Friday, June 11, 2021

House of Worms, Session 226

The tubeway car eventually stopped at what appeared to be a fully functional station. In the course of their travels, the characters had previously visited several such stations but all of them were in some state of collapse and disrepair. This one, however, was quite different: well-lit, clean, functional – and filled with guards in black livery. As soon as the car stopped, the characters observed a pair of guards, armed with spears, advancing up the ramp to meet them. 

Keléno stepped out, along with Nebússa, as they were the only members of the group who could speak Bednallján Salarvyáni, the language most similar to whatever dialect was spoken on this alternate version of Tékumel. Nebússa took the lead, giving Keléno time to use the weird device given to him by Toneshkéthu to contact her in times of trouble. Uncharacteristically, she responded quickly, expressing first pleasure that they had made it safely to Evú Nithóru. He asked her advice on how to handle things, to which she responded, "I'm not sure; I expect you'll probably be taken prisoner. Just do what they say and I'll get to you as soon as I am able." Toneshkéthu's prediction was correct.

The guards led the characters and their entourage down the ramp to an open area, where they were greeted by more guards. Their sergeant asked everyone to turn over their weapons and armor and to follow him to a nearby lift. Fortunately, the guards did not search anyone thoroughly, allowing Znayáshu, Keléno, and Kirktá to retain the eyes they had hidden on their persons. The lift took everyone up two floors, where they were met by yet more soldiers, who escorted the characters to a large, open room, with a door. The door was sealed but not locked, though it was soon apparent that there were several armed guards posted outside it.

A few minutes after arriving, a pair of men in formal robes appeared. One was a younger, smiling man, while the other was older and balding. It soon became clear that the younger man was in charge and the older his secretary or aide. The young man introduced himself as Chikárja Shurúggam and he apologized for having to imprison the characters here. "It's only a precaution," he explained. "This area is beneath King Tarishánde's fortress and it's quite unusual for anyone to arrive unannounced. We're quite curious as to how you came here at all, especially at the present time, when 'religious zealots' seek to unseat His Majesty from his rightful throne." Keléno asked for clarification, "Do you mean 'the Red King?'" Chikárja visibly scowled, "Yes, the self-proclaimed Prophet of Vaomáhl. May Jráka protect us from violent fools like him."

The conversation quickly turned back to how and why the characters had come to Evú Nithóru. A decision was made to simply tell the truth, namely that they had come from an alternate version of Tékumel by magical means and had taken a tubeway car found deep within a Ssú lair." Chikárja seemed strangely satisfied with this answer, but countered with more questions. "That doesn't explain why you thought here was a good place to come or indeed how you came here at all." Keléno spoke truthfully again, "We were given instructions to come here by an acquaintance of ours named Toneshkéthu. Do you know her? She said that there would a nexus point by which we could return to our Tékumel." 

Chikárja's demeanor changed upon hearing this. He looked angry and concerned, though he tried to hide it. "I must go to consult with my superiors," he said, "However, if you would like some refreshments, I can arrange for them to be sent to you." With that, he and his aide left; not long thereafter, slaves bearing food and drink entered the room, providing them with the first sustenance they'd had in some time. Grujúng was disappointed that there was no chumétl amongst the refreshments. The characters partook of the food and drink, waiting for the return of Chikárja.

Before he returned, though, Toneshkéthu made her way into the room, disguised as a servant. She smiled, "We need to get you out of here. They think you're agents provocateurs of the Red King and will probably torture and execute you before long. I can help you get to a nearby nexus point and use it to transfer you back to your Tékumel through it." This immediately frightened the characters. "Where would this nexus point take us exactly?" "The fortress of Avanthár, of course; that's the equivalent locale on your branch of the Tree of Time." That was what worried the characters. "I don't think the Omnipotent Azure Legion will receive us any more happily than did the people here," said Keléno.

