Thursday, 30 September 2010

Dieselpunk Transformers!

While I've been dillydallying, i.e., not composing the three posts I have on my list, I've stumbled across this little nugget of a film: The Transformer, by JohnnyUtah. If you think Transformers in the days before the talkies sounds fun, you should definitely give it a look. My only complaint is that it's quite short - about a minute and a half.

The site has no embedding options, so please click >HERE<

Next post will be on topic, I promise.

[Picture source: Nerd Batards]

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Near-Death Star

Yet again I go off-topic, this time to give you what's arguably one of the coolest Futurama episodes of all time: Episode 211, A Clone of My Own; the professor celebrates his 150th birthday and realizes he needs to name a successor. Mad-schemes and drama ensues. It may well be the most pure SciFi of all the episodes, and it spoofs a number of more serious shows and movies.

The other reason for this post is that if you click this link, or the one in the previous paragraph, you will end up at a blog that lets you stream the entire show. Now that's how the internets are supposed to work, if you ask me.

Futurama, Episode 2-11 "A Clone of My Own":

[Picture source: Futurama Wiki]

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The last chapter

Unrelated picture, artist unknown

Since we started up after the summer I've been pushing the guys hard to come up with a plan, and so they have. This chapter covers two group-sessions, as well as a couple of informal talks over a beer or two. I'll do my best to sum it up without omitting too much, or getting bogged down in too many details.

After the cabal's raid on the Enlightened City they managed to keep the Arch Primarch alive and free from his keeper for fourteen days before the Zaprophyte broke free from their bonds and killed the prelate. Thereafter the cabal returned to Rederhafen with the intelligence they had gathered. They had several meetings with important people over the next few days.

Aktor Smit:
Since last he was mentioned, Smit has become a Master of Fate. He may well be amongst the best informed as far as the Great War is concerned, he was still taken aback by the ramifications of a conspiracy of the kind exposed by the heroes.

On a direct question, he said that his hope was that the Pius Cabal turned their attention towards the Temple of Man Supreme. His analysis was that the first months of the war on the Temple would go in the favour of the Enlightened League, but that when Ruhani, Aragorn and Narbonne took the field things would get rough.

Octavian (or Tavi, as he is now affectionately called):
Also he was surprised by the news, but the Hermetic's advice was for the cabal to see to the events in the west.

They also spent some time researching the zombie-plague as well as the Zaprophytes. They discovered that the former was the result of an old demon who had been walking the lands of Argos as far back as the Second Age. The latter however, was a new enemy, and they found that the Ordo Ultima Thule was in all likelihood responsible for bringing them into this world.

After this bout of intel-gathering, the dauntless heroes decided to go off-world. For almost as long as the cabal have been sailing, they have been aware of the existence of other worlds, and that these worlds have had an influence on on-world affairs.

Armed with a few texts describing Concordia, van Saar made a vager with the first mate of the good ship Pius: if he could take the ship to this port beyond the Horizon, he would be lauded as a Man Enlightened. Spearhawk took the bet, and even if it cost the cabal Buckets of mana, he managed to navigate both Umbra and the Void and bring the ship to its destination.

The plan was to reach Concordia, have a meeting with Mr Godfree, the well-spoken warmonger in the pin-striped suit who's face no one is able to remember; on previous occasions Mr G have shown a complete lack of scruples, and despite his open and friendly disposition his name is often mentioned in connection with terrible developments. Thereafter they would return to Argos and seek out the elves beyond the western oceans.

Early in the cabal's life of high adventure they met the elven ambassador on the Waymar Islands and were told that, "In the darkest hour, the Elf will buy Man time." This half promise, half prophecy has been uttered by the same elf as early as in the final years of the last century. The cabal meant to finally put the elves on the map.

Concordia (dedicated post is on my to-do list) is the City in the Center of the Multiverse, the Sigil, the City With a Millon Doors, and countless other monikers of a similar vein. It lies, as one might assume, in the middle of Creation, and its doors does in fact lead to every place.

On arrival in the City of the Daeva the heroes took Gary, the pig-snouted henchman-for-hire, on retainer as their guide, and sought out the always hospitable Mr G. In the long meeting that followed, they accused him of crimes against Creation (something he neither denied or confessed to), and threatened him with grievous bodily harm - maybe even death if so were the case (he made sure to treat this with all due respect).

