The Gassy Gnoll: Mapping Player and GM Worlds

Ok. Next time you get a chance to experiment a bit with your gaming group, I’d like you to try this… Have the GM draw a map of the world and then have each player draw a map of the world. Want to bet they look a wee bit different?

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

Where’d this idea come from? The World Map Archive . This project asks folks to draw a picture of the world map from memory – just the outlines of the continents. Such a simple request has provided some remarkable feedback on how people see the world they live in.

I want to try this with my gaming group. I bet I end up with a much different view of the Zeitgeist world than other folks do. Mine would probably end up being mostly a mind map describing different areas by the people who live there rather than a strictly geographically-minded map. Words, circles, and lines in a vague alignment something like the map appears in the book. And I’m sure I’d forget some things. :)

Worlds don’t exist on paper. They exist in our heads. And I think this would be a heck of an enlightening exercise for GMs …

Supplement Review: Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House (Kaidan/PFRPG) by Michael K. Tumey from Rite Publishing

Fantasy RPGs (like any number of other genres) have several tropes we all tend to trip over. You know the ideas I’m talking about… Elves don’t like dwarves. Dwarves are drunkards who speak with a Scottish accent. Dragons like hoards. And adventures usually start in taverns with some crazy guy sitting in a dark corner telling stories…

Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House - Rite PublishingSo I’m always happy to run across ideas I’ve not seen before. Haiku of Horror: Autumn Moon Bath House is one of those ideas. I think as Americans we often forget about other cultural influences (unless it’s food-related and then we still manage to bastardize the recipe). Designer Michael Tumey takes the idea of the Japanese bath house as a gathering place and brings it beautifully into the Kaidan setting from Rite Publishing. Now, I know the Japanese aren’t the only culture to use bath houses (think about the ancient Romans, the Turkish, and others as examples), but it’s not a structure I’ve seen used in a RPG module before.

Now take that bath house, throw in a ghost story with a mystery, and you get a fun adventure that involves culture, investigation, and a paranormal angle that can be dropped into any …

The Gassy Gnoll: Ban All Heroes!!

Adventurers and heroes must be a motley crew to be around. Why would any self-respecting town put up with them? They never (or hardly ever) bathe. They likely are covered in blood and guts. They move around from place to place never setting down roots. They loot bodies, tombs, and ruins and then want to sell things they find so they can buy new, shinier things. (And I really love the ones who try slaughtering townspeople in the name of justice or some other ideal and then don’t want to pay the consequences for their actions when the local constabulary takes offense.)

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

On a grand scale, they destroy political careers, economies, and evil plans regularly. Governments get toppled, cities destroyed, and monsters are unleashed only to be stomped on. Innocents are slaughtered, wars started, and racial animosities grow wild.

So why do they get asked to do anything? Oh yeah… Because they save people sometimes. They stop worlds from ending on occasion. And rarely they’ll even do something because it’s the right thing to do and not the quickest, easiest, or gets them the most loot.

Who are these heroes? Sometimes they’re just regular folks thrust into extraordinary …

The Gassy Gnoll: The Impermanence of Thought and How To Use It to Beat the Block

The Gassy Gnoll has been tired lately and had far too much time to think when he should have been sleeping. This is hardly ever a good thing when it happens. But for some reason he’s been very philosophical and introspective of late. Recently that led to a strange train of thought…

How would you characterize an idea that just pops into your head? Was it deliberate? Were you brainstorming and trying to generate ideas of a particular type? Was it accidental and just a stray thought while you were off doing something else? Either way if you’re anything like me, these brief thoughts flit through your mind like a shooting star. Lighting up the night sky for just a moment. The briefest flash.

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

If you’re lucky, you caught a glimpse of that idea and it led you on a merry chase to some strange, wonderful, and often irrelevant conclusion. If you were unlucky, it zipped by and you were lacking the time or materials to ponder it then and there or even write it down so you could reconsider it later in an attempt to rekindle that line of thinking. And we’re left waiting a while for …

Supplement Review: The Stealer of Children by Peter Spahn from Small Niche Games

Of late, I’ve had the opportunity to review several quality books from small publishers and seen how well a product can be produced even on a budget. That said, occasionally I come across a product with a great concept where something fails to grab my attention and hold it the whole time. The Stealer of Children (TSoC) by Peter Spahn from Small Niche Games for Labyrinth Lord falls into that category. This is one of those “it’s good, but…” reviews.

The Stealer of Children - Small Niche GamesFirst, the good. Honestly, I think the adventure described in TSoC is excellent. The world is wide open and ready for an enterprising GM to quickly pick up the pieces and work them into an existing world or campaign fairly easily. It’s a 31 page PDF that details a sandbox ripe for the picking. In broad strokes, you get a farming village with a problem. Something is stealing their children. Can your group of 3-6 1st level characters solve the mystery and save the missing kids?

The village is nicely detailed with established NPCs and areas ready for your PCs to explore. Will they start at the tavern? Visit the abbey? Chat up the villagers? It expands past that, …

Guest Post: Arrows of Indra (by RPGPundit for Bedrock Games), a Review by Timothe Loya

First off, Arrows of Indra claims to be “Old School Roleplaying in an Epic indian Fantasy World.” What this means may differ from person to person, but I should point out that even a quick glance at the cover clearly defines “Indian” as from India, not Native American. Now some people’s interest might wane there, but being a relatively curious and culturally diverse sort myself, my interest was piqued and I would hope yours would be too.

arrows-of-indraRPGPundit clearly defines his purpose in a well-written introduction defining the concept of “Old School Roleplaying” in a manner seemingly tip-toeing around calling the game what it is. This is presumably because of the current intellectual property owner’s massive army of legal wizards who they seem more than willing to unleash at a moments notice. But the introduction also defines the game’s intent and inspiration.

Already not more than a page into the actual content of the book, I find myself taking notes for further research and reading material. What is the background on the Brahmin caste? Just what is an Untouchable? I assure you these things have very different connotations from how we see the words today.

The game itself does …

The Gassy Gnoll: Happy Birthday!

Ok. So this week has been a bit crazy and I apologize for the lack of posts. End of the school year and spring soccer season always brings with it some insanity. But today I want to bring up the concept of anniversaries and birthdays in our game worlds.

