Category Archives: Creatures

PIE

So it was PIE after all?

I had wondered… at the possible construct and the sound

WYRDROAD

I have established a new Facebook Gaming Group.

I haven’t had much time to build up the membership yet because I’ve been busy but I have tried to build up some interesting content. The primary interest of the group is gaming, but like this blog it will cover history, archeology, warfare, science, technology, fantasy and science fiction, literature, pop culture, comics, etc.

You’re welcome to visit and to join. Just hit the links provided.

WYRDROAD

 

NornsOld4

CAERKARA – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

In keeping with what I said over the weekend about beginning to once again post my own Works (as per this Post) here is my entry for Design of Things to Come, though it is one day early due to later work week scheduling conflicts.

Also I have now corrected all my former entries in The Other World so that they now properly show in that category, as they should. Later I will begin reposting my Essays on Gaming and Game Design.

So here you go, the Introduction to The Caerkara, or The Expeditionary Force

 

________________________________________

 

Introduction to The Caerkara

When the Eldeven folk began to realize that monsters were being accidentally created through the use of Elturgy (Arcane Magic) they began to track down and capture many of these monsters and isolate them in various places where they could be studied and hopefully cured. However the alterations caused by exposure to (especially) high level Elturgy seemed irreversible.

Eventually the Eldevens also realized that Elturgy itself seemed to be “mutating” some of their own kind, as well as other creatures, into monsters, or the Caladeem. Many at the Court of Samarkand came to understand that some of these monsters were completely rogue and out of control and could not be held or captured, that once transformed certain monsters would have to be killed due to their new and vicious nature. The Eldevens in Samarkand formed secret teams of “monster hunters” that traveled throughout the Known World (and sometimes to places in their world beyond their explored knowledge) to capture or kill monsters. At the same time the Samareül began a project that lasted for many decades that attempted to “repair” elturgy so that it no longer created monsters. But the deterioration only seemed to increase and worsen and no means was discovered to return Elturgy to a reliably benign state of operation.

Some monster hunter teams soon discovered that monsters were disappearing right before capture. The reason was a mystery until it was discovered that these monsters were fleeing to another world, through means unknown. The Samareül put his best Sages and Elturgists upon the problem and eventually the Drüidect was discovered, which allowed travel between their world and Terra, though the means by which “the Weirding Road” operates is still a mystery.

The Samareül formed a secret and elite team of Monster Hunters to go to Terra and either recover or kill the monsters that had escaped to that world. While there agents of this team met human beings and discovered human ideas about religion as well as information about Miracles (Thaumaturgy). When this team returned home and reported on their findings the Samareül decided that these events were not coincidental at all but fated, and that Thaumaturgy, God, and religion might just be the long sought answer to either repairing or replacing the troubled nature of Elturgy.

Since then the Samareül has been carefully studying humans, their society, religion, thaumaturgy, God, and other related matters. He has sent his elite Expeditionary Team into Terra on numerous occasions. Ostensibly it is the job of this team to hunt down and capture or kill the escaped monsters from their world, but secretly this team also studies humans, religion, thaumaturgy, etc. and gather intelligence to return to the Samareül for further study and research. This secret team or Expeditionary Force is called the Caerkara. Over the course of their expeditions to Terra they have spent much time in the Byzantine Empire (where many of the odd events affecting both worlds, as well as the escaped monsters, seem to tend to congregate) and humans have become aware of their existence, though not their true nature and point of origin. They have also become uneasy allies on occasion with the Basilegate, and as a result of this interaction a relationship has developed between the Court at Constantinople and the Court at Samarkand.

BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS

I thoroughly enjoyed the Battle of the Bastards.

Though Bolton should have been flayed alive, especially after having put an arrow through the eye of the giant. I had much hoped the giant would live. Of course I knew he would not. As I knew the Knights of the Vale would arrive too late for Jon’s Army to be fully preserved. It is Martin after all.

The dogs were a fine ending I thought, for Bolton, but he should have been flayed alive by the survivors of the men he murdered, both those of his own army and of Jon’s forces. Then set Bolton afire and burn all of the banners of the Flayed Man with his corpse and never speak of him, his house, or such a banner ever again.

I also very much enjoyed the way Dany dealt with the Slaving Fleet. And the Slave Lords.

More than time for that. Also a Queen who shakes hands, well, you can see where it will lead.

To either the Last Queen, or to far better than a Queen. And Jon Snow is no king, and neither should he ever aspire to be.

Though I do suspect that Euron Greyjoy by now has the Horn again (or on the show for once) and will attempt to use it to take control of Dany’s dragons. It’s just speculation on my part but he is widely traveled and it seems very likely to me that is his real motive in sailing to Meereen.

A singularly good episode. I hope the season finale is at least as good…

THE RED WOMAN

THE RED WOMAN

You know I’ve always known something was off about the Red Woman. That she was not who she appeared to be. For the first and most obvious thing she was far too interested in ancient and pagan human sacrifice whereas the rest of the followers of the Lords of Light were interested in things like Resurrection. (As a matter of fact she was rather stunned by both the evidence of resurrections she saw performed and even by the idea, wasn’t she?) Secondly she was far too consumed with political and collective authoritarian power whereas the other followers of the Lord of Light seem more interested in the individual and a rebellion against worldly authority (take the Brothers without Banners, as just one instance).

So she was a conundrum, a misstep, a paradox, an openly hidden thing compared to the others. So I never assumed she was actually a follower of the Lord of Light anymore than I assumed she was as she appeared. But today at lunch I rewatched that final scene from last night’s Game of Thrones and it finally struck me (though I had a suspicion a couple of times before, such as when she summoned the demon out of herself) as she disrobed and took that necklace off (which seemed to go dead the moment she took it off) to become an Old Crone. (A pregnant old crone, or a “carrier” crone?)

