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THE PACIFICATION AND PUSSIFICATION OF MARVEL’S CIVIL WAR – ALL THING

THE PACIFICATION AND PUSSIFICATION OF MARVEL’S CIVIL WAR

(Spoilers included: so if you get all emotional about spoilers then take a powder, this ain’t for you.)

My wife, the girls and I went to see Civil War this evening. Before you come to the conclusion that I didn’t like the film based on the title of this post, actually I did, let me just say the entire subject matter of Marvel’s Civil War was completely pussified and pacified by this particular film. Not that the film wasn’t good, it was at a certain level. It just had nothing to do with Civil War.

What Marvel did so bravely in the comic series Civil War (to the outrage of couch potato fisticuff Captain America’s throughout this great land) they completed pussed out on in this film and in that sense entirely ruined it. There was no tyranny of the government, nor was there a real rebellion against the government. A real shame since what this nation actually needs is a real and certifiable Civil War. The closest the film even got to the real ideas and ideals in the Civil War series was in just speaking the terms “vigilante” and “criminals.” There was nothing really about the series evident in the film. Hell it wasn’t even an initiative of the US government, it was a damned United Nations effort. Any time anything is a UN effort you can bet it will be entirely pussified, and completely ineffective at attempting to achieve it’s true goal. As this certainly was.

Nothing about the original Civil War was evident, not the fact that the government tried to suppress the rights of the individual (and not just for the Avengers, narrowing the Civil War down to just the Avengers completely missed the point, not that I disagreed entirely with what the government was attempting to do) and tried to tell individuals what they could do with their own talents and abilities and “powers.” Nor did it ever truly address the issue of what is the proper response of the individual to such an attempt at tyranny by the government? How Far does the individual have a right to go in rebelling against government oppression? (All the way – he has a God-given right to go all the way to destroy such a government. Well, all the way short of murdering the innocent. He should leave that kinda shit to the government. They’re really good at it.) All of that, all of the really important stiff, was completely missing. This was Civil War Lite, the balless Millennial Edition. The pastel and collegiate safe-zone/safe-place edition. You know, still-mint-in-box with that plastic smell. A shame Marvel pussed on that very germane and pertinent point, especially at this time in our history.

I think back to Batman-Superman (and Superman-Batman had it’s share of problems, but being about true ideals was not one of them) and how Superman, realizing that Luthor’s mark was about to explode and kill everyone in the US congress chamber did not even bother to move, did not even bother to attempt to move to save anyone at all. Not anyone at all. Didn’t even use his body to mitigate the explosion so at least some could survive. He just passively watched it. Just stood there shaking his head as if to say, “if only the government had allowed me, if only I had permission.” Now that’s actually about something, a critique of Modern Man, of the Modern American actually. Hell, that is the modern American. The passive, uninvolved, don’t drag me into this, that’s someone else’s job, “do I actually have your permission to intervene” modern American. Or modern Christian, take your pick. (Superman was at one time the quintessential American of Action, now he is the quintessential modern American as well. Welcome to your true selves modern Americans. Even your superheroes are now in on your pathetic act.) Civil War never rose to that point, to being about something nearly that big. It was, as a super-hero film, more or less just a kick-ass superhero film about nothing more than, you guessed it, mere superheroes. Ina tiff about their own drama-club, their own Dr. Phil episode. Civil War was not about something really important, such as the people and population that the superheroes are supposed to represent, either as wish-fulfillment, or as a real critique on their actual natures. In a way though that is unfair criticism, because unintentionally this was a critique on the character of modern Americans. How by absence, habit, and training we don’t really have any anymore. So in that sad sense it was Batman-Superman all over again, just without all the outright honesty. This film though never truly gets a chance to succeed at failing like that because it fails to be about what it was supposed to be about.

What then was Civil War the film actually about? The closest it ever got to being real was a running (literally, a lot of running) discourse about friendship, loyalty, and how far a man will go to remain loyal to a true friend. (Black Panther by the way had an excellent little sub-plot which was aloes instructive, about vengeance for the right reasons versus vengeance for the wrong reasons. I truly enjoyed watching Black Panther.)

Now didn’t get me wrong, friendship and true loyalty (that is to say the kind of, “I will fight and die for you loyalty”) is an extremely rare commodity in the modern world. And in modern America. Hell most modern Americans won’t risk themselves for anything, much less other people. See the Superman reference above, and so that’s precisely the point. So I am in no way denigrating or negating a film about true loyalty and real friendship. It’s important subject matter for modern myths, like comic superheroes. The shame is that it could have been that and still been about an actual and real Civil War. Oh, I understand that the film had to be limited (in comparison to the comics) in actor numbers and scenes and the overall plot had to be pared down, but it could have still been about a real Civil War. And friendship. Like the comic series was. It wasn’t. It wasn’t about a war at all really, and that’s the real fault of the thing. Mostly it was only about superheroes and character development and all of the other comic book bullshit that so floats the hole filled chalk anchors and thrills the nascent testicles of comic book fangurls everywhere. But it really wasn’t about anything. Other than that. Superheroes, entertainment, diversions, fist and laser beams fights, explosions.

If only there had been a Real War. An actual Civil War. But Marvel pussed out. They could have taken what they did with the last Captain America film, Winter Soldier (an excellent film about a real rebellion against government) and went all the way. Instead a cold wind blew up their skirts and they pulled their panties up and went home. And there ya go. Civil War as a faux entertainment and superhero fight fight, rather than one about a well, ya know, a war…

This was more like a hat-tip to fangurls and continuity agitators so they could babble more Nerdspeak while Rome burns. The real Rome I mean. Not that I blame the actors and actresses. They did superb jobs especially Falc, Panther, Cap, Iron Man, Vision, Widow, the kid playing Spiderman, and Bucky. No, this film was entirely a failure of writing and balls. Not acting, and maybe not even of directing. Just an horrendous and total lack of balls. No balls and you can’t write around that kinda thing. It becomes obvious quick.

Technically though, and as an entertainment, I give it a 4 out of 5. Because technically it was a superb film. And as a comic book superhero film it was also pretty good. Just not Winter Soldier good.

As far as being an important film, I give it a 2 out of 5. It was an urban film. Unlike the Winter Soldier it revolved around urban thinking. Petty turf fights. Avoidance of reality. And that showed the whole thing through.

In other words it was just another superhero fun-flick, rather than a film about what it actually means to be a Hero fighting for a truly important cause. You won’t get that in this flick. Nothing really important happens. You will get some boom-boom and some pretty flashy fights. Just not many fights about anything really worth fighting about. Or about anything applicable to the Real World. And if a story isn’t really applicable to the Real World then let’s just call it what it is, a pussified wish-fulfillment, or put another way, just another diversionary fantasy. I hope Marvel stays far away from ever again doing this kind of thing to their best work in the future.

You want something much, much more entertaining and infinitely more important then read the original Civil War comic series.

Better yet start your own Civil War. It’s way past time anyhow.

That’s my take on the thing. What’s yours?

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GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK – RESURRECTED RELICS

GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK

If you ask me ancient archaeological sites like these make for superb adventure and dungeon and plot locales, though of a very different type than the standard dungeon or adventure site.

Very bizarre artefacts, relics, objects, events, rituals, and creatures could easily exist at such sites. I often use modified Real World archaeological sites and place them in my games and novels and stories because they are so ancient, rich, and full of odd and often unexplainable things. (As a matter of fact I have an entirely separate category of “adventure and plot locales” when it comes to ancient and prehistoric archaeological sites for my writings and designs, including the artefacts and events discovered/recovered there.)