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

When is your PC’s birthday? Any ideas? I certainly don’t. I have an age for both my current characters but have absolutely no idea what time of the year they were born or whether they were even hatched. Are their birthdays important? Perhaps. How much emphasis does the culture place on such dates? Is a birthday something to be celebrated or bemoaned?

Important government or religious figures, or myths and legends may have particular holidays named for them. Who wouldn’t want to remember a king’s birthday or celebrate a beloved princess? But what happens when a dictator’s birthday is more important than the rest of the people in the country? This sort of crunchy detail can really offer some interesting roleplaying opportunities as well as hooks for GMs and other players to sink their creative teeth into.

Such a simple thing can become the centerpiece in a larger chunk …

The Gassy Gnoll: A Summer Campaign (RPG Blog Carnival)

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival topic is “Campaigns I’d Like to Run,” hosted by Lowell Francis over at Age of Ravens. If you haven’t checked out his site, I’d encourage you to do so. He’s written about his own campaigns, other sites, and even long series of posts focusing on the history of particular genres of RPG. There’s all kinds of good stuff up there to dive into.

RPG Blog Carnival logoBut this carnival’s all about my own campaigns and what I’d like to run if time wasn’t an object. Though opportunities for this Gassy Gnoll have existed, I have somehow managed to avoid them for more than a decade. Sure, I’ve had a few isolated sessions that were intended to become longer campaigns. Sometimes I was even lucky enough to get two or three sessions in before things faded into oblivion. But that has always been the result. It always fizzles. The last campaign of any sort I ran was back in 1998/1999 and seems a million years ago now.

So why is now different? What’s changed? I have two daughters who are creative, gifted, and big bright spots in my life. And though we’ve dabbled here and there with some …

Supplement Review: Shadowlands: The Gates of Tarina Adventure Module by Jaye Sonia and Ben Cacchione from BlackStar Studios

Have you noticed how memorable movies and television programs use catchphrases to sometimes drive home key points? For example, in Star Wars, C-3PO says “I have a bad feeling about this” and we hear the phrase come up in a variety of ways over all six films. Or in The Princess Bride, Vizzini uses the word “Inconceivable!” enough that Inigo Montoya questions whether he knows the meaning of the word. Well, in the intro to BlackStar Studios’ Shadowlands: The Gates of Tarina Adventure Module (TGOT) we get a phrase I would expect to hear repeated while running this adventure: “I have decided I don’t like this Tarina of yours…”

Shadowlands: The Gates of Tarina - BlackStar StudiosLike with Secrets of the Tainted (SOTT), this adventure explores the city of Tarina – “a place where anything is obtainable for the right price.” Sounds good, right? Before your group of 1st level characters even get to the city, they become sucked into a plot involving thieves, wizards, and knights. Talk about being pushed into the deep end of the pool! Where SOTT explored the literal underworld of Tarina, TGOT focuses on some of the politics on the surface. And like always, politics sometimes brings together unlikely groups …

Supplement Review: Dungeon Crawl Classics #75: The Sea Queen Escapes! by Michael Curtis from Goodman Games

A wise man once said “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” (John F. Kennedy) Each time I read a novel, story, or module that involves the ocean in some way I’m reminded of that quote. It makes me think of all we still don’t know about what exists down there in the deep. H.P. Lovecraft tied into that feeling to help convey a sense of the sheer size of the sea and what it may be hiding. And I think Dungeon Crawl Classics #75: The Sea Queen Escapes! taps into that vibe quite nicely.

sea-queen-coverWritten by Michael Curtis for Goodman Games, The Sea Queen Escapes! is a 24-page PDF detailing an adventure for six 3rd-level Dungeon Crawl Classics characters (20 pages of content). The cover features artwork from Doug Kovacs and the interior includes art from Jeff Easley, Kovacs, Peter Mullen, Russ Nicholson, Stefan Pang, and Michael Wilson. Honestly the art is one of my favorite things about Goodman Games’ products that really brings me back to my youth and the …

Press: Recent Raging Swan Releases (April 2013)

You know those swans? They are a’ ragin’! They’ve been creating a ton of content for your Pathfinder game this year and I thought it was time I talked about some of it…

Here are some details on just a few of the recent releases from Raging Swan Press…

Urban Dressing

If you haven’t been following the Urban Dressing series from designer Brian Liberge, he’s been cutting a swath through quite a few parts of the urban landscape:

Conceivably you could construct an entire urban center… The PCs could visit a market stall, which leads them down an alley to a troubled trader or craftsman hiding out in a temple!

Wilderness Dressing

Then there’s the continuing saga of the Wilderness Dressing series from a variety of designers:

Now our PCs are on a journey, traveling …

The Gassy Gnoll: GMing for a Ship of Fools (April RPG Carnival)

Time to join the carnival! The topic for the April RPG Carnival is hosted at the Elthos RPGand the question for the carnival is: “What is the most memorable experience you have had GMing for your own Ship of Fools?”

The Gassy Gnoll has already spoken about his own experiences with letting campaigns get out of hand (see here) and maybe someday I’ll talk more about that experience, but instead I want to turn the tables slightly and talk about how one of *MY* characters tried regularly to steer our campaign into the rocks…

RPG Blog Carnival logoI’ve mentioned Didius Cato (aka DC), the escaped slave and rogue I played a few years ago in a fairly lengthy campaign I played in up in Denver for a couple of years. He was a ton of fun to play and I miss him, but damn if he occasionally steered the group wrong. (Others would likely say it happened often, but potato – potahto…)

The first time I got an inkling of his capricious nature, we were investigating a strange place where shadows were moving but there was nothing visible to be casting them. I suddenly got this bizarre thought to pull out …

Supplement Review: Shadowlands: Secrets of the Tainted Adventure Arc (PFRPG) by John Maki from BlackStar Studios

Back in the fall of 2011, I backed a Kickstarter project from BlackStar Studios to see what the world of Shadowlands was all about (they have a new Kickstarter going as well – check out the links at the bottom for more). Largely that decision was made based on the art that appeared on the project page and a bit of tantalizing description. Gorgeous maps and full color images really sucked me in, though I’m sorry to say that I’ve not had a chance to dive into that world though backers started seeing PDFs back in March of this year. That is until now…

Shadowlands: Secrets of the Tainted Adventure Arc - BlackStar StudiosShadowlands: Secrets of the Tainted Adventure Arc serves as a 1st level module and introductory adventure to get a group of PCs into the world of Shadowlands. The city of Tarina is a major port city with numerous influential groups holding sway. Each has a different agenda. And when one gets the better of another, feathers get ruffled as you might expect. But when one finds a way to upset two others, tension in the city rises to dangerous levels.

