Saturday 29 September 2012

Sights of the Isle

This is what the Isle of the Unknown looks like. In my head at least. (Click top pic to reach the page)


Trouble in Scrodd


Thursday 27 September 2012

Like A Beckett Play

Too much stuff to remember. More Teen crazy, non-teen rapidly corrupted by Teen ways, group near death, sues for peace, only adult re-starts fight out of spite and madness.

PC cursed with gibberish, enjoys himself talking about flowers, trees, uses word 'wiggles' to describe everything he sees for five or ten minutes.

Teen2 refuses to help other teens fight monster, aimlessly smashes jars in empty room looking for treasure instead.

Teen1 loses a character for only second time. LOTFP means no resurrection but character does work for Liche who has boasted of defeating death. Threats to sexually assault NPC and DM anger re threats practically guarantees PC will return in female form as cheap lesson about patriarchy.

Non-teen succumbs to extended argument about knowledge of Star Wars side-fiction, discussion of whether 'Vader kicked a Wookie' in a licensed property. Discussion spirals once again into argument of the nature of evil by people who are simultaneously robbing, abducting, murdering, threatening and relentlessly doublecrossing each other. (Except for Teen3)

"I have a bounty on my head. And you Johnathan of the Grey, are you also Wanted, do you have a bounty on your head?

oh wait yes, yes I do, I forgot I changed my name." 

They nearly died due to stupidity, failed in their mission for Passirisk and all walked (or were dragged) out with a giant pile of loot. I must try harder to kill them.

Saturday 22 September 2012

if they are corrupt, everything beyond them is also corrupt

I tracked down more of that analysis of the weird 'River Of Shadows' game made by my alternate self from a parallel world. yet again, it fails provide any meaningful answers and just creates more questions. I feel bad about Jervis, at least he is alive here. But I hear Richard Burton and Peter Cushing are still big over there, so whatevs I suppose.

"The Milus/Coppla 40k script.

The artistic influence of John Blanche on the 1st edition is obvious and has formed part of the 'ROS' style ever since.

It is not known by many that Blanche's services would have been unaffordable without the disastrous implosion of the Milus/Coppla/Chambers '40K' film production.

After the astonishing worldwide success of Flash Gordon, producer Dino DeLaurentiis, seeking an original property to exploit, met with Andy Chambers, a prime mover in the Games Workshop company. Games Workshop had secured the lions share of the work of John Blanche and Blanches twisted dreamscapes played a major part in persuading De Lauentiis to make Chambers '40K' screenplay his next project.

Rumoured to be set in a dystopian future, Chambers screenplay, Blanche's artwork and De Laurentiis's capital, secured the attentions of John Milus and Francis Ford Coppla as screenwriter and director respectively.

The swift ejection of Chambers, the disastrous production, the accidental partial lobotomisation of Max Von Sydow during and accident with a misfiring 'Bolter' prop, the millions lost and the suicide of Jervis Johnson have all become the stuff of Hollywood legend.

It is unlikely that Stuart was able to view any of the remaining rushes. However he may have seen Terry Gilliams controversial 'making of' documentary 'Tears of The Emporer' in the brief week of its release before being permanently withdrawn from theatres under the threat of legal action from Von Sydow's estate.

Nevertheless, it was in the wake of this disaster that Blanche did some of his most notable work for 'River Of Shadows', earning himself a narrow, but deeply regarded reputation in the field of RPG's.

The 'Games Workshop' company folded in a debt helix and has never been heard from since.

The Collected Poems of Wisława Symborska.

'I knock at the stones front door.
It's only me, let me come in.
I don't seek refuge for eternity.
I'm not unhappy.
I'm not homeless.
My world is worth returning to.
I'll enter and exit empty-handed.
And my proof I was there
will be only words
which no one will believe.”'

The linkages should be are obvious and direct to any reader. Despite several examples of obvious and uncredited theft on Stuarts part, Symborska has refused to take any legal action, though no reason has been given for this. She has denied any allegations of a relationship between the two.

There is, in the game, an alignment system, running roughly parallel to Dungeons and Dragons, which, in the 1st edition features only two choices. Most observers have assumed that the un-named alignments are simply Law and Chaos, taken, as with D&D, from the works of Michael Moorecock. However, I have traced the original typewritten alignment descriptions to these two passages in the Muqaddimah, a 15th century Arabic text by Ibn Khaldun.

The first paragraph describes alignment A, the second alignment B.

