The new and improved defender of RPGs!

Monday, 30 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Gaming is Not My Source of Socialization

It seems to me that there are some people who are dedicated to going around rpg sites talking about (with a bizarre tone of pride) their "gaming is just an excuse for getting together with your friends". And they smugly declare that "they play to be with their friends, not for the game". Or that "friends are the most important thing" about roleplaying; and looking down on and insulting those who have a "too serious" attitude and dare to think that playing an RPG should be something more than merely social. Some even make absurd proclamations like "you shouldn't game with anyone who you wouldn't be friends with normally".

I, personally, game for the game. Pretty much everyone I game with I'd say are my friends, and its nice to have developed friendships based on my RPG hobby. However, while some of those friends have evolved into more than JUST "gaming buddies", there are many others that are not friends in any context other than us getting together to game.

Essentially, there are many people in my gaming group that, if we weren't getting together to play an RPG, we wouldn't be getting together at all.

So to me, I'm firmly on the "game" side of things. RPGs do have a purpose aside from socialization: that purpose is the game. Like any really worthwhile game or sport, the purpose is in playing and perfecting yourself through that play, and having a good experience of play. The RPG is not just an "excuse to get together with your friends": I have friends(made via gaming or made via many other sources), I don't need an "excuse" to get together with them. When we get together in my gaming group, we are there to game. Its fine to socialize, but we're not just there to fuck around and maybe game, and there's certainly no problem in telling people to get focused and get playing, because that's what we're there for.

I would suggest that its those who are loudly proclaiming how their RPG play is just their "excuse" for being with friends that have the problem: why the fuck do you need an excuse? If your gaming is just your source for socialization, the way you get friends, it would imply to me not that you are somehow more social than other gamers, but that you are less. You are incapable of making friends or engaging in normal social activity if you aren't using some kind of hobby/sport as a crutch by which to have them. Maybe your loud proclamations about how bad it is for people to see games as serving any purpose aside from socialization comes out of the personal fear that you can't make friends without RPGs, and that if it wasn't for RPGs the people you call your "friends" probably wouldn't want to hang out with you.


(Originally Posted March 31, 2008)

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Dark Albion: Demon-Haunted World

The Dark Albion setting is an historical setting, in many ways identical to our own world in the 15th century.  I have made some significant changes to the setting: replacing Catholicism with the worship of the Unconquered Sun (as part of the overall 'law v. chaos' theme of the setting), changing the names of several countries, making some areas less advanced than they were historically at the time, removing the united Holy Roman Empire (not that it was ever all that united to begin with), and of course, having France be a kingdom taken over by evil-frog men.

In fact, a lot of things still ultimately minimize those differences: While the monotheist religion is the Unconquered Sun, you still see a structure and hierarchy that is virtually identical to the Catholic Church (with the exception of the Clerical Order, which has some similarities in structure to the Templars). The name changes and the absence of a HRE largely doesn't change much (except that it makes the Commonwealth seem a bit more powerful in its absence).  And while the Frogmen are a pretty big change, their relatively recent rise still leads to a nearly-100-year-long war between them and Albion.

In some ways, the biggest change is the reality of magic.  While magic in Dark Albion is more underpowered (at least, the spellcasting is; while magic items are much more rare), the world is one where spellcasters study their trade in Oxford or Cambridge, where Clerics perform miracles, where monsters and demons and the living dead haunt the lonely places on the fringes of civilization, and where everyone knows elves and dragons are real.

How could such a world not be drastically different from our own?

It would seem, from our perspective, that the reality of magic would change everything. But in point of fact, at least presented the way it is in Dark Albion, that's not necessarily so.  To understand why, you have to understand the paradigm under which medieval and Renaissance Europe operated.

In our own real world, magicians did learn their trade in the great Universities of Europe. They didn't get titles of mages, but occultists like John Dee learned their art even as they studied the other natural arts and sciences (in John Dee's case, at Cambridge). They understood magic to be a part and parcel of advanced education.  Of course, there were also hedge witches and wise women or men who used folkloric charms, potions, curses, blessings and cures that continued well into the 19th and even the early 20th century.  No, not wiccans or anything like what modern neo-pagans do today exactly, but a tradition of folk-ways that were based on a combination of inherited superstitions and assumed rules.  And both the high magicians and the low magicians did what they did because they were certain these things were true, and the people high-born and low-born believed them to have real power.  That's why Queen Elizabeth I consulted John Dee to determine the most auspicious date for her coronation, and why countless medieval and renaissance courts hired alchemists or astrologers, and likewise engaged in espionage or sabotage of the hired wizards of rival courts. That's why common folk would take their sick child to a wise woman to be passed through a split tree-trunk to be healed, or buried cats in the walls of their house, or drew charms on their doors, or left out bowls of milk to gain the blessings of local spirits. They did these things because for them magic was a very real force.

They went on pilgrimages to be cured, and prayed to saints and visited holy men, and occasionally young women or old monks gained enormous influence (and sometimes became threats to local power) because they had visions and prophecies or the power to heal.  In our own world, hardly anyone, even people who claim to be strongly religious, actually truly believe in this sort of spiritual power; you'd have to go to places in Africa to still see that kind of Christianity for the most part. But in 15th century Europe, people mostly didn't pay lip-service or pretend or struggle to be convinced of these things, they were assumptions as entirely and definitely real to them as the laws of gravity are to us.

Elves and demons and other such beings were certainly and definitely real to their paradigm.  That's why Martin Luther fought with demons sent to assail him. John Dee spoke with angels and found proof of their power in his own experiences.  And regular people encountered these creatures, or the effects of their power and their danger, as part of their lives; even if it was often something just out of view, the consequences of these entities were immediately and visibly apparent to them.

So why wouldn't 'real magic' change medieval history?  Because in the medieval world, our medieval world, magic was already absolutely real.

Of course, there is a conceit in my work, in the effort to try to keep Albion's setting as close to historical England as I wanted it to be, of having all the changes made assume a minimal impact in the overall course of events.  I'm certainly not the first world-builder (or real-world-imitator, if you will) to do that; fantasy-historical fiction has done it fairly frequently. I didn't want to create a truly alternate timeline, because I thought there would be more value in keeping the timeline in most respects linked to our own history. I certainly could have, if what I wanted was to create a really radically different world, to have made more changes. I expressly didn't want that, and wrote accordingly.  Some GM using Dark Albion could want that, and could feel free (from the baseline I created) to move however farther afield they might like.  Just like some other GM might prefer, if they like, to take away much more of the magic and the supernatural, or even all of it, and use Dark Albion as a strictly historical no-working-magic D&D campaign, if they prefer.  But even then, in that world, magic would be 'real', it just wouldn't have confirmable and openly visible effects.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Perique

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Quick Report on the 3rd Anniversary INJU Con

Well, I'm back from the Con, and the after-party, and it was a really good time. It was held in the INJU (the national institute of youth) and thus in a way sponsored, so entrance for participants was free.  The event was organized and hosted by the process I ran Dark Albion, with the Appendix P rules, and using some of the material from Cults of Chaos. It was very well-received.

