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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.

11 BETTER

11 ways to be a better roleplayer, the Safe for Work version

This is the “safe” version of the 11 ways text with all the rude bits removed if you want to share it with someone who’s upset by profanity.The original rude version, complete with swear words, is available here.

ONE. Do stuff.
Job One for you as a player is to do stuff; you should be thinking, at all times – “What are my goals? And what can I do to achieve them?” You are the stars of a very personal universe, and you are not going to get anywhere by sitting on your butt and waiting for adventure to come and knock on your door.
Investigate stuff. Ask questions. Follow leads. No-one needs you to point out that this is an obvious plot thread while you do it. Mix up scenes, talk to people, get up in their grill. If you’re not playing the sort of character that would do such a thing, find something you can affect, and affect it.
If you keep finding yourself pushed to the back of scenes and twiddling your thumbs – why is such a boring character hanging around with the sort of people that Get Stuff Done?
Be active, not passive. If you learn nothing else from this article, bloody learn this.

TWO. Realise that your character does not exist outside of the things you have said.
You can write as many pages of backstory as you like, mate, but they don’t factor in one bit to the game unless you show them happening. Are you a shrewd businessman? Cool. Do some business, shrewdly, in front of everyone else. Are you a hot jazz saxophonist? Play the saxophone. Are you a wild elf struggling through social interactions with civilised people? Struggle through those interactions! Don’t go off and sit in a tree!
This ties back into the first point, really; you only exist through your actions. It is not the responsibility of other players to read your backstory, and their characters cannot read minds. Well. Some of them can, but you know what I mean. They shouldn’t have to.
So display your talents, your traits, your weaknesses, your connections. Take every opportunity to show, and not tell, the other people at the table what your character is about.

THREE. Don’t try to stop things.
Negating another player’s actions is fairly useless play; it takes two possible story-changing elements and whacks them against each other so hard that neither of them works. For example, your fighter wants to punch some jerk, but your monk’s against it, so he grabs the fighter’s hand. In game terms, nothing’s happened. All you’ve done is waste time, and we don’t have infinite supplies of that.
Instead, go with the flow. Build. If the fighter wants to break someone’s nose, what happens after that? Does your monk rush to help the jerk up? To admonish the fighter? To apologise to the jerk’s friends, before shit really kicks off? To save the fighter in the big brawl that ensues, even though he was going against your will? Or to throw the biggest guy in the tavern right at him, to really teach him a lesson? Those are all examples of interesting stories. Stopping him from doing anything whatsoever isn’t.
Don’t negate, extrapolate. (See, that rhymes, so it’s easier to remember)

FOUR. Take full control of your character.
“My character wouldn’t do that” is a boring excuse, a massive NO to the game’s story on a fundamental level. It’s a point-blank refusal to participate.
Instead of being bound by pre-conceived notions of what your character would and would not do, embrace complications and do it, but try to work out why. Why is your Rogue doing this mission for the church? Does he have ulterior motives? Is it out of a sense of companionship with the rest of the party? Characters in uncomfortable situations are the meat and drink of drama.
(Do you remember that great story about that hobbit who told Gandalf to go away, and sat at home picking his hairy toes all day before his entire village was swallowed up by the armies of darkness? No. No you bloody don’t. So put on your backpack and get out there, Frodo)
If you keep finding yourself having to explain your actions, or not wanting to go along with group decisions because of your character’s motives… well, maybe your character’s motives are wrong. They’re not written in stone. The group’s the thing, not your snowflake character, and if they’re not working, drop them off at the next village and maybe try playing someone more open to new ideas. Maybe work with the group to build a character that fits in.
Your character is part of the story; this is not your character’s story.

FIVE. Don’t harm other players.
Oh ho, here’s a jolly thief that nicks stuff from the other party members! And their Sleight of Hand roll is so high that no-one will ever notice! Gosh, what a jape.
No-one likes that guy. (That guy generally plays Kender, and I am fully of the opinion that Kender should be promptly genocided out of all RPGs. I don’t think genocide is a crime if we’re talking about Kender.) If you steal from other players, you are exerting power over them in a really messy, underhanded sort of way. If they find out, what are they going to do? Are you going to force them to escalate? Is it fair if they kill you for it? Is that fun for them?
Similarly, attacking other players is awful, too. I’m okay with this where systems fully support and encourage this, of course – something like Paranoia or Dogs in the Vineyard – but, hey, give it a rest. I am hard-pressed to think of a way where such a thing improves the game; if your group is fine with it, discuss it beforehand. But keep me out of it.
There are a whole load of things out there to steal from and beat up and kill that won’t get offended when you do it to them, so go bother them first.

SIX. Know the system, don’t be a jerk about it.
If you know a system, you are easier to GM for, because you know your character’s limitations. You can calculate the rough odds of a particular action succeeding or failing, just like in real life. You can make prompt assessments of situations and act accordingly, because you understand the rules of the world.
(New players, of course, get a free pass on this one. But do make an effort to learn the rules, obviously, if you’re keen on sticking around in the hobby.)
But for the love of God, don’t rules-lawyer. Do not do that. It is not hard to work out, because here is a simple guide – if you are arguing over a rule for more than twenty seconds, you are a rules lawyer. You are the Health and Safety Inspector of roleplaying games, and you need to stop talking, because you are sucking the fun out of the game.
There are times when the rules are wrong, and that’s fine, but I’m hard-pressed to think of that time the guy remembered the rule and we all laughed and had a great time because he made the GM change it.

SEVEN. Give the game your attention. If you can’t give your full attention, step away from the table.

Hey! What’s that you’re playing, on your phone there? Oh, is it Candy Crush Saga? That’s funny, all these dice and character sheets gave me the impression that we were playing Dungeons and Bloody Dragons, I must be terribly mistaken.
It is hard to think of a way to be more dismissive of someone’s game than playing a different game during it. If you find yourself getting so bored by what’s going on you’re resorting to playing a game on your phone, or reading a book, or checking Facebook, then step away from the game. You are draining the group with your very presence. I would rather have an empty chair than someone who wasn’t paying attention, because I don’t have to entertain an empty chair.
And of course, it’s up to the GM to offer an entertaining game. This is not one-sided. But going back to point one, act whenever you can. Give them something to work with. Unless you’re paying them money to do this, they are under no obligation to dance like a monkey for you just because they’re behind the screen.

EIGHT. If you make someone uncomfortable, apologise and talk to them about it.
I have a rule in my games, and that rule is: “Nothing has sex with anything else.” Simple. Clean. Elegant. No sexual conduct; it’s weird, often. I’ve had seduction attempts, obviously, and that’s fine. I’ve had characters deeply affected by sexual assault. But, and this is the crucial thing here, nothing had sex with anything else “onscreen.”
In situations like the ones we find ourselves in on a weekly basis, it’s easy to make people feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s as blatant as discussing dead babies; maybe it’s something much more benign, like being rude or chatting them up in-character.
If you think you might have upset someone, then ask ‘em, quietly. And if you have, apologise, and stop talking about that particular thing. It’s not rocket science; that’s how existing as a functioning social human being works, and somehow because we’re pretending to be a halfling for a bit, we often forget how to do it.

So, you know, be nice. Be extra nice. No-one’s going to think any less of you for it.