It is very good to have odd and unexplainable things in your writings and in your games and milieus that the players and readers can try, like everyone else, to figure out, but can’t really understand, deduce, or explain.

Unknown or unexplained or recently discovered archaeological sites are superbly interesting because unlike many other sites they have already passed into pre-history (or out of history) or little to nothing is known about them until they are accidentally stumbled upon again (by completely different peoples and characters, etc.), and because, of course, they tend to be so ancient all memory of them has been subsequently lost. And of course many of these unknown and unrecorded sites tend to be megalithic and absolutely gargantuan in nature, consisting of many vanished layers of development. Entire campaigns and years and years of adventures, not to mention book sequels, can easily be written around such sites. And, of course, one site often bleeds into another.

That’s a superbly good state of affairs for the reader or player (going blind into the dark or going blind back into the far more ancient things), but it is an entirely excellent thing for the writer and the game designer/game master.

Because at such sites the entirely unexpected and the wholly forgotten should be the most common expectation and the most dangerous memory.

 

NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks

By RALPH BLUMENTHALOCT. 30, 2015

One of the enormous earthwork configurations photographed from space is known as the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village in Kazakhstan. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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High in the skies over Kazakhstan, space-age technology has revealed an ancient mystery on the ground.
Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old.

The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Another is a kind of three-limbed swastika, its arms ending in zigzags bent counterclockwise.

Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes.

 

The Bestamskoe Ring is among the so-called Steppe Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan — at least 260 earthwork shapes made up of mounds, trenches and ramparts, the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old, recognizable only from the air. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
Two weeks ago, in the biggest sign so far of official interest in investigating the sites, NASA released clear satellite photographs of some of the figures from about 430 miles up.

“I’ve never seen anything like this; I found it remarkable,” said Compton J. Tucker, a senior biospheric scientist for NASA in Washington who provided the archived images, taken by the satellite contractor DigitalGlobe, to Mr. Dey and The New York Times.

Ronald E. LaPorte, a University of Pittsburgh scientist who helped publicize the finds, called NASA’s involvement “hugely important” in mobilizing support for further research.

This week, NASA put space photography of the region on a task list for astronauts in the International Space Station. “It may take some time for the crew to take imagery of your site since we are under the mercy of sun elevation angles, weather constraints and crew schedule,” Melissa Higgins of Mission Operations emailed Dr. LaPorte.

The archived images from NASA add to the extensive research that Mr. Dey compiled this year in a PowerPoint lecture translated from Russian to English.

“I don’t think they were meant to be seen from the air,” Mr. Dey, 44, said in an interview from his hometown, Kostanay, dismissing outlandish speculations involving aliens and Nazis. (Long before Hitler, the swastika was an ancient and near-universal design element.) He theorizes that the figures built along straight lines on elevations were “horizontal observatories to track the movements of the rising sun.”

Kazakhstan, a vast, oil-rich former Soviet republic that shares a border with China, has moved slowly to investigate and protect the finds, scientists say, generating few news reports.

“I was worried this was a hoax,” said Dr. LaPorte, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh who noticed a report on the finds last year while researching diseases in Kazakhstan.

With the help of James Jubilee, a former American arms control officer and now a senior science and technology coordinator for health issues in Kazakhstan, Dr. LaPorte tracked down Mr. Dey through the State Department, and his images and documentation quickly convinced them of the earthworks’ authenticity and importance. They sought photos from KazCosmos, the country’s space agency, and pressed local authorities to seek urgent Unesco protection for the sites — so far without luck.

The earthworks, including the Turgai Swastika, were spotted on Google Earth in 2007 by Dmitriy Dey, a Kazakh archaeology enthusiast. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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In the Cretaceous Period 100 million years ago, Turgai was bisected by a strait from what is now the Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean. The rich lands of the steppe were a destination for Stone Age tribes seeking hunting grounds, and Mr. Dey’s research suggests that the Mahandzhar culture, which flourished there from 7,000 B.C. to 5,000 B.C., could be linked to the older figures. But scientists marvel that a nomadic population would have stayed in place for the time required to fell and lay timber for ramparts, and to dig out lake bed sediments to construct the huge mounds, originally 6 to 10 feet high and now 3 feet high and nearly 40 feet across.

Persis B. Clarkson, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg who viewed some of Mr. Dey’s images, said these figures and similar ones in Peru and Chile were changing views about early nomads.

“The idea that foragers could amass the numbers of people necessary to undertake large-scale projects — like creating the Kazakhstan geoglyphs — has caused archaeologists to deeply rethink the nature and timing of sophisticated large-scale human organization as one that predates settled and civilized societies,” Dr. Clarkson wrote in an email.

“Enormous efforts” went into the structures, agreed Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, an archaeologist from Cambridge University and a lecturer at Vilnius University in Lithuania, who visited two of the sites last year. She said by email that she was dubious about calling the structures geoglyphs — a term applied to the enigmatic Nazca Lines in Peru that depict animals and plants — because geoglyphs “define art rather than objects with function.”

Dr. Matuzeviciute and two archaeologists from Kostanay University, Andrey Logvin and Irina Shevnina, discussed the figures at a meeting of European archaeologists in Istanbul last year.

With no genetic material to analyze — neither of the two mounds that have been dug into is a burial site — Dr. Matuzeviciute said she used optically stimulated luminescence, a method of measuring doses from ionizing radiation, to analyze the construction material, and came up with a date from one of the mounds of around 800 B.C. Other preliminary studies push the earliest date back more than 8,000 years, which could make them the oldest such creations ever found. Other materials yield dates in the Middle Ages.

Mr. Dey said some of the figures might have been solar observatories akin, according to some theories, to Stonehenge in England and the Chankillo towers in Peru.

“Everything is linked through the cult of the sun,” said Mr. Dey, who spoke in Russian via Skype through an interpreter, Shalkar Adambekov, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh.

The discovery was happenstance.

Researchers are hoping to marshal support for investigating the earthen mounds that make up figures like this one, the Big Ashutastinsky Cross. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
In March 2007, Mr. Dey was at home watching a program, “Pyramids, Mummies and Tombs,” on the Discovery Channel. “There are pyramids all over the earth,” he recalled thinking. “In Kazakhstan, there should be pyramids, too.”

Soon, he was searching Google Earth images of Kostanay and environs.

 

There were no pyramids. But, he said, about 200 miles to the south he saw something as intriguing — a giant square, more than 900 feet on each side, made up of dots, crisscrossed by a dotted X.

At first Mr. Dey thought it might be a leftover Soviet installation, perhaps one of Nikita S. Khrushchev’s experiments to cultivate virgin land for bread production. But the next day, Mr. Dey saw a second gigantic figure, the three-legged, swastikalike form with curlicue tips, about 300 feet in diameter.

Before the year was out, Mr. Dey had found eight more squares, circles and crosses. By 2012, there were 19. Now his log lists 260, including some odd mounds with two drooping lines called “whiskers” or “mustaches.”

Before setting out to look for the figures on the ground, Mr. Dey asked Kazakh archaeologists whether they knew of such things. The answer was no. In August 2007, he led Dr. Logvin and others to the largest figure, now called the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village.

“It was very, very hard to understand from the ground,” he recalled. “The lines are going to the horizon. You can’t figure out what the figure is.”

When they dug into one of the mounds, they found nothing. “It was not a cenotaph, where there are belongings,” he said. But nearby they found artifacts of a Neolithic settlement 6,000 to 10,000 years old, including spear points.

Now, Mr. Dey said, “the plan is to construct a base for operations.”

“We cannot dig up all the mounds. That would be counterproductive,” he said. “We need modern technologies, like they have in the West.”

