More Megadungeons

Put a few bones or a torch stub in it if that will make you feel like it’s more exciting.

Megadungeons:  I can no longer keep track of who said what or when or why, so I won’t pretend that I even know anymore… but I think there is still some juice in this topic, so I’m going to keep at it. 

As anecdotal evidence, reading Evereaux’s campaign journals, it certainly sounds to me as though they had fun… so I guess I’m a bit skeptical that some declare the megadungeon to be an automatic recipe for a snore fest. On the other hand, I think successful social events are successful because there is a willingness on the part of the participants to participate. As an example of an unsuccessful social event, I would offer up the story of ‘Jack and the koosh ball.’

‘Jack’ was a former boss of mine. He was the kind of guy who would walk up behind you and give you a back rub without asking if you want a back rub; a trait I’ve always found annoying and creepy unless the backrubber is a spouse or girlfriend or professional masseuse whom you have asked to massage you.  I suspect that he read a lot of breezy and simplistic books on ‘how to be a better manager’ and thus loved ‘get to know you’ games and ‘think outside the box’ exercises which he substituted for actually managing.  In short, if you have ever seen the US version of ‘The Office’ with that flakey guy from ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ movie, you know Jack (except he was probably even more of a self serving douche than the Office guy). One day, Jack called us all into the ‘big room’ and made us sit on the floor and told us that he thought we needed to ‘get to know each other better’ or some similar condescending bullshit. He took out a ‘koosh’ ball (which is some sort of a soft, rubber thing made for throwing around) and told us we had to throw it around at random and who ever caught it had to tell the first story from their childhood that popped into their head.  We spent about half an hour throwing the koosh ball around and then pointing to the person next to us and saying, “I think that’s yours” whenever it landed near us. The ‘fun and whimsical team building game’ was a failure because none of us wanted to play it, one reason being you can’t force trust and spontaneity on a group of people who a) don’t trust each other, and, b) know that the longer they spend tossing a koosh ball around and hearing stories about other people’s happy childhoods = more time they are going to have to spend catching up on actual work (the thing that they came to ‘work’ to do). I don’t know if such an exercise could or could not work in the right environment, but ‘sharing childhood memories’ was not what this group wanted to do with one another, so the exercise failed. The fact that they guy trying to force us to share our childhood memories was a delusional, self serving wanker did not help. It just remains one of those cringe-worthy memories, like realizing that you have been walking around all day with a big old toilet paper streamer stuck on your shoe. Similarly, if your group isn’t interested in spelunking through the megadungeon, any campaign based on megadungeoneering is bound to fail.

 

Which is why, after having heard everyone else at my regular bi-monthly game table say, “No thanks” to megadungeons, I decided that my bi-weekly group was not the right crowd for megadungeon spelunking.  My saying that doesn’t mean anything other than exactly what I think I said.

 

More hand sanitizer, please…

Plague zombie!  Lookout!
There is some dude who works in the next row of cubicles who is constantly coughing and wheezing. He sounds like his lungs are full of yellow mold. I hope whatever it is that is wrong with him is not catching – if the world is coming down with The Red Plague, I don’t want to die here.
Speaking of disease, did you know there is a list of fictional diseases on Wikipedia?
 And still some snobby people claim that Wikipedia is useless?  Where else are you going to find a list of several dozen made up dieseases with thumbnail sketches of the symptoms and cures and footnotes telling you which book or movie said fictional diesease has come from?

‘Please don’t do this to me!’

I don’t really know what ‘reddit’ is or why it is.  I barely know what Gawker is. Every once in a while someone send me a link to some site like ‘Jezebel’ saying, “You might like this,” or “I think you would hate this” or whatever.  But ‘reddit’ is apparently another one of dozens of ‘content aggregate sites’ on the web where people post shit and other people look at it and they post +1 and similar stupid stuff.  And although I don’t really understand ‘reddit’ nor do I care about it, it has passed in front of my radar recently because other news sites I follow have been reporting on some dude named Michael Brutsch.



Fat and creepy looking, plus he has a (surprise!) goatee. Looks pretty much like I expected he would.