Ultimately that’s what the PCs have to look forward to – a politically charged situation …

Supplement Review: Storm Bunny Studios Presents: The Ghost of Ashenwood Road by Jaye Sonia

Though I’m a fan of huge books detailing settings to the Nth degree, I’m also a fan of small supplements that offer juicy tidbits that can easily be dropped into any campaign. One of these cool little tidbits comes from Jaye Sonia and the crew at Storm Bunny Studios – The Ghost of Ashenwood Road. And even though I don’t play using the Pathfinder RPG these days, I think the bulk of what Sonia has created would fit nicely into a 4e campaign or darn near any other fantasy world/system I can come up with.

Storm Bunny Studios - The Ghost of Ashenwood RoadWhat’s the gist? There’s a ghost on a road that’s been at the root of some stories for a while, but it’s quickly moving beyond stories and into the world of foul magicks…

What do you get? A bit of history. A few rumors revealed over the course of a few skill checks. A few plot hooks. The inside scoop on what’s really going on. Stats for the “ghost” and a cool picture courtesy of artist Hugo Solis.

What it boils down to is a set of tools you can take apart and put together however you need them to appear, which is awesome. …

The Gassy Gnoll: Musically Inspired Stories

Last weekend this Gassy Gnoll caught up on the latest Dr. Who episode – “The Rings of Akehaten” – I was struck by how well a plot based around music soothing the savage beast worked. In the episode, a religious order was formed to continually sing a series of soothing melodies to keep an old god asleep so that they wouldn’t destroy them. And their diligence kept the “god” asleep for thousands – maybe millions – of years. It’s such a simple idea I’m surprised I haven’t seen it used in any gaming modules.

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

For example, why not have a religious order dedicated to keeping a volcano from erupting? It may seem like a primitive response to a geologic process, but perhaps there’s a clutch of dragon eggs at the bottom that refuse to hatch so long as they can feel the vibrations through the magma pool…

Or maybe there’s a race of beings particularly susceptible to sonic vibrations and they have been kept at bay for hundreds of years while a group of monks continues to sing a series of songs at a particular frequency and volume…

I’m honestly shocked we don’t see more stories involving monastic

Supplement Review: Appendix N Adventure Toolkit: The Treacherous Cobtraps by Jimm Johnson from Brave Halfling Publishing

Spiders. They freak out some of the nicest people (including my youngest daughter). So I’m always happy to see them get top billing in a game supplement. Jimm Johnson and the rest of the crew at Brave Halfling Publishing have done just that with The Treacherous Cobtraps. The third in the Appendix N series, this is a good place to start if you have a collection of 8-to-12 level 2 DCC RPG characters you want to poison or trap challenge.

Appendix N: The Treacherous CobtrapsIt doesn’t hurt that the cover art from Steve Zieser and the interior art by Andy Taylor, Mark Allen, and Reece Ambrose continues that creepy feeling you get when you know something’s lurking in the dark… The map alone gave me the creeps, which was terrific. And in this case, the promise of the disturbing artwork pays off in spades. What lies in the trees of the Tamarack Weald? Almost certain doom. I did say almost…

What’s included? Several areas to explore, some not-so-cuddly critters, and a few things to discover. Would-be heroes may be able to go in, dispatch the evil, and even escape with a bit of loot… if they survive!

At just 12 pages, 8 of …

Ten Links in the Chain: Food for Thought (5-APR-2013)

Greetings friends!

I won’t go into another long whiny rant about why I haven’t been posting lately. Instead we’ll just dive into some of the links I’ve gathered over the last month or so that have made me think in some way “I wonder how I could adapt that to gaming?” It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “Food for Thought” edition and I think it’s about time, don’t you?

1. Conceptual Art

hansel-witchesI don’t know if you caught the Jeremy Renner/Gemma Arterton flick Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters when it came out back in January, but I did. Going in with exceedingly low expectations I really enjoyed the flick from beginning to end. And some of the witches they designed for our heroes to take down were fantastic! Character designer Ulrich Zeidler did an amazing job pulling together some very different individuals that were seen at various points in the story. Meredith Woerner @ io9 pulled them together and perhaps they’ll inspire you to create some great new female villains for your campaigns…

And if witches aren’t your thing, how about alien aristocrats? Artist Christian Rex van Minnen has a very unique and twisted style that will either …

Supplement Review: The Vile Worm by Jimm Johnson and Jeff Lynk from Brave Halfling Publishing

So once you’ve killed broken in a few 0-level DCC RPG characters via The Ruins of Ramat from Brave Halfling Publishing, why stop there?

The next logical step is to slaughter get those new 1st level characters into another adventure! Thankfully Jimm Johnson and Jeff Lynk from Brave Halfling have just the thing… The Vile Worm. The name alone evokes interesting imagery in my mind, from the bizarre film The Lair of the White Worm to a more Shakespearean-themed dramatic insult such as “Thou craven ill-bred worm!” (inspired by the Shakespeare Insult Kit). As far as dungeon crawling goes, I fully expect to see a classic Purple Worm or Carrion Crawler from D&D creeping around some old dank dark hole…

The Vile Worm - Brave Halfling PublishingWhat can you find in Johnson & Lynk’s worm-inspired dungeon crawl? Well, without spoiling too much, I have to say right off the bat that not everything is as it seems. And yes, that’s a bit contrite, but I think the module encompasses all of my various imagery from my previous paragraph quite nicely. From a NPC pretending to be something he’s not to a Lovecraft-esque worm waiting for a new morsel to snack upon.

This is …

The Gassy Gnoll: Woe Be the Motivation

The Gassy Gnoll is a busy guy. He has a job (that doesn’t involve slaying orcs unfortunately – more like Gnoll the Software Bug Killer). He has a family (a wife and two daughters who are all going a million miles an hour in different directions). He’s recently started doing some publishing again through his imprint Moebius Adventures. And he has some blogging responsibilities here as well as elsewhere.