I also learned the following during the course of the day:

-popular games in Uruguay right now, stuff that was played at the Con (aside from Dark Albion) included D&D 5e, DCC, Hunter, Vampire, Paranoia, and three or four Spanish-language games.

-There is a sort of generational divide happening in the gaming scene here.  Other than myself, there were very few older gamers here. The crowd was all very young (teenagers and 20s, mostly) and of all the old-guard of Uruguayan gamers who I had known from the past 12 years, many of whom  I know are still active as gamers, were not showing up at the Con scene.  I think it's interesting that there were no tables for D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, both of which are more popular with that old-guard.

-I've definitely become more of an RPG-celebrity than I was ever used to being locally, with this younger crowd. Maybe because these kids didn't know me before I started with the blog, website, and writing games.  People have heard of Dark Albion and a few asked me about buying it at the con, but to Uruguayans the game of mine they still absolutely adore above all others is Lords of Olympus. Man do Uruguayans love this game.  I must have had a dozen people come thank or talk to me about it, about games they have played in or run of it.

-I've also discovered yet another totally unintentional introduction to the local scene thanks to yours truly: DCC.  It turns out, without me having heard about it until today, that a few of the many many players that have come through my very Gonzo DCC campaign (where I've been way way more loose and relaxed about inviting people to play and having players come and go than usual) have liked the game so much they got their own copies and started running it.  From the sounds of it, I think I may have scarred some of them badly: the way people all described their DCC experiences, it seems that the High-Gonzo style I run it in has become the Uruguayan norm.  I'm fine with that, but crazier still is the fact that some people who I don't know at all but were introduced to the game via people who first played it with me came to believe the game is meant to be really grindingly brutally high-mortality.  It seems that my proteges played the game in a way that was more aggressively lethal than I do, and their proteges in turn played it even more lethal still.  So now DCC in Uruguay is just a brutal old-school grindfest.  One guy spoke with pride of a session at one of the regular gaming-night get-togethers of a local club where 27 characters were killed off in a single session!

Anyways, it was great fun, there was delicious cake, one of my players won himself a set of dice, and I was awarded a Dorctorate of Game-Mastering from Orcvard University, courtesy of 2d4orcos.  Very nice.

Pictures may be forthcoming.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Diplomat + Image Latakia

Friday, 27 November 2015

No Time For a Blog Entry Today

I'm too busy; I've been invited to guest-GM at the 2nd anniversary INJU gaming Con.

I'm going to be running Dark Albion, using material from the upcoming Cults of Chaos book for the first time!

Envy the lucky Uruguayans who'll be getting a seat at my gaming table.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Argento Latakia

Thursday, 26 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: A Beautiful Obituary, and a Forge Obituary

A Beautiful Obituary, and then a Forge Obituary

The death of Gary Gygax continues to make news in the world, the NYT and the WSJ (New York Times and Wall Street Journal), as well as the BBC, CNN, and many other mainstream media outlets have reported on it. And obviously, gamers of all stripes are talking about it on their blogs.

But beyond just gamers, nerds in general are doing it. Nerds who have been gamers only in their past, or only in passing, or only as one part of their geekdom. There's no question that Gary Gygax was an essential figure in Geek Culture as a whole, the way you didn't have to be a hardcore trekkie to mourn the death of Gene Rodenberry.

One of the best obits I've seen thus far is from a general nerd, a dude who's blog is called Websnark. If you check his blog, you'll also see a really above-par obituary for another recently dead and much lamented figure: William F. Buckley. As to his obit for Gygax, its a lovely and factual account that takes in Gygax as the man, flaws included, while making clear Gygax's significance and place in history.

Meanwhile, the one group that seems hell-bent on not giving praise, or even at least shutting the fuck up, are the Forgies. Ron Edwards shut down someone's attempt to start a tribute thread at the Forge, declaring it off-topic.

And this asshole Matt Snyder, the creator of a Forgie "western" game, but don't look for it to be about shootouts and saloons (...hey, "Shootouts and Saloons", that'd be an awesome name for a western RPG!) makes a blog entry declaring that Gygax was "just a guy who made a game, the end". He says "Clinging to Gary so you, the self-conscious gamer, can avoid feeling alone and awkward in your nerd shame is giving Gary a lot more credit than he deserves."

Ah, the typical contempt for the average gamer, the hatred of D&D, the sense of disgust at having icky normal people all around you and not being put up on your pedestal like the special fucking snowflake, the bowel-shattering arrogance of it all; all coming from a guy who's chosen hobby is so pathetic that it has to latch onto the gaming it so hates like a parasitic infection, Storygaming digging deep with its pincer trying to suck all the life out of RPGs while simultaneously spitting poisoned bile into Gaming's bloodstream.

Let me give you a hint you fucking nob: mourning great men who accomplished great things is normal. It is a feature, in fact, of one's humanity. The social misfit in this instance would be you, who feels so insecure about his own capacities as to have to shut down his own humanity in order to act elite and above it all in the vain hope someone will recognize some kind of "specialness" you DO NOT IN FACT HAVE.

Your pseudo-intellectualism and quasi-artistic elitism are nothing more than a pathetic cover for your own mediocrity, just like all of your ilk over at the Forge and Storygames, pretty much the only people who've pissed all over Gary Gygax even now after he's dead but before they've even put him in the ground.

The Forgie hate of Gygax is an obvious one: he was the REAL "indie designer", the one who's done the thing none of them could do. Various things in fact:
1. He invented something new.
2. He invented something popular that people wanted to buy.
3. He turned his own writing out of his basement into a bestselling industry.
Not a single one of the supposed intellectual giants (read: gnats) over at the Forge or Storygames has managed to do even one of these things.

How couldn't they hate Gygax?! Their "theories" are supposed to be perfect, and explain what's "wrong" with Gaming and how to make "better" games; only NO ONE wants to play or buy their "better" games. Meanwhile the sometimes-friendly sometimes-crazy always-passionate grandpa over in Wisconsin (come on, when did anything suitably pretentious ever come out of Wisconsin? It's like America's Zone of Anti-Pretentiousness!) continues to have a game that appealed to MILLIONS of people, and continues to be loved and respected by the "losers" and "shameful nerds" (to borrow Mr. Snyder's term) and "unwashed masses" that they think should be bowing down to them because they dress clever and say things that sound clever and use big words that are so clever even they don't know what they actually mean!