Brutsch is one of reddit’s “power users” who has, for years, specialized in trolling and what he affectionately calls ‘creepshots’ (and others have called ‘child pornography.’ I’m not sure they fit my definition of pornography, but they don’t make me like Brutsch). ‘Creepshots’ are where Brutsch or his followers scour the web looking for pictures of under-age girls who look sexually provocative for ‘wank material’ or they photograph under age girls they see in public. So, yeah, they follow 14 year olds and leer at them, then post the pictures they snap online and make comments about the girls.  Illegal? I don’t know. Fucked up and creepy? Definitely.
Brutsch served as a moderator (or sorts) for ‘reddit’ and established his own moderation policies for ‘creepshots.’ Among other things, he would immediately delete any pictures that were of women/girls old enough to give legal consent. Anyone who crossed him would be hunted down and harassed on the Internet by Brutsch and his cronies. Among other things, they would flood their network of sites with the targets real name and contact information coupled with insults and accusations. And he and his cronies did all of this from behind anonymous user handles.  Brutsch used ‘Violentacrez’ as his screen name, and, as Violentacrez he was infamous. Brutsch/Violentacrez is unpaid (he does (or did) this for fun), but ‘reddit’ is owned by Conde Nast, who disavow any role in the creepiness of 49 year old men posting pictures and comments that describe their sexual fantasies involving young girls and pictures they have appropriated from facebook and other sources.
Cutting to the chase: The residents of ‘Gawker’ and ‘reddit’ were caught up in some sort of flame war.  Adrian Chen of Gawker somehow found out that Violentacrez = Brutsch and called up Brutsch to tell him that he was going public with the information. Brutsch begged him not to, citing the fact that this would embarrass his family and cost him his job, ignoring the obvious — as Violentacrez, he made his reputation by bringing grief to other people. But when the shit lands on his doorstep, he begs Chen to show some mercy and let him off the hook. He tells Chen that his wife is disabled and this will embarrass his son (never mind that as Violentacrez, there was nowhere Brutsch wouldn’t go in his attempts to humiliate those he though of as his online enemies and he had no qualms about invading the lives of others by posting pictures of teenagers in his online gallery). I’m glad to say that Chen didn’t listen. After the news got out, Brutsch was let go from his position at a financial firm’s IT department, presumably because he had been moderating a glorified porn site and championing free speech by fucking with people from an anonymous account while on the clock. Ooops.
Why are these Internet tough guys always such pathetic, fat worms in reality? When they finally reel out enough rope to hang themselves, they always seem to think that they don’t deserve to be on the receiving end of what they have been dishing out.  What’s up with that?


Sisyphus

OK, so a while ago a water pipe buried in our yard burst.  It was right next to our tomato patch, so we tore out the tomato plants and harvested a lot of green tomatoes before the water company came in with their earth moving equipment and destroyed the tomatoes.
The water company fixed the pipe, but, in the process, the good soil of the tomato patch was dug up and replaced with clay and gravel. Since Annie wanted to have tomatoes there next year, she had me dig out a 10×10 foot square, 6 to 8 inches deep, out of the clay and gravel. This was a surprisingly large amount of digging (I moved 12-15 wheelbarrowloads of clay and gravel). She was going to order a truckload of topsoil and we would till in some compost and let it sit over the winter so it would be ready to go for next year.
In the mean time, the water company had left a ‘warning sign’ near where they had fixed the pipe. Annie wanted to get rid of it, so I called up the water company and told them to come back and take it away.
Annie just called me.  While she was out today, the water company came by and filled my hole up with more clay and gravel and tamped it down. Then they took off, leaving her a note saying that they had come by and ‘taken care’ of that hole in the front yard.  And they left the warning sign.

The scene of the crime (pre excavation)

Hordes of Hoards

The other day, Joe the Lawyer went off on Dwimmermount in particular (and probably mega-dungeoneering in general) in a humorous and scathing fashion. One of the targets of his ire was the pile of ‘exactly 2,000 copper pieces’ found in a rats nest. How did these rats come to possess such an exact number of coins? Not 1999 coppers, not 2001 coppers but exactly 2,000 coppers? What are the odds?

