful times.

Around the franchise’s 50th anniversary, we would have hoped CBS and Paramount would have taken this opportunity to unite with Star Trek fans in celebration of their creativity, not seek to crush it.

UPDATE

This story has been updated with statements regarding the Star Trek fan film guidelines from Axanar creator Alec Peters and Star Trek Continues creator Vic Mignogna. Jun. 23, 2016, at 4:55 p.m.

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES – ALL THING

Very, very nice… from Ed

My 6-Year-Old Designed A Dungeon, And It’s Terrifying

Well met, adventurers! Today I am going to do something you have not seen me do before. Something bizarre and unexpected. I am going to gush about my kid. I had meant to write this prior to Father’s Day weekend, but things here at BardCo have become somewhat hectic, what with school letting out for the summer, sports programs beginning, and new multimedia ventures coming to fruition. Suffice to say, this is a little late, but still retains much of its potency.

There are two things you should know about me. The first is that I am a fan of the old Gygaxian dungeon crawls of yore, with its pitfalls and terrors beyond reckoning. They were punishments disguised as fun, and damn it if he didn’t accomplish both. Never have I had so much fun being rent asunder or crushed to death, or boiled alive, or having my soul torn out or… well, you get the picture.

The second thing your should know about me is that my young son has a strong desire to play D&D or Pathfinder. He can’t decide which cover art is cooler. He likes to play with the minis I have on hand, set up my terrain, draw maps on my dry erase flip mat, and tell a story. Sometimes he even asks to use my dungeon master screen for reasons that are unknown but undoubtedly sinister.

If was a few months ago that he asked me if he could “Make a dungeon” for my weekly group.  I gave a wry chuckle and found myself filled with something I believe to be a mix of pride and amusement. I gave him the go-ahead, handed him a Monster Manual and a Bestiary, a couple magic markers, and a boat load of minis, and he went about his dark work. What he created still gives me pause. It would have been an act of pure cruelty and insidious design.

And it was good.

I’ve given the map he gave me the digital upgrade, as the only remaining picture I have of it (aside from the one seared into my mind’s eye), is blurry as all-get-the-funk-out. I will detail each room of this two level horror show.