Now I suspect I know exactly who she serves and why. Something far more ancient even than the White Walkers. Something far more Chthonic.

And I also suspect that she wasn’t at all disappointed by the overthrow of Stannis, but rather she had been planning it all along.

The thing now is, what exactly does she intend by the White Walkers. She and they would be natural enemies I suspect, but does she intend the Walkers and mankind to wipe each other out (for if she is what I think she is, she is enemies of both) or just to weaken man enough that after the Walkers are defeated she and her kind can then drive men again from Westeros?

Of course, there is always the other possibility…

THE IMPREGNABLE FORTRESS – ALLTHING

Slowly returning to blogging now that my broken wrist is mending. Just now able to type well again without pain.

 

Prepared!: The Impregnable Fortress of Dib

Posted In Articles, Front Page | 0 comments

The Impregnable Fortress of Dib
Cartography by Meshon Cantrill

We were traveling the old trade road up near the Blind Hills when we found it: an overturned wagon in the ditch. Evas took to the shadows, scouted ahead, and returned with strange details. The wagon had been transformed—such that it appeared to be a fierce fortress. Signs of goblin-work were apparent: broken shields reinforcing the walls, crude arrow slits cut into the driver’s bench, a makeshift flag hanging limply atop the whole affair. We left it alone, but even at a distance the smell of the odd fortress’s unfinished moat made us wretch…

The Impregnable Fortress of Dib is a location designed to offer a medium/easy challenge to four 1st- to 2nd-level characters.

The Exterior

Before you stands an unusual makeshift fortress. A large wooden wagon has been overturned a few feet from the road. An incomplete moat of sorts rings the structure; the vapors from its gelatinous contents reaching your nose even at fifty paces. The wagon has been reinforced with broken shields and scavenged planks; an unfortunate dead fox has been nailed unceremoniously atop a crude doorway. Slits and holes of various sizes have been bored and carved into the walls, and you hear wicked whispering and rustling coming from within. A flag made from cloth scraps hangs unmoving in the still air.

Dib Halfling-Chewer rules the fortress. Several months back, Dib and his cronies were ejected from a nearby goblin clan for indiscriminate wrestling. Since their expulsion from the clan, Dib and his minions have transformed a trade wagon into a dangerous roadside obstacle. The goblins retreat into the throne room when it is clear the fortress is breached. Assaulting the fortress is run as a combat encounter, with the fortress taking two actions on its initiative (+0). The fortress may:

  • Arrow Barrage. Ranged weapon attack. +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.
  • Spear Thrusts. Melee weapon attacks. +4 to hit, range 10 ft., two targets. Hit: 5 piercing damage.Spear thrusts have advantage against PCs attempting to lift the wagon.
  • Warmed Oil (Recharge 5–6) Spray blobs of warmed oil at all creatures within 20 ft. Each creature must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or take 2 fire damage; a successful save halves the damage.

A general guide to assaulting the fortress is provided below.

Kicking in the Door. Forcing the door takes three solid kicks. Each kick uses an action and requires a DC 14 Strength (Athletics) check. Successfully kicking in the door allows the party to enter the area under the wagon (see below).

Lifting the Whole Damn Thing Up. Lifting and tipping the fortress over takes 2 rounds. Each round requires a successful DC 17 Strength (Athletics) check made by one PC. The DC of this check is reduced by one for each PC assisting. PCs involved in lifting the wagon may take no other actions that round. Failing the check on the second round results in the lifting PC(s) having to start over. Successfully lifting the wagon allows the PCs to enter the area under the wagon (see below).

Smashing a Hole. The fortress can simply be attacked with the aim of making an opening. The fortress (AC 12, HP 40) is considered defeated at zero hit points. Defeating the fortress allows the party to enter the area under the wagon.

Under the Wagon

Inside the makeshift stronghold, you find a dank and foul-smelling place. A small cauldron of rendered animal fat approaches boiling over a smoky fire. Two poorly made spears sit abandoned on the ground. A ladder suggests the wagon’s inhabitants have dug into the ground below.

Once their fortress is breached, the five goblins inside retreat into the throne room. A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check uncovers an oily sack with 25 sp and some shiny rocks.

The Tunnel and Throne Room

You crouch and descend into the goblin’s burrow. The tunnel, precariously carved and shored up with planking, runs straight for 30 feet before turning sharply. Peering around the corner, you see the goblin’s living quarters. A single sputtering torch illuminates the small chamber and the makeshift throne at the far end. Evil eyes blink from behind five small mounds of dirt. Suddenly, you hear the sound of bow strings being drawn…

The goblins make ranged attacks from behind half-cover until forced into melee. At the entrance to the chamber is a simple spike trap. Noticing the trap requires a Perception (Wisdom) check of 12. Disarming the trap requires a DC 12 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. Failure to notice or disarm the trap causes six sharp spikes to spring out of the ground. PCs within 5 feet of the trap must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw or take 1d6 (4) piercing damage; a successful save halves the damage. The throne hides Dib’s treasure hoard. A DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals the seat of the throne is loose and offset. Inside the throne is a small wooden chest containing 60 sp, 15 gp, and a scrap of cloth with Dib’s fortress design notes scribbled in smudged ink.

THE WORM OUROBOROS

I have been re-reading the Worm Ouroboros by ER Eddison lately and have found it to be immensely entertaining, stimulating to my imagination, and very useful for my own writings.

NEW ALIEN LANDSCAPE

It’s a go…

New ‘Alien’ Movie Confirmed with Director Neill Blomkamp

Alien: New Movie Confirmed with Director
February 18, 2015 | 04:32PM PT
Justin Kroll
Film Reporter @krolljvar

20th Century Fox has closed a deal with director Neill Blomkamp to develop a new “Alien” movie, sources confirm.

