Thursday, August 16, 2018


Logan Knight at Last Gasp has one of the coolest imaginations in this corner of the blogosphere.  Commenter Yami Bakura thanked him for for pointing out how random encounters with those strange monsters - other human beings - can make for interesting gaming and how DMs often squander the potential of an encounter with 1d6 humans. Here is the post: Close Encounters with Humankind

In addition to the main reasons why that post was interesting, my brain got stuck on a small detail (which I do with too many things) and started spinning like a hamster in an exercise wheel.

Logan's sub-table "If It's Not Clear How They're Traveling..." had an entry for "Warpigs"-  I was seized with visions of medieval woodcuts of bristling, armored, over-tusked Panzerschweine with reins of chains and saddles.  I had to channel Trampier, lubok prints, Motörhead's logo, the Black Sabbath song.  I couldn't help stirring the ingredients with MS Paint et al until I got these.

I hope someone who reads this is inspired to make their own, vastly superior pictures of warpigs ridden into battle, used for jousting, limping home after battle, stampeding, taking on all comers in the arena, etc.

MS Paint 3-D combining of logos from Motorhead and Gov't Mule, then film grain effect

The same under paint brush "artistic effect" in Word
And because I can't stop messing with it...  Wish I could get the arm right!
The lubok Baba Yaga vs. the Crocodile had me beat with an awesome warpig image nearly 500 years before I started

Thursday, March 15, 2018

So, I Lashed Out and Wrote Another Adventure...

Baron Hanswurst the "Loose Catapult"
"Just... Just let me stay for a couple more...  Listen, I swear I'll shape it up... 
HOW can you SAY I gotta go when the view is so BEAUTIFUL... 
and SOO-WEET JEE-HOSPHAT! The LADIES are so beautiful here, too..."

"SOMEBODY'S gotta regulate on that fool!  Not me.  Not again.  YOU go talk to him, girl!"

Recently, Bryce Lynch of reviewed Stephen J. Grodzicki's Revelry in Northgate.

Commenters agreed with Bryce that the premise of having to retrieve a drunken nobleman on a jag makes for a lot of potential fun, but urged that the mechanic for finding the noble should be improved: greater player agency, meaningful player choices, etc.

Aaron Fairbrook/Malrex- who recently released the high-quality 39-page Norse blood-sacrifice-inspired adventure The Red Prophet Rises with Prince of Nothing - made some suggestions for this mechanic.  Others, like Edgewise, also brainstormed.

You know when Michelangelo saw a chunk of granite and just HAD to carve it?  Ahem!  So I HAD to make this adventure! 

I didn't buy or read Grodzicki's work at the time to protect myself from inadvertent plagiarism (NOW I can - it costs $1) and I decided, for proper good karma and due diligence, to credit him and provide a link to his piece in my re-think.

Besides the lack of an optimal search-for-the-sauced-noble mechanic, Grodzicki took different aesthetic forks in the road than I would have taken.  He wanted the setting to be vague and generic for DM's greater ease in dropping into their campaigns.  What cultural details there are, are English.  The lost nobleman is Lord Hargreaves.  Maybe that's a subtle shout-out to Arduin, but I decided for my rework to go for a 90% specific flavor-saturated setting and to go FULL CZECH!

I was blessed to visit (1991) and then live in my great-grandparents' country from 1994-1999.  What an amazing culture, history, and people!

Not only positive, but also embarrassing details, were the inspiration for my adventure THE LOST LUSH: Extracting a Carousing Fool Before He Obliterates Peace, Prosperity, and Basic Human Decency.

For my one of my jobs in Prague, Czech Republic, I had to take groups of Americans and other foreigners on cultural orientation tours.  There was this one Virginia Tidewater dude who was an OK guy when he was sober, but after I took the group to a fancy restaurant, he had drunk too much.

"I was raised well," he drawled as I took him aside, "So I HAD to finish a fine dinner with PORT!" 

Time was running out before the group needed to go across the street to the National Theater - holy ground for the Czech people - to take in Dvořák's opera Rusalka, which is about a water nymph from Czech folklore.  The theater was built with materials and funding contributed from Czechs in all corners of the Czech Lands in 1881.  This was part of the National Revival, in which determined Czechs revived their language and culture after the ethnic-German-dominated centuries in which Czech-language schools were closed, Czech books were burned, and Czech as a language was suppressed and dying out.

So the American nudnik assures us earnestly that he will behave and we have him drink coffee.  We all enter the theater, get seated, the opera starts.  So far, so good.

At the 1st intermission, I seek out young Foghorn Leghorn to see how he's doing.  He is firmly in apologetic, trying- to-behave mode.  He seems in clearer condition.  He says he wants to find the restrooms.  That's not a bad idea.  We go off in search of them and push through heavy doors onto the outdoor balcony overlooking the city.  A gorgeous panorama of the lights of Prague on a summer night is the backdrop for gorgeous young women of Prague to elegantly drape themselves, equipped with bottled water and plunging-neckline opera dresses, against the railings.

I say: "Well, this sure ain't the restroom.  We'd better hurry up and find it before intermission ends."