The Tomb Of Xandarr, The Cruel
 The first thing you may note about the “Tomb” is that it is a little oddly shaped. The triangles, rectangles, squares, and ovals (all shapes easily recognizable to a Kindergartener) that are connected together by a series of strangely-shaped hallways. But when you really take a look at it, a couple things become apparent.
First, the rooms aren’t the typical square rooms we’re used to in dungeons, leading someone who has no idea the whole thing was designed by a 6-year-old to believe that the entire complex was created by a madman with some issues. The rooms are chaotic, adhering to no symmetry or even consistency. There is no sense of familiarity between rooms since they vary in size and shape with each new chamber. This puts characters on the defensive, never knowing what each room might hold. Granted, this should be the normal state of mind for every character going into a dungeon.
Secondly, those hallways. If you are playing with players who get paranoid easily, these halls are nightmares. Bizarre angles and narrow passages make for an almost claustrophobic setting. Without realizing it, my wee geekling is playing a psychological game with the players, putting them through their paces and tearing away any semblance of peace.
Now, let’s get into Level 1
Section 1 – Orc Encampment: “A crooked and jagged hallway of jutting stones zigs and zags its way toward a mostly rectangular chamber. Grunts from the eastern wall signal that the room is occupied. Half a dozen burly orcs rise from a sitting position gripping cruel axes.”
The dungeon begins with a pretty straight forward fight between the characters and a band of orcs camping in the room. I say camping because that is what my son explicitly said they were doing. In my “Game Master must justify everything” brain, I reasoned the orcs were about to enter the dungeon and made camp in this empty and defensible first room to regain their strength for the path ahead.
For most characters who enter this room, this battle should be a breeze. Since I figure the average party should be about level 8 to take on the bulk of the dungeon, six orcs is a pittance. Still, with good tactics and focused fire, the orcs could still pose a problem, especially if the retreat down the hall in the north end of the room, which would bottleneck the players.
Section 2 – The Pit of Mummies: “This oval, domed, stone chamber is mostly empty. The walls are bare and there are not sconces for torches. The only thing of import seems to be a single, simple stone sarcophagus sitting in the center of the room. Small cracks run the length of the dust-covered floor like a spider web.”
Most dungeons will place their boss at the end. My 6-year-old says “To hell with conformity” and sticks that sonnova bitch in room 2! But he was not content with a simple boss fight. No. He wanted a boss fight with a trap. He wanted a boss fight in a trap! The stone sarcophagus sits in the center of a fragile circle. If a character spends more than two rounds on the surface of the circle, if two stand on it at once, or if two characters pass over it one at a time, the floor will give way into a 40-foot free fall onto a spiked floor. That’s a little rough, especially considering on top of the spikes you are also taking bludgeoning damage from the falling rocks.
But wait! There’s more!
Once the sarcophagus breaks after the fall, it reanimates the mummy lord within. This is Xandarr, and he doesn’t take kindly to being woken up. When I asked my progeny what kind of magic spells he had, he simply said, “Ones that make characters fall down so when they fall down they fall on spikes.”
That’s actually kind of evil. So, here is the scenario. If the floor collapses (because the encounter is actually entirely avoidable), any poor bastards that find themselves on the floor need to make dexterity or reflex saving throws. Anyone that screws the pooch ends up at the bottom of a 40-foot deep pit of spikes fighting a mummy lord that can put them back on those spikes with a wave of his hand.
 “Are you my mummy?”
Did I mention the second mummy down here? Oh yeah. Impaled on one of the spikes is yet another mummy. Granted, this is just your run of the mill mummy, but damn! That just ups the chances of the poor characters stuck in the pit to get a fun case of mummy rot (still sounds like an STD).
What’s more, the rest of the characters would be stuck up above, trying to find something to attach  a rope to, of which there is nothing. Melee characters would either have to traverse the rope and hope the mummy lord isn’t leveling spells at them or jump and deal with the spiky goodness. Those that choose the rope are looking at a 2-3 round commitment since the  average climb speed is 15-feet, and the pit is more than twice that.
The walls of the pit are flat and smooth (not to mention round, so no corners to shimmy up), making climbing out without assistance a virtual nightmare as far as difficulty is concerned (and failure meaning another trip to spike town).
On the plus side, the mummy lord is carrying an amulet that can make your skin as tough as stone, so hooray for loot. On the downside, the mummy lord is wearing said amulet, and would be foolish not to use it.
Evil, evil child.
 “There is nothing more precious than the laughter of a child.”
Section 3 – Trapped Hallway: “The door opens to a 25-foot long hallway. The hallway stretches off into a straight line, but there seems to be a five-foot deep, 10-foot long recess on the eastern side. Seven stone tiles make up the floor, each emitting a clicking sound when stepped upon. A stone door stands at the far end of the hall.”
My kid loves Minecraft. Moreover, he loves pressure plates and making them do things. This is a simple hallway, but a very complicated hallway at the same time. Immediately, a canny rogue is going to realize that every single inch of floor is a pressure plate. This makes the rogue’s job so much more difficult. Not to mention that recess. What is that? What even is that? Is it a trap?
Oddly enough, no. It’s just the shape of the hall. The mean part comes when an unfortunate character stands in front of the door leading out of the hall. Should they fail to disarm the trap, or if they step on the pressure plate before the door, that entire 10-foot section of wall on the eastern side of the door springs forward and crushes anyone standing there.
 “Holy broken bones, Batman!”
It’s sort of a fake-out. A trap fake out. The recess screams “look at me!” when it’s the stationary wall that is the killer aspect here. I am both proud and afraid on the kiddo.
Section 4 – Go Ahead. Touch It: “This triangular room is lit with a pair of torches on the northeastern and northwestern  walls. The torches burn with a sickly blue flame that casts the chamber in a ghostly light. A small pedestal stands at the apex of the triangle. Atop it rests a smooth violet jewel that size of a child’s fist. There is a pair of stone doors on the eastern wall.”
“What’s in this room?” I asked my son as he drew the funny triangle.
“A stone.” he replied matter-of-factly, “It’s purple. If you touch it it automatically steals your soul.” he continued, drawing a tiny stone in the room.
That’s right, the ultimate game of “I dare you to touch it.” The danger in this room is easily bypassed. Just walk on out. But that gem. That gem is likely to get someone into trouble. Let’ss face it, we all know that one player that can’t talk past a shiny red button without pressing it. Even if the button had a “Do not touch the red button” sign hanging over it, they would still have to push it, just to know what happens. Hell, more than one of us has been that character at one point or another.
“Touch not, lest ye be touched.”
The punishment for greed or curiosity is the loss of your soul. No save. Yeah, I made sure to ask him about that, but he insisted that it was automatic.
I asked, “Why?”
“Because they touched it.”
Can’t argue with that.
Section 5 – Dragonfire Pass: “This curved hallway has intricate carvings of dragons set into the stone walls. The doorways on the west and south are carved into the shape of dragon’s jaws. A strange and pungent odor fills the air here, leaving a sort of haze. The ground is wet, with a shimmering purple film seeping in between tiles and cracks.”
When I told my son about a dungeon I’d created where a bunch of kobolds lit everyone on fire with flammable liquid on the floor (such are out dinner conversations), his eyes grew wide and he couldn’t help but tell his grandmother, and anyone else who would listen. It was, I think, cool to him.
So cool, in fact, that he wanted to do something like it in his dungeon. The hall, as he told me, had dragon heads near the doors. The center of the hall marks the trigger for a burning hands spell to erupt from the dragon heads on both ends, and set the oil-soaked floor ablaze.
  “It’s a disco inferno.”
Sweet. Simple. Barbeque characters. Even if they didn’t get a soul stolen, the hall can easily become a serious pain in the ass, especially for those bringing up the rear. What’s worse is that the door at the end of the hall is locked. How good is your rogue? Picking a lock while burning to death good?
Section 6 – Treasure Room: “The door opens revealing a large rectangular room with heaps of gold coins and overflowing chests of treasure. The room is lit by torches in each corner. The flickering firelight dances upon each glinting bobble. An iron door stands against the south wall.”
Treasure! Who doesn’t love treasure? And there are piles of it here. Coins, gems, magic weapons, and armor. Everything an adventurer could want. But apparently, I have raised the kind of child that doesn’t let anything come too easily. I blame years of telling him to clean his room.
Something lives in the piles of treasure. Well, lives may not be the word. A pair of dread wraiths haul ass out of the coins like a demonically possessed Scrooge McDuck. Dread Wraiths, as I am sure you know, are not kind creatures. My son equally so. With a plethora of enemies at his disposal, he hand picked the wraiths because, of course, they looked cool.
 “Rule of cool.”
Section 7 – The False Exit: “The iron door opens to a long hallway with a simple wooden door at the end. Hanging over the door is a small sign that says ‘EXIT’. The walls of this hall are bare.”
The characters beat the bad guys, got the treasure, and managed to live. Now it is time to get out and  enjoy the spoils. Except, this isn’t an actual entrance. That wooden door leads to nothing. The hall, on the other hand, does lead somewhere, and it’s nowhere good.
The hall, according to my spawn, is like a seesaw. If more than one character heads to the door, the weight will tilt the entire floor, effectively turning the hall into a massive chute. A chute to where?
Well… Nightmareville, basically.
Room 8 – Arena With Two WHATS?!: “The chute leads to what looks like a large arena with a dirt floor. Empty seats encircle the arena, void of spectators. Two large creatures hover above the ground. They have massive, fanged mouths with a sickeningly huge, singular eye. A number of stocks jut from this monstrous floating head, each with an eye of its own.”
 “Eye see what you did there.”
 I had to ask him three times to be sure. He was sure. Not only had he taken the notion of escape from the players, he pitted them up against not one, but two beholders, or as he called it, “The monster on the front of the book.”
“No. Just no.”
The fight is pretty straightforward, or at least as straightforward as a fight with two beholders can be. All the characters need to do is defeat them and they can get out. According to my son, the door only opens when both are dead.
I don’t think everyone will be getting out of this one alive.
“Kids these days.”
There we are. Short, simple, brutal. I should be making some comment about child-like innocence, but honestly, after that… I think he might be pure evil.
The kid has a promising future as a Game Master.
Roll well, my friends,