Back in the day, when megadungeons were not yet considered something ‘nostalgic,’ most treasure hordes were generated randomly.  Sometimes the book would tell you that each bandit might have 1-8 silver pieces (so if you slaughtered or robbed 5 bandits, you could expect to gather 5-40 silver for your trouble). But in many cases, you were given a treasure type that may or may not have involved , for example, a 50% chance of 1,000-10,000 copper, a 25% chance of 1,000-8,000 silver, a 10% chance of 1,000 to 4,000 gold and a 25% chance of 3 miscellaneous magic items + 1 scroll. Of course, rolling up the treasure the way Gygax (or Dr. Eric J. Holmes) told you to meant you ended up with huge numbers, usually multiples of 100 or 1000, of the same type of coin. Obviously unrealistic. AFAIK, in medieval and ancient times there were no places where a ‘single standard currency’ was in use (assuming what I have read on the subject is true).  Roman and Greek coins continued to be used by all nations long after the Romans and Greeks had fallen from power. Merchants used scales to count coins; since they were handling so many different denominations, you didn’t want to convert cistercii and drachmas and silver marks and god knows what else into a single value, you would have just thrown a bunch of silver coins on the scale and made a judgement as to how much was ‘enough’ by the weight. So, if ancient times are our model, a pile of 764 copper pieces, 357 silver pieces and 35 gold pieces (plus the odd pair of elven boots or whatnot) is still unrealistic because it assumes that all the coins of a given metal are all the same value (as well as the same size and weight).

Where can our pursuit of greater realism in treasure hordes end? I see several options. Option 1 is to make hoards more complicated, with coins of different nations, weights, etc., and then extrapolating some ‘central universal value’ from that. Option 2 is to stick with the copper pieces, silver pieces, gold pieces, etc., and avoid big, fat, round & exact numbers (the players don’t find a heap of 2,000 copper pieces, perhaps they find a mix of different coppers, silver and gold that add up to somewhere around 2,000 copper pieces in value) or option 3: “You find 2,000 copper coins.” Call me crazy, but when I look at the options, number 3 doesn’t seem to bad anymore.

In addition, in all the games I have been involved in, I don’t remember players taking the time to say they counted the coins. We have made jokes about how we could glance at a chest and see that there were 4,000 gold coins in it even though I have no idea how many pennies are in the change jar on my dresser that I walk past at least twice a day, but that was always just a part of the fun.  If one needs to rationalize, maybe the “2,000 cps” is just a simplified value for the hoard to make book keeping easier.

If I remember right, back in the day, no self-respecting dungeoneer bothered to pick up copper coins anyway. The weight-to-value ratio meant picking up used orc spears and goblin daggers was usually more profitable than picking up copper coins.  By the time we had a level or two under our belts, we weren’t bothering with silver coins any more either.  We left the silver and copper for the linkboys and henchmen to squabble over and went straight for the magic items first, the gems and jewelry next, the platinum third and the gold last.  The rest of the coins were worth less than the iron rations the adventurer would have to throw away in order to fit them in his backpack.


Schroedinger’s Room and fuck-a-diddles

If memory serves, this is level 1a from Khunmar.

Yesterday I posted about megadungeons, then I read the Mule Abides “Defense of the Megadungeon” and followed that up with Bliss Infinite’s post about “empty rooms” and all of this makes me want to get into the game of talking about empty rooms on my blog, too. I can neither confirm nor deny Joe the Lawyer’s negative experience with dungeoneering in Dwimmermount; I haven’t read or played it. I’m looking forward to reading it because I like a lot of the things that James writes on Grognardia; based on what he has already written about D&D, I want to read Dwimmermount.

In my own megadungeon, Mines of Khunmar, (which people are probably sick of hearing me go on about), there are a lot of empty rooms (I’ll get to those later). There are also a lot of the ‘fuck-a-diddle’ type rooms that are probably the equivalent of the room with the ghost chess players in Dwimmermount that Joe the Lawyer didn’t like.  For clarification, in my lexicon, a ‘fuck-a-diddle’ room/encounter is one in which the author says, “Here is an X,” but probably doesn’t provide enough or any explanation for that thing being there (whether it be a ghost, a mysterious magical effect, an illusion, a pile of old shoes, etc.). If you like ‘fuck-a-diddles’ you can see it as an opportunity to improvise or even just toss a red herring in the mix and see if the players chase it. If you hate ‘fuck-a-diddles,’ you will roll your eyes in annoyance and shout “LAME!”