Nevertheless, there was no other option. Among the eyes the characters carried was an eye of non-seeing, which would render them invisible for a time. Toneshkéthu suggested they make use of it, follow her out the door, past the guards to the nexus point. Grujúng and Aíthfo approved of the plan, but wanted to recover their weapons, armor, and other gear. Toneshkéthu argued against this, since it would necessarily involve having to fight past guards. The characters briefly considered foregoing their equipment but ultimately decided against it. Toneshkéthu acquiesced and, after several use of the eye of non-seeing, they made their way past the guards outside their room and toward the chamber that held their gear.

There were two guards outside the door to the chamber. The quick use of an excellent ruby eye placed both of them into stasis without drawing attention. Upon entering the room beyond, the characters discovered that Chikárja was there, along with several other men with whom he was engaged in a spirited conversation. Surprised, they had no time to react to the characters, who used the ruby eye again to place them into stasis. Toneshkéthu encouraged them to grab their possessions quickly, use the eye of non-seeing again and follow her once more. She warned that it would not be long before their disappearance from their holding area would be noticed. Once that happened, it would only be a matter of time before they re-captured and, if so, there was little she could do for them.

A few minutes of moving stealthily past guards and patrols, the characters made it to an area where Toneshkéthu indicated the nexus point was located. She performed a quick ritual, opened the nexus and urged the characters through. She said that she would see them again "sometime in your future," but did not clarify further. Dealing with Undying Wizards – event apprentice ones like Toneshkéthu – could be confusing!

Paladin and War Horse

While flipping through The Rogues Gallery, I was struck by its artwork. I remembered most of its illustrations, but there were a couple I didn't recall. The piece above, by Darlene, is on the title page and bears the title "Paladin and War Horse." Though I'm sure I've seen it before, probably many times, for some reason it had simply slipped my memory. 

It's quite a striking image, with the paladin wearing what looks like jousting or parade armor, something for which I have a particular soft spot. I've mentioned before that I adore historical armor, preferring it over the fanciful, impractical, and "cool" armor types we tend to see nowadays in fantasy artwork. So, when I saw this piece, I smiled a little and boggled at the fact that I could have ever forgotten it. 

Random Roll: DMG, p. 125

 At the start of the "explanations and descriptions of magic items" on page 125 of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, there is a section on potions.

Potions are typically found in ceramic, crystal, glass, or metal flasks in enough quantity to provide one person with one complete dose so as to be able to achieve the effects which are given hereafter for each type of potion. Potion containers can be other than described at your option.

That's straightforward enough, though I recall many referees in my youth allowing a "half-dose" of a potion, with commensurately lesser effects. I don't know how widespread such a house rule was outside of the circles in which I moved, however. Likewise, I remember one referee who had replaced potions with what he called "lozenges," little pills like cough drops that had to be eaten to achieve the appropriate effect. I never understood why he'd made this change, but but it stuck with me decades later.

As a general rule they should bear no identifying marks, so that the players must sample from each container in order to determine the nature of the liquid. However, even a small taste should suffice to identify a potion in some way – even if just a slight urge.

Once again, we see the conflation of "player" and "player character" that is quite commonplace in the early years of the hobby (Empire of the Petal Throne does this often, for example). While I understand why, from a game perspective, potions are not labeled, it's one of those things that doesn't make much sense to me from a setting perspective. Unless the manufacturers of potions have a better memory than I do, it seems like it would be all too easy to forget whether this phial contains a potion of extra-healing or a potion of gaseous form. Drawing once again on my early experiences, I knew of a referee whose potions could be identified by color and taste. Over time, characters learned which were associated with which potions and that made it easier to determine which was which. Of course, he also had greatly expanded the roster of available potions, so it wasn't quite as easy as it might sounds.

As Dungeon Master, you should add a few different sorts of potions, both helpful and harmful, of such nature as to cause difficulties in identification. In addition, the same type of potion, when derived form different sources, might smell, taste, and look differently.