Dr. LaPorte said he, Mr. Dey and their colleagues were also looking into using drones, as the Culture Ministry in Peru has been doing to map and protect ancient sites.

But time is an enemy, Mr. Dey said. One figure, called the Koga Cross, was substantially destroyed by road builders this year. And that, he said, “was after we notified officials.”

 

 

REVIEW OF THE CODEX MARTIALIS – GAMEPLAY

This is an older review I did for the Codex Martialis, a role-playing game supplement that heavily concentrates upon the way Real World weapons behave in actual combat. At least as closely as it is possible for imaginary games to truly emulate such weapon characteristics. That being said here is my review.

 

First of all, let me begin my review by saying that the Codex Martialis is simply one of the best-written gaming supplements I have ever read. It displays a high degree of professionalism in the effort.

As an example of this let me quote from the work itself:

Thanks to the unique weapon characteristics the choice of weapons becomes a major tactical consideration rather than a cosmetic adornment for a character. Weapons are not just rated for damage, but also for reach, defensive value, speed in follow-up attacks, effectiveness against armor and suitability for different types of attacks. The selection of weapons becomes another major aspect of the basic combat strategy.

I have now had the opportunity to read through the entire work and to play test it several times. What follows is my review.

One of the great advantages of the supplement, once you become familiar with the basic concepts involved, is fluidity. It creates a sort of underlying fluidity by imposing a substratum of combat techniques which, once mastered, allows fluidity by changing the outcomes of in-game combat scenarios from being merely an attrition play of hit points into a play of weapon mastery and combat employment techniques. This does take getting used to in comparison to standard D&D combat practices, but the outcome is well worth the effort. Once one becomes accustomed to the work then it is possible to use it to create and display a large variety of effective attack and counter-attack measures in rapid succession which gives the feel of an intense, hotly contested combat, rather than a mere stale exercise in die-rolling and numbers crunching “fight or flight of the calculators.” And I guess this is what I like best about the entire supplement, it is geared less to constricting combat into an imaginary “clash of the Geeky Die Titans,” where game combat is a boringly insipid mathematical exercise, and is instead designed to imply that combat is really about tactical skill, flexibility, fluidity (in the sense of moving fluidly from one applicable and effective technique or maneuver to another), training, and innovative use of resources, capabilities, and tactics. The supplement implies by both design and technique, that combat is far less about bonuses and more about training, thought, innovation, and adaptability. That combat is a matter of the mind as well of the body, of tactic as well as blind chance, and of skill in battle and not just habitual bonus accumulation. Or in other words even in a game in which certain elements are determined by mechanisms of tempered chance, by no better method than a “roll of the die” it is still skill, training, innovation, cleverness, and persistence that overcomes the seemingly impossible obstacles of a dangerous combat and wins the day before sunset. Die rolls may hinder, or assist, but they are no real match for skill and capability and brilliance in determining actual outcomes. A well trained man with a host of options and inherent capabilities will make his own luck, and he who relies merely upon the fickle grace of fortune would do well to learn that wisdom is a far greater god in combat than chance. Fortune favors the well-prepared man, and it is easy to be brave when you are sure of your own adaptability in any situation. The idea behind the Codex implies that the game combatant does not have to rely upon chance, luck, the die, or even magic to turn the tides of battle. The combatant may turn the tide of battle by skill, training, tactic, and cunning. And that is the way things are, and should be. Chance turns the tide of the moment, good tactics, on both the part of the group, and the part of the individual, turn the tide of the battle.

The degree of relative realism in the work is highly evolved given the natural limitations of role play gaming combat (which can be “only so-real”) and given the fact that most role play games resolve combat and tactical issues by emulating friction and chance through die roll. But one thing I really, really enjoy about this work is that given those natural limitations the Codex takes away much of the chance element and returns tactical skill to combat encounter as a measure of training, accomplishment, perseverance, and maneuver. In a manner of speaking the Codex is attempting to bring “Role-Play” to combat rather than saying it is just an exercise of chance, or a practice of powers.

The Codex Combat System can also be rather easily modified to fit most other gaming systems which rely upon die-rolling as a reflection of how to resolve combat practices, and the whole work interjects some very creative and interesting ideas for how to resolve the actual process of in-game combat elements. I refer to both the Martial Pool as a determination of how to enhance speed and flexibility to group combat, and to the various maneuver and practical engagement techniques such as the Martial Feats (I was particularly impressed by Feats such as Feint) that add a rich depth of combat possibilities. But to me the greatest strength of the entire work is that it takes combat away, whether this was the intention or not, from being merely an exercise in bootless chance and transforms combat into an interesting and varied practice in tactical choice, training, and personal player and character “fighting expression.”

The historical background presented within the work is also rather fascinating. A depth of historical material as well as pragmatic technique analogies are examined in detail, not as an historical work, but as reflective of how historical and real world elements of personal and tactical combat can be inter-woven into a fantasy game to create a far more rewarding experience than a mere combat re-enactment of, “magical boom-boom,” or “what power gives me the highest to-hit bonus.” In fact the supplement seems to purposely steer away from over reliance upon magic in game-combat fantasy tropes so as to intentionally explore the real potential of combat-fighters. It is not so much a work filled with trick maneuvers and rather unrealistic combat techniques that would be useless in an actual combat situation, but rather a thoughtful and measured examination of the “idea of real hand to hand combat as applied to a tactical wargaming paradigm.” A sort of well-imagined and cleverly constructed game interpretation of what really happens when men come to close quarters and grapple with each other, including aspects of why they move as they do, how they strike and defend as they do, why weapons behave as they do when yielded in such and such a manner, and so forth and so on. In short it is a well-conceived examination of both how to exploit trained character strengths and abilities, and of how to take advantage of built in limitations regarding the actualities of human (and by extension humanoid/non-human) weaponry and fighting capabilities in game combat situations.

To close my review let me briefly mention a few other points. Such as the Aescetics of the work. I especially liked the simple line drawings presented throughout the book. They matched the overall tone of the nature of the work, as well as allowing one to visualize basic points being discussed at issue. The illustrations matched the tone and atmosphere of the work as presenting realistic depictions of combat in game terms. They were “fitting” in my opinion. As were the historical references, which gave the work the feel of a more ancient text of advice about how to tactically overcome certain enemies. The references taken together with the various illustrations gave the entire Codex the feel of being “illuminated.”

Simplistically, but effectively.

The Appendixes were also valuable and useful, and much could be made of them in relation to the larger ideas presented in the Codex. The work even came with a Character Sheet specifically designed towards making good use of the various game combat advantages offered and described in the Codex.
As a suggestion for future works of this kind I would very much like to see the author and his team of co-designers develop a similar system for use in large-scale warfare, both on the tactical and strategic level. On the tactical level as an expression of maneuver and technique, similar in construction to the present work, but aimed more at small group combat and skirmishing encounters as applied to the battlefield. On the strategic level as a work that addresses matters of training, capability, and execution of large-scale group combat engagements. For instance in such a supplement geared to warfare-gaming, rather than to role play combat-gaming one might take the basic components and ideas of the Codex Martialis and expound upon them as they relate to issues such as logistics, technological advantage (due to armies possessing certain types of weapons, armor, and transport, and therefore possessing corresponding combat formations and techniques to accompany such advantages or disadvantages), tactical control of the battlefield (or lack thereof), terrain, unit and formation maneuver, espionage, morale, and so forth and so on. In other words I view the Codex Martialis as a sort of Gaming version of the Tacticon. I’d also suggest and would like to see a gaming version of the Strategicon.

