Friday, June 17, 2011

Favorite Lovecraft Stories

It's not directly related to gaming, although it's close, but I'm going to write about it anyway--Lately I've been re-reading some stories by H.P. Lovecraft. I'm not a huge fan of his the way some people are, but I like his stuff in general, some of it quite a bit. So I'm going to list several of my favorites of his stories.

  • The Dreams in the Witch House: My favorite. It's creepy and fascinating, and (unlike many of the other stories) the characters seem real and you care about them.
  • The Thing on the Doorstep: This story is apparently not well regarded, and I don't know why. I love it.
  • The Music of Erich Zann: Very short, but does a brilliant job of conveying horrible abysses and weirdness.
Some of Lovecraft's most famous and loved stories--such as The Call of Cthulhu and The Shadow Out of Time--seem to me more like descriptions of a weird background and history for a story, rather than stories themselves. And At the Mountains of Madness I find has way too much exposition--the narrator just goes on and on about a history of the Elder Things. These are still decent stories, but I don't get why they're so acclaimed.

Other stories--such as The Dunwich Horror and The Colour Out of Space--I just think are weak. Clearly I'm in the minority here.

Reading Lovecraft again has of course put me in the mood to play Call of Cthulhu (or to try Trail of Cthulhu). Maybe someday . . .

Note--there's a very good podcast about Lovecraft's stories, called the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast. The hosts are going through all the stories Lovecraft wrote, in order, and they talk about each one. Well worth listening to.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yareth's Pit

One of the stranger places in Andasso is a huge hole in the ground called Yareth's Pit. About 50 years ago, a foreigner named Yareth came to Andasso for unknown reasons. After traveling around the region for a few months, he began hiring all of the laborers he could find, stripping several villages of their entire labor force. For weeks, the laborers dug, completing one deep shaft straight down as well as several incomplete, shallower shafts. Then, abruptly, Yareth ordered them to stop and sent them all home. Yareth was never seen again.

The Pit, located miles away from the nearest village, resembles a dug-out quarry. The main shaft is about one hundred feet deep; the others range from a few feet deep to close to seventy-five feet deep. Much of the rock quarried in the digging remains piled nearby, although some has been taken over the years.

No one knows why Yareth did this, or why he abruptly stopped, or what became of him. Some believe that Yareth was from an entirely different world, and was digging to find a portal back to his home. Others think he was searching for some ancient artifact, and stopped the work as soon as he found it. Most people just think Yareth was a rich lunatic. Today, some of the diggers still share stories about Yareth and his pit.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Civil War Jones

I'm not sure if it's because of the 150th anniversary, or because I've been reading about it (James Macpherson's excellent Battle Cry of Freedom, or some combination of those and other factors, but I've really been jonesing lately to play an American Civil War game or two.

I own several ACW games, and I've love to get one or more on the virtual table (probably no opportunity to play face to face), including:
I also own For the People and In Their Quiet Fields II, but haven't played either; I'd love to learn both of those.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And Andasso was its name-o

In my last post, I began talking about an old school-ish D&D game idea. I'm going to expand on that in this post, talking a bit about the setting.

Andasso is a medium-sized region sandwiched between two powerful nations: The Empire of the Unbroken Circle to the south, and Brennia to the north. It has remained mostly isolated from these nations for several reasons. Its geography is not conducive to invasion--it is bordered by the two branches of the wide and fast-moving Andasso river, and it is mostly dry hills and scrubland. The people of Andasso (who call themselves the Bisani; everyone else calls them the Andassans) have also fiercely resisted incursions by outsiders, and thereby gained a reputation as barbarians and even cannibals.

Five years ago, though, the Empire learned of a rich deposit of gold in the Andasso hills, so it dispatched its most skilled army into the region to conquer it. The natives resisted fiercely, preventing the Empire from establishing firm control. Then the Brennians intervened, ostensibly to help the Andassans, beginning a protracted and vicious three-way war in the region.

Since the Brennian intervention, Andasso has degenerated into chaos. The two major powers have exhausted themselves fighting each other and the natives. No significant organized government remains. When the Imperial and Brennian armies clashed at a place called World's End (so named because it was the last place created by the gods, according to local lore), both armies collapsed as organized fighting forces.

Now Andasso is chaotic and violent. Towns are usually run by a local warlord, and bandits roam the countryside. Some of the remaining soldiers want to keep fighting for their nation; most simply want to survive. And the people just want to be left alone.

If I were to run this campaign (and I hope to someday), the PCs would start as soldiers from one of the two invading armies. Just before the Battle at World's End, the PCs are instructed by their commander to travel to a nearby mine and retrieve some items that the commander left there for safekeeping. But after that, the PCs are on their own--their army no longer exists, and their commander is dead.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Old School-ish D&D Campaign

I have decidedly mixed feelings about the so-called old school renaissance in roleplaying; I don't particularly want to get into that at the moment. One thing the movement (if you could call it that) has done, though, is made me think about playing an old school-ish D&D game ( I say "old school-ish" because it wouldn't be pure old school as defined by the OSR). And one particular setting/campaign has been percolating in my mind for a while now.

The setting is a mash up of sorts, combining D&D with Twilight: 2000. The basic idea is the same as T2K: a protracted and brutal war has shattered civilization (although in my game it'd only be in one region, not the whole world), and the PCs are the survivors of that war trying to make their way in the devastated aftermath. I like this idea because it allows for lots of PC freedom of action, and it gives what I think is a sensible context for a lot of the tropes of old school style D&D. I've even started to put together a map, some names, and some locations for the game. If only I had a chance to run it. Since I don't have that time right now, though, I will occasionally write about it here--not as good as playing, but better than nothing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Victory in A Victory Lost

My PBEM game of A Victory Lost has ended, and I've won--my opponent conceded, saying that I'd broke through in too many places for him to salvage the game. I'm not sure that's true, but I'll take the win happily. We'd played about 2/3 of the way through the game when he conceded.

I think that my opponent is even newer to the game than me. As the Axis, you need to focus almost entirely on force protection for the first few turns, giving up territory to save units. This is especially true of German units, and even more so for German panzer units--the Soviets get victory points for killing German units (1 for infantry, 3 for panzer). My opponent tried to fight delaying actions, which exposed his units to being surrounded, which meant that I destroyed a bunch of his units in the first half of the game.

In AVL, you get victory points for (1) controlling victory cities, and (2) destroying some types of enemy units. Each victory city is worth 5 points, and there are 5 victory cities total. The Axis controls all of the cities at the start, so begins the game with a 25-0 lead. In our game, I hadn't captured a single victory city yet (although I was seriously threatening three of them). The final score was something like 27-22 in his favor. I think my opponent believed that I couldn't be stopped from taking at least one victory city, which would put me up by 27-22, and I might be able to take several cities. I think he's probably right about that, but you never know for sure.

We are now playing another game of AVL now, playing the same sides. I hope he hasn't learned his lesson.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011