Monday, February 27, 2012

Art Fuel for Mythopoesis in Big D

Readers of this blog know that find art a major source of inspiration for the sub-creation of secondary worlds.  There are two local opportunities I want to highlight for locals or folks who will be visiting the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex during the upcoming months.

The first is a SMU Meadows Museum exhibit of 15th century Portuguese tapestries featuring scenes from the Bible, mythology, and a Portuguese conquest of North Africa.

The second is a photography exhibit at the Trammell Crow Collection of Asian Art of Shinto shrines.

I'll be hitting these in the coming months, and will update on what I find at these exhibits to fuel the mythopoet within.

Now for some art inspiration that you don't have to leave your computer for!  Here is an artist that may be new to you if you are unfamiliar with past volumes of the Pathfinder AP, Planet Stories, or Victoriana, check out the line art of Sara Otterstätter.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where are the Missing Winners?

I still haven't heard from all the winners in the Book Giveaway.  Check below and if you won, email me ASAP with your postal address and book preferences.  Thanks!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

49-54 = One Gross of Good Oriental Fantasy

The wallpaper from the JR1/AP49 cover by Wayne Reynolds


Paizo's Pathfinder Adventure Path subscription is, dollar-for-dollar, one of the best buys on the market today for the fantasy gamer, crammed with art, setting material, a bestiary, and serial fiction along with the adventure itself.  On top of that, your subscription gets you discounts and a free PDF in addition to the print volume.  The just completed AP has a real treat inside when it comes to the fiction.*

When I heard that Dave Gross was penning the fiction for volumes 49-54, Jade Regent, giving us a prequel to his Master of Devils novel, I knew that I had to set the volumes aside and wait until the final copy to read them.  (Yes, marvel at my six months of Iron Will.)  Sometimes I can wait a month between episodes and sometimes I can read them on-screen instead of waiting for the USPS, but this time I knew I had to read them all together in one sitting and off the sumptuous pages put together by Paizo's excellent art department, led by Sarah Robinson, as I held their slick, sensual, eye-dazzling goodness in my greedy pickers.  Bloody, flavorful, and fast -- I can still feel the soy/mustard/MSG sizzle on my tongue from Teppanyaki master Gross throwing some of everything you want on the griddle and stirring in his heroic duo with his usual aplomb.  Set in Minkai before the events of Master of Devils, this will satisfy your yen for some Japanese analogue adventure before setting sail for Golarion's China analogue.  If you are wanting something to help tide you over until Gross' next novel or are just looking for fun oriental fantasy, you've found it.  Follow master and man (and dog) as they are confronted with a mystery that stands between them, their mission, and their return home.  The recasting of classical detective and noir conventions in a fantastic East is a formula that I loved in the novel, and that I love here as well.  In short space, Gross does for samurai, geisha, ninja, and yakuza what he did for three varieties of Chinese cinema in Master of Devils.

Fire Yai by Jim Nelson

For a recent interview of Dave Gross with a rather different view of his characters than my own, head over to Flames Rising.

PLEASE NOTE: The winners of the Follower Drive/Book Giveaway have been announced and need to respond by email ASAP.  See HERE!


* This feature is called "The Pathfinder's Journal," and is written by a different author in each six-volume AP.

Friday, February 24, 2012

CONTEST RESULTS ARE IN!

The dice have spoken!  Thanks to everyone who joined the blog or commented.  The people listed at the bottom of the post have won!  Please send me an email (see my Profile to the right) and let me know what books you are interested in order, and I will do my best to get everyone something that they would rather have (but no promises as to any particular book!).  The sooner you respond, the better your chances.  You have until Sunday night to reply, otherwise, I will have to roll again on Monday to replace you.  I'm curious to see what people choose!

  1. Snikle/Matt Johnson
  2. Bob
  3. Gozuja
  4. FaWTLycouple
  5. David
  6. Mike

A Giant Question


The classic G series of adventure modules, Against the Giants, which is currently getting an update for 4e in Wizards' ill-named, Warrens of the Stone Giant Thane, made me think of Wolfgang Baur's Fortress of the Stone Giants, which, though set in an entirely different story line, had the G series as its initial inspiration.  This made me wonder, has anyone reset Pathfinder AP #4 in the arc of Against the Giants?  If so, I'd be very curious to hear what was done and how it went.  (I don't care so much what rules version you used, but what narrative adjustments or bridges were necessary.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mail Call!


I was pretty busy yesterday, so today I get around to the mail and, lo and behold, it was a great day for mail, thanks to Paizo and New Big Dragon: a veritable Oriental Postal Adventure!  (Goodies pictured above.)  Thanks go especially to New Big Dragon, since his was an act of pure generosity.  And check out that attention to detail on the envelope.  You've got to respect that.  Of course, now I wish I had a logo for my blog so it could be put on cool stuff like buttons and envelopes and such.