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

Though he’s managed pretty well over the last few years to keep the plates all spinning in the air, it all came to a halt when the motivation dried up after a recent marathon bout of sickness and business travel. There was a 10 day gap where nothing went up at all on Game Knight Reviews. And during that time Gassy did a lot of head scratching wondering why.

Honestly I’m not really sure beyond the fact that the rubber band broke after being wound too tight. Too many responsibilities. Too big a mountain of pending review material. And it just seemed to collapse when I tried to figure out where to start again.

What it boils down to is taking a hatchet to the review stack. For all …

Supplement Review: Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #1: The Ruins of Ramat by John Adams from Brave Halfling Publishing

Nearly a year ago I backed a Kickstarter project from John Adams for a series of DCC RPG-based modules. And the first module in the series - Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #1: The Ruins of Ramat – was delivered back in October 2012 to project backers. You can download it along with the next three as part of the Appendix N Adventures Annual Subscription but if you are looking for #2 or #3 (and soon #4 I suspect), they’re also available at DriveThruRPG. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to do more than glance at them until now, but I decided I’d dive in today and see what I could find.

Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #1 - The Ruins of RamatFirst of all, this is definitely a module with an old school feel. From the cover to the interior art to the story, this has the DCC RPG flavor from the get-go. And it should! Ramat is written for new characters (0-level characters for DCC) and they are tossed into the fire from the beginning. There’s a literal slippery slope leading the adventurers into an old ruin and right into the waiting mandibles of a creepy critter!

Honestly just reading through this short (16 page …

Ten Links in the Chain: Kickstarter and Some Publisher News – 14-MAR-2013

Wow. The name of the blog includes the word “Reviews” but I haven’t had an opportunity to write any this week. What do you get instead? More links!

In this post I’ll focus on some of the Kickstarter projects that have caught my attention in recent weeks as well as a few new releases.

(1) What world are you from?

andronia-kickstarterI’m a sucker for a good campaign world. And one that crosses genres can really get me going. The Andronia Kickstarter - Region of Turmoil RPG Guidebook - from Frank Hall manages to mix high fantasy and technology but still work within the Pathfinder rules system. The art looks fantastic and in a style I’ve not seen before, but the idea of mixing laser guns and machines with traditional fantasy and divine magic really seems quite cool and I’d love to see how it works in practice. There’s only a week left to try and get to some of the cool higher level stretch goals, so chip in if you can!

Then there’s the Freeport: City of Adventure Kickstarter for Pathfinder from Green Ronin’s Chris Pramas. I remember reading Freeport on the early days of the internet, before …

The Gassy Gnoll: ‘Tis the Season of Change…

The time change always throws this Gassy Gnoll for a loop. Not sure if it’s the lack of sleep (is losing an hour, even on a Sunday, really necessary?) or the aggravation of changing clocks or adjusting schedules that affects me, but it does. So between the time change and the fact that we are chugging through Spring already here in Colorado, there’s entirely too much change for me.

Am I a grumpy old troll? Some would say yes. And to those I’d say no, I’m a Gassy Old Gnoll, but I understand how you’d get confused. Similar pattern to those phrases.

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

That said, for some reason I’ve been pondering the changing of seasons and how it applies to RPG settings.

Here in Colorado we have four pretty distinct seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. And though we sometimes get more snow and bad weather in Spring than we do in Winter, it’s one of those transition periods between the Winter and Summer Solstices we call the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes. We’re constantly heading from one solstice to the next, making change the only true constant.

Meanwhile, when we lived in Arizona, I would break …

Guest Post: Tattoos, Poetry and Why Drinking Quest: The Original Drinking RPG is like… Lost?

by Jason Anarchy – creator of Drinking Quest

I’ve always been the GM. I love RPG game nights and it really seemed like the only way that everyone would get together. Since I was young I would make RPG game systems that focused on only the best elements of a gameplay system keeping it simple and accessible while cramming in as many insides jokes and funny moments as possible for my friends. It’s always been tough for me to find people who could consistently show up for a campaign.

Box-Art-DQ-1---3-WebNow that we’re all adults we would tend to have a beer or six when we get together on Saturday nights and the game nights continued to evolve. One night at a friends wedding after consuming many free Scotches, a buddy said to me “Jason you’re always drinking and playing Tabletop RPGs, why not make something that does both?” Several months later while commuting I realized that my friend was right and this was a fantastic idea.

My education was in Business Management and I’ve had several different management jobs. I’m also a huge fan of Punk Rock DIY work ethic so the idea of completely releasing a game myself seemed …

1st Annual International TableTop Day coming March 30th, 2013

Let’s start with a disclaimer… Sure, I may have added “1st Annual” to the title of this post, but I sincerely hope that’s the case.

TableTopDay_BannerIf you’re not familiar with TableTop, it’s a show hosted by Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next GenerationBig Bang TheoryLeverage) on Felicia Day‘s Geek & Sundry YouTube channel  that kicked off last March. And though I may not have watched every episode, I’m darn close to catching up. Each episode focuses on playing a different game with a group of celebrities. Funny enough, I’ve picked up a few games after watching episodes and have played them with family and friends. And there have even been a couple of episodes about role-playing games (my favorite kind of game!) like Fiasco and Dragon Age

So what’s International TableTop Day about? Why, it’s a way to bring tabletop gaming into your own lives more directly. A day where everybody gets together to spend time playing games and having fun. Do you really need to know more?

There’s a website – www.tabletopday.com – set up to offer a list of resources to help connect you to your local gaming community as well as …

Ten Links in the Chain: Gaming Links – 10-MAR-2013

Wow it’s been a rough few weeks. Sick for a week. Traveling for work for a week. And came home with a cold for a week. I’d say it was time for the madness to end, but soccer season is starting for my wife and daughters so there’s no chance of that for a while. :) I can’t complain too loudly however since it snowed yesterday and a soccer tourney for one daughter and the first game of the season for the other have been canceled. So I have some time to pull together some cool links from across the internet!

Ten Links (Image licensed from clipartof.com)Today it’s all about gaming links. We may end up going past 10 on this one folks, so bear with me!