Once the unpleasantries had been dealt with, they asked Mr Godfree to put them in contact with the "emperor, or whatever they call him, of the elves on Argos." Always service-minded, he had the heroes do him a favor before giving them what they asked for. Once they had delivered a deck of cards to someone named Twenty One, he promised to make them able to reach the Elf.

The deck proved to be The Deck of Many Things, and the magicians, remembering the story about the curious cat, managed not to tamper with the cargo. Gary now led them to an alley full of gamblers and games of chance, and in a dark and smoky den of vice and gambling they came before Twenty One.

Hidden behind drapes, the only thing they saw of the addressee was a long, bony arm with claw-like fingers. The voice was thin and screeching as they were asked to play dice with him. After one round, the heroes had won well, and so Twenty One had no choice but to accept the deck.

On leaving they were accosted by a shady, four eyed creature who tried to sell them Milk of the Wyvern. Bansl almost completed the deal, but Percival managed to provoke the seller enough to get knocked down. Not wanting a confrontation here, the heroes withdrew.

Mr Godfree was well pleased when they returned and sent them on their way with a prime-staff outlining the way to the Elf, as well as gifts of Ambrosia and fine cigars.

This is when things took an unexpected turn (see fig. a). I had been expecting the next chapter to take the story to the Waymar Islands and the elves beyond the oceans. That had been flagged well in advance by the cretins.

Not so.

On returning to Argos, the rouges docked on Cora and went ashore to "find themselves a battle." This turn of events were prompted by the War Box. A long time ago I brought it to our gaming-locale and told them it was available. I also told them that they would have to play themselves into a possition where they could command an army in the field if the War Box were to be opened. That is what happened next.

In the city of Borgen they encountered the always friendly demigod Geminon. The Lord of the Cross-Roads may well be the most pathetic member of the pantheon of Argos; his High Priest is Mandan Bansl, and there is little in the way of worship to be had from that quarter. Geminon may not be much in the way of omnipotency, but he is one well informed devil.

After a little bit of flattery by the cabal of Masters, the deity got on board with the idea of taking the field together with the greatest heroes of the Age. In this first council of war they decided on the barbarian invasion of Kengel as their war of choice. Thus it happened that the players zigged when I expected them to zag. I'm a n00b for being surprised.

Still, the Pius Cabal has reclaimed the initiative again, and there is hope for Argos once more. All is well in the Book of Worlds.

[Picture source: 1; 2 own]

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The War Box

Last time we played the lads decided they wanted to try out the War Box. The War Box is a grey cardboard box, on which I've written... yes, War Box, in big black letters. At one point I also drew a poor Elder Sign on it. It contains all that's necessary to run a set-piece battle.

I will not go into the details right now, as it's quite late, and I'm working tomorrow. But since next game is on Monday, and the boys have asked for a battle, I need to get this up there. I will try to sneak in two more posts (a Chapter and a background-post) before we play, if time allows.

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of this document, but it is an old system I haven't done any work on in years. Its roots is a system developed by a couple of friends of mine for the AD&D setting Birthright, and I later did some work on it for a game-system I made back in the dawn of the century. The English version (the newest) was started before the BoW was created, and I've done some quick adjustments just now.

Should there be an interest, either from my players or from the blogosphere, I will polish it further (Scribd promises to update the embed as I update it, I believe), and I might post the unit cards as well. Any questions and/or comments are as always welcome.

[Picture source: TAW's blog]

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The DM of the Rings

Lately I've been renewing an old acquaintance, and it was like meeting an old friend and picking it up right where you left off years ago. I am of course referring to Shamus Young's The DM of the Rings webcomic. In case anyone who comes through here haven't read DMotR, you've been missing out.

What makes it so cool? Well, if Tolkien and roleplaying doesn't do it for you, I don't think I can help you, but have a read below.
The blurb on page 1: 
Lord of the Rings is more or less the foundation of modern D&D. The latter rose from the former, although the two are now so estranged that to reunite them would be an act of savage madness. Imagine a gaggle of modern hack-n-slash roleplayers who had somehow never been exposed to the original Tolkien mythos, and then imagine taking those players and trying to introduce them to Tolkien via a D&D campaign.
Combined with Shamus' razor wit and comedic talent this makes for what's arguably the best LotR spoof and RPG-comic of all time. If you think you have something better up your sleeve, please let me know.