Thanks to the latest Ramblers for following the blog.  Reminder: there is only one day left to enter the contest for a free fantasy paperback.  I hope you all are having a good end of February and a good Year of the Dragon so far.  Here, the winter is disappointingly mild.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

"Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."

One of the greatest facts of human existence is mortality.  Our mortal nature touches our yearning and our dreaming; our loving and hating, our creating and praying.  Nothing human completely escapes the cold clay. Any mythopoesis that does not come, as far as it must within the limits of its art, to grips with the finite end of humanity is so far incomplete, imperfect, just as is any life that does not come to grips with it.  This Ash Wednesday, I wish you nothing that I do not wish for myself.  Death.  And life.


ASH WEDNESDAY by T. S. Eliot (1930)

I

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

II

Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained
In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness. And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying
Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.
Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.

III

At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.
At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.
At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.
Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.

IV

Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs
Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos
Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing
White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.
The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word
But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken
Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew
And after this our exile

V

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice
Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
O my people.

VI

Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn 
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings 
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth 
This is the time of tension between dying and birth 
The place of solitude where three dreams cross 
Between blue rocks 
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away 
Let the other yew be shaken and reply. 

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated 
And let my cry come unto Thee. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Family Gaming with Pathfinder Beginner Rules


What happens if, after you take your brother-in-law and your nephews through the Beginner Box dungeon, you say, "Well, they're in Sandpoint already, I just want to pick up with an adventure in Sandpoint.  Hasn't Paizo published a good adventure based in Sandpoint?"  So you pick up Rise of the Runelords: Burnt Offerings.*  And you can't be bothered to convert anything in the volume from 3.5 to PFB that isn't already statted in the PFBB Game Master's Guide, so you just fly with it as is, concentrating more on the narrative structure and making adjustments and rulings on the fly as needed.  I'll tell you what happens: An awesome Sunday of gaming.

Now, it takes some thought.  Burnt Offerings is an adult adventure, and I dialed a number of elements back to be appropriate for 5/6th graders.  It still worked beautifully.

Minerva (Merisiel reskinned), my brother-in-law's character, is getting obsessed on a by a certain young nobleman from Magnimar, much to my nephews' delight.  The dwarven cleric of Gorum successfully downed the water from the Hagfish's tank, to great acclaim.  The handsome elf fighter was tricked into smooching a certain General Store owner's amorous daughter and getting caught.  Oh, to see the sixth grade boy wracking his brains and getting help from his dad over how to come out of the situation all in one piece, while he blushed furiously!  And they're making plans, and buying better weapons, and negotiating with NPCs.  And, of course, killing goblins.  Lots of goblins.  Okay, they were 2nd level after the dungeon, so I threw even more goblins at them, making them really earn that heroic status.  A combination of smart planning and great dice rolls made long fights have sudden, dramatic victories that rewarded the boys for slogging it out with the maniacal little pyros.  Above all, Paizo's reimagination of goblins continues to be a hit with new audiences -- everybody loved them.  They are, as Las Vegas has it, just the right amount of WRONG.

Also, a shout-out to Callous Jack: I finally made your paper minis and used them along with the BB pawns.  Even if I still cut, fold, and glue at about the same skill level as I did in second grade, they are fun, handy, and economical.

So, this Mythopoeic Monday, I wish you all happy play. 


* Still available in PDF if you can't find the out-of-print paper, but the entire Adventure Path is being republished, in hardback, in an updated version.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Contest and Follower Drive!


Starting today and ending Friday the 25th at sundown in the Central timezone, I'm looking to break the 100 follower barrier, bring new folks into the Mythopoeic Rambling readership and spread the word, and celebrate one year of blogging.  Every new follower will be added to the list of entrants, and I will roll dice to choose the winners.  It's a way of passing some possessions on and sharing with you as so many of you have shared with me.  The tokens of my appreciation are the books pictured above.  So if you have not been publicly following the blog as a Mythopoeic Rambler, do so now!

"What is that?" asks you faithful 98.  "What about us?"  All my current followers need to do to enter is make a comment on this post.  Of course any suggestions, criticisms, compliments, or questions will be seriously entertained and appreciated. 

We'll see how this first contest goes.  I may immediately follow it up with another, as I get some more things together.

Books, R-L/T-B: Dray Prescott 1: Transit to Scorpio, 33: Witches of Kregen; Snow White, Blood Red ed. by Datlow & Windling; Raymond Feist's Magician books Apprentice and Master; Yarbo's Path of the Eclipse.  They are all in decent reading condition (the glare on the last book makes it look otherwise than it is).  The two Prescott books are not easy to find and especially deserve a good home!