Dude exclaims: "But it's such a gorgeous night!"

He shines the full force of his huge-mouthed smile directly onto a pair of smoky-eyed Czech Aphrodites in front of us: "And such a gorgeous view..."

I winced inwardly as the young, lubricated hybrid of Rico Suave and Colonel Sanders tried to chat them up, despite their limited English.  Reminded Dude we had better find the restroom so we (but more urgently he) wouldn't soon be in difficulties during an endurance-test aria.  Told the women in Czech (it sounds weird, but this is the way to politely excuse yourself to hit the facilities): "It was very nice to meet you, but pardon us, we must jump up."

Smoke-eyed neo-flapper #1 quips: "Takže, odskočte..." ("Well, jump up, then...")

At that point, I made a poor decision.  I let someone who was an even poorer decision-maker at that time assure me that he'd catch up and find the restroom. He swore up and down he wouldn't be late back into the theater when the bell would signal the end of intermission. 

Minutes later, the bell sounds, the National Theater lights darken, velvet-muffled doors shut.  Dude isn't in his section and his seat, and so I sit down in mine for Act II of the opera.  Maybe he took too long and is waiting out Act II in the lobby, I reassured myself.

 Then, awful sounds punctuated with bawling in English:


Long story a little shorter: The chicks had abandoned him out on the balcony.  He got confused.

I told the other members of the group to meet us on the front steps outside after the opera.  Dude and I got cheap coffee, loosened our ties, sat on the stone steps to wait.


Ruthless DMs: How cruel are you to your players?  Do you dare to give errant drunk Baron Hanswurst von Possenreisser a Foghorn Leghorn accent!


But check for yourself:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The National Obsession as Observed by Outsiders

From John Maus - Touchdown - Directed by Jennifer Juniper Stratford

Is it good or bad that what I want to write about just now has nothing to do with RPGs, except maybe Blood Bowl?  Thus decays thematic unity.  Blog entropy ensues.

Making excuses for not posting in a long time is a venerable cliche.  The second most common excuses (behind "I've been swamped at work") are health-related.  Sometimes they are written up in a humorous way, but more often they are serious and the reader who comes to the blog for entertainment comes away that day with a sincere (and not-entertaining) pang of sympathy.

There is a lot of potential humor in the cruddy condition I have not borne with very good humor since Christmas, but instead I'll just go into what I would have written about earlier if I hadn't been afflicted with this dumb thing.

My hometown has been hosting the Superbowl.  We're mopping up from it now.

Later today I'll call my friend to see how her significant other's idea to rent out his downtown condo to out-of-town strangers and football fans worked out.  They shacked up and hid out together in a distant neighborhood far away from the action for a week.  Worst case scenario: he has to replace all the broken or missing stuff and scrape up dried vomit from the remains of their partying. Best case scenario: they were genteel middle-aged Patriots fans and not prone to self-medicating.  In any case, this was a clever way to make money.

So, below is a take on America's national obsession from John Maus a college philosophy professor, composer, lo-fi musician, singer, and friend of Ariel Pink.  Even though he is from Austin, MN, he channels a really alien, outsider point of view. Director Jennifer Juniper Stratford adds her own icy weird elements to the Gesamtkunstwerk of the video. 

As astute commenter ThrashingMadPL on Youtube put it:
"It's like in circa 1981 some West German experimental artist came to the US, and got inspired by the culture of the natives." 

KLICKEN SIE bitte hier unten!

John Maus - Touchdown

This is just some of his latest work.  I really like his 2011 album We Must Become Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.  Here are some of the rest of my favorites, which completely garden-path-divert away from any tenuous unifying Superbowl theme I was trying to set up with this post.

John Maus - Navy Seals

Like a lost Joy Division song, but with newer synthesizers- Dig that bass and the reverb-ed low singing!

John Maus - Quantum Leap

Would pair well with a chilled white wine and a chaser of the Flamin' Groovies' "Shake Some Action":

John Maus - No Title (Molly)

Just a pretty, echo-ey, hypnagogic tune:

John Maus - Do Your Best

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Rye Of Sauron

The Eye of Sauron:
koltergeist - Imgur - 9-27-2015

The Rye of Sauron:

Photo by Max Blachman-Gentile of some of the bread he bakes for Torst, Brooklyn, NY, swiped from a Bloomberg article his bread is featured in, which makes ZERO mentions of the Dark Lord of Mordor. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Spells dreamed by machines

The last time on this desolate, near-endless path you saw a face without a muzzle or a snout or a beak was three nights back.  Cold mist alternates with chilling drizzle. The terrain has become very rough, but there still is a trace of a beaten trail to follow up the mountain.

The weathered wooden door of an unmortared fieldstone hut built against the cliff face creaks open and the priests emerge.  They are dour and unsmiling, but they offer you a dry sheepskin to throw over your shivering shoulders.  They remind you of the necessary preparations before consulting the oracle:

Fast for 3 days, perform the ritual ablutions in the mountain stream each day at sunrise, whisper the sacred palindromes in nine sets of nine repetitions into the darkness after nightfall.

