Archive for May, 2018

I guess this is my first really OSR post…

May 27, 2018 Leave a comment

I guess this is my first really OSR post…

So we all know the published rules of DnD have always been adjacent to the praxis at Gary’s table, right? At least not truly reflective of what Gary was doing by the time they finally got printed. And they had to be dressed up and cleaned up and made to make sense to an audience that couldn’t come and see how it was done, creating a lost original effect, right? Where people aren’t sure they’ve got it right and they want to get closer to the source but can’t. Kind of like the Koran.

So… Gamma World came out 4 years after ODnD.
I wonder if it was what Gary was actually playing as the covers of ODnD were being printed, as it was going out into the world. I wonder if the first printed DnD deliberately tried to take a more coherent slice of medievalish fairytalish stuff out of the crazy anything-can-happen mix that was Gary’s Campaign at the table, and then that medievalish slice became the core of the game for new recruits, and Gary was constantly confronted by people who bought what he wrote but not what he did.

I wonder if Adventure Time isn’t actually the most authentic and perceptive read on the full gamut of DnD praxis ever published. It has dungeons, it has story arcs that mix particular sets of elements, it’s also picaresque and stories don’t quite fit together perfectly – if a coherent, unified theory of the Adventure Time world is possible, it must contains big secrets, revelations.

Apparently they’re winding it up, which means they’re settling a load of stuff, revealing some of those secrets that have lain behind the stories for all these years (and unlike JJ Abrams they actually have those secrets worked out). My son says the Islands and Elements mini series are the best Adventure Time’s ever been. It’s got the febrile energy of mortality back again.


May 23, 2018 Leave a comment


photo by and of Bill Ingalls.

Gallery of engraved handguns

May 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Gallery of engraved handguns

A Thousand Thousand Islands: a review of #1-4 by Zedeck Siew and Mun Kao

May 11, 2018 4 comments

I pretty much never write reviews of things made by people in the DIY DnD community, mostly because I feel compromised by knowing the creators. But I’m planning to get over it and write a few, because not everyone gets to see all the awesome stuff that’s been happening and that’s a terrible shame in this, the weird Indian summer golden age of independent TTRPG publishing.

SO, you should know and follow +Zedeck Siew and +Mun Kao. More concretely, you should try to get their zine-sized publications under the imprint “A Thousand Thousand Islands.” Zedeck kindly sent me the first 4 and they’re small but potent – it’s taken me some months to get these few words together about them because they reward slow digestion and reflection.

Superficially, Mun Kao’s line drawings seem the easier part to engage with – there are characters I feel I recognize from Counter-colonial Heistcrawl

cannon crew

and animals and landscapes and mysterious bundles of goods and situations that could be excerpts from David Roberts’s sketchbooks or fragments of a completely coherent setting with more depth that I’d pretend to. They entwine Zedeck’s writing perfectly.

haunted mahogany

Regarding Zedeck’s writing, it’s writing in a way very few RPG folks mean it – personal, poised, finely honed, and referential simultaneously to the structures of poems, novels and encounter tables. In its compression it reminds me of Ben Marcus, in its sketched suggestiveness maybe Bruce Chatwin.

You keep walking. What else can you do? It is not as if you can really run, in your condition. The house is at the end of the street.

Ignore it. Do not acknowledge it. Blank it from the world. Perhaps then – God save you – it will leave.

But it follows you, lamp-pole to lamp-pole. And you cannot help but notice details. How its belly spills down between its short, stubby legs.

It flaps its hands, once, and you see it is wearing a strange skirt: a belt of round things, that could be fruit. Or – if your aunt’s story was true – shrunken infants’ heads.

The baby in your belly turns, afraid.

The Bilangpinggang, from Hantu! – a collection of spirits.

There are no stats, nor anything to definitively place the writing as game text. Still, you could lift it and run it direct from the page – it’s all superbly clear and self-contained and conveys a really strong sense of place. If you’re wondering how to fit the material into pre-existing campaigns, Mr-Kr-Gr, the death-rolled kingdom is a watchful excursion up the river where humans serve crocodiles and Kraching a realm under the tutelage of cats, and either would slot neatly into Call of Cthulhu’s Dreamlands or David McGrogan’s Yoon Suin but I really recommend taking them on their own values and letting them serve as your introduction to their distinctly southeast Asian world.

the gates

I’m impatient for many, many more numbers. I want to know where else Zedeck and Mun Kao can take me.

The Weird Adventures of Tintin, by H. P. Lovecraft!

May 2, 2018 Leave a comment

The Weird Adventures of Tintin, by H. P. Lovecraft!