Friday, February 17, 2012

LaForce to be Reckoned with


Diesel LaForce now has a Kickstarter project to reproduce his Deities & Demigods art.  Very cool!
Check it out and support one of our original illustrators.

EDIT: There appears to be a pretty full resume of his work here.  Let me know if there is a better one out there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kevin Andrew Murphy's Tarantella

Illustration by Carlos Villa.


Well, not exactly.  But after Paris pointed this out to me in the comments, I've got to recommend Kevin Andrew Murphey's Pathfinder fiction, "The Perfumer's Apprentice," which reached an important chapter today, apparently in keeping with my mythopoeic spidey senses.  Give it a read by clicking the link -- you won't be disappointed.

Grimm's "Tarantella"

Sexy Spinnetod
Played by Amy Aker
You've seen my posts on the spider-woman, so you know I was happy to see that the latest episode of NBC's Grimm (S1E11) includes a new monstrous shape-shifter, called the spinnetod, in a way that fits the folk source material.  I worry that the show feels like it might be stalling a bit, but thrilled to see this addition to Grimm's stable of Wesen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Exaltation of the Flame Princess


James Edward Raggi IV has been appearing in another round of podcasts lately, hawking his Lamentations of the Flame Princess WFRPG: Grindhouse Edition.  This was a sign to us of what was to come.  It is clear to me that, instead of blowing all his profits from Lamentations on his rock-and-roll lifestyle as I'm sure we all assumed he had, he was actually playing the long game, bribing his way onto the Adventure Time special Valentine's Day episode. If you haven't seen the episode yet, I won't spoil too much: in "Incendium," the Flame Princess (spoilers at link) threatens to displace Princess Bubblegum as Finn's love interest.

Very devious way to insinuate your game into the American market and get around all the not-for-the-kiddies issues, JERIV.  Happy Valentine's Day, you filthy animal.


Also, check out Randomistics' fan art.

Paizo's Planet Stories Catalog


I recently gave a plug to the Planet Stories line of novels.  I want to follow up on it for today's Tomeful Tuesday by providing a catalog of the line so far.  They are listed below by author, and linked to the novel's page on Paizo for convenient consultation or purchase.  The collection stands at 33 volumes, and the release of further titles is being held in abeyance while publisher Erik Mona decides on a new strategy for the line.  I know while he works out what that new strategy is he has my thanks and well-wishes along with many other fans' for the service he (and Sutter and Watters) has done for the genre and the many hours of pleasure he has provided readers in these classy and classic volumes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Finding Adventures for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons



So, Wizards of the Coast is reprinting the core rule books for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.  If you are a new player to the first edition of the Advanced version of the world's oldest role-playing game, you might be looking to find some adventures published for it that are still in print.  This link will take you to a list of all the adventures compatible with AD&D1e that are available in print or in pdf.  And some of these modules are even free!  Check out who is offering ongoing support for the game that most of us played for all those years, take advantage of the fruits of their years of experience, and reward them for keeping them faith.

If you are not looking for this resource or none of this is news to you, you might be a blogger who could stand to be reminded of the effort to spread the word.  Thanks for stopping by, and happy Mythopoeic Monday.



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: The Woman in Black


James Watkins' The Woman in Black opened last weekend, coming in second in terms of sales, but the reviews do not seem to me as good as they should be.  This strengthens my impression that many movie goers, unfortunately, do not want genuine, classic horror.  I do, however, and I am relieved when a film I was hoping would not be the typical horror drek rises above the level of crap.  In this case, the film adaptation of  Susan Hills' novel that had gone on to an incredibly successful life on the stage and then a made-for-TV version, does far more than that.  As a period piece, as a ghost story, as a film, it succeeds on every level.  Acting, writing, sets, costumes, special effects, and cinematography -- all excellent.  I wish I could remember more about the sound, but the fact that it faded seamlessly into the experience is probably a good sign.  Scary, psychologically sophisticated and with a depth of thought that lingers after the viewing experience, this deserves to stand with the best ghost films made so far.

Now, to the Hammer in the middle of the room: Yes, Hammer Films came back in 2010 with Let Me In,  the English language remake of Let the Right One In.  It is heresy with many of my friends, but I liked Hammer's version better than the Swedish original.  Well, now with The Woman in Black, they are not just back, but they have outdone their historic legacy of horror and produced an atmospheric work of art, a tour-de-force of dread with moments of genuine fear -- not to be confused with mere shock or disgust.  Everyone involved is to be congratulated.