If you would like more information on the Codex then I suggest purchasing the newest version of the work. There is also a good link on EN World where the author and others discuss various elements and implications of the work. That link can be found here: Martial Pool. I should also mention as a matter for those interested that the author has another brilliant thread dealing with historical matters and which can give one some idea of the research involved in developing the Codex. That other link can be found here: History, Mythology, Art.

I hope my review was useful to you.
Jack.

 

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-rules-discussion/241602-martial-pool-new-combat-mechanic.html

http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/242110-history-mythology-art-rpgs.html

HANG SON SOONG

Amazing…

Can you imagine both the Real World and fictional adventure and exploration possibilities? I can.

see link to article for original video.

An Aerial Tour of ‘Hang Son Soong,’ the Largest Cave on Earth

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In this new 6-minute film, cave, adventure, and travel photographer Ryan Deboodt takes us on a breathtaking aerial tour of the world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong, located in central Vietnam. Deboodt brought a drone and an array of cameras to help capture the cave system, the largest chamber of which is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) long, 200 meters (660 ft) high and 150 meters (490 ft) wide. Despite its enormity, the cave was only discovered in 1991 by a local man, and it wasn’t even studied by scientists until about five years ago. One of the most disorienting thing about watching Deboodt’s film was my brain not comprehending the scale of what I was looking at. It’s only once you notice the ant-like people walking through some of the shots that you realize just how massive this place is. You can see more of Deboodt’s cave photography on Instagram. (via PetaPixel)

NATURAL 20

MEDIEVAL MISDIRECTION

Common misconceptions, and their associated tropes, but if you ask me the way the Real World existed was much more interesting. The fantasy is rarely as complex, fascinating, or interesting as the Reality.

And you have to keep in mind both the differences in the eras (time periods – 5th century life was very different from late Medieval period life), and, of course, the differences in locale.

The Medieval Byzantine Empire was a wholly different place, for the most part, from the Medieval Holy Roman Empire, or from Medieval Scotland, or Medieval Scandinavia, or Medieval Syria or Egypt.

Differences in time and place always matter.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You’d Get From Fantasy Books

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books123

Some tropes are so ingrained in Medieval-inspired fantasy stories that it’s tempting to think that they represent real aspects of Medieval life. But often these stories are just reinforcing myths and misconceptions about life in the Middle Ages.

Top image from the Dragonlance series, which I love, but is steeped in pseudo-Medievalism.

One thing that it’s important to remember when talking about the Medieval period is that it spans a long time — from the 5th century CE to the 15th century CE — and involves a great number of European countries. You’ll notice that a great deal of the debunkery here involves 14th century England, thanks to works like The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer and the works of Joseph Gies and Frances Gies (although another source, Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, covers a bit more ground). But the point here is that the Middle Ages were, in fact, far richer than the Medieval-like settings of many swords and sorcery stories would lead you to believe.

Do fantasy novels need to be historically accurate? Certainly not. Part of the fun of worldbuilding is inventing new ideas, or combining elements of different cultures and time periods, and even integrating historical myths and misconceptions. But If you read a lot of books or watch a lot of movies with pseudo-Medieval settings, you may come away with a mistaken impression that you know what life in the Middle Ages was like. Plus, real history offers new ideas that you might want to incorporate into your own stories in the future.

And this is not to say that all Medieval-esque settings slip into these myths; only that many, many do.

This post was inspired by this fascinating thread on reddit’s r/AskHistorians, which we highlighted a while back. Here are the misconceptions, with debunkery below:

1. Peasants were a single class of people who were more or less equal to one another.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

It’s easy to think that people in the Middle Ages were easily divided into very broad classes: royals, nobles, knights, clergy, and toiling peasants at the very bottom. But just because you didn’t have “king,” “lord,” “sir,” “father,” or “brother” (or their female analogs) in front of your name doesn’t mean you weren’t concerned with your own social standing. There are vast classes of people whom, today, we might generally refer to as “peasants,” but there were actually various classes of people within that broad category.

Mortimer points out that, in 14th-century England, for example, you have your villeins, people bonded to a particular lord’s land. Villeins were not considered free folk, and they could be sold with the lord’s land. And free folk were of a variety of social and economic classes. A freeholder, for example, might become successful enough to rent a lord’s manor, essentially acting as a lord himself. And, in a village, a few families might hold the majority of the political power, supplying most of the local officers. We may tend to think of these people as “peasants,” but they had much more complicated ways of thinking of themselves, with all the class anxiety that goes with that.

2. Inns were public houses with big common halls below and rooms above.

There are few images as firmly rooted in pseudo-Medieval fantasy as the tavern inn. You and your party enjoy a few flagons of ale in the main room, hear all the local gossip, then go up to your private rented chamber where you’d sleep (alone or with a lover) on a lumpy mattress.

That image isn’t wholly fiction, but the truth is a bit more complicated — not to mention interesting. In Medieval England, if you combined a city inn with an alehouse, you’d probably get something resembling that fantasy inn. There were inns where you could rent a bed (or, more likely, a space in a bed), and these inns did have halls for eating and drinking. But these were not public houses; innkeepers were generally permitted to serve food and drink only to their guests. And, Mortimer points out, you would likely find a single room with several beds, beds that could fit up to three people. It was only in the most upscale inns that you’d find chambers with just one or two beds.

There were establishments for drinking in these cities as well: taverns for wine and alehouses for ale. Of the two, alehouses were the rowdier establishments, more likely to function as your Medieval Mos Eisley. But ale and cider were often made at home as well; a husband might expect his wife to be skilled in brewing. The Gieses note in Life in a Medieval Village that a tavern in an English village was often someone’s home. Once your neighbor opened up a fresh batch of ale, you might go to their house, pay a few pennies, and sit and drink with your fellow villagers.

There are other options for accommodations as well. Travelers could expect the hospitality of people of equal or lesser social class, enjoying their food and beds in exchange for tales from the road and a tip. (Mortimer says that, if you were lucky enough to stay with a 14-century merchant, the digs were much nicer than any inn.) Or you might go to a hospital, which was not just for healing, but also for hospitality.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

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3. You would never see a woman engaged in a trade such as armorer or merchant.

Certainly, some fantasy stories will cast women in equal (or relatively equal) positions to men, carrying out the same sorts of trades that men might carry out. But in many fictional stories, a woman who makes armor or sells good would seem out of place — although this does not universally reflect Medieval reality. In England, a widow could take up the trade of her dead husband — and Mortimer specifically cites tailor, armorer, and merchant as trades open to widows. Some female merchants were actually quite successful, managing international trading ventures with impressive capital.

Women engaged in criminal activity as well, including banditry. Many criminal gangs in Medieval England consisted of families, including wives with their husbands and sisters with their brothers.

Image from the Holkham Bible Picture Book, via the British Library Board.

4. People had horrible table manners, throwing bones and scraps on the floor.

Sorry, even in the Middle Ages, members of polite society, from kings to villeins, followed certain etiquette, and that etiquette involved good table manners. In fact, depending on when and where and with whom you were eating, you might have to follow very strict procedures for eating and drinking. Here’s a tip: If a lord passes you his cup at the dinner table, it’s a sign of his favor. Accept it, backwash and all, and pass it back to him after you’ve had a sip.

5. People distrusted all forms of magic and witches were frequently burned.

In some fantasy stories, magic is readily accepted by everyone as a fact of life. In others, magic is treated with suspicion at best or as blasphemy at worst. You might even hear the Biblical edict, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

But not all claims of magic in the Middle Ages were treated as heresy. In her essay “Witches and the Myth of the Medieval ‘Burning Time,'” from Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, Anita Obermeier tells us that during the 10th century, the Catholic Church wasn’t interested in trying witches for heresy; it was more interested in eradicating heretical superstitions about “night-flying creatures.”

