I don’t post here much anymore. I think the blog’s title is too pretentious, so I abandoned it and moved my blogging efforts to Metropollywog, a word my father invented to describe out local city. “City” only in name, it is small with a population of only 60,000.

My recent exercise is House Diedne, a fan fiction site for one of the wizardly factions of the RPG Ars Magica. It is brand new – I’m working on the first real post now (while avoiding continuing my online IRB (Institution Review Board) certification) – and hopefully more will be coming. A second author just signed on, an exciting event, and we’ll see where our joint creativity takes us. Any you, if you follow along.


Preface to Boyhood Deeds

Once upon a time I took an independent study course with Tom Hill, during which I wrote “The Boyhood Deeds of Jesus”. Tales of Jesus’s childhood are fairly common in the Middle Ages, stemming originally from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, I think. Childhood tales are also common for Irish heroes, and the literature’s main characters – Cu Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhaill – both have boyhood deeds stories. I took Thomas’s account of childhood Jesus and rewrote it in the style of Irish legends. In an effort to add content, I’m sending up “The Boyhood Deeds of Jesus” in the next post.

Research leads to Fiction

The fantasy world of Ars Magica mirrors the factual world of medieval Europe, specifically the early thirteenth century. The points that initially pulled me to the game were two: wizards never forgot their spells and the game uses real history as its setting background. All of my early role-playing game experience stems from Dungeons & Dragons and my battered collection of The Players Handbook, the Monster Manual, and the Dungeon Masters Guide. In that game, copied from Jack Vance’s Dying Earth novels, wizards knew a limited number of spells, and once cast had to re-memorize spells to cast them again. This worked well in the books because the spells were powerful, and while spells can be powerful in D&D wizards early in their careers don’t know those spells. They know weak spells, and once cast are reduced to mapping the dungeon, triggering traps, and throwing darts at monsters. One-shot wonders.

In Ars Magica, using a different system for spells and magic, wizards don’t forget spells. A wizard can cast a known spell until the cows come home. Does this make them powerful? Yes. It makes playing a wizard a lot more fun.

The second half of my love for the game was its adherence to real history. Nothing is weirder, funnier, and more fulfilling than real life. You might think that Aragon’s world is fantastic, that Conan treads a realistic primordial world, and that Elric carves his way through a believable reality, and while those are all grand they pale in comparison to some of the antics of our forefathers.  During the papal conclave of 1241, the mayor of Rome sequestered the cardinals in an dilapidated building and refused to release them until they picked the new pope. To encourage their decision the guards stationed on the leaky roof peed on it. That’s gross. It is also very real and sets quite an image. Knights raided their neighbors with regularity. Abbots and monks defended the abbey swords in hands. Academics argued the finer points of theology during the day and drunk themselves into a stupor at night. Dragons and giants roamed just out of sight, saints’ interventions and devils’ temptations were a daily event. The depth of detail is incredible, once the digging begins.

Writing for a project generally means researching the hell out of it first. I’m lucky that I work at a university with a world-class library system, making research enjoyable and easy. I found wages for medieval craftsmen when writing City &Guild, explained neo-Platonism in Art & Academe, and described the city of Constantinople after the siege of 1204 in The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal. I like the research stage.

I also like the creation stage, when I take the found facts of the past and pull them apart to stick game mechanics and story ideas in the cracks. It is all aimed at the game, so far, but sometimes I go a step farther. Sometimes I take the facts and pull a narrative out if it, writing a short piece of fiction that no one ever sees. Until now. For better or worse, I’ll post some of my unedited fiction here.

I mean, it’s not like anyone is going to see it here.

Collecting Role-Playing Games

A list of the many role-playing games I own and some personal reflections on them.

I’ve been buying and playing role-playing games since the late 70’s. Many of the games I once owned are gone, lost to my many moves, moods, and episodes of megalomania. Some I have purchased again, but the majority are gone for good. I like role-playing games and continue to buy them, although in the last few years my enthusiasm for new games had died. I’d rather pick up and play one of the many games that sit on my shelves. The easiest way to count these games is by shelf, and I shall proceed through the six shelves laden with rpgs.

Shelf One

From left to right sit several Warhammer Fantasy Battles supplements, primarily chaos demons, followed by Mordheim, rules of skirmish-level miniature battles. These don’t actually count as role-playing game although they certainly present a reality for a fantasy world.
Ten volumes of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay follow, the main rules, many supplements, and a few adventures. This is the third edition of the game, I believe, now superseded by a new edition. I have not played this or former editions. They are beautiful books and the game received great reviews.
Next is The Dying Earth Role-Playing Game (DERPG), of which I have a good collection of the main rules, the core supplements, and a couple adventures. I have played it once, but would like to play it more.
Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Dark Ages are classics that I have never played. I used to have more volumes than I currently own. I have an old boxed set, circa I don’t know. I’ve never played this game.
Rounding out the shelf are two hardback games I haven’t played: Paranoia and Grimm. The first is a classic from the 1980s and the second is a d20 rules version of a fantasy world based on the stories of the Brothers Grimm.

Shelf Two

To the right of Shelf One and nearest my writing desk houses my current endeavour, Ars Magica Fifth Editon. I have played a lot of this game and written a dozen of the books.

Shelf Three

Below Shelf One, Shelf Three contains my old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books, including my original copy of The Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Shelf Four

Atlas Games publishes Ars Magica, and this shelf is devoted to their catalog, including Ars Magica Fourth Edition, Unknown Armies, and several titles of their Penumbra line, a series of books published for the AD&D 3rd edition Open License material. Two unrelated works also reside here, The World’s Largest Dungeon, a $100, 831-page adventure bough during a more personally prosperous time, and Reign, written by Unknown Armies co-author Greg Stolze. I’ve never used either book, although I have used the One Roll Engine rules found in Reign for another game (Schism War II).

Shelf Five

Living under Shelf Three, Shelf Five has more Ars Magica books, one first edition book and all of the second and third edition material. I think I might be missing one, The Medieval Handbook, or something. I also have a few Dark Ages supplements, written for Dark Ages Vampire, which is unrelated to Cthulhu Dark Ages (but notice the medieval time-frame-theme). I have the core Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition rules and a few of the odder supplements, Hackmaster Basic, which is a spoof but an perfectly working rpg, Pendragon core rules, and a d20 version of Talislanta. I’ve played Ars Magica, but not the other books on this shelf.

Shelf Six

Actually two shelves, this shelf consists of two different shelves catagorized together because the games would all fit on one shelf. I have played Star Wars Saga Edition and I have several of the supplements. I have played the newest Gamma World  with my son; I think we are midway through the introductory adventure. The other box-sets are collector pieces more than games I’d play: Aftermath, Tunnels &Trolls, AD&D Dark Sun, the City of Greyhawk, and Barsaive, a cheepie I bought to a game I don’t own (Earthdawn). The other half-shelf has Burning Wheel, the original Chainmail and D&D supplements: Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and the stapled paperback Deities & Demi-Gods, as well as some indie pamphlet-sized games like My Life with Master.