If you are the kind of film fan who is not bored by the pace it takes to build real horror, then reward yourself with this dark feast.  Yes, fans of the book, there are some changes so let the film stand on its own feet.  I, however, found the questions raised by the film's ending to provide the lingering pleasure due to reflections on human nature and the human condition.  Longing, grief, dread, fear, hate, revenge, and, yes, love.  The more I think about it, the more I suspect that there is an implied theology behind the film, the tension between two interpretations of the ending, and the interpretation that I think is most likely within the confines of the story, aside from a structural element that makes some viewers choose the other interpretation.  And the more likely interpretation also is, in my view, the strongest.  Very abstract, I know, but I'm not going to spoil here.  It's worth working it out on your own.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Demonblood Sword

Paris thinks the above looks like a Nabassu.


Our friends at Adventure Time inspired me once again, and so I issued an Obscure challenge to guest blogger and FoMR Paris Crenshaw.  (Another great episode, by the way, Adventure Time crew.)  Those navy men don't fool around with this sort of thing: he quickly responded on his blog.  He's even tweaked it in response to some comments I gave him.  So for a fully written-up Pathfinder version of Finn's family sword (easily converted, if necessary), the demonblood sword that his adopted father apparently made with blood he stole from a demon, head over to Paris blog (linked above).  Also, I don't think you can comment on Paris' page, so feel free to leave comments for him here.  I like the flavor you have achieved, Paris, but with a drawback as big as a 5% chance that the demon will appear to demand its blood back every time the sword is drawn, I wonder if the power or benefits of the sword ought to be greater.

I will be curious to see if the demonblood sword, AKA the family sword, continues to appear in future episodes.  If so, we may learn more of its powers and Paris can look forward to further pesterings.  :-)


Will this be the main sword for Finn the rest of the season?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gary's Gord the Rogue Books


I recently finished the first six Gord books for the first time.  With a couple of complaints, I have enjoyed them, and they have probably done more to fire my interest in the Greyhawk setting than anything other than Anna B. Meyer's maps.  In the case of the books, it made more interested in the Free City of Greyhawk than any other locale.  It's a shame that only the first two books got Elmore covers (although, that is not how Gord should look next to Deirdre Longhand, the cavalier from Hardby) and that the final five books got stuck with those poor quality illustrations.

The picture above shows the preferred reading order that I have arrived at.  Now, should I acquire and read the seventh and final book?  Or, knowing the destiny or Greyhawk and the reason for that destiny, am I happier leaving well enough alone and stopping with book six?

I know my readers know a LOT more about Greyhawk than I do (going back to an embarrassing episode with my very first AD&D character), so I am curious to hear any specific advice or reactions that you have for me about the books, or about the setting of Greyhawk in general.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dad's Dungeon


Adventure Time sent Finn and Jake into their second dungeon in tonight's new episode.  It's as I said when this cartoon first came out: It's the most D&D cartoon.  EV-AR.

Tales from the Junior Front: Playing Pathfinder with my Daughters

As Theo mentioned in a previous blog post, he and I share an interest in teaching kids to play tabletop RPGs. I have twin daughters, who are currently nine years old. I’ve been playing RPGs with them off and on since they were six. I would have liked to start them off earlier, but they weren’t quite ready. They have minor attention deficit issues and a few other challenges, including mild cerebral palsy, due to the fact that they were born almost three months early.

While they are miraculously free of the worst difficulties that they could have, I have to take their current challenges into account when we do our gaming. Although I’d love to say that my kids are way advanced and are already able to play a full game of Pathfinder, even though the suggested age for the Beginner Box set is 12 and up, the fact is, they aren’t quite ready for the kinds of games we adults tend to run. Playing RPGs with them has taught me a lot about running games for younger players. It's probably no surprise that Theo and I aren’t the only ones interested in this topic.

During PaizoCon 2011, some friends and I had the opportunity to sit down with Lisa Stevens, co-owner of Paizo, and Ryan Dancey. Since playing Pathfinder with my kids has been a longtime goal for me, I wanted to pick their brains about designing things for the Beginner Box that my daughters could play. Ryan told us that Wizards of the Coast had actually commissioned a psychological study to determine the age at which an “average kid” could pick up and play a game of D&D. It turns out that the “12 and up” age suggestion is based on the fact that Pathfinder, D&D and similar games require skills and understanding of concepts that younger kids just haven’t developed, yet. I have found that to be mostly true for my kids.


Although I started my kids out on other games, I’m a Pathfinder fan, at heart, so I played a couple of sessions with my daughters using the full Pathfinder RPG rules. When the Pathfinder Beginner Box came out, I jumped at the opportunity to use a simpler version of the rules to help the girls get the hang of things a little easier. Over the course of several sessions, I’ve learned even more about gaming with my daughters. These experiences fit with the ones Lisa and Ryan were talking about at PaizoCon.