One example of a fuck-a-diddle: I remember there is a room in Khunmar where the ghosts of dwarves drink beer and sing songs on level 4 or 5 — if I recall my intentions correctly, I thought that if the players sat down and drank beer they would eventually fade away and become ghosts themselves. No one ever entered that room, so I can’t say that I ever had the chance to ‘test drive’ it. One of my favorite published ‘megadungeons’ (Tegel Manor by Judge’s Guild) is pretty much one fuck-a-diddle after another. I’d love to play that thing. There used to be a few pages on the Wizards.com site where one of the authors from the book division talked about using Tegel Manor to teach a group of non gamers how to play D&D on their lunch break, and, as I recall, the campaign sounded like a hoot (edit: still there…link). It’s been years since I poked my nose inside my copy of Tegel, but as I recall, the descriptions were pretty short on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of all of the different weirdo and unexplained encounters in the manor. I don’t know if that would irritate people who don’t like vague descriptions or hate the ‘feel free to improvise here’ style of dungeon keying.

Speaking of empty rooms, I always hated the whole ‘Schroedinger’s Cat’ thing.  I know I’m probably missing the point because it is the equivalent of the physics student’s Zen koan to declare that the cat in the box is simultaneously alive and dead because we don’t know, but I always get stuck on thinking, “What kind of sick fucker puts a cat in a box with poison?” Free associating from Schroedinger’s cat to trees falling in the woods to whether or not empty rooms can truly be empty if there are a bunch of adventurers walking through them, I have to declare that I don’t find empty rooms a ‘dealbreaker.’ I suppose that an adventure buyer/reader might think he was getting more value for money if the author and publisher used a lot of words and ink to describe each and every room whether or not anything of any substance was in it, but I’d probably be just as happy at this point in my life with less to read when and if I ever actually use the adventure behind the GM screen.  One of the things I liked about Barrowmaze and Stonehell (2 different published megadungeons) is that the descriptions were not overly long and adjective filled. My feeling is that if I want a novel, I’ll read one. My own ideal is that a dungeon location description be pretty short so I can scan and find the info that I need at a glance rather than hunting through massive paragraphs of prose to find out whether the kobold chief wearing the headress made of human ears has seven or eight hit points. Similarly, I’d be prefectly happy if a dungeon author said a chest contained ‘clothes’ instead of detailing exactly how many socks or shirts or jockstraps are in there. If I need specifics, I’m confident that I can invent them on the spot (and I would actually prefer that). Another big dungeon I liked, Rappan Athuk, has a lot of empty rooms with tables to let you decide if there were bones, rusted chains, discarded torch stumps, etc., in the room.  And I thought that was fine.

I suppose the other alternative is just not to have any empty rooms — each and every chamber can be jam packed with monsters, monsters, monsters, but that makes even the vaguest sort of dungeon ecology seem improbable.  Assuming the ‘dungeon’ is a series of tunnels, rooms, etc., that are the former lair of a mad wizard or whatever which has been abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin and then various groups of bandits, kobolds, orcs, etc., have moved in, then a certain amount of ‘buffer zone’ between different factions makes some sense. One of the more interesting levels of Khunmar has a harpies and gargoyles fighting over the territory… one end of the level is claimed by the harpies, the other part is claimed by the gargoyles and in between are some empty caves and tunnels (some with dead harpies and gargoyles).

An alternative is to have your dungeon ‘not be abandoned,’ but that makes it less likely that the players will get anywhere since if it were MY castle, I’d have guards and traps and pits full of poisoned spikes at every fucking entrance and archers and trained maticores and boiling oil and hobgoblins with AK47s… need I go on?

I won’t assume that everyone should love megadungeons — that’s as unreasonable as automatically hating them. Sometimes, though, I think some of the people complaining about them miss the point. Reading about the NYC megadungeon campaign in ‘The Mule Abides,’ (see link above) makes me envious, however. I wish I could live in NYC for at least some of the week so I could take part (and get decent pizza).


Megadungeon!

Is that ‘Webberan of the North’ checking out the pit?

“In Search of the Unknown” was probably the first ‘published’ adventure I ever played in. Before that, we used “Monster & Treasures Assortment” and “Dungeon Geomorphs” or, more usually, we just made our own dungeons — usually frantically drawing level 4 right after the session where the players almost finished exploring level 3, etc. There were hordes of creatures living in 10×10 rooms that shouldn’t have been able to fit it 10×10 rooms and levels full of a hodgepodge of creatures without a toilet or any food and water in evidence (well, no food other player characters I guess), traps that were probably as much or more of a hazard to the dungeon residents than the adventurers and gelatinous cubes sweeping the hallways clean after every expedition.  And, right or wrong, that was how we did it. I’m inclined to say it was the right way, because we kept on playing.