So of course they'll piss on his grave.

Luckily, for the rest of us, the world as a whole inasmuch as it remembers Gary Gygax will remember him fondly; and luckily for the rest of you I'll be here to show you how much of a gang of scumbags the Forgers really are, so that their own efforts will only highlight how badly they fail in everything that Gygax succeeded at being, starting with "a decent Human Being".


(march 7, 2008)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

DCC Campaign: Snakogator!

We had left our heroes (and I use that term as loosely as imaginable, at this point) deep inside an Ancient Living Habitat under the world, where they had found possibly the most amazing thing in the history of their adventures: a living Ancient, albeit a child.  But do they get this incredible girl out of the complex and to try to get her somewhere as secure as possible? No, they're going to keep right on adventuring with her, as if she was another member of the party.

So now the PC are up to:

-Going down deeper into the ruined complex. All except BOLT-0 who is much too heavy for the rope or even manageably for Alice (the Ancient girl) to use her incredible nano-magic on. "BOLT-0 HAS A WEIGHT PROBLEM!"

-Ack'basha the cleric: "you'll go down first..."
Brahmin: "Yes, that's probably what's going to happen."

-two of the three newbs head up on the transmat to the surface, to see if the trolls have left. The third has graduated into a full-blown wizard. He is immediately nicknamed "Ropetrick".

-Brahmin: "You know, I kill people for fun and I'm still less evil than the rest of you assholes".

-"We probably shouldn't get too dependant on the little girl's powers".
"You ARE new at this, aren't you?"

-Brahmin: "I have no idea what you're trying to tell me, but I'm just going to break this thing anyway"

-Brahmin: "If violence doesn't solve something, it's because you aren't using enough of it".

-"Let's not leave the little girl alone up there, she's helpless and innocent"
"I bet you'll be eating those words before the end of the day".

-"You've been with us a couple of days now, how can you not get that we're a bunch of psychos?"

-The team finally leads the little Ancient girl to the central control, but it's as offline as everything else in the complex.  She comes up with the idea of trying to go down to the reactor to restart it.  But first, they find themselves encountering several dozen security drones, which look like metal volleyballs with rotating knives and blaster-eyes.  After an initial melee round where they realize how deadly these things are, the party decides to cheese it out of the area and find a safer path.

-Alice is amazed by the Cleric's use of healing; in the same way an anthropologist might be by a primitive tribe's folk healing practices.

-"we need to find a bag or something, for all this loot"
Alice: "What's a bag?"
"well, that doesn't fill me with confidence..."

-Ack'basha the cleric tries to mine information from Alice about whether the machines in the Control room could be used to get to Sezrekan's plane.

-The Dwarf Wizard, one of only two PCs who can actually speak the Ancient language, decides to fake Alice's answer to discourage Ack'basha.

-Ropework the newbie wizard, the only other PC who can speak Ancient, narcs on the Dwarf Wizard, revealing that something called the Ascension Machine can in fact be used to get the party one step closer to a probably fatal end-game to Ack'basha's mad quest to take down the Wizard-Daemon.  He's still clearly too new to get a decent self-preservation instinct. "He knows not what he does!"

-The team runs into a group of weird human-lizard mutants living in the lower levels of the complex, along with their pet snake-crocodile monster, immediately dubbed the Snakogator.

-It is peripherally noted that Dwarves can theoretically live for about 500 years, though they usually live far less on account of being dumbasses.

-the Brahmin, having been "blue balled" in the non-fight with the Security Drones, is now determined to 'enjoy himself' in slaughtering the lizard-mutants.

-The Dwarf Wizard points out that he speaks Lizard! No, not lizard-man, lizard.  Thus, he can actually communicate with the Snakogator, but not with the lizard-mutants.

-The Dwarf Wizard helpfully translates the Snakogator's hisses at the Brahmin; he's saying "I'm going to kill you, bitch!"

-The Cleric gets to use his Snake Charm spell to great effect; marking, in a single encounter, the first time in the campaign that either Snake Charm or speaking "lizard" proved even marginally useful.

-The Cleric tells the Brahmin that he's charmed the Snakogator, which the Brahmin interprets not as "you don't have to fight it anymore", but as "this is a great moment for an attack of opportunity".

-Having slaughtered the lizard-mutants, and taken the (injured) Snakogator as a charmed pet, the party makes their way to the Reactor Room, only to find it is flooded with radiation!  Brahmin: "Radiation? We can kill that, right?"

-Ropework the newbie wizard needs to spellburn to try to cast Mend on the reactor, and he's required to sacrifice "two of his most valued possessions"; conveniently since he was a beggar just 24 hours earlier, his most valued possessions are highly shitty replaceable stuff.

-"One of these days, Alice..."

-With Ropework's Mend spell having catastrophically failed, causing every metal weapon in the party's possession to rust, the plan is for the Dwarf Wizard to go in and try to fix the Reactor with his Dwarvish lore.  He agrees only if Ack'basha does a pre-emptive Neutralize Poison on him. The spell fails but Ack'basha, proving true to form, tells him it worked anyways.

-"I can try to fix this thing!" "Dude, you're calling it a thing! You don't even know what it is!"

-After the Dwarf fails, and develops an as yet unrevealed mutation that will eventually prove tragically hilarious, Alice recommends the party get out of the reactor core before they all get 40 types of cancer.

-Reduced to trying to crawl through the service tunnels, MC Untouchable saves Ack'basha from a deadly trap! Ack'basha promises he'll save MC Untouchable when the team meets their destiny... maybe.

-"Ack'basha, is that your Primo Staff, or are you just happy to see me?"

-The scouting party returns from the service tunnels: "we found the entrance to three rooms... one of which doesn't exist anymore."  They don't mention they also saw a horrific Tentacle Thing in the tunnels.

-The Brahmin warrior finally manages to force open the sealed gates on the other side of the reactor core, to the room that was full of water, flooding the core.  The good news is this dampens the radiation. The bad news is that it also shuts down all remaining power in the complex.  The party is now literally in the dark; they'd been there figuratively for much of the campaign.

-The party takes to using the last surviving Ancient largely for the her ability to create floating disks as impromptu elevator lifts.

-The party takes on another tribe of lizard-mutants and snakogators!  Tragically, MC Untouchable suffers a horrific death by Snakogator; "He was untouchable, but he touched all of our hearts!"

-The Brahmin finally gets a decent fight; one of the lizard-mutants bites him and clings hard to his shoulder, so he decapitates him and keeps the head for the rest of the battle as a shoulder-pad.

-The party agrees in the aftermath that the lizard-mutant loot was so shitty  it made them feel even better about committing genocide.

-Before camping down for the night, Ack'basha graffittis the walls in blood to frame Bill the Elf for the massacre.