The untitled sci-fi project is separate from “Prometheus 2,” which Fox is still making with Ridley Scott.

Blomkamp, who directed “District 9″ and the upcoming Sony feature “Chappie,” had been teasing the project in recent months but said the extra-terrestrial reboot was likely abandoned. It was supposed to star “Alien” veteran Sigourney Weaver.

But on Wednesday Blomkamp confirmed the tentpole was back on track at Fox.

“So I think this is officially my next film,” he confirmed on Instagram.

It’s unclear whether Weaver is still attached to the movie.

According to insiders, the new “Alien” takes place years after the “Prometheus” sequel. Scott is producing both films through his production company Scott Free.

“Prometheus,” also distributed by Fox, was “loosely based” on the “Alien” franchise and earned over $400 million worldwide. But the 3D movie opened to mixed reviews, and Fox hopes Blomkamp, who last directed “Elysium,” can take the franchise to the next level.

Born in South Africa, the 35 year-old Blomkamp is repped by WME.
Filed Under:

Alien

 

BLOMKAMP’S ALIEN

Neill Blomkamp Says There’s A ‘High Possibility’ He Makes An ‘Alien’ Movie After All

By 02.10.15

Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 3.23.23 PM

Instagram

Back in early January, out of nowhere, District 9 director Neill Blomkamp posted previously unseen concept art for a new Alien movie that he’d been tossing around in his head. Needless to say, the art was received quite positively on the Internet, with images ranging from Ripley wearing a space jockey helmet to another one of Ripley and Hicks. (Needless to say, Sigourney Weaver, who Blomkamp just worked with on Chappie, is a big part of his vision.)

So, what exactly are these?

On Tuesday, I met with Blomkamp, who is promoting Chappie (the full interview will run closer to release), at his New York City hotel room and asked him about this art. As it turns out, there’s a very real possibility that Blomkamp may actually be making a new Alien movie, and it sounds like the ball is very much in his court.

Where did this Alien concept art you posted come from?

Basically, what happened was, when Chappie got heavily into post-production, I could take my foot off the gas a bit. I was thinking about what I wanted to do next and I’ve been wanting to make an Alien film for like years and years.

But you’ve never really said that before.

No.

People have heard you say that you don’t want to make an existing franchise type movie after what happened with Halo, before District 9.

That’s still true, by the way.

So that’s why it’s surprising that you want to do Alien.

Speaking to Sigourney Weaver, when we were doing Chappie, she set off a bunch of thoughts in my head — I had come up with an idea that didn’t have Sigourney, it was a different idea. But I spent all of the shooting time with her, it was like, holy shit, that could actually be really interesting. When I came back to Vancouver, I had an entire year to work on Chappie. And when I wasn’t needed in the edit, I could think about Alien. So, I basically developed an entire movie and I did all of this artwork as well.

Is this an abnormal way to go about this?

It’s totally abnormal. But it’s for the reason that you bring up, if it’s going to happen, it has to be on my terms. So, I came up with it and I’m bringing this to you. It’s not like, “Would you like to do Spider-Man 36?” I still love it, I love the idea of the movie and I produced way more art than I put out.

The art was very specific, it looked like a complete story. Ripley is wearing a space jockey helmet.

It was a whole story. Then I just wasn’t sure if I was going to do another film, like, at all.

Why?

Sometimes Hollywood just sort of gets to me. I love movies, but Hollywood itself is a difficult animal to negotiate. So, then I was like, if I don’t do any, I should put some of this artwork out and that’s exactly what happened.

Is that you giving up on possibly doing an Alien movie?

It’s not really giving up on the idea.

People on the Internet responded really well to that artwork.

There’s a high possibility, a high degree of chance that it happens that I go back and try to get Alien made.

In case it never happens, why is Ripley wearing a space jockey helmet?

I can’t tell you! It might happen! It’s cool though; it’s really cool … I’ll decide soon.

Someone at Fox should listen to you about this.

That’s not the problem, actually.

What’s the problem?

Me. I’m the problem. Fox, they would make it. Like, tomorrow. They would make it.

So if you called right now and said, “OK, done.”

Yes. Then it would happen.

Would it be your vision, or do they have their own ideas?

No, I think it would work out.

Then just do it.

I know, I just have to mentally agree with that.

Then what’s the problem here? I assumed there were obstacles, like maybe Ridley Scott wasn’t on board.

No, no, it’s not politics.

Then let’s do it.

[Laughs] OK.

SOME OF THE BEST

36 of the Best Roleplaying Games

“I love video games, but you can’t beat the magic in the personal interaction around a table.” — Filamena Young


Just as there really is no such thing as a best book or movie, there is no best roleplaying game, or even best in a particular category. But if you’re looking for something new to try, this selection of games will help. The games were selected to cover a wide spectrum of game mechanics, settings, and play styles. Some are well known, others relatively obscure. Some are licensed from video games, movies, TV shows, or books. Some are free for download, and several provide free quickstart PDFs.

Select an image to read a full page writeup about that game, including overview information, three of the things that make the game stand out out, purchasing information, and links to reviews and community sites.