While individual experiences will vary, the following generalities are lessons I’ve learned that many adults can use when preparing and running games for young players.

Patience
First, and foremost, playing games with kids requires even more patience than playing with adults. Every game master knows that players are the most unpredictable and challenging aspect of running RPGs—the dice have nothing on a bunch of players when it comes to generating something random. While that element of uncertainty is part of the fun and challenge of being a GM, in the case of kids, that randomness can be frustrating, because most kids won’t limit themselves to what’s going on in the game.

The party might be in a dragon’s lair, preparing to assault the beast’s inner sanctum, when one player decides that her PC needs to go back to town (which is miles away), so that she can buy a bouquet of flowers to try and make the dragon friendly toward them. Or, she may simply decide that her character wants to go off and find her long-lost brother who mysteriously disappeared after the great battle that killed their parents—nevermind the fact that this is not a part of her character history that you’ve ever heard about or that it has nothing to do with your carefully-crafted plot. You need to be able to work in a variety of “unorthodox” solutions to problems while also keeping them on track toward a current objective, all without losing your temper. (I would like to say that I’ve always managed to do that...but I would be lying if I did.)

You’ll also need that patience to deal with more frequent rules questions and to explain in greater detail how a character takes an action, often more than once. Kids aren’t going to notice or remember all the nuances of how the rules work and they’re going to make dumb tactical choices, because they aren’t paying attention, don’t know the rules well enough, or just think it will be more fun to do things a different way.

It’s tempting in these situations to correct such poor decisions or tell kids what to do. But forcing a young player to change her mind can backfire. It slows the learning process and can even cause the player to rely on you for even more decision-making in the future. Even worse, it can make the game less fun for them, because they feel like they are only allowed to play it the way you want them to.

You need to be able to let them make mistakes to learn through consequences, but at the same time, you don’t want to be too harsh, because that’s not fun, either. If possible, let them succeed despite a poor tactical decision—maybe not all the time, but enough that they aren’t always frustrated. Kids will learn over time, but the overall goal is to have fun, not become tactical prodigies in elementary school.

Characters, not Tactics
The fact is that not only are most kids not aware of the principles of tactical combat, most kids don’t even care about them. When I asked my daughters what their favorite things about playing Pathfinder are, the unanimous response was, “talking to the people and making new friends.” For them, in-character social interaction is at the core of a fun roleplaying game—and it applies in every situation, not just when you head back to town to get your next assignment.

A good example of this came up when we played the adventure in the Pathfinder Beginner Box set. The girls wanted to talk to everything. Even when they clearly understood that they weren’t going to be able to talk their way out of a battle with the creatures in a specific room, they wanted to carry on a conversation while they were fighting. They wanted to hear what the goblins had to say or throw taunts at the monsters.

I had grown to expect that from my kids, with whom I have played other games like Faery’s Tale Deluxe. I enjoy games like these, because I can “do voices” and play characters in a big, exaggerated way without feeling silly. I know I look silly when I do it, but when I’m doing it for my kids and they’re laughing and having a good time, I don’t feel self-conscious, as I would if I tried the same thing with my regular adult gaming group.

The point is, when playing RPGs with kids, you should focus on what the characters are doing and saying. Give them funny voices and mannerisms. Make them memorable because of how they behave, not because of the special abilities they have or how deadly the combat was. Kids will engage more if they can actually interact with a dungeon’s denizens. While this is true for all age groups, really, it’s especially important for kids.

Combat and Victory
When I asked my daughters what their least favorite thing about Pathfinder is, both of them responded with, “Missing.” In other words, they don’t like it when their attacks miss. And I can’t say I blame them. I mean, who does like failure? But for kids, not being able to succeed at every task can be a real obstacle.

In that study that Ryan Dancey told me about, one of the things WotC learned is that kids need to be old enough to accept that failing a roll is okay. Until they reach a certain maturity level, kids will get stuck trying to unlock a specific door, even if they don’t need to get through that door to explore the rest of the dungeon. If they can’t make the roll to open that lock, then they can’t proceed with the rest of the adventure.

Similarly, younger kids have a hard time with the idea that their attacks won’t always hit. One of my daughters specifically pointed out that she wished combat was more like a battle in her Pokemon game on the Nintendo DS. In those battles, the attacks always hit, and it’s just a matter of whether your attacks are stronger and your health is greater than your opponent’s. Understanding that mentality can go a long way to helping your kids understand combat in a game like Pathfinder. Call on that patience that we just talked about, ignore any potential whining, and gently explain that they will get to try again next time.