We explored “In Search of the Unknown” with Bob W. as our DM (as opposed to my friend Bob C., who was the guy who asked me, “Have you ever heard of ‘Dungeons & Dragons?’ and probably ruined any chance I ever had of living a normal life).  Bob W. had bought his own D&D set, and, instead of the geomorphs and treasure assortment, he had a copy of a newfangled thing called a ‘module*.’  We rolled up characters and in we went. Compared to what is available today, it was probably pretty tame stuff, but I remember thinking it was cool because there was a certain logic to the dungeon… here was a kitchen, there was a food storage room, etc. There were also things that you could interact with; I remember the ‘room of pools’ that had perhaps a dozen different wells, each of which contained a mysterious liquid that might heal or harm your character, so there were things to do other than just fight monsters and take their stuff.  I began to incorporate that ‘logic’ and inspiration into my own dungeon designs. And, naturally, the temptation was to think that if a two level dungeon like Mike Carr presented in ‘In Search of the Unknown’ was good, an eight or ten level dungeon had to be better (OK, my logic was flawed, but, in my defense, I was a kid).

After a brief period of recently being ‘in vogue’ among the cognicenti of the OSR community, it seems as though the ‘megadungeon’ may be once again falling out of favor.  This is the impression I get when I kibitz in online forums or read the usual blogs and what not.  A few years ago people were raving about 100 room dungeons, now they are patting back their yawns and saying, “That is so 1975!  And not in a good way…”

Part of the problem seems to be that when the online community talks ‘dungeons,’ mostly they talk about things to buy (i.e.: a book or a pdf with descriptions and maps).  And the biggest complaint from ‘adventure buyers’ is whether or not an andventure was ‘worth the money.’ (This leads me to another thought: maybe the complainers should consider building their own rather than buying, but that is probably the subject for another post). There has also been, I suspect, a ‘lifestyle’ shift. When I was a pimply dork and first put pencil to graph paper to draw a dungeon, video games were in their infancy. Today, the idea of pretending to kill orcs, find treasure and gain XP (and thereby go ‘up’ in level so you can kill bigger orcs, etc.,) are concepts that most people know through video games or online MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. The idea of exploring a dungeon by drawing it out on graph paper seems as ludicrous as rolling a hoop down the street for ‘fun.’ The people I currently play with are completely uninterested in the idea of having ‘the dungeon’ be the campaign. They tell me it just sounds boring. It does not fit with their current life style.  Unlike my 15 year old self, these people have families and jobs and kids to take to dance practice or soccer camp. Playing D&D is a twice-per-month extravagence (if they are lucky).  They can play World of Warcraft or a similar game after they put the kids to bed; whent they manage to get away to play D&D, they want to have fun, joke around, drink beer and have a few interesting encounters that we can laugh together about. Then two weeks will pass before we can gather again and what happened last session might not be particularly fresh in their minds. Perhaps, rather than a map with 100 discrete encounters and dozens of different tunnels that need to be methodically explored, they want a ‘D&D’ session that plays out more like an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ or a similar TV show.  The player characters will have a goal in mind, they pursue that goal, bad shit happens, dice are rolled, you try to prevail and bring as many player characters through the session as you can and then you end the session. Next session will probably start with another short term goal, perhaps new player characters to replace whomever they lost and off we go for another few hours of escapist entertainment and wisecracking. I’m not seeing how a multi-level dungeon with hundreds of rooms fits into that.  Even adventures from the ‘golden years’ of Gary Gygax at the helm of TSR are going to fail to please people who have so few hours to devote to a very time intensive hobby.  Something like the ‘Slaver’s Series’ (from the late 70s or early 80s, where the players had to figure out who was kidnapping citizens to sell as slaves) is probably too ‘complicated’ and long for the modern player. The hobby is changing because, maybe, the people in it are changing. I’m not saying that is a good or bad thing; but I think it may just be the truth.