That's the end of that session.  Will the PCs manage to get the last young Ancient out of the now-doomed Living Habitat #23? Or will they end up being responsible for the death of the last living Ancient?  Stay tuned next time to probably find out.


Currently Smoking: Winslow Crown Cutty + C&D's Crowley's Best

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Non-Everyjoe Tuesday: Children of the Corn Edition

So this week feels like the first time in quite a while I don't have an Everyjoe article to share, but instead I'm going to share something else with you, which should terrify you.

A social psychologist went to a high school, to talk about freedom of speech, and discovered that the kids coming up are, if anything, much much worse than the current crop of spoiled fascist brats at the universities.

I mean seriously, they sound like the fucking Children of the Corn.  The way the students are described as acting, it's like something out of a horror movie where a town's kids have been replaced with hive-consciousness pod-people.

Fuck's sake.

Things for free thought in the west are going to get far far worse, before they get better, unless some radical change happens.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Monday, 23 November 2015

How Good is Dark Albion? Look at How it Wrecked Someone Who Despises Me!

I already mentioned that Dark Albion has had pretty well universal praise in all legitimate circles. But just how great is it really?  What about the illegitimate circles, the total cunts who despise me?   I mean obviously, no matter how good anything I do is, they'll just hate on it, like they did my previous also-good work?

Or maybe not.  I just got to watch someone spend a couple of weeks frantically committing himself to a Swine's worst nightmare.  This guy is from the somethingawful-related 'your dungeon is suck' website that despises the OSR, D&D, and 'grognards', and me and a few other OSR guys in particular (aside from myself, mostly Zak Smith and James Raggi, but they've also attacked Tenkar and several others), and he had written a horribly slanderous review of Arrows of Indra prior to this.  So of course, to keep up his pathetic second-hand fame of being popular among his goon-buddies by connecting himself to (attacking) my success, he made loud overtures about how he was going to review Dark Albion too when it came out, to make fun of how awful it was bound to be and how horrible I am.

And that's how he got roped into a multi-part review where it becomes blatantly obvious that he likes the book. He had started from the strategy of picking my book apart with a fine-toothed comb (to cement his ridiculous midget-fame as the expert-reviewer of his shithole of hangout), and so it was impossible for him to back down.  Yet he couldn't just lie about the material either because he would be found out; and he couldn't quit because then it'd be clearly admitting that the game is good.

So what did he do instead? He wrote pages and pages and pages where he desperately tried to cast the book in the least favorable light possible, and instead ends up highlighting everything about it, and it becomes obvious that his attempts to criticize the book are hysterical nitpicking and frantic grasping at straws while he's spending the rest of the time desperately reminding himself that he's not supposed to find this book cool because it will ruin him.

Fuck, that was fun.

No, I'm not going to link it, because shit-head included private information about me and of course his review is full of ridiculous overcompensating with personal and general insults that often veer into hate-speech, but if you really want to find it I'm sure you can.  Point is, he ends up giving it 5.5 out of 10.  Let that sink in: one of the people who despises me most, from one of the most infamously rabid OSR-hating websites dedicated to ruining me, in what is clearly an incredibly biased effort to defame me and my product, is extremely reluctantly forced to give it 5.5 out of 10 because it would have otherwise made it too obvious to give it anything less.

THAT is how good Dark Albion is.


Currently Smoking: Castello 4K Canadian + Image Latakia

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Traveller Campaign Update: I Don't Want to Live in This Imperium Anymore Edition

The PCs started the session happy to be back on the run chased by the entire Imperium.  That was after, at the end of the last session, the PCs took the most secret, guantanamo-bay style political prison the Imperium had, and did this:

They also now had absolute confirmation that the Ancient known as Grandfather Paradox was living inside one of the team's mind.  Which is a bit like this guy:

Like, right after regeneration. So occasional bursts of utility mixed with long periods of unconsciousness and babbling incoherence.

They also still had to break out one of their members, "Dr." Jones, who had been taken to an Even More Secret Compound (also inside the hull of a ruined ship, because the Imperium will never be accused of great creativity) under suspicion of being a Zhodani spy.  He was busy being examined by the very limits of what probe-technology could discover:

While they were rescuing, Insane Grandfather-PC led the other half of the party to a secret treasure horde of impressive Ancient items, including disintegrator guns, a strange radioactive device that Grandfather claimed is essential, and transparent super-armor space suits that are vastly beyond anything the Imperium has in terms of survivability, wearability, and resistance.  One of the team, "the professor" insists on wearing his with nothing underneath.

The PCs, having generally adopted an "I don't give a shit about anything anymore" attitude, get out of the system mere hours behind the Imperial fighters chasing them, which was not hard given they're flying the Traveller Universe's equivalent of the Millennium Falcon.  They head to the nearest most lawless planet they could find, which is a radioactive wasteland on the surface populated entirely in underwater dome-colonies.

They manage to stay just long enough to sell the gold they got in the Ancient haul for a ridiculously good price (all the native gold on this world being radioactive), make the most essential repairs and stocks they need for the Starhunter, and  buy every last weapon they can find in this rapidly-decaying TL7 shithole.

Next, with the Navy still right on their tail, they hightail it out of the Imperium, into Vargr pirate space, seeking the planet where the Master is soon to be regenerated.  If they can't stop him, he'll kill every Ancient-uplifted race he can find (including humanity) and then conquer the Galaxy.  At least, if you believe Grandfather.

At this point though, the majority of the PCs have come to the conclusion that the only number of acceptable living Ancients in the galaxy is precisely zero.  If they can cut it, the plan is to murder both the Master and Grandfather.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Gawith's Virginia Flake

Saturday, 21 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Basics of Pipe Smoking

Its hard to believe, but to the best of my recollection, I have gone a full three years of near-daily writings on this blog without once having dedicated a blog entry to the basics of pipe-smoking!

So I figure, what better moment to do so than on International Pipe Smoking Day?

Ok, so the first thing you need is a pipe, obviously. There are tons of brands to choose from, and the best way to get one is to find a well-stocked local Tobacco shop. If you're in or around Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; or indeed anywhere in Western Canada, you couldn't do better than to go to Burlington's Tobacconist. Not everyone has a local tobacconist though, so if you haven't got that luxury I would recommend that you get a good online tobacconist. is an excellent choice.

I'm not going to go so far as to recommend a specific pipe, because there are many different kinds of pipe novices, suffice it to say that you could get a good pipe for anything from $50-100, and a really good pipe from $100-200 (there are several brands I might recommend at that range, but you couldn't go wrong with either a Stanwell or a Lorenzetti, two of my favourites at that range). If you're really strapped for cash, I'd recommend a Corncob (Missouri Meerschaum brand is the best), which might look a bit silly, but a $15-25 corncob smokes MUCH better than a $15-25 briar pipe, as a rule; so if your main concern is affordability, corncobs are the way to go.