(1) What to play… What to play…

Stargazer (Michael Wolf @ Stargazer’s World) and Jade (Cherie Arbuckle @ Evil Machinations) pulled together some terrific lists of games to try in January and February – many of which I’d not heard of and now want to play. Stargazer came up with “Gaming on the Cheap” part 1 and part 2. And Jade came up with a list of “Tabletop RPG Games by Genre” in case you’re …

The Gassy Gnoll: GMs, We Salute You! (RPG Blog Carnival)

It was GM’s Day this week and the blog carnival topic is about “Epic Moments of GMing” so it must be time to talk about GMing! But what can I say?

It has been a while personally since I last ran a campaign, I have run a few games for family and friends over the last few years… Some 4e. A bit of The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men. And more than a few board and card games. Unfortunately nothing really epic.

RPG Blog Carnival logoThat said, I have played in games run by a few GMs here in Colorado that have rekindled my love for gaming after not playing for a few years down in Arizona. And one thing they all have in common is a love for story.

Whether the stories are intimate or epic, they have weight. What do I mean by “weight”? Choices matter from the perspective of the PCs. Everything from choices in personality or character construction to more tactical decisions to simply choosing where to go next.

Ultimately the GM is there to set the stage and offer interactions with the secondary characters. So things like describing the setting and NPCs, setting events …

Supplement Review: Midgard Adventures: The Raven’s Call by Wolfgang Baur and Kobold Press

First level adventures are always a tricky thing to pull off. Do you go easy on a new wave of heroes? Do you smack the new heroes around a bit? Do you up the ante and make it possible for a TPK?

Well, honestly I think all of those possibilities are up to the combination of GM and players when the whole thing kicks off. But unless you’re developing your own adventure or improvising from the first scene, the author of the module you choose to use can also affect things from the get-go.

Midgard Adventures: The Raven's CallWolfgang Baur of Kobold Press has been writing adventures for a long time, so he knows just how much rope to give the players AND the GM – but he’s not going to protect the PCs from making poor decisions or mistakes. Where many low-level adventures fail to offer a ton of choices, sometimes railroading the PCs down a garden path – The Raven’s Call offers a wide range of choices. Plenty of hooks to get PCs involved and different ways to keep them not only interested, but busy once they arrive. Weighing in at 21 pages, with 17 pages of content and art on every …

Interview: Michael Desing of Michael T. Dessing’s Army Ants Comic, RPG, and Kickstarter

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Desing of the Michael T. Desing’s Army Ants War Effort Kickstarter dropped me a line and we started chatting via e-mail. Though I’d not heard of the comic before, the style and subject matter immediately captured my attention and I was happy to learn more. Taking a look at how a group of ants would defend their hill from outside incursions is a terrific idea and Mike’s black and white style splashed with colors really sets it off beautifully.

The Kickstarter only has a few days to go, but seems to be well on the way to beating its funding goal. But Mike was kind enough to answer a few questions for us…

army-ants-bombQ: Can you introduce yourself to the Game Knight Reviews community?

I’ve been playing RPGs for 30 years, and designing them for over 20. I love tabletop RPGs and comics, and I’ve pursued both at various points. I’m also an English teacher (for last 12 years) teaching high school English, and directing plays/musicals. I’m married, and my wife and I have a 4-year-old daughter who has just learned how to draw Army Ants, and thinks she does it better than …

Magazine Review: Gygax Magazine #1

Before I get to the wonderments of Gygax Magazine #1, I have to set the stage a bit…

When Kobold Quarterly announced it was closing its doors on the magazine, I was crushed. Years before I struggled with the decision whether to subscribe to the classic Dragon or Dungeon magazines of our youth. But other than a few single issues I picked up on rare occasions, I never pulled the trigger. Most of the time it was simply because I couldn’t afford to, truth be told.

Gygax Magazine #1So when I finally had the disposable income to finally jump on a KQ subscription, I was very excited. Not only would I be able to read a few issues online as PDFs as I’d been doing, but I’d also be able to hold a printed copy in my hot little hands once a quarter. There’s something magical about print vs. electronic. I’m a paper guy at heart. The feel and smell of paper does something to engage the senses that an e-copy simply can’t do.

That said, I still understand Wolfgang’s decision to pull the plug. I worked at a magazine for a while in the 1990s and they’re always on the …

The Gassy Gnoll: Homesick Adventurers

On the road this week, the Gnoll is a little homesick – which is a far cry from last week and being sick-sick. But it’s made me ponder one of those often vilified parts of any campaign… travel. And it made me wonder… Do PCs ever get homesick?

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

Two groups ago I played my only character in recent memory who sometimes got a bit homsick(ish). Didius (escaped slave, thief, adventurer and anti-slavery activist in a Fantasy Rome analog) was a complex guy. Really he wasn’t all that complex but sometimes he got us into all sorts of trouble that was sometimes tough to get out of without bloodshed… But at heart he was a city boy. When DC went to the woods or on the road, he would pine for the familiar walls of the big city of Rauxes and bemoan the fact that every tree looked the same.

Of course it didn’t help he was traveling with an elf, who was explaining the beauty in all things as they went along, and a monk who would try to get DC to see the bigger picture. But inter-party torture techniques is a topic for another day… :)

He longed …

Ten Links in the Chain: Publisher News – 24-FEB-2013

Before I get going with the day’s links, I want to share why I’ve been gone for a while this week and why that trend will more than likely continue next week…

XX_Bean by djcowan

XX_Bean by djcowan

I have two daughters and both have birthdays near the beginning of the year – one in January and the other in February. The last few years each has had overnight birthday parties and invited some friends over to enjoy some insanity. Apparently when my youngest had her party with five of her 8-year-old friends last weekend, one or two of  our guests brought a virus or two along (not shocking) and by Monday night I was starting to feel lousy.

It was bad enough (fever, chills, cough) that I even called in sick on Thursday and saw the doc on Friday. To say the least, the fact that if I wasn’t trying to work I was trying to sleep didn’t leave any time for Game Knight Reviews. So I apologize for the lack of posts this week, but I’m feeling much better and will be 100% soon.