So where does this leave the designer of megadungeons?  I’m not sure. I don’t pretend to understand the market for anything, especially not for ‘hobby’ stuff that we are supposedly doing for our own pleasure. A few nights ago, however, I took out the maps and handwritten descriptions of one of my original megadungeons. I turned the pages and looked at the maps and remembered some of the encounters we had played out there in the old days and how much fun I had putting it together. I don’t think I can logically (or economically) justify any part of my hobby — if I wanted to make money, there are easier ways of doing it, but I have a hard time logically or economically justifying the things that bring me pleasure — and my own megadungeon has certainly been a lot of fun.  I enjoyed playing it back in the day.  I enjoyed designing it.  And I still enjoy reading over the notes. If ever I manage to get it to the point where it will be ‘shareable,’ (a lot of work would need to be done), I’ll be interested to see what kind of reaction it gets.  I can’t rationalize it as either a ‘waste of time’ or ‘time well spent’ because I think that kind of thinking misses the point.  And maybe megadungeons are going to go the way of dancing the Charleston or the Lindy Hop — become something that people ‘used to do.’  I don’t know.  I don’t think I care, either.

Also, check out this article on ‘Top 10 D&D Modules’ (yes, he uses that word) from `2 years ago on Wired.com.

*The term ‘module’ always made me think of ‘nodule’ (one of those tumors under the skin), which is not a good association.


Baedeker’s Guide To The Northlands: Eord

Note: Travellers in Aldeboran are advised that while the authors have made every effort to provide the most accurate and up to date information within this guide, the Northlands region of the continent is subject to periodic political, cultural and genocidal upheavals. Although this constant state of flux makes Aldeboran in general and The Northlands in particular a very diverting place to visit, risk to life and limb on the part of travellers to this fascinating region should be assumed as a given, not just a possibility. Protection in the form of magical wards, armed guards and escape spells are not to be considered ‘optional’ by the traveller who wishes to survive the trip.

EORD (variant spellings: ORD, ORRD), City of: Called ‘The Jewel of the North’ by her admirers, this ancient city is currently ruled by Lord Mandras Delayn. Lord Mandras assumed the throne under a bit of a cloud following the mysterious disappearance of his predecessor, Lord Glarion.  The majority of Glarion’s heirs and relatives (with the exception of his cousin, Mandras) either found reason to be elsewhere when the succession was announced or vanished to such a great degree that neither well trained bloodhounds nor divination magics could locate them. Perhaps it goes without saying that the writers of this guide think that Mandras is a wonderful, magnificent monarch and Eord is lucky to have him… and our writing that has nothing to do with the relative talent of the king’s inquisitors nor the dampness of his dungeons.

The history of this ancient city predate the Lenaran conquest and subsequent dissolution of the famed and feared Dragon Empire. During the years of Lenaran rule, a city and garrison was established by the Imperials. Following the great Lenaran Catastrophe and the Hinterlandian revolt, the city and garrison became the seat of Alberc, now called ‘the First King’ (even though he really wasn’t — like many of the ‘young race’ residents of the Hinterlands, the Eordians consider history as having “started” when the Lenaran Catastrophe occured). Before the arrival of the Lenarans, a trading center is known to have stood on the site and, based on archaeological evidence, seems to have traded hands (or paws or claws) several times over the eons. Portions of previous fortifications which have been incorporated into the city’s current defenses and might be described by the architectural enthusiast as ‘cyclopean’ are probably a “must see” for the serious tourist who wants to understand the city’s origins.

The City of Eord is also the focal point of the defense of the Eordian kingdom against swampy Mystik and The Sinking Lands, their near neighbors to the north-west, and is strategically situated to offer a ready port to the Strait of Belaring, the Inner Sea and the Dunsany Sea. As a result, the ports and docks of Eord will be filled with the vessels of many nations, giving the city an appealingly multicultural aspect.

The City Proper: Avoid the slums and slaughter yards to the south. Although beds, beer and board might be cheaper than within the city proper, the ‘inns’ you are likely to find here will usually consist of places where watered beer and stale bread is served and the beds (if availible) will be flea-infested mattresses with soiled sheets.  Historically, the periodic attacks upon the city usually result in the destruction of the dwellings outside the walls, so structures in this area will be of wood or wattle and bear no historical or aesthetic interest.

Eord City proper consists of a series of ringed walls, and the general rule seems to be the further you penetrate the encircling walls, the more magnificent the structures.  The innermost ring contains the palace, also known as Castle Eord. Outside of that, one finds the noble quarter.  The noble quarter, in turn, is surrounded by ‘The Merchant’s Quarter (also known as “The Old City”).  The outermost ring is known as ‘The Commons’ and is generally considered to include the seafronts and docks.