And in 14th-century England, you might consult a magician or a witch for some minor “magical” task, such as finding a lost object. In Medieval England, at least, magic without any heretical components was tolerated. Eventually, the late 15th century would give rise to the Spanish Inquisition, and we do see witches hunted down.

Witch burnings weren’t unheard of in the Middle Ages, but they weren’t common, either. Obermeier explains that, in the 11th century, sorcery was treated as a secular crime, but the church would issue several reprimands before it would resort to burning. She puts the first burning for heresy at 1022 in Orleans and the second at 1028 in Monforte. It’s rare in the 11th and 12th centuries, but becomes a more common punishment in the 13th century for relapsed heretics. However, it depends where you are. In the 14th century, you probably won’t be burned as a witch in England, but you may very well get the stake in Ireland.

6. Men’s clothing was always practical and functional.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

Yes, Medieval people of various classes were interested in fashion, and sometimes fashion — particularly men’s fashion — got pretty absurd. Early clothing is more functional, but during the 14th century, men’s fashions in England were both body-bearing and rather experimental. Corsets and garters were common for men, and increasingly, popular fashions encouraged men to show off the shape of their hips and legs. Some aristocratic men wore gowns with sleeves so long they were in danger of tripping on the cuffs. It became fashionable to wear shoes with extraordinarily long toes — one such shoe, imported from Bohemia, had twenty-inch toes that needed to be tied to a man’s garters. There was even a fad of wearing one’s mantle so that the head went through the arm hole rather than the head hole, with the sleeves functioning as a voluminous collar.

Image: Selection of Medieval leather shoes from the Museum of London.

It’s also important to note that fashions would trickle down from royalty, through the aristocracy, and down to the common folk. In the seasons after a fashion appeared among the nobility, a less expensive version would appear among those of lesser stations. In fact, sumptuary laws were passed in London to prevent people from dressing above their stations. For example, a common woman in 1330s London was not permitted to line her hood with anything but lambskin or rabbit fur, or risk losing her hood.

7. Servants were all low-class people.

Actually, if you were a high-ranking individual, chances are that you had high-ranking servants. A lord might send his son to serve in another lord’s manor — perhaps that of his wife’s brother. The son would receive no income, but would still be treated as the son of a lord. A lord’s steward might actually be a lord himself. Your status in society isn’t just based on whether or not you were a servant, but also your familial status, whom you served, and what your particular job was.

Something you might not expect about servants in English households in the late Middle Ages: they were overwhelmingly male. Mortimer points to the earl of Devon’s household, which had 135 members, but only three women. With the exception of a washerwoman (who didn’t live in the household), the staffers were all men, even in households headed by women.

8. Medicine was based on pure superstition.

Admittedly, if you’re looking outside of Game of Thrones, a lot of healing in fantasy novels is just plain magical. You’ve got your cleric class who gets their healing from the gods, and otherwise you might have someone on hand who can dress a wound or make a poultice.

And yes, a lot of Medieval medicine was based on what we would consider today mystical bunk. A great deal of diagnosis involved astrology and humoral theory. Blood letting was a respected method of treatment, and many of the curatives were not only useless — they were downright dangerous. And while there were medical colleges, extraordinarily few physicians were able to attend.

Still, some aspects of Medieval medicine were logical even by modern standards. Wrapping smallpox in scarlet cloth, treating gout with colchicum, using camomile oil for an earache — these were all effective treatments. And while the notion of a barber-surgeon is a horrifying one to many of us, some of those surgeons were actually quite talented. John of Arderne employed anesthetics in his practice, and many surgeons were skilled in couching cataracts, sewing abscesses, and setting bones.

10 Worst Misconceptions About Medieval Life You'd Get From Fantasy Books

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From John Arderne’s De arte phisicali et de cirurgia, via Wikimedia Commons.

9. The most powerful military force consisted of armored knights riding into battle.

James G. Patterson, in his essay “The Myth of the Mounted Knight” from Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, explains that while the image of the mounted knight might have been a popular one during Medieval times, it didn’t match the reality of warfare. Armored cavalry, he explains, can be incredibly useful — even devastating — against untrained revolutionaries, but they were far less useful against a trained foreign infantry. Rather, ground forces, including knights on foot who frequently served as officers, were invaluable in battle. Even during the Crusades, when the image of the mounted knight seemed synonymous with glory in battle, most the actual battles involved sieges.

In the 14th century, English warfare focused increasingly on archery. In fact, Edward III prohibited football in 1331 and then again in 1363 in part because people were spending too much time playing football and not enough time practicing their archery. The English archers were able to repel many a French cavalry force.

10. Only men’s sexual pleasure was important.

A common belief during the Middle Ages was that women were more lustful than men. A lot more lustful, in fact. Rape was a crime in 14th century Medieval England, but not between spouses. A wife could not legally refuse her husband’s advances, but a husband could not refuse his wife’s advances either. The popular belief was that women were always longing for sex, and that it was bad for their health not to have intercourse regularly. A woman’s orgasm was also important; another common belief was that a woman could not conceive without an orgasm. (Unfortunately, this also made rape impossible to prosecute if the victim became pregnant; Medieval English scholars believed women’s bodies had a way of, in the modern parlance, shutting things down.)

So what was an unmarried woman to do? Well, if she couldn’t find a husband, the English physician John of Gaddesden recommended that she find a midwife who could get the job done manually.

HABIT RPG

I’ve just started doing this today. And although I think it is weak in some respects I have also found it useful and may continue with it.

It might be worth investigating on your part as well.

HABITRPG

CALLING ALL CAPTAINS, CALLING ALL CAPTAINS…

If I were young and single I’d do this… if you ask me they also needs guides and explorers and traders and fishermen and Skalds/Scops if they don’t already have em.

Unique Opportunity: Summer Job as Viking Ship Høvedsmann/ Captain

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Viking ship “Lofotr” needs a new captain the coming summer. (Photo: Lofotr Viking Museum)

Have you ever dreamed of being Høvedsmann (Captain) on a Viking ship? This summer, you have the opportunity to apply for the position at the Lofotr Viking Museum in the Lofoten archipelago, Northern Norway – if you have the right qualifications.

There are two Viking ships at the museum. “Lofotr” is a full-scale reconstruction of the Gokstad ship dating back to the 800s. Like the original, “Lofotr” is an excellent seagoing ship which has won several regattas.

The Viking museum which is located on the beautiful Vestvågøy island is searching for two captains the coming summer.

(Article continues)

Lofotr Viking Museum Longhouse Norway

The reconstructed Viking longhouse at the Lofotr Viking Museum is the largest ever found. (Photo: Lofotr Viking Museum)

Here you will find the job ad translated into English. Notice that there is no requirement to speak Norwegian, but you have to speak two languages – including English or Norwegian.

 

Høvedsmann Viking Ship

Apply for an exciting and challenging summer job as Høvedsmann in the main season 15 June – 15 August 2015. The Høvedsmann is responsible for preparing and carrying out daily rowing trips with a Viking ship for our guests. It is an advantage if you have experience using a square sail or a boating license. You should master at least two languages. Specify in the application which periods you can work. Minimum application period is two months. You must master Norwegian or English. Only relevant applicants will be contacted.

Workplace: Vestvågøy, Lofoten

Type of employment: Vacation work, Shift work, Part time, Full time

Number of positions: 2

Application deadline: February 16, 2015

Vacancies from: June 15, 2015

Vacancies to: August 15, 2015

Application postal address: Prestegårdsveien 59, 8360 Bøstad, Norway

Mark the envelope “Season 2015”

Contact person: Ole-Martin Hammer, tel. +47 90 11 87 08

 

You will find the complete job ad here (in Norwegian).

