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Various and Sundry

Yes, another one of those posts...

I used to think busy real-life just meant less time to write gaming stuff. But after this summer, I realise it means less time to even think about it.

State of Affairs

This summer has been a whirlwind: a colossal project at the day job, selling our rental property in Pennsylvania, and taking a long-overdue holiday in the UK. By now, Kim and I are exhausted, but the outcome is more than rosy. The work project wrapped up last weekend (now onto Phase 2), the PA house is sold (and holy crap did that take a lot of Aleve), and our trip to the motherland was great. All in all, everything's coming up Smale, and Kim and I are looking forward to a calmer fall, confident that all the work we've done the past few months has been well worth it.

But happy as all that is, you really only want to know one thing: What does all that have to do with gaming?


At this point, I have two remaining major encounter tables to write up: monster lairs and odd phenomena. It's been hard to give these the focus they deserve of late, but with the work project done, I think I can get back to these. Once they're done, I'm thinking a hex map of the island is in order, then some encounter tables by terrain. Then, a smart little PDF of the entire exercise...presto! a Chimera campaign area. Funny how this started in January as a create-your-own-mini-setting project. If I get it done by the end of the year, I'll consider it a model of project management.


My favourite RPG subject. Still in the process of converting the Chimerapedia material to RTF/PDF format. Why the delay?

Well, I'm adding choice bits from the now venerable Chimera 2.0 canon. It fits well, but I want to make the offering as useful as possible. I've completed seven of the 14 chapters, so work continues apace...

The end result is still a PDF, a set of RTF files for your own editing, and a version of the whole thing for THE KEEP. As promised, existing Chimerapedia customers will get a free upgrade. The delay is annoying to even me, but I'm confident that quality will outweigh time-to-market. And, hey, the weather's getting colder, so that's another factor in favour of spending early mornings and weekends inside, with a nice cup of tea, in front of the ol' computer box...

High Fantasy vs. Low

Kim and I spent two weeks in the UK this summer: one week in Scotland and one in England. Lots of sight-seeing, and of course time spent in and among medieval masonry.

dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline Abbey

Scotland was great for this: Culross Abbey, Falkland Palace, Stirling Bridge, Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Roslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle, the Wallace Monument, Mary King's Close, even the damn Pineapple...walking in and among these places really makes it hard not to think about running a low-fantasy campaign. There's so much history and detail. The touring map of Scotland sealed the deal.

I court gamer ADD by saying this, but the trip gave me the itch to run a low-fantasy campaign on the map of Scotland. Not necessarily historical Scotland, but a place very much like it...Cotsland, I think it's called. Given other projects on order, I'll put this in my back pocket for now, but what strikes me is the transformation of my FRPG mindset.

Before the trip, I was thinking only of finishing the high-fantasy, Conan-like Isle of Minocra setting. During the trip, I'm thinking about how many men-at-arms it takes to garrison the palace at Dunfermline Abbey. Choices, choices... Anyway, it's something to consider. From an academic standpoint, I wonder how many UK gamers get distracted by the ruins and history of their own country, and how it influences their settings.

OSR is Dead?

News to me. I'm not sure why this is even a credible topic, except maybe as a vehicle for the uber-clever to predict the next phase of DIY gaming just before acting on that prognostication. If OSR has proved anything, it's that gamers are an inventive, creative, and iterative bunch. Like D&D, the next phase of OSR may not mirror what came before, but I'm willing to bet the farm that it'll build on the foundation already established.

Or maybe not. If OSR has proved anything else, it's that there's a great respect for the Old Ways. Eighteen flavours of retro-clones prove beyond doubt that there's a desire to extend well-established rulesets with any amount of alteration--from minor tweak to major overhauls.

Either way, OSR has demonstrated one persistent fact: gamers will tweak the crap out of a system to make it their own, and that's why OSR or DIY or whatever you want to call it isn't dead and will never die--because it's been this way since the dawn of RPGs, and we've been doing it all along.

Besides, it's patently absurd to posit the death of OSR in the same month that the Rappan Athuk Kickstarter generates 6 figures in backing. I suggest new topics:

  • Here's a 1-paragraph write-up of My Campaign
  • Do you use chromatic dragons in your setting?
  • The best way to handle encumbrance

John Carter of Mars

I watched this on the flight to Scotland. Meh.

But I will say this: Dejah Thoris is scalding hot.


I watched this on the flight back to America. After seeing Scotland and wearing a kilt, I say it's brilliant.

Final Words

My work is cut out for me: finish up Chimerapedia and wrap up Minocra. Once those two are done, things will really pop.

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  1. Greg MacKenzie
    September 21st, 2012 at 12:41 | #1

    When I saw your pic of the pineapple, once I got over my astonishment, I immediately re-imagined it as a Cthulu inspired thing rising from the masonry, something inhuman from another dimension. The house would of course be oddly bent with shadowy corners of non-euclidian geometries, faint whispers from beyond, and the walls of said manor would have overly sinister portraits of its former owners which watch you in an entirely predatory fashion…don’t stay the night…

    On the other hand its a pretty whimsical, neat building, and nothing short of amazing. No Cthuloids lurk while on vacation unless your in Dunwich. ;)

    Your declaration of intent is awe inspiring in its scope. Pretty cool, can’t wait to see the map of Minocra.


  2. Greg MacKenzie
    September 21st, 2012 at 12:48 | #2

    I was amused by the OSR is Dead comment, maybe I should get some buttons made. The OSR is just a label someone stuck on something that’s been happening all along as you rightly pointed out. We edited the rules all along whether we had permission or not, nothing’s really changed except the monetizing of it.

  3. Greg MacKenzie
    September 21st, 2012 at 14:22 | #3

    …ah I get it now, I had to refer to the web. While various and sundry were discussing the supposed demise of the OSR and creating some controversy I was busy making my latest 5 level megadungeon epic and drawing some new art. :)

  4. September 23rd, 2012 at 10:56 | #4

    @Greg MacKenzie Yeah, I read the various OSR is Dead posts with some annoyance. Near as I could tell, the buzz started when WotC announced that it was going to make out-of-print D&D material available electronically. I’m extrapolating, but the reaction among some chickens-little was that this negated any need to further support OGL-based works. Hence the death of OSR.

    Which makes zero sense to me. Pretty much all OSR material is compatible with the old TSR titles, so WotC announcement simply means that the resource pool has expanded. No one is suddenly going to chuck S&W or LL in the trash because B/X is now available in PDF. Nor will B/X players stop supporting OSR authors in favour of downloading old TSR modules.

    The one thing that OSR has going for it is the OGL–that is the biggest genie ever to escape the RPG industry’s bottle, and there’s no putting it back. It’s allowed authors to (finally) publish whatever D&D-ish thing they’ve been tinkering with for however many years they’ve been playing. Add that to the proliferation of gaming blogs, electronic publishing, and cheap distribution, and you’ve got a cross-pollinating environment that can support an unlimited volume of material.

    Ultimately, any game morphs to the style of its players, with respect to style, house rules, crunchy vs. fluff, sandbox vs. railroad, race vs. class, whatever. My B/X campaign is different from any other B/X campaign out there. If nothing else, the OSR is about surfacing those differences and sharing them–legally–with the larger gaming community. That’s not gonna end, because there’s endless variation and a perpetual desire (dare I say need?) to share.

  5. Greg MacKenzie
    September 24th, 2012 at 11:26 | #5

    @Erin D. Smale
    I agree, while we embrace the older material, and avidly collect it as mostly an act of nostalgia or for inspiration, by now its far too late for the re-release of that material to make much of an impact. We’ve moved on to DIY.

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