Thursday, July 1, 2010

Two Cool Links

Here are two amazingly cool old school efforts available for free for your perusal:
  • Joe Bloch's 13-level, 180-page interpretation of Castle Greyhawk, The Castle of the Mad Archmage. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this is one of the best megadungeons ever made available online (or anywhere). That it draws so heavily on what we know of Gary Gygax's own campaign dungeon and expands on it in a way that feels right is even more impressive. Go download it now and bask in its glory.
  • Adventurer, another alternate history old school game, one in which the rules and approach adopted by Traveller are instead applied to the swords-and-sorcery genre. It's a really amazing piece of work.
I strongly recommend grabbing copies of both these fine PDFs and settling in to read them at length. They're full of inspirational ideas and remarkable creativity and are well worth your time.


  1. Cool...I haven't seen Adventurer yet.

    By the way...I really just wanted to say I dig the "Nice Helmet" pic (from Slavers Stockade? I think).
    : )

  2. I hate to say it, but Joe Bloch has really been disrespectful to Gary Gygax and his memory in doing this product. And I'm sorry if that upsets people, but I gotta say that.

    It reminds me of the person who did the Harry Potter Lexicon, only to get Sued by J.K. Rowling.

    I usually take a dim view of fan fiction in general, as I believe a writer should work on creating his or her own works, rather than doing a completely new thing.

    If this was just another interpretation of CZ from scratch, I'd understand. However, I have big problems with this.

    1) Joe is treating this as canon and everything in the Upper Works is considered Canon, at least from what I've seen. This positions CoTMA as a sequel, and appears to be taking advantage of the lack of the official product.

    2) Joe was accepting donations to complete it. That's not "doing it for free". That's gaining money to do this.

    3) Gary Gygax IMO made a mistake. He decided to work on the castle thinking people would be loyal to his writing. Yet, apparently, if somebody can "imitate" him effectively, it is rewarded.

    4) I confronted Joe on this subject here, saying I didn't think this is a good way to honor the man. This is what he said.

    John, bear in mind that CotMA is not intended to "honor" Gary Gygax. It is to fill a hole he left behind (in my own campaign, originally). I'm sure he would be quite irritated by it, and thus I didn't even consider doing anything like it until he was no longer with us. You've noted your displeasure (more than once, and in more than one place, if I recall). Now please move on.

    That one statement there shows a lot of disrespect for the man, and it made me feel Joe is sort of gathering fame for himself by leeching the legacy of a man who can't express this disappointment himself. He may not have that attention, but it appears to be that way. Why does Gary being dead change this situation? (Not to mention the one person who doesn't heap praise on him gets called a "troll", even when I tried to be polite as I possibly could.

    5) I know Gail is aware of this and upset with this, and that's enough for me. Something tells me the existence of this project will now make it harder to ever see the real notes, because if an imitator can ursurp this, what value does the real one have?

    I think the biggest disappointment for me is not the fact that this is being done, but the fans acting very ignorant and saying "Gary is smiling on this project" or "Gary would approve". I can rest assure people, after knowing the man for over 15 years, and seeing his reaction to various things WoTC and others did--he WOULD NOT like it. I mean, even Joe recognizes that himself.

    So, don't ever anybody ever say "Gary would approve", because he would not. That's the one thing that gets me mad about this--when fans who didn't get to know Gary well start treating him like a religious figure and start interpreting things themselves instead of asking people who knew him (and making sure they have no personal agendas as well).

    You may dislike what I have to say. My only personal agenda is just to make sure people are aware of this. I have no problem with Joe as a creator and he's done other good work. But I think out of all the things out there people can do to support the old school, making a product that is too close to the source material and might be considered an ursurpation of Gary's own rights as an author is just not cool. And that unfortunate truth has to be said.

  3. Now if someone would only convert this to D20 life could be glorious!

  4. Archmage will make a good read over the long weekend. Thanks!

  5. John ("JRT"),

    I am not sure why you felt compelled to once again spam some forum with your bile, but as James has graciously allowed me to respond on his home turf, so to speak, I'm going to grace you with another reply.

    You are nothing but a twit and a troll.

    Posting your opinions once is fine and well. Twice... okay. But your endless parade of the same tired opinions over and over and over is just nonsensical trolling. The fact that nobody seems to agree with you just seems to fuel your sense of self-important indignation.