NINE. Be a Storyteller.

The World of Darkness books call their GM a Storyteller, because they are very obviously unable to call a spade a spade. But they have a point; a GM is telling stories. It’s easy to forget that the players are doing that too.
So put some effort in, eh? Say some words. Develop a character voice and stance. Describe your actions. Work out a level of agency with the GM so you can chip into wider descriptions, or just make assumptions and describe it and see if it sticks. A good GM should go with what you’re saying, anyway, unless it really goes against their plan.
Similarly, brevity = soul of wit, and all that. A good GM doesn’t monologue, or have their NPCs have long discussions, or make players sit back and watch while their world plays out. So know when to shut up, and to keep your descriptions short – unless you’re an incredible storyteller, of course. But short and punchy is always better than long and flowery.

TEN. Embrace failure.
Failure can be embarrassing. I know that I get pretty het up when the dice don’t favour me – when I’ve spent ages waiting to have my turn in a large game, say, or when I’m using some special power, or when I’ve been talking a big talk for a while or described some fancy action – and I use some pretty bad language, too. And not “fun” bad language, like we all do when we’re gaming. Like threatening “is this guy okay” bad.
And that’s not cool. I need to learn to treat failure as a story branch, not a block. Why did I miss? Why didn’t my intimidation roll work? Why didn’t I pick the lock? Why was I seen? Who worked out that I’m the traitor? What other options can I explore?
Some systems build this in by default – Apocalypse World, for example – and they give you the ability to somehow affect the world whenever you roll the dice, not just fail to affect someone’s Hit Points. That’s great! We need to get ourselves into that mindset by default. We need to view failures as setbacks and explain why our character didn’t achieve their goal, and we need to understand that failure is not the end of the world.

ELEVEN. Play the game.
This is a game. This is not a challenge that exists solely in the head of your GM. This is not your character’s personal story arc. This is not your blog. This is not an excuse to chat up one of the other players. This is not a table to sit at in silence. This is a game.
We have signed up to play a game together. We are all telling a story with each other, to each other, and the story comes first. Step back from the heat of combat; step back from your character’s difficult relationship with their half-Drow mother; step back from the way that the Paladin’s player keeps stealing your dice.
This is a game. Respect the other players. Respect the story, and act in service of it. Respect that you will not always get your way, and that not getting your way can be interesting.
Do what is best for the game. Do what is best for the story. Be active! Be positive! Be interesting! Change things! If you can’t walk away at the end of the night with a good memory, with something that you could talk about in the pub in years to come, then everyone at the table has failed.

GONE A’VIKING

The Viking women who disappeared

By Cathinka Dahl Hambro

Women played an important part in Viking Age society, and their role far exceeded that of mother and the “housewife”. Why, then, are they barely mentioned in the history books?

Ingeborg - Norse mythology - painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831-1892)

“The standard specialist literature within the field is pervaded with Viking expeditions, kings, weapons, and battles,” says Viking researcher Nanna Løkka.

“If women are mentioned at all they are placed within an everyday context, with children, handicraft and domestic life. Thus, when the characteristics of the Viking Age are described, women are either left out completely, or they are given their own little paragraph, as they appear neither very exciting nor spectacular.”

In the recently published anthology Kvinner i vikingtid (“Viking Age Women”), sixteen women and one man challenge this standard saga inspired account of the early Norwegian Middle Ages, which is characterized by raiding kings and chieftains. Løkka has edited the book in collaboration with Nancy Coleman.

Kvinner i vikingtid examines the various roles of women in a society where not only men possessed political power and influence. The book shows that the role of women was not always a domestic one. On the contrary, they actively participated within various aspects of public life such as trade, textile production, medicine, and religious practice.

Kvinner i vikingtidNone mentioned, all forgotten

Both the sagas and the schoolbooks tell us show many benches the master builder Torberg Skavhogg built for the rowers when he equipped the hull of King Olav Tryggvasson’s legendary longship Ormen Lange (“The Long Serpent”). The women who were responsible for weaving the sail, however, are not mentioned by name.

“The Vikings wouldn’t have reached England unless someone had equipped the ships with sails. It is a well-known fact that the Vikings were far ahead of their European neighbours in terms of maritime techniques. In an episode of the TV series Vikings, they make a big fuss about the ship’s anchor, but the sail is not mentioned with a single word,” says Løkka.

The textile production was probably organised hierarchically, where women supervised other women in extensive collaborative work. Løkka adds, “The larger Viking ships used 100 square meter sized sails. In order to produce that, the women needed 200 kilos of wool from approximately 2000 sheep, and it required hundreds of working hours. We are talking about more than just a small-scale family business.”

High school textbooks are the worst

According to the researcher, the models applied to understand the Viking Age ignore the women’s impact and contribution. This is particularly visible in the high school history books. Løkka found that only one among the six most popular history books from the 1990s and 2000s provides its own paragraph on women.

“If women appear at all in the general literature on the field, they are usually depicted as the stereotypical “housewife” who is tied to the farm and the home, not as someone who participates in important social processes,” says Løkka.

In the standard accounts of the Viking Age, the farm is regarded as the smallest, yet most significant unit. Other important institutions in the Viking society are the family, the chiefdom, and the Thing.

The woman is usually associated with the farm and the private sphere, whereas the man is connected to public life. Hence, the gender roles are often described in terms of “inside” and “outside” in order to distinguish between men and women’s responsibilities.

“I’m not saying that the stereotypical representation isn’t feasible at all, but it contributes to a description of the Viking Age based solely on male activities. Most probably the Viking society consisted of other dividing lines and hierarchies where women to a larger degree ranked on top,” Løkka adds.

Nanna Løkka - photo courtesy University of Oslo

The “housewife” as business manager

For example, recent research shows that being a “housewife” might involve major responsibility and hard work, particularly if the farm was of some considerable size. The chieftain’s home at Borg in Lofoten, which is the largest known chieftain’s farm, was more than eighty metres long. That is only twenty metres shorter than the Nidaros Cathedral. A typical chieftain’s farm may have had a longhouse of approximately fifty metres. A banquet on such a large farm could easily involve 150 people, all of them expecting to be served food and drinks.

“Running a farm like that is like managing a medium size business. Thus, these women should rather be regarded as business managers than mere housewives,” says Løkka.

With this in mind, one may therefore ask whether this type of feast actually belonged to the so-called private sphere. At these banquets, contracts and deals were made, politics was developed, and alliances were formed.

If the food or drink was unsatisfactory it could cause diplomatic crisis or disgrace. Therefore, the women who cooked and served the meals held an important public function. According to Løkka, categories like inside/outside and private/public have probably become antiquated due to recent research.

Malevolent Viking women

It doesn’t make things better that the women who did position themselves at the top of the male warrior hierarchy were often severely condemned by the later saga writers. This was the case with Queen Gunnhild, who according to tradition received training from Sami magicians. Allegedly, she took over the leadership of her sons’ army when her husband Eirik Blodøks (Eric Bloodaxe) was driven into exile and subsequently killed.

Alfiva, the de facto Norwegian ruler in the beginning of the eleventh century, received an equally bad reputation, becoming highly unpopular after introducing new legislation and a new tax system.