13th Age
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
Apocalypse World
Atlantis: The Second Age

Basic Roleplaying
Burning Wheel
Doctor Who
Dragon Age

Dread
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Dungeon World
Dungeons and Dragons

Eclipse Phase
Fate Core
Fiasco
Firefly

Godlike
GURPS
Lady Blackbird
Microscope

Mindjammer
Mini Six
Misspent Youth
Mutants and Masterminds

Night's Black Agents
Numenera
Pathfinder
Pendragon

RuneQuest
Savage Worlds
Shadowrun
A Song of Ice and Fire

Star Wars
Swords & Wizardry
Traveller
Valiant Universe

THE BE(A)STIARY

TRACE BACK

ALIEN UNKNOWN

Neill Blomkamp’s Secret Alien Movie Looks So Good We’re Furious

Neill Blomkamp's Secret Alien Movie Looks So Good We're Furious12

Guess what? Neill Blomkamp was working on a secret Alien project that included Sigourney Weaver reuniting with Corporal Hicks, and the concept art is gorgeous. But now it’s dead, or was never going to be made in the first place, and I’m just going to scream “PROMETHEUS” into a pillow all day until I pass out from lack of air.

Last night, District 9 and Elysium director Blomkamp fired off a round of concept art on his Instagram account. The first image was of a pissed off Xenomorph Queen and had this caption: “Was working on this. Don’t think I am anymore. Love it though. #alien #xenomorph.” Then he continued to upload a whole lotta beautiful Alien-inspired work onto his account, commenting, “Woulda rocked. Was a mental stroll into the world Ridley Scott created.” The idea looks like it took place inside Weyland-Yutani headquarters, which was currently housing the derelict spaceship, and somehow a mangled Hicks reappears (which is a great idea). Ripley can also be seen donning the Space Jockey helmet, and (of course) there’s a screaming Queen Xenomorph. It looks great.

The art seems more like Blomkamp’s personal pitch for an Alien film, and not something a studio pulled from him. Blomkamp even told one Instagram commenter, “Fox never said no.” What could that mean? Did Blomkamp ever actually pitch this to Fox?

An unverified Blomkamp Twitter account fleshed out the backstory a little stating that “they [presumably Fox] didn’t really even know I was working on it ha”

So perhaps this was just a fun thing that Blomkamp had been tinkering with for awhile. Honestly, this could all just be really fantastic fan art. That being said, I can completely imagine Fox ignoring this pitch in favor of fanning Ridley Scott’s current detour for the Alien franchise into Prometheus world. Because, well, they kind of made that bed and now they have to lay in it.

But how wondrous would it be if a movie that was actually embedded into actual world of this franchise was made? Please make this movie! It’s what the people want!

IT AIN’T JUST FOR SLAYING DRAGONS NO MORE

And there ya go…

Actually my whole family has played for years now and it has been an especially good tool for teaching critical thinking, overcoming danger with planning and preparation (basic survival mind-set and skills), problem solving, and tactical decision making to my wife and daughters. So I think it is every bit as good a gaming tool for females as it is for boys.

 

Dungeons & Dragons strikes back

After a period of decline, the iconic game shows signs of revival thanks to an update and a greater diversity of players

From left: Sophia, Jung, and Charles Starrett play D&D at home.

Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe

From left: Sophia, Jung, and Charles Starrett play D&D at home.

Some updated player’s and dungeon master’s guides for D&D.

Ethan Gilsdorf

Some updated player’s and dungeon master’s guides for D&D.

As a teenager in the 1980s, Charles Starrett spent hours playing Dungeons & Dragons with his pals but stopped after high school. His interest was rekindled as a father when he introduced basic role-playing games to his two daughters when they were six years old, and he also persuaded his wife, Jung, to play.

“They just gobbled it up,” Jung Starrett says of her daughters’ interest in D&D.

Now the couple and their now 14-year-old daughters, Sophia and Julia, gather around their Brookline dining room table regularly on weekends to toss polyhedral dice, slay orcs and hobgoblins, and tell an unpredictable, unfolding fantasy story, together.

As it turns 40 this year, the pioneering role-playing game (or “RPG”) appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance after a period of decline. Once the province primarily of white, suburban teen boys and young men, D&D is drawing a more diverse group of players, owing in part to the widespread popularity of fantasy books, films, and television shows. And a new update of the game is renewing interest among veteran players.

An estimated 20 million people have played the game and spent at least $1 billion on its products since D&D’s early days. But the game, which experienced strong growth throughout the 1970s and ’80s, began a slump in the 2000s. The game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, does not make sales figures available, but analysts say that RPG sales have been declining for years, partly supplanted by the surge in video games and Internet culture.

In response, Wizards, a Washington subsidiary of Providence toy-and-game giant Hasbro, launched a revamp of the game’s rules this year, informally known as “Fifth Edition,” that returns D&D to its story-based roots. The response has been positive.

“Nearly every player I’ve spoken to says they like the new rules,” says David Ewalt, author of “Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It.” When one of the core rule books, the D&D “Player’s Handbook,” was published in August, it climbed to the top of Amazon sales charts and hit number one on both Publisher’s Weekly and Wall Street Journal’s hardcover nonfiction lists.

Distributors and retailers say the new edition is selling better than expected, says Milton Griepp, founder and CEO of ICv2, a publication that covers geek culture. “And expectations were high.”

Nationally, and locally, retailers are saying the new edition is doing well and drawing players to game nights. John Beresford, books manager at Pandemonium Books and Games in Cambridge, reports that the store’s weekly in-store D&D events have grown by at least 25 percent. “Fifth edition is getting a lot of nostalgia gamers back in to take a look and is also drawing in a number of new gamers,” he says.

Unlike the last edition, released in 2008, the new D&D focuses less on mimicking video game-like action and combat, and more on ease of play, role-playing, and narrative. Also making the game more accessible, the rules ask players to consider characters who do “not conform to the broader culture’s expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior.” Your 12th level wizard might be gay.

In addition to getting a boost from the game update, D&D and other RPGs are also finding fresh player bases.