+Ed The Bard 

STAR TREK BRIDGE CREW

You’re in Command with Star Trek: Bridge Crew

StarTrek.com Staff

June 13, 2016

Today at E3 in Los Angeles, Ubisoft announced a fall release for Star Trek: Bridge Crew, a new virtual reality game that will allow players to explore space as a member of the Federation. Supporting the announcement: a cool video featuring LeVar Burton, Jeri Ryan and Karl Urban trying out the game. Playable co-operatively with a crew or solo as Captain, Star Trek: Bridge Crew puts players directly onto the bridge in a Starfleet ship. The game will be available on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Bridge Crew puts a player and their friends in the heart of a brand-new starship, the U.S.S. Aegis, where every action and decision made will determine the fate of the ship and her crew. The overriding mission is as follows: Explore a largely uncharted sector of space known as The Trench, in hopes of locating a suitable new home world for the decimated Vulcan populace — while coming into direct conflict with the vaunted Klingon Empire.
As developed by Red Storm Entertainment, a Ubisoft Studio, Bridge Crew is designed exclusively for VR. It capitalizes on the powerful sense of social presence only possible through virtual reality. Through hand tracking and full-body avatars, including real-time lip-sync, players can experience what it’s like to serve as an officer on the bridge of a Federation starship.
As a crew, players will form a team of four to operate the roles of Captain, Helm, Tactical or Engineer. Each role is crucial to the success of the varied missions players face, and only by working together can the crew complete their objectives. Also playable in solo, players will assume the role of Captain and dispatch orders to their NPC crew mates. The Captain’s strategic decisions will be vital in order to successfully complete missions. In other words, it’s your ship and you’re in command.

Keep an eye on StarTrek.com for additional details about Star Trek: Bridge Crew.

– See more at: http://www.startrek.com/article/youre-in-command-with-star-trek-bridge-crew#sthash.pGLwqy04.dpuf

HIGH CRAFT – LOST LIBRARY

HIGH CRAFT

This article on Viking clothing reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to discuss for some time now. In my games and in my writings, Craft (and by that I mean High Craft), often plays a large and beneficial role in both individual matters and even in larger events.

Using boots and shoes as an example characters have both found and had created for them (by master craftsmen) footwear that is not magical but rather so well crafted that it provides real benefits, such as resistance to extreme temperatures, resistance to wear and replacement, comfort befitting improved endurance or resistance to things like trench foot or blistering, and when they concentrate upon certain tasks (such as running, hiking, climbing, jumping, or stealth) they give definite though temporary advantages.(The characters must concentrate upon the task, for instance, and declare or show evidence that they are trying hard to sneak, or paying attention to their climb – but then such boots give temporary but definite advantages).Such boots or other items and gear (weapons, clothing, tools, etc.) are not magical at all but rather of such high quality and clever construction that they give measurable advantages over other items not constructed by master craftsmen.

(Though really well constructed items of High Craft might very easily be discovered far more susceptible to being enchanted at a later date than more mundane items. That is to say items of High Craft can be far more easily enchanted or ensorceled and such magics will far more easily affix and permanently secure themselves to objects of High Craft than to less well made implements.)

 

The same could be said to apply in a larger sense to whole groups of people. Nations with master craftsmen or smiths or even entire shops, foundries, and industrial operations devoted to High Craft (and invention and innovation) can produce gear and weapons and armor and equipment that gives a particular army a real and measurable advantage over another less well equipped force. Maybe even, en masse, a very large advantage. Again, not a magical advantage but a qualitative advantage of High Craftsmanship.

Though in a Tolkienesque sense it could easily be argued that High Craft is a form of “magic.” That High Craft is precisely what much magic really is.

With me however, at least in games, I usually use Magic as something “added to” or above and beyond even the Highest of Crafts. Though in my writings and novels High Craft and Magic are sometime synonymous and interchangeable or fungible, depending upon the particular circumstances of precisely what is being discussed.

I know that some use craft as a part of their game(s) and writings and some do not, but if you do, then what are some of the ways you use High Craft as an advantage on any level?

How do you use and employ High Craft in your own creations?