 

A FEW THINGS I HAVE LEARNED OVER THE YEARS PLAYING STAR FLEET BATTLES/STAR FLEET COMMAND

A few principles I have learned in playing SFBs, but many are also widely applicable to both numerous other wargames and to Real Life.

Missiles are always the most effective weapons. They track, they force the enemy to consume resources on defensive countermeasures, their range is the effective greatest of any weapon, they consume little power to prepare, and they do not degrade over distance as far as their destructive power. Their only real limitations are speed of movement (in some cases) and interceptability – otherwise they are a near ideal weapon system

Obtain and use the fastest and most powerful missiles even if they cost you far more – they are worth the expense

Save your attacks against enemy tractor beam defenses until after they are damaged – that is to say punch through enemy shields first and let them intercept your missiles then close in and cripple their tractor beams defenses only after they are in missile holding mode

Always use probes to gather better Intel on operating capabilities/conditions and damage to enemy ships

Carefully time your boarding actions but use them freely

Do not deploy your fighters either defensively or offensively until you have sufficiently damaged or crippled the enemy – your fighters are too easy to kill and are wasted in the initial stages of an engagement, but if the enemy is crippled they are truly lethal

Use missiles as a stand-off weapon against multiple enemy ships so they cannot close and flank you all at once

Prepare all counter-measures (such as wild-weasels) at the beginning of an engagement, a counter-measure is useless if it is unprepared

The Gorns are paper tigers, so are the Romulans if you simply stay out of range and time your defenses properly

The Klingons mean business and fight like hell – short of enemies like the Vagr they are your most dangerous opponents

Hydran fighters are extremely dangerous in squadrons, but Hydran weapons are hit and miss at best – Hydran ships can’t take a punch

The Lyrans are knife-fighters, avoid close contact, if you have to get close then kill immediately

You don’t like the Kzin/Kzinti – liquidate on contact with extreme prejudice

Throw combinations, and often

The optimum range for almost all weapons is point-blank – however that’s probably not the optimum range in which to operate

Constantly rotate your shields and your firing arcs – become excellent at coordinating defensive and offensive actions simultaneously

Maneuver is your friend, but you have to earn his friendship

Your ship will be destroyed if you get too close to the enemy as he dies – let the enemy die at a distance

If you can capture an enemy ship then do so, if you have to destroy him then do so, but never let him escape

The unknown works in both directions

Assume every alien/unknown entity is a potential hostile, but do not force them to be such

Unless your ship is specifically designed for stealth operations then Electronic Counter-Measures are far better employed in a defensive fashion

Place transporter bombs where they will do the most damage – place them strategically, because sometimes that’s the whole battle right there

Once your enemy is afire then press your attack

It is better to cripple or destroy enemy systems than to attack hull or kill crew

Do not give the enemy an opportunity to undertake useful damage control efforts

Never hesitate at your own repairs – employ damage control and repairs efforts as needed and immediately

Withdraw whenever necessary

Steal enemy repair goods with your transporters and use them for your own or simply deprive the enemy of necessary resources – he can’t repair what he doesn’t have

Good Intel and proper sensing is a Weapon – short of main weaponry your most effective one

Sensing passively and running silently does not disclose your location – so get good at it

Scan at all times unless there is a very good reason not to

Limit your enemy’s ability to maneuver

Do not Cross Your T’s, rather dog-leg your firing arcs

Become superb at precise targeting

Fire first if you must, and if you must, fire often and with sure aim

Screw the Prime Directivelet the lawyers sweat over that crap

Yellow or Secondary Alert is the most useless nonsense ever invented, don’t ever bother with it, you’re either on real alert or you’re not, so, always be on real alert

Use the environment (planets, asteroids, gravitational fluctuations, nebulae, etc.) to your advantage

Time is part of your environment – at all times use time to your advantage

Never assume an ally will make a smart tactical decisionalways assume your ally will screw up and be prepared accordingly

Develop new technologies constantly

Study enemy capabilities constantly

Always be open to superior ship designs and refits

Speed is better than power, power is better than toughness, especially when you’re talking high-energy weaponry

Don’t be there when the weapon strikes –avoid rather than absorb

Always be ready to take advantage

Have a battle plan prior to engagement

Be fluid and flexible, but mostly be much faster than the other guy

Make all of your decisions before you have to

Imagine you’re going to be crippled and nearly killed – now you’re that much better prepared for it

Each enemy is different, with different capabilities and liabilities, know your enemy

Out-thinking your opponent is the best way to prove your superiority

He who can recover and re-attack fastest will probably win

There is no virtue and no advantage in absorbing attacks

Wait until the proper moment then cut loose with all hell – do not hold back in combat

The enemy has weaknesses – observe and exploit them

An unstable or untrustworthy alliance is a point of leverage

You can beat multiple opponents at once, but you must be prepared with a plan of action and combat

There is no shame in escape, but there is destruction in defeat

Be prepared for the Trap

Be proficient at Setting the Trap

Anticipate, and avoid

Whether your win or lose and whether your crew lives or dies depends entirely upon you

Communications are vital – unless you have a death wish, and in that case do whatever the hell you want, because you’re an idiot anyhow

Sneaky works – be very, very sneaky

Victory is far better than heroics

The fast kill is the best and saves the most lives – by far

Be unpredictable

There are far more ways to kill the ship chasing you than the one approaching you

Always destroy approaching probes and hamper enemy efforts at gaining information on your ship and capabilities

Disinformation and misinformation – disinformation and misinformation – disinformation and misinformation – don’t make me repeat it again

The Federation has, by far, the most well-rounded and multi-capable ships – that gives you a huge overall set of advantages – use them

In-game targeting systems for photon torpedoes suck, what in the hell is the point of having great ordinance you cannot reliably deliver to the target? Think about it

Smarten all of your weapons, and then make them so efficient in operation that even a dumb-ass could use them effectively

Invention is the Mother of (Power) Projection

Constantly train your crew

Constantly train yourself

The last battle is the one you lose, the next battle is the one after you win

THE UNKNOWN QUEEN

You know, stuff like this not only makes for great history, it makes for superb gaming material and excellent fictional materials. A party goes out to explore a set of ruins and stumbles across another set of ruins, or a tomb, totally unexpectedly, and discovers within it things far more valuable, and far more dangerous, than they had originally anticipated.

Tomb of Fifth Dynasty queen found in Egypt

Updated yesterday at 5:01pmSun 4 Jan 2015, 5:01pm

Czech archaeologists have unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown queen believed to have been the wife of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago, officials in Egypt say.

The tomb was discovered in Abu Sir, an Old Kingdom necropolis south-west of Cairo where there were several pyramids dedicated to pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty, including Neferefre.

The name of his wife was not known before the find, antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said in a statement.

He identified her as Khentakawess and said for the “first time we have discovered the name of this queen who had been unknown before the discovery of her tomb”.

That would make her Khentakawess III, as two previous queens with the same name have already been identified.

Her name and rank had been inscribed on the inner walls of the tomb, probably by the builders, Mr Damaty said.

“This discovery will help us shed light on certain unknown aspects of the Fifth Dynasty, which along with the Fourth Dynasty, witnessed the construction of the first pyramids,” he said.

Miroslav Barta, who heads the Czech Institute of Egyptology mission that made the discovery, said the tomb was found in Neferefre’s funeral complex.

“This makes us believe that the queen was his wife,” Mr Barta said.

An official at the antiquities ministry said the tomb dated from the middle of the Fifth Dynasty (2994-2345BC).