“There’s been a real expansion of the audience in recent years,” says Ewalt. When Ewalt went to his first game convention 20 years ago, the attendees were largely white, male, ages 15 to 40. When he attended the massive role-playing game and tabletop game convention called GenCon this summer in Indianapolis, “there were men and women, kids and adults, and people of all races and cultures.’’

Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, agrees. “We are seeing a broad mix of ages playing D&D today,’’ she says. “The game spans generations, as parents introduce their kids to the game that inspired them as kids.’’

One reason new audiences are embracing D&D is that so many of its key concepts are already familiar to a generation steeped in video games. D&D spawned a legion of game designers and programmers, and the industry borrowed heavily from D&D tropes such as outfitting characters, leveling up, cooperative game play, representing character traits as statistics, fantasy battles, dungeon environments, and controlling avatars.

D&D also benefits from the popularity of fantasy entertainment such as the “Lord of the Rings,” “Hobbit” and “Harry Potter’’ books and movies, and hit TV shows like “Game of Thrones.” As in the case of video games, the appetite for consuming fantasy worlds is one that D&D actually had a role in nurturing.

A whole generation of screenwriters, novelists, directors, musicians, and actors who once played D&D — including Stephen Colbert, the late Robin Williams, Matt Groening, Vin Diesel, and George R. R. Martin — have proudly embraced their basement-dwelling days as a nerdy badge of honor.

“All those kids who were obsessed with the game in the early 1980s have grown up, and many of them entered creative pursuits because D&D got them excited about telling stories and creating adventures,” says Ewalt.

The game’s imaginative reach extends beyond popular entertainment. “Gaming certainly provided me with an imaginative praxis that helped prepare me for the imaginative praxis of being a writer,” says Junot Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and MIT professor whose group played D&D in the 1980s. “The game was an important source of solace, inspiration, learning excitement and play for us.”

Chris Robichaud, author of “Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy” and a D&D veteran since age 10, is bringing RPGs into the classroom as a learning tool. At the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he is a lecturer in ethics and public policy, Robichaud has been teaching D&D-like simulation called Patient Zero. “I wanted to give policymakers the creative, outside-the-box thinking opportunities that only a tabletop design with a gamemaster at the helm could really create,” says Robichaud, who believes his game “has the distinction” of being Harvard’s first “zombie pandemic tabletop simulation.”

The potential educational benefits are not lost on younger players. Back at the Starrett home, Julia and Sophia say they play primarily because it’s fun, but the game has also imparted valuable life skills.

“I have the reputation as a walking dictionary, which I got from playing D&D,” says Sophia, who has been blogging about “the benefits of playing D&D.” Beyond building your vocabulary, the two sisters reel off myriad other boons. The game improves critical thinking, decision-making, spatial intelligence, and team-building.

“In D&D, if you’re going to succeed,” says Julia, “you have to be part of a group of very diverse individuals all going for the same goal.”

Indeed, the role-playing game is a perfect tool for forging communities and connections “which can further knit our society together,” says dad Charles. “We can even explore living a life as someone who believes quite differently from how we actually believe, which increases understanding and empathy towards those who differ from ourselves.”

Like a warrior after an epic battle, D&D has survived to fight again — and its players hope it will keep on rolling for another 40 years.

Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks.” Contact him at www.ethangilsdorf.com .

EĻDEVÅLAËRAŅE – AŒSEI-SÎDELHI FĖLIJ

EĻDEVÅLAËRAŅE
THE LAY OF THE ELDEVEN

AŒSEI-SÎDELHI FĖLIJ

The Tareåsarmãrl of the Felidic Sîdh

Being the Great Tale of the Fate of the Sidelhi, First of the Eldevens

Then did the Sidelh appear, the first of the Eldeven folk, and none knew from where, or how they arose. And their appearance was as a shock, and a surprise to the Nephýařla, and to the H’alel, for the Sidh had been foreseen by neither, and neither knew from where they came. And the Sidelh themselves could not explain their lives, for they were living souls, and wise, but knew not how they came to be, or from where, or why.

For a while did the Nephýařla watch the Sidelhi from afar, as they approached the lands in which dwelt the H’alel, and the Nephili. And the Nephýařla sent secret emissaries to the Sidelh and they did converse and parley one with another, each seeking to learn what they could of the other. For the Nephýařla did not know if the Sidelhi came as enemies, or unknown strangers, and the Sidh knew nothing of the Neph, or of any of the peoples of the world. So much in word and deed did pass between them, and yet much went unsaid and unlearned, for the Sidelhi did not know from whence they arose, or how, and the Nephýařla would not say from whence they also arose, nor why. But finally, being satisfied in themselves with the nature and intent of the Sidelhi the Nephýařla returned to their own places and left the Sidh to approach that part of the world then inhabited by the H’alel, and their mates, and their children the Tardeeks.

And when the Sidh did arrive then the young Tardeeks saw the females of the Sidh and that they were very fair and pleasing to look upon. So because of the beauty of the females of the Sidelhi the Tardeeks took many of them as wives, and with some consent did the Sidh in those days betroth the Nephili (for in those days they were not foemen, but new companions one to another), and by some clever means known only to the Sidh did their women-folk bear the giants off-spring. And the offspring of the Sidelhi became the Tardeem, the Adharma. And the Adharma were, and yet still are, the half-giants, larger than the Sidh but smaller in statue and strength than their fathers, the ancient giants. And the Sidh also bore unto the Tardeeks the Gabar, the Deirae, the Great and Renown Ones, terrible in war, firm and fixed in form, and as shrewd and strong as any beast of the field. Yet the Gabar were smaller than their brethren, the Adharma Tardeem, being the same in stance and statue as their parents, the Sidelhi. But both races were also sure and powerful, like their forebears, and neither did fear any that lived. Even their own sires.