    You don't like the fact that my creation is inspired by Gary Gygax's original? Tough. I didn't do this for you, or Gail, or even my fellow gamers, or "gathering fame" (what a bizarre accusation!), to create Greyhawk canon (the introduction says explicitly otherwise) or whatever. I did it for me. The fact that others are enjoying the fruits of my labor is a welcome bonus. The fact that it causes you such irritation is, frankly, starting to become a source of amusement.

    No copyrights or trademarks belonging to Gygax Games or Gail Gygax were infringed; so your threats of legal malfeasance are just more hot air. The lack of any communication from "Gail's attorneys" (for whom you seem to have taken on the role of public spokesman, since you invoke them so often) or Gail herself (ditto) over the last 18 months is proof of the bogus nature of that particular claim you keep making, and making, and making...

    Your continued trolling is nothing but the worst sort of fan-boi whining. You seem to have set yourself up as the arbiter of what is and is not appropriate in terms of Gygax's legacy. Since you have set yourself up in that exalted position, perhaps you should bend your energies to another question; would Gary have approved of throwing TLG and Jeff T. off the Castle Zagyg project? Of preventing the Gord the Rogue novels from being re-published? Of keeping the fans in the dark about even the vaguest hints about what was to be done with the IP you seem to be so obsessed about protecting? Of essentially burying his legacy in a shroud of silence?

    Ask yourself that, Mr. "it's not respectful to Gary".

    The answer to your problem is quite simple, John. Don't download it. Don't read it. If you do that, the mean old dungeon won't bother you any more, I promise.

  6. James, It's amazing how when somebody disagrees with you, instead of refuting my points you engage in ad hominem attacks. How many times have I really "discussed" this. Probably maybe 4-8 prominent posts. I certainly don't spam the internet like you say.

    I have a right to state my opinions as I see fit, wherever I please, so long as I break no rules of decorum. You seem to want me to go away and not ever state anything against it, but I can't help that. You told me never to post on your blog again, and I try to respect that. But if James is going to endorse a project you do that I believe is disrespectful to Gary Gygax himself on a well-read blog, well, I can't stay silent.

    As far as "claim to fame"...I think the difference between you and others who have done is that you, for lack of a better term, "pimp it" a lot. You host the module at conventions, you accept donations for it, and you're treating it nearly like a professional publication. It's not the same, as, say, Grogdog's version which is taken from various sources. You're definitely treating this as more than a simple guy doing something on a web site.

    You're definitely got your own fans now from this. In fact, you actually admit that you were going to abandon the project until the "cries of [your] fans" said otherwise. Please don't try to use false modesty--that's really hypocritical. If you were truly modest, you'd accept criticism on the chin, and not feel the need to attack your critics. The fact you get so upset at one of your few critics to me reveals more about your motives than you might think.

    I'm not sure what you are talking about regarding "legal threats". I didn't make them above. (Maybe you are referring to a post I made that I erased when I decided to change my mind). I am not an employee of Gail, Gygax Games, or anybody related to the owners in question. Although to be honest, fan fiction (which is one of the defenses you put on your site) has not been proven an excuse. I'd have to be a lawyer to understand the issues--about the only overt violation I see on your site is the use of the Greyhawk trademark logo, which would be a WoTC issue. (That ain't fair use by a long shot).

    As far as the stuff regarding Castle Zagyg and its status, lets just say I have faith in his wife. Doubt it? Okay. But at the same time, I know that Gary did love Gail, left her in charge, etc. I also know Gary hated it when WoTC decided to do a RTCG module, he ended his friendship with Rob Kuntz over this, and by your own agreement you KNOW he'd be pissed at you for what your doing, regardless of whether or not he'd agree with what Gail is doing. Don't believe me, ask people who really know him. I'll bet people who knew him well, like the Trolls, Jeff, and his sons would agree with me about this.

    And don't worry. I didn't read it, I didn't download it. But like I said, I think some of the endorsements I see, where people say "Gary would be proud" is wrong, and I need to remind people of that.

    Based on your fame level now, and how the fans seem to agree with you, you have nothing to worry about from me. I'm a little disappointed that people don't see the points I'm making. It's a shame, as I feel you are truly talented, and I wish you focused your efforts on something you could truly claim your own. But whether intentional or not I feel you are, for lack of a better word, taking advantage from an unfortunate situation.