That doesn’t mean that I’m going to start letting my daughters succeed at every attack roll. Part of learning to play any game is learning to accept that the rules work a certain way. That goes hand in hand with learning some basic tactics to keep from getting killed in every encounter.

What it does mean is that, when running Pathfinder battles for young kids, you need to give them straightforward scenarios with plenty of opportunities to succeed. While older players may be able to appreciate the frustration of having their enemies escape to fight another day, most kids aren’t going to find that satisfying. (It was for that reason that I chose to let them defeat the evil dragon in our adventure, rather than have it escape. The dragon would have been smarter to fly away, but the girls would have been disappointed.)

Objectives: Sometimes Railroading is Good
One of the biggest challenges in playing RPGs with my girls, and probably with a lot of kids, relates to that anecdote about leaving the dungeon in the middle of an adventure. We all know kids can get distracted pretty easily, and not just kids with attention deficits. While a short attention span may not always send your PCs off to far away lands, it can prevent them from making progress through a single location.

Even if a kid is old enough to understand that a locked chest doesn’t have to be opened for them to proceed on with the adventure, she might just as easily get fixated on an otherwise unimportant feature you’ve placed in your dungeon—something you just thought would add ambience and interest—and try heading down a path that has nothing to do with her original mission.

When this happens, you should consider working to change your story on the fly to incorporate the new train of thought, because doing so will make the game feel more interactive and tells the player that she can interact with the game world in a more organic way.

Alternatively, you can avoid complex back stories or intricate details that don’t help the characters focus on the current adventure. That amazing mural on the wall that depicts an ancient civilization at the height of its power may be a great detail about who originally built the dungeon and why, but it also might send the player characters off in search of the powerful artifact in the picture, rather than deeper into the dungeon where the current resident is waiting for them.

Tools and Props
I have to admit that one of the other reasons I love playing games at home with my kids is that it allows me to use a lot of the cool props and miniatures I’ve been collecting over the years. I have tons of miniatures, Paizo Flip-Maps and Map Packs, and an awesome Magna-Map combat mat by Dungeon Life and Alea Tools’ magnetic markers that go great with them. All of those things have found new purpose now that my daughters are playing, and I look forward to sharing those items so my daughters can use them for their own games at some point in the future.

In the meantime, those tools provide a cool hook for them. They love moving their miniatures around the board, and a well-made, full-color map helps them visualize the scenes they are in. The stand-up pawns in the Beginner Box are a great asset, too, providing pictures of their enemies and allies for them to visualize while they interact, especially when that enemy is a cool new monster they’ve never seen. These details make it easier for them to appreciate combat encounters more, which is important when they’d often rather be talking to the shopkeep.

Some of these tools also make the experience better for me. Using nice, pre-printed maps saves me from having to draw things and allows me to focus on telling the story. Having a good mini to represent the bad guy can even help me stay in character. But one other tool has made a significant impact on the quality of our tabletop gaming experience: a dice tower.


I’d never really seen the need for dice towers until I started gaming with my daughters. But youngsters aren’t always known for their great hand-eye coordination and they may not know their own strength. One of my daughters, in particular, takes the term “throw the dice” literally. After numerous re-rolls because the dice ended up on the floor, I realized we needed to do something different. I found a pattern online for making my own dice tower and modified it for use with foam core board. The design worked pretty well and I posted pictures online, which prompted a friend to point out a tower that someone was selling. That design could be taken apart for easier transport. I liked the idea so much, that I modified my own design and decided to share it. (You can get the pattern and directions, here, on my website.)

Using a dice tower has improved our gaming experience, because even my “dice-hurling daughter” can be assured that her rolls are as fair as everyone else’s. And believe me, little details like that make all the difference when you’re gaming with kids.

This, Above All: Have Fun
I love playing RPGs with my kids and look forward to many more adventures with them in any number of fantastic worlds. I hope that they enjoy it enough to take those adventures and make them their own, over time, but even if they don’t, I’ll be glad that we could spend the time together. After all, isn’t that what tabletop RPGs are really about?

About Paris Crenshaw
Paris Crenshaw currently resides with his family in San Diego, California, although his years of service as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy have given him the opportunity to live and work in a variety of locales around the world. While pursuing his Naval career, he has maintained a love of writing and creating, focusing most of his energy on the sci-fi and fantasy adventure genres. Paris’s published work has mainly been in the world of fantasy roleplaying games, including articles in the Earthdawn Journal and freelance development work for West End Games and, more recently, Clockwork Gnome Publishing. He is a member of the Wily Writers and has been a guest editor and contributor to that group’s website. His most recent publications include stories and articles in several issues of Wayfinder magazine, a fanzine for Paizo Publishing’s award-winning Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