Then did the H’alel look with envy upon the Tardeem and the Gabar, for they too wished to possess the females of the Sidh for themselves, as their children did. For they reckoned the Sidelhi to be a people filled with lore and wisdom, and beauty, subtle, like themselves, and in this they did not err. And they thought well that the Sidh would make of them the companions of which they wished, and that the Sidh folk would be naturally inclined with favor towards themselves. Yet in this they were much mistaken. For the H’alel were very different from the Sidh, and although both folk were filled with cunning and craft of their own, they were alien and estranged one to another. And the female Sidh did not desire to be wives to the H’alel, and they could not produce offspring between the two. So some of the H’alel did abduct and steal away some of the Sidelhi and they did many unnatural and dark things to those Sidh they held captive, and to themselves as well in order to make them true for each other. But these things all failed and gravely frustrated the H’alel, and in their foiled lust and desire they took to rape and rapine against the Sidh. And in their anger and jealousy the H’alel forbade the Tardeeks and the Tardeem and the Gabar from taking anymore wives of the Sidh.

In those days the H’alel had grown great, waxing to the full measure of their craft and their power, and they had taught many arts and skills to their children the Tardeeks, and the Tardeeks in their turn had taught these things to their own children and grandchildren. And the Tardeeks as well had taught their arts to the Sidelhi, and the Sidh learned much that was noble and high, but the Sidh also had secret and unknown arts of their own, and they held these arts unused and unseen. For they had envisioned from afar what was to pass, and they held their craft in cunning abeyance for the day in which their foreknowledge would bloom in blood. As it was foreseen and spoken as a watchword among them;

Asö læbethl karavądyarcølmed urýl Sîdelhi-ryt gařthe boľgaed, Saêđr jya gűayaţr…

Which is to say, “The secret arts of the Sidelhi are to be held against that day when the spear of naked war is broken by craft, and by guile…”

ON MONSTERS

THE MONSTERS AND THE MAN

To me the monster is that Man
Whose spirit we cannot
Unwrap from evil in the womb
That ferments as it rots

To me the monster is that Beast
Whose tearing maw will bleed
With uncanny ichors hot
To digest what it breeds

To me the monster angelic
Who fell to Daemon’s pit
Broods on murderous revenge
With septic, cold intent

To me the monster prodigal
Like a Titan strides
To grind upon the red shorelines
Where terror does abide

Yet in me Monster curls and sleeps
Hibernating long
Dreaming when he will awake
To sing his monstrous song

So knowing this, and monsters well
I keep him drugged and bled
So he will never wake in me
To do what I most dread…

__________________________

To me there are four types of monsters in this world: The Evil, Unrepentant Man, the Naturally Savage Beast, the Supernatural Daemon, and the Unrelenting Prodigy/Prodigal.

And then there is me…

THE MONSTER IN ME

A superbly functioning creature whose real life capabilities could easily be adapted to a game creature or “monster.” If you ask me the very best “monsters” are those who possess capabilities adapted straight from real life creatures.

I can see many useful applications (Real World and fictional) for such a capability.

Mysterious ‘Glow Worm’ Discovered in the Peruvian Rainforest

by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | November 18, 2014 12:30pm ET

A mysterious glowing worm has been discovered lighting up the soil in the Peruvian rainforest.

The strange glow worms, which are thought to be the larval stage of an as-yet-unidentified species of beetle, may use their phosphorescence to lure unsuspecting flies and ants into their waiting, open jaws.

Ants or termites will “fly right into their jaws, and then they’ll just clamp shut and that’s their meal,” said Aaron Pomerantz, an entomologist who works with a rainforest expedition company at the Refugio Amazonas near the Tambopata Research Center in Peru, where the glowing larvae were discovered. [See Images of the Glowing Worm]

In tests, the glow worms readily devoured stick insects and termites, Pomerantz said. Their style of attack seems similar to that of the enormous, man-eating worms in the 1990 campy movie “Tremors,” albeit at a much smaller scale, he said.

“They’re underground, and they burst from the earth,” Pomerantz told Live Science.

Glowing earth

Nature photographer Jeff Cremer found the tiny pinpricks of light glowing in a wall of earth when he was working at a lodge in the Peruvian jungle. On closer inspection, Cremer discovered several dozen of these tiny insects, which measured about 0.5 inches (1.2 centimeters), shining green in the night.

Cremer brought them to the attention of entomologists who work at the rainforest nature lodge, who had never seen anything similar in the region.

The team determined that the worms were the larvae of an unknown species of click beetle. These beetles, which belong to the family Elateridae, use a fast popping or “clicking” motion to escape predators, Pomerantz said. Adults may feed on flowers and nectar, but the larvae are probably predatory.

There are more than 10,000 species of click beetles, including about 200 that are bioluminescent, meaning that they give off light. These strange little creatures may potentially be cousins of Brazilian fire beetles and could belong to the group of bugs called Pyrophorini, Pomerantz said.

Brazilian fire beetles burrow into termite mounds, creating ethereal, glowing towers at night, Pomerantz said. Though it’s not exactly clear how the newly discovered insects produce light, similar creatures use a class of molecules known as luciferins to give off their ghostly yellow glow. Pyrophorini typically maintain a constant glow through the night, and may even shine brighter when a predator touches them.

Why they glow

Bioluminescent animals usually glow to either lure in prey or to warn predators that they contain noxious chemicals. But the glowing also occasionally serves other purposes. For instance, fireflies’ blinking is essentially a come-hither signal for potential mates, Pomerantz said.

In the case of the click-beetle larvae, it seems the creatures glow to lure in prey, Pomerantz said. The Brazilian click beetles aggregate in termite mounds and glow to attract more prey.