Page 1 of The DM of the Ring. Go read the comic if you haven't. Read it again if you have.

click to enlarge

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Historical References: Cartography

Word: Cartography
From: Greek chartis = map, and graphein = write

From Mercator and Hondius'  Novus Atlas, mid-17th century

[The 17th century is] described as the Golden Age of map-making.
-Diedrick Wildeman

One of the lads, the Captain's player, just came back from travelling, and he brought back KLM's in-flight magazine, the Holland Herald (HH). The relevance here is an article about cartography in the 17th century, with a (hardly surprising) focus on the illustrious Dutch map-making tradition.

The reason for the player's, and also my own, interest in the topic is of course that the Netherlands of the 1600's is the chief source of reference-material for the Wezellian Syndicate of the Book of Worlds. That and our common love of maps. And so it is that this HR comes to deal with that very topic. I'll draw upon Andy Round's Secrets of the map-makers article in HH's September 2010 edition, as well as the omni-potent and all-knowing internets to shed some light on this topic. And of course I'll ground this in the world of Argos.

In the 17th century, the world was still a confoundingly large and mysterious place. White areas on the maps abounded, and even for known regions the maps didn't necessarily match the terrain. Still, the available maps were all anyone had. The era was also a time of increased exploration and trade -- the two being closely related.

Leo Belgicus, a popular rendering of the Netherlands.
The Lion was drawn facing different directions, according
to where the most prominent enemy lay.

The HH article discusses the two major seafaring nations' different approaches on the availability of maps, or if you will, information. The Dutch Golden Age is usually said to span the century, and coincides with the rise of mercantilism. The beginning of the century also saw the formation of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), the first multi-national company ever, and also the first to issue stock. As a point of interest, it can also be called the world's first true megacorportion (Cyberpunk 2020 anyone?), but that's neither here or there. The VOC was most important in fuelling the Dutch economy, and for about 200 years it dominated European trade with the Orient.

Spanish Armada leaving off the Galician coast, 1588

Spain, on the other hand, was at this time a proper empire, ruled by the crown and a powerful nobility. Its overseas acquisitions were initially quite a disappointment, but in the 1520's that changed. Vast deposits of silver were found in Mexico. Eventually this led to the downfall, and bankruptcy of the Spanish Crown, as the almost exclusive import of precious metals caused a massive inflation, as well as the increased dominance of a feudal aristocracy. "The silver and gold whose circulation helped facilitate the economic and social revolutions in the Low Countries, France and England and other parts of Europe helped stifle them in Spain," Wikipedia.

To conclude this part of the history-lesson, other nations were of course involved, but they didn't get in the game properly yet, arguably due to all manner of domestic or neighbourly squabbles.

The North Sea, 1573

Now back to maps. In Spain, the maps of the colonies, and thus the world, were hand-drawn affairs, and kept under lock and key by the Crown. Smuggling maps out of the realm was considered an act of espionage, and was carried a death-sentence. Round gives a brilliant example of the value of this approach, in 1628 the Dutch captured one of the legendary Spanish Silver Trains, the crown was left on the verge of bankruptcy for a year.

The Dutch on the other hand had a different approach. Having access to the best engravers and printing presses of their age, and also a most efficient trade network, they opted for the sharing of information as the best way of expanding on their knowledge. Still expensive (an atlas could cost about as much as a present day second home, according to Round), it was still well within reach for an aspiring merchant house. Another factor is that the leading cartographers of the time happened to be Dutch.

Western Argos
Eria and surrounding regions

Cartography on Argos.
While there are many superficial similarities between 17th century Europe and Eria at the end of the Third Age, there are a some major differences. Chief of the latter is that while Europe had in earnest started to reach out into the world for resources, Eria has not fully come to need external resources yet. At the dawn of the Third Age, a population greatly diminished by generations of war, both with each other and with the elves, now held a continent rich on natural resources.

For most of that age, no realm or nation needed much more than could be found on the Erian continent. Once the need outgrew the local supplies, the vast Northern Regions, or the ancient colonies on the Dark Continent, were sufficient to meet the needs of the growing realms of man. Combined with trade with the rich Waymar Islands in the West, and with the vast Caliphate in the East, the need for global exploration never truly arose.

Another factor in this is that the Royal Guild of Argonauts held a de facto monopoly on true navigation on the high seas. Limited charts, routes, or even guiding of convoys across the Outer Ocean were provided by the guild. Additionally, even in this Dark Age of Magic, certain pseudo-arcane techniques and rudimentary goetic instruments were available to navigators. This reliability on the supernatural, and of course the dangers of crossing the dark depths of the oceans, meant that naval exploration were regarded as closely affiliated with the dark arts, and thus regarded as dangerous at best, and a sure path to corruption at worst. Most Erian nations still regard the high-risk, high-profit naval trade as a most ignoble business.