Human souls are of three kinds. One is by nature too weak to arrive at spiritual perception. Therefore it is satisfied to move downward towards the perception of the senses and imagination and the formation of ideas with the help of the power of memory and the estimative power, according to limited rules and special order. In this manner, people acquire perceptive and apperceptive knowledge, which is the product of thinking in the body. All this is (the result of the power of) imagination and is limited in extent, since from the way it starts it can reach the primary (intelligibilia) but cannot go beyond them. Also, if they are corrupt, everything beyond them is also corrupt. This, as a rule, is the extent of human corporeal perception. It is the goal of the perception of scholars. It is in it that scholars are firmly grounded.

A (second) kind (of soul), through thinking, moves in the direction of spiritual intellection and (a type of) perception that does not need the organs of the body, because of its innate preparedness for it. The perceptions of this kind of soul extend beyond the primary (intelligibilia) to which primary human perception is restricted, and cover the ground of inward observations, which are all intuitive. They are unlimited as to their beginning and their end. They are the perceptions of saints, of men of mystical learning and divine knowledge. The blessed obtain them after death, in Purgatory.”

It should be noted that Stuart did not choose to include the third paragraph, describing prophetic souls, until the controversial 3rd edition."

Thursday 20 September 2012

Teens don't know what Evil means

What have I done? Teens have about as much native goodness as moonlight on am moths wing.

Tee2 was on fire tonight.

Teen2 - 'what good has ever come of random encounters?'

On hearing news of the survival of an old foe.

Teen2 - 'that's how evil I am, I'm spreading rumours that she's a slut'

Teen2 - 'I heard rumours of some guy with a metal vase that heals him, and since we killed that guy and took his vase, maybe this is it.'

On dragging a wounded horse into a forest to trade a valuable forest spirit favour for horse-healing.

DM - 'Two evil characters care that much about their horse?

Teen1 - It's an evil horse.'

Teen3 - 'I don't want to kill people for any really evil reasons. I don't mind killing people because sometimes they irritate me.'

Sunday 16 September 2012

The Verbs Of Madness

(I wrote this in E.Prime for reasons even I do not understand.)

Isle of the Unknown presents some problems. 

I need to make a random generator so my players know what their Dark Lord wants them to do.

But the things presented by the Isle and the things that grew through play do not go together well. 

We find each monster alone and in the centre of a ten mile hex, and encounter each Zodiacal Mage in one particualr position. They do not move.

Some clerics have a place.

We find some clerics and lesser mages in a state of movement, but always in the same place for the first time, after that we can find them anywhere.

Lesser NPC's have a town where they live and once found they can move between towns. I don't think it likely the players will find them anywhere else.

High level NPC's lock into particular positions. The story will only find them elsewhere for important reasons

I made an elegant and simple chart. The elegant chart did not do what I need it to. I made this ugly chart instead. I tried to use only evil verbs. Below I talk about how it works.

I used a D7 because, in the words of James Raggi 'fuck you, that's why'.


HEX# Use description, or roll bandits, or add dungeon.
TOWN# Roll district/then profession/then person
OOG# The Capital. Roll Strata/then Mystery/Profession/Person
MAGE# Roll Mage/assign name if neccessary
CLERIC# Random roll/assign name
MONSTER# Roll HD/Roll Monster/Assign name if cool or very big/possibly roll lair, dungeon, caves, ruin.
NPC# use big list of people met so far. 

Roll a d7 and a d20 to find someone/something and what Passirisk wants you to do to them. Choose whatever makes sense. The roll a d7 and d20 again to find out what he intends to achieve by this.

Things needed. Monster Name List. plan of Oog. Master NPC name list.

Questions - Will this get them into enough dungeons? Have I trigger-warining'd myself with too many bad verbs? Can I see some of this shit through? Should I?

Thursday 13 September 2012

Trigger Warning for Stupidity

The Sub-Title was going to be-

'A Pig Can Chew Through a Dragons Neck'

If it's a polymorphed PC with a potion of Dragon Control.

Teen1 - "I thought he was a Bad Guy, just not an end-the-world-bad kind of guy."

GM - "You've been talking to him through a possessed goats skull."

Teen1 - "Yeah but from the skull he seemed alright."

He wasn't alright, he was a mass-murdering Lich who, its been strongly suggested, (realtriggerwarningthistime) did bad stuff with kids.

Teen1 - "Did you really expect up to win? How high level is he?"

DM - 'looks at sheet' "Well.. With you two, and the mind controlled dragon.. It's within the bounds of possibility."

Teen1 - "If we team up with him will we really have to end the world?"

GM - "Eventually I suppose. He'll probably try to take over the island first though."