Right now, the team isn’t sure if it’s discovered a completely new species or a new subspecies of an already known species of beetle larva, but the researchers are contacting experts in Brazil to find out, Pomerantz said.

THE MASTER’S ART

This artwork is absolutely fantastic! I’m really looking forward to getting my copy of this book.

 

THE MASTER’S ART

 

In today’s preview, we continue our look at one of the best parts of being the Dungeon Master—the distribution of treasure!

It’s good to be the dungeon master! Not only do you get to tell fantastic stories about heroes, villains, monsters, and magic, but you also get to create the world in which these stories live. Whether you’re running a D&D game already or you think it’s something you want to try, the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the book for you.

In our last excerpt, we looked at one of the sample treasure hoard tables. Today, we look at art from the treasure section itself. Here are the potion descriptions we provided the artist (Cyril Van Der Haegen) — who then added quite a few more! Can you find them all in the illustration? Click to enlarge (and look for further notes on dndwizards.tumblr.com).

•Oil of Etherealness: The exterior of any container of this cloudy gray oil is always damp with droplets of the oil that evaporate away before pooling.
•Potion of Climbing: This potion is separated into brown, silver, and gray layers resembling bands of stone.
•Potion of Diminution: This potion cycles between clear and dark red. One moment the whole liquid seems red, and then the redness is drawn to the center, replaced by clear liquid. When the last drop of red vanishes, all the liquid becomes red and the process begins again. Shaking the bottle doesn’t mix the liquids.
•Potion of Flying: This clear liquid has cloudy white impurities drifting in it and floats at the top of the bottle in defiance of gravity.
•Potion of Healing: This liquid is a bright red that glimmers with light as it is swirled.
•Potion of Heroism: This bright blue potion bubbles and steams as if boiling even when stoppered.
•Potion of Invisibility: A bottle with this potion in it looks empty but still feels as though it carries liquid.
•Potion of Longevity: This bottle of amber liquid also contains a scorpion’s tail, an adder’s fang, a dead spider, and the heart of some tiny creature that against all reason is still beating.
•Potion of Mind Reading: This opaque purple liquid has an ovoid cloud of pink that floats about at random within it.
•Potion of Speed: This yellow fluid is streaked with black. The liquid races around the interior of any vessel with enough room for it to run.
•Potion of Water Breathing: This cloudy green fluid has a tiny glowing jellyfish swimming through it and smells of the sea.

The Dungeon Master’s Guide

The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides the inspiration and the guidance you need to spark your imagination and create worlds of adventure for your players to explore and enjoy. Inside you’ll find world-building tools, tips and tricks for creating memorable dungeons and adventures, optional game rules, hundreds of classic D&D magic items, and much more!

This art preview is from the upcoming Dungeon Master’s Guide. It’s one of our favorite pieces, not just because it looks so cool but because of it’s backstory. Art Director, Kate Irwin explains: “The art on page 215 has a funny story. It was supposed to be just a few potions on an alchemist’s shelf but the artist (Cyril Van Der Haegen) made this magical full page image with EVERYTHING included. The description was simple: “Alchemist’s shelf with line-up of iconic magical potions. We’d like each potion to look distinct. Here’s a list of how they are described in the DMG. Pick some that seem fun.” The description went on to list 12 potions he could choose from, each with a short description. Obviously Cyril added to those 12 potions with tons of items, giving us one of those images that you can pour over and still find something new each time you open to the page. This was originally a half page illustration, but once we saw the amount of work he had put into it and knew we would want to show it as a full page. Finally, there were no sketches or concept art for this piece. Cyril turned it in basically completed.” Below are the dozen potions we gave him. Can you find them all in the illustration? Oil of Etherealness: The exterior of any container of this cloudy gray oil is always damp with droplets of the oil that evaporate away before pooling. Potion of Climbing: This potion is separated into brown, silver, and gray layers resembling bands of stone. Potion of Diminution: This potion cycles between clear and dark red. One moment the whole liquid seems red, and then the redness is drawn to the center, replaced by clear liquid. When the last drop of red vanishes, all the liquid becomes red and the process begins again. Shaking the bottle doesn’t mix the liquids. Potion of Flying: This clear liquid has cloudy white impurities drifting in it and floats at the top of the bottle in defiance of gravity. Potion of Healing: This liquid is a bright red that glimmers with light as it is swirled. Potion of Heroism: This bright blue potion bubbles and steams as if boiling even when stoppered. Potion of Invisibility: A bottle with this potion in it looks empty but still feels as though it carries liquid. Potion of Longevity: This bottle of amber liquid also contains a scorpion’s tail, an adder’s fang, a dead spider, and the heart of some tiny creature that against all reason is still beating. Potion of Mind Reading: This opaque purple liquid has an ovoid cloud of pink that floats about at random within it. Potion of Poison: This potion appears to be another sort of potion, and it tastes and smells just like that potion. Potion of Speed: This yellow fluid is streaked with black. The liquid races around the interior of any vessel with enough room for it to run. Potion of Water Breathing: This cloudy green fluid has a tiny glowing jellyfish swimming through it and smells of the sea.”

This art preview is from the upcoming Dungeon Master’s Guide. It’s one of our favorite pieces, not just because it looks so cool but because of it’s backstory.

Art Director, Kate Irwin explains:
“The art on page 215 has a funny story. It was supposed to be just a few potions on an alchemist’s shelf but the artist (Cyril Van Der Haegen) made this magical full page image with EVERYTHING included. The description was simple:

“Alchemist’s shelf with line-up of iconic magical potions. We’d like each potion to look distinct. Here’s a list of how they are described in the DMG. Pick some that seem fun.”