[Picture source: 1 Tower of Babel; 2 & 3 Wikimedia Commons; 4 Carta Marina; 5 Atlas, vol I]

Star Wars

Star Wars fans never die, they just multiply.

There are a few Star Wars gangsta raps floating around out there, but this may well be my favourite. It is part of the Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge 2010. Why am I posting it here? Because I can ;)

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Tower of Heavens

This is one of the first handouts ever (dating back to 04 or 05) in this world, and the computer I used when I wrote it has long since gone past the pale, and all data on it is forever lost in the mists of time. It is perhaps the single most important document in the long and exceedingly complex world-building that is the Book of Worlds, as it offers an outline of the very hierarchy of creation. I've long intended to make it available here, and at last the stars are right.

The Tower of Heavens is a small, machine-printed book, printed on the world of Cordomar. Each of the paragraphs on the handout below summarizes a chapter. Note that for some reason the chapter about Man is not written, even if the index lists it. There have been many theories about the significance of this omission.

Page 1

Page 2

All notes are by Håvard, except the name on the bottom of the second page. That is my hand, but I have absolutely no idea what, where or who Thelan is...

Not closed yet (Last Chapters)

It's been a good long while since last time my friends, but I wow (again) to get back to regular posting. The list of excuses reasons for the hiatus is long as my arm, and I will not bore you with the specifics. Let me just say that since last time members of the BoW crew have been to Canada, Iceland and Italy. Needless to say, this excessive globetrotting has made our weekly gatherings hard to pull off.

It is my hope and intention that as the dreary routine of autumn and winter binds us to our rainy city, we will get back to saving the beleaguered world of Argos from its seemingly inevitable doom.

However, the last month haven't been completely devoid of playing. On that note, and since I've dabbled in democracy, I'll try to give an account of what's happened in the Book of Worlds since last we spoke.


Two months passed while the Arcane Congress debated theory, philosophy, arcane practise, the state of the world, and who owed whom money or satisfaction. In the end, the the Covenant of Enlightenment was signed, and Argos again had a council of wizards, witches, warlocks and werefolk. The first action of this new world order was to declare war on the Temple of Man Supreme.

The Pius Cabal, always eager to save mankind from itself, decided that they would take the war to the enemy without ado. Therefore they set out to end the hegemony of the corrupt Humanists by slaying the source of all this evil (or so they reckoned), namely the head of the Temple, the man Supreme, the Most Enlightened, the Purest of Souls, the Arch Primarch of the Southern Temple, the man named Inocens IX.

And so they set out to rid the world of this arch-heretic. To confound their quarry, the noble heroes travelled through Nightmare, and thus reached the impregnable walls of the Enlightened City. From afar, they saw the shimmering light of devotion that reached into the heavens from where once the Tower of Truth had stood. Around this massive pillar of light a host of angels circled, and the Dominion lay heavily over the land.

The heroes, never daunted by poor odds or superior numbers, and with righteous belief in the truth of their cause, demanded entry to the Palace of Light. When the Guardian Angels denied them, they saw no other alternative than to make might prove right; the Great Hound N'garthl was summoned and let loose on the bridge where the heroes had been wrongfully denied crossing. In the mayhem that followed in the Nightmare Demon's tracks, the heroes made their way in to the dream of the Arch Primarch, and here imprisoned him deep in the Dreaming in a cell no mortal could ever escape from.

Zaprophyte close-up

When the prisoner was examined, it became clear that he was not, as one might have believed, the mastermind behind the evil wrought by the Temple. Rather, he was little more than a marionette, controlled by a vile creature not of this world, a hideous tentacled tumor with an evil, yellowish eye, a Zaprophyte that sat on the priest's neck. It quicly became evident that removing the foul entity from the man would kill both the host and his soul.

The magicians set their arts to binding Zaprophyte, and thus managed awaken the Arch Primarch, and not his keeper. For fourteen days the prelate laboured in secret (for many around him were part of dark conspiracies, or carried Zaprophytes themselves) to bring good into the world of Argos. His efforts were all directed at strengthening the defenses of the Island of Cora, the last fortress between Eria and the the Dark Continent.

Here we end this chapter.

[Picture source: 1 RPGnet; 2 Angelspread; 3 The Babylon Project]