Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘web excerpt’


The Iliad and Dungeons & Dragons

I thought about D&D a lot while I was reading it, because I think the case can quite easily be made that The Iliad is the most D&D thing ever written other than D&D itself (or, vice versa, that D&D is the most Iliad thing ever written other than The Iliad itself, except obviously Mazes & Minotaurs?). What is Achilleus, other than a 20th-level fighter in comparison to the 1st-4th level Trojans he dispatches with ruthless ease? What are the Achaean invaders, if not murderhobos in search of booty, glory and XP at the expense of all else? How else can the behaviour of the protagonists be explained, other than that they are being controlled by the kind of wild uber-machismo that often overtakes groups of teenage D&D nerds?

On High Level Warriors, Gods, Mortals and More – Monsters and Manuals

There Is No Block

There really is no such thing as a block in traditional martial arts, at least not in the commonly understood sense. You see, the Japanese word uke means “receive” rather than “block” as it often incorrectly translated, a very significant difference both mentally and physically. Your defensive technique receives the adversary’s attack and makes it your own. Without this vital context you’re merely fending off a blow knowing that another is on its way, staying behind the count, whereas a “proper” block can end the fight all by itself without the need to throw what is commonly thought of as an offensive blow…..

There Is No Block – Kris Wilder

Different Fortifications Against Raids Versus Sieges

The earliest fortifications were likely to have been primarily meant to defend against raids rather than sieges as very early (Mesolithic or Neolithic) warfare seems, in as best we can tell with the very limited evidence, to have been primarily focused on using raids to force enemies to vacate territory (by making it too dangerous for them to inhabit by inflicting losses). Raids are typically all about surprise (in part because the aim of the raid, either to steal goods or inflict casualties, can be done without any intention to stick around), so fortifications designed to resist them do not need to stop the enemy, merely slow them down long enough so that they can be detected and a response made ready….

In contrast, the emergence of states focused on territorial control create a different set of strategic objectives which lead towards the siege as the offensive method of choice over the raid. States, with their need to control and administer territory (and the desire to get control of that territory with its farming population intact so that they can be forced to farm that land and then have their agricultural surplus extracted as taxes), aim to gain control of areas of agricultural production, in order to extract resources from them (both to enrich the elite and core of the state, but also to fund further military activity).

Thus, the goal in besieging a fortified settlement (be that, as would be likely in this early period, a fortified town or as later a castle) is generally to get control of the administrative center. Most of the economic activity prior to the industrial revolution is not in the city; rather the city’s value is that it is an economic and administrative hub. Controlling the city allows a state to control and extract from the countryside around the city, which is the real prize. Control here thus means setting up a stable civilian administration within the city which can in turn extract resources from the countryside; this may or may not require a permanent garrison of some sort, but it almost always requires the complete collapse of organized resistance in the city. Needless to say, setting up a stable civilian administration is not something one generally does by surprise, and so the siege has to aim for more durable control over the settlement. It also requires fairly complete control; if you control most of the town but, say, a group of defenders are still holding out in a citadel somewhere, that is going to make it very difficult to set up a stable administration which can extract resources.

Fortification, Part I: The Besieger’s Playbook – A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry

Author’s emphases.

The Risk of Literalizing Fantastical Concepts

Once Orcs are not about the ancient threat of Neanderthal dominance,

Once Vampires are not about the nightmare of rape and the violation of our sanctity,

Once the immortal Lich is not about horror of structures of law and tradition which were invented by men who were dead long before we were born,

Once Werewolves are no longer about the terror of our inner animalistic impulses overwhelming us,

Once Zombies are not about our innate and unending fear of the implacable advance of gluttonous death,

then they are just housecats that we can kill from behind the safety of our +2 blade that adds two to our to hit roll, allowing us to strike at the monster if we roll an 8 or higher.

On Cultivating the Fantastic – Hack & Slash

Author’s emphasis.

Thank the gods for the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, else I could not have linked to the source blogpost.

Warmth and Competence

What are the two things that are most important to know about a stranger? Or a group of strangers?