 I don't mean to keep harping on this, because I know opinions differ strongly about the matter. Nevertheless, I am not in favor of this approach as a general rule. I think it's important that a setting, even in its magical aspects, have some degree of intelligibility. Players and their characters should be rewarded for learning over time and it seems to me that shifting the correspondence between color, taste, scent, etc. and effect is intended to undermine the value of that. Clearly, Gygax felt differently.

Unless otherwise stated, the effects of a potion will last for 4 complete turns plus 1–4 additional turns (d4). If half a potion is quaffed, the effect will last one-half as long in some cases. Potions take effect 2–5 segments after they are imbibed.

I find it intriguing that Gygax's rules for "half-doses" are more lenient than those of the referees of old I encountered, who halved not just the duration but the overall efficacy.

While potions can be compounded by magic-user/alchemist teams at a relatively low cost, they must have an actual potion to obtain the formula for each type. Furthermore, the ingredient are always rare and/or hard to come by. 

This is where most fantasy RPGs falter a bit. If magic items are capable of being manufactured, why then aren't they more readily available? The simplest answer is the one Gygax offers: they're hard and expensive to make. That's a fair answer, but, if that's the case, then why do they seem so easy to come by in dungeons and similar places? The simplest answer to that is to limit the presence of magic items across the board, making them quite rare. Again, that's a good answer, but how often was it ever observed, even by Gygax in his published adventure modules? I actually don't know the answer to that question, honestly. Perhaps someday I should do an analysis of the prevalence of magic items in published modules (assuming someone else hasn't already done it).

Not from the DMG but a favorite of mine nonetheless

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Vaults of sha-Arthan

A few people have asked me for more details of the campaign setting I mentioned during my recent interview. Called The Vaults of sha-Arthan, it's an exotic science fantasy setting explicitly modeled on Jorune and Tékumel but intended to be much more "user friendly" and accessible. Rules-wise, it's based on Old School Essentials, with unique character classes, spells, monsters, and magic items. The classes are
  • Adept: A skilled user of psychic disciplines
  • Scion: An adventuring aristocrat, equally adept at combat and intrigue
  • Sorcerer: A master of arcane arts
  • Warrior: An accomplished combantant
  • +3 Nonhuman Classes
The world of sha-Arthan (which means "true world" in an ancient tongue) is one filled with sclerotic, decadent empires, one of which – Inba Iro – was recently conquered and its venerable throne seized. Though the new rulers, from an upstart frontier kingdom, have largely attempted to maintain the old hierarchies without interruption, cracks have nevertheless begun to appear. Hoary traditions once considered inviolable are now being questioned, including exploration of the Vaults beneath the capital city of da-Imer. 

Many large settlements of sha-Arthan are built atop subterranean structures known Vaults. According to common belief, the Vaults are the original home of Man. They are "vast deeps" from which the Litany of the Forgotten states the Ancients came, before even the First Cycle and the establishment of the Empire of the Light of Kulvu. Entering them, let alone looting them of their reputed treasures, is a great sacrilege in most civilized realms – or was until the conquest of Inba Iro. 
Characters begin the campaign as one of the brave souls recruited to explore the Vault beneath da-Imer, despite the taboos against it. They must contend with not only the dangers they surely exist beneath the city but also factions above that seek to help or hinder their progress for their own ends. As time goes on, I expect the characters will become more actively involved with these factions, in addition to traveling to other locales on sha-Arthan and unraveling the mysteries of the world.

In all likelihood, I'll start refereeing The Vaults of sha-Arthan sometime in July or August 2021. Ideally, it'll be a weekly online campaign, like my existing House of Worms campaign. However, it's also possible that I'll be running a play-by-post campaign in parallel, as a way to develop the setting further. I'm a firm believer in learning through play when it comes to setting design. While I already know quite a few high-level details of sha-Arthan, there's a lot more I haven't yet decided – and will only decide once I've had a chance to referee the campaign.

The Vaults of sha-Arthan is an exotic fantasy setting with lots of science fictional elements. It's a chance for me to play with many ideas I've been tinkering with for years but in a completely new context that draws on my years of experience refereeing Tékumel. I'm very excited about it.