There is a narrow cleft in the side of the mountain; the stream trickles forth from the bottom of the cleft and down the mountain.  At the top of the cleft, between boulders slimy with lichen, a hole only as big as a man's shoulders leads into the mountain.  Water rushes and echoes somewhere inside.

Are eldritch whispered words and phrases tangled in the echoes?

After three days of shivering, cold washing, and palindromes in the dark, you are ready for the oracle. The priests cense you with poppy and sulfur, and slide you, feet first, on your back, across the slick boulders toward the small dark hole. You stretch your feet just inside, feel them dangle over a wide void.  The moving water sounds and scraps of voices are loud as you lie on the stone so close to the hole.

Something- not human hands- yanks you swiftly and entirely into the cold, wet void.

Twenty minutes later, some force in the mountain abruptly spits you out of the hole again: wet,  blue, babbling, gasping, sobbing, shivering, shrieking.  The priests have been waiting nearby, and cover you in the warm, warm sheepskin.  They listen intently as your raw, nonsensical ululations gradually resolve into weird sentences, many of them palindromes and rhymes.  They have trained themselves to remember and reproduce verbatim what pilgrims bring back from the oracle.

When you are calm enough, and can finally stop yourself from vomiting words, they will hand you a bowl of broth, and begin to tell you what you said when you emerged from the mountain, and what their interpretations are.


More to read about this ritual (minus my fictional details) is in Tony Perrottet's excellent Route 66 AD, which in turn follows Pausanias's Description of Greece book, which was the 2nd Century Lonely Planet guide for early tourists/pilgrims emboldened by the relatively safe travel conditions of the Pax Romana.

Speaking of oracles and interpreting the results...

A scientist with a great sense of humor is blogging about her experiments with training "neural networks, a type of machine learning imitate human datasets."  In more of her words: "Letting neural networks be weird."  She inputs human-created data like recipes, My Little Ponies, and D&D spells and the machines twist these things into really weird and off-the-wall humorous results.

I found out about this scientist from reading Swamp of Monsters, whose author Nate L. does an excellently poetic elaboration of spell descriptions and effects from the neural networks' spell names, for example:


Duration: 8 hours
Area: Up to a 50 foot cube

The lelent warder appears as if lit by moonlight. It generally takes the form of falling dust, though sometimes it will be a cat that stalks the area, and sometimes will be a young boy who watches carefully. The spell is simple and cruel [...]"

For more, visit the Swamp

Monday, November 20, 2017

Bibliophilia and Logophilia: SUPERGEEKED on Books and Words

Thank you Capri23Auto at Pixabay dot com!

I have just crawled out from savoring a short excursion into fun words, and thought others might enjoy it, too.

Jer Thorpe, the current Innovator-in-Residence for the Library of Congress, made a collection of words with beautiful sounds and meanings, and they all have to do with books, which are two of my restrained-with-difficulty obsessions.

I have to admit, I'm not as good or persistent a reader of the contents of books as I could be.  My grandparents gave me bookshelves worth of cloth and leather books, but it's like swimming through oatmeal reading many 1800s books. My fetish instead is for the binding, the covers, the typefaces.

A word game which can make adventure seeds, poetry, doggerel or dungeons out of phrases:
FMOD's Take on Six Word Dungeons

My previous posts gushing about words:
Close to the Longest Day of the Year
Words or Names I Like for their Sound
Raiding Pharmacies for their Names

I wrote the Statues adventure around a city-wide hunt for books (and statues... and treasure).

If I had time and more treasure in real life, I would take letterpress and bookbinding classes and see if I could create a Deluxe edition of Statues with better illustrations and design.  That might appeal to a different customer than somebody who wants a practical, no-frills pdf to run at the table.  (Read this in your skull with a clipped Received Pronunciation Bond villain voice, preferably while sitting in a wing chair, stroking a fluffy purebred cat:) "Certain...wealthy European connoisseurs would pay large sums of money...for the privilege!"  I have no illusions about making more than beer money, but it would be fun to be able to offer some people pdfs, and to offer to other people- bibliophile weirdos like me- solid hardcover books which don't have the same aesthetic as most of the stuff out there. 

I should take a closer look at Red and Pleasant Land and some of James Raggi's experiments with releasing lavishly illustrated high-quality books, despite my disagreement with some of the aesthetic choices (but they wouldn't agree with mine - more power to 'em!)

I applaud Jim Raggi IV on his bibliophile interest in publishing books you can hold in your hand.  He admitted that it's a huge hassle to print, store, and ship physical books, but said that he did it because he loves printed physical high-quality stuff.  He advised others to just get their stuff out there, just to have it finished and see if the somebody likes it, in pdf and not to mess with paper books if they don't have this proclivity: Interview with Matt Finch in 7 parts - some of which have what I'm referring to

OK!  Here, finally, rewarding your patience in reading through my digressions, is the article that I liked so much:

My Sammelband has Frisket-Bite: A Short Glossary of Delightful Library Terms

Monday, November 13, 2017

STATUES review is up at!

My facial expression right now is the opposite of this.
Check out the STATUES review at!
If other bloggers want free copies to review, email me at machuvmajmn at gmail.