So now Passirisk the Night Serpent has a new body and his freedom. Boyd Of The Rope has a new magic sword. Jonathan Spring has a new name 'Jonathan The Grey' "because we're going to be proper evil". Wiggles (Of WIGGLETON, the Dwarven City!) has a surprise when he comes back from his holiday and finds his friends are now Officially Evil, and the GM has to come up with one of those multiple-column mission generators with only evil verbs.

They also killed a Isle of the Unknown wizard, on the behalf of a giant stag man and received Vornheim-fortunes.

DM - "One you seek will be found in a closet."

Teen2 - "Yes! I'm going to look in every closet I find from now on!...  (30 second pause) .. WAIT!.... What does she mean by 'in a closet?'"

Wednesday 5 September 2012

“I should have lived before Kennedy died”

Managed to dig up a bit more of the commentary to Appendix P for that parralel world RPG 'River of Shadows'. Including some stuff about CharGen this time. It's all frustratingly incomplete.

Millers Crossing – The Cohen Brothers

Millers crossing is an origin point of, and continual influence on, Stuarts hat obsession. His belief that character generation must begin “from the head down, or, if possible, from the hat down” has been repeated in multiple interviews.

The connection of hats with a society obsessed by status, honour and deception is clearly influenced by the film. Character type and hat type have always been regarded as the same thing in every edition. It has always been possible to identify NPC types via hat types. (Unless a deception is being attempted.) Loss of hat has always been a character fate slightly worse than death. Total Party Hat Loss or TPHL is the nightmare scenario for any game. Games almost always end after such an event. Friendship groups outside the game will usually break up for a year or more after a TPHL, sometimes permanently.

Most readers will be familiar with Stuarts obsession with hats and hat-related cultures (indeed the 25 pages of random hat tables in the first edition could hardly leave one in any doubt of this) and his often repeated remarks that he should have “lived before Kennedy died”. However, few know that due to the disproportionate size, and unusual shape of, his head, Stuart has never been able to wear a hat with any aesthetic success. The cumulative psychological effect of this frustrated desire must have been a powerful engine behind the development of ROS.

The rivers run dry into the sand. The routes are embargoed, the roads overgrown by grass. The gem lies uncut from the stone. Chains bar the roads, drones haunt the skies. In the final corners of the earth and the Sargasso of empire, the only export remaining is war.

The development of conflict itself as a kind of product, an investment of last resort, seems unique to the game. Stuarts cross-linked equipment lists which connect the prices of items above and below the earth have never been bettered.

Critics have claimed that the equations used to link the lists together in a reciprocal manner are unstable, following the pricing arrangements long enough will lead to wild swings in costing and ultimately lead to the PC's becoming net importers of gold into the underspace. However this instability-leading-to-collapse is clearly a deliberate part of the design.

Stuart may be the first RPG creator to use notion of the Vertical Archipelago to explain apparently inconstant economic and environment factors in the game space. In nations, like Afghanistan, with dramatic mountain and valley ranges, the shifts in elevation and the micro-climates created by steep valleys means that goods produced by very different environments can be combined in very small areas.

In particular, Barfields description of ripe, locally grown melons being sprinkled with fresh falling snow in Kabuls winter market seems to have been stolen directly from the book.

A Paradise Built in Hell – Rebecca Solnit.

The Anarchist City of Solint ( with the reversal of two letters in the name) was clearly named after the writer. The desperate red-flagged flavela, crawling starfish-like in the ruins of the dystopia it will one day become has been a favourite of players since the 1st Edition supplement 'Traitor Of The TimeCity'.

Solnit's (the writer) book also inspired the unusual social system shown in 'Traitor'. The citizens of Solint (The city) live every day knowing that the city they are fighting to create will eventually become a vast and corrupt Megopolis, which will then be destroyed in a cataclysmic war whose weapons will shatter time itself, driving the citycorpse in splinters back into its own history like bullet fragments in flesh.

They are also continually assaulted by burnt and voided living memories. Victims of the city's destruction in the far future. Warped and harried ghosts, hurled through the fires of their own destruction to desperately haunt an age long before their own. Mad and grieving they hunt their own ancestors through the ruins.

Despite (or as we can see from Solnits (the writer) book, because of) the continual physical, moral and psychic threat under which they live, the citizens of Solint (the city) are utterly heroic, selfless and brave. That this effect was achieved without numbing the more human, individual, personality-driven aspects of the setting is worthy of note. Later versions of the same supplement have not shown the same elegant synthesis.