The Joys and Woes of Fanzine Production

As I am sure most readers know, since late 2014, I have been producing a fanzine devoted to M.A.R. Barker's world of Tékumel called The Excellent Travelling Volume. A little over a week ago, I released its thirteenth issue (available in print here and in PDF here). My intentions in creating the 'zine were twofold. First and foremost, I wanted to promote gaming in Tékumel, one of the greatest and most underappreciated fantasy settings in the hobby. Second, I wanted to participate in an aspect of the hobby with which I had only minimal acquaintance. 

Fanzines were very much alive and well when I started roleplaying in late 1979, but I had almost no contact with them. I've always felt that was a serious gap in my gaming "education," because one might rightly argue that the hobby as we know it today was born and nurtured in the pages of 'zines and APAs. Many influential game writers and designers first appeared on the scene in the pages of 'zines. 

The Excellent Travelling Volume, then, was partially an experiment in trying to understand fanzines from the production side. For the first few issues, I wrote everything myself (generally drawing on material from my ongoing House of Worms Empire of the Petal Throne campaign), while Matt Hildebrand generously did the layout and a wide variety of artists – Jason Sholtis, Luigi Castellani, Zhu Bajiee, Stefan Poag being a few among them – bringing my words to life. I'm deeply grateful to all of their help and the 'zine would never have reached thirteen issues over the last six and a half years if it hadn't been for their assistance.

I've always enjoyed writing the fanzine, but that should come as no surprise, because I enjoy Tékumel. What sometimes does surprise people is how much I enjoyed the process of producing each issue – and by "producing," I mean physically. I loved going to my local printer, picking up the issues, and taking them home. At first, I folded and stapled them all myself, but I gave up on that after a while, because the printer could do it so much faster (and better) than I could. Even so, I liked hand addressing each envelope, sticking an issue inside, and then dropping off the issues at the post office. There was something joyous about this process. Over time, I got to recognize names and addresses; I started to feel as if I knew my readers, even though I rarely had any other contact with them. The whole endeavor was delightful and I thought I understood why so many people devoted themselves to producing 'zines back in the day.

Note that many of my verbs are in the past tense. They represent my feelings from the pre-pandemic world. Over the last fifteen months, though, much of the joy I had in the physical production of the 'zine has faded. My printer keeps opening and shutting due to the vicissitudes of local lockdowns. Even when they were open, they were often slow to get things done and made more mistakes than was typical. The post office is even worse: standing in long lines, higher prices, and less reliability. I have had more issues go awry over the last year than I had over the previous five and a half. Assuming an issue doesn't just disappear into the ether, they arrive months late. A purchaser told me that an issue he ordered in August 2020 didn't arrive until February of this year. Others have reported similar delays. 

It's all deeply frustrating and disheartening and I confess that I seriously considered ending the fanzine with issue #12. Fanzines are not a money-making venture. The costs associated with production and mailing are not insignificant, especially if you want your 'zine to look good, as I think TETV does. With the cost of printing and postage rising, I didn't see how I could produce more issues without losing money. That's why issue #13 is being done as a print-on-demand product via Lulu (with PDFs available through DriveThruRPG). 

It's an experiment on my part. I hope that, by offloading a lot of the hassles of production and delivery, I might ease my growing frustrations as well. We shall see if it works. Even if it doesn't and I, for some reason, decided to end The Excellent Travelling Volume for good, I still believe it's been a very worthwhile enterprise. On the most basic level, I've succeeded in producing a lot of new Tékumel material, including artwork. That's not nothing and I'm actually rather pleased by how much I've managed to do with only a small team of people. Beyond that, I think I've gained greater insights into the unique joys and travails of this aspect of the hobby. Indeed, I have so much respect for the gamers of the 1970s who used far less user-friendly and sophisticated equipment to reach far more people than I have. That's a truly Herculean feat and I doff my virtual hat to the men and women of that earlier era. Bravo!