Social psychologists know. But so did the early authors of D&D.

The stereotype content model, elaborated by Susan Fiske and other social psychologists, describes how we organize beliefs about other people and social groups—traits and stereotypes. Over the past 20 years, dozens of studies have supported the idea that two key traits, warmth and competence, are major players in our attitudes and behaviors toward other groups.

Warmth is how cooperative the group appears to us. Competence is how strong—how able to do meaningful things—they look. So, jolly halflings might be seen as high in warmth but low in competence. Dour dwarves are the other way around, not very warm but very good at what they do. Kobolds, maybe, are low in both.

When two groups meet in an adventure, the rules of most early forms of D&D have them sizing up each other precisely on these two dimensions….

Morale and Reactions – Roles, Rules, & Rolls

The Opposite of Impact Is Fluff

So, you’re playing D&D and you’re fighting some orcs. All the orcs are armed with feather dusters, so they [are] actually incapable of harming anyone. And your DM doesn’t give [experience points] for combat, so they’ll yield [zero XP] upon death.

This combat is a waste of time. You’re just rolling dice until the orcs die.

The encounter is shit because the encounter has no impact.

Impact: the ability to permanently change the game. The opposite of impact is fluff.

Impact – Goblin Punch

Author’s emphasis.

Religion, Socializing, and Gods

…So in real life, Ancient Greek sacrificial practice was like a cool barbecue, people got together and hung out while singing and eating the fleshy bits the Gods didn’t want (which just so happened to be the bits that taste the best to humans). People would come from all over to honor the Gods and have cook-out. It sounds like it was rad….

Religion, Socializing and Gods – Tabletop Curiosity Cabinet

Monster Difficulty Should Increase Slightly Faster Than Characters’ Abilities

8. “Race you can’t win rule.” The game’s monster difficulty should increase slightly faster than the advancement of the [character], given average stats and default equipment, so as to force him to rely upon items and tactics.

The reasoning here is that if the player doesn’t have to rely on randomly-found stuff then [that stuff becomes] unimportant to play. However, if it’s required to have specific items to be successful then many games will be outright unwinnable. The balance between these two poles is what makes random dungeon generation difficult, but it’s also part of what makes random dungeon gameplay interesting….

@Play: The Eight Rules of Roguelike Design – GameSetWatch

Good and Evil Are Moral Extremes

…[It] might just be that good and evil are moral extremes embraced by a select few. Good is prized because it’s laudable, not to mention rare. Evil is reviled because it does harm and threatens all others regardless of their philosophical bent. But neutrals predominate….

GOOD characters aren’t simply decent people. They’re philosophically committed to advancing good, fighting evil, and bringing justice to others. Indeed, their attentions are for others, and they act with deep compassion and mercy for the downtrodden. This is the questing white knight. The one beloved by good folk and resented by the wicked.

Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to do what it takes to get there, and herein lies the high regard champions are held in. Few want the job!

Shifting to Neutral (‘Cause Most of Us Are) – Pits Perilous

Druids Can Barely Live in Harmony With Each Other

Myth #3: Druids exist in harmony with all living things.

Druids can barely live in harmony with each other. These people are possessed by spirits of Nature, figuratively but also possibly literally. When one commune meets another, it is like two wolf packs catching sight of each other across the timber line. Sometimes there is murder. Sometimes there are “marriages”. Sometimes they exchange small bits of news and go on their way….

7 Myths Everyone Believes About Druids – Goblin Punch

The Sorcerer as Terrorist

…A sorcerer uses their arts and powers to live off peoples’ fear of them. In myths and folktales, from sources as widely spread apart as Russia’s koldun and the mangkukulam from my own country, the sorcerer or witch is depicted as making demands backed up by threats of curses, essentially blackmailing the community. In other words, terrorism….

The Sorcerer as Terrorist – Hari Ragat Games

Thank the gods for the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, else I could not have linked to the source blogpost.