Viking reverie as nation building

Nanna Løkka emphasizes that in many ways the term Viking Age is a nineteenth century construction, which was formed along the lines of the era’s prevailing national romantic ideals.

For instance, historian Jørgen Haavardsholm has noted that the term Viking Age can be connected to a political process in which the goal was to create a nation with a proud and common past where the Vikings served as masculine and unyielding heroes and adventurers.

“An entire period and society has been connected to the Viking raids. In reality, however, only a small number of the men actually went on Viking raids. It has nevertheless added masculine value to the era, and consequently the female half of the population has been neglected,” says Løkka.

Farewell to the Viking Age?

The national romantic heritage is one of the reasons why a new generation of historians preferred to use the more neutral and European term Early Middle Ages in the four-volume history work Norvegr from 2011. Archaeologists, on the other hand, have mainly preferred the term Late Iron Age.

Lokka explains, “I ended up using the term Viking Age primarily because I want people to understand what I am working with. Moreover, the Viking Age sells and attracts attention. But there is definitely an ambivalence there.”

See also: Viking Women: Not as Different as You Might Think

D20 MODERN AND URBAN FANTASY – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

I’m a longtime D&D player, but I’m also a sucker for urban fantasy. With the Dungeon Master’s Guide and some tweaking, I’ve begun to use the fifth edition rules to explore the possibilities of gunplay in a modern fantasy setting.

When Wizards of the Coast released the d20 Modern roleplaying game in 2002, I was in heaven. Gnolls in crushed velvet! Ogres decked out in London Fog overcoats! Living dumpsters that ate people!

I was crazy about the Urban Arcana campaign setting in particular. The scenario was a familiar one, seemingly plucked from my own daydreams. D&D monsters and magic (called “Shadow” within the setting) are finding their way into our world. The vast majority of humankind remains largely ignorant of this development, thanks to our awesome capacity for denial. Only a small number of humans and friendly Shadowkind races can even perceive—much less combat—the threats that such an incursion brings.

I ran my Urban Arcana campaign for six years. By that point, other games had clamored for my attention, but I never forgot how interested I was in the marriage of D&D to urban fantasy. When the fifth edition Dungeon Master’s Guide was released last December, I knew without a doubt that my first homebrew setting using the new rules would be an updated take on Urban Arcana, adapting firearms and modern armor for use in an urban fantasy game.

Rules of Engagement

The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides optional rules for firearms in D&D—including modern and even futuristic weapons. However, this left me in a quandary regarding character defenses. In a typical fantasy setting, adventurers, guards, and other possible combatants are fully expected to wear armor. There are no social penalties when characters are observed in full armor while going about their business. Modern settings are a different animal in this regard.

Using the old d20 Modern Core Rulebook as a guide, and tweaking the math for fifth edition, I created armor options for my “5e Modern” campaign. Because it can be assumed that most characters operate undercover, incognito, or simply in an unobtrusive manner for at least part of the time, I made sure that those options included concealable armor. More obvious armor—whether riot armor, flak jackets, or Land Warrior milspec armor—will likely have an affect on characters’ social ability checks and their ability to move freely in your campaign. By that same token, armor might afford bonuses to Charisma (Intimidation) checks.

Modern Armor
Armor Armor Class (AC) Strength Stealth Properties Weight
Light Armor
Heavy coat 11 + Dex modifier Disadvantage 6 lb.
Leather jacket 11 + Dex modifier 4 lb.
Light undercover shirt 11 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 2 lb.
Kevlar-lined coat 12 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 8 lb.
Undercover vest 13 + Dex modifier DR/2 ballistic 3 lb.
Medium Armor
Concealable vest 13 + Dex modifier (max 2) DR/3 ballistic 4 lb.
Light-duty vest 14 + Dex modifier (max 3) DR/3 ballistic 8 lb.
Tactical vest 15 + Dex modifier (max 2) Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 10 lb.
Heavy Armor
Special response vest 15 Str 10 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic 15 lb.
Land Warrior armor 17 Str 13 Disadvantage DR/5 ballistic/slashing 10 lb.
Forced entry unit 18 Str 13 Disadvantage Resistance: ballistic/slashing 20 lb.

As you can see from the table, many of the heavier armors grant damage reduction (DR) or resistance to several damage types, including a new damage type: ballistic damage. In game terms, ballistic damage is the type of damage that firearms inflict, and is a subset of piercing damage. This means that all ballistic damage counts as piercing damage, but not all piercing damage counts as ballistic damage. Magical effects or creature properties that grant resistance to piercing damage also apply to ballistic damage, but effects or properties reducing ballistic damage do not automatically apply to piercing damage.

(Armor in my game currently has no price because my modern ruleset uses a wealth system for characters, similar to that used in d20 Modern. Characters gain equipment based on their wealth, rather than tracking income and expenses. I won’t get into the full system here, but it might make a good topic for a later installment of Behind the Screens.)

Who Gets What?

Because of the high potential damage granted to firearms, it was also necessary to introduce a complication or condition in order to balance their use with more traditional modes of attack. In my campaign, a character proficient with a firearm does not automatically add any proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Rather, proficiency with a firearm allows a character to use a bonus action to take the aim action, which adds the character’s proficiency bonus to the attack roll. Without taking the aim action (or if a character is using a firearm without proficiency), the shooter receives only the benefit of a Dexterity bonus on the attack roll.

When it came to weapon proficiencies, I decided that several classes would enjoy proficiency with firearms, while others would have to earn their proficiency with multiclassing or by training through the use of downtime days (see the Player’s Handbook). I divided firearms into two basic classes: sidearms (for anything up to a submachine gun) and long arms (for anything up to a light machine gun.) Anything heavier—such as a heavy machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or a flamethrower—is given special dispensation according to the in-game situation. In my own campaign, I created a feat called Heavy Weapon Specialist that allows proficiency in all modern weapons heavier than a medium machine gun wielded by an unassisted individual on foot. I also made this feat available as a fighting style for the fighter class.

Firearm Proficiencies by Class
Class Firearm Proficiency
Bard Sidearms
Barbarian Long arms
Cleric None (though possibly granted through domains such as City or War)
Druid None
Fighter Long arms and sidearms
Monk Sidearms
Paladin Long arms and sidearms
Ranger Long arms and sidearms
Rogue Long arms or sidearms (chosen at character creation)
Sorcerer None
Warlock None (though sidearms and long arms can be created through the Pact of the Blade class feature)
Wizard None (though sidearm proficiency might be granted through the School of Technomancy)

Hold up! City Domain? School of Technomancy? I’ll get into those next time!

About the Author

Daniel Helmick is a contractor attached to the Dungeons & Dragons R&D department, formerly of the D&D Insider studio at Wizards of the Coast. He has contributed numerous articles and adventures to Dungeon and Dragon magazines, as well as the Tyranny of Dragons and Elemental Evil Adventurers League programs. He’s thinking about getting a cat, but he’s torn between the names Trapspringer and Dragonbait.