Unfortunately I’m out of town this next week for work and that will impact any post time I …

The Gassy Gnoll: In Sickness…

Yes, this Gassy Gnoll has been put down by a virus this week. And through multiple rounds of tossing and turning and trying to shake it off, I began to wonder about the use of diseases in gaming.

gassy-knoll-final-72dpi-300x1891Honestly, the closest I came to running a game with diseases wasn’t with diseases at all… It was poisons. That is until the GM for the current group I am with kicked us in the teeth with a multi-stage chaos ailment that has all sorts of fun side effects. One of our party members (a dragon lord) looks a bit like a dinosaur crossed with a cthuloid beastie and is in stage three. Any time he rolls dice to perform an action there’s a chance it will work a bit better than expected or a bit worse.

But as I am wracked with coughing fits I wonder at the downside of using such techniques. Heroes are supposed to be tough, not suffering from sneezing, coughing, or vomiting. As a temporary effect, maybe it would be ok. However, I would hope that the effects wouldn’t last too long. My friend the dragon lord has been afflicted for all of one session and part …

Friday Map: Hall of Sighs

Here’s my latest map… This one was very close to 5 minutes. And though I’m not quite sure what the round room is in the middle, my muse has chosen to call it the “Hall of Sighs” so that’s what I’m going with.

Friday Map - Hall of Sighs

 

A stairwell leads down into the complex, which is trapped not far from the entrance. Anyone who gets past the first round of traps is deemed “worthy” of entering the rest of the areas. What are the pillars in the center? I honestly do not know…

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The Gassy Gnoll: Violence and Gaming, the Debate

Occasionally this Gassy Gnoll has had anger management issues. It’s not something he’s proud of, but it’s definitely something he’s been working on for many years. The current debate around gun control, rights, and blaming the entertainment industry (video games, television, and movies largely) has made him re-examine a few things recently however… So if you’re tired of opinionated blowhards spouting on this topic, you might want to stop now. :)

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

It’s true. I have had some anger management problems over the last 20 years. I’ve put holes in more than one wall in the many places I’ve lived during and since college. I’ve never hit anyone else, nor do I wish harm to anyone. But I have patched drywall a time or two…

And you’re probably wondering what that has to do with the gun control debate. Well, read on – and it does tangentially bring in roleplaying games towards the end.

[begin rant]

My hands are attached to my body. What I do with them is my responsibility. If I someday freak out and hurt someone, I will face the consequences of my actions and pay the price.

If I watch violent television shows like The

Supplement Review: The Dungeon Alphabet (Expanded Third Printing) by Michael Curtis from Goodman Games

As a game- or dungeon master, sometimes you have more ideas than you could possibly use in one campaign. At other times, you’re stressing about some element of an encounter, pulling an adventure idea together, or simply getting your act together in time for the next session. It’s at those times when a good old random table can come in to save the day. It doesn’t take much in those cases – roll some dice, look at the table, and then you’re back off to the races (or lather, rinse, repeat, and see if you like the next couple of options that come up better). And the Internet is full of random tables, right? It should be easy to hit upon the right one with a little Google-fu…

The Dungeon Alphabet - Goodman GamesWell, in those cases where the Internet fails you, it’s good to have a backup (or two). One of mine will now be The Dungeon Alphabet (Expanded Third Printing) written by Michael Curtis and published by Goodman Games. Literally all I have to do is go to the table of contents, flip to the pages with the table(s) I need, and start rolling. Literally this book goes from A (Altars and …

Supplement Review: Midgard Adventures: To the Edge of the World by Wolfgang Baur and Open Design

The concept of a flat earth is one that has often teased my creative spirit to write about. There’s just something about the idea of finding an edge to the world and sailing off that offers tons of fodder for my overactive imagination. Questions abound such as “Is it always ocean?” “What’s over the edge?” “Is the world actually cube-shaped?” flood my brain and some virtual me is left staring into the abyss… But Wolfgang Baur‘s world of Midgard manages to not only provide a forum for exploring these questions, but answers a few as well.

Midgard Adventures: To the Edge of the World - Open Design - Wolfgang BaurMidgard Adventures: To The Edge of the World offers a glimpse at what lies beyond that edge. Though it’s designed for PFRPG characters of 2nd and 3rd level, I think it would work equally well for nearly any flat world with a classical fantasy feel. And though it is designed for low-level characters, it doesn’t suffer from the same issues many low-level adventures have… It doesn’t feel like a low-level adventure. The PCs have the possibility of making a splash and getting known far beyond the normal “small pond” low-level characters often inhabit.

I hope that your PCs don’t get seasick because they’ll …

Ten Links in the Chain: Kickstarter News (10-FEB-2013)

Though there have been many Kickstarter projects over the last couple of months, it seems I haven’t had a link roundup for some of the ones I’ve been following in a while. Let’s fix that, shall we?

Personally, I’m out of Kickstarter money for a while. Blew through my January and February budget (and then some) before the end of January. Some of those projects include:

  • kickstarter-badge-fundedPrecision Machined Dice from Amber Rix. I’m in for $22 here for a set of four aluminum d6s, and I’m not alone since this one blew its funding goal out of the water. (Funded)
  • Creature & Encounter RPG Card Decks from Inkwell Ideas. I’m in for $15 here to get 1 deck of the system neutral cards. I’ll be very curious to see how it ends up! (Funded)
  • Fate Core from Fred Hicks & Evil Hat. I pledged a minimal $10 here just to get all the cool PDFs. And this is another one that blew its funding goal out of the water. (Funded)
  • Mummy: The Curse Core Rulebook from Richard Thomas, the Onyx Path, and White Wolf. I’m not sure why I backed this one for $30 other than the fact that I

Friday Map: Temple of Patience

Welcome to the Temple of Patience… Here I hope you’ll find some rest and relaxation while communing with your deity of choice. Choose one of the two statues we have available or wash away your cares in the Well of Cleansing. If that’s not your speed, then feel free to enjoy the Memorial Hall or simply sit in the Room of Sacrifice. We are sure you will find what it is you seek!

Friday Map - Temple of Patience

This is another “almost” 5 minute map with 6 different rooms to stock with your choice of fun and frivolity. It hit me a bit like an abattoir in that it seems designed to get people in and then not let them escape again. I’m not sure what’s in the pit in the room to the west or what the statues may be in the rooms to the east, but I’m betting the folks visiting will find more than they bargained for.