 

The Vikings Used Comfortable Shoes

Osberg Ship Viking Shoe One of the original boots found in the Oseberg Burial Mound dating back to 834 AD. (Photo:skinnblogg.blogspot.no)A number of complete Viking Age shoes found in Scandinavia and England have the same characteristics. They are flexible, soft and mostly made of cattle hide, but also other kinds of leather was used.There are complete shoes found in the Oseberg ship burial mound in Norway, Hedeby trading center in Denmark, and Coppergate (York, Viking Age Jorvik, Editor’s note) in England.

All three of these discoveries show a similar construction and form typical for the Middle Ages.

The shoes found in the Oseberg ship consists of two main parts, soles and uppers, and are so-called “turn shoes”.

(Article continues)

Reconstructed Oseberg Viking Shoes

Reconstructed boots found in the Oseberg burial mound, by Bjørn Henrik Johansen. (Photo: Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no) 

The shoemaker stitched the shoe together inside out, and then turned right side out when finished. This hides the main seam, prolongs the life and prevents moisture from leaking in.

Viking Age shoes (793 – 1066AD) were well suited for use in wintertime by using thick, felted wool socks and fur inside.

Materials and Tools

Studies of the leather shows that mainly cattle hide was used from the 9th to mid-11th century and was typically 1 – 3 millimeter thick.

(Article continues)

Coppergate Viking Shoe York

Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England. (Photo: definedlearning.com via Pinterest)

A bristle or metal needle was used stitching flax, hemp, or a combination of the two. Shears or blades were used to cut the leather, and a simple awl to punch the holes.

At Coppergate twelve examples of iron shears were found.

Tanning and Color

Vegetable tan was the primary method for tanning, but also alum tans and oil tans were used in luxury leathers.

(Article continues)

Reconstructed Coppergate York Viking Shoe

Reconstructed Anglo-Scandinavian Shoe found in Coppergate, York, England by Bjørn Henrik Johansen.  (Photo: by Bjørn Henrik Johansen/ skinnblogg.blogspot.no)

Modern vegetable tans are much stiffer due to industrialization and shortening of the process and are unsuited for turn shoes.

Like today, elaborately made clothing and shoes were visible proves of high social status.

Scientists have concluded that the better-quality shoes and boots had much more color than can be seen from archaeological discoveries.

BONDSTON

He looks a great deal more like Ian Fleming, a classic Brit, and a WWII era Brit than any other Bond I’ve ever seen. And having watched him as Loki and Henry he’s certainly crafty enough.

 

Tom Hiddleston In Talks To Be New James Bond — Report

By Vikram Murthi | IndiewireMay 27, 2016 at 2:08PM

Sony representative had no comment on the matter.

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The Night Manager
“The Night Manager”

Tom Hiddleston is having quite the year with starring roles in Ben Wheatley’s “High-Rise,” about a tower block stratified by class that devolves into chaos, Marc Abraham’s “I Saw The Light,” a Hank Williams biopic, and the AMC limited series “The Night Manager,” based on the John le Carré novel of the same name. Now, BMD reports that a source has confirmed that Tom Hiddleston is in talks to replace Daniel Craig as the new James Bond. Though no official offer has been made, Hiddleston is interested in the job and the relevant discussions are under way. Indiewire reached out to a Sony representative on the matter and they had no comment.

READ MORE: Why the Next James Bond Won’t Be a Woman

If Tom Hiddleston were cast as Bond, he would be the eighth actor to play the role after Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. The Bond film series kicked off with “Dr. No” in 1962, after which Bond films were released at steady clip until 1989 when a legal dispute stalled the series until 1995 with the release of “GoldenEye.” In 2006, Eon Productions effectively rebooted the series with “Casino Royale” and Craig who portrayed Bond much closer to author Ian Fleming’s vision of the character. The last Bond film was “Spectre,” which received a mixed-to-negative reception.

READ MORE: Ranked: Every James Bond Film From Best To Worst

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THE TOMB…?

If true then that’s superb!

Photo

A bust of Aristotle.

ATHENS — A Greek archaeologist who has been leading a 20-year excavation in northern Greece said on Thursday that he believed he had unearthed the tomb of Aristotle.

In an address at a conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, commemorating the 2,400th anniversary of Aristotle’s birth, the archaeologist, Konstantinos Sismanidis, said he had “no proof but strong indications, as certain as one can be,” to support his claim.

The tomb was in a structure unearthed in the ancient village of Stagira, where Aristotle was born, about 40 miles east of Thessaloniki. According to Mr. Sismanidis, the structure was a monument erected in Aristotle’s honor after his death in 322 B.C.

“We had found the tomb,” he said. “We’ve now also found the altar referred to in ancient texts, as well as the road leading to the tomb, which was very close to the city’s ancient marketplace within the city settlement.”

Although the evidence of whose tomb it was is circumstantial, several characteristics — its location and panoramic view; its positioning at the center of a square marble floor; and the time of its construction, estimated to be at the very beginning of the Hellenistic period, which started after the death of Aristotle’s most famous student, Alexander the Great, in 323 B.C. — “all lead to the conclusion that the remains of the arched structure are part of what was once the tomb-shrine of Aristotle,” Mr. Sismanidis said.

Black Sea

KOSOVO

BULGARIA

Adriatic Sea

MACEDONIA

Istanbul

ITALY

ALBANIA

Stagira

Aegean Sea

GREECE

TURKEY

Ionian Sea

Athens

200 Miles

Mediterranean Sea

Aristotle, who was born in 384 B.C., was a pupil of Plato in Athens and became a crucial figure in the emergence of Western philosophy. His work forms the basis of modern logic, and his metaphysics became an integral part of Christian theology. His “Poetics” still offers penetrating analysis of what works, and does not work, in theater. King Philip II of Macedon engaged him as a tutor to his son Alexander.