Mud Is a Hazard that Is Totally Natural for RPGs

…Mud is a hazard that is totally natural for RPGs. Outdoor locations are extremely liable to be mud-spattered in rainy seasons, while underground locations with an earthen floor could, under sufficient flooding, turn into a quagmire not unlike those in Passchendaele. Particularly nasty is when the characters are caught in a torrential downpour and the area around them changes from fields into a swamp. The mud in Ypres was compared to the consistency of cheesecake, and soldiers would slowly sink in like quicksand….

…Armor is absolutely a disadvantage in these situations. A World War I soldier’s kit is fairly comparable in weight to a fully loaded fighter wearing plate armor; if a character in plate falls into sufficiently deep mud, they need to be pulled out or they will drown. Chain is less heavy and probably gives a better chance to get out, although the armor might be ruined by caked-on mud holding water close to spots that will then be rusted out….

…And mud is a great place to hide pretty much anything. It could be treasure that was once buried, or a door half-hidden by muck where opening it is a logistical challenge, or a floor now covered that holds a secret message….

Mud and Gas: Taking Inspiration from World War I – Semper Initiativus Unum

Encounters with Drovers

From the time of the Norman conquest to the middle of the last century, any traveller in Wales might find his way blocked by hundreds of cattle, large herds of sheep, pigs and flocks of geese….

Encounters with Drovers – Monsters and Manuals

Magic Is the Opposite of Banality

…[Magic] is the opposite of banality—try to use magic for banal ends and it will simply refuse to cooperate. If you want to illuminate for the next thousand years the hidden tomb of a dwarf lord buried with an artifact of great power, Continual Light is your friend! If you would instead like to spend your time lighting up street corners in the muggle village of your choice, the spell itself will tell you to go fuck yourself….

Let’s talk about Continual Light – RPGnet Forums

The Realm of the Jedi

…And it’s that which made the Jedi so cool in the first three [Star Wars] movies. Not that they could kill their foes with all sorts of neat tricks, spinning light sabers, or nifty force powers. It was that they operated on a plane above the normal, physical struggle of the conflict of the day, towards the more universal conflicts that are at the heart of every person. In the realm of the Jedi, why you were doing something was vastly more important than what you did….

Light Saber Duels – Trollsmyth

Dwarves Before Tolkien and Disney

…Before Tolkien and Disney, dwarves were crafty, foul, evil, thieving, deceitful little bastards. And that was their good side….

Archetypology 101 – RPGnet

Care And Feeding Of Swords

Corrosion from perspiration, skin oils, blood, and exposure to the elements are the problems we need to know well. In the case of carbon steel, these culprits can cause severe discoloration and rust very rapidly if neglected. I own swords that literally will rust before your eyes if left un-oiled. During a take giri (bamboo cutting) demonstration my students and I were performing, I had a drop of my perspiration land, unnoticed, on one of my Rapier (thrusting sword) blades. In just a few minutes, I was shocked to see a bright orange spot of rust on my hand-polished sword. This is a very serious problem the martial arts student must know how to combat. Even breathing on an un-oiled sword blade can begin the dreaded process of corrosion. The edge is the thinnest part of a cutting implement and the most vulnerable to neglect. If allowed to rust, a razor-sharp weapon will become dull in a short period of time. Genuine katana [are] famous for their polish and [mirror-like] finish. This is not for merely cosmetic appearance. Steel has microscopic surface irregularities that can collect moisture and corrosive elements. A finely polished blade has smaller irregularities and sheds blood much more easily than an unpolished one. Hence, the more corrosive agents that collect in the pores, the more tarnish and rust will accumulate.

Care And Feeding Of Swords – Austin Bujinkan Tanemaki Dojo

Thank the gods for the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, else I could not have linked to the source blogpost.

Proving One’s Ability to Oneself

The coaching technique profiled in the New York Times article “Teaching Golf Pros What They Already Know” is just what I strive to impart as Xenograg to his dueling students. He does not impose his style upon a student, but seeks to enlighten her regarding her1 own natural style—and to trust in it (and thus herself).

Here is the key quote:

“I don’t teach; I help these guys learn,” Lynch said. “You can’t tell someone to do XYZ because they won’t do it out there.”