You'll also need a pipe tool; its a little device that you use to tamp, empty and pinch tobacco in your pipe; simple pipe tools don't cost more than $3.

Next, you'll need some good tobacco. There are lots of blends and brands to choose from; the main thing is that you should avoid going for the "drug store" brands (the mass-produced chemical-laden junk you find in grocery stores or convenience stores) if ANY other option exists. Personally, I would rather not smoke than smoke Amphora or Captain Black or whatever; if you really have no where else to begin go with either of those, but as soon as you can switch to some higher-quality tobacco. There are a few brands (like Balkan Sasieni, Dunhill, or Erinmore) that are usually not hard to find even in non-specialty stores, so that's always a good option. In the states, Barking Dog is also a good option.

Some more guidelines for finer tobaccos: There are basically three types of tobacco you can purchase. The first are aromatics; in most of the world these are by far the most popular. They are made of what is called "Cavendish" tobacco, which is really virginia or burley that has been treated with various essences so that it tastes and smells like vanilla, chocolate, cherry, or other sweet aromatic essences when being smoked. Of the three, aromatics are the most common, and the nicest smelling, but the flavour usually isn't very much of actual tobacco, and the quality varies immensely; a lot of these tobaccos end up tasting like chemicals or cough syrup.

The second is Virginia. These tobaccos are pure tobacco and taste like it, but NOT like a cigarette. Cigarettes don't actually taste like tobacco at all, they taste of the chemical sludge that they're treated with. Plus they're very low-quality virginia tobacco. Pipe tobacco that's Virginia will have a natural woodsy flavour that's very nice, with a bit of natural sweetness too. Sometimes Virginias are flavoured with perique, a type of tobacco from Louisiana that adds a touch of spiciness to the smoke. I like these very much, myself. One note of warning, however: Virginia tobaccos pack a punch, they're heavy; I usually don't smoke one on an empty stomach. I'd recommend in this area Dunhill's Elizabethan, Escudo, Ashton III, or Peter Stockebbye's Bull's Eye Flake.

The third choice are tobaccos with Latakia. Latakia is a turkish tobacco that's been treated, it is dark black and has a peaty flavour to it. These are mixed with Virginia and Burley to produce what's called an "English" blend; or they're mixed with Virginia and other "oriental" tobaccos (from the balkans or turkey, usually) to produce what are called "Oriental" or "Balkan" blends. 
These, English and Oriental tobaccos, are by far my favourite. They taste like tobacco, have a rich range of flavour and an intricacy that you feel as the pipe is smoked. They are always relatively high-quality. The ones I'd most recommend are Balkan Sasieni, Dunhill 965, Esoterica's Penzance, or anything by GL Pease.

Finally, packing a lighting a pipe: for most new pipe smokers, the biggest obstacle to enjoying a pipe is learning how to pack and light it. This is a cause of frustration, and most people who quit pipe smoking do so because of issues related to this.
Learning how to pack a pipe takes patience and practice. Over time, you'll be able to pack a pipe quickly and in most cases it'll smoke well all the way down, and you won't use more than 2 matches. But even the most experienced pipe smoker has occasions where he has a pipe get plugged, or has to use a mountain of matches to relight. So don't be too hard on yourself; remember that lighting the pipe is part of the fun, and relighting it can be just as fun.

First select your tobacco. Note that some tobaccos are ready to fill into the pipe from the get-go, while others require "rubbing out" or "breaking up", when they come in flakes, coin-cuts, wedges, etc. Once your tobacco is good, loose, and ready, you start by taking a pinch of tobacco between your fingers and stuffing it gently into your pipe. Tamp it down with your finger, but not too hard: "the hand of a child". This should fill up about a third of the bowl; if it doesn't, add some more.

The next third you fill the same way but pressing down harder: "the hand of a woman". And finally the last third, right to the top, you fill with the "hand of a man", pressing down fairly hard. The end result should be that air will be able to flow through your pipe, without the tobacco being too loose.

Take a few puffs on your pipe before lighting it: it should feel like sucking through a straw. If it feels like you're caving in your cheeks trying to draw, you've packed it too tight: you need to empty the whole thing and try again.
On the other hand, if you hear a whistling noise, you've packed it too light; push down relatively hard with your finger, and probably fill in a bit more.

When you're satisfied that the pipe is ready to light, take a first match, light it, let it burn past the chemical tip, then hold it over the pipe (not touching the pipe) when the pipe is in your mouth; draw in breaths, making the flame come down over the tobacco. Circle around with the match, try to get every area lit up; then put out the match. Then you get your pipe tool. Tamp down hard with the pipe tool; the tobacco (which might have fluffed up while you were lighting it) should press down. You want to be sure the tobacco is always kept tight in the bowl, otherwise it'll go out.

After tamping down, your pipe will likely have gone out; take a second match and again light it, drawing down hard; the first match should have created a layer of ash on the surface of the tobacco; now you want to light the tobacco that's under that layer; the topmost layer of ash will insulate the smoke and allow it to keep burning. As you light, there should be a lot of smoke coming out of your mouth; make sure to use a lot of the match and get it really well-lit, then you won't have to be relighting it again in a few minutes.

Then you can sit back and smoke. As you go along, you're going to need to tamp down on your pipe every little while, to keep it well-packed as it burns. From now on, when you tamp, keep your pipe in your mouth and draw softly as you're making the tamping motions, that way the tamping won't end up putting out the pipe.

Again, it takes a long while of practice to get a really good rhythm for smoking a pipe, don't be discouraged at the beginning. Remember to keep practicing, to always smoke your pipe down to the bottom (though you don't have to do it all in one sitting, you can smoke a pipe over several hours), to always clean your pipe after each use (with pipe cleaners, of course), and to experiment with many different brands of tobacco, keeping track of which you like and which you didn't, until you find the ones that are right for you.

Smoke, and enjoy.


(Originally posted February 20, 2008)

Friday, 20 November 2015

Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos Will Include Material on Elves

So, first, some good news: Cults of Chaos, the supplement book for Dark Albion is well on the way. In fact, the majority of the writing is finished.

I've listened carefully to some of the Dark Albion fans as to what they wanted to see most, and this led me to add an appendix to Cults of Chaos that will provide several pages of detail on Albion's Elves.

Elves in Albion are a bit of a mix between darker faerie stories and aliens from abductee accounts.  Creepy, inhuman, decadent, alien of thought, incredibly powerful.   In Cults of Chaos you'll get more details about the ancient history of when the Elves ruled Albion, where they live now, where they still show up and how, and what they do when they do show up. You'll also get some straightforward old-school info: encounter types and sizes, Elven equipment and powers.   Info also on elven magic items, and changelings.