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The Gassy Gnoll: Why aren’t our characters pumping iron, doing katas, or practicing skills?

The Gassy Gnoll has been a slovenly soul for a few years now, growing plumper and slower so that eventually he would be the one devoured at the back of the pack because he really didn’t give a damn. But something changed a few months ago and now he wants to get back into some sort of shape. He’s not ready to hang up his bag of bones yet.

But as he started working out the other day, he wondered why we don’t see characters getting or attempting to stay in shape. Sure, it’s tough to imagine an adventurer who is shaped like a Gelatinous Cube, but if a character isn’t using a skill regularly – why wouldn’t it dull over time?

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

To give you some background here…

Any time I had a character in the past (up to, but not including 4e) I would put a little dot beside each skill I used during a session. This would tell me not only which skills I’d been relying on in-game, but also how often I’d used them since the last time I leveled up. It was a convenient way to track a rudimentary usage statistic without getting …

Supplement Review: Hamlet on a Page: Millburg by David L. Woodrum, Jr. and Fishwife Games

You know the moment when you see a great product, slap your head, and wonder why you didn’t come up with the idea first? That’s kind of how I feel about the new Hamlet on a Page product line from Fishwife Games. Simply brilliant.

fishwife-millburgWhen I was GMing frequently, I would run into a situation where I really needed a village or town in the middle of a map that I was making up on the fly. (I subscribe to the “see where the PCs go and fill in as necessary” school of GMing.) So I would randomly make up an inn, a tavern, and a general store and that would be the “town” of Blah-Blah-Blah for that moment in time. Unfortunately those “spur of the moment” towns would sometimes grow wildly out of control, but that’s a topic for another day.

What David Woodrum and Fishwife Games have done is created a single page supplement - Hamlet on a Page: Millburg - that includes a map of the town with numbered locations, a description for the town (including the name of the village elder), and a simple description of each location on the map (“Wooden Bridge”, “Temple”, “Blacksmith”, etc.). The …

Ten Links in the Chain: Reviews (3-FEB-2013)

Sure, I do reviews here at Game Knight Reviews. But I know that there are other great sites out there that also do reviews. And sometimes, in the sea of gaming sites, it’s tough to find those reviews. Yes, Google is your friend, but sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it. :)

That said, I think its time to take a look at some of the reviews I’ve collected over the last couple of months. And if you ever find any you think should get some extra love, be sure to let me know on the Contact page or drop me an e-mail at news(at)gameknightreviews(dot)com and I’ll add it to the list for next time!

Ten Links (Image licensed from clipartof.com)So let’s get to it, shall we?

(1) The More You Know (About GMing), The Easier It Can Be…

Sometimes as GMs it’s difficult not to get lost in the minutiae of worlds – places, people, things – plus the complications of handling players at the table. But never fear, these are not insurmountable barriers to preparation. Mike Shea @ Sly Flourish has put together a whole book on how to stress less and spend fewer hours getting ready for your …

Supplement Review: Deities & Demigods (1e)

Once upon a time I was 12 years old and started playing Dungeons & Dragons First Edition with my friends from junior high school. Many weekends between 1982 and 1985, Bob, Jayson, Dwight, Sean, and I could be found wiling away a Saturday afternoon by conquering fantastic lands and defeating horrific creatures – all in the safety of our homes and our imaginations. D&D opened many doors for me and ignited many passions.

Though I largely abandoned gaming in high school, my love of D&D was re-ignited in college when I met many geeks with similar interests at Colorado State and would again spend countless hours on adventures in worlds of imagination. Unfortunately during that period, I lost my copy of the First Edition hardcover Deities & Demigods book. I’m sure I loaned it to someone and it just never returned to me. It happens. That First Edition Deities & Demigods book ignited a love for mythology that exists to this very day.

deities-and-demigods-1e-coverBut when I saw that Wizards of the Coast was working with the wonderful folks behind DriveThruRPG to release electronic (PDF) versions of many of the classic books in the D&D archives, I got very excited. Maybe I could …

The Gassy Gnoll: New Beginnings (January RPG Blog Carnival)

This month’s RPG blog carnival, running over at Kobold Enterprise, is all about new beginnings.

RPG Blog Carnival logoNew beginnings are tough for this Gassy Old Gnoll. Once upon a time I was young and failure never entered my mind. Somehow as I’ve gotten older, a fear of failure has crept into my world view when I wasn’t looking.

I won’t bore you with the hard lessons learned with my last self-publishing effort for Moebius Adventures. Suffice it to say it was hard to have lofty goals and see the facade I’d built crash to the ground.

But something miraculous happened. A couple of months ago I got the itch again. It’s been 5 years since I attempted anything in the self-publishing arena, but I came up with a new idea. Something small in scale I could do as a lone writer with some art help. And I’ve been encouraged by a few friends in the industry after they saw what I had in mind. So the experiment will begin in earnest next month with some posts at the Moebius site, a free release in March if all goes well, and then the first actual for-pay product in April.

Will it work? …

Supplement Review: Adventure Quarterly, Issue #3 from Rite Publishing

When I reviewed Adventure Quarterly, Issue #2, remember when I said that Rite Publishing was chugging along with terrific content? Guess what? They’re continuing the trend with Issue #3! That said, I have no clue how Steve Russell and all the folks at RP are juggling quite an array of products – with the great stuff set in Kaidan, Fantastic Maps, Colliseum Morpheuon, Pathways, the 101 series, and more… I’m beginning to think that everyone in the RPG industry has some serious insomnia!

Adventure Quarterly #3 - Rite PublishingSo what does this issue have in store? Three modules ponder deeper questions of sentience, reality, and what to do with evil items, bringing a touch of philosophy to our fantasy worlds. Added to that is an article detailing some cool ways to dress up barrels, keys, and sconces; and an article on reasonable explanations for why an adventuring group might come together beyond “we were childhood friends” or “we met in a bar…” Though the modules are built for Pathfinder, there are ideas that could easily be used by any GM looking for solid adventure seeds, and the two articles would easily apply to just about any RPG system …

Ten Links in the Chain: Publisher News (26-JAN-2012)

Yes! Two links posts within just a couple of days of each other… Amazing, isn’t it? :)

This one is all about the publishers. Dang they’ve been busy! Announcements, product releases, and all sorts of goodies to sink your teeth into!