ON MEET-N-UP FOR D&D

On using Meetup to play D&D with a group of strangers

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Fate robbed me of an important rite of passage for dorks and nerds. Growing up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1980’s, I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, I played lots of dorky video games with friends, watched the Saturday morning Dungeons & Dragons TV series, and read whichever trashy fantasy novel I could find at the library. I would always see the D&D rule books, with their beautiful cover art depicting scenes such as a wizard with an octopus face firing crimson rays at female barbarian clad in a bone bikini, at bookstores and toy stores, but I never knew anyone my age who played the game. The closest I ever came to dungeoneering in earnest, was a board game called Hero Quest (which is now worth $400! Why did you throw it away, Mommy?), a sort of D&D lite which came with plastic miniatures. Though, the only person I could convince to read the 40-plus page rulebook was my cousin Chris. A few times, we played the six-player game with two-players. Sad, but fun.

Aside from its status as a game only for the biggest dorks, this was long before George R.R. Martin and HBO had made dark fantasy mainstream, D&D has also suffered from a stigma brought on by religious groups and lazy journalists (cough-cough) alike in the 1980s. References to demons and the occult within the game as well as a well-publicized suicide of James Dallas Egbert III caused an international stir. Egbert was a severely, clinically depressed individual who happened to enjoy playing D&D. The press ran with it as they’re wont to do and, as a result, many children, such as my 9-year-old self, were denied the pleasure of invading Castle Ravenloft to defeat its vampiric lord.

Then there was Christopher “Chris” W. Pritchard, convicted of the murder of his stepfather and the attempted murder of his mother. He, along with his three cronies, happened to play D&D and they also happened to covet Pritchard’s $2 million inheritance. Even the film industry got in on the act. Three movies about the purported dangers of Dungeons & Dragons were made in the ’80s with Mazes and Monsters (1982) starring Tom Hanks and based on the novel by Rona Jaffe, taking honors as most silly. The Dungeonmaster (1984) is a close second with its dazzling special effects and memorable dialogue: “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”

“You’re not getting that. It’s bad,” our mother’s would say. It didn’t matter how cool that undead castle looked or how intense the need to fight a weretiger , “…they said on TV it’s bad.”

Time went on and, for me, D&D became little more than unrealized nostalgia. Sex (or rather, the pursuit thereof) and getting high tend to replace the lust for simulated goblin slaughter. Yet, the love of fantasy persisted. Once a dork always a dork. Laughing friends would always deride my choice of fiction. Frankly, I think they’re just jealous of the cover art. Perhaps Mitch Albom would move more copies if his covers depicted a shrieking owl-bear eviscerating a hapless halfling rogue.

Then, one day, it happened again. Strolling through a Barnes & Noble while waiting for a companion, that gorgeous cover art got to me. A beholder, a creature made out of teeth, tentacles and eyes menacing a heavily armored dwarf fighter wielding a jewel encrusted maul. All the years of deferred quests came through the mists of time. Before I could make an intelligence check, I was the proud owner of the Fifth Edition of D&D’s Starter Set and Monster Manual.

After several unsuccessful attempts to convince friends and family to indulge me in my hunger for arcane warfare and pop and chips, I was forced to Google, “How to find people to play D&D.” I’d come too far and waited too long to give up twice. By all the gods I would have satisfaction! The search led me to a site called Meetup. A popular bit of social media, new to me, but used by many to meet others with similar interests: rock climbing, quilting, support groups and dungeon crawling.

Once the obligatory practice of testing the cyber waters for serial killers was complete, I agreed to meet at a stranger’s home to finally play Dungeons & Dragons. Pop and chips in tow, I expected a human horror show from which I would politely excuse myself after an hour. Instead, I pretended I was a necromancer with a heart of gold for five hours. I actually closed my damned eyes and imagined (for the first time in ages) myself creating a crew of zombies to man our seafaring vessel. Zombies work for cheap. My necromancer’s staff featured a human skull with ruby eyes that totally lit up when conjuring skeletons. The skull, by the way, belonged to a former slave master. (I may practice dark arts, but I don’t go in for that human bondage business.)

A more friendly and diverse group of adventurers would be hard to find. The owner of the house, we’ll call him Kumai from the equivalent Japanese culture in the Forbidden Realms (the setting for D&D), had prepared delicious burgers with homemade buns, tomato salad with mint, and freshly baked, crusty Irish soda bread paired with imported aged Irish cheddar. There was Gmorg, the Dragonborn raider who also repairs cars alongside computer systems and a 70-year-old “dark gnome” cleric and retired school teacher who remembered when one had to trade sci-fi and fantasy novels at book fairs and in “back alleys.” They cost 50 cents back then. Our dungeon master was a former Marine with an uncanny ability for doing silly voices and drowning careless adventurers in pools of boiling blood. The use of miniatures and game maps, which adds a board game element to D & D, was too new-fangled for this group. One had to use their imagination with a little help from the gorgeous artwork in the player’s guide.

It didn’t matter that I was clueless to the process of rolling polyhedral dice to determine character stats such as dexterity, charisma. Nor did it matter we were five completely different people of vary ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds, who, truth be told, would have never uttered a word to one another outside of this gathering. We had a fucking blast and we’re doing it again next week.

Mostly, social media gives one a depressing glimpse into the cesspool of humanity. A scrying pool into a lich’s jerk-off session where you can witness a grown man refer to a group of first graders in a Christmas pageant as “bitch-ass faggots.” But this time, perhaps the only time in my memory, cyberia came through for me. I played Dungeons & Dragons with a group of strangers and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity.

“It sounds ridiculous, but it’s like a mental vacation,” said the dark gnome cleric. “You’d be surprised by how a spot of imagination can do you well.”

CONVERSION GUIDES

moldvay basic dungeons and dragons

Those Dungeons & Dragons conversion documents have to wait until Wizards of the Coast’s approvals person wraps up a real-world courtroom drama.

Dungeons & Dragons‘ Fifth Edition has been out for half a year, and has all kinds of new adventures still on the way. But for many fans, the really exciting release will be conversion documents, helping Game Masters bring countless adventures and campaigns to the new system. The only problem is most of these were supposed to be out last fall. What’s the delay? It’s actually beyond Wizards of the Coast’s control – the responsible party rolled a one on the jury duty table.

The detail was revealed earlier this week when D&D Lead Designer Mike Mearls was asked about the matter on Twitter. “The person who needs to do the final approvals on them is serving on a jury that will take another 4 or so months,” Mearls confirmed. “Sorry!”

That’s a completely reasonable hiccup in development, even though four months feels like a long time to wait. At least releases like the Eberron update guide will give players a place to start for now. Hopefully by the time we’re all finished with the Elemental Evil campaign we’ll be able to dive into some classic D&D worlds.

Well, unless your GM gets called away as well.

Source: Twitter

GIVE A LITTLE BIT…

Your Dungeon Master works hard to make sure you have a fantastic campaign. So how can you repay them? By showing your appreciation!

Since February is now officially “Dungeon Master Appreciation Month,” it only felt right to come up with 28 ways you can appreciate your DM. How many will you squeeze into the month?