Today’s Headlines: European Morning

Get news and analysis from Europe and around the world delivered to your inbox every day in the European morning.

https://regilite.nytimes.com/regilite?product=EE&theme=Transparent&landing=true&addSlot=true&app=newsletter&sourceApp=nyt-v5&title=Today%E2%80%99s+Headlines+European+Morning

A separate excavation in another part of northern Greece, Amphipolis, in 2014 led to the discovery of the largest ancient tomb ever found in the country. Speculation linking the tomb to Alexander the Great set off huge media interest, but archaeologists later concluded that it had probably been built for a close companion of the king and conqueror.

ESSAY THIRTEEN: SCIENTIFICA MAGICA

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

Essay Thirteen: Scientifica Magica

Now before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, based only upon the title of this post, let me state clearly that I am not one of those gamers or writers who favor turning magic (in either game or fiction) into a mere exercise in science and technology under a different name. I am not for “scientificizing magic.

I am not in favor of turning either game magic or fictional magic into science by another name, nor am I one of those who favor making magic operate under closely regulated and studied rules of scientific function or with mathematical precision. I like my magic wild, uncontrolled to some degree, definitely unpredictable, prone to malfunction and misfire, and in most other ways outright dangerous.

 

image: http://d15osn4tlmtdxb.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2006/03/img-Burne-Jones.jpg

(You know, much like a woman. Now I say that half-jokingly, but only half jokingly. To me science and technology should operate like a man – with precision, with mathematical certainty, with rules, with predictability. Now am I saying all men are this way? God no, and I can only wish. I know real people as they truly are, you see, and that is merely a philosophical postulate of how male types would operate ideally, logically, and rationally. Sort of like saying all Vulcans should be like Spock.

On the other hand women should be unpredictable, without Newtonian mathematical precision, with emotional flare and passion, fuzzy and quantum at the edges, hard to pin down, and in more than one way, truly dangerous. Generalizations of course, and type generalizations as well, but they make the point. Magic to me should not be Science and science should not be magic despite all the modern Geekery in games and fiction that would have them be, in effect, merely interchangeable and fungible concepts for the same thing.)

Science should be amazing in what it can achieve but predictable in how it operates, Magic should be almost miraculous in what it achieves but largely unpredictable and untamed in both technical function and in its methods of operation. The very point of science is to be controlled and safe, reliable and commonplace, not dangerous, for a dangerous and rare science defeats the very purpose and function of being scientific. On the other hand the very essence of magic is to be rare, uncontrolled – especially in comparison to science and the mundane – and unreliable. For indeed if you have a magic that is too easy to control, utterly predictable, reliable, safe, and ubiquitous then you don’t really have Magic at all, you simply have science under the flimsy and inaccurate guise and faulty nomenclature of “magic.”)

Now all of that being said there is one way in which I favor the intersection of magic and science and that is in the analytical and detective capabilities of modern science, which often border closely upon the frontiers of what I would actually call magic. Or at least magical in effect.

Being an amateur scientist and having a near lifelong interest in physics, forensics, archaeology, medicine, chemistry and biochemistry I often keep up to date on new papers and techniques in those fields and have recently been studying several superb new and relatively new methods of analyzing, collating, detecting, examining, and understanding archaeological and forensic evidence. Such as the use of LIDAR, magnetic surface and subsurface scans, satellite imagery sweeps in the infrared, multiple data source computer modeling, etc.

In thinking on those things and what they can accomplish it has recently occurred to me that a new type of “magic” (of a kind rarely ever encountered in gaming and fiction) could easily be developed to mimic such scientific technologies without necessarily being limited to being scientific in operation.

For instance I have recently begun developing “spells” for both game and fictional use that mimic such new discovery techniques without presenting themselves in a scientific or predictable manner. I won’t specifically describe these “magics” in detail or enumerate the spells themselves as that would take too long and as one could easily develop multiple spells from these general categories in any case, but I will briefly describe a couple of these “spell types” for you to consider in developing your own magics in this regard.

1. REENLIVENING SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour over an area or other target and can then present, in a complex still or even a moving image, the events that occurred long ago in a particular area, concerning certain bodily remains, etc. For instance the spell could take you back into time (figuratively speaking) to see events that had occurred long in the past, such as making you privy to a particular conversation, an event in the life of a person long dead, to witness a long forgotten or unrecorded (or even an historical) event so that you could view such things occurring for yourself. These would be very different spells from something like Speak with Dead because you would be an observer and witness, not a conversant, and such results would not be limited to mere third party descriptions but rather you would be a first hand, though passive, observer.

2. RECONSTRUCTION SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour over an area of building or object and that allows you to see that area or building or object as it looked at another period (of the past), say at the point of its making or shaping or construction. Via the use of such an enchantment you could see a building as it is designed and constructed, an object as it is manufactured, or perhaps even several different time periods (in sequence or simultaneously overlain against one another) and their interactions, tracing the construction or object through time to several different time-points to gain detailed information about its history.

3. REENACTMENT SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour over a large area or maybe a specific person or set of remains that allows one to view, hear, feel, taste, smell, and magically touch the reenactment of a famous battle, an unknown war, the forging of a weapon, a day in the life or an individual, or even the vision, trance, or dream of another individual or creature. The emphasis here would not be merely upon the gathering of information or the witnessing of an event, but more directly upon a sort of shared (or in this case reenacted/relived) past experience. Perhaps such a spell would actually allow you to become another person, another creature, or even an inanimate (but magically aware) object for a certain period of time.