Castle Eord: The palace (well, a ‘palace’ by Eordian standards; proper Lenaran nobility would turn up their finely chiseled noses at the idea of this structure being termed a palace) which currently stands upon a promontory known as ‘King’s Hill’ in the center of the city is much expanded from the structure that King Alberc re purposed from the previous Lenaran governor. Frequent mention is made of layers and tunnels beneath the palace which predate even the Lenaran occupation and, perhaps may even predate the arrival of humans in the Hinterlands but the veracity of these claims cannot be verified, especially since the palace in general (and the dungeons in particular) are not open to visitors.  Most ‘tours’ of the dungeons tend to be a last stop for the unwilling ‘tourists,’ and, despite the fascinating history to be found there, investigation of the palace or dungeons is strongly discouraged. Although portions of the palace might catch the interest as particularly well preserved examples of pre-catastrophe Lenaran territorial architecture, they are best admired from a distance. The structures are picturesque, but artists who have attempted to capture their glory on canvas or in a sketchbook have also brought unwelcome attention upon themselves from the inquisitors; the artistically inclined are strongly encouraged to choose other views.

Temple Quarter: Any visitor to Eord should plan on devoting at least a day or two to exploration of ‘The Temple Quarter.’ Found in the eastern part of ‘The Old City,’ this quarter is dominated by ‘The Street of The Gods’ which stretches from Old City’s East Gate to the Noble’s quarter.  Many of the structures are among the oldest in the city and may even predate the Lenaran occupation, although temples tend to change hands fairly often so establishing the exact provenance of one structure or another may be difficult. A description of a few of the more popular temples and their worshippers follow:

  • Temple of The Rat: Tourists are advised to tour this temple in the day; at night, the increased presence of vermin can be somewhat off-putting.  Located on the north side of the street near the Eastern Gates, the Temple of the Rat has a long history. It can easily be spotted since the structure itself is adorned with thousands of carved representations of rats. Crowds assemble almost daily for sanctioned sacrifices which usually involve the tossing a live goat into the rat-filled sacrificial pit; persistent rumors tell of invitation only events where less prosaic sacrifices are offered, but one shouldn’t credit everything you hear. Sources disagree as to weather the large rubies used as eyes in the statue of the Rat God are real or fake.
  • Temple of Yth: Now closed due to the execution of the priests by Lord Glarion more than twelve years ago, the Temple of Yth still presents an imposing edifice. The front of the temple is of pale green stone rumored to have been imported at fabulous cost from old Lenara and the cast bronze doors are a work of art (although the subject matter, which involves the Serpent God devouring sacrifices, may be considered a ‘bit strong’ for some audiences). Note the gilding (now, sadly peeling) on the domes. Rumors persist of fantastic mosaics within the temple, but, given that the practice of Ythianism has been outlawed locally, no arrangement to tour the interior is currently available. Despite being located on a prime bit of real estate, the temple still stands empty.
  • The Followers of The Bleeding Head: The followers of The Bleeding Head can be easily recognized within the temple quarter since many of them practice frequent devotional blows to the forehead with a mallet and/or the wearing of thorns as a crown. The cognoscenti consider this ‘cult’ an annoyance, but one cannot deny that their followers are the model of dedication. Their temple is a fairly modest structure of little interest to the student of architecture, but the followers of the Bleeding head do most of their worshipping/proselytizing and forehead malleting in the street itself.
  • Temple of the Allfather: One of the most powerful new religions in Eord and surrounding countries, the Allfatherians are also noted for their lack of tolerance towards elves, dwarves and other ‘demi-humans.’  Although Eordian law does not permit persecution of demi-humans, the Allfatherians are not shy about making their displeasure with ‘unclean’ races known. Elven, dwarven, gnomish and even halfling visitors are advised to avoid the main temple (decorated with a red cross on a white banner) or any large gathering of Allfatherinas (usually bearing banners with the red cross on white or wearing tabards of a similar pattern).
  • Temple of Umma: Although Umma (the She-He or Sister-Brother) has slipped in popularity in recent decades, Her/His followers still maintain a respectable temple in the district and Her/His hermaphroditic preists are still a common sight in the Temple District.  Worshippers of Umma are not to be confused with worshippers of Ammu (the He-She or Brother-Sister), which was outlawed by official decree following the Lenaran Catastrophe. The red stone temple of Umma is a good source for love potions, aphrodisiacs and relationship advice.