My First Bestiary

MONSTERS, WHO'S WHO: FROM A-Z ALL THE BLOOD CURDLING HORRORS YOU LOVE TO FEAR
I don't know exactly when.  Probably somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7, my family found the need to go shopping late at night.  This was quite unusual in my family during my younger years.  I remember maybe a handful of times that we found ourselves in need of something that couldn't wait, forcing us out into night to some store that kept late hours.  I figure that most of these times, the trip involved some sort of home or automotive repair project in which my father found himself in need of something we didn't have to bring said project to completion.  This night, we went to our local KMart, which was off the a major route with its back against a range of large hills, facing a bit of valley with hills on the other side.  I was excited by this unusual outing of the entire family -- my father usually wasn't with us when shopping -- and it came with the feeling that I was venturing into another, nighttime world that was usually closed to me.  Inside, I passed by a large bin of books, which I do not doubt had above it a sign reading "Bargain Books" or something similar.  In the bin, I spied the cover above, and talked my mother into including it in the evening's purchases.  It became one of my most treasured volumes, filled as it was with classic movie monsters, B-movie monsters, science fiction monsters, monster of mythology and of literature and Marvel comic book creatures and crypto-zoology and things from British TV shows I had never heard of, with many photographs and illustrations.  Published in 1974 and 75, it came at an excellent time, summing up a world of monsters that had come before me in 219 entries, and informing my young mind just before another flood of imaginary creatures was to be released in popular culture.

My second bestiary, pictured with it below, was still a good number of years in my future, so this was a formative influence on me of a subject that had always been dear.  It is one of the books of my first library that survived for my adult reclamation.  I later gave it to my nephews, hoping it would be of interest to them, but on a recent visit I borrowed it so that I could look through it again.

Almost exactly the size of the Monster Manual, alas the dust jacket is long gone.

I made a listing of all the entries in it and perused them.  Not a page looked unfamiliar to me, I had spent so much time staring at the pictures over the years.  Clearly, this book helped populate my imagination's monstrous contents.  What surprised me were the entries that I did not remember.  Invariably, they were the ones that were squeezed between the illustrations belonging to the other entries.  It just goes to show first how visually oriented I was (and basically, still am), and how, to be successful, a bestiary must have an illustration of every monster.  Creatures with poor or no illustration are likely to be ignored (another lesson of the first AD&D MONSTER MANUAL, which has been thoroughly learned by its descendents).  A monstrum, after all, is a warning or omen.  By its essence, it must be seen.  In my mind's eye, when I think of the earliest monsters I encountered, they are Ray Harryhausen monsters, a Universal Studios classic monster, an alien from Star Trek, one of the Wild Things from Where the Wild Things Are, or something else from this book.

Thanks for sharing this Mythopoeic Monday with me as I rambled through one the early, dark passages of my imagination.  What were your early inspirations?


Bad things herein...bad things!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tops of the Blog in Year One

Going through the blog's stats for the first year, I have compiled the following in case it is of interest to others besides me.  If you helped introduce folks to my blog, I am deeply grateful.  I should note that the A-Z April Blogging Challenge brought lots of readers, but I have no way to keep up with that traffic other than its contributions to post popularity and to followers.

TOP TEN POSTS OF 2011-2
  1. The Ouroboros
  2. Z is for Zoomorphic Angels
  3. P is for Paladin
  4. King James Rules for Mythopoesis
  5. Pawns of the Pathfinder Beginner Box
  6. T is for the Tree of Life
  7. It's Snowing Villains
  8. Far over the Misty Mountains cold
  9. Siren Calls from the City of Angels
  10. The Thing (2011)
Four Posts that were in the Top Ten Until Recently 
Q is for Queenly Quest
H is for Heart
Scoopocalypse! Adventuring News from PaizoCon 2011
Everything American Horror Story: Pilot Review




TOP NINE GAMING BLOG TRAFFIC DRIVERS
  1. jrients.blogspot.com
  2. errantgame.blogspot.com
  3. rathergamey.blogspot.com
  4. eternalkeep.blogspot.com
  5. bloodofprokopius.blogspot.com
  6. daddygrognard.blogspot.com
  7. risusmonkey.com
  8. gothridgemanor.blogspot.com
  9. towerofthearchmage.blogspot.com
Top Game Sites Not Blogs
Paizo Forums
ENWorld


Growth Rate: 39%.  If only the economy were doing so well!


Note to UK Readers: Yes, you are the second largest group after US readers, but not by much.  How could the lands of my forebears be squeaking by Canada -- Canada, by Her Majesty's frocks and frosty locks! -- and so far lagging behind US readers in a ratio of less than 1:7?  I appeal to my people in Kent and Northern Ireland to rally behind the Rambling.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nerd Stalker now at the Sams Club



I see you. Yeah, you in the black t-shirt. The one with the flaming two handed sword, capped by a d20, in the refrigerated prepared food section. I circle around to get a better look. You don't look up though. Yeah, I know who you are, even if the woman with you doesn't.