4. RECREATION SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour upon a particular object, building, device, etc. that can recreate a visual, interactive image of the same. Higher levels spells of this type can actually recreate a physically real or similar mock-up of the original object based upon the information gathered from the object remains by the initial glamour. Still higher level spells can recreate usable approximations of even formerly magical objects (though the magic contained in the reconstructed objects may be limited) and the very highest level such recreation spells can even recreate working (though not necessarily magical in any way) models of previously lost artifacts and relics (assuming there are any remains left for the glamour to read).

5. PROJECTION SPELLS – One of the other types of spells would have to be enacted first, but, once that was done, and using the information or experiences gathered from that initial set of magics a spell caster could then seek to work a secondary set of spells that would allow one to project what would happen in the future regarding one’s chosen target or set of targets. For instance say you were in an existing castle, you could then use a projection spell to analyze and predict how it might fall to ruins, what part of the construction would be destroyed, what parts preserved, why, and by what agencies of destruction or even of renovation or preservation.

As I said above I will not enumerate the specific spells I have developed using these categories or ideas of magical effects because I don’t want to limit your imagination to my conceptions. I think every DM or player or writer ought to develop their own ideas regarding the specifics of this concept.

However I will say this, that when it comes to the operations of “magic” in my own milieus and worlds and writings every use of magic is at least tinged, and sometimes heavily tainted, with the possibility of danger, misdirection, and even failure and misfire. For instance considering the spell types above perhaps the information gleaned from such a spell will be entirely accurate, then again perhaps the work will be only partially accurate, or even mostly inaccurate. Perhaps the caster intends to see an image of one particular fortification or construction site and what he actually sees is an entirely different site. Perhaps the spell will fail entirely (with no discernable consequence or with great and dire consequence). Perhaps the spell will erroneously mix information from several different objects together and produce an amalgam of an object that does not really exist. Perhaps the spell will cause a “Rogue Projection” that will attempt to divine or even produce an unanticipated future rather than accurately display the past. Or perhaps the spell will draw the unwanted attention of some dangerous creature or being that is monitoring or warding the intended target.

The dangers surrounding the use of such magics, as with the use of any such game or fictional magic, could be nearly inexhaustible.

And I fully encourage such dangers, just as I encourage the dangers inherent in the use of any magic.

Magic is, after all, not science. And it should not operate like science. Even when it closely mimics the basic functions of science and technology (as in the case of the “spells” described above), it should be remain essentially separate and distinct in operational methods and in general nature.

For even if magic yields an essentially scientific purpose this does not mean that it should in any way reproduce a technological outcome or result.

It should always remain dangerous, rare, unpredictable, mysterious, and “magical.”

Otherwise it is mere science under another name

WORLD WAR ZERO – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME (AND PAST)

WORLD WAR ZERO?

Indeed, as I’ve been saying for decades, the First World War did not begin in the 20th century. Hell, the First World War of the modern era didn’t even begin in the 20th Century. That’s just a common, modern-era-minded conceit of modern people. A mere and entirely erroneous nomenclature. Historians are every bit as absorbed in their own prejudices and misguided assumptions as anyone else.

World Wars, depending on precisely how you define them at any given time may extend well back into pre-history. What the Zero-Point really is we may never know, but it extends well, well beyond our age.

Something to remember about Real Life, something to remember in constructing your fiction, and something to remember when constructing your milieus and game worlds as well.

Just because the events are long lost to time doesn’t mean the effects are…

 

Archaeologist Talks About A Bronze Age ‘World War Zero’ That Brought Down Three Ancient Civilizations

Back in March, we talked about a 3,200-year old massive battle that took place in the cultural ‘backwaters’ of Bronze Age northern Europe (circa 13th century BC), and how this mysterious encounter involved over 4,000 well-armed men from different regions, including Poland, Holland, Scandinavia and even Southern Europe. Intriguingly enough, there also seems to be a date-oriented significance relating to 13th century BC. Within a generation of these contemporary times, the increasing scale of warfare and over-arching political affairs seemed to have swept through many parts of the known world, including the eclipse of the Mycenaean Greeks, the invasion of Egypt by the ‘sea-people’ and the concurrent downfall of the Hittites. And furthermore, there is also the literary narrative of the Trojan War – a large scale conflict (and possibly the proverbial ‘last hurrah’ of the Mycenaeans) that pitted the Greeks against the mystifying Trojans. Considering all these ‘mega’ events of the ancient times, archaeologist Eberhard Zangger has alluded to what he calls ‘World War Zero’ – a seemingly cataclysmic scenario that severely affected and ultimately shattered the thriving nature of eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age civilizations.

According to Zangger, the so-called ‘World War Zero’ (or at least some parallel event) was possibly triggered by the emergence of a more powerful Bronze Age civilization in the proximate region. According to him, this faction – often overlooked by historians, probably pertains to the Luwians, who were based in ancient Anatolia. So who exactly were these Luwians? According to Britannica

Luwiya is mentioned as a foreign country in the Hittite laws (about 1500 bc). It probably coincided roughly with Arzawa, a large region composed of several principalities in western or southwestern Anatolia, and Kizzuwadna, a district occupying the Cilician Plain. Both Arzawa and Kizzuwadna were independent kingdoms during the Old Hittite period (c. 1700–c. 1500 bc) but later became vassals of the Hittite empire. Linguistic evidence testifies to the cultural penetration of the Hittite empire by Luwians.