News Updates

This is not one of the hogs in question.

On October 02, an Oregon Farmer, 70 year old Terry Vance Garner, was eaten by his hogs (some of which apparently weigh 700 lbs). Man, that’s just brutal. I hope that Garner dropped stone dead of a heart attack before the pigs started to eat him.  Pigs, apparently, will eat everything — bones, clothes, etc. The local police are not ruling out foul play, unfortunately, there is not a lot left to base their investigation on.

Deomcratic candidate for State Senate, Colleen Lachowicz, is under fire by Maine Republicans for the fact that she plays World of Warcraft and has a female orc thief character. Her opponents apparently took umbrage at comments in one of her blog/forum postings in which she alluded to drowning Grover Norquist in a bath tub. I hope Mr. Norquist’s security can handle imaginary orc assassins and suggest he limit himself to showers until this thing blows over. Some of her other online comments that are being used against her include:

  • “So I’m a level 68 orc rogue girl. I stab things . . . a lot. Who would have thought that a peace-lovin’, social worker and democrat would enjoy that?!”
  • “I can kill stuff without going to jail. There are some days when this is more necessary than others.”
  • “I’m so jealous! I wish I wasn’t at work. I’d much rather be gaming with my guildies!”

I’m not a WOW player, nor do I vote in Maine, but I’m interested to see how this tactic works. I think people who play online games would probably be turned off by the idea that her opponents are perhaps implying that being a ‘gamer’ makes Lachowicz unsuitable for office. Others will probably find the fact that Lachowicz plays World of Warcraft ‘creepy.’ Personally, I don’t think WOW is ‘creepier’ than playing golf.  I was once hit in the stomach by a golf ball and it hurt a lot — and then I got yelled at by a golfer for being hit by his friend’s ball (and I was not golfing… I was just standing in a public park and not on the golf course itself, so I maintain my innocence), so, in my limited experience, golf players are a lot more dangerous than World of Warcrafters. Unfortunately, if Lachowicz wins or loses, it will probably be impossible to say for certain whether ‘Warcraftgate” was the reason, so my curiosity will probably have to remain unsatisfied.

These two stories are related because orcs have sort-of pig-like heads.


Bait & Switch

Above was clipped from one of Dunham’s Weekly circulars, the “Sports Hunting Circular” with prices valid through 10/13/2012. For those not in the know, Dunham’s is the place to go for long underwear in a camo print, soccer jerseys for the kids, hockey sticks and skates, socks, athletic supporters, duck calls, etc.  It’s like a discount Cabelas that also serves as a one-stop-shop for people with kids playing school sports.

The item in question is a civilian model of the HK 416, supposedly one of the best automatic rifles in the world. I’m normally not that excited about civilian semi-auto carbines, but $549.99 seemed too good a deal to pass up.  Come zombie apocalypse or the rise of the machines, I’d want something with the combined accuracy and ROF of a semi-auto carbine, and the HK416 is not only better than the various AR15 clones in terms of fewer ‘failure to feed’ problems, but is also the weapon of choice for special forces around the world — and, at $549.99, cheaper as well. If my future involved manning the barricades, I wanted an HK416 in my hands. It’s the rifle that killed Bin Laden.

Well, I visited two Dunham’s and called several more, and not only did they not have it, everyone I spoke to said they never carry any rifles from Heckler Koch but they would gladly sell me a Bushmaster carbine for $999.99 if I used the coupon, $1099.99 regular price.  Bunch of bait and switch motherfuckers.

Tip of the hat for marketing genius goes to whomever came up with Hornady “Zombie-Max” ammo.  Yes, it is for real. Hornady is one of the many companies selling ammunition in the US and came up with “Zombie-Max” to sell more ammo to more people. The ammo is apparently a capped hollowpoint, but the plastic cap is green instead of the usual white or clear, which of course means it is better for killing zombies, because zombies are (apparently) sensitive to green plastic the way that werewolves are sensitive to silver. Who knew? If green plastic does kill zombies, I’m going to buy a bunch of green plastic army men, grind ’em up and pack ’em into shotgun shells. Just in case.