You're one of us.



EDIT: Image added to show what the t-shirt looked like.

HAPPY FIRST ANNIVERSARY!

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.


Today, Mythopoeic Rambling turns one year old.  In that year I, along with the help of some generous and talented guest posters and field reporters, posted 257 posts and now have over 90 followers (Welcome, new followers, by the way!)  I've broken stories about Paizo releases, in some cases not merely early but first -- and I'm hoping some of you will make plans to text me from Paizo Con again this year to keep that happening! 

I've tried to share some of the fruits of my reading, dreaming, and gaming, and some of the riches that I have found shared by other people with similar interests who are creative and thoughtful.  I've benefited from the comments that you, my readers, have shared.  I think I've learned some things about producing a better blog, and continue to try to improve what I offer to those interested in the exploration and creation of secondary worlds. 

Above, all, I want to thank all of you -- readers, commenters, followers, fellow bloggers, and linkers -- for your interest and support.  I especially want to thank the FaWTLies, an online group of gamers who have been a tremendous source of encouragement and advice.  You gals and guys ROCK!  (Not news to you, but I'm still going to say it.) 

Cheers!  Here is to the next year!  May our rambles go on and on.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Upsurge from the Underworld?

Is it just me, or is the number of blogs with "Underworld" in the title proliferating?  Personally, I am all in favor of it, captivated as I am by the themes and images of the Underworld.  It almost makes wish I'd gone with "Underworld Mythopoet" or something like that.


First there was UNDERWORLD INK, which was joined by UNDERWORLD KINGDOM, then
DANDY IN THE UNDERWORLD, and now UNDERWORLD CLEANING SERVICE.  Am I missing any?  (Of course, a title alone is not enough for Zenopus, so he worked Underworld into his blog's subtitle.)  ;-)

Let me, like Odysseus, offer a libation to conjure up any other heroic shades that might be down there. I'll be checking in from time-to-time, to learn your secrets.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Candlemas 2012

The Presentation of Christ at the Temple by Hans Holbein the Elder
I got a kick out of Sword & Dorkery's post today, as if there were a group of hardcore liturgical campaigners for the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, AKA The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary AKA The Meeting of our Lord with the Prophets Simeon and Anna or CANDLEMAS out there to put down that blasted meteorological rodent once and for all!  Man, if there were, that'd be the culture war for me to join!  I hope we'd use spiked thuribles and aspergiliums:  Take that, you buck-toothed varmits!  WHACK!

On a personal note, this has been one of those days in my life were big things have happened coincidentally over the years: both tragic and joyful, so it remains a particular observance for me and for Mrs. Obscure.  A Clerk in Oxford has had several recent blog posts that I recommend to increase your medieval knowledge or to simply enjoy the beauties of the day. 

Best wishes for bright days ahead,
Theodric

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

More Pathfinder Resources

Yeah, Valeros, I'm kind of creeped out too...but the module looks awesome!


I've blogged previously about PFRPG resources that can be found online.  (See also the essential online tools on my Free Gaming page by clicking and scrolling down the Pathfinder section.)  I've put together some more sites that have caught my attention or that I drew from the brains of my secret PF advisory board.

If, like me, you are attracted to the classic Ravenloft setting, whether to mash it with Pathfinder's Ustalav or just convert it to Pathfinder, here are two links you don't want to miss:
Pathfinder in Ravenloft ("Mistfinder")
Thread about the Tarokka and Harrow decks with Wes Schneider

For a crunch heavy game like Pathfinder, many of us like to use software to help speed things up.  These have that magic word attached to them: FREE!
HeroLab's free Beginner Box download -- easy-to-use and really impressive!
Combat Manager -- I haven't had a chance to test it yet, but it was recommended to me by a friend and fellow Rambler and it looks promising.

Like the idea of spell cards?  Try Perram's Spellbook.  Looking for a new podcast to support your play in your off-hours?  Give Gamer's Guide to Pathfinder a listen.  For the more visually oriented among us, there is a new fanart blog called Golarion Carrion.


You might presume that the majority of the free downloads at the Paizo store are for Pathfinder, but there are plenty of downloads for other games as well.  There is a ton of good stuff shared on the Paizo boards, and you can spend a lot of time searching for threads where people are sharing their creativity.  One PF fan who has impressed me over the years as having an imagination congenial to my own is Set, who has gathered some of his creations on his website, here.  Finally, the Kobold Quarterly blog is a great site to watch for PF content (although, note, it is not Open Content).