As for this seemingly ‘wild’ conjecture put forth by Zangger, the archaeologist (who is also the head of international non-profit, Luwian Studies, based in Zurich, Switzerland), the Luwians were intrinsically powerful because of the availability of natural resources in western Anatolia, including the region’s rich minerals and metal ore deposits. Moreover, based on satellite imagery, it has been found that the proximate areas of Anatolia were quite densely populated by Bronze Age standards, with evidences of around 340 big settlements found in the region.

Now regarding literary evidences, as the last sentence of the Britannica excerpt confirms, Hittites were already aware of the rising power of the collective kingdoms of western Anatolia, many of which had the lingua franca of Luwian. In fact, historically some of these ‘Luwian’ factions did unite together (periodically) to make their forays, raids and even invasions of the nearby Hittite lands. One of such major incursions, along with pressure from the eastern Assyrians, might have brought about the ultimate downfall of the Hittite empire.

Zangger continues with his conjectural narrative about how these victorious Luwians then (perhaps) coveted the rich lands of the Egyptian realm. Thus come in the Egyptian texts that document the arrival of so-called ‘Sea People’ – who could have been the Luwians sailing across from ‘distant’ Anatolia to raid northern Egypt. Finally, threatened by the warmongering and other baleful international affairs, the Mycanaean Greeks braced up for an imminent invasion by the Luwians – by attacking the enemy first through their own large offensive, as described in Homer’sIliad. However on nullifying this external threat from Anatolia (aka Trojans), the Mycanaeans squabbled among themselves, and soon civil wars snuffed out their flourishing culture – as hinted at in Homer’s Odyssey.

But of course, from the historical perspective, this expansive (and world-changing) sequence of events of World War Zero is entirely hypothetical – with no exact clue pointing to Luwian dominance in contemporary political affairs. However from the archaeological context, researchers have come across ruins of many Anatolian settlements (circa late Bronze Age) that bore the destructive marks of warfare. Furthermore, since we brought up history, there are rare occurrences of ‘latent’ powers being ultimately responsible for toppling the more conventionally powerful empires, in spite of their relative unfamiliarity in global affairs. One pertinent example would obviously include the burgeoning Islamic realm (after Mohammed), circa 7th century AD, that managed to defeat two contemporary ‘superpowers’ of the time – the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) and the Sassanian Persian Empire, to claim their subsequent Caliphate.

In any case, beyond conjectures and mirroring events, there is the whole science of extant evidences to consider. These evidences could include both textural works and architectural specimens. As Christoph Bachhuber at the University of Oxford, said –

Archaeologists will need to discover similar examples of monumental art and architecture across western Anatolia and ideally texts from the same sites to support Zangger’s claim of a civilization.

Sadly, the archaeological ambit is still lacking in regard to the machinations of the eastern Mediterranean theater in Bronze Age. But as always there is a silver lining to this academic scope. So while Zangger’s World War Zero mirrors the nigh universal narrative of warfare and destruction, it could also potentially redirect the attention of the experts in this field to ‘dig deeper’ into the mystery of the late Bronze Age. Bachhuber aptly put it forth –

He’s [Zangger] really getting the ball rolling to do larger holistic studies of the area,. I’m actually quite excited that he’s bringing attention to this region.

 

 

20 Things to Loot from the Wizard’s Body

20 Things to Loot from the Wizard’s Body

During the course of their adventures, our heroes are likely to slay many evil wizards (and loot their bodies).

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)

 

Sadly, most such individuals seem to never carry anything beyond a spell component pouch, a few magic items and some loose coinage. Not only is this boring it’s also utterly lacking in verisimilitude—after all, everyone carries odds and ends in their pockets. Use the table below, to generate such items of minor interest and make looting the body of a slain wizard much more interesting!

  1. An amulet comprising a single, yellowed dragon’s tooth suspended from a leather thong. A rune for protection is carved into the tooth.
  2. A small flask of powered silver (worth 50 gp). The leather flask itself has a small strap allowing it to be carried over the shoulder.
  3. A silver dagger concealed is concealed in one of the wizard’s boots. The dagger is clearly unused—its blade is sharp and polished to a high sheen.
  4. A silver bracelet from which hang a number of charms. Each is decorated with a single rune—fire, water, air, earth, dragon, devil, demon—among them. The whole thing is worth 75 gp.
  5. A leather scroll tube crudely painted bright blue. It is stoppered with a leather bung that clips into the place. The bung has been painted red.
  6. These fine leather boots have a number of small, unobtrusive pockets hidden inside. Most of the pockets hold commonly available spell components, but two hold a single platinum coin.
  7. This plain scroll tube contains several pieces of parchment the wizard used to make observations of the stars. These comprise several complicated diagrams of various constellations and cryptic notes regarding “the wanderer.”
  8. The torn and scorched cover of “Agananzar’s Workbook” is wrapped in cloth and hidden in the wizard’s pack. Sadly nothing else of the book’s contents remains.
  9. A pouch contains a variety of small bones—probably finger bones—clearly “harvested” from a variety of different creatures. Each is in pristine condition—all the skin having been boiled away.
  10. Three empty potion vials; one is marked “invisibility” while the other two smell slightly of cinnamon.
  11. A locket holding a lock of coarse black hair. It is evident from the hair’s texture—and the slight smell of rotten eggs—the hair is not from a natural source.
  12. A dozen small semi-circular stones worn perfectly smooth. An esoteric rune—depicting various types of magic—adorns each stone.
  13. A slender belt pouch specially treated to be waterproof. Inside the pouch, the wizard stored a variety of dried herbs. Each bunch is tied together with twine.
  14. The shattered stub of a wooden stake. Black blood covers the stake’s tip. Barely visible under the blood is some kind of rune, but its meaning is impossible to determine as part of it is missing.
  15. Three quills wrapped in an ink-stained cloth and two small vials of ink—red and black—all carried in a small pouch along with several scraps of crumpled parchment.
  16. A bent iron spike, the head of a hammer and a shard of incredibly tough stone.
  17. A black velvet cloth inlaid with golden thread wrapped around a dried and perfectly preserved red rose. The rose’s thorns are yet sharp and its flower emits a particular heady scent.
  18. A small treatise depicting the various protective circles—against good, evil and so on—along with notes on how to quickly create such protective barriers. A perceptive reader skilled in spellcraft spots several of the diagrams are fatally flawed.
  19. A flask of holy water and a flask of unholy water—both clearly labelled in Elven—along with a fine painter’s brush, two owlbear feathers and one gigantic feather (perhaps from a roc or other huge bird).
  20. A small red velvet pouch. The pouch is all but empty—however a determined examination reveals a few flecks of diamond dust stuck to the pouch’s lining.