This on top of the main material in the book, covering how to make your own Chaos Cult, and tables and types of Mutations.

Stay tuned, Dark Albion: Cults of Chaos will be coming to you soon, probably early 2016.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Bent Billiard + Image Latakia

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Why You Want Me Consulting!

"And let me say publicly what I said to the good Pundit privately. This book is a hundred times better than it would have otherwise been thanks to his input. The authorial voice is definitely mine, but his influence can be found in dozens of little things, sprinkled throughout, and they help bring the thing to life. We didn't always agree, but I count his input as invaluable. Thank you, sir."  - Joseph Bloch, author, "The Golden Scroll of Justice"

If you're writing an RPG, setting, or supplement, you want someone with proven chops that can help bring out the best in it. Who won't bullshit or flatter you, and will put in the time to examine your product carefully, and give creative contributions for bettering it. Not to mention someone with contacts and experience in the hobby scene to get you other help or information you might need.

So, if you're working on something, and want the Pundit on board, send me an email!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Now Out: The Golden Scroll of Justice!

This book has just come out, and let me tell you, it's good! I should know, because I helped make it.

That's right, "The Golden Scroll of Justice" is a project I consulted on, and I think it turned out real well. It is a top-notch try at introducing Chinese fantasy to OSR games.  Officially for Adventures Dark & Deep, it would be very easy to apply to any OSR game.  And (thanks in part to me) you'll find it has a more authentic Chinese-fantasy feel to it than other old school products before.  No 'mishmash of china and japan from bad tv shows' here; Golden Scroll is based on Chinese mythology, fantasy, and a strong influence from Chinese Wuxia.  No Samurai anywhere to be found, thank Buddha!

So yeah, if you like stuff like Arrows of Indra, you should totally go check out Golden Scroll.  I'll note that I don't get any royalties nor was I contractually obliged to make this promotion.  I'm saying this because I genuinely believe its a good product.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Bent Billiard + Image Latakia

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: Telling it Like It Is

You know, normally I'm well-known for my tactful and reserved demeanor. For my diplomatic sense of reserve, and for always holding back when I graciously interact with those I disagree with.

But in this week's Everyjoe, I decide to stop being my usual polite self, and get a little mean with a few people. Namely, the ISIS-enabler spineless leftists, the "kill them all" right-wingers, and the spoiled rotten to the common core 'student activists'.

Please check it out, and share, retweet, +1 etc!


Currently Smoking: Moretti Rhodesian + Gawith's Squadron Leader

Monday, 16 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: Amber Made Easy

It came to my attention today, via a thread, that some people may feel intimidated in playing or running the Amber game due to the idea that the setting and wealth of characters are "difficult" to have to learn about or recognize, that somehow its a game with too much of a setting buy-in.

I've never thought that to be the case, but I can see how for people looking at Amber from the outside (say, those who have not read the novels and don't think they want to), it might look that way.

In fact, Amber can be pretty easily made recognizable. Few gamers or even regular folk I can think of wouldn't get the "lords of order"/"Lords of Chaos" thing.
And thematically, Amber is actually a collection of archetypes; they aren't the Norse pantheon, or the Greco-Roman pantheon, or Celtic myth or folklore, but they're the archetypal concepts behind all of those. Plus, and this is the most important part, they're put into a very modern concept of a dysfunctional 20th century family structure (just like those other pantheons tended to be dysfunctional family units of their own cultures).

So really, Amber is the 20th century North-american Family Pantheon. You have the utterly controlling asshole dad, the senile sort of scary grandpa, the oldest brother who looks at everyone else like they're still infants, the middle brothers who are always fighting with each other for dominance, the brainy bratty sister, the flirty slutty sister, the sister that dropped out of the family and wants nothing to do with them, the tough tomboy sister, the brooding artsy emo brother who might be insane, the socially inept autistic brother who no one likes, the really kind strong but sort of dumb brother everyone likes, the charming manipulative brother that always hits on everyone else's female friends, the charming but utterly unreliable brother who you KNOW is going to screw you over but somehow manages to convince you to "trust him" over and over again, and the baby of the family who's a little attention-desperate delinquent.

Who the hell can't relate to those archetypes? I think pretty well every family has them. If they aren't your brothers or sisters, they're your cousins, or uncles or aunts, or the people you went to school with.

If you remember to focus on the characters, and to showcase their personalities, you'll find that they're utterly recognizable.


(Originally Posted February 18, 2008)

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Everyjoe Sunday: Fixing Islam Edition

In today's Everyjoe article, part of a whole series Everyjoe's doing this weekend after the horrific Paris terror attacks, I point out how we can stop Islamism by changing Islam, if we can just stop listening to the Cowards in our midst.

Please check it out, and if you agree, or disagree for that matter, please comment, and please share it on all social media you can!


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Perique

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Famous Pipe Smokers

Today's famous pipe smokers was one of the most famous pipe smokers of all time.

He was also famous for having some badass crazy-hair.

Oh, and he may have been the greatest scientific mind of the 20th century blah blah blah...

Albert Einstein is pretty much inseparable from pipe smoking as one of its archetypes, in a way shared by very few.  His favorite tobacco was called Revelation, which was a relatively inexpensive mishmash of virginia, latakia, perique and some fruity flavoring.  It was discontinued for many years but about a decade ago started being produced again, largely on nothing more than the weight of the fact that it was Einstein's preferred tobacco.  Unlike most other people in the "really famous pipe-smoker" category, Einstein wasn't famous for any single particular type of pipe associated to him (like MacArthur with his ridiculous super-tall corncob).

Einstein attributed at least some of his intellectual genius to his pipe-smoking, famously saying that “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgement in all human affairs.”  You can't argue with that!

Albert Einstein helped shaped the modern world. And Albert Einstein was definitely a Pipe Smoker.


Currently Smoking: Mastro De Paja Bent apple + Argento Latakia

Friday, 13 November 2015

DCC Campaign Update: Robots and Chickens Edition

In this adventure the PCs were considering whether to return to Highbay with a Dragon horde they'd obtained, or go into the mystery transmat portal leading to somewhere called "Living Habitat 23" in the Ancient tongue.  When all of a sudden:

-They were found by a trio of lost newbie adventurers!  As tends to happen when Bolt-0 declares that "UNKNOWN LIFE FORMS DETECTED" followed by "RECOMMEND WE ENTER STEALTH MODE IMMEDIATELY" all while completely unable to modulate the volume of his voice.

-They discovered that two of the three newbies were immigrants from the Southern Continent, much like the Brahmin and MC Untouchable! It turns out that some guy called the Serpent King has been conquering the small kingdoms of that continent left and right, gaining in power every time he ritually sacrifices a king to his daemon-patron.