  7. Hi! My name is Joe Bardales and I did the digital cartography for The Castle of the Mad Archmage. I'm really honored to see CotMA highlighted at GROGNARDIA because I've been a big fan of Mr. Maliszewski's d20 Modern work with Ronin Arts and his other projects like The Cursed Chateau. I enjoy reading this blog everyday too.

    I'd love to hear what you thought of the maps in CotMA, Mr. Maliszewski. I had been wanting to work on a project where I could really test my mapping skills, and when this came along I was glad to take on the challenge of working with Joe Bloch's hand drawn maps.

    I also want to take this opportunity to thank Joe Bloch for letting me help with this. I can attest (as can our editor extraordinaire Steve Rubin) a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this and you really crafted something special here. It was a pleasure getting to know you and work with you over the last 18 months, and I consider you a good friend (even if you are a Red Sox fan :P). Making new friends through roleplaying - Gary would definitely approve.

    I hope a lot of folks out there get as much enjoyment out of The Castle of the Mad Archmage as I did contributing my small part. Many thanks to all the folks around the Net who gave me such great feedback on the maps and for your encouragement as well!

    Peace, and Good Gaming!

  8. Well I for one am ****ing staggered. The sustained professionalism of this module is remarkable. The scale and scope are huge. I opened it up thought "Where's the map. I want to see a map." Then I found them at the back and they kept going and going and going. And I have to say I love that they're in that light blue that's the same as my Keep On The Borderlands inside cover. Sure, it's nostalgic, but it's also pretty satisfying aesthetically as a way to present these maps. You two have done a remarkable job here. I bought the Expedition To The Ruins Of Greyhawk, which was a 224-page book. It was very underwhelming. I felt like I was looking at an underground mall or that somebody was self censoring somehow in its creation. It missed something and eventually I chucked it. I'm getting reacquainted with the creations of Rob Kuntz for the reason that I want creative whimsy of some sort, something that surprises me. I'm in the process of learning how to install a pdf reader on my iPad so I can check this out at leisure. I have every confidence that the scale of this dungeon is paired with whimsey that crawls of yor were all about. Thanks.

  9. Wow ! That explains the 400+ extra hits over the last two days. Okay, thanks ! I'm glad you like Adventurer - it is an impulsive labor of love that kind of carried me off with my own enthusiasm....I'm hoping to have a more beta-ey version out next week , and I'd welcome any comments or critques.

  10. I set up a blog at the beginning of this Adventurer thingie, but all my writing time (other than work) got eaten by Adventurer, so it languished. Might be a good place for comments and more stuff if any of y'all are interested ? At the moment it has maybe a half dozen posts.....and some florid prose about a campaign for Adventurer.

  11. I have to say, there is some absolute ridiculousness going on in this thread with regards to CotMA (WG13 from now on)

    Without the simply massive efforts of Joe Block and Joe Bardales then the released CZ:UW would feel really incomplete.

    The fact that they self-designed a set of levels that pick up in the absence of any continuation of the CZ line, is amazing. It means you can actually play CZ:UW now and not have to worry about what happens when the players get below Level 1. Also it really pays homage to and sets up other publications like Bottle city, makes me want to buy that product (from PPP) and several other elements that are authentic and known from what GG and RK have said in public. Without it I would never have wanted it.

    The truth is, there is no real publishable Castle Greyhawk. Anything published would have been Gary's own retcon anyway.

    And it's not like whoever gets the rights to the Castle Zagyg line in the future is gonna lose out on money.

    I would still absolutely buy the rest of the levels if they're officially released and I'm sure most everyone would. But in the meantime, I have a version of the Castle that is playable that's a hell of a lot more authentic (when paired with CZ:UW) than either the original Castle Greyhawk joke module, the WGR1 module, or the WoTC Cash in module, "Return to the Ruins" or whatever it's called.

    The fact that Joe Bloch & co did this as fan service is absolutely amazing. I will probably keep this self styled "WG13" as a alternate version even if the others are completed somehow by Gary's estate and released (you know it's gonna eventually happen because of money anyway, and I hope it does)

    I sure wouldn't castigate them for the ridiculous amount of work they put in. I'm sure any tip money they get is negligible when you figure out how much time they spent, and dollars per hour that cost them.

    Thanks much Joe & Joe !