The description went on to list 12 potions he could choose from, each with a short description. Obviously Cyril added to those 12 potions with tons of items, giving us one of those images that you can pour over and still find something new each time you open to the page.

This was originally a half page illustration, but once we saw the amount of work he had put into it and knew we would want to show it as a full page.

Finally, there were no sketches or concept art for this piece. Cyril turned it in basically completed.”
Below are the dozen potions we gave him. Can you find them all in the illustration?
•Oil of Etherealness: The exterior of any container of this cloudy gray oil is always damp with droplets of the oil that evaporate away before pooling.
•Potion of Climbing: This potion is separated into brown, silver, and gray layers resembling bands of stone.
•Potion of Diminution: This potion cycles between clear and dark red. One moment the whole liquid seems red, and then the redness is drawn to the center, replaced by clear liquid. When the last drop of red vanishes, all the liquid becomes red and the process begins again. Shaking the bottle doesn’t mix the liquids.
•Potion of Flying: This clear liquid has cloudy white impurities drifting in it and floats at the top of the bottle in defiance of gravity.
•Potion of Healing: This liquid is a bright red that glimmers with light as it is swirled.
•Potion of Heroism: This bright blue potion bubbles and steams as if boiling even when stoppered.
•Potion of Invisibility: A bottle with this potion in it looks empty but still feels as though it carries liquid.
•Potion of Longevity: This bottle of amber liquid also contains a scorpion’s tail, an adder’s fang, a dead spider, and the heart of some tiny creature that against all reason is still beating.
•Potion of Mind Reading: This opaque purple liquid has an ovoid cloud of pink that floats about at random within it.
•Potion of Poison: This potion appears to be another sort of potion, and it tastes and smells just like that potion.
•Potion of Speed: This yellow fluid is streaked with black. The liquid races around the interior of any vessel with enough room for it to run.
•Potion of Water Breathing: This cloudy green fluid has a tiny glowing jellyfish swimming through it and smells of the sea.”

THE FAERY TAILS…

Excellent Work!

Russian Photographer Captures Fairy-Tale Scenes With REAL Animals

When Moscow-based photographer Darya Kondratyeva isn’t snapping family, maternity or baby photos, she creates enchanting photos that seem like re-interpretations of old fairytales or legends. The models in her photos seem like they could be witches, princesses or forest spirits.

Aside from her models, trained animals feature heavily in Kondratyeva’s fantasy photography as well. Each one seems like it might open its mouth and whisper a wise secret into the model’s ear.

Kondratyeva’s work is similar to that of Katerina Plotnikova and Margarita Kareva, two other Russian photographers we’ve written about who also have sharp eyes for capturing folkloric images and settings.

More info: dasha-kond.com | Vkontakte

ALONE IN THE DARK – AGAIN

The original Alone in the Dark I liked almost as well as the original Silent Hill. One of my very favorite survival horror-games of all time.

I don’t know what this will be like but it looks interesting. Although the archaeological and preternatural puzzles and the clues of the original were just as fascinating to me as the horror. So I very much hope they leave in the exploration parts of the game and do not turn it into a mere shooter.

The new Alone in the Dark mixes Left 4 Dead with Lovecraftian horror

Atari is returning to its Alone in the Dark series of survival horror games this holiday season with Alone in the Dark: Illumination, a different take on the franchise that’s more similar to Left 4 Dead than the original ’90s Alone in the Dark games or the 2008 reboot. Developed by a new studio called Pure FPS, Illumination brings co-op and online play to the series for the first time, and the studio is hoping it can honor the franchise’s heritage while delivering something fresh.

Los Angeles-based Pure FPS is led by CEO Jason Brice, who was previously the head of the indie studio Plastic Piranha. That company released the first-person shooter Rekoil in January to a poor reception, but Brice told Polygon in an interview earlier this week that he learned a lot on that project, and that the two studios are very different.

“We took the foundation of what was working” at Plastic Piranha, said Brice, and “shed most of the Rekoil” team for Pure FPS. The new studio also brought on some former 38 Studios employees, and has been working on Illumination with a team of about 20 individuals, plus some outsourcing. The project came into being after a chance meeting between Brice and some Atari representatives during a Christmas golf tournament last year, and the company offered Alone in the Dark to Pure FPS…

 

THE REAL MONSTER OF ALL POSSIBILTIES

I cultivate garden spiders (usually of the genus/species Argiope Aurantia and more recently of the genus/species Araneus Saevus). I very much enjoy watching their web-building and trapping techniques, studying their individual behaviors, and even watching how each new generation is a variation upon the preceding generation.

However I would love to encounter a spider like this and to study its behavior, hunting techniques, and defense mechanisms. That is the naturalist and scientist in me.

The fictional writer and the gamer in me sees enormous opportunities in creatures like this.

From modifying the size, the appearance, the drives, the “intelligence,” the defense mechanisms, the hunting techniques, and the prey. I can even imagine such things, natural or artificial, as spies (remote or organic), agents, or even a sort or familiar. The possibilities are limited only by one’s own imagination.

The Real World is always the very best source of fiction. The Real World is the Real Monster of All Possibilities.

Goliath Encounter: Puppy-Sized Spider Surprises Scientist in Rainforest

 

by Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer | October 17, 2014 07:42pm ET

goliath birdeater spider

The South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Its legs can reach up to one foot (30 centimeters) and it can weight up to 6 oz. (170 grams).
Credit: Piotr Naskrecki
View full size image

Piotr Naskrecki was taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana, when he heard rustling as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he expected to see a small mammal, such as a possum or a rat.

“When I turned on the light, I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing,” said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

A moment later, he realized he was looking not at a brown, furry mammal, but an enormous, puppy-size spider.

Known as the South American Goliath birdeater (Therapho

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