  1. Offer to host the next session at your place!
  2. Create a soundtrack to match the current campaign setting.
  3. Make them a batch of Fireball truffles.
  4. Pay for the DM’s share of the pizza order.
  5. Submit the DM’s best quotes to outofcontextdnd.tumblr.com.
  6. Give them a hand-painted miniature of an important NPC in your campaign.
  7. Make sure the DM’s glass is always full, whether they’re drinking water, coffee, or mead.
  8. Recommend they DM for the D&D Adventurer’s League at your friendly local game store.
  9. Immortalize your campaign’s story in the GameTales subreddit.
  10. Secretly talk to all of the players in your campaign, and have everyone come to the next session dressed up as their character!
  11. Bring the DM a bottle of wine with a customized label matching your current campaign (handmade by you, of course!). You can find a template here.
  12. Share an amazing thing your DM did in the DnD subreddit.
  13. Make a batch of Tavern Stew for the DM and other players.
  14. Share a clip of the epic campaign (or the hilarious NPC the DM voices) on Vine or Instagram.
  15. Tweet your appreciation for your DM using #DnDDMA!
  16. Are you artistically inclined? Volunteer to draw/paint beautiful character representations or maps. Not so artsy? Find a talented friend and commission the artwork.
  17. Send a Thank You card after a fantastic session, and let them know what impressed you–was it the puzzle they wrote? How they had you laughing the whole time? How the monsters were perfectly matched to make it a hard (but not completely lethal) fight?
  18. Get tickets to an upcoming gaming convention and take your DM! Check out the cons recommended by the D&D team here.
  19. Offer to record your next session and edit into a podcast or video.
  20. Write an ode to your DM on the official Dungeons & Dragons Facebook page. 
  21. Sign your DM up for Dungeons and Dragons Online and play a session with them! (If you’re feeling extra generous, make them a VIP!)
  22. Create a sash, crown, robe, or other accessory to signify your DM is the “World’s Greatest.” Insist they wear it to each session!
  23. Make your DM a dice tower.
  24. Create a “pump up playlist” to get your DM in the mood on their way to the next session. Some suggestions are Assorted Intricacies’ “Roll a D6,” Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy,” Stephen Lynch’s “D&D,” and The Doubleclicks’ “This Fantasy World.”
  25. Present a gift to your DM, but make them solve a puzzle or riddle similar to ones they put in your campaign before they can receive it!
  26. Make an in-character “scrapbook” of your adventure with notes/”diary entries” from each day and drawings of people, places, and monsters you encountered. Give it to your DM at the end of the campaign!
  27. Make a dice bag using fabric patterns and colors that your DM will love!
  28. Offer to DM a future campaign so they have a chance to play!

(Editor’s Note: As mentioned in our earlier letter, if you’re feeling inspired to give Dungeon Mastering a try, or want to start appreciating your Dungeon Master right now, then the Dungeon Master’s Guide is the perfect gift for the storyteller in your life!)

About the Author

Geeky Hostess (Tara Theoharis) blogs about “incorporating your geeky passions into your everyday life through parties, gift ideas, home decor, recipes, etiquette, fashion, and more.” More advice, ideas and recipes can be found at http://geekyhostess.com.

THE QUEST: PART ONE

The Archaeological Quest for the Earliest Christians

Part one of a two-part examination

maresha-paintings

The race for the next spectacular artifact is on. Ancient bone boxes, lost manuscripts encoded with secret messages about Jesus, even fragments of crumbled papyrus—some no bigger than the receipts we stuff in our pockets—promise hope of a brave new world in Biblical studies. The assumption seems to be that if we just look a little harder, if we just dig a little bit deeper, one day we’ll find the one piece of evidence that will take us back to the earliest age of Jesus and his followers. To many, it’s an urgent archaeological mission with profound implications for the history of faith.Just don’t hold your breath. For almost two hundred years after the crucifixion, Roman cities are entirely devoid of any trace of early Christians; to date, no one has ever found any object that’s been plausibly connected to them. As an archaeologist and a historian, I think it’s time we start taking this silence seriously and stop trying to filling it with any more sensational “discoveries.” Many of Jesus’ followers—men and women who lived in the first, second and even third-century Roman Mediterranean—simply didn’t want to be found.

That’s not exactly the first thing that usually comes to mind when we think about early Christians, but the evidence is insurmountable at this point. For almost four hundred years, there were no manger scenes anywhere in the Roman world. There were no crucifixes displayed in homes or schools. There weren’t even any bound Bibles tucked into church pews. In fact, we actually don’t even know what “churches” looked like, at least, not until the middle of the third century. For a community that would later come to remember its earliest history as a time of vicious persecution, answered with outspoken acts of martyrdom, this archaeological silence poses a slight problem. Where are these people?

There are two assumptions people usually rely upon to explain the silence. The first is that Scripture, which is to say, the Second Commandment of the Hebrew Bible, prohibited Jesus’ followers from dabbling in anything artistic. The second is that early Christians were too poor and disenfranchised to leave anything noticeable behind. New archaeological and historical research suggests that neither of these traditional explanations are adequate. This post is the first in a two-part series that will explore each of these issues, charting some new directions in the study of early Christianity.


New from BAS: Partings—How Judaism and Christianity Became Two. Never before has this multi-faceted process been documented so engagingly and so authoritatively by so many eminent scholars. Read more >>


So let’s tackle the first question. Did the Mosaic commandment forbidding the creation of graven images (Deuteronomy 5:8) really prohibit Jesus’ earliest followers from pursuing their own artistic talents? Recent work on Jewish material culture during the late Second Temple period has shed new light on this topic. At the center of this picture is a twenty-year-old boy, Alexander the Great, and the legacy he left behind in the eastern Mediterranean in the third, second and first centuries B.C.By the time of Alexander’s successors—the Seleucid family in Asia Minor and the northern Levant, the Ptolemies in Egypt and the southern Levant—sounds of Hellenistic art and craftsmanship were beginning to echo on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean. A visit to two cities makes that clear. At the city of Hellenistic Marisa (today known as Maresha, a site near Bethlehem), archaeologists found tomb chambers with paintings of animals and landscapes that are stylistically similar to those seen at sites like Vergina, Greece, an important site for the Macedonian kings. The animals depicted at Maresha may even have been inspired by a famous Hellenistic zoo, organized by the Ptolemies at Alexandria. The paintings at Maresha have been dated to the third and second centuries B.C. (see image above).

jerusalem-tombs

Evidence in Jerusalem reveals similar examples of cultural exchange during this time. Representations of ships and anchors appear in many Jerusalem tombs during the late Second Temple period. Some monumental tombs built in the Kidron Valley, in the shadow of the Second Temple, incorporate architectural styles that were also widely popular. Both the tomb of the sons of Hezir, dated to the second century B.C, and the so-called Tomb of Absalom, dated to the first century A.D., draw upon Greek columns, capitals, friezes—even Egyptian pyramid forms (see image right).Jewish individuals and groups during the late Second Temple period may have been waging fierce debates amongst themselves about the role of Hellenistic customs in the formation of their Jewish identity—debates we pick up in our textual sources, like 2 Maccabees—but the archaeological evidence is clear: The Second Commandment given to Moses did not prevent Jews from making images. It prevented them from making idols. Appreciating this nuance in the history of Jewish art and archaeology is an important first step to seeing early Christian archaeology in a new light, too.

In sum, how have we ever come to believe that Christians harbored an innate artistic hostility of their own, taught to them in the Second Commandment, when Jews who read their own Scripture came to entirely opposite ideas? To understand why we haven’t been able to find Jesus’ earliest followers means setting aside long-held assumptions like these. In my second post, I’ll tackle another one: Were early Christians so poor that they were never able to afford nice things? The answer to that question, too, is not the one we may think we know.