Before I start, I want to help shout from the rooftops about a recent milestone of the RPG Blog Alliance. The RPGBA just hit 500 active members this weekend  and that’s no small feat! Congratulations to all the RPGBA founders! Next stop… on to 1,000 members!

Now, on to the news…

(1) Gygax… Gygax… Gygax…

gygax-mag-300x143No matter how many times I say his name, he doesn’t appear quite like Beetlejuice

We will always miss Gary, but his legacy lives on and has taken on a fantastic new role as part of Gygax Magazine! It launched this weekend and I’m happy to say that I watched part of the streaming celebration and have already purchased my own subscription. Definitely anxious to read it cover to cover each quarter and enjoy the fruits of a new TSR rising from the ashes…

Ethan Gilsdorf @ Wired’s GeekDad had a great article about the magazine launch on Friday along with some …

Ten Links in the Chain: Food for Thought (25-JAN-2013)

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. This is the first news roundup since right before New Year’s Eve 2012. I actually started putting it together before January 1st, but got a wee bit distracted. This is what happens when you go on vacation for a few weeks and then have to pay the piper when you get back! Crazy, isn’t it?

Photo courtesy Lauren Nelson/Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Lauren Nelson/Creative Commons

Anyway, I thought we’d start off with a boatload of links to get us all thinking about gaming… Art, science, weapons, maps, computer games… There’s a smorgasbord of reading!

1. “I don’t know art, but I know what I like…”

Whether you like your art dark and historically accurate, like these pictures from 1930s London from Dave Walker @ The Library Time Machine. The deep blues and shadows are amazing. Plus, I might need to create a new tavern called The Blue Dog.

Or if you’re a big Magic: the Gathering fan, you might appreciate these gorgeous images from Magic cards posted by Ed Grabianowski @ io9. Quite a variety to pick from with bigger images when you click on them. Incredible that these artists fit so much on so …

Interview: David Caffee of Chaos Trip Studios and the Slayers of the Great Serpent Kickstarter Campaign

David Caffee, creator of the Altered Earth 4e science-fiction game from Chaos Trip Studios and several other titles, has been making games and adventures for years. But now he’s doing things a little differently with the Kickstarter for a new series of books built around his Slayers of the Great Serpent epic fantasy campaign. This epic fantasy campaign will take characters from level 1 to level 20 to fight a battle to save a world. How cool is that? And if that wasn’t enough, what if I told you it was being written for both Pathfinder AND 4e? 

I have to say, it sounds like quite an impressive campaign and one I’d be interested in playing myself!

Recently I had a chance to chat with David about the Kickstarter and he was kind enough to answer…

Q: Can you introduce yourself and Chaos Trip Studios?

I have been working as a freelance writer in the small press RPG business since about 2005. I’ve done stuff for a lot of publishers. Most of my writing has been through Comstar Games which later merged with Avalon Games. I’ve also worked with Glutton Creeper Games, Louis Porter Jr. Designs, Skorched Urf’ Studios

The Gassy Gnoll: A Holiday Collection Follow-up

Right before the holidays in December 2012, the Gassy Gnoll bemoaned the lack of campaign holidays and I said I’d post a round-up of some of the ideas that were suggested and several other links and suggestions that came up in discussions on the topic. And I actually had a few folks chime in with some great ideas, so thank you to those of you who did!

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

Mike Monaco (Swords & Dorkery) commented directly on the post and suggested that Scott’s Old “Huge Ruined Pile” blog (not the new one) which offered a list of the names of the holidays in his campaign. Mike liked “Ultima Yule” and adopted it for use in his own campaign, as well as creating fun holidays like “Oester Feaster” and “Ragnarok Practice.” He also suggested a good campaign idea for when a paladin or cleric character is absent for a session. He makes up holidays (or distorts whatever real-world holiday might have just occurred or be around the corner) to offer a reason they are missing. “Oh, so-and-so is off celebrating Oester Feaster… He’ll be back eventually.”

Over at Google+ we had a pretty lively conversation going for a bit……

Supplement Review: 8000 Zombie/Undead Sounds from Lee’s Lists

Yes, that’s right, I’m back to zombies again. They’re not exactly like warm puppies or kittens, but I suspect that – like snowflakes – you are unlikely to see any two zombies that look or sound exactly the same. Well, unless you have a zombie army of clones and they’re all decomposing at the same rate in the same uniform. Now that would be something to see…

8000 Zombie/Undead Sounds - Lee's ListsBut where was I? Oh yeah… Zombies! Scott Lee of Lee’s Lists has been churning out all sorts of entertaining lists in the last few months (prophecies, names, foods, and more), but one that caught my eye was 8000 Zombie/Undead Sounds. Why? Because I was curious about the claim that there were 8,000 possibilities (it’s true) and how they would stack up over time. All I can say for sure is that I’ll be moaning more weirdly the next time I make zombie noises!

The list provides three 20-item lists. And the idea is that you roll a d20 three times and check each table to form your unique zombie sound. If you do the math, you do in fact end up with 8,000 different sounds (20 x 20 x 20 = …

Supplement Review: Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer (PFRPG) from Zombie Sky Press

In Fall 2011, I backed a project from Scott Gable and Zombie Sky Press called Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer and I kind of forgot about it… Then back in October 2012, I received an early copy (attached to a backer e-mail) of the supplement to take a look at before the final book was released around Halloween. I took a look and filed it away to review when I had an opportunity.

Guess what? I had an opportunity!

Mysteries of the Dead Side: The Sacred Necromancer - Zombie Sky PressMysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer introduces some intriguing options for your Pathfinder and D20/3.5e campaigns. The 19 page PDF (18 pages of content) was written by Gable (contributing editor to Kobold Quarterly), Will McCardell, and Matthew Pauze specifically to bring some necromantic flavor to traditional campaigns. And I have to say they did that quite well. As a 4e player, I wish they did it for 4e, but hey… I can’t have everything. :)

So what does it include? Six different types of necromancer “callings”, from the Dr. Frankenstein-style chirurgeon to the strange psychopomp and scary revenant. And it doesn’t stop there, which I’ll get into in a minute. I’ll talk about three of the callings …