Retrospective: Trillion Credit Squadron

I think my enduring love for GDW's Traveller is very well known. I sometimes call Traveller "my D&D," by which I simply mean that it's my go-to game and touchstone. This remains true even after writing my own SF RPG. I played Traveller quite regularly throughout the 1980s, becoming well versed in the game's official Third Imperium setting – so much so, in fact, that it eventually led to my earliest professional writing gigs in the pages of the late, lamented Challenge magazine (about which I should write someday), followed by work on Traveller: The New Era and GURPS Traveller. 

Of the many things I love about Traveller are its so-called "little black books." I remember, shortly I first discovered the game in 1982, walking into a game store and marveling at the sight of all these digest-sized books arrayed on a shelf. I picked one up whenever I could afford it and generally considered them to be a better deal than, say, TSR's D&D modules, since GDW's adventures usually included lots of maps, equipment, starship designs, etc. that could be re-purposed in my campaign. Eventually, I amassed quite a large collection of Traveller materials.

Among the books I owned in those days was Trillion Credit Squadron, written by Marc Miller and John Harshman and first published in 1981. Though called an adventure – Traveller materials were divided into "books" (rules expansions), "supplements" (optional material), and "adventures" (pre-made scenarios) – Trillion Credit Squadron (hereafter TCS) is much more than that, providing both instructions for the creation of large naval forces and presenting a small setting to use as the basis of a campaign. 

Of the two, I found the Islands Cluster setting to be the more immediately interesting and useful to me. The Cluster consists of two subsectors, the New Islands and Old Islands, colonized by sublight vessels launched from Terra by the European Space Agency in 2050. The journey to the Cluster would take two thousand years, necessitating the use of cold sleep for the 100,000 settlers. As the colonies grew, they inevitably feuded over politics, territory, and resources, with wars becoming commonplace. These two subsectors are thus an interesting addition to the Third Imperium setting, as well as a backdrop against which to play out battles between the fleets designed in the main portion of TCS.

From the beginning, Traveller has had rules for building starships and using them to fight one another. Starship construction and combat is the basis for one of the many solo mini-games that Traveller's rules have always accommodated. The premise of TCS is that players face off against one another, using fleets of ships they've constructed with a restricted budget – the eponymous trillion credit squadrons (with the option of smaller billion credit squadrons for newcomers). The bulk of the book is made up of rules, rulings, and guidelines to facilitate this, with the expectation that they will all be used in the course of tournaments at game conventions (as they eventually were).

Unlike a significant portion of Traveller's fanbase, I was never a gearhead. I hated constructing starships and found the whole process laborious and confusing, but I've always been terrible at math. When I was refereeing my Riphaeus Sector campaign recently, I outsourced all the starship designs to friends with a better grasp of the rules and basic mathematical functions. At the same time, I love the idea of building starships and using them to engage in massive fleet actions. That's a big part of my conception of sci-fi, which is why I'm always looking for a satisfying way to include such things in my campaigns without its becoming a chore.

Sadly, Trillion Credit Squadron does nothing whatsoever to make it simpler for the math-impaired to build and battle starships. Indeed, the TCS includes among its recommended materials "calculators or adding machines" and even suggests the use of programming a home computer "to handle much of the tedium of the design process," which is especially ironic, given the history of the TCS tournament. On the other hand, it contains some useful campaign rules dealing with revenue, time, communications, and intelligence gathering among others, all of which are quite useful in "regular" Traveller campaigns. It's for that reason that, despite not using TCS to fight out fleet engagements as intended, I nevertheless like it a great deal.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Different Worlds: Issue #18

Issue #18 (January 1982) features a very striking cover by Kevin C. Ellis, which presages the issue's heavy science fictional content. The first example of this content is Paul Montgomery Crabaugh's "Swords on Deck." It's a very short article focusing on melee combat in Traveller, offering expanded rules for archaic weapons like swords and animal attacks. A second Traveller article immediately follows, "Changes for Trillion Credit Squadron" by Doug Houseman. Houseman reflects on the first year of GDW's Trillion Credit Squadron convention tournaments and makes some suggestions on how its rules could be changed in light of what he has observed. 