IVAN’S BLADE?

Sure look like it would have been a beautiful thing when new. The inscription is incredible…

Could rare sword have belonged to Ivan the Terrible?

By Anna Liesowska and Derek Lambie
21 November 2014

Intrigue over how German-made 12th century blade, adorned in Sweden, reached Siberia.

The scientists would be keen to hear from European experts who could throw more light on its origins. Picture: The Siberian Times

The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets. The weapon was unearthed by accident  in 1975 and remains the only weapon of its kind ever found in Siberia.

An exciting new theory has now emerged that it could have belonged to Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and came from the royal armoury as a gift at the time of the conquest of Siberia. The hypothesis, twinning an infamous Russian ruler and a revered battle hero, could turn it into one of the most interesting archaeological finds in Siberian history, though for now much remains uncertain.

What Siberian experts are sure about is that the beautifully engraved weapon was originally made in central Europe, and most likely in the Rhine basin of Germany before going to the Swedish mainland, or the island of Gotland, to be adorned with an ornate silver handle and Norse ruse pattern.

The scientists would be keen to hear from European experts who could throw more light on its origins.

The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.


The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.


The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.

The blade was made in the Rhine basin of Germany in late 12th or early 13th century. Pictures: The Siberian Times

‘Both sides of the blade have ‘rune’ inscription which was abbreviated’, said archaeologist Vyacheslav Molodin, the man who led the excavation – in Vengerovo district – which found the weapon. ‘The style of calligraphy proves that it was made by people with knowledge of advanced epigraphic writing techniques’.

Russia’s leading experts at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg decoded the Latin wording on the one metre long blade.

The main inscription reads: N[omine] M[atris] N[ostri] S[alva]t[ORis] Et[eRni] D[omini] S[alvatoRis] E[teRni], with an additional one on the same side of the blade saying C[hRis]t[us] Ih[esus] C[hRis]t[us]. This means:’In the name of the mother of our saviour eternal, eternal Lord and Saviour. Christ Jesus Christ.’

The inscription on the reverse side is harder to read, but the first word  ‘NOMENE’ – clearly seen –  helps reconstruct the rest as ‘N[omine] O[mnipotentis]. M[ateR]. E[teRni] N[omin]e’, which means ‘In the name of the Almighty. The Mother of God. In the name of Eternal’.

There has been widespread debate about how the sword ended up in Russia, with assumptions it was either carried along a trade route, or taken as a spoil of war from skirmishes in the region. In one of the hypothesis, Academician Molodin has suggested the blade –  currently stored in the collections of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk – could have been taken from Ivan the Terrible’s armoury and brought to Siberia by the legendary warrior Ivan Koltso, ahead of the conquest of the region.

It was during Ivan’s reign in the late 16th century that Russia started large scale exploration and colonisation of Siberia. Cossack leader Yermak Timofeyevich was hired to take on the Tatar forces under Khan Kuchum and Murza Karachi and lead the eastward expansion of the empire, with the sword a possible gift from the Kremlin.

The sword was uncovered at the base of a tree in the Baraba forest-steppe, less than three kilometres from where it is thought Koltso, Yermak’s closest ally, died in battle. He was declared hero in February 1583, with church bells ringing out in Moscow, when it was announced he and Yermak had taken the capital of the Siberian Khanate, Kashlyk. But his new-found celebrity status did not last long, and he was killed with 40 men during an ambush 18 months later.

The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.

‘It was as if it just dscended from some knights’ fairytale’. Pictures: The Siberian Times


Molodin puts a health warning on his new theory but says: ‘Imagine the last battle of the Cossack detachment headed by Ivan Koltso. The attack was unexpected. Picture someone immediately being killed by a treacherous stab in the back, and someone else grabbing a sword to fight the advancing Tatars.

‘They are unequal forces and the Cossacks are trying to break through the crowds of enemies, but the ranks of the fighters are melting rapidly. Ivan strikes not one opponent. In his hands, the glittering giant sword, a gift from the Russian Tsar.

‘In desperation Ivan and a few survivors of the Cossacks literally hack their way to their waiting horses.

‘Ivan’s leg is already in the stirrup and he is racing on the steppe, with his horse taking him further from the bloody battle. Behind him they chase, with arrows flying. And then, suddenly, the sword falls out of the hands of the hero and drops to the ground under a young birch tree.

‘I am not sure that I am right, imagining all this, but the legend is really beautiful.’

He told Science First Hand magazine: ‘I must note that none of the scientists mentioned it, perhaps because they didn’t take it seriously. The only person who really liked that theory was (noted) Academician (Alexei) Okladnikov.  He even mentioned it in one of his last works.

‘The hypnotise looks so brave and even fantastical that these days it is unlikely that I would mention it in a scientific work. But on the other hand, it does look very beautiful, plus life can often be more incredible than anything fantastical.

‘Even now when I am writing this I believe that we should not exclude the version that the sword could have got to Baraba together with Yermak’s squadrons. Despite his Cossacks having sabres and firearms, they were still using swords. So it was quite possible they were using them during that trip’.

The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.

Vyacheslav Molodin: ‘Life can often be more incredible than anything fantastical’. Picture: The Siberian Times

It was during the summer of 1975 that Molodin, then a young archaeologist, had been working on the banks of the River Om with a group of students from Omsk and Novosibirsk. Their aim was to study the settlements and cemeteries of the Bronze Age, with a focus on group burials.

At a separate site another group of students had been excavating near a large birch tree, but were under instruction from Molodin not to go near it, certain that no one was buried there. However, Alexander Lipatov, the head of the excavation team, disobeyed the brief and stumbled upon what they thought was a rusty scythe just five centimetres under the grass. As they dug further it became apparent it was a large sword.

Mr Molodin told The Siberian Times: ‘The sword wasn’t hidden deliberately, or ‘buried’. It was lying at a depth of 3-5 cm, right under the soil near the birth tree which was close to an old road. I remember the moment we found it as if it was yesterday.

‘We were not supposed to work in the area where we found the sword. It was one of my younger colleagues Alexander Lipatov who decided to ‘prolong’ the excavation site towards a big birch tree. I remember getting annoyed when I saw it – the area along the birch tree roots was visibly very hard to dig, while my estimates were that the burial mound was not stretching as far as the tree, so there was no point to clear up that space anyway.

‘I expressed my reservations about it to Alexander, and he accepted them, but said that he was nervous about making a mistake in defining the site’s borders and decided to go a bit further ‘just in case’.

‘If it wasn’t for his ‘mistake’ we would have never found the sword.

The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.


The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.


The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.

‘It was incredibly well-preserved, yet I was scared to raise it from the ground’. Pictures: The Siberian Times

‘It was close to lunch time when I was suddenly asked to come to that plot of land near the birch tree to ‘check up some piece of iron’, as they said. ‘Most likely it would be a scythe’, I thought to myself as I walked towards the site where they found it.

‘Looking back, I see how it was a pure stroke of luck. Every man in our expedition longed to take it and hold it his hands, it was an incredible piece of armament’.