Archaeologists also found about 30 utensils – 24 made of limestone and four of copper – the statement said.

AFP

MEDIEVAL COMBAT STUDIES

An excellent page and resource, useful for both Real World and Gaming situations


https://www.facebook.com/Swordfighting.Medieval.Combat.Studies/photos/a.842956425723963.1073741827.242033529149592/922622041090734/?type=1&fref=nf

GAMING INSPIRED REAL LIFE ADVENTURES

I’ve recently been thinking about real life adventures I’d like to take that were inspired by gaming. Or rather, to be more accurate, I have done these things in games (as well as researched them in real life), and therefore I’d now like to do them in real life as well.

Some of these things I imagine I may never get the chance to do (though you never know), but others I suspect I will get to do. Also I’ve already done many things in real life that I have also done in games, and vice versa, but I always thought of imaginary expeditions and adventures and real life adventures as cross-fertilizing one another. So for instance I have been a near life-long Vadder, and to me D&D (for example) was simply a form of complimentary vadding of the imagination.

 

So these are things I’ve done in games that I’d like to do in real life in the future:

1. I’d like to walk or travel by horse and camel the Silk Road, starting from Istanbul (Constantinople) and then all the way into China.

2. I’d like to sail the entire world, starting from the East Coast of America (Charleston) to land on the West Coast of America, when finished, in a true sailing vessel. Though I’d probably take along an engine enabled craft just as an emergency back-up. I’d christen her the Endeavour, after my old ship.

sail

3. I’d like to thoroughly explore the cistern system of Constantinople, along with any other underground and abandoned areas of that ancient city that I could possible make my way into.

4. I’d like to buy a small keep or castle in England or Scotland (maybe Bohemia) and then use the surrounding lands to raise really good horses. On that estate I’d also like to build a small private amphitheatre, and an observatory, and a good solid library complex, all of my own design. After I got a good herd up and the estate was flourishing I’d rent it out and then let the caretakers continue raising the stock. I’d probably thereafter vacation there.

cre

5. I’d like to put together an archaeological expedition into Central (preferably) or South America and make a new discovery.

6. I’d like to track down and discover an animal thought extinct or very rare and then photograph and record it.

7. I’d like to explore a previously unexplored or only very rarely explored underground complex. Natural or man-made (long abandoned).

8. I’d like to visit some ancient libraries (especially old monastic collections) and read and study some very rare texts. And I’d like to visit some relical shrines in the Middle East.

lib

9. I’d like to retrace the Lewis and Clarke expedition route by foot and horse. And then motorcycle back across the country on the way home.

lc

10. I’d like to build a real and working ballista (based on an ancient Greek or Roman design) from scratch (no kit), and have forged for me a really fine katana made by a skilled Japanese swordsmith with an inlain pattern design I invented and sporting my family and personal crests.
So, what are some things you’ve done or built or accomplished in games that you’d also like to do in real life?

THE SWORD-SEED

The Gate of Apsu

A dagger is like a distillation of a sword, a sword-seed, and therefore perfect for a wizard.

finn10

Perhaps the world is not as it seems. The forces that hold things together may be uncertain, not as we imagine them. The fourth dimension, ancient time, might be filled with secrets— secrets from long before humans scuttled and promulgated across the land. The light of dead stars watches down across the eons, and only the crystal sharp mind of the wizard, opened to portals of time and multiverse, can begin to fathom its meaning.

finn9

This dagger is the second piece in a slowly unfolding project called “The Archeology of Dreams — The Unspoken Ones”. The first was the Seax “Dwine”.

Constructed from Hynninen wootz steel, horn, wood, leather, fur, bronze and silver, this dagger implies its wielder, the wizened searcher for arcane truth.

Length – 43.4cm/17 1/8″

Width – 5.6cm/2 1/4″

gateofapsu4web

To follow the process of making this dagger, have a look here —

Forging the Blade

Making the Scabbard

Carving the Hilt

and here is a blog post about carving the wizard’s staff that accompanies the dagger in some of the photos —

A Gramary of Art

gateofapsu3web

 

THE ABILITY HOARD – AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY ON PERSONAL AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

Essay Fourteen: The Ability Hoard

THE ABILITY HOARD – AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY ON PERSONAL AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

When it comes to my own characters (be they fictional or gaming) and even the players and characters I DM I think of Skills, Capabilities, Abilities, Attributes, (innate personal and individual features) and so forth as much more important character elements and possessions than magic items, spells, money, and other types of what is normally thought of as “standard treasures.”

To me the single greatest types of treasures a character (or a real person) can possess are what they can actually do for themselves (and for others) in the world, devoid of all outside help, material/materiel, and extraneous accoutrements. So I’m going to call this idea and post the Ability-Hoard, or the Treasure of Personal Capacity. I think that this is where the true emphasis of “characterization” should be evident, and most brightly shine.

Let me, at this point, briefly define the Ability Hoard.

The Ability Hoard is that accumulated set of skills, talents, abilities, capabilities, extraordinary qualities (be they physical, mental, psychological, or spiritual), educational and individual merits, virtues, and sensory capacities that a character or person possesses which allows them to resolve difficult problems or to gain some beneficial advantage over others or over a particular set of circumstances.

Now I realize that this may be an entirely personal opinion, or at least very probably a minority opinion, but to me the Ability Hoard (similar to the poetic term Word-Hoard in this respect), be that in a fictional world, a gaming environment, or in Real Life is by far the greatest wealth a person may possess, and as such accumulating and developing and increasing your own Ability Hoard is of paramount importance to both your success in this world (or in any fictional world) and to your favorable development as an individual.

(At least in the gaming world, it has been my observation, and far too often in the Real World, possessions, especially powerful and valuable possessions seem to consume much of the emphasis and interest in any setting. However the Ability Hoard is not only a treasure and a possession in its own right, it is the one possession you own which actually allows you to grow and multiply all of your other possessions – be they physical, financial, material, mental, psychological, or otherwise.)

Thus in my opinion, whether you are speaking of gaming or Real Life a person’s Ability Hoard is their Chief and True Treasure, and the one source of wealth that is never subject to theft or plunder by another. (Unless, of course, you intentionally allow some particular element of your Ability Hoard to be stolen by another.)

I will return to the idea of the Ability Hoard in later posts, because for one thing, it constitutes a vital and fundamental part of my Games of Personal Advancement and Development series. For now, however, I just wish to introduce the concept.

In closing, what is your opinion – is a character’s or an individual’s Ability Hoard their single greatest source of treasure, or do you consider some other form of treasure a more valuable possession?

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.

THE OLD CITIES OF CAPPADOCIA

I’m familiar with these places. As a matter of fact they show up in my Other World novels.

Nevertheless they are as fascinating to me now and when I first learned of them.

In addition to the Real World significance of these domains this also possesses very under-utilized story and gaming possibilities. And God, yes, I’d love to vad these places.

 

This Guy Knocked Down A Wall In His House. He Never Expected This To Behind It. WOAH!