-They learned that by a stroke of luck, the third newbie was a beggar who happened to be an expert on the Ancients!  It turns out that in the world of the Last Sun 'studying the ancients' is like a bachelors in unemployment.

-They were surprised by the newbies carrying two live chickens with them in spite of being near starving!  It turns out that the Chickens were sacred to them. The Untouchable's third eye is also sacred. Apparently, on the Southern Continent all kinds of stupid shit is sacred.

-They were stunned by Bolt-O deciding to trust Ack'basha the cleric with a secret! It wasn't the secret that was stunning, it was that at this point anyone would still trust Ack'basha the Cleric.  Apparently "BOLT-0 IS AN ENDLESS OPTIMIST"!

-They discovered that Bolt-0 has a storage compartment in his torso! And it has a small skull in it, the size of a halfling's.. or a child.  The PCs decided not to even ask him about it.

-They learned that Bolt-0's greatest tragedy is that he cannot enter into "conversation mode" with himself.

-They chose to eat the day-old red dragon carcass! Which turned into a great opportunity for the GM to refer to the "dungeon dining" table in his old but awesome "Forward... to Adventure! Gamemasters' Notebook!" (aka "FtA!GN!"), which is full of incredibly useful tables for your gonzo campaigns.

-They are awoken that night by Bolt-0's intruder-alert! And by the fact that two-thirds of the party are suffering from explosive diarrhea from having eaten that dragon meat.

-They discover they are facing a dozen deadly Chan Trolls, the most ravenously violent and mindless trolls in the entire world!

-They are horrified to hear the Chan Trolls literally tearing the Brahmin's elephant to pieces as they feast on his flesh! On the other hand, it's the only thing that saves them since the Trolls are too busy devouring the Elephant to attack the PCs en masse during their moment of gastrointestinal vulnerability.

-They grasp the sophomoric infantile humoristic irony that the Brahmin was always a pretty shitty Brahmin but now he's really a shitty brahmin!

-They defeat the first wave of trolls! But realizing there's no way they're going to beat all of them, decide to rescue Bolt-0 (though none of them are quite sure why they would) and get onto the Transmat to "Living Habitat 23".

-They are transported to a strange retro-future underworld! It isn't Dwarven, as the Dwarf-Wizard confirms, so it seems plausible that they've actually been taken to the site of one of the Ancients' own dwellings!

-They quickly discover that like everything else in the world, Living Habitat 23 has gone to absolute shit!

-There's a computer terminal in the transmat room! But there's no interface. And no apparent way to turn it on. And "BOLT-O DOES NOT HAVE WIRELESS CAPABILITIES".

-They encounter another robot! This one is called "CHEF-9" and when they hear her say "FOODSTUFF DETECTED, ENTERING COOKING MODE", they quickly realize that they are the 'foodstuff'.

-The Brahmin slices off CHEF-9's motor column, having just learned that robots apparently are easily mobility-impaired! But before the PCs can question the robot, the Brahmin keeps right on going into a robot-killing frenzy that everyone agrees is clearly an act of vicarious slaughter to get out his frustrations with BOLT-0.

-The Brahmin declares, satisfied, that he "wants a cigarette" after cutting CHEF-9 into hundreds of tiny bits! Once again proving he's a really shitty Brahmin.

-Bolt-0 makes a startling revelation! It turns out that "ONE PART OF BOLT-O IS A CIGARETTE LIGHTER. BOLT-O DOES NOT WISH TO REVEAL WHICH PART!"

-MC Untouchable tries to play the lute! BOLT-0 opines that "BOLT-0 THINKS YOU ARE MURDERING THAT INSTRUMENT".

-MC Untouchable has a stunning plan! When they need to explore a mysterious kitchen, he ties a rope to himself and tells the group "I'm going in. If you hear me screaming hysterically, pull me back!"

-MC Untouchable encounters a cowardly hideous creature that looks like a cross between a dwarf and Dr.Zoidberg from Futurama! BOLT-0 analyzes the creature and comes to the conclusion of "...BOLT-0 DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK THAT IS."

-The Dwarf-Wizard also fails to identify the crab-dwarf creature!  "This is not in the Book of Grievances".

-There's a huge hole in the floor of the mess hall! The Brahmin warrior decides to be lowered down to the next level on the rope, but just before reaching the ground he discovers the floor is electrified, and barely escapes being fatally fried.  "I have a new respect for life," he says, "It'll probably pass as soon as I have something to kill".

-Ack'basha the Cleric is willing to throw the hideous but clearly harmless crab-dwarf creature to its death to test out the elctric floor! But this isn't a big surprise at this point; they all agree that by now Ack'basha would screw over anyone in his party if he thought it'd help his revenge quest.

-MC Untouchable comes to the conclusion that Ack'basha must have had some very bad experiences to make him how he is now! "Did you have something happen to you when you were a choirboy?" "No, but there was this one time the party had a guy who served the Lord of All Flesh..."

-The group comes to the obvious conclusion that they may have teleported into an Ancients' living complex, but they definitely didn't telport into becoming better people!

-They also realize that for the first time in ages they did not teleport from or into a bathroom! But then they remember that this time they used tech, not magic. Apparently only magical teleportation requires a bathroom as a material component.

-The Brahmin comes to a stunning self-realization! "I'm not inflicting violence on anyone right now, and so I have to spend time thinking instead... I don't like it!"

-The group finds a second mysterious non-functioning turbolift shaft!  But it's full of little bits of glitter that turn out to be people-eating nanites!  They discover the nature of this terrible danger by throwing a defenseless crab-dwarf at the nanite swarm. For once, this wasn't Ack'basha the Cleric's idea; and now he thinks this means he's suddenly not the asshole of the party.

-They manage to capture a sample of the nanites in one of the tupperware boxes from the kitchen pantry! They toss the tupperware at BOLT-0 (who's still on the other side of the hole in the floor) for him to analyze, but he's momentarily confused as to why his party members are throwing storage containers at him.

-They destroy the nanites with Divine Wrath!  Making their way up the shaft they find a lab with some cryo-stasis units, which include one that appears to be occupied by a young girl. One of the newbies suggests they try to test out the correct sequence for safely reversing the stasis process by stuffing the last surviving crab-dwarf in a spare unit. "you're going to fit right into this party", says absolutely everyone in it.

-The Dwarf-Wizard's engineering skills prove able to work the cryo-stasis units!  "Now let's wake up the little girl... everyone be ready to stab her!"

-The young girl awakens! And it turns out she may be the last surviving Ancient in the entire world.  They decide to tell her about the cataclysm, the fact she's been asleep for over ten thousand years, and that her entire species is probably dead.  "she's just a child..." "hey, she needs to grow up sometime!"