Mr Molodin told Science First Hand magazine: ‘Carefully and slowly we cleaned the soil off, uncovering a strip of iron, which was wider at one end, and narrower at the other. It took us an hour to clear the soil completely to see a massive sword, about a metre long with a typical iron hilt of medieval knight’s swords with a clearly expressed crossbar guard and tripartite pommel.

‘It was incredibly well-preserved, yet I was scared to raise it from the ground. I was scared it would fall into pieces in my hands.

‘Finally I put my thin bladed knife underneath the sword and raised it… You know, I’ve seen swords like this in museums and in scientific books, but it was my first time ever to hold it in my hands. It was as if it just descended from some knights’ fairytale.

‘I slowly twisted it, noting sparkles of silver on the guard and blade. It was so well preserved that you could in fact use it in the battle almost straight away. Others took to look at the find, too.

‘Finally like a water through rushing through a dam, the shock of realising what we’ve just found broke through and we began talking all at the same time. I can’t describe the feeling of surprise and excitement.

‘How did it get here, in the heart of the Western Siberia, this clearly so European looking medieval sword? How did it preserve so well? Where did it come from? ‘

The medieval sword was discovered buried under a tree in Novosibirsk region, and scientists are keen to unlock its secrets.

‘Every man in our expedition longed to take it and hold it his hands, it was an incredible piece of armament’. Pictures: The Siberian Times

Swords such as these were not typical in Russia or across Asia, and it was more similar to those widely used by European knights. After extensive research on ancient weapons, Vyacheslav Molodin prepared a report on his findings and concluded it was from Europe and dated to the late 12th or early 13th century.

Questions as to how the sword reached Russia from Sweden have been asked since 1976, with the first theory that it was carried during trade missions.

According to Arab historians, in the middle of the 12th century there was an ancient northern path through Russia to the River Ob, called the ‘Zyryanskaya road’ or ‘Russky tes’. Over the centuries archaeologists have found a treasure trove of coins, silver vessels and medieval jewellery in the Urals and lower reaches of the Ob, having travelled from the west.

The downside to this theory is that the steppe, where the sword was found, is separated from the lower and middle Ob by hundreds of kilometres of rugged forests and swamps. Others have argued the weapon could easily have travelled east as a result of bartering, or as a spoil of war from skirmishes between the Turkic people of the steppe and the nomadic Urgic population of the Siberian taiga.

AMPHIPOLIS TOMB MOSAIC

Magnificent!

Stunning Mosaic Floor Revealed in Amphipolis Tomb

by Ioanna Zikakou Oct 12, 2014

 1658  78 Google +2  3  4  2347

amfipoli_psifidoto

 

Archaeologists have publicized photos of a stunning mosaic floor recently excavated within the ancient tomb of Amphipolis in northern Greece.

According to the Greek Ministry of Culture, the beautiful mosaic was discovered in the second chamber of the tomb, the site of the Caryatids‘ discovery. The colorful floor was laid with white, black, grey, blue, red and yellow pebbles and depicts a chariot in motion. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, is pictured in front of the chariot.

 

amfipoli_psifidoto_1

 

“The central theme is a chariot in motion, pulled by two white horses and driven by a bearded man, crowned with a laurel wreath,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The mosaic showcases the artist’s ability to portray the figures, horses and colors in exquisite detail.
According to a Culture Ministry announcement, Hermes is depicted here as the conductor of souls to the afterlife.

The stunning artwork, which has yet to be fully uncovered, spans the entire floor of the second chamber. It currently measures 4.5 meters in width and 3 meters in length. The central scene is surrounded by a decorative frame, 0.60 meters in width, featuring a double meander, squares and a wave-curl design.

According to archaeologists, a section of the mosaic floor has been destroyed. The Amphipolis team was able to recover the disturbed pebbles during the excavation process, however, and plans on being able to eventually piece the mosaic back together.

– See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2014/10/12/stunning-mosaic-floor-revealed-in-amphipolis-tomb/#sthash.YhXFFKgo.dpuf

ANCIENT HEALING

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

Medicine in the Ancient World

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


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

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

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

 

THAT ANCIENT ENIGMA

I’ve very often wondered the same myself…

The Mystery of the Tomb of Alexander the Great

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

2014-09-13-Alexander.jpg

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

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

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

5E AND FUN!

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

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

 

It’s The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

Quintin Smith

It's The Perfect Time To Play Dungeons & Dragons

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

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

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

AGE OF ULTRON

Outnumbered much?

Here’s what happens in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ according to Disney

Walt Disney Pictures has released the official synopsis for Avengers: Age of Ultron, next year’s follow-up to The Avengers. The film opens on May 1, 2015.

Something to note in the following synopsis: while most characters are associated with their superhero names, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver go by their birth names. Outside the films, both characters are stuck between the licensing rights of Disney and Fox, the latter of which currently has the film rights to X-Men. In the X-Men mythos, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are both mutants, the children of Magneto and two of the early Avengers recruits, which explains how the characters appear in both movies, but are played by different actors

INVISIBILITY CLOAK

The Invisibility Cloak – especially good for games involving modern and futuristic technologies.

 

Invisibility cloaks closer thanks to ‘digital metamaterials’

3 hours ago by Penny Orbell, The Conversation
Invisibility cloaks closer thanks to ‘digital metamaterials’
Now you see him … Eric Tastad/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA
The concept of “digital metamaterials” – a simple way of designing metamaterials with bizarre optical properties that could hasten the development of devices such as invisibility cloaks and superlenses – is reported in a paper published today in Nature Materials

link to full article in title.

WOMEN SCIENTISTS OF THE MIDDLE AGES

An excellent article recommended me by an old friend. It is well worth your read and it has superb gaming applications for female characters in Medieval and fantasy games. As well as for fiction writings. You can read the entire article by following the link.

Women Scientists of the Middle Ages & 1600s

Alana Merritt Mahaffey, M.L.A. Candidate

Mentors: Drs. Marck L. Beggs, Bill Gentry, and Gary Simmons

Until the women‟s movements of the 1800s and 1900s, the limitations set by society for women

in the West hardly evolved since the Middle Ages. It is well known that most women in the

Middle Ages were restricted in their roles as citizens, limited by social status, by economic

constraints, and by a well established and unquestioned sexism prevalent in church, politics, and

family. A woman was defined, especially during the Middle Ages, by how the men with whom

she associated defined her. These men were most often her husband or her father. As Christaine

Klapisch Zuber points out in Medieval Callings, “Men of the middle ages long conceived of „the

woman‟ as a category, but only late in the period did they distinguish variations in the behavior

expected of women by applying criteria such as professional activities to their model. Before she

was seen as a peasant, the lady of a castle, or a saint, ‘the woman’ was defined by her body, her

gender, and her relations with family groups. Wife, widow, or maid, her juridical persona and

the ethic by which she lived in her daily life were portrayed in relation to a man or group of man” (285).

By this standard, the average Medieval woman had as much chance of acquiring independent

wealth, receiving a well rounded education, or making significant contributions to society as her

husband‟s cattle. Therefore, it is all the more remarkable that history yields to us several

outstanding women of the Middle Ages and 1600s whose accomplishments in the fields of

science and writing are still recognized today as valid and significant.