Province of Turkey was doing a little home remodeling. He decided to knock down a wall of his home for an expansion. He discovered a hidden room behind the wall with a slender hallway carved out of of the stone below his home. The hallway lead to a cave-like room which lead to more hallways and cave-like rooms. Before he knew it he had stumbled onto an entire city underground and attached to his home. The city was completely empty and abandoned but it had every amenity you would need to sustain a society. What he had stumbled on by accident was Derinkuyu and The underground cities of Cappadocia.
underground city 1

These tunnels are believed to be hand dug around the 15th and 12th century BCE. They sheltered the people and their food from the extreme climates above. They also served as protection from an enemy attack.

underground city 2

Here is A small drawing of what these underground cities look like. The ground is primarily made of ash and volcanic material making it easy to excavate and still very durable. No one is sure who first occupied the underground city however it is certain that many groups have occupied it over the centuries.

underground city 3

With up to 11 floors at points accessible to the public, the city reaches depths of over 280 feet below the surface. 11 floors have been excavated and deemed safe for tourism however it is speculated that there are over 18 floors below that have yet to be discovered.

underground city 4

The miles upon miles of tunnels are blackened from centuries of torches traveling through them. The city connects to other cities in the area spanning miles which would be able to sustain tens of thousands of people at one time.

underground city 5

The underground tunnels lead to giant rooms that housed schools, wine cellars, oil press rooms, churches, gathering halls, shops, tombs, arsenals, livestock corrals, escape routes and water wells separated from the surface water. 

underground city 6

There are over 100 entrances to the underground cities but each and every one of them are hidden behind bushes or walls, even courtyards had entrances that were hidden but big enough to move livestock in and out of.

underground city 7

The entrances and other important rooms were guarded with giant stone doors. They were hand carved and weigh up to 1,00 pounds. Some are over 5 feet in diameter.

underground city 8

Underground river systems were used as drinking sources in order to avoid being poisoned by surface water susceptible to enemies above ground.

underground city 10

 How amazing is this place? I’m astounded that it was completely built by hand.

underground city 11

The size of the rooms is incredible. Right now about 10% of the underground city is open to the public but it was only discovered in 1963 so experts still have a lot to excavate and document.

underground city 12

This is one of the well shafts. They built it so that the vent shaft did not reach the surface. This would prevent any poisoning from enemies on the surface.

underground city 13

This is a vertical staircase leading to a floor below. These lead to most levels and can be very dangerous. 

underground city 14

 

 

The tunnels were dug very narrow to force people to walk through them single file. This would give the people living in the underground cities an advantage over their enemies. 

underground city 16

The room above is a wine cellar and cold food storage. The amount of detail and time that went into each room is impressive to say the least. To think that this may still be sitting undiscovered if it weren’t for one man who decided to remodel his home. He knocked down one wall and opened a door to another society completely hidden underground. A society hidden for thousands of years only to revealed in 1963.

 

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

THE EMPEROR’S LAMENT

See how 70 Roman Emperors died, in one chart

“Et tu, Augustus, Caligula, Domitian, Galba…”

No, those emperors didn’t help assassinate Julius Caesar — they were assassinated just like him.

Restored Antonine Period statue of Julius Caesar in Naples, Italy. (Image via Mary Harrsch/flickr)

It’s common knowledge that Julius Caesar, the man who paved the way for Rome’s imperial transformation, was assassinated, thanks in no small part to William Shakespeare’s immortal rendition of Caesar’s dying words to a friend: “Et tu, Brute?”

But Caesar was far from the only Roman ruler to be assassinated by those close to him.

Reddit user Flibidi set out to graphically depict the death spread for every Roman emperor from Augustus Caesar to Theodosius I, posting the chart below on Monday and showing in one place just how many emperors got murdered.

Image via imgur

“Not gonna lie, natural causes was actually much higher than I expected,” one Reddit user remarked.

As other users were quick to point out, “natural causes” does not mean the emperor died a peaceful death, as many Roman rulers succumbed to plague and other debilitating diseases.

Flibidi’s chart contains some ambiguity — the Wikipedia list from which Flibidi pulled data lists eight imperial suicides between 14 and 395, but several of those cases were suspected to be murders, and it seems Flibidi lumped the suspicious suicides into the “possibly assassinated” category.

Overall, Flibidi visually confirmed what historians already knew to be true: Leading the Roman Empire was, more often than not, a deadly job.

THE LANDSCAPES WITHIN

Wow! Just freaking wow!

And can you just imagine what you could encode in these puppies?

Also by way of fiction and/or gaming, just imagine a book you could open that would create either magically interactive landscapes such as these or holoconic/holographic ones that you could explore or further encode or explore…

By the way I now highly recommend the blog Colossal.

 

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

New Carved Book Landscapes by Guy Laramée sculpture paper books

Artist Guy Laramee (previously) has recently completed a number of new sculptural works where he transforms thick tomes into incredible topographical features including mountains, caves, volcanoes, and even water. Many of the works are part of a new project titled Guan Yin, a series of work dedicated to the forces that enable individuals to endure grief and pain, or in his words “the mysterious forces thanks to which we can traverse ordeals.” If you happen to be near Quebec, a number of Laramee’s works are currently on view at Expression gallery in Saint-Hyacinthe through August 12.

Update: You can also see a number of works by Laramée at Foster/White Gallery in Seattle.

THE ANGLO-SAXON WAY

The Anglo-Saxon War-Culture and The Lord of the Rings: Legacy and Reappraisal

 The Anglo-Saxon War-Culture and The Lord of the Rings: Legacy and Reappraisal

By Pritha Kundu

WLA: War, literature, and the arts, Vol.26 (2014)

The saints and missionaries of the Anglo-Saxon era (1897)

Introduction: The literature of war in English claims its origin from the Homeric epics, and the medieval accounts of chivalry and the crusades. In modern war-literature, produced during and after the two World Wars, themes of existential trauma, alienation of man as victim, horrors of the nuclear warfare and the Holocaust, and the evils of a totalitarian government, critique of narrow nationalism have become dominant; yet some memories of the Classical and the Medieval war-culture can be found, either as subtle allusion, or as a means of irony or satire, as in Catch-22 or Mother Courage. However, another ancient culture of war—that of the Anglo-Saxons—has failed to hold its sway over the thoughts of the modern war-poets and novelists. In fact, the process of oblivion began as early as the 12th century, when the image of loud and boasting warriors, bursting the mead-halls with their genial laughter, and fighting to death for the love of their lords, was replaced by the courteous Christian knights on their quest for the Holy Grail, rescuing damsels in distress, representing abstract virtues and ideals of a feudal culture. In the long run, the medieval image of the knight-warrior, alongside the raw and ‘real’ quality of the Homeric battles, has found ways into the modern imagination, and produced modern reappropriations of these old materials, whereas re-works on Anglo-Saxon literature are of a poor amount. John Gardner’s Grendel offers an existentialist and psychoanalytic approach to Beowulf, rewriting it from the monster’s point of view, and G.K. Chesterton’s The Ballad of the White Horse recalls the tone of sadness and lament in the Old English elegies, but none of them shows interest in the war-culture of the Anglo-Saxons, which, notwithstanding the ‘fantastic’ elements of monsters and dragons, remained so realistic in the battles themselves, and a strong bond of love and duty between the warrior-king and his thanes.

Considering the scarcity of the Anglo-Saxon influence in modern war-literature in general, one may wonder and stop by a work like The Lord of the Rings or Silmarillion, which few would be willing to categorise as serious war-literature. The fictional writings of J.R.R. Tolkien are said to have revived the genre of fantasy and magic-realism, and they have been readily assimilated into the new genre of popular literature. What seems to have been forgotten in this process is Tolkien’s own passionate and critical engagement with the war-literature of the Anglo-Saxons, which has gone into the making of his otherwise ‘fantastic’ creation of the ‘Middle Earth’. Tolkien’s lecture, later published as an essay, “The Monsters and the Critics”, brought a formative and seminal change in the course of Beowulf -criticism. His fictional works are at the same time holding the Anglo-Saxon legacy with devoted fondness, yet his reappraisal is of a critical kind—it critiques, reconstructs and reappropriates several Anglo-Saxon themes and ideas while constantly referring back to an old war-culture passed into oblivion…

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