The Insurgent Archipelago by John Mackinley

Enemies in the final levels are usually complex formations driven buy the unexpected blow-back from earlier, successful missions. As the players defeat enemies and force order onto the game-world, they discover that the imposition of order, regularity and system does not remove chaos but instead fragments it into strange new forms living in, and expanding, the proliferating gaps in newer more complex systems.

Dungeons invert to become city’s. Castles twist slowly into the earth and become new dungeons. By this point the PC's have assumed incredible new powers but their increased knowledge of the unseen consequences that can result makes them afraid to use any of them to the fullest extent. The randomised knock-on effects of high level spells make them all but impossible to cast. The last lines of high level verse must be curled back into the first in order to avoid catastrophic loss and to avoid risking the end of the game. This is almost impossible to achieve, due to the lyrical density required. Many players choose to leave the game at this stage.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

A Commentary on Appendix P

A version of myself from a parallel world ended up making an RPG called 'River of Shadows. I couldn't get my hands on a copy. But I did find this chunk of analysis of Appendix P, which seems to be a list of books that have influenced the game design along with a commentary on the influence of each book.

The horrific and sustained level of violence in the mid-to-late stages of the game are clearly inspired by Gwynnes relation of the Indian Wars.

The fact that in early drafts of the game all PC's were referred to as 'settlers' shows the clearest link. Though all such references were utterly expunged in the 1st edition.

Stuarts controversial zero-sum approach to cultural and political development has attracted criticism, though it is difficult to tell if this is an ironic statement on Stuarts part. This may be the first development of 'ghost protocol' rule systems that play such a large part in later editions.

Blind Descent by James M.Tabor

Stuarts noted obsession with large underground spaces is well documented. The random tables for vast subterranean Karst formations give us some of the most poetic and lucid prose of the first edition. Many players recall being inspired to start their first game simply to explore these ex-luminous negative spaces.

Is is a source of almost universal frustration that the tables are almost impossible to use coherently. Later hacks and adaptations have produced workable versions, but always at the cost of the poetic element.

Stuarts self-devised system for 'easily and and intuitively mapping 3-dimensional underground spaces' using pipe-cleaners and beads has never been successfully used by anyone.

The Theatre Work of Edward Gordon Craig

Few players will fail to recall images very similar to this one

and this one.

Once again we see an obsession with vast underground spaces, the human figure (and human actions) isolated yet, somehow, focused by the rich negative space around it.

Few are aware that Craig's influence applies not only to the interior art, and creative inspiration for the Karstic tables, but also to design. This image of Craig's illustrated Hamlet shows almost exactly the same page layout and design sense as the 1st Edition.

Though parts of the 1st edition are given as a Socratic dialogue, between designer and player and between GM and Character, attempts to present it as a dramatic work have always ended in failure.

Unquenchable Fire by Rachel Pollack

A random roll for gender at character creation and again at every third level when in the presence of magic, is the most direct of Pollacks influences in the game.

Stuart caused controversy when a transcript of an alleged Internet chat emerged in which he railed against Pollacks 'hippie-ocalypse' and ranted for several non-punctuated pages about a wide variety of apparently unrelated political topics. Stuart has denied any connection to the transcript.

Pollacks influence is clearly shown in the magic system. The use of extended improvised poetics and the rapid power exchange between the player and game master, sometimes peaking in a total and immediate reversal of roles, is one of the most unique features of the game. Many players got there first taste of running a game after an unexpected use of magic and some of the most famous campaigns have experiences multiple, unplanned reversals of this kind.

Personal Memoirs of U.S.Grant.

MCLELLAN! Ah, who does not recall the first appearance of MCLELLAN in their game. That remarkable and engaging enemy/ally figure does more than anything else to add a much needed humanity to what is often little more than a disturbing palimpsest of strange encounters. The dice matrix used for generating Random Falstaffian Counterpoints of Occluded Motivation are one of the most exciting and most-often copied parts of the game. Here, if nowhere else, we can truly say that Stuart has added something to the hobby as a whole.

The Air Loom Gang – Mike Jay

The re-working of almost all villains in the setting as imaginary telepathic machines, manned and created by schizophrenics, is one of the strangest and most disturbing aspects of the game. Few first time players will fail to recall the final door in castle Roscoe opening to reveal, not the cackling Vampire Monroe (who had taunted the players during the whole level) but the shadowy, clattering form of an impossible machine, manned by the insane.

In fact about 80% of players who were introduced to the game by the 'Roscoe's Folly' adventure simply stopped playing after the first level. It is of interest that almost all the designers and writers for later editions of the game were drawn from the remaining 20% from the same adventure.