The status of the woman living in the Middle Ages broadened only by necessity. Many men

needed the help of their wives to sustain the family, and so men began bringing their wives into

the same trade guilds of which the men were already members. Women in these guilds were

expected to learn their husbands‟ trades and, in many cases, were given “masters status” in these

trades. (Gies 180). In the event of her husband‟s death, the widow was able to take an apprentice

herself. The natural evolution of allowing wives into guilds was the emergence of all female

guilds, which usually catered to women in the tapestry and candle trades…

 

LAYERED DISCOVERY

I’ve often wondered this myself. How many ancient monument/ritual sites actually lie atop, in the middle of, along the frontiers of far more ancient monument and ritual sites? Because such sites would already be the part of the nexus of such prior activity.

This is also an important point to remember when developing your own adventures and campaigns. When I create adventures and campaigns along such lines I call this type of thing “layered discovery.” This is also a very advantageous idea to consider when developing our fictional book and story plots.

Excellent article with many applications to both real life and to gaming.

 

(Photo by Henrik Knudsen, with thanks to English Heritage)

What Lies Beneath Stonehenge?

A groundbreaking survey of the site has turned up tantalizing new clues to what really went on there

Smithsonian Magazine |

We walked the Avenue, the ancient route along which the stones were first dragged from the River Avon. For centuries, this was the formal path to the great henge, but now the only hint of its existence was an indentation or two in the tall grass. It was a fine English summer’s day, with thin, fast clouds above, and as we passed through fields dotted with buttercups and daisies, cows and sheep, we could have been hikers anywhere, were it not for the ghostly monument in the near distance.

Faint as the Avenue was, Vince Gaffney hustled along as if it were illuminated by runway lights. A short, sprightly archaeologist of 56, from Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England, he knows this landscape as well as anyone alive: has walked it, breathed it, studied it for uncounted hours. He has not lost his sense of wonder. Stopping to fix the monument in his eyeline, and reaching out toward the stones on the horizon, he said, “Look, it becomes cathedralesque.”

Gaffney’s latest research effort, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, is a four-year collaboration between a British team and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria that has produced the first detailed underground survey of the area surrounding Stonehenge, totaling more than four square miles. The results are astonishing. The researchers have found buried evidence of more than 15 previously unknown or poorly understood late Neolithic monuments: henges, barrows, segmented ditches, pits. To Gaffney, these findings suggest a scale of activity around Stonehenge far beyond what was previously suspected. “There was sort of this idea that Stonehenge sat in the middle and around it was effectively an area where people were probably excluded,” Gaffney told me, “a ring of the dead around a special area—to which few people might ever have been admitted….Perhaps there were priests, big men, whatever they were, inside Stonehenge having processions up the Avenue, doing…something extremely mysterious. Of course that sort of analysis depends on not knowing what’s actually in the area around Stonehenge itself. It was terra incognita, really…”

HNEFATAFL – THE VIKING WARGAME

Hnefatafl is indeed an impressive (war) game, for many different reasons. Not least of all, to me, because as this article implies it is a game of asymmetrical warfare. But even going beyond that it forces the player to think not only of the immediate goal but of how (if he is a really good player) the pre-combat conditions (what they will face in the Real World) arose in the first place.

And if you know how the pre-combat/pre-game conditions arose then this gives you a great set of tactical clues about who to engage first (or not engage first, or maybe even not at all). The movement is simple as are the rules, but the tactical methods and implications are superb. What I like best about the game is how easily it translates from a tactical game environment to Real World applications.

In other words the game has immediate Real World applications.

Or put another way it is an early wargame version of a Game of Personal Advancement and Development with obvious, useful, and fundamental Real World applications.

 

YOU HAVE TO PLAY…

Viking warriors storm into the torch-lit camp of a rival clan. Outnumbered, the ambushed Norsemen are far from their boats. Their one goal: flee to a nearby castle while keeping their king alive.

At first glance, Hnefatafl (prounounced “nef-ah-tah-fel”) might just look like a knock-off version of chess with Norse helms and impressive beards, but the game is at least 600 years older—already well-known by 400 A.D.—and is perhaps a lot more relevant to the conflicts of the 21st century.

“I love the asymmetry in this game. To win in this game, you absolutely have to think like your opponent,” emails Kristan Wheaton, a former Army foreign area officer and ex-analyst at U.S. European Command’s Intelligence Directorate. “Geography, force structure, force size and objectives are different for the two sides. If you can’t think like your opponent, you can’t win. I don’t know of a better analogy for post-Cold War conflict.”

The game is similar to chess, but with several important differences. Instead of two identical and equal opponents facing each other, Hnefatafl is a game where one side is surrounded and outnumbered—like a Viking war party caught in an ambush.

The game might seem unbalanced. The attacking black player has 24 total pieces—known as “hunns”—to white’s meager and surrounded 12 hunns. But white has several advantages.

White has an additional unique unit, a king, which must be surrounded on four horizontal sides to be captured. Hunns require being surrounded on two sides, and that’s pretty hard by itself. White’s goal is also simple: move the king to one of four corner squares known as “castles.” Black’s goal is to stop them.

Other rules? All pieces move like chess rooks. Black makes the first move. Black cannot occupy a castle, which would end the game in short order. But black can block off several castles by moving quickly, forming the equivalent of a medieval shield wall.

“If the king goes as hard as he can as early as he can for the corner and the other side is not really on its toes, the non-king side typically loses in just a few turns,” adds Wheaton, who now teaches intelligence studies at Mercyhurst University. “Among experienced players, however, this rarely happens.”

Hnefatafl starting positions with four corner castles. Kenneth Beckhusen/War is Boring photo

If lines are solid, they have to be flanked. Thus, it’s in black’s interest to force a symmetrical battle to force a likely win. If white can avoid engaging in a battle on black’s terms, then white’s chances of winning improve…

DEATH OR CONSEQUENCES

To boldly go… back to where it all began.

 

I think I included a blaster from Gamma World because it seemed cool. Then we rolled a bunch of dice and everyone was dead. It was probably one of the worst sessions ever DM’d in the history of humanity. At some point my friend said he had to go do homework just to get away…
 

http://www.polygon.com/2014/7/14/5898063/the-dice-can-kill-you-why-first-edition-ad-d-is-king

 

MADE ME LAUGH…

​The 24 Most Embarrassing Dungeons & Dragons Character Classes

​The 24 Most Embarrassing Dungeons & Dragons Character ClassesExpand

Fighters. Mages. Priests. Rogues. These are the primary four character classes in Dungeons & Dragons, and they have served the role-playing game well for over 30 years. But there are many others in addition to these — some awesome, some weird, and some just ridiculous. Here are 24 real D&D specialty classes that should force any player to make a saving throw against shame.

1) Fighting Man

In the original Dungeons & Dragons game, there were three classes: Magic-User, Cleric and Fighting Man. How Gary Gygax came up with “Fighting Man” as opposed to “Fighter” is unknowable. A Fighter is a profession. A Fighting Man is basically a violent drunk. It’s no wonder this class changed names at the first opportunity

2) Beggar

This is not a joke. AD&D really gave you the options to willingly play a beggar. Beggars had recommended skills, like “Seamstress/Tailor.” They had to be Chaotic in alignment. It was suggested they take the Inherent Immunity to Cold and Heat traits. This is insane.

and on and on it goes:

http://io9.com/the-24-most-embarrassing-dungeons-dragons-character-1524448977

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