GENE RODDENBERRY’S FLOPPIES

How Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s words were freed from old floppy disks

When Gene Roddenberry’s computer died, it took with it the only method of accessing some 200 floppy disks of his unpublished work. Here’s how this tech mystery was solved.

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While Gene Roddenberry is often associated with the Macintosh, he apparently did far more writing on this unknown-brand computer.

Call the engine room and get Scotty to the bridge: When the long-lost words of Star Trekcreator Gene Roddenberry were found on 5.25-inch floppies—yes, floppy disks—it would take a Starfleet-level engineering effort to recover them.

Roddenberry, who died in 1991, apparently left behind a couple of shoebox-sized containers of those big floppy disks.

The problem? As any techie knows, floppy drives went out off fashion around the turn of the 21st century. Even if you bought a used 5.25-inch floppy drive off of Cyrano Jones on space station K7, you wouldn’t be able to read the files on a modern computer, let alone plug in the drive.

Roddenberry’s estate knew of two possible computers the author had used to write those final words. One had been sold off in a charity auction and the second wouldn’t boot when plugged in.

floppy disk 2009 g1GEORGE CHERNILEVSKY
Most of Gene Roddenberry’s lost work was stored on the 1970s and 1980s era 5.25-inch disk, which here is flanked by the older 8-inch and newer 3.5-inch versions.

The computer’s dead Jim

Rather than accept that no-win scenario, Roddenberry’s estate turned to DriveSavers Data Recovery. The lack of an operative computer was less than ideal, but  Mike Cobb, director of engineering of DriveSavers, was optimistic, considering the company’s ability to recover data from most forms of computer media known today.

According to Cobb, the majority of the disks were 1980s-era 5.25-inch double-density disks capable of storing a whopping 160KB—that’s kilobytes—or about one-tenth the capacity you can get on a $1 USB thumb drive today. Cobb said a few of the disks were formatted in DOS, but most of them were from an older operating system called CP/M.

CP/M, or Control Program for Microcomputers, was a popular operating system of the 1970s and early 1980s that ultimately lost out to Microsoft’s DOS. In the 1970s and 1980s it was the wild west of disk formats and track layouts, Cobb said. The DOS recoveries were easy once a drive was located, but the CP/M disks were far more work.

“The older disks, we had to actually figure out how to physically read them,” Cobb told PCWorld. “The difficult part was CP/M and the file system itself and how it was written.”

As the data recovery firm couldn’t get Roddenberry’s old computer to power on, it had to sleuth the physical layout of the tracks on the disk. That alone took three months to reverse engineer; Cobb credits his own “Scotty,” Jim Wilhelmsen, with figuring it out.

drivesavers star trek recovery 1DRIVERSAVERS DATA RECOVERY
DriverSaver’s Mike Cobb and Jim Wilhelmsen with Gene Roddenberry’s dead computer and a pile of the floppy disks they helped recover.

To make matters worse, about 30 of the disks were damaged, with deep gouges in the magnetic surface. As luck would have it, Cobb said most of the physical damage was over empty portions of the disks and he believes about 95 percent of the data was recovered.

Besides seeking the technical expertise required for the task, the estate also wanted high security, according to Cobb. The estate wasn’t going to just drop all 200 disks in a FedEx box and pray to the shipping gods they wouldn’t get lost. No, only small batches of the disks were doled out at a time,  and each batch was hand-delivered to DriveSavers’ secure facility in Novato beginning in 2012.

Once DriveSavers had recovered the data, the data had to be converted into a format the estate could open. It’s not like you can feed a 1980s-era CP/M word processor format into Microsoft Word, so Cobb personally converted each file to a readable text file.

The big reveal

All told, Cobb said when the operating system files were excluded, about 2-3MB of data was recovered from the 200 floppies. That may seem like a minuscule amount by today’s standards, but in the 1980s, document files were small. Roddenberry’s lost words were substantial.

So what’s actually on the disks? Lost episodes of Star Trek? The secret script for a new show? Or as Popular Science once speculated, a patent for a transporter?

Unfortunately, we don’t know.

Cobb ain’t saying. Understandably, when DriverSavers is contracted to recover data, it’s also bound by rules of confidentiality. PCWorld reached out to the Roddenberry estate but was told it had no comment on the data or its plans for the newly discovered writing of Gene Roddenberry.

drivesavers star trek recovery 2DRIVERSAVERS DATA RECOVERY
For their work in recovering The Great Bird of the Galaxy’s lost writing, DriveSavers received a signed photo of the Star Trek creator in front of his computer from his son.

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