More science fiction content follows, in the form of another article by Crabaugh, this one for Heritage's Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier. His article, called "Beyond the Final Frontier," provides seven pages of new and expanded rules for use with the game. It's a very good article, filled with many good ideas. Within a year, though, FASA would produce its own Star Trek roleplaying game and Heritage's version would become a forgotten relic of the early days of the hobby. John Sapienza follows up Crabaugh with an in-depth study of the Star Trek miniatures available from Citadel. 

Sapienza is the author of a second article, "Is It Magic? What Does It Do?" This is a D&D variant on how to handle the detect magic spell. As with many such variants, what Sapienza offers is more detail and complexity through the use of a series of random tables. I have mixed feelings about such variants. On the one hand, I recognize that some campaigns genuinely benefit from such elaboration; on the other hand, I've personally found the opposite to be the case. Henry J. Padilla's "Starfreighter Athena" presents a well-armed merchant vessel for use with Traveller, including a set of deckplans. Mart Connel's "Fast Towns" harnesses the idea of chronographs – graphic representations of how long it takes to travel between points on a map – to aid the referee in quickly generating towns for use in a fantasy roleplaying game. An interesting idea! Meanwhile, Patrick Amory's "How to Design Cities" looks to history and geography as a guide toward its titular purpose.

 "The Tale of the Jolly Soldier" by Ken Rolston is a lengthy, non-Gloranthan scenario for use with RuneQuest. Greg Stafford reviews the infamous Fantasy Wargaming under the title "Another Editorial Blunder." Its a lengthy – and brutal – review and deservedly so, I think. That said, Fantasy Wargaming remains one of those objectively awful RPGs with which I nevertheless retain a weird fascination and even fondness. The majority of this issue's other reviews are science fictional, most focused on Traveller, like Ordeal by Eshaar, High Passage, Simba Safari, and Action Aboard. It's a reminder of just how significant Traveller once was in the RPG world that so many products could be published to support it. 

Gigi D'Arn's column includes a report about the ongoing legal disputes between Metagaming's Howard Thompson and Steve Jackson. This is something of which I was not aware at the time, so I find these contemporary accounts intriguing. D'Arn also notes that, when the economy is bad, sales of games tend to rise, as people stop traveling and instead stay home to do things with close friends and family. Consequently, she predicts that 1982 will be a good year for the hobby. 

Given my science fictional predilections, I really enjoyed issue #18 of Different Worlds. Even so, I also think this is one of the best issues published to date, filled with plenty of good and useful articles. I hope it presages more to come.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Pulp Fantasy Library: Jirel Meets Magic

While it's true that the pulp magazines of the first half of the twentieth century often included women among the ranks of its writers, few were as successful as Catherine Lucille (C.L.) Moore. Moore got her start as a pulp writer in 1933 with the story "Shambleau," which is rightly regarded as an enduring classic. She continued to pen many memorable tales into the late 1950s, often collaborating with her first husband, Henry Kuttner, who died in 1958. Among Moore's greatest creations were roguish space pilot Northwest Smith and the warrior woman Jirel of Joiry, both of whom appeared in multiple stories over the course of Moore's career.

The third story featuring Jirel bore the somewhat odd title of "Jirel Meets Magic" and appeared in the July 1935 issue of Weird Tales. Like many a Robert E, Howard yarn, this one begins in medias res, as Jirel is leading a charge over the drawbridge of a castle that protected the sorcerer, Giraud.
In her full armor she was impregnable to the men on foot, and the horse's armor protected him from their vengeful blades, so that alone, almost, might have won the gateway. By sheer weight and impetuosity she carried the battle through the defenders under the arch. They gave away before the might warhorse and his screaming rider. Jirel's swinging sword and the stallion's trampling feet cleared a path for Joiry's men to follow, and at last into Guischard's court poured the steel-clad hordes of Guischard's conqueror.