-The Ancient Girl (whose name it turns out is Alice; which everyone thinks sound Elven, but she corrects them that Elven sounds like Ancient) demands that they get her to the control room to restore power! She says she wants this to try to 'contact the Bridge Officers', the meaning of which none of the PCs understand. But she also makes the mistake of answering the PCs' question about whether there's an armory; there is, and the PCs decide to go there first instead.

-The Ancient Girl is not impressed with the PCs' spellcasting! "Your magic is an Alpha-Primitive Cargo Cult of our technology".  "I didn't understand any of what she just said but I feel like we should feel offended". She also apparently reveals that before the Disaster, Sezrekan was an AI program to teach children. Cue bad puns about "SezreKHAN Academy".

-The Ancient Girl reveals a shocking fact: apparently, there's no actual difference between Ancients and Humans.  They are the same species, except the 'humans' were "Alpha Primitives" while the Ancients called themselves the "Command Crew".

-The PCs make it down to the Armory Level! There they are forced to fight a Guard Robot. But they kill it off fairly easily.  Unfortunately the vault itself is magically (or Ancient-Technologically) sealed; however, some Divine Aid manages to break it open.  Unfortunately, most of the Armory seems to have been emptied long ago; though they do manage to find a couple of laser swords and vibro-swords, a box of cigars, a .45 pistol, an instant-soup processor, and an Ancient Battlesuit. By the party's standards, its the fucking motherlode.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Oversize + H&H's Beverwyck

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Everyjoe Thursday: Doctor Who is a Libertarian Superhero

It's time for Everyjoe Tuesday Thursday!  It's a special edition, starring everyone's favorite Time Lord!

But I'm betting that a lot of people who really like the show don't get that the Doctor is an icon of Libertarianism.  An idealist, altruistic, optimistic kind of Libertarianism.  Which pretty much makes him the kind of Libertarian that people should see in action, and the kind that Libertarianism desperately needs, even if not all Libertarians think it's what they want.

The Doctor has always been a Libertarian Superhero. Last week, he showed it more than ever.

 "The data that was drained from the girl shows the Doctor's long association with libertarian causes. His entire history is one of opposition to conquest." -Doctor Who, "The Android Invasion"

As always, please share, retweet, like, +1, etc!


Currently Smoking: Neerup Hawkbill + C&D's Crowley's Best

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: The Piria Code

I didn't mean to do two posts about my campaigns in a row, but hell... last night, my "Piria Code" campaign for Unknown Armies came to a close. It wasn't a surprise, the game was slated to run for the set number of weeks, and afterwards we will be starting the Chinese campaign.

Now that the campaign has come to a close, I thought I'd explain a bit about the concept behind the campaign; it revolved around a real-life historical figure and the real-world architecture of Uruguay.

Francisco Piria (1847-1933) was a highly prominent Architect during the golden age of Uruguay's construction boom, who ended up influencing not just the capital city of Montevideo with his incredible structures, but also constructed his very own city/resort of Piriapolis, today one of the most successful beach vacation resorts in the country.

But Piria wasn't just a regular architect. He was a esotericist, and more specifically an alchemist, who believed that sacred geometry put into design practice through his constructions could have real magical effects.

Piria's city, Piriapolis, was originally going to be named Heliopolis, the city of the sun (it was the journalists who named it Piriapolis, originally mocking him, since no one believed he'd be able to make a full-blown city out of a plot of beachside land he bought in the middle of nowhere). It was meant to be a city that was built upon the principles of the age of aquarius; indeed, if you view it aerially, the principle constructions of the city line up to mirror the constellation of aquarius.

The central structure of his city is the Argentino Hotel, which is shaped in such a way that from an aerial view the hotel is in the shape of the astrological symbol for Uranus, and filled with occult symbolism: Dolphins (symbolic of Aquarius), temperance (statuary of young women emptying a vase), the templar cross, floor works of black white and red (the three alchemical colours), and the front garden are graced with statues of gryphons (though these days uruguayans incorrectly refer to them as the "Lions").

Likewise, in Montevideo, Piria constructed a number of significant constructions, including the spectacular fountain of the Plaza Matriz. This fountain is situated in the center of the most significant plaza of the old city of Montevideo. The catholic church had placed their cathedral on one side of the plaza, as the church likes to do to claim their position of prominence over the social polis; the government house was directly on the other side of the plaza. But Piria put the fountain, graced with Masonic symbolism, in the center of the plaza, to symbolize that the masonic fraternity was in the center, the core, of Uruguayan culture.

The fountain is covered with images of occult significance:

Meanwhile, he was also responsible for the construction of the building that currently houses the Uruguayan supreme court; which is filled with a rosacrucian symbolism, images of roses being visible throughout:

And last but by far not least, there is the Palacio Salvo, built not by Piria but based on his concepts; that was for a long time the tallest structure in South America. This building is filled with images of the aquarian age; and the cthonic forces of the sea, including some that might seem more than a little familiar to all us gamers:

Also, for reasons that aren't clear, there's an almost identical slightly smaller copy of the Palacio Salvo in Buenos Aires. It was there that the most famous Tango in the world, the cumparsita (the song you tend to think of when you think "tango") was first performed.

And finally, there's Piria's "church". It was constructed outside of piriapolis on a hill; offered to the curia but they soundly rejected it (and I suspect he knew they would) on account of the occult symbolism that adorns it. Today, the church is virtually in ruins:

A key feature of Piria's church is that it has an eastward-facing Altar, and a central stained glass window (with the symbol of the Rose in the centre) that is set up so that in the spring equinox sunlight will shine directly through the centre of the rose in the window directly onto the middle of the Altar. It is there, Piria taught, that the secret of alchemy can be revealed.

All of these constructions weren't just object lessons in alchemy; they were meant to be practical: you see, Piria believed that there was an approaching apocalypse, and that Uruguay would become a protected place against that future disaster. He created a three-point triangle, between piriapolis, Montevideo, and a third point in the Uruguayan department of Rivera (and, on a plot of land in the middle of nowhere in Rivera, you can find a pillar standing alone, relatively nondescript, with the word "Piria" inscribed on the bottom, as the marker for the third point in his triangle).

So with all this, imagine a game where different great forces in the world struggle with each other to have control over the artifacts and places of power Piria discovered, but only your group of adventurers, brought together by the death of a strange magician that all of you knew (but none of you knew to be a magician) are the only ones who have access to the code that explains just how Piria plans to turn Uruguay into the one place that can survive the end of the universe as we know it.

It was a great campaign, with a lot of unexpected turns; great fun. Now, its on to the Three Kingdoms!


(Originally posted October 20, 2006)