Jirel's eyes were yellow with blood-lust behind the helmet bars, and her voice echoed savagely from that steel cage that confined it. "Giraud! Bring me Giraud! A gold piece to the main who brings me the wizard Giraud!"

Leaving aside the infelicity of the castle's belonging to a nobleman named Guischard inside of which hid a sorcerer named Giraud, it's an effective introduction for Jirel. As she and her men make their way into the castle, cutting down any who stand in their way, we learn what Giraud had done to earn her ire.

"I'll find that God-cursed wizard and split his head with this sword if it takes until the day I die. I swear it. I'll teach him what it costs to ambush Joiry men. By heaven, he'll pay with his life for my ten who fell at Massy Ford last week. The foul spell-brewer! He'll learn what it means to defy Joiry!"

Unfortunately, Giraud is nowhere to be found, not even among the many dead who had fallen beneath the swords of the assault. We soon learn that Guischard's "ominous" castle "had always borne a bad name" as "a place where queer things happened" and from which "no man entered uninvited and whence no prisoner had ever escaped."

Despite that, Giraud seems to have found a way out of the castle, much to Jirel's confusion. 

About an hour later, as they searched the last tower, she was still telling herself that the wizard could not have gone without her knowledge. There was a secret passage to the river, but she had had that watched. And an underwater door opened into the moat, but could not have gone that way without meeting her men. Secret paths lay open; she had found them all and posted a guard to each, and Giraud had not left the castle by any door that led out. She climbed the stairs of the last tower wearily, he confidence shaken.

Wizards, it seems, are tricky opponents and Giraud especially so. A little more searching reveals the body of a young page, lying in a pool of his own blood. Bloody footprints "led straight across the room toward the wall, and in that wall – a window." The window was shuttered and closed, leading Jirel to believe that a passage must lie beyond it. However, when she opens the ivory shutters, she finds "no dark stone hiding-place or secret tunnel." 

Instead she was looking out upon a green woodland over which brooded a violet day like no day she had ever seen before. In paralyzed amazement she looked down, seeing not the bloody flags of the courtyard far below, but a mossy carpet at a level with the floor. And on that moss she saw the mark of blood-stained feet. This window might be a magic one, opening into strange lands, but through it had gone the man she swore to kill, and where he fled she must follow.

The remainder of the short story concerns Jirel's venturing into the peculiar woodland beyond the magic window – and the equally peculiar people and things she finds there. It's an engaging story that's very different than Jirel's inaugural tale, "Black God's Kiss," but that's not a bad thing. Where "Black God's Kiss" is dark and psychological in tone, this one is almost whimsical, portraying as it does a strange "wood beyond the world" that's fairytale-like in its presentation. That really appealed to me, as did the story's ultimate resolution, which I deem equal to that of the best pulp fantasies of its day. "Jirel Meets Magic" is a terrific read and further evidence of C.L. Moore's place in the pantheon of early fantasy writers. 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Wandering DMs Interview

For those keen to hear my goofy voice and even goofier thoughts, you can check out the full interview I did with the Wandering DMs. I had a good time chatting about science fiction and fantasy, Tékumel, and the new science fantasy campaign setting I working on. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Back in September, I was a guest on Dan and Paul's Wandering DMs channel and had a very good time. Apparently, they enjoyed it just as much as I did, because they've asked me to return tomorrow, June 6, 2021 at 1pm EDT

This time around, we'll be chatting about the relationship between science fiction and fantasy, particularly as it pertains to roleplaying games. This is a topic very near and dear to my heart, so I feel confident in saying the conversation should be a good one. Though I can't be certain what specific topics we'll discuss, I imagine The Temple of the Frog, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and Tékumel will all come up, as will The Vaults of sha-Arthan setting I've been working on the last few weeks. 

If any of that piques your interest, consider tuning in tomorrow afternoon.